Russian Tea Cakes

Russian Tea Cakes aka snowballs or Mexican Wedding Cakes (or Dust Balls as we called them. These are my favorite Christmas cookies. Super easy and they melt in your mouth.

Who doesn’t love a Christmas Cookie Exchange?

Find several great Christmas cookie recipes and link up your  own Christmas cookie recipe!

We would like to share with you some of our favorite Christmas cookies!  We can’t give you the actual cookie, but we can give you the recipes!  You can see one of my favorite Christmas cookie recipes below, and then find links to several other great Christmas cookie recipes at the bottom of this post.   We have also provided a linky on the bottom for you to link up your favorite Christmas cookies!  Come participate in our Online Christmas Cookie Exchange!

Here’s my recipe:

So only the recipe card says Russian Tea Cakes. The name we actually growing up calling this fabulous little cookies by? No, not snowball cookies like the rest of the world. Our name was a little more unique. We called them Dust Balls. That’s actually the name I still call them. But for some reason, I don’t think a cookie recipe called Dust Balls would go over well to the rest of the world so I’m calling them Russian Tea Cakes once again for the sake of this post.  What name do you use for these cookies? I know others who call them Mexican Wedding Cakes too.

Now that we got the name out of the way, let me tell you that I LOVE these cookies. They are easily in my top 3 Christmas cookies to make each year. They are delicate – like little balls of shortbread rolled in powdered sugar. I also love that they aren’t overly sweet.

Do yourself a favor and make a double batch while you are at it! The 24 cookies will be gone in no time – they are that addicting. They keep well in the freezer as well.

The nuts in this recipe are optional in my book. We do it both ways. Growing up, a lot of us kids didn’t like nuts messing with our desserts but now walnuts and pecans are some of my favorite things. Do what will make your family happy.

5.0 from 1 reviews

Russian Tea Cakes
Serves: 24 cookies
 

Ingredients
  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 2¼ cups flour
  • ¾ cup chopped nuts
  • additional powdered sugar

Instructions
  1. Cream butter and sugar.
  2. Sift flour and salt. Add to butter mixture.
  3. Blend in vanilla and nuts.
  4. Form in 1 inch balls.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 14 minutes.
  6. While warm roll in powdered sugar.

 

Russian Tea Cakes aka snowballs or Mexican Wedding Cakes (or Dust Balls as we called them. These are my favorite Christmas cookies. Super easy and they melt in your mouth.

You can go to the following blogs to see their Christmas cookie recipes.  These recipes are also first on the linky below.  

Creative K Kids – Santa’s Surprises
Simple Hacks Living – Candy Cane Snowballs
Gypsy Road – Incense & Peppermint
My Life Abundant – My Favorite Cookie with Ernest T. Bass
Home Garden Joy – Christmas Cookie Recipe Fudge Ecstasy Cookies
Barbara Vogelgesang – 12 Days of Christmas Cookies – Rainbow Cookies
From this Kitchen Table – Russian Tea Cakes – The Best Christmas Cookie Ever
Baking With Mom – Christmas Cut Out Sugar Cookies
Back Home Again – Nutella Cookies
Surviving Toddlerhood – Almond Joy Cookie Bites {Grain Free, Refined Sugar Free, Egg Free}
Creative Pink Butterfly – Coconut Macaroon Recipe
The Southern Fried Bride – Peppermint Wonderland Bars
One Hoolie Mama – 5 Ingredient Christmas Cookies
Snapshots and Snippets – Snowmen Cookies

You can also follow our Online Exchange Christmas Cookie Pinterest Board HERE to see all the  posts that are linked up below plus some other great Christmas posts that we find!

Follow our Online Christmas Cookie Exchange Board on Pinterest!

We would love it if you grabbed our button so that others can find this linky!

Creative K Kids

Link up your Christmas cookie recipes, and they will be seen on all the hosts’ blogs!

Linking up to these fun parties!

Gift Ideas for Preschoolers

Great Gift Ideas for Preschoolers! Love these ideas - they all encourage their imagination and they'll use for a long time.

My daughter is almost 4 this Christmas and I’m finding this age such a fun one to shop for. They have vivid imaginations, love to try new things, and do what grown ups do. They are getting more independent and will play the same thing for long periods of time. It’s wonderful!

Presents that encourage kids to play, use their imaginations, and stretch them to learn new things are my type of gift over more gimmicky or electronic ones. One of my other key points when it comes to gift shopping is quality over quantity!

Most of these my daughter has and a few more she’s getting for Christmas this year. I love that brother will be able to grow into them in the next year.

Gift Ideas for Preschoolers:

Play Tunnel

We’ve had one of these for over a year now, and in the last month my daughter has been playing with this constantly! It’s a “slide”, part of a fort, tornado, and whatever else she comes up with.

Play Tent

This is one thing our daughter is getting for Christmas this year. I think she’s going to love it! A little house, reading nook, fort, castle. I see it getting lots of use!

Floor Puzzles

Some kids don’t enjoy puzzles, but if yours do these giant floor puzzles are a lot of fun. We have several of them and they are frequently put together on the kitchen floor (and then are treated as a dance floor by little brother).

Great Gift Ideas for Preschoolers! Love these ideas - they all encourage their imagination and they'll use for a long time.

Dress Up Clothes

You can find themed dress up clothes on Amazon or check out the local thrift stores for fancy dresses, shawls, bow ties, top hats etc. But together a bin full of dress up clothes and it will be something they will use for years to come (especially if you buy real clothes from the thrift store)! We had dress up clothes growing up and they got used to shreds!

Great Gift Ideas for Preschoolers! Love these ideas - they all encourage their imagination and they'll use for a long time.

Sheets and Clothespins

Not for their beds, but rather for some epic fort building. We spent countless hours building forts inside and out growing up and at least once a week my daughter is building forts in our house. She makes little ones with the coffee table or asks me for help making ones that take up a good portion of the living room.

Sheets

Flashlight

Kids are obsessed with flashlights and they are the perfect accessory to a fort or for exploring.

Great Gift Ideas for Preschoolers! Love these ideas - they all encourage their imagination and they'll use for a long time.

Building Blocks

Some kids do the block thing and other don’t, but they are a classic toy to have around. They can build cities and roads or towers to knock over.

Great Gift Ideas for Preschoolers! Love these ideas - they all encourage their imagination and they'll use for a long time.

Lego Duplo Blocks

These are more stable for little hands (but not as fun to topple over :-) ) We have a couple of sets of these that the kids cycle through playing.

Great Gift Ideas for Preschoolers! Love these ideas - they all encourage their imagination and they'll use for a long time.

Painting Supplies

Painting. Kids like anything kind-of messy in my experience. Having their own supplies is a lot of fun. They’ll sit and paint away. Having it be a present makes them ruining the paint and going through countless sheets of paper not quite so painful.

Great Gift Ideas for Preschoolers! Love these ideas - they all encourage their imagination and they'll use for a long time.

 

Workbooks

My daughter is obsessed with these things. She goes through them so quickly I’d be broke trying to keep up with her. She loves them, and views them as fun not school so they make a great present. I won’t have to limit how many pages she does a day when it’s a gift either.

Great Gift Ideas for Preschoolers! Love these ideas - they all encourage their imagination and they'll use for a long time.

Grocery Cart

Both of my kids push their little grocery cart around the house. They go grocery shopping, use it to move clothes from the dyer, or carry around toys and books.

Great Gift Ideas for Preschoolers! Love these ideas - they all encourage their imagination and they'll use for a long time.

Doll Stroller

Again, I think things with wheels are fun. Put a doll, stuffed animal, or other object in there and they have a blast. Getting to push it down the sidewalk is even better.

Great Gift Ideas for Preschoolers! Love these ideas - they all encourage their imagination and they'll use for a long time.

Baking Supplies

My daughter LOVES to help in the kitchen. When she turned three, one of her presents was a little silicone spatula, some recipes she could make, and the ingredients to make them. She loved it! Purchase real products they can actually use and the ingredients you don’t normally buy. They will feel pretty cool whipping up there own batch of mini muffins or cupcakes or decorating cookies they made with their stuff. My daughter still asks for “her spatula”.

Great Gift Ideas for Preschoolers! Love these ideas - they all encourage their imagination and they'll use for a long time. Great Gift Ideas for Preschoolers! Love these ideas - they all encourage their imagination and they'll use for a long time.

 

Books

Reading. We love books in our house and spend lots of time on the couch reading a lot. Find good books to add to your stash. These are just a few of the many books we have, but my daughter seems to bring these out frequently to read.

Great Gift Ideas for Preschoolers! Love these ideas - they all encourage their imagination and they'll use for a long time.

Play-Doh

Something else my daughter loves to get out and spend long periods of time playing with. Colors get mixed, my rolling pin and cookie cutters get brought out along with plastic animals so they can make foot prints. Play-Doh dries out so they will always need new stuff! You can even make your own.

Great Gift Ideas for Preschoolers! Love these ideas - they all encourage their imagination and they'll use for a long time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What are your favorite gift ideas for preschoolers?

Linking up to these fun parties!

Menu Plan and Goals

The whirlwind time of year is here! Our third craft show of the year was Saturday and was the best one! It definitely helped make a long day more worth it. We had a prime location and some new products that sold really well. The craft shows really have been a lot of fun, but they are tiring, especially juggling the kids during the day. They did quite well though, until the very end. Sunday afternoon was spent picking up the house and grocery shopping, both or which desperately needed to happen.

Menu plan and goals for our family of 4! This week, leftovers are rocking it!

I had no intentions of making sugar cookies this year, but when my daughter said she want to make “sock cookies like on Curious George’s Christmas” I decided to go for it. She helped mix up half a batch of dough and learned how to roll and cut out the cookies. The decorating she did all on her own and I attempted to keep brother from destroying everything. :-)

This week and next are going to be busy ones once again. I think things will maybe slow down the actual week of Christmas. (But I probably shouldn’t say that too loudly or that won’t even happen.) I talked about this some on my Facebook page last week. Why does everything have to happen in the month of December? Can’t we have fall parties or New Year’s parties instead of Christmas ones? I, for one, would find those much more enjoyable! This time of year ends up being so busy that there isn’t time to slow down and truly enjoy it.

Menu plan and goals for our family of 4! This week, leftovers are rocking it!

Homemade vanilla ice cream with Peppermint Hot Fudge Sauce! It turned out yummy. The sauce recipe will be getting posted soon.

Breakfasts:

  • Eggs
  • Smoothies
  • Pancakes from freezer
  • Granola

Lunches:

  • Baked Potatoes/Sweet Potatoes with carrots and pineapple
  • Pancakes from freezer
  • Or leftovers

Suppers:

  • Small Groups – Italian theme – brought bread sticks and dessert
  • Tomato Soup/Ladies’ Bible Study
  • Leftovers x 2 (or more) Our small group leaders sent us home with noodles, sauce, and bread that will make at least two meals!
  • Snack supper

Goals:

  • Etsy shop. . . Yep, didn’t happen again last week.
  • Get ready for a mini trip
  • Write two more posts (life was crazy last week and only 1 happened)
  • Put away craft show items
  • 18 month check up (he’s not a baby anymore)
  • Sleep. I’m at that point of exhaustion where I feel like I’m practically sleep walking. I can’t control whether the kids sleep through the night, but I can’t control what time I go to sleep at. Getting to bed earlier often means leaving more things undone on my list than I would like. Even a couple nights in bed early would help, I think! But my list of things that   have to get done is too long so we’ll see. . .What’s on your menu this week? Any Christmas events going on?

    Linking up to Menu Plan Monday

Gift Ideas for Teenage Boys

Finding the perfect gift for someone isn’t easy. Then you hit certain ages and it’s near impossible. Teenage years are tough and boys might just be harder to buy for than girls.

Great gift ideas for all the teenage boys on your shopping list! Give them something they'll actually appreciate. | Gift Ideas for Teenage Boys

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My sisters already helped me out putting together a  great gift guide for teenage girls  and today we are tackling the guys. My brother and his friend gave their input as to what they would actually enjoy receiving and we put together a great list of gift ideas for teenage boys.

Gift giving all comes down to knowing the recipient, especially as they get older and have more specific likes and dislikes. Use this list as a guideline and if you want a little extra guidance ask a parent, friend, or sibling who would know their tastes! And don’t forget, make sure you stick to your budget!

Gift Cards to places like:

Target, Game Stop, i-tunes, or  Amazon

Great gift ideas for all the teenage boys on your shopping list! Give them something they'll actually appreciate. | Gift Ideas for Teenage Boys

Gift Cards to Sporting Stores.

Zumiez for skateboarders, Academy, Sport’s Authority, and specialty stores for bowling, skating, hockey and other sports.

Great gift ideas for all the teenage boys on your shopping list! Give them something they'll actually appreciate. | Gift Ideas for Teenage Boys

A Box Full of Edibles.

Put candy, snacks, and junk food into a box and wrap it up! They’ll love having a stash of goodies to dig into. Favorite beverages, chips, candy, energy or protein bars, nuts, chocolates. (Okay, even I would like this one. :-) )

Restaurant Gift Cards.

Continuing with the last theme of food, gift cards to the teens favorite restaurants, coffee shops, cafes. Sometimes it’s nice to hang out with your friends and get a bite to eat without spending your own money. The caveat to this idea is that if the teens parents take them out to eat all the time and give them money for eating out with friends, this gift would be a little lame.

Logo Items of Favorite Sports Teams.

Think of their favorite pro sports teams (baseball, football, basketball, soccer, hockey etc), college and even high schools teams.

Great gift ideas for all the teenage boys on your shopping list! Give them something they'll actually appreciate. | Gift Ideas for Teenage Boys

Sporting Accessories.

A lot of teens have sports they love to participate in. Give them the gear that they might still need. Gloves for the skateboarder, new bearings, new glove or batting gloves for the baseball player. Ski goggles or gloves for the skier. Whatever sport they are into, they most likely need (or want) some new gear.

Great gift ideas for all the teenage boys on your shopping list! Give them something they'll actually appreciate. | Gift Ideas for Teenage Boys

New Game for Their Gaming System

Once again, you’ll need to know their tastes (and even more importantly what gaming system they have). You can ask a parent or sibling what games they already have.

Great gift ideas for all the teenage boys on your shopping list! Give them something they'll actually appreciate. | Gift Ideas for Teenage Boys

Pet Supplies.

If the guy is an animal lover, buy food, toys, habitat accessories etc for their animal. Or even give them money for a new pet.

Great gift ideas for all the teenage boys on your shopping list! Give them something they'll actually appreciate. | Gift Ideas for Teenage Boys

Books.

If he’s a book lover, give him something  new to read. The consensus is to be sure you know if they like to read. I love reading and spent many hours growing up with my nose in a book. Neither my brother or his friend would like getting books though.

Great gift ideas for all the teenage boys on your shopping list! Give them something they'll actually appreciate. | Gift Ideas for Teenage Boys

Music.

If he’s a music lover, you can buy cds, mp3 files or music accessories such as  speaker docks or  arm band. Are you seeing a common thread here? First you have to know if the teenager even likes music and then you have to know their taste in music. If you don’t know the guy well enough, once again enlist the parent’s help.

Great gift ideas for all the teenage boys on your shopping list! Give them something they'll actually appreciate. | Gift Ideas for Teenage Boys

No Clothes (except Sport’s Gear).

As a rule, avoid clothes! Those aren’t things most teenage guys are going to be interested in, unless, of course, it’s a jersey from their favorite sports team.

Great gift ideas for all the teenage boys on your shopping list! Give them something they'll actually appreciate. | Gift Ideas for Teenage Boys

Hopefully these ideas will help your shopping this year and at least give you a few gift ideas for the teenage boys in your life!

What gift ideas do you have for the teenage guys in your life?

Don’t forget to check out the  gift guide for teenage girls and gift ideas for a 2 year old!

And I have 11 Tips for Christmas Presents on a Budget and a post on De-Emphasizing Gifts this Christmas you might want to read!

Linking up to these fun parties!

Healthy and Easy Menu Plan and Goals

I can’t believe it’s already December. I’m scared I’m going to blink and it will be 2015! Time needs to slow down just a little so we can enjoy the season. This post from Hands Free Mama is a great reminder to slow down and be fully present this month.

We spent the weekend before Thanksgiving with my husband’s family doing a craft show. The stomach bug started hitting our family while were were there. That’s always miserable. Thankfully, it was pretty much a 24 hour bug and nobody had it during the car ride. :-) We were staying in town for Thanksgiving this year, and that ordeal made us thankful! We decided to forgo the traditional turkey dinner and had chicken fajitas instead. Way easier and still yummy. I loved not having to spending hours cooking and cleaning. We might as well save a meal that time intensive for when everyone would actually enjoy it.

Easy and Healthy Menu Plan for our family of 4! It's been a crazy week, so we are keeping things pretty simple! | Great ideas to add to our menu

Everyone was feeling better Friday and we went to get our Christmas tree. I think the holidays are going to be pretty fun with a 3 1/2 year old. She had a blast!

Easy and Healthy Menu Plan for our family of 4! It's been a crazy week, so we are keeping things pretty simple! | Great ideas to add to our menu

We also brought out holiday baking! These are in my top 3 Christmas Cookies. We all love them. But then again, how can you go wrong with lots of butter? This recipe will be coming in another week!

This weekend we have a small, local craft show we are taking part in – the last one for the year. I have it high on my priority list to open up an Etsy shop. I was hoping it would happen this weekend, but maybe early this week!

Easy and Healthy Menu Plan for our family of 4! It's been a crazy week, so we are keeping things pretty simple! | Great ideas to add to our menu

Homemade mayo is pretty tasty! This was also my first time to purchase (or even eat, I believe) arugula! I found it marked down and decided  to branch out. :-)

Suppers:

  • BLTs
  • Leftovers
  • Chili x 2
  • Salad and Baked Potatoes
  • Grilled Cheese
  • Crock pot Tomato Soup

Lunches:

  • Pancakes
  • Chicken Salad over arugula
  • Salads for Shaun and myself
  • Leftovers and sweet potatoes for the kids

Breakfasts:

  • Homemade Bagels
  • Leftover Pancakes
  • Smoothies
  • Eggs

Goals:

  • Open Etsy shop
  • Write 2 more posts
  • Keep kitchen clean
  • Exercise

Linking up to Menu Plan Monday

Caramel Apple Bars

The most amazing caramel apple bars! I love these better than pie and crisp - it's that good. Perfect dessert for any meal and you can make the day before. Yum!

Caramel and apples make a perfect match and putting the two together in bar form is no exception. Did you hear that? Bar form! Yes, that means you can pick these up and take a bite out of them. You can’t do that with apple crisp or apple pie! If you want to dress this dessert up even more, place it on a plate and top with some vanilla ice cream and dig in with a fork, but you don’t have to (unlike that pesky pie and crisp that everyone seems to think needs either ice cream or whipped cream)!

I want to know who said Thanksgiving dessert has to be pie? I think Caramel Apple Bars would be the perfect ending to the big turkey dinner. Save yourself the hassle of rolling crusts this year. :-)

I use my yummy homemade caramel sauce. You’ll have about 1/2 cup leftover to top ice cream, drizzle into apple cider, or I suppose you could even drizzle each serving of these bars with even more caramel.

(And remember that fabulous apple pie ice cream recipe I posted a while back? You could easily substitute these bars for the pie!)

4.5 from 2 reviews

Caramel Apple Bars
 

Ingredients
  • 1¾ cups flour
  • 1⅔ cups rolled oats
  • 1½ cups brown sugar
  • 14 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup caramel sauce
  • 3 cups of diced peeled apples

Instructions
  1. Combine oats, flour, sugar, soda, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl. Mix. Add in softened butter and stir until mixture comes together.
  2. Press a little over half (around 2½ cups) of the mixture into the bottom of a 9×13 inch pan.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.
  4. Remove from oven and spread diced apples over the crust. Drizzle apples with caramel sauce and top with remaining oat mixture.
  5. Bake for 25 more minutes.
  6. Cool and cut into squares.

Notes
I use my homemade caramel sauce. You could also use jarred.

  The most amazing caramel apple bars! I love these better than pie and crisp - it's that good. Perfect dessert for any meal and you can make the day before. Yum!

For another great fall dessert, check out this Pumpkin Cheesecake:

Layered Pumpkin Cheesecake. The perfect dessert to finish any meal. Uses a pie pan too - no special pan necessary!

Linking up to these fun parties!

Homemade Stovetop Popcorn

Mmm. The perfect snack. Leave the yucky microwaved stuff behind. With coconut oil, this is the BEST! New movie night tradition.

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Making your own stovetop popcorn is easy. Not only, that it’s super tasty and this recipe is the bomb. My kids (and husband) love movie nights that involve a giant bowl of this stuff.. CCoconut oil is the secret ingredient, skip the canola or vegetable oil and go straight to the good stuff. I buy my   coconut oil in 54 ounce tubs, but if you will only be using it for popcorn it’s still worth buying a small container! (Check out Amazon and Vitacost for a good selection. If you sign up using my Vitacost referral link, you’ll get $10 off.)

You might wonder, why not just pull out the microwave stuff. It’s a staple in so many homes. Easy and good movie night snack, right? Hold that thought. The synthetic butter flavoring is diacytel and may cause lung problems and most of the bags are lined with perfluorooctanoic acid, a carcinogen.

Don’t worry! There’s another option. Homemade is the way to go.

If you are looking to simplify homemade popcorn even more, check out a   Whirley-Pop Popper. This is the gadget we normally use, and it’s even easier. Today, though, I put my kernels in a good old pot and shook it around the old fashioned way to show you it can be done. :-) The bonus of using a heavy bottomed pot is that you get a little extra arm workout.

I’d say, if popcorn is something you just make once a month or a couple times a year, go with the pot method. If you make it weekly (or more – I’m telling you, it’s that good and easy. I love a snack I can give my kids in minutes.), investing in a  Whirley-Pop Popper is something you might want to do – and it’s not even that expensive.

5.0 from 1 reviews

Homemade Stovetop Popcorn
Serves: 9 cups
 

Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • ½ cup popcorn kernels
  • 2-4 tablespoons butter
  • sea salt to taste

Instructions
  1. Put 2 tablespoons in the bottom of a pot with a lid and add 3 popcorn kernels. Put the lid on and turn heat to medium (if you are using a thick bottom pot, turn it up a touch more.)
  2. Let pan sit on stove until the 3 kernels pop. Remove lid and add ½ cup of kernels. Replace lid. In the beginning shake pan every 20 or so seconds. As the corn begins popping, shake every 10 seconds.
  3. When the popping has stopped, pour popcorn into a bowl.
  4. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter. drizzle half of if over the popcorn and sprinkle with a little salt. Toss. Drizzle with the remaining butter. Toss. Add more butter and salt to taste.

Mmm. The perfect snack. Leave the yucky microwaved stuff behind. With coconut oil, this is the BEST! New movie night tradition.

Linking up to these fun parties!

 

Taking the Emphasis off of Gifts at Christmas

Christmas. A tree with presents piled underneath and stockings hung by the fireplace. Growing up, we’d always wake up early and try to whisper quietly for as long as we could stand it. Our morning would start with emptying stockings and amazing homemade cinnamon rolls. We’d then sit around the living room floor and go into the presents! So many great memories.

Is it Christmas without piles of presents under the tree? These are 8 great ideas to help your family take the emphasis off of gifts. Need to read this for this year!

We know you can buy presents on a budget, but what if you simply don’t want to have your focus on gifts this year? What if you want to take the emphasis off of gifts? What can you do to help your children know that Christmas is more than just presents?

I have come up with 8 ways of taking the emphasis off of gifts at Christmas.

Choose what works for you and take baby steps. If you uproot everyone of your traditions at once, your day might be spent with a lot of tears. Young children won’t understand your verbalization of why you are doing things differently.

Gift Less

This is a great first baby step. Instead of doing no presents, simply have fewer and then incorporate a few other ideas into your day. Christmas doesn’t have to be this big elaborate deal. You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars and have stacks of presents for each child. Be selective about what you buy. Your children don’t have to have everything on their wishlist. They might even appreciate what they do receive more than when their attention is divided between so many new things.

Family Gift

Stuff a stocking with little goodies for each family member but forgo individual presents and instead buy something everyone’s been wanting or go someplace fun!

Purchase some new movies, video games, board games, a swing set, trampoline or something that the entire family can do together instead of tearing through piles of presents. Spend the rest of the day creating memories and enjoy the one big gift.

Experience Gift

Go to the movie theater, rent a hotel room and use the indoor pool. If you live where it’s warm, take a trip to the beach or park. There are a lot of options if you think out of the box. Trampoline Park, museum that’s always been a little too pricey to make your budget cut, ice skating. This will, of course, depend on the age of your kids and interests in your family.

Add in special snacks and treats you wouldn’t normally have and make Christmas about the memories instead of the rush of opening presents that’s over in minutes.

If the experience you select isn’t open on Christmas day, spend the day relaxing, cookie decorating, movie watching, or serving and go on your adventure in the next week or two.

Go Serve

The family gift and experience gift both downplay gifts but you can take it a step further. Look around your area and find a service project your family can be involved in on Christmas day. Maybe help serve a Christmas meal.

I can guarantee your family will bond and you’ll remember this Christmas forever. Growing up we spent several Christmases delivering Christmas meals that a local church put together to those that are home-bound.

Go Minister

Contact your local nursing and assisted living homes. Spend a little time on Christmas talking with the residents that are spending the day without family. Listen to their stores, sing  carols with them, let them enjoy being around your kids.

Donate

You can either skip gifts all together and maybe have your family pick out items from the World Vision Gift catalog to enrich the lives of others around the world or give the difference of what you normally spend to an organization you select together.

Open Your Home

Keep your ears open around your work, church, areas of activity etc for those that have no place to go for the holidays. Invite them into your home, let them spend time with your family, enjoy a meal together, bring out the games and have a great time.

Christmas doesn’t have to be a day that revolves around gifts for your kids to cherish. Select some ways to take the emphasis off of gifts this year, you won’t regret it. Focus on family, memories, serving, and others this year and it will be a Christmas you’ll remember!

Have you tried taking the emphasis off of gifts at Christmas in your home?

Is it Christmas without piles of presents under the tree? These are 8 great ideas to help your family take the emphasis off of gifts. Need to read this for this year!

If you are looking for more Christmas posts, check out these:

11 Tips for Christmas Presents on a Budget
Gift Ideas for a Teenage Girl
Gift Ideas for a Two Year Old
Homemade Gift Baskets (Food and Drink Themed)
Losing the Christmas Chaos
Look Upward
When Christmas Becomes a Joy Killer

Or if recipes are more your thing, I have a fantastic fudge recipe you need to try!

Linking up to these fun parties!

 

Healthy and Easy Menu Plan and Goals

This time of year is always busy. Add to that getting ready for our second craft show this coming weekend and things are hopping. My dining room table is once again covered with product (finishing up the final project) and my computer has been taken over with designing signs for the table. Next up is a mock set-up of the table to make sure everything goes smoothly on Friday. I’m curious to see how this show goes, being close to Christmas.

Easy and Healthy Menu Plan and Goals for our family of 4. It's a crazy week around here and I'm pulling out my 2 favorites - soup and leftovers!

Making a snow angel was the first thing she wanted to do!

We had our first snow of the year yesterday! It wasn’t much but my daughter loved it. She went a little crazy when she spotted it coming down as we got in the car for church. My son, on the other hand, started off excited and quickly grew tired when he had to get bundled up. I guess looking like a marshmallow isn’t much fun.

Easy and Healthy Menu Plan and Goals for our family of 4. It's a crazy week around here and I'm pulling out my 2 favorites - soup and leftovers!

Pumpkin Cheesecake Mousse (sweetened with maple syrup and stevia).
A friend came over for a movie and we had this for dessert

The menu and goals this week are pretty simple as we get ready for the show. Nothing gourmet happening in our house. :-)

Breakfasts:

Lunches:

  • Blueberry Pancakes
  • Lunch at church
  • Salads, sweet potatoes,

Suppers:

  • Homemade Ham and Cheese Pockets x2 (easy road trip food)
  • Snack supper (small groups were cancelled)
  • Mexican Soup x 3 (told you it was easy around here this week)

Goals:

  • Finish Oatmeal Bath Tea Bags
  • Trial set up of the craft show display
  • Make a few sample gift baskets
  • Bible study
  • Do pilates 3 times

Linking up to Menu Plan Monday

11 Tips for Christmas Presents on a Budget

11 Tips for buying Christmas presents on a tight budget! Perfect for those of us that need (or want) to spend less this year. Check them out!

$801, that’s what participants in a survey from the American Research Group estimated they would spend on Christmas presents last year (and in my experience, it’s really easy to go over what you plan on). Americans, in 2011, were also estimated to spend the second most in the world on Christmas presents with Luxembourg coming in with the highest number.

For most families, presents are a huge part of Christmas celebration. Maybe you’d have unexpected expenses this year or your incomes been cut. Or perhaps you are wanting to simply lower the emphasis on presents this year. When you are on a tight budget, what can you do to stretch the money and make the most of it?

Tips for Christmas Presents on a Budget:

1. Make a list of everyone you usually buy for

Sit down and really brainstorm so you won’t have any unexpected surprises. Kids, spouse, your company party, extended family etc. Do you normally give a gift to your neighbor or babysitter? Write them down as well. Don’t worry about eliminating people from your list, yet, we’ll get to that later.

2. Have a Gift Budget

If you already have a budget, see what you have left in your gift category and then decide if you are putting any extra money towards presents for the holiday season (and how much if you are adding to it). If you don’t currently have a gift budget, look at the money you have coming in and see what you are able to allocate towards presents.

Write down the amount of money you have to work with.

3. Re-Evaluate your List of Individuals to Buy For

Now that you have a dollar amount, look back over your list. If money is tight this year, you might have to cut down on the number of people you purchase for or be willing to get creative or make some more affordable presents this year.

4. Take the Money out in Cash

Take the money that you allocated for Christmas presents out in cash and put it in an envelope. If you make a purchase online, take that amount of money out of the envelope and deposit it in the bank. There is just something about using cash that keeps you from spending as much and makes it impossible to go over budget. :-)

5. Don’t Over Buy.

This is so easy to do! Even for me, and I’m not a big shopper. So, what do you do to keep this from happening? Take your list of whom to buy for and make a list of what you are going to buy for each person. STICK TO IT! So often, I’ll find just one more thing that would be perfect and the stash of presents keeps growing.

6. Use Homemade Gifts

Do you like to sew? Use those skills and fabric from your stash or that you buy 40% off and make your kids dress up clothes, a tent to drape over a table, cute aprons for the ladies on your list. Sewing not your thing but you are a whiz in the kitchen? Do some baking. Maybe spa and personal care items are more of your thing. Put together a gift basket of scrubs, lotions, and lip balms you made. There are countless options. Look on Pinterest and search on Swagbucks to find ideas.

7. Buy Used

Okay, I know some people will hate this idea. I’m not saying to buy junk – be selective. I also know that in our home some portion of my kids’ gifts (3 1/2 and 18 months – I know this gets harder as they get older) are used every year! I’ve found books in great condition, like new puzzles, board games, clothes, and toys. Check garage sales and Facebook buy sell trade groups for your city.

(If you have a 2 year old, keep your eyes open for some of these items! Many of them I’ve been able to find used.)

8. Shop Around

Do your research and know what a good price is. Before you purchase an item from Amazon, make sure it isn’t on sale at Target or Wal-Mart and likewise, before you purchase at a store, make sure there hasn’t been a price drop on Amazon. Also, check out Camel Camel Camel before you submit your Amazon order to see if you might get a lower price if you wait!

9. Bulk Gift

No you aren’t going to be able to get everyone identical presents but if you can duplicate presents at all  - maybe identical presents for all the co-workers and Christmas parties and like gifts for your baby-sitter, hair stylist etc. you can actually use up what you bought instead of having 4/5 of the bag of beeswax pellets sitting in our cabinet for years.

Ideas: gift baskets for your co-workers and your siblings, Christmas sweets for goody bags (this fudge would be a perfect addition), homemade earrings for all the females in your life etc

10. Shop Year Round

Don’t wait for December to start thinking about presents. If you keep a running list of what you want to purchase for your family, you can be watching for great deals all year! It might be too late for this Christmas, but make your list for 2015 early and shop post-Christmas sales!

11. Swagbucks

This is an easy way to increase your Christmas shopping money a little bit. You earn points for doing web searches, streaming short videos, taking surveys and more. I don’t invest lots of time into it, but as I’m doing things on the computer I’ll have videos stream in the background and I’ll use their search engine. My goal is at least 35 Swagbucks a day. If I am able to accomplish that, I can purchase two $5 Amazon gift cards a month! It might not sound like a lot, but every bit adds up – $120 over the course of a year.

Just because your Christmas budget is smaller this year you don’t have to stress! It can still be a season filled with memories for your family. What tips do you have for Christmas presents on a budget?

Looking for gift ideas? Check out these three gift guides:
Gift Ideas for a Teenage Girl
Gift Ideas for a Two Year Old
Homemade Gift Baskets (Food and Drink Themed)

11 Tips for buying Christmas presents on a tight budget! Perfect for those of us that need (or want) to spend less this year. Check them out!

Linking up to these fun parties!