Christmas Spirit on a Budget

The holidays are a tough time of year for many, between regular obligations and the Christmas season, it seems every dollar we earn is spent…and then some.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could get through the season without the financial stress and still enjoy it?  Here are 27 ideas to help you create Christmas Spirit without breaking the bank.  They might not all work for you, but they are worth considering.

First things first, Consider your Mindset.  Make Christmas about connection, not gifts.  Make it about family time and happy thoughts.  Ask anyone around you, right now, what their favorite gift was last Christmas.  Can they tell you?  What about the Christmas before?  So often we put so much emphasis on just the right gift to give, when we really only need to be thinking about our loved ones and letting them know how much we care.

But before we can truly focus on just being here, right now, we need to change our mindset.  We need to appreciate the people in our lives and what matters most.  If we make the season about connection, we will avoid a great deal of the stress and heartache that comes with overspending and generally overdoing it all the way around.  Here’s your list of questions to ponder:

What matters most to me this season?
Will my kids (grandkids, spouse, etc.) be truly disappointed if we don’t over do it?
What can I really afford?
Is there something I can acquire that will last more than just the week of Christmas and be appreciated?
What can I bring to the table that is uniquely me?

Mindset matters in all things, if you have to prep your family for a slimmer Christmas than in the past, do that.  But don’t apologize, explain that every day we make the best choices for our family, the choice you have made this year will have long-term benefits for the family.  Then stick with it.  Connection before commerce, don’t buy your way in to their hearts.

Next to remember, Stay out of the stores on Black Friday.

Department stores are set up to lure you in with a great sale on one item on your list.  They count on you not sticking to your list, on Black Friday becoming an event, an opportunity to knock things out.  They set up more impulse buys for you to splurge on, and before you know it, you’ve blown your budget and your list isn’t even dented yet.

This year is going to be different.  Set a rule and have everyone buy in to it.  No shopping on Black Friday.  Even better, make it a NO SPEND day – at all.  Knock the temptation right out by not entering any market – no fast food, no grocery store, no department store, certainly, no superstore.  Plan your day ahead of time.  Pick something to do instead of shopping.

The day after Thanksgiving is a great day to #getoutside.  Spend some time in nature, take a walk, go to the mountains, the beach, whatever is special in your neighborhood, enjoy the great outdoors.  The weather doesn’t have to be perfect, in fact, sometimes, it’s more fun when it’s not.  Get outside and breathe some fresh air.

Plan your day around leftovers and card games; books to be read, go to the library, maybe start decorating for Christmas.  Whatever you do, avoid shopping, avoid looking at the ads, and don’t read all those emails…they’ve already started and will go on through Cyber Monday.  No lightning deals.  Let it all just wait.  Christmas music has started, go ahead and start listening while you do something besides shop.

These first two tips are the most important.  The rest are things to do instead of gifts.  Things that bring connection, that help you to find joy in the season. If church is your thing, incorporate that too.  But for the rest of the list, write it down and cut all the list in to separate items for your Christmas jar.  There is enough for every day and even extras if you want to do more than one thing a day. If there is something you don’t want to leave to chance – select that first.

Most of all, enjoy the season.  Be patient, be kind and don’t blow your budget.  Use the holidays to teach good manners, to be your best self.  Don’t overdo any of it, it’s going to be the best Holiday Season ever!

So you’ve decided you have to buy some things, but it’s still not really in your budget, here’s some ideas on where to find some extra money to spend.

Sell things on Craigslist or eBay that you don’t need.  We all have stuff in our closets and garages that isn’t being used.  Take your pictures, get it posted and sold.  Don’t price it too high, there’s probably someone in the same boat you are that could use a little discount.  And don’t wait too long, if it would make a good Christmas gift, put it up around Black Friday. If it is just something useful – get it sold before then while people might have a budget for it.

Another idea is to take a second job.  Can you stock shelves?  Work the mall?  Cut firewood?  There are lots of temporary jobs that are available because of the season, if you’ve got time and really want to buy that something special, go to work.  If spending time with your family is more important, consider the time you’ll be away from them for that special item.  Is it worth it?

If you just can’t see Christmas coming this year, it’s ok to reach out for help.  Sign up with your local charity so the kids get something special.  Just be sure to do it early, waiting until December is too late.  If you missed their deadline, there are still 27 things on the list you can do to brighten their season. Give your time, that’s what they want most anyway.

  1. Practice your faith

The whole point of Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Christ.  If you have a base religion, perhaps this is the time to remind yourself what it is and get involved.  Local churches often have a stepped up schedule during the season, find out what it is and go.  Take the kids, teach them how to sit quietly and listen.  Immerse yourself in the music.

If you already practice a religion, go the extra step.  Commit to being part of the planning, getting the kids there.

If religion isn’t in your bubble, that’s ok too.  We can still recognize the season is special.  Find a way to be more kind to others, investigate how others celebrate, maybe ask a neighbor how they worship and get involved.  New experiences are scary sometimes, but can be very fulfilling.

Whatever you choose to do on the faith side, approach it honestly and with an open heart.  If it’s not your thing, no apologies, no guilt. Be you.

  1. Listen to Christmas music

There is all kinds of Christmas music.  Country, rock, spiritual, contemporary, religious.  Pick one, pick all of them.  Expose everyone to everything.  Do you have a favorite?  Share that with your family.  Do you have a story that goes with it?  Share that.  That’s how you make connections by sharing what you know.

Last Christmas we went camping at Death Valley National Park.  On Christmas Eve, we sat by the camp fire and listened to Sirius radio.  We had tried all kinds of channels and finally settled on a spiritual station so that I could hear my favorite songs.  Songs from my childhood.  I told my husband, as soon as I had heard them all, I was going to bed.  So we sat quietly watching the fire and listened closely.

O Holy Night came on, my all time favorite.  When I was nine, we attended Midnight Mass at a small church in San Antonio, Texas.  A soloist performed O Holy Night flawlessly, well, except for the nine year old singing along from the sidelines.  I had no idea it wasn’t for all of us to sing!

When my son was in high school, he was looking for a solo to sing at our local Christmas Tree Fantasy.  We had an old 45 of O Holy Night and a turntable.  We recorded it and he sang.  About the sixth time through the record, we realized the 45 was horribly warped, he suffered through it and sang it A Capella the next day.  A beautiful memory for me.

My second favorite is Mary did you know?  The A Capella version done by Pentatonix is my favorite, but any version I’ve ever heard is spiritual.

The last song we were listening for was Carol of the Bells.  As a child, my parents had one Christmas album, it was called Joy and had a green cover.  Almost all of it was instrumentals, but we listened to it faithfully every season.  Carol of the Bells was my favorite song.  I’ve heard it done with instruments, with voices, however it’s done, it always impresses me.

Think about the tunes that mean the most to you.  Seek them out, find a version or two and compare.  Play your kids favorites, ask your parents what theirs are.  Make music a part of the season.  Even if it’s Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.

  1. Christmas lights

One of the most beautiful parts of the holiday season is the lights.  Whether they are on the tree or on a house, in a store window or at a community display.  Everyone loves lights.

Decide if putting up lights is on your agenda.  If it is, do it early, enjoy them for as long as you can.  It’s a lot of work, you might as well enjoy it.  We have a friend in Phoenix who puts up over a million lights each year.  That’s right.  One million!  He sets them all to music and is regularly featured on the local news for his display.  It’s beautiful.  He also starts putting up the lights in September to get it all done.  That’s commitment.

Do you have someone in your community who puts in a great effort?  Take the kids, go watch the display.  Find the local Candy Cane Lane, you know, the neighborhood where everyone participates.  Is there a local park that has lights displayed, go there.  Pick a night and enjoy.  Pop some popcorn to take along.  Put some Apple Cider in a thermos, or some hot chocolate.  Pack some blankets in the car.  Make it an event, not just a ride in the car.  Celebrate the lights, and if they ask to go again, go, it’s time spent together.

  1. Christmas cookies

What’s your favorite Christmas cookie?  Is it sugar cookies with frosting, do you like pumpkin cookies, pinwheel cookies, date cookies?  There are so many beautiful Christmas cookies that only seem to be made during the season.  What kind are you making?

My favorite were always my mom’s fudge oatmeal cookies.  They’re a no-bake cookie, just heat it all and drop.  The worst part is, I can’t make them!  I’ve tried dozens of times with no luck.  The best part, my daughters can make them, and they do, just for me.

Cookies are so much more than the act of baking.  Baking engages all the senses. It’s time together, it’s time planning, it’s time in the kitchen, it’s time decorating, and it’s time enjoying.  Spend some time getting it all together and bake some cookies with the kids.  Let them mix, decorate, serve.  Don’t worry about the result, as long as there was some laughter and fun, you’ve gotten (and given) the best gift.

  1. Ugly Christmas Sweater

Ugly Christmas sweaters are all the rage.  In my work days, we wore them to work regularly, now they are designed to be made fun of.  That’s ok, it allows some creativity.

So, where do you start? Make a plan with the family, those that are old enough should be allowed to create on their own.  Spend some time talking about ideas.  I recommend going to the local thrift stores for your base sweater.  You may even find one already decorated (probably came from my closet a long time ago.)  Then embellish, you can use any and all craft supplies.  Pipe cleaners with pompoms make great antlers, red rubber balls for noses; ribbon can be sewn on for trees and such.  Help with the sewing and hot glue gun work.  Make it creative, set a deadline and everyone wear it for a party. Maybe invite some friends over and do a red carpet reveal of the sweaters.  Make sure everyone knows that laughter is the goal. No one will be made fun of, but laughed with for a great job done. Don’t forget to take pictures.

If you need inspiration, go to Pinterest and see what you can find there.

  1. Christmas movies

There are so many Christmas movies, some TV stations make Christmas movies their entire lineup for December.  If you’re not up for someone else setting the schedule, make your own.  How many can you watch this season?

For a list of great Christmas movies, Google is your friend. What’s your favorite?

I’m partial to It’s a Wonderful Life.  When the kids were little, I’d put it on after they went to bed on Christmas Eve and finish wrapping gifts, or assembling toys while I watched the movie.  I never failed to cry when the bell rang and Clarence got his wings.

My other favorite Christmas movie is While you were Sleeping.  In fact, it’s my favorite movie, it just happens to have a Christmas theme.

Whether it’s Charlie Brown or Rudolph; one of the many Lifetime movies, Miracle on 34th Street or one of the above.  Take time to cuddle together and watch, let the Christmas spirit invade your house.  If you’re feeling especially creative, film your own version and celebrate even bigger.

  1. Christmas puzzle

I like puzzles because they take time.  Time you can spend together doing something.  Do you have a Christmas puzzle? Maybe the local market has an inexpensive one you can set up and work on.  If you haven’t puzzled in a while, be sure you start with the edges.

But what if you can’t find one, can you make your own?  Here’s a way to do just that.  Find a Christmas poster, mount it on thin cardboard or cork.  Think shirt box thickness.  You can use any old glue to mount it, just make sure it is secure in all areas, no gaps in the glue.  Turn it over so the picture is facing down and draw the cut lines on the back.  It doesn’t have to be in the fancy pieces you usually find in a puzzle, it could be in squares and work just fine.  After you’ve drawn it, use an Exacto knife to cut out the pieces.  Mix them up and get back to work putting the pieces in the right places.  The smaller the children, the bigger the pieces should be.  When you get it all together again, you can use Mod Podge on the front to glue it together and hang it up for the season as a reminder of your good times together.

  1. Christmas cards

Christmas cards should be a choice, not a chore.  Always check the thrift stores for cards, I’ve bought them for $1 a box, even during the holiday season.  If you don’t want to buy them, you can make them with the kids.  Card stock is easy to find.  Hand drawn pictures are a great decoration.  If you have ribbons or stickers laying around, you can adorn the cards with those as well.

When you’re making your list, ask the kids who should be on it.  Maybe they love their teacher, or their doctor.  If there is someone special to them, include them. Addresses are easy to get, just message for them, or send to a work address.  Everyone loves to get cards.

I send a little more than 500 cards a year, I cheat and do a photo postcard and have them printed by a local printer so they only cost a few cents a piece.  No fancy finish, no online ordering.  Remember, we are doing this to save money, not spend it.  Postage will be bad enough.  I send the cards because no one expects them, and for months afterwards I get thank you’s from those who received them.

You don’t have to go overboard, but reach out to those who matter to you and send them something from the heart.  Be sure to sign them, that’s my only pet peeve is those that send cards without a live signature on them.  Don’t be that person, put your John Hancock on them.

  1. Make something

Make something. Make anything.  Create a decoration, an ornament, a Christmas tree or tree skirt.  Decorate a pinecone, a lantern, make a wreath.  It doesn’t have to be fancy, it doesn’t have to become an heirloom.  Just find something you think is cute and put it together.

Do you bake?  Make a gingerbread house.  Do you sew?  Make a tree skirt  Do you have mad skills with a hot glue gun?  Make an ornament.

Decorate it, date it.  Look for inspiration in the magazines at the library.  Find something cool on a blog through Pinterest.  Try to find something you already have the materials for, but if not, scavenge a little.  Check the thrift stores, look for free stuff.  Use recyclables.  This isn’t a $100 project, this is a project to do with the kids.  If it’s a Pinterest fail, make it worthy.  Be able to laugh at yourself,  use crayons and markers, use tools the kids can help with.  If they are older, let them build their own project.  This can take minutes, or days, you choose.  Just be sure you work together.

  1. Cut snowflakes

No really, there is nothing easier than folding some white paper in to squares and making snowflakes.  Kids love it, it makes great decorations and every one is different, just like in real life.  If you’re not sure where to start, get some regular paper, standard 8 1/2 x 11 – it can be lined, it can have holes in it, it can be colored.  In fact, you can use Origami paper, or recycled paper or old school work, any paper will do. Tracing paper is thin and easy to cut through.

Once you have your paper selected, fold in half; then fold in half again.  Then fold one edge diagonally to the center, and fold it again the same way.  It will have a pointy end.  Make sure you folded exactly and crease your edges.  Then you can start cutting.  You can cut from either side, just be sure not to cut all the way across.  When you have your cuts made, unfold.  Tape them to the windows to create your own Winter Wonderland.

  1. Make snowglobes

Snowglobes are one of those magical experiences because they are interactive even after they’re made.  Everyone likes to shake them up and watch it snow.  You can easily make your own with just a couple of tools.

A jar (any kind, mason, baby food jar, whatever you have available.
Some small object or figurine; think pine tree, reindeer, snowman
Heavy duty glue, I use E6000, but other glues work well too
Glitter

That’s all you need to put together, glue your object on to the lid of your jar, put glitter in the bottom of your jar, add water, screw your lid on – if you don’t want a future accident, glue the lid on to the jar.  Flip it over and shake.  Ta.da.it’s a snowglobe.

  1. Check out Christmas books from the library

Wouldn’t it be great if every night you read a Christmas book for storytime?  This is a great way to celebrate the season, practice our reading skills and ensure good habits by reading.  Your local library has all kinds of Christmas books, go ahead and check some out.  If you have Amazon Prime, maybe load some free books on to your Kindle or Kindle App on your phone.

  1. Trade almost new toys with other parents

I always loved shopping for toys for my kids because each of the kids were so different.  Some years I scored a home run and got them exactly the right toy, other years, not so much.  It’s those not so much’s that give us opportunity.  You likely have gently used toys and games in the kids closet, things they never really were in to.

Why not plan a play date with your friends that have kids of similar age and ask each to bring gently used toys and games that their children have outgrown or show no interest in.  While the kids are playing, the parents can exchange for something that better fits the personality of the kids.

If something is missing pieces or parts, figure out how to replace them.  There are tons of game pieces available at thrift stores, special game stores that you could exchange out and make the toy uniquely theirs.

No one said everything under the tree had to be new, just new to you.

14.Build a game board

Our goal this season is to connect, to spend time together.  Don’t force it if someone is having an off night, but try to work on things together.

How about building a game board to replace one that has been folded too many times.  Or even creating one that is for a brand new game.  Kids love to use their imagination, let them design their own game board and name it.

Do you play Monopoly at home?  Why not personalize a game board for your family.  Use your local street names, places you visit together, make it your own.  It takes a square sheet of plywood and some craft paint.  Prepare the board by making sure it is a reasonable size, sand all the edges and if you want to paint it a base color, get that done.  Then work together for the rest of the placements.  Need circles on your board?  Use a glass as your pattern; need rectangles, how about a deck of cards.  Find objects around the house that fit the size you need and use those as patterns.  If you intend to paint, use a pencil, or do it all at once with a Sharpie.

Way back when, we built a Trivial Pursuit board since that was our game of choice.  This works great for all kinds of board games.

  1. Shop dollar stores, Target$section and thrift stores

I am not a regular Dollar store shopper, so I’m always surprised at what’s available when I walk in. There is so much in their thrifty aisles, the key is to only buy what you need.  This is a great place to pick up stocking stuffers without spending a small fortune.

The Target dollar section is also fun, especially if you shop throughout the year for little items.  Small things put together make cute gift baskets, especially if you need to shop for others outside your immediate family.  Create a theme and put it all together.  Always, always go to the thrift store for a basket, they have more than they can use.  I never pay full price for a basket, after all, that’s just the wrapping, not the gift.

Thrift stores are a great place to shop for books and small appliances especially.  Look for items that look new, know their retail price so you don’t overpay and give that.  It’s totally acceptable.

  1. Research how other cultures celebrate, incorporate something new in to your celebration

No doubt your family has holiday traditions, but what about your neighbors, are theirs different from yours?  Is there a country you or your kids are interested in that might have different traditions?  How about a different religion, do they celebrate differently?  Why not spend an evening at the library or online searching out just that question.  Is there a piece that sounds fun to you, could you incorporate it in your own family fun?  This doesn’t have to be work, it could be as simple as typing in “Christmas Traditions in ___” in your search bar and see what comes up.

Maybe you learn how other countries say Merry Christmas, maybe it’s about the trees or the lanterns, the parties, the gifts.  Pick something that the family shows interest in and learn together.

  1. Wrap every little item.

One way to make gift giving look bigger is to wrap every gift, no matter the size.  This includes the items in the stocking!  The more unwrapping that is done, the longer the celebration.  If you normally give the kids a new outfit, consider wrapping each piece separately.  Make unwrapping a game, slow it down.  Have each person open a gift with all eyes on them, while everyone else waits their turn.  Slowing down the process will make the gift giving feel more special.

How do you slow it down?

Set a specific time to begin opening gifts – no earlier than X.  In our house, no child could enter the parents room until 8 a.m. on Christmas morning.  We then took our time getting up and ready for gifts.  Coffee made, etc.

Put someone in charge of handing out the gifts one at a time.  No one opens until it is their turn.

Make a point to take pictures as they open and display their gift.

Put someone in charge of cleaning up all the gift wrap before you get to the next gift.  Kids love to have jobs.

After the first round, move to the second – same routine, pass out the gifts, an then take turns.

When all the gifts are open, move everyone to the kitchen for breakfast. Make them leave their gifts alone until after breakfast, it creates another level of anticipation and appreciation.

If you do stockings, this was always the one exception to Don’t touch anything until the parents are up!  We always allowed the kids to grab their stockings when they woke up and take them to their rooms so they had something to do while they waited for the magical 8 a.m.

  1. Take a holiday photo

Holiday pictures can be fun.  Do you have a special place that spells Christmas spirit to you?  Get everyone together and do some pictures.  It doesn’t have to be professionally done, Santa pictures don’t have to come from the mall.  Make your own, line up in front of the Christmas tree and take your own family photo.  With a selfie stick or a good friend, you can have memories last forever.  If you want to theme your picture, even better.

  1. Prepare a meal for someone who needs your support

How about a pot of chili or Mom’s famous Oyster Stew for a family that things aren’t going well.  You already know how that feels,so why not reach out and share some love.  Helping others is the best way to help ourselves and move away from our own problems.  Throw some cornbread in and some cider to heat up.  It doesn’t need to cost much to be a good friend.

  1. Make paper chains

Do you remember how to make paper chains?  Strips of paper glued in to circles and chained together.  When we were kids, we used construction paper, but any old paper will do.  Remember you can reuse and recycle.  Wondering where to get old magazines?  Try your local laundromat or city library, they often have some they are giving away.  Have some children’s books with pages missing?  Use those.  Just slice the pages and get some glue out.  Think about where you want to hang your paper chains when you’re done…will they go in the windows, around the tree, on the mantle.  There are tons of choices.

  1. Go Christmas caroling

Christmas carols are universal.  They speak from the heart, you can find lyrics online, print them to share with the kids and sing along.  You don’t have to have great voices, there isn’t a kid alive who doesn’t enjoy a noisy rendition of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.  Share the joy of singing with your children.  If you’re feeling good about what you know, walk down the street singing together, if you’re feeling really good, knock on the doors of your neighbors and sing to them.  No obligations to anyone except to wish them a Merry Christmas.

If you can, invite some friends to come along, it’s a lot of fun with a dozen people singing together all the songs you’ve always known.  A caroling night around a piano works well too, if the weather isn’t cooperating.

  1. Find free things in the community to do

Most communities have Christmas programs happening around them.  Read the local paper to see what’s available to you.  Elementary schools are a good place to look, local Elk’s Lodges, or other fraternity organizations.  Is there a Christmas parade?  Check out what’s available and experience the joy of being with others.  Often they ask for a new unwrapped toy.  Make this part of your budget.  A $5 toy from the local Dollar Store or Family Dollar to be donated.  It makes the kids feel great picking out something for someone with less than they have.  Remember we are trying to find the Christmas Spirit without breaking the bank.

  1. Write letters to Santa

Writing letters to Santa is a great way to give insight to what your kids think about Christmas.  It also gives you an opportunity to manage expectations.  You see what they are wishing for and can temper extravagant wants down to realistic gifts.  If you’ve been sharing your theory on what the Christmas season is about this year, it should be easy to get them to see things your way.  What if you asked them to put in what they’d like someone else to get?  That’s a great way to teach a child that someone else’s needs are bigger than theirs.

  1. Go to the library and check out holiday cookbooks

Do you have holiday recipes you enjoy or does the thought of cooking a holiday meal scare you.  In a lot of families, that’s always been someone else’s job.  So maybe it’s time to learn.  Pick one dish that’s always been served and ask whoever usually brings it for the recipe.  Can you make it at home?

If you don’t have family recipes to share, go check out some holiday cookbooks and find some things that look delicious.  Try to match up the recipes to what you have in your pantry so the cost doesn’t run up.  No foie gras here, just some good old fashioned fun.  Everyone loves to spend time in the kitchen.  Don’t worry about expectations, just cook for fun.

If the library isn’t your thing, although I’d recommend real cookbooks with color photos so the kids can enjoy too, go to Pinterest and look there.

  1. String popcorn

Did you already make paper chains?  Why not add to them with popcorn strings.  Pop popcorn on the stove – not microwave popcorn – don’t butter, don’t salt, you want it at dry as you can get it.  Get out a needle and thread.  Dental floss or fishing line works best for the thread, and string popcorn together.

You can color your popcorn if you’d like, just a few drops of food coloring in a plastic bag, drop the popcorn in and shake, shake, shake.

Hang your popcorn strings on the mantle, around the windows, or on the tree.  If you want to feed the squirrels, hang them outside – just expect them to be stripped clean at some point.

  1. Make the house smell like Christmas

What smells do you associate with Christmas and the holidays?

Vanilla
Evergreen
Apple
Clove

There are so many ways to make your house smell Christmasy.  Of course there are always scents you can buy, but since we are trying to work together to enjoy Christmas, what could we do together?

Gather pine boughs and make a wreath?  Or you could have a live Christmas tree instead of an artificial one.

Bake sugar cookies, this adds that vanilla/sugar combination we all love.

Put apple cider on the stove and let it simmer at low to add a fresh scent in the air, adding cinnamon sticks really spices it up.

My favorite is to put whole cloves in to oranges and place in a bowl on the table.  Both the citrus and clove make the house smell delicious.  For added fun, add the cloves in a pattern so you gain a centerpiece too.

  1. Hot chocolate night

Everyone loves the idea of hot chocolate, even if they don’t drink it.

Why not put together some hot chocolate mix for your friends in Mason jars that you can give as gifts, add some mini marshmallows, tie on a candy cane and put a label on the jar that tells them how to fix it.

When you are done making jars, use one for your family so everyone knows just how great the gift is for others.

Twenty seven ideas, enough to get you from Thanksgiving to Christmas and keep you out of the stores (mostly).  Enough ideas to keep joy in the hearts of everyone in your family without breaking the bank.  Christmas is not about money and gifts, it is a season of love.  Spend it with your loved ones without worrying about the after effects and your blown budget.  You’ll be less uptight, they’ll have more fun, and you’ll create new expectations and traditions.  Revisit us next year to remember the great times you had and which ideas you want to continue.

 

 

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Camp Chef Shelley

Stop WaitingIt’s Memorial Day Weekend, for many, the first three day weekend since President’s Day. It’s heralded as the start of summer, of camping, of all those things we’ve been waiting for. We’ve got pool parties to attend, new recipes to try out, barbecues are getting fired up. Let’s celebrate!

How do you barbecue? Is it burgers and dogs, is it dutch oven, do you limit what you can do because you are on a grill outside instead of inside in the sanctity of your kitchen? I hope not. Cooking outdoors is one of my greatest pleasures. Of course, that might be because I have no indoor cooking facilities. Seriously!

I cook outdoors on a Camp Chef almost daily. Recently my husband upgraded my Camp Chef, but for the last seven years, that’s been our only cooking apparatus, aside from an electric steamer and a crockpot which are used occasionally.

So let’s talk about what you can cook outdoors. Last month it was my world famous fish tacos, steak with baked potatoes, spaghetti, Jambalaya, Linguine with clam sauce, breakfast – lots of those. I also fixed chicken legs and kabobs, pork chops, couscous, and corn on the cob, among other things. Do you see much difference between what I cook outdoors and what you cook indoors? Probably not. The key for me is fresh and available, rarely do we have anything boxed or packaged, frozen or shelved. There’s no need for that. Does it take preparation? A bit, I have a tiny, tiny kitchen counter in our RV. I do my food prep with awesome knifes and a great cutting board, throw all that in separate bowls and then move it outside to add when needed. The biggest collection I keep in my house is knives and spices.

So as you move it outside this summer, consider the great possibilities you can cook there. Everything tastes better outdoors.

And as we celebrate this holiday weekend, let’s also remember. The purpose of the weekend is to reflect on those who paid the ultimate sacrifice, those who gave their lives for the freedoms we enjoy. Thank you to all in uniform, present and past, and to your brothers-in-arms who never made it home.

Reader’s Read

TBRDo you remember the fundraisers we had in school? From selling chocolate bars to anything-a-thon. My favorites were the Readathons. Who doesn’t like to curl up with a book and read as much as you can? My parents always pledged a penny a page.
Last weekend, I participated in the adult version of that, Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon. It takes place twice a year and is an excuse to gather up with your books for 24 hours. The Readathon starts at the same time all over the world, for me that was 7 a.m. on Saturday to 7 a.m. on Sunday.

So what did that really look like for me? I started at 7 a.m. on Saturday, picked up my book and read until 10:30 when I had to shower and get ready for the day. Rich had brought me coffee around 9 so I hadn’t even gotten out of bed yet. After shower was a trip to Velvet Tacos in Fort Worth (wow!) and then we were off to a party. Not just any old party, this one would last all day long – no reading here, there were people to talk to!

We finally were home again around 10 and I thought I should just go to sleep I’ll catch the Readathon in the fall and see if I do better, I’d had a couple cocktails through the day, so I was sleepy. I tossed and turned for an hour though, I’m sure it’s because my brain knew I had made a commitment and I wasn’t fulfilling it. So, on went my reading light and I read until 5:45 a.m. Just an hour shy of the final deadline. I did ok, finished one book – although my TBR (to-be-read) stack had eight books in it, I always set out as an overachiever.

So, it might sound like this event is all about reading, and while that is the focus, there is another one just as important. The social aspect of this Readathon matters. Yes, reading can be social! There was a challenge every hour online that you could participate in on the social platform of your choice. I used Instagram. Each hour brought an opportunity to enter contests, write mashups, poetry, take pictures. It kept the hours moving, just a little check on my phone here and there to see what was up next, do the challenge, check out what others were reading, find some new friends to follow and then right back to work.

I’m so glad I took part – maybe next time it’ll be on a day I don’t already have something planned, but knowing our life, that’s doubtful. Next Readathon is October 21 – just checked my calendar, that’s Gala Day for the Rebelle Rally – maybe I’ll just put two books in my TBR stack 🙂

America is Beautiful

american-flagIt’s time to take a break everybody. For two years, we have heard nothing but politics, nothing but he said/she said. This weekend was the end of it. Let’s take a break.

Let’s take a break from labeling. No more “Republicans”, no more “Democrats”, no more “deplorables”, no more “libtards” – every time I start to see a post, an article that I think might have some merit, someone has thrown in a label that is designed to stir someone up, to alienate others.

Let’s take a break from the media sites who’s goal seems to be to shock you, not inform. We used to use the media to help us make an informed opinion, now we use them to tell us what that opinion should be. Let’s take a break from them.

Let’s take a break from choosing sides, that’s an elementary school game. This isn’t a game, people, this is real life.

Let’s take a break from playing the victim. Bad things happen in life, to all of us. Your bad thing isn’t worse because of what it is, it’s worse because it happened to you. Stop comparing, stop being victimized.

Let’s take a break from hate. Hate takes too much energy to sustain and it taints everything you do. When you hate, when you victimize, when you choose sides, you don’t leave enough room for love.

Choose today to love. Your family, your friends, those people who think like you do and more importantly, those people who don’t think like you do. Shouting doesn’t change their minds, love does.

Choose today to do something positive.

Choose today to think for yourself, not mimic someone else/

Choose today to be you. Whatever version of you that is right for you is ok. Don’t follow the herd, don’t change to be accepted, be you, in all your glory.

The United States is exactly that, United. United for a common cause, the betterment of our land, our people, our education. Support those leaders we all elected, whether in our hometowns, our state capitals, or the nation’s capital. They have a job to do, let them do it. I don’t mean rollover and play dead. Tell them if there is something you want done, tell them when they introduce something that doesn’t make sense, use the methods at hand. Find your tribe and share information they may not have, share visions they may not see, but try to look at it from the other side of the fence as well. Maybe, just maybe, there is a compromise. Offer solutions, not rhetoric, let’s get down to business.

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and with that,
I pledge to take responsibility for my actions.
I pledge to take responsibility for my health and wellbeing.
I pledge to treat all people within our borders with respect:
-regardless of age
-religion
-sexual orientation
-politics
-education
-beliefs
-or occupation.
I pledge to live and let live.

Towards that end, I ask my government to NOT legislate
-My free will
-My actions that harm no one
-My body and my bedroom
-My decisions on how to earn and spend my money
-My decisions on how to live my life.

To that end I will serve and protect my family as my government serves and protects my rights. I will abide by all laws, rules and regulations and exercise my rights afforded me by the Constitution.

I’m going to STOP being offended, STOP being right, STOP assuming others are out to get me, STOP labeling, STOP judging, STOP taking things personally and STOP being entitled.

I’m going to START respecting others, START serving, START caring, START living, START helping.

I ask my government to stop making new laws, new rules, and new regulations for my protection and simply enforce those already in place efficiently and effectively, and if unable to do that, repeal them so all citizens are treated equally.

This is my pledge, this is my plea, folks, it’s time to stop separating our communities and work together for the America we all love.  America is beautiful, let’s treat her that way.

My three words

Three words to set your year up for success. Three words that when repeated day in and day out for 365 will help you to lead the life you choose. It sounds easy, but how do you live with just those three words for an entire year?

In 2016, I choose Abundance.Energy.Intention – those were good for me, they helped me to recognize the Abundance that my life is filled with, the Energy I need to muster to complete my tasks and the choice I make daily to live with Intention – life is too short to let it pass me by.

But 2017 feels different, life is good, it is fulfilling, it is time to shift the focus. So my three words have to reflect that. Today I choose the following:

my-3-words

I need the alliteration to help me remember.

When I first started thinking of my words – Community jumped right up. My Community is not geographical,travel prevents that. My interests are so varied, there are many separate communities that would never fit together, but each small section is a Community and I want to be a more active member. I appreciate my Communities because of what they bring to the table, this is to remind me to participate. It is up to me to join and speak up, not just be a wallflower in the corner.

Chance makes sense to me, there are so many presented daily: chances, opportunities, adventures. I need reminded to take the chance, to be a leader in trying new things, to say yes to what is presented. Take the Chance, it will be worth it.

Fear is a big part of my life, it has taken me a long time to admit it and I try to be fearless, but internally I know better, and those closest to me know it too. To choose Fear as one of my words seems negative, but Conquer is a positive thing. So it can positively remind me to Conquer my fears without reiterating daily that I have them.

So those are my three words- what are yours? Share with me, let’s tackle 2017 together.

Thank you 2016!

2016-in-reviewOh what a year it has been, there have been so many good things happening, it is hard to remember and recognize them all. I love to review my pics on my phone to remember where we were and what we were doing. I did that last night…when the house was quiet and all I could hear was the soft breathing of the one I love. Yep, Gertie was in the corner…we are housesitting this week in Costa Rica which translates to dog sitting and THAT is a blast.

We’ve covered a lot of ground, we’ve seen a lot of people and we have participated in some very cool things. This was a year for new events for us. We went to the JP Magazine Jeep-n-Drive; Trail Hero and the Rebelle Rally – all new events in 2016. We went to National Parks all over the US and I became a Junior Ranger over and over again. We attended a number of weddings that saw people join together for the future of all of us. We went deep sea fishing with friends, we got to go to Costa Rica – twice.

On the home front, we kept moving forward, kept moving our kids forward. We loved on our grandkids more than usual this year and that was awesome. We invested time and effort into our future retirement. We went to museums and made offshoot road trips to see people that mattered to us. There will be more of that this next year. We sent gifts and cards when we were thinking of someone, we tried to bring some joy in to others lives, whether on the track or off. We said “yes” when opportunities arose, I’m actively looking for more things to say yes to.

This is not about how cool our life is, it is about the choices we make. The choice to see the good, to spend the extra minutes to embrace the sunset or sunrise, the flowers, the abandoned sights, the beauty. The friends and experiences. On any given day, hell, on every given day, we work, we work to promote our living, our life, and our lifestyle. On any given day, we make that choice to see the good and the beautiful, to make someone smile, to make ourselves smile. It isn’t always easy, but it is always worth it.

Join me in 2017 doing the same. Start with counting the wins, ignore the losses, just count the wins. Then look at how to repeat them. My biggest wins come when someone says thank you – it means I did something right.

Summer Camp Fieldtrips

Ahh, the bygone days of summer. Sleeping in, staying out late, walks by the lake, games being played. The days of summer in my childhood looked like that. As did the last two weeks. I went to summer camp. I could call it a vacation, because I was relieved of most of duties as wife and mother, it really was more like summer camp.

I sped off to Minneapolis after our last event in Vernal, Utah. Rich had plans to go to Jeepers Jamboree, and as I’ve tried to explain to my friends, I camp for a living, going someplace with no shower and no access to the world for four days doesn’t hold the same appeal to me as to most. But the city…that’s something I haven’t done in a long time.

I’m a big fan of Minneapolis, not just because I have kids there, but because it is a destination city, they’ve made it vibrant and accessible. If you go to Minneapolis, you intend to go there, it’s not really on the way to anywhere. The streets are safe at all hours, the people are Minnesota nice and I love the art. Minneapolis is a maker’s city. There are crafts people everywhere, galleries and exhibits and festivals galore. We discovered a secret there, quite by accident, that I am thankful for, because like all good summer camps, this one had field trips.

We ventured out to the Textile Center on a Friday afternoon. The Textile Center is a home for all guilds related to the fiber arts. We saw examples of weaving, dying, needle felting, rug hooking and all points in between. The staff was awesome and shared with us that they were part of five centers of maker’s guilds in the city. That gave us an objective, so we set out to see them all.
Next up was Open Book. The main floor studios and subfloors are the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, it includes print presses, papermaking and all letter arts studios. The second floor is devoted to literary arts, with a publisher on the uppermost floor. We arrived on a day they were setting up for a party, so displays of work were everywhere. I was in awe.
The Northern Clay Center was a short bus ride away on Franklin. We stumbled upon a studio artist there who gave us an extensive tour of the building. From the library to the potter’s room (over 40 wheels available) to the hand slab room to the kilns. Beautiful brick kilns meant to hold hundreds of pieces at a time, two devoted to Soda Ash, plus all of the various electric kilns available. The center hosts a gallery and studio space for forty professional artists in addition to classroom space for all the amateurs.
The final public center was the Highpoint Center for Printmaking in Uptown, a dedicated space for those who do printing of all kinds, this wasn’t letter art printing like you’d find at the Book Arts Center, but art itself. Woodcuts, monotype, lithographs, intaglio, all available here to the pros. Classes were offered here as well.
The final center in the five is the IFP Media Arts studio, designed to help those in the visual arts field, filmmaking, photography and such.
What a great resource for artists, crafters, and makers in a great city. Does your city have a secret like this?  Look around, the education available may be astounding to you.

Art is life.

today's ideaRepetitive actions are a necessary part of any art. The ability to do the same thing one more time. As a crafter/artist, I have daily practice and tasks. To do something well, it requires repeating. Athletes do the same when they train. I’m at summer camp right now and tried my hand at needle felting. I had no idea what it was, but I learned. It has everything to do with repetition. Repeating a learned skill over and over until you get the result you want.

There is a lesson here, repeating a learned skill over and over until you get the result you want and then continuing to repeat can be applied to all aspects of life. To life, to love, to work, to business, to art, to relationships. Isn’t that how we approach our worlds? We find what works and do it repeatedly.

Some spend more time on what doesn’t work, and continue to repeat that, that falls in the “Repeatedly doing the same thing and expecting different results” category. If it’s not working, fix it! Go ahead and try it one more time, but tweak it, change it, alter it in some way to avoid the same result.

Life imitates art. Repetitive tasks are what make up art, whether spending time writing, or beaning the bible (long story) or needle felting, or ____________(fill in the blank.)Everything requires repetition of small tasks. The same is true of life, to be successful at business, in relationships, in sports, everything requires repetition of small tasks.

My relationship is successful because I repeatedly do the things that make it so. I do small things for my partner, I tell him I love him, I hold his hand, I listen to him. All small tasks done repeatedly to show how much I care. My business is successful because I do a million small tasks repeatedly. I make posters, I respond to emails, I reach out to competitors, I follow through on every little thing (or try to!). I am a product of repetition. As is art, as is life. Repeat the things that make you a success, remember it is the simple act of doing the things again that move you forward, sometimes just inches at a time, but forward progress is still measurable progress. Celebrate the successes, then get back to work repeating the things that brought you that success.

Details on Schedule Changes

Schedule Changes

I love our life and our lifestyle. To bring so many people together on a weekend is an incredible experience. We get to introduce our marketing partners to our drivers; our drivers to our fans; our fans to our marketing partners. It is full circle every event. There are just a few things I don’t love, the biggest right now is working with properties.
Please don’t misunderstand, I love our owners that are invested in their properties, but that doesn’t always mean we get to do what we all want to do. There are civil servants who hold up permits, there are local communities who don’t follow through on their promises, there are just some places that are impossible to get everything rolling, no matter how much time you spend on it.

Here’s what is currently happening in our world. Changes are afoot, pay attention, so we are where you want to be.
Attica, Indiana – July 23 & 24 – this event has been cancelled. The Badlands is an awesome offroad park, we thoroughly enjoy working with Kyle and his crew. But it doesn’t make a lot of sense to go there, financially or otherwise. We took a vote with our teams at the last event in Rausch Creek and it was decided they would all rather save their travel funds for Grand Nationals in Farmington then spend them to get to Indiana. They’ve already had three events on the east this year, so they aren’t missing out on a similar schedule to what they’ve gotten the last few years.
Goldendale, Washington – August 6 & 7 – this is a go. This community and our partners, Mark and Rody Shilling are great. We are excited to be here. The city helps with advertising and it is a fun event, lots of spectators, lots of good times.

Cortez, Colorado – August 13 – the schedule has changed a little, we will only be driving on Saturday – pre-run and racing on the same day. While this is not ideal, it is happening that way for a couple of reasons. The first is that our perpetual permit that we worked so hard to get a few years ago allows for a single event day, and the county has interpreted that to be that pre-running is an “event” day. So to stick to the usual schedule means we have to go before the county commissioners again, and the risk of not getting a permit is there. The second has to do with insurance, but I’ll explain that later. This event will also be the combined final event for the Mountain and Southwest series – see below for why. Double points for those of you playing that game.
Colorado Springs, Colorado – August 20 – cancelled. Damn it. This is a place we love to race. RAM Offroad has been hosting events for years, before us, it was XRRA, always the same weekend, until 2015. In 2015, the county required our partner, Ray Mandell, to file for a new permit. He has spent lots of time, effort and money for engineering studies, to no avail. The county is still not issuing a permit, this is frustrating for both him and those of us who want to play there. C Springs has always had a ton of fans. So Mountain drivers, it is Cortez for your final event, plan accordingly.

Buzzard Canyon, Oklahoma – CHANGED – to Canyons Offroad Park, Fredericksburg, Texas. Our partner at Buzzard decided that the time of year was wrong for an event, so we looked to our friends in Fredericksburg and asked for the opportunity to come back. The course will be different then when we were there in the spring, and it should be dry, which is a definite improvement! Again, we will be doing all the pre-running and racing on a single day, this time it will be so we can participate in a parade in Fredericksburg – this will be fun!

Farmington, New Mexico – WE ROCK Grand Nationals – September 10 & 11. We have been working with BLM for ten months on our return to Chokecherry Canyon, excited to announce we have our permit! This is a big deal and a ton of work for all, but the permit is in hand. We are starting now to recruit assistance for this big event.

Bridgeport, Texas – Dirt Riot National Rampage – September 17 – so, we are a little concerned because the park is underwater. Last year, through a lot of volunteers and Barco Pump, we were able to pump the water out and in to holding ponds, I’m not sure everyone wants to go to that much work again, so we are keeping our options open. The city tells us that the top section where we usually park has sloughed off behind the pavilion. Our goal is to still be here, but we have our sights set on some nearby alternative sites if we are unable to. They are all close in proximity, so plan the same trip for Nationals.

Now a little bit about insurance, last week, our insurance company made a change for the benefit of our drivers. We are pleased to offer medical coverage for all drivers. We have always had liability coverage for the competitors, but medical for an injury to the competitor was always on you. Going forward, there is coverage for an injury. Of course, this comes with a cost, and no choices – like a typical insurance company. Our insurance costs doubled to provide this, but I think it is a positive. No changes in driver’s cost will occur for the balance of 2016, but plan on a separate insurance charge of $25/event in 2017.

Like I said, it’s a lot of work and my least favorite part of what we do – I won’t even whine about some of things we’ve had to do to pull off the events we have already had this year. Just know that we hate changes as much as you do. Hang with us, we’ll keep working hard and providing you with the best events we can, those of you who commit to be there deserve our best effort, and you’re going to get it!

Bacon extracrispy

A few weeks ago, extracrispy.comextra crispy had an opening for a Bacon Critic, someone to freelance and write about bacon on a daily basis.  Well, hell, who wouldn’t want that job!  Sadly, it appears I didn’t get it.  So I thought I’d share with you, what I shared with them.

Bacon in the morning, bacon in the evening, bacon at suppertime…that’s what my life has become. Each meal is punctuated by bacon in some form. Pure in the morning, crumbled at lunch, wrapped at dinner, to complete the meal, bacon is probably involved. You see, I live with two men, my husband and a man-bear-child who works for us. My role is the feeder, the maker of meals, the one to provide sustenance. If not for me, meals would be delivered in sacks and boxes.
Because I’m so good at making the meals, they defer to me on choosing locations when we go out. There is a cozy little place in the little tourist town of Moab, Utah that I always try to get to. It’s a place we have to hide from our friends because they vocally don’t support our recreational choices, but the bacon is so good, we sneak in anyway. Our Jeep gets parked down the street and around the corner to throw off the suspicions of people who may recognize our ride, and we choose an inside seat instead of the patio so we won’t be seen by those walking by. The Jailhouse is our dirty little secret.

The main course doesn’t matter, order the omelette, the scramble, the ginger pancakes, while good, these are just fillers anyway. The special of the house is the Soul Food Style bacon. It comes on the side only. We ordered three sides of bacon one morning, gorging ourselves on the thick slices fried perfectly, when the waitress returned, we asked her what the secret was.

“Well, it’s made special for us from the most fatty part of the stomach.” She held up her arms and pantomimed slicing her own belly. “It comes from the best part of the cow.” Wait, what?
I smiled, “You mean pig, right?”
“Oh, yeah, that’s what I mean, from the best part of the pig.” And she ambled off, leaving us to wonder and enjoy the last crispy strips.