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.


Home · Organizing · Pinterest Made Me Do It · Thrifts

Thrift Scores

I know, posting two days in a row, don’t be shocked. And also don’t expect a post every day – I just can’t handle that kind of pressure.

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No, I’m just here to show you a few of the cool things I’ve scored recently that don’t need to be added to my project list – they are great as-is. I mentioned yesterday that I’ve found some good stuff at our new Goodwill (my guess is they are “stacking the deck” – no matter, I’m taking full advantage).

Remember my messy kitchen counter? And how I got it in great shape? Yeah, it didn’t stay that way very long. But when I saw Emily’s kitchen counter organizer, I was sure I could find something similar.


Ta-da! Lovely vintage file sorter in great shape.


I also found this vintage wall file for a whopping $5. This cat came along for free. Just kidding, this cat is ridiculously expensive.


I googled it when I got home and found one similar on eBay for $40.


Sidestory: “Thrift Shop” is one of BB’s favorite songs. He’s got a top 5 that includes Pink, The Lumineers, Mumford and Sons, Macklemore (clearly the edited versions), and Chris Tomlin. Yep, pretty well rounded. We’re in a thrift store a few weeks ago, and he breaks out with “I’m gonna pop some tags….twenty dollars in my pocket….I look incredible – like The Hulk, Mommy!” and does the most amazing dance/superhero moves I’ve ever seen from him – and he’s had some good ones. I don’t have my phone to record the beauty, so I just stand there and soak up the moment.



Anyway, brought home the “Mad Men”-era desk accessories and tried them both out on the counter. This one was the clear winner. I didn’t even paint it – I left it just as I found it.


Well, except I wiped off the price tag. Did you know you can remove permanent Sharpie from most items with a cotton ball and some rubbing alcohol? These are the kind of tips you can learn from a former teacher.


I got to work filling up the little shelves – phones and a basket of markers and crayons on top, paperwork for Husband in the middle, paperwork for me on the bottom.


Then I remembered something I saw on Pinterest a few years ago on how to keep phone charger cords in place – binder clips. You can just remove one side, slip the cord in, put it back in place, and clip it wherever you want. Brilliant! Husband was not nearly as impressed with this as I was.


It’s been almost a week, and the counter has stayed clear of clutter since then.

It looks incredible.

DIY · Home · Pinterest Made Me Do It · purposeful

Pinterest Made Me Do It

It’s a two-for-one project day – well, sort of.


Ever since we took down our Christmas decorations, I’ve been wanting to spruce up our “every day” decorations, particularly the mantle. It’s never been bare – we have lots of different things we’ve kept on the mantle through the years – but I think it just needs a little updating.


I’ve been thinking about something to do with our initials. Everyone in our house has a name that starts with M or N. I found this tutorial on Pinterest that uses cardboard and thought I’d give it a try.


I started with some of my cardboard collection. I measured about how large I wanted the letters, and I set to work sketching them out.


Molly wanted to help me out – she felt entitled, considering her name also starts with M.


Now, I love good typography, but I’m no expert. As you can see, it took several tries to get the lines right.


I used an Exacto knife to cut out the letters.


I placed them up on the mantle, just to get an idea of how they would look.


I wasn’t sure I liked the yarn idea any longer, so I painted them with a coat of gesso just to see them in white.


I don’t like them in white, but the yarn I picked out is an off-white, creamy color, and being wrapped in yarn would give the letters some texture, so I moved forward.


Using a hot glue gun, I carefully placed the end of the yarn around the bottom left side of the N. I continued gluing and wrapping until I got to the top. I flipped the letter around and repeated the technique on the other side.


After I filled in the middle section, I made sure all the ends were glued down securely. I placed in on the mantle to check it out. I like it, but while I was wrapping, I had gotten another idea that I thought I might like better.


I went through my fabric stash and found all my large lengths of felt. Out of forest green, heather oatmeal, and gray, I chose gray. I placed the letter M between two rectangles of the felt and pinned them together.


Then I used my sewing machine to stitch completely around the M. I used scissors to cut all the way around the seam, leaving about 1/4″ allowance.


And here’s the Divine Miss M.


I place both letters on the mantle to see which is better. I like them both, but I’m undecided. I can’t help thinking the M looks a little like those 80’s bubble letters that kids had on their walls that spelled out their names, only in a more sophisticated gray wool and a cleaner font. I ask Husband. “I like my letter best because it’s bigger.” That doesn’t help much. So I’m going to live with them both for a few days and see which one is better. Then I’ll make another cardboard cut-out of the other one and make them match.

I’ve got a couple of other mantle/fireplace projects I’d like to finish this month. I want to be PURPOSEFUL about actually completing projects I find on Pinterest and not just collecting them in little virtual file folders forever. Stay tuned!



This post is part of a 31 Day series about improving my days by being more PURPOSEFUL.

You can read more about it here. You can find all the posts in this series here.