Thursday, December 21

Final Christmas Prep - what you really NEED

I wrote this post three years ago and never got around to publishing it. But it rings just as true today.

Guys. It's four days until Christmas. It's the epitome of crunch time when we all run ourselves ragged getting everything just perfect for the big day. Right? In and out of stores, more presents, more food, more decorating!

But this year we're after a different Christmas. This year we're after peace. And I just want you to know, it's okay to chill. To let go of grand plans and take hold of the simple alternatives. To wait with eager expectation and just let things be.

Check out my SIMPLE Christmas projects and tutorials here.

Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of things I'd still like to get done. But it turns out there are very few things I actually need to get done. That's the key, friends.

Things I still need to do are the simple and basic things. The things that, if I don't finish them, will actually cause problems or hinder our Christmas celebration. And I can only think of four things:
  • finish wrapping gifts (although even this one is iffy. I could leave things in their amazon boxes and we would survive)
  • pack for our holiday travels
  • prep our (simple) Christmas meals 
  • read the Christmas story

Now, I can think of a whole list of things I would still like to get done. But they are all extra. I can recognize that if I don't do them... it's not actually going to hinder us in anyway. We can still have a beautiful, meaningful, peaceful Christmas. Probably even more-so, because when we're not distracted by our own need to impress with the "perfect" Christmas, we have more time to focus on the things that are actually important and meaningful this season. So here are the things I've eliminated from my list already:
  • making Christmas cookies
  • putting up exterior lights
  • fancy gift wrapping
  • cooking an elaborate feast
  • sending Christmas cards

All that to say: don't be afraid to chill, friends. Don't be afraid to take an honest look at what NEEDS to be done - what truly matters for your family - and then let go of whatever doesn't fit the bill.  Don't let striving for a "perfect" Christmas steal the joy and peace from your home this season.

Let's have a peaceful Christmas, friends.

And above all, remember this: no matter how much we chase it this season, true peace and joy only come with the Savior we are celebrating. Who came because of his great love for us and died so our sins could be forgiven. He took the punishment that should be ours. This Christmas, don't forget what's truly most important, and don't let your kids forget it either. 

"For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." Luke 2:11
But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. Titus 3:4-5
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. 1 Timothy 1:15-16
And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
    "For hate is strong,
    And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
    The Wrong shall fail,
    The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men."

Have a merry Christmas, and I'll see you in 2024!

Wednesday, December 20

Custom Keepsake Ornament Hack

Every Christmas we love to give each of our kids a new Christmas ornament to commemorate something from the year - a favorite toy, favorite activity, funny memory, etc. It's so fun to pull them out every year to reminisce! I know a lot of families enjoy a similar tradition, but today I wanted to share a simple little twist that can save time and money as you hunt down your own special ornaments.

So what's the twist? It's just this: you can make your own one-of-a-kind ornaments for next to nothing! Rather than trying to hunt down a mass-produced, overpriced keepsake, let me show you a few shortcuts to try first. You'll probably need a few simple supplies like eye hooks, ribbon, and glue depending on the ornament you are making. 

Monday, December 18

DIY Wooden Stocking Tags

I know, I know. I'm changing up the stockings again. Turns out I have a have a restless spirit when it comes to stockings - which you've probably noticed if you've followed me for more than one Christmas (you can read all about it and see my long stocking history here, if you're curious). But I would like to say, for the record, that this year I only added tags to the new stockings I made last year. So. That's something. 

Saturday, December 16

Cream Cheese Pinwheels (only 3 ingredients!)

Cream cheese pinwheels are one of our classic go-to treats. Whether it's the Superbowl, a birthday, Christmas, or anything in between - if there is something special going on, this sweet, creamy goodness is on the menu. Pinwheels hold a lot of nostalgia for me because I remember my mom making them, and now my kids love them just as much as I do! You won't believe how simple they are with just three ingredients.

Friday, December 15

Foraged Stick Stars

This Christmas project is almost too easy to post. But it's a fun one that's super simple and cheap, plus collecting the sticks can be a lot of fun with the kids!

Wednesday, December 13

Vintage Inspired Yarn Doll Ornaments

This is easily my very favorite Christmas project this year. These little yarn dolls are the sweetest, and are a great way to share memories that will last a lifetime. And I love that they are ornaments the kids can actually touch and play with without hurting them. Anyone with small children knows the value of an unbreakable ornament!

But first, let me explain what I mean by memories that last a lifetime. Beyond the memories you will make with your kids that they will get to enjoy year after year. I remember visiting an older woman in a nursing home when I was very young, and when we visited she would give my sister and me yarn doll ornaments just like these. I don't know when it was or who she was, but that memory has stuck with me my whole life. In a similar way, I have an older, very dear friend who makes little angel ornaments that are crochet instead of yarn. She gave me one when I was younger, then surprised me with a second one when my oldest son was born. They are some of my most treasured ornaments. 

I say all of that to help us remember - little gestures can make a huge impact. And in this busy season it's good to remember to look out and see how we can be a blessing to others (it's so easy to forget that in all the holiday hustle and bustle). The smallest thing can make someone feel remembered and loved. Last year I asked my friend for a copy of her crochet pattern. Then I did a little digging to figure out how to make these yarn dolls. I hope to be the next generation ornament giver. To continue the traditions those ladies started. To give a tangible reminder to friends and family that they are loved and thought of. And I hope to bring my kids along with me. 

Monday, December 11

From Shopping to Wrapping - The Best Christmas Gift Tips From My Family of 8!

Today's post might be a little all over the place, but I just wanted to take a minute to share a few details about how we're doing gifts this year:

  1. Our gift-planning system and how we do our best to minimize clutter and excess
  2. The boys' secret Santa swap
  3. My favorite way to save big $$ on gifts
  4. A fun (and cheap!) wrapping tradition
  5. What we actually bought for the boys last year

If you're still looking for gift ideas, I'm not planning to put together any gift guides this year but you can check out my minimalist gift guide for kids that's full of our tried and true favorites, plus some of my top picks for guys and for the ladies (and my full shopping guide archive is here).

Friday, December 8

Tiny Sleeping Bag Tutorial (great stocking stuffer!)

Need a quick handmade gift that only takes a few scraps of fabric? I've got you covered! You can whip up a whole campground worth of these tiny sleeping bags in no time. And the small size = perfect stocking stuffer!

Tuesday, December 5

Easy Christmas Crafts for the Advent Season

Happy Advent season, friends! 

I’m always looking for ways to savor this season with my kids, strengthen family bonds, and ultimately point our children toward Christ. But for all the well-intentioned family advent plans out there, I can't for the life of me make it through one of them. Because here's the thing: I can't deal with anything complicated right now. Like, at all. I can't follow an extra advent schedule with projects and crafts and recipes every day. I can't spend time hunting down special ingredients or searching for unique craft pieces.  

But guess what? We don't need a fancy, fully scheduled plan to make the most of this season. We can fly by the seat of our pants and make the season magical and memorable for our kids in ways that work with our unique schedules and lifestyles, using simple items and ingredients we probably already have at home. And that's my goal with this little series. It's not a fully guided advent plan by any stretch, but it is a collection of projects and recipes that are simple, low commitment, and fun, that can be enjoyed with your family. Feel free to use them as you see fit - whenever you find a pocket of time and want to fit in a little Christmas magic. 

As you complete these projects with your family, please don't overlook the most important part of any advent celebration: Christ. There is no project on this list that is more important than teaching your children (or grandchildren) the true meaning of the season, the gospel, and all Christ has done for us. If you have time for only one advent "project," make it reading the Bible with your children. There are all kinds of advent reading plans out there, but, again, it doesn't have to be complicated. A great option is just reading the book of Luke. It has 24 chapters so it works out perfectly to read a chapter per day throughout December leading up to Christmas. Or, if you have younger kids, you can grab a reliable Children's bible and start reading through the New Testament passages with them (but don't ever discount the importance of reading from the actual Bible or be afraid to do it with younger kids - they understand far more than we give them credit for). 

With that said, many of these projects can work really well hand-in-hand with your scripture reading to make a pretty complete (but very chill and super flexible) advent "plan." I recommend starting with the playdough because you'll be able to use it all season! It's great for keeping little hands busy while you read, and older kids might enjoy sculpting what you are reading about. The recipes can be used in a similar way - enjoy making them with the kids, then sit down and read to them while they enjoy the treat. (It's so much easier for them to sit and listen when they have cookies to nibble or cocoa to sip! A warm cup of tea works in a pinch, too!). If you have bigger kids, they can work on the crafts or recipes while you read to them. And the yarn doll ornaments can be especially fun - they can double as, well, yarn dolls that the kids can actually play with while you read. Have fun with it, and remember that nothing will go perfectly and it's ok!

Gingerbread Playdough

3 Ingredient Shortbread Cookie

Vintage Style Yarn Doll Ornaments

Check back soon - I'll add more projects as I get them posted!

For more Christmas tips, check out the post below with all the info about how our family of 8 does Christmas gifts: how we plan, sibling gifts, a fun wrapping hack, what we actually bought for the boys last year, and more!

I'd love to hear your favorite advent crafts, recipes, or traditions!

Monday, December 4

3 Ingredient Shortbread Cookies

Do cookies count as crafts? I'll let you decide. But either way, these shortbread cookies are so good and so easy to make! They only take three ingredients that you probably already have in your kitchen. They are perfect to make in a hurry for last minute guests, a cookie swap, or a movie night with the kids! Don't let the Christmas season go by without giving them a try!