Small Business Saturday

Give the gift of handmade this holiday season.

Save some room in your holiday budget after Black Friday because Saturday, November 26, 2016 is Small Business Saturday.  It is a day to celebrate small businesses and what they do for our communities.  I think the marketing for the day is generally geared toward shopping local but as an Army family, the whole United States is our local!  Below you will find a list of some of my very favorite small businesses that you can shop online.  Of course, my most favorite small business is Julie G. Benson Handmade (insert smiley-winky emoticon).  

The Old Try

Maiden South

Louise Dec.o

R. Riveter

Crafted Westside

Block and Hammer

Cover Love

Brat Stamps


Bridget Bohannon

Digitally Handmade

The Path to Fulfillment

This post was originally written for and published in the MILLIE Journal.  It answers the question, what makes you a MILLIE (Military Spouse who is "a creative problem solver, who owns the military experience in their unique way".)

According to Gary Chapman, my love language is “Acts of Service”. It took me some time in my young adulthood to find my way and apply that to my career, but I did. At the time I got married, I had the best job in the world. After the wedding we PCS’d 3 hours away from my home city and I chose to maintain my employment. As a nurse in a cardiovascular ICU, I loved everything about my job. Despite the hardship of my new commute, I scratched and clawed to hold on to that job, long past the point of reason. I would sign up for consecutive shifts, travel to Baton Rouge for a couple of days and then drive back late at night after my last shift. The roads were dark and long but I didn’t care because I had the privilege of taking care of people in their darkest hour and most intimate moments. These people trusted me with their lives and I couldn’t walk away from that level of servitude.

It took me a long time to leave the job but I eventually did. I worked in another hospital closer to Ft. Polk but it never seemed a good fit. I became a volunteering aficionado on our post. I did FRG, soccer coaching, taught various fitness classes; I even dabbled in business with family photography. Still, nothing quite fit.

We had our first baby right about the time we PCS’d. In our new home I started out with plenty to do caring for the new baby, embracing my role as a mom, and carving my spot in our new neighborhood. While I was, and still am, proud to stay home with my baby, I felt aimless and I needed to do more and serve outside of my home. I didn’t know how to bring my baby along and as the new family in town I also didn’t know how to leave my baby with someone. I didn’t know how to sit still and not serve my neighbor so I brought my immediate neighbors food frequently and hosted parties whenever I could. I laid in wait for the right time to do the right thing that would flex all the right parts in my heart and in my brain.

Right before my son turned one, we met up with my parents in New Orleans and my mom gave me her old sewing machine to take back home. I didn’t know what I was doing but Pinterest and YouTube did. What started as a plan to make cute party decorations quickly turned into sewing small gifts and then immediately into quilt making. I made my first quilt to give to my mom. It was a terrible mess but I was hooked.

I looked for any reason to make someone a quilt. Babies, moving, christening, mother’s day. My brother got a new dog and I even made a pair of quilts for his dogs (which they promptly chewed to pieces). When I wasn’t making a quilt for someone I knew, I was making one for donation. I was finally finding my groove again and it felt really good.

We PCS’d again, had a baby again, and I started feeling that same aimlessness again. This time, I took a leap and decided to make a business out of quilt making. I feared that the business would take away the joy, the reach, the creative spirit, but man oh man, I was wrong. The joy of knowing that something I made with my own two hands will go out into this world and serve as a comfort to someone else is immeasurable. The reach goes far beyond those that I know as it ripples outside of my close circle and the business has flexed so many of the nooks and crannies in my mind as I explore new ideas and problem solving.

Recently, my Baton Rouge experienced crushing floods. People I know and love, my neighbors, my patients, my people, were losing their homes and everything in them just like that. I sat helpless and restless and horrified as I scoured Facebook and text messages looking for welfare and property updates. Rather than continuing to wring my hands, I started sewing some fabric and sold some simple wall hangings and gave every penny of the sale to the Louisiana Flood Relief Fund. I may not be physically in the place I call home, helping my neighbor, but my business and the joy, the reach, the creative spirit, have allowed me to care for my people, how ever small it may be, with my own two hands.

As a MILLIE, we move, we make nice, we uproot, we repeat. In between each of those steps, there are a million different forks in the road where we choose our path and make our lives. I never went back to work in the hospital after the first baby. People often ask me when I will go back to nursing and the answer is, when I can give it what it deserves and the path guides me there. Until that time, I love the path that I am on.

The Things that Make Home, Home.

What are the things that make your home, home?  Family and love are clearly the anchor here in this conversation but I am talking about the creature comforts.  What objects do you carry with you that reveal your family's spirit?  My kids are too young now but one day, years from now, they will see something in my house and it will bring them straight back to a childhood memory.  What will that something be?  Right now, I have the editorial rights to that place and time.   

This morning while the baby napped and the boy played, I straightened, dusted, sorted, vacuumed, wiped, and mopped.  When I got to the desk in the kitchen, it was spilling over with papers, receipts, "treasures" that kids collect, things undone, things to do.  The desk tells a tale of my disorganization and my lack of process.  I don't want my kids to see that kind of chaos and accept that as our norm.  The question is, how do I curate a home that is representative of the spirit and the heartbeat of my family?  

My bookshelves are actually a pretty good testimony of our lives.  I look at these shelves and I am satisfied with the memories they hold, the function they preform, and the message they send.  Cut to my couch; my couch is driving me crazy.  I can't get the pillow situation under control.  What the heck?  I'm the lady that sews, right?  The only truth these pillows speak is that I like stripes but that's about it.  (I have this friend that gives me major pillow envy.  I have definitely overstayed my welcome at her house a time or two as I was lost in throw pillow bliss.)  The wall hanging behind is really important to me so I'm on the path to an intentional home..... 

Wall Hanging - Haptic Lab

Wall Hanging - Haptic Lab

ANYWAY, I'm going to take a long hard look at my home in the next few months.  I will start eliminating the noise so that our objects of importance can shine.  I will ask myself, are these the the sights, the sounds, the feels I want my kids to carry with them?  


A week ago I got a message from one of my closest friends that said, "Anyway you can go to Embark in Norfolk on Friday?".  I gave her some excuses but fortunately she is a relentless human being and I knew my self-doubt laden defense would not satisfy her.  So, I asked my husband if he could take the day off work to watch the kids while I attended this all day conference.  For sure he would say, "I need more than 3 days notice, so no".....but he didn't.  He said yes, let's all go.  With my family at my back and one friend at the conference holding her hand out to me, I set out to Embark.    

Let me back up for a minute and tell you that Embark is a conference for Military Spouse Entrepreneurs focused on education and empowerment.  The event is put on by The Milspo Project, a nonprofit group.  This powerhouse of a group has put together a huge network of spouses in a very short period of time.  I mean, The Milspo Project is younger than my son and they are already on their 3rd conference! 

I started my business with nothing more than a talent for handmade and a need to do something to flex my brain muscle.  In the last 6 months it has grown into so much more for me!  At Embark, I had the privilege of listening to some truly inspiring military spouses talk about finding success and fulfillment in their companies that only made me crave more growth.  I heard about grit, service, persistence, communication, authenticity, strength, balance, and intentionality.  Look at those words....who wouldn't come home ready to roll up some sleeves and dig deeper into work!?!

The conference passed by in a flash.  I think I leaned forward and had a grin on my face the entire time.  I am so grateful to the people that got me there (Lauren, Bix, kids) and the people that made it happen (The Milspo Project, Amy).  I met the folks of businesses that I really look up to like R. Riveter, MadSkills, InDependent , Millie and new ones that I am now following like Dr. Patrice J. Carter , Corie Weathers  , Fleur De Lis Fitness, Germono Advertising Agency .  The conference wasn't all business....I managed to make some friends along the way.  I can hardly wait until next year's 4th Annual Embark.

On the Shop: August 2016

On the sketch pad this week I have been playing around with proportions for triangles.  I am tweaking my negative space to get the best graphic pop out of these bold triangles.  


On the cutting table I have rugby stripes galore.  I am working on a design series that captures the old Alma Mater with my favorite…the stripe.  I am still working out the fabrics and colors that I will be able to offer but, ahem, Hook em Horns and Geaux Tigers


On the machine I am finishing up a few works in progress.  I have a single large scale swiss cross, a turkish towel quilt, and a whole cloth tummy time quilt to quilt up and then I am binding this very cool, very modern gray scale tummy time quilt.  


On the horizon is my very first craft market.  I will be joining a great community of local artists for the fleaVILLE craft market at the IX Art Park in Charlottesville on September 10.  I am super duper excited and have tons to do to prepare.  It’s a good thing I like keeping busy….




On my table this month we have enjoyed a few times a Baked Croque Monsieur.  It is a simple recipe that combines foods that just plain and simple belong together.  Find the recipe over at The Kitchn.  

Image:  Jenny Huang, The Kitchn

Image:  Jenny Huang, The Kitchn


On my mind lately is how big and scary our world seems.  I have been filled with anxiety and fear for my children and not only their safety but also their relationships with the outside world.  This morning in church, our pastor spoke of kindness as one of the virtues of the spirit.  Kindness has the capability of filling your heart with joy and mending your broken spirit.  I am going to do something about my fear and I am going to put that energy into kindness.  After all, kindness is contagious and I want my kids to catch it!