Thursday, December 8, 2011

Budget Christmas Gifts

I have found Christmas to be oh so very hard to budget. My husband and I have never been able to afford to buy each and every person a gift on both sides of our family. Here are some things I have found make easy and thoughtful gifts, even when I have desired most of all to buy those very nice and shiny gifts you see in department stores and malls.

Make a gift basket for the couples in the family. Be creative. Get a small gadget for the guy and make something pretty for the girl. If you sew, knit, or crochet, make something small for the lady. Put together a movie night basket with a bag or two of popcorn and one of those cute $5 movies from the Wal-Mart movie bins (you can always purchase the movie on a separate tab and put a receipt in an envelope and stick it under the tissue paper in the basket, in case they have that movie already).

Make your own hot cocoa mix, put it into miniature mason jars with marshmallows on top, use pinking shears to make lid covers from fabric or buy pre-cut fabric, and tag the with instructions written in your neat handwriting on card stock. Buy dollar store mugs to go with it. Nice Goodwill purchased mugs will also work fine (and you can get them for as low as 50 cents!).

Bake! My mom has been baking her lovely crescent rolls every Christmas since I was three or four years old. It never gets old and everyone loves to use them for their Christmas dinner and day after Christmas dinner (she makes a lot). Last year I made braided bread loafs and cookies. I am told they were enjoyable.

If you knit, crochet, sew, or do any sort of craft, make nice items for loved ones. This does take a lot of preparing before Christmas. I like to start a few months in advance normally. It is an investment buying the equipment and materials to make these gifts. Fabric can be expensive, but buying sheets and leftovers at a thrift store or Goodwill is a good start. I have been purchasing fabric, yarn, and tools since I first started my hobbies so this year I have a lot less material I have to purchase to make them.

Make a kit for that family member that does sew, crochet, or knit. If you have a quilting or craft magazine, purchase the amount of fabric, yarn or other material needed to make that item and throw in the magazine as an extra gift. Keep it simple though. Try kitting a ten-minute table runner, throw pillow patterns, and small items like pin cushions from scraps.

For those who have husbands who are good at woodworking, or if you are good at it yourself, come up with ideas for shelves, benches, small tables or coffee tables, or jewelry boxes even. It means a lot when you tell them who made it! Refinish an old wood chair or furniture you find in a thrift store or flea market. Paint it in wild colors.

Give an indoor or outdoor potted plant and decorate the pot.

Whatever it is that you are giving, of any type of budget, put it with a nice and thoughtful note, letter, or card telling that person how much they mean to you.

This year I am keeping things much simpler than the previous years. I have found only "under 1 hour" items to make for the most part. All other longer-to-make items I have either already had put together months ago, or am finishing UFOs from earlier this year or last year.

I hope this was helpful and that you have a very merry and blessed Christmas!!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sigh...I love my Job!!

I realize I have something very rare! The ability to say with a happy sigh, "I love my job!" I also realize that it is rare for someone to be living out their dream job twice in a lifetime. My first one being the position in my library back at home, the second and current dream job in the quilt shop!

In the past year I have been blessed more numerous times than I can count, but among those blessings I have been given one that was very unexpected for me.

It started out as simply a small email from a friend of mine saying she found out through her daughter's piano teacher that a position became available at A Stitch in Time. In that email there was a copy of a Facebook status (from the owner's daughter) which held the description of what exactly the shop was looking for. It said in brief, "Can you sew, like computers, and need a job?" The email had a brief description of times, days, and an email address to send the resume as well as the shop's physical address.

From midnight until 3:00 AM, I spent my time researching and composing a resume that I felt was professional enough for applying the next morning. I tried to sleep, but only woke up every so often to check the time.

By morning time, Nathan got up and I was awake in mere minutes with, "I wrote a resume, there is a position available at A Stitch in Time, the quilt shop by the antique mall, I am going to drop it off soon after they open at ten, I want to make sure to get it there as soon as I can, I don't want to be the last person to hand one in, do you think I might have a chance?" I did not need coffee that morning. I also did not want to get my hopes up, but I was just a wee bit excited. Ok A LOT excited.

Not only did I get there at exactly 10:00 AM, but I also emailed a copy to the owner's daughter. By Saturday afternoon, I received a phone call from the owner asking when would be best to interview me. I had an interview that very next week.

I do not remember much of the interview but felt like I had not said enough or made much of an impression. I left the store not knowing when I would hear back and if I had any chance of either a second interview or being hired.
About two weeks passed and I was asked to come in for a second interview, this time with two of her employees. The interview went well, was comfortable, but the more I replayed the interview, later, the more I felt I had not really said or done much to make any impressions at all.
Later that night, or maybe it was a day and night later, I received a call saying I got the job! I still remember the shock. I was feeding ducks, emptying a duck pool full of brown water, gathering eggs, and walking around in grub clothes and rubber boots at my sister-in-law's house while talking on the phone with my future boss. Could she hear the ducks in the background? was all I could think of while listening to her voice. They were rather loud!

I never would have dreamed of this! I did not feel professional, had only answered the job listing because I thought "it couldn't hurt to try," and had never before in my life written a resume and really had no idea if it came close to professional enough to get me hired!
I had planned on just enjoying a summer free from school and then one day go around job hunting. My summer was still school free, that part of my plan went through well, the next part was a God send! I didn't job hunt for one minute. It came to me and forced me to go out of my comfort zone and make that resume I was "one day" going to write.

I have been working for Maxine at A Stitch in Time for nearly four months now, have been enjoying my job immensely, and get to experience the joys that come from working under a beautiful Christian lady and Christian co-workers. And to think there was a time when I used to say, "I could never sew, it looks so boring!" I only added a sewing machine to my wedding registry because I thought I might need it for hemming and mending Nathan's pants! That it would be a house-wifely thing to do and I hated hand sewing!

I have come a long way, but none of it would be possible without those who pitched in to get that machine, however lower end of a model and brand it is, and my mother-in-law for showing me the basics of sewing and inspiring me to go further in my sewing as I began to dream bigger. She still supplies me with her grocery-store-trip, quilting magazine finds, for which I am eternally grateful! I also owe a lot to my husband for standing by my side and encouraging me in all my sewing projects and especially the encouragement he gave when I felt I was not cut out for this job.
I had a lot of people rooting for me and telling me they knew I could do it. Thanks for all who believed I could do it when I thought I was not good enough for any job, much less a dream job!
One last thanks goes to a friend of mine who loaned me her copy of a rag quilt, tote bag pattern while I was in my first semester of college at SCC. My love for bags and the sheer need for distraction and therapy from the looming and sometimes overwhelming amounts of homework drove me to my fabric, rotary cutter, and machine for a few minutes at a time each day for one week. After that bag, I was working on a new project once every other week. It was viral for me.

I now fear putting away my machine like I used to when I had finished a project. It now takes up permanent residence on a desk height shelf of our dining room closet. While it is a lovely sight to greet each day, I await the day I upgrade to a Babylock machine and say good-bye to my worn-out Singer. It has served its purpose well, but is drawing close to its end. We are saving as much as we can toward my new "baby." (For those who were thinking about buying me anything for Christmas, rethink the gift and see Nathan!)

God has truly blessed me in this job. I get to help people all day long, whether by keeping things straight in inventory, shipping items to the lady who orders something over the phone or the internet, cutting fabric, ringing them up, or simply walking around the shop helping a customer find that perfect fabric that will complete the current project in hand.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Life is for living!

Recently, Nathan, our friend Jake, and I took a week's vacation to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. We had been planning this trip since last October. I do not think I really knew just how beautiful the coast of NC was until last week. It was a refreshing week, full of excitement, new discoveries, and sand. Haha. From the moment we embarked on our journey to the time we set foot on the beach, I knew it was going to be a great time for all three of us.
Never would I have though that something as simple as sand and water would bring on much excitement, energy, and laughter. Nathan discovered a hobby of sand castle building, while Jake and I watched and photographed those memories. I may not have had the best time with my sun burn from day one, but I sure got a lot of laughs watching Nathan play in the sand and try to get us to join him. I did help gather shells for his second castle, provide a pen and sticky note for the planning of his ziggurat, and help build a barrier wall for his last sculpture, the Coliseum, though I did complain that the breeze, sand, and sun were making me miserable.

One of my favorite past times at the beach house was cooking the meals, when the guys allowed it, and watching the faces of Jake's and Nathan's as they savored the bites or inhaled the meal, depending on what I cooked and how hungry they were! Breakfasts were either at Sonny's Restaurant or home cooked French toast. Lunches were usually simple and dinners spontaneous. The kitchen was perfect for whatever meal I planned.

I find myself trying to think up what my high lighted moment or day of the week was, but I cannot. I enjoyed every moment and every day. Sure I may have been miserable before discovering a trick that helped me handle my sun burn, but I still found myself living the life of a beach vacationer. Going to the beach was a lot of work to trudge out over the dune, while carrying a camping chair and stumbling over my feet in sand filled crocs, but the glorious view, the sounds of children laughing, and the smell of salty sea was what made the work worth it. Not to mention the relaxing times I had sitting in the chair or walking beside the lapping water. I regret not getting out in the water more often than I did (just once).

Some of the things we enjoyed that week were discovering the history of three of the light houses, enjoying spontaneity, going on a forty minute free ferry ride, watching crabs play hide and seek with the people and dogs on the beach, sitting in the hot tub relaxing, laughing, and reminiscing on life, playing Smash Brothers on Jake's Wii, watching movies and shows after dinner, going out to eat for breakfast some mornings, visiting Kitty Hawk, flying/walking Nathan's kite, flying/putting together Nathan's foam Wright Flyer, and never once planning any farther ahead than one day!

We are now saving up for next May and another trip to the Outer Banks. It is a long drive, but part of the fun is in the anticipation of the vacation. Nathan is planning his next sand castle, better ziggurat, and more elaborate Coliseum. I am setting aside titles for audio books, looking into making a better camera case, and investing in better beach shoes (crocs make me even more clumsy than I am already!).
I look forward to next May and all the memories we will make. God was so good to us that week and gave us some awesome moments with each other.

Friday, January 7, 2011


Since getting my driver's license, I have so much I want to do now. For lack of time, I will just list them. Remember, this is a list of wants, not musts. I may never get to do or maintain some of these all the time, but I certainly look forward to being available whole heartedly when I can.

+clip coupons and find grocery deals around town in one go (even if it means splitting the shopping up into two stores stead of one)
+make soup for the broken hearted or sick and drive it to them
+babysit =-)
+visit loved ones and dear ones
+be a part of a Bible study
+take more library trips!!!!!
+spend more time in a store than I am normally able to (remember, my husband formed the "slow wives club" on Facebook)
+meet friends for coffee
+get out more often as a way to chill and just get out when I need t0
+get to doctor's appointments faster and easier.
+save stamps and pay some bills in person (three of which can be done in town with no fees)
+and just be available to help or be there for the beck and call of loved ones and dear ones.

these are things I have always aspired to do if I ever had wheels. I think Nathan may have to fight to get the car for a while. I promise to keep all my aspirations within reason and within a certain limit!!! I realize gas is not cheap and easy.

I also realize I do not even know how to pump gas and cannot remember when the last time I did it!! I won't be able to get far without. Will I even remember to check the gas meter? Is that even what it is called? lol. It is funny how much I did not notice until I truly became an independent driver on this day. It is all so surreal still. Still has not sunk in yet and still I feel it was not me that drove myself home and to the grocery store alone and even to pick up my own husband from work (in the dark!!) while snow flakes were floating to the ground.

Well...It is off to bed now. If I can sleep.