It’s coming on Christmas, and I wish I had a river I could skate away on, but I don’t so… I’m trying to keep things simple. When people have asked me what my kids want for Christmas, I’ve mentioned experience gifts (movie tickets, etc.), but also a few “things,” knowing that sometimes people want to see the look on a little kid’s face that only a thing can bring.
Certain activities are not happening this year, and I feel relieved to not be doing them: Christmas cards; outdoor lights (unless hubs decides to take it on, but so far, no); homemade teacher gifts. It’s looking like gift cards for the teachers. I’ve decorated the inside of the house, but more sparingly than usual, and I am definitely getting rid of some of the decorations that have accumulated, after Christmas.
For the gifts that I have to buy for my kids and others, I am trying to buy used or local or made-in-the-USA. Generally, that is rather where I would see my dollars go. The other benefit is that when I take most regular stores off the table like that, I’m less inclined to buy dumb stuff (dumb to me, anyway). Impulsive, oh-well-its-Christmas stuff, stuff I’d be trying to sell or give away not too long after.
Tuesday I picked up some Crayola markers for the kids. Crayola = American owned, and mostly American made, as you may know if you’ve ever visited the Crayola factory in Pennsylvania.
Thursday, I searched for American-made dollhouses online. Rather a convoluted search, taking into account used vs. new, Barbie-size vs. small-doll size, plastic vs. wood, and of course, shipping times. Upshot: Buying a nice, Barbie-size, made-in-the-USA wooden dollhouse will set you back big bucks. Biiig bucks. I could get a plastic US-made one for cheap, but I’m not crazy about it aesthetically. All the ones I really like (KidKraft, mostly) are made abroad. It looks like I will have hunt around for a used one, in which case its origins matter a bit less.
I had been thinking about getting my daughter an American Girl doll, but they are made in China, and frankly she’s not that into dolls of that size. She is more into Barbie size and smaller, figures that she can act out stories with. I also think she (and Sebastian) would like a play kitchen or some other kind of backdrop for their pretending. (Actually, a toy office or police station would be best, based on what I hear when they play.) I’m going to look at a play kitchen someone is selling on Facebook tomorrow.
Update: I was able to get both a play kitchen and a Barbie-doll house, both by KidKraft, off the Facebook yard sale sites! They are picked up and hidden away! The seller of the doll house also threw in Barbies, Barbie clothes, furniture and a car!
Tuesday, I also did some shopping for someone who gave me money and asked me to pick out things for them to give my kids and my nephews. So I did spend some time in Carter’s and Old Navy, since I wasn’t beholden to my own rules in this case. And it was fun. I like cute brand-new clothes, I do. It’s nice to have nearly everything available in the size you need. And for little kids and babies, who can permanently destroy an outfit with one bout of diarrhea, spending a lot of money on new American-made clothes doesn’t make much sense. Used clothes are ideal, but again, those formula stains and poopy stains can make them hard to come by. So I enjoyed buying those new clothes. But then I headed to Once Upon a Child, a consignment store I’d never been in, to see if I could score a Christmas dress for Gemma, and I did 🙂 Very pretty fancy dress for $10. I can’t believe I’d never been in there before (it’s about 20 minutes away). I also got black pants for Aidan, who needs them for a concert he will be in. So much cheaper, in these cases, than buying new. Things these kids will probably literally wear once or twice.
Another day, I spent time agonizing between buying new books off Barnes and Noble’s website (which would support our school’s fundraiser) and buying used books off Amazon, for gifts. This was simply an environmental/frugal concern, not a Made in the USA thing. As it turned out, the used books in some cases cost slightly more. I ended up buying some from both sites. Books are tricky. These books are already printed, so if I don’t buy the new ones, someone will, or they will end up at discount stores or something. We don’t want publishers to go out of business (no books??). I don’t know. I’d rather support the resellers, though, and give a used book another chance at life.
(For Barnes and Noble, I remembered I had a $15 gift card! Woot!)
So I mentioned in my last post that I wanted to make a wreath. On Monday, I walked up toward the park on a mission to find more fallen evergreen branches. A few blocks from my house, I scored big-time: someone had left a giant pile of branches AND holly tree branches on the curb, trimmings from their yard I guess. I felt a little weird stuffing them in my bag, but it was the middle of the day and no one was around.
That other big branch in the picture, I found on the way back to my house, but ended up not using it in the wreath.
The wreath makes me so happy. It checks all the boxes. Homemade, natural, free, scavenged, repurposed, old-fashioned, seasonal, local. And it smells good.
Speaking of smells good, I also recycled some old candle wax into new candles. All it took was a trip to Michaels for candle wicks (and yes that was all I bought… although I did go back another day and buy posters for the kids). I followed this tutorial. Now I get more life out of this orange-clove-scented candle that I love.
Wednesday night, the kids and I had an impromptu trip downtown after dinner. I just felt like getting out of the house and seeing Christmas lights. It was simple yet fun — we went to the library, played with some toys and checked out a few books, then continued down to the Pop Shop, where they had ice cream and I had hot chocolate. Ran into one of their teachers in the library.
Christmasy and cheery. I need cheer on these short days.
Next year maybe I will try making an Advent calendar. I was inspired by this blog’s calendar, which is more seasons/nature focused than religious. I went so far as to write out a list of ideas for my own, but we’re too far along in the season now to start a calendar, I think. And I just don’t have the time. Next year.
In food news, I made peach muffins one day with peaches from the summer, but the peaches did not taste that great 😦
I also tried roasting a pumpkin whole and it turned out well. Definitely easier! That produced about 2 cups of puree which is now in the freezer.
We’ve mostly been eating dinner at home, but I did have two lunches out recently — Saladworks and Boston Market — that were costly. Hubs and I also got to go out to a grownups dinner last Friday. This morning I picked up my Hillacres Pride pre-order so I will have plenty of meat for a while.
After a hectic week, today we are relaxing and will probably go get our tree later on. Tomorrow, maybe some cookie/bread baking? I have to use up the other veggies and fruits in the freezer.