Get Your Homemade Christmas!


Twig Stars. See how to make them.

(Reposting with all the links, because it’s that time of year!) Ten things (and more) you can do now to prepare for a homemade Christmas!

1. Panic. (Just kidding. Or not….) Then check your pantry to make sure you have everything you need. Make a list of everything you’re going to bake/create. Don’t forget the oranges and lemons for dried slices on the tree, and popcorn and cranberries for garlands.

2. Make cookie dough for gingerbread men and sugar cookie stars. Refrigerate the dough till you’re ready to prepare the cookie ornaments for your tree.

3. Make cookie dough for cookies. You know, the ones to eat. Refrigerate the dough till you’re ready to bake.

4. Make at least one candy recipe, one that keeps well. Next week, make two.

5. The world doesn’t have enough corn husk angels. Make some.

6. Drag all the lights out of the attic and check them. That way, you won’t be upset when you put up the tree and find out half of them don’t work. Be sure you have enough ornament hooks, too.

7. Hunt down all the jars you need to finish canning gifts.

8. Make some candles. They make really welcome yet frugal gifts, especially if you recycle candles and use old canning jars. You can also put together potpourri mixes from dried fruit peels and things you collect outside. (For wood stove enthusiasts, try some pretty fire starters.) You can make soap in matching fragrances and make gift baskets of candles, soaps, potpourris, etc.

9. Check dollar stores and second hand stores and your attic and basement for baskets. (You can also get really pretty gift bags at dollar stores for next to nothing.)

10. Browse this post for a list of more links to some of my recipes and other posts with instructions for free (or nearly free) homemade and handmade gifts. I’ll also be posting several new homemade Christmas ideas and recipes between now and Christmas.

Most important thing to do: Prepare your mind. Christmas is not about money, though it’s very easy to be sucked into the commercial excess surrounding the holiday. It’s about giving something from your heart. It takes time, planning, and effort, but it also saves time, stress, and frustration by keeping you out of malls and out of debt. You can put together huge, wonderful gift bags and baskets filled with welcome treats, ornaments, decorations, candles, potpourris, and more that will be a delight for anyone who receives them.

I do make an exception for children, who want, and often actually need stuff, but fortunately my checkbook keeps me from overdoing it! In most cases, adults don’t need more stuff. If you’re part of a somewhat competitive family in the gift-giving arena, remember that you can take the opportunity to be a leader (or a rebel, whichever the case may be). Give them all baskets and bags filled with gifts handmade or home-baked. Let them know in advance if necessary to avoid shock. Many homemade items can be shipped, so that doesn’t have to hamper your plans either, just prepare your gift baskets according to whether you are taking it over to their house or mailing it. Order your preparations to have items that will be mailed in boxes finished first and items that will be hand-delivered finished last. Line up everything you’ve made and assemble gift boxes, bags, and baskets with each recipient in mind.

MAKE LISTS! A well-planned homemade Christmas is far easier than a store-bought one due its sheer simplicity. All together, it may sound overwhelming, though. Break it down. List what you already have ready from various crafting (including canning) you’ve worked on all year, and list what you still need. Make this cookie dough today, that candy tomorrow, gather potpourri mix items on a walk the next day, string some cranberries the day after that. Can and create and bake. I’m often amazed that the most difficult part of doing anything is getting ready to do it. I like to get all my supplies organized and laid out as if that alone is a task then put it all together–and it’s a snap! Gradual step-by-step preparation is the stress-free key. Remember also not to make everything difficult. Many easy, simple things make wonderful additions to round out a gift mix.

There are four weeks till Christmas. Lay it all out, day by day, a little at a time. The best part is, it’s all FUN, as opposed to finding a parking spot at the mall, and you can do it all at home and almost for free.

Don’t give stuff this year. Give love–everybody always needs more of that! Okay, who’s with me?

P.S. If you want to buy something, I’ll make an exception for the 2011 Chickens in the Road Calendar (Farm Babies edition!). You can get it here.


  1. lizzie says:

    Suzanne, LOVE THE POST!!! with today being BLACK FRIDAY, I was at home planning for our homemade Christmas, except for one 13 yr old.
    Needed to hear this tonight, that it is OK not to buy gifts, and to stop feeling bad because we have no money. I printed out 7 of your cookie recipes that I plan to start making and freezing the dough, jams, soaps, and breads will be our gifts this year! plus a lot of love. :woof:

  2. Vicki says:

    Suzanne, I was telling my husband today that when it comes to gifts, cost does not equal value. He tends to think that gifts have to be expensive to be worthwhile. I give a homemade cookbook as a wedding gift, and it drives him nuts, because it costs me $6 or $7 to print it out, so he thinks it is a chintzy gift. But I can’t count how many people have come up to me years later and thanked me for that cookbook, and said they use it all the time! This year I am doing a lot of homemade gifts out of necessity, since DH has been out of work for 10 months now. I appreciate your post for reinforcing that homemade gifts can be valuable despite little cost.

  3. jayne says:

    Suzanne, thank you for this post. It’s so easy to get sucked into all the advertising that tries to tell you that you HAVE to buy this and this and all of that in order to make it The Best Christmas Ever, and of course none of that is true. But it’s relentless.

    I inherited a tradition from my late mother-in-law. She was German and every year – and only at Christmas time – she baked batches of traditional German cookies and gave them/sent them to family and close friends. After she died, the recipes, the springerle molds, and other cookie cutters and supplies were given to me and that same Christmas I made her cookies and sent them to everyone. And every year, that’s what her side of the family looks forward to. I’ve expanded my recipient list to include my side of the family, and friends, and I include other types of cookies, too. But no matter what, I always include those 6 types of German cookies. And since each of my kids could stand, they’ve been helping with the baking as well. I think traditions make excellent gifts as well.

    I’ve been reading your site for a while now, and you never fail to make me feel good about life. If I had the property, I’d have a cow and some goats and chickens, too.

    Thank you so much.

  4. Tracey In Paradise Pa. says:

    :snoopy: LOVE THIS POST!! lET’S ALL GIVE LOVE!!Along with handmade stuff..Love that most of all..
    Ho Ho Ho
    Granny Trace’
    P.s SO happy to hear ROSS is coming home to Mama!!

  5. Pam C says:

    I would just like to say that these are all good ideas! And a note about the candles in a canning jar: If you have some old tea cups & saucers, put the candles in the teacups & glue the cups to the saucers. I saw this at a craft sale & thought it was a great idea! It would be a good way to pass on the tea cups & saucers that were Grandma’s, or you don’t use or just need to do something with!

  6. leavesofthefall says:

    I was reading along, enjoying the warm-n-fuzzy thoughts and all of a sudden I’m blasted out of my morning fog with “THERE ARE FOUR WEEKS TILL CHRISTMAS.” WHAT!??! It was a shocking, rude awakening, Suzanne. One I’m not sure I’ll be able to recover from — but try I must. :reindeer:

    Thanks for the morning jolt! :whip:

  7. prayingpup says:

    Thank you, Suzanne, for reminding us of the real way to do Christmas. How sweet your house must look and smell! We want pictures of your decorations and house! Out of necessity, our Christmas will also, be homemade. Hubby has been unemployed for 2 1/2 years and I’m disabled and can’t work. . . but, homemade is SO much more fun!

  8. Kim Gibson says:

    Such a good reminder that even though things aren’t going the way we want, we can still give very worthwhile things for Christmas….LOVE! Thank you for the very timely reminder. My husband too has been out of work an extended time, and my job in retail doesn’t pay enough to be profligate, but we have dirty dishes in the sink (and therefore food to eat!) and all we need to live, and we don’t lack much of what we want either, for we have fairly easy wants to fulfill. Happy Christmas season to all!

  9. windspiritwhimsies says:

    Love! Love! Love, all these ideas! I’ve learned so many things! :heart: I just recently made some of the pretty fire starters. And boy, am I happy! :happyflower: I too, was one of those girls for the life of me could never get a fire started in my fireplace. I would sit for hours either trying to get it started or once started, getting it to stay lit! So frustrating, especially when one of the boys would come home and it would be going in a second! :hissyfit: I once received a gift of firestarters called fatwood. But, they are pretty pricey. I read your post about making homemade and gave it a try. I made the type using the cardboard egg cartons. Best firestarters ever! I just place one in and not only does it start, it stays lit!!! :woof: I can’t thank you enough for keeping me happy and warm! :snuggle:

  10. Luann says:

    Beautifully said!

  11. Nancy K. says:

    I whole-heartedly agree that homemade is nicer! That’s why I create lots of homemade soaps and crafts for others (who are not crafty or don’t have the time) to give! I have recently started my very own home-based business and would like to share the link with you and your readers. If you chose to visit, and even buy something, you’ll be helping this single shepherdess stay in her home and maintain her wonderful flocks of sheep and chickens! I hope you’ll stop by: “Sheep Hugs & Soap Suds”

    Happy Holidays!

  12. IowaCowgirl says:

    Yes, Suzanne, as many have stated…”thanks for reminding us about the true meaning of Christmas”. And Jayne….I’m in the market for a springerle rolling pin…any suggestions? seriously. I’m thinking of the King Arthur Flour one…help???

    My SILs have different theme ideas each Christmas. This year we are to bring any gift as long as it is green or red. I’m bringing Mason jars filled with dried green peppers, dried red peppers, canned cinnamon pears, grape jam, and whatever else I come up with..very fun.

  13. whaledancer says:

    I’m giving whole-wheat beer-bread mix ( kits to several people this year. It’s easy enough for the non-cooks to make, and quick enough for busy working people. I plan to make an herbed version and a sweet cinnamon version, pack them into a loaf pan of the right size, which I can get at the dollar store. I’ll probably even include the cans of beer.

  14. patrice says:

    I am with you on this one! It is so chaotic and expensive. We easily lose sight of the true meaning. We are trying to cut back this year. Still, everything is so much higher!
    Good post!

  15. whaledancer says:

    PS…I’m also knitting hats and scarves for several people. I’m just a beginning knitter so they’re far from perfect, but the colors are pretty and I plan to tell them that I’ve knitted love into every stitch. The love will keep them especially warm whenever they wear them.

    That is, if I get them finished! I’d better stop reading now and get busy.

  16. Rachel says:

    I’ve gone rogue on my family this year – lotions, soap, scrubs and homemade goodies for the adults, and fun experiences for the kids. My older siblings gave me a “talking to”, insisting I give at least some store bought items.

    I caved because I’m young and easily guilted, but they only get one store bought item each. It makes it easier to see that other people do homemade stuff as well, they’d made me feel like a cheap freak…

  17. angela says:

    As I think back on all the Christmas presents i have ever received, the ones I remember were the home made ones. A scarf and mitten set from my Grandma when I was a child. A dress my mom made. A brownie mix in a canning jar from someone I never expected to receive a gift from, was very meaningful. A couple years ago my niece ( about 7 yrs old ) gave me a whisk, inside was a bag of m&m’s and a tag attached with a ribbon that said We whisk you a merry Christmas. I can not even remember any of the “store bought” gifts I recieved that year.

  18. JOJO says:

    Most all of my decorating is done, I get so excited, I start about a week before Thanksgiving,It seems to take me longer ever year, it is that I am doing more, I think it has to do with age!
    I still need an angel for the tree top in our living room, I cant seem to find mine any where.
    We have not exchanged gifts for several years now, and must say that I enjoy Christmas so much more that when it was all about the shopping–which I hate with a passion. It is a much calmer season now feeling the real warmth of Christmas, I love the music and the Christmas movies. I dont miss the comerical aspect of it one bit. I hope to see more of our world going back to the real meaning of the holidays. There are so many talented gals that read this blog, and do such a wonderful job bringing their families back to where they should be. They all deserve a lot of credit.
    I noticed this morning when I voted that Suzanne is in first place, and so well deserved!

  19. Britney says:

    Long time reader, first time poster! You are my HERO!

    I have been trying to phase myself into what I call DIYXMAS for a few years now. This is my first year for total success. I have 45 people on my list, and I only buy 30$ worth of store purchased gifts for my close immediate family members. Most are getting a hard cover book plus all my handmade goodies.

    Here is my list of things I made this year (*signifies supplies purchased just needs assembling):
    4 sets of 4 hand etched glasses for my couple friends
    13 hand etched shot glasses
    1 hand etched wine glass
    1 hand etched rocks glass
    3 hand etched ashtrays
    1 hand etched glass box
    3 hand painted wood jewelry boxes
    5 hand painted stage decorations for a friend’s band
    4 hand painted wood toys
    30 hand made bracelets
    6 hand made necklaces
    6 embellished rings
    15 sets of decorated hair clips
    45 sets of 4 hand pressed buttons
    8 sets hand pressed guitar picks
    8 loomed scarves
    5 custom tee shirts
    30 jars of jam
    45 bags hand dipped incense (15 per bag)8*
    45 bags choc. covered pretzels (15 per bag)*
    30 bags choc covered ginger snap cookies (15 per bag)*
    8 dozen choc chip cookies*
    1 dozen peanut butter truffles*
    1 dozen choc dipped peanut butter crackers*
    1 dozen handmade peanut butter cups*
    3 dozen decorated bite sized brownies*

    And thats in addition to all the personalized and photo gifts I made for free or extra cheap with and!

  20. Journey11 says:

    Thanks for the great tips. It can get a little overwhelming when your Christmas Spirit exceeds your time and organizational skills, that’s for sure. LOL

    My dd is 3 and I’m anticipating this will be the best Christmas EVER. I think preparing for Christmas is best part of it all. I like to start early and spread out all the fun.

    We get all the ladies and kids of my family together on the Saturday 2 weeks out before Christmas and have a big cookie baking/decorating party. Then we give the cookies as gifts. It’s always a memorable time and we all get sugared up and silly.

  21. jayne says:

    IowaCowgirl, Sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner! The very best selection of Springerle rolling pins and molds and other supplies (in my opinion) is at House on the Hill, Inc. – – Some of the molds my mother-in-law had came from there, and I receive their catalog and pore over it hungrily. I think they link to recipes as well.

  22. rebecca says:

    It is so refreshing to hear from others who recognize the beauty of simple, homemade celebrations crafted with love. My husband’s family has been having a Cookie Baking day on the 2nd Sat. in Dec. for over 30 years. As my daughters & nieces have grown up & spread over the country, it has been surprising to me that they are more passionate about coming home for Cookie Baking than for the actual day of Christmas. My co-workers & friends who receive part of the bounty begin asking about cookies well before Thanksgiving. We have such fun & the bounty is appreciated by many!
    Thanks, Suzanne for posting this. I am going to make some of your twig stars this year, I think they are so adorable.

  23. Sarah says:

    Those twig stars are so cute! I feel dumb that you had to show me what was in my own backyard. Just made a few of those to stick on the tree. Spray painted them with leftover silver paint. They are so pretty.

    You’ve also inspired me to make some candles with my old melted down ones. It’s like your a genius or something. Everything’s so simple!!

  24. Ramona says:

    We quit giving gifts years ago in my family and it made me very happy. I hate shopping for myself, much less for somebody else.

  25. Jeanie Bird says:


    Loved the line..prepare your mind. That is fantastic advice. So many times we are rushed by what society tells us to do that we forget to take a moment and breath. I wouldn’t trade Christmas in the hills for anything. It’s a great timde to reflect on what the next year can hold for us! :snuggle:

  26. nerosmom says:

    After I read your blog we went to the park and started collecting. We made the twig stars and sprayed pinecones silver and gold. We dehydrated orange slices and sprinkled them with cinnamon and clear glitter. We made some of the old fashioned yarn crosses on popcile sticks (don’t remember what they are called) and made reindeer out of old fashioned wooden clothespins and a bit of paint and glue. With the silver, gold and, red ornament balls we already had and white lights, I think this years tree is the best we have ever had. Thanks!

  27. moollin says:

    Hi there
    I was just reading your newsletter”Fried dressing” and wondered why it wasn’t making any sense. Where i come from “Dressing” is something you put on your salad, and “Hush puppies” are something you wear on your feet. Lol

  28. jojo says:

    It is cold and snowy here today, and the twig stars just wanted me to “make” something, so I went down back to one of our willows and chipped several of the long branches and make a couple dozen of small willow wreaths and hot glued on some red yarn bows, I kept a few for my self and took some down to a friend that will be puting up their tree this week end. We decided to make a few larger ones for the kitchen. I will use calico bows on them.

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