Dub’s Vintage Storybook Nursery

accidental okie storybook themed nursery

Dub’s nursery is a mishmash of everything I love. It’s my revenge at the universe for getting married before Pinterest was invented. (Seriously, I had to come up with all my wedding ideas on.my.own.).

My friend Liz, the first of us to have a baby, said she designed her daughter’s nursery for her, because she’d be the one in there exhausted in the middle of the night. Liz is as brilliant as they come.

So this – this is my baby-themed sanctuary.

Books were so integral to my childhood. Even now, master’s degree in writing in hand, I prefer children’s and young adult books over adult books. They are full of magic and wonder, and I want our Dubs to experience all those special books The Professor and I still enjoy reading. This is where our theme began.

I also wanted a design that was flexible. I didn’t want something so specific – like burlap and trains or something – that I couldn’t put it in the nursery if it wasn’t burlap or a train. Vintage storybook really turned into something special and unique. It is vintage storybook, but then there are some nautical elements, gold polka dots and different kinds of stripes. There’s modern fabric and very traditional elements, and art new and old.

It is me. Sorry, Dubs. 

accidentalokie nursery 2


accidentalokie nursery 1

The paint is Sherwin Williams North Star. It only took me five paint samples to find the perfect shade of not-too-blue, not-too-gray. The guy at the paint store finally gave me my very own swatch book. He said it was customer service, but I suspect it was pity for the eight-month pregnant lady who kept waddling in and buying sample after paint sample.

However, after this experience, I am a total believer in buying paint samples and not just going off the swatch. If you want proof, find one of my recipe posts and look for my kitchen.

It was supposed to be turquoise. But it’s like TUUUUURQQQQOOOOOOOIIIISSSE. 

Our chair is a glider recliner. It was a gift from my aunt, and I sleep in it about as much as I sleep in my bed. When looking for one, I searched high and low for something with a tall enough back for the Professor – he’s got ten inches on me. It works great for both of us.

I found the pouf ottoman on sale at Target for 50 percent off. Sometimes I prop my feet on it when rocking when the chair isn’t reclined. Other times it holds a book or a blanket. I know someday Dubs will think it’s his own special seat. The rugby stripe rug is one of my savviest purchases ever – Pottery Barn Kids. 50 percent off. Boom.

The gold polka dots came from someone on Etsy who had them for about a tenth of what they are at Land of Nod.

accidentalokie nursery horizontal book case 1

My vision for this space included monochromatic colors and very bright accents. As a part of the storybook theme, I wanted books on the wall, not only as art but aslo just as, well, books! By creating horizontal book shelves from Ikea RIBBA Picture Ledges, Dubs’ books become bright art in the room. As books come down and are put up, the arrangement always changes. In the coming years, the shelves will change with him.

I love every part of these bookshelves. 

accidentalokie nursery horizontal book case 2

The Take Heart plaque was a gift from some of our closest friends who brought it to the hospital when Dubs was born. The anchor refers to our fertility struggle. God gave me beautiful anchors as a standing stone in prayer and in remembering our sweet babies lost to early miscarriages. It’s a subtle but very special reminder of the journey we’ve walked and the grace we’ve seen.

accidentalokie nursery bench 1

In the ultimate test to our marriage, The Professor and I upholstered that bench by ourselves. It was just us, two Pinterest tutorials, a staple gun, foam, batting, fabric, and three arguments. But we did it! I know, right! The bench is an Ikea Kallax bookshelf, which can be used both standing up or on its side.

The wood-grain fabric is a little modern and a little traditional, and it fits perfectly in this space. The bins are from Target. They hold plush toys, plastic/wood toys, extra pillows and a few other odds and ends. The slots and bins are square, so some day when Dubs grows up, the whole thing can be stood up.

But for now, I have this vision of him being a little boy, tucked on his reading bench, digging into The Boxcar Children.

I know. It’s a romantic vision, but I’m sticking to it.

Accidental Okie nursery monogram

I selected a Jenny Lind crib. I liked it for a few reasons. It’s timeless, relatively inexpensive, made from sustainable New Zealand wood, and does not turn into a full-sized headboard, bunk bed or space ship. I’ve had too many friends buy a super fancy crib that they plan to use for decades to come, only to have their teething kid attack it with the ferocity of a rabid beaver. 

It was a gift from my parents and one of our longest family friends, Wendy. My mom called Wendy after she had me. She didn’t say, “It’s a girl” or anything social acceptable like that. All she said was, “Don’t do it, Wendy. It hurts too bad!”

Our giraffe is so cute and special – a gift from my amazing work team. I haven’t named him yet, but I’m leaning towards Mr. Neck, an ode to The Mindy Project.

Every kid who sees Mr. Neck is completely entranced, and it was Dub’s first buddy. He’s watched it ever since he started noticing the world around him. It serves as a sort of mobile that he can look at while he’s falling asleep. Just another reason I’m glad I didn’t buy a mobile. Not only are they expensive, but it turns out that you don’t need one if you have a ceiling fan! (Seriously people, ceiling fan = hours of baby entertainment).

I ordered our monogram from an Etsy seller. We got it unpainted, so it was crazy inexpensive. After the many hours spent attempting to achieve a flawless, glossy finish, I wish I paid to have it painted.

The native Californian in me still freaks a bit at the thought of having something hanging above the crib. But each of those monogram elements – which are all quite light – are held on by several 3M stripes that are each supposed to hold 20 pounds. So, I think we’re good. 

The beautiful lamb elements – the sheet, changing pad cover, pillow and blanket – were all gifts from a sweet family friend, Tiff, who saw my mood board and then saw that set at Land of Nod. She surprised me with it, and I love it all so much. I’m super picky and sort of a snob and usually when people surprise me with things for a well-planned anything, I’m not a happy camper. But somehow, Tiffany got in my head and somehow knew. She’s cool like that. Not only are the lambs subtle and beautiful, but it provides a further zen feeling to our calm room.

accidentalokie nursery crib 2This little guy came to us just a few weeks ago to solve the problem of the toy pile next to the bed. Now I just toss all of Dub’s toys he plays with in his crib into this perfect basket. Then I put the whole basket in the crib with him to play.

When did I get so smart?

accidentalokie nursery gallery wall

Our gallery wall is where the vision for this room really started – a mix of vintage and whimsey. 

The Winnie the Pooh prints are original pages from 1939 editions of Winnie the Pooh, purchased off Etsy for a shockingly small amount of money. The jump-roping foxes and kite-flying whales are from a Brooklyn artist. There’s custom calligraphy, and new born pictures of Dubs, who doesn’t even look like that anymore. (sniffle) 

accidentalokie nursery dresser 3

Our dresser is the Ikea Hemnes. It holds all the things.

accidentalokie nursery dresser 5

My official organization style is called “good intentions,” so having a dresser that’s made to fit Ikea’s organization dividers, it’s super helpful. 

accidentalokie nursery bunnyBunny.

accidentalokie nursery closet

The closet is also my attempt at sustainable organization. It’s working so far.

accidentalokie nursery look 2

Before I was gifted with the beautiful lamb bedding, this is what I bought for the room – bright-lettered sheets to match the books, and an anchor changing pad cover to carry our anchor theme and match the navy blue accents.

By the time Dubs has such a giant blowout that we need to wash the changing pad cover, it’s time to change the sheets. So we go back and forth between lambs and letters/anchors. I like switching it up between subtle and bright.

Dub’s room works so well for us. It’s peaceful every time I walk in there at 3 a.m. It’s bright in the morning and calm at 10 at night.

 But of all my favorite views in the nursery, these are my favorites.

accidentalokie nursery dubs 2

accidentalokie nursery dubs

How to Customize Your Budget Binder Printables

Customizable Budget Binder | Accidental Okie 

I’ve had some requests to provide customizable options for my original Budget Binder Printables

I’m honestly blushing. In just a few short months, my budget binder post has been seen by thousands and thousands of people. It’s on the top page of Google searches for budget binder printables and it’s all over Pinterest! I’m so thankful it’s been a resource for people.

So because the public demands it, I present to you customizable sheets.

Below you’ll find two types of downloads for each blank page: PDFs and PNGs. Here’s the super technical low down on the downloads: PDFs are larger files. They’ll always be crisper, which is why I only have PDFs of the original budget binder printables. The only problem is that unless you’re using Adobe Illustrator, you can’t modify PDFs. Use the blank PDF pages if your plan is to write in your headers by hand.

The next set are PNGs. These are image files like JPEGs, but PNGs work best for images with straight lines and text (JPEGs work best for photos). Use PNGs for creating your very own customized budget binder sheets. But how? I’ll show you below in a step-by-step tutorial.

1. Pick Your Download.

You’ll find a section that looks like this at the bottom of the post.

Customizable Budget Binder 1 | Accidental Okie

 2. Save the File

Right click on the image and select, Save Image As. Save the image somewhere easy to get. I made a folder on my desktop.

Customizable Budget Binder 2 | Accidental Okie

3. Insert Image.

Open a new Word document. Under the Insert tab, select Picture, and then Insert Picture from File.

Customizable Budget Binder 3 | Accidental Okie

4.  Select File.

Use the dialog box to select your file and insert it.

Customizable Budget Binder 4 | Accidental Okie

5. Format Image

After the file is inserted, click on it. Then click on the Picture Tools header that will appear. Next find the Text Wrapping box. It has a picture with a dog silhouette. Select Through (you may have to push More to find Through). This will let you move the picture around the document as needed.

Customizable Budget Binder 5 | Accidental Okie

6. Stretch Image

I’ve already formatted the budget binder sheets with a margin for binders, so all you need to do is stretch out the binder sheet to the edge of the page and it will fit perfectly, margins and all.

Remember to push shift while stretching the image so it doesn’t become disproportional.

If you don’t push shift, the image will get all wonky and distorted within the actual file. You’ll need to delete it and re-insert. And if you were in the design class I taught in grad school, I would take off an entire letter grade…if I was in a generous mood. Otherwise, I would fail you.

So really, push shift.

Customizable Budget Binder 6 | Accidental Okie

7. Under the Insert tab, add a text box.

Customizable Budget Binder 7 | Accidental Okie8. Insert your content.

Move the text box to the bottom of the page and insert your content. I created a budget sheet for school supplies.

Customizable Budget Binder 8 | Accidental Okie

9. Format Text Box

Right click on the text box and select Format Text Box, and select No Color for the fill and line colors.

Customizable Budget Binder 9 | Accidental Okie

10. Format Text

Chose your font and size. I used AlexandriaFLF font from the original post so it would match the rest of the budget binder series. But you can use whatever font you want!

Customizable Budget Binder 10 | Accidental Okie

11. Create Headers

Create more text boxes and format them the same way you did before. Name your headers whatever you want and center them above each section.

You have three columns to do with whatever you want. I decided this budget sheet is for someone in England.

Customizable Budget Binder 11 | Accidental Okie

12. You’re Done!Customizable Budget Binder 13 | Accidental Okie

Below you’ll find templates for everything – binder cover, section covers and budget sheets! If you want ideas for what I did for each item, make sure to look at the original Budget Binder Printables Post!

I would love to know how you use your customized budget binder! Make sure to post it in the comments.


Yellow Cover | Yellow Budget Sheet 
Turquoise Cover | Turquoise Budget Sheet 
Purple Cover | Purple Budget Sheet 
Coral Cover | Coral Budget Sheet 
Green Cover | Green Budget Sheet 


Yellow Cover | Yellow Budget Sheet 
Turquoise Cover | Turquoise Budget Sheet 
Purple Cover | Purple Budget Sheet 
Coral Cover | Coral Budget Sheet 
Green Cover | Green Budget Sheet 

AlexandriaFLF Font Download

Weekly Meal Plan Organizer (And Free Printables)

If you’ve been following my epic budgeting series, you’ll know this is step three in my journey. First, I had to sort through the emotional junk that comes with budgeting. Next, I created a beautiful and functional budget binder that I made available to you. Now, it’s time to tackle the grocery budget.

The Professor and I realized our grocery budget seemed to be the area where money constantly seeps out. Does this happen to anyone else?  

As we looked at our schedule and our pattern of over spending, we noticed several things were happening. On Saturday, I’d plan our week’s meals and go buy the ingredients. But then as the week progressed, I’d forget what that bell pepper or that can of tomatoes was for. Heck, I’d forget what meals I was planning on cooking period. Then I’d open the fridge to a confusing sea of ingredients and come to the conclusion that we had absolutely nothing to cook for dinner. Logical, right?

Please, please tell me I’m not alone in this vicious cycle!

There were a lot of victims to my failed endeavors: the many bunches of cilantro that never realized their life’s zesty purpose and instead turned to stinky goo.  The salad dressing ingredients that were left dusty on the shelf.  The once-crunchy cucumber that finally succumbed to the moldy pocks covering its skin. But hands down, the biggest victim was our budget.  

Once we realized the first problem, another issue surfaced. I would plan meals – not elaborate meals, but from-scratch, 30-40 minutes prep and cook-time meals.  On nights when we were both busy, those meals were too difficult to make, so we would end up grabbing Thai food or burgers. And it only gets worse from there. I take almost exclusively leftovers for lunches. No dinner means no leftovers, which means eating out for lunch too. It’s a one-two-three punch that left us realizing why all our money kept disappearing down the drain…or to the back of the produce drawer.

Not good for us. Not good for the budget.

The Professor and I decided to go through our weekly routine and designate which evenings needed a quick dinner, which could have a sit-down dinner, and which nights we needed to fend for ourselves. With this schedule, I could more specifically plan meals.

There was also the matter of forgetting what I bought at the store.  I needed to solve that problem. And then, as if through divine intervention, I had an idea. Like all the best ideas, it involved ingenuity, a bit of elbow grease and chevron stripes.

Budget Dinner Plans 6

This is our weekly meal planner. It lives on the fridge. It has a pretty frame. It works with dry erase markers.  And I love it.  After literally dozens of tries in different lighting, I can’t get a great photo of it. Sorry.

The meal planner has helped immensely. The Professor and I both know what’s for dinner during the week. We can quickly change plans and reorder when we need to, and now we know why there is cilantro in the fridge. It also allows me to use a lot of a certain ingredient in different ways. As you might guess, the week photographed here started with a pack of chicken breasts.

It also lets me sneak in some of The Professor’s less favorite meals. He doesn’t like my sushi rice bowl recipe, so I cooked it on a night he was out. I got my sushi salad and lunch for the next few days, and he didn’t have to eat it. 

Budget Dinner Plans 3

For the paper backer, I didn’t want it too frilly, but I also wanted it to be custom and fun and special. With that in mind, I used a script font with fancy glyphs and a simple sans serif font for the days of the week and details. I also wanted it to coordinate with my budget binder, so chevron stripes were a natural choice in a background. Everything is bordered within an 8×10 inch box that can be cut out and used with any 8×10 inch picture frame. 

The days of the week include details specific to our schedules. For the free printables, I left off our details but didn’t adjust the spacing. If you want to add your own details, you have room to either write them or type them in using text boxes. I used Clemente Font for the body text, which you can download for free here.

meal planner | www.accidentalokie.comNext, it was time to find a frame. Hobby Lobby has these gorgeous shaped frames I’ve been swooning over for a while. They’re in the wall frame section, not the stand-up frame section. I got one during one of their many half-off sales, making the frame around $10.

Budget Dinner Plans 2

To hang a big picture frame on your fridge, you need a big magnet. In my first attempt, I hot glued a bunch of those tiny super-strong magnets all over the frame. That was an epic disaster. Luckily I have several Container Store Spot-On Magnet Hooks for such moments in life. This is seriously a great magnet. It. Does. Not. Move.  And it’s pretty cheap. Buy one. No buy three.

Budget Dinner Plans 6

This little project has already saved us so much money and sanity and cilantro. I hope it helps you organize your life and budget, too!

meal planner | www.accidentalokie.com

I’ve created two options for you.  The pink, which has been shown throughout this post, and a very chic yellow and gray version.

Yellow Weekly Meal Plan Organizer Free Printable (PDF)

Pink Weekly Meal Plan Organizer Free Printable (PDF)

Happy {reluctant} budgeting!

Oh, and I showed you several products from several stores, but they didn’t sponsor this post. This is just me telling you all the things that have worked for me!

Sarah…The AOK

Budget Binder (And Free Printables)

the reluctant budgeter

My reluctant budgeting continues.

The first time I met with my budget mentor Pat, we talked about the benefits of the cash system.  Money can seem theoretical when it’s electronically zipping out of your debit card.  A few dollars here and a little stop at the store there, and you’ve unknowingly blown your budget.

So we’re working on the cash system.  Not for everything.  We’re not taking dollars and exact change to the mortgage company, but we are using cash for everything except bills, charitable giving and gas for our cars.  It’s divided into five categories:

  • Groceries – food, cat stuff, toiletries, household cleaning supplies
  • Clothes & Makeup – including my more expensive hair-care products
  • Entertainment & Eating Out – this how we feed our Thai food addiction.
  • Play Money – a little pocket money for The Professor and me during the week.
  • Gifts – Because we have a lot of nephews and nieces, we’re putting $40 back each month for gifts and hoping that this will cover birthdays all year and Christmas.

Pat told me that I needed to figure out an organization system.  She said a budgeting system has to have two important elements: it must work for you and you must like it.

Translation: make it pretty.

Yes, you heard right…straight from my mentor’s own lips.  Her reasoning is this: who really wants to spend all that time budgeting?  But if you have to do it, it’s easier when you have created an inviting system that you can tuck into once a week.  Now, I’m sure there are accountants out there who just love spreadsheets and feel at home amongst those white and black lines, but I’m not one of those people.

Being me, I couldn’t find paper and organizers that I liked.  I knew I wanted things to be color coded.  I knew that I needed to keep details to a minimum, and I knew I wanted thick paper.  So, being me, I made my own system.

budget binderIt started with a regular-sized, 1-inch binder with the clear front pocket where you can slide in a cover sheet, some plastic binder pouches to serve as money envelopes and binder dividers.  (In case you long to be just like me, I put the links to the exact things I bought.  You know, since everyone wants to be like me.)  Then I designed my system.  Each of the five categories of the cash budget has a section within the binder that contains three items.

budget binder | www.accidentalokie.comFirst, there’s the cover page.  This is important because this where I defined my categories.  When I told Pat my grocery budget, she said it was a little high, but when I explained that it included things like cat litter, cleaning supplies and toothpaste, she said that it was actually  accurate.  (Score!)  Having all these things lumped together works for me because I buy a lot of them in the same place. Also, I knew I needed my system to be as simple as possible, or I wouldn’t use it.

budget binder ledgerNext is the ledger where once again I kept things simple.  It has three categories: date, details and dollars.  I’ve simplified things further by not recording my purchases by date, but by week.  I section off each month and write how much money we’ve budgeted for the category.  Our grocery budget has seen an increase since my sister has moved in, so we’ve been learning how to adjust for a third eater and a second gluten-free eater.

In the details column, I write down notes.  This is especially helpful if my bill was especially high.  One grocery trip, I had to buy allergy medicine and supplies for a big pizza party.  That will be good to remember when I’m reviewing the month.  I also keep track of cat expenses, so I have a better idea what to budget for Charlie and Pippa.

budget money folderFinally, each category has the cash, stored in the convenient plastic pouch from Office Max.  The goal is for these envelopes to accrue cash – for us to not spend to the limit every month but to build a cushion for a rainy day (or when we want to buy rib eyes or other splurges).

I tried the cash system once before and carried all the cash with me.  This didn’t work for two reasons: First, I was stressed about carrying several hundred dollars with me.  But second (and the real reason), I would be like “Oh look how much money I have!  I should get a coffee,” or “We can totally afford eating out again this week month.”

budget binder percentages

Another thing Pat and I talked about was deciding how much to spend on each category.  She gave me the generally accepted guidelines, which I designed as part of my binder.  My hope is to do quarterly check ups of our spending against this guide.

I’ve been on the system for about a month now.  Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • A cash system does not work if you forget to get cash before you leave the house.
    I’ve had to learn to give The Professor and me our $20 of play money at the beginning of every week so that we don’t use our debit cards for little purchases.  I’ve also had to make sure to get grocery money before every trip.
  • I can afford things.  
    Before I started the cash system, I spent a lot of time being frustrated because I couldn’t afford things.  I’d tell myself it was the plight of a teacher’s wife.  Now that we have entertainment and play money budget categories, I’ve been able to buy little things that I want.  I was at Target last weekend and saw the soundtrack to the Les Mis movie (the only movie I’ve seen twice in the theatre since high school), and rather than feeling sorry for myself, I bought it with my play money.
  • I spend too much.
    I’ve already pinpointed areas of over-spending, which I’m now able to address.  Also, I was spending money on things I didn’t know about.  For instance, I had a Weight Watchers membership.  Who knew?
  • Grace
    Pat told me that it will take about three months of doing this consistently before I’m not overspending every month.  In the interim, I’m remembering to have grace with myself.
  • I feel empowered!
    Maybe this reluctant budgeter is becoming a little less reluctant.

Because I love all my followers and because I hope this is helpful for you, I’ve created printables so you can have a beautiful budget notebook, too!

budget binder printables | www.accidentalokie.com

Below are PDFs so you can create your own budget binder.

binder cover
cover groceries | groceries sheet
cover clothes | clothes sheet
cover entertainment | entertainment sheet
cover play money  | play money sheet
 cover gifts | gifts sheet 

If you want to make your own modifications to the sheets, I used AlexandriaFLF Font throughout the budgeting sheets. It’s a free font you can download here.

Update: July 2013

Due to popular demand, I’ve released a series of completely customizable budget sheets! You can see them here:

Customizable Budget Binder | Accidental Okie

Dont’ miss Reluctant Budgeter Post 3: Weekly Meal Plan Organizer and Free Printables

A Few Stationery Sets

Need a last-minute Christmas gift?  I have five sets of stationery ready to go!  There’s only one set of each.

$20/set, which includes 12 5×7″ cards, envelopes and envelope liners, a name printed on each card and return address on each envelope.  *Plus shipping and tax.

If you’re interested, email me at sarah.swoondesigns@gmail.com. All’s fair in love and Christmas shopping, so if you want a set, email me soon!

Swoon Designs Stationery

DIY Wedding Flower Tips

This is my sister-in-law Beth – The Professor’s youngest sister.  Isn’t she beautiful!  Like the rest of the people in The Professor’s family, she’s incredibly tall, coming in at a respectable six feet.  Sometimes I want to hate her, but I like her too much. Plus I’m holding out that our children will get some of those genes.

photo courtesy of BenTakesPhotos

Although I can’t take credit for her radiant bridal beauty, I can take credit for her bouquet.

With a wedding on a budget, everyone in the family pulled together to help throw them a beautiful spring wedding.  I’m no flower expert, but I helped with wedding flowers once before, and I got tips from Teressa, one of my besties who also happens to be the mastermind behind Cashmere Floral Designs, a top floral design company in Seattle.  Seriously, she’s legit.

Armed with creativity, a few skills, a few tips, and my penchant for recklessly plunging into the deep end of projects, I volunteered to do Beth’s wedding flowers.  Do it yourself wedding flowers was an exciting experience, and I learned a lot in the process.  These lessons I am now going to share with you!

Disclaimer: This post does not cover how to actually make bouquets and boutonnieres, but explains the process of doing your own wedding flowers.  Once you decide what kind of flowers you want to use, look for tutorials that feature those specific flowers.

DIY Wedding Flowers – 10 Tips

1. Assemble your tools.


  1. Floral Tape – black and green.  This tape gets sticky when it’s stretched and wrapped on itself, but doesn’t stick to anything else.  Use the green to wrap up bouquets and the black to wrap up the boutonnieres.
  2. Floral Knife – these inexpensive knives are great for de-thorning roses and trimming flowers.
  3. Flower Shears – many of the stems you’ll be working with are very thick.  And you don’t want a blister on your wedding day from manhandling a dingy pair of scissors.  The shears cut floral wire too.  Consider them a necessity!
  4. Ribbon and other embellishments – Make sure you have a lot of ribbon to wrap all your beautiful creations!  Get creative.  I found this beautiful pearl embellishment that I knew would be a great final touch to Beth’s bouquet.
  5. Green Floral Wire – you’ll use this to wire flowers before incorporating them into arrangements and to reinforce stems.  Really, this is just useful stuff.  I used 20 and 26 gauge wire.  Straight wire is the best.
  6. Buckets –  Lots of buckets.  I got a bunch from the dollar store.
  7. Pins (not pictured) – long pins go into the bouquets to hold the ribbon into place.
  8. Labels (not pictured) – label the corsages and boutonnieres.
  9. Flower food (not pictured)

Clean buckets, knives, scissors and shears with bleach water and soap before using them otherwise bacteria could get into your flowers, causing them to die!

2. Don’t do it yourself.  Assemble an army.  As the bride, it would be hellish to assemble bouquets, boutonnieres and corsages by yourself the night before the wedding.  Get a group of friends together willing to help.  Be a part of the planning and vision, do what you can in the days before, but don’t plan to do it all.  The night before your wedding, either hand the task off to your friends or have a flower assembly party with your girlfriends.

It also helps to have friends with various skills.  I was very comfortable making the bouquets but terrified of making the corsages and boutonnieres.  Beth and The Professor’s Aunt Patty, on the other hand, were corsage making masters.  Together, we made a great team!

3. Order your flowers in advance if you can.  Whether you have a friend who can order you flowers from a flower market or if you order them from an online wholesaler or club store like Sam’s Club, order the flowers if you can.  Generally they arrive unopened.  This means that you can schedule their arrival for a Thursday or Friday, timing it so they are at their loveliest during the big event.  Flowers from the store are usually at their peak on the day you buy them.

4. Learn as much as you can.  Which flowers will be in season during your event?  Did you know tulips never stop growing after they’re cut, which means they’ll be an inch higher than the bouquet if you assemble 24 hours before the big event.  You can encourage blooms of some flowers by putting them in lukewarm water and discourage further blooming of other flowers by putting them in cold water.  Certain flowers need specific temperatures.  You will need to reinforce some flowers with wire.  Research research research.

Before the wedding weekend came, I spent hours talking to friends, watching YouTube tutorials and reading everything I could about arranging the bouquets, boutonnieres and corsages in general, and working with our selected flowers in specific.

Photo courtesy of BenTakesPhotos

5. Be creative!  Use lots of colors and textures.  Just because you’re doing your own flowers, you don’t have to be limited to bouquets of solid red roses – unless of course you want bouquets of solid red roses.  Play with textures and colors.

Beth chose a bright and beautiful color palette of red and turquoise, so we worked to select red flowers that didn’t look Christmasy. We achieved this by using blue shades of reds, yellow shades of reds and some dark purple-hued flowers.

For her bouquet, we used red anemones, purple dahlias, red ranunculus, red tulips, red intuition roses (red and dark red striped), white freesia, white ranunculus,  black mini calla lilies, cream mini calla lilies and red hypericum berries.  For the bridesmaid’s bouquets, we saved money by using red tulips and red intuition roses.

The boutonnieres and corsages were made from the mini callas, ranunculus and some green leaves.

6.  Order more than you’ll think you need.  We ordered a lot of flowers – eight bunches of tulips, two bunches (eight each) of mini callas, 25 roses, several bunches of ranunculus, two bunches of anemones, one bunch of dahlias, two bunches of freesia and a bunch of greenery.  From those flowers, we made one bridal bouquet, four bridesmaids bouquets, one groom’s boutonniere, four groomsmen’s boutonnieres, and about 10 corsages and boutonnieres for parents, grandparents, the wedding planner, the pastor and various family members.

We used every last flower, including the roses we originally planned to use as rose petals on reception tables.  Plan for some flowers to be too bloomed, others to be broken, and one or two to be eaten by bugs.

7. Mix in a few high-end flowers for a dramatic punch. We used a lot of tulips and roses, which were very affordable.  But it was the mini callas that made the bridal bouquet and corsages and boutonnieres quite stunning.  Splurge a little on a few mini callas or orchids or peonies.

8. Flowers are expensive.  They just are.  Some of the flowers, even getting them at cost, were out of our price range.  Be prepared to spend several hundred dollars.

9. Manage your expectations.  I think Pinterest can be both a blessing and a curse.  Look online for inspiration and ideas, but don’t expect that you will suddenly bloom into a master florist.  On one hand don’t plan on creating a super technical bouquet and on the other, don’t become so paralyzed by fear that you assume you can’t do your own wedding flowers!

10. Have fun! After all, you are getting married!

Photo courtesy of BenTakesPhotos

If you want to learn more about their awesome photographer, check out his Facebook Fan Page!

Sock Monkey Baby Shower

I’m not sure when baby showers became competitions.  All I know is that my friends and I are in it to win it.

We recently threw a shower for my sister-in-law.  She has a few loves: her husband, her boys, God, football, her giant TV (direct quote: “I want to be able to read the player’s tattoos!”), couponing and, of course, monkeys.  She loves monkeys.  If it’s her birthday and you find a monkey card, you’re golden.  It doesn’t even have to be a birthday card – it can be a retirement party or a second birthday card.  If there are monkeys, she’ll love it.

When it came time to throw her shower, we made the theme sock monkeys, polka dots and lots of vintage embellishments.

On Amazon.com, we bought cupcake liners, red and white paper straws, and red and white lollypops.  One of the hostesses made themed pinwheels, which were amazing!  I raided the dollar bin at Target when they featured Paul Frank bins and marker boards, and all the hostesses brought every stuffed monkey we had for decorations.  It takes a village to throw a shower.

First was the invitation – monkeys, white linen paper and Rockwell font.  Have I ever told you how much I love linen card stock?  I love it.  It is classy, it adds a special touch, but more than that, ink just seems to stick to it.

The back of the invitation is red polka dots, and the invitation was complete with craft paper envelope with a red envelope liner.

The food was amazing.  Fruited water and frozen coffee punch in glass bottles with red and white straws.  Fruited water sounds so fancy.  I love it.

The lollypops and the twizzlers were so festive and color coordinated!

We had two kinds of cupcakes: vanilla with strawberry lemon filling and cream cheese frosting and chocolate with espresso buttercream.  Both gluten-free!  I made them, and if you want the recipes, I’ll try to find them, but here’s the reader’s digest version:

Vanilla strawberry cupcakes:  Two boxes of Betty Crocker gluten free cake mix, made in cupcakes per the instructions.  Make really thick strawberry compote with the juice and zest of a lemon – put some corn starch in there to make it good and thick.  Use one of these (which Amber gave me for my birthday) to core the cupcakes and fill with the compote.   Make cream cheese frosting and ice.  Top with a strawberry slice and look like a hero.

Chocolate cupcakes with espresso butter cream: Make chocolate cupcakes.  I used King Arthur Flour Gluten Free Chocolate Cake Mix.  Make buttercream frosting, but add about a tablespoon or so of instant espresso that has been dissolved into a bit of water.  Top with a coffee bean.

If you’re wondering how I got the icing so pretty, I was given one of these as a wedding present.  It’s the love child of a caulking gun and an icing bag, and I love it with my whole heart.

Now you know all my secrets.

Here is the menu we put together:

Tortilla roll-up sandwiches with flavored cream cheese and lunch meat
Chips and homemade salsa (gluten-free)

Cupcakes (gluten-free)
Chocolate-covered pretzel rods
Chocolate-covered pretzels (gluten-free)
Lollipops (mostly for decoration)
Cherry Twizzlers
Fruit rainbow kabobs (gluten-free)

Fruited water
Coffee punch (gluten-free)

When planning a shower where you know there will be people with food allergies, don’t worry about making the entire menu safe.  Your allergy-suffering guests will appreciate if you have at least one savory and one sweet item they can eat.  Always have the safe items labeled and always be extra careful that they are indeed safe.

Happy party guests, bunting flags, cupcakes, polka dots, tortilla roll ups and monkeys.  It’s sort of like heaven.


We held the shower in our church gathering hall, which is about two stories tall.  The balloons gave a lot of decoration bang for the buck and extended the decor higher, which made it feel like it took up more space.

Cupcakes!  We have a lot of gluten-free friends, so gluten-free labeling was a must at the shower.

The table decorations were done in an innovative flurry by the some of the hostesses, who are insanely creative.  Paul Frank bags (from the dollar bin at Target), leftover wrapping paper from the dollar store, shredded paper from the dollar store, homemade pinwheels and monkeys from people’s homes.

I love showers.  It is a time for the community to come together and tangibly bless someone in preparation of big things – babies and weddings and adoptions.  We shower with love and presents and advice.  And monkeys.   Always monkeys.

A big thanks to MacKensie who made the pinwheels and some of the yummy treats.  She also was our official photographer of the day!

Bennett and Ella Kate

One of the best things about having my invitation and design business is getting the opportunity to bless special people and give of my time to help them in little ways.  An opportunity just came up last week.

A few weeks ago, my friend Jamie gave birth to her twins, Bennett and Ella Kate at just 26 weeks.  Jamie was having a perfect pregnancy, and the sudden, emergency C-Section wasn’t even on the radar.

Ella Kate has been a champ.  She is the Rocky Balboa of preemies.  Being at just about 28 weeks gestation, she’s still not out of the woods yet, but she’s doing well all things considering.

Little Bennett has had a rougher time.  He’s been through brain bleeds and abdominal surgeries, and his situation is still very serious.

Jamie and Zach are taking it day by day.  They’re drenched in prayer from people around the world.  They’re clinging to Christ and they’re trusting.

A mutual friend asked me to make these signs to go over their hospital beds to bring a little cheer and color to the hospital room, and to remind Jamie and Zach that with them stands a community in their little hospital room.  I’m sharing them with you all, too, so that you can be some of their pray-ers.

If you’d like, say a big prayer for these little ones.

Ella Kate