If you are looking for some fun family time ideas complete with great recipes and crafts, you will want to visit this post to read more! I am sharing a few of our favorite Christmas recipes and some great ways we celebrate the holidays without spending a lot of money.
The best part is all of the points you will score for all of the time you spend with your kids during this busy season! Who could argue with that? See you there!
Christmas is my favorite time of year, but I know it can be a difficult time of year when finances are tight. I want to share with you how you can celebrate Christmas in a big way by shifting your focus towards great family traditions.
I have been getting a lot of questions on how families can celebrate the holidays when they don’t have the money to have the Christmas that they have been dreaming of. It can be stressful as a parent to not be able to have the holiday that you envision for your children, but a change in perception for the holidays can go a long way. You see, regardless of the economic turmoil, the holidays will never change for our family because our focus has turned to traditions rather than gifts.
When you make the switch to focusing on family traditions, there is a lot less stress in your life worrying about the gifts under the tree. After all, isn’t that what the holidays are all about? For me, it is all about family, about creating memories for my children that they will never forget, and it is about the love that they feel from us as parents.
Here are some of the ways we have have simplified the giving process and our family traditions that have shifted our family focus during this financially stressful season.
Image source: pinterest (unknown)
Simplify Your Gift Giving
Several years ago I ran across an idea for buying four gifts for your kids in the specific categories of something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read. It has been a tradition that has stuck and I hope that my kids will continue the tradition with their own children someday. The kids love getting to help in the selection of the gifts from these four categories and I love the simplicity of shopping for these gifts We are blessed with a big family of generous givers so my children never have expressed disappointment that there are not enough gifts for them. In fact, this year they struggled to come up with four gifts that they really wanted.
Next year, we plan to give our children a Choose Your Own Adventure gift where they can select one fun family experience or a learning experience. Art classes, dance classes, a trip to a local museum, going to a fun show in town, going to a restaurant and a movie with mom or dad, or another coveted outing will be on the list.
We do this often with money gifted by relatives (last year was a family outing to the Nutcracker and cocoa at the local chocolate shop) to cut down on the excess in our home and to create a purposeful experience with our kids.
In our family, each Friday night in December, we make a homemade pizza and bundle our children up for an evening of looking at the holiday lights in the neighborhoods. We blast the Christmas carols on the radio and bring along popcorn for them to snack on while they enjoy all the beauty of the Christmas lights. To make it more fun, we let them pick their favorite pajamas to wear and they think this is hilarious to get to wear their pajamas in the car. This year I am also looking forward to a little Christmas Lights Scavenger Hunting on our tour of the lights.
On Christmas morning, I make cocoa and gingerbread waffles for the kids. As a special treat, I shape the tubes of store-bought cinnamon rolls into a Christmas tree shape and tint the icing green for the tree. We eat this together after we open the presents and the kids look forward to it each year.
While these traditions might not sound like much, our children look forward to them each year and we get just as excited as them for these special meals.
Caring for Others
Instead of focusing on ourselves, we try to do things for others around the holidays. This year our family’s holiday project was to create homeless care packages for the homeless in our town. It was such a great experience to do with our children that I hope to repeat a project like this each year with them.
Even if you are short on funds there are so many ways to give back that don’t cost a lot. Gather items for a donation to your local shelter, serve a meal to those in need, use your talent for crafting to benefit someone in your community, or take a peek at these painless ways to give back this season.
When my son was small we would take them to the fire station with a box full of goodies. I loved seeing the faces of the firefighters light up when they saw our treats, but more importantly, is the light in your children’s eyes when they take them around to show them the fire engines. This is one of the best days of playing Santa I had ever had.
Filling the Stockings with Love
On the first day of December, I try to set out a basket and small slips of paper. Each person in the family is supposed to write something about someone else in the family that they appreciate about them and stick it in each other’s stockings. On Christmas morning, we have something fun to look forward to opening, which centers on family rather than gifts. If you have smaller children, have them draw pictures for each family member and jot down the sweet things they say about their family members. It is truly a highlight of my Christmas morning and brings us all closer together.
Countdown to Christmas
We have always counted down the holidays in fun ways with our kids. When my children were small we did a Christmas Jar full of fun activities for each day of December. We would fill it with fun and free activities- making a snowman, watching a holiday show on television, making a holiday ornament- anything that is inexpensive and fun for us to do together as a family.
As they have gotten older, our “use what you have” advent calendar still gives us the opportunity to do these fun activities, but fits a little bit better around our busy life. I wanted to create our own countdown to Christmas in a creative way, but I didn’t want to spend any money on it. I decided to use what I had to create our homemade Advent filled with fun activities and you can grab an idea list foractivities over here.
Wrapping It Up With An Inexpensive Bow
These are just a few of our suggestions for ways to make the holiday more special and more focused on your family rather than a store-bought Christmas tied up with an expensive bow.
Whatever you decide to do, don’t forget to document these memories in some way so you can share them with your children. I started a holiday journal for the children and tucked in a copy of their sweet letters to Santa, their favorite holiday recipes, our holiday photo each year, and jotted down their favorite memories from the year.
My goal is to only leave my children a legacy of holiday memories, not a legacy of stuff under the tree.
Author: Adapted from Rachael Ray's 30 Minute Meals
Recipe type: Main
These gingerbread waffles are a fun treat to share on Christmas morning and taste just like a gingerbread cookie. Top them with festive sprinkles and whipped cream for a fun breakfast treat!
3 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
⅔ cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1¼ cups milk
½ cup molasses
½ cup (1 stick) melted butter, plus some to butter the iron
Syrup, whipped cream or fresh fruits for topping, to pass at table
Preheat waffles iron. In a large bowl combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt. In a medium bowl, beat eggs and brown sugar until fluffy, then beat in pumpkin, milk, molasses and melted butter. Stir the wet into dry until just moist. Do not overstir the waffle batter. Brush the iron with a little melted butter and cook 4 waffles, 4 sections each. Serve with toppings of choice.
What are your favorite ways inexpensive ways to celebrate the holidays? I would love to hear about your family’s traditions!
One thing that you may not know about our family is that we are really passionate about caring for the homeless. Creating a homeless care package can be one fantastic way that your entire family can be involved in caring for the homeless. Today we want to provide a checklist of supplies for the homeless, a local resources sheet you can print out (if you are in our area), and some tips for involving the whole family in this project.
This month Walmart let me choose a project that I was passionate about for the holidays and showcase how families could recreate it in their own homes. As I always disclose, I am compensated for my writing, BUT instead of accepting the compensation, we invested what I would have earned along with the gift card budget Walmart gave me to give back to the homeless in our community.
These homeless care packages can be prepared for your local homeless shelters or kept tucked away in the trunk of your car for those you may see on the street looking for your help. I love feeling armed in these situations and these kits are a simple way to show how much you care.
I wouldn’t be truthful if I didn’t tell you that my husband inspires me every day with his giving heart. Last winter, he was coming home late from work because he would see people in need and run to stores to get them supplies and gift cards.
That is his heart.
That is why I love him.
If there is one thing I firmly believe in, it is that giving should be a family affair. We have to lead our children by our example. I want my children to remember that what made our family special is that we always gave with our whole hearts.
My kids assisted in every aspect of this project. My son came with me and did the number crunching on a good old-fashioned calculator, my daughter helped sort and organize all of the items we bought, and both kids helped fill the bags with all of the necessary items.
Here Are My 3 Essential Elements to a Great Homeless Care Package
Feed Their Needs- One of the greatest gifts you can give to someone who is homeless is personal hygiene items and food to nourish their bodies. Begin by picking up items that will satisfy this area in their life first. Simple items like shampoo, a razor, deodorant, a toothbrush, toothpaste, a comb, a bar of soap, and tissues are great items to keep on hand.
Food like granola bars, crackers with peanut butter, trail mixes, dried fruits, and a bottle of water are also great items to tuck into your bags. If you have the funds, small denominator gift cards (we did $5 Walmart gift cards) can also be great to give so that they can pick up a meal or item(s) they might need.
Provide Warmth- We live in Indiana and the winters here are brutal. I can’t imagine how cold it would be to stand on the streets without the proper items I need for warmth. Add items like thermal boot socks, gloves, scarves, and hats to your gift bags. Items like these may seem out of your financial reach, but I found all of these at the dollar store and the sets of gloves were a mere $.50 each.
Feed Their Souls- I am sure it goes without saying, but feeding someone’s soul is just as important as feeding their needs. You can feed their souls in a variety of ways depending on your families beliefs and resources. We created a local resources list (available for local residents to download) that they can tap into for further resources in our town. A note that lets them know that they are on your prayer list, a note of encouragement by your children, or a scripture that you find comforting can also be excellent additions.
God has been so good to us, but 10 years ago we were in a very different place than where we are now. My husband was unemployed for almost an entire year, our financial situation was a house of cards, and my heart was in a bad place. Although I don’t like to admit it, I wondered what my purpose on this earth even was. I never have forgotten that dark place and it is why we still try to be so careful with the resources we have been given and why I have such a tender place in my heart for those who are struggling.
Being careful though doesn’t mean that you can’t be a giver. There are fantastic ways to give, both big and small, around the holidays. Be sure to check our list of ten painless ways to give back to charities to help you get started. I call these smaller ways to give the, “scraps of life giving.” I have talked a lot about that with my partnership with Pure Charity this month as well!
One more thing, did you know today just so happens to be GIVING TUESDAY? It is the perfect day to start a giving project with your family!
We want to help you give back to your community! Here are some resources to do just that!
Grab our Free Homeless Supply Checklist for your your care packages. Don’t just click on the picture, head to this link to grab a full-size PDF version!
Grab our Local Resources List for your care packages (if you don’t live in Michiana, you can use this as a template for your own sheet)! Don’t just click on the picture, head to this link to grab a full-size PDF version!
How do you give back in your community? How do you teach your kids to be givers?
I am a part of the Walmart Moms program, and Walmart has provided me with compensation for these posts. For this project, all compensation was invested in aiding our area homeless. My participation is voluntary and opinions are always my own.
It has been so much fun preparing for the holidays with all of you. Today I am concluding our post series with Pure Charity with some fun ideas for keeping your kids entertained on Thanksgiving morning while you are busy preparing all of that Thanksgiving food…or just preparing for all of that fun with those relatives.
If you haven’t been following along the past three weeks, I have been sharing about a great site called Pure Charity and how your holiday shopping can make an impact on the organizations you are most passionate about. Did I mention signing up for this account is free and easy! I really encourage you to join in!
What is Pure Charity?
Pure Charity is a simple, but awesome concept for giving back to those causes you care most about. Basically, you install a simple toolbar into your web browser and then it alerts you with a small banner at the top when a store you are shopping with has a partnership with Pure Charity. Click on that little button and you are making a percentage deposit into your Giving Fund. Your Giving Fund can then be applied to the charities that are important to you and that you have a desire to support.
The first week we discussed some elegant and simple ways to create the perfect Thanksgiving table. I love that these ideas incorporated elements of nature, along with thoughtfully purchased items to mix into your everyday items, and a thankful chalkboard where the kids can jot down what they are most thankful for in their lives.
Next we created the Perfect Pumpkin Pie for our Thanksgiving dessert. I found beautiful tools to create a detailed crust and serve ware that made the pie look like a little piece of art through the Pure Charity partner sites.
Thanksgiving happens to be one of my favorite holidays and I love to make these holidays special and memorable for my kids. Pure Charity asked me to show everyone what could be done via their partners and gave me a small budget to pick out some items that I would recommend for keeping the whole family entertained on Thanksgiving Day.
Play Classic Board Games- If there is one thing our family loves, it is board games. You will often find our family spending our evenings playing board games together. Thanksgiving is a great time to break out the board games for the young and old alike. Group games like Apples to Apples, Jenga, or an adult round of Taboo can be a great way to keep your family laughing and spending time together. Hungry Hungry Hippos is always a great game to play with the kids and can be a fun way to keep the cousins entertained while the food is being prepared. (Purchased through Target)
Watch A Classic Thanksgiving Movie- Our family’s favorite Thanksgiving movie is, “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.” Of course, any movie with Charlie Brown and the gang in it is always a guaranteed winner in our family. (Purchase through Best Buy)
Bring Out Their Inner Artist- If there is one thing my kids go through quickly it is art supplies. Items like colored pencils, construction paper, coloring and doodle books that inspire creativity in my children, and pre-made art kits can all be fun ways to get those creative juices flowing. I was able to find some amazing coloring books like, “The Fashion Coloring Book,” and “The Coloring Book,” that provide great prompts for your child’s imagination. Even better, I was able to find two Kid Made Modern Comic Book Kits so that each of my kids can create their very own comic books. (All Purchased Through Target)
Just Dance It Out- A well-known fact about our family is that the Clark family is basically its own dance crew. If there is one thing we love to do it is to dance our troubles away. Just Dance 4 and Just Dance Disney games are two fun ways to get your kids moving after that big Thanksgiving feast and work off that sluggish, “I ate too much turkey,” feeling in a fun way.
If your family is anything like ours though, you might not let those kids even get a chance to play any of their own games. You will simply be too busy dance battling each other to give anyone else the opportunity to do anything else (*ahem*). (Purchased through Best Buy).
Play a Round of Thanksgiving Bingo- One thing that I love to do for my kids is to print out a simple Thanksgiving Bingo game to keep them entertained while I am preparing the food. This is a fun and free way to keep them entertained and there are six Bingo cards to print and choose from. Pop a bag of popcorn and let them use the popcorn as their markers to mark their Bingo squares. Once they get tired of that game, print out another round of cards and have them do Thanksgiving Football Bingo instead. (Printable available for free through Spoonful).
After these purchases to entertain the kids on Thanksgiving Day, I was able to bank $5.63 in my Giving Fund for my favorite charities through Pure Charity!
I am working with Pure Charity, and Pure Charity has provided me with compensation for these posts. My participation is voluntary and opinions are always my own.
We are looking forward to another fun Halloween! I wanted to show you our Halloween costumes this year. Outfitting the whole family in costumes can be a challenge, but we tend to embrace it with a lot of enthusiasm.
Emily’s masquerade ballroom gown has to be one of my favorite costumes we have ever gotten her. I found it at Marshall’s for $24.99. I hate spending more than $20 on a costume, but this is one she is planning to use for dress-up play and it is so beautifully made that I am sure we will find many uses for this elegant dress (complete with a hoop skirt, cameo necklace and little masquerade mask).
We found Ethan’s knight costume inexpensively online and I was excited that their requests coordinated this year. Of course, we always manage to make it coordinate for photos, even if it doesn’t always really work!
For a couple that doesn’t really watch a lot of television, we embraced the television themes this year with our costumes. Our favorite show happens to be, “Glee.” I might be alone in this one, but I can’t get enough of that show! For our couple costume this year, we gleeked it out with a Glee cheerleader costume for me and my husband pulled off the Coach Sue Sylvester costume far better than I could ever imagine.
We partied it up in these hilarious costumes and every time I saw this man out of the corner of my eye, it put me in a fit of giggles. Of course, following this year’s rocking costume party, we were already brainstorming what we would wear next year.
I was able to find these costumes on clearance for $10 each. My best friend altered the costume a bit for me (because one size does NOT fit all). What a rock star best friend to sew my cheap polyester costume for me!
Our Bunco theme this month was also Halloween themed so my best friend and I schemed a costume from our other favorite show, “New Girl,” I have a serious girl crush on Zooey and her character, “Jess,” on this show. For this costume, I just raided my own little retro wardrobe, threw on my nerdy glasses, curled my hair and slipped on a pair of ballet flats. I had the picture frame in my craft supplies and use that like she does in the intro of the show.
Becky went as Cece, Jess’ supermodel bestie on the show. Of course she just straightened her hair and wore her most awesome model clothes from her own wardrobe with a killer pair of heels.
You have to love a costume you can create from found items in your closet.
Preparing for the holidays can be a stressful time for families Planning ahead and breaking the preparation down into manageable steps is key to holiday survival.
This year I will be hosting our family’s Thanksgiving, launching a book, celebrating my daughter’s birthday, celebrating Christmas with two sides of the family, and trying to ring in the New Year. Am I scared? You bet! Just the very thought of all this could make me break into a sweat and cause me to want to throw the covers back over my head until this is all over. I am already working on my timeline to still have a wonderful holiday and accomplish all I need to and I wanted to share it with you.
I may have mentioned (or spammed you) last week with all of the pictures of my kiddos off for their first day of school. Now that the kids are back to school, I am reminded of all of the wonderful traditions we do in our family to celebrate the back to school season.
If you are a local reader, I also wanted to share the Goodwill Loves Moms Celebration Lunches that are happening in just a couple of short weeks in our area..
Goodwill Loves Moms Celebration
Thursday, September 13th – Windsor Park Conference Center / Mishawaka
Friday, September 14th – Strongbow Inn / Valparaiso
We invite you to join us! Our guest speaker will be, Lorie Marrero, a Certified Professional Organizer and author of: The Clutter Diet. When you attend one of the celebration lunches, you’ll receive a FREE re-useable Goodwill Loves Moms Donation Bag and Lorie’s book: The Clutter Diet!
It’s back to school day today. We have crammed in a whole summer full of fun. I am going to miss these two little ones! I hope! everyone is having a great start to their school year and wanted to share with you a few pictures today!
I was a smart mom this year and we did all of our pictures the day before school so we could really focus on getting ready for our day without any interruptions. It also gave us a good practice run in our uniforms before the big day.
These last few weeks of summer and the beginning of the school year can be a true challenge for moms. This month I am excited to be partnering with Glad to showcase some great strategies for moms to help keep kids entertained and get your school year off to a great start.
If you read magazines like Taste of Home or Family Circle, you may have spotted a familiar face tucked within the pages of your magazine. I had the opportunity to work with Glad on a fresh initiative arming moms with ideas to keep the kids entertained during the summer months, lunchbox inspiration to breathe life into tired lunches, and great printables to help you get organized for the back-to-school season.
If you would like to see some of my fun ideas including my favorite bubble recipe, homemade play dough, homemade sidewalk chalk, easy lunchbox noodles, and snag some great free printables to add a little sparkle to your child’s lunchbox, be sure to join Glad’s Facebook Community and click on Glad’s Mom Made tab for tips and tricks to manage the back-to-school madness. That is just the tip of the iceberg though! Head over to Glad to get the full scoop on all of these fantastic ideas to get your school year started out right.
It thrills me to no end to get to share my ideas with Glad and I can’t wait for you to see what I was hard at work on this summer! Hurry over today for monthly inspiration created by some really fabulous mom bloggers.
Happy summer to all of our friends on MomAdvice. Our summer officially started on Thursday and we couldn’t wait to get the party started. I met the kids down at the bus stop with silly glasses that I found at the Dollar Store to let them know that the only thing we had our summer agenda was FUN. They giggled all the way home at their mother’s silliness, but it was the perfect way to start our summer.
We kicked off our summer with my husband’s big 5K race. He had been training for months to get ready for it and we wanted to show our support for him and how hard he has worked. We worked hard on signs that we could hold up at the finish line for him. In his words, “I was the only one who had someone holding signs for them.” It was such a fun way to be a part of his big race day with him and the kids were so proud of their dad.
We did swim lessons on our last week of school which was either extremely genius or the worst idea ever since it was the craziest week of our school schedule. At the beginning of the week, Ethan was barely getting in the pool. At the end of the week…well, this happened. He was terrified of the deep end and we had been trying to get him to go off the diving board for years. I was shaking so hard when this moment happened, but he did it. Then he did it again and again. I still can’t believe it! It was a fantastic way to kick off the summer.
On the last day of school they happened to have a concert at our local park. We were so proud of both of our kids who both finished the year out with the highest honors and grades this year that we wanted to treat them to an evening of celebration.
We headed to Moe’s Southwest Grill, their favorite taco spot, and loaded our picnic basket with great food and a blanket to sit on. We enjoyed the outdoor concert together and it was such a fun way to finish out their year.
Of course, summer is never complete without our summer list! This was the first year that we let the kids do the whole thing on their own. We made some helpful activity suggestions, but let them take the lead this year.
I am just as excited as them to start tackling all of these fun activities with them.
Each of the kids have also gotten a doodle pad and composition book to begin documenting their summer. I found these at the dollar store and they already have so much to write about. I loved adding this activity to our summer and can’t wait for them to get to show their teachers next year what a great summer they had!
If you are on Instagram, you can join in on the fun by taking pictures and sharing all of your summer adventures through there. Let’s use the hashtag #100summerdays. My username is momadvice and I am happy to have you follow our adventures and follow along with yours!
By tagging your photos, it will make it easy to find each other in the group and share the projects we are tackling together. You can add the tags to your caption or you can add them as a comment later. In either scenario, the tag will pull it into our summer group.
Gain some summer inspiration on our Pinterest 100 days of summer (’12) edition where you can get another amazing round-up of 100 ideas to inspire your summer bucket list.
This list has everything from making homemade butterbeer drinks for those Harry Potter enthusiasts, to making homemade shrinky dinks, to getting back to the basics with great dinner discussions with great family conversation starters.
There is something for everyone on here- boys and girls of all ages and craft levels. The best part is that they are ALL budget-friendly and will cost you very little in supplies.