Tuesday, September 11, 2012

104 Days Until Christmas

Every year I promise myself that I'm going to be more prepared for the holidays.  This time I won't be stressed out.  This year I won't have nights where I'm staying up until 2:00 in the morning trying to finish up a last minute present. 

The problem is that I never start thinking about the holidays early enough.  It's still summertime but a recent walk through the holiday aisle at Costco made me think, hey, I need to start thinking about getting ready for Christmas.  It drives my husband crazy that retailers pressure us into thinking about holidays two seasons in advance.  "Halloween isn't even here and they've got the Christmas decorations out already?!" he said to me. 

At the time, I agreed that it was a bit ridiculous, but now I'm thinking that it's a good reminder that we don't have as much time as we think to plan for the year end festivities. 

So, this year, even though I feel like it is still too early to think about Christmas, I am starting my planning now so that I can create a bunch of wonderful traditions for my son and not be too tired or overwhelmed to enjoy the holiday season.  My cousin, who has a son a couple of years older than Chris, wrote me a thank you card last year after Christmas saying that having a child in the house made the holidays magical again.  She was absolutely right!

I want this to be our best Christmas ever and I want to start fun holiday activities that become annual traditions.  I want this holiday to be more handmade and less store bought.  I want my son to grow up having memories of baking cookies for Santa, making ornaments for our tree, and hanging stockings with the anticipation of what they will be filled with.  And I want to find more ways of giving gifts that are handmade.

My list of wants seems long and daunting at times, but given that I'm starting my planning about three months in advance of when I usually start, I just might be able to check all those wants off my list!  Here are a few of the ideas I've found so far that I'm hoping to try.

Hot cocoa in a jar.  Who doesn't love a steaming mug full of hot chocolate?  Sure, there are plenty of powder mixes you can buy that will suffice, but by making your own blend, you can easily upgrade it to gourmet status and the fun packaging options are unlimited.  To recreate the wonderful jar of goodness pictured above, you can get the recipe and download free tags here. 
I've got a few mason jars and other jars I've saved that would be perfect for this little handmade gift.  And I'm already thinking of fun ways I can dress up the lid and add colorful tags for a really festive present.
I love just about anything elf-related and this handmade elf boot stocking would be the perfect decoration for my mantle and it looks generously sized so I can stuff it full of little surprises for the munchkin.  You can go here to see all the instructions to make this adorable bit of handmade whimsy.  They provide you with a printable pattern as well as links to other stockings like a cowboy boot or barefoot stocking.  Handmade stockings would beat out a storebought one any day in my book!

Martha Stewart

This is a super simple idea for a DIY advent calendar that I found from Martha Stewart.  I love the gift bags and having them in different sizes makes it easy to add a variety of little treats for your little one or significant other.  It certainly doesn't have to be limited to candy - I know my son would love some Hot Wheels or a little dinosaur.  I've got some craft paper bags that would be perfect for this project but if I start it soon enough, I might try making each bag myself.  With different colored papers and tags, you can make this into a calendar that's extra merry and bright!
I'll definitely be doing some holiday baking this year and one of my favorite treats is peppermint bark.  In the past, I've always bought it from the store, but this year I really want to tackle making it myself.  Williams-Sonoma makes the tastiest peppermint bark that I've ever eaten but I have a hard time forking over the $20 or more for one box.  The thing that really distinguishes their bark from others is the combination of white and dark chocolate layered together.  You can get detailed instructions here on how to make this fabulous treat that's guaranteed to put a smile on the faces of friends and family without putting a strain on your pocketbook.
Those are just a few of the ideas I have for making this holiday a bit more handmade.  I'll be coming up with more as we get closer to December and hopefully I'll be adding some tutorials of my own.  If you've started planning for the holidays, I'd love to hear about it.  Leave me a comment or share some links to projects that have inspired you.

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