A Schooltime Tradition

While perusing the internet today I was reminded of my favorite school-time tradition as a kid, cleaning our desks. I’m sure that sounds like a very mundane task but to a 7 year old it was magical!

You see, back then we were assigned to one desk for the entire school year and they were the best. They were old with dinged and cracked wooden tops, probably leftovers from the 70s, with the lift up access to the steel storage bin where we hid our books and crayons (and occasionally a soggy PB + J). Every few months our teacher would bring in a few cans of shaving cream and old towels and walk throughout the room coating everyone’s desk in a thin layer of white foam. We would swirl it, draw in it and rub it all over hands while supposedly freeing the desktops from their scribbles and slime. After a few minutes we had to wipe it away but for those moments it was the most fun getaway from the monotony of the classroom. I still remember the musky, dad-smell of the shaving cream and the feeling of it in my hands.

Memories are cool.

Alright, alright, enough of the nostalgia. I hope you have a great day, cheers!

Hostess with the Most(ess)

I love throwing parties. I would say it’s in my blood but both my mother and sister dread organizing get-togethers. In 2013 I threw the biggest party ever, our wedding (it was awesome!), and each August I get to plan my husband’s huge, birthday, pool party, extravaganza. Now that I’m married and it’s January, I’ll take any excuse to play hostess.

Most recently I volunteered to take the first half of a progressive party on New Years Eve, co-hosting with some friends of ours nearby. I think progressive parties are great because it allows you to maximize the time you have with your guests at home and then they’re off to the next stop before they get bored or restless. My husband and I are currently trying to buy a house so I knew for this occasion I had a tight budget and our little (rented) duplex to work with. That didn’t stop me and I hope circumstances like this won’t stop you either.

I have devised a pretty simple equation for throwing a party that can be customized for any budget, event, location, theme, etc.

Equal parts food, alcohol, decorations/supplies (1 x 1 x 1).

Example, my New Years Eve party:

Food- $25 ($10 cheese, $6 olives, $5 crackers, $4 nuts)

Alcohol- $25 ($13 case of beer, $7 bottle of champagne, $5 mixers)

Decorations- $10 serving platters, $10 card-stock and craft supplies, $5 theme specific napkins and store bought decor)

The caveat to this system is that the party was BYOB. I hope this doesn’t offend anyone, but with the exception of hosting a wedding, shower or retirement party, I think just about all parties should be BYOB. It just makes sense that people bring what they want to drink since a persons taste and quality preferences can vary drastically from yours or other guests. In any case, if you do BYOB, always have a little something for those that show up empty handed and always have plenty of ice and mixers.

I’m sure many of you are skeptical to the formula but consider these scenarios:

Chili party for 6 friends: $15 for chili supplies and crusty bread, $15 for two bottles of wine, $15 for recycled paper bowls, napkins and an outdoorsy smelling candle. Total: $45

St. Patrick’s day for 15: $50 for a slim keg of light beer and green food coloring, $50 for oven ready freezer apps and homemade shepherds pie, $50 on plates, napkins, toilet paper, and every green decoration from the Dollar Tree. Total: $150

My Wedding for 130: $2,000 for the caterer, $2,000 for our own alcohol, insured bartender and barware, $2,000 for the venue, photographer and decorations. Total: $6,000

I’m telling you friends, it works! Next time you are itching for a fiesta just make a plan and a budget and you’ll be the host(ess) with the most(ess) in no time.

Miscellaneous Tips

  • Clean your house but don’t mop the floors (they’re about to get dirty)
  • Put away personal items like medication, bath towels, bills, receipts, slippers, dog beds
  • Check out your local thrift store for gently used party supplies like serving platters and cake stands
  • Hit the party supply store first for any must have splurges and then hit the dollar store to fill in any generic staples (plasticware, napkins, etc)
  • Adapt your lighting, switch to low watt bulbs and light candles (think mood lighting)
  • Make your recycle/trash situation easily known but still discreet to avoid litter around your house or yard
  • Don’t forget to eat, drink and have fun!

 

Check out some highlights from my NYE 2013 bash below. Cheers!

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New Year

As this year winds to a conclusion many blog entries and Facebook posts either look to recap the past year or look forward to make promises for the new year. I find both of these to be an important part of the process, but I think there is another New Year component that deserves equal attention, the traditions.

I am from a family that never had many holiday traditions. Growing up in Wisconsin but now residing in Florida, I never identified solely with the culture or customs of just one region. I also grew up in a secular household and was unaware of many religious practices regarding holidays. It’s probably for reasons like these that particular traditions (like eating black eyed peas on New Years Day) were completely lost on me until recently.

The origin of traditions like this are interesting to learn, however recognizing them and keeping them going is more important. This year, even if you don’t know why, drink champagne, write a resolution, listen to Old Lang Syne and eat black eyed peas. Maybe doing these things will bring you closer to other people that practice their own traditions. Cheers!

Closet: Before & After

Who doesn’t love a good makeover? I’ve always been a sucker for one, regardless of if it’s on a person, a room, a piece of furniture, etc. I always find so much satisfaction in seeing something new and beautiful come from something old and ordinary. It’s for these reasons that when I first heard some whisperings about a friend’s closet makeover I was more than intrigued.

It happened just a few weeks ago when we somehow got on the subject. My friend had recently replaced all of her clothes hangers with space-saving suit hangers and was delighted with the results. She went on to tell me that she got a great deal on the hangers from Costco and now her life was perfect (well she may not have said that, but that’s what I heard). Well I took the bait, and before I knew it, was hooked on the idea.

It only took a week or two to coordinate our trip to the warehouse super store for my splurge. I had already estimated that I had about 70 white plastic hangers on my side of the closet so I bought two packs ($10.89 for 35 hangers) . These hangers can be found almost anywhere but if you’re doing a major overhaul I would shop around first and find the best price so you don’t end up spending too much.

Coincidentally, my husband was sick in bed on the night of my project which meant that I had a skeptical audience standing by for my much-anticipated closet makeover. I meticulously took each garment from their white plastic confinements, tried smoothing out the awful indentations left from the previous hanger and arranged them perfectly on their new, non-slip, black velvet surface. After about two hours, I had a pile of unwanted clothes (why do I still have this plaid halter mini dress with paint on it?!) and an even bigger pile of unwanted hangers.

I don’t know if I saved more space from the hangers, the purge, or a combination of both, however I do know that the result is so aesthetically pleasing and sophisticated that it was worth every penny. When I was finished my skeptic even asked when I was going to do his side of the closet next!

I would recommend this type of closet makeover for anyone sharing space or living small. Even if you have all of the space in the world, you may consider switching over anyways, your cardigans will thank you. Cheers!

Here are some of the before photos:

before1

My side of the closet is everything to the right of the black hangy thing.

before2

Close up (pardon the flash, it was already dark when I started): scarves overflowing from their hangers, white plastic nightmares abound, my heels stashed against the wall.

And now the after:

after1

Ahhhh, so simple and streamlined. Shoes and scarves neatly in the front, followed by bottoms, tops and jackets.

after2

Close up with new hangers!

afterhishers

And finally a comparison shot, take note of the ugly white hangers residing on the left side!

Running Errands

From time to time I run my errands and if I bump into someone I know in the midst of this activity they always seem so perplexed at what I’m doing. You see that’s because I like to run to my errands. It must be the excessive multi-tasker in me (I’m making breakfast as I write this post) but if I need to do two or more things in one block of time, I often like to combine those activities together. Example: Yesterday I wanted to go to the gym or exercise in the morning, but I also needed to return a DVD to the Redbox. Solution: Run to the Redbox with DVD in hand and then run home. My totally route was about 1.5 miles so it was a nice 15 minute jog through the neighborhood. While I understand that many people live in areas where “running errands” would require marathon distances just to get to the post office, I am sure that a good percentage of the U.S. population is capable of completing many errands on foot. Running errands doesn’t have to be just jogging or running but could also be walking or bicycling. How many times have you gone to the store just for one or two things (oh, forgot the toothpaste!)? These are wasted opportunities for some much needed exercise and a wonderful way to connect with your neighborhood. Of course, I am not suggesting that you “run” out for two 64 ounce bottles of laundry detergent or a 27 pound tub of kitty litter, that would be inconvenient and exhausting. However, next time you just need some stamps or to return your DVD, lace up those sneakers and take a healthier approach to getting the task done. Cheers!

P.S. May I recommend my favorite reusable shopping bag for when you run to your errands? It’s the Baby Baggu from this wonderful store, not only does it fold up to be about 4 inches square, it comes with a tiny pouch making it perfect for stashing in your pocket, your bra, your waistband, or even your shoe! Pretty cool right? 

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Oh Christmas Gifts, Oh Christmas Gifts, How Lovely Are Your Antics

Despite my depressing decent salary, I live in a perpetual state of brokeness. It just seems like there is always something to devote my money to (this past year: wedding, honeymoon, vacations, pool party, buying a house) so during times of the year when gifting is required I’m always slightly depressed.

Here’s the thing, I’m a Christmas junkie. I have Christmas socks, I listen to Christmas music as soon as the radio plays it, I must watch a Christmas movie every year, I love Christmas parties and Christmas cookies and, well, you get my drift. One of my particularly favorite things about Christmas is buying people gifts. I like to think I have a knack for it (although this has never been confirmed by a recipient) and I just get so much joy from it! Hence why every year I spend the weeks and days leading up to the big day tormented with endless thoughts and ideas and anxieties on how to best stretch such a meager budget to cover everyone.

Well this year, last night actually, husband and I got in an argument over my gift giving zeal. He claimed that we don’t need to buy gifts for people because we’re saving to buy a house. While this is true, I couldn’t help but feel guilty that we continue to go out for lunches and dinners and nights on the town but now we shouldn’t be spending money on others?? While he made a good point, “Christmas isn’t about stuff, it’s about spending time with people,” I couldn’t help but plead that for me, Christmas = giving presents.

So alas, Christmas is 13 days away and I will continue to do my best stressing thinking about how to brighten a friend or family member’s day with a little gift that I hope they enjoy. After all, Christmas isn’t about giving people stuff, it’s about love and joy and happiness. So I apologize in advance if you get something cheesy or off your list, but just remember it probably gave your gift giver joy or happiness to give it you, and that’s what the holiday spirit is all about. Cheers!

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Last year’s Christmas gifts ^