Here it is, the eve of the day we’ve been focusing on for so many weeks. I know how easy it is to get so caught up—perhaps even lost—in the hustle and pressures of the season with all of the preparations and activities, that we miss what really matters most.

As I write, the house is very quiet. It is nearly daybreak as the sky is turning from dark to barely light. Our family has arrived safely and soon breakfast will be on the table.

house-ready-for-christmas

Gifts are wrapped, stockings are hung, and the finish line is within sight. The grandchildren can hardly wait one more day!

I’ll be honest, I didn’t get all of my plans accomplished because as usual, I overplanned. But it’s enough. No regrets. We’re ready.

Now it’s time to relax and enjoy our family as we reflect on why we do this. It’s for the love and joy that brings us hope—the true meaning of this season.

Our hope is that today will in some way bring you closer to those whom you love and cherish most. And may the glorious message of joy fill your heart!

Love and peace,

the-hunts

What must be nearly 40 years ago, while waiting in the grocery store line with my two little boys in tow—I picked up a small holiday recipe book from the folks at Pillsbury Publishing.

What caught our collective attention was the adorable Teddy Bear on the cover—made with bread dough.

That year, and several years to follow, the three of us we made Teddy Bears for family gifts, and what a hit!

teddy-bear-bread

It became a tradition, or so my younger son reminds me—and one of his very best childhood Christmas memories.

A lot has happened over the years, enough so that a few weeks ago when he asked me to continue this tradition with his boys—our two grandchildren—I was nonplussed. Vaguely I recalled the Teddy Bears, but not in such keen detail as Josh.

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Need a last-minute gift for an office party, your trusty mail carrier, a beloved teacher, co-worker or anyone else on your Christmas gift list? Here are nine great ideas that won’t take much time, and certainly won’t break the bank.

Woman Offering Christmas Gift

Photo explosion box

Imagine a small photo album “box,” made from scrapbooking card stock, which folds out to reveal special photos when the lid is removed. What a perfect gift for parents, grandparents, children—anyone who loves photos. You can make this in just a few hours. In fact, while you’re at it make several. Find a complete tutorial HERE.

Holiday Hash

Combine in a very big bowl:
  • 3 cups Rice Chex
  • 3 cups Corn Chex
  • 3 cups Cheerios
  • 2 cups small pretzels
  • 2 cups salted peanuts
  • 1 bag (12 oz.) plain M&Ms
  • 1 bag (12 oz.) peanut M&Ms
Melt 2 bags (12 oz.) white chocolate chips or melting wafers according to the package instructions*. Be careful to not overcook as these chips burn quickly. Pour the melted white chocolate over the mixture and with a strong long-handled wooden spoon toss well to coat.
Spread the hash out on waxed paper and let set until the chocolate hardens.
Store in an airtight container or pour into gift bags. If you get the red and green M&Ms you’ll have a very festive looking result. This makes a lot. You should be able to make 10 to 15 gifts depending on the size of your containers.

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Check the calendar and take a deep breath. We are entering a critical phase of holiday preparation. As shopping winds down and preparations come together, be prepared for something weird to happen.

You may begin to doubt yourself.

Woman-with-gifts-season-of-doubt-and-stess

I only know this because I know myself. It happens every year, so I’ve learned to plan for it.

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Long on Christmas lists but short on cash this year?  What you need are tips, tricks, and Gift Guides to help you save money, right?

“Save money?!” you sneer. “What if we don’t have any money?” 

That, my friend, is a reliable signal that it’s time to get creative. Often the most meaningful gifts and most difficult ones to give are those that cost no money at all.

A gift from the heart is a gift of time and talent. It’s going to require some (all?) of your free time over the next couple of weeks or so, but it sure beats going into debt to buy a bunch of gifts for others—or missing out altogether because you refuse to show up empty-handed.

No one was more creative than my mother-in-law one Christmas years ago. I’d always admired her beautiful crystal, a wedding gift from her parents in 1942. Imagine how stunned I was when she gave it—all of it—to me. My favorite pieces are the water pitcher and cordials. Her gift, which cost nothing in terms of money, was and continues to be priceless to me.

Are you getting the picture? Great. Ahead, 17 thoughtful ways to show someone you care that won’t require spending any cash at all.

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Family traditions are the rituals and practices a family shares that strengthen that family’s bonds and create lasting memories.

Multi Generation-Family-Praying-Before-Christmas-Meal

Traditions, those things we do much the same way over and over again, provide a source of identity,  comfort, and security. They reinforce family values. Kids love traditions!

Traditions can be elaborate and complex or simple but meaningful.

According to this study cited in this article from The Atlantic, the time we spend focusing on anticipation, experiences, and simply being together can have a profound impact on how much we enjoy life.

Traditions give families assurance that even in an uncertain and changing world, there are some things they can count on to always be the same.

The way I see it, anything you do in the same way at the same time, year after year becomes a tradition. Whatever it is, if you’ve done it once but plan to do it again, it counts as a tradition. 

Make a list of your family’s best traditions. Talk about them, treat them with a sense of respect and joy. Explore ideas for intentionally spending meaningful time together and then repeat often.

In time, your family traditions—especially those related to Christmas—will become trusted anchors in your children’s lives.

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Whether it’s something from your kitchen, craft room, woodworking shop, or computer, there’s nothing like a homemade gift. A tree ornament, plate of cookies, box of fudge, note cards—these are just some of the homemade gifts with universal appeal.

I love homemade gifts both to give and receive. No wonder I have so many favorites!

Homemade-christmas-gift-of-cookies

Hand and Body Lotion

A jar of your own signature luxury hand and body lotion will definitely put you on the map. It’s that good. Not particularly crafty? No worries.

If you can assemble, empty, stir and mix well, you’ve got what it takes to make dozens of these gifts start to finish in a single evening.

 

And the best part? About $3.50 per gift, depending on where you buy the ingredients and containers.

I have created a photo tutorial at A Homemade Gift You’d Actually Love to Receive with all of the step-by-step instructions and specifics on the ingredients and where to get them.

Believe me when I say this is the gift your recipient(s) will rave about. It’s that awesome!

Shaving Cream

Seriously. Quite similar in process to the lotion above, you can make a big batch in one evening.

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Sometime during the fall of 2010 (who am I kidding here, it was exactly Oct. 2, 2010, at 4:32 pm), I wandered into (actually I was sucked in against my will by the seductive aroma) Popcornopolis in South Deerfield, Mass., (curiously, located inside the Yankee Candle Village Store) and walked out with the most amazing gourmet caramel popcorn.

yankee-candle-south-deerfield-massachusetts

As an admitted lover of good caramel corn, I have to say a few things about this gourmet popcorn. These people know how to make caramel corn!

With its rich depth of flavor, Popcornopolis Caramel Corn is about as close to perfection as I have ever tasted. But as wonderful as it is, it is also very expensive.

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