Holidays, Money Wise (aka Budgeting), Parties

No Budget Birthday Bash

My daughter’s 5th birthday loomed, and try as I might, I had absolutely no money.  Please don’t think that I’m being modest, I literally had nothing after our check went to bills and necessities.

I thought to myself – “Ok, I’m a creative woman, I can do this!”  So I went around the night before and put together a party.  I needed decorations, cake, party food, activities for the kids, and some sort of gift bag for the guests.  (I figured that was bare minimum for a party.)

I figured out what resources I had.  Do you remember the movie “Princess Bride”  when they are getting ready to storm the castle and Westly says, “why didn’t you list that among our assets?”

First, think about what you have.  Old Christmas wrapping/ribbon?  Kid’s art supplies? Paper and pencils? Use what you have, the stuff you were saving for a special project.  It’s special project day!


I told you in an earlier post that I have LOTS of beautiful scrap booking paper on the shelf, that I am no longer using.  So I cut out the words -HAPPY BIRTHDAY and my daughter’s name.  I liked some of the patterns on the papers and so I cut them into squares and other shapes and hung them with tape on the walls (just random patterns and orders).

Birthday decorations

My daughter was at a sleep over at her cousin’s house, and so I worked on the party that night when everyone was asleep.  When she came in for her party – she was amazed!!!  So much so that after the party, she hung the decorations up in her room.

Other ideas for decorations –

  • Have your guests make artwork when they come and hang it up, say you’re having an “art show.”  Then they could take their masterpieces home, or you could “auction” their pieces.
  • Have the guests make the decorations from construction paper (or any other paper you may have.)
  • Go outside – what do you have?  Flowers? Pretty leaves? Rocks? (your guests could paint rocks – they’d love it!)  Dandelions?  Even those dandelions would look nice, tied up in some ribbon or in some small vases.
  • Toys – they can be great decorations.  You could have a “toy store” and have the guests take turns buying and selling the toys.


My mom always made the most amazing cakes for our birthdays.  One year she made a cake based on Eugene Field’s poem The Sugar Plum Tree, there was a giant tree branch on the cake and candies were tied to it everywhere.

But I didn’t have that.  I had a cake mix and some candy.  I decided to make a castle cake, and again didn’t have all of the ingredients for a typical cake (you know, ice cream cones for the towers, etc.)  So again, scrap book paper to the rescue!

My attempt at a Castle Cake

I just split a regular (9″x13″) chocolate cake in half.  Then I slathered (don’t you love that word)  basic butter cream frosting Frosting Recipes in-between the layers and frosted the outside.

For the turrets, I rolled up the card stock and glued it together.  Then cut up circles out of paper.

My niece loved it so much, she made paper princesses for the cake.

A few weeks later my two year old had her birthday.  I RUINED the train cake that I was making for her and so I made a regular (9″x13″) cake and we decorated it with polly pockets, different frosting colors and (wouldn’t you know it) leftover easter candy.  She loved it.  Mostly because I let the girls help me decorate.

An easy, inexpensive, tasty, and much-beloved cake.

You could do it with action figures or toy cars as well.  Homemade cakes and frosting almost always taste better anyway.

Party Food

What do you have?  Remember Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving special?  Peppermint Patty wanted a thanksgiving dinner and Charlie and Snoopy came up with – buttered toast, pretzels, ice cream sundaes, popcorn and jelly beans.

In my case,  I did a veggie tray and some fruit (to counteract the sweets).  Kids don’t typically care.  We did cheese sandwiches and apple juice one year at a “tea party.”  Any fruit and veggies look beautiful when freshly cut and arranged on a plate.  My favorite dip is Ranch dressing.

recipe image


I made a list of things that we could do.

Butcher paper on the tables and brown paper bags were set up for art fun when they arrived.  I had them decorate the table and the brown sack became their goody bag.

Art time!

It was Easter time and so we had left over candy and eggs – yay!  Easter egg hunt!

I had several other games –

  • Duck, duck goose
  • Hide and seek
  • Pass the present (wrap a present in lots of layers.  Each time the music stops, the child holding it will open a layer.  the winner is the one who opens the final layer).
  • Dance and freeze game (dance until the music stops, if you don’t freeze, you’re out).
  • Question game (I put the kids on teams and they answered questions for points.  I had differing ages so I had easy –what color is a firetruck?, and hard  – Who is the president of the US? questions.)

Use library books to find games that will fit your ages, needs and budget. With a little planning you can find a lot of entertaining games that will keep everyone laughing.

Gift Bag

I’m no “Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences” able to give away swag bags.  Did I mention that I had NO budget ;)?  I looked through my closets and cupboards and decided that as well as the candy easter eggs, I could make chocolate chip cookies for their take home bags.

I made little packages by wrapping  three cookies in saran wrap and tying it with ribbon. Then I took my handy scrap booking paper and made home made “thank you” cards.

Again, look round.  What do you have?  Can the kids make a take home item?  Maybe they could make cookies.  We love to make snickerdoodles because I usually have all of the ingredients on hand and the kids can help me roll the dough in sugar.

Speaking of having things on hand, I have two “standby” Emergency Party Recipes that I make whenever we have a function to go to and I need to bring something but have no money to get anything special.  (Are you sensing that this is a theme with me?)

Now, it’s not going to win a Martha Stewart award or anything, but my daughter was SO happy because I had taken time and put effort into her day.  I also made a silly crown and my sister had curled her hair and pampered her at the sleep over.

Another thing that I did was made a card and wrote about all the special things that I loved about her.  She had me read it to her 10 times that day.

If I didn’t have a modest present, I would have made a coupon book for her.  You know, good for:

  • In home movie night
  • Home mannys and peddys (or mani/pedi)
  • Trip to the Library
  • 1/2 hour -your choice – fun time

It just needs to be full of activities that are HEAVY on your time.

It’s not a theme or expensive birthday, but it’s what we had.

So, please share some ideas of yours.  What party time ideas have you done “in a pinch” and “on the dime”?

Holidays, Sewing, Uncategorized

The Christmas Present – Barbie Dresses

The Elizabethan outfit.
The Elizabethan outfit.

So here is the beautiful dress that I made for my daughter for Christmas.  I love it, but it was a lot of work.  I was going to do this project with three other women, but we each finished one dress and were done.

Here is the one that my sister made –

The Magical Fairy Dress
The Magical Fairy Dress

My daughter seemed to love this one more than the one that I made for her – ugh!  It is lovely.  I give my congratulations to my Sister who said that she couldn’t sew. This proves that determination, perserverance, and a little imagination can work wonders.

I do plan on making some more.  It was a rewarding project.  Here are some things that I liked about it.
The patterns weren’t too expensive (varies in the $5-$20 range).  You can get doll patterns from most sewing stores (in their pattern catalouges) or from the websites of the major pattern companies – Butterick, McCalls, Simplicity, etc.  The website that I really recommend is – She has a lot of beautiful vintage Barbie patterns that are out of stock.
Another thing that I liked about the project was that I didn’t have to buy a lot of expensive material. I simply cut up old dress-ups that my daughter had but was unable to wear any more (such as the lovely maroon party dress that got a gob of gum down the front.)  The material is wonderful and because the Barbie is smaller (dur!) I can reuse a lot of the fabric.
The dresses became easier once the initial learning period was over.  We didn’t do more at the time because Christmas is a silly time to take on huge projects with so many other things going on!
I love the lace trim on this one.
Holidays, Sewing, Uncategorized

Scarlet O’Hara & Christmas Ideas

My three and a half year old daughter has suddenly discovered the world of Barbie Dolls.  She wants to play with them all of the time.  The problem is, I can’t seem to find a lot of clothes for her dolls, and the ones that I do find are cheaply made and thus on the verge of falling apart, or really trashy (Barbie looks like a woman that I would never have my girl hang out with).  I remembered back to my childhood.  My grandmother had some Barbies that her girls had used.  They had made homemade outfits –  a lot of beautiful 1950’s poodle skirts and other outfits from the day. The dress that I loved the most, the one that I have the greatest memory of was a Scarlett O’Hara dress from Gone with the Wind.  It was GORGEOUS, complete with a hat.  Well, it left quite an impression on me.  I LOVED dressing the dolls up in those lovely outfits and wished that I had them at home. 

So, this Christmas, some friends and I are going to make Barbie dresses – big, beautiful, period dresses.  I scoured the Internet looking for patterns and realized that I wouldn’t even need to spend oodles on material.  I have quite a few lovely dress-up dresses that cannot be salvaged as a little girl dress, but will be perfect for a little girl’s dolls.