Don’t Blink…A Mamma’s Thoughts On The New School Year

 

Here we are. School Year 2020-2021 is well underway. We’re actually about 6 weeks in at this point. For the last couple of years we’ve been doing school year round because it gives our schedule a little more flexibility so we started back in July. We’d given the kids the choice of schooling year round or traditionally and they all voted to continue on this way.

Every year when I take these photos for their annual progress reports and portfolios, they take my breath away. The change in those little faces from one year to the next is astounding. The longer I am a mother, the more the words “Don’t blink” resonate with my soul.

These “little” years are so full and pass by so quickly. With each child it becomes more and more obvious to this Mamma heart that they must be deeply cherished because these little people will be grown so very soon.

So, even if you’re in the trenches of the little years right now, don’t forget to take pictures and cherish these moments. They will be gone before you know it.

Here we are with a 4th grader. A handsome, man-child with a big heart.

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A 2nd grader, full of charm and personality and cute as can be.

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A 4 year old preschooler who makes us laugh so hard we could cry and is just about the happiest and bubbliest little guy I’ve ever known.

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…and this sweet little beauty…she is so full of spunk and love. She melts us all.

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May God continue to grow each of these little souls for HIS glory. May this year continue to foster in them a love for learning. I pray that even when we’re in the middle of the hard days of homeschooling, we will be able to know and feel how blessed we are to be on this journey together. ❤

Weekly Menu Plan: FREE Printable

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We’re continuing on with our “Feeding a Family” theme and today we’re talking MENU PLANS!

Let me start by saying…menu planning is NOT my favorite thing to do. There…I said it. In fact, I can usually find 500 other things I need to do like now instead of planning the menu. The thing about it is, I know it benefits me so much to have a game plan for the week ahead.

Additionally, there are so many different styles of menu planning that it’s going to take time to find the “right” way to do it for your family.

Oh, and then there’s that whole as seasons change, so must your meal plan. Ha.

So…I think what I’m trying to get at is. Meal plans are good. Very good actually, BUT…you shouldn’t be so rigid about it that you can’t allow for life to happen and change plans. Because really, that would defeat the purpose of that meal plan, wouldn’t it?

The best recommendation I can make for you is this, shop around and pull ideas from lots of folks. Find the one that best fits your family and the current season you’re in (i.e. babies, picky eaters, eat you out of home(ers) or all the above).

Remember why you’re doing it in the first place. To help your family eat well and avoid unnecessary stress about what to feed that little army of yours.

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Keep it simple and don’t forget to add in some fun things…make sure everyone in your family can find something in the mix to get excited about. Trust me, you won’t please every member every day and some days you may not please anyone BUT a good meal plan will help you overall make it easier on you to please them and feed them healthy more often.

Ok. now that all that is out there…here’s a basic run down of how I plan:

*I usually plan my meals Sat/Sun because since Covid craziness became a thing I’ve been shopping weekly on Saturdays (I used to shop biweekly at multiple stores). Now I go to one store and order anything I can in bulk from Amazon. I start planning before I go shopping and then I finalize it after I get back because I still seem to have trouble finding everything I planned to use for meals at one store.

*We have a couple of meals that we do each week like “Friday night Pizza night” & “Taco Tuesday”. This is both fun and gives me a couple of “freebies” each week.

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*I try to have a couple of “back ups” on my radar and in the pantry and freezer. Think homemade Einkorn PBJ or “snack lunch”. Again, life happens and with four kids…it happens a lot and the whole point of all of this is to make life easier not more stressful, right? RIGHT.

*If something from the meal plan doesn’t end up getting used I shift it to the next open day and if necessary sometimes I switch meals from one day to the next…for example, this morning I made tomorrow’s breakfast because I was running behind and tomorrow I’ll make today’s instead.

*Don’t forget to plan what snacks you’ll have available for the week (if you have small kids you know what I’m talking about).

*It’s also a good idea to plan for a couple of desserts for the week too. Who doesn’t enjoy a nice treat a few times a week. And…if you at least plan to bake something you can make sure you have all of the ingredients at home when you go stock up for your week of meals.

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As you can see, I’m pretty easy going when it comes to my meal plan. I don’t have time or mental space for complicated things right now so simple is how I prefer things. If you’ve never done a meal plan but you’re interested in starting one, you can give this little worksheet a try. I created it especially for ya’ll (well…and myself). It is super simple and embarrassingly basic (don’t judge me) but it follows the basic principles I outlined for you and it will get you going.

Weekly Menu Plan

Happy planning people! ❤

 

5 Simple & Practical Ways to Use Essential Oils

If you’ve stopped by here before, you probably already know that Essential Oils are a staple in our home. We use them every day, multiple times per day. There are so many reasons why we chose to start using them and I want to do a post on that as well someday but for today I want to share 5 practical ways we incorporate them into our every day life.

Before I get started, I would encourage you to do your own research. We have done ours and have been using Young Living oils for several years now based on that research. If you have questions about eo’s or Young Living, feel free to ask in the comments. 🙂

Now, onto the 5 simple and practical ways we use our oils daily:

  1. Immune System boost: I set a daily reminder on my phone to get out our Thieves roller so the boys can put some on their feet before bed, along with taking their vitamins. I make sure it’s just before bedtime so I can make sure they’re showered and ready to go by the time the alarm goes off (most of the time anyway). You can also take Thieves internally either in a capsule or in a small amount of water. I tend to take mine orally when I feel like I’m fighting something but for the kids, the roller bottle works the best.

 

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2. Boo Boo’s: Three boys…we have a lot of boo boos. We use a variety of oils for these            since it depends on the type of injury/ailment.

  • We use DiGize for tummy troubles by rolling it on their belly.
  • Then there’s Lavender, Copaiba and Frankincense for various skin issues (Eczema, rug burns, minor scrapes, bug bites). I also use Frankincense for my nightly skincare.
  • Deep Relief for sore legs from growing pains and other similar pains.
  • RC for congestion and sniffles.
  • I have a roller bottle with Oregano, Basil and Thyme that we use for ear aches along with a salt sock (the minerals in the coarse sea salt have healing properties as well as the heat which helps with the pressure and pain…you can add in lavender for added benefits. There’s lots of info on this one and why it works but one of my go to’s is this one: https://wellnessmama.com/59372/lavender-salt-ear-infection-remedy/). By the way, Oregano oil is one of the best antibacterial oils. It’s actually also a great remedy for skin tags…AND removing ticks! It’s a hot oil so you’ll want to research it prior to use but this is one of those oils I’d consider a “must have”.

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3. Aromatherapy: We typically have at least one diffuser going at all times while                   we’re at home. I have one in the kitchen/dining area, one in the living room and                 one in each bedroom. We diffuse everything from Grapefruit for an uplifting mood to Thieves for purifying the air and Lavender or Stress away for a calming scent. Gently baby or Aromaease for night time…there are so many others and it honestly just depends on the mood and situation.

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4. DIY Toiletries: I’ve been making many of our toiletries myself for quite some time             now. Mouthwash with Peppermint oil, handsoap with Thieves oil, Skin ointment                 with Frankincense and Lavender…Deoderant and Chapstick are next on my list of               things to try.

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5. DIY Household products: DIY Household products are also a very big part of our daily eo ussage. I make everything from dishsoap to laundry soap and “soft scrub” with Lemon oil, to dryer balls with Lavender to replace toxic dryer sheets.

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Getting started with essential oils can feel a bit overwhelming at first. Start small. Invest in a good starter kit and get familiar with a few staples. Then add a few more at a time. Do your research and invest in some educational books on oils.

I hope you’ve found this post helpful and if any of you are interested in trying out Young Living, please feel free to let me know in the comments and I’d be happy to help! 🙂

For the month of May, while supplies last, YL is giving away a free Lushious Lemon handsoap with the purchase of a Welcome Home starter kit, CBD starter kit, Ningxia starter kit or Oils Premium starter kit with a Dewdrop or Dessert Mist diffuser.

Let me know in the comments if you have any other questions about how we use our eo’s. 🙂

 

Day in the Life of a Homeschool Mom & Homemaker

Today we’re going to do just a fun sneak peek into an ordinary day. Josh was away on a business trip this particular Friday so things were slightly off from our usual routine but overall this is what most Fridays look like around our home. We do have school Fridays, but it’s our “catch up day”. Monday through Thursday is when we schedule the bulk of the schoolwork and then Friday we can take a more relaxed approach to school, work on housework that needs to be done, grocery shop, appointments, if the weather is nice, we can go outside and play in the afternoon, etc.

I pretty much took photos all throughout the day and the lighting was terrible so the photos aren’t the best quality. They do the job of telling the story though so we’ll just have to look past that.

This particular morning I ended up getting a bit of a late start, the kids and I didn’t really get “moving” until about 8:30. First thing I always do once I get up is get coffee going (that’s very important). That’s the cardinal cup Jaden got me for Christmas. He knows I love my birds and my coffee! Sweet boy!

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It was a rainy and cold Friday!

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Next I got started on breakfast for the kids. I made them a bowl of my vanilla, cinnamon and brown sugar old fashioned oats. This is one of their favorite meals that in a pinch (like at the end of the biweekly grocery haul when you’re scrambling for meal options), I can feed them anytime of the day without any complaints. I always have these ingredients on hand, it’s easy and fast!

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While I worked on breakfast the boys played with legos.

Once breakfast was ready, everyone sat down to eat (and read…Jaden is my little bookworm).

This little girly had some teeth pop up!! See it?

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After breakfast the boys get ready for the day (this is also usually when I like to get myself ready.

After that we work on chores…look at that mess! A certain someone had some dried mud caked to his boots and when he put them on INSIDE to take out the recycling…well…there was some extra housework for me, lol. Apparently I need to be more specific about where to stomp the mud off!

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I also took a few minutes to work on laundry while Evi played and the boys finished chores.

Then around 10:30 we started school. This day we only had group work to do. We’d completed all of the core subjects like spelling and math earlier in the week.

We were continuing on with our bird unit study. We combined nature study and art for a little project.

We had a few other things to do for school and then we had lunch break.

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Because we were running behind all morning and it was already about 1:30 by this point, we opted for our “snack lunch” rather than what we had on the menu. This is a favorite quick meal at lunch for my kids.

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I started grading (I’m a little behind at the moment) but then had to get back to other things like prepping for our Friday night pizza).

The sour dough crust has to sit for a while so I like to do it several hours before I need to use it.

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After that we read aloud and then the kids played with legos some more while they waited on me to finish some chores around the house.

Evi girl kept her mamma company through it all. She’s so close to crawling!

After this point, it’s all a blurr honestly, lol. I remember finishing up some laundry (mostly putting it away). I kind of lost track of time but I think it was likely around 6:30 or so. I went ahead and started the pizza at that point and let the boys start watching “Little House on the Prairie” episodes. That’s been our Friday night family activity lately. They love it.

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I ended up making one half veggie/half pepperoni pizza and one cheese pizza since Josh wasn’t there to have any. Usually I make three or four pizzas and then we can have leftovers for lunch on Saturdays.

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We ate our pizza on the couch and watched a couple more episodes before the boys went to bed and then Evi and I cleaned the kitchen and fed the sour dough starter. We jokingly refer to it as “sour Sam” since it requires food and water like the rest of our pets. 🙂

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After that, we went to bed too. We were all ready to just get to Saturday to have Daddy back home with us! We kind of like him! ❤

I hope you enjoyed a little glimpse into a normal day for us. I’ve always enjoyed seeing what a normal day looks like for other moms. There’s always something to learn from each other and sometimes it’s nice to just see that we all have things like laundry piles and muddy kids boots and dinner messes!

 

 

DIY Pinecone Bird Feeder

OSFL_0023We are a bird watching family. We get a pretty decent group of birds that stop by multiple times a day just outside of our living room windows. Since their presence brings us a great deal of enjoyment, I’m always looking for inexpensive and creative ways to feed our little feathered visitors. This bird feeder idea I’m sharing today, happens to be a very simple one to make! You’re likely to have most, if not all, of the items needed on hand already. In case you’re looking for some fun winter crafts to do with the kids, it also makes for a great project for little helpers!

Here’s what you’ll need:

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  • Pinecones
  • Ribbon
  • Hot glue
  • scissors
  • knife
  • bowls/plates
  • all natural peanut butter
  • bird seed

How to make the bird feeder:

Start by cutting yourself the ribbon to hang the birdfeeder from the branch. Cut it however long or short you prefer as long as it’s long enough to fit over the branch. I kept mine fairly short.

Side note: You’ll want to make sure you hang your feeder somewhere that has a good spot for the birds to perch. I didn’t have mine in a great spot at first and had to relocate it before they were able to use it properly.

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Next, glue your ribbon ends together and then glue it to the top of the pinecone.

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Now you’ll want to spread the peanut butter over the entire pinecone.

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Either sprinkle the bird seed onto the pinecone or roll it on a large plate with bird seed.

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Lastly, hang the bird feeder and enjoy the view.  🙂

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From start to finish, this project takes only a few minutes to make. It’s simple, frugal and fun!

Now the clean up with the kids…let’s just say they had fun and we had a trail of evidence from the table out the door and all the way to the tree.

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Stay tuned for more DIY projects, recipes, natural home ideas and more!

 

 

 

What’s your word?

I’ve thought a lot about it.

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What do I want most out of this year?

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There’s a lot I’d love to see happen but a lot of those things take time and hard work.

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It may not be realistic for 2020 for some or all of these things to work out, SO…I thought about it some more and decided that even if it doesn’t end up exactly where I’d like this year, that’ll be ok.

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As long as…there’s GROWTH.

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In all areas. Spiritual, personal, family, friends, financially, etc.

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If there’s evidence of growth this year, then I feel like I’ve been successful!

Happy New Year friends!!

5 Simple & Frugal Christmas Decorating Tips

Today I want to share some of my favorite decorating ideas for creating a festive home on a small budget with 5 simple tips.

  1. Christmas lights: 

Lights add so much coziness to a space! Even if you don’t have time and money for anything else, just adding a few lights can make a big difference in your home. In our early years of marriage before I had accumulated Christmas decorations, lights were pretty much all I had! Of course this was almost 17 years ago and we didn’t have Pinterest to show us all the lovely  & inexpensive DIY decorations! How did we make it without Pinterest?!

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2. Christmas fabrics & patterns:

The right fabrics and patterns also play a large role in the coziness of your home at Christmas time. Burlap is one of my favorites to have around the house for the holiday season. This year we added Burlap ribbon to the tree as well as the table runner. One of my favorite combinations is the rustic/natural burlap and sparkly gold accents or the warmth of the golden glow from the Christmas lights. Plad is another of my favorites because of the large variety in colors and patterns available. Combinig the more masculine plads with softer crocheted pieces works very well.

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3. DIY Garlands & Greenery:

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Store bought garlands can be crazy expensive! The thing is, the right garland in the right place looks pretty amazing! Whether you prefer the good old simple green garlands or something with more color, both can easily be made at home for a fraction of the cost. Depending on where you live…if there’s any kind of evergreen trees in your yard, it may not cost you anything for a simple green garland for a fire place, stair case or shelves.

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Other garlands you could try for a pop of color are these cranberry garlands. The beautiful red pairs so well with white and it costs very little to make.

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These also go well with the green Christmas tree and pair well with popcorn. Here’s a garland from last year’s tree:

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For some additional color, add in a dried orange garland in a window. These look beautiful when the sunlight streams in the window.

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4. DIY snowflakes:

Another very inexpensive and easy craft you can try are these snowflakes. They can be a fun family activity as well for the holiday season. They look beautiful in the window or on a fireplace.

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The popsicle snowflakes also make wonderful diy ornament gifts. You can add a small photo of your child in the center along with small sparkly jewel stickers and the year, for a sweet keepsake.

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5. DIY ornaments:

Ornaments aren’t necessarily super costly if you’re buying one or two a year, but when you’re first starting out as a new husband and wife with not a single ornament to hang on a tree and very little money (that was us)…that all adds up fast when you think about how many ornaments it takes to fill up a tree!

My favorite thing to do is purchase one special “fancy” ornament each year to add to our collection and then make most of them ourselves. We use salt dough and apple cinnamon ornaments mostly and occasionally we’ll add in cranberry or dried oranges as well. I’ve also used pinecones to make ornaments before. Another thing I love about making diy ornaments is the fact that our tree is very different from year to year and as we look back on the photos, there’s fond memories of what we did this year versus the year before and the year before that.

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A few extra thoughts on decorations:

Dollar store and Goodwill:

Don’t forget to check places like Goodwill or the Dollar store if you’re looking for inexpensive decorations! It’s a great place to start if you’re just starting out because sometimes you may find an entire collection of glass balls for a few dollars.

Hobby Lobby 50% off sales or 40% off coupons:

I love Hobby Lobby! It’s my “Target”. I’ve had people tell me it’s too expensive but I honestly don’t think it is, even on a small budget. The key with Hobby Lobby is patience and coupons or sales! I’m not sure if I’ve ever paid full price for anything since I found out about their 40% off coupon! Also, if you pay close attention to their sales, the way they work…their sale items change on a regular basis, you’ll have metal art on sale this week…frames the next time….paper goods after that.

Just before Christmas they had Christmas decor on sale 50% off and we were able to get our “fancier” annual ornament for a couple of dollars.

Hand me downs:

This may not be everyone’s cup of tea but I actually really love (some) hand me downs. I have a love of old things so anything pretty and vintage I will gladly use if I have space for it.

I’ve gotten an old adorable wooden rocking horse ornament this way. It’s one of my favorite! This is also why I typically look at Goodwill or other thrift stores for decorations because I thoroughly enjoy the old items.

Multi-season items like candle holders, vases, etc:

If you’re looking for ways to decorate on a tight budget, use items that can work with your style through the rest of the year as well. Wooden pices, metal buckets, glass or ceramic vases. These pieces can easily transition from one season to the next.

The little metal bucket sitting on our table with the greenery looks just as nice with some wheat for Thanksgiving or flowers in the spring and summer.

Simple and inexpensive decorations are just as pretty as the pricier store bought decor and they only require a little extra preparation. Additionally, they can make for wonderful annual family traditions that will help you create lasting memories!

Also, don’t forget to check out my other Christmas craft ideas here:

Mini wreaths:

https://oursimplefamilyliving.wordpress.com/2019/12/08/mini-wreath-tutorial/ 

Dried orange garland:

https://oursimplefamilyliving.wordpress.com/2019/12/14/dried-orange-garland-tutorial/

 

Dried Orange Garland Tutorial

Don’t get me wrong, I love a little sparkle here and there but natural decorations are my favorite! These dried oranges are absolutely beautiful hanging in a window, as well as on a green Christmas tree. Not only are they pretty, they are also inexpensive and simple to make!

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To start, you’ll need some fresh oranges. I ended up using 8 oranges for my garland but that’ll vary depending on the size of your window. I like to cut more than I think I’ll need in case some slices turn too brown. Slice them very thin and place them on a baking sheet with parchment.

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You’ll want to keep your oven set pretty low. I kept mine on 170 and let them dry out over several hours. Flip them every hour or so to make sure both sides dry out evenly. Patience is going to be key. The first time I made these oranges I wasn’t patient enough and turned the heat up too high because it was taking too long. I ended up wasting several oranges because they got too dark.

Once they are completely dried out and cooled, they’ll look like this:

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Now you’ll want to gather your needle and sturdy string:

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Gather all of your oranges on the string.

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Once the oranges are dried, this project takes very little time to complete. You’ll have a beautiful garland hanging in minutes!

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Last year we even used the oranges to make ornaments. I haven’t gotten around to it this year, but here’s a picture from last year.

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I hope these pretties inspire you to add some natural elements to your Christmas! What are some of your Christmas must haves?

Also, check out my tutorial on mini Christmas wreaths here:

https://oursimplefamilyliving.wordpress.com/2019/12/08/mini-wreath-tutorial/

Coming up: 5 simple & frugal ways to decorate for Christmas.

Christmas Tree Decorating Traditions

Today we’re talking about a super fun family time! Picking out and decorating the Christmas tree! This is such a wonderful family activity that costs very little once you have your initial cost of ornaments and lights out of the way. It creates lasting memories for your family, especially your kids! We started this tradition when our oldest was still a baby (he’s 9 now). It’s changed some here and there over the years as we’ve gone through different seasons but the tradition, the anticipation, the process and the memories created by it are something we hold dearly and we’ll continue on with it as long as we’re able to.

When we choose our tree picking day, we make a day of it. We pick the tree, buy a special ornament or decoration for that year, bring it home, decorate it from start to finish and pull out all the other decorations. We get done as much as we can that day and we celebrate. We have cookies & hot chocolate (like a special, made from scratch, sprinkles and marshmallows…the works). We listen to Christmas music and watch Christmas movies.

Keep in mind that some years will look a little different depending on what your current season looks like but I’m telling you, this is such a sweet tradition! Our kids get so excited to do this every year! This year they had a count down written down on the school white board to keep track of how many days before we’d get our tree! My prayer is that these memories will stick with them well into their parenting years and that their children will also look forward to it with bright and eager eyes!

So what does this day usually look like for us? This year, we got a little extra excited and decided to get the tree the day before Thanksgiving (it’s usually our “black friday” tradition because we don’t really do black friday. To be honest the day before Thanksgiving was not the best day for it and if we decide to do it earlier next year I’m voting for the weekend before Thanksgiving.

We got up that morning and drove around pricing out the different trees in our area. Unfortunately we don’t have any tree farms close to us (that we’ve found anyway) so we usually end up at either Lowes or Home Depot. We’ve found Lowes to have the lowest price on trees in our area usually so that’s where we usually end up.

Then we went home and we ate lunch. After that, we got the tree prepped and pulled out all of the decorations from the attic. The boys and I got the cookies started and the hot chocolate. The boys worked on some Christmas themed crafts, and the rest of the day was just spent decorating and doing all things Christmas! I’ll leave you with some fun photos from our day.

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The 2019 Tree!!

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Getting it all set up.

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Christmas crafts! This one was a super cute gingerbread man ornament set. Simple and fun!

Helping with the hot chocolate and cookies.

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Enjoying their masterpiece!

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Admiring the hard work.

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Here they are posing for Christmas cards in front of their fully decorated tree!

What are some of your most favorite, inexpensive and simple Christmas traditions?

Mini Wreath Tutorial

We love Christmas! Decorating for Christmas is a big deal for our family. I’ll be sharing more about some of our handmade deocrations and traditions we’ve created over the next couple of weeks!

Today I want to share with you a new item for us! This is the first year I’ve made these and I’m loving how they turned out! I will definitely be making them again.

These mini wreaths are very simple, fast and easy to make. They’re also very affordable as well! If you’re on a tight budget, these little wreaths are a great way to add a little Christmas charm to your home!

Here they are displayed on my antique armoire in my living room. This is one of my most favorite pieces in our home and it deserves to be dressed up a little for Christmas! _MG_9453.jpg

Aside from a couple of items that I already had at home, all of the materials came from Hobby Lobby. I was able to get all of those items either 50% off because I used the seasonal items and they were on sale (YAY!) or I used the 40% off coupon code (from the Hobby Lobby website). The greenery I used came from our back yard. It’s Leyland Cypress and works very well for Christmas crafts! I love having these trees in our yard at Christmas time!

Supplies you’ll need for this craft:

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  • hot glue gun/glue
  • craft wire
  • command hooks
  • ribbon
  • pine cones
  • mini wreaths
  • greenery

Directions:

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  4. Add craft wire to the top of the wreath and the command hook to the door where you plan to hang the wreath. _MG_9371.jpg

That’s it! So easy!!! Let me know what you think! What are some of your favorite DIY Christmas creations?

Coming up…

Christmas Tree Decorating Day traditions.