Friday, May 23, 2014

Circus Birthday Party

I always call Declan monkey because he loves to imitate them and he climbs on everything so it was only fitting to do a birthday theme that could somehow include his love of monkeys and animals in general, thus the circus/carnival theme. I have known since Halloween that we would be going with this theme after Declan got so excited about being able to dress up as a monkey for trick-or-treating so I had a bit of time to make plans and I am so pleased with how everything came together.

The logstics for the party were fairly simple since the plan would be to have them outside at our house I found super cute table skirts online that resemble circus tents so I went ahead and ordered those to be used for the food tables. We setup Declan's small bounce house, had our cornhole set in place to serve as the carnival games and put together a really simple photo booth. Since Declan is 2 and most of his guests were the same age or younger we decided to forego multiple games for the kids, but this would be great if this theme were to be used for an older child!

I am in love with the invite we had for his party this year! The invite was made to look like an admission ticket to the circus and was easily ordered using the one hour photo service at Walgreens. I ordered a party printable set from Dimple Prints that provided me with all of the food signs, game signs, cupcake toppers and the invitation. The iron-on image for his birthday shirt also came as part of the package and was super easy to do! There was a ton more included with the printable package, but I simply did not have the time to put it all to use. I highly recommend this shop though because they have adorable party sets!
For the rest of the party all I really had to do was put everything together from the printable package. The cupcake toppers were made using the printable package, a 2-inch circle paper punch and six inch lollipop sticks. The food signs we used were all included with the printable set. I also bought a cheap roll of carnival tickets and hot glued them around three small boxes to use as the cupcake stands.


We tried to keep all of the food within the circus/carnival theme by having hot dogs, chips,  popcorn and cotton candy. A family friend owns a cotton candy machine and they made all of the bags the day before. All we had to do the day of the party was string the baker's twine across our back porch like a clothesline and attach the bags with clothespins. I found the hot dog boats in Target's dollar section last summer and went ahead and bought them because they were adorable! The ketchup and mustard bottles came as a set at Dollar Tree so they were an easy and inexpensive addition. I ordered the popcorn boxes earlier in the year on Zulily and simply bought bags of Indiana Popcorn at the grocery store to fill them up.
*I had planned to get fresh popped popcorn from Target or Sam's Club, but this ended up not panning out with my schedule the week of the party.

Happy Birthday, Declan! We hope you had as much fun at your party as we did! Love you!



Wednesday, September 25, 2013

16 Months


Declan, today you are 16 months old! You are growing up so fast and are, of course, still bigger than most everyone else your age. Daddy says you are going to be a defensive tackle with the build you have, lol. Your current size makes dressing you a bit difficult at times because things are either way too big or way too small. Carter's, Target and The Children's Place need to get on the ball and realize some kid are going to weigh in at 2T/3T, but their  height will be around the 24 months range. Due to this fitting issue all of your pants drag the ground. The simplicity of one size fits all kiddo ranges is no longer working for us. This was not an issue over the summer because you were always wearing shorts, but now that it is cooling off we are going to have to get creative with some hemming.

It has been such an exciting time lately with all you are learning! My absolute favorite thing is that you love to sing songs with us. The "ABC's" are still your favorite and you love when we sing this in your room and point at all the letters on your wall. You make it pretty clearly saying A-G and then trail off until it is time for you to yell "ella mm no p" as loud as you can. Sometimes you keep singing with us after that, but most of the time you consider that the end of the song. Other hits are "Old McDonald" with you providing all of the e-i-e-i-o's and a few animal sounds, as well as "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star," "Ring Around the Rosies" and "Itsy Bitsy Spider" complete with all of the hand motions.

On top of singing, you are becoming more and more vocal as a whole. Your favorite word is Wade, and by favorite we mean that you call for him about 1,000x a day, but you have only said Fia a handful of times. You count to three and then yell "GO!" but really only "three" and "go" are easily understood when you say them, but we know what you are trying to get at with the attempts at "one" and "two". You say mommy, daddy, and Jake, which you say just like I do when I am trying to get daddy to hurry up and do something, lol. Poor Daddy!
This is how you currently say each of your grandparent's names:
CeeCee = TeeTee
Papi = Puppy, but sometimes Pahpeee
MawMaw = Mamna
PawPaw = also Puppy
Nanny= Nanny (you said it so well the other day!)
Pappy = Pappy, but more often you say Puppy
Additional favorite words are: shoes, yum, mine, up, cup, baby,
uh oh, bye, ouch, and pish (aka fish).
Speaking of shoes being one of your favorite words to say, I should probably point out that you really like your shoes. You find them around the house and bring them all to one spot and then shove one or two in our faces until we put them back on your feet. I always thought kids were supposed to hate their shoes and take them off, but you want them on most of the time. As soon as you get a pair on, you promptly remind us that we are then supposed to take you outside. :)
You love to "grocery shop" at home with your shopping cart and play food. However, shopping sometimes turns into more of a Godzilla moment and you knock the cart over and kick the food everywhere. Poor HB is occasionally still in the seat of the buggy when you do this. Wade and Fia both run when you start pusing the cart around the living room because you are not a very cautious driver.
You still love playing in pools, fountains, the shower and pretty much anywhere else water can be found (like the dog bowl). You blow kisses when we say "I love you," wave at everyone we meet and give the best hugs. You love both of your sweet little cousins and have a blast each time you get together to play with one of them. Luckily, all three of you are very energetic so they are not phased at all by how big you are and how rough you play at times....we still keep a close watch just in case you get a bit too rough.
It is remarkable how much you have changed just since your birthday. There are still times when you really want to snuggle, but it is usually just at bedtime these days. You have become so independent and always want to show that you are able to feed yourself (with a spoon!) and hold your own drink even though it is just a cup with a straw. We make a lot of messes this way, but your puppy brother and sister are always glad to help you clean it up.
We love you!
Mommy and Daddy 


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Cheap Challenge 2013- Lessons Learned

Total spent: $290.47

Eating Out
Dog Needs
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4

 Groceries and Household Items:

I am so proud of our grocery spending considering I can easily spend $75 or more each week on these items and there are definitely times where I spend even more. We had so much food in our freezer and pantry that needed to be eaten, but we had simply been piling more and more new items on top of it all so it was just lying around forgotten and at risk of freezer burn. I am glad to say we are starting with pretty much a clean slate at the end of the challenge and I definitely plan to make wiser decisions about what to purchase in bulk and what to purchase as needed.

Jake and I have both learned the value of planning out our meals and shopping trips so we do not come home from the store with a lot of unnecessary items that will potentially go unused and ruin because we did not have a plan in place to use them. For household items, we were actually stockpiled in this area as well because I make purchases when I have coupons. If we did this more often, we could definitely save even more. I just need to make sure to only purchase things we actually need because even if I get it cheap, it is money wasted if it wasn't something we needed.

Eating Out:
On average Jake and I each eat lunch out three days a week at roughly $8 per meal. By cutting that out for this month we saved over $190! This is something I definitely think we should keep up in the months to come. We saved so much money by bringing lunches from home and we had far less food waste than we normally do in a month because we actively planned to use leftovers for lunches.
We tend to do really well about cooking at home during the week, but we realized we use being tired from the workday as an excuse to eat out/order in. This month we just toughed it out and cooked even when we did not feel like it. We ate a lot healthier this way and we both actually lost a little bit of weight (bonus!). Declan also got to try some new foods since I was planning a variety of meals so we would not get burned out on having the same thing over and over. Weekend dinners out are where we normally spend a good bit of money since it is what our groups of friends tend to want to do when we hang out. After taking the time to see how much we spend here even though we don't do it all that often definitely has me planning to invite folks over for dinner parties/potlucks on occasion instead of always eating out.
I hope we can find a way to cut our gas expenses in the future because it ended up being nearly 34% of the original $250 budget. This was with us being fairly conservative about where we drove, but we still had two trips home during this month, which meant we had an extra 312 miles driven outside of our normal routine. For my car that is a little over a full tank of gas worth of driving. We own both of our cars which is a huge savings for us each month since we do not have car payments, but when the time comes to purchase a new one we will definitely be looking into better mileage options.


We normally keep our spending pretty low in this area, but we do have times where we spend more than we should. I tend to justify these expenses though since we do not pay for cable or go out all the time. Jake and I actually have not gotten to go to a movie together since February 2012, just a few months before Declan was born. Since we have a young child, we always have to be mindful that dinner and a movie or going to an event that is not kid friendly also means paying a babysitter since our families live more than an hour away. We have a zoo membership and a children's theatre membership so we save money by covering Declan's entertainment for the year in advance.


Purchases in this area have been my weakness for a while. I really don't spend a ton, but $30 here and there adds up over the course of the year. I have lost weight since Declan was born, but am not back to my pre-pregnancy size so some things still fit from my original wardrobe, but a lot doesn't. I tend to go out and buy something for myself when I feel stressed about a specific event that is coming up and I need something to wear. This month was helpful because I was forced to make things work without running out to buy something new and I realized I can make more of my old wardrobe work than I thought. Plus, even without purchasing anything new in the near future, I have a pretty decent wardrobe as is so I need to save my clothing purchases for things I really want. Jake never buys new clothes so he is good here...he could actually stand to spend a little more and be fine. As for Declan's clothes, I will continue shopping consignment sales, clearance racks and couponing like crazy. We still get really cute clothes and it doesn't break the bank when he outgrows it all 6 weeks later.

Dog Needs:

Wade and Fia are our furbabies and I probably spend way more getting them treats than I should, but I only get them treats when I have a coupon so I am glad to splurge a bit because they really are great dogs. They hated the cheaper dog food and refused to eat it for a bit even though it was from the same brand we normally get so it looks like we are back to Purina One and the occasional canned food. I am sure they had a celebration about the Cheap Challenge reaching an end.

Closing Thoughts
I would definitely like to try the Cheap Challenge again in the future, but it needs to be a month where we know we do not have any major travel plans or trips home to visit our families. We will also have to be more diligent about not eating out at all during the month. It was really hard for us to say no when people we do not get to see very often asked us out for a meal, but we could have easily told them to go ahead and eat so we could just meet up with them later. I am confident we will be able to stay under the $250 limit after going through it and knowing where we can improve for the next try.


Sunday, September 1, 2013

Cheap Challenge 2013- Week 4 and Final 3 Days

August 22-31
Spending total: $56.37

Eating Out
Dog Needs

I was really worried going into this week since we had just over $15 remaining in the budget. Luckily, the week began with our trip to Parris Island, which I had already said would not count against the budget since we could not plan when my brother was going to graduate and it just happened to fall in the month we had picked for the Cheap Challenge. We were there from the 22nd-25th and we actually spent hardly any money because the home we stayed in during the trip was paid for in advance by my parents, we rode up as a family so travel was also covered for all of the kids in the family by our parents, and my dad did just as he did for everyone else's graduations and treated us all to dinner when we ate out.

We did not go grocery shopping at all the last week. We had purchased enough the week before that we even made it through with enough milk for Declan. We also toughed it out and ate some really strange dinners that we pieced together from the pantry odds and ends I mentioned last week. We did have to stop at the store and buy a pack of paper towels though because we were completely out. We bought a cheaper brand and a smaller pack than we normally would, but it still cost us $5.37.

Jake and I both continued to pack our lunches this last week and we both had days free meals due to luncheons and such during the week. I got two lunches out of the planning meeting we had on Thursday. We had salads from Urban Cookhouse and I had enough leftover for my lunch the next day. This was a big bonus since I love their food, but definitely could not have stayed anywhere near budget if I had been spending $9 or more on lunch each day. I also had a coupon for a free drink from Starbucks since my birthday is August 30th so it was nice to be able to get a coffee this week.

Wade and Fia had enough food to make it through the last of the challenge, but we are definitely going to need to go to the store and get them some more dog food early next week.

Our entertainment purchases hurt us this last part of the challenge. Although we had free tickets and food at the Barons game we attended on the 29th, we did still have to pay the $5 parking fee. We also went home to see my brother while he was still on leave and one of the things he wanted to do was go to a football game. We paid $12 to get in and then spent $14 at the concession stand to get food and drinks (it was so hot at the game!).

We had to make one final gas purchase for the drive home this weekend. I have decided I absolutely hate buying gas! I never realized just how much we spend on it from month to month. I did not realize it was goint to turn out to be our highest expense this month.

Now, I know I busted the budget instantly with that one purchase at the football game, but I wanted to go ahead and list out the rest of our spending for this last portion of the challenge because we actually came incredibly close to staying under $250. I am disappointed that we went over, but I am still really proud of how much we saved during this month. My birthday was the night of the football game and I know $26 is probably the smallest amount Jake has ever spent on celebrating my birthday in the 9 years we have been together. That right there is a win in my book! :)

Budget remaining: -$40.47

Friday, August 23, 2013

Cheap Challenge 2013- Week 3 Update

August 15-21
Spending total: $89.24

Groceries  Eating Out Gas Household Entertainment Clothing Dog Needs
$43.59 $15.47 $20.08 $0.00 $2.76 $7.34 $0.00

This week was probably the toughest week so far. Our grocery stockpile had pretty much dwindled away and we were left with a few really random odds and ends in the freezer and pantry. This week's shopping trip was the largest one we have had so far, but it still had a lower total in comparison to our usual spending on groceries. We should have enough meat from this trip to last us through the end of the month so next week's trip should just be for Declan's milk and some fresh produce.

We had a meal out on Saturday night because all of my family came to town and I got way to caught up with getting the house in order and missed the window of opportunity to get dinner fixed for everyone. Luckily, this left us with leftovers so it at least served us for more than one meal.

I had to finally make a gas purchase for my car, but I tried to keep the amount as low as possible and just get what I thought would be needed to make it until the end of the month. I guess we will see how well I estimated next week.

I had a project I really wanted to complete while I had a free weekend so some of our budget was spent on a wreath form ($2.76) since I had all of the fabric, glue, and ribbon on hand. This went under entertainment since I didn't leave a place on the budget for crafts/projects, plus I found it entertaining. :)

We had to get ready for our trip out-of-town and Dec needed a couple of plain tees so we checked out the sales rack at Wal-Mart and were able to get three short sleeve t-shirts that they had on clearance.

The dogs are now completely out of biscuits, but we are really going to be cutting it close this last week with what we have remaining in the budget so I am giving them table scraps more often than they normally get them. They may actually forgive us for not getting their favorite dog food last week.

Budget remaining: $15.90

I am not sure how we are going to make it this next week with just $15.90 remaining in the budget. Even though I have not eaten lunch out at all this month the few dinners we have not cooked on our own have really impacted the budget, even though they were cheap dining out experiences for a family of 3. Jake's one big gas purchase also put a big dent in what we had left to work with. I am really hoping we can pull this off, but I really don't know if it is possible at this point since we have 10 days remaining.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

DIY Fabric Wreath

I love wreaths like this and I am always looking at them on Etsy, but I really did not need to spend $50+ on a wreath for the front door so I decided to figure out how to make one for myself. Here are the results and step-by-step tutorial of how I made a fabric wreath.

You will need the following:
  • Pinking Shears
  • Ruler
  • 2-3 yards of fabric (Amount depends on the width of the fabrics you choose. It needs to yield approximately 250 of the 4x4 fabric squares.)
  • 14 inch Straw Wreath Form (do not remove the plastic wrapping)
  • Tacky Glue/Elmer's Glue
  • Small plastic bowl or paper plate
  • Phillips head screwdriver (Anything with a decent handle that is narrow and somewhat pointy will do.)

Step 1- Using the pinking shears and ruler, cut your fabric into 4x4 squares.  

I chose three different fabrics for my wreath. The solid blue happened to be a piece that was exactly 36x36" so I was able to get 80- 4" squares. The other two fabrics were 36x48" so I cut 84-4" squares from each of them and had roughly a one foot remnant left of each one (Total of 248 squares).

Step 2- Pour a small puddle of glue into the plastic bowl (refill bowl as needed).

Step 3- Take the screwdriver and place the tip into the center of one of the fabric squares. Fold the fabric square around it and then dip the end into the bowl of glue.
Step 4- Keep the glue dipped fabric square held around the screwdriver and push it into the wreath. 
The technique of dabbing the fabric with glue and pushing it into the wreath using the screwdriver keeps all of your fabric squares looking nice and fluffy from the start. Plus, the glue won't allow the pieces to pull out easily, as they would if you attached them with a straight pin.
Step 5- Repeat steps 3 and 4 until all of your fabric squares are in the wreath form.

I put a few of one color in at the start and then moved to the second and third colors following the same pattern to make sure all three colors were used throughout. Also, a few of the pieces got pushed in further than I wanted initially so if this happens when you are making yours, make sure to fluff them back out right away before the glue dries because they will not move later.
Finished! I am really pleased with how it turned out. The back of the wreath is not covered so just make sure the sides are covered completely and that the inner part of the wreath is not easily visible. I had enough pieces to pretty much fully cover the inside of the wreath. I am going to be looking for a cute wooden "T" to add to one of the sides, but I like it even without the initial.
I am so excited to have our wreath up on the door! The blues and browns are nice colors for the end of summer/early fall.

Back door.

Declan was a big help while I worked on this so he got to
play with it for a minute before we hung it outside.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Cheap Challenge 2013- Week 2 Update

August 8-14
Spending total: $95.57

Groceries  Eating Out Gas Household Entertainment Clothing Dog Needs
$5.23 $22.71 $44.65 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $22.98

We found one last pack of ground beef in the freezer so we will be using that before the next shopping trip. We got some fresh veggies at Pepper Place over the weekend, as well as some that were completely free thanks to Jake's granny having a wonderful garden each summer. She also gave us some apples off of their apple trees so we made them into an apple pie...yum!

Grocery spending was really low again this week. Our trip to the grocery store was just to pick up milk for Declan and dog food for Wade and Fia. We decided to buy Purina Dog Chow instead of Purina One to cut costs. The dogs were not impressed, but if we can cut back for a month then they can do it along with us.

Entertainment was completely free this week because we just played with what we had at home. Declan had a blast playing outside in his pool and was joined by Wade. :) We also got to visit with family again, but this time they came down to us. However, we did eat out on Saturday while Clint and Ashley were in town. We really have to avoid this the rest of the time and keep packing lunches each day.

Jake had to buy gas this week. He forgot the rule about only using the cash on hand and used his debit card so he could fill up the tank. I will definitely just have to get what is needed when I fill up now since this took a fifth of the month's budget. Gas expenses are hard for us to avoid since there is no way we can carpool due to our schedules being so different. We will just have to be very diligent the next two weeks about limiting the distance we can go on the weekends.

We didn't have any clothing or household purchases this week. Yay!

Budget remaining: $105.14