Preparing for Advent

Advent Calendar Printable

I often feel anxious. Some days it’s because I feel stressed about work or money. Some days I wonder if I’m doing enough, while other days maybe too much. Some days I’ve just had an extra cup of coffee. Some days I can’t quite put my finger on a reason at all, but I can’t ignore a nagging restlessness that keeps my mind and heart from being still.

Advent is coming. What a wonderful reminder, these weeks leading up to Christmas, that our lives are not about us. We do not hope in ourselves, we hope in a God who makes all things new, a God for whom all things are possible. So we join in the anticipation of the Israelites, of Mary, of Simeon, who knew something incredible was going to happen that would change everything. Advent is more than a countdown to Christmas. It is a time when peace and hope and joy can break through our anxiety. God sent his Son to save his people, and he has promised he will do the same for us.

That anxiety I feel so often, maybe it actually is more than a caffeine overdose. Maybe at its root, it is a physical longing for the peace and deliverance that God promises us through Jesus. A peace that for now feels just out of reach while it is clouded by earthly circumstances and sin in this life.

While we look forward to Jesus’s birth during Advent, we have permission to stop dwelling on ourselves, our stress, our sin and imperfections. Instead we can focus on the Giver of all good things who promises perfect joy and redemption for those who will take it, and with the wonder of a child look forward to His coming.

Advent is a deep breath.

…..

Make Your Own Advent Calendar

Of course no post is complete without a DIY, so I’ve come up with an easy one for you. Print this, cut out the cards, and string/tape them up above the fireplace, on the fridge, down the hallway, wherever you’ll see them. Advent begins on December 1 this year. We’re planning to draw a picture (Alex) or write a phrase (me) from that day’s Scripture reading on the back of each card.

Advent Calendar Printable

I hope this project helps you and your family enjoy a meaningful Advent season.

Advent Calendar Printable

Christmas Crafternoon

I started this blog last year after giving and receiving(!) lots of lovely handmade gifts. This year we didn’t make very many gifts, but we did have fun this weekend around the tree, painting ornaments and wrapping packages.

So I hope these pictures will inspire your own Christmas Crafternoon. Don’t be the ‘I-don’t-mind-pushing-my-best-friend-into-but-I’m-scared-stiff-when-I-get-anywhere-close-to-it-myselfing’ kind.

Crafternoon

Alex and Nelson grabbed this Crafternoon by the reindeer horns. We spent the morning looking for clear ornament bulbs, but came home without so much as a kiss my foot or have an apple! So we used these red and gold ones instead. Then we used paint markers to draw (and write) on them, fueled by some Christmas spirits and snacks. Isn’t it a wonderful party?

Alex's drawing

Nelson's ornament

Clearly those two have some talent. In some ways, they are far superior to my cocker spaniel.

glittered ornament

I braved the glitter and was loving the gold on gold. (Also, I’ve gotten into wearing nail polish lately. You didn’t expect me to come down in my bathrobe, did you?)

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The troops are ready for inspection, sir!

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The boys had a much longer attention span than I did. After two glittered ornaments, I moved on to some other projects. I gave these paper ornaments a try and love how simple and delicate they look. Mutual I’m sure!

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And maybe my favorite project of the day…wrapping! I found this great 5-point snowflake tutorial and went to town. I’m always drawn to simple brown craft paper and these snowflakes make it look so elegant. The best part was already having all the supplies I needed. Especially since good Christmas paper is somewhere between ouch and boing!

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I never saw anything look so wonderful in my whole life. Merry Christmas!

PS: Don’t forget to turn on White Christmas while you work.

The Happiest Day

Alex and I just celebrated our first anniversary. (And finally got to eat some wedding cake — still delicious. Thanks for saving it, Mom!) We had a lovely weekend thinking back on our first year of marriage and looking forward to what could be ahead. When we returned home from said lovely weekend I got to tear open the wedding photos we got in the mail that I have been anxiously awaiting for a whole entire year!!!!!

So I’m sure this post is for me more than you. But hopefully it gives you a glimpse into the reasons behind why I loved this day so much. Even more than the things and details that made our wedding beautiful, were the people who came and the joy we all shared.

My sister (Emily) did my hair, my mom and Emily made all the bouquets, the ladies chose their own dresses and looked gorgeous. We took pictures with the most perfect New England fall backdrop at the Hillstead Museum in Farmington, CT.

The people who made it all happen. The Schmunks: responsible for such a beautiful event, gorgeous music (even while violently ill), and general willingness to do whatever needed to be done. The Wilgi: responsible for the best rehearsal dinner ever (where we watched this) and being supportive through every step, even all the way from Dallas. And of course, Em, who graciously helped me with every decision even as a newlywed herself. I love you all so much.

Prayer beforehand, a ceremony that made us laugh and tear up, family and friends who sang, played, and read (that’s you Jenn, Daniel, Sara, Jill, Aaron, and Jesse). And what I remember most clearly is when Jed told us to turn around and look at everyone who came to support us.

A wedding party who would do anything for us, and so so so much joy.

Dad tearing up the crowd, especially us. Incredible cocktail hour band of college friends, scheming siblings, friends from across the country, and last visit between brother and sister. So special having Aunt Ruth and Granddad before he died.

Greenhouse entryway styling by Emily, favor notecards drawn by Alex, tables BUILT by dad, and herbs planted by mom. Dancing parents, dancing fools, and lots of people we love.

*Many many thanks to Emily Johnston Anderson for the beautiful images (her post here). We will treasure the memories.

Custom Onesies. Or in this case, Twosies.

I’ve been dabbling in custom onesies for quite some time now. They are usually just a fun little accompaniment to a baby gift that a new mom actually wants. But I love making gifts personal and I’ve found this to be a fun way to give a nod to training your kids in the ways they should go. And by that I mean teaching them from day 1 to love the same things you love. Important things like Reese’s Cups and Michigan State.

Our upstairs neighbors had not one, but two babies this week! So today I made some onesies for the twinsies. (We haven’t met them yet, but they’re both doing well.)

This is a quick project. Just requires some onesies and iron-on transfer paper. Both found at your local Target or JoAnn. Then get creative! I’ve enjoyed finding logos of things I know the new parents like. These are some I made for a friend a while back:

The only tricky part is reversing the image on the transfer paper so that you can actually print it out backwards.

Then print out your designs and iron them on just like the directions say!

For these girls, I made some graphics that reference a Chicago Blue Line El Stop. And we happen to have this awesome drawing that Alex did of our building for his side business, Flat Forest. So that was perfect for our neighbors (who also happen to be our landlords and own the building).

This would be a great project with kids too. One of my friends transferred her kids drawings onto t-shirts. They looked so abstract and awesome, you’d have thought they were from Urban Outfitters.

I’m one lucky girl

I have no doubt that my parents are responsible for any ounce of creativity and/or love of things handmade that landed inside of me. They have always fostered environments where we can be creative…write, sing, craft, build, design, paint, cook…you name it, we did it. I was measuring and cutting drywall out in the driveway by the time I was 11.

I feel very lucky to have grown up in a home like this, and it’s no wonder my brother became a music teacher, my sister an interior designer, and I a non-profit writer/designer. And that we all married creative types to boot. They planted in each of us the desire to pursue interesting things, make our surroundings beautiful, and turn even the plainest of spaces or events into something special. It was not uncommon for us to dine on Kraft macaroni and cheese on our finest china over candlelight.

So what a wonderful Christmas it was this year, exchanging handmade gifts and appreciating the unique talents of one another. There was not a dry eye in the place.

Marmie crocheted this beautiful chevron pillow for me. It’s finally resting on our living room sofa where it belongs:

Pops crafted this wood tray. Best part is he made it using the reclaimed wood that he had first crafted into the table that held the cake at our wedding. Like I said, waterworks.

And Pookie. Well, she outdid herself with these incredibly detailed glittered paper ornaments. She made a set for each of us, and used sheet music and book pages depending on our interests.

Daniel and Jenn claim they are not creative. But if you’d listen to them sing, as we do every time we are together, you’d know what a wonderful gift that is too. (I’ll prove it.)

So I promise the point of this post is not just to brag about all of the incredible things I got for Christmas. (Well maybe a little.)

But as I opened each of these beautiful treasures, I couldn’t help but reflect on what a creative home can do for a family. It doesn’t just produce impressive end results. Creativity within a family fosters kindness, thoughtfulness, laughter, generosity, love, and lots and lots of happy tears.

The Friendly Beasts

I’m a little embarrassed to be posting this publicly. Although Alex is used to being on stage, I’m not one to sing for an audience. But Alex and I had fun recording this little song (animal noises and all), so press the play arrow in the audio player while you watch the slideshow below…

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Of all of the gifts Alex and I made this year, this book and song combo for 2-year-old Lukey was probably the most fun to work on. I love Alex’s whimsical drawings, and this might become an annual tradition, even if we just keep the books around for us. I uploaded the pictures into slideshow form here, but we actually gave him a printed book compiled on Shutterfly…

Here’s how to get more out of Shutterfly.com than a plain old photo book (muah ha ha!):

  • Choose a song or story, or write your own. We loved the simplicity of The Friendly Beasts.
  • Write and illustrate. While Alex drew, I wrote down the words of each verse.
  • Scan each page. We used our nifty home printer.
  • Go to shutterfly.com and upload the scanned images (just like real photos).
  • Place them in the correct order, and viola! A printed book on your doorstep in 3 days.

I feel pretty lucky to have a husband who knows his way around GarageBand AND a sketch book. I certainly don’t, so he gets lots of credit on this project. But even if you know nothing of software or sound editing, make this idea yours.

  • If you can’t sing, read a story out loud, or skip the recording altogether.
  • If you can’t draw, use real photos or have a kid in your life draw pictures for you (they’re not as scared as adults of not being good at something).
  • If you’re home printer doesn’t have a nifty scanner, take your pages to FedEx.

Make it a family project and I promise you’ll have an enjoyable Crafternoon. Especially if it includes a fire in the fireplace, hot chocolate with a little something extra, and 10 episodes of Parks and Recreation. Not kidding.