Countdown to Christmas Paper Link Chain

I really enjoy DIY crafting projects, as most of you probably already know if you've been reading this blog for more than a day. Savvy Sassy Moms has their Holiday Blog Hop set to the tune of 'Dazzling DIY' this week. I'm not hosting it, so you'll have to link up with one of the hosts (Life Anchored, O'Leary Love, Simply Girly, The Nashville Mom, and Mainely Mama). But I had to jump on board to the DIY party with this one, since I just made one of my annual favorites the other night.


Paper link chains are my favorite way to help little ones conceptualize time, and they seem to make waiting for an exciting event slightly more tolerable. Sure, sometimes my kids might fight over who gets to tear off one of the links but overall I think these are great. Instead of asking, 'Is Christmas tomorrow?' Cecelia now says, 'Christmas is when all of those links are gone.' So far she hasn't torn off every single link in one sitting yet, but only time will tell. They love to run downstairs and tear off the daily link right away and I have yet to solidify our routine (taking turns each day, one tears off and one throws away, simultaneous teamwork?).

This is really easy to make, maybe 30 minutes start to finish.

How To:

1. You'll need some sort of print out for the base, which I guess is optional, and the paper links could stand alone. This makes it more 'finished' in my opinion. My 'countdown to Christmas' print was a free printable online, and since it's two years old I cannot find it anywhere. But there are about a billion similar versions, this blog has several that I like.


I printed this, then cut it out and used scrapbooking sticky tabs to glue it on a printed paper for extra color. One year I punched holes and tied this paper onto a yarn-wrapped wreath that I made. The other years this DIY craft has donned our walls I've strung ribbon through my two holes at the top and then hung it up on a nail. Super easy, I swear. I added one little piece of paper to the bottom of my square to secure the entire chain. I'm no engineer but for some reason I thought this was necessary.

2. Printed Christmas paper time! I have a pack from Michaels that is by K&Company, but pick any papers you like. I'm a big fan of a pack of papers like this though, since this is an easy way to have Christmas paper on hand for many projects!

3. My papers are about 6"x9" so when cutting strips for the links, I get about three strips per paper. I use a template once I decide how thick I want to go, but I do not worry about perfection here. It really doesn't matter, but the thicker the strips the more compact the chain will be. If you go long and skinny for your strips, you'll have a very long paper chain which might be harder to keep on the wall without it dragging on the ground in early December.


Yes, beer is usually a necessity with this and any DIY craft;)

Cut the strips:

4. Then start stapling them together. I just put one staple on either side.


Continue the links until you have 25 of them, assuming you let the kids start tearing off on December 1st.

Awww, baby Truman helping me three years ago (when he had a black eye, poor guy).

My first paper chain for Christmas had skinnier links, I see.

Then last year, for my second paper chain, I went a little thicker. Also the kids are so stinking young here!!
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And this year! They are more excited than they look, and yes I know I'm missing a child here.

Ta Da!


Easy and quick, but effective! I think the printed Christmas papers make the project more fun and I'm sure I could let the kids 'help' me with this at some point. I guess! Let the countdown begin...

The Most Wonderful Time

When we got our first real snowfall last weekend, I admit I was filled with dread thinking about the loooooooooong winter ahead. I assumed we wouldn't see our grass again until the end of April and tried to suck it up, since this will be my ninth Wisconsin winter. And snow *is* ridiculously beautiful, and our children (just two of them) were completely obsessed with the snow fall. Winter is coming, and instead of dreading the darkness, the chill-to-the-bone, the struggle to find indoor activities, and the constant fear of stomach bugs I might as well focus on the positive. Like those kids loving the snow and the beauty of it all, and the fact that it all melted a few days later by the grace of the good Lord above.

Oh, Portie.

Loves the snow this year, has been asking to make a snowman since July so we better get on it!

Behind our house, a winter wonderland.

True Wisconsin boy.

The playhouse that our neighbors passed to us, a big hit.

The kid from The Christmas Story, right here.

Goodbye, fall.

Now that Thanksgiving has come and gone, I'm gearing up to address and mail Christmas cards (went with Pear Tree Greetings again this year, love the Genevieve Gorder line!) . Is it really that time of year already? I guess it is!

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I didn't force Nate into our matching Hanna Andersson holiday pajamas for our card this year, but don't you worry---he WILL need to wear them for Christmas morning as a bare minimum. And the day after Thanksgiving was the perfect time to gently persuade the children to wear their HA jams for a #reallife photoshoot. Porter was the only one who outgrew his pajamas from last year, the big kids still fit into theirs just fine. I'm not going to lie, seeing them in matching Christmas jams are probably one of my top five favorite things in life right now. They are just too much and Christmas is ridiculously fun as a parent, especially as the kids really get into Christmas as they age. Also: matching pajamas = my ultimate favorite.




Ah, outtakes, you are my favorite.
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I'm making shopping lists for the kids, for Nate, for the grandparents, great-grandparents, uncles and one future aunt to the kids. I seriously love coming up with gifts and it also stresses me out unnecessarily. I want to have the *perfect* gift for people that truly don't need a thing, but I want to surprise them with something they didn't even know they wanted but something they LOVE anyway. The kids are the easy part, other family members are much more challenging for me to find THE gift. I shop online for 99% of my finds and have been making a running list of ideas for the past few weeks, so hopefully with some dedicated computer time I can whip through my lists with authority. No fancy gift guides here but I know that Cecelia wants chapsticks, a Hello Kitty book, orange tennis shoes, and a purple tricycle. She is very consistent in these requests, and I'm pretty sure she is beyond a tricycle at her 3.5 years but we will see if Santa pulls through. Truman wants the new Skylander game and all of the action figure guys that entails, and he refuses to elaborate on any other ideas beyond Skylanders. Porter just wants his sister's chapsticks and will probably get a few hand-me-down toys from the attic this year, poor guy.

We had an excellent Thanksgiving in the Chicago area with Lois's side of the family, and then I was off work on Friday while Nate worked until about 11:30 am. While he was away the kids 'helped' me rearrange our family room, because all of a sudden Nate and I couldn't stand our desk being *right there* when you walk in the front door. So I moved the desk and the two side tables to the sunroom, we purchased two new upholstered chairs to use at the dining room table when we host a party, and we now use those chairs in other rooms for everyday life. When Nate came home we ate at Culvers for lunch with the kiddos (newsflash: eating out with three small children is becoming less painful!) and then went by my in-laws to take an old Target TV stand we had stored in their attic. We put that under the selfie-mirror in our family room, moved the taller mail table to the previous desk-area, and now we have much more space and a 'grown up' feeling to the family room. The desk looks fine in the sunroom and I like changing things around fairly often in our house, so this makes me especially happy.

On Saturday, Nate stood in line at 6:30am for very rare beer at a local store. I pulled down our Christmas decorations from the attic and the kids 'helped' me set up our mantel, stockings, and kids' tree to get us started with the holiday season. As soon as he returned with his beloved and highly sought-after beer, we all went and purchased our Christmas tree. A Fraiser Fir, just like usual, and one that smells divine. We let Cecelia skip her nap (becoming a real Thing lately, kind of scary) so that she and Truman could help us decorate during Porter's nap. Sure, I pleaded with them to 'please don't break that, it's super old, please be careful' with the ornaments, but we also had a fabulous time talking about the ornaments from our childhood and reminiscing about years before this one. I only moved a handful of ornaments that the children placed on the same exact branch and mostly just let them do what they wanted with the ornaments, so very zen of me, I know. But I love our hodge lodge, sentimental ornament tree so much---with both Nate and I having and ornament from each year of our childhood, plus an ornament each year since we were married. Now that we have three kids who get their own ornaments each year, we might need to get a bigger tree to hold everything.


Awww, memories.

Decking those halls like bosses.

Love this one of my girl holding my own 'baby's first Christmas' ornament from 1981.

LIFE, man. The best.

Hello, Truman!

Tiny dancer, always dancing.

I have a plan for these stockings, poor Porter still doesn't have a silver initial pin. Because they don't make them anymore and I've had it with searching online! Embroidered name patches, here we come.

We are starting to feel the magic of the Christmas season around here. I hope you are, too.

Paper chain tutorial coming next!

Cutest reindeer.

Nate worked hard on our outdoor decor, and I love how it turned out.
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Show Stopper Christmas Cookies

I'm getting into the Christmas Spirit already, and yes I know Thanksgiving hasn't passed yet (I'm getting into the turkey-eating spirit, too, don't worry). Holidays, man, I love them.

As a product scout for the Savvy Sassy Moms team, I'm a part of their Holiday Blog Hop. This second week of holiday goodness is hosted by myself and Joanna at Makingmine, Laura at Happily Ever Parker, Liz at Ellie and Addie, and Sara at Running From The Law . Follow along with the hashtag #SavvySassyHoliday on social media, because this second week's topic is one of my FAVORITES: Sweet Treats. All hail the sugar! Read about my two ideas for a holiday sweet treat, which are great for parties and gifts, and then link up with us at the bottom of this post to include your ideas.


Since it's Thanksgiving week, I'll show you my contribution to the dinner last year. Since I have decided I am NOT going to invest the time and energy to these for Thanksgiving and also Christmas this year, no thanks. Let's pretend I just made these right now for this post and for Thursday, instead of this being my picture from 2014;)  Gobble gobble! Royal icing cookies are show stoppers, no?
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I wrote a detailed blog post about this cookie process last year, you can find that post here. But the bottom line is that these cookies take about four days to create. It is a process, but it's worth it to me! They are bright, colorful, delicious but they are a real pain in the butt if you don't enjoy decorating royal icing cookies. Lucky for me, I really truly love it! I have yet to make my cookies for this Christmas because once they are iced they do not freeze well, so timing is everything. But I'm pumping myself up in my head for the cookie event again this year and maybe you'll tackle it, too.

Aren't they fun?




Shopping list:

For the icing (recipe by Annie's Eats) :
An entire bag of powdered sugar (actually 4 cups but basically an entire bag)
2 T of Meringue Powder (I got mine from Michaels, is the Wilton brand)
5 T of water
Gel food colorings (love the Wilton brand here)
Metal cake decorating tips and plastic connectors
plastic pastry bags
air tight containers for storage
the patience of a saint ;)

*then read Annie or myself talk about how to actually ice your cookies.

For vanilla cookies (Annie's Eats recipe is the way to go)
1 cup of butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1 beaten egg
1.5 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
2.5 cups flour

*then read Annie for how to roll out and bake these bad boys. I like to double this recipe for Christmas when I'll make a boat load of sugar cookies. I find that doubling this yields about 4 dozen cookies for me.

For chocolate cookies (again, Annie all the way!):
3/4 cup flour
1/3 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
pinch of salt
6 T of unsalted butter at room temp
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

*then read Annie for how to make these. Again, I double this recipe and get at least 2 dozen chocolate cookies that way.

Remember, making and decorating the six dozen royal iced cookies last year took me 14.5 hours total over four days. Read all about that here.  But if you think it is something you can do over the course of a week, they make awesome gifts for friends and are a fun addition to any holiday party. I like putting them out on a platter but my favorite way to deal with these cookies is to box them up in a pretty Christmas box from Michaels, and drop them off with our neighbor friends. Maybe this year I will get wild and attempt to put some in mason jars as gifts to be ultra trendy.

I'd love to see your creations if you tackle this!

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Or if spending four days on an elaborate cookie seems like too much, how about this kid-friendly dessert platter instead? {Option B, still full of sugar but about 1/10th the time invested}

Super easy, and something that won't make you cringe when the kids tear apart your handiwork in 2.2 seconds. I melted some almond bark (white chocolate? Is there a difference?) on the stove with a double boiler system, and then also did one pot of milk chocolate melted. I used the baking chunks for both of these chocolates and managed to avoid burning them somehow.

Then I dipper strawberries in the white chocolate, set them on wax paper, and before they dried I added the red and green sprinkles. I also dipped marshmallows in the white chocolate and added other Christmas sprinkles, and then went for the graham crackers in milk chocolate guessed it....more sprinkles. It wasn't too difficult at all, I just had to make sure I had enough room to spread out all of the sugary goodness on the counter tops while they were drying off and absorbing the sprinkles adequately. I simply plated them on my very fancy $3 plastic Christmas platter from Target and voila! Totally kid friendly dessert option for a Christmas party. (As if we need to cater to the kids here, I know, BUT this way you can have a super fancy dessert for the adults and the kids can eat these instead. I will wait for another blogger to figure out what super fancy dessert the adults could have....cookies that take days to make, anyone?)

Onto the link up.

1. Put the URL and the title of your blog post about holiday sweet treats in this InLinkz widget below.
2. Visit 3-5 other blogs in the Holiday Blog Hop and leave comments on their posts.
3. Share this Holiday Blog Hop on social media using the hashtag #SavvySassyHoliday.
4. Come back next week to see a new topic of 'dazzling DIY' with teacher gifts, home decor, and more (you know I'll get in on this one, too, even though I'm not hosting).


Flush and Wash and Be On Your Way!

I finally decided on a print for our newly updated bathroom, after many hours on Pinterest.  I dusted off the cobwebs on my Photoshop Elements and made this little bugger in tribute to one of our favorite characters: Daniel Tiger.

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Good luck getting the song out of your head now, sorry not sorry!

Cecelia and Truman both love them some Daniel Tiger and this potty song is frequently sung in our house (by all of us), making it somewhat of a soundtrack to our life right now. So after looking on Pinterest for bathroom prints and thinking about Outkast's 'So Fresh and So Clean Clean', I just decided to make this one instead. {And if you have to go potty, STOP, and go right away!}

I posted it on Instagram and had a few requests for the digital file, so I'll try to post that here. Let me know if you cannot download it for some reason, I've never done this before and sometimes Blogger is beyond my comprehension. This file is an 8x10" size, my frame has an 8x10" opening for the print, and I printed on 8.5x11" paper. I'm sure you could print it smaller if you want and hopefully the blue hues I used are alright for you. Just try clicking on the image, saving it to your computer, and printing it from there. If anyone has a better way to do this let me know!

Enjoy, and Happy Thanksgiving week!

Family Photos 2015 (Help on card choice, please!)

Dear Readers,

We have received our family photos from Andrea and I would like to enlist your help in selecting a favorite for our Christmas cards. As I'm watching news coverage for the mass shootings in Paris, it feels a little silly to even discuss something as frivolous as family photos. And yet, I want to share anyway because my family is pretty much the most important thing to me in this (really horrible, really appalling, and also really beautiful) world. The photos make me smile and hopefully they make you smile, too. We could all use a smile about now.

A little about the photo shoot itself: we scheduled this about two months prior and then I stalked the weather like none other as the event approached. I stressed about our outfit choices, about my hair and makeup, about the behavior of my children and their ability to smile at the camera and look pleasant. I was classic Julia with this photoshoot, totally high strung and worried about how it would all work out. The weather was fantastic for November 8th, it was sunny and we didn't actually need our snow gear like I had feared. And the kids? They sort of blew me away with how they owned the camera. You'll see below that we did, indeed, get some good ones.

We were going to meet Andrea at a new-to-us park for the photos because a few weeks ago the leaves there were incredible. Then we drove by the park the day before the photo shoot and nixed the location right away, depressing bare trees abounded and we came up with a plan B.

Nate and I immediately decided that we might as well do the pictures at our house this year, mostly in the back yard but probably wandering around the 'parkway' which is county property full of trees and bushes and fairly open spaces. We haven't had family pictures taken since Porter's newborn shoot at our house, which was also at our house. My brain was already thinking of some great comparison shots from the past 1.5 years when we decided on our location, and as a bonus? We could pull Henry outside for a picture or two then let him retreat back inside if three kids and one animal proved too much chaos to handle. (yes, it was wild there for a bit).

I had two possible outfits for each kid and settled on final options for Nate and myself (after a failed Target run last minute to find me a new sweater or something 'fun' to wear, no dice). I used my new IIID foundation makeup and You Tube'd how to actually curl my hair now that it's longer, and deemed myself 'GOOD ENOUGH'. I then had to wake Cecelia and also Porter from their naps for our 3:30pm start time and it was a little touchy for the first few moments of getting the children dressed and mentally prepped for family photos. I basically let Truman pick which shirt he wanted to wear out of my two options, and then Nate selected Porter's top, and I always sort of knew I wanted Cecelia in the new denim Gap dress I scored on consignment. Actually both Truman and Cecelia had their options of 'new' outfits due to consignment store finds, and both of Porter's options were Truman's hand-me-downs ;)

So anyway, Andrea came over and we headed outside to the backyard and started snapping away. I had a bowl of candy (non-chocolate, will never make that mistake again after a few unfortunate brown drool incidents!) ready for bribery, and here are the results.

Henry got in one picture and that was it! This was behind our house, behind our back yard. Searching for a little bit of color and I love this area so much.
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Our three kids, all of the heart eyes. Of course, Porter was a bit iffy when I wasn't holding him but it's a very 'Porter' face that you'll see below.
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Contenders for my favorites, especially the close up one on the right:
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Front porch shots, love these a lot. Porter demanded to hold a gourd and CC followed suit. Thanks for the festive props, kids!
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Andrea found this rock wall for a few solo shots of each child. Really love them all so much my heart can barely take it.
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And then a big leafy area with a bit more color. I like these a lot, and the big one on the bottom of this collage would be perfection if it weren't for Porter's 'deer in headlights' face. Or maybe that makes it completely perfect? ;)
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Getting a little wild throwing leaves around, the kids were totally loose and having a ball by this point.
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Leaves everywhere!
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I wanted a shot with my girl, as she was getting cold and needed to be held a bit. Oh, my sweet Cecelia, you are something.
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Then Truman wanted to lay down and rest (yes, seriously) and Cecelia laid right next to him. These kids are absolute clones with their smiles sometimes.
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I plopped Porter down and really love these shots of our trio.
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Next came a parent-only shot, because when do Nate and I get to have a photo alone? The kids were literally running in circles around us here, confused about why they weren't in the picture.
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And my cold little girl all bundled up in my favorite blanket (that belongs to my in-laws, specifically borrowed for this shoot).

Any favorites? I need to pick one or two for our cards and hopefully soon!

End thoughts: family photos can be alarmingly stressful and totally unnecessarily so. But they are really worth it with these images that I will look back on fondly, remembering the chaos of the little kid years with rose colored glasses. I can't help but wonder how much the kids will change in the next year, and isn't that the crazy part about family pictures? They seem outdated in no time, but I truly love the older shots of our growing family, too. Photos are my favorite, I can't help it.

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