[Nearly] Zero Waste Christmas Gifts: how we gave mindful and meaningful gifts this year

[Nearly] Zero Waste Christmas Gifts: how we gave mindful and meaningful gifts this year

This entire year, I have been on a journey to become a more mindful consumer, a more generous giver, and a less wasteful person in general. [Besides that, I have also worked very hard to eliminate all of our extra “stuff.”]

So, when Christmas time came around this year, I knew that some things had to change about the way we do gifts for our kids and loved ones.

But – how?

How do we still show everyone how much we love them without giving them a bunch of “stuff”? And how do we make more conscientious purchasing decisions while still giving people things that they will appreciate? And how do I provide my kids with the fun of unwrapping gifts on Christmas morning without a lot of toys that will just end up cluttering our space?

I still don’t have perfect answers, and we didn’t do a perfect job [I should have asked these questions before Christmas to get some help from the blogging world], but we made an effort, which is the most important thing.

Here’s what we did:

Experience gifts for extended family. We gave all of our siblings and their families experience memberships [like to the local zoo for those with little kids] or gift cards to spend on an experience [like jump zone for those with older kids] or amazon/restaurant gift cards for family members without kids.

The nice thing about this type of gift is that it doesn’t even require anything to be physically exchanged [I actually texted the amazon gift cards to my siblings – thank you, 21st century!]. Can’t get much more zero waste than that. And [for the most part], the gift can be enjoyed many times throughout the year.

BUT, the downside is that there is no physical gift to open.

Used toys for our kids. If we are going to have toys to open on Christmas, I felt like we should get them used [as much as we are able]. My kids are young enough to not care at all if a gift is new or not. [Hopefully, they will never care, but that is probably wishful thinking.] We bought an AMAZING wooden train set complete with a table and rails and trains and cars [probably 100+ pieces] for $35 from a family that no longer used it. And we got an art easel from friends who were getting rid of theirs and graciously gave it to us for free. These are types of things that last for years and can be loved by many children – and are plastic-free!

That being said, we did purchase new consumables for the art easel like markers and paint and notepads and things like that. Some things cannot be purchased used. I probably didn’t put enough thought into getting these things from responsible sources [or making my own]. I know I can improve in that area in the future.

Consumable gifts from the family. Anyone who asked what to get our kids, I suggested consumables like art and craft supplies, coloring books, temporary tattoos, bandaids, or gift cards for ice cream. This really helped cut down on the toys they received and this way everything will be used. We received ornaments from two families which the kids loved. Some were homemade which were adorable and meaningful and some were supporting international orphans – also very meaningful to us.

Homemade, meaningful, or consumable gifts for others. We made chocolate pretzels for our neighbors. We gave chocolates and amazon gift cards to Evangeline’s preschool teachers. We made ornaments for our aunts/cousins.

Our Auntie Paula, who does so much for our family, got a special homemade ornament: three hearts [one for each of my kids] hanging from a moon that said “Love you to the moon” – the special saying she shares with my kids. It might have been small and not cost us anything, but sometimes something special and made with love is the best gift.

Any other ideas/suggestions? I know there are other ways to give mindfully and meaningfully. If anyone has ideas to share, let me know so I can continue to improve in this area.

We love giving to our friends and family – but now I feel the pressure to purchase from responsible sources and not burden the recipients with stuff they don’t need. It is a strange balancing act that I am new [and not very good] at.

Overall, we stayed within budget and [hopefully] made everyone feel loved and appreciated this holiday season.

🎁 🎁 🎁


Carlson Countdown to Christmas 2018: Dec 16-21

Carlson Countdown to Christmas 2018: Dec 16-21

This week has been busy…

Dec 16: Chocolate Pretzels for Neighbors

We decorated pretzel rods with chocolate using holiday themed molds.

Dec 17: Delivered Gifts to Neighbors

I wrapped up the pretzel rods and the kids and I distributed them to our closest neighbors [we don’t have many because we live in the woods].

Dec 18: Drive to see holiday light displays

I took the kids to see two residential light shows in our area.

Some of these people really go all out!

Dec 19: Puffy Paint snowmen

I mixed puffy paint using glue and shaving cream. The kids painted snowmen.

They turned out cute.

Theo’s is more like a melted snowman, which I think is awesome.

We also made snowmen cards for Eva’s preschool teachers. [I painted the snowmen and Evangeline added the accessories.]

Dec 20: Evangeline’s preschool holiday program

The class had prepared a short program with some holiday songs and rhymes. Evangeline did great, and any fears about her getting stage fright are long gone.

She gave us a gift that she has made in class and she and Brett did a craft together while I fed crackers and cheese to Theo and Josephine.

She also gave her gifts to her teachers.

I’m glad we were all able to attend the event. It’s only preschool – but it’s so special to Evangeline. And it was so darn cute!

Dec 21: Gingerbread houses with Auntie Paula

This year, all the cousins [who are local] got together to decorate gingerbread houses with Auntie Paula.

It was messy. It was chaotic. A LOT of candy was consumed, but a surprising amount also made it onto the houses.

This annual tradition is one of my favorites! Our Auntie Paula is just the greatest!

🍬 🍬 🍬

Only three days left before Christmas!!!!


Carlson Countdown to Christmas 2018: Dec 12-15

Carlson Countdown to Christmas 2018: Dec 12-15

The Christmas fun continues!

Dec 12: Daisy’s 3rd Birthday Party

We don’t actually know Daisy’s birthday, but we picked her up two years ago on December 12th so I selected that as her unofficial birthday. Each year, we throw her a birthday party as part of our 25 Days of Christmas.

The kids helped me make her cake this year.

She always gets a homemade cake – which she devours in a matter of seconds.

We get cake too, of course.

Daisy is a good dog and we love her. She puts up with a lot, so she deserves some special treatment every once in a while.

Dec 13: Homemade Hot Cocoa

One of my favorite things about the cold weather is hot cocoa! And it’s so easy to make that I always make it myself [plus, I wouldn’t think of buying the boxes of individual hot chocolate packets].

We don’t typically make hot cocoa with all the extras – but this time we had marshmallows, chocolate chips, homemade whipped cream, and peppermint sticks.

Delicious! Especially being pregnant with no wine and limited coffee – I’m drinking plenty of hot chocolate this holiday season.

Dec 14: Sugar Cookie Cutouts

Yesterday, the kids and I made Christmas sugar cookies.

Dec 15: Santa and Carriage Ride

Today we went to Geneva and visited Santa.

Then we took a carriage ride through downtown.

The beautiful, sunny 45Β° weather was perfect!

I’m not certain what we’re doing tomorrow, but I’m looking forward to another warm day!


Carlson Countdown to Christmas 2018: Dec 7

Carlson Countdown to Christmas 2018: Dec 7

Tonight we went to the annual Geneva Christmas Walk.

It was SO COLD!

But this event only comes one night a year…and it is tradition!

[I’m usually not a fan of doing anything purely for the sake of tradition – but I suppose the Christmas season is an exception.]

So we bundled up the kids….

[And I mean bundled. Jo could barely move under all the layers.]

…and we headed to downtown Geneva to do the Christmas Walk thing – which is really just an excuse for most people to shop at the local shops and eat at the local restaurants. We don’t do any shopping though. We wade through the sea of people to countdown to the lighting of the big tree in front of city hall and we stand in unbelievably long lines for half an ounce of melted chocolate and a piece of freshly pulled candy cane.

For those three small things, it took one hour and forty five minutes.


We must be insane. This is what Christmas does to us.

But it was cool to watch them make candy canes in the Graham’s shop window and to eat them just after they were made – still warm!

And there were carolers on the street corners, and a living nativity, and Christmas lights on the trees, and Christmas music being blasted in the streets… all good Christmas cheer type of stuff that I love.

Last year, we waited forever to take the kids to see Santa, but after a potty emergency and all of us losing feeling in our faces and all of our digits, we decided to skip Santa this year and hightail it outta there! [We literally ran most of the way back to the car.]

I think next year we’re going to skip it unless it’s above 20Β°…maybe 30Β°.

Brrrr…I’m going to go sit by the fire and try to thaw…



Carlson Countdown to Christmas 2018: Dec 5

Carlson Countdown to Christmas 2018: Dec 5

On a typical morning in our home, the kids have two options for breakfast: oatmeal or eggs. And the kids and I always choose oatmeal.

[What? It’s a super healthy breakfast!]

So you can imagine their excitement when we have Christmas tree waffles!

They were so excited that they fell asleep talking about it last night and woke up a full hour earlier than usual, begging for me to get up and make breakfast.

These waffles are a refined sugar rush complete with m&m’s, powdered sugar, AND syrup.

I have been known to make pancakes every once in a while and even bake cinnamon sugar donuts for breakfast on rare occasions [usually when we are out of oats], but Christmas tree waffles only come around once a year.

πŸ˜‹ πŸ˜‹ πŸ˜‹

Today we also cut out paper snowflakes to hang on our windows.

They did really well considering Theo has never used scissors before in his life and I didn’t give either one of them a pattern of any kind. I just handed them the folded paper and let them go nuts.

I’m going to spray them with a glitter spray I have laying around and then hang them on the sliding door. [Now that we’ve finally taken down the gratitude tree, the door is looking very bare.] The snowflakes are perfect timing since the snow outside has all melted. ☹️

And the kids are already talking about our exciting plans for tomorrow. Let’s hope the weather is nice!🀞🏻


Carlson Countdown to Christmas 2018: Dec 3

Carlson Countdown to Christmas 2018: Dec 3

Today the kids and I went to Brett’s store to decorate his office and the back room for the holidays. It wasn’t exactly easy to make the place look festive, with big racks of clothes and employee lockers as a backdrop, but we did our best.

The kids put ornaments on two small trees and we strung a few strands of lights and hung a big wreath.

The real excitement was just visiting daddy at work. The kids were so excited, they woke up talking about it and cried when we had to leave. [And we actually visit his work pretty frequently.]

This was the first time JoElle has been to his store since she started walking. She LOVED exploring and just tottered back and forth down the hallway the whole time.

β™₯️ β™₯️ β™₯️