A/C units and making our Curb… Appealing

Our asymmetrical windows are unbalanced no more! I swapped the AC unit from the front, street-facing window to the side facing the driveway and am really pleased with the result. It was not as simple as I thought it would be! Still, I was able to do it by myself and within only about an hour.

Here’s the house mostly as we bought it, with humongous bushes concealing the front.img_0849

Here’s after Handsome Husband cut the bushes down. Look! A house! img_1124

And here she is – with symmetry fora  front face!


I started by taking stock of what had to be done- it turns out the unit is not only sitting in the sill but wedged in on both sides by extending flaps that screw in tight as well as blocks wedged between the top of the window and the pane that sits on top of the unit. That may be elementary to AC window unit installers but I never knew!

I unscrewed the extending flaps and moved the wooden blocks the unit sat on to their final destination : the window that faces the driveway.

I was nervous not knowing how heavy the unit was so I gently pulled it back from the window once it was unscrewed and I had all the wooden blocks dislodged. A ton of water came pouring out of the back. What does that mean? Is that supposed to happen? Unlike a different window unit we own, this one has no visible holes or rust marks, so I’m not sure why… oh well! Google it later! Onward!

I heaved that thing out and onto my chest and carefully walked (read: staggered) the 15 feet over to the other window. I placed it on the sill and then lifted and shoved and leaned and heaved and hoed and huffed and puffed and begged the gods of every religion – WHY WASN’T IT GOING IN?!?!?

In the meanwhile in the inside of the house in her room. the front plastic plate fell off and hit my captivated kid in the noggin, so there was a little mini crisis that distracted may attention. I set it down and ran inside, first for the kid, then to take a closer look at why my unit wouldn’t just slide in. It had just slid out of what I assumed was the same kind of window – they look the same, they’re even in the same room for goodness’ sake!

There was a 1/2 inch metal ridge on the bottom of the second window! The first one had no ridge.  What the !@#$$!@! That made the space between window panes, when  it was opened, too short to accommodate the unit. Holy mother of DIY, my husband was going to kill me. “You smacked our kid in the head with an AC unit plate and then didn’t even end up moving the unit?!” I had to figure it out fast – before he came home. Full confession: I do nearly all of my DIYscapades while Handsome Hubby is away because he despises my methods. And my ideas. And my scatterbrained-ness that  leads to me endlessly starting new projects without fully finishing the last one. Squirrel!

If the mystery ridge was not enough, I took an even closer look and realized something else was different. The small metal pane affixing the vertical lift piece (on a car it’s a “strut” I think…) was longer on the second window than the first. Hmm, maybe I could swap them out? Wait a minute, we don’t need the struts at all –  the window is going to be held up by the unit! It can’t come crashing down! I gleefully unscrewed the little fixture holding up the strut and boom, the window was able to open another few inches, and the AC unit fit in, after lots of swearing, because now there was nothing to hold the window up and I had to pick the unit up off the ground instead of just off of my chest. Where’s my third arm? ! I used a piece of wood that wedged the unit in on the sides to prop the window up temporarily while I slid it in. I re-did everything I had undone and alakazam. No more window unit facing the street!


Now all want to do is fine a nice cheap couple of hanging baskets to mask the units and I will consider that eyesore as remedied as possible! (We’re thinking of having AC installed in the house but that’s a $6500 project that is at the bottom our priority list. The window units stay. Another dream that’s not even on the totem pole, it’s lying on the ground sleeping next to the totem pole, is to have new windows  installed. These suckers are no longer weatherproof, are single paned, and look janky. Oh well! Debt freedom is more important than windows!)

What did you do this weekend? Any Curb Appeal upgrades? Let me know!

September: How we did financially

Our family goal right now is to pay off all our debt so we can have financial freedom! I’m 28, and specifically, we want to be debt free by the time we’re 30. We wandered into debt but like Dave Ramsey says (we’re huge fans) you cannot wander out – you have to have a plan!

Our plan includes working a ton and cutting our expenses back as much as possible. We have an emergency fund of $1000 so we do not have to go into anymore debt to cover unexpected crises. Then we budget every month using www.everydollar.com (and if you haven’t tried it you should!) And, after paring down our budget to just necessity, everything else is supposed to go to debt.

Here’s our income:

Me paycheck 1: 1535
Me paycheck 2: 1535
Me paycheck 3: 1728
Handsome paycheck 1: 1533
Handsome paycheck 2: 1377
Handsome overtime: 400
Handsome extra job 1: 1100
Handsome extra job 2: 685
Handsome extra weekend job 1: 175
Handsome extra weekend job 2: 315
Handsome extra weekend job 3: 110
Sale of car: 1200
Sale of motorcycle: 2100
Refund of insurance: 124
TOTAL INCOME: $13917. Definitely the best month we’ve ever had! 

Giving: 974 (yikes! This should have been 1390! We’ll make up the tithe in October. I forgot to update our tithe when the last few extra paychecks came in.)

Saving: 1250 (Every month we save for insurance, Christmas, an anniversary trip, taxes and more)

Housing: 950 (This is only this low because we accidentally overpaid our water bill last month and there’s a special for our phones so they’re extra low. This could only be lowered if we got rid of Netflix (7.99) and Dollar Shave Club ($3)

Transportation: 950. (Usually, this is just gas. This month we had to pay lots of costs associated with getting a new used car – taxes, tags, brakes. I hate that we had to change cars.)

Food: 870. (Yikes this is high. 500 for groceries [100 each week] plus dog food, eating out and handsome husband’s food budget for work since he works 12+ hour days. I know we’re not supposed to eat out but we have never been able to go a single month without eating out. We stink!)

Family life: 100 (This is date night and 20 bucks each spending money.)

Debt: 4958 (1300 of this is minimums. But still very good knowing this is the best debt snowball month we’ve ever had!!! We paid off Sallie Mae, the smallest Fed Loan and are starting to make progress on our smallest loan from another servicer “My Great Lakes”)

Kids: 1240 (This is daycare, pre-k, diapers, and upcoming birth cost savings)

Misc: 2615. (I should probably break this out a little better – there are health things in here, kids stuff in here, birthday stuff, insurance stuff, etc. I really hate looking at this category in aggregate, it just seems too much money was spent on random stuff.)

So overall a good month. It would have been great if we didn’t have birthdays and family visiting three times!!!! But that’s life and the people we love are in it. We need to put at least 3800 per month to debt if we want to get out of this mess in two-three years. The more traction we can get now the better – things are only going to get more expensive with three kids.

How was your September financially? Have you heard of the debt snowball? I love your comments so feel free to share!



Making an “eh”‘ door “THE” door

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?

This boring door, that’s who.

Oh, hey, I didn’t even notice you.

This was my front door when we bought our house: (we painted the address numbers on recently). You can tell it wasn’t my favorite thing on the house.

A solid door with nothing fancy the same color as the siding. Nothing wrong with that, but nothing that makes you want to do the shimmy, either.🙂 This part of the wall that juts out to the right is our utility closet, so there is no window on this side of the house, making this corner of my living room really dark. I was hoping for a door that allowed light in somehow.

Well one of my close amigas commissioned a special, unique door, and she was getting rid of one with window panes (!), so I was glad to recycle it for her.🙂
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Poor boys  worked late into the night trying to get the door to fit!img_0958

And here she is on my nice, real life front porch (notice the carport junk that needs to be put away!)

My only thought was that the door wasn’t really me. Was I going to be trading out a door that was made for this doorway and house but let no light through for a door that had windows, (for free) and I wasn’t even going to like it because of the style? If you’ve seen my house, it’s  a pretty simple 1960s midcentury tract home. It has no extra fluff, there’s no scroll work, there’s no chunky crown or country french details or farmyard chic going on here – it’s all about clean lines and simple detailing.

I thought to myself, “don’t get the door – it’s going to look odd on the house and you’ll want the door that goes with it once it’s gone. Better to get a window kit and cut out places for the windows to go on the old door, instead.”

I wasn’t sure how to do that and I wasn’t sure I wanted to risk ruining my front door due to my limited skill set! So I thought a little more about the type and shape of doors that really do speak to me. I like these a lot:


But there was no way I was going to pay nearly $400 at Home Depot for this one or $450 for this one! Holy moly, that’s a third of what I have left on one of my (28) student loans. No. Way.

So I thought about my friend’s offer a little harder and I realized I could improve the door. A coat of paint, maybe some plywood paneling?

I hauled the kids to Home Depot (there’s one on the way home from church – it’s not even out of my way!!!) to pick up paint and wood paneling. (And have them cut everything to size there – Hollah!) img_1200

I measured the space under my window panes because that was going to be the width of my sheet of plywood paneling. It had to be thin – just a quarter inch – to look more a part of the door. One sheet of plywood was enough for two 28 x 48 panels plus the leftover for who knows what project🙂. I had them cut to size the sheet of plywood, and I grabbed five paint swatches and their samples that I thought I’d like. Then I went to town with a staple gun, a level, and wood glue to attach the panels and cheap foam brushes and my paint samples.


Sample number three won out(Parakeet colormatched by Behr I believe) but number two was a close second. It was crazy how samples in the store that were so green came out sunny yellow on the door. A lesson for me when I’m trying to be cheap cheap cheap: get the samples anyway!!! They’re only $3.48 each!

The first layer got me excited. But also nervous. Did I just paint my door baby poop green?

And yes that is my bathrobe and an old toothbrush on the bench. I wanted to get a coat on the door before going to work with only a half hour to spare but I didn’t want to  change clothes, so I just put my bathrobe on backwards (wearing it like a hospital gown) to keep any flying paint off of my clothes. The toothbrush was to clean the corners and little edges of the panes. (I thoroughly cleaned and liquid deglosser first.)

The second layer looked even better and then a third did the trick. Bye bye baby poop. I might do just one more because it can’t hurt! img_1261

Oh I LOVE IT SO MUCH. Here’s our little transformation.

doorsThat happy color makes me do a happy dance. So what was my budget breakdown?

5 paint samples @ $3.48 each $17.40
5 Foam brushes @ $0.79 each $3.95
1 Panel of plywood @ $11.97
1 Quart of Behr exterior semigloss @ $12.98
Door: Free!
(Deglosser, staple gun, staples, and wood glue already had)

= $46.30

Less than $50 bones! Not bad for a door update- especially considering I still have a huge plywood panel left (I’m thinking functional bedroom art… more on that later) and tons of paint. And oh boy do I have plans for that paint! I’d still love to swap out the handle for something more streamlined, I need to weatherstrip it, and I need to finish cleaning the panes – then this project will be done!


What are you up to lately? Any affordable updates?



Sharpie Subway Tiles!

Well my little kitchen’s recent laundry reno still needs work and while working on finalizing it I wanted a quick feel-good update. That of course costs nothing🙂

So I added subway tiles. How can that be free? Well you read the title – I sharpied them on.🙂

I had some gold, bronze, and silver Sharpie pens leftover from a Christmas project I did last year, so I decided to use the silver to draw the grout of my tiles. I am not concerned about sharpie on the wall because I know rubbing alcohol removes Sharpie AND we own our home. We hope to actually tile over it before we sell it. So

Here’s my before kitchen – which really needed some work! Call me inspired by all the fabulous real bloggers who shared their real life homes on their blogs recently.

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Ok ok ok so that was honestly my kitchen before. then I cleaned it up and that was almost enough for a reveal in itself hehe.

I grabbed two Sharpies and a level.
Hmm I need to re-paint my nails.


Then I simply took the level to set straight, level and plumb lines, horizontally along the wall. I didn’t mind that I Sharpied the sides of my level as I worked. Soon, I had lines set. I just kept things simple and used the level as the spacer for the height of my tiles.


And yes, those are painted-over wall anchors from previous tenants. I am not sure what to do with them so I just left them and painted over them myself. They bother me in the picture but not in real life.🙂

Once I had my lines, I just stood the level on its head to make “tiles” that were six inches wide, set off 3 inches from the row above.


Then I just worked across the wall. I decided to terminate the tiles where the upper cabinets ended above my stove. That makes it like a wall of tile over there. A Wall of Tile that Makes Me Smile. #poet #thatsterrible

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Yep, I still have lots to do in the kitchen. But as for the tiling – It’s subtle but it sure is nice.🙂


And its a great backdrop for my chore-loving kiddos🙂

What have you been up to? Any updates on your end that are affordable or free?


W & D: Together at last!

This is a love story about two lovers who never met, but knew, somewhere, out there, their soulmate was waiting for them… Alright, alright it’s really about a post of me moving my dryer into the kitchen. But may I say: the heavens aligned and I for one, am infatuated.

Here’s the lovely before:

And here’s the still-inn-progress, but oh-so-exciting after:

To the left of my washer is the hallway to the bedrooms. I measured once, twice, a million times and I knew that the little green-topped cabinet, if carefully removed, would fit between my fridge and that hallway – so we wouldn’t lose any of that storage. That’s important because my 1015 square foot house is not gifted with closets.

Before I show you how we did it and what it cost, let’s go over the thought process:

Plan A:Why didn’t you move the washer out of the kitchen and into the utility closet?
That was my original hope, so I talked to a contractor friend, who quickly squashed my dreams. It would really be so nice to have countertops that spread the entire span of those upper cabinets – whoo boy that would be some gorgeous prep space! He told me getting the plumbing done not only would cost mucho dinero but would require us to re-tile and re-drywall – or hireout to get those project done to the tune of… wellletsjustcallitalot.

I do not happen to have a lot as you remember, our number one goal is paying off all our debt! Putting the least amount into the house and trying to sell it in two or three years is going to help us do that. But if we get sidetracked with projects instead of extra payments – we’re just hurting our own future.

So it was too expensive to move the dryer to join the washer.

Plan B: Why didn’t you make a new laundry space in the dining room, off of the kitchen?
Now I really liked this idea: having a dedicated laundry space away from the kitchen but still inside – but again was going to require more money than we had. There was a 220 volt receiver for a dryer just to the right of the stove, so theoretically we could have paid for just the cost of moving the washer, and that wouldn’t have cost us as much in plumbing, since that’s much closer to our sink and we wouldn’t have had to re-tile, but still it was so, so much more expensive, for a few reasons: 1, we saw the dryer plug and though “Eureka! We can bring the dryer in and technically it won’t be “with” the washer but it will be close! And sooooooo much better than separate in the utility closet!” Well we tried that – it would have been THE CHEAPEST option (as in, cost us nothing!!!) although it would hae been crazy ugly I mean a little awkward. But it turns out, that wall plug was a dud! So we would have had to pay an electrician for new wiring anyway. Womp, womp.

Plan C: Why didn’t you leave the cabinet where it was, rip out half of the uppers, and install a stackable washer and dryer?
A. Confidence. We are just getting our feet wet with this whole homeowning thing and we do not have the confidence to remove only part of some upper cabinets. They seem like they’d need a saw and some extra arms and magic to get only half of them down. And perhaps more importantly, B, cost. We have a perfectly good washer and dryer set and it is just not a priority to upgrade to the stackable kind – even used.

So that leaves us with the plan we did execute: hiring electricians to install the wiring needed to power the dryer, moving the cabinet, and altering the appliance to make it work. My birthday was last week and we each get $300 for our birthdays, so I spent mine on house stuff and the electricians! Huzzah! Didn’t even get in the way of paying off Sallie Mae this month. SHE GONE FOREVER. But that’s another post.

So here’s what I did while Handsome was at work: removed all the stuff, drawers and doors from the cabinet and set them aside.img_0993 fullsizerender

Then, kneeling to where I was mostly inside the cabinet, I used just a plain old screwdriver to unscrew the top, then I pried it off with a crowbar I borrowed from the neighbor (another money saving tip: try to borrow tools, otherwise your DIYs will get expensive, quick!) so thanks neighbor!

I moved the countertop out of the kitchen and went to work removing any visible nails and screws that I could see. Sometimes the nails were so flush with the board they were holding that my hammer couldn’t catch them. This is probably #ghettoDIY but I used my flathead screwdriver to punch down the wood around the nail, so that my hammer could snag it and wrench it out. After about an hour of that, I realized I’d have to knock the grout off of the bottom to get it loose enough to pull out. Then I had this:


Pulling that cabinet free without damaging it felt AMAZING. Almost as good as delivering a baby: an-I-can-do-anything-type amazing. There was one invisible nail that I finally got rid of and then shimmied the cabinet over next to the fridge, where -guess what – IT FITS!!! I’m going to have to move some baseboards to get it flush and I’ll have an update for ya when I do that.img_0996

The electricians came the next day and installed the wiring, so we were ready! I insisted we move the dryer in right away since we were having visitors come the next day and there was no way the tile and grout was going to be done by the time they arrived. We decided to just move the dryer, do minimal loads, and finish the floor this weekend. I’m not concerned about the ugly exposed wall because shortly it will be covered by a cabinet and tile – so I’m just going to Kilz it in the meantime.img_1013 img_1016
And see that! The light’s on!  It works! Buuuuuut that door was not the most ergonomic. Sweet Girl was excited to help decorate so here she was being Vannah White. Most large appliances that have a side to side door have some kind of way to let you re-attach the door and open it the other way – our dryer was no different.

We unscrewed the door and then started taking it apart, being careful to collect all the screws and hinges in a kid-spill-free cup. The door is actually two parts: the door with its locking mechanisms and the white shell that you view from the front. Four screws later and the shell and the door were separated and we could flip it around and re-attach it to get it to open and close to the right. The hinges on the other hand…. I almost lost it on the hinges. I put them on the wrong way the first time, I put half of them on wrong the second time, the third time I got it almost all the way on until I popped a screw out and had to start again and finally, FINALLY, the fourth time proved to be the charm.
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So now…. we have a washer and dryer together- long lost lovers reunited at last! And I tell you what, I have not been behind in laundry since. Take that, dirty socks.Oh look, there’s one on the floor now.


Hubba. Hubba.

Left to do in the kitchen in Phase One: Lay the tile, paint the back wall, install the L-hose for the hot air exhaust, punch out a hole in the wall (not sure how – it’s brick on the outside!) & install a critter guard, build out a cabinet (to hold tall skinny trash cans?), paint the wooden side of the moved cabinet, remove the baseboard and permanently install the cabinet, and re-do the counter tops (we already have the concrete- bought it on amazon with a giftcard from work!!!). It’s going to be fun. Let’s see how cheaply we can make it happen!

What have you been doing? Any kitchen updates in these last few days before fall?

Clothes Pin-up art

Guys I am LOVING the latest #fabandfree decor we installed. In January, Handsome Husband got me a National Parks Calendar beautifully created by the Anderson Design Group and I’ve been itching to hang the prints somewhere. The prints are large enough that in a grid, they make a real impression, so we picked the space above the couch which was REALLY needing something nice and weight-y above it. And they were hung with clothespins hence… clothespin up art. Hehe.🙂


And the glorious after! IMG_0989

This project was free for us because we used “found” items we already had at home. And it was so simple:

  1. I made sure I had enough clothespins for the grid I wanted to create, plus a cute lil” assistant
  2. I drilled a hole with the 1/8th drill bit in each clothes pin at the second, inner-most line (I just eyeballed it)
  3. I used a level to space dots 7 inches apart – this would be where my clothespins would rest.
  4. I used the level to measure 17 inches above the first row so my clothes pins would be in exactly the same spot in each row
  5. I put a brad nail at each pencil mark
  6. I hung a clothespin on each nail
  7. And then I hung my prints from the clothes pins!

Wahoo! Simple, a bit time consuming, and I love it.

The best part… SO DOES HANDSOME HUSBAND. Typically he dislikes my design choices with an extreme displeasure. So to hear him say “Guess which ones are my favorite” and then to go back and forth enjoying each print – that was awesome. Decoration unicorn!

New front doorski + the power of friendship

Just listened to the Young House Love Has a Podcast episode where Sherry raps. It’s fabulous!!!!

Now on to the post: My home has so much more light than my previous apartment with a window in the kitchen, a window in the dining space, a sliding glass door and a large window in the living room.

But it was still  bit dark as soon as the sun is on the other side of the house in the afternoons and I was hoping to find a door for cheap that had some kind of window in it to just let a teensy bit more light in in the late afternoons since all our windows are east or south facing.

Enter my friend Jennifer, who just commissioned a fancy new door for her home and had a front door she no longer needed. Well guess what. She was glad to bring the door over! So after her boyfriend and my hubby fought the hinges and 1/2 too long a door size, they installed it and I love it. It needs a fresh coat of paint – I’m thinking a limey, yellow-y green, and maybe a different doorknob. The one on their doesn’t really go with the rest of the house, it’s ornate or country where my house is simple – but it’s great. And here it is!



Now this post looks like its about a door, but it’s not. It’s about the power of love between true friends. Jennifer and I used to work together and one day over lunch she described her house as being messy “to the point where you could see the dog hairs piling up by the baseboards.” Well, as anyone knows, clean, tidy, organized and cute is a badge of honor and super hard for me. I am always looking for the Next Thing To Start! And I’m a terrible finisher. I get very bored with cleaning stuff very quickly, and normally I’d like to think I’m more mature than this, but FULL CONFESSION: I am almost mentally unable to actually finish the dishes. I get to the last dish or two, certainly a few spoons – and boom. I’m in the bathroom. Hanging art. Or Googling how to sharpie art-up my shower curtain.

So this immature behavior coupled with that thing called life means my home is rarely clean. And when Jennifer was honest with me on that level – the uncleanliness of her home at that point (normally it’s definitely a Better Homes and Gardens magazine type home, so beautiful!) I felt like we were instantly kindred spirits. Turns out we were.

So not only does she get me, but I’m not afraid to confess my shortcomings as a mom and homemaker. I am definitely neither of those things naturally, thank you 9-5 job that gives me an out when my husband asks “are the dishes STILL not clean?!”

So that honesty in our lives has led to honesty with our finances, an she knows our goals and our burden of debt. So, with my in-laws coming in seven days for the first time, she gets that I don’t have a big budget to spend on sprucing up the place and she gets that I have a lot to spruce up in a little time. So not only did she give me the door, she is coming over this weekend for a cleaning pow-wow. You can’t ask just anybody for help like that, but I guess I don’t have just any friends.

I have the best friends.