Holiday Cards on a Budget

I love getting mail any day, but I especially love getting holiday cards in the mail this time of year. My family never did it while I was growing up, so when Nathaniel and I moved in together, I decided to make it a tradition. The first few years we didn’t have that many people on our list, so I ordered them online. I could justify the price because we were only getting a few dozen cards.

2017 - Photo of us by Maddie Camilli. Photo of my fur babies just by me. I’m so glad I got this picture of them, as little Munch is no longer with us.

But as the years went by, our list got big. Especially after we got married. Last year we sent out 136. No joke! On average, the beautiful cards I see online tend to be a couple dollars a piece (with options for foil and borders which can drive it up, but they do usually include an envelope, which is great). But with a mortgage, a recent kitchen remodel, and trying to save money to do fun things, I just can’t justify spending $260+ dollars on cards. And that’s not even including postage.

2013 - Taken with a self timer. Can you find the hidden bunny?

I’ve also never splurged for a professional photographer. My sister, Maddie Camilli, is an amazing photographer, so I haven’t felt the need. I typically pay her back with a meal or baked goods. We’ve also just set up a tripod, and we’ve even just used fun photos from throughout the year before. Honestly my favorite was from 2016. We went on our belated honeymoon and I chose selfies from each country we visited in Europe and then put “Merry Christmas” in the native languages by each photo. No professional photos at all, and most of the pictures we chose were taken with our GoPro! I LOVE that thing.

If you don’t care much about text, you could always just do a photo, but I usually embellish at least a little. I use Photoshop, but if you don’t have access to that, you could probably use a word processor, or a free online photo editor. I like to find cute fonts (dafont.com has a ton of free ones), and sometimes I do Google image searches for free clipart, like holly leaves, stars, lights, menorahs, whatever! A tip, though, leave a little wiggle room at the edges - I’ve had text and snowflakes cut off because I put them too close to the edge and the printing process isn’t 100% perfect.

2014 - Combo of self-timer and adorable pet pics from the year

We (well, I) have found a good “hack” if you will these past few years. Rather than getting professional cards done, I design my own and get them printed as 4x6 photos. I’ve been going through Walgreens the past couple years because they have the lowest price I’ve found, and I can usually pick them up the same day I order them. So not only do I save on the cards themselves, but I don’t have to pay shipping! And last year I happened to order while they were having a sale for 10¢ prints, which meant I paid $14 + tax for the photos! I always order a couple extra just in case. Plus I want to keep one for myself!

I’ve toyed with the idea of getting our cards printed on card stock and sending them as post cards, but so far I have always decided to send them in envelopes instead. I figure they’re a bit more protected that way. I like to just get envelopes (size A6 for photos) at Staples, because we have one locally. This year I just walked in and bought three boxes of 50 white envelopes for $9 a box (plus tax). The downside is that you can’t get the exact number you need, but I’ve just used extras for other mail throughout the year, or used them the next year, sometimes mixing and matching colors of envelopes.

2015 - Photo: Maddie Camilli. Also, fun fact, it’s hard to get this doofy dog to pose normally. We had a lot of funny outtakes 😂 And do you spy the hidden bunny?

Honestly, the biggest expenditure is the stamp. I bought 140 forever stamps and one international stamp, which cost $69.75, but usually this time of year, you can choose a cute design, and if you have to buy a few extras, well, that’s not a bad thing to have lying around the house.

I usually hand-write addresses. I’ve printed out labels before, but because I do it so infrequently, I always forget the process and it seems to take just as much time researching the best way and formatting everything as it does to just write them out. I knocked all ours out in a couple hours. Just queue up a Christmas movie on Netflix and you’ll be fine. When we moved into our house I had a stamp made with our address, so that’s saved me some time these past couple years, but writing that out isn’t so bad either.

So last year all in all I spent:

  • Walgreens: $15.24 (11¢ a picture)

  • Staples: $27.72 (19¢ an envelope)

  • USPS: $69.75 (49¢ a stamp)

That’s a grand total of $112.71, INCLUDING tax and postage. If you break it down by card, that’s just 79¢ each, with a few extra envelopes, cards and stamps just in case. I’d say that’s a win. Another big benefit for me is that I didn’t have to wait to get anything shipped, which is super convenient! And if you don’t have a crazy long list like we do, you’ll save even more ;)

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy New Year… Whatever you celebrate (or don’t), I hope you are well and get to enjoy some special time with the people you love!

2016 - Featuring selfies of our belated honeymoon, mostly taken with our GoPro, plus candids of the fur babies. This is by far my favorite card I’ve designed!!

PS: I actually applied this method to our wedding party invitations and thank you cards, too! Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE cards and if money were no object, I might go with some of those beautiful professionally designed cards for invitations and holiday cards. Especially those ones with foil accents… but at this point in our lives, it just doesn’t make sense to splurge on that.

A Classy Ragdoll Dress

The back cutout detail is my favorite! 😍

I love dressing up. Both in fancy things and in costume-y things. But I also know that realistically I don’t need a closet full of Disney costumes (unfortunately), so I try to find ways to combine my nerdiness with my need for functional clothing, and my latest attempt is a knit version of the Belladone Dress by Deer and Doe. It’s funny the way I get ideas, too. This was spurred by the fact that Facebook advertized some cute Sally (from Nightmare Before Christmas) leggings, but they were only available in kids sizes! Thanks a lot, Facebook. 

Anyway, it sent me down a little bit of a rabbit hole, in which I contemplated if I would really wear those leggings enough to search and search, or if I’d rather make something. The answer is almost always making something. And again, Spoonflower to the rescue! They had some beautiful fabric called “ragdoll scraps” which would work perfectly. They had a small and large version, and I went with the larger one. I also have had the Belladone pattern laying around for over a year, and I love the back cutout detail, so I decided to go in that direction. While it might not be an everyday dress with the fabric I picked, it would definitely be more than just a Halloween or Comic Con outfit.

Choosing the fabric type was a bit trickier. With the sampler pack I got from Spoonflower, I was looking for something sturdy, comfortable, and not too thin. I also wanted something with a bit of drape, because I like to twirl. Even though the pattern calls for woven fabrics, I decided to go with the Organic Cotton Knit. It’s not crazy stretchy like jersey, and it’s thicker, too. If I got lucky, maybe I wouldn’t even need a zipper! Will I ever do a pattern exactly how the instructions tell me to? We may never know 😉

I got to cutting, and (just like the other Deer and Doe patterns I’ve done), the instructions were well made, and the dress started to come together well. The darts were a little funny since I used stretchy fabric and a zig zag stitch, but I’m probably the only one who will notice that.

This pattern was the first time I ever did this type of armhole and neckline binding with bias tape. I got thin double fold black bias tape, but I think I probably could have just done single fold. It would be slightly less bulky, but I’m actually quite pleased with how these turned out, especially for my first try!

At a certain point, you get to where you can kind of put the dress on like an apron, and when I did that I noticed it was BIG! But it’s probably because the fabric I used has stretch, but the pattern calls for woven, non-stretchy fabric. So, wearing the dress like an apron, I grabbed the fabric behind my back and figured out how much extra there was. I pinned the dress back right sides together, and sewed a seam about 1.5 inches from the edge of the fabric. I went down only as far as below the waistband (in case I didn’t like it), and pulled it over my head. It fit great! And without a zipper! Woohoo! I then finished the back seam, tapering out to the edge of the fabric to keep the skirt nice and full.

The hem is not your standard hem - it uses a facing. I don’t really know why you’d choose one over the other (maybe a decorative touch?), but I liked the method, and it seems to give the skirt a bit more body? I don’t know. It looks good, though. A normal hem would probably work in a pinch, though. I also decided to do a top stitch, rather than an invisible stitch, to finish the facing/hem. Because Sally’s dress is made of scraps, and she is literally all sewn together, I figured a black visible seam would compliment the outfit nicely.

I decided to finish the outfit with a bow headband - Sally has red hair and I had some leftover burgundy velvet from another project that would be a fun accent.

 Photo by  Maddie Camilli

Put it with some burgundy boots and you’ve got a dapper Sally costume!

signature long.png







Santa Fe Weekend

The Turquoise Trail through Madrid

Sometimes you just need to get away. Not that my life is really all that stressful, but it’s nice to do things that aren’t your ordinary, to spice things up a little (I’m so punny…. because red chile).

Nathaniel and I went to Santa Fe for three nights and didn’t worry about anything. We had no schedule, didn’t hurry to do anything, and had a great time. If you’re looking for a few recommendations, take a peek☺️

Wandering in Madrid, NM, wearing the culottes I made recently! I made it a point to pack several handmade items - and I got compliments on all of them!

We started by spending a night in Albuquerque with my uncle and visiting with him for a few hours before heading to Santa Fe. We decided to take Highway 14, the Turquoise Trail, rather than the interstate. It took maybe 40 minutes longer, but was a much prettier drive. We went through an old town called Madrid, which has a lot of cute shops and galleries along its main street (which is Highway 14). We were hoping it would be a bit less expensive than Santa Fe for art/jewelry, but was actually quite comparable. One fun place to visit, though, is Shugarman’s Little Chocolate Shop. They’ve got a ton of delicious chocolate with unique flavors, and you can sample everything! They charge by weight so you can get as much or as little as you want. We got dark chocolate with pecans, maple and sea salt, and we got a red chile turtle. I highly recommend stopping here.

Now we all know Santa Fe is full of art and culture, but a weirder, newer thing to do is Meow Wolf! This is an immersive art experience, and currently there is a bit of a mystery to solve, too, if you’re so inclined. We tried our best to solve the mystery, but got sidetracked with all the other crazy stuff. It’s difficult to describe what this place truly is, but it’s a bit like Alice in Wonderland because of the psychedelic feel. Here are a few pictures, but really, the don’t do it justice. Being in there and touching and interacting with the art is worth visiting.

I also recommend wandering through the churches near the plaza. We went to Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, and there was actually a wedding finishing up as we were approaching and the bells were going crazy! It was great! We got to wander in, and the light was perfect so that the stained glass was making beautiful shadows on the floor. Definitely go to the Loretto Chapel. There is a huge spiral staircase that doesn’t really have any conventional, modern supports. I’m sure an engineer could explain how it stands, but it’s more fun to say it’s a miracle, I guess. Either way it’s gorgeous. I wish we were allowed to stand on it, but instead I settled for a picture of me beside it. 

We did plenty of walking while on our little trip, but I decided to go for a couple short runs. I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately because I was sick for half of September, then I broke my tailbone in early October. My first run since that injury was along Alameda in Santa Fe, and it was pain-free! Woohoo! This street was nice because it had a big sidewalk and was not too busy. I think there might also be a creek that sometimes runs along that road, but it was dry while we were in town.

He’s checking his fantasy football

If you’re looking to grab a drink, the Santa Fe Brewing Company is just a few miles from the plaza/downtown area, and has some silly names for it’s beers, like the State Pen Porter, because it’s pretty close to a prison.

Double fisting like a champ

Otherwise, if you’re looking to grab a beer, go to the Draft Station. They have lots of local beer on tap, and they have a rooftop patio that overlooks the plaza. You can watch the locals circle around the square in their cars. Apparently cruising around town with no real destination is a thing in Santa Fe. 

Osso Bucco at Coyote Cafe

We stayed at the Hotel St. Francis (not cheap, but also not CRAZY expensive - plus AirBNB split our payments up so it made it easier to pay), and they have a little bar called Secreto Lounge. While very dark, they have very interesting cocktails. I got a pineapple drink with hints of cinnamon and cardamom, and Nathaniel got a smoked sage margarita. Another night, we also hit the Coyote Cantina for drinks before dinner downstairs at the Coyote Cafe. The Cantina is MUCH more affordable than the restaurant, but the drinks didn’t wow us as much as Secreto.

We splurged the first night and went to the Coyote Cafe. We split a bottle of Garnacha wine, and the food was incredible. I had the Osso Bucco, and would get it again in a heartbeat.

We also went to El Farol, which is on the same street as a lot of the galleries near the plaza. The paella and Spanish inspired tapas were delicious, but what really stole the show for us was the Chicharones! Perfectly fried pork belly that puts everything else I’ve ever eaten in my life to shame. Ok, I’m exaggerating, but have you ever had this? You have to try it. For dessert we had chocolate olive oil cake with peanut butter honeycomb. This was a winner, too. That whole dinner was great. There was even a live jazz trio!

When we go to Santa Fe, we always try to hit Cafe Pasquale’s for brunch. We really like their red chile, and their brunch is quite fun! Be warned that you could wait a LONG time to get a table, especially on a weekend. We also love going to Maria’s. Their blue corn enchiladas and red chile are delicious. They also have an extensive margarita menu. While only about a mile from downtown, we decided to Lyft to and from Maria’s.

He was making silly faces in all the pictures I took at the French Pastry Shop - this was the best there was!

We tried a couple new restaurants thanks to recommendations from my sister. For breakfast one morning, we had savory crepes from the French Pastry Shop. This place was cute and we didn’t have to wait! Though, I kind of wish we’d had more red chile to smother the crepe in 😉 We also went to The Shed. Practically every dish comes with posole and garlic bread. I’d definitely go back.

If you’re looking for coffee, check out Iconik. It’s also a book store, so you won’t be bored while they’re preparing your drink. And try the Horchata Latte! It was delicious!

Another great place to try some coffee is Ecco, plus they also have some really interesting flavors of gelato! I tried Earl Grey, Oreo creme and avocado. Plus, if you go here, you can get an affogato, coffee AND ice cream together. I got chocolate and peppermint gelato in mine 😋

Showing off my turquoise bling

As far as shopping goes, it’s easy to spend a pretty penny in Santa Fe. There is no shortage of art or jewelry, plus a lot of the work is done by local artists. I suggest just shopping around, wandering slowly. If something catches your eye, you can try it on - just don’t be shocked if it costs more than you’re willing to spend. I found a gorgeous opal ring, only to realize it was about six times as expensive as I was ready to spend. Definitely check out the blankets at the Palace of the Governors, and go back each day you can. You’ll see different people every day. I’m so glad we stopped by our last morning there, because I had been wanting a bracelet, but everything was too expensive and not quite right. On the last day, a new artist was there, and his bracelets were EXACTLY what I was looking for, and they were a reasonable price. I also got a pair of turquoise stud earrings, that are rough and asymmetrical. They’re very simple, and they’re beautiful because the rocks are beautiful.

We drove back on 285 and got to see some gorgeous leaves!

A few other fun shops we hit were the Christmas Shop (we like to get ornaments from each place we visit), the Chile Shop near our hotel (because we wanted a ristra for our front door), and Señor Murphy Candymaker under La Fonda because Nathaniel NEEDED piñon candy. We also hit Jackalope which is a couple miles from downtown. They’ve got lots of pots, blankets, rugs, jewelry and other art. There were even glass blowers making things while we were shopping!

This is the longest we’ve ever been to Santa Fe. Usually we’re just passing through for one night tops, so it was nice to have a few days and be able to experience more things at a leisurely pace. 

The plaza at night 😍

signature long.png

Luna Lovegood Shorts (Fending off Wrackspurts in Style)

One of the best things about sewing is being able to create something nerdy, useful, and unique - and who embodies that as much as Luna Lovegood? I kept seeing a Luna circle skirt (because I follow wonderfully creative people on social media), but (A) I knew I could make a circle skirt, and (B) I already have a LOT of skirts. I also discovered that the actual skirt worn in the movie was purchased at H&M, so I figured I'd steer away from trying to make a perfect replica.

Enter the Chataigne shorts by Deer and Doe. I felt these had just enough whimsy, but were still a garment I could wear around. Finding this fabric was the hardest part, but Spoonflower ended up having a great option. I went with the Cypress Cotton Canvas, which I think will soften up nicely after a few washes. I ordered a sample pack from Spoonflower (only $3 - SO worth it!) so I could feel each option. The sample is not as stiff as the printed fabric I ordered, but I’d imagine that’s because the printing is fresh. Even after the pre-wash I did, I noticed a difference, and I’m excited to see how these shorts break in as I wear them. I found this canvas very easy to sew with, too. The pleats hold very nicely with the texture. I also chose the fabric because it felt like it would be more resistant to wrinkling than some of my other options.

That SUPER high waist - featuring Rosco, the photobomber

The Chataigne shorts come with two versions, and I went with the high-waisted, scalloped-hem version. Be warned, though - the high-waist is NO JOKE. Maybe I just have a small torso, but these go up to my ribcage! I found the instructions easy to follow, and I think this pattern is very approachable. The hardest part was being patient during that scalloped hem (which I have done before, but enjoyed the fact that this pattern had the scallops already traced out for me).

I started out by tracing the pattern pieces onto Pellon 830 tracing fabric - I love this method! Since I’m not cutting up the original pattern, I can make different sizes or alterations later. Once I’ve cut out the fabric pieces, I still like to keep the traced pattern pieces with them. Often I find that some pieces are verrrry similar to one another (especially in these waistband pieces!), and keeping them with the tracing piece helps keep me more organized. Another thing I recently discovered is that, while not as perfect as a serger, overlock stitches work great to finish edges and make the garment look a little more professional from the inside.

The Chataigne shorts have decorative pocket flaps, but I decided to go with actual back pockets! I made some Safran pants (another Deer and Doe pattern) a little over a year ago, so I just grabbed the pocket piece from that pattern and lined up the top of the pocket with where the flap was supposed to go. I could have also put the flaps on, but I decided that, especially with the thickness and stiffness of the canvas I was using, I didn’t want the extra bulk there. I also didn’t worry about matching the fabric, since it’s so busy anyway.

Stitching in the ditch

When attaching the waistband lining, I got to practice a technique I hadn’t don’t much before - stitching in the ditch! It’s exactly as it sounds: you hide a seam by putting the stitch in a “ditch" already created by another seam. Because my fabric was black, my thread was black, and the fabric is so bulky, this was a good (forgiving) project to practice with. 

I also decided not to worry about how hidden the invisible zip was for this piece. I was still having horrible flashbacks to the Tania Culotte zipper disasters from last month, so I decided that since the fabric was black and the zipper was black, and I wanted to be able to zip myself in and out of the shorts easily, I’d just insert it without worrying too much. If anyone is looking closely enough to criticize my zipper insertion, they need to sort out their priorities. (Also, another great thing about making things for yourself rather than others, is that if something is imperfect, you get to decide how much you care). In hindsight, I probably didn’t need to interface the waistband at all, either, since the canvas has so much structure to it. But live and learn, I guess!

I finished the outfit with some radish earrings from my friend graciemakesthings, my Alex and Ani Platform 9 ¾ bangle, some Converse sneakers, an owl necklace, and, of course, some Spectrespecs. Plus a special shoutout to hubs who takes my picture anytime I ask him to, even if I’m wearing weird glasses 🤓

signature long.png