Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Progress Builds

Building your dream house isn't easy, even when you design the original. We've lived in our house for over four years now, and even though we thought we'd planned for everything, we have slowly discovered that there are things we either didn't know to plan for or just failed to see.

One of those is storage; we flat out didn't build in enough storage in this house. The upstairs closets are skimpy and were overflowing everywhere, including the landing upstairs. We desperately need an area for coats, scarves, shoes, etc. at the main entry way. Not to mention a basic utility room for all the stuff that needs to live by the main entrance (reusable grocery bags, the drying rack for laundry, my school bag, purse, etc.).

But this past week, we finally fixed some of the storage issues in our home, at least upstairs. After getting a few estimates for built in shelving for our landing(one from a green builder at about $2000 and one from the contractor we went with at $500), we went with the later. If budget had not been an issue, we would have probably gone with the green builder because his work is finished really nicely and he uses almost 100% reclaimed materials. But, as with most of us, budget was a factor.

Perhaps I should back up and say that we thought this unit out long and hard. We knew from how we were already using the space with make-shift shelving left over from apartment days, that it was an ideal spot for our home library of books and movies. It was also where most of our board games landed, as well as some other random junk that really needed a new home. We also wanted it to be a cozy area for someone to curl up with a book or to be able to browse a magazine, be that an adult in an arm chair or a child on a floor pillow. So, after some measuring and tweaking (we had a cold air return that we needed to work with to allow for air flow, as well as two electrical outlets that we weren't interested in moving), we came up with the basic design. Two or three large, long drawers on the bottom and then open, adjustable shelving on the top to allow for air flow and access to the electrical outlet. We also wanted the shelving to be deep enough for photo albums, but shallow enough to allow for a chair to sit comfortably in front on one side without blocking the walkway. This is definitely something we wouldn't have been able to design well from the get-go, since it was something where we really had to live with the space and figure out how the space would best work for us.

So, the contractor, who does other major jobs during the day, built our unit on weekends and down time. Which meant that it wasn't his primary focus, so it took a while for us to see the finished product. But, that's also why the price ended up at being under $500, because we were willing to wait and work with his schedule. He also was willing to paint the unit for us prior to assembly, which meant that there was far less touch up for us to do later. It probably took him about an hour to install the unit, which he built in three sections. There are a few sections that we want to go back and touch up with some more sanding and paint, but those are minor in the grand scheme of things. (I'll be back with pictures when I can snap them in the daylight.)

And the verdict? We LOVE it! It's a fabulous present to ourselves just before the baby arrives and has really helped us organize things. It's also been a great incentive to clean out things some more, like weed through our books and be really honest about which ones we'll actually read again and which ones we need to donate to the public library or to my classroom library. We even figured out that there's space at one end for the printer, which solves the problem of the ever-present glowing electronic lights in the nursery. There is a ton of storage in these too... plenty of room to grow with our growing family. I kept my cook books in the kitchen, but now all my gardening and home repair reference books have a place up there, which means I have more room on my little shelf in the kitchen for cook books. :) Which totally makes me a happy girl... the thought of new books for the bibliophile. And I love the chair up there with the soft light of one of our accent table lamps I hadn't found a good home for yet. Benny's found me up there several days curled up with a book and Lavender lounging on the carpet under the chair.

Have you made any major changes to your space lately that you love? Things you're dreaming about doing once you save up the funds? I'd love to hear about them!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Making the Sale

Last week, we were able to finally sell the desk that was in the nursery. This room used to be an "office" that was rarely used as such, but became more of a storage area. Over the summer, it was the room that our intern (and wonderful adopted family member who's home with us for Thanksgiving) used and called home, so the desk was helpful to him for working on sermons, etc. But now, the desk has finally found a new home, and we were able to find that home without the use of Craigslist.

First, let me say that we are not opposed to buying from Craigslist. There are certainly some great deals out there to be had. But we were a little uncomfortable with the idea of having someone we didn't know walking through our entire house to retrieve this desk, if they decided they wanted it at all. If it had been a smaller piece, we could have easily done the delivery through a neutral place, such as Benny's work.

So, I advertised the sale of the desk through my school. I started by writing up a brief description of the piece, including photos, and listing our suggested price. I included the fact that the buyer would need to pick up the piece, since we didn't have a truck that could haul it. I sent this out through our school email, and within a few days had a few potential buyers. One really interested party arranged to come see the desk one evening, and she liked it enough to pay our $50 price. We decided to throw in the desk chair for free, since we wouldn't need it anymore, and that seemed to sweeten the deal for her. We felt good about the whole thing, as she had recently relocated and needed the desk and is a single teacher working on a small budget.

(Thankfully, I work in a place where this is not banned, but you should definitely check company policy before sending out an email or posting flyers.)

Clearing out the desk made room for us to be able to put together the borrowed crib, which really made the room start to feel like the baby's. Once the desk was moved, we were also able to plan better for the artwork on the walls, etc. And we're hoping to put the money from the sale of the desk toward reupholstering a chair from my grandmother's house. It's a cute barrel backed chair with nice arms which should be great for the nursery. We'll have it reupholstered in a fairly neutral fabric so that it can move to a different location later in life, if it needs to, and we can punch it up with a throw pillow or two.

Have you had any success with selling items online or at work? What transformations have you made to your home in the past few months? I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A New Washer on a Shoestring Budget

So for the longest time we've had a hand-me-down washer from Benny's sister from her college days. It was totally serviceable, but we knew with the baby coming and using cloth diapers, we would want something that had a higher capacity and was more energy efficient. (We had planned to sell our old washer to a friend, but ended up donating it to the ReStore instead, so we'll get a tax credit.) Since we hang dry most of our laundry, the dryer we had was totally worth keeping and we didn't feel the need to upgrade.

Of course, Benny broke out his Mr. Consumer Reports mode and we narrowed down our choices to this lovely model by Samsung. We chose this one for a variety of reasons, but primarily because it was a top loader (something that was necessary for the configuration of our laundry area) and because it had excellent energy and water efficiency. Even with this being the washer we wanted, we knew the original purchase price was out of our budget, so we were hoping to find a sale.

We went to Lowe's to purchase our washer because we had been able to cash in some credit card points for Lowe's gift card money, about $500. We also had some birthday and anniversary gift cards stashed away that we put towards the purchase, as well as a Lowe's coupon we found online. We figured these combined with a sale would allow us to purchase the washer for maybe $100 out of pocket. The day we went to Lowe's to check out the washer and talk with the sales clerk was the week before Labor Day, when we knew some sales would be going on. When we talked with the sales guy and explained what model we were looking at and asked if he'd had any experience with them, he said the same thing we'd read online, "They're great machines. A few people think they don't use enough water, but generally this means they aren't loading the machine according to the manufacturer's instructions." Then, he said, "Hold on a sec..." as he walked over to the scratch and dent section. At that moment, there was a gleam in both of our eyes; we knew we were on to something!

And boy, were we ever! It turned out that they had two of the exact model we wanted in the returns section for the exact reason he had mentioned. The prices were incredibly reduced, even from the Labor Day sale price, and the previous customers had only had the machines a week before returning them. So, when the sales guy said we could have the washer for $700, we took him up on it. This meant that we were able to use our gift cards (but not our coupon, which we saved for another purchase) and credit card rewards to get our washer for free!

Having had our washer for a few months now, we can say with all confidence that we love it! It has a much higher capacity than our old one and allows us to do fewer loads of laundry during the week, and the spin cycle on it is incredible. Our laundry now dries in about half the time it used to when we hang it. The bonus: it has a glass lid so you can watch the whole thing while it runs, and it sings to you at the end of the cycle! We were like little kids watching cartoons the first time we ran a load of clothes through.

So, that's how we got our washer for free. Have you found any major deals in the scratch and dent section, or scored an appliance for free? We'd love to hear about it!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Saving on Maternity and Baby Clothes

I resisted maternity clothes for as long as I comfortably could. Why? They're so darn expensive! (Also, I think I was in denial for a while that I might gain 25+ pounds with this pregnancy.) Fortunately, I found a few ways to get around the maternity clothing market prices.

First, I decided early on that I could make do with a few of my regular draw string skirts and cardigans, if I only had camisoles or t-shirts to wear under them. This has been a great strategy so far and wearing layers means I can stay comfortable throughout the day at work or at home on the weekends.

I bought a few things on the clearance racks at the Gap Outlet that were just one size larger than I might normally buy, or were cut so that they could work as early maternity wear. I purchased these with gift card money, so they were not out of pocket expenses. Then, I found the local semi-annual children's consignment sale where they also sell maternity clothes. Here I picked up a few items that I thought could be staples throughout the year: brown pants (that of course needed to be hemmed), a grey dress shirt that doesn't need ironing, and a white collared sleeveless shirt I can wear alone or under a jacket/cardigan. I made it my mantra to try to purchase the fewest items possible and have them be the most versatile.

Then, my cousin and college roommate came through big time. My cousin sent me a few nursing camisoles that have been great for early maternity wear and worked well under cardigans, etc. for school. My college roommate brought me three bags full of maternity clothes, some from her sister who is just about my size. Her sister is an optometrist, so there were lots of nice professional clothes in those bags that worked well for teaching and are really comfortable. There were also several nicer t-shirts that I could wear under my regular cardigans and jackets (if I wear them open, of course), so these rounded out my wardrobe.

Occasionally, I'll have a friend bring me some random thing they found, which has also been nice. For instance, I have a wonderful friend who works at the local women's shelter and she brought me some maternity clothes that were donated to them (they don't take clothing donations; it's just too much for them to have to weed through, so they always take them to GoodWill anyway). In that bag was a wonderful blue cardigan I can wear, and a super cute plum colored dress that has become Benny's favorite "hot mama" dress when I wear it with boots.

Do I still look longingly at some of my favorite outfits I can no longer wear right now (like my absolute favorite camel colored cable knit sweater)? Of course. Is it fun to pull out something new from those bags or hangers and feel good about how I look for the day? Absolutely. Do I love that I've spent less than $20 on maternity clothes? Totally, because it means that it frees up our budget to do more for the baby.

But we haven't had to spend anything on baby clothes, thanks to the generosity of several friends. My college roommate also brought me tons of clothes from her son (they don't plan to have more kids, and it seems her sister just keeps having girls) and has promised more to come when we're ready. Another fabulous friend has two boys who are four and two. She's brought me tubs and tubs full of clothes. These have been really fun to go through because I remember her boys wearing many of the outfits. Because her boys were born in November and May, we've got most of the seasons and sizes covered, so it looks like we'll be able to survive on hand-me-down clothes for this little one for quite a while. Which, of course, allows us to both live green and save green.

I'm sure that people won't be able to resist some cute little thing they see in a store for this boy to wear. But we really hope that by introducing him to the idea of second hand clothing from birth, and knowing that we do the same, he won't feel out of place as he gets older and will recognize that we're able to do more for others when we spend less on clothes.

How have you saved on maternity or baby clothes? Or have you pinched other areas of your wallet in order to buy what you love? Here's to living green and saving green on the family wardrobe!

Updates and Apologies

Wow, so it's been ridiculously too long since my last post... six months?! Crazy! Not that it's an excuse, but we've had a lot going on here. So, a few quick updates:

1. We're expecting a baby boy! So, I'm just now feeling up to doing all my normal stuff now that I'm over the makes-you-feel-gross-all-day nausea (but nothing much worse than that) and the few weeks accompanied by hormone induced migraines. Now, I'm just exhausted after every day at work.

2. We hosted a wonderful Duke Divinity School intern over the summer who has become a fabulous addition to our family. He loved Lavender from the start, even if she didn't feel the same way, and he was such a blessing to us and our church family. He shared our love of cooking and good food, which was a huge plus, and helped cook meals whenever he was free. We had the pleasure of hosting his family from Washington state last week and discovered, not surprisingly, that they are just as wonderful as he is.

3. Mom's been busy with building her house and making all the decisions that go along with that, and now she's in the home stretch. So, we've been trying to be good sounding boards without putting in too much of our opinion. And of course, Benny has been the resident paint expert in that process.

So, the next several posts you read will probably have more to do with getting things ready for this wonderful baby boy and knocking things off our to-do list before he arrives on the scene. We've already tackled several projects, which I'll probably highlight in later posts, but here's the list of things we've already managed to accomplish:

1. Purchase a new washing machine with a budget goal of $800 (We managed to do it for free with gift cards--more on that in a later post)
2. Purchase and install a new storm door on the side door with a budget goal of $200 (We did this for about $70 after gift cards and coupons)
3. Purchase a new rug for the kitchen/living room to help ground the dining area a bit more with a budget goal of $80 (We bought this at the Capel sale for $99, and ended up moving the living room rug to the dining area)
4. Mosaic the dresser top of the ReStore dresser we applied the paintable wallpaper to earlier in the year for the nursery
5. Price out the cost of built-ins for the upstairs landing and have those built and installed or DIY (we opted to hire a contractor and he's in the process of doing those now)
6 Purchase and install under the cabinet lighting in the kitchen (we purchased the lights from Daily Steals, a deal website that Benny subscribes to, for much less than we saw them at Lowe's for and have been really happy with them)

Here's the list of things left to accomplish:
1. Paint kitchen chairs
2. Paint bed frames for nursery
3. Finish the stone patio we started this summer and got side tracked on
4. Purchase and install blinds on the other window in the nursery
5. Purchase and install programmable thermostats for the house (we'll probably purchase these during Energy Star weekend or from Costco)
6. Paint the upstairs closet doors that still have the factory primer on them
7. Rewire and paint wall lamps for the nursery (this should happen this week if the repair kits we ordered come in time)
8. Sell the desk that's currently in the nursery to help pay for the updates to the nursery (hopefully we can do this through word of mouth or maybe a Craigslist ad) and make room for the crib
9. Make some wall art for the nursery and figure out where to hang the art that is currently in the room (it's street art from my trip to Italy in college, so we want to keep them up somewhere)
10. Make a duvet cover that's jungle themed for the comforter that's currently on the twin bed in the nursery
11. Would be nice if the budget allows to reupholster the barrel-backed chair that we got from my grandmother's for the nursery. It will make a great nursing chair, though it's not a rocker.

Of course there's all the little stuff to do like the deep cleaning I'd like to accomplish (mopping, cleaning trim and windows, cleaning the appliances, etc.) but we'll get to that hopefully. We have some friends who have offered to help out with that over the holiday break or to come after the baby arrives to help with those projects, so at some point these will be done.

So, what about you? Are you in fall baking mode or enjoying the cooler weather to get some things done outside? I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

New Life for a Little Old Lady

So, Monday was a snow day for us (a rarity this winter) and we made the most of it. Benny was off too, so we decided to tackle two of our projects that have been in the basement for waaay too long.

The mission: give new life to two old dressers desperately in need of some love. See Exhibit A.

The players: Benny, myself, and a ReStore dresser we moved into the basement when we built the house and a little dresser that was my great, great aunt's (it's got her signature on the back) and was mine as a kid.

The first is the little lady that was mine as a kid. It's solid construction, though the runners of the drawers needed a little paraffin (we had none so resorted to bar soap) to help them slide better. Originally, it had painted wooden knobs that had a few coats of paint that had seen better days, so I knew these would go. It also needed some serious sanding since the backs of the drawer fronts had been painted and had adhered to the dresser front after years of storage in my mom's attic. And, of course, it needed to be primed and painted. It's got this cute little apron front detail and is a nice small scale, perfect for additional linen storage in our kitchen. (It seems you can never have enough storage in the kitchen.)

I should mention here that I'd been drooling over this cool paintable textured wall paper that they now carry at Boone Paint and Interiors where Benny works. Since we're not the wallpaper on our walls type of people (too many horrible experiences removing the stuff after people didn't prep the walls properly), I kept trying to come up with a way to use the stuff. These projects ended up being the perfect fit, since they were pretty plain pieces without any ornate detailing on the drawer fronts or anything. (Plus, the ReStore dresser had a horrible finish that had been poorly scraped off leaving the sides very distressed, and not in a pretty-I-meant-to-make-it-look-like-that way.) So, Benny brought home the book and I chose a modern circle pattern that was the right scale for the pieces.

So, on Monday, we took these babies up two flights of stairs to the office to paint them, after they'd been prepped and primed earlier in the basement. They both got wallpaper pasted to the sides, which we measured and carefully cut with a razor blade. The wallpaper paste ended up being free from a painter Benny knows (it's great to have him work in this business sometimes). The painter recommended that we thin down the paste with some water and mix it with a kitchen whisk, which was perfect. (We did spend all of 94 cents for a new whisk so that we didn't risk mucking up our good one for baking.) We rolled it on with a disposable foam roller, so that made it really easy. Then we carefully smoothed down the paper and pressed out any air bubbles. This part was a little tricky with the textured paper to see all the bubbles, but once we got the hang of it, it was pretty quick work.

After pasting the paper and letting it set for a while (we went downstairs for a lunch of grilled cheese sandwiches... yummy, one of my favs that Benny makes), we painted each one with paint we had leftover from other projects. The little one got white Aura (this is Benjamin Moore's low VOC stuff and it covers great... one coat!) trim paint and the taller ReStore one got some paint we'd color matched to go with the aged white paint on the furniture in the guest room. This way, if we ever need another dresser in the guest room, it will be the same color and we won't have to paint it again. The drawer fronts on the little lady for the kitchen got painted out in leftover blue Aura paint from our living room to help tie the two spaces together a bit more. We applied the paint using the red feather mini rollers left over from another project, and since we didn't have any roller tray liners, we used plastic grocery sacks (which somehow inexplicably make their way into our kitchen, even though we use reusable totes whenever possible--even to the extent that if we forget them and leave them in the car, we'll go out of the grocery store with an armload of produce and cereal and the cashiers think we're nuts).

Once we finished with all the painting, we came downstairs and ordered the hardware for the dressers from . We searched out an online coupon code for the site and found one that would work for our order and gave us 5% off. (There were better ones, but we didn't have a big enough order.) One trick with this site is to order all your hardware from one manufacturer to save on shipping, otherwise it's an additional cost per manufacturer. We ended up paying about $60 for the hardware (10 knobs, 4-3" handles/pulls, 3-5" handles/pulls), which was above my $50 goal for the hardware for both, but still pretty good when you compare to retail prices. The hardware should arrive tomorrow and I'm so stinking excited! I can't wait to put the jewelry on my little lady in the kitchen! (I'll put a new pic up when I get the hardware on.)

Last night, I lined the drawers of the new kitchen linen chest (little lady sounds so much sweeter) with some wallpaper we found at my grandmother's house that was what used to be in her kitchen. I think it's so neat that this piece has so much family history and is getting used again after a lot time in storage. It's such a nice addition to our kitchen and really helps to clear out some of the areas that were just too full. I love that I can now store all our cloth napkins right in the kitchen, along with our dish towels, place mats, and table runners. (These used to take up a good portion of the bottom shelf in our bedroom closet... we so did not plan enough storage in this house.)

The ReStore dresser is now kind of in limbo in the office waiting for us to finish up some more cleaning out and finish some other projects before there's space for it. It's going to look great in the office and will provide some much needed storage in there for our winter items (scarves seem to multiply around here with me, and hats) and office supplies.

So, here's the estimated total, for those of you wanting to know:

"little lady" kitchen cabinet: free (gratis as Benny would say)

ReStore diamond in the rough: $10-15 (I can't quite remember, I bought it like 4 years ago)

textured paintable wall paper: $15 per roll (we only needed one)

primer/paint: free (leftover from other projects)

wallpaper paste: free (gifted by painter)

whisk to mix wallpaper paste: 94 cents

sponge rollers: $2.50

cabinet hardware: $60 (including shipping)

Total: $93.44 for two dressers

So, what do you think? Have you been up to any painting projects lately? How have you saved a buck (or saved something from the landfill) and still added storage to your home? I'd love to hear from you!

** I'll be back with pics later. I just couldn't wait to post this! :)

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Adventures in Bread Baking

Over the past week, we've tackled making some breads I never thought I'd try. A few years ago, they would have seemed too daunting... the idea of making a yeast cinnamon cranberry bread totally from scratch or taking a stab at the traditional fry bread naan would have been totally overwhelming. I would have just looked at the recipe and said, "Self, this is beyond your area of expertise. Move on to the next page in this cookbook you're browsing."

Well, the great thing about the bread machine is that it's given me the confidence to try some of those yeast breads I wouldn't have otherwise. Add to that the expertise of my kitchen diva aunt (who suggested I use a thermometer to measure the "warm water" temperature that so many bread recipes call for in the sponge step... don't know why the scientist in me didn't think of that!). And that of our new friend who is a fabulous cook and makes wonderfully flaky pastry and pie crust and has invited us over for dinner and pie crust lessons (the menu was quiche and apple pie for dessert). Let's just say that I've been fortunate to gain some confidence in this area of baking and have taken the "if it looks ugly, we'll still eat it" approach with a lot of meals. Most bakers will tell you that, as with most things in life, you get better with practice.

So, this week, we made this fabulous cinnamon cranberry swirl bread from the latest issue of my new favorite magazine Cook's Illustrated. The bread was totally from scratch, as is everything they write up, and was by far the best cinnamon bread I've ever tasted (no lie!). The only draw back was that it's a little more hands on than most breads I make, so it's definitely a Saturday bread for us and not a weeknight one. One of the great things about Cook's Illustrated is that they now have these short video clips available for a time to supplement certain articles. The one to go with this bread really helped me get the technique down for shaping the bread, which was a little tough for me to get just from the written directions (though their written directions are very clear, I was just being a bit obtuse at the time). Of course I had to riff on the recipe a bit and use dried cranberries instead of raisins (we didn't have any in the house and we like dried cranberries better anyway). Yum!

Last night we took a break from our standard homemade pizza date night and tried a vegetable curry from the More With Less cookbook. Generally, I don't care for curries, but this was was awesome! (We'd also had one similar with our friend who's the self-taught pastry guru and she made the naan we tried too.) So, while the curry cooked, we tried our hand at making naan, having observed these friends making it earlier in the week. It really was as easy as they made it look! We had to play with the temperature of the skillet a bit, but overall, it was a breeze. I even goofed and used all purpose flour instead of bread flour and it was fine. (I also added some soy flour and wheat germ for added protein and minerals.) They were fabulous with the curry, but would also make wonderful individual pizza crusts or yummy sandwich breads in place of pita or a tortilla.

So, what culinary adventures have you been up to lately? Are you doing more of your own baking to get high quality breads that fit your budget, instead of getting ones that are pricier from the local bakery or settling for the pre-sliced supermarket stuff? I'd love to hear from you!

Here's the recipe for the naan, from the companion to More with Less, Simply in Season. Let me know how it goes!


1/4 c warm water
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
Mix in a small bowl until dissolved.

1 cup lukewarm water
1/4 cup plain yogurt or sour cream
1 beaten egg
2 tablespoons oil
2 teaspoons salt
Mix in separate bowl. Stir in yeast mixture.

5+ cups bread flour (up to half whole wheat)
Stir in enough flour to make a soft dough. Knead 5-10 minutes. Place in greased bowl. Turn to grease both sides. Cover with damp cloth and let rise one hour. Separate dough into golf ball-size balls. Roll each into 1/16 inch thickness (they cook best when thin). Preheat frypan or iron skillet to medium high heat. Add 1/2 teaspoon butter to frypan and allow to melt. Place one round of dough into pan at a time. Cook on each side until lightly browned and puffy (approx. 2-3 minutes per side). Wrap in a towel to keep warm while cooking remaining breads.

Makes about 16 breads; serves 8-12.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Burn Baby Burn

First off, apologies all around for my delinquency in blogging of late. There's no excuse aside from the general crazy life that all of us live these days. I vow to get back to a somewhat more regular routine of blogging. Frankly, I've missed the writing and "me time" that blogging affords.

Now, with that said, on to today's exciting post. We have gas logs that finally work! Woot! I know that many of you who have been to our home or seen pictures probably assumed that the lovely fireplace with the TV nook over it was probably a source of enjoyment, comfort, and maybe even romance on winter evenings. Well, not so... at least until recently.

When we built our house we chose a modular plan that had a corner fireplace with ventless gas logs. When it came close to move in time, and funds were tight, we opted to leave the fireplace as decorative for the time being and hook up the logs "sometime soon." Well, sometime soon has turned into 3+ years later, but we finally got it done, and on a budget!

We shopped around for folks who could do the hook up for us, which involved more than just bringing the tanks out since our builder didn't stub out any lines for the gas. We got several quotes, some around $1000 from major suppliers, which seemed way to steep to us, and finally settled on a locally owned operation that could easily do what we needed for around $500 including the cost of the gas and tanks. Another plus with going with them was that they wouldn't bring a big truck up our gravel driveway each time they needed to fill the tanks, they'll just pick up the tanks in their smaller work truck and bring us full ones. These folks were super nice and are family owned. We were very satisfied with the job they did; they left things very clean and did exactly what we needed without trying to convince us to get a larger tank, etc. Another example of why so often going local has more than just the warm fuzzy vibe going for it.

Now, I know those of you who have been reading for a while are thinking, "How is this green at all?" Well, it's not. But it will supply us with an alternate heat source should the power go out, which gives us some peace of mind (worth a great deal). The power doesn't go out frequently here, but when it does, it's almost always due to a bad ice storm or heavy snow, which means colder temps. It will be easy enough for us to shut off our bedroom and upstairs, set up the air mattress in front of the fireplace and camp out until the power comes back on. And it is really nice on cold days to have them so the heat pump isn't working as hard. (Not that we've had that many cold days this winter.)

How'd we pay for this? $500 is generally not in our monthly budget, but this past month I received a nice supplement since I got my National Board Certification. (This process was kind of like tackling graduate school all in one year, but so worth it for the professional experience and the pay raise.) So, we put part of that toward the logs and put the rest in savings.

I'll be back later this week with more updates and the long awaited post on the new roof and covered deck. Leave some love in the comments so I know you're still out there, readers! :)