The Holiday Wall

Friends, I am afraid my promised gift wrap post will not make it in time to actually be useful. I do so appreciate all the likes, comments and visits from you this past week. I was feeling a little discouraged the end of last week and you people cheered me up.

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Have you hit the Holiday Wall yet?

We have only two days to go but some of us have been prepping since August and Christmas can be exhausting.

Christmas and the surrounding holidays can often be the very opposite of what they’re supposed to be. Instead of being merry and bright, it’s hectic and stressful. As much as I love Christmas, it isn’t usually hard for me to look past all that and see all the lovely things about it, but this season has about done me in. From unexpected bills (we have an insanely tall, mostly dead maple in our backyard pulling up at the roots and threatening to topple onto the house with the next windy day that has to go, and soon) to close family members in the ER (I kid you not, my brother and mother have collectively been in the ER three times in the last week and a half) this Christmas has been anything but jolly. Luke (my dear husband) hit the Holiday Wall almost as soon as Christmas music flooded the airwaves, but I held out. Then I had an emotional breakdown yesterday morning over a bad hair day and realized (along with being 7 1/2 months pregnant) that I was slamming into the Holiday Wall myself.

Thankfully (and I’m going to go on a bit of a spiritual rant now) we have a God who takes care of us when we aren’t doing a very good job of it ourselves.

Luke received unexpected Christmas bonuses from both of his jobs, I was able to pick up some extra work, and Luke’s parents have generously offered to help with the payment on the tree removal. My family is home and recuperating and Christmas is only two days away. I feel 50 lbs lighter.

I wonder sometimes though if we’d have this kind of attitude and continue to praise God if things didn’t work themselves out so nicely. It’s easy to look on the bright side and be thankful when God takes away our burdens. But if God has another plan, if He knows we need to carry a burden for a little longer, whatever the reason, isn’t He still that same loving God? He’s still doing what’s best for us, even if it doesn’t feel like it.

So today I wanted to take a turn at encouraging YOU. I know lots of people feel overwhelmed and stressed this time of year. Please know that even if your prayers are seeming to go unanswered that God’s timing is perfect and He works all things out for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28 ya’ll).

I haven’t done a post like this before and I hope it doesn’t scare you away. I know most people look at blogs like these for fun, pretty posts with lots of clickable things but this was weighing on me and I wanted to share it with you. And there are more fun, pretty, click-y things to come! Stay with me. And please let me know what you think and if there’s anything I can pray about for you.

I hope we all can remember that Christmas is more than buying absurd amounts of presents, waiting in line at Macy’s, and cooking an elaborate enough meal to possibly impress your mother-in-law. Take some time to pray today and tell God all the things that are burdening you. Even if they don’t untangle by the end of the prayer, you will feel better, I promise.

Stay tuned for more, reader, I have lots in store!

Love always,

-Tara

P.S. As a token of my appreciation, please follow this link to my Pin Boards, which have all sorts of fun, pretty, click-y things

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Last Minute Christmas Gifts

Christmas is less than a week away and I’m still buying/making gifts.

I’ve found all sorts of tutorials and lists of ideas for you so you can hopefully fit in those last minute gifts before Christmas Eve.

Luckily for me, we don’t celebrate Christmas with my dad’s side of the family until New Year’s Eve, so I get a whole extra week for those guys.

Alright, let’s get started:

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1. First up, something pretty; diy rings

10 DIY rings!  Oh the lovely things: 60 DIY Accessories- Last Minute Gifts For Fashionistas

From Oh the Lovely Things

2. Next, remember these washi tape tea lights?

Washi Tea Lights t www.thebensonstreet.com

From The Benson Street

3. For the kids

From Little Crunchy Mama with super simple instructions and only 2 ingredients

(scroll down a bit once on her page)

4. For him

This huge list of fun diy gifts

From Everything Etsy

5. Not feeling Do-it-Yourself-y? Any of the gadgets from this list will thrill him:

From Imgur

(I got my husband this “grenade”)

6. How about your neighbor or mail person?

Free Printable Holiday Gift Tags

Here are 101 ideas from The Dating Divas

7. Everyone loves food

Double Chocolate Dipped Peanut Butter Stuffed Pretzels

From Baker By Nature

No-bake chocolate chip cookie dough truffles made with no eggs

From I Heart Naptime

(Planning on making some of these myself. And yes, they’re egg-free)

Sour Cream Cookies

Old-Fashioned Sour Cream Cookies Recipe #BringtheCOOKIES

From Java Cupcake via In Katrina’s Kitchen.

(My sister’s getting these; she’s obsessed)

Check out my Pin Board for more delicious recipes.

8. One more (or 75) for the kiddos:

75+ INEXPENSIVE Handmade Gifts for Kids - so many great tutorials for great gift ideas! { lilluna.com }

From Lil’ Luna

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Hopefully that will get you started. Have any great tutorials or ideas to share?

Link us up in the comments. I’d love to hear from you or check out your blog.

Until then, happy gifting.

-Tara

P.S. Next week I’m sharing pretty gift wrap ideas and inspiration so stay tuned.

Last Minute Christmas Bucket List

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Christmas is in 10 days. How did this happen?!

We’ve been talking a lot about Advent and making the most of this season. Today I’m going to share my Advent activity list. Hopefully you (and I!) can squeeze a few of these in and make the season a little more wonderful.

Wrap presents

Decorate the house

DIY Christmas pallet sign

Watch a Christmas special

Make hot cocoa and popcorn

Learn Christmas songs on guitar

Eat caramel corn and do a puzzle

Drive around and look at lights

Make Christmas card holder

Take a walk In the snow

Indoor s’mores

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As you can see I haven’t made much leeway with it yet. I made a prettier copy that maybe you want to save and print:

Advent List

There are lots of other activities that I left off that’d be especially great for kids (i.e., sledding!)

Never heard of Indoor S’mores? You are missing out. I love to make “gourmet” s’mores and add all kinds of different chocolate-y toppings, like replacing the chocolate bar with a Reese’s Cup or dunking the thing in melted chocolate (seriously making myself hungry right now).

It’s really simple, especially if you have a toaster oven.

Line your toaster oven rack or a baking sheet in foil

Lay down a graham cracker square for each person

Top with a marshmallow (you can also add chocolate now if you like it really melt-y)

Broil carefully for just a minute or so (keep an eye on those suckers!)

OR

Toast on high for a couple of minutes keeping an eye on the marshmallows

Quickly add the chocolate/peanut butter cup/Carmello bar/what-have-you

Allow to melt and add top graham cracker

That’s it. You’re five minutes away from delicious s’mores, no camp fire required.

If you’re having a holiday party or family gathering, have a s’mores bar with lots of toppings. Here are my suggestions (graham crackers and marshmallows go without saying):

Sprinkles

Peanut butter

Chocolate Jimmies

Regular size Reese’s Cups

Andes Mints or mint chocolate chips

Thinly sliced strawberries, bananas or kiwis

Candy melts or baking chocolate (for drizzling/dipping)

Chocolate coins for a Christmas twist on the regular chocolate

Redi Wip

Mini Crunch Bars

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Here’s a fun menu I found to give you some ideas for mixing up your s’mores ingredients

You could have a competition for who can create the tastiest gourmet s’more!

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Have any more suggestions for me?

What other Advent activities do you and yours do every year?

Are you going to a Christmas Eve service?

Let me know in the comments.

Check back later this week for some last minute gift ideas!

Until then, Love always,

-Tara

Even More Advent

So how is your St. Lucia’s Day going? Did you get up early and make a breakfast feast? Are you having a big brunch?

Luke and I chose to sleep in a bit, then made breakfast burritos and THIS delicious cranberry orange bread, only I replaced all the orange ingredients with lemon and doubled the glaze 🙂

Cranberry Orange Pound Cake from chef-in-training.com ...This Pound Cake is so moist and is perfect for the winter and holiday season!

Maybe not a traditional St. Lucia’s Day breakfast but it was yummy.

I’m going to keep this short today as we have a busy day planned, but I wanted to check in and ask about your holiday and talk a bit more about Advent.

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Let’s start with the Advent wreath and candles. I mentioned in my previous post on Advent that there are five candles (4 surrounding the fifth in the middle) and that each one represents something. You light one each Sunday in the four weeks leading up to Christmas, and the fifth one on Christmas Eve. Here’s a list of what each Advent candle represents:

Candle 1: (Sun Nov 30) Hope

Candle 2: (Sun Dec 7) Love

Candle 3: (Sun Dec 14) Joy

Candle 4: (Sun Dec 21) Peace

Candle 5: (Christmas Eve) The Christ Candle

Each candle represents a virtue that Christ brings to our lives, and finally Christ coming as a light to our dark world. We look ahead as well to Christ’s Second Coming in the days ahead. If your church doesn’t do this, or if you’d like to reinforce the idea with your family at home, I encourage you to buy a simple, small greenery wreath, four tapered candles and one pillar candle and make your own Advent wreath. I suggest having a Sunday dinner with your family, reading the appropriate verses, and lighting the candles each week. You can then pray a prayer based around that week’s candle and finally enjoy a meal with your family.

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This is a great way to forget the busyness of the holidays and spend some quality time with your loved ones. HERE is a link describing the colors of candles  to use (scroll to the ‘What you need’ section) and the verses to read each week (this one had a verse for every day, which is a great idea, or you could just read the ones listed for Sundays).

This website has a lot of other tips and ideas for celebrating Advent with your family. And remember, it’s not too late! You can catch up this weekend and finish the last two candles on their appropriate days.

You could also use this cute coloring page or one similar to help your kids remember what each candle represents.

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I’d love to hear from you about how your Advent celebrations are going. Let me know in the comments and photos are always encouraged.

Check back Monday and later next week for a Last Minute Christmas Bucket List and Last Minute Gift Ideas. Until then, Happy Advent!

-Tara

paper pyramids :: DIY advent calendar by Julie Ree

P.S. I LOVE this Paper Pyramid Garland from Julie Ree via At Home with Kim Vallee. There is a lot of cutting and folding with this template but those pyramids look identical to these Tea Forte boxes. You could simply cover up the two sides that are printed, or turn one to the back and just cover one side! Much simpler if you’re a tea lover like me. Start stocking up now and by next Advent you’ll have plenty of boxes to make your own calendar.

P.P.S! Don’t forget to make a gift bag or basket and deliver some goodies to someone who would appreciate it in honor of St. Lucia’s Day.

Ok, that’s it, really.

St. Lucia’s Day- Gift Baskets and 10 Fun Ways to Celebrate

Yesterday we talked about who St. Lucia was and why we celebrate her. We also talked about some St. Lucia’s Day traditions and recipes.

Today I’ll be sharing even more fun ideas on how to make this Saturday more than just another Saturday.

First up, let’s talk about the most important part of this Saint’s day; giving. Similar to St. Nicholas’ Day, giving is a major part of St. Lucia’s Day. Remember how St. Lucia took baskets of food and supplies to the Christians hiding in the catacombs in ancient Rome? She wore a wreath of candles on her head to light the way so she could use both hands to carry goods. She risked her life to help those in need.

When I was a kid, each person in my family would pick one person or family they wanted to give to. We’d make our list, then get gift bags ready. We usually put in some baked goods, a small gift like a candle or a flashlight (to reinforce the theme of light) and some other treats like popcorn and fruit. Then we’d make each person/family a card and explain about the holiday. On December 13th we’d go around to each house and present them with the gift. We did this for several years and since I come from a big family we reached out to a lot of people this way. Everyone was always very surprised and seemed touched that we thought of them.

Even though this is probably the busiest time of the year for you and your family, taking time to do these things will help you to celebrate Christmas in a meaningful way and look past all the materialistic things we get so consumed with this season.

Here is a list of some things to include in your gift bag or basket:

  1. Baked goods (mini loafs made in disposable tins are perfect)
  2.  Fruit (oranges are great)
  3.  Popcorn (homemade or a few Orville Reddenbacher bags)
  4.  A candle
  5.  A flashlight and batteries
  6.  A grocery store gift card (if you know someone who would really use it)
  7.  Pretty soap bars
  8.  Candy canes
  9. A handmade card explaining the holiday and signed by your family

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So you’ve had your breakfast feast, your gift bags are prepped and ready to go later on, now what?

 Don’t let the fun stop after breakfast. There are so many activities to keep your bunch entertained until the last light on St. Lucia’s Day.

Let’s start with crafts:

1. Print and cut out these adorable Kirsten paper dolls

Go HERE then just hit ctrl+p to print. Cut out and enjoy.

2. Make St. Lucia peg dolls

Finishedlucias9

Go to Posie Gets Cozy and follow the instructions.

3. Make a paper Lucia crown or Star Boy hat

Stephanie Santa Lucia 03

You can find a tutorial from Kiddley or get creative and make your own design.

4. Decorate tealights

Buy a bag of unscented tea lights and a few rolls of pretty Washi tape at Walmart and go nuts. This is very fitting with the theme of St. Lucia’s Day and P.S. would be perfect for your gift baskets.

5.  Color a picture

You can find this one HERE or do a search to find even more.

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There’s more to do besides crafts:

6. Learn the St. Lucia song

This song is traditionally sung at the St. Lucia celebration in Sweden. Listen and see a performance HERE. Then look at the lyrics to understand the meaning of the song and maybe even sing along.

This website compares the Swedish and English lyrics side by side.

7. Learn to say Merry Christmas in Swedish and other languages

This website has more about St. Lucia and shows you how to say Merry Christmas in many languages. Have a contest to see who can remember the most.

8. Make Play Doh St. Lucia buns

Go to Making Learning Fun for a printable Play Doh mat with a St. Lucia bun template.

9. St. Lucia puzzle

Another cute idea from Making Learning Fun

10. Read a book

There are lots of books out there about St. Lucia. You can order this one from Amazon or maybe even find some at your local library. If nothing else, you could read a kid-friendly article or brief history online.

Then, if you want even more to do, make your own book with drawings and coloring pages and write the story in your own words.

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I hope this post has inspired you to celebrate St. Lucia’s Day in new and exciting ways. I can tell you from personal experience it made my childhood that much more magical. I’d love to hear from you about how you celebrate St. Lucia’s Day or how you plan to in the future. Take some photos this weekend of you and your family and let me know how your celebration goes, what your kids thought and if you tried any of these ideas.

Until then, keep checking back for more ways to add some wonder to your week.

Love always,

-Tara

P.S. Read yesterday’s post for even more ideas and how to make your breakfast feast.

Decorated Clothespin Tutorial

So now that you’ve gathered your supplies for your clothespin advent calendar, why not get started on those clothespins?

Here are the supplies you’ll need:

* 25 hinged clothespins

* Decorative paper

* Washi tape

* Trim or ribbon

* Mod Podge or Elmer’s glue

* Brush for spreading glue

* Paper cutter

* Scissors

Bear in mind that most of these supplies are optional/to your preference. This is everything I used but if you have other supplies you want to incorporate or experiment with, feel free.

Let’s start with the paper clothespins.

Hold your clothespin up against your paper to determine what size to cut the paper. Mark it with a pencil or make an indentation with your fingernail where you want to cut bot width-wise and length-wise. Place the marked paper on your paper cutter and slice, or carefully use scissors to cut to size.

Now just glue the paper in place on the front of the clothespin.

For the Washi tape clothespins:

Sometimes Washi tape can be hard to peel off. I like to tear it a little bit down the middle (vertically) and peel one side up to get it started. Do whatever works for you. Again, hold the tape up to the clothespin. Most likely it will be a little wider than the clothespin. Mark where you want to cut and do so. Then you can simply trim off how long you want the piece, peel and stick. With Washi tape, you can make it a little longer than the clothes pin and wrap it around the ends. Totally up to you.

^^^This is Washi tape by the way, and there are so many uses for it^^^

P.S. they have it everywhere, including the Walmart craft section.

For the trim or ribbon clothespins:

I used the lace trim seen in the picture. It was a little too wide so I cut around the rounded parts in the pattern and trimmed the flat side a little. Then cut it to length and glued it on.

If you’re using ribbon, you’ll want it to be very thin because trimming ribbon will result in frayed edges. Even if your ribbon is thinner than the clothespin, you can leave some wood exposed or paint the clothespin first, then add ribbon.

You could also simply use paint to design your clothespins, draw designs with Sharpies, or a combination of the two.

Sequins, beads, eyelash yarn, regular yarn, embroidery floss, puffy paint and felt all come to mind as other mediums to try. Have fun with it and don’t be afraid to experiment. You can get a hundred clothespins for about $1!

Since the supplies are so varied and inexpensive this is a great advent craft to try with your kids.

I would love to see how yours turns out. Leave me a photo in the comments and let me know if you have any questions.

Love always,

Tara

It’s Not Too Late to Start Advent!

Advent is the time of year leading up to Christmas. Traditionally, it starts four Sundays before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve, but for many of us it’s the 25 Days of Christmas.

Growing up,  my family would put together an advent wreath and light a candle each Sunday. Each candle represents something different. This week’s candle (the one we lit at church this Sunday, the 30th) represents the illumination of Jesus in our lives. Each Sunday you light the previous week’s candle along with a new one. On Christmas Eve, you light the middle candle so that there are five lit in all.

It’s a beautiful tradition that helps us remember why we celebrate Christmas and get Sir Paul McCartney’s “Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time” out of our heads for a blissful hour or so, and focus on what’s important rather than our unfinished shopping.

Do you have any traditions like this? Do you use an advent calendar? They can certainly add some magic to the season, especially if you have little ones. Well if you’re like me and are running behind on all the wonderful things you want to do this season, don’t fret. Put together a simple DIY advent calendar and start celebrating now. Here are a few ideas I’ve come across as well as some of my own invention.

Paper Sack Advent Calendar from Simply Kierste. You can put small gifts and tokens in the bags or write out an activity to do each day. P.S. I have the perfect decorated clothespin tutorial so you don’t have to buy special ones and you can customize them any way you choose.

This is a cute space-saving idea from Poppytalk. You write an activity on the printable strips and attach a pom pom. Remove one each day to find out how you’ll be celebrating advent, then tear off the pom pom and add it to a garland. The labels are also part of the free printable.

DIY Easy Printable Forest Advent Calendar via Love From Ginger

This one also takes up much less room than some. It’s from Love From Ginger and you simple print out the trees, tape them to toothpicks and add one for each day. If the drilling and the staining seem a little much, buy a block of foam and cover it in a pretty fabric. They sell both of those things at Walmart.

An idea I had but haven’t gotten around to trying is to make number ornaments out of different materials and hang one on the tree each day. Some examples:

*Make a number out of a pretty pipe cleaner and tie a piece of string to the top

*Do a Google Image search on “number ___ patterned” or “Christmas numbers” and find one you like. Print it on card stock and make it into an ornament.

*Find a small, straight stick to use as 1

*Use paint pens or Sharpies to write a few numbers on plain bulb ornaments and decorate them

 They don’t have to be this elaborate but you get the idea.

*Use colored craft wire and twist into a number.

With these ideas, you can also make a jar of activities and draw one each day, or you could make the ornament and hang it up for you activity. There are so many possibilities for celebrating advent.

Maybe I should start now so that I might be ready for next advent…

Have any other ideas or links to share? Please do in the comments. In the meantime, be on the look out for that clothespin tutorial and some more fun ideas for advent (ever heard of St. Nicholas’ Day? How about St. Lucia?).

Merry Christmas,

-Tara