Before & After: the Nook

Holy fucking shit this post is a long time coming (though not as long as the one for our bedroom because we started building our bed a YEAR ago). I finally got in gear and started working on the nook at the beginning of December last year. Yes, 8 1/2 months ago. Yeah, I know, I told you it was a long time coming. Back then, the room looked like this

Back then we had drywall as "curtains" and there was just shit everywhere. It took many months - though it really shouldn't have because there really wasn't too much to do - but we are finally DONE. I was hoping to finish it before our party, but it didn't happen, boooo. 

In the days leading up to the party Chris applied the texture

And then I primed and painted

I was hoping to get the light hung, but the night before the party when I went to HD they didn't have any escutcheons for lights, so we couldn't hang it. Sigh. It ended up not being that big of a deal though because 98% of the time people were outside, so they didn't have a hanging light bulb to stare at :)

A week or two ago we FINALLY got to hanging the light (of course I got no pictures of Chris hanging it), but once we did that, we were done. Yay! We reused the light from the front room

We loved the light, but it just felt way too small for such a big room. So we took it down and saved it with then intention of using it in the nook when we finally got to it. And now....

It looks fantastic! Though I do have to confess it more often actually looks like this

Crap on the ground, Zoe flying by, shit all over the table :) But for one or two hours, it will look nice and clean :)

I love this room. I loved it when we first moved in, even though it was plain and ugly - ugly light, ugly paint color, ugly ceiling 

The room is small, but it took some time to get there. 

The pantry got organized (which involved getting rid of some really expired spices)

There was a ton of little things that had to fixed on the walls before we could paint. But I was SO EXCITED when I could finally get to painting


And it was really pretty when it was done. It looks so wonderful being the same color as our kitchen and I love how bright and cheery it is

And then it was the finishing touches of hanging the artwork, repairing the ceiling and then painting it. I am SO HAPPY to call another room in the house FINISHED. I love the artwork on the wall with the fun clock my mom had when we were little

And even though I wasn't planning on having these chairs in here because they belong to the eventual sports ticket table (whenever we actually get to building that...), I think they look really good. If I had my way I'd have the chairs be white, but hey, we have these chairs on hand and they look good

It's so wonderful to have a place to eat together as a family, and I love that

And it certainly looks better than before

Hooray for house progress and pretty rooms! :)


Baby Weight

I am relatively open about my weight. Leading up to being pregnant I was probably in the best shape I've been in since I was 16 years old. Which isn't really saying a lot because I'm only 28. But I was getting super into running and had a goal for a sub 6 mile and a 21 minute 5k. Chris was my coach and I was running many miles each and every day. Then I got my stress fracture. Then I got pregnant. Then I had Zoe. I have never been someone who is good at "taking it easy" so my doctor was happy that I got pregnant because it really meant I had to take it easy to fully recover from my stress fracture. I still found many ways to work out while pregnant and worked out till 39 weeks. But my running went bye bye.

my family getting ready for the Road to Hana relay in 2010

After I had Zoe it took me a LONG time to get back into running. I realize that may sound strange because she's just barely over 1, but for someone who was running nearly every day for several years, taking a year+ off was a big deal. I've started running somewhat regularly again and earlier this week ran my fastest 5k I have in 2 years. And I felt AWESOME. I totally felt like a bad ass runner again. It's still several minutes slower than I was clocking in at in races, but it was something I felt really good about. I was proud of myself.

Two nights ago while planted in front of the TV and reading shitty news stories on my cell phone I came across an unnamed celebrity's post baby body pics. I felt awful that my immediate reaction was to be mad. This lady was 5 months postpartum and she was looking ROCKING. After I thought about it for a couple of seconds I felt really guilty that I felt so mad. I needed to revise and reorganize my feelings: I felt mad that I compared myself to something that isn't my #1 priority, yet still makes me upset.

I was thin in high school. I have played sports year round since about the age of 7 and being active was always just part of my family's life style. I am lucky that I was also fortunate to have inherited good genes. I didn't really ever think about weight. We always had healthy snacks on hand and I was just as happy to eat a handful of red vines as I was to eat some leftover salad in the fridge that my parents left for me.

yup, I'm awesome

When I got to college I took time off from sports and immediately gained about 15 pounds. It was the freshman + not being as active 15 (after all, I was no longer running a mile warm up before soccer practice every day). I didn't really worry about it though and after a year or two I got back into being active and exercising a lot because being physical makes me happy. I didn't think about working out in terms of losing weight, I worked out because I wanted to be more healthy and happy.

I was extremely adamant about working out while I was pregnant. When I had my first doctors appointment I told him about my recovering stress fracture. At that point I was working out 3 days a week and he told me 4 was okay - so I went for it. I went for walks, rode our recumbent bike, went to the gym, did free weights, went swimming. I was all about it. I loved the way it made me feel.

After I had Zoe I was eager to be active again. I had a tough time those first two weeks. There was certainly a part of me that wanted to lose weight because I felt a little too....jiggly. But I also wanted to get back to being me. And so when I was cleared by the doctor I started to work out again. It felt good, but I didn't go at it full throttle. It honestly took me until just a couple weeks ago till I really started PUSHING myself. Almost every run I used to take or every work out at the gym I used to do was balls out. I LOVED timing myself on runs and pushing myself as hard as I fucking could. I thrive on competition.

league champs!

But after Zoe, I really started just wanting to do it for me. I wanted to ease into working out because I didn't want to hurt myself and I wanted to take care of my body. I'm not saying that people who jump on the elliptical the second they have a baby aren't taking care of themselves, but that just wasn't what was in store for me. I think there is SO MUCH pressure to be able to say, "It took me 'X' amount of time to lose the baby weight," in the fastest amount of time. In those first several months I weighed myself pretty frequently. It was hard to see the number be high, but I knew that being healthy, recovering from a baby and taking care of my body was work that took time. And over time I stopped really weighing myself and just went on how I felt. When I got pregnant I was just under 140lbs, I gained about 45 pounds while pregnant, and I just weighed myself 2 minutes ago and I came in at 145.

I am okay with that. I do not need to have the flattest stomach. I am happy with how my clothes fit, happy with how I feel in my body. I will always have those little white stretch marks on my tummy. My skin will never be nearly as elastic. And by boobs are no longer perky - they're back to their little size. And slightly droopier. It took me 14 months to get within 5+ pounds of where I was pre-pregnancy. But I am happy with my lifestyle. I am happy to love running again. I am happy to take Zoe on those runs and have her face to cheer into when I run a good time. I hope that one day I can share being active with her. I loved playing baseball with my dad, running races with my step dad and going to the pool or boxing gym with my mom when I was little.

she already took my Nike sweatshirt to me and demanded I put it on her, so obviously she's ready to be an athlete

So here is my declaration to you: I will (absolutely TRY to) no longer care about my "baby weight." Who the fuck cares? Let us not be slaves to a scale. Let us eat that fabulous dessert. Let us work out because we want to instill an active and healthy lifestyle in our fabulous children. Let us be honest with ourselves and each other: baby weight is hard, and however quick or slow you lose it, you are still fucking awesome.


So, What's Next?

The time comes in every renovators life when the first project is done. Our house isn't DONE, but it is pretty close. The nook is now finished (I know, I need to post about the light we hung and a Before & After of course), and all that's left after that is Chris' office and the second half of the laundry room. Chris' office should be really simple - a couple patches on the walls, ceiling repair, then paint. And the laundry room just needs the rest of the flooring, cabinets, new paint, and some other small things here and there. Still two rooms, but in the grand scheme of things, not a lot of work at all.

Then of course we are now a family of three, we need room for working on projects and we need room for storing materials for future projects we will be working on. We have a two car garage, but now that we're working full time on our handyman business, that workshop is getting used daily and we're running out of space for the tools and materials we need on a daily basis. On top of that, we regularly buy large quantities of materials for projects we've got down the line in a couple of days or weeks and we are running out of places to store them. Our front room is a regular storage spot for materials waiting to be organized, installed or built for a client. It's not that our house doesn't have enough space, it's just not laid out great for us. For instance, the front room is probably a few hundred square feet of space that we don't really use ever - except to exercise in with our recumbent bike and free weights and pile building materials in. And I always feel bad about that.

So what comes next? Well, I posted on Facebook last week that we did something CRAZY: we put an offer on a house. We didn't get it, grrrr (I'll fill you in later in this post about it), but it did let the cat out of the bag that we're beginning to think about where we are, what we need, what we want and what comes next. Some of you commented on the post that you were wondering if we were going to move soon because we're almost done on this house (and that seems to be what crazy renovators do). And the answer is: yes, we would like to move. And here are the details:

If it was up to Chris we would move away (probably to Michigan). Chris has always wanted land and to be self sufficient. We both really fell in love with Michigan while on the Renovation Roadtrip and now are lucky to have (what I would hope to call) friends living there :) And in neighboring states as well :) But I just can't do it. I am a Bay Area girl at heart (4 generations here) and the thought of leaving makes my heart hurt. 90% of my family lives within an hour of our house. And I love that. So I have made Chris stay in the Bay Area :)

Then comes the question of WHERE in the Bay Area. Again, Chris wants LAND, so we had thought about moving to the outskirts a bit where we can get more land for A LOT cheaper than around here. However, now that we've started our business, about 95% of our clients (and just about all of our regulars) live in the city of Oakland. That's super nice and super convenient. On days when we need to drive around to several client's houses it's nice knowing that it will never take more than 20 minutes to get to someone's house. However, if we lived in another city (if you know Bay Area traffic), that commute will significantly change. And building up a new client base is always a question mark. And even if we did, it isn't like we would leave our existing clients, so it would mean driving to and from Oakland to "INSERT HERE" city, very frequently. And end up costing a lot more in gas. And a truck doesn't get great gas mileage.

Not to mention, I have the deepest soft spot in my heart for Oakland. I did not grow up here, but instead grew up in Albany and Berkeley. I moved to Oakland when I was about 21, lured by the affordable rents. And I loved it. I loved how diverse it was (4th in the US), how there was always something going on, how proud people were to be from here. It just kind of felt awesome. I also have a soft spot for the underdog, and Oakland has definitely had struggles (I did my senior thesis as an art major as a video installation on the social and economic differences of living "above" or "below" I-580 that goes through our 'town'). I get sad when people get well paid jobs, have kids, "grow up" and decide to leave Oakland. And I didn't want to do that.

So we will most likely stay in Oakland.

We definitely want to get the biggest lot we can afford. Again, if it was up to Chris we'd have 500 acres and a bunch of goats, sheep, chickens and an orchard. So if we can find 1/500th of that, that would be awesome. The trouble is - at least around here - whenever you're able to get a big lot, the house is ginormous, and we don't either want or need that. To us, the size of our current house is great (1600 sf), it's just not laid out the way we use. If we could find a 1600 sf house laid out differently than ours is now and on even just 1/2 acre with good workshop and storage space, that would just be downright awesome. Of course that all comes with a price because the Bay Area is NOT cheap. Our budget for a fixer would buy us two finished 2000 sf houses in OK City for example. Oy.

We tossed around the idea of building our own home and acting as the general contractors to save money. There were a couple lots we looked into that were "cheap" because of interesting obstacles. We went to the city to look into them, talked with a couple contractors, ran some numbers and ultimately decided that building from scratch probably isn't for us. There are all sorts of question marks when you build from scratch (especially around here) that if you're working on a tight budget can completely fuck you up. We made the decision that it would just be too tight of a fit.

I got my real estate license about 3 years ago for my brother's company. With the prospect of looking for a future house for us and my dad and step mom relocating to the area I decided it might finally be time to get myself access to the MLS and start looking. About a week after I got access the most AMAZING fixer came onto the market. It was on an acre, in Oakland, ridiculously in need of fixing, off in a more "country" area (if that's possible). And it was being offered sort of close to our budget. It was definitely a diamond in the rough. I called Chris about it while he was at work, we looked at it that night and I told my parents about it. We all talked about it, sent pictures, ran numbers, had them look at it etc. It was a DUMP

11310 Elvessa St, Oakland, CA 94605

Yup, that's a completely collapsed floor. 

But there was so much potential

11310 Elvessa St, Oakland, CA 94605

Because of the condition of the house, you absolutely needed 100% cash to make the purchase.While we've been really good savers, we do not by ANY means have enough money to pay several hundreds of thousands of dollars up front to purchase the home. So we pulled together and got help from family and presented an offer. We happened to meet the listing agent while checking out the house with my dad and step mom and she was really nice and we chatted for a while. She knew how much we loved the house and we were happy she had a face to go along with the offer we put together (along with a letter). There ended up being 9 offers, and we lost out to someone who was likely an investor that bid $135k over asking. Sigh. The agent called to let us know that we had lost and was very, very nice about everything. She let us know that we were actually second in line, which I'm not sure if that made it hurt more or less. 

I'm confident in saying that Chris and I were COMPLETELY heartbroken that we lost out. I was at work at the A's when I found out last week and literally cried quietly in the corner to myself. Luckily a girlfriend was working that game with me and she was amazingly nice while I silently sobbed. I had to call Chris during an inning break to tell him the awful news. And when I got home I sobbed to him. I sobbed the next day. And more in the next couple of days after. Our family was sad for us, our friends were sad for us. We were very sad. It was on an acre, with two out buildings (one of which was a full in law), more square footage than we needed and in a neighborhood that was completely family friendly and super cute and close to a city owned park. 

It fucking sucked ginormous donkey balls.

But the same thing happened when we were looking for this house. We put an offer on one before this and we lost out and I was depressed beyond belief. I thought nothing would work out after and hey, we got this place and it is SO MUCH MORE AWESOME than that place would have ever been. So I know we just have to lift our head up and keep looking. 

Of course, that means that at some point we will be leaving Picardy. That will be a VERY sad day. I have loved this house and it has been an amazing home to transform. I couldn't have really asked for anything better for a first home adventure. Our house has so much character and I feel a great sense of pride to have brought it back to life. Our neighbors are awesome and our street is amazing. But it's just not as conducive to how our family has developed and how we live our life.

So there you have it folks: we're on the move. But first we need to finish some things up :) It may take a while - a week, a month, a year - but there will be another project on the horizon. 


Oh, Hello Stranger

Well, where have YOU been? :)

Yes, it's true, it's been OVER SIX WEEKS since my last blog post. That's crazy. And by far the longest break I've ever taken. Even longer than the declared break I took at the end of last year. This time, I sorta just disappeared from the blogging world without a trace. If you follow us on Facebook, you'd know that I didn't fall into the Pacific (thanks Rosedel :) that gave me a good chuckle) because I have posted photos and status updates every once in a while. But, in all honestly, work on our house has nearly vanished.

When Chris left his day job to pursue our handyman and design business, we hoped to be busy and that business would continue to develop. And lucky for us, it really did. Chris used to work 7 days a week pretty consistently before he left his job to manage the demand, and now that he is working for our business full-time he's still working 6 days a week, and very frequently 7. It's awesome to know that we made the right decision and that Chris is staying so busy and we're developing a great client base and getting so much work. It's wonderful to get checks mailed to you and see your business grow. And it's wonderful to see Chris be so successful at this.

Then there's the bunch of jobs I have. I work for our business too, but I also still work for my brother's real estate company and for the A's. Oh, and there's Zoe who I am the primary caregiver of about 60% of the time during the week.

I'm not trying to make excuses or anything, I just wanted to give you the honest reason of why I have had ZERO posts lately --> there just flat out has been no time. Even if I wanted to write a post regarding our house, the only thing we've done in the last 6 weeks is hang the light in the nook - and that was only about 10 days ago.

But exciting things have happened (and are hopefully in the pipeline) that I would love to clue you in on, I just didn't know if you would be interested. I have found that when I write renovation or design related posts that are actually not related to our house (a bathroom for my mom and CBH, or a fireplace for my dad and Wendy for example) that there are not nearly as many visitors to this here ol' blog, and so I haven't wanted to write about projects we're working on because I thought no one would be interested. What I need to remember however, is that I started this blog for myself and what renovation work was going on for us. And later, what our family became. I need to not care how many readers I get, because that's never been what it was really about for me. It was about sharing with a computer screen and however many family members I thought were reading along. The fact that other "strangers" started reading as well and I sorta kinda became friends with some of them was just an awesome added bonus.

Somewhere along the way I did start caring about how many comments I got, or how many blog views there were. I got sad when readership would dip or people seemed uninterested. I need to get back to not caring. That's not to say that I don't care that you read my blog - because I amazingly DO - but I need to remember that I started this for myself, and so if I want to write about a home inspection we did on Saturday at a house my dad and Wendy are hopefully going to be buying in Oakland, I should not care if only 7 people read it because that's what I want to write about and that's what's actually going on in our lives. I have always prided myself on being honest, and to be completely honest - I love writing about renovation and construction and design and my family, and sometimes that work is not going to be on our house because 1) we're nearly done with it and 2) we're just so fucking busy.

So, my fair readers, I have a couple things to say in summary:

1) I will come back, I will post - I love and miss blogging and I need to get back into it

2) Those posts will not be nearly as consistent as they used to be. Shit, I used to post FIVE TIMES A WEEK. Then it dropped to four, then to three, and now, who knows? Some weeks I may be too busy or maybe I have nothing to talk about, but they will be there. Maybe some weeks three, maybe some weeks none.

3) Posts will not always be about our house. One of the amazing things about the offer my dad and Wendy are putting in, is that it's for a house that needs a fair amount of cosmetic fixing - which means we get to have fun! I used to refrain from these posts because they weren't about "us," but now, hey, this is what our life is --> we are working folks who are working on work. I will not care if people don't like reading about installing bracing on a cracked foundation that isn't our house. Chris may discover some great new tool that he loves and that is super helpful on some random job that he's worked on. While I used to not write those posts as much, frankly, that is the work we're doing and the work we are interested in, so that's what I'm going to write about.

There you have it folks. I have returned, to hopefully somewhat normalcy :) And while I hope you continue to stay tuned and read along wherever this journey takes us, I also understand if my interests and blogging frequency are not what you are interested in, that's fine too - I bid you a friendly good-bye and have fun. We all gotta do what's best for us.


I Can't Remember My Name

Hello all. I apologize for my absence this week. Life has gotten INSANE and I'm struggling to remember my name. Or put pants on. Or eat. Of course, not all those are actually happening, but I have forgotten to eat lunch a couple times this week, which, if you know me, that is just flat out pure insanity.

This has been our schedule this week

Oh, and that date Wednesday night for me and Chris? Totally didn't happen. Bad scheduling, jobs that took longer, general stress and bad moods. Ugh. We've gone on 3 dates together in the year+ now since Zoe has been born. Romantic, I know.

It's certainly been a challenge these first couple weeks with both of us working for our business full time. It's a new schedule to figure out (and a schedule that is already extremely inconsistent). Also, a huge renovation project for my brother's real estate biz started this week and we really hit the ground running. There have been meetings with the city, meetings with trades, many phone calls, ridiculous spreadsheets, etc. And the A's are in town this week and Chris is about to start a big job for a client.

Plus, Zoe has apparently entered a phase of being completely dissatisfied with everything I do for her. It's been a lot of fun. She's GREAT when other people watch her, but when she's with me it's a ton of grunting, crying, pointing, yelling, getting mad because she can't do as much physically as she wants, not wanting to eat anything I give her...sigh...there have been tears from both her and me a lot this week.

But so is the life of running your own business, working other jobs on top of that, attempting to renovate your house (but not really anymore) and trying to raise a kid. Oh, and also be in a relationship. Sigh. It's been a tough week. I can't say I will return with normalcy next week, because I think I may be playing catch up with the rest of my life, but I hope to return soon. I miss updating you wonderful folks. I hope you guys had a good week, and let us all please have a fabulous weekend, okay?


How to Have a Wedding on a Budget

So, I wrote about how much fun we had, and how much our wedding cost, but for my last wedding post I wanted to write about how it was possible for us to do our wedding on the cheap. Or, at least what I think is cheap, under $3,200 isn't bad at all in my opinion.

Here are my 3 rules for making a wedding as affordable as possible: go local, be realistic and do as much as you can yourself.

1. Go local: meaning, try to source as much as you can as close to you as you can. Instead of going with a big catering company, maybe go to a local restaurant that you love and see if they can make and serve food for parties

You could get even more local (and affordable) by cooking the food yourself! I know this is fun for some people, but because we had 80ish people I did not want to spend FOREVER prepping food and then not getting to visit with people because I was spending all my time making stuff. You could however hire that out to someone who you know loves to cook. I can almost guarantee paying a cooking-loving friend to do your food is cheaper than hiring a big time catering company.

Go to a local flower mart instead of paying a florist. There are local flower marts in most metropolitan areas (after all, how do those florists get their flowers?) In the Bay Area alone, a quick search found them in SF, Oakland and San Jose. And if you don't go to a flower mart, consider getting them fresh that day from your local grocery store too. My dad and step mom did that for their wedding 25 years ago

aren't early 90s weddings the BEST? :)

I have several friends who did the same thing. It of course takes a little bit of work to do the flowers yourself, but it's AMAZING how expensive having a florist do the arrangements gets.

Last local item? The venue. Consider having it at your house, or maybe a friend's house. We of course couldn't imagine having it in any other place besides our backyard

And it was perfect for us. There is also frequently a lot less decorations needed because you're not filling a ginormous space. You do of course need to rent tables and chairs, but that literally can only run you a couple hundred dollars (ours were just over $300), and it's way more affordable than the likely (at least) couple thousand you will pay just to rent the place (and then there's always the rules about catering). Plus, it just feels a lot more intimate and personal. I loved sharing our house with everyone and getting to have it in a place where we are every day of our lives. It just made it so special.

2. Be realistic. Let's be honest people, if you have an affordable wedding, it is not going to look like Kim Kardashian's. Get it out of your head now if you want an affordable wedding that it is not going to look like this

found here

It's just not possible, and you have to be okay with that. It certainly can look beautiful, but it's not going to look like it cost a million bucks - because it didn't. Maybe that wedding picture above is from a wedding that cost $10,000. Now that's expensive to me, but maybe that's a budget wedding for you. Whatever the budget, don't have ridiculously high expectations about unattainable finances. If your wedding is going to cost $10,000, don't spend $8,000 of it on a dress you're only going to wear once

Best Wedding Dresses From Bridal Market Fall 2013.  Vera Wang gown.
found here

I already find the idea of paying thousands for a dress you will literally only wear once for a couple of hours quite strange, but if you must do it - even consider second hand shops. There's a great one on 4th St. in Berkeley for instance. Of course, I'm crazy and spent less than $50 on my coral sundress, but I loved it, and it fit my personality

And probably the most important factor...

3. Do as much as you can yourself. Seriously, this one is huge.

You can pay A LOT of money paying other people to do things for you, and certainly if you're having a wedding that costs a shit ton of money, are having 200 people or are maybe doing a wedding in another, further away location, it would make sense to hire help, but I'm amazed at how much money is wasted on people paying other people to do things for them for weddings. Absolutely 100% do as much as you can yourself, and ask your loved ones to help you from time to time. I got SO MANY offers for help, and it was wonderful. I also LOVE doing crafty projects, and planning things, so getting ready for the wedding was fun.

Of course, some might find the process of planning a wedding daunting, but honestly, I feel like it's nowhere near as hard and stressful as people say. We had 3 months from the time we decided to get married to when we actually did it, and up until the day before I would say I spent a total of 15 minutes being stressed out (of course the day before the fucking rental people showed up at 5 o'clock when their window of delivery was 11-3 and NO ONE at their office was picking up their phone for 90 minutes, so that will stress you out...)

How did I stay relatively calm, cool and collected? I made lists. I made a list of all the things I needed to buy, the things I needed to craft, the things I needed to do to the house and then things I needed to do day of. I kept all those lists on my computer in an excel file so I could add to them and check things off as the days and weeks went by. As soon as I thought of something I just added it to the list. And it was fun getting to check things off all along the way

Having the list allowed me to prioritize items - I bought easy decorations (like the baseballs, sunflower seeds, paper, etc.) WAY in advance just to get it out of the way because I knew those things wouldn't "go bad." I waited on buying all the wine, beer and drinks till much closer. But because I was checking things off as I went, there wasn't nearly as much to do as the day got closer because I had prioritized what needed to get done.

And do the decorations yourself people! I LOVED our paper chains and banners and balloons and butcher paper tablecloths with crayons

Everything was fun, colorful, affordable and practical. Just yesterday I took all the butcher paper from the tables and cut out all the fun messages and pictures that people drew on them. It was a really simple and cheap way to cover all the tables and it resulted in fun memories I'll get to save. And the paper chains were a huge hit with everyone and (like I've said before) they only took me 3 nights in front of the TV but they made such a giant impact and were by far the most asked about decoration that people loved.

I certainly perused the shit out of Pinterest to come up with ideas. Almost none of my decorations were original, but I spent a couple nights looking around on the internet for ideas for decorations for parties that I felt like fit with our personality, budget and feel we were going for. Pinterest and the internet are invaluable for ideas. But of course, don't go on Pinterest and feel bad that you're party won't be the best wedding ever - it's hard to not be hard on yourself when Pinterest has picture perfect event pictures. Your wedding or party will not be like that, and it's okay (remember, be REALISTIC).

I think the thing I loved hearing the most from people was that it was so "us." Many people mentioned it many times - the party just felt like it fit us well. It was laid back, simple, colorful and had decorations that fit our personality - baseball, peanut and sunflower seed centerpieces, cast concrete guest "books" for people to carve their names into, a slide for kids on the grass, and lots of colors all around. It felt more personal because it was personal: we chose to decorate in a way that fit us

Another thing you can do yourself: music. Unless you're having a GIANT party, I don't quite understand why people get DJs. Chris and I have a pretty epic CD collection...

...so he went through all of our music and made a playlist. If you don't have the library we do - buy music on iTunes to make your playlist. Then hook up a stereo (we even just used our work radio). I don't think people could really tell the difference. Sure, there wasn't someone handing out glowsticks and weird sunglasses, but I don't think anyone was really missing out.

The last thing that we actually couldn't do completely ourselves, was set up! Here's where we accepted the help of many people, but it certainly went along with our DIY theme. I had made a list of all the things we needed to get done day of, taped it up on the garage and accepted the help of our parents and siblings. They were happy to lend a hand and it helped SO MUCH. They transformed our backyard and helped ease the stress day of. And we could not have been more lucky for all of their help.

So there you have it folks, the wonderful party we had, how much it cost, and some of my tips for how to make a wedding (or some other party) more affordable. That way you have more money to spend on the rest of your lives :)

Alright, I promise I'll be back Monday with house posts! I painted the nook in the ceiling on time for the party, but we still need to hang up that light...


DIY Wedding on a Budget

As soon as we decided we were going to get married, we talked about how much we wanted to spend. It's not in Chris' and my nature to have a giant, fancy party - we're more, backyard BBQ people, so that's exactly what we did (and you can see all the fun we had here). We wanted to keep things fun and affordable. We didn't want to spend a giant amount of money on one day - it's just not our bag. I have certainly participated in fun, wedding blowouts, but it's just not our personal style. We also decided that we didn't want our families paying for it. Because we'd been together for so long it felt inappropriate to make our families pay for a wedding that was more of a formality. They kept insisting, so we let them pay for select things (dad and step mom = food, mom = dessert, step dad = wine, Chris' mom = drinks). They loved being able to contribute and we felt like it was a small enough amount that we didn't feel like we were taking advantage.

I kept pretty close tabs on how much things cost along the way because I didn't want it to cost too much and I knew I really wanted to write a post about it when things were all said and done. A lot of times I feel like people write about how to make weddings great, how to have a DIY wedding, etc., but they don't talk about how much things actually cost. I realize a lot of people don't like talking about money and that it's taboo in our society, but I also think that sometimes on blogs by not talking about how much things actually cost that we make things unattainable, or we think they're super affordable and then are upset if we try to do the same thing and it's crazy expensive. I really wanted to write about what this party actually cost us. 

So here it goes (and while normally writing budget posts I round things to the nearest $5, this time I rounded to the nearest $0.25 to try and make things as accurate as possible).

First off, the invitations

I made the invitation graphics in Photoshop and Chris printed them in color at his old day job :) The yellow construction paper on the back was $4.50, the envelopes we mailed them in were $7.50 and the postage was $24.50.

Next, the clothes

I bought my dress at a little boutique (Francesca's) for $48, score! I loved it. My sparkly Converse cost me $64, and I had to get pasties (yes, that's right people, pasties) which cost $1.50. My earrings and necklace cost $12.75 - thank you Forever 21! I did my hair myself and put a flower in it that I've had for a while, and my sister in law did my make-up, so both of those items clocked in at $0. I got Zoe's dress on sale for $22 and sewed the ribbon on myself with extra ribbon I already had. Her green and white shirt she wore later was $7.25. Her gold painted Vans were $32.75 and the gold paint was $4. I also got fabric paint and painted a 1 on the back of her shirt, the paint was $2. Lastly, Chris' short sleeved white button up shirt was $24.25 at Old Navy and he wore pants and shoes he already had.

Next up, favors

I made little gift bags for all the kids that had a thing of play-doh, 3 little rubber balls and 2 slinkies in them that cost $45. Our favors were packs of wildflower seeds for $53.50.

Now this is a big one: decorations

I really wanted to keep this one in budget, but also have lots of fun :) Alllllll the paper I got for the paper chains was only $10.50. Best. Score. Ever. I made sooooooooooo many feet of paper chains for really very cheap thanks to an awesome deal I stumbled on at Michael's one random day (packs of thick card stock for only $2 each and I got 5 of them). The paper chains were probably people's favorite decoration item and lots of people asked me about them. They only took me 3 nights in front of the TV, so it was definitely something I would do again. They just made the backyard look so happy. I bought a picture frame for Zoe's print for $8.75 on sale

It's a popular thing nowadays that I saw on Pinterest and people frequently do them on chalkboards, but I thought making one in Photoshop and printing it on nice paper and framing it would make a nicer keepsake. Printing it cost $1.75 because by the time I was done making it, I could no longer steal free color printing from Chris' job :) Tape and thumbtacks were $25.75 - I went through a lot of double stick tape. Crepe paper was $45.75 and the embroidery rings I bought to hang crepe paper from that we got married in front of cost $17.25. The pipe cleaners for my bouquet were $2.25 and the wire for my wedding gal's bouquets was $8.50 (I already had the paper and paper cutters on hand). Helium and balloons were $28.50. 

Then of course the tables, centerpieces and dishware

We rented all the tables and chairs for $325.50. For tablecloths I decided on butcher paper and then I bought a bunch of crayons for people to write and draw on for $40.25. I saved a ton of glass containers (pasta sauce, jam, etc.), I borrowed some vases from my step mom and then I bought some more vases at the dollar store for $17.25. I bought baseballs, peanuts and sunflower seeds to fill the glass containers as centerpieces and they all cost $101.25. I also bought some bowls and spoons for ice cream and forks for the cake that were $45.50.

Let us please not forget the food :) Yummmm. And we had a lot of it. We opted to get the party catered so we didn't have to worry about someone cooking. My dad kept trying to have me get a bartender, but with only 80 people, I decided people could handle things themselves. We got a local favorite place called Top Dog to do the food - hot dogs! It was Chris' idea and it seemed very fitting. We thought about other places, but they just didn't work out for one reason or another. We had 4 different kinds of dogs, lots of sides and they did cookies and brownies too. Their total was $1,291.75 - the highest single item by far, but well worth it. And people really enjoyed it - who doesn't love hot dogs at a backyard party? We went CRAZY with desserts and got a local place to make cupcakes, Zoe's cake and another cake for $288. The candles for Zoe's cake were $2.75. We ALSO got ice cream :) Chris loves ice cream, so of course we couldn't go without. And every Oakland party that needs ice cream needs it to be Fentons! (a local ice cream place that's been in business for almost 120 years. Awesome.) It is many an Oakland Family tradition to go to Fentons on birthdays, and we actually took Zoe the night before for a sundae :) 

We spent $110.50 on ice cream and $57.50 on toppings. 

And of course the drinks! Chris and I aren't big drinkers (Chris doesn't at all, and I don't much) so we opted for just beer and wine and then a wide array of non-alcoholic beverages. My step dad picked out all the wine (he loves his wine) and we had a wonderful selection that got many compliments for a total of $140. We got a variety of different kinds of beer (Bud Light, Pyramid, Gordon Biersch and Dos Equis) for $97.75. And we had lots to choose from in terms of non-alcoholic drinks with water, Izze, Juice Squeeze, Mexican Coca-Cola, and fancy root beer which clocked in at $81.25. And the ice to keep everything cool was $17.25.

Then there were also the things I did at no cost: the banners

The black and white printing was done at home and color at Chris' work and I already had all the paper they got taped on and the ribbon. 

Zoe's highchair ribbon garland was also something I made at no cost

Also, all the labels I made...

...and our couple print...

...were done for free from all the extra scrapbook paper I have, Chris printing at work and an extra frame we had laying around.

The sign welcoming people...

Was made with plywood I had laying around and craft paint.

And, not to be forgotten, our guest "books" which were mortar we already had that Chris mixed up...

...and then poured into frames from scrap wood we already had. People loved carving their names into them, and I love that we'll be able to put them in our yard instead of on a shelf never to be looked at 

I did all those items for free, but I'm guessing they might run you around $250-300 if you had to buy all the materials yourself.

Another item we didn't pay for: a photographer. I just didn't think it was really worth it to pay for, plus, I really hate staged photos. I opted instead to steal all the photos my friends and family took with their cameras and cell phones :) Plus, Chris' friend is a wedding photog and videographer and he gifted us photos. I told him if he honestly got 10 that were great candid shots I would love him forever. Candid shots are my absolute favorite. Like this one of me and my dad

Or this one from the ceremony

I have no idea how much money we saved by not hiring someone, but I'm sure it's a lot.

Possibly the biggest money saver was that we did it in our backyard. We didn't have to pay a rental fee, didn't have to worry about transporting everything or any of those other fun logistics. It made sense for us because we love this house so much and so many people hadn't ever seen it or hadn't seen it for a very long time, so it was a wonderful way to share all of the hard work we had done to make it our wonderful home.

Alright, let's total everything up!
Invites: $36.50
Clothes: $218.50
Favors: $98.50
Decorations: $149
Tables & chairs rental, centerpieces, extra bowls and utensils: $529.75
Food: $1,750.50
Drinks: $336.75
Miscellaneous: $50 (I kept really good track of everything, but I'm sure there are some items I forgot)
Grand Total: $3,169

We had about 80 people, so that comes out to $39.61 per person, which I think is pretty damn good. Of course, the biggest thing I have yet to mention is the enormous amount of help we had on the big day. All 4 of my parents, my brother, his wife, Chris' mom and sister all came for 2-4 hours EACH that morning to help set up. It was amazing, and we certainly could not have done it without them. Our house NEVER looked cleaner, the backyard NEVER looked prettier and we were NEVER so thankful. We really are a lucky family to have had so many people help us. And we are even luckier that so many people shared the day with us. It was fantastic and I wouldn't have done it any other way. I loved having it at our house, in our backyard with people who mean so much to us. It made it so personal and special and I will surely never, ever forget it.