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Thrifty Gifty Crafts #2

I made a few gifts for friends of mine for Christmas, and I really tried to put a lot of thought into what they would like. Like Trixie with JD I knew that my friends Dr. and Mr. Smerek would love this:

Finished Product

I did get this idea off of Pinterest, but only the general idea. I used the wood that was reclaimed from an old patio that I used for another project that you will see soon!

This was a really easy project. I used the same technique for the lettering as I did for my Rustic Sign DIY and added a black shadow on the lettering to make it pop out against the blue background. I also used some twine for the hanger, and I used some steel brackets to connect the boards together. I did have some issues with connecting the boards together because the wood was so old that it was sort of bending and not looking at all like a finished product. I also tried to get some of those wood bracket things like these:


because I was low on tiny screws, so I was trying to not use any. THESE DID NOT WORK.  The super old wood was too hard to hammer them into the wood, and they ended up just bending and looking horrible. So I ended up getting some long steel bars that were made for this exact thing, and lo and behold!  It worked, and ended up looking great!

When I gave it to Dr. Smerek for Christmas, she loved it, and even hung it on their mantle just in time for their family Christmas. And when they decide to have their 6 kids, I left room for each name or birthday, or whatever they want 🙂


How to Have An Awesome Vacation While Not Blowing Your Budget

Over the summer after our trip to the Keys, I wrote a guest post for my sister, That Clever Chick, about vacationing on the cheap. I had done a little plug for it here, but I thought to myself, ‘why on EARTH would I force ALL of you to divert from the post you were already reading to read another post?‘ Especially because I know you, fellow travelers, and I know that you got so drawn in by my stories and descriptions that even though you thought, ‘I’ll read this post and then go to the guest post and get two posts in one day!‘ that you completely forgot to read it, didn’t you?

So, here it is, in all its glory. How to Have An Awesome Vacation While Not Blowing Your Budget.



My sister, Beans, has a great blog of her own, but every once in awhile I can convince her to throw some text my way so I can take a nap. Here’s her guest post about saving money on vacation:

There are many ways to go on vacation, and there are many ways to save money.  For most people, these things cannot go hand-in-hand.  That is because many people think that a vacation isn’t a vacation unless you splurge on everything that you wouldn’t normally splurge on.  That is pure insanity to me, but…to each his own, I guess.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand if you are going to have a romantic get-away, and you plan on eating fancy food, drinking fancy wine, and getting massages every day.  But usually people do not do these things on every vacation.  Vacations don’t have to be a romantic get-away, because technically you should have romance all year long, not just in the jungles of South America, living in a bungalow for a week, getting waited on hand and foot.  But that’s a rant for another day.

No, vacations mean travel, seeing the world and other cultures, and experiencing new things that you can’t experience by watching the Travel Channel (because let’s face it, the Travel Channel has just become a channel where you watch people eat weird “food” items now). There is a way to travel on the cheap and still have a great time, and I’m going to give you some tips on how to accomplish this!

The first thing Hubby and I do every year is pick where we are going to go.  That is probably the hardest part anyway, right?  I think the easiest thing to do when planning a vacation is deciding on the dates of travel, and putting it down on the calendar.  If you write something down on the calendar, you are much more likely to do it, rather than putting it off for something else.

The next thing we do is book the plane tickets.  And this is done MONTHS in advance.  Every year we book our vacations in December and plan to go on them in May, so by the time the trip actually arrives, it’s almost like you have a free trip planned, because the travel has already been paid for.  In fact, this year I had enough frequent flyer miles to get free flights to Key West, so it really was free to get where we were going!

Over the next month we book the hotel and the rental car, and pay for as much of it ahead of time as possible.  Rental cars can’t be paid for completely in advance, but if you get the Loss Damage Waiver (which we do every time we rent, no matter what) then you can pay for that before you get the car, and that is usually half the cost of the rental car in the first place.

Another tip is to go before tourist season, if possible.  Now, this has pros and cons, so this is mainly a personal decision.  One benefit is that hotels are usually not full, so you can ask for a free upgrade for your room, and you can easily get a room with a view of water for instance, instead of a view of the parking lot.  However, sometimes tours (such as SCUBA or Snorkeling tours) have a required number of people that need to be signed up for the tour before they can take the tour group out.  So, since it’s before tourist season, you are risking not being able to go on the Ghost Tour of Seattle or something because not enough people signed up the night you planned on doing it.

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Another great money saving trick is probably the simplest, but most people would never think of.  FIND THE GROCERY STORE.  Most hotel rooms have a mini fridge in them, right?  And you probably never use the mini fridge, do you?  This is the easiest, cheapest way to do several things: buy sandwich fixin’s and make a picnic on the beach.  We even brought a collapsible cooler with us on our trip, so we could keep food and drinks in the car.  Buy sodas, bottled water, and/or sports drinks to keep you hydrated while you explore the area and buy a small bottle of liquor to mix in with the previously mentioned beverages to relax by the pool.

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Remember not to buy more than you will consume while you are on vacation.  True, you can check your leftover beverages in your luggage, but if your bottle of tequila starts leaking under the plane, I have a feeling that the other passengers will not be happy with you when you land.  It is easier just to go back to the store if you ran out of something.  Also, keep in mind that some cities, like Austin, have banned plastic grocery bags, so maybe you would want to bring some reusable green bags with you too.  Sometimes your hotel room will also have a microwave in the room.  If that’s the case you just scored big, because that means that when you DO go out for dinner, you can bring your leftovers back with you for another meal! Or midnight snack, whatever.  Either way, it saves a trip to the vending machines, right?  Or you could be like my Hubby, and not even require a microwave.  (He’s not a picky eater).

One of the most expensive parts of vacationing is the food and drinks.  I know that when I was leaving for our last trip to Florida, several people told me to “drink pretty drinks!”  I’m not saying I snuck away from the restaurant to mix a quick rum and Diet Dr. Pepper and then run back to the restaurant, but while we were relaxing by the pool or on our patio over-looking the bay (from our free room upgrade) I didn’t waste my time or money ordering drinks from the hotel bar, because I had my own adult beverages that I could mix as I pleased.  The price difference? At the hotel bar, the mango daiquiris that I was drinking were about $6 each.  The Kraken Rum and Diet Dr. Pepper that I mixed in the hotel room? About $1.50 each.  Big difference, right?

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We made a plan to eat most breakfasts and lunches in the hotel room, but dinners were usually spent out on the town.  That’s the key to a good vacation – you can’t be worried about how much it is costing the entire time, because then you won’t have any fun.  If you find cheaper alternatives, you can still indulge a bit, and save money at the same time.

Also, go to the Visitor’s Center for the city you will be staying in.  They always have flyers for nearby attractions, and they usually have discount rates, coupons, or Buy One Get One Free tickets that they hand out like it’s Halloween.  Trust me on this: the guy at the Key West Visitors Center really must have wanted me to get drunk, because he gave us about 15 Buy One Drink Get One Free tickets for various bars on Duval Street.

Be sure to check Trip Advisor too.  This can be a big help in knowing what is and what is not worth spending your money on.  My suggestion is to go through all the flyers in the Visitor’s Center and pick out some things that sound interesting.  Then go online to Trip Advisor and check out the reviews for those places.  Who knows, you could accidentally find a place that lets you hold orphaned sloth babies that is $300 a person to go to, but you may find out that it’s worth every penny, because with the purchase of an entrance pass, you get a free pet sloth baby.  Some things you can’t know until you find out other people’s experiences.

Sometimes even free places aren’t worth the money it would take to drive there, so take other people’s opinions seriously, and consider your options.  That said, because Trip Advisor is so important to travelers, be sure that when you get back to your hotel that you review the places that you went on your adventures, too.  Whether they were good, great, or just plain awful experiences, people want to know what to expect.  I know I have written some awful reviews of companies in the past, but I have also written glowing ones.  YOU HAVE THE POWER.

Also there are Loyalty Programs – hotels, rental car companies, and airlines all do loyalty programs.  If you travel for work, you will rack up free car rentals, free hotel stays, and free flights in no time.

If you are going to buy Souvenirs – I have quickly learned that most people don’t want a random crappy shot glass from a bar they have never heard of, from a city they have never been to.  You don’t necessarily need to buy gifts for everyone in the family, or everyone single person at work.  If you feel the need to buy something for work people, like if you are talking about your upcoming trip to a friend and the annoying guy in the office announces, “I hope you bring us something good, since we have to stay here and slave away!” then buy something small, consumable, and that everyone will like: CANDY.  I’m sure every little town is famous for one thing or another.  Key West is of course famous for Key Lime Pie.  I was not about to buy and ship actual pies home for everyone at work, but I did consider Key Lime Pie Salt Water Taffy.  I of course didn’t get my coworkers anything, but that’s beside the point. I still THOUGHT about doing it.

Many places are not cheap to visit, but if they were, then they wouldn’t be very good vacation destinations, because they would be packed with people all the time, right?  So if you take my advice, hopefully you can plan out your next great vacation, and people can be jealous of you while you are getting a tan in the Caribbean, riding elephants in India, or petting wild meerkats on the African savannah.  Who knows, maybe soon people at your office will start trying to predict your next adventure, like the people at my office do with me?


Safe Travels.

Clever Chick Note: Saving money is about priorities; you’re saving to do the things you want rather than thoughtlessly letting money slip through your fingers. If you approach your vacation the same way you can take MORE vacations, or more expensive ones. Have fun!

Rustic Sign DIY

I always see these great crafts in stores, but my problem (and the reason for the solution) is that I’m cheap. Usually when I see something, my first thought is, ‘I would buy that if it was half the price.’ And my second thought is, ‘I can make that.’

For Example:

I see signs like this everywhere, but they never have the perfect phrase on them.
I see signs like this everywhere, but they never have the perfect phrase on them.

Now, usually it ends there. I don’t think anything of it, I never actually make the thing that I said I could make, and I’m ok with it. However, I see signs like the above one at craft shops and flea markets, and they always seemed cute, but never worth spending money on. Aside from the whole I can make that thing, they never had the right phrase. Usually they are cute or romantic or something, but I read it once and then I think about how I could never look at that everyday, because I’m already sick of it, and it’s still in the store!

Until Hubby said something that was perfect. One day, I think when we were at The Salt Lick, I was taking pictures with my phone and uploading them to Instagram (What, My Wildhood is on Instagram!? Follow me here: @ my_wildhood) what I asked Hubby what I should hash-tag a photo. He suggested #OnEarthAsItIsInTexas and I thought that was so perfect, that I had to do more than just use it as a hash-tag. Of course, being a Texan, I had heard the phrase before, but it was logged away in my memory bank…Not really at the tip of my tongue.

So I decided THAT was going to be the perfect phrase to go onto the rustic wooden sign that I was going to make.

So there is the back story, and here is how I did it:

Free Pallet
Free Pallet

Step 1: Get a pallet. They are free everywhere. Tractor Supply has a giant stack outside that they HOPE people take. They are such a waste, really. They can be used multiple times, but when stores get them, it’s not like they are also shipping things out, so they have no use for them. Instead, they put them out by the dumpster free for the taking.

Pallet art/crafts have gotten pretty popular lately, and I can’t decide if I think everything made out of pallets looks good or crappy. Maybe it just depends on the construction. However, pallet wood is not meant to look pretty, so if you want it to look really good, you actually have to do a lot of work to them so they don’t look awful.

Step 2: Take it apart. This is A LOT harder than it sounds if you don’t want to damage the wood. The one I had was not actually nailed together. It had these interesting nail/screws holding it together so it wouldn’t come apart very easily on purpose. Good thing I have a big strong Hubby to help me out! I ended up cutting one end so that the edge was free of scrails and then he took a rubber mallet (so as to not put giant dents into the wood) to break the rest of it apart. Then I ripped out all of the scrails as soon as possible to avoid any injuries. (I have had nails go through my foot before – not a pretty sight!)

Step 3: Sand the boards. Like I mentioned, pallets are not made to be pretty. They are made out of the cheapest wood possible, so you want to sand it down to make it look and feel better. I used a medium sand paper, and it could have been coarser, but that was all I had and I already didn’t have a dime in this project, so I was not about to go BUY more sand paper!

Step 4: Measure Twice, Cut Once.  Figure out the dimensions you want the sign and how you want your boards arranged.

Step 5: This is the only thing you need true technology for. See, like I said: I’m cheap. So I was not about to have a stencil professionally made, or buy stencil letters, or anything like that, because they cost way too much for someone who doesn’t use that sort of thing all the time. So I went onto Pinterest and found a way to make your own letters, in whatever font you want!

Go into your word processor, and type out what you want it to say in the font and size you want. Now, on Pinterest, the chick that provided this info had one fatal flaw in her description. She suggested that you actually hold up a piece of paper to your computer screen, and trace the letters onto paper. I have no idea why she would think that is a good idea, because you aren’t even supposed to put finger pressure on the screens that people have these days, so the fact that she thought it was a good idea to press a pen or pencil into the screen BLOWS MY MIND. INSTEAD, all you have to do is this (and this is only for Microsoft, sorry Mac peeps) Go into the Font Section (Edit Font, or whatever it’s called) and go to the bottom of the window that says Text Effects. Another window will pop up, that has Text Fill and Text Outline. Click on Text Fill, and Select No Fill. Click on Text Outline, and select Solid Line. You can pick the color and thickness of the line. I suggest Black since that’s easiest to see, and pick at least a 1 pt. line so that it’s thick enough. Then print it out. It doesn’t waste ink, and you have all that you need.

Once you get the lettering home and cut the letters out in a general shape (not perfectly cut out, see below) then you color the back of the letters with chalk.  This works great on a black background, but if you are doing this on a lighter background you can use pencil instead of chalk.

Stencils in Place
Stencils in Place (see how I didn’t cut the words out perfectly?)

Step 6: Arrange the letters/words how you want them and tape them down. (I guess I kind of missed the step of painting your background color before you do this. Oops…Anyway, I guess that’s really step 4 1/2. I also took the sander and sanded the edges after it dried so they weren’t so harsh-looking).  Don’t use a very strong tape or it will pull up your background color.

Step 7: Time to act like a 10 year old and color inside the lines! You can use a pencil, pen, or even just a dull pointy object to transfer the chalk to the wood.

Step 8: Marvel at my your genius.

Chalk transferred onto wood
Chalk transferred onto wood

Step 9: Paint over the chalk letters.

Step 10: Wipe down the wood with a damp towel, and again marvel at my your genius!

Finished Product!
Finished Product!

So go forth, and make your own perfect phrase for your home! It’s easy, it’s a relatively quick project, and it’s super cheap to do!

Rain Barrel Update


And to make the rain barrels even better, Hubby set up the third barrel while I wad out of town for work! Now we have three barrels, and they are built around the corner of the garage.

This way, they take up less space, and when we build the greenhouse they will be easily accessible for watering all of my future plants! Hubby even put in an overflow hole on the third barrel which will flow into the original concrete downspout collection thing, to prevent erosion of the soil below the rain barrel. Best. Husband. Ever.