Merry Christmas 

I hope things are well with you. Take a deep breath with me and try not to feel stress. I’m need to be offline with my family until New Year. I might pop in and blog, but I need it to be ok not to.

Here’s a little peak at our fun this week.

Wide mouth mayo jars (borrowed from my mom since I don’t save stuff.) wrapped with twine and layered with Epsom snow, freezer burned cranberries and a tea light. I plan to reuse the salts for healing soaks later.

Progress in the shared boy room. Formerly black lamp spray painted green and made over night stand with new pulls, a new top and a new paint job.

Our presents are almost all wrapped. I have collected different papers after season clearance sales over the years and have several years worth. I’m a little bummed because there are so many cute wrapping ideas out there that don’t fit in with my stash. On the other hand this is easy and the kids get just as excited about our mismatched wrapping.  So not Pinterest worthy but family and budget friendly and that’s better than ok.

Caleb, my oldest boy is ripping out the 45 year d carpeting while I’m safely tucked away in another part of the house. I have developed a severe allergy and this is part of making the house safe for me.

Acts of service like this really make me feel loved.

For more than 2 months my entire body has looked like this. It itches like poison ivy that won’t heal. I noticed on Sunday that there is a line around my face sides of neck and chest where the rash won’t cross that coincides with where I use my anti-aging products. So I tried a bit in an affected area. 2 days later it is clear. I’m hoping it’s not just a coincidence. Basically the doc thinks this is a dust mite allergy gone wrong from stress. Any worse and I’d need an epi pen. I’ve been on so many medications and the only thing that helped was prednisone–yuck. I’m exploring all the natural options and will report back if anything works.

What You’ve Wanted to Know About MomCEO…

..but been afraid to ask.

Let’s talk a little about the MOMCEO ad button in the right hand side bar.  The one that looks like this:


Some of you have clicked it and some of you have been curious but afraid to click.

I want you to know that I personally just signed up with Sandi, the Mom behind MOMCEO. I took a few years to think about it, but it just makes sense for me right now.

It all started with a box in the mail that Sandi sent me awhile back as a thank you for allowing her to be an advertiser on my blog.  I was making my own cleaning products at the time, but gave hers a try and they worked.  In fact, they worked better than my homemade ones.


Here’s Sandi and her children.

One of my best friends in my hometown also used the products and shared a few more with me.  Everything I tried was impressive.  For example, I’m a lazy cook.  I’ll put a pot of noodles boiling in milk and water on the stove and walk away.  It usually boils over and burns on the stove top and the bottom of the pan.  Cleaning that up was really hard until I tried one of these products.

This summer I had a chance to try a product I had never used before.  I was teaching the children’s choir at reunion “camp meeting” and it was the night for all the children to bring their special music. My daughter, Heather, dressed up in her brand new pure white dress, which matched her friend, Colette. They went into dinner together for the early shift with the other choir members.   Our campground has an ice-cream machine with 3 different flavors.  That night Heather chose a chocolate cone and enjoyed it outside.  By the time I caught up with her most of the chocolate ice-cream had dripped all over the front of her white dress while she was blissfully unaware.

white sundress

There were tears when she realized what had happened.  It was her only dress.  She was embarrassed to show up to sing in front of hundreds of people dressed inappropriately.  I helped her back to the room to find her dressiest pair of shorts and t-shirt, reassured her that she was more important than any dress,  promised to seat her towards the back and we headed out to our final rehearsal.

That night a little girl knocked on our door.  She had a bottle in her hand with a note attached.  I thanked her and read the note:  “I heard what happened and thought you could use this.”  It was a bottle of gel stain remover that happened to be from the same company that Sandi represents.  I rubbed it into the stains. Mind you this was HOURS after the accident and with our responsibilities and time constraints we hadn’t even soaked the dress in water yet. We had just counted it as a total loss. The next afternoon I decided to run a load of laundry and threw the dress in with the rest.  I hadn’t done anything besides the pretreatment the night before.

When it was time to switch everything to the dryer I checked the dress carefully so I wouldn’t set in the remaining stains. To my shock and delight the dress was SPOTLESS!  I was blown away.  As a result, I’ve signed up so I can keep this product on hand at all times along with all of the other products that I’ve learned to love.

The best part is that most of the cleaners come in concentrate bottles and have spray bottles with the appropriate mixing lines on them so the cost of the products is less than what you would pay for a similar but inferior product from Wal-mart.  The product line isn’t limited to cleaners though, they have health items, food items, cosmetics too.

Of course, there is a personal business side to this as well.  If people you come into contact with fall in love with the products or business opportunity there’s money in it for you.  Several of the readers here have already contributed to their family income by taking advantage of this opportunity.  Of course, it’s not for everyone.  If you are curious, Sandi is the perfect person to talk to, to find out if it’s right for you.


Summer Vacation

Dear Readers, my blog is officially on summer break. If you miss me, The menus will still be going strong with new recipes all summer! My family will be home this summer and I don’t want to miss a minute of them.  See you in August 🙂


Did I tell You?

That I set up a new way to get my blog posts via email?  I used to use Benchmark as my blog delivery service, but the font was super small and the pictures didn’t email.  I talked to tech support several times and their terse answers didn’t get me very far in making the emails more attractive.  The Benchmark service is functioning, so you may still be getting those ugly emails.  No need!

Now you can subscribe on the right for rss emails with full post text in a readable font and pictures!  That way you never have to check and see if I’ve updated the blog, you’ll just get an email. (If you are still getting Benchmark emails, just hit unsubscribe at the bottom of the most recent email you have and sign up for the feedburner service.)

2014-01-27_1331This is just a screen shot of the freebie form to the right.

The top sign up form, is for the freebies.  You won’t get blog emails from that.  But you will get a great coupon for my ebook set along with my debt free story and homemade cleaning recipes.


And a screen shot of the form that will get you the cool blog post emails.  Look for it on the right.


The sign up form right under that is the one to get the blog post emails.  While you’re at it, sign up for both ;).

Heather’s Bedroom Birthday Surprise Part 6

This was the day I’d been waiting for, the day I got to see the new wall color for real.  First I had to put a coat of paint on the ceiling, finish painting the wood trim, wash the ceiling texture off the walls, then patch, sand and prime them. No problem, right?  

Also, I had to find a solution for the floor problem since whatever we went with had to be finished by the next night.

I got up early and painted the ceiling with a gusto.  I kept telling myself that the streaks would disappear when the paint dried.  They didn’t.  Heidi tried to help me roll, but it proved to be even more awkward for her than it was for me.  So she washed dishes and did other chores around the house to let me keep working.  Mom showed up again and took the boys back home with her.  She has an acre backyard, a wii, and cookies—what more could boys want?


As soon as the ceiling paint was up, I painted the baseboards their final coats of paint. Then Heidi brought in a bucket of water and wiped down the walls, while I mudded behind her.  The goal was to finish by lunch.  Then go shopping for flooring options come back and sand and paint.  We made it!  it felt so awesome to finally be on track.


On our way to the car, I noticed a curtain rod, finials and brackets from my old dining room window sitting in a corner of construction stuff.  They were almost identical to the $50 set I just bought, except that the rod was too short.  I grabbed the new finials and brackets to take back to the store….the price of them would more than cover new hardware for Heather’s desk.


We shopped at 3 different hardware stores for flooring and at the last one, found a special price set of hand scraped dark hickory laminate boards for $.99 a square foot. They were by far prettier than anything else we’d seen, so I used my blogging money plus the return money to buy the floor, underlayment, new desk nobs, and a huge sheet of plywood for Heather’s headboard.


Finally it was time to paint.  I cut in while Heidi rolled behind me.  She’s a good wall roller!  We were halfway around the room when I realized one gallon wasn’t going to cut it.  My sister, Elizabeth had just called and offered to come over at seven to help paint.  If I left right then,  I could buy a gallon of paint and be back before Elizabeth got there.  It felt like my wallet was bleeding money.  How much was this room redo costing in total?  I made plans to figure that out soon.



When I pulled in with the paint there were several cars in front of my house.  Elizabeth was walking up to the door and Mom was bringing back the boys.  But who’s was the third car?  I stepped inside and met 2 priesthood men from church in their best suits and scriptures under their arms.  That’s right! We had a family visit set up for tonight.  I knew it two days ago, but in the bustle of the day, I totally forgot.

Elizabeth is such a great sport.  She went with Heidi up to the room and took over my job of cutting in.  They 2nd coated the room while I visited with the priesthood about our family struggles, our concerns for the church and ways they could help us be a stronger more faithful family.

DSC_1187 DSC_1188

When our visit was over, I peeled off the asbestos floor tiles out of the closets (leaving behind still sticky black tar) while Elizabeth pulled out the closet trim and pounded the nails.  Darren gave the ceiling a final coat of paint–which made it look amazing!

Then I started to sneeze, and sneeze and sneeze.  My throat hurt, my head pounded…..I was sick.  It came on all of a sudden.  Not. Good. Timing.



Small homes can be Beautiful too

Please read all the way to the end to see how to vote for Carmella in the Small Cool Contest.  There aren’t very many families in the running with 3 boys!  I’d love to see her win.


I’m so excited about this post!  I get to introduce you to my friend Carmella.  I thought I was queen of crazy when it came to drastic moves to get out of debt, but Carmella is a notch above.  She took her family (husband and 3 sons), sold it all and built the best house they could debt free. That turned out to be a 665 square foot cabin!


Not only is she amazing, but her prose is poetry and her poetry is so beautiful it has flavor.  Everything Carmella touches is beautiful, but not extravagant. This is one blog post you’ll want to grab a cup of tea for and absorb every word:


Q. Carmella, Your home is amazing and I can’t wait for my readers to meet you. But even more inspiring than your home is the story behind your choice to build it. Will you introduce yourself and your family and the reason why you decided to live in 665 square feet?

A. We are just us, a husband and wife, with an assortment of boys (9, 11, & 13), living our days in the largeness of small at the foothills of Wyoming’s mountains.

We didn’t set out to live this small, unusual way. We set out for steady jobs and progressive careers, for even keel and sound decisions, for work hard and buy a good house. We set out for normal. Our life wasn’t frivolous or fancy or over-the-top; it was normal and mortgage notes and furniture and fun, that’s how you work this American Dream. But then the keel went akimbo, the market crashed, the steady jobs weren’t, and suddenly, shockingly, our normal was not, and nearly everything worth anything was totally gone.

Stricken and vacant, we wondered how, and we wondered when, and we wondered where we could go from here.

Then, right there in the middle of the mess of it all, a new inclination appeared, training our vision toward a different view. Simplicity called.


Instead of another house and a mortgage and a saddle of debt, the idea of a cabin settled itself into our sights. A cabin that we could live in and pay for now, that would become the guest house further on. With cautious excitement, we began to explore this big idea of small.

Six hundred sixty-five square feet small.

It wasn’t a magic amount, plucked from thin air. The size of the cabin encompassed a comfortable minimum of space for our family of five. Small was the goal; cramped and tiny were not.

We considered how we lived, what we loved, and what we’d need to get along, and I began to sketch: a kitchen here, bookcases there, a sofa tucked below this window, a dining nook below that one; a bathroom for five, a master bedroom for two, and a ship’s ladder stair to lead three to the loft. After a man who builds worked our vision into an unfinished shell, we took over from there. In each month of these past twelve, we brought this cabin closer to done, closer to home. And here we are now, living in what was only a vision just a short time ago.


Q. Who made the initial decision to build a tiny house and how did the rest of the family react?

A. I guess you could say that, even though we considered other options, the idea of designing and building a little house had a very strong pull for me. I’ve always had an affinity for small. There’s something about the feeling of enclosure that cradles the soul. There’s also something personally appealing to me about the challenge of making a small space work comfortably. This natural leaning toward small, along with my interior design and architecture inclination has lead me to be an informal student of small space design for a long time now. The more my husband and I considered and explored the idea, the more we knew this was something we could fully embrace, and when we presented it to the boys, explaining the goals in  front of it and the reasons behind, they were fully on board. The idea of living in a little wooden house? Totally cool.

Q. What are the hardest things you let go in preparation to move into a tiny house?

A. This change truly felt like walking from bondage into freedom for us. When we considered the magnitude of stress that we had endured over a seven year period, it wasn’t hard to leave hell behind. We had gained a new understanding that, comparatively, there were only a few things that were truly important to us, and the rest was just hollow stuff. Neither of us can remember anything that was hard to let go of.

Q. What did you think about that made this decision an adventure instead of a punishment?

A.  This decision was an adventure. A life-filled adventure. Punishment is what we left behind.


Q. Looking back is there anything you would do differently? What financial advice would you give to a young family just starting out?

A. Honestly, if I could advise our newly-wed selves, I would say to begin where we are now. I would say that, certainly, this living with less is not a perfect prescription for all of humanity, but I would offer a counterpoint to the widely-seeded assumption that more is better, that bigger is best, and that life is all about striving to attain some lofty material goal which could, in the end, be more empty than full.

Q. What influences and elements form your design style?

A. My design style is informed by a serene palette and natural elements. I respond to things that are time-worn and story-bound. I’m drawn to the interplay between the rugged and the refined. I admire the timeless quality of good design and careful craftsmanship, and I don’t believe any of this has to cost a fortune. Constantly reading and learning, I am a perpetual student of design, gleaning from the greats who have laid down their talent in photos and words.


Q. What is your money saving advice in furnishing a home?

A. If you train your eye in good design, you’ll soon begin to recognize it – in furniture, in art, in accessories, in architecture – and you’ll be able to find treasures in places other than glossy catalog pages or fancy showrooms. When you walk through a thrift shop or visit a flea market, you will be able to spot the good stuff and skim over the bad. The sofa in our home was a $50 thrift store find. An exchange of euro pillows for the existing back cushions, and a slipcover made from painter’s drop cloths turned an ugly blue couch into something that’s both fresh and timeless.

And from Carmella:

Friends, I’ve got some very exciting news!! Our little home has made it into Apartment Therapy’s Small Cool contest!

This means that we need your vote to get to the finals (my, my, there’s some great competition this year)!

If you’d like to cast your vote our way,  you may go to our entry here and click on the red heart. If you’d like to give us even more of a boost, you can retweet this post, feature it, facebook it, hold a banner on a street corner, shout it from your rooftop, whatever. The polls will remain open until May 31.

You can also read more of Carmella’s beautiful writing on her blog.


Faux Leather Floor Update

I’ve done several faux leather floors (aka paper bag floor) and some definitely worked better than others.

The paper floor on my dining room looked amazing when I first got it done, and was a huge improvement over the vinyl:

Here's a current view of our dining room window.  (The only part of this remodel that makes me sad is I just painted this room and added molding.  This was before we knew that tearing down walls was possible.

Unfortunately the floor didn’t hold up as well installed over the vinyl as it did installed over wood subfloor (particle board).  I’ll elaborate on why in a minute.

Here’s a better picture of another floor I’ve done in a red Mahogany Stain:

For my previous post with detailed instructions on how to lay an inexpensive paper floor see here: 

The floor is moppable and holds up well when installed over a hard surface like subfloor plywood or particle board.  (I haven’t tried it over concrete but have heard that others had good success with that.)  For areas that will get wet, seal the edges with quarteround and caulk and be sure you have at least 5 coats of floor strength poly on the floor.

Back to why my dining floor was a fail:

The vinyl under the dining room was super cushy and not in good shape–with divets in the surface and air pockets underneath.  The elmer’s glue didn’t stick to the floor after it dried creating a floating floor effect.  The paper did stick to itself and once sealed with poly I had an awesome flooring sheet that was shaped perfectly to the room.  But I could have gently rolled it up and carried it right  out :).

This wouldn’t have been a problem if I had sealed the doorways and edges with caulk, or trim or something.  I was lazy and knew it would be temporary so I left it.  When a breeze went through the room it would lift up the floor which would flap around then lay back down, lol. This can be hard on wear and tear especially when the back side of the floor is still just paper.

Also my chairs had metal feet on the bottom (under the wood legs.)  I didn’t cover them with felt or anything and they tore holes in the floor pretty quickly.  The furniture that was covered or didn’t move much (like the rubberized feet of my big round table) didn’t damage the floor at all.

Another mistake I made was to  just end the floor across the entrances to the next rooms without threshold or anything to tie it down. I had planned on adding on within a few days to those areas and eradicating all traces of vinyl, but it never happened. The kids would catch the edges of the paper floor with their feet and tear up sections (you can see this really well in the after picture at the doorway to the kitchen.)

I still recommend the floor wholeheartedly for small areas that will go directly on wood subfloor.  Larger areas take a lot longer to lay but can still be beautiful and work out well if you are sure to protect the floor from rough furniture, and have every edge covered and sealed.

Hope that helps anyone considering this inexpensive flooring option. We’ve recently been pricing tile and hardwood to make a more permanent floor for our remodel and can really appreciate how affordable a Faux Leather floor is!

The Cookie of all Cookies?

I found this pin:

Source: viaAgnes onPinterest

And the description said: Swig Sugar Cookie Recipe. This is the cookie that all other cookies for the rest of your life will be compared to.
So I had to bake it and find out. I tell you, it was hard not to change anything about the recipe. It’s completely out of character for me. I’m not sure I have ever followed a recipe exactly before, ever.  I even went to the store to buy real full fat sour cream, just so it would be perfect.


The dough came out super fluffy and so easy to work with.  Not sticky at all.  And my cookies ended up just like the ones in the picture above (except that the photographer was not nearly as gifted :).).  I put them in the freezer, so they would be cold (like the recipe insists–and yes that was a great idea!)  Then mixed up the frosting and set out for folks to DIY on their cold cookies.


Next was to round up a house full of taste testers.

DSC_0135 DSC_0140 DSC_0141 DSC_0134 DSC_0132 DSC_0131




The verdict:  These were really hard to stop eating.  Maybe because I told them they were the cookies to compare all cookies to, and no one could decide if that were true after just one cookie.  While everyone decided the cookies were excellent, it was hard to say they were better than a really good chocolate chip cookie.

We had lots of frosting left over and  I wondered if the recipe could be improved on.  So Sunday afternoon we made a new version of the cookies in a smaller batch:

1/2 cup softened butter

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

2/3 cup white sugar

1/3 cup powdered sugar

1 egg

1 Tbs vanilla extract

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cream of tartar

2 1/2 cups flour

Cream the butter, yogurt, sugars, vanilla  and egg until light and fluffy.  Add remaining ingredients until a soft dough forms.  Drop by Tbs onto a greased cookie sheet and press flat with a glass dipped in sugar.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.  Cool on a rack then freeze until cold.  Frost as desired.

The verdict:  The finished cookies looked almost exactly like the original.  The flavor was much better (and they had half the fat of the original cookie),  but the warm cookie texture was not quite as good.  The texture improved a lot after cooling and then again after freezing.  They ended up with a nice crisp edge with a soft interior. The vanilla was an excellent addition.  The dough was not as easy to work with–it was a lot more sticky.  Chilling a bit would have helped this.  If we bake them again, we will use our second recipe–they went over smashingly with the family who wished I had baked a bigger batch :). And I STILL have frosting–so looks like more baking in our future.  Look out kid’s at school–we need a place to share all these cookies :).

Bountiful String Quartet Winner and Sponsor Love

We have a winner!  Chosen completely randomly by rafflecopter, Heidi Wiskur won a digital copy of Bountiful String Quartet‘s New CD.  I know she will enjoy that!

We are swamped with schoolwork at the Grocery Shrink house.  And I’m having too good a time cleaning, doing laundry, and catching up on my mending basket to blog.  Oooooh, and I got a new laptop! Darren accidentally dropped my old one and while we got it to come back on, it wasn’t working quite right.  He came home with a mac instead.  It’s quite an adjustment but I’m already in love.  I told him, “once you go mac, you’ll never go back, lol.”  Now I’m trying to figure out how to buy him one too.  But until then I’m figuring out how to use this thing :).

I’d also like to give a shout out to my Sponsor’s:

First is Sandi Sullivan at If you are looking a way to earn money from home while using natural cleaning, beauty, and nutrition products, you should see what she has to offer!

Next up is Your Jamberry Nails Consultant, Heidi Perkins.  She can hook you up with fashionable and long lasting nail decals.  I tried them out personally at Christmas time and loved them.  The company has since improved them to make them even easier to apply!  And the designs are buy 3 get 1 free.  Think how popular you would be at the next slumber party!

fityummumummy 2'

Of course, there’s our favorite personal trainer, Holly Rigsby from Fit Yummy Mummy. Holly’s program is designed especially for the busy mother who’s willing to trade in hours of cardio for 90 minutes of her specially designed workouts a week.  I took the plunge 18 months ago and will never look back!  Goodbye belly.  Hello muscle.   I write more details about my Fit Yummy Mummy journey over at my second blog: 2If you are a beginner and want to bake light, tender 100% whole wheat loaves of bread. Then is the place for you. Lori Viets will teach you in her easy video lessons how to save money and bake your family delicious and healthy bread.

GSP Button2Don’t forget about Grocery Shrink Plus.  Where members download weekly meal plans that include 7 days of breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks; gluten free and dairy free modifications.  Helps for the Fit Mama; a shopping list; a meal plan at a glance and an action plan at a glance.  You won’t believe your eyes when you see how affordable it is!

And then there’s Swagbucks.  Swagbucks is a search engine similar to Google, except they pay you in swag bucks for using it.  You can trade your bucks in for gift certificates to places like Amazon and Target.  There’s no adware and they don’t sell your email address either.  It’s the real deal.

Then there’s Zulily.  Zulily is a bulk buying coop for baby, maternity, lady and kids stuff.  Since it’s a limited time bulk deal, they can offer reduced prices.  Just recently I bought 2 spring jackets for $15 each and a stretched canvas wall art for Heather’s room remodel.  I’m just in the planning and gathering stage for this so far :).

One kings lane button

One King’s Lane is like the zulily for home decor.  I haven’t actually ordered from them yet, but I love to get their emails and look for ideas.

Scouting Out Spring Styles

We still haven’t purchased any of our spring clothes, but I’ve been searching the web for things we like.  I’ve noticed some definite trends in what is showing–not sure how I feel about things yet. The hi-low skirt idea was ruined on me in High School when my best friend’s dad named them the saggy diaper dresses, lol. It seems like we’re seeing a lot of early 90’s styles resurface this spring. The nice thing about recycling 90’s trends, is there is bound to be treasures to find at thrift stores :).

I’ll be honest, I’m living in yoga pants and t-shirts right now.  I’m focusing super hard on fitness and not many of my real clothes fit.  I’ve been trying to get back into them for 2 years and had them for many years before that–so I’m tempted to just chuck them all (garage sale and donate for coupons to use at the thrift store) and reward myself with a new wardrobe when I reach my goals.  All of that will be done frugally of course.  I’ll recycle the money I earn by selling the clothes and sew what I can too. Here are some of the trends I’m seeing this spring:

1.  Hi-Low Skirts:  High in Front and Low in Back.

Source: via Angela on Pinterest


2. Peplums (also last considered fashionable in the early 90’s…)

Source: via Angela on Pinterest


3. Narrow Elastic Waists either worn plain or with a fabric or thin leather belt. (My grandmother had a closet full of these….I’ll have to regroup my thinking on them if I’m going to wear one, lol.) But they look comfy, reasonably flattering and a BREEZE to sew.

Source: via Angela on Pinterest

Source: via Angela on Pinterest

Source: via Angela on Pinterest


4. Cute Ballet Flats in bright colors:

Source: via Angela on Pinterest

Source: via Angela on Pinterest

Source: via Angela on Pinterest

These are best worn sockless. Payless carries little footlet socks that aren’t supposed to show in shoes like these. Our experience is that they do show AND they tend to come off the foot as we walk. Pretty annoying little things. I recently purchased washable terry cloth food bed liners instead (from Amazon.) I’ll let you know how they work.

It looks like Maxi skirts/dresses are back again, as is navy and white stripe or chevron prints.  Mint, turquoise, coral; and watercolor florals are everywhere too.

With jewelry anything goes.  Chunky or slim, bright colors are in (even chartreuse and bright bold yellow).  And gold is back in a big way.

Most of the cute dresses I found were in a super mini length (33″).  This would cause an awkward moment if a spring breeze came up. They remind me of the length of dress Shirley temple used to wear when she was 6–with the ruffled panties underneath.  It just doesn’t have the same charm on a grown woman.  Fortunately, another popular length is the midi dress which is between 36-37 inches and hits most ladies near the knee.

I also saw a lot of jewel necklines which are rarely flattering on anyone.  And fit and flare styles that could be a lot of fun for girl’s with narrow waists and wide hips that would melt away under fluffy skirts.

Have you seen trends I didn’t find?  What’s your favorite spring look?