Archive for the ‘Money Saving Tips’ Category
Hannah attended her first “friend” birthday party a couple weeks ago and had a blast. When we got the invitation to this little boy’s 5th birthday party my first thought was, I know nothing about boy gifts. Let’s face it, I live in girl world, I never had brothers and I really have no clue what 5 year old boys get excited to play with. I did, however, have a good clue about something this sweet little guy liked because the party theme was batman, spider man and legos.
So I did what most clueless moms do, start browsing pinterest. That’s when I came across the homemade fort kit idea. What boy doesn’t love building a fort, right? I took some ideas from the pin and got to work to make a kit customized for Hannah’s friend. Here’s what I purchased/used/created:
- Little red, zipper-top bag (86 cents): The pin had a tutorial for how to make a cloth bag to put the kit in but I am not a great sewer and didn’t want to spend a lot of time trying to make a bag that probably wouldn’t look very good. I made the bag I bought more sturdy by cutting a cardboard circle the same size as the bottom of the bag and then covering it in red craft foam. Here is what that looked like:
- Navy blue queen sheet ($2)
- I cut an old white t-shirt into 7, 18-inch (1 inch wide) strips to make the “hooks” for the sheet. Just stretch out the strips a little then tie knots on each end of the strip. Make a little loop and then sew onto the sheet. 3 loops go along the long sides of sheet and one in the center. Here is a photo of the loops/hooks:
- I took 5 clothespins I already had laying around the house and had Hannah paint them blue. Then I found superhero/lego clip art, printed them out and covered them with laminate I had. I glued the laminated art onto each clothespin to make them more fun and in line with the theme:
- Now it’s Dollar Tree time. We got red nylon rope ($1), suction cup hooks ($1), glow sticks ($1) and a flash light ($1) to put into the bag. I also included some popcorn and fruit snacks because building a fort takes lots of energy 😉
- The last step was making a cute sign for the front of the bag so the birthday boy would know what he was getting (or really the birthday boy’s mom because she was the one reading it!):
The next week when I ran into the birthday boy’s mom at school, she told me that he absolutely loved the fort kit and had been playing with it non-stop the entire weekend. I’d say the kit was a hit and not bad for just about $7! If you have any questions about the assembly of this kit just leave me a comment and I’ll get back with you! Also, if you’d rather not go to the trouble of making the kit, you can always pay me to make one for you 🙂 I can also do a “girly” one…Hannah has already requested one.
I know…you read the title and thought I have gone WAY too “Martha” on you. But I promise, this is so easy! You should try it if:
-You love a bargain (my only cost was the glycerin which was $1.75 for the amount in this recipe)
– You want to get rid of those bars of soap you never use. Come on, you know you swiped at least 3 from the last hotel you stayed at 🙂
– You want to be able to say, “Hey I made that soap!” after someone uses your restroom.
I won’t lie–the worst part of this entire process is grating the soap. I read on another blog that you can put the bar of soap in your blender to do the trick but I’m pretty sure my Kohl’s blender would explode if I did that. So I grated….and grated (just used the largest holes on my cheese grater). It really didn’t take that long. I just like to complain.
So, heat a gallon of water on your stove in a big pot (medium heat). Then add 2 Tablespoons glycerin (I got it from the pharmacy at Target) and the grated soap. I also added about 10 drops of peppermint essential oil but this is just optional. Here is what it looked like after I did this step and stirred for a few minutes:
Stir until all the soap has dissolved. Then turn off the heat, cover it and let it sit overnight. When I uncovered mine it seemed really thick but once I started stirring, it loosened up to a normal liquid hand soap consistency:
Then start filling your soap pumps or store in jars/plastic containers. I found that a funnel and soup ladle made filling containers easier:
Notice in the above photo that I refilled a liquid soap container from Bath and Body Works–Haha, BBW, I showed you!!! I filled my 3 soap pumps, a pint jar for my mom and still had a large plastic rice bin container of soap left over for refills later! Finished product:
When I used my new soap today I heard little “cha-ching” sounds in my head…ah I love saving money. I got my homemade soap inspiration from this blog.
For Staycation Part 1 click here otherwise read on…
Our Denton “staycation” continued on Wednesday with a trip to the zoo since that was Hannah’s actual birthday. She had been requesting to go to the Ft. Worth Zoo for several months since she actually remembers going there on her 2nd Birthday. It worked out great that her 3rd Birthday fell on a Wednesday since that is half price admission day at the zoo! Hannah also requested to invite her Pappy & Gingie so Sean’s parents met us there.
Before we got to the zoo, however, we had a birthday breakfast at IHOP in Hickory Creek. We had a free Rooty Jr. coupon so Hannah got good and fueled up for the trip. I fueled up on lots of coffee. Hannah got to open her first birthday present from us which was a Beach Boys CD…yes, she really did ask for that and we listened to it all the way to Ft. Worth and back. At least it’s better than kiddie music all the time!
The Fort Worth Zoo is really a great place and gives you MUCH more for your money than the Dallas Aquarium. They happened to have a Dinosaur exhibit going on which Hannah loved because there were real looking dinosaurs throughout the zoo that moved and made sounds. She was continually on the look-out for the next dinosaur. There were signs posted by each dinosaur that told its name and what part of Texas their fossils were found which was neat.
The FW Zoo has a train and carousel which Hannah enjoyed last year but this year she was more interested in making sure she saw every single animal in the zoo so we didn’t have time for those. That was okay with us because you have to pay extra for both of those amenities anyways!
The zoo’s website states they “discourage” coolers but I did pack some snacks and a sandwich in the stroller. No one even looked at our bags or stroller so I say bring your sack lunch (just leave your very obvious gigantic ice chest at home). There are several dining options if you want to eat at the zoo including a Crocodile Cafe’ (Burger King & mexican food), Grandy’s, & Dickey’s BBQ. We ate at the Crocodile Cafe’ which gives you a perfect view of their crocodile exhibit. I was glad I brought my own sandwich because Sean said the Burger King food was not very good.
Hannah’s favorites at the zoo (besides the not real dinosaurs) were the meerkats, gorillas, snakes, exotic fish and flamingos. It is a LOT of walking so wear your good shoes!
After we returned home from the zoo, I started in on Hannah’s birthday dinner (chicken pot pie) and chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter icing. The look on her face was just priceless when I stuck a candle in her cupcake and Sean and I sang her “happy birthday.” She kept saying “Thank you, thank you!” After dinner she got to open her final present from us which was the Dora version of Candy Land. And then we played LOTS of Candy Land…Hannah kicked our butts. Needless to say after 5 hours of walking at the zoo & holding Hannah up to see the animals and lots of cooking, I slept well that night.
After our Wednesday festivities I was ready for a low-key day on Thursday. Sean let me sleep in (insert angels singing) and he and Hannah went on a donut date. We went to lunch at TX Land & Cattle in Hickory Creek. I had a free appetizer coupon so we got the steak nachos thinking Hannah would also like that but they were REALLY spicy. So not so much kid-friendly but she ate half of the loaf of bread and the entire container of butter so she was happy 🙂 After lunch we had to go to Wal-mart to get supplies for Hannah’s birthday party coming up on Saturday then had a pretty low-key rest of the day. I did a lot of cleaning to get ready for the party and also my cousin Candace who was coming to stay with us Friday evening.
Friday my mom watched Hannah for a few hours while Sean and I did a little shopping at Target (I got a cute new dress for Hannah’s party) and ate at RG Burgers. Now if you know Sean very well you know that no vacation would be complete without a burger at his favorite restaurant. RG Burgers also has good coupons in the Ad Pages magazine so that’s nice. I like it because I can get a turkey burger on a wheat bun and sweet potato fries. I pretty much make a million substitutions and they don’t mind 🙂
My cousin Candace arrived about 7 pm on Friday–hooray! Candace and I spent a lot of time together growing up and since I do not have any siblings she is the closest thing I have to a sister. We ate dinner at home and then after Hannah went to bed she and I escaped over to my fave coffee place, Cafe’ du Luxe. We had delicious latte’s and talked wedding stuff since Candace is newly engaged!
Saturday was the big party day–we threw a Wonder Pets themed party per Hannah’s suggestion. I will post picture on here soon but it was a lot of fun. Of course, what 3 year old wouldn’t love being the center of attention, opening lots of presents and eating hot dogs, macaroni & cheese and strawberry cake?!? I also created a photo slide show with music that we showed (thanks to my awesome husband for figuring out how to get it burned onto a DVD that would play on our BluRay).
Saturday night we hit up another one of our fave Mexican Restaurants in Denton, La Milpa, with our good friends Bryan & Melinda. It looks like a hole-in-the-wall kinda place but it is really good. And there’s never a wait for a table since it’s not a popular chain type place. I had their chicken fajitas and they were yummmmmy. They are also another restaurant that frequently puts coupons in the Ad Pages.
Sunday we went to church then came home and had party left-overs. After lunch Hannah and I went outside to try out her new sidewalk chalk Candace got her and her new soccer ball from Bryan & Melinda. It was fun but boy was it hot and muggy outside so Hannah got a bath when we got back inside. Then she and both napped for about 2 hours to recover from the staycation 🙂
For me, the best parts of our staycation were:
- sleeping in our own beds
- eating out more than we normally would
- exploring some new places in our area
- not having to spend a lot of money and
- just being able to relax at home
Noun: A vacation spent in one’s home country rather than abroad, or one spent at home and involving day trips to local attractions.
Because we have a limited vacation budget and a 3 year old, Sean & I thought it best to go the “staycation” route for his 9 days off from work. We decided we would use this week to frequent our favorite Denton spots we usually only get to go to on a special occasion and also try out some new places in the area. I will be doing several posts with staycation updates but this one will cover Friday evening through today (Tuesday). Hopefully this will encourage you to try some new places in the Denton/Dallas/Ft. Worth area …and learn from our mistakes 🙂
Friday evening, May 13th:
After a dinner at home that I cooked we decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather and walk with Hannah in the jogger over to Bliss, a frozen yogurt place. I love this place–we’ve definitely been there before, especially since it is just around the corner from our house. We had a $1 off coupon (one of those that is part of the long strip you get hung on your door) so that was a plus. I love all the different flavors of frozen yogurt & toppings you can choose from plus it’s fun for kids to build their own treat. AND it’s not loaded with sugar so your kid will sleep at night 🙂
Saturday, May 14th:
Lunch at the new (or new to me) Weinberger’s Deli just off the Denton square. Fail moment: didn’t know it was UNT graduation weekend and the place was packed so it took awhile to get our food. Win moment: we had a good coupon and the food was super Hannah & I had this turkey sandwich that had avocados, cheese and this really good basil mayo. The sandwiches automatically come with Lay’s Potato Chips (bleh) but next time I will just sub those for one of their other sides because they looked really good. Saturday evening I made homemade pizza & we watched the Jonah Veggie Tales movie…sometimes the 3 year old wins out…okay a lot of times.
Sunday, May 15th:
After church we had Sean’s favorite–LEFTOVERS! for lunch (sarcasm). But he ate them anyways. I needed to clean out the fridge. Had dinner at another one of our Denton favorites, a fairly new restaurant at Unicorn Lake called Los Toreros. The weather was awesome so we ate outside on their patio. Really nice. And yes, we had a coupon, how did you know?!?
Monday, May 16th:
My mom offered to baby-sit (hallelujah chorus begins) so Sean and I did some birthday shopping for Hannah, made a Costco trip (I know, we are fascinating people), had lunch at Pei Wei in Denton (no coupon, boo!) then saw Thor in 3D at the Rave in Hickory Creek (2 free passes woot!). I realize Pei Wei is a chain BUT we hardly ever get to eat there bc Hannah does not dig it at all and I was majorly craving their Vietnamese chicken salad rolls…get them, so good! After we got home while Hannah was napping I went for a nice run–loving this weather!
Tuesday, May 17th:
Sean & I have talked about going to the Dallas World Aquarium for years so we decided we’d finally spring for the $40+ it would cost us to go and just go. We figured Hannah would like it which she did. It was a fun family outing but let’s be real here–$21 per person is WAY too much for what you get. Plus you have to pay $6 to park on top of admission. But, it was fun for that special vacation memory…just wasn’t as impressive a
s I thought it would be paying that price and all. We ate lunch at Sonny Bryan’s in the West End which was pretty good but nothing extraordinary. My chicken sandwich was really good and their sauce is awesome but my onion rings were not good and the green bean casserole had too much pepper.
So far so good though! Have any staycation recommendations for us?
Can you believe Thanksgiving is just around the corner?!? During the holiday season I think it is SO easy to get wrapped up (pardon the pun) in holiday preparations that we miss the whole meaning of the holiday. I will refrain from talking about Christmas since I think Thanksgiving is often bypassed to soon. Instead I want to focus this post on truly meaningful ways to be thankful, give to others and spend quality time with your family.
- Realize all that God has blessed you with (really think about this–do you have air conditioning/heating in your home, food in your fridge and clothes to wear? You are blessed!)
- Take time to thank specific family or friends who are a blessing to you whether they listen to you vent, watch your kids at the drop of a hat, or are just there when you need them no matter what. I think it’s so important to always let those people know you love them because you never know when you’ll have another opportunity to say so.
- Teach your children a way to be thankful or ask them what they are thankful for. Give them the opportunity to say “thank you” to someone.
Giving to Others
- Lake Cities Food Pantry: The food pantry (located inside Lake Cities United Methodist Church) is currently serving 50 families a week which is quite an increase over the number they were serving this time last year. The shelves in the pantry are running low and they are approaching a very busy time of the year for food needs so please donate any of the following items if you have them:
-Spaghetti O’s & Ravioli
-Granola or Snack Bars
-Personal Items such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, Shampoo or soap
-And of course, any canned veggie or soup
- Community Aid Fund: This fund helps individuals and families in the Lake Cities area with common but necessary expenses such as utility bills and prescription medicines. The fund is housed at the Lake Cities United Methodist Church–click on the link for donation information.
- Lake Cities Spirit of Christmas: This organization holds several events throughout the year to raise money in order to give disadvantaged children a wonderful Christmas. They are putting together Thanksgiving food boxes for these families this year and could use any food items you can donate. They are also in need of good coats to give to families this Christmas. If you have any you can donate, please take them to any Dry Cleaners in the Lake Cities area. Just let the dry cleaner know that the coat is for the LC Spirit of Christmas. Also, don’t miss the Spirit of Christmas bake sale Nov. 14th at 1:00 pm in the Aaron’s parking lot on FM 2181 (Hickory Creek)!
Quality Time with Family & Friends
- Corinth Comfort Inn: Check out the following specials for guests you have traveling to this area (or you just want a night out of the house!)–
WINTER HOLIDAY SPECIAL: STAY 3 NIGHTS GET THE 4TH FREE, Extend stay to 7 nights and get a free night and a FREE upgrade to a Suite. Rates starting at $69.99 per night. Offer good November 1, 2009-January 31, 2010. Stay includes deluxe hot breakfast bar each day, use of indoor pool and hot tub, Business Center, and Guest Laundry. Reference Code: Winter09
SCENTSY PARTY: The Comfort Inn is hosting a Scentsy party, just in time for the holidays! A Scentsy is a wickless candle that makes a great gift for everyone on your list. Lite snacks and drinks will be served at this special party. Please call 940-497-6300 for more info on party dates and to RSVP.
NEW YEARS EVE SPECIAL: Stay December 31, 2009 and ring in the New Year with a complimentary bottle of Champagne. Rates starting at $89.99 per night. Must book November 1, 2009-December 28, 2009. Celebrate privately or come down to the Lobby to ring in 2010 and enjoy complimentary drinks and appetizers. New Years Day enjoy a late, hot breakfast bar complete with Mimosa’s and black eye peas for good luck. December 29-December 31. Reference Code: NYE2010
MAKE IT A FAMILY AFFAIR! December 31, 2009, our beautiful meeting/banquet room will be transformed to host our tiniest guests with a party of their own. The evening will start out with party games and a karaoke contest and end with a fun, holiday movie. Sparkling Cider and finger foods will be provided. Sleeping bags are welcome. This is an add on package to the New Years Special. $10 per child. Minimum age 5 to participate. Parents must remain on hotel site. MUST RSVP BETWEEN NOVEMBER 1, 2009- DECEMBER 21, 2009. Reference Code: FAM2010
- Excite Gym: This great place for kids has some fun holiday activities coming up and they’re a great way for your kids to release some pent-up energy!
-Sugar Plum Fairy Camp: Nov. 14th, Flower Mound location, 12:30-2:00pm, ages 4-10. Dance like a Nutcraker Princess, pictures with the Sugar Plum Fairy & a 10 minute show-off at the end of camp. $18 members, $23 non-members, must enroll 48 hours in advance.
-Turkey Trampoline Camp: Nov. 23rd & 24th, Highland Village location, 1:30-2:30pm, ages 4 & up. Kids will learn all kinds of fun skills and games for the trampoline and in tumbling. $18/members, $23/non-members, must enroll 48 hours in advance.
-Turkey Camps: Nov. 23rd, 24th & 25th, Highland Village location. Enjoy, games, crafts and gym play. Ages 3 (potty trained) to 11 yrs, 9:30-1:00pm, $23/members, $25/non-members, 8:30-9:30am early extension $5, 1:00-4:00pm movies & open gym- extension $10 (no extension on the 25th).
-Holiday Day Play: Nov. 24th, 10:00-11:00am at FM. For all enrolled preschoolers ages potty trained & up. Parents required to actively participate. FREE for members & $5/non-members.
- Holiday Parties: Book everything for your holiday party NOW to get the best rates! The Comfort and Suites, Corinth is now welcoming your holiday party with special event offers and guest accommodations. With over 1,000 square ft. of event space and a friendly staff, the Comfort Inn and Suites is making holiday planning easy. Whether you require catering or would like to provide your own, they help make your holiday party plans easy and stress free. For reservations, or to schedule your holiday party, please call and ask for Special Events Sales at 940-497-6300.
- Holiday Entertainment: Plan B (the hottest variety band in the Dallas area!) has some special rates for November and December so let me know if you need some great music for your holiday or family gathering, office/organizational party or corporate function. My gift to you will be booking Plan B for your event–no charge for my services! Call me at 940-390-7429 or e-mail me at email@example.com for more info about Plan B.
When you give to someone else you always receive a bigger blessing than you’d expect. Jesus was pretty right on when He said “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Have a wonderful ThanksGIVING!
I can’t believe my little event planning business will be 1 year old on Oct. 20th–ahh, they grow up so fast 🙂 It has been a great first year for Something to Celebrate and I want to thank all of you out there for hiring me, referring me to someone, subscribing to my E-News and/or reading this blog! I could not have made it without people who care so thank you. This year has been filled with receptions, private parties, non-profit events, weddings, city festival consulting and now currently preparing for a huge event for North Central Texas College. Whew, it tires me to think about all those events but what a blessing to be able to see them come together!
Since my business would not be possible without YOU, I want to provide you with a little anniversary gift blog of some of my very favorite venues and vendors for events and special occasions:
- The Band for any occasion: Paul D’Adamo is an amazing musician, performing arts teacher and ring leader of two great bands–Plan B and the D’Adamo Jazz Quartet. Plan B plays basically anything you could ever want and all those songs everyone knows. They can cover dance, R&B, disco, rock and classic rock. The D’Adamo School of Performing Arts offers vocal lessons and performance lessons on pretty much any instrument. You can also see the Jazz Quartet perform on the Performing Arts site. Paul recently returned from Nashville recording an album with members of Genesis and the Phil Collins band so he knows his stuff! As part of my anniversary gift to you I will book Plan B, the Jazz Quartet or set up a vocal/performance lesson for you for free (& get you a great booking rate)!
- The cool, chic, new Denton business: If you haven’t noticed already, the Unicorn Lake area in Denton is really changing and growing in a great way! My favorite newly opened place out there is Cafe du Luxe and get this: it is a coffee house, great lunching spot, wine bar, art gallery and place to hear some awesome local tunes. I am a coffee snob and I’m telling you, their coffee is some of the best I’ve ever had! The cafe’ has a clean, modern and beautiful decor about it and would also be a great place for a private party or just to hang out with some friends. It’s located at 3101 Unicorn Lake Blvd, Denton.
- The best place for breakfast to go & homemade desserts: I’ve mentioned them here before but Crickles Sweets & Treats really bakes up some amazing stuff (and make breakfast in bed for someone really easy!). They operate out of the NY Sub Hub in Corinth but don’t let that take away from how unique and special this mom and daughter duo is. I’ve had them cater an event before and the food got rave reviews–so they do more than just desserts if needed. They’ve been running coupons in Ad Pages so you might check that out.
- The best blank canvas event space: The Downtowner has The Star Room that provides a perfect place for private parties, receptions, or other occasions with 185 guests or less. The room as beautiful wood floors and get this–they let you bring in your own alcohol at no additional charge. You won’t find many venues who allow that! The VERY reasonable fee for the room includes tables and chairs and set-up/tear-down of everything. They have a sound system you can use for just a small, additional charge.
- Really cheap but high quality printed materials: This is my best secret…Club Flyers is my go-to printing company when I need a large quantity of printed materials (think brochures, flyers, door hangers, business cards, post cards) and a very high quality. Everything is full color and on nice, glossy stock. You just upload your design and they ship it right to you! Some products you can order a minimum of 1,000 and others you must order a minimum of 5,000 pieces. The price for what you get is amazing.
Well, now that I’ve shared some of my best event planning tips I may be out of the business but oh well–you’re worth it! 🙂 Give me a call if I can help you with any of your holiday parties!