Hot Gifts for Christmas!

I may have mentioned that I’m a bit frugal. This frugality could not be better represented than by showing you one of my most beloved possessions: my flat iron.

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It’s been my hair tool of choice for seven years, saving me from my naturally big, wavy hair. It succeeded where other flat irons before it had failed, and I can only assume the price you pay for a flat iron directly relates to its ability to smooth wild, coarse hair. $125 was a steep price to pay, but it was worth every penny.

See that hair?  That was in the morning.  It only gets bigger as the day goes on.

See that hair? That was in the morning. It only gets bigger as the day goes on.

Unfortunately for my flat iron, it has suffered greatly in these seven years. About six years ago, my then 3 year old son came to me with a black cord in his hand. (While it was unplugged, thank the Lord,) he had cut the cord purely out of curiosity. After I had a bit of a freak out over cutting cords and using scissors and a whining “Why did it have to be my super expensive flat iron?!” moment, my husband calmly informed me that he could repair the cord. Well okay then.

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It’s worn out a bit after six years.

Next, the plug decided it had had too many violent meetings with the floor and cracked open. At that point, the plug was replaced.

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After years of use and abuse (mostly from kids pulling it off the counter,  the flat iron began to crack and chip, pulling my hair every time I used it.

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And finally, just a few months ago, the wiring came loose inside the iron, so every few sections of hair, I’d have to shake the iron to make it turn back on.

Despite the amount of time I spend with my flat iron, I just couldn’t justify spending that much money again. Sure it had lasted seven years, but it wasn’t totally dead yet.

My husband, being the incredible gift giver he is, knew I wouldn’t buy one for myself and surprised me with a new flat iron. Luckily for me, he’s big into researching and knows my hair is difficult to work with. He found a great replacement, one I wouldn’t have purchased for myself, and it already showed off today.  I didn’t have to shake it to keep it hot, I didn’t have any hair pulled out from it getting caught in the cracks, and it’s even dual voltage, so it can make an international trip with me next month!

I did say gifts.  My husband’s gift this year came from http://www.mancrates.com. He has yet to find a spicy food he doesn’t like, and he’s apparently building up an immunity to spicy foods in general. I decided to test his taste buds this Christmas with their Hot and Spicy Crate.

You know the sauce is hot when the company hangs little skulls from each bottle and puts the hottest of them all in a coffin.  The shipping speed was incredible, and the guys at http://www.mancrates.com even took time to research ingredients while I was on the phone to make sure they didn’t contain MSG (they don’t).  My husband loved that he had a crate and a small crowbar under the tree and couldn’t wait to see what was inside.  This website is seriously my new go-to site for man gifts.  My dad is getting an Exotic Meats Jerkygram, but my husband loved the crate idea so much that he transferred my dad’s jerky into the crate and resealed it.  It’s sort of payback for my dad doing crazy things with gifts, like wrapping them in umpteen layers of duct tape and not allowing scissors to be used to open them.

What about you, did you have a great Christmas?

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Oh, Christmas Tree(s)

Every year on the day after Thanksgiving, we drive to a Christmas tree farm to choose, cut down, and bring home our tree.  The kids race across the hills, desperate to be the one to find the perfect tree.  Bickering over whose tree is better is part of the fun, and eventually my husband and I choose the winning tree.  (I may or may not actually bring a measuring tape to make sure the tree is the right height for the room before declaring a winner.)

This year, my 11 year old daughter found the tree, a lovely Leland cypress.  It was the right height for the room, didn’t have any brown spots, had a nice even shape, and would fit nicely in the space I had in mind.IMGP9835

 

Despite frequent watering, our Christmas tree quickly became our Crispy tree, and there were more parts of the tree on the floor than on the tree.  This is the second year we’ve lost a tree so soon, after three years of having trees that I’m certain I could’ve left up until February.  My husband suggested that maybe the house is too dry, and no amount of watering can make up for that.  He and I agreed that the hassle of the real tree isn’t made up for by the fun of our tree hunting adventures, so we decided to look for an artificial tree after Christmas.

My husband’s mother works for a large nursery and landscaping company, and their artificial Christmas tree selection is unrivaled (in both quality and price).  When she heard we were looking into artificial trees, she made it her personal mission to find us a tree.  I nearly gagged when she called to say she found a tree, which carried a retail price of $1,195.  Specifically, it’s a Weeping Canadian Fir Christmas tree.  Before I totally blew off the idea of this tree, she assured me that the discount may make me reconsider.  Over 75% off, so the tree would pay for itself with five more years of bare-too-soon trees, not even counting the gas to drive to the farm and back home each year.  We wouldn’t find a better deal after Christmas, so we went to pick up our new tree.

Because we’re hosting four Christmases in our home starting Christmas Eve and continuing through the rest of the week, I decided to undecorate the nearly bare tree and decorate the new tree.  Even removing the ornaments made the rest of the needles fall off, and our kitchen trash can was nearly full with just our sweepings.

I’m guessing we’re the only ones who have already undecorated and then redecorated this year.  But it’s finished, and I think the new tree is beautiful!

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Tasty Traditions

When I was a little girl,  I loved spending the weekend at my grandparents’ house. Every December, my grandmother would set out the ingredients for my favorite treat,  adding each item from memory, the recipe long ago memorized.

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I’m not sure what I enjoyed more – getting my hands sticky with melted marshmallows from shaping the wreath or eating it almost as soon as we finished!

Now that I have children of my own, it’s a tradition I began with them. We make popcorn wreaths to share with different people each year, whether it’s neighbors, my husband’s coworkers, or close friends. (We always make one extra to eat as soon as we finish the last wreath.)

I thought I’d share the recipe here, as a fun (and a little messy) Christmas treat inspiration!

8 cups popped unsalted popcorn
1 cup miniature marshmallows
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup butter
10 drops green food coloring
1 jar maraschino cherries, halved
1 10-inch cardboard cake circle

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Put popcorn in a large bowl.  In a medium bowl, add marshmallows, powdered sugar, and butter. Microwave on high for 4 minutes, stirring twice,until sugar is dissolved and marshmallows are melted. Stir in food coloring until mixture is bright green. Pour over popcorn, tossing with a large spoon to coat evenly. Drop by handfuls around the edge of the cake round, forming a wreath shape. Press firmly with hands to mold. Garnish with cherry halves arranged in threes. Let stand about 30 minutes until set. Store loosely covered in a cool dry place up to 2 weeks.

Do you have any fun traditions?

Dressing Up for Christmas

I love Christmas.  Favorite holiday, hands down.  The foyer of the new house was a blank slate, because there’s no foyer in the old house.  I began shopping, picking up a table for $25,

a few terrariums,

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and some Dollar Tree Christmas village pieces.

A can of white spray paint and a can of metallic spray paint helped with the projects, transforming a red table and a sad little village into a crisp white entry table and decorative accents.

Two of the three terrariums and the orb came from Marshall’s.  The third terrarium came from a local resale shop.  The silver tray was a gift from a friend.  The lamp and shade were purchased at Walmart.  The small cloche at the back of the table was found it in an art shop in Sofia, Bulgaria, and is one of my favorite decorative pieces.  It’s always been tucked away in my bedroom, but I wanted to have it on display in the new house!

The ornaments were clear glass, so I poured a little baby oil inside, swirling to coat completely, then poured in a bit of glitter, swirled and shook to coat the inside.  And done.  Glittery ornaments with no glitter mess!

I filled each of the terrariums with some expired epsom salts, for a realistic snowy scene, then placed a Christmas village piece inside.  All very simple and very clean.  My kids love that some of the village pieces are out, and they’re constantly moving them.  For $1, they can play all they want!

I even said I wasn’t going to do garland on the banister this year, but I had one piece left after hanging garland outside, and it was just the right length!

I decorate a little each day, so things are always changing.  What about you?  Do you decorate all at once or is it a slow process?

Uncluttered Christmas

I’m a purger by nature (and a bit of nurture, too).  My mom is a purger.  My dad is a purger.  My husband’s parents are both NOT purgers, so it’s taken him some time to understand the reasoning behind my throwing open a closet door and announcing “Let’s get rid of half of the stuff in here!”  Does he really NEED thirteen coats?

My love of purging applies to my kids’ toys, too.  Which makes Christmas difficult for me.  I don’t like buying toys that have a limited play life, knowing I’ll be loading up donations in just a few months.  I guess that’s a little something from my dad.  He once literally dumped the contents of a junk drawer into a box, wrapped it, and gave it to my nephew for Christmas.  Before you call “Scrooge” on him, my dad was completely stumped on what to get a kid who has everything, and figured it would at least provide temporary entertainment.  IT DID!!!  All of the adults, myself included, were laughing hysterically as we pulled things out of the box.  I remember my aunt pulling thumb tacks out of the box, howling with laughter and half-fussing at my dad for including those in a gift for a preschooler.

Now, I have FIVE (almost six) KIDS.  We give each child three gifts, because fifteen new things from us, plus umpteen gifts from relatives still makes a nice stack of presents under and around the tree!

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Every year, the kids make lists of things they’d like, and every year, we see the lists gradually shift from “I want every toy in this catalog!!!!!!!!” to “I could really use a _________.”  This year, with us working on the new house and packing things up at the old house, I’m really trying to focus on (mostly) consumable gifts for the kids.  Things that are meant to be used up and therefore not becoming next year’s purge.

As our gift to all of our kids, we’re giving them a membership to a fantastic children’s museum.  There is so much to explore for all of our kids, and they love going so much, it just makes sense.

My firstborn, who is into all things artsy, vintage, and now making tea in my small cast iron teapot, has asked for a locket and tea.  I shop at Republic of Tea for our teas, and decided on Dragon Oolong, Dragon Well, and British Breakfast.  (She’s also into dragons. And prefers loose leaf.)  For her locket, I found this lovely piece on Etsy and knew she’d love it!  Not the typical locket, and she won’t be limited to choosing two pictures.

For my second child, he’s very much into Legos and Lego Hero Factory and train sets and Star Wars.  My logic of “But you have so many of them already, do you really NEED more?!” falls on deaf ears.  Truthfully, he’d probably be happy with the contents of a junk drawer.  Of course, he’d build something from the junk and refuse to ever let me get rid of it.  The house we bought has a gigantic train table in the attic, so we’re buying more track to go with the set he’s been waiting to take out of the box for two years.

The other three are the tricky ones.  They’re still very into toys, but aren’t asking for new ones, either.  Coloring books and crayons would go over well, but then I struggle with feeling like I’ve totally ripped them off.  I’d get them the crafty kit things, except they’d want to keep them forever, and I can’t do that, either.  Now I’m just running out of time to buy gifts since I do most of my shopping online and on Etsy.  (Do you think the girls would let me count a bathroom light fixture as one of their gifts?  A friend of mine found one that I need to check out this weekend!)