On the last day in November, we set out to find ourselves a Christmas tree. It’s one of my favourite family traditions. This year the Christmas tree farm had a wagon ride back to the tree lot which was a lot of fun. And the sweetest farm dog came along to keep us company.
Emma loved the ride and was so excited to pick out the perfect tree. We walked around the tree lot, having fun pointing out our favourites. Finally we settled on one of the first ones we had seen and decided it would be perfect.
Dan cut it down with the hand saw while Brendan watched. He loves being able to be close to Daddy when he’s working on something.
We counted the rings in the stump to figure out how old the tree was then got a ride on the wagon back to our van. Dan tied the tree on the roof, while we enjoyed some warm apple cider (which was so perfect after tramping through the woods and snow to get a tree). Then we brought it home to be decorated.
After getting the lights working and on the tree, which proved to take a little longer then usual thanks to some loose connections, we pulled out our tree ornaments. Emma and Brendan had so much fun finding the ornaments and hanging them wherever they could reach. Dan and I filled out some of the bare spots after the kids went down for their nap and added some jute ribbon.
We made the book page garland later on that evening. I cut out the basic flag shape I wanted then used our paper cutter to cut a bunch of them in batches. Then we punched a hole in each corner and strung them on some twine.
I love how it turned out and how it adds a little more fun to our tree.
I wrapped our first batch of presents last week with some simple white paper and ribbon. The tags for the kids presents I got from Jones Design Company and the other hand drawn tags were from Decorator’s Notebook.
Don’t the lights look so pretty in the evening? I love how much they brighten up the place, especially as the evenings get dark so early now. It’s amazing what a few strings of lights can do.
I love hot drinks during the colder months. Chai tea, hot chocolate and apple cider are some of our favourites. There’s nothing quite so relaxing as a hot, yummy drink. This year we made a spiced apple cider mix to give to friends around Christmas, because it’s just that good. Here’s how we put it together.
Spiced Apple Cider Mix (from this recipe)
2 cups brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Mix sugar and spices together and store in an airtight jar.
To Prepare Spiced Apple Cider:
1 cup apple cider
2 teaspoons spiced apple cider mix (or less if you don’t want your cider quite so sweet)
1 cinnamon stick, optional
1 orange rind twists or 1 lemon twist, optional
Heat apple cider in a pot on the stove until hot. Stir in spiced apple cider mix until sugar is dissolved. Add a cinnamon stick and orange rind twist and serve in your favourite mug.
I picked up a bunch of these small spice jars at the Dollarama in packs of three and they worked out being just the perfect size. Each one holds enough for about 8-10 servings of spiced apple cider so there’s enough to go around.
We made a small tag for each jar with directions on how to prepare the spiced apple cider. After printing out the tags on white card stock we cut them out, punched a hole at the top of each tag and tied them onto the jars with ribbon.
We put together a free printable of the tags so you can use them for your own spiced apple cider mix. Just click on the picture below to open the file, save and print for your own personal use.
They make such a fun Christmas gift. They’re easy enough to make and budget friendly as well (even if you want to make a lot), so they’re perfect for friends and neighbours. I love that they store so well too so I can make them up early in December and give them out to friends as we see them through the holiday season.
Because who doesn’t love a yummy, hot drink?
Each year I like to put together something to give to friends around the Christmas season. Something simple but sweet to let them know we were thinking of them. Here are five, not too complicated ideas for some beautiful homemade gifts.
I’ve always wanted to try making homemade marshmallows and these ones from The Faux Martha would make a wonderful gift. Don’t they look amazing? Wrap a bundle up in a bag with a ribbon and you’re set.
Paper whites are the perfect winter flowers. Wouldn’t you love to have one of these on your table to enjoy, even after the holidays are over? See how easy it is to gift this sweet flower to someone at Jenny Steffens Hobick.
I love having extra treats around during the holidays and I have a feeling that these homemade salted caramels from Live Laugh Rowe wouldn’t last long. Wrap a bunch up and put them in a jar for a yummy gift.
Beautiful terrariums seem to be showing up everywhere these days, so I think this terrarium kit from Wit and Whistle is such a fun idea for a gift. There are directions and even a cute free printable for putting it together.
Everyone loves a good hot chocolate and this layered classic cocoa from My Recipes is delicious and pretty! We put these together for Christmas gifts one year and they were so good.
Do you have any homemade gift ideas that you like to do? I’d love to hear them!
Here are my favourite reads from this past month:
- Where’s Home: The Place or The People | The Art of Simple
- Layered Cowhides and Also Oysters | Nesting Place
- Decorating (Why I Decorate For Christmas Before Thanksgiving) | The Inspired Room
- No Brainer Wardrobe Essentials | The Tiny Twig
- Our Storage Spaces: Memory Boxes | IHeart Organizing
- Resetting And Trading Up: How To Create A Home You Love | Miss Mustard Seed
One of my favourite parts of Christmas is getting ready for it. The anticipation of what’s to come. Picking out a Christmas tree at the tree farm, listening to Christmas carols while wrapping gifts and driving around to look at the lights on Christmas eve. I love counting out the days and reading a part of the Christmas story each night to remember the amazing gift God gave us.
This year I decided to put together an advent calendar inspired by this one. We already had a big chalkboard hanging in the kitchen so I just strung some twine across the width of it, securing the ends on the back with a dab of hot glue, so I can just pop them off when we’re finished with it for this year.
I stenciled the days of the month onto the corners of the brown paper bags with black craft paint (you could also easily use number stickers if you wanted to make it even quicker).
Then I filled each bag with a paper ornament that corresponds to our advent reading for that night and a few jelly beans for a treat. Then we hung the bags up on the twine with wooden clothespins. I’m thinking each day as we take down a bag for that day, we can hang the paper ornament in its place.
We’ve been using Ann Voskamp’s printable advent book for a couple years now and love how hands-on the paper ornaments are for the kids. We had them laminated when we printed them out and they’ve held up great.
I love how simple the brown paper bags are and how easy they would be to adapt to your own family traditions for advent (you could put in an activity to do together, small toys, treats, Christmas ornaments, advent bible readings etc.)
Emma is so excited to start. Thankfully our advent book starts on November 29th so she doesn’t have to much longer to wait. Brendan’s still not sure what it’s all for, but once he finds out what’s inside the bags I’m thinking he’s going to love it just as much.
Do you have any Christmas advent traditions with you family? What’s your favourite part of preparing for Christmas?
We have a new door! And just in time for the cold weather. The rest of the exterior of the house has all new windows and doors, so we’re happy to get this one updated too. Here’s what the old door looked like.
We decided to replace the entire door jam as well, as the original jam was showing some signs of water damage in two of the corners. We installed it the same way as the back door on the garage. There are step by step details on that post if you want to see how we did it.
We got a simple steel foam core door with a half light. We decided to go with clear glass for the insert, which we love. It’s like having a whole other window on the front of our house! We love the extra light it brings into the living room.
We picked out a more substantial door handle for the front door, to give it a little distinction from the front man door on the garage, which has a simple round door handle. I love how the oil rubbed bronze finish stands out on the white door and ties in with the dark light fixture.
While we were at it we also decided to change out the window insert on the man door on the front of the garage. Here’s the one that came with the house.
It was pretty, but more ornate then we wanted for our house, especially on the garage door. We were looking for something a little more clean lined, to match the front door, but still have a little privacy to screen the workshop in the garage. So we opted for a clear glass window insert with blinds, so we can adjust for privacy and still have the same clean lines as the front door.
To switch out the old insert for the new one we had to take off the plastic caps on the back of the door around the frame of the window to expose the screws, then undo the screws and loosen the window from the door frame. The front of the window frame was sealed to the steel face of the door with silicone, so we had to use a putty knife around the edge to cut the silicone before it would come free.
I love how much more pulled together they make the front of the house look now.
The front door especially seems so much fresher with the crisp, clean white instead of the old cream door and screen.
I still have to paint the door and jam with some white glossy exterior paint, as they only come primed, but seeing as we’re into the cold, wet and snowy weather of November, it will have to wait for spring. I’m just so happy we managed to squeeze this project in before winter set in.
How about you? Are there any projects you want to finish up before it’s too cold to do them?
This little boy has a new friend. It’s a sweet little handmade sock monkey.
I had been wanting to make one of these for forever. With the materials already on hand and Brendan’s birthday coming up, I finally found the time to put this guy together.
I followed the method shown here, which details how to cut up each sock and piece them together to make all the body parts.
I put him together in a couple two hour afternoon nap times, enlisting my husband to help with stuffing the body parts one evening as we watched a movie. Here’s a few tips I figured out along the way:
Sock Monkey Assembling Tips
- Before cutting out the legs, arms and tail pieces, try marking the shape with a pencil and sewing around them first. That way you won’t have to work to keep the cut edge down as you sew, which has a tendency to want to curl up. After the body parts are sewn, simply cut around the stitching, leaving a 1/4″ seam allowance.
- Stuff all the body parts firmly, using a chopstick or the handle of a wooden spoon to shove the stuffing in tight. This will help him keep his shape even after a lot of cuddling.
- Use a ladder stitch to close all the openings on your body parts after they are stuffed. It will disappear under the edge of your opening and you’ll hardly notice them when you’re done!
- After your body is sewn and stuffed, use a coordinating piece of embroidery floss and tie it 5″ down from the top of the head to form the neck. Pull it tight then knot it twice one direction, then another in the opposite direction to secure.
- After you have sewn a body part (arms, tail, eyes, ears or mouth) to the body of the monkey and knotted your thread, use an extra long doll needle and take the end of your thread and go straight through the stuffed monkey to the opposite side. Pull the thread taunt, then trim it close to the monkey’s body. This will hide the end of the thread in the monkey’s body so it won’t be sticking out anywhere.
- Use two straight sewing pins with plastic heads to help you decide where you want the eyes to go before you sew them on. Simply push the pins into the stuffed head and play around with their positioning until you are happy, then sew on the buttons for eyes in their place. You can also pin the top and bottom of each ear onto the stuffed head to position them before you sew them on too.
- Sew the monkey’s mouth on the head, without stuffing, stitching 3/4 of the way around it. Then fill it with stuffing and finish your stitching until you’ve closed up the last 1/4 of the mouth. This way you won’t have to wrestle to keep the stuffing in place as you sew it on.
- Use embroidery floss in the colour of your choice to stitch on the lips. I used a simple back stitch to create the line, then hid the tails of the threads using the method listed above.
I’m so happy with the way he turned out. His super long tail is my favourite part. There is such a homemade, vintage charm about him! Someone else is quite taken with him too.
One of the simplest ways to refresh a space is with new pillows. I love how they can change the feel of a room. Want something happy? Try some yellow, orange or turquoise. Want something cozy? Bring in the plaids and knits.
The best part is you can easily change up your existing pillows with a quick and simple pocket pillow cover. It’s faster than putting in a zipper and the pocket is hardly noticeable, especially if you are working with a patterned fabric. It’s easy to take off for washing or if you want to switch it out for something else. It’s makes the perfect, we-live-here-everyday pillow cover. And it’s simple. If you can sew even a little, you can do this. Here’s how.
Fabric/Coordinating Thread/ Fabric Scissors/Straight Pins/Measuring Tape/Iron/Ironing Board/Sewing Machine
Step 1: Cut the front piece of your pillow cover from your fabric without adding any seam allowance. This will give you a nice snug fit on your pillow when your cover is done. The pillow I wanted to cover was 18″ x 18″ so that’s the size I wanted my front. I measured the fabric, marking the corners with pins, then cut it out. (I use a magnetic pin cushion to hold my pins and I love it. They are so much easier to grab and put back which makes pinning so much faster).
Step 2: Cut the first back piece. This one will go to the middle of your cover, plus an extra inch added on for seam allowance on the inside edge. This edge will be finished later on and become the outside edge of the pocket for your pillow cover. Mine was 18″ x 10″.
Step 3: Cut the second back piece. This one will go under your first back piece and is longer so it will overlap. Add an extra 5 inches to the width of your first back piece, which will allow for seam allowance on the inside edge as well as the overlap between the two back pieces to make the pocket of the pillow cover. Mine was 18″ x 15″.
Step 4: Turn over the inside edges of the back pieces a 1/2 inch and iron flat. Turn them over another 1/2 inch to hide the rough edge and iron again.
Step 5: Sew both folded, inside edges of the back pieces with coordinating thread on the sewing machine.
Step 6: Place all three pieces together and pin, right sides together. First lay down the front piece, right side up. Then place the first, smaller back piece on top, right sides together with the finished edge in the middle. Put the second, longer back piece on top, right side down with the finished edge towards the center. Pin all around the edge and a little in the middle, to hold it all in place.
Step 7: Sew all around the outside edge of the pillow cover, using a 1/2 inch seam allowance. Back stitch at the end to secure the threads.
Step 8: Clip the end point off each corner of the pillow cover to remove the excess fabric. This will give you a crisper corner when you turn the cover right side out. Be careful not to clip the stitching.
Step 9: Turn your machine to a zig zag stitch and sew all the way around the outer edge of the fabric, to finish the raw edge and discourage fraying.
Step 10: Turn the pillow cover inside out and place on pillow! Make sure you put the pillow in the longer end first, or it will be harder to get the second side on.
Put it on your couch and enjoy your new cushion. Then make another because it only took you twenty minutes!
Here are some of my favourite reads from the past month:
- Making Everyday Things More Beautiful : Wooden Spoons | The Inspired Room
- Are “Phase 1″ Projects Just A Waste Of Money & Time? | Young House Love
- A Bathroom Story | Nesting Place
- On Keeping Company | Simple Mom
- Making The Most of Small Closets: Master Bedroom | House Tweaking
- An Addiction To More | Jones Design Company
Brendan had his second birthday on October, 27th. We blew up balloons and hung up a fabric banner and had a little party.
My little boy is growing up! He’s talking so much these days. His new favourite thing to do is bring over a book, pull on your hand, and ask “read it, read it.” Which is pretty hard to resist.
He’s also recently become crazy for backhoes. Even since he got to ride in his uncle’s, he’s been in love. So now we spend our evenings watching backhoe videos on YouTube. And he gets so excited whenever he sees one when we’re out and about.
But the cutest thing about Brendan at this age is that he loves to cuddle. He’ll bring over his blanket, pull you over to the couch and ask to, “tuddle, tuddle.” It is the sweetest thing and I’m soaking up every one of those moments.
We’re so thankful for our little boy. We love you so much, buddy. Happy birthday!
- I'm Shannon. I want to make our home with purpose. You too?
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