[Guest Post] Top Party Planning Tips for the Budget Conscious

April 26, 2012

When Melissa sent me this post I was so excited to share it with y'all. Cheap party planning is my forte, and definitely how we planned our wedding. These tips are great for saving money on parties as small as a baby's birthday party to a full blown wedding. Leave Melissa  some comment love and let her know your favorite tip!

Top Party Planning Tips for the Budget Conscious

Parties are usually expensive, unless you put forth some effort to cut costs. If you’re planning an party, you may be wondering exactly how you can save some money and still throw the best party possible for the occasion. Here are some of the things you can do to cut back on the expenses of the party without skimping on the essentials:

·      Choose a venue carefully – Hosting the party at a party hall or other venue will usually cost you more money than hosting it at your own home would. If you’re throwing something like a rehearsal dinner for a wedding, you might not be able to get out of hosting it at a venue. If this is the case, you might want to ask friends and family members of the guests of honor to help you cover the costs. People are usually more than happy to donate a little bit of money to help make the party a success. Swallowing your pride a little bit and asking for financial help may feel uncomfortable, but it can save you some money.

·      Invite fewer people – You may be thinking: “A party is no fun without tons of people!” However, this isn’t always the case. A smaller, more intimate party can be more enjoyable for everyone involved. At smaller parties, the guests have a chance to meaningfully interact with each other, instead of having to mingle and stick to small talk. Plus, if the guest list is short, you’ll have to spend less money on food and supplies to accommodate the guests.

·      Consider DIY Decorations – Pick some flowers from your garden and stick them in vases. You can make a beautiful, elegant floral centerpiece out of flowers you’ve purchased from a local florist or flowers you’ve picked. There’s no need to pay for someone else to design the centerpiece. Just get creative and pair complimentary colors together, while focusing on keeping the overall appearance of the centerpiece balanced.

You can also spend some time making pretty paper decorations and banners. For instance, you could do something as simple as cutting stars out of colorful construction paper and then taping those stars on the walls around your home. There are a lot of attractive and festive party decorations you can make on your own, and DIY party decorations save you money.

·      Make all the food yourself – You don’t have to be a pro chef to make delicious party food. You just have to have some time. Look up recipes to make things like baked ziti and pizza. Generally, you can make Italian food in bulk for pretty affordable prices, and many Italian dishes are pretty easy to make. There’s no need to spend money having the party catered.

If you don’t have time to make all the food yourself, consider making the party a potluck, if that would be appropriate for the occasion. Potlucks ensure that you don’t have to spend a bunch of money on food and that there’s a delicious variety of food for the party guests to munch on.

·      Skip the DJ – You can hook your computer up to your stereo and play music from your iTunes account or from online music generator services like Pandora, Last.fm, and Spotify. You can pick the music for the party and create music playlists on Spotify and iTunes, or you can let a service like Pandora or Last.fm play random songs from a specific music genre.

In order to hook your computer up to your stereo, you’ll need to purchase a shielded stereo audio cable or other, similar kind of cable, depending on what kind of stereo you have. This type of cable will cost you around $7, which is considerably less expensive than what it would cost to hire a DJ or band for the party.

Saving money as you plan and throw a party does require some effort and thought. However, it’s completely possible to pull off a delightful party without breaking the bank. So, try out the tips above and stick your budget!

Author’s Bio: Melissa is a guest blogger and event planner. She writes for a variety of blogs about things like party planning, kids’ party planning, and party supplies, like Mario party supplies and baby shower supplies. 
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Italy Day 6: Theatre of Pompey, Bruno, & of course back to the Victor Emmanuel Monument

April 22, 2012

I feel like singing "This is the travel post that never ends, it just goes on and on my friends. Some people started reading it thinking it would be short, but three months later they are still reading it because it never ends." How many pictures did I say I took again? I forget. But none the less, it was a lot. Let's start today by finishing up day 6 in Rome. We started off our day at the Castel San't Angelo and have trekked our way over to Piazza di Campo Dei Fiori to gawk a the statue of the ominous Giordano Bruno. But more about him in a minute. 
 First up a Madonella in Rome. If you remember these were put up to prevent crime. Apparently you don't want to sin with Mary looking at you. Supposedly it worked well.
 This was by far my most favorite wandering through back streets find, Director of the National Antimafia! Sweet!

 We heard there was another bone church in town that allowed visitors to take pictures, sadly it was Sunday and they weren't open. But they did have a really neat exterior.

 Some random fountain, looked like it was puking up water. I didn't choose to drink out of this one.
 Now for your dear ominous friend Giordano Bruno. Campo di Fiori is a lovely market, if you are ever in Rome I suggest you find it. They had everything you would expect from a great farmers market along with clothing and cooking vendors. There was one particular vendor who made hats, and they were the most awesome hats ever, but they were not the cheapest hats ever...hence I didn't come home with one. I did try some white truffle balsamic vinegar, heavenly. I could have drank the whole bottle. If you want to try a lot of different Limoncello flavors and don't intend to buy, this is the place to be. If someone offers you Grapa don't take it. I learned my lesson in Naples. In a search for "vino dulce" at a pastry shop one night I ended up with Grapa, which is essentially disel fuel. Just thinking of it burns my stomach. Turns out it isn't really wine at all, it is a grape based brandy. Consider yourself warned.  Hands down best street market in Rome.
 Isn't the statue of Bruno just creepy? He was a friar, who happened to be friends with Galileo, who was burned at the stake for being a heretic. I have heard that Galileo watch him be burned to death, which is interesting because supposedly Galileo wasn't sympathetic to him in his writings. This is yet again a prime example of what speaking against the Inquisition gets you. An interesting fact about Campo di Fiori is that there are no churches around it(so I am told), with Rome containing 900 churches you nearly hit one at every step. But in all the Romans loved to burn people alive here.
 What's that? Oh we just walked past the Pantheon again. I feel like we walked in circles the whole time, but you kind of have to to keep up with where you are.
Another Madonella. Once someone points them out to you, you see them everywhere. Before today I hadn't noticed a since one. 
Now for what I was most excited to see the Theatre of Pompey. Or better know as the place where Julius Caesar was assassinated. On the above picture on the platform is where he was killed. Of course at the time the place looked totally different. 
This place was not traditionally the Roman Senate, but at the time work was being done on the actual Senate building. The Senate just happened to be meeting here. 
At one point in time they let people tour this, but when we came it was not an option. 
Notice how ground level at the Theatre is much lower than the ground level in modern Rome? Like I said many posts ago, Italians thought ancient Rome was nothing interesting and rather junky, for years architects from across Europe just came by and tromped around the ruins and took pieces with them. 
Other than Ancient Rome just being torn down by random Europeans, the Italians also filled a lot of the area in with dirt. Archeologists today are still uncovering things, for instance if you look back at one of my first posts about Ancient Rome you will notice a lot of signage about Nero and a huge covered excavation site. 

There were a ton of cats at the Theatre of Pompey, somehow they all managed to escape the camera. Our group leader Elle (the professor who puts these awesome trips together) said the last time she was here that you could smell the cat pee before you even saw the site. Apparently that has been cleaned up a bit. 
It is so weird to be standing in places that were around before Christ was born and see modern day advertisements smack in the middle. When I heard we would be seeing ancient Rome I didn't mentally picture it being right in the midst of modern Rome. 

I am starting to think I went to Italy to tour the Victor Emmanuel Monument, I sure did go in there an awful lot. 
But then again, had I not gone in a billion times I wouldn't have found more cool things every time I went. The above and below pictures go together. This is the death mask of Giuseppe Mazzini. Is it too morbid that I think these things are cool?

A church inside the VE Monument, I swear the place is so huge you need a solid day to explore it. In two I am sure I still missed things. 

There is nothing historically interesting about this picture. We went to Italy at Christmas so of course you are going to see the manger scene everywhere...but why on earth is Jesus's family white and everyone else brown? 
Well this is all for today, it seriously took me two days to write this post. I have become such a blog slacker, considering we were to Italy in December this should be done by now ha! 
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[Guest Post] Revealing Your Engagement

April 18, 2012

Hey y'all! Hope everyone is having a great week. I have another great wedding post this week from Jessica to share with you. The topic is revealing your engagement, and that is definitely a topic I don't think we put much thought into that we probably should have. Then again who doesn't have several things about their engagement/wedding they wouldn't change. Hope you all get some great ideas, make sure to share this with any newly engaged couples or soon to be's! And as always leave Jessica some comment love:)

Revealing Your Engagement: The Do’s and Don’ts of “I do”

Congratulations on your engagement! Now that it’s official, you’re ready to share your news with the world. However, before you flaunt your ring on social media, follow engagement etiquette.

Whom to Tell

Your marriage announcement sets the stage for your wedding day and your future life with your hubby. Play it safe and share your good news with the people closest to you first. Yes, a wedding is all about you, but think about your family and friends’ feelings when considering when to share your news. Don’t tell your salon stylist about your upcoming nuptials before you tell your best friend that you’re tying the knot.
Tell your mom and your dad first. Unless you live across the country, tell them in person! Like you, they have been dreaming about this day for many years. Give them the chance to hear the news from your lips before you tell anyone else. Your new fiancĂ© should tell his parents next. He may have already sought his parents’ advice when he was picking out engagement rings for you, but he should tell them the official news before he tells his buddies.
Finish off by telling your siblings, grandparents and closest friends. You start your marriage wedding preparations off to a good start when you share your goods news with the important people in your life before publically announcing your engagement or posting a picture of your ring on Facebook or Twitter.

Public Announcement

Traditionally, many couples publically share their engagement by utilizing a printed announcement. In the newspaper or in a college alumni newsletter, place a classy picture and information about you and your fiancé. Send save the date cards to inform your wedding guests about your engagement and upcoming wedding.
You could also throw an engagement party. Invite family and close friends as a way to introduce everyone before the wedding. Many married couples fight about in-laws, so start your marriage out on a good footing by initiating a positive relationship between both sets of parents.
In the age of social media, you can’t ignore the Internet. After you’ve shared your good news with your family and close friends, send a Facebook or Twitter announcement to your followers. Additionally, consider sending engagement e-cards or posting a wedding website. An online announcement gives you a less personal outlet but more efficient way to share your new engagement.

Do’s and Don’ts

Be sensitive about the timing. Don’t announce your engagement at someone else’s party.
Do remain open to suggestions about photographers or caterers. Everyone will have an opinion, and you can be polite without taking everyone’s advice.
Above all, enjoy your engagement, a season filled with promise. Start it out by following engagement announcement etiquette and get ready for one of the best days of your life!

Jessica is interested weddings and event planning. She enjoys integrating her love of design and styling into memorable events for friends and family.
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Meal Pinning Monday

April 15, 2012

[What is Meal Pinning Monday?]
MPM is how I meal plan for our little family. I once spent a lot of time searching the web and my recipe books hunting for new recipes and ideas for what to cook every week. Then, Pinterest came along and made meal planning much easier for me. Every weekend I look over what I have pinned the prior week and decide what I would like to cook and make my grocery list from these recipes. MPM came about as a way to share what I am cooking, and to also see what others are cooking every week to hopefully get even more dinner ideas from other bloggers. If you don't pin your recipes feel free to just share what you are cooking. 

BBQ Chicken Pizza
- but with a regular whole wheat crust. I am not a fan of the cauliflower crust. Just doesn't pass as a good fake. 

BBQ Chicken Burgers
-except with beef. I already have beef so why spend more money.

Super Simple Shrimp Tacos

Shrimp Salsa with Corn Tortilla Chips
- adding avacado and combining this with PW's shrimp salsa recipe. Making it like a light ceviche we had on our anniversary trip to the beach 2 years ago. 

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a bullet point post turned rant

April 14, 2012

Life has been quite hectic lately, and I have the best intentions of blogging. But let's just be honest - I've had zero access to a computer that would allow me to even see blogger, much less post. Got to love school computers. 

  • Jeremy has been on break this week. Needless to say it wasn't much of a break, he had a ton of work to do. And still has a lot to do. 
  • State standardized testing was the past two days and will finish up on Tuesday. I know people like to think teachers don't do crap during testing, but that is far from the truth. Not only did I walk 6 miles one day during school hours, thank you for keeping up Fitbit, but I have been super stressed. You see, they may be taking the test, but it reflects on me and has the ability to effect whether or not I have a job and how much I am paid. Louisiana sure knows how to stress out a teacher.  
  • Incase you don't live in LA and or do and are under a huge rock Bobby Jindal has lost his marbles. This new teacher law package has been rolling around for a few weeks not, but it is just so overwhelming. Essentially we all stand to lose benefits, and be forced to work until we are 67 all in the name of "benefiting out students." They have even had the gaul to slap the statement on that "We should care less about our benefits and more about students." Umm, hello? I care about my kids, but I also signed up for this gig under the impression I was being treated decent to make up for the low 9 month pay that gets stretched out for 12 months. I could babysit and make more money. 
  • Off of the "Louisiana hates teachers" rant, I got a Fitbit and have been walking around just to watch the numbers go up. I love data, so seeing just how active I am and how much I am sleeping is so neat. 
  • We went to Vidalia for Good Friday/Saturday. Little dude is starting to really expand his vocabulary. My dad tends to say off the wall things, hence where I get it from, and wouldn't you know J is starting to use them against him. Dad asked him to  do something and Josh told him to "Wait 5 minutes!" Ha! Here is one of the few good pics I got of him playing, it was after egg dying - note the green hands.
You might be wondering why he isn't smiling, trust me this is much prettier. His camera smile is the most cheesed up thing ever! I just can't get over how thick his hair is getting, I thought he would be bald till high school. 

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[Guest Post] Group Gifts Offer Ease for Givers

April 13, 2012

Sorry for the blog hiatus this week, state testing makes me one tired teacher.No joke, I walked 3.5 miles just monitoring testing yesterday alone. Hopefully next week I can get the post going that I like to have every week and be back to bloggy normal. 

Today's guest post for you is from Jessica, this girl is always so full of ideas. She needs to let me borrow her brain one day ha! Anyway, Jessica left us with some great gift giving ideas for those of us looking to purchase wedding gifts. Wedding season is upon us people, and we all know how expensive that can be. Hope ya'll enjoy her tips, and leave some comment love! 

Group Gifts Offer Ease for Givers

When it’s time to give a gift to an engaged or newly married couple, you might want to splurge on an expensive gift they really want. How, though, can you possibly afford to give an all-inclusive trip or top-of-the-line entertainment system? It’s simple. Give a group gift. Doing so enables you to share the cost of fabulous gifts any couple will love and help you forgo items the newlyweds might receive in multiples, like toasters and picture frames. Group gifting is convenient for everyone from coworkers to long-distance friends. Bring together family members or sorority sisters and give a classy, useful gift without the hassle of picking from the registry, struggling to meet the bride and groom’s needs or feeling embarrassed about having a limited budget.

When planning a group gift, discuss the idea among the folks who will be chipping in, such as bridesmaids, groomsmen, grandparents, cousins, college friends or neighbors. Allow everyone involved to suggest a few luxury items and decide on something the newlyweds will love. Stay in touch with people who may be located out of state with email and social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

After you’ve chosen a group, choose a gift. Everyone has to agree on a price limit. Select one big-ticket item off the gift registry or choose a completely different gift that means something to the couple. Options include designer luggage, a new wardrobe for the honeymoon, patio furniture and landscaping for outdoor entertaining at their new home or home theater installation complete with a flat-screen television, DVD player, TiVo and perhaps even a Netflix subscription. Each member of the group can choose to individually purchase a small portion of the gift or give the amount of money that fits their budget.

Today’s gifting trends include practical and lifestyle gifts. Newlyweds want experiences and memories, not cash or useless knickknacks. Most couples already have everyday items like appliances, linens and bedding. Instead of buying a gift the couple does not need or want, go for something they might be unable to afford on their own. Help pay off their student loans, give them gift certificates for a tropical getaway or help remodel a room in their home (especially great for couples whose first home is a fixer upper). Any of these ideas meets a practical need, gives the couple what they want and is an investment in their future life together. Designate a group member to pick out the gift, wrap it and gather signatures for the greeting card. The gift registry store might ship large gifts directly to the couple, which saves you from lugging an unwieldy present to the wedding shower or reception.

Gift giving for an engagement or wedding can be a fun experience as you celebrate a couple’s decision to tie the knot. Avoid overspending and regret, straining your budget or giving a gift that's likely to be returned for store credit. Join or start a group and give a meaningful gift any new couple will love.

Jessica became interested in weddings and event planning after helping her friend plan her wedding last fall. She enjoys design, interior decorating and watching HGTV.
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