" That I am here afore thy sight, For gifts and grace;
A burning and a shining light
To a' this place."
---Robert Burns
  • Warm up to autumn. Once the first cold snap sends you to the cedar trunk to embrace the warm woolen blankets, you will know that the time has arrived to seasonally adjust your home.

  • Add warm layers to sofas and chairs by way of paisley or plaid throws; add attractive runners to visually warm tabletops; and layer hooked or Oriental style rugs on the wooden floors.

  • Now is the time to store your summery china and glasswares and replace them with the holiday stoneware or china you have collected throughout the year.

  • Slipcover your down comforter in a warming cotton flannel, and add colorful panels of fabric to the windows, over your sheers.

  • Remember to rearrange your furniture away from drafts and cold window areas, drawing the sofa or table up to the hearth. Now is also the season in which to stack the books you've been meaning to read on the coffee or side table. If you like, cluster your easy chairs around the dining room table, and/or pull a small side table in front of the hearth for cozy games of chess or cribbage, or perhaps a small supper in front of a gently warming blaze.

  • Cluster candles on a plant stand or stack in a fireplace to add visual warmth to a room. Place small votive candles in salvaged martini glasses all around your kitchen (add a bit of water to the bottom so the glass won't crack). This seems to dispel unwanted cooking odors. (And, of course, always keep lit candles out of reach of little hands.)

  • Borrow from nature and gather bouquets of fall leaves, and fill wooden bowls with pinecones, colorful gourds, Indian corn, or a combination of all of these.


Excerpt from: Frugal Luxuries by the Seasons, Bantam Books, NY, 2000.



Label Your Own . . .

"That is best which is capable of producing the greatest degree of happiness."
--George Mason

Just as each of us has chosen our own unique style of living on a day-to-day basis, we may also choose the degree of celebrating Christmas from season to season. Freedom can be found in the fact that each year need not mirror the last. Your choices may reflect your current attitude, your financial situation, or both. Regardless of the circumstances that guide your decision, the realization that YOU HOLD THE POWER to choose how you will celebrate the holidays will free you from the frenzied pace that tends to hover over most of us this time of year.
I've experienced lavish holidays during which I decorated each nook and cranny of our home. The fresh evergreen wreaths, that embellished nearly every window of our house, were peppered with fresh red roses (set in small water-filled florist' vials). Each gift was a carefully thought out, sought out, and accomplished masterpiece. Perfectly packaged and ceremoniously delivered. I happily (and voluntarily ) expended tremendous amounts of energy (not to mention money) to celebrate every facet of the holiday season in a detailed fashion.

That being said, what are we, as Shakespeare reminds us, if not human ? Other years present larger than usual limitations on what we can accomplish, such as restraints on time, energy, enthusiasm, or finances. But even during less lavish celebrations I continue to moderately decorate the house and give gifts. However, the decorations are few and well chosen, the gifts tend more toward the practical (think gift certificates, cash, or hurriedly ordered items from online) and humbly packaged. There have even been years in which, foregoing my semi-perfectionism, I succumbed to the pleas of my young children to let them help wrap. Their small hands jubilantly performed this task (so dreaded by me, at the time) and the results were charmingly imperfect.

Do you wish to celebrate more simply this year? If so, it's perfectly permissible to say to your family "This Christmas we will be doing things a bit different from last season." (Or your own variation thereof.) Once this announcement has been made -- and the kids reassured that you aren't identifying too strongly with Ebenezer Scrooge-- you may feel that a tremendous pressure has been lifted from you. Consequently, you might discover that you have a renewed joy in the seasonal tasks that you are performing. Why? Possibly because you do not feel quite so obligated to perform them. (There's that free will aspect again.)

The material things of this world, when used properly, are good. Yet, there is a time for temperance and a time for luxury (and a time to blend the two). Most of us bow to family or cultural pressures, forgetting that we have the power, and the responsibility, to choose the degree of celebration that is right for us and our families — at this particular season of life. Keep in mind, however, that lifestyles, attitudes, and circumstances can change over time. Declare this to your family and yourself so that you may peacefully, without remorse, alternate your celebrating style from one year to the next, whatever degree it may be. The choice is yours.




The following is an excerpt from the book, Frugal Luxuries by the Seasons: Celebrate Holidays With Elegance and Simplicity—On Any Income, Bantam Books, NY, 2000.


“The only thing we have is what we give away.”
—Louis Ginsberg

The Gift Pantry feature (along with the [Holiday Notebook]….may become your most valuable tool for celebrating each phase of the year in a joyous, creative, and simple fashion. For those of you not familiar with the concept, a Gift Pantry™ is a collection of gifts and packaging material—homemade, home-grown, and/or purchased—kept readily available for future use. By stocking a Gift Pantry year round you may discover, as I have, that you will save time as well as money. Most important, a Gift Pantry greatly contributes to your peace of mind. Allowing you to relax and enjoy the festivals of the season.




Th Joy of List Making

Lists are an invaluable tool for staying focused. In this information age our memories are on overload much of the time. Thus, the idea of allowing paper to carry the burden of remembering and organizing the season's myriad tasks is enticing. If you're at all like me your HOLIDAY NOTEBOOK will probably include the following:
A MASTER GIFT LIST. Write down every person you wish to include in your holiday gift giving. Next to each name, indicate how much you want to spend on the gift; whether you plan to buy or make the gift; as well as several ideas you have for that person (don't forget stocking stuffers and token, i.e., small, gifts). Remember to include the mail delivery person, trash collectors, teachers, neighbors, and business associates. If necessary, add a reminder for gifts that must be mailed in advance--include a "mail-by" date to ensure they get delivered on time.
CREATE A SEPARATE PAGE FOR EACH PERSON on your list who will be receiving more than one or two gifts. Allow enough space on each page for an ACQUIRED column. You will use this to record gifts once they've been purchased or created. This is especially useful to parents with several children to buy for, as well for monitoring Internet purchases. Don't forget to record the date you ordered them so you can keep track of their arrival. When recording an item in the ACQUIRED column, remember to write down the price you paid.
ESTABLISH SEVERAL PAGES TO LIST HOLIDAY DECORATING TASKS. This includes buying and trimming the tree, writing and mailing greeting cards; wrapping gifts; putting up outdoor decorations and the like. You may also wish to include projected completion dates next to each listed task.
CREATE PAGES TO RECORD HOLIDAY BAKING PROJECTS AND RECIPES. Include home baked gifts you'll be making, as well as goodies for parties you plan to attend (homemade goodies are lovely hostess gifts) or host. Remember to include foods you plan to serve during the holidays, such as pies and breakfast breads, even the turkey, potatoes, stuffing and vegetables. Hint: Be sure to include the cost of your baking supplies when deciding your full holiday budget (mentioned in yesterday's post).
CREATE AN ACTION PAGE for each week leading up to your final completion date. This is determined by your start and finish dates. For example: If you begin planning on October 3rd, and your final deadline is December 4th, you'll have nine weeks in which to accomplish your goals. Consequently, you'll have nine ACTION pages (one for each week).
EACH WEEK, CHOOSE ONE (OR MORE) GIFTS FROM YOUR LIST AND BUY THEM. Your budget and timeline will determine how many or how few. Remember to wrap, label, and discretely tuck aside your gifts each week. When our children were small we used those very large, black garbage bags to house the gifts. We hid most of them in the rafters of the garage. Just don't forget where you put them!!
FINALLY, INCLUDE A PAGE TO LIST NAMES OF CHARITIES YOU LIKE TO ASSIST, along with their web address, phone number and the like. I can't think of a better way to cultivate the soul of the season than to give the gift of caring ~ in the form of time, money, and/or labor. Think about helping out at your local soup kitchen or shelter during the busy holiday season. Hint: In a culture of entitlement, this is an especially valuable lesson for older children and teens who don't realize how blessed they are. I can think of no better experience than to include them in your charitable activities. Seeing how tough life can be for those less fortunate offers a valuable gift of perspective at a young age.
Relax and Create the Magic

Once you've allowed your HOLIDAY NOTEBOOK to bear the burden of remembering and organizing for you, you'll enjoy them so much more. There is a magic in list making. The simple act of writing out your potential accomplishments sends an unconscious message to the central nervous system. Consequently, you will often find yourself doing the very tasks you've wanted done.
Remember to relax. You needn't fret if you're unable to accomplish or afford every task and item in your HOLIDAY NOTEBOOK. If the decorations aren't perfect, and the children don't have matching outfits, the world won't come to an end. Your family and friends aren't nearly as likely to remember such details. What they WILL remember is whether you were in a good mood or a bad mood.



This is the first in an ongoing series of posts offering
frugal ways to simplify your holidays.
Adopt a Holiday Notebook
What is a holiday notebook? It's any small organizer; sturdy note pad (with cover); or even a smallish spiral binder. The only criteria is that it ... A) be devoted exclusively to this year's holiday season and ... B) it must be small enough to fit inside your purse. You will be taking this with you everywhere.
Establish a Holiday Budget
Before any serious shopping begins, establish a budget for holiday spending. Give serious and realistic thought to exactly how much money, in total, you are able to spend this holiday season--without melting the plastic and creating a financial hangover in the new year. Include entertaining expenses, baking supplies, decorations that you will need to purchase, as well as the cost of your gifts. Remember to track your spending as you implement your plan. Set up several pages of your holiday notebook to record the spending (leave yourself plenty of room for future entries). Hint: Tape or staple a small manila envelope to the inside of your Holiday Notebook. Use this to hold gift receipts for those inevitable returns, as well as any warranties, or rebate information that correspond to the gifts you'll be purchasing.
To Be Continued....



Offers Abundant Help for Simplifying the Holidays!

With the holidays looming in this budget-crunched economy, we'd like to extend our help, along with our sister blog Frugal Luxuries. You can depend on our sites to offer generous secrets for enjoying the season, regardless of the size of your bank account.
We will be pulling time-honored ideas directly from our second book,
Frugal Luxuries by the Seasons: Celebrate the Holidays With Elegance and Simplicity ~ On Any Income. Written by Tracey McBride, published by Bantam Books, NY, November 2000. As well, we'll be offering a plethora of FRESH insights for celebrating a frugally luxurious holiday! Feel free to check in from time-to-time as we create a Gift Pantry tm; Simplify the Holidays tm; and conjure Winter Home Graces tm, without spending a fortune. All the while (as our book states) "keeping our focus on what matters most...our time, our loved ones, and our inner sense of prosperity."
Tracey and Family