Thrifty Thursdays

thrifty thursdays

I have always had an affinity for old, beat-up mens belts. Back before Ed Hardy was let loose into the world of belt design. Before “No Fear,” before flames showed up on everything, and even though I love a good frothy beverage, before belts could open beer bottles. There is just something about that simple and clean design that sticks out in my head. The more beat up, the better.

But like everything in life, you eventually outgrow your belts. You start having babies, and the men start gaining “sympathy weight.” You start poking new holes that go further and further out and and before you know it, your favorite belt ends up in a pile you never thought it would see – the donate pile.

Before you go tossing that belt all willy nilly, here are a couple projects that could bring new life to your old belt. If you happen to have (or find) a belt with a rockin’ imprinted design, or an old school big belt buckle – even better.

Image belongs to Design*Sponge

Image belongs to Design*Sponge

Recycled Leather and Wood Shelf from Design*Sponge – Kate Pruitt is the Senior Editor at Design*Sponge and has completed over 100 projects for that site. Damn, girl. She used two different belts for this project, both of which she got at a thrift store. Kate brought up a valid point – belts can be rather overpriced, so keep looking if you can’t find one for a good price. Also check out swap meets and yard sales – they may be a little cheaper, and if not, you can talk them down. She ended up finding both belts for under $10, which means that she spent less than $15 on the whole project. You can find out more by clicking on the photo or Design*Sponge link above. You can also find more of Kate Pruitt’s projects here.

Image  belongs to Poppytalk

Image belongs to Poppytalk

Hanging belt vessel from Poppytalk – If you have ever tried reusing glass bottles and it has taken you beyond forever to get that label off, and you start thinking that maybe it would look fine if the label just stayed on. People would get the concept of a flower vase that is completely covered by an olive oil label, right? Well, Jan shared an alternative – peanut butter! It’s delicious and serves multiple purposes! You can get the entire tutorial, along with beautiful photos, and a whole lot more by clicking on the photo or the Poppytalk link above.

Image belongs to House of Earnest

Image belongs to House of Earnest

Leather Belt Curtain Ties from House of Earnest – Along with the Poppytalk tutorial, I got this tutorial from a roundup at BrightNest. Erin’s blog is full of crafty yet classy projects like this, and her photos are both beautiful and informative. She also has a Home Decor section – where she shares home tours, sweet products and interior design ideas and inspiration. If you are looking to beautify your house without a spending a whole lot of money, you should go check her out.

And for an added thrifty bonus: APPLE BUTTER! I am lucky enough to live relatively close to Apple Hill – an amazing place in Placerville, CA that holds a craft fair, a pumpkin patch, and you guessed it – all things apple. While I was there, I sipped on apple wine while eating an apple doughnut. It was amazing. I came really close to purchasing apple butter – until I saw that it was almost $10 for a little jar. DAMN. Now, I’m all about supporting homemade, handmade and small businesses, but sometimes a girl just can’t do it. So I decided I would make my own. Here’s an awesome recipe I found:

Image belongs to My Baking Addiction

Image belongs to My Baking Addiction

Homemade Apple Butter from My Baking Addiction – Jamie made this recipe in her crock pot, and I just saw another apple recipe she slow cooked – applesauce! I would have to say that I’m not a huge fan about eating apples a la mode. Not sure why, but I usually always have to pair them with peanut butter. We just got some apples fresh from Washington so I would really like to use them up! I think these recipes are both in order.  She also shares baking fundamentals and tips on her blog, so I see her site becoming a good resource for me.

If you have any belt projects you would like to share, or you completed one of these projects, post in the comments and share on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest with the hashtag #thriftythursdays. If there is a project you would like to see in the future, please let me know. I hope that this series shows you that there are many things you can do with discarded items that don’t take a whole lot of money. Stay thrifty, my friends.

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!