Halloween Decorating

Many bloggers give fall tours of their homes. I’ve shared a little bit of my fall decorating in the past, see here. Since Halloween is Saturday, I will be decorating for Thanksgiving next week. (To see my Thanksgiving decorations a few years ago, see here.)

I finally was able to use the cobalt and orange combination on my kitchen table. I raised the decorations on upside-down bowls and vases. I love that you can see the apple in the center of the quilted runner through the upside-down bowl.

Orange and Cobalt arrangement.

Orange and Cobalt arrangement.

I put the glassware that was special to me in the china cabinet. The 3 children dressed as ghosts remind me of my three when they were younger. The antique cobalt saucer, and the vase with the two girls on it were given to me by my little sister, Cheryl. My friend Paula gave me the wooden acorn for my birthday last year.

The bear was the vase that was filled with flowers and given to my husband’s grandmother when she brought my father-in-law home from the hospital. She gave it to me when I had my first boy. It’s over 70 years old!

I put my sentimental decorations in the china cabinet.

I put my sentimental decorations in the china cabinet.

I placed apple candles on the lower shelves of the china cabinet.

Apple candles in the china cabinet.

Apple candles in the china cabinet.

I used apples on other places, too.

Fall decorations on the window sill.

Fall decorations on the window sill.

Apple salt and pepper shakers and a cobalt vase.

Apple salt and pepper shakers and a cobalt vase.

I was sneaky in the bathroom. I put a pin clasp on the back of a ceramic button cover. I angled it to make it look like a pumpkin teetering on top of the towel rack. It impressed my granddaughter!

My pumpkin on my towels.

My pumpkin on my towels.

When I got out my decorations, I placed them in groups by color. I noticed I had two candlesticks and a candle with copper accents. I used them on my black, marble, lazy Susan.

The green and white pumpkins really popped on the sunflower table runner. I filled in the spaces with decorative grapes and small candles shaped like a standing leaf.

Fall dining room centerpiece.

Fall dining room centerpiece.

I got out a black tablecloth for my birthday dinner. My china is mostly white and it gets lost on the white tablecloth!

Dining Room table set for my birthday dinner.

Dining Room table set for my birthday dinner.

I didn’t spend any money on these decorations. I make a theme and don’t use all of the decorations in my box. Most items were purchased at garage sales or given to me as gifts. The new, copper candle was a birthday gift from Paula. She loves decorating, too!

I even set out the Halloween decorations my kids made in elementary school on the shelf in the stairway. Now those decorations are priceless!

Use what you have, just don’t use everything!

Steamboat Dinner Cruise

Today is my birthday!

This year we did something different, when my husband’s birthday rolled around we put the money in savings. The money we would have spent on our anniversary went into savings, also. We did the same thing with my birthday money.

Instead of presents for those three events, we chose to do something on my bucket list. With those pooled resources we were able to take a “Steamboat Dinner Cruise!”

The Spirit of Dubuque Steamboat

The Spirit of Dubuque Steamboat

The SPIRIT has been showcasing the vast history and beauty of the Dubuque area for over 20 years with a variety of cruises to fit into everyone’s schedule. Cruising May through October, the SPIRIT of Dubuque has sightseeing, lunch & dinner cruises that would delight the entire family! www.dubuqueriverrides.com

We boarded the “Spirit of Dubuque” at 5:30 p.m. and were seated next to the entertainment. It was a 2 man band with: an accordion, electric guitar, a pedal bass, and a preprogrammed drum kit! The singer played the last three instruments.

Our musical entertainment.

Our musical entertainment.

I was a little bummed until I noticed the cabinet next to the band marked “Life Jackets.” I decided it was the table I wanted after all! The band won us over, by the end of the night we were singing along with them!

Sitting next to the life jackets!

Sitting next to the life jackets!

We walked around the top deck while the rest of the passengers were loading. It was in the 80’s and we decided to stick to the air-conditioned dining room after that.

The Dubuque Bridge over the mighty Mississippi.

The Dubuque Bridge over the mighty Mississippi.

They served: prime rib, chicken Marsala, party potatoes, green bean casserole, cole slaw, rolls, and mini muffins shot with caramel sauce.

The hostess had a note that we were celebrating our anniversary. She asked us how many years we had been married. We told her 33.

The band recognized each couple and announced the years of marriage and then sang a special song for each one. We didn’t know the one they sang for us, but they played our song earlier, “Could I Have This Dance for the Rest of My Life.” They also sang “Happy Birthday” to each one celebrating on the cruise.

We left Dubuque and rode north until we reached the locks and turned around. We didn’t notice any motion, until a boat sped by a little too closely and we felt their wake.

We turned around at the locks.

We turned around at the locks.

We were the last table to go through the buffet line and I did not have my sea legs! You notice the motion when you try to walk. A teenager laughed at me and I laughed along with her. After all, most of the people at her table were on their third drink and were walking much worse.

We passed the dock and went just as far south as we had gone north. We watched the sun set over the bluffs of the river and enjoyed the leisurely trip back watching the lights on the shore.

Watching the sunset from the steamboat.

Watching the sunset from the steamboat.

We docked and no one was in a hurry to disembark. When the band started to yodel, we decided it was time for us to go!

The best gifts are not items you have to dust. The best gifts have a memory attached to them. Every once in a while you should pay for an experience instead of paying for more stuff.

Saving money does not mean spending less money. It means setting money aside for something special!

Free Solar Heat

Each year, we try to see how long we can go before turning on the furnace. Our record was Thanksgiving! There was frost on the pumpkins last weekend in Iowa, but we still have not turned on the furnace.

I wrote a post about the things we do to keep the house warm during the cooler fall days, see here. I have been using free solar heat this year.

Our south picture window lets in a lot of heat. I put a fan in front of it on low and face it toward the hall to blow the warm air to the back of the house when the sun is coming in that window.

I switched our ceiling fan to the winter setting, see here, and it pushes the warm air down from the ceiling. When the sun moves away from the window, I shut the fan off.

Moving warm air from window with fans.

Moving warm air from a window with fans.

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Shorten Curtain Tie-Backs

I shared one way to handle curtain tie-backs that are too long awhile ago, see here. I decided I didn’t like that “fix” because I couldn’t see the tassel.

Tassled curtain tie back

Tasseled curtain tie back

Then I came up with another idea…

Tie a knot!

I tied a knot a few inches from the end of the curtain tie-back. It still was not as snug as I wished. I made it a double knot and liked the length better. I even like the appearance of the tie back with the double knot!

Tie a knot, or a double knot in a too-long curtain tie back.

Tie a knot, or a double knot, in a too-long curtain tie back.

Crybaby in Bay #2

I didn’t burst into tears, but I did have the start of a panic attack. I don’t even know why? I had a tooth pulled before.

And then Emily began to sing and I calmed down. 

I’ve known Emily since she started preschool and I loved hearing her sing over the years. She joined her father’s practice and was singing along with the music in the dentist’s office. It calmed me down and I remembered the last time I lost a tooth…

…it was the year my dad died and my new daughter-in-law thought I was going to die, too. I felt like it!

I ended up in the ER with severe pain in my ear and neck. It was diagnosed as a sinus infection because the drainage had made my throat raw. It took four antibiotics, two pain killers, and a month in bed to get me through that infection.

I went to my dentist for a routine cleaning 6 weeks later and he said the tooth was cracked and dead. It had started to work itself out on its own.

This tooth did not!

I started feeling discomfort last week, but we were getting ready for our son’s graduation and I ignored it. Graduation was Sunday and I could not ignore it any longer! I couldn’t sleep and I could no longer tell which tooth it was. They all hurt, lower and upper!

My granddaughter rescued me.

The dentist was out of town and I could not be seen until mid-afternoon. I was going crazy when I remembered we bought Orajel for our granddaughter when she was teething. Yeah, it was old…but I didn’t care. It sufficiently put my mouth to sleep.

She rescued me again today, when the Ibuprofen was not enough. I woke up on that side in the middle of the night and there was a little swelling. My instructions were to alternate Ibuprofen and Tylenol if I was still experiencing discomfort.

We didn’t have any Tylenol in the house, but we did have baby Tylenol. I took a half a bottle…one after the other…because that was the adult dose. It helped enough that I finally got dressed at 10:00 am.

What does this have to do with saving money?


If we had not budgeted our money there would not have been anything in the “dentist” category. We didn’t spend the money we set back there on anything else and when I needed it, I was able to just go and get help.

There was gas in the van to drive to the dentist. We don’t live paycheck to paycheck and drive the last day on fumes. The tank is always half full and we fill the top of the tank.

There was soup in the cupboard. I shop the sales and the pantry, refrigerator, and freezer are well stocked. I didn’t have to go to the store for soft foods. I was able to go home and turn on Netflix.

I didn’t move for a day!

The dentist and I discussed trying to save the tooth. The root was curved and it would require a specialist to perform a root canal, $1,000.00; and add a crown, $500.00. The tooth had two filled cavities in it and he was not sure if those measures would even work.

All I could think about was another painful night while I waited for the specialist to get me in. I told him to yank it out.

Being frugal is not being cheap. It is telling your money where to go, and when you need it, the money is there.

Sorry, no pictures.

DIY Tie Organizer

I like organizers that allow you to see all of the selection. At one time, I had all of my jewelry pinned to the insulation board in the laundry room when I used it as my “walk in closet.” Later my husband and I switched “closets.”

Back to the ties…I would neatly roll them, but they would invariably end up in a twisted mess. Finally, I put each one on a shower curtain ring and hooked the rings to a hanger. I placed clothespins between them to keep them separate.

I then hung it on the end of my husband’s closet pole. He can pick a tie at a glance.

DIY Tie Organizer

DIY Tie Organizer

Repair Wheeled Desk Leg

Of all the computer desks we bought, this was my favorite. Instead of a keyboard drawer it has a nesting extension that rolls out. Unfortunately, one leg kept bending under.

It ended up in storage for a few years and I got it out when my daughter moved out. I finally took the broken leg completely apart. The nuts, that the screws were to join, had come out of the leg into the framework of the extension. No matter how much we tightened it, the leg was just barely hanging on.

I took it all apart, glued the nuts back into the leg and put a dab of glue on the screw before I inserted them. That leg is solid now.

The wheel? Not so much.

The rubber had come off of my desk leg wheel.

The rubber had come off of my desk leg wheel.

Then I remembered how I fixed the feet that kept falling off of the keyboard bench, see here. I got out my thickest rubber band and cut it open.

I slid the rubber “tire” off of the wheel and tied the rubber band around the wheel.

Rubberband tied around wooden wheel.

Rubber band tied around wooden wheel.

Then I slipped the “tire” back on. Now it is as solid as the leg and I feel like I have a new computer desk!

Repaired Wheeled leg

Repaired Wheeled leg

Free Trees



I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
I shared my love of the woods in “If You’re Ever in New England in the Fall.” I was disappointed that our land did not have trees on it when we bought our home. There was a “Rose of Sharon” bush, but it died.
We have acquired 25 trees over the 30 years that we have lived in this house. Sadly, only four have survived. I even purchased 10 trees from the Arbor Day Foundation.
They suffered the worst fate of all. My husband didn’t notice where I had planted them, and when we purchased a shed, he moved it on top of my newly planted trees!
Trees from school
The first trees we acquired were given to our children in elementary school. Each of our three children brought a tree home, but only one survived. It has small leaves and is on the west side of our home. It’s Derek’s tree because he is the one who brought it home.
Transplanted trees
The tree in front of our home is “Luke’s tree.” He didn’t bring it home, it was one of 10 trees that my husband dug up out of Janie’s back yard. She lived on a wooded cul-de-sac and wanted to have more than trees in the backyard. She told him to dig out as many as he could because she was cutting the rest down.
He brought them home in the back of our Chevy Chevette!
10 free trees in the back of a Chevy Chevette.

10 free trees in the back of a Chevy Chevette.

We planted them all around the house and faithfully watered them, but it was a drought year. The trees had been living under mature trees, and when they were stuck in the clay around our house under full sun, the leaves got sunburned and then fell off.
We hoped they would come back to life the next spring, but they were gone. Our yard looked like a graveyard for trees.
Only one tree retained its leaves and it was planted by Luke’s bedroom window. It was on the west side of the house and was sheltered from the sun for half of the day. A few years later, we moved it to the south side of the house. It now graces our front yard.
Volunteer Trees
The tree in our back yard is “Bob’s Tree.” Bob would never mow over a volunteer tree. He dug them out, planted them in metal coffee cans, and then gave them away.
We planted it on the edge of our dream deck. (Yeah, we are still dreaming about it!) At the time, I didn’t know about “One Call.” It is a phone number in Iowa that will contact everyone who may have a line buried underground: telephone, water, sewer, cable, etc.
I managed to plant “Bob’s Tree” on top of our sewer line! I was amazed at how quickly it took off and flourished! (We also had to have a service start coming to clean out our pipes from tree roots!)
Bob died of cancer a few years later, and I was grateful to have a living reminder of that amazing man.
Memorial Trees
This tree we purchased when my mother-in-law passed away using part of the inheritance. It was the same year that a blight attacked all of the evergreens in town. My neighbor to the east had a beautiful tree he decorated every Christmas. The blight got it, along with three others on his property, and he had to remove them all.
It was huge and provided shade in the mornings. After it was gone, my picture window was in the sun starting at 7:30 a.m. I had to keep the drapes closed to keep the house from boiling!
We chose a Japanese Iris to remember her by. It has off-white blooms in the spring. It is not showy and rather petite…a lot like Phyllis. It will grow taller than our house and will shade that picture window eventually.
Your free trees
You have free trees at your disposal. They are growing in your flowerbeds, rock gardens, yard, and even gutters. A tree grows amazingly fast. Don’t wait to find money to purchase a large tree.
Plant a free tree.
My four trees. The fifth one on the right in the back belongs to a neighbor.

My four trees. The fifth one on the right in the back belongs to a neighbor.

Time to Switch Gears

I have really enjoyed the Writing 101 class. I was actually surprised at the posts that got the best responses from my friends. (It’s true…write about what you know and share a part of yourself.)

I even considered writing 5 posts a week on this blog, but that thought didn’t last long.


Because I write 7 days a week on my other blog, thisyearsbiblereadingguide.com.

And it’s time.

Every year at the first of October I start designing the “Relevant” Bible Reading Guide for next year. It is more math than English!

I start by placing holy week readings and Christmas readings. The schedule for October through December hasn’t changed since the year I based the count on the average number of words per chapter instead of the average number of verses. (See, lots of math!)

The chapters on the Gospels, (Matthew-John), are scheduled starting at the first of the year. It is easy to keep your New Year’s Resolution to read through the Bible when you are reading about the miracles Jesus Christ performed.

On Pentecost Sunday we start reading Acts and finish the New Testament. That means the chapters in 1 Samuel through Malachi have to fit in the days between the gospels, Easter, the New Testament, and end by September 30th.

Each year that I read the Bible I learn more about when each chapter was written and how they are linked to chapters in other books. I take notes and move the order of chapters around accordingly.

Moving chapters around increases understanding; but makes me have to adjust the math to get them all to fit and still be in the average. This process takes 2-4 months. (Luckily, January is already set! Whew!)

Why read the Bible?

It is the best-selling book in the world! It has been translated in every language. (Thanks Wycliffe.org!)

It is an amazing piece of literature that includes: geography, poems, songs, history, parables, prophecy, and much more. Many colleges now include a course called, “The Bible as Literature.”

The books in it are written by: shepherds, priests, prophets, kings, seers, fishermen, tax collectors, doctors, tent makers, a rich kid, desert wanderers, judges, army generals, exiles, a cupbearer, court officials, a man from a small town, a member of the royalty, disciples, a highly educated man, and two half-brothers of Christ.

There is something for everyone in the Bible. I’m excited to get started…but first things first…

…is next year a leap year?


Roundup of Favorite Reads

I have an alternate email that I use as a backup email. At one point, my main email was really messed up and I used the alternate email exclusively while I straightened it out.

During that time I joined Pinterest, set up the Frugal Fish Facebook page, and started following, “The Inspired Room” blog. I learned about “The Inspired Room” when they won the best decorating blog award from Better Homes and Gardens. After reading one post, I was hooked.

In case you thought my house was perfectly set up already for a before and after photoshoot due to the magic powers of blogs, it isn’t. :) But I’ve been working on getting settled in so I’ll share a bit of the behind the scenes for you with my cell phone pics. theinspiredroom.net

She recently moved and we were walked through the process with her. She told of their house hunting and showed a video of the home they chose. Reading their posts is like talking to a next door neighbor.


Of course, my hero will always be Mary Hunt of debtproofliving.com. I started reading her newsletters when they had to be mailed using snailmail! Little by little, her advice and online calculators helped us get out of debt and build an emergency fund. I was especially grateful last winter when my husband was laid off for 3 months!

Recent California wildfires serve as a grim reminder of how quickly ones personal economy can change. If the rain of an economic downturn were to fall on you tomorrow, would you know how to find shelter from the storm? debtproofliving.com.

She is also transparent, sharing her failures as well as her successes. No one is perfect and it is nice to see an expert admit a mistake.


Mary is my hero and Marla Ciley of flylady.net is my favorite aunt. I almost said she was like a grandma to me, but she is way too young! She is a mentor and cheerleader that helps you get your home out of C.H.A.O.S. (Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome). She helps you establish routines that gets every area of your life back under control.


Your home is never finished. It is a work in progress as your life changes. My nursery is now my office and in 10 days our youngest will graduate.

School days will finally be over!