One thing to do Before the New Year

The Christmas tree is still up and sparkling a cheerful greeting today.  My organized friends are already put away for the New Year, but I’m letting the 12 days of Christmas linger on.  It’s not our usual thing, but we’ve been working in extra doctor visits this week which included a 6 hour trip to see a specialist in the next state over.  Times like these call for grace.

I know you’ll understand, when I say it was an accomplishment to just get the dishes washed and find clean underwear.

This week between Christmas and New Year’s, when you still have some lingering memories of Christmas and how you felt about everything, is the perfect time to make your life better next year. Were you joyful? Disappointed? Super Organized? Stressed?  While you can still remember what went right and what went wrong, write a note.  I have an excel document that I add a new tab to every year for gift budget planning.  That way I can easily reflect on past year’s happenings and improve my plans for the next year.

At the end of the year, I write a few lines under the budget about things that I want to remember.  (And trust me, we won’t remember if we don’t write it down.)  For example, one year my daughter had a meltdown about not having a cute outfit to wear to our family gathering where her really trendy cousin would be. It’s not a big deal in the scheme of things, but it sure disrupted the happiness at our house. I made a note to work with her at the beginning of the season so that she’ll have a good option and then this year she surprised me by not caring anymore.

One time, I was surprised by “family gifts” that were passed around at our white elephant gift exchange party.  I had thought we were doing the white elephant to avoid individual gifting and save budgets and stress on family members….but then I was handed a gift and had nothing to give in return, and I was the ONLY one who didn’t bring family gifts.  That felt awful.

There are a myriad of possible ways to give charitably during the season. Our church sponsors families and we have the opportunity to buy gifts for those less fortunate.  I also belong to a charitable giving group of local friends and we sponsored our local foster care system and women’s shelter this year.  It was an awesome way to show my kids the joy of helping others, except I failed to plan for it in our budget.  At the time of year when things are already tight, this had me scrambling.  I wrote a new budget line just for that for next year’s budget.

Our grandmother passed away a year ago, and several of the grandchildren gave her daughter the grandmother’s favorite Christmas candy to remember her.  It was really meaningful and I didn’t think of it, so it went into my notes.

One year I made several homemade gifts to help with our budget and improve the quality of the gifts I was able to give.  The only problem was I got both kinds of flu 2 weeks before Christmas and had to wrap unfinished gifts to take back and finish at home later.  Now I give myself a calendar notification in September to start choosing projects and a before Thanksgiving deadline to have them all done.

You see where this is going?  It could be a good thing too, like wrapping my gifts as they came (with a code number on it so I can remember what’s in it!) and putting them under the tree and there was no last minute scramble or danger of the gift being found and the surprised ruined.

While I have the excel file open, I go ahead and copy my old budget over for the new year, then tweak it.  If I have gift ideas, I add them in as well.  In 2017 I’m doubling my gift budget for my own kids.  It has been so small since they were born, that if we wanted to give them anything big, it had to be a family gift and use all the budget for all the kids–no individual gifts.  I’m ready to change that and breathe a little.  When we started out, we budgeted $20 per kid for Christmas. Then when we were debt free, doubled it to $40. For the last 4 years we raised it to $50.  Next year I’m budgeting $100.  I also raised the birthday budget to $100 per child. Since Darren’s salary didn’t go up, that means I’ll need to make up the difference. I kept the amount the same that comes from our regular household budget, and the rest I will earn extra each month to make it a reality.

This is also a great time to update the addresses in your Christmas card list.  I almost forgot about that, because we haven’t managed to mail any out for the last 3 years or even take an updated family photo.  I’ve set the bar low to improve next year, bwa ha ha.

Making the Most of Your Christmas Budget


It’s technically still summer and autumn colors aren’t even here, but I want to talk about Christmas just a smidge.  Even though we only give 2 gifts to our kids,  Christmas stresses me out if I don’t plan ahead.  Far AHEAD.  Truthfully, sometimes I still freak out—but this helps.  It’s what I’m doing today, so I thought I’d screen capture a summary of my movements and thoughts as I plan.

I made a little video for you showing how I budget for Christmas and how I buy each item at the lowest price possible.  I hope it helps take some stress off of you this holiday season!

Here are the video notes plus some extra stuff that the video missed:

  1.  Plan to set aside money every month for Christmas Gifts, and know what your total budget will be by the end of the year.

2.  Make a list of all the people you need to buy for and put a dollar amount by each name.  This list total should equal the amount you’ve budgeted for the year.  You might want to add some extra lines for Hostess Gifts or other unexpected exchanges.

3.  Next to each name, brainstorm gift ideas.  I use color codes to tell me if it’s just an idea, or if I’ve placed the order etc.  I also write in the actual amount spent so I can track my spending and not just the budget.  If I buy more than 1 item, I add a line so each item and actual price is on it’s own line.


4.  When shopping on Amazon, first make an account at  Then copy the item URL  to camel and ask for an email alert when the price drops to your target zone.  Since you’re planning NOW you can afford to wait for a better price.  This is important because Amazon no longer offers partial refunds if the item drops in price after you purchase it.


5.  I also belong to a discount health and wellness club that as a side benefit has a unique shopping portal.  In addition to providing more than 500 toxin free products for my home and body at great prices, they’ve partnered with hundreds of stores like Old Navy, Target, Home Depot etc.  When shopping through this portal I have access to extra coupon codes and discounts to use in the online shopping cart PLUS I get a cash back rebate in the mail, on every purchase!  It’s only $19 a year for me to be a member, but right now they are offering a $1 special for the first year.  I can’t give all the details in this post, but if you want to know more about it, you can request info here. (Your contact info goes straight to me and no one else will se it, so be sure your best email address is included.)

Merry Christmas 

I hope things are well with you. Take a deep breath with me and try not to feel stress. I’m need to be offline with my family until New Year. I might pop in and blog, but I need it to be ok not to.

Here’s a little peak at our fun this week.

Wide mouth mayo jars (borrowed from my mom since I don’t save stuff.) wrapped with twine and layered with Epsom snow, freezer burned cranberries and a tea light. I plan to reuse the salts for healing soaks later.

Progress in the shared boy room. Formerly black lamp spray painted green and made over night stand with new pulls, a new top and a new paint job.

Our presents are almost all wrapped. I have collected different papers after season clearance sales over the years and have several years worth. I’m a little bummed because there are so many cute wrapping ideas out there that don’t fit in with my stash. On the other hand this is easy and the kids get just as excited about our mismatched wrapping.  So not Pinterest worthy but family and budget friendly and that’s better than ok.

Caleb, my oldest boy is ripping out the 45 year d carpeting while I’m safely tucked away in another part of the house. I have developed a severe allergy and this is part of making the house safe for me.

Acts of service like this really make me feel loved.

For more than 2 months my entire body has looked like this. It itches like poison ivy that won’t heal. I noticed on Sunday that there is a line around my face sides of neck and chest where the rash won’t cross that coincides with where I use my anti-aging products. So I tried a bit in an affected area. 2 days later it is clear. I’m hoping it’s not just a coincidence. Basically the doc thinks this is a dust mite allergy gone wrong from stress. Any worse and I’d need an epi pen. I’ve been on so many medications and the only thing that helped was prednisone–yuck. I’m exploring all the natural options and will report back if anything works.

My Five Favorite EASY Christmas Cookies

Today Darren took Caleb and Grant to the farm to visit his parents and I stayed home to be available to the kids who go to school and to paint the shared boys room.  I’ll be posting all about their room transformation in March.  If you don’t want to wait that long to get updates, I’m posting about it in real time on instagram #sharedboysroom

Angela Coffman instagram

But for now, I want to give you my favorite Christmas cookie recipes.  The easy, last minute kind. I’m going to link up to the original sources, so you can open the same page I do when it’s time to cook :).

  1. Christmas Crack

This is a more chewable version of a Heath bar.  I can’t. stop. eating. this.  So I only make it when I have somewhere to share it.


For a delicious twist, Diane made hers with pretzels!

2.  Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Ritz

My family has been sharing this one Christmas Eve for as far back as I can remember.  It’s easy to festive up with some Christmas candy sprinkles.

3.  Melt in Your Mouth Eggnog Cookies

We’ve already made 3 batches of these.  They aren’t as easy as dipping a ritz in chocolate, but there’s no dough chilling or rolling out involved.  And the frosting just spreads on with a knife.  Sooooo yummy.


4. Chocolate Dipped Pretzel Rods

Kids cannot mess this up.  They might mess up your kitchen….but the pretzels will be delicious.


 via The Baker Chic

5. Fattigmann Bakkles (Poor Man’s Cookie.)

My mother’s grandmother was from Norway. When she got really excited, she could only speak in Norwegian.  Sometimes she would call my mother and speak hurredly in Norwegian and then hang up abruptly.  Then she would call back and scream and hang up again.  My mother knew that usually meant she had lost her purse….and then found it.  She adored bananas and would stop at the store and buy a bunch as she walked home from her job cleaning houses. Sometimes she would mindlessly eat the entire bunch before getting home. She brought this recipe with her from Norway and we make it every Christmas to remember our heritage.

Sometimes I sub eggnog for the heavy cream in this recipe—delicious.

fatigmann bakkles

via Debesys

Choosing Joy

Choosing Joy

I hope you had a happy Thanksgiving.  Ours was lovely.  I was determined not to be stressed, and it worked out except for about a half an hour on Thanksgiving morning. That’s the half hour, I feel compelled to tell you about.

I already mentioned Friday that my dad was released from the hospital on Tuesday, then was right back in on Wednesday for more tests checking for complications.  My mom still planned on hosting Thanksgiving for 20 at her house.  It was easier to do that for my dad than to try to move him or make him spend the holiday alone.  I went over that night to help Mom carry the tables and set a few things up.  Nothing major.  Then I convinced her to let me bake the rolls and sweet potatoes to lessen her stress a little.  She still had the turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, salad, and pies to do. That was still too much.

Master Bedroom winter 2015 2

I determined to get over there by 10am to help and had a perfect checklist in my mind.  Get up; make the bed all cute with my new allergy free bedding; turn on the parade; bake the sweet potatoes and then head over.  But no one in my house was cooperating.  Darren wouldn’t get out of the bed so I could make it. The kids complained about having to watch the parade (and I couldn’t’ see it from the kitchen), and when I looked at the sweet potato recipe, it was going to take an hour longer to prepare than I was counting on. There was no way I could get to my mom at 10 and I didn’t like leaving her alone with all the prep work.

I could feel things start to boil inside.  “Fine, you make the bed!” I yelled at my husband.  Muttering under my breath why he couldn’t grow up and help out a little.  He is a smart man, and he got up and made the bed.  It looked absolutely nothing like I had planned it to look.  I boiled up a little more.

He tried to tell me things would be fine.  “So we get there at 11.  What’s the big deal?” he wanted to know.  The big deal is my dad is sick, my mom is stressed, and the SOURCE of the irritation doesn’t get to say it’s not a big deal.

I stomped and huffed around the kitchen a bit and when he got too close I glared at him, “I’m angry at you because you made the bed and it looks STUPID.” And then the humor of the whole thing kind of hit me.

Who cares if the bed looks stupid?  My dad is alive.  My husband is alive.  My kids are healthy.  We have a big family to gather with.  Get a grip, Woman! I calmed down and apologized to my family and we had a really nice day.

I wish I could get a better handle on my emotions when things start to spiral out of control. It triggers when I have a goal and I think others are purposefully blocking my goal. Usually it’s because I didn’t communicate it clearly or early enough.  The reason really doesn’t matter.  What matters is that I understand that the only thing I can control is ME.  So, I choose JOY.  I want to influence others with my love and happiness instead of trying to control them with my anger.

Christmas Tree 2015 3

So Friday, when it came time to decorate the Christmas tree, I thought ahead of time about the things that matter to me (hang the balls towards the inside of the tree) and I communicated it clearly.  I decided on the things that didn’t matter and let the kids have free reign with them (put the silver and gold on this tree, but put it anywhere you want.)  I limited what mattered to me to just one or two things. The kids aren’t used to a pleasant Christmas decorating mama and they asked me a lot of questions about what goes where and what to do with this or that.   They were surprised with how much freedom I gave them and we all had a really pleasant day.

Christmas Tree 2015 2

Any time I had a strange feeling of “don’t put that there” well up in me, I swallowed it and reminded myself that I could change anything I wanted another day.  What I got in exchange was beauty.  Our decorations this year are so very human.  The kids will never be this age again and I loved watching them put things in places and step back to judge their work. It won’t end up in a designer magazine, but it’s a special collage of their current ages and thought processes represented in design.

Am I the only Mom out there that gets a little freaked out on special days?  If you haven’t seen it already, this video could have been taken at our house.

“If you haven’t made your bed already, throw it away.  It’s too late.”

The Ultimate Stocking Stuffer List

the ultimate stocking stuffer list

This is the best stocking stuffer list ever because all your ideas are going to be on it. I’ve started with what I can think of, then I’ll come back and add your ideas up here after you put them in the comments.  You can’t leave the page without adding an idea, got it?

This year we are only giving one gift to each of our kids.  The kids drew names among each other, so they will each have 2 gifts to open. Then there’s the stockings.  I wrapped up smaller gifts for the stockings and spent a little more on some items–up to $15. The idea is that these are things my kids actually need and will use, and won’t be clutter.  The more expensive things are items they’ve been asking for and waiting to get for awhile, but things that weren’t so important that they had to have them right away.  Things like a wallet or a watch or gloves with texting fingers.  I’d rather do fewer gifts that were useful, than fill our house with bargain clutter.  Either way I spend about the same.

I’ve linked to some items for your convenience, but they aren’t affiliate links.  My state is on the list of states that Amazon won’t work with.  

A lot of the items are generic.  I didn’t want to put the same item on each list, so I stuck it on just one of them.  I’m sure girls would like Silly Putty too and I’d be as thrilled with a protein bar as Darren would.

Food Items

Breakfast items–doughnuts, muffins, fruit, cinnamon roll, or single serving fun cereal (so the kids can eat without waking mom and dad)



Favorite Candy

Beef Jerky



Fun food they don’t normally get to have, like Spaghetti-o’s

Restaurant Gift Cards

Dark Chocolate



Hand warmers


Texting Gloves

Lip Balm

Pocket Knife/multi tool

Unbreakable Combs–big pack that would be good to split with friends

Protein Bars

Cough Drops


Toy Handcuffs

Nerf Bullets–big pack to share with friends 🙂

Mini Nerf Gun

Matchbox Car

Silly Putty

Mini Lego Set (or a special piece from the lego store)

Art Supplies


DVDs (check dollar tree for these too, or even garage sales)

Glow sticks

Sidewalk Chalk

Bubbles (if it’s cold enough they will freeze in the air)

Printed Duct Tape

Ear Buds







Magic Baby Bottles

Hair Ties

Lip Gloss

Fingernail Polish

Coin Purse

Mini Wet Brush — wet brushes are our favorite

Craft supplies

Fuzzy socks or Gloves (Dollar Tree)

Cute socks–for mis-matching

Travel size items for sleepovers

Cosmetic bags for organizing

Cute School Supplies

Sunglasses (snow glares)





Water Bottle Carrier–this is my friend’s company and it is really good quality.  I love mine!

Texting Gloves

Purse size tissues

Kitchen Gadgets


Gift Card for a pedicure

Washi Tape

Fashion Scarf




Wax melts

Essential Oils

AntiBac gel from bath & body works

Fingernail clippers/Tweezers

Essential oil diffusing locket

Shaker Bottle for protein shakes

Yoga Mat Spray

Pretty Tea Towels

Hand Soap in her favorite scent

The Ultimate Stocking Stuffer List 2

Pumpkin Dinner Rolls

These tender rolls are light, delicious and child approved.  Mildly sweet, these rolls are the perfect compliment to a Thanksgiving feast (or an autumn after school snack.)pumpkin dinner rolls 2

pumpkin dinner rolls pumpkin butter and whey

Melting the butter and pumpkin together.

pumpkin dinner rolls eggs and brown sugar

Beating eggs and brown sugar together.

pumpkin dinner rolls stir in yeast

Adding the yeast

pumpkin dinner rolls pulling away from the sides

Beating in flour until the dough pulls away from the sizes and holds some shape.  I like to keep it really soft.  You might not need all the flour.  Just add it 1 cup at a time and stop when the dough looks like this.

pumpkin dinner rolls ready to rise

Ready for the first rise.  I like to coat my dough in olive oil to keep it from drying out.  Then cover the bowl with a tea towel.

pumpkin dinner rolls first rise

Ready to form into rolls.  This dough is super forgiving.  I started it at 11 am and it should have been ready to form at 12, but I didn’t have time to get to it until 4pm.  It was still ok.

pumpkin dinner rolls divide into 2 balls

Divide into 2 ballspumpkin dinner rolls cut into wedges

Roll each ball into a circle and cut into triangles.  I did 12 for big rolls.  16 works too.

pumpkin dinner rolls formed

Roll them up like canned crescent rolls.  (Kids like this part.)pumpkin dinner rolls second rise What they look like after rising for 30 minutes.

Pumpkin Dinner Rolls

Pumpkin Dinner Rolls


  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 stick butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 2 Tablespoons yeast
  • 5 cups whole wheat flour (I used hard white wheat)
  • 2 cups all purpose flour


  1. In a microwave safe bowl combine pumpkin, milk and butter. Cook on high for 2 minutes or until butter is melted. Beat mixture with a whisk until smooth, then beat in eggs and brown sugar. Set aside.
  2. In your mixer bowl, combine both flours, spices, yeast and salt. With the dough hook running, slowly pour in pumpkin mixture, beating until a soft dough forms. (Add additional flour or water if needed.) Allow the machine to knead the dough for 6-8 minutes. Lightly oil the dough and let rest for 1 hour or until doubled.
  3. Punch down dough and divide into 2 balls. Roll each27 ball into a large circle about 1/4 inch thick. Use a table knife to cut the circle into 16 wedges. Starting at the fat end roll each wedge into a crescent. Place on greased baking sheets about 1 inch apart. Let rest uncovered until doubled, about an hour. Bake rolls at 400 degrees for 10 minutes or until golden on the top. Serve with pumpkin butter if desired.
  4. Each roll has 145 calories, 3.5 grams of fat, 4 grams of protein, 27 grams of carbs and 2.6 grams of fiber.



It’s a Good Time to Wrap Up…

…all the presents you’ve collected so far.  I tend to get overhwelmed with the growing pile.  We limited it to 2 gifts for each of our kids.  But a lot of kids x 2 = a lot of gifts. Plus I shopped for 8 of my 14 nieces and nephews (I love the rest too, but we draw names to reduce the burden), 3 white elephant exchanges, great-grandma’s, teacher gifts…

Photo on 12-15-14 at 9.51 AM #3

 Awkward Wrapping Selfie–

That floor to ceiling curtain behind me is made of $5 sheets thumbtacked to the ceiling, to hide studs, pipes and insulation while we save up for phase 2 of our master bedroom remodel.

Sometimes I forget what I bought, even though I write it down.  And I get this feeling that I didn’t buy enough and am tempted to over buy.  So as I wrap, I change the color of the gift in my Christmas Plan.  Blue is purchased and wrapped; Green is here but not wrapped yet; Red is ordered but hasn’t arrived yet; Orange is still needing to be stitched up; yellow is going in the stocking; black is still just an idea that I probably won’t act on–but might get to put in the stocking.

Christmas planning sheet

This is about the time I start to feel totally inadequate.  Here are the things I tell myself:

1.  Kids do not compare prices on gifts to see who you spent more on, but they do notice if one brother opens 3 gifts, and they opened 2.  So group things together if needed to make the number of packages the same.

2.  Christmas isn’t about gifts.  It’s about Jesus.  We can’t buy the perfect gift–that was Jesus.

3.  Focus the celebration on time together as a family.

4.  Nothing has to be perfect.  What makes the day “perfect” for the kids won’t be the same thing that makes it perfect for me.  Freaking out about the things that are ONLY important to me (like a clean house, and way too many DIY projects….) will only make this time of year less perfect for them.

5.  It’s ok not to have a 12 day of Christmas list, an advent calendar, an elf on a shelf, or chocolate fondu.  The best gift we can give our families is a happy Mama who is PRESENT with them. (cough, cough….electronic free..except maybe for a picture or two..or a Hallmark channel movie…maybe.)

Which is one reason I love the Nester’s post here. Although, seriously, her no effort style would take a lot of effort for me to pull off….I love it.  I’m wondering how I can copy the look of her messy kitchen sink. I keep thinking if I look at it long enough I will absorb the mindset and be able to throw stuff on the wall and make it look good too.  There’s some kind of force behind it.  She’s a Jedi I’m sure.

Psst… If you were slightly interested in the natural household and personal products I talked about here, you should put in a request for more information.  I’ll call you and we can chat about it.  The one time membership fee is only $1 through December 22nd.  It’s the perfect time to give it a try.


Cyber Monday

There are two things I want to tell you about before I get busy on my entry floor (resealing the grout….)


1.  There are now gift meal plan subscriptions available at Grocery Shrink Plus.  The gift subscriptions do not renew, so you choose exactly the length of time you want and pay only once.  Plans start at $5 and will work into all budgets.  These would make great teacher gifts, white elephant, secret santa etc.  If you are familiar with the meal plans go here to access the gift page directly.


2.  Shoot Fly Shoot is having 50% off all their classes today. If you want to use your DSLR camera or photoshop better, these are the classes for you.  I personally purchased the classes and watched them and can vouch for how great they are.  (And yes, I paid full price :(.) My link.

A little Christmas sewing


Here’s what I’ve discovered about handmade Christmas.  It’s not stressful if the projects are small enough, fast enough, and easy enough (and the supplies are easy and cheap to get-stash is all the beter.) It is not my season in life to draft my own patterns or make up a new way.  All of these were made from scraps in my dwindling stash from free patterns.  No new money spent.



In progress:  A pretend campfire from this book (I borrowed from the library.)



Finished:  A tiger/fox/racoon–whatever.  Super soft from minkey, felt and knit terry with polar fleece scarf.)  From this free pattern.  I changed the eye placement but otherwise kept it the same.IMG_0072.JPG

A hard to photograph infinity scarf.  Would you believe it’s adorable?  One seam, boom. I used this fabric, because I had a scrap left that begged to be a scarf.  I didn’t hem any edges, just stitched it into a loop with a French seam.  Nice and light and drapey.  Someone’s going to be very happy.

Yes, my bedroom walls are mustard yellow. I’m pretending I love it temporarily.

Now off to finish a Christmas movie while I stitch.