[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.

🎁 🎁 🎁

Karis

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 45° weather was perfect!

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

Karis

Carlson Countdown to Christmas 2018: Dec 8-11

Carlson Countdown to Christmas 2018: Dec 8-11

The Christmas festivities have continued, but I was getting sick of posting every day [as I’m sure you all were as well].

Dec 8: Baking Christmas Cookies

On the 8th day of Christmas, the kids and I spent most of the day baking Christmas cookies for [spoiler alert] Brett’s work party that we were hosting the following day.

No Bakes:

The Grinch Crinkle Cookies:

Red Velvet Cheesecake Cookies:

Oreo Christmas Trees:

I had planned to do the standard cut out sugar cookies as well, but my feet hurt and I was tired after four hours, so we called it quits. [Hard to believe that two months ago I ran for four hours straight and now I can’t even stand in my kitchen for four hours…ahh, pregnant life.]

Dec 9: Christmas Party

On the 9th day of Christmas, we hosted Brett’s management team for a Christmas party. We spent most of the day cleaning [since I haven’t been doing much housework these days đŸ˜Ŧ] and prepping for dinner, but the kids were allowed to stay up extra late to meet the guests and join in part of the party.

Dec 10: Arthur Christmas Movie Night

On the 10th day of Christmas, the kids and I watched Arthur Christmas for our “Monday movie night.” We had popcorn and movie candy – which are rare treats in our home.

Dec 11: Anniversary / Christmas Crafts with Auntie Paula

On the 11th day of Christmas, Brett and I celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary by going to dinner and a movie. Our wonderful Auntie Paula came over to watch the kids and she brought Christmas crafts for them to do.

It’s been fun!

We are already prepping for tonight’s annual celebration! [More on that at a later date.]

Karis

Carlson Countdown to Christmas 2018: Dec 6

Carlson Countdown to Christmas 2018: Dec 6

Tonight we took the kids ice skating.

Well, only the older two skated, but JoElle and I had fun watching and hanging out in the warming shelter. 👍đŸģ

This is another one of our annual traditions and gets more enjoyable each year as the kids get older. However, it was really cold tonight and the kids can barely stand on their skates, let alone actually skate. So we only lasted about thirty minutes. But we still made fun memories.

That’s what it’s all about, right?

Afterwards, we always go to Noodles and Co to get warm cheesy noodles. [It’s the only way to bribe Brett into skating the kids around the whole time – way to take one for the team, babe!]

Good times!

⛸ ⛸ ⛸

Karis

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.

😋 😋 😋

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. ☚ī¸

And the kids are already talking about our exciting plans for tomorrow. Let’s hope the weather is nice!🤞đŸģ

Karis

Carlson Countdown to Christmas 2018: Dec 4

Carlson Countdown to Christmas 2018: Dec 4

Yesterday, while we were visiting Brett’s mall, we swung by a toy store to let the kids pick out toys to donate to the Salvation Army’s Toys for Kids campaign. And today, for our Christmas activity, we dropped them off at the collection bin outside Eva’s preschool.

[This is Theo, regretting his decision to give the toys away 😂.]

We do this every year with the kids…and it’s not easy for them to go into a toy store and leave without a toy for themselves. I just kept telling my kids, “You will get your gifts at Christmas and these toys are for other kids to open at Christmas, so you can all have something special Christmas morning.”

It might seem cruel, but it is so important to me that my kids don’t think of Christmas as just a day when they get gifts. I am constantly telling them that Christmas is just as much about spending time with family and friends and giving gifts to other people.

We have also been working very hard on patience with Evangeline, so she understands now that she has to be patient and wait for Christmas to get her gifts. And she and Theo both have such sweet spirits and they want to give toys to other children, so it went pretty well this year. I hope that in the future, my kids can embrace the spirit of giving and look forward to the time when they get to make some other child’s Christmas magical.

🎁 🎁 🎁

Karis

Carlson Countdown to Christmas 2018: Dec 2

Carlson Countdown to Christmas 2018: Dec 2

Today, the kids and I made Danish woven heart ornaments to send to their cousins and friends with their Christmas cards.

This past summer, I read a wonderful book called The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking.

[By the end of this short book, I had fallen in love with Scandinavian culture.]

In the book, I found this handy guide for making paper woven hearts, which is a Christmas tradition in Denmark:

I knew the moment I read about this simple and beautiful Danish tradition, that we would have to make them as one of our 25 Days of Christmas Activities.

They were tough for my 2 and 4-year-olds to do alone, but they did surprisingly well once they learned the pattern.

We made a bunch.

I’m sure they don’t look as good as the ones in Denmark, but I’m proud of our first attempt.

Then, to keep with the Danish theme, we baked Danish butter cookies to take to Brett’s work tomorrow – but between Brett and the kids, they won’t make it to tomorrow.

Karis