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Category: Family, Fun & Holidays

Ask the Readers: Celebrating Christmas in a meaningful way?

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photo by krisdecurtis

Christmas is coming and I have a large family, some
of whom have a lot of "disposable" income and others who are really
squeaking by this year. I have spent several of the last Christmas
seasons in tears of sadness and frustration. Sometimes I feel like I
can’t get the people on my list a "good enough" gift and sometimes
there is not enough money to get a gift for everyone.

I’d really like
to do things differently this year and I’d like to actually make
Christmas about Jesus and not about shopping. So, how can I get
everyone in the spirit? How can we celebrate in a meaningful way? How
do I give gifts from the heart and not from the wallet, and what do
other families do to get through Christmas without crying? -Alisa

I am guessing Alisa is not alone in her struggles; likely many of you have experienced something similar. So, how have you dealt with it? What ideas or suggestions do you have for Alisa?

Guest Post: All From One Little Pumpkin

Guest Post by Monica from The Homespun Heart

One of my favorite Fall decorations is a simple pumpkin! I

recently purchased a 3.4 lb. pie pumpkin at Wal-Mart for $0.78/lb. I thought it would be fun to see how much we could do with just one pumpkin several days in a row to really stretch the value of purchasing it!

Join me as we follow the life of the this small pumpkin…

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When I first brought the pumpkin home, it made a lovely decoration perched on my porch.

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A few days later, it made a fun greeting for a few ladies I had over for an Autumn in Avonlea gathering.

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The next morning, it made a fun vase for our First Day of Autumn breakfast.

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And, at lunch, a great hiding place for lunch during our scavenger hunt.

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Next, I cooked the pumpkin. (Just half the pumpkin and place cut side down on a baking sheet for one hour at 350 degrees; I got about four cups of cooked pumpkin from the two pumpkins I cooked.)

I used the cooked pumpkin and made some delicious Pumpkin Struesel Muffins.

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Pumpkin Streusel Muffins

1/4 c. margarine or butter, softened

1/2 c. sugar

1/4 c. brown sugar

2/3 c. pumpkin

1/2 c. buttermilk

2 eggs

2 c. flour

1 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

Streusel Topping:

1/3 c. flour

3 Tbsp. brown sugar

2 Tbsp. cold butter or margarine

For muffins: cream together margarine and sugars. Add all remaining ingredients and mix together. In a separate bowl, cut together streusel ingredients and sprinkle over muffin batter. Bake in prepared muffin tin at 375 for 20-25 minutes. Makes one dozen muffins. Original recipe from Quick Cooking May/June 2000.

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We were able to tie the muffins into our homeschooling this week by having an ‘unbirthday’ party (we’ve been reading Ask Mr. Bear!)

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Then we toasted the seeds for a snack. Here’s the recipe we used:

Sugared Pumpkin Seeds

2 c. pumpkin seeds (from two pie pumpkins; rinsed and dried on a baking sheet for 48 hours)
1 egg white mixed with 1 Tbsp. water (save the egg yolk for your next batch of pancakes or scrambled eggs!)

1 c. sugar

3/4 tsp. cinnamon

3/4 tsp. nutmeg

1 tsp. salt

Mix seeds and egg white mixture. Add remaining spices and mix well. Spread on greased baking sheet and bake at 275 degrees for one hour stirring every 15 minutes.

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I think I’ll send some in my husband’s lunch tomorrow. After this yummy baking, we took a short walk outside and enjoyed coming into a cozy smelling home!

All that from a $2.68 pumpkin!

How do you like to stretch a pumpkin? I look forward to hearing your ideas!

Monica enjoys blogging about the simple pleasures of faith, family and home over at The Homespun Heart.

Guest Post: Frugal Family Fun – Part 1

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photo by egarc2

Guest Post by Katie from Cincinnati Cents

As parents, there is a fine line between over-indulging our children and ensuring that we spend a reasonable amount of quality family time together. It seems as though schedules become incredibly hectic with the pace of today’s world, between school, work, soccer games, piano lessons, church commitments, scout meetings, social organizations…the list could go on and on.

It is essential for families to carve out time that is separate from the hubbub of the daily routine, in order to connect (or reconnect) as a family unit. Without this time spent together, the core that binds each family together becomes fractionalized, and suddenly the members become disconnected from each other, making family unity and harmony a challenge to be overcome.

While it is easy to agree that family time is essential, it is not always so simple to find activities and events that are family-friendly (oftentimes for a multitude of ages) as well as financially feasible. It is certainly not difficult to concoct grand plans for trips to amusement parks, the beach, or a local fun zone.

However, if these ventures are beyond your budgetary means, the additional stress they cause defeat the purpose of the unity-building experience. In this weekly series, I will be focusing on simple, frugal ways to celebrate your family, thereby spending quality time together (while maintaining your sanity as well!).

As Summer has quickly slipped away, and Fall is gently unfolding, it is an ideal time to enjoy the beauty of the season with a leisurely walk as a family in the coolness of the evening. I’ve found, it is easy to engage all participating “walkers” if you add a game into the experience.

Give each child a scavenger hunt list (younger children could be paired with older siblings or parents) of various items to locate while you are enjoying the outdoors. This turns the walk into more than just exercise and family time–it becomes a nature hunt, and children will be amazed with the autumn treasures they might find. Acorns, red and orange leaves, and squirrels scurrying to procure their winter store all make fascinating finds for young children. They are often amazed by what they can find if they truly look at their surroundings.

Bingo is another easy take-along game for an evening hike. Parents can make simple bingo boards prior to the family outing, utilizing cardboard or heavy cardstock and clear contact paper.  A simple 9 or 12-box grid would be ideal for younger children, whereas a larger grid (15 to 25 squares) would be more challenging for older children. Items that could be searched for would either be written in the squares, or pictures could be drawn for non-readers.

Once the boards are completed, a simple covering of clear contact paper will protect them from the elements on the journey. Each child would then be supplied with a dry erase marker and either a paper towel or a wet wipe. Whoever finds the needed objects and yells “bingo” first would win the game. The boards could then be wiped clean, and a new game could begin.

Of course, a game is not necessary for a family outing. It is oftentimes enough for families–especially those with very small children–to simply enjoy each others’ presence during the course of a long, leisurely walk. Young ones are so excited to witness nature’s beauty in its simplest form–a butterfly spreading its wings, a puppy barking from across the street, one last lazy flower poking its head out of the ground.

Regardless of the activity you choose, remember that life passes to quickly. Take time to smell those proverbial roses. Next Fall will be here in a blink of an eye, and you’ll want to look back and remember all the amazing memories you’ve created as a family over the course of the year.

Katie is a homeschooling mother of four. She blogs at Cincinnati Cents, where she shares money-saving ideas, deals, and frugal activities to enjoy as a family.

From Crystal: What are some of your favorite games to play or things to do while you’re out on a family walk?

Frugal Family Fun: The Summer Edition

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It’s the first day of Summer and parents everywhere are in the market for creative and cost-effective ideas for frugal family fun. Here are a few of our family’s favorite ways to have fun without breaking the bank:

 –Go grocery shopping together. We often do this as a family and make an outing of it. If you have to do it, you might as well make it fun! We bring snacks and drinks along, the girls get to ride in those fancy carts most stores now sport, and we have a blast seeing how much we can get for how little. The best part of all is that grocery stores seem keep their thermostat set at almost-freezing temperatures so it’s a cheap way to beat the heat (well, provided that you stick to your list and your budget and don’t impulse buy!).

–Pack a picnic, a blanket, some books, and some toys for the girls and go hang out at a nearby lake for the afternoon. This is especially great for a leisurely Sunday afternoon: the girls get some fresh air and exercise and mom and dad can sit in the shade on a blanket and watch them play.

–Load up the girls in the wagon and walk to a nearby fast food joint
or ice cream shop for drinks or cones. (This is an especially great
thing to do if you have coupons or if there is a freebie offer going
on!)

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Those are three really simple and frugal things we love to do in the Summer. What about your family? Post your frugal family fun ideas for Summer on your blog and leave your link below so we can all be inspired. Don’t have a blog? Feel free to share your ideas in the comments section.

What’s your best Frugal Father’s Day idea?

Father’s Day is this Sunday and while I’m pretty sure I know what I’m doing for my dad and my husband, I’m sure there are many others who are still looking for some great ideas.

My dad is very easy to please. He doesn’t like gifts, he likes handmade cards and letters so that’s what he normally gets and that’s what he’s getting again this year. It’s always so good to sit down and write out my thoughts of gratitude and appreciation to him for all he has done for me.

My husband is also easy to please. Up until this year, he always received a card and a special home-cooked dinner. This year, since we have more wiggle room in the budget, I’m actually buying him something. But it’s not anything fancy or extravagant. Instead, he’s getting dress clothes, thanks to Sears. And I know he’ll be happy as a lark since, unlike most men, he likes to shop and buy clothes!

What are you doing to bless and show appreciation for the special father(s) in your life? Tell us about it in the comments section in the next 24 hours and you’ll also be entered to win one of two $20 gift cards from Boston Market.
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Our family loves Boston Market; it’s like enjoying delicious home-cooking without the work and effort! I especially enjoy their rotisserie chicken and mashed potatoes–Yum!

To enter to win one of these two $20 gift cards:

::Leave a comment telling us your best frugal idea for celebrating Father’s Day and blessing a special guy in your life.

::Tomorrow evening, I’ll randomly choose two winners and post them.