The hands of Christmas past

The hands of Christmas past

Fifteen years ago, I was a mom to two little boys. One was 2 years old, and the other was just a baby.

Back then, I didn’t have Pinterest. I didn’t have Instagram or even Facebook. Somehow, even living on a planet empty of social media, I was able to glean creative ideas from sources of which I now have absolutely no memory.

Somewhere, I saw an idea to trace a child’s hands on the skirt of a Christmas tree. I thought this was cute, so I set out to find a plain tree skirt that I could decorate with the handprints of these two tiny boys.

I chose gold paint for the older child and silver for the baby.

When it came to actually tracing these little hands with paint, I imagined them running through the house with wet paint all over their hands, touching things and sticking fingers in mouths, faster than I could stop them. So, I decided to first trace their hands on cardstock, then cut out the hands, and trace the paper hands with paint.

I had so much fun tracing their hands that first year. I spread out the four little hands, with no concern for making room for hands in future years. I wrote their names under their hands and the year: 2002.

The next year, I added four more slightly larger hands. By the third year, I had a new set of tiny hands to add to the tree skirt. I had to choose a new color for her hands. And so a splash of green was added to the gold and silver.

As the years went on, I would often wait until after Christmas to paint the hands. Many times, the tree skirt would lay out for months after we had put away all of the other Christmas decorations. Sometimes, I would even let the little cut-outs of their hands pile up and have to paint two sets the following year.

Our seventh year into the process, we added one more set of hands. This time, I traced in red.

And I also filled up the tree skirt.

What should I do now? Was that the end of the tradition?

As a fourth born myself, I know how it feels to looks at so many photos and hear tales of vacations of which I have no memory. I wasn’t born for much of the fun. Or some of the traditions. I wanted this sweet little one to get more than one set of hands drawn on the tree skirt.

So, I set out shopping for another plain tree skirt. This time, all I could find was green.

The hands were growing larger, and in 2010, those eight hands wrapped themselves halfway around the outer edge of the new skirt.

I continued tracing hands on cardstock at the beginning of each Christmas season. But sometimes, the traced hands would sit in the closet never getting traced in paint.

This year, I looked at my second tree skirt and realized I had fallen FIVE YEARS behind! I knew where those traced hands were kept because they taunted me all year long. Over and over again, I would write on a to-do list, “paint hands on tree skirt!” Over and over again, I would ignore my own admonition.

Finally, this year, I found the hands I had traced. I had missed a few years, but was determined not to give up. I simply used the following year’s handprint and traced a set slightly smaller to represent the previous year. This was art, I told myself, not an exact representation.

I cut out five year’s worth of hands. That’s 20 sets. Forty hands.

I arranged them on the tree skirt and realized that once again I had run out of space.

I had two complete years that wouldn’t fit.


This was no time to stop. I searched five stores before finding a plain tree skirt that I liked. I struggled with the fact that the three skirts were completely different styles.

I spent hours tracing and cutting hands. Laying them out. Tracing them in paint. Writing the names. Adding the years.

Finally. I’m done.

I think this is the only tradition that I have carried out for basically the entire life of my children (minus those first two years). I wonder what I will do with three tree skirts. I wonder what I will do when one goes to college, then two, then three, then four. I wonder if I will someday add grandchildren. I wonder how many tree skirts I will eventually fill.

I decide not to worry about it. This year, I love looking back at those tiny hands that have grown into bigger hands and are now adult-sized hands.

I’m so thankful I have them to look at and remind me how blessed I’ve been by all of those sets of hands.

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on bullet journaling, great pens and altoid tins

on bullet journaling, great pens and altoid tins


For the two or three of you who have been reading my blog since I started it 100 years ago, you might remember that the whole impetus to start blogging was my obsession with finding the perfect planner. I spent several years searching stores for a planner that would be designed in such a way to meet my OCD desire to track all of my to-do lists, goals, and plans on a daily basis. Out of frustration, I ended up creating my own “everydayMOM planner,” and that is actually the reason I started this blog many moons ago.

After several years of updating and selling my planner, I decided to move on to a digital form of tracking my life. And finally, I’ve reached a system that combines tracking all of our family events on an electronic shareable calendar, while using paper and pen to keep track of my day-to-day lists.

This week, my mind was blown when I learned there is an entire universe of people out there who are even more obsessed than I with finding the perfect planner. In fact, they have created a cult following over a completely old school form of planner. It’s called bullet journaling, and learning about it has become my new favorite past time. It is both so complicated and yet so simple that you will find little pieces of your brain splattered on the walls when you first try to understand what it’s all about. Do a quick search of #bulletjournal on Instagram, and you’ll see what I mean.

To make a super long explanation short, the bullet journal is a diy journal that you create from scratch every day in a special notebook. On the one hand, it seems ridiculous to use pen and paper to draw out your own calendar spreads for the day, month and year. On the other hand, it’s so fun and satisfying to think of creating custom pages that perfectly meet your needs.

The concept of bullet journaling seems to appeal to people who love:

  • writing on paper
  • hand lettering
  • writing with colored pens
  • doodling
  • making to-do lists
  • journaling

I would say that pretty much describes ME!

While I don’t really see the need to hand draw my own planner in a notebook, I DO love the idea of keeping a custom journal in which I can add pages for whatever comes to mind. I started my own version that includes pages like:

  • books I want to read or have read
  • craft projects I want to try
  • a habit tracker
  • notes about what healthy foods I should eat
  • and “bullet journaling,” which is simply jotting down little notes to remember what happened that day.

Each day, I seem to think of more and more things I want to add to my bullet journal, and I look forward to having a few minutes in the afternoon to add new pages. This has been a fun new obsession!


In the process of learning about starting a bullet journal, I convinced myself it would be essential to buy some new pens if I even wanted to consider giving it a try. Many of you know that my pen collection is… um… substantial. However, it is 98 percent Sharpies, and I really felt I should branch out into the world of the gel pen if I wanted to be properly equipped to take on the bullet journal.

That’s when I discovered the Pilot G-Tec-C Gel Rolling Ball pens. At the risk of being overly dramatic, can I just say #lifechanging! The thing I love about these pens is the .4 mm ultra fine tip. I’m pretty sure this is the finest, fine tip that you can buy in an over-the-counter pen. (Perhaps you can get a prescription for something finer.)  I love these pens, and they make me want to write stuff in my #bulletjournal.


Finally, can we just talk about the cuteness of Altoid tins? I have literally never had an Altoid mint or an Altoid tin in my life. But recently, I was spying on the most adorable little earbud case made by the mom of my daughter’s friend. She had taken an Altoid tin and covered it in something cute, maybe Washi tape or fabric… I can’t even remember.

I was at Costco the other day and saw that they sell Altoid “smalls.” These are just smaller, cuter versions of the regular Altoid tins. Of course, I had to buy some for future craft projects, and since it was Costco, they came in a pack of 12. If you want to entertain yourself for a few hours, just do a search on Pinterest for Altoid tin projects. I can barely wait until I’ve eaten all of my tiny mints so I can get started!

Until then, I’ve added “Altoid tin earbud holder” to my #bulletjournal, and I wrote it with my .4mm ultra fine tip pens. That alone was quite satisfying.

How about you? Have you learned about anything new this week? Did you know about bullet journaling? Do you have a favorite pen? Do you love Altoids or their tins? I would love to know!

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My wishy Washi weekend

My wishy Washi weekend

I’m not sure what it is about me and tape. Remember a few years ago when I went crazy over duct tape? For about a week, I stopped cleaning my home and feeding my family because I was so busy making duct tape handbags.

Well, I had a similar obsession over the weekend with another kind of tape — Washi tape.

When I mention Washi tape, most people ask me what it is. I didn’t know it existed until earlier this year when I started my quest to organize my entire house. I read about Washi tape here, and I immediately knew I needed some! I used the cute colorful tape to organize our paper piles and label containers for our crafting supplies.

Since then, my collection of Washi tape has led a very boring life. I created a cute little container to store it, but it’s just been hanging around with no where to stick. Until last week.

I went to wrap a birthday present and realized I had run out of tape. I remembered my Washi tape (or decorative paper tape, as it’s called at Target) and found a cute pattern to coordinate with my wrapping paper. That’s when the “”Washi” section of my brain finally went into rapid fire. Where previously I could barely think of one use for Washi tape, suddenly, I couldn’t STOP thinking about ways I could use that patterned paper tape. The crafty part of my brain was stuck on Washi tape!

I made a quick run to Hobby Lobby and Target to pick up a few cheap supplies. I bought a small pad of cute patterned paper, some bins from the $1 aisle at Target, some “chalkboard” cardstock labels, and some composition notebooks that were 94 cents. I came home and started taping. Here are a few of my super simple and fun Washi tape projects from the weekend:

I’ve been needing some little baskets or bins where I can throw miscellaneous objects that I pick up around the house until my kids can put them away. I found these cute bins at Target in three of my kids’ “colors.” (My oldest son seriously doesn’t leave things lying around so I really didn’t need a bin for him.) I added a circle label that I printed out on my computer, some Washi tape and boom! That project took about two minutes.

My next project was to create some labels for some areas I had already organized for summer. A few weeks ago, I created this storage system in our garage so the kids could put away our larger than life collection of balls, sidewalk chalk and other outdoor toys. (My original circle labels weren’t sticking, so I needed to replace them.)

I simply printed out more circle labels, attached them to the cute card stock and then added the Washi tape to attach the labels or to add a border to the chalkboard labels.

We have been going to the pool multiple times per week, and it always felt like we were frantically searching for our sunscreen and sunglasses right when it was time to go. So I also had created some storage baskets so we could easily find all of our pool supplies. The baskets still needed some cute labels. Washi tape to the rescue!

I used the Washi tape, cardstock and more labels to make the simplest EVER “thank you” cards…

and to cover my boring composition notebook…

And finally… I decorated an old jar from some spaghetti sauce to create a storage space for… you guessed it!… more tape!! My daughter is a craft-a-holic, just like her mama. She goes through craft projects a mile a minute, so I gave her her own supply of super cute tape. We just needed a place to store her 24 tiny rolls of tape! The jar was the perfect size. It just needed a little bit of taped-0n cuteness.

So, what do you think about Washi tape? Have you ever used it? Does anyone else have a strange urge to create crafts with colorful tape? Please tell me I’m not alone!




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