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It is that wonderful time of year again - December. The month of both of my daughters' births, and the birth of my Lord. While the birth of my Lord seems peaceful and calm, and all the joy of Christmas therein, I have somehow worn myself out with the birthdays this year. This is a big year, 11, for my youngest daughter. Somehow in negotiations throughout the year, I have promised three parties for one child. This cannot be. I must be losing my mind.
Well, there is a small get-together on Saturday, which will be for her closest friends, and we will have cake. There was the actual day, which was yesterday. We had cake then, too. (Don't even ask me why I agreed to this.) Before that there was the party for the oldest, she just turned 22. She had cake - can you see the recurring theme here?
Next year, we are not doing cakes on all the days. I will do a fruit spread and I am not going to listen to any objections. As far as the little treats for the birthday parties, I am going to give rocks that have crosses on them. I was going to go to Walmart and buy the supplies myself and make them, but I decided that ordering them from Oriental Trading Company would be the cheaper way to go. I ordered two dozen of them. They are called worry stones, but I call them "Inspiration" stones. They don't take up a ton of space and they mean something past the five minutes after they are opened. I also ordered some cute Bell Necklaces for them. I love bells!
The presents for the kids birthdays have been coming in a-plenty. My youngest has got so much lip gloss and fingernail polish and such, it should last forever, which unfortunately it does not. As some of you might know, most makeup is too old to use by the time it is four months old, especially mascara. Enough said about makeup.
I have been working on homemade gifts to give the kids, especially things that make them feel comforted. This brings me to the subject of pillows. The whole family loves soft pillows. There are no plain pillows in my house if I can help it. I am always looking for soft fabrics or else buying those small baby blankets that are on the dollar aisle at Walmart or Food City. They are small but they are fleece and they are wonderful! These can be two different things, they can be pillows to sleep on, which I love (I also love flannel) or you can wrap a small pillow in it and make a pet pillow out of it.
I simply take a pillow out of its pillowcase and sew the small fleece blanket onto it. I don't even bother making it even in the back. I will later put another fabric on the back. They love these. The pillows were always coming out of their cases. While some folks just wash the pillowcases, I always wash the whole pillow in the wash on gentle cycle. The whole thing goes in the wash. Even with a pillowcase that I made and sewed on them. These are so soft. Even the pets love them too. The rooster has two, each of the dogs have one, the cats have one, and the guinea pigs get to play on one. Once you lay one of these down, all the animals come to see it - it is amazing.
These are but one of the many presents my girls will get this year. They know we are not rich, and we cannot give dozens of huge presents from the store where there is more in the package than in the actual gift. I am, at heart, a woman who loves the small thoughtful gift that is homemade. The less perfect and more thought that goes into it the better. You might assume the children have picked up my attitude. Well - NO - not quite. I say this with a grin, yet still firm in my intent to teach manners. I have emphasized the importance of gratefulness for ANY gift or any present.
I recently put a post on Facebook, in which I put the following: "If any child acts in any way unhappy or especially ungrateful or in any way makes a face to the effect of 'why didn't I get a better present' about a gift that she receives, it will immediately be returned to the store for a refund. The gift, not the child." That post got a lot of likes. Also, if any child receives money and then at that very point asks why she didn't get more then the amount given, then the money will be taken by myself to the nearest mall and disposed of on items of importance only to me. The children just stared at me when I said that - not sure if they even cared or listened. They stopped listening when they heard present and dreamed of what that present might be in their childlike way. However, this has been a recurring issue in the past years, so I wanted to take this time of year to remind them that I am cracking down on "Grinchiness" or bad manners. I've noticed that when my children are acting rather poorly, about any issue, it is usually because they lack the confidence that they can handle it any other way.
Back to homemade gifts. I have recently come into a lot of tile squares and I am thinking what I can do with them. There is a wonderful woman across the way, who was giving about a hundred of them away. I loaded a lot into my car. I know she was hoping I would take them all, but I didn't. I am thinking painting them, making name plates, or must dry erase boards with the persons name on it and a soft backing of felt on it to keep it from scratching the table or desk. Do any of you crafty people (and I mean that in the nicest of ways) have any other ideas of what to make with these?
Animals always make their way into my posts - they are everywhere, and I love them! There is always something to smile about with animals, although they are very expensive. Very expensive. Yesterday evening, we were at Walmart in the fish department. My daughter had some money and wanted a Betta. She bought a small plastic tank, and a decoration, the dechlorinator and the food - dried bloodworms, sometimes they wont eat regular flake food. Mine never would. Well we got back and the tank had a break in it. It was down at the corner and you could barely see it. I will take it back. In the meantime the fish in the kind of home I always put them in, a plastic shoebox = it is 6 quarts and it is just a plastic shoebox for shoe storage but the fish love them! You don't put the lid on. Just for those who are not familiar with fish, they need to breathe. I have a cookie cooler wire sheet on top of it. On top of that, we have a heavy decoration, in this case, a house out of ceramic for Christmas.
I noticed on the instructions for this Crowntail Male Betta, it says to feed once every three days. This is simply not true. It says to change their water once a week or so..This is certainly not true. I have come to learn this is what my Bettas thrive on: Feeding one or two dried bloodworms three times a day or whenever they can eat one give it to them. Some eat more, some eat less. They don't eat a lot at first, because they don't get fed at Walmart. When you first get them home put about three dried bloodworms in there and see if they eat them. I will change the water whenever it looks like it is in the least bit not perfect. The more you feed, the more they poop. I like to use water to fill up their tank that is at a temp that is neither hot or cold. It takes me standing at the faucet with my hand under the stream of water to get to the right temp. I will put the right amount of dechlorinator in the water. For my little plastic box that is long, and it is 6 quarts, two or three drops do very well of the dechlorinator.My daughter gave me the Betta after all that because I would not allow her to keep it on top of her cable box in her bedroom. Yay! More animals to care for! But she said it in a nice way, so no problems with manners here.
I have also bought a large 106 quart see through storage bin for the "three pigs", my guinea pigs, now that they are big, they like to come out, although it is like catching a greased pig (no pun intended) to get them in my hands to take out. Once they are in the storage bin without the lid with hay scattered in the bottom, they are so happy to be picked up and petted. I am not sure why. I would keep them in the bin always, if I didn't have other animals that would like to make a meal of them.
I am going to end this blog on Christmas manners, pet care and children's birthdays with this wonderful story I found about the origins of the Christmas tree. It was found in an ancient monastery. I paraphrased it because I lost the actual text.
The Christmas Tree:
When the baby Jesus was born, all of the trees came to worship him adore him and bring gifts for him to enjoy.All the trees had wonderful gifts to give to the baby Jesus. All but one. The fir tree stood quietly behind the others, with no gift to offer the Christ-child. When it was the fir tree's turn to come and worship the baby Jesus, the angels all came down and put stars on each tip of the branches of the little fir tree. The fir tree was so happy when it saw that the Baby Jesus smiled. This is why we still put up a Christmas tree to this day to remember Baby Jesus and to make him smile. May you have many warm memories that you make this year and always.
By Robyn Fed from Tri-Cities, TN
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Christmas is one of the best times of the year; spending quality time with family and friends; sharing some hearty meals and building new memories. Unfortunately it is also one of the most expensive times of the year, a time that could leave your budget in a complete mess.
Luckily, there are ways to beat the financial stress surrounding Christmas. Starting in January and with proper planning, it is possible to use clever money tricks that will let you enjoy a stress-free and relaxed Christmas.
A great way of saving for Christmas is, starting in January, to make extra payments on your bills. In South Africa, our bill for electricity differs from month to month. Every month I pay R200 to R300 extra on our electricity bill ~ that is an amount of $15-$20 that I pay extra. When we get our electricity bill for December, it is usually less than it would be under normal circumstances. That leaves us with a few extra bucks and it makes it easier to afford our Christmas expenses without having to swipe a credit card.
Most stores offer products and goods at a great discount after Christmas, a wonderful time for bargain hunters. What we tend to forget though is that it is not the only time of the year that store discounts are available. Most stores offer discounts after special days on the calendar, such as Valentine's Day, Mother's Day and Father's Day. These occasions offer one the opportunity to start buying non-perishable stocking fillers at a fraction of the cost. Just make sure to hide them where hubby and the kids won't be able to find them!
During Christmas it is very easy to be pulled in by all the bling and festivities that surround us everywhere we go. It is a good idea to set a proper Christmas budget. Budget for the Christmas Eve dinner, and also for the Christmas lunch. Also decide on a suitable amount that would be spent on each person's gifts. Set aside some money for entertainment too. Be prepared to make adjustments to stay within your budget. Here in South Africa, we are currently experiencing the aftermath of one of the worst droughts in history. Meat prices have started to skyrocket, so we opted to replace the traditional turkey with chicken and pork instead. Bottom line is, don't be rigid, but be willing to adapt to ensure a budget friendly Christmas.
Most budget writers advise you to pay yourself first before paying any of your bills, as it is regarded as the first step towards creating personal wealth. I took this advice a step further and opened a 32-day notice account in January 2016 to save for Christmas. Every month I added R200 (approximately $15) to this account. The fact that it was a 32-day notice account meant that I could not withdraw the money whenever I wanted to. I gave notice on this account at the beginning of November, and had some extra money to spend just in time for Christmas. Some notice accounts even allow one to sign a debit order so that the money could be deducted automatically at the beginning of the month. A good idea for those of us that still struggle with the idea of paying ourselves first.
In 2011, an article in Business Insider mentioned that Americans would spend a whopping $6 billion on Christmas decorations in that year.1 Read this again and think ~ are you one of those consumers that add to the ka-ching of the cash register? Why not rather make your own Christmas ornaments and decorations? You don't even need to be creative. Pinterest is full of great ideas, and most of these will give you step by step instructions. Yes, it is easier to just pop into the store and buy decorations, but apart from saving money that you could invest, you could spend time together as a family to build wonderful memories.
I am sure you can come up with many more ideas to beat the effects of Christmas on your budget. Happy planning and don't forget that Christmas should be fun, not a burden!
I have a folder of things to do each day. Now that it's gotten so busy this close to Christmas, I have a clear page protector for each day before Christmas and put that days coupons, recipes, lists, etc. in it to be done.
I like to prepare my Christmas Eve meal ahead of time so that I can enjoy the time with my family. I make a double batch of a pasta dish---like lasagna, stuffed shells, baked ziti or even homemade macaroni and cheese a day ahead or even earlier and freeze it...
Here are some fun things to do and make ahead for this Christmas. Kids will be back in school soon and Moms will have a little extra time on their hands. Think ahead and make a list of those special people on your yearly shopping list.
Want to really enjoy the Holidays this year instead of being lost in a frenzy of preparation that strips all the joy away from the activities you are involved in? Some of these tips can help!
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How do you prepare ahead for the holiday season. This can include ideas for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah or Christmas dealing with food, gifts, organization or your own family traditions.
I do a lot to help prepare:firstly - I make a list of the things I need to buy for Christmas and by starting in October buy one or two small items with my main grocery shopping which I do once a week.I keep my eyes open for sale items for gifts instead of waiting till the last moment and I also buy Christmas cards in the sales.I use my commission from a catalogue which I use to buy gifts from the catalogue and I also use points gained at different shops. - Sandra UK (10/23/2001)
I buy up foods for the holidays as early as is practical, flour and sugar, chocolate chips and nuts for baking, apple cider when on sale for hot mulled cider, dressing mix, cranberry sauce, etc.It seems like a lot of the cost of the holidays is all the special food we like to have. I do my best to spread out the cost to the grocery budget during the weeks ahead. (10/23/2001)
Regarding holiday preparations I so agree that spreading out the cost makes sense. We have always done that. Just don't start too early as some of the stuff can go bad and it isn't a bargain if you have to throw it out.This also applies to putting stuff away until you need it, if you can't find it, it isn't a bargain. I got some Halloween Material a few years ago and haven't seen it since.I've known plenty of people who have lost Presents because they put them where they'd know where to find them. (10/24/2001)
I like to use memory making gift ideas for the holidays and to do that I must start early not so much with the buying but with the "Memory Maker". Example: One Christmas I bought popular games--Monopoly, Clue, Life, etc.I made up a game called how well do you know Pappy with questions. "What does he like on his pizza?", etc. I hid the games for the grandkids to find but first they had to answer a question right then they got to look and the first game they found that's the one they got to keep. All the games but one was found. I had to tell them where it was--it was under a throw rug that the kitchen garbage can sat on.Boy did they like that. That was 3 years ago and they talk about it and laugh. Memories, make'm (10/25/2001)
I work full-time, and for seven years I was a single mother on a very tight budget. Here are some things I have learned over the years to help me with gift selections for the Christmas holidays:
1. Check out Christmas craft and cookbooks from the library in May/June/July. You can get great ideas on making gifts and almost nobody bothers to look at Christmas books in the spring and summer - no problem getting plenty of books and ideas.
2. Begin Christmas shopping for next year the day after Christmas. If you don't mind the crowds, get in there and get some bargains!! I have bought toys, perfume, sweaters, coats, pajamas, robes, etc. at Christmas clearance sales for the next year. Reserve the bottom of one closet at home to store it in. If it is for immediate family I go ahead and wrap it, so they won't get nosy!
3. Keep a running list of who you have to buy for and ideas on what to get them. Whenever my husband mentions something he wants, it gets put on the list. Same with my teenage daughter. Keep this list in your wallet so you can refer to it when you are shopping. Mark people off as you complete their gift selection, so you don't get 8 gifts for your Mom and nothing for Uncle Bob (I learned this one the hard way!)
4. Shop all year long. I don't understand how people can wait until after Thanksgiving to shop for everyone on their list. For one thing, we've only got 4 paychecks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. There's no way we can pay the bills, buy food, and buy gifts too. By September of this year I had over 75% of my gift shopping done.
5. Check into ABC Distributing and LTD Commodities. If you work for a company you can set up an account with them and order through their catalogs. I have found them to have good quality merchandise at a fair price, even including shipping. The ladies at my office all pass around the catalogs, I place the orders on-line and we pay for the merchandise after it is delivered. I have learned that when I follow these rules, I am able to enjoy Christmas more by not freaking out over what to buy, who to buy for, where to get the best deal, etc. A week after Thanksgiving, I will put on my favorite Christmas CD's, pour a glass of wine, and wrap all the great gifts I have purchased (in gift wrap I got at a yard sale or from last year's clearance sale, of course), referring to my list so I will know who gets what. The week after that, the Christmas tree gets put up and the house gets decorated. The week after that I will bake Christmas goodies with my daughter. The days just prior to Christmas are spent just enjoying the holiday season with my family. December 26 I can start all over again for next year! (10/26/2001)
I always have 5 or 6 small gifts set aside for unexpected guests. I don't like having someone come with a gift and have nothing to give in return. These are usually either Christmas Ornaments or baked goods. I also have some small toy gifts to give to children who come by. If they don't get used, I save them for next year or in the case of baked goods, we eat them. (10/30/2001)