Archived Ideas for ‘Traditions’




Whether you are hosting a big dinner, or preparing to head out of town, if there’s a Thanksgiving meal in your near future, you know how lucky you are. Thanksgiving is often one of the few times of the year most of the family is together.

For this year’s table, why not make sweet little name place cards that do a little more than just point out where someone should sit? This simple idea combines a few things I love about Thanksgiving. It’ll make the table even more special, it’s an easy project, and doing it allows me to dwell on all the things I’m thankful for.


For the project you’ll need some pretty paper and tiny faux green apples from the craft store, a hot glue gun, a pencil, a black fine point pen, something about 3 1/2″ round to trace around, like a glass, and either plain or fancy scissors.


Use the glass and pencil to make 3 1/2″ circles on the pretty paper. You’ll need one per person. If there is a right and wrong side, make the circles on the wrong side. If you are using the fancy scissors, cut along the outside of the circle, so you will still see the drawn circle when it’s cut out.


Once you’ve cut all the circles, on the top side, you may put a very light pencil line in an arc about 5/8 ” or so from the edge. (This is optional). Then, with the pen, along an arc shape, hand write “Thanks for [NAME]” for each person that will be at the table. The last step is to hot glue a tiny faux apple to the center of the circle.

If you don’t want to tell people where to sit, another idea is to name things you are thankful for. Then, like “stem gems” people can pick whatever sentiment they like! Some thoughts could be:

Thanks for being here.


Thanks for the happy.

Thanks for the warm.

Thanks for the calm before the storm!

Thanks for this family.

Thanks for this meal.

Thanks for the jokes.

Thanks for how I feel.

Okay, I couldn’t resist a little rhyme! Here are a few more pictures. I almost can’t decide if I like the plain or fancy cut. Do what works for your decor and make your thankful table as plain or fancy as you like! And Thanks for reading!








The combination between the end of school and summer’s warm weather provide the perfect opportunity for an annual family trip. Here in the mid-west, countless families head “North to the Cabin”, and I’m not the first to notice how time slows down these hazy lazy days.

We take the annual summer vacation to the family farm in northern Michigan. And since our children were born, it has become the time and place that, once a year, they bond with their cousins.

Northern Michigan cherry orchards, sand dunes, and lakes have been the backdrop for relationships that have been playing out two weeks a year for the duration of their young lives. And as a parent, it’s one of my favorite things. It has not only cemented the relationships of the children, but of myself, my siblings, parents, and in-laws.

Jacqueline M. deMontravel, editor of Romantic Homes Magazine, in her letter from the editor, expressed what I consider a near perfect reflection on summer. I had to share it with you. Here is Jacqueline’s letter, with a title that could have been the title of today’s idea. May everyone reading this take a moment to breathe in and quietly savor summer, whether you choose to travel to the woods, or just the back yard.

Let It Go

July follows the loose, relaxed style of a past-season sundress. Fully entrenched in summer, stray towels, flip-flops and all the necessities brought back from beach day can wait an hour, or day, to be tidied up.

July is the coffee break of the calendar year. Urgent matters become less urgent. Casual conversation lingers into the evening. The style of the summer follows these tenets. You are less likely to succumb to modern conveniences, opting for the entertainment provided by the season. There are many: falling asleep outdoors, losing a day to the garden and listening to the sounds of night.

At home you cook more. Meals are made with fewer ingredients but fresher foods. People come over frequently. There is more of a desire to entertain when you are so relaxed, feel less strained and have no qualms if a guest may spot a basket of laundry.

It is a forgiving season. It is also fleeting, which is what July is about.




When I was a kid I just loved Easter morning, which ranked way up there, somewhere between Christmas and Halloween. My mom is a practical soul and it became pretty obvious she did not believe in investing in a new brightly colored, plastic grass-filled Easter basket every year for each of four kids, that would eventually find its way to the basement (or worse).  So, on Easter morning the hunt would begin, but we never knew exactly what we would find. In the name of practicality, my Easter surprise would be housed in something that was already around the house. My mom is a potter, so often, those sweet chocolate eggs would be nestled in a hand thrown bowl.

I didn’t inherit my mom’s talent for ceramics, but I do think I adopted her penchant for practicality. When it came to my kids, rather than fall for the “temporary” Easter baskets that line the shelves every spring, I chose a special basket for each child. I wrapped the handle in grosgrain ribbon and attached findings from the craft store floral isle. My eldest son got a dragon fly that will forever hover one-and-a-half inches over the handle via a wire. My second son got a frog at each point where the handle attaches to the basket, and my little daughter got a row of paper rosebuds tucked into the ribbon that wrapped her handle. The baskets were thus decorated, and then christened as each child’s permanent basket.




Much like their Christmas stockings, the children learned to recognize their familiar basket, alleviating any pressure to designate whose basket was whose.  And the plastic eggs and even the pastel shredded paper “grass” have gotten reused countless times.

In the off-season they reside in a big bin in the attic where I can get a glimpse of Easter any time I need it. So, maybe it’s not the most earth-shattering idea. But I do think my mom’s thinking was way before her time. And that she taught a lesson that was “green” before people even knew what that was.





If you have been taking and saving photos of your child with Santa, you may have been looking, like I was, for a way to use them. (And if you haven’t been, maybe this will inspire you to do so!) This little idea seems so perfect you might wonder, why didn’t I think of that?

While you are perusing discount and craft stores, start collecting interesting gold (or silver) frames. I would buy one when it was on sale, or caught my eye. Size can vary from tiny to about 5”x 7”. Then, each year when you photograph your child with Santa, frame it in one of the frames. Make sure to write the year on the back side. These treasures are packed in a box all year, but at Christmas time, they come out to fill the fireplace mantel.

This will be a holiday tradition you will treasure long after your kids have moved away.




A simple and beautiful tradition to add to your holiday ready-making is the bedroom wreath. We do one for each child’s door. You’ll need a plain evergreen wreath, (you can use artificial wreaths if you prefer), about a yard and a half of 3” wide grosgrain ribbon per wreath, and some smaller, 1/4 inch wide red grosgrain or curling ribbon.

Gather a collection of small toys from each child’s stuff. From my son’s room I collected all red things: A building block, a red crayon, a truck, and red plastic army men. I even made a small red paper airplane. From my daughter’s room I collected tiny wooden spoons and a rolling pin, a small doll, a tiny bear, red plastic toys, even a red pacifier.

Using the narrow ribbon, tie the objects onto the wreaths. Loop the 3” wide ribbon through the center and line up the two raw ends. Thumbtack through both layers to the top edge (horizontal surface) of the door. Use very flat tacks so the door can open and close freely. If you like, embellish with a bow.

If you happened to have installed a hook as suggested in Idea #5 “Saving Private Places,” forgo the wide ribbon. Just hang the wreath right on the hook!


On December 7, I demonstrated this idea on Twin Cities Live, a local Minnesota show. The wreaths we did on the show are shown below.



And one we didn’t get to is the “teen” wreath. I used old batteries, an old pair of “ear buds” and my son’s cell phone that went through the wash! Instead of ribbon it’s hung with silver duct tape.





Autumn pulls you outside with such beautiful clear days it almost makes your eyes hurt. The annual activities of leaf-raking, piling and jumping-in, as well as general yard maintenance remain a top-notch family tradition.

It is not a new idea to create a fall scarecrow from some of the fallen leaves. But recently my eyes were opened anew to this long standing autumnal routine. It had seemed to me, since Autumn ushers in Halloween, scarecrows had taken on a bit of a maudlin nature. OK, a lot of them are downright creepy. But my daughter’s scout troop participated in some autumn fun and games, and one of the activities involved making a scarecrow. I’m not biased, but leave it to nine year old girls to find a way to make scarecrows, well, anything but scary! I submit these beautiful examples of autumnal souls for inspiration in the hope that your family may adopt this sweet fall tradition. And maybe in the process you’ll also get some yard work done!





One of the best ideas I ever had was taking an annual photo of the kids. I always do it Thanksgiving week. Then it’s perfect timing to turn into a holiday card. But any time of year that makes sense to you will work. The trick is to pick a time that is convenient and you can remember year to year.

Find a spot in your house that has a window. Arrange the kids so that the window light is lighting their faces from the side. (You don’t have to see the window in the photo). Ideally you will figure out which window and time of day is best. We use a window that faces west and shoot in the morning, so instead of a harsh light streaming in, we get a soft glow. Once you have figured out the spot and time, remember it. And do the picture there every year. If the setting stays the same, the variety will be in how your kids are changing. If you like, you can always use the same chair. I prefer putting a white tablecloth over the chair to make it less important.

Turn off your camera’s flash. Now, before they are completely ready, start snapping away. Of course it’s nice to get cooperation, but as long as the kids are being themselves, it’s a neat picture.

You don’t have to decide whether you want to shoot in color or black and white. I love the black and white but you can shoot the pictures in color even if you decide to print them in black and white. Take a look at these shots of my own kids. Over the years it is fun to see the goofy stages as well as the adolescent ones and even grumpy ones. If you don’t worry about making a “proper” picture, and just record the era, you will find you’ve created a real treasure. And don’t forget to celebrate each and every quirky phase!





This is one my kids taught me. One Sunday night my daughter was mourning the end of the weekend. She just wanted something to look forward to. “Can you make us ‘special breakfast’?” she asked me. When I told her I could, it helped her put a close to the day. She went to bed happy that Monday morning we would have “special breakfast”.

The key here was something speedy yet impressive. (Save the pancakes or waffles for the weekends when you don’t mind monitoring a pan for an eternity). In order to have time I only set my alarm about 15 minutes earlier than usual. The smell of the bacon got the kids up lickety-split. And they were delighted and thrilled to have a special breakfast all set out for them. It wasn’t a big deal: Orange juice, scrambled eggs (which really takes nano-seconds) and toast, and bacon. And a place all set for them with a place-mat and napkin.

Thus was born Monday Breakfast. We don’t do it every Monday, in fact it’s about once a month. On all the other school days we are making lunches and grabbing toast or cereal or a bagel and yogurt. But about one Monday a month my kids get off to school with a belly full. And the benefit lasts all month.