Christmas Book Countdown Calendar


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Hurry up! Christmas is coming! Yep, or Hanukkah or Kwanza or New Year or a birthday or …… Here is a simple idea to infuse the holiday spirit by slowing down and adding new story every night until the Big Day. Add in books about the story of Christmas, nativity to match Advent or have fun with the twelve days. But wait, it’s already December? No worries, you can make this countdown ‘calendar’ big or small.

FullSizeRender 11

The Idea: Wrap up 25 (or 24 or 12 or whatever) books individually, labeling each with corresponding number 1 through 25. Then open one package every night, reading a new story and re-reading past nights stories until you reach your goal. you can bet that the Night Before Christmas is wrapped up in package 24…. but other than that I don’t remember which book is wrapped up for what night and every year we can do it a little different.

The Set Up: I searched used book stores high and low for Christmas/Holiday books. I ended up with a mix of some wintery stories (think Polar Express, Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening, If Its Snowy and You Know It Clap your Paws), board books (Five Busy Elves, Guinea Pig Nativity [contain your jealousy], 12 Dogs of Christmas), pop up Christmas stories and some classics (the Grinch, Bernstein Bears). However, what I am most excited about it that this countdown will continue when we get to Grandma’s House. Grandma found our childhood Christmas books (Yay! Pokey Puppy, Babar, Christmas Kitten!). I sent her the numbers for the days we will be home so she can wrap and attach, with the only set one being the Night Before Christmas.


The Vision: Almost all other books in our house will be put away for the holiday season (save for a few in the event of an ’emergency’) and the tot will open a package each night for a new story and fun re-reading the recent books.  As he gets older or new books come out, we can cycle them in and out. I am excited to connect this to his Grandparents and something from my childhood too.

The Supplies: Can you say brown paper packages tied up with string (and a number)? The number of books for the number of days you want to countdown towards, wrapping paper and some number tags. I made my tags out of last year’s Holiday cards and a piece or two of card stock. But you could just as easily use stickers or just a big marker or go all rogue and don’t have any numbers (but then its not really a countdown – its just fun).

What are some of your favorite Holiday Books? IMG_7946IMG_7948



Sweet Potato and Acorn Squash Pie – Unpumpkin Redux


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Remember the Acorn Squash and Apricot Pie from September? My taste buds sure do. I whipped up a new version of the unpumpkin pie, and it is a tie for which I like the best. This time around my apron squash was smaller than usual, about one and half pounds AND I had some sweet potato hanging out. Remember the sweet potato hand pie of a summer gone by – it is coming back too (but you wouldn’t know about it because it was a blog post that didn’t).  Well I put the two memories together and made another delicously fall pie, creamy, spiced and perfect with vanilla ice cream.

squash sweet potato pie ingredients


Follow the same recipe as the Acorn Squash and Apricot Pie; omitting apricots and using 1.5 pounds acorn squash and 1.5 pounds sweet potatoes, both baked before starting the pie.

sweet potato and acorn squash fall pie recipe

Fresh Nursery Wall Art Ideas: Decoupage, Glue, Sew and Staple


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A share of easy and sometimes quick wall art crafts ideas I made for the little tot’s room.

I shared a post where I made garland from greeting cards and gift bags [Here is that post!]. Well, I had quite a few left over…. so I cut more in coordinating colors, including gift bags, and then using a piece of scotch tab to line up and hold them, arranged them on a blank white canvas prepped with a fresh wet layer of modpodge and then applied a mod podge top coat. Hardest part? Letting it dry and not putting TOOOO much on as the paper will bubble. Another fun way to remember special events!

line up hexagons decoupage

card decoupage card decoupage top coat final card decoupage wall art baby card repurpose hexagon

Next is decoupaging fabric onto a canvas. The funky horned game bird (?) print, is part of the same series of gems I found years ago at a craft fair, but you could do this with any fabric or maybe a fun t-shirt, make your own prints using iron-on transfers or actual screen printing. I love how after modpodging the black canvas shows through, giving it a slight antiqued look.

abric decoupage alignment
fabric decoupage wet drying art wall

horned game bird fabric decoupage hexagons deer

From this same craft fair fabric treasure trove,  I had a piece printed with a butterfly winged clock.  I glued it to the back of a hexagon floating shelf, using blue tape to hold it tight, so the fabric is framed at the back of the shelf (below). These funky fabrics make appearances all around our house actually.

fabric floating shelf back

Another idea –  I sewed some solid fabrics together in a large geometric shape and then glued to the back of some wood framed vintage filters -basically sheet metal with holes punched in it.

fabric behind vintage metal screen

Finally – Always an quick, easy and not necessarily permanent way to decorate a room: stretch a fun fabric tightly over a canvas or put it in a frame (see the funky antler bird below). I used a staple gun to attached the fabric to some canvas with prints on them that I had around. When the fabric is lighter, you can add a layer of muslin or interfacing to block the canvas design from showing through. Dress up the fabric covered frames with ribbon, buttons, pictures etc. the fabric for the most part isn’t ruined nor is the printed canvas. If you were to look at the back you would see all the extra fabric. If you want you can add a hanger using brads and brackets.

interfacing fabric on printed canvas

staple fabric canvas frame yellow greyclock with butterfly wings hexagon shelf deer

The scrappy fabric ‘orbs’ are from some holiday ornaments I made a few years ago. And the green deer letter press is a coaster I have been saving. What tips and ideas do you have?

Simple Stitched Paper Garland or Bunting Tutorial : Repurpose those Greeting Cards


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I have made this garland or bunting several times now but my favorite version so far is the one hanging in my little tot’s room. It is made out of all the wonderful cards welcoming him to the world. I am a sentimental person but I also try to not just store a bunch of stuff, so after snapping a photo of the cards for his book, I used three different paper punches, two different circles (1.5 inches and 2 inches) and a hexagon (because I love hexagons). In no way would I recommend cutting these by hand – I only did it for one or two cards (see fuzzy lamb photo). I then simply proceeded to punch out shapes using the paper cards, also adding in some shapes made out of some of the gift bags etc. You can do this with scrapbook paper, kraft paper, printed images, photos and mix them together or whatever you want.

Fussy cutting, fuzzy lambs…


Helping make the Halloween garland!

If you want to reduce the amount of white paper (aka the backside) you can make them by ( two circles together at a time). No wrong way to do this.

From here I turn on my sewing machine, use whatever needle is in there, or change it to a old one saved just for this and start sewing them in a random order, right down the middle.

Sew! Sew! Sew! When done you can cut it to the length you need.


Here is the finished garland. You can even see some of the handwritten notes. For his upcoming birthdays etc, i plan to punch out more shapes and keep adding on to this until the day I stop. I realize that soon enough the wee one will be standing up, eating, pulling the garland, So I can let him play and/or move them above a window, more like a swag. :)



Baby shower version: I used some stamps that went with the theme. Bee is for Baby - Paper Circle Garland, Bunting, Mobile, Decoration on Etsy!

For our Halloween party this year I used construction paper and scrapbook paper to make a ton of garland for the backdrop in the Photo Booth (and had about 75 feet extra left. oops.) For this version I used a a spooky round bat stamp on some circles.


The finished halloween garland backdrop. I added on some black paper bat sillouttes (the theme was Gone Batty after all).

Bee is for Baby - Paper Circle Garland, Bunting, Mobile, Decoration on Etsy!

Twine Art Orbs: Balloons, Twine, Glue, Go DIY!


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Twine or string balloon decorations are an easy and versatile craft. Make a lot in a many sizes, hang them offset above a table and you have a chandelier, make smaller versions add some glitter and you have a simple holiday ornament or stay more traditional and recreate the delicate Easter Egg baskets using embroidery floss and a lot more patience.

First find a place where the balloons wound up with wet twine can hang and drip dry. I tied them to my cupboard over the sink, but you could set up a yardstick between two chairs and put a tarp down or do outside on clothes line etc.

Inflate some balloons to the the size you want. If you inflate less they will be more round vs. eggy. I then tied a string to the balloon tie so that I had it ready to go when it was time to hang and dry.

Get ready to wrap! I used bakers twine and Stiffy Fabric Stiffener but you can use regular craft glue, modpodge etc. Using a foil disposable pie pan, I unwound long lengths of twine and saturated in the Stiffy by letting it sit in the pie pan for a few minutes.

Now start wrapping! I suggest winding the wet twine atorun the balloon the long way, slowly moving and criss-crossing etc. Do as much of this or as little but I found about a half to one inch average open space worked the best.

Now dry! Hang the balloons wrapped in soggy twine up to dry. Maybe a few hours or longer. Just test it out.

balloon string ornament decoration dryingWhen all dry, pop the balloon. Be sure to watch as ours deflated in a pretty funny way and make a crinkly sound as the balloon separate from dried twine. Remove the balloon bits and you are ready to adorn al the things with them. popped sting balloon IMG_5199

Enjoy! Mine are hanging along side a window and one that was a bit wonkey I trimmed and it now sits proudly on a shelf. Window ornaments string ornament sitting on shelfAlways more than one way. Here are some other helpful links –

Three Little Piggy Meatball Recipe


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This little piggy was pork sausage, the second little piggy was bacon and the third little piggy was spiiiccceyyy prosciutto spread. Bacon.


Apologies up front – It is hard to get a glamorous meat ball shot, even more so when you forget to take one. Sigh, you just get the less than perfect weeknight dinner shot (see below).  Neverfear though, lots of pictures for the tutorial. This recipe is based on straightforward meat ball basics, forgiving and can be made gluten-free. The prosecution spread might not be readily available in your neck of the words but you could sub in plain proscuitto plus spicy pepper flakes, chorizo etc. Big shout out to my MIL for showing me how to mass produce balls withOUT rolling. Scoop, squeeze, spoon scoop and flip the wrist. Repeat….

Scale up and down as you need to – this is for a large batch, that freezes well. This made 70-80 ~ 1 to 1.5 inch meat balls. Perfect Party Size.


  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic, if jarred version a generous measure
  • 3 pounds ground pork/sausage
  • 2 – 3 eggs (3 if on smaller side)
  • 1 1/2 cups grated parmasean
  • 3/4 cup GF flour OR panko (not GF), 1/2 cup per pound of pork
  • ~2 ounces of spicy prosciutto spread (I used La Quercia brand)
  • 6 strips of cooked bacon, chopped

Note: no salt, there is plenty of salt in the bacon, parmesan and spread. You could add herbs etc  but honestly there was a lot of flavor, and some sausage may already have some.

pork ingredients


In large bowl, mix together the parmesan, garlic, chopped bacon and prosciutto spread. Just put some gloves on and use your hands!


Begin to mix in the raw ground pork in smaller portions. Keep adding and mixing. When well combined, add flour or panko, mix, and then add the raw eggs.


Mix until combined.

meatball mixture

Now – shape them into balls, cook and enjoy. Make them big for dinner or small for appetizers, whatever you want. You will bake in the oven at 375F for 10-20 minutes until cooked through. You could also cook in a fry pan on the stove or freeze and cook later. I cooked some and then reheated in the crockpot.

Here is the MIL’s Scoop and Flip Meatball method. You could also scoop with a melon baller or ice cream scoop and roll around in your hands. But THIS is faster. We raced.

meatball pork how to DIY

Note these meatballs were so big they cast a shadow. Hehe – bad lighting. #sorrynotsorry

meatball dinner

Best Irish Soda Bread: Beer Me the Recipe!


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I made my first loaves of Irish soda beer bread in college in the tiny dorm kitchen of the hallowed Knowles Hall (Go Griz!), Pretty sure that was with a can a PBR too.

To this day I still enjoy fresh warm beer bread but now I love it even more (and so does the reluctant hubs), with this updated recipe. Sadly,I don’t have info to tip my hat too the original author, but they are probably numerous and in several family trees from days gone by. If you have a family variation, please share! We are Scottish-Asian.

Preheat the oven 375 F. Prep your bread pans by greasing and I like to add a sheet of parchment paper.

Sift together the dry ingredients, in a large mixing bowl.

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Make a well in the middle and pour in your 12 ounces of beer. Whatever kind you want – this is a great way to experiment. Chai beer anyone?  Mix this up good by not too much.

Melt somewhere between a 1/4 and 1/2 cup of butter.

Scoop your batter into the prepared pan. Pour the melted butter on top and bake away for about an hour. Putting the butter on top makes a delightfully crusty crusty. You can pour in pan first for a softer crust, but why…. :)

Let is cook for 10 minutes or so (if you can). Best served warm, with butter, jam, honey or just plan.

irish soda beer bread recipe

Makeover Your Mei Tai Carrier: Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head


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Makeover your Mei Tai carrier! Sadly, this post won’t have exact measurements to guide you inch by inch. This meant to be a narrative inspiration of one way to customize your  Mei Tai – easy enough that you can change it with the seasons (as long as you have a good seam ripper).  I added a little hood but it is in no way necessary and now the tot’s noggin is too big for it – but it looks cute!

DIY makeover mei tai infantino raindrops seattle umbrella hood babywearing


  • Infantino (or any brand) mei tai carrier
  • Accent fabric, no more than a half yard, fat quarter might be enough
  • Interfacing, to help with seams
  • Thread
  • Imagination
  • Embroidery floss if you want to add stitching

Method of Attack!

  • Measure the main square panel. Mine was about 12 1/2 inches by 9 1/2 inches. But don’t take my word for it as your might have shrunk etc.

DIY makeover mei tai infantino raindrops seattle umbrella hood babywearing

  • Cut out the square for main panel with an extra half inch all the way around for the seam (I cut mine 13 inches by 10 inches)
  • This step is optional but cut a panel the same shape as the main fabric from interfacing. Then sew right sides together all the way around.

DIY makeover mei tai infantino raindrops seattle umbrella hood babywearing

  • Make a small snip in the interfacing only, and then turn the panel right sides out and give a good press. This is just one of my tricks for making a nice seamed edge. Not necessary – you could just fold and press under a half inch. The interfacing addition would also help hid the print behind if your main panel fabric is lighter.

DIY makeover mei tai infantino raindrops seattle umbrella hood babywearing

DIY makeover mei tai infantino raindrops seattle umbrella hood babywearing

  • Press, pin and sew the panel down over the top of the original panel. You could use a zig zag, straight stitch or a blanket or your choice. I used a small zig zag.

DIY makeover mei tai infantino raindrops seattle umbrella hood babywearing

  • At this step you could be all done. OR you can keep embellishing.
  • I decided to add a small contrasting pocket to the top of the main panel primarily to cover up the Infantino logo but it also add some design points. This pocket was 9 inches by 4 1/2 inches. I sewed the outline of raindrops in contrasting thread before sewing the pocket on.
  • For the hood, I sketched out a trapezoid of sorts with a rounded bottom edge. It was 10 inches at the top, to fit the space between the straps and about 11 inches long and 15 inches wide. I cut it from two fabrics (rain drops and a coordinate).

DIY makeover mei tai infantino raindrops seattle umbrella hood babywearing

  • At this stage, I traced and cut the shape of an umbrella on iron on interfacing, ironed it to the the solid blue fabric and then cut out around the interfacing about 3/8 of an inch. You then would press this under, leaving a clean edge when the right side is out. I sewed it down with a hand stitch (whip) but you could machine it down etc. There are several ways to appliqué – pick your favorite. The umbrella handle is embroidered on.
  • The small ties for the hood are made by cutting a 1 1/2 inch strip, pressing in half and then pressing the edge into the center and sewing it together close to the edge with a straight stitch. You could use ribbon too.
  • Stitch down with a couple stitches the ties to the right side of fabric along the rounded edge but the long length facing in (so that when you turn it all right sides out they are in the right corner.
  • Put the hood fabrics right sides together and sew all the way around, leaving a small opening on one of the edges so you can turn it right side out.
  • Turn right side out and press. Sew down the opening with a small straight stitch and then sew the hood to the top edge of mei tai.

DIY makeover mei tai infantino raindrops seattle umbrella hood babywearing

Again, apologies for whimping out on document all the steps. I really made it up as I went along. Evidence of this below – a not useful shot of notebook.  Hopefully, someone finds this inspiring. I put a few other links that might be helpful for you below.


DIY makeover mei tai infantino raindrops seattle umbrella hood babywearing

Mei Tai Makeover Links

  • Dyeing the fabric of a lighter color carrier by Mama’s Felt Cafe
  • Make a slipcover for whole carrier
  • All things mei tai (links to DIY group, swaps, how to wear etc) curated by Girl of Cardigan
  • Awesome tutorial for the whole carrier with padded hood/headrest

Acorn Squash and Apricot Pie – Move over Pumpkin!


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This is a play on pumpkin pie baked with what was on hand but now I am head over heals and not turning back. Besides, acorn squash are easier to find that sugar pie pumpkins and it is fun to search your taste buds for that subtle difference. The spices still resemble pumpkin pie so the untrained may not even notice. I used dried apricots but they could probably be omitted all together if you didn’t have on hand. I just happened to have a lot that needed consuming. Next time I might macerate them in bourbon before whirling into the filling. This recipe is a mishmash of Martha Stewart’s version, one from and my taste buds. :)

acorn squash and apricot pie recipe pumpkin fall spice easy

Feel free to make the pie crust from scratch using your favorite recipe. I just don’t enjoy making crust and found a great premade frozen one from a local bakery.


  • One 3pound acorn squash
  • 4 eggs, if super large eggs, just use 3
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar (or granulated)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 pie crust


  • Prep the acorn squash. You could cut in half, remove the seeds and guts in the middle and roast at 425 for 20 minutes or so until soft enough to scoop out. Or cut it up into large chunks and steam for 20 minutes and then scrape the flesh out. Either way, you need to precook it enough to be soft. If you have time, let the squash cool a bit. In a future step you add eggs and you don’t want to cook them! If you want to save the seeds , clean them and then roast them for 10 minutes so, they are a tasty treat.roasting seeds pie fall pumpkin
  • Place the dried apricots in the food processor or blender with milk and blend into a paste of some sorts
  • Add the prepped squash into a food processor and whirl it away until smooth. Let it blend for while to make it smooth.
  • Add the vanilla extract, sugar, spices, salt and keep blending. It should be getting nice and smooth.
  • Add the eggs, blend until mixed nicely.

corn squash apricot pumpkin pie batter recipe fall

  • Pour into the pie shell.  Fill the shell up almost to the top. This pie will puff up when baking (see photo) and then shrink back down.

fresh baked acorn squash pie

  • Bake in a 425 F oven for 40 minutes. It will probably not seem all the way done but it will keep cooking while cooling.
  • Serve with ice cream, whipped cream if you like.

This recipe makes more than one pie shell full (go figure) but it was just enough for a 9 inch pie and two small personal pies baked in glass pyrex bowls. For the ‘crust’ in these mini pies I just buttered the dish and put a layer of thin sliced apple on the bottom. They baked about 30 minutes, so a little faster than the full pie. [yes that is my ratty old green cutting board]

apple slices for pie

mini acorn squash pie extra filling

Do you have a favorite squash recipe to share?

Here are a few other of mine:

Dried Asian Pears with Curry and Cinnamon – Preserving the Harvest


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Last year I finally broke down and bought a food dehydrator after years of concern that it would be just another appliance taking up space. Granted it isn’t running 365, but when it is time to harvest fruit or there is a great sale at the market, my Nesco Snack Master Pro (amazon affiliate) becomes indispensable. I also found myself up to my eyebrows in jam and dehydrating offers another alternative to preserving food.

Someday I might be an “Excalibur” level dehydrator but after lots of research and polling the audiences, I settled on the Snackmaster. Besides, it is fun to say snackmaster and easy to add trays, clean and adjust heat setting.

For this recipe, I used crisp sweet Asian pears because that it what grows in my back yard, but any pear would do and I would venture to say that the curry and cinnamon and a little sugar would work on apples and bananas and other fruits. I like the sneaky subtle spice of the curry with the classic cinnamon. I use just a tiny bit of sugar but you could absolutely just skip that part and have it be plain fruit. Some people will so a quick swipe through some lemon water to help prevent browning but it doesn’t bother me (and seems to be minimal), the cinnamon hides it and it adds another step.

Dried Asian Pears with Curry and Cinnamon spice

Dried Asian Pears with Curry and Cinnamon

Ingredients: Ground cinnamon, granulated sugar and Madras curry powder (I like sun brand)

I don’t measure anything but mix together maybe a tablespoon of sugar with a lot of cinnamon (3 teaspoons? more?). This made enough for two full Snackmaster loads of pears. I put the curry on separately, for no good reason, other than trying to keep it really light.

Pear preparation: Wash, dry and you can peel them if you like. I usually leave it on but Asian pear peels can sometime ‘russet’ or get thicker and in that case I peel off part of it. Now you can cut in half and scoop out the core with a melon baller, and slice into thin wedges or slices, even leave the stem on for decoration if you like. This year I sliced horizontally, sometimes leaving the core in (removing seeds) and other times i cut it out, especially if it felt tougher.

Layer the fruit into dehydrator. Sprinkle on curry powder and then cinnamon sugar. I only put it on one side, and it leaves more than enough flavor. you could also dip the slices in the spice mix and then place on trays.

How think you slice the fruit determine the drying time. I aim for a scant 1/4 inch, closer to an eighth but my knife skills are amateur and I was too lazy to get the mandolin out. Turn on your dehydrator, about 135F for 8-12 hours. Once dried appropriately let cool and then store in a zip lock, glass jar, food saver or just eat them right away. They are a health snack, good in oatmeal or baked into cookies.

Bonus! Your house will smell like pear pie, fall and hugs. Yay!

Dried Asian Pears with Curry and Cinnamon
dehydator action shot

Other dehydrator ideas

Some of my other Asian Pear Ideas


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