Looking at ourselves and the world through the lens of the 21st century.

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Handmade Does Not Mean Cheap!


I had so much fun on Wednesday when Amber, Christen, and I talked about all the handmade gifts we’ve given and received over the years. While some people may think handmade is the cheap way out, most of us who do a lot of crafting know that handmade items are anything but cheap, as there is a lot of time and effort that goes into making a handmade gift, and often the supplies to make them are anything but cheap. Skill, too, is a consideration, since a person can’t just simply decide to take up crochet and then whip out an afghan in a couple of days. And since handmade gifts are often specifically tailored to the recipient, there is a lot of thought and planning that goes into each gift.



One such example is the t-shirt quilts I’ve made for members of my family. I’ve done two so far, and have a good start on a couple more that I’ve shelved for the time being. Each of these projects took months of my limited craft time to cut and stabilize the t-shirts before I could even lay them out into something that looked like a planned and cohesive design. Then I had to find and purchase suitable fabric to use for the sashing, binding, and backing. The hours of sewing the blocks (called piecing) made for hours and hours of mindless sewing in front of the TV. Then the quilts had to be quilted, which is the process of sewing through multiple layers of the pieced quilt top (the t-shirts), batting (the inner layer that provides weight and warmth), and the backing (usually a solid piece or large blocks of coordinating fabric). For my husband’s rock bands quilt, I paid a quilter to sew it on her long-arm quilting machine, which cost almost $200. I chose to quilt my son’s school quilt myself on my used Brother sewing machine that I bought at an estate sale for $25. Let’s just say, you get what you pay for – the professionally sewn quilt has a beautiful design in a contrasting color of thread and is elegantly detailed.  The quilt I did at home took untold hours of work, has a lot of mistakes, and is not nearly as detailed since I just used an organic, wavy lines technique. Once the quilting was done, I was able to cut strips of binding (yet another coordinating fabric) and sew it around the edge of the quilt first by machine to attach it to the quilt, then by hand to finish it off


Don’t get me wrong, I do not regret spending the time, money, and effort on these quilts. I love the way they turned out, and I have plans to make several more, but this is why I get hot under the collar when people insinuate that a handmade gift is either cheap, easy, or a cop-out. The people who say that are the people who spend their time browsing Target or Kohl's or Amazon until they find something that will work, and then complain about handmade gifts because they have no idea how much time, thought, and effort goes into each one. It’s also the exact reason why I will NEVER make a quilt for hire. I get asked all the time how much I would charge to make a t-shirt quilt, and the answer is, “No! You can’t afford it, but I will teach you how to do it for yourself.” I feel the same about my hand-crocheted afghans like the NASCAR-themed ones I made for my Dad and my husband, Mark.





Along those lines, if you are interested in crocheting some handmade goodies for Christmas, I have a few free patterns available on my crochet website Cindy’s Crochet Pages. I have several patterns for easy/beginner items like neckwarmers (scarves), trivets, and washcloths plus more challenging patterns for a few NASCAR and sports-themed logos, as well as tutorials on some of the techniques I used.



I’d like to hear from you. Have you ever made handmade items as gifts? Were they received well? Has anyone ever insinuated that your handmade gifts were cheap or a cop-out? Leave your comments below, or join us in a discussion on our MMC Chat Facebook group. And don’t forget to listen to this week’s podcast!


Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Heard it on the Podcast - December 14, 2022

 
 
Did you miss a link we mentioned on the podcast? Here's a quick post we'll do every Wednesday to share any links or information from the podcast. We'll also keep a running post on the "Links from the Podcast" tab so you can refer back to any previous episode. Here's the links for this week:

14-DEC-2022
S2E51: Handmade Christmas Gifts

 

Monday, December 12, 2022

TikTok Made Me Do it

It’s 2022. I hear this phrase all the time: “TikTok made me do it.” As I made my annual work gift sacks this year, I thought about that over and over. Last week, I was randomly scrolling on TikTok and I ran across this video “Gingerbread Latte” pour-overs by OneSweetMama and thought those would be the perfect gift to give my coworkers this year. Boy, I was wrong.


On the podcast this week, we are talking about handmade Christmas gifts. Every year, I make gift sacks for my coworkers. I put a lot of thought into making them, catering to each coworker. Last year, I bought a bunch of mini Christmas mugs from the store and filled them with different things such as snacks, mini lotion, and hand sanitizer. This year, I thought I’d take a step up and make the latte pour-overs for everyone and pair them with my annual pumpkin spice cake cookies. 

We mentioned on the podcast that sometimes handmade gifts can be more inexpensive to make than buying something. Generally, baked goods are not too expensive to make. The most expensive part of the pumpkin spice cookies that I make is the Lily’s® less sugar pumpkin spice chips that I use. However, I didn’t take into account everything it took to make these TikTok latte pour-overs. 

For starters, I had to buy a gingerbread silicone mold. While at Michael’s™, I also bought Sweet Tooth Fairy® vanilla candy melts. The recipe also called for a gingerbread spice blend and recommended one to buy online. However, I decided it might be cheaper to make my own (it wasn’t). The recipe also called for cinnamon (which I had) and instant dark roast coffee. I had only ever worked with candy melts a handful of times and every time I had, I usually burned them. So, I was very careful to get the melts to the right consistency before adding the rest of my ingredients to them. Working with a rack of silicone molds was difficult and I ended up making a mess getting the mixture into them. 


Gingerbread Spice Mix


My molds were also too small for what my recipe needed. The recipe told me to let them sit and harden in the refrigerator for 10 minutes (I waited for 20) and because the molds were smaller, they were also deeper, so, my test gingerbread bomb fell apart. The second one, I let sit overnight and I tried it the next morning. Man, was it strong!



My takeaway: working with candy melts is hard but practice makes perfect. The latte pour-overs in the small gingerbread molds came out sugary and strong. Next time, I will get larger molds. However, the flavors were amazing. If you use the small molds, I suggest eight ounces of hot water instead of six. The process was not as time-consuming as I thought it would be; however, it is a bit costly if you make your gingerbread spice from scratch. If you are looking for something inexpensive to make for your coworkers, I do not recommend this. If you are looking for a gift to give someone who loves coffee, I recommend this.

Finished Product

I want to hear from our readers. What handmade gifts do you like to give for the holidays? Have you ever tried making latte bombs before? How did it go? Let’s continue the conversation below!


Recipes linked below:

Gingerbread Latte Pour-overs

Gingerbread Spice Mix


Please check out our Downloads For Our Readers page for a PDF of these recipes.

Friday, December 9, 2022

The Secret Is...

In this week's podcast, we talked about the seven secrets to a perfect holiday. The word “perfect” is relative. I’ve learned over the years that perfect doesn’t exist if you set your expectations too high. Something will always go wrong. I want to say the biggest secret in my mind is that there is no secret to a perfect holiday.

One of the most memorable holidays I had with my family was one of those holidays where everything seemed to go wrong. I call it the “Great Pumpkin Disaster.” That year, my grandmother, my mom, and I decided to make a trio of pumpkin desserts: Pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, and pumpkin cupcakes. 

My grandmother is a perfectionist when it comes to all things pumpkin. She is always the one to make the pumpkin desserts. In fact, she never lets anyone in the kitchen when she is cooking. On the flip side, she won’t let anyone cook in the kitchen without her (because it is her kitchen). So, it was nearly impossible to cook your own recipe without her input. That being said, maybe I could have used her input that Christmas, but I was always irritated when I tried to cook in the kitchen and she constantly hovered over me. My grandmother used to say, “Too many cooks in the kitchen...”

My mom and I cooked first working on our pumpkin bread and cupcakes while kicking my grandma out of the kitchen multiple times. I love making cupcakes and it was the first time I had ever made pumpkin cupcakes. The result was pretty disappointing. My cupcakes sank in the middle and only a few turned out edible. I didn’t understand what was wrong. It had to be something wrong with my grandmother’s oven, but no one believed me. Next, my mom’s pumpkin bread came out of the oven as hard as a brick but still, no one believed me that there was something wrong with the oven. My grandmother claimed it was because we wouldn’t let her help us.

Finally, my grandmother made her pumpkin pies, and they almost caught fire in the oven, leading to hysteria in the kitchen as we prepped for Christmas dinner. My grandmother didn’t want to believe that it was an oven problem and swore that it was because she wasn’t cooking. When she pulled the pies out of the oven, they were completely black. My mom and I busted out laughing at the situation. My grandmother got so angry that she took a piece of my mom’s “brick” pumpkin bread and threw it at her head. My mom, in return, grabbed a cupcake and threw it at my grandma. That turned into an all-out war in the kitchen and throughout the house. We started chasing each other and throwing bits of pumpkin at each other until all three of us were covered and we had a huge mess to clean up.

I think back to that day whenever I bake any of my grandmother’s pumpkin recipes. We had to buy our dessert that year, but the memories of that Christmas with my mom and grandma will last a lifetime.


I want to hear from our readers. What is your perfect holiday? What are your holiday secrets? Let’s continue the conversation below. Have a wonderful holiday!

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Heard it on the Podcast - December 7, 2022

 

 
 
Did you miss a link we mentioned on the podcast? Here's a quick post we'll do every Wednesday to share any links or information from the podcast. We'll also keep a running post on the "Links from the Podcast" tab so you can refer back to any previous episode. Here's the links for this week:

7-DEC-2022
S2E50: The 7 Secrets to a Perfect Holiday

Sorry, we don't have any links today from the podcast, but do visit our Facebook group, MMC Chat. Let us know what you think!

Monday, December 5, 2022

My 7 Secrets for a Perfect Holiday

 

My Thanksgiving Day schedule on the fridge. Next to the stove, you can see my recipes on a stand.

Have you noticed how time seems to fly when we get close to the holiday season? This is my favorite time of year, and yet I seem to always be running around like a chicken with my head cut off, trying to get everything done, and getting flustered, flummoxed, and frustrated in the process. If you can relate, then I am here to tell you it doesn’t have to be that way, and I think I’ve found the secret to making any holiday just about perfect.


Like many families, the last few years around here have been fraught with change…COVID, unemployment, extra family members living with us, illness, death…we’ve survived it all, and it has changed the way we look at Christmas (or any holiday for that matter). At some point, I just gave up trying to be the perfect hostess presenting the perfect dinner in a perfect house with all the perfect touches for a perfect event. Where does this idea of perfection come from anyway? I think we’ve all been watching too many Hallmark movies! Although I truly do know better than to expect perfection, there is something in me that has this “perfect” picture of the holidays in my head and I’ll be darned if I’m not going to try and accomplish it! 


A few years ago, I finally figured out that I can’t do it all on my own, and I enlisted the help of my daughter, Christen (who you know from this blog and the podcast), and my niece, Ashley. One early fall day, we enjoyed happy hour at our local Chuy’s and decided to plan our holiday festivities, nailing down any and every detail we could think of along with assigning a person to be responsible for it. It was nothing that I hadn’t done before, but having it all spelled out in writing and with two other family members to back it up, it carried weight.  We planned it together. Who was going to challenge that?


Those first couple of years were focused on Thanksgiving and Christmas, and many of the activities in our “plan” involved baking days, crafting days, and even some movie-watching and game-playing days. As each day rolled around, we found it was easy to know what was supposed to happen and when so most things went off without a hitch. After each holiday, we would regroup, make notes about what worked and what didn’t, and set it aside for the next year. This planning has become our routine and has been amazingly effective even through COVID and all the aforementioned changes. And because of the success of all this planning, I was able to discover what I call my 7 Secrets of a Perfect Holiday. 


  1. Be realistic. 

When you look at what you want to accomplish realistically, you may find that what you want isn’t just a challenge – it can be impossible. Pick and choose what you really want to include, and learn to say “no” to anything that goes beyond that.  


When my family started planning, we quickly realized that some family activities just weren’t going to happen when we are all  together, so we opted for going our separate ways for things like visits with Santa and driving around looking at lights. We also quickly realized that to have all of our Christmas baking and decorating done in time to enjoy it, we had to start working on it the weekend after Thanksgiving. Now, baking and decorating on that Saturday is part of our Thanksgiving/Christmas ritual.


  1. Make a plan.

Once you know what is most important to you, start planning it out. Think about all the details like time constraints, supplies needed, and who will be responsible for each part. Plan out the menu for your meals and then break the recipes down into little steps that are scheduled throughout the day or even the day before.


Knowing that we are going to make cornbread dressing on Thursday for Thanksgiving, we knew that we had to bake the cornbread on Monday so it could dry out to bread crumbs. I made pies the day before. Then, for the day of our feast, I start at the time I would like to serve dinner and work my way back through all of the recipes so that everything is done and ready to serve at exactly the right time. If a recipe calls for chopping celery, I mark on the plans who will be chopping. In this way, every person knows exactly what they are doing and when…right down to setting the table, changing clothes, and putting on make-up.


  1. Delegate.

This was one of the hardest things for me to do. I’m a control freak, and to allow someone else to do something that I am perfectly capable of doing (especially when I have a specific way I want it done) is darned near impossible, but I’ve learned to do it. I realized some while back that the other women in the family are never going to learn how to do things unless I allow them to do it and learn, and someday it will be up to them to carry on our family traditions. I owe it to them to bring them in on the process – to teach them the way. It has been a lifesaver for me. Learning to let go and let someone else do it allows me to focus on other aspects of the holiday like baking my special recipe or coordinating all the other helpers. This year, more than half of our Thanksgiving dishes were made by someone other than me, and my brother and niece set the tables.


  1. Lower your expectations.

This can be hard, too, especially if you have some kind of Norman Rockwell/Hallmark movie picture of what Christmas (or any other holiday) should be like. Remember that 70% rule Christen talked about a while back? It applies here, too. If you can manage to get 70% of what you hope to accomplish, I’m betting you’re going to have a great holiday. And remember that delegating thing? Don’t expect too much of your helpers, either. It’s perfectly okay if your niece sets the table with the forks and knives on the wrong sides of the plates. No one cares. Really. No one cares.


  1. Be in the moment.

If I learned anything from our adventure reading Eckhart Tolle’s, A New Earth, it is this – be in the moment. The moment is now. Now is all there is. Make the most of what you have. Enjoy it. Be fully present. 


This was never more evident in our family than this past Thanksgiving. My brother and his family came to visit, and rather than change our plans, we decided to just bring them in on all the fun. For Saturday, the plan was to rise early, eat some donuts and start decorating my tree. In the afternoon, we were going to start some of our baking and take turns at building gingerbread houses. If there was enough time in the evening, we would either play a game or do some crafting. But things change. Christen wasn’t in the mood for donuts, so she brought breakfast burritos, too (a big hit with everyone), and we were having so much fun visiting with my sister-in-law and doing some crafting that we never did decorate the tree. In the end, the “boys” played a game while we crafted, and then we all got in on the gingerbread houses, taking turns at the dining room table. It was all good fun, and while I wished I had gone to bed that evening with a fully-decorated tree, it didn’t kill me to do it the next day. The point is that we were in the moment, enjoying what was, and not worrying about what was supposed to be. I wouldn’t trade those hours of crafting and talking with Lisa for the world.


  1. Stick to your budget.

This may sound super obvious, but budgets have a very real and valuable purpose, and that is to keep us out of trouble! It’s very tempting to shop for groceries for a dinner and add one more side dish or appetizer, or to discover one more gift for someone that you think you must give. I am so guilty of this! Especially when it comes to gift-giving. I will find the perfect gift for someone and then the very next day find another little something that would be perfect for that person. But, oops, if I buy one more for this person, then I need to find another little something for that person, and it just keeps adding up. I love using things like Amazon Wish Lists to buy gifts because I can quickly tally how much I’ve spent on each person and stick to my budget. It’s a lot safer for me than just randomly milling through stores looking for something. Santa has the right idea; make a list, check it twice, and stick to it! There’s nothing worse than overspending on a meal or gifts and then eating beans and rice for the next month just to pay for it.


  1. Stick to your routines.

This last little tidbit is more about self-care than anything else. Often, when we are caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays, we tend to overlook things like our diet, exercise routines, and even sleep. Be sure to stick to your regular sleep schedule as much as possible (even when you have company!), and don’t give up on those exercise routines. A morning work-out, evening meditation, or that wonderful soak in a hot tub might be just the thing to help you keep the stress at bay. As for that diet…well, we all over-indulge once in a while, so just be mindful and don’t make it another habit that you’re going to have to change come January 1.


That’s my secret to having a perfect holiday. I’d like to know what you think. Do you have any tips to share with our readers? Be sure to listen to the podcast on Wednesday to hear what Christen and Amber have to say!


Saturday, December 3, 2022

Creatively Flexing My Muscles

This week on the podcast we talked about taking our crafts when we travel. I have to admit, I’m a proCRAFTinator. I just made that word up. I honestly don’t normally craft when I travel. Last summer, when I went to New Orleans, I took my craft bag with me on the trip and didn’t open it once. That being said, I do take some sort of craft when I travel…and that means across town as well.

I am a beast of burden. I carry my backpack with me everywhere, and in that backpack, I may as well have bricks for all the use its contents do for me when I travel. Every day to work I carry my backpack full of crafty things and occasionally I will carry my craft bag with me as well. In my backpack, I have practical things that I need for work such as my laptop and planner but I also have a plethora of other things I carry with me that I don’t necessarily use but hope for a fleeting moment of free time to get a little craft in.

Crafty things I always have on me:
  • All three sets of my pens: In my backpack, I carry three sets of pens in three different pen bags in case I need them. I carry my gel pens (Papermate™ and Pilot™) in case I want to write something down in my APN (all-purpose notebook) in many different colors. I carry my flair pens because sometimes you need a bit of flair instead of gel. I also have my Sharpie™ pens because they can be used for a completely different purpose than my other two sets of pens.
  • Scissors and glue: You never know when you need to cut or glue something. If I remove either of these things from my backpack, I always find an occasion when I should have had them.
  • My list journal: This is a given. My list journal is one of my current projects that I am always working on. I carry it with me if I get to add to it. I also use all three sets of my pens in this journal. I mentioned this list journal on our “Current Projects” podcast.
  • My art journal and pastels: I usually carry my art journal with me as well, and if it is not in my backpack, it is in my car. I don’t use this journal regularly, but it is always nice to have it when I get the inspiration to draw or collage (this is where the scissors and glue come in).
  • My All-Purpose Notebook: I carry this with me everywhere. Other than my planner and gel pens, this is the one thing I carry with me consistently. I started keeping an APN when I was in middle school but I started carrying it with me everywhere when I was in high school. The full ones are dated, numbered, and cataloged on my bookshelf.
  • My Happy Planner™: This is where I do all of my planning. I mentioned my planner and how it transformed my life on my Day Planners blog back in April. I carry my planner with me everywhere and I keep everything I do not keep in my APN in my planner such as my daily activities, my classroom activities, and my grocery lists.  Sometimes I have things in both.

Other things I carry with me everywhere:
  • A book: I always have a book in my purse.
  • Crossword puzzles: I always have my ColorCross™ book with me.

My takeaway is that you don’t always have time to craft when you travel, but, I have the things I enjoy with me in my bag in case I get those little stolen moments to craft (or read). I want to hear from our readers. What do you take with you for your downtime when you travel? Let’s continue the conversation below or on our Facebook Group: MMC Chat.

Thursday, December 1, 2022

I Love to Craft When I Travel

 


Yesterday on the podcast, Amber, Christen, and I talked about some of the crafts we take with us when we travel, whether it’s to the doctor’s office or an extended vacation like a Caribbean cruise. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine what that might look like, so I thought I would use my blog today to share photos and video walk-throughs of some projects I’ve worked on while traveling.


The largest, and most obvious, projects I’ve done are my travel albums. I’ve done everything from digital 12” x 12” scrapbook layouts to tiny little sketchbooks completed with nothing but a pencil, a pen, and some colored pencils.


New Orleans Smashbook:

For this album, I used a Smashbook to record our trip to New Orleans. 



Aggie Moms Cruise Traveler’s Notebook:

I used a mixed-paper travelers notebook to create this chunky album on the fly while cruising with friends.




Las Vegas Traveler’s Notebooks:

For this album, I used three small traveler’s notebook inserts – one for each day of our trip. As Amber mentioned in the podcast, Christen and I had a lovely time crafting in our hotel room during a bit of downtime.



Arkansas Sketchnote Traveler’s Notebook:

As I mentioned in the podcast, I took minimal supplies on a recent camping trip with my family. This prompted me to try my hand at sketchnoting the trip. The project is a hybrid of sketchnoting with smashbooking since I added photos of our trip as well as the sketches. I haven’t created a video flip-through of this one yet, but here are some photos of the unfinished project. 









I’m hoping to add flip-through videos of all my travel albums someday. I hope these albums have inspired you to take a bit of scrapbooking or other crafts with you on one of your upcoming trips. It’s a great way to wind down after a busy day, and if you’re scrapbooking, you have the bonus of documenting those memories while they are still fresh. 



Have you taken your crafts with you when you travel? I’d love to hear about it! Tell us what you think by commenting below or joining the conversation on our Facebook group MMC Chat.


5 Ways to Manifest Your Best Life

Hi there, and welcome back! Since we have been heavily focusing on goals and planning, I thought we should discuss manifesting. I love this ...