Thursday, April 30, 2009

Recessionista Recap

I can't believe that we have already passed the one-month anniversary of this Recessionista series! I, for one, am enjoying every post (although perhaps I might be a tad bit biased...). And enjoying your comments and ideas and thoughts.

Easy to Miss
But if you're like me, it is easy from day to day to miss the overall themes And with blog series like this one. So I figured that I could use a little recap to remind me of what we've covered so far.

Back to the Beginning:
In the beginning, I wrote that there are five tenants of Recessionista living. They are:
1. that creativity is our lifeline in difficult economic times.
2. that preparation is a great antidote to fear.

3. that our relationships are some of the best "currency" we have.

4. that economic recovery can happen in small, entrepreneurial places

5. and that our leadership is needed now more than ever.

Since introducing those tenants, we've touched on every single one of them. For instance, I started the conversation on creativity with a post about the "tyranny of utilitarianism" (one of my favorites, I have to confess), and have since posted my weekly projects under the "Creative Hour" banner.

Regarding preparation, I've talked a lot about the value of "homegrown solutions," including budgeting, gardening, and keeping a well-stocked home. And I've come across some great ideas to pursue some of those solutions with friends, highlighting the "relational currency" theme with swap meets, joint creative projects and shopping for good causes.

And of course we've talked consistently about unlocking our inner entrepreneurial spirit, even if we aren't the "lemonade stand" kind of gals. Even our resumes were pulled into the discussion, because nothing is sacred when it comes to innovation.

Finally, I've hoped to stoke the embers of leadership in you ladies by reminding us all that sometimes small is better than big, and that some solutions--regardless of what critics say--can really start at home.

More to Come
Looking ahead, I am excited to know that we have another month of Recessionistas, with more great talks about these 5 themes. Of course--I'm always open to input from you! What are your favorite topics? And what would you like to hear more about? Do any of you have a Recessionista story to share? Email me at to share!

My Sprouts are Sprouting!

I felt a little like a kid when I began to see the first sprouts pop up in my garden this year. I haven't planted with seeds since I was in grade school, and have to confess that I had my doubts about their ability to actually produce plants.

Could it really be this easy? I thought as I stuck them in the soil last month.

Incidentally, it is.

A Good Return
I can't wait to see how much salad I can harvest from $4.00 worth of seeds. I'm guessing that unless something goes terribly, terribly wrong, I'll probably get more greens than a $4.00 bag of premixed salad, so I'm feeling optimistic about good returns. I mean, if stocks and bonds were like lettuce seeds, we probably wouldn't be in the mess we're in right now!

Glad to be Trendy
I wrote earlier in this series about how glad I am that gardening is becoming trendy again. I mean, you don't need an advanced degree to understand that growing your own food can save money and help the environment. And I'm digging (pun intended) the "return to the land" simplicity of it all. Even if it is just along my very small suburban plot.

Furthermore, producing your own food also contributes to that "preparation" I was talking about earlier in the week. It supports that little "cushion" that softens the blows of hard and/or unexpected events.

Efficiency vs. Simplicity
Of course, the cynics (my husband being one) make a point when they highlight the inefficiency of the whole operation. And it is true that backyard agriculture isn't quite the economical wonder of industrial farming. But sometimes losses in efficiency can be gains in simplicity and sustainability.

Plus, I just like to watch my sprouts grow.

Are you growing anything this year? Or perhaps planning to frequent the farmer's market or buy shares in a local CSA? Tell me about it by commenting below!

Previous Related Posts:
It's So Trendy!
Creating a Little Cushion

Homegrown Resilience

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Creative Hour: Tote Bags

Since beginning this series on Recessionistas, I have been emphasizing the importance of nurturing creativity during tough economic times. And so, to support this conviction, I've been setting aside time every day to create something, whether it be a sewing project, a photography slide show, or a pattern with yarn and needles.
This "Creative Hour," as I dubbed it, has produced a lot of fun projects, like the tote bag shown above which I sewed this week. And the Buttercup Bags from earlier this spring. And the placemats from last week. And the Thrift Store Design Day I hosted last Saturday.

And since creativity begets more creativity,
I am also teeming with ideas for new projects and ventures.

No--these projects won't turn the economy around.
But they do encourage an innovative spirit. Plus they brighten my day. And since I've given a lot of them away as gifts, they brighten the days of my friends and family, too.

Needless to say, I imagine that I'll keep up the Creative Hour long after Recessionistas is finished.

How do you express your creativity and imagination? Is it through movies or music? Through crafts? Through home design? Through cooking? Share your comments below!

Previous Related Posts:
Creative Salvation
The Creative Hour
Sewing in Good Company
Creative M-E-S-S

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Creating a Little Cushion

During a recession, it is common to hear financial gurus repeat over and over how important it is to keep some money in savings for those “just in case” scenarios. Like a job loss. Or an unexpected illness. Or an auto accident. Usually they recommend having 6 weeks to 3 months worth of expenses stashed away so that you can keep paying bills and buying food even when income is tight or stalls entirely.

And when we hear this advice, we don’t think to ourselves, “what an overreaction! These financial people are crazy! If they keep talking like this, people are going to get really freaked out and then things will just get worse!” No, of course we don’t think that. Instead, we think “that is pretty smart. I should probably do that. It would certainly make me feel more prepared if something bad were to happen.”

Why is it, then, that when the same advice is given about stocking up on food and emergency supplies that we don’t have the same response? Why, when someone mentions that we should keep a few weeks to a few months of rations in our basement do we say, “only paranoid people do that,” or “that’s just crazy!” Why do we not consider it wisdom to gather a few helpful items like extra blankets, fuel, batteries and first aid supplies, and instead shrug it off as an overreaction?

A Little Cushion
Why, when we could easily create a little cushion in our lives in case something bad happens do we only consider money in the bank? As if money is the only thing to tide us over if times are rough.

Needless to say, I am a big advocate of keeping my pantry full and my basement stocked with supplies. Why? Because it makes just as much sense to me to do that as it does to put aside money. In fact, it makes so much sense to me that it is one of the main reasons I wanted to write this Recessionista series in the first place.

What is (and is not) Debatable
And sure--just like with cash savings, you can argue about how much to set aside. Is it smart to have 6 weeks of food or 12? (By the way, the US federal government recommends that every household have at least 2 weeks worth of food stored for emergencies.) Do you need iodine or just bandaids? Is it necessary to have batteries and propane or just batteries? And as with money, the answers to those questions have a lot to do with your means and your personality.
But the wisdom of having something really shouldn’t be debatable. You should have food and first aid supplies in your home, just like you should have savings in the bank.

Getting Started
So, to get started on getting prepared, here a few places to check out.
* the US Goverment's
* link to various articles from Real Simple magazine on emergency preparedness
* the Red Cross preparedness kit

As always, share your thoughts and ideas on creating a cushion by posting your comments here!

Previous Related Recessionista posts:
Homegrown Resilience
The Two-Step Shuffle
It's So Trendy!

Smarty Pants: Blame the Pigs

Like most people, I first heard of the Swine Flu yesterday morning when I got up. It was pretty hard to miss since it was a headline on every major broadcast channel and littered throughout the papers. I suppose this only makes sense since over 150 people have died from it in Mexico and it seems to spread very easily from human to human.

I Won't Get Carried Away
Now it is not in my nature to get carried away with these types of reports. And certainly this small outbreak seems pretty mild: no one in the US has died, and symptoms have not been too severe. And the media loves to make a big deal out of possible pandemics, because let's face it: they make for compelling news. But based on what we know so far, quarantines and runs on the hospital aren't likely.

A Common Trend
But given this recent news, I would like to point out one trend that commonly surfaces when there are potential threats to our health and safety. And that trend is a rising tension between paranoia and preparation/prevention.

Certainly when people feel threatened, their reactions fall somewhere along a continuum of panic on one end and apathy on the other. And eventually a debate arises about which end of the spectrum is most appropriate. For instance, inevitably some people, upon hearing the news of a possible pandemic, will purchase and start to wear blue medical masks. Others will stock up their pantry, or pull their kids out of school. But as soon as even the first person pops up with a face mask, someone else will accuse them of being paranoid, and suggest that their actions only exacerbate the issue and heighten the threat. This second person will favor going about their daily routine as normal, advocating for others to do the same.

Heated Public Debate
Of course most of us would probably agree that falling somewhere in the middle--between paranoia and preparation/prevention--is the wise choice. But that rarely stops the public debate from getting heated anyway. Because when people feel threatened, they get fairly passionate about the best ways to protect themselves. And likewise, if they feel that the choices of others are increasing the threat, their passion escalates.

Now, I'm not saying that we'll have much of this heated debate during the Swine Flu, mainly because it seems to be a fairly mild threat at this point. But one of my main goals in writing this Smarty Pants column is to point out trends and themes from specific headlines that can be applied more generally across the news. And this tension between paranoia and preparation/prevention in the face of a regional or national threat is certainly a theme we'll see occur again and again.

Stick Around!
So, what should our response be during a threat? Where along the spectrum should we fall? I don't have a perfect answer (mainly because there isn't one), but I am an advocate of preparation. So join me later today when I talk more about emergency preparation as one of a Recessionista's home grown solutions!

Other Recent Smarty Pants Posts:
Avoiding Pitfalls
Is Staying Home in a Recession Foolish?
Jobs vs. Livelihoods

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Thrifty Success!

Saturday's first ever Thrift Store Design Day was a blast!
Good company, great food and fun shopping marked the afternoon.
Here are a few of the highlights:

* We learned all kinds of tips for locating the best deals and quality at thrift stores,
as well as how to search for fabrics, kitchenware, lighting and DIY art!

* We had fun applying those tips at the local thrift store, browsing the aisles looking for dovetail joints, hardwood, potential art images, fabric and accessories.

* And everyone left with a little something, be it a thrift store deal, a CD on Thrift Store Design, or some very delicious buttercream cupcakes (I've eaten at least a half dozen of the latter!).

Host A Thrift Store Event!
This event was just the first of what will be hopefully many of the same to come! For more details on how you can host a Thrift Store Design Day, or to receive a CD of the tips and secrets discussed, email me at today!

And More to Come this Week:

Also, keep coming back as we start another great week of Recessionista topics! Stay tuned to read more about the importance of preparation at home, especially in light of the recent news of the Swine Flu (a subject I'll be covering in this week's Smarty Pants column). As always, we'll be nurturing our creative sides with project ideas and photos. And speaking of nurturing, I'll also be writing this week about the nurturing role women play in society, and how that can positively impact this recession.

Can't wait to get started, and to hear all of your thoughts!
Talk to you soon!

Recessionista Resume

This past week I was browsing the office supply aisle at the store, and took notice of all the different “resume grade” paper options for sale. For a premium price, you could buy fine linen or parchment or watermarked sheets, each promising to make a good first impression with the resume recipient.

And for some reason the sight of all these papers lined up in a row got me thinking about modern resumes, especially during a recession. And I wondered “what type of resume would a Recessionista have?”

Does Career = Job?
A comment made by a friend later in the week provided a key clue. She mentioned that she didn’t think a person’s career should be defined solely by their job(s). In her opinion, a “career” included activities done both in and outside of traditional employment. I was intrigued by this broader definition of work and considered what a Recessionista resume would look like if it followed this philosophy.

Ideas for a Recessionista Resume
And though I haven’t settled on exact formula (as if there is one), the following are some ideas I think a Recessionista could include on her resume:

* details of her “extra curricular” activities. These activities, be they social clubs, hobbies or volunteer engagements, say a lot about a person. Granted, an employer is not looking for the same type of “well rounded person” that, say, a college admissions board is looking for, but when these activities can be tied to job skills, they can really make a resume shine.

* highlights of entrepreneurialism. Employers are not too keen on hiring someone who already has their own business, but they do love to hear about your sales and marketing skills. Recessionistas can play up their creative entrepreneurialism in ways that won’t scare away an employer by emphasizing these skills as part of an ongoing and informal entrepreneurial lifestyle.

* quantified accounts of resourcefulness. Although an employer isn’t likely to be impressed with “I managed my household budget for 10 years,” they might take a second look at “I cut 15% off of budget spending and invested the difference for a 10% return.” And yes, you will have to explain that these savings were done at home, but coupled with a description of how you approached your savings & investment strategy, you might make a great impression.

A Little Risky
Of course modifying a resume to include some of these non-traditional features is a little risky, and some risks might not be worth taking. So if you feel more comfortable with a traditional resume, stick with that. But if you are looking to broaden your definition of "career" to include a variety of skills and activities that fall outside of your job, a resume is a great place to start.

And in my opinion is beats the pants off of linen or parchment paper.

Do you have any resume tips you'd like to share? Or maybe your thoughts on "careers" verses "jobs." Post your thoughts below!

Previous Related Posts on Resumes and Work in a Recession:
Building a Resume that Rocks
My Recession Proof Plan for the Work from Home Life
My Stay at Home Resume Makeover
Smarty Pants: Is Staying Home Foolish in a Recession?

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Winner Is...

The winner of this week's raffle, and recipient of these hand printed and sewn "chopstick placemats" is: Kerri H!

Enter to Win!
Wondering how you can enter to win next week's raffle, announced on Monday? It's simple! Just sign up for my newsletter and check your email inbox on Monday. You'll receive a weekly update from me, as well as instructions for entering to win!

Last Call!
Finally--this is the Last Call for the Thrift Store Design Event, where you'll learn tricks to shopping for and decorating with thrift store finds, happening tomorrow, April 25th at 1:00 p.m. For questions or to RSVP, email me at

In Case You Missed It...

...Here are links to this week's Recessionista posts:

Market Your Creativity (a book review)
Swap Meet Style
Dining in Style
Vintage Green
The New Midas Touch
Smarty Pants: Avoiding Pitfalls
28 Days Makes a Habit (or so they say)

Hope you have a great weekend! See you again on Monday!

28 Days Makes a Habit (or so they say)

They say 28 days makes a habit. Well, I thought I’d try out the theory by committing to reviewing my finances every single day.

Here’s my account:

Day 1: logged into my Mint. com account and reviewed my expenses.

Day 2: did a whole bunch of things, none of which included looking at my finances.

Days 3-7: did more stuff--very important stuff--but incidentally did not look at my finances.

Day 8: went grocery shopping and thought to myself while looking at my receipt, “boy, I’m not doing very good at this whole finance thing, am I?”

Days 9-10: enjoyed the weekend, and yes--did review my transactions

Day 11: stared mindlessly at my pile of bills and bank statements, thinking “why does adulthood require so much paperwork!?” Then I stacked them neatly in a pile for my attention at a more convenient time...

Days 12-14: still waiting for the more convenient time...

Day 15: clearly have to reset to Day 1 again...

Judging Me...
By now you’re probably judging my hypocrisy for writing so much about budgeting and my former life as a banker while simultaneously flunking Budgeting 101. What can I say? I need help just as much as you do!

The truth is that it is easy to say I’m going to do the right things when it comes to my money, but it is much harder to do them.
I get busy. I get stressed. I get overwhelmed by all the paperwork. Sometimes I get afraid of what I’m going to see (“I spent what on clothing last month?!”).

Practice Makes Perfect
But I’m convinced that practice makes perfect. And clearly I need the practice. Lots of it. Good thing that budgeting is popular during a recession!

What about you? What motivates you to keep track of your dollars and cents? One of my friends said her motivator is guilt--feeling very guilty about debt. Does that sound familiar? Maybe it’s something else? Share your thoughts by commenting below.

Previous Related Posts:
Can I Get a Pulse?
Kickin' my Budget into Gear!
The New Midas Touch

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Smarty Pants: Avoiding Pitfalls

On my quest to stay well-informed (because smart, modern ladies should be well-informed), I’m afraid that I’ve committed a current-event blunder. I should have known better--really, I should. After all, I’ve been writing about current events for over a year now. Writing about how to stay informed, and how to avoid pitfalls. But I’m afraid that in my excitement over Recessionistas, I forgot one of the classic rules. Which is:

Don’t fixate on one topic just because everyone else is.

The topic of interest (or shall I say obsession?) is of course the economy. Naturally I would be interested in this topic given that I’m currently writing a series on the subject of thriving during the recession. And certainly it has been easy to fixate given that every major publication, from newspapers to ladies’ magazines to my own favorite glossies have been covering it almost exclusively.

No, I Do Not Want to be Exclusive
Exclusivity, however, is not necessarily a good thing when it comes to the news. Fixating on one topic--a habit that I’m afraid the modern news media nurses far too much--can lead to several unfortunate consequences. They are:

* elevating one subject inappropriately over other equally important subjects.
The economy is of course important, but so are political events happening in the Middle East, for instance, or development across Northern Africa. These subjects deserve my attention, too, even if they don’t directly impact my day-to-day.

* loss of sight on the bigger picture. World events don’t happen in a vacuum. When I fixate on one topic, I tend to lose my larger perspective. The economy is important, yes, but it is still one component of a much bigger puzzle. I don’t want to miss the forest for the trees.

* fixation leads to fluff. Ironically, when a subject becomes popular, it tends to get watered down. Rather than have in-depth conversations covering a variety of points, the topic tends to become highly repetitive and shallow.

Unfortunately I am seeing these consequences in my own life. In a fairly short amount of time I’ve lost touch with the events in the rest of the world, and the bigger picture. Fortunately I can change that by spreading my focus around a bit more in the weeks to come.

Why Do I Care?
Perhaps you are wondering why I care so much? Well, it’s simple. I believe that as women we have a unique opportunity to lead right now. But leadership requires wisdom and knowledge. And knowledge includes being well-informed.

And being well-informed leaders means avoiding pitfalls. Or climbing out them when you’ve slipped.

Previous Smarty Pants Posts:
Is Staying Home Foolish in a Recession?
Visualizing a Trillion Dollars
Jobs vs. Livelihoods

The New Midas Touch

We’ve all heard the story about King Midas before. You know--the jolly old ruler who managed to turn everything he touched into gold. Which worked out pretty well for him until all his friends and food became precious metal.

Thinking of Midas
For reasons that seem pretty apparent, I’ve been thinking about Midas a lot lately, and what it would be like to be so effortlessly rich. Because earning money--at least for me--isn’t exactly something I have the touch for. At least not in Midas proportions. And having extra money on hand would sure be helpful.

Of course the moral of the fable is that Midas’ wealth didn’t make him happy, but left him alone and hungry. It is a timely message for today. It is, however, not the message I want to talk about.

Just for Fairy Tales?
Rather, I want to discuss the idea of having a Midas touch. Not the kind that leads effortlessly to wealth, because that, I’m afraid, is just for fables and fairy tales. No--I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a new kind of Midas touch--a kind that perhaps I could be good at with a little bit of focus and practice. Want to hear more?

Midas Math
This new Midas touch that I’m talking about starts not with wishing for more money, but with an appreciation for the potential of what I already own. Potential that I could harness with some time and energy and then multiply. Like, for instance, taking the pinstripe shirts that my husband no longer wears and turning them into patchwork quilts that I can give as gifts or sell. Or, as another example, taking the extra dollars I saved from using coupons at the grocery store and applying them to the principal on my mortgage. Both examples involve me taking a resource I already have and multiplying it’s value. Call it Midas math.

I'm Intrigued
I’ve only just begun to think about this new Midas Touch, but I’m definitely intrigued by the possibilities. Intrigued by how homegrown ingenuity can be invested for a good return. A good return without the danger of metallic fruit.

What do you think? Share your first impressions about the new Midas Touch with me by commenting below!

Previous Recessionistas Posts:
In the Land of Small
It's So Trendy!
Now is Our Time

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Vintage Green

Green is trendy these days. Green businesses, green products, green food. And here on Earth Day it is cool to be earthy. Gone are the images of rope sandals and hippes and granola. Instead, today’s green is celebrated by posh celebrities and business tycoons. Even recycled paper has come a long way! (remember when it all used to be grayish brown?)

Creative Green
But apart from the all the earthy glitz (seems like an oxymoron, doesn’t it?), today I am reflecting on the value of creative resourcefulness, and how glad I am that it is becoming cool again, too. Because a lot of it (rather by accident, actually) is green.

For instance, it is “green” to repurpose your old sweater into some oven mitts for a friend who just got a new apartment. It is also “green” to shop the local thrift stores in search of the latest and greatest diamond-in-the-rough used furniture. Even greener is the oh-so-fun trend of planting your own garden (my sprouts are sprouting!)

In other words, being a Recessionista is being green.

Old Fashioned Virtues
Truth be told, the whole “green movement” is a tad bit too popular for my taste, but I do appreciate that it has highlighted some rather old-fashioned virtues. Virtues like seeing creative new life in old objects, and appreciating handmade items, and practicing contentment with what we already own.

And it is nice to have a day to be mindful of these virtues.
And to practice our creative resourcefulness. Fortunately for us, it won’t stop today. Because as Earth Day advocates will surely remind us, being mindful is more than just a date on the calendar. It’s a lifestyle. A vintage lifestyle, in fact. And one I’m happy to be living.

note: family market bag from The Craft Pantry

Previous Related Posts:
Modern Benefits from a Vintage Chore
Thrifty DIY Art
Nesting is Creating
Handmade Holidays: concluding thoughts

Dining in Style

A Place for Placemats...
I had the best time creating these placemats, complete with chopstick holders, for this week's subscriber raffle! The whole project, from pattern idea to printed stencils, was taken from the pages of Lotta Jansdotter's two books, Lotta Prints and Simple Sewing.

Shamefully, I admit that we eat many dinners on the sofa (I know...a no-no on several accounts), so it was nice for me to remember how...well...nice it is to have fun dining accessories. Kinda makes me want to actually sit down in my newly decorated dining room and have dinner there for a change. (I'm not sure pretty placemats can convince my husband, though....)

Creating a Creative Habit
While I was stitching these up, it couldn't help but think about how these little daily bursts of creativity have become almost habit for me. I'm starting to get to the point where my day feels incomplete if I haven't touched some fabric or snapped some lovely decor shots or knitted a few rows (yes...after a brief hiatus, I'm back to knitting...).

This creative habit, of course, is what I'm trying to inspire during today's economy. Something about daily interacting with raw resources, and then turning them into new and useful things--well, it starts to seep into your attitude, nurturing thankfulness and appreciation for the small things. And it also imparts a teensy bit of empowerment.
Not bad for placemats!

Appreciating the Simple
How about any of you readers out there? What kinds of activities are making you appreciate the simple things these days? Share by commenting below!

(oh...and in case you're wondering how you can enter to win the weekly raffle prizes, I'll tell you! Simply sign up for my weekly newsletter, where I share insider updates, previews of what's to come, and how to win prizes, of course!).

Previous Related Posts from this Series:

Creative M.E.S.S.
Sewing in Good Company
The Creative Hour
Creative Salvation!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Swap Meet Style

According to the Oxford Dictionary, a swap meet is “a gathering in which enthusiasts or collectors trade or exchange items of common interest.” According to the Stephanie Hillberry Dictionary (to be published soon, no doubt), a swap meet is “a good way to hang out with friends and snag cool stuff.”

I confess that I hadn’t considered the potential of swap meets
until I received this April’s copy of Real Simple magazine (my replacement subscription for Domino..sniff, sniff) and read their article on hosting one. What a brilliant, Recessionista thing to do! I immediately thought.

Brilliant because it is a perfect example of “relational currency” in action. Remember how I wrote a few weeks ago that sometimes our greatest resource isn’t in our wallets, but in our friends? Well, enter the swap meet.

Imagine, for instance, that you are in desperate need of a new summer dress (I mean, who isn’t?), but can’t justify the cost during this penny-pinching season. Apart from whipping one up on your sewing machine (a feat I certainly am not capable of pulling off well), you’re out of luck. Unless of course your friend’s friend just happens to be your size and has a few dresses she is willing to part with. Part with for...say...a charming set of curtains that another friend is tired of.

Bingo! You have the makings of a swap meet.

I Like It!
Yes, it is true that Macy’s wouldn’t very much like this idea (or the larger one about relational currency, for that matter), and neither would the politicians encouraging us to spend, spend, spend right now. But I like it because:
* it preserves our well-honed inclination to enjoy new things, especially when we’re feeling stressed, but...
* ...preserves it while protecting our dollars, and...

* ...does it all by connecting us to the people that we already know and love.

Cash In
Now of course I’m not suggesting that we all start exploiting our friends so that we can “cash in” on cool stuff, but I am suggesting that perhaps that thing you’ve been looking for might just be in someone else’s home and not in the store.

Of course you won’t know unless you host (or attend) a swap meet of your own.

Previous Recessionista posts:
A Wallet Full of Friends
In the Land of Small
At Least a Lighter Wallet Weighs Less

Monday, April 20, 2009

Been A Craft'n

The view from my room this afternoon involves a lot of fabric stacked in rows, spilling out of containers, and lying in shredded strips on the floor.

A Craft'n

I've been A Craft'n as they say (okay, so maybe they don't say that. Play along, people!). And writing. And messing around with desktop publishing. And taking photos of things I fancy. And reading books on business.

And of course thinking about another week of what is quickly becoming my favorite series! I can't believe how quickly time flies by--we are already starting Week 5 of Recessionistas!

A Brief Recap

After introducing the "5 pillars" of Recessionista living (creativity, homegrown solutions, relational "currency," entrepreneurship, and leadership), we've been digging into each of them day by day. Like.. daily creativity is a good antidote to all of the fear and consumer worries spreading around town
. budgeting and gardening and stocking up at home are solutions as valuable as stimulus plans and bailouts
. friendships can keep money in our pockets and smiles on our faces
. unlocking our entrepreneurial selves can increase our confidence, sharpen our skills, and maybe-just-maybe boost our economy, and we as modern ladies are especially equipped to lead during times like these.

More to Come

And with a few more weeks still to come of Recessionista inspiration, here's a peek at what to expect this week:

* read how to combine both "relational currency" and homegrown solutions in
Swap Meet Style (inspired by a party idea in Real Simple)
* hear my thoughts on creative resourcefulness and how "earthy" it is on Earth Day. Plus catch my latest craft project (hint: they're placemats)!

* learn how this recession is causing people nation-wide to adopt some Recessionista-like habits from my latest Smarty Pants current event review.

* catch my latest budgeting adventures in
28 days Makes a Habit
* and listen to me wax poetically (okay...maybe not so poetically--you heard my coupon soliloquy last week...) about becoming a "multiplier" in these times.

And as always, please don't be a stranger. Leave your comments and ideas in the "comment" section of these posts throughout the week. I love hearing from you!

Market Your Creativity! (a book review)

We all need a little help from time to time. You know--an encouraging word, a different perspective, some timely advice. Truth be told, in my life as an entrepreneur, I am always looking for help. Someone who knows the ropes better than me. Someone who can share their hard-earned wisdom. Someone who writes books for business owners. Someone like Meg Mateo Ilasco.

Craft Inc.
I received Mateo Ilasco’s book, Craft inc., as a Christmas gift, and finally had a chance to read through the pages during my flight to Los Angeles earlier this month (one good thing about flying--no interruptions!). And like most business books written by females, I was impressed. I particularly liked the hobby-turned-business theme of Craft Inc., since obviously I have a few crafts that I’m peddling these days.

My favorite parts of the book?

1. The little vignettes about other female entrepreneurs. Reading their answers to questions like “how did you get started?” and “where did you come up with your creative, crafty idea?” was inspiring and motivating.

2. The section on production. A lightbulb went off in my head when I considered several of Mateo Ilasco's suggestions for producing items to sell. Since then, I’ve implemented a few of them, and have seen a Huge improvement in my efficiency! Needless to say, I appreciate the wisdom shared!

3. The ideas on public relations. Whether your business is small and informal, or large and fancy, public relations is important. It also happens to be an area that I don’t focus on nearly enough. So my goal for the next several months is to change that, and spend more time relating.

Market Your Creativity!
Why am I sharing this book review on entrepreneurialism? Because (if you haven’t figured it out already) I’m trying to persuade you all as Recessionistas to explore your inner businesswomen. Yes, I know, being an entrepreneur isn’t for everyone, but being creative and marketable certainly is!
So even if you never plan to start your own business, it is still great to read about how other women are using their skills and creativity in fresh and rewarding ways. Consider letting their confidence rub off on you and grab a copy of Craft Inc. (or any other business how-to) this month.

Do you have a hobby you are trying to turn into a small business? Or maybe you are inspired by a business woman you know. Share about it here by posting your comment below! And come back later today to see a preview of this week's topics, announcements, and more!

More Recessionista Posts on entrepreneurialism:
But I'm not Crafty, and other misconceptions about being an entrepreneur
Marketplace Mavens: featuring Tamara Cramer of Nurtured Mother
Your Inner Entrepreneur

Friday, April 17, 2009

And the Winner Is...

This week's newsletter raffle winner is Jessica!

Host: tell her what she's won!

Announcer: well, Bob, she's won a spanking new handmade Buttercup Bag!

Host: and how did she win?
Announcer: well, Bob, it's easy! She signed up for Stephanie Hillberry's newsletter and entered the weekly raffle by answering a simple question.

Host: and how can readers enter to win next time?

Announcer: well, Bob, they can simply enter their email address in the sign-up form in the above right corner, wait for the following Monday to receive their first newsletter, and enter to win!

Host: It's just that simple?

Announcer: Yes, Bob. It's just that simple.

Note: Okay--so perhaps there really isn't a "Bob" per se, or an "Announcer," but the weekly raffle is real. Sign up today to receive next Monday's email and enter to win!
For more information on the newsletter, click here.

Missed some of this week's Recessionista posts? Catch up below:
But I'm not Crafty, and other misconceptions about being an entrepreneur
Can I Get a Pulse? --checking your financial vital signs
Thrift Store Design Day! (an event coming soon!)
Creative M-E-S-S
In the Land of Small: why Big isn't always Better
Oh Cruel Coupons: a soliloquy

Oh Cruel Coupons: a soliloquy

Now that I’m trying to become one of America’s Cheapest Families by reading the tips from America’s Cheapest Family, I thought it was high time I dipped my toes into the world of coupons.

I thought it best to describe my experience in a soliloquy:


Coupons. Oh coupons. You are a harbinger of bygone days.

If only I could clip your glossy pages,

and find your treasures therein.

I could be the vessel of your bounty,

recipient of stacked coins and bills,

flowing gifts from your hand.

Alas, upon seeking you out in the ink-filled notes of yesterday’s paper,

you alluded me.

When I wanted beef, milk and cheese,

you sent me Best Buy electronics.

You know I hate Best Buy.

And when I wanted help with

toilet paper, coffee and fruit,

you lead me to Buy-6-Get-1-Free hair care products.

What kind of hair do you think I have?

I only need one hair care product, and I have plenty,

thank you very much.

And when I was seeking a few treats,

like perhaps a linen sale or a pretty new shoe,

did you come to my aid?


Instead you offered discounted prices for batteries

and extension cords.

Can I wear a battery? I ask.
Can I decorate with cords?

Oh Cruel coupons! Can we ever be friends?

Perhaps tomorrow’s news will tell...

The End.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

In the Land of Small

Among the land of us ladies, big is rarely better. Take, for instance, big hair. Very bad idea in this time in history. Or how about big muscles. No, we much prefer “defined” and “lean.” And certainly God knows we don’t want bigger waistlines! No, no. For belts and buckles, small is better. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that in the land of women, small--not big--is often better.

A Big Hangover
In the case of community and economic leadership, however, Big often trumps the Small. Big corporations with big-time CEO’s are friendly with Big politicians and their Big constituencies. We know, of course, that all this...largesse...can lead to Big problems (aka the recession), which then lead to Big solutions (aka the stimulus), which might lead to even Bigger problems.

Perhaps what we need to recover from this Big hangover is a little bit of...small. Of course, as discussed above, we women understand the value of small. Being the smaller of the species, we know that sometimes smaller can be better. For instance:

Small Solutions:
* small is nimble. I think of it this way: it takes a fly a lot less time to turn around than a horse, meaning that in the business world, small companies or cottage industries can respond to changing trends and forecasts easier than large ones.

* small is sustainable. Growth and expansion is a natural process that should be celebrated. As we’re learning with our bodies, though, obesity should not. Likewise, communities with nothing but “overweight” business (aka big-box retailers) and governments (corruption/cronyism/despotism) would benefit from a serious diet of ma-an-pop shops and grassroots governance.

* small is family. Yes, our interconnectedness throughout the globe has been a boon. Truth be told, though, our recent obsession with globalism could stand to be tempered with a little bit of family. Because family reminds us that genuine relationships matter, and that closeness is an asset. It also reminds us that profit and policy are not always (not often, in fact) the most important thing.

Tipping the Scales
There are other attributes of smallness, but I’ll stop here. For the critical, I’d like to point out that “smallness” isn’t an adequate solution all by itself. It is, however, a good counterbalance to a culture obsessed with BIG. And because women live their lives among small things (families, friendships, neighborhoods, home businesses), I think we are particularly adept at bringing this much needed counterbalance. We can tip the scales back to center.

Just as long as we don’t tip our own scales, of course.
We already mentioned how big is bad when it comes to scales...

Previous Recessionista Posts:
Now is Our Time
It's So Trendy!
The Two-Step Shuffle

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Creative M-E-S-S

Perhaps it is a common trait among creative types--the trait of messiness. I'm not normally a slob. In fact, quite the opposite. I'm the girl who makes my bed every day and puts the dishes in the dishwasher and stores my hairbrush under the sink. But when I'm creating something...well, that's a different story.Case in point: my office today. Hardly the picture of organization and tidiness. I can't help myself. When I'm caught up in a whirlwind with a million projects going all at once (yes--I know multitasking is bad for you, but I can't break the habit!), I tend to leave a trail. Kinda like the trails tornadoes leave.

In the Works:
Fortunately all of this creative energy is productive. Take a look at some of my latest quilting ideas. I've been blocking out my patterns all morning, trying to figure out which ones I like the best. Can you recognize my new Los Angeles stowaways?

These quilts will be added to my "Spunky Girl" baby collection, which I am eager to debut soon. Also on the docket? A thrift store design booklet, complete with grommets (I can't get enough of grommets lately!), and a "Transpo Guy" baby series (that is a tentative name--I might change it later.).

And You?
How about you? Have you taken up the Creative Hour challenge and starte
d some projects of your own? If so, share what you've been up to! Comment below!


Don't forget to come back tomorrow to read about why big isn't always better, and take a sec to sign up for my weekly newsletter to get the inside scoop about what's brewing in my world!

Previous Creative posts:

A Long Time Coming (my dining room makeover)
Sewing in Good Company
The Creative Hour

Thrifty Secrets! (an event Coming Soon!)

Have you ever watched those design shows where they snatch up these great finds from thrift stores and then convert them into awesome home decor items that you seriously covet? And then did you find yourself wandering the aisles of your local thrift store in eager excitement, only to turn to dismay after picking through row upon row of nothing but junk? Did you secretly wonder if maybe those design-show people planted those great finds and were just pretending to be clever, or perhaps that the only good thrift stores are located in New York City or San Francisco, where incidentally you do not live? And then did you find yourself back in the comfortable aisles of Target, where everything was clean but entirely predictable, lamenting that your thrift store dreams may never come true?

Don’t lament! The thrift store dream is not dead, not even in your town. Perhaps it is just that you just don’t know the secrets to thrift store shopping yet. Because there are secrets--little tricks, things to be on the hunt for, timeless strategies for finding treasure. Secrets that I would like to share with you.

So join me for a Thrift Store Design Day on Saturday, April 25th at 1:00 pm, to talk some shop and then put theory into practice.

For questions and/or to RSVP, email me at today!

Don’t live in Northern Colorado? Don’t worry! I’ll be compiling all my notes to share with out-of-towners soon, so stay posted for more news!

Previous Related Posts:
A Long Time Coming
Ta Dah!
Thrifty DIY Art

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I'm Not Feeling Very Smart...

I was supposed to write a Smarty Pants post for this afternoon. All day yesterday and today I've been reaching into the back corners of my mind trying to find a topic that I can share my thoughts on. And I definitely found lots of topics: the trendy new liberal paternalism, behavior economics, an (old)new global reserve currency, business on the web....

But could I actually collect my thoughts on these subjects? No. Certainly not. Instead...

...I poured myself a cup of my favorite black tea....

...made a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies...

...and read news of a different kind. The girly kind. The kind that had absolutely nothing to do with reserve currencies and liberal paternalism, and everything to do with the latest mascara and spring fashions.

Somedays tea and cookies just sound better. Besides, liberal paternalism can wait 'til next week.

In case you are feeling smart, click below to read some previous Smarty Pants posts. Or grab a copy of your latest glossy and drink tea instead. I won't judge.

Previous posts:
Is Staying Home Foolish in a Recession?
Jobs vs. Livelihoods
The Middle East: steps to forming an opinion
Econ 101

Can I Get a Pulse?

Perhaps it was my former life as a banker that always makes me want to get back to the money, honey. And so it is the case again today. Because I know from firsthand account that ignoring your financial vital signs can lead to poor financial health.

Vital Signs:
For instance, back when I was a financial counsellor/salesperson/bean counter (aka banker), people would come into my office with a complaint--a headache from their overdraft fees or nausea from their credit balance--and I would try to make them feel better. But one thing I often observed was that most of my patients...ahem, clients...didn’t even know their own financial vitals. Vitals like the following:

1. Account Balance and Transaction History: Perhaps it is because we don’t even handle “real” money anymore, favoring plastic cards instead, but I can’t tell you the number of people who would sit at my desk and stare in shock at their transaction history. Can that really be my balance? they’d ask, or Did I really spend $50 at Carinos? Sorta like “Can I possibly weigh that much?” And just like in physical health, often times it wasn’t until a problem cropped up, like an overdraft or fraud, that they would seek help.

2. Basic Rules: Many of my clients also forgot that their banking and credit accounts came with specific rules, sorta like calories in and calories out. These rules were those fine print terms and conditions that you receive at opening. The conditions that say, for instance, that the lender has the right to raise your interest rate from 4% to 18% if you miss a payment on your credit card. Or that says you’ll be charged a $33 fee for spending over your balance. Not understanding the rules often led to breaking them, which was almost always an expensive error.

3. Stress Points: Finally, my clients would sometimes overlook the impact financial stress can have on their relationships. For instance, I’ve seen firsthand when friendships dissolve in a bank cubicle, or marriages crumble in the lobby. Whether money was the cause of the dissent in the first place never mattered--it was the money that eventually had to be hashed out in the split. And the process was M-E-S-S-Y. It is easy to forget that when we don’t care for our money--like when we don’t care for our bodies--our loved ones are inevitably impacted.

Needless to say, the state of these financial vitals were extremely telling about a person’s overall financial health and risk factors. And like a doctor, I could almost predict the financial future based on the above basics.

Check-Up Needed:
I share this with you, of course, because part of being a Recessionista is being financially healthy. And one of the first steps to health is knowing the vital signs. I, of course, could always use a good dose of my own medicine, so I’m challenging myself to start looking at my account history every day (something I’m not so good at doing). And I’ll give you a report on how I’m doing in a couple weeks.

How about you? What vital sign could you check in on? Let me hear your check-up plan today by posting your comment below! Maybe you’ll inspire someone else to follow your “healthy” example.

Previous Recessionista Posts:
Homegrown Resilience
A Wallet Full of Friends
At Least a Lighter Wallet Weighs Less...
Kickin' My Budget into Gear

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