28 December 2010

Christmas: Presents

[Christmas Eve]

Time for the Christmas present wrap up! You already read about the rocking chair I fixed up for Lucy. Now time to see the rest of the goods!

Every year, Norman and I decided on a certain amount of money to spend on each other for Christmas presents. It's a relatively low amount (you can read some about why that is here). It's kind of like a fun challenge to see how awesome the presents can be for so little money. I will admit to having a distinct advantage here: I can make crafty things, and thereby save money. However, I would like to point out that I do not ever ask for alcoholic beverages (pricey!), so I really think it all evens out. :-)

We gave Lucy the rocking chair, a big ol' box of PlayDoh and accessories (a garage sale score!), I Spy board books.

[Rockin' out]

[We actually got some good tearing-off-the-wrapping-paper photos this year. Thanks, 20-month-old!]

[Her favorite part is the plastic knife that didn't come with the original set.]

I gave Norman a comic book he'd been wanting, some Irish cream (see? alcohol. pricey.), a giant flashlight (like on the X-Files! kinda.), and a stenciled t-shirt. An extremely obscure stenciled t-shirt.

[John Simm approves!]

[The shirt is based off this photo, from this episode of Doctor Who.]

And Norman (very impressively for the money, I might mention), got me some truffles made by my favorite truffle maker, the Dr Horrible DVD (so I can see "Commentary! The Musical"!), the Cake Wrecks calendar (which I was fully intending to spend my own money on after Christmas), and Doctor Who buttons and a knit TARDIS ornament!!!

[Love the framing here. No, really.]

[Terrifying Pertwee is Terrifying!]

I think the Doctor Who stuff is so special because, although I've been fully entrenched in Doctor Who fandom since May (has it really only been that long??) they're the first physical objects associated with the show that I own (and Norman, too!). It's about time, eh? (It was a really long 7 months...)

So there you have it! A fun, nerdy, thrifty pile of awesomeness.

25 December 2010

Merry Christmas, all!

I hope today has been everything you wanted it to be, and that anything extra is nothing but a welcome surprise!

24 December 2010

Child Rocking Chair Seat Revamp

As I write this, it's Christmas Eve Eve. And as you read this, it is Christmas Eve (or later). So I haven't given this present to Lucy yet. It's still in the garage (which is where I revamped it, so excuse the horrible lighting in the following photos). But since Lucy is not a regular reader of my blog, I figured I was safe. :-)

I found this wooden child's rocking chair in the dumpster by our old apartment right before we moved to the house we are in now. So that was... a year and a half ago. It was really in quite good condition, especially for something that came out of a dumpster. It is solid wood, sturdy, and the only thing wrong with it (aside from some scratches) was that it had no seat. I think when I found it there were upholstery tacks and some faux-leather-type pieces around the edges. Upon closer inspection, it actually kinda looks like it was originally a wicker seat, which someone removed and installed the faux-leather seat. But anyway, it's small and adorable and old and sturdy.

I eventually decided to redo the seat with an assortment of old belts woven together. I hit up a thrift store bag sale and raided their belts. I bought about 8 that I thought had a reasonable chance of being leather. And I've had them for about a year. That's why I decided I'd give Lucy the rocking chair this Christmas -- so I would actually get it done.

On Tuesday I bought some upholstery tacks, and Wednesday evening I cranked the thing out in the exact length of time it took to listen to the Glee Christmas album. Exact. It was crazy.

I only had a vague idea of my plan, but as Norman and I were discussing last week, that usually works out for me. But that's probably because I have good instincts about what I can improvise and what I can't.

Enough talk. Photos.

[It looks kind of big here, but let me assure you, I cannot fit my hips between the armrests. It is for a child.]

[Pile of belts]

[Figuring out the weaving]

[Ta da!]

[Close-up of the seat]

It could definitely be more polished, but I think given the condition of the chair, it's just right.

21 December 2010

Fun Times Photo Dump

Today I was planning on sharing with you some photos of some Christmas gifts I made for some of my friends and family. But I'm not entirely sure if all those gifts have reached their destinations and/or been opened, and I don't want to ruin the surprise for those who haven't received/opened.

Then I was planning on showing you photos of the rocking chair I'm revamping for one of Lucy's Christmas presents, but I haven't actually revamped it yet. Oops. Tomorrow. It will get revamped tomorrow, and then there will be photos later.

So today you get random (mostly food) photo dump! Hooray!

[This year's Christmas card photo]

[My first pie crust. I used this recipe.]

[Saw this at the WalMart...]

[One of the most adorable photos of my husband and my daughter in existence]

[A really good looking baked potato]

[The night I used the pancake molds. A bear for Lucy...]

[A heart for Norman...]

[And... uh... That's no' mine.]

[A cat that looks like Hitler]

[And last but not least -- ZOMBIE BABY! (We helped some friends get engaged by way of zombie attack.)]

14 December 2010

Deluxe Happened

[My booth was next the Crafty Katie's booth]

...and that was probably the last one I'll attend and/or sell at. That makes me kind of sad. But not too sad. There will be other opportunities wherever we end up (In case you don't know what I'm talking about, my husband is almost done with his PhD, he has applied to a ton of jobs, and only one of them is in-state. Chances are we'll be moving far away this summer.)

I remembered to take photos! (Which is a miracle, since I did not remember to bring a chair. I spent the whole day sitting on one of my Rubbermaid tubs. Oy.)

[I liked the Geek Corner set-up at the home show so much that I did it again!]

[Can ya see that? Across the way? That's the "Pirate Party". Unfortunately they're political, not celebrational. More's the pity.]

It was super-busy all day -- it was amazing! I saw several of my crafty friends and met some fun, interesting people. Oh and I sold a bunch of stuff. Woot!

[I also had this great helper to help me clean everything up afterwards.]

10 December 2010

Deluxe is coming!

I want to go to there.[My Deluxe booth in 2008 (pregnant!)]

My favorite craft show is tomorrow. It's called Deluxe, and it is so fun! I'll be there with all my wares. You know who else will be there? About 70 other vendors and a whole bunch of Oklahomans hungry for some indie crafty goodness.

Come join us, won't you?

[My booth from last year.]

Deluxe Indie Craft Bazaar
Centennial Building - OKC Fairgrounds
Saturday, December 11, 2010
11 am - 5 pm
FREE parking and FREE admission

Live music, kids' crafts, coat drive, raffle, etc, etc.
Check the website for the schedule!

Five and a quarter in da house[You need these. I will have them there.]

Oh, and here is my interview on the Deluxe site.

07 December 2010

Okie Crafts

I've lived in Oklahoma my whole life. Aside from a few assorted summers spent in Kentucky and Minnesota, it's been Oklahoma. I know a lot of people who have lived in Oklahoma their whole lives, and they are damn proud of it. They love it here. They might die for Oklahoma.

I'm not one of those people. I've actually been trying to escape for the last 9 years. It looks like I'll (probably) finally succeed this summer.

Maybe it's the happy prospect of leaving, or maybe I've finally made peace with my home state. Or maybe I stumbled across some Oklahoma-type items and I knew I could turn them into something awesome. (Psst -- It's the last one!) But I made some Oklahoma crafts. They're pretty cool, actually. And they'll be for sale at Deluxe on Saturday! Woohoo!

[Oklahoma picture book turned into a blank journal]

[Note cards made from the pages of the above picture book]

["Oklahoma is justly proud of its Symphony Orchestra."]

["Sooneropoly" board game coasters -- I've got two sets left!]

03 December 2010

Christmas Not-a-Tree

We're not doing a Christmas tree this year. You all know that I love Christmas trees, but it just wasn't in the cards this year. The tree we had last year, we had gotten for free, so we didn't feel too bad about giving it away after Christmas. It was going to take up a lot of room in our garage. And we have an extra piece of furniture in our dining room this year, so the space where the tree was last year is gone. And last year we just put the baby gate up to keep Lucy away from it, but that wouldn't really fly this year, and I have some ornaments that I would be so sad if they broke. I don't want to be mad at Lucy for breaking them. So we don't have a tree. My original idea was to buy a small, potted live tree, but we don't really have the space or the money for even that.

But I love Christmas trees.

So I decided to check out how much artificial greenery garlands cost at Hobby Lobby. Well, lo and behold, when I went in to check them out, they were half off. I got two lengths (all of what is on the wall above) for $8 plus tax. I will take it.

It's just like a tree! We put lights on it, we (I) decorated it with our ornaments, and we can set presents under it if we want. Perfect!

[There she is again -- my favorite ornament.]

[It's nice to have something framing the window!]

[Our Lady, etc.]

30 November 2010

Christmas Your Way

I was reading this post over at SortaCrunchy, and I was saddened. It's about how the holidays can be really stressful for some people (although it seems most of those people are American women). I love the holidays, and aside from times during my school career when I had tough finals to worry about, they've never really stressed me out. The holidays mean so many good things: Christmas music, pumpkin-flavored things, pretty lights, sweaters, even more crafting, good movies, and stories of hope. Some things you can only do this time of year, some things you only want to do this time of year so that they stay special.

Now the following is not to brag and not to judge. I know everyone has different situations, different temperaments, different expectations. But if you're feeling the holiday noose begin to tighten, you might consider the following. I want you to be able to love the holidays.

(Because it's me, this will tend toward the practical and proactive side of things. I seem to be better at giving people assignments than at encouraging them to think deep thoughts or be spiritually uplifted. So we'll go with my natural gifts.)

This post over at Ask Moxie asks the following questions: "What is the most important part of the next five weeks for you? What do you want to teach your children about this time?"

Have you asked yourself these questions? If you don't have children, have you asked what you want to remind or teach yourself or others about this time? I had never thought about the question in those terms before. What do I want Lucy to know about Christmastime? Here is part of what I said in the comments there:

1.) Less is more -- our gift-giving and traditions are simple and fun. That's the way we like it, and we think it's better for everyone involved. That also means there's less stress.

2.) We have more than we need, so we give to others. We buy Angel Tree gifts for less fortunate kids. I hope to do some volunteering when she's older. And gifts come from people who love her, not from Santa.

3.) Jesus came and Jesus is coming again. We want to focus on Jesus' birth and death -- the sacrifice He made for us. But we also focus on the day Jesus is coming back to set everything right, and our part in that work until He does come back. It's a time of hope.

So if you've never thought about it before, you might take a whack at writing a list like this. Then start acting on it. Cut out stuff that doesn't fit with what you want out the holidays. It's up to you. You get to choose.

On that note, the comment I made on the SortaCrunchy post included the single best piece of advice Norman and I got while we were engaged: Make rules for the holidays NOW. For instance, decide that you will always spend Christmas Day at your own house. Tell all the family members and always stick by it. That way, when kids enter the picture, all your family members will be used to it, and they'll make less of a fuss.

Again, it's up to you. You are in charge of yourself and your nuclear family. It's not your job to make other people happy. Be kind and generous, surely. On occasion you're going to have to make sacrifices for your extended family. But you don't always have to. Setting up rules ahead of time will make it easier for you to stand by it. If the thought of traveling around Christmas makes you cringe and start to hyperventilate, don't do it. [See my blog post here for how beautiful a quiet Christmas Day can be.]

Gifts should follow in the same spirit. Perhaps you love to give gifts. Maybe it's your love language. Awesome! Go for! You have the means, you have the energy, you have the scotch tape -- presents for everyone! But if the thought of spending as much on them as they spent on you last year makes your bank account shudder or your brain hurt, don't do it.

You need to do what's best for yourself and your nuclear family. That might mean you don't have the money to go all out. That might mean that you want to spend your time during the season on enjoyable traditions instead of scouring the mall and the internet for gifts. If your recipients are really going to scoff because you didn't spend enough on them... well, I'm not sure why you would care what people like that think of you. (If you're one of those people -- shame on you! Get over yourself!)

But you're going to give them presents. That's what we do, and there's very little getting around that without either a very good excuse or a fat lot of chutzpah. Do your best within your means (financial, temporal, physical, and emotional). Baked goods are great if you have more time than money. Gift cards are great if you have more money than time.

[Obviously if you have convictions about consumption, you'll want to cut back on gifts, whether you have the means to give lavishly or not. But if you have these convictions, then you're already thinking about this, and you probably don't need suggestions from me.]

So what am I really saying here? Sometimes I feel like I'm saying, "Screw them! I've gotta look out for Numero Uno!" But I'm not.

I'm saying there's only so much of you. I'm saying you can love people without doing what they expect of you. The holidays are a beautiful, wonderful time. Think -- really think -- about what is important to you, and act accordingly. My favorite personal finance blogger is fond of saying, "Spend extravagantly on the things you love, but cut costs mercilessly on the things you don’t." I believe the same should be true of the holidays. If you don't love it, please don't waste your money, time, energy, and stress on it!

If you're interested in more on how my husband, daughter, and I do Christmas, check out these past posts, and look for more coming this month:
How We Do Christmas meme from last year
Baked goods I made for several people last year
Decorating for Christmas
Decorating our Christmas tree
Last year's Christmas dinner
My thoughts on Buy Nothing Day

26 November 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

This post is going to be super boring because I forgot to take photos -- AGAIN. I just really get in the zone when I'm working on something (like setting up for a home show, or cooking fancy dinner for in-laws), and I completely space on the photos. And of course while I'm busy not taking photos, Husband is busy watching Toddler, so he doesn't remember either.

OK, Thanksgiving. There were seven of us: Me, Husband, Toddler, Husband's Parents, Husband's Brother, and Husband's Sister. Husband's Mother is ill, so I didn't expect them to be able to stay very long, but they stayed for 4 whole hours! Hooray!

Actually this Thanksgiving looked a lot like last Thanksgiving. So go look at these photos, and replace all the college students with in-laws and the 7-month-old with a 19-month-old. Ta da!


  • Turkey (Duh. Nothing fancy -- just salt, pepper, and no overcooking.)
  • Gravy (Turkey Drippings - Fat + Cornstarch)
  • Wild Rice Stuffing (I made this recipe up. I should write it down and/or type it up. It was really tasty.)
  • Green Bean Casserole (in a skillet -- tiny oven)
  • Sweet Potato Casserole (in a crock pot -- tiny oven)
  • Whole Wheat Rolls
  • Cranberry Apple Compote (which is a real word that I did not make up)
  • Pumpkin Pie
  • Whipped Cream (cream whipped with beaters on the spot, which seemed to confound my guests)
  • Coffee
  • White Wine
We used the fancy china again, only this time I broke one of my crystal glasses while I was washing the dishes. Sigh. I kind of always expect that I'll break something when I use the fancy dishes. It's the price of beauty.

Besides the broken glass, I was quite satisfied with the meal and the day in general. I don't take very much pleasure in cooking, and I'm not much of a hostess, but ending the day knowing that I had eaten so many good things and nothing I wished I hadn't is worth quite a bit to me. No regrets, only tastiness. A little preview of Heaven. I'm thankful for those.

23 November 2010


[My drawer of packing and tagging supplies]

This is a post on how I do shipping. I will not blame you if, as a person who neither runs an Etsy shop nor ships anything on a regular basis, you just skip this post and come back for the next one.

If, however, you are an Etsy seller, or you do ship things fairly often, you might want to pay attention. I don't want to toot my own horn or anything, but I've pretty much got it all figured out. As the commercials say, shipping is complicated. Then the commercials go on to explain how it's not complicated if you just hand the US Postal Service a bunch of money without researching your options. Don't listen. If you want to save yourself and your customers both money and hassle, you've got to know what you're doing.

First of all, buy a postal scale. If you sell things on Etsy you must have a postal scale. Guessing at how much shipping will cost for your item is not good enough. I did this when I first started. You won't be good at it, and it will cost you money. You don't need anything fancy -- just something to tell you how many ounces something weighs. Digital or analog is fine. I found an analog one at a garage sale for 5 bucks.

[My trusty garage sale postal scale. Hey, that rhymes!]

Then, when you're going to list something for sale, you're going to weigh the thing, with approximately what you're going to ship it in, and any extras you plan to send. Most of my items fit in an envelope. I usually add some bubble wrap or tissue paper, and a business card and a note. Weigh this all together, and make a note of it wherever you prepare your item description. (You do write your item descriptions ahead of time, right?)

Then, if you're selling on Etsy, you're going to create a different shipping profile for each weight. I have one shipping profile for things I can send in a normal envelope with a stamp (which I call "1 oz flat"), and a profile for each ounce weight from 1 to 13 ("1 oz", "2 oz", etc). Most of my items weigh 13 ounces or less, so I stop there. If I ever sell something that weighs more than 13 ounces, I look up the cost on USPS.com when I'm writing the description and make a note.

13 ounces is a very important cut off. Above 13 ounces, you cannot ship a thing by First Class Mail. You must ship it Priority or Parcel Post. Priority costs a lot more than First Class, and Parcel is slow and just generally no good. At and under 13 ounces, Priority is NOT faster than First Class. It's not. Don't waste your money.

[One of my handmade envelopes, and a stack of others waiting to be assembled]
[And a pretty pink hammer and a sewing machine foot]

Back to those Etsy shipping profiles. You're going to have to do some work to get this all set up. First, go to USPS.com and find the price tables. (Oh look, I've done it for you! First Class. Priority. International First Class.) Then you're gonna wanna set up an Excel file or something. I do a sheet for inside the US, a sheet for Canada, and a sheet for all other countries. (The prices to Canada are the same as the prices to some other countries, but not all. I make it easy on myself and break it down that way because most of my international customers are in Canada.) Break it down by ounce if you sell small things, or pounds if you sell big things.

Now, here's the thing. You don't just want to plug the prices from the USPS website into your Excel file. Well, maybe you do, but I don't think you do. You need to figure out how much it actually costs to ship something. You need to factor in extra money for Delivery Confirmation (we'll come back to that), extra PayPal fees incurred from shipping charges, shipping supplies, and your time. If you'd rather not figure these into your shipping charges, you need to remember to factor them into your product prices.

I personally do the following: For items mailed inside the US, I take the price on the website, plus $0.19 (Delivery Confirmation), plus another small amount (for shipping supplies, PayPal fees, etc, and no, I can't remember what number I decided on -- I did this a long time ago and I haven't had to think about it since). For Canada and the rest of the world, I just do the price from the website plus the other small amount, because you can't get Delivery Confirmation on packages going outside the US.

So now you've got these in your Excel file. Then you want to go to Etsy. Click "Your Shop", then "Shipping" (under Items). At the top of the page there's a link that says "Create or edit shipping profiles". Click on that, then on the link that says "Create a new profile". Give it a name (like "3 oz."), then pick a country that you want to ship to. Click "add", then it will let you fill in the price (from your Excel sheet). Do this for however many countries you want to specify. At the bottom of the page there's a place for "Everywhere Else". That's for all the other countries that you don't specify. So, for instance, on my profiles, I have one for the US, one for Canada, and then I fill in the Everywhere Else.

Do this for each weight. Then when you list an item, you only need to know how much the package will weigh, and you can just pick the correct profile while you're listing it! So easy.

[My other shipping supplies in a closet organizer]

Now, back to Delivery Confirmation and all that jazz. The USPS regulations got really weird a few years ago. There are now 3 different classes of First Class package. There's a "Letter", which is what you would normal think of as a letter. These can only weigh up to 3.5 ounces, and they have to be perfectly flat. There's a "Flat". These exceed any one dimension of a "Letter", and can only be up to 3/4 inch thick. And there's a "Parcel". These are boxes, thick envelopes, or tubes that are bigger than a "Flat".

Here's the thing about this that is so messed up: You can only get Delivery Confirmation on "Parcels". The important thing about this for the types of items I sell is that "Parcel" must be more than 3/4 inch thick. If you use PayPal to print shipping for your items, it automatically adds Delivery Confirmation. So, as a result, if you print a PayPal label and put it on something that is less than 3/4 inch thick, and they catch you, whoever receives the package will have to pay the upgrade to Priority. Because you can put Delivery Confirmation on any Priority package. Ah, bureaucracies... (Side note: I just accidentally spelled that word "bureaucrazies". Yep.)

Soooo, when I mail my coffee cup pouches, for instance, I stuff the pouch with wadded up tissue paper before I put it in the envelope to make sure the envelope is more than 3/4 inch thick. I made myself a strip of cardboard with a long 3/4-inch-thick strip cut out of the middle to measure my packages to make sure they're thick enough.

[Like so!]

Why go to all this trouble? Because printing a shipping label with PayPal is totally easy. It's faster and more convenient than waiting in line at the post office, and it takes the money out of your PayPal account, so it makes accounting easier. I send my mail with my husband in the morning and he drops it off in the mail box. I used to just leave it out for my mailman, because the mailman at my old apartment was awesome and the best mailman ever, but the ones at my new house are crap. Really. So, you might be able to get away with leaving them for your mailman. You'll have to work that out for yourself.

However, if your package that you printed postage for weighs more than 13 ounces (again with the 13 ounces!), you have to take it into the post office and give it to a postal worker by hand. I don't know why, but that's the rule. It says so on the outsides of the drop boxes.

Also, you cannot print First Class International postage from PayPal.  [Edit: I believe this has changed recently, thank heaven!]  That is really the only reasonably priced way to ship things out of the country. But international shipping is pretty much a whole other blog post!

OK, now that I've written an epic tome on the subject of postage, I'm going to stop. I know there are things I've forgotten. If you have any questions, e-mail me (phile_1013 [at] hotmail [dot] com) or leave them in the comments.