Archives for November 2006

Frugal Friday: Christmas Wreaths

Over the years I’ve made quite a few Christmas wreaths. It is a fun and easy project, with lots of room for creativity. If you already have a form from an old wreath (grapevine, green florist foam, or whatever), you can strip the form bare and start over. Or you can add cool new things to your existing wreath. You can also give an evergreen in your yard a pruning and with the help of wire create your own form. For fastening on the fancy stuff, I’ve used wire, twine, hot glue, or even twist ties. (The ones that fasten kids’ toys in packages are perfect.)

Yesterday I came across a really fun article Southern Living: Find Your Holiday Wreath Style with a bunch of unusual Christmas wreath ideas. The ones pictured here are my two very favorite. The article includes more than a dozen other cool ideas as well. Look through the photos and I bet your imagination will be inspired.

You may decide to buy some things to recreate the beautiful looks in the article. But chances are you could come up with an equally lovely wreath with things you already have: greenery, pinecones, nuts from the tree in your yard, an old silk flower arrangement you’re tired of. Think creatively.

I’m going to use some really huge pine cones to jazz up a wreath I already have. I’d love to see what you come up with!

(Click here for more Frugal Friday ideas.)

Gifts to the Future

This evening while wrapping the first gifts of the Christmas season, I once again caught myself thinking very un-Christmasy thoughts. During my first gift-wrapping session each year, with a feeling akin to superstition, I make sure to wrap at least one gift for each person in my family before I quit wrapping. Labelled, with a handwritten little ‘I love you’ message and placed under the tree.

Only when I have wrapped a gift for every single person can I quit, relieved. Now if (heaven forbid) something happened to me before Christmas came, each of my precious ones would have a Christmas gift from me.

This morbid little obsession began the year my husband’s grandmother died. She died in early December, and as we cleaned out her house after the funeral, we discovered sacks of wrapped Christmas gifts, all carefully labeled with family member’s names.

We brought home our gifts and put them under the tree. Over the days that followed, as we ate casseroles from kind friends and opened sympathy cards and watered the death-bouquet on our dining room table, we also stole looks at the mysterious gifts from her.

On Christmas Eve we opened them to discover hand made Christmas stockings for each of our 4 children, and a Christmas tree skirt for John and me. Those were some of the most precious gifts I’d ever gotten. Gifts made for us while she lived, and opened by us after she died.

Since then, wrapping Christmas gifts for my family makes me morbid. It reminds me of my frailty, and of my longing to leave of part of myself with my loved ones. Yes, Grandma was in her 70’s when she died, and I’m only 39. Lord-willing, I’ll run through reams more Christmas wrap before I make my way to Heaven. Heck, I have every intention of wrapping gifts for great-grandkids, just as John’s grandmother did. But you never know. And so I wrap quickly, and sit back in relief when everyone has a gift.

Thinking this evening I realized that the really important gifts from John’s grandmother were not wrapped in red Christmas paper. Her steady love. Her beautiful smile. Her open Bible next to her rocking chair. Her adoration of our children. The words she spoke so often: “You kiddies are doing so well! I’m so proud of you!” Those were her most precious gifts to us.

Those gifts from her make me think of the gifts I hope to pass on to my precious ones. Hope for the future. Warm-heartedness. A tendency to break into song as if life is some wacky musical. Faith in God above all else. I pray that no matter what happens, my children will know that legacy passed on by me.

As much as I am looking forward to Christmas when I can watch my children and my husband opening the gifts I wrapped in paper for them this evening, those gifts are as dust compared to the gifts I cannot wrap — the gifts I am doing my daily best to give my family, a song and a smile and a hug and a prayer at a time.

(Love Thursday)

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Works For Me Wednesday

With Christmas coming, I thought it might be fun to talk about kids and the gift-giving that they do for family members. Our tradition is to give each child a dollar for every family member and take them to the dollar store one at a time to shop for each other.

Sometimes one parent will sit outside in the van with all the other kids, while I take kids one by one inside for their turn at shopping. Other times I’ll just take a few kids errand-running and they shop for everyone who doesn’t happen to be along on that particular trip. Usually a few days before Christmas, hubby runs all the little kids to the store to let them shop for me and whomever else they missed.

My four big kids all have a little income from odd jobs: babysitting, cleaning house, etc. They have gradually been taking over their own gift-buying, unfunded by the folks. And sometimes several kids will pitch in together to buy an item for one of the other kids.

I imagine that sometime in the future, we’ll switch to drawing names and having the kids buy for just one sibling. But so far the kids seem to be really enjoying picking something for each sibling. You can find so many fun things at the dollar store these days! Once at home with all the loot, the hurrying and scurrying of excited children to separate corners of the house with gift wrap and tape and scissors is another fun Christmas tradition.

Works for us!

(Visit Rocks in My Dryer for more ideas.)


…to all of you who took time from your busy lives to write nice words about my blog. I so much appreciate it.

Swiffer Carpet Flick (and pictures from today)

I got an email awhile back from Swiffer asking if I would review their Carpet Flick. Got it in the mail the other day and was disappointed to discover one piece is missing from mine. The younger kids have had a grand time pushing it around anyway, but I think I’ll wait to give my official review till after they send me the missing bit.

However, I did want to mention that Swiffer is having a contest that you may be interested in. Details are here. You fill out an entry form for a chance to win. The prizes are:

1. Grand Prize Winner: $3,500 toward a home makeover
2. 25 First Prize Winners: A Swiffer WetJet
3. 6 Weekly Winners: A year’s supply of Swiffer Products

You can also submit a photo of your home decorated for the holidays to include in their on-line photo gallery. Here’s mine:

Also, while I am sharing photos, I wanted to share one my hubby took of the little kids this morning, playing in the teeny tiny skiff of snow we got overnight.

Just a warning

If your runny-nosed toddler comes up to you complaining about the state of her nose, and you call for a Kleenex and catch both her hands in yours to prevent the dreaded swipe-it-across-the-cheek move– don’t relax while waiting for the Kleenex to arrive.

She may just lean down and in one skillful move wipe her nose all over your PJ pants.

Just a warning.


Psalm 90:14

Typepad mystery

Could anyone tell me why, whenever I have tried to reply on ANY Typepad blog all week long, instead of the comment being registered on the appropriate blog, my comment is lost and I am automatically redirected to Chookooloonks?

Now, heaven knows I love Karen, but why on earth has my computer decided to hijack every typepad comment and send me over to her place repeatedly? And more importantly, how do I FIX it?


Getting me up early in the morning takes one of three things: a baby, an airplane, or a sale. I can’t say I sprang out of bed lightly when the alarm rang this morning at 4, but it only took a few minutes to be raring to go. My valiant hubby and I left the house at 4:40, balancing coffee mugs, sales ads, and a slab of pumkin pie apiece.

First stop: Shopko- 5:10 AM. On the way there we’d divided the list. Hubby’d be going to toys, and I’d be doing the rest of it. The parking lot was full, but inside the store it wasn’t too bad in the first few minutes. I headed for kids clothes (you can’t beat jeans for $7!) and pretty much found what I came for. Then I headed over to check on John in toys.

The crowd was getting thick near the toys. I was glad I had bags instead of a cart. Via cell phones we located each other, and it turned out he’d had no luck finding things on his list. Stuff had been snatched up so fast hadn’t gotten a thing. And already the line was nuts– clear to the back of the store. By the time we got into line, it was winding along the back wall. Fun.

I held the place in line and John tried to locate a couple more things. No luck. After waiting a few minutes together, we decided he ought to go to the nearly Staples, which was opening in 20 minutes or so, while I waited here.

I ended up chatting with a couple gals around me in line– the lines move so slow you always end up feeling like friends with your line-mates after an hour or so. We took turns making little forays into nearby aisles, and pushing each other’s carts forward. I had fabulous luck finding toys that way. So good, in fact, that I grabbed an abandoned cart when I spotted one.

Some of the things I found were items people had set down in odd places (probably running, screaming when they’d seen the lines!) And other things had been restocked after that first crazy rush. By the time I’d snailed my way to the front, the cart was piled high, and my list was mostly checked off.

When I was near the checkout, my cell rang. It was John, jubilant because he’d gotten all three items we’d wanted there, despite huge bunches of people. By the time I was checking out, he was back to help me rassle bags.

Next stop: Lowe’s for me and Radio Shack for him (around 6:30). We consulted via cell phone as we shopped. Again, by the time I reached the checkout, John was there to pick me up. But this time I frantically told John via phone NOT to come in the store yet because I’d bought HIM something I didn’t want him to see. The check-out lady and I hurried, laughing, to make the see-through Lowe’s bags opaque thru judicious use of sales ads.

Our final stop, around 8 am, was Target, which turned out to be a DREAM compared to Shopko. We were in and out in half an hour.

Then it was on to IHOP for breakfast. We had a nice chat (mostly spent delighting over our good deals!) and then it was time to head home. We made it home by 9:30. That’s what I call 5 hours well spent. Needless to say I took a nap this afternoon with my toddler.

When I woke up, John and the big kids had set up the tree, all ready to decorate. And all I had to do was delegate the decorating jobs…and snap pictures of the decorating party…

…and unwrap the new string of lights and show it to the two year old…

…and show the little girls the nesting Christmas Santas that they’d forgotten all about since last year….

and wipe up sticky candy-cane fingers..

….and put a casserole in the over for dinner…

…and vacuum….

…and sit back and admire the effect.

Now we are watching “It’s A Wonderful Life” to the twinkle of Christmas lights as we munch popcorn. Isn’t popcorn the loveliest smell?
And isn’t Christmas the loveliest season?

I’ll show you my living room soon….

A Thanksgiving read

Screamingly busy for the next few days, but I wanted to leave you this link to a post on a blog I love. Planet Nomad:Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. May we all see clearly how richly we have been blessed.