142 days until Christmas—Vacation Shopping

We’re into the last month of summer. Perhaps you’re on vacation. Why not pick up one-of-a-kind gifts that your family would never see in their local shopping mall.

My friend—I can’t tell you her name in case her family is reading this—bought her children hand-carved puzzles,
her neighbor a distinctive box,
her daughter a new spread for her bed
a mitt for her favorite chef
and for those people who still write letters by hand, these beautiful pens. 003 (4)

Think Christmas on your vacation and by the end of the summer your shopping will be done. And the special people in your life will be thrilled to receive such unusual gifts.

Focus on Kids

We’re getting close to the big day.  Let’s spend it with our kids, grandchildren, neighbors, nieces and nephews.  Make a kid-friendly dinner like this Lasagna, filled with the colors of Christmas—green spinach, red tomato sauce and the star-white of cheese.  It’s so good, kids won’t even know they’re eating a leafy vegetable.  Serve it with crusty garlic bread and a salad.  Then while sitting around the table, play this game.  WHAT MIGHT ANIMALS WANT FOR CHRISTMAS?  The inspiration for this game came from a poem and while spiders aren’t often seen up here in the frigid North Pole, it’s still fun to imagine.



A shoe for every foot?  That’s eight.

A shiny silver dinner plate

for eating bugs?  Bright red lights

to decorate its web at night?

Using this poem as a starting point, ask the youngest at your table, to pick an animal—a rabbit perhaps?  An elephant?  A whale?  Then she poses the question, “What will ________ want for Christmas?” 

Others will suggest possible Christmas gifts for that animal.  When no one can think of anymore, it’s time for the next older person to suggest an animal and ask the question all over again.

I guarantee laughter at your table.

For desert, bring out a selection of those cookies you have in the freezer.  What could be easier?  What could be better?

Then after everyone, each like a helpful elf, has pitched in to clean up, bundle warmly and walk, or drive, around town to enjoy the bright holiday lights.


With everyone home for the weekend, it’s a perfect time to start making a Christmas-themed puzzle like this one.  santa puzzleYou can order it here.  Also you can draft your young helpers into making these holiday pinwheels, a favorite kid-friendly, kid-delicious appetizer.

Can you suggest other fun family activities? 

          Next post on December 23rd we’re going to pause from last-minute preparations and count our blessings

Until then, let’s all strive for a stress-free, love-filled Christmas . . .

Boxes and Paper, Bags and Bows and a Recipe, too

It’s time to start wrapping all the presents you’ve bought. Some people recommend you spread this over several days.  Or wrap each present as purchased. 

Not me! 

Just as I devote one day to sending out cards, I devote another day to wrapping.  While I’m busy wrapping, I let the broth for Spicy Shrimp simmer on my stove.  Served with crusty bread for dipping and salad, this is a simple dinner with plenty of leftovers that only improve in flavor. 

Don’t have wrapping paper, but get a newspaper delivered daily.  Save the environment and use that as your wrapping paper.  015 (2)  Brown paper bags from your grocery store also wrap up very nicely.  

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Each year I recycle the Christmas cards we receive by trimming them into fun shapes. 020 They make darling gift tags and the price can’t be beat. 

Ribbon can be expensive.  These pictured cost $4.00 for three yards.  For $5.00 buy 185 yards of thick knobby red yarn. 002 (3) Your presents will be distinctive and colorful.

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And while we’re talking about presents, why not give the fabulous book about me.

Christmas_cover - Copy Wrap it up for any parents on your guest list, teachers, too.   The books can be purchased on-line, in stores, or autographed copies are available here.

Did you do the crossword puzzles mentioned in the last post?  Hope you had fun.  Here are both the puzzle and answers for Christmas Crossword and Christmas Colors.

Next post December 6th, we’ll talk about your friend the freezer where you can put the leftover Spicy Shrimp Broth and begin cooking in earnest.

Until then, let’s all strive for a stress-free, love-filled Christmas . . .

A Not-so-Fruity Fruitcake, Decorations and Crosswords

I love the idea of fruitcake for the holidays, but each one I try overwhelms with its strong liquor taste, damp heaviness and too much fruit.  To please myself and other ambivalent fruitcake fans, I’ve created this recipe using only currants and chopped dates.  You can substitute your favorite dried fruits.


          Prepare this and while it bakes, begin putting out your Christmas Decorations. 

Not your tree!

Have mercy on me!  If you put it out this early, by Christmas night, I’ll have to clean wrappings and ribbons, AND all those pesky needles on your floor and carpet. 

          Even if you don’t have lots of decorations!  You can still make your house festive.  Invite everyone in the family to help.  They might have some great ideas.  Here are mine:023  Candle sticks call out for red or green candles this month.     Don’t worry if nothing matches.

Tie Christmas ribbons on door knobs andbanisters. 012 (2) 

Necklaces tucked into small vases add a festive touch.  010 (3)

Place a tree decoration in a plant.  009 (4)

          Do you have any stuffed toys around?  Bears look great cuddled on chairs.               


These are all small and inexpensive ways to bring the holiday spirit into your home.  Do you have any ideas you’d like to share?  When you’re finished decorating, sit down, make yourself a cup of tea, and enjoy a slice of your-Not-Too-Fruity Fruit Cake.  And while you’re relaxing, see if you can complete this Christmas crossword And here’s a simpler one for your youngest helpers.  Solutions will come in my next post.

          Our next post, December 4th will be about inexpensive ways to wrap presents.

Until then, let’s all strive for a stress-free, love-filled Christmas . . .