Monday, December 21, 2009

Make The Holidays Pleasant, Even With Fewer Presents

Most of us will be tightening the belt a bit this year, and buying fewer and less extravagant gifts for our loved ones. How do you keep the jolly in the holiday with less material cheer under the tree? What do we do when our few offerings are unwrapped, and we still have most of the day stretching ahead of us?

Dig out those old-fashioned Christmas movies like "Miracle on 34th Street", "White Christmas" or "It's a Wonderful Life." You could also watch one of those animated children's holiday specials that all of the networks run this time of year.

Ransack your closets for costumes, and have the kids put on a Christmas-themed play or talent show.

Get out the cookie cutters, and make some Christmas cookies. Have the kids help you decorate them. Alternatively, you could assemble a gingerbread house. Why not share with your neighbors?

If you live in a snowy climate, get outdoors and build a snowman, make snow angels, go sledding, or have a snowball fight.

Make a Christmas craft together. Projects can be found in abundance on the Internet for both kids and adults. As an added bonus, you'll have an extra decoration or gift for someone for next year!

Pull a holiday classic like "A Christmas Carol" from the bookshelf and read aloud to your family.

Work on a puzzle with a holiday motif, or play a game of Scrabble with the rule that all words must have a yuletide theme.

Make mugs of cocoa and walk around your neighborhood looking at all of your neighbors' decorations.

Get out the karaoke machine if you have one, and sing some Christmas carols. If you don't have a karaoke machine, a willing piano accompanist helps, but a cappella renditions from memory work too. Bonus points if you walk around the neighborhood caroling to your neighbors!

I would love to hear about your favorite Christmas afternoon pursuits. Hopefully I've given you a few new ideas as well!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

It's A Wrap!

Running low on wrapping paper and need to finish packaging your Christmas gifts? I mentioned some ideas for green gift wrapping in last year's Christmas post , but this year I would like to elaborate on the idea of wrapping with cloth.

The Japanese have a tradition of wrapping gifts in cloth called Furoshiki. Some basic Furoshiki wrapping techniques can be found here: You can buy beautiful Furoshiki cloths, but you can just as easily use your own material.

I like the idea of making the cloth wrap part of the gift, for instance, wrapping jewelry or gloves in a pretty scarf, pajamas in a pillowcase, a kitchen-related gift in a dish towel, or wrapping soap, skin-care items or a manicure set in a hand towel.

This would also be a good way to use well-worn clothing not quite good enough to donate to the thrift store. A plaid flannel, gingham check, or quilt-look fabric in Christmasy colors would work particularly well. I was thinking of buying some clothes cheap at yard sales for just this purpose. Old blankets or throws would work well too, particularly in wool or fleece. After Christmas, the fabric could be used in quilts, or rag rugs, to sew small heating pads or coasters, or simply folded and stored for next year.

Another option is to sew the fabric into bags. My mom made some cute quilted ones one year out of a bunch of scraps. You can either turn the fabric down and make a channel to insert a drawstring, or you can make a closure with a button and buttonhole, or you can simply tie it shut with a pretty ribbon or cord. These can be reused year after year. They are also great for storing fragile ornaments. You could embroider the recipient's name on the bag if you wanted to get fancy.

I hope this has given you some good ideas about how to adorn those holiday gifts. Soon you'll be crossing this chore off your list for another year and saying "it's a wrap!"