When I was young, it seemed like time almost stood still as I waited for Christmas morning. The days passed slower than dripping molasses; my excitement increasing with each X on the Advent calendar. Fortunately for everyone, my mom kept my siblings and I busy. We made every possible form of construction paper ornament, baked dozens upon dozens of cookies and crafted bags full of gifts. Mom knew that the simple act of creating was the tonic for our over-stimulated souls.

As an adult, I have the opposite problem. December flies by at such a frenzied pace that I hardly have time to get excited about Christmas before the day has come and gone. It seems my soul is still over stimulated! And so I’ve returned to mom’s homemade holiday traditions: setting aside time to sit at the kitchen table and craft. My twist on the custom is using materials from the garden and recyclables.

It all starts with a look around the house to see what I have on hand. What’s in the recycle bin? What have I been saving in hopes of finding its purpose? Then I move outdoors to find bits and bobs in the dormant landscape that will add a touch of nature. It’s amazing how rejuvenating it is to take some time to make something. Plus, the end results are budget-friendly decorations and special gifts. It’s a win-win situation!

Here are three projects I’m working on this holiday season. They are simple to create, make use of materials you probably have on hand and are easy on your wallet. Best of all, you can spend a few hours focusing on something besides your to-do list.

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1. Rosemary for Remembrance

Create a fragrant, long-lasting centerpiece or mantel decoration with recycled tin cans, ribbon and rosemary. Because rosemary is for remembrance, these vessels make great party favors.

Clean tin cans
Double stick tape
Wide ribbon
Jute twine
Rosemary (sprigs or small plants)


  1. Wrap the cans with double stick tape. Affix the ribbon to the tape. Tie a piece of twine around the can on top of the ribbon.
  2. If you are using fresh-cut rosemary sprigs, fill the can with about an inch of water and add the rosemary. Be sure to check the water level every few days. If you are using live plants, you can either poke drainage holes in the bottom of the can and use the can as your planter, or slip the plant in its nursery pot into the can.

2. Herb and Pinecone Fire Starter

Add fragrance to a wood-burning fire with one of these pinecone and rosemary fire starters. A box of 10 makes a beautiful gift.

Small pinecones
Dried rosemary sprigs
Cotton or jute twine


  1. Roll herbs and pinecones in newspaper, and tie each end with twine (like candy in a wrapper).
  2. When you are ready to light a fire, place the fire starter between the logs with the newspaper end sticking out. Light the newspaper. As the paper, pinecones and herbs burn, they will ignite the logs.

3. Ribbon Tree Ornament

Making these ribbon tree ornaments is a fun and easy activity to do with kids. Let them select the ribbon they want to use. These would be dazzling with gold, silver or white ribbon as well.

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Hot glue sticks
Hot glue gun
Ribbon scraps


  1. Using the hot glue gun, attach a piece of twine to the top of the stick to make a loop for hanging on your Christmas tree.
  2. Tie the ribbon pieces down the stick. Trim the ends of the ribbon on either side of the twig to form a triangle Christmas tree shape.


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