Saturday, December 19, 2009

This Holiday Season can be fun!



Taking a moment to reflect on the last few months here and the prep work that I always put into the holiday season. Maybe this will help others too. I hope so!

This year has been one of challenge for lots of people out there with the economy dumping setbacks on so many. Our own family has been fortunate to still have our employment and our health and both kids well etc. Even so, I decided we were going to scale back on spending as a preventative measure. I don't believe in scaling back on gift giving though. I still give gifts and give them to many. I just decided I wasn't going to strain myself or my budget shopping for them the three months before the holidays. Forewarning, this is going to be one of those stories of how God helps us keep it simple, yet great... :)

I decided early in the Fall this year to make my 2009 Christmas gifts with things I had on hand. It just seemed like there must be a simple abundance in my life that I could somehow share better if I looked at things with a sharing and caring eye. Now mind you, we don't have a big home. We don't have a big stockpile of gifts just sitting in a closet either. I just offered it all up mentally with a simplifying intention and said quietly to the Powers that Be: help me out here with this little goal.

So I looked around me. Sigh. First, I had kind of a messy workspace when I started back in Oct. But under it all, I knew I did have about one full laundry basket of quilting fabrics, two used sewing machines, about a 14 inch stack of varied scrapbook paper, an overflowing apple tree in the backyard, and some canning jars. Oh, and a misc set of baking supplies. Do you know what I am going to say next? (Note: I do admit I also did later make a trip to Goodwill for small baskets to put things into for the gift-wrappings.)

I sent hubby out in late Oct out to the back yard to get two buckets of the best apples off the tree and ground that looked good. This year our pie apple tree output in MN turned out very well. The tree is about 30 years old and we did have a lot of rain the summer before in 2008. So the apples were picked and in on the porch by Nov. Well, I didn't do anything with them right away. But at least the apples were in on the porch and ready! Safe from the squirrels and the freeze. A plan was formulating in my mind. But I always have to pace myself... ie work up motivation. LOL

In the meantime, I bought my two children and my spouse their main gifts. That is not so hard. They tell me exactly what they want. It's all the other incidental gifts that can really mess up the budget and drive you insane shopping. I like to give gifts and don't like to leave any of my friends out of the loop. I knew that I had to give about 18 smaller gifts out. Well, Geez, I did find that the closer to the holidays it came, the more I was VERY tempted to buy this or that for this friend or that out in the stores. I just had to stick to my guns and I said No to myself. I was determined to follow my initial plan. No to the shopping craze. Yes to the create-it-on-my-own-terms initiative.

That meant getting those apples washed and sorted. Next, I made sure I had enough canning jars and sugar. And I went around the house and got the little baskets found containers and baskets that were just sitting there doing nothing. You know the ones. Tins would have worked too but I had baskets. The remainder of other little baskets needed, I bought secondhand. I firmly believe in recycling via secondhand.

It's amazing that on the very day that I went to Goodwill to get 12 more baskets, they were 50% off and there were literally dozens of cute ones to choose from. Not just the average wicker uglies--but adorable small handmade ones too. I picked the best ones! Each under a dollar and then half price off that! They went home with me and got a spritz of Lysol just to be safe.

Next, I realized I needed some sort of nesting or shredding or stuffing for the bottoms of 18 baskets. Hmmm. Again, immediately the Help came in the form of inspiration. As a scrapper, I had colored paper scrap bits. I had a paper shredder. I had a husband who loves to shred things while he watches the SciFi channel. I went and got my 6 colored drawers of scrap papers and I had Mike shred each drawer contents one at a time. All the red together. All the yellows together. etc. I soon had ALL my gift basket lining paper shreds ready. Looked terrific! PLENTY of shreds for the job. Plenty. Problem solved. Free.

On to canning the apple jelly and apple butter into pints. Done in one afternoon. Hot? yes. yummy smelling? yes. Now done? yes. But it felt really great to make something from my heart for my friends. While those cooled that evening, I tackled the packaging. Presentation is 75% of any gift. I had several sheets of glimmer red paper that didn't sell for me in one of our recent store SB garage sales. It's all for the best. I cut the jar circle toppers from it on my Cricut. No extra cost.

I was digging in the gift wrap box for tape and ribbon when I instead found green and red striped gift cellophane bags --perfect for the coordinating apple muffin mixes! And I even found 24 red velvet ribbon bows on twisty ties ready-made. These were all left over from Christmas three years ago meant for the tree decorations. Bonus! Perfect to tie the muffin mixes closed in the cello bags, right? This was meant to be. The abundance is there. We just have to look for it.

I then computer printed little tags with the contents of the apple jelly and what ways you could use it for dining. (on muffins, on pancakes, sandwiches, in pie fillings, inside filled cookies or in doughnuts) Also added a cute 1 1/4 inch Cricut cut apple die shape for the jar topper. Then to the ribbon stash for a ribbon around each jar lid. I certainly had enough ribbon of a few greens and a few reds. The jars in the baskets looked phenomenal for just pennies apiece! But not done yet...

Off I went next to the kitchen again for Sam's Club bulk box of apple cider packet dry mixes. Yahoo! I had just 19 packets left in the box! One for each gift --and one for me to drink while working. :) Next over to the baking bin for a 1/2 bag of wrapped caramels. I sprinkled a couple caramels in each basket. Add a packet of 4 handmade cards to each basket. I had been making the greeting cards using my stash for the last few months as time allowed with leftover accents and papers. Soon my work table was FULL of these adorable apple theme gift baskets.

One thing did not work out so well. Perhaps you can guess if you reread the first few paragraphs above. I will admit I meant to make quilted apple-themed potholders for each friend with my quilting stash. However, my two sewing machines decided NOT to cooperate. One bobbin casing totally popped out, flew across the room, and was broken beyond repair. (It was a funny sight and my shocked face was probably the funniest part!) The other machine's tension rollers just would not work properly for quilting....

I sighed. I resigned myself to not being perfect--and I gave up the idea of potholders for this year. Something had to give --and that was it. I was not going to stress out and try to push my envelope any further. Besides, we had to pick up my daughter and move her home for Christmas break in 4 days. I used the extra time to bake a few more cookies for the holidays, clean the bathrooms, and plan our big holiday dinner on Christmas Eve. I am so glad I didn't stress out further about the unmade potholders. I have been passing out my apple basket gifts and everyone seems to love them! Especially the coordinated packaging! LOL

Little do they know, all in all each gift basket cost me about $3 and BONUS! I used up tons of things I had on hand because I committed to the project. I looked around here at what we had at home with new eyes. Thanks to a little Inspiration this Season, it all fell into place. And I truly got busy. It wasn't necessarily less work than shopping every day after work but it was more fun, more creative, and on my own terms in my own home. Certainly better for the budget. It's not for everyone. But it's something to keep in mind for next year.

Guess what my New Year resolution for 2010 is going to be for that quilting fabric? And guess what hubby is giving me for Christmas?

Bottom line. Keep it simple. Keep it heartfelt. Enjoy the process. You can still be generous. You can make your holidays special even on a budget. --And don't try to kill yourself over the unmade potholders --because life does sometimes send the bobbins flying!! :)

Happy Holidays!
Rockester