Book recommendations for you

It's been a few months since I have posted my book recommendations.
{If you are interested in seeing any of my past book recommendations click on the "reading" tab on my sidebar.}

Not because I haven't been reading, but because for the life of me I couldn't remember what books I had read!  Guess that's the problem with library books.  There isn't much of a trail!

I happened to be at Target today and walked down their "best sellers" aisle.
If you ever want to know what to read next, just take a little detour down this aisle at Target.
Seriously, it's what I do.
My little stroll reminded me of some of the recent titles I have read and that I would recommend to you.
 Gone Girl: A Novel
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
For months people were recommending Gone Girl to me.  Being forever cheap, I had to wait for a few months to find it in my lucky day section at my library.  It finally was in {I was on the wait list, but I was number 567!} and I set aside the new J.K. Rowling's book {sorry, just couldn't get into it}, to dig into this book.

I immediately was engrossed.  While I am still about 100 pages from the end of the book, every little guess I had about "who done it" has flown out the window with twists and turns and surprising revelations.  As you can guess, it is a mystery novel written about a husband and wife who are experiencing marital difficulties.  The wife goes missing on the couple's fifth wedding anniversary and every clue points toward the husband's involvement.  It's a book that is hard to put down, and I know you will love it too!

   Lone Wolf: A Novel
Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult

A terrible accident forces a family that has been torn apart to come together and make a tough decision.  Family secrets, a father's obsession, a runaway son and an ex-wife are all brought together to make a hard choice that they will all have to live with in the end.  It will have you wondering what you would do in the same situation.

Where We Belong
Where We Belong by Emily Giffin
I'm not usually a fan of Emily Giffin's work but actually found myself engrossed in this novel.  A 36-year-old New York resident and TV producer is forced to revisit her past decision of placing her now 18-year-old daughter for adoption years ago.  Both women take a journey together to find out what they have been missing in each other's lives and have a chance to come to terms with where each of them belongs. 

 Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity
Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo

Just beyond the luxury hotels in Mumbai is a community called Annawadi.  Annawadi is a slum and during the book, you are introduced to several hopeful members of the community.  The glimpse inside the life of a garbage sorter and the injustices of the caste system are eye-opening.  It's a well-written book with painful real-life truths about this community.  

Just in case curling up with a good book doesn't sound as good as sitting down by the fire and getting lost in a television show, then I want to recommend my new favorite show to you.
PBS has done it again {no need to have cable!with the series Call the Midwife.
Call the Midwife is an intimate look into nursing and midwifery in 1950's East London.
The show follows a community of midwives that live with an order of nursing nuns.

I haven't watched Downtown Abby, but I'm told if you like that series, you will like this one.  
So, what are you reading {or watching} now?
Anything you would recommend?

faux leather finish with brown bags

Last month, I introduced you to a very talented local artisan and fellow mom of three.
Didn't you just love her French-inspired dresser she made using an overhead projector?!

In case you missed it, you can see it here.
And don't forget to pin it so you can inspire others too!

This month Laddie is back to share another genius technique with my readers.
Since Laddie doesn't have her own blog {yet} please make sure you leave lots of nice comments for her and go and visit her Facebook page to show her how much you appreciate her.

Hello again! This is Laddie from Re-New Furniture Finds & Re-Finishing.
 to Rachel for inviting me back for another guest post!

Today I'd like to share with you a faux finish that is in-expensive, easy peasy to do and the end result
is really super cool!

The first time I tried this technique was on the top surface of an end table.
It was a cool effect that resulted in a marbled faux leather look.

Then I had a client with a large plain 6 drawer pine Ikea dresser that needed
some spicing up for her teenage sons room. This finish was masculine and
perfect for this piece! She loved the idea of doing it on the drawer fronts
and her son loved the finished dresser.

So, recently she brought me a nightstand to do in the same finish
to go in his room and I thought I'd take you through the process with me.

The materials you will need are:
  • Brown masking paper or any light weight paper bag
  • Mod Podge
  • Foam brush
  • Glaze (I used Martha Stewart Black Coffee)
  • Scissors
  • Rag
  • Polyurethane (optional)
The first step is to paint your furniture piece your desired color. In this case I used
a dark brown semi-gloss.

Then after it has had plenty of time to dry, rip off strips of the brown paper masking
and start crumpling it up
 and crumpling it up.
Open it up and crumple some more
and a little more
until it is nice and soft.

Start in the corners and work your way towards the middle.
To get nice edges I cut the sides of  the crumpled paper to fit.

Put a good coat of Mod Podge on the back of the paper
with your foam brush and then place it in its corner.

Leave it a little crumpled and layered with some creases.
 otherwise you loose your texture.

Continue this process in the corners and then overlap a little and layer
your way from the edges in to the center until the surface is completely covered.

Now take your foam brush and coat the entire top surface with
a layer of Mod Podge.
Give this time to dry completely and then we GLAZE!

The trick with glaze is to go light and use a little at a time. If it isn't enough
impact you can add another layer. If you start off too heavy
and dark it is much harder to reverse this process and go lighter.

So with your rag dip it in the glaze and get just a little and start
in the corner rubbing gently in a circular motion to get the glaze in to
all of the creases and layered edges.
You'll see that a little glaze can spread a long way!

Keep going until all the paper is coated to your liking.
 Having some uneveness to your color
and shading will help with the look so don't worry about being perfect!!
By now you should have a really cool look going on!

I use a light spray polyurethane just to protect it but the layer of Mod Podge
has really already done that for you. If you are doing this
technique on a table surface the extra protection is a good idea.

Hope you give this a try on your next project! This
is especially handy on pieces that have rough tops or drawer fronts
that are beyond sanding! You can just HIDE the flaws!
Try using newspaper or sheet music as an alternative with
the same steps as above!

Happy Re-Newing!

Until next time, Laddie

Isn't that a great technique?!  As Laddie said, it's a great technique to use if your furniture piece is just too far gone to save.  So simple, but so awesome.  Thanks Laddie!
Don't foget to "like" Laddie on facebook and see what else she's been up to.
And remember, show her some love today.  I kind of want to keep her around and see what's she's going to show us next!


Living well on less-saving money on your cell phone-why a pre-paid plan works for us

Remember last month, when I introduced my new series called Live Well on Less?
This new series doesn't come without homework.
Last month I challenged you to start keeping track of every penny coming in and going out.
If you haven't started keeping track of your finances I would suggest using a free service called Mint or paying for the Quicken program like we use.
At the beginning of the month, I shared my first post in this series, which was how to live well on less-saving money on cable, internet, and phone.

During that post, I didn't even touch on cell phones, but I promised that I would!
  Times, they are a-changin' and it's rare for people to not have a cell phone these days.
I got my first cell phone in 2000.  We had a small child, and I was commuting for school in a not so reliable car.  My in-laws paid for a year contract on the phone because it made them feel better that I had a cell phone that they could reach me at {or vice versa} since my son was in their care a few hours a week while I attended classes.
We continued to pay for another year of service but realized that we just weren't using our cell phones very often.  I rarely turned mine on and after thinking about ways to save on our household expenses, I made an impulse decision to cancel our cell phone service.  This was around the same time we cut cable...quite a year!

We didn't miss having cell phones at all.

I feel like the popularity of cell phones were just starting to really take off right as we canceled our plan, and I was happy to be able to focus my time and attention while I was away from home on my growing family.
When my kids were little, we had lots of play dates and trips to the parks and museums. 
I wanted to make sure that during that time my kids had my full attention and that they weren't sharing it with someone on the other end of my phone.
We carried on without cell phones for around 7 years, but as the kids grew and their activities started taking us in several different directions, we were finally feeling the need to be able to communicate to one another.
I remember driving home from the Seattle Science Museum with the kids and being stuck in rush hour traffic.  I was dying to have a phone so that I could call my husband so that he could start dinner so we could feed our family before having to head out to baseball practice

I tried to telepathically send the message, but unfortunately, that didn't work, and my frustration got the best of me when I got home.  Sometimes wouldn't it be nice if your spouse could read your mind?!
In 2009 we decided that we needed to jump back into cell phone ownership.
My husband spent hours researching the best plan and realized that having a pre-paid plan through T-Mobile would probably be the best plan for our family.
We found that we weren't big cell phone users during that two year period that we had cell phones, so we didn't think we would be talking excessively on our phones.  We didn't need a lot of minutes because we weren't using a lot of minutes.
 Having no contract was another big advantage to having a pre-paid phone.  We weren't locked in to any plan and could change how we used our service at any time.
There was more initial expense for having a pre-paid plan.
We had to add $100 to each phone through T-Mobile.
Those minutes don't expire and any unused minutes roll over at the end of the year.
It costs around 10 cents a minute to use the pre-paid phone.
We had this phone plan for 3 years, and would still have it, if we didn't have a 14 year old who got his first cell phone and needed a phone that could text (ours could...just not well).  I actually wrote about how I didn't text (until this August...yep, welcome to the new millinium Rachel!) here.
We have a new pre-paid plan that I will talk about in a minute.
One of the requirements of the T-mobile pre-paid plan is that we had to add to it each year.  After the initial $100, we didn't have a specific amount we had to add each year, we just had to add something.
Most years, that addition was around $15 since like I said, the minutes rolled over.
In our three years of owning the phones (we had 2), our TOTAL for both phones over the life of the phone was $300.
That comes to around $8 per month for 2 phones, and I know you are smart people, so it's a no brainer that each of our phones cost around $4 a month or $48 for the year.
If you don't use your cell phone as your main phone line, and don't use an excessive amount of minutes, then a pre-paid program might be worth looking into.
T-Mobile has been rated one of the best pre-paid plans out there.
Which is why when we bought my son a new phone for his birthday, we decided to stick with the pre-paid route and got new phones that could text.
Texting seems to be how kids these days are communicating, and we didn't want to hinder our son's ability to communicate with his friends.
He does have a cell phone contract that you can read about here.

When we were revisiting the idea of new phones, I did want to look into getting an iphone.
I have an ipod touch and use it quite often and find it quite helpful.
I could imagine that an iphone would be a good combination of all of the things that I could use (google maps, e-mail whenever I needed, texting, coupons!, information at my fingertips).
However, the price tag for a smart phone was WAY more than we could justify.
Even on the cheapest plan for just one iphone, we were looking at at least $80 per month.
Not to mention the cost of the actual phone (which I hear is important), which could set me back several HUNDRED dollars!

Once I spent some time looking into it, having a smart phone was a want, not a need.
In fact, really, having a cell phone at all sometimes seems like a want not a need.
I could live my life without a cell phone, but remember, this series is not about living a depressing life, it's about living well on less.
If you are tracking your finances as I mentioned in the introduction post of this series
then you will know how much you are spending per month on your cell phone.
In my experience, having a smart phone with a data plan is the most expensive type of cell phone plan you can be on.
If you currently have a smart phone and are trying to save money, reevaluating your plan with less minutes, or less features is worth taking a look at.
From my research, there are 3 carriers you can choose from with an iphone (I keep going back to this particular phone because it is the most popular smart phone and the one most people have), all three have very similarly priced plans.
There doesn't seem to be a way to save too much money outside of going from the most expensive plan and downgrading to a lower level smart phone plan, however, like I mentioned, for one phone you are still looking at around $80 a month.

We "upgraded" our phones in August to the T-Mobile Sparq phone.
Cost out of pocket was around $50 for each phone.
We bought three of the same phone for a total of $150 (cheaper than an iphone).
We stayed with a pre-paid phone plan but started with unlimited texting for $15 a month for my son.
We quickly learned that if our son was texting, we would be texting, so we upgraded all three phones to the same unlimited texting plan.

We pay around $45 a month (total) for three phones (we use minimal talking minutes now, but do still have them paid for in the plan).  We have 10 cents a minute calling and unlimited texting.  Of course, no data plan.
Pre-paid phones work for our family.
They may not work for yours, but for us, it's been a way to have a cell phone and save money.
I don't know of too many contract plans, even with the simpilist of phones that still costs as little as we pay.
Remember this blog series comes with homework.

This week your homework is to:
*look at what you pay for your current cell phone plan
*how many minutes do you use?
*are you paying for more minutes than you use or are you being charged for going over each month?
*if there are several of people sharing a plan, could you save money by joining a family plan
*spend time on your providers website to see if they have any specials or discounts you could take advantage of that you aren't already
*are you paying for extras?
*if you have been in a contract for some time, can you renegotiate to get a better deal?
Do your homework and let me know what you find.
Could you be saving money?

Fall decor cheaply done, but not looking cheap!

 I'm a little slow at sharing some of the Halloween and fall decorations around my house.
Forgive me.  Fall has been a busy time around our house this year.

I don't like to spend a lot of money decorating for the holidays, and most years, the decorations I use are the same as the ones I had for the previous year, or ones that I pick up 90% off after the holidays.
Those are the best ones because most of the time I forget that I have them and then it's a surprise when I unpack them for the holidays!  It's the little things people!

I've found that you don't need to buy a lot of new decorations every year, just changing up where you have the items year after year sometimes helps.  I use a lot of my existing decor like this wire egg basket and this cloche and make them more festive by adding Halloween or fall items to them.

My husband likes to joke that I can't leave any flat surface undecorated for too long.

I *might* have a slight obsession with wreaths.
I added this little "spooky" banner to my book page wreath that is in my entry and the leaf wreath on the right was a garage sale buy that I got years ago for $5.

I decorated around it with some small lanterns and bronze jack o lanterns and dollar store spiders.

Several years ago I shared with you my Beware sign that I made from scrapbook paper and an unfinished wood sign.  I still love it.

This large woven bowl sits as the centerpiece on our dining room table.
I filled it with some of my moss boxes and acorns that I got at a garage sale last summer.

I have a small alcove on my front porch that houses some of my favorite vintage finds.
I added this autumn pumpkin that I got this summer for $1 at a garage sale.

 My youngest son was asking if I would be adding the bird to Rocky's head this year.
Don't know who Rocky is?
It's our bear head.  You can read about him here.
Of course we are going to add a bird to his head!
Love those dollar store crows!

Here's a close up of the decor on the mantle.
I found the berry jar filler on super sale at Pottery Barn {and by super sale, I mean three boxes were less than $1 total} a few years ago.
The {for real} vintage pharmacy bottles were bought at a garage sale a few years ago.
Wish I had bought more because I think they are my favorite things!

Of course, I can't neglect decorating my very large kitchen island.
I added a few candles and took a paper mache pumpkin and mod podged book pages to that too.
No book is safe in my house!

 If you want to see my fall decor from last year, you can visit it here and see how many of the same items are being used in different places throughout the house.

Total spent for fall decor this year $7.49
$3.99 paper mache pumpkin
$1 autumn sign for front porch
$2.50 live gourds 
How do you decorate for the holidays without spending a lot of money?

My family's secret recipe for crock pot pot roast

I love using my crock pot.
I usually cook in it at least once a week.
I love that I can make dinner in the morning, and then forget about it all day.
I've shared with you my recipe for taco tuesday and how I make my own soup stock.

As the weather starts to turn, pot roast seems to be one of those fall comfort foods.
This is my mother's recipe that I still make today.

What you will need:
Crock pot
onion soup mix
pot roast

I cut all of my vegetables up, (but not too small), and layer them with the potatoes on bottom, the onions next, celery and carrots thrown in on top.
Sometimes I add mushrooms too.

Then I take the onion soup mix and sprinkle just a little (about a quarter of the bag) of the seasoning on top of the vegetables.

Next I layer the meat on top and sprinkle the rest of the seasoning on top of the meat.

Finally, I add about 1/4 cup of water.  No need for more water than that-the water in the veggies will keep the meat moist too.

Put a lid on it, and forget about it for at least 8 hours.

I usually serve our pot roast with bread.
 It's a quick and easy meal for a brisk autumn day.
What are some of your comfort foods for fall?


Free Halloween Printables you probably haven't seen before

Last week, I gave my new color printer a workout and made some pretty cool Halloween printables.
There are some creative people out there, willing to share their amazing work with all of us.
Here is a round up of a few of those...many of which, you probably haven't seen before.
Free Printable Halloween Pillow Boxes
Blush Printables has some amazing freebies, and these printable pillow boxes are just a few of them.
Print on cardstock and you have the perfect candy box for a favor.

Party Box design offers a complete collection of Halloween printables for free.
I printed off the water bottle labels, food tents, and signs for an upcoming party that PTA is hosting for a few of our walk a thon winners.

The creativity exchange offers up these adorable {not spooky} Halloween tags and labels.
I didn't get a chance to use these myself but they are too adorable to not share!  iDiy offers up these iron on graphics so you can make your very own treat bags.

halloween jokes
And finally, Peonies and Poppyseeds offers up these really fun Halloween printable lunch box notes.  Such a fun addition to your child's lunch box.
So many great FREE Halloween finds out there.  Thank you to all of those creativity bloggers offering up these amazing printables.
Do you have one you want to share?
If so, post it in the comments.
ps-you can find links to all of these projects on my pinterest board.
Are you following me?

Sweaty bands knock off Olympics style!

Just in case you missed my guest post over at My Yellow Sandbox, here it is.  An update on the sweaty bands knock offs with an Olympics twist!
Sweaty bands knock off tutorial
I know the Olympics were a few months ago, but like you, I was glued to the TV amazed at all of the athletes participating.  One athlete, in particular, caught my eye.
It was US pole vaulter Jennifer Suhr.
While Jennifer was amazing in her talents, what actually drew my attention was the little headband she wore.
Let's take a closer look.
See that shimmery sparkle?
That my friend is a sweaty band.
Know why it caught my eye?


Because I have been working out with my own version of the sweaty bands, that I like to call hot mess headbands for the past two years.

I loved the idea of a non slip headband, and while at a running expo before my first half marathon, I picked one of the original sweaty bands up.  I was running and doing group fitness classes and would have to be bothered during my workout to either retrieve the {so called} non-slip headband off of the pavement behind me, or readjust the headband I was wearing while still trying to maintain my workout.
However, my jaw dropped at the price tag...$16!
Holy cow!

It didn't take me long to talk myself out of the purchase and like any true crafter or diy'er, I said to myself
"I can make that!"

And now my friends, you can too!
While this tutorial isn't new on my blog {holy craft}, I am updating it for Abby's readers to replicate the headband that we saw at the Olympics on Jennifer Suhr.

You will need:
14 1/2"  of velvet ribbon-5/8 inch thick {velvet is the secret to no slip headbands!}
15" of grosgrain or sparkle ribbon {7/8 inch thick}
6.5" of 3/8" wide elastic {I used black}

Cut your ribbon and elastic down to size.

Step 1: light a candle and singe the ends of the ribbons (no need to do this to the elastic).  Be careful!  Some ribbon does catch on fire.  However, most ribbon will just harden on the ends.  That is what you want.

Step 2: place your sparkle ribbon flat with sparkle side down, lay your velvet ribbon on top with the velvet side up (wrong sides of your ribbons together) and gently wedge the elastic ribbon between the two ribbons ON ONE SIDE only!

Step 3: Begin by sewing the elastic into place.  I use my back stitch several times to make sure the elastic doesn't pull out of the ribbon when you are using it.

Step 4: Sew all the way down the length of the ribbon.  Stop at the end before turning to the final short end.

Step 5: Carefully take the open end of your elastic making sure it doesn't get twisted, and squeeze the elastic between your ribbon and velvet, carefully sewing that end down, back stitching again to keep the elastic in place.

Once you have your elastic in place, sew up the length of the other side and then clip your loose ends.

That's it!
It literally takes about five minutes to sew these headbands.

This is my collection of hot mess headbands that I wear personally.
I have long layered hair and the non slip headbands keep my fly aways in check, but the best part is, my headband doesn't move once during my workout, no matter how hard I'm working!

 Pretty sure I'm ready to go tackle the world
{or maybe just the stair climber at the gym}
with my new, special Olympian approved sparkle non slip headbands!
Don't believe me?
Make one yourself.
I dare you to make your headband slip during your workout!
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