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Christmas in July?

Well, I've already missed that boat, but would you join me for Christmas in August? :)

Sure, I just finished rhapsodizing over the delights of late summer, and certainly autumn is no season to disregard, but here I am with snowflakes and sleighbells on the brain ...

Now some of you have your Christmas shopping all bought, wrapped and ready - and you'd be the ones shaking your heads at me, reading this post! :) And some of you haven't given the holidays two minutes thought since last January - and I would guess you all are shaking your heads at me too, LOL! But some of you (I hope) are thinking along the same lines as me: Hey! It's almost fall! Wouldn't it be nice to have a more relaxed and meaningful Christmas with my family this year? I'd better start now if I want that to happen! If you're saying these things (or maybe nodding in semi-agreement), then this post is for you! :) Because ...

... do you realize Christmas is only 125 days away?! That might not seem like a cause for alarm, but since my grand plan this year is to make it as homemade a holiday as possible, time is of the essence. And now that I've signed up to host the Loveliness of Homemade Gifts Fair on November 13th (see the full Fair schedule here) I have even more reason to get my holiday plans in order. And besides, autumn is a beautiful season for time spent at home, making and baking homemade gifts with our children!

So join me - or at least bear with me! - while I pull out a few of my favorite Christmas planning resources. Before I roll out one cookie or decpoupage one piece of wood, I need to get myself in the proper holiday mood ...

The first thing I'll pull out is the Christmas tote, which, it turns out, is still jam-packed Christmas_tote2 with last year's paraphernalia - mostly the remnants of greetings received and sent. Before I store away that correspondence though - and really this should have been done last January, but, hey, that's how the Christmas cookie crumbles - I'll sort through them and write up a checklist for this year's Christmas greetings - making note of any new addresses.

Next, I'll need a place to put this handy bit of information, so out comes the Christmas notebook. If I was really organized, I would have it all outfitted with checklists and planning sheets etc., but I'm starting out small and simple in hopes of actually making this work. And once I really get going with my lists (did I mention I love lists?), I'll fill it up soon enough. :)

Now come a few favorite resources to get my creative juices flowing. Here are some of the things that will find their way into my Christmas bag:

Books ~ Now is a good time, before the holiday rush, to request those books that will help you get a jump start on the season. I especially look for books about homemade gifts and goodies - these will help me define just what we'll be making and baking ...


A Gift for Giving: Making the Most of the Present ~ I picked this up at the library last week. Wonderfully creative wrapping methods - lots of glossy photos.


Merry Mixes ~ I love making up food mixes as holiday gifts; it's great to combine several items in a theme basket (ice cream, popcorn, coffee, pets etc.). And I loooove The Gooseberry Patch catalog for wonderful inexpensive booklets like this one. A few others in the series - Handmade from the Heart, Merry Mixes II and Wrap it Up.


Home for the Holidays: Festive Baking with Whole Grains ~  We like to give lots of food gifts, and this is a wonderful (though OOP) book (check your library), filled with delicious and wholesome holiday recipes.


Forever Christmas ~ If you need any inspiration to slow down and make time for an old-fashioned, handmade Christmas, this book will do it. In particular, I love this quote:

"Tasha still continues her tradition of handmade gifts. No last minute shopping sprees exist in Tasha's world. Christmas gifts are made early, whenever possible. If the proposed gift is a lengthy project, it must be started early enough to allow unhurried anticipation of the finished piece and pleasant expectations of how surprised the recipient must be."

Catalogs ~ Now is also the time to send for those preferred catalogs because, though a thoroughly handmade Christmas is a wonderful dream, the reality is I will be shopping for some of our gifts (because I don't think I can handcraft Legos). If you're hoping to give food gifts this year, consider ordering these catalogs too - each one has lots of ideas and products for making and packaging homemade goodies:

Websites ~ Of course these won't fit in the bag, but I wanted to mention them just the same - great spots to get ideas and concrete instruction:

Music ~ Just to set the right mood, while I'm filling out my Christmas notebook, I'll be playing some selections from ...


Martha Stewart's Holiday Collection :)

Food ~ How better to set the proper holiday mood than with a cup of Gingerbread Spice tea? (O.K. the tea's not in the bag either, but I did save the label!)


DVDs ~ Just call me one of Martha's minions - ;) - but I have to say, watching Martha's Homemade Holidays (and her Classic Thanksgiving) is truly inspiring! (And my library has them, so yours probably does too!) But if I'm looking for something more sentimental and less how-to, I like Little Women, You've Got Mail and Meet Me in St. Louis. Don't ask me why these are holiday movies for me - they just are. :)


Magazines ~ I have saved lots (lots) of Christmas-themed magazines, and my favorites by far are - no surprise here - the Martha Stewart Living annual special holiday issues! They're loaded with gift ideas and instructions. Look for a new issue this fall; check your library or online for back issues - they're worth the search! I also love The Baker's Sheet published by King Arthur Flour ~ every issue is filled with recipes that would make lovely holiday food gifts ...



Journals ~ Lastly, I dragged out a few old journals of mine - specifically, the ones I kept at this time last year. It's fun to poke through the pages and remember the ideas and inspiration I felt last year ...


I'm a bit of a hodgepodge journaller - and that's putting it mildly - but I do it (usually) pretty faithfully. In these faded college-ruled pages are snippets from life at that time - articles, notes, reminders, recipes etc. On the above pages I found the date when green tomatoes were plentiful followed by my grandmother's picalilli recipe (which makes a wonderful food gift by the way). I also noted the night and time when the Rockefeller Christmas tree lighting would be shown. (We like to make a night of it and drink cocoa while watching the show.) And thanks to a stuck-on label (I love saving labels), I remembered those Tiny Trapeze marshmallows that Earlybird was crazy for last year - delicious and Feingold friendly! This year's journal is not nearly as fat and interesting (blogging has elbowed in on journalling time somewhat!) but looking through my old journals really makes the memories - and creativity - flow!

Now lest you think I've completely lost my head to the holidays, don't worry. My mind (i.e. my blog) won't stay in December-mode for too long. For those who are interested, and to keep myself on target here at By Sun and Candlelight, I have begun a whole separate blog for holiday planning!  It won't be officially off and running till September (I still have lots of tweaking to do) but here's a sneak peek! Remember, it's still under construction - check back again come Labor Day and there will be more to see!

Since I love to talk about the holidays, I figured it would be a good idea to have a special place to do it - otherwise this blog would get distracted from all the fun things going on these days! I've got a nature post to finish and more lesson plans to discuss and later this week ~ a look at how we set up our learning room! I'll be participating in Helen's Loveliness of Learning Spaces Fair next Monday, so stay tuned! :)

"Christmas is not a date. It is a state of mind." Mary Ellen Chase