what we’ve been up to lately…

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Storybook Advent Calendar

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This Christmas I made my girls a storybook advent calendar.  My youngest is 7, but since her older sister is 10, it feels like we’re quickly getting past the little kid stage.  In fact, there’s already very few toys on their Christmas lists this year.  Since they’re both reading chapter books now, and usually read on their own at bedtime I thought it might be nice to do a special “Read me a Story Christmas Countdown” this year.  I’ve wrapped up 24 books, so that each night between Dec. 1 and Christmas, we can read a Christmas storybook together.

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When I was a young mom, I wasn’t too keen on buying Christmas books, since I thought something general had much more reading potential throughout the year.  Ten years later, I see the value in Christmas books, it does come around every year, and reading them together brings back memories of earlier days and much younger little ones.  For our countdown I used about half old Christmas books we already had, and bought about 12 new ones.  I picked them up over about a month at second hand stores, the dollar store, and a warehouse outlet, and didn’t pay more than a couple of bucks for most of them.

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I wrapped them all in brown paper;  it made me think of “brown paper packages tied up with strings…these are a few of my favourite things..”.  To add to the magic factor, I used an old vintage suitcase, that looks like it could have been sent straight from the North Pole.

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I filled the suitcase up with some cotton and faux snow.  I didn’t number the books, although you could.  I thought it’d be more fun to keep it random, and keep them guessing about if they’d find a new book or an old favourite each night.

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I can’t wait to begin it with them, I’m picturing us all snuggled up together in our big bed in our jammies with a bedtime story each night.  I hope they love it.  With a “Read me a Story Christmas Countdown” life really is a party!

This post is linked up at The Weekend Retreat Link Party.

Homemade Sweater Mittens

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Tis the season to start thinking about homemade gifts for the special people on your list.  Today I’m joining a bunch of great Canadian Bloggers for the Canadian Handmade Holiday Event, just look for the hashtag #CNDHandmadeHoliday and enjoy all their beautiful Handmade Holiday ideas!

This weekend I used some old wool sweaters to make some nice cozy mittens for my daughter and husband.  I love how they turned out, so soft and warm and easy to make too.

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I started out with some felted wool sweaters.  Pick-up some 100% wool sweaters at the thrift store, and wash them in hot, hot water, and then put them in a hot dryer.  The wool will felt, and they’ll be nice and thick and won’t fray when cut.  I made a simple pattern by tracing around their hands, and then adding a seam allowance.  If you wanted them to be a surprise, you could also use an old pair of mittens as a pattern.  Don’t forget you need four pieces in total, two for the left hand, two for the right -so flip over the pattern for the second set.

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Before you sew your pieces together you can add any embellishments you like.  I cut out simple hearts and added to my daughters, and sewed a few buttons on the pair for husband.  Next step is to pin right sides together and sew them together.  Before turning them right-side-out, trim the seam quite close in the thumb, so there isn’t too much bulk in the thumb when you turn them right-side-out.

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They’re so warm and cozy, and it only took me about an hour to make one pair.

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Perfect for hand holding on a cold day.

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Or, perfect for gift giving to someone special on your list this year.  With homemade sweater mittens, life really is a party!

Don’t forget to follow along with #CDNHandmadeHoliday

This post is linked up at The Weekend Retreat Link Party.

Craft Room/Office Makeover Birthday Surprise

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If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you might have seen that I am on the verge of a major birthday.  Last weekend, to celebrate early, my best friend and I went away for  a shopping weekend.  We left Friday night, and had a great time antiquing, cross border shopping, and eating at a couple of my fav. restaurants -all without our sweet, lovely kids to worry about.  It was some much appreciated me time, and I had a wonderful weekend.  We returned home on Sunday night, and I got a big surprise!  It wasn’t a surprise party, it was something much better, in fact probably the best, most thoughtful gift I’ve ever received.

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While we were away, my sweet husband and girls, along with the help of my sister, brother in-law, and niece were making over my husband’s study as a new office/craft room for me.  It was a complete surprise.  Over the last little while I’ve been dreaming of my own little space.  I wanted somewhere to read and pray, and work, and craft.  Somewhere that I didn’t have to tidy up if I was in the middle of a project -like the kitchen table, somewhere quiet, and somewhere I could hang my art, and some really personal things.  I thought about the basement, but wanted somewhere above ground because I’m home in the day and want some natural light.  I also thought about an attic conversion, but it seems we have the wrong kind of roof rafters for that and changing them would have been a major expense.  I dreamt about a bright white room, with a white comfy chair and a pink pillow in it.  I even described it to my sister one day when we were talking.  I have other lovely spaces in the house to work, so it really wasn’t a huge deal, it was a just a sweet dream of mine, and I resigned myself to waiting to someday when we were empty nesters to get my little office space.

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My husband was listening to my heart, and decided that he’d like me to have his office space.  My sweet sister couldn’t wait to help out.  They started planning weeks and weeks ago, unbeknownst to me.  They even had a secret pinterest board -does it get any cuter?  My sweet girls couldn’t wait to surprise Mommy.  My super brother-in-law devoted his weekend to helping move furniture, install the lighting, and painting.  My niece even took the 3 hour bus ride from University for the weekend to help keep the girls entertained.  I was completely surprised.  While I was away, they moved everything out, painted the room twice, since they weren’t sure about their first colour.  They painted an existing wood bookcase white, they hung new curtains and installed a new light.  They bought new furniture, and then decorated the room.  All in two and half days!

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When I got home Sunday night, after my weekend away, I saw the shoes at the door and waited for them to yell surprise, instead they came and hugged me, gave me a glass of champagne and lead me upstairs for my surprise.  I was shocked.  Let’s just say there were lots of happy tears.  I felt so, so loved.

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And, since they were doing it all for a blogger, they even took a few before pictures -does it get any better?

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My sister styled it for Christmas, and included lots of my vintage pieces, and things I use to style posts for the blog that usually live in my basement storage room.  She organized all my craft materials, and included them in the room so I could do projects in it.  She also went through my baby book with our Mom the week before and pulled out some of my childhood keepsakes and included them around the room and in the gallery wall.

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I love my new room, and just thinking about it makes me tear up.  It makes me feel so, so loved.  It’s the best gift ever, and I feel so thankful for a family that sacrificially gives -my sweet husband is all moved into a corner of the family room in the basement now.

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They have truly made my fortieth birthday a celebration I will never forget!  With loving, generous family and friends, life really, REALLY, is a party!

Hot Chocolate Bar Cart with DIY Woodland Mugs

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I’ve been looking for a little white enamel bar cart for ages.  If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you might remember me finding THE Perfect One at a fall antique show, but hesitating and then it being sold when I returned a couple hours later.  I resigned myself to waiting for spring.  But, I did check occasionally on kijiji.  One day I found one near by, but the bottom was covered in yucky mac-tac -you know that plasticy super sticky paper?  I was worried that when I removed it it might take the finish with it, or I’d be left with a sticky mess, and getting the sticker residue off would ruin the paint.  So, I passed on it.  A few weeks later I noticed it was still for sale and now only $5.  I was willing to risk it for 5 bucks.  And, I’m so glad I did.  The mac-tac came right off, and I love the cart.  It made an appearance outside at the my fall soup party, but now it’s found it’s home in my dining room.

It snowed here yesterday.  That means time for hot chocolate.  I put together a sweet little hot chocolate bar on the bar cart.  It all started when I saw these oh so pretty mugs in the Christmas Chapters/Indigo catalogue.  Of course I had that moment that DIYer’s often have…I think I could make something like that.

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Chapters has a deer, bear, fox, and owl in their collection, and here’s my version.

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I started with inexpensive dollar store mugs, and a ceramic marker.  I know the internet is flooded with sharpie mugs, but from what I’ve read  they’re very hit and miss.  I used the ceramic pen for my “give thanks” plates and they’ve been great, so I went with the ceramic pen again this time.  Since I’m not really an artist, and perhaps you’re not either, here’s my cheater way of doing the sketches.  Find an image on-line that you like.  I did an image search on “simple deer sketch” and then just found one I liked, right clicked to open image in a new tab, then selected print and adjusted my printing size so it would fit on my mug.

 

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Once you have a picture that you’re happy with and it is the right size, break out the good old fashioned carbon copy paper -memories of teachers using these magical sheets to make worksheets in grade one fill my mind.  Use a small piece and tape it, along with your picture on top of the mug.  Make sure you have the carbon paper on the right side so that when you write on it, a line goes through to your mug.  Then, use a pencil to outline your image, which should transfer it to the mug.  I’m not going to lie to you and say this process was simple.  It was a little tricky.  I started out with much more detailed images, similar to the Chapter’s version, but they were too complicated for me.  I also started out just holding the papers onto the mug, but if the papers slip, the carbon copy lines rub off the mugs, since its a slippery ceramic surface.  When I used a simpler image, and taped the papers really carefully, and also removed them carefully so I didn’t rub any off or erase it, it worked.  Patience, patience.

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Once the carbon copy is on the mug, use your ceramic marker to go over it.  Again I made a few mistakes.  The great thing about the markers is that when you’re working with them, you can wash them off with a little hot water and a scrub, and then start over again.  The bad part, you have to start over from the beginning again.  Once you’re happy with the image, my marker said to wait 24 hours, then bake in the oven (all the exact instructions will be on your marker).  Once they come out of the oven, the image is permanent.

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I really do like how they turned out and the Chapter’s version would have been around $50 for 4, and mine were $1.25 each for the mugs, and around $5 for the marker -so a fraction of the price at around $10.

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I created the hot chocolate buffet with some different flavours of hot chocolate mix, chocolate spoons, sprinkles, and marshmallows.

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Yum.  My girls felt the need to break in the hot chocolate bar cart tonight, and I’m happy to say it got their seal of approval.

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I love how this little cart looks for the holidays, and that the hot chocolate and the woodland mugs will look good all winter long.

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With my thrifted cart, DIY version of the woodland mugs, and hot chocolate with all the fixin’s, life really is a party!

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