Tag Archives: Budget

The Ugly-Geeky Sweater Party

I have been wanting to do an Ugly Sweater Party for years, but by the time I got around to it, it was so cliche that I just decided not to try.  One of our friends reminded me about it last month and said I should do it anyway.  Always up for a challenge, I wanted to spin it so it was still fun.  My husband and I mulled it over and went with a Geek theme that seemed perfect for us and our friends.

One of my favorite parts of the Ugly sweater party concept is that it is wonderfully tacky in an almost cute way.  Geeking that up was so fun.  We’ve been asked to do it again next year, and have already decided it was rather awesome and we’d like to improve on it and give it another go.

In our invite, we specified that guests were to come in a Geeky holiday sweater, either hand made or bought and were to bring a Geeky themed treat and a game to share.  Here are some highlights:

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Tee Fury seemed to be popular this year.

My husband and I sported Die Hard and Doctor Who Christmas “sweaters”

Some of our guests were so much more creative.  We’ll have to step up our game next year.

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These impressed me so much, particularly as they were last minute.

Their sweaters were ordered from the UK and didn’t get here in time, so they created these sweaters last minute with mostly with felt.  In addition to another geektastic Tee Fury Who shirt, An epic Doctor Who sweater and a Words of Radiance sweater that had this Whovian/Brandon Sanderson fan very impressed.  I mean, look at those Shattered Plains! So much detail!

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Again, I’m amazed.  She free handed these awesome yet adorable Firefly sweaters.

A Wash sweater and a Jayne-gerbread sweater.

For our decorations, I used these fantastic tins found at desperate.com, some printable cube people from Deviant Art, and other touches I hand crafted or dug out of our Christmas decor in the name of Ugly Sweater. I wood burned some tacky, geeky gifts and added some store bought ones.

I found my mom’s old retro tree and used it and I loved the effect and the nostalgia.

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Some of our geeky grub:

Star Trek Insignia cookies (made with a star cookie cutter with the “arms” cut off of the star.)

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Andy’s Mint Brownies. Regular brownies with melted Andes mints on top.

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SNL’s Schweddy Balls.  AKA Swedish meat balls.

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Flying Cauldron Butterscotch Beer!

And I had to add holiday scarves.

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Combined with some of the games I’ll post next, this was such a fun evening with some of our favorite people and we will definitely do it again.

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Filed under Geek, Holidays, Hosting parties, Ugly Sweater

DIY Baby Sleepsack

20141117_124520 Baby sleepsacks are all the rage throughout the winter months as they keep new babies nice and warm without new parents having to worry about bulky blankets which are a risk for smothering and infant death. Sleepsacks can be purchased at just about every baby store and online registry these days…but many are expensive and there are limited prints and styles. Here is one I made as a baby shower gift for a friend – the total cost was (hopefully my friend doesn’t see this post) about $5.00. There are many variations (zippers in the front instead of snaps, or Velcro along the sides, or even kimono style wrap front designs), no matter which style you choose these are always sure to be a big hit.

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I started by picking a fabric I knew my friends would enjoy (they had registered for other fun monster print items) and then I mapped out a pattern. If you already have a sleepsack handy you can literally just trace the one you have. If you don’t you can make a paper pattern by looking up different styles as I did here. (I also used a baby onesie (3-6months) when creating the pattern to ensure the neck and arm holes would be big enough for baby to fit into them comfortably.)

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Next cut out the pattern  x 4- front and back of the outside and front and back of the liner. I used a crushed velvet material for the liner and a flannel for the outer shell. Then sew from armpit to armpit leaving about 3 inches of space on one side (this will allow the sleepsack to open so the baby can be placed inside). You can see my opening where I have left pins in the liner.

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Flip the two pieces inside out and stuff the outer shell into the liner and sew together the arm pit holes and the yolk of the neck. You can close the top of 3 shoulders but leave one open so you can turn the sack right side out.

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Open the whole you have left at the top of the shoulder and proceed to stuff the sack through it turning the whole thing right side out.

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Now you only need to close up one hole and get ready to add buttons or snaps. I used a blind hem to  close the top of the shoulder so it would match the other three however you can use a straight stitch over the top after you tuck in all the raw unfinished edges.

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Finally add buttons to the top for a clean finished look and snaps to the insides of one shoulder and the open side. I used the button on the left to secure the left shoulder (it doesn’t open). The button on the right is just for decoration as safety snaps are what the parents actually use to close the garment up. Vowalla one happy custom sleepsack ready for a new baby.

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Filed under Budget, Children, Crafts and Gifts, DIY, Family, Motherhood, parenting

DIY baby fairy or ballerina

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I originally made these little tutu’s as a baby gift for a friend but just love them as regular dress up box items or fun, quick and easy Halloween costumes for the little ones. Whether this costume is to play in around the house, or wear over to Grandma’s for the first Halloween Oooooo’s and Ahhhh’s, these little skirts are sure to please! Here’s how you make them…

First assemble your needed supplies… elastic for the waist band (measure a little snug or short the measurement by an inch or two on the baby or child so that it still fits once you add all the fluff), needle and thread, measuring tape, pins, scissors, and tulle/ribbon in various colors.

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Lay out the tool on a flat cutting surface – measure and mark the width you want your strips to be -and place a pin in each to hold them together? I doubled over the tulle I had, and then layered three pieces together so I could cut the whole skirt all at once. If you have a rotary cutter and sewing mat this process goes crazy quick! (Remember to make the length of the strips twice the length you want them to be for the finished skirt. Each piece will be folded over and looped around the waist band as the attachment method.)

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Once you have all of your strips of ribbon and tulle cut into equal lengths, make your waist band for them to loop around. Make sure to make the waist a little smaller than the actual child. Once you start adding the fluff the elastic will stretch a bit and the final size will actually be bigger than you start with.

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Finally Take two to three pieces of tulle at a time or a piece of tulle and a piece of ribbon and match them up one on top of the other. fold all three pieces in half and loop them around the waist band making a small knot at the waist band to hold them in place. You want to make sure to have multiple layers of tulle in each loop to ensure the skirt is nice and full. Also having multiple colors in each loop creates a nice depth and whimsy.

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Aaaaaaaand vowala you have an adorable and fun tutu or fairy skirt in no time!

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Filed under Budget, Children, Crafts and Gifts, DIY, Halloween, Party Planning

DIY Wedding Dress

Back in April I had the great privilege of making a wedding dress for a good friend of mine. I hadn’t made a wedding dress since I worked in the costume department during my college years (so needless to say I was a bit rusty), but I had a friend in need and so I set out to make the dress she had been envisioning for the last year. Truthfully, my friend had been very wise and had picked out and ordered her dress a year before the wedding. However, when the dress arrived a mere 3 weeks before the wedding it wasn’t right. From the fabric, to the design, all the way to the size the dress was wrong. Panicked and overwhelmed with the final weeks of wedding planning she had resigned herself to buying a simple cocktail dress at a department store to get married in…but for me that simply wouldn’t do! So one duct tape manikin, 6 yards of dupioni silk, and 72 pearl buttons later I was helping her into her dress for the wedding. AND I am happy to report she was happy with the final product! Here is a quick breakdown (in pictures) of how I made her dress in 3 weeks (while still working my normal job, cleaning my house, and attending pre-wedding / bachelorette functions etc 🙂

First we bought a long night shirt and a roll of duct tape and I made a duct tape manikin of my friend. (By doing this I was able to make the dress to fit her perfectly from the start. We didn’t have time for extra alterations later.

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Next I created the general shape of the dress with a basic white satin (this will become the under slip and guide for the rest of the dress). My friend wanted a deep sweetheart neck line, low back and mermaid fit through the hips…so I pinned and created seams accordingly. (I also added corseting style boning and cups at this point so my fiend wouldn’t have to worry about an uncomfortable strapless bra. This dress was made to stay up throughout the ceremony and party without any unsightly tugging or adjusting!)

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Always make sure you look at the dress from every angle ensuring you have extra fabric for finishing seams and zippers later!Created with Nokia Smart Cam

Next I began laying the Dupioni silk over the top of the Satin under dress. Achieving the right look with ruching or folds can be difficult. If you are going to attempt this type of project take as much time as you need at this point and get the fabric to lay properly. Pin and re-pin as necessary without getting discouraged. Trust me it’s worth it in the end to do it right at this point 🙂

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Once I had the front pinned I began working on the back. To some degree the back of the dress can be more difficult than the front as a result of the zipper. For this dress I started by creating the folds on one side of the zipper and then moved to the other side working to ensure everything would match up perfectly once the dress was zipped.

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Next I closed all of the seams (which can be tricky keeping all of your ornate folds in place properly and the only piece of advice I can give is lots of pins and lots of patience!)

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Next (and I’m sorry I don’t have pictures of this part) turn your new lovely dress inside out and sew the top of the under dress to the actual wedding dress and then turn right side out again. This will create an invisible hem at the bust line and a clean finish to the whole dress effectively hiding all of your seams (the seams of the dress face the seams of the under dress so you can’t see the seams at all). Once this is complete ensure the bust line is laying properly and make any adjustments necessary to ensure it won’t bubble or pucker.

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Finally insert zipper using the invisible zipper method, attach buttons down the back of the dress covering the zipper (if desired), add any details such as rhinestones or feathers you wish to have, and hem the bottom (You will need your lovely bride to be in her wedding shoes of choice for this last measurement). Vowalla one wedding dress custom made and ready to wear.

Created with Nokia Smart Cam(I also added a bustle to the back of this dress so she could dance the night away without worrying about people stepping on the train.)

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Filed under Budget, Crafts and Gifts, DIY, Education, talents

5 Days in Italy – Day 4

Florence Day 1:

Okay, here’s the scoop, Florence is a lot smaller than Rome in terms of mileage so you can
literally see all the major sites on a quick walk about in a single day. HOWEVER, if you really want to see things in depth it is going to take a bit longer! Because I know shopping is a must I am leaving Florence a little more open than Rome (because the shopping is awesome here!) so….here goes.

Once again start off the day with a good hearty breakfast so you can really go, go, go.
First on the tour today is the Uffizi Gallery! Because this books up so quickly, and they only
allow a set number of patrons in at a time, jump online before you head to Italy and pre-book your tickets for the Uffizi and Academia. Then all you have to do is go to customer service and pick up tickets for your respective time slots!

The Uffizi Gallery is a show case of great Italian art and Florentine patrons. Although many
of the paintings and sculptures are portraits and busts this is definitely a must! The detailing in some of the portraits is so lifelike you can almost feel the fur collars and the beaded tapestries in the backgrounds!

After your tour through the gallery take your time wondering through the courtyard and then through the attached Piazza Signoria to admire the many statues they have on display as well as the many pieces of art the locals have for sale!

Next stop is across town to Academia to see the David. Although he towers above you, his life like features and the way the veining in the marble seem to somehow line up with where real veins and arteries would be will truly amaze! Walk around and get a good look from every angle before heading into the hall of busts and then back out onto the streets of Florence.

With the two major museums under your belt head east toward Piazza Santa Croce for lunch and shopping. This area has some of the most lovely leather purses and coats of all fashions and sizes! While there don’t forget to take a stroll through the church as well before heading off for the next adventure.

After lunch head back west along the Arno river toward the Ponte Vecchio (the bridge of gold) to see the shops before they close for the day. Also take the opportunity to admire the other goods being offered by street vendors along either side of the bridge. BUT don’t get your bags too full yet, you haven’t been to San Lorenzo or the Pig Market/The Straw Market (which has anything but live stock :- ) !

Next we head North back through the city to see the Duomo. Wander in through the main doors and admire the various shades of marble and the stunning carved doors as you do so! Once inside light a candle and then walk through this vast space to admire the grandeur of the frescos – especially those at the top of the dome! Once again don’t forget to look down. The floor of this beauty is just as impressive as the walls!

If you dare take the stairs up to the top of the dome to get a closer look at the fresco and then wander outside to get a striking view of the whole city below you. From here you can see Santa Croce, the Uffizi, Pitti Palace, etc. Although it is high up – I highly recommend this!!!!!

Then wonder back out of the Duomo and take a tour through the bell tower and baptistery. The gift shops here have some fun things to look at and keep in mind if you can’t find them from a street vendor for less!

Back out on the street head north toward the San Lorenzo Market. If the shop vendors are still out feel free to take your time wondering from canopy to canopy, but don’t wait too long to head inside to the food market for some dinner at the Spagittarian. This amazing market has meats, cheeses, fruits, wines, olive oil, lemon cello, and ready to eat meals! It’s a great time to grab snacks for tomorrow too!

Now wander back through the streets, bellies full and admire the city at night as you find your way back to your hotel for some sleep.

 

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Filed under Budget, Family, Travel

House Hunting -Looking at the Budget

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It seems I have found myself in the thick of house hunting once again. I say “once again” because I happen to come from a family that moved every few years when I was a child…and so preconditioned to do so I have perhaps unintentionally maintained the tradition into adulthood. In fact in my short lifetime I (or when I was young -my parents) have filled out a change of address form 25 times. This being the case I thought perhaps I would take a few posts to pass along a few tidbits I have learned over the years…and a few new ones I have come to learn recently.

Before you head to the bank for loans or drive neighborhoods picking your favorites, or meander through the home improvement stores to pick out paint colors…manage your budget!

When I say manage your budget I don’t mean ensure you can pay your current bills (although that is extremely important), I mean go through things with a fine tooth comb! Write out a list of your expenses. Start with your standard bills, the ones that you can’t change or deduct -rent (include energy, water, etc), CC debt, loans (cars, school, personal, etc). Now create a column for all the little things that you just can’t live without such as – phone, internet, cable, subscriptions (if you pay on it monthly put it here). Finally go through a few months of bank statements and really scrutinize how much you spend on the rest – food (restaurant and grocery store trips), gas (transportation), shopping (clothing, starbucks, books, games, hobbies, etc), and fun (what ever you do regularly mini golf, movies, theatre, etc).

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Look over your total. Many people at this point will say “Oh my Gosh! I had no idea how much I really spent every month!” This will be followed up very quickly with “but of course I can cut most of these small expenses out.” This is where I want to throw up the warning flag. You may in fact be able to cut things out here and there, BUT be reasonable! In order to really regain that money every month you need to be able to give up those things permanently…not just until you get into a new home. If you can’t give them up permanently, don’t try to add that money back into the monthly pot. Now…how much money do you have coming in versus going out. How much do you really have each month to spend on a mortgage and all the little things that come with a house?

Many people simply swap rent for mortgage…don’t make this mistake! A house is far more expensive than the mortgage. You have house insurance, mortgage insurance (if you have less than 20% down- and if you are a first time home buyer that may very well be the case),  closing costs on the home, increase cost of utilities including water (especially if you have a yard to maintain at your new home), possible HOA fee’s, and all the regular maintenance of home ownership including roof/gutter/paint/windows/etc. This may seem daunting at first, but owning a home is still a great idea. The important thing is you factor in these additional costs before you buy the home…so you don’t find yourself in sticky situation later.

In addition to ensuring you have enough money for the extra initial costs of buying and regular maintenance of a home you want to have some cushion at the end of each month for savings. This last step is crucial. It is important to have a little left over at the end of each month (once you have paid all the categories we discussed at the top) to account for accidents, unexpected needs, and life changes. You are single, or newlywed, or starting a new career now…but where will you be in the next few years? Are you planning to go back to school, get married, start a family, change careers, etc? All of these things will change your financial situation. If you know you are going to be making a change, don’t forgo the mortgage for rent…just make sure you plan for the extra expense up front. If you can, set a low budget and try to find the right home within that budget instead of finding the right home and then trying to make your finances work.

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If you do things right, when you go to your lending institution you’ll be able to set a sound budget you can work with for years to come.

Coming up Next on House Hunting: Questions to ask your lender, what documentation to bring, and why you ask for an itemized report before you go.

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Filed under Budget, First time Home Buyer, House hunting