Plan your peaceful Christmas: task 4

by Tsh Oxenreider

Tsh is the founder of this blog and just finished traveling around the world with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

We’ve covered ordering your holiday cards, organizing your holiday calendar, planning your holiday gift giving, and prepping your holiday budget. What’s next?

This week’s task is one of my favorites, and though I start it the weekend after Thanksgiving, it lingers until December 24. I like the personal challenge of upcycling, going handmade, and otherwise thirfting as much as possible, and the kids love this just as much as myself (if not more).

I bet it’s one of your favorites, too.


Once the Thanksgiving dishes have cleared, the football games have been won (Hook ’em!), and the naps are snoozed, I like to think about Christmas decor. General public, you can have your Black Friday. I’d much rather stay home and don our dwelling.

Last year we went almost completely handmade, because most of our Christmas decor was still in boxes overseas. Now that they’re back in our home, though, I don’t think much will change. I say simple, frugal, and handmade wins almost every time.

We’ll bring out the string balls we made last year, and probably make a few more. I like the idea of stringing them together for garland.

I’ll also add to the felted garland with another wool sweater that needs a second life.

We’re keeping the Thankful tree out for December, and reusing it as our Jesse Tree.

It doesn’t get much simpler—a mason jar with twigs and ribbon around the top. Done. (For more info on Jesse Trees, check out Ann Voskamp’s free devotional download.)

But this year I’m trying my hand at more permanent Jesse Tree ornaments a la Shrinky Dinks. I never used it before, so I asked you guys on Twitter, and the consensus was it couldn’t be easier. You’re right—I cut out a 3-inch circle, punched a hole in the top, drew with Sharpies, and stuff them in the toaster oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 minutes. Done.

I made a yarn sweater wreath a few weeks ago.

It was simple but time-consuming—I kept the supplies in the car and wound the base yarn whenever I was a passenger. Once that was done, I had the wool felt diamonds and contrasting criss-cross yarn done in a movie’s worth.

For the first time ever, I also made an advent calendar—it’s because I finally remembered before December 1.

Photo from The Inspired Room

I’ve got a few more ideas up my sleeve, of course found on Pinterest. Here’s what’s grabbed my eye so far:

And of course, there’s the main decoration—the tree. For us, that’ll come the first week of December.

What’s your favorite handmade way to decorate for the holidays?

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  1. Thanks for the Jesse Tree Ideas. My girls and I are making one this year.

  2. These are great ideas! Thank you so much for these! Happy Thanksgiving!

  3. This is great! I’m not into heading out on Black Friday either. Decorating and crafting sound much more appealing to me. I love your suggestions for decorations…and I am such a sucker for pinterest! I don’t have any supplies pulled together yet but I bet if I dig around here I’ll find a few things to work on for the weekend. Enjoy your decorating!

  4. Thanks for reminding me about the Advent calender!

    As for my fave way to decorate w/handmade stuff, well, I figure nothing beats the Xmas tree ornaments I made when I was a kid. 😉

  5. My favorite way to decorate is to do less of it! I used to have tons of decorations, and putting them all out took an entire day, and my house looked a little like a store, it had so many things in it. I was always so glad to put them away after New Year’s. No more!

    I’ve pared down to only those few items that really mean something to me–because someone gave them to me, my kids made them, or they’re attached to a good memory. It only takes an hour or so to put them out, and my home still feels like home–not a store. So, I don’t have the same sense of relief and calm when I put them away–because I never have the feeling of being crowded by too many things.

  6. I love your wreath!

    I put up our decorations today too–although I found myself leaving about 1/3 of them in their containers. I’ll probably get rid of them at the end of the season, but hanging on to them right now just to make sure I don’t change my mind.

    And I’m really excited to do our Jesse tree this year too! Lots of adorable handmade ornaments thanks to the ladies at church. :)

  7. I’ll be staying away from the mall this weekend and decorating and crafting instead too. I love these ideas.

  8. Wow, lots of great ideas here. Thanks. I love the wreath!

    I have some of these in the oven right now to hang on the tree. Orange slices with cinnamon.

  9. Last year, we made pop-corn on a string. Some of my fav. ornaments are the ones my mom and grandmother made a long time ago – their Christmas Tree Balls:) I’m going to put mine up on Monday – and go to the Christmas tree farm for the family tree. I’m needing some energy in my spirit!

  10. I have always love the look of the string balls. And I think it’s awesome what you did with the old sweaters and made garland. Fantastic ideas!

  11. Shrinkydinks, BRILLIANT! We’re going to stick with paper ornaments, unless I get an overwhelming urge to buy the plastic someday soon 😉

  12. How so you do the shrinky dink ornaments for the Jesse tree?

  13. You are so very creative. I got lots of Christmas decoration and have my advent calendar too. I am preparing for my January living room make over. I just want every thing to be flowery. That giant wreath is really very creative of you.

  14. Great idea, thank you for your kind info. I love the warm and graceful atmosphere around my house, so I have prepared a perfect festival night.

  15. With 7 kids we try and keep it simple… We make a new ornament each year.. And the other stuff we craft is just making memories… I see moms all the time get in the frenzy if Internet Christmas…we try to avoid the rush to… And save more crafty adventures for january and February when everyone needs more pizazz in their lives!
    I love those string balls.. We have made some in the past but yours look great!

  16. i love the decorations my children have made. i even have a few my brothers and sisters made for me when i was in college (they are that age now). it’s so fun to see what they made and wrote!

  17. Advent calendar! My Mum bought us 2 last week, I had hoped to make them but had no ideas, drat!, I shall have to use your idea next year or make it sometime between now & then, but after we move house.
    Thanks & this is a very enjoyable blog.

  18. I am in the same boat you were, our decorations are in another state and the kids are going crazy to decorate. I went cheapo and bought 1 container of purple ornaments and one container of turquoise. EVERYTHING else will be handmade. We are going to start w/your string balls, cannot wait. I will let this totally be the kids tree this year. Thanks for all the great inspiration.

  19. Fantastic decorations… You are great in sharing these wonderful selections of Christmas decorations. I am amazed with your string balls…

  20. oops! I overlooked that, and have now edited the post. Thanks for letting me know!

  21. Christmas tree and decorations complete (Check!!!) Actually, we did most of it Thanksgiving weekend and finished up yesterday. My son helped me finish the Christmas cards yesterday, all 125 of them. They are sealed, stamped and ready to be mailed.

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