Tag Archives: Advent traditions

A home-made Christmas

A home-made Christmas

“Christmas time is here….” that’s the theme from A Charlie Brown Christmas, I can hear it playing inside my head.  There’s something cozy and comforting about watching Charlie Brown and Snoopy’s Christmas cartoon (that’s older than I am! haha!) while snow falls outside.  The kids love watching it to.  Is it because it makes us think back to simpler times?  Remember the sad little tree that Charlie Brown finds, and the kids give it a bit of love and spruce it up?

I really don’t know why I’m mentioning that cartoon, it just popped into my mind, and seemed to fit (in my mind anyway) with the home-made Christmas idea.  This year I was trying to make a bunch of home-made stuff for Christmas, instead of buying new things.  I keep finding amazing ideas online that I wanted to try, but have run right out of time!!  So I thought I’d post some photos of the things that I did get done because I know it will make me feel better to see the loveliness on my blog, instead of surrounded by the boxes and mess and clutter that are here in my house!!  (No I am not going to post a photo of the mess that surrounds the decorating…that would ruin all the loveliness, even though it would show my real life!)

Our Christmas tree is a “throw and go!” tree, as my son called it: throw the ornaments on and then go away!  I let the kids do most of the decorating with only one box of ornaments….I don’t know why.  I guess I was too exhausted to pull anything else out, and they were happy to do a “candy cane tree”.  (Ok, I did buy something new, those wood & fabric words for a buck each!).  This is the first time we’ve ever had a color-coordinated tree.  So that was nice for a change! ;)denna's ideas: a home-made Christmas denna's ideas: a home-made Christmas denna's ideas: a home-made Christmas denna's ideas: a home-made Christmas denna's ideas: a home-made ChristmasHere are some ideas I found online to print out…denna's ideas: a home-made Christmas denna's ideas: sugar plum snowflake ballerinasAdvent things, denna's ideas: a home-made Christmas denna's ideas: a home-made Christmas denna's ideas: a home-made Christmasdenna's ideas: "green" Advent countdown books denna's ideas: our Jesse tree for Advent 2012Cookie things (for teacher gifts and just for us to eat on a cold winter’s evening), trying out some new recipes….denna's ideas: a home-made Christmas denna's ideas: a home-made Christmas denna's ideas: a home-made Christmas denna's ideas: a home-made Christmas denna's ideas: a home-made Christmas denna's ideas: a home-made Christmas denna's ideas: a home-made ChristmasOrnament things,  denna's ideas: a home-made Christmas denna's ideas: a home-made Christmas denna's ideas: a home-made Christmas denna's ideas: a home-made Christmas denna's ideas: a home-made Christmasdenna's ideas: a home-made Christmas paper tree denna's ideas: a home-made ChristmasGift things…..I just had to snap some photos of the presents my daughter wrapped, they are so cute!!  She wrote out all the tags with our names on in English and in Japanese characters!denna's ideas: a home-made Christmas denna's ideas: a home-made Christmas denna's ideas: a home-made ChristmasAnd a few anniversary things, denna's ideas: a home-made Christmas, gingerbread bride and groomdenna's ideas: a home-made ChristmasOur six year old photographer took this 19th anniversary portrait of us, we had just kissed at 19 hours and 19 minutes on the 19th of December for our 19th anniversary!  Now that’s home-made stuff!!

So that’s a few glimpses of our kinda home-made Christmas decorating and traditions and stuff….really, our life is not as together-looking as it seems in this blog…..I just have to mention that so that I don’t feel like I’m lying too much with all the perfect-looking photos.  I have perfection ideals in my head, but just can’t make them work out….so I take photos of the stuff that turns out…and once-in-a-while of the things that don’t turn out!  🙂

Merry Christmas to you!!!

What is a Jesse Tree?


I think the first time I heard about something called a Jesse tree was a couple of years ago…but then I forgot about it.  This year I was looking around online for Christmas ideas and I found some ideas for making your own Jesse tree for a Christmas advent countdown.  When I found Ann Voskamp’s blog, I knew that this was the one I wanted to try for Jesse tree this year…you can find a page of free printable ideas here.  The second item on the list is the one for the Jesse Tree printable ornaments.  Included there you can also find a printable daily reading for each day in December, so I printed it all out.  Each reading corresponds with one ornament.  Here’s the folder I put the printed pages into…(I didn’t print them double-sided, so there are lots….)denna's ideas: our Jesse tree for Advent 2012When I was printing everything out, I messed up a few times, so I had some extra pages that I cut up to “decorate” the folder with.  The ornaments can be printed out in color or black and white….and they are sized like the ones shown above.  I was noticing a few glitches on the colored ornaments, so decided to go with the outlines, and to print them on brown kraft cardstock.  I shrunk them down quite a bit, too to make much smaller ornaments.  I cut around each ornament, not the outside box, and then stuck them with pop up adhesive to punched-out shapes of cardstock.denna's ideas: our Jesse tree for Advent 2012denna's ideas: our Jesse tree for Advent 2012Then, for a primitive, homemade, country krafty kind of look, I tied them with rough twine.  On some of the ornaments I punched holes around the edge and got the kids to sew them with red thread, to make it a little more interactive.  It would have been nice of me to organize the whole thing as a craft for everyone to do…make all the ormanments together…but I knew that that would involve many hours, messes and half finished ornaments….so I did it myself, like the Little Red Hen did.  Except for the red thread…denna's ideas: our Jesse tree for Advent 2012A Jesse tree can be any type or representation of a tree.  We used a small white tree to hang these ornanents on (because I love white sparkly Christmas trees!), along with some of the cinnamon hearts that we made the other day.denna's ideas: our Jesse tree for Advent 2012Later, I found a wooden word that I thought was appropriate in many ways for our little tree….denna's ideas: our Jesse tree for Advent 2012denna's ideas: our Jesse tree for Advent 2012Now, you might still be asking, what exactly is a Jesse tree, since I know I haven’t explained it at all….

I was going to put a bunch of quotes from wikipedia on here to explain it to you, but my computer malfunctioned yesterday and erased all the quotes I had picked out, so maybe that was a sign that I should just put it into my own words and make it sound more simple than the quotes did! 😉

The original idea of the Tree of Jesse started in the 12th century (from what I understood) and it was a way of visually showing the ancestors of Jesus Christ.  Like it was the first family tree idea.  Like a visual aid, you know?  There are several verses in the Bible that mention the idea of a tree, like Isaiah 11:1 ” A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.”  It is all connected to Matthew 1:1 which starts out: “A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham..”  So a tree of Jesse was a symbol to communicate the ancestral line of Jesus in a visual way….showing the different people in his family tree, starting out with Jesse, the father of King David.  In the olden days (like Medieval times and such) this tree was represented in stained glass windows in cathedrals, on tapestries and embroideries and in stone and wood.  An excellent teaching aid for everyone.

Modern day Christians have taken some of this idea and have joined it with an Advent countdown, and generally use it as a way of teaching children about Jesus and people who were in his family tree.  Ornaments are made to represent each person (though nowadays they don’t necessarily include everyone in the family line), such as a ram for Isaac, an ark for Noah, etc.  The ones we are using also show a rope to represent Rahab (the shady lady who hid the spies) a camel and tent for Abram, and a colorful coat for Joseph of course!  (‘cept ours isn’t very colorful, so I added clothespins!)denna's ideas: our Jesse tree for Advent 2012After we read a scripture about the person of the day, there are a couple of paragraphs by Ann Voskamp to help show us how what we just read has a place on that tree, the tree which shows God’s story from the beginning in Eden to the star over Bethlehem, from Adam to Jesus Christ.  So as we are counting down Advent, which means “coming” we are re-living and thinking about Jesus’ coming to earth in a human form and what that meant to the whole world and what it means to each of us personally.denna's ideas: our Advent candlesMaybe I’m making it seem a lot more organized and peaceful than it is at our house sometimes.  This is the idea of the Jesse Tree.  Does an ornament get put on the tree every night at our house?  No, sometimes it will be 3 at a time, to make up for those crazy December evenings of kids’ concerts and stuff.  Are the kids always sitting around gazing at us with shining eyes as we read each day’s verses and readings, hanging on our every word?  No, not really, but even if they are busy putting together their countdown puzzles or coloring or whatever, I still have the hope that they are listening.  My favorite part of our evening comes after all this: the ornaments on the Jesse tree, the candles lit, the puzzles done, the stories read, when we each take a turn to pray together and I can hear what is in each of our hearts.denna's ideas: our Jesse tree for Advent 2012My notes about a Jesse tree: there are many different resources online, so that if you want to do this idea, you can tailor it to your own family’s needs.  There are versions available for younger children.  This one in particular wouldn’t work so well for younger kids, the wording is fairly poetical and might be lost on them.  There are some places where you find a craft for each ornament that you make with the kids.  I was happy to start out with this one which had the printable ornaments ready to use.  I guess you have to decide how much time and organization you want to put into this project. This Jesse tree devotional from Ann Voskamp (see link at the top of the page) seemed like not too much work for me and  I decided to go for it this year, to see how it works and what we can learn from doing it together.  Maybe next year we’ll do a different version, or invent our own version.  So I guess you’ll really have to ask the kids themselves to find out just how well it worked for us!! 🙂

A slightly “green” Advent book countdown

A slightly “green” Advent book countdown

In the last few years we have started doing our own little Advent celebration at home during December.  It’s not something I grew up with, but we have all really enjoyed doing something together each evening of December.  This year we’ve added a few new ideas:  a Jesse Tree and an Advent book countdown.  I wanted to mention the book countdown….I’m sure many of you have seen photos of this idea online, and I saw it circulating on Pinterest a lot….so I decided to make my own version.

The idea is this: wrap up 24 kids books, and make them look like presents, then each day the kids can unwrap and read one  book.  The idea isn’t that they are necessarily new books or even Christmas/winter books.  That seemed easy enough to do!!  And kind of cute.  So a few months ago I started picking some of (my favorite) books off the kids’ bookshelves and squirreling them away.  We also have a stash of Christmas/winter books that I pack away after the holiday each year.  But then I was thinking of all that wrapping paper……don’t get me wrong, I LOVE wrapping paper!!  But sometimes when I see the big bags full of scrunched up paper that gets thrown out every year (because most of it can’t be recycled) I feel kinda bad….so (lightbulb!!!) I thought of wrapping the books in something that won’t get tossed!  (that’s where the “green” part comes in!! I wouldn’t be adding to the trash on the planet! bonus!)

I looked around the house and found some chunks of fabric and 3 new dishtowels…and thought, this is it!  So I did buy a couple of those cute packages of dishtowels, the kind that have 4 coordinating ones tied with a ribbon…denna's ideas: "green" Advent countdown booksI didn’t think I had enough fabric around the house, so I wanted some new fabric, to go with my Christmas colors of red, white and brown for this year.  So those “fat quarters” at Walmart came in handy…denna's ideas: "green" Advent countdown booksAnd then I realized….this is turning into an expensive project!!  That’s when I decided to wrap some of the books in brown kraft paper from the dollar store.  I did rationalize the dishtowels….I really need new ones….and the fabric…..I will use it in various projects, really!!  (As soon as I get that sewing machine to work!)  Oh, and new red yarn…..I’ll use it for many Christmas projects!

Anyways….here’s my recipe for a cute and fun “green” Advent book countdown:

denna's ideas: "green" Advent countdown books24 kids’ books (both hard and soft covers)

1 roll of brown kraft paper

yarn and string (I used red, brown and white)

11 new dishtowels

7 lengths of fabric of different sizes (red, brown and white)

scissors and tape

1 and 1/2 hours of your time

Directions:  (this is probably why it took me an hour and a half:) pick out the order you want the kids to unwrap the books.  The easiest way would have been to have the largest books on the bottom of the pile and the smalles books on top.  But I had to do it the time-consuming way of course!!  And then I decided to wrap the books with the fabric for the first days of December so that I could use that fabric for some Christmas decorating….these things take time, so feel free to skip these steps and just jump in and wrap away!!  Tie the fabric-wrapped books with yarn or string, and use tape on the brown paper.  I thought it would be cute to add numbered tags…but I knew that that would take me an extra hour to do….and I was rushing to get it done before the kids got home!  (I’m afraid that I also kept a list of what book would be opened which day, just in case I felt like coordinating some activity with a book….so far this has not been necessary or used at all!          Boy I sound like a geek.)denna's ideas: "green" Advent countdown books denna's ideas: "green" Advent countdown books denna's ideas: "green" Advent countdown books denna's ideas: "green" Advent countdown books

(I was humming “brown paper packages tied up with string, these are a few of my favorite things!!)  Stack up the presents as you go, and there you are:  your beautiful green Advent countdown is ready to go!denna's ideas: "green" Advent countdown books

Disclaimer: the author of this recipe and tutorial does not guarentee that your children will appreciate or even like your work and effort to create this advent countdown.  They may not want to do it, or may not think that unwrapping old books is cool or fun.  You must be the judge of what your children can handle  (yes, it is ok, as a parent, to be judgemental in these types of situations!)

Here are some of the books I wrapped up:denna's ideas: "green" Advent countdown booksI know my kids are getting older, but many of these they can remember from when they were little, so I thought a bit of nostalgia was ok for this project….some of my favorites:denna's ideas: "green" Advent countdown booksI love Mortimer’s Christmas Manger, it’s really special.  Usborne books have some really cute Christmas and winter books and a nice book of Christmas carols.  The Nutcracker book has become a tradition around here.  The Christmas Story is a book that was given to me by my special Auntie Lucy and Uncle Homer when I was a wee one ( a long time ago!).  The inscriptions in the books can be as important as the book itself, I think….so be intentional and write a bit to your child and date it, believe me, it will be cherished.  We even have a book that was created by my daughter! 🙂 denna's ideas: "green" Advent countdown booksAnother book that has become a traditional Christmas favorite is The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey (in the middle of the photo)…it was a gift from friends and came with a CD to listen to.  I just love love love listening to it when the lights are low and the kids are tucked into their beds and drifting off to sleep, it’s so soothing and magical, with a really great story!  (We haven’t unwrapped that one yet!!)

denna's ideas: "green" Advent countdown booksFishing in the Air isn’t a Christmas or winter book, but one of my very very favorite kids’ books to read aloud.  About a father and a son and their memorable fishing trip.denna's ideas: "green" Advent countdown booksAbulea’s Weave is a book I found last year, about a Guatemalan girl and her grandmother.  I was so happy to finally have a kids book about Guatemala!  The White Pony is another of my all all-time favortite kids books….maybe my MOST FAVORITE OF ALL.  The painted illustrations of Native Americans are gorgeous and the story is really the most one fabulous one ever told.  I totally recommend this book, it’s great for all ages:  The White Pony “a tale of great love by Sandra Byrd, paintings by Sarah Waldron” published by Waterbrook Press.denna's ideas: the best kids in the world!!What can I say?? Even though there are times when I’m going completely crazy and want to stop ALL this Christmas preparation and just sit down and give up on absolutely everything, there will come a moment like the one above, when everyone is together in harmony, and I’ll will remember that I have the BEST kids in the whole world and that I guess my efforts aren’t wasted if I can give them a nice Christmas to remember.  My six-year-old and I walked into the house yesterday after being at the clinic, and she said “I love walking into our warm house full of cozy things!!” and that sure made me smile.  Yes, it’s messy and cluttered and sometimes that’s all I can see, but she focused on the coziness and is grateful for a warm house on a freezing cold day.  That’s something to Ponder in my Heart and remember to be grateful for.

I hope you are having a beautiful Advent season, counting down the days to the day when we celebrate the BEST BIRTHDAY OF ALL!!  🙂

Christmas in July….a puzzling tradition…

Christmas in July….a puzzling tradition…

I don’t quite get the whole “Christmas in July” thing.  I’ve been seeing it everywhere.  I guess it’s great for those people who can think that far ahead and have space to keep all their early Christmas preparations….I just can’t.  I’m afraid that I just took my Christmas tree down in May, so I’m really not feeling like thinking about Christmas!!

But I did just happen to find a draft of a post I did in December, but never posted.  So in the spirit of Christmas in July, here is something we made up to do at our house, to use in our Advent countdown to Christmas…it has been fun, and we have been doing it enough years that each child has made each puzzle!

Maybe July isn’t such a bad time to start thinking about things like Advent countdowns, just in case you see something on a summer sale!!  (I’ve already been searching for things for my daughter’s bday in the fall!)  Anyways, check these out:

(these are some of my digital scrapbook 12×12 layouts using Creative Memories digital content)

Advent: a time to reflect

Advent: a time to reflect

We do a lot of things to celebrate Christmas, some family traditions, some traditions related to our different cultures, some fun stuff and some things that we do to bring the meaning of Christmas deeper into our hearts.  We have started doing our small Advent celebration at home, on the days leading up to Christmas.  It has become my favorite part of the celebrations…a time when we get together as a family, to stop and quiet down and focus our thoughts and hearts on what this season really is for…celebrating Jesus.  This is what I will remember most from now on, our special Advent time…this year we were so happy to share it with Grandpa and Grandma!

Nosotros hacemos muchas cosas para celebrar la Navidad: algunas son tradiciones familiares, otras relacionadas con nuestras culturas distintas, algunas cosas solo divertidas, pero otras los hacemos para que el significado verdadero de la Navidad entre aun mas profundamente en nuestros corazones.  En nuestra familia, hemos empezado a hacer nuestro propio celebracion de Advenimiento (asi dice el diccionario, no se como se dice..lo tengo que investigar mas) en los dias antes de la Navidad.  Ha llegado a ser mi parte favorita de todas las festividades…un tiempo cuando nos juntamos como familia para calmarnos y enfocar nuestros pensamientos y corazones en los que realmente es esta epoca…la celebracion de Jesus.  Siempre voy a recordar este tiempo tan especial….y este anio nos alegramos poder compartirlo con los Abuelos!  hoy si no me esta funcionando el teclado en espaniol, por eso no hay tildes!!