Tuesday, November 18, 2008

That mid-November panic

I think we can say that strep has run its course! Now I am getting caught up and whipping our holiday budget in shape:
  • Figuring costs & clothes for my brother's wedding--we couldn't be more thrilled!
  • Finding 100+ employee gifts for 50-cents/person. Charitable donation instead?
  • Gathering sale ingredients for neighborhood moms cookie decorating.
  • Writing ANOTHER set of thank-you notes since the first big mailing never arrived.
Here's one way to feel like an underachiever: check out Baking With Susie's Advent Calendar (via Hot Water Bath). Just in case you want to add daily cookies to your to-do list!

41 comments:

Anonymous said...

Actually, I hope you don't do a charitable contribution because I can't wait to see what in the world you can come up to give for only fifty cents or less per person! My mind immediately went to individual presents and thinking it costs more than 50 cents to WRAP a present, but I am assuming you mean shared gifts such as baked goods for an office, etc. Still, looking forward to seeing how you do it for such an insanely small amount. Maybe we can all get inspired!

Congratulations to your brother. I am glad you are able to share which family member is getting married this time. It should be fun to look for a fancy dress that isn't maternity!

Glad everyone is feeling well again. It sounds like you are going to be very busy with the holidays and getting ready for another family wedding. I hope you enjoy the busyness with your 3 little ones! Do you still have to shop for the kids or have you been putting back presents all year?

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful dress Elise is wearing! I wouldn't trade my boys, but sure would have enjoyed having a little girl! Glad you are all feeling better.

Anna said...

oooh, fifty cents a person is tight. What about stress balls- flour filled balloons, maybe with the company name on them? I have no idea what the cost would be, though.
I will be on the lookout for you!

Marsha said...

Oh, Meredith...you're cracking me up lately.

Two things:

1) My mom used to be in charge of gifts to my dad's clients. She had some humdinger ideas that were both lovely and frugal - I'll be back later with some specifics (not much time at the moment).

2) Sue's Advent Baking Calendar is a thing of beauty, certainly, and I want to make sure that your readers understand that Sue is the last person on this earth who would willingly sow discontent and disatisfaction amongst women. She's a programmer at heart and the calendar was a fun way for her to marry two interests - a certain programming language she was practicing AND her love of baking, while also preserving her family's heirloom recipes.

I hope the mid-November panic passes you by soon...you've certainly got enough to think about right now!

Mod Girl said...

This has been a year for weddings in your family. From a wardrobe standpoint, too bad the seasons didn't coincide.

Kim said...

Meredith, how about a lovely, yet inexpensive Christmas ornament for the gift idea? If you make it yourself you might get away even cheaper. Hubby's boss gives all the employees a Christmas ornament every year and they're not elaborate, but very nice.

SusieH said...

Sounds like busy times ahead - and wow, that's a LOT of gifts to find. I kind of like the idea of the charitable donation. Would love to hear what you decide to do, either way, in case we ever need to do something similar...

Meredith@MerchantShips said...

I think his predecessor gave little bags of candy and a card--even that would cost about fifty cents per person.

I did stockpile a bunch of couponed chocolate chips, so cookies are an option, packaged in brown paper bags with some of that thrift store gingham ribbon tied at the fold.

But am I really capable of baking 500 plus cookies with a month-old strapped to my chest? I don't know.

Of course, if I had KNOWN I would have to do gifts in this scale, i could have been working on it MONTHS ago--my husband just changed his mind this week.

And so I puzzle...

Luckily the kids' gifts have already been bought and their wedding clothes mostly sorted out.

Perhaps I should have added lose 30 pounds in 2 months to that list?

Michelle said...

Meredith,
I usually bake cookies for all of my husband's coworkers every year, in little sacks tied with ribbon. I buy a box of business cards when they're on sale, then run them through our printer with a holiday message for everyone and attach them to the bags. Everyone loves them.

However, the year my son was born I was 9 months pregnant and simply not up to the baking. I bought a whole bunch of cookies on clearance and froze them until gift time, then packaged them up same as usual. I don't think anyone cared they weren't homemade. Do what you need to to keep sane. *grin*

Anonymous said...

I only do charitable donation gifts if I know the person really well and I know the charity is in line with their values.

With a large group I'm always worried that even the most inoffensive charity might unintentionally offend somebody.

blossomteacher said...

The cookies are do-able, as long as you stick with something simple...chocolate chip or plain sugar. Once you start taking the time to frost them, you're done for!

Make a big batch of cookie dough, keep it in the fridge, and invest in some parchment paper so you don't have to wash cookie sheets. Then, every time you have a spare second, you can pop a tray or two of cookies in the oven. I baked about 200 cookies in a day or two this way (granted, without the baby...but I would have loved to have that particular problem!!)

I wish I could tie on an apron and just pop in to help...I love babies and cookies :)

VanderbiltWife said...

Neighborhood cookie decorating sounds so much fun!! I have barely even thought about Christmas with the baby here. Not sure I am even going to buy any presents...eek.

I do Oreos, pretzel sticks, and shortbread cookies dipped in chocolate bark and then sprinkles and other decorations for coworkers. Cheap and fun!

Ewokgirl said...

Hmmm. You just had a baby who doesn't like to sleep nights and a house full of sick kids. Personally, I don't think you should undertake a marathon baking session unless you're really, really up to it.

Personally, I think a heartfelt note of appreciation to all the employees from your husband would mean the most. As a former teacher, I can honestly say that I preferred notes from parents/students more than any trinkets or baked goods. People love affirmation. It would take some time on your husband's part to do 100 notes, but it would be meaningful. He could even use printed cards, then just write a very short personal note on each one, rather than handwriting everything.

Domestic Accident said...

If only bfing was considered a charitable donation!

Glad strep has vacated.

What about simple votive candles wrapped nicely?

Jane said...

I am a teacher, I seem to remember you husband works in administration somehow. I think a Charitable donation in honor of the staff is a lovely idea. My principal gives us chotka stuff and usually it goes in the treasure box or to goodwill. I don't need another fancy-ish pen.

Jane said...

Add,the Principal's gift is thoughtful, but a donation would go further is all I am saying.

Anonymous said...

Meredith,
you might like to read cuppa-cuppa blog today. It talks about Thanksgiving on the cheap.

Anonymous said...

Ornaments are a nice idea. A friend used to make candles in old wine glasses and teacups found in thrift stores...but 100? wow.
I'd LOVE home made cookies! Can you bribe one of the higher up employees to help you make them?
good luck, you are always so thoughtful.
Lisa

Sandy said...

You are just an amazing woman, that is all I can say! ♥

Edi said...

I'd rather receive no gift than a "junky" cheap gift that I would soon throw away.

I second the idea of an Xmas ornament (but what can you get for 50 cents??) So it really does look like the best thing to go with would be something edible. How about if the hubby helps you with the cookies? :) You could organize it all and get everything together if he's not a baker - but that way you could tend to the baby while supervising.

Anonymous said...

Meredith-
You crack me up! I laughed out loud picturing you whipping around your kitchen with little baby John strapped on the front. It sure would rock him to sleep!
Is this for the annual Christmas breakfast you and your husband host for the teachers in his school? What about still having the nice breakfast and then taking the fifty dollars you would spend and getting something for the teachers lounge that all the teachers would use or appreciate? Would they like a new radio or coffee pot or whatever for their lounge? A bird feeder to watch outside the window? Or something (maybe even on clearance in the off-season lawn and garden section) that could be used outside in the spring? My mom was a school nurse for years and while I know she appreciated all the thoughtfulness of people remembering her, there were always too many knicknacks to unload after the holidays were over. Everyone has such different tastes, it seems, and some of the gifts she got sometimes just made us roar with laughter. (I've got good memories now, just remembering all that!)
It sounds like a lot to commit to baking something, but then again, I am always amazed at the things that you manage to pull off. And one more note: congratulations to your extended family and your brother on his upcoming wedding! If he doesn't care, I'd love it if you post some photos!
Keep us updated! I cannot wait to see what you do with a budget of fifty cents!
Susan

Tubo Family said...

Ah, I think I should be double-panicked because I hadn't even started getting panicked yet! I'm excited to see what you come up with for your brother's wedding AND the work Christmas gifts. This year I am thinking of a copy of a family recipe that is easy but requires an unusual ingredient and 1 recipe's worth of that ingredient. Still need to price it out.

DeeAnn said...

Meredith, if you make 100 gifts for Christmas & have your three lil' ones to take care of then I'm going to say you are Mother of the Year, life & eternity because there is no way I could do that. You are already amazing.

I love the dress Elise is wearing.

Congratulations to your Brother. I hope he has a lifetime of happiness.

Rachel said...

Another idea (not sure what this comes out to be cost-wise!) is dipped pretzel rods. They are much faster to make than cookies. Melt some chocolate (I like almond bark in either milk or white chocolate flavors), coat half of a pretzel rod and, if you like, sprinkle with colored sugar(red or green!) and lay on waxed paper to dry. I think 2 per person is fine. When I make these, I like to spread the melted chocolate on waxed paper to make coating the long pretzel rods easier.

Karen said...

I am all for edible gifts OR the donation. Or both. : )

I love a little chocolate dipped pretzel rod or something like that ... homemade caramels? Only a couple so as not to spoil diets.

You are so wonderful at the baking and making, if it's not a big hassle to pull that off, that's the gift I'd like best.

Karen said...

Oh, and congrats on the wedding! We have a family wedding in Jamaica coming in spring. I hope not to be pregnant for our trip though... I'm looking forward to traveling with the kids.

mary bailey said...

I'm going with baked goods: cookies, muffins, or brownies. Something simple! Most people will love a home-baked goodie.

Don't wear yourself out with this holiday project. Maybe your husband or a friend can help you with the baking and the bags. If you know any teenage girls at church, I think this would be a great time to ask for some help. Take care of yourself. Can't wait to see what you come up with!

Maggie said...

A charitable contribution is not the same as a gift-especially if the gift repicipient hasn't asked for a donation to be made in his name. Supporting a charity is a very personal choice. It would be hard if not impossible for you to choose a charity that nobody would object to supporting.

Jan said...

I always go the almond bark route when I need small gifts on the cheap. Fry's (Kroger) usually has snowflake shaped pretzels for a dollar during Christmas season. Those partially dipped in white almond bark are pretty in a bag tied with a red or green ribbon. I also mix a box of chex cereal (rice or corn--store brands are fine) with a bag of pretzels, a container of cashews and a box of fruit loops (for color and a little fruity flavor) and mix with white almond bark. Spread over wax paper. Then break apart and put in bags. Very fast and easy and makes a bunch. Everyone I give it to loves it!

Sheila said...

Re the employee gifts:

One thing that we've done for the last few years is buy bulk chocolates, in different shapes and sizes. We have a chocolate factory near here and we can buy lots of interesting stuff.

Then we get pretty clear small cellophane bags. You can stamp them if you have stamp stuff, but you fill them with some chocolate and tie with some gold ribbons. It looks more expensive than it actually is.

You can also pick up pretty lip balms and things like that at dollar stores and mix it all together, and it's not that much!

Visit To Love, Honor and Vacuum today!

Anonymous said...

Walgreen's has Starbuck's coupons in store (hanging in the aisle) for 1.00 off any product. They have a box of 3 truffles that are 2 for 3.00. That makes them 50 cents a box. I got some today for little gifts or stocking stuffers.
Lisa

Janette said...

My favorite principal gift? Just plain cookies on trays in the lounge. Little gifts- I am with Jane on this one- are not something I cherish....
I like the cookies in a brown bag with a nice ribbon as well. Most principals do not give gifts (this is my 10th school)

tommiejo said...

WOW...looks like you've got your work cut out for you!

As a side note, I would like to invite you and your readers to participate in my blog's giveaway @ tjssweethome.blogspot.com
Thanks for sharing!

Gina @ Six in the Country said...

How about one of those chocolate coated spoons that you stir into coffee? Make some of those, get those big tubs of pirouette cookies and put a couple each into clear cellophane bags and tie with pretty ribbons.

Clear plastic spoons -- $1/25 at dollar tree = $2
Chocolate -- I say splurge here and spend $2 each on some Giradelli chocolate bars. One bar should do about 10 spoons = $10
Piroutte cookies -- Get a big tub at whole foods, 4 tubs should be enough, last time I bought them they were $1.99 = $8
Clear baggies -- I bought some at Walmart last year, $4 for a pack of 50 baggies = $4
Ribbon -- if you have scrappies, then use those (cause ya know whatever's free works best for me!) or spend $2 at Walmart and get a couple of those big $1 spools of thin red gingham (or brown would be good for the theme) = $2

So that makes it up to about $24 for 50 gifts. I would love to get one of these, something I would use and not end up as clutter. You even have money to spare in case cookies are higher or you think you need another chocolate bar.

Good luck!
Hugs, honey!
Gina

hsgbdmama said...

I'd go with the charitable donation -- for 50 cents each (or $50 total), a little trinket is likely to get tossed, but $50 can purchased a lot of food at Aldi's which can be donated to a local food pantry in the employees' (or the department's) names.

Dana said...

Check out Kiva.org. It's a microloan program for 3rd world nations.

You could donate to a charity (person) of your choice and since they have a near 100% repayment plan, the gift would continue to give over and over (if you chose).

Cindy Brick said...

Meredith, how about a 'breakfast kit' for your employees? If you buy coffee in bulk, that could be divided in little bags...add a teabag or two, as well. Add a muffin -- Wal-Mart has huge packages of these individually shrink-wrapped, if you're not up to baking them (I think doughnuts too). Add some of your pretty decorations, like a sprig of evergreen. (I love what you do with so little cost on decorations.)
Cookies could be subbed, and call it a 'coffee break' kit.

3beansalad said...

I think a charity donation sounds like a great idea. Maybe to an education relsted non-profit?

Anonymous said...

Oh, what a beautiful dress! Please tell me what the fabric is--organza? I am sewing my little girl's first flower girl dress for next summer and am gathering ideas. Yours has most definitely inspired me. Thanks! Shannon

SK and Family said...

I always appreciated it when our Principal gave us an extended lunch as our Christmas gift (usually one hour instead of 30 minutes)! It didn't cost him anything (except a little organizing!)--we could take it any day in the Spring, and he (well, his secretary) would arrange other teachers and aides to cover our classes. Talk about frugal! :)

Crafty Mom said...

It's really the season for colds and flu. Drink up some more juice and eat fruits! A wedding in the family is always a big event. I love the fact that it brings families together. With regards to the fifty cent presents, that's really a tight budget. Why not personalize Christmas balls or ornaments, so that they can hang it on their trees? I just love crafting! Good luck!