Simply Celebrating Christmas!

Simply-celebrating-christmas-large

As I sat here, wracking my brain for the right way to introduce a carnival on ways to simplify our Christmas celebrations and keep them focused on what's most important, I stumbled across this post and realized that this is the most important thing to remember, no matter how great our tips and advice and strategies for Christmas bliss may be:

 "…So let’s humbly concede that we can’t carry out even the most ordinary
of Christmas preparations apart from God’s help. Let’s consult God,
acknowledging him in all our ways, while not forgetting Mr. Bridges’s
confident assertion: “He loves to be consulted!”

Bottom line: We can't make the Christmas season run any smoother, become any less stressful, or be any more joyful by ourselves. Just as in every other area of life, we are absolutely, critically, solely dependent on God and His astounding grace as we seek to make our Christmas celebrations worthy of all that He is and has done for us.

I have by no means got the simple Christmas thing down pat (lest you actually thought that I might have!). It is something that my husband and I are making a concerted effort to do, though, as we make our way down this unknown path of establishing Christmas family traditions and learn to effectively communicate the meaning of Christmas to the little eyes watching us. It's a challenge that I am grateful for, because it makes me re-evaluate what we are doing and why.

Here are a few of the things that I am personally doing to live simply this Christmas season:

*Instead of writing Christmas cards, we get photo cards printed out at Costco. It's relatively inexpensive (50 cards for $18), and I simply order online, then go pick them up a day or two later. I put them in envelopes, address them, and I'm done. I love it!

Christmas star lights
*We don't do outside decorations or lights. Though they're beautiful, they cost money, electricity, storage space and my husband's time to put them up and take them down. I figure I'll let others do it, and then go and enjoy their neighborhoods instead! :)

*On my husband's side of the family, there are 8 adults (including us), so we draw names each year and that way we only have to purchase 2 gifts instead of 6. At this point, we don't buy for each other's children, either (they get thoroughly spoiled by grandparents and their own parents). This means less cost and time spent looking for gifts, and also that we can put more thought and effort into the gifts that we do buy

*I try not to plan ahead to do much in December, knowing that the month will fill up quickly enough on it's own. There is no need to add extra obligations to an already full month!

*We start thinking about and purchasing/making gifts in November at the latest, with the goal of being finished by early December. This keeps last minute stress and rushing to a minimum… ahhhh. I'm almost done this year, as I write this post. All that's left are 2 gifts to buy, and a few things to make with my daughter and by myself (but we already have all the supplies, and it will be enjoyable do to together or in the evenings when the kids are in bed)

*I don't do small gifts, baskets, baking, etc. for friends. It's not that I wouldn't love to, or that I don't think it's a lovely, thoughtful gesture, but quite simply we have so many beloved friends and it would stretch our budget and my time to the max. A simple card, a hug and time spent together is usually just as meaningful.

*I go easy on the Christmas decorations. I have one large basket (quite large- it's similar to the size of a hope chest), that I store all my Christmas items in. It all has to fit in there, so I can't get too elaborate! My decorations are not fancy, but I do the best with what I have, trying to make things homey and I can always complete it within a couple of hours (aside from doing the tree with our family).

Gift box
*For our children, we have decided to do 1 gift per child (we kept it at $40 each) and they will each have just a couple of stocking stuffers that I am making myself (a hat/mitten/scarf set I am sewing for my daughter, and some new bibs and maybe a cloth toy for our little guy, and some fruit bars or cookies).

*We try to find a couple of ways to give to others each year. The point is not to make ourselves look or feel good, but mostly to reinforce to our selfish little selves (because if we're honest with ourselves, we all struggle with being selfish, don't we?) that it's not about us and to help us to look beyond ourselves. We usually contribute to Christmas hampers for those in need, sometimes give specifically to a family that we know is in hard times, or donate extra to a ministry or charitable organization.

*One tradition I had as a teen and young adult was to read one book each December, that helped me to focus on Christ and His coming. Now, my focus is more on finding ways to do this with my children, through our Jesse Tree, Christmas activities and crafts, and books we read together.

Now it's your turn… won't you share with us how you and your family simply celebrate Christmas?

Share about it on your blog, and come back and leave your name and url below! If you've recently written a post on simplicity at Christmas, please feel free to link to that post instead of writing something new. Use the graphic above if you like, and simply (see, it's all about the simplicity here, folks!) link back to this post.

If you don't have a blog, I really welcome your thoughts in the comments! 

Q&A- Confusion with Soaking Grains

Here's a recent question from my inbox:


…What I am getting is that all grains that I use need to be soaked,
whether they are in the grain form or milled (flour) form. To me that
would include: rice, barley, wheat, spelt, kamut, oats, wild rice, and
then the flours from these types of things (mainly I use spelt and
wheat).
 
What I do not get is do all of these things need to be soaked
first. Like if I want to make some brown rice, I normally take the dry
rice and add it to boiling water and I have rice to eat 30 min later.
If I am making bread, I scoop out whatever cups of flour I need and use
it. Are there some things that do not need soaking?

 
I noticed that a lot of the things seem to require dairy to soak
in. Neither I or my daughter can have dairy. I don't want to use lemon
juice or vinegar if it gives the grains a sour taste. I want my food to
taste the same it does now.

Nola

 
Are there others of you out there that are just as confused? Allow me to try to put some of that confusion to rest!

What needs to be soaked?

Pretty much everything- oats, wheat, spelt, kamut, barley, rye, all of it.

Oatmeal flakes
The one possible exception I have come across is rice. It seems that (according to Nourishing Traditions
), rice can be eaten without being soaked. In fact, Nourishing Traditions includes both unsoaked rice recipes (though it cooks slower and longer- 1-3 hours instead of 30-45 minutes), in addition to soaked recipes.

How do I go about soaking everything before I want to make it?

Basically, you just learn to put it into your schedule of meal planning and kitchen work. So, if you know that you want to make biscuits with stew on Tuesday, and quinoa on Saturday, you might add soak flour to Monday's to-do list and soak quinoa to Friday's list.

Initially, it takes a bit of forethought and I would often discover days where I had forgotten to soak what I had planned to make. If I could swap my meals around, I would doo so and then do the necessary soaking for the next day. If I couldn't, I did without the soaking and made a mental note to consider the soaking time the next time I planned to make that meal.

I've noticed that most other "traditional food" bloggers include their soaking tasks with their daily meal plan. I do the same thing in my planner. I don't always remember to do it during the day, but I try to make a point of going through my planner before I go to bed, to see if there's anything I need to get going for the next day.

Do I need to use dairy for soaking?

Nope, you don't! You can also use lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. You would add these in the same amounts as you would when a recipe calls for dairy.

If it calls for a cup of dairy, you can just substitute a Tbsp of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, then fill the rest of the cup up with water. The results won't be exactly the same, but if you're already on a dairy-free diet, you're probably used to that. On a bit of a side note- I often cut the diary required in my baking/grain recipes by half, just because I'm cheap, and usually no one is the wiser. It truly doesn't make much difference, in most recipes anyways.

For more on this, see Soaking Methods for the Dairy Intolerant.

Will it still taste the same?

Hmmm… depends. In most recipes I don't notice that it tastes a whole lot different, as far as tasting sour. Now, I usually use cultured dairy (kefir, yogurt, etc.) in my recipes, so perhaps their sour taste is a bit more mild. Occasionally, though, I do use lemon juice.

One place I notice a sour tinge to the flavor is in oatmeal. I've gotten used to it, and it's not really strong, but it is there. I've heard that rinsing the oatmeal and adding fresh cooking water helps remove the flavor. Personally, I don't feel like it's worth the hassle, so I don't do it.

I don't think that my breads or baking have any sourness to them. Are they different than unsoaked products, though? Yup, they are. Baked goods are often a little bit denser (but not always), and they do take longer to bake. Some things are nicer- I really like grains like millet, quinoa and rice soaked, because they seem a bit softer or lighter to me.

Best of all, soaking makes grains sit better with me. I have a hard time digesting unsoaked grains, or ones that are raw (soaked, but not cooked), or only lightly cooked. Soaking and proper cooking really enhances my digestion, and that is so very worth it to me!

A few more Q&A on Soaking Grains (these links are all from Passionate Homemaking, who answered some soaking questions a while back)..

Any other questions? Fire away and I'll do my best to answer them! :)

Toxins, schmoxins

Ever wondered why people are making such a big fuss about toxins in this and that? Why do itty bitty amounts of harsh cleansers and fragrances in shampoos, or minute pesticide residues in food, or trace amounts of chemicals that seep into our water, really matter?

In fact, forget the why. Perhaps the better question is do they even matter?

This is a video that I’ve been aching to show you all ever since the Baby Purity Conference back in October.

Grab a hot cup of something and sit down for 20 minutes to watch this engaging and extremely worthwhile video (while you’re at it, ask your husband to watch it, too- Ryan and I watched it together a few nights ago and he said it made an impression on him).

This video was put together by EWG (Environmental Working Group), an incredible non-profit organization, dedicated to researching toxic chemicals and contaminants, informing us (the consumers and parents) of what they are finding, telling us how to avoid these toxins and even lobbying to help change legislature and put protective bills into place (in the USA, where they are based, though most of their information and research is entirely relevant to those who live outside the USA as well).

Sometimes I am so grateful that there are others out there, doing the research so that I don’t have to. I’m a busy mom, and I simply can’t read up on every new toxic chemical or brand of toothpaste or how to keep my baby as safe as possible. I wish I could, but I can’t.

If you’ve never done so before, please check out their incredible resources:

Skin Deep Beauty Database (an extensive database of most major brands of toiletries and beauty products, their ingredients and their safety levels)

Shopper’s Guide to Pesticide in Produce

Their Website (full of research articles, pollution solutions and more)

Enviroblog (where they keep us up-to-date on the latest news on environmental and health related concerns)

Have you watched this video yet? What did you think of it?

Coming up- Simply Celebrating Christmas!

Simply-celebrating-christmas-large
Looking for ways to keep your Christmas simple, stress-free and Christ-focused this year? Me too!

Just wanted to remind you that this Saturday, December 6, we'll take a short hiatus from the regular Living Simply Saturday carnival, and instead focus on simplicity in our Christmas celebrations.

I'm eager to read your posts on how your family celebrates, how you simplify your gift giving, decorations, or food preparations, how you shift the focus back onto giving and serving and loving others and how you keep Christ at the center of all that you do (it doesn't matter whether your post is serious, practical, spiritual, informative- it's all good!).

Please join me and help spread the word! I'm so looking forward to this carnival, and so at a loss for intelligent or interesting things to say at the late hour that I'm posting this (and that is why I shouldn't be blogging at nearly 11pm when I'm tired as can be!), so suffice it to say I'll see you Saturday!

Scrumptious Gingerbread Cake

There is nothing like the smell of warm gingerbread, wafting out of the oven on a cool winter day…

This is my favorite gingerbread cake recipe, which I made for my daughter’s 4th birthday party. Guess somebody else thought warm gingerbread sounded just right, because they asked me to post the recipe, so here it is!

Cake-at-abbie's-birthday

Gingerbread Cake
 
Recipe type: Desserts and Sweets
Ingredients
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar (I used a mix of Rapadura and Coconut Sugar, because that's what I had- it worked wonderfully- I think using either one entirely would be great and I'm sure it could also be adapted for use with honey)
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup molasses
  • ½ Tbsp. cinnamon
  • ½ Tbsp. nutmeg
  • 1 Tbsp ginger
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 2 cups flour (wheat is fine, but you can easily substitute spelt or kamut, and possibly other flours)
  • ⅔ cup boiling water
  • 1 Tbsp baking soda
Instructions
  1. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs and beat. Add molasses. Mix all well.
  2. Stir flour, baking powder and spices together in a separate bowl.
  3. Dissolve baking soda in boiling water.
  4. Add water mixture and dry ingredients to creamed butter mixture alternatively (a bit of water, a bit of dry, etc.).
  5. Bake at 350 F for 40 minutes.
Notes
(This is not a soaked flour recipe, which is the only kind I usually use. However, it's a rare treat and I needed a cake that was simple to make and guest-pleasing but not entirely unhealthy, so this fit the bill. It could definitely be made with sprouted flour, which would get rid of the issue of the unsoaked flour.)

 

And the icing on the cake, of course…

Cream Cheese Honey Icing
 
Recipe type: Desserts and Sweets
Ingredients
  • 1 pkg cream cheese (softened)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1-2 Tbsp honey (depends how sweet you like it)
  • raw milk
Instructions
  1. Add all to a small mixing bowl, including a few Tbsp of raw milk. Start mixing with handheld beater, and slowly add more milk until you achieve the consistency you like.
  2. Taste many times, just to make sure it still tastes good. Share the beaters with your 4 year old and feel like a kid again.

 

To make a colored icing, add a little less milk and instead thaw some berries to mix in. I use raspberry for red (but really more of a pink) coloring, blackberry for purple, and blueberry for (what else?) blue. You can see above that I didn’t color my icing this time, but put frozen raspberries around the edge (note- frozen raspberries will melt and drip all over the white icing!) If you’re brave, you can try using liquid Chlorophyll for green. Any ideas for yellow or orange?

 

 
 

Nutritional Foundations: Finding high quality sources for a whole foods diet

Apples in baskets at market
Only slightly long winded (seriously, it's a talent of mine!), it's time to end this series on how to lay the best nutritional foundation by starting with the foods you use. I'm hoping to end it with a bang, and leave you with something entirely, utterly practical and helpful!

I wanted to compile as many resources as I possibly could to help give you a bit of a jump start in your search for better, local sources. This list is not complete (not by a long shot!) but I think that it's a great start, and I'm very much hoping for your help in continuing to add to it!

General Resources:

Local Harvest (Excellent US resource for farms, CSA's, farmers markets, co-ops, and more)

Eat Well Guide (Includes product and location searches, as well as local guides for each US state and Canadian province with long lists of farms, markets, delis, etc. and even a tool that  helps you plan your next trip to include wholesome, local eating- this is definitely worth looking at!)

Grass-fed, free range meat and poultry:

Eat Wild (primarily USA and fairly extensive Canadian listings)

Seeds of Health- Grass Fed Meat Producers (UK)

Grass Fed Meats Online (seems to bring together producers from all over the US, and is actually run through Amazon.com, so I assume they ship anywhere Amazon ships, though it may possibly only be US).

Thundering Hooves (all kinds of pasture-finished meats and poultry- they will ship by UPS, or deliver to Puget Sound, WA area- thanks Michelle!)

Raw, grass-fed milk:

Real Milk (though I have searched and searched, this is the main site I have been able to find. Fortunately, it is quite extensive, and includes Canada and international countries, mostly in Europe, Australia and New Zealand)

Local Harvest (there isn't a big focus on raw milk, but from the homepage, you can do a type "raw milk" into the product search, and see if anything comes up for your local area- again, this is US)

Naturally grown, organic and/or local produce:

Eat Kind (directories for Canada, USA and some international- provides links to smaller, more focused directories for CSA's, farmers markets, organic growers, health food stores, etc.)

Local Harvest- (excellent resource for finding farms, farmers markets and CSAs)

Canadian CSA List 

General Grocery Items (teas/coffee/herbs/spices/oils,etc.)

Frontier Coop (seasonings, flavor extracts, food mixes, teas, body care, etc. Also, they have a wholesale site. Thanks Michelle!

Hummingbird Wholesale (sweeteners, oils, spices, grains, beans, nuts and seeds, etc. Thanks Michelle!)

Mountain Rose Herbs (herbs and spices, oils including coconut oil, teas and more- Thanks Michelle!)

Cafe Mam (fair trade coffee- wholesale- thanks Michelle!)

Grocery Co-ops and delivery services:

Spud.ca and Spud.com

Azure Standard (excellent source for bulk grains, baking supplies, general groceries- well, really anything bulk!)

Coop Directory Service (American- extensive list of co-ops by state)

Food Coops and Other Coop Resources (mostly American again, with just a few international listings- Canada, Australia, Europe)

Ontario Natural Food Co-op (this is the only co-op I could find for Canada- surely there are more out there? Where are they?)

Ethical Superstore (UK- not much for bulk sizes, but they do carry a lot of organic groceries for delivery)

Suma (natural foods co-op in UK)

Organic Grains, Beans and Legumes:

Paul's Grains (wide variety of bulk grains- seems to be only US shipping, though I can't tell for sure- does anyone know?)

Anita's Organic Graing and Flour Mill (Canadian- can be picked up at Chilliwack, BC store or shipped directly. Some lower mainland stores carry a small selection).

Azure Standard (specifically great for their bulk grains and other pantry staples)

Bob's Red Mill (awesome selection of whole grain and often organic grains, beans, seeds, cereals, etc and lots of options for those with allergies, too! Often availble through co-ops or in your local stores, but also through their online site. Thanks Leslie!)

Rancho Gordo (located in CA, but available online for US shipping, they have a great selection of heirloom dry beans, plus amaranth and quinoa, and other Mexican-inspired herbs, seasonings, chilis, etc.- thanks again Leslie!)

Where you live:

This is my attempt to pull together some of the places where we (you and I) really shop, week to week. They are listed alphabetically, by state or province. I've started it with my own local resources. If you have a resource to pass on, just leave it in a comment and I'll add it to this post!

Canada

British Columbia

Anita's Organic Grain and Flour Mill

Ennis Farm Meats (small, local meat shop specializing in natural and grass fed meats and poultry, where they also make some of their own sausages, sandwich meats, pepperoni, etc. with little or no preservatives)

2 EE's Produce Market (amazing, year round market, where they grow much of their own produce naturally/organically and the prices are incredible- located in Surrey)

Home on the Range Dairy

Ladybug Organics (organic delivery service)

Ontario

Ontario Natural Food Co-op (this is the only co-op I could find for Canada- surely there are more out there? Where are they?)

USA

Oklahoma

Oklahoma Food Co-op (grass fed meats, produce, eggs, even house items- all natural or organic. One time fee of $50 to join. Thanks Megan!)

Oregon

Local Buying Club (purchases from Hummingbird Wholesale, Frontier Wholesale, Mountain Rose Herbs, Cafe Mam, Thundering Hooves- Thanks Michelle, and I think you can find out more by contacting her as well!)

Washington

Thundering Hooves (pasture finished meat and poultry- available for delivery to Puget Sound area, or through a number of local buying clubs in WA and somewhat in OR- thanks Michelle!)

You're next…

If you have local resources that you want to share, please, please leave a comment (or email if you prefer- keeperofthehome (at) canada (dot) com) and I will try to add your resources to this list as quickly as I can! I would love to see this list become much more extensive and useful of a resource, so let's help each other out by sharing what we know!

breastfeeding reviews

Small technical difficulty

Many of you may be noticing that when you try to visit my site (or perhaps other blogs as well), that a pop-up box for Blenza comes up, asking for a name and password. I'm not exactly sure what this is about, but it's related to sites that use Mr. Linky for blog carnivals.

To get rid of it, just hit cancel (it may take 2-3 times before it doesn't pop up again, but it will go away). I am working to deal with this, or at least find out what the problem is. So sorry for the inconvenience!

Menu Plan Monday- Dec.1 (and the start of some great giveaways!)

Christmas mpm
Here's another 2 week menu plan, as I continue to work on cooking to please my husband more:

Monday: Chicken Divan over rice

Tuesday: Samosas (homemade, using the Nourishing Traditions recipe) with plum sauce and spinach salad

Wednesday: Quinoa Stuffed Tomatoes and Chicken Apple Sausages

Thursday: Lasagna, salad and garlic bread (with guests)

Friday: Taco Salad

Saturday: Sandwiches

Sunday: Leftovers

Monday: Beef Stew (using bone broth, not soup mix, and adding onions, as well as some turnips and cabbage, because I have some that needs to be used) with homemade bread or biscuits

Tuesday: Crispy Potato Pancakes (I shred extra veggies into the batter) with Whole Baked Salmon (ok, so this fish still has the head and eyes on it, and my daughter has decided to name it Bella, and since I bought it, she has come up to me multiple times and asked to see "Bella the Fish" from the freezer! We've gone over and over how Bella was already dead, and how we're planning to eat her just like all the other fish I buy- think she'll need therapy over this??)

Wednesday: Spud Special Soup with raw veggies and dip

Thursday: Root Vegetable Millet Cobbler

Friday: Baked Beans (I'm looking for a new recipe to use in my crockpot- any suggestions?) with Dijon Scalloped Potatoes and a side veggie

Saturday: Homemade Pizza

Sunday: Leftovers or something creative to clean out the fridge (this is becoming my new Sunday dinner ritual- I like it!)

Lots more great menu plans at Organizing Junkie!

Now here's the giveaway…

Who wants to win a stainless steel water bottle?

Me, me,
me… oh wait. I can't win one. I already have one. Besides, I think
there might be a blogosphere riot if I started giving away my giveaways
to myself. :)

Blue kids bottle ttt
Guess I'll have to give it to one of you instead! One awesome water bottle. Every week. For four weeks in a row. How fun is that???

Here's
the scoop. When I was at the Baby Purity Conference last month, I met a
sweet mom from Vancouver, who happened to be selling stainless steel
water bottles and food storage containers, for 1/2 the price you'd find
them anywhere else. I ended up buying two, to get a complete set of 4
for our family (we already had two Klean Kanteens).

Flat cap silver bottle ttt
These bottles are virtually the same as Klean Kanteen, and are actually made by the same manufacturers. They are high quality stainless steel, with the same type of lid variety that Klean Kanteen offers, but for a much (much!) friendlier price.

Carolyn first began looking into affordable plastic alternatives for the same reason as most of you have- to keep her kids safe from harmful and unknown chemicals in the plastics, and now she has expanded that into her business The Tickle Trunk, where she sells not only water bottles, but also food storage containers, cutlery, cups, and more items coming soon.

Here's how to get in on the giveaway:

1) Head on over to The Tickle Trunk to take a look around and choose which bottle you would like to win.

2) Leave me a comment letting you know which product you like the best, as well as which bottle you would choose if you won.

3) To be entered a second time, mention this giveaway on your blog with a link to the giveaway, and leave me a comment with the url for the post where you've mentioned it.

4) Contest ends Friday, at 3pm PST.

5) If you didn't win, make sure to come on back next Monday, to enter yourself for the next bottle giveaway! There will be one every week, for the next four weeks!

Edit: Comments are now closed- thanks everyone!

Living Simply Saturday: Keeping Christmas Simple and some Birthday Party Fun

As you may have guessed by the title, I'm taking a week off from the book I've been going through. :)

While I'm skipping a week, might as well skip one more, right? I've got something special planned for next Saturday, that I'm really looking forward to!

Simply-celebrating-christmas-large
Christmas seems to be one of the most difficult seasons to keep simple. There are work parties and concerts and special events and living nativities and church services and family get-togethers to attend. There's shopping for or making gifts, or some combination in between. There are Christmas cards, family photos or yearly letters to be written, addressed and sent. There's baking, baking, and more baking. There's a tree to be chosen, set up and decorated with care, and magical, memorable moments to be made with the children.

In the midst of all the busyness, it is so easy to forget the reason for the season (I know it's a bit cliche, but it's true). Christ coming to earth, as God incarnate, to set His people free from the bondage of sin and to reconcile them to God forever… so simple, so beautiful, so worthy of celebration.

How do we keep the focus where it truly belongs, on Christ and what He has done for us and on the kindness of God to send us a Savior? What can we do to keep our priorities straight, to slow things down a little a lot, to make things as simple and meaningful as possible? How can we find time and energy to serve and love others? What can you share with me (with all of us) about how to simply celebrate Christmas?

Announcing the…

Simply Celebrating Christmas Carnival
When: Next Saturday, Dec.6 (carnival will be up by Friday night)
What: Anything that make Christmas more simple and meaningful, less busy and stressful, etc. The ways that you minimize or prioritize or say no or find shortcuts. Practical is good!
Please feel free to use the button I've made, to share about the carnival on your blog (there is a smaller one on the sidebar if you prefer). The more people that participate the more valuable the carnival will be!

Now, a little birthday party fun!

I've been known to go a little overboard with my daughter's birthday parties. Okay, okay. A lot overboard!

I could tell you about her insanely big 1st birthday party, where I rented a room, invited practically everyone we knew, made a huge cake and tons of appetizers, and wore the birthday girl out to tears by the time she was opening her presents (did I mention she wouldn't take her nap?). Or her 3rd birthday, which although it was fantastic, had me up to nearly 1am the night before trying to complete everything and have the house ready for a gaggle of preschoolers!

Not this year. Cheap and easy, but still a blast. Here's what I did for the big shindig this morning:

  • Used Evite to send out adorable, spring themed invitations (we wanted something bright and sunshiney in the midst of the grey clouds and rain)
  • Grabbed a cute (cheap) paper tablecloth with matching napkins at Walmart last week while doing my couponing
  • Made the party from 9:30-11:30am. Short and sweet. Just enough time to get ready, and it will be over in time for a small lunch and much-needed naptimes after all the excitement. 
  • Craft- I decided to combine this with making Christmas gifts, and it's
    super cute and easy, but I can't tell you what it is because some
    family members who read this blog are getting some (so here's the link- but anyone named Mom or Grandma is forbidden to click on this link! :)
  • Instead of gift bags (or homemade playdough like I did last year- sheesh!) and in addition to the craft the kids took home, we gave out two small gifts (very inexpensive) and a simple gift tag cut out of leftover scrapbook paper, with a "Thank You" stamp, a flower punch out, and Abbie helped me write "Love Abbie" on them (we had fun making these during our learning time this morning- letter writing practice!)
  • Food- One Gingerbread (spelt/kamut) Cake with cream cheese/honey icing (very simple to make), two large blenderfuls of fruit smoothie (so yummy and easy to whip up), a plate of veggies, plus coffee/tea for the moms.
  • Gathered a few "springy" decorations (stuffed birds, flowers, butterflies, etc.) from around the house to do some simple decorating (took 10 minutes flat)

That's it! We still had 9 kids over (including younger siblings), plus my own 2, and 5 moms (plus myself). It was a full house but I didn't go insane, we had tons of fun, everyone left happy, and my house was almost clean by 2pm! :)

How do you keep birthday parties simple and easy to pull off, but still fun and memorable? And, are you in for Simply Celebrating Christmas?
_____________________________________________________________

Living Simply Saturdays
are an opportunity to share what is bringing more simplicity and
purposefulness to your own life, and to glean from the lives of others.

To join in, post your contribution on your blog, then come back
here and add your link below. Please make sure that you link to the
specific post, and not to the homepage of your blog, and make sure that
you include in your post a mention of the carnival and a link back to this post.

I do check each post, and if this isn't done, I will unfortunately have
to delete your link, which I would very much prefer not to do.Thanks so
much!

If you don't have a blog, I welcome your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section!