Penny Floor Obsessed

Someone save me from myself, because I’m about to walk off a cliff and dive into the land of pennies.

I’m serious.

But before I tell you about my latest obsession, I will update you on the Homes Tour.

The 5th Annual Northeast Kansas City Historical Homes Tour

It was WONDERFUL and I’m so glad I did it!


By the end of it, we were all smiling and exhausted. Participating in a Homes Tour is no small thing. But knowing what I know now will help make the next one we are on (years from now) much easier.

Our "drink station" was a big hit.

Our “drink station” was a big hit.

I will declutter each room, and keep things as clutter free as possible in the month leading up to the tour. And I’ll only do one major deep cleaning in the week before the tour.

And so was the youngest docent on the tour.

And so was the youngest docent on the tour.

The biggest reason for me to be on the tour? I want others to see that there are some amazing neighborhoods in Historic Northeast. And also…

  • Affordable homes
  • Great neighbors
  • Rich history

I hope that of the nearly 300 people who attended the tour – at least one of them thought, “This street is amazing! I want to move to the Northeast!”

What a fun time we all had!

Color Me Penny OBSESSED

And now, PENNIES.


For a while now, I had been tossing the idea of installing a penny floor into the bathroom of The Cottage. And while Jay, my friend and contractor, had almost talked me out of it, I decided I really, REALLY wanted to do it.


So I sat down and started researching penny floors. How to do it, whether to create a pattern or not, and various designs and tips.


Our neighbors, Kevin and Michelle, had recently installed a penny countertop in their upstairs kitchen. Michelle came over to pick her daughter and I told her, just as Dave came down the stairs, that I was now penny-obsessed and planned on installing penny walls, ceilings, and floors. “No need to paint, everything will be pennies!”


The look on Dave’s face…


I was joking. Well…sort of…

Here is the design I’m strongly leaning towards:


I especially enjoy the way they took it up onto the wall (although I’m not a fan of this color of tile)…


And then I saw this toilet paper roll idea…


I’ve already asked Dave to make it for me. I will need to find some kind of copper bowl or pot for the light I want in the ceiling.

Pennies, Pennies, PENNIES!

And then there is this gem…


Not for The Cottage. For our house. Specifically, for the damaged wood floor areas.

Our main level hardwood floors are in decent shape, except for some areas of the hallway. So I’m trying to visualize an interesting pattern that I could create on the floor, cutting the damaged wood away and possibly cutting into the good wood for the design, and then laying in pennies.

I would turn a damaged floor into an artistic statement!

Upstairs, under that carpet, are floors that are in pretty terrible shape. This could be an affordable way for us to “fix” the floors without having to pull them up and replace them. With an added bonus of being phenomenally cool and artsy at the same time.

The penny ideas don’t stop there. I could do it as a backsplash in the kitchen as well…


And include this little sign…


And I can’t even tell you how much I want to do THIS on some random wall…


And if I get tired of pennies. I could always start collecting bottle caps in the hopes that someday we could create a man cave/bar in our basement and line the bathroom floors…


Pinterest is seriously addictive…and dangerous…

Kiva Loan

Where do I begin?

With just 21 days left, I’m only 7% funded. And this is a make it or bust kind of thing. If I don’t get to the $10,000 mark, Kiva immediately returns all funds to the lenders and I get nothing.

In a nutshell, Kiva is a LOAN not a handout. You will get your money back incrementally over 36 months. It’s crowdfunding at its best. It’s easy for you, and really helps me, the borrower avoid costly interest fees.

I need this to keep going on The Cottage. If I don’t get the loan, work will have to pretty much stop. We can only do so much ourselves, and we are also already paying back some credit debt incurred putting in the roof, supplies and more.

If we don’t get the Kiva loan, we will do what we can on our own and it will be a far slower process. One way or the other, The Cottage project will go forward, but anything you can do on your end to help means a lot.

Please consider contributing to my Kiva loan and share my loan (or this post) with your friends on Facebook and Twitter. I really appreciate your help!

Posted in DIY, Frugality, Home Decorating, The Cottage | Leave a comment

Homes Tour This Saturday!


I haven’t been posting much – mainly because I have had my hands full prepping for the NEKCHS Homes Tour and more.

And really, this is the big news I wanted to share with you today.

Come one, come all, and get a chance to see SIX lovely homes on this tour!

I am an old house geek, tried and true. Whether I’m in a house built in the 1950s or something far older, I love to examine the odd nooks and crannies and discover the remains of servant’s stairs, rooms once used for entirely different needs than our modern homes, and more. I study the woodwork, leaded and stained glass, and even the foundations for more clues.

In each of the homes on the tour, there will be fascinating quirks and corners. Odd stories to share.

Here are a few highlights from our home at 3225 E. 10th Street…

  • The Kansas City Star wrote an article on a mysterious rash of C.O.D. orders placed by an unknown caller in 1960. Over 150 deliveries in ONE day…including a HEARSE.
  • The mysterious handprint on the floor of the front entry – who does it belong too?
  • Writers, both past and present abound within these walls. Learn about the house’s rich literary and educational history.
  • Hidden rooms? We have one. Well, it’s a walled-over closet, but STILL!

NEKCHS celebrates the rich history of the Historic Northeast. Not just in the mansions to the north, but here, in our own working class neighborhood of Lykins.

The tour is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, October 15th. I hope to see you there!



Posted in Events/Tours, Historic Northeast, Historical Home | 1 Comment

Cottage Reno and Homes Tour

Each morning, at around 3 o’clock, I wake up. I call it the witching hour. I’m lucky if I can get back to sleep, because as soon as my feet hit the floor and I walk into the bathroom, my brain turns on and begins a catalogue of “gotta do’s.”

Lately, I have had to give myself a rather stern talking to. Go back to sleep, there will be plenty of work in the morning to deal with. And boy oh boy, but that sure is true.


On the Road to Insolvency

I have some questions for the universe at large:

  • How did a $5,000 (or so) roof turn into a $7,000 roof?
  • Why can’t I get out of a trip to Lowe’s for less than $250? And usually more than $400?

I have stopped looking at my budget.

Early Thursday morning roof supply delivery

Early Thursday morning roof supply delivery

Raising the Roof

We aren’t actually raising the roof, but you get the idea. We finally have a new roof on The Cottage. On Thursday, they cleared the main roof, covered the boards with plywood (apparently the gap of more than 1/4 inch between the boards covering the roof is against code, so they had to be covered with plywood), the tar paper and managed to get at least half of the roof covered in shingles by nightfall.

Look at this gorgeous roof and fascia board!

Look at this gorgeous roof and fascia board!

Friday morning they were at it again, bright and early. They will also be removing the back porch roof, covering that with plywood and tar paper and shingles as well.

What a mess!

What a mess!

We splurged a little on fascia board. It all needed replacing and we went with a no-rot composite. On Monday, the guttering guy will come out and install all new guttering. The house already looks better!

Once the main roof was done, they pulled off the back porch roof and re-did that as well.

Once the main roof was done, they pulled off the back porch roof and re-did that as well.


Rough In

After receiving several astronomical estimates on plumbing, a friend and neighbor stepped forward to help us with the rough-in. There is still some work to do, but we have several of the pieces in place. His help is going to save us hundreds, possibly thousands, of dollars.


We have some really great friends. Seriously, I don’t know what we would do without their help.

Meanwhile, I’m Losing My Mind

Between daily trips to Lowe’s, running my housecleaning biz, homeschooling my kiddo, and trying desperately to prep our own house and yard for the Homes Tour on October 15th, I’m not so quietly losing what little sanity I had left.

If you were to ask my family I’m sure they would tell you it was all a thin veneer of sanity to begin with, anyway.

We ran out of milk and half a dozen other things because I couldn’t manage to go grocery shopping. It was just a huge disconnect in my brain. Once I headed to Lowe’s it was all over – no other stops – just a “Dear Lord, can I go back home now” type feeling.

I am completely out of my element at the home improvement store. This was never more in evidence than when I called my dear, patient husband at work yesterday in a complete panic over the 12-foot lengths of fascia I had piled into our friends’ pickup. “I’m afraid it will fall out!”

It didn’t occur to me to buy some sand or gravel to weigh it down. He literally left work and drove out to the Lee’s Summit Lowe’s (the only one in range that had 10 boards of the composite fascia I needed) and handled the situation before I completely melted down.

He truly is the dog to my cheetah.


Brick Pathway – New and Improved!

Okay, so I was just a teensy bit lazy when I expanded the brick path last year.

The first half of the brick path was super easy – I simply laid the bricks on top of the concrete sidewalk that led up to our house. I loved the look of it, but when we discussed widening the stairs to their original width, I wanted the brick pathway to match that, so I set in another swath of them.

This doubled the width of the path, but I didn’t use gravel or sand, I just laid the bricks directly on the dirt. Bad idea, I know. It sunk a bit, and the path sloped and swooped.

When my mom pointed it out, she tried to tell me that I would get sued if someone hurt themselves on it during the homes tour.

Nice try, Mom, but they have insurance for the event.

Nonetheless, she had a point, it needed to be fixed. So last Tuesday, after dropping Em off at Harmony Project, I got to work. It went quicker than I thought it would.


I removed the brick, stacking it on the original side of the pathway that was still nice and even. I laid out several bags of the pea gravel, with a thin layer of sand over that and then laid the bricks in by hand, do my best to get them level.

After I returned from picking Em back up from her music class, I finished the project by pouring sand over the top and methodically sweeping the sand into any cracks. Rain will settle it further, and then I will probably add more sand and sweep until it is well and settled.

I think it looks great. It isn’t perfect, but it is damn close!


Second Brick Walkway

I was so jazzed over my two-hour install of the east half of my own front walkway, that I decided I needed to do the same for The Cottage.


This was a little more difficult. On one side, the ground sloped away from what had been a very broken sidewalk. And the ground was anything but level. Things had been slipping and sliding for a while. Where my house had a nice, straight run to work with, The Cottage pathway most certainly did not.


It took a second run to Lowe’s for more supplies, and a solid five hours of work to create the path. Today I added landscaping stones and built up the height of the dirt on the east side for it to all flow well.

Dave mowed while I tackled the remainder of the front path.

Dave mowed while I tackled the remainder of the front path.

Our contractor, Jay, had suggested the landscaping stones and additional dirt. I think she has a fine idea there!

While I waited for Dave to go buy dirt, I tackled this pile of bricks

While I waited for Dave to go buy dirt, I tackled this pile of bricks

I plan to flank the path on either side with perennials – some daylilies, iris, and even early spring bulbs. That will wait until next spring, I imagine, but I will make that little yard burst with color!

I managed to move quite a few of them!

I managed to move quite a few of them!

For now, we have some perennial grasses planted there.


I moved about 300 bricks over to the east side of our property. I’ll lay them out right later, most likely next year.


Eventually the path will lead all the way to the gate into the dog yard.


Taming the Jungle


On Thursday, after returning from Lowe’s, Dave and I tackled the yard. Well, at least part of the yard. I had the weed whacker, Dave manned the mower. Later we both tackled pulling out the dead sunflowers and other tall weeds.

The garden gave us very little in the way of edibles this year.

Weeds we had tons of. Food? Not so much.


So thanks to our super-strong mower, we managed to level most of the “crop garden” of weeds. A few things we left in place (kale, tomatoes, Swiss chard).

We still have quite a bit of work to do in the yard. I’m hoping to find some straw to spread down. I plan on re-doing the bricks that surround the garden now that I’ve got a good idea of how to do it. I will also add a bottom layer of a weed-block landscape mat to stave off any weed growth for as long as possible.

My plan for next year’s garden is going to be a very dumbed down version of what we have had in years past. I will begin at the north side and create straight paths that surround each in-ground planting. The in-ground spaces will be filled with straw and I will be planting already started from seed plants. This will cut down on the weeds significantly.


As I told the family…

  • If I don’t have time to rebuild the brick walkways, then I don’t have time to have a garden
  • If I don’t have the time or money to buy the straw and lay it down, then I don’t have the time or money to have a garden
  • If I don’t have the time or money to start plants from seed or buy already started plants, then I don’t have the time or money to have a garden

See a trend here?



October Homes Tour

Get your tickets! Help me feel like all of this insane cleaning, organizing, and personal freakouts I’m having are worth it. Come see my house, along with five others (including a firehouse turned residence). Just $12 in advance per ticket (or $15 on the day of), all homes are within walking distance and I will be on hand to sell my books (and autograph them!).

Go to NEKCHS for more details or here to purchase tickets.

Posted in Events/Tours, Garden Planning, Goals/Dreams, The Cottage | Leave a comment

Cap Guns and Cold-Blooded Murder

Our work on The Cottage continues. Just when I thought we had run out of discoveries to be made, our contractor Jay and a neighbor kid who is doing some work for us found some old newspapers, a porcelain doorknob, the remains of an old pocketwatch, two pennies (1912 and 1936) and the remains of a 1916 Big Bill cap gun.

Great treasure!

None of it is worth anything in dollars – but in terms of sentimentality or the love of history? It really is fascinating.

Take a look at this piece of a newspaper article for example…


And take a look at the old cap gun…


It might not look like much, but it is a dead ringer for this 1916 Big Bill cap gun…


Imagine the little boy who played with that. Running about the neighborhood, perhaps paired with a cowboy hat, vest and boots. The adventures he must have had!


Our contractor Jay, removed all of the front porch except one lone strip that we are using to access the front door. We have a mudjacking company coming on Wednesday to give us an estimate on mudjacking our front steps. The concrete steps are solid, without a single crack, so I would far prefer to level them instead of knocking them out or building over them.


As you can see, we have also removed the broken, sidewalk. The columns that currently hold up the attic will be broken down and the brick re-used to create a wide sidewalk leading up to the stairs and also then along the front edge of the new porch to the west side of the house.


What is that I spy? A lightbulb? TWO lightbulbs?! Slowly but surely, Dave is working on the electrical. First lights, then outlets. Exciting stuff!


So this is the back porch. It once was an unenclosed, but covered porch. They put in that weird divider, along with a door to make an impromptu closet. The outside siding is undoubtedly asbestos.


The windows are broken and their wood is rotting. And the inside walls are made of this atrocious looking fiberboard stuff.

Our GC, Jay, had the great idea of covering it with beadboard. This will provide a cute little space (once the beadboard, chair rail, and windows are replaced) for sitting with coffee. Eventually we will landscape the yard beyond and remove the jungle of weeds, making it a cute place to go down into. I would like to fence it off first, so that people don’t continue to trespass through this yard and the others.


The back bedroom is looking better. Well, sort of. It has light, and it’s relatively clean.

Okay, I’ll admit it. Rehab work offends my OCD sensibilities. I want to clean everything in sight. But no matter how much I clean, it still looks dirty!


However, it is GREAT to not see a bunch of plaster and wood anymore. That makes me all kinds of happy.

Life marches on.

I’m come to the realization that I will not finish edits on Book #6 anytime soon. Every spare moment is caught here, in this rehab. Not even the impending homes tour can manage to keep my attention. That long list of “to-do’s”? Out the window. As our dear friend Kent pointed out so astutely, our house is beautiful as is. Yes, it would be more beautiful if I were to finish that long list of “to-do’s.”

But as people file through, they will see so many things completed. And if they see things in the middle, begun but not finished, perhaps they will think, “Yes, they are human too. Life gets busy, and you don’t have time for everything.”

Now back to work I go.img_0087

p.s. Look at that huge stack of drywall. And that’s only half of it!


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Work on The Cottage…and More


View from living room into front bedroom

Work on The Cottage

We have been busy bees on The Cottage and have nearly completed the demo of all rooms except the front living room.

Old dining room/future kitchen (hallway on left, pantry to old kitchen on right)

Old dining room/future kitchen (hallway on left, pantry to old kitchen on right). This had been piled five feet high with lath and plaster on Friday!

So far, we have filled and dumped six truckloads at the local dump. I figure we have at least two more to go, maybe three.

Old kitchen/future utility room with door to basement stairs.

Old kitchen/future utility room with door to basement stairs.

The original plan was to rent a dumpster, but the cost to have it delivered would have been the equivalent of around 20 truck loads AND we would have had to fill it immediately.

I love the look of exposed brick. I will continue removing the plaster from the original stove chimney and then seal it with some kind of gloss sealant to bring out the rich color of the bricks.

I love the look of exposed brick. I will continue removing the plaster from the original stove chimney and then seal it with some kind of gloss sealant to bring out the rich color of the bricks.

If we had kept it around even longer than a day or two, word would have gotten out, and suddenly the dumpster we paid for would have been filled with other people’s trash.

It’s a fact of life here, but one I’m unwilling to pay for!

View from dining room/future kitchen into front bedroom

View from dining room/future kitchen into front bedroom

In the end, we will probably pay less than $250, which is less than half of the dumpster rental.

Back Bedroom

Back Bedroom with back porch beyond door

We have a contractor now and she worked with us yesterday to move over four truckloads of debris to the dump. She’s like the Energizer bunny, she kept going for another three hours or more after we had collapsed in exhaustion. I’m excited to see what she suggests with the front porch rebuild and more.

The bathroom - we pulled over three feet of lath out of there and off to the dump. This right here is about a truck full.

The bathroom – we pulled over three feet of lath out of there and off to the dump. This right here is about a truck full.

After we have finished the demo, we will continue getting lights and power into the main level and on up into the attic. Then plumbing, gas, insulation, HVAC, drywall, the porch rebuild…the list seems endless!


I am very excited about how things are going, though. Finally…progress!


October Homes Tour

It might seem a long way off, but October 15th, for me at least, seems right around the corner. I made a list on Friday and promptly freaked out. There is so much still to do!


I spent a good part of the morning on Friday working on decluttering the utility room, transplanting houseplants from the hanging planters on the front porch to indoor containers and organizing/decluttering the front porch.


I still have plenty to do, but things are looking better. I also spent time yesterday tidying and organizing the Art Room which is looking rather spiffy.


I spent several hours this week working on the bottom of this table now that the top is done. It will occupy a space in my bathing retreat once it is done.

It looks a little washed out, but the colors consist of dark blue (little round dots on left of pic), light blue and white.


I showed my mother the other day and she squinted at it, “Is that rick-rack on the edges?”

I shook my head.


“You painted that by hand!?” Mmm-hmmm…


Dee’s Birthday

We are also having a party for my eldest, who turns 28 on Friday. Twenty-eight years old. How did that happen? How did I become the mother of a 28-year-old?! Seriously, I’m not sure how I feel about that!


Birthday Gifts

I sat down and created these little gems this morning. We are going to a dual birthday party later, and I do hope the birthday girls like them. These are some old wooden plaques that were down in the basement of The Cottage. I painted them with chalkboard paint and today I “artfully” ripped some of the 1900 Encyclopedia Britannica pages to match the size of the plaque.


Then I drew the initial of each girl. Then added some color. When it was complete I decoupaged it with some sparkly Mod Podge and waited for it to dry.


A final coat of clear gloss spray to give them better protection and we are all set for the birthday party!


Posted in Challenges, Crafts and Creations, DIY, Garden Diary, Historical Home, Tropical/Indoor Plants | Leave a comment

Add a Cute Little Table


I showed a picture in the previous post of a tabletop I had just begun to draw a mandala on with paint pens.


Now I’ve finally finished the design.


My inspiration for the mandala came from this lovely one I found on Pinterest.

mandala inspiration

I’m sure you will notice that I took some artistic license with it.

I’ll add this to my little bathing retreat in the main level bathroom and I think that I have got the perfect idea for what to add to the walls. More on that later!

Posted in Home Decorating, Zentangle and Doodle Art | Leave a comment

A Bathing Retreat


I can’t believe it took me 3 1/2 years to discover how perfect the main level bathroom is.

In fact, it took us working on The Cottage and my husband asking, “Hey, why don’t we use this bathtub down here as well?” You know, instead of all three of us having to take the upstairs one in turns.

He took a bath in the main level bathroom and said afterward, “That’s actually a really nice bathtub.”


We have two bathrooms in this house and neither of them has a shower. Many would find this inconvenient. My eldest certainly does. She tried to campaign for a shower to be put into one of them and was promptly shot down by my husband.

Dave grew up in a house in San Francisco that had one bathroom, with a clawfoot tub and no shower adapter. And it is what he is used to. I was raised with showers. After a lifetime of that, I have to admit, it was odd to transition to bathtubs only, but I really enjoy it now.

It forces me to slow down, something I would not do if I had a shower available to me.

In any case, later on the same day, Dave and I did another round of work on The Cottage and he “voluntold” me to use the main level bathroom.

As I relaxed in the smaller bathtub I realized I had been preparing this bathroom for years. I’ve made curtains, hand towels and more. This bathroom actually has theme colors!

The upstairs bathroom is narrow and crowded. The main level bathroom is on the small side, but it is a lot roomier than the upstairs bath.

In the main level bath, the cast iron tub sits in an alcove of sorts, a place I had already hung sheer curtains from, with a cabinet nearby, ready to store all of my toiletry needs.


A couple of weeks ago, I decided to get a second set of toothbrushes and toothpaste and put them in the main level bathroom for better access and convenience.

I need to get some hooks to hold my towel, wash cloth and robe. I also need to finish painting the mandala I have started on this little table we rescued from The Cottage and I repainted.


I’m claiming this main level oasis for myself. I feel like a queen!

Posted in Historical Home, Home Decorating, Zentangle and Doodle Art | 2 Comments

Deals, Kindness, and Home

Gotta Love Savers

We went by Savers last Saturday. For those not in the know, Savers is a used clothing (and more) store. I discovered it when my eldest daughter was an infant and have been shopping there faithfully for nearly three decades.

There are Savers locations throughout the Kansas City Metro and they have periodic 50% off sales (as well as other sales on specific items). This past Saturday was a 50% off sale and we netted:

  • 3 pairs of dress pants for Dave (two of them were Savane brand)
  • 1 cute embroidered vest for me
  • 2 pairs of workout pants for me
  • 4 pairs of shoes for me (2 pairs were Clark’s brand and looked brand new, 1 pair was Ahnu brand (which fit GREAT) and the other was LifeStride)

Total cost? Less than it would have cost for one pair of dress pants if we had bought them retail: $38.50


I typically go in with a mental list of what I need, and I tend to only shop name-brand. Honestly, I have no idea how anyone shops retail prices. Every once in a while I go into a store and I’m just shocked by how much clothing costs.It’s crazy expensive!


2016-05-02 14.10.32

Surrounded by Kindness

On Monday I went to a client’s house for their normal monthly cleaning. Not only did I see a check for the cleaning (plus a tip, I do love that aspect of the service industry!) but also a $50 check labeled “for cottage rehab.”

This was in addition to the $500 Kiva loan funded by six contributors in a four-day period.

I’m channeling multiple income streams and swallowing any pride I have to get this project going. Thankfully I find myself surrounded by kindness.

I am truly lucky to have so many wonderful friends and neighbors – and I credit much of that to our move to Kansas City. Being here, in this neighborhood, has really changed my outlook in so many ways.

It is so wonderful to know that we have people genuinely rooting for us and wishing us success!


Yesterday, our neighbors Marcie and Bill from across the street were kind enough to give us this rug, which fits the colors of our living room decor perfectly. As you can see, our “min-pit” Honey Nut Cheerios digs it. She has rolled around on her back on it several times, ‘smiling’ the whole time!


Home Projects Underway

I’m currently working on the portiere (a.k.a. curtains for wide doorways) in the dining room to art room transition. I’ve made the curtains out of the painter’s drop cloth I’m so fond of. This matches the two sets of window curtains within the art room itself.

After 3 1/2 years of living here, I finally managed to put up curtains in the Art Room!


I’m planning on doing something below the seam here. Possibly some poetry in script? I could just use a thick Sharpie and write in calligraphy. We shall see.


Meanwhile, this little Pinterest project that I had hoped to adapt…


Turned into this piece of furniture that will be holding court in the Art Room:


I’m considering adding two more levels on top of it, and replacing the directional casters on the bottom to be swivel casters. I’ll bolt the whole thing together and place it in the corner where I currently have the white metal and glass baker’s rack. It can hold all of our art books and supplies in one rotating display.

Sometimes, plans just change that way.

Back to the portiere project…

On the portiere, I hope to have a second pole cut and put into position. I’m thinking that a white fabric edged with lace would make a nice counterpoint to the linen look of the drop cloth. I’ll also use it to create curtain ties and pull the fabric back to the edges of the doorway.

I still need to finish the portiere in the living room/dining room transition and use the complementary fabrics above to finish that transition.

And if that weren’t enough, there is still this transition in the living room/parlor to do.

And then the portiere in the library/office.

I’d better get to it, the days until the tour are ticking down to zero!

kiva loan

Building Credit With Kiva

I’ll admit it – I was really REALLY disappointed that Kiva only allowed us to seek $500 instead of $10,000. The $500 was a slap in the face of sorts. Especially since I just received notification this week that a credit card maximum was being raised again. We pay off all credit card debt the month it was incurred, and that has helped our credit immensely – the credit card has continued to raise our maximum spending limit over the past two years from $2,500 to $10,000. As if we would ever use that much! In any case, I tried to swallow down my frustration and realize it might take a little time.

Kiva disbursed the $500 loan on Tuesday, August 9th and gave me a full repayment schedule – $20.83 per month for two years. Yeah, NO. I’ll be paying this in two $250 chunks and then re-applying for a new loan by the middle of October. I’m not holding my breath that they will then approve me for $10k, but it sure would be nice.

No matter what, anything is better than putting this stuff on credit cards or other high-interest predatory loans. So if I have to jump through some hoops to get it all done, well, that’s what I will do!


More Great Deals

Amazon is doing its best to become the one-stop shopping source. And with Amazon Prime, I keep them busy.

Unless I’m in a screaming hurry, I check the box that says “No Rush Shipping” and scoop up another $1 credit towards movies, ebooks, and digital downloads of music.

I’ve been racking them up – I think I have a total of $16 right now waiting to be redeemed. And that’s after buying several Kindle books!

Recently I have had trouble locating dried chopped dates. Not for me, mind you, I find them rather icky. But my husband loves them in his oatmeal.

I call it Papa Bear Oatmeal – 6 cups of oats, 1/2 cup of brown sugar, 2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 cup of chopped pecans, 1/2 cup of dried dates, and 1/4 cup of flax seeds.

Each morning he scoops out 2/3 cup or so, and microwaves it with milk.

In any case, my usual “go to” source of dates is Aldi’s. But Aldi’s tends to only carry dates in the colder months. I guess they figure folks only use it for holiday baking. In prior years I have stocked up, but I ran out this year and couldn’t find any more.

Never fear, Amazon is here! I found a 3-pound bag of chopped dried dates for $17.00 on Amazon, which shook out to around 35 cents per ounce. This was half the price of some of the smaller bags of dates on the website. And I’m not having to pay sales tax or drive anywhere to pick it up.

I definitely have a plethora of dates now.

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First You Have to Make a Mess…

Making a Mess

Last weekend I began working in the back bedroom, moving forward through the house. Sledgehammer in hand, safety goggles and respirator on my face, I tackled the walls.


View from the dining room/future kitchen into the front bedroom and the living room to the left

There is something cathartic about smashing a wall all to hell. I figure I’m working my way through my adulthood, adolescence, and shortly I’ll be going through my tumultuous childhood and birth.

On Saturday, Dave went by to see the progress and knocked down a couple sections of ceiling.

Old kitchen/future utility room

Old kitchen/future utility room

And then today, all three of us went over and got to work. Dave and Dee removed all of the old ductwork in the basement while I removed lathe in the front bedroom and dining room.

View from living room into front bedroom with the dining/future kitchen on the right

View from living room into front bedroom with the dining/future kitchen on the right

After that, we all took turns demolishing more of the walls, removing lathe, and sending plaster showering down from the walls.


The goal is to remove all of the lathe and plaster walls and be able to run electrical, gas and water in the areas they need to go. After that, insulation (something I had neglected to add to my list of expenses), and drywall.

View from the back bedroom looking into the bathroom and the front bedroom and living room beyond that

View from the back bedroom looking into the bathroom and the front bedroom and living room beyond that

We don’t have much room to work any longer. Time to load a truck up with some of this lathe and take it to the dump. The plaster can be shoveled into the middle of the room for now.

The back bedroom

The back bedroom

I’m hoping we can borrow a friend’s truck next weekend and make a run to the dump. We are running out of room to walk!

Kiva Loan

I went ahead and got the private crowdfunding for the Kiva loan in motion. Kiva had only approved us for $500, which was 1/20 of what we had asked for. But I get it, I’m an unknown quantity. I was told that after I had paid the first one off, I could re-apply for another one. I’ll do that, and hopefully be able to qualify for a larger one next time.

The more we can do with zero interest loans, the better off we will be. One way or the other, the project will go through and be finished by the end of this year. Hopefully most of it will be at zero percent interest instead of 15%-30%!


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Winding Down Those Classes


I taught an ice creams class yesterday at North Kansas City Library. We tasted six different ice creams and sorbets: Pineapple Sorbet, Strawberry Cream, Coffee, Raspberry Sorbet, Mint Chip, and Dairy-Free Peanut Butter Chocolate.

I’ve posted all of the recipes (plus some extras) below.

I’m starting to wind down my class offerings and will probably stop teaching altogether by the end of the year. One of my students said last night, “Christine, you just can’t stop teaching!”

“Ha! Just watch me!” I said.

Don’t get me wrong. I love teaching.

I just love writing more.

I’ve been chasing the money for my entire adult life. And while I’m not stopping anytime soon, I am changing my tactics.

To become a bestselling author (or at least one who makes money at it), I need to:

  • Create great stories
  • Produce plenty for my readers to buy and enjoy

To do that I need time. Time to wrap my head around a storyline and follow it to its proper conclusion. I need time to edit so that readers aren’t horrified at my lack of grammar or my over-reliance on adverbs. Adverbs, you will be the death of me!

I have nearly conquered point of view shifts (don’t worry if you don’t get it, it took me forever to understand it myself) and unnecessary ellipses (I do so love them) and continue to fine tune my craft.

Teaching classes is a distraction that forces me to focus on creating new classes in order to earn more money. This takes more time away from what I dream of doing.

Factor into that the advent of work on The Cottage and the return to homeschooling my youngest in the fall, and teaching classes is not where my focus needs to be.

I may be winding down classes, but stay tuned, soon I will be posting about our progress on The Cottage. Coming soon, The Cottage will be transformed from a run-down abandoned bungalow into a haven for travelers as well as writers and artists!

Here are some yummy recipes. Pull out your ice cream maker and get to it!


Christine’s Rules:

  • It must be relatively easy to make
  • It must taste as good, if not better, than a product you would buy in the supermarket
  • It must be cheaper to make yourself

Dairy Ice Cream Recipes

Embrace the rich side of life and try these different recipes using heavy cream and whole milk. If you want the full flavor, definitely do not go low-fat! Aldi’s sells pints of heavy cream for around $1.70, and that means that, all in all, you are spending less than $2 on ingredients that will make you up to a quart of premium ice cream!

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped

Combine all ingredients, mixing thoroughly, and then pour into ice cream maker and process. Freeze or serve immediately.

Option 1 – Add ½ cup chocolate-covered almonds to make a Haagen-Dazs Vanilla Swiss Almond taste-alike

Strawberry Ice Cream

  • 16 oz fresh or frozen strawberries, tops removed
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 cups heavy cream

Combine strawberries and sugar into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Add in heavy cream and pulse. Pour into ice cream maker and process according to machine’s instructions. Freeze or serve immediately.

Bananas Foster Ice Cream

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 overripe bananas
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp rum
  • ½ cup walnuts, chopped

Combine mashed bananas and lemon juice into small bowl and set aside. Add together cream, milk, cinnamon and rum into medium bowl, mix well and pour into ice cream maker. When ice cream is firm and almost done, add the banana/lemon juice mixture and the walnuts. Freeze or serve immediately.

Option – Make a “Chunky Monkey” Ben & Jerry’s version by removing the lemon juice, cinnamon, and rum and adding ½ cup chocolate chunks (I break up a 85% dark chocolate bar and add it to the ice cream mixer when the ice cream has nearly firmed up.

Coffee Ice Cream

This coffee ice cream is comparable to Trader Joe’s Coffee Bean Blast. A smooth, rich ice cream with strong coffee taste, Trader Joe’s is my favorite brand, beating out Haagen-Dazs and Ben & Jerry’s. That said, this recipe is PERFECTION.

  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 3 Tbsp instant, freeze-dried coffee

Whisk eggs in a medium-sized bowl until light and fluffy. Slowly add sugar, a little at a time, until fully incorporated. Add in cream, milk and coffee and gently whisk just until coffee granules have dissolved.

Option 1 – 4 ½ ounces of Heath bars, chopped into small bite-sized pieces and ½ cup chopped pecans makes a excellent Heath Bar Crunch

Option 2 – 1 package of hot cocoa mix makes a tasty Café Mocha ice cream

Dark Chocolate and Smoked Paprika Ice Cream

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt chocolate, milk and sugar. Bring to simmering; do not boil. In a medium-size bowl, whisk together eggs, paprika and salt. Drizzle the melted chocolate milk mixture into the bowl slowly, whisking. Return to saucepan and cook over low heat until mixture thickens. Remove from heat, cool for ten minutes before mixing in cream and vanilla. Chill in refrigerator and then process through ice cream maker.

Butter Pecan Ice Cream

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Mix together all ingredients except butter and pecans. Melt the butter in skillet with chopped pecans, stirring often, until pecans are toasted. Take off of heat and cool. Put all ingredients except buttered pecans into ice cream maker and begin processing. Right before ice cream begins to harden, add pecans and finish processing.

Pistachio Ice Cream

  • ½ cup of pistachios*
  • ¼ tsp salt*
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 6 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • ½ tsp almond extract
  • Green food coloring (optional)

*If you buy unsalted pistachios, dampen them slightly (so the salt sticks) and add ¼ tsp of salt to them and then toast them. If they are already salted, simply toast them as is. Set aside in freezer and let them cool.

Combine all ingredients except for pistachios, and blend together thoroughly. Process in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions until the ice cream is almost set up. Add the pistachios, finish processing, and then store ice cream or serve immediately.

Dairy-Free Ice Cream Recipes

Are you lactose intolerant? My eldest daughter is, and we took some time to figure out alternative recipes just for her! Here are some tasty recipes to try out. All of the dairy ice creams in the recipes above can be converted to non-diary by substituting coconut cream for heavy cream and coconut milk instead of regular cow’s milk.

Chocolate Coconut Ice Cream

  • 3 cups coconut milk (unsweetened)
  • 3 Tbsp agave nectar
  • 1 ¼ cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract*
  • ½ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  1. Set a fine-mesh sieve in a large bowl set over a bowl of ice water.
  2. In a large saucepan, whisk the coconut milk and agave syrup over moderately low heat until warm. In a medium heatproof bowl, whisk the sugar and cocoa powder. Gradually whisk in 1 cup of the warm coconut milk until smooth, then whisk in the egg yolks. Scrape the cocoa paste into the saucepan and whisk until blended. Cook the custard over moderate heat, whisking constantly, for about 6 minutes, until very hot and slightly thickened; do not let it boil. Immediately strain the custard into the prepared bowl and stir in the vanilla. Stir the custard until chilled.
  3. Freeze the custard in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturers’ directions. Transfer the ice cream to a large plastic container and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours.
  4. In a small skillet, toast the coconut flakes over low heat until lightly browned, 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let cool. Serve the ice cream topped with toasted coconut.

Mango Ice Cream

  • 1 ½ cups peeled, seeded and chopped mango
  • 1 can sweetened cream of coconut
  • 1/3 cup lime juice
  • ¾ cup water

Place mango in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Push through a sieve. Rinse out blender and return puree to blender. Add cream of coconut, lime juice and water and blend to combine. Transfer mixture to an ice cream maker and process.

 Coconut Chai Tea Ice Cream

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 14 ounce can coconut milk
  • 2 Tbsp chai tea (ground to a powder)
  1. In a small saucepan over low heat, mix the water and sugar. Heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from the heat.
  2. Mix in the coconut milk and chai. Refrigerate until completely cooled, at least one hour.
  3. Pour the mixture into your ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer’s instruction.

Dairy Free Mint Chip

  • 2 cans unsweetened coconut milk (I use Thai Kitchen)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp peppermint extract
  • 4 oz of mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • Green food coloring

Combine all ingredients except for chocolate chips and mix well. Add to ice cream maker and process according to your manufacturer’s directions. When ice cream begins to solidify and is almost done, add the chocolate chips. Put in freezer or enjoy right away.

Dairy Free Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip

  • 2 cans unsweetened coconut milk (I use Thai Kitchen)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Whisk all ingredients except chocolate chips in together until well incorporated. This might take a moment since cocoa powder can be difficult at first. Pour into ice cream maker and only add chocolate chips near the end as the ice cream is solidifying.

Sorbet and Sherbet Recipes

You may have used the terms sorbet and sherbet interchangeably for years, but the two are actually different. While both are fruit based, sorbet is dairy-free . Sherbet on the other hand, may have some milk or cream within it. Read on to see how a sorbet recipe can be changed into a sherbet, and vice-versa.

Pineapple Sorbet

  • 1 pineapple, cored and cut into chunks (you can also use a can or frozen pineapple)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice

Process in a food processor or blender until smooth and then add to ice cream maker and process according to ice cream maker instructions

Option: Make this into a sherbet by adding ¼ cup heavy cream

Raspberry Sorbet

  • 12 oz of raspberries (I used frozen raspberries)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • ¼ cup dry red wine
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup light corn syrup

Combine ingredients and mash together, or blend. Pour into ice cream maker and process according to ice cream maker instructions.

Option: Make this into a sherbet by adding ¼ cup heavy cream

Peach Sherbet

  • 2 cups peach slices (fresh, frozen or canned)
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Option: Add ¼ Peach Schnapps for a more “grown up” flavor!

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