House Updates

We’ve been working on this fixer upper of ours for 4 years! This is the year we might get it finished.

I pulled the red sculpted carpeting on the second floor last year even though we didn’t have money to replace flooring.  The carpet was 40 years old and the allergens were really built up in it. As soon as we figured out it was part of why I was sick all the time we pulled it out. I painted the subfloor with porch paint and even though it was rough, it was ok.   As soon as I could save up the money, I bought the same flooring (TrafficMASTER Handscraped Seratoga Hickory) we put down in Heather’s room. (I still need to paint the walls, add trim and wainscoting and art. And move the mattress, ha ha–but baby steps.)

It’s a little darker than the trend is going right now, but it matches our vintage doors perfectly and is only $.99 a square foot.  Their lighter colorway in Lakeshore Pecan is only $.79 a square foot!  It has been in Heather’s room for almost 4 years now and it has worn perfectly.  No scratches or chunks out of it.  It has held up better than the real hardwood we installed on the main floor.

Next step is to replace the paneling in the office.  I was going to paint it white, but it has water damage that caused the panels to warp and fail at the seams, which could mean mold issues above. As much as I’m afraid to look behind the paneling, I can’t risk leaving mold up there.  With fresh white paneling up, the office will become the temporary master bedroom.  I’ll miss my closet, but I won’t miss running past the glass front door wearing nothing but a towel as I head to the working bathroom while hoping the glare of the sun off the glass blinds the neighbors before the sight of me in a towel does.  I’m imagining this kind of cottage feel:


After that, we start removing the pine planked basement ceiling which is covered with 100 florescent lights.  I love the look of a painted pine ceiling, but the lights created 100 large holes that can’t be easily fixed.  The plan is to drywall the ceiling with a modest amount of LED recessed lights, and hope to leave the pine walls for painting.   Heidi and I have plans for the ruined pine planks.  We are hoping there will be long enough scraps to build some furniture.

The ceiling is coming down before we’re ready to finish the basement to give access to electrical and plumbing for the new master bedroom.  The master has been raw studs and exposed pipes and wires for 4 years.  I got tired of looking at it and thumbtacked twin flat sheets to the ceiling awhile ago.  It really did make waiting easier.

Under the plywood on the floor is a giant hole where the sunken bathtub with no surrounding walls used to live.  It was a big tripping hazard, so we had the tub hauled off by a metal recycler and plunked some plywood down so no one would fall to their death to the basement.  This is RIGHT in front of the entrance to the bedroom.  You could sit in the former bathtub in the master and watch the TV in the family room and hold a conversation with everyone, convenient :).   Plus, the kids liked using it as a slide.  They were pretty upset they day it left.

We are moving the door in the master bedroom from the family room to the foyer.  This will give us enough space to build an ensuite bathroom, and allow faster middle of the night access to the 2nd floor where the children sleep.  The doors are right on the other side of the staircase from each other.  The new door is to the left of the old one and makes good sense inside the bedroom also.  There’s just enough space for the new door to make it 36 inches wide with room for proper trim.

Here are the current plans for the ensuite:

Also on the list:  finish the basement, build organizers in the garage, replace the driveway, build a lower patio under the upper deck, cut a back door and add stairs to go to the yard, build a swing set and finish the landscaping.  We’re about $16,000 short on the budget for ALL of this, so some projects will have to wait while we save up money.   I’m also hoping that I over budgeted on some projects and we will find money as we go along.  Bwa ha ha!  Like that EVER happens in remodeling.

We refinanced our home in January.  My parents hold the mortgage to the house.  It’s a rare situation I know, but they are very frugal and built a nice savings that my mom was afraid to invest in the stock market.  It was sitting in the bank making %0.005 interest driving my Dad crazy.  He was interested in loaning it to us where it could safely grow.  We were getting a mortgage anyway and would have to pay the interest somewhere, and it feels really good paying it to them.  We have the mortgage on direct deposit, so every month they automatically get paid.  We’re never late and everyone has peace of mind.  That simple piece of organization keeps the family relationship good.  I know this is something that Dave Ramsey says to never do, but it works for us.  This January, my folks gave us back all the principal+interest that we had paid them over the last 4 years and started our loan over.  If we are super careful, it should be enough to finish the house modestly.


How to Know if It’s an Ear Infection

She’s crying…again.  She seemed fine during the day, but now that it’s time for bed, she’s screaming.  Is she just overtired?  Being naughty about bedtime?  Or is there something seriously wrong?

As a new mom, I felt a lot of stress over knowing when to call the doctor or run to the emergency room.  It was even harder when they were too young to really tell me what was wrong.   Is it just a cold?  Or a bacterial infection that needs antibiotics?

One of my babies was a real screamer.  At his 6 week checkup, he screamed royally for the doctor. The doctor looked at me and said, “Does he do this often?”

“All the time,” I responded, exhausted.   I couldn’t just stay up with him at night holding him. We would have to leave the house, because his screaming would keep everyone awake.  There was nothing I could do, except put him in the jogger and run. If the breeze stopped cooling his face, he would scream.  2am.  3am.  I ran, so the family could sleep.  (You would think I would lose weight quickly that way…but nope.  Not a pound.)

“Take him to Children’s Mercy, Now.”  He said.  “I’m calling ahead, so they will expect you.”

I called my husband enroute to the hospital, who left work and met me there.  They asked me his symptoms.  “He screams,” I said.  They looked confused.  They ran a huge battery of tests.  They found NOTHING wrong.  We received a hefty bill to have our child diagnosed as “fussy.”

It made me cautious.  When do I call?  When is it just nothing?  I don’t have all the answers to that and it’s good to err on the side of being cautious.  But you can get a tool that will help you with your decision making.

There are more expensive versions for sure, but we have this one and for $15 it does the job well.  It comes with a little card showing what a healthy ear drum looks like and an infected one.  I don’t exactly self-diagnose with this, but If I look in there and see the angry red ear drum, we call the doctor.

As a novice, I would call the doctor and say, “He has an ear infection.”  They don’t like that.  Doctors went to school for 8 years to have the right to say, “he has an ear infection.”  I did not.  So now I call up and say, “He has an earache, a fever of 101, and when I looked inside with my otoscope I saw a red inflamed ear drum.”   Just facts, no diagnosis.  That goes a lot better.

P.S. The links are not affiliate links.  Just a product I personally have and hope will make your life easier.

P.P.S. I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV.  This post is not meant to diagnose or treat any disease.

The Good Girl’s Guide to Impulse Shopping

This post has some alternate titles, including:  Well, That Escalated Quickly and That Time I Went to Ikea

It can happen at any store. Target is especially troubling, but even the grocery store can be a culprit.  I’m there with my list, but I see something I need that isn’t on the list.  It would have been if I had known about it, but I didn’t know until I saw it just now.  I can leave it there and hope I forget about it, but I know I won’t.  I’d just have to make another trip back for it.  That would cost gas money and time, so I put it in your cart.


Photo Credit, Target Corporate 

It’s only a few dollars.

It would make a great teacher’s gift. I should get 2 more.

It’s adorable and would cost more to make it myself.  Besides, my time is worth something!

I’m especially susceptible when I’m shopping at a store that’s a long drive from home, like yesterday when I was at Ikea. If I change my mind, I can’t easily go back and buy something I left behind. Enter shopping anxiety. To make matters worse I had a save $25 off a $150 purchase coupon.  That was a genius move by their promotions department.  In my mind I was already willing to part with $125, and it didn’t take many impulse items to boost my total even higher.


Not all impulse buys are bad decisions. In fact, they can work in your favor if done properly. It’s not possible to plan any shopping trip perfectly from home.  You can’t know what the available options will be when you actually get in the store, so it only makes sense to make some buying decisions on the spot.  

When the cashier gave me my total I blurted out, “Well, that escalated quickly!”  How can a few $5-10 items add up to that much?  As I drove the long drive home, I second guessed my buying decisions, thought about what went wrong, and remembered how I usually avoided “total shock” at the register. I came up with these guidelines:

  1.  The money you have available at any given moment is FINITE.  Decide the most that you are willing to spend and have the cash on hand.
  2. Plan ahead the best you can.  Ikea has a great app that allows you to add items to a shopping list and it keeps a running total for you.  (It also lets you know which items are out of stock so you don’t waste a trip.)
  3. As you’re shopping keep your own running total on your calculator app of every item that makes it in your basket.  (Ikea’s app will work for this too, you can even barcode scan items in store and add them to your list.)
  4. Don’t forget to add room for tax.  Our tax rate is almost 9% but to keep it simple, I estimate an extra 10% of the bill.
  5. As you see items that should have made the list, decide what is already in your cart that you aren’t going to purchase.  Your total has to stay the same, so as you impulse shop, subtract something else from your list.  Some items are easier to wait on than others.  Some items are on clearance or are likely to sell out and not be restocked.  Use your best wisdom to choose between the buy nows and buy laters (with next months budget—after that paycheck comes.)  If I don’t need it immediately and it isn’t on special, it’s usually fair game for the chopping block.
  6. Keep the tags/packaging and your receipts!  If you get home away from the glittery atmosphere, have a snack and start thinking clearly only to realize you’ve made a terrible mistake, you can take it back.
  7. Remind yourself of the truth.  “Ikea feels far, but it only costs $4 round trip to go there.” “Before I saw this item, I never missed it from my life.” “If I can’t have this item, something even better will come along later.”

What do you think?  Do you ever struggle with impulse shopping or am I the only one?

How to Make Something not a Big Deal

When I was growing up, my mama did a lot of things around the house.  She used power tools, repaired furniture, skim coated drywall, decorated cakes, sewed clothes, baked fresh bread, gardened and preserved the harvest, had a family dinner every night, and taught Sunday School.


As I grew up, all these activities were normal to me.  It wasn’t a big deal for me to bake bread or sew clothes, it was just something that mamas do.  Having a nightly family dinner was just something you DO, it never occurred to me to skip it.  When we were done, we cleared the table, washed the dishes and wiped down the counters.  We didn’t even think about it, we just did it.


We walked away from stuff when it cost too much even though my dad made good money. Mom’s willingness to walk away and do without, or wait for the right deal made sure they had savings.  They paid off their house when I was 9 and never borrowed another dime after that.  It built character in me to not have the latest trends and to wait for things. I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but the skill of waiting has served me well as an adult.


We went to church.  Every time the doors were open.  I never had to ask if we were going.  We just did.

My babies came so soon after I married and so close together that I lost some of my good habits—like going to bed early, getting up early, working out consistently, and daily Bible study.  Now that life has settled down a little (knock on wood) I’m figuring out how to build these habits back into my day.  My first thought was to get up early and do them before my kids are up.  That way I can have uninterrupted quiet time (sounds so good!)  If I did that, they would never see me do them.  And those are the important things that I want them to think are just part of being a mama.  Mamas read their Bibles.  Mama’s take care of their bodies. Mamas pray.


The habits that I want to be second nature for my kids, the ones I don’t want to be a big deal, just something they DO, those are the things I need to model for them now.  They need to see it consistently, day in and day out.  Not stressful, not a big deal, just accomplished.

I wonder what my kids will just do and not think about, because it was a normal part of their childhood.  I hope using cash is one of them, along with saving up to pay for stuff, being ok with roughing it to pave the way for a bigger goal, and giving to people who are in need.

What do you do all day?


Say the word “homemaker,” and this is the most frequent response:

“What do you do all day?”

This question is offensive to a lot of at homemakers because it implies that there’s not enough to do to keep an at home spouse off the couch watching Netflix and eating raw cookie dough.  (Not that that NEVER happens. Overwhelm can drive anyone to a Netflix cookie dough binge.  And if there’s any job that’s overwhelming, it’s homemaking.)

I thought about it a lot and I think I can put my job description into one tidy sentence.

“I optimize life for my household.”

Cleaning is part of it, but a tiny part.

I make sure my husband can work, and try to take care of the things that would normally interrupt the working day of a spouse in a two income household.  Things like making appointments, a sick child, meeting a service provider, running errands.

I research, research, research, so we get the right products, get appropriate discounts, and stay under budget.

It’s my job to keep food in the house, and prepare meals that are conducive to health, the budget and shared family time.

I learn new skills so we can hire out less. Skills like minor electrical work, carpentry, sewing, painting, interior design, and cooking.

I advocate for our kids, so their health and learning needs are not passed over. This means more research, a lot of research, and sometimes doing interventions myself when there aren’t professionals available to us.

I manage our stuff so we aren’t buried in a pile of it, and can still find what we need when we need it.  That includes turning our used stuff into cash through garage sales, Craigslist, Ebay and tax deductible donations.

I make sure everyone has clothing, within budget, that fits, is clean and repaired.  Sometimes that means making it myself, shopping online, or visiting several stores. Plus taking care of personal appearances like cutting a boy’s hair or guiding a daughter through  makeup and hair for her first date.

I give encouragement and support so everyone can be their best selves.  This includes helping with music practice and homework, listening to their joys and sorrows and stories, and reminding them how great God made them.

I am a full time dedicated cheer leader for 7 people. That’s my FAVORITE part of the job.

This doesn’t mean I do everything myself.  I’m like a general contractor.  I delegate the appropriate jobs.  Sometimes I delegate jobs to my kids that would be easier to do myself, just because it’s good for them to work.

I take my job super seriously.  I’m constantly researching the best ways to do things and learning new skills. I’m also human and with a job list as long as mine, the big size of our household, and our limited budget, my house isn’t always company ready and the laundry isn’t always folded and put away.  Sometimes my time is better spent painting a room than keeping up with daily chores and I’m so thankful my family pitches in and is understanding about that.

It’s true that we sacrifice a little in available cash for me to have this position, but we gain so much more in quality of life in exchange.  I know not everyone can make this choice, so trust me that I don’t stand in judgement of work out of the home moms.  I was once that mom myself.

What do you think?

Welcome Fall

Thank you for all your encouraging comments after my last post.  I’m not feeling nearly so overwhelmed right now and I think gratitude and the support of good friends has a lot to do with it.  I’ve found myself running to the journal to jot down things when I think of them–like the song “I need thee every hour,” especially the new arrangement by John Hudson.  Also warm and pleasant jogging weather, and my husband who has known exactly what I’ve needed to hear the past couple of days.

I made some updates to my home for fall, just using some stuff I already had on hand.  If you missed it on instagram, here are a few more photos.  If I were designing a hearth from scratch, I would have done it differently and all the possibilities would have stressed me out and frozen me. Since my rule was to use what I have, it was much simpler (I even used the screws the previous homeowner left in the brick–so yes, the wreaths are slightly uneven.)   I love how limitations FREE us to make the best decisions we can.


The canvas on the hearth was our family picture from 2012. The dipped basket is from hobby Lobby (as is the ampersand) and the pillow from Ikea.  I made the wreaths using this tutorial. The wood logs were dropped off by a tree cutting crew working for my neighbor.  To get these logs I had to take all 4 trees and the wood chips.  My husband was not nearly as excited about it as I was.  He has been chopping it into firewood for weeks already and is still not done.  We have a wood burning fireplace in our basement, but this one is gas.  It’s not very efficient and way too expensive to burn, so it’s we just use it for decoration.  We talked about ripping it out several times….but it’s kind of holding up the whole center of the house–and has historical significance, being made from the bricks of the old Kanas City stockyards when they were torn down.


I did go and help him after I took the photo :D. (Mostly so I could protect the bigger stumps that would make nice side tables or stools for a someday outdoor seating area.)

If you’d like to know how we painted our brick, you can read about that here, and also see what the endcap looked like before we put a chalkboard up over it.


I LOVE the versatility of having a huge chalkboard here. It’s not nearly as dusty as I thought it would be.  It’s visible from the entry so we can put any personal message to guests we want on there, like “Welcome Yeoman Family!” I let the kids design it most of the time, but while they were at school yesterday I added the crocheted pompom garland (with thumbtacks) and words to remind me of my new mindset.  We skip Halloween at our house and go right into Thanksgiving.  


Here’s the view from the front door.  ( I primed the woodwork in here months ago and never painted it. I plan to paint the spindles and woodwork bright white, the walls a light greige, and to restain the wood tones espresso.  I’ve been half started on the woodwork for years….  Ha ha, that’s how you know this is NOT a decorating blog.) I usually keep the baskets under the table full of white blankets for looks, but with young people here, we ended up filling the left one with bubbles and sidewalk chalk since it’s convenient to the front door.


Across from the hearth is a little sitting area.  I bought the white lacy candle holders for Christmas (at Ikea) and loved them so much I never put them away.  I added a few fur throws and pillows, a couple of DIY leaf pillows, and fall themed printables for the clipboards.


(If I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t buy a sectional this dark–BUT it fits our family, is super comfy, and the leather is exactly what I need for my allergies.  For the time being, I’m thankful to have it. When we knock some of the more important projects off our list, like a basement office for Darren, I’ll see what I can do about lighter furniture in here.) The cupboard behind the sectional holds all our board games. The coffee table is from Ikea and was only $40.  It has already taken a beating on the top.  I plan to add a stained wood top using this tutorial.  Then after a bit will move it to the basement family room (yet to be built) and build something more expensive looking, like this or this.


This is the first year I’ve been able to pull together a collection of fall items from what I had on hand.  Every year for a LONG time, I would buy just 1 or 2 items that I thought I would hold it’s charm for me. Some were originally meant for Christmas or Spring. I prefer to keep things fairly low key, so it’s as easy to put away as it is to put out. Does fall decorating excite you or overwhelm you?

P.S.  I just saw the nester is opening her self-study cozy minimalist course.  This is the course I took spring of 2015 that CHANGED my life.  She’s opening the facebook group up to students which is what made ALL the difference for me.  I’m participating this year as I finish up my music room and foyer.

My Gratitude Journal

I’m excited about this easy little crafty post, because it has so much meaning to me. Along the journey of life a few years back, we chose to seek out help from a psychologist who said something very interesting: “The thoughts you think, control the chemicals your body releases.  If you are able to change your thoughts, you can change your chemical balance. If you can’t change your thinking, then medication can help make it easier.”


Stress is my enemy.  A little spurt of stress can put me in bed for a few days, too weak to even walk unassisted.  I can’t control all my stress, like when someone cuts me off in traffic and nearly causes an accident; when a bat gets in my house and flaps around my bedroom; or when someone I love gets sick or dies. But there is a lot I can control.

This past week, a lot of stressful things were going on in my life.  Here’s what I wrote in my Fit Yummy Mummy journal: Oh Girls, Life has kicked my tail… My grandma is on hospice and they don’t think she will live through the night. She is 90 and forgot who I was long ago, but I remember who she is. Her daughter, my Auntie, was on death watch for a short time last week, but miraculously recovered for a little while longer and has been moved to a rehab facility. …my mama hurt her leg mysteriously and can’t walk very well…. I tangled with some poison ivy last weekend and am COVERED. Plus the school district has denied to test Heather for learning disabilities even with all the private testing records I sent them and doctor reports. They said they don’t accept any outside of the district assessments and they haven’t observed her long enough to decide what to do about her. I’m so sad realizing that they are waiting for her to fail again before they intervene even though her records transferred from her old school show a clear pattern and need. I’m taking her to another clinic the next state over on Saturday to test her eye/brain connection. It’s so expensive, but if there’s a chance it will help her we’ll find a way to earn the money. I’m trying not to stress about everything, but I’m feeling all the feels anyway and it has zapped my strength. So that’s where I am. Not sure how to pick up the pieces from here while my body has checked out. 

That wasn’t even all of it, but it started to feel ridiculous writing so much complaining down. What if instead of that, I had written down all the things that were going RIGHT?  I can tell you THIS, I spend way more time thinking about the things going wrong than I do the things I have to be thankful for.  I’m sure that has a lot to do with my health struggles.

It’s hard to admit that I am a negative person.  Yuck.  Just admitting that makes me not like myself very much, so I’m making steps to change.  4o years of consistent negative thinking isn’t going to change easy, but I’m choosing my hard.

gratitude journal 2

I’m starting with this fifty cent notebook. It’s just a composition notebook from Wal-mart.  I made a little cover for it by merging this and this.  I printed it on regular paper, then trimmed it down slightly to fit the cover.

gratitude journal wax paper

I placed a piece of wax paper inside the notebook, so I wouldn’t get modge podge all over the pages and stick them together.

Then I put a thin layer of modge podge ($1 in the Target spot bins) over the back of the picture, and stuck it to the cover, starting on one edge and smoothing it over to prevent air bubbles.  Then I took my brush and put a thin layer of glossy modge podge over the top for durability.


Here’s the best part, the brush strokes in modge podge are visible after it dries, giving printed art a hand-painted affect. To take full advantage of this, I went back once more and added brush strokes to the water color flowers, following the natural curve so each flower would look hand-painted.


You GUYS! I’m feeling so clever right now.  When it dried I trimmed the corners and added a matching cover to the back.

gratitude journal drying

Before I thought of this little project, I looked on Amazon for a gratitude journal I could buy.  There were several good ones like this, this, and this. They were each less than $10, but the DIY one was the more affordable option for sure.  Karen at A House Full of Sunshine has a different idea for a DIY journal cover that is darling for all you washi tape lovers.  She also had some good thoughts about gratefulness that are worth clicking over to read.


Here’s what I’ll write tonight:

  1. Heather’s new Irlen filters that are helping her read better
  2. Family cooperating for Grandma’s Funeral
  3. A chance to sing with my daughter and my sister-in-law
  4. Free flute lessons for Heather that make her so happy
  5. Our cars are both repaired and running well
  6. A supportive church family

I’m all about reducing stress, not adding to it, so I’m not writing in complete sentences, telling stories (unless I want to), or giving myself a quota.  If I’m too stressed to think, I might just copy down a scripture verse or hymn that I’m grateful for, or tape in a coloring page. And if I need to skip a day, that’s A-OK, since none of the pages are pre-dated.

P.S.  If you want to hear more about gratitude journals, Sherry talks about hers in the “We’re Digging Section” on episode #11 of the Young House Love Podcast.


Making the Most of Your Christmas Budget


It’s technically still summer and autumn colors aren’t even here, but I want to talk about Christmas just a smidge.  Even though we only give 2 gifts to our kids,  Christmas stresses me out if I don’t plan ahead.  Far AHEAD.  Truthfully, sometimes I still freak out—but this helps.  It’s what I’m doing today, so I thought I’d screen capture a summary of my movements and thoughts as I plan.

I made a little video for you showing how I budget for Christmas and how I buy each item at the lowest price possible.  I hope it helps take some stress off of you this holiday season!

Here are the video notes plus some extra stuff that the video missed:

  1.  Plan to set aside money every month for Christmas Gifts, and know what your total budget will be by the end of the year.

2.  Make a list of all the people you need to buy for and put a dollar amount by each name.  This list total should equal the amount you’ve budgeted for the year.  You might want to add some extra lines for Hostess Gifts or other unexpected exchanges.

3.  Next to each name, brainstorm gift ideas.  I use color codes to tell me if it’s just an idea, or if I’ve placed the order etc.  I also write in the actual amount spent so I can track my spending and not just the budget.  If I buy more than 1 item, I add a line so each item and actual price is on it’s own line.


4.  When shopping on Amazon, first make an account at  Then copy the item URL  to camel and ask for an email alert when the price drops to your target zone.  Since you’re planning NOW you can afford to wait for a better price.  This is important because Amazon no longer offers partial refunds if the item drops in price after you purchase it.


5.  I also belong to a discount health and wellness club that as a side benefit has a unique shopping portal.  In addition to providing more than 500 toxin free products for my home and body at great prices, they’ve partnered with hundreds of stores like Old Navy, Target, Home Depot etc.  When shopping through this portal I have access to extra coupon codes and discounts to use in the online shopping cart PLUS I get a cash back rebate in the mail, on every purchase!  It’s only $19 a year for me to be a member, but right now they are offering a $1 special for the first year.  I can’t give all the details in this post, but if you want to know more about it, you can request info here. (Your contact info goes straight to me and no one else will se it, so be sure your best email address is included.)

A Family Friendly Yard on a Budget

Our house has so many projects! My foyer has been primed but not pained for several months now and I’m still not done with my build in bookcases or trim in the living room.  Already my heart is turning outside.  We have a couple of gorgeous months ahead of us and I would LOVE to add a firepit and some swings to our yard and just hang out there with my people.


Two weekends ago we piled our driveway full of brush and yard trimmings, revealed our raised beds and split enough wood for two winters. Then last weekend we built 4 more raised garden beds, and mulched around trees and pathways.


pathway to school

Here’s a close up of the bushy area to the right after cleaning up. The yard is looking almost pretty.  The two days working together as a family was really fun and bonding, except for the poison ivy that I found. It’s the city’s job to keep the fence clean 😛 We can work on our side, but the other side remains a jungle.  I suppose there’s more privacy that way.

under the deck

Darren is talking out loud about building a seating area under the deck.  I’ve been talking about it for years and he would respond with all the reasons why it was a bad idea.  Now, it appears it is HIS idea and I’m all for it. Above is what it looks like today, sigh.  There’s a LOT of work to be done.  But I’m envisioning removing the wall covering on the side facing this, and the side facing the yard to the right.  We’d like to leave the covering on the back wall, because that is the north side and blocks the worst weather for us.

Then I’d like a slew of comfy seating and eating areas where our huge family can gather.  (Just my husband’s immediate family is 28 people.)  Something with the feel Centsational Girl created here:


This will be the most expensive backyard project on our list because we’ll need to jackhammer some extra footings that aren’t being used anymore, and bring in several yards of gravel to create a temporary floor.  Concrete would be ideal, but it would be around $10,000 to pour a spot this big.


Here’s another inspiration photo from They have a fabulous tutorial there on making outdoor curtains from canvas drop cloth and plumbing fittings.


While we save up the cash for the gravel floor, I’d like to build a fire pit like this.  I go back and forth on the kind of bottom to put in the pit. The flat stones as shown here would make shoveling out ashes a snap, but we have a couple of bags of sand that the previous homeowners left and it would make a free floor that drains well.  The stone blocks are a lot more expensive in my area than described in this tutorial (more than double) but I have seen them on Craigslist recently (I was just too slow to text and they were already sold, sob.)  While we do the necessary clean up work, I’m going to keep watching for another good deal.


This simple swingset can be built for less than $100, even after modifying the plans to make it taller and wide enough for 3 swings.  We had a hard time figuring out where to put the swings with all the trees and tall back fence.  Darren finally had the idea of turning it sideways (we already plan to take out the tree right by the garden beds) so the kids would have more room to swing without hitting the fence.  It’s not as aesthetically pleasing to me as one turned the other direction, but I’ll be able to see it from the house which was really important to me.