Christmas · Pinterest Made Me Do It · Sewing

(A Very Belated) Advent Calendar

Confession: I just put away the last of my Christmas decorations. But I had a very good reason. I refused to put away my Advent ornaments until I finished the Advent calendar I’d been working on for weeks. (Years, if you count INTENDING to make said Advent calendar – I talked about it here in 2104, and here in 2012 – YIKES!)


Several years ago (maybe when The Boy was just a year or two old – we were still living at the old house), our lovely neighbors gave us an Advent calendar.


It was a box with little doors that you opened each day to reveal a tiny wooden ornament. They had two sets when their daughter (now in college) was small, and they wanted us to have one. We were thrilled with the gift, and over the years, both kids have LOVED getting to open the doors every day in December and place the little ornament on a miniature tree we bought just for that purpose.

Over the years (The Boy is almost 7 and the Girl just turned 4), the little doors have started falling off. There were always a couple of missing ornaments, which I’ve replaced with larger ornaments that just don’t quite fit into the windows. I decided a few years ago that I wanted to make an Advent calendar with pockets so I could move the ornaments out of the box and into a display that could hang on the wall during the season of Advent.

I had good intentions every year, but it just never happened.

Then back in early fall, my friend Molly invited people over for a Craft/Pinterest Night – a night to get together at her mom’s studio, drink wine, and make stuff. PERFECT!


I was inspired by several felt Advent calendars I had seen online. I decided to do a combination of my two favorites – little, colorful applique images of the season along with hand-stitched numbers for the Advent date.

I still had weeks to go until December, so if I started that night, I could make one pocket a day and be finished in plenty of time for the start of Advent.

Yes, well, um, that didn’t quite happen.

applique snowflake

So when Husband’s family came for Thanksgiving, and my mother-in-law and I found ourselves working on a jigsaw puzzle during one afternoon nap, I recruited her to help me.

By the time she left, we had all the felt pieces cut out, ready to sew. Surely I could just stitch them down quickly that last week of November and be ready to go December 1st.

Um. Have you seen the holiday season? What was I thinking? I stitched a little here and there and quickly realized this was a MASSIVE undertaking, and definitely not something I could get finished even by Christmas Day!

applique nativity

Epiphany! I’ll finish by Epiphany, I thought to myself. That’s “Old Christmas” anyway.

Side story: Have you ever heard it called “Old Christmas”? I didn’t really grow up celebrating the liturgical calendar – we didn’t even do anything for Advent until Husband and I moved to California, and only then because I went to a craft party and made an Advent wreath with candles. I’m all about candles and decor. But, when I was growing up, every year on Epiphany, my Appalachian Mammaw (my dad’s mom) would call my mom to remind her that it was “Old Christmas” and not to do any laundry because the owner of the clothing you washed would die within the year. What on earth?? I remember hearing it for the first time and being terrified. I wrote it down in my journal in hopes of remembering this date every year for the rest of my life so I wouldn’t make this fatal mistake. It didn’t stick into adulthood, and I’m certain I have washed clothes on EVERY Epiphany, especially since having children and doing laundry every. single. day. (I googled “no laundry on Old Christmas” and found this post about other Appalachian “Old Christmas” folklore – some of those are familiar but a couple are new to me.)

Epiphany was a great goal. I could spend my free time during winter break working on little bits at a time. When I wasn’t busy running the kids to and from school, when they spent hours playing together, I could finally finish.


You know what takes a really long time? Hand-stitching numbers. Wow. My mom taught me to cross-stitch when I was really young, and I loved doing it, so I figured I could finish all 25 numbers (41 digits, actually) in a day. Nope. It took 3 full nights of stitching on the couch (hygge-style) after the kids went to bed plus many other one-off stitch sessions to get it complete.


Then it was time to attach. I sewed a little hem along the top and bottom of the black felt for hanging. I spaced out the pockets before I did the numbers because I wanted to make sure the colors worked well together.


Doing all the maths here!


I attached the pockets color-by-color (all blue pocket first, then all yellow) to save time. This still took a few hours longer than I anticipated. Clearly all my years of sewing have taught me nothing about time planning.


And finally – FINALLY – it’s done! I put all the ornaments in their pockets (doing some Type A coordinating – angel in the angel pocket, nativity in the nativity pocket), added a dowel and ribbon, and displayed it in its full glory for about 8 minutes. Then I wrapped it up and put in the Christmas box. Because, for me, by the end of January, “Old Christmas” traditions or not, it’s time to clear the Christmas decorations and get on with the New Year.


Christmas · one little word · Tennessee

2015: One Little Word

Happy New Year!

We have just spent the weekend recovering and catching up from the holidays. We spent two weeks in Tennessee with our families, and it was awesome! Sharing meals and games and gifts and time together is a great way to end the old year and ring in the new.

And, while we were there, Husband and I took an End-of-the-Year Getaway – something I hope becomes a yearly tradition. We booked a night at The Martha Washington Inn, just across the border in Abingdon, Virginia.

me at the martha

Abingdon in a charming little town that was fun to explore, even in freezing temperatures, and the inn, even lovelier. The history of The Martha is fascinating, and the halls of the inn are adorned with many relics from its earlier days – old photos, students’ letters, programs from performances at the college. In addition to wandering the halls, enjoying great meals, taking a dip in the saltwater pool, and relaxing at the spa, we also took some time to set goals for our year. There were a lot of little ones (drink more water!) and a few bigger ones, and I’m excited about all of them. (I’m an ENFP, so I found this to be pretty funny and also true.)

So as I started thinking about my One Little Word for this year (see past years here and here), I wanted it to reflect the goals we set and the plans we made.

For some reason, the first word that popped into my head was “refine”. Not at all what I was expecting – in fact, I even looked up past years to try to get other ideas. I thought I might just choose “practice, because it feels like an easy one. But then I looked up the definition of refine (italics mine):

re·fine /rəˈfīn/ verb

  1. remove impurities or unwanted elements from (a substance), typically as part of an industrial process.
  2. improve (something) by making small changes, in particular make (an idea, theory or method) more subtle and accurate.

In my journal, I wrote that I want to:

  • reset priorities
  • clear out the junk (not just physical stuff, but that’s part of it)
  • create processes that simplify
  • focus on our goals
  • redefine purposes
  • make choices that line up with these priorities and purposes

These feel a lot like refining to me – clearing out the unwanted elements and making small changes to make our lives a more accurate reflection of our goals. So there it is. Not the most glamorous word for the year, but it seems like a good fit.


What about you? Do you choose a word for your year or set other goals or resolutions? I would love to hear if you do and what your approach is. (I didn’t do it for years – one year, when asked at the checkout if I had any resolutions, I said, “Eat more chocolate!”) Whatever your plans for the new year, I hope 2015 is full of peace and joy for you. Looking forward to diving into the year!

Christmas · etsy shop · five things · Food · good life

Five Things

Happy Friday!

Don’t know if you heard about the Winter Storm that Northern California is getting, but there’s been lots of hype. I think we were all hoping for The Big One – Husband kept checking radar, I checked rainfall totals, friends found new weather apps, other friends went to the grocery store to find them completely sold out of flashlights and batteries. Don’t get me wrong – I love the rain, and it was lovely and cozy and all those things you attribute to rain when you live somewhere that doesn’t get snow – but it hasn’t been the major storm that was predicted. But I’m thankful for the rain and all that comes with it. Here are a few things other things on my mind this week:

1. Obviously, this made me laugh.

orange seeds

2. Surprises. One morning this week, we were finishing breakfast, and I grabbed a Cutie out of our giant bowl of Cuties for everyone at the table. (You know what Cuties are, right? Those little easy-to-peel Clementine oranges that are in season this time of year.) Everyone started peeling and devouring the sections. In my first section, I found 3 seeds. I held it up and laughed, saying, “How funny! This section of my Cutie has a lot of seeds.” As I proceed to take apart the rest of the orange, I found at least 3 seeds in every section, and some with 4 or 5 seeds in them. I was surprised that such a small piece of fruit – known for being seedless – would have so many seeds. I dug each of them out and made a little pile on my plate, thinking about how this is like life. We make these plans, we have ideas about what our years and days and even moments are going to look like, and often, they don’t turn out like we think. We make big plans for the week, and someone gets sick. We sketch out designs to finally make that Advent calendar out of felt with pockets for each little ornament but then, once again, December 1st arrives, and we do Advent the same way we’ve always done it, with the ornaments in their little cardboard box. We pick up seedless fruit and we find 30 seeds inside. But it doesn’t make the fruit less delicious – it’s just different than what we expect. I’m trying to keep this idea in my head this week – and in the weeks leading up to the holidays – when things don’t go quite like I want them to go. They are still delicious, juicy, beautiful moments.

3. Wrapping presents like a ninja. Confession – I’m still working on my Christmas lists. BG’s birthday is next week, and I’m not finished with her gifts, so I feel guilty moving on to Christmas before that’s complete. But if I were finished, I’d be watching this video over and over to perfect the technique. Who am I kidding? I’m just watching it over and over again anyway – it’s mesmerizing. (Speaking of mesmerizing, this. It’s on a website called The Kids Should See This. I showed it to the kids. They were not nearly as enthralled as I was.)

4. I made baked sweet potatoes for dinner this week. In the slow cooker. Who knew you could do that? They were delicious. We had ours with black beans and avocado, but I think sausage would be great, too.

5. This quote.

What are you up to this weekend? We’ll be finalizing birthday and Christmas plans, laying low and resting up for the weeks ahead. It’s still really hard for me to believe it’s December already. I’m going to be closing my Etsy shop on Wednesday of next week for Christmas and New Years, reopening in January with some new pieces, so stop by this week if you’re looking for a special gift. Have a great weekend!