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Merry Christmas 2016

 Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. — Timothy 1:15-17

Easy Christmas branch centerpiece


I have found that my decision to not buy more Christmas decorations this year can’t stop me from continuing to deck the halls. I wanted some height in this corner of our bar and a branch seemed just the right idea. And it’s free! 




(Clara is quite pleased with her Crayola masterpiece over there, as you can see.)




The only issue with this project is finding that perfect branch. I saw this one on the side of the road, but it was attached to a larger part of the tree that had been cut down. I parked the car and proceeded to try to rip and twist and jerk it off with no tools. There is a lot of construction in the area, so I was doing all this manic behavior in front of a long line of cars. Either they were entertained or disturbed, I’m not sure, but I wanted that branch! I didn’t get it though. It was too thick.

I told Marcello about my ridiculous behavior and we had a good laugh. He didn’t forget about it, and couple days later he had me show it to him when we were out and about with the family. He happily snapped it right off and put it in the back of the van. I am still touched that he remembered and made the effort to get it for me. It made me realize that I focus so much on the children during Christmas, I forget out the magic between husband and wife!

Enough mush, here’s how to whitewash a branch. And you better believe I’ll be using this for Easter too!

Cheap and easy Christmas decorations - whitewash branch and hang ornaments

The ornaments on the tree came in two sets and cost $2 total from the Dollar Tree. The balls in the vase I bought at Pier One for $.50 each during some random Christmas in July sale a couple years ago.

Also, this is the scene beside my little branch project that I carefully kept out of my shots — you know, instead of cleaning it up. The photo doesn’t do it justice. It’s going to take awhile.


Our Christmas budget

BEST BREAKFAST CASSEROLE EVER 1 lb. sausage {I used Jimmy Dean’s- HOT} 1 can crescent rolls 2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded 4 eggs, beaten 3/4 cup milk 1/4 tsp. salt 1/8 tsp. pepper 1 small yellow onion, chopped 1 green or red bell pepper, chopped Preheat oven to 375. Brown sausage & drain. {Daddy suggests adding the onion & bell pepper to the sausage while it’s browning…he doesn’t like crunchy veggies in his food} Spray a 9x13 with PAM & line with can of crescents. Breakfast Casserole6 Layer sausage on top of crescents… Breakfast Casserole5 …and if you didn’t add the onion & pepper to the sausage before, layer it on top now! Breakfast Casserole4 In a separate bowl, mix/beat 4 eggs, salt, & pepper. SO, I know the recipe called for a specific amount of salt and pepper, but I definitely fudged…a lot. I like a lot of pepper, so I added more & I’m pretty sure I was generous with the salt too. Daddy also suggested adding butter, so I added a couple of tablespoons for a DELICIOUS Paula Deen effect. Breakfast Casserole2 Top sausage/onion/pepper with 2 cups of cheese {it looks like I used colby & monterrey jack} and pour the egg evenly over the top. Breakfast Casserole3 Bake at 375 for 25 minutes or until cheese is brown/bubbly :) I can seriously taste it. Breakfast Casserole Serve it warm, right outta the oven OR let it sit for about 30 minutes and cut it into breakfast bars. A breakfast keeper for sure and something I know would impress the in-laws :)

Not every Christmas is the same. Some years cost less, some cost more. This year ours costs less and we plan on giving more. We’ve decided to budget Christmas expenses at $325 for this family of five. This includes decor, kids’ crafts, presents, cards, wrapping supplies, everything except the kids’ Christmas pajamas (which I bought on sale last month).

Marcello and I feel strongly that God is calling us to give more. In order to give more, we need to save more. We want to give sacrificially, not just skim off the top. I don’t know how sacrificial not buying any holiday decorations or extra presents are, but it’s a start!

Simple Christmas decorations

Here’s where the money went or how it was saved. Maybe you’ll find an idea that will help or inspire you to save a few dollars.

  • We’re not traveling, family is coming here. (And we’re so excited!)
  • Our kids are still young, so I can get away with presents like making a regular binder a Pokémon card book with a cover printed on our home computer. They’ll be excited their name is on it with Pokémon! To be more specific, from us, the boys (4 and 5) are getting Playschool Star Wars ships, Pokémon binder with cards and figurines, art supplies, books and some second-hand board games and movies. Clara (19 months) is getting a baby doll cradle, baby, magic milk bottle, a wooden pull toy, play phone and dollar store bracelets.
  • Marcello and I are not giving each other presents this year, but that’s not uncommon. We prefer to focus presents to each other on birthdays instead.
  • We’re keeping things simple with family gifts. For a budget-friendly gift guide, go here.
  • The kids are buying presents for family at the dollar store with their own money. I’ll let you know if the family actually gets any presents!
  • I wasn’t going to buy any new Christmas decorations, but I had a moment of weakness and spent $15 at the Dollar Tree. Darn it, sparkly over-sized ball and star ornaments!
  • I get my cards for $15 from Costco. I saw the cheaper ones aren’t popping up on their photo homepage, so here is the link to the 50 for $15 cards. The card stock isn’t as nice as some, but they are going in the trash in a few weeks sooo …
  • I buy one nice outfit for the boys each year that will work for any event or holiday (Christmas, Easter, school programs, weddings …). This year it’s black denim pants, light blue button-downs and navy and lime green striped ties. Getting a non-seasonal tie is key for boys so it works in summer and winter. For Clara girl, I found a sweet little red dress at Once Upon a Child consignment store for $7.50. (It’s Baby Gap and still has the tags on it.)
  • The boys forgot about stockings. I don’t have a good place to hang them, so I’m going without them this time. Hopefully no one will notice?
  • I got creative with holiday decor. We have a big rosemary bush out back, so I added some to a candle set I already have for a fun touch. And of course I made a couple placemat pillows. If you are tired of hearing about them I am truly sorry. They’re so easy and inexpensive I can’t help myself! At this point I’m just cutting a slit in the back of a placemat, sticking an insert in and not even sewing or gluing it shut! Such an easy switch out for every season. See here:

Cheap Christmas decorations - Simple DIY placemat pillow done in minutes for $5

Getting creative with Christmas decorations on a budget

Simple Christmas decorations

Decorating the nativity


Baby's first Christmas photo ornaments

Shop consignment for holiday dresses to save money during christmas



Here’s how you know what’s really important to people: Look at their calendar, and look at their bank statement. The way we spend our time and the way we spend our money says what’s really important to us. When you give to God, guess where your heart goes? It goes toward God. It draws you closer. It’s an act of worship.” — Rick Warren

Because we’re saving money this year, we’re thinking hard where we give it. December brings an overwhelming amount of donation requests. It’s hard to know where to give. I felt a gentle rebuke from the Holy Spirit years ago when I donated tithe money to an organization that was not Christ-centered. I’m not saying I wouldn’t give them money on top of tithe money, but God’s money should go to work for God’s kingdom. Do you hear what I’m saying?

Maybe you know someone personally who needs help, who is in a season of trial. I would urge you to get out of your comfort zone and do something. Do it with the name of our savior on your lips. It will bless them, the Lord and yourself.

How we spent less and gave more this Christmas

Giving to others will bring more true joy than any new purchase or treating yourself. The high is higher and it is contagious. When you do something kind for someone, they desire to pay it forward. Has anyone ever given to you in a time of need?

I have so many questions for you. Do you think $325 is exorbitant or not enough for your family? Would you share how much you plan to spend on Christmas? Or how you plan to give?

When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.” — Matthew 2:10-11