Our new DIY patio

Yayyyy it’s done! Daddy’s little helper joined for the finishing touches.

This summer has been full of fun events and traveling but that meant that the progress with ripping out our rotted deck and putting in our new DIY patio has been slow. I’ll share the breakdown of the cost and some photos of the progress.

Why a new patio?
We would have been fine with our shabby wooden deck until a million bugs showed up. Our friends were renting our condo while we lived in Calgary for 6 months and they were killing bugs every day, especially after it rained. Bug spray helped but we didn’t want that to be a ritual every summer especially since Nora likes to put everything in her mouth (she recently ate an entire sticky note). Since we didn’t have many expenses while living in Calgary we were able to set aside $2,000 in our Capitol One 360 savings account (this account makes financial goals so easy to track). We didn’t know how much it would cost to replace the deck so we aimed high at $2,000. Our “backyard” is only 20’x16′ so it wasn’t too huge of a project.

Cost, resources, and labor
We borrowed tools from my parents like a wheel barrel, shovels, and saws. It was quite a labor intensive job and Dave probably put in 50 hours tearing up the patio, digging out dirt, hauling that dirt away, laying down the limestone and sand, leveling it all, and laying out the bricks. He often had a friend over to help and we cut costs by borrowing our neighbor’s truck to load the sand and limestone ourselves. We rented a Uhaul to get the bricks we bought off Craigslist. It took 3 guys 2.5 hours to load the bricks onto the Uhaul but then we had 9 guys help unload them in only 45 minutes! Since we didn’t spend the full $2,000 we decided to buy some patio furniture for under $100 and celebrate Dave’s hard work with a new bike for him to ride to and from work ($200). That left us with an extra $700 to go toward an extra payment on our mortgage! We are already excited for next summer so we can enjoy some good food with good friends on our new patio.

The cost breakdown
$303 for 1200 bricks we bought off cragislist
$169 Uhaul & gas to get bricks
$25 stakes, string, PVC
$36 garden bed mesh
$216 crushed limestone (didn’t use 100% of it)
$52 slag sand
$128 more sand, edging, etc.

Total cost: $929

Now for the progress pictures. I couldn’t find a “before” picture with all the rotted wood besides this one when we were renovating our kitchen:

2013-04-14 17.57.25There was a LOT of prepwork involved: removing shrubs, a rotted stump, a huge rock, and some 4″x4″ posts that had cement poured around them.

2014-06-14 11.37.102014-06-14 11.37.33The garden mesh was pinned down and then we compacted 4 yards of limestone on top. Once this step was complete we could tamp a layer of sand and start laying bricks.2014-08-07 19.55.45

2014-08-17 17.15.14



What DIY projects have you done before?

Home Renovations: bedrooms, living room, etc.

Welcome back, now you can the see the rest of the place!

living room renovations

The living room
This room had a few bumps and bruises we had to fix up, but overall it was an easy room. We ended up selling the striped couch with a pull out bed to some friends before moving to Canada and my parents found a great deal on craigslist for a used but like-new sectional for when we come home! They love it so much that it’s currently set up in their own living room until we get back.


Bedrooms 1 & 2
The bedrooms were a fairly easy task. All we had to do was give the trim and closets a fresh coat of white paint and then add a splash of color. All of the doors were wood but we painted them white to give them a fresher look. I love the double doors leading into our bedroom; it definitely made moving much easier!bedroomsUpstairs hallway/landing
The area between the bedrooms and bathroom upstairs is nice and open with a little nook for linens and a closet for extra storage. We gave everything a fresh coat of paint and I used contact paper to cover the shelves. My mom came up with a clever idea for painting the stair well that I actually ended up pinning on Pinterest because it was genius. The rail was a handicap rail that would do more damage to take off to paint. Instead, we just rolled suran wrap around it and taped off necessary areas. It made painting much easier.20130424-141726.jpg


Bathrooms (1 full, 1 half)
The bathrooms were the least finished of the home before we left for Canada. The previous owner must have really loved yellow; it’s everywhere in the upstairs bathroom! The floor tile and the shower walls…really? We had a bad-turned-good situation occur with the kitchen countertop which led to our bathroom looking awesome. They measured the countertop wrong and my mom talked the guys into letting us keep it and even got them to cut it for the bathroom upstairs! We replaced the ugly brown bathroom top with the same black countertop as the kitchen’s.

upstairs bathroomnew bathroom cabinet & counter top

As for the bathroom downstairs, this was the BIGGEST pain in the rear, mainly for Dave. I’m confident the last owner took a hose and drenched the walls with wallpaper glue that took Dave a day and a half to scrape off. We went with a cute idea from Pinterest and put light & dark shades of green stripes on one wall. The vanity fit perfectly in the bathroom and we added a towel holder and new light fixture.
old half bathroom cabinetold half bathroom gutted out

half bathroom finishedhalf bathroom light fixture

Odds & Ends

The odds and ends of this place were a little outdated so we did some upgrades. The light fixtures looked like old strobe lights and one was basically a bird house. We replaced them with what my mom calls “boob lights” as you can probably guess from the pictures 🙂
We tried a few things for the kitchen light that hangs over the dining table since we don’t care for it. We tried a fan but realized it would take a lot of work to put support beams in so we could screw it in. Then we tried a cool pendulum light but it hung too far down even without the chain. For now, we just have the original light back up.


 Did you get to see our beautiful kitchen makeover?

Cheap DIY Halloween Costume: Fred & Wilma

20121029-222943.jpgHubs and I participated in the Halloween festivities this past Saturday. I was determined to find a cheap DIY halloween costume that I didn’t have to toss after wearing once. I hate hate HATE spending wasting money one-time use stuff but I think I managed to turn our seemingly stupid purchase into a good investment.

As Fred & Wilma Flintstone I got away with making both costumes for $20. I bought an orange polo that Dave can wear to work for $5 at Plato’s Closet along with a $1 blue shirt for the tie and another orange shirt for $6 that we cut up and sewed to the bottom of the polo to make it a longer shirt. Dave had an old black shirt we used for the triangles. I bought a XXXL shirt from a grocery chain, laid a dress over it, cut around the dress, and sewed it up! I got the clever idea of tracing my dress from this tutorial. FYI- an XXL or XL would have worked just fine; I learned that the shirts just get wider, not longer! I used cotton balls for my necklace and I guess Wilma wore Puma shoes back in the day. I figure Fred and Wilma can make another appearance a few years down the road when we’re able to accessorize with our own Pebbles or Bam-Bam 🙂

Side story: The slippers Dave’s wearing in the picture were actually a gift my mom got for my dad for Christmas a few years ago but he never wore them. When Dave mentioned that he’d like to buy some slippers, my mom ran to her closet and came out with my dad’s unworn pair. My dad later complimented Dave on how comfortable his slippers looked. Silly pops, saavy mom.

What are you being for Halloween this year?

PS– be sure to enter the giveaway at Work Save Live for some great gifts!!
1-Year Blogoversary Giveaway! Apple iPad Mini, $100 Amazon GC, $50 Paypal Cash!

Make your own Mother’s Day card

A friend shared this crafty idea with me a few years ago and I want to share it with you before Mother’s Day so you can try it out yourself. Instead of paying $2.50-$5.00 for a card, why not make your own mother’s day card? Or any card? I save nice cards and reuse them to make my own cards for weddings, birthdays, or any other occasion. I enjoy writing my own notes, so I like having a blank inside to work with.

It’s my mum’s birthday today, so I sent this lovely, home made Mother’s Day + Birthday card early so she’d get it in the mail today. This cover was from one of my bridal showers- it’s so cute! I threw away the second half of the card that had the writing on it and glued a piece of plain thick paper to the card. All I paid for was the postage!

I love you mom! Happy birthday + almost Mother’s Day!

Have you reused cards before?

Buy in season, do some freezin’

If you haven’t read yesterday’s post on how to find what fruit & vegetables are in season, be sure to check it out in addition to today’s post.

Strawberries were on sale last week for $1 a pound, so I bought 6 pounds, cut them up and froze all but one pound. We kept one pound fresh and packed whole strawberries in our lunch this week. I usually scoop out a few frozen ones and put them in my yogurt. They thaw out overnight since I pack my lunch after dinner. Strawberries aren’t always that cheap, so when I see the sale, I stock up! If a pound of strawberries usually costs $2.50 per pound out of season and I find the $1 per pound sale, I’ve saved $9 on the 6 pounds I bought! If you have a deep freezer, you could save some mad money by grabbing seasonal produce when it’s cheap. We only have a standard bottom fridge/ top freezer in our apartment, so I can’t go too crazy with these sales. Someday…

If you want some awesome tips on freezing produce and all sorts of food, check out this helpful post from Andrea at Simple Organized Living. You’ll find great ideas on how to freeze foods like baked goods, dairy, baking supplies, and whole meals. She’s developed a freezing system that works for her and uses various sizes of Ziploc bags, Tupperware, and even shoe boxes to make sorting and stacking foods easier. There’s even a Freezer Cooking FAQ from all the questions Andrea got after the first post. Her site is definitely in my top favorite sites I follow, so check her out. Just don’t forget about Budget for Health as you browse in awe through her savvy organizing/decorating/kitchen skills 😉 Another useful article I found from Eating well shows how to prep 16 fruits & vegetables.

Even if you don’t have a freezer, there are other ways to preserve foods like canning or making jams. I made 6 jars of jam when blackberries were on sale for 50 cents a pint. Believe it or not, I actually got my recipe to make jam from Andrea. Other foods I buy in bulk and freeze are bread, berries, chicken (our local store has Michigan-farmed chicken breasts for $1.79 per pound on Saturdays), broth (I buy the 32oz carton since it’s often cheaper and just freeze the rest in little Tupperware bowls), and vegetables (I buy bulk red & orange peppers when on sale, chop, and freeze for soups, tacos, stir fry, omelettes, etc). It’s important to keep an eye on your grocery budget when buying in bulk so you don’t go over, but you can typically save a good chunk of change from this practice!

Do you stock up on produce in season? What else do you freeze in bulk?

Make your own food for less

I’ve included three recipes that I like to make instead of purchase from the store because they often cost less to make and I have control over the ingredients & portion sizes.

Cinnamon Applesauce (Makes about 1 quart)
8 cups apples, peeled & cored
½ cup brown sugar, packed (none if you want unsweetened)
1-2 tsp cinnamon (or throw in a cinnamon stick)
1 tsp vanilla

Throw it all in a crock pot on low for 3-4 hours. Mash with a fork or potato masher.

Homemade Granola (Makes about 1 quart)
2 ¼ cups oats
1 cup chopped nuts (I like walnuts or almonds)
1 cup chopped fruit (raisins, sometimes apricots)
¼ cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp cinnamon
¾ cup light maple syrup

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F
  2. Mix dry ingredients, then add syrup and stir (a spatula works well for this)
  3. Spread evenly onto a large sheet pan sprayed with non-stick spray
  4. Bake for ~30 minutes. Stir/flip half way through
  5. Store in an air tight container.

I love this granola with yogurt. I just bring a mini Ziploc bag of it to work and pour some into my yogurt so it’s nice & crunchy.

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Raisin Bagels
Makes 9ish bagels depending on how big you make them.

Not gonna lie, this is actually my mom’s pretzel recipe. Hey, if I put peanut butter or cream cheese on both anyway, is it really a far stretch to just shape them differently? Even if bagels are on sale, they still can cost ~$0.42 per 3oz bagel. I’m not sure how many ounces this batch comes out to be, but I made it all for $2.

1 package fast rise yeast
1 ½ cups warm water
1 Tbsp (heaping) sugar
1-2 Tbsp cinnamon
½- ¾ cup raisins
1 tsp salt
4 cups whole wheat flour
1 egg, beaten
1 Tbsp butter for basting

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F
  2. Add yeast to warm water & let stand 10 minutes
  3. add remaining ingredients (not butter)
  4. On a surface lightly dusted with flour, knead the dough a few times and add just enough flour so it’s not sticking to your hands anymore.
  5. Shape the dough into a rectangle & cut off pieces with a pizza slicer
  6. Roll into snakes, shape into a bagel (or pretzel)
  7. Bake for 10 minutes, baste with some butter, throw them back in for 5-10 more minutes.

What food items do you make instead of buy?