Getting Ready for Christmas


Ten things (and more) you can do this week 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.)

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 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. (I mailed all sorts of canned gifts and candies to my parents last year while gift baskets to family closer by included baked goods in the mix.) 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 two 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?

And in the interest of helping you make more homemade gifts, see below.

Ball Blue BookIt’s a Ball Blue Book Project day! Today’s Ball Blue Book is sponsored by pamb.

To win: Leave a comment on this post and let me know you want it. One winner will be drawn by random comment number to receive a Ball Blue Book. Eligible entry cut-off is midnight Eastern (U.S.) time tonight. This post will be updated with the winner no later than 9 AM Eastern (U.S.) time tomorrow. Return to this post to see if you won.

Find out more about the Ball Blue Book Project and become a sponsor.

UPDATE 12/10: I had already decided, with the help of one of the anonymous sponsors, to give away two Ball Blue Books today because everyone wants Sara to have one–and you’ll hardly believe this–I hardly can–but SARA WON THE DRAW! (Comment #45.) The FIRST draw. (Kinda miraculous, huh?) But I’m giving away two books today! The second comment number drawn was #24, Debnfla3. (Email me with your full name and address to have the book shipped!)



  1. Mel Meister says:

    I want it!! LOL! Thank you so much for having the Ball Blue project!

  2. Sheila Z says:

    Canning book. Sounds like one I had years ago. I bet it’s updated. I’ll through my hat into the ring. Can’t win if I never enter.

  3. Laurie Collins says:

    Would loubby ve to have the new Blue Book. DH (my 52) has been out of work for over a year now and we are barely scraping by. So the few gifts I will be able to give this year will be homemade, and I am darn proud of them!

    Suzanne, you inspire me daily, and for that I thank you and will remain a faithful reader of your blog.

  4. SkippyMom says:

    I make soap and candles every year and actually I get requests for some items! [that makes me feel good ;)]

    I am adding in potpurri this year – thanks for the idea!

  5. blossom says:

    Home made rules, just wish people would give me some in return!

    Please put me in the draw for the book

  6. Barbara says:

    I am with you. Kitchen counters are covered with ingredients for baked goods. Shelled pecans yesterday and have a few more to go. Have two more homemade jams to make. Finishing up a few scarfs I have knitted. Going on a nature walk today to collect natural items for decorations.

    Wishing you and your family Holidays filled with Peace, Love, Joy, Good Health and Prosperity.

  7. Renee Leveque says:

    Hi Suzanne!

    I would love to have the canning book if I am lucky enough to be selected! I love your column and I sure hope you get the good mood job!

    Renee Leveque

  8. CindyP says:

    On it!!! I started doing Homemade Christmas last year. It was such a great feeling giving something from my heart to theirs. And people appreciate it much more (at least my family does). It’s something they don’t get everyday and don’t normally buy for themselves. Anyone can go into a store and buy, but they can’t find something made by your hands and from your heart. :heart:

    Put me in for the BBB! And thank you pamb for sponsoring it!!!!

  9. Dawn says:

    Oh me, me! :woof: Enter me in the contest. I would love the Ball book. :happyflower:

  10. cricket says:

    A canning book. That is something I could use for Christmas.

  11. lisa brawner says:

    I would love the canning book. I want to learn to can. I cant depend on the freezer as every winter our electric goes out at least once for days at a time .

  12. lisa brawner says:

    Love your list for handmade xmas. I buy very little except for supplies for gifts. This year it will be handmade soap and jewelry and crocheted hats for everyone

  13. Connie Trippett says:

    Put me in for the canning book. I love the idea of homemade christmas. Im not real crafty, but with some of the excellent recipes Ive come across, I can and bake.

  14. Maggie says:

    Please enter me in the the BBB give away.

    And thank you to pamb for being the sponsor this time around.

  15. Sara says:

    Suzanne, This year it does not matter what day or holiday it is,it will pass,as each day does, in a panic and worry about food, bills and fuel. Each year for us is home made…but this year all that means is a good meal. Of which we are thankfull for but a 12 year old does not understand that it is hard, so this year I add guilt to the list.I dont think I will visit your site till after the holidays. I just can not handle the reminder of what I can not do

    • shirley says:

      Sara darling, I know how you feel. I have walked in your shoes. :hug:

    • Johanna says:


      I don’t know you or your circumstances, but your reply to Suzanne’s post about getting ready for Christmas made me so sad. Please don’t take what she writes personally as a reflection on what you SHOULD be doing. Do what you are able, have fantasies about what you cannot. Fantasies are free.

      I hate to see you giving up something free which you seem to enjoy — reading her blog — because of guilt. I know it is much easier said than done, but try to let the guilt go, do what you can, and enjoy what you are able.

      (I hope this doesn’t sound pushy — I really meant to be encouraging and caring but sometimes I see things very black and white.)

    • Suzanne McMinn says:

      Oh Sara, I’m so sorry! I do a lot of free ideas. I know how it is to barely be able to afford ingredients. That is the whole point of my homemade Christmas. It’s not about money. I hope you’ll stick around and do some of the free things with me that mean so much more than anything you can buy. (I do know what you mean about kids, though. That’s hard, and there’s just no way to say it’s not. I know how that feels, too. I’ve been there.) I have some ideas that cost a little bit (very little bit) and others that cost nearly nothing, and more that really do cost nothing.

    • Liz in wis says:

      Hang in there, Sarah.

    • carol says:

      Dear Sara,
      I do understand. I have lived this, like so many others, and I grew up living this. My mother had to get through each Christmas knowing she could give so little to her three daughters but she did what she could and we all survived. Your child will, too. The very best thing you can give your child right now is the spirit of what Christmas truly is….it’s HOPE and FAITH and LOVE.
      If nothing else can be done, you have a computer and access to the internet…you can look online for groups that can help in your extreme circumstances.
      I will keep you in my prayers.

    • Lisa says:


      I visited your website and you are obviously very creative. You could make your child something special or maybe you could trade something you have made for something your child wants. You need to think positive and get creative. There are always people out there willing to help if you ask.

      Take care. Merry Christmas.

    • Lisa says:

      Sara’s website has beautiful stuff. If you want to check it out:Maybe she has the Christmas present you are searching for. I really love the necklaces.

      • JOJO says:

        : :woof:
        Just another post, then I promise to be quiet!
        I dont know about a lot of you gals, but I think some of you are with me on this.
        I buy my clothes at thrift stores! And I have to tell you I dress better than most people I know. I dont mean that my clothes are all second hand, so many of them still have the sale tags on them. I mean nice high end items. People buy stuff and they dont wear it, so they donate it. I have seen unbeleiveable buys–stuff in style today. I bought a all leather started jacket for a gift, it retailes for $245 there is no way I could ever pay this price—-I bought it for $35. It is perfect.
        Christmas is the same date every year–plan ahead.

        If you need gifts or things for your self–check these stores out, you maybe surprized what you can afford.


  16. Marla says:

    :grinch: All I want for Christmas is a Blue Ball Book, a Blue Ball Book, see a Blue Ball Book! :grinch:

    :grinch: Gee, if only I could have a Blue Ball Book, then I could wish you a “Merry Christmas!” :grinch:

  17. Laura says:

    :happyflower: I would love a Ball Blue Book! I have never canned on my own! My husband and I just built our house and we are anxious to start our garden next spring! A canning “encyclopedia” would be fabulous!

  18. Leah says:

    Good morning! I love all the homemade gifts! Will be making some myself this yr.
    I would like a chance to win the BBB!

  19. Diane says:

    I love your hand made Christmas!!! Everything looks so pretty.

    I would love the canning book!!! Please!!!

  20. Luann says:

    I could really use this book!! Thanks Suzanne and pamb!

  21. Billy says:

    I need a book. Fingers crossed. I’m giving Grandmother Bread to everyone this year.

  22. Carol Warham says:

    What a lovely post, you are inspiring and a joy to read.

  23. Becky says:

    I have looking through your candle making posts and the fire starter posts. I have an egg carton sitting on my dryer and I fill it up as I get lint. tee hee
    I am hoping to give some homemade candles this year. Thanks to your encouragement, I think I can. tee hee
    And yes, I would love the Ball Blue Book!

  24. Debnfla3 says:

    I would love to have that Ball Blue Book.

    I remember being a child and loving homemade gifts. I think Mama made most of our gifts, all of our cloths. I suppose we were what was considered…”poor” but we sure didn’t know it! Everyone else was in the same boat as us but Mama always loaded the supper table up with food(that she canned) and we never went hungry. To this day I would rather have a homemade gift than any gift bought in a store. Putting that love into it means so much more.

    I would love winning that Ball Blue Book so I can learn how to can like Mama always seemed to make it look sooooo easy. Seeing a shelf full of your own canned goods must be so satisfying.


  25. Kathy S says:

    I would love to have the Ball Blue Book. Mine is 15 years old now. If you pull my name, please send it to Sara, I can wait. She needs a lift right now.

  26. Susan says:

    Love is free and a gift from God for everyone. I have been there and am only a step away from there now. My children are now grown, college educated and very independant. I,on the other hand, am buying wool clothes at Goodwill, to cut up and sew into something new for Christmas gifts. New wool is very expensive. I took my daughter-in-laws favorite sweater, that she had discarded, and sewed it into an pillow for her. I am making teddy bear keepsakes from a shirt that belonged to a father, who had passed away. We often give things, that we already have, to people who have admired them in the past. Our Christmas is not from the mall, it is from our hearts and our hands. Just like you Suzanne. The gift that keeps on giving, is the memories that continue to grow and will be passed on to my children’s children. What is made with the hand, comes through the heart…

    Happy Christmas

  27. Minna says:

    I would love a Ball Blue Book!

  28. Ang. says:

    Nearly every year I make something for someone for Christmas. Mostly its my kids. They actually appreciate the fact that my stocky little hands created something specifically for them. And I love doing it!

    Put me in for the Ball Blue Book!

  29. Patty says:

    Thank you Suzanne for all you do, we all need more love not stuff this time of year(all year), and I’d love to have the blue ball book too!

    And you know our animals love the homemade Christmas just as much as I do…they get the leftovers!…of course if the kids have any say there won’t be any leftovers!

  30. ShadowWoods says:

    Suzanne – Your words of encouragement and inspiration are an extraordinary gift that you give to us every day! Thanks!

    Sara – There are so many broken, unloved families in this world. The daily love and care that you give your family is an incomparable gift that you can’t put in a box and tie a ribbon around. For this, you should never feel guilt. Your 12YO may not appreciate this now, but later in life they will. Your gift of love will return ten-fold! Be strong. I hope your circumstances turn around soon.

  31. JOJO says:

    Hi Suzanne–we love our country tree, and you are so right when you say you can do so many thing for nearly nothing, I also have been there About 40 years ago when I was married, we had very little of nothing–I found a small log and drilled holes in it for candles and decorated it with greenery, it was beautiful, and I was so proud. I still do that today.
    Sometimes you have to think about what you have and try to dwell on that, I know that is easier said than done. I have had some very sad Christmas days my self.
    I think doing the home made decorations will put you in a better mood no matter what–turn on the radio and sing along with the carols, make some cookies out of cereal, it can be done, make pudding fudge, there are recipes on the net for goodies you can make for next to nothing.
    Moving on–I starting making my baking list this week, I dont do a lot but I always make fudge and a few batches of cookies, the old fashioned kind, and some gingerbread men, we do love those.
    I know this will be a difficult Christmas for a lot of folks with children, but in many places you can get some help from churches etc. I know most of us are too proud, but if you have little ones, do it for them. put your pride and ask for help for the kids, they dont understand no why there are no gifts.
    I hope we all have a healthy hoilday season–that is something no amount of money can buy.
    Thank you,

  32. 5kathleen2 says:

    Good Morning Suzanne. Put me in for the Blue Book. I never win anything (ha) but if I do, please send it to Sara, that would make me happy. :grinch:

    Kathleen H in Indiana

  33. Melinda says:

    I debated whether or not to post this, but feel like I just have to. My point is not to offend anyone, so I apologize up front if my words cause discomfort. They are given in love and not in attitude.
    First of all, thank you for the excellent post about preparation Suzanne. As usual I found many great ideas for preparing for my own christmas.
    Secondly, this is to Sara… I do not know you, I do not know your circumstances, but I do know Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ and not about how much money you have to spend on someone for Christmas. I have been flat busted, out of work, with three little ones to feed, clothe, and try to get Christmas for and in this day and age when everyone wants, wants, wants, it is not easy and it does hurt you when you can’t give your child a Christmas that fulfills their dreams…HOWEVER, having said that…twelve years old is old enough to explain the situation and to put on your thinking caps together to think of things he or she would like that are not expensive. No, it won’t be the Christmas of your dreams but you might be surprised if you give it a shot and get a mindset that you are going to focus on the spiritual part of the holiday and not the commercial.

    I remember one particular Christmas when my kids got gifts from goodwill, and coloring books from the dollar store and a LOT of attention and time from mom and they still say it was one of their best Christmases.

    Please don’t let this Christmas pass with you being in a sad state of mind because of what you can’t do and focus instead on all the blessings you have. I am certain if you put your thinking cap on you can be creative and have a special and joyous holiday and will find looking back that it was one of your best.

    Remember no storm lasts forever, and this slump in the road will pass. If I have found anything out in the many years of living it is that live is circular and you will have good times and bad times and the most important part is what you do with it.

    Good luck and God bless and my wish for you and all of the readers at Chickens in the Road is that we remember Christmas is about love, and love is not monetary, it comes from within and it’s free. Give abundantly.

    I apologize Suzanne for hijacking the comments to post this but it was on my heart and I had to share.

    • JOJO says:

      Thank you Melinda–I was just going to leave a comment much like yours.
      The additude we have about Christmas csn affect how those around us feel as well.
      You cant escape Christmas by not reading a blog, it is every where and will come no matter if you like it or not.
      I have been in Melinda,s situation too, with out 2 cents in my pocket, but I made it through. Christmas as a child was very lean, and when I was 11, my father told me that I was old enough now that I should understand Christmas gift were for children, it was sad, but I made it through another 57 Christmas.
      We need to think more of the true meaning of Christmas.
      I hope you will try hard to make this a happy Christmas for you family no matter what your circunstances may be.

  34. TAMMY MATTHEWS says:

    :heart: Would love this book!

    Love your site….great information and humor.

  35. Double Trouble Ranch says:

    I could not believe my eyes when I was at Sam’s. A basket full of wax covered pine cones labeled “fire starters”! Can you believe the nerve :heart: to read your blog then make and sell these? I have never heard of this type of fire starter until your blog. You educate and inform. Thank you so much!!! :heart:

  36. Lisa Cummings says:

    I love all your ideas and tips. We are not exchanging gifts with husband’s side of the family this year. It has been a really hard year for some of them. I would love to win the canning book!

  37. Stacy says:

    I would love to have the canning book. That would make next Christmas easier too!

  38. Rys says:

    I’d love the Ball Blue Book.
    Thank you for the wonderful post today. Christmas has become SO commercialized! The stress of trying to meet everyones expectations can be overwhelming!
    Please lets all remember what Christmas is really about. Take a moment to count your blessings.

  39. Peggy says:

    I make candy or baked goods each year to give as gifts. Would love to try my hand at canning.

  40. Chic says:

    Homemade gifts are the best! I’ll be giving away some baked goods and especially Grandmother Bread this year…in fact I have to make some this morning. I have decided that we are no longer going to buy store bought bread…I will have extra Grandmother bread in the freezer so we never run out. Suzanne I would love to win a Ball Blue book!!

  41. AmyCook in WI says:

    Great ideas, Suzanne! We have cut back in buying gradually over the years…fortunately all the adults agree! Thanks for all your suggestions. Still hoping for the Ball book so next year I can preserve gifts!

  42. Myrna Mackenzie says:

    Suzane, what a great post to kick off the season!

    I tend to be the rebel in our family, encouraging people to be creative with gift giving. Some of us like to give silly, funny gifts that take a little of planning, but not a ton of money (my brother once made all of us go to the dollar store and buy an oven mitt each, because my dh was complaining that my sister didn’t have an oven mitt nearby when he was barbecuing. By the time he opened the fifth one, he decided he wasn’t going to complain about anything again…and he was laughing). Don’t get me wrong. I love buying presents and I have the Amazon boxes to prove it, but I have much more fun with the creative items, and I know that the recipients do, too. They know the thought that goes into such things.

    One year I put together a colorful booklet of activities for toddlers, for a niece who had a two-year old. Such fun to make! And helpful, too. All it took was paper, a computer and a printer (and some ink).

    Or, if you were a cook, you could type up and gift some of your recipes in the same way. Or buy an inexpensive box (at the dollar store) and include a few recipes on note cards. Or…simply note cards tied together with a pretty bit of ribbon and a heartfelt note.

    My favorite and most fun time was the year when I (not a knitter with any talent at all) knit 3 mini gift bags for my sister, niece and sil and put a couple of trial size lotions in each. They were so cute!

    And see, how you’ve got the wheels turning. Now, I have to go off and create!

  43. Anke says:

    A handmade gift is sooo much better than anything store bought. Your list of handmade gifts is great!
    Please enter me into the drawing for the canning book.

  44. Maureen says:

    Thanks for the different tips and recipes that show that you can enjoy the holiday without being overwhelmed by everything.
    I would love to win the book!

  45. Sara says:

    I just wanted to say THANK YOU to every one! I did not expect what emails I have gotten or the words of encourgement! Thank you and may God bless you and your families. We are very thankful for what we have every day we thank God for what we have,we live a very simple life. I just want to thank you all so much

  46. Teresa Baker says:

    I just love your blog and the wonderful ideas you share. As I’ve said before, it is literally one of the first things I read after checking my email and Facebook each morning. You are such a blessing and encouragement to others. And, as I’ve seen by the comments posted above, it’s like a family and everyone encourages each other. It doesn’t get much better than this. Thank you for sharing your gifts and creativity with so many.

    Oh, and I’d love the Ball Blue Book, so toss my name into the hat!

  47. quietstorm says:

    Sara, same here, i have been in your shoes too….the last 2 yrs if i didnt have a 2nd part time job in addition to my full time one (pre-suzanne days) we would not have had much of a holiday. Do you know that the gift my 13 yr old DD is STILL talking about and requesting again for this yr was a $2 bag of ginger bread cookies i got at Big Lots. I picked it up because the packaging was in german and i thought she would get a kick out of it. Please Stay… & get creative….check out the blog living with lindsey… she has a great idea on there using left over books (or one from the dollar store) to make a GORGEOUS Paper wreath… literally $2 to make if you have to buy the book to use – check the library for old books they sell .25 each or use old ones you might have (or sheet music or cut old newspapers….) she saw the wreaths at a craft fair and people were selling them for $40 a piece….on how about orange she shows you how to make homemade bows for packages again using magazines, maps, whatever you have on hand – so easy and FREE and UNIQUE – they are beautiful i love the one made from a map!
    also try freecycle – & there are plenty of people here who have been in your shoes and would be able to give you ideas and suggestions of what they did….this site is a wonderful resource!

    Suzanne – i made the marshmallow lollipops and took some to work, i already have requests to made some for people so they can give them as gifts!
    Also please enter me in the BBB contest! thank you pamB!

  48. Gert Hubbard says:

    I know I am to late for the drawing and that’s OK ….I do so love reading your sight every morning…..

  49. Jo says:

    You are so right, Suzanne. Back in the “old days” they didn’t have a Sam’s or Target to go to, to buy Christmas presents. Everything was homemade/handmade. We have gotten spoiled (and lazy) being able to just go into a store and pick something out.

    For kids, I think they’d rather get more time with Mom and/or Dad. Give them an “experience” gift…..give them a coupon to go on a picnic with Mom/Dad, a coupon to go on a hike, to spend a day doing what the child wants to do (instead of mom/dad making the decisions), etc…

    Anyways, I probably haven’t said anything that’s hasn’t already been said. :happyflower:

    I’m going to be making some of your G’ma Bread for gifts, Suzanne. :eating:

    • Myrna Mackenzie says:

      Jo, I second the coupon book idea. In fact, when I was cleaning drawers last week I ran across the draft version of one we had given our children years ago. We called them Santa coupons, and because we were not lenient parents (they had bedtimes; we limited the time they could spend on television or computer games; they were only allowed soda, fast food or anything but healthy cereal on special occasions) the coupons were for things like a later bedtime for one night, an extra half hour of tv or computer time, one can of soda at a time they chose, a box of cereal of their choice or an item from the dollar menu at McDonald’s. Plus, my husband occasionally made up personalized stories for them, so one coupon was for a personalized bedtime story. They loved it and so did we. Thanks for reminding me. (I’m keeping that rough draft as a memento for…probably forever. They’re both grown up now).

  50. Brenna says:

    I have pretty decent sewing skills so I’m trying to put them to good use this Christmas. I’d love a copy of the Blue Book!

  51. SuseM says:

    :heart: Thanks, Suzanne, for the reminder of what Christmas truly is. I am going to give some of my family homemade gifts this Christmas.

    Please enter me for the Ball Book drawing.

  52. Michele says:

    Would love Blue Ball Book. I’m still trying to figure out how to can. Love all your ideas posted. I agree homemade gifts are much better!

  53. vande2 says:

    I would love a Blue Book. I’m just getting into canning (as in just tried it for Thanksgiving cranberry sauce from your recipe), and it was so much easier than I thought, even after having watched my mom do it when I was young.

    I’m working my way up to a completely handmade Christmas. I started in July, and I’m done except for the binding on three quilts and a pair of pajama pants. Next year there will be more food gifts, for sure!

  54. bethann says:

    I would love, love, love the Ball Blue book! Thanks Suzanne and blessings everyone…People are so good…hugs Sara

  55. Debbie in Memphis says:

    You’ve given me some great ideas for Christmas gifts. We just bought our first house and doing a frugal Christmas is a MUST! Thanks so much!!

    I’d also LOVE to win the canning book πŸ™‚

  56. wkf says:

    I want a Blue book too. Please…..

  57. anne says:

    thanks for the wonderfuk, inspiring and creative post. Always a joy to read about your ideas, your experiences and your life. I would enjoy the BLue Ball Book greatly and give it to my daughter-in-law.

  58. Euni Moore says:

    The post this morning brings back a lot of memories. We had some hard times when our kids were growing up, but we made gifts for everyone. When times got better we rather lost our perspective of what Christmas is truly about and gave, gave, gave. Now that times are getting more difficult again our adult children have decided that gifts are not as important as staying touch. Phone calls will be the order of the day while we contemplate the Meaning of the Season. Blessings on you Sara and all the others who leave comments. You all make my days brighter and I spend more time with all of you. Sorry, I seem to be babbling this morning. Yes, I also would like the BBB.
    Euni in Colorado

  59. Gini says:

    I’ve been making your homemade vanilla extract and kahlua for gifts this year, and they are ALL absolute dreams!

  60. Lisa Lee says:

    It is definitely a homemade christmas here this year, DH lost job in April πŸ™ Apple butter, strawberry fig preserves, knitted dishcloths, knitted scarves, and Christmas music cds. NOw pick me for the ball blue book please and Merry Christmas!

  61. marymac says:

    I would love to win a Ball Bluebook. I know there are new ways to can things now and I could just use one of these books for some ideas and inspiration. Draw me, draw me!!

  62. Gen says:

    I’m with you Suzanne! And wishing, wishing I had the awesome canning recipes from the Blue Ball book to help! ; )

  63. Miss Becky says:

    Thanks for the meaningful post Suzanne. You are so right about the true meaning of the season. Your ideas are inspiring and I will be trying my hand at some. I too would like to be in on the blue book giveaway!

  64. Bonnie Hembree says:

    I would love the Ball canning book. I can use all the help I can get.
    I made the cranberry sauce and I Love It, it is better than anything you can get in the store.
    I look foreward to reading your blog everyday. Thank you for sharing your life with us.

  65. Andrea Atkinson says:

    Our family have been down sizing Christmas for several years.

    This year my teenage and older kids don’t need presents because they have their own money. I have written out 6 cards from a pack of 10 charity cards. I found a book about Christmas decorations at the library. It had a great pattern for knitted reindeer ornaments. I have knitted them as gifts for 6 people that we really want to give presents to. They are wrapped and ready to go.

    The only thing left to make is Christmas dinner and this year we are using your sour cream enchilada recipe. My family love mexican food and for several years I have been making what we want to eat instead of what the tv people tell us to eat.

    My husband is conducting the music at the church carol service and that will be the real Christmas for us. I believe that Christmas should really be about family, love and the birth of our Saviour Jesus Christ.

  66. Andrea says:

    I happen to be of the opinion that homemade gifts are of the best sort. It means that the person who gave it thought enough of you to take the time to make it during this busy season. Please include me in the drawing! :ladybug:

  67. Julia says:

    Wow, a lot to think about today. Times are a little tight here, like everywhere I guess. But we have enough and I have a job. Everyone is healthy. What more can I ask for?

    Love the ideas for a hand made Christmas. And I would love to have the Ball book, too.


  68. JoJo Hall says:

    Please pick me…pick me for the little Ball book of canning.

    I enjoy reading your thoughts each day and look forward to reading about heartfelt made Christmas gifts.

  69. geena says:

    MMMMMMm I can just about smell all the goodies. I want the bbb

  70. brenda harmon says:

    I can’t crochet, knit, or sew but my mom can so I paid her and she made knitted dish cloths, hot pads and oven mits. I do can so I made apple pie filling and cinnamon candles to put in baskets I bought from the thrift store. I love homemade gifts. This is the year to get back to basics. For my family this year is the gifts of need not just want.

  71. tabbimama says:

    Thanks for all the great inspirations. We were already planning on a homemade Christmas this year. Husband out of work due to injury. We choose to save the little bit we do have. Am going to definitely make some of Suzanne’s bourbon balls (rum that was gifted to us), and I love the idea of the coupon books for kids! I am going to make a recipe book for my son in his first college apartment. Mostly I am thankful that we are all healthy and doing so well. Blessings to all of you and a great big hug to ((((((Suzanne))))) for bringing us all together.

  72. Rose says:

    I was directed to your website by a friend – what a nice place this is:)

    I would love a copy of the book.


  73. Emily says:

    My family has gotten into the gift card trap….it seems so crazy to me. It’s like, what’s the point…Instead of buying your gift card I could have bought what I wanted anyway. So this year I’m making homemade “Bunchin'” baskets. Bunchin’ is whay my three year old calls peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Everyone in the family has adopted the phrase. I’m going to can grape jelly (my first time out…wish me luck!), make homemade peanut butter and put it in canning jars, and make a loaf of grandmother bread. Of course it’s not what they put on their wish list….but they’ll get over it….who doesn’t love a great bunchin’ every now and then…especially preservative and high fructose corn syryp free!

  74. Cindy says:

    Sara, I don’t know if you’ll come back and read this or not, but I hope you do. We spent a year being homeless–it was me with my 4 kids. We spent time living in our car, and one winter, we spent holed up in a dive “crack” motel in Nebraska. I had no real money coming in, other than what I had that could pay for the motel rental. My oldest daughter, then 16, worked as a waitress, and her help is what got us food or gas for the day. My youngest were then 8 and 10 years old. Christmas was coming, and though my aunt and parents had sent a few gifts, those gifts were small and meager. We didn’t have a tree or decorations.

    My son, who has a November birthday, used his birthday money from Grandma to buy a tiny little tree from the Salvation Army. He was so proud of himself! We used scrap paper and bits of foil to decorate that tree with chains and sparkle. We put the few gifts under the tree. My kids never had Santa, so they weren’t expecting any more than what we had.

    Do you know, those kids remember that Christmas as the best one of their lives? Don’t feel guilty. This isn’t about stuff or having or getting, or it shouldn’t be. Just, like others have said, love your daughter. Explain what’s going on financially. She’ll understand, trust me. Kids understand a lot more than we sometimes give them credit for.

    We don’t have Christmas now. Well, we do, but we do Christmas after Christmas, so we can hit those sales, and avoid any of the crowds. We don’t actually spend a lot on each other, anyway, and we make a lot of homemade items, too, to flesh out the giving. But it’s more about spending time together and just loving each other that makes us happy. I don’t know. I hope maybe some of what I said helps. Hang in there. Things do tend to cycle, and it’ll get better.

  75. Emily says:


    I wasn’t much older than your daughter when I recieved my most cherished christmas gift from my mother. There tucked between all the store bought goodies was a simple folder. Inside were all the poems and prose my mother had written and kept from her childhood on. She had spent months typing them out so we could read them. She made a copy for each of my sisters too. I don’t remember what else I got that year….shoot…I don’t remember things I got most years. But I still have that folder, and I understand my mother better, better each time I read from it. Presents that are thought out, made with love, and your own hands’ from your heart, mean the most…even to 12 year old girls.



  76. Crystal B. says:

    What a great ideas for homemade gifts. I would love to have the canning book.

  77. Linda Gilbraith says:

    I would love this book. The projects sound interesting.

  78. Melinda says:

    :sheep: I forgot to say I would like to toss my name into the hat for the Ball book …..(brain is on vacation until after tax season)

  79. Lisa says:

    Love to have the book! :fairy:

  80. Joy says:

    I love your blog today, helping us make the next two weeks doable, by taking each day to the fullest to ready for Christmas. Love homemade gifts to give and receive. Would love to win the Ball Blue Book. Thanks for your daily blog.

  81. Cookin Cate says:

    I would love to win the canning book so I can give it to a co-worker who is just starting out in canning.

    Thanks for all the great gift tips!

  82. Alexandra says:

    Do you see what you have done, Suzanne??!! Just read Sara’s second post!! You not only inspire us, you make us inspire others, too!! Ripples in a pond, you’re the stone cast in the water, and it’s catching. :hug: :
    PS Would also love a Ball Blue Book.

  83. Lacey says:


    I’d like the canning book. I can’t wait to hear how the contest (kinda) turned out. Good luck!

  84. SkippyMom says:

    I posted early this morning – and I wanted to add two things –

    I don’t wish to be in the BBB give a way – no offense, I already own it and it is awesome! So I appreciate your give a way, but is there a way to opt out and still leave a comment? Or if someone wins that doesn’t wish to receive it can pass it on?

    And to Sara, and all the wonderful responders, you all brought tears to my eyes today. You are a loving, caring bunch. Thank you. And Sara – they are right and I know you get it, I saw it in your second response.

    Take care to y’all and a very Merry Christmas!

  85. Sharee says:

    I love getting on here and reading all the heartfelt replys. I usually tear up cuz everyone is so awesome. I did make that cake last night and it was a huge hit. Not a peice went home with me. My dad was teasing me cuz he only got one peice…(which I had to steal from my husbands plate the pig! :pinkpig: ) Thank you for saving the day.

    As for all the comments to and from sara…I am so glad that you can come here and post and be that comfortable, and so glad that we can all rally around you and cheer you up. I think we as parents (moms especially)we feel alot deeper about what our children need than even our children do. I know that I wish all the wonderful times I had as a child I could recreate for my kids just so they can feel that joy and happiness. I try but sometimes fall flat. They still love me and know I have the best intentions at heart.

    I was a single mom for 2 yrs. I was married to a marine for 7 so pretty much a single mom for 9 years. You will find a way to make this a great christmas and we are here to help. Suzannes is a great place to stop if you ever need a lift up.

    Thank you Suzanne for all the great ideas! I have already made the gingerbread men, have started my gifts for neighbors and friends…its going to be a great fun month just cuz I get to try lots of new things. Can’t wait to hear about the voting!

  86. Ulrike says:

    I’d love to win a Ball Book.

  87. Mesha says:

    I would love to learn more about canning.

  88. Julie Harward says:


  89. jan 'n' tn says:

    Thanks for inspiring all of us to live/think/breath more on the level of ‘down home’. You are awsome! Yes, Yes, I would love to receive the BBB. I might retire the 1947 canning book from grandma,that I still use (but maybe not).

  90. Beth Brown says:

    Suzanne – You play a VERY important part of my Christmas: your recipes, cornhusk dolls, etc.

    And I would love to win a BBB!

    Beth aka oneoldgoat

  91. Rebecca V says:

    Ooo, pick me! Pick me! I would love to get the Ball Blue book! πŸ˜†

    I’d love to go all out and do a big homemade Christmas this year, but I can’t. Instead I’m going to make it very small and give lots and lots of love. I know my son is going to remember that better than any else I could have bought him. :reindeer:

  92. mochah says:

    Suzanne, First time commenter, but long time fan of your blog. Would love the Blue Ball canning book. I have used many of your recipes and love all the stuff you do. Have you ever made the Italian Cream Cake with black walnuts? Yum!!!

  93. Myrna Mackenzie says:

    My sincere apologies for hogging comment space today, but this morning’s post really touched off something inside me and got the wheels turning. I think I’m going to go to the thrift store. I love stretch bracelets and think they would make fun gifts or stocking stuffers. I’ll bet I could make them really inexpensively with recycled beads from thrift store costume jewelry, a needle and some elastic thread.

    Thanks for all the great memories and wonderful ideas everyone has shared! The warmth that people exhibit here really touches the heart.

  94. Lynette says:

    Suzanne – thank you for having such a positive blog. Your readers are so nice to each other and really rally around those in need. It is so neat to see in today’s world.

    Please enter me for the Ball Blue Book.

  95. Kristen says:

    Have the panic part down pat. πŸ˜‰ Every time I think of putting up a tree, three kittens proceed to demo part of the house while the 4 pound puppy helps.

    I’d love to do the garlands. I’ll save the idea for one of those years when chaos doesn’t run through the house on four paws. πŸ˜€ Or I could string them along the curtain rods. The kitten can’t get there—yet.

    Baking still needs to be done but that’s Girl’s area of fun.

    We’re making new traditions this year to ring in a better year.

    BBB, please toss my name into the hat.

  96. CindyH. says:

    We are having a MOSTLY handmade Christmas. But it’s pretty much whatever I can get knit up. Already have jars of salsa ready to go. When I was a single mom of two little boys, no child support, and working not quite full time at a walmart store, I still made sure my kids had a good Christmas. They NEVER knew we didn’t have much income. Never got child support. But we did great. We made the most out of what little we had. I would buy bananas and make banana bread loaves, wrap them while still warm in aluminum foil and stick a little bow on them, then the boys and I would go around delivering them to friends and neighbors. It was a wonderful feeling to see the suprised looks on recipients’ faces.
    I wouldn’t receive anything for Christmas myself. So one year, my youngest son who was 3 years old at the time, took his “baby” (part of an old top sheet that he dragged everywhere with him), put his most loved favorite toys on the sheet, then wrapped them up in the sheet and presented it to me…saying “Merry Christmas Mommy!” That was the BEST Christmas! It really tugged my heart strings and made me teary eyed. To this day….my youngest son (he’s 26 now) and I have been very VERY close, even though he lives far away.

  97. Jenny S. says:

    Please enter me in the drawing! What a great idea for a stocking stuffer!

  98. Melanie says:

    Wise words, Suzanne. Homemade gifts are the best. And yes I would LOVE a BBB. (I keep calling it the Blue Ball Book.) I probably shouldn’t have said that on here…… πŸ˜‰

  99. Aedrielle says:

    Hi Suzanne!
    I’d love to be entered for the book!

    I am, too, making almost all of my gifts this year. I am knitting things, sewing things, making lotions and candles and Cleansing Grains. Yay!

  100. Jessica says:

    Love your list! I am going to write some of them down.

    Please add my name to the growing list of book wanters. Canning is high on my *really want to do’s*.

  101. Blessings says:

    I would love the Blue Ball book.
    When I was a single Mom raising 3 children with barely nothing, the best gift my children asked for was serving food at the local homeless shelter.
    Instead of dwelling on what we don’t have, give what you can.
    Because there is always someone less fortunate than you.

  102. Judy@daily yarns says:

    I thought I lost my Blue Ball Book…I was in panic mode until I found it. I would love to win and give it to someone I know who would love it. I’m making most of my gifts this year and have enjoyed it very much. As always I love your blog.

  103. Mariah says:

    Great ideas, Suzanne! I’m so inspired! My kids are older but are just starting out on their own, so they do need some things, which I will try to do for them, but I’m excited to do some nice home made gifts for others. I’m thinking of doing some infused olive oils for some people I know who love to cook.

    I’d love to have the Blue Ball book! πŸ™‚

  104. Blessings says:

    OH NO, just as Melanie has stated sorry for calling the book the Blue Ball book! OH MY, I just want the book, let’s call it THE BOOK!’

  105. Sharon Gosney says:

    My eight year old grandson came home one day and asked his Mom if they could have a homemade Christmas this year. I was so impressed with him. I’ve been e-mailing my daughter all kinds of things that they can make,for free or next to a low cost. I even gave her the link to you candy-choclate dipped marshmellows. I would also like to win the Ball Blue Book.

  106. Darlene says:

    I’ve found a lot of Gifts in a Jar that I’m making this year. What fun!

    Would love to win the BBB

  107. B. Ruth says:

    The Italian cream cake recipe I used years ago….70’s…used three cups of nuts….one cup pecans, one cup english walnuts, and one cup black walnuts….
    I was so wanting to make that cake one year and we were running sort of tight on everything…I bought the supplies a few at a time and kept a record of how much it cost to make…A three layer cake cost over 5.99 back in the late 60’s early 70’s….
    Haven’t made one in years but this has brought back the may jump in with both beaters….LOL
    Also, making towel toppers for my daughter-in-laws this year…
    One Christmas hand towel….–$1.50 (cut in half for two towels)
    Scrap 10 cent (yard sale) yarn scraps…–.10
    2 big buttons from the saved button jar…-.0
    My time while watching TV….0
    result 2 cute homemade croched Christmas towels..cost .75 each to hang on the stove or fridge….
    Have the Ball Blue Book but if I win redraw and give to Sara or someone else…Thanks

  108. Runningtrails says:

    WONDERFUL post! Christmas is indeed NOT about the money. I get so tired of all the commercialism. I make my own Christmas gift baskets and a lot of what I put into them is either homemade or $1 from the dollar store. This year I am making bath baskets with my own hamemade soap and brown sugar body scrub and a real luffah on a wooden handle from the dollar store. I might also add some homemade potpourri and sachets.

    I make a lot of my own decorations too. I like the gingerbread tree decorations. I made a lot of those when the kids were small. Tiny little wrapped presents with ribbon also make pretty tree decorations. I also like little pieces of gathered lace with a small Christmas bow at the top. I have some small bows made from Christmas decor ribbon on my tree that I like too. There are so many things one can make from scraps that look good on a tree.

    I would love that Blue Ball book!

  109. Debnfla3 says:

    I have so enjoyed all the comments about everyone’s different Christmas ideas. The stories of your past Christmas’s are heart warming.
    I got to thinking about what my sister would want. I remembered having 2 quilt wall hanging that Mama started but never finished amoung all these quilt tops I got. I fished those 2 out…I think my sister would LOVE getting one of these. It would almost be like getting a Christmas present from Mama…just one more time! Cindy(sister) is going to be so happy when she unwraps this present!


  110. quietstorm says:

    Sara….here is another idea for a present for your daughter. I printed the directions out for her to make it and just say it in her room when i was putting away laundry….I think any teenager would like this and would be very easy for you to do with the beautiful necklaces you have on your site – and again nearly free & making something out of nothing….


  111. Estella says:

    You are way more organized than I am!

  112. jan 'n' tn says:

    I meant to mention…thanks to pamb for sponsoring the BBB this time.

  113. Becky M says:

    I have just started learning to can and have only done applesauce and jam so far. I would love a Blue Ball Book to help with other things I would like to try. I also hope to check out some of your frugal gift ideas. As with so many, money is so very tight for us. Fortunately, my kids are teens now and understand that as long as we can all be together and have a home cooked meal, that is Christmas enough. Still, I plan to check out the ideas to maybe surprise them with a project or two to work on over break!

  114. S. says:

    I absolutely LOVE this idea. I grew up in one of those gift-competitive families, and to be honest I hated opening gifts by the time I left home because of the very real & very odd pressure to be grateful and impressed by how expensive everything was. (And no, I almost never got what I actually wanted or needed). The whole evening was about that. How sad.

    My husband’s family has a lovely tradition- we give each other very small gifts, and then we play music together – my father in law and I on the violins and my husband on the horn. Everybody has to sing. It’s corny and, honestly, we’re not that good but we LOVE it! We have fun, we talk, and it’s just really so much better that way.

    I stopped giving pricey gifts to my family when I married. Instead, we give small, reasonable and thoughtful gifts, under a strict limit. But next year I am giving everyone walnut liqueur – homemade vin de noix. I can’t wait to collect the green walnuts in June, pick out the bottles and watch the magic happen.

  115. Molly says:

    I am with you, Suzanne! I have been knitting gifts for about 3 years now and those gifts are usually the most appreciated. I’d love to have the Bell Blue Book so to add canning to my gift repertoire!

  116. farmershae says:

    Thanks Suzanne for all the wonderful ideas. It seems like it’s been a rough couple of years for just about everyone. The husband and I skipped Christmas last year, but this year we are going the home-made way. I really hope we don’t get sucked back into all the commercialism when our heads are back above water! I think I’ll just go ahead and resolve right now to not let that happen !! Home-made Xmas forever!!! :reindeer:

    and would love a BBB!!!

  117. carol bellamy says:

    I love to wake up each day and wonder what you have done. Keep up the good work! I would love the canning book.

  118. Brenda Coblentz says:

    Hi Suzanne, Your so right. Handmade/homemade gifts rock!!
    Sarah, Your comment made me so sad all day. Wish I could help but it seems we are all in the same boat these days~ money is tight for everyone. Too much emphasis is put on gifts~ try to not feel bad.. this too shall pass and we will all come through stronger people.

  119. Tyra says:

    I love your blog! I am having a more homemade Christmas this year myself. I’m trying to learn to spend less, be more self sufficient and not fall into keeping up with the Jones’s.

    I would love to win the canning book!

  120. Amy says:

    Hey Suzanne! I have a great (almost)FREE idea for you!!! We went to get our live tree (ok so it was from the store because there isn’t a farm nearby where we can cut our own) anyhoo- they were GIVING away the clippings! so I snagged a handful (or 4) and the kids all grabbed some and we stopped at the craft store and got a $3.00 wreath frame, and some cheap twine and made us a fancy schmancy wreath, complete with pine cones from the yard…

    You could make garland and door swags too!

  121. Renee G says:

    I would love to give this to my mom.

  122. Sharilyn says:

    Another blue ball day!! How fun!! I would love to win this!!
    Today I shopped for my ingredients for all my Christmmas baking.
    Can’t wait to hear about your new job!!
    A faithful voter.

  123. Sandra says:

    Thanks for so many great ideas for a homemade Christmas. I am most excited about the homemade vanilla extract, most everyone in my family loves baking…so that will be an appreciated gift.
    I would love to win the BBB!

  124. Bet says:

    I’d love to win. πŸ™‚

  125. Michelle Natale says:

    I would LOVE the canning book!!!

    Thanks for having the project!
    And thank you for inspiring me with every post!

  126. mommafox says:

    So many great ideas, so little time. Gonna start early next year for sure, for sure. :yes: :yes: Would love to be the name pulled to be the winner of the Ball Blue Book.mommafox

  127. Angela says:

    Hey Suzanne!

    How’s the weather in your neck of the woods? :snowman: We were flooded in this morning. No one made it out to school or work! Then our electric went off for a few hours. We were fine because of our generator. Did you learn how to get yours on yet?

    I’m planning on making some homemade powdered laundry detergent for family this year. I’ve been making lace snowflakes and my Victorian Christmas stockings this year too!

    Angela :wave:

    :shimmy: :shimmy: :grinch: :grinch: :grinch: :shimmy: :shimmy:

  128. Flatlander says:

    Am I still in time to put my name in the hat?

  129. Darlene in North Georgia says:

    Oh, Oh, I almost missed THIS one TOO!
    I’d love the book.

  130. ScreamingSardine says:

    Hi, Suzanne –

    New reader here. I’m totally enjoying your blog and your upbeat and personable attitude.

    At any rate, please enter me in your BBB drawing.

    See ya!

  131. Pat says:

    I love the ideas you have. And I’d love to get the book as well πŸ™‚

  132. Vicki Fisher says:

    You make a homemade Christmas sound so do-able and fun, thanks for the inspiration. And I would love to win the book.

  133. Tobey says:

    I would love to win a Ball Blue Book.

    Thanks for the tips on preparing for the last minute rush of creating a loving Christmas! I’m knitting and sewing for much of mine.

  134. Suzanne McMinn says:

    This contest is closed to entry! Thank you! Watch for the next Ball Blue Book Project contest coming soon! Many more Ball Blue Books are on the way!

  135. S. says:

    BTW, just in case anyone is interested in making it, I thought I’d post a link to a few recipes for walnut wine. VERY easy to make, VERY inexpensive (as long as you’ve got access to a walnut tree in June) and it is positively delicious. People love this gift, you can give it for years and years because they’ll look forward to it. I have had the French version, called Vin de Noix, and it’s just fantastic. I’m less crazy about the Italian version, Nocino, but it’s also excellent. I’ve never tried the liqueur recipe, but I might try to make it this year.

    Suzanne, I apologize profusely if you don’t allow links, please delete my comment if this is against the rules!!

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