Oh JoyOh Joy

my first advent calendar!

Oh Joy! Advent Calendar

Growing up in a Thai family, Christmas wasn't a thing. But as a Thai-American kid who wanted so bad to be "American", I made my parents get us a Christmas tree and celebrate because I just thought that's what people did! My parents happily obliged, but we never grew up with things like Santa and stockings on a chimney or advent calendars. Regardless, I didn't miss a thing because my parents still made it special in their own way.

Fast-forward to today, I have been slowly defining what the holidays mean to me and my now young family. I don't have Christmas traditions passed down from generations, so this year I tried to work on beginning what our traditions could be going forward. Especially since we can't travel to Philadelphia for the holidays to see our parents like we always do, I wanted to start something new that felt special for my kids with all this extra time at home. So, this was our first year having an advent calendar!

My friends at Gathre so kindly send me this beautiful advent calendar which began my journey into thinking about what I would create for my kids to discover every day. I fielded questions on Instagram stories to see what you all do (or did when you grew up) and got a TON of suggestions. In the end, I decided to focus them on a mix of: family experiences/activities, acts of kindness/service, and small gifts that could be used again. I didn't want to add candy because my kids get plenty of treats, and I didn't want crappy throw-away junk toys (unless I already had them laying around :P).

Here are the things we did this year in case it inspires your future advent calendars...or even simple activities to do with kids at anytime. I've noted ones that were big hits and ones that I would skip next time!

1 - Wave this around and tell us what you're grateful for!
This had ribbon wands for them to dance around with which made a fun start to the month of activities.

2 - Use this to create something you want for Christmas!
This one included a jar of play-doh (which I already had) and was a fun way to get excited for Christmas with an item they have used tons of times but they loved the activity attached to it!

3 - Use these for a solo activity with Mommy and Daddy!
This one was a fail. Not that they didn't enjoy the idea but it wasn't as immediate as the others and anti-climatic. Plus, they usually get solo time with us anyway, so I realized I didn't need them to have a coupon for it!

4 - What would you do if you were home alone?
We watched Home Alone which I haven't seen in years. It was probably too intense for my 6-year-old but my 9-year-old loved it.

5 - Let's drive somewhere to see some sparkly lights!
This one was a drive to an outdoor, drive-through light show. This was fun because it got them out of the house and was a surprise adventure!

6 - Let's see if you can build a house without eating it!
These were a clue for gingerbread house kits which we do every year and they love.

7 - Create a picture with these showing ways to be kind!
This came with a couple sheets of stickers and they had to create a scene using the stickers where the characters or objects needed to show kindness. Then they presented the drawings to us which were VERY sweet.

8 - Use these to write a letter to your sister!
I included a couple new, fun pens here. This was super sweet and made them think about each other. We needed this especially this year with them spending the most time together ever (and bickering the most ever, too!).

9 - Pick a friend you miss to send these to with a letter!
This one included fun patches and they could choose which one(s) to send to a friend. This was about not keeping the gift for themselves but instead choosing someone else to send them to.

10 - Find a spot on the tree for these!
This one included an ornament for each of them to hang on the tree.

11 - Let's make some fancy nails!
We had some fun doing mini manis with nail stickers.

12 - Who wants some hot cocoa like an Elf?
Hot cocoa and movie night! Elf, of course!

13 - Let's wrap some presents for kids who need our help!
Every year, we get matched with a family through Baby2Baby and shop for them for Christmas. It's a mix of clothes, toys, and basic necessities. The kids get to know a little about them and their interests, and then they help wrap their gifts. In past years, we have met the families we were matched with but this year we couldn't obviously, so the gifts were dropped off at Baby2Baby who would then distribute to the kids. I always love this as a way to show our kids how much joy it can give to think of others first.

14 - Tie up your hair and do the craziest dance!
This one included scrunchies which they can use again and again.

15 - Use these to play your favorite Christmas song!
I put in two kazoos which were the closest to a "junk toy" but I already had them so I was okay with it. The kazoos didn't work SO great, but the kids still had fun with it!

16 - Create a mini restaurant!
I had some mini food toys and used them for this activity. It was fun for pretend play, but wasn't anything over-the-top special.

17 - Tell us why you love your name!
This includes a C and R iron-on patch I collected a while ago. It gave them a chance to think about their name and chose a fun place to add the patch to iron-on.

18 - Let's celebrate the beginning of Winter Break!
This includes a small bag of confetti to toss in the air.

19 - Life is sweet! Decorate some cookies!
A clue for a cookie decorating kit!

20 - Let's make some balloon magic!
Our friend gifted the kids (for Christmas) a zoom show with a balloon artist, so I saved it for one of the days later in the month.

21 - Splish splash! Let's take a bath!
Bath bomb! They now take showers so baths are a rare treat.

22 - Pick a treat you want to eat!
This included a couple pins with cotton candy on them to symbolize treats to let them pick something special for the day.

23 - Take photos of things that make you smile!
I included a pack of Instax film so they could take some photos on their instant camera. These will be fun to save as memories of this year as well.

24 - Wear these for movie night!
This last one has reindeer headbands to wear for our last night before Christmas while watching a movie, Jingle Jangle.

I was super proud of myself for coming up with a mix of things that felt both fun and heartfelt. Overall, I saved the bigger activities (cookie decorating, gingerbread houses) for the weekend and left the weekday ones more simple and something we could all do together after dinner. The kids looked forward to it every night and never forgot about it. There were some things I thought my kids would think weren't that exciting because the object wasn't anything new (like Play-doh) but I found that because it was reframed through a very specific activity, it felt fun and new to them! In some cases, we (the parents) also participated—like why we like our name or something we're grateful for.

I hope that was helpful (and interesting!) for you. Next year, I'll start a little earlier and share my new ideas with you before it's time to get them started for December 2021!

delicious holiday delights...

Oh Joy Neapolitan Cookies

If you're looking for some fun treats to make, eat, or gift this holiday season, here are a few of our favorites!

Oh Joy Frozen Hot Chocolate

1. Frozen Hot Chocolate—If you're not expecting a snowy white Christmas, create your own cool and frosty treat and make frozen hot chocolate. It's perfect as a dessert or as a treat all on its own. Here's how we made it...

Oh Joy Snack Mix

2. Holiday Snack Mix—The best part of the holidays is munching on delicious snacks throughout the day, getting cozy with a bowl full of treats watching a movie, and basically finding any snack opportunity! Our mix is sweet and salty, just perfect. Find out how right here...  

Oh Joy Charcuterie Board

3. Three-Dip Charcuterie Board—For those that prefer savory treats, we have you covered! Try some homemade dips on your charcuterie board this year, which can even turn it into my favorite kind of meal ;). Our three dip recipes are right here...

Oh Joy Confetti Cookies

4. Confetti Cookie Bites— Bite-sized, colorful, and delicious! Find out how to make these perfect (and perfectly giftable) cookies right here... 

Oh Joy Spritzer

5. Holiday Spritzer—How gorgeous does this drink look? And it tastes even better! For elevating your table or sidebar, try this non-alcoholic refreshing spritzer this holiday. Here's how...

Oh Joy! Neopolitan Cookies

6. Neapolitan Cookies—We combined regular sugar cookie dough with matcha on one side and strawberry on the other. The cookies are delicious and beautiful and make the perfect festive combo. Find all the steps right here...

May these treats bring you (and your bellies) some happiness this year! Be sure to tag us if you make them so we can see!

(Photos by Lily Glass and Casey Brodley, styling by Ariel Fulmer and Julia Wester, Production Assistance by Jess Hong.)

a tie-dyed tree skirt!


For some reason, I can never find a tree skirt that has ANY personality to it. Or, if they feel somewhat special, they are SO expensive. Our OG Oh Joy! Alum, Julia Wester, recently made this super fly tree skirt by ice dyeing some quilted fabric and I am in LOVE. Julia made an unexpected-to-her pivot this year from freelance prop styling to starting her own business and shop called Camp by Julia Wester. I never liked tie dyed pieces until Julia started her business, and now I'm obsessed because her style is like a modern update on the traditional look of tie dye. You can make your own tree skirt using her new kit OR find some gifts for your loved ones that she's already created for you! Either way, we hope this shows you that your tree skirt can be just as cool as the gifts it will hold!

(Tree skirt by Julia Wester. Photo and styling by Joy Cho)

handmade charlotte's glitter beetles!

The Handmade Charlotte Playbook by Rachel Faucett

If you're looking for a fun project to do next week during the kids' Thanksgiving break, deck the walls with a gallery of glittery bugs. This project Is from the new The Handmade Charlotte Playbook by Rachel Faucett which is an incredible guide of crafts to keep your kids entertained and crafting and offers a nice break from all those Zoom classes! Start with a printed picture for a quick project or design your own new species. Make an entire collection of shadow boxes and you’ll have a great start to your own personal science museum. Here's how...

The Handmade Charlotte Playbook by Rachel Faucett

You'll need:

  • Box lid
  • Large printouts of beetles & bugs
  • Cardstock
  • Acrylic paint (various colors)
  • Paintbrushes
  • Mod Podge
  • Scissors
  • Glitter (various colors)

The Handmade Charlotte Playbook by Rachel Faucett

Here's how...

  1. Apply a thin layer of Mod Podge to the top of the beetle. Work in sections, covering each area with glitter as you go. Let dry.
  2. Paint the inside and outside of the box lid. Let dry.
  3. Cut out the glittered beetle, taking extra care around any delicate parts like thin legs. If any part of the beetle feels fragile, use Mod Podge to attach a piece of card stock to strengthen it
  4. Fold a strip of card stock into a small box and attach it to the back of the beetle. This will give the beetle a three-dimensional quality when placed inside the box lid.
  5. Attach the small folded box on the back of the beetle to the painted box lid using Mod Podge and allow to dry.
  6. Repeat the process to create an entire museum of glittery bugs!

Reprinted from The Handmade Charlotte Playbook by Rachel Faucett in arrangement with TarcherPerigee, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © 2020, Rachel Faucett.

thanksgiving dishes and treats to try...

Oh Joy Thanksgiving Table Center Piece

Thanksgiving might look different this year. So even if you're celebrating with your smaller at-home family, here are some fun (and festive!) ways to serve up some NO COOKING REQUIRED treats for the big day...

Oh Joy Fall Salad

1. Fall Salad - Use carrots, pecans, purple onions and pears to bring bright colors and delicious flavors to your Thanksgiving table. Topped with a cranberry relish dressing, your family will be sure to love it. The full recipe is right here...

Oh Joy Mini Thanksgiving Pies

2. Mini Thanksgiving Pies - I love the idea of having an individual dessert for everyone sitting at the table (and maybe two or three more for treats later).  These no-bake pies are a fun and easy way to have dessert done ahead of time. Check out the four easy steps here...

Oh Joy Snacking Centerpiece

3. The Snacking Centerpiece - This looks like a beautiful centerpiece made from...that's right...ice cream cones! But it gets even better because you can fill the cones with fresh fruits and vegetables (or nuts and candies) for snacking prior to, during, or after the meal. It's a treat to grab a snack from the centerpiece while the decor still remains beautiful! You can see how to make this centerpiece here...

Oh Joy Orange Turkey Place Cards

4. Clementine Name Cards - Keeping with the theme of edible decor, how cute are these name card turkeys? It's a fun DIY for you and the family before the big day and a delicious treat once everyone has found their place. It's win, win! For the turkey DIY, you can find details right here...

(Photos by Lily Glass and Casey Brodley. Styling by Julia Wester, crafting by Jess Hong.)

oh joy loves pumpkins!

Oh Joy Color Blocked Pumpkins

Over the past few years, we've done some amazing pumpkin projects. Here are few of our favorites to inspire all your own pumpkin decor this year. Take a look...

Oh Joy Art Pumpkins

1. Art Pumpkins — I love the interpretation of Matisse, Warhol, Calder, Monet and Pollock. Which artist would you chose? Find the tutorial right here...

Oh Joy for Cloth and Co Painted Pumpkins

2. Oh Joy! Pumpkins — We did an entire set of pumpkins matching the patterns on our pasr upholstered furniture line. I love them all, but especially how perfectly the pumpkins fit in these kid chairs! (Tutorial Here)

Oh Joy Geometric Pumpkins

3. Geometric Pumpkins — Inspired by art deco, these painted geometric shapes are fun without being too kiddy. I really love the color palette on these as they go outside of your typical fall colors. (Tutorial Here)

Oh Joy Pumpkin Planter

4. Pumpkin Planter — How cute are these pumpkins turned planters?! This was such a fun twist on the traditional pumpkin or jack-o-lantern. (Tutorial Here)

Oh Joy Fall Colorful Pumpkins

5. Color Block Pumpkins — I love these because they make a wonderful transition from "Halloween" decor to fall decor. They're gorgeous, and the more you have the better. Best part is...choose whatever colors you like best! (Tutorial Here)

Happy decorating!

(Photos by Lily Glass and Casey Brodley, styling by Julia Wester, styling assistance and crafting by Jess Hong

milk jar chocolate chip cookie recipe!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe by Milk Jar Cookies

I have loved seeing the unique and inspiring ways that businesses are pivoting and reworking models and ideas so that they can still flourish during this unprecedented pandemic. Our friends over at Milk Jar Cookies, one of my favorite cookie spots here in Los Angeles, had to temporarily close. But their owner Courtney Cowan came out with a baking book, so you can make their delicious cookies at home. Or, if you're not in the mood to bake, they are now also offering nationwide delivery! Today, they have graciously shared their chocolate chip cookie recipe with us, so you can try them out for yourself!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe by Milk Jar Cookies

Serving Size:
This recipe makes about 15-18 three-inch cookies. 

You'll need...

For the Base Dough
- 4 cups flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 2/3 cup unsalted butter (cold and cubed)
- 2/3 cup vegetable shortening (room temperature)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup packed light brown sugar
- 2 extra-large eggs (cold)
- 1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Here's how...
1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. In medium bowl, stir together flour, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.
3. In large bowl, add butter, shortening, sugars, eggs, and vanilla. Mix until just small chunks of butter remaining.
4. Add half the dry ingredients and mix until no flour is visible. 
5. Add half the remaining dry ingredients until flour is incorporated and all butter chunks are gone.
6. Add remaining dry ingredients and mix until dough pulls away from sides of bowl and is not sticky to the touch. 
8. Mix in chocolate chips
9. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper, and place dough balls (approx 1-1/2 inches in diameter), about 6 cookies on each sheet. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, spinning the pan halfway through, or until the tops are just slightly turning golden brown and hairline cracks on the side. Let sit for 10 minutes before moving cookies to a cooling rack
10. Let the baking sheets cool before repeating with the remaining cookies.  

Thanks so much to our friends at Milk Jar for sharing this recipe with us. Get this and many more delicious cookie recipes in their new book now available!

(Photos from Milk Jar Cookies)

fun halloween treats!

Oh Joy Monster Parfait

1. Silly Monster Parfait — As a fun surprise for breakfast or an after school snack on Halloween, make Silly Monster Parfaits to show kids that not all monsters are scary. Kids will love the silly treat, and for parents it's a healthy option to offset all the candy they'll be enjoying later that evening! To make them, start by layering yogurt, granola, and fruit (we used blueberries here). Then, top it off with teeth (cut from apple slices), eyes (made by using a toothpick to secure a blueberry inside half a grape, and antennae made from pretzel sticks.

Oh Joy Autumnal Charcuterie Board

2. Autumnal Charcuterie Board — For the sophisticated palette, and to mix it up from the typical sugary treats of the holiday, try a charcuterie board! It's always delicious and with enough variety to make everyone in your house happy! The full tutorial is right here...

Oh Joy Halloween Donut Spiders

3. Funny Spider Donuts — Meet the cutest spiders you'll ever lay eyes on! They make for a super fun snack for Halloween and a tasty treat to make with the kids. Either add "spider accessories" to your favorite donuts, or have a full baking adventure and make your own! Full tutorial right here...

Oh Joy Pumpkin Bundt Cake

4. Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake — We finally have an excuse to put pumpkin in everything! Here's a delicious take on a bundt cake with pumpkin and chocolate chips. Hungry yet?  The recipe is right here...

Oh Joy Smoothie Monster Muffins

5. Healthy Monster Muffins — Perfectly green and halloween-y, these smoothie muffins actually include fruits and vegetables. Get your kids (and yourself!) a delicious breakfast or snack for the days leading up to Halloween. The full how-to is right here...

{Photos by Lily Glass. Styling by Wilmarose Orlanes and Julia Wester, styling assistance and crafting by Jess Hong.}

a mess-free art exercise with kids!

a mess-free art exercise with kids!

While I am all about making messes to get creative, sometimes I just don't want to have to deal with all the clean-up that's involved (or the clean-up I will have to remind my kids they need to do after ;P). Here's an easy and fun art exercise you can do with kids of all ages from toddler to big kid!

All you need is:
-paper (I cut sheets into quarters so they would be the same size and also to keep them smallish)
-colorful dot stickers (thanks Jordan for telling me about these stickers!)
-black permanent marker

Here are a few exercises you can prompt! They involve a mix of creation and story-telling, and it's fun for you to do the exercises alongside with them, too...

a mess-free art exercise with kids!

Exercise 1: Place 6 dots on your page in six different colors (they should not touch). Then use a Sharpie to draw different facial expressions on each dot. Next, add drawings around each one. They could become an object, a living thing, a person, etc. Finally, tell a story about the six things...it could be one continuous story where all six could all be involved in the same story or just describe each one!

a mess-free art exercise with kids!

Exercise 2: Using any colors you want to make a continuous path from one end of your paper to another. Then, add drawings to make your stickers create a scene. Add a title to your scene. Then, describe it to everyone!

a mess-free art exercise with kids!

Exercise 3: Make a pattern with the dots! You can use any number of colors you want. Then, add either drawings or a title. Now, describe your picture!

a mess-free art exercise with kids!

Exercise 4: Make whatever you want! BUT, create it in mind with the idea that you are making this for someone else and you would want to send it to them in the mail—like your best friend, your grandparents, etc! Finally, describe your scene to everyone.

My kids had a great time doing this art exercise, and it was fun for them to get different prompts throughout. They got excited about sharing their creation, too. Afterwards, my oldest said now she wanted to make something messy because this one was so neat and clean! Ha!

Thai Pad Kee Mao with a Korean Twist!

Thai Pad Kee Mao with a Korean Twist!

The other day my friend Sara texted me and said they were making Pad Kee Mao and the rice noodles that typically go into the dish didn't work out, so they substituted with Korean rice cakes! It was such a great idea that I was inspired to recreate it for you!

Here's what you'll need...

- 1lb. of Korean rice cakes ("dduk")

- peanut oil

- 8-10 cloves of garlic, chopped

- 1/2 cup sliced onion

- 2 cups of green veggies (green beans, bok choy, broccoli, etc.)

- 2-3 Tbs. oyster sauce

- 2-3 tsp. black soy sauce (this is different than regular soy sauce and is thicker and sweeter)

- 2-3 Tbs. of fish sauce

- 1 tsp. of sugar and 1/4 tsp. of white pepper, to taste

- 1/2-1 cup of fresh holy or Thai basil

-Thai chillies finely chopped (I added after so that I could make this for my kids, too)
- Protein (like shrimp, chicken, beef, tofu)

Here's how:

  1. Heat a wok or large pan over high heat and add peanut oil to coat the bottom. Be aware of the food and add additional oil as needed to keep anything from sticking without getting the ingredients too greasy. Stir-frying is very fast, so have everything ready to go!
  2. Add garlic and then the sliced onions. Mix for 30-60 seconds. If you'd like to add protein, you can add after this step and keep mixing!
  3. Add the Korean rice cakes and green veggies and toss well.
  4. Add your sauces (oyster, soy, fish), then the white pepper and sugar to taste.
  5. Finally, add in basil, mix until basil is wilted, and turn off heat.

You can find a video of this recipe being made on my Instagram! Enjoy!

*recipe adapted from "It Rains Fishes" by Kasma Loha-Unchit