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Decorating the Tree on a Budget

by Amelia on December 10, 2009
category: Finances,Fun time & Toys

DSC_0054 When we moved to England 3 months ago we left our Christmas decorations behind.  We are only planning on being here for 4 years and we live in a small flat with little storage.  We only brought the necessities and Christmas decorations didn’t make the cut.  As Christmas was approaching the kids started talking about getting a Christmas tree and hanging up stockings.  My husband is in graduate school and we are living on a pretty tight budget. I didn’t want to spend very much money on buying a tree, ornaments, stockings, lights etc.  We wanted to keep with tradition and make Christmas in England feel like “home” but spend as little as possible.

I asked my mom if she could find the storage box and send our stockings to us from the US.  She didn’t want to mess with digging through our Christmas boxes so she generoulsy ordered some stockings online for the kids and sent them to us.  We bought the cheapest reusable Christmas at a store (costing $11!) so we can use it for the next 4 years, one strand of twinkle lights, and 2 boxes of candy canes.  Everything else we had at home.

Here is what we have on our tree:

  • Paper chains
  • Homemade salt dough ornaments painted by the kids
  • Candy Canes
  • Sparkley red ribbon left behind from the previous flat-renters
  • Twinkle lights
  • Stringed popcorn (still in the process)

DSC_0053 I like it when my tree looks pretty with full lights and is decorated with my pretty ornaments. But I gotta tell you, our kids LOVE their home decorated tree! They are so proud that everything on it is something they helped make or find in our flat to decorate it with. Our tree has lights on the top half and has ornaments unevenly distributed everywhere.  The paper chains are not cut evenly either.  But it has lots of flair and personality and it brings a smile to my face when I look at it.  We all worked hard to put our tree together and I love that they love it.

We spent very little money–especially since we can reuse everything except the popcorn and maybe the candy canes.  I have found that I don’t need fancy decorations for Christmas to feel like Christmas.  Spending time with my family and remembering why we celebrate Christmas in the first place has been a great reminder for me this year.

What fun things to you put on your tree?  Favorite homemade decorations?  Best Christmas budget ideas?

Happy Cookie Day! 5 Christmas Cookie Party Ideas

CookieDay In the last 24 hours I have been invited to 2 different cookie parties happening this month. I don’t think that they will be my last two either. This is the first Christmas that my first child will understand a few Christmas traditions and I am so excited!  I am sure she will be elated to know that Christmas cookies are a yearly tradition.

Here are 5 ideas for Christmas Cookie Parties if you are thinking of throwing a party.

Cookie Exchange Party

A cookie exchange party can happen in the evening for a girl’s night out or during the days with kids and chaos.  My friend Tashi is hosting a Christmas cookie exchange this year and here are her rules that you could follow as well.

1. Bring 7 dozen of your best and yummiest cookies.
2. Bring 12 copies of your recipe.
3. Bring 1 dozen of your cookies arranged nicely in a basket or platter.
4. Bring a container to take home your new cookies.
5. If you don’t have time to bake or have ruined your recipe but still want to attend, just go to your local bakery and pick up 7 dozen yummy cookies.

Cookie Decorating Party

christmas_cookies_2 A cookie decorating party is completely fun for the kids and adults during the day time. Everyone can have fun while making a mess and eating delicious cookies.

My friend Jennifer C. is hosting a cookie decorating party and she will be providing the cookies and frosting. If the weather cooperates the party will be happening in the back yard. The guests only need to bring 3 things: (1) their kiddos (who aren’t in school), (2) some sprinkles to share, and (3) a take home container.

I am sure you can ask other moms chip in to bring cookies and ask someone else to bring frosting if you don’t want to provide all of the elements.

Cookie Bake Day

My family has had a cookie bake day almost every year. All the women get together and bake cookies in the same kitchen together. There is always a line for the oven, we are on top of each other, and making a mess on every counter space available, but it is so much fun! At the end of the day we have massive amounts of cookies and we trade what we made. It’s really fun being together and being silly.

Baked Ornament “Cookies”

Perhaps you aren’t looking to gain a few extra pounds this December and would prefer a non-edible party – you can always hang your cookies on the tree instead! I have never made these myself, but I really want to this year. It seems like it would be fun do with my kids and other kids as well. Here is a link to make Christmas Dough Ornament Crafts.

Cheer up homeless shelters and hospitals with your cookies!

cookie_boy After you have a cookie party you can package them up to give to a local hospital or shelter. You can get the kids involved and tell them who the cookies are for. They could even write a note or draw a picture to go with the cookies. You can even take it a step further and collect children’s books to give away along with the cookies. There are homeless shelters with children too. I am sure they would love cookies! A step further would be to gather your friends, family, or church, and provide a cookie decorating party for the children at the shelter. Here in San Antonio, The Strong Foundation, helps homeless families get back on their feet. Check with your local shelter’s volunteer coordinator to see if you can help.

Have you ever hosted a cookie party or participated in one? What is your favorite Christmas cookie?

Other Fun Days To Remember in December

by Christy on December 2, 2009
category: Fun time & Toys,Humor/Random

dec 2009 While Christmas is by far the most important holiday in December, there are a few other fun days you can observe with your kids during the month.  Participating in these days and observances can add a few extra ideas for crafts and learning projects.

Read a New Book Month – So this one is pretty self-explanatory.  Pick up a new book and read it with your kids.  If they are old enough for a novel, choose a classic, like Charlotte’s Web.  Or better yet, find a great Christmas book to share with your kiddos.

National Cookie Day (December 4th) – What a great way to have fun… bake and eat!  Even the littlest member of your family can help decorate cookies and you can teach the older kids about measurements by letting them measure out sugar and flour. 

Saint Nicholas Day (December 6th)Saint Nicholas Day is a fun way to talk to your kids about the generosity of others and to teach them about how Santa Claus came to be.  Have fun reading ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas  (or originally written as A Visit From St. Nicholas) with your family to give them an even more fun idea of Santa. 

National Poinsettia Day (December 12th) - A fun way to teach your children about this particular species of plants is to visit a nursery where they can see the different colors that poinsettias come in.  They can come in orange, pink, pale green, white and cream as well as the traditional red.  Create craft projects to decorate your house for Christmas or buy some real plants.  Just remember, if you do use the real kind, keep them away from your pets and children’s reach, as they can be poisonous.

Wright Brothers Day (December 17th) – Teach your children about the history of aviation by telling them of the adventures of the Wright brothers.  Visit the official Wright Brothers museum site for more information.  Craft ideas can include making paper airplanes, putting together a model plane or just coloring or painting them. 

First Day of Winter (December 21st) – Don’t forget to explore all the wonders of winter on the first official day of the season. 

Visit the Zoo Day (December 27th) – If you live in the south, take advantage of the nice cooler weather to visit your local zoo.  December 27th falls on a Sunday this year, so most likely your family could all go together as a big family outing, grandparents included!

While I absolutely LOVE Christmas, there are definitely times when I feel like my kids can get “Christmas’d out” and that it’s a good idea to mix things up a little!  Have fun, explore the history behind some of these days and take the time to enjoy the month!

Do you celebrate or observe any of the above days?  How do you do it?  Do you have other specific days that you remember and honor? 

Photo Courtesy of redstamp.com

Baby Einstein DVD Upgrade/Moneyback Guarantee

by Amanda on October 23, 2009
category: Fun time & Toys,In the news

dvd The folks at Baby Einstein are exchanging or returning Baby Einstein DVDs, because their marketing used false claims that they will make your baby smarter.

You can mail in your DVD in exchange for a book, CD, or discount on a Little Einstein product at a Disney Store. OR you can get a refund of $15.99 for each DVD.

Here is a link for all the information about the Baby Einstein DVD exchange or refund.

What do you think of the Baby Einstein DVDs?

I don’t think I ever believed that they would make my baby smarter, because the DVDs were just going out of style when my babies were born. At the time I had my kids a lot of parents were already questioning the “smarter” claim. Neither of my children were interested in the videos whenever I played them. I have friends that have played them a lot. The videos are fine for entertaining.

Are Baby Showers for a Second Baby Appropriate?

by Amanda on September 21, 2009
category: Fun time & Toys,Pregnancy

babyshower When I was pregnant with my second baby I wondered if I should have a baby shower or even register at a store. A part of me wanted this second baby “off the grid,” because Babies R Us likes to sell your information to marketers. According to “Parenting, Inc.” by Pamela Paul,  baby showers for second children have become more prevalent in recent years, because of big box stores and baby registries.

Some people think that if you already had one baby, then you already have everything you need to for the second one. Another baby shower could give the impression that you are greedy. Baby showers for a second baby or even a third and fourth can be completely appropriate, here is why:

  • Every life is worth celebrating! Every baby is significant and birthing them is no easy task! It is important to celebrate the mother, the new baby’s family and baby. A new arrival is always exciting.
  • Baby showers can be fun if the new baby is a different gender from his or her siblings. My friend Natalie had a shower for her first baby girl after having one son. It was a lot of fun to go overboard with the pink, bows, and dresses. She was very excited to be having a baby girl. It was quite the celebration!
  • Sometimes you do need new baby items. Practically every baby needs diapers. You can shower second time parents with diapers or cards with money to buy cloth diapers.
  • Baby showers can be anything you want them to be. There is more freedom to have a non-traditional baby shower with your second baby. You can have a BBQ with the guys attending or a girls night with desserts. I like the girls night out, because you can leave the kids at home with daddy.
  • Have a shower and collect gifts for a local shelter. Let guests know that a shower is being held in your honor and gifts will be given to a local shelter. You can collect diapers and baby clothes for a crisis center in your area.

Baby showers are to celebrate the mother and the new baby. I think we all should be celebrated with each baby we have! How you get showered is up to you.

Did you have a baby shower for your second and third children?

-photo courtesy of rshannonsmith

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