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Preparing to Prepare

Don’t you hate how everything is all about Christmas already? Aren’t you even more tired of people complaining about it? Yeah me too, on both accounts. But here’s the thing, I have been thinking about Christmas too. Not really so much about Christmas trees and lights and Santa. I’ve been thinking about how I can bless and give to those I love, and about the anticipatory nature of the days leading up to the mainstream celebration of the first coming of Jesus Christ.

We never really did advent calendars when we were kids, but our church always kept the tradition of the advent wreath, lighting a candle each Sunday in preparation and anticipation of the Christmas holiday. I did a little bit of research today on the history of advent, and I found out that the observation of advent has been dated back to the 6th century. Traditionally, it was not ever meant to be included in the Christmas holiday, but rather meant as a time of preparation for the Christmas holiday. I like the idea of taking the whole month of December to prepare my heart for Christmas, and advent calendars can be a great tool for that. Here’s a DIY that I found that I think is pretty cool especially for kids and is very reusable so you only have to make it once!

Click this photo for the tutorial!

The thing is, if I were doing this for myself, I would include a scripture passage in each bag and a little emblem that represents the scripture instead of the random Christmas-themed items this tutorial uses. I think it’s important to keep the reason for the calendar centered on God and what he has done for each person by sending Jesus as a tiny baby that night in Bethlehem. While I’m not sure I’ll get around to doing something this extravagant this year, I do want to take a little time to research some good Bible passages to read each day as Christmas draws ever nearer.

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DIY Crochet Leaf Banner

Another fall DIY for you guys! I seem to be on a leaf kick, but I’m OK with that! I found this website with an adorable tutorial for making little crochet maple leaves and I just envisioned them all strung up together in a banner, so I pulled out my leftover fall colored yarns and started making some leaves.

DIY Crochet Leaf Banner

I weaved in the starting end of my yarn, but the finishing end I strung out through the leaf stem and used that to tie my individual leaves together to make a string. I wanted to make a banner to hang on our front door, so I made just 5 leaves, but you can go on and keep crocheting leaves to hearts content!

DIY Crochet Leaf Banner

This is a simple easy, and quick way to not only dress up your house for fall, but also to use up some of those random scraps of yarn you might have lying around! I might try some snowflakes once the season turns and then some fun flowers in various colors for spring and fall, I’ll just have to find some good patterns!

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DIY Calligraphy Leaf Name Cards

The weather today was beyond beautiful. After spending countless days huddled up under blankets in our cold drafty apartment, going out today in a t-shirt was bliss. (Nothing against our apartment, I’m not complaining, but some new windows would really be heaven-sent this winter.) As I was walking I kicked through piles of colorful leaves on the sidewalks, enjoying the sunshine and the fact that my nose was, for once, not an ice cube!

So as I was walking down the sidewalk I remembered this image I pinned:

DIY Gilded Leaf Placecards. Perfect for adding a rustic touch with a glamorous twist to your wedding.

And so I picked out a few flat-ish, nicely shaped leaves. Having no gold marker on hand I thought about my options as to how I could still attempt this. I decided I could paint the leaf white, but as I was looking at my leaves I thought the colors were just too brilliant to paint over. So when I got home all I did was pull out one of my micron pens and wrote the name in a pretty calligraphic font! I think this is a great idea for lots of things, Thanksgiving Dinner being one, but also fall weddings or dinner parties!

Calligraphy Leaf Name Card

I’ve never had the nicest handwriting, so I practiced the name I wanted to write on paper before I tried it on the leaf, but the great thing about this time of year is, if you mess up on a leaf you can just go outside and grab another! Be careful when writing too, as the leaf is going to be a lot more fragile than a piece of paper would be.

Calligraphy Leaf Name Card

Imagine these name cards set on a table with a gorgeous rustic autumnal center piece, with all the warmest plentiful harvest type foods you can think of…now that’s a dinner party I’d want to be at! What do you think?

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Soup Weather

Hearty Beef Vegetable Stew

Fall brings a lot of great things, including cozy fashions, warm colors and fun outdoor activities such as hiking, bonfires and corn mazes. And of course most people would include pumpkins on this list, but honestly I don’t really understand what all the hype is about. You guys know that grocery stores sell pumpkin all year round? But I digress.

Besides all that, one of my most favorite things about autumn is the FOOD. Comforting, yummy and warm, fall food is great, and I love that it all culminates in that wonderful holiday we Americans celebrate called Thanksgiving! But i’m not here to discuss Thanksgiving, I’m here to talk about soup! Soup makes up a good portion of the awesomeness that is fall cuisine, and I’ve already made a couple kinds this season. Yesterday I decided to take advantage of my day off to make a big pot of this goodness; Hearty Beef Vegetable Soup. I got the recipe from my mother-in-law because it’s one of Husband’s favorite things that she makes, and I’d have to agree that it is de-lish. It’s more than just putting all the ingredients together and heating them up with this soup, the yum factor comes from the long slow cooking. You start by browning the meat and then you throw in all the vegetables with a whole bottle of V-8 juice. Add stock to generously cover and bring it all to a boil. Then leave that puppy on the stove for 6.5 hours. Yep, you read that right, and it’s because of the length of time it takes to make this that I chose to do it on my day off! But all that long slow simmering makes the meat just so tender and all the flavors of the vegetables mingle to make a pot of pure amazing.

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A few hours before the soup was ready I mixed up some dough as well to bake a fresh loaf of French Bread to go with it. Fresh bread, fresh soup. You just can’t get any more warm and comforting than that! You should use your next day off to make this soup! It makes enough to have plenty of leftovers; pop some in your fridge and some in your freezer (it freezes well, but take note that if you put it in a plastic container the tomato juice WILL stain it!) because there’s going to be so much that you probably won’t be able to eat it all before it goes bad. But then a few weeks down the road when you just need something easy and delicious, BAM take that soup outta the freezer and enjoy the warm fuzzy happiness of fall comfort food all over again.

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So here’s the recipe! Please note that the vegetables and amounts are only suggestions, use whatever you’ve got on hand!

Hearty Beef Vegetable Soup

1 lb. beef tips
4 lg. carrots (peeled and sliced)
1 lg. rutabega (peeled and cubed to 1/4″ pieces)
2 c. cut green beans
2 c. corn
1 lg. sweet onion (diced)
3 stalks celery (sliced to 1/4″ pieces)
1/4 med. cabbage head (cut in pieces)
64 oz. V-8 Juice Original
9-10 c. beef broth (or 9-10 c. water + 9-10 tsp. beef bouillon)

In 8 qt, stockpot brown beef tips in 2 T. oil. Remove the meat and drain off fat. Wipe out stock pot with paper towel and return meat. Add all the vegetables and the V-8 Juice, then add enough broth or water and bouillon to generously cover vegetables. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to med-low for 1 1/2 hours. Simmer for another 5 hours, stirring occasionally.

Enjoy the recipe, the next comfort food I’m going to try out is this Bangers and Mash recipe, I’ll have to let you know how it turns out!

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So much to knit, too little time to knit it

Happy Socktober everyone! Whenever I’m browsing knitting patterns I’m bound to find one for socks, and I always feel like I have to cast on right away and start knitting. Which is funny because I wouldn’t say I like feet all that much, but when I see lovely photos of people’s piggies covered in beautiful hand knit creations, I just can’t get enough. Lacey socks, cabled socks, striped socks, color block socks, whimsical socks, crazy socks, I want to make them all! I’ve got a pair on my needles right now, and on most evenings you can find me sitting on the couch next to Husband knitting away while we watch HGTV or Game of Thrones or even occasionally an Eagles game. I’d show you some photos, but it’s a secret project and I don’t want the wrong eyes catching a sneak peek! Maybe after they’re done and gifted, if I remember to snap some photos of them!

After I’m done with these there are so many other socks I want to knit! I’ve been going a little knitting crazy over on my Pinterest, posting all the things that I am so eager to knit, but never enough time to do it. The other thing I’m drooling over right now is fair isle knits, which I’ve done a little of but I still want to learn more about it. Knit up in gray and mustard and burgundy and brown, fair isle just screams fall to me.

Now that I think about it, with everything there is to knit, Husband and I will probably be watching a lot of TV/movies this cold season! And I am very OK with that.

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DIY Painted Pumpkins

I am loving the color block trend that has been going on for quite some time now. It’s so fun, simple, and clean! So this year I decided to experiment with some color blocking and a few other techniques while painting mini pumpkins to use in my fall decor.

Disclaimer: This isn’t going to be a normal DIY post, since painting pumpkins is a pretty straight forward thing. Get some paint, brush it on the pumpkins. It’s going to be more a what I learned to do and not to do kind of DIY post.

DIY Painted Pumpkins

I started out with a few different ideas for this project:

1. A color block pumpkin in one color
2. A color block pumpkin in two colors
3. A lace spray painted pumpkin
4. A completely white pumpkin with polka dots

So here are some photos of my supplies and my process. I used a dowel rod to push the tape into the little crevasses of the pumpkins to get cleaner lines (that second image), but keep reading to find out if the tape actually worked!

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I couldn’t find my bronze spray paint (sad day!) so for my lace pumpkin I thought maybe I could tape the lace onto the pumpkin and then sponge paint on top so that once it dried it would leave a pretty pattern.

I was wrong. So wrong that I ended up painting over the entire thing and the lace pumpkin became another two color pumpkin (it’s the one with white and blue straight across, if you’re curious) I’m not sure the technique would have even worked with spray paint due to the roundness of the pumpkin, but it probably would’ve looked at least a little better. If anyone wants to experiment with that (I ran out of pumpkins!!) let me know what your results are, I think it would be super fun if it worked out!

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I used my dowel rod to put the polka dots on the white pumpkin, and when I was finished I decided the single color pumpkin would actually look better with some polka dots too, just to tie it into the others more. I painted all the stems the same color to keep the group more cohesive as well.

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Another thing I realized is that, on pumpkins, using a sponge brush actually makes it easier to get a crisp straight line without using the painters tape! When I peeled the tape off it took just a little bit of the paint with it, leaving jagged edges that I had to go in and retouch. I decided to try the brown diagonal line on the one pumpkin free hand after I realized that masking over the white portion would peel the paint off when I removed the tape. And guess what. It worked wonderfully! The straight edge of the paint brush is pretty much perfect for these little guys. A larger pumpkin might be a different story though.

I’m wondering if there’s a better paint to use, I had some Martha Stewart Craft Paint and some plain acrylic, and both had the peeling problem. If you have any ideas, let me know! Also, I hope this inspires you to make some unique fall decor of your own, and if you do post some pictures and let me know!

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5 Easy DIY Halloween Costumes

Hey everyone! Based on how August and September have just flown right by, Halloween is going to be here before you know it, and that means costume parties. It’s always a challenge for me to think of a costume that meets my following criteria:

1. It must be flattering. When I say flattering, I’m thinking of the time I threw together a last minute costume of being “Swine Flu”. You know, when Swine Flu was a big thing. It consisted of a bathrobe, slippers, and a thermometer. I did a good job because I looked like a sick person, but I kind of felt like a frump all evening. The reality is, as girls we like to look good, especially when we know we’re going to a party and there are people and there are going to be photos of us and they are going to go up on the internet. But there’s more to costumes than just looking good, or we’d all just dress up like cats and there would be no problem. This leads to my second point, which is…

2. Relevant, intelligent, or humorous costumes. A killer costume will probably include all three, but I think you could pick and choose if you wanted. The Swine Flu costume hit relevance, maybe even some humor, but it missed on being comfortable and flattering, making it a not so good choice.

But fear not, I’ve pulled together some easy options that you can put together with things you already own, and if not it wouldn’t be hard to gather the required elements! So without any further ado:

5 Easy DIY Halloween Costume ideas

1. Hipster Disney Princess

This image was floating around Pinterest a while back:

This makes dressing up like a Disney Princess so much easier, no need for Bell’s fancy ball gown or fake fins to be Ariel. Each princess has their own “color scheme” so grab some of your own clothes, maybe buy one or two little things that make it more apparent who you’re dressing as (like Snow’s apple necklace or a stuffed chameleon to go with Rapunzel) and then add some hipster glasses and print out a sign to go with like these girls did!

Image taken from Google

And guys, you could pull this off too, try hipster Peter Pan!

Image taken from Google

 

2. Vanna White (& Pat Sajak if you want a costume for a couple)

Image taken from Google

Don one of your old prom/bridemaids dresses that you haven’t worn in ages and make a cardboard letter to carry around. If you want to bring Pat along too he just needs a suit and tie and he could carry around a cardboard wheel marked up like the Wheel of Fortune wheel.

3. French Kiss

Image taken from Buzzfeed

Here’s a punny costume, and good for a group of people, all you need is some striped shirts, scarves, berets, baguettes and wine glasses and a pretty intense make-up job.

4. Grumpy Cat

Image taken from Google

Don’t just be another black cat this year. Let’s face it, cats have been a little overdone at Halloween, but here’s a better twist on the old stand-by. All you really need is white and/or brown clothes and some makeup on your face. You could even print out a sign that says something like “NO” or “YOUR COSTUME, I HATE IT” to go with it.

5. Medusa

Medusa

Image taken from Buzzfeed

This costume doesn’t have the humor factor as much as some of the others, but it does show your intelligence as you dig back into Greek mythology for this glamorous get-up. Some plastic snakes woven into a braided up-do and a Greek inspired dress are all you really need. If you don’t have a suitable dress, try just DIY-ing a toga-like outfit from a bedsheet and some rope!

How to tie a chiton (toga) for the ladies!  Hitting up the fabric store for this one.

Image taken from Pinterest

 

Bonus: Chia Pet

How to Make a Chia Pet Halloween Costume for Your Dog

And finally, here’s a bonus for your pet, because it’s just too awesome! (Could be fun for a person too it you made it into a wig!)

 

The parties will be starting up in roughly a month, hopefully these ideas help you not to stress out about what you’re going to wear. Let me know your thoughts and have fun as you get DIY-ing!