The Christmas Calmdown–We’re Making a List!

Calmdown Banner
Hello, and welcome back to another instalment of the Christmas Calmdown!  We’re planning ahead for a calm December, and this month we’re tackling gifts!  Gift giving has the potential to be the loveliest of all holiday rituals, yet it is quite often the straw that breaks the holiday camel’s back.  It’s not hard to understand why; gift giving covers the whole organizing spectrum of:
  • Budgeting (how much to spend),
  • Planning (who gets what and where do I get it),
  • Activity (shopping), and
  • Creativity (wrapping and tagging). 
It’s easy to get bogged down and bummed out, which inevitably leads to December 23 Midnight Madness at the mall and a smoking Visa card.

But no more…

Right now, on March 25, with the decidedly un-holiday backdrop of mud and rain, we are going to make a few decisions and commit to a plan!

To me, there are essentially three categories of Christmas presents:

1. Traditional – Essentially, presents that you buy.  Whether in store or online, you decide who gets what and hand over some money .  Many retailers will even giftwrap for you. 

Why it works – Who doesn’t love gifts?  Picking the perfect present can be tons of fun, and if you’re creative you can really go to town wrapping  Check out Martha for great ideas!

Why it goes wrong – Without a budget, all that shopping can hit your wallet hard.  Both in terms of time and money, if you don’t plan carefully, you may find yourself stressed out, tapped out, and missing out on all the fun, meaningful things you want to do.

Plan of attack – Make a list of everyone you need to buy for and decide how much you want to spend.  Think you’re being a Scrooge?  $50.00 for a gift may not seem like much, but once you multiply that by 10…eeep!  Whatever number you came up with, there’s a few ways to make it more tolerable.  One option is to divide that amount by the number of pay cheques you have left until December 1 and commit to transferring that amount to a savings account. (For the $500.00, that works out to about $30.00 every two weeks.  Not as painful, eh?)  Another option is to purchase one gift per pay cheque. Still another (for you power shoppers out there) is to shop the sales year round (my mom starts during Boxing Week, no lie, and she always gives the BEST gifts). 

2. Charitable – Truly the gifts that keep on giving, Charitable Gifts are a personal favourite of mine, and what I’m planning to give this year.  Adopt-a-Family programs, Third World outreach, animal rescues and food banks are all ways you can give while giving back.  This year we’re planning a donation to our local Christmas hamper fund as well as paying for a child’s cleft palate surgery through The Smile Train foundation.  Check out World Vision, Samaritan’s Purse, and the website for your local humane society for other ideas.

Why it Works – Charitable gifts are more in keeping with the spirit of the season.  More and more people, tired of the materialism, are turning away from store bought gifts in exchange for heartfelt donations.  Also, this is an excellent way to really put your holiday budget to work; instead of trying to stretch your dollar over many, many gifts, put it all into one great give and share the news in a beautiful Christmas card.  You can’t beat the warm fuzzies!!!

Why it doesn’t work – Really, the only time charitable gifts don’t work is when the recipient doesn’t share your spirit.  It’s sad but sometimes it happens, and I suppose the economy is thankful for these folks. But you’re in luck!  There are plenty of great fair trade organizations who make beautiful gifts; one of my favourites is Ten Thousand Villages

Plan of attack – As with traditional gifts, decide what you want to do and how much you can spend, and make a plan to spread that amount out over the months remaining until December.  Some organizations will send out cards acknowledging that a gift has been made in your loved one’s name; these often have a deadline so mark this date down in your Christmas Planner.

3. Home-made Gifts – Ah, the heartfelt and homespun!  Some of my favourite gifts, both given and received, fall into this category.  Knit, crocheted, sewn, thrown, painted, sketched, sanded or beaded, nothing says “I’m thinking of you” like a home-made item.

Why it Works – If you’re crafty you can cross-budget your Christmas gifts with your hobby allowance.  Also, homemade gifts give you an opportunity to try out projects you may not make otherwise, like children’s items for example.  You’ll feel great (and oh so proud) to give something you’ve laboured over to someone you love.

Why it doesn’t work – Time, time, time.  I did homemade gifts this year, and despite my best efforts, time was not on my side.  I got everything finished, but oh my, my hands were sore from all that power knitting!  This has the potential to be a budget wrecker, too; if you purchase a bunch of craft supplies and then have to go out and buy gifts, too….ouch.

Plan of Attack – Be realistic about what you can make.  Consider duplicating the same item with slight variations for a number of people.  I did this for my sisters and sister in law with a fingerless mitt pattern I can practically knit in my sleep.  And as above, budget now; home-made, despite popular belief, is not necessarily cheaper.

And there you have it! You can pick one category, or mix and match.  If you can even commit to a budgeting plan, you can always decide later what you want to do with the money you’ve put aside.  In addition to my charitable gifts, I’d like to make or buy a tree ornament to go along with the announcements so that’s something I’m going to start thinking about now.

No matter what approach you decide to take, you can be confident knowing that come December, you’ll be ahead of the game and can truly enjoy your holiday shopping, knowing that you’re in control.

And now, a note from Ains…

Wow! I never really thought about it, but seeing how Kim has broken it down, I can see how gifting really does fall into three main categories! I would have to say I'm kind of a "mix and match" kinda girl, and tend to spread my giving over all three. We always make a point to give a few charitable gifts (the "choose-your-own" gift cards from World Vision have been our favourites as of late), I love making handmade gifts for those who appreciate the work that goes into them, and I always end up buying a few things too. I really try to do the budget thing as well. Since the majority of our gift-recipients live on the East Coast, I try to do the shopping for those family members during our annual trip home, even if that means wrapping presents in August! This saves the shipping costs, and takes away a lot of the stress come December!

Thanks, Ains!  This post is also appearing over at her blog, Pattycake Manners.  Be sure to check it out!
Finally, did anyone make a planner after last month’s post?  I sure did!  If you made one too, and posted about it, be sure to mention in the comments so we can go check it out!  Here’s mine and Ainsley’s! 

You’ll remember Ainsley’s super cute planner that features gorgeous Stampin’ Up fabric.  Love it!
Ains' Planner
For my planner, I took a stroll down the pre-cut fabric aisle at Walmart.  I’ve been loving these colourful little treasures (I recently picked up a bundle of spring-y fat quarters in chocolate brown and brights to decorate my office space).  I found a single fat quarter of light-weight flannel in a fine, red houndstooth check.  After I got it home I realized that it was a bit too short to completely cover my binder, so I covered the edges with red felt.  Some jumbo red rick-rack and a cute chip-board tag complete my holiday planner!
My Pretty Planner
So, how goes the planning?  Do you have a method for gift planning?  Or do you think the last minute spend-a-thon is an integral part of the holiday season?  Share in the comments!!!

Simplify…Sunday Dinner

The last two weeks have been a whirlwind of learning at work, and of adjustments and re-organization at home.  Having two of us working full-time has changed a lot, however we have risen to the occasion and are coping admirably!  We work together well; housework and meals have organically worked themselves out, the pets are doing fine, and although we do miss spending so much time together, we are really enjoying making the most of time we do have off together.

Oh and my job?  LOVE it!!!  Life feels good!

This weekend we actually had Friday night, Saturday AND Sunday off together. We achieved a good mix of checking items off our “to-do” list and having fun.  However, Sunday afternoon we peeked into the refrigerator and realized that one item was still un-checked – groceries.  We’d held off thinking that we might go to the nearby town of Terrace but realized that we just couldn’t face a work week without an order.  Off to the local grocery store we went!

We decided to just get lunch and breakfast basics (I haven’t menu planned for the week yet).  Once we had our cart filled with these items, we turned our thoughts to the evening ahead.  What did we want to eat tonight?  We turned our noses up at frozen pizza (too much of that lately) and fresh pasta (not in the mood) before I suggested a walk up the meat aisle.  That’s when it stuck us. 

Turkey dinner.

Nothing says “Sunday” like  roasted meat.  We’ve done beef roasts a lot lately, and they were great, but this week we had a hankering for turkey.  However,  a full on turkey dinner with all the trimmings takes planning and several hours of time and I really didn’t relish the thought of labouring over the stove for the next 6 hours.  So we decided to cheat.  Because to us, Sunday should be covered in gravy.

Enter “The Practically Instant Turkey Dinner.”

I’m not usually a big fan of “instant” type foods; they tend to be too processed and salty for my liking.  But every so often I relax a bit and take advantage of their truly remarkable ability to put a tasty meal on the table within an hour.  I feel that if you eat well most of the time, then it is OK on occasion to indulge in these items.  And let’s face it; they’re a working couple’s friends.

Here’s what we got:

Almost Instant Sunday Dinner

  • Western Family Turkey Breast with Herb Gravy
  • Idahoan Instant Scalloped Potatoes
  • Stovetop Cornbread Stuffing
  • Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce
  • Dr. Oetker Sauce & Cake
  • Green Giant Simply Steam Veggies

The whole dinner took less than an hour to cook, excluding dessert, which we ended up skipping because we were too full.  That’s the beauty of instant Sauce & Cake; it will still be good another day! Our meal cost about the same as ordering take out, and we felt  happy having had an untraditional traditional Sunday supper!


“Simplify…” is a new post topic I’ll be visiting from time to time. I’m looking forward to sharing the ways I’m discovering to simplify and streamline my housekeeping, meal prep, and work week planning, all while keeping the Nesty spirit alive!

Ch,ch,ch, changes....

Did you miss me?

SO much has happened since my last post (which was over two weeks ago...eeep!)  We're moving (again!); just a few streets over but it's still a move!   I dislike having to pack up and go again but I think we've finally find a rental that meets all our needs and that we can stay put in until we are due to transfer.  The second bit of news is that....I'm working again!  I decided at the end of the summer that I definitely wanted to re-enter the work force.  However, just because I decided I wanted to work did not mean that work wanted me! This was quite a change for me; back home I never had any trouble finding work.  In fact, work often found me!  However, I have finally found a great job (in the interest of keeping some of my life private, I'm not going to get into details, but suffice to say it is fabulous and I wake up happy every day!).

Soooo, what does this mean for Nesty?

Well, you may have noticed I've been cutting back on posting lately.  One of the reasons I started Nesty was to pursue and develop my writing, something I had planned to do after university and never did.  I set a writing schedule for myself of three posts a week on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.  I challenged myself to stick to that goal, and I did until December.  I am proud of that.  However, when I decided to really crank up my job search in January, I decided to relax the posting a bit. The last few weeks, with the news of our move and my starting work (not to mention a horrible, horrible bout of the flu) I have not been posting at all.  And I realized that now, when I don't write, I really miss it.  Yet, I realize that I won't have as much time for writing, not to mention the creative projects that make up my subject matter.

What to do?

To figure out my answer, I turned to you.  For the last few weeks, I've been pouring over my favourite blogs.  I know a lot of you work AND blog.  What I've observed is that you seem to write when inspired, not necessarily on a schedule.  A lot of you participate in memes and link ups to keep a posting schedule going between your own writing.  A lot of you keep it "short and sweet."  

I've been taking notes, readers.  You're a smart, inspiring, talented lot, and you've taught me a lot about what my next steps will be.

Nesty will continue.  I'll be popping in unexpectedly, not on schedule, not unlike a good friend stopping by for coffee.  I'm going to try my best to keep the philosophy of Nesty in my posting matter (pursuing a happy home and a honeyed life through simplified living).  I'd like to re-examine that philosophy from the perspective of a working woman who loves the domestic arts; I'm sure there's some good posts there!

So, please bear with me as I transition!  I think it's going to be great!