Category Archives: Holidays

Extending Christmas: For the Birds

We had a real Christmas tree this year. We debated much about what was most “green,” and I read several accounts that said a real tree, when recycled after use, is still “greener” than artificial options. Something many people don’t consider is the amount of energy that goes into producing and transporting (usually overseas) artificial trees. Added to that, most people only keep artificial trees for 5-6 years (average), which means the used trees simply end in landfills. Christmas tree farms plant a new tree for the one you cut, and, natural trees can be recycled into mulch when you’re finished. Most of all, we simply love the experience of making a day, as a family, to go out and choose a tree on a farm.

This year, we found another way to extend the life of our tree. Jenna was very upset to see the tree go, but my allergies were flaring up, and we suspected the tree (mold? pine?). In an effort to compromise, I suggested that we set the tree outside the French doors on our patio. Then, inspiration hit, and I suggested that we decorate the tree for the birds with peanut butter and birdseed ornaments. Jenna was sold.

Here’s how our project went:

First, we tied dental floss (any string/yarn would work) through the holes in Saltine crackers to make a loop. (We also decorated one cardboard toilet paper tube that we poked a hole in for hanging. I preferred the crackers because the whole ornament was edible.)

Second, I pulsed chunky peanut butter in my food processor with a little sesame oil to make it thinner and easier to dip. Those lucky critters got some organic peanut butter (Yikes! $$) because that’s all I had on hand. We poured the peanut butter in a glass for dipping.

Next, we dipped the crackers. We pushed them down in with a spoon and sometimes scooped the peanut butter up over the crackers to cover completely. We laid them out on wax paper to wait for the next step.

Then, we dredged the peanut butter crackers through the birdseed. We pushed the seeds in, to make sure they were stuck more securely. This was an EXCELLENT sensory exercise for Jenna, who did NOT like the way the peanut butter and seeds felt on her hands. She wanted to get them done to hang on the tree, so she stuck with it.

The finished product waiting on wax paper.

Next, we strung popcorn on dental floss. This was good fine motor therapy for Jenna, but she didn’t do it long. My needle-phobic girl (too many bad blood work experiences) was too terrified of the threading needle. Especially after this happened to Mommy’s thumb:

Finally, we decorated the tree:


Now, to sit back and wait for the birds to come.  ……..

By that evening, our guests arrived.

They didn’t have wings, but they were still fun to watch. Within a day, we had six at a time climbing all over the tree and trying to pull the popcorn strings out! Within three days, the tree was bare. That’s OK! We can do it all over again. Christmas can last as long as the tree does. Then we’ll recycle it to mulch.

Next year, we’re considering finding a tree at a nursery that we can decorate for a couple weeks and then move outside for planting.


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Here Comes Santa Claus – maybe.

I struggle a little bit with the whole notion of Santa with Jenna.  Don’t get me wrong – we read the stories that include Santa, she sees Santa movies, she went on a sleigh ride with Santa, and she gets gifts in her stocking from Santa.  We don’t really try to avoid Santa at all, I just have a teensy bit of trouble with supporting an untruth.  I really try to be honest and open with her, and this one is tough.  Her joy, excitement and wonder over the whole notion of Santa is equally difficult to quash in favor of reality.

So, we’re riding the Santa wave at this point, and hoping we sense when the time is right to present the truth.  Or that she doesn’t hate us for supporting a lie when/if she learns the truth from someone else.


Do all parents feel torn this way?  When I was a kid, I remember sitting on Santa’s lap, writing letters to him, and getting gifts “from Santa,” but I don’t really ever remember believing in him.  Maybe I did, and just don’t remember….  I definitely don’t remember any moment of outrage when I learned the truth.

At any rate, I surprised myself this year by sending Jenna a personalized video message from Santa via email through this site.  I decided to do it because the video seemed so well done, and the options for personalizing were PERFECT.  I was able to have Santa talk to her about the fact that, although she’s done pretty well with trying new foods this year, Santa knows that she could do a little bit better.

TRYING NEW FOODS?!  YES!!  If Santa telling her that she needs to do it will help in ANY way, I’m willing to grasp that possibility with both hands and kiss it on the lips!

He also told her that he wants her to work on being polite and kind and generous.  See? PERFECT.  He told her that he knows she’s been wanting a new “big girl” watch, and that maybe she would get one on Christmas Day.

Jenna watched the entire video in complete and utter AWE.  When it was done, she asked to see it again.  She was AMAZED that he knew about her and that she wanted a watch (cue my twinge of guilt for setting the whole thing up).  She earnestly told video Santa that she’d try to do better at trying new foods, and that she would be kind, polite & generous.  In spite of the twinge of guilt, I’m elated to think that maybe the message will help with her eating issues.

Fast forward to the next day:

We offer her some new food to try.

She rudely says no.

We remind her of what Santa said.

She angrily shouts:

I will NEVER try new foods!  I HATE new foods!  I CAN’T  be polite! ::pause::  ::pause::

{grumpily}  I’ll just get my own watch somewhere else.

So much for Santa.


Posted by on December 24, 2010 in Christmas, G-tube issues, Holidays, Jenna, Random Fun


Easy Gift Idea

This year, we decided to try to simplify Christmas as much as possible.  We decided to not only work to save money, but also to (hopefully) be a little more “eco-responsible” than we have been in the past.  We decided to try to think of ways to give of ourselves and our talents in the form of services or products that can be consumed/used up instead of simply cluttering up space (and eventually landfills).  Today, I mixed up a batch of my homemade bath salts and thought I’d share the idea here, because it’s so easy, and always well-received!  They’re simply made from Epsom salts and organic essential oils.  That’s it!  Epsom salts are great for soothing tired, stressed muscles, and you can customize the scents for each individual.  My favorite essential oils are grapefruit (refreshing) or vanilla (soothing/calming).  You may prefer lavender, rose, tea tree, or many others. One small bottle of essential oil will go a LONG way!

I bought the Bell® jars in the picture above at Meijer as a package of 4 for $5.  These were a little fancier than you would have to use, and there are cheaper options in canning or jelly jars available.  I try to reuse glass jars and lids whenever possible, and am always on the lookout for unique jars at resale shops, garage sales and Goodwill.  Just make sure they have a lid, or some way to close.  I found a great bottle with a unique shape at a resale shop with a cork in it that was one of my favorites.  Epsom salts are readily available at any pharmacy, and are very cheap.

I love this project for several reasons.  First of all, there’s no exact science.  Simply fill your container with Epsom salts and add drops of essential oil until you are happy with the scent.  Remember that it’s always easier to add more!  You can’t really remove the oil once you’ve added it, but you CAN add more salts to tame the smell.  I also love it because Jenna can help!  She helped scoop the salts, add the drops (Careful with this one – toddlers tend to go a little crazy.  Stay close!), and then LOVED shaking and shaking the containers once the lids were firmly screwed on.  Finally, I love how pleased people are when they receive their gift.  I think you will too.

Today, I bottled four jars like you see pictured above.  Total time for the project?  Twenty minutes!  And that’s with a toddler helping.  It could go a little faster even, if you’re doing it without pint-sized helpers, but it’s a great opportunity for them to get to help.  What a wonderful way to teach about the spirit of giving (instead of simply the spirit of shopping).

Happy giving!

P.S. This makes a great gift for year-round giving, too!


Practical, Organic Greenery

How about this idea for a decorative holiday wreath?  An organically grown bay leaf and rosemary wreath adds beautiful decoration on a door or as a centerpiece.  When it’s time to put the decorations away, you can still use the herbs for cooking.  Brilliant!

link via body+soul magazine
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Posted by on December 11, 2008 in Christmas, Holidays, Product Reviews



Tomorrow is the day that our country has set aside to remember all that we are thankful for.  And to eat.  (Hee!)  Hopefully, you’re all enjoying a wonderful extended holiday weekend with friends and family and taking at least a little time for thankfulness.

Thanksgiving Day, we get to spend time with my paternal grandparents and extended family.  Saturday, we’ll spend the day celebrating Christmas with my maternal grandfather and extended family.  I’m so glad that Jenna has the opportunity to know and be a part of the lives of her great grandparents and that she has an extended family that loves her so much.  There will be lots of eating, talking, laughing, putting puzzles together and game playing at each gathering.  The mosaic above includes several pictures I found that painted a picture of Thanksgiving for me.

I’m especially thankful for my wonderful friends and family and for all the time that I get to share with them.  I’m thankful that Jenna is healthy and happy and finally gaining weight.  I’m thankful that Hubby has a job and that we have a wonderful house and everything we need.  I’m aware of the many, many people within our own country as well as around the world who are not blessed with all the “extras” I have, let alone the necessities that I take for granted every day like clean water, access to medical care, adequate food, clothing and a home.

This year, may we all remember those who have less and do everything we can to help make their situation at least a little bit better.

And please take a moment to read this post if you haven’t yet.  A fifteen-year-old girl needs a kidney.  She’s dying, and you might be the one who can save her life.  I filled out the living donor form, now it’s your turn.

Here’s hoping your Thanksgiving is truly blessed.  Happy Holidays!


Posted by on November 26, 2008 in Charity, Family, Holidays, Stream of consciousness


Alternative Giving

Photo by jek in the box

If you really feel like you want to give a gift, but are struggling with either greening the holiday or what to get someone who already seems to have everything they need, consider a gift of alternative giving.  Contribute to a charity in someone else’s name, and present them with a card letting them know that you did.  Here are a few charity organizations to consider:

Alternative Gifts


Heifer Project International


World Wildlife Fund (you can adopt an endangered animal – a great gift for a child)

For more “gifts that give back,” check out Epic Change or this list compiled by CNN.  (Thanks InstaMom!)

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Posted by on November 24, 2008 in Going Green, Holidays