December 1, 2011

DIY Advent Calendar

Happy 1st day of December!
Let the countdown to Christmas begin. I've been wanting an Advent Calendar for a loooong time. I saw an episode of Martha Stewart about 4 years ago where she demonstrated how to make a Glittered Magnetic Advent Calendar. I loved the idea so I got online, found the directions and filed it away. Every year December arrives so quickly and passes before I get the chance to create my Advent Calendar. This year I was not going to let that happen!

I have to admit I've been a little depressed at the thought of Christmas this year. Normally I look forward to decorating. In the past few years we've been able to take a drive to a National Forest and spend the day tramping through the snow hunting for the perfect tree to cut down and take home. We've also had more space in the past for the tree and all the wonderful Christmas decorations. This year though we are living in a cramped space where the majority of our Christmas decorations and other things we don't use on a regular basis are stacked and crammed into a closet.

I knew that this year was the year I had to make this Advent Calendar. I thought it would help us get into the Christmas spirit. It will also serve as a substitute for a Christmas tree since it's in the shape of one. I'm so excited about starting this new tradition!  My husband and I decided that we would each have the responsibility of filling every other day with goodies so that we would be equally surprised. The only problem was I was so excited and had so many ideas that I ended up filling more days then I was supposed to. My husband didn't seem to mind though, I'm not sure he's filled his days yet... I'm looking forward to sharing this tradition with our children one day and giving them the responsibility to fill some of the days.

I used Martha Stewart's Glittered Magnetic Advent Calendar as a guide but I made mine differently. If you would like to see how she made hers click here. The main material that is used are clear lidded magnetic spice tins. Martha recommends getting them from Ikea but they are $4.99 for 3. I decided that was too much to spend so my search began. I considered using a tin that was not magnetic but then I realized that adding my own magnets would be more involved and might not be strong enough to stay put with goodies inside. I ended up finding magnetic tins at Michael's Arts and Crafts. They were in the scrapbooking section and are used for organizing. They were sold in packs of 2 for $2.99. That was still expensive considering I needed to get 13 packs. I found out they would be going on sale on Thanksgiving day starting at 4pm. So I took a quick trip Thanksgiving evening and ended up getting them for 80% off. Yay!

The tins came with a divider inside but that was easily removed. These tins worked great! They are very strong and stay put. They also have a wide boarder so if the circles that are placed in the middle aren't cut perfectly it will be hidden. I decided to use all 26 tins instead of only 25. The star at the top is the bonus gift. One of the pieces of candy has a little sticker hidden on it and whoever gets that piece gets the bonus gift.

Other differences between mine and Martha's calendar are that I didn't use glitter and I didn't use her template for the circles. I created my own  template using Microsoft Word. I just used the shape tool, created a colored circle and typed a number in the middle. If you want a printable copy of the template she used click here.

I made my Advent Calendar in just 3 easy steps:

Step #1 Create the days in the colors and font you want in Microsoft Word

Step #2 Print out the days and cut them out in the shape of a circle

Step #3 Add a little hot glue to the inside perimeter of the tin's lid (careful not to get any on the clear part) and stick down the circle so the number shows through

I decided to place our Advent Calendar on the front door. It's in a prominent spot and can be seen better than if we placed it on the fridge. Another thing you can do is create a metal frame for it.

The best part is filling each day with something fun! That way the entire month of December is a celebration. The tins are a great size and I came up with lots of ideas for what to fill them with.

You don't have to just put candy inside. My calendar includes notes for activities to do together. Like taking a drive to see Christmas lights or Movie night. Another fun thing I added was the little guitars that are made to place over a key on your key ring so that you can find it quickly. Two of my favorites are the bacon flavored mints and the his and hers dental floss in bacon and cherry.

If you already have an advent calendar what are some things you fill yours with? Another fun thing I did was fill multiple days with puzzle pieces. That way we can put the puzzle together as we continue to get more pieces.

I spent some time brainstorming all kinds of ideas, here's what I came up with:
  • Specialty candy
  • Cookies
  • Stickers
  • Legos
  • Key Chains
  • Erasers, paper clips or other office/school supplies
  • Scripture
  • Sweet Notes or coupons that say: stay up past your bedtime, free hugs and kisses...
  • Notes that take you on a scavenger hunt
  • Activities, like seeing Christmas lights, burger night, movie night, breakfast for dinner, ice skating, building a snowman...
  • Coins
  • Pieces to make a ginger bread house with
  • Puzzle pieces or other game pieces
If you don't have an Advent Calendar I hope I've inspired you to create your own! What a fun tradition to start, I can't wait to share it with my children one day. Do you have any fun traditions that you do during the Christmas season?

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