Baby Shower on a Budget

My cousin is having a baby and I hosted our family baby shower! It was my first ~real~ non-college hosting situation and it felt like a Big Femme Deal to me so here’s what happened:

We went with Saturday brunch for scheduling reasons. My cousin is having an AMAB (child and naturally my whole family is “so excited for a boy” and that seeped into people’s theme opinions. As a trans nonbinary person who really thinks gender should just die already, I was SO uncomfortable with all the blue things suggested for this shin-dig. The baby’s nursery is Peter Rabbit from Beatrix Potter’s children’s book series, so the baby shower was Peter Rabbit themed too. This was manageable for me. Those “Daddy's____” onesies are not.

Thankfully the parents-to-be requested a mixed-gender baby shower so everyone in the family was there and I didn’t have to navigate being a nb femme at a ‘traditional women’s shower.’ That said, gendered dynamics in Midwestern families, mine included, can be really severe and hosting was a disaster gendered experience in and of itself. But this post is about cute decorations and pulling off a party, so let’s get on with it!

I made a Pinterest and that helped with coordination. I could keep track of ideas I liked, games I wanted to play, and see what had worked well for other people. What’s most important when planning an event is making sure you can bring the theme together—from vision to execution. And my Pinterest board kept me accountable to that goal.

My budget wasn’t very big, in fact it was next to nothing, so I knew I couldn’t have specialized everything. Instead I went with the theme of Peter Rabbit and brought some broad concepts together, highlighting them in cute in personalize ways, in order to pull it off: a Mr. McGregor’s Garden chalk board, watering cans filled with flowers from the garden, nice floral china eatery, and radish cake pops. Sure, I would have wanted to do more given more money, but the shower was absolutely lovely and everyone had a great time. It is possible, ya’ll.

Invitations:

InkedInvites.jpg

My brother works at a print shop so I was lucky to be able to have him make these gorgeous invites for free. They were guests’ first introduction to the party and I felt set the tone nicely. Image: Photo of one of the Peter Rabbit invitations, personal information blacked out. 

Games:

For games I used supplies I already had or printed out sheets that I devised. And the games were the best part! We played: Name the Nursery Rhyme, the Price is Right, and The Tray Game. I went for classic and classy, no fake-poopy diapers, and it was enjoyable all around. I intentionally chose games that are actively facilitated by the host with little side discussion because that is the dialogue flow that my family needs. But think about how you want conversations and food to go during your game time and choose your games appropriately. There’s so many to choose from, you will find some that work for your group dynamics.

Decorations:

Here is where having a tight budget and little time synched me and I would have loved to have more of both, but I still cobbled together a few things. Tricks that helped me immensely included:

· Decorating with things you already own—see the aforementioned watering can, garden flowers, and wooden baskets.

· Turning gifts into decorations. This is the diaper cake idea! My aunt did an incredible twist on this baby shower classic and made a diaper vegetable basket with presents wrapped up as eggplant, potatoes, radishes, tomatoes, and cabbage. It was incredible. 

· Lastly, Etsy. Etsy has so much to offer when it comes to printables and they can be extremely affordable. I especially loved the banner, cupcake toppers, and Beatrix Potter wall prints (all pinned on my board).

Images: Top is of the chalkboard welcome sign greeting guests on the presents table. It reads, "Mr. McGreggor's Garden (no rabbits allowed!) Middle: A display of the gifts table prominently featuring the diaper vegetable basket with all its wrapped produce gifts and a stuffed Peter on top. Bottom: A display of the brunch dessert layout with the Radish Cake Pops and doughnuts from our favorite bakery. 

Food:

My mother was in charge of the menu and did most of the food but I contributed with radish-shaped cake pops so I’ll include that recipe:

Radish Cake Pops—

Since our theme was Peter Rabbit a lot of our motifs related to the garden and I thought these radish cake pops would make the perfect dessert contribution. I got the idea from this pin, but instead of making carrots and bunnies too I just went with the simple radish. Again, simplicity means fewer supplies which means softer on the budget!

I swear every time I embark on making cake pops I think what fun it will be and then halfway through I remember what a nightmare it is. I never have enough candy melt and then I end up desperately rolling crumbling cake pops in the remnants trying to get a full coat but still having cake pieces peak through. So take it from this sad pro and buy more candy melt than you think you could possibly need. Also, get a drying rack for the cake pops. That uniform perfectly-coated pattern for every pop is so worth it!

Those complaints aside, the process of making cake pops is very straightforward:

· Buy your favorite box cake and bake it!

· Let cool for 10 minutes out of the oven, then take a fork and scramble that sucker like an egg.

· Dump your cake into a large mixing bowl, add half a can of frosting of your choice and combine until your cake bits can hold together.

·Put wax paper out on a baking sheet (I even use the same pan I made the cake in for less washing).

· Roll your cake bits into balls—I go for just smaller than a golf ball. Too large and they won’t stay on the stick, too small and they just won’t be worth the bite.

· Melt one batch of candy melts and dip the tips of the cake pop sticks into the melts. When dry, stick the cake pop sticks into the center of your cake balls.

· Pop your tray of sticked cake balls into the fridge for 10 – 30 minutes.

· Take pops out of the fridge, dip them into your melt mixture, ensuring your melts stay deep enough to coat the entire cake pop. Add and melt more candy melt as necessary.

· Put your dipped cake pops onto the drying rack for smooth results. Cheat: if you can’t get a rack, trying using the holes in your colander.

· Voila! Decorate with sprinkles, edible glitter, fondant, frozen chocolate, or whatever your heart desires! I made little radish ‘leaves’ with baker’s chocolate that I piped onto wax paper and then froze.

I trust you to try these out, finesse your technique, and become a cake pop master. Just get enough candy melts and a drying rack and you are well on your hassle-free way.

Images: Beginning and End stages of cake pop assembly!

 And that about covered the party—we had simple decorations around the Beatrix Potter theme, delicious food and even better doughnuts and cake pops for dessert, and my family had a lovely time. The vegetable garden diaper basket was a huge hit and my games were popular even though I was disappointed with how few nursery rhymes were known. I feel my first grown, domestic femme resisting patriarchy but still serving hostess excellence event went well and I look forward to sharing more with you all!

FRU Special Edition: Podcasts!

This week in a very special and welcome-back-to-myself Friday Round Up, I give you A PODCAST ROUNDUP! Here’s what’s on my Podcast Most Played currently, and I want to hear what you’re listening to in the comments!

Fiction

· Limetown: I had started S-Town and couldn’t handle it because I need my crime thrillers to be purely fictional, and Limetown has fit the bill great. The narrator goes around interviewing people who were involved in this wacky experiment/cult society a decade ago who now keep winding up missing or dead. Finished series, episodes are between twenty and thirty minutes long.

·The Black Tapes and Tanis: Both spooky paranormal thrillers made by Pacific Northwest Stories. Follow case-by-case related unexplained phenomena in the Black Tapes and go for a winding occult adventure in Tanis. Alex Raegan, whoever she is, is a vocal genius. Unsure of their current publishing schedule, but both series just returned from hiatus so I know new content is happening again.

·Welcome to Night Vale: You have probably heard of this one but I had to put it on the list because WTNV is the first podcast I ever listened to. I love them and have been listening since their eight episode—which was way before podcasts were even cool!  Join their world the first chance you get, full of lights in radon canyon, sacrificial blood stones, and eternal boyscout troops. All voiced by your friendly radio host, Cecil Baldwin. Episodes published the 1st and 15th of each month at midnight, last roughly thirty minutes.

·Alice Isn’t Dead: Made by the people who make WTNV and voiced by the incredible Jasika Nicole, listen to this series if you like queer love stories, discursive storytelling, and uncovering government conspiracy theories. (Heads up, it is a little gory at times). Published bi-monthly, episodes run about half an hour.

·LeVar Burton Reads: Okay, of course you want to listen to this. It’s Reading Rainbow for adults. Clearly I love listening to stories and the auditory experience of having another world crafted for you right in front of your ears. With a new story each episode, LeVar Burton does this beautifully. I don’t know this for sure, but from what I have observed as a listener, LeVar uploads when he wants and episodes are however long he wants to take to read in length.

Non-Fiction

·Harry Potter and the Sacred Text: Join two Harvard Divinity School students as they tackle religious and spiritual themes in HP, one chapter at a time. An episode a week, usually on Tuesdays , very enjoyable thirty-minute episodes.

· Side Hustle School: A daily podcast highlighting someone who is making money on a side project. As someone who is constantly trying to do multiple hustles I like the community, stories, and inspiration all swept up nicely in this podcast. Daily episodes, 5-10 minutes long.

·The Read: There are probably current event podcasts that talk about news that I care more about, but I love hosts Crissle and Kid Fury so much that I will listen to anything they say. The topic could be butter and I would be invested. Queer, Black, and here to get you, the Read and its listener letters have me in stitches every week. Just break up with him already. Thursdays, 1.5 to two-if-we’re-lucky hours long.

·Buffering the Vampire Slayer: Two of my favorite internet people host a show about my favorite television show. It’s unadulterated greatness. Married duo Kristin N-O-E-L-I-N-E Russo and Jenny Owen-YoungS discuss each episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer spoiler-free. They have solid gender and sexuality analysis and touch on race, class, and other oppressive systems as well. The first to critique the patriarchy, they also know when to have guests on to speak more truth to power. Whether or not you’re watching Buffy for the first or 500th time, it’s a must listen-a-long. 1-ish hour long episodes with an original song at the end, their publishing schedule is up on their Patreon.

+ that's a proper chewable amount! I've linked all the shows' websites so you can go there and learn more about them and the wonderful teams who create them. WTNV is going on a book tour soon with the release of their second novel It Devours! Jenny + Kristin often do live shows so if you live in a major city and like Buffy and queer people, look into that. There are so many more podcasts that I listen to and that I've never even heard of. The podcast world is wide and wild and that is one of the things I love most about it. TELL ME WHAT HAS BEEN IN YOUR EARS THIS AUTUMNAL SEASON!

Being Environmental When You’re Disabled, Broke, + In the Midwest

I recently bought my first car and this a very bittersweet thing for me. On the one hand, it symbolizes a level of maturity and independence I haven’t been able to claim before, on the other hand it has some serious detriments. Not only because of the financing, purchasing, and insurance 3-Rings-Of-Hell that I had to endure, but also because it meant breaking a promise to my younger self that I would never own a car.

Specs for Car Nerds:

Before I go into the heart-and-soul let me give any auto-nerds the specs. It is a 2013 Chevy Spark 4 cylinder 5-gear manual transmission…yes, learning how to drive stick has been a journey. She’s a periwinkle that reminds me of my favorite flower, Forget-Me-Nots.

Balancing my Needs with my Wants:

What I want is for the earth to not suffer at the hands of humanity anymore. Cars equal carbon footprint equals oil production equals the United States’ global imperial presence to get this one resource.  

All of it makes me itch. I just want to live on farm and be self-sustaining. And while I always operate with that on my mind’s horizon, unfortunately right now I need to work and get a paycheck and pay some bills.

Now obviously public transportation and bicycling are the most sustainable forms of getting around when you are able to. Unfortunately, they are also not options for everyone. One of the major reasons I had to leave Boston was because I couldn’t make the T work for me. This was devastating as someone who loves public transportation, has relied on it for most of my life, and strongly believes in the ethics of it. But I was so inexplicably exhausted that building the energy even to get places was too much, let alone doing things once I was there. If I went to meet friends, by the time I arrived I was running low on spoons and desperately just wanted to go home. I was having to take Uber and/or Lyft just to get to work.

That may sound whiny if you’re someone who is not mentally ill or does not experience chronic pain but try to imagine this: You wake up and your entire body is fire. Just like the night before, you feel like you’re going to vomit. You need to be at work in an hour, it takes you forty minutes to coax yourself through the pain, out of bed, and through the motions of getting ready. Even though you are telling yourself to hurry, you have to stop now and then because you’re so dizzy you can’t see or your hip gives out. You’ve now missed the bus that would get you to work on time. And the one that will get you there a little late. Your brain is saying, “you’re worthless for not being able to get to work on time you should do the world a favor and go back to your bed and lose your job and become homeless which is what you deserve.” You’re able to use some coping skills to make a compromise with this brain-voice: You call the Uber.

I looked into having a car in Boston but it financially was impossible and I couldn’t rationalize to myself having a car in a major city.

While being back in the Midwest is saving me a lot of money and doing some good things for my overall sense of stability, it also necessitates a motor vehicle. We are the postindustrial rust belt, after all. My hometown is also the hometown of Oldsmobile. There are people who do it without cars, but since I realized I needed a car even when I had one of the best transit systems, coming home meant it was an absolute must-have. So I had to compromise what I wanted to be able to do with my life to what I needed to do in order to live my life.
 

Here are some crucial points of this compromise:

-It’s not electric or hybrid, but it’s as environmentally friendly as possible for my price point.
-That meant sacrificing safety for a smaller size. My paternal grandmother died in a car accident and my dad is so adamant about driving a larger car because he feels it will keep my brother and I safe, so he was disappointed in this choice. At the end of the day though, this sacrifice feels worth it to me so I will need to rely on my reaction time and driving experience to keep me safe.
-It is a stick shift. Conceptually I know a lot about manual cars, in practice I know nothing. I stalled my car six time in the driveway before I took it out on the road.
-The interior is pretty beat up, the former owner(s) definitely had a dog.

Here's me with Baby Blue: 

Financial Stuff:

This part might be boring but growing up broke means that I did not have a ton of access to financial literacy and sharing money savvy when I have gained the knowledge is extremely important to me. I have learned almost everything I know about money from blogs, other lower-income students in college, and trial-and-error.

As much as I fuck with poor people, oftentimes basic financial knowledge is something we lack. (There are deliberate and systemic reasons for this.) And so much financial advice is geared towards income-secure people it’s ridiculous. Like don’t talk to me about the importance of a 401K when my priority needs to be feeding myself and my family. They don’t even consider our realities when writing this shit, I swear. So it’s essential to me to share strategies for poor people where I can. Here are some things I learned in the aforementioned Financing Hell:

· If you can pay a higher monthly car payment, do it. Having the lower one for 60 or 78 terms is typically bad in the long run. Because you’ll be paying such a high interest and for so long, you end up paying way more than your car is worth. You risk totaling it and owing more on your car than insurance will give you for it. Go with the shortest loan term you possibly can. And if you absolutely need a longer one, get a loan where there is no early-payoff penalty and try to pay a little above the payment amount each month. This money will go directly towards principal so you can pay it off faster but still have the cushion of the lower payment for months where you can just scrap that.

· Do not buy a new car. Just don’t. Yes, you’re worth it. But something used will get you there just the same and still let you count your blessings.

· Don’t be afraid of craigslist cars, but absolutely know what you’re doing (or bring someone who does). Negotiation is really key here so you need to know more than the person you’re talking to. And take it to a mechanic—doesn’t have to be a real one, but at least get it to one of your friends or you’re cousin’s uncle or that one old teacher who knows something about cars. We all have one of those in our networks.

· I couldn’t get approved for an auto loan from my credit union because I didn’t have a co-signer. If you’re like me and have parents who can’t co-sign for you, securing financing might be hard. The usual advice for this is to save until you can afford a car but that’s not always how it goes. Things to explore if you’re in a financing pinch and need a loan fast: getting a loan from your credit card company and/or saving part of the amount and getting the rest in a personal loan.

· What I ended up doing was getting financing from my credit card company on an auto loan. This comes with a significantly high interest rate and some restrictions. I’m talking 9%--my credit union if I had a cosigner would have given it to me for 3.99%. And they say Millenials make this bull up. So what I’m going to do now is go back to my bank and try to convince them to buy my loan off of me and let me repay them at the lower interest rate. Fingers and toes double crossed, pray for me.

Was this helpful? Do you have any new expensive joys in your life? My chronic ill family, how do you deal with the guilt of not being able to live up to your own inner standards?

 

 

FRU: 8.26.17

Saturday Round Up? I give up.

Welcome to Friday Roundup, where I share relevant things that came across my Internet during the past week, with you, my deserving and glorious readers. This series is inspired by Autostraddle's "Saw This, Thought of You" segment that is very worth reading too.

There's no theme or organization this week, I'm all over the place. Enjoy all these links.

  • I discovered bunny herbalism this week and I am in love.
  • Okay so in my younger years I went through a big ICP phase and I am living for this Juggalos fight Nazis discourse. To quote my friend Alli, who said it best, “The Juggalxs will throw the first Molotov of the revolution, and it’ll actually just be kerosene and Faygo.”
  • I keep reading Bustle lists of “20-Odd ___ With Cult Followings On Amazon.” My favorites are the ones with weird grooming products that are clearly targeted towards people with dermatillomania. Call me a Bustle lists cult follower.
  • FALL IS COMING.
  • Here’s an academic piece on collaborative environmental governance I’ve been trying to get myself to read for two weeks. Maybe we can read it together.
  • Today in How to Adult I had to Google how to void a check. You literally just write void on it. But in case you don’t believe me, here’s a guide.
  • Lastly, I knew it was good, but I had no idea how good Bentonite Clay is for your body, your home, and your pets!

OOTD 8.21.17

I recently moved to the countryside with literal corn fields and soybean crop in my backyard. This has inspired some intense pastoral pretty aesthetic shenanigans. So naturally I thought I would share my  historic eclipse outfit. As you can see by my face, all this fresh air out here has me absolutely feeling myself. Unfortunately I didn't good any good shots of the eclipse, but I will enjoy the memories of creating a pinhole projector and seeing its slivered glory dance through the leaves. I hope everyone protected their eyes and enjoyed their moon worship as much as I did. <3xx

Wearing: 

Ecco hiking boots, gifted.
Mustard socks, Primark $8
Light denim Massini dress, gifted
No makeup. Hair freshly washed, air dried, with Carol's Daughter hair milk for texture.

All images mine, not for sharing or reproduction without photographer permission.