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Category: Family, Fun & Holidays

Celebrating a Simple Christmas: Homemade gifts

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One thing we did for some simple homemade gifts this year was to make up a bunch of hot drink mixes. I love hot drink mixes in the Wintertime and they're a nice gift to give since they don't need to be used right away but can be enjoyed at the recipient's leisure.

We made: , , and .

I bought some gift bags and tags and ribbon at 50% off at Hobby Lobby last week for $0.99 per 20 of each and used these to package up the gifts. While I could have made my own and probably saved a few dimes, I figured that keeping it simple and saving time and effort was worth paying a little bit extra for.

We'll be putting these drink mixes in gift baskets with the mini-loaves of sweet breads I made up yesterday and a bag of (thanks to for the recipe link!). All of these items can be stored in the freezer, too, so if the recipient has lots of homemade goodies around, they can save ours to enjoy later.

It's a simple and inexpensive homemade gift, but I think it will be meaningful and appreciated by those who receive it. And we had a lot of fun putting them together, too!

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Celebrating a Simple Christmas: Cookie-Baking Day!

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We took the day off today from our usual routine and had a cookie-baking/bread-baking day. I always try to take at least a day or two the week before Christmas to do some fun baking. And it's especially enjoyable now that the girls are old enough to help some.

Today, we made 32 mini-loaves of different sweet breads (Pumpkin Chocolate Chip, Apple Walnut, and Lemon breads) to give as gifts and the girls made and decorated a variety of Christmas cookies to share with others.

There are more pictures of our day posted over here.

Celebrating a Simple Christmas: Introduction

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I'm going to let you in on a little secret: I don't start any Christmas preparations until after December 1. Seriously.

That might sound odd coming from a person who usually is a pretty meticulous planner, however, I've found that waiting until December to start Christmas preparations helps tremendously to keep things simple.

And keeping things simple is one of the most important things to me about Christmas. If I'm running around like a chicken with my head cut off and feeling completely overwhelmed and stressed, it's not worth it to me. I'd rather keep it simple, do less, and have time to really enjoy the Christmas season and all that it entails.

With this in mind, our family chooses a few things each year to do and enjoy during the Christmas season. Each year, it's a little different–and that adds to the fun!

This year, we're choosing to enjoy lots of Christmas music, put up our first Christmas tree and lights on our home, have a cookie-baking day, make homemade gifts for a few friends and family, read Christmas stories and books, attend a few get-togethers with friends, go caroling to some elderly folks and shut-ins, celebrate Advent with a Jesse Tree, get a few special gifts for our immediate family members, and enjoy lots of memorable time with family. We spread out these activities over the whole month of December so that no week is packed to the gills and we're able to take time to savor each thing.

Over the next few days, I'll be sharing a little peek into our family's simple Christmas celebrations this year. My goal in sharing is not so that you'll feel like you need to do exactly what we do (please don't!) but to just inspire you (hopefully!) to consider choosing what really matters to your family this Christmas and to encourage your family to stop and savor the sights, smells, and sounds of this season!

May your Christmas season be a wonderfully blessed, unhurried, and joyful time of year, a time for making memories, sharing laughter with family and friends, and, most of all, remembering the One Who was born so long ago in a humble manger.

Guest Post: Simplify Christmas Without the Guilt

Note from Crystal: Rachel's post kicks off a short series we'll be doing here over the next few days on Celebrating a Simple Christmas. I'll be sharing some of the things our family is doing, baking, and making to enjoy
this special time of year while keeping it very simple. I hope the
ideas shared will be an inspiration and encouragement to all of you to
slow down and focus on what really matters this season.

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Guest Post by Rachel from

We are simplifying our Christmas this year, finding ways to celebrate that aren't costly or emotionally draining. It feels amazingly free to let go of obligations, not try to do it all, and focus on the traditions that our family enjoys most.

When I recently, my friend Megan responded:

So am I reading this right that you might possibly NOT be sending Christmas cards this year? Because I so want freedom from Christmas cards. Can I opt out? It would be the second year in a row. Am I a bad person/friend?

Okay let me be honest: I haven't sent Christmas cards since 1995.

Do I feel guilty? Not really.

It's so easy to wonder and worry:

  • Will friends still like me?
  • Will they think that I am unorganized?
  • What if they send me a card, but I don't send one to them?

Sometimes Christmas seems like putting on a show. It's wearisome, and it leaves us wanting more.

I've been thinking about what a simple Christmas would be like for us, and together with my husband we have chosen some things to cut back on.

This means I won't get to act like Martha and show off my amazing skills. (Which is a good thing, considering my past kitchen disasters.)

More and more, I have to remember that Christmas is not about me. It's not about what I can do, what I can make, or how organized I can be.

If our Christmas is to resemble the way that Christ came to this earth, then we need to take a step back. The way Jesus was born was humble. It wasn't a spectacular show. It wasn't a production. I want my Christmas to reflect that, so I can dwell on him this season.

If I don't send cards this year, or have a huge pile of gifts to pass out, or fill up my kitchen with cookies, it will be okay. It could be more than okay–joyful even.

I will assume my friends will be understanding and gracious, and they will still like me, even without cards. Benefit of the doubt is a gracious gift: it makes it so much easier to live with others. When you give benefit of the doubt to others, you are saying, "I am looking at the best in you."

When you receive it from others, it means, "I don't need to be perfect, or try to look like it."

Jesus said, "For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:30 NIV), and I am convinced that goes for the holidays too.

May you have a blessed, peaceful, and guilt-free holiday season.

Rachel Meeks writes about making a simple and peaceful home. To read more about having a "Come As You Are" Christmas without the frenzy, visit .

Is your family proactively doing anything this year to keep Christmas simple? If so, please tell us about it in the comments section!

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Guest Post: Creative and Frugal Ideas for Gift-Wrapping

Guest Post by Monica from

Aside from the usual 90% off roll of Christmas wrap, my favorite gift
wrap has become brown kraft paper and simple hardware store twine. The
brown paper is on sale for $1 a roll frequently at Walgreens and twine
can also be purchased for $1 at dollar stores and Big Lots.

Here
are some ways I've dressed up simple brown paper with odds and ends
of crafting supplies. I've found that pages from old books, mini clothespins, magazine
pictures, felt scraps, sticks from the yard, buttons, ribbon and sewing
notion scraps are all wonderful things to work with!

(Click on any of the images below to see a larger and detailed version.)

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Those are just a few of my ideas, what about you? What are your favorite creative and frugal ideas for wrapping or embellishing gifts? I'd love to hear!

Monica enjoys blogging about the simple pleasures of faith, family, and home over at .

Guest Post: Thrifty Evergreens

Guest Post by Monica from

Every year, I enjoy getting a load of
free clippings from our local Lowe's Home Improvement store. We
always buy our tree at Lowe's and I'm happy to give them my business
when the tree is a good value and I get all the free clippings I
want! If you don't have a Lowe's nearby, check with any local place
where Christmas trees are sold to see if you might be able to pick up some of the extra tree clippings for free.

I recommend that you head to Lowes at a busy time so you are sure
there will be lots of clippings! Beginning right after Thanksgiving,
weekends are a perfect time to stop by and pick up some free greens. I've found it's helpful to stop at the tree trimming
spot on our way in and say we'd like a load of clippings and then
go pick out our tree as I've had employees start a pile for me and have
it ready when I come out.

Remember that each customer is entitled to their own tree trimmings so don't take someone else's until you are sure they don't want it. And also, be willing to share; you'd be
amazed how far you can stretch a small pile of clippings! 

The following projects I've made from our free evergreen clippings are extremely versatile
and very inexpensive. I hope you will find one or two that you'll
enjoy using to decorate your home this year.The only other supplies you need are
completely up to you and your taste. You might use fabric scraps or ribbon, twine,
pine cones, interesting antiques in holiday colors, or whatever else suits
your family!

Gather some limbs together and wire to a
coat hanger. Glue on pine cones and wire on an item of visual and color
interest–in this case, a red lantern! Add a fabric bow and you have
a great look on your door for free:

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You could decorate your mailbox:

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Or, float evergreens in a jar with cranberries:

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[A note on the cranberries: you can
get these anytime they are on sale and just pop the entire bag in
your freezer. I usually assemble my jars on Christmas Eve and enjoy
them for a few days. You can either place the jars in your fridge
to extend the life of the berries or dry the berries off and refreeze
them for next year! I have made a bag of berries last for two or
three years by doing this!]

Or, decorate a rocking chair or porch swing:

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Here are just a few more ideas:

::Put extra greens in a cute pail or bucket on your porch or hearth.

::Tie greens onto a gift bag.

::Use evergreens inside on a windowsill, on top of a cabinet or over a mirror. I've even hung them in the windows!

::Tie a few greens onto your little one's stroller or wagon and make your winter walks more festive!

::Make place card using the extra greens. See details .

::Use the extra greens as a filler in mailing a box! Go for more details.

This
is just the beginning! There are so many fun ways to use these free and
beautiful branches! Do you decorate with greens? What is your favorite
way to bring this inexpensive decoration into your decorating?

Monica enjoys blogging about the simple pleasures of faith, family, and home over at .

Note from Crystal: Be sure to check out for much more fun and frugal Christmas inspiration! Also, one of my other favorite bloggers, Catherine, has shared how she used her free tree trimmings to decorate her home for Chrstmas this year and .