(Long) Weekend Project #3: Patio Upgrade

I’ll be honest.  This is my FAVORITE upgrade.  I’ve been talking about doing this for a while now, but had put it on the back burner due to cost and time constraints.  However, I recently sold some free furniture that I refurbished so I had some extra cash and this seemed like the best use for it.

So when I bought this house there was a HUGE, rotting doghouse that used to be in this big empty spot that my father graciously helped me tear down.  The “mud pit” left behind has been driving me mad for months.

Post Dog House 

After the last rain storm I’d had enough and decided to try and eye it out and estimate a price. This is what it looked like a couple weeks ago when I decided “it’s time”. I’m visual so I had to use the wood and see what it would look like in size afterwards. I called the dig line just to make sure I wasn’t covering/digging around anything and lucked out in that department (although my plans for the side of the house were crushed once I found out a gas line was there).

Our Beautiful Mud Pit 

I used larger four-in-one pavers since they gave me the look I wanted, but less to carry.  I also have a sandbox I’ve been trying to get rid of (what can I say, I think they’re pretty gross) so I repurposed the sand from it for this project. Getting the sand level with the existing concrete pad I was expanding on was the most difficult part.  Although, carrying the pavers was pretty cumbersome as well….

Pavers Down Finally!!

Next, I edged with a different paver and then I filled the seems with the Paver Set Polymeric Sand in Brown/Tan (there’s a Gray option as well). My daughters had a blast being little helpers and getting it all in the crevices.

Best Helpers Ever 🙂

Once we got most of the sand off the blocks we started the wet down/hardening process.  I have to say, we love it.  It actually turned out better than I hoped.  Our 24 hour setting period ended this morning, so I hope to put the table back out here tonight so we can have dinner on our new and improved patio this evening!

Almost Done!

I’m so excited to have some real backyard living space now. Life is good!!  Please note, I do plan to seal it at some time in the future, but we haven’t done it yet.  More pictures to come later!

Did you get any big projects done over Labor Day weekend?

Weekend Project 2: Doorbell Upgrade

This was one of the easiest weekend projects I’ve done.  I heard about ring.com doorbell system from a coworker when we were at lunch one day and she answered the doorbell from her phone when a UPS driver showed up at her home.  I was a little intimated (as I am with all things to deal with electric), however, I was able to complete the install from start to finish in an hour one Sunday before church.

First step is to download the app to your phone and connect to your WiFi.  Once you have the software functioning it’s on to the hardware.  I started by turning the electric off at the breaker to the front patio.  I then unscrewed the original contractor grade doorbell, pulled out the wires and bent them so they wouldn’t fall into the hole.  Next I grabbed my trusty drill and put a mason bit on and drilled the holes for my new base.

ring base

Please note, most homes don’t install the doorbell this close to the corner.  I put the ring.com doorbell in the same spot my original doorbell was so that it would cover the hole.  If you do this project, I very much doubt that your will be this close to the wall so you will have a better view. After you have the base on, the camera/doorbell slide easily on and then have security screws to tighten it to the base.  The finished product:

ring installed

Once installed we tested it out and this is an example of what you see on your cell phone:

ring from cell

From your phone you can answer your doorbell from anywhere and talk to the person on the other end.  Since I connected the device to my old doorbell wiring it also rings my in-home bell still as well.

For the first 30 days you get Cloud Video Recording for free after that it’s $3/month or $30/year.  This allows you to view past events and share clips with friends, neighbors and law enforcement if need be.

I love this upgrade to my home and use it weekly.  I hope you enjoy your ring.com doorbell  as much as I do!




DIY: Glass in Disposal!

Well, I’m not one to call a repairman at the drop of a hat.  A few times I’ve thought a repair may be outside of my knowledge base.  However, then they come to my house and it takes them 30 minutes or less to fix and I kick myself at the money I just threw out the window. I now thoroughly research items and at least attempt to fix the problem. All I can say is, I love YouTube and Google.

I broke a glass about a week ago and some shards went into the garbage disposal.  I (very carefully) pulled out what I could gently feel.  However, when I turned on the disposal it churned a few times and then gave me a dreaded hum.  I knew I had either jammed it or burned out the motor.  I quickly turned it off, plugged the hole (because I’m the type to absentmindedly use it while cooking), and made a mental note to search for a solution.

A week later, I felt armed for the task at hand which really seemed unbelievable easy.  I vacuumed into the hole to pick up any possible glass specks (a Shop Vac was the suggested tool, but I just used my regular vacuum since the disposal was dry and had been unused for a week).  Then I got out my handy Allen Wrench/Hex Key tool (seen below).

allen wrench

I unplugged my disposal and went underneath to the bottom of the disposal.  Find the correct size key and turn it around multiple times in the below circled keyhole.

disposal bottomOnce I heard the glass breaking up, I vacuumed out the top sink hole again, then repeated this process a few more times until I didn’t hear the glass breaking up and the key turned smoothly.  Afterwards I plugged back in my disposal, turned it on and ran the water, and voila, no more jammed disposal.  And I just saved myself a $75 service fee. Life is good!

Weekend Project #1: Kitchen Cabinets

A little paint can change everything!

For those of you who don’t know, I bought a house and I spend any free time/insomnia ridden nights updating it. This project actually went over into three weekends because I had to wait for the paint to dry before adding the second coat and then adding the handles. Total cost for this particular project was roughly $240 (including stain brushes).

First of all, I price shop for everything.  I ended up getting the best price on paint and on the handles from Amazon.com.  Home Depot actually sold the same handles for about twice as much in store and about $6/10-pack more online.  I used Minwax Stain ($20) for the color and these satin nickel handles ($25/10-pack) for the hardware.

So here was my kitchen when I bought the house. Cute, but everything was basic contractor package:

Kitchen before

I also updated the lights and they were the same price at Amazon as in store at HD so I went ahead and bought them at Amazon since I have free two-day shipping.  Please note, I’ve noticed the prices fluctuate so be sure to check at both places.  The flushmount ceiling light was about $90  and the hanging pendent light over the sink was about $60.  However, if I would have waited on a Home Depot coupon and completed the project for less.  Patience is not my strong suit. :\

Here’s my kitchen as of yesterday:

Kitchen after

I still have a lot of plans for this kitchen: new stainless steel appliances, wall paint, sink, and granite so this won’t be the last you see of it.  However, the cabinets match the floors in the rest of the house now and the symmetry makes me very happy.  I really love how it’s coming along!

Have you done any cabinet upgrades?  If so, share your pics please!  I love to see before and after photos.


Politics? Do I Dare?

Alright, first of all, I’m writing this with a little bit of an apology.  Last night I got a little bit heated.  Mr. Trump did us the pleasure of visiting us here on the Northside of Houston. Quite a few of us questioned why our suburb?  Then we found out a billionaire attorney was hosting a fundraiser for him.  So my beloved community got torn a part a little bit.  So let me set some things straight.  All politics are about issues and what the proposed person wants to accomplish in their elected position.  Our President is about our issues and also choosing someone to represent us Internationally and be the Commander In Chief of our amazing and envious military.  So now that you have that in my mind I will continue.

My huge problem with this election is the cultural divide.  If I hear one more person comment, shame, or otherwise try to debate with someone not on the issue or problem with the Trump/Hillary that they stated, but instead with “go home”, “speak English”, “you must be Muslim”, or some other slur, I will lose my cool. Yes, those are all slurs.  Maybe you don’t realize they are slurs as you senselessly type them in, but please take a moment to pause and reflect and see if you would say that to the other person face-to-face, and if you would you can now label yourself a racist.

We all stereotype.  I’ve done it.  However, when I realize I’ve done it I make an acknowledged effort to make amends.  I’ve thought people spoke Spanish by their looks and name,  when in reality they’d never spoken a word their entire life and were 2nd or 3rd generation Americans.  I’ve assumed people were a certain faith by where they were from, but I have Japanese friends that are Mormon, Trinidadian friends that are Muslim, and Mexican friends that are Bahai.  This is the absolutely amazing thing about our country. The diversity.  We are an amazing mixing pot and we all have a right to choose our religion. Think about that.  Think about all the people who came before us that fought for us to be able to have equal rights, marry whom we want, vote for whom we want, voice our opinions, and believe in whatever God or belief system we want!! It’s amazing right?

Secondly, for my friends that don’t “look white”.  You can stop stereotyping too.  I’m tired of all the “look at all those white people” remarks as well.  I look white, I check two boxes and one of them state “Caucasian”, but that doesn’t give you the right to comment on my skin color either.  You aren’t helping the situation.  Just in my immediate family, there are those of us that look brown, look black, look white, look red.  Yes, in my Parents/Children/Aunts/Uncles/first cousins.  Several of those speak multiple languages fluently.  By referring to white people by their skin color you are doing exactly what you hate, and you’re building a wall. Congratulations.  You have started doing exactly what we’ve been trying to undo for years. You cannot expect people to look past your skin color when you’re stereotyping them by theirs.  Please truly think about that.

Let me put this into perspective for you for all those that think that white people cannot suffer from racism.  No matter what non-white box you check, how would you feel if we had a “White Entertainment Network”, “Pearl/White Magazine”, “White Caucus”, “White Talk Radio”, “White Businesswoman Network”, etc.   Trust me, it doesn’t feel nice when there’s a double standard does it? Doesn’t seem right reading those things correct?  However, you wonder why “white people” feel pushed into a corner on race. You are allowing people and organizations to divide us by our skin color, cultural, and religious background.  Why would you want this?  Why are we allowing this?

I understand being close to your cultural roots and active in your religious beliefs.  I’m active in my Tribe and vote on what happens on my reservation and I go to church every Sunday of my choosing.  However, I don’t need to prescribe and identify with any skin-based groups.  My ancestors don’t define the person I am today.  I’m Native American, part Polish, a little French, and 100% American.  I don’t hate anyone because my Nation was “stolen” from me.  I’m happy.  I wouldn’t be here if things didn’t happen the way they were.  My Polish family wouldn’t have immigrated here. I wouldn’t be here and I’m extremely happy about having an existence. So I’m thankful to everyone that came before me and I’m working my ass off to make a better life for my children because that was their goal and I believe it’s the goal of the majority.  We’re trying to give our kids the best life we can.

So let’s talk about the bigger issue here. Can we get rid of the Political Action Committees?  Can we get rid of these people who want to label people?  Seriously, every time you see something like he can’t give me a fair answer/judgement because his parents are “Mexican” trying switching that out for something you are, maybe “White” or “Black” or “Canadian”. Sounds absurd right?  How about when they refer to banning all Muslims?  Try inserting “Christian” or “Jewish” and how does that sound now? Sounds kind of like someone else that came in history and thought the problems of the majority were because of a certain niche, doesn’t it?

That’s what you’re seeing across the news now.  Truly put some thoughts into the things being said.  There are radical Christians that have bombed and shot up abortion clinics and more, there are radical Baptists that I recently heard say shoot all the Homosexuals, there are radicals everywhere.  That doesn’t define the religion they belong too.  I don’t refer to that preacher as the radical Baptist.  I refer to him as the moron that lost his way. I don’t even remember his name because he doesn’t deserve to be remembered.  He’s just somebody that distorted a good religion to contain his confusion/hate/loneliness.

I know the News isn’t really news anymore.  They find something that gets high ratings and that’s the only thing they report on until the next high rating find.  Entertainment industries have bought up all the networks and turned something that was meant to inform us about what was going on around us to something that they need to get ratings so more big companies will advertise with them and they’re more profitable.  That’s right, they’re not trying to inform you now; they’re trying to turn a profit.  Think about that next time you watch the news.  Think about how the same story can be run on different stations with completely opposing points because they’re basing the story on the demographic that watches their station.  I implore you to test my theory and spend a couple of weeks going back and forth between two stations to see how editorialized things have become.

News has become reality television and I believe that is how it was possible for Trump to even make it this far in this election.  He’s a reality TV star.  The way things are going maybe the Kardashian’s will run next.  Seriously, think about that.  They have successful businesses, they’ve created an empire from a name, they have their own money to use,  they don’t anger easily, and they don’t have bankruptcies. They could give Trump a run for his money.  You think I’m kidding, but they have the same background as Trump so why not?

Please realize, I’m not pro-Hillary.  I am disgusted by our choices this year and yes I do vote every year.  I think Political Action Committees, Super Delegates, and the news stations have all been bought.  How can a super delegate pledge allegiance to a candidate before hearing what the people want?  We allowed it to get this bad.  We gave them this power by sitting idly by and allowing them to do these things.  They’re magicians.  They have us split and divided by our skin, our religion, and heritage so instead of uniting and paying attention to the magic show  we are here fighting with each other and missing the sleight of hand.  Sad isn’t it?  So what are you going to do about it?

We must stop sitting behind our computers and commenting on our fellow Americans. Stop fighting amongst ourselves! That’s what they WANT!   We MUST ask the candidates about the positions that they will take, the issues at hand, and we must get rid of PACs that buy our elected officials votes on OUR major issues that we must live with, no that our CHILDREN must live with.  I’m begging you.  Stop fighting with your neighbors and start demanding answers and actions from those we will put in office or whom we’ve already put there.  I don’t know all the answers, but I’ll be damned if I’ll sit by and watch this great country lose itself because they divide us. E Pluribus Unum – Out of Many, One.

It’s Just Not Possible!

It’s funny how many times I’ve heard, “It’s just not possible”.  When people are trying to cut costs, when they have too much to do, when they have no time, no energy, or maybe when they’re just in a bad situation.  They say, “it’s just not possible to fix”.  It’s an easy thing to say.  When it was more than just me some people said to stick it out with where I was….to do it alone was just unfeasible. And after, many people have even said to me that it is impossible for a single mom to be the sole provider for three little people. Some people have said it as a compliment, however, others have this look in their eye like I must sell drugs on the side  (I blame Weeds…love that series) or have an inheritance of some kind if I wanted to survive.  I assure you I do not. I just work hard. All. The. Time.

lol. Okay, not all the time. I’m totally lying.  I take Saturdays to do fun stuff with my kids and even some weeknights! We go to the park, we do Twister, they love to Slip N Slide, we play Jenga, whatever makes these kids smile.  This weekend we’re having our first sleepover. Yeah, that’s right.  I’m inviting more kids over to my house. And I will be giving them popcorn. OMG. And if I feel really brazen, I’ll give those young ladies Play-doh and finger paints to get all over as well. That’s just my personality….GO BIG OR GO HOME!!

first jenga
Cici contemplating

Seriously, though, at one point in my life 8pm would be when I’d be getting ready to go out, socialize, and see the world.  Tonight, I’m utterly exhausted and multitasking: folding laundry, making dinner, watching the news, helping the girls bathe, playing Swagbucks videos on my laptop while my phone plays Perk TV, and most likely I will literally pass out while doing these things. No, really. It’s possible. It happens more than I’ll ever admit.


These are the days of my life.  And you know what? I’m exceptionally happy about it. Crazy, right? Let me be clear, I am  extremely fortunate and I’m here to tell you anything is possible. I truly adore my girls. I think they are the best thing that has ever happened to me (actually I’m biased…I think they’re the best thing that’s happened to the world).

My girls make every early morning, every late night, every bill, every struggle easier.  It doesn’t matter what dark days are ahead or what days we’ve sustained…we’re family.  And these struggles have made us a stronger and more powerful. Charles Darwin was a dropout, Jim Carey was homeless, Van Gogh sold few paintings while he was alive, JK Rowling was a penniless mom before Harry Potter, Marilyn Monroe was told she wasn’t pretty enough to model nor talented enough to be an actress, and the list goes on and on. You have to push through the rough moments in time.  Don’t quit. Don’t say “It’s too hard” or “It’s not possible”. It’s sooooooo possible.  Everything we go through, every bad day, every obstacle is worth it.

I survived, I persevered, and I am motivated to do better every day not only for these little people that I love so much, but for me. To prove to the world that I am extraordinary. The things I’ve survived don’t define who I am, but how I deal with them does.  That’s what I want my daughters to see and learn.

true strength

I wasn’t always so severe in cost cutting and family, but if I had been more diligent with my budget and my priorities before I wouldn’t have had to be so extreme now.  I got lazy. I got comfortable. I wasn’t challenged.  So to those of you going through hard times or difficult situations, please know that it’s not impossible. Just realize the opportunity for a better life is there, you just have to be willing to make some changes, step it up, believe in yourself, keep pressing forward, and don’t forget to have a little fun. Life is short and time flies.

mustache you
Mami mustache Milla a question





Digit-ize Your Savings

“If you don’t fail it’s because you did not risk enough, and if you didn’t risk enough it’s because you didn’t put your whole self out there.” –Carlos Barrabes

This week I’m trying out Digit. I found out about it after reading a ridiculous blog.  This lady proclaimed she paid off her student loans in two years.  I was hooked…or shall I say baited.  It ends up she’s single with no kids and made about $5000/month in discretionary money. Guess what? I could pay off all my house and student loans if I had an EXTRA $5,000 per month.  smh. What’s wrong with people?

This leads me to a little rant.  Most self-help money books are common sense.  Save more, spend less, don’t over extend.  I actually get frustrated reading them. I won’t buy them, I check them out at the library and see if there are any actually new ideas in them.  I don’t need you to tell me I should pay down the highest rate credit card first (simple math, right?).  I need to know where to FIND money where there is none.  I need to know how to get stuff for free so I can have extra money to increase my emergency fund. It bothers me that our education system doesn’t include budgeting/money management class in high school.  People shouldn’t be able to make millions off of people because they don’t know how to budget. If you need help/ideas about budgeting use the web and your local library…don’t line the pockets of other people. It’s counter productive.  Mic down.

 So my emergency fund is a priority to me because there are a lot of layoffs going on in Houston this year. Digit is a new micro-savings account that helps you save small bits of money over time. You won’t get rich off the money you save, but it does initiate that first step toward creating a savings habit.

I’ve used it for about a week and it takes out between $2-6 every couple of days. I thought I would REALLY notice any money out of my account because I’m such a penny pincher.  However, it really hasn’t bothered my budget.  I think it’s because I generally leave about $25-50 in my budget every month as a cushion in case things are more than I expect. Digit is a smart little cookie and grabs from my cushion.  I have to say I was hesitant to try this, but I’m so glad I did.  I already have automatic savings in my budget every month, but this just adds a little more to my emergency fund and I really enjoy the little conversations I get.  Here’s an example:

digit awesome

Every 2 or 3 days, Digit transfers some money from a checking account to a secure Digit account. Digit analyzes checking balance, upcoming income, upcoming bills and recent spending patterns and finds a nonessential amount you won’t notice based on how you’ve been spending. There is never a transfer of more than you can afford, and there is a no-overdraft guarantee.

Digit does not have plans to charge a fee for their service, so I expect it will remain free in the future. It’s not a service that’s going to make you rich, but it does help you stash away the extra money you won’t miss. Digit makes money by earning interest on the money you save, and pay out only a small portion to you.  Any dollar you save with Digit and leave in your account for three months will earn you a 0.05% return of your cash. Each week, Digit will analyze your account and add up any savings you’ve not touched for three months, and then reward you with 5 cents for every $100.

I’m glad I tried it and I’m going to stick with it.  Do you have any savings ideas? Have you tried Digit?


As a single working mom, I truly love Amazon. However, with Prime membership going up and their customer service lagging (it’s an enormous company now) I have a new love affair going with Hollar.com.  It is an American-based retailer that offers items that are constantly changing and have “dollar store” pricing. It emphasizes women’s items, health & beauty aids, school supplies, toys, kitchen items, cell phone accessories and more.

Some reasons I love this company:

1. It’s all $5 or less

All items are only $1, $2, $3, $4, or $5! However, you must have at least $10.00 worth of items in your cart in order to check out.  I just bought a cell phone case for $4, Screen protector for $2, Charger for $1, shopkins for $3 (my daughter is obsessed), and Disney’s Inside Out for $5.

hollar shopkins

2. Name brand items

Hollar.com has name-brand merchandise from party supplies and toys from kids’ favorite characters such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Shopkins, Minecraft, and Melissa & Doug; makeup from drugstore brands like Revlon, Maybelline, Almay; plus food, grocery, and cleaning supplies from well-known consumer brands, among other things.

3. Free Shipping on over $25

Hollar offers first time customers  free shipping on their first order, and provides complimentary shipping on all subsequent orders $25 or more.

4. AMAZING Customer Service

I reached out today because they sent me a new customer coupon that was good for 24 hours for 30% off.  However, when I checked out it said my coupon was invalid.  I forwarded the original email they sent me with my order number asking why the coupon was invalid and they responded in under 2 hours and refunded me the 30% off from my order. All I can say is “Wow”!

If you haven’t checked this site out I highly recommend it!

What items have you picked up at Hollar.com?

Sam’s Club Members – Free $10 gift card

If you are currently a Sam’s Club member be sure to sign up for their new Mom’s and Dad’s Club here.  I didn’t receive the initial email (some have said this is invitation only), however, when I signed up it gave me a confirmation email saying my eGift card was on the way (see below).

Mom and Dads club

I can’t validate that this works because they don’t send out the eGifts until May 30th and the sign up period will be over at that time, but if you don’t sign up you won’t know!  Only takes about 10 seconds!  According to the website, Mom’s and Dad’s Club will have special offers, free samples, and travel giveaways and you’ll receive a Sam’s Club $10 eGift card for enrolling.

Per the website, “Enroll in Sam’s Club® Mom’s and Dad’s Club with a valid email address matching the email address registered on SamsClub.com by May 30 to receive a $10 eGift Card. eGift Card will be provided by email between May 30 and June 15 to the email address used to register your Sam’s Club Membership on SamsClub.com matching Mom’s and Dad’s Club registration. Offer only available to the Sam’s Club Member associated with the original email address for this advertisement.”

Please note: Only one eGift Card per membership. eGift Card may not be used to pay for membership fee, travel purchases, or select services and can only be used online at SamsClub.com Offer not valid in Puerto Rico.



Free Money!!

I truly LOVE free — especially free money.  Here’s how to get yours:

1. Click here to open a NetSpend account for free and use the referral code “7413420433” in order to get the $20 bonus.

2. You will receive your NetSpend Visa Debit card within two weeks.

3. Once received, login to NetSpend and activate it.

4. In order to get the FREE $20, you’ll need to load the card with a minimum of $40.00 using PayPal, a bank account or one of the other many options. I used the “free instant bank transfer” via PayPal because there were no fees associated with that method of deposit.

5. Once you load the $40, NetSpend will add $20 to your balance.

6. I then used my card as a $59 purchase to reload my Amazon gift card (since there was a $1 processing charge for credit, $2 processing charge for pin, and $2.50+ for ATM).  You can use it for groceries, gift cards or however you see fit, HOWEVER, remember to account for the fees for the method you use.

Here’s my transaction history so you can see everything. The same day my Paypal deposit went through I received my $20 reward.  I then reloaded my Amazon gift card with the $59 and NetSpend charged me the $1 signature purchase fee.  All-in-all for about 20 minutes of work I received $19 free! 🙂


The lag in dates is my fault.  I got busy with work and forgot to verify the deposits. :/  However, once I verified it only took about two days for Paypal to transfer my initial $40.

*At the moment this is ONLY for United States residents and this is only for new accounts.  So if you’ve signed up for Netspend before, please make sure you pass this on to others so they can at least get their free money!

For questions about usage fees and other items, go here.

How are you going to use your free money?