Welcome to Sheila Roberts’ Christmas Central!
Here you’ll find lots of fun things to do and creative projects to make Christmas fun and more meaningful for you, your friends and family. And who better to supply this wealth of Christmas ideas than Sheila, who is blessed with the gift of fun! If you have fun Christmas ideas to share, visit Sheila’s Facebook page and post them. Photos are welcome! Sheila will give away one of her Christmas books from previous years to readers who post ideas she thinks are especially creative.
Now click on the item below that interests you:
Now click on the item below that interests you:
Three Christmas Wishes Cookies
When I take a holiday treat to a get-together, I have two hopes for that dish: 1) that no one has tried something like it before and 2) that people will ask me for the recipe. This tasty cookie delivers on both counts.
Give it a try, and let me know what you think!
1 1/3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup white sugar
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup margarine (softened)
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 cup uncooked oats
1 cup flaked coconut
Butterscotch chips (optional, but recommended)
Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add sugars, margarine, egg, and vanilla. Beat until smooth, approximately two minutes. Stir in oats, coconut and butterscotch chips. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place on greased cookie sheet. Bake in oven preheated to 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Yields 3-4 dozen cookies.
Feliz Navidad, Frohe Weihnachten, Joyeux Noël! Get back to your family’s roots and bake a cookie with a recipe that originates from the country of your ancestors. Are you of Latin descent? Test out a recipe for the traditional Mantecados Spanish Crumble Cookies. Does your family come from Germany, Denmark or the Netherlands? Then the tiny but delicious Pfeffernüsse cookie is a must-try! One member of my publishing team agreed to share her recipe for these delicious little cookies. Give it a try! Not sure where you’re from? Then pick a country that interests you, and find recipes online for their traditional holiday treats.
1½ cups sugar
½ cup butter or shortening
1 teaspoon baking soda
5 teaspoons buttermilk
½ teaspoon salt
3 cups flour
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ cup or more raisins or currants
½ cup coconut
½ cup pecans
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
Powdered sugar for dusting cookies
Cream sugar and butter or shortening. Add eggs and beat. Add other ingredients, and mix together. Roll dough into long “snakes” about 1-inch in diameter. (You can do this on a pastry board or a piece of waxed paper.) Slice each “snake” into little disk-shaped cookies, about ½-inch thick. Bake in oven preheated to 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Yields a lot of little, tasty cookies!
Aunt Faye’s Butter Cookies
This is a recipe from a friend, whose aunt by marriage shared this recipe with her 55 years ago! The cookies are rich and buttery and never fail to please. A gift idea: fill a Mason jar with these cookies and tie a bright ribbon around the jar, Add a Christmas ornament to the ribbon bow and a copy of the recipe on a card!
1 cup butter
½ cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ cups flour
2-3 cups powdered sugar for rolling cookies
Cream softened butter and add ½ cup powdered sugar. Add vanilla. Gradually blend in flour. Roll by hand into 1” balls and place on cookie sheet lined with waxed paper. Bake in oven preheated to 300 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until slightly browned. Remove from oven and allow to cool five minutes. Then roll each cookie in powdered sugar. Allow to cool a few minutes, then roll each cookie in powdered sugar again. Makes 4 dozen cookies.
Brown Butcher Paper:
Grab some inexpensive, brown butcher paper, or cut a brown paper sack from the grocery story into one solid piece of wrapping paper. Then, embellish with run ribbon, peppermint candies, holiday cutouts, fresh sprigs of evergreen or holly . . . the possibilities are endless. Use your creativity and look for things you have around the house. Make this a fun family task, and revel in your dramatically decreased wrapping paper expense!
The No Card Wrap:
Do you have a big family or just a lot of gifts to give? Instead of the traditional gift tag or card, think of creative ways to identify each gift’s recipient on the outside of the package.
- Write the person’s name on the wrap with a colored marker and glue old buttons onto the letters.
- Tape a photo of the gift recipient onto the front of the package.
- Cut the name of the recipient out of scrapbook paper, even newspaper and glue it to the front of the package.
- The best part about this method? Most of the time, you won’t even need a bow!
The “Use What You’ve Got” Wrap:
You ran out of wrapping paper, and you don’t want to make another trip to your local big box store to re-stock. What now? It’s time to get creative! Look for items around the house that could be used as wrapping paper. Newspaper, old maps, white craft paper embellished by holiday images drawn by your children, scrap pieces of fabric, burlap sacks, mason jars. Draw inspiration from what surrounds you. It feels great to be resourceful, you’ll get to de-clutter your house a bit, and those receiving these gifts will appreciate the personal touch.
Three Parties to Keep the Holidays Merry and Bright!
Holiday Swap Party
Some of our holiday decorations are true treasures handed down to us from our mothers. Others we bought years ago and are now tired of them. So how about a swap party? Get together with your friends and exchange your goodies. The how-tos are easy. Give everyone a coupon for each item they bring. Set everyone’s items on your dining table or around your living room with a bowl in front of each one. Guests spend the first part of the evening “shopping” by putting a coupon into the bowl of each item they want. (If they want an item bad enough, they can put several coupons into that bowl.) Once shopping time has ended, you hand out the goodies. If only one person bid on an item it’s hers. If several did, draw a winner from the bowl. Keep refreshments simple with easy appetizers, your favorite Christmas cookies or cake and punch. Your guests can even bring an item to add to the food table, if they like.
This is a cute twist on traditional caroling. Invite your guests and get a yay or nay. For the ones who say yes, tell them to be ready in their homes on the designated night. The idea is for them to wait for the singers to show up at their house. Print out your favorite carols and Christmas songs and start with you and yours and maybe one other couple or family. Go to the first house, serenading those friends, and, afterward, they join the caroling group. Then proceed to the next house. Keep going until you have all your carolers assembled, then wind up singing at a nursing home or, if you live in a small town, at your favorite town gathering spot. After the party, bring everyone back to your house for hot buttered rum, hot chocolate or the traditional caroling punch, wassail. Serve easy appetizers that you can make ahead of time and pull out once you all get back to your house.
Present Wrapping Party
My friend Shelley Long used to do this every year, and it was something I always looked forward to. She had simple but elegant refreshments for us all and provided some wrapping paper and ribbon. We all brought wrapping tools as well and the presents we’d bought. Then we’d visit and wrap presents. Yes, these days many of us prefer gift bags, but it can be fun and a nice creative outlet to beautifully wrap a gift for someone. And doing it with friends, sharing creative ideas … that’s even better! You could borrow from one of my gift-wrapping ideas above and get creative on wrapping gifts with surplus materials you have in your home. Even better: ask your friends to bring such items and share!
(All images courtesy of Pinterest)
On A Budget
Want to make an easy and inexpensive ornament for your tree but don’t necessarily possess the crafty gene? I’ve got the prefect project for you! Grab a sturdy, 4”-5” long twig from outside. From a local craft store or the craft section of a big box store, select a few different varieties of ¼” or ½” wide green ribbon. If you have some at home, even better! Next, cut the ribbon in varying lengths—2”, 2½”, 3”, etc., until you get enough ribbon to fill all but the bottom inch of the twig. Then tie the ribbon, starting with the shortest at the top and making your way down, with the knot for each piece of ribbon in the middle so equal lengths extend from each side. Add a hanger of your choice, and voila! You’ve got a low-cost and super cute Christmas tree ornament!
Clear Ball Ornaments
These DIY ornaments don’t require much time or effort, but the result is filled to the brim with cuteness. Find clear ball ornaments from any craft store, and decide how you want to fill it . . . colorful pom poms, sand and tiny seashells, cinnamon Red Hots, pictures or mementos from memorable occasions—the possibilities are endless. After you’ve filled the ornament, secure the top, embellish with ribbons, feathers, or an item that fits the ornament’s theme, and hang it on your tree for a beautiful and memorable handmade ornament. These make great, inexpensive gifts, too!
With The Kids
This cute ornament is quick, easy and a fun craft to do with the kids. Find some small tin pails from your local craft store or order online. Paint them white or whatever color contrasts with the color of your tree. When the paint dries, use a fine tip Sharpie to write “Let it Snow” on the pail. Finally, stuff the pail with cotton balls, tie a ribbon to the handle, and it’s ready to hang on your tree!
Tis the season to be busy. And sometimes that stresses us out. Here are my top three suggestions for keeping your holidays merry and bright… and for keeping sane.
Before the holidays are in full swing, as early as right now, schedule a “lists” night. Make a list of all the things you need and want to do for the holidays and schedule ahead. A tip: break big tasks into smaller ones, giving yourself little things to do over several nights. Mark off some “silent nights”—times when you won’t make any plans. Reserve those nights for staying home and regrouping as a family, maybe watching a Christmas movie together. Let those times also be ones of rest for you, with a bubble bath on the agenda or an evening by the fire or curled up in your favorite reading spot with a book. Stepping out of the hectic race for a few moments will help you keep your strength up for the long haul, and the best way to make sure you get some time off is to schedule it in ahead of time. Then, stay strong and master the art of saying no.
We all know it’s true—one of the reasons we all get so tired this time of year is because we try to do everything, our jobs, our household chores the baking, shopping, wrapping, cleaning, party planning, travel coordinating, etc. None of us can do it all, so prioritize. What is most important to you? Having a clean house? Baking? Entertaining? Make a list of everything you do this time of year, then narrow it down to the top must-do’s. Resolve to do those first and let the items at the bottom of the list sit there. If you get time for them, great. If you don’t, oh, well. And, as my mother-in-law used to say, never clean before a party. (Your guests will just mess the house up anyway!)
Pay a local teen or college student home for the holidays to take care of those tasks you don’t have the time or energy for this time of year, whether that’s dusting and vacuuming or hanging Christmas lights. Remember, you can’t do it all. And yes, you’ll spend some money. But what you lose in cash you’ll more than gain in energy and peace of mind.
Teach Gift Giving
Sit down with your kids and ask them to help you make a list of people they want to remember at Christmas. Then for each person on the list, ask them to suggest something special they could make for them or do for them. You probably will need to lead them in this exercise. For example, what does Daddy like? What does he like to eat? Where does he like to go? What could you do to help him? The idea is to teach your children the gift of giving, to get your children to think of others and not focus only on what gifts they want to receive.
Treat The Neighbors
Revive the tradition of giving a home-baked or home-cooked gift to your neighbors. Sit down with your children and help them make a list of neighbors to gift. Then discuss what they would like to give, whether that be a small bunch of cookies they help you bake, popcorn balls (let the kids dust them with sugar sprinkles!) or handmade ornaments. Then decide how and when you will deliver the gifts. (They could tuck the gifts into a gift bag, hang the bag on the neighbor’s door, ring the doorbell and hide to watch the neighbor open the door, then pop out and wish them Merry Christmas.)
Candy Cane Hunt
This fun one I found on Pinterest: Purchase inexpensive candy canes and hide them in your yard. Hang candy canes on branches, in the mailbox, on a porch chair, etc. Invite the neighbor children and have a candy cane hunt outside. Wind up the party with hot chocolate and a Christmas movie.
Pinterest is full of great ideas for homemade pet gifts, including dog and cat treats, bird seed ornaments, chew toys, cat huts and more. This one was one of my favorites. You’ll need a long, durable sock and a tennis ball. Simply stuff the tennis ball into the sock and tie a knot on both ends. You’ll have an insta-play toy for your furry best friend!
The Gift Experience
Let’s face it. There’s no greater gift you can give your pet than your time and undivided attention. Unless you have cats . . . But even they want to be petted and pampered from time to time. For dogs, a great gift experience could involve a car ride to the local Starbucks for a Puppuccino, which consists of a small cup filled with whipped cream. This secret menu item is available at all Starbucks, and it’s a treat dogs love. Here’s a cute video of a police dog devouring his Puppuccino. Enjoy! For the feline friends, try setting up boxes of different sizes in various places and heights around your house. When your kitty tires of playing in the boxes, open up a can of tuna, give him or her a quick pet on the neck, and call it a day.
For the truly pampered pet and pet owner who likes to stay in constant contact, there’s PetChatz®. These high-tech gadgets allow you to connect through your computer, tablet or smart phone, and then chat with your pet. Your furbaby can see you, hear you and feel your love, thanks to a multi-sensory experience that allows not only video chatting, but also the ability to dispense treats and even send soothing scents. The screen that stays in your home is chew-resistant and safe and durable. PetChatz® even has an accessory that allows your pet to Paw Call you by stepping on a button. How cool is that?! This great gift costs a pretty penny with models starting at $379.99, but let’s face it. . . your furbaby is worth it. For more info visit PetChatz®.
Reverse Advent Calendar
Pick up a plastic tote (or use a box you have at home), and have your child add a toiletry (toothbrush or toothpaste, bar of soap, etc.), a pair of new socks, a canned or packaged good or other food bank-approved item to the box each day. At the end of the Advent period, take your child to a local shelter or food bank, and have them contribute the donation for someone in need. It’s a wonderful way to teach your child compassion and charitable giving.
Give the Gift of Time
Giving time is sometimes more difficult than giving something material. It requires an emotional investment, but that ultimately leads to a more gratifying lesson in empathy. Have your child choose a selfless act to perform for another person. This could be singing holiday songs or reading to residents at a retirement center, baking cookies and taking them to neighbors, making holiday cards and sending them to servicemen and women who are serving overseas, or volunteering at a soup kitchen. Or how about asking an elderly or infirm neighbor who isn’t in condition to put up their outdoor decorations this year if you can do that for them? Talk to your child to see how he/she wants to give and help implement the good act. As a result, everyone ends up with that feel-good holiday glow!
Holiday Scavenger Hunt
This can be a fun party for your teens. Send them into the neighborhood by twos or threes with a list of items for the food bank (canned pumpkin, canned soup or chili, rice, split peas, noodles, seasoning/mix packets, beans, stuffing mix, etc.) and see who can scrounge the most in a given amount of time. Have a prize for the winning team/teams. (something simple, such as bags of Christmas candy, or if you like, spring for a couple of $10 gift cards to teen favorites, such as Starbucks or Target). After the scroungers return, warm them up with hot cider and cocoa, along with chips and peppermint popcorn.