12 Days of Christmas: Stockings

I have so many memories of my mom cross stitching as I was growing up. I remember her teaching my sisters and me the craft. As kids we were always getting frustrated, messing up, getting dirty finger prints all over the fabric and tossing our projects aside. As an adult, however, I love cross stitching. I'm grateful that my mom spent all the time she did helping us learn and love working with our hands on such delicate little creations. Each one of me and my four siblings had a hand stitched stocking made by my mom. I decided I would carry on the tradition and stitch stockings for our kids too.

Last year I finally finished Jude's stocking after 6 long years of work. I don't cross stitch year round, I usually don't do it at all during the summer months, but once September rolls around I will work on a project a find a rhythm with it through the winter. Even though this stocking took me 6 years to complete I am so glad that I did it. And yes I totally know I forgot the "h" in which, but I'm working through that ;) I hope Judith will have fond memories of her stocking throughout her whole life and may be even be inspired enough to stitch them for her own children. I've vowed to myself to try to finish Lennon's by the time he's six also, so hopefully next year I'll have another stocking to share with you!  

12 Days Of Christmas: How to Make A Mouse House

Meet Klaus the Mouse! This is Klaus' house, he's a simple mouse, but he certainly has everything he needs to live a very nice little mouse life. When you're a mouse, you see, you don't have regular shopping malls or furniture stores. In order to build a comfortable home for yourself you need to use the things humans leave behind. It isn't always easy, but after a bit of time a mouse can become quite comfortable actually. Over a not so long period of time Klaus has been able to scavenge out several household items that the humans in his house have left for garbage. Well, one mans trash is certainly this mouses treasure! 

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I think Klaus' house might just be my favorite Christmas decoration happening this year. Our whole family has had fun finding odds and ends around our big house to use in his little house! All you need to create a mouse house of your own is a little imagination and things will start to come together quickly! We used an old wood crate for the structure, this particular crate has a divider in the middle of it giving Klaus the luxury of a two story home. His bed is made of a matchbox, clothes pins, cotton balls, a cloth measuring tape and scraps of felt. His dining table is made from thread spools and a lid from a jar. He has two children's blocks as chairs and a rug made from a scrap of red burlap ribbon. He also has some fun miniatures in his house that I somehow already had (I realize that admitting to that makes me sound like a crazy granny). I picked up a few of these little things at Michaels a few years back and they include a little mirror, a wall map, a bike, and some knitting supplies. The little red chair was a gift from my friend Liz and it fits perfectly in the corner. His Christmas decor is a combination of miniature holiday wrapping supplies, a couple of Christmas town miniatures and a wreath made from a tiny embroidery hoop wrapped up with a pipe cleaner. Finally his house is all lit up with two strands of Christmas lights that I picked up from the Target One Spot. This little mouse house was a very inexpensive way to provide some decorating joy for our whole family. I hope we've inspired you to build your own!

12 Days of Christmas: Advent Calendar

The Christmas season is my absolute favorite time of year. Everyone seems to have a little more of themselves to give and each time a good deed is done a circle of love and giving begins. 

This Christmas I'm going to share with you a tour of our Christmas house, a few of our favorite holiday rituals, and some of the best recipes that I know! Today I'm sharing a tradition that Brett and I started a few years ago when our kids were just starting to understand the meaning of Christmas. The holidays are made by children and their joy filled laughter and excitement for the season. We observe the sacred season of Advent in many ways, but I suspect our kids' favorite is the "calendar. 

Each November Brett and I collect little inexpensive gifts to present to our kids each day of December leading up to Christmas. It basically amounts to a bunch of Christmas themed junky toys that kids tend to LOVE and a few more practical things like socks and water bottles speckled throughout. I love staying up late on November 30th and assembling the bags, and then seeing the kids' faces when they come down the stairs and see them all hanging up! 

What are some of your favorite Advent traditions, do your kids get little treats too?  

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Valentines Fun!

It's a few days late but I couldn't resist sharing some of our fun Valentines Day projects and pictures from this year. I'm still learning how to be an adult and a mother. In effort to expand my education I decided to volunteer myself as chairperson of Judith's Kindergarten Valentines party when school started last fall. That sounds like a project I can conquer, I thought to myself, months before it became real. In all fairness, at the time I volunteered I didn't realize my sister would be getting married in Seattle the weekend prior to Valentines day. Needless to say I had a few meltdowns trying to keep my cool these past couple of weekends. I pulled it off (with help from my very patient husband) and I have a few tricks to share with you that saved my rear end! 

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Photo Booth:

The main idea I had for the valentines party was to create a photo booth. I was lucky because I already had props from a wedding I had photographed. I really only needed to devise some sort of backdrop. I bought a tri fold cardboard presentation board for $3.00 and glued colorful 12x12 scrapbook papers to it. I draped a heart garland over it and I had the cutest kid sized photo booth ever made. It was so easy and very inexpensive and highly portable. I totally recommend this idea for any time of year you want to create a mini photo booth. 

These photos are from the testing phase of the photo booth, my kids are always on board to help me out with these sorts of projects ;)  

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Fruit Kabobs:

Okay, so I didn't invent the idea of a fruit kabob. I'm also fairly certain that I saw the idea of creating a valentines inspired arrow out of a fruit kabob on Pinterest or some fabulous blog. All that aside, I'm here to confirm that this adorable snack was fast to put together and a great "healthy" option for party food. After delegating many of the party treats and supplies to other parents I still found myself wanting to bring something fresh and natural to balance out the traditional Valentine treats. After cutting out hearts (arrowheads) and fletching from craft paper, I put these kabobs together 30 minutes before leaving for the party. I was even happier when the kindergarten crew gobbled them down like candy. 

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I hope that one day these time saving party tricks will help you create some party fun!

 Happy (belated) Valentines day! 

Happy New Year!

This is the time of year that we all look back on the last year, consider our accomplishments or shortcomings and commit to making the new year one of the best. 

I love January because I always have a rush of energy and enthusiasm. I don't make resolutions or yearly goals but, never the less, the new year always instills a sense of possibility and excitement in me. 

2013 was a year of learning for me. So many happy moments running alongside moments of uncertainty. One of the mysteries of life is that it can only really be understood looking backward, but must be experienced going forward. I try to keep myself open to life's challenges, it's in those moments that my understanding of the world and myself grows and ultimately I become rooted more deeply in my beliefs. I never want to stop growing and learning. 

Although I'm not making resolutions or setting out goals I have decided to adopt a symbol of strength for the year. 

As an annual tradition, Brett, Judith, Lennon and I take our cameras and go capture life on New Years Day. Today we went to Allerton Park, Illinois. The handsome red cardinal in the picture below fluttered into my view and perched itself right above my head. His presence struck me and sent a thrill of happiness through me. So this year I'm naming the cardinal my symbol of strength. His color represents vitality, importance, faith and power, and he never fails to catch your attention while flying by.

So here's to 2014. I'm ready for some change and opportunity, and I'm ready for the challenges that those things bring. What are your New Years Eve/Day traditions? 

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Homemade Eggnog

If you're heading to a holiday party in the last few days before Christmas, homemade eggnog is the perfect treat to bring and share! 

My kids are eggnog fanatics. It's one of those Holiday treats that needs to be monitored, otherwise they'd have no problem killing a carton in one sitting. Their enthusiasm for this yummy holiday beverage got me thinking, I know I could make this stuff at home, so I did, and it changed our world. 

I'm not going to mislead you, eggnog isn't incredibly easy to make from scratch and it needs to be made the day before you serve it, BUT, it's so worth it I can't even describe how delicious it is. It will ruin you on the store bought stuff and you'll have yourself a new homemade Christmastime tradition. 

 

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Vintage Shortbread Cookies

So it's early/mid December and I'm in the mood for cookies. I'm not the only one, right? The problem is that I know I'll be doing the heavy cookie laboring around the big day and I'm really just  looking for something easy and festive to tide us over until that time comes.

Shortbread cookies are the easiest cookie known to man kind, plus they're delicious. If you have kids around the house they'll be in favor of breaking out some of the cookie cutters. It's like a practice run for the real deal. 

I love dipping these little cookies in coffee. That's basically the highest level of success that a short bread cookie can ever reach, being dipped in a hot cup of coffee. Trust me, I've known a lot of shortbread cookies and they all say the same thing. 

I love playing with vintage recipes. This one I found in my 1953 edition of The Better Homes and Gardens cook book. Scroll down for the recipe card and enjoy! 

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This is what happens after you make these cookies. You find your sweet children hiding behind furniture sneaking a bite. 

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