Advent Calendar!

8 12 2010

Every year I become enchanted with all the beautiful – and often complex – advent calendars out on the net. In fact, I become rather obsessed. The closer christmas comes, the more disappointed I become with myself for not pulling it off. Logically, I know that’s silly. One simply CANNOT do everything. But this year I found myself once again dreaming of little envelopes or bags filled with activities and the occasional sweet. I figured I’m no longer employed outside the home, so why can’t I pull this off? And then boom! December was upon us and I decided to have a good old fashion sit down with myself on what is important and what I have time to do while still enjoying the season. Enjoyment being key as all the hard work in the world isn’t worth it if you’re not enjoying  yourself. So I came to terms with an advent calendar not being in our cards this year.

That very same day, Seth came home with a strong desire to make an advent calendar. Did he sense I had just tossed that possibility out the window? All I can tell you is that he was NOT going to take no for an answer. He started digging through the recycling bin and the basement, emphatically saying no to any of my suggestions that involved leaving the house to buy supplies, and he came up with a plan. His own plan. The best kind.

He found the base materials:

  • a flattened cardboard box
  • green construction paper
  • a flattened paperboard box (from a large box of crackers)
  • a box cutter (actually he asked for this one)
  • a self healing cut mat (I kid you not – his idea)

I filled in the gaps:

  • white duct tape
  • markers and colored pencils
  • a bone folder


  1. We cut the cardboard and paper board to the same rectangular size, roughly 11X24″
  2. Then we covered the cardboard with a few pieces of construction paper
  3. These 3 pieces would form our layers but before attaching them we had a little work to do. Although Seth didn’t think it necessary I wanted a little picture on the front. You know, something to gussy it up. I was thinking along the lines that Seth or myself could draw. A snowman or a christmas tree perhaps. But Seth, with his infinite wisdom, chose a cabin. After sketching out a few ideas on scratch paper I looked up at him and said “maybe we should wait until your dad gets home”. To which he replied “because he designs houses at work”. “Yeah.” “Good idea.” And so we did.

    And boy am I glad we did.
  4. Next I used a stencil to trace out 24 uniform window openings and cut out the 3 sides with a box cutter. I also scored the 4th side of the window using a bone folder to make the window open more easily.
  5. Steve numbered the boxes and filled in the image with snow and sky coloring
  6. Despite my worry that duct tape was no longer classy enough for this masterpiece I went ahead and used it to edge the piece and hold the top paperboard layer to the paper covered cardboard.

I’m adding messages only a day or two prior to the window being opened to prevent peaking as well as to give me the flexibility I need around the holidays. I’ve got a whole list to draw from so that if I don’t feel like making cookies with the kids the next day I can replace it with something like give someone a compliment instead. Gently as I can, I pull back the window being careful not to truly crease the board. Then I write a little suggested activity for the day. Here’s a sampling of my list:

  • Make paper snowflakes
  • Sing a christmas carol
  • Buy a christmas tree
  • Decorate the tree
  • Have a snowball fight
  • Go sledding
  • Give someone a hug
  • Make orange pomanders
  • Go for a drive in our pjs to see christmas lights
  • Watch Rudolf
  • Make someone smile today
  • Dance to christmas music
  • Drink hot cocoa

Granted, you can see the Cheese It box front when you open the windows. If we do it again maybe I’d glue down a backing paper or paint it. But really, it doesn’t hurt the overall effect and the kids don’t seem to notice once bit. The best part of this project? That it was a collaborative effort. In my opinion, the best holiday projects, are ones you do with someone else. The fact that it was based off my son’s idea and initiative only makes it that much better, giving him confidence and pride in the outcome.


Cheater Gingerbread Houses

1 01 2010

Who cares if it’s after Christmas and we’re making our little cheater gingerbread houses now?

Amber over a Kids Craft Weekly had issued a challenge back in November to do some sort of activity advent calendar for December. I was inspired by the idea of focusing on the little things and accomplishing all those little holiday activities that seem to slip through my fingers year after year while I’m busy shopping or cleaning. I even came up with a design involving used office supplies and a list of what holiday activities I really wanted to accomplish. Unfortunately, I never followed through with my calendar.  However, the list remained. It focused me and I’m happy to report we got through many of the items on that list.  There were a few that weren’t done before Christmas, but then I found myself at home with the kids for a few days on their winter break and so I thought – who cares if it’s after Christmas? We can still hit a few more of those items on my list! So we made gingerbread houses out of graham crackers, a tub of frosting and random holiday candy I had picked up for this purpose weeks ago.

I made the little house forms up myself. I tried to be sneaky and do it while they were busy elsewhere but they caught me. My intention was to let the frosting set a bit so the houses would be more sturdy for little hands. However, they were having none of this waiting business. So I set them to filling bowls with candies and bringing those to the dining table amidst constant request from them to test out the little candies. Eleanor was constantly watching her brother for how to react to this bazaar occurrence of bowls of candy in our house. Certainly not our norm. All things considered, I was surprised by how little candy we actually did eat. It quickly became the focus of decoration instead of food.

First I demonstrated how to use the frosting as glue asking the kids for input on which candies to use then I set them loose. Seth loved making all the decisions himself and mastering the plastic baggie of frosting.

Eleanor scoured the mostly red, white and green candies picking out every last hot pink hard candy she could find. She then had me covering every little inch of her roof with dots of frosting. I’m surprised the thing is still standing under all the weight. See it tipping there?

I have always wanted to make little “gingerbread” houses out of graham crackers so this made me incredibly happy. Maybe next year we’ll try a wonderful cardboard one like this!

Want to know a few more activities we really enjoyed over the last few weeks?

  • Cutting paper snowflakes – Seth LOVES this
  • Watching christmas movies while eating loads of popcorn
  • Teaching Seth how to draw triangle christmas trees and circle snowmen. I would say things like “draw a green triangle, now put a little brown square underneath – what do you see?” You should have seen his eyes when he realized he had just drawn a christmas tree. For a boy who used to think he can’t draw and is now finding out that he can this was a perfect activity while waiting for our dinner at a restaurant.
  • Making our own holiday cards (yet to be mailed)
  • Reading piles of holiday books – to me, christmas is also a time to explore other religions and cultures. And reading books adds a fun element to finding out what a latke is for instance. Even better when it’s a bit of tongue in cheek like Lemony Snicket’s “The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming: A Christmas Story” or Sandy Lanton’s “Lots of Latkes: A Hanukka Story“.
  • Driving around to see fantastical, and sometimes obnoxious, holiday lights and decorations
  • Putting up a christmas tree
  • Baking cookies (even if they were the pre-made dough kind)
  • Making orange pomanders – just love that smell

No matter how you spent the last month of the year, no matter which holidays you choose to partake in – if any, I hope you had a good one and took the time to enjoy the little things with the people you love. They are what matters.

I wish you all a happy New Year!

Visiting Santa

17 12 2009

This last weekend we went to our neighborhood garden store and paid a visit to Santa. There’s no fancy set up and no photographer. It’s a bring your own camera, leave with a smile and a jingle bell event. The lines are always short, never more than a couple families in front of us and my fingers are crossed that the same Santa keeps coming back until my kids no longer believe. The store, of course, does this to bring in customers. And I, of course, bought a beautiful evergreen swag for my front door. But it’s not like I haven’t been there several times over the month buying our tree, our wreath and tree toppers. And it’s not like I won’t be going back for a few stocking stuffers.

Eleanor was willing to sit next to Santa unlike last year. Though whenever Santa looked at her she would slowly inch herself away from him. She didn’t understand the concept of asking for presents and instead told Santa how she had a baby at home. Other than a few brief interactions with him she mostly sat on the bench patiently looking a bit bored.

Seth on the other hand! Well, he had a list prepared weeks ago; carefully dictated to his father and then cut out around the end of each word. Here’s his list:

  • Any transformer
  • Toy rockets
  • More big legos
  • More little legos
  • A hot dog
  • A toy computer
  • Toy train/model train
  • A Christmas tree

You might have noticed a couple odd items on his list. Like a Christmas tree, which we already have. But more specifically a hot dog. He thought this was a mighty fine joke to pull on Santa. And our Santa, oh our Santa, played right along: “A hot dog! A hot dog!!! A HOT DOG!!! Now. Would that be a tofu pup, a wiener or a small furry canine that’s really warm?” I’m so glad he made a fuss about it. What a good Santa.

Circle Wreaths!

12 12 2009

I loved Jen’s circle wreaths so much I had to make several.

They’re shown here on my freshly painted wall in my sunroom.  The color is called african sunset and it’s made by Dutch Boy. It has zero VOCs. Zero! Can’t smell a thing. Love that.

This isn’t their final resting place. Two are going to my office and one would look lonely on this wall so I have to find another spot for it.

This would be a fun project to do with little ones. But I’ll admit I was selfish and wanted to do it by myself. However, Seth has been enjoying playing with the left over circles and foam double sided tape.

Christmas Cards

28 12 2008

Christmas cards were light this year and I’ll admit I didn’t send any out. I love sending and receiving cards but I just don’t get to them every year. The best card we received this year? No offense to the other lovely cards but this interactive make-your-own car freshener christmas tree rocked! I would have loved to actually put it in our car but a certain little boy was having none of it. And yes there was a bit more to it – a large card with family photos and signatures. Complete fun.

Merry Christmas!

27 12 2008

I hope you are all having a wonderful holiday season. I’ve been busy beyond belief. I promise to be back soon with more projects I’ve done as well as a taste of how our christmas went per request. Here I give you a half eaten gingerbread man ornament made by yours truly. But really the credit goes to Jen and Meg. Meg from Elsie Marley initially created the pattern last year. At first I didn’t like it but it grew on me. I pulled it up on the computer one day to contemplate making it. Seth saw it thought it was hilarious – well that sealed the deal. Unfortunately, as it usually does, life got in the way and it wasn’t until Jen’s last pARTy that I got around to it. And really just because I hadn’t over committed myself, had reserved the day to be at Jen’s and Jen placed a bowl full of supplies in front of me. Man, she’s the best! Top that off with she had two pattern’s cut out: the original and a slightly modified one which I preferred and really got me over what had been holding me back originally. She sent me home with supplies to make a few more but of course, that hasn’t happened… yet.