Friday, December 14, 2012

More Advent

We did a few more activities this past week in Advent celebration style! More family traditions embraced. :)

We started with a family breakfast picnic "under" our tree last weekend. All {did you know you can buy adult sized?!} in footed pjs because it was cold!

Then we popped over to a local famous Christmas spot a different night to look at the lights on steriods!

Then we had our sweet {Swenson} family during the week as they were attending a wedding nearby. It feels like it's been forever since we've had guests so it was a delightful treat to host them. Especially so close after Thanksgiving so E clearly remembered them. We made sure to delay our cookie decorating a few days so we could do it with them. It was so fun having more kids to participate and E loved having his cousins: constant playmates. He went through seriously withdrawals after they left!

And to balance the high levels of sugar before 10:30 am, they all gathered round while Aly-berry read a Christmas story!

Looking forward to more Advent activities this week!!

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

{DIY} Advent Pocket Calendar

It sure was nice having a whole week between Thanksgiving and the start of December this year. I was actually able to prep a little for advent and be ready to go December 1st. One of the projects that I wanted to add to this year's list was an advent calendar. We had been using mine that I grew up with and loved, but I wanted something bigger that would eventually include all our kids and be more interactive.

I had pinned a ton of ideas over the year for advent calendars: ones shaped like Christmas trees, made from felt, paper envelopes or brown paper bags, etc. Then I stumbled upon this image a few weeks ago and knew this was the one.

Buuuuut it don't come with a tutorial. So I fished around and found a few more images with the same modge-podged, saggy-pocket, rustic look.

 I bought a ten dollar 6 by 9 drop cloth {canvas tarp that painters use} from Walmart and got to work. {This is waaaay bigger than you'll ever need, but I want to make a tree skirt out of the same material.} All the "extras" I already had in my craft stash: buttons, ribbon trims, pom-poms, doilies, embroidery floss, fabric, felt, sewing machine, sharpie, and paint.

I cut and hemmed a piece of the drop cloth to measure about 36 inches long by 31 inches wide.
We have a little wall between our kitchen and eating are where our thankful tree was so I figured I'd hang this there too. So, I worked off the wall's size. I had several burlap squares leftover from my bubble burlap wreath project that I used for placement and pocket size. Then I just started switching some of them out for fabric and felt squares. And that's where the laborious, time-consuming part came in: decorating each pocket. Oh, the hours spent! And the mess that my kitchen table withstood!
I didn't plan ahead nor really tried to spend too much thought on any one pocket. I wanted it to look slightly messy and non-uniformed.

Once the pockets were decorated, I sewed each one in place. With the burlap ones, I went over them twice just to make sure wee lil' hands wouldn't tear them. I added three tab on top and stuck a wooden dowel through them. The last thing I did was tie some ribbon to each dowel end and hung it up!
Filling them was fun! I've been wanting to purchase a nativity set that the boys could role-play with for awhile. After some hunting, I decided on the Little People's set which has a bazillion pieces {make sure to get the one that has the shepherd!!}! I picked that up at Wally World along with the drop cloth.

I wrapped each nativity piece in some brown kraft paper and washi tape. I mingled the pieces with some chocolate and "activities tags". The tags are basically index cards that I added ribbon and tape to. I looked over this list and picked several that fit our family and the traditions we like to do during this time of year: Christmas lights drive, bake cookies, watch a Christmas movie, do a Christmas/winter related craft, have a picnic next to the Christmas tree, and make this year's ornament. I also tried to include a few "service"/acts of kindness type activities too. I was really inspired by this blogger's kindness project from a few years back. Hoping we can add more of these as the years go on and the kids are more capable!
I half-jokingly told W that this advent better end up as a heirloom after all the time I spent on it. It seriously took 3+ days to complete. Labor of love. But I love how it turned out and know it'll get many more years use out of it in the meantime. Our Christmas count-down has begun!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Handmade Holidays

Don't have the time or the energy to make something and add some newness to your holiday decorations this year?! Pop over to Newlywife to see my latest post on a few of my favorite holiday homemade items to make your place more merry + bright!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Thankful Tree

Thanks to the amazing crafty search engine known as pinterest, I found this idea last year and knew I wanted to start it this year.

First thing, I rolled into my girlfriend's classroom with my roll of kraft paper to create the trunk base. An overhead projector, printed tree clip-art, and a pencil, I set to work outlining and cutting out my tree...while E looted some poor girl's desk and played with her pencil sharpener shavings and T ate random bits off the floor. Family effort involved here. Once home, I taped it up to our small wall space between our kitchen and eating area. It fit just perfectly. 
Then I added the "W+J" carving and thought I was done. E protested, asking, "Where's my letter?" so instead I added his and T's hand prints. Now, it was our family's Thankful Tree.

Next stop was my parents' house to make the leaves. I printed 60 leaves on my mom's cricut, using various colored and printed card stock. I added a piece of tape to the back of each and added the leaves to the bottom. My thinking was that W and I would share one leaf while E would have the other. Thus, having enough room to fit everyone's thanks for the entire 30 days in November. 
 Each dinner time this month, we'll take two leaves, add our gratitude, and put them among the branches of the tree. 
Even though this is such a simple exercise and really one I should be doing every day all year long, I already notice a change in perspective and attitude. I'm looking out for the blessings of every day. I'm appreciating the roles I have, the people I love, and things I already possess. It's been a great reminder that we already have more than enough. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Gallery Shelves {DIY}

Our master bedroom has been a work in progress for what seems like FOREVER. It was re-painted well over a year ago, and every since, we've been slowly changing things out or updating them. The most recent addition has been some gallery shelves that W whipped up a few evenings ago. 

You can buy these from Pottery Barn for the hefty price of $55 but that would only get you one 4-foot ledge when I wanted two five-foot ones. Instead, we used Ana White's plans for these..she calls them the "$10 shelves" since that's how much the wood costs to make these. We just used pallet wood that we already had so they were free! Yay! Favorite price. They're basically just three pieces of wood nailed together. Super easy to make in a single night and very easily custom size-able.
So W built, I painted {high gloss white; 2 coats}, he hung, and I filled 'em with this and that from around the house/garage to have a look-see.

And so they sit above our yellow dresser,

where I can enjoy more memories from my bed! Yay for fewer blank walls!
Time for some more gushy, lovey dovey, romantic prints and pictures, no?!?!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Wizard of Oz Gang {Halloween Recap}

Last year, the boys were MacGyver and his side-kick, the Swiss Army knife. This year I decided we should all be involved in the know, make it a family event. This may be the last time I really get away with "picking" since E is already shouting out opinions for next year...which all include a sword and shield.

So for one girl {albeit quite pregnant} and three boys, I went with the Wizard of Oz gang. I had originally planned to make/piece together all of the costumes in some form or fashion. But when my mom gave me a toddler lion costume that she bought from Costco, I didn't turn her away. Here's a bit of the break down for the rest of the gang...

The tin {toddler} man
 Much of his ensemble he already owned: shoes, hoodie {we went with a gray long sleeve for the actual day}, and pants. I made a heart out of red felt, embroidered "if i only had a..." on the front, stuffed it, and safety-pinned it to his top. I bought a huge funnel at a local hardware store along with some chrome spray paint. It originally was tied with jute string but kept falling off so I switched it out to thin elastic. That did the trick and he kept the hat on for the entire night. 

The axe is made from gray and brown felt and stuffed. I free-handed a pattern which worked great. The biggest problem came with making it stand up straight..that's where W came in. He added some cardboard and a skewer to reinforce the structure. Perfect...well, enough to hold up to a wild toddler hacking at air.

 I added a bit of silver face paint to boot.
{this was pre-elastic..he was pretty bummed that it kept falling off}

Knocked-up Dorothy
 I found a really simple and easy tutorial here {she's not the most UN-annoying person ever} which I just sewed instead of using the fabric glue she did. It's basically a skirt and a bib piece tucked into the skirt. I also used her glitter shoe tute in the video too. Since my gingham fabric was really see-through, I added a white lining. And I had zero petticoat luck at the thrift stores so I added some lace trim. 

I really wanted to add that red tulle underneath too and have it just peek out a little. But I didn't find a tutorial that was workable enough and simply ran out of time {and energy}.

I made an over-sized red bow with felt and leftover gingham since pigtails & pregnant felt way too wrong. ;) Threw on some of W's long socks, a red cardi and I was ready to roll.

The scarecrow

W already had everything but the hat and corn cob pipe. Both of which I picked up at the party store while getting face paint. My MIL had made the brown pants over ten years ago for a Renaissance fair and his shirt was thrifted for the same event. His was the easiest!

After pictures with my parents, we headed over to our friends' neighborhood for trick-or-treating. We did much better than the three houses from last year although we were up way past the boys' bedtime.
It really felt like E's first year this time. We practiced what to say each time and that kid said "Happy Halloween" or "Thank You" with so much gusto at every house. As he trotted back, he'd give me his candy and announce how many pieces he got. If he got more than two, he'd say, "It's because I'm a lucky, lucky, lucky little boy." A movie reference we use often with him. Love that boy so.

the whole gang!

until next year...

Friday, October 19, 2012

Pumpkin Patch

We ventured to the patch last weekend to grab our stash.
We are definitely quickly running out of room for pumpkins! Who knows what we'll do next year with THREE littles?!

We are very much into "If he does it, so do I" stage.
And they are pretty much inseparable. Fingers crossed that helps with moving them in together in a few months!

Our rule for pumpkin selection: have to get it to the wagon. This was E's solution.
We gave in due to creative thinking.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Roasted Salmon in Miso Sauce

Real Simple's October 2012 issue had an absolute gem. They did a piece on a five-day meal plan for an entire month. And included a shopping list for each week. Talk about making it simple. What I love most about the recipes are that they push me outside my normal, but not in an overwhelming way. Feeling adventurous, but still only having to complete 3 or 4 steps per meal.

We've ventured to Ranch 99, discovered radicchio and fennel, and resurrected a love for chorizo. I've been doing one week on their plan and following it up with a regular, no-frills week. It's been the perfect mix.

With any adventure, there's been some major hits and major misses. One of our absolute favorite thus far was last night's dinner. Everyone, including my picky eater, cleaned their plate! Success.

1.5 lbs of new potatoes {halved if large}..i just got a 1.5 sack of small goldens; less work
1 bunch of broccoli, cut into florets
3 T + 1 t canola oil
kosher salt and black pepper
3 T white miso {soybean paste; found in fridge section of supermarket}
1 T rice vinegar
4 6-oz salmon fillets
1/4 to 1/2 t crushed red pepper...opted out of this

*Heat oven to 425. In baking dish, toss potatoes and broccoli with 2 T oil, 1/2 t salt and 1/4 t pepper. Roast, tossing once, until tender. About 25-30 minutes.

*Meanwhile, in small bowl, whisk miso, vinegar, 1 T of remaining oil and 3 T water.

*Heat remaining t of oil in large skillet over med-high heat. Season salmon with 1/4 t each salt and pepper. Cook until opaque throughout, about 5-10 per side. Drizzle with sauce, sprinkle with crushed red pepper and serve with veggies.

Party in your mouth. No joke.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Gettin' Spooky {decor}

A few weeks ago, the fall box came down and slowly but surely our house is turning a bit spooky! I've made a new front door wreath which I'm in absolute love with. Already scheming up Christmas ideas so I can keep it out!
{tutorial found here}

Our entryway inlet has a few added touches:
I got the print a few years back and added my mustache hoop art that wonders around downstairs without a permanent home. The beware sign was a dollar store score.

Our mantle:
At this point, just a hod-podge of what was already on it plus a few random additions. The candy corn garland I made out of felt and is hung on black ric rac. The witch print is found here. And the centerpiece pallet sign is incomplete {still need words} and will eventually go to another home. But it works there for now until I mail it off. 

The winning space thus far is our bat wall! It turned out so awesome. Amazing what 50 little card-stock bats can do! The flight of the bats:

{tutorial found here}

Happy harvest month!