30 March 2009

spending hiatus - weeks #5 & #6

First, don't forget to leave a comment on last wednesday's post so you have a chance to win a fabulous prize...Now, a caution: this post is much more serious and brooding then the usual hip homemaker fare. You have been warned...

The thing that has been the most revealing to me through this whole process is the "why" of my shopping habits. I knew that I enjoyed a jaunt to the thrift store or a stroll through target's shiny aisles, but I don't think I fully grasped the emotional relief that shopping can offer. I shop because I am hurt or angry or bored or insecure. Hardly ever do I shop because I actually need something. This Sunday that came so plainly to a head. After a hurtful, disappointing afternoon at the end of a somewhat full weekend of entertaining company, my first response was only to immerse myself in the mismatched racks of my local goodwill. I wanted to buy something, anything that made me feel cute and hip and pulled together. The exact opposite of how I felt at that moment.

I was grateful that it was shopping and not food that I craved(which has been my vice before), but I kept thinking that I needed to channel these emotions into something healthier, like yoga or running. My post baby body has never quite returned to the glory that once was and I have done nothing, zip, zilch to help it. I struggle to keep up with everything else that I have to do and all the things that I really want to do and I just haven't found the motivation. Until now. I am tired of being tired, no energy by the end of my days. I am also tired of my favorite pieces of clothing fitting awkwardly or not at all. Tired of being self-conscious, insecure and frumpy... No more, I say! I will start to make time for the healthy, active me and I will find a new, healthier place to channel and deal with these negative emotions.

So, overall as I look back over the last 6 weeks, I feel good about the changes I have made in my spending. I also know that removing that coping mechanism, even inadvertently, has helped me to get out of an unhealthy rut that I had been stuck in. I would love to hear from you: what are your favorite healthy ways to deal with stress and negativity, in your life?

(running shoes from timtak's photostream)

Now, back to our regular crafty program...

25 March 2009

a wednesday giveaway

So, my intrepid readers, I have been posting very consistently for the past few months. Back pats for me... But now I want to hear from you.

So kids, let's discuss... What is your biggest challenge in your own life as a hip homemaker? Where does your greatest joy come from? I want to hear a little bit about your adventures in homemaking and I would love some ideas to help make this blog a fun but useful place to visit in the midst of your most likely busy lives.

So give it to me people...

And now, the superfantabulous news: one lucky commenter will recieve this super cute vintage dishtowel and a copy of Organizing Plain and Simple. This is a book that I reference often and find useful in a myriad of contexts from cleaning to budget to cheap organization solutions. Yay!

24 March 2009

Bee-utiful music

My new very favorite music for kids is from Frances England. I love, love, love her fun lyrics and acoustic flair. I also adore that she uses her family, especially in her first album. The tunes are catchy and you don't feel silly singing along. Listen to this track, Spring Has Sprung and get ready for the sunshine...

23 March 2009

The Spring Cure - Week One

(Edited to add: before photos can be found on flickr.)

Last week's to do list:

Make a complete list of repairs and solutions...

...Check! Check out or download my list here.

Vacuum and mop all the floors...

...Check! (Although J did do most of the vacuuming, but I am still counting it people!)

Remove one item from your house and put it outside...

...Check! I posted our pile of moving boxes on freecycle and they disappeared on Wednesday. I also hauled one giant box of stuff to take to the Goodwill and put it in my car.


Buy yourself fresh flowers...

...Check! Lovely photo below.

Sit for 10 minutes in a part of your home that you never sit in...

...Check? This one was just weird to me and because of that, I'm not sure if I completed the task. Oh well.

Look into earth-friendly cleaning products...

...Check! I actually have been using a plethora of "green" products for the last 6 months or so. I have included a few of my favorite "recipes" below.

My Everything Spray

Take an empty spray bottle, fill it half full of white vinegar. Add 15-20 drops of lavender essential oil, and then fill the rest of the way with water. You can use other oils to scent your spray, but I use lavender because it adds a little antibacterial kick. Use this on your counters, table, mirrors, etc.

Smooth Scrub

In a large jar, add 2 cups of baking soda. Mix in liquid castile soap (I use the dish soap from the bulk bins at our local health food store) until it is runny enough to spread, but not too runny. It will dry out over time so you should keep some soap on hand to rejuvinate it once and a while. You can also add a few drops of the essential oil of your choice along with a few teaspoons of vegetable glycerin, which helps it last longer. Use this on your sinks, tubs, stains on counters, etc.

Now, on to week two...

20 March 2009

animals on parade

Every once and awhile, I find something on etsy I can't resist sharing. Check out these stunning but simple pieces from Sharon Montrose. Her portraits range from the domestic...

...to the exotic.

I think that they would be fabulous in a series. I also think it would be fun to see them larger then her current prints, like 18x18 or something. Happy spring everyone!

18 March 2009


One thing that is really fabulous about a new-to-you old house, is the garden surprises that pop up.

happy spring...

new bibs

Here are a couple of new bibs I made for some new(ish) babies in my life (I'm a little behind on one...whoops!). Boys are much harder for me to pick out fabric for then girls. I am much more worried about offending some dad ("my boy won't play basketball, I love soccer"). Not sure why, but it takes me a zillion times longer to settle on the fabric choices.

17 March 2009

spending hiatus - week #4

I told you all I was going to have a harder time this week. More free time and a thrifting itch that hasn't been scratched for a few weeks means T-R-O-U-B-L-E. I had to run to the hardware store this weekend for the legitimate purchase of vacuum bags. We have actually been opening up and dumping out the same bag for about 3 years because I couldn't find our bags anywhere local, which isn't as bad as it sounds since our last house of 2 years was all hardwood, so we didn't use it as much. But still...

Now, the biggest thrift store in town is right across from the hardware store and I felt myself unable drive past. I swear my car just pulled right into the parking spot. Okay, maybe not... And I suppose I could tell you that the adorable yellow silk shirt and two tattered Oz paperback jumped into my arms and forced me to buy them. But that just isn't true. I caved... big time.

So, that's the bad news. The good news is that, thanks to my Eating Down the Fridge challenge, I didn't spend money on groceries or food. Also, I found the perfect pair of plug-in wall sconces that I have been searching for more then a year now. I want to clear up the bedside table space but still have lamps for reading. And they were a great score for the weekend at $4 each from our local building materials recycling center, Home Resource. Another good spot finding cheap, recycled goods to save some cash. You will see more of these beauties in a future post, as they need some TLC to get up and running.

(the temptations I couldn't resist)

living room inspiration

Just a quick post to show you my first virtual inspiration board for my spring cure. This is specifically for my living room.

my living room
my living room - by The Hip Homemaker on Polyvore.com

I created it using polyvore.com. Very cool tool, mostly for fashion but a few people are doing interiors with it. The way that the tool works for layering kind of distorts some of the room shots, so I need to play around with it and figure that out. Be careful though, I think this could become extremely addictive...

So, if my living room turns out even half this fabulous, I will be thrilled!

15 March 2009

starting therapy

Since the demise of my beloved Domino I have been looking for inspiration elsewhere. One of my favorite sources of budget-friendly, real people decorating and solutions is Apartment Therapy. Now obviously, I no longer live in an apartment and I am not in big city, USA. I reside in a small mountain town, in a quiet 60s suburban neighborhood, just about as far from a New York, 250 sq foot walk-up as you can get. But I still find tons of beautiful, brilliant and totally doable ideas here.

Some of my favorites from just poking around today:
A few years ago, I came across the book that launched the site at the library (of course!). As I was reading through it again today, I realized how much this book had changed how I looked at my space and the things that I filled it with. I didn't even realize it until I looked back. His main premise is that many of us live in houses that frustrate us, stifle us and general suck the life out of us in a myriad of ways. His goal is to help you find the problems in your house, fix them and get on with enjoying your space. This is where the "therapy" comes in. Tomorrow (monday) starts the next session, the Spring Cure. You have to commit to getting the book and following through on the 8 week process. If you join, you will be added to the mailing list. You will upload photos of your beginning and your progress. As in all therapy, there is digging to be done, steps to follow and nasty sentiments to come creeping out of the closet as you try to send that hideous macrame plant hanger your mom made in the 70s back to the curb. It is just what I need to jumpstart my makeover of this new house.

We moved in December 1st after being transiant couch-crashers for 2 weeks (not nearly as fun with a dog and a baby). Everything we owned had been stuffed into a tiny storage unit and then hastily loaded up again and tossed in our garage. There were less then four weeks to Christmas and we were hosting. We needed to get a support beam put in the basement pronto, to fix a shoddy reno job by previous owners. Oh, and the previous renters did zero cleaning and even left behind a few treasures (like a retainer in the bathroom drawer, gross!) Needless to say, making the beautiful, warm, well-organized home I had hoped for was not really part of the timeline. So, I threw things into the first spot that made sense, no stopping to redo hideous paint jobs or replacing non-existent light fixtures. It was guerilla unpacking and I was taking no prisoners.

Now that I have lived in the space, moved through it day after day, it is definitely time to make it the place I want to come home to every day (or stay home in all day if I am working from home). I want my kitchen to be better organized. I want my garage finally cleaned out. I want my bedroom to be the haven I imagine, not the tossing spot for all the things and furniture we don't know what else to do with. So, I am taking the challenge and joining in. I picked up the book from the library today and I already have a list of things that I am ready to tackle. I am excited to post my progress and gain inspiration from my fellow patients. My name is Amy and my house needs therapy...

eating down the fridge - final update

Here is my final update on this challenge. It was so much fun. I only stepped out once, ordering chinese the other night after suffering through hours of sad, sick baby and being to pooped to care. I would do it again and maybe even shoot for a longer time span in the future. Perhaps this summer, when we are in the middle of garden bliss. I loved the challenge of being forced to be creative with what I had. The biggest challenge came on Saturday when I was having a friend and her son over for a "playdate". I have decided that lunch is the hardest meal to host. Dinner and breakfast are easy peasy, but lunch is sooooo hard. I could think of a million things to make, but they all required a trip to the store and way more work then I was willing to do on a Saturday morning. Inspiration hit when I opened the drawer in my fridge and spied a pack of bacon. BLTs were the dish of the day and a big hit.

I don't know if any of you played along, but drop my a line if you did...

12 March 2009

surviving the recession in style- tip #5: recycle, trade, barter and share

Don't just go out and buy that new whosy-whatsit that you want, get creative. What do you have that you can trade for those sewing lessons? How can you find a bread maker for cheap or even free? How many of us have a pile of stuff around our house that we never use, wouldn't miss if it was gone?

It's kind of like being a super slueth or a survivor in your own little island; its all about finding ways to not spend your money and still have the life that you want. I love sharing my expertise or things I have made in exchange for something that I really want to learn. In the last few months, I have traded some of my skills and help for gardening advice and plants. I have traded help with major home organization and overhaul for cooking lessons. I have scored a free bread maker, dehydrator, washer and dryer, baby food jars, home magazines, garden starts and more all just because I asked. I put the word out that I was looking for certain items and eventually, I found someone looking to get rid of what ever it was I was looking for.

Freecycle is great for these quests. Also Craigslist, your local paper, or even friends and family. These are also great places to get rid of those things that you have been hanging onto for too long. I was able to find great homes for some clothes I never wear, an old living room chair, baby things that we weren't using and some old computer components. Now, instead of taking up room in my basement or garage, they are being put to use in someone else's hands. There are also some great swaps arranged through crafty blogs, flickr and others.

With the current economic situation, there has been some great articles and stories on bartering and being creative to exchange goods and services. For instance, a Brooklyn funeral home director offered free services in exchange for some construction work. A group of artists in Phily created an exhibit around the idea of bartering their art for goods and services.

I think that the hardest part is figuring out what you have that you can trade or offer, but as you start to have conversations or put your desires out into the universe, you realize that one woman's trash is most certainly another woman's treasure.

Images from recent swaps on flickr

eating down the fridge - an update

Cornelia asked for an update, so here goes.

I actually kind of feel like a cheater. Not because I have actually cheated, but because I haven't really even had to think about it. I have done such a good job of stocking up on things when there are sales and getting more creative with my meals and planning that this isn't nearly as challenging as I thought it would be.

Tuesday night I had leftovers. Wednesday night; pasta with meaty sauce and garlic bread (which I froze from our pizza hut leftovers a few weeks ago). Tonight, burgers (made with extra meat from the pasta sauce) with cheese and sauteed mushrooms, with a side of tots (tater, of course). For breakfasts we have done leftover pancakes from Monday, oatmeal with raisins and cheerios. For lunch, I had one more day of burrito and then left over pasta. The only thing I really wanted to go get was flour and the right yeast for my bread maker. I used up the last of my flour making a loaf of the molasses cornmeal bread that totally flopped. I think I may have picked up the wrong sort of yeast from the bulk bins at the natural foods store. Will have to investigate this next week though...

10 March 2009

eating down the fridge

I thought this fit in well with my "dig deeper" challenge, so this week, I am joining in the "eating down the fridge" challenge via homegrown. You can join here on facebook or just shoot her an email to get in on the fun. Here is what we ate for day one:

We had chicken; pounded thin, dredged in flour and pan fried with garlic, roasted potatoes and cabbage and mushrooms fried in the leftovers from the chicken.

For lunches for yesterday and the next few days I made a "burrito" filling of pinto beans, cabbage, mushrooms, ground beef and sauce. add cheese and stuff in a tortilla for yummy mid-day meal.

Join in if you want, one week only!

09 March 2009

spending hiatus - weeks #2 & #3

So, I'm sure you can tell from my last post, that yes, I did spend some money in the last two weeks. But because it was a planned purchase using earmarked money, I don't count it. So there. Otherwise the last two weeks were relatively easy, probably because I was sick and busy. This week will be interesting because I will have some extra time on my hands and my favorite way to waste time is a little thrift run.

I think the hardest thing for us is eating out or getting takeout. In one of my early "surviving the recession" posts, I wanted to work on eating in more, cooking good food, spending less money. We have done okay at this, but it is one area that I want to keep working on over this hiatus. Part of it is planning better, especially on days that are a whirlwind of one thing after another. So, I picked up two new cookbooks at the library this week. Both of them are really great ones to own someday, for sure. I will just highlight one today and save the other for another day.

Today's eye and tummy candy is Apples for Jam by Tessa Kiros. I have had this one on hold for almost a year now. Obviously a good one because everybody wanted to get their hands on it. It is totally not what I expected, it is so much better. I don't know why, but I pictured a thin, pretty book, without a lot of substance. Nice to look at, but not very useful.

Instead I picked up a 400+ page tome filled with wonderful, easy yummy recipes, fabulous storytelling and colorful pictures. It is actually a book of recipes with children in mind. My favorite thing is that she has arranged things by "color". The "red" section high lights yummy things made with tomatoes, raspberries, red peppers. The "green" has broccoli, peppermint and capers. For someone who arranges her closet by color and color-codes her to do lists, this is a brilliant idea!

Here are a few page shots to tempt you, but I would suggest getting out and finding a copy of your own, right away!

(All images from Apples for Jam by Tessa Kiros)

08 March 2009

my new favorite thing

I have done a little happy dance several times throughout the weekend. You see, on Friday, the new love of my life arrived on my door step. Now I want to draw out this whole analogy of the new lover and tell you all about "him", but "he" is so clearly a "she", so I won't even try, I will just introduce you.

Meet my new baby(lock)...

Isn't she pretty, all green and retro and wonderful!?!

Last year during my sewing 101 class, I fell in love with the sergers. I have pined and swooned over them and finally this winter decided I needed one of my own. I started by asking for one for Christmas; no research was done, I had no make or model or features in mind. I just wanted one, any one. But then, as everyone was too intimidated to pick one and I recieved a handful of cash to find my own, I started the task of finding the "right one" for me.

I looked on ebay and craigslist, checked the local sew & vac stores, visited the sewing forums and review sites, asked people I knew and checked out Wikipedia, of course. I learned that sergers were only made for commercial use until a group of employees at one major japanese manufacturer latched on to the idea that they could make them smaller and lighter for the home seamstress. They were rejected by management, but believed in the idea so much that they all quit their jobs and started their own company. Thus, the baby lock was born in the late 60s. My new best friend, the EA-605 was made in the early 70s. The first model to use 3 or 4 threads, it can do an overlock stitch and a double chain stitch, seperately or together to form a safety stitch. It was also the first model to cut and sew at the same time.

It is solid and metal and green (did you see the lovely green?). I found it on ebay from a woman in Illinois. I have to say that while I chose this model for several reasons and after reading a million reviews and opinions, I was still scared that I had made a dumb choice, swayed by her flashy color and vintage appeal. I was so relieved when I emailed the seller to tell her how tremendously excited I was and she replied with a hearty, "You will LOVE these vintage machines!" She has worked for major department stores, altering suits, for almost 20 years and she was just cleaning out her stock as she retired. She actually had 10 sergers, each threaded with a different color, so she could just pick the right machine and not rethread (how smart is that?!?). How nice to get that affirmation from someone so experienced and knowledgeable. I was even more in love.

So, now that you've met, you will hopefully be seeing a lot more of her, or at least her handiwork.

07 March 2009

this weekend's big score

This was actually from last weekend, but I kept forgetting to take a photo. So, this was another boon for the spending hiatus (which I forgot to update in my haze earlier this week, so look for two weeks up updates on Monday). My parents came to town to visit and my mom brought along her old dehydrator along with a few dehydrator books, the book for the bread machine she gave me at Christmas time, and a fabulous vintage Ball canning book. Free is definitely the best score! I am really interested in making fruit leather, which I may try this weekend with some applesauce from the freezer. If you have any tips for the dehydrator, let me know.

I am also going to break out the bread maker this weekend and try one of these recipes from dig this chick. Nici brought it over the molasses one for our dinner date awhile back and it was fabulous. Happy weekend!

06 March 2009


So, the clouds of sickness are starting to part at our house and I'm starting to feel more like myself. My head is clear enough today to notice what a disaster our house has become this week, while I walked around in a sudafed induced haze. Yikes! Well there's one project for this weekend. I picked up a new CD for Avery this week at the library, Snacktime by Barenaked Ladies. It makes me laugh and contains a few of my new favorite songs. Here is a clip of my current, can't-stop-singing tune. I know, this joke is so 1st grade, but it still makes me chuckle every time I hear it...

05 March 2009

delicate but strong

I was trolling around etsy the other day looking for more things to love and I found these beautiful prints by knitalatte. It seems that sometimes she sells the actual stones, which I would love to have a collection of. Isn't this a fabulous idea?

Red Shoes

I was getting Avery dressed the other day, lamenting the fact that the child doesn't have red shoes. She has the tiniest feet and she has just recently been able to wear anything larger then a newborn shoe. So, I held back on the shoe buying because I kept waiting for those tiny piggies to grow.

Well, the other night I found myself with some free time and in the spirit of my "dig deeper" challenge, I went through my fabric stash and came out with a new pair of red slippers for the bean.

Simplicity has been reissuing some of their vintage patterns and I picked up a few during a $1 sale at Joann's awhile back. The pattern I used for these shoes is #2867 and is a reprint of a 1948 pattern. There are 3 different styles, each with their own embroidery pattern included. The pattern also details how to do several embroidery stitches for the newbie.

This pattern was super easy to follow. The hardest part was the dexterity it took to sew the tiny pieces together. I also scaled back on the needlework, mainly because I was running out of time and I thought that simpler might be better. In the future I plan to make a few alterations like adding some sort of velcro closure. It's hard to tie little tiny bows on feet that are bouncing and kicking continuously.

(ETA: new photo, a little better)

04 March 2009


On Monday, I turned 32. I always like to throw out the little tidbit that I share my birthday with Jon Bon Jovi, Dr. Seuss and Mikhail Gorbachev. I celebrated my birthday with a pack of cold medicine and a box of tissues.

Yes, the plague has hit our house and hit it hard. This is the first time that I have been sick since becoming a mama and I have to say it was the only time that I have longed for the old days. When I'm sick, all I want to do is sleep and sleep and sleep somemore. But when you have baby at home, your sleeping is much more limited. So, I spent my birthday snuggling a sad, sick baby and nursing my own sick body as well. Last night I went to be at 8:30 (gasp!).

So, I am hoping that all these germs will just hit the road and our little family will be back to a normal schedule. I also hope to do a birthday redo by spending some good time celebrating with girl friends on Friday night.

(From starfire's photostream)

02 March 2009

garden inspiration

I got some of my first garden catalogs in the mail on friday. I know, I'm a little behind. But they are so fun to look through and I am getting more excited about the new garden adventure. However, the chickens are kinding of freaking me out.

Just a quick fyi, I chose these two seed sellers based on a recommendation from a very interesting book, gardening when it counts. definitely a good read if you are interested in organic, suburban gardening.

01 March 2009

surviving the recession in style- tip #4: dig deeper

Now, I don't know about all of you, but I have a lot of stuff. Stuff I love, stuff I tolerate, stuff that hasn't seen the light of day for over 2 years and now sits in a box in my basement waiting to be "gone through".

Now, despite having a house that is full of things, I seem to always be on the lookout for more stuff. So, this week I decided to really try to use the things I have instead of going out and looking for more stuff that I then have to find places to store. This is particularly applicable to my closet and to my craft and sewing stash.

So, instead of going out and buying ANOTHER black turtle neck because I am obsessed with them, I am going to pair one of the ones I already own with my kicky hot pink velvet jacket and some hot jeans. Last week, when I volunteered for the big art auction for the MAM, instead of going out and buying a new dress (probably black, like I need another of those), I pulled out a beautiful skirt that has sat in my closet for about 3 years, waiting to be altered. It is a floor length pencil-shaped silk skirt and I kept thinking I needed to shorten it to just below the knees. Thus, it never left the closet. Last week, I paired it as is with a sexy low-cut black sweater and some lemony yellow heels and had a smashing outfit on my hands.

I am constantly inspired by Emily over at Some Girls Wander. She always has the most wonderful outfits and such a strong sense of her own style. I want to use some of the great pieces of clothing I already own more often.

On that same vein, instead of rushing to the fabric store everytime I want to start a new project, I need to look through my giant pile of fabric and notions in my craft room. I have some really great pieces that I have collected over the last few years and it is yearning to be made into something wonderful. I do have a small mental block when it comes to using some of this fabric however. Do any of you ever find that you can't use a really great fabric or trim because it is just so wonderful, there is no way to get more and you might find the "perfect" project for it later? I do this all the time.

So this week I went through and pulled out my list of "someday" sewing projects and then went through the pile and found fabrics for a few of them to get me started. Then I read about Amy's newest challenge over at tie one on and it fit in perfectly. So maybe some of you dear readers will join me, use what you already have and make your first entry for the apron photo sharing.

(a close-up of the skirt I finally pulled out of my closet. i know, what took me so long!)