$20 Livingroom Upgrade

Our livingroom needed some finishing touches to pull it together, now that we’ve lived here a while I had some ideas about what to do but I also had some budget constraints…like $20.

How could I use $20 to create a coffee table centerpiece, update ugly lamps and fill a very large bare space on our wall?

Step 1 Lamp Revitalization:

So when we moved in the previous owner had left behind a couple lamps.. they were a little dated and the shades were dingy and age worn but I hate throwing things out that work so I set them aside to figure out how to update them a bit.

What could I use for $3 to fix up these lamps?

Two colors of acrylic paint at 1.50 each and a few minutes and voila, they match my decor!


Lamp 1:  this picture makes it look fairly white but in reality it was dingy and had lots of little brown age spots on it.

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#2 was in good shape except this ugly beige trim that always looks dirty

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Step 2: Empty Wall Space

Next, I needed to tackle this large bare space on one of our walls. If I had money to spend there would be endless options to fill this space but when I was working with $17 it gets a little harder. I had seen mirror grids done before so I headed to the dollar tree where I found these cute 9×12 mirrors and dollar mounting pads. (Note I attempted to use the good mounting tape from Pat Catan and it didn’t hold! The cheap 24 pack of mounting pads at the dollar tree held instantly and securely!)

I bought 9 mirrors, 2 packs of mounting pads and a decorative wall verse for a total of $12 and set to work.

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Step 3: Table Centerpiece

Finally, I still had $5 and I need a coffee table centerpiece… I had a pretty metal candle holder I like but it wasn’t enough by itself so while I was at the dollar tree I picked up a mirror like the ones for the wall, two squared glass candle holders, a bag of pebbles and a 4 pack of candles for a total of $5. Using my existing candle holder as the focus I placed this on my coffee table as the centerpiece.

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“It Couldn’t Happen to Me.”

“I’m a good parent.”

“I always check.”

“I’d never forget.”

“I wouldn’t…”

These things are easy to say. We don’t want to envision a scenario where we could be responsible for our child’s death so we try to reason with reality.

But the reality is you could, you might, and it only takes one time. You could forget your child in a car. It could happen to you. I know there are cases when horrible scum of humans have intentionally left children but normally it is just an accident. A terrible, life wrecking, soul destroying accident.

I am terrified of something like that, it makes me check my car constantly.

But that is not enough.

I have started using the left shoe method (read about it here) and I have to say that it is so simple but so important.

I know it is intended mainly for dads or moms who are out of routine and want to make sure nothing could happen but it should be intended for every parent with a young child in the car.  I want devices that will help prevent these tragic deaths just like everyone else but this is important now and there is a solution available now.

Every time you get in the car with your baby place your left shoe in the back with them. It will help ensure you never have to experience the pain and loss and guilt that so many good parents in our country have.

When I arrived at the mall to meet a girlfriend for shopping I had not planned to take my daughter but she was fussing and I didn’t want poor dad to have a rough evening so in the car she went. I put my shoe back there knowing that the feeling of playing my own music (no 3 year old in the backseat!) and heading somewhere to shop for myself for fun was so out of routine that it would put me out of “mommy” mode and it alleviated the fear I could get there and walk off in a rush forgetting the sleeping angel in my seat.

If we all stop pretending it could never happen to us and instead take steps to prevent it maybe it never would have to happen again.

This year alone there have already been 16 deaths in the U.S., 7 would have certainly been prevented using this method.



Parenting is More Than Being Present

Merriam- Webster defines being present as being “at a particular place or event”. One of the terms listed as obsolete is attentive. That speaks volumes. There was a time when being present physically and being attentive to the goings on were synonymous. Sadly, in today’s society the pervasiveness of “me time”, technology addictions and constant alternatives to being attentive to your present location means that these things do not often accompany one another anymore.

I am overwhelmed by the number of times we go out as a family and see other families doing the same, except completely different. They are in the same place but Mom is on her phone, Dad is watching a tv, and the kids are on a device of some form. There is little to no interaction.

*Now let me pause here to state that I do no think children need interacted with all the time, leaving them to play alone in their room with only their imagination for company for as long as they can on a very regular, dare I say daily, basis is highly recommended. However, there is also time for them to be with their parents, to interact and engage. Especially when they are small. I also understand that sometimes you have been with them alllll day or alll week and you are exhausted and need a little break but that’s the exception not the rule so i’m doubtful when I go out and see 85% of the parents completely checked out from their kids that all 85% were fully engaged most of the time, if you are truly the exception you won’t take offense to this article knowing that “that one time I did that I had been parenting so stellarly all week that I needed a minute to myself” means i’m not talking about you.

Children crave your attention and support and love and if they don’t get it from you they will be left lacking until they are old enough that indeed they can get it from someone else, most likely the first person to offer it no matter who that is.

Yesterday, as my husband and I took turns playing in the indoor playground with our 3 year old son and holding our 7 month old daughter we noticed a pattern. I went in and an adorable toddler and her sister immediately began asking to play with us, hold my hand or hug me. Why did these little girls want hugs from a strange woman they did not know? What did they see in me that they wanted? A mom that was hugging, chasing, and laughing with her child. Because their own mom came in, bought their wristbands, and plopped down on a couch to stare at her phone for at least the 2 hours we were there. She was still in the same position when we left. I never saw her even glance at her children much less check on them, play with them or interact with them.  Her daughters were clearly used to being ignored as they didn’t seek attention from her, instead they tried to glue themselves to the first adult female they could.

The pattern held on my husband’s turns to play, a little preschool boy who had ignored my son “Jidge” when he was playing with me or playing alone suddenly needed to play with him. The little boy tried to pull my husband by the hand, came around the corner (out of sight of his own dad) where our bags were when we needed to get something for the baby and proceeded to try and touch and love on our baby or get attention from my husband. His dad was there but he was very busy trying to look tough and cool at the kiddy playground. He checked his phone, sighed, and stared around with disgust at wasting his time, when he wasn’t flirting with the teenage workers. All very important. More important than playing with his child, or keeping track of his child for that matter.

This is becoming normal now, everywhere we go we notice that we are in the minority as we play with our children, sit at tables and actually talk to them with no digital devices around. But we also notice that we gather a pile of children everywhere we go who see parents that are freely giving out the attention they so desire so they hop in line.

An ipad can not give your child attention. It can not make them feel loved. It will not teach them patience as they wait for food to come out at a restaurant the way good old fashioned conversation will.  Unplug a little. Your phone and tablets and laptops have places, they really do! Right now I type this as my son has his morning playtime and my baby sleeps in my lap, I am watching him play school with his toy dinosaurs and he doesn’t need me, in fact he doesn’t want me, when he catches me looking to long he says “Mama, i’m playing don’t watch me”. I am giving my laptop attention right now, but I am not choosing it over giving my child attention they desire.

Make it a goal to engage your children fully when you take them places this week. Don’t use playgrounds or pools or arcades or whatever summer fun you have planned as a babysitter. Use it is a date! A date with your child. Talk to them, learn about their interests, laugh, make memories, I promise you they want it more than you know and someday that won’t be so true.


(P.S. While I am on my soapbox this goes for your spouse too. If you are out together put the phones away for the most part. Check that text if you need (esp. if you have  sitter 😉 ) but then put it down. Those little letters on the screen aren’t going anywhere.)





Needs vs Wants

We are turning off our cable. It’s just too expensive to justify on one income with a budget to tight for savings so we have made the choice it has to go.

Why? Why not keep it and use credit cards (which we paid off in anticipation of one income) if something unexpected comes up? Or use our emergency savings?

Because it is a want, not a need so it can not stand in the way of needs (like responsibly budgeting and saving).You should never put yourself in precarious financial situations over wants. My generation (i’m 27) seems to believe we are entitled to every comfort. That they are necessary. They aren’t.

You do not need or deserve cable or a smartphone or internet or brand name food or a gym membership. You are not owed anything from anyone.

The sooner you recognize this the sooner you can develop a healthy relationship with money.

I literally cringe when I hear someone complain about being broke while they drink starbucks, smoke a cigarette, eat in a restaurant, go to the gym or watch their cable tv. If you do not have money then you do not need to buy these things. Stop buying the lies.

Stop letting them convince you that it’s ok or normal to have credit card debt. (Or student loan debt which is another story for another post).

I’m canceling the cable and you know what, i’m not that sad. We’ll still watch some stuff online sometimes or check out movies from the library but honestly it was costing me more than money anyway. I will be glad to have the time and the money back and I will feel peace of mind knowing that our budget won’t be as tight each month.

Do you have an area of your life you probably should cut but just can’t quite commit too?