Tag Archives: Single Mom

Appliances and the Single Mom

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Appliances and the Single Mom

In checking on my laundry yesterday, I saw my clothes sitting in the laziest of manners in the tub of the wash machine soaking in dirty water.  I had to stop and think, “when did I put these clothes in?”  and “are they just in a soak cycle?”.   After playing with the dials and knobs for a while in a knowing manner to see if I could initiate a drain and spin sequence, I came to the frightening conclusion that that dang machine was broke.  Or just being lazy.  Or just broke.

There’s nothing scarier in the world for a single mom than having an appliance stop working.  First of all, most appliances in the home are used and used again on a daily basis and their loss cannot just be brushed off  like a bad date with an “Oh well!” and a flip and of the hair and the hand.   Replacing them is usually a rather large expense, usually of the unexpected variety.

In the past 6 months, I have been faced with a few failing appliances and before taking that machine out back to be kicked, shot and mourned, I decided to see if I could fix it myself.  Yes, that’s right.  In this day of YouTube and internet, it isn’t all that improbable that an easy fix could be a few key strokes away.

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I highly recommend the website, RepairClinic.com  Any amazing website that helps troubleshoot issues, has video on how to take apart your machine, test parts if possible and an online chat to ask questions.  Once you identify the issue and if you need a part, then you can order it directly from them.  Then you can watch a video on how to install the part and if it turns out that it wasn’t the problem after all, you can return for a full refund of your money.   It is totally a win-win situation with low risk.  After all, you were probably going to trash that disloyal piece of metal anyway and get yourself a shiny new bells-and-whistles something-or-other.  So, what have you got to lose to try it yourself and maybe gain a new sense of achievement and empowerment.  You know, it’s not like you have to tell anyone …. just  say the “dang thing” exploded when the kids come home from school and find the machine dismantled in the kitchen.

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Took my dryer apart…. and was surprised how simple it was

Back Story

Several months ago my dryer was making a horrible screech, which started even more months prior as a cute little mouse-like squeak and then slowly escalated to a mind-scrambling, metal-on-metal, leave-the-house-when-drying-the-clothes noise.  I was definitely not in a position to buy a new dryer and frankly, why would I want to?  I’m definitely a “gadget girl”, but clothes dryers do not excite me.  And having a new one is nothing I would brag about.

I did some basic internet queries and saw comments about the drive belt.   I was positive that’s what it was, after all, don’t cars make that awful noise when their belts are going bad or slipping?  So I went to the auto parts store and got me some belt lubricant and gave that a go.  Moral:  Not every chat room is going to give you good advice or a money back offer.

Not one to give up an opportunity to bust through another gender paradigm …… I found RepairClinic.com and once I located and typed in my dryer brand and model number (easy find inside the door), I was able to utilize videos that help me identify the noise and another video that help me to take the dryer apart to confirm the diagnosis.  In my case, there were sliders that help the drum spin smoothly that had worn to nothing.  I had four that needed to be replaced and the bracket that holds them.  For about $35, I was able to repair my dryer and get it back into quiet working order within a few days (parts need to be shipped).   All it took was some time, effort, a bit of knowledge and a screw driver to take the dryer apart and put it back together.   The parts just snapped into place.  Suddenly, I felt like I was standing on a mountain top, hands on hips, with a red cape flapping in the wind.  I had done it!  Que music from Rocky followed by a very funky Happy Dance.   Un-hu, I am bad… I know it!

Present Day

So, now I am looking into the tub of my machine wondering how long those clothes are going sit in that water before they start to decay, cuz I’m thinking I won’t be bailing out that water if I don’t have to.   I started looking through their troubleshooting guide and read the following under Repair Help:

Washer Stop in mid-cycle

Yes, that’s exactly what happened, so I click on that it brings up the parts that could be responsible and, assuming that my timer must be the issue, I look under the Timer part it said:

Timer:

If the washer stops mid cycle the timer might be defective. This part is often misdiagnosed, check other components before replacing this timer.

So I looked around for another option…..

Lid Switch Assembly

If the washer stops mid cycle the lid switch assembly might be defective. This is a very common problem. The lid switch assembly can fail either mechanically or electrically. Test any electrical switches with an Ohm meter for continuity. The switches should have continuity according to their design.

Ah, this must be it.  By the way, I skipped the testing with the Ohm meter (although I do have one of the those as it would have required disassemble and draining of the washer) and went straight to the pinky-in-the-lid-switch-slot test and lo and behold, the washer started working.  So, definitely the Lid Switch Assembly is failing and I promptly ordered it for $36 + shipping ($42).  And since I can’t stand there with my pinky in the Lid Switch slot all day, I did my Lady McGuyver and came up with a temporary solution.

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Temporary Solution with a half a clothes pin. It works!

My part should be here next week and my laundry room will be back in a socially and aesthetically acceptable condition.

I’ll let you know how the installation goes….. in the meantime, check out that website and remember that you have options when large metal mechanical things begin failing around you.  If nothing else, you will be able to talk to the repair person with all the symptoms and proper jargon and maybe they will think twice about overcharging the knowledgeable and powerful mom with the red cape!

Keep Calm and Thrive On……..

Dona

Adventures in Table Making – Wrap Up

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As promised in Monday’s post here, I wanted to wrap up all the choices, costs, timeline and references in making this table into a single post.

References

Table Plans:  www.ana-white.com   Narrow Farmhouse Table

Table Top Idea:  www.deuxmaison.com (I love the rustic finish on the base here, as well)

Tapered Leg Jig

Materials & Costs:

I purchased Select Pine boards for this project.

Table Top:

8 – 1x3x6  –  $5.35 ea =  $43

Base:

2 –  1x3x6 – $5.35 ea =  $11

1 – 1x4x10 – $11

2 – 1x4x6 – $6.43 = $13

Scrap 2×2 (13¾”)

2 Cans White Primer =  $8

2 Cans Satin Ivory Silk = $8

2 Cans Matte Clear = $8

2 cans Wood Stain = $8

Total: $110

Dimension:

Table Top:

66″ Long  20″ Deep

(Remember to not cut 1x3s to length until after the boards have been glued and sanded)

Base:

Legs:  29¼”

Side Aprons: 58″

End Aprons: 13¾”

Maybe someday I will know enough about SketchUp to draw some awesome plans.

Colors:

Table Top:

Golden Pecan Stain

Cherry Stain

Base:

Ivory Silk Satin

Tips:

1.  I like to sand all the pieces before I assemble the final product.  That way there are no awkward angles or corners to sand into and the only sanding after assembly will be to smooth out any added wood putty.

2. Clamp together similar pieces and sand together to keep pieces uniform.

3. Test out stain and paint colors on test boards, including a poly coat.

4. Use a hair dryer on a cool setting to eliminate bubbles in your brushed-on poly coat.

Timeline

I completed the table top and the base as two separate projects over two weekends.

The table top took about 2.0 hours to assemble and sand allowing for a day to let the glue set and sanding a short time each evening.

The base took about 2.0 hours to assemble and sand.

Each coat of Poly was allowed to dry for 24 hours with a very light sanding between each coat.

I hope you enjoyed following this project and learned something new, like I did.  Good luck on your next project

~Dona~

Adventures in Table Making – Part II

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Here it is!  The table that I have been working on these past few weeks.   The table top, which I discussed in Part I, is now married to the base.  (Que Wedding March)

The Base

The base comes from these plans on http://www.ana-white com, the Narrow Farmhouse Table.

Except, her plans are for a table 96″ long and 30″ deep.  I loved the tapered legs in this plan, so I modified her plans down to 66″ long and 20″ deep in keeping with my intent and location.

Tapered Legs

The challenging part of this plan (click illustration above for Ana’s plan) was the tapered leg.  The goal, of course, was to have 8 uniformly tapered legs.

After a few failed attempts to make perfect cuts with a circular saw and a jig saw, I ran screaming to the internet looking for a better solution.  And I found this…..

Tablesaw Tapering Jig

Click the illustration above to get the directions for making this Jig for the tablesaw.  It was quick and easy to make with scraps I had on hand.

After making the jig, then I set up my saw for the 1×3 sized legs.  The fence was set to ensure that the saw blade entered the wood at the appropriate place and then I loosened the screw to get the angle that I wanted.

I was able to make 4 identical legs from the 1×3 boards.

Then I set up the jig for the 1×4 board by making the same adjustments to the fence and the screw to ensure I was getting the exact angle cut that I needed.

Once I got the hang of  it, and I did have to make adjustments to the screw a few times to get exactly the angle that I wanted, it was quick work to make the 4 identical legs from the 1×4 boards.

After all the cuts were made, I clamped the boards together to sand them to ensure they remained identical.

Then I glued and nailed the 1×4/1×3 combo’s together to get 4 distinct leg sections.

Be sure to follow Ana’s Leg diagram in Step 3 to ensure you are creating the correct combinations.

Framing the Base

I made some changes to the base from the original plans.  First, I removed the leg braces.  Since the table is not as deep as the original, it didn’t require the additional bracing.  Also,  I did not want to detract from the beautiful legs.

I did add the bracing and instantly regretted it.  I removed both of them with a swift whack of the hammer (while bracing the legs).

Second, I replaced the 1×6 apron with a 1×4 apron.  Again, the smaller table did not need that type of super structure and the 1×4 allowed more leg clearance when using a chair with a standard seat base height of 18″.

Using clamps, glue and a nail gun, I attached the apron to the legs.

Prepping the Base for the Table Top

The original plan for adding a table top to the base was to attach individual 1×8 boards screwed through the top.  Instead, I had created a single piece table top that I wanted to attach through the bottom.

So, rather than adding the 2×2 table supports as shown in Step 6:

I added corner brackets and a single 2×2 support in the middle which I glued and nailed into place.  The corner brackets are there to screw down the table top from the underside.

Painting

I used a color board to decide on a paint color for the base.  I matched this color board up with the stained top to get an understanding of how the colors would work together.  Plus, I can take the color board into the target room to see how the colors work in the lighting it will live in.

I did attempt to use just a clear lacquer finish to bring out the beauty of the select pine, but I’m afraid my cheap nail gun made too many blemishes that needed corrections and the lacquer would only accentuate the wood putty.  So, I decide a painted base was in order.

I applied three thin coats of white primer.

Followed by three thin coats of Satin Ivory Silk

Followed by two thin coats of Clear Matte.  After allowing the base to dry for 24 hours, I was ready to attach the table top.

Attaching the Table Top

I carefully laid the table top upside down onto some towels and then placed the inverted base on top.  I carefully measure and remeasure the overhang and made some reference marks.  In the case that the base is not perfectly square, the reference marks will allow it to be squared up as it is screwed down.

The Scary Part

I cannot count how many times I have ruined a beautiful finish by accidentally choosing the wrong screw size.   Since I was attaching the top to the base from the underside, there was the risk that I would end up piercing the finished topside if I was not careful.  Nightmarish stuff.

First, I made absolutely positive that I had the correct screw size (1 ¼”) for all 4 screws by stacking two 1×3 scrapes and ensuring the screw would not protrude, even if slightly countersunk.

Second, I knew I needed to make pilot holes to ensure that the wood would not split and I was concerned that I would drill through the finished topside.  To prevent this, there are two methods.

1) Use a piece of tape to mark on the drill bit the depth to which you want to drill.

2) Countersink your drill bit into the chuck to the desired depth.  Measure your depth with the 1 ¼ screw.

Next, I made pilot holes and then sunk the screws working in opposite corners to allow for squaring up as I went.

I made sure the Base was flush with the table top and did not overtighten.

So, I have gone from this:

Desk Mock Up

To this:

Narrow Farmhouse Table

Lots more to share with you regarding the final wood/color choices, costs, project time and some building tips.  I will save this for tomorrow while I savor my finished table.  Sometimes I walk into my bedroom several times a day just to look at it.

I will also be linking this on www.ana-white.com as a brag post.

Money and the Single Mom – Savings

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Savings!

I’m not talking about what you “could have” spent if you didn’t get those shoes on sale.  I’m talking about purposeful, methodical accumulation of funds.  A savings attitude will serve you well when Wealth Building for retirement and kid’s college funds.  However, first and foremost,  you will need to build a healthy Savings account.  This Savings Account, known as an Emergency Fund, will be the buffer between you and that sense of doom, that horrible overwhelming feeling when disaster calls.  Believe me when I say disasters come in spades.

Surviving or Thriving?

A well-funded Emergency Fund is the key difference between surviving and thriving as a Single Mom.  As a Thriving Mom, you are taking control of your money.  You are on a budget, out of debt and now you are building a safety net to keep you and your kids safe from the unexpected pitfalls of life.  Things like illness, job loss, or any interruption in income can be difficult for most two-income families.  It can be devastating to a Single Mom.

Last October, my son had to be hospitalized for 3 days from an infection from an indoor swimming pool.  While still paying for what the insurance didn’t cover, he then had to have his front teeth rebuilt from a biking accident.  This month alone, my slab has sprung a leak ruining my laundry room and hallway flooring and my car bumped fenders with another car (so not my fault but no one wants to believe me).  Of course, I have insurance, but I also have deductibles that need to be met before my insurance will kick in for the rest.

The point is… disasters will happen and sometimes they just refuse to wait until you have recovered from one before the next disaster takes up residence in your life.

Enter the Emergency Fund!

As recommended in my blog “Money and the Single Mom – Debt” , you should have a small emergency fund of $500 – $1000 to cover unexpected emergencies as you focus on getting out of debt and stop using credit as a safety net.   The next step is to make a BIG Emergency Fund.  This fund should be large enough to cover your minimum living expenses for up to 3 – 6 months.  This fund can support you should you lose your job, or have to take time off from work for a child’s illness, or even replace a refrigerator or buy a reliable used car.  This is not the “Momma needs a Cruise or a New Car” or “The Kids Deserve an Xbox” fund.  This fund is your security blanket and your Superpower.

How to Start Saving

The rule of thumb is to take 10% off the top of each paycheck and start socking it away into a savings account.  Sounds easy enough, but most people who don’t have a habit of saving will most likely find this a difficult step.   Most of us are stretched to the limit, as it is.  Here are a few ideas to help you get your Big Emergency Fund started:

I recommend reading “Live Your Life for Half the Price”  by Mary Hunt (Everyday Cheapskate) to get great ideas on how to live well for less.  Borrow the book from the library and start shaving that 10% off your lifestyle and moving it into your savings account.

Look closely at your budget and start getting rid of unnecessary expenses.  Revisit your insurance, your electric company, your cable and phone bills and find out if switching companies can get you cheaper rates or remove features that you really don’t use or could otherwise live without.  Do this on an annual basis.  You will be surprised how many new luxuries make their way into your budget each year. 

Selling stuff is a great way to clear out the clutter and beef up your Big Emergency Fund.  When I sell stuff, I immediately put the money into my SmartyPig account.  Do you have anything that you can sell in a garage sale, eBay or Craigslist?  Then take a picture and get it posted.

If you have successfully paid off all your debt, then move that payment into your savings.  You’ve been living without it all this time, you won’t miss it.

A second job or overtime is always a great way to stockpile money quickly, but is not always an option for a Single Mom.

Remember that 10% should be your target, but if you can only scrap together 3% or 5% for a while, then don’t let that stop you from getting started.  You will be surprised how fast it can grow even from the smallest input.

Where to put that Money!

That money needs to be some place where you can get to it when you really, really, really need it, but not so easy that you can just transfer it over to your checking account to cover an unexpected “retail therapy” shopping spree.

I recommend having it in a different bank all together and have found that some of the online banks like SmartyPig, ING,  Ally can give you the best  interest rates available.  Do your research  and you can set up an online account tied to your regular checking account with $25 or less.   Then set up automatic withdrawals on your pay dates.

Patience!

It will take some patience, some sacrifice  and some time to reach your 3 or 6 month goal and there will be setbacks, since emergencies come unannounced all the time.  Don’t give up.   There will be a peace like you’ve never know when an emergency comes to take a bite out of your fund.  While you will be sad to see the money go, (and it will be done with a lot of kicking and screaming) it will feel less like doom and more like a simple inconvenience.

Now You’re Thriving!

I recommend the following books for more insight into budgeting and other money matters:

The Total Money Makeover – Dave Ramsey

Debt-Proof Living – Mary Hunt

Next Wednesday:  Wealth Building

~Dona~

A Bird In Hand….

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Yesterday, there was a spoiler alert in this post here. It was the next step in my Home Office Makeover…. the shelves. My original plan was to build some shelves for over the printer, but I decided to upcycle some Pottery Barn shelves that I had lying around. I also had some ledger shelves in a drawer that needed some love, so I threw them into the mix.

Painting

The hard part was deciding on the paint. The first coat of paint I put on them was bright glossy white. Don’t you just love glossy white shelves? After two coats, I decide the bright white was just going to introduce another color into the scheme (yes, white is a color) and compete with the brighter colors already on my mood board.

I love that I can change color in the middle of it all. So, I switched to the Ivory Satin that I was using on the Lost Sock project from yesterday.

And while I was at it, I painted some of the items that I purchased for this room. As you remember from a previous post, I do not like Gold Trim on anything, so bring on the paint….

Glossy Sunny Yellow

and this “Dream” needed to lighten up with some Glossy Sunny Yellow, too.

I love how dreamy the “Dream” is looking.

and wait, even more paint…..

This was an interesting shape, but the color didn’t work, so here come the Glossy Key Lime…… Yum!

Now “Dreamy” has some “Yummy” to go with it.

So let’s talk about the painting. Each items gets a minimum of two coats of primer to cover the old color and to allow the new paint to adhere better. Thin coats work best. The thin coats of paint won’t run and it dries fast so I can do multiple coats in a shorter time period.

Then the color coat is done the same, but I do 3-4 thin coats to get the coverage I want. I take my time and allow the paint to cure about 24 hours after finishing the last coat. This makes sure the paint surface won’t mar when you handle it.

Since the shelves were going to have items with weight sitting on them, I let them cure for about 48 hours before attempting to install them.

Installation

While waiting for paint to dry, which is as agonizing for me as watching paint dry, I had to make some decision about placement. I used Painters Tape to mark where I wanted to place each shelf.

These shots are from each side of the desk. I hadn’t planned on putting shelves on both sides, but once I stumbled across the massive abundance of shelves that I had stockpiled, it made sense for balance.

Let me say right now that I hate hanging shelves and this time was no picnic. I did manage to get all the screws into the wall. I used Hollow Wall Anchors for the larger shelves as I didn’t have the good fortune to find studs in the wall where I needed them. The ones I like have pointed tips so I just hammer them into the wall and then tighten the screw to expand the anchor, which provides a more secure grip against the wall.

I used a nice big level and marked a straight line onto the Painters Tape that I had put on the wall. Then I measure between the hardware pieces on the back of the shelf and make my markings directly onto the tape on the level line. Then I hammer in my anchors, tighten the screw to expand the anchor. Then I unscrew the screw a fraction of an inch so the shelf hardware can slide right onto the head of the screw. Sounds easy, right?!?!

So, without further frustration and with great pleasure, here are my Home Office Shelves.

At first glance, I am glad I chose a softer shelf color that blends into the wall. That allows my decorative items to showcase better.

Shall we take a closer look?

The Bumble Bee picture looks much better with a Yellow Frame and a sexy beast green ceramic bird to admire it.

A picture of my Dad surrounded by an awesome butterfly pot and a bird vase with some garden gloves tucked inside.

The Power of 3 (to signify me and my kids) and an old picture of me and my siblings from days gone by…..

My dreamy Dream has a little bird friend with a fun color bird portrait.

A picture of my Mom from her school days with a white ceramic bird to tell her secrets.

The blue bird of happiness depicted in art and in ceramic.

I hadn’t planned on a “bird” theme here, but when I found them 50% off at Michael’s, I couldn’t resist getting one in every color. One even landed on my hall table.

Here is another lookie-see at the finished effort.

Project Cost:

Shelves $0

Paint $12 (Primer, Ivory, Yellow)

Total Cost: $12

Total Time after painting: About 1 hour to hang shelves and arrange items.

I’m loving how my Home Office is coming along. What do you have planned this weekend? I plan on some much needed fun and maybe work on some projects that will help my desk look a bit tidier and incorporate some of the new colors I am working with. I might even be able to swing some wall art. Stay tuned.

Have a great weekend!

~Dona~