Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Ten Ways to Plan a Cheap Party

As you know, I love party planning.  It's in my blood.  The only downside to this, is that party planning can be ridiculously expensive.  But, never fear.  Today, I'm sharing ten tips for planning a cost-effective, budget-friendly (and relatively no-fuss!) party.  

...This is mostly courtesy of my mother, who taught me every party planning thing I know.  

Hearts and flowers and baby unicorns, Mama...

ONE - Plan Ahead!
The further out you can plan your party, the more opportunities you will have to save money.  You will be able to take advantage of sales and slower shipping times.  You will have time to DIY instead of buy.  You will have space to brainstorm cheaper and better ways to accomplish your plans.  In contrast, when you're in a time crunch, you will impulse buy and end up paying more for unnecessary conveniences.  Believe me.  I've been there a million times.  

TWO - Make a List
When you have a game plan in place, whether that is a theme or just overarching ideas of your hopes for the party, list-making will set healthy parameters for your budget.  Ideally, I like to draw up a specific plan for decorations, a schedule of activities (simple as they may be), and a list of invitees.  From there, I can make a list of the exact and specific things I need to beg, borrow or buy.  When I was shopping for Will's party (Woody's Roundup/Cowboy theme), it would have been so easy to buy EVERYTHING remotely cowboy-ish.  Since I had made a list before the shopping, however, I knew exactly what to buy, and was able to resist the temptation to overdo it.  I knew exact quantities and colors and styles as well, which cut down on stress in the store and amped up my efficiency.

THREE - Shop Your House (And your friends' houses)
Tweak your game plan and list to take full advantage of what you already have at home.  Look for anything in your home that matches your color scheme or overall theme, and then find a way to use or repurpose it.  For Will's party, I was initially going to use a royal blue color in the decor.  When I dug through my closet and found a bunch of leftover paper plates and cups that were teal, I ditched the blue idea and went with teal.  I was also going to buy some materials to make a little weighted arrangement for some balloons, but when I found a coffee cup that matched my color scheme, I decided to tie the balloons to the cup instead.  If you can't find anything in your house, borrow from friends!  A sweet friend of ours lent us some Toy Story t-shirts for Will to wear, and my sister gave us a cute wooden cactus to spice up my table decor.

FOUR - Take advantage of FREE
I am a little embarrassed to admit how cheap I am and how much free stuff I've skimped by with.  I would like to blame my mother for this.  In our years of party planning, we have taken advantage of free brown napkins from Culver's for a rustic dinner, french fry bags from McDonald's for a playland party, Mary Kay samples for a girls' makeup party, brown paper wine bags from HyVee for Christmas packaging...  Believe me, there's a lot more where that came from.  This time around, I found free cupcake topper designs online, and free clipart for the party invitations.  Score. 

FIVE - Thrift & Garage Sales
I've never had luck thrifting for a specific party, but when I am thrifting in general, I always am on the lookout for general party and hosting decor.  The key is to buy neutral.  White cake stands, white serving dishes, brown coffee mugs, etc. - items that can be used in a lot of different color schemes and themes.  99.9% of my hosting/party dishes are all from garage sales or thrift stores, and this continually saves my budget.

SIX - Double Duty Decor
Decorate with things that are useful.  Eliminate decor that is only for decoration.  Half of Will's table decor consisted of cupcakes (pretty and edible).  The other half was filled with party favors (cute and purposeful).  The other tiny spaces were covered with cute paper napkins and plates (bright and useful.)  Let things like food, gifts, game materials, paper plates, napkins and favors brighten up your spreads.  This will cut costs on more frivolous things!

SEVEN - Dollar Store & Wal-Mart
Personalized, custom cakes and party stores will crash your budget in no time.  Wal-Mart sells cupcakes for $0.50 a piece (in any quantity), and they will customize frosting, sprinkles and cake flavor for no extra charge.  The Dollar Store is a treasure trove of party resources, if you're willing to spend a few extra minutes piecing together theme items.

EIGHT - Fabric & Balloons
Fabric can be very inexpensive and it covers a lot of space (think tablecloths, etc. - big bang for your buck).  It is also reusable - save it for another party or make some throw pillows!  I have found great remnants at Wal-Mart and Hobby Lobby.  Hobby Lobby even sells fabric by the yard online, if you're looking for something very specific.  When you can't find fabric, a roll of kraft wrapping paper and some paint can cover a lot of ground, too!  Balloons can also make a big statement for a little amount of cash - especially if you can use regular balloons and cut down on Mylar ones.  Will's balloons were around $6, filled a huge amount of space, and added so much color.  He even had some after-party fun with Grammy, batting the balloons around for an hour straight.

NINE - Cheap Invitations
These days, you don't have to send hard copy invitations at all.  There are so many ways to send cute (FREE!) e-invites straight to your guests' inboxes.  However, if you are like me (a paper fanatic), you can cut costs by designing invites yourself (Pinterest easy DIY ideas!) or printing them in black and white.  B&W printing runs at least half, if not a third, less than traditional color printing.  I printed Will's invites B&W, coloring book style, and filled in some color with markers.  Pennies saved and I had fun doing it!

TEN - Invite Fewer People
I know.  This is horrible.  But seriously.  You don't have to be best friends with everyone.  I am dreading the day Will wants to invite his whole class to a party.  The more intimate and cozy the party, the more cash you can spend blessing each person.  The smaller the guest list, the more elaborate the favors can be.  The less you invite, the more you can spend on food.  It just makes sense.  Or cents.  Whichever you prefer.

Happy party planning, friends!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Why I am Planning a Theme Party

Last year, when Will turned one, we celebrated simply.  I loved our cheap, generic, last-minute, Wal-Mart party, and Will loved his French fries.  It felt right.  It was right.

This year I wanted to plan a more extravagant theme party for Will, but then I felt guilty that I might be spoiling him.  Or that other moms might think I am too frivolous.  Or some people might think I am showing off.

So I almost didn't plan a theme party...

And then, I thought to myself, "Who are you kidding?!  You come from a long line of theme party planners.  You grew up on theme parties.  You have theme parties in your DNA.  You were made to plan theme parties."

And, it's true.

I love me a good theme party.

I love celebrating.

If it were up to me, everyone would get their whole birthday month to celebrate and eat good food and do fun things and enjoy being alive for another year.

Let's be honest.  I am the one who keeps her Christmas tree up for at least five months.

As I was processing all of this, the Lord said to me, "You know, Liza...  I like to celebrate, too.  Did you know my first miracle involved wine, of all things, at a party (of all places)?!  And, did you know, I set up several different festivals and weeks and weeks of celebrations for my chosen people to enjoy and remember together?  Did you know I am a celebrating kind of God?  A happy kind of dad?  Did you know I am excitedly planning one heck of a party and feast that is coming sooner than you think?  One that will be more extravagant than all other parties combined?  And you will be my special guest there?

You reflect Me when you celebrate extravagantly out of a pure and joyous heart.  I love that you love to celebrate."

And you know what?  The Lord loves it when you do whatever you do extravagantly out of a pure and joyous heart.  Do you run marathons?  Do you keep a tidy and organized house?  Do you paint?  Do you cook?  Do you write?  Do you have a successful career?

Whatever you love to do, and whatever reflects God's character, and whatever is done out of a pure heart is worth rocking, I think.

Me?  I'm going to go rock this Woody's Round Up party.  Will LOVES Woody and I LOVE theme parties.

My sweet boy will be TWO.  My miracle baby does not have cerebral palsy and is not paralyzed and he has not had any more seizures.  He is a smarty-pants, fun-loving, blue-eyed delight, and I sure as heck am not going to let worrying about what other people think ruin my extravagant celebration of something so wonderful.

April 24th, you can't come fast enough.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Charlie's Smiles


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Any Occasion, No Fuss Table Runner

I look for excuses to decorate.  Ask my husband.  He will roll his eyes and smile, and he will tell you about my ridiculousness.  Everything turns into an art project (AKA: mess) around here.  

I pride myself in decor and art projects and DIYing that is super cheap and no-brainer.  I don't do fussy, particular sorts of things.  

This little ditty I'm sharing with you today is super, super cheap and crazy no-brainer.  You could be half asleep and totally caffeine-deprived and have one hand tied behind your back and still be successful at this.  Promise. will set your budget behind about $2.50.  $2.50!!!  Be still, my heart.

You will need...
  • Kraft packing/wrapping paper - I bought mine at the dollar store for, you guessed it, one dollar.
  • White craft paint - $0.50 at Wal-Mart
  • Circle paint brush/dauber thingies - I want to say these were about $0.95 at Wal-Mart, too??
  • A few pieces of tape - raid your junk drawer for this.
Instructions (I hesitate to even write instructions, this is so easy.  Use common sense, people.)
  1. Roll out some kraft paper, cut to fit your table, and tape the ends to the underside of the table.
  2. Dump some white paint on a paper plate or container.
  3. Dip your circle dauber thing in the paint and stamp away!
My paint dried really fast, so I was able to add the rest of my table decorations about 10 minutes later. 

The best part of this table runner is that it is neutral for any occasion.  Pair the kraft and white pattern with just about any color napkin or plate or theme, and it will look fantastic.  

OR, think outside the box!  This would look really fun with BLACK dots for Halloween.  Or maybe forgo the dots for stripes?  Fun.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

tot school : dinosaur + green week

I knew going into this week, Will loved dinosaurs.  It was so much fun to see him excited about the theme.  It is turning out to be super convenient to have several activities on hand when he got bored.  Also, I found a great recipe for play dough and had a hay-day one night making a few batches.  So fun!  (I may have stained my counter tops reddish-pink with food coloring...  Oops.  Good thing we are renovating?!)

The color green!  Will knows most of his colors already, but review is great, right?  I dug through drawers and closets and found lots of green things to have fun with!  Green cupcake liners, green blocks, green balls, green tissue paper, green straws - whatever.  You'd be surprised the games and play that happen using random junk!

Shape Sorting.  This was not thematic - just because.  

Dinosaurs.  I thought about teaching Will a few different types of dinosaurs, but then we never really got around to it.  We just had fun with the dinosaur theme in general.  Not a lot of important learning...just FUN, people.

The letter D!  Again, sort of...  When I ask him what "D" says, "He thinks it's funny to jump up and down and say, "Duh, duh, duh!"  But that's about it.  Baby steps, people.

We were supposed to learn more about Jesus' ascension in our Jesus Storybook Bible, but every time we started the story, Will whined to go to another story.  Hmm.  We ended up reading through the Sermon on the Mount and Lord's Prayer stories.  Perhaps that was more on the Lord's agenda for us this week, maybe?

Will played with a green sensory tub I threw together using things from around the house.

I updated our bulletin board (of sorts) with green stuff.  It's basically just a frame that I pin random crap to.  Pictures, fun sayings, Project Life quotes, magazine clippings, patterned napkins, fabric, and everything else that is amusing.  Because, why not?!

We listened to the Jurassic Park soundtrack every day at snack time.  Best idea, ever, Liza.

We played with our dinosaur-themed play dough.  I will admit, I coaxed Will into playing this several times, mostly because I wanted to...  Am I living vicariously through my children?  Yes, yes, I am.

We colored free dino coloring pages from the net.

We were going to clean fossils (rocks), but the weather never cooperated.

Will played with his dinosaur toys in the sandbox with his neighborhood gal pals.

We had a bingo-dot dinosaur worksheet, but because I don't have bingo-dot markers, we stuck little green-circle-garage-sale stickers on instead.  Will is totally digging the sticker thing lately.

Dinosaur books from the library.  I heart you, library.

I was going to make these dino parfaits, but life happened instead.

WE SAW A REAL DINOSAUR, ya'll. the gas station in Orange City.  We were well aware there were a few cool dinosaur exhibits at fancy children's museums near our home, but since we are cheapo and a little redneck, and because Will isn't even two, and because he could care less...  We went to a gas station, sat on the dinosaur, and took a picture, all touristy-like.  

Monday, April 13, 2015

Hipster Will


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

tot school : easter + purple week

I am starting to do pseudo-tot school with Will this spring and summer.  I say "pseudo," because I am not stressing too much over it...

My goal is to make our lives more fun, rich, meaningful, adventurous and celebratory.  Because, well, when you have two kids under two, and a hubby who's in seminary and working full-time, moments pass quickly, and it's so easy to just "survive."

When we miraculously have some free time as a family, we have a bucket list of simple (but fun!) things to do with the kids.  When Will gets whiny, I have a small arsenal of no-brainer (but educational!) activities to occupy him.  When life gets mundane, we have things to create and celebrate and discover!

If this whole tot school thing ever gets to be stressful instead of exciting, weighty instead of fun, obligatory instead of celebratory, I'm done.  The goal is to enrich our family's life, so we'll see how this goes!

About our Easter + Purple week...

This week I was excited about having a reason to rotate our toys and books.  I've gotten into a habit of storing at least 3/4ths of Will & Charlie's toys (if I kept all of them out, our house would be a disaster and our kids would not even play with half of them).  Every few weeks, I rotate toys and books, and (it never fails) Will thinks it's Christmas morning every time a new batch arrives.  He thinks everything is brand new and exciting again!  Anyway, this week was a fun excuse to pull out everything purple and spring/Easter related.  We had a lot of extra fun with little things that would have otherwise been collecting dust in the nooks and crannies and closets of our house.


Learning about Easter - Will learned to recognize the shape of a cross and whose cross it was...  "Jesah coss!" he says. :)  We worked on the phrases/verses, "He's alive!"  "He is risen!" And we sang little songs like "Hosanna!" and "Alive, Alive, Alive Forevermore!" - this was all usually in between bites of crackers during snack time and super casual.  

The color purple! - I pulled out everything purple I had in the house and used it in a sensory bin, our little family bulletin board, or in Will's toy baskets.

Click on the bold phrases for links!

We read and talked about the Easter story in our Jesus Storybook Bible.

Will colored a few resurrection/cross-themed coloring pages that were free on the web.

put painter's tape on some posterboard in the shape of a cross, then let him paint all crazy-like over top.  In the end, we pulled up the tape to discover a cross!

I had a purple zipper pouch to throw Popsicle sticks in.  He practiced zipping and unzipping, but got bored with it and wanted to play with his cow instead.  Fine.  Whatever, dude.

Tried to use little tongs to transfer plastic easter eggs into a holder.  We need to work on this more, I think.

We went to the bakery to eat cross-shaped cookies!  "Jesah coss, mmm!" Will said...

We had purple cows for dessert at supper.

I checked out Easter books from the library to read and look through.  This was more for myself than for Will.  I love me a library run.

Will played outside a lot and ran laps in our hallway most days, but that is not thematic.  That is just life with the Will-Bug.

Purple play dough and a cross cookie cutter!

Will played with a thrown-together purple sensory bin, made up of random things we had on hand.

We had a purple-themed Easter brunch and hosted some friends whose families were far away. 

We decorated Easter eggs with tissue paper (a little more toddler-friendly than dye and boiling water, yeah?).  We also spent some time at Grandma Bev's for an Easter egg hunt, but Will was much more concerned with throwing the soccer ball around.  Again, typical Will.  

Easter week felt so much more Easter-y, in being so much more purposeful about celebrating.  Mission accomplished, I'd say.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Capsule Wardrobe - Lifestyle

Are you still pinning and adding things to your capsule wardrobe inspiration board?  I hope so!

My inspiration board is overflowing with, well...inspiration.  It was still a little tough to discern through my personal style when I seemed to like so many different things across the board.  And since I can't BUY.ALL.THE.THINGS, I needed to start to whittle down what will really work for me.  This wasn't necessarily about what's trendy, or what others are wearing.  This was more about finding what works for me.

So, today, let's think about our lifestyle.  There are undoubtedly things on your board and in your taste that are absolutely beautiful, but will absolutely NOT fit into your regular day-to-day activities.  Though you may like wearing heels and blazers and silk blouses, if you are a stay-at-home-mama, like me, you will be in trouble if your entire wardrobe is filled with heels and blazers and silk.  Try cleaning up your toddler's poopy diapers in that!  Am I right?!

So, stop and think a bit.  In a month's time, what things or activities do you find yourself doing?  Where are you spending your time?  Your wardrobe should reflect these parts of your life.

My lifestyle + my unique tastes = my personal style.

It was helpful for me to think of my lifestyle in terms of percentages, all within a month's time.

Since I am a stay-home-mama with two kids under two, my life is very home-based.  In 30 days, I spend...

3 Sundays/church + 1 date/holiday = about 13% dress up clothing
7 outings (errands, coffee with friends, church activities, etc. = about 23% cute, casual clothing
25+ days at home and outside play = about 83% lounge and active wear
Now, this all adds up to 119%, which is silly, but this is mostly because several days, like a Sunday, include two outfits...  Dress up for church, come home and put on lounge wear...

To fudge things a bit, I am planning my wardrobe around about 10% dress up, 20% cute and casual, and 70%+ for lounge/active.

(Keep in mind several pieces will do double duty.  For example, I wear black yoga leggings as lounge wear, and also under dresses as dress up clothing.  I also wear plain v-necks as lounge wear, but pair them with scarves or cardigans for cute & casual clothing.)  

The point isn't to get too hung up on exact percentages.  Just let the percentages give you an overarching idea of your regular, everyday lifestyle and how your wardrobe should reflect it.

My overarching takeaways are that the vast majority of my wardrobe should be crazy comfortable, if not active/workout wear.  I need to sprinkle in some "cute" pieces and some layers to help pieces do double duty in different categories.

From here, I went back to my Pinterest board to notice outfits and pieces that would actually fit into my lifestyle.  If you wanted, you could even delete the pins that, in your process of discernment, you find don't fit into your regular life.

In the meantime, use what you've learned about your lifestyle to influence additions to your inspiration board.  I have been pinning lots and lots of outfits that include t-shirts and sneakers lately!
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