Simplicity by Choice

Off-Grid Living & Self-Reliance

Homestead Christmas December 23, 2015

We haven’t always celebrated Christmas.  In fact, it has only been in recent years that we even got a small tree.  A local shop owner saw our daughter admiring the little artificial tree. She and I  talked about how pretty it was, not knowing that the owner overheard us. As we left, he came out carrying a box.  He said that we had forgotten something.  To our delight, he placed the tree in our trunk.

The main reason for not celebrating was due to the holiday being so commercial. It was all about the gifts, not the religious story.  People routinely go into debt trying to buy the perfect gift.  It just didn’t feel right.

After having the kids, we made the decision to celebrate.  The compromise for us was that we limit the gifts.  We also teach the kids to make their gifts.  This one simple thing helps teach children to give of their time and talents to others.

The little ones are ages 9 and 7 years old this season.  With a little guidance, Little Miss chose a project to make for Daddy.  She wanted to make him something that he can take onto the truck with him.  It was a simple project to complete but very useful.  Little Man needed more help with his gift to Daddy.  Mostly due to his lack of fine motor development.  He had fun with it though.

Giving homemade gifts whenever possible has become a family tradition.  We also limit the number of gifts.  In doing this, the kids are much more appreciative of what they receive.

The Christmas tree has a few secondhand ornaments.  Gradually, we are adding handmade ornaments to it each year.  A new thing added to the tree this year also was battery powered little lights.  We found those at Hobby Lobby.

Having a simple Christmas has been a blessing. We can focus on the meaning of the holiday without all the stress and hoopla that other families face.  We can use it as a time to serve others and give of ourselves in remebrance of Christ giving of Himself for us.  It is also an opportunity to teach the kids that it isn’t all about than, but learn to enjoy the giving to others.

I love how we celebrate Christmas. It is so much more peaceful and enjoyable for our family.  I pray that others can enjoy the holiday as that celebrate with their families.

 

Care Packages for the Homeless November 29, 2014

Filed under: family,holidays,serving others — ourprairiehome @ 8:30 pm
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One of the aspects of the holiday celebration that my husband and I have always wanted to make a part of our family traditions is to serve others.  As mentioned in previous posts, we are doing that through teaching our children to make their gifts instead of simply buying them.  This gives them an opportunity to share their time and talents with others.  Now that they are getting older, we want to step it up a notch and take the idea of serving others a little further.

Today, I found a great blog post that I wanted to share with you.  Amy Allen Clark, the founder of MomAdvice website shared this idea.  Making care packages for the homeless or those in need.  Not only are these a great idea for giving to the homeless, but think of the times when there is a natural disaster?  Maybe a homeless shelter?  What about kids who are entering into the foster care system?  In the case of foster care kids, they often leave there homes with nothing but the clothes on their backs.  At best, they may have a few changes of clothing but very little else.  With alterations to the basic supply list Amy presents on her blog, you can customize these bags for any situation.  I am even thinking of how these can be made up to hand out to young campers at the church camp our daughter attends each spring and fall.

Picture Owned by Amy Allen Clark at  MomAdvice.com

Picture Owned by Amy Allen Clark at MomAdvice.com

I strongly encourage you to take a look at Amy’s blog post, How to Make a Care Package for the Homeless.  Even if you cannot make them this year in time for Christmas, you can make up a few at a time to hand out over the winter.  Come summer, you can add things like sunscreen to the packages.  The ideas are endless.  The teaching opportunities for our children are priceless.

 

Black Friday Craziness November 28, 2014

Filed under: Crafting,family,holidays — ourprairiehome @ 9:26 pm
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I have never understood the fascination that many have of going out shopping the day after Thanksgiving.  Yes, there are great sales, but the size of crowds and traffic alone is enough to make me cringe.  I have tried it a couple of times, years ago, and hated it.  Maybe because I went out alone, or maybe because I didn’t really have a plan to make it fun.  Either way, I have found myself thinking now that I am glad that I don’t put myself through that.

What I am doing is making the gifts at home or ordering online.  I find it much more satisfying and calming to my spirit to avoid the crowds.  I am lucky to have people around me who also enjoy receiving the handmade gifts.  Rarely have I had someone be too snooty to accept something handmade.  On the rare occasions when that has happened over the years, I just make mental note to never make them anything homemade again.  If anything, they will get a little gift card so that they can buy what they want.

One thing that I have been trying to instill in our children is the importance of giving of oneself through your time and talents.  With that in mind, I am teaching them to also make their gifts.  It is fun to watch them work on a project that takes several days (or longer) to complete.  The pride that Little Miss feels when she finishes the item and gives it to the recipient of the gift is a joy to see.  Likewise, I am so grateful that the gifts are well received and the children are praised for their efforts.

There are many gift ideas that you can find on Pinterest and other online resources that will give you examples of things kids can make.  These are not just the cutesy crafts but you can find meaningful gifts that can be used for a purpose.  A project that the kids are working on is to make an ornament for each person they make a gift for.  The ornaments that they are making are so cute and easy for them to do.  Even Pookie is getting in on it.

The best part of the holiday crafting is that instead of dealing with crowds at stores, we are spending time being creative as a family.  That in and of itself is a gift that you cannot replace.

 

Christmas Ornament Exchange & More November 4, 2014

Filed under: Crafting,family,holidays,old fashioned — ourprairiehome @ 9:05 am
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On Facebook, I am hosting a Handmade Christmas Ornament Exchange.  It has been so much fun making the ornaments to mail out to the swap participants.  Mine are all crocheted.  I went onto the Ravelry website and did a search for free patterns and found a plethora of ideas.  I have always loved the look of old fashioned handmade ornaments.  Each year, I try to make a new decoration or other item to add to our collection.  Last year was the first time we had an actual Christmas tree.  It is a small tabletop style, but in our home, that works for us.

I have been busy crocheting a lot this year.  Nearly everyone will be getting something crocheted or otherwise handmade.  One new aspect is that both of the kids will be able to make gifts this year.  I wasn’t sure if our son was going to be able to do it but found some neat ideas for crafts that both kids can make.

I wanted him to make something a little more personal for his Occupational, Physical, and Speech therapists though, so designed an ornament for him to make each of them.  He is learning sign language, so that will be incorporated into his project for them.  I don’t have pictures at this time because the camera I was using doesn’t work anymore.  I will try to post a picture tutorial later though if my husband is able to take pictures for me to upload.

Here is one idea that is a very simple one to make.  I am using the air-dry modeling compound made by Crayola for this project.

“I Love You” Clay Ornament

Make a tracing of your child’s hand on a sheet of paper.  Carefully cut it out.  This will become a pattern for your ornament.  Roll out the modeling compound to 1/8″ thick.  Carefully use a knife to cut out the hand print pattern from the clay.  Fold the middle and ring fingers downward so that the clay hand print looks like the sign meaning “I love you.”  You may need to lightly dampen the folded fingers t make them stick to the palm of the hand.

Next, using a small plate or bowl, cut out a circle that is slightly larger than the clay hand, from the 1/8″ thick clay.  This will become the base you attach the hand print to.  Lightly dampen the back of the hand and place it in the center of the ornament base.  Press just firmly enough to make it stick well, but not enough to flatten the hand too much.  You want the dimension of the sign language gesture to remain clear to see.  Using a straw, make a hole for hanging the ornament at the top center.

Let the clay dry thoroughly.  You can speed up the process by placing it on a wire rack in a warm oven, if necessary.  Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully if you attempt to dry them in the oven.

Once completely dried and hardened, you can have your children paint their hand print ornaments.  Use a permanent marker to write their name and the year on the ornament once the paint is dry.  To give a shiny finish, you can spray the ornaments with a glossy clear coat of spray paint.  After the ornament if finished, thread a ribbon through the hole and tie the ends into a knot.  Enjoy!!!

Another fun idea that Little Miss is making is a crocheted garland.  She is just learning to crochet and wanted to make a simple decoration for the tree.  So, she is crocheting a long garland using the basic chain stitch.  I will be teaching her how to add beads to her garland as she crochets.  It is really simple.

Beaded Chain Stitch Garland

This is a perfect first project for a little child to make.  There is no gauge or specific hook size.  All you need is the crochet hook, a smaller steel hook that is small enough to thread through a bead’s hole, yarn, and the beads.

The distance between beads is up to the person making the garland.  On our little tree, the beads will be about one bead every 1.5″ of stitches.

Begin making the chain.  When you reach the point where you want to add a bead, carefully remove the crochet hook.  Using the steel hook, thread a bead onto the hook.  Next, grab up the loop of yarn with the steel hook and slip the bead off of the hook, bring the yarn through the bead’s hole.  Set aside the steel hook and place the yarn loop back onto the crochet hook you are using to make the chain stitching.  Continue chain stitching until you are ready to add another bead.  Repeat this pattern until the garland is the size you want.  That’s it!  A very simple garland that a child can make successfully.

There are so many handmade decorations and gifts that kids can make for others.  By teaching them from an early age to hand-make their decorations and gifts, you are not only teaching them a craft/skill, but are teaching them to give of their time and talents.  It is something that will benefit them for many years to come.

 

Gift Idea: Spa Basket October 7, 2014

Filed under: Crafting,holidays,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 6:56 am
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I love the responses that I get when people find out that I ma working on holiday gifts and decorations. Some think it is too soon to think about, while others think I should have started long ago. For those on the fence of this issue, let me put a perspective on it. Each year there are numerous blog posts about people going quietly nuts during the holiday season. They become stressed out and are freaking over the littlest of things. Often, they are stressed over the gift purchases. I have to wonder, “Why do they do this to themselves each year?” If you started this week and made/purchased only 1 gift item each week, you would have 12 bought by the week of Christmas. Now, let’s imagine that I decide to crochet a hat for the two kids and my 2 young grandsons. I can crochet a hat in a couple of hours. Yes, some are faster than I am but I am also homeschooling my kids. I could easily make a hat a day and have 4 gifts made in a week. Here is another easy and fun gift for the women in your life. Now, for those who don’t crochet or do crafts, you can easily buy all the items in this gift, but it would also take less than a week to make it all. Here is the spa basket gift idea with links to any necessary patterns or instructions. Use masculine scents and colors to make this for a guy.

Crocheted Basket

Lavendar Soap for the ladies

Coffee Bean Soap for the guys

Bath Salts

Crocheted Face Cloth

Face Scrubbies

Nicely Scented Candle

As I already stated, you could buy the items and put the basket together, or make them yourself. Either way, this is a nice gift that can be done within a week.

Enjoy!

 

Handmade Christmas October 6, 2014

Filed under: Crafting,holidays,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 2:51 am
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Over the past few weeks, I have been busy with making gifts for the holiday season.  I am blessed to not only have Christmas gifts to make but a couple of birthdays in that season as well.  Yes, it can be a hectic and busy time of year.

I am loving the preparations.  As in past years, I am making the gifts that will be given.  Soon, we will begin to make the cards to be mailed as well.  It is one of the most personally rewarding things I have ever done.  I am crocheting most of the gifts this year.  I am learning new stitches and patterns as I go along.  YouTube is great for this.  I especially love the tutorial videos made by The Crochet Crowd.  With each video, there are links to a free pattern using that stitch.  In some cases, such as a darling little baby dress, you can find videos showing exactly how to make the projects.

I absolutely love the videos that the Crochet Crowd has posted.  Through them, I have learned and been gaining confidence to try new things.  I am making a blanket this year that is the largest one that i have ever crocheted.  Previously, I only made baby blankets with the largest one being crib size.  This year, I am making one that is double bed size.  Once done, it will be 95 inches square.  I watched the video for the corner to corner stitch pattern and am using that to make the blanket.

Other  gifts and projects are much faster to put together.  Everything from slippers, kitchen items, and winter gear all can be made quickly once you learn the stitches used.  A pretty afghan block made about 10 inches in size can be backed with fleece to make a thick hot pad.  There are numerous patterns for dishcloths that can also be used as a face cloth.  Made with a very soft cotton yarn, you can make a set of these to be used as baby wipes.

To make the baby wipes, measure the width and length of the container you will be using.  Recycled baby wipes containers work great.  Make a dishcloth the length and twice the width of the container.  Use a yarn that is cotton for best results as the synthetic ones are not as absorbent.  Fold the cloths in half and fill the container.  To use, cover with warm water and add a couple drops of baby wash to the water.  Allow the cloths to soak up the water before using.  Be sure to drain any excess water to prevent the cloths from being too saturated.

Here are some other gift ideas.  Among them are ideas that I plan on making but it will give you ideas to inspire.  One common theme through it all is that the gifts are easy to make.  In fact, you can even find ideas here that can be used as charity items to make and donate to a shelter or children’s hospital.

Winter gear and apparel: hats, mittens, fingerless gloves, scarf, shawl, leg warmers, boot cuffs

Household items: dishcloths, pot holders, placemats, mug wraps, blankets, pillows

Fun gifts: cell phone case, e-reader/tablet case, purse or tote bag, soft toys

Holiday items: stockings, gift bags, ornaments, table decorations, wreaths

These are just a few of the ideas that you can choose from.  Going to websites like Pinterest, you can do a search to find many other options as well.  Recently, I did a search for handmade ornaments and came up with hundreds of great ideas.  The kids and I will be making some for the tree this year and to share with others.  I love the idea of the kids making ornaments each year to save from one year to the next.  These will make a nice remembrance for them later as adults when they have their own tree.

Now that I have a good start on the gifts & ornaments, I am now going to start buying gift bags of assorted sizes at the dollar store.  I love buying brown paper ones that can be decorated with gingham or calico fabrics cut out in cookie cutter shapes.  It gives a fun rustic or homespun look to the packaging.  I got some ideas this past month that I will plan ahead for next season.  Instead of using gift wrap or purchased gift bags, I can always sew or crochet gift bags with drawstring closures or make a fun crocheted basket or tote to give the gift in.  These wrappings will be an extra gift to the recipient to use for other purposes.  I am especially eager to make the crocheted basket that was recently the focus of a challenge on the Crochet Crowd website.  I think that it will make a fun way to present a gift.  There are many great patterns available for making totes that would work well for gift bags too.  You can make the totes and baskets to be feminine for the ladies, use bright colors and fun appliques for kids, or use masculine colors to make a basket for the guys.

Are you planning to make handmade gifts or decorations for the upcoming holidays?  What are some of your favorite ideas?