Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Diner Style Dinner Delight!

We had my favourite "guilty pleasure" dinner tonight: Hot Turkey Sandwiches and Oven Fries. The bread was homemade (fresh out of the oven), the turkey and gravy (Christmas leftovers of course!) were used generously, and the fries were of the olive-oil-and-sea-salt variety. Heaven!! This was washed down with a nice glass of Sauvignon Blanc, followed by coffee, assorted Christmas cookies and truffles. I'm stuffed!

I also got the turkey stock made up today. Hubby is begging for turkey soup, so I will probably make that up in the next day or two.

Tomorrow I will probably try and unbury the house a bit more - I have to figure out where to put the massive quantities of art supplies the boys received as Christmas gifts!

I've also started making a list of items to pick up using the gift cards hubby and I got for Christmas (HBC, LCBO, and Home Depot). I need a good pair of jeans and khakis (have not been successful finding a good-fitting pair of either in the last couple of years of thrift store shopping) and some new undergarments, hubby needs some boxers, we need to restock the liquor cabinet with rum, Sherry, and Bailey's and pick up a faucet aerator and low-flow showerhead to help reduce our water usage. I will probably think of a few more things before we head out on our shopping spree!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Boxing Day Bliss

Ahh, Boxing Day. My favourite day of the year!! I do enjoy Christmas, but the visiting frenzy of the few days surrounding it, plus all the preparations for the big day, means that no matter how hard I try, I always seem to be exhausted on Christmas Day (and I have to produce a full turkey dinner with all the trimmings as well!) Boxing Day at our house is sacredly protected as "The Day of Doing Nothing". We laze around in our pajamas, get dressed if/when we feel like it, and basically do whatever the heck we want.

I stayed in bed until 10 a.m., spent a lot of the remaining morning reading a novel, puttered around the house a bit, watched The Chronicles of Narnia (again, watched it yesterday too - the boys got the DVD for Christmas from my dad), listened to the Barenaked Ladies, ate "turkeyovers", took an after-dinner nap, and surfed the net somewhat aimlessly. In other words, a perfectly divine day. The boys were busy most of the day playing their new Gamecube games and watching Madagascar (another new DVD) so I had a lot more time than usual to myself, although we did get some group snuggles in today too.

By the way, our "Hundred Dollar" Christmas was, by and large, fairly successful. All of our friends and family seemed pleased with the gifts we gave, and the boys were thrilled with the fishing rods - there's no doubt they will see lots of use. I would have preferred to have a couple more presents to give my hubby (and okay - maybe a couple more to unwrap myself if I'm entirely honest) but all in all, considering that we spent just over $100 for our *entire* Christmas, it was very successful. I was quite impressed with everything we managed to pull off with that small amount. My gifts from my hubby, by the way, were a birdfeeder (built by him), homemade truffles, and a coupon book filled with certificates for goodies like a foot massage and a "get out of dishes free" card. I don't think I would voluntarily choose to do a strict $100 holiday again, but it was definitely a worthwhile experience, and has helped to clarify what the most meaningful and important parts of the holiday are for all of us. Hopefully our budget won't *require* us to do this again next year, but we certainly won't go hog wild with the spending next Christmas even if we can afford to.

I finally got around to uploading the photo I took of the gift baskets I made up for some of our friends:

the treats included a Norwegian "Julekake" (traditional Christmas bread), candied peanuts, toffee butter crunch (tastes like a skor bar), pumpkin loaf, and a jar of cran-raspberry jam. I then filled an orange crate with their personal gifts (all knitted by me!): a scarf for Jenn, socks for Bruce, a cube-shaped stuffed toy for Paige, and a CD of Christmas music for all of them. I also made them a "birdseed wreath" to give to their feathered friends by dipping a grapevine wreath into a mixture of melted shortening, peanut butter and cornmeal, then coating with birdseed and refrigerating until firm.

My dad got pumpkin loaf, peanuts, butter toffee crunch, a birdseed wreath, and another classical music CD to add to his collection.

My nan (grandmother) got cran-raspberry jam, pumpkin loaf, a knitted sachet filled with peppermint (from my garden) and rosemary (heavenly scent!), and an SPCA calendar featuring lots of cute critters.

Boxing Day is now officially over as the clock on my computer says 12:02 am so I'm going to head to bed!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Hundred Dollar Holiday Update

A quick update of how our "Hundred Dollar Holiday" project is going:

Things look good so far. I think all the necessary shopping has been completed, and the grand total as of this afternoon was $103.43. This does *not* include food and food gifts, which are coming out of our grocery budget. I'm fairly impressed (and yes, excited!) that I was able to accomplish this feat.

As far as actual expenditures, this is how it all played out:

$ 8.00 on miscellaneous stocking stuffers at Dollarama
$13.53 mailing packages and Christmas cards
(I only mailed 4 cards - to England - everyone else is getting e-cards)
$10.55 for a book for my nine year old son
$ 4.77 for stocking stuffers at Shoppers Drug Mart (I used a $10 gift card here, otherwise the
total would have been $14.77)
$11.39 for a Simpsons puzzle for my 7 year old son
$30.19 for 2 fishing rods for the boys at Canadian Tire (my hubby used $20 of CT money as well)
$15.00 for a cheque for my teenaged nephew
$10.00 for our Christmas tree (actual cost $50, but we had a $40 gift certificate)

That makes a grand total of 103.43. In case you're thinking that looks like a pretty skimpy Christmas, there is a *lot* of other stuff that's either from yard sales (in new or nearly-new condition), food gifts, or other homemade gifts to round the above mentioned items out. There are also a lot of CDs I squirreled away from when I recently rejoined Columbia House and got 12 for 1 or something like that.

For our immediate family, it's going to look something like this:

Hubby-handknit hat (to match the scarf he got last year), Barenaked Ladies CD (he's a big fan), stocking which includes dark chocolate sticks, fancy shampoo, chapstick, bar soap and some other yet-to-be-determined "free"items

Noah (9 yo) - from Santa: stocking, peg puzzle (garage-saled) ,Frosty/Rudolph songs CD, Sudoku puzzle book; from us: Build Your Own Inuksuk book and fishing rod

Nathan (7 yo) from Santa: stocking, kids card game book (garage-saled), Simpsons jigsaw puzzle, Sudoku puzzle book; from us: Petsitters book (1st one in the series-garage-saled) and fishing rod

That's all I can think of right now, although I might have left something out. I will write more about some of the gift baskets I am putting together for family and friends in my next post.

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Alternative Advent Calendars

We got our tree today!! Thanks to the kindness of our neighbour Mike, who gave us a gift certificate for a local tree farm (it was given to him by his employer, but he wasn't going to use it) we got a $50 tree for ten bucks! And it's *huge* - about 8 1/2 feet tall, and very "girthy". Our living room definitely could not contain a tree any larger than this one. It's all set up and decorated, and the kids and hubby are now merrily watching a Looney Tunes DVD and admiring the thing of beauty that is our tree.

The not-so-thrifty adventure of the day was the trip to the post office. Mailing 4 little cards to England and one small package to elsewhere in Ontario cost over 13 dollars!! Goodness. Thankfully that is all my Christmas mailing for this year (the bulk of my Christmas greetings are being sent via e-card).

Although I'm quite a bit late for this year, I thought I would post a couple of advent calendar ideas that are an alternative to the buy-it-every-year-and-throw-it-away type. You can always tuck them away for next year!

This first one (an Advent Quilt) was a gift made for us by my close friend Jenn a few years ago. You can't see it very well in the photo, but at the base of the tree there are little pockets (numbered 1 through 24 of course) that each contain a mini ornament to hang on the tree above. You can see we've already got a bunch hung since it's already December 9th. I love this idea since it's both lovely and practical - you can reuse it forever!

The second reusable calendar is also cloth, with larger numbered pockets. In previous years I have filled each pocket with candy treats for the boys. This year I decided to try something new and put a written note in each pocket with a family activity we could all do together. I love this idea as it ensures we get some family time during the busy-ness of the season, but it has also made me feel a little stressed some days trying to come up with a suitable activity that I know we'll be able to fit into the day. Today's was "Go get our Christmas tree"; other days have been things like do a Christmas craft, bake a Christmas treat, take a walk to see all the Christmas lights. Others over the next week will include things we do for others (like take gifts to our neighbours, make a gift for the birds, etc).
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