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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What I found at Goodwill today!

I haven't been to Goodwill in forever! Since the beginning of summer, at least. So today, after my little Publix trip, I ran in to see what they had!

Found: Adorable cheese dome/board $2.92
Tacky oval Christmas tray 99 cents
2 glass storage jars $1.81 each
Basket $1.81
2 Hardy Boys books for David $1.25 each

spent under $13 with tax for everything!

Now, I know it doesn't look like that much, but give me a few weeks, some spray paint and some holiday or seasonal decor and it is gonna ROCK! That tray will be black, with some burnished edges for holding candles as a centerpiece. The little dome will highlight something beautiful ~ not sure if I will paint the base black or white? The basket will sit on my newly repainted counters to hold dishwashing soap, sponges and such. The jars will be perfect in the pantry. At Walmart, similar jars were $7! And the books will help my little reader read even more! Check back soon as I'll post the finished projects here! Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Feels a teeny bit like Fall.....

Meaning it will only be 85 degrees here today, instead of 95! So I'm dusting off the Fall/Halloween decor to prepare it for the day it will once again grace my home on Sept 1st! Because I really, really LOVE Autumn, y'all!

So I have all these fake graves (from Dollar Tree) for the front yard. We have the perfect spot to make a little cemetery out there every Halloween. They looked very flat, boring and had some white styrofoam showing through, so while the kids were busy crafting yesterday, I used one of their dollar store paint brushes (meaning bristles sticking out EvErYwHeRe!) and added some white acrylic paint to both and some black acrylic paint to the bat on top of one because he had some chipped styrofoam showing!

Oops - I forgot to take a before pic of this guy - so he's RI without the P and other details whited in! lol

Here's the other one - I cut off the bat at the top though. Not my day for pics, I guess!

And now for the after picture:

I think they turned out fabulous! I have several others to touch up, and I may add some silly names and dates to a few to make the cemetery a little more scary!

Are y'all getting your Fall on too? Seriously - this is the BEST time of year and I just can't wait for it to get here!

Hooking up here:

Friday, August 27, 2010

September Blog-A-Thon!

I'm trying to become a better blogger (say that five times fast!) so I just joined the Blog-A-Thon over at Playing In The Park. Click ABOVE on the title of this post (September Blog-A-Thon) to visit her site so you can link your blog too! Then we can all blog every day in September... or at least do our best to blog every day! That's what it's all about y'all, doing your best! ;)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

How I made over my laminate countertops

I am never satisfied with our home. I always have 3 or 4 (at least) projects in the works. For example, the dining room chairs I received from my grandparents' home - I painted and reupholstered 2 of the 6 so far. The others are in various stages of priming or painting. The reupholstered seats are stacked neatly in a corner of the dining room. Fortunately for me, we don't use that room often, so it's not a big deal.

OLD chairs:

NEW chairs:

Likewise the one wall in the dining room with wallpaper. When we moved in 6 years ago, I loved it. Then (at the time still a toddler) David tore a piece of the wallpaper off the bottom...and I lost the love for my wallpapered wall! So last summer I began stripping it - but what a chore. Even with the spray stripper gel used with the razor-y thing, we're still getting a layer of the back paper left on the wall from the wallpaper. It is a mindless but tedious job. I only work on it when I'm completely, utterly, bored ~ which is not often!

One project I did complete was my daughter's bathroom vanity. It was a standard white, but we wanted to warm it up, so I faux painted the countertop to look like granite, and painted the base a warm mocha. It's one of my favorite home makeover projects ever... but one of the few of which I don't have a "before" pic to share. Darn it!

But here is the after!

Two years ago I started a kitchen makeover. Two years. What can I say - my husband is very patient, and luckily for me, doesn't care how long my projects take. I'm very lucky!

When we moved in, the kitchen was U-G-L-Y!! I can't stand white walls, white counters, white floors. I have two kids (Three counting my stepson in the summer) and kids make messes! Or at least mine do. So in my head, I envisioned a Tuscan-themed kitchen - warm, inviting, the heart of our home.

Here's the BEFORE:

When the white tile began showing a yellowish stain in several places, I was ready for a new floor. Too bad the budget didn't agree! But, after many hours at various home stores, I found a gorgeous adhesive tile from Home Depot. I knew how to apply adhesive tiles, having used them in my bathroom at my last home. They aren't super durable, but for a few years, they'd work! So we got them - they are a beautiful taupe/rosy beige slate look. It took me about 3 days to get them all on, and I was in LoVe!

(pretend there's a picture here - tomorrow I'll take one!)

Next, I repainted the white cabinets black. Even now, I'm not sure that was the best idea. But it's done. I replaced the hardware with an oil-rubbed bronze set of knobs, and love them, but they are almost lost in all the black. On my to-do list is to make a glaze with a bronze acrylic paint to rub into the cabinets to antique them and add some interest.

We painted the walls, too. I had the paint picked out forever - Sherwin Williams Different Gold. My sister used it in her home and I love it. But while my husband was at the paint store, I did something bad. I went against my gut feeling, and called to ask him to change it to a buttery yellow. Can I just tell you how much I hate it? It's been up for two years this summer. Ugh. Luckily, last week a nice man on freecycle gave me a full gallon of a wonderfully rich gold paint that I'll be using to cover the butter yellow. Soon!

Lastly, the counters. They were white laminate. They stained often - grape juice, coffee drips, you name it, they stained. I was bleaching all the time. Yuck!
So I decided to try this pricey countertop paint from Home Depot. We got it in the Taupe shade. Painted them with it last fall. I have to say that it did not live up to the claims I'd read. It does scratch, it does take more than one coat, and it does not last. I was very disappointed in it. Especially since it was a special order product from Home Depot, and I had to order two quarts, instead of just the one I needed. But, I wouldn't let the newly-taupe chipped counters go to waste. I decided to faux paint over them to look more like granite, since new counters are absolutely the last thing we can spend money on!

So far, not including the counter paint and polyurethene I aleady had, I've spent
$12 on my "new" counters: $1.50 each for 4 shades of acrylic craft paint at Michael's, $3 for six foam rollers at the dollar store, and $3 for sea sponges at Michael's. Not bad at all, right?!

Since I'm going for warmth in my colors, I chose metallic gold, cream, black, and brown paints. I had a small bottle of white, which I did use to lighten up the brown & black for a couple layers, as well.

If you try this at your home, you'll need to clean the counters very well, sand them down a bit, clean again, then apply a base coat. In my Katie-bug's bathroom, my base coat was a brown latex paint. And in the kitchen I used the countertop paint for my base.

Since I already had a base coat on, I started out dabbing the edge of a sea sponge in one color paint, then dabbing it all over the counter. Once you start dabbing the colors on with the sponge, you may think you are doing it OH SO WRONG, because it will look TERRIBLE! Like a weird animal escaped from a zoo and walked all over your counters with weird little paws!! Like this:

But you are doing it right, I promise!! Keep doing it, over and over, letting each layer of sponged on color dry. And keep a selection of sponges on hand so you can rinse them out after each color and let them dry. I dipped one edge or point in the paint, then blotted them on paper until I got the "dotty" look I wanted. Then sponge on the counter randomly. It will feel like you're doing this forever! But it will all come together, I promise!

Keep going! Over and over and over. Dab with different edges of the sponges, and with lots of different color layers. You want to leave a bit of the base coat showing, but have a ton of other layers dabbed on. I also blended the colors to make lighter or darker shades to use as well. Just to add more color like real stone has!

When you decide you like it - stop, step back, and be sure! If it's what you wanted, then it's time to seal those suckers up. I chose an oil based, clear semi gloss finish polyurethene. I've added 4 full coats, but more around the sink, because I want to make sure it will be protected from drips! I finished this afternoon, so tomorrow I can start putting things back on the counter. That is when I'll have some more pics for you! But for now, here is the picture I took Saturday morning, before the poly coats began. It really does look like granite! Well, to be honest, if you stare at it for long, you'll see dabs of paint, not swirls of rock-y beautifulness. But who is gonna stare at my counters, right? And this is SO much better than the stained white I had before! I Love Love Love my new counter. I have three more sections to do before the kitchen is done. Well, I still need to repaint the walls, and add the glaze to the cabinets. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel now that I am tackling the ugly counters!!

Pictures from this morning:

Please ignore the blue painter's tape - I think I'm going to do ONE more poly coat before I take that off. And ignore the ugly yellow on the walls, and the paint that I got on them - they are going buh-bye SOON! Ditto the painted-over electrical outlet covers - they will be white (or maybe black) soon!

Thanks so much for letting me share this makeover with you!! If you have any questions, I'll do my best to answer them, just leave me a comment!

It's a Blog Party

Katie's Nesting Spot


Friday, August 20, 2010

Are you brand loyal?

One thing that did change for me when I started my semi-extreme couponing is that I try a lot of new brands. If I can get something for almost free, I'll try it once! But, there are a few things I'm very loyal to the brand. One of those: Hebrew National or Nathan's Beef Hot Dogs. I just can't eat any others! But I've been pleasantly surprised to try & like many other new products, thanks to coupons. And sometimes, even with a sale and coupon, generic produts are cheaper and just as good. (Especially baking products: sugar, flour, baking powder, chocolate chips, etc)

Another thing that makes me more likely to buy one brand over another: Boxtops for Education! My son's school collects these and has been able to purchase so many cool items, like playground equipment! I am a freak about buying these products when I have coupons & are on sale! They are on things the kids love - fruit snacks, cereals, granola bars, and more. And this fall they are showing up on Progresso soups, Land O'lakes butter, and other new products! Yay!

Are you brand loyal to any particular products? Or are you willing to try new ones if the savings are significant enough?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

When the dollar store is a deal...

I love the dollar store. Especially Dollar Tree. We have a great one nearby, and I go about once every two weeks. I used to go without a list - I'd have a few things in mind to pick up, but impulse buys were always picked up too! Now I make a list ~ I keep a running one between trips. Some of the best buys for us at the dollar store:

spices like garlic powder, Italian seasoning, sea salt grinders, pepper grinders, cinnamon sugar

drink mixes (like Crystal light - but different brands)

bottled water 6 & sometimes 12 packs

dishwasher powder detergent - works as well as what I spent $4 or more on at the grocery store!

rolls of blue painter's tape

packing tape


ziploc style bags for lunches or the freezer

gift bags and tissue paper for gifts

party decorations - our store has at least 4-6 themed sets of plates, tablecloths, hats, favors, and more - including princess, army, cars, toy story, etc!

going the day after holidays for 50 cent giftwrap, ornaments, Halloween decor and more!

The biggest tip I can give you - make a list and stick with it - otherwise you'll go in for 3 or 4 items and come out having spent $20 or more!!

What's your favorite thing to buy at the Dollar Store?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

One of my best shopping trips ever!!

Today I went shopping for two weeks worth of groceries - mostly needed lean proteins, veggies, dairy and snack stuff for lunch boxes and school snacks. I had a pile of coupons, and a list made for Kroger's mega sale. They are having the buy 8 participating items, get $4 off instantly promotion. So I bought 40 of those items, used a coupon on every single one, plus e-coupons on several, and got $20 off right at the top of my receipt!!

The total before he scanned my Kroger plus card was as follows: purchased 115 items, total was $290-something. After the Kroger sales, ecoupons, mega promotion discounts, and paper coupons came off, my total out of pocket was $157! The receipt says I saved $135. And, I got a certificate for 25 bonus boxtops for D's school, and a $3.50 catalina for next weekend. I'm getting ready to email the Catalina company about not getting the Progresso soup Catalina - that should bring me more $ back, too!

I had to replace my coupon box again. This is #4. Luckily, I get them on sale, so it's not such a big deal! It's kind of fun, like changing your purse after a while!

What's your best shopping trip deal so far? I have to admit, my goal is to have one of those trips where you get $200 or $300 worth of groceries for $20! I'll keep clipping and using coupons til I get there! : )

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Back to School!!

So my babies went back to school this week. It's always bittersweet. I love having the summer with them, but by this time of summer, they are ready to get back to school to friends, afterschool activities and more. This year Katie is in 11th grade, and David is in 1st. The time seems to go by faster and faster each year - didn't I just take back to school pictures?!

Monday, August 9, 2010

How to get stores to pay you to shop!

One of my best savings tips is to shop where you will get paid back for shopping....for me, that means shopping at CVS, where they give you Extra Care Bucks, which are basically CVS cash. Also Walgreens has Register Rewards, which are given to you in the form of a catalina coupon. And Kroger has many catalina promotions too. Finally, Kohl's offers Kohl's Cash several times a year. Since yesterday, I've spent 88 cents, gotten 3 cents back at Kohl's, and here is what I got:

Double pack of Atlanta Journal Constitution - retail $3
2 Deli Kids Meals from Publix - $3.99 each
My Publix takes Kroger & Walgreens rewards/catalinas.
I used $7.50 in Kroger Catalinas
$2 in Walgreen's Register Rewards
$1 off 2 Deli Kids Meals coupon
total due: 80 cents

Then to CVS:

bought a tin of Cashews, $4.99
Bag of Werther's $3.49
2 Diet coke 2 liters, on sale 2 for $3
1 small bag m&m's 89 c

$1 off 2 cokes coupon
$1 off werther's
total due: 8 cents

Today at Kohl's :

B1G1 sale on my favorite For Every Body candles - regularly $9.99 each
bought 6 - 1 Lemon Meringue, 2 Birthday Cake, 2 Sea Glass, 1 Cinnamon Toast, total due $29.97, used $30 Kohl's cash from last weekend's back to school shopping
They paid me 3 cents - I paid nothing out of pocket! Receipt shows I saved $59.94!

All of these ECB, Register Rewards, and Catalinas were from items I would have purchased anyway - I just purchased them when they were featured with the rewards. It's all about timing! The Kohl's cash is the same way - I spent $165 for $189 worth of clothes for the kids, used a 15% off shopping pass, and got $30 in Kohl's cash back because I waited until that sale was in progress to get $10 Kohl's cash for every $50 spent!

Then I use the rewards for either more things we need, or as I did in all of the above trips, I splurged on lunches for the kids' first day at school, snacks, and those heavenly candles! I'll use 3 for gifts, and 3 for myself! LOVE them! So shop smartly by watching the sale ads for items you need that will give you rewards or catalinas back, and then use them wisely (or for splurging!) to stretch that grocery budget!

If you have any questions on how I coupon, please email me or leave a comment! I will do my best to answer any questions! And if you are in the metro Atlanta area, I do teach classes on my "semi-extreme" couponing!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Cheap Cereal!!

If you have a Kroger nearby, check out their sale today and tomorrow on cereal!! I went earlier to restock before school starts Monday. I got two huge boxes of Cheerios (the 1 lb 2 oz box, regularly $4.49) for $1.24 and 74 cents, respectively, a box of Fiber One Caramel Clusters for 74 cents, and a box of Cap'n Crunch for 44 cents. I saved enough to get my favorite magazine - Woman's World! Total spent: $5.04. Here's how this worked out:
Cheerios #1 - $2.24 (1/2 off $4.49)
used 55 c off Cellfire e-coupon
used 50 c off coupon, doubled to $1 off

Cheerios #2
$2/24 (1/2 off $4.49)
used 50 c coupon, doubled to $1 off

Fiber One - $2.14 )(1/2 off $4.29)
used 75 c shortcuts e coupon
used 75 c coupon

Cap'n Crunch $1.44 (1/2 off $2.89)
used 50 c coupon, doubled to $1 off

Woman's World - $1.79

total: $5.04
savings $13.14 or 73%

Such a GREAT deal!! I try to keep 18-20 boxes of cereal in my stockpile for variety ~ they all expire next year. My kids can finish 2 boxes a week between meals & snacks, so we will use it all!!

** check out the ecoupons at and - I recommend loading them all on at the beginning of the month - you never know what deals may come up! Honestly, I had forgotten about both of my e-coupons! They came off when the clerk scanned my Kroger card!!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

How to get FREE Birthday presents from all over the internet!!

Updated on 8/2/18 with new offers and deals! 

Did you know that just because you are turning a year older, companies want to fill your inbox with hundreds of dollars worth of free stuff?  Last year was the first time I signed up for birthday freebies ~ and wow! was I surprised at what I received in my email inbox!!

I had free meal offers from:

Bojangles - free birthday biscuit
Captain D's - free meal
Carrabba's -  free appetizer or dessert with purchase
Cheeseburger Bobby's - free single burger with any purchase
Einstein  Bros. Bagels  - free egg sandwich with purchase of a drink
Fatz - free meal
Firehouse Subs - free sub
Genghis Grill - Free bowl on your birthday
HoneyBaked Ham - free sandwich
IHOP - free Rooty Tooty Fresh N' Fruity stack
Maggianos - $10 off your next visit, and $10 off your $30 purchase for your birthday
Mazzio's - free small pizza
Moe's - free meal
Provino's in Atlanta - no need to join anything - just bring your ID on your birthday & get a free pasta dinner up to $12.95
Ruby Tuesday - free burger
Red Robin - free burger
Sbarro - free slice just for joining, and free slice on your birthday
Schlotzsky's  - free small sandwich
Sonny's BBQ - $5 off when you join, free Big Meal Deal for your birthday.
Steak n Shake free milkshake
Waffle House - free waffle
WhichWich (join Vibe Club) - free sandwich

Free dessert, or $ off coupons from:

Arby's - free shake w/ purchase
Backyard Burgers buy one combo meal, get one free
Blue Bell Ice Cream - coupon for a free half gallon of ice cream during your birthday month
Bruesters - free small waffle cone
Chili's - free dessert
Jason's Deli - $5 birthday gift card
Logan's Roadhouse - free appetizer or dessert
Macaroni Grill  - free dessert (plus $5 off just for signing up)
McAlister's Deli - $5 gift certificate (plus free cookie just for signing up)
Medieval Times - free admission with purchase of one admission
Mellow Mushroom - $5 off $25 purchase
The Melting Pot - free Chocolate covered strawberries
Menchie's Frozen Yogurt - birthday surprise! (I'll let you know after I get mine this year!)
Mimi's - Free mixed berry muffin sundae
Nothing Bundt Cakes - a free Bundlet cake
O'Charley's - free slice of pie
Olive Garden - free dessert
On The Border - free queso or brownie sundae
Outback Steakhouse - free dessert
Panera Bread - free birthday pastry
Rita's - free regular Italian Ice
Sweet Tomatoes - $5 off  (enter email in upper right corner for "Club Veg")
Ted's Montana Grill - free dessert
Texas Roadhouse - free appetizer or sidekick of ribs
TGI Fridays - free dessert
Wendy's - $1 off
Zaxby's  (free meal for signing up, free Nibblerz on your birthday)

My new favorite freebie ~ FREE admission to the Georgia Aquarium! (Ga residents only)

More freebies:

Baskin-Robbins- free scoop of ice cream on your birthday
BOGO free medium Blizzard and coupon for ice cream cake from DQ
a slice of cookie cake from Great American Cookie Co.
a free donut & a free drink on your birthday from Krispy Kreme
Starbucks - free tall drink

Gifts from Stores, etc:

Aveda - free gift - almost always a full size product.
Kendra Scott  - get half off one item during your birthday month with your ID
Sephora - Free birthday gift (beauty product)
Swagbucks - 50 free swagbucks!! I earn at least 2 $25 Paypal cards every month just doing my google-type searches in their tool bar!! LOVE Swagbucks!) 50 free swagbucks added to your account gets you free gift cards, paypal cash and more, faster!!
Ulta - free birthday product (last year I got a birthday eyeshadow pallet)
World Market -15%  off total purchase coupon

Other freebies & eclubs to join:

Chick Fil A
Red Lobster
Smoothie King

So....if you aren't registered with these places, get busy! Look for any other local favorites by searching "free birthday meal"  or "Free birthday gift"  then look for a birthday club, contact us, or other links on their home page.  When your birthday rolls around, you'll be excited to see the free gifts you'll find in your email inbox!  (Some companies will even send you an offer or freebie just for signing up, too!)

If I've forgotten any cool birthday freebies, please leave me the info in a comment below so I can add it to our list.  Thanks for stopping by!