Wrapping Paper – Weekly Unplugged Project

By , December 29, 2008 8:56 am

The theme for this week’s Unplugged Project is wrapping paper.  I am hoping to learn lots of neat new ways to recycle used holiday paper.

With all our indoor time due to the terrible icy, snowstorms we had all week, you’d think we’d have found an opportunity to do our project on time.  But somehow we have been too busy with holidays and sledding and playing games to get to a wrapping paper project yet.  Maybe today or tomorrow?


If any of you were able to work a wrapping paper project into your busy holiday schedules, them please put a link to your project post in Mr. Linky below.  Please link to your post, not just your blog, so we can always find your project!  If you didn’t do a wrapping paper project, but would like to learn more about the weekly Unplugged Project, then please read more here.


Next week’s weekly Unplugged Project theme will be:




Redefining Christmas

By , December 22, 2008 8:51 pm

As a child, I remember Christmas being so exciting that I could hardly sleep the night before. We’d have a tree, Christmas stockings and yummy turkey.  My Dad would always design a “trail” for me –  a treasure hunt with clues – to lead me to my biggest present.  Dessert was always my mother’s homemade Christmas pudding with lots of thick cream, almond paste cloaked Christmas cake, and tiny, flaky mince pies (my parents were from England).

As an adult, I managed to spend most of my Christmases at home with my mother and sister (my parents were divorced by then) where it would always be the same as I remembered (minus the trail).

This will be the fourth Christmas since the death of my mother.  Each year, my sister and I have struggled with how to make Christmas like we remembered.  For a variety of reasons, the first two years were fairly miserable.  Last year, I just ran away from it all and ignored Christmas as much as I could.

This year, I feel brave enough to try it again.  It will be different.  My sister and I have decided that we can’t recreate the same thing without my mother.  Those days are gone.  I need to do something new (but with a few old elements?).

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a long time (at least a year) may remember last year’s  Christmas/Holidays Unplugged series, so perhaps you know of my internal struggles.  I want to create lovely memories and traditions for my children, but hate the commercialism and lack of any meaning.

I think that writing that series of posts really helped me prioritize and come up with a plan.  A “year off” from Christmas helped a lot too.


The plan this year is as follows:

– Tree: Thin tree that needed to be cut from our property anyway – read more: An Ugly Christmas Tree.

– Child Presents: Christmas stockings plus one gift each for the kids from Santa, and a few from us.

NOTE:  Without TV, my kids don’t really have specifics on what they want…which is wonderful and difficult at the same time.  They sat on Santa’s lap at our town Christmas tree lighting and both asked for “a surprise.”  I wonder how many kids do that?

– Adult Presents: Christmas stockings all around.  I do the children, my sister and my husband.  My sister does her significant other and me.  I love the challenge of finding cool little things that they might like that would fit in the tiny space of a stocking.  It seems fun and not commercially excessive.

Otherwise, we are not doing adult gifts this year.  We are all in the very fortunate position (especially fortunate in light of this year’s economy) of being able to buy whatever we need, and I hate shopping out of a “need to buy something” mentality.

In lieu of gifts, each adult will do a donation to charity for each other adult (to that other adult’s favorite charity).  I have even gotten a few other relatives on board with this (even for the kids) which certainly lightens the gift receiving (and giving) burden, is much more in the spirit of the season, and makes me feel that we are actually doing good for the world rather than doing good for Walmart.

– Food: I think I’ll get a small, fresh turkey from our local market (but I’d better get on that right away, especially since the weather is forecast to be lousy).  I’ll try to keep it somewhat simple because I want to enjoy the day and not spend it mostly in the kitchen as I remember my mother doing.

Of course, if I can’t get to the store for food, we’ll be having leftovers for Christmas.  But snowed-in with leftover pasta might actually make for a completely fun and memorable Christmas!


This is my overall plan.  It may need refining next year…or maybe I’ll just want to run away again.  I don’t know.  I’ll tell you all how it goes.

Good luck defining (or redefining) your celebration.  Happy holidays to all!

Dark/Light – Solstice Napkin Rings (Weekly Unplugged Project)

By , December 22, 2008 9:44 am

Here I am, better late than never!  After a very busy day of cooking yesterday in preparation for last night’s winter solstice get-together with friends, I am finally able to post our Weekly Unplugged Project.

The theme this week is Dark/Light, in honor of the solstice (be it winter or summer depending on your hemisphere).

We made solstice napkin rings that, in all the excitement, we actually forgot to use.  Oops.

First we gathered “nature-colored” beads and pipecleaners, or at least as close to nature colored as we could find (I am not sure that that shade of green pipecleaner really exists in nature, except perhaps in Ireland!).

We strung them on the pipecleaners.

Then we twisted the ends together to form a ring (make sure the size is big enough to hold a cloth napkin).

We curled the loose ends of the pipecleaner around a pencil:

We discovered that the curly ends made a great holder for some pine needles!

This was simple, fun, and even my two year-old could do it.

You could make Christmas ones with red and green pipecleaners and tinsel or holly in the curly bit, or how about summer ones with a flower stuck in there?


Did you join in this week’s Unplugged Project?  If so, then please link to your post (not just your blog) in Mr. Linky below.  That way, readers will always be able to easily find your project post.  If you didn’t join in, but like the idea of it, please do not link, but read more about how to join us here.


The theme for next week’s Unplugged Project will be:

Wrapping Paper

What can you do to recycle some of that holiday wrapping paper after it has been ripped off the gifts?  I can’t wait to see your creative ideas!

Happy Holidays!


An Ugly Christmas Tree

By , December 18, 2008 9:47 pm

I have been feeling very un-bloggy lately, hence my silence.  Do I really have anything interesting to say?  Does anyone care?  Is it worth my precious time writing?  Hmmm….  Big questions.

So please excuse my absence, but let me talk now about our Christmas tree.  It is ugly, yet beautiful.  Humble, yet profound.

First a bit of background on my eternal Christmas tree angst.  I have always hated the thought of cutting down a living tree to decorate my house for a few weeks and then toss out (even if recycled into mulch).  If I didn’t have kids, I wouldn’t have a tree at all.  But the tree, and all the ornaments that are rediscovered year after year, are so much a fun and memorable part of a child’s Christmas, that I hate to deny them that.

Yes, we could decorate a ficus, but the idea of singing carols and sipping cocoa around the Christmas Ficus just doesn’t have the same cozy appeal to it.  And since I am the kiss of death for houseplants, I’d simply be substituting a fir tree death sentence for that of a ficus.

I have done living trees before and then planted them in the yard (when I had a yard that was not packed full of pine trees already).  That was lovely, but they can only be inside for a few days, are heavy, and here – pine trees grow like weeds.  No room for more!

For the last 6 years I have had an artificial tree.  It was easy, three pieces to put together and lights already on it, but Christmas seems artificial enough to me in so many ways, without a fake tree too.  Plus, it always felt kind of nasty to touch and probably oozed all kinds of chemicals.  Not very Christmassy.

This year I came up with what I think is the perfect solution, for us anyway.  We have so many trees on our property and, as I said above, Ponderosa pines literally grow like weeds here.  After a good rain, hundreds of seedlings miraculously appear as you can see in this picture:

Despite my aversion to tree cutting, we are in desperate need of thinning a bit.  Fire safety is a HUGE issue here, especially after our close call in 2002.  Plus, the smaller trees sap the meager nutrients and scarce water from the more mature trees leaving them tall, but thin and sickly looking.

I don’t want to get into a forest management lecture or debate here, but the truth is that we really need to take out some of the smaller trees that are growing close to the larger ones before a fire does it for us.

So, with that in mind, I had the idea to cut a small one down and make it our Christmas tree.  It would eventually be cut anyhow, but at least this way it would go in a blaze of richly adorned glory and be much enjoyed and remembered.

We picked a thin one growing near a mature one and all went out to “help” my husband with the cutting. Despite a bad back and even worse weather that day, he got it done.

Then, “we,” as in my husband – under my direction – cut it in half.  The original tree was only about three inches in diameter but probably 16 feet tall with all the branches at the top.  We ended up with an 8 foot tall tree that fits nicely in our tall living room.

It was so thin and light that the kids were able to carry it into the house themselves.

The cats thought it was wonderful having their very own tree lying in the middle of the front entryway.

Here is the final result:

It is rather a spindly, thin, pathetic tree, but Ponderosas don’t have a very thick array of branches, especially when young.

However, as my daughter said:  “This is my favorite tree ever because you can see the ornaments!”  Yes, you can.

This is my favorite tree ever because, although it may not be perfect, we chose it and cut it ourselves, gave it a “new life,” and it cost no money!

I don’t want a perfect Christmas, I just want one the the children will remember fondly, and I hope that they might remember this.

(You can read more about Christmas tree options here: The Great Christmas Tree Dilemma)

Curly – Weekly Unplugged Project

By , December 14, 2008 10:25 pm

The theme for this week’s Unplugged Project was curly.

We didn’t get to it this week and instead, put up our Christmas tree and such. The weather today was kind of cold, snowy and windy though. Very much a curl up in front of the fire with a good book day. Does that count?

The forecast is so bad that I suspect that there may not be school tomorrow. If that is the case, then perhaps we will get to a curly project after all!

So, please check out the curly projects in Mr. Linky, and if you want, come back here tomorrow evening to see if it was a snow day/curly project day, or not.

If you did a curly project this week, then please put a link to your project (not just your blog) in Mr. Linky below. If you did not, then please do not link…but read more about how to join in here. We’d love to have you next week!


In honor of the upcoming Winter/Summer solstice (December 21st), the theme for next week’s Unplugged Project will be:

Dark / Light

You can choose according to your hemisphere, or simply according to your wishes. The point is to just enjoy!


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