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        I am sharing this from several of our past newsletters.   For those who want it again and those
who can use it for the first time - here they.  There are some wonderful Holiday Ideas that many
readers took the time to share with us.  We thought you might enjoy them again.  They may give 
you great ideas for gifts, family time and great reads. 
     At the end of this page are a few links to some great Christmas Unit Studies!  Check them out.

Enjoy and Have a beautiful, Merry Christmas!!   ~ The LaCelle Family

     Because Christmas slides right in behind Thanksgiving, hardly giving you a chance to catch your breathe, it is important to plan to create your own purpose for it.  If you don't harness it, it will just get away 
and won't be as enjoyable as it could be.  Christmas in the past has always been hard for me.  I 
loved Thanksgiving, but Christmas was different.  I dreaded going to the stores or malls to find 
gifts. It robbed me from enjoying the holiday time because I felt guilty that I became bogged trying
to find/purchase gifts for those I really loved most.  But over the last couple of years I have come 
to terms with Christmas.  Gift giving has changed tremendously and I've relaxed more. 
     Last year, we took time every evening after Thanksgiving to read Jotham's Journey.  We would 
light a few candles on the Piano, sing a few songs, and just enjoy ourselves.  The children looked 
forward to worship time each evening.  We also used a book called: "Let's Make a Jesse Tree". 
The boys and I took the patterns provided and cut out of felt the little Advent Felt pieces that would
be put on our felt board every evening as we read the Advent devotional.  We enjoyed it so much. 
And the book started you in the beginning reading from Genesis 1 and each night you progress 
through witheach Bible Story/Reading shedding alittle glimpse on the coming of the Lord.  It was
really beautiful.  Just encapsulized the story of Christ and why we are here.
     We also enjoyed reading through the Christmas in my Heart books.  The stories were touching 
and helped us put Christmas in it's right perspective too.  We don't know exactly when Christ was
born and chances are He wasn't born on the 25th of December.  However,  there is a peace and 
beauty about this season ahead that would be a shame not to capitalize on.  The truth is that Jesus
did come as a baby and what an opportunity we have to use this time to discover what His coming 
meant then and what it will mean in the future too.
     I would really encourage you to take a week or two this coming season to do the basics in 
academics and then use the rest of the time to spend together.  Read good stories and books. 
Talk of what Jesus gave and has done for us.  Make Christmas decorations and cards.  Write to 
people who are shut in or better yet, visit them.  Perhaps come up with a family Christmas project. 
Find a family or person who is in need or lonely and bring them some Christmas cheer.  I always 
find this time of year that people's hearts are alittle more open and it's a golden opportunity to 
show love and give it. 
     Gift giving can really bog down homeschool moms!  I know!!!  I suggest scaling back.  I found 
giving a family gift to be easier on me than giving individual gifts.  Last year we gave one family a
basket filled with Salsa, chips, and other homemade goodies and some audio tapes.  Sometimes just
a book inscribed by you with how you enjoyed it is worth more than anything else.  And it's okay to 
order out gifts, have them gift wrapped and sent for you.  Be wise on what you can do.  Don't feel 
you have to "make" everything or "create" something if you know you can't.  Start making out 
Christmas Cards the middle of November so that in December it is done.  Think ahead. Only take 
on what you know you can do.  That is something God continues to show me!!  I have a habit of 
saying "sure I'll do that" and then feeling overwhelmed later. 
     Meal preparation and holiday family get togethers can become more special by planning ahead
and making much of the food needed long before your get together and freezing.  Most things freeze wonderfully.  And what a blessing to just pull it out of the freezer and serve.  Get the children 
involved.  They can make jellos, pies, breads and other items.  When the Benton Sisters arrived 
for their Health Seminar they had 80 to 90 % of the food frozen and ready for their seminar.  It 
made me even more aware of how little I use the freezer. 
     There is so much nature study that can take place during this time, also.  Here in Upstate New
York, if we put out birdfeeders, we can watch and identify many different kinds of birds.  I've 
secured old magazines of Birds & Blooms and others and we can cut those up and make a 
scrapbook showing the birds that have visited our feeders.  You can also save your "real" 
Christmas tree and put it in the snow or left on it's stand and hang from it's branches all kinds 
of goodies and treats for the birds (and squirrels . . . they are hopeless). 
     The deer also come by herds to our backyard as winter presses on.  We've also watched 
turkeys come and eat from a crab apple tree in our backyard. 
     There is literally no end to the ideas you can come up with.  Whether it be catching and drawing
snowflakes or making your own soaps, candles and potpourri - there is alot of "school" that can
take place during the weeks ahead.  And our children will learn important skills while catching a 
breather themselves from heavy academics!!
    One of you readers sent in this nice idea to me - I appreciate those!  She shared that they build 
a 4 foot cardboard barn next to their tree.  They put a small cradle & doll in it and let her children 
act out the Christmas Story.  They play multiple parts and use their stuffed animals as props.  The 
barn ends up getting much more attention than the tree & gifts.  What a great idea!! 
Thanks Jennifer!!

     At our website with the two Christmas links above there are several christmasy ideas.  But one
thing that just struck me as we were going through the Unit on the Names of Jesus (that Virginia 
sent us) when we were doing the name "Everlasting Father" - it was suggested to make a wreath 
symbolizing Everlasting (a circle - no beginning - no end).  We plan to make a wreath like this - 
around here we have crab apples and hard red berries on trees and there is myrtle growing in 
vibrant green still.  Taking these items and some pinecones and a  Red ribbon would make a 
beautiful wreath.  But what could make it alittle more "everlasting" and practical for after the
season would be to make bird treats to tie onto the wreath after the holidays for our feathered 
friends.  To do this you can take pinecones and smear peanut butter on them and roll in bird seed. 
You can make special treats that are Christmasy shapes too (I saw this in a pricey Christmas 
catalog - a small star shaped Bird Seed treat was $12) -  But these can be made by melting suet 
and adding some peanut butter and stirring in the seed and then molding the treats or cutting them 
out after they have hardened a bit.  These treats can be fixed onto the wreath for a nice gift to the 
wildlife.  You know, these would make nice gifts too.  First a Wreath to decorate the home with a 
card explaining the Everlasting Father - then with the treats to tie on later for their birds.  I love 
gifts like this. 


    ~ Every year I find myself searching for a better, sweeter Christmas experience.  The commercialization of Christmas over the years, has left us wandering malls and department stores searching for ever more expensive gifts to present to our loved ones.  The holidays can strangle from us all our energies.  However, over the last couple of years, our family has searched and prayed to find a more meaningful way to live, love and give during the Christmas season.  Perhaps, this is because our income has steadily declined over the last few years.  Yet, I do feel regardless of our financial condition and our ability to purchase gifts - it's important to focus on Christ and understand how He gave, so that we can understand how to truly give of ourselves. 
      Over the last few years we have enjoyed the simplest of things over the more costly.  We've  enjoyed books, cassettes, old fashioned videos, singing, making bread for the neighbors, and seeking ways to give Christ to others. 
      I appreciate the people that shared for this newletter on gift giving.  Thank you!  Enjoy these ideas and if you find some other good ideas, please do share them with us. We will make a webpage of all ideas that come in over the next couple of weeks. 

This makes a nice, hearty drink for cold winter days.  Stores well in an
airtight container.  Spruce up an interesting glass jar with some ribbon
and a cinnamon stick, give us gifts:

Spicy Cocoa Mocha Mix


4 cups non-fat dry milk powder
1 cup non-dairy coffee creamer
2-1/2 cups instant pre-sweetened cocoa mix
1/2 cup instant coffee
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. allspice

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl.  Store in airtight
container. Makes about 6 cups.

To Make Cocoa Drink: Pour 1/2 cup or so of mixture into a mug, fill mug
with hot water.  Stir.  Enjoy!

Kristine Lowder


Here's a recipe I made up several years ago!  (It's at my website in my: area.)  Recipe by Barb Shelton
This makes a nice-size batch that you can put into decorative plastic gift 
bags, and give as gifts.  A nice addition to the gift is to write out the 
recipe and attach it to the bow/ribbon. 

2 ½ cups oats     /    ¼ cup bran or wheat germ
1 packet graham crackers, crushed     /     ½ cup coconut
1 cup sunflower seeds     /     ½ cup cashews ~ chopped
¼ cup chopped walnuts     /    ½ cup brown sugar
½ cup honey      /     ½ c. dates (rolled or regular), chopped
½ cup margarine, melted    /    2 tsp. vanilla
3 tsp. cinnamon    /    ½ tsp. nutmeg     /    ½ tsp. cloves
(later) ½ cup raisins

Preheat oven to 300.  Combine all ingredients except raisins and mix well. 
Lightly grease 9" x 13" pan and spread mixture evenly.  Bake for 25 minutes, 
stirring occasionally.  Stir in raisins.  Spread mixture onto ungreased 
cookie sheet. Cool.  Right after cooking, add the raisins.  (If you add them while cooking they 
get hard and shriveled up.)

With a warm Christmas hug!
Barb Shelton


I make up a video for each set of great grandparents of edited clips from
our home videos for the year.  I wrap the video jacket in pretty wrapping
paper and put a label with our family name and the year on it: "Clayton
Family 2000", for example.  The kids enjoy watching all the home movies for
the year while I do the editing which reinforces their memories.  I record a
brief personal message for the end of each tape, such as us all waving and
saying "We love you Grandma and Grandpa.  Merry Christmas!"  The
grandparents all love this gift.  It gives them something to watch on
Christmas Day and to rewatch other times to feel connected to us, even
though we live way up in Alaska.  The children's 4 sets of great
grandparents live in CA, IN, MI and AZ, respectively!  It does take me
several hours to edit each tape, but the tapes are only about $3 each with
shipping being around the same price.  The grandparents already have
everything they really need but appreciate feeling remembered.

Diana Clayton, Fairbanks, Alaska


Hi! Just got your e-mail newsletter and I have an idea for you.  I don't
know how many people have scanners, color printers, children's pictures
and craft software. 
  If my mother was still alive, I would be doing this for her for
Christmas this year:
  I would take my son's picture,
  put it into the scanner and have it scan it in color
  I would then print it out in color.
Then I would use my craft software and turn it into an Iron-on Transfer.
The price for this kind of gift is about $5.00 and is purely homemade.

That's all I can think of.  I'm sorry that I can't come up with anything
else for drinks, soups, jellies, jams, etc.  You can also use this idea
for Christmas Cards.  It's almost like regular picture Christmas cards.
Let me know what you think.



For Christmas this year we are making a scrapbook of
all my mother-in-laws grandchildren for her (there are
12!).  She is thrilled because all of the photos have
been sitting in drawers for years, and my children are
enjoying talking about and seeing photos of their
older cousins (who are all married now with children
of their own) when they were little.  Denise Carr

PS:  Denise - I did do this one year for my mother and it was greatly treasured - now she wants me to add to it.  Perhaps an idea would be to do a couple of scrapbook pages a year for each grandparent.  These could be added to a scrapbook that is started one year - and continued with new pages given each additional year!  Thanks for the idea.  Joan

A couple of years ago we made tea cup candles for our boys to give to
their aunts for special gifts.  First we bought some pretty tea cups at
thrift shops for 10 and 25 cents a piece, and purchased some candle
wicks at Walmart.  Then we melted down some old candles we had (melting
only like colors together) in an old coffee can set in a pan of water.
We cut the wicks to the desired length adding a couple of extra inches,
then tied one end of the wick onto a pencil and set the pencil on the
cup, so the wick hung down in the center of the cup. We poured in the
wax, let in cool, removed the pencils, and had beautiful gifts to give
that cost very little. We really had a great time making these and they
were so well received, I think we'll do them again this year. 
Penni Hill, Corinth, ME


Last year we made a darling footprint/handprint Angel:
Trace around the child's foot ~ this will be the angels body (toes down)
Trace around the child's hand ~ this will be the angels wings
I decorated the heel area and made a face and gold hair with paint.  But
I've seen where you can cut a round circle for the head or paste a picture
of the child's head on the angel
I added a halo made out of a pipe cleaner and attached to the back; be sure
to date the angel and do one each year!

We also did easy ornaments.  Purchase clear ornaments and the
fillings/decorations are endless.
--We did some with Christmas rub-ons and hot glued small ribbon bows to the
top; make a hanger with the same color ribbon as the bow.  You can even
personalize and date with a gold or silver marker!
--My favorite was an ornament filled with the crafty snow (it's like tiny
pieces of clear plastic that is very shimmery); I hot glued the small white
ribbon roses (about the size of an M&M--found in the wedding craft or
regular craft section) all around the top and added a white ribbon hanger.
--We filled some with potpourri (you'll need a pencil with an eraser to jam
it all in) and added small ribbon roses (in the craft section) to match the
potpourri and a ribbon hanger.
--I've seen some filled with popcorn, tinsel and even dried real rosebuds!
You can swirl different colored acrylic paints inside--letting the first
color dry before adding the second.  Endless possibilities and VERY easy!

Cyndy in North Carolina

This is not really a very original idea, but it is one we gave last year to all the grandparents and great-grandparents on our gift list.  They loved it more than anything else we have ever given.
We gave calendars that we made on our computer.  First we scanned pictures of the kids for some months.  The kids also drew pictures that would be for a particular month (maybe a snowman for January, hearts for February, etc.)  We scanned them too.  These scanned pictures were the top of each page, and then the lower page with the calendar itself, we included special dates where they belonged, such as Dad's 40th birthday, etc.  We had a lot of fun designing these, and our family just loved them.  It is going to be an annual gift from our home.
Thanks for your encouraging, Christ-centered newsletter!
Patti Gardner


I am very interested in seeing what people come up with ideas of things to
make for Christmas.  I think that is a great idea.  I have some ideas of
things that the children have made in the past.  One year we got clay pots.
The children painted them and glued all kinds of buttons and sequins all
over them.  They also painted their name on each one.  Then they put a new
potted plant in it that was a clipping from our plants at home and gave it
as a gift to their grandmas.
Another year we got a bunch of tiny puzzle pieces from a puzzle that had
some pieces missing.  We painted the pieces red and green.  Then we got a
juice lid from a frozen juice concentrate container and glued a picture of
the children to it.  Finally we glued the puzzle pieces that we'd painted
around the picture to form a beautiful wreath and put a ribbon on it to hang
it from the Christmas tree or as a little wallhanging.
Another idea was that we got some plaster of paris and had the children make
it and put it into pie tins.  Then the children would put their hands in it
to make a print.  As it was drying, we would carve their name and the date
into the plaster, and then we would take the plaster out of the plate to
dry.  When it had finished drying for a couple of days, we would then get
gold spray paint and paint it all over.  Then when it was totally dry, we
would put it on a little brace support for plates.  It made a wonderful gift
to cherish for many years.

I hope these ideas are helpful.  I look forward to seeing some more ideas.

Annette Reeves


Dear Rob and Joan,
     I want to share a simple gift that I received for my birthday from my daughter.  I think that it would be very easy for children to make for Christmas gifts, and uses just a few inexpensive items that most home schooling families probably already have around their home. 

10 or 12 blank 3x5 index cards (white works best)
ink pads and various stamps
pencil, pen or fine point markers
scraps of pretty ribbon
    To make recipe cards:  Choose a stamp and color of ink, and  then stamp on corners or around border of a 3x5 index card.  Next, with a ruler and writing pen or marker of choice, make evenly spaced lines on the front of the card inside the decorated edge.  Finally, on the top of the card, write:  Recipe for:
From the kitchen of:
And on the very bottom of the recipe card, write:
     The recipe cards that I received from my daughter were decorated with Winnie the Pooh and other animal stamps, and she tied the bunch up with a beautiful piece of gold ribbon.  It is a gift that I treasure, and I have enjoyed filling them up with some favorite recipes.  I will think of her sweet creativity and generosity each time I cook or bake using these special cards!
Thanks for considering my daughter's gift idea.  God bless you!
In Christ,
Pam Ickert

I really enjoy your newsletter and have the following ideas:
Thank you, Julie Hendricks, homeschool mom of 3 for 5 years.

1)  Last year for the first time we did a Jesse Tree as a special Advent 
project for our family.  There are many kits you can purchase and also you 
can find web sites that have the symbols already for you to print off for 
your children to cut out and color.  Your local library may also have books 
showing the symbols for the Jesse Tree.

2) The following recipe is for white and red colored cookies that are very 
pretty for the Christmas season and are quick and easy to make.

                     $1000 Split Seconds
Sift Together:
2 c. Flour   2/3 c. sugar       1/2 tsp. baking powder

Blend in to the above dry mixture:
3/4 c. butter     1 unbeaten egg    2 tsp. vanilla

Form the dough into a ball and place on a lightly floured board.  Cut into 4 
equal parts.  Shape each part into a log that is 13 inches long and 3/4 
inches thick.  Place the logs on an ungreased baking sheet 4 inches apart 
and 2 inches from the edge of the sheet.  Make a depression 1/4 to 1/3 inch 
deep with the handle end of a knife along the center length of the log. 
Fill the depression of the logs with 1/3 cup raspberry jam (total for all 4 
logs).  Bake for 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit or until light 
golden brown.  While still warm cut on a sharp diagonal 1/2 inch wide 
strips.  Cool on a wire rack.



     I saw this in my folks mini-mall.  You take a length of thin twine and a very thin wire (the wire is optional but will help it bend if you want to be able to make your swag do that) that is about 4 to 5 feet long.  Run both wire and twine through the following items and then tie of on either end with a knot and hang over cupboards, mirrors, french doors, etc.  Thread your thin twine/and thin wire (if using wire) onto a wide eyed needle.  Run this through: 2 dried and sprayed orange slices, a couple of fake dried berries (found in craft stores), a 2 or 3 inch length of cinnamon stick, a couple of berries, a couple of orange slices and then a couple of inches thick worth of ripped off pieces of fabric (these ripped pieces 1 or 2 inches by 4 to 6 inches can be found in craft stores already ripped and ready - gives a primitive/country look) - bunch up the ripped fabric pieces or tie around your swag twine - but do enough to give a bulky look.  Then start over again adding onto your swag twine more orange slices, berries, cinnamon stick, berries, orange slices and then fabric.  Keep doing that till you come to about six inches of the end of your twine.  Then tie off.  They are really pretty and country looking.  You could use this idea for apple slices and many other things. 



     Lots of people love candles.  Take small votives that cost .50 to $1.00 each and head out to the dollar store.  There look for a small cookie or heart shaped or other interesting pan or tin.  Use those dried berries or potpourri materials found in craft stores and fill your tin with that - leaving room in the center for your votive.  Wrap in clear krinkly wrap and tie with a primitive fabric bow.



    Find a small muslin bag at a craft store that you can decorate by painting or stamping or stenciling.  Fill this bag with a small plastic bag of ingredients for Apple crisp.  Put all the dry ingredients together for your crisp topping into a plastic bag.  Put this along with instructions for adding their own apples (or apples you give) and any wet ingredients, how long to bake and what temperature. 

     This idea can be used for cookies, cakes, biscuits, bread mixes, soup mixes etc. 

     Another variation of this idea is to layer in a mason jar the ingredients for cookies, cake, soup and so forth. Again with instructions and topped with a square of fabric tied around the top. 

        Gifts of this sort can be given along with a pan or pie plate to bake it in.  Or pizza dough ingredients can be bagged in muslin and given with a brand new pizza tin. 


     I don't know about you all, but we went through periods in our lives where we had no help with our children.  Not that we wanted to be separated from our children very often but there were times when we needed breaks.  I have never forgotten this.  So, now I offer to others that will give them a couple of hours free time - I will watch their children.  You could make a gift certificate and give it to a friend or relative to redeem.  This costs you nothing monetarily - but it is a gift that is so needed by many moms.  Look around your church or neighborhood - there are so many young moms out there that could use a gift like this.  These moms need this type of ministering too  and we can blessed by giving it.



     One thing my sister did for our children years ago was to make a book about where they lived in Arkansas.  This is very special.  We never got a chance to see their home there and thankfully they now live closer (well, 7 hours is still too far!).  But that book was so loved.  She told about the area and gave sample of plants, animals, and cotton.  Then she read the book onto tape.  That is something that our children loved. 
     Children can also write stories and if you have computer and some software you can create a special "book" - that can be bound (as in Creating books with Children) or in a notebook.   Some copy shops can comb bind.  Recently our 6 year old wanted to make a book on making pumpkin pie from scratch .So we put the pictures into the computer and then together we made book pages.  He wants to print it off in color and comb bind it for his grandparents. 


      A very very special gift would be purchase a special story book for a child on your gift list.  Read this book unto a cassette tape.  Then give the book along with the cassette as a gift.  This is such a special gift.  That a child will always treasure.
     This idea can be used for invalids, the blind or grandparents.  Read some special stories from Christmas in my Heart collection along with some Bible verses on Christ's birth and give to someone who could use such a special gift (a truck driver, an elderly person, a busy mom that could listen while she is cleaning the house etc). 

   Take any number of books that tell you "how to" (for kids) - science projects, sewing projects etc.  Give the book along with all the items that would be needed to complete some of the projects in the book.


      These can be so personalized.  It can be so much fun to find the right basket to house the ingredients to make a mexican meal, to house a fresh-baked apple pie, to hold a collection of dried fruits and nuts  and many other ideas.  A mexican meal basket could contain: Homemade Salsa, corn chips, beans and toppings.   A Homemade Soup and bread basket could hold the ingredients to make fresh bread (or the fresh bread itself) along with ingredients to make a hearty stew.  A small basket full of candles, potpourri and a few scripture cards would be appreciated by some (my sister is one)!

Dear Joan,

I have a couple of ideas...

First one is to take a plain clay flower pot and take tile grout and from
under the rim of the top, smooth on the tile grout, then stick into the
grout anything you would like to decorate it with.  It could be little
plastic bugs or lizards, frogs, or you could use different colored buttons,
in a craft store or craft section of Wal-Mart they have large beads and
different assortments of craft items you could stick into the grout.  You
could then put a plant in it, or provide the soil in a bag, and a package of
flower seeds, and just place them within the pot.

Second one is to take an inexpensive small, glass candle holder, and get
some special paint that can be used on glass, it is nice to choose a glass
candle holder that has a design on it, maybe hearts or whatever, then have
your child paint in the design on the holder.  When the paint is all dry.
It would be nice to take your child to a store that sells those small votive
candles and let them sniff them and choose the one he or she would like to
give with the candle holder they painted.  That makes them feel like the
gift is truly from them.

A third idea would be to buy a nice decorative box from a craft section or I
suppose a decorative bag would work well to.  Then place the following
inside... A can of crushed pineapple,  A can of Cherry pie filling and a
small old fashioned flour sack.  (Muslin type bag).  You know the kind you would see
candy or something like that in it at the Cracker Barrel Restaurant.  And inside that you would
empty a box of vanilla or french vanilla cake mix.  Put that all neatly in
the box with tissue paper ect. but include with it this recipe.    Layered
Dessert -  In a 9 by 13 dish  pour in a can of cherry pie filling, then a
can of undrained crushed pineapple.  Then sprinkle cake mix over the top and
drizzle one stick of margarine.  Bake on 350 for 45 -60 min.  Be sure to
note that this is a dessert not to indulge in to frequently, but a nice treat
for Christmas.  Its scrumptious with vanilla ice cream so ENJOY!


     Well, we hope that these ideas have been a blessing to you.  They've blessed me! 
Next month we will have a special  Christmas issue planned.  We pray for you and your families.  And please pray for us.  God's Richest deepest blessings, Joan




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