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Preparing for Advent and Christmas

Earlier this week, I gathered at a friend’s home with a group of ladies from my community to listen to our friend Margaret share her family’s Advent traditions.  I think this was my third time listening to Margaret give her Advent talk, and while the content doesn’t vary much from year to year, I still find listening to her speak to be the most invaluable way to get excited about Advent.  I’ve never met someone with more enthusiasm and contagious joy.  I always walk away feeling encouraged, and I daresay, ready!  I headed home that night in happy anticipation of the upcoming season, so ready to share it with my family again this year.

One piece of advice that Margaret always gives is to try to add no more than one new thing each year.  I don’t know about you, but if I try to add too many things, I end up doing far less and feeling like a failure.  I would also add that some years, you may only be able to do the bare minimum, subtracting traditions rather than adding them!  Last December, we had a new baby in our family, and we didn’t do as many things during Advent as we had in years past.  We still celebrated a very beautiful Advent and Christmas.  Of course I don’t know yet how this year’s Advent will go.  That new baby is a new walker now and he is keeping me busy, along with his brothers and sisters.

I do know that I will most likely spend some time clearing in the coming week: clearing surfaces and spaces, and clearing our schedule, as that seems to be the best way I know of preparing myself for Advent.

I try to gather some of our own Advent traditions here for you each year, and I would love it if you would share some of yours in the comments!

-We usually gather fresh greenery from the woods around our home to create an Advent wreath on the first day of Advent.  In year’s past I have ordered Advent candles here, though I came across another really nice option last week in this shop.

-Each year we choose a book or two that are meant to be read daily beginning on the first day of Advent, through Christmas day.  This year, my friend Ann sent me her beautiful new book centered on the tradition of the Jesse Tree, called Unwrapping the Greatest Gift:  A Family Celebration of Christmas, and I plan to read that to my children each day.  We have enjoyed celebrating the tradition of the Jesse Tree in recent years, and I am looking forward to sharing Ann’s heart with my family.  I received another beautiful gift this week, a Mary and Joseph Journey to Bethlehem set from Sue Dow, and we will use these gorgeous handmade figures, along with our Advent spiral, to count the days to Christmas.  I ordered our Advent spiral here, years ago.  I bought brass candle holders and beeswax candles to go with it.

-I will gradually bring out our children’s Advent and Christmas books beginning on the first day of Advent.  (Most of our favorites are in the Advent and Christmas reading list in my sidebar.)

-I love this book of meditations for Advent through Epiphany and plan to revisit it for my own personal reading throughout the season.

-We will celebrate St. Nicholas Day on December 6th with new wool socks, mandarin oranges, and a bit of chocolate placed in each child’s slippers.

-I will try to once again incorporate the O Antiphons into the week leading up to Christmas day.

-Some years I make a beeswax nativity.  You might bookmark that post to revisit early next fall if you want to make one, because this time of year you can’t always find the molds!  Beeswax ornaments are easy and fun to make as well!

-Here are some relatively simple Christmas crafts using felt and felted sweaters.

-Though I don’t always get the participation that I would like, I always set up a manger and jar of “straw” to fill for baby Jesus.

-Christmas for the animals is one of our favorite traditions.  In the past we have celebrated it on the 23rd of December, or more recently, on the day that I need the Christmas tree to leave our house.  I can’t live with it inside for as long as my kids can (our house is just too small to host a large tree for long), and it makes it easier on everyone if we go through the decorating process all over again once the tree is moved to the garden.  We decorate the second time with homemade bird feeders.

-Finally:  Last night I tried to choose an Advent calendar for this year.  My kids really look forward to a new one each year.  There are so many pretty ones!

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The girls helped me, and we ended up ordering this pop-up one: .


I would love to read what you are planning for this Advent and Christmas!


Drawstrings {giveaway}

Today’s giveaway is from Wanda, the seamstress behind Drawstrings!  You may also know Wanda from her blog, Re-inventing Mother.  She’s a regular on the Yarn Along as well!  Wanda created one of her drawstring bags for me a few weeks ago, and I must say it is the nicest knitting project bag that I own.  I reserve it for my most special projects.  While I love using mine to hold knitting projects, Drawstrings come in many sizes and have many different uses.  I’ll let Wanda introduce herself and tell you all about them!

My name is Wanda Styrsky.  I am the mother of four grown daughters and five beautiful grandchildren. Shortly after I married 35 years ago, my husband brought me “home” to Fort Worth, Texas and we have raised our family here .  I am a Registered Nurse and Certified Teacher.  Two years ago I was “involuntarily” retired.  Looking for a way to supplement the household account I turned to what I do best….create!

My oldest daughter and I constructed these drawstring bags years ago for our sock knitting.  They are very portable and it is fun to pick out the different fabrics.

Recently I was introduced through  the internet to a blogger, Elizabeth DeHority, who is seriously ill.  Even in her worst times she continues to serve others.  While she cares for her family and suffers through chemo, she knits socks for others and prays with each stitch she makes.  I decided I wanted to send her a bag.  When it arrived at her house, she was at that moment getting bad news from the Dr.  She messaged me that the bag had made a huge difference in how she had accepted the news and she was grateful.  Not to mention that for the first time, her knitting was not getting tangled in her purse zipper! She shared the bag on her blog and her Facebook page,  and people began asking me for bags!

Out of that gift, I received a gift.  Drawstrings was born!

Each bag is a custom order.  No two bags are alike.  I use the highest quality cotton for the bags and grosgrain ribbon for the ties.  If you do not see a bag on the Etsy site that suits you , contact me for a custom design.  I will work within your color palette and design to create a bag for you. I have begun posting just fabric combinations in addition to completed bags on the site. In order to keep your bag a truly custom design, I do not purchase large quantities of fabric.  Monogramming is also available at an additional charge.

1-IMG_4004 5-drawstrings1 We find different uses for our drawstring bags daily.  Of course knitting or any needlework fits in all sizes.  The large size has been used for ballet shoes and items for class.  One of my daughters uses the large size for shoes in suitcases when traveling.  I made medium size bags for two of my grandchildren that go to Bible Study  with me.  Carrying those large diaper bags was hard for this grandmother!  They loved having their names on each one. The laundry size is perfect for camp, toys in the car, quilts to store in the house or car.  The jewelry size is perfect for brides and attendants when created in wedding colors.   So as you see, the possibilities are endless.

Wanda is offering one winner a small Drawstrings bag.  The winner may discuss fabric preferences with Wanda in order to get the perfect custom bag.

For your chance to win, leave a comment on this post.  For an additional chance to win, “Like” Drawstrings on Facebook and leave a second comment letting me know you have done so.

In addition Wanda is offering  %15 off all orders through May 31st.  The coupon code is SMALLTHINGS24.

Comments are closed and the winner is Danna, who commented, “Those are the most BEAUTIFUL bags I’ve ever seen!!”
Thanks, Wanda!

project bags