"Yes, we did produce a near-perfect republic. But will they keep it? Or will they, in the enjoyment of plenty, lose the memory of freedom? Material abundance without character is the path of destruction"-Thomas Jefferson

Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Years Resolutions...

Oh yes...it's THAT time again. I HATE New Year's Resolutions..because I, without fail, break them. So this year, I'm giving myself ONE, ONE single resolution. I do have other goals for the year, but this is a true resolution to change a behavior that I do not like in myself.

Here it is:

I resolve to stop saying NO to my daughter when she asks me to play or pick her up. I KNOW she asks me at the most inconvenient times. I KNOW that she just wants my attention when I'm trying to get things done. But I also KNOW that she's already three and I say NO all the time and one day she's going to be much older and she's going to be the one saying NO to me when I want to spend time with her.

So, I resolve to say YES. Yes, I will play with you. Yes, I will hold you. Even if it's just for a minute and then I have to get back to whatever it is that needs to be done. But at least she will have that YES moment...and I'll say it with a smile, instead of a sigh and a grimace.

This resolution I WILL KEEP.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


This is an amazing story that hits close to home for our family. On Christmas Eve of this year, a mom and her baby both died and then miraculously revived. What a true Christmas gift!! See the Yahoo! News video here.

Our own Christmas miracle occurred one week before Christmas 2006, thanks to an amazing team of skilled doctors and nurses. Without their quick thinking, calm presence of mind, skilled hands and the medical technology in part made available by research from the March of Dimes, and most importantly, God's Will and Plan for our lives, neither Reagan or I would be here.

Aren't God's miracles absolutely amazing and breathtaking? And aren't the talents that He gives people, like helping to heal the sick and hurt, truly wonderful?

Eat From the Pantry Challenge

I've been in the mood for decluttering and revamping for quite some time. We just have too much STUFF. Or maybe it's the wrong stuff. I don't know. But I've been feeling the need for change. I just feel CLUTTERED all the time. And one of our worst "CLUTTERED" areas is food storage.

I know I've blogged about (or maybe I haven't?? Who knows!?!?) the importance of having emergency food storage. And that not only includes food, but other household items as well--water, toothpaste, etc. And not only for emergency purposes, but for the simple economy of it--when you have food stored, you can buy only things that are on sale, stock them and shop from your own "stores" of food when you need to make a meal.

We've done fairly well. I'm sure we could live for quite some time off of what we have. But I know some of that food needs to be cleared out to make way for fresher food. So I've decided to join Money Saving Mom and FishMama's Eat From the Pantry Challenge for the month of January. You can read more about it here and here.

Here are the rules I've set for our family:

1. Shop weekly to take advantage of fresh produce and milk and any "free" items. (Basically I'll be purchasing milk, eggs, fruit and vegetables, and household items as needed (our grocery budget includes household items) such as toilet paper, cat food and cat litter).
2. Budget is $20/week or $100 for the month, which is a SIGNIFICANT decrease in grocery spending.
3. Savings for the month gets split directly between emergency savings and dream home fund savings.
4. By end of challenge have a list of remaining food on hand so I know exactly what we have and can plan to use it effectively in the future.
5. Forgot to add this--absolutely no eating out fast food!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My "What THE Heck?" Moment...

So does Pottery Barn REALLY expect people to pay $39 for THESE when you can buy burlap fabric and jute and fix up three baskets yourself for under $7!?!?!?!?


OH WAIT....you have to pay for the jute rope they're using seperately....wow. Just wow.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas stuff is almost put away...

WOW. I can't believe I've already taken down the Christmas decorations..what is wrong with me this year??? To tell you the truth, I've been longing for a clean slate...a fresh start...and that includes decluttering. I swear, if it were spring, I think I would have emptied the entire house out..but as it is, well there's snow everywhere and it's sooo cold....sigh...why can't it snow for Christmas and then STOP?

ETA: Maybe I'm just longing to put Christmas behind us this year after the atrocity that occurred in the White House this year....is Obama just TRYING to piss us all off? Really....???? I'm beyond anger at this point. I'm at the point where I just feel sick all the time and completely scared out of my whits at what will become of my child and her future in this country. If you voted for Obama, I hope you're feeling really proud right this moment (heavy sarcasm intended!) Link here.

Cookbook Giveaway: Dollars to Donuts

Mindi over at Moms Need to Know is giving away a copy of the cookbook "Dollars to Donuts: Comfort Food and Kitchen Wisdom from Route 66's Landmark Rock Cafe". Hurry over by 8:00 p.m. on Saturday, January 2, 2010 to leave a comment for your chance to get your own copy.

I swear I'm drooling over some of the recipes featured in the book. You can read more about it on her site, link above, and here at amazon.

Seriously, people: Bread pudding with hot buttered rum sauce?!?! Chicken fried steak with bacon gravy!?!?!?!?!? 10 pounds just went straight to my hips. In the words of one of my new favorite bloggers, SHUT. THE. DOOR. Oh my word. This sounds like a great meat and potatoes kind of cookbook..exactly what my family likes!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Why being a toddler is fun...

and so is staying home with mommy!

Friday, December 25, 2009

What I'll Remember from Christmas 2009

1. That not having your preschooler take a nap is a disaster! And we truly are the Clark Griswold family! (Think trying for that Norman Rockwell moment and ending up with the Griswold one instead!)

2. Reagan playing dinosaurs and saying "..the dinosaurs were watching over their flock by night..."

3. Me finally admitting to Josh that the matching pj pants he was wearing were indeed WOMEN'S pj pants. I wish I'd had a camera to catch his expression. Needless to say I laughed so hard that I nearly pee'd myself, tears were running out of my eyes and I was gagging!

4. Throwing carrot and broccoli pieces out in the snow to look like reindeer had eaten them..only to realize it looked to the passersby that I was throwing chunks at their cars!

5. The oven smoking as I tried to dry the coffee stained note from Santa to Reagan!

6. Drinking Killian's and watching White Christmas with Josh after we FINALLY finished wrapping all the presents!

7. Reagan adamantly stating that baby Jesus canNOT have frosting on His cake because babies don't eat frosting.

8. Watching Reagan's face in absolute amazement as she gazed at the presents, and how she just stood there and didn't touch a single one for quite some time!

9. That Reagan and I were both equally smitten with her Kota dinosaur and we both played with it and cooed over it for HOURS!

10. That Josh apparently thinks I'm trying to give him a heart attack because most of his gifts were food related (OOPS!) but in my defense I gave him a snow blower-shovel too!!

11. That mid afternoon naps are WONDERFUL!

12. That I always go way overboard on gifts for Reagan and Josh and I need to chill because that's not what the season is about.

13. That I am absolutely teaching Reagan to play games so we have lots of fun activities on Christmas Day!

14. That missing Christmas Eve service just leaves a big hole in my heart...I really need that time to commune with God.

15. That there are STILL wonderful movies that the whole family can enjoy and watch again and again and again and again and.....oy vey.

16. And that I really love all of my family and when I'm away from part of them I feel it--so I need to make more time to focus on family!

All in all, we had a fantastic Christmas and I hope you did too!

Happy Birthday Jesus! Merry CHRISTmas to all!!

Luke 2:1-7

[2:1] In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. [2] (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) [3] And everyone went to his own town to register.

[4] So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. [5] He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. [6] While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, [7] and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Text from Jesuswalk.com

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas Eve!

From our house to yours...Merry Christmas!

And here's a little laugh for you...Reagan and I were building a block pen for her dinosaurs and as I was texting a Merry Christmas to my best friend (and sister!) in the whole world, Stacy (which by the way didn't go through :( ), I heard Reagan moving around some blocks and whispering "...and the dinosaurs were watching thier flocks by night...."

And that folks, is just one of the reasons why Christmas with a little one is so special!!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

NOT good...

Our playdates canceled today because four of the five children are throwing up......this does not bode well since we all were together on Monday....eeek.
I'm just not sure she has enough sprinkles....

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Monday, December 21, 2009

Craft Ideas for the Little Ones

Despite the fact that Reagan has an icky cold and I'm still hacking up a lung, we're going to our Moms Group's craft time tomorrow (mostly because I put together the craft projects and need to be there to set them up!) I thought I'd share the ideas with you because they're relatively simple, and a great way to share some together time with the kids!

Christmas Tree Cardboard Cut-Outs
This craft idea came from another mom and you can actually use this idea for so many different things--spiderwebs, pizzas, etc.

1. Cut out a Christmas tree shape from cardboard. (Take my advice on this--use THIN cardboard...as in cereal box or cracker box thin.) Make small slashes on each side of tree (about four.) Let your child wind ribbon or yarn around the tree for garland and decorate with glitter, stickers, etc.

2. Birthday Candle for Jesus
You'll need an empty toilet paper roll, construction paper, (optional: crepe paper) and tape. Cut the construction paper to fit around the toilet paper tube. Tape on and then use construction paper or crepe paper for a flame.

Here is the one Reagan made for me last year. It has a place of honor right with the Waterford Nativity!

3. Baby Jesus in a Manger
You'll need a small copy of a baby wrapped in a blanket, a cup cut from an egg carton, and a cotton ball. Let your child color the picture of Baby Jesus and then have him put the cotton ball in and lay Jesus on top of it. Easy and adorable manger!

4. Christmas Bell
You'll need a paper cup, yarn, scissors, a pencil, a bell (check Dollar Stores for these!), tape, markers, construction paper. Make a hole in the bottom of the cup and attach a small piece of yarn to the bell and thread it through the cup, securing it (with tape if need be.) On a piece of construction paper, write the words "I heard the bells on Christmas Day" or "Every time a bell rings an Angel gets his wings" or another sentiment if you prefer. Let your child decorate and then affix to the cup!

I'm sure others of you have great ideas, feel free to leave them here! I'd love to have some new ones!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Peppermint Fudge Cakes

Reagan loves peppermint. So for her birthday, I knew I had to make these cupcakes when I saw them. They're absolutely delicious, but a word of caution--they'll make 24 GIANT cupcakes, so you may actually want to stretch the batter out to make 24+ regular ones!

This is the photo from the Farm Chick's website. Really, these are a MUST make for Christmas!

ETA: And here is my little one eating her cupcake! (And yes, those are dinosaurs on the table for a centerpiece! :) )

Friday, December 18, 2009

Happy 3rd Birthday Little One!

Happy Birthday to our beautiful, amazing little girl! We are so proud of her and so lucky to be in her life. Everday, she shows us a part of the world we never even knew existed. We love you so much Reagan! Happy Birthday! Love, Mommy and Daddy

Thursday, December 17, 2009

My baby is three tomorrow...

I was so excited earlier...in fact I've even typed out tomorrow's post already since we'll be gone all day tomorrow..but now I feel kind of sick. My baby....my tiny, red faced, strong willed baby...will be three tomorrow. Ok, I'm obviously reminiscing a little here....bear with me....


Reagan's very first baby picture ;)

Finally at home!

The first time I got to hold her..she was a day old :(

A 3 a.m. changing! Notice how tiny her legs were, she was itty bitty!

The cats were feeling a little left out....

Grandpa can always make Reagan laugh!

Reagan's first trip on the boat!

Who? Me?? I'm not doing anything? I swear!

A patriot at heart!

Playing peekaboo with Mommy and Grandma!

Just another day lovin' on the cats!

Reagan and her very first "BABY"!

Reagan and Frosty---poor Frosty was dragged along behind Reagan all Christmas!

Reagan's first snow day!

I'm a real wild child!

Reagan discovering nature!

Ice cream goooooooood!!!

Where's Reagan!?!?

Yeah, we lost her again!

Now THIS is relaxed!!

Craft time (or should we say mess time!?)

Reagan-Thanksgiving 2008

Mommy, here's a leaf for you!

Look Mommy, another leaf!

I'm sensing a theme here.....

No! You rock! And you know it!!

I said no pictures and no comment!! Paparrazzi!!!

Only Reagan can get Grandpa to wear wings!

What kid chooses broccoli over pizza!?!?

These candy canes taste like candy canes! (get it??)

And this picture just says it all!!!


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wouldn't it figure??

A few days ago I decided to make pumpkin bread. You know, from all that pumpkin puree I made here. After spending several days fretting over the fact that I had no cloves in the house to use in the recipe, and convincing myself I really didn't need to run out and buy them (because I don't really like them anyway and hardly ever use them), we made the pumpkin bread today. FOUR hours people...FOUR hours...and eight HUGE loaves and three smallish ones later, I was putting away all the ingredients and discovered...yep..you guessed it..my small container of cloves! Sigh...I am not nearly as organized as I thought I was.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

So Proud of my Little One!

Today Reagan and I struck out in the cold to do some last minute Christmas shopping (and buy mommy and Reagan some much needed thicker socks!!!) Reagan had wanted to buy daddy and the cats and her grandparent's dogs (Ginger and BG) some presents..oh and I got one too..lol..ok I did mention myself...geez, moms are so taken for granted!

Anyhow, she asked to take her purse and I stuck a $20 bill in it and told her it was her money to buy HER gifts. I reminded her again that these gifts were not meant for her, but for her to buy OTHER people gifts that she thought they might like. And off we went to the Dollar Store. It took a few attempts to get her in the direction of something Daddy might like (she kept picking up Christmas knick-knacks...so not daddy!) but eventually she was shopping like an old pro.

Not only did she get the cats presents, the dogs presents, mommy a present and daddy a present, but then she proceeded to fill her shopping cart with toys that 'other little boys and girls would like'. How sweet is that?? We only had one major disagreement--over a hat shaped like a parrot head..and I eventually gave in (she wanted this to go in the big toy box for the boys and girls without toys!)

Not one time did she pick up something for herself or ask for something for herself. She placed all the toys into the big Toys for Tots box all by herself and then was ready to leave. On the way to the car, she said "Mommy, I even have money left over
($2!) to put in my piggy bank!"

I AM JUST SO PROUD OF HER!!!! This year we've really been trying to teach her about giving to others and I'm so happy that those lessons and words have paid off!!!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Day ??: Who are you gifting?

Ok I've lost track of the days, BUT in my defense, this Friday is Reagan's birthday and next Friday is Christmas, so I'm a little panicked! Not to mention I have somehow gotten myself sick with a horrible chest cough, complete with wheezing..I sound like I have a hole in chest. On top of that we've been having major cable problems around here and some HUGE preschool sized temper tantrums...I think someone's been having too much sugar and not enough sleep!

BUT, no matter what, Reagan's birthday will come and go next Friday and shortly after Christmas will follow..so I'm trying to stay calm and get through the next few days of hacking my lungs out until the antibiotics I pilfered from Josh's last unused stash kicks in!

NOW, onto today's topic. I'm preparing a few last minute Christmas gifts for the office, Josh's office, the library (the Children's department is phenomenal and they do so much for the community in general!) and our families. There's really nothing much to the gifts--a bottle of lotion here, a notebook there, some cookies or bread--but I've learned, it's more the thought that counts, than the actual gifts (or even the quality of the cookies!)

There are so many people that make our day to day life so much easier, better, richer. Without these people our lives wouldn't be the same, and yet we take them for granted. Christmas is the time of year to say "hey, I'm thinking of you and I love you and I want you to know that your presence in my life is a true gift that I treasure year round."

The last couple of years I've given cookie platters and updated photos to Reagan's doctors and my OB--just to say, hey I'm thinking about you and I appreciate you in our lives, you make them so much better. Last year I dropped off a cookie platter to our local Kroger pharmacy because they are ALWAYS there for us...Reagan has been on tons of medication her entire life and whenever I'm feeling a little harried or upset and worried, a quick talk with the pharmist or the technicians can make me feel so much better. They were absolutely beside themselves that someone had thought to bring them cookies---no one had ever done that for them before...and yet those are just a few of the people that make our lives so much more the better.

I know it seems like there are tons of people to think about around Christmas, but with a little preparation and planning, you really can tell everyone how much you care about them. And remember, it doesn't take much...some cookies, some pumpkin bread, a bottle of lotion from last year's clearance rack (they keep well!) with a pretty ribbon and a simple "Merry Christmas!" can make all the difference!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Day 12: Best Cookies EVER!!

We started the beginning of our massive Christmas baking today and I had to share this cookie recipe:

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 cup margarine, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
Add-ins that we use: walnuts and unsweetened coconut

Preheat oven to 375. Grease cookie sheets.

In medium bowl, cream margarine, white and brown sugars until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla.

Sift the flour, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder and mix well into the sugar mixture. Stir in chocolate chips and add-ins if desired.

Roll tablespoonfuls of dough into balls and place one inch apart onto cookie sheets. Bake for 8-10 (I err on the shorter side) in preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 4 minutes before moving to platter or rack to cool completely.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Day 14: Traditions

One of my favorite things about Christmas is the traditions that my family shares. Growing up I didn't really think about what things were traditions, but once I was away from my family, there were obviously quite a few traditions I had grown to expect and love.

We always, always, always got underwear and socks for Christmas. Without fail. And we ALWAYS had dinner at Granny's house...with cornbread dressing, deviled eggs and green bean casserole...and most importantly, lemon pie. NOTHING in our family was truly celebrated unless there was a lemon pie. And inevitably, Pawpaw and I would fight over the last piece. And...just as inevitably, Granny would bring out another lemon pie that she had hidden deep in the freezer away from Pawpaw's hunting eyes. God Bless Granny :) We always had stockings filled with fruit and nuts---and at least one orange that we'd dive into with a candy cane on the side. Honestly, there is nothing like the taste of oranges and peppermint mixed together. I remember being quite surprised that other children received toys in their stockings...didn't everyone grow up with fruit and nuts in theirs??

These are the things I look back on at Christmas and sigh wistfully for. And these are some of the traditions I try to recreate for my family at Christmas now. Lemon pie (even if it's just really for me), dinner with grandparents; and even though my daughter doesn't get underwear and socks, I'll make sure there's an orange and a candy cane in her stocking come Christmas morning.

Find something that means Christmas to you and celebrate it with your family. THESE are the things your children will remember..not what they received, but what they experienced.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

This break in Christmas posts brought to you by...

I've recently found some INCREDIBLE blogs out there and I wanted to share them here.

First up is Patriots in Aprons, which happens to be how I found the other two blogs I'll mention! There aren't a TON of posts on her blog, but I like what she has to say..she's against the welfare state that Obama is trying to build and she fully supports the Constitution..my kind of girl!

Second up is Conservative Black Woman. Frankly, she sounds just as angry as I do about the state our country is in. I haven't read all of her posts (there are a ton!!!) But I have skimmed through and so far, I have to say I absolutely LOVE her!

And finally, Another Black Conservative. This blogger has some great insight and I look forward to reading more of their posts..also love the fact that this blogger doesn't skimp around with the issues...they put it all out there on the table at face value. Refreshing!!!!

I'll be keeping up with these bloggers on google reader and promise to share any of their posts with you that I find especially enlightening!

Day 15: Keep it Simple!

There is so much to stress about around the holidays. My philosophy is why add to it? I try to keep meals very plain and simple, and I try VERY HARD (although I don't always succeed) to keep any changes from occurring around here--no schedule changes, no discipline changes, no rearranging furniture, etc. Pretty much everything can wait til after Christmas.

In that spirit, I wanted to share with you a very un-Christmassy recipe that is soo easy and so good you may want to have it every night in December!

"Wacky-Mac" Spinach

1 box of frozen creamed spinach
6-8 oz of pasta (any shape, size--we like Wacky Mac)

Heat the creamed spinach in the microwave while your pasta boils. Mix together.

Delicious! Now you have time to go caroling, shopping or watch a Christmas movie together!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Skipping Day 16!

I'm a little pooped! It's been an eventful day in our house. First, we had to run to one of the large hospitals in the next town over for Reagan to have an ultrasound on her kidneys. She's been having UTIs recently and we're not sure why as she's never had them before. Her doctor is always very proactive with her health so he wanted to make sure the infection hadn't reached there.

Then we had to run back to our town to get her urine sample done. In the meantime, we rescued a HUGE gorgeous dog from a cornfield, where he was prancing around and covered in burrs, ice and snow. Let me tell you, heaving a 50 lb+ dog into the back of your van while it's snowing and sleeting all over you, all the while hoping you aren't going to get ran over by one of the cars barrelling down the highway, is NOT my idea of a treat.

THEN we had to take him to the nearest shelter, which is in yet ANOTHER town. Afterwards we drove through McDonalds and brought it home. Reagan is curled up on the couch watching a Mickey Christmas special and Josh arrived home a few minutes ago. We're expecting 70 mph winds along with all the wonderful snow and ice, so he thought it prudent to make his 45 minute commute early before it turned into a 2 hour commute.

I'm going to get as much cleaning and cooking done before we lose power (inevitable!). Hope everyone is having a MUCH less eventful day!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Day 17: Know When To Say "NO"

At Christmastime there are TONS of activities to do, parties to attend, events to partake in. And while you might want to do everything, trying to get you and your family to every single event, while more than likely battling bad weather and large crowds, is NOT going to put you in the Christmas spirit.

My advice is to get a calendar and log all the activities that are going on in your neck of the woods. Look at the library's website, the chamber's website, the visitor's bureau website, your mom's groups calendar, your church's calendar and any local parenting guides--these sites should all have updated lists of what's going on around town for the Christmas season.

Then highlight the events you REALLY want to attend. Figure out if it's going to work according to your family's schedule and work from there. Remember, it's better to have one FANTASTIC outing to get the family Christmas tree, than attend three or four parties during bedtime hour and end up with toddler meltdowns!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Say "Thank You" to a Soldier in Iraq

Go here to submit a Thank You card to a soldier currently serving in Iraq. It takes literally a few seconds and you'll be doing a great deed in helping keep up the moral for our troops! God Bless Our Soldiers!

Day 18: Cheap and Easy Deocrations

My house is VERY Americana-country, decorated in tans, barn reds and blues. My trees tend to reflect my decor as well. I think they're lovely, and although they weren't expensive to decorate, each piece means more to me than some of the most expensive jeweled decorations I've seen on show trees.

Here are a few tips to making your own frugal, gorgeous country Christmas decorations:

1. Glass jars! I keep all of my glass jars from spaghetti sauces, mayonnaise, salsa and the like. They are so versatile and I use them all the time..in decorating, in organizing and even in gift giving. Here's an inexpensive Christmas decor item to make using glass jars:

Glass jar
raffi or ribbon
floating candle

Fill a clear glass jar with greenery (I use fake greenery because it lasts longer and you can't tell the difference in this project). Add a layer of cranberries and then fill your jar with water. Leave enough room to add a floating candle. Add the candle and tie raffi or ribbon around the lip of the jar. Easy, gorgeous decor!

You'll find a rough idea of the look at this link.

2. Make your own ornaments.

I made these Applesauce-Cinnamon ornaments back in 2003 and the smell JUST faded this year. Reagan and I are making new ones! They are so cheap and easy..especially if you buy the TWO ingredients in bulk!

Applesauce-Cinnamon Ornaments:
Equal portions of applesauce and cinnamon (NOTE: You may have to increase the cinnamon if the dough is too soft)

Simply mix, roll out the dough and cut out desired shapes with a cookie cutter. Don't forget to punch a hole in the top for hanging on your tree--use a straw for this. If your worried about the ornaments being too crumbly to last, you can always add a little bit of Elmer's white glue.

The ornaments will take 3-4 days to dry. Make sure to let them sit on wax paper so as not to stick. You can tie these to the tree with ribbon, raffi, or what I use--torn pieces of homespun.

Another ornament idea:

Purchase small Styrofoam balls and using hot glue, adhere strips of homespun on to create an adorable ball ornament. Be sure to add a loop using the homespun. If country decor isn't the look you're going for, you can always add fabric of funky colors, covering the whole Styrofoam ball in one piece or even add glitter.

String beads on craft/floral wire to create monograms..or purchase these at the $ Spot from Michael's on clearance for next year!

3. Make your own garland:
I took strips of homespun and tied them together to create chains for my tree. This year at a craft show, I saw a woman that had taken homespun, sprayed them with starch to make them stiff and made a paper chain style garland with the homespun.

4. Be creative! You don't just have to add Christmas-y items to your Christmas tree--add anything you have around the house: antique (or new!) cooking implements, popcorn and cranberries, construction paper chains, apples, cookies, leftover hearts from Valentine's. Cheap bracelets and necklaces even add a jeweled flair.

Remember, the idea behind decorating your home for Christmas is to make it a warm, inviting and welcoming space..to you, your family and your friends. The goal is NOT to have the best show stopping tree in the city. Work on that principle, use what you have and what you makes happy and Christmas decorating should be a (fun!) cinch this year!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Day 19: Make It Homemade

Yes, I shamelessly borrowed Sandra Lee's tag line, but this is a GREAT Christmas tip! Reagan and I love baking cookies and bread to give away as gifts, but Reagan also really enjoys making crafts to give to her grandparents. Her second Christmas, we made hand prints with finger paint and framed them; last year she did paintings which we framed with her current Christmas photo. This year Reagan is making wreaths out of paper plates, bows, stickers and tons of glitter glue. She's quite excited about them and they really are adorable. She already made one for me to display on our window and one for Daddy to take to the office--she can barely wait to give Grandma, Grandpa, Pawpaw, Granny and Pawpaw, and Grandma from Texas the others that she's crafted.

Gifts don't have to be elaborate. Use a talent you have to make gifts this year. Maybe you're great at sewing, maybe you're wonderful at knitting--make blankets or book covers or place mats for your loved ones. Etch glasses with a Christmas motif or monogram, use woodworking skills to create shelves, objects of art and other wonderful items.

Get creative, put some of yourself into your gifts this year. I guarantee those are the gifts that are going to be treasured and remembered long after the gift card to Starbucks is used or that DVD has been watched and left to collect dust in the entertainment center. (And yes, I give those types of gifts, too!)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Day 20: A little something for you...

Now that we've talked about helping others, let's talk about taking care of ourselves this Christmas season.

Moms especially are always seeking to find a way to make Christmas bigger, better and brighter for their loved ones. And all of that work can sometimes drag us down and make us feel tired, forgotten and overlooked.

Make sure you do something nice for yourself this year. Whether it be something materialistic like that new mixer you've been wanting or a day off to just curl up with hot cocoa and a book and not have to do anything for anyone.

My own personal treat for myself that I started last year, is not cooking on Christmas. Sacrilege I know! But I decided that I wanted to spend Christmas Day enjoying my daughter and playing with her and her new toys and relaxing and watching movies instead of slaving in the kitchen for hours and completely exhausting myself. Instead I buy lots of party trays and premade appetizers. Yes, it's more expensive in this time when we're trying to save money. But more importantly I save sanity and create some great memories.

So remember to treat yourself this year!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Day 21: Do something for your heart..

This time of year should be a joyous celebration. But for many families, it isn't. With the economy on the downside, heating costs and unemployment up, many families are struggling just to meet day to day demands, much less come up with warm clothing or Christmas presents for their little ones.

It is our duty, if we've been blessed with an overabundance in our lives, to remember to help others througout the year, but especially at Christmas when there is such an increased need. In our community alone right now there are over 1,000 angels that have not been collected from the Angel Trees. Food banks are requesting extra donations from anyone who can spare, and church pantries are running dry. The need is overwhelming and if we really want to experience the true meaning of Christmas, giving back is the way to do it.

I'm going to share a part of my life with you that I have told VERY few. For a long time I was ashamed of it and after I realized it was not my fault, I just saw no point in sharing it with anyone. But the point to sharing this is that even if you don't have a lot of money to share with others, you CAN make a huge difference. Every little thing you do can help someone.

When I was younger my mother divorced my dad and moved us to a small town in rural Texas. The town had less than 500 people and my mother married a man that was abusive and lazy. She did little to protect my brother and I, and we often had no money, barely any clothing or food. I refused to tell my dad (who was lived back at home in Alabama) what was happening. I felt like he would take us away from our mom and that would somehow cause her life to fall apart. My brother and I were abused physically, emotionally and verbally as often as my step-father felt the need...which was quite often. Thanks to my step-granddad we at least had a roof over our heads. Often times however, we would end up eating trash from the dumpsters of the local gas station.

Many times I relied on the kindness of strangers for a meal, for clothing, even for shelter at times. Almost 18 years later I can look back and tell you the names of the people who were gracious enough to reach out to my brother and I and lend a helping hand when we most needed it, and were most afraid to ask.

Please, I urge you, lend a helping hand this season to someone in need. If you're able, donate food to your local food bank, grab a few Angels from the Angel tree, decorate a tree with mittens and hats, donate toys to Toys for Tots. Keep an extra pair of mittens in your car for someone who might need it. Keep an extra bag of food and water in the trunk for someone out on the corner with a sign saying they'll work for food. Open your heart this Christmas season and let Christ work through you. I promise you, someone somewhere will be more thankful than you can ever imagine.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Day 22: Those cards again....

So yesterday we talked about sending out Christmas cards. Even if you cut down on the number you're sending out, you're likely to still send out SOME. And right now is a great time to take advantage of photo card deals. BUT, if you just want to send out some old fashioned greeting cards, but don't want to shell out the money to get new ones, AND you're tired of sending out the same old same old...invite your friends over for a Christmas card swap/card writing party.

Just have them bring their extra cards that they're willing to trade, put out the cards you're willing to trade, make sure you have your address list and card list handy and remind everyone to bring theirs as well! Set out some cookies, hot water for tea and coffee and have fun addressing your cards while getting in some great socialization and relaxation!

Even chores at Christmas can be more fun that regular old chores!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


It is delivery central around here today! Reagan's big birthday and big Christmas gift arrived today from FedEx and not thirty minutes later, my mom's package to Reagan arrived from UPS. Exciting! I'm so glad she took an early nap today so I can make sure the packages have all the pieces they are supposed to have and I'm so thankful I was able to catch the door both times before the doorbell rang!!!!

Day 23: Trimming the List

I know we talked about gifts for playgroups and classmates yesterday, but we all know Christmas isn't about gifts. It's about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. We also all know that we will, in fact, exchange gifts and cards and celebrate in the more materialistic aspects of Christmas because it's part of what makes the season fun. That being said, I've discovered that my own life has been much simpler since I've trimmed my gift and card lists and focused less on that materialistic side.

Don't get me wrong. I still love getting gifts--I love giving them more, ESPECIALLY to my daughter. I love getting her toys and watching how excited she is to play with them (for all of five minutes ;) ) But sometimes I think we buy gifts for people simply because it's expected and because it's what we've always done.

This year I'm shaking up that idea. I've cut my card list down dramatically and my gift list even more so. In the past, I've sent out no less than 100 cards every Christmas...to all sorts of people. People I didn't even talk to anymore, people I really didn't care to talk to anymore. And yet, year after year they remained on my list.

This year I've given myself permission to take those names off the list and not feel guilty. I'm not going to return a card if they send one, because let's face it--they're probably looking for an excuse to take me off their list as well. Why let the vicious cycle continue?

This year I'm sending cards to people who really matter to me, people who I want to say "hey, I'm thinking about you even if I haven't seen you in a while and I want you to know you're important to me." This year my Christmas card list is down to around 30. And I'm hoping next year it gets even smaller.

I'm not a scrooge. I love Christmas. But I'm learning that by taking on what really matters to me, I enjoy this time of year even more and I'm getting to the heart of what Christmas is really all about.

The same applies to my gift list. Since Reagan was born, this has been reduced..til this year it's almost non-existent. A few people are getting checks from us because this year has been hard and we want to share our blessings with others...a few people are getting small token gifts that I knew they'd truly appreciate. Mostly I'm trying to just stop the gift giving cycle. If I see something someone wants, I'm going to get it for them--it doesn't matter if they are giving me a gift; simply because I know it will make them HAPPY.

I'm also not going to give someone a gift just because they've given me one. I know that may sound selfish. But I'm tired of the requisite, you give me a gift, I'll give you one. I'm tired of the 'oh have an extra gift in your closet in case someone gives you a gift that you hadn't planned on and you need to have one to give back to them.' If someone gives me a gift, I'm going to be gracious and thank them, but I'm not going to feel the need to clutter their lives with more stuff and I'm not going to make myself frantic about getting them something.

This tip is all about giving yourself permission to let go this Christmas. Let go of the expectations, the obligations and just enjoy the things that you feel in your heart you NEED to do. Don't be forced into thinking you have to have the best display of lights on the block, send out perfectly worded Christmas cards and deliver cookies to all 80 people in your neighborhood. This is Christmas. It's time for family. It's time to SLOW DOWN, relax and enjoy what you have.

Take my advice, it's well worth it for you AND your family.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Day 24: Christmas--Class or Playgroup Gifts

I've decided to try to share a Christmas idea every day until the 25th. Hopefully this will help someone out there!

Today's Christmas tip is all about gifts for playdate friends. If your playgroup likes to exchange gifts (ours does), you know it can get expensive. Here are some tips to help make it less so!

1. Plan ahead. I shop every year after Christmas to get great deals on things I *KNOW* I'll use the following year--cards, gift wrap, ornaments, tissue paper, candy canes, cookie platters and gift "tins". Last year I stocked up on cute Christmas cups. They were originally 4/$1.00, but I purchased them at 4/$.25 on clearance. I also purchased wooden photo ornaments at JoAnn's for .25 each; and tubes of glitter paint in Christmas colors for .49 cents each.

2. Let your child get in on the gift giving. Yesterday Reagan and I had a blast decorating plain paper lunch sacks in which to put her gifts. She used markers, stickers and glitter glue and I let her go nuts. She loved it!

3. Remember, simple is better. Unify the gifts. I get everyone the same gift for that year. For instance, last year I used large plastic Christmas bowls (purchased the year before on Christmas clearance!) filled with popped popcorn and stuck a Veggie Tales Christmas DVD in each (on Black Friday sale at Family Christian for $5 each) and wrapped it all with cellophane and some ribbon..HUGE hit for approximately $6 for each family.

This year I went even simpler: Every one is getting a paper bag (decorated by Reagan) filled with photo ornaments for the kids to decorate with their own bottle of glitter glue. They'll also get a cellophane bag with an adorable Christmas cup and candy canes inside of it--Great Christmas gifts--unified--for about $1.50-$2.00 for each family.

4. Think "FAMILY". If you read the examples above, you'll note that the gifts aren't JUST for the kids. A family popcorn and movie night? Even Mom and Dad can get in on that. Decorating ornaments? Mom and Dad love to do things with the kids..and this is cheap, fun entertainment that actually produces something that will be cherished for a lifetime.

Oh, and one last tip: Make sure you bring something of whatever you're giving for your child...kids do watch that and you can avoid a temper tantrum by following this rule! For example, I have a cellophane bag with cup and candy cane already for Reagan too!

Remember, gifts don't have to be expensive...and they shouldn't be if you're buying for a large group of kids. Keep it thoughtful, keep it simple.

Share your ideas!
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