(Semi) DIY – Advent Calendar

I’m not sure what’s gotten into me lately, but I’ve had this deep desire to be crafty and to create things for my home and decor for the holidays that is both unique to our family, and that will last.  At least for a while.  Things that will be traditions for us and the kids, that they’ll know when it’s the holidays, it’s time to pull out X, or when Halloween rolls around, we do Y.  The thing lately that I’ve been most excited to do, and that we finished up last weekend entirely, but had finished to the point of use before December 1 was an advent calendar.  When I was growing up, we had one that my mom made that was a fabric tree (think quilted, but not?) with two rows of 12 pockets along the bottom that we would fill as the days went by to Christmas with either paper candy canes, or real ones, dHepending on how fancy we got that year.  Mostly paper candy canes.  And it was THE BEST THING EVER.  Two years ago the Boy bought cheapy advent calendars for the girls from Trader Joe’s – you know the kind.  Paper boxes with a plastic tray inside and behind 24 doors, chocolate.  But not good chocolate – just the melty-oily stuff that is cheap to mold and mass produce.  So last year, after he failed to remember to purchase advent calendars, I thought it would be a good idea to MAKE one for ourselves that could be customized and reused year to year.  I put a reminder on my calendar for early November, and when the time came, I began searching online for something we could customize.

It ended up coming down to this guy, and mostly because it met all the requirements, but also because it allowed for a lot of customization.  I read all the reviews, and was warned about the fact that many of the drawers were difficult to pull out and put back in unless they were in the slots out of which they came.  Also that there would be SO MUCH SANDING.  So I was prepared.  Sort of.

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So, the advent tree arrived less than a week after I ordered it.  Hurrah for Amazon Prime!  Unfortunately, it turns out that I’m not quite as motivated to do a daunting task like sanding that entire tree as you might think.  Because it involved sanding each and every box.  4 sides, 12 edges, and 8 corners, all times twenty four.  And that was just the little drawer-boxes.  Then I would have to sand the body of the tree itself.  It was a challenge.  I would like to say that I just did 3 or 4 boxes every night for a week, then took a couple more nights on the body of the thing, and that was it.  Instead, what happened was I usually did about 6-8 boxes over the course of 3-4 nights, and those nights were spread out until the day before I planned to paint the box fronts with the girls.  And I had so many left on that last night that I gave myself a claw hand with how hard I worked sanding each edge lovingly until it was all perfectly smooth.  I was crying from working so hard, and the Boy told me to stop and finish in the morning.  And that’s what I did.

The next morning was the day for painting, and I finished, and all was well.  I had purchased 4 bottles of acrylic paint (3 regular in red, green and white; one metallic in 20k gold) from Target, and I already had a small container with all other kinds of rainbow acrylic paints, and a package of 4 paint brushes.  I had purchased some cheap number stickers online that I decided would be good to paint over which would be easier than trying to get the girls to paint the numbers on, or for me to have to go back and paint numbers on everything.  I ripped out pages from the Minted holiday catalog (thanks for the thick, sturdy paper!), filled a few solo cups with water for rinsing paint, pulled out some paper plates to use as palettes, and we got down to work.

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There wasn’t a specific pattern we set out to do.  We started at the top and decided what colors should go where, alternating as we went along so that we wouldn’t have repeating colors next to or above/below each other.  Once we applied a base layer on each box and let it dry a bit, we went back and added the patterns.  Again – no specific pattern of patterns was decided, just that similar ones shouldn’t be next to each other, and to try and make it all as mixed up and wonderful as possible.

And it turned out pretty well!  We were all very pleased with how it looked even before painting the tree-stand.  And to be honest, we finished the painting on November 25, and I didn’t have the time or energy to go back and finish sanding the tree stand until just before December 1.  So while the girls started pulling candy out of the drawers on the 1st, I went back and finished things up last weekend.

That meant pulling all the drawers out (the ones already filled with candy at this point), and covering them with strict instructions NOT TO PEEK AT THE CANDY.  I then took the tree outside and sprayed it with some forest green spray paint outside where things were well ventilated.  Perhaps later I’ll show you ALL my holiday crafts including a second set of items that were spray painted which you can kind of see on the edges of this photo.

But then I put it all together, and it’s so awesome you guys.  I’m so proud!  The Boy called me the craftiest step-mommy, and I kind of feel like I am right now.  Perhaps the only other thing I could do would be to add a clear coat to it all to protect all the hard work that went towards painting it.  And I might add a hanger on the back so it can be attached to the wall, but I haven’t decided yet.  But that’s all besides the point – it looks so good, and it’s definitely good enough to get through this holiday season, so I’ll probably leave it for now.  I love how the candies inside are a variety of good ones instead of just crummy chocolates.  Also – since I mixed it up quite a lot, I’ve also got my stocking candy for the family covered.  Go me!

And that’s it!  If you’re interested in DIYing a similar tree, your expenses will look something like this:

Unfinished Wooden Advent Calendar: 39.99
Acrylic Paints from Target: 8.49
Number Stickers: 6.69
Green Spray Paint: 3.96
Candy: 9.84 (yearly)

TOTAL: $68.97 (before tax)

Granted, if you only used Hershey’s kisses, you could probably get away with spending a lot less on candy each year, especially if you only have one child/person using the advent calendar.  But when there are super-adorable and creative candies at the grocery store, and this is meant to be nicer than the crappy paper advent calendars, I think it’s ok.  I’ll have to reconcile myself to the fact that the cost of this advent calendar will never amortize down to something less than 2.99 per child per year, but when you’re in the mood to make something that will be both a good memory of time spent together, and will last year to year – it’s worth putting in the extra time, effort and dollars.

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