Welcome to the December edition of the Simply Living Blog Carnival - Gift Giving cohosted by Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children and Laura at Authentic Parenting. This month, we write about what taking sthe stress out of gift giving.
There can be a lot of green-guilt around gift giving. Nothing brings down the holiday spirit like wondering: "How can I tell my friends and family that we honestly don't need any more cheap, plastic toys filling up our play room, threatening to take over the house..." I don't want to spoil the joy of giving a gift, so I've hinted at ideas that won't take any more space in our house.

Our holiday wish list is filled with non-plastic, non-toy items. Gifts like museum or zoo memberships give experiences that we can enjoy all year long (longer than the average toy lifespan in our household) - and special memories that we cherish for a lifetime. I've been pushing for a new birthday tradition in our house of doing something special instead of giving something special.

This year my family gave my daughter and I a one year membership to the local children's museum. I am so excited to spend the whole year exploring! I usually give my mom a gift certificate for a massage for holidays or when money is tight, I just give her a massage myself. My massages might not be spa-worthy, but I like to return the favor for all those nights she massaged my back when I was growing up. 

For those gifts that come in a box, wrapped with a bow, I have tried to get creative with our gift wrapping ways. Gift wrapping has been my most wasteful holiday habits that I've been trying do away with. Every Christmas morning I imagine all the trees that went into producing that beautiful multicolor gift wrap as I see it getting torn up in a matter of moments and thrown in the trash... I just cring.

But I've found some great simple alternatives to traditional wrapping: 
1. Use newspaper as gift wrap - trust me, it looks cooler than you think (just check out my Pinterest if you don't believe me yet),
2. invest in some reusable gift bags for family gifts
3. don't wrap presents from "Santa" at all... Display gifts on Christmas morning in their full glory sans wrapping paper. 
Bonus: A small Pinterest board with great green gift wrapping ideas!
Thank you for visiting the Simply Living Blog Carnival cohosted by Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children and Laura at Authentic Parenting. Read about how others are simplifying gift giving. Check back to see what we have in store for 2014!
  • Keeping Gifts Simple - JW at True Confessions of a Real Mommy shares a few simple ways to limit gift giving and keep your holiday about the thought over the thing..
  • The Mindful Holiday Giving Guide - How many times have you carefully chosen a present for someone and find you missed the mark? Zoie at TouchstoneZ identifies key ways to give mindful holiday gifts that will be truly appreciated.
  • Giving Gifts that Keep Giving - At Living Peacefully with Children, Mandy shares ideas to help gift givers think outside the (gift) box with gifts that keep on giving.
  • Greening the Giving Spirit - Momma Giraffe at Little Green Giraffe writes more eco-friendly Christmas wish-list for her family this year - passing on plastic and gift wrap and saying yes to memories, moments and experience.
  • No Toys? : Giving Our Children Gifts that Make Memories - This year, Jacquie at My Blessings Homeschool and her husband decided to do things a little differently with gifts that will make lasting memories instead of the toys that will be lost, broken or forgotten.
  • Quick and Easy DIY Gift: Flower Petal Sugar - At Authentic Parenting, Laura whips up a quick and easy last minute gift.
Do you have traditions or methods revolving around simplifying gifts? Do you have a great tutorial on how to make something? We want to hear about it! Just link up your new and old posts before January 16, 2014.  
Out side in all weather. Really? All weather... 

Lately we've been having some cold, wet weather and lots no-show meet ups for the Family Nature Club. This time we met at the Regional Park, which was my most popular outing last time, but this time no one. I told myself the same thing I've been saying so often the last two months: its just the cold weather. 

I know how tempting it is to just say home, especially with hot/cold weather. Some times I wonder if I wasn't hosting these events, how committed I would be. Not just because of the weather, so many great activities and important responsibilities are vying for our attention. With kids, just getting out the door on a perfect day can be a challenge. What more when we think about all the extra preparation and work of dealing with the rain. But the truth is: We can always think of an excuse. Rarely is there the perfect weather or time of day or season. There can always be a reason why we don’t do something and I’m guilty of it myself. 

I’ve been reading about programs that have an “outside in all weather” philosophy. Even to me, the idea seemed ambitious, but I’ve really opened up to it.. slowly. But I know its important to get outside even when the weather isn’t the perfect sunny 75 degrees because if we wait for only those days, we would rarely be outside. It's not easy but I’ve made a little commitment to myself to not make excuses anymore. Sometimes I find myself making excuse like "she's too young - it will be easier next year when she keeps her hat on and doesn’t fall down into puddles." But next  year, there will just be another excuse and another.
No more excuses. 

Family Nature Club Reflection 4.0

We're now two months into our family nature club, so I thought it would be a good time to introduce some routines, traditions, and activities. I want to keep our outings relaxing and mostly unstructured, but I also want to support traditions and routines the kids can become familiar and comfortable with. After reading the Coyote's Guide, one way I choose to do this was by creating our own group version of a sit spot.

The idea behind a sit spot is that its a place you visit frequently; a space you can really get to know and build attachment with. One of my favorite things about a sit spot is if you consistently visit over a long enough period of time, you can observe the subtle changes that happen through the seasons and over the years. 

I decided that I would try out this practice with our group by choosing one place we visit monthly throughout the year. My sit spot choice was the regional park because when we have met here in the past its a popular outing. Also, its somewhere most people in our community know about. Plus, it's along the river which means its great for seasonal change.

Visiting once a month might not be develop a sit spot to its full potential but in a casual group with limited consistency, its a good start. Hopefully it will provide an opportunity to introduce the sit spot idea and encourage families and the children to find their very own sit spot that they can visit alone more often.