$5 Goodwill Challenge & Fireplace Decor Tour — Fall 2015

Beginning last January I began to dip my toes into the waters of YouTube. It took a while for me to actually get up the courage to post a video after thinking about it for months. One of the first people I began following was Hillary from My So Called Home . I found her when I was searching out planner videos (yes, that’s a thing and it’s addictive). Every season Hillary has a $5 Goodwill Challenge. The challenge is to go to Goodwill, other thrift stores or garage sales, spend $5 or less and then incorporate what you purchased into your seasonal decor. I have wanted to participate since I first saw it, but with the impending move last fall and then the remodel since we have moved, I haven’t been able to participate. I am so excited to finally be able to join in the fun!! 

Now, I did spend more on my decor than $5. Mainly because all of my decorations are still in storage. 😉  But I did find some things from Goodwill that fit the parameters of  the challenge. I’d like to take you on a tour of my fireplace and share with you what I upcycled and bought new. I hope you will enjoy the tour here and on YouTube and that you will be inspired to try something new.   photo Fall20fireplace201_zpsh52pexqe.jpg

I created this mercury glass mason jar by using Krylon Looking glass spray paint. It was really easy. I sprayed the jar on the inside with the paint. When that was dry I sprayed a mixture of white vinegar and water on the outside and immediately sprayed on the paint. Then I dabbed the water drops with a paper towel. I had never created a mercury glass affect before and was quite pleased with the result. I purchased the flowers at Michael’s for .79 each and have 3 stems in the jar. The paint was a little pricey- $8 for a small can- but I was able to paint 3 items with it.  So for the whole vase and flowers I spent about $5.

 The candle next to the vase is 2 votive candle holders with one inverted. The one on the bottom has a bigger mouth and a slightly bigger base which gives it good stability. If I were going to have them down where they could be knocked over I would have glued them together, but since they are up high I haven’t. Not having them glued has come in handy when I am turning off the LED candles. I purchased the candles at Walmart. The smaller ones are 2 for $2.97 and the larger one is $2.97.  I purchased the votives at Dollar Tree for $1 each. For each of the raised candles I spent $3.50. 

The garland that is draped on the mantle is actually made up of 4 garlands from Dollar Tree. I thought they looked a little sparse, so I twisted them together to get a fuller look. I spent $4 for the garland on the mantle. 

This pumpkin was one of those pumpkins we’ve probably all had at some time or another. It was orange and I’m sure it used to have a top. I actually like it better without the top and stem for some reason.  I tried to make this a mercury glass pumpkin, but found out it doesn’t work on something that isn’t clear. I liked the affect anyway and now and glad it is slightly different from the mercury glass pumpkin. It doesn’t look quite so matchy- matchy (that’s a technical decorating term in case you were in doubt 😉 )

I did really well at Michael’s this week when I was finishing out the decor. They had a 40-50% off sale on all of their fall decor. This sign was among the many wonderful decorations on sale. When I went in the store I had one idea of what I wanted, but when I saw this sign, I knew it was perfect. It was originally $9.99 but I only paid $6. The sign sat a little lower than I wanted so I bought a Styrofoam rectangle at Walmart and some brown felt. I used straight pins to attach the felt to the block; it isn’t super obvious and puts the sign up where it needs to be. The votive holder is another one from Dollar Tree.  

This pumpkin, which is also topless, was the clear glass type. I bought this one at Goodwill for $1.99.  I spray painted it using the same method I did with the mason jar and was really pleased with how it turned out. 

This birdcage was our first thrifting  purchase once we moved to north Louisiana.  We got it at Goodwill for $5. The LED candle in it is another one from Walmart, which was $2.97 and the leaves are a garland from Dollar Tree. I like that the bird cage can be changed up for different seasons. It’s also not too large and the size fits well on the mantle. 

I thrifted this basket a while back in Texas. It is one of the few decor pieces I had out of storage and it fit perfectly on the hearth. It is filled with Dollar Tree pumpkins that I spray painted cream and purple ( $6 ), two metallic pumpkins that I bought at Michael’s for about a dollar, and a bunch of flowers that were from Michael’s or Dollar Tree which were also a dollar. The silver pumpkin is resting in a cloche type glass lid, which I purchased at Goodwill for $1, and it has some Dollar Tree leaves in it. The basket is wrapped in two garlands from Dollar Tree. 

I knew that I wanted pumpkins to sit on this side of the hearth but was unsure what I would find when I went shopping. I was so excited when I got to Michael’s and they had exactly what I wanted and for 50% off.  I never would have paid full price for these, and I am so in love with them!! Can you fan-girl over pumpkins?? The largest one was originally $30, and I paid $15 and the smaller one was originally $20 and I paid $10. The green glass candy dish was from Goodwill and I paid $2. The dish contains metallic painted acorns that I got from the Target Dollar Spot for $3. 

So here’s my breakdown:

Goodwill: $12
Dollar Tree: $19
Michael’s : $38
Target: $6
Candles: $7.50
Paint: $16 out of pocket but I have 2/3 remaining of both the cream and the purple paint 

All in all I’m really pleased with how things turned out. It was fun to have a vision for a space and to have it work out the way I envisioned it. 

Have you decorated for fall yet? Do you ever thrift shop for home decor? Why or why not? 

What Did You Accomplish?

I don’t know about you but at the end of my day I often look around and feel as if I haven’t accomplished anything. Today was such a day. As I looked around my kitchen and saw dirty dishes and counters I felt defeated. I knew there was no way I would get what I wanted done. Then and idea struck me. I started running through a list of the things I had accomplished and was really surprised at all I had done. Just so you know, we operate on a pretty crazy schedule around here due to chronic Lyme disease, a child who has been having mental issues, and a husband who works crazy hours. Last night (well really this morning) I didn’t get Sarah to sleep until nearly 4 am and I was still awake until almost 6 because of my Lyme. At noon I was rudely woken up by Sarah loudly arguing with her sister (mind you, she’s deaf and doesn’t speak words, but she uses her voice really well. When you are sound asleep this sound reminds you of the scene in Jurassic Park when the T-Rex is chasing the jeep and Jeff Goldblum is shouting, “Must go faster! Must go faster! Sarah is the T-Rex).

Yeah, I pretty much responded the same way the people in the jeep did. After being jolted awake, I am often not at my best. My sweet girls got me my first cup of tea (a cup for me is a 20 oz. travel mug) while I had a little discussion with Sarah. These discussions happen many times throughout my day. Just  imagine you have a over active 3 year old in the body of a 26 year old and you’ll sorta get the picture. Gene leaves for work at 2:30 so there were some things I had to get done before he left.

This is my list of what I accomplished today. I encourage you to make your own list of things you have done, I think you will be surprised at how much you really did accomplish. This is in no way me bragging, far from it. I have about 1 million and 1 things that are incomplete that needed to be finished weeks ago. But, such is my life. I am learning to do what I can do and not sweat it if I can’t.

So here was/is my day. It’s 12 am as I’m writing this and I still have at least 2 hours of work to go. Just for clarity, right now we have people on 4 different diets due to health reasons, so often my kitchen is more like a diner.

Woke up  Startled out of restful sleep

Morning Cuppa Technically afternoon, but who’s counting

Made Hannah’s breakfast

Made Gene’s lunch for work

Made Sarah’s lunch

Made Chicken stock in the crockpot (it is still simmering and I LOVE that smell!)

Made Hannah and Rachel’s lunch

Ran errands- HEB, Walmart and Dollar Tree (did you know that they have $1 digital timers? I love timers!!!)

Watered the yard (this took repeated trips outside to move the sprinkler)

Made Sarah & Hannah’s meatloaf & Sarah’s squash

Researched information and e-mailed it to a friend


Replied to 5+messages

Sarah in bed (only sorta, she won’t be asleep for hours)

Made the rest of us regular meatloaf

Downloaded e-books

Wrote this blog post

Still to do:

Make homemade laundry detergent

Make coconut milk

Dishes (I seriously doubt those will get finished!)

Clean kitchen counters and stove (not looking promising either)

Through out all of this there many times I stopped to correct or counsel Sarah, visit with the girls, and drink many cups of tea. The reality is, I will always have something unfinished, and my To-Do list will never be completed. Why do I keep beating myself up for not being able to do the impossible? I am going to stop chastising myself and accept the reality that is my life. I will always strive to do better, but I am not going to beat myself up over it. How about you? What did you accomplish today? Do you beat yourself up over what didn’t get done?


Mini Christmas Tree

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 While decorating for Christmas the other day Caroline and I ran into a problem. The village on the top of the entertainment center seemed rather dark. We talked about several options, and decided that we would create a some type of light for the dark corner. We tossed around several ideas as to how to go about it and this is what we came up with. We all love how it looks. Rachel says the light shining down on the village makes it look like sunrise or sunset.  

 photo chickenwiretreeframe_zps5498e072.jpgYesterday we got out in the cold and rain and made a quick trip to Home Depot and Walmart for supplies. At Home Depot we bought a 2′ x 10′ roll of chicken wire for close to $8. We also bought some nice wire cutters and needle nose pliers (shh, don’t tell Gene, I’m hiding these tools from him so they don’t go MIA). Then we went to Walmart to get lights and other supplies for decorating (those projects will be in a different post). 

This project was quite fluid and we started out with one idea which didn’t work out as well as we would like, so we played with it until we got it how we wanted it. This also means it would be easily adaptable for you. You can add ribbons, bows, or ornaments, or you could have fewer lights. It was so easy and from the 10′ roll you could probably get 4-5 trees of varying sizes. We ended up using lights that we already had and weren’t using, which puts our only real expense for the tree at the cost of the wire. Since we only used about 1/4 of the roll, the wire cost us less that $2. We played with the idea of putting a star on the top but decided against it. 

The instructions are pretty simple. We cut and approximate 2′ square and then made it into a cone folding the raw edges of the wire in on itself to make it stay closed. We trimmed the wire at the base until it was level and able to stand. To string the lights we started by sticking the plug and excess wire that didn’t have lights into the center and running it through the bottom. We then just wound it up until that string ran out. We then put the other end of the wire into the inside and started the process over again until the tree was covered. This tree has about 300 lights on it. 

The possibilities are really limited only by your imagination. If you make a tree like this, please let me know. I’d love to share the pictures here with others. If you have a blog, I’d love to link to it with your post about it. 


Calendar Organization

Now that school has started it seems that our calendar is quickly filling up. As the holidays approach our calendar will become even more crowded. I found myself struggling with trying to juggle my calendar organization the other day and this idea popped into my head. It has already helped me tremendously & I hope that it will help you also.

I do use the calendar in my phone, but I am a girl who loves her paper. I have tried going paperless on many things and I just can’t do it. Besides, who wouldn’t want to use a calendar that has my all too cute grandson on it?

 I had several people we were trying to schedule to have over for dinner & a trip that Gene has to make for work that still has no set date.  I got post-it note strips and wrote the names of people we were trying to schedule and Gene’s trip. I placed the strips that I had an idea about a date for on that corresponding date. For those that I wasn’t sure about I put on the bottom of the calendar.

 Because these notes stick & re-stick it made it easy to juggle things as I was trying to schedule them. I am very visual, so having it where I could see it to make changes made things much easier.


Once the date was firm, I would then take off the post-it and write it in pencil. I used to write dates in pen, but things can come up and plans will have to be re-scheduled and I hate marking through things, I’m just neurotic that way.

I hope that this tip is helpful to you. Do you have any other ideas/tips on organizing your calendar? Please share them, I love to hear great ideas.

Turkey Day

Every year after Thanksgiving and Christmas I hit the stores looking for the holiday meats that have been marked down. Last Friday I went to Kroger looking for marked down fresh turkey. Normally I would buy a turkey that is .25 a pound or less, but this year we are having to do things differently. Due to dietary restrictions we aren’t able to buy the frozen turkey because it is injected with all types of things before they freeze them. So, from now on it’s fresh for us.

When I went to the store to buy my turkeys they only had 22 pounders left. They were some huge birds! I bought two of them planning on roasting, carving and putting them in small portions in the freezer. We’ll use the meat for soups, salads, and casseroles. I knew I wouldn’t be able to get to them for a couple of days and put them on ice in a large ice chest. I use my ice chests a lot during the holiday season since my refrigerator is usually packed. I don’t know why it took me so long to think of doing that, it has sure been a lifesaver since I started doing it.

I bought my two disposable roasting pans Monday and was ready to roast on Tuesday. I usually use my table top roaster for my turkeys (can’t say how much I love that appliance!) but these birds wouldn’t fit in it. Tuesday was going to be turkey day! I was ready, and I had a plan. I was going to roast the turkeys one at a time in the oven because I didn’t think there was any way to fit them both in at the same time. I wasn’t injecting them because I was going to be using the meat in different ways. It was going to be simple; rinse the birds, throw them in the pan and roast them.

I should know by now that simple doesn’t exist in my house. I am the type of person who always hopes for the best, and thinks things are going to run smoothly, I don’t know why I am always surprised when they don’t. You would think I would have learned by now. Well, on turkey day who do you think awoke with a stomach bug? If you guessed me, you’d be right. On top of me being sick, Caroline also had a stomach bug an Hannah is suffering with a major migraine which left Rachel to run the house and cook two turkeys. Did I mention that I am the only one in the house to have ever roasted a turkey? As I was getting back into the bed about to pass out the thought came to me that it was turkey day and I had two humongous turkeys that were going to take about 8 hours of cooking. The idea of sticking my hand inside a naked, dead, & cold (which is a greater reminder of its lack of life) bird was enough to turn my stomach, not that it wasn’t already doing somersaults.

When I told Rachel my dilemma she cheerfully told me that she would take care of it. I was in that state of half-awake, half-passing out when I gave her directions as to how to cook the turkeys. I am sure I was quite clear in those directions, they made perfect sense to me. After I awoke from my coma to smells of turkey wafting in the air, I walked stumbled into the kitchen to check on the turkey. Much to my surprise I found two turkeys in roasting pans crammed into the oven. I asked Rachel how she had prepared them because they looked different than anything I had done before. She told me that she had adapted a dry brining method we had heard about from a friend. She separated the skin from the birds and rubbed a mixture of olive oil and sea salt generously all over the bird. On top of the skin she rubbed a little more of that mixture and more oil on them to make them crispy. She cooked them breast down, which allows all of the juices to run into the breast, and slow roasted them at 325 (F). The only problem with cooking them breast down is that the skin isn’t crispy on the breast. You can alleviate that by flipping the bird and cooking it breast side up for the last 45 minutes or so. For me, I would rather the juicy meat and I don’t worry about the skin. Besides, who wants to try to flip two hot 22 pound turkeys?!

We were rather dubious at first, thinking that the meat was going to be too salty. Once we carved the bird and tasted it, all fears were gone. Those were the best turkeys we have ever tasted! It was all moist and juicy and had just the right amount of saltiness to it. I don’t have pictures to share, I wasn’t up to taking any last night, and I sure wish I could give you a taste through your monitor, but since I can’t, you are just going to have to trust me.

Beginning Couponing

I recently began extreme couponing and have been sharing my experiences with some of my friends locally. I wanted to share on our blog as well. As time goes on I will share some hints of what I have done that have made it easier for me. I will also share my blunders in an effort to help you not make the same mistakes. Tonight I want to share with you a trip I made to Target. I learned a very valuable lesson that I’m sure will help me in the future and you as well.

This is the breakdown of what I purchased:

4 Milo’s Dog Jerky Treats – $1 each
3 Kraft Salad Dressings – .73 each
1 Loaf of Bread – free
4 Dove Men’s Deodorants – .38 each
1 Zantac 24 – .59
2 Gold Bond Hand Sanitizers – $1.99 each
4 Ortega Black Beans – .50 ea
2 packs Paper Mate Pens – .24 each

Most of these items were stacked with Target and manufacturer’s coupons. Here is where the lesson I learned came in (ok, I just double checked my receipt and apparently I have more to learn). The girl checking me out did not scan all of my coupons. She missed both of the Target Dove coupons (which were for $2 each). I saw that she missed those and went to customer service and they refunded my money. She also charged me for an extra deodorant, which they refunded. I just realized she left off all four of my dog treat coupons. I will go back to Target tomorrow and if they won’t refund me for the coupons, I will return the treats. So, if my transactions had gone like they were supposed to, I would have spent $14.68 for all of the items. At this point I spent $20.68. The percentage of savings as it stands now is 65%, after the adjustment it will be 75%.

One thing that really helped me was I had a print out with me of all the deals I intended to purchase. I was on the Krazy Coupon Lady site and I copied and pasted each of the deals I wanted to do into a Word document. It was a tremendous help at the store as I was collecting my items, but also helpful for me at customer service as I knew exactly what coupons I had used and their value. This is the first time I have ever had such problems with coupons. When she first saw my coupons she looked them over very carefully, as if I was doing something wrong. I don’t really know what happened, but I may talk to the manager tomorrow and see if there is something I can do in the future to prevent this type of problem.

I look forward to sharing other coupon trips with you as well as giving you a peek in my binders. I will also share my sorting system, which works very well. If you have been couponing, share your hints, or experiences with me, I’d love to hear them.



I went back to Target this morning. I had with me a copy of the coupon policy (which I didn’t need), a typed out list of what my transactions should have looked like with coupon amounts, and my receipts. I also had the dog treats (in case they didn’t give me my money, I was going to return them), and the pens they didn’t charge me for. I spoke to a lady in management first. I explained that I was concerned not only for my coupons, but also for them as I was concerned that the checker was somehow trying to steal from the store by charging me so much extra. She told me that couldn’t happen and then told me that I would need to talk to a PA (I think those were the letters) and that he would be able to look at the tape to see exactly what happened. She didn’t think he was in and said I would have to come back, but after checking the schedule found he was in the store.

He was very kind and helpful. I explained my concerns and he asked to borrow my receipts and told me he would be back in a minute. He brought back a print out of the transaction that showed every keystroke that the cashier made. If she canceled a coupon, or it didn’t take, it showed up on that sheet. We compared my receipts, the sheet he had and my list of what should have happened. He was very patient and more than willing to help me out. When it was all said and done, my total to be refunded was $6.76 (this included the .24 I owed for the pens not being charged to me). He commented that he could tell that I was being honest and how much he appreciated my patience (a smile and kind words go a long way). He rounded the amount up to $7 and took the papers to the manager and told her to pay me. He apologized again. I commented at one point that I really didn’t think anyone could make that many mistakes in one transaction, and he said that he would be having a chat with this cashier.

I am so thankful for the extra effort that they took in working everything out for me.

A/C Woes

Things have been interesting around her lately. We have had problems with our air conditioner for about a year, but didn’t attend to it because the problem seemed random. Every so often we would find the carpet in the hall to be wet, and when we would open the unit nothing would be there. We would think the drain line might be blocked, so we would clear it and everything would be fine. Then, a couple of months later… it would happen again. When we pulled up Lindsay’s carpet we discovered that it had been soaking her floor as well and that her carpet had mildewed. Not good for an asthmatic!

We found part of the problem but didn’t know what was causing it, only the symptom. The symptom was that the whole cooling unit would freeze and have ice covering it. We believed it to be low freon, but were concerned that the whole unit would have to be replaced. Nearly two weeks ago a cool front came in and I turned on the heat, and when I did the heater made a terrible racket. So, I just turned the unit off and we put on warmer clothes. When it warmed up the next day we decided to not use the air, but open windows (we don’t tend to do that because of airborne allergies). After a couple of days we decided to turn the air back on and it smelled musty and like mildew, so back off it went. We called an A/C man in last week and he said the freon was really low. It was an inexpensive fix, for which we were very grateful. When he left the air was cool and strong. We noticed the musty mildew smell but hoped it would quickly dissipate… it didn’t. The next day we all woke up feeling terrible, so Gene and I decided to turn the air off again. We were so thankful that the Lord provided perfect weather for all of this.

All of this brings us to last Thursday. When Gene came home from work that evening he went under the house to see if there was mold/mildew on the sub-floor from the water. There wasn’t, but he noticed the ductwork felt cool as if it were wet. He took his knife and was going to poke a hole in the ductwork to see if it had water in it. We had been checking for the ductwork to be damp by feeling in Lindsay’s duct but had never felt any dampness. Our ductwork is different than most I have seen, it isn’t metal on the inside, it has an insulation on it. Back to under the house, when Gene took his knife to poke a small hole… it went all the way through. It turns out that it isn’t a metal tube with insulation, it was and insulated board, with silver A/C stuff (don’t ya love my technical terms?) all around it. Water was dripping from the insulation and it was all soaked and mildewed smelling. When he found that, we knew it would have to be replaced. We hoped it would only be right under the unit, but it went all the way to the front of the house. Gene spent all day Saturday and Sunday under the house ripping out and replacing the ductwork. Because of how it is made, Gene was able to custom make it and it wasn’t nearly as expensive as it could have been. We held our breath Sunday evening as we turned the air back on… and I smelled that musty smell again! I went out to see Gene, who was cleaning up under the house, and told him of the smell. We decided to run the air for a while and see if it went away… and it did in just about 30 minutes.

As far as we can tell the ductwork has been like this for close to a year, and yes, it’s in the same part of the house that all of the girls are in; their bedrooms and bathroom. We are hoping that it will greatly improve their health, though it will be hard to tell until the ragweed is gone.

I am so thankful that the Lord provided me with a husband who can repair so many of the things that go wrong with our home and cars. It has saved us a great deal of money over the years.

September 20, 2007

The stomach bug hasn’t completely left the house as of yet, but those who are affected are showing signs of improvement. I’m just hoping that Gene doesn’t come down with it; tonight he was looking a little peaked.

My outside work has been very rewarding this week. Sunday evening Lindsay and I weeded the much overgrown herb bed. While doing so we came across a sweet basil plant that had grown from the seeds dropped last year. What a pleasant surprise. We lost a lot of our mint, as it’s extremely hard to weed around. I’m not worried about it though; I know it’ll be back with a vengeance. It’s amazing what a little water will do for your plants. I had been quite neglectful in this area (I’ll blame it on the fact that we had so much rain early in the summer) and most of my plants reflected it. I put additional dirt in my hibiscus’ pot and watered it quite well, and now it is thriving. My new mums are beginning to bloom and my roses are producing new buds each day.

Things inside the house have gone more slowly this week due to the stomach bug, but I plan on putting a lot of time into it this weekend. I’m hoping to do some fall decorating along with the de-cluttering. If I’m able, I’ll post some picture of the outcome.

Well, as I was writing this, another mini-crisis occurred. I was up quite late with girls with asthma problems, when we noticed that the A/C wasn’t blowing much air at all. What air it was blowing, was barely cool. When I opened the top of the unit, I found it covered with ice. This is not a good thing. I unfortunately had to wake Gene. How I hated to do that, but I didn’t know the procedure for a frozen A/C. He told me what to do for it, until we can get someone out next week and as of this writing, I am blow-drying the unit. The time is now 3:19am. Hopefully it won’t take too long, but it was frozen on both sides of the cooling unit, so I may be at this for a while. Thankfully, all of my girls are pretty self-sufficient and they will let me sleep late in the morning

Here are some pictures from around the yard, I hope that you enjoy them.

Thanks for taking the time to stop by, and have a wonderful weekend.




yard 4

yard 5

yard 6

yard 7


yard 9

yard 10

yard 11

yard 12