This is our Christmas pep talk

Despite all the gorgeous Instagram and Facebook posts that show beautifully decorated homes, delicious food and every family member being kind and loving, this Christmas perfection is not real life for a lot of people.

In my house, we still have disagreements, tantrums, children not listening or being ungrateful and me stressing about getting all the food warm at the same time.

I’m guessing you can relate to a little something. Maybe there’s a family member or two missing due to death, illness or just other plans this year. We spent one Christmas in the hospital with Kendra when the twins were two.

So I’m writing this quick blog as a pep talk to you and to me:

  1. Define just one thing you want from Christmas

Is it to sing a nice song at church? Is it to have Christmas mince pies and tea for dessert? Is it to spend time with your family? Is it to see the look on a child’s face when you’ve gifted them something they truly want? Or is it to open your To Marcia, From Marcia gift? πŸ˜‰

(I want to go to church, focus on Jesus and sing my favourite song, O Holy Night. If this song is not on the rotation, I’m prepared because I have about 4 different versions that I like right on my phone!)

2. Remind yourself of the part you are there to play

Glennon Doyle once wrote on Instagram that when we imagine we’re the director of the play, then there’s the pressure and we feel like it’s up to us to make everything “perfect”. When we remind ourselves that we just have a bit part in the play that is Christmas (or any major holiday), we relax knowing that we only have a small part to play and we can then laugh at the Uncle that is drunk or saying inappropriate things, instead of taking it personally that they are Messing Up the Play.

Or something like that. You get the idea.

This has been very useful to me over the last couple of years as I tell myself my job is to do only x; it’s not up to me to make sure everyone has fun (although, as an enneagram 1, I can so easily take it all upon my shoulders).

3. Remind yourself that yes, it is the day we use to commemorate Jesus’s birth but it is still just a day.

Repeat after me, “nothing about today has to be perfect”. Jess Lively said that, I wrote it down and took a picture. Who made the rule that Christmas had to be perfect? Seriously, keep asking yourself that question.

A normal day has things that go well and things that don’t. The chicken takes longer to cook and everyone’s starving but the family member you worry about is particularly pleasant and non-combative.

4. Remember your personality and honour it

If you’re an extrovert, allow yourself the time to enjoy being with the people as this will energise you. If you’re an introvert, feel free to escape for 5 minutes to “tidy the kitchen” or “check on the kids”.

May I suggest this fantastic episode of Sorta Awesome where Meg Tietz and Gretchen Rubin talk about how the Four Tendencies show up for celebrations. I loved this episode so much. Gift yourself an hour and take a listen – it’s worth it.

and last but not least…

5. Stay off social media

You’ll just get depressed about the gifts you didn’t gift or receive, the food you didn’t cook, the family you didn’t spend time with and everyone else’s perfect kids.

I jump on Instagram for five minutes to post a Merry Christmas photo, and then I’m offline for the rest of the day except for phone calls to family.

Which of these tips resonated most with you? How do you remain calm and joyful over Christmas?

Why I no longer have a gift shelf

We’ve all seen the tip to keep some spare gifts on a shelf in case of emergencies.

This is a great idea if you often need a generic gift, and perhaps don’t know the recipient very well at all.

I kept a gift shelf for many years and I was very glad when my kids were in pre-school and attending 10 parties a year for various little classmates.

We used to do a gift on a theme every year so it made good sense to buy 10 colouring books, 10 packs of my favourite colouring pencils and 10 pencil bags, for example.

But very quickly, once the kids started school, I realised that they’re not getting invited to as many parties anymore as the parties become smaller (in most cases) and “close friends only” invites.

In fact, Kendra (9-year-old twin girl) reminded me the other day that she has only been invited to three parties this year and it’s already November.

So there is no longer a need for a gift shelf.

When I realised this fact, I decided to clear my gift shelf by gifting what I’d been keeping to all my Santa Shoebox kids that year. It’s actually really fun for me to stuff those shoeboxes as much as I can. And I love having the extra space at home!

These days I do have a few things I might buy in advance for our own kids’ birthday or Christmas presents (usually books found at a sale, activity books for holidays, or a cute T-shirt).

The great thing is I decided on my limiting container – a clear plastic box the size of a photocopy paper box – and my self-imposed rule (I’m an upholder) is that I’m not allowed to exceed the container.

And for actual friend gifts? I ask the child what their friend would like, we discuss where to get it and then we go buy it. Easy.

This year (my kids turned 9 in July) one of the gifts for a boy was two Horrid Henry books, and some gifts for girls were 1) a beautiful hardcover prompted crafting/ doodling/ sketch book in a nice carry bag and 2) unicorn pyjamas with a set of unicorn notebooks.

If you keep a gift shelf, perhaps ask yourself if the gifts have passed their sell-by date (your kids are older and the gifts are for a younger audience) and you need to move on, or if the convenience of having the gifts on a shelf are not an issue anymore. There may be things on your shelf you’ve had for years.

One thing I’ve done this year for my own friends is if I’m out and about and I see something that is perfect for a specific friend, I buy it whether it’s their birthday or not, and gift it next time I see them. No waiting for birthdays or forgetting where I’ve hidden it! And the best is that people are usually surprised which is super fun!

Do you keep a gift shelf? Why or why not?

How to have the best Christmas ever


I started reading all my old posts about Christmas and realised that I have actually said everything I want to say, so let me link to those posts.

Easy Christmas decorating

Lower your Christmas expectations especially with social media

The Christmas Card controversy

Keep Christmas simple but meaningful

Clever gift ideas for Christmas and throughout the year

and last but definitely not least, my favourite Christmas post ever!

Create the perfect Christmas… for you

What does the “best Christmas” look like for you?

Tell me all your questions and I’ll answer in the comments.

Some clever gift ideas in case you’re stuck…

There’s one week left til Christmas!

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If you’re still shopping or thinking about gifts, here are some ideas for you:

Give according to their love language

If you have someone with a quality time love language, for example, give them the gift of time with you – tea/ coffee/ cake/ lunch/ supper at a restaurant, or a game of adventure golf, a manicure, etc.

If your special someone has gifts or acts of service as their love language, take the time to think about presentation. A gift bag (can be recycled)Β or nicely-wrapped present with a gift tag is a must πŸ™‚

Give according to their interests

What is the person’s hobby? if it’s reading, give a book and a bookmark, or a gift voucher to Amazon or Audible.

For your soccer-loving kids, maybe a soccer ball or a soccer-themed annual.

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Give something to help with a problem they have

…but be careful πŸ˜‰

If your friend always says they can’t find their keys/ rings, etc., maybe a nice trinket bowl they can use in their entry way.

I’ve shared before how once a man phoned me to buy organising services for his wife, which I declined to sell him. That’s not going to win him any points. The wife herself contacted me about a year later and we worked together but the point was that she had to be ready for the help.

A voucher is a good idea if done thoughtfully

A gift voucher is better if paired with something really small. This way it looks like you actually took the time to understand your recipient.

I’ve given vouchers to homeware stores for foodies with a set of cloth serviettes. I’ve also given a mug with a tea bag and the gift voucher inside. The tag on the tea bag read something like this – enjoy a cup of tea while you decide what to buy for your new home.

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Give gifts that go together

I like to give babies’ gifts as sets – for example, a blanket and a teddy for bedtime, or a book and a blanket for snuggling and reading.

One of my favourite gifts of all time was a set of Christmas mugs and a packet of shortbread biscuits. We ate the biscuits that year and we are still using the mugs 7 – 8 years later.

What are some of your favourite gifts to give?

PS I’ve given gifts of music in the past and presently too, but I’ve since discovered that recipients have to belong to the same country’s iTunes store. So it’s been hit and miss, (and you don’t get your money back unless the recipient tells you they can’t access and you log a call for a refund) so this year I only gifted CDs to fellow South Africans with iphones.

Do you have a gift shelf?

Talking about gifts has got to be one of my favourite topics πŸ™‚

I definitely have a gift shelf for all sorts of gifts – baby gifts, kid gifts and gifts for friends. I’m actually trying to empty out that shelf so we can start thinking more personally for the friends (my kids are now 4).

Something that’s helped me is I have a “gift of the year”.

This year I did activity books, a “proper” book, and a “craft kit” with things my kids currently like – little notebook, crayons/ oil pastels, stickers, glue, scissors, stickers, etc. all neatly organised in a container. Last year I did little backpacks (I called it the Out and About bag) with a little magnadoodle, a small puzzle, a tiny block set, etc.

This year we sewed up a MILLION aprons (ribbon on a tea towel/ placemat), bought little cutting boards, measuring cups, little recipe books, baking mixes, etc. and made sets of “chef” sets for all the kids. We’ve just given away the last two for the November birthdays. I love giving gifts πŸ™‚

For overseas friends, I order online and get it delivered directly to save on shipping but we send a handmade card (two birds with one stone – craft time and a card!)

Do you have a gift shelf?

Do you have some systems in place for effective gift-giving?

One of the best gifts ever

Do you do Secret Santas at work?

Our team does.

Two years ago I got a tiny little gift when everyone else was opening big presents.

When I opened the gift I wasn’t sure about this lip liner pencil but the lady who got my name told me it’s the exact colour of the lipstick I wear. I was tickled pink that she noticed!

I wasn’t a lip liner type of person at that point and really, I just started using it so I could say to her, “yes, I’m using it” if she asked.

And I loved the effects so much it changed my life πŸ™‚

It IS the exact colour of my lipstick and ended up being the perfect gift!

Tell me about a perfect gift you received.

PS you do know it’s never too late to dream and make those dreams come true?

Get your copy of this very lovely calendar and workbook planner – it’s not too late.

I got mine in August last year and I still used it πŸ™‚

Marcia gets crafty 4 – scrapbook paper noteboooks 1

It’s no secret that I love notebooks and paper πŸ™‚

I’m not a scrapbooker but ever since I bought my first pad of scrapbook paper, I’ve been hooked.

The colours, the sturdiness, the ease of using it…

I decided to make some scrapbook notebooks after I saw a tutorial for something similar on a blog (in the days before pinterest) otherwise I’d link to it.

What you need:
scrapbook paper
hole punch
twine
gift tag (if gift)

How

  1. Take 4-5 sheets of scrapbook paper
  2. Fold them in half and tear down the middle. This is a great craft for recovering perfectionists. You will twitch at first at the thought of not cutting neatly but when you put it together and see how cute it looks and how the torn edges add to the cuteness, you’ll smile.
  3. Fold all the paper in half again.
  4. Punch along the folds (spine of the book) as far in as your punch will reach.
  5. Thread the twine through the holes (I’m afraid I was experimenting mostly and I still don’t have the exact method…) – keep going until your book feels secure. I don’t like flimsy so once I think it’s okay, I thread one more loop through.
  6. Make sure the twine is on the outside.
  7. Tie a lovely big bow and call it a day.
  8. I tie a gift tag to the twine with a “made for you by Marcia” note.

Quick, easy and very, very pretty.

What to use it for:

  1. A standard notebook
  2. A book of lists
  3. a year in review book (I’m keeping one this year and it’s been fabulous – I will blog at the end of December)
  4. Little scrapbook
  5. Journal

(all of these for you or a friend, of course)

Do you love notebooks and scrap paper too?

What do you use scrap paper for besides scrapbooking?

Question of the week – clutter-free gifts

As we approach Christmas, I thought it would be a good idea to talk about gift-giving.

I love giving gifts but since I don’t like a lot of clutter I don’t want to add to someone else’s clutter.

The answer is clutter-free gift giving.

Some of my favourites are:

  1. home-made biscuits (most of you call them cookies)
  2. vouchers for massages, pedicures, manicures, etc.
  3. gift vouchers to a favourite store (I love CUM books and Exclusive Books)
  4. coffee and cake “dates”- one of my favourite birthday gifts this year was when a friend phoned and said, “I’m taking you out for breakfast” – LOVE it (food and connection!)
  5. a set of notecards for people who actually write “real” notes
  6. dates with grandma (I’m going to be working on this one as it also means date time for mom and dad :))
  7. visits to the zoo, aquarium, etc.

I must confess… I’m not a fan of the “I’ve donated x-amount to a family somewhere in Africa” unless the recipient actually asked for it.

What are your favourite clutter-free gifts? Please add to my list in the comments.

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