Monday, March 28, 2011

Eco-Easter T-Shirt Bags

After whipping up my first t-shirt bag without a hitch, I headed to Goodwill to see what I could find to make bags for our nieces and nephew. It took just 30 minutes to make 4 bags. How's that for a quick and easy sewing project?! Here's how they turned out:

The little knots on the shoulders were made out of the shirt sleeves since I found long-sleeved shirts for the older girls. The princess shirt was a hooded sweatshirt.

Strawberry Shortcake was a pajama top.

(I didn't want to lose the purple ruffled trim on this one, so I stitched it closed on the outside instead of turning it inside out.)

Sky has graduated from infatuation with Spiderman to quite an interest in Transformers.

On one hand, they just look like tank tops, but once you hold them up as bags I think they're a lot cuter. Now to get the Easter eggs ready for hunting!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

T-shirt Bag Tutorial

I'm putting together an Easter egg hunt for our nieces and nephew again this year and was on the hunt for a thrifty easter basket/bag/bucket idea. I bought $1 buckets last year and they were ok, but I didn't really want to buy something like that again since they end up getting thrown away. A friend found an idea in a kids magazine that I fell in love with instantly: a t-shirt bag. Before I went to Goodwill to buy shirts for the kids' bags, I did a test run using an old t-shirt I already had. The logo on it is for our children's ministry at church, so I made it to give to the children's pastor's wife. Start with a shirt (can be long or short-sleeved) and cut off the sleeves and collar and trim off the bottom hem if you want to make the bag shorter. I've found that it helps to turn the shirt inside-out so you can more easily see to cut all the hem off. Jersey knit doesn't fray, so you don't have to worry about having raw edges!

With the shirt inside-out, straight stitch across the bottom of the shirt:

Using the neck hole, turn it right-side out.

Voila! The arm holes are now the handles of your bag! I added ribbon bows to the handles for a little decoration and to make it look a little less like a t-shirt.

I think I'm going to dig around for some more shirts so I can make reusable shopping bags. Stay tuned for the Eco-Easter Edition of the t-shirt bag! I found some cute shirts for the kiddos!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Move This Mountain

A friend of ours said something tonight that Alex and I thought was really powerful. Then Alex said that I'd probably forget what it was in 5 minutes, so what better way to remember than to write it down (or type it out). It went something like this:

Sometimes we have issues in our lives that we ask God to fix, but nothing happens. God is there with us, as His Word promises, and He has the power and authority to remove any mountain that hinders us. The problem is that sometimes we hold onto the very things that caused the mountain to be there in the first place. The movies and tv shows that we watch, the books we read, the music we listen to all in the name of entertainment and good fun can open doors in the spiritual realm that we don't want opened. We give the devil a foothold and then ask, plead, beg God to intervene and rescue us, but we're not willing to close the door to all that junk. Someone gave the example of a co-worker who was afraid to be alone at night if her husband had to work. Come to find out, this lady read vampire books at night before bed. It seems elementary to see the connection here, but I am guilty of the same thing in my life.

How many times to I turn on the tv out of boredom? WAY too many times. How many times do I try to convince myself that a certain show "really isn't that bad"? I've read books about witchcraft that were intended for children, so are they really that bad? Surely not! I try to justify my actions to soothe my conscience, but it only lasts for so long. Then I get upset that God hasn't answered my prayers and given me the desires of my heart. I get discouraged when the battles I've been fighting aren't won. How badly do I desire the mountains in my life to be moved? Is my relationship with God more important than "entertainment"? YES! Is my marriage more important? YES! Then why is it so hard to fight against my flesh and be set free from bondage and allow God to have control? I've opened up the doors for darkness to come in, but then fail to recognize what opened the doors in the first place. All I can see is the darkness and can't figure out how to get rid of it. It's like eating junk food, gaining 50 pounds and the saying, "God, make me skinny! Heal me of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes!" and then turning around and eating a gallon of rocky road and a biggie order of french fries.

If we want God to move mountains, we have to put some muscle into it, too. It's scary to ask God to reveal sin in your life because you can be sure that He'll bring all kinds of stuff to your mind that you didn't really want to deal with right then. I remember being in high school and praying that God would show me sin in my life. He just kept bringing things to my mind and it seemed like it would never stop. I realized how much I had to repent of and ask forgiveness for. It was hard! Pride is dangerous! I didn't want to have to admit that I was wrong, but it was the only way to move forward into the plans that God had for me.

If there is a mountain in your life that you want God to move, start by examining your life and allow the Holy Spirit to bring things to your mind that you need to deal with. I'm nervous about it myself, but I'm ready for the battle to be won. I don't want a stupid tv show or book or attitude to hinder me from receiving victory. Christ endured the agony of the cross for me, and I'm not going to take it for granted. If He could endure torture to forgive me of my sins and give me eternal life, then I can handle putting aside my pride to deal with my sin and ask for forgiveness. The next time I ask God to move a mountain, I don't want my own issues standing in the way.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Benefits of Budgeting

Call me a nerd, but I like living on a budget. Alex and I are in the middle of our second month using an envelope budgeting system and it's going really well. I bought Dave Ramsey's book, The Total Money Makeover on cd for Alex for Christmas along with one of Dave's seminars on cash flow. We finished listening to them in January and jumped into our new routine in February. Since then, I don't stress about money as much and Alex and I are on the same page about where our income is going. If you aren't familiar with Dave Ramsey, he is a best-selling author, a radio talk show host and creator of Financial Peace University, which teaches people "baby steps" to get out of debt, save for emergencies and plan for their financial futures. I'm happy to say that by the end of this month, we'll be debt free (except for our house)!!! Throughout this process, I've learned a lot about my spending habits. There are some great benefits to living on a budget.

1. You tend to buy less stuff on impulse and instead, think before buying that "stuff- you-just-can't-live-without-because-it's-only-$1! A dollar store opened up a little over a year ago just a mile or so from my house. They have an entire aisle devoted to scrapbooking and card making supplies (and much of it is name brand), which is right up my ally. I bought countless brads, buttons, paper packs, stickers, and more with the intention of making my nieces homemade cards every month to let them know that their Aunt Amanda loved them. And then I never used any of it. The stuff just sat around my office taking up space. So, $30 and a shipping box later, my nieces received a lovely care package in the mail full of those kiddy embellishments so that they could make their own cards (which they had been starting to do with my sister and her Cricut).

2. Because you don't buy as much on impulse, your house isn't cluttered with STUFF! This is pretty self-explanatory. It's amazing how I used to go into a store and buy something without much thought about it. Now that I have a set amount of spending money every month - in cash, so as not to be tempted by the debit card - I really think about what I buy and I usually end up walking away without feeling deprived.

3. You have less stress! Knowing when money is coming in and when it is going out and having it all accounted for on paper gives me peace that bills will be paid on time, there will be money put in savings and not taken out because we overspent and our goals will be met because we're actually doing something to reach them.

4. Budgeting gives you goals to work towards. We're working toward saving up 6 months of living expenses in case of an emergency, saving for retirement, and eventually some home improvement projects. We also know the timeline of how long it should take us to reach these goals.

5. Budgeting opens up communication between you and your spouse about goals, dreams, etc. Statistics show that fights about finances are a major source of strife in marriage, even leading to divorce. Thankfully, so far, Alex and I haven't really had any issues in this area. We sat down and talked about how much to budget for everything from spending money to vet visits. After the budget was set, we kept talking about it to work out a few kinks and discuss new dreams and goals that we wanted to be prepared for.

6. There is freedom in having boundaries. Simply, I don't feel controlled by money. I know how much I have to spend every week on groceries, eating out, hobbies and clothes. If there is no money in the "Amanda's spending money" envelope, then I don't buy the pretty fabric to sew a new purse until the next month. I've learned a lot of self control over the past 6 weeks!

Sometimes I look back over the last two and a half years that we've been married and regret that we didn't make these changes sooner. We could have had our emergency fund ready by now. We could have replaced the 1984 faux-butcher block laminate kitchen countertops already. I can't change the past, but I can change our future and it's looking bright!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Craft Room Revamp

I'm back from the land of "No Blogging Inspiration"! No matter how much I wanted to post something, nothing interesting came to mind. I've been dreaming of how to decorate our house so that I could post pictures of a finished project, but nothing has been accomplished on that front yet. I did finally clean, organize and expand my office though, which was a long process. Alex helped me with the final touch today - a sewing space! No more cluttering up the dining room table with fabric and such! Woohoo! I'll admit, the "before" pics are really embarrassing, but it makes the "after" pics that much better. My office is my old bedroom from when I lived at home with my parents. It's now the place that paperwork goes to wait 6 months before being put in the filing cabinet, where random "stuff" gets thrown when I don't know where else to put it or I'm trying to hide it before company comes over. Then we close the door and ignore the horrendous mess until I can't stand it anymore. Please, please, please don't judge me for the chaos that you're about to see. Before:

I told you it was horrendous. Ugh. Here's the after:

In a perfect world, the desk would be held up by actual legs or something other than mismatched hand-me-down furniture, but hey, free is great! After we moved into our house almost two years ago, my mom and I went to a Habitat for Humanity Re-Store in Lexington and found two doors to use as a desk top. I paid a whopping $1.00 for two doors (one was FREE), but stored one in the garage until today. I'm really excited to have more wide open space to be creative and sew. I should be getting an embroidery machine soon, too, so there will be plenty of room for that as well. The wall decor has been a work in progress, but I have a few ideas to change it up a little and make it less cluttered. Hopefully that will happen soon and I'll have more material to write about! Hope you had a great weekend!