Advent calendars were never really a thing in my family. We had different traditions like going to midnight mass on Christmas Eve or baking cut out cookies and decorating them inappropriately.
But when I joined the McNidder family, advent calendars became something I looked forward to each December.
This is the cross stitch that David's grandfather made for their family. Towards the end of November, Davids mum would tie little chocolates to each of the 25 rings on the cross stitch. David got to eat all the odd numbered chocolates (because his birthday is an odd number) and his brother got to eat all the even numbered ones.
Above you can see what it looks like when it is filled with chocolates and when it is empty.
I got to thinking, I have no idea where to buy an advent calendar in the states. They are probably somewhere, but since the accident I thought, why go searching for one when I can make one?
So I searched Pinterest and found these awesome advent calendar gift tags from http://simpleasthatblog.com/2014/11/free-printable-advent-calendar-christmas-countdown-tags.html. I think she got it from someone else, and will link back once I find out!
So I printed these babies out and went to look for some gifts.
I found the perfect box in my garage from our wedding and decided to repurpose it for this project.
Then I wrapped all the gifts in newspaper and used some plain string and ribbon to tie them all up. I used the tags that I printed and a hole punch to punch a hole so I could put the numbers on each package.
I can't actually tell you what I put in my homemade advent calendar because my husband hasn't opened all the presents yet, but will update after it all gets opened!!
I CAN tell you that it's a mixture of activities and gifts-so hopefully my husband will enjoy all of them!
Not the most amazing photos, but it's the thought that counts right!? Those tags really are amazing!
David- I hope you enjoy your personalised advent calendar and love all the things I picked out. I love you loads and cannot wait to spend many more Christmases with you. xxx
Till next time!
The folks over at A Beautiful Mess have really got it together!!
1) I love their apps!
2) They love DIY (almost as much as I do) and have some killer recipes.
3) They just seem like some really cool people!
I've decided to try their recipe for these Mini Pie Crust Pies. I think they call them cookies, but to me, they're mini pies!
One package of ready made pie crusts (you'll need the top and bottom)
Fillings (think jams, caramel sauce, chocolate sauce, anything that doesn't have loads of lumps in, be creative!)
One egg, whisked together to make an egg wash
Granulated sugar (I used regular white sugar and definitely should have used a coarser sugar)
Baking trays (I only used one)
Roll out your pie crusts on some parchment paper or on a cutting board. You can make your own pie crust if thats your thing, but I was trying the recipe exactly as they described, so here ya go.
Use a cookie cutter or a cup to cut out as many circles as you can from the pie crust. I used the top of a container I had in the cupboard. You will need two circles to make one mini pie, so make an even number. You can make these as big or small as you want, mine were about 3-4 inches in diameter.
Use the scraps as well, just combine them all together to make a dough ball and roll the dough ball out to about the same thickness as the other dough circles.
Try not to over work the dough because then they won't have that delicious flakey pie crust feel to them.
Once you have your circles cut, you can start filling them. I used chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, apricot jam and grape jelly. Use whatever filling you want! Apple butter, an assortment of jams, really any kind of pie filling you fancy. Don't fill right to the edges, as you need these to be dry to seal them properly.
Only fill half of the dough circles. The other half will be the tops.
On the other half, you can cut out cute little shapes for the centers using mini cookie cutters, or you can just make an X in the middle like I did. I just took a sharp knife and cut an X in the middle of each circle.
To close the mini pies, put the top (with the X in it) and place it gently over a piece with the filling. Try not to smash it on top, as the filling will start to ooze out and it will make it difficult to seal.
Use a chopstick (for decorative circles) or a fork (for a traditional pie crust look) to press the edges together all the way around the circle.
They should look similar to this when they are all sealed.
When they're all on the tray brush them with the egg wash and immediately sprinkle with sugar. I had to squeeze more on the one tray but don't worry, they don't expand like cookies!
Bake at 375 degrees Farenheit for 15-20 minutes. I checked mine at 15 minutes and saw they still needed a bit more time. You really just want the tops to be golden brown and the filling should not be oozing out everywhere. Mine did a little bit but I wasn't worried. They would all be gone soon!
Overall, these were super easy to make and my husband ended up eating nearly all of them. When they came out of the oven, he HAD to try one of each flavour (of course) just to see how each of them were.
I would definitely recommend trying these and playing with all the different flavour combinations. I always love trying recipes that other blogs or magazines post because I want to see how delicious they actually are! These are killer, and I am imagining these would be super delicious with a cherry filling! Yum!
Check back later this week for more recipes and DIY ideas!
Lots of love,
I heart Mondays is back for another Monday!
This week I am extremely thankful because I am alive. My family is alive.
Over the weekend my family and I were in a horrible car accident leaving two in the hospital for two days and the other two extremely sore and bruised up. I am currently finding it difficult to walk and cannot get our of bed, but am getting through it.
I am so thankful for all the friends and family who have messaged, stopped by the hospital and called to see how we were all doing. It means the world to all of us that you care so much. Thank you a million times.
That is the biggest I heart Monday ever.
On to some not so somber things!!
Number one: This is a photo from the website hellogiggles.com. Today they have a whole post dedicated to baby animals (and animals that are just plain adorable). You can find it here.
Number two is from my friend Alex who is currently teaching in Mauritius. Baby owls!!! How could I not include this. You can find his post here.
Number three is a shirt from Target! I found it for 40% off and in the end it was less than eight dollars! Plus, it has foxes on it-how perfect!
Number four is the Odell Beckham Jr. catch from an American football game yesterday. As I am not a HUGE football fan, at first I did not really care about a great catch (don't tell my husband!). BUT. Then I saw this spoof from Bleacher Report and thought it was hilarious. Of course it has to do with art which makes it even better.
Number five is my dog Simba. First he was my brother's and then my parent's and now I like to call him mine-even though he is a pain. When it snows he loves to roll around in the snow (like, stick his face right in the snow) and then come straight inside, resulting in this precious face. Sometimes he's not THAT bad. Sometimes.
Number six is yet again another Essie nail polish! I am really hooked. I must tell you that I am not paid to promote their brand, but I really should be. It is great! This colour is called 'ladylike' and is the perfect neutral colour for your nails. It can go with just about anything.
If you count, there are eight this week as well. Maybe every week there will be eight, who knows!!
Stop back tomorrow for a mini pie crust pie recipe. It is amazing!!
Be sure to hug your loved ones today and be safe on the roads!
One second can change your life forever.
My dad asked me to make these homemade pumpkin muffins. It's my mom's recipe, and I was hesitant at first. I mean, Mom does them best right? So mine couldn't possibly be as good at hers. Wrong! Mine are delicious too!!
These are the ingredients and instructions...if you can read them. I was a little confused as to the instructions bit, as in, there really aren't any. I think we all do this. WE know how WE make them, so we don't need to write out the directions for ourselves. However, It makes anyone else who is using your recipe have to guess. And guess is exactly what I did!
Step one: Gather all of your ingredients. I like to have them all out on the table so I don't have to search for them once I start baking. How frustrating is it when you have your hands full of cookie dough and you forgot to find the vanilla!?
Step two: I combined all the dry ingredients first. Flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Mix them all in a large bowl with a spatula or spoon. I like to use a spatula so that I can scrape every bit of goodness out of the bowl and into a baking cup.
Step three: Add the wet ingredients: the pumpkin, eggs and oil. Mix all of this together, making sure that all of the ingredients are incorporated thoroughly. Try not to over mix!
Step five: Spoon the pumpkin mix into baking cups, about 3/4 full. I am not a fan of raisins but the rest of my family is, so I did half the muffins with raisins and half without. Just fill the first tray with the raisinless batter and then add raisins to the remaining batter and give it a stir. I didn't add the whole cup of raisins, as I was only adding them to the remaining half, so used about 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup.
Yummy mix! It smells VERY pumpkin-y. Don't let this frighten you.
Step six: Bake at 400 degrees Farenheit for 15-20 minutes. They should spring up when you touch the tops, and be just a tad golden brown on the edges.
This recipe makes exactly 30 muffins if you fill them as shown, but could make more or less depending on how much you put in the baking cups. Wouldn't these be adorable as mini muffins?!
They really do taste delicious (and I am NOT a pumpkin fan!). My dad has already eaten four and they have just come out of the oven.
Hope you enjoy my mom's recipe!
I found this recipe on Good Housekeeping and either I didn't trust the recipe or I decided to change it too quickly. Either way, they turned out delicious!
Here's the recipe:
1 1/4 cup of flour
3 tablespoons of sugar
1 stick of unsalted butter, chopped into smaller pieces
1 tablespoon of both red and green sugar sprinkes (2 tbs all together) You can also use chocolate baking bits if you'd rather a bit of a chocolatey taste.
Mix the flour and sugar in a food processor, I used a ninja mixer. Then add the butter and pulse until it is mixed together.
Pour the mix into a medium bowl and use your hands to form it into a ball.
-Here is where the recipe went wrong for me. The mix was too dry to form a ball. Like, it wouldn't make any shape, it was just flour and little crumbs of butter all broken up. So I decided to add another half stick of butter. I'm not sure if I should've just added a little bit at a time (probably) or if a half stick of butter was really necessary.
After I added the other half stick of butter back in the ninja, I dumped it all back into the bowl and finally I got a ball of dough!
After you have the ball of dough, you should put the dough onto some wax paper or parchment paper. I used parchment paper because that's what I had. Form the dough into a rectangle, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick, depending on how thin or thick you like your cookies.
Not a perfect rectangle, but long hair don't care. Not getting graded!
However, because I added more butter, I should've mixed it in better. You can see a couple chuncks of plain butter in there, and these will just melt in the oven. Whoops.
After it is all shaped and rolled out, wrap it in the parchment paper and put it in the freezer for 15 minutes.
Here it is all wrapped up and ready to go into the freezer.
After the 15 minutes are up, cut the dough into small pieces. These are BITES, not full blown cookies! I used a pizza cutter.
Don't worry, they don't turn out THIS pink.
Place the cookies onto an ungreased baking sheet abut a 1/2 inch apart. They really don't spread out. Unfortunately I did not get a photo of this.
Bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 18-20 minutes or until just a little brown.
Here they are on the cooling rack. They do not look very pretty-but they are delicious!! I do think I should've put less butter in and made sure to mix it all in properly, but I think I was too excited to eat them! David said that shortbread cookies are not his thing, but actually really liked these. Win!
Hope yours turn out better than mine! Although there are only half left now...so I guess they weren't THAT bad!
Everyone knows that Monday is the dreaded day of the week. It's the first day back after your weekend and you're not really excited about going back to work. Let's face it, there's really nothing to look forward to on Monday!
Don't worry-that's why I've started compiling my favourite things throughout the week, just so I can post about it on Monday.
Alright. Here we go! This week I have eight loves. I probably have way more but this is what I had photos of.
The first one is baths. Omg. I have been in Shanghai for almost five years, and only had a bathtub in one apartment. I cannot tell you how amazing it is to take a hot bath after a stressful day. Yes you can still have a stressful day if you don't have a job. It is possible. Sometimes I put in some bath oil and just soak. It's sooooo nice.
Number two and three are a blow up remote control T-Rex, and the magazine that I look forward to each month, Real Simple. Let me just say, this T-Rex could be so much fun. I'm twenty eight years old and want this. Real Simple is such a good magazine because it is practical. It gives you real tips and showcases both expensive and inexpensive things so you can choose what you want to splurge or save on. There are beauty tips, organizational tips, recipes (that you can actually make!) and stories that are well worth the five dollars.
Number four is Essie nail polish. I've heard of Essie nail polish before, but was always hesitant to spend eight dollars on one bottle. However, my friend Kaitlyn told me again about Essie and I just had to try it. It really is a great nail polish! It didn't chip for nearly five days, and even then, it was only a bit. I went for a deep green called stylenomics, and was not disappointed. The first coat was not very thick and you could see through it, but the second coat was perfect. Do take some extra time to let it dry though, smudged up nails are not pretty!
Five is Shortbread Bites that I found on Good Housekeeping. The recipe is super simple and I will be making these today-so check back for the recipe and see how they turned out!
I recently went to Michaels, a craft supply store here in Toledo, and bought some watercolour paper and paint to play with. I really miss just painting and doodling whatever comes to mind. They also helped me make my Christmas cards this year, so be on look out for those!
Number seven is this 'Ugly Christmas Sweater' for dogs from Target. In the past year or so, our family has been drawing names and buying (or making) an ugly Christmas sweater for a family member to wear for the midnight mass on Christmas Eve. It is hilarious to see which sweaters people got, and even funnier to see them wearing it! This year is my first year (and David's!!) participating and I am so excited! How funny that I found these ugly Christmas sweaters for my dogs as well! I think I might have to go back and buy them.
Number eight is a little more nostalgic. Since leaving Shanghai, I get more and more 'homesick' towards it. I know it's not my 'home' per se, but I made it my home, and dammit I miss it! So when I went to Monettes and saw this Shanghai Bok Choy, I was like-that's my shizzz!!! It is used in a lot of dishes in Shanghai because it's cheap and delicious. I love that I have this connection with a place halfway across the world, but I am also happy to see what else there is! When I see things that remind me of the good times I had there, it makes my heart warm.
There you have it- EIGHT happy things for your not so happy Monday.
Check back for the Shortbread Bites recipe as well as next weeks I Heart Monday!!!
Recently I volunteered to go with my friends Girl Scouts troop to a holiday parade. She had just found out a couple days before the parade that they were supposed to be in the parade. Whoops! I knew it was going to be freezing but decided to go anyways. Support!
I also told her that I'd made a banner for the parade, as I love making things. My thought was to get some canvas by the roll and just cut what I needed, paint it and I'd be done. Easy. Not really.
I couldn't find anywhere that would only sell me a couple feet, (though after the fact I found out that it is rumoured that the Art Supply Depot downtown carries this). So I got my thinking cap on and though how else can I get canvas? Remember, this is only for a banner for five year olds, so it didn't have to be all that fancy. So I went to Lowes and bought a drop cloth.
I cut the 6' x9' drop cloth down to four equal pieces (we only needed one banner for the holiday parade, but will make four in the future), folded and pinned the edges, and ironed the whole thing. They ended up being about 3' x 4.5' each.
Then I just hot glued the edge to hide the fraying edges. It's gotta look pretty! After that I ironed it one last time, just to make sure it was as flat as it could possibly be.
I flipped the whole banner over and used a 2" gesso paintbrush to paint the whole front side. This takes time to spread it around as well as dry. It reminded me of marshmallow fluff as I was taking it out of the container.
The canvas was really not as flat as I thought it was for ironing it like three times.
I drew out my design and used black acrylic paint to fill in my design. I left a lot of it white as I knew the girls would want to draw in the background, sign their names, etc.
The girls loved drawing pictures in the background, which include a bird, a flower and a penguin. Don't ask where these are located on the banner!!
I also bought a grommet kit for six dollars so that we could hang the banner up in the future. There are directions on the back of the kit which were super easy to follow. All you need is the kit, a hammer and a spare piece of wood (so you don't ruin the floor). You can see them in the above photo; I chose the /2 inch size as the banner wasn't that heavy.
There you go! A super easy way to made a banner in under a day.
I'm hoping that you all have started listening to the podcast called Serial that has me looking forward to every Thursday like it's payday.
It's a story told a little bit, week by week, about the murder of Hae Min Lee that took place in 1999. Sarah Koeing does an excellent job both telling the story, but sounding sincere in her intentions to find out really happened to Hae.
Each week I go back and forth on Adnan Syed's guilt. Even though he was convicted of Hae's murder and currently is serving a life sentence in prison for Hae Min Lee's death, the details just do not add up. His friend Jay testifies against him many times but each time he changes some of the details.
To top it off, it also seems that this is a real, true crime that is being torn apart by Sarah Koeing. I love that she is so thorough, scouring over each little detail. I definitely thought that this was merely a story, meant to sound real and made up of so many parts and details so that it sounded real. But no. It is real. While it is heartbreaking that this has happened, in my mind, I want to know who did it. Not just for the sake of curiosity, but for Hae's mother and family and friends. They deserve to know that the killer has been put in prison, and cannot do this to anyone else.
I honestly do not believe that at the end of this season we will find out for sure who had killed Hae, but I do hope that by going over the details once more, we will get a clearer picture of what happened that day.
This is definitely something to listen to if you are into podcasts and anything to do with crime. I love hearing all the details and still cannot say for sure who is telling the truth, Adnan or his friend Jay, or if someone else entirely has committed this crime.
What do you think?
Ok. Are you ready for this?! I have been searching all over the Internet for a way to make a fleece blanket without using a sewing machine (I left mine in Shanghai) and without using the cut + tie method.
I've made loads of cut and tie blankets before and after a few washings and continual use (read, every single day) they tend to look a bit ratty on the ends. Basically, I was just looking for a better looking way to make these very much loved blankets.
Here's what I found!
I started with some extra wide fleece. I was super lucky and found it at Joanne fabrics and they had about twenty different kinds of extra wide fleece there, in both patterned and single colours. My mom was with me and chose this pattern for their house. I also had a 60% off coupon which is amazing 'cause fleece can get expensive!
You can get the fabric in any size or shape you want. At my house we LOVE oversized blankets, so I usually go for 2.5 yards of each kind of fleece. As this is still a 'traditional fleece blanket' you will need two pieces of fleece, both the same size. They can be both the same colour, two different colours, one pattern and one colour or two patterns. Up to you!!!
I lined up the fabric on the floor and cut off any pieces that were not even, trying to keep a straight line. This takes a bit of time and pulling and patience. Don't give up!!! Once you have a huge square or rectangle of fabric, you should pin the fleece together so it stays in its place. I only put about five pins on each side, but you can put more if you think you need to.
I wanted to do a blanket stitch on the edges of my blanket, it looks nice but also durable enough to hold up to everyday use. It's also very easy, so win win! When I tried to start making the stitches, I could not get the needle through both layers of fleece easily. I mean, I used all sorts of needles, blunt needles, sharp needles, thick, thin, yarn needles and COULD NOT get the needles and the thin yarn I was using to go through both layers of fleece. I was baffled. I searched the internet and many people had suggested using a craft hole puncher tool (used in scrapbooking and card making.) My mom had a couple with her scrapbooking things as well, but the fleece just seemed to get pushed through the hole, and didn't actually make a hole. UGH!
I WILL NOT GIVE UP!
After telling all this to my dad (and after the fleece was sitting on our foosball table for two months) he had an idea. And that idea is what you see in the above photo: a Whitney Jr. Hole Punch! This thing was EXCELLENT! Dad's came in a kind of kit and you can choose different hole sizes as well. As you can see in the photo, you can choose how far in you want the hole too, which was great cause then I didn't have to guess each time or use another tool to measure. I chose one inch so you could clearly see the stitches. The kit he had came with a tool to change the little ruler on the side from 1/4 inch to 1 and a half inches. Convenient! I must say, you can buy the Whitney Hole Punch for anywhere from $70-$120 dollars. If you have a dad or grandpa or friend in construction, odds are they have one. If not and you MUST have it (I am def going to buy my own) you can get one here.
In the above photo, you can see the holes made and how they are all in a row. The guide on the Whitney Hole Punch is brilliant! You do need two hands to operate it, as it is usually used for putting holes into steel. This tool is no joke.
I used a thin inexpensive yarn and just chose a needle that had a head big enough to fit the yarn. The holes made with the Whitney Hole Punch were large enough that you don't need to push the needle through at all, just guide it through. Initially I just guessed at how much yarn to start with based on how long my fleece was. I just pulled about four or five arm lengths to start. I would not suggest measuring the length of the blanket and cutting that much because you will lose length as you are stitching.
Blanket stitches are super easy and hopefully you can see from the photos how it is done. Put the needle and thread straight through a hole (if this is your first stitch then leave about a 5 inch tail-don't pull it all the way through!) and then go straight around to the front again and through the next hole. Don't pull it all the way tight-leave a loop. Put the needle (now in the back) up through the loop. I sure am hoping that the photos explain this better than I am! :) Pull it tight and you should have completed one blanket stitch.
I used one long piece of yarn for each side
Cooper LOVED this blanket and liked to lay on it when I was sewing. He is too cute to not take his photo.
I hope you can use this to make your own no sewing machine + no tie fleece blanket. I'm not sure that everyone will spring to go right out and buy an eighty dollar tool, but it sure did the job for me. I think my family is super excited to FINALLY get to use this blanket-especially with the cold weather months coming.
lots of love,
I am so very excited for this DIY blog and have so many ideas-it's ridiculous. Whenever I am out with friends or go to a shop I'm always thinking- wait, I can make that! Blogspiration!
Here are some sneak peeks at a couple new posts that I have in store:
I'm Tory, the creator behind The Barmy Fox. My current loves