Monday, November 24, 2008

Nature's Decoration

Every year I've purchased a boy scout wreath from my friend's son. Since he is no longer in scouting, I thought this would be a good year to challenge myself to come up with something festive for free. Last weekend when we were doing our fall yard clean up, I collected these cuttings for a back-porch holiday decoration. I am not too talented when it comes to floral arrangements, but I thought this was at least as good as a boy scout wreath. $30 saved. 

What to do on Buy Nothing Day Nov 28th

This Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year. Why not celebrate our commitment against excess consumption by joining in on Buy Nothing Day. For more info go to the New American Dream at

This is what my 5 year old I did today instead of shopping. Next she wants to have a party for her doll (If she can get me off the computer). That sure beats at day at the mall. 

Sunday, November 23, 2008

gifts for kids to make and give

Tina's comment on the advent calendar reminded me that I need to think of an idea for my kids to make for gifts this year. I too and thrilled that my children love to make and give gifts. However, a few years back it got out of hand, with each child wanting to make a multitude of gifts for every family member (all starting in December!). An easier solution has been for us to make a family gift, from all of us to each of the households in our family. If the kids come up with extra ideas and we have the time, that is fine too. I like to think of ideas that are somewhat simple for all ages to participate in making and useful (not just something that gets set out and then tossed). Here is a list of what we have done in the past:

homemade rootbeer (made last Solstice eve: very fun and yummy!)
pinecone firestarters (dipped in wax and salt)
rolled beeswax candles
bookmarks (ribbon with beads and charms)
notepads (you can have a printer make one with your kids' small drawing for really cheap)
hot cocoa mix
lavender sachets
suet bird feeder squares
notecards from photos from our garden etc
bedroom door notepad/message boards for all the cousins

Now I am in need of a new idea! I could go back and repeat, but it is more fun to try new stuff.I just started a subscription to Living Crafts magazine I am thinking of making beaded prayer bowls. Any ideas from all of you?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Advent Idea

Tonight I will snuggle in front of a movie and cut out pictures from last year's Holiday cards for my kids' Advent Calender. I loved opening those little windows as a child! I used to buy the calenders for my kids but the cost added up quickly when we had three children and then it bothered me that we'd just throw them away at the end of the month. I tried reusing them the next year, but it just isn't the same when the seal on those windows are already cracked and you know what is inside. So a few years back I cam up with an idea that I'd give my kids something fun to look forward to each day-an activity rather than a picture or piece of candy.

This is how it works: I cut out a holiday picture and then write on the back something special for one or all of the children for that day. I fold and tape the cards and string them along a ribbon with numbers for each day until the Winter Solistice. Sometimes it is things that we are already doing anyway such as a holiday concert or breakfast with Santa. Other times it is things we like to do but we set aside time for it such as cutting out snowflakes, baking cookies or family snowball fight. I also add a "date" for each child with each parent where we can play a game or go out for hot chocolate one-to-one. Sometimes we have to trade days because plans changed and that evening is going to work a lot better for "dance to The Nutcrakcer" than it is "baking cookies". The kids love it. It ritualizes and makes special ordinary things (like getting out the Christmas books) and organizes the chaos of one holiday event after another. It helps me to slow down and enjoy the season with my kids and, it's FREE!

I'll try to add a picture when I am done.

Goodness at the Yuletide Faire

I went to the Yuletide Faire at the Prairie Hill Waldorf School in Pewaukee last night with Jill and Kris and found myself very nearly swooning over all the great gifts there. I've been to the Yuletide Faire before, but I have never bought anything. This year I went equipped with money and the knowledge that this was to be one of only 2 Christmas shopping experiences this season (the other will be the Art vs. Craft Fair next weekend in Milwaukee). I came away with some great things for Christmas and some even cooler things for my nephew's birthday this week:

  • The book above "Santa's Favorite Story" by Hisako Aoki and Ivan Gantschev is for the book-a-day for advent project I am working on and will write more about after Thanksgiving. The book only came in paperback, a bummer for longevity, but excellent in the price of $6. The illustrations are super sweet and the text is simple, perfect for my 3 year old.
  • The goat milk soaps from Andrea's Alpacas were purchased for possible use in my family's grab bag, though I still have another idea in mind for that so these soaps might end up being used by me :) I bought three fabulous scents: "Quiet Seasons", "My Man", and "Soft Vanilla Sugar". Now smelling the Vanilla Sugar again this morning I'm thinking these might just be for me. Hmmm. The heavenly soaps cost $5 apiece for a total of $15.

I then bought a fabulous present for my nephew whose birthday is coming up next week. It doesn't count towards the hundred dollars since it is a birthday present, but I had to share the cuteness on the blog (Henry avert your eyes). Waldorf people know great toys and this year their school store had a zillion ultra adorable wooden ones. I got this fabulous gnome house and two tumbling gnomes to go in it (thanks to Maya for pointing the cool gnomes out to me). The gnomes tumble head over heels when placed on an incline. The gnome house is so cool that now I wish I had gotten one for me. Not for my daughter, but for me. No idea how this present will go over with Henry, but I love it. Really, isn't that what gift giving is all about? Hee, hee.

Now, for the one that got away. There were many items that I considered buying (but Jill was next to me asking how it fit into my hundred dollar holiday, so she was like a much needed lock on my wallet. Thanks Jill! And there is no sarcasm there), but only one that I woke up this morning wishing I had bought. It was something for me, not a gift for someone else, but it was so cute it made me smile. It was a little bird wallet by Rosybird. You can check out her Etsy store here. I love to see great independent crafters out there selling their wares and trying to make a living from it. You just can't beat buying things directly from the person who made them, so that is another reason I should have bought it. Alas. Sometimes my frugality gets the best of me (I am a total cheapskate, sadly). As luck would have it she will be at Art vs. Craft next weekend so I can buy it then :)

All in all it was a fun evening out with friends and a great feeling to support a really wonderful school (my daughter is in the playgroup there and I can't say enough good things about Prairie Hill).

Total to date: $21.00

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Time vs. Money

In my former life before kids I would try to make most of the gifts that I gave to people. This was easy when time was my currency and I had boundless amounts of free time laid out in front of me. I cross-stitched elaborate patterns for my mother, knit cute things and wrote silly little books for my nieces and nephews, and sewed fun things for my in-laws. But now that I have a little one of my own it is becoming much more complicated to string together enough moments to make gifts for the important people in my life. Which makes the one hundred dollar holiday more of a challenge this year than it has been in the past. I have been working on knitting a scarf for my mother (pictured above) out of this divine mohair/silk blend yarn and it is growing slowly and it could be completed by Christmas. But just yesterday my mom mentioned that she and my dad would most like a printer for Christmas, which made my little knit scarf seem a) insignificant and b) much more expensive because the time that I would put into it would be much more valuable than the money that would go towards a printer (split five ways amongst my siblings and I). Of course, giving a printer would quickly eat away at a third to a half of my allotted hundred dollars, even after the cost has been split five ways. And a printer doesn't seem very Christmas-y to me, whereas a scarf very nearly screams holiday spirit. Alas, we'll see how this dilemma plays out.

If you are interested in making things for Christmas this year I highly recommend these two blogs: Elise Blaha's Handmade Holidays and Sew, Mama, Sew. Lots of fun ideas on both.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Obligatory Giving

I love giving gifts. I love getting gifts. I hate feeling like I have to give gifts. I hate even more the feeling of not giving a gift when I feel like I should have. It's that last sentiment that I wish I could shake today.

This past weekend our family shared a day making Norwegian lefse (delicious potato crepe with wrapped up with butter and sugar). It is a wonderful tradition that we share with my husband's family and their best friends. It is the kind of tradition that I am so grateful that I married into-shared work followed by a wonderful meal, an ethnic tradition passed down through the generations and a day so special that we all skip whatever we have going on to make it happen. This is the kind of day that the "hundred dollar holiday" is made of. 

It is perfect except that it has become transformed into another gift-giving holiday. It might have started because one of the kids has a birthday that same weekend. Or maybe it was the year that one woman bought us all "lefse making t-shirts". That was fun, but it should have stopped there. This year we drove home with three mini-basketballs, a clip on flash light, a holiday coloring book, holiday room spray, a holiday lotion 3-pack, a holiday double shot glass, a holiday jar opening/trivet, and a parafin wax foot spa. 

I brought nothing to give. I did this on purpose because I was tired of feeling like I should when there was no justifiable reason why I should.  I did this because all these little $20 mini-gifts and hostess gifts etc. add to our massive credit card debt every December and I am trying to put an end to the overspending. I did this because anything I would have bought would have been just because, not because they had any meaning. 

Now I feel like crap. I feel bad because I came empty handed and came home with a trunk-full, I feel bad because I like these people and it is fun to give... yet I didn't. I also feel bad because I now own a bunch of stuff that I didn't really need and how need to find a place for. I feel bad for feeling ungrateful. 

I am sure we all have "obligatory" gift giving scenarios we face each year. How do we handle these in a proactive way? How can we show our appreciation for others, give a gift of meaning etc without falling into the trap of more spending, more waste? Looking forward to everyone's insight.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Hundred Dollar Holiday

We're back... for a bit. Over the next month and a half Kristin and I, along with a few other guest bloggers, will be challenging ourselves to create a more meaningful holiday season by, among many other things, spending less money. The inspiration for this came from the title of Bill McKibben's book, Hundred Dollar Holiday: The Case for More Joyful Christmas, which explores how we can make the holiday season more about traditions, family, and meaning and less about spending money. Our plan is to document over the course of the next 40-odd days how we spend our days and our money. At the end of each blog post we will give our monetary totals to date, but most post will also discuss how we spend our time and how that enhances or detracts from the meaning of the season.

So... to our 1 and a half readers out there, please check back over the next few weeks and chime in on how you are spending your days or money this season!