Sunday, December 16, 2012

advent calendar: the result

A couple of weeks ago we did an advent calendar inspiration round up. You can find it here.

These were my goals for the advent calendar:

               One unwrapped box for each day; inside each you find:
                          an activity (printed on the inside of the box)
                          a small treat (Maybe a peanut M&M?)
                          a figure for the nativity scene.

    What I actually did:

One unwrapped box for each day, arranged in a random (but horizontally and vertically straight) manner.

I used boxes that I had on hand (free from my Mother-in-law! Thank you!) A 1/4 inch MDF board cut to size by the friendly guys at Home Depot. Paper left over from our wedding invitations, and green paint left over from another project.

Inside each box you will find: 3 peanut butter M&Ms (one for each person in the family) and a figure for the nativity scene. I am going to save the activities for next year when the boy has a better understanding of things.

I went with the Playmobil Nativity. I loved Playmobil as a little girl, but we did not have many of them. They still seem like fancy toys to me because they sold them at Grand Rabbit's the fancy toy store near my childhood home in Louisville, CO. I loved to go there and drool over the toys.

We are a little late beginning the advent count down, so we are opening 2-3 boxes each day to try to catch up. It took about half a day to condition the boy to salivate when you say the word "box." Apparently an advent calendar with an M&M in it is a veritable Pavlov's bell.

Since the boy is still pretty young and the pieces are rather small we play with the nativity scene together. In between it is stored on the mantle. This may be partly because I don't want to loose pieces to the nativity scene, well, actually that is the whole reason.

Hung up on the wall. 

Feeding the donkey.

I did not hang it up high enough. Well, live and learn!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

felted wool teether

I would say that lately I have been experimenting with felting wool, but as the photos show...I was experimenting with felting wool when there were leaves on the trees. March, to be specific. I don't know if that qualifies as lately.

I purchased a host of colors of wool roving on Etsy from a woman in Estonia. The wool smells delicious. Good enough to eat; it is a teether after all. Is that wrong to think that wool smells tasty? I know that wool on the hoof does not smell great, but this wool has been washed, brushed, and dyed using natural dyes.


Felting is the low down:

Start with wool roving.


Pull off a small bunch.


Submerse it in warm/hot soapy water and roll it between your palms.


Roll it until all the ends have tied themselves into the ball.


Rinse the soap out.


Set the ball out to dry.

Is anybody else hearing Monica from Friends saying "check" after each item?

                 Rachel: Who are you saying "check" too?

                Monica: Myself. Y'know, for remembering to pack a thing. 
                               Yeah, you do a good thing, you get a check! 
                               My mom does it, I never realized it was weird.

According to Wikipedia (shudder...I know, not a reliable source), the heat and moisture used in wet felting causes the scales in the wool fibers to hook together. The comparison of different fibers below shows why cotton does not felt.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

round up at the advent corral

 Advent. The countdown to Christmas. Anticipating present day. Contemplating Christ's birth.

When I was a little girl we had a paper pop-out advent calendar similar to the one below. I would look forward to opening each little door every day to see a part of the Christmas story hiding behind it.

I have not thought about advent calendars very much since I was ten or twelve, but things are changing now. My babe is almost a year and a half. The anticipation of Christmas is still lost on him, but if I start to make an advent calendar now he has a better chance of getting to enjoy it before he turns eight. Sometimes decisions are hard to make. Sometimes I procrastinate...just a little bit. Please tell me that I am not the only one!

Elizabeth and I have been looking for advent calendar inspiration. The challenge is not in finding inspiration but rather narrowing down the contenders to a manageable number. (Thank you Pinterest!)

Here are some of our favorites:

                                                               Sources: Left - Jessica from Cutesy Crafts; Right - Kenna's Etsy shop, Kenna's Felt Forest.

I love the advent calendars that incorporate the story of Christ's birth. So many times I believe that the real meaning gets easily lost in the shuffle of present wrapping and cookie decoration. These two calendars above would be a sweet reminder of the real reason for our celebration. I love the little sheep in the calendar from Jessica (above left) at Cutesy Crafts, and the detail in the figures in Kenna's nativity advent (above right) is fantastic! (This advent calendar is for sale on Etsy.)

Another trend that I see in advent calendars is little boxes or packages that you can put small presents or treats in. As a big fan of candy and presents, I really like this idea. The two examples above are both elegant but they accomplish that by two different routes. The wooden shelf and round tags on Anthology's advent calendar give it a rustic feel. I particularly like the nostalgic tags; my mom had a small box of them in her desk drawer and I remember playing with them. They seemed like money to a little girl. In contrast to the color and texture, the advent calendar from SHIM&SONS is elegant in it's simplicity and uniformity. The rows of tidy little boxes appeal to my sense of order in a very big way.

Sources: Martha Stewart's card calendar; Leigh from It's All Small Stuff's advent book; A simple Nest's tree advent; Danyelle from Dandee Designs' advent wreath

There are many "traditional" Christmas activities. Some of these things that always bring the holidays to mind for me are hot cocoa, reading by the fire, looking at Christmas lights, baking cookies, and Christmas caroling. Some advent calendars have a small activity for each day that incorporates fun seasonal activities to do as a family. I love the stylized trees in the advent calendar from A Simple Nest. She used paint chips to make those adorable trees. You could include the kids in making both the tree advent calendar and the book advent calendar from Leigh at It's All Small Stuff. The simplicity of the advent wreath from Danyelle at Dandee Designs as well as Martha Stewart's card advent calendar will be a nice contrast in a room of twinkly lights and shining ornaments.

Another kind of advent calendar is a simple countdown. You start with 25 objects (elves or trees or something completely different) and take one away each day until you arrive. This could be especially useful for children that are anticipating Christmas and want to know how many "sleeps" they have until that morning dawns. Both the elves from Nadine Reeves (in an article on Canadian Living) and the little trees from Pink Suede Shoes are are projects that you could do with children. I rather like the idea of making an advent countdown that includes both elves and trees, though you might need to make the trees a little bigger.

I think it is important for an advent calendar to "re-set" easily from year to year so that it does not take too much planning to put together after it is initially made.

Here is my idea:
               One non-wrapped box for each day (a la SHIM&SONS).
               Inside each you find
                          an activity (printed on the inside of the box)
                          a small treat (Maybe a peanut M&M?)
                          a figure for the nativity scene.

I am torn between making felt figures or just buying the Playmobil nativity and dividing up the pieces into the boxes. The greedy sleeper in me is voting for Playmobil, while the crafter lobbies for felt. It is an ongoing battle. You understand, right?