Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas Parties

I have had the most fun this year. I no longer have children at home. I no longer have a heavy duty calling in Church. I no longer have a job where I work more at Christmas time than at any other time of the year. This meant I could spend my time partying and I did.

It started with a Christmas Party for my Activity Day Girls. They are a group of girls ages 8-11. We decorated Christmas cards, made Christmas trees out of graduated sugar cookie stars, ate and then had a white elephant exchange. I had a lot of fun and the girls seemed to also.

I attended our ward party and accompanied several musical numbers. Immediately after the ward party, we headed to the stake center to participate in a stake program that was very well organized and beautiful. I accompanied while our ward choir sang and for a quartet's rendition of "O Holy Night". We got to see a live Nativity and see nativity sets. I also was able to sight read and sing in a stake choir presentation.

No more parties until Christmas Eve when we had our traditional Christmas Eve program and a meal. I love this tradition. I think it is my favorite one and yet I spend the least amount of time preparing for it. We eat and then read Christmas stories, sing Christmas carols and act out the Nativity. This year was notable as my son and his family joined us by video chat on the computer and they dressed as the angels as we did the other characters for the nativity. We finish by opening the Christmas cards that we wrote ourselves the previous Christmas Eve and then write another Christmas card for the coming year. It is totally personal and can be anything. I usually do a summary of the highlights of the previous year and a prediction of what I expect to occur in the coming year. Lastly we have dessert and by then everyone is anxious to get away and prepare for Santa's arrival.

Christmas Dinner was at my house too and it was yummy and an easy meal. Everyone attending brought something to help with the meal.

The day after Christmas our extended family had it's traditional White Elephant Party and my husband and I were in charge. We held it at our church building and it was fairly easy to prepare for and it turned out well.

I partied again on Tuesday as several of the Young Women who were in the Young Women's program in 1996 came to my house to eat and open a time capsule from that year. It was fun to see these young women who are mothers of up to 6 and one women who is single and owns her own home. They are not the YW that I knew, but as we talked I realized that these women are wonderful people who are doing wonderful things in their families and in the church. It was wonderful to see them.

When these women left my home, I realized that I had way too many leftovers for us to ever eat them and so I threw a let's eat up the leftover party tonight. The people I invited were all some of my favorite people. Some were able to come, some didn't. It was very casual. We had lots of children running around and people came and went and I think I enjoyed this gathering as much if not more than all the others. It took virtually no time to prepare for and we just sat around and yakked.

This has been a great season and I hope you have all enjoyed it also.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Thoughts on Christmas

This post includes no pictures and I won't be sending a notice through Facebook, but I want to talk a little about how I am able to enjoy a Christmas where I can give to many of my friends and family and not break the bank.

I am the wife of a school teacher and I'm a homemaker. I have never worked full-time, but have worked part-time most of my married life. Money has always been scarce and my husband and I have learned to be frugal. Because we are frugal, we never pretended to our children that they would get what they wanted from Santa. They were invited to make a list and Santa would do what he could. I can remember one especially hard year when my sons received a pack of 10 metal die cast cars. We didn't feel we could afford a Hot Wheels car (you know... the $.50 ones.) At one point, my poor, long-suffering sister was relegated to receiving a new statue that had to be mended because someone at the store had broken it. It was a magnificent price and I had little money to spare, so she was given it.

Our church teaches maintaining a food storage and I have always had a 3-12 month supply of food that we eat and rotate continuously plus a year's worth of the necessities of life including wheat, oats, beans, flour, sugar, oils, and powdered milk. In order to maintain the 3-12 month supply of food, I buy things on sale. For example, I know that sometime in October or December baking supplies will reach the year's lowest prices. I know that sugar, flour, cake mix, marshmallow creme, evaporated milk, and Hershey's candy bars will all be the cheapest prices in the year and I make sure that there is money set aside to buy enough of these to last the year. This means that I can make all my candies for the cheapest prices possible.

At this point in my life, I can spend a little more for gifts. Even so, for my friends, I plan on spending less than a dollar on gifts that I make. This year, they received my borax star ornaments. They cost about $.25.

Good friends are relegated to $3-5. I find these gifts on sale at different times of the year and pick them up or I will find a really cute pattern to make something that requires more time and/or money than the general gifts described above. The Santas fell into this category. They were not particularly expensive, but the time factor made them a gift for good friends. Other good friends got gifts bought at a deeply discounted price. Really good friends might have a little more spent on them. I am not above using the rewards programs from my credit cards or discounts from my employer to get a better gift than I pay for.

Credit card rewards have been extremely good to us. We use our cards to pay for everything... bills, food, gas, clothes, insurance, supplies for business. We then pay our credit card bill completely each month. By doing this, we earn rewards but pay no fees. Last year, my daughter and her spouse received an I-touch from my husband and I. We had enough rewards money to purchase it without any cash passing from our hands.

I'll get off my soapbox now and go fix dinner. Bye!

My last Christmas post

Late Christmas Eve, I finally finished this little fellow and his twin brother. I found the pattern for him in the December 2009 "Crafts 'n Things" magazine and fell in love. I've looked on their website for an on-line tutorial or picture to share with you, but can't find one. I particularly love the craft boa. It makes the Santa and I loved the blanket stitch. I'm not great at it, but I like to do it.

I was late getting them to their intended recipients, but hopefully they'll forgive me. Especially since they were accompanied with this.

It is my signature toffee that many people seem to love (including myself and my family.) I cannot seem to make a decent sugar cookie like so many people can and do. My peanut brittle, fudge, and sweet breads like banana bread are pretty good too, but I learned long ago that the toffee is the main event. I long ago decided to quit wasting my money on the run of the mill candies and specialize. I have! I have 4 heavy-duty aluminum pans, 8 cookie sheets, candy paddles, and a thermometer to make my toffee and make 6-7 batches at a time in 4-6 hour increments. I only make the other stuff for my family.

OK, I know I'm boring you silly, but it's my blog and I can do what I want! Right???

I hope each of you have had a wonderful Christmas full of family, celebrations of the Savior, and taking the opportunity to serve others. I'll also add that I hope you have had the opportunity as I have of crafting, cooking, sewing, buying and making gifts, keeping secrets and perhaps slipping on a few, decorating, staying up late at nights, getting up early, skipping a few meals, taking your grandchildren (children) shopping, being a secret Santa, planning and throwing a party, cleaning your kitchen 2 and 3 times a day .and generally enjoying this Holiday to the fullest. Merry Christmas to all of you!

Sunday, December 13, 2009


One of my favorite pastimes when I am bored is to peruse craft blogs. I found this and was fascinated. I went to the Martha Stewart how to and totally enjoyed making a smaller version.

I used 3" pipe cleaners and added 1" pieces to the point. That way I could use a pint canning jar to make the snowflakes.

Here is the finished project.

I don't know if I used too much borax or left the snowflake too long, but it is much bulkier than the ones shown on either site.

I'm trying to decide if I like these enough to give away as Christmas decorations or if I want the girls to do it as a craft project for Activity day or both. Decisions, decisions.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The residual

Now here's the real question...
When you don't have a fireplace, you don't camp out a lot, you don't smoke, what do you do with these????

Christmas Countdown Calendar

I saw this on another blog and decided I wanted to try it. Two days later I've managed to do 3 of them. Though they aren't hard, it took a lot of mental energy to come up with 24 different things to do with matchstick boxes, paper, and embellishments.

Here is my red period,

and my green period,

and my blue period (thank you Van Gogh for your inspiration.)

Following are some close-ups of the boxes.

I especially like the 15th on the following. I used a button with the shank cut off and attached a part of a ballpoint spring as the top of the "ornament".

Tips and the things I used include:

*a specialty cardstock 48 sheet pack from Michaels by me & my big ideas. It says that it is "Kay-Oh What Fun".
*Scrappy Glue to glue on virtually everything but the magnets.
*The magnets were attached with E6000.
*The only thing that I had access to that would attach the paper to the cookie sheet was Scotch ATG-714.
*I took a magnet to the store to make sure the cookie sheet had steel in it and the plus was it only cost around $3.
*My cricut machine. It was absolutely invaluable. The original I saw used stamps, but I don't have much of a stock of stamps. But I do have several different cartridges for my cricut machine and was able to do everything I would want.
*Martha Stewart's doily lace edge punch.
*lots of ribbon, rhinestones, and buttons for embellishments.