Sunday, January 31, 2010

Make Your Life A Musical!

Remember that big television production conference I was telling you about? Want a sneak peek at David's newest product? If you like American Idol and Glee, then you'll fall head over heels for...

Make Your Life a Musical from Mad Rush Pictures on Vimeo.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

How a stranger saved my marriage and rescued me from having to live in my minivan.

I have to tell you guys something. It's going to come off as boastful, which we know the nuns frown upon, but it must be said anyway.

I rarely screw up.

You can ask my family. They will completely vouch for me. I am a good wife and mother and pretty butt kicking housewife and I almost never drop the ball.

That bit about almost never dropping the ball makes the times when I do drop the ball pretty serious.

Tonight I dropped the ball. Think Buick sized ball.

All week David has been preparing for a television production conference with lots and lots of big potential clients. He's been editing and recording, getting all of his products just so. My job was to bring his best clothes to the dry cleaner to have them ready for pickup today so that he has what he needs for his trip tomorrow. I dropped the clothes off on Wednesday like a good little hausfrau and made a mental note to pick them up today.

You know where this is going don't you?

I completely forgot that dry cleaning even existed until 5:30pm when a wave a ice cold nausea washed over my body. I had forgotten to pick up the dry cleaning and now my husband would have nothing to wear to his important meetings and his deals would fall apart and we'd have to live in our car.

I called him and told him.

"Well," he said "You need to find out who owns the shop and get them to open it."

This was not what I wanted to hear because this was an impossible task. How on earth would I ever find out who owns the shop? And then asking them to open it up so that we could get his clothes? Impossible.

I started to plan for our new life living in the minivan.

"Send out an email to the list. I'm sure that someone must know who owns it." he said.

Now I really wanted to throw up because not only had I screwed up, but David wanted to me to send out an email publicizing my mistake to all 2,000 of the families in Arlington who subscribe to the Arlington email list.

Finally I sent out the email, sure that we were doomed to a life in the minivan eating government cheese when I actually got a response. A resourceful subscriber figured out the name and phone number of the owner and sent it to me.

I forwarded it to David, because I'd pretty much rather die than make that humiliating phone call. Since I was schooled by nuns I learned that when you screw up there is no mercy, just a hot seat in hell. The nuns would have hated David because he happily called the owner, explained his predicament and asked the owner to open up the shop on a frigid Saturday night. Which the owner is very kindly doing.

So there it is. A huge screw up, a Hail Mary toss and the retrieval of hope. Just another day at Shiny Red Houses.

Friday, January 29, 2010


There are so many reasons to blog. It's a creative outlet, you can make new friends and sometimes people send you stuff!

This week I got a package in the mail from Julie.

Notice this?

She was trying to prevent David from getting into it.

Such a pretty box! It has holes in it which means that come spring my children will want to use it as a bug habitat of some sort. Must remember to hide it.

Check out what she put into it!

Chocolate and floss! Chocolate because, well, duh! She must know that I have been slacking on my New Year's resolution to floss. As god is my witness I will floss tonight, right before I put in my new mouthguard which I love!

She also sent me an instruction manual on felting coffee cup holders. Because she knows how much I love felting.

Thank you Julie! It made my day and I'm sorry to say it also made David's day. He's been sneaking chocolate all day. Bad husband!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Homeschooling at Shiny Red Houses...

Since we started homeschooling this fall people often ask me how we do it. I find that they usually want to know what the legal implications of homeschooling are, as well as the practical day to day schedule of actually teaching.

The first question is easy to answer in that the laws around homeschooling vary from state to state and to some degree from town to town. Most of this information is easy to find by googling your state and the word "homeschooling". The state of Massachusetts makes homeschooling quite easy and our town is particularly accommodating.

Our first step was to send a Letter of Intent to the Assistant Superintendent of Schools as well as a lesson plan outlining our learning plans for the year. Then I unenrolled Rebecca from school and we were on our way.

Creating the lesson plan was overwhelming at first, so I googled around a bit and saw the huge variety of homeschooling lessons plans that parents have used. Some parents favor a very unstructured "unschooling" approach and others have an extremely structured plan. Our style is somewhere in the middle. I found that going to the Massachusetts Department of Education website was helpful because I was able to see what their standards were and could use that as a jumping off point in creating my own plans.

Because I am a person who loves structure, I knew that I would want to use some workbooks and establish a routine.

I did not want homeschooling to devolve into junking and baking cupcakes every day, though that would be pretty awesome.

Our local Barnes and Noble has a great selection of homeschool curricula to choose from so one day I went to the homeschool section and scooped up every curriculum they offered and looked through them all. I knew that I wanted something engaging and clearly written. I wanted texts which would explain things clearly and logically and which would keep us on track educationally.

I ended up coming home with the Harcourt Family Learning Complete Curriculum.

Rebecca and Lily really enjoy these books. They cover Spelling, Writing, Language Arts, Reading Comprehension and Math. Rebecca uses a separate book for vocabulary which she had been using when she was in school.

Science and History are covered as a family through books, movies and trips to museums. For Lily I also use Brainquest Workbooks. I love Brainquest! I use it to supplement what Lily is learning, particularly with math. Lily loves looking for patterns in math and this book really makes it fun for her. I only wish that they had Brainquest workbooks for fifth grade so Rebecca could enjoy it too.

I am lucky in that both girls love to read and they love it even more now that they don't have to keep a reading log! Reading is a daily activity. I like to let them chose their own books and follow their interests.

Once I explain the materials we use, folks often want to know what an average day looks like. It looks a lot like this.

Rebecca likes to work on her bed. She had a desk in her room but she never ever sat at it. Finally I took it out and put in a dresser.

This was the first page of fractions. She was so happy to be done with long division.

This is her schedule for the week.

What can I say? I like having a plan.

Lily often learns best in her pajamas. I suspect that this is a common trait among homeschoolers.

This is the lesson plan book that I use to keep track of everything we learn each week.

We generally do our work in the morning which leaves the afternoons free for playdates, dance class, Hebrew school, gymnastics and other adventures. A really wonderful aspect of homeschooling is the ability to take a break if someone is sick. In school if the kids miss school they quickly fall behind. If one of us is sick we just pause our learning for a few days until everyone is well.

Homeschooling isn't for everyone. I'd be lying if I told you that there weren't some days that I just wish I could be alone in the house for a few hours catching up on the things that I want to do instead of teaching long division which I could completely live without. Mostly though the benefits outweigh the negatives. As a family we are so much closer than we were and closer than I thought we could be. I never thought that I could do this. I am so grateful that I did.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I know how to have fun!

Guess what I did tonight? Go ahead, give it your best shot.

If you guessed "fit yourself for a night guard so you stop grinding your teeth into oblivion" than you are correct!

We've had a bit of stress over here at Shiny Red Houses lately and it's been manifesting itself in all sorts of new and exciting ways. More specifically, it's turning me into my mother, a woman who has perfected the art of manifesting stress in dozens of different ways. Job stress- migraine. Emotional stress- stomach ache. Stress caused by blogging daughter- back spasm.

I've been waking up the last few mornings very aware that my jaw is clenched. My dentist has been trying to talk me into buying a gold plated ruby encrusted night guard for the last year. At least I assume that it is gold plated and ruby encrusted since it costs a car payment, which I suppose is a small price to pay for not destroying your own teeth, but still.

Today I made my way to Walgreens, a happy place where dreams come true. There I selected a do-it-yourself night guard that the clerk at Walgreens assured me would do the job. It was 29.99 which I'll be honest with you, was about 20 dollars more that I really wanted to spend.

Tonight after I put the kids to bed I went downstairs to create my very own customized night guard. Upon reflection I now realize that I should have invited the kids to watch and it considered it the homeschool version of introduction to dentistry. They could set up a little stand on our street- Lemonade/night guard stand!

Customizing this night guard involved the use of a pot of boiling water, a stop watch and my teeth. Believe it or not, I followed the instructions and it worked!

Now tonight I will enjoy the sleep of a woman whose mouth is filled with 29.99 worth of molded plastic.

Now if my back would stop spasming I'd be all set.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Why I should not be allowed to leave Arlington without my minivan...

I know that there are some of you out there who look with scorn upon the minivan. They see its ability to carry six children at a time and liken it to the shackles of motherhood.

These people are either drunk or insane because the minivan is the carriage of the goddess.

I press buttons and the doors slide open. I press the button again and the doors close. No fumbling with door handles in the rain. We are able to happily transport friends to museums or the movies with us. Even with the van full of people, I can still stuff the trunk with good junk if I pass a particularly promising pile on trash day.

The first car that David and I bought together is our 1997 Honda CRV. It is shiny and red and sporty and when we bought it back in 2000 it was only a few years old. We fit both children in it and it was fine.

But then I took a few rides in minivans, vehicles that were as big as my living room and with better upholstery. A few of these minivans had GPS and DVD players and like a little crack addict I was hooked.

Two years ago we bought our minivan. We splurged on the leather seats, the GPS and the DVD player. I love this car. I vacuum it weekly. I polish it. I condition its heated leather seats.

The best part about this car are two features which work together beautifully. The GPS and the DVD.

How do they work together you ask? Here is my little secret: I have no sense of direction. At all. None. Zilch. When I was in high school and Michael Patterson, a boy who drove a red mustang and made my heart pound, offered to drive me home from school I panicked. I wasn't exactly sure how to get home! It was a risk I was willing to take but I don't know which had me more nervous- trying to will him to love me forever or figuring out how to get home.

Anyway, The GPS gets me where I need to go and the DVD keeps the children quiet while we are getting there. Symbiosis pure and simple.

Today there was a problem. Today David had the minivan and I was driving the Honda and reader, after driving my minivan the CRV feels like a brick on wheels. The bigger problem however was that the girls and I needed to be at a theater in Harvard by 5pm.

Have you ever driven in the Boston area? If you haven't then try to imagine a city whose roads where all once cow paths. Now imagine those curvy cow paths with inconsistent one way signs and no street signs. You are now in Boston.

In my defense, I printed up directions and a map. Of course these were mostly useless. We spent about 45 minutes driving around Harvard Square searching for Oxford St which kept hiding from us. This would not have been so annoying had the children been distracted from my navigational incompetence and not felt it necessary to point out that we had passed Harvard Yard again and again and again.

"Are we there?"

"Is this it?"

"Why are we turning around?"

"Is this our street?"

"Are we going to be late?"

"What are we going to have for dinner?"

"Why are we turning around again?"

"Are we lost?"

"Mommy did you just swear?"

Finally I found our street and parked and even found a sign pointing to the building which we were looking for. Of course, this being Boston, it did not actually lead to the building we needed, but never mind. We wandered about Harvard feeling stupid and then lo, in the distance we found our destination.

Once there we saw a lovely musical, more on this another time, because all too soon it was time to leave.

By some miracle we found the car and off we went. Even though it's a very well lit area I couldn't help but notice that something seemed odd with the headlights. They seemed dark. Hmmm.

Oh well, I kept driving and fiddling with them. It seemed that I could make them either very bright or very dark. I haven't driven that car at night in years so I assumed that I just wasn't used to them.

We were in Arlington before I figured out that I had been alternately driving with just the running lights on and no headlights or just the high beams. When I made my discovery I sort of shouted a bit which led to the questions.

"Mommy, why are you talking to yourself?"

"Is something wrong?"

"What's wrong?"

"Where we driving in the dark?"

"Is that legal?"

"Will you get arrested?"

"Mommy, are you swearing again?"

I think I'll just stay home for a while. I rarely get lost here.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The perfect day...

Today was like a dream.

First, the children allowed me to sleep until 9:30 this morning. It turns out that after ten hours of sleep I am absolutely delightful. I woke up feeling happy and refreshed. Who knew? This sleep- it is like a drug!

After I woke up I toddled downstairs to find that my children were playing Cafe. Cafe entails Lily sitting at the kitchen island while Rebecca puts on a fancy apron and prepares Lily waffles with syrup and whipped cream. They were being happy and polite to each other.

After recovering from the shock I showered and got dressed and announced to the children that we would go to the library. The children sung my praises! Books! Free books! How wonderful!

At the library the children picked out armloads of books, found a corner and began to read. I left them in the children's section and made my way to the murder mystery section where on the advice of my cousin Cheryl I picked out a Robert B. Parker novel and a few Jonathan Kellermen's.

Once home from the library the children sat themselves in front of the fire and proceeded to read for the next four hours.

The quiet was heavenly. It was like a miracle and a dream and my birthday all wrapped into one. While they read I tidied, caught up on the laundry and washed the kitchen floor.

We just had dinner and now the children are in their rooms reading again.

As soon as I am done blogging guess what I am going to do? Get in bed and read until bedtime.

The only thing better than a stack of new books is my children with a stack of new books.

If I could just teach the pugs to read...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Boring lame housewife nonsense...

You know how some times your to-do list becomes crowded with a bunch of piddly little things that are either annoying or time consuming and you find yourself writing them on your list every stinking day for a week?

Today seemed to be the day to get a whole pile of nuisance off of my list.

The biggest one was that I cleaned my closet and removed clothes that had gotten too big. This was actually kind of awesome to be honest with you. I've been exercising and eating better for about six weeks and have lost fifteen pounds. I still have about twenty-five to go to reach my goal, but being able to pull out some of my clothes that are now too big felt great. I also pulled out some things to wash and throw in the dryer to see if they shrink enough to be able to still wear them.

I returned library books. On time. Somewhat unprecedented. Am very proud.

Remembered to deposit some checks.

I went to Walgreen's and got my hamthrax shot. Now David is our only family member who has not been vaccinated against the pig plague.

I paid bills and filed them.

I went to Staples and exchanged the printer ink that I bought last week for the ink I actually needed.

I washed Lily's comforter covers and changed her sheets.

I have also made a crazy decision that I hope will help me get more done. Before I started homeschooling I was a housewife machine. The house was always clean, the laundry was done and I almost always had a plan for dinner. Now between the time I take for exercise and teaching the children, I feel like I am constantly playing housewife catch-up. I'm going to try getting up early to exercise. I'll be doing something I hate in order to do something I don't love so that I have more time for housework.

I have clearly lost my mind.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

How nearly dying destroyed my budget.

Here in the heart of New England we get all sorts of winter weather. Sometimes snow. Sometimes rain. Sometimes ice.

Rain and snow? No problem.

Ice? Problem.

On Monday we had a day of mostly light snow, mixed with rain. Typically this means that all of the roads will get a sound salting and sanding before morning.

On Tuesday I got up, hopped into the car with the dogs and headed over to my usual dog walking trail. My road seemed okay, mostly snowy but not slick. It had been sanded and was quite clear. Since my road had been no obstacle I didn't think twice about driving up a large hill to head to the parking lot of the trail. At the top of the hill I quickly realized that unlike my road, this large steep hill was not only without sand and salt, it was also a sheet of ice.

I started to slide down the hill slowly at first and as I approached the first set of stop signs I prayed that I would hit a dry patch and stop sliding. No such luck. Not only did I not stop sliding, the car picked up speed and was headed for a busy street at the end of the hill.

I did not panic. I had two choices. Try to turn and definitely hit a tree, parked car or house, or continue straight and hope that there were no cars coming when I went flying into the intersection.

I gambled and started to hit my horn sending a barrage of noise into my path desperately hoping that anyone driving would hear me coming.

Recently our Rabbi was talking to our congregation about belief in God. He said, "I know that some of you don't believe in God and he's totally cool with that."

Most days I am not sure what I believe in, but I felt blessed by the divine when I slid into that intersection and found it empty. The road on which I landed was sanded and I gingerly pulled my minivan into the parking lot and shook.

It felt like a miracle to have not been hit, not been injured, not been killed.

I also realized that it was time to replace the tires which our mechanic has been telling me to replace for two months. As soon as I got home I called the dealership, ordered the tires and a loaner car and plunked down $1200 that I cannot afford. Four hours later I was driving safely once more.

Such divine largess is not something to be taken lightly or for granted. I did not die. But I did listen. We might pray, we might beg to God, but we must also listen to the answer. We must do what must be done to be safe, to be happy, to be loved. What must be done is not always easy, but be done, it must.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Time to rearrange the furniture...again.

Today Rebecca and I suffered through a little something I like to call "Math is hard". That poor child and I spent at least two hours today working through a page of long division. You know what the problem with doing long division is? There are so many places for it to all go wrong. You make it past the division and hope to not screw up the multiplication. You vault the multiplication only to fall flat on your face with the subtraction.

I am going to make a promise to you oh mighty internet.

Rebecca will never be an accountant.

There are some of us for whom math will always be a teeth gnashing struggle and my dear sweet baby girl and I are card carrying members of this sad yet noble group.

The fact that we spent two hours being bullied by long division is probably the reason I decided to start moving furniture at four o'clock this afternoon when I should have been making dinner. It always starts with just a little bit of dusting or straightening up and before you know it the furniture is being dragged across the floor.

It all started upstairs when I decided to hang the Pottery Barn Kids red gingham curtains that I found last week at the junk store for 2.99. The last time I showed you this spot I was showcasing the wonders of buttons. It was time for a change.

Putting that together put me in a good mood which got me moving things around downstairs.

Notice this quilt in the previous picture?

My great grandmother made that quilt! How did she know that red and green would be my accent colors? I love this quilt, love imagining the beds on which it has lain and the family it has kept warm.

Whenever I rearrange my things I always think to myself, "Ah, there. It's perfect. I never want it to change." Then a month goes by and I'm at it again.

Here's a little poll:

How often to you rearrange your furniture?

A. Monthly of course!
B. A few times year.
C. Once a year to make room for the Christmas tree.
D. I have never rearranged my furniture, only people with ovaries do that.

If you are wondering what Lily did today I'll tell you. She devoted a good chunk of her day trying to convince me to go out to the store to buy her beef jerky. Weirdest. Kid. Ever.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

I know I should blog...

But honest to god I can't think of a single interesting thing to blog about.

Like the rest of the world we've been struck dumb by the horror and devastation of the earthquake in Haiti. It makes every other subject seem pathetic and irrelevant.

Our biggest tragedy today was that David ate all of the children's candy which they had been saving to take to the movies. The children began to build up a good head of outrage when they were reminded that the children of Haiti are hungry and thirsty, scared and hurt.

It's hard not to want to scoop up all of those children without homes and mother them, tend to their wounds and try to erase that scared look in their eyes.

Since bringing them all here isn't an option please donate what you can to one of the many, many relief organizations which are coming to the aid of the victims of this earthquake. If you can't donate money, then send your prayers and thoughts to the people of Haiti.

We are all one disaster away from being a face on the news, holding a bloodied and battered child in our arms, desperate for help.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

1-800-HELPLILY or 1-800-HELPSARA

You know how sometimes you are incredibly aware of the genetic legacy of a shared grandparent? Check out my cousin Cheryl's exploration of Lily and her frog cycle picture. I laughed so hard I scared the pugs!

Click below to get to her blog!

1-800-HELPLILY or 1-800-HELPSARA

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Dining Room to School Room: Yes, you too can homeschool in a small house!

I love to read blogs and I especially love to read blogs about homeschooling. There are so many different approaches to home learning and I love getting new ideas. Sometimes I must admit that I feel serious stabs of envy when I see some of the great classrooms that families set up for their learning.

Since our homeschooling supplies are kept in the hallway, you know that I don't have room for a separate classroom. I do however have a knack for making do and coming up with solutions.

Workbook work is done in bedrooms. Rebecca is a great independent learner. She takes her lesson plans into her room and gets right to work. She comes to me with questions or to have me check things over but generally she loves the quiet of working on her own. Lily on the other hand still needs me with her and our teaching is very interactive.

Two of our subjects are not from workbooks. We all do history and science together and that is where the real fun begins.

We have been studying the animal kingdom. We've read books and watched videos and observed animals in the wild. Now we are making books about the animal kingdom. When we started this project I knew that I would need to find a place for both girls to work at the same time and where I could set up a dry erase board.

The dining room seemed to be the most logical place for our work.

Here is the dining room as a dining room. Think of it as mild mannered reporter Clark Kent.

Here it is minutes later transformed into our science lab! Superman!

Today we worked on amphibians!

Notice how many of those books have yellow stickers on them? That's because I bought them all at the junk store for just a few dollars.

Lily and Rebecca were drawing the life cycle of a frog. You can learn everything that you need to know about my children from viewing their frog life cycles.

Here's Rebecca's. Sweet, innocent, happy frogs.

Here's Lily's. Starts out normal...But somewhere between froglet and frog things go terribly wrong.

I have no idea why daddy frog is angry and missing legs. She is a strange kiddo. I have no idea where she gets it. Mom, this is not the right moment to bring up the "Ten Catmandments" that I made in fourth grade at St. Joe's . Demented frogs are way weirder than coveting thine neighbors cat.

After our lesson on frogs we played a math game that I picked up for 1.99 at the junk store. Yes children, your education was purchased at a store that smells like moth balls and old socks.

The children complained when I told them that we were playing a math game.Until I opened the box that is!

Giant foam dice! How wonderful!

There were a bunch of different ways to play this game but we adapted it for our needs. The kids rolled the dice. On Lily's turn she would answer the addition and subtraction problems. We converted Rebecca's problems to multiplication. Once they knew the answer they would jump on that spot. Rebecca's was more challenging because once she solved the multiplication problem she needed to step on the right numbers which added together would equal the answer.

They loved this game. There was jumping and head butting the dice.

It was a super great homeschooling day. And I did it without a classroom and a lot of expensive supplies. I think I just may be getting the hang of this.

Monday, January 11, 2010

A failure...

About ten years ago David did something which has become nearly mythic in our family cosmology. He made the most absolutely perfectly wonderful chicken soup from scratch.

He's made some fine soups since then, but nothing that matches the delicious savory splendor of that particular batch.

I keep trying to make good chicken soup from scratch and I am sorry so say that at best my soups are acceptable.

I use two three carcasses left over from whole chickens which I save from whenever I roast a whole chicken for dinner. I add a whole mess of thighs and legs, some gizzards and giblets, then carrots, celery, parsnips, onions and garlic, dill and parsley, peppercorns, some kosher salt and a bay leaf. I fill the pot with water and let it simmer for hours. The color is gorgeous, a deep buttery yellow. The flavor however? Eh. Okay. A little bland. I start getting nervous that my soup is not going well so I add salt. Sometimes I get a little carried away and end up with chicken saline solution.

This weekend I made another soup and sure enough it was bland. This time I decided to forgo the salt and add some Better Than Bouillon even though it contains that dirty whore of ingredients, corn syrup. The added bouillon seemed to help, but I still wasn't happy and since I had already soiled the sanctity of my soup I added a bit more bouillon. I tasted the soup and then added more and this my friends is when I once again achieved chicken saline solution.

Not willing to give up completely on my soup I made an important executive decision. I added some premade chicken broth to dilute the bouillon. After four cans of chicken broth I have returned the soup to the level of acceptable and that is the closest that this goyishe girl will come to success.

Please share tips, insights, recipes and chocolate.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Dabbling in OCD...

Sometime I get in a particular mood which causes me to get very cranky about things. This crankiness most clearly manifests itself in an urge to reorganize things. Sometimes it's the pantry or the medicine cabinet. Today it was craft supplies.

A big part of the problem is that Rebecca's sewing and craft supplies had found themselves shoved into every single container in her room. Unfortunately this meant that we had to empty all of those containers onto Rebecca's bed and sort through all of her things. This led to organizing the books on her shelf and thinning out the stuffed animal herd.

Once I had collected all of the embroidery thread, felt, glue sticks, sewing needles and ribbons I took them downstairs and got to work. It was very soothing.

Remember this awesome cubbyhole thing I found on the curb this fall?

It has a new life.

Come spring I'll paint it white. I'd love to find some boxes that would fit in perfectly. I could cover them in pretty paper. Maybe oatmeal boxes are the right sizes... I'll have to grocery shop with an eye on product, price and box size!

The real question is how long the children will obey my new reign of craft organization tyranny. Stay tuned!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Fancy Fairy Houses on a squeaky tight budget...

Today we were a homeschooling cliche. We ditched school work to make fairy houses.

We saw these beautiful fairy houses in the Magic Cabin catalog.

Fairy Forest Home
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We've been drooling over these for about four years, but the $100 price tag just seemed too much for a few wood planks, sticks and scraps of silk. I knew that there had to be a way to make these at home. Santa finally sprung for the fairy dolls so I knew the time had come to get creative and thrifty!

We started by collecting some sturdy sticks. Then we went to A.C. Moore to get some wood planks. This was the bulk of the expense. Each large plank was $17.99, but I had a 40% off coupon for one of them. The planks with bark were each $14.99 and I had a 40% off coupon for one of those as well.

At our local craft store I found some small birds, nests and baby mice. All together it cost under $6.

Finally we headed out to Joanne Fabrics and made a beeline straight for the 50% off cart. There we found some silks that were marked down to $3 a yard with the additional 50% off. We found four perfect fabrics and bought a yard of each. In the floral section we found some moss for $3.99 that we just knew would come in handy.

Once we got home I took out my tools- a glue gun, some scissors and some wire. That's when the fun started!

I love my glue gun. Is there nothing it cannot do? I used a lot of glue because I wanted the sticks to be sturdy. I used the tree blocks that our friend TJIC cut for us last month for supports.

Then I wired a stick across the platform and reinforced it with lots of glue. Finally I added the second platform to the stick by wedging a smaller stick underneath it as a support beam and added, you guessed it, lots of glue.

They went up much faster than I expected, which meant that we got to start the fun part right away- decorating!

The details were delightful.

This is Petal Summerbee, Lily's doll resting in her hammock in her new fairy house.

This is Rebecca's doll Crystal Tinselfrost.

She's a winter fairy. Notice the snow on the moss?

Rebecca decided that Crystal's hammock should be upstairs.

These were so fun to work on. It kept us busy all afternoon.

Total: $67 for two completely original one of a kind hand made fairy houses!

planks: $51
sticks: free
wood blocks: free
fabric: $6
accessories: $6
moss: $4

Ribbons, flowers and glue sticks were things we had with our craft supplies so I didn't count those.

It killed me to spend $51 dollars on the planks, but I just could not think of a way around it. Luckily I had a credit which I used for about half of the cost. TJIC had offered to cut us some slabs from a log, but I couldn't find any logs that were both big enough in circumference and light enough to drag home.

I think that the girls will enjoy these houses for a long time and I know that the memory of building them together will last a lifetime.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The only word that I like better than "cheap"...

The only thing that I like better than "cheap" is "free"!

On Monday I was picking my kids up from a play date at a friends house. Gary is K and J's dad and he was home when I arrived. Gary used to own a chocolate shop and has been getting rid of the last of his shop equipment this month. When he offered me a huge marble cutting board for free there was really only one way to reply...


Check out this beauty.

It weighs a lot. Seriously. It could smoosh a pug.

Look at all that fancy detail. It makes me feel like a rich person.

I have found a few cheap treasures recently.

Like this great red shelf for 3.99.

It will probably go in Lily's room because guess what? Her favorite color is red.

Last week I found this huge laminated world map for 2.99.

It can be used for homeschooling or as a blanket.

One of the few nice things about the economy shattering into a trillion tiny pieces of piercing misery (not that I am concerned or anything) is that all of the home decorating magazines are featuring lots of great ideas for cheap and free home decorating. I think that decorating on a budget can lead to a much more inspired style of decorating.

When David and I first ran away together we were on an extremely tight budget. My need to make a home on almost no money forced me to come up with some unusual solutions. I used cheap crocheted table toppers for valances. I created an elaborate structure above the windows by wiring sticks together. The affect was of sitting under trees. In the fall I'd tuck colorful leaves in the sticks. Winter meant that the sticks were surrounded by evergreen boughs and colorful ribbon. Spring and summer meant inexpensive silk flowers, birds and nests found homes in my sticks.

I loved that apartment. It was small, but I loved working on making our home unique and cozy. As my own budget gets tighter and tighter I am enjoying finding new uses for what I have and finding cheap solutions to what I need.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Red by the bed...

If you've been coming around to this blog for any amount of time you know that I love red. Most rooms in my house have a lot of color. Yellow is the main color with red and green as accent colors.

I deviate from this palette a bit in my bedroom. All of that color would be too much in a bedroom which requires calm. The walls are a creamy white and most of the furniture is white. The accent colors are black and red and I just love the overall effect.

This is the top of David's armoire. We bought the armoire with the house since we have no real closets to speak of. Those red cowboy boots are child size and Lily likes to wear them. They always end up back on the armoire though because I love to look at them.

I was 29 years old in this picture and just a few months pregnant with Lily.

This is my radiator. I know that some folks love radiators because they lend an old fashioned feel to a room. My only complaint with radiators is that they limit the use of an entire corner of a room. It's a little frustrating to envision a new room set up only to have your dreams thwarted by a radiator.

This is my dresser. I keep all of my precious jewels from Goodwill and Target in those old jewelry and sewing boxes.

This is not in my room, but in my dining room. I've been meaning to show you my baby pitcher collection for ages. Also, you button naysayers, notice the buttons arranged by color and placed in cute little jars. So there.

I did make it out junking the other day, but I did not find much. I am hoping that as folks start clearing out their homes in a post holiday frenzy some good stuff will find its way to my favorite junk stores.

In other news David is slowly getting better and I am still running. I have thirty pounds to lose and some days it feels like I will never get there. I am trying to remind myself that it will be slow and steady but some times I would prefer fast and immediate. I've lost ten pounds so far and am enjoying the feeling of my clothes being looser. I am also completely excited to look for cheap smaller clothes at the junk store- a goal that is sure to keep me on track!