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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Wedding Wednesday - Catering Your Own Wedding {Guest Post}



Today I'm happy to welcome another guest blogger to Wedding Wednesday! Saxon from Let's Drink Coffee, Darling writes the most adorable blog and has a huge resource of wedding related posts so all you brides-to-be, you've got to check it out! You'll love what she has to share with you today!



I'm so happy to be able to take over Catherine's blog for a day and share a little bit about our wedding with her lovely readers!  

My name is Saxon and I write over at Let's Drink Coffee, Darling! One unique aspect about our wedding is that we provided all the food and drinks (except the cake and cupcakes) ourselves. This is a huge task, so I thought I'd share with you about our experiences!


If you are in the middle of planning a wedding, chances are you've already thought about food, drinks and snacks.  Everyone has a different idea in mind: some ladies are set on hiring a catering company, others want to provide light snacks, and then there's the smaller category of us who want to provide a meal without the expense of the catering costs.

We went with the third route for our wedding.  I'll just say it - I'm pretty sure my family, friends, and future family thought I was crazy.  We had several people offer to help us pay for caterers or suggest we go that route because I'm pretty sure they thought the plans were really just a disaster waiting to happen.  

And a disaster very well could happen if you don't make good plans and have back up plans. 


If you're thinking about doing the food at your wedding yourself, you should consider these questions:
  • Does your wedding venue even allow outside food or drinks? Many venues will not allow any outer sources to provide food or drinks as their business mechanism to keep your money with them. Read contracts closely and know what is allowed and what isn't.
  • Does your wedding venue have adequate facilities to prepare food? A venue with a kitchen equipped with a refrigerator, sinks, the ability to cook in large quantities is essential.  
  • Do you have someone who you can put in charge of the food on the day of your wedding? Remember, this cannot be anyone in your immediate family or wedding party, as this person will likely be busy with this job for the entire time. We opted to hire a few of my dad's friends and coworkers to be in charge of cooking. We did compensate them for their time and efforts.  I would suggest compensating anyone you ask to do a job this large.
  • Are you okay with a buffet style meal? If you have your heart set on plates of food being delivered to your guests as they sit, and a server topping off their glass of wine then this route is most definitely not for you. Be prepared for a self serve buffet style meal where your guests are free to get up and refill their own drinks. And speaking of wine, another thing you might think about is whether or not you want to deal with serving alcohol. If you have some guests under 21, you'll need to make sure someone responsible is overseeing who partakes in any alcohol - precisely why we decided not to have it at all.

Okay, so you still think you want to go with the DIY food option?

Great, I'm glad you do!  

Although there is definitely an added stress factor to providing the food yourself, there are also many benefits. You don't have to pay for cooks or servers. You can purchase the food in bulk to cut down on costs. You can have your family and wedding party help you get some of the food ready the night before after the rehearsal. And one thing I thought was cool was we didn't have to deal with any people we didn't know the day of our wedding.  

Food

Providing food yourselves means you'll need to hound people about RSVPing. This is where I failed. We invited over 150 people to our wedding. Despite our best efforts to have everyone RSVP, a good 25 percent of our guests either did not RSVP or did not RSVP until the day before our wedding - not helpful when buying our own food. That being said, we over bought on food as we assumed those who did not respond to the RSVP would show up. In reality we know most of them would probably be no shows, but we would rather have too much food than not enough.


Some questions you need to ask yourself now is what style of food best matches your finances, your facilities' cooking capabilities, and your available workforce?

We had a springtime outdoor wedding at a lodge. We decided to go with a cookout style meal which included hamburgers, assorted bags of chips, and vegetable trays with dip (for the added "health" benefit). This fit our relaxed style wedding, we didn't have to use the ovens so that the lodge would remain cool inside, and most things could be prepared the night before. My grandma, mom, and matron-of-honor were able to get tomatoes, lettuce, and onions cut up and stored in the refrigerator the night before, as well as the vegetables for the veggie trays. Of course, you don't want to forget the condiments - most stores sell restaurant sized containers with pumps.

Guests in line for food - it was really windy that day!

You'll be dealing with a lot of logistics, so it would be best if you are either good at math or have someone who is be able to help you! (My mother-in-law was super helpful on the logistics part)!  Also, choose foods that are easy to deal with as far as numbers go. If you bake 20 casseroles, it is hard to know how much one person will eat. But if you cook 20 hamburgers you know that feeds 20 people. Get my drift?

Drinks


While we kept our food options pretty simple, drinks are where we put a little more thought.

Keeping in mind that we had limited amounts of people to help keep the flow of drinks moving, we used three 5 gallon drink coolers for the majority of our drinks - which we kept outdoors with the food. We decided the only realistic way to provide drinks for this amount of people was to use instant mixes. We provided Country Time Lemonade and Instant Lipton Tea Mix, which worked out pretty well.

If you have reservations about using the mixes, you can always splurge on one special drink.
We took the idea of having a signature cocktail, but instead made PW's iced coffee (since we are both known for loving coffee) and chose to not serve alcohol. This took a little more prep work, but was still very very easy.


The night before the wedding I mixed one can of sweetened condensed milk per every two 12-cup pots of coffee and stored it in the refrigerator.  To make things easier, I bought several plastic pitchers from the Dollar Tree so the coffee could be made ahead of time and chill in the refrigerator until it was ready to be used.  I made this stuff keeping in mind that a lot of people don't drink coffee, but this stuff was really a hit!  (Meaning I should have prepared more than I did - we ran out!)

One last note about if you decide to provide your own food rather than hire catering is to check into both options.  Sometimes it may actually be more cost effective to hire catering, so it is worth looking into.  In our case we wanted to do it ourselves because we could provide more for a lower price - especially with our venue being in a remote location.  We decided splurged on our cake and cupcakes, which was SO worth it! 



If you have any specific questions, I'd love to hear from you at my blog or you can email me at letsdrinkcoffeedarling@gmail.com!


Thank you SO much, Saxon! That was so informative! We ended up having a caterer do our wedding but I definitely considered doing it ourselves to save money. Your wedding was beautiful! So glad to have you over here at Happily Ever Crafter!

What was your choice for food for your wedding? Or what will you be choosing and why?

Till next time,
Catherine


If you're a fellow blogger and are interested in guest posting for this series, shoot me an e-mail at CatherinePageWood@gmail.com! Or, even if you're not a blogger and would like to share your wedding story or advice, send me an e-mail! I would LOVE to share your stories!

If you liked this post, be sure to check out the other editions of Wedding Wednesday!




Monday, December 16, 2013

DIY: 4 Step Gift Bag {Guest Post}

A couple weeks ago I shared how to make gift boxes out of cardboard tubes, you can read that post HERE. This week I've got one of my favorite bloggers guest posting for me with her 4-Step Gift Bag tutorial! Pam from Brown Thumb Mama has an awesome blog about gardening, thrifty living, recipes and lots of laughs. Be sure to "like" her Facebook page too!


I hate wrapping presents. Searching for paper, finding boxes, awkward-sized packages...and don't get me started on the ribbons, bows, and foofy decorations. Gack. A couple of years ago, I decided to make gift bags of all sizes to use for Christmas presents. Keep in mind that I'm not a very good seamstress, so this was a big accomplishment for me! I decided that a little bit of work up front would give me years without wrapping paper. It was too good to be true! Yes, yes it was. I realized at the end of the day that nobody had returned the bags their gifts were in. So here I am, sewing up another set of gift bags. This time I took some pictures so you can make them too. You will need: Fabric Thin ribbon for the drawstring Sewing machine Iron Measure the size of your gift. (This seems obvious, but if you saw the first batch of too-small-for-anything bags I made you'd understand.) Give yourself at least an inch of space all the way around, and cut out the desired shape.

1. Start with the Quick-Fold Trick

Turn the fabric over so you're looking at the wrong side. Fold the top two inches over so the fold runs off the side of the fabric. Pop it with a hot iron so the fold will stay. Sew down the middle of each fold and run the stitches straight off the edge of the fabric. Repeat on all four corners.

2. Sew up Sides and Top

Run a straight stitch up from the bottom to close up the sides, stopping when you get to the folded part. Fold over about 1/4 inch of each top flap, iron it so it stays, and stitch across.

3. Finish Drawstring Tunnel

Fold down each of the top flaps, and sew all the way across to make the drawstring tunnel. Don't sew the bag shut (ask me how I know). Repeat on the other side.

4. Add the Ribbon

Thread the ribbon through one side of the tunnel, across the "jump," and out the other side. Knot the ends. Repeat, starting the ribbon on the opposite side, so you can pull the knots to close the bag.


And you're done! Jackjack suggests that you stuff the bag full of good presents.


Drawstring bags have tons of uses beyond Christmas presents. Use a light muslin and make produce bags to take to the farmer's market, or pick out a fun print and make a bag for the kids' blocks, or whip up birthday party goodie bags.


Hi! I'm Pam, otherwise known as BrownThumbMama. I'm a corporate writer by day, hobby gardener, avid reader, and housework avoider by night. 

I'm here to show that everyday, working moms and families can enjoy good health and nutrition while living a thrifty life. I give examples, recipes, and real-life stories of our family to show how we do this. 







Thanks for guest posting for me Pam! I'll be making some of these bags for sure! I may wait till after Christmas this year so I can get fabric that's been marked way down ;-) 

Till next time,
Catherine

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

{Wedding Wednesday} How to Survive the Holidays as a Bride-to-Be (Guest post)


I'm lucky enough today to welcome back Ali from PunkWife.com to Wedding Wednesday! She's always so full of wonderful bridal tips! Click HERE for her previous Wedding Wednesday post! Ali is the author of The Bitch's Bridal Bible, a fabulous, no nonsense guide to being a bride! 



How to Survive the Holidays as a Bride-to-Be

Heading into the holidays as a bride-to-be is exciting! But let’s be realistic: you’re probably also worried about protecting your budget, avoiding a muffin top, and escaping other stressors (family drama or running around like a crazy person, anyone?) But with some planning ahead, and a little care-taking, you can still indulge this season and keep the stress levels down! Consider the following suggestions on how to survive the holidays as a bride-to-be:  


1.     Gifts. Consider letting family know ahead of time that you will be a little more resourceful this year with gift giving, and that you may even DIY your gifts. Just be sure to stay within you limits of crafts-pertise to avoid any stress. (“They are my special Christmas socks I knitted for you little Mary! You just have to hold them up as you walk for them to work. Merry Christmas!”)

2.     Being cornered. Oh, Aunt Bertha, with your Merlot breath and endless questioning. Want to know why I’m having such a long engagement? Because DO YOU WANT TO PAY FOR MY WEDDING? I understand that the price per head in your day was $8.25, but you should really move that decimal point one spot to the right and then add $100. Now give me some of that wine because hearing myself say it out loud like that made me thirsty. (You’re in close corners with family you see maybe twice a year, so there’s not much you can do to escape this other than pull the string on your Chardonnay chute and deal.)


3.     Food. Consider “pre-gaming” before you attend your holiday party – but put down the eggnog you silly bride, you. The phrase takes on a whole new meaning this year. I’m referring to snacking at home first before heading out the door. Going to a holiday party hungry is the equivalent of going grocery shopping hungry. Everything looks amazing, and you are likely to devour it all. I’m not saying this is a bad thing. However, if you are a conscious bride and think you may beat yourself up later on for splurging, think ahead.

My grandma always says that when you have two parties to attend in one day, consider which one always has the best desserts and go there last. If you have multiple stops to make, this is the one year you probably want to play the reverse card and avoid any temptation. You can make up for it next year. 

4.     Skin, hair, nails. Depending on where you live, the holidays can also bring about a wrecking ball of dryness and brittleness to your skin, hair, and nails – coincidentally, all of the things you wish to look beautiful in time for your wedding. There’s no magic product or quick fix for this; the most effective formula here is the following: Moisturize. Get sleep. Be nice to yourself. And avoid stress as much as possible. Which brings me to #5…

5.     Stress. The last thing you need during wedding season is added stress. Numbers 1-4 contribute to the stress issue, and it can be hard to unwind or maintain your inner Zen amongst all the crazy. It may be finances on your mind, work deadlines, or family drama (times two this year, since you are now a part of your husband’s family, as well.) Carve out some time to decompress and relax yourself as you know how, whether it be practicing yoga, pounding the treadmill, or zoning out on the couch catching up with your DVR. And have fun wherever possible, because isn’t that what this time of year is supposed to be about?



Lastly, as you enjoy all the festivities, remember to make some time to enjoy the holidays with your future hubby. Depending how long your engagement is, it may be the only holiday you get to be a glowing bride-to-be. Make memories. Make traditions. But whatever you do, don’t make yourself crazy.



Author Bio: Alessandra Macaluso is author of "The Bitch's Bridal Bible: The Must-Have, Real- Deal Guide for Brides," available on Amazon and Kindle. A creator at heart, she is an avid writer of screenplays, articles, and business/product reviews. She has contributed to Uptown Magazine, Charlotte Magazine, and Yelp.com, among other publications, and was featured in the New York Times “Life and Style” section for her review of Ulta Beauty. Her original screenplay, “Polar Suburbia”, placed as a semi-finalist in the 2009 Moondance Film Festival. To learn more about Alessandra you can visit her blog at www.punkwife.com or visit her Google Author Profile.


That last line is on the money! Don't make yourself crazy! Thank you Ali for another wonderful post!! You're welcome back ANY time! :)

How is being a bride stressing you out more than normal during this holiday season?

Till next time,
Catherine



If you're a fellow blogger and are interested in guest posting for this series, shoot me an e-mail at CatherinePageWood@gmail.com! Or, even if you're not a blogger and would like to share your wedding story or advice, send me an e-mail! I would LOVE to share your stories!


If you liked this post, be sure to check out the other editions of Wedding Wednesday!





Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Diamond Candles - A ring in every candle!





Oh yes I was finally able to do a review of Diamond Candles!! If you've never heard of Diamond Candles, they're quality candles made from 100% soy, eco-friendly and clean. The big attraction though is that there is a ring hidden in every candle! These rings can be valued at $10, $100, $1000 or even $5000! 

Be sure to check out their Facebook page because they giveaway free candles all the time! 


I was fortunate enough to get two candles to try and review and right off the bat I was impressed with their packaging! Just a simple box that's folded in a way that cradles the candles so they survive shipping without loads of wasteful, plastic packaging.


I received Vanilla Lime scent.


And Lavender Lemon scent. They both smelled amazing but I especially loved the Lavender Lemon!


They include a little gold circle to help you know about where the ring will be. 



But you can't tell where it is from the top. So you will have to burn it for a while. Patience is key! 


After several hours (I didn't count, sorry), I noticed the foil packaging starting to show! 


WARNING: It is HOT! Be sure to blow out the candle and NEVER reach in with your bare fingers. Use a spoon or tweezers. 


Chewed up gum, anyone? 


I was giddy as a little girl on Christmas to get it open! 


Lookin' big! 


And here it is! If you're careful you can keep the melted wax from getting on the ring. It's in foil but then in a small plastic bag. 


It's a beautiful ring! I'm not sure what sort of stone it is, but it's definitely costume jewelry. There are no markings whatsoever. Boo-sauce! 


Either way, it's a pretty ring! Ironically...I'm not big on jewelry, especially stuff like this so I probably won't be wearing it but it would make for a great gift! I can even package it in my lovely little cardboard tube gift boxes


The Vanilla Lime candle gave me this little gem! Again, no markings so I assume it's costume jewelry. 


One thing about both of these rings is that they were both very solid and have a decent weight to them so they weren't plastic at least. I really am not sure of the value. I'm not headed to the pawn shop, though...ha! 

Overall I had a blast with my Diamond Candles and am still enjoying the scents! I would definitely buy one for myself or buy them as gifts! It's such an awesome gift. I think my only issue with Diamond Candles is the soy. Soy candles are definitely better than regular paraffin candles but I can't attest to whether or not the soy is GMO-free or not. I also can't attest to the negative effects of GMO soy candles being burned in your home. I'd love more insight on this if anyone knows more! 


Have you gotten a Diamond Candle before? What kind of ring did you get? What would you guess the value of my rings are? 

Till next time,
Catherine


Disclaimer: I received these candles for free from Diamond Candles to review but all opinions are 100% my own. 


Thursday, December 5, 2013

DIY: Cardboard Tubes Turned Gift Boxes


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 I originally wrote this post last year but I wanted to bring it back for The Skinny Pear's DIY Christmas Series! Be sure to check out the other fantastic posts by fabulous bloggers! You'll be able to DIY all of Christmas this year! 


How cool would it be to go from this: 

(via)

To this: 


I had seen this idea on Pinterest and decided to try it for myself. I got the original idea from the blog Sweet Charli specifically. It was really quite simple and fun to do! 

I don't know about you but I'm always in need of a small gift box whether it's for jewelry or a gift card and these are the perfect size! You can customize them for Christmas, birthdays and more! You could even use them for party favor packaging! 


Supplies:
  • Clean cardboard tubes
  • Ribbon
  • Twine or pretty string
  • Scrapbook paper
  • Hot glue gun/glue or tape
  • Scissors
  • Tissue paper

 Directions:


Fold one end of your cardboard tube in. Think like you're trying to close one of those paper coin rolls from the bank. 


Fold in the other half. Secure it down with hot glue or tape. When you've got that locked down, wrap your gift in a small amount of tissue paper and stick it inside. Fold and secure the open end of the tube the same way as the first one. 


Now decorate them however you'd like! I used an extra piece of scrapbooking paper from another project  and wrapped it around, securing it with hot glue. I also used a small length of ribbon my husband had saved from a gift he received. The man knows me. 


For this one I used a thicker piece of the same scrapbook paper and different ribbon. I just switched the directions of the ribbon and paper from the previous box. If you don't want it to be as obvious that it's a cardboard tube, just wrap the whole thing in scrapbook paper. Chances are people won't even notice! Generally people are more focused on what's inside! 

I love this idea because the possibilities of design and decoration are endless! You can even bust out that Bedazzler you've been dying to use! ;-) 


What are some other unique ways that you like to wrap gifts?

Till next time,
Catherine


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