Tuesday, December 20, 2016

How to Make Christmas Orange Slice Ornaments

When it comes to what I put on my Christmas tree, I love to go with the "simple is best" theme. I am sure that doesn't surprise you given the name of my blog.   Along with simple, I love a primitive, rustic type of look for Christmas.  I like to imagine myself decorating the way Ma Ingalls would decorate her tree.

Orange slices are a way to add beauty at a very small cost to your Christmas tree.  Plus, if you are like me, as much as you adore clementines when they are in season, you may have overestimated how many your family can eat at one time.  I clearly needed to do something with them before they started to go bad.

Here's how to make your own orange slice ornaments:

First slice your oranges about a centimeter thick.  But wait!  Make sure you cut them the right way.  You don't want them to end up like this:

Oops!  This does not give it the nice, orange wheel look.

Much better.  And prettier.

Turn your oven on to a low setting of 150 degrees.

Place them directly on the rack of your oven.  Do NOT put them on a pan or they will stick and burn and be ruined.  And then Christmas will be ruined.  Okay, maybe not Christmas.  But it will be a sad moment.

I let mine "cook" for about 4 hours.  Keep an eye on them because ovens vary and thickness of your oranges will determine how long it will need till it's fully dried out.

Once it's dried out you can stick a string through it to hang on your tree.

So simple and so frugal. This is a great idea especially if you don't have many Christmas ornaments.  We have plenty now that have been given to us over the years, but if you are newly married or just starting out, chances are you may be low in the ornament department.  Pair these oranges with some popcorn and cranberry garland, and you've got yourself a gorgeous tree!

Merry Christmas!  5 more days to go!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Chocolate Candy Cane Dip

I've had this white cream cheese frosting sitting in my fridge for weeks, leftover from cupcakes I made awhile back. I never know what to do with leftover frosting. I usually end up eating spoonfuls of the stuff every time I find myself in the kitchen. Never a good thing. This time, in an effort to avoid eating half  a can of frosting to myself, I decided I would get creative and use it for a dip...and maybe even share it with my kids. :)

Chocolate Candy Cane Dip 

1 cup white cream cheese frosting
1 cup whipped topping 
2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa
5 small candy canes
sponge cake for dipping


First thing I did was make the whipped topping according to the directions on the package.  You could just use Cool Whip for this as well instead of making it from a mix.

Mix one cup of whipped topping with one cup of cream cheese frosting, and 2 Tbsp of cocoa.  I used my electric beater for this part.

Now stir in the crushed candy canes with a spoon.  I used about 5 of the small sized candy canes.  Leave a little of the crushed candy cane to sprinkle on top.

Transfer the dip to a small bowl and sprinkle with crushed candy cane.  

Add some sponge cake, or graham crackers for dipping!  

My kids barely saved me any.  It's actually quite a miracle I got a picture of this before their little hands got a hold of it.

This would also be a great dish to bring to a holiday potluck party.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

How to Make a Beautiful Christmas Centerpiece

My friends would post pictures to Facebook of their beautiful box wood centerpieces.  I started shopping around for one of those wooden boxes and the prices were way out of my budget!  And then I realized I could make one.  Okay, okay....I realized MY HUSBAND could make one for me. He built it for me, and then I stained it. I absolutely love it.  No matter the time of year I can think of something to put in it to match the season or holiday.

Here is how I fill it during the Christmas season.

I use three white candles for it.  I then use some of the leftover pine branches my husband cuts off from our Christmas tree to make it fit in the stand.  Then I take a walk in the woods and pick up some pine cones.  And lastly, clementines make for the perfect finishing touch.

Of course, the clementines get eaten and replenished all throughout the holiday season. :)

You definitely have to be careful with these candles so close to the pine branches.  Never leave it to burn unattended!  For a safer alternative you can always get those flameless battery operated candles.  I wouldn't mind some of those, but have yet to fit them into my budget.

So there you have it.  If you are looking for a perfect centerpiece this Christmas, either build or find hopefully an affordable wooden box and fill it with treasures of the season!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

DIY Christmas Barn Board Sign

I don't know about you, but I often wander through the stores around Christmas time and fall in love with all of the Christmas decor.  Problem is, my budget doesn't leave a lot of room for all the expensive decorations.

I remembered I had a piece of beautiful barn board in my wood stash, and I knew I had the perfect project for it.  Making this JOY sign is pretty simple.

After you find a perfect piece of barnboard, go onto your computer and print out the three big letters: J-O-Y.  I made them fit basically one letter per page, but this really depends on the size of your wood.  Measure your wood and input the measurements into whatever program you are using.  I used the program that came with my Silhouette Cameo.  

Once I printed out the letters, I covered the back of the printouts with chalk.  To transfer the chalk outline of the letters, I place the paper onto the wood chalk-side down, and I trace over the letters with a pen.  When you remove the printout there will be a chalk outline on your wood.  I shared a little more detail of how to do this in this previous post, if you need a better visual.

It's now time to paint your letters!  I used acrylic paint, all from the dollar store. 

After your letters are done, you can decorate the sign with whatever you want! I used some burlap, yarn, a Christmas ball,and a pinecone. I just used what I had lying around, so no extra cost for me!  That's the way this frugal wife likes it. ;)

And there you have it!  A very affordable piece of Christmas decor that all your friends and family will love!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Why I took my son out of School to Homeschool Again (And why I support BOTH homeschooling AND Public School)

Even before my son was born, I knew I was in for an experience.  He would kick all day and night, and while I was pregnant with him I wasn't sure he ever slept.  And sure enough, his birth confirmed our suspicions.  He inhaled some meconium, turned blue twice, and wouldn't cry.  When they finally got him to cry about 6 hours later, he didn't stop for a good six months.

No, seriously.  Anytime he was awake he was crying.

When that ended, he was often upset.  Loud noises upset him.  Strange people upset him. Crowded places upset him.

You know how they tell you to vacuum all the time around the baby so they get used to it?  Not my son.  No joke, I used my noisy blender EVERY DAY with him in my arms, and for two years he cried every time.  

Public washrooms? The noises were terrifying for him.  And when he finally got past the stage where he wouldn't cry anymore, he would cover his ears the minute we walked in one, anticipating the flush of a toilet or the noise from the hand dryers.

Around the age of two was the year we carried him out kicking and screaming EVERY Sunday after church.  I'm not even sure why.  Too many people?  Too close to nap time?  

And over the years we've had people say things.  I was told he had a rebellious spirit at the age of one because he touched everything.  I had people look at his tantrums and point out to me that he cried over everything.  I've had people laugh when he would cry as they talked to him.  I've been told he was "playing me" as a screaming three month old.

I knew he was struggling.  For many years I didn't have a name for it, but I knew it went beyond the typical normal tantrums.  We had taken him to occupational therapy and to a pediatrician for help. They labeled him ADHD.  I didn't feel like that was an accurate diagnosis for him. At his age we all agreed no medication was the right choice.  But I still felt we were missing something.

Because of this, it came naturally that we would homeschool him.  And we did for two years (and his sister for four.) But my health was struggling, so I decided this year I would put him in school.  

But in the end, that just made things worse.  For most of the 6 months he was in school he would cry as I dropped him off.  He had the sweetest teacher, and excelled at work, but his anxiety was at an all time high.

And there it was.  I finally realized exactly what he struggled with.  

Anxiety and hypersensitivity.

And then I realized that I struggled with that too.  And not just as an adult, but my whole life.  I started to look back on my childhood and understand different things that occurred, different things I felt, and why I spent much of my life with stomachaches and headaches.

Even knowing this, I tried to push through with school for my son. I didn't want him to let the anxiety win. But after six months it was apparent that it was getting worse.  As he struggled, I watched my daughter thrive in school.  Their experiences were so different!

The truth about anxiety? It doesn't just "go away".  You can't just do the same thing over and over and expect that one day you won't feel anxious.  Anxiety sufferers need to learn coping mechanisms, and way to manage their anxiety in those situations.  I believe that comes with feeling secure, with age, and with experience.  

I started to pinpoint some of the reasons he was anxious.  I discovered the noise level at school, being surrounded by a LOT of other kids, and being away from family were all factors.  While these situations are not entirely avoidable in life, I felt that my son needed smaller, baby steps into conquering his anxieties and learning to cope.  After all, he was just a six year old little boy. 
Me with the boy.  No anxiety when he is out in nature!

While I know there are many who will disagree with me, I felt that I was trying to "teach him to swim by throwing him into the deep end."  It just wasn't sitting well with me.  After awhile he wasn't the only one with anxiety.  I had anxiety too at how he would react when I dropped him off and walked away from him while he cried.  It never got easier, if anything, it got harder for both of us.

What I discovered is that you can send your child to one of the best schools in the area, he can have what you believe is the best teacher in the school, along with some of the best families you know, but it doesn't mean he will thrive.  I know this because my son had an amazing teacher, a great school, and wonderful classmates.  But he still struggled.  Why?  Because each child is unique and different.  The "one size fits all" education doesn't necessarily work for everyone.  And it doesn't mean that there is something wrong with my child.  Or yours.  It means that a different approach may work better for him.

I am excited to watch my son feel more at ease soon.  And as I teach him at home, my daughter who is thriving at school will continue to go.  My choice is the right choice for my family.  Every family has to decide what is best for them and their children.  I am for homeschooling.  I am for public school. I am for private school and Catholic school and Christian school. I see benefits to all.   But more importantly, what I see in most  cases is parents and teachers who have huge hearts for the children they teach, whether it be at home or school.  We are all aiming for the same thing - to raise well-rounded, happy, and educated children, so instead of declaring one is better than the other, can't we just decide we are all aiming for the same outcome?  It's time to support and encourage one another in our decisions to educate and raise our children, and not try and prove that one way is better for everyone.  It's time to walk alongside our friends and loved ones and raise each other up as we work hard to make the best choices for our little ones.