Sunday, July 14, 2013

Unique Wedding Gift Idea: The Date Night Binder!

Most summer Sunday mornings, I wake up, let the dog out, and take some time to reflect and relax whilst sipping my Jasmine Green tea.  It is MY time, without the annoying background noise of basketball shoes squeaking on the floors or the loud booming voice of Stephen A. Smith chiming in about something sports related (my husband keeps our TVs tuned into ESPN at all times), without having to wash a dish or prepare a meal, without having to grade a paper, or write a lesson plan.

This morning, after I contemplated working out, I started thinking about my friend, Courtney's wedding, which was a little over a month ago.  This moment struck me as being ironic because, little less than two months ago, I was sitting in this same position, drinking my tea, and panicking because I had NO idea what to get for my best friend's wedding.  That morning, I had logged onto her registry with a smile on my face, ready to make a purchase and be done with it.  That smile quickly turned into a frown when I saw that, quite literally, EVERYTHING from her registry had been purchased save her Dyson vacuum cleaner (please excuse my odd sentence structure, as I have been in the middle of reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, whose British voice has somehow found its way into my writing).  Should I have been blessed having won the lottery, I would have purchased the vacuum cleaner, but unfortunately, that has not been my providence.

Anyways, I became panicked.  You may be asking, "Why not get a gift card?"  That is a valid question that can only be answered by explaining that I put undo stress on myself because I want to be unique.  A gift card is simply not unique enough for one of my best friends of at least 12 years.  I started searching Pinterest immediately, which is the craftiest sight I know.  I found a million ideas- personalized t-shirts, honeymoon gift cards (Grrrr!), and some diy wall hanging for their home.  None of these fit my vision...I didn't even have a vision.  Finally, I found something that inspired me The Can of Dates on a blog called My Creative Stirrings.  Her idea, which can be purchased on Etsy, was to print some different date ideas on paper, fold them, and put them in a decorated can.  I thought that was fantastic- definitely something I could work with.

I wanted to tweak it somehow, making it my own.  I knew I wanted to spend about $150 and I knew it had to be neatly organized because Courtney, the bride, is even more OCD than me.  I decided to use a binder instead of a can, and rather than do a bunch of date ideas, I would focus on twelve- one for year month of their first year of marriage.  Here is what I came up with.

I started with a simple binder from Target ($3.00), that had a clear insert on the front.  I created a document using Microsoft Word.  I thought it only appropriate that I use the "Date Night" movie picture as my cover pic.  I changed the names of the actors with the names of the bride and groom.

I then purchased a bunch of sheet protectors to put inside the binder.  This allowed me to keep my printables for each month in tact and it allowed me to put little gifts for each month inside of sheet protector, so that everything could stay together.  Some of the gifts wouldn't fit in the folder, so I also gave them a large box filled with the gifts that were too big to fit.

On the inside of the binder, I wrote a cover page explaining how this wedding gift worked.  For my gift, I wanted to make sure that they took a lot of pictures each time they do each date, to keep the memories.  They will end up needing those pictures later, as a part of their final date.  Please feel free to copy this wording to use for your own wedding gift.

After the cover page, I go right into the date ideas for each month.  I started with the month after their wedding so that way, their last date will be an "anniversary" date.  They got married in June, so I started with July.  Some of the dates had gifts associated with them, and some did not.  On the printables, I put a star on the tops of each one that had a gift.   The ones that didn't I left blank.  See the printables below for the date ideas and associate gifts.

July Date: Make ice cream without an ice cream maker.  
July Gift: Sprinkles

August Date:  Movie In
August Gift:  Redbox Gift Certificate

September Date:  Dinner Out
September Gift: Gift Certificate to a local restaurant

October Date:  Fall day
I found some cool fall festivals near their home, so I used that to create this Fall Day.
October Gift: None

November Date:  Dinner In
November Gift:  Cookbook
I bought them a Pioneer Woman Cookbook, which I found at my local Target for $15.00, but you can choose whatever one you would like.  I just love the Pioneer Woman; that's why I chose her.  You can also gift them some sort of cooking utensil and make them use it on their "date."  That would be a creative twist.

December Date:  Merry First Christmas Traditions
December Gift:  Sharpie Mugs (DIY); their favorite teas.    
I got the idea of making these Sharpie mugs from DIYopolis.  They are REALLY easy.  The mugs were $3.50/each at Target.  I had some Sharpies at home, so I didn't need to buy those.   I did the writing free-hand, but you could always use a stencil from your local craft store.  After you have finished writing, put in the oven at 350 for 30 minutes.  Then, you're finished!

January Date:  Warm-Up with some S'mores and Cocoa
January Gift:  Gift certificate to a local sandwich shop that has delicious warm drinks and a S'mores platter. 
Don't have a Cosi near you?  You can do any coffee shop that serves delicious drinks and desserts.

February Date:  Love Hunt at the Museum
February Gift:  None
February was tough.  I was trying to think of something unique.  Being  from Northern Virginia, we live ten minutes from DC, but we never enjoy the perks.  I thought of using the museums and making them go on a DC scavenger hunt, but it is far too cold for that.  Oddly, yet thankfully, I found THIS online and decided to use it for the date.

March Date:  Lucky in Love 
March Gift:  None
I just thought of this, but it would be an awesome idea to give them lottery tickets or lucky pennies...something that symbolizes luck.

April Date:  Game Night
April Gift: Board game
Choose whatever game you would like.  This is one of the last gifts I got, and I was running into my $150 limit, so I went to Five Below and purchased a game there.  Target has some really cool games like Battle of the Sexes.  

May Date:  Plant a Garden
May Gift:  Packets of Seeds
I got herbs for this date, but you can choose anything you want.  If the bride and groom have a huge backyard, then you can gift them huge bulbs or a gift certificate to Lowes/Garden Center.  

June Date:  Anniversary Date
June Gift:  Gift card to Shutterfly
Throughout the year, the couple was asked to take pictures of their dates.  On this date, they will be using those pictures to create a photo memory book.  Not only will this allow them to treasure the memories from their first year of marriage, it will also be a wonder first anniversary (paper) gift! :)

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or would like help with doing one of your own.  I made all printables using PicMonkey.  

As I sit here, this Sunday morning, almost finished with my SECOND cup of tea, my relaxation has suddenly been shocked by the thought that I have a wedding to go to this coming weekend and I have NO gift.  Back to Pinterest I must go.

Plus, I hear ESPN-like sounds coming from my bedroom.  Reflection time is OVER...

Monday, July 8, 2013

Bridal Shower Boardwalk Style!!

This post is long overdue.  One would think that being a teacher and having the summers off would free up a lot of time for blogging.  Unfortunately, I have been planning countless parties and yet another bridal shower, which has left little time for my writing desires.

Anyway, this shower I am presenting to you now was for my cousin, Heather, who is actually getting married in a little less than two weeks (in Florida, which will be wonderful!).  She got engaged to her fiance, Jake, in Cape May, which is a boardwalk town.  Lisa, one of the matrons of honor, (the other being me) came up with the idea to use the boardwalk as a theme for the bridal shower.  GENIUS!! Or so we thought.  I went to Pinterest to find some cool boardwalk ideas.  I suppose some think that "boardwalk" is synonymous with "carnival," so needless to say, I got a lot of carnival ideas that were less than fancy enough for a bridal shower.  So, needless to say, we have to start from scratch.  Heather, the bride-to-be, is not a particularly traditional bride.  She is fun-loving and playful, so I wanted to use those elements in the shower.

The Food:

The food was the easiest part of the shower.  Thinking about the boardwalks I have been to (Ocean City, Rehobeth, Virginia Beach), I imagined the store fronts that line the wooden walkway, usually selling popcorn, sweets, barbeque, sandwiches, and french fries.  Inspired by those store fronts, I create fake store names and printables, which I put in frames and placed around each "store's" food.

The first was Lisa's Sweet Shoppe.  I named it that because Lisa was inspired to make some delicious custard cupcakes for the shower.  In Lisa's Sweet Shoppe, we had the custard cupcakes, peanuts, apothecary jars filled with gumdrops, homemade mini pretzels, and little triangles of kettle corn (a BIG hit with our smaller guests).  My aunt found the small plastic beach bins at her local Christmas store, which I have been told is "like the Dollar Tree on steroids" (her words exactly).  They were extremely cheap and could be reusable.

Next, we had Surfer Sammy's Sub Shop.  In the interest of time, we decided to buy $5 foot longs from Subway and just cut them into small finger sandwiches.  This turned out to be very helpful and easy.

Another shop was Sweet Baby's BBQ.  We wanted something really authentically boardwalk, yet something with a large quantity, since we were feeding 30 people.  We decided on BBQ.  We picked up BBQ pulled chicken and coleslaw from our local Red, Hot, and Blue and bought our own buns, since we wanted a smaller size than the ones provided by the restaurant.  Heather's aunt from her mother's side made an excellent Three Bean Baked Beans, which were amazing!

We had a lot of hearty food and we wanted to do something a little lighter.  We wanted to incorporate a salad and some fruit, so I decided to make a store front printable for a Farmer's Market.  We made a delicious BLT salad and had two fruit trays from Whole Foods.

The Drinks:

I was kind of at a stand-still when it came to the drinks.  I knew that we would have the typical bottled water and soda, but I wanted to incorporate something that was uniquely Boardwalk as a signature drink.  I thought, "How about lemonade?"  Who has ever been to a boardwalk that doesn't have a lemonade stand somewhere?  So I made a store front printable for Rascal's Lemonade and Corn Dog Stand.  Lemonade and Corn Dogs, you may wonder.  Well, to me, the boardwalk is always filled with restaurants and stores that always have a random mix of things, so I concocted Rascal's.  For the non-drinkers, we had raspberry and regular lemonade, which we simply made using Crystal Light Powder packets.  For the adventurous drinks, we had Spiked Arnold Palmer, which is a concoction of half a handle of Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka, a pint of fresh brewed tea, two containers of Simply Lemonade, and a lot of ice.  I had many people asking me for the recipe before they left.  It is a good choice, especially for those who don't like the "alcohol" taste.  Of course, we also had to make pigs in a blanket to represent our "corn dogs."  Those acted as an appetizer of sorts.

The Decor:

The decor was the hardest part to do.  How does one incorporate boardwalk without spending an arm and a leg?  I thought out incorporating the wood from the boardwalk.  I used that as a centerpiece.  I purchased two fencing boards from my local Lowe's for a whopping total of $3.42.  I had one of the workers cut the board into thirds, so they would be a good centerpiece size.  They were typical fresh wood yellow and I wanted them to look more aged and weathered, like wood from a boardwalk.  When I got home, I put some steel wool in vinegar overnight.  The next day, I brushed the vinegar substance on my planks and let them sit outside for a day.  That night, I let some tea seep all night long. The next morning, I took my tea and brushed it on the wood.  That process allowed me to achieve the weathered look I wanted.  Since we were only using three tables for seating, I only needed three centerpiece planks.  I decided to write words on the planks, which, when all three planks are put together, state a love quote  (SSSShhhh, I am giving them the wooden planks put together as a wedding present that they can put on their wall).  

I knew I wanted to put a mason jar filled with oranges and white flowers on each the planks, but I felt they needed something else.  While at my local AC Moore, I found some mini Adirondack chairs.  I thought they would be perfect.  I bought six (two per table) and spray painted them teal, since the colors of our shower were teal and orange.  It ended up working perfectly.  

Lisa also added a beautiful touch to the shower by purchasing this pennant banner for the wall.  

The shower turned out to be so wonderful and everything I expected.  I can't wait to see how this wedding will turn out.  I know it will be beautiful, and I must admit I am looking forward to the mini vacation.  Until next time...