Thanksgiving and Gift Giving

In the midst of all of my painting projects(as well as cleaning, de-cluttering, and decorating), I get hit this time every year with multiple gift-giving occasions.  All three of my children were born during holiday time, and we celebrate Hanukkah AND Christmas, so I feel like George Jetson on the treadmill:

Except substitute “Joel!” for “Jane!”

Here is my  frugal, garden-y gift idea!  Plant bulbs to “force” over the winter indoors:

That should add cheer to anyone during a dreary winter day!

All my children are winter babies.  My first baby was born around Thanksgiving.  Three years, one week, and five minutes later my second baby was born, and that year it fell during Hanukkah.  Three years, five weeks and five minutes later, my third baby was born – Epiphany!

Well, truthfully, every year, I am reminded that  they are the greatest gifts to me and Joel.  We are  so very fortunate to have them in our lives.  Having each of them during holiday time was incredible.  I became uber-organized and had all decorations up, gifts mailed to far-away relatives, cards mailed, food planned and pre-cooked……all by sometime in October.

That only happened each of the three years my children were born.  Every year after became much more challenging.  I now had 3 kids with holiday birthdays!

I ended up having to simplify, which really is a good thing.  When you keep it simple, you are able to actually take stock and remember what the season is all about, after all.   There is nothing more wonderful than spending time with family and friends.

Here are our traditions, for the most part:

1-Birthdays- Each child got a party.  It varied year to year as to size and cost.  They also got one “important” gift from Mom and Dad, and a little gift from each other.

2-Hanukkah – We give them money.  For creative ways to give cash, I looked into Pam Young’s “Everybody Loves Money,” and    It is a lot less boring to give cash when packaged creatively.  One of our favorites was “Cold, Hard Cash.”  Place the cash in a sandwich zip top baggie, seal.  Place that baggie within a gallon zip top baggie, fill with some water, seal, lay flat on a baking sheet and freeze.  The recipient will have to use a hammer to get the money out. 🙂  We draw names with extended family and put a limit on the dollar amount because our family is huge.

3-Christmas – We give them one “main” gift plus stocking stuffers.  Now that the kids are older, the stocking stuffers include a lot of little gift cards for the likes of  Starbucks, iTunes, Panera, Amazon, etc.  We draw names with extended family for this holiday, too, and put a limit on the dollar amount because our family is huge.

4-Financial – I keep a separate gift-giving account so that we do not take from our main household account.  This has worked very well for us because we do not have the burden of  debt come January and we are able to stay on track with regular bills.  For more on the topic of money, particularly staying debt-free, read “The Total Money Makeover” by Dave Ramsey.

5-Keeping it fun – On Hanukkah evenings, particularly the first one, we light the menorah, play dreidel, and eat latkes(potato pancakes).  On Christmas Eve, we eat a special dinner, go to church, and then have a treasure hunt.  I have several sets of clues, and recycle them every few years.  The “treasure” has come to be new pj’s for everyone.  In leaner years, they got a small piece of candy or an ornament.  When the kids were little this filled them with so much excitement!  The rest of the gifts are opened on Christmas morning.

6-Santa Claus – This is a personal subject.  As a child, I was traumatized and bullied when I found out that Santa wasn’t real.  I was much older than most, probably around 10 or 11 years old.  It sounds dramatic, but I still remember it so vividly as a crushing blow.  I made the decision to be honest with my children, and instead of doing without Santa altogether, I told them that Santa was the Spirit of Giving.  That Spirit should live in all of our hearts, therefore making each one of us a Santa to other people.

7-Interfaith – Another personal subject….if you are a member of an Interfaith family, I highly recommend, “Raising Your Jewish/Christian Child” by Lee F. Gruzen.  This book handles the subject in a sensitive, compassionate way, as it is written by an Interfaith parent.  My children have always felt so lucky to have the two religions in their heritage.  I feel blessed by that as well!

I look forward to this year’s holidays!  Since Thanksgiving is around the corner, I am once again reminded how much I have to be thankful for – Joel, my three children, my puppy dog, our wonderful, HUGE family 🙂 and all the great friends in our lives (y’all know who y’all are!)  Wishing all of y’all a very happy and healthy Thanksgiving, and Hanukkah(since they fall at the same time this year), and may you find joy in your life every day!


With love and gratitude,

Wendy  ❤


Sometimes the smallest change can make a big impact.  My Town Mouse Fireplace has bothered me since 1997, when we bought the house.  There was a brass-plated strip on it that stuck out like a sore thumb:

CIMG2471Here it is up close:


Not very pretty…also, the bricks and mortar was looking pretty dingy, so I remembered Sabrina Soto, from HGTV, used spray-foam bathroom cleaner to clean bricks on a fireplace, so….


And let’s not forget the stone hearth:


These steps alone vastly improved the look of the fireplace.


It was then my intention to brush the paint on the brass-plate, which I first washed off with a bit of Dawn and some water.  It did not go as smoothly as I had planned.  I used “High Heat Rustoleum” in Black:


Fortunately, I had some in the spray form:


(I have previously used this paint on the wood-burning stoves at Country Mouse House)

I had to get creative with painter’s tape and trash bags.  Then I roughed the surface a tiny bit with sandpaper and then steel wool.  Here are the results, one coat at a time(I didn’t take photos after every coat.  There were a total of about 8 thin coats):





CIMG2492 CIMG2493

I love it!  I hope you do, too.  It didn’t take all that long, leaving me time in the day to paint something else….



Front Doorz

Chapter One – “To Paint or Not To Paint”

Here is a picture of the front door at Country Mouse House:


I believe that the paint that is on there is the original paint.  We added the deadbolt, but the key hole just below the knob still functions(both indoors and out), and we actually have that key and use it!

Over time, settling has occurred.  The door looks a little crooked, but then, that’s because it IS crooked!  (So is the house.)

A friend suggested washing it as best as we can, then maybe just a coat of varnish to seal it and preserve the “character”…..that’s the word we use a lot when our home is older than we ourselves are!

I want to call Nicole Curtis and ask her advice!  What do you think?

(Note – I have removed part of this post since we have moved our “Town Mouse” residence.  There will be more posts about changes to “Country Mouse” house soon)