Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tuesday's Review: Battle of the Craft Stores

I'm not a hard-core crafter but I do enjoy the occasional project, especially DIY projects that save me money. Here in Visalia, the main crafting stores are Michael's and JoAnn's and my usual project list requires that I hit up both places in order to get my supplies. Until today...

(Insert sound clip of large choir singing the "Hallelujah Chorus")

As of January 2011, our town can now boast a Hobby Lobby craft store. I have been eying the store front for a month or so, waiting to see signs of life and plotting my first scouting mission. I am pleased to report that today we have mission accomplished.

Ok, so onto the "review" part.

My goal for the initial walk-through was to see how Hobby Lobby compared to its local competitors, Michael's and JoAnn's. Here is what I came up with:

Hobby Lobby v. Michael's

Hobby Lobby is simply a much larger store. It has two to three times more product than our local Michael's store and carries a larger variety of brands and options within the brands. Though I didn't do a massive amount of research as far as price comparisons go, the crafting items I purchased (scrap-booking paper, felt, a few home decor items), were on sale and definitely less expensive than the same products would have been at Michael's. I appreciated the huge selection as well. I didn't feel like I needed to go check out any other stores for more variety before making a purchase.

Where Michael's scores a few points is in their coupon campaigns. I can always find a coupon for Michael's either in the paper or at the end of an old receipt. When I find an item on sale and have a coupon to add to the discount, I usually walk out of the store feeling pretty thrifty. The other "plus" Michael's has going for it is their Martha Stewart product line. I'm a fan of her crafting tools and kits and they are only available at Michael's.

Hobby Lobby v. JoAnn's

Hobby Lobby does carry both home and fashion fabrics. I was a bit surprised at how small their selection was but was impressed by the quality and "cuteness" of what was in stock and the competitive prices of the yardage. Like I mentioned in the Michael's comparison, Hobby Lobby has a lot more product than JoAnn's, making it a nice "one-stop" shop.

Another interesting aspect to the Hobby Lobby store is the clear Christian influence. There are products with Scripture and religious phrases all over. They even carry fabric with Christian symbols and phrases printed on them. The music being played was instrumental praise music and they sell various types of worship CD's at each checkout counter

I am still a big JoAnn's fan for specific things like fabric and sewing supplies, especially when I can find what I need on sale. I have picked up some great remnant pieces as well as beautiful outdoor fabric on the super cheap which I watched for sale ads and stayed up on the seasonal deals. This works great for projects that can be planned and finished over time. It's not so great, however, for that Saturday project you saw on a blog and wanted to finish by that evening. If its not on sale and you don't have a coupon, JoAnn's can get pricey. Other than having a larger fabric selection, JoAnn's usually does a good job of having one or two isles of clearance items. Sometimes the prices are still more than I would spend but every once and a while I find a jewel of an item for next to nothing which always makes my day.

In My Humble Opinion

Overall, Hobby Lobby takes the cake. I'm sure there are items that are more expensive than at the competitor stores but from what I saw today, prices were very comparable. Hobby Lobby also boasts a large selection of gardening supplies (not like rakes and shovels but cute decor and kid supplies) as well as some great small furniture pieces and lamps. They also have multiple isles of great decor items like mirrors, clocks, frames, metal signs, and other wall fixtures. A lot of the products looked like something you would find at a TJ Maxx or Home Goods and though the furniture was priced a bit higher than I would want to pay, almost every other decor item was on sale and at least 50% off making it super affordable.

I'm a fan. I spent over an hour perusing the store today (Sawyer was with his grandparents and I took full advantage) and could have been in there for much longer would my budget have allowed it. Definitely a new favorite shopping spot!


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

In my humble opinion...

Those of you who know me well, know that I have no problem sharing my opinion on almost anything.  When provoked, I have been known to spew my thoughts on everything from Lady Gaga to Diet Coke...ok, so I don't always wait till provoked. Though there are only a handful of topics on which I would consider myself to be an "expert," I enjoy learning and trying new things and sharing my experiences for the benefit of others.


I am going to attempt two product review blog posts each week. I will highlight various household and personal products and give you my opinion on their worth and effectiveness. Tuesdays and Fridays you can expect to see various posts on anything and everything from my favorite jarred marinara sauce to the amazing novel I just finished and think everyone should read. Some will find my opinions interesting, most won't care in the least. Either way, I am looking forward to sharing my discoveries and thoughts with the blogging world and getting back into a regular blogging schedule. We'll see how it goes!!!

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Journey At Hand

There was a time, not so very long ago, when I would look at my life and the various events which would occur, and regularly say to myself, "I should blog about that." New furniture, a great recipe, some thrift-store finds, or a parenting dilemma were all viable candidates for a new post. I am not quite sure what happened. Suddenly this "blogging momma" went from once a week to... well, it has been four months since my last update.

All that to say, though I don't think I'm jumping back on the weekly wagon, I do hope to get back into blogging if simply for the sake of documenting life a bit. It is fun to look back on previous entries and remember valuable lessons learned and great deals found.

Ok so onto the actual blog post...

We have been in Visalia for almost seven months. Amazing to think about how much life has changed since January of 2010. In the last year we took a trip to the devastated country of Haiti, Tim took a new job with Valley Orthopedic, we moved to Visalia, got rid of the pacifier, bought our first home (which I consider as big of an accomplishment as getting rid of the pacifier), Tim went back to school, found out we were pregnant with #2, and survived two whole years of parenting (happy birthday Sawyer).

In the midst of the change and adjustment to life back in the Valley, we were praying regularly that God would lead us to a good church. Praise the Lord, by August of last year, we had found a home. We have plugged in at Radiant Church in Visalia and have been blessed beyond all get out during our time thus far. Radiant is a non-denominational, charismatic church of about 200 people and it is an alive and growing body.

Let me pause for a moment and address what I know some of you may be a bit hung up on. That word "charismatic" can bring a whole host of feelings depending on your experience and knowledge. When we were first invited to the church and were told it was "a bit on the charismatic side," we were hesitant, partly due to strange experiences, but mostly out of ignorance to what in the world that might mean. I am so thankful we did not allow our lack of comfort to keep us from visiting and finding the jewel of a church we are now apart of.

Because many of the variables involved in any given Sunday service are not what we were used to, it did take some time to adjust and learn about the many expressions of worship we had never experienced at our previous churches. Though I was somewhat comfortable with gifts of the Spirit such as tongues or teaching, I had never been in a service where someone received a Word from the Lord and stood and spoke it for the benefit of the entire congregation. In Guatemala I attended a church which had reserved half of its sanctuary as a dance floor (where, every week, the first people to utilize the space were the elders of the church). Though there is no designated dance space at Radiant, it is not uncommon for people to worship in dance.

Tim and I have spent many hours discussing these new and different means of expression worship and how they fit into our current understanding of scripture and the direction God has given His church. We met with the Senior Pastor and his wife (who, yesterday, brought me over a batch of the Pioneer Woman's cinnamon rolls- winner) multiple times to ask questions and share our hearts on the matter. We were like sponges. Travis, our Senior Pastor, called us a few weeks ago and said he had a book he thought we would enjoy. He brought us "Empowered Evangelicals" by Rich Nathan and Ken Wilson and encouraged us to read it as we were processing through these new experiences.

I started to read the book before Christmas and ended up giving my dad a copy as a gift. Though I am not done, the book has really helped me to understand the roots of both the charismatic and evangelical movements and why they can, at times, be so polarized in the twenty-first century. The authors do a good job of exploring the relationship between worshiping in both Spirit and Truth and the error that comes when one is emphasized over the other. Here is an excerpt I read last night:
An honest reading of the Scriptures and church history demands that we maintain an open attitude toward the work of the Spirit to renew the church. God is God and he does whatever he pleases in the way that pleases him. The mere fact that we feel uncomfortable, or that there is a mixture of wheat and tares, doesn't mean God is not at work. 
But along with a posture of openness we must also exercise discernment. "Do not put out the Spirit's fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold onto the good. Avoid every kind of evil." (1 Thes. 5:19-22)...Some people seem to think that genuine openness to the Spirit and discernment are incompatible,. But the work of the Spirit demands discernment, since the Spirit interacts with human beings who are anything but perfect. It is essential that we understand what is from God and what is not...The fact that conservative evangelicals can learn something from charismatics and that charismatics can learn something from conservative evangelicals doesn't mean we have do adopt everything the other side offers. So with openness we must also hold on to discernment. (pg. 55)
This new journey has been fascinating so far and I know God has much more to reveal to us as we continue down this path. I am excited to know and experience Him in new ways and am so thankful that we are surrounded by brothers and sisters who desire to worship God in both Spirit and Truth.