Archive for the 'holidays' Category

Crafty, Inexpensive Gift Ideas For A Homemade Holiday

December 7th, 2009 -- Posted in food, food storage, green living, holidays, make it yourself, parenting | 4 Comments »

Here is my post from last year about all of the wonderful, creative gifts you can make for the holidays. Crafty, inexpensive and filled with love :)

I have received so many responses from very creative mamas to my recent query about ideas for homemade or low budget gifts (mostly for children) for the holidays. With the economy being the way it is, this topic seems to be one that is on many people’s minds. I’ve divided the many ideas given to me into different categories. I hope there is something here you will find to make and give to your loved ones this holiday season.

Food Gifts:

Make your own peanut brittle, fudge, holiday cookies or another tasty treat and present it in a pretty tin or on a plate you’ve decorated that will also be part of the gift. If you are giving this gift to another from your child, have the child help make it as well as decorate the container – photo tins were suggested a few times, too.

The hot cocoa or brownie kit is another idea for either kids or adults. You can make “hot cocoa cones” by layering the separate dry ingredients in a cone shaped piece of cellophane or a clear frosting bag or in a mason jar and tie it with a pretty ribbon and add an instruction card on how to prepare the mix. Chocolate dipped spoons are another easy gift idea you can add with the hot cocoa cones. If it’s a cookie mix, you can include some cookie cutters. Caramel or kettle popcorn is another fun food gift to make.

If you are a gardener, giving away some homemade canned items from your garden is always appreciated. You can make different jams, salsa, tomato sauce, pickles, dilly beans, pickled beets, grape juice, etc. Whatever you have a lot of just remember to can more of it at the time to give out as gifts. You can even prepare a whole basket of assorted pint or quart sized jars of items that you have made. You can do the same with dehydrated items like fruit leather, apple or banana slices, dried herb mixes, herbal tea blends, spice rubs or jerky.

For Sewing/Knitting/Crocheted Gifts:

If you are a sewer/knitter/crocheter, you have a world of possibilities of things to make! Many suggestions given in this category included crocheting pot holders or dishcloths to go along with the food gifts, sewing fleece blankets or even fringing all of the edges on two pieces of fleece and tying them together for a 2 sided blanket – no sewing there, sewing aprons for kids to wear in their play kitchen – one mama said to use terrycloth material for the kid’s apron. If you are a good seamstress, sewing doll clothes, sun hats, dresses and all the other cute items that your child likes will save you tons of money if you do it yourself.

Knitted or crocheted hats, scarves, mittens, and knitted afgans are so appreciated in the cold weather. To be extra green and frugal, you can get some wool sweaters from the thrift store and unravel them and re-use the wool for your new knitted creations.

Felt:

Felt items are also another inexpensive, crafty and fun gift to make. You can make play food by cutting out the desired shapes and sewing two pieces together and stuff with batting or wool and sew closed or you can leave it single-sided cut to the shape of what you want and since felt sticks to itself, it will stick to a felt storyboard or you can make a felt pizza with toppings, a birthday cake with candles or a felt Christmas tree with ornaments. You can also make easy finger or hand puppets, picture frames and little bags too. Crayon rolls are popular with kids as well. There really are so many fun ideas for things to make with felt and it’s easy to use and dirt cheap!

Jewelry:

Make beaded jewelry – it’s fun and very creative. Go support your local bead shop, take a class or buy a how-to book, pick out beads that you like, a few basic tools, some wire and clasps and you can make inexpensive yet pretty jewelry, bookmarks, hair accessories, window shade pulls, light catchers, the list goes on and on. My step-mother-in-law is really into this and now works with more semi-precious stones and silver combos and she makes some really beautiful gifts. This photo is of some of her work that I received as a gift.

Photo Gifts:

This also is a pretty popular gift. All of those photos we take of our kids, dogs, vacations can be made into photo books, calendars, mouse pads, mugs, pillows, etc. We can also take actual photos and decorate the outside of tin boxes with them and fill the box with yummy treats, too. Kids love to see pictures of themselves so this is popular with them as well as the grandparents. It seems grandparents can never have enough pictures of the grandkids and making the calendars or other photo gifts are pretty easy, inexpensive and much appreciated.

Other Craft Items:

Make your own homemade playdough which is safe and non-toxic and you can even color it with different food coloring. Store it in little containers, tins or even glass baby food jars that you’ve saved. Simple cookie cutters can go along with the playdough for a fun and inexpensive gift.

You can make homemade soy candles in empty jars – using baby food jars again or jam sized canning jars work well, too.

Don’t forget about cardboard boxes! There is just so much you can do with them. We have in just about a couple hours’ time made our son a playhouse and a train car that he can sit in. Now I hear there is talk of a space ship happening soon. You can make the large stacking blocks like the kind that are sold that look like bricks as well as a play kitchen, too. Cardboard boxes, a sturdy knife, duct tape and paint (optional) are all it takes. We have even made him impromptu costumes – wings, a helmet out of a cardboard bucket and a shield we painted as part of his Halloween costume, too. There are so many, many things you can do with cardboard. You can find lots of ideas and instructions on this site.

Wooden Crafts:

Since my husband has a small wood shop and makes unique furniture, last year he decided to make our son a play kitchen for Christmas and a play workbench for his birthday. Both required time but the cost of the materials was pretty inexpensive. He purchased a large sheet of plywood for each project that had a really nice facing on it, some small door hinges, some plexiglas for the oven and microwave door windows and a dowel rod for door handles. He used an older bath faucet he had and a steel bowl for the kitchen sink and faucet. Both the kitchen and workbench were finished with a non-toxic oil and both came out really beautifully and are heirloom quality pieces so we can pass these down to our grandkids. The actual cost of the play kitchen came out to less than $30 with everything – except labor! The workbench was even cheaper.

Easier projects to make with wood are wooden building blocks, a simple pull toy, different geometric shaped puzzle pieces called tanagrams, different wooden puzzles, doll cradles, and wooden memory game squares that you paint the matching pictures on. There are many websites with instructions on how to do all of this and I really like this site.

Gift Baskets:

You can take many different little things that fit into a theme and put them all together in a box or basket for a person or family to enjoy. Several mamas said they were making movie baskets for a whole family – a dvd, different kinds of popcorn and chocolate all packaged in a pretty basket with cellophane or shrink wrap. Pick a theme and go with it.

Stores:

If you don’t want to make much (or anything) but still want to save money on gifts, shopping the thrift stores, garage sales, Craigslist, Freecycle, eBay, Dollar stores and the dollar bins at Target for all inexpensive new or used items in good condition is a great way to get toys and things at a fraction of the price or free (Freecycle). And most children don’t know the difference and wouldn’t care anyway if they did. If it works, they are happy!

New items at greatly reduced prices are sold at many closeout stores such as Marshalls, Big Lots, Ross, TJ Maxx and Tuesday Morning among others. You may have to sweep through these types of stores periodically and keep your eyes peeled for the quality items you want. I’ve found some amazing deals this way including new German wooden toys (which are normally very expensive), nice puzzles and books for my son. It’s fun, too once you get the hang of it.

Wrapping Paper:

It’s fun to unwrap presents but we don’t have to use the commercial wrapping paper which is hard to recycle in many locations. What to do? – make your own!! There are so many options for this. If you get a Sunday paper, save the comic section each week and use that, buy a roll of butcher paper or brown craft paper or visit your town’s local newspaper and ask for their left over end of the rolls (it’s free) and have your kids draw or stamp all over it. Or buy some inexpensive play silks – a gift in themselves which can be dyed any color – and wrap the toy in that, too.

All of these “wrapping” papers listed can be easily recycled and can be a fun craft activity for you and the kids to do together. If you don’t want to do any of the above, try to purchase the wrapping paper that was made with recycled paper instead.

I hope this list has helped you find some new, creative and inexpensive gift ideas for this holiday season. There definitely are many resourceful and creative people out there and I thank each and every one of you for contributing your amazing, thrifty gift ideas! If you have other creative ideas not mentioned here, feel free to leave them in the comments section. I love hearing about other fun gifts to make.

Happy Holidays!!

photo credits: orderonline, kathy marie perez, the library of congress, lil miss maya, nature deva, family fun, nature deva, nature deva

My Holiday Update

December 28th, 2008 -- Posted in food, food storage, green living, holidays, Home | 2 Comments »

Happy holidays, everyone!! As you can tell, I have not been blogging much this month of December. Besides all of the craziness and hoopla of everything involved with the holidays, I had a major muscle spasm this month that had me on my back on a heating pad and taking muscle relaxers for almost a week then I was still very limited in what I could do.

I also have scar tissue in my knee for many years and it has steadily been getting worse as I age and all year I’ve been going to physical therapy to deal with it so I could exercise more without so much pain. After all of these sessions with not that much change they tell me at my last session that I may need surgery. Ugh.

I went back to the orthopedic surgeon who occasionally gives me cortisone shots in my IT band in my leg so I can exercise without so much pain (and he also told me to do PT) and as my last ditch effort before surgery he decided this time to stick a giant needle directly into my lump of scar tissue. I thought I was going to die from the pain that night. It was almost as bad as when I was in labor and my son got stuck and caused ligaments to tear inside my hip. The only thing that helped was icing it for 48 hours straight to keep it numb and immobile until the injected fluid was absorbed into my leg and away from expanding the scar tissue. It took several days of no moving and icing it but at least it was over a few days before Christmas and we were able to enjoy a really fun family day. Now my knee feels great and I am hoping it did something in breaking up the mass and I can avoid surgery!

We also had a really nice winter garden of hardy greens under a hoop house and big cabbages ready to be harvested when my back issues were going on and my husband was crazy at work. He was going to harvest lots of it that weekend and one morning early in the week he says, “I think the digital outdoor thermometer is broken, it says it’s minus 15 outside.” We both were like, uh-oh and turned on the weather and sure enough, the arctic cold front came down overnight and I was too distracted with pain to watch the news that week and the sub-zero temps basically ruined our lovely winter crop!! We were sad. The cabbages were huge, too. At least we started growing our indoor sprouts again but I was really looking forward to the spinach, kale and collards that were doing so well out there. Damn Arctic cold front!!! We did finish building a new, little greenhouse by late November but didn’t get anything planted in it before the cold came so we decided to just rely on the hoop house this winter instead. Ha! Now we know better for next year.

Another change that happened this month was for my husband. He received a surprise call in November from a consultant that had worked for him this past year. It was for an unadvertised position at a good company in his field that is poised to do even better in a recession. This consultant became a full time employee there because of the economy and because it’s such a good place to work he said. My husband was not looking for a new job, his was pretty safe even though his present company has done a few rounds of layoffs this year. He decided it was something to go for and he fit the bill perfectly for what they wanted. We think it was meant to be since they chose him and he starts next week. The only downside to this is that he now has to commute 20 minutes instead of working down the street. He gets a better salary, more paid time off, better job security and more exciting work to do so that was the trade-off. He’s really excited for his new adventure.

Since he used to eat lunch at home almost every day, I decided to get him a rockin’ lunch box of some sort that he would love and where I could make him some interesting, healthy lunches in. I did some research and ordered him a Mr. Bento Stainless Lunch Jar – aka a “bento box.” I gave it to him as one of his xmas gifts and he loves it. It has 2 insulated containers for hot or cold food (one even holds soup) and 2 for cold or room temp food. It stacks inside this steel, vacuum sealed cylinder and even has a carry case and comes with a spork but he added chop sticks, too. There are several bento box “food p*rn” sites and blogs to get ideas of what to make from simple to gourmet and we being the gourmet types are geeking out a bit over it, I have to say!

He gave me as one of my gifts Veganomicon, an amazing (cooked) vegan cookbook. There are so many great recipes in there and even meal ideas for the different recipes so I’m sure I’ll be making him lots of good food from that book (plus sneaking in some raw recipes, too!).

Right now while he’s on vacation til the new job starts, we are trying to finish up some house projects and major re-organizing. It feels good to move stuff around and get rid of things. He is building some new shelving in our multi-purpose rec room to make it more user friendly for each of us that uses that room for different activities. I am ready to start doing yoga again there now, I figure that won’t hurt my back if I start slow and build up again.

I’m sure I’ll be back to posting more after the new year and settling into my family’s new daily routine.

I hope you all have a very happy, healthy and prosperous new year!!

Crafty, Inexpensive Gift Ideas For A Homemade Holiday

December 5th, 2008 -- Posted in green living, holidays, make it yourself, parenting, sustainability | 8 Comments »

I have received so many responses from very creative mamas to my recent query about ideas for homemade or low budget gifts (mostly for children) for the holidays. With the economy being the way it is, this topic seems to be one that is on many people’s minds. I’ve divided the many ideas given to me into different categories. I hope there is something here you will find to make and give to your loved ones this holiday season.

Food Gifts:

Make your own peanut brittle, fudge, holiday cookies or another tasty treat and present it in a pretty tin or on a plate you’ve decorated that will also be part of the gift. If you are giving this gift to another from your child, have the child help make it as well as decorate the container – photo tins were suggested a few times, too.

The hot cocoa or brownie kit is another idea for either kids or adults. You can make “hot cocoa cones” by layering the separate dry ingredients in a cone shaped piece of cellophane or a clear frosting bag or in a mason jar and tie it with a pretty ribbon and add an instruction card on how to prepare the mix. Chocolate dipped spoons are another easy gift idea you can add with the hot cocoa cones. If it’s a cookie mix, you can include some cookie cutters. Caramel or kettle popcorn is another fun food gift to make.

If you are a gardener, giving away some homemade canned items from your garden is always appreciated. You can make different jams, salsa, tomato sauce, pickles, dilly beans, pickled beets, grape juice, etc. Whatever you have a lot of just remember to can more of it at the time to give out as gifts. You can even prepare a whole basket of assorted pint or quart sized jars of items that you have made. You can do the same with dehydrated items like fruit leather, apple or banana slices, dried herb mixes, herbal tea blends, spice rubs or jerky.

For Sewing/Knitting/Crocheted Gifts:

If you are a sewer/knitter/crocheter, you have a world of possibilities of things to make! Many suggestions given in this category included crocheting pot holders or dishcloths to go along with the food gifts, sewing fleece blankets or even fringing all of the edges on two pieces of fleece and tying them together for a 2 sided blanket – no sewing there, sewing aprons for kids to wear in their play kitchen – one mama said to use terrycloth material for the kid’s apron. If you are a good seamstress, sewing doll clothes, sun hats, dresses and all the other cute items that your child likes will save you tons of money if you do it yourself.

Knitted or crocheted hats, scarves, mittens, and knitted afgans are so appreciated in the cold weather. To be extra green and frugal, you can get some wool sweaters from the thrift store and unravel them and re-use the wool for your new knitted creations.

Felt:

Felt items are also another inexpensive, crafty and fun gift to make. You can make play food by cutting out the desired shapes and sewing two pieces together and stuff with batting or wool and sew closed or you can leave it single-sided cut to the shape of what you want and since felt sticks to itself, it will stick to a felt storyboard or you can make a felt pizza with toppings, a birthday cake with candles or a felt Christmas tree with ornaments. You can also make easy finger or hand puppets, picture frames and little bags too. Crayon rolls are popular with kids as well. There really are so many fun ideas for things to make with felt and it’s easy to use and dirt cheap!

Jewelry:

Make beaded jewelry – it’s fun and very creative. Go support your local bead shop, take a class or buy a how-to book, pick out beads that you like, a few basic tools, some wire and clasps and you can make inexpensive yet pretty jewelry, bookmarks, hair accessories, window shade pulls, light catchers, the list goes on and on. My step-mother-in-law is really into this and now works with more semi-precious stones and silver combos and she makes some really beautiful gifts. This photo is of some of her work that I received as a gift.

Photo Gifts:

This also is a pretty popular gift. All of those photos we take of our kids, dogs, vacations can be made into photo books, calendars, mouse pads, mugs, pillows, etc. We can also take actual photos and decorate the outside of tin boxes with them and fill the box with yummy treats, too. Kids love to see pictures of themselves so this is popular with them as well as the grandparents. It seems grandparents can never have enough pictures of the grandkids and making the calendars or other photo gifts are pretty easy, inexpensive and much appreciated.

Other Craft Items:

Make your own homemade playdough which is safe and non-toxic and you can even color it with different food coloring. Store it in little containers, tins or even glass baby food jars that you’ve saved. Simple cookie cutters can go along with the playdough for a fun and inexpensive gift.

You can make homemade soy candles in empty jars – using baby food jars again or jam sized canning jars work well, too.

Don’t forget about cardboard boxes! There is just so much you can do with them. We have in just about a couple hours’ time made our son a playhouse and a train car that he can sit in. Now I hear there is talk of a space ship happening soon. You can make the large stacking blocks like the kind that are sold that look like bricks as well as a play kitchen, too. Cardboard boxes, a sturdy knife, duct tape and paint (optional) are all it takes. We have even made him impromptu costumes – wings, a helmet out of a cardboard bucket and a shield we painted as part of his Halloween costume, too. There are so many, many things you can do with cardboard. You can find lots of ideas and instructions on this site.

Wooden Crafts:

Since my husband has a small wood shop and makes unique furniture, last year he decided to make our son a play kitchen for Christmas and a play workbench for his birthday. Both required time but the cost of the materials was pretty inexpensive. He purchased a large sheet of plywood for each project that had a really nice facing on it, some small door hinges, some plexiglas for the oven and microwave door windows and a dowel rod for door handles.  He used an older bath faucet he had and a steel bowl for the kitchen sink and faucet. Both the kitchen and workbench were finished with a non-toxic oil and both came out really beautifully and are heirloom quality pieces so we can pass these down to our grandkids. The actual cost of the play kitchen came out to less than $30 with everything – except labor! The workbench was even cheaper.

Easier projects to make with wood are wooden building blocks, a simple pull toy, different geometric shaped puzzle pieces called tanagrams, different wooden puzzles, doll cradles, and wooden memory game squares that you paint the matching pictures on. There are many websites with instructions on how to do all of this and I really like this site.

Gift Baskets:

You can take many different little things that fit into a theme and put them all together in a box or basket for a person or family to enjoy. Several mamas said they were making movie baskets for a whole family – a dvd, different kinds of popcorn and chocolate all packaged in a pretty basket with cellophane or shrink wrap. Pick a theme and go with it.

Stores:

If you don’t want to make much (or anything) but still want to save money on gifts, shopping the thrift stores, garage sales, Craigslist, Freecycle, eBay, Dollar stores and the dollar bins at Target for all inexpensive new or used items in good condition is a great way to get toys and things at a fraction of the price or free (Freecycle). And most children don’t know the difference and wouldn’t care anyway if they did. If it works, they are happy!

New items at greatly reduced prices are sold at many closeout stores such as Marshalls, Big Lots, Ross, TJ Maxx and Tuesday Morning among others. You may have to sweep through these types of stores periodically and keep your eyes peeled for the quality items you want.  I’ve found some amazing deals this way including new German wooden toys (which are normally very expensive), nice puzzles and books for my son. It’s fun, too once you get the hang of it.

Wrapping Paper:

It’s fun to unwrap presents but we don’t have to use the commercial wrapping paper which is hard to recycle in many locations. What to do? – make your own!! There are so many options for this. If you get a Sunday paper, save the comic section each week and use that, buy a roll of butcher paper or brown craft paper or visit your town’s local newspaper and ask for their left over end of the rolls (it’s free) and have your kids draw or stamp all over it. Or buy some inexpensive play silks – a gift in themselves which can be dyed any color – and wrap the toy in that, too.

All of these “wrapping” papers listed can be easily recycled and can be a fun craft activity for you and the kids to do together. If you don’t want to do any of the above, try to purchase the wrapping paper that was made with recycled paper instead.

I hope this list has helped you find some new, creative and inexpensive gift ideas for this holiday season. There definitely are many resourceful and creative people out there and I thank each and every one of you for contributing your amazing, thrifty gift ideas! If you have other creative ideas not mentioned here, feel free to leave them in the comments section. I love hearing about other fun gifts to make.

Happy Holidays!!

photos: orderonlinekathy marie perezthe library of congresslil miss maya, nature deva, family fun, nature deva, nature deva

Baby Candy Mama & Child Giveaway!

October 27th, 2008 -- Posted in giveaways, holidays, photos, special events | 81 Comments »

I am offering a great giveaway for both mama and child that is already wrapped and ready for the holidays!  Baby Candy, a small, mom owned company, makes cute shirts and onesies for babies, toddlers, kids and mamas, too.  I am giving away a matching “Sugar Mama” chocolate brown 100% cotton tee shirt size L for mom and the same adorable shirt size 2T for her toddler.

The way they are packaged is very unique – it looks like candy and comes with a “nutrition facts” label on the back listing the size and what it is.

This giveaway is worth just about $50 and makes a wonderful gift for the holidays!

To enter (up to three chances to win!):

  • Please leave a comment telling me some of your creative ideas for holiday gifts for kids that are inexpensive or homemade. I think we all will be trying to economize this holiday season and I hope you can share some tips that I may not have thought about yet!
  • If you would like another chance to win, subscribe to my feed via RSS or email and leave a separate comment letting me know you have done so.
  • For yet another chance to win, just link to this post on your blog and then leave another comment here with the link to your blog’s post.
  • Be sure to leave a valid email address
  • Contest is open to US and Canadian citizens
  • Contest will end on Saturday, November 1st at 12:59pm EST
  • Winner will be chosen by Random.org and contacted by email

Be sure to stop by the Bloggy Giveaways Carnival to see all the other great giveaways!

Happy New Year!

January 6th, 2008 -- Posted in holidays, Home, Leif, Mel, Michael | 1 Comment »

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve posted and now it’s a new year so it’s time for me to catch up.  We had a very fun and busy holiday season and Leif had a great time with his Grandpa visiting for Christmas.  We made lots of yummy food and sweets (including awesome homemade fudge) and did some fun stuff with Grandpa.  I’ve got some good pix of Michael, his Dad and Leif all jamming on instruments together (dad on saxophone, Michael on guitar and Leif on everything else) and Leif and Grandpa played with all his new toys and puzzles alot, too.

Michael made Leif a beautiful wooden kitchen for Hannukah and he just loves it and plays with it alot.  He unfortunately fell onto the kitchen edge after slamming the door to his playroom (which we always tell him not to do) and landed just so that his ear got bruised and his ear lobe where there is no cartilage actually split in half.  It happened a few days ago when Michael came home from work for lunch.  We rushed him to the urgent care center right by our house and he had to get 4 stitches.  It was awful but is healing well and we go tomorrow to have the stitches removed.  I really don’t know how it could have happened bec. the kitchen is very child safe with rounded edges and corners.  Michael has since gone over the corner again with more sanding just to be sure because our kid is such a klutz.  I think he hurts himself at least once a day, this one just happened to be in a soft spot with alot of force onto basically a piece of furniture at kid height.  Michael was calling it the “perfect storm” of accidents for Leif.  I hope we don’t ever have to deal with this again.

Other than that weirdness, we have been doing some more projects to make our space function better since we know we will be here for a few more years until we find the piece of land or new community with a house we can design and have built for our forever home.  I’m still holding out for moving to the Santa Fe area, a place I have always felt I belong but Michael’s job is here so here it is we stay – for now at least.  Good thing he also really likes Santa Fe but not as much as I do so it’s still on the table as a future option.

He’s busily building new shelves for Leif’s toys in the play room.  It’s part of my xmas present, actually.  I only really wanted house organizational stuff done.  He’s using the same wood as the kitchen so he’s really super aware of any possible edges on those rounded corners, too.  This is going to make so much more room in the play room and better organized, too.  I can’t wait.  Then he told me today he will install new carpet in that room, too since it’s the only other room we have actual wall to wall carpet in (besides the basement) and it’s never been replaced since we moved in so I’m totally stoked on that.

I hope everyone had a good holiday and new year’s and that you all have a great year ahead of you!

Tis The Season

December 3rd, 2007 -- Posted in holidays, Home, Leif, Mel, Michael, parenting, society | No Comments »

I must admit, I’ve been a shopping maniac lately.  I’ve been trying to keep this holiday season one that is not too over the top, not too expensive and ideally kind of simple and home made.  Yeah, right on that last part.  I don’t know who I’m kidding, I’m sick of making stuff with my hands all the time (have a home based herbal products biz) and, really, I love to shop – especially for others.  What’s more, I’ve discovered over the years that I love to shop and score some really quality stuff at amazing prices.

We did venture out on “Black Friday” to get the great deals on certain items we needed for our home.  Kind of like a joint xmas gift we give ourselves.  I looked at all the black friday ads and picked the few places to go to in the morning and really, we found the best deals on small appliances we needed to replace and some xmas gifts for family at Macy’s and Kohl’s.  Macy’s was fine, not too over crowded but Kohl’s, oh my God it was like they were giving away free gold or something.  Lines went from the registers all the way to the back of the store for both banks of registers (one set on each side of the front of the store).  It was crazy but we did still manage to get the few items on our list at ridiculously cheap prices including a new (backup) portable dvd player for our son for traveling for $50.  The one we have is a bit abused from him and we think it will die sometime this year.  I stood on line for one hour there.  Michael and Leif left to shop at another store while I waited. It was madness.

Now that my son is almost 4, he’s getting into an age where toys can actually be fun for the adults, too.  I’ve really been into toy shopping for him and have found some great German made toys as well as quality toys from American toy companies.  I’ve been getting mostly stuff that he can do creative and imaginative play with instead of the blinking, flashing lights or computer oriented type stuff.  This is still the age where he can expand his creative capacities in his brain so that when he’s an adult, he will hopefully be one of those people who can think outside the box instead of being just a drone.  We do still have a couple of the electronic toys that are for making music but most everything else is up to him to do himself and he surely does.  He’s got a large wooden train setup and this kid loves trains and still plays with them more than other stuff.

Last year, I asked my husband to build him a wooden kitchen.  He said ok and never got to it by the time of his bday and his teacher last year gave him a cute, corner kitchen that he really liked for a while and still plays with but only for short periods.  It’s nice but plastic (little tikes) which would be great for my backyard but I don’t like to look at it much anymore in my house so I did ask my husband again to build him the kitchen for xmas this year.  We had everything we needed except the wood and he got everything laid out onto one sheet of nice plywood so the kitchen only really cost $26 (plus hours of my husband’s time!).   Michael has a decent tool shop set up and has built tons of stuff for us and for his family and friends even before I met him.  This is the first thing he’s made for our son Leif and he says he’s having fun building this kitchen.  It looks gorgeous and I can’t wait to see it fully finished.  I can see why these big kitchens cost so much in the catalogs, it’s very time consuming for all the finish work.  He is also building a tool bench for him out of another sheet of nice plywood and we are waiting on giving him that one until his bday in February.  Michael wanted to give him both for xmas but I thought that would be overload for the boy.

Because of the large gift from Daddy, we just decided to give it to him this week for Hannukah.  We celebrate almost every holiday this season – Hannukah, Christmas and Yule/ Winter Solstice.  At Hannukah, it’s the festival of lights so we light a candle in the menorah while saying a blessing every night for 8 nights and (usually just kids) get a gift every night.  This is both good and bad, with one gift per night, you can really focus on it and enjoy it.  The bad part is it’s just one gift and kids like lots of gifts like at xmas.  I remember this so much growing up.  I am really loving celebrating all the holidays as an adult and the build up and the decorations for xmas are so fun.  Christmas morning is really fun and we are developing our own family traditions since we celebrate everything and both of our families only celebrate one holiday.

So, my son will be getting 8 gifts (kitchen being one of them) for Hannukah, then I tried to keep it to a fair amount for xmas including the stocking stuffers but I have this fear I’m over doing it and will wind up spoiling him and creating a monster as he gets older. He’s an only child so I have a tendency to give too much bec. 1) I’m his mom and 2) I love to shop for him!  Some things I’m delegating to the bday pile and last year, my husband had to tell me to put some stuff away for this year bec. it was too much so I did.

However, this year I have been trying to only go to the Ross/Marshalls/Tues. A.M type stores and look for only the quality brands for a great price or shop online where there are also really good prices on stuff.  I’ve gotten some great things for him at amazing prices so that makes me feel better.

I’ve also gone thru all of his toys and taken out the ones he’s outgrown but that I’d like to keep for another child so those are packed away now plus I’ve freecycled some toys (esp. ones that eat up batteries) and threw away random cheap plastic stuff from wherever – parties, restaurants, etc.  He has not noticed except for the puzzles I packed away, I let him know I was doing that to make room for new stuff and he was fine with that.  It felt great to pare down his stuff and keep really just what he uses and what doesn’t drive me crazy (some toys he got as gifts drove me nuts!).

As for me, all I really want for xmas was for certain things around my house to be better organized which means for Michael to either build it for me or adjust something, no money but it requires more of his time which he doesn’t have alot of.  Small things make me happy and that’s all I really want is better flow to make me happy in my day to day life.  Last year he built a new shelving system for shoes for our small coat closet and he measured our bags and put hooks all over to hang all our assorted bags and backpacks on and wow, can we fit a ton more stuff – neatly – in that little closet.  I loved that.  One of his best gifts to me ever (I’m such a dork).  The other great gift from him this past year was my bday trip to Vancouver Island and a really cool camera so really, I don’t want much.

I hope you all are enjoying this holiday season and are having fun, not stress,  while out shopping!

L’Shana Tovah!

September 12th, 2007 -- Posted in holidays | No Comments »

I just want to wish my Jewish friends and family a very happy, healthy new year! Happy 5768!  I hope some of you can make it out to CO to visit us this year.