Holiday Shopping Checklists {printables}

Well, it’s officially December. Time to get serious about Christmas shopping. We have T-minus 24 days and counting, peeps!

Mindy and I have so much in common. Shopping is my cardio, too!

Mindy and I have so much in common. Shopping is MY cardio, too!

I know it’s easy to get overwhelmed and over budget when you’re cruising through the mall or your favorite local shops. One helpful tip is to plan ahead. Sounds ridiculously simple, but it’s also easier said than done. It’s hard to walk past anything that’s more than 25% off. But if you want to respect your sanity, ask yourself, “Does anyone on my gift list really need that waffle iron?” If it’s a “no,” put down the box and step away from the deal.

The very best way to plan ahead is to make lists. I looooove making lists. So I created a couple of list templates to help make shopping easier. Consider it my little Christmas gift to you.

Gift PlannerThe first template is your planner. Think of it as your little personal shopper. You can write down all of the people you need to shop for, along with their clothing sizes, hobbies, favorite colors, etc. Once you map out your list, you can use this for your shopping. I put together a Sample Gift Planner so you can see how it looks filled out.

This template is available to download as a Word document* or PDF.

*Note: I created this on a Mac. If you’re on a PC, the formatting might need to be adjusted a bit. This version is great if you want to type directly into the document. You can email it to yourself and have it on your phone when you shop.

Shopping ListThe second template is more of a tracker. It’s a place to list your purchases and check off details, such as the cost, and if it’s been wrapped and delivered.

This is also available to download as a Word document or PDF.

I hope these are super helpful. Happy shopping and let me know how it goes out there. Remember to stay hydrated doing all that cardio.

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Five Ways to Countdown to Christmas

December1Monday will be December 1st. Whaa? Every year I have a grand master plan to make a lovely advent calendar filled with treats and inspirational sayings, and then December 1st swoops in like a thief in the night. A week or so into the month we usually pull out the same calendar from last year and move on.

Truth is, I adore advent calendars. It can be a beautiful and ceremonial way to prepare for Christmas. It forces you to stop each day, appreciate what you have, think about how you can serve others, and truly enjoy the season of giving. Who couldn’t use a little of that in his or her life?

So…this year, I plan to be prepped and ready. Note that today’s date is still November, and I have a weekend ahead of me. Joy to the world!

After “googling” on Pinterest, I created a top five list of DIY advent calendars. Now to decide which one to make?!

Five DIY Advent Calendars

{links to resources are included in the descriptions}

Advent Tins

Source: Makoodle

< 1 > I love these small tins. They’re perfect for an advent calendar since you can fill with small treats. Attach thin magnet stripping to the backs and display on your refrigerator or cookie sheet.

clothespin wreath

Source: Organized 31

< 2 > This is so pretty and creative. The base is an old 45 record, and it has painted clothespins glued around the edges. If you don’t have an old record lying around, try an embroidery hoop or a wooden plaque from your favorite craft store.

fabric advent calendar

Source: Bella Dia

< 3 > These embroidery hoops have two pieces of fabric stretched across and trimmed around the edges. See how the second piece of fabric is folded in half – forming a pocket? The grouping is then hung on a wall. So smarty pants.

< 4 > These paper sacks are stamped with a holiday design and clipped onto a thin, painted board. Looks so easy, yet pretty with these little white bags.

Picture frame wreath

Source: Kesi’art

< 5 > I was intrigued by this simple idea. The instructions are on a French blog, so bonus points if you can read along! If not, there are enough pictures to guide you. This project would be a nice option if you don’t have an entire wall to dedicate to your advent ritual. I’m thinking you could use a white picture frame for the base and attach a silver binder ring at the top. If you’re a crafty scrapper, you could have a lot of fun making pretty cards to flip through each day.

There you have it! Be sure to take pictures of your advent calendars and tag me on Instagram @Katejandersen.

I’m linking up with Five on Friday again today. It has been so fun meeting new people through this great group of bloggers: April, DarciChristina, and Natasha. #lovethemFiveonfridayBe sure to stop back by on Monday to download your Christmas Gift Planner. Let’s make this the most organized shopping season evah!

Much love and creative wishes, Kate

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving MessageHello, sweet friends. I hope you’re having the best Thanksgiving so far filled with scrumptious turkey and all the fixin’s. I know I am. Why is this not also National Yoga Pant day? Not that anyone is doing any actual exercising, though.YogaWhat will we be doing? Well, I thought it would be fun to share a few of our family traditions.

  • We always travel to Nebraska to visit the in-laws, as well as my sister KJ and her sweet family. So I get to partake in two Thanksgiving meals, making me one thankful girl.
    Nebraska...the good life

    The sign speaks truth.

  • If we don’t oversleep (because my amazing in-laws let Brandon and I sleep in while they hang out with the kids who wake up like roosters), we catch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I love the fanfare, the creativity, and the death-defying inflatables cruising down the street.
    Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

    That is one big turkey.

  • We watch college football like most of America. I should probably clarify. Brandon watches football while I sit next to him catching up on the latest issue of Real Simple and the kids play games on their phones. It works for us. With the Huskers not playing so well the past few weeks, football has turned into a sore subject with the hubs. “Want the November or December issue, honey?”
    Husker Power

    “Please play well, Huskers. My husband’s joy depends on it.”

  • As you may have read on an earlier post, Brandon and I were married on Thanksgiving weekend, so we always carve out some time for each other. This year we’re headed to Lied Lodge in Nebraska City – home of the National Arbor Day Foundation. Gorgeous trees and apple orchards everywhere. I’ll share some pics on Instagram: @katejandersen.
    Lied Lodge & Conference Center

    Lied Lodge & Conference Center

    I’d love to hear about your family traditions. Share in the comments, Tweet or tag me on Instagram. In the meantime, have a wonderful day. I’m thankful you’re here!

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Creative Tip: Embrace the “Yes, And…”

Improv Tips

More great thoughts on this topic at 99U.

Most improv classes teach the importance of “yes, and…” It means when something is given to you (a line, a prop, a gesture), you accept it and add something new. So if someone hands you a bike helmet and says, “Let’s fly to the moon,” you don’t look at them with crazy eyes and reply, “Um, nooo.” You might say, “Yes, and let me grab my elbow pads and oxygen tank.” You keep the momentum going and see where it takes you.

Embracing “yes, and…” is perhaps one of the best lessons in creativity – and life for that matter.

When it comes to creativity

Always be accepting of ideas that are shared by others or come to your own mind. Your instinct might be to shoot down ideas that defy logic, but some of the best and most creative books, photographs, paintings, movies, recipes, or gadgets didn’t always seem reasonable or even plausible at their inception.

Think about how services like Skype would have sounded in a brainstorm: “What if people could login to their computer and be able to see and talk to their friends who live out of state – without any phones?” Someone was willing to say, “Yes, and what if it worked internationally?”

When given the chance, always be willing and courageous to add your “and.”

Wedding PictureThis translates to relationships, too.

Today is my 14th wedding anniversary, and I think about how much improv happens in this life that Brandon and I are building together. From the moment I said “yes” to his proposal, we’ve been adding “ands” ever since. Before we knew it, “Kate and Brandon” turned into, “…and babies, and a house, and a rabbit, and a new job, and a move…” It hasn’t always been easy, but our willingness and courage to accept each other – while being willing to add new experiences – has certainly made the journey more exciting. A little humor never hurts, either.

Here’s to more “yes, ands…” in your life!

Reflection questions:

  • When was the last time you said “no” or shot down an idea?
  • What would have happened if you said “yes?” List all of the possibilities, even the crazy ones.
  • What’s an idea you’ve been afraid to share? Write it down and add a “yes, and…”

Feel free to share your thoughts and use #CreativeTipTues or tag me. I’m on Twittter and Instagram as @Katejandersen.

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Gifts from the Heart of Your Kitchen

As a girl raised in the south (yes, the acronym is GRITS), I was taught to never show up empty handed to someone’s home. Hostess gifts not only validate your good manners, but also thank the person who has just spent hours cleaning, cooking, baking, decorating, fretting, and putting extra toilet paper in the bathrooms prior to your arrival.

Most guests deliver a bottle of wine or pretty candle, which are both perfectly acceptable. But if your hostess is truly the mostest, why not thank her with one of these unique and delicious gifts? And did I mention they’re easy to make and require less than four ingredients each? It’s true.

I researched, tested several recipes, and pulled together the easiest (and in some cases, safest) options for you to make. Drum roll…

Rosemary Infused Olive OilRosemaryWhat you’ll need:

  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 6 sprigs dried rosemary*
  • Bottle or cruet
  • Funnel

Directions: Cook the olive oil with rosemary sprigs in a saucepan over low to medium heat for about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the rosemary infuse in the oil for 1 hour. Transfer the sprigs to your glass bottle. Funnel the cooled oil into the bottle and seal. Store at room temperature for up to 2 months or in the refrigerator for 6 months.

*Using dried herbs is a much safer method. Moisture from fresh herbs can cause bacteria to grow. Drying herbs removes the water, while leaving the essential oils. This time of year, I get fresh herbs from my grocery store and dry them at home.

Download a Rosemary Gift Tag complete with serving suggestions.

Vanilla Infused Honey

vanilla honey

Here’s a batch of homemade vanilla lavender honey from Etsy.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • Mason jar or honey pot with an airtight lid
    honey pot

    Look at this adorable honey pot with dipper from Bed Bath & Beyond.

Directions: Pour the honey into your mason jar or pot. Use a knife to split the vanilla bean open lengthwise, down the center. Scrape the seeds out of the bean and add them to your container of honey. Stir well. Add the bean pod to the jar and seal the container. Let it sit for one week to infuse the honey. After that, it’s good and ready to slather onto some warm, buttered biscuits.

Download a Honey Gift Tag complete with serving suggestions.

Citrus Finishing Saltscitrus saltsWhat you’ll need:

  • 1 cup flaky sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • Mason jar or airtight container

Directions: Preheat oven to 225 F. Mix the salt and zest in a bowl. Spread across parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for an hour or until peels are dried and crumbly. Remove from oven and cool. Transfer salts to an airtight jar. Store for up to 2 months. This recipe was adapted from Whole Foods Market.

Download a Finishing Salt Gift Tag complete with serving suggestions.

I think I’ll make several batches of all of these goodies so I’m armed and ready to spread some flavored joy. ‘Tis the season, you know. I hope you decide to whip up some deliciousness for yourself. Oh, and be sure to let me know which one you like best.

Cheers, my friends!

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Friday Wrap: Five Finds

This week’s Friday Wrap includes five of my favorite finds. They’re are all seasonally inspired, and I hope you’ll enjoy these treasures as much as I do!

>>One: Kindness Elves

I just discovered an adorable alternative to Elf on the Shelf. They’re called Kindness Elves.Kindness ElvesI love the message they send – especially this time of year. My girls are still at an age where they love Mr. Elf on the Shelf and some of his silly antics. My son is a bit older. He’s 11 yo and a bit “grown up” for Mr. Elf. (Silent tear) I think he’d appreciate the challenge of a Kindness Elf, though.

We may not completely replace Mr. Elf, but I think these new and kind creatures will be a good addition to the family this Christmas.

I had trouble finding the ones from The Imagination Tree, but look at these amazing Nordic-inspired elves on Etsy. I’m ordering one today.

Nordic Kindness Elves

I found these adorable elves on Etsy!

>>Two: Minted

If you want some unique art to jazz up your home or one-of-a-kind holiday cards to send to friends, look no further than Minted.com. Minted.comIt’s a marketplace of independent artists – who are all downright amazing. It’s like a less crafty Etsy. Clicking through the fabric section alone will make you want to learn to sew. No lie.

I'm melting with love for these fabric samples on Minted.

I’m melting with love for these fabric samples on Minted.

>>Three: Custom Postage Stamps

Once you order your one-of-a-kind holiday cards from Minted, you’ll want custom postage stamps to go along with them, right?! At Zazzle.com you can order stamps that have a personalized photo.

Custom Postage

Custom postage from Zazzle.

If you want to save the cute family pic for inside the envelope, take a pretty picture of the outside of your home and upload the image to use as your stamps! Use code TISTHESEASON for added discounts.

>>Four: Ugly Sweater

Okay, I may have just found Brandon’s sweater for his company Christmas party.

Elf Sweater from The Buckle

Elf Sweater from The Buckle

They’re having an ugly sweater contest this year, and hubs is always a good sport about these kinds of things. (One of the many reasons why I love him.) This one might take the prize. What do you think?

>>Five: Scarf Tutorial

If you’re obsessed with scarves like I am, you’ll appreciate this video tutorial. One of my cousins who lives in Minnesota shared this on Facebook, and I was so happy to find some new, creative ways to wrap and wear my lovely top layers. I know you will, too!

Scarf Tutorial

Click the pic to access this helpful video.

That’s a Friday Wrap! I’m excited to link up with April, DarciChristina, and Natasha again this week.FiveonfridayBe sure to check my blog next week for some DIY hostess gifts, such as herb-infused honey, that you can make and take to your Thanksgiving (or Friendsgiving) meal.

Until then, have a blessed weekend, and go be creative!

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Thankful Thursday: New Paint!

This week I’m thankful for finally getting our bedroom painted. Brandon and I have been wanting to freshen up the color for quite some time and other things kept cutting in line – like replacing the dishwasher and tires on the car. You know how it goes.

So this week it finally happened. We scheduled our favorite paint guy (Kim Valentine for anyone who lives in NWA), and I came home from work yesterday to the finished product. It was so worth having my clothes and bedroom furniture sprawled all around the living room for two days. Even if I was heckled by my kids for the amount of clothes I had shoved into my closet.

For the color we went with Quiet Moments from Benjamin Moore. The description on the website says, “Tranquility seems to ooze from this light, blue-gray that inspires moments of quiet meditation. This soothing shade creates a look of elegance and simplicity.” Um, yes, please. I’ll take several gallons – for my entire house.

The color is perfect with our bedding, too. We have the Charlie Paisley from PB. If you can’t find me for a few days, I’ll be the one sleeping in the tranquility of quiet meditation.

Charlie Duvet

Charlie Paisley Organic Duvet Cover from Pottery Barn

Oh, one other thing I’m thankful for this week (and actually discovered in this painting process) is Mr. Clean Magic Erasers. Whaa? Where have these been all my life, and why hasn’t anyone told me about them sooner? Magic EraserWe had a few scuffs on our doorways and closet shelves that were driving me crazy. The freshly painted walls made the scuffs look even worse. They looked dirty and just wouldn’t wash off – or so I thought. Enter, Magic Erasers. A few good swipes and just like the name says, all of the scuffs were erased. Magically. Needless to say, I was wiping practically every surface in the house. I swear, if they ever want to do one of those cheesy infomercials on how awesome they work, sign me up. No pride here.

So those are some of the highlights of the week so far. I’d love to hear some of your discoveries and what makes you feel thankful. Comment on the blog or post on Twitter or Instagram using #ThankfulThursday so everyone can share in your happiness.

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Creative Tip: Enjoy the Season!

Christmas kindness

Designed by The Neat Nook

There’s no question the holidays are a special time of year. I love catching up with friends, eating good food, and exchanging thoughtful gifts.

If we’re being honest, it can also be a bit stressful. The weeks leading up to Christmas are hurried and hectic. There’s the decorating, baking, shopping, wrapping, shipping, entertaining, and sometimes traveling to be done. When you’re a momma, you also have school plays, church pageants, class parties and teacher gifts to manage. Whew!

How does anyone stay calm and joyful with so much business going on? It’s not easy. That’s for sure, but if you have the right mindset, you can stay fairly calm through it all.

Try these five quick tips and see if you feel a difference. They won’t guarantee rock star parking at the mall, but they might help you ease up on the horn when someone snags your spot.

  1. Check in with yourself.
    • Stop in your tracks when you’re feeling stressed, and take note of what you’re doing. And I mean all the way down to the verb. Does baking pies from scratch and making the crust look like a string of holly berries (like the picture you saw on Pinterest) send you spiraling into tears? If so, change the plan and simplify. Get the premade crust or better yet, order from your favorite restaurant and call it good. No one will judge you.
    • Also notice what activities make you feel energized and creative. Allow yourself plenty of time to enjoy these things! Personally, I could wrap presents all day long. I adore playing with papers, tissues, boxes and bows. I would swap wrapping presents for making homemade pies any day.
  2. Do only what you can (and want) to do. Delegate the rest.
    • Write down your entire to-do list so it’s out of your head – where it only stresses you out.
    • Cross off anything that doesn’t fill you with joy and is also unnecessary. Synchronizing your outdoor lights to music – when you’re not technically savvy – would fall into this category.
    • Put a star next to anything you love and that only you can do – such as attending your child’s Christmas play.
    • Find a way to delegate or simplify the rest. Enlist a crafty cousin to make a few small gifts, or pay a neighbor with treats to help hang your lights. Get creative!
  3. Stay within budget.
    • One of the biggest stressors this time of year can be money. Plan a realistic budget that includes all of the details (like stamps for those adorable cards you ordered).
    • Keep track of your receipts as you go, so you know where you stand. If gifts are getting out of control, switch gears to something handmade or repurposed. If you’re thoughtful about the present, it will be appreciated – regardless of the price tag.
  4. Make a new friend.
    • Empathy can go a long way when you’re standing in line waiting to pay at the register. Strike up a conversation with the person in front of you and you might realize just how lucky you really are this holiday.
  5. Be kind to yourself.
    • Whatever you choose to do this holiday, make sure it makes you happy.
    • Don’t try to do too much, and certainly don’t try to make everything perfect. Perfection is unrealistic. If your 2-year-old won’t stop pouting in the family picture, let it be. If you burned all of the cookies for the school party, feed them  to the ducks and pickup some store-bought goodies. Serve them on one of your prettiest plates and you’re back in business.
    • The bottom line is, give yourself a break. And have a glass of wine while you’re at it. You deserve a happy holiday just as much as anyone on your gift list.

Cheers, my friends! Here’s to the most joyful and relaxed Christmas season, yet.

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DIY Pottery Barn Ornaments

Pottery Barn Inspired OrnamentsAs promised, I’m going to share lots of DIY holiday projects this season. Now that Thanksgiving is T-minus 11 days and counting, I think it’s safe to start thinking about Christmas. I don’t know about you, but I like to keep my holidays as separate and special as possible. I feel this way about lots of things. When I was little I had one of those divided dinner plates because I didn’t like my food touching. Holidays are the same for me. I don’t like any Jingle Bells spilling into my Jack-o-lanterns.

Okay, let’s kick this off with a few ornaments. I was thumbing through the most recent PB catalog and saw a few ornaments that looked like perfect DIY candidates. I gave them a try, and they turned out great. Plus they were ridiculously easy to make. I had to share!

Ornament Supplies

The basic supplies for all three ornaments!

>> Glitter Initial Ornament

Glitter Initial Ornament

I used a silver glitter that looks like pewter.

What you need:

  • Chipboard letters
  • Spray glitter (the secret ingredient)
  • Ribbon for hanging
  • Small hole punch, if needed

What to do:

When you use a can of spray glitter, all you have to do is place your chipboard letter on top of some newspaper and spray away. That. Is. It. Once the glitter dries, you can add another coat, if needed. Be sure to turn and spray the backside, as well. That way it looks pretty from all sides when it’s hanging from the tree.

If your letters don’t have holes at the top, you can use a small hole punch. Then take your ribbon, thread it through the holes and secure with a small knot at each end.

Backside of Glitter Monogram

I tied knots on the back side of the letter.

An easy alternative would be to hot glue the ribbon to the backside of the letter.

>> White Feather Ornament

I tried to take a pic with the ornament backlit so you could see the feather better. It's really pretty in person!

I tried to take a pic with the ornament backlit so you could see the feather. It’s really pretty in person!

What you need:

  • Clear glass globe ornament
  • Package of white feathers or a feather boa
  • Toothpick or bamboo skewer
  • Ribbon for hanging

What to do:

Carefully open the top of your ornament by pinching the two sides of wire that are threaded down inside. Next, take one of your feathers and slip it inside the globe.Feather OrnamentYou might need to take a toothpick or skewer to help fan out the feather inside the globe. I added two feathers to help fill the space. Slip the top back on and add a pretty ribbon.

Similar ornaments sell for $10.50 each at Pottery Barn. I made six of these for the same price. Plus, you can probably make them faster and easier than you can say “Christmas.”

>> Monogrammed Glass Globe Ornament

Monogrammed Glass Globe OrnamentWhat you need:

  • Clear glass globe ornament
  • Adhesive letters
  • Ribbon for hanging

What to do:

Once you select the letter you’d like to use, simply adhere it to your clear ornament. If your letters are small enough, you can do a full monogram. Here’s a nice refresher on monogram rules by Mark & Graham. Once your letter is in place, simply tie the top with a gorgeous bow and boom, clap, you’re done.

Any of these ideas, especially the personalized initial ornaments, would make amazing hostess gifts, teacher gifts and friend gifts!

Oh, and light bulb sleeves make great ornament packaging. (I love to repurpose when possible.) Trim the sleeve to size, tuck your ornament inside, and wrap the outside with wrapping paper or tissue and a bow.

Have fun making these ornaments! If you don’t have time to make them this week, no worries. Just pin the project on a Pinterest board for later. Be sure to stop by tomorrow for Creative Tip Tuesday. I’ll have some (hopefully) inspiring words on how to stay calm, cool and creative this crazy season.

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Friday Wrap (with Five Faves)

Happy Friday! I’m attempting to link into “Five on Friday” for the first time, so hopefully I’ll meet a few new friends today!

Here we go:

  1. If I had to wrap the week in a word, it would be joyful. Even though I attended a funeral for my friend’s father, it was such a beautiful experience that left everyone feeling inspired. His nickname was “Brownie” and was one of those guys who loved life, was never short on a joke (or prank), and knew how to appreciate a good beer. The stories shared at his service were both heartwarming and hilarious. As I was listening, I made a quiet vow to myself: don’t take life too seriously. Our time here is a quick breath of air in the grand scheme of things. I want to enjoy every second of it – while laughing as often as I can.
  2. I was proud to wish my own dad a happy Veteran’s Day on Tuesday. He was in the Air Force for many years and retired as a Lt. Colonel. He served our country with great pride, and I’m a better American because of him. Love you, Pappa Joe!
    Pappa Joe

    My sweet dad, Pappa Joe!

  3. I saw my first snowflake of the season this morning. And it’s only November! That’s a rare treat in Arkansas. It didn’t stick to anything, but it was alive for all of five seconds. Some may dispute, but I saw it. I hear more is on the way this weekend. Brrr and bring on the cocoa. Or maybe another Chestnut Praline Latte from the ‘Bucks?
    Chestnut Praline Latte

    I tried one this week, and they are sugary goodness in a cup.

  4. The girls started a new thing this week where they put their favorite blanket in the dryer while they’re taking a bath. After they dry off, they literally wrap in a blanket of warmth. Why haven’t we done this sooner?!
    Avery & Clara

    Look at those snuggly little peanuts.

  5. I just pulled out my Hip Hop Abs DVD. Not to get all Bridget Jones’ Diary on you (remember that funny book?) but I’ve been feeling a bit “swollen” lately. I don’t know if I’ve overdone the salt, sweets, carbs or all of the above, but I was prompted to workout. I try to do yoga once a day to get some form of exercise. I just don’t usually do sweaty workouts – unless they’re fun and have good music and make me forget I’m actually working out. That’s where Hip Hop Abs enters the picture. Even though I feel like a total dork doing my “tilt, tuck and tighten” with Shaun T, I pump up the volume and stomp it out in my garage every now and again. Once you get the hang of it, it’s actually pretty fun.

What I feel like:Hip Hop DancerWhat I probably look like:bad-dancerHave a great weekend and I’ll catch you on Monday with some gorgeous DIY ornaments inspired by Pottery Barn. Here’s a sneak peek:

Let's make these glittery initial ornaments!

Let’s make these glittery initial ornaments!

Feather Ornament

Let’s make these gorgeous glass and feather ornaments, too!

Thanks to Liz, DarciChristina, and Natasha for letting me join your fun Friday adventure. I hope to catch you all again next week!Fiveonfriday

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