Tuesday, January 05, 2016

How to Make a Christmas notebook, part 2

Again, this is not my complete Christmas notebook.  I do keep track of our Christmases in this one in a very general way, but the  other notebook contains the bulk of the information. 
As promised, today I will finish my post on making a Christmas notebook.  If you don't have one, you might like to give it some thought.  It may not completely revolutionize your Christmases, but I have found that it sure does simplify things!

The following is a description of the next few pages in my notebook.  I guess you might call them crafting and gift inspiration pages, for lack of a better term.
In New England, we have a chain of stores called Christmas Tree Shops. They offer a lot of unique gifts (and yes, some junk too) at very reasonable prices. They tend to offer some of the same items -- maybe in different patterns -- every year. Things like glass cutting boards, ceramic loaf pans and pie plates, all in pretty, colorful designs -- items that make wonderful additions to, or containers for,  gift baskets. They also have beautiful, rich-looking  paper napkins for Christmas (imported from Italy) for only $1 or $2 -- I love to tuck a package of these in with a kitchen gift. Anyway, all that to say that in my Christmas notebook I have several page protectors filled with ideas I've clipped from Christmas Tree Shop flyers and pasted to construction paper.

Following these, I have a bunch more page protectors similarly filled with ideas I've clipped from catalogs over the years. These are ideas for Christmas gifts and decorations, most of them things I would like to make myself. If I take the time to page through these ideas, I never fail to be inspired by them. I've actually used some of the ideas!

One of my inspiration pages
Case in point: Rice Krispie Pops -- squares of Rice Krispies™ treats on popsicle sticks, dipped in white chocolate, decorated with an icing Christmas tree, all wrapped in a clear wrapper secured by a plaid bow. How hard is that? Not hard at all. Great stocking stuffers, small gifts for kids, or a neat little add-in to a gift basket.

Another idea was a set of wood or papier mache Shaker boxes, painted to look like a snowman wearing a top hat, with a strip of plaid flannel for a scarf and a couple of buttons adorning the bottom box. I found a tree ornament that looked just like a set of Shaker boxes and painted it the same way. 

An adorable, one-of-a-kind ornament!
Another idea: a basket of pine cone fire starters. I made my own that looked just like the ones in the catalog by collecting my own pine cones (heat them in the oven to dry them out and kill any insects). I colored melted paraffin red and green with broken crayons, poured this into muffin tins about 1/4 full, and stuck a pine cone in each one. When the wax hardened, I just popped out the fire starters. A basket of these, tied with a ribbon, costs close to $20 in a catalog and is practically free when you make your own. These make a great gift for people who have a fireplace or people who like to go camping.

The idea pages go on and on. I have gotten some wonderful gift and decoration ideas this way.

A manila divider with lists and patterns tucked in for my embroidery and cross stitch category
The next part of my Christmas notebook is all about Christmas crafting.  It uses an idea I got from someone on the craft forum at Organized Christmas about ten years ago.   I tweaked it a bit, I think, to make it work better for me; I'm not sure I completely understood what the poster had in mind. But the way I've done this works well for me.

Basically, I took a look at the different things I wanted to craft for Christmas gifts and decorations. I then divided these up into categories based on what type of craft technique they involved. Of course these categories will vary depending on what sort of crafts you like to do.

The five categories I came up with were : Sewing; Crochet; Embroidery/Cross-Stitch; Paper/Printables; and Miscellaneous.

For each category, I used one of those manila divider pages that has a pocket in it. I placed an index tab on each one with the name of the craft technique in it. Then, in the pocket of each divider, I placed the printed instructions for each craft item in that category. For example, I wanted to make my husband a new checkbook cover for a stocking stuffer  so I had the instructions for this project safely stowed in the divider for the Sewing category. (Obviously, this won't work if your instructions are part of a book or magazine, but read on.)

Also in each category, in addition to the divider, I have a number of sheets of lined paper where I've outlined just what projects I want to do in that category; how many of each; materials required, and what date I'd like to be finished by. On this lined paper I would also add the information as to where to find the instructions if they are part of a book or magazine and not conducive to placing in the divider page.

For example, in the sewing category (I'll use a previous year's list as an example), I have:

10 -12 foldable fabric baskets
Materials - Christmas fabric, plastic canvas, thread, ribbon

Finish by: June 25

5 fleece pillow quilts
Materials needed for each - 2 1/2 yds. fleece, pearl cotton to match

Finish by: October 25

In both cases the instructions were such that they'd fit into the divider pocket. But if they weren't, I'd add a line that says something like this:

Gooseberry Patch Christmas Book 1, page 25


Crafting Traditions magazine, Dec. 1995, page 20

or whatever your book or magazine is.

For me, this has been a great way to organize my Christmas crafting. Hope it's helpful to someone else!

Now, for the last "official" part of my Christmas notebook.
This last section is labeled Christmas Past. Here is where I file things from past Christmases.

I have lists of what we gave people for Christmas, going back to Christmas 2001, which is when I started trying to be more organized about the holiday. It's been a real help to me to save these lists, because I find I will often have the same gift idea for the same person and would otherwise not be able to remember whether I actually gave them that gift or not. I can look back at my lists and know for sure.

These lists also include what we gave to people whose names we drew in our Sunday School gift exchange.

I even include on these lists a notation as to what food gifts I shared with our neighbors each year, and if any of those were particular favorites with the recipients.

Also in this "Christmas Past" section are lists detailing any entertaining we did, starting with Thanksgiving dinner and going through cookie exchanges, open houses, Christmas Eve, Christmas dinner, etc. etc. It is really helpful to look back and see what we served, or, in the case of Thanksgiving, who brought what, etc. For the big occasions, I also keep a list of what serving dishes I will need.

Organized Christmas has a printable After-Christmas debriefing form which is very helpful. Each year after Christmas, take a quick look back at what worked, what didn't, and how you can improve in your planning for the coming year. I keep my debriefing forms in the Christmas Past section too, very appropriately.

Technically this ends my Christmas notebook, but I have a few items stuffed into the front and back pockets of the notebook. 
The back pocket is easy. That's where I store my menus from past Thanksgivings -- the meal plan, who brought what, etc. I also keep a list of what serving dishes and utensils I typically need for Thanksgiving dinner.

The front pocket of the notebook is quite a bit more of a mess. I've tucked in several pretty Christmas pictures (from catalogs, etc.) that I thought inspiring. (But now I have a better place to put them -- my scrapbook-type journal!) There's a Christmas card or two in there that I hope to frame. There are lists and ideas that just don't seem to fit anywhere else -- but as I look these over now, I realize that they could fit into other places in the notebook if I really think about it. I'll be working on that and I may add a new divider for Christmas hospitality.  Some examples of items in the pocket are lists of open-house appetizers and desserts, and a couple lists of homemade mixes I've given to our parents for Christmas. There are centerpiece ideas, a holiday shipping/mailing guide from the US Postal Service, a clipping detailing how to host a cookie exchange -- even a list of gift ideas for myself, because people sometimes ask and I seldom can think of anything quickly. 

Finishing up the description of my Christmas notebook has been a great thing to do today, because it has given me new enthusiasm to get the notebook reorganized and set for a new holiday season!  So I'll quickly share just what I do right after Christmas and will hopefully be doing this week:

Apologies for the shadowy photo, but you get the idea.
I like to take a fresh sheet of Christmas-themed computer paper (always on clearance, at least at Walmart, this time of year) and list down everything that we gave for Christmas gifts.  Of course, I had already made a list, but some things changed with the actual gift-giving:   I couldn't find a particular gift, I changed my mind, etc. etc.  I started the list in January 2015 and by the time Christmas came around, my list had been scribbled on, crossed out, and so on.  So that there will be no confusion next year and I don't give someone a duplicate book, game, or whatever, I make a nice, neat list of what we actually gave.  Then I tuck it in the "Christmas Past" section at the back of my notebook.

Then I take a fresh piece of lined notebook paper and start a new list for the coming Christmas.  Some things stay the same, pretty much.  For instance, we always give my mother-in-law a tub of bran muffin batter, a jar of hot chocolate mix (both homemade) and a bag or box of clementines.  So that is already on 2016's Christmas list next to her name. 

Some gifts, like a science center membership for one family, a gift card for another, etc.  will be the same again next year, so I make sure to write those down.

I have already purchased a couple of items for next Christmas, so I'll make note of that.

Another thing I like to do is to look over my crafting time lines and add in new projects I want to start and note whether I need to buy materials for them.  This year, I only have a couple of  handcrafted projects in mind so far.

I also like to note any new recipes we tried and how we liked them.  And I make a note of any new decorations we added, where we put them, etc.

It's a great feeling to start with next year's Christmas planning.  Why not brew yourself a cup of holiday tea and get started?  You'll be glad you did!  

(Again today, I am sharing with No Place Like Home at Rose Chintz Cottage.) 


  1. The more you talk about it, the more I like it! Another thing I always wonder about is what Christmas card I used. Ha! Birthday gifts are another thing I fret over... Thanks for all the info. I'll have to look for a tutorial on the bread baskets.

  2. I hear you on the Christmas cards! This year I played it absolutely safe and used all new ones that I had bought on clearance this summer. The cards I had used in the past never even made it out of the attic!

    You'll find a link to a tutorial of sorts for the foldable bread baskets in December 11's post on "small projects for your Christmas fabric stash, part 1". In that post, the link is directly above the picture of the foldable basket.

    Glad you're finding these posts useful. I need to work on my Christmas notebook this week if I can only find the time.

  3. I'm started. 2016 will be the year of the pillowcase :)
    By the way, the Christmas Tea from the Yankee Swap this year was very yummy. It reminds me a lot of the "Constant Comment" tea I like so well. Yum. With my new job and new hours maybe we'll have a chance to sit down once in a while over a cup of tea.

    See ya tomorrow.


  4. The year of the pillowcase! Sounds fun! Last year was the year of the pillow quilts with the grandkids. A few years back I had the year of the pillowcase, and then later the year of the pillowcase grocery totes. I do like the idea of choosing one item and making many that you personalize to fit the recipient's tastes. This past year's gifts were all over the map.

    Yes, isn't that tea good!? It reminds me of Constant Comment too. I received some for Christmas a few years ago and so when I saw it again (at Ocean State Job Lot) I snatched up a box for gifting. Glad you're enjoying it. Oh, yes -- won't that be nice when you have those different hours? Maybe we *can* get together for tea, or tea and crafting!

  5. Mrs. T, you have shared so many wonderful tips and ideas here. I must start putting some into action as it would help a great deal when next Christmas comes around. Thank you so much for taking the time to post this for all of us. I hope it will inspire others. Happy New Year, my friend!


  6. Oh, and that tea sounds positively lovely. Can't find it here though.

  7. Sandi, I would have thought Twining's tea would be available in Canada! That's too bad. I wonder about ordering it on Amazon? Think they have it.

    Hope you and others do find these hints useable and helpful. They surely have made a difference for me. I need to find time to update my notebook, hopefully this week. Happy New Year to you, also!

  8. Hi Mrs T, love seeing all your ideas for a Christmas notebook. Even just after Christmas I'm happy to prepare better for next year! By the way, have you chosen your "word" for 2016?


  9. I'm glad you enjoyed the posts, Pinksparkle!!! I am so happy to see you here! Today I attended the organizational meeting for a "Christmas Club" that is being started at a local library. One works toward preparing for Christmas 11 months of the year, and then when December comes around one just enjoys the season because everything is all ready! I've tried to do that on my own for years but it just doesn't work out that well. So I'm hoping the group effort will really help me to make it work this year. Mr. T has decreed that all handmade gifts must be finished by December 1, so this should help with that!

    As for a word for 2016, I have a few possibilities (one being a repeat of "renewal" because I still need it!), but I haven't chosen a word yet. How about you?

  10. How lovely to share with a group Christmas preparation and organisation! Hope this works well for you. I find it hard in the UK to get christmas themed computer paper. Still stickers work well and rubber stamps.
    My word for 2016 is either discipline or obedience. For studying the Bible and journaling in my prayer journal.
    I look forward to your postings in 2016! Many thanks.

  11. Yes, I hope it will be lovely and will work well to share this Christmas preparation and organization with a group. There were three of us at the organizational meeting and the next meeting is planned for Feb. 19, having been announced on Facebook -- and I imagine there will be posters put up at the library as well. It's hard to know just how well something like this will be received, but it's worth a try and will be helpful to me, I'm sure. I'm to bring a small simple craft project to do with the participants at the next meeting. It's going to be VERY simple indeed!

    I've finally chosen a word for 2016 and will try to post about it tomorrow. It is faithfulness. Mostly thinking of the faithfulness of God in all of life's circumstances, but I am also thinking of the need for me to be faithful in the things God has given me to do and the things He would have me to do.

    Your word sounds like a good one! Keep me posted how you are doing with your prayer journaling and Bible study -- I would love to hear!

  12. I am absolutely invigorated to do more work in my planner now! Thank you so much for sharing how you use your planner.

  13. You are welcome, Mrs. Smith! I am so happy you've found some inspiration to do more work in your own planner. Have fun! I need to update mine before the next meeting at the library.


Thanks so much for stopping by to visit my kitchen table! I love company here in my kitchen, so be sure to leave a comment so I'll know you've visited! I'll answer your questions and comments here on the blog unless you request otherwise.