Rescuing Hobbies

How do you measure the value of a hobby?

I love to be creative. It’s what makes me feel most alive— most like myself. When I’m not making things, I end up turning inward and finding things about myself I don’t like. My self esteem and body image begin to plummet. But when I am exercising my talents and abilities, I am happy and feel fulfilled as a person. While I might be inept in a lot of other ways, my strengths and capabilities are able to shine through my hobbies and give me a sense of accomplishment. This is why I’ve worked so darn hard on the dollhouse I’ve been sharing with you. No— it’s not because I have too much time on my hands (Ha. Ha.), and no, it’s not because I’m an amazing mother. It’s because I discovered I really enjoy making miniatures and was absolutely thrilled to my core when doing so.

Recently, I’ve been impressed with lots of feelings about adults and hobbies. And the sad fact is, not many adults see the value in hobbies. I’ve seen husbands discourage wives from putting money into hobbies because their hobby won’t bring any money into their household. I’ve had people express to me their desires to build a dollhouse, but end up admitting they wouldn’t because they don’t have children to enjoy it. As if the only value in a hobby is in its practicality or end purpose. This mentality is so ultra American. Our history is built around pragmatism, and it’s hard to not let that influence the way we live our adults lives.

hobbies have value

Children are encouraged to explore all kinds of hobbies- art, dancing, athletics, music, clubs, and more. Often within clubs, they’re encouraged to give back to the community, whether through volunteering, organizing donation efforts for those in need, or raising awareness for rare diseases. Kids are often doing way more than adults these days. But I’m not here to talk about the kids. I’m here to ask, why are the kids having all the fun? Why are the majority of adults working a job they don’t enjoy and returning home to watch television they sort of enjoy? Why do we feel the only way to justify having a hobby is if it can earn extra money? When we encourage children to pursue their interests, is it only to eventually help them decide which career to pursue? Because let’s be real, most people aren’t actually able to turn their hobby into a paying job, much less a full-time one. So do those people just abandon those things that make them multi-faceted, happy individuals once they become an adult? Are we expected to work jobs we tolerate, or sometimes hate, only to return home and escape into a televised world featuring people who are out living their lives to the fullest and exploring their passions? Why are adults pressured to find their fulfillment in their work, and if they can’t do that, to just exist and help their children eventually live a better life?

I’m curious how many adults you know have hobbies. I’m definitely privileged to have grown up in a lower middle class family where healthy adulting was modeled for me- hobbies included. My dad designs robots by day (how cool is he?!), and my mom worked a variety of retail jobs throughout my childhood, when she wasn’t staying home to home school me and my brother. My dad is a woodworking hobbyist, has volunteered to build a track and organize pinewood derby style races for local churches, hosts a card club once a month with his buddies, and sings bass in a traveling men’s quartet. My mother plays the piano for local choirs and for special recording events, she organizes musical programs at our church, has a book study every Sunday evening and card club once a month with friends. My parents are both avid readers and enjoy traveling too. You’d think all of that means we’ve been pretty busy as a family, but we really weren’t. We usually sat down at the dinner table together as a family, and I was able to learn about a lot of my own talents and passions by joining my parents in theirs. To this day, my dad and I spend hours together in the garage building things, and I know without his influence I wouldn’t be as interested in wood working, and definitely not as proficient.

As I typed that last paragraph, I was impressed by how privileged I really am to have had such amazing parents, but it also challenges me to create a similar childhood for my girls. Yes, it’s important to play with my children and invest my time in them, but it’s also important for me to spend time alone and investing in ME. That means I find babysitters at least once a week, I end up staying up far too late at night, and I will trade kids with local friends to have some time alone. With my alone time, I’m often tempted to unwind by eating a treat, drinking hot coffee, and watching television, but I am actually most fulfilled when I am being creative. So that’s what I do! Lately it’s been the dollhouse. What an adventure that’s been!

hobbies help me be happy

So how do we rationalize having hobbies, when our lives are already so full to the brim? How can we justify the expense of craft supplies, music lessons, or league fees when our budget is as tight as can be? I have a few ideas which have helped me. As far as justification goes, you have to find the value in having a hobby. I look at my hobbies as essential to my health and happiness. Do you invest money in healthy foods because you see the value in your resulting quality of health? That’s sort of how I view the time and money required to have a hobby. Do you see a therapist to work through your emotional issues or dissatisfaction with your life? Not that a hobby would replace a therapist for mental or extreme emotional issues, but working with my hands has certainly helped me work through a lot of my self esteem issues.

But how do I find the time for my hobbies? I admit— I stay up sometimes until 4am because of the creative pull which sometimes feels impossible to escape. That’s not healthy, and I don’t recommend it. But lately I’ve been thinking of ways I can find time in my day by whittling time away from other necessities. For instance, we finally got a freezer to put in our garage so I can spend way less time cooking. When I make food, I can make double or triple the amount and put the extras in the freezer. Making food in bulk has been a huge time saver for me, and also helps us save money on takeout when we haven’t had time to cook. Other ways I’ve found to save time is to spend less of it on social media, or setting a timer when I’m browsing the internet so I don’t spend more time than I’ve allotted. I try to be efficient in my shopping trips as well, and have learned to say no to things I really don’t want to do, but would’ve said yes to in the past because of fear, guilt, or obligation. (That’s a whole ‘nother discussion for another day!) If you’re having trouble finding ways to shave time off your day, utilize social media and ask your friends for their best time-saving advice. Maybe spend a few days tracking the time you spend doing things and review it your logs later so you are able to see where you are wasting time on non-necessities and unfilfilling things that could be better spent exploring a hobby or doing something more fulfilling.

make time for hobbies

And what about money? Well, this is a sticky thing, because everyone’s budgets and financial goals are different. But since my husband and I have been on a budget, I’ve finally been able to spend money without guilt. That might sound backwards, but think about it: If I have a set amount of money each month to spend on whatever I want, I can spend that and not feel like I shouldn’t— because it’s already been set aside for this purpose. Because everything is budgeted, I don’t find money disappearing during Target trips or at coffee shop drive throughs, because I keep a watchful eye on every penny spent. That means I can make my money do what I want, instead of what genius marketers (Target Target TARGET!) want me to spend it on. We still have debt we’re diligently paying off each month (student loans— UGH), but we’ve found ways to save money on things we need to buy by doing things like shopping around for the best insurance rates and shopping at discount grocery stores (like Aldi), and we’ve also cut out things that we don’t need, such as cable TV and gym memberships (we still exercise at home). We’ve also found ways to increase our earning so that our budget has some wiggle room for fun things that we can spend money on, even while we aggressively pay off debt. The trick is to not let earning extra money take up all of our time so that we can still spend quality time together as a family and also alone as individual exploring our own interests.

I suppose you could find a myriad of excuses for not investing in a personal hobby, whatever that may be for you, but I encourage you to realize the value of exploring your passions and talents through a new or old hobby this year. Break through the barriers of excuses and unfilfilling time-sucks, and make this a priority in your life. It will enrich your days, inspire your friends and family, and maybe bring some valuable relationships into your life as well! Who knows? Why not try it out and see what can happen?

Lead image adapted from a Hellen Borten children’s book illustration.

The Dollhouse Kitchen and Dining Room

Modern Dollhouse Miniature Kitchen

Each time I complete a room in the dollhouse, it becomes a new favorite. The kitchen certainly isn’t an exception! I’ve changed details in this room many times, and am finally calling it finished and done. For a while, the vent hood was copper, the light fixture was different, the cuckoo clock was dark wood, and the window was without dressing. But all of those details have changed, and I think this is finally ready for its close-up.

For those of you following along on Snapchat (my name is mandimakes there), you’ll know that I handed off the dollhouse to Lucy on Christmas Eve morning. While I consider it to be finished, I’ll be changing and adding these here and there, just like in a real home. I have more plans for the bedrooms, but instead of waiting for them to be done, I think I’ll share the dollhouse in its entirety next week, and then share changes as they happen. For now— I’m really excited about the kitchen!

Check out the entire dollhouse project by clicking here. See my resources at the end of this post.

Modern Dollhouse Miniature Kitchen

Prepping this space felt like it took forever— assembling the kit, scribing the floors, staining the floors, filing the window openings, painting the walls, adding the windows and trim, and in this particular space, blocking out a window and installing a tile wall to block out the light from the window hole. To block out the window, I used a sheet of foam board covered in a tile sheet.  I’ll show you what it looks like from the outside next week when I show the entire house, but in the meantime you can see it on Instagram here

Modern Dollhouse Miniature Kitchen

Making some of the furnishings and fixtures is really gratifying. In this space, I purchased the cabinets, chairs, and tiny little accessories (like dishes and cups), but I made quite a few things as well. I wish I had time to carefully photograph and document each item I make, but it just was too overwhelming, and as I mentioned before, I’m seriously considering making a book about DIY modern dollhouse furniture. That’s a big goal of mine for 2016!

So what did I make exactly? The light fixture(beads and ping pong ball), the window shade, the wall sconce, the runner (twine and duct tape), the table (wood discs and dowels glued, sanded, and painted), the art (designed by Tracy Jenkins available full-size here), the hood vent, the plants, and the shelves. Check the end of this post for the things that I purchased.

Modern Dollhouse Miniature Kitchen Calico Critters

Lucy just loves her dollhouse, and I feel so gratified that it will be the framework for many of her childhood memories. We have fun playing with it together— her favorite part being the front door. She moves all of the furniture through the front door after a little animal rings the doorbell and announces they have a package for me. Of course, the house becomes quite chaotic after a while of her playing, and you’re probably wondering how I handle that! The answer is, with dignity and grace, OF COURSE…. until Lucy goes to bed, and then most evenings I rearrange things and Snapchat me playing with everything! Ha!

Modern Dollhouse Miniature Kitchen Calico Critters

I think Mama Kitty needs to wear a slip under her dress, what do you think? Oops!

Modern Dollhouse Miniature Kitchen Calico Critters

I used the lid from a tacky glue bottle plus a tiny piece of a bamboo skewer to make a sconce for beside the kitchen window. I plan to do something similar in the master bedroom.

Modern Dollhouse Miniature Kitchen Calico Critters

Modern Dollhouse Miniature Kitchen

Modern Dollhouse Miniature KitchenModern Dollhouse Miniature Kitchen Calico Critters

R E S O U R C E S :

cowhide rug
coffee cup
cabinets (I painted mine)
china dishes
coffee cups
hanging utensils
copper pots and pans
milk jugs
step stool (set of two)
tile sheet
donuts from Hobby Lobby
broom
cuckoo clock
Calico Critters cat family
wallpaper in stairwell is scrapbook paper from Michaels

The following items are vintage:

chairs from The Toy Box
yellow enamel coffee set

Modern Dollhouse Miniature Kitchen Calico Critters

WHAT WE WORE | Festive Frocks

mother daughter vintage style blog

Yahoo! It’s Christmastime, which incidentally is my favorite time of the year, and fast becoming Lucy’s as well. I’m doing the best I can, really, to make her love Christmas and hats as much as her ol’ Ma. So far the outcome looks good for both items on my agenda. Check out how cute my red beret is on her little head! It was a big large, I guess, but I haven’t had much luck finding one I love in a children’s size. The last time we took photos together with that red beret, it was on my head, and she was just a little tiny kiddo getting ready for her second Christmas. Check out that post here. Ah, memories!

Tonight Phil and I are wrapping up last minute Christmas things— literally! Like gathering presents under our tree, finishing up the dollhouse, and cleaning up the house so tomorrow things will be clean and magical for our Christmas Eve breakfast. I’m so thankful that neither of us have to leave the house for work tomorrow, so we can have a leisurely day making new traditions and spending time with family. My dad is recovering from sepsis and his heart infection at home. I thought I should follow up since I know I mentioned on Instagram that our family was going through a crisis with his health. He ended up having surgery at the Cleveland Clinic, and recovered just three rooms away from where I recovered from my surgery! Pretty remarkable, I thought, for such a huge hospital. He’s resting in his easy chair, hooked up to IV antibiotics and frustrated that he can’t do, do, do (wonder where I get it?!). But soaking up grandkid snuggles is doing his body good. We’re thankful for his life more than anything this holiday season!

On a more superficial note, I think we’ll be dressing pretty casual for our family gatherings on Christmas Eve and Christmas, but here are our dressier festive looks that we wore to church on Sunday. 

O U T F I T   D E T A I L S :

Mandi: pinafore dress / striped tights / shoes / blouse- hand-me-down from my mom!
Luch: vintage dress from Romantique Touch on Etsy / secondhand tights / hat / secondhand shoes / coat- gift from a friend

mother daughter vintage style blog

mother daughter vintage style blog

mother daughter vintage fashion blog

mother daughter vintage fashion blog

mother daughter vintage fashion blog

children's vintage fashion blog

DIY Gold Striped Mug

DIY Painted Striped Mug with International Delight holiday creamers

It just doesn’t feel like the holiday season unless I’ve made a fun holiday craft! As an adult, I’m much more into fancy housewares than paper chain garlands, so I thought a festive mug would be the perfect thing to make. This painted mug is dishwasher and microwave safe, making an impressive homemade holiday gift, or a nice addition to your own mug collection. I enjoyed using mine for drinking coffee with my favorite seasonal creamers from International Delight. After all, it is the holidays! The peppermint mocha and frosted sugar cookie flavors will only be around for the holidays, and then you’ll have to wait until next year to find them again.

DIY Painted Striped Mug with International Delight

I thought gold stripes would be perfect for the holidays, but would also add glam to my coffee during the rest of the year. You can use any color you like, of course, as long as the paint is clearly dishwasher and food safe.

DIY Painted Striped Mug

yulu yogurt fudgesicles

  • clear glass mug (You can purchase a set of four from Target here.)
  • porcelain paint
  • high quality masking tape (Do not use easy release painter’s tape.)
  • small, high quality paint brush

DIY Painted Striped Mug

Step One: Tape off stripes on your mug. You can trim the masking masking tape to be as wide or thin as you like— just lay out strips onto parchment paper and cut with a blade and ruler. I didn’t measure the spacing between stripes, but ended up pulling up the first tape job to slightly adjust the spacing. My goal was to perfectly incorporate the mug handles into the spacing of the stripes.

Tip: Press down the edges of the tape with your fingernail to make sure it adheres tightly to the walls of the mug. You don’t want paint seeping underneath!

DIY Painted Striped Mug

Step Two: Brush several light coats of porcelain paint onto the open spaces between the tape. The first coat will be very sheer, but don’t worry, after it dries, you can apply a few more coats within mere minutes of each other. After 5 or 6 coats, the paint will be opaque.

Tip: Don’t brush on the paint too thick, or it might seep under the tape or dry in globs around it. The first coat of paint takes only a few minutes to dry, but don’t wait more than a few minutes between subsequent coats or the paint will be likely to pull up with the tape in step three.

DIY Painted Striped Mug

Step Three: Gently peel off the tape, being careful not to peel off any paint with it. The edge of the painted stripes might pop up ever so slightly. Just rub your finger along the edges to push them back down. If any paint has seeped below the tape and dried there, just use your fingernail or a dull blade to carefully scrape it off immediately.

DIY Painted Striped Mug

Step Four: Allow the paint to dry for 24 hours and then bake according to the instructions on the paint bottle you are using. This step ensures your mug will be dishwasher safe. Still— I wouldn’t scrub it clean with anything rough.

DIY gold striped glass mug

After they’re baked, feel free to use them immediately. Fancy, eh? Your friends will never guess you painted them yourself!

DIY Painted Striped Mug with International Delight holiday creamers

The first time I used my mugs, I filled them with freshly brewed coffee and my favorite seasonal creamer from International Delight— Peppermint Mocha. It’s like Christmas in a cup!

International Delight Cartwheel App

You can find International Delight seasonal creamers at most Target stores, and until December 24th, you can get 5% off International Delight, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Silk Coffee Creamers using the Target Cartwheel app. We bought a bunch to keep on hand for holiday parties and cozy evenings at home.

Target Holiday Decorations 2015

And of course we couldn’t resist checking out all of Target’s amazing holiday decorations while we were there! We picked out the girls’ annual ornament, and impulse bought some wrapping paper that was too beautiful to leave behind. Target always has the best supplies for a stylish Christmas!

Target Holiday Decorations 2015

DIY Painted Striped Mug with International Delight holiday creamers

Be sure to let me know if you make your own mugs! You could try hand painting trees, snowflakes, or fun phrases too. So many possibilities!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of WhiteWave Foods. The opinions and text are all mine.

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