January – 2015 – Frugal Novice
Monthly Archives

January 2015

DIY Chalkboard



If you saw my post about our DIY reclaimed wood wall then you know we’re on a sort of home decor kick. We’ve lived in our house for over a year and are finally getting around to adding personal touches to really make our house feel like a home.

At our old house we had a chalkboard border (also DIY) in the kitchen and we really loved it, so we knew we wanted to find a way to incorporate a chalkboard into this house, too. We decided the large wall in our dining room would be perfect. Once we chose the location, we got started by measuring the wall – we wanted the chalkboard to fill the wall but still have a bit of space around it. Then we went to Lowe’s and had a piece of masonite cut; we had another piece cut to make a smaller chalkboard for our friends at the same time.

To begin the project I laid the masonite out and primed it. I primed it with a magnetic primer, but I’d recommend getting a regular primer tinted black or dark grey. The magnetic primer was expensive and I was only able to get one coat on each board. I didn’t want to pay for another can, and ended up with virtually no magnetic hold to the chalkboard. Oh well – it did work well as a primer!



After that I put one coat of chalkboard paint on each board. I made sure to keep the coat fairly thick, and one coat did the trick.


We bought some baseboard molding and I stained it to match the rest of the wood in our house. It worked out well because I love the look of a dark wood frame around a chalkboard and think it evokes a vintage feel.

We let the chalkboard paint dry for 24 hours and then it was time to prep it with chalk. It’s the one instance you want to make your brand new project look not-so-brand-new!

First I used the side of chalk pieces to cover the entire board. You don’t need to worry about making it uniform (as you can see mine is quite haphazard) – just get good coverage.


Then wipe the whole thing down with a dry rag. Here’s what ours looked like after one pass. I ended up wiping it down one more time to get it to where I liked it.Chalkboard-Dusted

Next it was time for installation. We screwed the masonite directly into the wall at both the top and bottom of the board, hitting as many studs as we could.


Once it was up, I took a wet rag and wiped down the edges so our frame could adhere to a clean surface.



Next we used construction adhesive to secure the frame to the chalkboard. Brian did miter cuts on the corners of our molding strips so we ended up with a nice clean finished product (FYI you don’t need anything fancy to do this; just buy an inexpensive saw and miter box, and you’re all set).



We used quick-grab adhesive but still decided to add finishing nails for more support. They’re small and virtually unnoticeable, but as with our wood wall I like the character they add.



In some places the construction adhesive seeped out beyond the frame, so I used a toothpick to carefully clean up the excess:


And voila! Our custom-made chalkboard. I love it and think it really makes the space. We’ll fill it with quotes, scriptures, birthday greetings and more.


If you make your own chalkboard I’d love to see it! Send me a photo (my email address is on my contact page) and I’ll add it to this post with credit to you.

New Year’s Resolution Success with Kohl’s


Note: I received gift cards from Kohl’s to facilitate my post. All opinions are honest and my own.

I have a confession to make.

I’m pretty unoriginal with my New Year’s resolutions.

But, so far, I’m also pretty successful at keeping my resolution this year – so I guess in that way I’m fairly unique!

My resolution this year is to be healthier, which includes eating better and exercising more. I’ve tried this in the past and didn’t last long, but this time around I’m taking added steps to make sure I’m successful. I’ve found an app to help me track both calories consumed and burned; I’ve got an accountability partner (my husband – so convenient! And so amazingly awesome of him to agree to work out with me each night); and I’ve got the gear I need, thanks to Kohl’s.

I shop at Kohl’s pretty frequently for clothes, shoes, accessories, toys, and kitchen items. You probably do, too. But did you know Kohl’s has a pretty impressive line-up of items to help you live a healthier life?


There are a ton of options for workout gear – I personally think it’s a morale-builder to work out in something you feel attractive in; and if you feel attractive, you’re more likely to want to wear those clothes and work out in them.  Whether you’re a gym rat or you like to walk around your neighborhood, there’s attire for you.



Good shoes are crucial, and Kohl’s has plenty of those to pick from, too.


Don’t forget some headphones to listen to music while you work out!


They even have socks that wick away sweat, and I think we can all agree that’s a very good thing.


Beyond clothing, though, there’s all sorts of exercise equipment, from weights to kettlebells to yoga blocks and more.




And since you’ll be working up a sweat, you’ll want to make sure and stay hydrated. Kohl’s has got you covered there, too:


Of course, exercising is just part of living a healthier life. It’s important to make good choices with what you eat, too. There are a ton of kitchen gadgets on the market that make it fun and easy to eat healthy, and Kohl’s offers a wide variety to choose from. There were two items in particular I looked at – the Nutribullet Pro (how easy would it be to make smoothies with this?):


and this:


You can make your own “noodles” out of veggies – too  cool! This would be a really fun way to give kids veggies, by the way. Or to lower your carb intake when it’s Italian night!

I decided to get something to help keep me accountable – a Fitbit Flex.


It’s been really great at motivating me to want to fit in as many steps as possible – and we got one for Brian, too, so we can challenge and encourage each other to stay active! Our Kohl’s had a kiosk right by the jewelry counter with the Fitbit Flex, Charge, Charge HR and Aria scale.

If you were thinking about making a resolution to live healthier, it’s not too late to start! It’s better to start a little later than not at all. Stop by Kohl’s and have a little healthy-living shopping spree. Get yourself shoes and workout clothes; find a DVD you can do right in your living room and grab a blender for smoothies in the morning. And if you get a Fitbit let me know so we can be friends and encourage each other!

DIY Reclaimed Wood Wall


Note: We received wood from Reclaimed Lumber Products to facilitate our project. All opinions in this post are honest and are our own.

We love – love – the house we’re in now. It was a relatively new build when we bought it in 2013, and almost all of it suits our taste really well. However, if you’ve bought a newer home then you probably know all-too-well the builder beige that ends up coating every wall. Sure, it’s nice and neutral, but we wanted to inject our personality in the house to really make it our home.

The wall in the photo below leads into our master bedroom, and it’s right off the living room. It’s a wall we see often, and I wanted to do something to make it a more special entrance into our room. I’ve loved the look of reclaimed wood for years, and knew it was just what we needed for this space.


I researched reclaimed wood quite a bit, and discovered Reclaimed Lumber Products as the perfect source for materials. It’s hard to find reclaimed wood locally, and even if you do the planks might be pretty thick or somewhat warped, making it difficult to adhere to a vertical surface like a wall.

Reclaimed Lumber Products is a full millwork shop and has wood planed down one side to provide a great surface for walls. The wood is primarily from barns in the Northwest; it’s not unusual for wood they use to be from barns that are 100+ years old, and I love the idea of there being history to the wood we’re using.

Once I found the source for our wood, I needed to pick which type to use. For me, it came down to two types:


Idaho Barn Wood Blend. I really like the variation in types of boards, and I like that the widths vary, too – 3″, 5″, and 7″ widths are included. This photo above from their website really had me almost 100% sold, but then I also saw the Oak Blend:


The Oak Blend was appealing to me because of the nail holes and the wear & tear you can see on the boards. Like I mentioned, I love the sense of history from reclaimed wood, and you certainly get a feel for that with the Oak Blend. The boards for this are all 5″ wide, which can make for an easier time laying out the pattern.  You get a variation of tone with these boards, too – from honey brown to grey colors with original patina and texture.

Spoiler alert: We went with the Oak Blend. And I really adore how it turned out! But first, here’s how we did this project:

First, we measured the wall. We knew that the top portion of the wall would be slightly wider because it wouldn’t have door frames on the sides. Then we worked on laying out a rough “draft” of what the wall assembly would look like. We figured out we’d need 18 rows of boards, and the top 3 would be wider (with the third row needing notches cut for the door frames).


We figured out which rows we wanted to have a solid board running all the way across the width of the wall, and which we wanted to have multiple pieces. We also thought about coloration of the boards to have contrast, and we made sure rows with multiple boards didn’t have seams lining up with other rows. We wanted it to look fairly random and natural… but with some planning behind it.


Once we laid out our boards, I labeled the backs – 1, 2, 3a, 3b, etc. so that we could stack the wood up and make sure we attached it to the wall in the right order. We did our planning and installation on two separate weekends, but you could easily accomplish the whole project from start to finish in one day. When it came time for installation day, we laid out our materials and were ready to go.


When it came to how to secure the wood to the wall, there were a lot of options. The Reclaimed Lumber Products site recommends attaching a plywood board to your wall, painting it flat black, and then attaching the wood to the plywood.

Since we were working around a lot of elements – a wired-in smoke detector, a light fixture, a thermostat and a light switch – we decided not to install plywood to keep the thickness down. I considered painting the wall black, but since the tones of the wood weren’t that different from the beige on our walls we just left the wall as is. Black paint is probably the safest option for a backdrop, though – any gaps between boards will just look like shadows.

We bought a construction adhesive that a friend recommended – Loctite PL Premium – and ended up needing about four tubes for our project. You’ll also need a good caulk gun to use with the adhesive tubes.


This adhesive, while it works really well long-term, is somewhat slick upon initial application. We discovered the quick-grab version of this adhesive with our next DIY project, and it is much more ideal for vertical surfaces. The quick-grab version costs about twice as much as the PL Premium, so it may not be worth it to you if you’re wanting to keep your overall project costs down.



Initially we were just going with the “hold it up until it sticks” strategy (which makes for a GREAT arm workout, by the way) and then we decided to add finishing nails to help hold the boards in place. This was the perfect solution and made the installation soooo easy. You can barely see the nails, but even if you notice them I think it adds a little to the character of the wall.




Brian did cut notches to go around the smoke detector, light, light switch and thermostat. In most cases we had a seam meet up behind the device to make it easier, but for the light switch he just cut a rectangle out to allow space for the switch to fit through.


I took a photo for y’all to see just how thin the boards are against the wall. There’s some slight variation in thickness, which we loved, but the boards are all nice and lightweight, and are really easy to install.

We thought about staining the wall with stain that matches our cabinets and front door, but in the end we really like the natural finish and left the wood as is. And now here’s what you’ve been waiting for – the finished product. I can’t tell you enough how much we love this wall. It’s a real statement piece for the house now and it’s something we’ll love for years to come. And it makes it even better to have the pride of knowing that we installed it ourselves.





Favorite Car Features for Parents

Happy family in car

We all have “extras” we want in a vehicle, but parents come to the table with a specific needs and challenges. Vehicle manufacturers have taken note, and there are several features parents especially love to have included in their car – here’s the first:

1. Built in sunshades. No one likes using those suction-cup screens that barely cover a portion of the window. Many cars now come with shades that slide up from the base of the window and can retract when not in use. These are perfect for shielding little eyes from the bright sun.

For four other features you’ll want to keep an eye out for in your next vehicle, check out my guest post at the Kayser Chrysler Center of Watertown dealership blog.

Buying Winter Tires: What to Keep in Mind



With all sorts of winter weather potentially right around the corner at any point this season, it’s a good idea to be prepared with winter tires so you’re ready to face whatever is thrown your way on your trips to work, errands, or longer trips out of town. If you live in a region that is consistently below 45 degrees in the winter and receives considerable winter precipitation, winter tires are a must-have – and you’ll want to think about the following:

1. An easier way to make the swap. Changing out tires at the start and end of winter can totally be a pain, but here’s something to try: When you purchase your winter tires, go ahead and spend extra to get inexpensive wheels to go along with your tires. You’ll want to make sure that the wheels you purchase will hold up well to winter weather, by the way. This will make it a lot easier to swap out your tires when the time comes.

For the rest of my tips, check out my guest post at the Kayser Chrysler Center blog.

Create a Car Emergency Kit Five Items that Should be in your Car’s Emergency Kit

Set of basic necessities

I’m a planner, and I like to be prepared. When it comes to being on the road, particularly for long road trips, it can be crucial that you have a proper emergency kit stashed away in your trunk. It’s  easy enough to put together, and you’ll sure be glad you did – better to have one and not need it than the other way around! You can buy pre-assembled kits, but as with many things, you can save money by purchasing just what you really need. I have a list of the top five things you should make sure you include when you’re putting your kit together – here is the first:

1.     First-aid kit. This one is a no-brainer, probably. But the majority of you reading this post now probably don’t already have one in your car, do you? It’s one of those things we know we need, but we never get around to purchasing. You can find really basic kits, or you can assemble your own. Neosporin, band-aids, antiseptic wipes, gauze, adhesive tape, and aspirin are all great things to include. Your family might have specific medical needs that you want to consider, too.

For the rest of my must-haves, go read my guest post at the David Hobbs Honda Dealership blog.

Five Things to Check Out when Buying a Used Vehicle

Used Car For Sale

Our current vehicle was bought used, and the experience was a good reminder of what to pay attention to when shopping. We ended up being really happy with our purchase, but it’s crucial to shop smart. I’ve got five tips for things to make sure and check out when you’re buying a used vehicle, and here’s the first:

1. The aesthetics. I don’t mean what color it is, although I totally understand preferring a certain color (we had to get a black minivan so it looked a little more “sporty”). Look for dents and rust and misaligned seams to doors on the outside; notice stains or burns on the interior. Every used car will have a little wear and tear, but if damage is extensive or over-the-top aesthetically, it might be a sign that the previous owner didn’t take great care of it (how many oil changes did they actually have done, anyway?).

For the rest of my tips, check out my guest post at the Ken Garff West Valley Pre-Owned Dealership blog!

NewAir WCD-110SS Review

Note: We received a water cooler to facilitate this post. We were not compensated monetarily, and all opinions are honest and our own. 


With five people in our family, we go through a lot of water pretty quickly. Add our normal consumption to the fact that I’m also trying to drink at least 64 ounces of water each day, and we end up really drinking a lot. I’m actually trying to drink half my body weight in ounces each day.

I’ve wanted a water cooler for a while now because I know from friends’ experiences how convenient they are – and I love the idea of not using a ton of water bottles.

There are a lot of water coolers out there to pick from, but the NewAir WCD-110SS seemed like the perfect fit for us. I like that it’s got a narrow profile, and the stainless steel is sleek and modern looking. 


This isn’t just a water cooler, though. It’s a heater too. And when I say hot, I mean hot! I wasn’t sure when reading about the hot water feature if it would just be really warm, but I was very impressed when we tried it out to see that it works perfectly for making piping hot drinks – when I made hot chocolate, I could see steam rising from my mug.


The button on the right dispenses cold water and is very easy for our kids to use, too (in fact, they think it’s a lot of fun to get water from the water cooler). The one on the left for hot water has a safety mechanism built in to keep kids from accidentally getting hot water; you have to slide the arrow button up at the same time you push the hot water button. It’s easy for adults to use, but it’s great for peace of mind when you have little ones running around (especially since we have a two-year-old, who is quite curious about everything!).

There are switches on the back of the water cooler that allow you to turn off either the hot or cold water – a great energy-saving feature so you’re not having water heated during the summer, for instance.

In the winter, though, having hot water at the ready is really great! Perfect for hot tea or hot chocolate, and really great for entertaining. I’ve seen ideas for hot chocolate bars on Pinterest, and having this water cooler would make it really easy to allow everyone to enjoy their drinks all at the same time, conveniently.

We have a New Air beverage cooler, too, and after having it for almost a year now we can still say we’re very pleased with it; this experience gives us confidence in the quality of the water cooler, too. To see all that New Air offers, visit their website and keep up with them on Facebook, too.

We’re very happy with this water cooler. It’s quiet, efficient and we have great-tasting water available at any time. I know it’s something that will be useful to us for years to come.


Five Tips for Safe Winter-Weather Driving


Whether icy weather has reached your neck of the woods yet or not, it’s probably only a matter of time before you find yourself navigating some slick roadways. One of the biggest hazards of driving in winter weather is drivers who don’t know how to handle the ice, so equip yourself with knowledge and be prepared! I’ve got five tips for driving safely in winter weather – check out the first below:

1. Don’t make rapid movements. Accelerate slowly and brake slowly. If you have anti-lock brakes, don’t pump your brakes even if you’re feeling frantic about needing to stop. If you know you’ve got a turn approaching, gradually slow down in advance so that you can make the turn without needing to brake around the curve.

For the rest of my tips, check out my guest post over at the Ken Garff West Valley Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram dealership blog.

Embassy Suites is a Win-Win for Families!

Note: We received a stay at the Embassy Suites in Atlanta to help facilitate this post. All opinions are honest and are our own. 

We took a road trip from Texas to Florida to Georgia this past summer, and it was a blast.

Did I mention we traveled with a nearly two-year-old? She and our 5- and 7-year-old sons were our companions, which made for quite a loud trip, but it mostly just a lot of fun, and we made all sorts of wonderful memories.

If you’ve ever traveled with small children, you know that navigating the time on the road is only part of having a successful family vacation. You’re staying away from home, out of routine, and you’ve got to find hotels that make this a smooth experience.

We spent the last part of our vacation in Atlanta – the kids and I had never been, and they had plenty of family-friendly activities, so it was a perfect city for us to visit. We stayed at the Embassy Suites near the Centennial Olympic Park, which ended up being a perfect home base while we explored the city. Check out our view, and you can see just how close we were to everything:



A family-friendly hotel right in the heart of downtown? Win-win! 

As the name suggests, the hotel sat right on edge of the Olympic Centennial Park. One night we walked around the park and discovered the water fountain, which was one of my very favorite memories of this trip. The kids were dressed in regular clothes, but the boys were thrilled at the sight of the fountain so we just let them hop on in to have fun, and they loved it. One thing I learned is that you can plan all sorts of fun things (and we did!) but spontaneous moments like these are ones you’ll always cherish.




We weren’t just close to the park, though – we were within walking distance of great shopping and restaurants, too. One of the Embassy Suites employees actually walked a block with us to make sure we could find Max’s Pizzeria, which was absolutely delicious.



Needless to say, I’d highly recommend this hotel as your place to stay when in Atlanta. We learned, though, that Embassy Suites is a perfect chain for family travel – and it’s definitely one we’ll seek out again and again. Why, you ask?

1. Free snacks and drinks for two hours every single day at their evening reception:


Here, in the atrium of the hotel you can see people gathering to get snacks and drinks; the kids thought this was SO cool! Free snacks that keep the kids happy & adults happy too? Win-win.


We brought our snacks up to the room to let the kids munch while we got ready to go out.


This brings me to another reason we loved staying at Embassy Suites:

2. A separate living and sleeping area – with a TV in each! We loved that we had a living room to hang out in – and at night the living room transitioned into the kids’ bedroom, with the couch converting to another bed. The kids liked having their own space and thought it was awesome that they had their own TV to watch cartoons on in the morning – and Brian and I liked having a quiet space to be able to watch what we wanted to on our own TV back in the bedroom. Happy kids and happy parents? Totally a win-win. 


3. Absolutely amazing breakfast – free. I think we’ve all stayed at hotels that have touted free breakfast and then offer you boxed cereal. Embassy Suites goes above and beyond, offering a spread that is sure to suit any tastes in the family. There’s even a made-to-order omelet station. Check out some of the offerings:






As you can see, everyone had different things, and everyone was happy. Total win-win. We loved it because we knew the kids would have plenty of energy to get out and sight see for the day after having a big breakfast. And thanks to the lovely location, we chose to eat outside one morning with the Centennial Park to look out on. So nice!

4. Refrigerator and microwave in each room. This is a lifesaver for families. It means you can keep milk on hand for the little ones, you can bring inevitable leftovers back from meals out, and you can pop popcorn to enjoy while you watch a movie in the living area.


5. Incredibly friendly staff. Everyone from the bellhop to the front counter to the parking attendants were all so nice and helpful. I mentioned above that one of the employees helped us find a restaurant we were looking for. He went above and beyond, and was happy to do so. Things like this really add to the overall experience at a hotel, and were just another reason for us to love our stay at Embassy Suites. Yep, you guessed it – another win-win.



We really loved our Embassy Suites experience in Atlanta and you can bet that we’ll be staying at an Embassy Suites on our next road trip because we know it’s a perfect place for our family.

My One Word for 2015

Each year I select a word to be my emphasis for the coming year. It’s a great alternative to resolutions because it can be a broader concept that applies to various aspects of life, and a single word is easy to come back to throughout the year.

My word for 2015? Focus.

This means several things for me:

Night lights


Focus on faith. Day in and day out, in everything I do, I want the way I act and treat others to be rooted in Christ as my example. Hebrews 12:2 is the scripture that I’ve chosen to go along with my word.

Focus on family. The past few days we’ve had icy weather, and in Texas that means you just hole up in your house because no one knows how to drive on ice-covered roads. Spending three solid days stuck in the house with Brian and the kids just cemented how much I love spending time with them. It’s easy to get pulled in a thousand different directions, but I want to work at continuing to prioritize family time each week.

Focus on others. I want our kids to grow up knowing the value of serving and giving to others, and I want to make sure we’re not so caught up in our own little world that we neglect to see problems around us that we can work toward solving.

Focus on health – physical and fiscal. Stereotypical areas for New Year’s Resolutions, right? But rather than something specific, I want us to make a concerted effort toward healthiness and smart spending.

Focus on creativity. Brian and I are both creative-minded, and we’ve had ideas in the past that have stayed just that – ideas. In 2015, I want to make sure we’re taking action toward projects and goals, because just thinking about them gets us nowhere. And even if our ideas don’t pan out, we’ll have fun working on something together.

Focus on the positive. This is part of my overall life view; I’m definitely a glass-half-full kind of girl. While I’ve definitely had my fair share of gripes, I want to always choose to see the silver lining. For example, our house is almost always cluttered. If you’ve been over and are wondering what I’m talking about, congratulations: you’re one of the lucky ones we straighten up for. But seriously, day-to-day style around our house includes a toy explosion, a trail of pajamas and socks from wherever children got dressed that day, clean laundry in a stack just waiting to be hung, and dishes in the sink that should really have been washed yesterday.

It’s totally against my love of organization. I’m happiest in an organized space… clutter drives me bonkers. But somehow the chaos of clutter in our house has become something I cherish. Maybe it’s out of necessity, to save my sanity. But I also know those toys mean lots of happy playing has taken place; the pajamas remind me of our sweet head-in-the clouds C, who frequently gets distracted mid-task and leaves discarded clothes and socks all over the house; the clean laundry is a) actually clean – amazing! and b) plentiful; and the dirty dishes are there because we chose to fit in family time instead of cleaning the kitchen.

So, there’s my word for the year: focus. What’s yours?