Capturing Everyday Memories: A Day in Our Life

Thrifty Travel Mama | A Day in (Our) Life - Annual Photo ProjectOkay, okay, enough with resolutions and words-of-the-year.  If you really want to know, mine is “intention,” but I really like “go” and “focus” that my friends have chosen.  If you’ve selected a word like I have or written a few resolutions, have you considered a project or tangible action to correspond to or capture your efforts to reach your goals?

Last year, I committed to doing Project 365.  If you’ve never heard of it, it’s basically taking (at least) one photo per day for an entire year.

Thrifty Travel Mama | A Day in (Our) Life - Annual Photo Project

Doc Sci took this photo of the boys’ morning vitamins. I find it hilarious!

It sounds easy enough, but I didn’t want to be stuck snapping pictures of my boys just because they were conveniently always there.  I wanted my final set of 365 photos to be filled with variety and unique views.  Since I kind of get lost when I don’t have an idea to start with, I used the daily prompts from Fat Mum Slim. They’re free and ambiguous enough that you can make them fit your life situation no matter where in the world you happen to be.Thrifty Travel Mama | A Day in (Our) Life - Annual Photo Project

I started out so well in January, but… by July, I wanted to throw in the towel.  It ended up being just one more thing on my to do list.  Many days, “taking photos” didn’t make the cut which turned into a source of frustration for my commit-and-follow-through personality.

Since I tried the same project 365 the year before and gave up after Big Foot was born, I wanted to press on and actually accomplish the goal in 2013.  I did.  But now, I am staring at 365 photos that I want to edit before I display, and in those famous words, ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat.So, I’m turning to my old faithful project, a Day in the Life.  I wrote about it back in 2011, and I’m still doing a book every year.  One photo a day?  Completely overwhelming at times.  One photo book per year?  That, apparently, is more my speed.

Thrifty Travel Mama | A Day in (Our) Life - Annual Photo Project

My weekly grocery shop – the backseat of my Phil & Teds loaded to the brim. If you’ve ever grocery shopped in Germany, you’ll know that this drives the cashiers completely mad.  See all my milk cartons?  And more are buried…

In the spirit of celebrating everyday moments (with “intention” and “focus” and boy, are we always on the “go”), consider doing a Day in the Life project.  It’s only one day, and then you’re done!

Thrifty Travel Mama | A Day in (Our) Life - Annual Photo Project

I homeschool T-Rex in the afternoons to get him ready for the possibility of entering first grade in the US. This particular day, he cut up a paper snowflake and turned it into a creepy Silence of the Lambs mask.  That wasn’t part of the curriculum, just in case you were wondering.

We recently found some old videos of T-Rex when he was one year-old.  We had forgotten how much he chattered away, how chubby he was, and what life was like with only one child (oh my!). Even better, the boys loved watching these videos and seeing younger versions of themselves.  My hope is that these annual day-in-the-life books (I’m renaming them A Day in our Life) will have the same effect.  Thrifty Travel Mama | A Day in (Our) Life - Annual Photo Project

Just to clarify, I’m not dissing Project 365 in any way.  In fact, I’m toying with the idea of committing myself to editing one of those photos per day as a way to look back on what we were doing on the same day last year and have 365 photos ready to print and put in a physical album.  But the enormity of the task is just not something my overflowing plate can handle at the moment.  Better luck in 2015!

So what do you do to preserve your everyday moments and family memories?  Do you have any keepsake ideas that fit into my theme of intention?Signature-Marigold

19 Cheap & Easy Last-Minute Halloween Ideas

Over the last four years we’ve lived here, I’ve noticed Halloween has become more and more popular in Germany.  While I don’t see trick-or-treating going viral yet, stores have at least started carrying costumes and snacks for the occasion (though sadly, not candy corn).

This year, we’re putting on a small party for some of the kids in our building, and I needed some fun yet simple ideas for food, decor, and activities. 

I really can’t justify going to great lengths to plan an amazing bash.  My kids aren’t even familiar with the word Halloween or what the holiday really entails.  They were too young to remember the holiday in America (and we usually ended up in tinfoil in honor of Chipotle’s free burrito day).  Plus, this year we’re busy getting ready to head over to Scotland (yay!).

So, if you’re strapped for time like I am, check out these inexpensive, cute, last-minute Halloween ideas from Pinterest.  Have more fun food, decor, and crafts?  Leave a link in the comments below!


Hard Boiled Monster Eggs from Chew Chew Mama

Banana Ghosts and Clementine Pumpkins from Creamty

Spooky Popcorn Hand from Little Nummies

Spider Web Snacks from Mom Endeavors

Pumpkin Pretzels from A Thrifty Mom

Mandarin Orange Pumpkins from Serving Pink Lemonade.


Halloween Eyeball Topiaries from Crafts ‘n Coffee

Glowing Recycled Milk Jug Jack O’Lanterns from Sassy Girlz

Trash Bag Spider Webs from How About Orange

Halloween Pac Man Garland from Minieco

Plastic Cup + Sharpie Halloween Lanterns from The Australian Baby Blog


Haunted House Halloween Cut Out from Sarah Jane

Q Tip Skeletons from Crafts for all Seasons

Footprint Ghosts from Hand Print and Foot Print Art

Paint Chip Monster and Candy Corn Cards from All Free Holiday Crafts

Leftover Candy:

Candy Bar Cookies from Pip & Ebby

Leftover Halloween Candy Bark from Brown Eyed Baker

Halloween Candy Gingerbread Houses from Cake Central

November Thanksgiving “Advent” Calendar, Harvest Tree, and Turkey Pinata from Alpha Mom

It’s time to break out the craft supplies, corral all the extra candy, and give some of these ideas a try!  Which is your favorite? Signature-Marigold

DIY: Map Wrapped Floor Lamp

Thrifty Travel Mama | Map Wrapped Floor LampHey y’all!  Today I’ve got a fun DIY project to spruce up your home with a little travel style.  I love decorating the house with little touches of trips we’ve taken (or even just imagined).  With an hour and a few materials, you can transform a boring lamp into a conversation piece!

This restyle uses the IKEA HOLMÖ floor lamp, a bargain at $9.99 (€7,99), but you could use any barrel-shaped lamp shade.

Want to make this yourself?  Hop on over to Renee Angela Photography to see the full DIY post.

For more project inspiration, follow me on Pinterest and check out my Travel Crafts & Projects board. 

More of my map projects!  Wall Art & Pencil Holders.Signature-Marigold

DIY: Map Flower Wall Art

Thrifty Travel Mama - DIY Map Flower Wall ArtEvery now and again, I just need something new in my home to make me smile… a cheerful little reminder that there’s more to life than diapers and dishes.

The easiest fix for me is to print out some recent family photos and update my gigantic cork board.  This time, though, I decided I wanted to make some wall art using a map from our Salt Lake City trip.

This cute flower canvas inspired the design for today’s DIY project.  However, I don’t own a hot glue gun, and I didn’t have a canvas lying around.  Being thrifty and all, I hunted for a canvas substitute.  The answer?  A shoe box lid!  Thrifty Travel Mama - DIY Map Flower Wall ArtTo make your own map flower wall art, you’ll need a large shoe box lid (mine was from a boot box), a roll of brown paper, an old map, scissors, tape, and a glue stick.  That’s it!Thrifty Travel Mama - DIY Map Flower Wall ArtStart by cutting a length of brown paper several inches larger than the lid.

Optional step: I wanted my lid to stay in place, so I covered all but a two inch strip around the edge with my glue stick.  Then, I smoothed the brown paper over the lid, glue side down.

Wrap up the lid like you would wrap a gift.  I used my glue stick as well as a little tape to secure the edges of the paper to the back of the lid.  Now your “canvas” is ready to go.Thrifty Travel Mama - DIY Map Flower Wall ArtFor the flower petals, cut 2″ strips from your map, and then cut each strip into 2″ squares.  Perfectionists will be glad to know it’s not imperative to measure or cut exactly.  Eyeballing is acceptable in this case.Thrifty Travel Mama - DIY Map Flower Wall ArtNow, cut leaves from the map squares by starting at one corner and cutting a wide curve that extends to the opposite corner.  Repeat the wide, corner-to-corner curve on the other side of the square.  Thrifty Travel Mama - DIY Map Flower Wall ArtYou could also fold the square in half diagonally if you only wanted to make one cut per square.  I didn’t want a fold down the center of my flower petals, so I made two cuts per square.

Once you have a pile of petals, it’s time to design your flower.  Choose a center point, and place petals in a circular pattern extending out from the center point.

Layouts will vary based on the size and shape of your shoe box lid.  Since my lid happened to be more of a long rectangle, I added a few detached petals in the empty space.

When you’re satisfied with your design, use a glue stick to adhere the petals to the lid, one by one.  Thrifty Travel Mama - DIY Map Flower Wall ArtSince this is a map flower, I thought a small compass would be perfect for the center.  I found a small compass printed on the map itself, but you could also draw one directly on the brown paper.

To up the adorable factor (and, ahem, cover up the AAA logo), cut out a small heart and place it in the center of the compass.  Glue the heart to the compass and the compass to the lid.  Thrifty Travel Mama - DIY Map Flower Wall ArtVoila!  An inexpensive, pretty little pick-me-up ready to hang on the wall in your home.

Want more map crafts?  Check out my DIY Map-Covered Pencil Holder. and discover lots of other ideas on my Travel Crafts and Projects board on Pinterest.Signature-Marigold

Home Improvement: Front Entry

When we found out in November that we’d be staying in Germany for a while longer, I decided something HAD to be done about our drab living space.  I just couldn’t handle the 80’s apartment with institutional flooring and no storage any longer.

(You can see pictures of before & after in October 2010 here.)

I set aside some IKEA money, and I made a list of DIY projects.  I’ve wanted to post on this for weeks, but life got in the way.  We’re almost done with everything I had up my sleeve.

Now I am finally getting to post about the different home improvements we have done, but I will need to do it incrementally.  Today, I want to show you several Pinterest projects I have done using almost NO money to spruce up our front entry way.

The front entry way projects: Modge Podge Chair, Toilet Paper Roll Wall Art, and a Packaging Frame Collage.

Modge Podge Chair

When we moved in, we had a set of four chairs for the dining table, a desk chair, and two random chairs that didn’t seem to belong to anything.  They sat on the balcony, taking up space and slowly getting destroyed in the rain and snow.

When I found this Modge Podge chair on Pinterest, I thought I might be able to pull it off, especially since I also discovered you can make your own Modge Podge.  Unfortunately, I found out that glue can be rather expensive in Germany, and I had to do some research to find the equivalent of Elmer’s Glue.  One small tube (even with 50% free) was 3.50 euro.  Yikes.

My chair really needed two layers of napkins (and therefore more glue), so I had my brother send me a few bottles of good ol’ Elmer’s.  Without the glue hassles, this chair would have only taken a few days (including drying time) to complete.  Regardless, I’m quite pleased with the results.

The chair before (and my little helper, Screech, to the right).

My German glue for the first layer of napkins. I obviously grossly underestimated the amount of glue in this tube, since my homemade Modge Podge (half glue, half water) only came to 1/4 of the volume of the jar I used.

Toilet Paper Wall Art

I absolutely cannot stand white walls, and our lease specifies that we cannot drill any holes in the wall.  BOO!  Fortunately, there are no restrictions against adhesives (my dad is cringing right now thinking of all the residue that will be left after we move out!).  UNfortunately, that means I cannot hang anything I want.  It must be light.

I saw several versions of toilet paper wall art on Pinterest.  After doing this project, I’m hooked!  It’s extremely easy, fast, and produces attractive results.

Because some of my toilet paper rolls were white and some were cardboard brown, I lightly spray painted the finished product with black spray paint (just enough to even out the colors, but not enough to saturate).

I see more toilet paper projects in my future!

I used clothes pins to hold the pieces of the toilet paper roll while the glue dried.

Packaging Frame Collage

While collecting toilet paper rolls, I also collected lots of different kinds of boxes from cereal to laundry detergent to baking soda to taco shells.  I found this idea on Pinterest to put them together and make a collage of picture frames.  This fits in perfectly with my requirement that any wall art be light!

Since I want the pictures to be the highlight and not the paint colors, I kept the interior of the boxes white and only painted the exterior.  I found that spray paint worked the best for the interior of the boxes, and acrylics worked best for the outside edges.

While my house (and yours, I’ll bet) is always a work in decorating progress, I’m pleased with these projects for now.  I hope to add a plant and message board to the small table (which, by the way, someone had left by the side of the road – score!).  I also plan to add a basket underneath the chair to store slippers and house shoes.

Stay tuned for more Home Improvement projects coming soon!

A Day in the Life

What I ate for lunch last Tuesday. Leftover homemade veggie/beef burger, homemade bun, spicy German potato snacks (not homemade), and a homemade rehydration drink in an imported bottle.  I really should get out of the kitchen.

I am many things.  I’m determined, organized, creative, tired, a reader, a close friend, a wannabe runner, busy, creative…  And a cheapskate, passport-obsessed Mama.  Duh.  But I would never, ever, forever put scrapper on the end of that list.

Most scrapbooks are so kitschy crafty.  I gag at bling, buttons, and bows all over quality photographs.  Maybe you like it.  I’m cool with that.  I just probably won’t want to go to that weekend-long scrapbooking lock-in you’re raving about.  Just sayin’.

But, unfortunately, that leaves me with a dilemma.  How do I organize and preserve memories of our family?

One idea I found about a year and a half ago is something called A Day in the Life.  You pick one day and take photographs all day long.  Shove a camera in your family’s face.  Introduce your three year-old to what it’s like to be stalked by the paparazzi.  Then maybe he will definitely-sorta-hopefully think twice about trying out for American Idol.

Once you have your whole day photographed, organize the pictures into a digital photo book (bling, buttons, and bows optional).  Order one, and stick it in a box somewhere to be discovered by your then seventeen year-old son’s girlfriend.  Order two for the grandparents and cross their names off your Christmas list.

I’m in the midst of working on my second-annual edition, so the finished project isn’t ready for visitors.  But, I found two sites for you here and here with more information and ideas.

Several twists on this theme:

  • A Day in the Life.. of each person in your family.  This might be a bit much for me as I like to keep it simple and this could easily become four photo books.
  • A Week in the Life.  This way you can capture Emily’s dance lessons and Jack’s baseball practices even though they aren’t on the same day.  Keep it simple though – you don’t need seven pictures of breakfast.  Unless you’re an awesome breakfast chef.  Then you should come over to my house, make breakfast, and take pictures.  But not of me in the morning.  I like French Toast, thanks for asking.
  • Month or Year by the day.  Take one photograph for each day of a month or a year.  December is a good month especially if you have lots of events and family visiting.  But, that could just be one more thing to add to an already-full schedule.  Personally, I’m intrigued by the year idea.  It would have been great to do that for our year in Germany.  Ah, well, next adventure.

Once you have all your photos ready to go, remember to look for deals.  I have used Artscow (out of Hong Kong!) many times.  The quality is decent and the price can’t be beat.  They often have deals where the book is free; you pay the shipping (on par with US companies).  Or you pay a nominal fee for the book and shipping is free.  Either way, you can get a decent book for under $10 (provided it’s not fifty gazillion pages) if you just take some time to search around.

So, what do you think of this idea?  Have you ever done a photo book like this before?  If you don’t do this, what do you do to preserve family memories?