9 Compostable or Edible Christmas Tree Decorations


I’m sharing some updated holiday themed posts from the archives over the holiday season.

Is there such a thing as minimalist Christmas tree ornaments? Probably not.

But there are decorations that are edible or compostable and don’t require huge craft or sewing skills to put together. Or a glue gun.

Please note: I am not making all of these decorations. This is not turning into a craft blog.

At most I’ll string popcorn and cranberries one evening while we watch Elf and make/bake cinnamon hearts or gingerbread stars with the kids. If I get a surge of energy I might take a stab at dried oranges because I love the smell of orange. This is all IF we get a tree this year.

We’re ten days away from Christmas and I’m still not sure we will have a traditional Christmas tree. Our building doesn’t allow ‘live’ Christmas trees and our storage closet fits our luggage and a few other items. Owning a reusable Christmas tree would be a huge space investment for us. I’m mulling over painting a tree onto our solarium door with acrylic paint. Is that minimalist enough? Ha!

9 Compostable or Edible Christmas Tree Decorations

Head over for a tutorial on the linked websites if you’re interested in making any of them. You’ll want to use 100% cotton thread or twine to make the item compostable. Otherwise remove ribbons and such before you send the item back to mother earth.

1. Cranberry Garland

2. Gingerbread Stars

3. Popcorn String

4. Cinnamon Apple Sauce Hearts

5. Christmas Spice Bundle

6. Dried Orange

7. Orange Pommander

8. Pine Cones

These would be compostable if you attached the ribbon by looping it under the leaves for easy removal and didn’t add sparkles.

9. Paper ornaments and Chains

Beyond my skill or motivation, but you could remove staples and brads and compost the paper from these lovely ornaments.

Photo Credit: JimmieHomeSchoolMom

Any other ideas for simple earth friendly and easy to make Christmas ornaments?

Today vs. One Day and How We Survived the Norovirus

Last week I hit rock bottom.

Rock bottom on linens.

We had the perfect storm of an aggressive stomach bug, a child that hasn’t mastered the skill of vomiting into a bucket and our hang dry laundry system that in this winter weather means 14 hours for wash to dry of a bed sheet and 24 hours for a towel.

We don’t have a lot of spare linens.

Our linen closet consists of two sets of sheets per bed, four towel sets in white (bath, hand, face), three beach towels that we use at the pool and double as guest towels and a fantastic little hooded towel Henry received as a gift with two matching face towels.

The stomach bug wiped out our beach towels in a few hours. Henry’s hooded towel was next along with the folded up extra sheets. We had a good stack of kitchen linens clean so our tea towels helped for two rounds.

The only thing left to use was cloth napkins and placements. Or my nice white towels. Or clothing.

I was also solo parenting and we live on an island without a 24 hour anything to go get back up towels or what not. Options were not good.

God bless sisters that store their home effects in your spare bedroom. As I lamented my linen situation to my sister over Skype she told me about four dark purple and gray towels that were stored in our guest room dresser.

Saved. And as luck would have it the vomiting ended that night. The savior towels were left unscathed.

The virus has since made its way through the adults in our home. This is how we’re preparing for the holidays: get the terrible illnesses out of the way before December.

When this virus has finally run its course (just working its way through the mister right now) I’ll be washing all of our linens on hot and then taking them to the laundromat for dryer time.

Do we need more linens in our home for the what-if scenario of a stomach virus?

Am I foolish to own white towels at this juncture in my life?

Most people would say yes to both of these after debating over using their own clothing as a vomit mat for their son.

And yet, I’m not running out to buy more towels. I’m also not frantically getting a dryer installed.

My lesson from this: we survived. Without a lot of towels. Without a dryer.

A few years ago I would have used this as a reason to hit up Bed Bath & Beyond for dark towels or started pricing out dryers.

Today I’m comfortable knowing that these things rarely happen and I can’t plan for every eventuality.

That’s one of my lessons from downsizing and getting rid of closets worth of things that I worried I might need one day.

One day you might need them.

One day you might use them.

But if you want to live your life for One Day, you’ll miss a lot of Todays.

You’ll spend a lot of time preparing for the 3% of things that might happen instead of enjoying the 97% of things that do happen.

Any disaster scenarios you’ve given up preparing for? Besides earthquake, flood and fire of course.

6 Ways To Simplify Your Holiday Meal

For all you Americans preparing for Turkey-fest…

Have you ever had small crisped up sausages with your Christmas meal?

It was part of the spread growing up. Turkey, sausage stuffing, mashed turnip, brussel sprouts, potatoes (mashed and roasted), cranberry sauce, bread sauce, gravy and mini sausages. Can you tell my mum is Scottish? Lots of meat and root vegetables.

Dessert was a huge trifle with sponge and custard and canned mandarin segments immersed in red and green jello. The kids trifle love started and ended on Christmas day. After that the leftovers sat in the fridge and my mother made a valiant attempt to finish them as the jello hardened, the sponge got soggy and the whole thing turned to soup.

One year my mother made a serious announcement on Christmas Eve: she couldn’t find the small sausages. There would be no crispy mini sausages with the meal.

It was like she had announced Christmas had been cancelled.

We were all despondent at the idea of no cocktail sausages with the big meal. I was in my early 20’s at the time…

There is a lot of pressure on the big holiday meal. I know this and yet, I don’t want to miss Christmas day and be exhausted by the time we sit down to our meal because I was up at six in the morning stuffing a turkey.

So I’ve decided to set the bar a little lower for my family. A turkey and just a few side dishes. I’ll prepare one or two of the side dishes in advance and freeze them. And I’ll recruit my husband and son to help on the day.

I might even, GASP, used a prepackaged gravy.

If I don’t bake something in advance dessert will be whatever is left from the chocolate Santa brought.

I’m not losing my day of rest, connection and thankfulness to a complicated potato gratin or five vegetable side dishes.

Here are a few ideas for simplifying the holiday meal so you can spend less time in the kitchen and more time with your family.

6 Ways To Simplify Your Holiday Meal

1. Make fewer side dishes. Sure there is drama around the turkey, will it be ready in time and is it moist, but the piece that usually garnered the most stress and work in my family was the side dishes. If you can cut a few out it will save you time, fridge space and dishes.

2. Freeze/prepare in advance. Easier to thaw than to peel, slice, cook and mash on the day of. Anything that can be prepared in advance, even just chopping a few heads of broccoli, should be.

3. Recruit help. I tsk, tsk my younger self at how lazy I was on Christmas day. There was a lot of whining about helping out with the meal: shelling brussel sprouts, peeling potatoes and setting the table. My mother had to drag us away from our Christmas bounty of magazines, books and movies to get us to help.

Give people jobs before the big day so they know what is expected of them. Also helpful when you have a lot of helpers: make a schedule for when each person will use the kitchen to prepare their dish.

4. Make smaller quantities. Leftovers are a beautiful thing but so is a turkey that can be cooked in under four hours. Consider just making enough for that day’s meal to cut down on preparation and cooking time.

5. Ask people to bring or make side dishes. Many hands make light work as they say.

6. If you’re really tired of it all skip the big meal. Last year we were away and I knew we would be out of our rental apartment on Christmas Day. We had a nice festive brunch before we left and then I think it was curry for dinner. It was a different Christmas but I still felt festive and thankful. That’s what counts.

Anyone else have ideas for simplifying large holiday meals? Has anyone drastically changed their holiday meal menu to cut down on time spent in the kitchen?

Photo Credit: D Sharon Pruitt

Alone Together

Source: amzn.to via Rachel on Pinterest


Have you ever had your laptop slammed shut by a toddler?

My son did that to me a while back. I was writing an email to a friend and he came over and flipped the screen down. He wanted me to come and play with him and it was the easiest way for him to get my attention.

It worked.

I was thinking about the incident when I listened to this NPR interview with Sherry Turkel, the author of Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other.

Text message, email, Facebook and a constant feed of information from electronics is changing the way we parent, the way we operate as families and how our children develop. Much of it to our and their detriment.

What’s a parent to do with all of this growing data about the perils of technology?

Sherry has some good suggestions in her interview. Have a basket in the living room and dining room to hold electronic devices and designate screen and cell phone free hours. Make sure the dinner hour is one of them so you can have better face to face discussion.

That’s another thing Turkel has identified from her research: people are avoiding face to face communication because they feel they don’t have control over it. Unlike email and text message where there is time to compose an answer, an in-person discussion requires immediate responses. We’re losing the art of conversation and the learning from a hot discussion, because of email and text messaging.

Another change in how we parent now is that children are in constant communication with their parents.

Children are getting these phones earlier and earlier. These are years when children need to develop this capacity for solitude, this capacity to feel complete playing alone. If you don’t have a capacity for solitude, you will always be lonely, and my concern is that the tethered child never really feels that sense that they are sort of OK unto themselves; and I talk to college students who’ve grown up with the habit of being in touch with their parents five, 10, 15 times a day. And it’s no longer Huckleberry Finn as a model of adolescence, you know, sailing down the Mississippi alone — we’ve developed a model of adolescence and childhood where we sail down the Mississippi together with our families in tow. – Sherry Turkel

More for me to think about as Henry grows up.

While Sherry discussed her research on how technology is affecting how we parent, something I think about a lot, she also talked about how technology is affecting youth

… this sense of the Facebook identity as something that follows you all your life is something that many adolescents feel is a burden.     – Sherry Turkel

I’ve heard the term digital identity used before and my first reaction was, honestly, an eye roll.

Of course, it was writers and social media types talking about their own digital identity and branding and what not. The concept of a digital identity for my child, one that I was already creating and that they would take on as an adolescent (or younger) hadn’t been at the front of my mind.

But I’m sure thinking about it now.

If Facebook and digital photography had been around during my high school and college years I’d have a different digital identity.

They weren’t crazy years but I’m glad that my growing up wasn’t documented online. I experimented with outfits and Sun-In and music in the relative privacy of my circle of friends. And when I went away to university I was easily able to leave my high school angst behind. Something Turkel says teens can’t do these days. As one teen told Turkel, Facebook doesn’t allow them to ever have a fresh start.

Ameena is a blogger that recently posted about why she hasn’t shared a photo of her daughter’s face online. After she published this post several families that shared stories of their out of country pregnancy and birth experiences on Ameena’s blog have since asked her to change or take down the accompanying photo of their child from their story post.

I’m thinking more about Henry’s digital identity after reading these pieces.

Recently I decided not to share some things about his development and milestones when I thought about having it cached away here on a blog, waiting for him or his friends to discover it years from now. I’m also ruminating on Ameena’s post and thinking about only publicly sharing photos of him that don’t show his face. While I think the photos I have shared of him are things to be proud of – he’s a healthy child that smiles a lot – I think more will be kept private until he is ready to share them himself.

Finding more role models for technology lite family living.

I was searching for compostable and not too crafty decorations for our first live Christmas tree last week and came across Unplug Your Kids. This Montessori teacher and mother of three has been raising her children tech and screen lite from the beginning (they’re now 12, 10 and 6).

It was refreshing to read about how her children don’t mind, or ask why, they don’t have cable television or video games to play. The family has one computer in a high traffic area and the children are supervised whenever they use it. More about their model of unplugged kids here.

Unplug Your Kids is in a quiet season right now, the author has taken a new job and is pursuing more education, but there are a lot of great posts in the archive.

So, it can be done.

I think technology is wonderful.

The ability to see and hear family face to face while we are thousands of miles apart still excites me. When my husband can send me a text message telling me where he and my son have ended up on their morning adventure so that I can meet up with them, I am thankful. And I am grateful, so very grateful, for blogs. We wouldn’t have made so many life changes like paying off a huge amount of debt or getting rid of our car, if I hadn’t been encouraged and guided by the advice of writers I found online.

But as Uncle Ben told Spiderman, with greatness comes great responsibility. I am trying to use the greatness of technology wisely.

24 Clutter Free Advent Calendar Gift Ideas

I yearned for an advent calendar growing up. I thought they were the height of cool and reserved for the rich.

The calendars I envied? The cheap ones with a chocolate for each day.

The 80’s were a simpler time I guess.

Now parents blow up December with more gifts than their little ones can handle. Advent calendars are homemade affairs and individualized and there are additional presents to open each day and trips to Disneyland are revealed.

I love the idea of advent calendars but I wanted to do one that was less about something to unwrap and more about something to experience or celebrate.

I was also leery of my three year old having a chocolate for breakfast 24 days in a row. He doesn’t handle sugar well so it would inevitably be the beginning of a day of meltdowns.

With this in mind I’m making an advent calendar for Henry that is mostly clutter free. I’ll use a lot of notes about events or special activities, rather than gifts, to make it activity focused. My goals are to:

  • Make the ordinary special.
  • Celebrate traditions and create new ones.
  • Not spend on things we haven’t already planned for.

It would be a lot easier to hit up the dollar store and fill each day with a tiny gift. But small plastic soldiers and strawberry erasers kicking around my house is less appealing than putting a few hours into planning out and filling our mostly clutter-free advent calendar.

I have a feeling some of you would also prefer a bit of work to a pre-Christmas home already filled with cheap toys.

So here are some clutter free gift ideas from our advent calendar along with a few more I am keeping for years ahead.

A lot of these ideas are activities that you can describe with words and a picture/figure on a note. Use gift tags or make small cards out of gift wrap for an easy and frugal note option.

24 Clutter Free Advent Calendar Gift Ideas


  1. Christmas Trivia Game: take their mind off the gifts with a game of trivia. Prize for the winner: putting the ornament on the top of the tree or be acting Santa on Christmas Day. Here’s over 100 Christmas trivia questions.
  2. Chocolate: Not for every morning but a small chocolate at breakfast is a fun start to the day for adults or kids.
  3. School Holiday Concert: if you have children in school you probably have a holiday concert on the books. Mark the day with your advent calendar and ask your children to sing one of their songs over breakfast.
  4. Going Caroling/See Carolers/Sing Carols: If you’re a musical family hit the streets of your neighborhood with your voices. If you’re shy stay home and sing along to your favorites.
  5. Book Night: announce a reading of a holiday themed book. My favorite: The Polar Express. Can’t get through that one without crying.
  6. Movie Night: My favorite adult Christmas movies are White Christmas and Scrooged. This year I want to introduce Henry to the classic Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer. I remember begging to be able to stay up late to watch that movie on television. Oh the days before DVDs, streaming and digital video recorders!
  7. Holiday Lights Walk: announce an evening excursion to a neighborhood or park with a holiday lights display.
  8. Pick Out Your Christmas Tree: today is the day. Get your family excited that morning for tree selection. If you have older kids go over what species of trees will be available and see if they can identify them. Here is a guide to six common Christmas tree species.
  9. Holiday Lunch Day: make a packed lunch special with a theme or a treat. This idea for using a gingerbread cookie cutter on sandwiches is cute and not too time consuming.
  10. New Toothbrush Day: Not completely clutter free but hey, it’s good to squeeze a few health focused gifts into the month of December. New toothbrushes for the whole family! Schedule this gift after a chocolate day as a reminder about good oral hygiene.
  11. Tickets to an event: I already have tickets purchased for a Christmas Pantomime, the Salvation Army band concert and the Santa Train so you can bet I’ll be using those activities as the day’s advent gift. If you already have a full schedule of events don’t make up new ones for your calendar – just announce what’s already planned.
  12. Hang Special Ornaments: if you have a few special and loved tree ornaments keep them to hang as advent calendar activities.
  13. Write a Christmas Wish List: keep the writing space and time allotted brief. And no edits! Ask your children, and yourself, to include a few wishes for the coming year that aren’t physical presents. Ex. learn how to ride bike without training wheels, see relatives more frequently, etc.
  14. Hang Outdoor Lights: turn this ‘to-do’ activity into an event for the family. There should be applause and a lot of oohing and ahhing when the lights are turned on.
  15. Christmas Tree Trimming Day: don’t turn this into a chore that you complete once the kids are in bed. Ask all of them to help and be involved. Particularly with the untangling lights and sorting of ornaments. If given the time, even my three year old can do a decent job sorting red and gold ornaments into separate piles.
  16. Food Bank or Toy Drive donation: if your children have a toy or food bank drive at their school pair your advent activity with it. Otherwise turn a grocery shop into a chance to donate nonperishable food to your local food bank or a trip to the mall as an opportunity for your children to pick a toy for a child that wouldn’t have a Christmas otherwise.
  17. Holiday Baking: this could be as simple as having the family brainstorm a list of treats and breads they want to bake and as time and effort heavy as actually baking. If there is one special treat that you make every year ear mark it for this day. PS. My favorite all-purpose cookie dough recipe is this basic butter cookie dough that you can turn into a multitude of treats. It also freezes well in rolls so you can divide up the labor time. If you have allergies or don’t eat grains/dairy check out the gluten/dairy-free list of treats here.
  18. Book Morning: read a holiday themed book during breakfast. If you have children that can read ask them to read passages out loud.
  19. Goat or Flock of Chickens from Heifer International: start the conversation about charitable giving in the lead up to Christmas Day.
  20. Hot Chocolate Breakfast: this could be as simple as warming a mug of chocolate milk (soya, goat or cow’s) in the microwave.
  21. Get Ready For Santa: do a preemptive toy, book and clothing declutter session to make room for gifts. Donate any unwanted items.
  22. Meal by Candlelight: candles aren’t just for romance. They bring a festive spirit to a meal. Dim the lights and enjoy. As always, be safe with a lit flame.
  23. Random Act of Kindness: this could be for a stranger or family member. Have a few ideas ready and let the children think of more. It could be anything from taking the banana bread loaf you just baked to school for the teacher’s lounge or raking your neighbors leaves. Ideas and inspiration: a sweet list of 101 random acts of kindness and a wonderful post from a mom who had her children help her with a birthday celebration of random acts of kindness.
  24. Hang Mistletoe: and use it!

The in-hand gifts that will be included in our advent calendar: a few days of chocolate, some tiny Brio figures and a few ornaments for him to put on the tree.

More mostly clutter-free advent calendar ideas:

Anyone else have clutter free advent calendar gifts or rituals you can share with us?

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