Tag Archives: christmas

25 Homemade Or Natural Stocking Stuffers

25 Homemade Or Natural Stocking Stuffers

My kids always look forward to their stockings on Christmas morning. They never know what little things will be in there for them. The challenge is always finding things that aren’t plastic junk. They get far too much of that from other sources. Homemade or natural stocking stuffers are a very interesting option.

  1. Rocks, minerals and gemstones – these are a favorite with my kids. I often find interesting ones on eBay. No coal – the kids aren’t that bad.
  2. Coupons – for time with parents, skip a chore, etc.
  3. Popcorn balls
  4. Homemade lip balm
  5. Homemade slime
  6. Homemade play dough
  7. Dried fruit
  8. Homemade crayons
  9. Hand warmers
  10. Bath bombs/salts
  11. Seeds
  12. Homemade caramels
  13. Homemade soaps
  14. Homemade snow globes
  15. Rice heating pads
  16. Treasure map to other gifts
  17. Headbands
  18. Scarf
  19. Earrings
  20. Hair pins
  21. Cord bracelet
  22. Crayon roll
  23. Sewing kit
  24. Sidewalk chalk
  25. Wooden puzzle

While they aren’t natural or homemade, I also like finding little science oriented kits or other things to indulge my kids’ natural curiosity. My husband has trouble keeping to a budget when he visits American Science & Surplus – and that’s not a paid or affiliate link. Seriously, he just loves that site. If it’s my affiliate link you want, they have an Amazon storefront, but I don’t know how it compares to the main site. I never know what he’s going to find there, but it’s always pretty interesting. It appeals well to our geeky side.

Green DIY Ideas For Gifts

Green DIY Ideas For Gifts

The holiday season is fast approaching. Black Friday (or Thursday at some stores) ads are coming out. Tis the season for rampant consumerism.

But you can escape it as much as you choose. You can cut back on gift giving and receiving, or make some gifts yourself. Here are some green do it yourself gift ideas you may want to try with your family.

Play Dough

Homemade play dough is a great gift for the younger kids in a family. They go through play dough so fast, yet it’s really cheap and easy to make. My daughter’s preschool teacher makes a version using KoolAid, but you can color it with regular food coloring or even spices.

Here’s my basic, no cook recipe:

2-1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup salt
1 tbs cream of tartar (optional but helpful)
1-1/2 cups hot water
3 tbs cooking oil
Food coloring

Mix dry ingredients together. Add oil. If you’re doing more than one color, separate into one container per color. Add food coloring to each container, then add hot water slowly, mixing until you get the right consistency.

If you add too much water to a batch, you can add a little more flour and/or salt to get the texture right. This recipe doesn’t require a lot of precision.

Seal each color into a container. Some people refrigerate it to help it last longer, but that’s not 100% necessary. The play dough at the preschool is never refrigerated and lasts a month or more, with near daily use.

Painted Rocks

This is a nice idea for kids to give. It’s budget friendly and personal. Smooth rocks are easiest to paint, of course. Use a good quality, low VOC paint if at all possible.

Homemade Truffles

I love making homemade truffles. My favorite is the pomegranate truffle – it’s just amazing and easy to make as these things go – just two ingredients!

There are ingredients for all kinds of truffles online. Be aware that homemade truffles are best off kept in the refrigerator.

Origami Cash Gifts

If you just don’t know what else to give, cash can be a good gift. You don’t have to be completely boring just because you’re giving cash, however. You can fold it into origami. Your gift will be a little more memorable this way.

Infused Oils

For the person in your life who likes to cook, make some infused oils. It’s not terribly complex, although you do need to plan enough ahead that the flavors infuse into the oil. Most take a week or two to really get into the oil. You can find good instructions at theKitchn.

Vanilla Extract

Another nice gift for cooks. Once again, plan ahead so the vanilla flavor really develops in the extract. Matter of fact, you probably want to start now on this one, as it takes about six weeks to make a basic vanilla extract, and months if you want it be be still better.

All you need is vodka, vanilla beans and some jars or bottle. Dark glass is best to avoid sun exposure. Split the beans lengthwise, put into the vodka, and let it sit. Some sites say to shake it once a week, other sites don’t. You can leave the beans in and keep topping off the vodka in whichever bottle you keep for yourself.

Bath Bombs

Bath bombs are kind of pricey if you buy them, but really easy to make at home. I did this once with my daughter, and the one lesson I will share is don’t do this on a really humid day. The bath bombs weren’t ruined or anything, but they looked a little puffy after a short time out of the molds, and I think that was due to humidity. It may also have been that they weren’t completely dry when we popped them out of the molds.

There are homemade bath bomb recipes all over the internet. Common ingredients include citric acid, Epsom salts, baking soda, food coloring and essential oils. Some also use cocoa butter, shea butter or coconut oil.

There’s a lot of flexibility when it comes to ingredients. The citric acid and baking soda are what cause the fizzing by reacting with each other in water. Pretty much any other ingredient is up to you, just make sure you aren’t getting the citric acid and baking soda wet enough to cause much reaction.

Homemade Stuffed Toys

I’m working on this one now, making giant stuffed toy snakes for my kids. They’ve heard about the one I had when I was a kid, but I just can’t find anything that compares now, so homemade will have to do. I bought fabric for mine, but if you can repurpose material from stuff you have around the house if you like.

You can use stuffing from old pillows if you like, or buy new. My snakes will be getting mostly new because, quite frankly I don’t have that many old pillows around.

Eyes can be stitching, old buttons or you can buy plastic safety eyes for toys. Just think about your child’s age when adding eyes. Buttons aren’t a very good choice for very young children who might pull them off and put them in their mouths.

Earring Holder Frame

My oldest daughter loves her earrings. She has an earring holder, but it has long since filled up. Not that this stops her from wanting more earrings, of course. An earring holder made from a picture frame and either lace or screen makes a lot more sense, since it’s more flexible as to where you put each pair of earrings.

An earring holder made from window screen material and a picture frame is very simple to make. Find a frame about the right size without glass. Use a staple gun to attach the screen, stretching the screen material tight as you go. Cut any excess screen off the outer edges. You can do this with anything that has holes big enough for you to hang the earrings.

The problem with a plain screen earring holder frame is that you can’t hang it on the wall and use it for post earrings. Works great for hooks, but if you need to put the earring back on, it just doesn’t work. I saw a great post at H Is For Handmade where they used strips of lace across the frame so that post earrings can hang as well, without taking the whole frame off the wall. It’s a great twist on the frame idea.

Don’t forget to wrap your gifts in eco friendly ways too. I’ve written about eco friendly gift wrap ideas in the past.

Eco Living During the Holidays

While trying to be eco friendly is important throughout the year, it can be harder to remember during the holiday season. There are so many excuses to buy stuff you don’t need, and cut corners to make things easier, whether or not it’s a good choice for the environment.

Being green isn’t at all impossible around the holidays, however. You can make choices that are good for the environment while keeping to your eco living ideals.

Use Natural Decor

hollyWhat’s available to you in terms of natural decor? This can vary quite a bit from person to person, so take a look around. Pine trees can have a lovely scent, a nice alternative to artificial trees, especially if you can deal with the limitations of bringing in a live tree.

Pine cones look nice, and certain kinds of produce, such as gourds, can sit out through the season as decorations rather than food.

Use Natural Scents

The holiday season is full of wonderful odors, especially if you love to bake. Take advantage of natural scents when you’d like your home to smell more like the holidays.

A simple way to start is to throw some herbs in simmering water. The heat releases their scent all around the house. Just pick your favorites.

You can also time your baking for when you want a particular smell, at least some of the time. Who doesn’t like to smell cookies or an apple pie baking? If you don’t need the oven for other things, think about making something delicious to give your home a scent no candle can beat.

Reuse Gift Wrap & Bags

My supply of used gift bags is ridiculous. I can find a bag for just about any gift I’m likely to give. I’m pretty sure some have made it to my home more than once, as I’m not the only one in the family to reuse gift bags.

Reusing gift wrap is trickier, as it doesn’t always survive in a smooth form. Take a look at what remains, and consider crafts that can be done with it. At the very least, kids love anything they can cut up into interesting shapes and tiny pieces.

Rethink Gift Wrap

Of course, you don’t have to use traditional gift wrap or bags. The wrap itself could be a part of the present. I wrote about a variety of eco friendly gift wrap ideas a few years ago.

Trade Decorations

You’re tired of some of your old decorations. Someone else is tired of theirs. Can you arrange a trade with them? Be careful about moving around any sentimental items, but often there are other decorations that you’ll be content to part with, either forever or for a time.

Simplify Gift Giving

This works especially well with extended family, but kids can be willing to get in on it too. Cut back on the number of people you buy gifts for, whether by instituting a name drawing or by simply agreeing that you don’t need to exchange gifts anymore. Try setting a price limit too. This can really ease the stress around the holidays.

Make Recycling Easy

When you have family and friends over, make it easy for them to recycle as appropriate. Just think about the wine and beer bottles, beer and soda cans and so forth that get used. They’re easy to recycle, so make sure it happens.

Kids and Christmas – How Do You Keep the “Gimmes!” Away?

Christmas is a fun time to be a kid. You get to ask all kinds of people for things you want, and there’s a chance you might get them. It’s all pretty amazing. It also encourages kids to get really demanding about wanting more and more stuff. Is there any way to control this?

No way is perfect, of course, but you can cut things down some. Kids will be kids, and that means that even if you limit exposure to television commercials, there will be friends talking about the latest and greatest whatevers. Still, cutting down on media exposure is one of the best ways to limit how much stuff children ask for. Here are some more ideas.

Talk to Them Honestly

Discuss with your kids why they can’t have everything they want. You can cover financial reasons (who can afford all that?), environmental reasons (the waste, oh, the waste!) and even that sometimes it’s hard to buy something because too many people want it.

Go with whatever works for you. Children, especially as they get older, understand more than many adults think.

Remind Them of What’s Important to Your Family

We all want things, but there are values beyond things. Whether it’s the meaning of the holiday, thinking of those less fortunate or something else, remind your kids what lies beyond wishing for presents.

Discuss the Value of Patience

This one really helps if what your child wants is something you’re willing to get, but can’t do so yet. It doesn’t matter if it’s for financial reasons or because all the stores are sold out. Patience is something children need to learn.

Encourage Them to Give

Whether it’s the gifts they give to family or something your children give to charity, help them to remember that giving is as much a part of Christmas as receiving. Help your children start thinking of others, even if it’s just family members.

This can also include giving toys to a Toys for Tots drive or finding a place that gives you information about what a child or a family would like for Christmas. Another choice would be to look at international charities that provide live animals to poor families or otherwise do things to help communities in need. There are many opportunities to give both locally and around the world.

Sort Out Old Toys

Christmas is one of my favorite times to sort out old toys to give to charity. Kids know that new ones are coming, and there’s always some that just don’t get used anymore or maybe never really caught your child’s attention.

If your child is reluctant, you can do the sort yourself. I still suggest keeping your child involved in the process. One way is to divide the toys into two more or less equal piles. Let your child pick one to keep. Allow trades for truly wanted items, but you can put rules on it such as having to give up two items to get one back. Make sure you keep sets together.

Take the unwanted toys to a favorite charity together. You and your child can talk about what the charity will do with the toys and who will benefit.

If you really want to work the lesson more, you can encourage your child to give up some current favorite toys. Children can be amazingly generous given the chance. They may wince and whine, but they also may do it.

How Do You Limit Your Environmental Impact at Christmas?

If there’s one problem with Christmastime, it’s the consumer feeding frenzy that happens every year. So much waste, and it’s hard to not get into it at least a little bit. Most families have a lot of Christmas traditions that are difficult to change and too much fun to easily opt out of.

How can you adapt your habits at Christmastime to limit the impact you put on the environment?

1. Talk it over with family.

Have a discussion with your family about changes you’d like to make and why. Try to make handmade, reused and Fair Trade gifts more acceptable.

My kids are getting a stack of books from our local $1 bookstore this year. They’re all used books, but in good condition. For about the price of one or two new books for each, they’re getting a bunch of books. I call that a good deal.

Trees and seeds are good gifts for those who enjoy gardening. Find out what they’d like to grow and which varieties grow well in their area. A good fruit tree is a gift that will keep on giving for years.

2. Limit spending on gifts.

There are a few ways to go about this. You can set a price limit and still all shop for the same people, or you can draw names and pool the total value given in gifts per person.

Between my sisters and I, we have an agreement on how much each of us contributes toward gifts. It’s approximate, as no money actually changes hands. Instead, names are drawn and gift values assigned to each name. Each person shops for the people they drew.

This cuts down a lot on shopping time and on the buying of obnoxious knickknacks. You can find out what the person actually wants, and it might be in the budget.

3. Reuse gift bags.

This one drives some people nuts, but it’s why I don’t like to use wrapping paper. Gift bags are very reusable if you treat them well. I keep quite a stash of them for whenever I need to give a gift.

Alternatively, use a reusable shopping bag as a gift bag. Make it a part of the gift.

4. Go easy on the lights.

Holiday light displays are beautiful, there’s no doubt about it. We’re planning a walk around our neighborhood soon to see all the holiday lights on display – my youngest just about plasters herself to the windows at night when she notices all the pretty lights outside right now.

The only problem with holiday light displays is how much energy they use. It adds a lot to your power bill, and most power generation isn’t exactly clean. Then light strands break down over time and have to be replaced. That part isn’t so pretty.

If you’re going to have holiday lights, go for LED whenever you can. They use less power, and they’ve been improving over the past few years. You should also put your lights on a time, both outside and on your Christmas tree inside, so that they don’t stay on all night long. They don’t really need to look so pretty when no one is going to see them, right?

5. Think your travel through.

The holiday season is a time to visit and enjoy being with family. If you live away from your extended family, it’s common to take a trip and go visit.

Kind of a pity about the pollution created.

Choosing the most effective and environmentally friendly form of transportation is a balancing act. A big part is how far you have to go. If you’re only a couple hours away, a car may be your one option. If you’re cross country, you may not be able to afford the time a car or train takes to cover that distance.

There are options to traveling. You can talk on the phone, of course. If both sides have a webcam, you can talk that way. Not as much fun as being together in person, but it’s kinder to the environment and the budget.

6. Think about the food.

Holiday food, oh, the holiday food! It’s no wonder many people gain weight over the holidays. There’s too much good food available this time of year at the various parties and other events you may attend.

For your own health, overeating is a bad idea, although the occasional indulgence isn’t that terrible for your health at all.

When you’re preparing food, think about where it comes from. You may not be able to get much fresh, local produce this time of year, depending on where you live, unless it was grown in a greenhouse. You can try to get organic produce. You can get free range turkey or other meats that have been treated better than the usual factory farmed stuff.

Sweet treats are the big challenge. Look for bakeries that use healthier ingredients and avoid HFCS you can buy Fair Trade candies, or you can make desserts and other treats yourself. Balancing deliciously decadent with environmentally sensitive takes some extra work, but it’s not a bad challenge if you’re up for it.

7. Think about your tree.

We have an artificial tree. Not as pretty as a real tree, but we’ve had it for a number of years now and intend to keep on using it for many more. My mother has had the same artificial tree as far back as I can remember, and it’s still going strong.

If you go artificial, that’s the thing to remember, to commit to keeping it a long time. Don’t just throw it out because you want a real tree from then on. Find someone who does want it if you’re done with it.

If you go for a real tree, make sure it was sustainably farmed. A good tree farm replants every year. Don’t flock your real tree, as that makes it unrecycleable.  Do make sure that your real tree gets recycled in whatever way is available in your local area. Many communities have places where you can drop off your real trees at the end of the season.

8. Remember your reason for the season.

Whatever holiday you’re celebrating, whatever the reason, keep it in mind as you prepare for it. There’s no religion anywhere that demands the consumer frenzy that has become so common at this time of year.

Do you have any special ways you limit your family’s impact at this time of year?