The little birds...

If you watch little birds you will see they are busy and happy! Using whatever they can find they create the most gorgeous little nest.
I would be the little bird with some glittery thread in her nest!
We can be like this. Happily working away with the things that are available to us to create a beautiful and happy home.
All the while with a little song in our heart.

Banner by Free Pretty Things for You.

Tuesday 15 November 2016

The Christmas Challenge. The handmade Christmas.

This is the third year that I started making Christmas gifts in January.  Making things all year has made such a difference and also has covered birthdays and all the other occasions along the way.  I am guessing but I think overall I have made about 80% of the gifts and probably reduced my costs by something similar. The best bit is I end up with a lot more to give.  Just now with going through the present cupboard I found I could donate another four rugs to charity and I can make up some spare gifts to give away as I see the opportunity. It is all a win win!

The challenge serves a few purposes for me... it motivates me to try new crafts,  saves a lot of money and keeps me more content in the winter months.  An extra bonus has been seeing all your crafts as well!

Many of us also make our own cards, decorations, table centre pieces, wreaths and all sorts of things!
So really it is quite a handmade Christmas! This is something to think about! Making someone a wreath for their door or a table display is also a great gift to give.

Today I want to think about things we can make for Christmas besides just the gifts.

I love to look at catalogues to see what people buy and how much they pay for things.  So many things that are easy to make are considered wonderful gifts and with price tags to match! The companies that put together hampers ... take a look at those! There are just so many things that we can quite easily do for a fraction of the cost.

 I saw a local florist had Christmas wreaths starting at a couple of hundred dollars. A neighbour had hers delivered by a van and she threw it out at the end! A pool noodle is a great base for a wreath! Or a Hoola Hoop. They come in larger or smaller sizes.  I used a large Hoola Hoop and made a wreath for our door plus one for Mum's. The greenery was an old cut up Christmas tree. Mine cost well under $20 to make.  Actually tearing apart an old tree will give you greenery to decorate a mantle or a table centre, wreaths and a lot of things. Last year I got a Christmas tree for $3 in the sales just to rip it up and make wreaths as gifts.

Other years we picked up pinecones and gum nuts.  I sprayed them with glue and sprinkled glitter over them. We made so many of these! One year they decorated the table and another they were heaped up under the tree.

I also glittered gum nuts and used them instead of bows on the parcels. You could use leaves, flowers, shells... whatever you have!

Another year I piled up anything sparky I had including jewellery onto a tiered cake stand. I just added little birds and that was my centrepiece.

Baking can give you decorations, gifts and special treats to share. I am always packaging up baking to give.  I made Shortbread every year. It is not expensive to make and a whole round of Shortbread is a spectacular gift! Otherwise I cut in into wedges and divide it up.

I always make Gingerbread as well. That is usually given to neighbours and Andy's work mates etc.

Quite often I need baskets especially to give little hamper type gifts. These might be a small Christmas cake, some biscuits, coconut ice, a jar or two of jam and even some fresh herbs or dried bay leaves. Having lovely baskets to pack things into and having them on hand is the thing. All year I watch for suitable ones in op shops and pay 50c or a $1 for them.  I wash them and some years line them up and spray paint the lot silver or sparkly paint.  This year I have several and they are a nice natural french grey basket so that can stay as they are.

Mimi makes her own wrapping paper by using butchers paper and writes lovely script  across it wth Christmas or Birthday wishes. It looks so stylish and is a fraction of the cost of buying gift wrap.

Tulle cut into strips makes very cheap and beautiful ribbons and bows. I love floral fabrics just torn for a shabby chic kind of effect. Glitter helps everything!

I save up store bags and recover them and then have new gift bags! Old Christmas cards work really well for this and bits of sparkle.  These were some I did a couple of years ago...

The act of settling a table beautifully is part of your Christmas decorating and creates such an exciting atmosphere! I have crystal plates and glasses that I have collected over the years. All the sparkle looks amazing.  Mostly I will cut flowers from the garden or use something I have  to make the table look nice. Be inventive! Your craft supplies probably hold all kinds of things you can use.

On the farm Mum places deer antlers and pinecones that she picks up next to the front door. This is her country Christmas decor.

My own Christmas tree now is a $15 tree in a road side pot. It is small and sweet. I used to have a giant tree when the kids were little but now I have gone simple and I like it! It just does not have to cost a fortune is my point!

If you run strips of tulle through your sewing machine you get glorious garlands of tulle!

Truly you can put together a beautiful Christmas without breaking the bank!

Fill vases with greenery and pick Holly if someone has a bush of it. We have a lot of native things that flower in right red and look wonderful brought inside for Christmas.

What do you make that makes Christmas special at your place? What would you like to do this year that maybe you haven't done before?

I have not put our tree up yet.... that is in December for us. But I am wrapping and making! And I have some gorgeous fabric Paula gave me and loads of glitter!

Coming up we have a post about how Ida celebrated Christmas when they had no money and in the depression.... and another about 100% free glorious things to make Christmas memorable and wonderful.

I hope your week is going well! xxx


  1. I loved reading this post, it truly inspired me! I also enjoy making some gifts and seeing your glitter and natural cones and such. I did gather a huge bag of cones while camping. And I bought some glitter spray paint also.
    May you have a wonderful Thanksgiving...
    Blessings, Roxy

    1. Dear Roxy,
      Thank you so much! Pine cones are really lovely! They look good in baskets natural or sprayed.
      I have a lot of glitter supplies so I am thinking of ways to use some of that up! With love

  2. You have such a generous spirit Annabel. Thank you for the lovely ideas.

    1. Thank you so much Sherri! I hope you found some things you can use! xxx

  3. Annabel I loved this post - now I need to put my thinking cap on and it better be quick because we are having our small family (us and the children and partners) November 26th (our daughter will be overseas for Christmas and we always go to my mother in laws and do the cooking for everyone else).

    I will have to go and look in the boxes of Christmas stuff that is in the shed and ponder how to beautify the table even if the good crockery is still in storage.

    We have a 'ladies lunch' on the first Friday of the month - a good way for women from the local community to connect. Last night I was at a meeting last night so I took along some of the felt stockings I had cut out on the fold and some white crochet cotton, I am blanket stitching around the other side of the stocking and will fold down a corner and use one of the shirt buttons from my husband's old shirts to hold that corner in place. These are big enough for a couple of lollies or small candy canes to be placed in them.

    I have made them for years for different groups that I have belonged to and while they take time, they cost very little.

    I am working on getting 30 done, hopefully that will be enough. The best part is that you can use any coloured felt to match the decor and decorate as you wish. Mine will be a mixture of red and white.

    We don't put the tree up because we are not usually here, I do have a small tree (as in tiny) that I am going to see if I can find, if not it might be a whole lot of baubles on a white plate or if I can find a clear bowl in that.

    I need to see what is in the Christmas boxes so this is a great excuse.



    1. Dear Lynette, Felt crafts are on my list for next year. Mel C made a lot of amazing things from felt this year and I started on Pinterest then and you know how it goes...
      Your felt stockings sound lovely.
      I hope you find lots in the Christmas storage that you can use in some way this year. A lot of things are very versatile. With your Christmas family celebration early you will have lots to do sooner rather than later!
      Thanks so much Lynette. I got the catalogue with the peppermint bark in it so I got to see all the other prices! It has inspired me to collect nice Christmas tins as that is the main presentation I notice! Some very good ideas to pinch! With love

    2. Annabel you could always find other tins and give them the 'Annabel' touch, paint and a stencil or two would go a long way. I have lots of felt rectangles in storage - colours that are no longer available. Hopefully the felt and glitter and everything else finds it's way out of storage soon. I am collecting ideas for things I have on hand - all I need to do is find my fat 1/4's and I will be set for one line of gifts.

      Oh to have it all out of storage.



    3. Dear Lynette, Thank you for this suggestion! Somehow I had forgotten the possibility of spray painting tins! Now I will be saving tins and getting everyone to!
      I have noticed the felt at Spotlight isn't nice it feels bad somehow plus the colours are limited. I am looking online for better felt and colours. I have a few bits of lovely Christmas fabric... I must get them out too! With love

  4. Annabel, I too have gone to a smaller tree for this year. I've gone simple too! I just love looking at all your pictures. They are so inspiring!

    1. Dear Patsy, I am thinking your gift trunk is probably quite full and recent crochet and grub roses will be adding to it!
      I think I want a grateful and reflective Christmas. It has been a big year! Simple is good! With love

  5. Dear Annabel, thank you for another beautiful blog post. I love Christmas usually and am looking forward to a brighter one this year . My last three Christmases have been sad . Firstly 3 years ago I was on the brink of kidney failure and was admitted to hospital a week after Christmas with zero kidney function and had dialysis and blood transfusions etc. the next Christmas was my last one with Rob and he passed away in early January of 2015 and last Christmas was my first one without Rob so I am hoping my second Christmas after Robs death will be better.
    I apologise for whinging Annabel, I just want to thank you for giving me something to look forward to by doing the Christmas challenge and making me see that Christmas can be happy and lovely again. Something that makes my Christmas special is seeing my nieces delighted faces as they arrive at my parents place and see how mum has decorated the house. Something else that makes Christmas special is making Christmas cards for my friends and family and making and sharing Christmas goodies such as malteaser fudge and rocky road.
    I hope that this year, I can remember Rob and enjoy Christmas at the same time.
    Thank you Annabel for being an inspiration, a. Encourager and a lovely friend.
    Love Barb W.

    1. Hi Barb if I could reach out and give you a big hug right now I would. Sending you a cyber hug as the next best thing. Here's to a lovely Christmas. with Rob as your guardian angel, helping your enjoy your time with your family.

    2. Dear Barb,
      Oh I hope you have a lovely Christmas too! It must have been terrible to have been so ill and then lose your partner. You are not complaining Barb that has been your last three years and is an awful lot to go through.
      Like Jane I just want you to have a happy Christmas this year!
      Malteser Fudge!? How did I not know about this!? I love Maltese's so this has to be good. Rocky road is another good one! I should make some of that! These are lovely gifts Barb.
      It is great having children in the family. It is beautiful to see their reactions and it makes it so special. It is exciting for me as Harper is a bit older but she will still probably like the paper and ribbons as much as the gift lol
      I think making cards and getting things planned and ready also adds to Christmas and the build up. There is a lot of fun in that and surprising people too.
      I hope this is a wonderful year for you Barb! With love

    3. Dear Barb,

      I am so sorry for the loss of your Beloved Rob. Holidays are so difficult after we lose people we love.

      I love reading all of your comments, you are a special part of Annabel's mob here! I pray your Christmas will be blessed as you've blessed others. You're not whining, you're sharing your heart. I'll truly pray for you this 2nd Christmas after his passing, and pray you'll remember and celebrate lots of good memories!

      Colette xxx

    4. Thank you So much Jane and Annabel, I didn't want my post to come across as if I was feeling sorry for myself, because I am not. I was simply stating the facts of my last three Christmases and I am determined to make this Christmas better. Annabel the malteaser fudge is really easy , I will look up the recipe in mums recipe book and I will email you or post the recipe in my comment next week or on Friday if that is ok?.

      Sending big thank you cyber hugs to you Jane and a huge hug to you Annabel.i am truly grateful to you Annabel because this year will be a stress free Christmas and that is mostly because of your Christmas challenge.thanks again love Barb W.

    5. Sorry for all the replies Annabel but I wanted to say thank you to Collete also.that was such a lovely thing to say to me and I feel honoured to be one of "Annabel's mob". Thank you so much Colette. Love Barb W

    6. Dear Barb,
      I just read your very heartfelt post. Thank you for sharing your life with us. As you are very special, so must have been Rob. I'm praying that this year the sting of loss is greatly lessened and that fond memories will take it's place. Much Love. Cookie

  6. Annabel,
    I love this post! So many good ideas. When I used to be super organized I used to put up 15 trees ranging from 6 foot to 6 inches I bet in the attic I may have something that can be taken apart. Now that the boys are grown I have really simplified things and the things I did get to make are in the gift trunk waiting to be wrapped. I can't wait.
    Also I wanted to tell Teri that she has some lovely canning there and I really enjoyed seeing it!

    1. Dear Vicky, I don't know how much room Ida has in her room but I am taking Kath in the nursing home a mini tree and decorating her room with tinsel etc. The nursing home does have a christmas tree near the dining room but nothing in their rooms. Each year i go nuts and decorate Kaths room... she loves it! I wonder if they would let you do Ida's room!? And old trees are great to make into decorations or else put up for someone who has no tree for some reason. I would like to get in your attic that is for sure!
      I love wrapping stuff up! This is the good bit! With love

  7. Hi Annabel,
    Sometimes I think I would like to have a particular colour scheme for Christmas. This all changes when I get the Christmas box out of the shed. In this box are all the tree decorations that Mum has made for the children each year. There are also the decorations that the children made me. They might be all grown up but I can't not use them. Mum is continuing in the making of the decoration with our Tilly, her GGD. Mum used to also make our Katie a Christmas dress every year up until she was 11 and too big for this. I've decided to continue in my mother's tradition and have made Tilly a little Christmas outfit. My DIL asked if I could make Tilly a Christmas stocking. This has been done and the stocking and outfit will soon be on their way.
    I love the idea of pulling an old plastic tree apart to make wreaths and door swags. I saw a door swag in one of our cheap shops yesterday and they were $20. it looked like Christmas Tree off cuts.
    Around the house I put up swags I have made in Christmas fabrics, I have small wall quilts and quilted table runners. All these things add to the Christmas feeling.
    Having joined you in making things all year I have found that I have a cupboard full of gifts. I have had to rethink a few of these as we won't be travelling to family this year and I will need to post gifts. I have resorted to gift cards this year for some.
    I will be wrapping presents ready to post off early December. I have a Christmas letter to write and print off to go in my cards.
    You are so right when you say you don't have to spend a lot to have a good Christmas. It takes some planning and organisation and Christmas can be wonderful rather than financially draining. I also see Christmas decorating as an accumulation of pieces rather than an all at once event.
    Life is good.

    1. Dear Jane,
      I think its beautiful you have all those decorations! And also that your Mum made your daughter a Christmas dress every year. AND that you are going to do the same! Also the christmas stocking is exciting. Imagine the excitement over that in the coming years!
      The year of gift making sure adds up. The first year I did this I got a shock at how much stuff it was after a year! Plus as the year went on and I did other things it was quite a variety. So I think I will always do this from now on. It pays off big time!
      It sounds like your Christmas is shaping up. It will be good even though different this year. With lots of love,

  8. I'm loving the Christmas posts, I have all the gifts made that need to be made except the cooking gifts but will do that over the next few weeks. I've got to get myself some pine cones and spray with glue and sprinkle with glitter to decorate the table, they look amazing.
    Christmas will be exciting for Harper this year and little kids just make Christmas day I think, just watching them with gifts and the paper :)
    Hope you week has been productive Annabel. Debbie xx

    1. Dear Debbie, Your table is going to look gorgeous! And you did it yourself... even better! Glitter does work magic on things. Also epsom salts... I notice that looks like snow plus glistens! I am dreaming up what to do with that.
      I can't wait to hear about your gifts after what you made your Grandson last year, that was really good. I am excited as yes kids make it really a lot of fun. With love

  9. Dear Annabel,

    Thank you for yet another inspiring post! As you know I have had a rough go of it this year, and I was very behind in my Christmas challenge. However, there is still time and I am making some things! It's really brought me joy, and I'm super happy with my efforts! I am making cards and tags. I am also decorating/personalizing blank gift bags to be gifted to my SIL as she is such a gift giver all year long and she loves these. Finally, I am sewing decorative pillow covers, purse-sized tissue holders, and face washers & hand towels themed for the recipient. I got the pillow inserts from Goodwill. People get rid of decorative pillows that are hardly used, or not used at all! They are $2.99 but I get them on half-priced day for $1.49. I take off the old pillow cover, wash the insert and put it out to dry. I get the fabric I use on special or with a coupon. They are turning out gorgeous! I will be doing a little bit of baking as well. I've said it before, I'm totally self-taught with the sewing. I watch youtube videos then I give it a whirl. I got the face washers idea from Wendy quite awhile back. In other words, if I can do it, ANYONE can do something with a little effort and patience! I already have my list started for next year with all of the things I want to make. First up is soap! So much fun :)

    This post made me decide that I need more glitter in my life :)

    Colette xxx

    1. Dear Colette,
      Yes you have had a big year. You have done well too! I am so glad you are crafting. I know you enjoy it and I remember before how your sis loved your gifts. I think I remember a bright bike theme. Anyway I know she loved it and it was a hit. So she will love this!
      Thank you for what you have said about anyone can get going on making things. It is true. We can be held back thinking we can't... but with blogs, interest, you tube, craft stores etc we can learn! And it is fun and amazing to learn. I love all the things you are making!
      You will LOVE soap making.The ones I made early in the year are really good to give now as they are really hard and will last. It is a great gift! I also will be making soap in the new year.
      Glitter is like vitamins Colette! Yes you need glitter. Glitter on food is good too. See Mimi's edible glitter post this is lovely, pretty and a good gift costing pennies!
      I hope we get to see your gift bags, tags and sewing in show and tell! With love

  10. Dear Annabel,

    Wonderful post with wonderful pictures, as usual! I wanted to comment on all your beautiful roses from a post or two back...what sumptuousness...looks like pure luxury! Also I enjoyed reading about Vicky's Ida...what an amazing life. I can't imagine anyone being ready for marriage at 13; times were sure different 100 years ago. I am looking forward to hearing more about Ida!

    I finished another pair of socks and am halfway thru another. Am trying to get to the sewing machine, but I find that by the time the girls go to bed (to try to be "secret" about things, even though they can hear the sewing machine running right underneath their bedroom!! :)), I am just too tired to get it all out only to do a bit and then put it all away again! Must get cracking! Things are finally starting to get a little Christmassy around here, with all the church Christmas teas starting now. We have a family tradition of attending one each year and dressing in our finest and practicing our best manners. :)
    Thanks for all the lovely inspiration all year with this series, Annabel!

    xx Jen in NS

    1. Dear Jen,
      You are going great with the socks! And all present making for that matter. I think christmas teas sound beautiful... I think that must be like an afternoon tea? I love afternoon tea or high tea and that is a tradition that just suits me. Not everyone has these but if I have a friend over it is for afternoon tea.
      I hope you can get your sewing done. I am the same, I can't be bothered setting myself up only to have to put it away again. If sewing is out then its out for a week or more! Hiding things is a bit trickier!
      I hope your week has gone well! With love

  11. I've been making Christmas decorations for our tree for years. I make angels, wreaths and bows. I also make bon bons ( without the cracker ) out of wrapping paper tubes or the cardboard / paper from inside the roll. I decorate our table with a glass bowl of decorations from the back of the tree.

    We do a different color theme each year. This year is gold, cream and silver.

    1. Dear Wendy, Christmas decorations are a wonderful gift too! I have seen your beautiful angels! Plus it is a lot of fun.
      We are having white and silver this year I think. With love

  12. Dear Annabel,

    Thank you for another thoughtful and inspiring pots. Repurposing bags that have someone elses logo on them is brilliant and they came out so beautiful. We get so many catalogs this time of year that I've been saving them and going through them to cut out useable pictures for cards, gift tags, etc and the bags open up a whole new window.

    Around here there are always Christmas decorations, craft supplies, etc., being sold at yard or estate sales for pennies. One of my favorite things to do was to buy Christmas balls and paint flowers on them. Many of them were used for hostess gifts, teacher gifts, etc.

    On our way home from my husbands doctor's visit I got to stop at JoAnne's, which I think is probably like your Spotlight. They had the pine cone garlands in there that you previously showed a picture of. They were selling them at 60 percent off, and they were still $26 dollars. My only mission in there was to refurbish the glitter supply, but it was interesting to see
    all of the things that were for sale.

    My husband's first checkup was great. His activity level has been increased to things such as lifting, carrying, taking walks, etc. I'm glad it will be warmish here today so we can take a short walk.By the New Year he should be back to most activities but for a few. We are so grateful. And as Jane would say, "Life is good". Blessings. Cookie

    1. Dear Cookie,
      Catalogues can have great pictures! One year I had one with giant sized jewellery images and made cards with diamond and rubies etc and they were great!
      I love old Christmas decorations especially the mercury glass and soft colours. Your idea to paint on them is brilliant!
      I would love to go to a JoAnnes store! I think it is better than ours! But yes similar thing...
      This is great news about your husbands check up! He has come a long way really quickly and it all sounds excellent. That is fantastic! With love

  13. You have so well! You will be a blessing to many this year.

    Years ago I took 2-3 Christmas tree branches and tied them together with twine leaving enough to tie a loop on the back. Then I added a Chritmasy bow made of half price ribbon. These hang on our deck posts every Christmas. These decorations are just for us since they cannot be seen from the street but are viewable from the kitchen and dining windows. They are bundled up and hung on nails in the attic for storage. We enjoy these nearly free decorations every year.

    We need to get a smaller tree, too. We thought we would move this year and planned to get another tree to fit with the new house so here we are with our old one again and sweeping up piles of needles again. We must find another when they are reduced after Christmas! Then we will have another tree to be creative with!

    I bake lots of Christmas cookies every year and plates of them go to all the neighbors. I do the same cookies and candies every year and the neighbors tell me that they look forward to their favorites on my plates of goodies. These cost me so little and I am making these goodies for the family anyway.

    1. Dear Lana, I love how you decorate your deck!
      The cookies are a beautiful idea. I think things like this make great gifts and do not cost a lot to put together yet in the shops are expensive. This means we can give more too. Everyone loves them!
      I am planning Gingerbread, Shortbread, Coconut ice and vanilla fudge. (so far!) I think all this adds to the fun of Christmas too!
      I think you must be popular with the neighbours! With love

  14. I meant to say posts not pots. Cookie

  15. I love the glittery gumnuts! I know a place where I can find some gumnuts and I have some glitter in the cupboard here so I can sparkle some up too. Thanks for sharing such lovely ideas! Meg:)

    1. Dear Meg, Thank you! You can use a spray glue then sprinkle the glitter on or use a runny glue and dip the gum nuts in that, let some drain off and the dip them in glitter. This will give a thicker glitter finish. I also have sprayed them gold, silver etc and added glitter immediately as it sticks to the wet paint then.
      They look great in bowls, on parcels or stuck to a wreath. I love them! Beautiful and free to collect! Have fun as playing with glitter is really nice! With love

  16. Dear Annabel,

    I enjoyed this post. I love your Christmas decorating ideas, so simple and pretty. I am going to see if there are any gum nuts around our yard today. Just goes to prove that Christmas does not need to cost a fortune, simple decorating is suffice.

    Normally I wait until after my birthday (Dec 1) to put up our tree. However having our future daughter in law living with us changes all that lol! She has the tree up already, she reckons once the pageant has been on TV it is time for the tree to go up! The colours she has chosen this year for decorations are gold, white and black. It does look pretty. And she has gifts under the tree already! Me? I am not ready yet but I had better get a wriggle on. Next year I should have my house back to do my own decorating ~smiles

    I really love your wreath Annabel, I am going to have a try at making something similar. I will see if Phil has some spare poly pipe I could use to make a ring. I have an old Christmas tree I can utilise to make it. I will only have to find some prettys to put on :)

    Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom,

    Much Love,
    Tania xoxo

    1. Dear Tania, I put the tree up around the first also. But I like that your future DIL is excited and loves Christmas as that is really good.
      I used green florists tape to secure the branches around the hoola hoop. I bent the branches to cure them a bit as I went. And overlapped them as well. It covered well. I went for a birds nest of course but you could do nay theme. On Mums I did a deer theme. I am thinking to do one all of pinecones stuck on all around... but I need to get collecting!
      Thank you Tania! Love

  17. Hi Annabel,
    My post about Vicky and Ida seems to have disappeared, not to worry, I just wanted to say how hearing Ida's story really puts our relatively easy lifestyle in perspective. Looking forward to hearing more stories from Ida.

    I love your decorations. You have a knack for making the ordinary look magical.

    Our tree and decorations don't go up before the 12th Dec as DH's birthday is the 12th and DDIL's is the 9th December. This also made it easier when the children were small as Christmas always seemed so far away. Now, it seems like Christmas comes around very quickly.

    I was pleased to unpack my gifts this week to see how many things were there - I'll certainly be continuing this challenge next year.

    best wishes

    1. Dear Janine, I just went and looked and your comment is there and I had not replied so just as well you mentioned it! I have been thinking a lot about how we do things now and how lucky we are with washing machines etc!
      In our family there are birthdays close to Christmas but on the other side in January. I can understand having the birthdays first then decorating.
      I am so glad you found your presents had built up! I am amazed how they add up and its such a help... I will be going on next year for sure! With love


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