Simple Christmas – How to Have More with Less at Christmas

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Simple Christmas – How to Have More with Less at Christmas

Simple Christmas – How to Have More with Less and Cut the Stress!
By Jill Cooper and Tawra Kellam

After laying down my last women’s magazine telling me how to be less stressed during the holidays, I’m even more confused and stressed than ever. On one page I’m told to take time for myself and indulge in a lovely spa bath. That sounds great, but I can hardly find time for a shower on a slow day in June let alone take a spa bath the week before Christmas. I want a more simple Christmas!

As I turn the page, I’m told to give all my friends and family homemade ornaments to which I have lovingly glued 500 beads, each the size of a grain of sand. OK I’ll admit I’m not a rocket scientist, but I am baffled when I try to imagine how I could accomplish these two things even if I didn’t have an ever growing list of Christmas preparation tasks. Hmmm… Maybe I could lay in my spa bath carefully gluing on beads to ornaments throughout the night.

As I read on, there are articles telling me how not to gain weight at Christmas parties. Isn’t that like telling a three year old to not get dirty while making mud pies?

But it gets better. Then they tell you to eat a meal before you go to the party. What? Is that some kind of new diet where you lose weight by eating two meals in the evening instead of one? If it is, then I’m all for it. I mean really — who eats four carrot sticks and five pieces of celery at home, then arrives at a party where they have pecan pie, five different types of fudge, 10 dozen cookies and egg nog and says, “Oh no, I really couldn’t eat a thing. I’m sooooo full…?” Excuse Me! Doesn’t anyone live in the real world anymore?

To top it all off (and the part I like the best) is after they tell us how to get rid of stress and not gain weight, they give us 10 pages of recipes for Christmas cookies made with real butter and cream that are decorated so elaborately in the pictures that it probably took a trained kitchen staff of 10 a week to make each cookie.

If you are like me and can’t stand that kind of stress, try some of these simple Christmas ideas to help you have a relaxed and more Merry Christmas:

  • Don’t over-spend – It may be tempting to fixate yourself on the sparkling look in little Johnny’s eye when he sees that $300 play car under the tree. Advertising people are really good at feeding many parents’ fantasies of their children thinking that mom and dad are superheros for shelling out the cash and looking fondly back on that moment for the rest of their lives. The reality, though, is that most kids have lost all interest in that particular toy long before the credit cards are paid off.
  • When we were growing up, my mom pulled out all of the stops at Christmas to make it as wonderful for us as she possibly could. The funny thing is that now that we are grown, the things we remember the most fondly are the simple Christmas treats like mom’s red Jello salad (made with red hots – yummy!) and sitting together and reading the Christmas story before opening our presents. I can’t remember what presents I received, but I always look back fondly on the Christmas story. It’s the simple Christmas traditions that are really memorable!
  • Do a few things well – Instead of trying to do everything and ending up depressed about how it all turns out, focus your energy on a couple of things that are the most important to you. You may be tempted to extravagantly decorate every room in your house, but if you don’t have the time or energy, focus on one room, like a living or family room. If your entire house is beautiful but you have to go see a therapist when it’s all over, the romantic mystique will be lost. Trust me, I know about this one from personal experience.
  • Limit activities — Don’t commit to do too many things. One or two Christmas parties during the holiday season will make you get all tingly in that “It’s a Wonderful Life” kind of way. Two or three parties a week may send you over the edge, especially if you have kids. (Refer to my therapist comments above.)
  • This also applies to all of those appealing looking activities around town like Victorian Christmas events, Christmas celebrations at the zoo or winter carnivals. One or two simple Christmas activities can be a lot of fun, but too many will ruin the fun.
  • Limit cookie baking. Don’t try to make 15 different kinds of cookies like Martha Stewart. She may look like she is super woman, but did you know she has a lot of people that help her? How much help do you get with your baking? I mean real help, not your five year old who makes everything twice as difficult for you. This is great for grandma, but you have to see your daughter every day and grandma can send her back when the house is sufficiently covered in flour. Again, pick your two or three most favorite or traditional cookies to bake and celebrate the fact that you had few enough priorities that you remembered to put the sugar in them.
  • Everything doesn’t have to be homemade. I know that we advocate making your own stuff, but Marie Callender’s makes some great pies that you can pass off as homemade if you want to soothe your guilty Martha Stewart conscience. In 20 years, your kids will look fondly back on it as the best pie they ever had. Seriously, if you are making things homemade just to save money, remember that some things like candies and pies are often more expensive to make homemade, especially if you cut your finger while slicing the apples. Don’t ask me how I know, just trust me on this one.

These aren’t the only things you can do to reduce your stress and have a more simple Christmas, but if you stick to doing a few things well, you can truly relax and enjoy the season with your family. In the end, they would rather have fond memories of their time with you than memories of how strung out mom was after she burned the cookies.

By Jill and Tawra



  1. says

    Might no be the place for this but I hope it will put things into perspective with all the stress of Christmas.
    Santa is very clever even in dealing with us practical mothers.

    The Night Before Christmas for Moms
    Christmas Poem for Moms

    It was the night before Christmas, when all thru the abode
    Only one creature was stirring, and she was cleaning the commode.
    The children were finally sleeping, all snug in their beds,
    While visions of Nintendo 64 and Barbie, flipped through their heads.
    The dad was snoring in front of the TV,
    With a half-constructed bicycle on his knee.
    So only the mom heard the reindeer hooves clatter,
    Which made her sigh, “Now what’s the matter?”
    With toilet bowl brush still clutched in her hand,
    She descended the stairs, and saw the old man.
    He was covered with ashes and soot, which fell with a shrug.
    “Oh great,” muttered the mom, “Now I have to clean the rug.”
    “Ho-ho-ho!” cried Santa, “I’m glad you’re awake.”
    “Your gift was especially difficult to make.”
    “Thanks, Santa, but all I want is some time alone.”
    “Exactly!” he chuckled, “I’ve made you a clone.”
    “A clone?” she asked, “What good is that?
    Run along, Santa, I’ve no time for chit-chat.”
    The mother’s twin. Same hair, same eyes,
    Same double chin.
    “She’ll cook, she’ll dust,” She’ll mop every mess.
    You’ll relax, take it easy, Watch The Young & the Restless.”
    “Fantastic!” the mom cheered. “My dream come true!
    “I’ll shop. I’ll read., I’ll sleep a whole night through! ”
    From the room above, the youngest began to fret.
    “Mommy?! I scared… and I am wet.”
    The clone replied, “I’m coming, sweetheart.”
    “Hey,” the mom smiled, “She knows her part.”
    The clone changed the small one, and hummed a tune,
    as she bundled the child, in a blanket cocoon.
    “You the best mommy ever. ” I really love you.”
    The clone smiled and sighed, “I love you, too.”
    The mom frowned and said, “Sorry, Santa, no deal. ”
    That’s my child’s love, she’s trying to steal.”
    Smiling wisely Santa said, “To me it is clear, ”
    Only one loving mother, is needed here.”
    The mom kissed her child, and tucked her into bed.
    “Thank you, Santa, for clearing my head.
    I sometimes forget, it won’t be very long,
    When they’ll be too old, for my cradle-song.”
    The clock on the mantle began to chime.
    Santa whispered to the clone, “It works every time.”
    With the clone by his side Santa said, “Goodnight. Merry Christmas, Mom, You’ll be all right.”
    -Author Unknown

  2. says

    Here is a story about a child and christmas presents.
    my brother was 3 years old and for a month before Christmas he told everyone he wanted a red snow shovel from Santa. Never said anything else. My parents went out and they got him the shovel and lots of other things. (He was the first born and I was only 6 months old) so there was money to kind of splurge.
    He got up Christmas morning saw the shovel with a big bow. Put on his snowsuit and boots and went outside and started shoveling every bit of snow he could find.
    The other presents were left unwrapped until the next day after he went outside and shoveled the snow that had fallen over night.
    My brother is now 57 and it is sort of a tradition to tell the story every year.
    Kids don’t need a lot of things to make them happy, it is the adults who need the things.

  3. says

    Thanks for the reminder! I wholeheartedly agree with everything you wrote in this article. I sometimes want to “bless” my kids with everything they want. Then I realize that’s not really a blessing, after all. The most treasured moments of Christmas aren’t what’s sitting under the tree. They’re the times we spend with our kids, building their faith and our families up, and helping them appreciate the reason for the season! Blessings!

  4. Rita says

    If you would like more cookies, have a cookie exchange with friends. Bake four or five dozen of ONE cookie. Take to a small get-together and exchange. Everyone gets a lot of cookies and only had to bake one type!

    • says

      Good idea. also look for Cookie and Cake walks sponsored by churches. I went to the Lutheran Church who had a cake walk and got a coffee can of cookies for $12 and I could have gotten a larger can for $20. You can get more than one can if you want to and they are prettily decorated for the holidays. They had two long tables of about 40 or 50 plates of sampled cookies that the church people baked. there were all kinds of holiday cookies from snicker doodles, ginger bread rein deers, old fashioned chocolate chip cookies and oatmeal with raisin cookies. Everything was homemade, very artistic and an endless variety for a low price. They have one every year and it supports the church.

  5. Marilyn says

    I used to be the “Family Baker” at holidays. I am retired, and a widow, so I “had the time” to do it. While my in-laws did the turkey/ham/whatever and side dishes, I made the pies, cake and cookies. One year, everything went wrong, and discovered that the local grocer’s bakery made the pies more inexpensively than I could, so now I just make the cookies! It is a lot less stressful now, and I can share my cookies with my good neighbors, too!

  6. Denise says

    Loved this article. For me the holiday stress generally revolves around balancing “saving money” and “saving time” Generally speaking, it is hard to do both :-). So, for things I enjoy doing myself (baking, etc.) — I spend a little more time with it and I “save money” For things I do not enjoy (shopping, etc.) I spend a little more (gift certificates all around!) and “save time”

    Of course there are some things I do not enjoy and manage to save both time and money by just ignoring — i.e. cleaning the house — ha, ha! Since we do not host the festivities I’d rather make some really good yummies to take with me then spend time scrubbing a bathroom nobody is going to be around to admire.

  7. Juliann Johnson says

    You absolutely rock! I leaf through those women’s mags at the check out stand and feel completely nuts…..

    I love your common sense approach and your “first things first” attitude.

    Thank you so much.

    Julie/ Des Moines Washington

  8. Candace says

    Can I just say I love you ladies?!! I got such a kick out of your newsletter, and I love reading each one that comes in!!! God Bless you for all that you do for other people!

  9. Cindy says

    I laughed out loud as I read this newsletter! I totally agree with you about the magazines. Martha Stewart Living is the worst. It’s nice to know that there are others out there who think “less is more”! Thank you for making my day!!

  10. Sharon says

    About buying Maire CAlender pies. They used to have all of their pies on sale 1/2 price in Oct and we would buy our Christmas pies and freeze them for Christmas. We got our faves and they were stll so yummy.
    Next year.

  11. says

    Your article brings back so many memories. My Mother used to bake before she passed away until she was exhausted but she thought that was what she should do. I usually do the same but this year is going to be different if it’s only fingerfood i am going to enjoy my children and grandchildren.

  12. says

    One year my husband and boys ganged up on me.
    It was the night before Christmas and I was putting the last finishing touches to cookies and snacks and cleaning the kitchen.
    I did this every year. I always said I liked doing it.
    Well my husband came in with the boys and said
    do you guys want cookies baked, or do you want mom to come into the living room and watch the movies of Christmas on TV with us.
    unanimous vote and mom went into the living room to watch rudolph, frosty, the grinch, A Christmas Carol and all the others until bed time.
    I found out that year that I was doing what I thought mothers were supposed to do and not enjoying it.
    Now I buy those tins of shortbread cookies a tin of fancy crackers some pate nice cheese make popcorn and enjoy my boys.
    Well I don’t get to enjoy the boys as often at Christmas so I am so glad when they were 3 and 5 they set me straight. I have the memories of them with us for the years we are by ourselves.
    Beverly finger foods are wonderful even if they are sticky and you get a hug and a sticky kiss.

  13. Diana says

    I love your article, How to Have More with Less at Christmas. Your sooo funny and real!!!

    I like the one about, What? Is that some kind of new diet where you lose weight by eating two meals in the evening instead of one? LOL!


  14. Bonnie Born says

    I agree with you 100%! I used to make hundreds of cookies every Christmas and loved giving them to friends. But I cut way back and no one keeled over from not getting my cookies! :o) This year I plan to make 3 or 4 different varieties of cookies, simple ones that don’t require that you start in July to decorate them! My husband is semi-retired now so he will be put on cookie decorating and he does a fine job of it. And his snickerdoodles are out of this world. (That;s not counting the 1 batch he made with salt instead of sugar. lol )

    My own personal peeve about some of the ladies magazines is that I think some of them are getting too sophistacated for their good. The homey ones that I have loved for years have stopped highlighting that month’s holiday on the cover of the magazine. And one condensed magazine did not have 1 article in it’s Nov. issue relating to Thanksgiving. I was disappointed. Oh, well. As my son told me years ago, I have to stop living in the ’50’s. LOL

    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and I appreciate all the lovely thngs that you do for us.

  15. susan says

    Hi Jill and Tawra

    You are so right about not being stressed out from cooking! This is what we have done for a few years at Christmas (due to my health we are not cooking Thanksgiving but getting a plate from the church) anyway on the Friday after Thanksgiving the family gets together and we draw “food names” and what you draw out of the hat is what you bring for Christmas dinner.( you can either buy it or cook it) We make up the menu in advance so that everything is pretty much equal and for the Ham or turkey we all pitch in and buy one that is already cooked and just has to be heated. It makes Christmas so much more fun and by the way we also use the heavy duty dinner plates that we find on sale. We always have more food than anyone can eat and plenty to take home. Love your newsletters!

  16. norma says

    To help take stress off of baking the many cookies I make for the holidays, I start making cookie dough in november. I vacuum seal it and freeze. Dec 14 is the magic kick off to baking and candy making. I just thaw the cookie dough overnite in the fridge, I use a small cookie scoop, and parchment paper on the cookie sheets. these steps save a lot of time and cleanup.

    • says

      Yes this is a great tip Norma. As I have mentioned before I make up 300-500 dozen gingerbread men (decorated and all) the 6 weeks before Christmas so I have to get some kind of a head start. I measure all the dry ingredients out the last of Sept. then by the first week of Oct. I mix and vacuum seal all of my dough and freeze it too. With my type of dough it really helps to do this because by sitting the the freezer the spices blend so nice before baking them.

      If you don’t have a vacuum sealer it helps to at least get the dry ingredients measured if nothing else. If you wrap them real well you could make up the dough and freeze it too.

      For those of you who need more cookies tips check out on the website other ideas.

  17. Doris Hofmann says

    You really hit the nail on the head with this newsletter regarding having more with less at Christmas! I always felt that you had to work yourself to death to have the “perfect” Christmas, but was I wrong. It certainly is better to do a few things well and feel more relaxed rather than trying to do it all and end up collapsing and being a martyr. Kids don’t appreciate a grouchy, tired out mother, and it probably makes them feel a little guilty that Mom is “doing all this for us.” A happy family during the holidays is better than anything and creates many more good memories.

    • says

      No she hasn’t because if she gave it to you then she would have to kill you. hehehe It’s a secret in case she decides to stop Living On A Dime and start a gingerbread factory. :-)

  18. Crystal says

    Ladies…..I just have to say I sat here & laughed at the newsletter !! Thanks for keeping it real & saying what many of us are feeling but probably wouldn’t say to anyone other than a close girlfriend !! So…Girlfriends…. thanks for the laugh to keep us in the right frame of mind for Christmas !!

  19. Judy Nelson says

    For years we have exchanged names for Christmas gifts at Thanksgiving. We let the adults exchange names and the kids exchange names. Then we have until Christmas to come up with homade/purchased gifts that we think the other would like. It is so much fun to see what each person gets because so much thought/energy has gone into the gift. One year I made one of my daughters’ a King-sized quilt for her bed. Another year my husband made a rocking cradle for a son-in-law to use with his first born. Some of the gifts have become real heirlooms and will be passed down.

  20. Rachel says

    I’m working on not stressing. We fly to Texas Dec. 3rd for a few days with the grandkids. All the press coverage on the new security rules look like that should be a blast. When we get back it is daughter’s birthday, and we are having carpet installed. But really, why stress? I could be in Haiti suffering from cholera, or in the slums of India looking for food. We are so blessed in this country. We really need to remember that all the time, not just during the holidays.

    • says

      You are so right Stefanie. We preach all the time “it doesn’t hurt to ask”. I give out all of my recipes but that one and always feel bad when I can’t give it to someone. I do dream of some day of having a candy/ice cream shop and sell my gingerbread men in it. I’m not sure I will ever be able to just because it would be physically too hard with my CFS but I can always dream.: )

  21. MPage says

    A great read “ Unplug the Christmas Machine” -Combat commercialism and fill the holidays with simple, spiritual celebrations that are meaningful to your family. Christmas wasn’t always heavily commercialized. Prior to 1910 there were few holiday ads, mostly for childrens’ toys and and gifts for adults “holiday notions” were more likely books, pipe tobacco, or a packet of pins. The old-fashioned Christmas didn’t come to a screeching halt once the gifts were opened, rather Dec 25th marked the beginning of celebrating the 12 days of Christmas. Analyze your Christmas activities, or they more of a burden than a joy then decide what matters most. Even break the traditions and skip Christmas cards, minimize commercial gift giving, travel less, and spend a more relaxed time with your children.

  22. says

    Jill keep your recipe a secret.
    I totally understand your dream.
    When I opened my wool shop my girl friends mother gave me the pattern for a baby sweater that had a panel that buttoned into the opening of the front of the sweater. I hired people to knit it in the different sizes in all sorts of colours. I always told them I couldn’t give out the pattern.
    One lady stood and argued rudely with me for about an hour saying she could just buy the sweater and rip it out to find out how it was done.
    Finally she said she would buy the sweater but would never return to the store. I sold the sweater and said nicely that since she had never been in the store before I didn’t think I would miss her visits.
    I found out later it is an old McCalls pattern from the 40’s so it wasn’t some big secret but it was my best selling item even more than the wool.

    now onto my Christmas present for my 5 year old grand daughter. She has decided this year that being a girl is kind of fun and wants a barbie for Christmas. I will get the barbie when I find one that looks good and well made. (have one with hair that looks like she cut it) when she was 4 she wanted to be a boy so cut her hair very short and ragged. Anyway last night I knitted a mini dress a pair of socks and a pair of panties all matching. Today I am using a slightly thicker wool and making another mini dress. Then onto coats and dresses and pants. What good is a barbie without a lot of clothes to go with her.
    I found a site on line where the patterns are free and since my hip is locked quite securely and I can’t move around much the dishes are soaking and I am sitting knitting.
    talk about more Christmas with less.
    patterns for free, lots of scrap wool used up and something fun to do to take my mind off the pain and frustration of sitting with nothing getting done. Plus a grand daughter who wants to be a girl.
    have a good day.

    • says

      I’m sure she will love it grandma. I remember one Christmas my dog came running out of the bedroom with a scrap of fabric (I thought) in her mouth. My mom and grandma had a heart attack and started grabbing it from her. Come to find out they had been working like crazy sewing a huge wardrobe for my Barbie and had it stored under the bed where she found them. Knitted sweaters, dresses and sewn things. That is one present I will never forget. They laid everything out in a huge flat box and when I pulled off the lid there lay all these beautiful outfits of every kind from pj’s to coats for both my Ken and Barbie.

      I still have them and have yet to ever see any other clothes like them. My mom and grandma both were not your ordinary seamstresses and the clothes were like something you would see on a very expensive porcelain doll. I treasure them even more because they were all made from scraps of their clothes and when I look at them today I remember my grandma wearing this or that dress.

      • Penny S says

        I received my Barbie doll in either 1959 or 1960. She was one of the first Barbie’s sold. She had blonde hair, styled in a ponytail and she wore a black and white stripped bathing suit–and I still have her. I spent many, many hours happily playing with her. I only had a few “outfits” that came with her but I had a wonderful Grandmother who was a very skillful seamstress and had an great imagination. Gandmotherr sewed many creative outfits for my Barbie to wear. She even created a sewn leather jacket!

        • says

          I too have fond memories of my Barbie Penny. I got one around that time. I remember that year right before Christmas our dog came running into the living room with what I thought was a rag in his mouth. My mom had a heart attack and started running after him and hollering at him. Couldn’t figure out why she was so upset but I later found out after Christmas. Santa brought me a large flat box and carefully laid out in the box were all these different Barbie outfits my mom and grandma had spent hours working on. My mom had made tiny knitted sweater sets that looked like something you would buy at a store for real people. The details were amazing on all the outfits. Well what does that have to do with the dog? He had crawled under the bed where she was hiding the outfits and had started pulling them all out to play with. I have my Barbie and all her outfits to this day. They were so much nicer then anything I had seen at the store. I am glad to know I am not the only one who still has and loves her Barbie. : )

    • says

      So far I have been very lucky and those who have asked me for my recipe have been very sweet and understanding but I know the type of person you are talking about and thank goodness I haven’t run across them yet.

  23. says

    Jill I find that you meet more nice people than not nice.
    It keeps me sane knowing that there is hope for the human race when you do meet a smile and kind word in unexpected places.
    I have just finished the 2nd dress got my dishes done, signed up a new member for the rod and gun club and talked on line with my son for over an hour. Just have to go and truss up the chicken to go into the rotisserie to turn on when we leave to go get groceries so it will be cooked when we get home. I call this meal our swiss chalet dinner. All the fixings for 1/4 the cost and we get leftovers.
    Now back to knitting. next week I will tackle crotcheting. wish me luck.
    And she still wants barbie and still wants to be a girl. 1 week down and counting.

  24. Angie M. says


    I smiled reading about your morning spent knitting Barbie clothes for your grand daughter. That sounds so cozy and fun. Sorry about your hip though.

    I am loving reading all of the ideas of thrifty and homemade Christmas gifts. I’m already starting to feel the Christmas Spirit. It’s easier to have a happy Christmas when we aren’t focused on the commercialism and materialism.

    Have a wonderful day! :)

  25. Angie M. says

    I forgot to add to my prior post:

    Cabbage Patch dolls were popular when I was about 8 or 9 years old. I wanted one for Christmas and didn’t get one for two Christmases because they were so hard to get in stores. Anyone remember the stories of stampedes in malls and people fighting over the dolls? Ugh.

    Anyway, I finally received one for Christmas when I was 10 or 11. My Mom had been in our local small-town K-Mart one day and a shipment had just arrived and was being stocked on the shelves. She was cautious and waiting for the stampede…but it didn’t come. So she selected a Cabbage Patch doll for me and one for my sister. We were thrilled on Christmas morning!

    However, we later went to my Grandma’s for Christmas dinner and had another surprise. My Grandma, who was on a VERY fixed income had handmade all of us girls a homemade doll. I don’t know if anyone remembers seeing these but you bought the heads and then made the bodies. They were very similar to Cabbage Patch dolls. I tell you what, my sister and I were just as thrilled with the homemade dolls as with the Cabbage Patch dolls my Mom bought us. We had two new dolls to love!

    Then, we went to my other Grandma’s for Christmas supper that evening and yet another surprise. An aunt, also on a VERY fixed income had made my sister and I a Cabbage Patch doll wardrobe. I still remember opening that package and how we sat and lovingly fingered each item…soft flannel sleepers and gowns in pinks and lavender, litte blouses and pants, dresses, booties, even a pair of denim jeans, a sweater and tiny cloth diapers. We were so thrilled we could hardly speak!

    It was one of my best Christmases as a child. Probably the one I remember the most!

    The most memorable adult Christmas was 2007. I used to get a catalog for vintage home restoration projects. In it I saw a Howard-Miller Mantel clock that I LOVED. The wood was oak and I think it was priced around $1,000. It was beautiful!

    My Dad was visiting one day in Summer of 2007 and looking at the catalog. I pointed out the clock as a “I’ll never have the money for anything like this but I sure would love to have it!” item. My Dad studied the ad in the catalog and agreed the clock was beautiful and he would love to have one also.

    Late that Fall, I started noticing my Dad was always busy (I used to live next door to my parents). I wasn’t sure what he was doing…no one seemed to be but he wasn’t around as much.

    I had invited my parents to enjoy Christmas Eve with me, my husband and kids. We had agreed on a time of 6:00 pm. My Dad was gone all day. I even asked my Mom where he was and she said at my Uncle’s house. I asked why and she said she didn’t know. My Dad called about 5:30 to say he would be late for Christmas Eve supper. I said we would wait on them.

    Finally, after 6:00 I noticed he pulled in his driveway. He called a little later to ask me to come over to his house without the kids for a few minutes. I thought he was going to show me the gifts he and Mom had for the kids. I told my hubby and kids I’d be back in a few and walked to his house.

    When I walked in the foyer, my Dad pointed to the couch and lined up were about 6 beautiful mantel clocks. I was almost speechless, I said “Wow! You’ve been busy!” My Dad is a carpenter and is good at wood working. My Uncle, also a carpenter, has a home wood working shop. My Dad wanted to make the clocks for gifts after I pointed out the one in the catalog. He and my Uncle found kits for the faces, hands and time keeping mechanisms. They did the wood working parts themselves, put the rest of the kit together and added a piece of glass. They are beautiful!

    I hugged my Dad for dear life and cried, I was so touched and happy. To think so much thought and work went into a gift for me. As the oldest daughter, he let me have first pick. I picked a beautiful walnut one. My sister and Grandma also got one. He let my Mom pick what she wanted and made one special for her. All of the hard work that he put into those clocks still brings me to tears. He knew I could never afford a Howard-Miller mantel clock. He made me one just as beautiful with sentimental meaning that the Howard-Miller never could have!

    I still love my clock. It even chimes (Westminster) and I think of my Dad every time I hear it. I feel like Ralphie Parker in the movie “A Christmas Story” when I tell people “That clock is the best Christmas present I have ever received.” Lol!

    Grandma, I’m sure your little grand daughter will LOVE the Barbie clothes you are knitting her. She will treasure the gift forever. :)

    • says

      HA! That’s almost our story too. We couldn’t get the Cabbage Patch because there were none to get then my grandmother made us and then later all my kids the crocheted dolls with the heads too!

  26. harriet says

    One year for my birthday I got a doll–not a Barbie; my mom didn’t approve of those, but a regular girl doll, about 18″–and my mother made for her an extensive wardrobe of authentic historical dresses. She took out books from the library about fashion from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries and sewed about ten dresses to go with the doll, with fabric mostly out of her own old party dresses. My favorite was a riding habit made of dark blue velvet with a matching top hat my mother made out of cardboard with a sweeping silk veil from an old pair of gray silk stockings Mom had. It was kind of like the 1970s version of American Girl, only it was way before that and Mom designed and made all the dresses herself.

    I’m 45 so it must have been about 37 years ago but I remember it all so fondly. My parents never had much extra money with a police officer dad and four kids, but my mom worked hard to make every birthday and Christmas special.

  27. Amy says

    I lucked out when the Cabbage Patch craze hit because my oldest sister worked at a toy store (I don’t remember if she was managing or not) but anyways, when the dolls came in she bought mine right away before they even got on the shelves. That was over 25 years ago and now my daughters have the doll and the clothes that my grandmother made for her. Remember Tickle Me Elmo – the first time he came out? We bought one at a reasonable price for our oldest daughter (she was about 2 then) on her birthday in August – before it was deemed that Elmo was the hottest toy around and selling for about $500 in some places. She never played with it – until we gave thought to selling it for about $500 that Christmas. Elmo is now long gone to Goodwill with a whole bunch of other Christmas presents gone by. It really is the thought that counts and not the item that may eventually be sent to Goodwill or regifted. Enjoy your families – they grow up fast.

  28. Donna B. says


    In thinking about your beautiful clock, one year my grown son had very little money. He kept a secret (a miracle in itself, LOL) and refinished a table for me that had belonged to my father. I remembered my Dad being ill and keeping all his medications on that table. it was the only thing left, and I had thought it was gone. My son found it and did a beautiful mahogany finish on it for me. When I saw it I burst into tears. It meant more than any gift he could have gotten from a store. I still have it, with the beautiful job that he did to restore it for me.

    It truly isn’t the money spent, it’s the caring that goes into giving a gift.

  29. Pat says

    All this talk of Christmas gifts past reminded me of when my girls were little. All they wanted was a Barbie Airplane. So did the little girl across the street and that’s all they talked about. Like the Cabbage Patch dolls a few years later. Anyway I had no vehicle and we had no bus service, but my neighbour did have a car. We were out from town, so when ever we heard there was a shipment of the Barbie Planes comming anywhere I babysat her brood of 4 and she would go looking for a Plane for each of us. Meanwhile I had phoned Sears Catalogue and ordered one, they told me they would try but couldn’t promise one. I told my Cousin and she worked for Eatons Catalogue and she said they were out, but if they got one she would send it to me. Time moved on from November to December and no plane. Christmas eve day and Sears pulled up! Hurray! Then Eaton’s pulled up and I called my neighbour and we each had a Plane for Christmas.

  30. Beth says

    I loved the article! The part about the pie especially made me laugh. The first year we were married, my husband kept going on and on about the pies my Momma made for Christmas dinner. He just about aggravated me to death, asking me to get her recipe, so I finally told him to ask her himself. Her answer was, “Well, you get in your car, you go to the grocery store, you look for the frozen food aisle, and when you see the desserts, you stop in front of the one that says Mrs. Smith’s Pumpkin Pie. You take it out of the freezer, take it to the register, buy it, bring it home, and cook it”! We still remind him of that and fifteen years later, he still swears it is one of the best pumpkin pies he’s ever had!!!!!

  31. says

    Last year I lost a cousin that I was very close to, just before Christmas, needless to say that in all the funeral arrangements and such, Christmas baking got put on the back burner. Turns out that I didn’t need to worry, my famliy enjoyed spending time together , Christmas day, mixing up and baking cookies. It’s probably the best Christmas I’ve spent in a while, even with losing a loved one factored in. I am already so glad I signed up for your news letters.

  32. Angie M. says


    Your son refinishing your Dad’s table for you is also a beautiful, touching gift! I know you feel about the table the same way I feel about my clock. Reading through these posts about thoughtful Christmas gifts, I am tearing up a bit. The thought and putting love into a gift is really what it’s about…not how much money is spent.

    At work, all of us girls in the office donate $20 each year. The managers match everything we donate, plus more and we adopt a family for Christmas. It’s always a Dad, Mom and kids having financial difficulty. Usually, it seems either the Dad’s are disable and no longer able to work or have recently been laid off.

    We get the name of the family from our local Community Action, or the local school system each year. They give us the names and ages of the children. We divide up into groups at work with each group shopping for one child.

    We are always provided with a short list of what each child would want for Christmas and it’s never much. Sometimes it breaks my heart when a child asks for so little…like one year a teenage girl asked for make-up and a certain CD. One year, a young boy asked for one small toy. We are also provided with the clothing and shoe sizes for the children.

    And then…we have fun shopping for our child! We get the items on their short Christmas lists. We then usually buy each child a couple of outfits, a coat, hat and gloves. Usually we buy each child a bike. We don’t buy gifts for the parents but we do give a Kroger gift card for groceries for Christmas dinner. One year we were told the family didn’t have a Christmas tree and we donated an artificial tree with decorations that we had in the basement of our office. My boss frequently buys the decorated trees from local business fund-raiser auctions, so we usually have an extra one or two around.

    We all get together in the conference room of our office and wrap the gifts together. A couple of employees with trucks or SUV’s volunteer their vehicles and the day before Christmas Eve, we load up and deliver the gifts to the families. The families are usually so touched that it is a very moving experience for us all. The year that I went on the delivery, I cried when we drove away, thinking of how excited the children were about the gifts.

    After we deliver the presents, we go back to work and have our office carry-in Christmas dinner. It’s a very touching experience. And to think, a few years ago, we had always just drew names and exchanged gifts within the office. We spent $20 on a gift that no one really needed. What we do now is much more satisfying.

    It’s easy at times to forget how blessed I am. My budget is tight and we are paying off debt. My husband works 60 hours a week and drives an hour one way to work. It’s easy to get discouraged. Then I remember how blessed I am. My husband and I were talking about if we are going to exchange gifts this year or just buy something we have both been wanting for the house of something. Neither one of us could really think of one thing we wanted. That’s blessed. Last year we didn’t really have the extra money to Christmas shop for each other. We were able to provide a nice Christmas for the kids but didn’t go overboard. The week before Christmas, my husband got a check with a little overtime on it. He arranged for the kids to stay with my parents and took me to a city 1 1/2 hours away to watch Avatar in 3D. We browsed around the mall before the movie and bought soft pretzels and soft drinks. I had the best time with my hubby…dates are always nice and it was better than any gift we could have bought each other. I mentioned that when we talked the other day about whether to buy each other gifts or not. I will never forget that little trip to the mall and the movies last year. I suggested maybe we do something neat like that with each other this Christmas. He works such long hours, just having the time alone together is special!

    My children are not really spoiled but they always have several items on their Christmas list. They understand they are not going to get everything they ask for, but they still have several items on the list. Last year I was standing in line to see Santa with my 7 year old. The little boy ahead of us was unkempt and slightly dirty and his mother seemed to treat him a little unkindly. I felt bad for him. When he sat on Santa’s lap, he asked for one thing: a firetruck. Not 50 things, video games, etc. Just a firetruck. I had tears in my eyes and even my 7 year old was humbled that the child only asked for one thing. I wish I had known of a way to buy that little boy his firetruck and make it be from Santa. Yep, my children, husband and I are SO blessed!

  33. LA says

    I make my cookies ahead of time and freeze them. They are delicious and I am not like a maniac the last minute trying to get everything done!!!!

  34. Grizzly Bear Mom says

    Last night, 2 days after Thanksgiving, my frugal 27 year old niece held her annual open house. She served butternut or turkey soup, bread, dips and had cookies for the kids to decorate. We all had a great time.

  35. Grandma says

    Well the one christmas package was sent 2 weeks ago to my son and his family in China. hope it makes it in time.
    The one that only has to go 10 hours away is almost ready to pack and take to the bus the week before Christmas.
    Nobody is coming so this year we have booked a room for christmas eve and christmas night at a nice hotel in the city. Restaurants in the building are both open with christmas meals or regular meals. Christmas brunch will be served and we are taking the lap tops so we can talk on skype with our families.
    Stop at the used book store so we have plenty to read and then go relax for the entire time.
    Dress up clothes for dinner casual for the others.
    No dishes, no cooking except tea and coffee making in the rooms.
    After so many years of family get togethers which were fun and then so many of nobody coming so no little ones to enjoy this will certainly be a different type for us.
    We plan to go out and look at the lights and then curl up on the bed and watch movies or read books.
    It certainly won’t be traditional but maybe it will become the new tradition for Don and I.

  36. Katie says

    What my mom does when she’s baking large quantities is to measure dry ingredients for several batches ahead while one batch is baking.
    BTW, nuts freeze well. Mom buys shelled nuts and stores them in the freezer (just make sure the bag is TIGHTLY sealed).

    Like many of you, I’m dealing with the holiday stress. Tired of hearing about the ‘in toy’ and all that.

  37. LAM says

    Well….I am NOT a great baker even though I wish I could be. Last time I baked cookies they burned up in 5 minutes in the oven even though the directions said 8-10 minutes before they would be done and the cheesecake I made and followed the directions to a tee came out dry! I’d rather spend the money on cookies pies and cakes and have them taste great then waste my own money having the darn baked goods come out wrong! I also save time in the kitchen and can relax on my day off!

    • Grandma says

      I am not a baker. stuff tastes good just never looks all that great.
      I can make cream puffs that are so airy and big but I can’t make a cake from scratch or a mix look good.
      I make stove top cookies that you boil and drop and they are always a hit. So easy from start to finish maybe 10 min.
      M&M’s make wonderful pumpkin pies and they seem to have them buy $20 worth of something and get a pie for free. So I always buy the amount just to have the pies in the freezer. I buy the fancy chocolate covered cookies and being chocolate they are always gone early and nobody seems to miss the homemade ones. Besides they look nicer than my experiments.
      I have even started buying the frozen nibblers. by the time I try to make enough I am in the poor house and the frozen ones are expensive but not as expensive as buying all the ingredients.
      I make my own shrimp sauce and buy tartar sauce horseradish just makes sense to buy what turns out better than homemade.
      More time for fun stuff and a lot less stress.

  38. rose says

    jill .. i was at walmart last week for the holiday shopping .. and they had (from betty crocker) … the gingerbread cookie mix in the bag .. i never saw it b4 .. so it must be new (and well, if they did have it, i never noticed it) ..
    and when i saw the mix, i immediately thought of you and the gingerbread u make …
    hope ur not exhausting yourself too much .. and i bet ur house smells sooooo heavenly too ..
    thought i would share 😀

    • says

      I am trying not to do as many this year. I will be going to Tawra’s before Christmas so won’t have as much time to work on them. I do have 60 dozen I had to get done this week and only about 200 dozen so far the week before Christmas so I am taking it much easier.

      My house does smell pretty good this time of year. I always smell the cool cinnamon scented things at the store thinking I would love to have one of those and then remember how dumb because my house smells like that all the time. One time I had to go to the doctor and had been baking big time that morning. When the doctor was checking me out he laughed and said you smell so good just like gingerbread. I guess it even is in my skin. It wasn’t my clothes because I had changed those before I left. : )

  39. rose says

    ps by the way, denny’s new item on their holiday menu is gingerbread .. but i dont think its as good as urs tho ..
    we went there last nite .. and i got their bread pudding french toast .. it was an experience but its not like the regular bread pudding that i am used to having ..

  40. rose says

    i’ve already gotten requests from my kids, their friends and the neighbors for the few little things i bake .. even my son in law ..
    i normally give everyone a batch of zeppolli’s .. and will be making the peanut butter kisses cookies .. and then i will be making thumbprint cookies with the apricot jam in the middle (i use the barefoot contessa, ina garten’s, recipe) .. but my son in law has requested that i make a few with the nutella in them .. not sure how it will taste but he loves nutella ..
    and of course .. the fudge .. i made that 2 ingrediant fudge (the one with the frosting and chips) .. everyone really liked that .. and it was sooo easy too .. and our own neighbor asked for something with lemon in it (which is a good thing bc me and my son in law like lemon desserts too) .. ‘and of course i have those 6 cans of beer left over from last new years .. and i want to find a way to use them ..
    i am not sure if i told you this .. and i am sure u all have seen this in walmart ..
    walmart has those food gift ideas for xmas,, well, i was “looking” for some ideas and seeing what was offered these days .. and i saw a baking pan with the beer bread mix (container said to use 1 can of beer of ur choice or can use ginger ale instead) .. it is $6 for each one u would buy .. *there are lots of recipes for this online and some add other things like butter, herbs, etc .. i was looking for an easy recipe**
    hmmmmm .. so there is my wheels turning in my head (“how can i do this cheaper?”) … well i went home and looked online for a beer bread recipe .. and found one with 3 ingrediants .. self rising flour (3 cups), 3 tablespoons of sugar, and 12 oz of beer (or as the container in the store said ginger ale) .. soooooo .. i will be making beer bread too .. (who doesnt like a nice warm bread to go with a pot of stew? the recipients will have to make their own stew, tho.. hehehee 😀 ) …
    my daughter said thats an awesome idea bc the stove will be on anyway so why not do the baking all in one day .. and like u said jill, prep the dry ingrediants up first and then store them until ready to use .. awesome idea! ..
    just wanted to share this with everyone ..

  41. Cindy says

    If I give cookies for a gift I usually make a batch of snickerdoodles and a batch of molasses cookies (gingersnaps.) Because one is light in color and the other dark, they look quite pretty packaged on a plate or cellophane bag when alternating the colors.

  42. Barbara says

    Thank you for your humorous review of the magazine suggestions. You gave me a laugh with each one. I remember, “A merry spirit does good like a medicine.” Thank you for your good medicine.

  43. says

    I thought it was just me that thought that about holiday season magazines. Thankfully I learned a long time ago to keep it simple. Great advice from my mom.
    I decorated a lot this year, but I’m doing less baking. Gifts are mostly homemade this year, because of finances, but I knew that early on, so I started early. And they certainly weren’t as labor intensive as 500 beads! I also learned some time ago to not attempt crafts that are not “your thing.” I sew, paint and do photography. I would love to do wood working or some of the other exotic things I’ve seen out there, but then I’d have to buy a bunch of equipment and supplies. That doesn’t help my budget. So stick to those things you do well and have most of the equipment and supplies for! :)

  44. grizzly bear mom says

    perhaps if you filled the spatub with glue and floated 500 beads on the surface and then dunked the christmas balls under they would get decorated. One warning-don’t fall asleep in the tub!

  45. Janet says

    My favorite memory as a teen was one year when I really, really wanted a record player. I rarely ever asked for anything big, but I wanted to play records so badly. I kept taking Mom to the electronics department of Montgomery Wards and showing her the type of recored player I wanted. I only wanted the more modest costing model but Mom kept drifting to the little pre-school record player like my niece had. As a teen I just didn’t want that one. For several weeks I kept showing Mom the record player I liked. Mom just didn’t seem to get it and kept looking at the pre-school model. Finally as tactfully as I could, I asked if she could please make sure Dad looked at the record players first(I knew he would understand what kind I wanted.)

    Well, Christmas Eve came and my older sis gave me a pep-talk. Don’t be too disappointed if I didn’t get it as Mom and Dad’s finances were in really bad shape that year. I looked at the boxes under the tree and nothing looked record player sized so I went off to bed, heavy-hearted.

    The next morning Dad asked me to open a big box. He said it was something for the house and Mom and Dad already knew what it was. I ripped the edge of the paper enough to see the word “Stereo” on it and flipped out. It was a portable stereo with detachable speakers! Never in a million years would I ask for a stereo!! That was too extravagant. Later I found out that Mom and Dad eeked out the money somehow and Dad went and bought it right after I asked for one, weeks earlier and hid it in the closet. Mom got a kick out of every visit to the electronics department that I dragged her to. And both Mom and Dad got a big laugh over me finally asking that Dad be involved, when I thought Mom was being too dense.

    I loved the story about Mom and Dad plotting to keep me guessing. I still have the Christmas card that came with that sweet gift and later I found the receipt that Dad saved and that all happened about 45 years ago.

  46. says

    One of the best tips I was given quite some time ago to make the very easiest Christmas and the most joy, was to NOT buy any Christmas magazines. They only serve to show you how you are not mesuring up. It is only to your self that you don’t mesure up but none the less you feel like your tree isn’t cosmo ready or the table is not Betterhomes and gardens you see where this is going. Do what you enjoy and there will be joy for your Christmas season.

  47. nancy kitchen says

    Personally I like the Pink Elephant parties we have at Church. You can also do it if you have a large family gathering, or with neighbors. Each person gathers something from around the house that they no longer need, but is still in good condition. Wrap it in newspaprer or recycled Chritmad wrap. Pass out numbers for everyone present. Starting at # 1, choose a present. The 2nd person has the choice to either choose a present or take one that is already opened. Continue on till all are opened. If the present is for a specific age group or sex, it could be labeled. Hilarius to see the gifts fly around!

  48. Maggie says

    Every year my son and I make Christmas cookies and fudge together. We spoke last evening and set our time this year for Dec 16. I make the dough and he cuts out and decorates the cookies. Because my husband is a diabetic, my son makes sure that we get all the smallish cookies for our tin so we don’t get too many sweets. What a guy! I think it’s just because he likes to take the special ones to his office. We usually make about 12 doz cookies. And while he is decorating, I am making a batch or two of fudge. I used to give a small box of fudge to each of the people in my office – about 18 – but year before last, about 1/2 the attendees at our office party just left their fudge on the table. So, last year, I just brought a plate of fudge and cookies. So much easier for me and no one cared that they did not have their own personal box. People could eat it or not, as they wanted, and there were fewer leftovers. I gave them to the first person who asked for them and didn’t have to take them back home. I will make fudge tonight for my doctor’s appt tomorrow. This is my liver doctor who has kept me going since my transplant 15 years ago. He and his nursing staff always get a special treat. So, I won’t have to make as many goodies this year as in the past but the time I spend with my son is priceless and I wouldn’t trade that day for anything. I’ll be decorating a little at a time this holiday. Just enough to celebrate without going overboard in energy or expenses. We had friends over for Thanksgiving and the house looks so tidy, it will be easy to move a few things around for the Christmas decorations. Getting the advent wreath out tonight.

  49. Doris Hofmann says

    Wow! You really hit it on the head with those magazines. I can’t understand how a person is supposed to make lots of different hors’duerves (spelling?) and have all of them that are supposed to be hot ready at the same time for serving. And then, you are supposed to be calm as a cucumber because you had time to take a bath and get dressed before the guests came!!! Now, come on. I can see me doing that and before I got out of the shower, someone would be ringing the bell. Oh, would I be calm and composed then!

  50. Angie M. says

    This article is always something I need to read this time of year. I struggle with being able to enjoy this wonderful season because of the frenzy of activities and preparations that go along with it.

    Reading Jill and Tawra’s description of a holiday volume of a women’s magazine made me laugh…but oh so true! I stopped buying magazines a few years ago for that very reason.

    Today, the internet is just as bad, if not worse though. I’ve recently limited my internet time. I work full time and have a family/house to care for, so it’s not like I spent that much time on the internet. To unwind though, I liked to read blogs and look at Pinterest. It took me awhile to realize that my choice of leisure activities was actually stressing me out. You may laugh but Pinterest can be exhausting. :) I saved so many recipes and DIY projects I wanted to try…that I don’t have time for really. It’s actually overwhelming! So, I’ve really limited my internet time and when I’m on the internet I only view a couple of blogs (Living on a Dime is one, of course). Otherwise, for me it’s information overload!

    Keeping things simple is really the best advise!

    • says

      I have to agree with you totally Angie. I really have to watch myself on Pinterest too because I get that overwhelming feeling and have more things bookmarked then I could ever get done in a life time. I have had to stop myself from going on there so much. I do love finding funny sayings and cute animal pictures the I send to my kids and grandkids for a good laugh but have really had to back off.

      • Angie M. says

        Jill, Pinterest does have a collection of some of the funniest cartoons and cutest pictures and sayings. :)Those, I can still browse when I have time. Just the recipes and DIY sections make me feel overwhelmed. LOL!

  51. Donna B. says

    LOL!! did you ever notice every single magazine cover says, “have your best Christmas ever”. How many “best Christmases” can you have! I stopped reading the mags quite a few years ago and I just use my favorite cookie recipes! and call it a day!

  52. grizzly bear mom says

    Those magazines are designed to make you feel inferior so you purchase their advertizers’ products. Better Homes than whose? Better Houses than yours and mine!

  53. Margaret says

    So glad you brought this up! I think we can get over committed to making the Christmas holidays a one person thing (us) and forget that the only lasting memories are just not holiday ones. For instance, last year my daughter gave me a blank book called a “A Mother’s Legacy”. I have worked on it all year filling it in. It covers everything about our lives together, and also my life before her. It was hard to remember everything, but I worked on it all year as I could remember things. Now i will send it back to her, filled in for her very special Christmas present to let her know who I really am.

  54. Liz says

    Living in the Kansas City area, there are many great light displays. We spend one night taking our son and brother around town, first to The Plaza to see the lights, get out and walk around and have hot cocoa at Starbucks. (A splurge for us.) Then, we head downtown to see the lights on the Marriott building. Then, we start heading south to the various Christmas displays throughout several suburbs. Sometimes, we can’t make them all in one night, but we can definitely get them all done in two nights. Only cost: a cup of cocoa each and some gasoline, but not much. For those really tight on money, take a pot of cocoa or hot water and Swiss Miss cocoa packets and make your own at one of the locations. (One place has a lighted display with music that you listen to on a radio station. My sister’s family goes there with popcorn and cookies and watches for a while.) It’s very cheap entertainment!

  55. Liz says

    I loved the first part of your article about less stress and not gaining weight! It’s so true! By the way, my brother is a stylist for Hallmark and it DOES take about 10 people to make a perfect cookie for their photos!

  56. rose says

    yep those mags do make one think, “how come mine dont come out looking like those?” .. the only cookies that i have made from a tv cooking show that looked remotely similar is the one from ina garten’s thumbprint cookies .. she is the barefoot contessa .. and the recipe is so easy .. adn well tastes really good ..
    my son asked if we were going to be making lots of dif cookies this yr .. i told him yes, publix (our supermarket) had the bags buy one get one free .. and i got several bags and will just use those this yr .. and maybe make my 2 ingredient fudge (or 3 if u add the 1 tsp of vanilla which is optional) ..
    lots of heartwarming stories on this post .. but i have to agree, the homemade gifts seems to be the ones we all seem to remember ..
    i really wanted to buy those tea towels with the recipe already on them from the tea time magazine .. but for the price of one towel, i could buy several generic towels, buy the ingredients for the recipe and have money left over .. since i am getting a new sewing machine this yr for xmas, which is what i have been wanting for a very long time and everyone is chipping in to buy it for me, i told my daughter i can make my own recipe towels and give away as gifts for next yr .. i think everyone will like that .. yes .. i know.. this yr xmas isnt come and past but i am thinking of next yr ..
    well .. its nice to look ahead of things i guess .. hehehee 😀 ..
    wow .. 300 to 500 dozens of cookies jill? .. i now know why u r exhausted after the holiday rush … i bet they are delish .. and its funny about people asking for ur recipe .. my sister makes the best pumpkin pie ever .. and she finally told us her recipe .. just follow the directions on the libby can of pumpkin ..
    i guess bc she makes it, thats why it tastes so good! .. 😀 .. bc she makes it with love! .. 😀 ..
    this can be a stressful and fun time of the yr .. (to say the least) .. but i found that as long as we have our family, friends and health and of course GOD in our lives .. thats all we need ..
    thank u for all u and hte family do for us .. i know i havent been on in a reg basis .. but i think of everyone often and keep u all in my prayers …

  57. Marcia says

    I bought ONE and only one Christmas magazine this year, read it through and thought, “Why did I buy this??” I hadn’t bought a Christmas magazine for years and when I read that one I knew why. One big advertisement for gifts that no one on my list would want or use, no heartwarming stories, just as Jill said, they advise you to take a bubble bath in stuff that probably costs all outdoors and with my luck it would trigger Hubby’s allergies! There used to be craft ideas and creative ideas for gifts on a budget, now they advertise on the covers creative gift ideas for under fifty bucks–HUH?? I should HOPE so!! but they sure aren’t too much below fifty bucks! These people must be from a galaxy far, FAR away…they sure don’t live in MY world! HA…

  58. Bea says

    Jill, I made some apple butter recently from the recipe from your cookbook and it’s so good. Tastes better than store bought and made the house smell so good and Christmasy. The apples and spices scented the whole apartment because it cooks so long and tastes great when done.

  59. Bea says

    Jill, It’s so wonderful that the apple butter recipe in your cookbook is an old family recipe. Those are the best and it’s so yummy and fresh tasting. Love it. It would make a great gift to give for Christmas too.

  60. Donna B. says

    Hey Jill and Bea:
    I’m wondering if you could use apple butter instead of the oil in a cake mix (like a spice cake?) I used to use some stuff that was a prune puree instead of oil years ago and the cake came out just as moist. I was thinking apple butter might have a great flavor in a pumpkin or spice cake?

    Donna B.

    • says

      Yes you can Donna. Apple butter is really just applesauce that has extra spice in it and cooked down more. Many people use apple sauce in their cakes so this would be the same. In a spice cake it would be delicious for sure.

  61. Donna B. says

    Jill — I know, I’m full of questions today. a nice man at work gave us jars of “guava” preserve and I’ve never seen/had it before and don’t have a clue what to do with it. If I open it and it’s sweet maybe add to a cake mix, make a marinade for a tougher cut of beef? Has anyone ever heard of this stuff?

    Donna B.

    • says

      I haven’t ever had it personally myself but I pretty sure it is like any other type of fruit preserves like apricot, peach etc. and you can use it the same way you use those on toast, bagels for a fruit sauce on angel food cake or anyway you use peach, apricot, strawberry preserves.

  62. Kay Ellicott says

    Something I used to do when I was a kid was get styrofoam in various shapes, glue, and glitter in various colors, and made Christmas ornaments and other decorations (such as for the mantlepiece). This kept me busy for awhile (and out of Mom’s way) and these things were also used for many years. I always made new ones every year though. This had the added benefit of being lots of fun too. I would make sure the child does this on plenty of newspapers though. Makes cleanup a lot easier. Found that out the hard way! I think my favorite was when I spilled glue on one corner of a square, added the glitter, and it came out looking like Santa smoking a pipe!

  63. Stacy says

    Thank you. That article was timely and well worded. I needed a good chuckle especially as things start to feel a little tense with all that I need to get done and you made me smile. Thank you.

  64. Elly Snyder says

    Thanks for the wonderful article on Christmas magazines,so true.i was laughing so hard the dog came to check if I was friend and I get together and do our baking .She is 72 and a wonderful learning so much from her and we get lots done without Bering too tired. We did this for harvest , pies and lots of things.we have filled our freezers,cupboards and best of all memories together without exhausting ourselves.For example who doesn’t love homemade pies?we do 50 to 70 in two days just goofing wouldn’t take as long but we homemaker all our own fillings too.on our own I think we’d only do 4-5 but this way we have a good time and we freeze most of the pies then when someone comes over we just pop one from the freezer to the oven, drink coffee and wait.Everyone has time to wait for it to bake and visit-no stress!-Elly

  65. Beverly says

    LOL I loved your article on reading the Christmas magazine! :-) I had to laugh outloud reading it! I try to make my Christmas a little less stressful by doing simpler things. I have a 9 year old and I will take her and a few of her friends out to do some old fashioned Christmas Caroling! Afterward we will stop by the ice cream parlor and have an ice cream. I do my shopping EARLY, so I don’t fight any crowds and I am not pushed into buying something I really don’t want. I will be sitting on the sofa with my family, sipping hot chocolate and watching our favorite Christmas movies while the crowds push and shove for the things they feel they have to have. I cut down on the menu, too. I used to make pies, cakes, cookies, the list was long. Now, I usually make one favorite dessert. I do like cookies with my hot chocolate but I made up batches of them, shaped and froze them on a cookie sheet. Then I put them in a baggie. I can have a dozen fresh cookies anytime, with no stress!

  66. Jane says

    Amen Sister! I have made all kinds of cookies for mine and my husband’s co-workers, friends and family members in the past and I agree on limiting the types you make. Also Pillsbury slice and bake sugar cookies are awesome and there are lots of recipe variations online using them as a base, Do not feel guilty! A cashier at my local market said she made up one platter of cookies, wrapped them up tightly and froze them marked “Do Not open until December 25th” to keep her sons from sneaking them. Then she just took them out Christmas morning to thaw. I thought that was a great idea. Merry Christmas you two! We love you!

  67. Mary Jane says

    I, too, did a whole whack of baking, candy-making, and cooking for the family for Christmas, especially since we never had any extended family around. I found it exhausting, as I was always trying to save money, make memories and fill the gap that absent grandparents might have filled. A few years back, I was working part-time, and Christmas kind of snuck up on me. I got everything done except the tons of Christmas baking. Do you know what happened??? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! Christmas still came. We all still had more than enough to eat. We all still ate too many sweets. No one was rushed to the hospital with a Christmas cookie deficiency. We all still complained about probably over doing it for treats over the holidays. Some how we got through the great time of testing known as ‘The year I didn’t bake cookies’.

  68. SK Word says

    Dear Jill and Tawra, Years ago, something happened at Christmas time that prompted me to prepare a buffet table rather than a sit-down dinner. I don’t remember what happened that year but the next year our daughter asked if we were going to have a buffet again that year. We decided to do it and thus was born the Christmas buffet which became so much less stress than having a sit-down meal. I can prepare finger foods, quick breads, punch bowl, cut-up veggies with dip and the makings for sandwiches. Everybody seems to enjoy eating what they want, nobody goes away hungry and we seem to eat much less.

  69. Joanie says

    I love the original article and all the replies. For many years, I baked cookies and arranged huge platters of cookies for my husband to share at work- frosted cut out sugar cookies (my specialty) and quite a few others. I would try to do it a just a few days time and afterwards, I was a complete wreck–year after year. I came to the realization that my goodwill and hard work were sorely being taken advantage of. Everyone began to expect the cookies and some people complained when their favorites were replaced with something new. Even though my husband received a lot of praise for the cookies, he started to complain about the cost of baking supplies even though I shopped and selected economic recipes carefully. (To him, homemade should equal free) I finally opened my eyes and saw that God was telling me that enough was enough. Why was it so difficult for me to listen to Him? Now I bake my signature Christmas sugar cookies for family only and I enjoy doing it.

  70. Liz says

    Every time I read this article, I laugh out loud. So funny! But, you forgot the part where you are trying to get the kids ready for the babysitter and their dinner, while trying to get dressed nicely for your own party, inevitably spilling some of their dinner on yourself, making you have to change clothes. :)

  71. Mary Jane says

    Today, I made up the “Poor man’s Fruitcake” from the recipe posted on this site a short time ago. I haven’t tasted it yet, but the smell of it cooking in my house this afternoon was heavenly. We have always loved fruitcake, but I had stopped making it, because the ingredients were so expensive. (All that candied fruit). I actually ended up with three nice loaves, so at my husband’s suggestion, we will try one tomorrow. Thank you for your frugal, fun, outside of the box ideas.

  72. Sarah says

    Plan ahead. Like, a year ahead. After last Christmas, I was fed up with having the fifth argument in so many married years with my husband over Christmas spending, so I started saving. Each week when I’d go to the grocery store, I’d get $5 cash back and put it in my little Christmas jar. The amount I’ve saved is modest since we do simple gifts, but to see chunks debited out of the bank account of the same amount would cause my husband’s head to spin! So a little consistent saving and cash spending has spared both of us stress.

    Along the same vein, I’ve kept track of what everything costs, down to stocking stuffers and treats, so that I can plan my savings for the next year. Since we give our parents pretty much the same thing every year (a photo book of the grandkids), it takes some of the guesswork out of budgeting.

    Also, I keep my ears peeled and listen to what family members show interest in during the year. For instance, my sister has mentioned to me a few times this year how she would love to have pictures of when she was growing up. Since I keep all the family photo albums, I was able to pull most of her pictures, organize them by year, and put them in a nice photo album for her gift. I did the same for my brother and husband. I started the project back in the summer, but now they are almost complete and I don’t have to scramble last minute when I could be blissfully gazing at my Christmas tree while gorging on hot chocolate, candy canes, and Nat King Cole. Which I will be doing, because I have time to now! :)

    Lastly, keep your focus on Christ, and figuring out your priorities will become more obvious for Christmas–and beyond!

  73. Eva says

    about the pies- Before my husband was diagnosed with celiac (no more wheat!), I used to buy frozen pies and slide them into a nice ceramic pie plate before baking. That was my big secret. In hindsight, I’m sorry I sent my daughter the message that it was somehow lazy or shameful to buy something instead of making it from scratch. 7 years ago, I had to go back to full time work, after being an at home mom for a long time. I still struggle with expectations from my in-laws that I will bake and prepare everything I used to for the holidays, when I was home all day.

  74. Mary Jane says

    I just wanted you to know that the “Poor Man’s Fruitcake” is delicious! I cut off a little piece last night before I went to bed, and couldn’t believe how good it was. My husband took a slice in his lunch, and did something he has never done before…he called from work to ask me to leave the cut loaf out from the freezer, as he wants to have it with coffee after work. It is that good. He had just had his slice with his coffee at break time. I plan on sharing this recipe with my family, and will give credit to this website. Thanks again.

  75. phyllis says

    I love looking at all the ideas in the magazines and would love to have time to make more of all those neat ideas but there is a limit to the time and I loved your reminder about that. SO, I have become more adept at saying, “this would be great for next year!” Because in actuality, I start on Christmas in the summer. I have an ETSY shop and sell at craft shows during these months. Time is definitely limited!

  76. Magdalen says

    Thank you, ladies! I loved and laughed at the first sentence then enjoyed the whole article..
    My father was ill when we were little. He had T,B, and had to go into hospital just before Christmas. A couple of years later, when he was better ,he made sewing boxes for my sister and me.They were made of cardboard, covered in pretty wallpaper and they had two drawers that you could pull out using a glued on button, and a lift up lid. Mum put needles and cottons etc in. These were, I think, the most memorable presents we ever had.Thanks for reminding me.


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