How to Use Pinterest to Discover your Design Style

how to use pinterest to discover your design style

Do you know your design style?  Are you a little bit modern or country?  Do you like lots of decorations or prefer a minimalistic style?  White walls, dark walls, neutral or bold?  Painted trim, or stained wood? For some of us it’s hard to decide.

I can appreciate any well decorated space, so I made the mistake in our last home of combining too many styles in one room. Read more

Smart Tiles Installation and Review

Smart Tiles Installation and ReviewMix month is still going strong and I have a big line up for you next week!  But for the weekend I wanted to show you some progress I’m making in the girl’s bathroom. In July, I’ll have a whole month of house projects and frugal nesting ideas for you–this is just a sneak peek :).

Smart Tiles generously supplied the tiles for this post (after I begged them) and I honestly thought I would have it up and ready for them in April.  If you remember, the space looked like this–very green:

Girl's bathroom before

I stripped the wallpaper and the popcorn ceiling and was stuck with how to repair this:


…and many areas like it.  I finally hired a drywall guy to rescue me.  He was amazing and affordable and I wish I had called him months ago.

This week, I primed and painted the space.  It is white, white, white…from the ceiling to the floor.  To keep it from being boring and cold, I have lots of gold accents and dramatic floor to ceiling curtains planned. Plus texture from faux bamboo shades, terry cloth rugs, and hexagonal tiles.  These, to be exact. #onsalenow

I chose these tiles because I want the space done quickly without messing with concrete backer board, wet saws, adhesive or grout.  Yet, I needed something to look great, be durable, and create a waterproof area.  I was not disappointed.

Here’s a before and after picture:

Smart Tiles Before and After

The sink will eventually be white too.

I made a video for you showing how they work :).

Batch Cooking Ground Beef in Your Slow Cooker

Batch Cooking Ground Beef in your Slow Cooker

I first figured out this worked on a desperate day when I didn’t have a kitchen. The no kitchen season of our lives lasted almost a year and I relied on my slow cooker and electric griddle for making almost everything.

Since then, I’ve reused this method changing the seasoning to suit the dish.  Taco seasoning for batch taco meat. Italian seasoning for pizza or spaghetti.

Slow Cooked Ground Beef 1

Place up to 6 lbs of frozen ground beef and into the slow cooker.  Add 6 cups of water. (The water is just for broth, if you don’t want broth you can reduce the water to 1 cup.)  For flavor, add 2 finely chopped onions; 1 Tbs of salt; 1 tsp of garlic salt; and 1/2 tsp black pepper.

Slow Cooked Ground Beef 2

If the lid won’t close.  Don’t freak out.  Wrap the gap with aluminum foil. After about an hour the lid will  push down.

Slow Cooked Ground Beef 3

Cook it on low overnight, or on high for 4-5 hours. The beef won’t form crumbles as it cooks, but don’t worry.  It will be awesome in a minute.

Slow Cooked Ground Beef 4

 Use a colander and bowl system to drain out the broth.  If you chill the broth, any fat will harden on the top and can be easily removed.

Slow Cooked Ground Beef 5


Slow Cooked Ground Beef 6

Use a huge fork or a potato masher to break the meat into crumbles.   This also works if you put portions into freezer bags and mush it around with your hands–just like we did with the chicken yesterday.

Slow Cooked Ground Beef 7

Ready for the freezer!

No Sew Bedskirt

When we were redoing our room last month, I was surprised how many little details make a space feel finished.  The bedskirt is one of those.

Master Bedroom After

Our previous bed had a wooden frame that hid the box springs.  We were ready for a new look, so kept the headboard only and put the bed on metal rails.  I needed a fast, frugal solution for hiding the box springs.

I found an easy answer in 2 twin flat sheets from Walmart. ($4.88 each.)  1 sheet would have done it, but then there would have been sewing involved.

Here’s a quick video, explaining how it works.  Something more permanent could be made with velcro and hot glue.  I plan to do that soon.  The pins work well, but my kids come and stand by the bed to talk to me in the night and step on the bed skirt–which pulls out the pins… Changing the sheets was easier than I thought.  Just by remembering the skirt was a little fragile I could work around it without pulling it all apart.


master bedroom 1

Moss Covered Monogram

In the Cozy Minimalist class, I learned that plants breathe life into the room.  My family room is land locked and light deprived.  Real plants wouldn’t survive a week in this space, so a little creativity is in order. (The plants in the picture are fake IKEA plants.  Cute…but too small for the space?  I’m looking for a frugal way to overflow that shelf with green.)

painted fireplace moss letter

After some looking around pinterest, I thought a moss covered letter  on the new painted fireplace would be perfect.  The space above my fireplace isn’t huge–22 inches total.  So I opted with a 15 inch letter.  I could have gone SUPER frugal and cut a letter out of cardboard.  In the end I paid $5 to have a ready made letter because I wanted the depth.  you can see the side of it from the front door and it looks better to be thick and sturdy.

The fireplace still looks bare, so I’m thinking about garland options. Maybe I’ll make this when we drive to Colorado. Or this.

moss letter 9

This project took me 1 hour including driving to Hobby Lobby to get the letter $5 (50% off from $9.99.) And the moss sheet $6 (40% off coupon from $9.99.)  I also used scissors and a marker.  The project would have gone faster, but those sheets are extremely sticky and I kept getting caught in it like a mouse in a sticky trap.  I regret my decision not to film it, because I think it would have gone viral for how ridiculous it was….you’ve been warned.

moss letter a

Unfold your moss sheet and place your letter in the center.  I drew the lines on it with the marker and cut along it with scissors.  Then peeled off all the paper backing.

moss letter b

I pressed the letter onto the sticky moss.  At this point, it’s good to mention that you want the RIGHT side of your letter face down.  This is pretty important if your letter is directional, like a B.  Thank goodness that C’s are good both directions because I wasn’t super careful.  As you go, SAVE YOUR SCRAPS.  You’ll need them until the very end.  Then if you want, you can throw the mess away.

moss letter c

Then I started pressing up the moss and sticking it around the outside, trimming off the excess so it would lay flat agains the wall.  Where it curved, I snipped it to the letter then folded it up overlapping the excess while keeping it smooth. The cool thing about this project is the moss is so forgiving.  If you end up with a hole you can just stick a scrap in it and no one will be able to tell.

moss letter d

To go around the inside curves I snipped it like the outside, but this time instead of overlapping it left gaps of triangles. moss letter 1

moss letter 2

I just cut little triangle scraps and stuck them in to fill in the gaps.

moss letter 3

The corner ended up with a triangle flap.  I just cut it off flush.

moss covered letter 7


moss covered letter 5

I went super fancy on the hanger and hot glued a paper clip to the back. It’s such a lightweight piece that a paperclip is just the right thing.

Fireplace and moss letter

The Risk of Painting Brick


There are a lot of things I love about our family room.  It’s open concept so we can see the kitchen from our comfy sofa.  It’s big with lots of options for furniture placement.  It has yummy hand scraped hardwood floors and French doors leading out to a sunroom and room 2015

The room has a unique fireplace that was constructed from the bricks removed during the demolition of the old stock yards in downtown Kansas City.  The bricks are a good color tone with enough variation to give texture and interest without being gaudy.

Family room fireplace before

The room is dark.  It’s landlocked and even during the lightest part of the day, needs a light on for normal activity.   Even with the lights on it feels dark.wall dividing family room and kitchen

It was even darker before we painted over the dark olive beige with a pale gray.  Painted the trim white, and took down the wall between the family room and the kitchen.

removing wall between family room and kitchen

My gut has been telling me the dark brick has to go if I ever want a light and bright space. It’s so massive that it absorbs a ton of light, and the inside is stained black from soot.  I’ve tried several methods to clean it up, but it’s deep into the porous surface of the brick.  I’ve lightened it some but the stain is still there.

white french doors

In a last ditch effort to save the brick, I decided to paint the french doors white to bring in as much light as I can.  It helped a bunch and every time I walked by my heart gave a little leap of joy.  As much as the little things we did improved the space, it only made the dark brick stand out more…and not in a good way.

Fireplace end

When we took down the wall between the rooms, there was an unfortunate seam in the brick never meant to see the light of day.  I was imagining seeing the cute exposed brick wall from the front doors….but that seam is NOT cute.   We plan to cover it with a floor to ceiling chalkboard with a wide white frame all the way around. SOOOO since I was going to cover it up completely, I took a risk and tested a white wash technique first.

I loved it and hated it at the same time.  My mom told me it looked dirty, but my online friends from the Cozy Minimalist class told me it was beautiful.  I finally got up the nerve to start on the part that would be seen.

brick part way

I spent a few hours painting, and then wore out.  You can see the top left corner and the inside has been done.  At this point, I was pretty sure my mom was right and I had ruined it.  Then I remembered The Nester telling us, “You can’t ruin something you already hate.”  It took several weeks for me to find the nerve to finish the project.  I decided if I hated the whitewash look I would paint it solid white.

Fireplace and moss letter

The paint I chose tends to settle during the painting process, so the fireplace got lighter and lighter as I went on.  I had to go back over the places I started with to make it blend with the rest of the brick.  It ended up lighter overall than I had planned, but I love it anyway.

This is just an iphone picture, and doesn’t do the space justice.  The brick finally feels like it goes with the rest of the room.  I quick made a moss covered monogram to hang on the new whiter brick, and have plans to style up the space more with inspiration from here and here.

I’m KEEPING the original brick on the backside where it is exposed in the dining room.  Here’s a picture of the back side of the fireplace back during our construction phase.  I can’t believe I’ve never taken a picture from this direction “finished.”  Ok, we aren’t finished yet, my buffet table on the brick wall is still those stacked flooring boxes with a tablecloth on it. But we’ve made progress since this.

kitchen remodel dining space

Choosing the type of paint for the brick was a challenge.  Brick is hard to strip paint from, no matter what.  Latex paint CAN be removed from brick with this stripper or this one, but latex paint is not heat friendly.  My fireplace has a gas insert, and while it is too expensive for us to use right now, we have hopes one day to make it more efficient.  We didn’t want to permanently eliminated our option of ever using the fireplace again.  I thought about using latex only on the outside and using heat proof grill paint on the inside, but it only came in black.  Painting the massive inside of the fireplace black would fight against my goal of light and bright.


While searching for paint that is heat friendly, I came across milk paint.  Milk paint is permanent on brick. It soaks into the pores and becomes one with the material.  It doesn’t bubble, crack or peel when exposed to high temperatures.  And unlike traditional lyme white washing, milk paint won’t rub off on hands or clothes once it’s cured.  Going with this option meant never being able to go back to raw brick again.  That’s scary for me, because I’m kind of fickle when it comes to decorating.  I took the risk because letting fear trap me into keeping a look I hated was worse than never being able to go back.

There are lots of different brands of milk paint.  I chose this one because it keeps longer than the rest while still being REAL milk paint. Some milk paints are only good for 24 hours after mixing up, but this one lasts 6 weeks.  (I loved having a time limit though, or I might not have finished even now.)  The paints that are “like” milk paint but not really made with milk, I didn’t trust.  I wasn’t sure they would have the heat proof quality I was looking for.

The paint instructions say to mix it equal proportions with the powder and water.  I did that first to make sure the powdered mixed up well, then added 2x more water for a whitewash look.  My finished formula was 1/2 cup paint powder to 1 1/2 cups water. I brushed it on with a natural bristle brush, stippling it into the texture when necessary, then used an old flour sack tea towel to wipe it off.  The wiping off part was key to an even texture and removing brush strokes.

Just for fun, here’s a before and after:

fireplace before and after

P.S.  Thank you for making it safe for me show you my imperfect house and imperfect pictures.  I’m holding back the urge to point out all the flaws. I know no apology is necessary–because we’re friends like that.


Spending Freeze Day 8: Getting Creative

Having money to spend gives choices.  Sometimes having too many choices can make it harder to make a decision.  During our spending freeze, we have the ease of few choices :).  Example to follow:

We had to take down our Christmas decorations this month.  Sniff, sniff.  I didn’t get some of them up until December 23rd…..we were kind of slow.  So taking them down right away seemed too fast.  I wasn’t emotionally ready for Christmas to be over…..

…until I was.  Then I imagined red hearts everywhere and thought, “Why not take Christmas down and put some Valentine stuff up?”  Never mind that Valentine’s Day is 38 days away, or that we have never decorated for Valentine’s Day before.

Add that we are in a spending freeze and don’t have any decorations from previous years….because we don’t decorate for anything but Christmas.

I smelled a challenge.  Not to win a spot in Better Homes and Gardens….bwa ha ha ha….No.  What you are about to see definitely doesn’t rise to that level.  I just wanted to make the place feel festive for the kids.

I found a foam wreath form that used to have cotton balls hot glued to it.  It looked cute on pinterest, but it looked dumb when I did it.  So I pulled the cotton balls off and ended up a wreath form covered with hardened glue and fuzz.  It was too expensive to throw away and too ugly to sell at a garage sale so I put it in the pile that makes my office look really trashy.

I had a spool of pearl edged burlap ribbon left over from a wedding shower and wrapped the wreath.  My plan was to just wrap it up and hang it up…but I ran out of ribbon :(.  My first though was to run to the store and grab another spool.  At most it was going to be $2…..but spending freeze.


Not enough ribbon….so the remnants of glue and cotton balls still shows.

Aak.  So I looked around my office to see if I had anything red.  I found some long strips of polar fleece left over from a blanket project.


Without measuring I folded it over to be able to cut a semblance of a square


Rounded the edges


 Cut a spiral


And rolled it up (starting with the outside edge) to make roses.  At the end, the round part in the middle glued over the bottom to hold it all together.  Then I spent about 20 minutes making a bunch of them.  It went fast, because I didn’t measure anything. The un-uniformity of it all made a nice effect.



I love how it turned out!

 Valentine Entry Wreath

I hung it in my entry over a piece of fake Ikea fur and a couple of candles.  This pic doesn’t do it justice…


 We found small bits of Valentine candy and thought to make centerpieces out of some Dollar Tree candle glasses I had on hand.  But the tiny amount of candy looked stupid.  And then the boys ate all the candy.  So we tried something else.


Black eyed peas with a votive nestled in. A scrap of burlap ribbon and a hand stitched felt heart.  It isn’t what we’ve always dreamed about as far as decorations go but it was 100% from stash and is a little bit festive.


To add to the festive, we added some of the same hearts to our Ikea plants over the stove.



These are my favorite.

If I can find some red construction paper, I’d like to make these.

How to Make Homemade Fortified Almond Milk

How to make homemade fortified almond milk
I turned my nose up at vegan milks for years.  Real milk has protein and calcium, it’s affordable, and tastes great.  Why mess with a good thing?

Lactose Villain

Then I met up with the symptoms of lactose intolerance.  Sometimes I could eat dairy products without consequence and sometimes I would be doubled over in pain.  It was like a dietary game of Mumblety peg

Almond milk sparked my interest when I found out it only has 30 calories per cup, is low in carbs and tastes pretty good.  It boasts a good serving of calcium, but only because it is added artificially.  This is not a drink for babies or kids unless the diet has other rich sources of fats or protein.

Almond milk makes good smoothies, custards, cream soups, cream gravy, and fettuccini sauce.  It costs about $3 for a half gallon, or $6 a gallon.  The cost is about 50% more than regular milk, and recently there has been some concern about the additive carrageenan in the more affordable almond milks.  My children do not show signs of lactose intolerance or milk allergy so I do not feed them almond milk.

It’s not hard to make homemade almond milk and homemade costs quite a bit less than store bought–PLUS Almond flour is a by-product of almond milk production.  That’s good news for low carb and gluten free bakers everywhere.

At Costco, almonds are $15 for 3 pounds.  It takes 2 oz of almonds to make a half gallon of milk.  So one 3 lb bag of almonds makes 24 half gallons (plus almond flour) at $.62 each.  If you want fortified almond milk that has the same nutrition as milk, you will want to add 8 calcium, magnesium, vitamin d3 tablets.

Adding vitamins adds to the cost slightly.  These tablets* are $.07 each and I would need 8 of them to create a homemade nutritional profile comparable to store bought almond milk.  Homemade fortified almond milk is $1.18 per half gallon vs $3.28 for store bought for a savings of $2.10.

Here’s how to make your own almond milk.


Measure 1/4 cup of almonds into a class cup and cover with twice as much water. 1/4 cup of almonds makes 1 quart of milk.  1/2 cup makes half a gallon–the same as in the typical grocery store carton.  Let stand for 8 hours or overnight.


Almond milk 1

After 8 hours, drain your almonds, then place in a blender.  Add a generous pinch of sea salt and any supplements or flavors (like vanilla and honey or stevia) you are adding.  I used 4 calcium tablets so each cup of milk would have 30% RDA of calcium, plus magnesium and vitamin D3.

Almond milk 3

Cover with just enough fresh water to keep the blades running smoothly.  Too much water will allow the almonds to get away from the blades and not grind as fine.

Almond milk 4

Blend for a couple of minutes until the nuts are all ground up into tiny bits.

Almond milk 5

Strain though a nut bag (I use a huge straining bag that I purchased for Kombucha.)  Amazon* has nut bags also, or you could use cheese cloth, a clean flour sack towel, or even a coffee filter.  They all work, but the nut bag is fastest and easiest.  At the end, give the mass of ground nuts a good squeeze to get as much water out as possible.

Almond milk 6

Pour the strained milk into a canning jar.

Almond milk 7

Pour in enough fresh water to make a quart (or half gallon–whatever you used enough nuts for.)  My water is cloudy because I used it to rinse out the blender and cup I strained into so I could get all the goody.

Nut Milk 7


Almond Flour

Now scrape the nut meal out of your straining bag (or whatever you used.)  Spread it onto a silicone mat, wax paper or parchment.  Let it dry thoroughly.  (In the dry weather, mine dries overnight.)  If it’s humid, you can spread it on a cookie sheet and bake at 200 degrees for 2 hours.  Then turn off the oven and let it stay in there for a few hours more. Transfer the dry stuff back to a clean dry blender cup and pulverize it super fine.  Use it as you would any almond flour.

Q.  How long does the almond milk last?

A.  If you are using raw almonds it will go “sour” in 3-4 days.  Costco’s almonds are  blanched and the milk lasts longer.  I’ve gone a week and it was still fine.  It’s never lasted longer than that, so I can’t say when it sours.

Q.  Shouldn’t you remove the skins from the almonds first?

A.  Who’s got time for that?  The milk tastes great either way.  With the skins on the almonds, the almond flour will have flecks of color in it, compared to commercial almond flour which is just white.  I haven’t noticed a difference in performance between the two flours.  And the almond milk comes out white either way.

Q.  I don’t like almonds.  Can I do this with other nuts?

A.  Yes.  Cashews and sunflower seeds work especially well.  Let me know if you try it :).

More questions?  Concerns?  Put them below.  Have you ever made your own almond milk?

* P.S. The Amazon links are for your benefit only and are not affiliate links.  As a Missouri resident I am not eligible to be an Amazon Affiliate.

The Best *Free* Baby Gift Tutorials from Around the Web

Best Baby Tutorials

To make the list, the tutorials needed to be useful, adorable, free, super easy, use small amounts of materials, and be fast to make. Like I woke up late Saturday morning, and the shower’s at 2pm and I don’t have a gift yet, fast to make.

Click photos to go to the source and get the info:


You’ll need a bib to use as a pattern for this one, but it’s a great concept for using up scraps.

Mrs Biddle Bibs

 I didn’t use drool bibs until I found these.  They didn’t cover up a cute outfit, they MADE a cute outfit.


Drool bibs for the little ladies :).00

This scrappy bib tutorial comes with a printable pattern.


When Grant was born I made 2 of these out of Minky.  Oh man, everyone was jealous.  He still loves them 3 years later.  We moved him to a toddler bed instead of a twin bed, so he could still have his sheets.

Baby TomsBoth free and paid options at this site.  Such cuties!


Baby leg warmers from sweater arms

Baby legs from socks

Baby leg warmers from socks


Baby tights from recycled t-shirts.

Baby tie onesies

Tie onesies! These are fast and easy to make and so cute!  Now little man can get all dressed up for church.


Crocheted baby turban.  So cute! So fast!  And just takes a bit of yarn.

liberty-bonnet-600-3Sherpa lined winter bonnet

soft block tutorial

felt lion taggy 3Felt and Ribbon Lion Tag Toy

Quilt as you goThis is a doll quilt, but the same principle works for a baby quilt, start with a 45 inch square backing and batting.  You can also, just do strips across instead of a log cabin look. I made one of these for a shower in 2 hours one Saturday morning.  It’s an impressive gift that uses scraps and a short amount of time.

One yard baby gift

Use 1 yard to make a receiving blanket and 2 burp cloths.


Gown made from a t-shirt, printable pattern.


Knotted Baby Hat printable pattern

ezragraysCrocheted slippers

david_peacoatCrocheted Peacoat (I made one like this and it turned out darling!)

Crocheted Baby Hoodie

Noah’s Ark Diaper Cake

You will need:

2 receiving blankets

4 burp cloths

2 wipes containers

1 small package of size 1 diapers

A children’s book or this

Giraffe teether toy

Washcloth animals (opt.)


Plastic tray (with metallic finish from Dollar Tree)



Place one wipes container in the middle of the tray. Ignore the two rubberbands you see, you won’t need them. Put one rubber band around the middle to hold the diapers in place.  Use half of the diapers to wrap around the wipes container and secure with a rubberband.


Fold a blanket lengthwise until it is just slightly taller than the diapers and wrap it around.  There will be a 3-4 inch gap in the center.  Use a toy to cover the gap (Or you can use a burp cloth here.)  Secure with rubber band.


Make the second tier from the remaining half of the diapers.  I just put a rubber band around them to secure them in the same shape they came out of the package. The third tier is just another package of wipes.


At this point you can secure everything together with rubberbands and help Mr. Giraffe hold his head up.

Wrap the top two layers with the remaining blanket and burp cloths.  Tie on ribbons to hide the rubber bands. Gently lay the book on top for a roof.  (Take the book off for travel since it isn’t secured in place.Noah's ark diaper cake

I added this little elephant made from 2 baby washcloths.  I’m not very good at making these things, so stopped at the 1 elephant.  I used these instructions:

And cut the eyes out of a blank white address label.