DIY: Tacky Christmas Dress

A few years back I asked my mom if I could borrow one of her sweaters for RVA’s first SEC tacky sweater party.  Her response? “I don’t own any tacky sweaters.”  The reality?  She was a kindergarten teacher for 35-years so of course she has a closet full of tacky attire!  While the snowman sweater sufficed for the first year, I knew I could come up with something better the next time around.

I went to work making my now go-to tacky holiday party ensemble.  A trip to Ross and the Dollar Store gave me everything I needed.  I found a simple red dress on the clearance rack for about $5 and grabbed a few bags of bows and garland at the Dollar store.

I hot-glued each individual bow onto the skirt of the dress and then did the same with the garland along the base of the dress, sleeves and neckline down through the back.  A few hours and a bunch of burns later, the dress was complete.  Next, I took a plain headband and topped it off with a few bows.  To accessorize, I made a bracelet out of ornaments.  Side note: the first year I made the mistake of using glass ornaments, whoops!  Needless to say, I switched it up after that.  I found cute green, silver and red bow earrings and a ring at Charming Charlies, too.  For under $20 in total, my holiday outfit was complete.

Last year I even added light strings to the skirt for some extra flair.  Three years later, most of the bows have stayed on but I do tend to leave a small trail whenever sitting is involved: )

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Bridal Brigade: Showering our Bride with Love

All the planning, crafting and 57 lb suitcase carrying paid off during my best friend’s bridal shower. The party turned out better than we could have ever expected.

We hosted the shower at a local restaurant. It was a private setting and the staff was super to attentive to us the entire time – through set-up, during the event, and after it was over.  The layout was ideal, too.

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Instead of spending money on decorations that would simply be tossed out after the event, or buying a gift from the registry, I decided to work/shop with a dual purpose in mind: make or purchase items that Diana could use for the wedding or in her future home.  Luckily, their house colors will be the same as the wedding colors!  We were also able to reuse a good chunk of the decor we bought for the bachelorette party.

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For the “What do you love most about our bride?” activity, we asked the groom to share five things he loves most about his bride-to-be (written on the black hearts).  Then each bridesmaid, along with the mother-of-the-bride and future mother-in-law, wrote one thing they love most about her.  Blank cards were available for guests to share their thoughts as well.
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Each guest was asked to share a bit of love advice for the soon-to-be newlywed couple.  Then, each week during the first year of their marriage, Matt and Di will be tasked with opening up one heart, reading the advice, and making it a point to abide by whatever that particular message guides them to do.

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The bottom of the gift table was lined with pictures of Di’s early years (and boy were there some gems in the collection!).

2015-07-25 13.21.39One of the bridesmaid put together this incredible wedding dress cupcake compilation.  Looks like something a culinary professional designed (with a heavy price tag).  She did such an amazing job on it.

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Some of the bridesmaids put together these awesome centerpieces as well.  The faux flowers were laid on a bed of diamonds and illuminated by a changing color light.

2015-07-25 15.49.31We brought back props from the bachelorette and set-up a photo booth that was put to good use.  The frame was a fun addition, but also something the couple will be able to use in their new home.

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Games

We kicked the party off with an ice breaker. Each guest was handed a card with a name on it – 1/2 of a famous couple.  They were tasked with finding their soulmate.  Of course, Matt and Diana cards were included!

ice breakerWhile everyone was eating, we played a round of bridal trivia.  Tables were broken up into teams of five and everyone had to compete in the categories of wedding songs, wedding movies and general wedding knowledge.  Ironically enough, it came down to a tie between the Mother-of-the-Bride and the future Mother-in-Law.  They had to duke it out over tie breaker Q’s about their son and daughter.  In the end, the MIL team brought home the prize.

Next up was the “Nearly Wed” game.  In advance of the party, we asked Matt to answer a few questions and then Diana had to guess his responses.  For each one wrong, the poor girl with lock jaw had to put another stick of bubble gum in her mouth (I’m a horrible friend).  Luckily she knows him pretty well after 10+ years!  We gave guests a copy of the questions so that they could play along, too.

The ladies also played a bridal scratch off and two lucky winners got to bring home a prize.  While the bride-to-be opened up gifts, guests had to follow along and mark off items from the gift registry Diana received that matched up to their cards.  The first two winners scored a Bath & Body Works candle.  Gift bows were handled off to one of Di’s ridiculously talented friends, who created this masterpiece (the groom even got in on the action):

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It was absolutely amazing day celebrating an even more amazing person. Can’t wait until we get to stand by this girl’s side!

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My Best Friend’s Bachelorette Bash

As I prepare for my best friend’s bridal shower I realized that I still haven’t posted the rest of the deets from her amazing bachelorette party in Asheville, NC.

After arriving at the cabin in the woods, Catherine, the bride’s little sis and co-MOH, made a delicious steak and pirogi dinner – Diana’s favorite!  We quickly scarfed it down and headed to the first surprise adventure of the weekend.

DSCN1129cheersA childhood friend who now resides in Asheville recommended the LaZoom Comedy Bus Tour.  The regular tours run throughout the day and at night, it switches over to haunted comedy ride.  Sounds a little abstract, I know, but this was the funnniest thing I have experienced in ages.  We could not stop laughing the entire time.  You can bring wine and beer on the bus and while that sounds like an awesome idea, it turns into a terrible one after all the laughing you’ll do!

LazoomBusAfter the LaZoom tour, we hit the down.  One of Asheville’s most notable attractions is the Friday night drum circle.  Upon arrival, we couldn’t tell if we were witnessing a scene from True Blood or one of the coolest things ever.  We jumped right in.  When in Rome, right?

drum2drumThe best word I can use to describe the city of Asheville is eclectic.  It was a mix of everything artsy, natural, hipster and southern.

The next morning started off with brunch at Posana; the place was on-point.  There was a whole lot of food envy going on at the table because each meal looked better than the next.

Lo and Di

brunchBrunchIt was time to burn off the calories after brunch, so we headed over to Di’s next surprise: Asheville’s Amazing Pub Cycle. And amazing is the best way to describe it.  We followed that up with a PYT serenade by street performers and more day drinking at Wicked Weed Brewing.

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brew2To keep pace (and survive), we headed back to the cabin to relax for a bit before venturing back down town that night.  At the recommendation of our local friend, we ordered in via Gourmet Valet; you can choose between more than 60 restaurant options and they deliver it right to you.  We did a quick online search for a coupon and got 20% off.  After we were ready, the first stop was the Piano Bar where Diana got another serenade on stage.

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DSCN1078I made last fling ring/checklist for Di out of a wreath Styrofoam, spray paint, paper and glitter.  The front said “List of last acts before you become Matt’s” and with a little participation from the groom, the back said “Do these things one more time before you become mine.”  She had to carry it around all night and check off the actions like take a picture w/a stranger using the selfie stick, take a pic w/another bride and hand a guy a note that says, “Call me, maybe?”

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A night like Saturday called for a homemade brunch at the cabin.  Since most of the trip was a surprise, we wanted to give Diana a say in the festivities for Sunday so we gave her a few options in the form of an infographic (yes, I take planning too far).

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She selected a lazy cruise down the river via Zen Tubing.  It was such a relaxing experience…until the thunderstorm came.

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For our last dinner, we ate at Corner Kitchen.  It’s where President Obama ate on his trip to the city!

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di an iThe weekend wound down with an evening of games and wine.  We played one game where Di had to guess which sexy item came from whom, and I’m now questioning her friendship because she didn’t know the Jessica Simpson PJs came from me!  We also played a really fun ladies night card game where someone reads the descriptor (something like who would be most likely to survive in the wilderness) and then all the girls name the bridesmaid that fits best.  I’m also questioning my friendships after the cards I got! 😉

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DSCN1125Just two more months to go until the big day!

They’re officially ours, and he’s officially old – celebrating a birthday & adoption

Yesterday was a very special day for our family – we got to celebrate the adoption finalization of my brother’s two children and my dad’s 75th birthday (still convinced I was a mistake).

Though he’s got a knack for being the center of attention, my dad absolutely hates surprises.  But for a birthday as big as three quarters, we had to celebrate in style! My mom and I have been planning a surprise for months – one where we gather just immediate family and the closest of family friends – to celebrate the milestone occasion.  The secret was kept until I accidentally blurted it out over the Fourth of July holiday in front of him, quickly covering my tracks when I saw my mom jumping up and down, whaling her arms to get me to stop talking.  I recovered from “…dad’s party…” to “…”you know, the one he is throwing for the kids’ adoption!”

To give you some background here, my brother and sister-in-law, after trying for several years to have children of their own, recognized their calling to become foster parents with the goal of eventually adopting.  Early last year, they received word that their family would soon grow and in the summer, we welcomed two beautiful children into our family.  While a joyous year, the months have been filled with ups and downs for the new parents. But, the moment we have been waiting for for what seems like an eternity, finally came and now the kiddos officially share our name and have to put up with us for good!

So back to yesterday.  We were doing great – were able to keep my dad occupied outside while decorations chronologizing his life were set up.  The guy had no idea; or so we thought.  We get inside, tell him “You think everyone is here today to celebrate the children but actually, we’re here to celebrate YOU! Surprise!”  Just then, he hands my mom a folded up piece of paper: “Hey Carol, thanks for the surprise party” (only he types in ALL CAPS, ALWAYS).  He had known for the ENTIRE week!  When asked how, he quietly points to me.  Before my mom could say anything to me, he jumped in with “she could have played it off if I didn’t feel the wind of you jumping around and waving your arms behind me to get her to stop talking!” Team effort, momma!

Here’s a peek into the elements that made this celebration one to remember (unless you’re 75, then you have an excuse not to remember.mom
There he is, with proof that nothing slips by this old guy!

dad2My dad grew up in Minnesota, lived in California (among other places), settled down in New York, retired in Virginia and sends his heart to Columbia, SC each Saturday during football season.  That being said, he’s got friends in low, and high, and medium places.  My brother and I reached out to friends and family across the country – those he knows now and those that he hasn’t seen in years – and asked them to send in a happy birthday video message for the special day.  The end result? An amazing video compilation of so many that were a part of his life on this 75-year journey.

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We adorned the windows and fireplace with pictures of his past and even put together a video montage to capture his first year as “Grandpy.” Note: The video pic is intentionally cut off; we don’t share pictures of the kids for their safety.

dad5We lined the table with newspaper clippings touting some of my dad’s lifetime accomplishments.

75 signInspired by Pinterest, I created this chalkboard to highlight the differences between today and the day he was born, 75 years ago.  A lot has happened during the 27,375 days he’s been around but what will never change is how much we love that man.

dadkidI’m sure one of things that makes him more proud than anything is the ability to pass his family name down to these two amazing kids.

dad and iI cannot even begin to express how thankful I am to have this man in my life.  I thank my lucky stars every night that I have had him by my side during my 29 years on this earth and recognize how fortunate I am that I can say that.  I’ll never stop learning and laughing around him, and being the best woman I can be because of him.  I love you, Keithypoo!  Happy 75th!

P.S. because fashion is one of the primary purposes of this blog: I have been dying to wear this Taylor dress for weeks.  Retailing at $158, I picked up this gem at Ross for just $29.99!  Clearly, I did not get my fashion sense from my father;)

Bachelorette Bach Decor – Day 1 of our Asheville Getaway

Earlier this month we celebrated my best friend Diana’s bachelorette weekend in Asheville, NC.  I spent so much time planning and crafting over the past 9 or so months that now it feels like I have nothing to do!  So, better time than never to write about the amazing adventure.  We crammed a lot into three days so I’ll break the posts up to prevent bachelorette overload!

As a small airport, flying into Asheville can be pretty pricey for girls flying in from out of town so we decided to road trip it out to the mountains.  With an SUV packed to the brim, we made sure to save room for the most important girls’ getaway essential, the selfie stick. car selfie

We hit the road and headed for the windy, and the rainy, and the scary, Blue Ridge Mountains. Upon nearly driving off a cliff (try backing up an SUV that’s not yours, on an essentially one-way mountain road, during a torrential downpour), we FINALLY made it to the cabin we rented on AirBnB. While some of the girls left to gather groceries for the weekend, my friend Steph and I got to work decorating.The fireplace was the perfect backdrop for the gals' gifts.

The place sure was rustic; everything you would expect a cabin in the woods to look like – minus the creepy aspect (though there were some parts…).  Yet, it had so much character.  There was a screened in porch, outside deck overlooking a breathtaking landscape, three bathrooms (a MUST for seven ladies) and more space than we could have imagined. The only thing we weren’t too crazy about was the “Welcome to our home; don’t leave food outside because of the bears” sign.  Luckily, there were no Yogi sightings.DSCN1010

Each of the girls (or “Mountain Maids”) got an absolutely adorable shirt for Saturday’s adventures, made by SassyCraftsKS on Etsy.  I’ll share those in the next post.  To keep with the southern theme (the bride is a New Yorker), I wrapped each one up in burlap and sealed it with custom bridesmaid pins we had designed from Etsy shop owner Lauren Lash, made to match the bride’s sash.  Diana had cups made for each one of us, too!  The fireplace (one of three, including the outside firepit) was the perfect backdrop for the goodies.

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Catherine, the sister of the bride and co-MOH, made shirts for each bridesmaid with a number on the back.  While the random numbers kept us guessing for the weekend (she threw an odd DSCN1004
number in to throw everyone off), it all made sense on the last evening when we took a big ol’ group shot – it was the wedding date! Another fun element of the party was the “photo booth.”  We got some booth accessories, a white sheet and a disposable camera (this way no one could delete the pics!) and snapped away throughout the weekend. Those are probably just pictures that we’ll keep to ourselves; maybe a good way to calm the bride’s jitters on wedding dDSCN1006ay:)

Surviving a bachelorette, especially one in the mountains, can be tough so we had to be prepared.  Mountain survival gear bags were packed to make sure we had everything we needed: gum, breath freshener, Tylenol and hair ties; what more could we need?DSCN1007

There is no such thing as a party in the south without Mason jars.  With four of the seven girls flying in from New York and one from Colorado, we had to make sure they had this southern staple to bring back with them.  I brought along a glass juice dispenser purchased on the Today Show’s Steals & Deals for just $49 (65% off retail).  Although the chalkboard says, “Everything Tastes Sweeter in a Mason Jar,” our cups were filled with other delicious beverages throughout the weekend, such a homemade Sangria.

DSCN1008I’ve been stock-piling supplies for over a year now.  The wedding colors are purple and gray so anytime I saw something that was one of those colors and could come in handy (and was on sale), I picked it up.  This method really helps save on costs.  Instead of waiting until the last minute and being forced into buying the first thing you see because you’re low on time, do your research and take advantage of a deal when you see it.

I don’t think the decorations would of looked half as cute if it wasn’t for the country feel of the cabin itself.  Thankfully we were able to capture pictures of the set-up on the first day DSCN1015because with that many girls living in one place for a long weekend, things are bound to get a little messy! All the months of constant, meticulous planning (I’m sure Catherine was tired of seeing my number pop up on her phone 50x a day) finally paid off when our beautiful bride entered her decorated palace for the weekend with a huge smile on her face.