Andrea’s Parlor

Andrea wrote to me a few weeks ago:  “I need help making my house more attractive, but have almost no budget to do so.  I am sure you can relate.  I am terrible with colors.  My house is dark. So, I’d like to lighten things up.  It had all dark trim.  I am slowly painting it all white.  I have a rather small living room which comes off of a very large eat-in kitchen by a set of French doors.  So, I need the colors to flow, since it is visible from the kitchen.  I am more of a country girl than a modern girl.  My oldest is graduating this year and we are having a cookout here.  We were so blessed to be able to homeschool him for his entire schooling.  So, I am ready for a party! I really want to spruce things up, but don’t have too much time.  It is June 17th!”

Andrea’s home is large and airy and the French doors are really charming.  Her whole main floor is butter yellow and it’s such a bright sunny color, I decided to use the same thing in her parlor.

Here is her foyer

and her dining area with the butter walls.

Here is her parlor.  She’s in the midst of a big wallpaper removal project, so it doesn’t have any paint yet.

She has done a lot of things right with her space.  First her idea to paint all the trim white is perfect. It really does brighten up the space and make it feel fresh and crisp.  She also has a nice big rug and not too much clutter.

This view shows another window on the other side of the armoire! I love how much natural light is in this room.

When I’m working in a room the first thing I do is empty it completely, then give everything a fresh coat of paint.  I know designers think of the ceiling as the 5th wall, but when it comes to a space that I like living in long term, I’ve never found anything better than a bright white ceiling to bounce as much light as possible.

When a room is empty you can see things like: the armoire was blocking the light from the far window from reaching into the room, and it was taking up space that rightfully belongs to curtains.

I decided on a color scheme of butter yellow, pale aqua, and shades of pink.  I found a beautiful rug  that will bring in the pale aqua without drawing too much attention to itself.  Then I tried it on with some fun pink curtains with tassels.

It didn’t have the restful vibe that I thought she would want, so I traded them out for an aqua set with white pinstripes and mini pom pom trim. Texture from pom poms or tassles or a woven in stripe give a design more depth. Also, curtains look best when hung as high and wide as possible. They can be closed when necessary for privacy but when open shouldn’t block any of the glass.

Curtains too low, too short and too narrow.

Long curtains hung too low and too narrow.

Curtains hung high and wide.

Ahhh, that’s better.  Her furniture looks super comfy but a little worn, so I recommend she slip covers it in white or cream.  That sounds scary but slip covers wash very well and bleach in the sun.  For the best look, sew tailored covers that have separate covers for each cushion.

Furniture looks best when it isn’t pushed all the way back against the walls.  It also needs to have at least it’s front legs on the rug so everything looks cohesive. To give a place to add lamps on the windowless wall I slid a sofa table behind the sofa.  You’ll be able to see the cute X design from the doorway.  Free plans here.

I used a Hemnes dresser for a TV console, but she could use any lowboy style dresser painted white that fit in her space.  Unlike the Armoire, it’s low stature will allow light to travel through the space and it can be pulled forward far enough to allow the curtains to hang freely behind it.  (It’s on sale for $50 off through the end of May.)

Since everything in this room is square so far, I added a round coffee table (and round stump end table shown later.)  They are both easy builds for someone with a little wood experience.

Next up are some cozy throw pillows to bring in our pink accent color, aqua Glass lamps with mirror behind, and a basket under the table for texture (and to hold music stand pieces when they are collapsed.)

The room is still missing something… you know what it is?  PLANTS!  Whether real or faux, plants add greenery and LIFE to a space and no room will feel complete without them.

The window box is made from reclaimed wood and filled with chalk painted mason jars with jute trim and stuffed with faux roses and greenery. But Andrea could pot herbs in the jars in stead.  A small bowl filled with moss adds greenery where there might not be enough light for a houseplant. And aqua glass vases hold faux flower stems.

If she needs additional storage for sheet music or instruments, she can add a lateral file cabinet or console under the window.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

P.S.  After I showed her the pictures, she said, “But I’m tired of yellow.”  Bwa ha ha!  No worries.  I showed her what it would look like if the walls were painted Benjamin Moore White Heron.  You know what?  I like it even better.

The Ibotta App–Is it worth your time?

A friend recently introduced me to the Ibotta app and I gave it a try.  Here’s what you need to know:

It’s easy to download the free app, unlock coupons and then verify them by scanning your receipt and your product upc from the packaging after you get home from shopping. Do it right away before you lose anything or eat the food and recycle the packages.

The products are mostly name brands that are trying to increase their reach or to announce a new product release…like Post Cinnamon Rice Pebbles cereal.  But there are some unbranded coupons available, like “any bread” “any milk” “eggs” or “bananas.”  There is a large amount of coupons for alcohol–which doesn’t feel very classy, but it was easy enough to scroll past them for the real food.

The same coupons work at multiple stores, but are usually limited to 1 or 2 of the same item at any 1 location.  If you use a coupon at Wal-mart, it will disappear from your options for that store for the week, but you might be able to unlock the same coupon for another store.

Not all the coupons are for food.  Jo-Ann crafts and a handful of clothing stores are participating too.  When I first started there was only 1 coupon at JoAnn, but there are a more available now.

Once you earn $20 or more in rebates, you can request the cash sent to you via paypal or though gift cards.  In a little over 3 weeks, I earned about $38. Since I have a business paypal account with fees taken out of it, I opted for an Amazon gift card.

You can earn additional money by sharing a link with friends who don’t already us the app. They’ll give you $5 credit when a new friend joins through your link and redeems their first coupon.

Most of the foods are rare treat type foods and not our every day staples, but I’ve still found several things that I could use each week.

What about you? Have you ever used Ibotta before?  Do you use any other coupon/rebate apps?

Makeover Monday: Lindsey’s Bowling Alley Living Room

Lindsey recently moved into this home with gorgeous thick wood molding.  The living room is open to the
dining room and kitchen with a wide cased opening.

She writes: “The only things that NEED to stay in the room are the couch, the curtains, and the white paint. Everything else is leftover from our old house and can be eventually replaced or moved elsewhere. (The rug is new but doesn’t have to stay in this room.)”

In addition to help with the awkward layout, she asked for assistance with lighting and how to cover so much blank wall space.  She had a really great floor lamp, but it wasn’t enough to light the 20′ long space without central light fixtures.  She requested more help with lamp placement since ceiling fixtures  seemed way too expensive.

The challenge is the living room’s 11×20 floorprint, making furniture arrangement difficult. It’s so tricky, I had to mull over it for several weeks before I came up with some options.

The door you see here, leads to the entry, and the previous owner had the cable hook up installed right by the door. That makes it feel like you have to have your TV right there, covering up part of the doorway trim, and  leaves the larger half of the room awkwardly wondering what it’s function should be. 

Moving Cable hookups is a fairly simple project (according to Pretty Handy Girl.)  So I slid her console further down the wall so she could center her seating area on the window.  Normally I wouldn’t put furniture blocking a window, but since these windows go all the way to the floor it’s the best option. The trick is to make sure the cords are hidden as much as possible to look ok from the outside.  I would attach them to the back of the console with matching yellow tape.

In our personal house projects, we have found that electricians will often work evenings on side jobs for extra money and charge around $30 an hour.  They can create hookups and install light fixtures in 2-3 hours, making them cost the same as buying a handful of table lamps.  So just in case I could persuaded her, I put a pair of matching flush shell chandeliers in the space.  Just because the ceilings are 8′ doesn’t mean you can’t have statement lighting.  These only have a 12 inch drop and each hold 4-60 watt bulbs, but she can go even brighter with LEDs if she needs it.

If she prefers, she can add accent tables (stump tables are my favorite when the budget it tight) and add lamps to them.

I added some built in shelving to surround the window.  This pulls the wall closer while giving her extra storage and a little bench under the window.  The wood frame of the bench, ends under the glass of the window, but the cushion is above.  A Roman shade hung from the ceiling adds softness to this end of the room and visible height.   It can be pulled down for privacy, but when raised up, doesn’t block any natural light.

On the entry side of the room, I built her a mudroom locker system with doors that close completely so you don’t see any clutter from the living room side.  I added a landscape print where her TV used to be with accents of blue in it to coordinate with her curtains.  A large mirror on the opposite wall gives you a space to check yourself before leaving the house, but even better it visibly widens the narrow room.  By reflecting the landscape print on the opposite side, subconsciously we register the mirror as a window.

I used a playful rug to ground the seating are.  It’s large enough (8×10) that all the legs of the furniture can rest on it.  This print is from RugsUsa and reminds me of a modern granny square afghan.  I love how it brjngs together the yellow and turquoise from her curtains and console while bringing in some of the mid-century modern feel from her design boards.  To added texture I brought in a pom pom accent throw and throw pillows. And a plush round storage ottoman to hold extra blankets and extra seating and no dangerous corners.

For additional art I used family pictures taken in outfits that compliment her color scheme.  When you hang your curtains high and wide, not only does the window look bigger and the ceilings taller, but you don’t need as much art, win-win-win.

Just for giggles, here are some side by side before and afters.


Yellow Smile

Teal Flower

Teal Medallion

Pink Fur Pillow

Pink Dot Pillow

Tall light gray chair

Tufted Accent Chair

Art (this is the source i got it from but I had trouble nailing it down after that.)

This post contains Amazon affiliate links :).

Simplifying Breakfast

When I was a new mom I had dreams of sitting around the table every morning, with Daddy leading devotions to smiling children memorizing Bible verses set on a backdrop of a hearty home cooked breakfast. I had no idea at the time that we would welcome one baby after another and that I’d have 12 years of rough mornings. We’d be up all night taking turns with a colicky baby and Darren would peel out of bed barely rested, just in time to throw on clothes and dash to work where he had a loaf of bread stashed for breakfast toast.

Read the rest at  and get the make ahead Always Ready Bran Muffin recipe that my family loves.

Meet MomCeo Ashley Finnegan

I mentioned yesterday that Darren and I were at a conference together last week and it helped us get on the same page with our family and business plans. While I was there I met one of my colleagues at Mom Ceo, Ashley Finnegan.  What a great person!  She knows her stuff when it comes to building a successful business and I asked her to share with us some of her thoughts.

First, here’s a little facebook live I did on my MomCeo page about what to look for (and what to avoid) in a work from home situation.

Ashley is a former marketing executive turned work-from-home mom, who mentors other women to create a career that doesn’t take time from their family. I wanted to ask her about her business, MomCEO, and get her expert advice on achieving that perfect work/life balance.

Welcome to Grocery Shrink, Ashley! Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I’m a mother of two, an entrepreneur, and a proud Gainesville, Florida resident. I used to work in the corporate world, but like many professional parents, I eventually became dissatisfied with the strain that my work was putting on my family time.

Now I’m a partner with MomCEO, which makes it possible for women to build their own businesses from their homes. Through MomCEO, I help other women build fulfilling careers on their own terms.


MomCEO caught my eye because it allows you to boost your family’s income without losing quality family time. What’s the secret?

The big secret is that a healthy work/life balance is totally possible with a supportive team like MomCEO. In many professions, it can feel like your job and your family are competing for your time. MomCEO was created to change this.

With MomCEO, I choose and schedule my own hours. I can work from home, part-time or full-time, weekdays or weekends, morning or night—it’s all up to me. This way, I can schedule my work around my family, not the other way around. It’s also such a relief to be working with a team of other committed, entrepreneurial moms who understand that family time is just as much of a priority as work.

What type of work do MomCEO team members do?

MomCEO partners with a U.S.-based manufacturer that produces earth-conscious and affordable wellness products. Our team members educate consumers about how to avoid toxins and choose products for their home that will help them build healthy, safe, eco-friendly lifestyles.

What kind of income can MomCEO members expect?

Since MomCEO launched, it has grown to more than 100 team members across the country. About a third of those women get their primary source of income through MomCEO. The other two thirds work part-time with MomCEO, providing an additional revenue source for their families. Some women want to earn a few hundred dollars a month while others are looking to replace a six-figure income. Each mom has a different financial goal and motivation for joining our team. I help them create an individual plan to accomplish those goals.

What are the best parts of being able to work from home?

Working from home has given me incredible freedom, as a professional and as a mom. Most importantly, I don’t need to go out of my way to make time for my kids. Any time I’m not at my desk is quality time with them.

Before you joined MomCEO, you were working as a marketing executive in the corporate world. Do moms need your kind of background to join MomCEO?

Not at all! Our team members come from all different backgrounds, experiences, and education levels. What matters is that they’re self-driven and passionate about their work.

You can see more of Ashley on her YouTube channel and request a personal call from a MomCeo team member to get more information.

When we’re on the same page

I took a trip last week for business training, and when I was making my plans, my husband offered to go with me.  At first all I could think about what how much it was going to cost to not be able to share a hotel room with a bunch of girls and to buy the extra convention ticket–plus his vacation time, and finding someone to watch all the kids.  But we did it anyway, and it was the best decision.  Him being on the same page with me has helped motivate me to make better decisions with how I spend my time and boost how I build my business.

With both of us going, we drove the 18 hours straight through, trading off when the driver became too tired. It saved us $600 on airfare.  Then we skipped the hotel and rented a loft apartment from Airbnb.  It cost less than splitting a room with girls, plus we had a full kitchen and separate living area.  That allowed us to run to Wal-mart and get groceries for breakfast and lunch, which saved us another $100 over restaurants.

It had a round bed that was very comfy.

If you’d like to try Airbnb for the first time, use my link to save $40 off your first stay.  It’s a much better solution for me, especially when traveling with my whole family, since we’d normally need 2 hotel rooms and with airbnb can stay all together more affordably.

Driving the 18 hours home, we had a lot of time to talk and plan and we both came to the same realization–Netflix had to go.  I dreaded telling my kids about it, but my decision was made.  They surprised me by being supportive.  I canceled right away when we were all still in our family meeting and thought the kids would be relieved to learn that they had 14 days left that we had already paid for before the service would be discontinued.  They all said, “no matter, we’re done too. ” and then they deleted the app off their devices!!!!

If you’d like more details about why we did it and what we plan to do instead, you can check out my facebook live here.  I started the conversation by explaining what our business goals were and how Netflix was getting in our way.  We showed them pictures of a vacation we’d like to take together before Heidi leaves home, and also talked about the types of values we wanted to lay before our eyes.  This helped set the stage for the words, “We’re going to cancel Netflix.”

Two nights ago, we had been Netflix free for a few days and actually got to bed early.  So I said, “Hey, is there a Bull on tonight?” Thinking we would just go to instead and Darren said, “The TV has robbed us from all our life goals–I NEVER want to watch it again.” I just said, “Whoa, now that’s the power of both of us having the same goal!”  On my own, I would have just started watching shows another way, but his encouragement and dedication was really powerful to me.

In other news, you might have missed the Facebook Live where I explained what Fit Mama is. Our next challenge starts Monday!!!! If you are already a Grocery Shrink member it’s free to join the challenge. If you aren’t a member…well, why not? You can take care of that here.

When My Life Changed in 4 Weeks

There’s something about an organized, fresh, and well styled room that changes my whole mood.  It wasn’t long ago that my room was so horrible–dirty, disorganized, and with 40 year old paint and carpet.  It was the first thing I saw every morning and the last thing I saw every night.  It felt like a project too big to handle on my own and I was hopeless and depressed. Then someone stepped in and changed my life.  Myquillin Smith’s Cozy Minimalist course broke down the process into manageable steps and helped me take my bedroom from this…

to this…

in 4 weeks, on a tiny budget.  I paid $80 for the course and would do it again in a heartbeat.     I’m excited to announce that you don’t have to.  The Cozy Minimalist course is one of the 106 courses and resources included in the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle.  You can get the whole package plus 18 bonuses for jus $29.97.  Crazy! If just 1 or 2 of the resources are what you need right now, it’s a good value. Click any of the pictures below to see all it includes:

Changing my environment was life-changing.



$6 Left

Last weekend I finally ventured to Costco for the month and when I was done, I had $6 left for food in April.  It’s been awhile since I ran out of money this early in the month and I know exactly what happened.   Marshmallows and All Beef Hot Dogs several times a week add up. Plus they taste really good with chips and soda…also expensive and not healthy.

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Our new fire pit is so much fun, but I didn’t know what else to cook out there at first.  We’ve since broadened our horizons.   Marinated chicken and homemade whole wheat bread dough will roast on a hot dog fork.  And oh man!!! They are delicious.  You can also fork roast vegetables (like zucchini, mushrooms, peppers, and onions) and fruits like apples.

But really that’s not the point.  I broke one of my own rules this week and it didn’t end well.

Necessities FIRST! Rare treats after.  

I can have roasted marshmallows once in a while (but 4 bags a week might be overdoing it.)  I just should have made sure that I had enough money for all the essential foods first.

Necessities are any affordable foods that promote health:  In season fruits and vegetables, whole grains like oats, brown rice and 100% whole wheat bread or flour, unprocessed meats, nuts, beans, and some dairy items like milk, butter and cheese.

Rare treats are processed foods like crackers, chips, lunch meats, desserts, sodas, juices, and other beverages. They also might include higher priced healthy foods like steak or fresh raspberries. I’m not saying never buy these, just make sure of the necessities first.

We’ll be ok on $6 this week.  It’s enough to buy a couple of gallons of milk and my pantry is well stocked with enough stuff that we’ll eat just fine.  It’s a good chance to practice my creative pantry cooking skills, but I’ll be doing things differently in May.

Makeover Monday Nicci’s Living Room

When Nicci sent me the before photos of her living room I was blown away with the great bones of the space. 

It has a tall vaulted ceiling, a big centered fireplace, and is flanked on both sides with floor to ceiling windows.  So much light!

The semi-open floor plan looks into her kitchen and eating area to the left, and a work area with locker storage to the right that is right near the front door.  Stairs in the center lead to the bedrooms.

She already had the perfect furniture arrangement for the layout of the space.  The room could also support dueling full size sofas and accent chairs, but to keep the budget low, I reused her original pieces.  She said they’ve enjoyed their paint color but are are ready for something new.  She wasn’t sure if gray was too close to the end of it’s trend life to invest in  painting such a big area and wondered if she should dismantle and redo the fireplace completely.   She sent me her pinterest board of ideas and it was modern farmhouse style with planked walls and neutral colors.  Like these:

She was very interest in doing built ins on each side of the fireplace.  So I did one photo showing her how that would look if she took down the upper columns on the fireplace and planked the wall instead.  I put in custom built-ins and styled the shelves for her with color pops of salmony pink.  The TV would hide in the doored lower section on the right.

I also pulled out her fireplace insert and painted the inside with heat proof black paint. Then covered her hearth tile with Chalk Board Contact Paperas seen on The Nesting Place here and here.  She can leave it seasoned, or change the pattern to suit her fancy. There’s Marble Vinyl Paper on her hearth step. If she likes the look, she can make it more permanent later by looking for marble slab leftovers at Habitat Restore. I chose Benjamin Moore’s New Hope Gray for her paint color.  It’s gray with undertones of blue which keeps it from feeling too industrial.  It’s a medium color but pairs nicely with her gray/brown sectional and is lighter than her current paint.

Flower Arrangement


Paint Color: New Hope Gray


After looking at the picture for awhile, I started thinking about how much work it would be to demolish the fireplace.  To make the builtins work she’d also have to redo the whole mantle area and somehow scribe fill the gap between the built ins and the hearth.  It’s possible, but enough tricky and expensive that it might not ever happen.  So I made her a 2nd option, where she just filled the central panel of the upper fireplace with planks. And purchased matching cabinets for the lower area.  I hung her TV on the wall and then used art on both sides to make it look like part of an art installment.


Gather Art

Mountain Art

Here’s the deal about the gray trend.  Nothing is out of style if YOU like it.  Gray is a classic neutral and by itself isn’t on or off trend.  It’s what you put with it that might look outdated.  When gray was first all the rage it was paired with yellow or green, chevron stripes, or just lots of white and other cool neutrals.  The more current gray is warmed up with wood tones, greenery, and pops of color, but a well styled room is never “out” even if it’s using elements that were trendy 10 years ago.

P.S.  If you wish you were better at making decorating decisions for your own home, there’s something coming on Wednesday that is going to rock your world!  I’m so excited to tell you all about it.

Would you like your room photoshopped and featured on Makeover Monday?  Send a few photos from your space to and tell me your hopes and dreams for the room.  It’s free 🙂 


What if I’m already living the dream?

I’ve been a big dreamer my whole life, always reaching, never fully satisfied. Thinking of ways to improve our situation, make life more efficient. Thinking of ways to earn more money, and maybe enough that my husband and I could work together full time—finally earning the flexibility to do whatever we want. Professionally, my ultimate dream was to retire my husband from a traditional job. I imagined us working on the road as we showed our homeschooled kids the world.

Then one day a few weeks ago Read more