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Mrs. Maroon

February 17, 2015

Our Anti-Valentine’s Jubilee

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Mini Maroon #1 will be three years old next week — CRAZY!! Mr. Maroon’s family made the trek over from west Texas on Friday for an early birthday celebration. But before they arrived…


School Valentine’s Party

Two weeks ago I was handed a list with all of the names of the kids in Mini Maroon #1’s class. Also, I was simultaneously asked to sign up to bring something for the class party. In case you glazed over the first sentence, he is three years old. I really don’t understand why we have to start class parties this young. But I never want to impose a weirdness onto our children because we make a conscious choice to avoid consumerism. So I gladly signed up to bring cupcakes. Mini #1 eats a mostly gluten-free diet, so I wanted to make sure he could enjoy some baked goods too. Thursday afternoon he helped me make the cupcakes, and I finished the icing after bedtime. As a side note – buttercream icing is ridiculously easy to make. And irresistibly good!! Pretty good night when momma gets to have some buttercream icing. 🙂


Then comes those obligatory cards. Remember the list of names?? I could have gotten some of those cheap, perforated cards plastered with superheroes and the latest animated craze. In fact it’s pretty tempting to do so. But I choose to let Mini help with something he can make instead. I found a kit of cards for $5…

 All children LOVE stickers!

All children LOVE stickers!


What I don’t understand is why classes of children – either school age or in day care – need to host class parties for every ‘holiday’. He came home on a huge sugar high and was still bouncing off the walls when our company arrived at 9:00p. We made an exception to the normal bedtime so that he could see the family arrive. But why was the party necessary in the beginning?? I’m really struggling with this one, but the ideas keep swirling round and round… maybe another day that will come together as a cohesive thought. Apparently that day is not today.


Romance Abounds

As I changed a diaper for Mini Maroon #2 Saturday morning, I heard my brother-in-law give a card to his wife before they got out of bed. It even sang a song. I have to believe it cost him over $7. But sadly (okay, not so sadly) I don’t know for sure because I think singing greeting cards are the most ridiculous thing in the whole world. I don’t even like greeting cards at all anymore – no matter the price. Fortunately, Mr. Maroon shares my sentiments. I was the lucky lady on the receiving end of “Good morning. You know I’m not buying you a card!” with a hug to get the day started. Fine by me!!


We could have chosen to dine out to celebrate the special day – Valentine’s even fell on a Saturday this year. Pshhh! Yeah right! We even had free babysitters for the night. As a considerably more frugal option, we could have chosen to create a special, out-of-the-ordinary meal for the evening – filet mignon (though Mr. Maroon hates that cut) with some veggies, a nice bottle of wine, and dessert – to replicate the fine dining experience expected by so many “lovebirds” from the evening. What did we do instead?? We let that baking stone work for us to make calzones!

 Melted cheese inside bread... Can I request this for every meal?

Melted cheese inside bread… Can I request this for every meal?


The Project

So far we have just skimmed the surface of the weekend. Truly, we did have big plans with a big project to accomplish. We decided that our birthday gift to Mini Maroon #1 would be a swing set for the backyard. In case no one has noticed, swing sets these days are nothing like the ones I remember playing on as a child. I can still see the metal swing set with a slide, a couple swings, and exposed screws waiting to jump out and rip your knee open. But now, now we have wooden forts, with roofs, and monkey bars, and… the sky is the limit. One quick online search for a swing set kit will leave you grasping your wallet to your chest and shaking your head violently back and forth.


In very typical fashion for Mr. Maroon, he quickly determined that none of these swing set kits fit his vision. Well, they might come close to meeting his expectations. But having price tags with four figures, they were completely out of the question. Never discount Mr. Maroon and his ideas though. He may drive me crazy in wanting something that is seemingly not made to his specifications, all for a fraction of the price of what we can find, but this trait mostly does work out for us in the end. So what do we do?? We build one ourselves!


After one extra trip to the hardware store, and another trip to return lumber – surprisingly a mid-construction design change resulted in using less materials – plus some hardware from Amazon, the final tally for the project came to $725. I am delighted with the results…

 TA DA!!!

TA DA!!!

Obviously, we could have spent far less money to celebrate Mini #1’s birthday. But I think this project is a perfect example of frugality compared to blind consumer spending. This morning, Robin at The Thrifty Peach shared one of the best definitions of frugality I’ve seen yet:


Economical in use or expenditure; prudently saving or sparing; not wasteful


We used our resourcefulness, plus time and effort, to achieve our grand goal. We could have taken the easy way out, at the expense of exercising our creative minds and straining our pocketbook. Instead, we chose to be economical in spending our hard-earned dollars. And now, Mr. Maroon can now walk around with his chest puffed out a nanometer further with the pride that he crafted the swing set for our Minis to enjoy.

 Just getting started

Just getting started

 We have a slide! With a sandbox to go underneath!!

We have a slide! With a sandbox to go underneath!!

 Construction continues into the night to avoid the frigid temps coming on Sunday.

Construction continues into the night to avoid the frigid temps coming on Sunday.

Would you ever build your own swing set? What do you spend for your children’s birthdays? Buttercream icing anyone??

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  1. Comment by Mrs. PoP — February 18, 2015 @ 5:38 AM

    What an awesome swingset! We have talked about hanging swings from the large oak tree in our front yard, but it’s pretty far down on the list of projects we want to get done.
    Mrs. PoP recently posted…Re-Re-Re-modeling!My Profile

    Mrs. Maroon Reply:

    Trees large enough to hold swings would be awesome!! I’d love to have some big trees like that. Maybe one day…

  2. Comment by Mrs SSC — February 18, 2015 @ 6:24 AM


    That swingset is awesome – we would totally build our own, it would be fun. But – one of the main draws to our house is we live about a 5 minutes walk to one park and a 5 minute bike ride to about 4 more playgrounds… so we shouldn’t have to build one!

    We don’t do Valentines either, but I did have to spring for cards for the kids school. Although, I was slightly excited because I guess Mr SSC didn’t tell baby girl’s teacher that her cards were in her backpack – so they didn’t get passed out, which means I can use them next year! Wow – I feel so cheap!!!

    One thing that is nice about the daycare we go to, is that while they celebrate every holiday with a party, they started an initiative last fall to have primarily healthy food – so no more chips/candy but instead fruit/veggies/yogurt. Although I did notice mini-cupcakes in baby girls class, so apparently not all parents are respecting the healthy guidelines…
    Mrs SSC recently posted…Retirement Quest: Where to live?My Profile

    Mrs. Maroon Reply:

    One of the only redeeming qualities about Houston is the abundance of playgrounds everywhere. We have a neighborhood playground too, but I can see this one from the kitchen, so I’m pretty excited about it.

    Good for the day care on the healthy foods for parties. I obviously didn’t follow that sentiment by sending cupcakes though. But I like it!

  3. Comment by Robin @ The Thrifty Peach — February 18, 2015 @ 7:52 AM

    I wa laughing through this post because it sounds so like us with the anti- valentine sentiment, and then I saw the shout out- thanks!
    I hate greeting cards and always tell my husband not to buy them (he doesn’t really listen.) I’d rather have the 3 dollars! And the singing ones are so obnoxious!
    For our daughter’s third birthday last August, we also wanted to get her a swing set and were SHOCKED at the prices. I searched far and wide to find her a simple metal set like I had when I was a kid. I think it was about 100 bucks. She loves it, but it’s pretty much junk. The slides that come with them now are not metal, but cheap, thin plastic.
    Robin @ The Thrifty Peach recently posted…The Difference Between Greedy and FrugalMy Profile

    Mrs. Maroon Reply:

    Nice shopping skills on the swing set!

    I would much rather have $3 (or more) over getting a card. On top of spending unnecessary money, then what do you do with it? I don’t really need a ton of cards lying around the house. But then there is the guilty feeling of tossing it since your husband made the effort to pick one out…

  4. Comment by Mrs. Frugalwoods — February 18, 2015 @ 9:16 AM

    Gorgeous swing set! I love that you built it yourselves! We did a super frugal at-home Valentine’s Day dinner too–homemade split pea soup and bread… yum. And, definitely no cards ;). Buttercream frosting is delicious and I could probably eat the entire bowl if given half the chance. All in all, sounds like you have a gloriously frugal and fun Valentine’s and bday!
    Mrs. Frugalwoods recently posted…Frugal Hound Sniffs: Reach Financial IndependenceMy Profile

    Mrs. Maroon Reply:

    Thanks!! I think Mr. Maroon did a fabulous job with the swing set. Mmmmm – homemade bread. I am a carb fiend. And a frosting fiend. It’s a good thing I had cupcakes waiting for the frosting, or it may not have seen the sun rise the next day!

  5. Comment by Christina @ Embracing Simple — February 18, 2015 @ 9:35 AM

    What a beautiful swingset, wow! That’s awesome that Mr. Maroon was able to put that together.

    Little Miss doesn’t turn 1 until June, but we have already decided we will not be getting our kids birthday gifts. (actually, with the exception of maybe a swingset for her bday next year. If we are going to get one at some point anyway, it might as well be masked as a bday gift;) )

    Growing up, I only received physical gifts from my parents on Christmas and then our birthday parties with all our little friends were the big gift from my parents. I never hurt for it and it made me appreciate and think about how much cost and effort went into the party itself, instead of it just being something to expect.
    Christina @ Embracing Simple recently posted…34 Frugal and Fun Date IdeasMy Profile

    Mrs. Maroon Reply:

    I think we will always do gifts for birthdays, but strongly leaning towards things that they need or something they will really enjoy and use. The swing set certainly falls into the latter category of that definition though.

    But I don’t expect to do much for birthday parties. Perhaps a gathering at a park. Or most likely as they get older, a sleepover with a couple friends. I always want them to understand the effort and cost involved in fulfilling their desires, instead of just expecting certain activities. Such a balancing act when it comes to providing for our kids, but also teaching them to value the ways we choose to spend our money.

  6. Comment by Emily @ Simple Cheap Mom — February 18, 2015 @ 10:50 AM

    Ok, that swing set is amazing. I’d love to try that slide myself!

    Calzones also look amazing. We’ve never tried those at home. Our Valentine’s Day was a lot like yours. No cards. Crab poutine. Yum!

    Hope you had a good time with your family in town!
    Emily @ Simple Cheap Mom recently posted…7 Free Indoor Places to Take your ToddlerMy Profile

    Mrs. Maroon Reply:

    Word of caution on the slide… Not made for mommy hips 🙁 I got to take the inaugural trip, but much better for the minis. I’m all about the swings though!

    Crab poutine sounds very fancy. And complicated. But delicious!!

  7. Comment by Elroy — February 18, 2015 @ 10:56 AM

    Nice! Is the sandbox made of P treated wood?
    Elroy recently posted…Israel – JerusalemMy Profile

    Mrs. Maroon Reply:

    Thanks!! Yes, we did use pressure-treated wood for the entire swing set.

  8. Comment by Brian @ Debtless in Texas — February 18, 2015 @ 9:44 PM

    We did the same thing on V-day – just chilled and cooked at home BUT NOT CALZONES =(

    That is a badass swingset, give Mr. Maroon a high five from central Texas!

    Mrs. Maroon Reply:

    Very good Valentines ‘celebration’! Long distance high five gladly sent back at you 😉

  9. Comment by Jason @ Islands of Investing — February 19, 2015 @ 5:33 AM

    Wow, that is an amazing hand-made swing-set! Nice work Mr Maroon!!

    When we bought our new house, the previous owners were very kind and left a swing that was hanging from a tree in the front garden for our little girl. Every time we came to the inspections before the auction she would jump on it, and just loved it. Nowhere near as cool as what you’ve built, but she absolutely loves it all the same 🙂
    Jason @ Islands of Investing recently posted…The scales can mislead youMy Profile

    Mrs. Maroon Reply:

    Very cool to have one come with the house!

  10. Comment by Mr. 1500 — February 19, 2015 @ 8:11 AM

    The DIY playset is great! I love this too:

    “And now, Mr. Maroon can now walk around with his chest puffed out a nanometer further with the pride that he crafted the swing set for our Minis to enjoy.”

    A nanometer!!! Do you work in the sciences (I was a biology and chemistry major)?

    Can’t wait to follow in your footsteps! Or maybe I should say “hammer swings?”
    Mr. 1500 recently posted…Thursday Rant: When good birthday parties go bad; terror at the symphony and jumping the sheepMy Profile

    Mrs. Maroon Reply:

    We are both engineers. And honestly stay far away from the metric system. I wanted to give him the license to be proud of his craft, but certainly can’t let it go to his head. My goodness, that would just be setting us all up for trouble. Can’t wait to see pictures of your creation too!

  11. Comment by No Nonsense Landlord — February 20, 2015 @ 6:06 AM

    Great job on the swing set. There are a lot of parts, and instructions not as good as you need for your first go-around.

    Since I do not have kids, I do not spend much on the kids presents. +1 on the butter-cream frosting though!
    No Nonsense Landlord recently posted…How to Be a Dream Tenant – Nationally Published Blog Article!My Profile

    Mrs. Maroon Reply:

    Thanks!! Glad to find another buttercream fan! Now if it were socially acceptable to just snack on it 🙂

  12. Comment by Tawcan — February 20, 2015 @ 1:04 PM

    We had a home-cooked meal for Valentine’s Day as well and watch Dirty Dancing after. The next day we went for a nice stroll on the beach. It was great. That’s a really nice swingset you have there!
    Tawcan recently posted…Momentary sacrifices and financial independenceMy Profile

    Mrs. Maroon Reply:

    Oooh! Mr. Maroon will attest to Dirty Dancing being one of my favorite movies ever!! Early in our dating, I gave him a gift of mine and his favorite movies to watch together… Lonesome Dove and Dirty Dancing!

  13. Comment by Femme @ femmefrugality — February 20, 2015 @ 4:52 PM

    Um, that is awesome! And both will be able to enjoy it for years to come! The only issue I’d have is cutting the wood… We have no power tools. But I could probably source some!
    Femme @ femmefrugality recently posted…Shopping for Clothes on the CheapMy Profile

    Mrs. Maroon Reply:

    We are fortunate to have a fair number of power tools… Mr. Maroon’s father was a shop teacher for 47 years. Mr. Maroon also enjoys woodworking. He will likely turn it into a side hustle during our early retirement years!

  14. Comment by Chela @SmashOdyssey — February 21, 2015 @ 6:14 PM

    Wow! I’m so impressed with the swingset! It looks incredible!
    I laughed out loud at the singing greeting card! I didn’t know they still made those! I remember them being the fad like what? 10 years ago at least. We don’t ever buy greeting cards either. My husband often makes me homemade cards though, which have me completely spoiled. They’re made of construction paper, and often look like they were crafted by a child, but the work he puts into them and the notes he writes invariably make me weep. Haha he’s a keeper 🙂
    Chela @SmashOdyssey recently posted…Time Travel and Free FunMy Profile

    Mrs. Maroon Reply:

    Sooo very sweet with the homemade cards. Don’t let go of that one!!

  15. Comment by Nicola — February 22, 2015 @ 8:12 AM

    Awesome swing set! And they’ll be able to have fun for many years to come 🙂 lovely idea.
    Nicola recently posted…The Weekend Edition #33My Profile

    Mrs. Maroon Reply:

    I hope for many more years of fun and laughter right outside the back door!

  16. Comment by Holly@ClubThrifty — February 23, 2015 @ 7:43 AM

    Awesome swingset! Our neighborhood park is just a few blocks away so we don’t have one.
    Holly@ClubThrifty recently posted…How I Earn a Living On the InternetMy Profile

    Mrs. Maroon Reply:

    We have a neighborhood park pretty close. Sadly no swings down there. But, then again, I can’t see the one down the street from the kitchen like this one!

  17. Comment by Mr. SSC — February 25, 2015 @ 1:20 PM

    I like that Mrs. SSC doesn’t like celebrating Valentine’s Day and so we don’t do cards or anything. Sometimes I’ll still do something, but nothing major. Kids parties, at daycare, seriously our youngest is 18 months and they expected Valentines’s and a snack. To be fair, I did tell the teacher she had her cards in the bag, lol. That’s a great swing set, my dad made one similar when we were younger to be able to customize and save $$ from what was available at that time.
    Mr. SSC recently posted…Woohoo! The Liebster Award!My Profile

    Mrs. Maroon Reply:

    I’m glad you set the record straight on the baby’s cards. But still so ridiculous that they were requested in the first place. I guess I should be happy that we weren’t asked to share cards for Mini Maroon #2’s class – she’s just five months old. She did get cards – with suckers no less – from her teachers though… Face palm.

  18. Comment by Shannon @ Financially Blonde — February 25, 2015 @ 2:45 PM

    I am SUPER impressed with that swing set!!! My hubby built a pre made swing set for our son four years ago and it nearly killed him, so I can’t imagine what creating one from scratch would have done. Great work!!
    Shannon @ Financially Blonde recently posted…Hard Work Sucks But Quitting Sucks HarderMy Profile

    Mrs. Maroon Reply:

    I think the pre-made ones are more difficult to assemble. We helped a friend a couple years ago. I think there were hundreds of pieces. Ours had far fewer than that, for sure. We were able to keep it simple and reduce the number of different sizes of materials to reduce waste. I think it was much more efficient than the commercial ones.

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