Saturday, June 24, 2023

My Little Spring Garden of 2023

    I had been throwing myself a real pity party earlier this year, as another season was passing in which I wouldn't have a garden.  Again.  I was battling health issues, Colton hadn't finished my raised beds due to weather and time restraints, it was difficult to manage with small children, etc... But then I stopped myself and said, "Kelsey, the real reason you don't have a garden this year is because you haven't planted one."  So I got to work and my small children helped.

    We have a little shed in our garden that we bought second hand a couple years ago.  It has always been my intention to dress up the outside and make it pretty, so that is what I focused on.  I had a water trough that I had pulled out of the dump and that was going to be my planter, along with empty pots I already had.  This was the state of my area:

    This was after I had already started weeding, so you can see it was in need of attention!  After I weeded, I put down paper feed sacks that my father-in-law had been saving for me.  The children acted as paperweights since there was a breeze.

    We topped that with a good, thick layer of wood chips that Colton had previously chipped.  The children had fun with this.  Can you spot their little green wheelbarrow below?

       I lined the trough with plastic (free from a co-worker of Colton's) and filled it with dirt.

    I added a new liner to my window box and planted strawberries in it at John's request.  (Colton built me faux shutters from wood scraps, which I still need to paint, along with the window.)  I planted four spearmint plants in the trough.  I love spearmint, but it's invasive so it needs to be contained.  This was the perfect solution.

    Here is how everything looked after it all filled in:

    The pots next to the trough hold my elderberry bushes.  These had been in smaller plastic pots, and once I transplanted them, they really took off!  The pots at the front of the shed hold a jalapeno and basil plant, both purchased during a plant sale.  (The trellis you see isn't staying there- it's going in between my raised beds.)  
    I am very pleased with how it turned out.  It may not look like the big vegetable gardens I've had in the past, but something is always better than nothing.  And when we want something, pity parties don't get the job done- hard work does. 😉

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Thrifty Thursday #8 ~ Frugal Decorating Principles

    With our renovations underway, I am very much in "decorating mode".  A reader recently asked me for a decorating post, and while I initially thought I didn't have much to share, I realized I do have several principles I tend to follow when it comes to adorning my home.  As my decorating has always been of a frugal nature, I thought I would share them here for Thrifty Thursday:

    Live in the Space

    My first tip is to actually live in the space you are decorating for a while.  Spend time there doing your everyday things.  This will help you see what you like about the space and what you want to change, what functions well and what doesn't.  It will also help you take note of things like natural lighting throughout the day, temperature fluctuations, and even the views out of your windows.  All of these things are going to help you determine how you want a room to look, function, and feel.  

    I know that there are things in our current home that I wanted to change right away, but due to our circumstances, I had to make do.  Some of those things I have since embraced and come to love, which means we saved a lot of time, effort, and money by not redoing them.  Other things still need improvement, but I would never have known (or known how to fix them) if I hadn't first lived and worked in the space for a good amount of time.

Find Your Style

    It's true that decorating can come with a lot of trial and error, but it will really help in making decisions if you know your overall style.  I go to Pinterest for this because it is such a huge, free resource.  Sometimes I use it as a search engine if I am looking for something in particular, but most of the time, I just mindlessly "pin" pretty images that appeal to me.  This is helpful later on because it allows me to go back through what I've pinned and see if there are any recurring themes, styles, colors, patterns, materials, etc.  I have more than one style (I think most of us have a blend), but when I look carefully at my pins, I can see similarities that overlap and tie them together.  Do I like French country?  English cottage?  Old American farmhouse?  Whatever name or label I put on my style(s), I can look through my pins and see a lot of soft, muted colors, and a mixture of floral, plaid, and ticking stripe prints.  I can see that I like natural wood and stone, and walls with bead board, vertical paneling, and board and batten.  That gives me a sort of foundation, and the more I look at what I like, the more I am able to recognize it when I go to decorate my own space (as well as see what doesn't fit in).

    Sometimes I also glean ideas from visiting other people's homes.  Maybe I'm a bit snoopy, but I take note of how things are arranged and how the home feels.  If a home feels particularly cozy, inviting, comfortable, or fresh, I try to figure out what gives it that feeling.  Is it the colors, the arrangement, the lighting, the inclusion of personal items?  If you feel inspired by a space, pay attention to those types of things.

Think Long Term      

    Thinking long term means first choosing timeless pieces, and secondly, investing in quality where you can afford it.  Avoiding fads and cheaply made items is going to save you money in the long run, as it eliminates the need to constantly replace, change, or upgrade in the future.  When it comes to decorating (or renovating like I am doing now), I personally don't mind spending more on foundational elements if I find something that I absolutely love and know is going to last me forever.

Shop Used

    With the above being said, there is no reason to think that "quality" always equates to "expensive".  I also understand what it is to work with a limited budget and a make-do attitude!  Except for one or two pieces of furniture, most of what I have in my home is used.  It was either thrifted, purchased on Craigslist, or bought at a garage or estate sale.  I also have lots of hand-me-down items and handmade things, even things salvaged from the dump! Generally, things used to be more well-made than they are today, so thrift and antique stores are the perfect places to score things like solid wood furniture.  Antique stores are the more expensive of the two, but in comparison to buying new, you will still come out way ahead if you find one of those "investment" pieces.  When it comes to thrift stores and garage sales, I still pay attention to quality.  If an item is sturdy and has a good shape, it can be cleaned up, repainted, recovered, and so forth.  Shopping this way is also a treasure hunt- you never know what unique things you will find to add to your home.  

    Here are a couple photos of the living room of our first home.  I absolutely loved this home, and it was decorated on a shoestring budget!  The record player, some of the books, the chicken feeder arrangement on the coffee table, and the throw blanket on the couch are the only things in these photos that were not second-hand.  Oh, and the curtains, which were $5 Walmart sheets that I sewed up to fit the windows.

Use What you Have

    I really disliked this advice as a newlywed.  When Colton and I got married, we had a mattress on the floor, a dresser with a missing drawer, and an old TV that even Goodwill wouldn't take when we wanted to get rid of it.  What, exactly, was I supposed to rearrange?  But after a few years of marriage, garage sales, and thrifting, I realized that it was good advice despite my earlier circumstances.  It can really pay to "shop your house" and rearrange for a fresh look.  Don't put yourself in a box thinking that a particular item has to stay in a room because that's where it has always been.  If you move something and don't like it, you can always move it back- no money lost!  One of the ladies who works at our local thrift store told me that she used to rearrange people's homes as a source of income.  She said her clients would always be amazed with what she could do using only the things they already had in their homes.  All they needed was a fresh set of eyes.

Paint (or Clean) It

    I don't think there is anything that makes as drastic a change as a fresh coat of paint, whether it be on furniture or walls.  This is a great option if you want a big impact, especially on a tight budget.  However, I know there are times when even a can of paint can't be afforded.  My best advice for when you aren't satisfied with something in your home but can't change it, is to simply clean it.  Yes, just clean it.  Even ugly things look better clean than dirty, and it shows that you are being a good steward of what you have been given.  A "why bother?" attitude will only build resentment, not gratitude, and we must remember that "he that is faithful in the least is faithful also in much." (Luke 16:10)  I speak from experience when I say that you will feel much better about a space after you clean it.

Double Duty

    When it comes to decorating, I like things to be both pretty and practical.  Instead of adorning my shelves with trinkets, I personally prefer displaying the attractive things I actually use.  Books, tea cups and pots, candles, oil lamps, and even home canned jars of food are some of the things I consider decor items in my home.  A pretty quilt or blanket also adds to a home's beauty.  Unsightly but useful things can be stored discreetly in thrifted wicker baskets.  (Can you see my Craigslist bargain chandelier in the reflection of my china cabinet?  This is also where I store my "everyday" dishes to free up space in my tiny kitchen.)


    I am a slow decorator.  If you apply the principles above, you either are or will be too.  I think there is a beauty that comes with carefully gathering things you like, piece by piece.  That is where the homemaking aspect comes in.  We are, after all, adoring the homes we live in, not designing a showplace for people to look at and admire.  Our homes should reflect those who dwell inside, telling the story of our lives, which naturally takes place over time. You can't find that in one trip to a big box store.  Your place will be uniquely "you" because the majority of your things will not have been mass produced.  It will be beautiful because you chose only the things you really like.  The things you waited for, saved for, hunted for, and made over will have those memories tied to them.  It won't just be a decorated house, it will be a curated home.  

    Do you have any frugal decorating tips?  What are some of your best bargain finds for your home?  Are there pieces you chose to invest in that have lasted years?

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

    We've been busy, busy around here! Colton has been on vacation again, as he agreed to trade vacation slots with a co-worker who needed his autumn slot.  It really couldn't have come at a better time, though.  Colton has finished up his school job, so this vacation is a true vacation!

    Well, sort of.  This is the state of my laundry room and two adjoining rooms at the moment:

    Oh, yes.  It's renovation time!  Fun, but also stressful.  It's not stressful for Colton (thankfully I married a level-headed man who doesn't get bent out of shape over paint colors), just me.  I'm so indecisive when it comes to choosing colors and that sort of thing.  I nearly went crazy before I decided to paint the living room white, so you can imagine what starting from scratch is doing to me!  

    Do you remember that part in Pride and Prejudice (1995 film) where Maria is frantically rearranging her trunk for fear that she packed her clothes in a way displeasing to Lady Catherine?  Elizabeth comes in and reassures her, "Maria, this is your trunk. These are your gowns.  You may arrange them in any way you wish.  Lady Catherine will never know."  Well, that's what I keep telling myself about decorating.  This is my house and I can paint it and decorate it in any way I wish.  Lady Catherine will never know.  

    So that is what we've been up to lately.  Colton has been in demo mode and I have been in planning mode.  Rest assured, we do have a basic, foundational plan for the rooms or we wouldn't have ripped the walls off.  I just don't have all the little details sorted out yet.  Progress will be slow, but that's how I prefer it.  It gives me plenty of time to make decisions.

    Oh, and in case you're wondering about my raised beds, they are built, but not filled yet.  Hence, no updates.  Yesterday was 115° and it's not cooling down, so outdoor projects are once again on hold!

    What has everyone else been up to?