Author Archives: Darcy Cronin

About Darcy Cronin

I'm a Mother/Coach/Blogger/Business Adventurer from Portland OR. My family consists of my Hubby of 12 years, our 8yo Kieran, 5yo Makenna, and 1yo Teagan. I love dreaming about a better future, and making it happen.

Party Planning

We’ve been hosting our annual “julefrokost” (Danish-themed holiday party = Christmas lunch) for ten years now, so we’ve got it down to a science by now. Apartment Therapy has some great articles on how to maximize your party space, and how to throw a great party.

Our new “secret” is that this year is that we timed our monthly cleaning service from EcoMaids for the day before our shindig. We didn’t take advantage of it, but they had a deal that if you got a clean before, they’d give a free fill-in service after your house guests leave! Hubby usually does most of the cleaning, but it will be handy to have him available for Daddy-duty and wear the kids out for a good nap 😉 

Instead of buying plastic silverware, we opt to use silverware. That’s why we have a dishwasher after all. Plus, guests only really need spoons for my traditional potato leek soup. We bought the most durable “disposal” soup bowls, and we’ve now been washing and reusing for five years.

As far as our budget goes, I always splurge a bit. I figure that this is our big gesture of generosity and friendship, and social capital is worth it. We certainly don’t go overboard though, like this:  DINKS Reality – Holiday Party Budget . I think the most important thing is to keep thing simple and not try too hard to impress. Partying is supposed to be fun, not stressful.

IKEA has made our menu easier and more authentic; I couldn’t get Icelandic shrimp before. By definition, a julefrokost is all about eating, and Danes are known to eat for up to four hours at them…and then drink all night! The beauty with my menu is that there’s lots of prep, but very little time-consuming cooking:

  • Potato leek soup – host mother’s creamy recipe
  • Potato chips, dill dip, veggie tray
  • Smørebrød (open-faced sandwiches) with meats, cheeses, shrimp, eggs, tomatoes, remoulade, crab pate, laks, crackers and breads
  • Meatballs/sauce, mini-hotdogs
  • Æbleskiver (special spherical pancakes, dipped in jam and powdered sugar), chocolates, gummis, cookies
  • Glögg, Carlsberg, Snapps
The soup is always a hit, and is a cheap way to fill bellies. The most important thing is that everyone gets that hyggeligt (cozy) feeling inside! That’s priceless.

Even though our kids rarely watch movies, we find that a few hours of classic Rankin Bass films is just part of the tradition.  We are also trying to get a babysitter so that parents don’t have to be on watch as much. We’re also planning a few simple activities to keep them from bouncing off the wall from too much sugar!

How much do you budget for parties?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Kids’ Carols

Our Big Guy adores Christmas carols, and loves singing them with all his heart. Last year he stood in front of Hubby’s entire family (around 25 relatives he sees once a year) and belted out Jingle Bells, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer. He’s been practicing some new songs I want a Hippopotamus for Christmas, and  Frosty the Snowman this season.

So, my homemade present to him this year is going to be a booklet of his favorite carols. LyricsMania has tons of lyrics. I also bought the kiddos a double CD of kids singing carols that has been a big hit for our holiday errands.

Growing up in a small town, we would go caroling every year and I loved it. My favorites are the 12 days of Christmas, Oh Christmas Tree, and Deck the Halls.

Frosty the Snowman is his new favorite:

Do you sing carols as a family?
What traditions do you have for free holiday entertainment?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.


I like to give (and get) pretty utilitarian gifts. That’s why bags always come to mind. There are a lot of great bags made from recycled materials these days.

I’ve been toying between two bag-type gifts for my niece (really Girly buying for her cousin in our gift exchange). I’m partial to shopping local, so I’ve also been considering buying her an accessory from Queen Bee Creations. I splurged and bought myself a purse there over the summer, and I’ve really been enjoying it. There are almost too many pockets, but it is a really handy size to fit a lot without looking like a diaper bag. If you are in the market for a hip diaper bag, they have some really nice designs. They are a bit spendy, but very durable and the adorable.

Ecoist also  has some really chic purses made from recycled wrappers. I could definitely picture her sporty it at NYU.  They also have cute baskets if you’re looking for some utilitarian home decor.

I also love Sherpani bags (found at REI). I have one for my work bag, and it’s fantastic. Very functional, comfortable, and stylish (at least for Portland’s standard 😉 They now have a ton of sizes to fit almost any need…the carry on luggage styles are very tempting. They even have child backpacks.

My Twin Sis bought me the cutest little bags made of recycled yoga mats. My only complaint is that they are a too small for most of my needs, but Girly loves them!

My co-worker got a really hip black bag on her recent trip to visit her daughter in Columbia, Cyclus bags. Fair warning, the prices are in Columbian pesos, so you may experience sticker stock initially.

While a little simpler in style, KEEN also has some nice bags made from recycled materials. This is the type of bag Hubby would love…if he didn’t already have an REI bag.

There’s also always the option of the traditional grocery tote to help nudge a friend or family member to kick the plastic habit.

What’s your favorite eco-bag?

Sustainable Family Finances
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

IKEA land

My first IKEA experience was in the suburbs of Copenhagen. It was intriguing as a foreigner, and I was fascinated when I learned that IKEA culture was being exported: t he awe-inspiring parking lot, the maze-like wonder of home goods, and the cheap civilized cafeteria.  

As a Scandinavian lover, I can’t help but adore IKEA. But I’m also always a skeptical shopper, as everything is so tempting and cheap at IKEA. It’s all too easy to suddenly feel like you “need” a whole lot more than your shopping list. IKEA shows how simple Scandinavians live, and how you don’t have to be a millionaire to live the good life. Likewise, IKEA does have some innovative sustainability practices.

IKEA opened in Portland right around the time we bought our home. Since we were moving from a much smaller house with minimal furniture and not much cash on hand, our best option was to turn to IKEA decor. In our first trip, we bought a dining table, four chairs, tv armorer, coffee table, kids’ bed, two bar stool chairs, plus miscellaneous stuff! Our house was literally empty for a few months before we finally furnished it (sorry to our friends who sat on the floor to visit!) We obviously would have preferred to have bought higher end more eco-friendly furniture, but we also knew that young kids would be hard on it. The fork marks in dining table prove the point, that we just weren’t ready to buy an heirloom quality table…although we hold hope for the Joinery dream.

Aside from cheap kitchen gadgets, IKEA has lots of great kids’ kitchen gadgets. Honestly, I was a bit frustrating when I bought a bunch mini-whisks and spatulas at a local toy store for a pretty penny only to find them later at IKEA. Really, a baby whisk shouldn’t cost $5!   But my favorite IKEA thing is the kids’ organization stuff!  They are so colorful and creative and they really help tame the clutter beast. Then your challenge is to resist all the cheap toys…

Are you a fan of IKEA?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.