Category Archives: Holiday and Seasonal

Our Easter Baskets


I have read many a blog post about frugal Easter baskets and the best way to avoid creating a basket brimming with too much candy. In my experience, I enjoy filling Jack’s basket with enriching items and toys without going overboard. Each winter and spring I go on the hunt for unique items or stock up on sale items. I usually spend months accumulating items for his basket so I don’t spend too much at one time.

This year I have two baskets to fill and I enjoyed finding specials items for their baskets.

Jack is almost four this Easter; therefore, I figured the Easter Bunny should bring a small amount of candy. Yummy Earth lollipops are pretty much the only candy in our home but Jack does enjoy the occasional piece of chocolate. I found some fair trade, peanut butter cups at our local co-op, and we tossed in some Hersey’s Kisses, as well as a small chocolate bunny. We try to avoid Hersey’s chocolate but I had a coupon for a bag of Easter kisses.

So, with my collection of goods, I grabbed two baskets from my parent’s garage (we retired the basket we used for Jack in the past because we are using it for something else), and got to work.




  • Three Books $9
  • Fair Trade Bunny $6
  • Monster Inc. Crayons $1
  • Crayola Pipsqueak Markers $1
  • 2 Vermont-Made Wooden Vehicles $6
  • Animalz Tiger $3
  • Box of Sidewalk Chalk $2
  • Jason Toothpaste – $3.50
  • Miscellaneous Candy – $6

Jack’s Basket Total: $37.50





  • Two vintage style nursery rhyme books $2
  • Fair Trade Bunny $6
  • Two Under The Nile Veggie Toys $10
  • One gorgeous, hand-made play silk $12 – Check out Mary’s Etsy shop at (

Wesley’s Basket Total: $30

Ideas For Easy and Healthier Easter Baskets!

Honey Sticks

Fair-trade Candy or a small amount of favorite candies

Annie’s Fruit Snacks & Crackers

Homemade play dough or Playdoh

Art Supplies

School Supplies


Wooden Egg Puzzle or other fun shaped wooden puzzle

Amber Teething Necklace


Fun Socks

Cloth diapering supplies

Kid friendly, non-toxic lip balm (such as Badger)

Sunscreen (we like Babyganics and Badger)


Bath and beach toys

Garden tools

A fun hat

Refrigerator magnets

Play silk

Mini kite

The possibilities are endless! I would love to hear some unique ideas or traditions.

Happy Easter,

The Joyful Homemaker

Easter 1leapingfrogdesigns2012

5 Ways To Save At Christmas

christmas savings

‘Tis the season to be jolly, right? Well, for some people, ’tis the season to go broke, drive up the credit card debt, and have to dip into savings. Here are ten ways to save yourself from plundering into financial unknown at the most wonderful time of the year.

1.  Downsize

Many years ago, our family decided the adult children would stop buying gifts for each other. We have a large family and it was becoming financially difficult for most of us to keep buying. We adopted the motto, “Christmas gifts are for the kids.” We buy for the children and our parents. This allowed us to focus on the kiddos, food, and holiday spirit.

2. Mindset Change

This one is tough for many, but Christmas is not about buying gifts and breaking the bank. Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, celebration of family, friends, neighbors, and giving love, joy, and a small token gift like the wise men gave at the birth of Jesus.

Our media and culture has taken Christmas and turned it into, “cash in their pockets,” with no mention of Jesus, Love, Joy, or Family. They simply want you to break the bank, spend that Christmas bonus, and buy the “hottest new toys, electronics, expensive clothing, gift wrap, and all that goes with it.”

It is time to break the cycle! Look at consumerism as the anti-Christmas. Think of frugality, homemade gifts, and time spent with family and loved ones as Christmas.

3. Shop Smart (and early!!)

I always joke, Christmas shopping for me starts on January 1st! It is true. The stores are clearing out merchandise at a super fast (and cheap) rate right after the holiday. Throughout the year, toy stores and big chains run huge clearances on items. Here is my method for gift clearance shopping throughout the year.

  • Right after Christmas – stock up on tissue paper, wrapping paper, ribbon, Christmas ornaments, and any other holiday items needed.
  • Right after Christmas – head to the toy store and grab some clearance items for next year, for birthdays, and some general gifts to put in our gift bin. This is a great time to stock up on stocking stuffers for the next year.
  • Each month – stash away some cash in an envelope for Christmas and birthdays. When I know a store is running a clearance sale, I dip into the fund.
  • Christmas in July – July seems to be the month for moving in new toys and items in preparation for the upcoming holiday season (they begin early) so many stores have large clearance sales in July. I was able to buy pricey, name brand toys for $4 and under at Toys R Us this summer!
  • Cyber Monday – for the past few years, I have gotten some amazing deals on Amazon and other websites. This is especially good for big items. Last year my husband bought me a Kindle Fire on Amazon at a big discount. I typically buy my husband three or four Xbox games at around 60% or more.
  • Avoid Black Friday like the Black Plague! Many people LOVE the game that is Black Friday, if you do; go for it! I find it too stressful and the sales are not there.

4. Start a Tradition

Make a change and suggest to your family a new tradition, such as everyone receives a handmade gift, start a caroling group, meet up at the local food pantry and give your time, or throw a Christmas potluck gathering. That options are endless. This year we all decided our children receive too many gifts. We are going to set up a simple name drawing system for our children. They will each pick the name of a cousin and buy a very special gift. Our hopes is to downsize the amount of gifts they receive, teach them to give, and maybe give them a lesson on spending. 🙂

5. Relax

This one is important. Stress causes us to react and a knee-jerk reaction while in a store full of grumpy people at Christmas time, can cost a lot of money. Try to avoid shopping when the stress meter is high. If the holidays are causing you a lot of stress and a lack of joy, simply take a break and find where the stress is coming from. Once determined, address the issue.

It is my hope some of the above suggestions save you some hard-earned cash at Christmas time. It is most important to enjoy the holiday season without the worry of debt and draining the bank account.

What are some of your saving methods at Christmas?

Happy Homemaking,

The Joyful Homemaker

Pumpkin Play & Fall Scented Crayons

plain-pumpkin plain-pumpkin plain-pumpkin

The fall-like weather here in the Northeast is making me autumn crazy! This morning I couldn’t resist lighting two new, fall scented Yankee candles and working on some fall decorating.

Jack played for a bit and then I decided we should try melting some fall colored crayons to make our own fall scented, star-shaped crayons. My inspiration came from, Blog Me Mom’s, Fall Scented Crayon Candles

While we don’t need candles, I thought making fall scented crayons would be fun. Jack enjoyed helping and using the crayons, though they are not very scented. They do have a light scent but I smell the crayon wax most of all.


We decided to use a star-shaped, ice-cube tray from our craft supplies. We grabbed an old can from the recycle bin to use as our melting container, and grabbed some pumpkin pie spice. We later added cinnamon and all-spice to our crayon line up.


We peeled the paper from the crayons and broke the crayons into pieces.

jack crayons

Jack enjoyed playing with the crayons most of all.

melting crayons

We set up the double boiler system using the can and started with the orange crayons. We made the orange crayons pumpkin spice scented. We poured the melted crayon, poured into the tray, and went on to melt the red and browns. The reds we scented with cinnamon and the browns with the all-spice.

star crayons

Jack enjoyed using these crayons. I wish they had more scent and I might have ruined my eco-friendly, non-stick pan. Would I make these again? Possibly. It was a neat project. 🙂

jack coloring

jack coloring 2

plain-pumpkin plain-pumpkin plain-pumpkin

This morning I decided to put up a few autumn decorations around the house and remembered I picked up a bag of small, plastic pumpkins at Goodwill for $1.00.

Jack enjoyed putting pom-poms in each pumpkin using kid tweezers. Glad I picked these up. Who can resist a cute bag of (cheap) pumpkins?

pumpkin play

small pumpkins

Has your family done any fun, fall activities yet? If so, what have you done? I would love to hear how your family is getting into the autumn spirit.

Happy Homemaking,

The Joyful Homemaker

Fall Bucket List


bucket list

It is that time of the year again, well almost. Before we know it, autumn will be here! Not sure about you but autumn is my favorite season. Everything from the warm, rich colors to spiced cider and apple pie is right up there at the top of my favorite things list.

This year we are expecting our second child at the beginning of October. I know life with a newborn and a toddler will be exhausting; however, with a little planning and a fall bucket list, I am sure we will get to enjoy each day of autumn doing a little something to celebrate the season.

So, here it is, some ideas for a 2013 Fall Bucket List. Enjoy!


The Pumpkin Patch

This one is a given! Bring the family, a wagon, and a camera to your local Pumpkin Patch. Pick some pumpkins for your front porch and for a homemade pumpkin pie.

Go Fly a Kite 

Grab a kite and the family for an afternoon of soaring. Autumn is naturally breezy and the perfect time of the year to throw on your favorite sweater and spend the day outdoors. Don’t forget to swing by your local coffee shop for a pumpkin spiced latte.



Apple Picking

Again, grab the family, a wagon, and a camera. Hit your local orchard and fill those bags. You may arrive home and wonder what exactly one is to do with so many apples. The options are endless. We love homemade apple butter. I have posted my recipe at the end of this post.

Autumn Crafts

This one is a given for our family. During each season we try to do a craft each and everyday. We do everything from painting to coloring pages. We make play dough and do a lot of sensory activities.

painting pumpkins

The Fairapple fair

Most towns across America have annual fall festivals or county fairs. Pack up the family and head to your local event. Maybe your town has an annual parade, fair, or even a farmer’s market event. This is a great way to support your local community and have fun at the same time.

Leaf Peeping

Autumn wouldn’t be autumn without those richly colored leaves. Jump in the car or on your bikes and head out to an area where the leaves are stunning. We like to collect some of our favorites for crafts and pressing. Make sure to bring your camera.


Get In the Kitchen

Autumn is my favorite time in the kitchen. I light my favorite Yankee Candle and heat up some warm spiced cider and get cooking. I enjoy using my crock pot most in the fall because the smell is unbeatable. Also, it allows for some bulk cooking. With all the apples, pumpkins, and in our case, venison, it is imperative we prep our food supply and make it last. Below is my favorite apple butter recipe.

Traditional Crock Pot Apple Butter

You will need:

3 lbs of apples, 3 cups of sugar, 2 tsp of cinnamon, 1 tsp. of nutmeg, 1/2 tsp. of allspice, 1/2 tsp. of cloves, a pinch of salt, and 3/4 cup of apple cider or water.

Fill your crock pot 3/4 of the way full with peeled and cored apple slices. Add the remaining ingredients and stir. Cover and cook on lowest possible setting until apples are a thick, butter consistency. Keeping cooking down if too much liquid is present. Make sure to stir. Pour into canning jars and freeze or hot water can them for shelf stability. To can leave 1/4 head space and boil in water canner for 10 minutes.

I hope everyone gets out there this fall and enjoys the season. It will be here before you know it. Making a bucket list is a great way to make sure you get to all of those fall activities.

The Joyful Homemaker