Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Consignment Shop Woes

When my dresser starts to look like this:

I know it's time to unload it by donating a bunch of unused clothes to Goodwill!

There is always some stuff that I just can't let go and donate - you know good, name brand, new clothing, that you just never wear but wish you did. Or you will someday. Right? That stuff ended up in a pile in our closet. I've been wanting to try clothing consignment to try to "earn" back some money by selling our used clothes to a store that will then sell them to customers - consignment. Seems easy, huh? Well, upon researching consignment clothing stores in north Austin, it seems as though there is a high demand for used clothing. Many of the stores that I researched wanted the clothes clean (understandable), pressed (that's pushing the envelope), and on hangers (ain't nobody got time for that). The clothing also had to be within 2 previous seasons of the current season. That was definitely a stretch for our clothing.

So after giving up on most consignment stores, I turned to Plato's Closet, a "chain" consignment shop (under the same company as Once Upon a Child, Play It Again Sports, Music Go Round). After a process (with a toddler in tow) of getting the clothes in the store, signing up, and waiting half an hour to an hour, I came back to the store fully expecting at least a couple of our garments (my skinny jeans or Andrew's blazer) to be accepted for consignment, thus putting some change in my pocket. Alas, no. Plato's Closet recommended that I go to an "older" generation type store called Style Encore (again, under the same company as above) to try consignment again. Sigh. So, same song, second verse. This time my skinny jeans were consigned, giving me $2.50. Thank you Style Encore!

I will never do clothing (or any type of) consignment again. The value of my time used to organize clothes, drive over to the store and especially wait while the clothes are being judged does not equal near the dollar amount that I get in return. More importantly is the value that Goodwill receives from my donated clothing by giving people jobs and in turn selling the products to make funds. I will definitely continue to donate our second hand items to Goodwill!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Building community with the help of Craigslist

couple weeks ago our good friends Justin and Paula welcomed their first son, Francisco, into the world.  Becky and I managed to stop by and visit them last weekend to extend our welcome, and during the visit we were honored to accept the responsibility of being little Francisco's godparents!  Prior to Elijah joining our family, I didn't really have much experience with the care and handling of these small human beings we call "babies".  Heck, I changed my first diaper EVER in the hospital after Elijah's birth with what could be described as a "deer in headlights" look on my face.  However, I've come a long way since then, and I held my new godson like a pro.

Prior to our arrival Justin texted me and asked if I would be able to bring my truck when we came over.  (Side note: I purchased my truck secondhand, it's fully paid for, and I have a lofty goal of handing it off to Elijah when he starts driving - only 15 years to go...I've had my Tacoma for a few years now, and I knew when I bought it what I was signing up for:  I was going to become the friend with a truck.  Some truck owners may find this role frustrating, but I don't mind because helping my friends is something that feeds my soul, and it's one way I have for "paying it forward".

As it turns out, Justin needed my and my truck's assistance for picking up an awesome Craigslist purchase for their home.  Justin found a nice patio furniture set at a bargain price relative to what he would have paid at a big-box store for an equivalent product.  The great thing about this purchase is that this patio furniture set is much more than just machined and welded metal used for sitting on and dining outdoors.  It is a key element in enabling Justin and Paula to do something that they are quite passionate about - build community.

What does it mean to build community?  There's plenty of organizations, clubs, groups, etc. out there with a mission, in part, to build a community of people around a shared set of ideas or a common bond.  Having relationships with others in a community fulfills a fundamental human need.  The way in which our friends are trying to build community hits right at home, literally.  In most neighborhoods, it is very common to see patio furniture set up on the back porch/patio of a house rather than the front porch.  When furniture is set up in the backyard, there is also often a nice wooden fence surrounding it to isolate all conversation and gatherings away from the neighbors.  This arrangement many times can prevent a family from even knowing who their neighbors are.  Isn't it amazing that we can live for years next door to someone whose name we don't even know, let alone rarely see them?

Justin and Paula have intentionally put this furniture set in the front yard of their home.  The belief is that if you bring your life outside your home and intentionally visible to your neighbors, they will follow suit and possibly even spend time and have conversation with you.  What a better common bond to build community around than the bond you share with those living on a slice of earth right next to your own!

To close out, you may be curious what the numbers look like for this Craigslist find.  Justin paid $140 for the full set that included 4 chairs, a table, and a large canvas umbrella.  From my research I have concluded that he would have spent approximately $500 for a similar set purchased brand new (~$400 for the chairs/table and ~$100 for the umbrella).

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Nap Mat Sewing How To

The last couple of weeks my patience and fine motor skills were put to the test. I busted out the sewing machine to make lots of gifts for the lovely little ones in our lives, and also a nap mat for the most important little one in our life.

Elijah started a "mother's day out" type program at our church. We call it school. Really, he plays with, eats with, and takes a nap with 8 other 12-24 month old toddlers two days a week. So obviously, when you start "school" you need a nap mat! Well, since I thought it was unsanitary to buy a used one, and I couldn't buy one new, I took on the challenge of making a nap mat. I found some tutorials on the web, but I pretty much just made up my own design as a hybrid of all those tutorials. (SCROLL DOWN TO THE BOTTOM IF YOU CARE NOT HOW TO MAKE A NAP MAT AND JUST WANT TO SEE THE FINAL PRODUCT).

queen size foam mattress pad
fabric (I used sheet sets)
sewing supplies (sewing machine, needles, thread, scissors)

I (ahem, Andrew) started by cutting the foam mattress pad into 4 pieces

1/4 of a mattress pad, then I stacked 2 quarters for extra cushion for the nap mat
 I used a fun graphic sheet set for the fabric to make a washable cover for the foam. The white printed fabric is the part a napping kid lays on. I cut 1 rectangle 39X29 inches from the white and one the same size from the dark blue. I simply pinned the white fabric to the dark blue fabric on the shorts sides (top and bottom), inside out.

I also pinned a fleece blanket to one of the long sides, toward the inside so that when I flipped everything right sides out, the blanket would fold over the kid.

Next, I sewed the pinned layers together on the top, bottom, and blanket side.

On the 4th remaining side, I sewed Velcro. Flipping the edge of the fabric over to create a clean hem, I pinned Velcro with the "soft" side facing in, and on the dark blue I pinned the "rough" side facing out.

Doesn't it look inviting? Why doesn't the adult work day include nap time with a nap mat?

After a couple weeks of toting around the nap mat to and from Elijah's school looking like this….

Cinched together using a tie-down

I decided to add something to wrap it up neatly. I simply sewed four 3 inch wide by 28 inch long strips of fabric by folding them long ways in half, then sewing the edges together with a 1/2 inch border, right sides in. Then I turned the right sides out, folded in one end and sewed it shut to make it look neat. Then I had to pick out some of the "bottom" of the hem to the original nap mat cover in order to create "holes" to stick 2 of the long strips back into the hem, about 5 inches inward from each of the sides. Next I stuck the 2 strips in the "holes" and sewed the part that I picked out. Now I can roll the mat up and tie the ends together to look like this…

I found similar nap mats on Etsy.com for $60 (and I made 2 nap mats with the listed materials). So to add to the "handmade items" of our grand total for purchases…

Year-to-Date Numbers
Secondhand Item Expenses:  $91
Would-be Cost if Purchased New:   $215
Handmade Item Material Expenses:  $30
Would-be Cost if Purchased New:  $120

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


Since our baby started going to a "mother's day out" type program at our church, I had some free time to shop alone at Goodwill (Re: I was able to try on clothes without distractions/crying/whining/chasing). I brought home a handful of clothes from Old Navy, Gap, and some other "off" brands, spending about $50. One of the shirts didn't quite seem right so I changed out the buttons to contrast more and give it a glam look.

Not so great looking red pearl buttons
Much better! Gold buttons from JoAnn's
I've also been wanting some storage for Elijah's stuffed animals. I have been looking for some second hand garden baskets for quite some time with no success...

This is SO cute, no?
But I did find a basket that will do the trick! To freshen it up, first, I cut off the nasty handles that looked as if they had been gnarled by a woodland creature.

 Then I painted the basket using simple glossy bright white paint that we have in our paint stash (for a future project of painting all the trim and baseboards in the house). The paint was pretty thick so I watered it down, probably 1:3 water:paint. The paint went on in one coat simply with a 2 inch angled brush. Then for a little something special, I gave it a gold-dipped look by painting the bottom 2 inches with some leftover gold craft paint.

Goldie the dog and her new basket

Party in the basket!
A little work to give some items a 'face lift' so even though they aren't new - they look new!

I spent around $50 at Goodwill for a pair of pants, 4 shirts, and a sun dress. Let's say "new" those items would have cost $125, as a conservative estimate (I only shop sales for "new" clothing anyway ;))…..

 Year-to-Date Numbers
Secondhand Item Expenses:  $91
Would-be Cost if Purchased New:   $215
Handmade Item Material Expenses:  $0
Cost Savings from Handmaking Items:  $0