Tag Archives: DIY

An Advent Calendar of Surprises

This post also appeared on My Big Jesus

Recently I was chatting with a friend who was flabbergasted that I’m basically done with my Christmas shopping. Really, that’s just because I love Amazon and I’m at Costco once a week. It makes it a little easier for me. But still- it made me feel really good about how well I was doing in preparation.

I finally have my decorations up now, including an Advent calendar that I made several years ago. I love the idea and doing a little something each day, and I’ve done something different inside it each year. Since my kids are all under age 5, they are just now getting into knowing what I’m reading to them, or looking forward to the activities that are in there. So this year, I filled the little pockets with Bible verses (mostly chronological, about the angel coming to Mary, Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem, etc.) and Christmas-themed family activities that I ripped off of several different folks’ ideas on their sites (watch a Christmas movie, sing a carol, etc.). Then I stuck a few jelly beans in five random pockets as a fun surprise. 

But I didn’t do all of this and prepare it until we should’ve been on day 3. We had already bypassed two whole days of December and it was the afternoon of the 3rd before I got started. So naturally, it’s a little scattered and low-budget looking. I didn’t print beautiful cards. I didn’t even write very clearly on half of them. I wasn’t super creative. You might say I was a slacker.

But giving my kids something to look forward to each day was important to me. I wanted them to look for a little surprise, and to wonder whether today was the day with candy. I wanted them to read a verse each day about Jesus’s coming, and have the reminder of what Christmas is about.

My kids don’t care that it could’ve been a little nicer or that I was two days late. They love surprises, and they love having a thing to look forward to. That’s all advent is, anyway: the looking forward to things to come. It’s the anticipation of Christ’s arrival, and the coming of a king. It’s a surprise, a glorious and wonderful surprise, the saving of souls and celebration of the saints.

Easy Peppermint Ornaments 

One evening, I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, and saw that my friend Marcie had posted cute pictures of what looked like peppermint-swirled ornaments. Intrigued, I clicked and found out she had made them with her son! She posted some easy directions, and I filled in the blanks and made them with EK one afternoon!

I bought some Brach’s Star Brites, and EK spent several minutes taking the mints out of their wrappers…
And she was wearing only her tights. Because threenager. After we had a bowl of them ready to go…

I chose some metal cookie cutters that weren’t terribly detailed, spread them on a cookie sheet, and sprayed them down with some Pam.
EK placed the candies flat to the pan inside the cookie cutters until she couldn’t easily fit any more. The ones that looked like they needed more mints, I broke a few into pieces and stuck them in (the snowflakes in particular). Following Marcie’s instructions, I then put them in a 300 degree oven, and waited. At first, I thought I was going to be waiting forever; nothing seemed to happen for the first 6 minutes. But when they melted, they MELTED. So I took them out!
(That was the ugliest. And it also broke. Yikes.)

As you can see, they melted maybe a little too much… and also, it didn’t help that my cookie sheet was warped, and the melted candy seeped out from underneath the cookie cutters. Oops. But the stuff off the edges came off easily while it was still hot (I scraped with a toothpick) and broke off easily when I hadn’t gotten it all off before it hardened. I took a toothpick and stuck it upright in each shape to be the hole for the fishing line. I waited for them to cool completely, and slid them (surprisingly easily!) from their cookie cutters. They were REALLY brittle. A few broke in the process, and I accidentally dropped two more and broke them as well. They were quite greasy, and I wiped them with a paper towel. But once the ones that had survived were strung up and on the tree, I really liked them!
I think I wasn’t watching closely enough, and let them get too hot, because they bubbled up in a few places. Watch really closely, even when it seems like nothing is happening!

Obviously, they’re made of sugar, so they’re a one-season type craft, but it’s so easy and cheap, I’ll do it every year! You should definitely try making them!

New Shelves for Joseph!

A few months ago, I bought two old wooden filing cabinets on the cheap from one of my favorite consignment stores here in town. They had been painted white – seemingly a long time ago – and were distressed from use, and I loved that. I pictured some adorable icons or patterns painted on them in bold colors, and cute drawers pulls, and voila! Better, cuter and more unique storage in my son’s room.

((Before I go tooting my own horn here about how great I think they look now that they’re finished, I will say that I brought them home, cleaned them up, and then they sat in my garage for a month. Then I sketched the pictures/patterns, and they sat in the garage for a month. Then I painted a few drawers. Then… you get the idea.))

The first thing that was super helpful was my tip from my friend Lauren about using chalk paint. No sanding or primer necessary. What a time saver! I used Annie Sloan brand, and it was fabulous. Went on like a dream, and two coats later, I had the bold color I wanted.



Whoever had painted the cabinets white did a very eh job, so when I took off the industrial-looking handles, I had to have Hubby sand around the area to make it smooth. Then I just kept a-painting…


A little Annie Sloan wax coat on the outside, a little bit of buffing, and the drawers were all finished!

The insides of the drawers were a little rough, so I wanted to line them. Don’t want those baby clothes and swaddles to get snagged! When I went to Wal-Mart there was nothing really whimsical, so I went with… wood grain? I know. Terrible. But it won’t really be seen.



One sad point about the Contact drawer liner… it didn’t stick very well to the unfinished wood, so I ended up gluing a little bit underneath it. Extra work, but ah well. Such is to be expected when you start a project like this, right?


You can see the outer space theme… and I think they fit well! I actually want to reorder the drawers – Hubby put them in out of order. And we still need to attach the drawer pulls. But I couldn’t wait to put them in there, and couldn’t wait to share the project! However, once I got them on either side of the changing table, it seemed like there was too much extra space. So I swapped the changing table and crib!


Much better, right? I like the scale a lot more. And it made the whole room feel bigger right when you walked in. I’m pretty pleased with the effect, and now I’m all ready to finish organizing!

**A big thanks to Hubby for the heavy lifting, to Lauren for helping wax, and to my mom, who helped with the sketching and painting!**

What DIY projects have you done recently? Have you ever refinished or upcycled some old furniture?

Musical Crafting

The other day, I called my bestie with a craft idea. I’d heard of people doing something like this project, but not recently, so I want to give myself a little credit for thinking of it. I wanted to take our favorite Christmas songs from my old hymnal, and  make them look old. Then I wanted to mat/frame them and add them to our Christmas decorations! Lauren and I both have pianos in our homes, and I thought it was a good way to decorate the piano area for the season.

So she came over, we brewed some tea, cut some songs out of the hymnal, and got to work. Here’s our process:

1. Brew the tea. Drink some. Mmm. Doesn’t matter the kind of tea. I just used a cheap black tea we had in the cupboard, and brewed it fairly strong. After some googling, we found out some people use coffee or orange juice for this project also. I like the color that the tea turned out, though.

2. Cut out the songs. We cut out a lot… some Christmas, and some not. We figured once we put the songs into frames, we could put the non-Christmas ones in for the rest of the year, so as to get our money’s worth out of the frames!

3. Put a song or two at a time on a cookie sheet (we used one with sides, to keep the tea in), and pour a little bit of tea at a time onto the corner of the sheet, not actually onto the paper. You want it to go underneath the paper and soak it up that way.


4. Pour off the excess tea, and bake it for 5-7 minutes on 200 degrees. When the edges of the paper start to curl up, take them out. Sometimes mine were still damp in the middle, but I set them on a rack and let them dry.


5. Admire your handy work! If you’re like me, and you always have tea and sheet music, this is a pretty much free project! Obviously, you will have to get frames if you don’t have any spares, but they can be inexpensively purchased at Michael’s or A. C. Moore.




Side note: I found frames at Wal-Mart that I used, but I’m not 100% that I like them yet, so I didn’t post a picture… I’ll add it when I decide for sure!

Have you aged paper like this before? How did you do it?

What Have I Gotten Myself Into?

I love consignment stores.  Specifically, I love the consignment stores in Winston.  Our house is furnished almost entirely with furniture from these various stores, sometimes fixed up, sometimes changed a bit, and sometimes looking exactly like it did when we bought it.

Yesterday, I bought two old, wooden filing cabinets. They are sturdy, made of solid wood, painted white and distressed (probably from actual use). Right when I saw them, I immediately thought of the storage they would provide in my son’s room. The general idea is toys in the bottom drawers, clothes and blankets in the upper drawers. His room has mostly dark furniture, so I saw the white cabinets as an opportunity to brighten up (add some color to?) his room.

New cabinets! They come up to my chin... see what I mean about storage?!
New cabinets! They come up to my chin… see what I mean about storage?!

Right away, I knew that even if I didn’t do anything else, I’d have to find new drawer pulls. Those look like filing cabinet pulls, don’t they? They look a little too industrial to use in my 6 month old son’s room. I texted Hubby’s cousin Elizabeth, who is an artist and master of restorations (her blog is here). She is my go-to for advice on projects and furniture design, if I’m looking to change/update something (and also to have a cocktail with). She told me if I didn’t want to paint the fronts, I’d better keep moving and find something else. Well, I liked the storage and space so much that I figured painting the fronts was doable. I’m also thinking about putting a thick coat of lacquer on the inside of the drawers so they don’t snag clothes, blankets, etc. So here I am, with a new project. Good thing I have Elizabeth to call and ask a million questions of.

Today, all I have managed to do is clean them with a wet cloth and remove the drawer pulls. They’re currently spread all over my living room, drawers out, the pulls and screws collected inside one of the drawers. Since it’s already close to my bedtime, I’ll be starting on the next thing tomorrow… you know, like picking colors and designs and such. Didn’t want to overwhelm myself by doing everything at once!

Any suggestions on an easy fixer-upper? Or a suggestion on paint or lacquer for me?