Monday, November 28, 2016

The Kids Made Their Own Advent Calendars

Today's photographs are brought to you by our little substitute camera because our Big Camera is in the Camera Spa for a tune-up. All I will say is I miss our Big Camera. I hope he comes home soon.

Advent is upon us this week.

And I feel a bit sentimental and nostalgic. See, I was looking back over the months and years I've been blogging and I realized something. Long ago, when I first started blogging, I was a mother of a preschooler, a toddler and a nursing infant. It's funny. No, the funny thing was not how I had no life apart from that which revolved around one or more of those children. Or even how my clothes never fit and I still wore them anyway. Out of the house, even.

The funny thing was me starting a blog when I had no mental or physical space in my life to take on the learning curve of social media or the weird genre that was bloglingo. Or a DSLR. Or a photo-editing program. Or, for that matter, staying awake long enough to write anything that wasn't feeding times or a log of the contents of diapers. 

I blame the Other Blogs. The ones that went before me, the pioneers and inspirers and trailblazers and round-uppers. The ones whose photos and children-in-handmade-glories motivated me to want to sew, craft, dig out my glue gun, create, design.

And to share unto others as others had shared unto me.
(How does that saying go?)

Over the years, I've watched so many of those Other Blogs evolve, dwindle, disappear. And for good reason: people's children grew up and became teenagers, college students, adults. There was no longer a need to make quiet books, burp cloths, tag blankets, cardboard ovens. 

Then there was the advent of iPhones and Instagram and Twitter, which offered deliverance from long hours of photo-editing and writing clever paragraphs. People could now brag-post without actually having to brag-post: a single photo of a finished quilt, snapped and uploaded on the same device, and they could call it a day. 

And some Other Blogs I loved became other kinds of blogs - shopfronts for commercial pursuits: etsy stores and fabric lines and sewing patterns. Mine, too. I mean, look: I have an etsy store. Not very well-stocked, true, but still - a shop. And I have a pattern store. And I am in books and magazines and whatnot. 

How on earth. . .?

Of course I'm happy for those enterprising bloggers who have Gone On To Turn Hobby Into Business. If we can make a living (in whatever capacity) from doing what we love, let's shoot out the fireworks and give thanks, is the general consensus.

But I miss my old blog. And the other Old Blogs that were full of charming handmade crafts that so whetted my appetite to make and give and share and enjoy - simply for the sake of (and delirious fun in) making.

And that is the story of my nostalgia attack.

Maybe I've just had a busy year, doing who-knows-what. Or maybe I sorely miss cardboard. After all, the cardboard side of my split personality is the purest facet of my crafting soul. I am never as gleefully creative with fabric as I am with cardboard, nor as courageous against norms and expectations of what is possible, or sensible. 

Or maybe I miss my kids being Little Ones, with their great thirst for markers and coloring and globs of glue and glitter and five-minute insta-projects. 

So this year, I thought I'd spend some time doing some of the things I used to do with the girls when they were small. We called them Complex Crafts - those that required some prep time and which involved us working together over more than a single day. Here's one: paper tube Advent Calendars. 

It's all over the internet: 24 tubes made from cardstock, tissue paper, masking tape and handmade number stickers. Each child got her own box. I prepped them and announced that we would be making our own Advent Calendars this year.

To my surprise (and delight), they were excited. Whoda thought - these girls who planned their own birthday parties and made their own jewelry and sewed their own bags got excited - and serious - about paper tubes and stickers. 

And you wouldn't believe how serious.

We sat and visited together as we worked - they colored and masking-taped, and I hot-glued. Just like old times. Then, when the tubes were all assembled, they stuck their stickers on.

Tomorrow I will fill these tubes with truffles and treats and glue them onto a board so there won't be any peeking. And, come Thursday, the poking and popping will begin. 

Some quick instructions if you want to make your own:

  1. Cut 6 sheets of letter-size cardstock into quarters. I've seen toilet paper tubes used, too, but unless you like the natural look, you'd still need to cover that with pretty paper, or paint it. Each piece will be 4.25" x 5.5". I used 5 green sheets and one brown sheet.
  2. Roll and hot-glue each piece along its long edge into a cylinder 4.25" long (the 5.5" edge becomes the circumference).
  3. Cut 24 circles of tissue paper, about 2.5" in diameter.
  4. Spread white glue (not hot glue) around the mouth of each cylinder (on the outside of the tube), center a circle of tissue paper over the mouth and press down the overhang onto the glue to form a "drum skin" covering one end of each tube.
  5. Print out the sheet of numbered circles below.
  6. Cut them out and turn them into stickers (if you have a sticker maker), or else leave them as is to be stuck on with glue; it is easier to color a whole sheet before cutting them out.


  1. Cut twenty-four 6" strips of tape wide enough to cover the messy tissue paper glued to the outside of the tubes. Mine were about 3/4" wide. You might need to demonstrate wrapping this strip around one of the tubes.
  2. When tubes are all wrapped by child, hot-glue them into a Christmas Tree shape.
  3. Fill with treats.
  4. Glue a board over the back of the Christmas Tree shape.


  1. Color the numbered circles.
  2. Cut out the numbered circles (if not turned into stickers already).
  3. Glue the numbered circles onto the tissue-paper covered opening of the tubes.
  4. Wrap tape around the mouth of the tubes, covering the glued-on tissue paper.


  1. These are charming! I'll have to show my kiddos and see if they want to give it a go :)

  2. Lorraine, thank you. I have read your blog for what feels like a long time. I really appreciate the amazing amounts of knowledge you share. I'm always happy to see your posts and happiest when you share the projects you do with your girls. I'm sure some days the blog is the last thing you want to think about, but I am glad you think about it anyway.

    1. Sasha - thank you so much. The photoediting may seem like work (and it seems that way for so many other bloggers, too) but the writing and connecting with readers like you make it more than worth the time. Bless you for your kind words!

  3. I love that they made them and you fill them and there's no peeking.

    But mostly I love your observation "We sat and visited together as we worked" because that's the stuff that sticks. I have one in college now, and I can attest to that cutting/gluing/bonding thing. The time we spent while making things together is time that counts for something bigger. It's something about busy hands and open minds, from your father to you and on to your children. My dad to me to my kids.

    And I really really really want to thank you for continuing to share your mind and your craft and your family. It makes the world a little friendlier.

    1. SJ Kurtz: It was quite the production gluing the backing board to the open ends of the tubes to seal the whole calendar. I crossed my fingers that I wasn't gluing the candy, as well.

      Thank YOU for your kind words about my blog. They mean the world to me.

  4. I have been following you ever since I made my first garment for my youngest son: the shortall. That was three years ago. Yesterday we (my sons of 6 and 4 years old) made this advent calendar and we love the outcome. Today we will open the first tube. They are looking foreward to it. Thank you, because of all the blogs I find yors most inspiring. Love, Jessica from the Netherlands

    1. Jessica, thank you for your lovely note. Your kind words made me so happy! And I am so glad you made the advent calendar, too! We opened our first tube today (chocolate truffles!) and I thought of you doing the same across the world. Merry Christmas!

  5. Thank you for such a great post, wonderful eye candy and a project I can do with the kiddos in my life. (Is it me or could this be adapted to be a "beer" Advent calendar for dh? maybe with used Pringle containers? Oh the possibilities!) I do like the size of the tubes cause they lend themselves to other small gifts in addition to candy.


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