Frugal Birthday Gift Ideas

With my birthday coming up… TOMORROW I wanted to write a post to help others come up with some fun and frugal gift ideas for birthday presents or activities.

Scavenger Hunt: This one isn’t new to many people. If you want an activity that last all day long, come up with a set of riddles and clues, each clue leading to another destination with yet another clue and at the end, a Birthday Present. Or make it a photo hunt. Give the Birthday person a list of photos that must be taken before receiving a prize. The photos could be colored objects, landmarks in your town, or certain people.

Visit Local Spots: Most local places in your town that are entertaining are, you guessed it: FREE! Check out the Zoo, Library (Free to check out books, and Rentals on movies), Museum, Art Gallery, or you can go places that cost little money like the Ice Rink, Budget Movie Theater, or Beaches and Pools. Here are some more “Cheap Date” Ideas that you can do for your sweetheart on their birthday.

Button Making!

D.I.Y. Workshop: Green Bay has a D.I.Y. Shop where you can make presents for people you know. at D.I.Y. Studio and Gifts you can host a party and make things like Lip Balm, Head Pieces, Stamped Metal Art, Screen Printed Items, Jewelry Making, Yarn Making, and many other Crafty items.

Felt hearts filled with rice are great little hand warmers in the winter time.

This is a great idea from 52 things to love about someone.

Making Presents: Felt is an inexpensive and versatile fabric that can be crafted into MANY presents. Here are some ideas I’ve found in the past. And check out Part 1 and Part 2 of old posts I wrote on being your own Christmas Elf that still holds true for Birthday Gift making.

Find out what time your birthday person was born, and make them little gifts to open every hour,  ( for a 12 hour time span) or all day!

Art Supplies: As a child I would have loved to get some crafty items to create things myself. You can go to the Dollar Store first, and see what they have to offer. They could have coloring books, pencils, markers, stickers, and even a basket to put it all in. Then you can go to your local box store (I LOVE Target and Hobby Lobby) to find what you couldn’t at the Dollar Store.

Gift Basket: This one is a given. I love to think of ideas to arrange in a basket, an idea that fits a theme is best. Say, “Italian Night” with pasta, sauce, fabric napkins, a great movie like “A Good Year” or “Under the Tuscan Sun” and some candles, all inside a new colander. Or you can do a Detective basket with a mystery book, magnifying glass, “Sherlock Holmes”, and a pen with a feather taped to the end of it, for some detective note taking.

This would be a great gift for a handy person, father, brother, or new home owner.

Make a Card: You can get some inexpensive paper at your local craft store, probably for the price of a card! And you’ll have paper left to make cards all year long!

Photo Frame with Children’s Book Picture: I did this one year for Christmas, I went to thrift stores, and found children’s books that had pictures or pages that reminded me of certain people. I also purchased frames at the thrift stores. As much as it pained me to cut the books, I took those specific pages that reminded me of people and framed them, and gave them as presents. My dad was a page from “Hop on Pop”.

Pictures: You can go onto webistes like Walgreens, or Snapfish to print some pictures of you and the Birthday Person together, and get an inexpensive frame to share the memories. You can also use sites like Shutterfly to create a special book with your photos.

A memory book like this would take a little more time, but for someone special, would be the PERFECT gift, and cherished for a long time. Via Martha Stewart, the queen of scrapbooks.

Throw a Party! Here are some ideas to throw a last minute party on a budget. You can do a BYOB or potluck to save on money. Why not throw a themed party? Dress like your favorite movie character as a child, or pick a decade, and play themed music along with playing movies in the background from that era.

Hand made invites to a special party!

It’s a Star Wars Themed Party!

Oh, and Don’t forget the Cake. Why not go to the grocery store, get the most awesome cake flavors, sprinkles, icing, candles, and little sugar figurines, and make a cake for that person? Hand crafted is way better than store bought!

Cake ideas from one of my favorite Blogs, Breakfast at Toast.

I hope I can inspire you to create a great birthday for your special loved one! Happy Birthday-ing!


Birthday Thoughts

It’s not a party without Champagne. 

With my birthday coming up, I’m trying hard to think of what to do. I’m SO unmotivated. Maybe it’s because I’m hitting the big 2-9, and being a girl, I’m making a big deal about it. (Or, not a big deal at all. As in, I’ve done nothing to make plans with anyone.) Ok, I guess it’s kind of a big deal, so I’ll start planning something. Why couldn’t I have a summer birthday?!  I could do so much more fun things! Here’s some birthday inspirations…

Theme party, for my Inner-Nerd. I’m loving these cupcakes! Hello Doctor!

I think this place setting is just so fun. Thank you Enjoy Yourself for the ideas.

I know this is from a wedding, but if I had a summer birthday, I may consider having a yard party. Or, since I’m in an apartment, a court-yard party.

Who needs cake when you can have this cupcake?

Twist my arm, If someone wants to make me this Genoise Layer Cake with Rum Syrup and Whip Cream Topping, You won’t force me to eat it. Thank you Martha Stewart!

But since I know me the best, above all the hoop-la, I really just wouldn’t mind getting away, going somewhere and making an adventure. THEN I’ll come home and have a little get together at a local pub, with my closest friends. I still have a week and a half to figure it out. Happy Birthday!

Throwing a Last Minute Party

So I’ve lived in this awesomely unique loft apartment in Green Bay for about 6 months and have only had about ONE person over (excluding family members, which are a given). I’ve been wanting to throw a housewarming party, but I feel like the moment for that has passed. So maybe I’ll throw a “Fall is almost here” or “Celebrate being Young!” party. Just because I can. Here are a few ideas I came up with (and got help from others, like my girl Martha) to have a fun, inexpensive last-minute party.

Get ready: Ask yourself, when is this party? How many people are coming? What is the reason for the party? What’s my budget? Facebook, for all of its ups and downs, is a good way to send free invitations, and get RSVP’s in a timely manner. Everyone checks their Facebook. Even my Grandma. Or, if its low key enough, call your friends to invite them by phone. Then you’ll have your RSVP right away.

Guest List: Get your list of people together, and gather phone numbers, just in case. Is this a business party? Is this for close friends, or a large group of friends plus acquaintances? Based on the crowd, then you can pick the location.

Location: Once you know who you are inviting and how many people, you’ll know if they will be more comfortable in your apartment, in a park (based on time of day, and time of year) or if you should bring your party to a bar or banquet location. I’ll keep this article focused on the instance that you decide to have people over to your house/ backyard. If in your apartment, make sure to clean your bathroom, and put away anything you don’t want people to rifle through.

 Dinner Party, Apartment Therapy Style.

Theme: Now that you know who will come, and where you will have the party, the next thing you can decide is if there is going to be a theme or not. Your theme can even be an occassion. New job? Moving? Survive a lightening storm? There you go. A theme can be a great way to pull the whole party together and have some good old-fashioned fun, especially if there are costumes involved. I once went to a party where everyone dressed like a nerd. Argyle socks, glasses with tape around the middle, and suspenders all around! Maybe consider a movie theme like Alice in Wonderland where people dress like their favorite character, and you serve little cakes and drinks in tiny glasses. Or you can celebrate another country and their traditions, with themed food and drink. Or even a “Young at Heart” party with kids themed snacks, coloring books, kids video games, and fun colorful cocktails.

Adorable and inexpensive flags.

Decorations: Use what you have! Tea Light candles make for good warm lighting, and a 50 pack can be as cheap as $5 at Target. Use a string of christmas lights around the perimeter of a room, on the floor or tacked around the ceiling, or in a large vase, or wrap the lights around some branches outside. Cut some triangle flags out of paper or fabric and string them up with some yarn, or use this idea from Martha Stewart to make some cheap yet adorable paper bag lights. Save jelly and spaghetti sauce jars for a little while, and put candles in them to place outside for cute night lights.

Photo thanks to Martha Stewart.

Menu: For food and drink, you can either make your party a BYOB, or a potluck, and you’ll of course save a lot of money. You can also make some punch using few ingredients. Here’s a website for a TON of party punch ideas. Make sure you have a bag of ice ready, or make ice in abundance, and keep emptying ice-cube trays in plastic bowl in the freezer to have it on hand. My boyfriend makes a killer queso in the crock pot with a block of cheddar, a block of pepper jack, a half block or so of Velveta cheese, salsa and some milk. Simmer, stir, and serve! Or what about a “choose your fillings” Grilled Cheese Sandwich bar? Get some bacon, apple slices, Velveta, pesto, tomatoes, and different kinds of bread. Hit up the local Dollar store for dishes, plastic silverware, and napkins. Why spend more?

Photo thanks to Martha Stewart. Ok, you’re thinking, does she get all of her ideas from Martha Stewart? No. I get the rest from Pinterest.

Entertain! Have a good movie on in the background, or put on a video game that anyone can pick up and play, like Rock Band, Scene It, Mario Cart, or Guitar Hero. Have an iPod ready with a playlist long enough for the party, and put it on an iPod dock, so everyone can enjoy the music. Or play DJ, and let people make requests. If you own a Mac, get the “Photo Booth” ready and let guests take goofy pictures of themselves. Have your guests leave you a self-addressed envelope, send those pictures to Walgreens and print them off, and mail a copy to your guests.

Games: If you have board games, set those out for your guests to play. Some good examples that we have are Uno, Scrabble, Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit or Twister. Or, get everyone involved in a group game of Truth or Dare, or “Who Am I?”, the game where people have a name of a celebrity written on paper and attached to their back and they have 20 questions to ask to figure out who they are.

Even if you just want a totally low-key party where you just want to have a get together, relax, and have a few cocktails with some close friends, it will be easy to throw a party on the fly, and still have an amazing time! Party On!

Secret Summertime Drinks

Being a girl who worked my way through college in the food service industry, like many others I know, I may have poured a drink or two in my time. I’ve worked at country clubs, restaurants that brew their own beer, Martini Vodka-toriums, Jamaican bars, Caribbean themed places with animal shaped fruit in the glasses wearing sunglasses, and fancy high end restaurants. Drinks like Margaritas and Daiquiris are simple. Ice, booze, fruit, blend. Ta-da. I’ll share you some house made recipes that are special, and I probably shouldn’t disclose… I’ll share here the best summertime drinks that i’ve served (and made).

Purple Meanie: There is this blended drink that I used to make at the Jamaican bar I worked at, to be un-named, since I don’t want it so seem like i’m giving away their secrets, (which I am.) The Purple Meanie was popular for it’s potency, taste (like a grape popsicle) and it’s mean purple color.

  • 2 Cups Ice
  • 1 ounce Blue Curacau
  • 1.5 ounce grenadine
  • 3/4 shot 100 proof white rum
  • 3/4 shot coconut rum
  • splash lemon juice
  • blend and enjoy!
White Sangria: This is one of my favorite things to drink, bar none, even in the winter. it’s full of fruit, crisp like a sweet white wine, and with a fresh tartness to it, it’s great for sipping on the back porch with the crickets humming in the yard. Here’s an easy one I found:
  • 1 Bottle of white wine (Riesling, Chablis, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 2/3 cup white sugar (or raw sugar if you’re a health nut like me)
  • 3 oranges (sliced) or may substitute 1 cup of orange juice)
  • 1 lemon (sliced)
  • 1 lime (sliced)
  • finely chopped green apple
  • 1/2 liter of ginger ale or club soda, or ginger ale for those with a sweeter tooth.
Pour wine in the pitcher and squeeze the juice wedges from the orange, lemon and lime into the wine. Toss in the fruit wedges and apples (leaving out seeds if possible) and add sugar. Chill as long as you can hold out. Add ginger ale or club soda just before serving. For other variations you can add a Rose wine, or blackberries or strawberries for flavor.

Gin, Tonic, Lime: Working at the country club, I realized that other than a beer in a plastic to-go cup, one of the most refreshing summer drinks to take out on the course was a gin and tonic. If you want a REALLY good one, one that doesn’t taste like an air freshener, make yours with Hendrick’s gin. It’s infused with cucumbers, and has a really clean, cool taste. Throw a slice of lime, and cucumber into your drink, and you CAN beat the summer heat.

Pop Rocks Martini: In the few days that I worked in the Vodka-torium, which had over 100 vodkas and a rolling ladder to reach the top shelf, I didn’t even bother memorizing the rolodex of martinis… But I did come out learning about a few fun ones.

  • 4 parts Absolut Raspberri
  • 3 parts DeKuyper Strawberry Passion Pucker
  • Splash pineapple
  • Sprinkle of Pop Rocks candy

To Do : Pour all ingredients except candy in a shaker with ice, strain into glass rimmed with Pop Rocks.

Guavalada: This drink is simple (3 ingredients) tart, crisp, and especially tasty.

  • 3/4 oz Guava flavored rum
  • 3/4 oz coconut rum
  • Grapefruit Juice

Fill sangria glass with ice, and add ingredients, alcohol first. Pour into a shaker, and shake. Pour back into sangria glass, and garnish with an orange slice. Enjoy!

Mojito: Working at a tropical restaurant with an owner who visited the Dominican each year for… “research”… made me sure that the drinks were authentic. Here’s how he makes his mojito:
Into a large rocks glass:
  • 6 lime slices (about a whole lime)
  • 6 mint leaves- fresh and green.
  • 4 second pour of sugar, (about 3 tablespoons)
Muddle ingredients. Fill glass with ice, about 2 shots of clear rum and a splash of soda water, and shake to high heaven. Pour back in original glass, and serve. Add strawberries or raspberries to the muddling for extra flavor.
Painkiller: Known for it’s trademark name given by Pusser’s Rum, the painkiller will do just that. With it’s creamy texture, hint of spice, and sweet fruityness, this drink is a sure-fire summer winner.
  • 1.5 oz Pusser’s Rum
  • 1 oz coconut syrup/ cream of coconut (Coco Casa works great)
  • equal parts orange and pineapple juice
  • Shake drink and pour into glass. Top with sprinkle of nutmeg. Enjoy!

Tickled Pink: This drink is so easy, anyone can do it. And, it only has 2 ingredients. Get yourself a bottle of X-Rated liquor. It is bright pink in color, but has a tropical flavor, like grapefruit meets mango. Then get yourself a bottle of champagne. Mix one part X-Rated to 3 parts Champagne, no ice and enjoy. Or over ice, if you are having an extremely warm day. Even drop a marachino cherry in the glass for an extra bit of flavor, and fun.

Nacho Loco: Our contractor that would fix up the Jamacain Bar would come in often and ask for the “Carribean Milkshake”. This delicious creamy blended drink will surely make you feel like you went to Orange Julius- in your dreams.

  • big scoop of ice- about 1 cup or more
  • 1 banana
  • 3/4 oz coffee liquor
  • 1 oz spiced rum
  • splash of half and half
  • pineapple slice for garnish
  • blend and enjoy!
I hope I didn’t forget anything here, and that I’ve given you enough great drink ideas to last you all summer. If not, there’s always a good old fashioned light beer- with a slice of orange. Happy Summertime Drinking!