Why I loved this week

Untitled-1Well, the time has come. My daughter has decided that her toys are way cooler than mom, and she would much rather hang out in her room and play with all of her cool stuff than hang out with boring ol mom. And while it’s a little insane seeing her grow up so fast, I’m relieved that she’s finally getting into all of her toys that take up every inch of space in that room, and I do have to admit that it is nice to get some things done around here. And I love hearing her in there, blabbing away and turning everything into a drum set.

This week, the Creative Collective started on The Nectar Collective, and our first prompt was to choose a word for 2014 and make something creative with it.

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I chose simplify because I really want to work on simplifying my life and slowing down a little. I have a closet full of clothes I never wear and it stresses me out every time I look at it, I have a craft closet that has gone complete bonkers with projects that I barely touched. I need to simplify my closet, simplify my crafts and simplify my routine. I try to do too much of everything, and end up falling short. I am slowly learning to focus on one goal until it’s done and move on from there.

I’m choosing to let go of anything that causes unnecessary stress, and zoning in on what matters. I’m choosing to allow myself some creative time every day, because I need it. I tend to get so worked up about things, and when it comes down to it…my life is pretty simple.

And so far, it has worked! I finished more by doing that than by trying to do everything at once. I finished my cork/chalkboard that I have been putting off forever and I was actually able to make cookies AND coffee cake this week. What the what?!

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The cake was so crumbly that I had to eat it with a spoon, which I was totally fine with.

I got to share Print Therapy‘s story this week, and I was so excited about how excited they were about it. When you write about someone else and their business, it can be a little nerve-wrecking. You are putting that person’s name out there, and it can be a truly amazing experience…or it can be horrible. Luckily, this was a particularly amazing experience. I also purchased this Valentines card from them, and I will continue supporting their business in the future. Because they’re awesome.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

meet the maker

And, finally. I got this package that I ordered from Wilderess, and I love everything about it. I got an apple scented 20 hr candle, two cinnamon chapsticks and they included a little tealight! It came with a cute little bag and was shipped with eco-friendly packaging.

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A Burts Bees devotee, I was a little weary of trying another chapstick, but I love these! And they’re less waxy. I’m definitely sticking with them. Sorry, Burt.

So, what did you love about this week? What did you get accomplished? Share in the comments and post a link to your blog if you have one! Connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram and Pinterest!

Recipe finds

I made a goal this week to make at least one thing completely from scratch. Then, I saw Greatist‘s Monday prompt to make a recipe I’ve never done before, or to try a new ingredient. So, I set out to find a recipe that would fit both challenges. Where else would I go but Pinterest?

Recipe I tried:

IMG_1239 copyI found this recipe all over when I searched for “healthy cookies,” but it’s super mysterious and elusive so I couldn’t figure out who originally wrote it. So if anyone knows, please pass it on to me! I used this photo from the batch I made today and then I added the recipe. I was a little worried to try them out but they ended up surprisingly good! I suppose I fibbed a little on my goal since I didn’t make my own almond milk or apple sauce, but they are as close as I’m going to get for now.

Recipe I want to try:

Photo from MJ and the Hungryman

Photo from MJ and the Hungryman

Now, this is something I am pretty excited about! This sweet potato lasagna from MJ and the Hungryman looks absolutely delicious, and not too bad for you, either. All real, whole ingredients and I love anything that has the word lasagna in it. If I can get this past my family, I can do anything!

Are there any recipes you look forward to experimenting with? I dare you to find a new recipe online from a site you haven’t used before and see what you get out of it. Share your experience and the link in the comments and on social media with the hashtag #makestuff.

Fridays are for Favorites

fridays are for favorites

Today’s post is dedicated to my most favorite thing that happened this week – I won the Handmade Winter e-book giveaway from the Creative Mamas Collective through Maker Mama!

Photo from Creative Mamas Collective

Photo from Creative Mamas Collective

This e-book is 92 pages of awesome. There are ideas for books for all ages, drink and food recipes, party ideas and crafting tutorials. Not only that, but the book also includes a few prompts for starting meaningful traditions with your family during the holiday season and continuing through the year.

So, for books….

Photo from Harper Collins Childrens

Photo from Harper Collins Childrens

They not only offer ideas for books like Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, that we all know and love. But they also offer book ideas for some books that I have never heard of before – like Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson – that look incredibly awesome and I can’t wait to get for my little one. When you click on the Harper Collins link or the photo above, you can choose to buy from Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and you can also click on the Indie Bound link that allows you to search for indie bookstores in your area. Score!

Photo from Rajovilla

Photo from Rajovilla

There are also recipes for making wonderfully delicious authentic Warm Masala Chai like the drink pictured above from Rajovilla. I remember when I had my first chai, and I immediately fell in love with the spice and how warm it made me feel. It’s perfect for after dinner when you want something warm to drink but you’re not about staying up all night. It never occurred to me that I could make my own chai and now I’m on the hunt for of all of the ingredients – and the strainer!

There are several other dessert recipes, including Gingerbread Crinkle Snowflake Cookies from Simple as That and Gingerbread Ice Cream from Things for Boys. Wait, hold the phone. Gingerbread Ice Cream?! I think I might be in love.

Photo from My Life at Playtime

Photo from My Life at Playtime

Have you ever heard of a Favorite Things Party? I had not until I saw the idea from Deborah at My Life at Playtime in the e-book. There is a set dollar limit (she uses $10 but that’s really up to you) per item, and each person brings three of their favorite items. Everyone writes their names on three pieces of scrap paper and puts them in the hat. You then pick names and each person passes out one gift to the person who picked their name. You can make each party themed, too. There is more information in the book and you can read about Deborah’s experience by clicking on the link or photo above.

You can learn how to make awesome crafts, like leather and chain jewelry from Small and Friendly, chalkboard imagination blocks from Classic Play and Polymer Clay Vases and Placeholders from Hideous! Dreadful! Stinky! too! And for you crafty ladies you know your way around a sewing machine, there are PLENTY of sewing tutorials, too!

Finding new tutorials and ideas are amazing. But more than that, I love getting these collaborative books because I find bloggers and makers that I have never seen anything from before, or maybe someone that I have come across but never actually saw their stuff. It also reminds me of bloggers that I have followed for a while and sparks something new.

I learned about the Creative Mamas Collective during my usual stalking of Maker Mama. If I counted correctly, there are 21 collaborators in this book, and over 50 DIY ideas. The book is $15 and it’s my understanding that you get it immediately after your purchase. Could be the perfect gift for a crafty someone in your life, or you could use the ideas for last-minute handmade gifts and party ideas! Join the Creative Mamas Collective by following them on Pinterest and following and posting #creativemamas on Facebook and Instagram.

What are your favorite things that happened this week? Any new finds you want to share? Post in the comments and on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Google+ with the hashtag #fridayfavorites. Find more of my favorite inspiration on Pinterest! Now, back to gift making and wrapping!

Thrifty Thursdays: Holiday Edition

thrifty thursdays

As I was writing out my list of gifts I still need to finish (or hell, even start), I came to the realization that Christmas Eve is five days away! FIVE! To add to that, I opted to buy plain brown craft paper this year to wrap all my gifts, you know – to give it that extra homemade feel. This was back in November, when I was sure I would have time to finish my projects for school and get all my Christmas presents done.

So, you can imagine what the next five days are going to be like. Luckily, school is done and now I can focus on the Holidays…finally! If you are like me, and still haven’t found time to do all of your wrapping yet, here are some fun (and easy) homemade gift wrap ideas that will add a sweet personal touch. Right before they rip it all to shreds!

Photo from The DIY Dreamer

Photo from The DIY Dreamer

This custom wrapping paper from The DIY Dreamer is kind of amazing. She just took a couple branches and placed them on the copy bed of her printer and printed the design out on bright white copy paper! While I was reading the tutorial, I was thinking you may need heavier paper. But then again, you want it light enough you can fold it to wrap the gifts. This would be perfect for smaller gifts. You don’t even need the branches – you can really print out any design you want!

Photo from Artifact Uprising

Photo from Artifact Uprising

I usually stick to sharing DIY tutorials from bloggers. If I see something shared by a big-name store or magazine, chances are there’s a blogger doing it, too. But when I happen upon a business whose beliefs I agree with, and they have a beautiful tutorial like this, I feel inclined to share. Artifact Uprising – a photo goods store – teamed up with photographer Fawn DeViney for this DIY Gift Wrapping tutorial. They used the plain brown paper, and added a print on top! Now, they used their Square Prints Set that comes with 25 prints and sells for $21.95. That’s a pretty good deal, but if you are in a time and budget pinch – find some photos/prints that are lying around and trim them down to size!

Photo from Mini Eco

Photo from Mini Eco

I found this beautifully hand-drawn wrapping paper from Mini Eco on through the MAKE zine. Kate Lilley (who runs Mini Eco) worked as a web designer before becoming a full-time mom and now freelances and writes books while her sons are at school. I think I found the perfect someone for a Yo Momma Monday feature! She has loads of tutorials on her site, including a cross stitch gift wrap printable.

Now, for something to top your beautiful handmade gift wrap…

Photo from Lisa Griffith

Photo from Lia Griffith

I’m not a huge fan of the Christmas bows. I think they look beautiful (most of the time), but they usually get smashed when you’re packing all your Christmas gifts into a car, and one time, a family member politely informed me that I had a bow stuck on my butt. How it got there, I have no idea. Sure, it was cause for a good laugh, but I would rather the bows stick on the gifts. That’s why I like these printable paper bows from Lia Griffith – they actually go around the gift, less of a chance of sticking to everything else but the gift! And Lia offers printables for each style and even blank ones in case you want to design your own!

Photo from Oh Happy Day

Photo from Oh Happy Day

When there comes a time when I am able to make/purchase gifts for my friends again (note to friends: sorry), I’m definitely using this printable gift wrap and tags from Oh Happy Day! Heck, I might even use them for the family this year. I was planning on just painting/writing the names on each gift, but if I need to make some tags, this could definitely be the way to go! This blog is so beautiful in general, and she shares so many good tutorials – like a Christmas forest cake topper.

Do you have any handmade gift wrap ideas you would like to share? Post the link in the comments and share on Facebook, Instagram, Google+ and Twitter with the hashtag #homamdefortheholidays! Find more handmade gift inspiration on my Pinterest!

Yo Momma Monday: Gretchen Fleener

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

Meet Gretchen Fleener, 34, from Mound, Minnesota. She is an Industrial Designer, Web Designer and face painter. She runs her own business, Junk Mail Gems, where she sells fun items that she makes out of junk mail. She is also an awesome momma to her two sons, who are three and five. Gretchen took time out of her busy schedule to talk to me about how she manages everything, and what she wants her sons to learn from her business.

Gretchen got into junk mail art when she was making magnets from junk mail to preserve patterns that she liked in a functional way. She heard over and over again that she could sell her magnets, but it wasn’t until her sister urged her to start selling online. And that is where Junk Mail Gems was born, six years ago.

“She and I came up with the Junk Mail Gems name because the magnets looked like little gems.  I had a lot of fun designing the logo, then website, and coming up with more things to make out of junk mail to fill my store!”

Although  it may not be for everyone, Gretchen says that being the boss is the best part of running her own business. She loves that she can work when it fits in her life, rather than having to wait for work to be over to enjoy life. A life-long multitasker, she can be found packing items during a commercial break.

As for most small business owners, finances are a worry of hers. Fortunately, she has an incredibly supportive husband whose stable job covers the important bills, allowing her to work from home. He fits her business schedule into his and will come home early to watch the boys if she needs to go to a face painting job or a client meeting.

“He never talks down about my businesses or makes me feel less important because I don’t work 9-5 in an office anymore.”

Before she had her sons, doing anything creative or artistic gave her the most fulfillment. Now, she gets the most fulfillment from using her artistic skills (and revenue earned through them) on her boys.

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

“My kids blow my mind with the things they create already at age 3 and 5 and it’s so cool to see that part of me in them.”

As you might imagine, her boys love crafting with her, and her five-year-old has even caught the bug for turning junk into something he can use and play with! To help cultivate her boys’ creativity, Gretchen labeled a Rubbermaid bin “the project box” and throws odds and ends that the boys can use for their crafts. She also keeps all the kid-friendly crafting supplies at their level so they can create on their own.

“I love coming up with projects to do with them, but my favorite thing is to let them loose and see what they come up with on their own. One of my 5 year old’s most used Christmas gifts is his collection of brightly colored masking tape rolls that my sister gave him.  He is constantly rescuing things form our recycle bin and turning them into things…rocket ships, monster trucks, and houses for his stuffed dogs!”

Not only do her boys love crafting with her, they also love going to yard sales and thrift stores, too! Gretchen says that she talks to them about not wasting things or money, which has also taught them to be patient when they find brand new toys in a store, as they will probably end up at a yard sale or thrift store in a matter of time.

Much like her children, Gretchen loved going to yard sales as a kid and quickly became a big collector. Her collection is now limited to what she can use to decorate her house, and what her family can actually use. I feel your pain, girl. Her vintage finds came in handy last year when she redesigned her kitchen and decorated it with her scores from the 50′s. After facing the normal collector problem of acquiring more than she could use, she set up an Etsy shop.

“This gives me the thrill of the hunt, without the worry of collecting too much.  I love to imagine people looking through my site and getting as excited about finding the perfect thing for their kitchen as I do for mine!”

Gretchen says that she finds inspiration from everywhere – like an oil slick on the street or an old brick building. She also finds inspiration from surrounding herself by other creative people.

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

“I take TONS of photos and am always collecting inspiration for art, graphic, design or craft projects!”

As an Industrial Designer, Gretchen likes to stay current and is always looking into current and future trends. However, when it comes to her personal style, her love for the ’50s does not stop at kitchen utensils. She also leads a life that is deemed old-fashioned by many people today.

“..Staying home with my kids, canning stuff from my garden, baking cookies, making things by hand and cooking a family dinner each night!”

While Gretchen has always considered herself a motivated person, she says that she is now motivated by different things – like getting her work done early so she can spend more time with her family.

“I know that if I get overtired or overworked, I won’t be as good of a parent or spouse, and my family come first.  So in a way, getting in a little “me” time or letting the laundry sit there one more day  can be better for the family and everyone’s mood!  “

Gretchen credits her ability to get everything done to multitasking and creating lists, just like she used to make fun of her mom for doing years ago. Along with that, she stays super organized, and will rework how shes does something if she feels she’s not doing it efficiently enough – often finding a tool or an app that will help.

“But the one thing I don’t compromise on is sleep.  I just can’t function well on any less than 8 hours a night, and when I get enough sleep, being super productive comes much easier during the day!”

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

Although Gretchen says that she doesn’t really feel like her work is “work,” she does like to get outside and go fishing, biking and gardening. Living on a lake doesn’t hurt, either. She also likes to paint and work on something creative that is related to her businesses. One craft that she would like to practice more is knitting.

“I’ve done a little, but I love to crochet and really like how much faster it goes!  I’d love to learn how to make my own soaps or candles.  And I’d really love to learn Henna.  It seems right up my alley and would be a great addition to my face painting offerings!”

Gretchen also runs as a series of “Momtreprenuer” Interviews on her blog, as she says that she is always encouraged by hearing how other moms run their businesses and homes.

“So, I thought others might enjoy them too!  It’s also one small way that I can help support fellow moms by spreading the word about their businesses.”

She hopes that her Junk Mail Gems business gives people a new way to look at “junk.” She shares tutorials on her site for various recycling projects, so that people can get new ideas for their own projects.

“I hope to inspire them to find a way to do what they love and maybe even make a little money doing it!  I am always so happy to hear from people who were inspired to try a project I’ve shared too.”

Since Gretchen’s sons will be in school full-time pretty soon, she plans on adding more jobs to her line of work (as if she doesn’t have enough already) like freelance retail fixture design and body painting. She also wants to expand the merchandise section of her online face painting store and seek out more retailers for Junk Mail Gems.

“Right now I have no desire to go back to the corporate gig, but have a huge list of things I’d like to do to grow all of my businesses”

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

If you are feeling inspired by Gretchen like I am, you can connect with her through Junk Mail Gems and ID Mommy and can also find her on Facebook and Pinterest. If you know someone who would be a good fit for Yo Momma Monday (your beautiful self included), post in the comments and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Find more Yo Momma Monday inspiration on my Pinterest!

Fridays are for Favorites

fridays are for favorites

Everyone thinks I should be this craft goddess because I was raised by such a crafty woman. She can sew, knit, crochet, crosstitch, bake. She has been known to hem pants for my friends while they were standing there. She’s insane with that stuff. Living with her should have been like having my own personal home-ec class, right in my house.

But, it was quite the opposite. She was always the one to do all of that, so I really didn’t feel the need to do it until much later in life. To be honest, I never baked a cookie until I got pregnant and got all domesticated. Until then, I would just tell my mom what I wanted and she would make it for me.

I have gotten the hang of baking and now I act all big and bad when I bake at her house, when really, I should be bowing in front of her. She has tried countless times to teach me how to knit and sew, but I never could quite grasp it. I know every time I told her about a new project I was working on, she was always thinking “Great. A new project for me to work on,” and she always obliged.

Hopefully when I take up my new hobby, she won’t have to end up doing it for me. This time? Needlepoint! Because, why not? There were A LOT of needlepoint tutorials and items on Pinterest, but these were my favorites. I’m also including some cool websites I found whilst on my needlepoint journey.

flashback_needlepoint_purse_intro1Flashback Needlepoint Purse tutorial. Found on Make: Craft Magazine by way of Trend Hunter

Tutorial by Danielle Thompson, who blogs at Thompson Family and owns Kitschy Digitals, an awesome website for crafting, blogging, graphic and web design, pretty much anything

needlepoint-pillow-2-425Make your needlepoint canvas into a pillow, tutorial by the Purl bee

Embroidery PatternFree embroidery pattern, from Geninne’s Art Blog

iphone-scotch-600Needlepoint tutorial for iPhone case, from the Purl bee

hand_embroidered_letters_21Hand Embroidery: Lettering tutorial from Needle ‘n Thread

175px-1step11_763Needlepoint tutorial, by WikiHow

From what I’ve learned, the Purl bee is kind of a big deal when it comes to needlepoint. Do you have any needlepoint tutorials or projects to share? Please post them in the comments!