Category Archives: Friends and Family

Frugal and Fun Holiday Activities

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As I get older, time goes faster and faster. I know, it happens to everyone, but it still seems surprising to me. Remember when you were a kid and it seemed like Christmas would never come? Now I am always looking back at the beginning of January thinking about how many things I would have liked to have done that we never got around to doing.

It doesn’t help that we are low in funds this year after the unexpected car purchase. Still, I think we can find some fun things to do without breaking the bank. Here are a few things I would like to do between now and Christmas:

  • Putting up the Christmas tree – This is one we do get done every year, but sometimes it is worked in a bit here and there. If we schedule a night for it, we can enjoy an evening of decorating without stress. Cost: Free!
  • banksPainting porcelain banks – Last year we painted some Christmas village figures, and we had so much fun. This year these cute little banks were one of the few things I bought on Black Friday (I also got some yarn to finish some Christmas gifts), and I know the kids will love painting them together. Cost: less than $10 for all three
  • Winter Wonderland at Tilles Park – We have been meaning to do this for a few years, but haven’t made it for some reason. We can invite some friends, too! Cost: $10/vehicle
  • Crafting party – As you may know if you read this blog at all, I love homemade gifts. I love doing crafty stuff with other people, too. We did a kids’ crafting party a couple of years ago, and that was a lot of fun. I have a lot of crafting supplies lying around that we could use, and we could ask our friends to bring more. I think we could do this without buying a lot of supplies. Cost: Maybe $10-$20 for snacks and drinks
  • Family game night – The kids love playing games! We don’t do it enough. We can invite friends, too. This isn’t technically a holiday activity, but it is a good way to reduce the stress of the holidays and put the focus back on the family. Cost: Free!

Of course, I still have Christmas gifts to make and a house to clean, but surely we can get it all in with some good planning, right? What are you doing to celebrate the holidays?

Days ???: Comforting Myself

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Three weeks ago today, my grandmother died.

She was in the hospital for 6 days before that, and I spent a lot of time there with her and the extended family. If you have ever spent that kind of time in a hospital, you know it has a lot of down time. My cousins, my aunt, my mom, my brother, various friends and extended family–we all spent a lot of time in conversation, sharing our memories of my grandma, but there was still plenty of time to fill. And really, one of the things I like about crocheting is that I can do many projects while chatting with others. On top of that, crocheting seemed the perfect activity for comforting myself as we watched my grandmother die, since it is something I shared with her.

I made excellent progress on two blankets, including one that I have since finished and donated to the high school Parents Club auction that was held this past weekend. Here is a picture of the auction goodies in place:

auction stuffAfter I took this picture I noticed some ends that needed to be worked in and took care of that, but I think they mostly look good. The border on the blanket is one row of single crochet and one row of crab stitch. I really liked the effect of the crab stitch–it gave a definitely finished look without adding too much bulk. The lot did not sell for a very high amount, I don’t think, but there were multiple bids, and there were many items to bid on, so I am just happy to have contributed.

I have many other things that I worked on in the past month or so–I did not stop trying to make something every day for the most part, although the days of the visitation and funeral were pretty much a bust–but I am not going back to document everything. Almost everything I made was a work in progress, not counting a few new recipes I tried out, so a lot of the projects will come up in future posts.  Also, this focus on making things every day has really clarified my process for me–I don’t really like to complete something in one day. It is possible that at some future time I could come up with a specific project that involves concentrated making in one sitting, but for a lot of things I prefer the perspective I get from at least one night’s sleep during the process, if not several days when I am working on something else in between. So, I don’t plan to stop making time every day for creativity, but at this point I am expecting lots and lots of in progress days, and that is okay with me. I think it is very important to love the process anyway.

Relaxing

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After a day of racquetball, coffee with a friend, cleaning, and a quick trip to the pool, we finished off the night with sangria (for my friend and me) and BBQ for everyone.  We sat on the back patio and watched the kids run through the yard while we picked boozy fruit out of our glasses and chatted. That seems like a good end to the weekend to me!

How was your weekend?

Another Busy Saturday

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Shopping, lunch, more shopping, putting away the fruits of warehouse shopping, collapsing for just a bit, dinner with grandparents and an evening of crocheting, that’s how I spent my day. It is great to see family, and we needed a lot of stuff from Costco–these kids of mine eat all the time! I am hopeful that tomorrow will be a chance to get a bit more done around the house, especially with my lavender, but also cleaning and writing and cooking.

We are planning to have friends over tomorrow, and I have to admit, I put more thought into what kind of cocktails I want to make than I did in the menu, which will probably consist of grilled bratwurst and artichokes, along with broccoli salad and maybe goat cheese and olives or salsa or other snacks. It’s not even that I am that big a drinker, I just have a lot of pitcher-of-drinks type recipes I want to make, so I want to take advantage of having friends over to help me drink them. I will probably fall back on a simple white sangria with fruit and some orange liqueur, but I may still find something else that is fun.

I am thinking that this will be another weekend where I am glad to get back to the workweek for a break of sorts. At least tomorrow will be spent at home, mostly, even if it is a busy day.

Happy New Year!

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I am not a big fan of resolutions, but I do like the clean slate promise of the new year. I plan to continue doing a lot of the same things I have been doing, only more so–a bit more writing, a bit more exercise, a bit more healthy home cooking, a lot more crafts, ;).

I hope that everyone reading this has a great year with a minimum of drama and a maximum of happiness, accomplishment and time with friends and family!

It’s the Most Craziest Time of the Year!

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Pity my poor children–I am forever changing song lyrics to match what is going on in my life at any given moment. Grammar doesn’t matter (!), the right number of syllables is what I am going for. I find it fun, and I think they do sometimes as well, but mostly they are glad I do most of my song re-writing at home, with no further audience than their captive selves. It sure does provide some stress relief, though, especially when I find that I have too many things to do.

I am far from the only one who is super busy this time of year. Work, home, kids’ school activities–all of these are full of holiday or end of year tasks that need to be done as soon as possible. My challenge, like everyone, is to fit in the things I want to do while still doing everything I think I should do.

This weekend, my children will be at their dad’s house, which would normally mean a lot of time to get things done. However, this is also the weekend of the school production of Pirates of Penzance, where my daughter will be the best singing and dancing Daughter ever, and I am going to both shows. On the other hand, I am totally broke, so I won’t be able to go shopping, which leaves more time for Christmas crafts and housecleaning. Yay for the first one, not so much on the cleaning…

I did make some choices to minimize the amount of time I need to spend getting ready for the holidays. I like to start with a big goal and then adjust down to something sane. Here are some ways that I have tried to bring expectations in line with reality:

  • I decided that December 1st is to early to set a goal of crocheting hats for everyone on my Christmas list, and I am going to make some cute magnets instead. They are fun and take WAY less time to make.
  • I have (OBVIOUSLY) spent less time writing posts here. I hate to lose the momentum I gained with NaBloPoMo, but I just don’t have the same kind of time now. I will spend more time here after the holidays.
  • I started a list of all the things I wanted to do but just ran out of time to fit into my schedule. This mainly applies to handmade gifts. I will need to start earlier next year if I want to make a lot of gifts. If I am at least keeping a list so that I can make a plan for next year, I don’t feel guilty about not getting to everything this year.
  • I am limiting the indoor decorating. At least until I declutter a bit, it just looks like more clutter sitting out.
  • I am not doing Christmas baking or candy making. I think. I am off next week, so I may have a last minute change of plans on this one. (I have my eye on this gluten-free fruitcake!)

At the same time I am ratcheting back many of my expectations to a more reasonable level, I also managed to add a few things that I am very proud of:

  • I decorated outside this year! It isn’t a lot–a few oversized ornaments, a metal penguin stake, a Chistmas tree by the front door made of lights and an upside down tomato cage–but it is more than I have ever done, and it looks very festive. It makes me smile whenever I come home, or even look out the window.
  • I did make some gifts, and I will finish up a few more before Christmas actually hits. For the past few years, I have thought about how awesome it would be to make some presents, but beyond a bit of baking and some mint liqueur making, not actually made anything. I may be making less than I originally thought I would this year, but I am glad that I am making presents at all!
  • I have tentative plans to take the kids to the Winter Wonderland at a nearby park. At only $9, it won’t break the bank, but I think we will all enjoy it!

Overall, I feel that we are getting the important stuff done this year without too much craziness. I do need to plan a Christmas Eve meal and finish some making and wrapping, but I think it is manageable. How are you doing with holiday prep?

Planning a Kids’ Crafting Party: Stations and Snacks

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Note: I am having a bunch of kids over this coming weekend to make Christmas gifts, and I have been trying to spread the planning out to make sure it goes well. Part 1 has possible projects I considered, and Part 2 has the supply lists for the crafts we chose and some ideas for what needs to be done ahead.

Now that we know what we are making at the party, we need to figure out how to set up the projects and what we will give these kids to eat. First, the food.

I want a combination of healthy and fun snacks, but I don’t need anything too substantial, since the party is from 1-5. Kids are always hungry, but they will have presumably had lunch and will be having dinner after they leave, so we don’t need a meal. Here are some things I am thinking about having:

Image from Family Fun

Holiday Pretzel Treats
Holiday Cucumber cups
Either White Chocolate Holiday Mix or Christmas Snack Mix
Red and green grapes
Holly Jolly Dip with veggies
Pine-Tree Fruit Kabobs
Gumdrop Tree

This may be too much, and we may not do the last two things, but I think my kids would enjoy doing those as a pre-party activity, so I am leaving them on the list for now. I am thinking of making a punch with cranberry juice, pineapple juice and lemon-lime soda or ginger ale for the kids, and this pomegranate champagne punch for the adults, too. I am not certain that we really need the champagne punch, but it does sound festive. I figure if I make it with a bit less rum and a bit more juice, it won’t be too much for the afternoon.

Next up, deciding how to set up the supplies so that kids can work on projects. I have a table for eight in my dining room that will be the main location for all things crafty, but I think we will need more space, too. We have a couple of different options.

We will need to do some spray painting outside, and I would love to set some stuff up out there, but the forecasted high for that day is only 36 degrees, so that won’t work. I do have a small table in the family room that could be used for something. I can either set up one project in there, or bring it into the dining room and place it at the end of the big table to expand the space. I like the idea of keeping everyone together, but it does make the dining room crowded. I think there will only be about 8 kids, though, so I think we’ll try that. We can always move the table back if it is too hectic.

I’d like to set up the coasters, magnets and dragonfly crafts near each other, because they will draw from the same pool of supplies (felt, magnets, buttons, beads, etc.) I also want to add one small craft–pipe cleaner ornaments. I have some pipe cleaners and we will have beads, so it should be pretty easy to make some beaded wreaths or candy canes. The felt coasters can be on the other side of the table.

We will set up the tables early Saturday morning so we can check on flow through the room, so the moms can help as needed. I will also need to clear off my desk and the buffet to lay out the snacks for easy access without messes on the supplies.

I am starting to feel like this is something we can do fairly successfully! I still haven’t done any practice crafts, but we have a bit of time for that, still. I think we will need to run out for a few supplies as well, but we are definitely close to having what we need, and the plan feels good. Next up: the party report, hopefully with pictures of actual crafts.