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How to Have a Present Free Christmas and Spend Less on Christmas Day

Or ‘The Spawning of a new Christmas Myth and the Death of Tradition’

Christmas is my absolute favourite time of year. I love everything about it. The lights, the decorations and, most importantly, the surprises. I love shopping for people and planning menus. There isn’t anything I don’t like about it.

Okay, that is not technically true. There are several things I don’t like. I am not fond of having the same conversation every year with my hubby.

“What do you want for Christmas, My Love?”
“Sleep”
“Besides sleep, what do you want for Christmas?”
“Nothing”

Seriously, you could use that conversation as a fixed point in time. No passage through the Space-Time Vortex can change this one moment in our year.

And I don’t love haemorrhaging money. How expensive has Christmas become? The pressure the media put on us to give more and be perfect examples of domestic goddesses at this time of year is becoming unfathomable. Stores start advertising Christmas earlier and earlier, trying to get us to part with more and more money. And I cannot say I am immune. I love to give gifts. Watching people’s faces light up when opening something I have meticulously chosen because I think they will love it is a wonderful feeling.

The Death of Tradition

Fair warning here, if you are looking for Christmas ideas that involve a traditional roast lunch with brussels sprouts followed by getting drunk and starting a family argument, you’re not going to find it here.

For starters, I live in Australia. There is no other day that you would think, ‘it’s so hot outside that the countryside is melting in a Dali-esque manner, I think I’ll turn the oven on and heat the house up. A hot meal is exactly what we all need and I’ll feel so much more festive, relaxed and refreshed after standing next to a 180 degree oven making gravy.’

For me, Christmas is a time to share some fun, bonding time with my family. To flex my imagination and plan a day I know everyone will enjoy and file away in their bank of happy memories to look back on.

Growing up my mother gave us wonderful Christmas’ full of fun and joy. Traditional, but with one difference to all the other family Christmas’ I have been lucky enough to participate in over the years. And it is a tradition I have brought forward to my own family.

As children, presents lasted all day for us. Not because there were so many or because we had lots of money. Farmers in South Australia are not likely to top the highest earners list any time soon. It is because we did not open all our presents at once.

Before breakfast we got to wake our parents up and find out what Santa had brought us in our Christmas stocking. Then we would share breakfast as a family, always something a little fancy rather than the usual farm fare, and afterwards we were allowed to open our gifts from Mum and Dad. While we played and enjoyed what we had been given, Mum would prepare lunch and, if it was a late harvest, sometimes Dad would have to go out and work until lunch time.

After a huge, traditional roast lunch we would be allowed to open the gifts from extended family.

So this conversation happened one Christmas lunch on a farm far, far away –

Me, fussy eater, about 12 years old “I don’t like turkey”
Mum, genius, great cook and master manipulator, “You haven’t tried it before.  It tastes like chicken.”
“I don’t like it.”
“Well that’s why I cooked a chicken and put some slices down the bottom just for you.”

Me – happily takes my ‘chicken’.
Grown ups – silently in awe of my mother.

To add to this gradual opening of presents, we took turns opening the gifts under our tree one at a time. One child played ‘Santa’s helper’ and handed out the gifts under the tree to people and each one was opened and appreciated before the next gift was opened. This little slice of delayed gratification was wonderful in that we not only learned early on to feel excited when other people are happy and to be a part of each other’s joy, but learned to appreciate each gift and the person who gave it.

For years I had no idea that other families opened all their presents first thing in the morning and then it was just lunch, rellies and napping for the rest of the day. Last year I mentioned to my mother that I loved that she did this and she told me she had started it because she felt bad that it was often just the four of us for Christmas. The majority of our family lived a six hour drive away and we couldn’t leave the farm unattended at that time of year. Potential bushfires, stock and harvest time all formed a perfect trifecta of reasons we were housebound on Christmas Day. I am so appreciative that she found a way to make us feel like Christmas lasted all day even if we weren’t travelling around to spend time with family like so many other people.

A Present Free Christmas Sarcastic Whimsy style.

Two years ago our children, masters of patience and delayed gratification, decided that they would like to go without gifts for two years in order to put the money we would usually spend on Christmas on another family cruise. Have I ever mentioned that I love them? They are fucking awesome! No seriously. They are bloody brilliant.

No gifts, huh? How do you do Christmas without gifts? I started thinking and came up with a genius idea. It was pure brilliance. It was perfect… it was also not to be. Just as I started putting all the pieces in place for my no-present joyfest, we got notice that we needed to move house and all our energies were put into that. Once settled I quickly realised that our new place was not suited to this idea.  In fact, we soon realised that our new abode was not suited to us in general.  Too small, too ugly, too falling down.  But I digress as usual.  I was talking about my idea.  An I idea that I am keeping quiet about because I am certain I will use it at some stage all all and sundry will continue to be amazed by my brilliant idea.

After much thinking, I settled on my new no present Christmas idea. I can tell you that there is a lot of pressure in finding an idea that will make everyone in our diverse clan happy for Christmas without spending much money.

I cancelled Christmas.

Yes, you heard me.

I cancelled Christmas.

As you know, I have teens. Teens are notorious for sleeping in and being lazy. And I have a husband who isn’t particularly occasiony. That conversation we have every year pretty much sums up his attitude to Christmas. He is the antithesis of me. The yin to my yang. The Bert to my Ernie. The Lano to my Woodley. The Grinch to my Cindy-Lou. You get the idea. He’s the sensible one in our relationship that makes sure I don’t get hit by a bus when crossing the road. Road crossing can be dangerous when you’ve been distracted by butterflies.

As discussed, every year when I ask him what he wants for Christmas, he answers “sleep”. And when I push him, because that’s a crap answer, he responds “nothing.” And while my children are fun and wonderful people, I feel that his influence on them is not altogether good. When asked what they want for Christmas, my girls often respond “sleep”. BASTARDS! The lot of them! Spoiling all my Christmassy excitement. Seriously, I am the first one awake on Christmas, waiting for my children to get up and discover what I have done for them. I am so excited that it is hard not to jump on them the way they used to jump on me at 5:30 am on Christmas Past.

The Spawning of a New Christmas Myth

Without gifts to deliver, Santa wasn’t actually necessary to the equation.

So without further adieu, I would like to introduce <underwhelming fanfare please>

 

 

The Christmas Sloth fully supports sleeping in and doing nothing all day.

Present Free Christmas

My children woke up to letters left outside their doors from the Christmas Sloth explaining that Christmas was cancelled. Santa had been… detained and with any luck would be able to visit in time to bring them their cruise in a couple of years.

Click for Printable and Editable Word Doc

In the spirit of spending the entire day slothing around, I made personalised pyjama t-shirts to celebrate the newly created holiday. Five dollar white t-shirts from Big W, some iron on transfer paper from eBay (much cheaper than buying it at Officeworks), a little googling (original image found here) and some photoshopping went in to making everyone their own Slothsmas 2016 t-shirts.


Click here to order T-Shirt Transfer Paper to create your own custom Slothsmas T-shirts from Amazon

I love that my almost grown girls stepped over their letters and t-shirts because they were more excited about surprising me like they used to as tiny children. I’m using the word ‘surprising’ loosely. Two very noticeable lumps (actually, there were four very noticeable lumps on top of two daughter sized lumps) gave away their presence under my duvet when I stepped out of the shower. And just like I used to ten years ago, I pretended not to know they were there and loudly made a to-do over the fact I was tired and would just lay across my bed to nap. Quarter of an hour of giggling and snuggling later, the girls had still not made a move towards the doorway surprises they had walked past earlier.

Unfortunately, at this point Hubby was nowhere to be seen as his pager had been rather uncouth by piercingly summoning him to a fire call before the girls had woken from their holiday slumber.

After making their way back to their rooms to get dressed and discover what was awaiting them outside their doors, it was time for breakfast.

Walking out to the living area, the children found a box from the Christmas sloth. This is where the term ‘present free’ gets a little hazy, but I still stand by it as this is less of a present and more of a box-o-relaxation-and-happiness. Ours was a low-spend day, not a no-spend day.

The girls, who are much more patient and amazing than I am, did not make a move to open the large box wrapped in plain brown paper and string. Personally, if I had seen a mystery box filled with potentially mystical things at their age, I would have been dying to open it. Who are we kidding, if I had seen that yesterday I would have been dying to open it.

But those children are better humans than I am.  They were waiting for their Daddy to get home so he wouldn’t miss out on any Slothsmas surprises he had helped orchestrate.  Knowing that our favourite Grinch would feel bad thinking everyone had put their morning on hold waiting for him to get home from his call out, I told the girls that they were amazing and thoughtful, but to go ahead and open the box.

Inside were things like paper plates, plastic cutlery and glasses, popcorn kernels and paper popcorn cups, a few dvds they’d been dying to watch, a bottle of Baileys (well, my favourite Aldi knock-off that costs $14 instead of $40), a cheap puzzle and a pack of cards and teaspoons. Everything had been purchased at the $2 store with the exception of the DVDs and $10 jigsaw puzzle. All in all, this box cost $106. And most of that was DVDs, our family love watching movies.

While they opened their box of goodies and took selfies with custard (I kid you not), I made breakfast. I had already made all the food we were going to need for the day and had used disposable bowls and trays to serve it on. We had everything we needed for a day free of work, including dishes and cooking. With all the preparation done the day before, I only needed to reheat the croissants and take the fruit platter and spreads out of the fridge. Served on paper plates and disposable trays, there were no dishes to be done at the end of the meal. Everything went straight into the waiting bin liner.

There could be only one thing more relaxing than a chore free day in front of the TV with food laid on. And that would be if that chore free day had a swim up pool bar included.

Fear not! The Christmas Sloth had thought of everything. Upon opening the blinds to the back patio, the children were met with this:

Click for Printable Slothsmas Pool Bar PDF

What’s a good Aussie Christmas without a swim? We don’t have a pool, but that was not going to stop me from giving everyone a swim up pool bar. A tiny wading pool, a blow up palm tree, leis and flamingo fairy lights from Kmart all came together to create the most giggle inducing tropical swim up pool bar you could imagine. Twenty-four dollars well spent.

So there you have it. Not counting food, our entire Christmas without presents cost us $160. It was a day full of joy, laughter, and abject laziness. Hubby’s parents came over for lunch, bringing cold roasted turkey and ham with them. I had done all the preparation possible for the accompanying salads the day before, needing only to cut a few last minute fruits and vegetables up and drizzle dressing over our fresh feast. A languidly slothful day had by all enjoying each others company.

And now, Christmas is upon us for another year.  And the stores are still pressuring us months in advance to buy, buy, buy.  So in the spirit of Slothsmas, I am going to be posting more Low Spend Christmas ideas in the weeks to come.  Last year the Christmas Sloth ripped a hole in the fabric of space and time and we ended up stuck in the 80’s for the day.  This year I have a True Blue idea that will knock their socks off and give the Christmas Sloth an excuse to drop the F bomb several times.

Merry (Impending) Slothsmas!

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Roll Up Beach Bed Tutorial

Life takes us on many unexpected journeys,  and this craft project was the beginning of our 2015 holiday that did not exactly work out the way we had hoped. Or happen at all that year in fact.  However, as with many disasters faced with a positive attitude and a healthy dose of irreverence, in the end it worked out better.  While it took us an extra twelve months to get there, in which we had a 7 month wait for permission from Minister’s delegate to get passports for our girls, we managed to amend our holiday to take in New Zealand, New Caledonia and Vanuatu so it wasn’t so beach oriented for the girls.  In all honesty, this is a post I started writing about 18 months ago, however after our holiday fell through, I put it aside for a little while.  But here we are, so let’s have a wander down my crafty memory lane together.

Create a Roll Up Beach Bed. Comprehensive Sewing Tutorial.

So there I was planning a superb family holiday to the South Pacific, fourteen glorious nights cruising around three gorgeous countries – Fiji, New Caledonia and Vanuatu.  Sun, sand and snorkelling, who could ask for more?  I could almost feel the sun on my back and the waves gently rocking me as I snorkelled through the reefs.  The only drawback was that, in the words of my youngest daughter, “I’d like the beach if it wasn’t for the sand and the waves.” Also, there is no wifi on Mystery Island, which is a problem if you are a fan-fiction addicted 14-year-old who secretly dreams of being a superhero.

I shouldn't need to be sewing to make this place enjoyable for my nerdlingsNow obviously I wanted my girls to enjoy our tropical holiday as much as the snorkelling aficionados in the family.  And since I was unable to convince them that swimming with turtles and all manner of brightly coloured fish is the most amazing experience to have when on tiny islands in the South Pacific, I found a crafty, lazy compromise.  The amazing Stella at The Golden Adventures of a Very Dark Horse came up with the solution; I’ve just tweaked it to fit with my family’s love of fantasy and things that deviate from the traditional norm. (And also because I’m essentially a 7-year-old in a grownup’s body and I like to DO IT MYSELF! *stamps foot in a petulant and precocious manner*).

Seeing Stella’s idea on Pinterest made me think about how I could make the girls’ island adventure relaxing and fun in their own way.  We’d planned horse riding in rainforests and abseiling down waterfalls to cater to their uniqueness, but I wanted them to enjoy their beach time as well, even though they don’t like to swim at the beach.

So with tutorial chosen, I was off to Spotlight to find some suitable material that wasn’t all ‘beachy’, ‘girly’, or ‘old lady’.  I chose a cotton fabric with a Wonder Woman print for Miss Ash, one of the only DC characters allowed in our house without a heartfelt discussion on why Marvel is better than DC and serious debate over whether Batman is a Super Hero or not.  (For the record, my vote is cast for Ninja with Gadgets in the Batman debate.  He’s not a superhero.)  And then off to the nearest department store for two bath sheets in matching colours, I went with a dark grey to satisfy the curled-up-in-her-room-not-being-social-and-reading-by-the-glow-of-the-tablet vibe she had going on at the time.

I’d like to point out that this is an excellent craft to use up bits of leftover fabric and upcycle old towels. I used new because I was trying to make a brand new gift for them rather than indulge my inner hippie.

Create a Roll Up Beach Bed. Comprehensive Sewing Tutorial.

With two beach sheets, some hobby fill, a metre of Wonder Woman fabric and matching thread in hand, I was ready to begin the day’s crafty adventure.

Create a Roll Up Beach Bed. Comprehensive Sewing Tutorial.

The first step was to decide how big I wanted the pillow part of the bed to be.  Keeping in mind that the finished product will wrap around this, making the finished size of the bag slightly larger than the size of the pillow.

Create a Roll Up Beach Bed. Comprehensive Sewing Tutorial.

I cut the first towel into four pieces as shown above.  The large piece on the right is for the pillow.  I made mine the width of the towel x 33 cm.  The two skinny pieces in the middle are for the handles and once again they are the width of the towel x 15 cm.   The last piece is leftovers, don’t throw it away though, I have a way to use it up at the end.  I hate wasting crafty goodies.  And Tim Tams. Never waste a Tim Tam.

Sew a Roll Up Beach Bed. Comprehensive CraftTutorial.

Next I put the pillow part together by folding it almost in half, leaving about 5cm of the raw edge exposed (this ‘flap’ is where the other towel will be attached to the pillow).  I sewed the open ends together and raw edge down, leaving a gap along the raw edge to push the stuffing into.  (Don’t worry about the exposed raw edge as it will be hidden by the other towel very shortly).

Sew a Roll Up Beach Bed. Comprehensive CraftTutorial.

I sewed the gap closed and then pinned the second towel over the exposed raw edge to hide it and create the rest of the bed  part of the beach bed.  To make sure it was strong and the stitching reinforced for lots of lazing, I sewed it in three separate places as marked above.  Sewing along the side of the pillow was awkward; somewhat like trying to drive a car with a Pillow Pet under each arm.  My best advice is to take it slow, pull it through straight, use LOTS of pins and remember that the towelling is quite thick, you’ll want a sturdy needle on the machine unless you want to break a few.

Sew a Roll Up Beach Bed. Comprehensive CraftTutorial.

Sew a Roll Up Beach Bed. Comprehensive CraftTutorial.

I rolled up the beach bed with the right side on the inside of the roll, set it aside for the moment and got the Wonder Woman fabric out.  I cut two strips that were 6.5 cm wide…well, in reality I made two small cuts in the fabric 6.5 cm apart and ripped the fabric down to the end.  This makes a much straighter line than I could ever cut freehand, is quick, and oddly satisfying.  But if you want to cut it like a grown up with scissors and the like, go right ahead.  I folded the edges of the strips 1cm in on either side and pressed them.  If you want ties that aren’t as wide as mine, turn the edges in further or make your strips slimmer. I wanted the strips wide enough that I would be able to reinforce the stitching as they will be holding the whole project shut while there is a fair amount of weight in the side pockets.

Sew a Roll Up Beach Bed. Comprehensive CraftTutorial.

Fold the strips in half longways so the pressed edges meet and press them again.  There is an inordinate amount of pressing at this stage of the game. You may as well leave the iron plugged in for the time being.  Run a seam down the open side close to the edge. At one end of each of the ties, fold over twice to hide the raw edge, press and sew to keep it in place.  At the opposite end, fold 1 cm over and press down.  This is the end that you will attach to the towelling.

Grab the rolled up beach bed that you had put aside and place the ties evenly along the opening.

crossPin and sew the ties in place.  I wanted these stitches to hold with the weight of books and sun block pulling at them, so I sewed the ties on with a cross pattern for extra strength, like sew (like so… I slay me):

Incidentally, the answer to your unasked question is yes.  Three of the ties will be on the edge of the foot of the bed and three of them will be in the middle of the back of the bed.  This is why we rolled it up with the right side facing in.

Sew a Roll Up Beach Bed. Comprehensive Wonder Woman CraftTutorial.

Next, it was time to put the pockets on the side.  The size of the pockets you create will be dictated by the size of the stuff your little nerdling wants to carry to the beach. The best way to create the pockets is to measure the nerd crap your non-snorkelling, geekling wants to bring to make the outdoors feel more like indoors and custom-create the pockets.  For the ones I did, I made sure that there were pockets and sleeves the right size for books, headphones, sunblock, a Nintendo DS and sunglasses.  They will also be dependent on the size of the towel you started out with.

For the long pocket, I cut (and by cut, you know I mean ripped) a length of fabric that was 66 cm by 21 cm.  Then it was back to the iron to press the edges over by 1cm.  Along one of the long edges (the one that is now the top of the pocket) fold it over again and press so this edge does not have a visible raw edge on the back. Run a line of stitching along this top edge to keep it in place.

Grab your rolled up beach bed and position the long pocket underneath the ties as shown in the picture.  Make sure it is parallel to the foot of the bed so things aren’t inclined to fall out of wonky pockets as it is being carried.

Sew the pocket in place then, measure the items most likely to be carried in the pockets and sew dividers along the pocket as illustrated by the dotted lines above.  I do not suggest leaving it as one long pocket as it will sag in the middle and things will fall straight out.

Sew a Roll Up Beach Bed. Comprehensive Wonder Woman CraftTutorial.

Flip the bed over and create pockets on the other side.  Mine were cut at 33 cm x 21 cm and were created with the exact same process as above.  Create as many small pockets or another large one if you wish.  If Donna’s first meeting with the Doctor has taught me anything, it is that pockets are always handy.

Sew a Roll Up Beach Bed. Comprehensive Wonder Woman CraftTutorial.

The only thing left to do to finish off the beach bed is to make the handles using the two 15 cm wide pieces of toweling you cut in the beginning.  Fold each one in half and sew down the raw edges.  Turn right side out.  Using your patterned fabric, create sleeves for the ends of the handles.  Cut 4 pieces 10 cm x 21 cm.  Fold 1cm down on each end, wrong sides of the fabric together and press.  Flip it over and fold in half, right sides together. Press.  Run a 1 cm seam down each side and clip the corners.  Turn right side out and slide them on to the handles like end caps.

Sew a Roll Up Beach Bed. Comprehensive Wonder Woman CraftTutorial.

Unroll the bed and place the first handle on the foot of the bed near the ties, top of the patterned sleeve flush with the edge of the towel.  The width of your towel will determine how far in from the edge the handles are placed. Mine were 14 cm in from the edge.  Pin in place.  Place the second handle the same distance in from the edge as the first.  Pin in place.  Using the same cross pattern as above, sew the handles one.  Roll the bed back up and pin the other end of the handles in between the ties on the other side of the opening.  Sew using the cross pattern.

Clip all the loose threads.  Sit back with a self-satisfied smug look of self-congratulatory contentment.

Oh, remember that piece of leftover towelling that you kept aside for the end?  It is perfect for cleaning off sandy feet before sitting on your newly created beach bed.  Use some leftover patterned fabric to cover the raw edge of the towelling then fold it up and place it in one of the handy dandy pockets of your beach bed.

Sew a Roll Up Beach Bed. Comprehensive CraftTutorial.

Sew a Roll Up Beach Bed. Comprehensive CraftTutorial.

Sew a Roll Up Beach Bed. Comprehensive Wonder Woman CraftTutorial.

Wonder Woman Beach Bed Craft Tutorial.

 

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