Taking My Deck Furniture From Drab to Fab!

This post was originally published on July 8, 2011 and it contains affiliate links.

For our wedding, Nate & I were given a fun little outdoor table and chair set. It is made out of wood and looks so pretty when we don’t leave it outside all winter long! After a few years of weather damage our table ended up looking like this:

Isn’t this just a beautiful shade of gray??

Thankfully, this is an easy fix. It is especially since I used to work in a woodworking factory. For 3 summers I mastered the fine art of sanding wood. For my little table & chairs set I just borrowed my brother-in-law’s hand sander and went to town!

After a few minutes of sanding, I’ve got myself a pretty impressive before and after photo!

Now that’s more like it!

Add a coat of Teak Oil and…

It’s like brand new!

Here is one more before & after photo for you:

This was an easy, frugal deck furniture makeover. I’ll take an hour of sanding over spending $$$ on new furniture any day! Plus being able to impress Nate with my power tool skills was a great added bonus. *wink*

An easy and frugal deck furniture makeover in just 2 simple steps!

What are your tips for a frugal deck furniture makeover?

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting Simply Rebekah!

Posted in Life, Tips | 14 Comments

7 Ways to Save Money on Fast Food

7 Ways to Save Money on Fast Food - Plus real life examples of cheaply eating out.

“What time do you want me to come back home?” I asked.

“8:00.”

“Really??? Okay!”

I darted out the door with the blessing of my husband and headed to the library to get some much needed work done. Nate had graciously blessed me with several hours of alone time out of the house and I was more than willing to take him up on it.

When supper time rolled around I debated going home for a free meal for about 0.2 seconds. I’m a frugal gal, but I didn’t want to risk getting sucked back into the chaos of little children.

I ventured off to Five Guys Burgers & Fries. I picked Five Guys because it serves hamburgers made out of actual beef. (Isn’t it sad that not all restaurants do that?) It was also located near the coffee shop I wanted to head to for the remainder of my free time.

Five Guys isn’t known for it’s cheap dollar menu. In fact, they can be kind of pricey when it comes to fast food. Still, I wanted to spend as little money as possible.

I ordered:

  • the smallest hamburger – I skipped the cheese to save some money.
  • nothing to drink – I drank water I had brought with me.
  • no fries – I skipped their fries and ate 2 generous helpings of the free peanuts they have sitting out.

My total cost was $4.45 including tax. I also brought home a decent stash of napkins they threw in my bag. We usually use cloth napkins, but it seemed wasteful to throw them away.

Fast forward a couple of days and I found myself at another fast food restaurant. Eating out twice in one week is very unusual for me, but this time I was armed with two coupons for free hamburgers from Sonic.

Noah and I ate for free at Sonic by:

  • getting 2 hamburgers for free
  • skipping drinks – We brought our own from home.
  • skipping fries and other sides – We ate some fruit before we went to Sonic.

Fast food restaurants aren’t exceptionally expensive, but I was still thrilled with how cheaply I was able to eat at two different restaurants this past week. I hope my frugal fast food ventures inspire you cheaply the next time you go out. To help even more, I came up with several tips for how to save money on fast food.

7 Ways to Save Money on Fast Food

1. Drink Water - Bring your own drinks from home or ask for tap water. Sugary drinks aren’t good for you anyway.

2. Use Coupons - Don’t be afraid to order only what you have coupons for like when I ordered my free hamburgers and nothing else.

3. Don’t Stuff Yourself - Avoid super-sized portions, eat until you feel satisfied, and then stop eating! Smaller sized meals cost less and your waistline will thank you.

4. Eat At Home Before Or After - This goes along with not stuffing yourself. Eat a little something before you leave the house or plan ahead to have a snack at home later. You get even more bonus points if you eat something healthy like fruit. Of course saving room for ice cream at home is equally as satisfying.

5. Go Where Kids Eat Free - Money Saving Mom has a great list of restaurants where kids eat free.

6. Skip The Kids’ Menu - Sometimes it is cheaper to buy an adult entree and have my children share it. Plus it seems like the kids’ menu is never quality food anyway.

7. Meal Plan - Plan ahead so you can eat at home as much as possible instead of relying on take-out. Of course it is fun to eat out now and then and you shouldn’t feel guilty about that. Still, it is almost always better for your budget to skip the drive through and eat at home.

How do you save money on fast food? 

Posted in Frugal | 2 Comments

Is Toy Rotation Worth The Effort?

Is Toy Rotation Worth The Effort? Plus the answers to 7 more questions!

Six months ago I got fed up with all of the toy clutter around the house and decided it was time to take drastic action. I gathered up all the toys, sorted them into bins, and started our family’s experiment with a toy rotation system. It is time to report back and share what is working, what isn’t working, and if it is really worth the extra effort.

If you’ve never heard of toy rotation or you want to hear exactly how I set up our system, read the post Cutting Down on Clutter with Toy Rotation from six months ago.

An Update 6 Months After Starting A Toy Rotation System

How often do you rotate the toys?

In the winter months I did it every week or every week and a half. As soon as the weather got nicer, I started spreading out the rotations even more. I don’t have a strict schedule for it, but I’m probably rotating the boxes every two weeks.

How long does it take you to pack up the old toys and pull out the new ones?

It always feels like it is going to take me a lot longer than it actually does. If all the toys are cleaned up, I can pack up the bin in less than 10 minutes. It takes me more time if the kids are around when I do this. I do not recommend trying to pack up toys with children around.

How do you reveal the new toys to your children?

I had read about a mom who packed up their toys each Friday night after the kids were in bed and then every Saturday morning was like Christmas when the kids came downstairs to see the new toys sitting out. That was not my experience. My kids were very unimpressed when I tried that.

What really works for my family is to let the kids unpack the new bin of toys themselves. They can clearly see all the new toys without any of them getting “lost” inside a basket or on a high shelf. They don’t have to go “hunting” for the new toys. They are all right there for them to dig through. They love it!

Do your children miss toys that have been packed up? Do they ever ask for packed up toys?

At first Grace asked for toys quite often. I explained that her toy was packed up and we would get it out another time. If she insisted, then I went looking for the toy. I think she just needed some time to learn what this toy rotation thing was all about.

The only thing Noah ever seemed to ask for was a ball. I learned quickly that Noah needed to have easy access to the balls at all time. I was careful to make sure there was some kind of ball in each bin, but Noah has his favorites.

Is Toy Rotation Worth The Effort? Plus 7 More Questions Answered!

What is the hardest part about using a toy rotation system?

Setting up the system took the most time, but maintaining the toy rotation system is the hardest part. Although it doesn’t take much time to pack up a bin and bring up a new one, I have to mentally be in the mood for the task and the children need to be occupied somewhere else.

We don’t have a play room. Toys don’t stay in just one spot in our house. It is annoying (and a bit of a drag) to gather all the toys that wandered away. I often find missing puzzle pieces, a lost Little People animal, or random blocks after I’ve packed up a bin. I started to throw them all into a basket on top of our toy shelf so I can keep the random little pieces somewhat organized until I bring up the bin that they belong in.

Do you keep a list of everything that goes in each toy rotation bin?

Oh goodness no. I’m not nearly that organized. As a matter of fact, the last time I switched out bins I brought up all of the bins so I could reorganize them a bit. They weren’t quite as even as they had once been. Grace has taken some of toys that were once in the bins and started keeping them in her room for quiet time play. I’m fine with that, but it did mess up my system a bit. So I just sorted through all the bins again. I pulled out toys Noah has out grown and anything else the children never play with.

Where do you keep the bins of toys so your children don’t find them and play with everything?

Our bins are in the basement. Our children never go into the basement by themselves. We don’t encourage them to play down there since it isn’t a finished space. Honestly, I think they would be a bit scared to go down there alone. It helps that our children are 2 years old and nearly 5 years old.

After all the work to set it up and maintain it, is a toy rotation system worth the effort?

Yes, yes, and yes a thousand more times. There are moments when maintaining this system is a pain, but keeping our toy clutter under control before was a daily pain. It is so much easier to clean up the toys each night.

My children are much more engaged with the toys than they were before we started the system. There is genuine excitement when we pull out a new bin. Before the only toy excitement my kids expressed was at Christmas or on their birthdays.

An added surprise bonus to doing toy rotation is that it was much easier to gather toys for our 8 hour road trip this summer. I usually try to hide some of the good car ride toys a couple weeks before we have a big trip so the kids are excited to play with them in the car. This year I went in the basement, opened all the bins, and pulled out plenty of good toys the kids hadn’t seen for awhile. It was so easy!

If toy rotation sounds like something you would like to try, make sure you read Cutting Down on Clutter with Toy Rotation to see how I sorted our toys and set up our system.

Do you have any more questions about toy rotation systems? If you’ve tried it, did you think it was worth the effort?

Posted in Parenthood | 21 Comments

Melissa & Doug Toys for 20% Off

Melissa and Doug Toys for 20% off on Amazon - My kids love these toys!

I am a huge fan of Melissa & Doug toys.  They are a company I trust and my children love playing with their toys. Get an early start on your Christmas shopping (eek! Did I really say Christmas??) with these great sales from Amazon.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. These prices are subject to change.

As of July 23, 2014, the following Melissa & Doug toys are all at least 20% off and qualify for prime shipping:

Click on each image for product information, pricing, and to make your purchase.

OUTDOOR FUN:





BABY TOYS:




PLAY FOOD:



ART & MUSIC:






BLOCKS & PUZZLES:





AND MORE!



Would you like to see more posts like this highlighting deals I find online? Let me know!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. At no extra charge to you, I will receive a small commission off any sale through these links. This is a blessing to my family and I thank you for supporting Simply Rebekah.

Posted in Frugal | Leave a comment

I’m Scared to Have 2 Kids: an update 2 years later

Two years ago I confessed my fears of having a second child. Now I'm sharing my 3 struggles with the transition, how having 2 kids is actually easier, and the 6 questions I ask myself when I think of having a third.

On April 23, 2012 I took a deep breath and published a blog post that I was nervous to share. I confessed that my swollen belly made me anxious. I wasn’t ready to have two kids. In fact, I was flat out scared that I wasn’t going to be able to step up to the challenge.

Ironically, the same day that I published that post ended up being was the same day my second child was born. Today my little Noah is over two years old and I think it is finally time for an update.

So is it scary to having more than one kid after all? Yes. And no. Parenthood is scary in general. I don’t think it matters if you have 1 kid or 11 kids. I’m confident that I will always be wondering if I’m doing it right.

Noah and Grace September 2012

3 Struggles We Had Going from 1 to 2 Kids

1)  Grace loved Noah deeply and adhored holding her new little brother. However, she was not a fan of me breastfeeding. It is possible that she remembered nursing and felt jealous, but even if she didn’t remember it was clear to her that I was doing something very intimate with Noah that she wasn’t able to do. She cried and wanted on my lap whenever I nursed him for the first couple of days.

It broke my heart to see Grace’s tears and jealousy. I had been worried about how Grace would handle sharing mommy and daddy and this type of reaction was exactly what I had feared. It was difficult to balance my clingy toddler, hungry newborn, new-mama guilt, and my need for some personal space!

Thankfully, this stage didn’t last long and Grace quickly overcame her insecurities. In the moment it felt long and heartbreaking, but ultimately it only lasted a few days.

2) Getting enough sleep was certainly a challenge. At night, Nate and I each had a child we were in charge of.  I took care of all of Noah’s needs. If Grace woke up, then Nate was on duty. Although I wasn’t getting a ton of sleep, that method helped. I also napped daily when Grace napped in the afternoon. Of course it was just the worst. thing. ever when Noah and Grace didn’t coordinate their nap times. Those days felt like eternity.

3) The biggest challenge (after I started getting enough sleep at night!) was the feeling of constantly being needed for something. My “down time” significantly decreased. Someone is always asking for something. I’ve even told my children, “Stop asking me for things!” Some days aren’t so bad and then there are others when I feel like I’m going insane.

Grace and Noah April 2014

How Having More Than One Kid is Actually Easier

Now that Noah is a little older, he and Grace play together. all. the. time. It isn’t always a peaceful playtime, but it is a lovely experience. Now that I’m not Grace’s number one playmate, it is easier for me to do laundry and prepare meals. Plus it is just plain adorable.

Nate and I always knew that we wanted more than 1 child. It was easy to take the plunge and have our second child even though I worried about my abilities as a mother. We don’t regret having Noah for an instant. He is amazing and we are lucky to have him.

Now that we have 2 children, the big question is:
Will we have 3???

All of those same fears I wrote about in 2012 come rushing back when I think about adding another little one to my family. Additionally, there are several new questions and fears.

1) Do we really want to hit the reset button again? Life is starting to get a bit easier. Everyone is sleeping through the night. We don’t worry about little ones falling down the stairs. I can see a light at the end of the diaper tunnel. That reset button takes us back to all of that again.

2) Can we afford 3 children? It isn’t all about money. I’m sure we would make due, but more children means there is less money to go around for big things like braces, college, and weddings.

3) Can we fit 3 children in our home? This is 100% a first world problem. We can totally fit another person in here, but the logistics still give me pause.

4) How far apart do we want our children? I like the idea of my children enjoying the same types of things at the same time. My sister and brother are 12 and 10 years older than I am, so this wasn’t the reality in my house. Yet wouldn’t it be nice if we could go to the park as a family and all of the children are still young enough to enjoy being there?

5) Am I willing to put my body through another pregnancy and birth? Sadly, I have learned that a healthy pregnancy and safe delivery are not a guarantee. Another pregnancy would be met with a new sense of fear. Plus it is highly likely that I would need to have another c-section. I didn’t love the first one.

6) What will a 3rd child do to our marriage? AKA: Will anyone ever be willing to watch 3 kids so we can enjoy a date night???

I am jealous of the couples who are confident in their family size. I wish I had the confidence to know with certainty that Nate and I are done having children or to know with certainty that there is another baby coming.  But I don’t know. I just don’t know.

One thing I do know with certainty is that whether we are a family of 4 or a family of 5, we are one awesome family. I am so thankful.

I would love to hear your experiences. What influenced your decision to have or not have more children? How did your family adjust to bringing home a new baby?

Posted in Parenthood, Pregnancy | 45 Comments