Wednesday, December 31, 2008

If You Feel So Inclined...

I'll admit that New Year's Eve is usually a bit anti-climactic in my house.  I never seem to have any glamorous parties to attend or fancy cocktail dresses to wear or exciting places to go.  In fact, the last several years it has just been a struggle to stay up to watch the ball drop (I know--at 28-years-old that is just lame...).  

It is unlikely that this year will be any different than those passed, but if I were to throw a party or attend a bash, I would hope that it would include the same ambience that inspired these Martha Stewart New Year's ideas.  

Of course, if you feel so inclined, you can craft your own Martha-like party decorations with gilded mobiles and handmade paper horns.  In fact, why not go the extra mile and create some of your own confetti? 

I, unfortunately, do not feel so inclined, but I do feel a little inspired, so instead I'll probably make some "gilded" throw pillows to mark the occasion.  (more on that later...).

Happy New Year to you all--and please enjoy a glamorous party so I can live vicariously through you!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

How un-New-Year-ish...

As you all know, the new year is just around the corner.  Now, normally I do tend to be a "resolution" type of person.  I like when a new season starts, and I especially like to get out my journal and write down some goals and wonder in general what the year will bring.

This year, however, I decided to reset my calendar a bit and choose the start of Fall as my "resolution time."  It just seemed like a better time of year to be focused, rather than the cold and dark and windy month of January.  And so the coming holiday doesn't quite have the same "starting fresh" luster as before.  Rather than plunging ambitiously ahead, armed with to-do's and lists, I actually feel more like nestling in with my books and my blankets and my knitting needles.

This feeling is what is inspiring me to start a new series here called "Nesting."  After a long Fall and a busy holiday season, I just want to spend the next two months dwelling on coziness and home.  Altruistic it certainly is not--I guess I'll have to save my altruism for sunnier days.  For now, my plan is to get my "nest" in comfortable order, and do what the animals do: hunker down and enjoy the warmth until Spring arrives.  I plan to bake bread and cook hearty meals and drink lots of tea.  I plan to bury myself in design projects, like making quilted throws and pillows and engraved bud bases to hold the first flowers of spring.  Yes...I'll probably do some organizing and revisit my "backwards budget," but all in the name of "securing my nest," of course.

I know that this "nesting" list is decidedly un-New-Year-ish, but I tend to deviate from the norm, so that's to be expected.  Besides, wouldn't you rather snuggle down than adopt harsh dieting rules or a serious exercise regime?  

Of course, I will inaugurate this new season with one traditional New Year's gesture: champagne (I love the bubbly--so sparkly and pretty).  Won't you join me in toasting to Nesting this winter?

Monday, December 29, 2008

A Domestic Anniversary of Sorts

It's the Monday after the Christmas holiday, and if you are anything like me, you are struggling to find the motivation to be productive.  Especially with another holiday just days away.  Alas, we must dig deep and persevere!

I hope that you all enjoyed your holiday.  We had a great Christmas up in the snowy mountains where I enjoyed several days of movies and long naps and knitting by the fire.  Now that I'm back home, I find myself staring blankly at my to-do list, which includes among other things grocery shopping (my refrigerator has a shocking lack of food), cleaning, and putting away all those annual holiday decorations back into the boxes and into the basement until next year.  At least my husband already did all of the laundry (I know--he's a keeper).

I've also caught myself reflecting a lot on my life over this past year, probably because the new year marks an anniversary of sorts for me.  I suppose I could call it my "domestic anniversary" because one year ago I quit my 9-5 job in corporate America and set out to makeover my lifestyle.  I was searching for a more creative livelihood (hence the blogging and the Etsy store), and something closer to home (technically something in the home).  I told myself that I'd give it a year, and then reevaluate my choices.  Well, the time for reevaluation has arrived.

I can't say that this year has been a piece of cake.  Parts of it (many parts of it) have been challenging for me.  It was more difficult than I anticipated to walk away from a steady income, and to answer the "what do you do?" question.  I was also often pulled between my post-feminist cultural upbringing and my secret attraction to domestic life, and had many an argument in my head about the significance of my choices to leave my career and work from home.  Furthermore, starting a business (as many of the mavens I feature on this blog already know) often requires more patience and discipline than I felt prepared for.

Nevertheless, one year later, I wouldn't have changed a thing.  And I certainly have no desire to turn back.  In fact, my "domestic convictions" are growing rather than diminishing.  Yes, certain aspects of my "lifestyle makeover" are still uncomfortable, but no more so than certain aspects of the 9-5 life I lived before.  And when I log onto this blog, or add something new to my Etsy store, or talk to someone about my life, I feel pretty good about my choices.

All of this to say that I am looking forward to another year of creating and writing and making a home and waxing poetically about social issues and how they apply to domestic life.  

Starting, of course, with the grocery list....

Friday, December 26, 2008

Handmade Holidays Photo Collage--My Favorite Project

In this final post from my handmade holiday photo collage, here are a couple of pictures from what undoubtedly became my favorite handmade project this year: cabled mittens and a matching hat to keep my friends and family snug during the winter.  (I knit at least three sets, and am probably knitting another as you read this...)

Related Handmade Holiday posts:
Learning a New Skill

Hope you enjoyed your Handmade Holiday this year!
Don't forget to check back in next week for some New Year's chatter, and to hear a little more about Nesting--my new series beginning in 2009!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Handmade Holidays Photo Collage--Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

I know you probably aren't surfing the net to catch up on the latest in the blog world, but just in case you are some wintery holiday scenes (in case you aren't having a white Christmas) taken from my own yard.

Hope you are staying warm and enjoying family!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Handmade Holidays Photo Collage--Day 3

Happy Christmas Eve-Day!

In keeping with the handmade holiday photo collage theme, here are some pics of presents all wrapped up and ready to ship (don't worry--I already shipped them).  Seems like a shame to have pretty paper ripped to shreds...  But what are the holidays without some Very Merry Ripping?

Related Handmade Holiday posts:

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Handmade Holidays Photo Collage--Day 2

In Honor of Food...

I'm still perfecting my bread technique, but love baking and giving homemade bread during the holiday season...

And nuts and berries have been a great substitute for holiday cookies (although I've had plenty of those too...)
Never underestimate the gift-ability of cheap glass canisters with some holiday ribbon...

Related Handmade Holiday post:

Monday, December 22, 2008

Marketplace Mavens: featuring Lori of Premier Designs (Part II)

I mentioned in last week's Maven post that my conversation with Lori from Premier Designs warranted at least two weeks, and so we are continuing with Part II today.  (note: in case you missed Part I, click here to catch up!)

I was inspired by Lori's personal story of fortitude, and we spent a great deal of time talking about overcoming obstacles, working for yourself, and building confidence.  Beyond that, though, there is another element to Lori's work that I wanted to highlight because I think it is an important part of female entrepreneurialism: the home-party business model.

Most of us are familiar with this type of work.  You host a party and invite your friends and coworkers.  Then a representative from the company (be it Party Lite or Mary Kay or Avon or Pampered Chef) comes and makes a presentation about the products.  Samples are tried, perhaps games are played, and--if the party is good--wine is served.  The representative has two goals at the parties: one is to sell products, and two is to possibly recruit other women to join the company as well.

Now--let's be honest: these business models often get a bad rap.  Because the products, and the selling venue, are very...well..."girly," they tend to not garner the kind of respect that more "formal" business get.  They are chided for being "hobbies" rather than "jobs," and therefore aren't taken seriously by some.  And because so many women dip their feet into selling but then quickly fizzle out, they have a reputation for over-promising success.

Because these are common perceptions, I wanted to give Lori a chance to address them, and make a case for why this type of business model has been so good for her.  Here were the points she made:

1.  Home-party businesses allow women/mothers to work from home, which was critically important for a single mom like Lori.  They offer the kind of flexibility that moms need in a way that most jobs do not.

2.  There are great opportunities for coaching and mentorship.  I envied Lori as she talked about some of the women in her company who were there to encourage and motivate her as she built her business.  And I know she provides the same encouragement to the women selling under her.  I know firsthand how lonely entrepreneurship can be, and this type of built-in support can be priceless.

3.  Contrary to most start-up businesses, these models often require little overhead (like rent, supplies, inventory, staff, etc.), usually offer financing (at lower rates and for lower amounts than most banks would ever offer), and even provide tax help.  In other words, the companies often remove the biggest barriers that might discourage women from running their own businesses, and that is commendable.

4.  In Lori's words, you get out of them what you put into them.  She acknowledged that many women drop out early, but that the persistent ones are successful.  It is a matter of motivation, confidence and endurance, she explained.  Lori is a testimony to all three, and supports three children from her "girly" job selling jewelry, so obviously she speaks to success from personal experience.

So, in a nutshell, Lori reminded me that there are many virtues to a home-party business, like support and coaching, financial help, and flexibility.  She wanted to encourage women out there to be open minded and even enthusiastic about this type of business and the opportunities it provides for women to work for themselves (so keep that in mind when someone asks you to host a party!).  After listening to the benefits, I can see why.  Of course not every woman is interested in selling products in the homes of friends and family, but if you are toying with the idea of making some money, and looking for a low-risk opportunity, take it from Lori: consider Premier Designs or another home-party company as a good place to start your home-based career.

On a general note, I have to say that these interviews and stories are by far my most favorite thing to write on this blog.  And while this will be the last Maven post for the year, I am really looking forward to hearing more great stories in 2009!  And I'm always looking for great Maven candidates, so don't hesitate to email me your story or nomination today at!

Handmade Holidays Photo Collage

My holiday (well, any day) workstation...

Pictured: Ribbon, raffia, a handmade animal, some halfway-finished knitted socks, some great fabric I printed using Lotta Jansdotter's stencils (still don't know what to make of it), and a quilted panel I made from remnants...

And here are some fabrics I'm collecting for my Hillberry Home shop...  You'll recognize some of the designs already sewn onto my pillow covers...

And finally my hand-me-down sewing machine from a favorite aunt, sitting on top of one of my favorite Goodwill finds: the sewing table (why don't they make these any more?).  

I wish I could say my work was all done...but there is still some crafting, and wrapping, left to do!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Handmade Holidays: Concluding Thoughts

I wanted to conclude this Handmade Holiday series with a list.  I'll call it the "Five Things I Value Most about Handmade."  Here it goes:

1.  Making and giving handmade promotes learning a new skill.  I, for one, have been longing to learn how to knit a cable, and this season's round of mittens and gloves gave me the opportunity to do just that.  Maybe it will be glass engraving next (inspired by Sonia Lucano), or making rag rugs for my house.  And the best thing about these skills?  They're practical!  They can be used for fixing and mending and recycling and upgrading, too.

2.  Speaking of recycling, the second thing I love about handmade is the process of turning something old or cast away into a new and unique item.  We throw so much away these days that it is nice to have a process to reclaim some of that waste.  Cheer #2 for handmade!

3.  Third, purchasing or creating handmade items is an investment in a "small scale" economy (as opposed to the very large scale one allegedly teetering on collapse right now).  When we make something, or buy something from a handmade seller, we are closing the gap between producer and consumer.  This smaller circle, in my humble opinion, makes us all more mindful of the craftsmanship, labor and true costs that go into the products we use on a day-to-day basis.

4.  Fourth, because the process of making handmade items tends to be smaller and less bureaucratic, opportunities for craftivism are often easier to find.  Handmade sellers and buyers alike are often passionate about helping others, and use their businesses and consumer dollars to create positive change in the other people's lives.

5.  Finally, last but not least, because the handmade process includes creativity and resourcefulness, it is often a very budget-friendly alternative to purchasing finished products from the store.  For instance, a throw pillow from Target might cost me $20 to buy, but only $5 to make (believe me--I've taken advantage of these savings many, many times!).  True--some handmade items actually cost more than what you can buy (mainly because of those true costs I mentioned in #3), but many of them cost much less.  And who couldn't use some extra money in their pockets these days?

So, apart from the obviously fabulous items we've been drooling over these past several weeks, and the very fun projects to sample ourselves, these five reasons listed above are the backbone to why Handmade Holidays has been so special for me this year.  

To read more on my "big picture thoughts" about Handmade Holidays, click below:

About what's to come:  Like many of you, I'm looking forward to some much needed vacation time in the next couple of weeks, and won't be chatting quite so much.  Next week I'm looking forward to posting some of the handmade photos I've been collecting this season from my projects as a collage homage to the Handmade series.
And I hope you'll check in the following week as I banter a bit about the coming New Year, post some resolution mad libs, and reflect on my "lifestyle makeover" in 2008.  

Until then, have a great weekend!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Handmade Holidays: Last-Minute Review

A part of me is sad that the end of this week wraps up the Handmade Holiday series.  I have had a lot of fun scouring the web for fun craft projects, and surfing through Etsy to find the talented wares of handmade sellers.  And of course I've enjoyed creating some of my own handmade gifts for this year's holiday season.

By now most of you have probably finished up your shopping, and are putting the last touches on your handmade projects.  But for you holiday procrastinators (I know you're out there) searching  for some late-in-the-game ideas, here's a recap of what we've covered this season:

Two of my favorite fashion trends this winter are incidentally easy to make projects: the oversize cowl and the fingerless gloves.  There is still time to whip up a set to give to friends or family, or to snag some from a handmade seller (but check the shipping guidelines for sellers as postal carrier deadlines are rapidly approaching!).  I made a set myself (is it bad that half of my projects are for me?), and can testify that it is a project that can be completed over a weekend.

If sewing is your interest, we also talked about plenty of handmade options for needle and thread.  Explore some embellishing projects to upgrade plain items into fancy, take a gander through Martha Stewart's virtual library of craft project how-to's, or download free sewing patterns from Amy Butler.  

Or if the idea of making something just burns you out, consider giving the gift of craft inspiration by presenting friends or family with some of the latest and greatest handmade-inspired books, like those from Amy Butler, Lotta Jansdotter, Joelle Haverson, and Sonia Lucano.  And don't forget the ever-popular food option--a great "gender neutral" gift to give to couples and the men in your life (who wouldn't be too impressed with oversize cowls and cute handbags).  

Please come back for tomorrow's last Handmade Holiday post, where I wax poetically about the greater virtues of "handmade living," and share about what's to come for the rest of the year (and a peek into next year).  

Until then, happy last-minute handmade crafting!  I, for one, have some mittens to finish!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Last Minute Handmade Gifts: Food!

I know that the idea of giving food as a holiday gift may seem a bit anti-climactic after spending weeks talking about knitting and sewing and glass-engraving projects, but never underestimate the value of appealing to the stomach.  My husband, for instance, maintains every year that his favorite gift is a Honey Baked Ham and some summer sausage.  And apart from the dreaded fruit cake, holiday treats are universally well-received, quick to make, and fun to package--all qualities for perfect last-minute gifting.

So whip up some of your favorite childhood cookies and pass on the memories to another family.  Mine, of course, are the peanut butter Hershey kiss cookies (I've already made a batch this year), and these fabulous chocolate-butterscotch hard candies my dad is famous for (well, famous at least in our family).  See this article from Country Living for more great ideas!

Or, consider making some of those nifty "cookie in a jar" gifts that are so popular in the stores these days.  All layered in glass, the ingredients make a nice display, and if you make them yourself you'll save your friends from those artificial preservatives found in the store-bought varieties.  Just don't forget to include the baking instructions!

Or maybe you know some moms with infants this year, and want to give them something they'll really use: a nice dinner and a night off from cooking!  Make your favorite casserole or soup, put it in a nice ceramic dish or bowl, and gift the whole thing.  note: go the extra mile and present the gift frozen with thawing/reheating instructions for extra flexibility.

Concerned that these gift ideas all seem to add on the pounds?  Try gifting nuts and dried fruit as a healthy alternative.  I love to see decorative canisters filled with lots of color from handmade trail mixes and mixed nuts.  In fact, I have three sitting on my kitchen counter now, and they look so pretty all lined up in a row!  Plus they've been keeping me contentedly away from the Dutch butter cookies in my pantry (okay, so maybe not entirely...damn those buttery delights!).

Of course, the key to a good food gift is the packaging.  I liked December's Real Simple suggestions for dressing up nut canisters (beware of nut allergies, though!), cookie tins (ahem...I suppose I'll be coming into one of those soon), and Mason jars into stylish wrapping.  Or hit the local thrift store and wander through the housewares aisles--they are sure to be full of cast-away canisters.  If you're really motivated, you could craft some fabric sleeves or imprint designs on them (like the ideas from ReMake. ReStyle. ReUse), but no pressure.

Well, all of this writing about food is making me hungry, so I'm off.  Join me tomorrow for more on Handmade Holidays!
Previous Handmade posts:

Monday, December 15, 2008

Marketplace Mavens: featuring Lori of Premier Designs (Part I)

After being introduced briefly to Lori at a local networking event, I knew immediately that I wanted to interview her as one of this year's Marketplace Mavens. Needless to say, I felt fortunate when she agreed to meet me for lunch and talk shop about the entrepreneurial life.

It became clear to me soon into our conversation that I would need Two weeks to share Lori's story instead of just one, so today will be about Lori's personal journey as a Maven, and next week we'll talk about some of the benefits (and misconceptions) of a home-party business model. So, without further adieu, her story....

Lori's journey into running her own business began like many businesses do: as a fun hobby on the side. As a stay-at-home mom, she was looking for a way to meet other women and maybe make some money, so she dipped her toes into selling through Mary Kay before stumbling upon Premier Designs. Lori quickly fell in love with their jewelry, and signed up to become a representative.

As Lori's excitement for the products she was selling grew, so did her business. Unfortunately at the same time her marriage was headed in the opposite direction. An unexpected divorce shortly followed, and almost overnight Lori found herself as a single mom with three kids and without a full-time income.

So, Lori did what most of us would have done--she shelved her work with Premier Designs and got a "real" job working in education. Like many Mavens, however, the 9-5 was not a good fit. She missed spending time with her children, and the joy she had while selling something she loved. So Lori did the unthinkable--she quit her job in education, giving up health benefits and a steady income, and decided to sell Premier jewelry full-time. She hasn't looked back since.

Here is what inspired me about Lori's personal story:
1. Her courage. Lori obviously took great risks to walk away from the security of a full-time job. But she knew that working from home would be the best thing for her children, and that working for a company she respected selling products she loved would be the best thing for her. The risks were worth the reward, and she was willing to take them.
2. Her confidence. I know that she experienced personal battles after a painful divorce, but Lori overcame them by believing that she could build a business that would support the kind of lifestyle she wanted for her family and pay the bills. She practiced affirming herself daily, and her business is a testimony to her perseverance.
3. Her faith. Lori reminded me that hard work and confidence aren't always enough. For a lot of Mavens, strength to live the entrepreneurial life also comes from spiritual beliefs that can get us through tough times. Having those beliefs can be as important as having a business plan

One message that Lori wanted to press with me was how valuable her business has been to help her weather the unexpected. It has given her confidence when she felt low, and provided money when she needed to support her kids. It has also given her a way to meet and encourage other women who might be experiencing some of the same trials she has been through.

Lori's wish for other women--whether single or married, with children or without--is to explore their career options now, and make sure they are pursuing work they love. Even stay-at-home moms, she encouraged, should be thinking about ways that they might provide for their families in the event that the unforeseen happens. Her business, coupled with her faith, was her saving grace, and she wants to make sure we all have some grace "stocked up" for the future, too.

I want to thank Lori for sharing about her journey, and for inspiring me with her fortitude. If you would like to contact her personally about her story, and maybe to share your own, you can email her at

And don't forget to check back in next Monday when we finish Lori's story, and hear her praises of a home-party business model!
Also, check out these previous Marketplace Mavens below:

Handmade Holidays: Paper Crafts

Okay--so I'm obsessed.  Completely obsessed with knitting.  I stayed up until 3 am last night just because I didn't want to stop working on my project.  This Handmade Holiday thing might be going a little too far!  

I realize that you all are probably not as needle-nuts as I am, so I thought I would highlight another handmade category--paper.  Now, I'm not a big paper craft kind of girl.  I don't scrapbook, and I don't make cards (unless I'm desperate and don't have time to run to Hallmark!).  I'm not a stamper or a printer.  My paper deficiencies aside, however, I do appreciate a good paper gift.  Fortunately, there are many wonderful handmade sellers making great things from paper.  Buy from them, or use their ideas to spark some paper creativity of your own!

paper goods: calendars
Now is the perfect time of year to snag your 2009 calendar (and some for your friends and family too).  There are some very clever options on Etsy.  I'm currently going through a yellow phase (maybe because it warms me up during our -12 degree weather!), so I was naturally drawn to this desktop calendar by 3SistersLove.  To read more about other 2009 calendar options, check out this article posted on the Etsy blog.

Of course, don't stop there!  While you are over on Etsy, also check out their "holiday gift guides: cards, ribbon and wrap" section.  There you will find all sorts of gift ideas, from handmade cards to special twine to funky labels.  I enjoyed these Damask cards from Paperhill (are you sensing my golden yellow theme again?), and agree with the description that they would make a nice gift for a teacher or friend who still likes to write cards (we should all do that more, shouldn't we?).  

Finally, regarding wrapping, capitalize on the holiday momentum and stock up on wrapping for the year!  Personally I enjoy papers that can be used year-round for all occasions, so I tend to gravitate toward non-themed designs along with brown kraft and plain white paper.  Like this Wild Berries and Ladybugs gift wrap from Little Mo and Friends.  Or check out many of the fantastic decorative gift boxes also available from handmade sellers.

Stick around this week for my last posts on Handmade Holidays.  I'll have some concluding thoughts on why I think handmade is so cool (big picture stuff), and some review of the great project ideas we've covered (perfect for carrying into the New "handmade" Year).  Also, don't go too far because I'm really excited to share this week's Marketplace Maven story with you later today!

Previous Handmade posts:

Friday, December 12, 2008

Handmade Divas

Since I've been fairly immersed in the world of crafty wonders this season for this Handmade Holiday series, I've found myself drawn to the works of three ladies who I consider to be among my favorite "handmade divas."  Their project ideas are simple, affordable and beautiful, and their books are oh-so-fun to look at (again and again and again).  

If you are looking for some last minute handmade inspiration, I'd recommend hitting the bookstore and taking a gander through one of these ladies' selections.  There are tons of options for sewers, knitters, stampers, fabric printers, home design, clothes, accessories, quilts and more!

Or maybe you are just looking to start your handmade library at home, hoping to begin adopting the practice of creating thoughtful homemade gifts for friends and family throughout the year.  These authors are a great place to start your collection!  Read below for more...

Butler's In Stitches is very popular, and has all kinds of projects for the home.  For some "coffee table" inspiration (less patterns and more pictures), you can also check out her Midwest Modern book (it currently sits in my living room) to get ideas for the whole design process.  
I've also posted about the great free patterns on her website, so check those out.  And if you like babies (who doesn't?), her newest book on baby sewing projects is for you!

Joelle Hoverson
Her Last Minute gifts series (LM Knits &  LM Patchwork) is one of my new favorites (I'm coveting them right now).  She has something for sewers, knitters, quilters, and even the plain-old-crafty.  And the reviews of the patterns/projects seem to be all thumbs up!
note: there's also a Last Minute Fabrics book, too, by a different author.  Worth checking out...

I've posted before about how I love Lotta's aesthetic.  I currently have some stamped fabric inspired from her Lotta Prints book just dying to be sewn into something fabulous.  I suppose I could get her Simple Sewing project book and find the perfect fit!

Catch up on previous Handmade Holiday posts:

Just one more week of Handmade Holiday fun left!  Stick around tomorrow for another Saturday Sussie, and certainly check back in on Monday for the next Marketplace Maven!

Confessions of a Guilty Shopper...

I am the worst--The Worst--at shopping for others during the holiday season and not buying for myself.  Yesterday I went to the store with my sister in my mind, and left spending more money on clothes for me than for her!  

It must be some kind of syndrome....

At least they were used (aka "recycled") clothes.  

Bonus to shopping thrift: I snagged a pair of Earl Jeans (apparently they were The designer denim in the 1990's, and have been recently re-released) for less than $50, and the fit is better than 7 for All Mankind and Citizen (at least on me).  Yay for design on a smaller budget!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Give Me Cash

I know I have been focusing on Handmade Holidays this season, but I have to make a small interjection...  But before you get the wrong idea--no, this isn't a post about that annoying habit of asking for cash for the holidays in lieu of presents.  BTW--I hate that!  I'm always wondering how much I should give, and feeling pressure to give more than I normally would because it', and then feeling guilty for not giving more.  It's all very...exposing for some reason.  Just ask for presents already!

Ahem...anyway...rant aside, this is a post about holiday debt, and about my plan to stay out of it.  How?  By spending with cash.

You see, I've been saving a small about of money every month through an automatic transfer from my checking to my savings to use for holiday spending.  Kind of like the old-fashioned "Christmas account" (don't worry--I hadn't heard of them either until I worked at a bank.  Apparently they were quite popular, but have recently fallen out of fashion).  And in order to stay within my spending budget, I've decided to try one important trick: spending cash at the stores.

Yes, I hate spending with cash.  It annoys me to have to go to the bank, and then carry around change.  Plastic is so much easier.  So fast, so light in my wallet.  Unfortunately, also so easy for me to lose track of how much I'm spending!

I've had periods of time in my life (very few) where I was on a cash-only system.  They were the most disciplined years of spending in my life.  And I could certainly use a little discipline around the holidays.  Why?  Because I've committed to staying out of debt this year.

Forgive me if I sound like a broken record talking about budgeting all the time.  It's just that every morning I wake up and listen to the terrible news about the economy, and I think how much more stressful it would all be if I heaped holiday debt on top of everything else!  I mean, I love my family and friends, but gifts for them is not worth the stress!  Hopefully you all don't think I'm too sanctimonious either--I'm not preaching.  My husband and I spent thousands (yes, it's true) of dollars last year on presents for each other, spent months paying off our purchases, and then decided that this year we were going to be more mellow.

So it's green (and mellow) for me at the stores today.  Happy shopping!
Read more of my thoughts on holiday spending:

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Handmade Holidays: Babies

I have babies on the brain today,
probably because my friend announced her pregnancy last night and because I'd like to have one (a baby) myself.  So I'm finding myself thinking about all the crafts for tots, of which there are a ton, and thought I'd list some handmade baby items for inspiration (all from Etsy, of course).

I love this honey-bear hat (upper left) by Little Bit of Sunshine, probably because the yarn looks so warm and thick, and because it would be a great gender-neutral gift. 

This "Birds on a Wire" print from Barking Bird Art is stylishly cute, and gives me great ideas for nursery art.  Want to make your own vintage nursery art?  Head out to the local thrift store and scavenge through their children's book selection.  Last year I found the most adorable monkey story from the 1930's, perfect for removing the pages to frame in sequence on the wall.  Of course, having no baby, I haven't done it yet, but someday...

And these Felt Mary Janes from Humble Bea's would make a perfect gift for a little girl, don't you think?  I'm wild about polka dots, and the brown and red pattern is not too precious.  An easy DIY project for little girls related to footwear are legwarmers (aka "leggies"), which can be whipped up on a set of double pointed needles over a weekend.  Click here for a free pattern from Alana Dakos from Never Not Knitting.  

Can you believe we have two weeks left before the gift-giving deadline approaches!?  I, for one, have a ton of crafting left to do.  

For more Handmade Holiday ideas, read below:

Blog Widget by LinkWithin