Celebrate Advent with a Jesse Tree Tradition!

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Friday, November 28, 2014

ACTIVITY: Wooden Holy Family

DIY Holy Family Nativity Craft Project - Easy to Make at HomeSometimes, a scrap of wood is so much more than just a scrap. Our back yard has a ton of scrap wood - with a general contractor for a husband (and a great one at that), pieces of 2x2, 2x4, and 4x4 wood fill bins on the side of our house. It's a bit of a wood graveyard and, while the scraps come in great as kindling in our fire pit, I was so excited to come up with a fun way to use some of those 2x2s in the creation of our new Holy Family! I really wanted a rustic, abstract look, so I didn't sand the wood, used rough burlap over soft fabric, and didn't paint the wooden knobs (heads). Love the way they turned out! 

This Nativity scene works wonderful for Advent with its simple reminder of what's to come...and it makes an even better gift. Cut a few extra pieces of wood, and use the extra burlap, twine, and knobs for a no-cost present - it will be one your friends and family will love!



  1. Prep the materials as noted in the list above
  2. Paint each of the 2x2 pieces: Joseph in tan, Mary in blue, and Baby Jesus in gray
  3. Wait for the paint to dry. Fun stuff, I know. 
  4. JOSEPH: stand the "body" of Joseph up. Glue the largest knob onto the top, right in the center. Tie the twine around the center, where his waist would be. 
  5. MARY: stand the "body" of Mary up. Glue the medium knob onto the top, right in the center. Wrap the blue burlap around her like a cloak. I found it easiest to do this by first folding the burlap in half, and laying it over her head, then sliding it back just a bit and tying it off. Play around until it lays the way you like. Tie the twine towards the top...think  A-line dress here. 
  6. JESUS: stand the "body" of Baby Jesus up. Glue the smallest knob onto the top, towards the front of the body. Wrap the brown burlap around Baby Jesus, again centering it at the top and adjusting it until you find a position you like. Tie the twine around the center. 
  7. Enjoy your beautiful and unique nativity! 

ACTIVITY: Jesse Tree: Jesse the Shepherd, Son of Obed

Felt Jesse Tree - Jesse, the Shepherd

14th Day of Advent: Jesse (son of Obed) the Shepherd

1 Samuel 16: 1-13

Click here to return to the main Jesse Tree page.


"Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these."”" (1 Samuel 16:10) 

*You may be wondering how this fits into the sheep, right? Fair question. I wanted to show Jesse as the main focal point, so - as he is a shepherd - I made the sheep. Below Jesse are eight red and one yellow. The seven red are Jesse's seven sons, who were not chosen. The eight flower, the yellow, is David. 


  • SHEEP: first, cut out a white puffy cloud piece to be the sheep's body from the white (or cream if you prefer). Then, make a head using the same felt - it's basically an oval with two cute little ears sticking out on the sides. Trim out four small squares from the tan for the feet. Arrange them on the green felt, and sew them down in this order: feet, body of sheep, head of sheep.
  • SHEEP DETAIL: for the face, I made three french knots: two in black for the eyes, and one in pink for the nose. I also used a small straight stitch indicating the mouth just below the nose. 
  • FLOWERS: have to share a story here. The first time I made this, I used brown and not red for the flowers. Hubby wanted to know why I made "sheep poop" on the ornament. Boys. Out came the brown french knots and in went the red ones. For your purposes, use whatever colors you want for your flower combo - just be sure to make seven of one color and one of another. Tip: avoid brown. 
  • BACKGROUND: now that all your pieces are sewed down onto the green felt, cut a shape out of the green. Mine's kind of like a rectangle, but curves in a bit. Just didn't want a plain shape is all. 
  • ATTACHING FRONT TO BACK: Lay the felt piece you've been working with on top of the remaining green felt, and cut out a second same-size green shape. Blanket stitch the two pieces together. Also, be sure to add some stuffing just before you sew it all up!

Monday, November 24, 2014

ACTIVITY: David and Goliath: Jesse Tree

Jesse Tree Felt David Goliath Slingshot

15th Day of Advent: David (son of Jesse) and Goliath

1 Samuel 16: 1-13. 1 Samuel 17

Click here to return to the main Jesse Tree page.


"Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.”" (1 Samuel 17: 40) 


  • JESSE'S SLINGSHOT: first, create a "Y" shaped slingshot on the tan. NOTE: the Bible says it's a sling David used, and not a slingshot. I went for the more recognizable slingshot...your call on what shape you want to use. 
  • STONES: cut out five stones from the gray felt. Make them different sizes, and not perfect circles (remember, they're rocks). The Bible mentions five stones, so be sure to include all of them :)
  • BACKGROUND: place the "Y" on the blue felt, and arrange the stones. Sew the "Y" down in a matching tan thread, and the stones down in matching gray thread. Once secured, cut a rectangle out around the shape. 
  • JESSE'S SLINGSHOT (Part 2): next, thread your needle with the black thread. Make a french knot near the top of the "Y". Then, coming in from the back, pull the thread through the knot (or right near it if you're knot is too thick to get the needle through). Insert the needle back through the top of the other "Y", leaving it slack so you can get the "sling" effect. Make a french knot on the second side. 
  • ATTACHING FRONT TO BACK: Lay the felt piece you've been working with on top of the remaining blue felt, and cut out a second same-size blue rectangle. Blanket stitch the two pieces together. Also, be sure to add some stuffing just before you sew it all up!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

ACTIVITY: Quilted Advent Placemats & Table Runner - Decorating for Advent

celebrating advent decorating table runner placemats
Like many of you, we're really trying - each year - to hold off Christmas until Christmas and celebrate the season of Advent. A component of celebrating, for us, is in the way we decorate our home. We're fortunate to have the ability to sit down to dinner each night together (notice I said sit down...actually eating with a three year old - and getting him to eat - is a whole other matter), and it's something we don't take for granted. 

celebrating advent decorating table runner placematsAs the kitchen table is such a part of our family, we wanted it to serve as a reminder that we were celebrating Advent. Somehow, having our Advent Wreath on a "Merry Christmas!" table runner just didn't cut it. to Joann Fabrics! Wandering the aisles here, dreaming up projects, is seriously therapeutic, no? 

I wasn't exactly sure what I wanted to make, but that's sometimes half the fun! I found some great purple- and rose-toned tie-dye fabric which matched the colors of our Advent candles. The colors were too bold side-by-side, though, but a few aisles over was this great purple/rose ombre sparkley tulle, which worked great as an overlay. Love the way they turned out! The size of the purple and rose in the placemats is actually in quarters, just like the four candles of the Advent wreath. The first section of purple is equivalent to two purple candles, the next section is equivalent to one rose candle, and the final section is equivalent to one purple candle. It's subtle, but ties in nicely with the four weeks of Advent. 

celebrating advent decorating table runner placemats
I'm a horrible photographer, so no matter how many photos I took (seriously, like 30), none seem to really capture how nice they look with the top sparkle tulle layer. If any of my local friends want to offer up their photography skills...well, my placemats and I would be grateful. 

You'll end up with a bit of extra fabric, which you can use to create a mat for your Jesse Tree! Now if only blue and yellow were liturgical colors...

  • 2.5 yards of purple fabric
  • 1 yard of pink fabric 
  • 1.5 yards of tulle/overlay fabric
  • purple and pink thread
  • fusible web for applique
  • fusible batting (or regular if you prefer)
  • really good scissors!
  • iron  & ironing board


*be sure to check out some of the great YouTube videos on quilting. I'm mostly friend- and self-taught, so these instructions aren't nearly as good as a real quilter would write them.
  • First, wash the fabric. This way, any shrinkage or fading won't impact your final product. This is totally a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do as I didn't wash mine. Hey, I was just too excited to start the project! :)  Then, iron everything!
  • Second, measure and cut out all the fabric. Here are the dimensions I used - the dimensions take into account a 1/2" allowance at the edge of each piece. 
    • Runner: 35" x 15" (final product: 34" x 14")
      • Top Panel:
        • 1 purple rectangle: 35" x 8"
        • 1 rose rectangle: 35" x 4.5"
        • 1 purple rectangle: 35" x 4.5"
      • Bottom Panel:
        • 1 purple rectangle 35" x 15"
    • Placemats: 
      • Top Panel:
        • 1 purple rectangle: 10" x 14"
        • 1 rose rectangle: 5.5" x 14"
        • 1 purple rectangle: 5.5" x 14"
      • Bottom Panel:
        • 1 purple rectangle 18" x 14"
  • TOP PANEL: Stitch the top-panel rose and purple fabrics together, pressing the seams as you finish. Then, stitch the tulle down on the right-side of the top-panel about 1/4" from the edge. <--this is just to hold it down for when you apply the applique.
  • APPLIQUE: print out the words: Faith, Peace, Hope, Joy, and Love on your computer. I used MS Word, made the letters about 2" tall. Select a font that you like. Bold the letters, and print. You'll want them to be nice and thick. Once you print them out, trace them onto your fusible web...follow the instructions specific to your webbing. Basically, you're getting the letters transferred onto the pink fabric. Again, follow the transfer instructions on your webbing. Once you have the letters transferred to the pink fabric and cut out, iron them down on the right side of the top panel directly onto the tulle. I did throw a towel down and press the towel as opposed to putting the iron right on the tulle, as it would probably burn. Using a zig-zag stitch, sew the letters down through the two layers of material. 
  • BOTTOM PANEL: fuse the bottom panel to the batting and cut out - or, just cut out the batting if your batting isn't fusible. Lay the bottom-panel right-side down on top of the right-side of the top panel (they face in to each other). Stitch around the edge at 1/2", leaving approx 4" open so you can turn it right-side out. Once you've finished stitching and turned it inside out, handstitch it closed. 
  • Iron, and enjoy!

Friday, November 14, 2014

ACTIVITY: Succulent Mini Pumpkin Table Decoration

Mini Pumpkin Succulents: Great idea for table decoration or gift!Wanted to share this adorable gift we received from a friend for Halloween/Thanksgiving. A fan of succulents, she is always cultivating, clipping, and sharing the succulents she grows in her garden. As a gift for us for the Halloween/Thanksgiving season, she made a lovely table decoration out of a miniature pumpkin, peat moss, and succulent clippings. This is definitely one to remember as it's a great (and easy) gift to make for friends and family this fall. Best of all, the succulents - after the holidays - can be transplanted into the garden and enjoyed for many years to come!

HOW TO MAKE: using a glue gun, glue peat moss down onto the top of a pumpkin. Then, add glue to the outside of the clipping's stem (not the exposed part of the cut stem) and attach into the peat moss. Water each week or as needed. Best part: after Thanksgiving, stick the succulents into the soil and they'll root, turning into a gift you can enjoy year round!

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Finding Your Gift in a Pile of Leftovers

Blame it on the fussy toddler, or hormones, or the flip-flop that had ripped just as I stepped out of the car. Blame it on whatever you want, but last night - at our women's ministry - I was THAT girl. The one who starts off sharing, answering a question, and - somewhere between the second and third breath - loses all sense and can barely finish the answer between the tears and nose blows. I actually woke up this morning and had that post-frat party hangover feeling (sans alcohol), thinking...please, let that have been a dream. Turns out, it wasn't - and maybe that's a good thing. 

We were on session three of Momnipotent, a wonderful study geared towards life as a mom today. I won't go into it here, but seriously, find one of these in your area or bring it to your parish if you can - it's so good and it's lead by the talented Danielle Bean with amazing guests (like Lisa Hendey). Last night's session was on the competition we women create for ourselves...of feeling like we're failing if our meals, house, friends, family, holiday decor, and style aren't Pinterest worthy. In a world that offers only highlight reels of others' lives, it's hard to remember that there are more than twice as many moments where these moms are down in the thick of it, just like you and me. As we were sitting in small group, we worked through the discussion questions - and then we came to IT. The question I thought I had a short, simple response to that ended up turning, for me, into so much more. "Are there times in your life where you feel inadequate? Who makes you feel that way?" Yes. Yes, yes yes - and the person who does that isn't my family, or my friends, or my neighbors. It's me. 

We all grow up with personal, individual experiences that make us who we are today. 

I was fresh out of Catholic school and new to the public system. My first day of school immediately put me in my place - I had no idea what to wear, where to go, what to do, or how to fit in. The outfit my mom helped me pick out, which I was so proud of wearing to my first day of school (out of a uniform), fell tragically short of what the other girls were wearing. The language the spoke was different - the bubble I had lived in felt like it popped. My bad perm, red glasses, and braces stood out in the wrong way. I felt so lost that first year, and the cruelty that others - just 13 years old as well - can verbally inflict on others is unimaginable. That first month, I found myself lost and on egg shells, constantly trying to find a way in. Instead, I found my way to a small lunch table at the back of the cafeteria.

There were four of us at the lunch table*. Kay, who came from a absent-father broken home; Liza, who barely spoke out of fear of others hearing her thick accent; Grace, who was sleeping (in 7th grade) with any older man she could as she sought to find her self worth by giving herself away; and me - someone who fit into none of these categories, yet felt just as outcast as they. I remember one afternoon, while watching the cool table sharing plans for the dance later that week, Grace snapped, "Jen, let it go. We'll never be like that. We're the leftovers." WHAM. There it was. I felt like she hit it on the head...she was right. We were the leftovers. We were the friends no one wanted to be friends with. We were the last to be picked at dodge-ball and the first to be pegged with the ball once it was game-on. We were the ones that bonded not over make-up and after school activities but over a shared sense of uncool. We found in each other a tenderness, understanding, and acceptance. 

Life changes, and people grow. I ended up finding a really wonderful friend in high school who - though I still manage to miss her birthday every year - still stands by my side and she probably has no idea how much I truly love and value her. I have several women now who are becoming an integral part of me and my family's life, and I enjoy spending time with them more than they'll ever know (and I hope to still be sitting with them, sharing a glass of wine, in forty years). But that feeling...that feeling of being the leftovers, the only-friends-until-something-better-comes-along, never completely goes away. It still shows up - I work to always be at all the social events we share for fear of being forgotten about if I'm not there. I worry when I leave a message that goes unreturned for fear they don't like me anymore. I don't ever want to be leftovers again. 

...and then I remember what a gift having been a leftover is. It's given me the chance to be a friend to people who had none (and them the chance to be mine). It's created this INTENSE need in me to make sure no one else ever feels like that - as a result, my husband and I are always having new parishioners/families over for dinner to make that connection with them and become a friendly face at Mass. It drives me to strike up small conversation and look into the eyes of total strangers, just in case no one else has stopped to talk with and smile at them that day. It leaves me writing lists from sign-in sheets at events I go to, making note of who is absent, and checking in with them later that night to make sure they're ok and let them know they've been missed. It inspires me to seek out the gifts in every single person I meet, because I know they have worth. It drove me to start a Moms group at our church, just in case there were other moms who were looking for other women out there to share this journey with (turns out there were over forty). It's given me this amazing ability to excel at individual sports - I've competed in countless bike, swim, run, and triathlon races. For the record, I still hate dodgeball. I have little issue speaking up or being silly...if I fail or look odd, well, I've developed a thick skin. We all have different experiences, and we are all broken...and that's where our faith steps in. We each have our own challenges, our own unique circumstances - and if we just ask, God will show us how to work with them. It's through my growing faith that I can see this gift as a gift and begin to shed the insecurities that come with it, keeping only the good. I'm thankful to have my gift...and I hope that you are thankful for your gift, too - whatever it may be. 


PS:  *totally not their real names


PPS: After the breakout group was over, and I had managed to pull myself together (drippy mascara and all), the session ended. So many beautiful amazing women came over and told me they had been/still are where I was. It amazed me, because most of these women are the most charming, confident people you'd ever imagine. Then, the Cool Girl came over. Come on, you know that even in your thirties and forties (and beyond, I'd imagine) there's still the cool girl. So she walks over to me, gives me an amazing hug, and tells me that is exactly how she feels. Wait, what? She shared HER challenges in finding intimate female friendships, of finding other women she can connect and share with on that deeper, more meaningful level, of difficulties in moving past that "we're more than acquaintances and perhaps even friends but I don't know if I can really call you if I'm going crazy and need someone to talk me off a ledge". For me, it was such a huge mental shift - here I was, seriously getting middle school jitters when she would say hi to me, and here she is sharing that she experiences the same struggles I do.

I am so blessed to have the beautiful women there as part of my friend family. I'm learning that a wrongly-perceived swimsuit or an ill-timed phone call doesn't mean they don't want to be friends. I'm thankful to know that they probably look past the thousand insecurities I have about myself - and perhaps don't even see them, just as I don't see anything in them except how amazing & inspirational they are. Seriously, ladies, you rock. I hope you know how much. 


PPSS: If you know someone who could use a hug, please share this with them. There's strength in numbers, ladies. Besides, I promise - I'll always be your friend. 


PPPSS: My head is a bit swollen right now...but since we're friends I'm sure you won't mind me sharing. Thanks for being cool like that. Had to share - the host of Momnipotent, Danielle Bean, and her guest host Lisa Headey (of shared this article! Truly, I'm humbled. And honored. Thank you.

Just for fun...this post links up at Catholic Carnival.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Saint Michael: Defender of Evil and...Halloween!

Catholic Halloween Saint Michael

Halloween is one of my favorite's one of those totally silly days that doesn't take itself too seriously. Grab a costume, have some chocolate, and enjoy the adorable costumes that come to your door. For my husband and I, Halloween has come a long way from our college days to now celebrating it with our toddler. As we try to live our Catholic faith in all that we do (and not "just" be church-on-Sunday-can't-get-out-of-the-parking-lot-fast-enough parents), we wanted to find a way to learn about our faith as part of this holiday.

Well, ask and you shall receive! A few days ago this post from Scott Richert on Catholics Celebrating Halloween. Pretty awesome. The article is great, as it talks about how "Halloween" is actually the contracted word from "All Hollows Eve", or All Saint's Day. I don't want to spoil the rest of the article, so check it out - turns out those ghosts and goblins have originis in the Catholic faith, too. I'll be honest, I truly had no idea!

The inspiration for today's project came from the last paragraph of the article - how we can say a prayer to St. Michael to watch out for us, and protect us from the goblins that lurk in dark corners on All Hollow's Eve. For our craft, we're making the Archangel St. Michael, complete with his helmet, sword, and shield - shielding off those scary things!


  • This one was super easy! On the back of the glittery paper, draw out a helmet (mine looks like a letter "C" with a bump in it), a sword, and a large shield. You want to make the shield large enough that it can hold a few scary stickers.
  • Cut out the shapes, glue them down on your angel.
  • Glue down google eyes (if using) - otherwise, draw the eyes along with the rest of the face. Add "St. Michael, Protect Us!" to the angel.
  • Stick the stickers onto the shield, and talk about how St. Michael battled evil a long time ago, and today he is still protecting us, using his sword and shield to keep evil away!
Check out all our Halloween projects!

Just for fun...this post links up at Arma DeiCBN