Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Savoring Family Time (or, Simple Homemade Gifts)

Welcome to the October 2012 Simplicity Parenting Carnival: Holidays
This post was written as part of the monthly Simplicity Parenting Carnival hosted by The Lone Home Ranger and S.A.H.M. i AM. This month we are discussing how we simplify the holiday season. Be sure to read to the end to see a list of the rest of the excellent carnival contributors.
This year preparing early and keeping Christmas simple is a necessity. (Yes, it's October and I'm talking about Christmas.) Simple is our preference every year but I'm generally working on projects and rushing to finish gifts up until the last minute. This year, with a baby due between Thanksgiving and Christmas, preparing in advance is not optional.
Salt dough ornaments waiting to be painted...
I'm really looking forward to the holidays. I'm only just barely resisting the urge to turn on the Christmas station on Pandora. I love winter. I love Christmas. I love creating family traditions (especially now that we have kids. I remember how important family traditions were to me as a child and know how children use them to integrate the different parts of the year).  I love the smell of a Christmas tree. I love seeing our home filled up with messy holidays crafts and decorations.

On the other hand, my husband and I don't love the stress and pressure to shop, shop, shop, and spend, spend, spend. It makes me distinctly anxious. This year we're trying to avoid the stress and focus on the parts of the holidays that are really important to us--specifically, spending quality time with family, creating family traditions, and doing kind deeds for others. These are the parts of the holidays we want to carry on throughout the rest of the year.

However, since our baby is due December 2nd (give or take a few weeks) I know that this year will need to be much more low key. We're planning to spend as much time as possible hunkered down as a family while my husband is off work and since I don't know what my recovery will be like this time around, I'm not counting on myself to be up baking cookies and supervising crafting in the weeks before Christmas.

Consequently, I'm making cookies early and freezing the dough for easy baking later. I'm planning to put up our Christmas decorations right after Thanksgiving (we already have decorations we've made or been given by family). I've been stockpiling homemade jams and salsas and other little goodies to give as gifts, and I'm creating simple advent activities that can be done easily by a three-year-old (yikes, she'll be three! She'll have a birthday before the baby arrives) either in bed with mom and baby sister or with Dad.

Although I know I'm in danger of spoiling the surprise for many of our friends and family, I want to share a few of the simple homemade gifts I have my eye on this year. Some of these have been completed already and some of them are on the list to make soon...for more ideas you can check out my Gift Ideas Pinterest board. I'm sure I'll be collecting more ideas over the next few weeks!

Here's what we've been working (or planning to work) on:
Hot Chocolate and custom mugs
Citrus Salt Scrub
Salt dough ornaments (we've been experimenting with recipes. We're trying this one next).
Fabric coasters

And of course the aforementioned homemade jams, salsas, and other yummy canned goodness. We tried this jam recipe last week and really like how it turned out!

I love making the gifts we will give the people in our lives. I love that L can help me and, aside from all the good things about the experience of creating, start to understand how special it is to give someone something you've created yourself. It may seem more complicated to make gifts but I've found it's not...at least it's not if you don't try to do it all in one day!* An added benefit of making gifts and starting early (aside from the fact that we don't have to battle traffic at the mall) is that we end with little things on hand throughout the year if we ever need a quick thank-you gift or a nice pick-me-up for a friend. 

But more than anything else this holiday season I'm looking forward to being with my family. I'm looking forward to slowing down and staying home in a warm, cozy house filled with the smell of baking cookies and pine needles, sparkling Christmas lights, reading books in bed, snuggling with my family, and a new baby in my arms.**

*In full disclosure we did purchase some gifts for L. I haven't avoided stores entirely. I'm not immune to consumerism...but they are items I'm sure will be well used throughout the coming years.

**Okay, I know this is a super rosy picture of our lives with our new baby...I'm sure we'll have plenty of challenges as we adjust to being a family of four. However, I'm trying to think positively!

How do you keep the holidays simple? What are your favorite homemade gifts you love to give (or receive)? 
Thanks for reading the Simplicity Parenting Blog Carnival! We hope you’ll take time to read these other great contributors’ posts: SimParCarButton150x150
  • Making Halloween - JW at True Confessions of a Real Mommy says “No need to spend a lot this Halloween! Check out some easy, frugal ideas for dressing your family up!”
  • Hibernating During Halcyon - Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children and her family are gearing up for the Halcyon celebrations and enjoying some quiet time as a family.
  • Savoring Family Time (or, Simple Homemade Gifts) - Emily at S.A.H.M. i AM is trying to prepare for the holidays early so she can slow down and enjoy time with her family as the days grow shorter and a new baby enters their lives.
  • 7 Green Gifts for Toddlers - Shannon at GrowingSlower shares unique green gift ideas for kids this holiday season that are sure to be green mom approved.
  • Less is More: Simplifying the Holidays to Make Room for More of What Matters - Amy at Anktangle shares a few easy strategies she uses to keep the holidays manageable, stress-free, and fun!
  • buy nothing x-mas? - mama lola at bear & lion describes what christmas is all about to her and her family; treats, music, crafts and LOVE!
  • DIY holiday fun - Justine at The Lone Home Ranger revels in thrifting for and making her own holiday gifts and decorations.
Thanks to all the fabulous writers and readers for being a part of our simplicity parenting community! Stop by The Lone Home Ranger and S.A.H.M. i AM to see how to join us for a future carnival.

This post is also part of Simple Lives Thursday, Frugal Friday, and Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways.


  1. I've never made the salt cookies, but both you and mama lola mentioned them so I'll give it a shot. I definitely remember them from being a kid--and mixed feelings over having fun making them but being annoyed at not being able to eat them. I guess we'll just have to make cookies we can eat at the same time. :)

    I don't think it's too rosy a picture you paint. You will be doing lots of snuggling, since the first month is usually a baby honeymoon before they wake up and want more attention. Rent plenty of library movies and consider it a gift to L that she can watch as much as she wants. Guilt-free movies! It doesn't happen often, right?

  2. I work on gifts a little at a time all year so that I never feel rushed. We have often made salt dough ornaments for various seasons, but this year we plan to make applesauce cinnamon ornaments. They make the house smell *so* wonderful.

  3. I think it's wonderful you have such a positive attitude about the newborn phase. As everyone says it's so fleeting, and I love that you've prepared yourself to enjoy every bit of it as much as possible!

  4. Those sound like great , thoughtful gifts. As a carmaker, I LOVE receiving homemade gifts. I make cards, make my own gift bags, wrap, bake cookies and treats and other fun gifts. Last year was our first married Christmas so it was crazy here and I didn't get to do my normal creating, and I missed it. I spend a complete day with my sister baking. We have done this for years, and it is special time for the two of us.



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