My Favorite Cookbooks for Cooking on a Budget Part 2

-by Jamie

Woohoo!  Time for part 2!  Up next on my list of favorite cookbooks for people on a budget:

Milk Bar Life by Christina Tosi

The day I discovered that I wanted to be Christina Tosi's best friend (not that she has any idea who I am) was actually the same day I knew that Tim was most definitely the man I should marry.  Tim made me the "Birthday Cake" from Tosi's first book, the Momofuku Milk Bar.  There are no words to describe how amazing that cake is but I shall try:  Imagine the best boxed confetti cake you've ever had but imagine it was three tiers and made from scratch and was twenty times as good and had chunks of cookies in it and and and

So yeah.  Ya'll may know Tosi as a judge on Masterchef but I've dribbled on photos of her baked goods for years prior to her TV debut.  #imjustsayin  :-)  For example, here's the Inside cover of Milk Bar Life

photo credit: Gabriele Stabile in Milk Bar Life

photo credit: Gabriele Stabile in Milk Bar Life

I've made the above cookies countless times and it has taken me all of five minutes not including the time in the oven.  I suppose there's an ongoing theme in the budget cookbooks I've chosen- most are these sort of simplified or "at home" versions of fancier/ less budget friendly books by the same chefs.  This one's title explains exactly the point: This is how Christina Tosi lives.  This is the stuff she actually cooks when she's at home and exhausted after work, when she wants to entertain, on a weekend off, for a bbq, etc.  She has an entire section devoted to what she does for an ideal "girls night".  I tend to be the girls night host amongst my friends as well so this was of course my favorite part.

Tosi's girls night includes a Jam and Jelly making session photo credit: Gabriele Stabile in Milk Bar Life

Tosi's girls night includes a Jam and Jelly making session

photo credit: Gabriele Stabile in Milk Bar Life

I take that back.  My favorite part is actually the recipe for "Kimcheez-its" and dip

photo credit: Gabriele Stabile in Milk Bar Life

photo credit: Gabriele Stabile in Milk Bar Life

Recipe from Milk Bar Life by Christina Tosi

Recipe from Milk Bar Life by Christina Tosi

In a nutshell:  Get you this book! 

Milk Bar Life: Recipes & Stories
By Christina Tosi



More Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless

I mean, look at that cover.  You want to eat that food?  I don't blame you.  

Tim made Bayless' pork chili verde and it was insanely good.  This is a budget cookbook review so here's the cost breakdown:  He bought a pork loin for $8 but only used half, bought tomatillos, serano and poblano from the Mexican Market for about $3 plus some garlic and onions for maybe $4.  This fed us for literally days.  

Tim makes Rick Bayless' pork Chili Verde

Tim makes Rick Bayless' pork Chili Verde

There are tons of recipes for legit Mexican food in Bayless' book and almost all of them are inexpensive and healthy.  You could easily eat Mexican food every day with this book.

Stay tuned for part three of this Budget cookbook review :-)





My Favorite Cookbooks for Cooking on a Budget Part 1

A Three Part Series by Jamie Hayes

not pictured:the free pdf "Good and Cheap" by Leanne Brown

not pictured:the free pdf "Good and Cheap" by Leanne Brown


My husband Tim and I met five years ago on  okcupid (A website which I highly recommend). We both took the website rather seriously, answering all of the voluntary 'about me' questions.  Like, I'm talking hundreds of questions. This is my very long way of saying that it is our theory that this okcupid algorithm matched us, in a nutshell, because of our love for food.  Another thing the algorithm seemed to grasp is that neither of us care about money and therefore we studied liberal arts and therefore we live, you guessed it dear readers, on A BUDGET.

Tim is an avid cookbook collector.  When he was younger, before he had any responsibilities, he would buy books like these:

Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking
By Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young, Maxime Bilet

Flash forward a decade or so to us being parents on a budget and our go-to cookbook is a completely free PDF (more on that below) but we do budget cooking foodie style (although, to quote my bff Katie, I like the word gourmand better than foodie...maybe I shall say we are gourmands on a budget).  We pay great attention to the ingredients and where they come from. Sometimes that location is our own backyard.

We've managed to obtain quite the collection of cookbooks throughout the years and below are some of our favorites.  We hope you find your new favorite cookbook among them.


MODERNIST CUISINE at Home by Nathan Myhrvold with Maxime Bilet. Photography by Nathan Myhrvold, Melissa Lehuta and The Cooking Lab Photography Team. Published by The Cooking Lab. 

Modernist Cuisine at Home
By Nathan Myhrvold, Maxime Bilet

Back in the day, Tim purchased for himself the original masterpiece in all of its glory: Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking. Its five volumes include: History and Fundamentals, Techniques and Equipment, Animals and Plants, Ingredients and Preparation and Plated Dish Recipes.  Also included was a spiral bound Kitchen Manual.

But a few years ago after Modernist Cuisine was so successful, its creators made a shortened version of their original multi-volume series, this time geared towards the home cook interested in incorporating more modern techniques into their cooking.  Their new project became Modernist Cuisine at Home. This newer book is just one volume with an additional spiral bound kitchen manual.

Much like its predecessor, Modernist Cuisine at Home has the worlds most beautiful food photographs by Nathan Myhrvold, Melissa Lehuts and the Cooking Lab photography team:

photo credit: Modernist Cuisine at Home

photo credit: Modernist Cuisine at Home

photo credit: Modernist Cuisine at Home

photo credit: Modernist Cuisine at Home

The reason I chose this book specifically for cooking on a budget is it can teach the aspiring modernist home cook all of the basic recipes they need, such as the worlds best pizza dough recipe (we swear by it) and Mac and Cheese that will possibly make you cry with happiness if you like cheese as much as I do and did I mention- the photos alone are worth every penny.

credit: Modernist Cuisine at Home

credit: Modernist Cuisine at Home



The Free One: 

Good and Cheap by Leanne Brown

 To quote Brown's blog: 

Good and Cheap is a cookbook for people with very tight budgets, particularly those on SNAP/Food Stamp benefits. The PDF is free and has been downloaded more than 1,000,000 times.

After the PDF went viral online, I launched a Kickstarter project to fund a print run, using a "get one, give one" system (like TOMS Shoes) so that people who bought a book for themselves could give another copy to a family in need.

The campaign was tremendously successful — I asked for $10,000 to print a small batch, but I ended up with 5,636 supporters who raised $144,681! That made it the #1 cookbook ever on Kickstarter.

To Download The FREE PDF:

Good and Cheap is my favorite!  This, I would say, is the book I think of and use the most day to day.  Its recipes are also the least expensive as they were designed specifically for people on SNAP/ Food Stamp benefits. Brown created the pdf with the budget of $4 a day in mind. (holy cheapness!) Good and Cheap is a great overall lesson on how to eat well even if one is on food stamps (or would like to spend much less money on food in general). Take note, Gwyneth Paltrow.  If I were to sum up Leann Brown's suggested lifestyle philosophy when it comes to eating on a budget, it would be to concentrate the most on plant foods, using meat sparingly.  She also has some great from scratch recipes for things like roti, tortillas, pizza dough, pasta, etc. but the best thing about this book is that you don't feel like you're eating cheaply. Instead you're thinking like a true cook- taking great care with everything you make at your kitchen counter.

*stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 of my series on cookbooks for the cook on a budget

Yachats, Oregon

-by Jamie

Hello!!  I didn't forget about you!  Things got busy busy but the good news is I'm amped for the summer and am thinking I will have lots to write about as Oregon is sort of magical that time of year (who am I kidding- its magical all times of year).  Speaking of, Tim and I took a VERY mini vacation (about 24 hours) to Yachats a few weeks ago.  It was so wonderful!  Plus, I remembered to take pictures and notes so I could write about it:

For my friends who aren't from here, the Oregon coast is actually quite close to where we live- about 50 minutes or so.  We drove west toward the cost after dropping 'lil P off at the grandparents in Eugene.  Our first stop was, I think, the first potty option in Florence and a good way to send $20 out into the ether:

Tim's tee shirt is worthy of its own blog post

Tim's tee shirt is worthy of its own blog post

Yup.  The casino.

Up next was the Fred Meyer where we bought all the junk foods and gas for the car.  Then it was time for adventuring and Heceta Beach.  The lighthouse and the lighthouse keeper's house are some of my favorite things about Oregon (not to mention the beach itself).  

Next it was time to check in at the hotel.  We stayed at the Adobe in Yachats which I highly recommend.  Every room has an ocean view but it is still very affordable.  (It was VERY affordable for us as we had a gift certificate from my amazing in-laws but I still plan on going back as often as possible).  Here is the view from our room!  :

The room also had a fireplace and an excessive amount of lounge chairs.

You can buy this at the front desk:

We got fancified and then got a fancy drink at the hotel lounge.  The waitress who appears to be sitting on my shoulder was an absolute hoot!

We then went out to dinner at a place called Ona.  The ambiance was excellent and it felt like a fancy date.   We had a nice server as well.  I will say that the food could have been better and more local given the prices.  Also too much saffron can actually taste a bit dirty/ muddy and this was unfortunately the case with my pasta.  I learned later that there is a fun pizza place by the Adobe so next time, that.

The next day we went to the Drift Inn for breakfast which is tried and true and awesome.  They have umbrellas hanging from the ceiling!  


and this mural!

Then it was on to one more beach where Tim found every agate in Oregon and I found no agates but enjoyed the hunt.













Attention All Humans with Boobs!

-by Jamie

Here's a story for ya:

Right after I graduated from college (the University of Wisconsin...Go Badgers!!) I needed an easy summer job and I ended up working at Lane Bryant for all of three months.

I gained a very valuable skill there, which still comes in handy to this day.  The skill of properly measuring women for bras.   Since making that fact known, I have had pretty much every one of my girlfriends ask me one of the following questions:

1.  How do I measure myself so I know what bra size I wear?

2.  I've noticed you have a rather large bust, Jamie.  Where do you purchase your bras and how much do you spend on said bras?  (ok I guess that counts as a two part question)


Here are my answers:


-You'll need a cloth tape measure.

-First, while wearing a bra measure yourself (in inches) around the band of your bra; over the band and not too tightly (but sort of tight).  If you have an odd numbered measurement or any fractions of an inch, round up.


*The band of your bra, not the straps, is what is 90% in charge of holding up your boobs.  You want the band to be tight without being painful.  If it leaves a mark, then it is too tight.

-Then, still while wearing a bra, measure around your breasts at the outer most part (probably your nipples).  Make sure you have really good posture.  It should almost feel like you're sticking your breasts out.  Keep your shoulders back.

Write down that measurement (in inches)

-Now, count the number of inches in difference between your band measurement and the measurement around your breasts.  Write that number down.

For example, if your band measurement is 38 and the measurement around your breasts is 43, then the number you would write down is 5.


-Use this chart with your magic number:

less than 1 inch difference  AA cup

1 inch in difference is an  A cup

2 inches  B cup

3 inches  C cup

4 inches  D cup

5 inches  DD or E cup

6 inches DDD or F cup

7 inches  DDDD or G cup

8 inches  H cup

9 inches I cup

10 inches  J cup

11 inches  K cup


2.  Where to buy Bras and Swimsuits if you have a big chest or are plus sized (aka you have a bigger band width than what is available in chain stores):

-First of all, right at home here in Eugene, Oregon there is an amazing store for all women and all sizes both large and small and everywhere in between:  Ruth's Foundations!  (they are located in the Southtowne Shoppes in south Eugene)

This place rocks!  The women there are so helpful and they have pretty much every band size and cup size and more importantly if they don't they'll order it for you.

The bras I've gotten at Ruth's (I also bought a Speedo swimsuit there in a plus size) were a little on the pricey side although that may be because the brands that carry my size tend to be pricier.  I think I spent about $60 per bra.  But the idea with Ruth's Foundations is they want your bras to last you a long time.  They offer repairs/tayloring of bras so if, for example, the under wire of your bra comes out or the elastic band is fraying/ losing its elasticity they can fix that.

Unfortunately, as a large-chested plus sized woman, this is the only store in town that carries my size so after that I head online for my shopping:


-Amazon!  You can get to amazon from the banner right at the top of our page!   You can get pretty much anything you need on Amazon.  I've gotten all of my big 'ol nursing bras here and other bras as well.


Simply Be

I got an awesome strapless bra here but I wasn't a huge fan of what it was called, lol.  They called it "The largest strapless bra in the world".  Sometimes they offer said bra and sometimes they don't but this is a great place to buy plus size bras and they have a good range of prices.  They have some really good deals on two packs of bras as well.  (not to mention great deals on six packs of underpants)



Sometimes I'll find a great bra in my size here.  Great prices...probably the least expensive option on this list.  Nice swimsuits, too!


Bare Necessities

Huge range of sizes!  I would probably say this is my favorite place to buy bras, shape wear, underwear and swimsuits.


La Leche League

Carries all sizes and all different kinds of nursing bras.  I love their nursing cami and it was the only one I could find in my size.


*Why am I not including places like Lane Bryant and Torrid, you ask?...for the simple reason that I do not buy bras at those places as they do not carry my size.  However, they may carry your size and if they do awesome!  I really like their stuff.


In the comments section, please feel free to let me know if there's any great places I've missed.  Thank you for reading!






Use It Up Challenge: A Tale of 4 Grains

-by Jamie

Well I'm just gonna go ahead and say it:  We sort of failed the "Use It Up" Challenge.  But only sort of.  I'll explain:

First, here's what I had in mind:  Tim and I were planning on using up all of the random stuff that we'd accumulated in our pantry by getting creative and looking up recipes, etc.  Then I was going to beautifully organize things with a plethora of decorative vessels.  What didn't occur to me when we chose this category to use up is that we had friends and family in town for the holidays, lots of holiday parties and pretty much never ended up eating dinner at home.  Oops :-)

Here's where it gets really embarrassing:

This is both the before and after picture of our pantry.  I know.  We are what I'd like to call "pantry shovers"; meaning ever since we moved into this house OVER A YEAR AGO we've been shoving our groceries into our cabinets, telling ourselves that we'll get around to organizing it all at some point.  Tim's random Asian ingredients ended up at the top where I can't reach...that's about as organized as we've gotten so far.

Now that our dirty secret is out of the way I would like to move on and discuss what I did get out of this challenge, which was actually a lot:

Tim and I both want to be healthier.  I recently had a doctors appointment during which I discussed with my doctor the fact that I have these huge spikes and dips in my hunger and energy levels and that I sometimes even get nauseous when I'm really hungry.  She said that this was probably due to my addiction to processed refined carbs aka my tendency to eat lots of baguettes and pasta.  She recommended that I try to not make those items such staples of my diet.

So, as you may notice, the only pasta left in our pantry is one box of lasagna noodles.  The question now was what do we cook instead?  That's where this challenge was hugely helpful.  While rummaging around I found all sorts of healthier grain options that I had either opened and tried once or, gasp, never even opened.  Here are some of the recipes we tried, with honest reviews on how they tasted:

1.  Rice (brown rice is of course ideal).  This one is obvi and I'm sure most people eat rice as part of their diet.  To go on top of the rice, for the "Use It Up" challenge I grabbed a pre-made curry boxed 'meal kit' and added to it sun-dried tomatoes, since I wanted to get those out of the pantry (an awful idea) as well as cabbage, tofu and fish sauce (a very good idea).  The consensus:  I will definitely continue to stock up on these sorts of ready made curry boxes as it was so easy.  We got a bunch at the Cottage Grove Grocery Outlet.  And I will never again add sun-dried tomatoes to it.


2.  Quinoa

We had four boxes of quinoa that we purchased once from the Cottage Grove Grocery Outlet because they were on sale for $3 each!!!  Then we tried it once and I didn't really like it.  The solution:  This recipe I got from pinterest:

Broccoli Quinoa Casserole

It is sooooo good!  I won't exactly call this healthy cuz cheese but it is a great way to get veggies, protein and healthy carbs into the belly of Lil' P...she loved it.



3.  Millet

I'm gonna go ahead and say that millet as a stand alone is not so yummy.  But I have not given up on it!  I plan on trying to bake with it as well as use it in soup ...I think it will work better that way.  For millet I used this recipe:

Millet Bowl with Mushroom Gravy and Kale

While I find Millet blerg, I love love loved the gravy!!  I plan on making it again and putting it on top of a different grain.  Since I'm not vegan and because I was trying to use up what I had as opposed to go shopping, I made some substitutions/ changes to this recipe which I was happy with:

-I cooked the millet in vegetable broth. 

-I dissolved a chicken bullion cube into the gravy

-I also added Worcestershire sauce and dried parsley for some color

-I topped with Parmesean cheese!!!!!!!!


Oh man!  I'm not going to even bother with a recipe because I eat this stuff ALL THE TIME!  It is so good!  Follow the package instructions and cook it with broth instead of water and wow!!  Farro stands alone and can be used as a side dish for any, chicken, pork, you name it.  You can even make farro risotto (farroto).  Get you some Farro!!!!!


Ok well I think that's about it for this portion of the Use It Up Challenge but I'm not calling it quits.  I'd like to actually finish the challenge with Tim's help and use up a bunch more stuff in our pantry to make some space so that we can actually organize it.  We will of course keep you posted!!  Happy New Year!


P.S. don't forget to check out Ali's blog.  She'll be posting with what she did for the challenge tomorrow and I have a feeling it's going to be awesome

Good Little House

Use It Up Challenge

by Jamie (but Tim will be taking part in the below mentioned challenge too!)

One of our favorite bloggers (who also happens to be Tim's cousin), Ali at Good Little House had an amazing (maybe even a HayesAmazing...badumbum) idea to get our blogging/photography/crafting/handyperson/creative/cooking juices flowing:  We are going to spend the next month (until January 5th) using up some thing(s)- and by the way, we challenge you to do the same!  The idea is to choose a category of things you have a bunch of that you need to use:  crafting supplies, scrap paper, pantry items, a freezer full of mystery meat, billions of dollars in philanthropic funds, a garden full of squash....You get the idea.  I think I know what we'll be choosing to use up but you'll have to stay tuned to see our blog post about the challenge this January :-)

Fall Decor

-by Jamie

For my first post on our brand new website (woot woot!) I thought I'd share some pictures of the little fall decor projects that have been happening here at the Hayes house.

Atop our console table we have:  Mr. Buddha who was a gift from our friend Matt for our wedding (rumor has it he purchased it from our Target wedding registry....I love it!), a lovely mason jar vase also from our wedding and four 'lil pumpkins painted by our darling toddler, 'lil P.


Since 'lil P is two years old, rather than handing her a carving knife, we decided to have her paint her pumpkins instead.  We let her pick them out herself at Detering Orchards, which is pretty much the most awesomest place on Earth come October.  (we also helped her carve a jack-o-lantern but this is how we kept her occupied during the carving party).  The best thing about these small little gourd pumpkin thingees is they last way longer than jack-o-lanterns....we'll probably still be able to keep them around to decorate on Thanksgiving.


After the painting, we let her add glitter to the pumpkins.  The one below is my all time favorite.  We call him David Bowie.

Let's talk about this mason jar (and let's not talk about that huge scratch on my wall which for some reason I didn't notice until posting this picture...sigh).  We spray painted a bunch of mason jars to use as vases for our wedding.  I will post in more detail about how to do that as I continue with the blog posts about our wedding reception.  It's filled with dried "decorative oregano" which we accidentally planted in our garden instead of actual flavorful cooking oregano.  A pretty woopsie indeed.


Up next:  Another fall decor project for toddlers:  paint a tree with toilet paper rolls (this idea was all over pinterest and I am in no way taking credit for it :-)  )

I think it's time to add some Turkey crafts to the collection!  Until then, my friends!

DIY Mason Jar Save the Date Cards

Our second “Craft of the Month” comes early (woohoo!) because it happens to also be the first major task on the master “to do” list.  “What list are you talking about, Jamie?”  Well, dear reader, if you truly loved me you would know I’m talking about the list from my first post:  Wedding Reception Planning: Jamie and her Magical Duct Tape Crazy Board

Oh man.  I love lists.  I actually wrote a song about lists and how much I love them.  I wrote it just for you.  Sing the following to the tune of “My Favorite Things”:

Items on lists in particular orders/ lists of more lists and more lists and more listies/ lists upon lists upon lists upon lists/ these are a few of my favorite things

lists make me happy and help me remember/ all of the thingees to do in December/ lists upon list upon lists upon lists/ these are a few of my favorite things

When the dog bites/ make a list of/ what you have to do/ so that you don’t get the rabies-Mc-Rabies/ and then you won’t feeeeeeel so baaaad

Did I mention I was a poetry major?  I mean, it seems obvious but I’ll mention it anyways.

Moving on.

Before you do anything else, you should get yo self a party binder.  This is the part where I need to explain to you, dear reader, that I was unaware during the creation of our reception that I would have the desire to blog about it in the future.  So there are lots of things that I didn’t get a picture of.  Our party binder was unfortunately one of those things.  It was absolutely fabulous.  My former room mate Stacie made it for me and it had dividers for each topic:  guest list, venue, crafts and decorations, food and drink, and “misc.”  Each divider had a cutsie picture of Tim and I and so did the cover.  When we moved to our house we left the binder on the floor and our two year old got a hold of it and tore it to pieces.  sigh.  My point is that an organized party binder is the shiz.  I just happened to read today that trapper keepers are making a comeback!!  Check out !   If I were you I would get one and make dividers for each thing like I mentioned above and put a folder in each section.  Keep loose paper handy in the side pocket for your LISTS!!!!  Time to sing the song again.

The first major task on the master list is to make the “Save the Date” cards.  You may ask why, being a non-traditional wedding reception, did we do the whole save the date thing.  My answer is that we wanted to convey to our friends and family from out of town that this was a big deal…that this was sort of equivalent to our wedding so please, ahem, save the date, buy your airplane tickets, send us gifts (kidding hehe)!   

There are a few things that need to happen before you make your save the date cards:  make a master list of all your desired guests so you have an idea of how many of these save the date cards to make. Also, make a website for the party so that you can include the web address on the cards.

Tim and I used to make our website. It was easy peasy.

You may not have all of the information for the site yet but you can keep adding info as you get it. The goal for right now is just to have some photos up and a web address so people can check back for info about your party as they need it. Eventually on the website you should try and have: directions, your gift registry, information about the hotel block of rooms and transportation, general party information, etc.

Now for the funsies! Making the actual cards. Did I save one of our cards? Did I take a picture of it? I sure didn’t! But have no fear because we actually hired someone on Etsy to design us a personalized printable save the date card. She saved it as an image file, emailed us the file and then we printed them out ourselves on our home printer.  and here it is:

The artist shop on Etsy who did this for us was called "Blue Moon Designs".  It appears taht she is taking a break from Etsy for the time being but I found lots of similar designs on Etsy.  Just search for "printable mason jar save the date".  

We splurged on some fanciful cream colored linen card stock from and we also purchased envelopes to fit our cards. You want to make sure you have at least an eighth of an inch of space between the card and the envelope so that you can actually slide the card in. A quarter inch of space on each side is ideal.

We were able to fit four of the mason jar images per page of paper.

Our original plan was to just have a square invitation but then we got the brilliant yet ever-so-time-consuming idea to cut out each mason jar so that our save the date card was the shape of the mason jar (thanks for your help, mom!) and boy oh boy were they not the cutest things you ever did see!

Until next time, friends!



Chalk Paint Mason Jar Drinking Glasses

-by Jamie

The best advice I received about party planning was that it’s important to break up monotony/ un-fun list making/ making phone calls/ obtaining addresses mumbo jumbo with fun stuff that you look forward to doing.  The person who gave me that advice happens to be a therapist so she for sure knew what she was talking about.  For my husband and I that fun stuff was the crafts and shopping.  Whenever we were starting to feel stressed, we’d make a point of changing our focus for a few days over to crafting or buying supplies online or at stores.

My favorite craft from our wedding reception was also the most time consuming.  We made every single one of our one-hundred-thirty-some guests a personalized drinking glass that they could fill up themselves at the bar with whatever they liked.

photo credit:  Caitlin Lyons or Jackie Mancilla or Erica Schroyer or Liz Shaffer-Wishner…I  can’t remember.  Or it may have been another guest…if I didn’t credit you, my bad.

Ain’t they cute?!  Let’s talk about mason jars:  One could call them the scruffy beard with a fancy hairdo of weddings.  Meaning, they may be very much a trend that we will associate with the mid-2010’s and also very much a hipster thing.  I have to say that I’m ok with that.  They are cute as shit and also cheap as shit!  And most importantly instead of wasting a bunch of paper cups you have a wedding favor that people can keep.  That said, we probably went a little overboard with our mason jar theme as I’m sure you’ll see as I continue to post about our event.  Oh well.   I’m sure I will still look back at everything fondly and joke about how it was all oh so 2014.  :-)

So how’d we do it?  First we bought a ton of mason jars as cheaply as possible.  Instead of worrying about everything matching we ended up getting a mixture of plain glass, blue glass, wide mouth, and regular mouth glasses.  That way we could just grab whatever the store had.  I think we got about half of our jars at Fred Meyer and half off of Amazon.  We got pint jars for the grown-ups and little 8 oz jars for the kids.

In addition to the jars we used:  Chalkboard spray paint, a Chalk pen and blue painter’s tape.  And beer.  The beer is for drinking.  Keep it out of the range of the spray paint.

I should start by saying the credit for making these jars goes to my husband Tim.  All projects involving spray paint were done by him…possibly because spray painting involved being outside and drinking beers.  Also because he’s awesome and helpful and was very hands on with the party planning which I appreciated so so much.

So, the first problem we ran into was that half the mason jars we bought had designs on every side of the glass.  In other words, there was no flat surface to spray paint on.  On those glasses we ended up doing smaller rectangles of chalkboard paint instead of bigger squares.  Just something to keep in mind when you buy mason jars for a project like this.  It may be best to buy ones that have at least one smooth side.

Tim had read that when spray painting squares on mason jars, one must tape plastic bags all around a square sized space that you leave uncovered. So basically, the only part of the jar not covered in plastic bag is the square shape you will be painting.  Then just spray the whole thing and the square is the only part that will get paint on it, leaving the rest of the jar pristine.

Here’s what happened when he tried it that way:

If at first you don’t succeed and fail so badly that you almost pee yourself laughing, have a beer or two then try, try again.

So yeah.  The bag sort of made a pattern when we pulled it off and it just really didn’t keep a nice seal from the paint.

By the third time Tim had down a fail-proof-ish system that he would like to share with you:

-Wash all of your jars and make sure they are completely dry….so maybe do this the day before you start your project.  It’s such a huge pain in the ass.  I’m sorry.  But speaking of ass, if you take the lid off the jars you’ll realize they really do smell horrible before being washed.

-Make a square with painters tape and go around the tape with your nail making sure the tape is really on there well and no paint can get under it.  Maybe even make a second row of painters tape so your squared off section is surrounded by like an inch or two of painters tape.

-Then just be careful when you’re spraying to stay within the square.  Be gentle.  Go over it a few times with the spray paint.  If you mess up wipe it off quickly.  If you have a little black streak somewhere else on the jar, maybe you’ll notice later and you’ll scrape it off.  Maybe you won’t notice and just your wedding guest will notice and then they’ll never talk to you again.

-Let the paint dry fully and completely before you peel the tape off.

-store the glasses until you have your final guest list and then write everyone’s name and table number on their glass with a chalk marker.  We used our glasses as, I think the formal term is “escort cards”, which tell people where to sit.  They were at the front table of the party just as you walked in.

So there ya have it.  :-)

Wedding Reception Planning: Jamie and her Magical Duct Tape Crazy Board

-by Jamie

Some of the most brilliant people– both real and fictional, have what my husband has named the ”crazy board.”  You know, those boards that are usually in a shed with notes and photos and newspaper clippings and if you’re really crazy, various letters circled and lines made with yarn…

Anyways…The first step of my party planning process was to create a crazy board of my own.  Mine consisted of a series of lists duct taped to my front door along with a calendar.  (in our case the dollar store kitten calendar).  First, I basically made a master list/timeline.  This timeline served as a list of all of the smaller, more detailed lists I ”needed” to make.  I know…I just…I know.  But I really enjoyed doing this.  That’s the scary part.  My point here is that I hope my crazy board process is helpful to you in your party planning.  I will type said list up for you below.  It should serve almost as a guide for all of the topics I hope to discuss in more detail in future posts.  So if you’re wondering, for example, what specific decorations I used, where I got my dress, invites and that sort of thing, I promise to talk about all of that.

Before I type up the list I want to make a note about the calendar:  While a timeline/master list was a nice way to keep track of when general things needed to be done, the calendar was for specific appointments.  For example:  meeting with the DJ to discuss party philosophies, nose hair trimming appointment with self in bathroom mirror from 2pm to 2:07, etc. etc.

I’d like to give a shout out to pinterest, wedding magazines, and wedding blogs in general.   I read a lot of other people’s timelines before coming up with my own.

ok one more important note:  This list is specifically for non-traditional wedding receptions.  I didn’t include the usual timelines for booking florists, dress shopping, caterers, photographers and the like because I didn’t use any of those services in a traditional manner.  For example, by caterer I mean Qdoba (holla!) and by dress shopping I mean order something online and account for shipping time.  You get the idea.

Now I present to you, the timeline:

16 months-12 months before Wedding Reception:

-Brainstorm/ get the ball rolling:  This is a 3 day process involving wine, pinterest and awkward conversations about money.

-make a party binder

-pick a venue.  Book it!

-make preliminary guest list so you have an idea of the number of guests

-make a ”wedding” website

-make save the date cards

8-10 months before

-make a detailed DAY OF THE RECEPTION plan

-make a chart/ blueprint of the reception venue/ where things will be such as the bar, the food, the dj, your secret stash of scotch, etc.  Make sure to include lots of red circles around letters and strings and pictures of Jodie Foster…just kidding about that last part.

-finish compiling guest list and addresses

-register for gifts (woot!  woot!)  (put your registry info on the wedding website)

-send save the date cards

-make detailed decorations list and decorations shopping list

-shop for decorations!

5-7 months before

-hire a day of coordinator.  Give them all the needed details and have a meeting if desired.

-arrange child care

-hire DJ

-make or order invitations

-reserve a block of hotel rooms (put the info on your wedding website)  (make sure you write the ”cancel by” date in your calendar)

-arrange transportation (put info on wedding website)

3 months before

-hire caterer.  Make a menu plan, discuss payment details.

-Make linen arrangements

-write in detail your overall food plan and shopping list

-Make a list of craft and decor projects.  Recruit help!

-craft! craft!  and craft some more!

-Make a list of clothes and makeup needed.  Buy it.

2 months before

-meet with DJ.  Discuss music preferences and flow of the wedding/ announcements they’ll need to make.

-ask people to make speeches

1 month before

-check in with wedding coordinator

-check in with caterer

-check in with DJ

-check in with childcare

-make home brew/ order kegs

-buy wine or make it

-buy liquor

-recruit set-up and take-down team

-make haircut appointment

-make makeup appointment

2 weeks before

-order flowers from grocery store

-write speech

-check in with the other speech makers

-get sexy hair

-make wax and nail appointments

-double check final decorations list to make sure you have everything

-deal with any parking arrangements

-call guests who didn’t RSVP

-give caterer final headcount

-make a seating chart

1 week before

-confirm arrival times, any last details with: wedding coordinator, DJ, venue, childcare provider, caterer, linens, flowers

-shop for last minute food/ decor

-check in with set-up and take-down teams

-make packing list of things to bring to the venue

-start putting all the wedding stuff together in big plastic totes

-confirm hotel block

-get $ for vendors, put in envelopes

1 day before

-shop for perishable food

-wax, nails

-check packing list.  Make sure everything is ready to go

-give payment envelopes to a trusted friend or relative

day of (see DETAILED DAY OF list taped to your crazy board)  :-)