For the love of: Motherhood

My plan was to do a “Yo Momma Monday” reflection on my life as Cecilia’s mama this Monday, but we were visiting family in Stockton and I wasn’t around my computer. Family is always the perfect excuse for not writing. This is my third year celebrating Mothers Day, and the second year that I get to spend with my kid. Technically, I did spend the first one with her too…but she was celebrating in my belly.

A couple weeks ago, my friend and I were talking about that quote “Everything changed and nothing changed” when we had our kids. Sure, my Friday nights are a little different and all of the money I do earn is spent on formula, gas and groceries…but in the bigger picture, what all has changed?923957_1414953962103156_2455092_n

I’m still me. And while my family has grown, they’re all still the same people. I was never huge into traveling, so it’s not like that changed. She didn’t derail my studies, she actually motivated me to apply to the school I’ve always wanted to attend, and not give up when it felt like everything was crumbling around me. She didn’t take me away from my big, fancy job. I was working at a boutique here and there and interning at a local paper. Nothing that I had to fret about giving up when I had her.

In fact, I actually like this version of myself better. I’m nicer. I don’t forget birthdays and I’m not scurrying around my house to find random items I can give people as gifts. I don’t check for my money and suddenly remember I spent it all at the bar the night before, or I left my credit card there. I know exactly where I spent it all – at the grocery store, duh. I stick with plans I make with people (for the most part), and when I do flake, it’s most likely because my daughter fell asleep right before I was planning on leaving or she’s been in tantrum city. And when I do have a beer, I enjoy it. Because that will be it for the night.

02b5cad6a97211e3874612e79814bf9e_8I appreciate and respect my parents (and pretty much all parents) a whole lot more and I’m constantly in awe of everything they did for me and my brother. I learn to pick my battles, and I don’t argue as much. I get frustrated but now I deal with it, and not just freak out and shut the world out.

She teaches me to not value all the stuff I have lying around, because she will probably walk all over them, or chew on them, or tear them apart. She teaches me to put up anything I truly value and to take good care of it, because if I let her have it, she will most likely destroy it. She knows when I need to take a break from the computer or my cell phone. And most of all, she teaches me not to take myself too seriously.

929315_642978312447553_726817861_nBecause of her, I have taught myself how to cook, have maintained a garden and have healthy relationships with all of my friends and family. Because of her, I focus on the people and things that hold the most importance, and let go of what I can. Instead of putting 10% into a million projects, I pick a few and put everything that I have left in me into them. Because of her, I push myself to continue going to school for something I love, because I want her to do the same when she’s ready.

Because of her, I have changed. But I will always be the same Amanda.

My February Wishes

Beautiful balloon photo from AC Photo. Design by me

Beautiful balloon photo from AC Photo. Words by me

Wow, that first week of school was brutal. It made me question if I really wanted to be in design school a couple times. But, I stuck it out, completed all of the crazy assignments I had and now I’m ready to conquer another week. Also, if I dropped out, I would have to pay back all of my college loan now – so that’s a surefire way to keep me in school. I see why they do that now.

The more that I think about it, the more I realize how similar that is to running your own business. Or anything, really. When you put all of your time and effort into something, when you truly believe in and want to accomplish something, you stick with it. When you invest money, or you are borrowing money (bank, school, parents, friends) and you have to pay it all back immediately if you just back out, you stick with it.

I have stuck with the things that are most important to me, and I have let go of things that would not be the best for me now. Maybe sometime in the future, but definitely not now. So, I am finally focusing on the things that matter, and I am fearless in pursuing what I love.

I have categorized each aspect of my life I need to focus on, and here’s what I want to accomplish this month:

Blog: The transfer to a self-hosted site is happening on the 15th and I could not be more thrilled. I need to organize my blog better and get rid of what has little or no importance at this point. This transfer is the perfect time to let go and start fresh. I will have a couple sponsors when I move over and I’m hoping to be at ten by June. So my goal for this month is just to get my new site up and running and add the sponsors I do have.

Vox: The fundraiser is happening in May. We have the time and place set, now I just need to come up with a name, and start working on all of our promotional stuff. We need to visit local businesses and get the community involved. So, this month I will focus on spreading the word.

Sweet Mariposa: We are going to get a booth at the Vox fundraiser and we have a couple other shops who want us to vend at their Second Saturday street walks, and maybe even sell a few items in their stores. So, this month we’re focusing on adding to our inventory. I hope to get at least one new item in the shop each week this month. I also have a few people who want me to sell things for them on eBay, so this will be the perfect way for me to get more comfortable on the site.

Pampered Chef: I would love to get four parties under my belt this month, one each week. I already have three people who want to host, I just need one more. This is going to be the perfect way to get me cooking and baking more, and to get me used to talking to a bunch of people at one time. I’m used to writing – not talking – to a large number of people at once.

Health : My mom and I started a new health challenge (I will talk more about this tomorrow), and our challenge for this week is no drive-thru. This should not be too hard for me, except for when it comes to my coffee. I must admit, when I’m driving, I have a problem with going through Starbucks to get my coffee fix. This will motivate me to go find more little coffee shops in town and not depend on the drive-thru Starbucks that’s just down the street. When I lived downtown, it was easy for me to just walk to a little coffee shop to get my fix, but here…it’s a little harder. I make my coffee at home, too, but I like a little pick-me-up when I’m out and about.

So, this should be good for the month. I’ll be writing more about each of these in detail during the week, I just need to remember to stick with what I love, and let go of the rest. It will save me time and unnecessary stress. What are you working on this month – what are your goals? Share them in the comments and on your social media sites. If you wrote about it, share the link with me so I can see! It’s a wonderful way to check yourself, and get support from others.

Yo Momma Monday: Stefanie Schiada

yo momma monday

Stefanie Schiada, 36, is a home design blogger who started the very popular Brooklyn Limestone in the midst of her recent home renovation. She is a world traveler who calls Brooklyn, NY her home and she is mama to a beautiful one-year-old named Agatha Grace.

Stefanie started Brooklyn Limestone to document the renovation of her 100-year-old limestone in – you guessed it – Brooklyn. Now, her blog includes entertaining, design, travel and decor. Since Stefanie does not receive her primary income from her blog or graphic design site (she works in finance), she keeps the blogging to the weekends.

Stefanie admits that she never wanted to add a personal side to her blog. She was simply going to document her renovation, post some photos and hopefully make a photo book out of it when she was done. Two years later, she finally showed her “mug” and more personal details about her and her family.

Stefanie and Agatha at Agatha's first birthday! Photo taken by Stefanie's brother.

Stefanie and Agatha at Agatha’s first birthday! Photo by Stefanie’s brother.

Before she moved into this house, she and her husband lived in a much smaller house and did room-by-room renovations. Now, she “just takes a lot more photos.” Stefanie says she has been interested in the DIY process for as long as she can remember.

“I think I’ve always been a little on the cheap side which definitely makes me ask the question “can I do this myself?” and “can I do it better?”.”

Stefanie says she gets her inspiration from all the places she visits, and trips to the home improvement store can also get her creative juices flowing. “Sometimes a pile of wood can really spark the imagination.” She also searches for items that she knows she won’t tire of quickly.

Just a little snippet of the renovation that was done. Clearly, she doesn't mess around! Photo taken by Stefanie Schiada

Just a little snippet of the renovation that was done. Clearly, she doesn’t mess around! Photo by Stefanie Schiada

“While I always seem to have one project or another going, I don’t really want to have to change things out unless I’m in the mood.”

The experience Stefanie has with being a tourist – mixed with her knowledge and love of her city – has led her to create a downloadable one-day tourist guide for people who are visiting Brooklyn. Now, this was back in 2009 so I’m sure some stuff has changed, but it’s definitely worth checking out if you are going to be visiting.

In fact, she loves her city so much that she had a hard time picking just one thing that she loves the most about it.

The beautiful house when the decorated it for the holidays. So magical!

The beautiful house when the decorated it for the holidays. So magical! Photo by Stefanie Schiada

“If I had to pick a favorite its having the variety of choice here in eating and shopping.”

And in all of her travels, Stefanie says that her safari in Africa stands out from the rest, and says it’s hard to compare it to any other destination. Stefanie has even taken on the daunting task of traveling with her daughter – something I have yet to do.

“I’m a pessimist so the reality is much easier than I imagined.  Obviously so much depends on the temperament of the baby and the parents but we have found that its not that different than spending time with her in a restaurant or any other public place.  The key is just to GO!”

Asam Church in Munich, Germany

Asam Church in Munich, Germany. Photo by Stefanie Schiada

As a new mom, Stefanie wrote a post titled “Things I Wish I Knew Before Bringing Home Baby,” and man, could I relate. That post hit so close to home that I felt like I wrote it, and it is actually what pushed me to contact Stefanie about the interview. If you are a new mom, or you have been one before, you should read this. Trust me, you will have yourself a good laugh.

“My advice would be to not be so hard on yourself.  I think our generation of parents put this incredible burden on ourselves about creating the absolute perfect environment for our children (breastfeeding exclusively, organic only diet, educational toys, etc.) that cutting yourself any slack at all (no matter how much you are trying!) feels like a big failure.  

I know I cried many tears on countless subjects (especially about nursing!) that seemed absolutely crucial at the time but even  with just the little time I’ve had to think about it, its just not that important in the scheme of thing.  Its hard to remind yourself you are doing your absolute best and you are allowed to enjoy it too.”

Photo from Agatha's Christening Party, which Stefanie styled. Photo by Stefanie Schiada

Photo from Agatha’s Christening Party, which Stefanie styled. Photo by Stefanie Schiada

Stefanie recently planned her daughter’s first birthday and shared her experience and photos from the party on her blog. Since it was smack-dab in the middle of winter, and they live in New York, Stefanie came up with the “Baby It’s Cold Outside” theme, and beautiful decorations that fit perfectly with the theme.

“Don’t be ashamed to go over the top!  I love parties where you can see the host put a lot of time and effort into all of the elements and didn’t take the easy way out.  As a guest, it feels like you are part of something special.”

Thank you so much Stefanie for participating in this series! You can find photos from her travels and get tips here, and you can find party ideas here.  If you are looking for home renovation and design tips, just peruse all over her blog! And don’t skip this About page – it’s where she shares a lot of her tips and answers FAQs. Want an overload of inspiration – and adorableness? Check out her Flickr!

If you enjoy this series and would like to be a part of it, or know someone who should, please leave a note in the comments or connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Pinterest and Instagram. Next month, I will be talking with Karen LePage of One Girl Circus!

Thrifty Thursdays: Holiday Edition!

thrifty thursdays

There is one thing that is certain when you have a little one: you will never struggle with a gift idea for your parents again. Grandparents LOVE photos of their grandbabies just as much as they love photos of you – if not more. The good thing is that you don’t need to go to a photo studio to get expensive photos of your babes, all you need is a camera and little creativity.

Photo from love grows wild

Photo from love grows wild

These DIY Photo Clipboards from love grows wild are perfect for grandparents because they can change them as the children get older. All you need is some wood, these cute little clips and a photo, of course! You can paint the wood any color you like, or any color you think you parents will like.

Photo from This Heart of Mine

Photo from This Heart of Mine

These Transfer Image Canvases from This Heart of Mine are perfect if you have a photo of your little one with their grandparent (or whoever you are creating this gift for – even yourself!) or if there is a special moment you wanted to share. You just need a gel medium, a canvas, a large high-resolution photo that will cover the canvas, a foam brush, spray bottle and a cloth! Another awesome tutorial from one of my favorite ladies, Amy.

Photo from See Kate Sew

Photo from See Kate Sew

I love these DIY Instagram Magnets from See Kate Sew! Not only are they super cute, they are also super affordable! Use them as stocking stuffers or attach to your gifts as cute photo tags. You just need some adorable photos, adhesive magnetic paper, an x-acto knife for super precise cutting and an acrylic ruler.

Photo from The Gold Jellybean

Photo from The Gold Jellybean

These Waterless Snow Globes with Photos from The Gold Jellybean are perfect for the Holiday season! Since the season is pretty much over after Christmas, I would give it to them for Thanksgiving (obviously this would have to wait for next year) so they can have it up! Or simply turn them into photo frames and decorate them however, and gift them at Christmas! This would also be something cute to decorate your house with for the Holidays.

And what about those Christmas cards that you have been putting off?

Photo from The Paper Mama

Photo from The Paper Mama

This Christmas Card Tutorial from Flavor Pink was featured on The Paper Mama’s 50 DIY Days of Christmas. As a Photoshop newbie myself, I am always excited to see new tutorials – especially when they are for something fun and creative like this! This tutorial centers around Photoshop but I imagine you can get the same effect with most photo editing programs.

Do you have a fun DIY photo Christmas gift tutorial, or did you use one of these tutorials? Share your link in the comments and on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+ with the hashtags #thriftythurdays and #whatimgifting. You can find more DIY Holiday ideas on my Pinterest!

Yo Momma Monday: Bev Feldman from Linkouture

yo momma monday

Meet Bev Feldman, 31, from Cambridge, MA who is the newest mama I know, and the jewelry designer behind Linkouture – the modern chainmaille jewelry company that she started in 2010. She welcomed her first baby, Eve Lily Feldman, on the 17th of this month.

This interview was completed before Bev had her baby. You can read more about her sweet baby girl here. Her Etsy shop is currently in Vacation mode until the end of January for some mama/baby bonding.

Bev was first introduced the jewelry making business in the third grade, when she and her friends made and “sold” safety pin beaded bracelets to their classmates as part of a project for school. Then in the seventh grade, Bev participated in her very first craft fair – where she sold daisy chain necklaces and bracelets. It wasn’t until she discovered chainmaille on Etsy that she got serious about her craft.

“I discovered Etsy and went on a bit of a pearl-buying binge before I discovered chainmaille. I was instantly drawn to the look of it and decided to try it out myself. Before I knew it I was hooked and decided I wanted to open my own Etsy shop.”

Photo from Bev Feldman. Credit: George Diep

Photo from Bev Feldman. Credit: George Diep

With a background in both education and human services, Bev worked with Cambridge children and families who dealt with autism – organizing playgroups, doing outreach and general family support. Before she decided to take her business full-time, she traveled around South America for five months with her husband.

Bev initially started her blog as something she was supposed to do for her business and write a whole lot in the beginning, as she was more focused on the blog she shared with her husband – Flight of the Feldmans – where they chronicled their five month journey in South America.

“When I got back in June of 2012 I decided to focus more on my personal blog, and in the process realized I actually really liked blogging.”

Naturally, Bev’s pregnancy altered her work, especially in the first trimester and by the second trimester, she was feeling more like herself again. Once she hit the third trimester, it more affected the physical aspects of her work – like lugging around heavy tents at the local craft fairs she attended.

Photo from Bev Feldman

Photo from Bev Feldman

“I’ll admit, the first trimester was tough. I was exhausted, nauseated when I wasn’t eating, and it totally messed with my emotions. I really didn’t feel very motivated and wondered how I would ever work on my business… Also, I realized it wouldn’t be realistic for me to do holidays shows since I am due right at the start of the holiday season. Thankfully I am able to sell my jewelry at the Boston Handmade Holiday Gallery–amazingly things worked out really well and I’m lucky to be part of such an awesome handmade group!”

Bev has always loved going to craft shows and knew that was something she needed to participate in to really get her business rolling. Like anyone who is just starting out, Bev was nervous about applying and says she has been rejected from a couple of shows. However, she has also been surprised by the shows she did accepted into.

“It is a lot harder than I thought it would be (both getting accepted and actually participating in them), but it was well worth it in regards to exposing my work to more people and connecting to the handmade community in the Boston area.”

Depending on what’s going on that week, the amount of jewelry Bev makes per week varies. If she has a craft show one week, she will focus on creating new pieces and restocking her inventory – meaning she will average about 30 pieces per week. Other weeks, she will focus more on blogging and less on creating jewelry.

Photo from Bev Feldman

Photo from Bev Feldman

“Some days I am more focused on blogging, other days it is preparing for a show and making jewelry. Each day is so different it is hard to say what a normal day is for me! The one thing that is consistent is how shockingly fast each day goes by.”

Bev’s workspace also doubles as their kitchen table, which she says drives her husband a little crazy, especially when she is making jewelry! The large size and brightness of her kitchen makes it a good space to work, although she would love to have a little studio of her own, one day. She says her inspiration for designs can either come from wandering around a bead shop for a while and looking at all the different beads, and sometimes an idea might just pop in her head.

“Other times I will pull out a bunch of supplies and just see what I come up with.”

Jewelry wasn’t the only thing Bev started as a child – she also got into knitting in the fourth grade, when she was home sick for a day. Her mom got her some knitting needles and yarn, and taught her the basics. She didn’t pick it up again until she was sophomore in College and saw some people doing it, then she got a book and retaught herself. Now, she will do it as a social activity but says she never got into it the way she did with jewelry.

Photo from Bev Feldman

Photo from Bev Feldman

“It’s one of those activities I’ll do for awhile and get bored with and not touch again for a year or two. Unfortunately as a result I have several started projects and way too much yarn!”

She also took woodworking when she was in middle school and loved it, and would like to take a class again. Another hobby she has wanted to try for years is glassblowing.

For Bev, the best thing about running her own business is learning new skills that she probably wouldn’t use otherwise, and making her own schedule. The scariest part is identifying herself as both a jewelry artist and a blogger.

“I have also gained a lot of confidence in myself and surprised myself with what I am capable of doing…for the longest time I felt like a fraud and was going to get called out on it.”

She recently started a series of interviews with a variety of makers because she wanted to support other handmade businesses, something she knows needs to be done as a small business owner herself. She was inspired to start this because she is always amazed at what other people are doing and wanted a platform for sharing what she found with a broader audience.

unnamed5

Photo from Bev Feldman

“I definitely learn a lot from the people I interview–I think they offer great advice, which is actually applicable to more than just other makers.”

Looking into the future, Bev dreams of putting a book together for children and parents. Through her, she hopes that people will find inspiration to start businesses of their own.

“When I tell people what I do, I often get “That’s so cool! I would love to do something like that.” Just a couple years ago I would have never imagined I would be working for myself. I hope to inspire people to see that anyone can do it.”

You can find out more about Bev and Linkouture by visiting her website and connecting with her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. If you have an idea for Yo Momma Monday, let me know by posting in the comments or using the hashtag #yomommamonday in your posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instgram. Visit my Pinterest to find more awesome mama inspiration!

Yo Momma Monday: Gretchen Fleener

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

Meet Gretchen Fleener, 34, from Mound, Minnesota. She is an Industrial Designer, Web Designer and face painter. She runs her own business, Junk Mail Gems, where she sells fun items that she makes out of junk mail. She is also an awesome momma to her two sons, who are three and five. Gretchen took time out of her busy schedule to talk to me about how she manages everything, and what she wants her sons to learn from her business.

Gretchen got into junk mail art when she was making magnets from junk mail to preserve patterns that she liked in a functional way. She heard over and over again that she could sell her magnets, but it wasn’t until her sister urged her to start selling online. And that is where Junk Mail Gems was born, six years ago.

“She and I came up with the Junk Mail Gems name because the magnets looked like little gems.  I had a lot of fun designing the logo, then website, and coming up with more things to make out of junk mail to fill my store!”

Although  it may not be for everyone, Gretchen says that being the boss is the best part of running her own business. She loves that she can work when it fits in her life, rather than having to wait for work to be over to enjoy life. A life-long multitasker, she can be found packing items during a commercial break.

As for most small business owners, finances are a worry of hers. Fortunately, she has an incredibly supportive husband whose stable job covers the important bills, allowing her to work from home. He fits her business schedule into his and will come home early to watch the boys if she needs to go to a face painting job or a client meeting.

“He never talks down about my businesses or makes me feel less important because I don’t work 9-5 in an office anymore.”

Before she had her sons, doing anything creative or artistic gave her the most fulfillment. Now, she gets the most fulfillment from using her artistic skills (and revenue earned through them) on her boys.

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

“My kids blow my mind with the things they create already at age 3 and 5 and it’s so cool to see that part of me in them.”

As you might imagine, her boys love crafting with her, and her five-year-old has even caught the bug for turning junk into something he can use and play with! To help cultivate her boys’ creativity, Gretchen labeled a Rubbermaid bin “the project box” and throws odds and ends that the boys can use for their crafts. She also keeps all the kid-friendly crafting supplies at their level so they can create on their own.

“I love coming up with projects to do with them, but my favorite thing is to let them loose and see what they come up with on their own. One of my 5 year old’s most used Christmas gifts is his collection of brightly colored masking tape rolls that my sister gave him.  He is constantly rescuing things form our recycle bin and turning them into things…rocket ships, monster trucks, and houses for his stuffed dogs!”

Not only do her boys love crafting with her, they also love going to yard sales and thrift stores, too! Gretchen says that she talks to them about not wasting things or money, which has also taught them to be patient when they find brand new toys in a store, as they will probably end up at a yard sale or thrift store in a matter of time.

Much like her children, Gretchen loved going to yard sales as a kid and quickly became a big collector. Her collection is now limited to what she can use to decorate her house, and what her family can actually use. I feel your pain, girl. Her vintage finds came in handy last year when she redesigned her kitchen and decorated it with her scores from the 50’s. After facing the normal collector problem of acquiring more than she could use, she set up an Etsy shop.

“This gives me the thrill of the hunt, without the worry of collecting too much.  I love to imagine people looking through my site and getting as excited about finding the perfect thing for their kitchen as I do for mine!”

Gretchen says that she finds inspiration from everywhere – like an oil slick on the street or an old brick building. She also finds inspiration from surrounding herself by other creative people.

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

“I take TONS of photos and am always collecting inspiration for art, graphic, design or craft projects!”

As an Industrial Designer, Gretchen likes to stay current and is always looking into current and future trends. However, when it comes to her personal style, her love for the ’50s does not stop at kitchen utensils. She also leads a life that is deemed old-fashioned by many people today.

“..Staying home with my kids, canning stuff from my garden, baking cookies, making things by hand and cooking a family dinner each night!”

While Gretchen has always considered herself a motivated person, she says that she is now motivated by different things – like getting her work done early so she can spend more time with her family.

“I know that if I get overtired or overworked, I won’t be as good of a parent or spouse, and my family come first.  So in a way, getting in a little “me” time or letting the laundry sit there one more day  can be better for the family and everyone’s mood!  “

Gretchen credits her ability to get everything done to multitasking and creating lists, just like she used to make fun of her mom for doing years ago. Along with that, she stays super organized, and will rework how shes does something if she feels she’s not doing it efficiently enough – often finding a tool or an app that will help.

“But the one thing I don’t compromise on is sleep.  I just can’t function well on any less than 8 hours a night, and when I get enough sleep, being super productive comes much easier during the day!”

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

Although Gretchen says that she doesn’t really feel like her work is “work,” she does like to get outside and go fishing, biking and gardening. Living on a lake doesn’t hurt, either. She also likes to paint and work on something creative that is related to her businesses. One craft that she would like to practice more is knitting.

“I’ve done a little, but I love to crochet and really like how much faster it goes!  I’d love to learn how to make my own soaps or candles.  And I’d really love to learn Henna.  It seems right up my alley and would be a great addition to my face painting offerings!”

Gretchen also runs as a series of “Momtreprenuer” Interviews on her blog, as she says that she is always encouraged by hearing how other moms run their businesses and homes.

“So, I thought others might enjoy them too!  It’s also one small way that I can help support fellow moms by spreading the word about their businesses.”

She hopes that her Junk Mail Gems business gives people a new way to look at “junk.” She shares tutorials on her site for various recycling projects, so that people can get new ideas for their own projects.

“I hope to inspire them to find a way to do what they love and maybe even make a little money doing it!  I am always so happy to hear from people who were inspired to try a project I’ve shared too.”

Since Gretchen’s sons will be in school full-time pretty soon, she plans on adding more jobs to her line of work (as if she doesn’t have enough already) like freelance retail fixture design and body painting. She also wants to expand the merchandise section of her online face painting store and seek out more retailers for Junk Mail Gems.

“Right now I have no desire to go back to the corporate gig, but have a huge list of things I’d like to do to grow all of my businesses”

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

If you are feeling inspired by Gretchen like I am, you can connect with her through Junk Mail Gems and ID Mommy and can also find her on Facebook and Pinterest. If you know someone who would be a good fit for Yo Momma Monday (your beautiful self included), post in the comments and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Find more Yo Momma Monday inspiration on my Pinterest!