Patriotic Christmas Planning

It’s never too early to think of your holiday decoration and gifting plans.  Many people like to have a patriotic or Americana theme to their decor or gifts.  Now is the time to plan for your USA themed Christmas 2012!  Starting as early as tomorrow all those July 4th and Independence Day items will be super discounted or on clearance.  Places you might want to visit for your shopping spree include craft stores like Michael’s, A.C. Moore, and JoAnn’s.  There are also department stores like Wal-Mart and Target and don’t forget those drug stores like Rite Aid and CVS.  Crafty and thrifty readers probably already have a list of items to buy, but most of you are probably wondering “What on earth would I buy now for the holidays”.  Here is a short list of ideas:

  • Decorative items to make into ornaments for your Red, White, and Blue tree
  • Red, white, and blue ribbon to decorate patriotic gifts or use on America themes wreaths.
  • Patriotic or other summer themed scrap-booking materials on discount to use for those thoughtful gifts
  • Outdoor lights and favors to add to your party for the holidays
  • Patriotic fabrics to use in crafting that quilt to give as a gift
  • Anything red and white to use for Christmas (plates, napkins, cutlery, cups, etc)

So much to think about for the next 5 and a half months in preparation for your Christmas!  Get the bargains where and when you can.  I’m sure all of us have someone who would appreciate a hand crafted patriotic Christmas gift.  I think I will be crafting a tiny tree of Americana items for a friend.

Jar Check!

Tonight was the first Friday night of my summer schedule.  I spent lots of time today straightening things, clearing “to-do” piles, and emptying drawers.  Through all of these activities I continually found evidence of Christmas.  A bow saved to use for a gift, A card kept out with a special thought, ribbon, tiny ornament, a list of ideas, etc.  I decided to move all these things to one basket.  I suggest you start a basket or some type of bin to put all your Christmas “stuff” in as you move through the next 5 months.  But, what I spent the most time on today was my Christmas Jar.  It was time to roll up the change and make room in the jar for more money.  If you remember we have discussed a variety of jars related to Christmas.  I have two.  The small one gets all the silver coins and will be used to donate to a person or charity at the holidays.  This will be like in the story Christmas Jar.  The other is all my pennies.  It is a large jar.  I will be using this to buy Christmas presents for family.  Today was the day to count the silver.  I was surprised how much was there.  $186.40!! It has been so easy to collect for this jar.  Every time I come into the house I empty my pockets into the jar- no big deal.  This money has been from the last 5 months.  If it collects at the same rate there will be a nice amount of money to surprise a person with come December.  I hope you have been busy with your jars too.  Natalie will have to let us know how her $5 bill campaign is progressing.  I am sure that she has my total beat!

How are those flowers?

Time to check in on the poinsettia plants.  Those 2011 plants are coming along.  We are six months into this experiment.  I have to admit that in May I was losing hope on these things making it to Christmas 2o12.  In May it was time to cut the plants back way back and to repot them.  After that it was time to water regularly and bring back to the sun.  In June the care plan directs you to wait until you start to see new growth and then move the plants outside to warm and sunny locations.  After a few weeks you are supposed to cut back each sprout by about an inch.  This is to allow the plant to gain some width and not grow tall and spindly.  My challenge has been the move to outside.  We have had an oddly cool start to June and I have not moved the plants to the porch yet.  This next week is supposed to be a return to seasonal temps in the 80s.  Hopefully my 5 pots will make the move to their summer location soon.  I am really excited to see where they go from this point.  Let’s all hope for full and beautiful plants this winter.


Books! The perfect gift for almost anyone.

I love books!  I have hundreds and love to give them as gifts, especially at Christmas.  My nieces and nephew are all under 4 years old but they know that Uncle J brings books!  Christmas is such a nice book giving time.  You can give Christmas books or other books.  Activity books, story books, sticker books, primers, or just a classic picture book.  Sports books, biographies, novels, how-to, and travel might fit the bill for older readers.  The challenge with books is finding them.  Of course you can find just about any book on-line, but you have to know what you’re looking for.  Roaming through a book store provides that chance of discovering the hidden and unexpected find.  The book you didn’t know was written that is perfect for someone.   With fewer and fewer traditional book stores, the shopper must find new ways to discover books.  Try finding that local book sale.  I stumbled upon one last weekend at the Washington County Library in Smithsburg, MD.  Most libraries, in addition to providing so many other amazing programs, regularly host used book sales.  Churches and schools do the same.  These are great opportunities to discover a new book.  Roaming the tables with books spread all over is just a great was to spend an early afternoon.  Books smell good too!

Giving books is a great tradition but the cost could be prohibitive.  New books are so expensive and I like to give more than one book as a gift.  A pair of books seems so much better!  To make your gifting dollar go further look for those used books.  In addition to the book sales you can get many great finds at your local garage or yard sales.  The most you might pay for a book there is maybe a dollar.   Remember at most yard sales the goal of the seller is to just get rid of stuff.  Find 5 or 6 books you want and make an offer- I bet they’ll take it.  The other great benefit of giving used books is you can read them all before giving them, so shop early and read up.  Tomorrow Natalie and I are off on a yard sale quest to find Christmas treasures and bargains. I have books on my list and hope to find a few classic holiday titles for my nieces and nephew.  We’ll be sharing our results on Monday’s podcast so be sure to check it out!


Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Today is the day that the world is Irish, or at least the day everyone celebrates the life of a Christian saint in their own special way.  Like Saint Nicholas, Saint Patrick is a Christian patron Saint.  Like Nicholas, Patrick has origins most don’t know.  Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, but he was not Irish!  Patrick was born to Roman parents living as occupiers in the British colonies.  He was actually born in Scotland (sure to be a helpful bit of trivia to Scots when arguing with the Irish in a pub).  Patrick was captured when he was about 14 years old and taken to Ireland to serve as a slave.  He tended to the sheep and helped herd the animals.  While there he learned much about the druids and the pagans that were common in the country.  Six years later he escaped and fled back to Britain.  He supposedly had dreams after that of the Irish people calling him back.  Patrick had a calling and became a priest, later rising to the role of Bishop.  In 433 he was assigned to spread the word in Ireland and returned to the emerald isle.  Patrick preached to all and converted nearly the entire population.  He had many disciples and many of them became saints as well.  One of the stories of the time of St. Patrick tells how he used the shamrock to explain the trinity to the people.  This may well be true since it was a familiar plant to the pagans who used it as a symbolic plant to represent the rebirth of life each spring.  It was also a symbol of the druid/pagan triple goddess.  There are many myths connect to the life of St. Patrick, probably with the lives of many saints.  Biggest myth is that he drove the snakes from Ireland.  Didn’t happen- no snakes in Ireland to drive out!

We’ve been discussing all week how the Irish celebrate Christmas so I thought we might look briefly at how they celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.  In America the day is spent with loud, raucous parades and festivals, mostly centered on drinking beer, green or otherwise.  Get your green clothes, green hair dye, green bagels, and green rivers ready (St. Pat’s color was originally blue FYI).  The food for our American celebration of the Irish saint?  Corned beef and cabbage of course!  In Ireland the day is a religious holiday and a holy day of obligation to the devout.  Most Irish go to church and spend time with family and friends.  Some large cities have parades today, mainly in response to the American celebrations held over the last century.  The Irish meal will center on bacon and roasted chicken.  No green light-up blinky hats, no sparkly green beads or glasses, no green mugs hung on a string around your neck.

Time to make a connection to Christmas right?  Well here’s my hint for tying our American celebration of the Irish to Christmas. Now is the time to buy!  Buy all those great green items you can to save for Christmas use.  While I was out today I saw lots of things I will go back to get tomorrow on sale.  There were great green plates, napkins, and plastic utensils.  There were some nice green table linens and serving trays/bowls.  I even had my eye on some green decorative sugar and cupcake wrappers.  There were some cute little green clothes for the kids too.  These could be bought as gifts for the holidays- just need to add the months to the age to know what size to buy.  The trick is to remember you have all these March bargains when it gets to be December.

Countdown Podcast #8- 314 Days to Go!

Couple’s First Christmas– Click to hear this week’s podcast.

This week we take time to talk about the changes and new challenges that the newlyweds meet at the holidays.  No matter when the nuptials, at some point you will meet your first Christmas as a couple.  What to do on the special day?  Which traditions are kept?  What new traditions are started?  There are many great resources to help guide the way.  Check out K. Jason Krafsky’s blog- Marriage Junkie.

Heads-up for our readers:  We kick off Presidential Christmas week on Wednesday.  Check out all our facts and trivia!


Countdown Podcast #4: 342 Days to Go!

Bills, Boxes, and Blues – Click to hear this week’s Podcast

This week our discussion focuses on holiday bills, boxing up your Christmas wears, and the post holiday blues.  We share thoughts on our own 2011 holiday budgets and plans for saving.  Storage ideas for containers and labeling come up, as well as where to put it all.  We begin our sharing of ideas for dealing with that long time from Christmas to spring (Ordinary Time seems like the best descriptor I can come up with, although it’s not my creation).  As always we want to hear your ideas and thoughts on the topics too.  Drop us an email or post a comment here.  You can also check us out on Twitter and Facebook and share there.  Get your snowmen all lined up for next week!