Sunday, December 2, 2012

Another Advent Calendar

It's the time of year for Advent Calendar's. Actually if you're going to do this one, you'll want to start in early November as it took a while to do this project. I wanted it to be just right since we were going to be staring at it for years to come so I invested time & resources for a satisfying finished project. I won't bog you down with the history of Advent, that's what Google is for, and there are some really great resources out there for what activities to do (I'll list the ones I chose at the bottom). 

This entry is more about the "how-to" to do the boards. The site I followed didn't give any instructions, just a finished project picture which means I made a board I thought would work and the pockets were too small and I had to rip them all off. I hope this helps you be creative by offering the measurements and brief how-to's for each pocket.

I chose two matching 12x12 scrapbook pages and used a glue stick to adhere them to a more firm board (I used chip board). Try taking the firm board to the framer at your local craft store and see if they'll cut it to size for you. I cut my own with a razor blade on a self healing mat and it wasn't perfectly smooth.

Next, I cut a pattern for the pockets 2 3/4 inches wide, 3 1/2 inches tall. I bought a Christmas Stack of paper so it was all in a matching style. I was able to flip through the pages and pull out some that were beautifully decorated and just embellished the parts that I picked. Use the pattern to cut out 24 pockets. I then took a brown ink pad and dabbed a cotton ball on it and tapped it around all the edges to make them look aged. Then I laid them all out on the boards (4 pockets across with 3 rows for each board). Laying them out ahead of time helped me not have a bunch of red in one section with some cream and green in the corner. 

Once that was done... I pulled out ALL OF MY CRAP :) And I mean everything. Bits of fabric, stickers, beads, ribbon, twine, paper punches, stencils etc. And that's when I started creating what you'll see below.
I cut out a section of paper that had the top of the Christmas tree and then strung some small green beads on  a thread and hot glued to outline the tree, tucking the ends of the string on the back and used a glue stick to hold it in place. The letters are gold foil stickers outlined in black pen.
This was red paper, then I cut out the candy cane on a green square and aged the edges of that as well and glued it to the center. I used a 2-slotted punch so that I could weave the ribbon in and out of the red paper, then aged the ribbon with the cotton and ink as well. I used a circle punch to create the circle for the 2 and just free handed the lettering.
The third day was a section of paper that had a Santa Claus on in that I outlined in silver glitter glue. After the glitter dried I took a silver pen and added dashed lines around the edge and then wrote out the word Three.
This was a green patterned paper that I glued a piece of scrap lace to. I used the ageing ink and a cotton ball to make it not so white. Then I used a square paper punch, aged the edge, added a white "4" sticker and outlined it in brown ink.
This green paper had white swirls with glitter on them. I found this Christmas tree on red that had beautiful swirls as well. I aged the edge and then used a stencil to spell out 5th. Then glued them on so they peeked off the edges.
I thought this one was going to be a dud until it came together. Now it's one of my favorites :) I cut the paper that had "Deck The Halls" at the top and then aged the edges. Then I used the same technique to highlight the area I liked best. Then I took brown ribbon that had adhesive on the back and made 6 flat loops (since they stuck to each other). I hot glued them on top of each other, but didn't press them down so that it gave the bow some height off the paper. I took a circle paper punch of the same paper, punched out this circle so it was smaller than the bow, aged the edges, added a gold foil 6 and outlined in brown ink. Then hot glued it to the bow.
I wanted to use a jingle bell somewhere on my boards, so this was a stripey-glittered paper that I cut to size and aged the edges. I used the circle punch to make four different sizes and backed the lighter color with a darker to make it stand out (both aged) and used a stencil to make the lettering. Then I used some thread and miscellaneous beads and strung them so the jingle bell would weight it down at the bottom. I used a glue stick to adhere the thread to the back.
I love scrolly things, so I just aged this paper, added some foil scroll stickers outlined in black and then used a stencil to create the lettering. Then I took a gold pen and made highlights on all the parts of the letters that were on top.
I definitely wanted one that had a Santa belt, so I cut the paper to include the winter scene and decided to make the belt at the top to hold the 9th (in silver pen using a stencil). I cut a strip of red paper and aged it. Then using a square paper punch on black paper I punched a piece out that was bigger than the strip. I folded it in half and cut out the inside of the square to make a buckle and wrote the number inside. Free hand wrote "Tis' The Season" because I thought it looked cute.
This was a paper with an ornament on it. I made the strip at the top and glued it on. Then I took a bead and ran some cute thread through it. I hot glued the bead to the paper so it wouldn't droop over time and then glued the thread to the back. I used a stencil for the 10 and then outlined in silver ink.
I liked the shape of the scallop on this paper. I decided to add a toy soldier sticker and mirror the height by gluing decorative thread on the opposite side. It's hard to tell, but the 11th is sitting on a springy coil of paper that "boings" when you push on it. I used a large circle punch and then just kept cutting in a circle toward the center of the circle. Then I punched the circle for the 11th and glued it on the center part of the coil. I then glued the outer part of the coil only to the pocket so the rest could spring forward.
I wanted the HO3 to be the focal point of this pocket, so the 12 is just an understated number using a stencil. I aged the HO3 box and had it positioned off the paper and cut the edges off. Then I used thin gold ribbon to separate the two halves and add a bow to the box.
Onto the next board! This was very simple. A patchwork paper that had the edges aged, then self adhesive ribbon at the top and bottom (aged with ink & cotton). I used the square paper punch for the stenciled numbers to go on and then stacked and glued them on.
This is the easiest one I did. I only aged the edges and wrote out the number fourteen.
This is the first one that I repeated the paper on. I used a sequin piece of trim from an old project to edge the top. Then used a stencil to put 15th on an aged rectangle. Simple but pretty.
This one is simple too so that the poinsettia stands out. I wrote the sixteen out in green pen, then used the same color to out line the shiny petals and then make dashes along the outside.
I loved the glitter on this one and the wispy branches. Just embellished it with stenciled numbers outlined with silver ink. I made the silver go over the black to give them some definition.
Another repeated paper done differently. I used white ribbon glued to the back on a diagonal, hot glued a gold bow on with a small metal tag that says "Made With Love". Then hand written Eighteenth.
I love this one even though the Santa seems a little sour. I used gold foil numbers outlined in black ink. Then I hot glued alphabet beads to say "Ho, Ho, Ho!"
This one was all about using the Holly Jolly words that I cut out of another paper block. I cut out a light piece of paper on the diagonal, glued on the aged Holly Jolly and glued the whole thing on. Then used my circle punch to create the place for the free-handed number to go and aged the edges.
This was the corner of a page that had great colors, glitter and fun shape. I just added some stickers, stenciled the number on and outlined it in gold ink.
This is the repeated paper from #4. I cut out the Joy on red from another paper and glued it on. Then used my circle punch to get a place for the stenciled number. Then I cut a strip of popcorn and cranberry sticker to frame the top and bottom.
This one was easy as well. The paper was decoration in itself. I just aged the sides again, added some gold foil swirls then hand wrote Twenty Third.
I decided to not use a number on this one and write out Christmas Eve! I like the paper on this because it kind of looked like the Christmas star. I just aged the edges, used my square paper punch, aged those edges two, free-handed Christmas Eve and glued it to the center.

Once all the pockets are ready, use a glue stick on all the edges (but the top) and place them evenly on the boards. Make sure your glue line isn't so wide that when it dries the tags can't be tucked inside.
Use a wide ribbon to connect the two boards together. I used hot glue to adhere the ribbon to the boards and made it so there was about a half inch gap between the boards. This will allow you to fold the boards together for an easier time storing it away after Christmas. Use the same wide ribbon to tie a bow. I hot glued the back of the bow so it wouldn't untie while it's hanging. Then hot glue the tails to the back of the top board so it will hang evenly with the bow at the top.
These are the tags that you will write your activities on. They measure 2 inches wide and 3 1/2 inches long. I used a "corner rounder" on the top corners only to make them look more authentic. Then I aged all the edges and then used a hole punch to put a hole either in the center or off in a corner. I looped through either twine, red or white ribbon. Now your ready to add your own activities, search other sites for ideas or use some of the ideas below.
Advent Countdown Ideas
Make Christmas Cookies
Deck the Halls (decorate your home)
Wrap Presents
Wear pajamas to watch the Polar Express
Read a Christmas book aloud
Buy new Christmas music
Open a gift (we do one gift on Christmas Eve)
Red & Green dinner
Play Christmas Puzzles
Purchase a gift for a needy child
Read the story of Jesus birth
Take cookies to the Recycling Center community service workers
Make special holiday breakfast
Watch a Christmas movie
Send out Christmas cards
Decorate your home outside
Drink hot chocolate stirred with a peppermint stick
Make popcorn and watch Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
Have a game night
Drive to look at Christmas lights
Go to Christmas Eve church service
Make baked sandwiches and watch White Christmas
Make dog treats for his stocking
Make breakfast casserole for Christmas morning

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Strawberry Shortcake

Some things are just indicative of spring and strawberries are one of them. Sweet, beautifully red, pop-able, and a practically perfect seed display on the outside. But the berries I bought this afternoon were obviously grown under less than organic circumstances. They were a little pale and definitely not juicy, but I couldn't resist. These sad berries needed some help and shortcake seemed like a good answer.

However, the shortcake I have been accustomed to was always out of a Bisquick box. But I know now there is a healthier option and do my best to avoid food from boxes and cans. So I went on Pinterest and searched for a recipe. I ended up on the Better Homes and Gardens website with a fairly good recipe that could be tweaked to make it healthier.

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour, from freezer 
(if you keep your flour in the freezer it makes wonderful flaky baked items because it keeps the butter cold and crumbly)
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp pink Himalayan salt
1/3 cup cold raw butter
1/2 cup raw, whole yogurt
1/4 cup raw honey
1 egg, pastured
2 tablespoons raw milk
5 cups strawberries, sliced
3 tablespoons raw honey
Whipped cream (please don't use Cool Whip, blech)
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Cover a baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  3. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until it resembles coarse crumbs.
  4. In a 2 cup pyrex measure, measure out the yogurt first then add the honey, milk, and egg. Lightly beat with a fork or small wire whisk.
  5. Add to flour mixture and stir with a wood spoon until just moistened.
  6. Flatten the dough in the bowl the best you can. Take a butter knife and scored the top of the dough into 8 equal triangles.
  7. Scoop out each triangle and form a small disk on the parchment paper.
  8. Bake 12-15 minutes or until golden. Then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  9. Meanwhile, combine 4 cups of berries and 3 tablespoons of honey in a bowl a lightly smash with a potato masher or something similar and set aside.
  10. To serve, split shortcakes in half; fill with strawberry mixture and whipped cream. Top with remaining berries.
Makes 8 shortcakes.
Here is the original recipe if you are interested.

My kids are not fans of whipped cream, so I will typically mix up some raw yogurt, raw cream and sweeten it with a little honey. Then I drizzle it over. They prefer it that way and it sure is yummy.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Welcome to Burger Church

I haven't blogged in a while and I'm not quite sure why Blogger is putting automatic link's in my post, but just ignore them, they are advertisements. Carry on...

"Hi! Welcome to Burger Church where we do church your way. How can I help you today?"
"Ummm, I don't see what I want on your menu board."
"Tell me what you're looking for and I'll see if I can help you."
"I want my church experience to be a lot of fun to listen to with a side of Jesus."
"Oh, you want the number 20. Would you like to biggie size your Jesus?"
"No. That's why I didn't order the number 1. A small side of Jesus is just fine."
"We will do our best. Have a seat and we'll bring your order to you."

"Hi! Welcome to Burger Church where we do church your way. How can I help you today?" 
"Yeah... I'd like... a number... 22 and hold the life-change."
"OK, so you want a comfortable seat and a teacher that's easy to block out. Would you like to add some stagnation to that?"
"Sure, why not. Does that mean I have to put more money in the plate when it's passed?"
"Nope. You can do what you've always done and allow your emotions to control your wallet. Have a seat and we'll bring your order to you."

"Hi! Welcome to Burger Church where we do church your way. How can I help you today?" 
"Give me a number 46."
"Hmmm, that's a tricky one. Only have an organ played, no colored lights, and only the hymns on the left hand side from pages 1-20 containing the word tradition?"
"Yes, that's the one. And can you add a side of don't sit in my seat?"
"We will give it the ol' college try. Thank you for your order."

"Hi! Welcome to Burger Church where we do church your way. How can I help you today?"
"I would like Burger Church to be full of people who only wear their Sunday best according to my standards."
"Well, we can't control who we let walk through our doors, but if you like, you could volunteer to judge them as they pass by and then talk about it with your friends over a donut."
"But if I volunteer to do that then I won't hear the sermon. What good is coming to Burger Church if I don't hear the sermon. Someone else will just have to volunteer."

"Hi! Welcome to Burger Church where we do church your way. How can I help you today?"
"You have stuff for kids, right?!"
"Would you like the DayCare children's church or the Teach'EmALessonWithFlannelGraph children's church."
"Ugh. Just take my kids, feed them, clean them up and hand me the right diaper bag when I come back for them." 
"DayCare it is then. You go through those doors to drop off the babies and those doors over there to drop off your elementary student."
"Why can't they all just go in the same room, I'm running late."
"Is that green snot coming out of your two year old?"
"Uh, no. He has allergies. Heh. You said through those doors, right?"

The church is not a building you come to, to have your every need or want met. The people are the church. And if the church looks like the dialogue above, they can count me out. Since when did being a follower of Jesus become all about me. Nothing Jesus ever did was about him. It was about us, all the people of the world. So if the Bible says that we should be who we are, but allowing Jesus to live through us, then nothing about this life should be focused on us alone. 

We should be going out to our communities and showing the love of Jesus and the hope He gives just by doing what we are passionate about and including others in it. I'm not saying that we should not meet together as Jesus followers. What I am saying is that church is not a place to give your order, expect perfection (in your opinion), and then loudly proclaim how disgruntled you are when it's not exactly the way you want it.

Quit your complaining and be the doggone church.