Search Results for: christmas

Date and Cointreau Mini Christmas Cakes … a Beautiful Handmade Gift Idea for Family and Friends …

Date and Cointreau Mini Christmas Cakes 001

If you’re wanting to escape the “commercialism” of Christmas, embracing handmade gifts could be the perfect solution. I love nothing more than receiving things like shortbread and cakes because I can really appreciate the love and effort that goes into each handmade gift.

So, if you’re looking for some ideas, these mini Date and Cointreau Christmas Cakes are ideal. The mixture is quite generous and will produce 6 beautiful mini Christmas cakes that are full of flavour and deliciously most. Mind you, once you taste these little beauties you may want to keep them for yourself and not give them away … just saying! Enjoy!

Date and Cointreau Mini Christmas Cakes … a Beautiful Handmade Gift Idea for Family and Friends …
Ingredients …
  • 3 cups sultanas
  • 1 cup raisins
  • ¾ cup currants
  • 1 cup red chopped glace cherries (plus extra to decorate)
  • 1 cup fresh dates, chopped (approximately 10 large dates)
  • ¾ cup Cointreau
  • 1 ¼ cups butter, at room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons orange/breakfast marmalade
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla essence
  • 2 ½ cups plain flour
  • blanched almonds, for decoration
  • icing sugar, to dust cake tops
Method …
  1. Combine sultanas, raisins, currants, cherries, dates and Cointreau in a large glass bowl and stir to combine. Cover bowl with plastic food wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours or preferably overnight to allow the flavours to absorb and develop.
  2. Preheat oven to 100C (fan-forced). Line the base and sides of 6 round (or square) mini cake tins with a double layer of baking paper, allowing it to stick up 2 – 3 cms above the rims.
  3. Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until creamy and light.
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one is added. Add the vanilla essence and blend to combine.
  5. Fold in ½ the fruit mixture and half the flour until just combined. Fold in remaining fruit and remaining flour until just combined.
  6. Spoon cake mixture into the prepared cake tins and smooth the surface. Decorate with the blanched almonds (and cherry halves, if desired) and bake for approximately 1 hour and 50 minutes. To test the cakes are cooked, insert a skewer into the centre which should come out cleanly. Once removed from the oven, allow the cakes to stand in the tins for 5 minutes until turning out onto wire racks to cool completely. Dust lightly with icing sugar.
  7. Cakes will freeze well. Alternatively, they can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 weeks.

Clever Hints, Tricks and Tips …

  • Be on the lookout after Christmas (in the Boxing Day Sales) to pick up some festive ribbon super cheap that you can put away and use to decorate next years cakes.

If you enjoyed this Christmas recipe, you might also like these:


M & M Christmas Cookies 003

Slow Cooker Chocolate Christmas Pudding

Jingle Balls 001

Slow Cooker Sticky Date Pudding 002

Steamed Christmas Pudding … Gluten-free & Alcohol-free …


Christmas is just around the corner and, if you’re anything like me, I love a beautiful piece of pudding on Christmas Day smothered in vanilla custard … yum … I can taste it already!

And although not everyone loves pudding, there are also many who would avoid it either due to gluten intolerance or a preference not to eat anything containing alcohol. For that reason, I’ve created this gorgeous pudding that’s gluten-free and alcohol-free … and, let me tell you, it’s just as delicious, just as beautiful and just as moist as any pudding I’ve tried. It’s also super easy to make and is mixed in a single saucepan, so there’s very little washing up … perfect!

Steamed Christmas Pudding … Gluten-free & Alcohol-free …
Ingredients …
  • 2 cups sultanas
  • ½ cup Craisins (dried cranberries)
  • 1 cup raisins, chopped (if large)
  • 1 ¼ cups fresh dates, seeded and chopped (approximately 12 – 13 dates)
  • 1 ¼ cups water
  • ½ cup orange juice (I used freshly squeezed)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • ¾ cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 1 ¾ cups gluten-free plain flour (I use White Wings)
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 teaspoons mixed spice
  • 1 cup almond meal
Method …
  1. Grease a 2-litre pudding steamer with cooking spray and line the base with a circle of baking paper, cut to fit. Cut a second piece of baking paper large enough to fit on the top of the steamer and set aside to use later.
  2. In a large saucepan, combine the sultanas, Craisins, raisins, dates, water, orange juice, honey and sugar. Stir over a gentle heat, until butter has melted and all ingredients are combined.
  3. Remove from the stove and allow to cool, stirring frequently. Once cool, stir in vanilla essence.
  4. Sift the gluten-free plain flour, bicarb soda, mixed spice and almond meal into the cooled fruit mixture and stir until just combined.
  5. Spoon the pudding mixture into the prepared steamer, lightly spray the extra piece of baking paper (prepared earlier) with cooking spray and place over the top of the pudding. Put on the steamer lid and seal.
  6. Place the steamer in a large pot with enough boiling water to come about two-thirds of the way up the side of the steamer. Cover the pot and gently simmer the pudding for approximately 5 ½ hours. If needed, top up the boiling water during cooking to ensure the water level is maintained.
  7. Once cooked, carefully remove the pudding steamer from the boiling water and stand for approximately 10 minutes. Open the steamer, remove the bottom piece of baking paper, turn the pudding onto a plate and remove the top piece of baking paper. I usually allow my pudding to stand for a while before cutting to allow it to firm up so it doesn’t crumble too much when cutting. If you would like it warmer to serve, reheat each slice gently in the microwave or pour over hot custard which will also rewarm the pudding. This pudding is suitable to freeze.

If you like this recipe, you might also enjoy these:

Apple, Peach and Date Pudding 001

Slow Cooker Chocolate Christmas Pudding

Slow Cooker Sticky Date Pudding 002

How to Budget for the Cost of Christmas Next Year …

How to Budget for the Cost of Christmas Next Year


Christmas can be one of the most expensive times of the year but with a well thought-out plan, a positive attitude and a solid budget, there’s no reason not to survive and to sail into the New Year without a financial hangover. But what few people realise is that the best time to start planning and budgeting for Christmas is just after the previous one has finished … so , in other words, RIGHT NOW! I learned this lesson a long time ago. After years of frustration, stress and maxing out the credit card, I decided there had to be a better way, so this is what I did.


Early in January, I downloaded my Christmas Budget Planner and then prepared a budget. It’s totally free and you can get your copy by clicking on the “free to download” button below.





I gathered my receipts and credit card statement, thought about everything I had purchased for Christmas just gone and created a list of everything I bought. Then I added 10% to account for price rises/inflation and then recorded those amounts on my Christmas Budget. It was a fairly simple process because everything was still fresh in my mind. That list then became the basis for my Christmas Savings Plan. I totaled all the amounts together, divided this by the number of weeks left until Christmas and arranged a direct debit from my pay (or other income source). This amount was then automatically deposited weekly into an online account that had no card access. When Christmas rolled around, it was all covered.


Setting up a direct debit works well because the money goes straight to the account and you’ll find, once you get into the habit, you won’t even miss the money. Seeing your account build from week to week is a great feeling and will help relieve your stress knowing that you’re actively preparing for Christmas. Having a Christmas Account also gives you the flexibility to purchase items throughout the year when on sale which will also help you achieve your goal of being “on budget”.


A small amount deposited each week can really add up over the course of the year but if the number you come up with is higher than you anticipated, you can readjust the budget accordingly by either decreasing the amounts you’ve allocated to different items, cutting some things out altogether or finding a way to increase your Christmas budget.


Now this plan will only succeed if you don’t touch the Christmas Account, you accurately estimate your expenses, you’re disciplined and you follow through with the plan. It will also help to prevent overspending as you will have set very clear limits.


So tell me, do you plan ahead for your Christmas spending?

Tips for Organising and Storing Christmas Decorations …

Tips for Organising and Storing Christmas Decorations 001


Christmas decorations can be a real challenge to store because they come in so many different shapes and sizes and won’t necessarily fit together like a neat puzzle. This year I decided it was time for me to review and revamp my decoration storage. I normally take my tree down on New Years Day but this year I’ve decided to take my time and really put some thought and effort into organising and storing my decorations. Every task starts with a goal and my main goal is to store everything relevant to Christmas in the least amount of space, keep it all together in one place and keep it safely protected from damage.


It’s definitely worth the effort because an accumulated collection of decorations can add up to a lot of money. It’s taken me years to accumulate my current collection, buying things as I’ve seen them over the years. I, therefore, want to look after everything and not waste money replacing decorations that are damaged because I haven’t stored and packed them well.


I’ve tried various storage solutions over the years and I’ve found the most effective way is to use large, clear plastic boxes or crates. These are typically light but sturdy with the added advantage of being clear so I can see what’s inside. There are loads of purpose made storage items available for decorations, lights, wreaths and so on but these can almost be as expensive as the item themselves.


Tips for Organising and Storing Christmas Decorations 002


Discount stores like The Reject Shop and Crazy Clarks are great places to pick up inexpensive boxes and crates but I found these fantastic boxes from Masters Hardware. They were being sold as a storage box for wrapping paper but I thought they’d be perfect for my decorations. The thing I loved most was that they are perfectly square unlike a lot of plastic crates that taper in at the bottom.


Tips for Organising and Storing Christmas Decorations 003


To really make the most of these boxes, I grabbed an old cardboard box and some scissors and created my own dividers. It is possible to buy boxes with dividers but creating my own allowed me to perfectly tailor it to my needs. When cutting the cardboard, try to get it the exact size so that it fits snuggly against the sides of the container and doesn’t move around too much.


Next I grabbed my supply of zip lock bags. I grouped all my similar decorations together, placed each type in a separate zip lock bag and then layered them on top of each other in the box. Heavy weight items go on the bottom, medium weight items get layered next and finally the lightest weight items are on the top. For my tree, I tend to buy decorations in multiples of 6 (not sure why, but I do) so when I’m packing up I store the same decorations together by type so I can find them easily. This helps me hang the decorations evenly around the tree so it looks balanced. Fragile ornaments may require a little extra care so for those I use household tissues, tissue paper and bubble wrap.


Tips for Organising and Storing Christmas Decorations 004


Tinsel, lights, beading and other garlands can be a nightmare to store because they can become a big tangled mess. Here’s a simple solution, grab a piece of sturdy cardboard and make a small cut on one side. Thread the start of the tinsel into the groove you’ve cut and then wrap the remainder around the cardboard. Once you get to the end, cut another groove in the cardboard and hook or slide the end into that to hold it firmly in place. Next time, simply unhook one of the ends and you’ll have no more tangles.


I do use one large plastic 80 litre crate to store all the bulky items like wreaths, table linen, and anything else that’s large. I also like to pack away Christmas platters to prevent them taking up valuable space in the kitchen.


And finally, here are a couple more general tips to help with the Christmas pack up:


  • Each year check what decorations you have and evaluate what you are actually using. If you find you still have a lot left over after you finish decorating the tree, maybe it’s time to get rid of some. Either throw them out or offer them to family, friends of charity. Give yourself permission to let them go and then do it!


  • It’s tempting to buy lovely new decorations when they are on sale either before Christmas or in the after-Christmas Sales but stop and think. Do you really need them or are you only buying them because they are 50% or more cheaper?


  • Once completely packed up, I like to keep the tree and all the Christmas Decoration boxes together in one spot, which for my house is in the garage. This means I don’t spend forever searching for a missing, elusive box that I know I have but just can’t find.


  • Think “outside the square” to come up with creative storage ideas. For example, plastic cups and used egg cartons are perfect for storing baubles and small hanging decorations.


  • Some decorations you might want to store in the original packaging but, unless it’s absolutely necessary, consider getting rid of it as it can be bulky and take up lots of room.


  • I also pack away into these boxes everything that’s relevant to Christmas. Things like Christmas books, DVD’s, clothing, jewellery, candles, Santa Hats, stockings, table linen, tea towels, etc. also get packed away and brought out only for Christmas. This means I don’t have to worry about storing those things in regular drawers and cupboards throughout the year, it also meant that these were like new items each Christmas as that was the only time the kids saw them.


  • Separate your decorations into zones e.g. pack all your outside decorations in different boxes from your indoor decorations . If you decorate a single tree, keep those separate from other miscellaneous items like advent calendars, wreaths and so on and if you decorate more than one tree, separate the decorations for each tree into different boxes. This means you won’t have to unpack all the boxes at once, only the ones you need and you won’t find yourself searching for decorations for a particular tree because they are all mixed up. If you have multiple trees and only decide to put up one, then you’ll only need to unpack the single box that holds the decorations for that tree.


  • Keep it simple … I do love Christmas, putting up the tree and decorating but it only lasts for about a month. The more you decorate, the more you need to buy and the more you need to store and pack away for approximately 11 months of the year.


So there you have it, some simple tips to help organise your decorations each year that will save time, space and effort.


So tell me, do you enjoy decorating the house for Christmas or do you find it all to be a bit of a chore?





Santa’s Magical Key … A Christmas Tradition …

Santa's Magical Key 005


I love family traditions because they create such special memories that live with us and our children forever. Over the years, we’ve created many Christmas traditions that we still keep going even though my kids are now teenagers and young adults. Christmas is such a magical time and small, simple traditions can help put a smile on your face whether your 6 or 60!


Creating your own traditions doesn’t have to be expensive and doesn’t even take a lot of effort, like this one … “Santa’s Magical Key”!


We’ve been doing this for years because, if there was one question that was always asked by my kids at Christmas, it was this one … “If the front door is locked, how does Santa get inside to deliver presents to boys and girls everywhere?” Good question!


Gone are the days when he could just slide down the chimney as most houses no longer have one! Instead, Santa has to get a little more creative … with a bit of help from Mums and Dads, of course. So we answered that question with the little poem below that was attached to a key and delivered to our door by Santa’s elves in the final couple of days before Christmas Eve. Then on Christmas Eve, we simply hung the “special” key outside the front door so that Santa could get inside quickly and quietly.


This key is very special you see,

It won’t work for just you and me …

Hang it just outside your door,

Go to bed and worry no more …

Close your eyes and close them tight,

For Santa Clause is coming tonight.


Santa's Magical Key 006



So, if you like the sound of this little tradition, I’ve created 2 little goodies for you to download completely free … a tag to attach to your “Santa’s Magical Key” which features the poem above and a “Special Delivery” label for you to cut out and attach to a little wrapped box holding the key. Simply deliver the “parcel” a couple of days before Christmas Eve for the kids to open.





I bought my key a few years ago, it was a simple decoration that only cost a few dollars. Whatever key you decide to use it doesn’t need to cost a lot … any old or rustic-looking key will do the job.


Santa's Magical Key 007



One small suggestion … if you’re going to use your key for a number of years, you might want to laminate the tag to protect it.


This is a sweet little tradition that helps contribute to the magic of Christmas for little ones.


So tell me, do you already follow this tradition or are you now inspired to give it a go?


If you enjoy creating family traditions to help make Christmas special, you might also enjoy these posts:


Christmas Books … A Christmas Family Tradition 001



Christmas Family Traditions 001





Taking Shortcuts at Christmas with Cake 2 the Rescue …

Taking Shortcuts at Christmas with Cake2the Rescue 001


Don’t be completely fooled by the title of my blog … Mrs Organised! It does describe me most of the time but there are also occasions when I feel like a bit of a fraud … and this Christmas has proved to be one such time. Hubby and I went overseas for most of October and I feel like I’ve been on the back foot ever since. I haven’t planned the menu for Christmas Day yet, only half our decorations have made it out of the box and I haven’t bought a single a Christmas present yet … normally I’m done by the end of November. But, when all is said and done, I refuse to stress … I’m just going to make my life as easy as possible, cut back and only do the bare minimum. It feels good and I won’t be feeling guilty.


So this Christmas it’s all about shortcuts and what better way to alleviate the stress hormones than to let someone else do some of the work. I’ve worked with Cake2the Rescue before and you can read more about that here. Cake 2 the Rescue creates fantastic cake kits with everything you need to create amazing cakes with minimum effort. All you need to add are some fresh ingredients like eggs, milk and butter.


Taking Shortcuts at Christmas with Cake2the Rescue Original Photo 002


There are cakes for all occasions so whether you’re planning you child’s next birthday or looking for a cake for a special occasion like Halloween or Christmas, Cake 2 the Rescue will save you every single time.


Taking Shortcuts at Christmas with Cake2the Rescue Original Photo 003


I trialed this Christmas cake the other day and was again impressed by how quickly and easily it all came together. Mixing the ingredients and doing a little bit of preparation took no more than 15 minutes, the cake itself was in the oven for 1 hour and the decorating took me about 30 minutes … not bad for such an impressive result. I just love the look of this cake, it’s so festive and the vanilla cake inside will appeal to most people.


Taking Shortcuts at Christmas with Cake2the Rescue Original Photo 004


There’s still time to order one of these cakes and have it delivered in time for Christmas and Lou is currently offering a $5.00 discount for any of my readers who order. Simply head to the website: to see the range available and also place your order.


Taking Shortcuts at Christmas with Cake2the Rescue Original Photo 005

So tell me, how are your Christmas preparations going and what kind of cake or pudding will you be serving?

Slow Cooker Chocolate Christmas Pudding …

Slow Cooker Chocolate Christmas Pudding

As long as I can remember, our family has always served a traditional Christmas Pudding on Christmas Day. It’s such a tradition that we even get together, about 6 weeks before Christmas, to make our puddings in cloths using a fourth-generation recipe that our kids are now learning. After the puddings are prepared and cooked, they’re hung in the garage so the flavour can really develop, you can read more about that here.

Sadly though, the traditional Christmas Pudding doesn’t appeal to everyone and most kids will usually turn their noses up when it’s served. Well, here’s a great alternative … my Slow Cooker Chocolate Christmas Pudding, and the best part is, it’s dead easy. Simply combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl, combine the wet ingredients in a large jug and then mix the two together. Pour the mixture into a Pudding Steamer and then let the slow cooker do the work while you make the rest of the preparations … like I said, so easy it’s child’s play. Enjoy!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Slow Cooker Chocolate Christmas Pudding …
Ingredients …
  • 1⅓ cup plain flour
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa powder (I used raw cacao)
  • ⅔ cup castor sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ cup dark chocolate chips
  • ⅔ cup butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons plain Greek yoghurt
  • 1 tablespoon Golden Syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • icing sugar (to decorate)
Method …
  1. Spray the inside of an 850ml Pudding Steamer well with cooking spray. Place a small circle of baking paper in the base only of the Pudding Steamer by cutting a piece to fit.
  2. In a large bowl, sift the plain flour, cocoa powder, castor sugar and baking powder and mix until well combined.
  3. Add the dark chocolate chips and stir through.
  4. Combine the melted butter, Greek yoghurt, Golden Syrup and vanilla extract in a large jug and whisk until well combined.
  5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined … don’t overmix.
  6. Pour the pudding mixture into the prepared Pudding Steamer, smooth the top with the back of a spoon and seal with the Steamer lid.
  7. Place the Pudding Steamer inside the slow cooker and pour enough boiling water to come approximately half way up the side of the Steamer.
  8. Put the lid on the slow cooker and cook the pudding for 3 hours on HIGH.
  9. Once done, remove the Pudding Steamer from the slow cooker, remove the lid and allow to stand for a couple of minutes. Place a serving plate on top of the steamer, turning it upside down to remove the pudding.
  10. Dust the pudding with a little icing sugar and place a sprig of Christmas holly on the top.

Clever Tricks, Tips and Hints …

  • This cooking time will produce a divinely moist pudding that will still hold together when cut. If you would like your pudding a little drier, add 15 minutes to the 3 hours suggested cooking time.

  • I always use raw cacao when I cook, however, cocoa will work just as well. I find the raw cacao is a little healthier. I also find it has a stronger flavour which adds to the decadence of the pudding.

  • Depending on the number of people you are cooking for, I like to have two puddings available for dessert on Christmas Day … a plum pudding for those who like it traditional and a chocolate pudding for the kids and those who don’t like the other.

  • If you don’t own a pudding steamer, a heat-proof bowl (pyrex bowls are ideal) will give you a similar result. Follow the recipe as it is, and create a “lid” for the pudding by placing a piece of aluminium foil over the top of the bowl and hold in place with firmly-tied string. The aim of doing this is to prevent any moisture from getting into the pudding as it’s cooking.

  • When using a pudding steamer, it’s very important to spray or grease it really well so the pudding comes out easily once cooked, particularly if your steamer is made from metal. To prevent the top of the pudding sticking to the base of the steamer, place a circle of baking paper in the base. To cut the circle the right size, grab a pen or pencil and trace around the bottom of the steamer onto some baking paper. Now cut out the circle but cut inside the drawn line to make the circle slightly smaller than you traced out. This will ensure the circle of baking paper will fit the base of the steamer perfectly. Spray the inside of the steamer, pop the circle of baking paper in the base and your pudding will turn out of the steamer easily.

If you enjoy this pudding recipe, you might also like these:

Apple, Peach and Date Pudding 001

Slow Cooker Sticky Date Pudding 002

M & M Christmas Cookies …

M & M Christmas Cookies 003

These are a delightful little Cookie to make at Christmas time. M & M’s are available at this time of the year in Christmas packs featuring just the red and green M & M’s … perfect for Christmas baking. My kids love these cookies … I hope all the little Cookie Monsters living at your place enjoy them as well!

M & M Christmas Cookies 001

M & M Christmas Cookies 002

M & M Christmas Cookies …
Serves: 24
Ingredients …
  • ½ cup butter, softened but not melted
  • 1 cup castor sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 ¾ cups plain flour
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • M & M’s (red and green)
Method …
  1. Preheat oven to 180C and line 2 baking trays with baking paper.
  2. Add butter and castor sugar to a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until light and creamy, approximately 3 – 4 minutes.
  3. Add egg and vanilla extract and beat until combined for another 1 – 2 minutes.
  4. In a separate bowl, add the plain flour, baking powder and salt and stir until well combined.
  5. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon until combined to form a soft dough.
  6. Measure approximately 1 tablespoon of cookie dough, roll into a ball, place on the baking tray and flatten with fingers. Repeat until all dough has been used.
  7. Press some M & M’s gently into the top of the cookie and bake for approximately 11 minutes.
  8. Remove from oven, allow to rest on trays for approximately 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  9. Store cookies in an air-tight container for up to 3 days. This recipe is suitable to freeze and will make approximately 24 cookies.

If you enjoy this Christmas recipe, you might also enjoy these:

Jingle Balls 001

Apple, Peach and Date Pudding 001

Slow Cooker Sticky Date Pudding 002

Keeping Christmas Simple … WANT, NEED, WEAR, READ …

Keeping Christmas Simple … Want, Need, Wear, Read


We’re having a very simple, low-budget Christmas again this year … it’s something we’ve been doing for a while … and I love it!


It can be so tempting at Christmas to “go all out”, spend up big and spoil the kids, family and friends rotten … I’m guilty … I’ve done it! It’s so easy to get caught up in the frenzy with “SALE” signs, “Interest-free Offers” and fabulous Christmas displays all encouraging us to part with our hard-earned cash … yep … guilty again! But if it means having to deal with maxed out credit cards or having to nurse a “financial hangover” that lasts well into the New Year or beyond, it’s definitely not worth it!


In reality, the kids have never needed the mountain of beautifully wrapped presents that used to greet them on Christmas morning and could have survived quite nicely without a lot of it!


So many years ago, we adopted this little gift-giving tradition, which has been floating around the internet forever:







This method, for my family, has been a total winner and it’s had many advantages:


  • Buying Christmas presents is so much simpler and easier


  • Our Christmas spending has been reduced dramatically


  • It’s helped manage the kids expectations


  • It’s encouraged us to be really selective and buy more meaningful gifts … the emphasis is very much on quality not quantity


  • The kids have learned to prioritise and focus on that they would really love, limit their choices and decide what’s more meaningful to them when they create their “Wish List”


  • Removing the emphasis on presents has helped everyone focus more on family, friends, time spent together creating share memories and has been an opportunity to be more mindful of the true spirit and meaning of Christmas


  • It’s a fair system because the kids get the same number of presents hopefully reducing any sibling rivalry (okay, so that’s still going to happen but we can try!)


  • As parents, we have learned to be more restrained


  • We’ve saved a lot of money because it’s reduced the temptation to buy too much and “overshop”


  • It’s encouraged the kids to be really grateful for the presents they do get


  • The amount of “stuff”, junk and clutter that seems to magically enter the house at Christmas time is significantly reduced


  • It’s saved time and energy because there’s less to buy


  • And the greatest benefit is that this all adds up to LESS STRESS!


So, if you’re looking for a simple way to ease the pressure on yourself and your budget this Christmas, give it a go … you just might like it!


And, while we’re talking about Christmas, don’t forget to download your free Christmas Planner … but don’t be shy … share it with your family and friends … they’ll thank you for it!


Christmas Planner 001



How I Organise my Christmas Wrapping Paper …

How I Organise my Christmas Wrapping Paper 001


Now that Christmas is over, it’s time to pack away all the wrapping materials that you’ve used to wrap and decorate presents/gifts. Things like ribbons, string, baubles, cards and gift tags are easy to store because they are small enough to pack neatly into a plastic box or crate. Wrapping paper on the other hand is a little more challenging because of its size.


This is also the time of the year that I tend to stock up on wrapping paper at hugely reduced prices … sometimes up to 90 % off. So although it’s a great way to save money, now you have to store it.


Here’s a little trick that I’ve been doing for years:


  • Grab a roll of Christmas paper … I usually choose one that has a cardboard tube in the middle as it makes the roll a bit more solid.


  • Now take a second roll of wrapping paper and carefully roll it over the top of the existing roll. The leftover cardboard tubes can either be thrown out in the recycling bin or kept for craft activities for the kids.


  • Continue until you have worked your way through all the rolls and the result will be a single roll of wrapping paper instead of multiple rolls.


  • Attach an elastic band to each end of the roll to stabilize all the layers of paper and to prevent the roll from unraveling.



How I Organise my Christmas Wrapping 002





How I Organise my Christmas Wrapping Paper 003



This technique will save so much space as it’s much easier to store a single roll. It also works because I’m storing wrapping paper for a single theme i.e. Christmas. I generally then store the single roll of wrapping paper in the corner of one of the wardrobes … out of the way until it’s needed next year.


Another great idea is to store Christmas Wrapping Paper in the same box as the Christmas Tree. Both will be needed at the same time of year and the Christmas Tree box will be large enough to store even the longest roll of wrapping paper. This tip was suggested by one of my lovely Instagram followers … well done!


You may also find that you have loads of smaller, offcut pieces of Christmas paper leftover … you know, the bits of paper that are left over when you cut paper to size to fit the present you’re wrapping.


Years ago, I used to simply throw these away until I realised how much was ending up in the bin and I used to feel it was such a waste. Now I create a new sheet of wrapping paper by simply taping all the offcuts together. It’s a bit like scrapbooking or putting together a patchwork quilt … some of the most unlikely combinations of pattern and colour just seem to work! Don’t worry too much about the size of the scraps left over, just mix and match, sticky tape them together to create a new sheet and then neatly trim the edges. This can then be rolled onto the single roll of wrapping paper. It’s the perfect way to eliminate the waste and save money. I’ve shared this tip previously for birthday wrapping paper but it works just as well for Christmas wrapping paper and you can read more here.



How I Organise my Christmas Wrapping Paper 004



So tell me, how do you store your wrapping paper and do you like to stock up during the sales?

Tracking Santa on Christmas Eve via NORAD …


Tracking Santa on Christmas Eve via NORAD ...


Well, it’s almost Christmas Eve and it won’t be long until Santa begins his epic journey and travels around the globe to deliver presents to boys and girls everywhere. It’s such an exciting time for littlies everywhere, but did you know there’s a way to follow and track Santa’s journey?


If you visit this site: you and your kids will be able to follow Santa’s journey as he leaves the North Pole and flies south around the world. Santa is tracked by radar, satellite, Santacams and he’s even escorted by Canadian and American fighter pilots who fly with Santa and his reindeer as they move through North America.


So what’s the background and how did this “tracking” come about? The story dates back 60 years to 1955 when the Sears Department Store in America advertised the opportunity for children to call the store and talk to Santa. Unfortunately, they mistakenly printed the wrong phone number and the calls went through to the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) where they were answered by Colonel Harry Shoup, the Director of Operations. Realising what had occurred, Colonel Shoup instructed his staff to answer the calls and advise the children of Santa’s current radar position as he made his way south from the North Pole. CONAD eventually became NORAD in 1958 and NORAD stands for The North American Aerospace Defense Command, which is a joint operation between the United States and Canada responsible for aerospace safety and warning … and a tradition was born.


There is a list of frequently asked questions on the site with loads of valuable information for the kids but the best question and advice (as quoted directly from the site) is this:




NORAD tracks Santa, but only Santa knows his route, which means we cannot predict where and when he will arrive at your house. We do, however, know from history that it appears he arrives only when children are asleep! In most countries, it seems Santa arrives between 9:00 p.m. and midnight on December 24th. If children are still awake when Santa arrives, he moves on to other houses. He returns later…but only when the children are asleep!”


Tracking Santa via NORAD was something we started doing years ago and even though my girls are now older, it’s a bit of a tradition for us to log on to the site on Christmas Eve and track Santa’s progress.


So for a bit of fun, why not log on tonight and create some magic for the kids.


Merry Christmas, everyone!

Christmas Books … A Christmas Family Tradition …

Christmas Books … A Christmas Family Tradition 001


I love reading and have always enjoyed bedtime stories with my girls. This was one of my favourite times of every day when we would snuggle up and spend some quiet time together. Reading was part of our nightly routine and a great way to settle and relax the kids before they drifted off to sleep.


In December I always brought out our collection of Christmas books to read together which really added to the magic and spirit of Christmas. I always packed our Christmas books and DVD’s away after Christmas with the decorations so that, when we unpacked them each year, they were special and relevant to the time of year.


Each year I would also buy a new Christmas book to add to our collection and this soon became one of our family Christmas traditions. Even though the girls are now older, we always buy a book each year to read to younger nieces and nephews or any other kiddos who come to visit.


So if you’re looking to build your own collection of Christmas books, here are the titles in our collection that are just perfect for Christmas:


  • The Night Before Christmas
  • Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Clause
  • The Nutcracker
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas
  • Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
  • A Christmas Carol
  • The Polar Express
  • Frosty The Snowman
  • Olive, the Other Reindeer
  • Nightmare Before Christmas
  • Can you find … 1001 Christmas Things
  • The Twelve Days of Christmas
  • Reindeer’s Christmas Surprise
  • The Naughtiest Reindeer
  • Little Ducks First Christmas
  • Santa’s Beard
  • The Christmas Tugboat: How the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Came to New York City
  • Merry Moosey Christmas
  • The Legend of Papa Noel: A Cajun Christmas Story
  • Madeline’s Christmas
  • Charlie Brown’s Christmas
  • The Last Christmas Tree
  • The Christmas Miracle of Jonathon Toomey
  • I Spy Christmas
  • How Santa Got His Job
  • Katie’s London Christmas
  • Lighthouse Christmas


We’ve just come back from a holiday to New Zealand and while we were there I picked up a copy of A Pirate’s Twelve Days of Christmas to add to our collection. It is the most gorgeous book and the Department Store that I purchased it from, Smith & Caughey’s, had their windows set up with animated characters telling the story. It was so beautiful and brought back childhood memories of going into the city in Sydney to see the Myer Christmas Windows every year.


So tell me, do you read Christmas stories through December and which one is your favourite?