Thursday, March 3, 2011

Simple & Homemade

I hope you had a good Valentine's Day, whether you considered it as "just another day" or a very special day for you and your partner. For Jake and I, the truth falls somewhere in between. We don't mind a special day set aside to celebrate our appreciation for each other (it gets lost in the daily routine sometimes), but don't like to go crazy either. We definitely don't like to celebrate in any commercial way, other than Jake does buy me a bouquet of flowers, though they are overpriced on that day. Even here in Manhattan where every corner store usually has a dozen flowers for $5, on Valentine's Day they get jacked up to $25 or more. But, ah, flowers. They can really make a dull room quite cheery!

In some years past, we had gone out to dinner on Valentine's Day, especially those first two "courting" years. But these days, we prefer to lay low and not shell out good money for overpriced prix fixe menu that is potentially overrated. We discussed it this year and Jake offered to cook dinner for us. He was excited to try out a new recipe in the Indian Cookbook my sister had given him.

Alas, as we neared the day, we realized the kitchen might not be as available as we thought. We had been working on it for over a week--repainting and reorganizing and on February 13th we had *just* gotten it back to working order. After days of spending our free waking moments painting, touching up, trying to reach the fridge, and inventing creative meals out of the reachable food items, I wasn't in the mood to see Jake mess up the kitchen once again and leave yet another mess we would need to clean up. So we opted for something simple: pizza!

I love Jake's pizza. And the best part is that he makes one for each of us: his with jalepeno peppers and lots of meat, and mine, with veggies galore, a little meat, and an extra heaping dose of mushrooms. Lately I have been trying to incorporate more grains into my diet, so Jake insisted on a whole wheat crust which came out surprisingly yummy! And to make it special for Valentine's Day, Jake made unique, heart shaped pizzas:

Delicious and creative! Topped off with an imported beer and an iced glass of Coca-Cola (soda is an indulgence for me) and we were good to go. We curled up and watched a good movie and had a wonderful night relaxing and  talking. It really goes to show, at least to me, that some of the simplest and least complicated things can be the most enjoyable. Something to keep in mind!

And for those of you thinking of self-catering your wedding or even adding to some of the already catered food: you could make mini heart shaped pizzas! I used to cater for a small catering company and one of the biggest hits was a little pita pizza we would make for appetizers. It would be so easy to precut the round pitas into hearts and make them for your wedding. A homey, yummy, simple touch! You can prepare all the pizzas in advance too. Just prep and stack them separated by wax paper in the freezer until they are ready to cook. You can cook about 8-12 in the oven at one time and cut them into quarters--they go a long way to feeding and pleasing guests.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Free Save The Date Cards!

Our Save the Date cards were really simple. There was no fancy graphic (well, except for Wordle, which is super cool), but we used some funky envelopes we obtained for free through, and we made nifty M+J (Maggie + Jake) magnets which recipients could use to post the card on their fridge. Everyone loved the cards.

But even though they were so simple, it took a lot of planning, searching, and thinking to get them exactly how we wanted them. So I thought it might be nice to design and offer you another simple and ready made Save the Date Card you can use. How's that for efficient?

Using an image from the Graphic's Fairy, a site which I have sufficiently raved about in the past, I created these babies, just for you!

All you need to do is add your own information inside the engagement ring and print them out. The text has been written using a "text box" so just click on it to edit. The card size is specifically designed to fit an A2 envelope--super cheap at your local stationer or to order online! Or mix and match: use a colored envelope and creme paper, or vice versa, or even make your own envelopes. Unfortunately, there is an extra page on each document, sorry about that. (If you have ideas of how I can get rid of it, please do tell). Until then, just make sure to only print page one for each document.

On the back, I left a big open space to write a personal note to your recipient. While this may seem "unnecessary," I can't tell you how many calls and emails we received after we sent out our Save the Dates, and our guests all loved the personal notes we wrote them. For some family (who we knew were coming) we wrote jokes like, "as if you have a choice *not* to come," and for guests who lived far away or even on another continent, we wrote, "We know it's unlikely that you could make it, but we wanted to include you!!" We teased a friend who didn't like to fly, and to another friend who had been nagging us to get married for years, we wrote, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, we're finally doing it. So you better be there!" It was so fun and people responded in kind.

I love the rainbow of colors on the ring, and thought it provided a simple elegance to the card. I think it would be best printed on creme/off white cardstock, but any lighter colored or pastel cardstock would be great too. The "Save The Date" text on the side, is specifically positioned to be the first thing the recipient sees when opening the envelope, see:

Click below to download, edit and use them for personal use (only):

Friday, February 11, 2011

Quickie Button Valentine's Day Card

I know that there are many people out there, still wanting to make a homemade Valentine's Day card, but running out of time. No worries! I made this card in about 10 minutes and I think the result looks really elegant. I'm big on visual instructions, so the tutorial is mostly via photos for extra easy following. Let's cut to the chase:

  • Cardstock, one sheet per card
  • Buttons, about 12 per card
  • Glue dots or craft glue
  • Glue stick
  • Permanent, waterproof marker/pen
  • Decorative/patterned paper: Origami, the inside of junk mail envelopes (they can have really cool patterns!), wrapping paper, fabric; be creative and use what is laying around.
A note about materials: You can improvise! Use fewer buttons if you don't have many; make a smaller card or a postcard size; use colored pencil instead of marker/pen, etc.


1) Grab your decorative paper, which will be the background for the buttons. Since I was using red buttons, I liked the contrast of this piece of small origami paper behind them.

2) Fold your paper in half, cut out one side of the heart. You should get something like this, below.

3) Cut your cardstock to the card size you want. I had a pre-made set of blank cards/envelopes that were 4 x 5.5 in. and was feeling lazy, so used these. They are great to have on hand, for making last minute cards! But using a sheet of cardstock is quick too. Up to you. Play around with spacing to see where you want to place your heart on the *front* of the card.

4) With newspaper underneath, glue your heart on the cardstock. Glue sticks are super easy and create no mess! If you are using thicker paper or fabric, you will obviously need to use craft glue or something stronger.

I glued mine more or less centered, like this:

5) Get out your buttons and start playing around with where you want to place them, over the patterned heart. I used about 12 red buttons of all sizes, but you can really personalize this. Use the recipient's favorite colors, use only a few buttons and leave the background more visible; anything is possible.

Here is the layout I chose:

6) Once you have your heart configured, one by one, remove buttons and add one glue dot per button. Glue each button down where it belongs. Tip: Start removing buttons from the outside and work your way toward the inside, so they are less likely to move around in the process. Remember, this is not a hard science, even if some buttons move, don't fret! It will look good and no one will know that your button is one millimeter to the left of where you wanted it.

I accidentally glued one button too close to the other. I decided to remove it and try again. This is proof that even when you make mistakes, they won't show up at the end, see:

You'd never know by the finished product that this ugly rip happened!

I used a contrasting color in one of the buttons just for some "quirk." Final heart, all glued and happy:

7) On a scrap piece of paper, write out your message, in my case, a simple "I love you." Play with size and alignment and see how it looks under your heart or anywhere else on the page you like. Once you are satisfied with your writing and placement, write it on the real card. Use your scrap paper as a guide, you can even put it directly below where you are going to write, for reference and spacing.

8) For the inside of the card: Cut out another heart, same as before, but smaller. You can use the same paper or different decorative paper.

9) Practice writing the inside message, just like you did with the outside message. In my case, I used "today, and every day." I wrote it in a bunch of different directions and and placed the second cut out heart in various places to see which I liked best.

10) I chose my favorite position, and glued the second heart on the inside of the card with a glue stick. Using my scrap paper message as a guide, I wrote the inside message around the heart, as planned. I left a lot of room below the heart to write my own personal message.

11) You're done! You can decorate the envelope in a similar way if you want. I left mine plain for simplicity. Jake is going to love it!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Super Cheap & Easy Gift Bags

For the past few Halloweens, I have bought candy and made little goodie bags for my staff at work. It's not that I am that into Halloween, but I think little gestures like that can really make someone's day, and show appreciation for their work.

Little candies almost always make people smile, and these year I got a lot of "retro" candy like double bubble gum, nerds, sizzle straws, etc., which brought back good memories of childhood Halloweens gone by for a lot of the recipients. I printed out little gift tags (can't remember from where, sorry!) in black and white ink to save money (color ink is expensive!), and had fun coloring them in with crayons, colored pencils and markers. Then I glue-sticked the tags on the front, loaded up an envelope with colorful candy, tied envelopes up with orange string, and bingo! I had my goodie bags ready to go and do their job of bringing smiles to faces:

(Smudges are the identifying info whited out).

What? Those don't look like envelopes to you? Why, sure they are! Because I turned little envelopes I brought home from work (how ironic) into cute little gift bags! It was super easy and basically free.

These are excellent gift bags to make for your wedding, if you plan to give little wedding favors. The best kind of craft: Quick, cheap, simple, and cute. The tutorial is here, courtesy of How About Orange. Jessica's bags look much better than mine, but that's because I was doing mine quickly and did not take a lot of time to "polish" them. But with a little more attention, even mine could have also been crisp and even more beautiful. Definitely try it out.

If you are not up to "borrowing" envelopes from work, you can buy simple white business envelopes for super cheap, about $11 for a box of 500, and use those. Or better yet--get creative and collect and use envelopes addressed to you and your spouse-to-be for a personalized gift bag.

Monday, February 7, 2011

"Throw" Your Own Wedding!

It goes without saying that most of us who are looking to make our weddings personal and reflective of our style, consider ways to incorporate our hobbies and interests into many aspects of the wedding. From favorite colors to professional accomplishments, we use our backgrounds and experiences to spice up our receptions and let our friends and family really get to know us.

For some people, this means engaging in art projects that reflect our tastes and aesthetic choices. While for others, it may mean literally putting our art or creative objects on display at our weddings. For Jake and I, it was obvious to us that we would somehow include our photographs in the wedding--whether via the table designations, the wedding website we created, our thank you cards, or the photos we displayed on the guests' tables.

But another thing I considered was displaying my ceramics. I have long thrown pottery and have amassed quite a collection. I have so many vases, vessels, trays, and random pieces that most are packed up in cardboard boxes in our basement storage space. And there are still plenty strewn about our apartment. So it seemed natural to me to try to use my ceramics as decorations in the wedding. I thought about using them as flower vases, or to display the seating arrangements, or just putting them out as decoration on some of the tables. I even considered giving them away at the end of the event to guests. In the end, we didn't go with any of these ideas, mostly because we had so many other ideas that would not involve carrying fragile pieces across 5 state borders to our wedding destination.

But aside from using your already existing art, it occurred to me: Why not begin a hobby with the intent of using it/displaying it at your wedding? It almost seems to good to be true. I suppose if you only have a few months to plan your wedding, this may not be ideal. But if you aren't in a rush--think about it! Turning your procrastination into something you can concretely utilize to decorate your wedding is not a bad way to go.

Why not take that ceramics class you have always wanted to take, and create pieces with your wedding in mind? Take it from me: While initially frustrating and seemingly impossible, it does not take long to become proficient in wheel throwing. And if you take a hand building class, where you assemble cut pieces of clay together by hand rather than machine, the process is even easier and instantly gratifying. While I am primarily a wheel thrower, I do make hand-built pieces sometimes. I can't tell you how easy and wonderfully satisfying it is to make a simple rectangular platter, or a simple serving dish.

A sampling of my platters (so easy to make!) and funky vessels:

The point is, we all have those classes, skills, crafts we have put off doing and learning. And we know that planning a wedding can be stressful and Wise Ones are always telling us to make sure to take breaks and make time for fun too. Why not kill two birds with one stone? Take that long awaited class! Learn that unique skill! Master that craft you have long dreamed of mastering! Reduce your stress and do something fun during those long months of planning and thinking. And then put your goods to use at your wedding.

Glancing through the YMCA and JCC's catalog, I realized how many wonderful skill classes would come in handy at your wedding:

  • Cooking classes: Catering your own wedding? Ask for a cooking class as a gift for your next birthday and make that special something for your wedding.
  • Ceramics: Make vases, small trinkets for wedding favors, trays for your food or cake. You can make personalized vessels with you and your honey's initials/names on it! The possibilities are endless, and you can continue creating long past your wedding.
  • Photography: Take a basic photo course. Who needs to hire a wedding photographer for your "engagement photos"-- do it yourself!
  • Jewelry making class: Forget buying your wedding rings! Make them yourselves for a truly unique and special token of commitment. Take the class with your partner and make your final project a wedding ring for each other.
  • Collage and Mixed Media class: Learn this amazing and simple craft and use it for your invitations, table designations, thank you cards, etc.
  • Drawing: I have a friend who took a drawing class with no previous experience, and 5 classes later was drawing images for her own wedding invitations and thank you cards. They were simple and amazing! A huge hit at the wedding and she (and her hubby) were so proud.
  • Sewing: This is really an instant gratification thing. In no time, you can sew runners for your guest tables, placemats, incorporate fabrics in your invitations, or sew little wedding favors for your guests.

Why limit yourselves to taking dance classes for your "first dance," when there are so many other--more useful (in my opinion) ways to incorporate your work in the wedding? Go for it and have FUN!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Please (don't) Wait To Be Seated.

Ah, the "table number" dilemma. If you have reached this stage in your wedding planning, you are probably pretty far along. Meaning, that you have planned most of the Really Big stuff, which--at least in our case--meant: venue, food, band, guests, invitations. Of course, if you are figuring out how to indicate to guests where they are going to be sitting at your wedding....this also means you have already made your seat assignments, right? Not necessarily.

We prepared all our "table numbers" in advance, before we knew who was sitting where, and this saved us a lot of time later, when things got more hectic. We estimated how many tables we would need based on the number of guests we invited, and added (or subtracted) the number of "table numbers" accordingly, later. Because the cost of our "table numbers" was low, we could easily afford to do it this way. I keep putting "table number" in quotes because we didn't actually have table numbers, we had table hobbies. Keep reading.

I wanted to do something more creative than table numbers. And given that we both do photography and had yet to incorporate a way to display some of our photos, I figured out a simple way to do so via table seating assignments. The concept was simple: figure out how many tables we were using (15), and think of 15 hobbies/activities/concepts Jake and I enjoy doing together or both value. Here were our activities (plus a few extra for good measure):
  1. Food
  2. Dogs (ours in particular of course!)
  3. Photography
  4. Travel
  5. Hiking
  6. Biking
  7. (Spending time with) Friends
  8. (Spending time with) Family
  9. Reading
  10. New York City
  11. Nature
  12. Art
  13. Laughter
  14. Parks
  15. Music
  16. Holidays
  17. City Walks
And now the photos came into the picture. We had a blast and many-a-fit-of-nostalgia going through all of our photos to find some that would represent each category. We picked two per category, and ordered simple 4 x 6 prints from a cheap online store (in this case, Snapfish).

When we got the photos back, we cut some cardstock we had sitting around, in half lengthwise. We mounted each photo to the bottom center of each half sheet of cardstock with double-sided tape (but you can use glue dots, spray adhesive, whatever you have). At the top, with a black Sharpie, we wrote in the title of the hobby/interest. Here are some photos of the completed cards (the clowns are "laughter," the nature scenes are "nature"):

Note that some table labels are horizontal while others are vertical. It didn't matter to us because they were at different tables and we didn't need everything to be "uniform." You do, however, need each category's photos to be the same layout, unless you use bigger sheets of paper that accommodate both. I hope that makes sense...

Next, we simply bought a package of those shish-kabob wood skewers that grocery stores sell, taped one skewer to one photo card (on the back) and then glued the second photo (back to back) to the first photo. This sandwiched the skewer in between, turning the two photos into a standing sign. We reinforced the skewer to the cards with tape (after glueing the stick to the first card), just to be safe, which I would recommend.

Now for something to stand them up in. We considered all kinds of pre-made things to hold up the handmade signs on the tables (pre-made photo holders, frames, etc), but in the end decided to assemble the holder ourselves. Going with the tradition of either using cheap/free items, or buying items that we could reuse after the wedding, the answer came to us after a nice walk in the Village when we popped into CB2 (a budget version of Crate and Barrel). I had been fond of those stemless wine glasses for a long time, but didn't dare suggest buying them because we didn't need them. But there they were; on sale, and seemingly perfect for sticking a sign into. We just needed a filler to put in the glasses and our project would be complete.

We debated sand, marbles and rocks, but decided that none of these would be particularly useful to us after our shindig. Next up were lentils, beans, and rice and various other grains. We discovered in a test run (just before I made my delicious red lentil soup recipe) that while beautifully colorful, the lentils did not hold the sign as stable as we would have liked. And since we were having an outdoor wedding, any potential wind would knock them over. Next we decided we preferred white, because there would be so many other colors at the tables, and eagerly and pleasantly acknowledged that rice was quite cheap. In addition, because the grains of rice are small and stiff, they held our little wooden skewers very solidly. Most importantly, we eat a lot of rice, and would be perfectly content to recycle the rice (just needed to rinse it a bit) after the wedding (which we happily did!). Rice it was:

We still use our wine glasses to this day, and the best part is remembering our beautiful event each time we do. These turned out to be not only a cheap and practical choices, but meaningful ones that lasted well after our wedding had passed, as well.

Here is an approximate cost breakdown of our table signs:
One package of 25 wooden skewers = $1.99
20 stemless wine glasses (extra just in case) = $1.99 each for a total of ~ $40
20 photos printed from Snapfish = $2 (with free shipping from an online coupon we googled)
8 16 oz. packages of rice (with lots unused) =  $1.40 each for a total of ~ $12
Total Cost = $55.99 which includes a new set of gorgeous wine glasses (we gave some away to family as gifts after the wedding) and months worth of rice to eat.
This project was more expensive than it needed to be because we were buying something specifically to both use at the wedding AND keep for ourselves. I have found that thinking about things you could use around the house in combination with wedding decorations leads to very creative, satisfying and ultimately cost-saving solutions--like our choice for table runners!

Our final product, in "action" at the wedding:

[Photo by Andy Cross]

You could easily cut costs even further by:
  • Getting bulk rice (or another, cheaper grain) 
  • Using less fancy glasses, for example glasses from Ikea, or even cheap and short glass vases.
  • Using random interesting vases or tall glasses you find at a thrift store. Some of the "vintage" colored glass pieces you may find at second hand stores are cheap AND gorgeous.
  • Using branches you find in the park instead of bought skewers (and this would be even prettier too!)
  • Getting free prints from Snapfish--you get 50 free prints just for opening a new account.
  • Using magazine clippings for the pictures of your hobbies/interests rather than photos.
  • Print creative commons photos or images instead of using/printing your own photographs for the hobbies/interests.
  • Using a longer stick/branch and sticking the signs in your flower vases along with flowers. This way you don't have to buy any additional sign holders at all.
The guests loved these personal hobby/interest lists and asked us about them. We later learned that they even became conversation pieces amongst guests at the same table. People remembered the food we cooked based on the photos, some of our guests were even featured in the photos (the ones labeled family/friends), and other guests talked about how they were with us during some events that were pictured in the photos (like the clown being taken at the NYC Halloween Parade that we went to with friends). It was so fun to see how much people enjoyed this seemingly small aspect of our wedding!

*Photographs copyright Wedding Thrift. All rights reserved.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Will You Be My Valentine?

I've already raved about this site on which the Graphics Fairy shares her amazing vintage images with us. I've wasted little time getting busy using her images in various real and test projects and ideas. I couldn't resist using this Valentine image just as it looks, for a little Valentine's Day card set. I *love* this sleek colorful, sweet image with the tiny little heart on the envelope. I wanted to spice up the background just a bit, so I gathered some little origami paper pieces I had lying around and scanned them. I chose a red pattern to use as the background to bring out the blues and reds in the picture. I love the result, don't you?:

I included black crosshairs to make cutting them easy.* They would make great postcards, or provide a nice colorful surprise to a recipient if placed in a simple homemade envelope. Use magazine pages or plain red/pink paper to make the envelopes. Check out the free download for the vintage valentine's day cards here.

Now, getting away from Valentine's Day, these would make AWESOME invitations, save-the-dates or RSVP cards. You could simply white out the "To My Valentine" line and replace it with a text box with you and your partner's name on it! I may even make a sample at some point and share it here. If you have any questions about how to insert a text box, contact me, I'd be happy to help.

* On some printers, the cards print with a white border on the outside. Just cut that white part off to make the card look symmetric in border color.

Featured on:
and here.