Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Creating A Cottage Business {Proverbs 31}

I never thought I'd be a woman with a "cottage business", but here I am.

While on maternity leave last spring, I began to re-read a favorite book of mine.

This book is all about Proverbs 31.
{my favorite}
I had read this book several times, but with fresh eyes as a new mother and contemplating a new work schedule, I gleaned new wisdom.

I've always had a heart to be a stay-at-home-mom.
However, with Mr. Free following his calling and love of being a teacher, we couldn't feasibly afford for me to quit my job to be home with Levi.
We had been approached with an opportunity for me to take a part-time teaching position, and even that was scary for us financially.

In "Beautiful in God's Eyes", Elizabeth George very much encourages women to be keepers of the home.
That even if they have to work outside the home, God's calling is still for our heart to be about ministering to those precious to us in this space that God gave us.
She also talks about how the Proverbs 31 woman is an entrepreneur as well.
She doesn't just sit at home and not contribute to her family.
No siree.
She is quite the business woman.
But her heart, and time, is still to be with her home.
Thus, the "cottage business".

While I read through the chapter about cottage businesses, it was like God hit me over the head.
"Get our your sewing machine and sew."

I hadn't sewn in a couple of years, and even then it was for very basic items with the help of my mom.

But, the message was clear as day.
This is what I am to do.

So, with that, I took the part-time position....leaving me many hours home to enjoy and raise my little boy and keep our home.

And during naptime....build my cottage business.

I opened {Free Style Textiles} in May.
I've sewn my little heart out.
And I've loved every minute of it.

I have absolutely no business, graphic design, marketing or photography experience.
But by God's grace and other's wisdom, I have meandered my way through starting an online business.
I've learned quite a lot (and continue every day!).

But this little business has been an incredible blessing to our family in several ways.
One, it's been an incredible creative outlet for me.
As my identity has changed from Jenny, to Mrs. Free, to now Mommy, this allows me to still do something for my creative side.
Second, it has been a blessing for our family financially.
The Lord has provided just the right amount of sales to help my family out in needy times.
I haven't been so busy that I am swamped and away from my family (my highest priority!)
But, I'm never without an order to be working on, which is wonderful.
Third, I have learned so much about sewing and business, that I am able to bless my family by creating and mending things we need.

So how would this look for you?
The topic of woman working in the home vs. outside the home is incredibly difficult.
There is no right or wrong.
Many different families have many different circumstances, and the Lord knows them all.

However, scripture is clear that our heart is to be in our homes while be contribute financially.
My little cottage business, and the opportunity to work part-time outside the home has allowed me to do just that.
And it has given me such a peace, joy and balance.

But I can't sew....
Each person has incredible gifts and talents!
Maybe you are fantastic at math and can help during tax season to bring in some extra money.
Maybe you make incredible homemade greeting cards you can sell online or at craft fairs.
Or maybe taking photos is your thing?

The possibilities are endless.

So ladies, pray, ask God to reveal your strengths and gifts and a way you can be a blessing to your family financially.

How many of you have a 'cottage business'?
How has it blessed your family?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Friday, January 25, 2013

15 thrifty tips {that work for us}

With many of us making less, facing unemployment, trying to reduce hours or stay at home with children, living frugally is a must!

Mr. Free and I have been pretty frugal from the get-go. So I thought I'd share some ways we save moolah.

When we decided for me to go from teaching full-time to part-time all while Mr. Free began grad school, we knew we'd need to be very thrify.

Disclaimer: I do love me some Target clearance, Frappuccino's and my iphone. We have a few splurges, but live within our means and save money in many ways.

So here is how we do it.

No cable. No home phone.
This saves us over $100/month.
We don't watch much TV and have absolutely no use for a home phone.
We do have netflix which costs us about $8/month. This gives us all the entertainment we need for hardly any money.

We have a small home.
Our home is 900 sq. feet (1400 if including the finished basement).
Not only is our mortgage cheaper than most people's rent, it is also cheaper in utilities.
A small home takes less heat, electricity, water, etc.
It's also less to furnish and less to clean...also saving money.

We maintain our vehicles.
Mr. Free keeps both of our cars maintained. He changes the oil, rotates the tires, changes wiper blades, etc.
Maintaining your car can save you a lot of money in repairs. And doing it yourself saves a ton as well.

We cloth diaper.
The main reason we chose to cloth diaper was for the savings. We spent $250 in cloth diapers and wipes, and these will last Levi until he is potty trained and be ready for another possible kiddo one day.
This saves us thousands.

We mend our clothes.
Instead of buying new items when we get a hole, a broken zipper or missing button, we mend it first. This saves us a bit of money when items begin to be worn.

We shop our own home to redecorate.
I often get the urge to change things around in our small home.
As much as I'd love to hop into my car and head to HomeGoods for all new things, that isn't practical.
Instead I look around our home to give items a new home and a new look.
Our playroom was furnished and decorated mainly with items found around our home! 
Saving us a bunch!

We have simple weekends.

Our weekends are full of quality time with friends and family and church.
We usually host friends in our home, or visit them in theirs.
We don't usually go out to eat or to the movies.
Rather we eat at home and spend quality time with the ones we love.

We eat at home.
As much as I'd love to eat out all the time, it isn't good for our pocket book or my waist line.
I plan our meals each week, allowing plenty of leftovers so there isn't an excuse to go out to eat.
If we do...it's a special treat. And we usually have a coupon or gift card.

We shop at Aldi and Costco for groceries.
This saves us a lot. We can get pretty much anything we need at either stores. I've shopped long enough to know what to get where to save us most. But 95% of our groceries are from these two stores.
And I try to make as much from scratch as sanely possible.

We don't spend (much) money on hair.
Mr. Free cuts his own hair.
I cut my hair once a year (sorry hairdresser friends...)
My wavy hair is pretty forgiving. Usually once a year I'll get a cheap cut to my chin, then grow it the rest of the year.
And I buy $1 hairspray to attempt to contain the frizz.
Maybe I should care more? Meh.

We make our own detergents.
We make our home laundry detergents.
It really saves a lot! And is so easy!
I really want to try and make more household cleaners, but need to use up what we currently have first!

We shop around for best deals.
We call around to get quotes on insurances as well as internet and trash services. By shopping around we have saved a lot. Our car insurance was cut in half for identical coverage. We now have faster internet for less money and our trash is much cheaper too! It really pays to call around!

We use coupons.
I often shop at Hobby Lobby and Michael's for my Etsy shop. I never, ever pay full price.
I always use their 40% off coupons.
And their apps have the coupon built into your phone so you are never without.

We use cash. And only cash.
This really keeps me accountable on impulse purchases.
I carry only cash, so there is never a temptation to whip out the plastic for that gotta-have-it sale item.
This is a huge, huge part of us living frugally and in our budget.

We DIY everything.
We love to DIY (thankfully!).  Mr. Free remodels our home (kitchen, bathroom, basement). I DIY gifts, party decorations, toys, etc.
Luckily it's something we enjoy and saves a lot of money while doing it!

So friends....hope some of these tips were helpful! Have any thrifty tips you can share?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Children's Book Themed Baby Shower

My best-friend-in-the-whole-wide-world had her sweet baby boy 6 weeks ago yesterday!
A group of us ladies at our church threw her a baby shower about two and a half months ago, and I realized I never shared it!

Ashley (the mama) is a 2nd grade teacher and loves children's books.
She and her husband were also waiting to find out the sex of their baby until birth...
so a Children's Book theme baby shower was perfect!

As part of the shower, we requested books instead of cards with personal notes written in them for Baby and boy did Baby get spoiled!

(Now that Baby is born....I guess we don't have to call him Baby!)

Anyhoo... our showers at church are kept pretty simple.
 I still think it turned out adorable.
Here's some pics

Our "theme" books were
If You Give A Mouse A Cookie
One Fish, Two Fish
Goodnight Moon

We used brown and primary colors.
We used disposable table cloths, and folded the colors to make runners for each book.

 The light snacks corresponded with the book titles

 And a dear friend and her sister made this gorgeous cake.
I hated to cut into it!
And I will tell you, it was just as delicious as it was adorable!
 The favors were pink and blue cupcakes! 
 We had Star Crunches for Goodnight Moon.
(We wanted Moon Pies, but couldn't find em!)

Cookies for If You Give A Mouse A Cookie

And Swedish Fish for One Fish, Two Fish

Since we didn't know Baby was a "he"...we had the gift table divided with pink and blue and had people place their gifts on which table they thought Baby was!

And Mr. Emmett was spoiled rotten!
Our little church is incredibly generous!

So there it is!
Simple, on a budget, but adorable.
A great theme for a little boy or girl!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Best Bread Recipe. Ever.

So, I stumbled upon the best and easiest homemade bread recipe ever.
And I had to share.
This is not my original recipe. I have tweaked a couple of things to my liking.

The best parts about this bread?
No kneading.
No stand mixer required.
Easy steps.
Soft, fluffy inside, crusty outside.

Let's get started

You'll need:
- 1 packet yeast
-1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1 3/4- 2 c. water
- 3 c. flour (I've used both a 50/50 mixture of wheat and white, and an all-white...both with good results!)

So, the night before you want your bread, dump into a bowl your yeast, salt and water.
Let stand 10 min. til yeast is bubbly.
Mix in flour until you have a sticky dough.
If it's too dry, add in a bit more water.
If too wet, add in a bit more flour.
Cover with saran wrap and let sit overnight on counter.
In the morning, it will look like this
Nice and big.
Now, flour up your hands and your surface.
You will shape dough into a round loaf.
Just keep tucking the ends under.
I put the load onto greased aluminum foil.
Let rise for an hour on counter.
A half hour into this last rise, preheat your oven to 425 and stick a covered pot or deep pot into the oven while preheating.
(I don't have a dutch oven or covered pot that is oven-safe. I used a deep pot with aluminum foil to cover it)
After an hour, it'll have grown and is ready to bake!
Carefully take the hot pot out of the oven.
Keep dough on foil and place in bottom of pot.
Cover pot with foil and bake covered for 30-35 min at 425.
Then bake another 10 or so minutes uncovered until bread is golden.
Immediately removed from pot and cool on cooling rack.
This bread is so stinkin good.
Has a nice crust to it, and is soft inside with nice air pockets.
It seriously looks and tastes like you bought it from a local artisan baker.
All for pennies and little effort!

It is seriously worth your time trying!
We had chicken salad sandwiches on this bread for dinner and it was amazing.

Please let me know if you try it out! I promise...if I can do it, you can do it!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Kickin the shop up a notch...DIY style, of course

Let me just say, I've had tons of fun with my Etsy shop.
I never would've guessed this is where life would take me, but I am loving the ride.
I love picking fabrics, coming up with new creations, taking custom orders and working to improve my shop.

And I'm also enjoying figuring out marketing, graphics, branding, etc.

Today, on my day off, I checked off some "wants" I've had for awhile.
Fabric labels, and new packaging.

First, I made fabric labels.
I've wanted to do this for a LONG time.
I looked into having them made by another Etsy seller, but decided to go the DIY route for now to save some $$$.
And I love how they turned out!
They are simple, but add a professional touch.
Super easy.
Doesn't it make this cloth wipe look professional?

Then I worked on making wraps to package my items.
I just put my logo into a Google Doc in landscape, printed it and cut to size.
Easy peasy.

I'm so thrilled with how everything has turned out.

Any other Etsy sellers have any tips of marketing and branding?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Gift for the Cloth Diapering Mama {DIY Cloth Wipes & Detergent}

With so many people around us venturing into cloth diapering, I thought this post was fitting.
A sweet couple in our church is expecting a little girl in March, so I decided to get together some useful cloth diapering items.
And, of course, DIYed them.

When we began cloth diapering, I didn't really know anyone in real life who cloth diapered, and I would have loved lots of diapering items as gifts!

So, for this shower I decided to make some cloth wipes and cloth diaper detergent.

I've made wipes before, and I love them.
They are so soft, and better than any cloth wipes I've bought at the store.
And they are perfect for runny noses and messy faces.

And, being for a little girl, I had so much fun picking girly flannels.

So, here is how to DIY them yourself!

First, pick out your flannels. They can all be the same fabric or you can be a variety. 
I went for a variety, but that's because I have lots of fabrics around.
Fold your fabric in half, and cut an 8.5 inch square.
(I fold it in half, so I cut both sides of wipe at once!)

Then, take both pieces and put them right side facing in.
Stitch all around, except leave about 3-4 inches open, so you can turn it right side out.

Clip your corners, so you'll have nice pointy corners.

Fold right side out, and pin or tuck in opening to top stitch closed.

Top stitch all around!

The detergent is super easy too.

Just take a pretty mason jar, and fill half way with Baby Oxy Clean and half Borax.
Mix up.
Put a pretty label on it and write that it is just 1 tbsp. per load.
A great gift for a Mama-to-Be, a new Mama or yourself!
I love these for my little man!

And, if you're not wanting to go the DIY route, you can always but some adorable and modern cloth wipes from my Etsy shop. : )