How to completely destroy a piece of furniture and then make it all better

18 07 2011

Furniture is expensive.  Baby furniture is expensive.  So instead of buying a dresser that would be used for a few years with tiny drawers and a huge price tag, I found this solid wood dresser that will last hopefully until college off of craigslist.  Its original stain was beautiful, but I wanted all of our furniture to be white, so I undertook the endeavor of repainting it.

Opps! I started to sand the top before I got a "before" picture, but if you look at the bottom you can get the idea.

 Things you will need:

  • fine grit sandpaper
  •  paintbrushes
  •  rags (1 damp, 1 dry)
  • primer
  • paint
I spent $35 on the dresser, borrowed some paintbrushes from a neighbor, spent $15 on a quart of primer and sandpaper, and got a free quart of paint from Glidden’s yearly paint giveaway which occurs roughly around May every year.  It took about a month to get here, but it was free!  (For this piece of furniture, a quart of each primer and paint was MORE than enough.)
First, you want to sand down the furniture.  You’re not trying to kill it, although you might start freaking out after you’ve started demoing a perfectly fine piece of furniture for the sake of aesthetics.  I did.  Anyways, you want to score the existing stain/paint without tearing up the wood itself, moving in a circular motion.  Use the dry rag to dust off to check on your progress.  When you are done, use the damp rag to remove any remaining dust.  Another way to remove the dust is to use your vacuum hose with the brush attachment.


Here you can see the sand job a little better.

After you’ve sanded, you want to apply a light coat of primer.  The idea here is not to make your furniture white, but just to apply a light base so the paint will go on smoothly.  I also only primed and painted the areas that would be visible..I didn’t want layer after layer of change to affect how the drawers slid.


After priming, you’re finally ready to paint!  I used an eggshell paint not only because it was free, but because I’ve heard when its done it looks more “finished.”   For both painting and priming, make sure your brush strokes are going with the grain of the wood.  This dresser had some detailing, so I actually busted out an art kit and used little tiny brushes for the little tiny crevices.  If you find that you need more than one coat, wait at least four hours between applying new layers.  Let the furniture dry for at least overnight before you attempt to use it.

Yay! Finished!

So instead of buying a new piece of furniture that would last a couple of years for hundreds upon hundreds of dollars, I got a great dresser that should last for many years for a grand total of $50 and a couple hours of work.
Note:  Don’t sand, paint, or prime while pregnant.

Frugal Cooking 101

15 07 2011

My not-so-extreme couponing has led to way cheap cooking.  Usually I like to make stuff from scratch, which is a good way to save money if you have your staples at home.  But this meal was made almost all out of the box, which is convenient and apparently can be cheap, as well.  Here was my spending on it:

Hamburger Helper Philly Cheesesteak–On Sale 3/$4 plus $.75 coupon when you buy three (coupon doubled to $1.50 off)=
$.83 for the one box
Ground Beef–$5.50/2lbs plus $2.00 off coupon because I bought Hamburger Helper=
$1.75 for the 1lb of meat (saved other pound for another meal)
Pillsbury Crescent Rolls–On Sale 2/$3 plus $.40 coupon when you buy 2 (coupon doubled to $.80 off)=
$1.10 for one package of 8 rolls
Veggies–On Sale 10/$10=
$.50 for the half bag I used

So I spent a grand total of $4. 18 on this meal.  The only addition I made was adding paprika and a little bit of butter to the veggies.  This was a ridiculous amount of food for two people.  It could feed at least 3, and then 4 if you made more veggies.  I don’t know if this was extreme cheap, but it was $2.09 for each of us, which is cheaper than what you’d pay for a “meal” on the dollar menu.  Not to mention it was way healthier.

Baby and Kids Clothes and Gear-Resale

9 07 2011

I’m quickly realizing that baby and kid’s stuff is expensive.  Ridiculously expensive.  So I’m happy resale stores exist.  You can go in and buy gently used items (some are even brand new) for something ridiculous like 70% or more off their original sale value.  On top of this…if you’re looking for a way to find some quick cash, resale stores are a great way to go.

Now, there is resale, and then there is consignment.  With consignment you take your gently used items in, they will price them, and then when they sell you split the profit with the store.  Often if the item doesn’t sell within a certain time period it will automatically be donated.  Which is wonderful, but leaves you with nothing.  Many times you will have to be on top of your stuff, calling into the store to check and see if your items sold.  Otherwise they will not contact you and keep your profits, hoping you will forget about them.  (Not true for all stores, but it does happen.)  I prefer resale.  You take your items in.  They review them and offer you a bid.  You can either accept or reject.  If you accept, you’re walking out with that money in your pocket regardless of if the store can sell it or not.

A great resale store is Once Upon a Child.  They are very selective in what they will purchase from you (must be clean, relatively new, and meet current safety standards.)  The flip side of this is the reassurance you get when you go in to purchase from them.  They’re nationwide and have a store locator on their website.

If you’re in Pittsburgh, I’ve heard good things about a place called Pennystix in the South Hills.  Never been there myself, but they are also resale as opposed to consignment.

Have fun saving or selling!

How to find treasure in the woods with a dork machine

8 07 2011

An amazing sculpture garden I never would have known existed if there had not been a cache nearby.

Yeah, that’s pretty much what geocaching is. And its fantastic. The “dork machine” is a GPS (Global Positioning System) device that, after you type in some coordinates, will tell you which way to go to find your “treasure,” which is the cache (or container holding a log book for those who found it at the least, and full of goodies ranging from a McDonald’s toy to a Gameboy Color my brother once found at the most.)

This activity is FREE. It gets you outside. You can choose to do incredibly easy or incredibly difficult caches, making it great to do with kids or a group of intensely active adults. You might not have a GPS device. The one I have is incredibly basic. Pretty much I can type in the coordinates for the cache and set a marker for my car so I can find my way back. If I really wanted to, I could probably figure out the two other functions that it has. But it works. Have a GPS system in your car for directions or a cell phone where you can download apps? Odds are you can use them to geocache, as well. While most car GPS systems are not so great for off-road hiking, there are a few models that can do both like the Magellan Crossover and Garmin Quest (and Quest 2.) Or, if you have a cell phone, odds are it has a GPS chip in it already. All you need to do is download the Geocaching Live App. So while initial investment can be extravagant, it probably doesn’t have to be.

You go to the official geocaching website and create a FREE account with your email address to find caches in your area. By typing in your zip code, it will find a ton of caches (treasures) close to you. You find one that fits your desired difficulty and goals (there are historical caches, eco caches, themed caches, the list goes on…) and plug the coordinates on the website into your GPS device (if you’re using the app, it’s a different but nonetheless easy process.) A lot of caches will also have parking coordinates so you’re ready to go.

Showing our travel bug some classic Pittsburgh at Primanti's.

Geocaching is a very new and green sport. When you’re visiting the site, leaving nature better than you found it is more than encouraged. When you find the cache (which will be hidden under a rock, inside a stump, inside a crack in the cement, another endless list…) you will undoubtedly find a log to sign. You may also find treasures. When you take sometime out, you MUST put something back in! Trade a pack of cards for a bracelet, a pokemon toy for a batman figurine, whatever. Just try to keep your item equal to what you’re taking. I’ve used McDonald’s toys, cheap little things from tourist shops I’ve picked up while on vacation, and dollar store items to keep my caching cheap. Once you’ve started, you can also recycle items you’ve found but don’t necessarily need to keep.

If you find an item inside with a tag on it, it’s a trackable. These items should be logged into the geocaching website and be moved on to a new cache. My favorites are the travel bugs, which are little toys that you can take pictures with to upload onto the site. Then when they’ve passed on, you can continue to follow them and see where they’ve traveled after you’ve let them back out into the wild. Geocaches are hidden WORLDWIDE so I’ve seen some of the ones I’ve found make it to Australia, Guam, and all over Europe. It reminds me of Flat Stanley from Kindergarten.

Starfish at the Ovens

The best part of geocaching is the adventures. One time we rescued a starfish and saw a seal on a cache. Another time we found a teepee someone had made in the woods. It can also force you to be a tourist in your own town. I’ve been so many places in Pittsburgh that I never would have even known existed without geocaching. One time we were visiting family in Maine, and found a cache in a place called the Ovens, which is a series of amazing rock formations that is covered by the tide during certain times of the day. Our family was amazed that they had lived in the area for 10 years without knowing this place existed.

Example of what a cache container may look like.

I’d love to hear about your adventures and do my best to field your questions or help you get started!

For more information:
Geocaching Website
More Info on GPS Devices

Pittsburgh Movies in the Park

30 06 2011

Every summer a ton of parks in the Pittsburgh area host FREE movie in the park nights.  They’re spread all across the week at a ton of different locations…the city, North Hills, South Hills, East and West.  Just bring a blanket, snacks, and enjoy.   This year the County has a series at their parks featuring Classic Movies.  Wherever they are, they start at about 9PM or dusk.  This is by no means an exhaustive list, so if you know of any that I have missed, please comment and let everyone know!


City Parks

Grandview Park

July 2- How to Train Your Dragon
July 9- Justin Bieber Never Say Never
July 16- Despicable Me
July 23- The Karate Kid
July 30-Shrek Forever After
August 6- The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
August  13- Disney Nature presents “Oceans”
August 20- Secretariat
August 27- Tangled

Riverview Park (Observatory Hill)

July 2- Rocky IV
July 9- Duck Soup
July 16- Iron Man 2
July 23- Karate Kid
July 30- In the Heat of the Night
August 6- Double Indemnity
August 13- Disney Nature presents “Oceans”
August 20- Jurassic Park
August 27- The Twilight Saga-Eclipse

Schenley Park (Flagstaff Hill)
Sundays and Wednesdays

July 3- How to Train Your Dragon
July 6- The Other Guys
July 10- Justin Bieber Never Say Never
July 13- Iron Man 2
July 17- Despicable Me
July 20- Grown Ups
July 24- The Karate Kid
July 27- Takers
July 31- Shrek Forever After
August 3- Prince of Persia: Sands of Time
August 7- The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
August 10- The Green Hornet
August 14- Disney Nature presents “Oceans”
August 17- Jurassic Park
August 21- Secretariat
August 24- The Twilight Saga-Eclipse
August 28- Tangled
August 31- Clash of the Titans

West End Park (Elliot Overlook)

July 5- Justin Bieber Never Say Never
July 12- Despicable Me
July 19- The Karate Kid
July 26- Shrek Forever After
August 2- The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
August 9- Disney Nature presents “Oceans”
August 16- Secretariat
August 23- Tangled
August 30- Tron Legacy

Brookline Memorial Park

July 7-  Justin Bieber Never Say Never
July 14- Despicable Me
July 21- The Karate Kid
July 28- Shrek Forever After
August 4- The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
August 11- Disney Nature presents “Oceans”
August 18- Secretariat
August 25- Tangled

Arsenal Park

July 1- How to Train Your Dragon
July 8- Justin Bieber Never Say Never
July 15- Despicable Me
July 22- The Karate Kid
July 31- Shrek Forever After
August 5- The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
August 12- Disney Nature presents “Oceans”
August 19- Secretariat
August 26- Tangled


North Hills

Pine Township Park
Every Other Wednesday

July 6- Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs
July 20- Stuart Little
August 3- Despicable Me
August 17- Jurassic Park

*Deer Lakes Park*
Carp Field

August 1- Some Like It Hot

*Harrison Hills*
Soccer Field 1

August 8- Singing in the Rain

South Hills

*South Park*
Agricultural Hall

July 7- Wizard of Oz

*Round Hill*
Visitor’s Center

July 28- It Happened One Night



Monroeville Community Park
These show at the same time…dusk, but they are also preceded by
a live musical performance starting at 6:30 PM.

July 10- Dreamer
July 24- Akeelah and the Bee
August 7- Enchanted
August 21- The Princess and the Frog

*Boyce Park*
Four Seasons Activity Lodge

 July 14- Breakfast at Tiffany’s


*Settlers Cabin*
Gilbert Love Shelter

July 21- Duck Soup


*From the County Parks Classic Cinemas Series*