Seven Steps to A Simple Christmas

1. The 6P Principle: Prior Preparation and Planning Prevents Poor Performance.

This year I am dreaming of a debt free Christmas. How about you? Good planning is the key to heading off any personal or budget stress. If you haven't planned well, make it your New Year Resolution. You can put an amount of cash aside each week or if you don't trust yourself with cash you could buy gift vouchers throughout the year from your favourite store or start a fee free Christmas Club account. Don't forget to become the lay-by queen and spread your purchases out through the year.

2. Make It About More Than Just Presents:

Do you have other tradition beside gift giving at Christmas ? If not, invent some! Make Christmas a collection of ideas and experiences, not just about the presents. I have had to do some serious tradition inventing over the years. Our traditional activities started this past weekend. We put up the Christmas decorations whilst playing old crooners from a free CD that come with the newspaper. Hubbie sings into a hair brush pretending to be Elvis while I dance around wearing flashing antlers. As the children get older I hope they will recall how embarrassed they were when their parents did this year after year - but hey, something to look forward to each year!

My children are still young, so I guess these will change as the years go by, but we make reindeer with rolled oats and glitter in a brown paper bag - nice idea, but gee those reindeers are messy eaters!

The year before last we had Christmas at our house and had a big brunch and smaller lunch. We started the day with pancakes, strawberries, bacon and eggs and then had a smaller Christmas lunch. For the first time we didn't feel awful! We took the boat down to the river and spent the rest of the day water skiing, tubing and had the best Christmas day ever!

Why not make it a fun Christmas and find your inner child. You can have the backyard cricket game, some beach volleyball, same handball comps on the driveway or get out the water pistols and have a full on war. Dads especially love a few water pistol fights after a little Christmas cheer!

By making Christmas a variety of experience, the actual gift giving becomes only one part of the day, not the whole focus.

3. Secret Santa

As families grow and siblings get married and have children you find that your Christmas gift list just grows and grows. A couple of years ago we opted for the Secret Santa concept where all the adults' names are put into a hat and you draw one out and buy JUST for that person and sign the card ''Santa" and put it under the tree. It works wonderfully!

4. Give "Non- Gifts".

In the past I have used charity groups like Tear Australia to make donations in people's names to poorer overseas communities. You can buy school books for children, sink a well in a village or buy medicines. The year before last I wrote my brother in law a really funny poem that ended with a line about a goat in Bangladesh. Attached to the poem was a voucher that showed that I had donated a goat to this particular village in his name. It was absolutely hilarious and far better than the after shave and car polish that I had been buying him for the ten years previous. LOL

Other ideas for "non gifts" might be CD messages from children to Grandparents, photo albums with photos and hand written stories, cookies in a jar, special letters. Kids are very good with coming up with ideas and the results are precious.

The thing about giving 'non-gifts' is that the perceived value is far greater than the actual cost. After all, the reason we give gifts is to show people that we love them. If we are low on funds then we just need to find creative ways to say I love you. How do you put a price on a home made, illustrated story made by a child for a grandparent - the cost is nothing yet the value is priceless... and will definitely last longer than that foot spa you thought you might get!

5. Tone Down the Gift Giving

If you have children, the best way to reduce gift expectations is to give little throughout the year. If kids expect a toy every time they go shopping, then trying to make Christmas special is very difficult. I like to know very early what my children are hoping for at Christmas time. It gives me time to plan and save or time to VETO. "honey I don't think Santa will be bringing you your own TV ". I learnt that discussing gift giving ideas as children get older can be very important. Last year number one son said on Christmas Day " why would Santa have left me an XBOX game when I don't have an X BOX" - it seems Santa wasn't really up on all the different sorts of game consoles and computer thingys. I have suggested he does better homework this year!

You can set Christmas guidelines throughout the year by continually reinforcing the rule you want to introduce ' we usually get four things for christmas in our house'.... etc. Kids are usually fine... once they know the expectation. LOL ( gosh I hope they are not reading this!!)

Another good way to lower expectations is to limit advertising exposure. We know that advertising works, so reduce yours and your children's exposure and you won't be left wanting so much 'stuff'.

Being frugal doesn't mean being cheap. It is better to get a couple of things of quality rather than a room fall of cheap plastic! Most importantly, refer to point number one. You can give gifts of quality as long as you are cashed up and ready for it. We want to avoid the January credit card hangover!

6. Forget Being The Perfect Hostess

If you are hosting Christmas at your house this year, people will ask you ' what would you like me to bring?' and we answer with the pride of a martyr " nothing - just bring yourselves" and then we work like slaves to get everything organised. This year why not introduce the co-operative Christmas rules and let everyone bring and do something. People feel valued when they are able to contribute something so - let them! It brings a spirit of togetherness and the work is shared around. Everyone has their signature dish , be it salad or dessert. Let them flaunt it. Nothing says ' I value you' more than asking someone for the recipe of their signature dish.

My friend ( who shall remain nameless) has been taking her signature potato salad to bbbqs for years. She admitted to me that it is actually two tins of homebrand in a fancy bowl! - she never did get around to passing out the recipe.

7. Make December A Month Of PEACE.

Peace, love, joy ..... you know those words on the front of Christmas cards ? They don't just happen. You have to try really hard. You can't have PEACE if you leave your gift shopping until 10pm on Christmas Eve, that creates stress. Bring peace into your household by being prepared. Finish your gift shopping and wrapping early. Plan your menus and think about simple meals. Don't over cater - we already through out so much food, I doubt anyone will go hungry.

Get ahead now by making cookie dough and putting it in the freezer. You can pull them out and have fresh baked goodies in about 12 minutes. You can make cakes and freeze them un-iced, or chop them into smaller pieces ready for a trifle you whip up on Christmas morning.

And... if you are having toxic relatives over for Christmas ( and you know what I mean....) it might be worthwhile to cut out those words off the front of Christmas cards and hang them all over your home to remind you to bite your tongue as your auntie tells everyone that she thought you looked four months pregnant at your wedding! LOL You just have to put this down to part of the fun of the day.... the one day of the year when you start the day off with a handful of peanuts and nap in the chair while there are visitors in your house still..... Oh, c'mon, there's gotta be a little joy in that !

Simple Christmas......... that's what I am aiming for this year....... Joy........ love........ and hopefully ( depending on the relatives!)..............PEACE.

What are you doing to focus on the true values of Christmas in your home ? I would love to hear from you.


A Night in the Library with Colonel Mustard

I don't remember how it first started but we tend to turn everything off when there is a storm approaching. There have been quite a lot of thunderstorms lately and we have been watching the radar imagery on the bureau of meteorology website. For Australians it is http://www.bom.gov.au/

Last night as the storm got closer the boys asked whether everything should be turned off. I told them it is probably best if they do turn it all off. 'Best' however, is not because of the risk of appliances shorting out or power surges, although that is always a possibility, 'best' is because it a great opportunity to have a power free night. The electricity stays on, so we have lights, but the boys prepare torches, candles etc 'just in case'
It's all very exciting.

 Then comes the 'powerless' activities. - drawing, playing cards, building Lego. Last night we played Cluedo and had good fun doing it.

I love having silence in the house - that is when things slow down and everyone uses their imagination.


so you CAN teach an old cake new tricks.....

Flo's Lamington recipe has evolved again. As discussed previously, it went from lamingtons, to lamington slice, to lamington cake. Just when I thought you couldn't teach an old cake new tricks I wacked it into a kugelhopf, dribbled the chocolate icing over it, splashed around a little coconut and da- da!! I think I could even pop a piece of holly onto it and call it christmas.


A Healing Home

This is a phrase that has been stuck in my head over the last few days. I must have seen the phrase somewhere and not read on, but somehow, those words have stuck in my mind.

Although I have not fully thought it through, the idea of a healing home is very appealing to me.

The thing that comes to mind straight away is the immediate home environment. We joke about the state of our houses and put housework on the back burner because there are more important things to do, but for me, the household environment has a significant impact on your emotions. It is difficult to wake up and feel good about yourself and have a good start to the day when you have to climb over a pile of junk to get out of bed and then are faced with last nights dirty dishes all over the kitchen! Contrast this with stepping out of bed in the morning and walking out into a totally clean kitchen. I know which one would make me feel uplifted.

So, the first step to a healing home for me will be a clear and uncluttered environment. This is easier said than done!

The second idea that pops into my mind when I think of a healing home is a place of comfort and joy. It has only been in the last five years or so that I have become more 'homey'. It struck me once that if you walked into my home and I wasn't here, you would know nothing about me or my family. There were no photos, nothing of significance to tell the story of who lived in the house. Once I realised this, I started to slowly bring a little of myself and my family to our home. I chose photos that brought us joy and we had them framed to put around the lounge room. I hung up other things like the cross- stiches that my mother made to celebrate the birth of each of our sons and some other significant gifts that we had. I didn't put out a lot of stuff, because I like a more minimalist look, but I brought out some things that celebrated who we are as a family.

The third thing I think of when I imagine a healing home is a fresh smelling. chemical free home. One thing I would really like to get established is a great flower garden. I am not sure what I would grow in it, but I would love to have long stemmed flowers to bring inside every couple of days. I love to have fresh flowers, but usually only have them once a year on a special occasion. Buying cut flowers is just not in my budget, so I really must try and grow more or take better care of the few roses that I have. I love the look they bring to the place and the smell. I really don't like fake air fresheners, they seem to stick in the back of my mouth! I would much rather boil some lemons in water on the stove or burn some pure essential oils with cleansing smells if I want to bring a scent into the house. The best smell however, is no smell at all, just freshness. ( actually, the best smell is baking cookies!)

The final thing that comes to mind for a healing home is a positive, safe environment without shouting and abuse, where spirits are uplifted and everyone has a sense of relief to be able to come inside and relax. A healing home is a peaceful refuge from the world.

What comes to mind when you think of a healing home ? Have you recently been trying something new? What do you do to create a healing home ?


Welcome New Readers

Wow , there has been lots of new readers lately! If you’re new to this site I would like to say a huge welcome. You can subscribe using the RSS button on the left so you can get notification every time the site is updated. If you are a returning reader I am very humbled that you return. Thank you! Sincerely!

Let me introduce myself..... My name is Michelle (BusyWoman). I am a solicitor who left her job in June 2008 to come home to see if I could live a more simple, frugal life, applying the old fashioned principles that my 101 year old grandmother has taught me. I have no idea whether I can do it or not. I just take steps forward each day. I know that life goes in seasons and who knows what direction I will take next!

I write about themes such as trying to simplify my family life, growing my own food, finding joy in the every day, frugal living, and applying old fashioned wisdom to our modern lives. Let me add that I am a ‘back slider’ – meaning I am constantly on then off the wagon! That is why I like to write a blog – it’s a visual reminder of where I have come from and where I am going. Almost like two steps forward one step back.

Although I am a stay at home mum, I am not an advocate for stay at home mothers, I am an advocate for having choices. I live in a household where I went back to work and my husband was the stay at home Dad for quite a few years.

I am happily married, but I do not prescribe to an existence that requires mum, dad and 2.2 kids in order to be ‘just right’. There are many blogs that portray a perfect life. Let me tell you, I am not one of them! Perhaps I should post a photo of the way my son’s bedrooms look at present to confirm this! LOL

I write about steps that I have taken to simplify MY life in line with old fashioned principles. I would love to hear about YOUR efforts at finding simplicity and joy in your life circumstances. My children are not teenagers so I can’t write about the difficulties of living simply with kids that age – maybe you can. I am not a single mother or father for that matter so I cannot write from that perspective, but I am sure there are readers who are. What about running a household where the breadwinner has recently been retrenched ? Or trying to ‘live green’ when you still live at home with parents who don’t support your passion?

If you are interested in simple, joyful living, why not share how you move towards that in YOUR circumstances. I value diversity. We can all learn so much from each other. I encourage you to ‘come out’ and post a comment or if you don’t have a blogger/google account, send me an email and I will publish it for you. I would love to hear from you.

In the next few months I will be looking for some guest bloggers. I will be looking for contributions on themes that are in alignment with the values of my site, but I want to bring in a ‘truth in blogging’ element. I want to know how we deal with these themes in real life. If you are interested in that please email me with your thoughts. The address is over on the left hand side.

Once again, welcome to all the new readers.

Green MeMe # 1

Julie from Towards Sustainability has tagged me for the Meme.

1) Name two motivations for being green?

a. Green Living embraces much of the old fashioned wisdom that I feel we lost during the excesses of the 80s and 90s.

b) I want to raise my children with a respect for nature and the environment.

2) Name 2 eco-UNfriendly items you refuse to give up?

a. My Lap-top

b. My Vanilla latte on skim - although they tell me it is now sourced from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms - not really sure exactly what that is, but I guess it makes some people feel a little better.

3) Are you at peace with or do you feel guilty about number 2?

a. Often feel a certain amount of guilt about the lap top - well maybe guilt is too strong a word, but I know how much I can achieve around the place when it is not switched on! Guilt re the latte? Sorry, the addiction is far too strong to feel any guilt!

4) What are you willing to change but feel unable to/stuck with/unsure how to go about it?

I hate plastic packaging. I would love to be able to reduce the output in the garbage bin. We do try sometimes more than other times but there is always a tug of war between what is good for the hip pocket and what is good for the environment. Why is it always the way!!! I am guessing that this is a struggle for lots of families.

5) Do you know your carbon footprint for your home? If so, is it larger/smaller than your national average?

Our carbon foot print is less than the national average according to the calculator but I think there are a lot more steps that we can take to reduce it. The next thing on my list will be to install water tanks. If I had unlimited funds I would also add grid connected solar panels.

6) What's eco-frustrating and/or eco-fantastic about where you live?

The frustrating thing is that there is not a bike path between my small community and the next larger town. It is seven kilometres away and on the way there are many sporting and recreational facilities. It would be good to have a cycle way that would enable people to ride out to these spots.

The eco-fantastic thing about where I live is that we have a yard big enough to grow food, we are within walking distance from our small local butcher, post office, school and newsagent and we have a huge wide river nearby where we spend most of our recreational time.

7) Do you eat local/organic/vegetarian/forage/grow your own?

We grow our own and try and eat local. It is somewhat difficult though. There is a local farmers market here but it only operates once a month. We have just started getting eggs from friends and yesterday were able to give our first tomatoes. I am hoping there will be more bartering amongst us.

8) What do you personally find the most challenging in being green?

The same old question: budget vs environment.

9) Do you have a green confession?

OOOOHHHH I have millions of them! LOL The one that comes to mind is showering longer at the gym than I would at home!! (naughty I know! but the shower pressure is just so.....damn....good.....)

10) Do you have the support of family and/or friends?

For sure! My family had a meeting and decided together what we would include in our eco-challenge. I think many friends think I am a little eccentric but I see over time that they are starting to take a few positive steps themselves.

I tag Karen Libby and Sorcha

The Guidelines are:

1) Link to Green Meme Bloggers.

2) Link back to whoever tagged you.

3) Include meme number

4) Include these guidelines in your post

5) Answer questions

6) Tag 3 other green bloggers.


I'm Dreaming Of A White Christmas.....

.... and when all of the white is gone, I'll start on the red!!

I have been making some handmade tags and cards.....

are you doing anything special at the moment to prepare for Christmas ?

April Theme: Re-organise and Transition

In the Southern Hemisphere, April is in Autumn.  The days here are still warmish, but there is a sneaking whisper in the wind. That whisper ...