Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A Christmas Review

Maybe this should have been my first post, following the holiday season, but our season didn't end until January 6 when we celebrated el Dia de Los Reyes Magos/Three Kings Day, also known as the 12th day of Christmas! My husband grew up celebrating this day in Puerto Rico by placing a box (normally a shoe box or something similar) underneath his bed the night before filled with yerba (grass, leaves...camel food) for the camels that brought the kings on their way to find the baby Jesus. In return for this favor, the kings would leave a small gift as a thank you for the child's hospitality along their long trip. Living in a cold climate does not afford a lot of "camel food" this time of year, so we opted for some carrots and my son insisted the kings should have a treat as well and sat out 3 pieces of fudge. The next morning he awoke to find a gift left by the three kings. Here's what "they" made for him:

I've told him that the Three Kings and Santa prefer to leave handmade toys/gifts, 1. because we are on a very tight budget and don't have the money to spend on toys, and 2. because I want him to value handmade items just as much, if not more, than store-bought/mass-produced items. It satisfies my desire to see his imagination sparked as we prepare for and wait so impatiently to discover the magic in the holidays, and it satisfies his desire for a new toy to love. He hugged this lizard so tight when he found him under his bed (despite still being half asleep and showing absolutely no emotion on his face). I sighed a sigh of relief, because not being able to buy for your children after a lifetime of being taught that buying for your children is how you show them you love them was disproved in an instant. He loved his lizard immediately and named him Googly-Eyes.

Now, because of our current lack of funds, I was forced into meeting a goal that I hadn't necessarily been planning on keeping this year: to do a homemade/thrifted Christmas all around. That means all of the gifts and decorating would be homemade or thrifted (and even my thrifting budget was microscopic). Nothing like having no money to spark your creativity, right?! I used supplies that I already had in my stash, gifted items that I'd bought new and had never worn/used, and thrifted a few inexpensive things (half-off week is my favorite week to shop!) Here's a rundown of some of the gifts I came up with:

My son had seen the "ninja"bread man cookie cutters, and I found this angel at the thrift store and figured I'd just "refashion" it to fit my needs ;) Nothing a pair of pliers and some patience can't fix!

I'd seen snowman kits all over Pinterest and figured I'd make one for each of my siblings' families. I used buttons, felt, hot glue, corks, clothespins and some fleece and fabric from my stash to put these together!

Again, another idea from Pinterest, felt tic-tac-toe games for travel or whenever. You don't have to waste any paper and this just folds up when you want to take it to go! My nephew got this one...

and my niece got this one!

I made a stocking for my niece to go with the ones I'd made for the rest of them...though, now that I think of it, I haven't made one for my newest nephew!

 Another niece requested a jellyfish from this thrifted sweater and this is what I came up with:

I'd made this felt Christmas tree for my youngest niece last year, so I added a few more ornaments for her to play with this year :)

I made a dinosaur from one of this coat's sleeves for my youngest nephew:

And a little softie bear for my youngest niece from a thrifted sweater and embroidery floss:

I made this bunny for another niece (it has moveable arms and legs!):

And thrifted these toys for my son (love that they are learning tools as well!):

 These were a stocking stuffer 2 years ago, that my son pulled out and played with this Christmas:

And here's the Santa Sack I made for the toys that Santa would leave...my son had to write his own name ;) (made from a thrifted pillow case):

And here's the main event! I found the monkey at the thrift store for $4 (in a camo outfit) and made the Sonic the Hedgehog costume for him from my stash and a picture of Sonic from my son's t-shirt. This was his favorite gift from "Santa":

Most of our lights, tree decorations, and other decor for the house are thrifted from previous years, things I've kept since childhood, and a few recent additions from my grandparents' decorations. These things hold so much meaning and memories for me. They make me feel like I am "home", not just here with my husband and son, but surrounded by family and friends that may not be with me in person as the miles separate us. I am absolutely a sentimental person and love to reminisce about the good memories, but as opposed to "living in the past" it spurs me on to making those same kinds of memories for my son by coming up with our own family traditions. I love blending the practices from my childhood with those of my husband's; it results in a beautiful celebration of love, family, hope and sacrifice as we try to give of ourselves. Música Navideña and Christmas carols, pavochón and Christmas Eve tacos (old family tradition ;) ),  coquíto and eggnog...who said the blend couldn't be delicious, too? I find each year that I love the holidays more and more because of the experiences rather than the gifts...as it should be.

Well, in any case, using a lot of previously thrifted materials, "junk" that I keep in a drawer just in case, and a little imagination (with the help of Pinterest, of course) I think I did pretty well. Hopefully all of my nieces and nephews appreciate the gifts and get some good use out of them. Hopefully, they love them! Hahaha, here's hoping...



  1. Love the felt tree and the stuffed animals. My aunt made me a Lambchop puppet and a bunny (like yours) when I was a little girl. I have no idea where they are now, but I still think they're special.

    - Elizabeth
    aka The Hungry Octopus

    1. Thanks so much, Elizabeth! My stuffed animals are always just a little bit wonky as I never use patterns (something I aim to change...one day). But this way they are clearly made by me and "special". lol. I appreciate your comments :)


  2. I adore the angel transformation!
    It would never have occured to me to simply alter its shape lol duhhh
    I really enjoyed this post, Ive lived with too little to get by in years past with the two children, after hubby left and I understand completely how it can be.
    But youve captured what I feel is the real essence of Christmas gifts. Not spending multiple pounds but in more meaningful, huggy and fun, useful gifts.
    Being handmade with love especially for the individuals, instead of commercially bought items that anyone might be given.......just perfect!
    Love the snowmen sets, they have to be a great gift if you know you will have snow at some stage.
    And the noughts and crosses are smashing.
    Ive made them for work, for blind children to use, in varying sizes for varying abilities.
    I use velcro accepting fabric, not unlike they use on exhibition boards and then attach small pieces of velcro on the backs of the noughts and crosses so the pieces will stay in position in play.
    With our blind children I would use two differently textured fabrics for the O's and X's so they are easily and quickly identified as whose belong to which player.
    Infact with totally blind children who wouldnt know what an O or X actually is, then the different textured shapes ( could be circles or squares eg.) come into their own.
    And children with partial sight who can see particular colours more easily, then again, you can fashion the shapes in colours to suit the child.
    Think you did remarkably well and reused in real style!
    AND any fabric bits can go in a rag rug strips collection bag, till you have enough to get stuck into a traditional British 'proddy' rag rug! lol

    1. Awww, thank you Liniecat!!!! I appreciate your comments so much :) Sometimes making do with less makes everything more meaningful. I was raised by a single mother and have to give you props because that is no easy job! Keep at it :) Love love love the great ideas about the tic-tac-toe/noughts & crosses for the kids you work with! I always keep the scraps and am amassing a nice pile, though I've got a ways to go before I'll be creating anything with all of them. I love rag rugs, though, so I'll have to test myself and try one out one day.


  3. Andrea,
    I love, LOVE!!!, all your refashions: you are great!!!
    Irma from Italy

    1. Thank you so much, Irma! I love LOVE your comment :) hehehe, thank you!