Tuesday, December 18, 2012

What's Inside the Advent Boxes?

Last week, I shared the advent calendar I made out of a ladder.
The kids are enjoying opening a box each day.
As I mentioned, I didn't want to make an advent calendar that was filled with presents.   Instead, Jason shared with me a tradition that his mom did when he was a kid.  She made an advent calendar with a decoration each day that he would hang on an advent tree.
Remember the jewelry I bought at Hub's Place?  I talked about it in my thrift store haul video. 
I turned the vintage jewelry into miniature ornaments simply by attaching a ribbon to each one. 
We bought a little potted tree for $9 that we will plant.  It's the least we can do, since we cut two down every year.
Each day, the kids take turns hanging a vintage jewelry ornament on our little tree.
I love how simple it looks.
In addition to the ornaments, each day there is an activity in one of the advent boxes.  I sat down one night with my calendar in hand and wrote out all of the activities to make sure they didn't conflict with our over-scheduled lifestyle. 
So, for example, I wouldn't schedule a "movie night" on an evening Imani has a basketball game or Christmas concert.  I jotted all of the activities in my personal planner so I could look ahead and plan whatever I needed around the activities.
I didn't get too fancy in making the activities.  I just wrote them quickly on little slips of paper and tucked them into the boxes.  It's fun to see how excited Imani gets each day to see what the activity will be.  Noah gets a kick out of hanging the ornaments.
Here is this year's list of advent activites:

1. Quinn (Elf on the shelf) returns. Can you find him?
2. Get Christmas tree #1 and decorate it
3. Make a Christmas Craft
4. Have hot cocoa before bed
5.  Watch "Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer."
6. Set up the Christmas Village in the sitting room
7.  Watch "The Santa Claus"
8.  Run the "It's a Wonderful Run" 5k with jingle bells on your sneakers.
9. Visit the tree farm for tree #2 and decorate it.
10. Leave a note in someone's mailbox telling them how much you love their Christmas lights
11.Make room for Santa! Find some toys to donate to the Salvation Army.
12.  Read "The Polar Express" before bed
13.  Make a treat for the Christmas party
14. Tonight's the night: The Christmas party!!  Hang the glitter ornaments in the bay window with pretty ribbon.
15.   Go to "Hand of Man" to get your yearly ornament.
16. Movie Night!!!  Watch "Elf"
17. Set the table with candles and have a fancy dinner.  Play Christmas music during dinner.
18. Write a letter to a friend or family member you won't see at Christmas.
19. Read the Christmas story in Luke Chapter 2.
20. Drive around and see the Christmas lights. Sing Christmas songs!
21. Start your day off right! Have a piece of chocolate after breakfast!
22. Random Act of Kindness Day! Do something nice for a complete stranger.
23. Movie night!
24. Charitable Giving - visit Heifer International

Monday, December 17, 2012

In Honor of Sandy Hook

I don't watch much television.  I usually listen to the news in my car on Satellite Radio but Friday I was listening to Christmas music all day when I drove around for work.  I was really excited about our annual Christmas party that we host every year.
It was at my Christmas party that my friend, Lori told me about the tragedy in Connecticut.  I think I was in shock when she told me.
Over the course of the weekend, I intentionally did not seek out the news - I didn't want to hear about the shooter, see his image or give him any more attention and power than he had already been given.  Instead, I absorbed what Lori told me all weekend.
I cherished the sound of my children's voices when they woke me in the morning.
I prayed for the victims.
I sought guidance and understanding in church on Sunday morning.
Today, in honor of those in Connecticut, I am joining many other bloggers in pausing. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

An Advent Ladder

I've wanted to make an advent calendar every year since Imani was little.
I finally made one. 
Imani is almost twelve.

Don't judge me -- I just struggled with how to make one, what to put inside etc. etc.
I mean, they have a ton of advent calendars at Target and TJ Maxx and I've come close to purchasing one on several occasions. 
But I didn't want to fill the calendar with a bunch of presents . . . I think Christmas focuses too much on material objects already.
And I didn't want to fill it with candy.
We still have Halloween Candy left over . . . and NOT because nobody's eating it . . but because Imani is the fastest trick or treater I've ever seen.
I suppose I could fill it with toiletries from Rite Aid, since the Coupon Cowboy has quite a collection in my basement, but I didn't think that would be very fun for Imani.
Oh and I'm cheap "frugal."  I didn't want to spend $30 on an Advent calendar.
So I did some research online and found a lot of really great ideas of what to put inside the advent calendar so it wouldn't be all about gifts.  There are many great sites that list advent "activities" in lieu of gifts.
And remember that jewelry I found at Hub's Place?  It made its way into my advent calendar too.  I'll share more on that (along with the activities) later.
In the meantime, do you like my calendar?

I knew I wanted to incorporate my ladder.  We have two ladders in our house that I use simply for decorating.  I love them. If I could put a ladder in every room and not have people think I was crazy, I would do it.  I once wrote about ways to decorate with ladders here.   Now we could add the advent calendar to that list!
Anyway, this advent calendar was pretty simple to make, and it only cost me $2.
I found little white boxes in the wedding section of the dollar store.  You get 12 in a package for $1, so I picked up two.
Then I nicely asked Jason if he'd write all of the numbers on the boxes . . . since I've told you a million times I'm really sloppy and he's a perfectionist.
I had to nag him a bunch but he finally granted my wish . . . he's never failed me.
Then, I filled the boxes with the activities and tied each box to my ladder with red and white baker's twine that I had left over from my Christmas cards.
That's it.  I'm hoping those little boxes hold up for many years so we can carry this tradition well into Noah's childhood without having to re-create the calendar.
What about you? Do you have an advent calendar? Did you make it and if so, how?  What do you put in it? I'd love to hear.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Could it be? Christmas Cards out on time?!

Every year I order my Christmas cards through Shutterfly or some other online company that prints cards.
But this year, thanks to Pinterest, I was inspired to make my own cards.  I found the cutest, simplest Christmas card on Pinterest so I totally copied it.
I'm happy to say they were finished before Thanksgiving and sent out just a week after (only because I didn't want to send them TOO early).
I'm so proud of myself.  
I started by taking a million pictures of Imani and Noah one Saturday while Jason was sleeping in (since he gets up with Noah more than I do, he gets Saturdays to sleep in).
I couldn't catch a photo of both of them smiling.  Either Imani was all smiles and Noah looked miserable, or Noah was all smiles and Imani blinked. 
So I settled on a cute photo of the two of them in a tree in our back yard.  Imani is smiling and Noah is looking thougtfully into the distance.
After I took the picture I used my PicFrame app to adjust the color and give it more of a vintage feel.  Then, I placed my order right from my iphone on PostalPix.
The pictures arrived just a few days later.

I bought some brown cardstock at AC Moore for $4.99 and some red and white baker's twine.
This stuff wasn't easy to find.  It's all over the internet, but for those of you who know me, you know I'm very impatient.  So Imani and I spent an entire day going store to store to find it.  We finally found it at a local stationary boutique that Imani suggested I try.  It wasn't cheap.  $18 for the roll (but it will last me a LONG time if I resist the urge to wrap everything up with it.  I love it).
Since the cardstock came in a folded version, and I just wanted mine to be one-sided 5 by 7 inches, I asked Jason to cut all of the cards in half.  He's much neater than I am and he's very precise  . . . measuring to make sure his cuts are exact. 
I don't like rulers. We don't get along.
So Jason cut all of the cards so that I could make my Pinterest vision come to life.
I sat down one Sunday afternoon with a glue stick, a pair of scissors, my photos, my newly loved baker's twine, cardstock and my iphone set to Pandora's classic Christmas station.
Before I knew it, I'd cranked out a whole bunch of these adorable, hand-made Christmas cards.

I'm in love with them.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Santa's Back on the Mantel

You know I like to change my mantel for the holidays and every year I try to make it a bit different, just using everyday objects around my house.
But this year, there's one element from last year's mantel that I couldn't leave out:

You might recall that Jason made me this Pottery Barn knock off last year and I fell in love with it.
So he's made his way up there again this year, but all of the other elements have changed.  I tried to use objects around my house and I was trying to create a mantel with a vintage feel.
Here's what I came up with:
Once again, I used an old window for the backdrop. 
You'll see a couple of the objects I picked up at the Salvation Army haul.
My little grapevine reindeer got a makeover with a red ribbon around is neck.

I placed a white pitcher in an old soda crate, filled the pitcher with branches that I spray painted red and filled the box with some pine branches.  I added a few pine cones alongside the box.
I poured some Epsom salt into some old ball jars, added a candle and attached some fake holly to the jars.    In case you're wondering, I got the fake holly from the poinsettia bouquet I shared with you in my Salvation Army haul video.  If you missed it, you can watch it here. I still have a lot of it left so I can embellish my gifts this year.

Speaking of gifts, I wrapped a couple in simple brown paper packaging that I picked up from the dollar store.  I tied ribbon on one and twine on the other and added little embellishments from a big box I have (mostly from the Salvation Army or from gifts I receive each year).  I haven't made the tags yet, but these are real gifts.  I'm not one for "faking" gifts for decorating. 
I just don't like the thought of wasting the boxes or the wrapping paper so I use real gifts, for real people in my decorating.  The challenge is not to forget to give them to the recipients!
Once the gifts were wrapped, I stacked them on top of an old Coca-Cola box.

I also filled a big vintage egg basket with pine cones and placed it on the floor.  The Christmas ball tree sits on an old wash bucket.  I debated keeping the Christmas ball tree in the display because it is more modern, but it lights up and Noah loves to look at it, so I kept it.

Finally, our stockings are usually a pewter blue color, but they are very shimmery and sparkly and I just didn't feel like they matched this year's mantel, so I set off to purchase some burlap stockings.
I was shocked by the prices! I couldn't find one less than $20!  So I tried my hand at sewing once again and I guess I did okay because they at least LOOK like stockings.
I got my material at JoAnn Fabric and I spent less than $15 for all four stockings.

They were a bit plain, so I added some small wooden ornaments that my mom gave me from when I was a kid.  I like the little detail and they gave the stockings more of a whimsical feel.
Each stocking has a unique wooden ornament.

Finally, on the left side on the floor, there is a little gold tree sitting on top of an old bucket.  I also included a little copper pot that I filled with evergreens and tied a red ribbon on the front.


The Lettered Cottage


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Homemade Gift Ideas

The Christmas season is in full-swing.
Have you started making any of your gifts yet?
I haven't!
But I sure have spent a good deal of time on Pinterest finding great gifts to make.  If I actually got off of Pinterest and started making some of these amazing gifts, I might be in good shape.
Every year, Imani and I try to make at least a couple of homemade gifts.  One year it was Christmas ornaments, one year it was cookie mix in Ball jars, and one year we knitted gifts.
I also try to make something for Imani each year.  I've knitted her fingerless gloves and even made a quilt once (I'm NOT a seamstress . . . AT ALL).
Making homemade gifts shows the person to whom you're giving  that you actually took the time to create something for them.  Anyone can slap down a little cash or a credit card at Target and check someone off their list.

Another reason I love homemade gift giving is because it's quality time spent with my child.  We enjoy the time making something for someone else . . . and it teaches generosity far more than purchasing something in the store.

The problem is, we're all pressed for time . . . so of course I buy gifts in the store just like everyone else, but I do make a point to make at least a few gifts each year. 
Here are some of my favs from the wonderful world of Pinterest.
Hopefully, I'll get a chance to make at least a couple.

Photo Coasters

People love getting gifts of photos -- whether the photos are of memories you shared together, your kids, their kids, their dog, or an artistic photo, this is sure to be a winner.

Cinnamon Honey Butter

Seriously? Who wouldn't want this?  I little jar of goodness.  Yum.


DIY Photo Canvas
Photo canvases are all the rage. You can find companies all over the Internet with various sizes of photo canvas options.  I love the idea of trying to make one myself.


                                                                              Source: via Stephenie on Pinterest

Photo Board

If the photo canvas isn't your thing and you'd like something a bit more rustic, try this photo board, using just an inexpensive board from your local hardware store and Modge Podge!


Cute Chalk Board

This one is a dollar store tray turned chalk board embellished with a ribbon.  I LOVE it.  I would like it even more if the tray were a vintage tray, but I love it nonetheless.  It would make a great hostess gift. 


                                                                                            Source: via Stephenie on Pinterest

Recipes in a Jar
I  had to include this one because it's one of my favorite gifts to receive and to give.  Let's face it, everyone is busy.  I love having a little jar of yummy where all I have to do is add oil, water and eggs and I have my recipe done.    There are so many "food in a jar" variations.

Homemade Hot Cocoa



Photo Pillows

Can you tell I like to give photo gifts?


Recipe Tea Towels

Transfer a family recipe to a tea towel.





Ice Cream Sundae Kit

I once got a gift like this when I was a teacher and I thought it was the cutest idea.  I love ice cream . . . and I like to make my ice cream fancy with LOTS of toppings but I hate spending money on all of those toppings.  So this gift is right up my alley.

There are so many wonderful ideas for homemade gifts on Pinterest.

What are your favorite gifts to make?  What are you making this year?

 If you see a homemade gift idea that you think is extra special, post it to Decorating Addiction's Facebook page wall, email it to me or put the link in the comments below.   I'd love to see it!


Monday, December 3, 2012

Holding on to Magical Moments

I've been having Christmas light envy.
You know - when you drive around town and see everyone's houses all decorated, lights twinkling across their rooftops, beautifully decorated trees peeking out of window panes when you haven't hung a single strand of lights.
Yeah, I was itching to get at least a strand of lights hung but I've been busy with work and Jason has been training for a little 5K that we're doing this weekend.
But we set out this weekend with my brother and sister in law to find tree #1 (you might remember that we get two trees each year).    As a side note - my brother-in-law is Jason's brother -- who has become another coupon cowboy.  My sister-in-law Shannon and I are the lucky ladies who have shelves and shelves of hair care products at our disposal.  (Sorry I didn't get a picture of Joe and Shannon and my niece Kendra but I swear they were all there with us!)
It's a family tradition for us to go out and cut down our trees every year and this year, Noah got to walk the fields right along with us.

He was fascinated by everything, including this pine branch his Uncle Joe plucked from a tree for him.
He quickly discovered that he liked the way it smelled.
After a while of searching, we found just the tree we were looking for:  tall but not too fat.  We have a tendency to get really bushy trees that take up our whole living room.  We tried to avoid that this year.  We kept thinking the tree we found might not be tall enough.  If you've ever cut a tree down, you know the feeling of thinking all of the trees look small once you're out in the woods.
But based on how difficult it was for Jason and Joe to get the tree up to the car, we figured it must be bigger than we thought.
It was certainly tall enough. Jason couldn't even reach the top when he was standing on the ladder and we had to put the tree where the skylights are to give it extra room!

We made a big pot of chili (a tradition each year) and got to work decorating.  Noah needed a little help at first.
But he quickly caught on, and joined his sister Imani, who is a pro at decorating trees now.
There's something magical about decorating the tree each year.  I wish I could hold the feeling in my heart all year long.
But the busyness of life goes on . . . Monday comes and I go to work, doing my very best to work my hardest and my perspective changes -- if only for a work day -- what's important shifts to job, bills, errands.
And only one night after the decorating started and that magical feeling begins to fade, I come home from work and see this.

And I'm reminded of the magic of the season all over again.

Related Posts with Thumbnails