Sunday, November 7, 2010

My Plans for having a Handmade Holiday


Home for the Holidays
Well, it looks like we will be “home” for the holidays this year. By “home” I mean Montana. If things had gone at all according to our original plans, we would currently be in Raleigh, North Carolina. Things did not go according to plan. The plan got massively derailed. Oh well, part of life is learning to roll with the punches I suppose. 

The holidays typically bring snow here in Montana. Lots of snow. This year we’ve gotten lucky so far because it is already into November and all we’ve had is a little bit of frost on the car windows in the morning. Usually, it has snowed by the 31st of October. Usually, it snows ON the 31st of October either right before or right during trick-or-treating. This year, this year I am holding out for no snow. That is a totally unrealistic hope, but still, I can wish can’t I?

This year we are really hoping for a more handmade holiday. We usually run around trying to buy and shop for the boys and anyone else we can think of, but this year we are incredibly limited on funds due to Chris losing his job in May. Finding a new job has proven to be difficult. He has since started school so that he can get more training to hopefully find a good job. For this year, that means holidays on a budget. We plan to cook, bake, and make most of what we give for gifts. Some of the things we give will come from Artfire. I think handmade gives that extra little love, don’t you? You should check out www.artfire.com. I never knew there could be so many different things in one place! Even if you cannot make it, you can bet that there is someone on Artfire who does! The amount of talent on that one website is astounding.  

Since our entire family lives right here, we usually have an extended Christmas. With all of our family living here, we try to visit everyone. This year, it will be a little more extended with the divorce of my parents. Christmas Eve I typically visit my parents. This year will probably be no different. I suppose I will start with my mother since Dominic seems to get wound up as time goes on throughout a day and I would much rather the visit be peaceful than the typical angry teenager stuff he prefers to display. Maybe we’ll get lucky and he won’t be a Grinch. Mom just moved into a small apartment after her and Dad divorced. She is already having such a time trying to figure out where to put her things that I honestly do not know what to get her. I hate to add to the pile. I was thinking of possible giving her a handmade coupon book (http://www.splitcoaststampers.com/resources/tutorials/couponbook/). Maybe I could make one for a free coffee out with me, one for a free day of crafting together and other stuff like that. It is small, won’t take up much room, and will encourage our time together. For Dominic, he has really wanted an onyx necklace. I might see how well I can make men’s jewelry this year for him. Mom asked me what I wanted for Christmas and I, of course, started rattling off every crafting supply store I could think of with the suggestion of a gift card. She said that crafting supplies would not be for me because I make the items and sell them. She wants me to choose something that would be only for me. I had honestly never given it much thought past the crafting supplies, so I guess I will have to think about that a little. 

Our next visit on Christmas Eve will be to my Dad. Finding gifts for him is almost impossible. I bought him this wonderful Galileo Thermometer one year and it is still in the box. I bought him a heated massager another year. You guessed it, still in the box. What do I get this man that won’t end up just staying in whatever box it came in?  We intend to give him a picture of the boys. Other than that, I was thinking maybe a care package of things I know he likes. I may possibly create a coupon book for him as well, only for things like running errands or cooking him a meal. 

Christmas Day we really try to sleep in a little and, since the boys usually stay up so late because they are excited, we are typically blessed with a late start to Christmas morning. The boys are also very good about letting us make our cup of coffee and get the camera ready before diving in to Christmas presents. Once the boys have opened their gifts, we open ours from each other. Each of the boys has been begging for a necklace or bracelet made by me, so that will probably be included in their Christmas gifts this year. They are the best fans of my jewelry! Making boy jewelry is rather difficult though because beads are typically so sparkly. I think I will have to search out some masculine ideas. I have a couple of beading magazines that should hopefully be a great source of inspiration. For Christopher this year, I always try to make him a new and exciting coupon book. He loves them. I think he still has the very first one I ever made him. He asks for the coupons back when he uses them to place them in a box he has for memories and the like. How sweet is that?! I usually also try to get Christopher a WOW card since he enjoys the game so much and some necessities like slippers or lounging pants. He is actually quite easy to shop for. Necessities or computer stuff and he is a happy man. 

Christmas Afternoon is usually spent at my mother-in-law’s house. Everyone typically brings something yummy. Ami usually brings her handmade chocolates and cookies. I bring two of my favorite recipes: Appleberry Salsa and Sundried Tomato & Garlic Dip. Everyone loves them and requests them again each year. 

AppleBerry Salsa came from a Pampered Chef Mini Book when I was selling Pampered Chef. I chop the fruit extremely small to make it more like a salsa. We use apple cinnamon chips that you can purchase at Target. It is SO good. I also typically double the recipe.

Apple Berry Salsa (The Pampered Chef)
2 medium Granny Smith apples
1 pint strawberries, diced (about 1 ½ cups)
2 kiwi, peeled and diced
1 small orange
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons apple jelly or apricot jam
1.                   Peel, core and slice apples. Coarsely chop apple slices. Dice strawberries and kiwi. Place fruit in bowl.
2.                   Zest orange to measure 1 teaspoon zest. Juice orange to measure 2 tablespoons juice. Add orange zest, juice, brown sugar and jelly to fruit mixture; mix gently. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
3.                   Spoon into serving bowl. Serve with cinnamon chips.  

Yield: 3 cups (16 servings, 3 tablespoons each)

To be honest, I’m not sure where I found the recipe for the Sun Dried Tomato & Garlic Dip. Regardless, it is an awesome recipe. I love it. I typically just serve it with a variety of different crackers, but I really prefer Ritz Crackers with it best. I tend to double this recipe too since there are 13 people when Chris’ whole family gets together.
 
Sun-Dried Tomato & Garlic Dip

1 tub (8 oz.) Philadelphia Cream Cheese Spread
½ cup Miracle Whip Dressing
½ cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained, chopped
2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh chives
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients until well blended.
Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve with crackers and cut-up vegetables, if desired.
Makes 16 servings, 2 Tbsp each.

We all spend a good part of the day enjoying the yummy treats brought by everyone and chatting. This is, of course, after the children get to open the presents brought to them by their aunts and their grandparents. Gift exchanges between the adults are usually lost among watching the children open their gifts. This year I am hoping to make Chris’ mother a tote to carry her things in when she goes to dialysis. I’m not sure if she has something like that and I know she spends a lot of time up there. I’d love to give Chris’ father this cute little fish bookmark I found while looking around Artfire. (http://www.artfire.com/modules.php?name=Shop&op=listing&product_id=136627). I think it is so cute and he loves to read and to fish…so it is perfect. His sister Stephanie asked for a set of handmade bows and cards this year. I found the tutorial for the bows on CafeMom in one of my groups. (http://www.cafemom.com/group/47724/forums/read/10400489/December_How_To_Handmade_Bows). I’m not sure if you can see it without joining the group though. You’ll have to let me know. I am at a loss for Dwight, Burt, and Matthew. I’m still thinking of ideas for them and I welcome ideas for those hard to shop for men! Ami will probably get a pink handmade piece of jewelry from me since pink is her favorite color. Jim and Cody are two more that I never know what to get them for Christmas. Again, I welcome ideas for hard to shop for people (Jim is an adult and Cody is in the 6th grade now) While the adults chat, the boys all play together. Dinner is usually served a little later and usually consists of some type of meat (such as turkey or ham) and then whatever anyone has decided should go with it. It is usually rather eclectic, but it is usually very good. Sometimes we just decide to forego the large meal in favor of enjoying snack foods. In this case, we also make little sandwiches, little smokies, and a lot of other things that I’m not sure if you could call them healthy, but they sure are good! 

We usually leave around the boys’ bedtime and, after we’ve put away their new toys and our new goodies that were leftover, we snuggle in for a relaxing evening, just my husband and me, with a sigh of relief that we survived another holiday at “home”. And we promise ourselves that next year we will plan ahead and have our shopping and making and planning done by July. Somehow, that never ever happens though!

This post is in response to a contest posted by Artfire. Share Your Handmade Holiday Plans, WIN a Canon DSLR. Check out the contest here: (http://www.artfire.com/win-a-camera). I’m not sure if a new camera will help my photos any, but it sure cannot hurt, right?

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