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How to Celebrate the Holidays in Mill Valley on a Budget

Here are 10 ways to have fun and spread holiday cheer in Mill Valley without breaking the bank.

This year’s holiday season can be special for you and your family regardless of your budget. Here are some fun tips for creating new holiday traditions while saving money.

1) Make your cards from recycled materials. Cards can be made from paper grocery bags, cereal boxes, used file folders and even last year’s holiday cards. Feature your family’s artwork and use recycled wrapping paper or paper from catalogs and magazines for backgrounds. A great resource for making cards from recycled materials is "Creative Correspondence" by Michael and Judy Jacobs, available at the Depot Bookstore or on Amazon.com

2) Have fun together and create a festive decoration by making a gingerbread house. You can bake the gingerbread yourself and use royal icing to construct the house and attach the candy. Another option is to use graham crackers and hot glue to make the house and frosting from a can to attach the decor. Great royal icing recipes and other gingerbread house tips are available on Cooks.com.

3) Save on your holiday treats. Kathryn Manchip, a mom and hobby baker, shares these tips. “If you are going to be doing a lot of baking, buy your ingredients in bulk from places like Costco (in Novato)." You can also get ingredients from Mill Valley Market and local gocery stores, or hit up Beth's Community Kitchen if you want to go straight for the final product. Manchip also recommends participating in a cookie exchange so you can sample different treats without having to bake them yourself. "And if you want to be adventurous and thrifty, try making a fondant as an icing – it works on both cakes and cookies. You can make your own at home for a fraction of the cost of the store-bought fondant. It tastes better, too, since it's mostly made out of melted marshmallows.” Manchip recommends this recipe for fondant.

4)    Cut your own Christmas tree from. The nearest cut-your own tree farms that we know of are Little Hills Christmas Tree Farm and Liberty Christmas Tree Farm, both in Petaluma. Thornton, CO’s Jennifer Miller, author of Where the Best Books Are!, a blog with reviews and recommendations of books for kids, says cutting your own tree saves money and creates a great holiday memory for your kids. “Here in Colorado, USFS [U.S. Forest Service] permits are just $10 per tree. We meet up with friends, share cookies and cocoa, and our boys have adventures in the forest. Plus, you can get more than one permit and cut down a fresh tree for a needy family or elderly friend.” 

5)    Make your own decorations and ornaments. Seattle artist, author and instructor Carla Sonheim says, “My favorite Christmas decoration is a drawing of Santa Claus done by my son Christer when he was 9 years old. I also have made 'holiday card/ornaments' with my own drawings or my kids' drawings. I'll scan the image into the computer and then print it out on sturdy card stock or other heavy paper. Then I'll cut around the image and punch a hole in the top and thread with yarn. On the back I write my holiday greeting and then send it out as a holiday card, which doubles as a paper ornament. I also have made ornaments from photographs of my kids at various ages.” 

6)    Give gifts of your time and skills. Make a gift certificate up for an afternoon of tech support for your friend who's about to toss his new computer out of the window, an evening of babysitting so friends with little kids can have a date night, or a day of housework or yard work for an elderly relative. 

7)     Check out the free and low-cost holiday activities in town. Local productions of holiday favorites including "The Nutcracker" or "A Christmas Carol" can be just as magical as a big city production for a fraction of the ticket price. School and community bands and orchestras often offer holiday music concerts. For instance, the Mill Valley Music Band is performing at 8 p.m. at the Mt. Tam United Methodist Church. Toss your kids in the car with some hot chocolate and holiday treats and tour your town’s neighborhoods for the best holiday light shows.

8) Classic toys such as wagons, riding toys, puzzles, board games and wooden blocks make great holiday gifts and are often available at your local consignment and thrift stores like the Mount Carmel Shop near downtown for a fraction of what you would pay at a big-box store. 

9) Skip the expensive Santa breakfast or holiday dinner out and spend time at your favorite service organization. For instance, warm up your singing voice and gather with your fellow carolers from the Community Church of Mill Valley in the library at The Redwoods at 6 p.m. on Sunday, December 23. 

10)  Check out your favorite movies, holiday books and music from the Mill Valley Library and schedule some evenings to share childhood favorites such as It’s a Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street with your kids. 

Here's what else is happening on Mill Valley Patch

  1. Surveillance Shots Help ID Thieves Who Went on Mill Valley Spree
  2. High Tide Closes Highway 101 to Hwy. 1 Connection Near Tam Valley
  3. Residents Call for Alto Tunnel to Remain Part of General Plan
  4. PHOTOS: Mill Valley Gets into the Holiday Spirit at Winterfest

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Jonathan Lewis December 14, 2012 at 01:11 AM
Christmas Caroling is the BEST! Can't wait till the 23rd to carol or going to be out of town?! Meet at the Depot Plaza THIS Sunday at 5:00pm for Candlelight Caroling, hosted by Mount Carmel Catholic Church! Learn more @ http://patch.com/E-rgKF

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