Have you ever felt like the mountains of Christmas gifts under your tree is all just a little too much? Are you stressed about holiday shopping, running from store to store for the current “it” items for your children? In the past I know I have spent way too much time, money, and my own sanity buying things my girls didn’t even need just so they would have lots of pretty things under the tree on Christmas morning.
This year we have implemented a few restrictions on our gift giving, and it has certainly made this part of the holidays more enjoyable and stress-free. For each of the girls we are giving them something they want, something they need, something they will wear, and something they will read. We are also giving them an educational gift, and this year it is something they will share but in the future it could be something different for each of them. My husband and I are also giving each other the same: need, want, wear, read; and we did each make a wish list to help each other out Each of our girls also have a stocking that we will fill with a few small needs, as well as a few small wants.
In our country, and in the area that we live in specifically, there is so much excess. We are confronted with it on a daily basis where we live, and I have watched as the children around me have become so entitled it is downright scary…my own girls included. That is one of the many reason we had to stop and take a hard look at the way we are living our lives, and make some much needed changes in the direction we were going. Limiting Christmas gifts is just one way we are combating the excess in our lives.
How are you combating the culture of excess this holiday season? What is your family doing to keep your children grounded and living in reality?
I was in charge of bringing a few different things this Thanksgiving, and pumpkin pie was one of them. I have not made a pumpkin pie since we drastically changed our diet earlier this year, and I ended up adapting a Paula Deen recipe I found on Food Network. My version is whole foods approved, and oh so yummy! Organic ingredients are always preferred of course.
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2 cups canned pumpkin
1 cup coconut palm sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 homemade whole wheat pie crust (I will post this recipe soon!)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Press the homemade pie crust dough into a 9 inch pie pan, pressing up the sides of the pan to the top edge. Bake for 10 minutes.
For the filling, in a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese with a hand mixer or standing mixer. Add the pumpkin and beat until combined. Add the sugar, and beat until combined. Add the eggs, heavy cream, and melted butter, and beat until combined. Finally, add the vanilla, and cinnamon, and beat until incorporated.
Pour the filling into the warm prepared pie crust and bake for 50 minutes, or until the center is set. Place the pie on a wire rack and cool to room temperature. Cut into slices.
On Thanksgiving day, on our way to my parents’ house for our Thanksgiving lunch, we stopped by Cook Children’s Medical Center in downtown Fort Worth to drop off eight Smile Boxes. We had put together the boxes with the help of six of my oldest’s friends at her ninth birthday party a couple months ago. We all left with the best feeling!
Emily’s Smile Boxes was created by a local girl who saw a need, and decided to do something about it. It is a fantastic charity, helping children in local hospitals. My girls always have two birthday parties each year, one for family (we have a large family) and one for friends, and I had the idea to ask for donations for Smile Boxes at her “friends” birthday party in lieu of gifts. When I asked my daughter what she thought about the idea, she said let’s do it. At the party all the girls put together a box using the items they had donated, and they had fun while doing good. Before you feel sorry for my daughter for having to give up her birthday presents, she still got more than she needed at her family birthday party! At nine years old, I think she is plenty old enough to start learning about giving instead of always getting, and thinking of other before herself. I plan to continue this idea for future birthdays!
Tonight my husband and I will bake our pecan and pumpkin pies, tomorrow morning it’s rolls and sweet potatoes for me, and then on to my parents house for Thanksgiving lunch. I can’t wait, it’s one of my favorite days of the year! I will try to remember to post some pictures later.
I have so many things to be thankful for this year, and every year really. A few things that come to mind immediately are my two girls, my husband of fourteen years, our extended families, our home, job, food in the pantry. There are so many who are not so fortunate, let’s not forget that most of us are part of the wealthiest 1% of the world. We are so blessed to live here in the United States, born into opportunity and a pretty easy life in most cases. I can’t help but think of people in third world countries, who did not ask to be born into extreme poverty…hungry and penniless…but that is the hand they were dealt. Tomorrow, as you enjoy your Thanksgiving meal, wherever you may be, stop and be thankful. I will too.
Where will you be spending tomorrow? Are you cooking, or is someone else doing the cooking for you? Any Black Friday shopping plans? I can’t decide! I’ve never participated in the madness, and probably won’t this year either, but the hype is exciting anyway.
I make my girl’s lunches four out of five school days a week, and allow them to purchase lunch in the school cafeteria once a week (down from twice a week last year). Honestly, most weeks they forget to ask about purchasing their lunch (and I don’t remind them), so I end up making lunch for them all five days which I highly prefer given that the lunches at school are mostly unhealthy. Here are a few of the lunches I have packed for them in the past couple months. All ingredients are organic unless otherwise noted. Both girls (ages 9 and 5) get the same thing.
Carrots, olives, homemade hummus, dried mango pieces, and brown rice
Homemade whole wheat crepes, pure maple syrup, bluberries
Applesauce, carrots, quinoa, Hail Merry mini chocolate tart (I found these at Costco!)
Leftover roast bites, raw cheddar cheese, crackers, salad with olive oil, fruit leather
Peanut butter and cream cheese on honey whole wheat bread, raw cashews with dark chocolate chips, purple bell pepper, whole milk yogurt with frozen blackberries
Back in August I took the girls to a local movie theater, for a special showing of March of the Penguins. I found the film very interesting, but I am a sucker for documentaries. The film kept the attention of my nine year old, but my five year old was bored after awhile.
After the movie we headed home, and I had them work on a few penguin themed worksheets. My five year old did the worksheets on the left, and my nine year old the worksheets on the right.
We have not gone on a home field trip since school started at the end of August, our schedule has been too hectic. I am hoping to get back into the swing of things after the holidays, because I feel these trips are so important!
Take a look at this mess! I am not as fortunate as some, to have a whole room dedicated to our art supplies, but we do have a closet full. Unfortunately our art closet had gotten completely out of control, and recently I decided to do something about it. At some point in the past three years since we bought this house, my girls stopped putting things away neatly, and just stuffed and stacked and crammed things in. It got to the point that we could no longer even walk in the closet, or find what we were looking for. It was time for a complete reorganization! Here are some pictures of the process.
Sorry this is blurry, but it is the only before picture I got.
This is everything that came out of the closet!
Blurry again, sorry, but much better!
What organization projects have you tackled around your house lately?
I first read about the idea of Backwards Dinner Night over at Keeper of the Home, and I knew my girls would love it. I didn’t tell them anything until right before dinner, when I told everyone to go turn their shirts backward because things were about to get a little crazy.
As you can see our plates were upside down, silverware turned sideways, and dinner started with dessert. I don’t usually serve several courses when it is just us, but it made this activity more fun. We had dessert, then the main course, then an appetizer. The girls had a blast, and us adults had fun too!
I never thought I would say this, but we are strongly considering putting our house on the market in the spring. I have been feeling the need to simplify our lives for some time now, and our 2800 sf house just isn’t simple for the four of us. How much space does a family of four need anyway? Don’t get me wrong, I love our house and I love it’s potential! When we purchased our home three years ago, I thought we would be here at least ten years.
A house this big is hard to keep clean without the help of a cleaning service or maid, and that is something we just can’t justify spending money on at this point in our lives. Cleaning our house from top to bottom is a day long process for two adults, which just seems like a ridiculous way to spend our time. A couple weeks ago we were expecting out of town guests on a Saturday evening, so I got up at 6:30am and got to work cleaning. My husband joined me at 8:30am, and together we worked until 5:30pm, only pausing for meals and bathroom breaks (and a softball game for my husband). All this cleaning has me rethinking the idea that “bigger is better”.
Another reason we are considering putting our house on the market, is that we would really like to move to another part of the country. My husband and I were both born here in Texas, and have spent our entire lives here with the exception of our four year stay in California. Despite this, we both hate the heat and humidity that we have to endure June through October. Our oldest doesn’t handle the heat well at all. All four of us also have pretty bad allergies here. We are considering a move to Colorado at the beginning of the summer, once school lets out. We have visited several times over the years, and like the cooler drier weather, the good/healthy food, the overall healthy environment and outdoor activities, and the fact that it is drivable in a day for our family here. We are currently in the research stage though, so we’ll see.
Reason #3 to list our home for sale, is that our current market is booming and if our calculations are right we could make enough profit to pay off my husband’s student loans and be completely debt free. Assuming the government gets their act together, and doesn’t screw up the housing market recovery with their ridiculous shut down of course. We have been looking at comps in our area, and talking with friends who have sold recently, and were surprised at what we could potentially make on our home if we were to sell it. Being able to be completely debt free for the first time in our fourteen year marriage is reason enough I think!
We have some big decisions to make in the near future, and are praying that God will guide us where we should go. Any advice would be welcomed!
Today for lunch my girls both get Whole Wheat Skillet Pizza with local pastured ground beef and black olives (left-over from dinner the night before), cubed local organic watermelon, and raw organic cashews.