Five Days of Fall: Autumn Entry on a Budget

Welcome to Day Four of “Five Days of Fall”. Instead of my usual one post this week I’m writing five, each with a different fall-themed idea. Nothing fancy, just some simple, inexpensive ways I cozy things up around here when the leaves start to turn.

Today I’m sharing my itty, bitty, teeny, tiny Autumn Entry. The only thing smaller than this space is my budget for decorating it so I had to get creative.

Five Days of Fall: Autumn Entry on a Budget | laughingabi.com

In the end I only spent $2.50 for that little white pumpkin. Everything else I found around the house. (Are you noticing a theme in my decorating style? Maybe I should rename the blog “usingthecrapihave.com”)

Five Days of Fall: Autumn Entry on a Budget | laughingabi.com

For example, that orange and white chevron? That’s actually a scarf I pillaged from my closet. And the driftwood branch? It used to be in our lizard tank. Oh and my favorite part is the photo. We took it when Baby Girl was in kindergarten and we were making an alphabet book together – A is for acorn. I love seeing her pudgy little fingers and remembering how much fun we had walking the neighborhood searching for things that started with the letter A.

Five Days of Fall: Autumn Entry on a Budget | laughingabi.com

The pedestal is actually a thrift shop wine glass and platter that I glued together. It floats from room to room depending on what random thing I decide to use it for. I topped it with a few fake leaves for more color, added my splurge of a pumpkin, and called it done.

Five Days of Fall: Autumn Entry on a Budget | laughingabi.com

Five Days of Fall: Autumn Entry on a Budget | laughingabi.com

Five Days of Fall: Autumn Entry on a Budget | laughingabi.com

Simple but sweet. And cheap. Can’t ask for more than that.

Catch up on days one through three here:
Day One: Fall-Inspired Bookshelf
Day Two: Fall-Themed Chalkboard
Day Three: Pumpkin Flavored Bagel Schmear & Apple Dip

SHARE THIS POST

How To Make New Wood Look Old

Remember a couple months ago when I wrote about my Christmas mantle? Well today I’m following through on my promise and sharing how I made my own weathered wood for that project.

How To Make New Wood Look Old | laughingabi.com

First let me say that I didn’t come up with this idea. I found it on Pinterest (where else?) and decided to give it a try. It was touch and go at first (more on that in a minute) but I love the way it turned out.

SUPPLIES:
1. The wood you want to treat/weather. We used cedar fence pickets (the same ones we used HERE) because they’re already rough and knotty and because they’re cheap. We intentionally picked pieces that were split or damaged since that was the end look we were hoping for. I don’t remember the exact cost but they were only a couple bucks per picket. I used six so let’s estimate $12-$15.

How To Make New Wood Look Old | laughingabi.com

2. Medium or coarse steel wool. You could probably use a fine grade if it’s something you already have.

3. Vinegar. Nothing fancy. Just plain old white, distilled vinegar.

4. A glass jar with a lid. Some sites I looked at said it had to be a non-metal lid but I used a mason jar and didn’t have any problems.

5. Rubber gloves.

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Fill your jar with the vinegar.

2. Put the steel wool in the vinegar and put on the lid. This concoction needs to sit for 24 hours so set it aside while you prep your wood.

How To Make New Wood Look Old | laughingabi.com

3. Cut your boards to the size you want. Keep in mind you’re tying to make them look old and weathered so perfection is not your goal this time. I had Josh cut ours down to 5′ each.

4. After 24 hours have passed put on your rubber gloves, open the jar, and get ready to make a mess. All you’re going to do is take the steel wool out of the vinegar and “scrub” the wood with it. When it starts to dry out dunk it back into the vinegar and keep going.

This is the point in the project where I started to have doubts. The steel wool and vinegar didn’t look any different after 24 hours than it did when I first put it in the jar. And the first pass on my wood came out like this:

How To Make New Wood Look Old | laughingabi.com

It’s kinda pretty but definitely not weathered or old looking.

But I figured since I’d come this far I might as well keep going. So I waited until it was completely dry (which made a big difference) and “scrubbed” it with a second coat – and then a third.

How To Make New Wood Look Old | laughingabi.com

Did you notice how different the first coat looks after it’s completely dry. And how the effect is slowly building?

By the third coat something else was happening too. My vinegar was turning to a brown, gunky sludge.

How To Make New Wood Look Old | laughingabi.com

This, my friends, is when things started to get interesting. The grosser the vinegar turned, the older my pickets started to look.

After three coats – completely dried – they looked like this.

How To Make New Wood Look Old | laughingabi.com

Those splits and dings I mentioned earlier came out like this:

How To Make New Wood Look Old | laughingabi.com

How To Make New Wood Look Old | laughingabi.com

6. Success. Now you can do your Happy Dance. (Keep it clean people, this is a twerk-free zone.)

That’s the end of the instructions for weathering the wood but before I show you how we put the finished piece together, a couple of notes.
— If you’re like me you’ll be tempted to skip the rubber gloves and just get straight to work. Don’t do it. For realsies. I ended up with stained fingernails and little slivers of steel wool stuck in my skin.
— This is a messy project. I did it on the kitchen floor but if weather permits, take it outside.

Now on to the construction.

First we spent a little time shuffling boards around to get them in the order we thought looked best. Then we flipped them all face down and Josh cut some pickets we had left over from another project to fit across the back. (Can I just mention here that I hate how my kitchen floor looks like we live in a gymnasium?)

How To Make New Wood Look Old | laughingabi.com

All that was left was to screw the three cross boards into the new/old pickets, holding them all together. We pre-drilled the holes using used a countersink bit so there wouldn’t be any risk of the screw heads scratching up the wall when we hung it.

How To Make New Wood Look Old | laughingabi.com

With everything screwed together we flipped it over and VOILA – a rustic background for my mantle.

How To Make New Wood Look Old | laughingabi.com

Here’s a few more holiday pictures because I haven’t been motivated to put up anything else yet. I have taken down the Christmas decorations though, I promise.

How To Make New Wood Look Old | laughingabi.com

How To Make New Wood Look Old | laughingabi.com

How To Make New Wood Look Old | laughingabi.com

Have you tried to make something new look old lately? Did it turn out the way you expected?

Cheap spring porch makeover with a DIY painted rug

Spring has finally arrived in Chicagoland and since we have a huge project coming up this summer in the back yard my top priority for the front porch makeover was CHEAP CHEAP CHEAP!

Cheap spring porch with a DIY painted rug | laughingabi.com

Two things you should know before we go any further. One, this is what the porch looked like before I started.

Cheap spring porch with a DIY painted rug | laughingabi.com

Two, my house is very traditional on the outside – two story, box shaped, white with black shutters. It’s a pretty place but it doesn’t look much like the bizarro family living in it. So besides cheap, I wanted it to be more “us”. I wanted people to giggle a little when they stepped up to knock.

My first idea was to dig around the garage and see what I already had. I scored this chair, pillow, plant stand and concrete planter. I picked up a black plastic planter at Home Depot ($2.70) and filled it with a sweet potato vine ($3.60) and red petunia ($1.00). Total spent so far: $7.30 (The other petunia you see is included in the price. It was a three-pack I split up into different pots.)

Cheap spring porch with a DIY painted rug | laughingabi.com

Cheap spring porch with a DIY painted rug | laughingabi.com

Now for the other side of the porch. Things I already owned: a bright green planter, a fake stone with a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote on it, and some cobblestones from another project. What I bought: another petunia plant ($3.60) and a “Be Happy” flag ($13.00). Total spent so far: $23.90. 

Cheap spring porch with a DIY painted rug | laughingabi.com

Cheap spring porch with a DIY painted rug | laughingabi.com

STOP. I have to take a minute to tell you how much I love that little flag. Usually these things fall into the cheesy-fru-fru category for me but this one has bright, modern colors and a message that’s perfect for our front door. And what a happy coincidence that the green color on the letters matches the planter I already owned.

With all those pieces in place I went searching for an outdoor rug to tie it all together. Holy crap. Do you guys know how much those things cost? I had no idea. The cheapest one I could find was $60 and it was ugly. So I was scrounging around Menard’s and found this number for $10. Total spent so far: $33.90.

Cheap spring porch with a DIY painted rug | laughingabi.com

Cheap spring porch with a DIY painted rug | laughingabi.com

Not much to look at but I had an idea. (Insert The Hubs rubbing his temples and shaking his head.) I could just cut the cheapo rug down to size, pick up one of those sample size cans of paint for $3, and paint my own design. Easy squeezy.

Confession time. This idea was an epic fail. Actually, I love the way it looks but the budget was a hot mess. The problem is the rug soaked up soooo much paint. Here’s how far the little $3 can of paint got me.

Cheap spring porch with a DIY painted rug | laughingabi.com

I couldn’t even get all the way around the rug. So I went back and bought a quart of paint for $16.65. It was still cheaper than the $60 option. Right? Total spent so far: $50.55.

Here’s how far that quart of paint got me.

Cheap spring porch with a DIY painted rug | laughingabi.com

One. Stripe. Left. I’m not gonna lie. I said some very inappropriate words at this point. Really, really bad ones. Then I went and bought another quart of paint. ($16.65) Total spent so far: $67.20.

And finally . . .

Cheap spring porch with a DIY painted rug | laughingabi.com

Cheap spring porch with a DIY painted rug | laughingabi.com

And a night shot, just for fun.

Cheap spring porch with a DIY painted rug | laughingabi.com

Some notes in case you want to give this a try.
1.If you’re working with a porous fabric like I was, buy more paint than you think you will need. I could have saved some money by buying a gallon of paint in the beginning but who knew 11 little stripes would take over a quart of paint?
2. Use green Frog Tape to tape off your design. It really does do a better job of sealing the edges and keeping the paint from seeping underneath.
3. Make sure you rub the edges of your tape down before you start painting.
4. PUT NEWSPAPER UNDER YOUR RUG FIRST. My paint bled through to the porch.

So altogether I spent just over $67. Not bad for a 3.5′ x 9′ porch but still $30 more than I planned to spend. Sigh. The good news is, I love the way it turned out. It is happy and fun and colorful and modern. It is not traditional or stuffy or fru-fru or boring. Mission accomplished.

This post is part of the Spring Pinterest Challenge going on over at Young House Love. Make sure you click over and see the amazing projects being linked up. Here are some of the pins that inspired me.

tatertots and jello cottage porch

What spring projects are you working on? Any that turned out different than you planned? Are you still happy with the results? Did you overspend?

 

DIY Laundry detergent

DIY laundry detergent | laughingabi.com

DIY laundry detergent | laughingabi.com

Laundry sucks. Technically that’s just my opinion but you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who disagrees. While I can’t offer you a laundry boy who looks like Matthew McConaughey and folds like Nate Berkus, I can share a laundry detergent that’s dirt cheap and lasts a whole year.

Full disclosure: I did not create this detergent. I found it over at How Does She who found it over at Blissful 55. Now on with the sharing.

Here’s what you’ll need (from Wal-Mart in the laundry aisle).

DIY laundry detergent | laughingabi.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 (4 lb 12 oz) box Borax – $3.39
  • 1 (3 lb 7 oz) box Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda – $3.24
  • 1 (3 lb) container OxyClean – $7.59
  • 2 (14.1 oz) bars Zote Soap or Fels Naptha – $0.97 each
  • 1 (4 lb) box Arm & Hammer Baking Soda (my pictures shows 2, 2 lb boxes) – $2.50
  • 1 (55 oz) bottle Purex Crystals Fabric Softener (optional) – $4.79

NOTE: Don’t be afraid when you sniff the Zote or Fels Naptha. (You know you’re going to.) I promise your laundry will not smell like that when you use this stuff. Pinky swear.

Step 1 of 2: Grate Zote bars.
I don’t have a fine grater so I use my regular one and I haven’t had any problems with the soap dissolving. Also, over on How Does She they show a cool idea for cutting the bar into pieces and microwaving it so it crumbles into a fine powder. I’m definitely trying that next time.

DIY laundry detergent | laughingabi.com

Step 2 of 2: Mix it all up, baby.
The only challenge here is finding something big enough to hold it all. Here’s what I use.

DIY laundry detergent | laughingabi.com

Don’t laugh. It works.

Also, I recommend mixing in small portions- add a little bit of each ingredient and mix, then add a little more and mix . . . It’s so much easier than trying to mix all 15 pounds of detergent at one time.

How to use:

  • ONLY USE 1-2 TABLESPOONS PER LOAD.
  • Safe for front-load, HE machines.
  • No bubbles? No worries. This is a low-suds detergent, which actually makes it better for your HE machine.
  • Put the soap directly in the wash tub with your clothes rather than in the soap dispenser thingy.

Time for the nitty-gritty.

How much does it cost? Total cost for all the ingredients listed above is $23.45.

How long does it last? I wash for a family of four and one batch lasts approximately a year. Yes, a year.

How does it work? I have had no complaints. Zero. Zip. Nada. (The hubs is a long distance runner and he puts this stuff to the test.)

How does it smell? I’ll admit I was scared the first time I used it. The scent was so strong when it went in the washer – not bad, just strong. To my surprise when I took my clothes out of the dryer they were almost scent-free.

I know this is a big commitment. It’s your clothes. I felt the same way my first time. I actually only made a half batch so I wouldn’t have a ton of the stuff sitting around the house if I hated it. If you’re feeling really skeptical you can check out the reader comments over at How Does She. There’s some good feedback to set your mind at ease.

Wanna know what other clean little laundry secret I have? Click HERE to see my balls.

DIY eye makeup remover with free printable label

If you’re already thinking that anything titled “DIY” should never go on your eyes, I understand. I thought the same thing when I saw this recipe on One Good Thing by Jillee. Then I took a good look at the ingredients . . . and still couldn’t bring myself to do it. But every time I went to the store and dished out money for two bottles of my favorite brand (one for me and one for my daughter) my mind went back to Jillee’s post. Finally, after pouring over her readers’ comments and a little of my own research, I gave it a try. So happy I did.

Let me point out that I have the worst skin. I’ve taken prescription tetracycline and accutane but still struggle with breakouts and scarring. That means this stuff has to be really, really good for me to use it. Enough already, here it is.

THE RECIPE


Continue reading