Pandemic, Hygge Dinner Therapy

Here we are. In the midst of another rise of the never-ending Covid19 pandemic cases. As you know, if you follow my instagram, I have gone through many ups and downs when it comes to being able to find joy during these unpredictable and tiring times. My lack of being able to remain “present” and finding a sense of purpose in the recent months has reached new levels of unattainability. And, lately, I find myself leaping from idea to idea; grasping at straws trying to keep my mind busy with anything and everything that I can fit into my schedule. Painting my bathroom, trips to isolated book stores far away, amusing myself with imagining and planning journeys to the hippie towns across America, random acts of kindness to friends and strangers, painting a ridiculously hard (and still incomplete) paint by numbers… you name it, it’s probably floated across my mind.

The point is, we all want to feel a little bit of completeness during a time when so little is certain. We want to feel whole where there are voids. And if we can find anything heartwarming, we’ll latch onto it. And what warms the heart more than having a meal with friends and family? Not much.

Unfortunately, at this time, getting together with other humans is discouraged because, well… COVID. Yes, we know it travels, it’s extremely contagious, and you have to move heaven and earth to get people to wear masks… So, dinner parties? Not really much of an option, unless you want to spend time with 15 people and have 72% change of contracting the virus. Or so said an article I read online today. Yet, I have/had been dying to just GATHER. Like, we used to. And it’s brought a number of tears to flow throughout the year, knowing that it’s just not possible. So, I decided to take matters in my own hands.

In the recent years, I’ve developed this attitude like ‘I’m not gonna wait around on other people. If I want to do something, I’m going to. Even if I have to do it alone.” Apparently, dinner parties are included. So, I informed my hubby that I was going to do a faux dinner party, just because and for my family. Decor and all. Just for some kind of therapy.

Now, at first, that was going to include lanterns and 150 paper cranes hanging from the ceiling. I was THIS close to ordering a massive amount of twinkle lights from Amazon and stringing them up. Nearly bought new dishes… Until, I realized that I might be getting a tad carried away.  I mean, we are legitimately just trying to get by in these awkward, socially distant times. So, instead, I resigned to save my really amped up ideas for when I can fill my home with more people I love. And, decided my main objective would be to just set up a budget friendly, cozy meal that would feel intimate and a little more rustic than say handmade origami ornaments at each place setting. Are you sensing a theme yet?

I’ve been craving Asian food for weeks and, specifically, missing a restaurant from our home in NC. My fave dish is served there and it’s flawless, along with their coconut cake for dessert. So I looked up some recipes on pinterest for what I wanted and found an overabundance of options. I decided to make the main course and dessert from scratch and accompany it with pre-prepped appetizers and sides. Yeah, I was going a real restaurant style dining here, and wrote up the menu on my dining room chalkboard a week in advance so I’d have something to look forward to. You could, of course, do this week any type of food.

Now let’s talk decor and place settings. I’d like to talk about this in case you are in a little bit of a slump and want to do something simple like this in order to bring yourself and family a little bit of cheer. I’ll go through what I threw together and what alternatives there are out there.

The tablescape, you’ll notice, was rather uncomplicated. I didn’t have time to get flowers or anything and my table is SO long that it’s very hard to find an inexpensive table runner or table cloth to cover it. So, I started thinking about how some restaurants cover their tables with butcher paper and thought, “HELLO, KID FRIENDLY & easy cleanup!” But, rolls of butcher paper were like 15 dollars! This craft paper, gift wrapping paper was $1 a roll at Dollar Tree. I could’ve used the underside if I had wanted it plain, but I really loved the fun polkadot playfulness it gave the table. They also have plain kraft paper available for just under $2 a roll at Dollar General.

I already owned the candle lanterns and candles, which I got from walmart at the beginning of fall from Walmart. I’m linking the candles (which smell divine!) HERE. I haven’t seen the the lanterns since, in-store or online, so HERE are some similar ones. And you could probably also look at places like Hobby Lobby or Old Time Pottery for something similar and inexpensive. As well as the candles.

I simply bought reindeer moss for $1 a bag from Dollar Tree and filled the bottom of my lantern with it, around the candle, for a more woodsy and homey look. And to avoid fingerprints on the glass, I maneuvered it around with a spatula.

I got my snowy trees on a log, tabletop decor from Walmart for like $6, but I can’t find it on their website anywhere. If you can’t find anything in your area similar, you could probably craft it pretty easily with supplies from a dollar store. Or you could purchase a set like THIS from Walmart (below) or THESE glittery gems from Target.

On either side of the trees, I places cutting boards to place appetizers on and flanked them on one side with a beaded garland I got from Amazon earlier this year. I also used four, mercury glass votive holders I found at Dollar General for $1 a piece on each corner. They are adorable and I’ll definitely be reusing them again and again. I found a similar set of 12 on Amazon HERE.

Now, let’s talk about dishes! Mine are by Magnolia (Hearth & Hand) from Target and I got them a little over a year ago as part of their fall collection. They are no longer available, but if you are in the market for new dishes, I strongly suggest checking out what they do have in stock. Such as the beautiful, red rimmed dishes they just came out with!

I used the mixed matched silverware that I already own (I’m due for a new set) and wrapped it with $1 white napkins from Dollar General & found red burlap ribbon on sale to tie it up with. Next time, I may go ahead and spring for some more expensive linen napkins like the ones I’ve found online (below). And if you are having a little fancier of an event with more extended family…etc, it would definitely be a nice touch. You could even do matching ones with your dishes like the photo above.

There are also plenty of nice biodegradable options online. Like these palm leaf plates! Which are a great, more natural, primitive choice.

That’s about it. I would’ve done placemats like these had I thought about it beforehand, so that’s also an option. I also, ordered chopsticks because of the nature of food, that only set me back $6.99. Plus, everyone loves chopsticks! Twinkle lights also came into play all over the room where I could hide the LED battery pack HAHA! Spent $5 on 5 packs of those at the dollar store and they were a nice addition to the cozy, hygge factor. And the candlesticks on the mantel + burning wood stove in my dining room didn’t hurt anything either.

Overall, I spent approximately $28 (not counting all the groceries for dinner) and repurposed a lot of things I already owned. I hope this gave you a lot of ideas of how you can easily create a comfortable, spruced up space for you and your loved ones to enjoy a special dinner despite everything going on in the world right now. You don’t have to have a lot of money to enjoy a nice, memorable evening together- even if you’ve already spent months in the same house. Take the time out to make your life extraordinary!

6 Ways I Save Money Clothes Shopping For Kids

If you have multiple kids, I’m sure you’ve heard all of the “Oh my! You have your hands full, don’t you?”, and the “You must be a glutton for punishment”, and the “You know how that happens, right?” remarks that folks will say in passing. If you don’t have multiple kids…then you’re house is probably a lot quieter than mine. Haha. Either way, this post will, hopefully, be able to give you some ideas on how to save some cash when it comes to stocking up on clothes for your children.

Some of these are probably things you’ve already employed. Others may be things you’re hesitant to try. But, basically, this is what works for me and my family, to make clothes shopping for four kids more cost effective.

Now, don’t get me wrong… There are plenty of times I have splurged on specific items. I’m a lover of small shops and handmade, sustainable, grow-with-you clothing. However, if those things were going to be the sole pieces of my child’s wardrobe, I’d be living in a cardboard box. For most of us, it’s just not practical to supply each of our children with completely custom, handcrafted, one of a kind filled closets and dressers. So, let’s jump into it!

  1. Consignment + Thrift

It’s a shame, but many, many people have reluctance to buy anything from a consignment or thrift store. The “previously owned” factor, or “in used condition” description makes them feel uneasy about the quality of what they might find there. Or, they associate the idea of these types of stores with a lack of funds. Therefore, thinking that more money + shopping = commercial retail only and big brand purchases.

This misconception is very unfortunate. I have found some of my FAVORITE kid’s clothes, of the most luxe brands at places like Once Upon A Child. There are hidden gems amongst the crowded racks at shops like this. You just have to be willing to put in the elbow grease and search.

Recently, I donned my mask (because COVID) and went shopping for a bunch of summer clothing components for the kids because it seems like they have all had a growth spurt at the same time. It always seems to happen like that, doesn’t it? And, I can’t imagine how much money I saved by making consignment my first stop that day. For example, my seven year old son is currently very into sport brands and athletic wear. That usually means shelling out big bucks for brands we love, like Adidas, Nike, Under Armor…etc. But, when I dug into the bulk of his size section, I found tons of LIKE NEW items of these exact brand names. And walked away with hundreds of dollars worth for a fraction of the cost.

The other great thing about many of these stores, is that they will buy items your child has outgrown and you can apply that credit to your purchase. Or, they will simply accept a donation of items you no longer have a use for, [like Goodwill] so that you aren’t just compiling a wealth of clothing clutter. If you have been leary of exploring your local thrift or consignment scene, I encouraging you to give it a go. You may be surprised!

2. Online Resale

Okay, this aspect of shopping requires patience; I won’t lie. There is a lot to sift through. But, if you’re willing, to spend the time and effort to look for what you want, you can get a great bargain! Plus, you don’t even have to leave home!

Above are just a few examples of sites I’ve had success with, but there are loads of others with similar ideas behind them and user friendly buying. This avenue of procuring apparel is a go-to of mine for lots of reasons. Here are a few:

  • You can search for specific brands, sizes, styles quickly; no roaming a store. Just a few strokes of the keyboard. Such as, “Boys 16 Gap jeans”.
  • Many of the items are sold NIB (new in box) or NWT (new with tags), so you can be confident that what you’re getting is authentic.
  • Returns are often accepted, and if they aren’t, you are usually able to come to an agreement with the seller. Make sure you read the terms!
  • You can, many times buy items in a “lot”, which saves you $$ per item. Shipping is often free on these as well.

But, of course, the best thing about these sites it that your can find items at a MONDO discount. Used or new, unless you are buying from an actual “boutique” or “store” hosted by these sites, you can usually purchase for much less than retail value. And, similarly to the last tip, you can sell your gently loved pieces and use that money towards more shopping! It’s like an entire cycle…and it can get addicting.

3. Amazon

Who doesn’t use Amazon for EVERYTHING?! If you have found a way to live without it, let me know how! I have an absolute obsession and it gets a little worse every day. My husband can’t even complain because he’s just as bad about those midnight purchases. Who else is with us?

Their tagline doesn’t lie! And, typically, I know that when I order clothing from them for the kids, I won’t be disappointed. And, if a return is needed… they make it SO easy. Biggest tip with Amazon shopping– SIGN UP FOR A PRIME ACCOUNT! Best money spent. Period. Two-day shipping cannot be beat.

Pricing here, obviously for brand new items, will vary based on what brand you’re looking at. But, I have found that lots of things will have a different/lower price than the MSRP. Example: I ordered an Adidas shirt for my son that he loved. It was somewhere in the $20 range on Amazon. When it arrived, the tag said the regular price was $40! Who doesn’t wanna save 50%?!

Also, there are some great shops/brands/items that are amazing dupes for small shop items you may be unable to afford. Lots of cute little jumpsuits, and rompers, and tops that are to die for. Here are a couple of my fave Amazon outfits on my baby girl last summer…

Bottom line? Amazon has everything. If you haven’t bought clothing on there before, go search your vibe. There is great stuff there for the whole family!

4. Zulily

I’ve been shopping Zulily for years. If you make an account with them, you will never regret it. They have new sales, every day, on tons of great brands. Major discounts on everything from pj’s to formal wear for little ones. They even compare prices for you.

I have hands down gotten some of my daughters’ favorite dresses on Zulily and the shoes are bomb! Run, run, run and check them out.

From their site: “Maximize your savings by ordering several items. Buy one item, it’s a good deal. Buy more than one item, it’s an unbelievable deal.” Returns are easy and simple, and they let you know the estimated time of processing before you even add something to your cart. I’ve even gotten great home decor and fun play items from them. Do yourself a favor and shop with Zulily! Download the app for an even smoother experience. Plus, then you can check deals from the comfort of your bed.

5. SALES

This is a bit of a no brainer, but reminders never hurt. Look for sales anywhere and everywhere! Some of my favorite places to shop sales are Nordstrom, Old Navy, Gap, Macy’s… Even Target has 30-50% off sections. Even if you can’t find the exact size you need, but they have a size bigger, consider investing in something that your child can grow into. And, if you have two kids of different sizes, but you love the item enough, buy one for each kid. That way one of the pieces will get twice the wear and you get more than your money’s worth.

Shopping sales usually pays off. Especially because the expensive items that are now in your budget were probably never worth the exuberant amount that was being charged for them in the first place. Clothes are made fast and cheap nowadays. Don’t overpay for something if you don’t have to.

6. Hand Me Downs

Because of the forethought of your clever mama, you may have had the experience of wearing your brother or sister’s hand me downs. And while you may have grown to not like it, it was probably the most economically sound thing for your parents to do. Clothes cost money. The more kids = the more money.

I have saved bags and boxes of my older kid’s clothes to pass down to the next. I’ve never been dissatisfied with that decision. And, truthfully, my kids haven’t either…yet. We have even accepted clothes from friends who haven’t had another child to pass them down to. The dress my daughter is wearing below was given to us by my best friend while she was visiting us last year. Her youngest child had outgrown it. My daughter proudly wore that dress until it didn’t fit her anymore.

You don’t have to spend a dime to use hand me downs. And, it might just be me, but I love their sentimental value. You may also be able to benefit those who are in need by giving them things your children don’t wear anymore. It always comes full circle.

So there you have it. The six places I shop the most and the tips that help me make it through without forking over a fortune. Kids are always changing and growing, and ruining and staining! This is what gets us through those fun, messy, beautiful, sprouting times in the most frugal way.

What are some ways you’ve found that help you keep some pennies in the bank while shopping for a large family? Or, if you only have one child, what do you feel like differs about their wardrobe than if you had more? I’d love to hear your thoughts!