Posted in blogging, Crafting Corner

9 Practical Tips To Help You Overcome Writer’s Block

This post contains affiliate links which means that I may receive a small fee, at no additional cost to you, when you purchase items using the links provided. As an Amazon associate I  earn from qualifying purchases.

Have you ever suffered from a case of writer‘s block? You keep pounding away at the keys hoping that a topic will come to mind. You keep writing and writing the same post over and over again, but you just can’t seem to get it right.

I think we’ve all been there. Whether you are a blogger, author or a student writing a paper for English class, writer’s block doesn’t discriminate.

 It seems like the more you try to write the more frustrated you become. The good thing is that there are a few simple tricks to help you overcome writer’s block.

1. Walk Away

If you’ve been working on a blog post a few hours or days and aren’t getting anywhere your best bet is to walk away  for a little while. 

Get up from the computer and continue on with the rest of your day. Who knows maybe inspiration will strike you while your out grocery shopping. 

2. Exercise

Get out the house and walk around the neighborhood or go to the gym an do a quick workout. The exercise will get your blood pumping and release endorphins that can help boost your mood.

3. Change Locations

Sometimes you just need to change your surrounding to find inspiration. If you’ve been working in the house all day take your computer and go outside or go to a cafe.

4. Listen to Music

When I was in college I did my best work when I was listening to music. I would just put on my headphones, crank up the volume and just zone out. It was just me, my tunes and whatever it was I was studying that night.

5. Read A Book

Take a few minutes and sit down with your favorite book. Get lost in the story for a little while. 

6. Coloring

Coloring isn’t just for kids anymore. It is a great way to relieve stress and get your creative”juices” flowing again. Don’t worry they have coloring books for adults.

7. Play

Step away from whatever it is your writing and take some time to play. Whether you play with your kids, play a video game, or a card game. Go out and have some fun for a little bit.

8. Take a Shower/ Bath

Sometimes the best ideas come when you’re relaxing in the shower or tub. In my opinion there is nothing better than a hot shower to calm your mind.

9. Eat a Snack

Thinking uses a lot of energy. Take a time out and refuel your brain with a healthy snack.

Final Thoughts

Writer’s block can cause you to become stressed and unable to think.  When you get frustrated take time to step away from the computer and relax. It will help you refocus and get you back on the right track. 

Do you have a special technique that you use to overcome writer’s block? I’d love to hear it. Please feel free to share it in the comment section.

Don’t forget to like and share this post to social media. If you haven’t already, subscribe to my e-mail list.

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Until Next Time,

The Crafty Afro

To My Followers

As many of you know I started blogging almost 9 months ago. Wow, it doesn’t seem like it was that long ago.

I must say that blogging has been a very eye opening and fun experience.

It has allowed me to express myself in a way that I would have never thought possible 9 months ago.

I realize that I still have a lot to learn and a long way to go as a blogger. I just wanted to share with you guys that we’ve finally hit the over 50 (55 to be exact) follower mark!

For those of you that have been blogging for awhile I’m sure this number may seem trivial, but we must learn to appreciate the small things in life.

As I continue to learn more about blogging and become more serious about it I’m sure my numbers will continue to grow.

To all of my current followers I just want to say a huge, “Thank You!” for following me.

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

I hope you will continue to follow me on this blogging journey. I am forever grateful to you all!

Until Next Time,

The Crafty Afro

Posted in Crafting Corner, diy, sewing

Super Simple Zipper Pouch Sewing Tutorial for Beginners

stack of zippered pouches with a pink rose

Make up bags. Pencil pouches. Coin purse. Mom first aid kit. What do all these things have in common? Simply put they are all just different variations of a zippered pouch. 

I first started making zippered pouches because I wanted to learn how to sew a zipper. And creating a zippered pouch is a fairly simple and straight forward way to get practice sewing zippers.

I’m relatively new to sewing so I was very excited when I made my first one and it came out better than I could imagine.

It wasn’t too long before I started making all kinds of pouches! You can use them for just about anything and everything.

You need a pouch to carry your essential oils? Pow! Zippered pouch to the rescue!

Your kid has a bunch of small tools laying around house? I got a zippered pouch to put those suckers in!

Another thing that’s great about making your own zippered pouches is that you can make them a small or as large as you want. It’s a very versatile project. 

On top of that they are fairly inexpensive to make. I think I spent about $3 to make the pouch I used for this tutorial.

 As you can tell I’m pretty excited about making zippered pouches. I’m also excited to share with you this easy photo tutorial that I’ve put together to help you make a simple zippered pouch. 

I’m sure once you’ve made your first one you’ll be making many more! So without further ado, let’s get started!

Materials

This post contains affiliate links which means that I may receive a small fee, at no additional cost to you, when you purchase items using the links provided. As an Amazon associate I  earn from qualifying purchases.

Important Sewing terms

  • Zipper foot- type of presser foot that is used to attach zippers.
  • Right Side (rs)- The pretty side of the fabric
  • Wrong Side (wr)- The plain side of the fabric
  • Top stitch- stitches placed on the right side of the fabric for decorative purposes
  • Seam allowance- area between the fabric edge and the line you stitch

Tutorial

1.Prep Materials

Before you start sewing you will want to do the following things:

  • Iron fabric to get out all of the wrinkles. Make sure you iron your fabric on the appropriate setting.
  • Attach your zipper foot to your machine.
  • Thread your bobbin with your coordinating thread colors and thread your machine. Change your needle if you have already used it few times. If you are using thick fabric you may want to use a bigger needle. Check your manual to ensure you are using the proper size needle for the fabric you will be using. 

2. Cut Your Fabric

  • Cut  two 8.5 in x 7.5 in rectangles from your lining fabric and your outer fabric. You should have four rectangles (2 lining and 2 outer fabric pieces). I can’t cut a straight line with scissors to save my life, instead I use the rotary cutter set that my husband brought for me. It’s made my life much easier.

 Tip: If you are using a different size zipper you will want to cut your fabric the same length as your zipper. If you brought a 9 in zipper add 1.5 inches to the length of your fabric.  The 9 inches doesn’t include the material at the end of the zipper. 

3.  Zipper Sandwich

This is one of the most important steps of the process. Take your time and make sure everything is lined up correctly and facing the right direction.

  • Place the lining fabric right side (rs) up on the table.
  • Lining fabric is placed rs up.
  • Place the zipper right side up on top of the lining fabric, line the zipper up with the top edge of the lining fabric.
    Zipper is lined up with lining fabric.
  • Place the outer fabric right side down on top of the zipper and line up the edges.
  • Pin or clip the edges together. (I prefer to use clips because they are easier to manipulate than sewing pins. I brought a pack of cheap binder clips from Walmart for .88, but they have nicersewing clips that you can use.)
    All the pieces clipped together.

    Now you have a zipper sandwich! Well at least one half of it. 🙂

Tip: Before you start sewing take a piece of scrap fabric and sew a few stitches. Check to make sure your tension and stitch length are correct. The thicker the fabric the longer the stitches should be. 

4. Sewing The Pieces Together

Slowly sew everything together.
  • Place your zipper sandwich on your sewing machine  and sew a straight line down the length of the zipper.  Make sure to remove the pin/clips as you sew. Cut your threads.
    Completed zipper sandwich.

Tips: Before you get to the zipper tab,stop sewing and back stitch. Take your fabric off the machine and unzip the zipper. (Or you can leave the needle in the fabric and unzip the zipper. ) Place your fabric back on the machine and continue sewing from where you left off. 

Unzip the zipper and keep sewing.

5. Create Another Zipper Sandwich & 6. Sew The Pieces Together

At this point you should have one side of the pouch attached to the zipper. You are going to repeat steps 3 and 4. 

Completed zipper sandwich.

Lining fabric is rs up.
  • Place the lining fabric rs up and line the zipper up with the fabric.
Rs of the outer fabric should be facing each other.

Place outer fabric rs down on top of zipper. Line everything up and pin/clip in place. Sew it together.

Your finished product should look like this:

7. Press Your Fabric

  • Press your fabric. Make sure that you are pressing away from the zipper on each side.

Note: If you are using a metal zipper be very careful because the teeth will get hot and burn you. 

  • Press fabric away from the zipper.

8. Top stitching

  • Take your fabric back to the machine and place a straight top stitch on each side of the zipper.
    Top stitch on both sides of the zipper.

9. Match Up Sides

  • Fold the fabric so that the right sides of the fabric are facing each other. Do the same thing with the outer fabric. Pin or clip the sides together.
  • Fold the ends of the zipper so that they are facing the lining of the fabric and pin/clip each side together.  Unzip the zipper halfway before clipping both ends together.

*All you should see at this point are the wrong sides of the fabric. 

All clipped together.

10. Sew It Together

  • Starting at the top  middle of the lining fabric using a .5 in seam allowance sew around the perimeter of the fabric.
    Sew along the perimeter with .5 in seam allowance
  • You will need to leave a gap at the top of the lining fabric large enough to stick your hand through.  DO NOT  SEW CLOSED.
    3 finger width gap in fabric

 Tips:

  • go slow when you get to the zipper area you may need to use the hand wheel to sew through this area because it will be thicker than the rest of the fabric. You do not want to hit the metal part of the zipper. 
  • Leave your needle in the fabric when you are turning the corners. 

11. Trim

  • Trim off the excess fabric and an excess bulk from the zipper area. Be careful not to cut the thread. Also trim all loose threads if you haven’t already.

Tip- cut your corners at an angle, this will help when you have to turn the bag right side out. 

Clip the edges at an angle

12. Time To Flip Out (The Fun Part)

  • Put your hand inside the hole you left in the lining fabric and gently pull the outer fabric through the zipper. You may need to unzip the zipper more to flip the bag completely out.

Pulling the outer fabric through.

Viola! You have a cute little zippered bag to use however you wish! But before we can use it we have to do one more thing.

Completed zipper pouch

If you did not place your fabric right when making the zipper fabric your bag will look like this:

Outer fabric is showing the ws of the fabric.

13. Sew the Lining Closed

  • Tuck the raw edges of the lining fabric together and sew it shut either by hand or using your sewing machine.

14. Finishing touches

  • Using a pencil or another blunt object push out the corners of your bag.
  • Zip the top closed and press your bag to give it that professional touch. 
Finished product.

Congratulations you have made your first zippered pouch! These are great to give as gifts and are pretty easy to put together once you get the hang of it.Not to mention there are so many other different bag styles that you can make once you get the basics down.

If you have any questions or need clarification please don’t hesitate to leave me a message in the comments area.

If you found this tutorial helpful please feel free to share it. I hop you enjoy making many more pouches!

Until next time,

The Crafty Afro

Posted in Family

Having These 5 Skills Can Make You A More Effective Stay At Home Parent

Woman holding a child.
Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

When most adults hear the word ” skills” we automatically start thinking about jobs and resumes. It’s not a term one usually associates with parenting.

But parenting in and of itself is a job that requires many of the skills that we use in the business world and in everyday life. Some of these skills we learn in school and some of them we learn through life lessons.

These are the skills that many stay at home parents need to call upon if they want to have an enjoyable experience as a stay at home parent.

I am going to share with you the top 5 skills that all stay at home parents need to master to be an effective and happy stay at home parents.

1. Money Management

Piggy bank with coins on the floor around it.
Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

I may receive compensation, at no additional cost to you, when you sign-up for some of the cashback services using the links I provided. Thank you for your support.

Unless you’re married to a billionaire or are fortunate enough to have your own personal accountant learning how to manage your families money is an important skill all adults should learn.

However, as evidenced by the amount of debt most Americans have it is a skill that most of us have not mastered. This skill is even more important when you are living on one income.

A few basic money management techniques that all stay at home parents should master are budgeting and couponing.

Budgeting

I don’t think I’ve ever met a person who was a big fan of budgeting. But budgeting has several benefits such as:

  • Allowing you to take control of your finances.
  • Help you keep track of your spending.
  • Help you save for family vacations, emergency expenses, and help pay down deb.
  • It can help you produce extra money.
  • It enables you to communicate with your spouse about finances.

If you would like to learn more about budgeting you can read my post on budgeting and the different kinds of budgets here.

Couponing

I’m sure I’m not the only person who’s watched extreme couponing and wished that they could buy $500 worth of food for .30.

Besides paying for a place to live your monthly food bill probably takes a huge chunk of your paycheck. A family of 4 can easily spend $400- 500 a month on food.

Couponing is a great way to help you reduce your family’s monthly grocery expenses. You can usually find coupons in the Sunday paper, but you can also get and print coupons online.

MoneyPantry has a list of 61 sites that offer free printable grocery coupons.

If you’re not sure how to use your coupons to get the best savings check out The Krazy Coupon Lady. She compiles all of the best deals and shows you how to combine your coupons to get the most savings.

Coupons are not just great for saving on groceries, they’re also great for saving on clothing and other nonfood related items.

Cash Back Apps

Cashback apps work just as well as coupons and can be used with coupons to help increase your savings.

Popular Grocery Cash Back Apps

There are several different grocery apps that you can use to get cash back on your grocery purchases. My favorites are Ibotta and Checkout 51, but there are several other cashback apps out there.

Popular General Cash Back Apps

There are also cash back apps that can be used on general purchases such as clothing and gas.

You usually have to link these apps to your credit card so it can track your purchases. My favorite general cash back apps are receipt hog and ebates.

  • Receipt Hog– gives you points for uploading receipts every week. These points can be used to redeem gift cards or cash.
  • Ebates gives you cash back on items you buy from select stores like JCPenney, Amazon, Kohl’s etc
  • Dosh cash back on purchases made in select stores online and instore
  • Paribus– monitors price drops from stores that you’ve made purchases.at and gets you a refund on the adjusted price.

All of these apps can help you save money on your everyday purchases and help you keep and maintain your family budget.

2.Time Management

Red clock sitting in the grass.
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Another important skill that we all need to brush up on is our time management.

As a stay at home parent, it’s tempting to think that you have all the time in the world to get the things you want to do done.

I know I did when I first started my stay at home journey. I didn’t take me long to realize that trying to get things done with 1-4 kids running around the house was a lot harder and a lot more time consuming than I thought.

Your time is a valuable asset and we should use the time that we have during the day wisely.

One of the best ways to make sure that we are using our time wisely as stay at home parents is to create routines and find ways to keep organized.

Routines

Before I became a stay at home mom I didn’t really give a second thought to creating or sticking to a routine because my day was already planned out for me. Work, home, food, bed, repeat.

It wasn’t too long into my transition as a stay at home mom that I realized that not having a daily routine was not going to help me keep my sanity or keep my kids alive.

Every family can benefit from having a daily routine. Having a daily routine will:

  • Help you be more productive during the day.
  • Help you break bad habits (like procrastination).
  • Improves your mental health by providing you time to relax.
  • Allows you to decide how your day goes.
  • Benefits your kids.

Some people like to schedule every minute of the day and some like a more flexible schedule.

I would suggest creating a schedule that works best for you and your family. If you have smaller kids a more flexible schedule might work better for you, then a ridge one.

Here is a peek at my family’s morning routine:

5:00 AM- Wake-up/Read the Bible and Pray

6:30 AM Wake-Up Kids & Get Ready for school

7:45 AM Drop off kids

9:00 AM Work-Out/ Baby Nap Time

10:00 AM Clean up

11:00 AM Cook Lunch

12:00 PM Pick Up Kids/Lunch

As you can see there are some big gaps in parts of my schedule, but that just gives me some extra time, just in case things don’t go as planned.

If I could emphasize one thing about creating your daily routine it would be to schedule some “Me” time during the day. Even if you can’t manage it every day at least shoot for once a week.

Dealing with kids all day can be fun and stressful. You need that time to just get away and relax, even if it’s just for 10 minutes. Trust me it will make a huge difference.

Organization

I will admit that being organized is something that I struggle with a lot. When I taught high school I was that science teacher that had piles of paper all over the place. I liked to call it organized chaos.

As you can imagine some of my organized chaos habits spilled over into my home life, which when your only living in your house from 4-9 pm every day it’s not really that big of a deal.

But all of that changed once I started being home all day. I went from spending 5 waking hours in the house to 16 waking hours in the house. A very cluttered small house.

I quickly realized that I needed to get organized and quick. One of the best techniques I’ve used for organizing and decluttering my home is fairly simple.

Step 1- Pick an area to declutter.

Step 2- Create three piles (you can use bins if you want) keep, toss, donate

Step 3- Set a timer for 30 minutes – 1 hour (depending on the size of the room)

Step 4- Organize and put back everything in the keep pile.

Step 5- Get rid of everything else ASAP!

The last step very important. If you don’t throw away or donate the stuff in those piles it will slowly make its way back into your house. Trust me I know.

Declutter and organizing your home can be very overwhelming. That’s why I think it’s important to start small and set a time limit. Even better you can enlist the help of a friend or your family to help with the process.

If you don’t finish in the time limit you can either keep going or start again later. Don’t expect everything to be perfect, but having an organized home makes cleaning and finding things easier.

I don’t even want to imagine how much time I wasted searching for keys, book bags, and coats because everything was all over the house.

Once you’ve managed to get everything organized you should make decluttering a regular part of your cleaning routine. If not you’ll find yourself back in a state of organized or not so organized chaos.

3.Communication

Woman texting on a cell phone.
Photo by JÉSHOOTS on Pexels.com

The next skill that we will need to brush up on is our communication and networking skills.

Setting Expectations

The transition from financial independence to dependent can be a hard one for both spouses. It is important for both spouses to learn how to communicate clearly, respectfully and openly with each other.

You should both sit down and discuss what your expectations are for yourself and for each other.

I can tell you for a fact that most stay at home parents set unrealistic expectations for themselves and other people set unrealistic expectations on them.

Despite the fact that being a stay at home mom is a choice that many women and some dads choose to make it is still clouded in negative stereotypes and false beliefs about what it is a stay at home parent does all day.

Most people think that we just sit at home baking cookies and watching Netflix all day. That raising kids is easy and since you’re not doing anything all day, then you must have ample time to cook, clean, fold laundry, and save the world.

The fact is that being in the house with kids all day is hard work. Cooking, cleaning, folding laundry, picking and dropping kids off at their various activities, going to playgroups and arranging playdates, grocery shopping, managing the household budget all take considerable time, effort, and skill. *steps off soapbox*

It is not easy by any stretch of the imagination especially when you’re first starting out. So dear stay at home parent if you are feeling overwhelmed please communicate this with your spouse. And both of you set realistic expectations for each other.

Social Networking

If you are an introvert, like me, social networking is a hard skill to manage. This is the part of parenting that requires you to make friends with/ or at least talk to other parents.

If you were a social butterfly in high school, then this process will be a bit easier for you. Better yet if you already have friends with age-appropriate kids that’s even better.

Making friends as an adult is just as complicated and awkward as it was when you were in school. Honestly, I’m not even sure how I made friends in high school or as an adult. I guess it helped that I was an athlete so I had some form of social skills.

Still, my idea of a good time is sitting at home with my family watching anime or Netflix. Going to birthday parties, play groups, and other social functions kids might attend is way outside my wheelhouse.

But I love my kids so I make an effort to get out there and try to make grown-up friends or at least to be friendly.

Maybe you’re socially challenged like me here is a great post about making parent friends. Apparently, there are also apps to help you make mom/dad friends.

4. Basic Homemaking

Person moping the floor.
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Every stay at home parent should brush up on all the basic homemaking skills: cooking, cleaning, and sewing. The main reason we became stay at home parents was to spend time with our kids. So my philosophy is that we should work smarter, not harder in these areas.

Cooking

Earlier we talked about budgeting and how your food budget is usually your largest expense. This is especially true if your family eats out often. The average family of four can spend anywhere from $20- 30 on take-out per meal.

So if you go to McDonald’s for lunch and Burger King for dinner you’ve easily spent $40 on food alone. If that happens once a week that can easily add up to $160.00 for the month.

Making meals at home is cheaper and healthier for you and your family. It can also be time-consuming.

Meal planning can be an effective way to save time and money on groceries every week.

Thekitchen.com has an excellent post on meal planning called beginners guide to meal planning.

I’ve only tried meal planning in a very limited capacity. My family does theme meal days. For example, Monday is Meatless Monday. Tuesday is Taco Tuesday, and Thursday is Takeout Thursday.

While I don’t know what meal I’m making for dinner I do at least have an idea of what I need to buy for those meals during the week.

Another tip that I read was to use your kid’s school lunch menu to help you plan your meals.

If you have kids that don’t go to school you can easily use the lunch menu to plan what you kids at home will be having for lunch for the rest of the month.

Cleaning

Like cooking, cleaning is another basic skill that we could all brush up on. The best way I’ve found to keep my home clean is to set up a cleaning routine.

My personal routine involves cleaning one spot in the house daily for 30 minutes. On Saturday I spend an hour cleaning and decluttering a specific area in the house.

Monday-Bathroom

Tuesday- Kitchen

Wednesday- Hallways

Thursday- Bedrooms

Friday- Living Room

Saturday- deep cleaning 1 area

Saturday cleaning usually doesn’t take to long if I’ve stuck to the weekly schedule.

If you have older children it is important to remember that they can help keep the house clean as well. Don’t be afraid to put them to work.

Some other cleaning routines that you might want to check out:

Sewing

While sewing is not a necessary skill I do think it’s a worthwhile skill to have when you have small children. My youngest son is constantly getting holes in his shirts and pants.

Learning how to patch the holes in his jeans and how to sew closed the holes in his shirts has helped extend the shelf life of his clothes.

You don’t need a fancy machine for basic sewing all you need is a needle and thread. It will definitely come in handy one day.

5. Research

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Locating Free Resources

Every city has a host of free resources at your disposal. The question is whether or not you know about them.

Being able to locate these resources will come in handy when you need to find things to keep your little ones entertained during the day.

Check the following places for information on free family-friendly activities:

  • City website and facebook page
  • Local recreation center
  • City Parks
  • Local library
  • YMCA

All of these places should be able to direct you on the right path. You can also find free parenting classes, money management classes, and health and nutrition classes.

Final Thoughts

Before I wrap up my list of skills there is one more important skill that I forgot to mention above. The final skill that all stay at home parents need is having a sense of humor.

Sometimes as adults, we take ourselves too seriously and we forget the reason why we even decided to become a stay at home parent.

This a time for us to enjoy our children and to spend time with them. So if the house is still a little messy that’s ok. If the routine gets thrown off because the kids put yogurt all over the floor, don’t stress.

Just take a deep breath, relax and enjoy the messiness and silliness that is our kids.

They say that laughter is the best medicine. So remember not to take yourself too seriously and to make plenty of time for laughter and smiles with your kiddos.

Whether we are stay at home parents or working parents we could all use some brushing up on at least one of the five skills discussed today.

In my opinion, no skills are more important than the others and we need all five of them to make our journey as stay at home parents a positive and effective one.

Is there one skill that you think is more important than all of the rest? Do you have a particular routine or organization strategy you like to use? Or maybe you think one of these skills makes you more effective than the others.

Please share your thoughts in the comments section. If you thought this post was really helpful or insightful please feel free to share it.

Until Next Time,

The Crafty Afro