Hey Gentle Readers, is it just me, or does the Christmas season just go faster every year?
Please tell me you feel it, too. Around the end of October, I start thinking about Christmas with Rosy Hopes and High Expectations. How many quilts should I make this year? Or maybe I should make all my kiddos flannel pajama pants! That would be fun!! Also. I really ought to dust off the knitting needles and start knitting mittens . . . for everybody on my list!
I’ll do that: what fun!
Also, of course, I’ll make a list of the homemade treats I want to make: pfeffernusse and divinity, springerle and chocolate-covered cherries. Those Mexican wedding cakes with the cayenne in them last year were a hit, so we’d better make even more this year! And wouldn’t it be fun to make painted sugar cookies for all our teachers and all those people on our list? I can’t wait to make these memories with little Mack and Amalia! And this year’s Christmas card? Yes! I’ll do one of those photo cards, and send it to all those people who think we probably all died years ago, because they’ve not heard from us for so long. That’s pretty sad, when you think about it. How long does it take to send a few cards, for Pete’s sake? Just a few minutes, right?
In early October, it all seems possible.
By the end of November, however . . . I’ve become a little more realistic. I muse that I’ll only have time to make a few things this year: maybe a couple of baby quilts for the new babies in the family? The mittens are probably out. And the treats? Still doable, but I’ll have to ask Amalia if she can make a few batches. She won’t mind. She loves to cook and bake, after all. Thankfully!
And then suddenly . . . I wake up one morning and it’s the middle of December and I realize, with shock and surprise and bewilderment . . . that I’ve made almost none of these dreams a reality. Amalia has made cookies, thank goodness, and now little Mack is asking me to help him make gifts for the people (about 100!) on his list. And I just want to curl up under the electric blanket and take a nice . . . long . . . nap.
That’s where I am. In Christmas Crazy Town. Loony Holiday City. Unrealistic Expectationsville.
It strikes me as a bit ironic, when we are celebrating the birthday of the Christ Child, that there be so much striving and hurrying and buying and craziness. There should be appreciation. And peace. And patience and kindness and loveliness, since that is what Jesus is.
So I’ve been slapping my striving self upside the head and trying to scale my expectations about all that I will accomplish waaaaay down . . . so I don’t lose the growth and the peace and the fun that can come from this beautiful time of year.
Even with this resolute decision, I still buy plenty of gifts. And I do some making and some baking and lots and lots of cooking. I love to plan and make special meals and treats for my family. But I don’t enjoy it if I’m too stressed and too tired, so I try to stop myself before I become that mom . . . the mom that works so hard on Christmas dinner that she doesn’t have time to relax and enjoy the beautiful faces of her family around the table, as they enjoy it.
You know that mom . . . the one with the tremendous to-do list who doesn’t have time to give her little boy a hug or look in his sweet face for more than a second, because she is just too doggone busy for her own good, and to do any good for him?
I’m sad to admit that I know that mom. (Sorry, kids.) 🙁
And yet. Part of the fun of Christmastime, is making special sweets, and buying gifts, and spending time with my kiddos wrapping and swapping lists. It’s just fun, as long as I can rein in my overachieving self and let it not get out of control.
I know there’s somebody out there who is singing this very same, bewildered tune. Is there not? Please tell me you’re out there!!
So I’ve jotted down a short list–only 5 things–of last-minute Christmas ideas, just for you, my Gentle Reader, just in case you’re in the same place today. You’re on the road to Looney-Tunes Tinselville, but when the fork in the road comes, you want to turn toward Peace and SanityDale, right? Of course, right!
So here we go . . .
1. Heating pad sock-thingies. Or. . . Heating-Sockpad-Thingies. I’m not sure what to call them! Little Mack was so excited when I told him about this project. Who doesn’t need a heating pad now and then, for headaches, sore muscles, stiff necks, and whatnot? I know that these will be great gifts for nearly all the adults on Mack’s list, and will truly only take 5 to 10 minutes to make. Plus, if he wanted to go to the store with Dad and pick out the socks,
I’d get a few minutes to myself, he’d have the say over the designs everybody would get. And little Mack loves to have a say in these matters. 😉
Actually, on all matters, big or small. Bless him.
Here’s all you need to make a bunch of these:
- knee socks in various colors and patterns
- a bag of “deer corn” or rice
We used a canning funnel to dump the corn into the socks, and then tied a knot in the end. Ta-daa! So easy! That’s it! A little tag explaining how to use it would be cute, if you can get to it. See how relaxed I am about this. No pressure on the tag. It might be just as cute to send your child to just explain to his Grandpa what the thing is, and how to stick it into the microwave for a minute or two, to heat it up, and apply it to the offending, achy body part.
It just occurred to me that this would be excellent gifts for your pets. Our cats sleep in the garage. Filling a few big socks (i.e. those at the bottom of Bryan’s sock drawer, the ones that long ago lost their mates) with corn (you’ll have some left over, if you buy the 40-pound bag of deer corn from Wal-Mart) and then heating them up and tucking them into the cats’ sleeping nooks would be so cozy! I don’t know how long they stay hot, but it might be worth checking out, don’t you think? I’m going to do it!
Oops. There I go again. Gifts for the pets. Hmm.
So that’s one idea. I went searching online for last-minute, homemade gifts. Here’s what I found: an Alligator Sewing Kit, made out of felt. Adorable beeswax cookie-cutter candles. Plaster cast bowls. Homemade candles. A wreath made of vintage Christmas tree balls. A fleece scarf to sew, with a cunning iPad pocket. Homemade soap with herbs . . . No, no, noooo!!
Are you kidding me? I need honest-to-Betsy-5-minute ideas! And I have no time to shop for plaster of Paris, just the right color of felt, or beeswax!! (Is it just me?) I’m desperate here! Well, not exactly desperate . . . maybe just a bit.
Okay, enough rant . . . on to the next idea:
2. Peppermint Almond Bark, a great recipe for the truly desperate.
My awesome friend Janie shared this recipe with me, years ago. She had called me a week or two before Christmas, when I was
maniacally thrashing about calming searching for an easy and quick, yet impressive (natch), gift to make for my husband to give to his co-workers. She came to my rescue–immediately!–by suggesting this recipe. We’ve made it every year since (thank you, Janie!) This is so easy, and everybody loves it. Basically, almond bark is your best friend at Unrealistic Expectationsville. Caution: it’s not a health food. But I’m not going to eat an entire bushel of it, and neither are you, so let’s just be realistic here.
This is all you need:
- a package of almond bark
- a package of peppermint candy canes (Don’t buy the cheapest ones. They are lame and gummy. I like “Bob’s” brand the best, if you can find them, and they don’t cost much more.) (You could try the other flavors, why not, if you get so inspired.)
And here’s all you do:
- Unwrap the candy canes, and crush (this is a great job for a 7-year-old, by the way, or a 6-year-old. Or a bored 92-year-old.)
- Heat the almond bark, per the package instructions, until hot and melted.
- Mix in the crushed candy, reserving a handful of it to sprinkle on the top. Spread mixture on a greased cookie sheet.
- Sprinkle reserved candies on top.
- When cooled, break into pieces and put into bags.
- Pat yourself on the back. Boom. Done!!
Voila! Tying the bag shut with a pretty ribbon is all you really need to do, to make this a cheery gift for somebody on your list. Or, of course, you can slip it into a gift bag. If you’ve got one. Well done. At this rate, who needs Pinterest?
And now, on to . . .
3. Peppermint Almond Bark Chocolate Drizzled Popcorn. Amalia makes this every year. I really don’t know what it’s called. We’ll have to work on that name, too. It is so easy and so fast and so good. Despite the clumsy name.
I greatly admire my winsome daughter Amalia, who–though, for example, I may be sitting at the piano, working out details for melodrama choreography–will quietly go to the kitchen and make such nice things as this, so when the rest of the family comes home they’ll have something to nibble on. Something Christmasy and special.
By the way . . . almond bark and popcorn are both your best friends, in Christmas Crazy Town. Really. They’re both cheap and plentiful, and you don’t need a candy thermometer to cook with them. And they keep forever . . . so if you don’t have time to go to the store again (hullo) then you can use the stuff you’ve got squirreled away from last year (I won’t tell). It’ll still be good, especially if you had the foresight to stick it in the freezer.
Here’s what you need:
- almond bark
- chocolate chips
- crushed peppermint candies (or candy canes)
And here’s what you do:
- Pop a very large bowl of popcorn. (We use our air popper; we are children of the 70s, after all.)
- Melt the package of almond bark, per directions on the package.
- Pour the melted bark on the big bowl of popcorn, add the crushed candies, and stir.
- Spread on greased jelly roll pans.
- Melt half a bag of chocolate chips.
- Drizzle the melted chocolate over all.
- Taste a bit. Smile. You’re doin’ good, baby. Let cool, and then break into pieces and store in a tin or a zippered bag.
Again . . . voila! Once again, this makes a very pretty gift, in decorative tins (our thrift store carries quite a nice variety of these) or bags.
As long as we’re having so much fun with almond bark, let’s kick it up a notch:
4. Pistachio Almond Bark With Craisins. My dad would say that you could chop up an old boot and cover it with almond bark and it would be worth eating. I’d say, skip the chopped old boot and add some nuts and dried fruit, instead. Silly ole’ Dad!
Here’s all you need:
- Almond bark (surprise!)
- a cup of pistachios, roughly chopped
- a cup of craisins
- some sea salt
Here’s all you do:
- Melt the almond bark, per package instructions.
- Stir in 3/4 of the pistachios and craisins.
- Spread on greased cookie sheet.
- Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of nuts and fruit, and a bit of sea salt, over all.
- When cool, break up into pieces.
- Taste. Yum. Wrap up in airtight container and hide carefully. “Santa” certainly deserves something very special this year, doesn’t he (or she)?
I think it’s safe to say that any dried fruit and nut combination would go well here. How about chopped dried pineapple, coconut, and chopped roasted almonds? Or chopped mixed nuts and chopped dates? Use your imagination and make whatever you think your family would like best. Even if it is chopped old boot.
One more that I haven’t done yet but I’m going to try to do it this weekend:
5. Gilded pinecones and acorns. Now this is something very, very easy and very special, too. Little Mack and I collected acorns from our oak trees this fall. Our older kids helped plant these trees about twelve years ago. I’m so excited about the fact that these trees are actually big enough to produce acorns!
So I wanted to share these acorns with all my kids, as a memento of these special trees that they helped plant.
I’ve let them dry out entirely, and I’m planning to paint them with gold paint and we’re going to poke them into their stockings. You can do the same thing with pinecones, too. Or dried leaves. Or nearly anything that’s dried and mostly sturdy. Hmmm . . . I wonder how my mummified mouse would fare under such treatment?
Here’s what you need:
- Acorns or pinecones
- a hot glue gun
- metallic acrylic paint
And here’s all you do:
- Bake pinecones and acorns at 200° for about an hour, to do away with any critters.
- Paint with metallic paint.
- Let dry. Pretty easy, eh?
There are lots of nifty ideas online for creative projects to make with golden pinecones and acorns. You can wire them into wreaths, or hang them on your tree, or use them in all kinds of ways. I know you, Gentle Reader, and I know that you’ll come up with some ideas all on your own.
There. 5 easy ideas, if you haven’t quite finished your Christmas making-and-giving yet. If you have, I’m proud of you! If not . . . give one or two of these a try! But . . . no pressure! You know that the memories that you make with your family this year are so much more important than the things you make for them.
I hope you have a very merry Christmas!
I’m sharing this post with the nice folks over at The Prairie Homestead. Jill’s weekly Blog Hop is a lot of fun and I always learn something! You will, too, so pop on over!
- Snow and ice-skating and mysterious symbols of love
- Making Pfeffernusse cookies with the ‘rents