Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Another New Year and Top 5 post from 2014

These were to top 5 posts from the year based on number of views. I am surprised by some of the topics that have made the list as well as by some that did not make the list. More than anything else I am grateful for this outlet and all of the things that I am able to look back on and continue to learn from. I am thankful for the small trickle of readers who stop by. As the new year rolls in many are speaking of resolutions. I am anxious to see what the year holds for us and I am always looking for thing to learn and ways to improve. This year though, I will not be making any resolutions other than to survive the year ahead. With a new baby arriving in March I feel that trying to do more than stay a float might be over whelming but any successes would be welcome surprises. 

I hope the New Year finds you well and I wish you a year of dreaming, striving, learning and simplifying. 

Shared on The Homestead Blog Hop

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Homemade Christmas

Christmas has come and gone, quite successfully. This year has been a year of trying to reduce and to hand make as many gifts as we can. It all started way back in November, which is the key in being able to have a homemade holiday. Pinterest became my best friend as I scoured for ideas and it gave me a great place to save all of my favorite ideas for when I was ready to try them. I have a habit of holding on to anything that may serve some useful purpose which in this instance helped me out tremendously. I was able to 'shop' in my stash and spend very little at actual stores.

Now that Christmas is over and I don't have to worry about ruining any surprises I am able to share with you the things that I made. I took my Pinterest inspirations and made them into my own based on the supplies I had available. These crafts would make perfect gift for anytime of year especially birthdays.

This is the inspiration for my Christmas Animal in Tin. I took the idea and made it my own opting to make a bear instead, along with a Christmas themed tin. These tins were recycled from a tea set my husband received as a gift from a vendor at his work.

Homemade soap was one of the most fun crafts of the season. My girl and I cheated and used a melt and pour kit purchased at a craft store since we have never made soap before. We left out the harsh smelling fragrance oils that came with the kit and used 4 drops of lavender essential oil and 3 drops of lemon essential oil for each bar. The bars were finished off with a home printed label.

I crocheted wash cloths to go with the soap gift and while I did not use a pattern what I did is very smiler to this. It was a quick project and I think it is something that would be suitable to help a beginner crocheter to gain a sense of accomplishment. A nice a small project.

Peppermint Scrub was added to the crochet wash cloth and soap. It was a fun and simple recipe.

My inspiration for a felt tic tac toe game. The pink was not really going to suit the little boy who was getting this gift and I opted for a button closure on the back. Again I really tried to make it my own. I cut felt for the lines and then paint x's and o's on to squares of felt. I am hoping that this will be something that the little boy could use on his train commute to school each day.

 These were the gifts that we gave the kids teachers. Cute little sleighs made out of candy, topped with a bow and accompanied by a card decorated by the kids. My eight year old tried her hand at the glue gun for the first time while Little Guy was more that happy to let me glue while waiting to see if there would be any candy left for him to eat.

The neighbors always get cookies from us. We love baking and we each have our own favorite type of cookies so we make a lot of them. Giving them away keeps us from eating them all while sharing in the  season with those in our community. Here are our favorite recipes:
Chocolate Chip
Peanut Butter

There were several other crafts I made that I did not take a photo of once I was finished but I will share the link because they were really cute projects for babies.  I made both the fabric ball and the tag blanket from this website.

All of our gifts were very well received and we had a great time as a family making the preparations for the holiday. We spent the time together and thanks to careful planning and thinking ahead were able to get in done without rushing to the last minute. I hope you find some of these gifts ideas fun and give them a try. Happy crafting!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Our Advent for 2014

I was browsing through Facebook the other day and I found a really neat way to count down to Christmas.

When I say browsing I mean, reading intently for the 10th time that day.

And when I say a really neat way to count down to Christmas, I mean a no brainer, easy peasy, free way to count down.

I saw this idea in response to someones post about Christmas books. The idea is to wrap up all of your Christmas books and number them 1 through 24. Each night the kids can pick out the book for the day and the whole family can sit down and read the book together.

It is another way to spend a few minutes together. It also allows all the Christmas books in the house to have a chance to get read rather than reading the same one 20 times while all the others remain on the shelves. At the end of the Christmas the books can be rewrapped and stored with all of the Christmas decor rather than left taking up shelf space on the off season.

The best part is that can be free if you have enough books or cheap if you look for used books and yard sales and second hand shops.

We have started this already and the kids love it as they get to read some of their favorites as well as some others that they would normally pass up. It is a nice little tradition to add to the season and as the kids get older we can change up the titles. I like this much better than collecting small nicknacks that just take up space or the ever popular small chocolates. Believe it or not even kids eventually get sick of all the sweets at Christmas time.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

I hope that all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I can't believe that it came and went so fast this year. We spent the holiday at my moms house and as usual the food was delicious. I will never understand how she makes cooking for 15 look so effortless. In fact, she kicked us all out of the kitchen  and refused our help because she was more annoyed at tripping over all of us than thankful for our help. I guess when you  have done these things for so long it is difficult to get used to a kitchen filled with people trying to 'help'.

This year we also had the chance to spend the holiday with a little girl who was given a tough lot in life but thankfully is seemingly unaware of it due to the people who have stepped up to the plate for her. Some of the children in the family are old enough to understand the situation and piece together the information they have overheard. These teenagers seemed to be more thankful for the loving homes they have and the security of knowing that home, for them, will always be home.

It was a good day to give thanks for all that we have and to spend time together. The food was amazing and nothing makes Thanksgiving quite like a football rivalry to keep the excitement going late into the night.

We followed our tradition of decorating for Christmas during the weekend after Thanksgiving. Last year I was so satisfied with our pared down lifestyle until Christmas and then I found myself sucked back into the consumerist lifestyle where too much is never enough. This year my family and I have been working towards simplifying Christmas, starting with getting a new smaller tree. In years past we have always put up a large artificial tree, I am allergic to pine, that takes up half of our leaving room. We always have had to move our the love seat out of the house for a month, leaving us short on sitting space and making my husband a grouchy guy. This year with our new smaller tree we were able to keep all our seating which allows us to spent more time lounging together on these cold, dark evenings by the glow of our tree. This one change has already set a wonderful mood for the holiday and I hope to share with you all the ways we try to simplify Christmas in order to make it a holiday we can truly enjoy rather than endure.