Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

DIY Pop-Up Cards


I had a great time making pop-up invitations for the pop-up dinner party in September. That's the thing about DIY; we should only take on projects that bring us pleasure, not projects that we feel obligated to do to keep up with all the blogs and pinterest images. 

I only had to make four (there will be five couples for a total of 10 people), so it was fine making intricate and elaborate cards (well, intricate and elaborate compared to what I would normally do--hello, Evite). I decided to make trees, since the Farewell to Summer Fiesta Pop-Up Dinner will take place in an enclave of trees.

At first I was thinking about using green and brown paper, but then I committed to using 100% materials I already had. So instead of buying brown and green paper for the tree tops and trunks, I made green and brown paper by ripping it out of magazines and gluing it onto cardstock. I then made a little template for the trees--a very basic circle shape for the top and a classic trunk shape for the bottom. In the end, my free magazine paper looked even cooler than paper I would have bought because it was made from images of trees.

I typed up the outside and inside of the invitation. I found a papel picado clipart image to insert onto the front of the card, but the image was so light that I had to end up coloring in each flag individually. Again, since it was only four cards, it was therapeutic rather than maddening. Since we're trying to live on one income right now (so we can bank my part-time salary), I had to get resourceful

I love the process of planning parties. The build-up and anticipation leading up to the event is so fun for me. I had the best time working on these invitations while hosting friends of ours from Houston. I cut and glued while we talked and laughed. And I cannot wait until we are settled in our new house (in about ten months). It's going to be an awesome set-up for hosting friends.

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Today on Feeding the Soil: Enter to win a Dream Do Planning Consultation!
 



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Monday, August 27, 2012

Budget Living: Homemade Wholewheat Pizza Dough


Matt and I are currently living on a strict budget, so that we can save up to purchase our next house. We have a certain amount set aside in our budget every month for our general expenses: groceries, stamps, stuff for Henry, etc. I use an app called Spend Free. I put our total number in the app at the beginning of the month and subtract from it every time we make a purchase. 

Every day I have to ask Matt, "What did you spend today?" It helps keep us accountable for what we spend (such as wasting money on eating lunch out!). Last week, he came home with random grocery items and said he had spent $92. Ouch! We try to only spent about $125-$150 on groceries each week (we allocate that much because we try to buy as much organic as possible). Even at our top range, we only had $58 left for an entire week of food. 

After my mini-flip out (which was not necessary or helpful), Matt and I decided to go through our pantry and build our weekly meal plan based on what we already had in the pantry and refrigerator. For example, a half-used jar of pasta sauce became the inspiration for homemade pizza. We usually buy ready-made crust (it's cheap and delicious), but since we were trying to stay within $58 we decided to make it from ingredients we already had on hand. This recipe doesn't even require yeast. How amazing is that? It's a think and delicious crust that uses wheat flour. Yum! Here's a link to the recipe:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. 
  2. In a bowl, mix together the flour (1.5 cups whole wheat), baking powder (1 tsp.), pepper (1/2 tsp.), water (1/2 cup), and olive oil (1/3 cup) with your hands until a dough forms. 
  3. Then place the dough on a floured work surface. Roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thickness. 
  4. Place the dough on a baking mat or on parchment paper on a baking sheet. 
  5. Bake for about 5-7 minutes just until the dough just slightly starts to crisp up. 
  6. Remove from the oven. 
  7. Brush the top of the flatbread with extra olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. 
  8. Add toppings of your choice. 
  9. Bake for another couple minutes until the cheese melts.

Even though trying to live within a budget is constricting and can feel frustrating, I love when it leads to inspiration and glimpses of something even better.

I also enjoyed reading another family's reflection about money and the choices we face.



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Friday, August 24, 2012

Trying a New Online Printer: UPrinting

I'm thrilled to be working with UPrinting brochure printing to print some brochures I need. Although I try to work with local printers whenever possible, there are times when I prefer the convenience and cost-effectiveness of online printers. 

The ordering process was incredibly simple. I made a few choices about size, paper type, and quantity and then uploaded a pdf of my file.

UPrinting offers a variety of printing, such as table tents, vinyl banners, wall graphics, stickers, magnets, door hangers, event tickets, etc. I'm ecstatic that they donated brochures to help us recruit families and community support for Austin's first public Montessori school, Magnolia Montessori For All.

I'll let you know how they turn out once they arrive in a few days!



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Monday, August 20, 2012

Real Needs Versus Wants


As much as I want to brainstorm ideas for all the details related to our pop-up dinner party: A Farewell to Summer Fiesta (oil cloth table covers, battery powered white lights, flowers in glass jars--oh my!), I also have to remember that we are on a strict budget. We are still only living on 1.5 incomes (I'm working part-time so I can stay home with Henry part-time and work toward my big dreams). We are trying to raise money to buy a house (this book talks addresses all the reasons it's bad to rent and good to buy). I know that none of the decorations would be particularly expensive by themselves, but when you add them up with all the other little "wants" that pop up on a daily basis, it starts to seriously detract from our bigger goals. 

So I'm going to have to get creative. Maybe I can borrow battery-powered white lights. Maybe I can find some oil cloth on clearance. We'll see. 

I had to go through the same process when we were planning our wedding. It killed me to say no to the photo postage stamps. But you know what? Cultivating the ability to differentiate between our real needs versus our wants helped us stay within budget and buy our first house days after our wedding. Honestly, we wouldn't have been able to get that house if we had spent any more on our wedding. It's likely that we're going to be in the same place when we try to buy our next house. 

Every saved penny counts!

Let me go dig in our craft closet to see if I can find some "free" materials with which to make the pop-up invitations...

Image courtesy Etsy



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Monday, August 13, 2012

DIY Invitations

Image courtesy of the brilliant folks at Oh Happy Day

I'm moving forward with my plans to host a pop-up dinner party in September. It feels awesome to be dreaming, scheming, and crafting again. I've been so caught up in other things lately; I haven't had time to nurture my need for creativity. For me, the process of planning things is as enjoyable as the event itself. It's like I get double the pleasure: first, I enjoy the weeks leading up to the event, and then I enjoy the actual event. Hooray for extending the fun!

Since it's a "pop-up" dinner party, I thought it would be fitting to make pop-up invitations. I looked for some inspiration on Pinterest and found the adorable card featured above. 

As for a theme, I've been thinking about: "Farewell to Summer Fiesta." Here's what the invitations might say:

Please join us as we bid farewell to summer with a "pop-up" dinner party. Meet us in the XXXXXX parking lot at 7pm on Saturday, September X. We will lead you to the secret spot for dinner and board games. Please RSVP to sign up to bring something. Hasta luego!

As for a menu, I'm thinking:
  • Chips 
  • Guacamole
  • Creamy Jalapeno Dip
  • Vegetarian enchiladas
  • Rice
  • Salad (with cilantro lime vinaigrette) 
  • Horchata to drink
  • Dessert!
Here's a list of everything we'll need to bring:
  • Two folding tables
  • Table cloths
  • Folding chairs
  • Battery-powered white-lights
  • Plates
  • Silverware
  • Napkins
  • Cups
  • Bags to put dirty napkins, silverware, plates, and cups
  • Taboo and Apples to Apples
  • Camera
  • Small folding table to store and prepare food
  • Papel Picado for decoration
  • Tea lights (colored paper bags to put the tea lights in?)
I'm getting excited!

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Today on Feeding the Soil: Making friends as an adult.


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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Planning a Pop-up Dinner Party


Every since I first learned about Jordan's "pop-up dinner parties," I've wanted to throw one. I try to push myself to live differently--more boldly and interestingly--because of blogs. If I merely read them, then I feel like I'm wasting my time. If I'm influenced to make change because of something I've read, then my hours of blog reading has a purpose. 

So, a pop-up dinner party it is. I tried to suggest that we throw one for my friend's birthday, but she was pretty "meh" about the idea. I, on the other hand, could not be more thrilled. I'll be sure to only invite people who would be equally intrigued by the idea.

I think I found the perfect location. On the trail that circles around the lake in the middle of town, there's a separate area that overlooks the lake. I think it would be the perfect place to shlep in everything we need for a stellar dinner party.

For starters, I need to decide how many people to invite. This event could go two ways. On the one hand, I could throw a small dinner party and do all the cooking myself. On the other hand, I could collaborate with one or two friends and we could throw a bigger dinner party. So one or two tables worth of people? I think the collaboration aspect could be really fun, which means we would go for two tables = 10 people. 

Woo-hoo! That sounds really fun. 

As for the menu, we need to pick foods that will travel well and taste good once they arrive. We could always go for cold foods, but I think hot would be better for dinner. Perhaps enchiladas or lasagna? That way, we could bring them in one of those casserole bags? If we went the enchiladas route, we could make guacamole and creamy jalapeno sauce for chips. And horchata to drink! If we went the lasagna route, we could enjoy homemade bread. 

And for invitations we could make pop-up cards! And we could get battery-powered LED lights. It would be fun to invite people who like to play board games. I'm getting excited about the possibilities...

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Today on Feeding the Soil: Take a personality quiz!



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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

On Dealing with Stress


I'm pretty sure I've written a post with that title before. When Matt and I were planning our wedding, we were also looking for new jobs, trying to buy our first house, planning a move across the country, and adjusting to life with a new dog.

Although I'm used to stress, my body doesn't handle it well. I can quantify how stressed out I am by the length of time between my periods. When I was in the middle of all the stress listed above, I went 107 days without a period. I still gasp when I think about it. 

When I feel myself getting into a particularly stressful time, I try to counteract the stress with specific strategies. I've been trying to use my strategies the past couple weeks to cope with the stress of miscarriage, traveling, parenting Henry by myself while Matt was traveling for work, and increasing my workload by about 200% in order to prepare for the first day of school (I work part-time as the Director of Operations and Compliance at a new charter school in Austin). Specifically, here's what I'm trying right now:
  1. Exercising More: It's not exactly easy to fit more exercise into an even busier schedule, but it helps me feel so much better. I've started running again. I can feel the stress cascading off of me when I'm out for a run. 
  2. Getting More Organized: Again, it's difficult to be more organized when I'm stressed (staying organized while juggling a thousand things is difficult enough). But the more organized I am, the better I feel. On Friday night, I went to Target and bought a bigger bag for work. I was experiencing frustration and irritation every day from trying to cram too much stuff into a small space. It's crazy how buying a bigger bag or making your bed or putting away laundry brings more external and internal order.
  3. Eating Healthier Food: This one has been so hard! When I'm stressed, I reach for whatever is in front of me (case in point: I ate about 15 slices of banana bread on the first day of school). I've been trying, however, to prioritize making time for healthy choices. I've been trying to make a green smoothie before work every morning and pack healthy snacks and meals to eat throughout the day.
  4. Decompressing Before Bed: When I have a lot going on, it's so easier to work, work, work until I close my computer in exhaustion and crash on my pillow. However, that practice causes me to retain my stress from the day. I need to do a better job of setting aside 20 to 30 minutes a night to read, stretch, and talk to Matt. 
  5. Breathing All the Way into My Belly: The simple act of breathing all the way into my belly has a significant impact on my ability to relax. I'm practicing it as I type this post.
It's definitely a work in progress. I need to analyze my life on a larger scale to make sure I'm not taking on too much. But in the meantime, I'm going to keep implementing these strategies in response to the stress.


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