Christmas Days

Small Things Christmas-2918

Yesterday I cleaned out my pantry, and today I got out of the house to grocery shop, along with Seth and my youngest three.  The woman behind me in line at my final stop said to me, “You’re brave.”  I replied that I was in fact feeling rather brave, but even more so, relieved that we were at the end of our shopping trip.  I arrived home and cleaned out the fridge before putting the groceries away.  I usually have my older boys put groceries away, but that isn’t really working out.  They just put things where they will fit, and while I appreciate the help, I think I need to go back to doing it myself.  I feel the same way about the girls’ laundry, though I am heading down a rabbit trail now, when what I sat down to write about is our Christmas.

As far as gifts go, we seem to do things a little differently each year, depending on a variety of factors, including where we are at financially.  Our children don’t have high expectations in the gift department, and that helps.  We at one point decided we would only do stockings for Christmas day, but that actually got expensive, and I ran out of ideas after the first couple of years.  I could probably swing it every year with the girls, but the big boys don’t need more than one pocket knife and watch.  This year I set an approximate budget of $50 per child (I figure some people wonder about things like that.)  Our three oldest boys just got cash in their stockings along with the candy, nuts, and clementines, and the younger children received wrapped gifts.  Larkspur and Beatrix requested these cloaks in red, so that’s what I bought for them.  Job got a balance bike, a little over budget, but I supplemented with saved birthday money.  Silas has been wanting a tool set, and I ordered him this one.  Jonny told me that I could have gotten everything cheaper by going to Harbor Freight, but I patiently explained that would have required GOING to A STORE.  I wrapped a few extra gifts for everyone, mainly TinTin books.  I bought The Action Bible, which some of my kids really like, and some (Seth) find distasteful.  I also finally bought Connectagons after considering them for years.  They are cool, but are currently spread all over the house.

Some years I make most of the Christmas candy.  I joked with a friend that my theme this year seemed to be, “Why make it, if I can buy it?”  Ha!!!  Those words did actually run through my mind when I spied a bag of high end peanut brittle at the grocery store, remembering that Beatrix wanted me to make some.  I didn’t want to make some.  So, I bought some.  She didn’t mind.

Larkspur picked up my slack in the homemade department.  With Jonny’s help, she made me a candle using beeswax from our bees and an old broken teacup she dug from a dump in the woods.  I love it.  She had gifts for everyone including scarves that she knit for both Silas and Beatrix.  In the photos above Bea is wearing hers, and Lark is wearing the one she knit for Silas.  (Hmmmm.) I also received a hand painted Our Lady of Guadalupe figure from Sue Dow.  It’s so beautiful, and I’m keeping it right next to my bed.  So there was a little bit of handmade in our Christmas, which was nice.

I’ve been knitting, and my barn sweater is finally almost finished!  I washed it last night, and if that thick wool ever dries, I will sew up the pockets and add buttons.  I’m also knitting a little hat for Beatrix (making up the pattern as I go) using a skein of indigo dyed yarn (this one) that she requested from my recent indigo dyeing day.  I think it’s going to be pretty!

Right now, my younger kids are making bread with Gabe’s help and the entire downstairs is a big fat mess.  I don’t mind.  I have knitting to do, and besides, my fridge is clean on the inside.  And usually, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

I hope that all of you can ignore the mess and enjoy the season for a little bit longer as well!

My Good Gifts List

Small Things Gift List

For the past couple of years, per request, I have done my best to create some gift idea lists. This list includes both new ideas, and those I have shared in the past.  Many of the links are Amazon affiliate links, and it is a real gift to us when you shop Amazon through those links, as we earn a small percentage when you do.  Thank you so much!

For the kids:

We bought Job this bucket swing for his birthday, and we are very pleased with it!

Last year, his godparents gave him this pop up peg people toy and he still loves it! There is a fire truck version that is super cute! This Sun Sorter puzzle is very pretty, and popular with my little ones. And I also really like this Hape First Shapes Puzzle and this little cottage puzzle.

Silas received this Schwinn Kid’s Balance Bike for his third birthday, and absolutely loved it. We took it to every baseball game, and he also rode around the yard on it. This year, we bought him a small regular bike without training wheels and he was able to ride it almost immediately, having learned to balance on the balance bike. I highly recommend them!

Bird Bingo was a new addition this year, and my kids have played it a ton. They love it. I would like to have Bug Bingo as well!

I think that Keva maple planks are the single most played with toys that we own, and I say this having had them for over five years. I can’t say enough good things about these very simple blocks that appeal to a very wide range of ages. The ones that I linked to are actually made in the U.S.!

A close second would be wooden train tracks and trains. I don’t have the set that I linked to here, but they look like a really good value. I bought all of ours about ten years ago when Seth was a toddler. Now Silas is playing with them and the older boys will still sit down and build tracks as well.

Pattern blocks are really popular with my kids. We have had this set of Parqeutry blocks since Seth was preschool age, and each child since him has loved it.

If I had to name the item most played with by my girls it would have to be play silks. They are always in use it seems.

Silas recently spent his long saved birthday money on this little crossbow after playing with it at a friend’s house. It is very well made, and he is having a lot of fun with it.

I like these beeswax crayons that seem to be holding up better than other (more expensive) beeswax stick crayons I have tried, although the sturdiest beeswax crayons for younger kids are the Stockmar blocks.

This screw block activity set is great for preschool aged kids. Silas really likes it.

Orchard is probably my favorite game to play with kids 9(ish) and under. My older boys more recently have been loving Ticket To Ride. Favorite card games include Art Close Up cards, Rat-A-Tat-Cat, and Mille Bornes. Shut the Box has seen lots of play time over the years as well.

My little girls love these Little House Paper Dolls.

I bought Jonny this Bocce Set for his birthday and he and the boys love playing together.

When the weather is cold, my older boys typically get interested in coin roll hunting. Seth likes to search through nickels the most, the other two like pennies. Boxes of coins would make great gifts, especially if you were already planning on giving money to the recipient.

My older boys all enjoy metal detecting and we highly recommend the Garrett – ACE 250.

Job rides around on his Wheely Bug everyday!

If you are looking for handmade leather toys, Made by Alejandro is offering 10% off your order today using the coupon code SmallThings2015.

Gifts for adults (and big kids):

I recently bought myself The Elizabeth Gaskell Collection on DVD, because these are comforting movies that I will watch more than once. Good for winter evenings!

I use these Organic Cotton Mesh Bags to hang onions and garlic in my pantry. They are high quality.

While Jonny and I still don’t regularly carry cell phones, I did purchase an Apple iPad mini earlier this year (I guess the model I purchased is outdated now.) I use it for listening to music, looking up recipes, and Instagram. I’m trying to learn more about apps and how to use them, especially those for prayers.  I’m just a real old lady in this department, though.  Too much technology stresses me out!  I try to keep it put away most of the time, because I don’t like feeling tied to a screen, but it has proven itself to be a very useful tool, and I don’t regret purchasing it.  I bought this cover to protect it.

I know I have mentioned it before, but if you know any gardeners this Nejiri Gama Hoe is the best little garden hoe! Prices really fluctuate on Amazon, but I just ordered myself a new one for 8 dollars!  I have been using (and losing) these for many years.

Seth received this USB Digital Microscope Magnifier Video Camera for his birthday, and uses it all the time to magnify and photograph small fossils. He really likes it.

Jonny bought a Korg Kaossilator for himself last year (birthday, I think?), and he absolutely loves it. I don’t quite understand what it is, but he uses it to make music. The older kids use it as well, and they all have a lot of fun with it.

I finally bought a Hobby Floor Lamp to use while cross stitching or doing other crafts that need a little extra light.

I love these tea cups that come with infusers!  I was given one as a gift a few months ago, and I love it so much, it has become a go to gift for me as well.  They pair well with Winterwoods tea.

I have the midsize wooden drying rack from Homestead Drying Racks and absolutely love it. Ours is in daily use, mainly for drying wool items and other things that don’t go in the dryer. It is really well made and sturdy. Silas climbs on it like a jungle gym. My only problem is that even with the midsize rack, I don’t have a great place to store it, because it is really big!

A dehydrator! Here’s a little excerpt from an older blog post: I sometimes get a little fixated on a specific food, usually something that someone else has cooked and shared with me. That happened recently when my friend Sarah brought me a jar of cranberry granola. And of course it wasn’t ordinary granola. It was made with lacto fermented cranberry relish and then dehydrated. So it’s not like I could just throw some together myself. There was special equipment and time involved. I thought about it for a few days, and then I decided that I had to order the “special equipment” myself. I ordered a Pickl-It jar to make the cranberry relish in, and a dehydrator.

Living in a small house with lots of people, I love this white noise machine.

This is the perfect time of year to give the One Line a Day Journal.

Other nice little organizational books that I really like are this Moleskine blank recipe journal, and this very simple address book.

Though I was skeptical at first, I found my Kindle Paperwhite to be really useful, especially when nursing the baby at night. Sadly, mine appears to have been stolen out of my purse at a store earlier this week.  (Update to this:  I NEVER read on my Kindle anymore, though it was great when I was nursing at night and I sometimes use it now to light my paperback book when I can’t find a book light. :) )

Jonny says that the best gift I’ve ever bought for him is this Leatherman.

And another cute gift idea is one of these blue heritage ball jars along with a Cuppow and a knitted jar cozy.

For kids (and adults!) who like to collect things, and would like an inexpensive way to display them, I recommend riker mounts. This is what we store our nicest shark’s teeth in along with some of our other fossils. We order ours here.

For the knitter:

I am often asked what I use to block my knits. I use these blocking mats along with blocking pins. Jonny recently surprised me with this set of knit blockers and I think they’re great.

I’ll work on an updated book list this week!