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Vacation Planning Gets Trickier with More Businesses…

It’s that time of year again.  Time for the Board Game Geek (BGG) Convention in Dallas!  Last year, I actually tackled someone.  I wonder how much more awesome this year will be?!

Oh, and the coolest part is that for the last two years, I was just a normal attendee.  This year, I’m a Team Geek volunteer and hope to get to know everybody by the end of our 5-6 days there!  It’ll mean more work since I will be helping where needed a lot of the time, but it also means getting to know the organizers and even other attendees better.  That’s my favorite part of any event.


Juggling Work Requirements

As excited as I am to be throwing down with my fellow geeks, I have two full-time businesses to handle too.  For my online world, we’re getting free WiFi at the BGG hotel.  I plan to steal about 3 hours from each day to squirrel myself away to answer my emails and keep the blog ad campaigns chugging along.  I may miss a few days of posting, but I’ll try my best to stay on top of that as well.

For my pet sitting business, Crystal’s Cozy Care, I am in the midst of list-making for my two helpers.  Mandy will be handling morning and evening jobs at two homes from Wednesday through Sunday, and J will be staying overnight at the home I am currently living in with two Australian shepherds and a kitty.

I am making checklists to help each of them stay on track without having to waste time wondering if they missed anything.  They’ll also keep me apprised with daily pictures and updates.  My goal is for all of the animals to be properly spoiled and every human client to be happy with our services despite me not being there.  It’s actually a very attainable goal.  They already knew about the plan and everyone is on board.

Needing a Vacation from the Vacation and NOT Getting It

My only real worry right now is that I will be at a gaming convention, living in a hotel, for nearly a week.  When we get back, I am going to be exhausted, but still not done.  I will continue living at the Australian Shepherds’ home until early December 1.  So, I will be commuting from their house to my own and family homes throughout the Thanksgiving holidays.

All of that said, have some patience with me for the holidays if you notice a few missed posts or something.  Sometimes I operate better than ever when stressed.  Other days, I have problems tying my freaking shoes, LOL.

No matter what, let’s all look forward to a kick-butt end to 2014!  I plan for these holidays to ROCK!!!

Birthday Party Potluck Slumber Party – Budget Friendly and Delicious!

My birthday is towards the end of the year.  Last year, my husband secretly organized an actual surprise birthday party for me and some of my friends at my favorite Greek place.  I was blown away and it was great!  I was literally speechless for several minutes, which never happens.  This year, we were going to be a little more low key but also awesome.  :-)


Birthday Party Potluck Slumber Party

It’s just not right to have two surprise parties in a row, right?  ;-)  That said, my friends have started planning a birthday potluck for me.  It will be themed “Crystal’s Favorite Foods” but I am thinking that everyone can just bring their general favorites.  There will also be drinking.  We’re developing my signature drink, “The Crystal”, which will probably be a rum and fruit juice blend of some sort.  Then anyone who doesn’t work the next day gets to stay for the bad movie night slumber party!  It’ll most likely be shark, alligator, and snake movies that we can talk over and mock incessantly.  Overall, it’ll be an evening of hanging out and just having fun.  It sounds awesome!!!  I’m pre-excited and it’s over a month away, LOL.

The best part is that none of my friends will need to go to broke for all of us to have a great time.  Everyone is bringing a dish or drink.  It’ll be at my house.  We aren’t burning money in my non-existent fireplace.  It’ll be fantastic and no one will be out more than $10-$15.  :-D

Cheap and Fun Party Tips

  • Invent Your Own Drink!  Juice, soda, alcohol, etc.  Pick your favorite and create a “Your Name Here” Cocktail!  Way cheaper than going out.
  • Decorate with things you already have.  Beach towels and blow-up floats can lead to a beach-themed party.  Movie posters and popcorn is a Hollywood party.  80’s music and crazy clothes would be awesome too!  Honestly, anything can be turned into a theme.
  • Potlucks.  What’s yummier than everyone bringing tasty food?!
  • Movie night!
  • Slumber party!
  • Board game night
  • Multi-player video games
  • Play games like hide-n-go-seek and freeze tag!  Be kids again!
  • Pool party if your birthday isn’t in the winter and someone in your group has a pool…
  • Grilling on the BBQ!  Just turn it on and have your guests bring whatever they’d like grilled up.
  • Picnic party at the local park
  • Camping party if you and your friends are into nature

In short, think of times that you are the happiest, combine some of them, and have a great birthday!!!

What’s on your cheap party tip list?

Hair Dying Experiment Update – Meet Magenta!

It’s been about 6 weeks, and my hair just changed again.  :-)  Someone asked me this past weekend why I’m not happy with what God gave me.  I asked if they only eat one thing all of the time.  They laughed and said no.  I just looked at them with a “duh” face until they laughed again and said “I get the point”.  I then just explained that I love my real hair (strawberry blonde) and just wanted to love other colors too!  That said, I’ve continued my hair coloring saga…

Colors So Far

Crystal Loved Her Purple Hair

Manic Panic Ultra Violet – Dyed August 17, 2014 and lasted about 5 days at this color.  Faded quickly and was gone completely in 2 weeks.

Crystal with N'rage Cobalt Blue Hair

N’Rage Cobalt Blue – Dyed September 1, 2014 and stayed vibrant until September 10, 2014.

Crystal Stemberger at Fincon14

Ion Brights Sky Blue – Dyed September 12, 2014 and stayed bright until the beginning of October.  Then it started fading to a blue-green color.  That hadn’t completely faded when we moved on…

Ion Brights Magenta

I will say that the Ion Brights Sky Blue lasted the longest so far!  Heck, it wasn’t even all the way gone when we decided to move on to Ion Brights Magenta.  We even tried a homemade hair color stripper made from baking soda, dandruff shampoo, dishwashing soap, and a splash of orange juice…my hair looked like Ursula from The Little Mermaid while we waited out that hour before washing it out.  Hahaha!

Homemade Hair Stripper

Looks awesome, right? ;-)

It worked pretty well, but my hair still held onto a little of the blue.  My friends, Mandy and Dee, and I decided to move onto Ion Brights Magenta anyway.  :-D

Ion Brights Magenta

Ion Brights Magenta – Dyed October 23, 2014

I’m enjoying this one a lot.  It should last through Thanksgiving.  :-)  Honestly, I sometimes forget that my hair has been brightly colored since mid-August, and now I bet I start forgetting what color I am on any given day, LOL.  That said, I am still having quite a bit of fun!  And we still have Fuchsia and Aquamarine to try out.  ;-)

What do you think?

Another Successful Halloween Party and Potluck!!!

We hosted our annual Halloween bash again this past Saturday and it was FANTASTIC!!!  I didn’t have pet sitting and all of the house stuff is pretty much wrapped up, so I was finally able to let totally loose for the first time in weeks!


The theme was “comic books”, but we are really open to every costume imaginable.  I dressed up as Cat Woman for half the night and then switched to the Black Widow since the cowl was getting restrictive.  Mr. BFS wore a Batman t-shirt, LOL.

Some of the Girls at Haloween 2014

Left to Right: Me as Black Widow (and yes, my hair is Magenta now), Anne as a flapper girl, Isabelle as Snow White, Ivy as a SHIELD agent, and Mandy as Marilyn Monroe.

Mandy was a classy Marilyn Monroe.  Her boy, H, was Hugh Heffner.  Dee was Max from Where the Wild Things Are and her guy was a giant teddy bear.  We also had Will as the Tenth Doctor, Ivy as a Shield Agent, and Isabelle as Snow White.  Other characters included a sexy Minion, a flapper girl, Scott Pilgrim, a renaissance gypsy, her guard, and a bunch of other guys who went with the t-shirt idea for Spiderman and Super Man.


I made red beans and rice for the crew, some witches fingers, and bought some more awesome cupcakes from my mother-in-law’s site, Veranda Delights.

Mr. Bones the Cupcake Man

Mr. Bones the Cupcake Man

Jack-o-Lantern Cupcakes

My mother-in-law made the top left one look like my husband (glasses, goatee, and all), LOL!

All sorts of other yummies were brought and made too:

  • Deviled eggs
  • Pigs in a blanket
  • Dirty rice
  • Alcohol/Jello Shots
  • Stuffed dates
  • Candied apples
  • Cream cheese cake
  • Candy
  • Grapes
  • Chips and dip
  • Tons of other stuff that drunk Crystal ate but now can’t remember…


I spent most of the night talking, drinking, playing cards a little, and even dancing a little.  About 17 jello shots, 3 cake vodka shots, and some “Level-Up” punch later, I was sleeping pretty soundly on the couch.  Thankfully, I do always remember to drink a ton of water, so I woke up refreshed and happy for the full night’s sleep, HAHAHA.

The rest of the group also spent a lot of time just hanging out, playing board games like Sentinels of the Multi-Verse, and eating.  Our group knows how to have fun.  :-)  It ended up being a smaller group than last year, but there were still 21 of us.  :-D  I’d call it a great success!

Do you host Halloween parties?  What are your spooky traditions?

How to Make a Yard Spider – Our Newest Halloween Addition

Despite our house issues, I did start decorating for Halloween last week.  Yesterday and today became the big push though.  I even went to Lowe’s to create a new addition to our Halloween decoration family…

The Giant Yard Spider

Meet Elspira – she makes me smile.  Just finished her yesterday afternoon.  :-)

Giant Yard Spider

This is Elspira (pronounced like Elvira).  ;-) She’s exactly as awesome as she looks. I got the idea from several places online like and made adjustments.

Here is how you can make a giant yard spider of your own.

Things to Gather

  • Foam pipe covers (enough to make sixteen 2 foot parts) – $10
  • Eight 1/2 inch elbow socket pipe parts – $1.75
  • Black electrical tape – $3
  • Two Black plastic bags – $1
  • Filler (we used newspaper and a spare brick for the body) – $N/A
  • Foam plate (or something to make the eyes and extras) – $N/A
  • Two wire coat hangers (or something to make spikes) – $N/A
  • Total Cost = $15.75

Steps to Making a Yard Spider

  1. Cut the foam into sixteen, 2 foot sections.
  2. Join two sections of the foam together using an elbow socket pipe part and black electrical tape.
  3. Repeat 7 times.
  4. Fill one plastic bag to nearly full of newspaper or the filler of your choice along with something heavy (like the brick we used).
  5. Fill the other plastic bag just enough to make a proportionally correct head.
  6. Cut the wire coat hangers into eight 4-6 inch straight sections to use as stakes.
  7. Take all body parts to where you want to set up your spider.
  8. Use the black electrical tape to attach the legs to the torso.Legs Taped to Torso
  9. Use more black electrical tape to attach the head to the legs and torso.Head to Torso
  10. When in doubt in any step, use black electrical tape.
  11. Use the wire pieces to stake each leg into the ground.
  12. Cut out foam eyes and other facial features.
  13. Attach the eyes using black electrical tape (we rolled a piece up for each thing to make it double-sided sticky).

Voila!  You now have an awesome yard spider too!

What about you?  What awesome do-it-yourself Halloween decorations do you enjoy?

Friends Are Priceless in More Than One Way

Friendship is emotionally priceless.  It makes a bad day tolerable and turns fun events into stellar, life-long memories.  It can also save you money.  ;-)

The 2014 Texas Renaissance Festival

It’s that time of year again, and I accompanied my best buds to the Texas Renaissance Festival (TRF) on the opening weekend this past Sunday.  It ended up being a rainy day for the first couple of hours, but the last 3-4 hours were clear and much drier.  I also noticed one other, giant difference.  I was comfortable the entire day!

My friend and house mate, Mandy, had replaced the super tight arm bands off of my usual Renaissance Festival dress with gold fabric she had left from a past project.  Not only did my dress still look as awesome as ever, but it was comfortable for the whole day!  No cut off blood supply, no red marks on my arms when I took off my outfit, and no tiny holes where the fabric had started pulling apart because of the strain!  Woot!

Cost of Dress in 2011 – $40
Years Worn to TRF – 4 years and running
Cost of Dress Alteration from Mandy – $0
Total Cost of Costume from 2011-2014 – $10 per year

That’s just fantabulous!

Renaissance Festival Dress in 2011

Here was my dress in 2011. The arms were already stupid tight, but I didn’t know that they could be fixed…

Renaissance Festival Dress in 2014

Left to Right:  Costumed Awesome person that I don’t know, Mandy, H behind her, Dee, me, and another awesome costumed lady that was very much in character.  Now my dress still looks great AND doesn’t hurt! Who would have thought that could happen?!  Now, don’t judge the overall dress or outfit from this picture though.  We had just finished being rained on for 2 hours.  Yes, those are two awesome costumes from Hocus Pocus.  Oh, and yes, my blue hair has faded to a sort of teal/green color.  We’ll be dying it fuchsia or magenta soon!


The Friendship Barter System

This is not a post condoning the outright use of your friends.  This is a post to point out the value of bartering, the give and take, when it comes to friendships.  Mandy is a seamstress and makeup artist.  She has fun doing craftsy projects and doing our nails during Girls’ Nights.  She was the one that made me really look like the Black Widow and Cat Woman at the last Comicpalooza.  She spoils us rotten with her talents.  Her boy, H, is good with his hands and fixes what he can around the house.  Our friend, Will, is an amazing artist that made me the most awesome Halloween decorations I own.  You get the point…all of our friends are extremely talented in some way, and we all trade our talents to each other as needed.  :-D

When it comes to my own offerings, I am not craftsy and my cooking is still improving.  BUT I am the go-to person in our friend group for money questions, anything to do with online website stuff, and they all know that I love them and will be a listening ear or shoulder to cry on at any time.  Mandy likes to run budget stuff by me to double-check herself.  I helped Dee create her own budget last year, which helped her reach her goal for her trailer purchase recently.  I’ve also helped Mandy and her boy find their most recent cheap but running car, and I helped our other friend, Isabelle, work out a good deal for her nearly-brand-new Honda Civic.  I tagged along with Dee to find her trailer, although she found a great one on her own a few months after that.  So I may not be as great with the detail-oriented stuff like my closest buddies, but I do try to make up for it whenever I can be useful.  ;-)

Do you remember to ask your group of friends for suggestions when stuff pops up?  You may be surprised on what everyone can bring to the joint table.  :-)

Girls’ Nights Rock!!!

Boys’ nights probably rock too, but I don’t have personal stories about them.  Feel free to share those below though, guys!

My gal pals and I have been doing a girls’ night regularly, and I figured that breaking down the activities and costs could be fun!  Here is what we’ve done so far:


Bingo is just cheap fun.  We have two bingo halls around us that we go to.  One is for Tuesdays or Fridays since it’s only $4 to play all night.  The other is $6 any day of the week.  Generally, it’s a great time since it gives us time to chat softly and catch-up with each other’s weeks while also dobbing away at numbers and trying to win $5o0.  I used to play all of the time, so I have all of the ink we will need for a while.  We also don’t buy the extras like “pull tabs” – they are like scratch off lotto tickets but less fun.  So we really do keep our overall gambling cost to $6 or less per evening.

Nails and Girly Stuff

Mandy can do nails well.  She has the tools, shapes them, and is a stickler about putting the nail polish on just the nail and not our whole finger.  ;-)  Dee has fun nail design ideas, is a hoot to hang out with, and makes Mandy cringe just as much as me when we do Mandy’s nails since we aren’t as good about coloring within the lines.  I suck at most “girly” stuff that has to do with makeup, but I have no problem letting my girls have their way with my nails and hair (my current Sky Blue locks are great proof).

Dee's Black Tips

You can’t really tell against my dark table, but Dee’s nails looked awesome.

Crystal's Pretty Nails


Mandy's Nails

Yeah…we didn’t do as well as she did for us. BUT, we’re learning.

I try my best as whatever they need, although I think Mandy gives me the same credit you give to a really hard-working, but awkward 4 year old that makes your hair all knotted while they try to braid it.  Screw ups just add to the fun though.  Wine helps too.

Spa Package

Speaking of girly stuff, one of our very own readers (thanks, Helen!) just turned me onto this Spa Party Package that may be perfect for our next girls’ nights!!!  They are running a special right now from September 29, 2014 through October 17, 2014.  Lots of fun ideas!!!  Check it out!!!

Spa Party Planning Package

Bonuses for Buying Before October 17, 2014

Bonuses for Buying Before October 17, 2014

Movie Nights

This is self-explanatory.  Find out what sort of movie that you and your group can agree to, load it up, and go!  We like to mock bad movies and get back to our Mystery Science Theater roots.  :-D

Food…Lots of Food

Every get together is better with food.  On bingo nights, we generally eat at the bingo hall’s café since it is affordable ($5-$8 for a full meal).  For nights in for nails and movies, we either cook up something ourselves or hang out at a restaurant at some point.  Last week, we had my red beans and rice one night and Chili’s on another.  Overall, just let the food muses talk you into something tasty and run with it.

Homebodies at Heart

You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned clubbing or stuff like that.  We do still enjoy “young people fun”, but my friend group generally falls between the ages of 27 to 35 and we’re generally in relationships already.  We’re also all geeks in one way or another.

If we go clubbing, it will be to dress up and actually dance from 8pm-10pm before the mating displays start.  Getting pawed at by drunk men will just creep me out.  We do enjoy alcohol mostly in moderation, but I highly prefer downing a $5 bottle or three of Moiselle Red Moscato from Aldi’s at home with my girls instead of paying $5-$10 per drink while away from home.

In short, my experience has been that with age comes a slightly higher need for personal space, the ability to converse without screaming, and a really comfortable seat.  We also seem to truly appreciate the home amenities like my media room or a cd player so we can celebrate the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s music that we still have lying around on discs.  :-D

What kind of girls’ or boys’ nights have you really enjoyed?  Please share!