The tradition of Advent means different things for different people. For some, an advent calendar is just a countdown to Christmas and there is nothing wrong with that, but for me Advent is much more. This is the time of year time when Lutheran Christians excitedly await the arrival of the Christ Child on Christmas morning. In addition, Advent is the beginning of our liturgical year (the church calendar). Since we now have a daughter, it feels like time to upgrade the cheap-o snowman themed countdown calendar Jacob and I have used for a decade in favor of something more.
December 1st is fast upon us so I turned to the only place a person in this situation can turn: the Internet. Specifically, Pinterest. In my search, I found several types of advent calendars from super simple to over-the-top. I prefer the simple crafty calendars made with natural or recyclable materials. I was particularly fond of those designed for re-use year after year. I love the sustainable aspect of that, but, even more so, I love the element of tradition that exists in bringing out the family advent calendar each year.
Here are a few of my favorites organized by material type:
Can I tell you a secret? I love holiday decor. But, I hate that so much of it is limited to use around one specific holiday. It seems crazy that we make and collect all of these lovely, festive bits only to have them on display for a few short weeks each year.
This year as I’ve added to my holiday stash, I’ve been trying to follow a few simple rules. First, I’ve been looking for easy DIY pieces that can be used across a number of holidays or even year around. They also need to work with the style of our home, adding a hint of holiday cheer without the cheese factor. Finally, I’ve tried to avoid buying pieces that were similar to something I already own. If I do buy to replace, I donate the old items.
I’ve been scouring Pinterest for weeks and have found some really lovely DIY projects that I wanted to share with you. Hopefully I’ll be able to squeeze in a few of these projects before Thanksgiving!
In the past few years, an increased demand for vintage has left prices up and inventory down. It’s harder to find that diamond in the rough. So, when I found this chair for less than twenty dollars, I was excited. It reminded me of the Circle Chair designed by Tony Paul.
The chair was in rough shape, the seat had been poorly recovered, one of the legs was missing a cap and the paint was chippy. When you find a piece of vintage furniture with great bones, be sure to consider the added cost of materials if you plan to give it a makeover. This can quickly drive up the price. With some vintage inspired fabric and a poppy paint color, I knew that it would be a cheap and easy refresh.
I searched Etsy for weeks looking for the perfect fabric but came up empty- handed. With all of it’s thousands of listings, the site can provide too many options making it hard for me to choose. (Am I the only one with this problem?!) I’d been searching for something in vinyl or oilcloth so that it would be durable. Thank goodness for my crafting stash; I found the perfect fabric buried in a pile of fabrics I’d purchased for my art space makeover.
I prepped the chair for paint by removing the seat and wiping it with a wet rag to remove years of dirt and debris. Next, I used a piece of steel wool to roughen up the surface and remove the shine. I sprayed the chair in Oatlands Daisy from Valspar’s Color Radiance line.
Next, I removed the black vinyl seat cover and used the remnant as a template to cut the new seat cover. I covered the seat with the new fabric and secured it with staples. The new fabric that I’d selected was a simple cotton quilting fabric, for added durability I chose to cover it with a layer of clear gloss vinyl. Finally, I let the paint cure overnight and reattached the seat cover.
I’m in love with my new chair! I spent less than twenty dollars on materials and put in about two hours worth of work. It just goes to show that with patience, a little digging and the willingness to invest some elbow grease you can still get great vintage at a great price!
While we each have our own interests, hobbies and obsessions, like many of you, The Wilderness Girls all love Pinterest…a lot. We use the site in so many different ways, from collecting images to sharing sites we love. Last December, to celebrate the holidays, we got together for brunch and an afternoon of crafting. We each worked on a project inspired by a craft that we’d pinned. We’ve even used the site to plan our annual Fall Foliage trip, pinning cabin options, recipes to try and info on hiking trails to check out.
To celebrate Halloween, we wanted to do another Pinterest challenge; each girl was tasked with finding a pin to inspire a craft that fit our theme. What was the theme you ask? Sugar skulls. If you’ve scoured Halloween themed pins lately, you’ve probably noticed they’re everywhere; and we’re smitten. We love the intricate patterns, rainbow of colors and that no two are alike.
Christie’s sugar skull craft was inspired by this pin.
From Christie: “I went crazy with Dia de los Muertos this year and I recruited Scott, my sister and a friend to help paint a variety of skulls for an alter. When I saw the pins for sugar cube skulls, I knew it would be the perfect compliment to a painting party. By buying a cheap skeleton candy mold, you can create your own skull and bone cubes with flavors for champagne cocktails.”
Christina loved that her sugar skull craft, inspired by this pin could be used outdoors.
From Christina: “As I was scouring Pinterest for a sugar skull themed craft, I was looking for something that I wouldn’t have to put away with my Halloween decorations. I love the folk art decor that surrounds the Dia de los Muertos holiday and was looking for something that could be on display all year long. I like to have lots of plants around the house, so when I saw these sugar skull plant pots, I knew this was the perfect project for me. These pots add a pop of color to the room and bring a smile to my face!”
Jenny loved that this pin used puff paint to create an intricate design.
From Jenny: “Being the least crafty of our incredibly talented group of Wilderness Girls, I wanted to pick a medium that I knew would be relatively easy to work with, so flashing back to my childhood in the 80s, puffy paint was a natural choice. It’s fun, gives great texture, dries within four hours, and is easy to control. For those of you with kids, this would be a perfect craft for a Halloween party.”
Rachael created a funky broach using this pin as inspiration.
From Rachael: “As a native Midwesterner I had celebrated All Souls Day in church but I had never seen the observance of Dia de los Muertos. What color, fanfare and celebration! When I saw I knew I had to have one of my own. It took some time to plan out the design – it certainly wasn’t as easy as I expected – but I love the results and can’t wait to sport my new Day of the Dead broach.”
Need more inspiration? Check out these awesome sugar skull DIY projects:
How do you use Pinterest? Have you ever gotten together with your pals for a Pinterest challenge? So many people complain that the site has made it harder to get crafty. We think this is a great way to get together with friends and actually use an image or tutorial you’ve pinned to create something amazing.
Don’t forget to follow the Wilderness Girls on Pinterest!
As discussed in my previous post, finding Halloween costumes as a woman is challenging. So, instead of buying something that is premade, I usually hit up thrift shops and discount stores to create my own costume. You can read all my tips on how to get started, as well as the first two of my four costume boards, by clicking the link above.
Below are my final two costume boards and shopping lists. This time we cover two more female icons, one for style (Audrey Hepburn’s Holly Golightly from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”) and one for aviation (Amelia Earhart).
1. LBD (Little Black Dress) (you will never be able to replicate Holly’s exactly, so just buy a LBD that makes you feel like a million bucks) 2. False eyelashes (her make-up wasn’t bold but she had amazing lashes, so do falsies if you can, and if not, use a bold mascara) 3. Pink lipstick (for this item and the eyelashes, stop by your local drug store or dollar store to purchase these) 4. Black sunglasses 5. Black evening gloves 6. Black heels (just like the LBD, find a pair that’s comfortable, no need to find an exact replica of Holly’s shoes) 7. Multi-stranded pearl necklace 8. Mini-tiara (you may have to head online for this one) 9. (not pictured) If you want to get fully into character, grab a croissant and coffee, and head to your local Tiffany’s.
1. Brown leather or canvas jacket (just find a brown, or even black, jacket that has a similar style to an aviator jacket) 2. Khaki pants 3. Brown knee-high boots 4. Goggles (if you can’t find them thrifting, try a motorcycle shop) 5. Brown trapper hat (if you can’t find it thrifting, try a sporting goods/hunting store) 6. White t-shirt 7. Cream/White/Tan scarf
Have you ever put together your own costume before? Or are you going to this year? Share your ideas and success stories below (and share your pictures with us via Facebook or Instagram (tag them with #thewildernessgirls) if you have them).
Rob and I hosted the other Wilderness Couples for a party at our house over the weekend. We’ve lived in this house for just over a year and put off hosting friends until we had the main living areas finished. Together, we’ve worked really hard over the last couple of months, crossing lots of to-dos off of our list and decided it was time to break-in the place. We thought it would be fun to host friends for a pumpkin carving party.
I was really excited to decorate the house for the party. I was inspired by the bright colors and folk art of Dia de Los Muertos. We filled the house with tiny pumpkins, candles, brightly colored flowers, feathers, doilies and of course lots sugar skulls.
We built an ofrenda using a vintage leather suitcase, thrifted fabric and tea light candles. In our invitation, we asked friends to bring photos of lost loved ones and fruit, which is a traditional offering. Everyone brought something to add to the shrine. As they placed the photos among the fruit and candles, they shared memories of their lost loved ones. Rachael even brought strawberries, her grandmother’s favorite.
We served baked chicken taquitos with a creamy cilantro lime dipping sauce, a chopped green salad with avocado, roasted red peppers, corn and pepitas, spicy popcorn and chips with spicy queso blanco. For dessert, there were Mexican hot chocolate donuts, sugar cookies and lots of candy. Rob & I stocked our bar cart ahead of time so that guests could mix their own cocktails or use the recipe we featured on a chalkboard to concoct our drink of the night — an Apple Cider Margarita.
Outside on our patio, the set-up was simple. We wrapped our new table in craft paper and set out pumpkins, carving tools and bowls (to collect sticky pumpkin guts). All of us ate, drank cocktails and carved pumpkins into the wee hours of the night. It was bliss.
I’m so happy our first party in this house was a success. We love our home and feel really lucky to live here. It doesn’t hurt that we have such great friends either.
As a woman, it’s tough to find a premade Halloween costume that isn’t too revealing, cheaply made, or completely uncomfortable. Because of this, the last couple of years, I have ventured to thrift shops and discount stores to get inspired, and create my own costumes. The quality of what you get is infinitely better than what costume companies make, and you usually end up with a more unique costume since you have to think “outside the box” and work with what you can find.
Last year I was obsessed with Honey Boo Boo. The moment the first show aired, I knew that I had to be her for Halloween. So, I hit up Last Chance and got a designer pink bridesmaid dress for $15, and then rounded out that find with online orders of white Mary Jane shoes, a tiara, a sash, and my very own version of her pig Glitzy. It was epic (and super comfortable).
So, by now you have to be thinking “Jenny, how do I get started?” The key to a successful thrift shop Halloween costume is planning. Here are my tips on what you should do before you head out to the stores:
* Brainstorm characters that you would like to be for Halloween, and narrow down to 2 or 3 finalists. The reason you want to have 2 or 3 is that you may find that the first character you select is hard to find elements for, so it’s always good to have a back-up plan.
* Once you have selected your characters, make a full list of all the items you would need to purchase in order to make the costume.
* Review the list and cross off any items you might already have in your home or wardrobe.
You now have your shopping list.
When you are ready to start hitting up the thrift shops, plan a whole day, if possible, for your outing. Before you head out, map your nearest thrift stores and plan your route. Most likely you will have to travel to more than one shop to complete your list. And if all else fails, hit up the internet for those final pieces that are alluding you.
While you are shopping, be flexible. When I dressed as Margot Tenenbaum, I was really struggling with finding something to use for her signature brown fur coat. I ended up having to use a brown knit sweater coat. Was it ideal? No. Did it work? Absolutely. Iconic characters are a combination of certain elements, and so as long as those elements are similar, or provide the color/style impact, you don’t have to find exact replicas, and in fact, almost 100% of the time, you won’t.
Need some ideas to get started? I’ve got you covered! Below are costume element boards for two of my favorite female icons, Rosie the Riveter and Frida Kahlo. Below each image is a shopping list for each costume.
1. Navy blue button-down short-sleeve shirt with collar (women’s or men’s version would work) 2. Blue jeans 3. Red & white polka dot bandana (a regular red bandana would work well too) 4. Black combat boots or Mary Janes 5. Red lipstick (hit up a drug store or your local dollar store for this item)
1. Mexican embroidered dress (if you can’t find this, you could always do a bright floral dress, or go more casual and find an embroidered shirt and wear jeans) 2. Sandals 3. Bright artificial flowers for your hair 4. Black shawl 5. Red lipstick (hit up a drug store or your local dollar store for this item) 6. Large beaded/colorful earrings (you could also do plain gold earrings, just go big!) 7. Gold chain knotted necklace
In a future post, I will provide you with two more costume boards and shopping lists, so check back in, and happy thrifting!
One of my favorite memories from last year’s fall foliage trip was roasting marshmallows under the stars. We’d packed the fixings to make a traditional s’more — marshmallows, chocolate bars and graham crackers.
This year, our accommodations were a tad less rustic, with no fire pit for a campfire. We did have a huge fireplace though, which called for a s’mores upgrade. I’ve always wanted to put together a s’mores bar and this was the perfect opportunity.
I packed a variety of chocolate bars, marshmallows and sweet crackers. All of the chocolate bars came from World Market, they have a great selection with lots of unique flavors. It was really hard to choose! After pacing the aisles for a while, I landed on salted caramel milk chocolate, candied ginger and orange zest dark chocolate, Lindt milk chocolate, coconut dark chocolate and raspberry cream dark chocolate. I also picked up organic graham crackers, butter biscuits and vanilla, strawberry & toasted coconut marshmallows.
We had so much fun trying different combinations. Over the evening we each found a favorite flavor combo and took turns preparing our signature s’more for the other girls.
Here are our favorites:
I think this would be a really fun dessert bar for a party; your guests will have a blast getting creative and testing different combinations. Feature the recipe for a few signature s’mores on a chalkboard and set out small takeout boxes so that guests can take home the ingredients of their favorite.
Have you ever put together a s’mores bar before? Are you a s’mores purist? Be sure to tell us below in the comments!
Craving more fall foliage photos? Check out our photostream on Flickr.
I’m really excited to show you my art space today. It’s been a labor of love. The room had become a dumping ground for homeless furniture, vintage finds and too many art supplies. It took me about a month to clear out, purge and organize. Then I went to work making the space my own. I’m sure it will always be a work in progress, just like the things I create there. But, for now I’m in love with it. This space is my new favorite spot in our home.
I’m using the Edland dressing table as a desk that was a final markdown find from IKEA. The lamp is vintage; I topped it with a shade found at Target. The little white owl planter is from Joann’s. The scarf and embroidery hoop are local estate sale finds. I made the dream catchers hanging on the wall using doilies that belonged to my great-grandmother.
Originally I had planned to hang a gallery wall over my desk. But, I decided that I wanted something a little more organic with pieces that would be easy to change out every so often. The print in the middle is actually Rob’s birth certificate backed by a piece of scrapbook paper; the painting and the photo print were both done by yours truly.
The sewing table belonged to my Nanny and was passed on to me by my aunt. I also have her pinking shears and lots of unused patterns she collected over the years. I hope to share them with you in a future post.
The little sitting area showcases my favorite vintage chair; who doesn’t love crushed velvet? The basket and pillow are Home Goods finds. The shelves above display lots of my favorite things; a Crosley record player, which was a gift from my Mom, one of my favorite Neil Young records and a few owls from my collection (there are many more). I really love that Rob has a place to hang out while I work and our dogs love to lounge around in here too.
I already had the tabletop that I’m using as a cutting table; the Nipen legs are a recent addition, I love the pop of color they add. The utility cart is also an IKEA find and the notions box belonged to my Nanny. The tchotchkes lining the windowsill are vintage finds. One of my favorite pieces in this room is the pink lady portrait; it’s a print of a painting my dear friend Jan created when she was in middle school.
This room is pretty tiny, so I decided to take off the closet doors. After living with it this way for a couple of months, I know it was the right decision. It’s much easier to locate supplies and remove the tubs that store my tools and various crafty bits.
I wanted to create a spot where I could curate all my little bits of inspiration and corral my reference books, clipping binders and journals. The bookcase is vintage, eventually I’d like to paint it white and sew a fabric curtain to conceal the shelves. The ceramic deer is a new addition; I picked it up from one of my favorite antique malls for a couple dollars. I purchased the clay bowl in Mexico; it’s filled with little mementos that remind me of happy times. I bought a few mini clipboards and painted them a minty green color using sample paint that I had purchased for a different room. I hung the mini clipboards over a bulletin board; it’s still pretty empty, but I’ve slowly started to add fabric samples, quotes and photos of my favorite people.
The wood shim wall border (inspired by this post) turned out to be way more work than I originally anticipated. Don’t expect a DIY just yet; I sort of made it up as I went along (with a couple temper tantrums and lots of help from Rob). The border evolved over a couple of weeks because I couldn’t seem to recreate the image I had in my mind on the first try. I’m really happy with it now, but I think there is an easier way to do it. I’ll put a DIY post together once I figure it out.
I’m a very sentimental gal, some might call me a stage-five packrat. Over the last few years I’ve worked hard to purge the excess and only keep the things I love most. This room is filled with all of those things, lovely and unique images and objects that inspire me to create.
A quick visit to Pinterest and it is easy to see that mason jars are a household essential. Of all the crafty applications out there I was most excited to try chalkboard paint labels on a few jars. As I mentioned in a previous post, you can get great deals when you buy bulk food but the lack of packaging can lead to a tangled heap of plastic bags in the pantry. Storing dry goods in jars keeps everything neat and tidy and the clear container helps you remember what you have so you don’t double buy or let things go to waste.
Today I have two quick and easy tutorials for you: chalkboard jars and chalkboard lids. The jars are great for labeling even when you don’t need a lid. I use one for small craft supplies that I don’t want to misplace like my x-acto knife, glue stick and scissors. The chalkboard lids are a great way to re-use lids that have already sealed a jar. They won’t seal again but they remain airtight and with a coat (or three) of chalkboard paint you turn a single-use item into a multi-use item.
Here’s what you will need: Mason jars, quart size Flat jar lids & rings, preferably used Chalkboard paint (I used Transform Mason chalkboard paint by Ball) Paint brush Paint palette (I prefer a clean yogurt cup rescued from the recycle bin) Scotch Blue painter’s tape, 1 7/8” wide Chalk
Every jar has a smooth side, a logo side and a side seam where the two halves were fused together. Naturally you will paint the smooth side of the jar but getting a perfectly even, consistently sized place to paint isn’t as easy as it looks. The best way to get even paint lines every time is to line up your tape with the side seam. From there, move on to the top of the jar. This is the trickiest part because there is a big difference between the jar and the neck, however creating a piece of painter’s tape one and a half times the width of your side seam tape and measuring up from the countertop will put your paint line in the perfect spot. Finally measuring from the counter top and applying 1 width of tape to the bottom gives you a perfect square to work with.
Apply chalkboard paint in thin, even coats allowing to dry for a few minutes between applications. After the third coat allow at least one hour drying time before you write on it with chalk. The first coat goes on very thin and the glass shows through — I thought perhaps there was a problem but after I applied the second coat it evened out nicely. When the paint is completely dry you may hand wash or use the dishwasher top rack. Avoid direct contact with the food in painted areas. Although the manufacturer doesn’t specifically call it out, I do not recommend using these for water bath canning. Once you chalkboard paint a jar it is best to reserve it for dry goods only.
Making chalkboard lids is even easier than making jars. For this all you need to do is paint a used flat jar lid with three even coats of chalkboard paint and as with the jars allow at least one hour drying time after you apply the third coat. The advantage to painting used lids instead of jars is that you would still be able to use the jars in water bath canning with new lids. If you have a limited number of jars or need to keep them in the canning rotation, chalkboard lids might be the right choice for you.
If you try this project please let us know. What other mason jar or chalkboard paint projects have you done? Share your tips, tricks and ideas here.