Happy Advent! This is a very ambitious plan for someone like me who some months can't manage even a single post, but my pledge is that for the next 24 days, I'll do one post per day with:
- holiday craft tutorials (for kids and adults - some with a book tie-in)
- printables (including gift tags, a bookplate and more outfits for the Mimi paper doll)
- thrifty decorating ideas
- suggestions for cheap, high appeal gifts for kids
- descriptions of "quirky" holiday traditions
- and a give-away or two (including a personalized copy of my holiday book for toddlers, Merry Christmas, Cheeps! by Julie Stiegemeyer). Send me an email by December 15, 2008 at baickermckee [at] gmail [dot] com with your name and contact info to register for the give-aways, and I'll pick the winner(s) at random and (I hope) mail the treat(s) out in time for Christmas.
The photo at the top of this post is of the felt (over burlap) advent calendar my sister Anna made for my family more than 20 years ago. It's a bit faded, not to mention falling apart a bit now, thanks to some enthusiastic gift retrieval by the youngsters in my house, but it's still beloved by us all. It has two features my kids consider essential: the pockets are cleverly disguised as pictorial elements (like the balls and hat of the snowman, the top of the lamppost, the windows in the house and church), and the numbers are scattered randomly, so you have to hunt for the right one when it's your turn. (Sometimes you have to hunt rather hard because the numbers were just printed with a sharpie marker and they've gotten blurry over time).
Unless you're planning to stay up very late, and you're well-stocked in the craft and sewing supply department, you probably won't manage to add an elaborate calendar like this one this year (but you could always start planning for next year). But here are some links for crafting advent calendars, many much simpler than this one:
- A compilation of TONS of different advent calendars from bella dia at the Crafty Crow
- 3 clever ideas using common objects like matchboxes, assembled by Domestika
- a funny calendar using Altoid tins at craftzine
The way the advent tradition works at my house is that the Advent Elf sneaks in during the night and leaves one little something (a candy cane, a small toy, something practical-ish like chapstick) in the correct pocket. Sometimes the Advent Elf is delayed by bad weather, traffic, etc. and has to slip in during the day when no one's looking. Also sometimes the Advent Elf gets the pockets mixed up, but it's not nice to make fun of him, especially during Christmas season. My 3 kids take turns getting the gifts, and we have an elaborate rotation system of who goes last (for some reason the most coveted position). This tradition is still going on, even though two of the "youngsters" are now in college. (The Advent Elf is not above using the U.S. Mail.) My husband thinks the Advent Elf is insane, and he might be right.
My sister-in-law has taken the Advent Elf tradition to a whole 'nother level. She shares it with another family, and the Elf surprises one family or the other throughout the month with rather more elaborate goodies, like whole batches of home-baked cookies or a jigsaw puzzle to assemble, or something else that makes me tired just thinking about it. But it does seem to be fun for all of them.