Monday, February 12, 2024

Valentine's Day on a Budget

Valentine’s Day is embraced by some and hated by others.  Into which camp do you fall? Often criticized as being manufactured and overly commercialized, many of the “haters” complain that they feel forced to spend money or that the money they spend can been seen as a reflection of how much they love their partner.  It doesn’t have to be that way! Here are some ways that you can honor those that you love on February 14th without breaking the bank.   By focusing on meaningful gestures and quality time, you can create a memorable and love-filled day. Let's explore some creative and budget-friendly ideas to celebrate Valentine's Day. 

Love Notes and Letters

Words have the power to convey immense love and emotions. Instead of purchasing expensive cards, opt for DIY, at-home versions using materials that you have on hand. Creating handwritten love notes or heartfelt letters will be SO well received.  Here are some tips when writing to your loved one. 

  • Start with a heartfelt greeting using their name or nickname 
  • Express your love and appreciation sincerely and specifically
  • Recall special moments that hold significance for both of you
  • Be genuine and avoid clichés, using descriptive language to express your feelings
  • Share dreams for the future as individuals and as a couple 
  • Consider adding poetic language, songs, or meaningful quotes if it resonates with your emotions 
  • Always handwrite the note (don’t type) to keep things personal 
  •  End with a loving closing like "Yours forever" or "With all my love"
  •  Proofread and revise if needed 

At More Than Paper, we love writing notes to loved ones on personalized stationery or letterhead. They make a treasured note even more sentimental. These are a great option (Classic Letterpress Correspondence Cards Letterpress Card Stationery/Thank You Notes) because you can use them for a variety of occasions. 

Stationery/Thank You Notes by Rytex - Classic Letterpress Correspondence Cards

 

Dinner at home 

Cliché… but awesome. What about a home-cooked candlelight dinner?

Prepare a dinner at home without the need for an expensive restaurant reservation and go all out.  Cook your partner's favorite meal or try out a new recipe together. Set the mood with candles, soft music, and a beautifully decorated table. If it sounds cliché, that’s because it is.  Seriously, when was the last time you tried it?  Here are some ideas of things to cook. 

 

  • ·      Italian Pasta Night: Make homemade or high-quality store-bought pasta with a flavorful sauce. Serve with salad and garlic bread.
  • ·    Seafood Feast: Prepare grilled salmon, garlic butter shrimp, or seafood paella. Enjoy with a white wine or champagne.
  • ·      Fondue Fun: Have a cheese fondue with bread, veggies, and fruits. For dessert, try a chocolate fondue with strawberries and cake.
  • ·      Sushi Night: Make your own sushi rolls with fresh fish, rice, and toppings. Grab a sushi takeout menu and explore the offerings, then copy down some ideas to create some unique rolls. 
  • ·      French Cuisine: Cook dishes like Coq au Vin, Ratatouille, or Beef Bourguignon that feel luxurious and out of the ordinary. Serve with a baguette and mashed potatoes for a comforting treat. 
  • ·      Decadent Dessert: OK, so not everyone has time or likes to cook. So consider ordering in your favorite meal but make a delicious homemade dessert. One of our favorites is a Gluten Free Chocolate Molten Lava Cake. So easy to make and yummy! We like to serve ours with powdered sugar and slice strawberries!  See recipe below.


Movie Night 

Along those lines, what about a movie night -- but amped up a little for your Valentine? 

Transform your living room into a cozy movie theater. Snuggle up on the couch with blankets, popcorn, and your favorite snacks and choose romantic comedies that everyone is sure to love. Enjoy the films together, share laughter, and create a memorable movie night experience.

There are many romantic comedy movies that have been released over the years.  We love Pretty WomanWhen Harry Met SallyThe Proposal10 Things I Hate About YouNotting HillThe Notebook & Bridget Jones's Diary


DIY… 

Create personalized love coupons that offer your partner special treats or acts of kindness. These can include a massage, breakfast in bed, a day off from chores, or even a romantic date night of their choice. Let your partner redeem these coupons throughout the year, extending the celebration of love beyond Valentine's Day.

 

Consider a scrapbook filled with memories or a memory jar.  Create a glass jar that you can drop in mementos of different trips, dinners, or activities that you do together.  The time and effort invested in creating these gifts make them truly meaningful and special.  See… it really doesn’t have to cost a lot to show someone that you love them! 


Unique Ideas 

Get outside with your Valentine!  Go for a hike, explore a local park, or visit a nearby beach. Breathe in the fresh air and connect with each other outdoors.  It’s a great way to feel grounded.  Finding a local charity or community organization to offer your time and skills can be another unique way to feel connected and spread love.  Sharing the experience of giving back to the community can deepen your bond and create a sense of fulfillment and happiness.

 

Valentine's Day is a perfect occasion to celebrate love and affection, and it doesn't have to come with a hefty price tag. By embracing creativity, thoughtfulness, and quality time, you can create a memorable and meaningful celebration without spending money. Remember, it's the love and effort you put into the day that truly matters. Embrace these budget-friendly ideas and make your Valentine's Day a cherished and heartfelt experience.  Above all, embrace the tradition of writing to your Valentine and write a heartfelt note following our tips. 

 

Share your budget friendly Valentine’s Day ideas on our Facebook page or comment here on our blog! 

 

 

 

Gluten-Free Chocolate Molten Lava Cake


 

Ingredients & Supplies
8 ounces of semisweet chocolate (1.5 cups chocolate chips)
1/4 lb butter (1 stick)

4 eggs

4 T brown sugar

2 t vanilla

1 T cocoa powder

1/8 t salt

white sugar (to coat dishes)

4  six-ounce ramekin or creme brulee dishes (small glass pyrex dessert dishes work great!)

 

Directions

1.      Prepare the ramekins by covering the insides with a thin film of butter, then add enough white sugar to coat the film of butter.  Remove excess sugar.

2.     Melt the chocolate and butter together either in a double boiler or in the microwave.  If using a microwave, heat in 30 second increments and stir well in between.  

3.     Whisk together all of the other ingredients in a separate bowl.  

4.     Pour the melted chocolate and butter into the mixture and whisk together.  The batter will thicken as you whisk it together.  Fill the ramekins 3/4 full, leaving enough room for the cake to rise.  Because the dessert is served straight out of the oven, refrigerate until just before you need them.

5.     Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and put ramekins on a cookie sheet or tray to bake.  You will want to under bake them so that the center stays soft.  If you've refrigerated them beforehand, it will take a little longer, about 15-20 minutes.  If you are baking them right away, 10 to 15 minutes.  TIP: If you refrigerated them, take them out at the beginning of the meal so that they can come closer to room temperature by the time you are ready to bake them.

6.     Check them every 5 minutes or so (and more often near the end) as you don't want to overcook them because then the center isn't soft and runny.

7.     To serve, gently place a plate upside down on the top of the ramekin and then flip over gently removing the ramekin.  Dust with powdered sugar and serve with cut strawberries and/or vanilla ice cream.

 

 

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Laundry Tips and Tricks

Most people think that laundry really stinks.  It doesn’t have to consume you though or be a chore that takes hours out of your day. We have a few tips to help laundry run smoother in your household. Give them a try! 

 

Create a Laundry Haven 

There is a trend in home decorating to create beautiful laundry spaces.  We’ve seen some laundry rooms on Pinterest with trendy artwork, elaborate tile, extensive shelving, designer wallpaper, and other designer touches that would make anyone want to become a laundry maven.  Though that might not be realistic, invest in a few things that you can add to your laundry space to make it cozier or more inviting. Think framed photos, canisters to store your detergents, baskets that make storage more inviting, or a cheery coat of paint.  We spotted this one on Pinterest.... 


ID# 103906 | Houzz.com – Credit | © K and Q Interiors

 

Increase Frequency 

How often you do laundry will depend on how many members are in your household and how often they change.  For children in sports and after-school activities requiring uniforms or a change of clothes, the laundry can really pile up quickly. Your key to success is staying on top of your laundry! Don’t wait until you have many loads to do. In our family of six people, we keep 2 laundry baskets on the floor in the laundry room. One is for lights and the other is for darks.  Our daughter uses this laundry bin in her room (and it seems to fill up quickly!) 


Hot Pink Trimmed Canvas Laundry Hampers by CB Station


It’s stylish and functional! We do at least one load per day, usually two, turning the washer / dryer on in the evening and folding in the morning. Sheets and towels are done separately and once per week. We don’t recommend waiting! Once the first basket is filled, put a load in.   Others who have less children may choose to do laundry on certain days of the week. 


Stock Up on Detergent 

There is no shortage of options when it comes to detergent. We use Tide Pods, Oxi Clean, and Downy Unstoppable Scent Boosters.  The Tide Pods do the job of cleaning the clothes, Oxi Clean is great for stains and to keep clothes looking fresh, and the scent boosters make your clothes smell amazing. Other things we can recommend:  

 

-       True Earth Reusable Wool Dryer Balls – these balls go in the dryer with the wet clothes and they shorten the drying time and soften clothes naturally without chemicals. 

-       Lysol Laundry Sanitizer – this works great on sports clothing (think hockey and football gear!) to remove odors. Also, it can be used as a disinfectant. To do so, pour 2 capfuls into 1 gallon of cold water and soak items for 15 minutes. Rinse thoroughly with clean water or machine wash as directed.  This is great for bed sheets during and especially after anyone in your household gets sick. 

-       The Laundress Cashmere & Wool solution for handwashing is great if you don’t want to get to the drycleaners but you need a refresh.   We also recommend their delicate wash for bras and other undergarments that should be air dried. 

-       Fels-Naptha bar – this bar is great for getting out the dirt stains especially in baseball pants!

 

Labeling 

Labeling clothes is especially important if you have a large family like ours. If your kids are in sports, school, after-school activities, or attend camp, investing in these will surely pay off in the long run. We cannot tell you how many sweatshirts and outer layers have been resurrected from lost-and-found and how much money we’ve saved overall by labeling our clothes.  Here are our labeling recommendations: 

 

-       A clothing marker stamp – This personalized clothing stamp is great for labeling socks and underwear, or things that are white. You can stamp directly on the fabric and the ink will usually outlast the garment. 

-       Peel & Stick Clothing Labels – These stick-on labels are super durable when placed on tags of clothing. (Wait 24 hours before washing to adhere properly and do not adhere to the clothing, just the tag.)  As a bonus, they can be used on all sorts of things like toiletries, electronics, toys, and anything that needs labeling. They come in sheets of 30 and there are a variety of styles. 


Laundry Safe Clothing Labels by Camp Stuff (Solid White)


Folding 

Satisfying for some, annoying for others – folding the laundry is sometimes what takes the longest. Have you ever tried a laundry folding board to assist with the folding of your pants, shirts, sweatshirts, and other garments? Check this one out! They are abundantly available on Amazon and we highly recommend giving it a try.  Items stack up neat and tidy and are a game changer in closets! 

 

Put Away 

We’re guilty of leaving folded, clean clothes in baskets for days! Weeks? A long time! 


Assign the chore to children in the household who can be “the laundry assistant” and be responsible for delivering piles of laundry where they belong.  Ask everyone to put away their laundry each day.  If done daily, this never becomes overwhelming, and you truly always have clean clothes. 

 

Here are some interesting online laundry hacks…. 

-       Store your dryer lint in an empty tissue box. When it gets full, compost it! 

-       Use shaving cream as a spot remover on the go 

-       Lift sticky stains with ice cubes

-       Use vinegar and soak gym clothes for 30 minutes before washing to remove really tough odor

 

What are some of your favorite laundry hacks? Share them on our Facebook page or in comments below.  

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Little Luxuries

It’s the little things in life, isn’t that what they say? When it comes to home decorating, we find that can also ring true. Thoughtful, interesting details can really make a difference.  Crown molding, wallpaper, a well-designed faucet, an upgraded sconce – small touches give your home big character.  At More Than Paper, we have some home items that fall within the “extra” category and they are little details that go a long way.  They are small items that enhance your home and make a great impression for your guests.  Here’s a roundup of our favorite little things, plus a few things that you can do to make your guest bathroom or bedroom extra luxurious.  

 

Luxurious-Touches for guest rooms 

·      Have it well stocked!  In a guest bathroom for your overnight guests, provide a small basket of toiletries and needed items that may have been forgotten.  A phone charger, a new toothbrush, toothpaste, pain reliever medication, antacids, feminine products, and air-freshener are must-haves. 

·      In addition to the necessities, include items like a face mask, bath bombs, or ultra-rich moisturizer that has a spa-like feel. Make your guests feel like they are on vacation or at a retreat!  

·      You may even want to include mini-protein bars or small chocolates for any snack attacks. 

·      Include a few different types of pillows – soft, medium, hard in the closet. 

·      We love luggage racks in guest rooms! 

·      Don’t forget to include an iron or steamer for your guests, too. 


More Than Paper finds…..

Personalized Bathroom Canisters 

These clear acrylic bathroom canisters can be engraved with your custom design or monogram. They are perfectly sized and designed for cotton swabs, toothbrush, or makeup brush holders and really add an extra special touch to any guest bathroom or guest room. The clear coloring will match with any decor style – from modern to classic.  Choose from 35 different engraving designs – all to suit your own taste! 

Acrylic Bathroom Canister Pair by Three Designing Women

 

Linen-Like Guest Towels 

These linen-like guest towels that are monogrammed with your desired letters with 2 different typestyle options are a real treat! They are strong and absorbent, yet very soft. They feel so luxurious, you’ll almost not want to use them! We love these for a splurge at your own home, but they also make a great housewarming gift.  These are great in any guest bathroom or powder room. 

Personalized Linen-Like Guest Towels - Linen-Like Disposable Guest Towels

 

Engraved Soaps

Another indulgence that adds an extra special touch?  Consider monogrammed/personalized soaps in your guest bathrooms. More Than Paper has a variety of engraved soaps in different shapes, sizes, and colors. These from Carved Solutions contain a set of 6 4.5-ounce bars of soap. 

You can personalize the soap with either a single initial, a 3-initial monogram, or up to 3 short lines of text. These bars have “Aqua Mineral” scent! 

 Carved Solutions Personalized Soap Set (Eco-Luxury Inspire)

  

Engraved Candles 

Along those soap lines are engraved candles. We like these 100% Palm Wax Unscented Candles that are hand-poured in Vermont.  The carving illuminates as it burns down. They call this a “tunnel” burn and the candle can be yours to enjoy for years after the it burns.  You can also add an optional glass candle holder for an additional fee.  The candle is presented in gift-ready, clear, acetate box. Now this is an extra special touch! 


Personalized Candles - Name Or Phrase Palm Wax

 

 

Personalized Hand Towels 

You cannot go wrong with personalized hand towels in your bathroom. and they are sure to add a special something.  There are dozens of combination options for embroidery personalization when it comes to the typestyle, thread, and towel choice. They are high quality, thick towels, and super absorbent – very luxurious!!  At the time of writing this, you can get 25% off an 8-piece set that includes 2 bath towels, 2 hand towels, and 4 face towels! 

Ivory 8-Piece Cotton Towel Sets by CB Station 

What are some of your favorite home touches?  We’d love to hear about it on Facebook or in the comments here.  Happy home decorating and hosting! 

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

How to get organized for Christmas and Wrap Presents

‘Tis the season! If the daily countdown until Christmas is making you anxious because there is so much to do, we have some tips and tricks to make your holiday less haggard.  Plus, we will show you a few ways to dress up your holiday packaging to really make gift giving feel extra special. 

 

Tip #1: 

Get organized! We recommend creating a spreadsheet with all the people that you need to buy gifts for.  In the first column, add their name.  In the second column, add what you bought or gift ideas that you may have. In the third column, include the price (including shipping).  This will really help you next year determine your holiday budget and keep track of all your holiday expenses this year.  Include everyone that is on your list including teachers, household contributors (such as a cleaning lady or landscaper), neighbors, Secret Santa, holiday party host, and of course, your friends and family.  In the fourth and final column, mark whether the item has been received and keep this up to date.  Especially in the world of online ordering, you want to make sure that what you have ordered and been charged for actually makes it to your home! (We are still missing several Black Friday packages...) 

 

To make things even easier, we created a free simple holiday gift tracker for you to print and use below! 




Tip #2: 

Order your wrapping supplies early.  Wrapping supplies not only include your wrapping paper but gift boxes, gift bags, tissue paper, tape, scissors, gift tags, shipping labels, and gift stickers.  For bulk wrapping paper, bows, boxes, and tissue, we love Nashville Wraps.  They ship lightning fast and are very affordable.  


We love four items from More Than Paper to add to your gift wrapping supplies. 

 

-       A personalized hanging gift tag.  We affix this to packages and then write on the back, or up top, to whom the gift is for. 



-       A personalized gift sticker with a holiday message from our family. 



-       A personalized gift sticker with a blank recipient name and “with love, Santa” personalized sentiment. This makes gift giving for the kids quick, easy, and stylish! 



-       Holiday shipping labels for shipping packages.  These holiday shipping labels give an extra special touch to your mailings!  We personalize the front address for quick and shipping labels. 

 

Store these items together in one easily accessible place.  We suggest wrapping presents as they come in or as you buy them.  Don’t wait to wrap all the gifts at once or you will have wrapping fatigue! We set up a station of sorts in our kitchen with all the supplies handy that we can put out and then put away. Turn on some holiday music or a holiday movie and get in the spirit! 

 

Tip #3: 

To make your holiday card sending a breeze, the first step is to get your recipients addresses in order. Address management for your contacts can be a full-time job if done only once a year, so do your best to keep up with it all year round.  We recently found a great contact management solution called Postable.  You can get a customized address link and send it via text message to friends & family, requesting them to input the data like name, address, birthday, anniversary, email & even details about their children.  This gives them the job of data entry and all the information gets put into your database. This has been invaluable, and we highly recommend a tool like this! 

 

When it comes time to sending your cards, you can import the data from your Postable account into an Avery label template to make holiday address labels. Be sure to order your cards from More Than Paper! We have a selection of quick turn cards shown below. 


 

Tip #4: 

Carefully plan your holiday menu in advance. First, gather your guests input (for this, we really mean the picky children eaters at our table…), think about allergies of your guests, and peruse magazines and Pinterest.  Build out your menu including your appetizers, entrée, dessert, cocktails, and mocktails on paper.  From there, you can carefully and meticulously make one list.  (Pro Tip: outsource the appetizer and dessert to capable guests.  We like using a cute holiday notepad for our list making… but that’s just us!  Perhaps you even want to print your menu on festive paper like this one. 


 

Pine & Berries Imprintable Blank Stock Holiday Letterhead by Masterpiece Studios

 

With these simple organization tips, we hope that your holiday is easier, less stressful, and more enjoyable.  What are your holiday tips to make things less stressful and easier? Share them with us here or on our Facebook page! 

 

Wishing you Happy Holidays! 

 

 

 

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

How To Take Your Own Holiday Card Photos

Photo greeting cards are a popular choice when it comes to sending holiday cards in the mail.  They tend to be a less expensive option, and there are no shortage of styles from which to choose!  Traditional, modern, whimsical, colorful… there’s something for everyone!  More than the design, what makes a really good photo greeting card?  We think it is the quality of the photograph you place on the card! We also tend to think less photos can be a stronger statement than cramming a bunch of photos into a small card. That is, only if you have a really great photo! 

 

Many people choose to hire professional photographers to capture the whole family.  While we do love a good professional photo shoot, it isn’t always budget friendly and sometimes it can be hard to schedule! 

 

How can you get a winning photo to use without hiring a professional?  We have a few ideas for you!   These are general tips that you can use with just your Smart Phone.  

 

Find a friend, neighbor (or go completely DIY) 

First things, first. Ask your neighbor, friend, or neighborhood babysitter to come over and take some family photos.  You’ll need 15-20 minutes of their time. If you are unable to get someone, iPhone has a countdown timer that you can set.  You can get an inexpensive tri-pod that holds an iPhone or Smart Phone on Amazon, too! 

 

Plan your outfits 

While matching outfits can make for a great photo, we tend to prefer coordinating colors and even throwing in patterns to give a cohesive but not corny look.  Choose a color combination, such as khaki and blue, and look for shirts and pants within that. Jeans is always also a classic look.  Another idea? Dress everyone in holiday pajamas! 

 

Plan your setting 

In almost all cases, photos taken with natural light is preferred.  We recommend shooting in the evening, right before sunset and never shooting during the height of the sun. (Avoid the hours of 10 am – 4 pm).   We love the idea of shooting photos around the Christmas tree at night, too.  Turn off overhead lights, don’t use a flash, and just use the light of the tree!  You could also prepare hot chocolate and have everyone sitting around the table talking.  Sometimes the most natural settings and actions can produce the most authentic photos. 

 

Know Your Phone 

Some basic advice but make sure to have your phone charged.  Shoot in the right camera “mode.”  For iPhone, use the live setting so that you can work around closed eyes and funny expressions when editing.  Try several using the portrait mode.  Your exposure (amount of light that the shutter lets in) can be adjusted.  On your iPhone at the top, you can adjust the exposure to let more light in if it’s dark.  

 

Edit or Not Edit 

With high-quality cameras in our pockets and a plethora of online editing tools at our disposal, it is very easy to get a high-quality result.  If you need to edit after the shoot, try Adobe Lightroom to brighten your photos. Remember that is almost always easier to make a photo brighter, you ca not easily make a bright photo darker (hence why it is best to avoid very sunny photo shoots).   

 

In these apps, you can adjust the light and add filters that suit the mood.  (We tend to shy away from the over-filtered look).   Other photo editing apps to try are Snapseed, VSCO, Pixlr, and Afterlight.   

 

 

With these simple tips, you are sure to have a great holiday photo to use for your holiday photo greeting cards! The hardest part will be choosing which card to use. Here are some of our recent favorites.  

 

This Beloved Season Foil Pressed card has real foil and has the option for different die-cut shapes. A simple and festive message, this card has room for just one perfect photo! 


 

Digital Holiday Photo Cards by Stacy Claire Boyd (Beloved Season Foil Pressed)

 

We also really like these “Fa La La” whimsical greeting cards that feature a full photo. They are available in 130 lb or 260 lb weight. 


Digital Holiday Photo Cards by Dabney Lees - Fa La La LaLa La with Foil

 

This card has an abstract “Merry” message that helps feature the photo that you choose. 

 - This card is also available with two paper weights. 



 Digital Holiday Photo Cards by PicMe Prints (Abstract Merry)

 

 

Finally, we have so many holiday photo mount card options – many with “create-your-own” features allowing you to specify the foil accent color as well as various background and trim colors.

 

One of our all-time favorites! 


Holiday Photo Mount Cards by Sweet Pea Designs - Inline Beaded Border With Foil

Holiday Photo Mount Cards by Sweet Pea Designs - Inline Beaded Border With Foil

 

 

You can see more here! 


 

We can’t wait to start seeing your photos and holiday card orders stream in!  Remember, we can help you design something that perfectly complements your photo!