Thursday, November 17, 2011

super-sized "here's what."

picture me donning a teal blue "mazel" tee, sipping on a cocktail and dishing on what's been going on around here, ok? except in this "watch what happens live" there are only like 4 people tuned in... but nevermind about all that.

so, where have i been and what do i know? i started to type something about work, and then decided against it. most importantly, i have been RELISHING all things quintessentially fall with my family.

first of all, my sweet baby boy celebrated his first birthday.

john and i spent the day hanging out and relaxing with the little peanut. we also took him to dubuque's river museum, which was a big hit. check out that picture; it KILLS me. doesn't he look like such a big boy?!? i can't get over it. where did my baby go?!

i've also been doing a TON of fall baking. there's something about tying my favorite apron on and messing up my whole kitchen all in the name of a delicious apple cake or a hearty batch of butternut squash soup that just makes everything seem perfectly right with the world. last year i was still in that i-just-had-a-baby-and-i'm-deliriously-happy-but-overwhelmingly-exhausted stage so i completely missed fall baking season. this year, i am taking full advantage of all the homegrown apples we got from friends. mmmmmmm!

and even though i've been enjoying fall so much, i've really gotten a jump start on christmas. last year the season truly was a blur for me. i don't even remember what i got people as gifts. i recall wrapping things 3 minutes before my family came for dinner on christmas eve. i think i finished shopping 2 weeks after christmas was over... it was a little chaotic, to say the least. so anyway, i have been thinking about being super organized about the season this year so i can just enjoy the time and soak up the precious moments of watching jack experience the holidays.

in that vein, i was thinking about traditions. ever since jack was born, i'm constantly thinking about what traditions i want us to have, what things i want to etch into his memory as he grows. i kept thinking about how a family friend used to give my brothers and sisters and i this advent calendar and we'd delight in opening a new little door each day until christmas arrived. to that end, i've been obsessing about this pottery barn burlap advent calendar that graced the pages of last year's holiday catalog:

and it just so happened that my joann's had utility fabric on super duper clearance (yeah, i did pick up like 6 or 7 yards for $1/yd. what of it? my love for burlap knows no bounds. sidenote: the people at joann's know me and jack by name, and they also know about all my current projects. is this normal? unhealthy?) i decided to make an advent calendar with little burlap pockets so i could move a little vintage santa from pocket to pocket til he landed on the 25th one on the big day. you know, that or i could leave "holiday honey do" lists in each pocket for john. or christmas chocolates for myself to "find." either way, win-win! so i cut 25 6 x 6 in. pockets out of the burlap, and hemmed them.

i printed numbers out using different fonts, then created a stencil of each number. i painted numbers on using fabric paint, and then i added embellishments to some of the pockets. after they were all finished, i sewed them on a burlap backdrop, hemmed the sides to prevent further fraying, and added a fabric panel at the top with a dowel rod inside to hang it, and presto, DIY burlap advent calendar.

ok, my camera is a hot mess. i feel like none of these pictures is doing my calendar any justice. i actually love it more than the PB version, and it was less than $20 to make (they were charging $99). but anyway, even if you're a beginning seamstress, you can totally do this project. burlap is SO forgiving and easy to work with. i feel like i'm like an eHarmony creator, trying to convince people to give burlap a date recently.

speaking of unhealthy obsessions with utility fabric, i did buy 15 yards of linen. why, you ask? oh, just to have on hand. just kidding. it matched the more expensive ($24.99/yd.) home decorators fabric, but was only $2.30/yd., and i really needed to make some curtains for my living and dining rooms. i needed to spring for the decorator fabric for our large window because we need the extra width, but for the other regular sized windows, i figured the regular width would do, and i think it's working out pretty nicely.

here's my pitch for curtain ring clips. if you go that route, you can make curtains by simply hemming all four sides. or if you're scared of sewing, you can use that heat bond adhesive tape to hem the edges. eaaaaasy peasy. and generally WAY cheaper than buying curtains. it's my personal opinion that curtains are the expertly applied mascara to a room. it just makes a room look put together. so, head to the utility fabric section and get going!

and now, since i've really crossed the line into overshare territory, how about a gallery wall update? here's what the wall above my couch looks like now...

i know, i know. i need more to fill the space. but since i want that "collected" look, i've got to "collect" things. i'm working on it. my new love is that antique street sign. THAT is what happens when my clients are late for their meetings and i kill time on ebay. luckily i'm only $18 poorer and john likes it, too.

ok, now for a confession. well, actually it's a revelation. brace yourselves. i have all my christmas shopping done. don't hate. seriously, don't. i feel like i should get a pass on any haterade because of how crazy and disorganized i was last year. also, i have some really good christmas gift ideas that i'm going to share with you right now... so spike your haterade with peppermint schnapps and grab a pencil. you could check "christmas shopping" off your to-do lists with a few clicks of the mouse...

for the chef on your list: THIS cookbook.
it is my MOST favorite of all-time cookbook (and i have a LOT of cookbooks, as well as three cooking magazine subscriptions, so i'm basically like a total cookbook fiend/expert on the topic. haha) no, but seriously, this cookbook is so amazing. it has recipes that require various ranges of skill, but many are very easy. the food is. to. die. for. it's made with natural ingredients. and it makes me hungry just thinking about it. buy it. buy two copies; one for you and one for a gift. it's an investment for your kitchen.

for anyone, but especially someone who recently moved or a newly married couple: THIS handmade self-inking address stamp.

sold by this etsy shop. there are many other options. they're reasonably priced, super cute and useful. this shop is great to work with, ships stuff promptly and sells quality products.

for the sports enthusiast on your list: THIS book.

this book apparently chronicles the creation and rise of ESPN. my husband said it's excellent. i trust him.

for the person with a sense of humor: THIS dvd series.

first of all, if you don't watch this show on thursdays on FX, first order of business: start. it is a hilarious show about a group of guys and one wife who participate in a fantasy football league. it makes my sides hurt from laughing so hard. it. is. SO funny.

well, that should give you a start at least... right??? if you even continued reading this far, bless your heart. and happy holidays-are-right-around-the-corner to you! (JOHN broke our cardinal "no christmas music before thanksgiving" rule. and i was totally supportive.)


  1. Happy Birthday Jack! I am in love with this post, Steph! you have any tips for keeping burlap from fraying/falling apart without hemming? That is my current battle. Maybe starch?

  2. Well, do you see up there on the bottom of the advent calendar how it is fraying to a point? I stitched a straight line across it to that point, so it frays up to the line, but won't fray any more. Other than hemming the edges on all sides (like I did for each pocket) or using the straight line approach, I'm not really sure. I guess I should do some sleuthing because I. love. burlap. :)