2015 Advent Calendar

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Sometimes I think to myself, “Good God, woman. Don’t you have other, more pressing and practical things to do??” And the answer is yes, I do. However, I’ve never claimed to be practical and when my child is waiting with bated breath for this now annual tradition, I rise up and deliver.

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Admittedly, I did scale back quite a bit from my original “vision”. I wanted to add garlands and branches and berries — basically, a massive wonderland-on-a-wall. It started with curiosity: what would happen if I painted Swedish tracing paper? After all, I have a ton of the stuff, and it had just the right texture, pliability and sheerness I was after.

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I was very, very pleased with the painting experiment. Then I dug around my basement and found some white paper-wrapped floral wire and had just enough to produce 24 stems. 25 would have been nice, but the last day is all about the presents under the tree time spent with family and not about the Advent Calendar, so I proceeded with the 24 stems. I cut out dozens and dozens of Swedish tracing paper petals, gave my glue gun an excellent workout, and I sighed at how the pretty these looked:

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Notice the bit in the center? I inexplicably started creating loops at the top of the stems with a vague idea of using the loop to hang each flower. A flash of inspiration prompted me to make them holders of little rolled slips of paper. More on the paper later.

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I simply wrote the date number on a leaf for each flower, and using glittery washi tape, stuck them on the wall. I like the way the look upside down, though K suggested that I turn them right side up. What do you think?

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So the slips of paper, as per usual, have instructions. On odd days, she must hunt down a book, using clues from the paper. On even days, she gets a small “treat” (aka sugar) and a directive for some sort of family or giving activity. Things like, “craft day with Mama,” or “donate old toys”. 12 books and 12 activities and a little bit of sweets — I think it’s a good combo.

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Yesterday, she got a book (I met the most voracious pre-teen reader at the author event last weekend and he gave me so many stellar recommendations. The number of books he’s read was mind-blowing). She’s already deeply lost in it and Christmas 2015 is off to a running start.

Although I question my sanity a bit every year as I giddily assemble a new calendar, I can’t deny that it’s one of the most rewarding projects for me.

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I have a feeling this holiday season’s going to be extra special.

 

Party Success!

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Good morning! [Insert wildly uncoordinated victory dancing here] The hotel-themed 9th birthday party was a major success!! As predicted, I wasn’t on the ball with photo-taking, but I did grab a snap here and there as the festivities progressed.

We started with a little “check-in center” (a vintage typewriter table covered with white burlap I found in my stash). K cleverly set up my ipad with a sketching app so the girls could sign their names. Alas, the homemade cookies a la Comfort Inn was a bust, but those store-bought buttery ones were delicious.

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Each girl received a “keycard” (thin wooden tags I got from Impress years ago for no particular reason other than the fact that they’re fun – the metal tins are the same ones I used for the Advent Calendar last year):

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I spent two full days cleaning our house and this amounted to shoving a whole bunch of detritus into the basement, where M and I ended up sleeping while the girls took over the upstairs suites. I forgot to get photos of the “suites”, but they looked unrecognizably pristine. The flowers I added everywhere was a professional touch.

The evening started with spa treatments, followed by room service. This involved the girls using my ipad to text to M’s phone, which worked pretty well. M took on the delivery duties, but was repeatedly reprimanded by the girls for getting the order wrong. We focused on kid-friendly and un-nutritious fare: mini pizzas, mac ‘n’ cheese, chicken hot dogs, etc. I did up my game a little and make mini rice balls, which the girls oohed and aahed over.

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As nails dried and food was consumed, M set up a rather, uh, colorful disco ball he purchased and “DJ Fat Daddy” took over the house — check out his handmade sign. Obviously, we have very different aesthetic styles. The sign sent the girls into peals of laughter and abundant singing and dancing ensued.

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K blew out her birthday candles (I did not make the cake; totally dialed it in on the food front), and they watched a movie into the wee hours of the night, complete with butter popcorn and Ramune, a distinctively Japanese soda that comes with a marble as a stopper.

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The star of the party, however, was this label maker. The girls went wild for this cool contraption I got at Kinokuniya on sale, and it elevated the goody bag content manifold:

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There are quite a few different tape designs that you can get for the label maker, and the tapes themselves are more like washi but not quite as sticky — you can see them starting to peel off from the keycard and wooden tags above. I believe the girls made about a thousand labels, including one for “DJ Fat Daddy”. M was a humongous hit at the party. I keep finding labels stuck everywhere in the house.

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There were five girls total for the sleepover and I thought that was just the right number. The ladies conducted a survey amongst themselves and the consensus was that the party was a 10 out of 10 (well, one girl gave it a 9 out of 10, but hey, close enough).

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh. The sweet sensation of checking off another biggie from my to-do list!! Alright, I’m ready to get cracking on some sewing for pure fun…I’ve missed it so so much.

P.S. The winner of the giveaway is Erica, congrats!

P.P.P.S. Our neighbor, who is like a second daughter to me, was an indispensable helper — the key to a killer party is to basically have a savvy 10-year-old run the show.

 

 

LK Dolls

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Have you seen the latest issue of STYLO yet? So, so good. And did you happen to see the ninja, samurai and bunny dolls? Yep, I whipped them up and submitted a tutorial and pattern that can be downloaded from STYLO. I drew the characters in Adobe Illustrator and then created pattern pieces by pulling apart my drawing below:

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They’re quite small and a lot of fun to make and several kiddos in my life have been especially coveting the pet bunny doll (one girl tried to sneak off with it).

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Okay! Just wanted to share, and back to work…but wait, I can’t resist one more shot:

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Happy Monday + Easter Bunny T-Dress

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Good morning! Today, I have more of a craft project to share with you since the garment itself is simply an elongated t-shirt (using the same pattern as here). I added roughly 10 inches to the length.

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The frogtastic tee is so beloved (and now that I think about it, I used the same pattern for that tee too), I wanted to give freezer paper stenciling another go. I even created a visual step-by-step!

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I used the ubiquitous, standard freezer paper like this one, and the fabric paint is this brand. I forgot to heat set it since K was so eager to get the dress on, but that’s a good thing to remember. As you can see from the image above and from about sixteen thousand tutorials online, the freezer paper stenciling process is very straightforward.

1. Using a regular pen, I sketched out the general design on the non-coated side of the freezer paper. The plastic coated side is what will stick to the fabric when you iron it on, so keep this in mind.

2. Then, with an Exacto knife, I cut out the shape, and since I knew I wanted an outline of the bunny, I also cut the bunny out from the other side of the outline.

3. Iron the freezer paper on to your fabric. Remember to put the coating side down. I used my wool setting without steam, and though it got a teensy bit puckered, it wasn’t too bad and didn’t affect the results.

4. To ensure that the fabric paint doesn’t bleed through and stick to the back of the tee, place a piece of cardboard or several sheets of thick paper inside the tee, between the front and back layers.

5. I have the small set of these Jacquard textile paints. They seem to work well and the paint is flexible even after it’s dry.

6. Using a brush that’s not precious (I have a lot of watercolor brushes I don’t let K use), paint the open areas of the stencil. K did an excellent job.

7. We did two coats, waiting just a few minutes between each coat (like 5 minutes).  We could have done one more, probably, and should have waited for the paint to dry between coats, but we were impatient.

8. Without waiting for the paint to dry, peel off the freezer paper. This is my favorite part – love to see those crisp lines! I didn’t cut out the eyes or nose for the stencil because I thought K would want to freestyle to her liking, but then she asked me to do it, so I directly painted the eyes and nose/mouth.

9. And we can’t forget some kind of animal print element, can we? The leopard print ribbon is from here.

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K gave the t-shirt dress an enthusiastic thumb’s up! She ran out the door, all ready to be an Easter Egg Huntress.

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We worked on the stenciling on Saturday afternoon and it was so easy and quick – ahhhhh, satisfaction. The part that excited her most, of course, was the animal print bow and she deliberated over where the exact placement should be for a very long time. I’m of the opinion that she chose the best spot. I hope you all had a wonderful Easter weekend!

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Happy Friday + Advent Randomness

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Happy Friday! Even though I’m sharing it today, I did, in fact, finish this Advent Calendar in the nick of time on November 30th, much to my relief. Compared to the last couple of years, it’s a more understated calendar, but I put a lot of thought into it. This year, I had some very specific rules for myself:

1. Construct the advent calendar out of what I already have on hand (the exception was the little gifts that are part of the calendar)

2. No candy or sweets

3. Include lots of books, because books are K’s favorite thing in the world

4. Must have an element of giving and not be just about receiving

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I had all these left over metal tins from a misguided idea to sell magnets many, many years ago and they’ve been sitting in our basement forever. I thought I was being all eco and brilliantly repurposing (and the tins can still be reused!), but M pointed out that it looks like the attack of Altoids.

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I printed numbers onto some copper paper from my infinite stash of pretty papers and used my circle punch and some twine and voila! Aided by the magic that is mounted foam tabs like these, we have a quick and dirty DIY Advent Calendar (okay, some of the tins have been falling off the wall and required reinforcement, but the initial effect was quite lovely). What makes this extra fun is that each tin contains a little note. On odd-numbered days, I included clues that lead K to a hidden little gift — a scavenger hunt! On even-numbered days, K is assigned a “giving” task (e.g. gather clothes to donate to her school’s Uganda program or make a video to send to Grandma and Grandpa), and she gets to choose a book from the “Advent basket”. The books are a combination of thrifted, bargain sales and a few new releases that I know she’ll flip over.

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Although I spent some serious time thinking up the whole project, the execution took about an hour (mostly because I haven’t wrapped all the little presents yet since I wait until the night before to hide them). The verdict: “Mama, I can tell you worked so hard on this. You’re so so awesome!!” She practically squeezed the life out of me and I nearly cried the ugly cry — she said it in such a heartfelt, appreciative way.

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The winner of the Sew Sweet Giveaway is Haylee, congrats! I always enjoy reading all the giveaway comments and now I’m hankering to learn multiple languages, take up woodworking, try my hand at spinning yarn!

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Countdown has begun
but the anticipation
is the best part, no?

Wishing you all a lovely weekend! K has her first ever piano recital tomorrow – very, very excited!