Secret Santa Gift Exchanges

How do gift exchanges work in your family? Do you buy one gift for everyone in your family, or do you draw names and do more of a Secret Santa exchange?

We’ve done various types of gift exchanges with each of our families.

SPENDING LIMITS

In years past, we’ve agreed upon a spending limit for each gift. This is a great way to exercise some creativity and find gifts that the recipient will enjoy for very little money. This is also a great option if you like to have lots of gifts to open on Christmas morning.

SECRET SANTA

Another way we have done presents in our family is to have a higher spending limit, but we only buy one gift for one person. The way we’ve done it in the past is to put names in a hat and draw a name. That is the person for whom you buy the gift. Of course, since we now live in the digital age, that whole process can be digitized. Enter the Secret Santa Supreme – PeapodApps phone app. Now, we can use an app to run our entire secret santa. Each person can enter a wish list. Then the app does the work of randomly assigning each person a secret santa. The app will send an email with the wish list to the person for whom you are buying the gift. Have a few family members that don’t get along? You can tell the app not to match them up!

KIDS ONLY

We’ve had years where the only gifts we bought were for the kids. It’s a great way to spend less. But most of all, the kids seem to be the most fun to buy for and to watch open presents on Christmas morning.

How do you do gift exchanges in your family?

The GBG It Works for Me

“The GBG: It Works for Me” is a weekly series all about that thing you’ve started doing that you’d wish you’d known you should be doing all along.

Solutions, quick tips, and shortcuts. Time savers and sanity savers. It’ll all be right here.

Have a solution, tip, or time saver of your own? Let me know by filling out this form, I’ll try it then share it!

No Guilt Healthy Halloween Snacks

Are you looking for healthy Halloween snacks to bring to your next Halloween party? My girls are old enough that we don’t have Halloween class parties anymore. But I remember the guilt associated with being the mom who brought the healthy snack. A part of me wanted to be the fun mom who brought the big bag of fun sized treats.

However, eight years of elementary school parties taught me something. Kids like fruit.

Sure. Everyone loves candy. But given the option to have a healthy snack, you will be surprised how often the kids will pick it. Sure they might want a candy corn chaser, but don’t feel guilty offering fruit.

Of course, you can always make your fruit offering a little more fun! Get out a non-toxic marker and get creative!

On one side of a banana, make a Jack-O-Lantern smile!

Then, on the other side of the banana, make a moustache!

And don’t forget to make some bloodshot clementine eyeballs!

The GBG It Works for Me

“The GBG: It Works for Me” is a weekly series all about that thing you’ve started doing that you’d wish you’d known you should be doing all along.

Solutions, quick tips, and shortcuts. Time savers and sanity savers. It’ll all be right here.

Have a solution, tip, or time saver of your own? Let me know by filling out this form, I’ll try it then share it!

Drying Peppermint for Herbal Tea

When I shared my Peppermint Tea Recipe, I had several comments and questions about loose leaf tea. Many didn’t realize you can purchase loose leaf dried peppermint and that it is the only ingredient needed to make peppermint tea.

Did you know you can easily make your own herbal tea by drying peppermint at home?

As summer comes to an end, I’m drying my peppermint to be able to make peppermint tea from the plants I grew. Anyone who has ever grown mint knows it grows like a weed, so I have plenty to be able to dry!

This method of drying peppermint assumes you don’t have a dehydrator.

To Dry Peppermint:

  1. Rinse leaves and shake them dry to avoid bruising. (I actually used my salad spinner to rinse and spin dry.)
  2. Snap only the best leaves off the stems. Leaves that are yellowed or that have brown spots should not be dried.
  3. Line a jelly roll pan with paper towels.
  4. Lay the leaves on the paper towel. The leaves should not touch.
  5. Once you have the first layer, you can cover it with another towel layer and another layer of leaves.
  6. Turn the oven on it’s lowest setting (mine is 100 degrees). Transfer your pan with the layers of leaves onto the middle rack of the oven.
  7. Allow to several hours, checking often.

You’ll know the leaves have properly dried when they are crispy and break easily. Now they are ready to be stored. You’ll want to store your dried peppermint leaves in an airtight container.

Helpful Hints:

  1. Do not dry herbs in the sun. The sun leeches out some of the flavor and color of the herbs.
  2.  For best flavor, do not select leaves from plants that have gone to flower.
  3. Mint is subject to mold, so make certain you’ve thoroughly dried it.

As your growing season comes to an end, will you be drying your herbs to preserve them?

The GBG It Works for Me

“The GBG: It Works for Me” is a weekly series all about that thing you’ve started doing that you’d wish you’d known you should be doing all along.

Solutions, quick tips, and shortcuts. Time savers and sanity savers. It’ll all be right here.

Have a solution, tip, or time saver of your own? Let me know by filling out this form, I’ll try it then share it!

Shortcut: Seasoning Food in a Pinch


If you were to look at your recipes, you would start to notice a trend. When seasoning food with salt and pepper, the ratio is almost always two times the salt to one time the pepper.

So I’ve started using a shortcut. I wouldn’t say it’s life changing, but is is time saving – and sometimes those are the same thing!

I have a small ramekin (any small dish that fits on your stove will do) and I add to it 1/4 cup salt and 2 Tablespoons pepper. I stir it together and it is ready for me to just grab a pinch and sprinkle over my dishes. This is great if you are browning ground beef, sauteing vegetables, scrambling eggs, or getting a steak ready to grill. You can season your food as you cook & not have to think about it!

I prefer the pinch method when cooking, but if  you are someone who likes to measure when cooking, all you need to do is measure out the amount in the recipe.

For example, if a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper ~ just add 1 1/2 teaspoons for your salt and pepper mixture.

(Remember: Baking is a whole other ball game and requires precise measurements.)



HELPFUL HINTS FOR SEASONING FOOD USING SALT AND PEPPER:

    • When adding that pinch of your salt and pepper, make sure you are doing so from about 10 to 12 inches above the food. Holding it a little higher helps in even distribution.
    • Use Kosher salt or sea salt. Both types of salt are a large grain, making it easier to pick up in a pinch.
    • Season your meat with salt and pepper BEFORE you cook it. Raw meat absorbs it better than cooked meat, so you will need to use less.
    • Season your beans AFTER you cook them. Salt during the cooking process makes them harder to cook. I believe this, but not everyone does. However, I am right & they are wrong.
    • Tailor your mix to YOUR family’s taste. More pepper, less pepper, garlic powder, red pepper. Throw in whatever your family likes!

The GBG It Works for Me

“The GBG: It Works for Me” is a weekly series all about that thing you’ve started doing that you’d wish you’d known you should be doing all along.

Solutions, quick tips, and shortcuts. Time savers and sanity savers. It’ll all be right here.

Have a solution, tip, or time saver of your own? Let me know by filling out this form, I’ll try it then share it!

 

Emergency Evacuation Bags

I posted on my facebook page about the Waldo Canyon Fire that is threatening Colorado Springs and the surrounding towns. Our home is currently safe, but the conditions remain dangerous. As part of the Waldo Canyon fire, the nearby town of Manitou Springs was evacuated during the night. If you had to leave your house in the middle of the night, would you be ready to go? Until today, I would have been scrambling. And, at 1:30 AM, I can assure you, I am not at my best.

My first order of business was to put together a few bags that could easily be grabbed. These would have the items we would need if we had to vacate our home quickly and move into a shelter. I know many of you also live in natural disaster zones – hurricanes, earthquakes, tornados – if you have anything you’d add, please leave a comment!

EMERGENCY EVACUATION BAGS

EMERGENCY EVACUATION BAGS

I packed three bags. The first was a backpack I was given last year at Blogher, and the other two were bags my mom got as a free gift with purchase. They are kinda girlie, but they were free and readily available to pack.

The bags were divided into three categories: Consumables, Comfort, & Care.

CONSUMABLES

Emergency Evacuation Consumables Bag

The idea is to try to have enough food for 72 hours. These supplies fall short, but would provide snacks in case we were stuck in traffic vacating town or if we needed to be in a shelter. The packed items include:

  • Protein Bars – (10)
  • Beef Jerky
  • Fruit Leathers
  • Peanut Butter
  • Tuna
  • Cereal
  • Ravioli
  • Pineapple Slices
  • Pet food & treats
  • Starbucks Via **Total comfort consumable**

You might notice I didn’t include water. What I chose to do was to put a case of water under our bags. These could easily be loaded into the car and would provide more water than what a bag could hold.

COMFORT

Emergency Evacuation Comfort Bag

I packed this bag with all the items that would make us more comfortable should we have to live in a shelter.  If we left without this bag, we’d be ok, but we wouldn’t be as comfortable. Items included are:

  • New underwear for all family members
  • Socks for each family member
  • Washcloths
  • Wipes
  • Feminine Hygiene
  • Deodorant
  • Chapstick
  • Toothpaste, toothbrushes, floss
  • Soap
  • Lotion
  • Comb
  • Kleenex
  • Eye drops
  • **Hair Ties & Ball Cap – personal addition. I’m thinking we won’t be paying much attention to our hair!
  • **Card Game – again, a personal item addition to try to make an ugly situation bearable.

CARE

Emergency Evacuation Care Bag

The idea behind the care bag is what would be REALLY need to take care of our family in a true survival situation. Packed items include:

  • Contact lens case & solution
  • OTC medications (if anyone in your family requires a prescription, you’d want to pack a 3 day supply.)
  • First aid kit
  • Sewing kit
  • Rain ponchos
  • Flashlight
  • Batteries
  • Scissors
  • Heavy duty trash bags
  • Sunscreen
  • Work gloves
  • Candles
  • Lighter
  • Can opener
  • **I included hand and toe warmers since we live in CO.

I now have the three Emergency Evacuation Bags hanging outside our garage door ready to grab and throw in the car.

EMERGENCY EVACUATION BAG IN GARAGE

I also have cases of water stashed below. Now, in the event of an evacuation, I know I will have the basic supplies ready to go!

How to Make Glue for Making Homemade Holiday Gifts

How to Make Glue

Did you know you can make glue? Did you know you can make glue that is 100% non-toxic ~ as well as being edible ~ because it is mainly made out of flour? (think about it – you can be that kid that eats glue and it’s OK!)

As part of my Homemade Holidays, I wanted to include an easy recipe for glue that uses ingredients you already have on hand. This glue makes for eco-friendly gift wrapping and present making. No, I don’t think you’ll want to give it as a gift. But whip up a batch to have on hand for all the projects to come!

Here’s How to Make Non Toxic Glue Using Flour:

It really is that easy to make your own non toxic glue out of ingredients you already have at home!

Does it really work? You betcha! The gift bow you see in the picture above was made using homemade glue. Want the instructions on how to make your own bows from a magazine? It’s another eco-friendly project.

Homemade Nontoxic Glue

Homemade Holidays  How to Make Glue is part of my month-long series: Homemade Holidays. All month I will have ideas on how you can make inexpensive items for holiday gift giving. Did you miss How to Force Paperwhites?