Friday, December 23, 2011

Three Can't Miss Post-Christmas Deals

I love post-Christmas deal shopping. Christmas clearance racks can be a gold mine for items you use routinely throughout the year. With the big move only a few weeks away, I'm laying off stocking up this year, but if you're out making returns or picking up a few gifts Santa forgot to bring for you, take a quick swing through the Christmas aisle for these sweet deals:

1. Gift wrap and ribbon
Gift wrap is expensive! But, you can get gift wrap and ribbons/bows for 50-75 percent off after Christmas, and there are several options that people will never associate with Christmas. If you don't believe me, check out the photo below - all three roles for 50 percent off after Christmas.


Do you really think Christmas comes to mind when you use silver wrapping paper for a wedding gift in June?

2. Storage containers
A couple of years ago I made a haul on clear, plastic storage containers that were all 65 percent off simply because they had red or green lids.

3. Window clings
Window clings can be an inexpensive way to add a little Christmas touch to everyday items when you decorate next year. I actually got this idea from my mom, who uses window clings to decorate containers in her kitchen. As a bonus, storing window clings is much easier than shorting a bunch of Christmas-themed containers that you only use one month out of the year.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Pampering in a Jar

I have three great ladies at work who support projects I work on, and I wouldn't survive most days without them. I was trying to think of a way to show them my appreciation when I came across this idea on Pinterest - Pampering in a Jar.

I included socks, bubble bath, lip balm, hand cream and chocolate.


It was a small gesture to show my appreciation, but will hopefully provide them with a little pampering. They certainly deserve it!


Check out The Gunny Sack for more unique gifts in a jar. They are all easy and affordable, perfect for last minute gifts. The site even has free printables for your jars!

I've also created a slight twist on the Pampering in a Jar with Relaxation in a Jar. This one comes with a free printable label! Below is a little sneak peek. You can get the printable and see what I included in this version in a recent blog post.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Ribbon and Bead Necklace

I'm less than a week away from my 30th birthday, and trying to come up with a clever treat to bring to work on birthday. The only thing I could find was a bouquet of suckers with a tag reading, "30 Sucks." But, I'm looking forward to my 30s, so I'm instead leaning toward bringing a collection of 80s snacks

Speaking of birthdays, my friend Melissa is celebrating her's tomorrow. I usually sew her something in honor of our shared nostalgia over sewing 4-H projects. With my sewing machine hiding behind a mountain of boxes I have in storage. I had to find an alternative this year. I decided to go with a beads and ribbon necklace.


These are really easy to make. You just need a needle, embroidery thread, ribbon and beads.


My other ribbon and beads necklace just wrapped the ribbon differently around the beads. The purple one was slightly easier. With the green necklace, making sure that the length of ribbon between each bead is equal was a little harder than with the purple one.


Friday, December 9, 2011

Sprite Christmas Gift

This is the last of the gifts I made for my mom give for her secret Santa program at school. It would be a great last-minute gift for a neighbor. Simple attach a label to a bottle of Sprite that reads, "I hope your holidays are merry and 'sprite.'


Speaking of holidays that are merry and bright, I'm kicking off my hard-core holiday celebrating this weekend with Christmas baking with mom on Saturday.

On Sunday, Blake and I are going to a potluck and play. Blake's teacher is in A Christmas Carol and has graciously invited students on the nursing college board to come to the play at the Mayowood Stone Barn and enjoy a potluck at his home beforehand. The barn was originally owned by one of the founders of the Mayo Clinic, and I really wanted to have our wedding there. Unfortunately, it was out of our price range, so I'm really excited to have the opportunity to visit the Mayowood Stone Barn. I think it will be a magical place to watch a Christmas play!

Blake's been bragging up the pineapple stuffing he's bringing. He isn't known for his cooking abilities, so hopefully it turns out for him.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Reindeer Bath Set

This is such a fun idea and I've been excited to share it all week! This reindeer set is so easy to make kids could do it as a gift for teachers.


Take a bar of soap (I used a fancy, lavender scented one), wrap a washcloth around it and secure with a rubber band. Make antlers our of pipe cleaners and secure with the rubber band. Attach eyes and nose with washable Elmers glue (that way it washes away and they can use the washcloth). You could easily cover up the ugly rubber band with a red ribbon, but in my current living situation, I couldn't easily get to my ribbon - it is tucked away in a giant pile of my belongings in my parent's basement.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Button Christmas Tree Ornament

Up next in the affordable, easy to make gifts is an ornament that I assembled in less then 10 minutes. 

All it required was three green buttons of different sizes, 5 pearl beads, a star button (I couldn't actually find a star, so I opted for the glitzy button above) and fishing string.  String them on and tie it up. That's all there it to it!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Snowman Chocolate Bar: Affordable, Easy to Make Christmas Gift

Next up is a Hershey bar dressed up like a snowman.

I simply wrapped the Hershey bar in white paper, made a scarf with embroidery string and card stock paper for the nose, eyes and mouth (used a hole punch to make circles). I found these on Pinterest and they originally came from non other than Martha Stewart. There is also a Santa version.

In non-craft related news, Blake and I got to meet the owners for the home we're buying in January. They have done a great job of maintaining the home, and I'm afraid we'll disappoint them! Among the domestic things my new home is forcing me to learn to do is taking care of cork flooring (which will be delightful for baking marathons), redecorating a 70's era home (we have wood paneling in the basement) and gardening (yikes!).

Blake is thrilled because we are getting bar and a bumper pool/poker table with the house. Neither is exactly aesthetically pleasing, so it increases my decorating challenge. But, he is thrilled!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Santa-tizer: Affordable, Easy to Make Christmas Gift

We don't do secret Santa's at my workplace, but my mom and her colleagues do. As I'm still living with my parents and this stuff is right up my alley, I asked if I could take over gift creation duties! This week I'm going to be featuring, the gifts I've put together for her to give to her co-worker, who happens to be a teacher. So, many of these gifts would also be great for your child's teacher or even a neighbor.

First up is Santa-tizer.

As you've probably guessed, this is just hand sanitizer wrapped up to look like Santa with card stock paper and black ribbon.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Personalized Thought Bubble Thank You Card

This past weekend, Blake and I were busy completing our thank you cards from the wedding. I was trying to think of something creative that showed off a bit of our personalities. After spending hours on Pinterest looking of ideas, I ultimately decided to do I take on an idea from one of my Martha Stewart magazines. Even though I used it for a wedding, this would be a great idea for birthday thank yous, Christmas cards or even a sweet Valentines Day card.


We had our photographer take a picture of us "thinking," and then I added thought bubbles using my photo editing software. We each wrote what we would like to use the gift for. Examples included making apple crisp with an apple corer we got and getting a tattoo with the money we received.


The back of the postcards read, "We might not agree on how we will use your gift, but we do agree that it was very thoughtful and generous." We also left room for a personal note, which we used to say thanks and assure people that we will actually be using most of the gifts to help pay for our new house, not get tattoos!

Pineapple Stuffing

After hearing Blake rave about his friend Sarah's pineapple stuffing (and Blake doesn't rave about much!), I first got to try it when I spents Thanksgiving with Blake and his "Navy family" in Maryland. It was everything Blake described - a combination of comfort food and tropical flavors that makes it the perfect way to end a Thanksgiving meal. This Thanksgiving, Blake got the recipe from Sarah so we could make it for our families. It was a trip down memory lane for Blake and a delicious treat for everyone else. And, it's so easy, that after making it once, I have the recipe memorized!


Pineapple Stuffing
1 stick butter
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 - 20oz can crushed pineapple
6 slices of bread cubed

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Soften butter and cream with sugar. Mix in the eggs and vanilla. Then, drain the pineapple and fold it in with the other ingredients. Finally, fold in your cubes of bread. Pour into a casserole dish, and bake for 40 minutes.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Wedding Decor Week: Money Saving Tips

Decorating for weddings is fun, but it can also be expensive! Here are some of the the things that I found helped me save money.

1. Consider your theme
I went with a vintage garden look partially because I knew it would save me money. Looking through wedding websites and magazines, I noticed brides that used that theme were able to use a lot of inexpensive materials.

2. Beg, borrow and steal (okay, don't literally steal)
Borrow from your own living room as well as from friends and friends. Most of my candle holders and vases were either borrowed from my sister-in-law or my mom's canning jar collection; cake platters came from my kitchen; and I took old soda boxes from my parent's living room for the dessert table. A family friend let me mow down her hydrangea bushes, and I even gathered tree branches from my parent's backyard. I even used a wedding gift I'd received at a shower for the kid's favors. 

I also was able to work with a local decorator (Jane Steinkamp for my local readers), who offered phenomenal rental prices on the items I need to rent.

3. Ask for help and listen for advice
Photobucket Both my father-in-law and one of my bridesmaids are graphic designers. Larry designed the logo that was used in many of our pieces and Melissa designed almost everything else from invites to menu cards. They were both happy to help!

Also, as your wedding approaches, listen closely to recent brides. If you've been following along this week, you've also heard me mention Jane. I've known Jane for years. In fact, I went to prom with son many years ago, but I would have never know to use her if I hadn't been listening when my sister-in-law talked about how affordable she was. If you find an affordable wedding decorator, they can be invaluable. Jane had a lot of great ideas that in the long run saved my money.

4. Discover the power of paper
Paper I discovered is an inexpensive way to add a lot of color to your celebration. This is true for almost any event. I used both scrapbook paper for centerpieces, name cards, programs and church decorations. I also used items printed for pennies at Vista Print and Office Max to add color, such as the favor tags, Words for the Couple cards and menu cards.


5. Consider what is in season
I was able to add some fresh flowers simply because mums are in season at the time I got married and are extremely affordable. Each plant was only $5.


6. Keep it simple and don't be afraid of what others will think
I was able to save money by printing a very simple invite - a front and back over-sized postcard from Vista Print. All of my information fit and after I purchased envelopes for mailing, they cost less than $150.

I had cookies and bars at my wedding instead of cake, and it was extremely cheap! Some people may have found it tacky, but I didn't care. I liked the idea and so I went with it. If you are fine with it, everybody else should be too. It is after all, your day. 

7. Use cheap materials
I used burlap to make a runner for my head table. Had I gone with, say satin, I probably couldn't have afforded to do it. Another cheap material is tulle. Cruise the craft or fabric store checking out the price tag on various materials and see if anything works.

8. Remember it's not all or nothing
I really like the look for chair covers, but could I afford to do it for every chair in the reception hall? Not a chance, so I just used them as a way to set apart the head table.


9. Focus on what you want to make special
Unless your Kim Kardashian, you probably can't afford to do everything exactly the way you want it. And really, do you want to be Kim Kardashian? It would only mean that you have an expensive divorce on the heels of your wedding. I decided to focus on my guest table, head table and dessert table. I made them focal points and by focusing my resources on a few spots instead of spreading everything out, it made more of a visual impact in the reception area.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Wedding Decor Week: Favors

We had two sets for favors - one for kids and one for everybody. The kids could pick theirs up on the way into the reception. Each goodie bag contained a fun straw, a package of chocolate chip cookies to snack on while waiting for the buffet line to open up, a pack of 6 crayons, an activity book I made using free printouts I download online and glow sticks for the dance.I put everything into paper lunch bags and tied them close with twine string and a label thanking them for coming and asking them to stay around to dance!

For everyone else, we had treats in a jar as out way to say thanks.


We made enough to have one per family or couple, and our guests could pick from:

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wedding Decor Week: Centerpieces and Head Table

We'll start with the head table. Blake and I decided to go with the family-style head table. If you are considering it, I would strongly recommend it. It gave us more flexibility to seat people near others they knew in the wedding party, was easier to talk to guests sitting near us and for wedding party members with kids, they were able to have their family sit at a table near their spot.

Here are some specifics on decorations for the head table.
  • I bought a piece of burlap and cut it in half to use a runner
  • Jane Steinkamp, who helped with decorations, did the flower centerpiece
  • We covered the table with candles in a variety of jars and candle holders
  • Name cards and "Words for the Couple" cards were placed at each spot
  • I used Mason jars for the bridesmaid's bouquets



Now on to centerpieces. I really, really wanted flowers, but lets face it, those of us on a budget can't afford those. Thankfully, Jane had a great idea. We used dried hydrangeas (which we got for free thanks to Shelly, a family friend) in Mason jars on half of the tables and on the other half were potted mums (only $5 a piece and my mom considered them her "babies" leading up to the wedding, watching them closely, watering them, taking them in when it was going to freeze outside). The pots were from the farm supply section at Fleet Farm; isn't that classy!

Photobucket Photobucket

Here are the other components of the guest tables:
  • Hydrangeas or mum plant with menu card
  • Four candles
  • Three pieces of scrapbook paper (This was another great idea from Jane to add color without much cost. The photos I have shown both have the same paper combos, but I used about 7 different combinations)
  • Words for the Couple cards and pens at each spot

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Wedding Decor Week: Dessert Table

A lot of people are doing candy buffets and dessert tables these days, but I thought I'd share my set up in case in sparked any ideas. We did three kinds of cookies along with three kinds of bars. I thought they would be nice things to leave out through the dance and eat throughout the night, but they must have been better than I expected, because they didn't last that long!


Credit for the dessert table goes to Jane Steinkamp who helped me with a lot of the decorating and Blake who picked out the goodies! All I really did was pick up the cookie jars and ask Melissa to design some labels.

Photobucket Photobucket

Monday, November 7, 2011

Wedding Decor Week: Guest Book

I didn't to find a way to get some fun information from our guests instead of just a list of names from the people who came. I was going to do a photo book with engagement pictures that people could sign like Christie and Jared did. (I blogged about it here.)


But, Blake and I decided not to get engagement photos, so with the brainstorming help from my friend Melissa, we came up with "Words for the Couple" cards. We placed them at each seat at the reception along with some really cheap pens and had a bucket people could return them in near the exit.


If you plan to do this I would offer one suggestion: Make sure to use matte paper! We used glossy and it made it difficult for people to write on them. Even with the hiccup, we got most of the cards back and they had some great stuff on them.

Questions on the cards included:
  1. Name
  2. What's your favorite memory of us?
  3. What were you really thinking when we were exchanging our vows?
  4. What should we do during our first year of marriage?
  5. Where do you see us in 25 years?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Wedding Decor Week: Program

I've been to a few wedding where they provide little programs with information about the wedding party and couple. I like knowing who the players are and to have something to read while waiting for the ceremony to start.  I wanted to do something similar for our wedding. However, printing those things can be expensive, and I didn't want to break the budget on programs.


I ended up printed all of the text on plain old white paper with black text, then I bought card stock paper in green and purple for the outside cover.


We closed them up with twine string and tied on a little tag with the information that is typically printed on the front of the program.


Here is what I all included in the "guts" of the program:
  1. Details for the day, including a schedule and a map to the reception site
  2. Ceremony participants, parents, grandparents and the ceremony order
  3. Brief bios on the wedding party members
  4. Trivia about Blake and I
  5. The story of how we met
  6. Thank you message

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Wedding Decor Week: Family Tree

I've had a few questions about my wedding decorations, so this week I'm going to tell you all about them. I'll have a post each day with something and wrap the week with some of the ways I saved money on my decorations.

First up is the family tree.

I wanted a way to display family photos and photos of us growing up. I briefly considered doing a slide show, but quite frankly, I was too lazy to scan in all of those old photos, find music, line up someone to bring a computer, etc.

I came up with the idea of a family tree, and it turned out to be a great alternative. I chopped a couple of branches off a tree in my parent's backyard. I used plaster of Paris to get them to stand in the bucket and covered it with some moss. I also used double-stick table to put the photos on each side of a piece of scrapbook paper, so I could easily take them off when the wedding was over. Next, I tied twine string to each photo and hung them on the tree.

Finally, I tied on the following saying:


I got the bucket from a friend, so the total cost of this was about $5, and outside of waiting for the plaster to dry, it took about an hour to make.

There was an additional benefit that I didn't even think of until someone else mentioned it to me after the wedding. Unlike a slide show, people could look at when they wanted for as long as they wanted.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Toasted Root Beer Float

A few minor alterations turn the classic root beer float into a grown-up beverage for fall. It's delicious and perfect for sipping by a late fall bonfire or cozy fireplace.


Toasted Root Beer Float
1/4 cup coconut rum
1 cup chilled root beer
2 marshmallows

Mix the rum and root beer. Toast the marshmallows. I didn't have a fire, so I toasted mine in my toaster oven. Add them to your drink and you're ready to go!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

3 Minutes + 4 Ingredients = Great Beer Bread

This recipe is a snap. It's a great way to get warm, delicious bread with minimal effort, time or talent. It took only 3 minutes to mix together, and beer bread is the perfect companion to almost any fall soup!


Simple Beer Bread
3 cups self-rising flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 - 12oz can beer
1/4 cup melted butter

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray. Put the flour and sugar in the loaf pan and mix to combine (I mix mine right in the loaf pan, which also means fewer dishes!). Pour beer on top and mix until the dry ingredients and beer are completely combined. Melt butter and pour on top of bread. Bake for 1 hour.

Blake is trying is heading out to the woods deer hunting this weekend, so I'm hoping to have time to work on some cool projects for my blog this weekend!


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