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DIY Advent Candles and Wreath

Light the way to Christmas!

Light the way to Christmas!

Have you ever heard of Advent candles? The idea is to light one new candle every Sunday all the way to Christmas. Different Christian traditions use Advent candles differently. Sometimes the candles are blue and white, sometimes purple and pink, or sometimes red and green. This is what the candles mean:

  1. Hope/Prophecy
  2. Love/Bethlehem/Preparation
  3. Joy/Shepherds (This candle is usually pink)
  4. Peace/Angels
  5. Christmas Eve/Christmas/Christ (this candle is optional, and is usually white)

I really wanted to create a traditional Advent wreath for my family to use at the dinner table this December, but I didn’t want to spend any money. The whole point of The Advent Conspiracy is to spend time with your family making memories, instead of spending dollars on cheap junk from China.

So I decided to be creative and see what we had laying around the house.

What I came up with was jam jars, beans, and brown paper bags. You probably have those things at your house too!  If you’ve got twenty minutes (and the vacuum handy), this is a fun project with kids. You can be as secular or religious as you want. Unleash your creativity and have fun.

Simply fill the jars with pasta, beans or lentils. Then cut out a symbol for each week out of your brown grocery bags, and tape the paper labels to the outside of the jars. I wrapped my jars with clear packing tape to make sure the labels stayed put.

A layer of glue on the top will help prevent spills.

A layer of glue on the top will help prevent spills.

The candles on their own are really pretty. If this is as far as you want to go with this project, that’s dandy.

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But if you want to create an actual wreath, that’s easy to do too (if you’ve got the greenery). Here in the Pacific Northwest, we have every type of Christmas tree imaginable growing in our backyard. All I had to do was head to outside.

A $2.30 wreathe frame and some backyard greenery

A $2.30 wreathe frame and some backyard greenery.

Winding cedar into the frame.

Winding cedar into the frame. (Note: I should have bought florist wire but I forgot.)

Add a tray for the bottom so my dining room table doesn't get scratched.

A tray for the bottom so my dining room table doesn’t get scratched.

Last step, add the Advent candles!

Last step, add the Advent candles!

My plan is to eat dinner in our dining room every Sunday night, all the way to Christmas. Each Sunday we will light a new candle and talk about what they mean to us. We are using Hope, Love, Joy, Peace, and Christmas Eve as our themes.

A last thought is to not get hung up on the candle colors. If you don’t have the “right” colors, don’t worry about it. This can be a special family tradition no matter what.

Sweet Olive, by Judy Christie

Sweet Olive, by Judy Christie, is as close to “a Mitford” book as I’ve ever read that wasn’t written by Jan Karon.  Christie manages to capture a cozy, small town feel, but she sets her story in Louisiana and includes more young people.

The hook of Sweet Olive is that a community of artists is fighting to protect the history and charm of their town from an oil company that wants to put up wells everywhere. Camille Gardner, the landman for the oil company, gets caught in the middle.

Christie did an exceptionally good job balancing  “liberal versus conservative” debate about oil drilling, with concern for God’s creation.

This was a gentle and enjoyable story.  It was also a book that was solidly rooted in the South.

I could tell that Christie was coming from a “red” state, but at no point did she ever offend my “blue” state sensibilities.  She threw in a quick quip about a silent cathedral in Seattle, but I thought that was funny.  (Although, side note to Christie, come to Edmonds United Methodist Church and we’ll show you a packed house right here in the Pacific Northwest!)

I wish more people could talk about big things like God, art, oil, the environment, and money in the kind and measured way that Judy Christie writes.  She makes me think “Louisiana?  I really want to go there!”

P.S. I got a free copy of this book from Booksneeze in exchange for my honest options and review.

I review for BookSneeze®

Grief in the PNW

“North of Hope” by Shannon Huffam Polson, is a book about grief set in the Pacific Northwest.  It tells the story of Shannon’s rafting journey in Alaska, roughly one year after her father and step-mother were killed by a bear along the same route.

Right off the bat the plot-line should tell you that this isn’t exactly a “fun” read.  But I was hoping it would be enlightening.

On that count, it was and it wasn’t.

My main issue with this memoir is that Shannon herself comes across as very self-absorbed and self-righteous.  I feel bad even saying that, because I’m sure that in real life that isn’t true one bit!

But the story line implied that Shannon’s way of grieving was the right way of grieving, that nobody else in her entire family could possibly be hurting as much as she was hurting, and that the only glimmer of happiness Shannon felt all year was when other people acknowledged her severe grief.

For example, she flips out when somebody suggests taking a picture at her father’s funeral.  There is a HUGE amount of judgment in this scene, even though in many families, it is perfectly okay to take pictures at funerals, and is in fact encouraged; especially if relatives are traveling long distances (like to Alaska!) and rarely see one another.  But the author never seems to consider other people’s point of view.

Everyone grieves in different ways.  I don’t think one way of grieving is better or worse than another.  I kept waiting and waiting for Shannon to come to this realization too in this book, but she never did.  That’s what made her come across as unlikeable.  Her view seems to be the only view she considers worth exploring.

I’m sure in real life, none of that is true, and that Shannon Polson is a perfectly lovely person to be around.  So I’m guessing that she was trying to make the point that grief and depression can really change your personality.

P.S: I received a copy of “North of Hope” from Booksneeze, in exchange for my honest opinion and review.

I review for BookSneeze®