Advent activities: making ornaments

12 12 2011

We are well underway with our list of advent activities!  Frankly, I’ve not been super on top of things and instead of having the next day’s book and activity ready, I often find myself in the morning hastily wrapping up a book and trying to decide which activity fits into our schedule.  Last night we drove around to look at Christmas lights, which is something the kids really enjoy and is so easy compared to anything else. You just strap ‘em in and drive around, listening to Christmas music and their “oohs” and “aahs.”  If you are in the vicinity of West Henrietta, we went to see this house, and I thought it was impressive for an amateur display.  It’s not Disneyland, but it’s good to have a destination when you’re out looking at lights. 

Anyway, looking back on what I took pictures of so far, we have mostly been making decorations.  First there were the felt ornaments that I bought last year after Christmas on clearance and re-discovered on December 1st.  Score!  Fun and easy. 



Even LB wanted in on the glue-and-stick action.  For him, I put dabs of craft glue on the tree, and he stuck the “gems” on.  BB did the whole thing himself. 

Then one day we were going to make birdfeeders and I still hadn’t quite worked out the logistics of it, so I decided to do it by threading cereal onto yarn.  Educational, because LB is learning his colors, and good for developing fine motor skills.  I am deeply, deeply sorry to the birds and those who love them that we set out this kind of crap for them.  I don’t want my kids eating it either.  If it makes anything better, neither the birds nor the squirrels have recognized it as food, so it’s still hanging outside as a colorful garland.  Which is fine. 


And last but not least, we made salt dough ornaments.  Looking around the web, I found the recipe was consistently 1 part salt, 1 part water, 2 parts flour.  So we mixed:

  • 1/2 c. salt
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1 c. flour

and this gave us a nice dough and a good quantity.  We made about a dozen ornaments.  It was a little sticky so I floured the surface we worked on.  We rolled out the dough pretty thin, maybe 1/8” to 1/4”, then cut out trees, gingerbread men, and circles.  I wanted to do a tree like this one on Pinterest only to find that it was a LIE.  If you click through, it is not made of salt dough, it’s ceramic, and all the other cool thumbprint things on Pinterest are made of clay, bronze, etc.  Well, let me tell you that salt dough does not take detailed impressions well.  We did some fingerprints but these are sort of cookie-ish and so they puff a little, thereby destroying the imprints.  By far the nicest ones, I thought, were the ones we stamped and then baked. 


Before baking, I used a straw to make a hole at the top for a ribbon.  Then, I baked them at 250F for about 2 hours, and I did flip them about halfway.  When they cooled, we painted them.  You can see in the middle my thumbprint tree; it sort of worked, but BB’s (yellow) print is bigger than my print (orange).  I painted the black cord, but I think a sharpie might have been a better idea.  I did a thumbprint reindeer too, with BB’s name and the year.  I don’t know if we’ll keep them, but it would be a cute keepsake.  He insists it’s a moose, though.   These are my 2 favorite:


Inspired by this pin, which is absolutely all over the place on Pinterest. 

And to think, we still have some more ornament crafts lined up!  BB says he thinks our tree is the most beautiful tree in the whole world.  I find that so sweet; proof that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, because in reality, it is a scrawny fake tree from Big Lots with very sparse decoration.  It is our own Charlie Brown tree, beautiful only because we love it. 

Wrapping with fabric

2 12 2011

Yesterday we unpacked all our Christmas decorations, and lo an behold, I had bought a bunch of stuff on clearance last year after Christmas that I had forgotten about completely!  Sadly, this included a gingerbread house, so we won’t be making our own this year, but truth be told, I’m not that heartbroken about it.  I have everything I need in a box!  Waiting in the laundry room!  It’s like an early Christmas present.  Anyway, I also had some fabric; last year I had this plan of making reusable gift bags that we could use to wrap gifts.  But today I had this even better idea, so simple, yet I haven’t seen it out there (I’m sure it is somewhere, but I haven’t come across it), so I’m sharing it here.  Instead of a bag, I made a square (well, it came out 20” x 21”, but it’s pretty close) of fabric with serged edges (No serger?  Hemming would work just fine.)  Then I scrounged up a ribbon to go with it. 


Now, I’m planning to do a book a day, and thankfully the order from Scholastic arrived yesterday, so we are set!  I feel like the wrapping is probably pretty self-explanatory but I put together some instructions so you can see how it works. 

2011 12 December

Basically, just put the book on the square (diagonally), fold in 2 sides, fold up the bottom and the top, tucking in any extra fabric.  Slip the ribbon underneath, center it, bring the sides up and twist in the center.  At this point, flip it over, then bring in the sides and tie a bow.  Done!  The ribbon holds the wrapping in place really well.  After today I will put out a new book under the tree every night, so that we can read it in the morning.  Better late than never, eh?

I think I will make a bunch of squares in different sizes for wrapping gifts this year.  I realize that this is more pricey than wrapping paper, but thinking of all the paper that’s thrown out on December 25th makes me cringe, so at least there will be a little less paper trash around here this year.  And, it’s possible that if they are used year after year, they will pay off in the long run  Now I’m not sure how Santa will wrap his gifts this year…

Advent, week 3

22 12 2010

Can you believe Christmas is almost here already?  I look at our advent tree and see those three ornaments left and just wonder where the time went.  At least I can say our Christmas cards went out; this is the first year we have managed that feat before Christmas has come and gone!

We have been busy with our activities; here’s the rundown:

Day 16: Make cinnamon ornaments.  I had seen a ton of ideas on the Crafty Crow for making ornaments but I really liked this idea from 5 Orange Potatoes because (1) it was made using things I have on hand and (2) it’s like cutting playdough which is always a hit in our house.  It was really easy, just mix 1 cup applesauce, 1 cup cinnamon, and 1 tablespoon glue.  Roll out, cut shapes and let dry.  I did as suggested and baked them at 200F and flipped them every 15 minutes till dry.  Patience is not my forte!


I did make holes before baking, with a straw for the big ones and a toothpick for the small ones.  It made lots and lots!  We decorated some with glitter glue and some we left plain, made pipe cleaner loops and strung them up as a garland. 



Day 17: Make Christmas trees.  This was just a catch-all craft category on a day I didn’t have much time to spare.  We did these trees from Frugal Family Fun Blog, though they didn’t work so well with construction paper (a little too floppy).  Not surprising but I just used what I had!  BB stamped it and glued on sparkly snowflakes.  Then we did a tissue paper on contact paper craft like our autumn tree.  I had had some more in mind but there wasn’t time. 


Day 18: Take a winter hike.  My husband was actually home, so we were able to all go out to Wild Wings and see the birds of prey, then take a short hike to feed the chickadees.  They come to eat out of your hand, which is not really the least invasive way to observe nature, but it’s LOTS of fun. 



I mean, holding a bird in your hand, how cool is that?!?

Day 19: Make a gingerbread village.  Here’s another one where I came to my senses.  I mean, we’re not going to eat it, so does it really have to be home baked?  I bought a Wilton kit on sale and figured it was cheaper that way since I didn’t have to buy lots of candy for decorating.  It was a lot harder than I expected, and I had to do most of it because the frosting was so hard to work with that BB couldn’t really use it at all.  But he happily sprinkled candy on the rooftops of the houses.  I worked as fast as I could to keep up with him and the result is not much like the picture but it’s a cute little centerpiece for the table. 


Day 20: Make ice cream.  This was one of those things that was maybe more for me, and for the convenience of using up cream that was about to go bad, but ended up with stellar results.  Described in detail in the previous post, should you want to try this. 

Day 21: Make gifts for teachers.  Last year I was up half the night making chocolate dipped pretzels, so I swore this year I would find something easier.  I had seen this recipe for hot chocolate on a stick on giverslog a while back and decided this would be it.  A little risky doing something for the first time when you need it to work…sure enough, they did not release well from the molds and the look a little wonky.  BUT!  Finally I have a gift that BB could help with.  To go with the hot chocolate on a stick I used our homemade marshmallows to do some cutouts and we decorated them with colored sugar.  Who wouldn’t love hot chocolate and marshmallows?  (I’m hoping the answer is not “BB’s teachers”.)


Day 22: Make cookies.  This was another practical one since I need to take cookies for BB’s Christmas party tomorrow.  Fun!  We made lots and took some to the neighbors too, and still have lots left for eating.  I made some baby-sized cookies with the last bit of dough; they are a much more reasonable size, IMHO.  The ones for school are unfrosted (they will be decorating them at the party) but I made some icing and we used our leftover colored sugar and gingerbread village decorations to decorate a few for immediate consumption. 


Yum!  The next few days will be pretty simple; Christmas party at school, Christmas eve service, and then Christmas day!  So this is the end of my little advent series.  We have had a great time and I wonder what we will do from here… quite possibly more “educational” type stuff will fill our days.  BB has shown an interest in writing letters and spelling words, and counting too, so I might try to set up some school time to keep us busy.  Hope you have a wonderful Christmas!

Advent Calendar and Activities

30 11 2010

Inspired by several advent calendars on the web (several on The Crafty Crow, and in particular this one from The Artful Parent), I decided to make one for us.  I wanted one that could be re-used though, plus I have fabric and an inclination to sew things so this is what I did:


It didn’t come out quite like I had in mind but I’m happy with it nonetheless.  The ornaments are 2 layers of felt and are all attached by snaps, which I have lots of and need to use up.  BB and I decorated the round ones with glitter glue, and the rest are supposed to be a string of lights. 

Now I am working on a list of activities, and each day, BB will have to find the date (good practice identifying numbers!) and on the back will be our activity for the day.  I’m doing them just on little dot stickers:


This is my list, which is a working document.  I decided against putting them all up at once, because some, like taking a winter hike, will be weather dependent, and others, like driving at night to see the lights, will be dependent on someone not waking up so early he barely lasts till sunset. 

Advent activities:

  1. Put up decorations
  2. Park avenue holiday open house, 5pm onward
  3. Make a garland
  4. Christmas party
  5. Set up our tree.
  6. Decorate our own wrapping paper.
  7. Candlelight night in Pittsford 4pm onwards
  8. Make pinecone ornaments for the birds and hang outside.
  9. Bake gingerbread house.
  10. .  Assemble and decorate gingerbread house.
  11. .  Holly Trolley
  12. . Make Christmas gifts.
  13. . Write a letter to Santa.
  14. . Decorate ornaments.
  15. . Decorate and sew pillows as gifts (using Pentel fabric crayons).
  16. . Make snowflake window decorations.
  17. . Make candy cane playdough.
  18. . Go for a winter nature hike.
  19. . Play games and drink hot chocolate.
  20. . Bake Christmas cookies.
  21. . Invite a couple friends over to decorate cookies.
  22. . Make popcorn and watch a Christmas movie together.
  23. . Go for a drive to look at Christmas lights.
  24. . Christmas Eve Service
  25. . Make pumpkin waffles with whipped cream for Christmas breakfast.
  • Head to the library to pick out some Christmas books.
  • Build a nativity set. 
  • Bake gingerbread men
  • Take donation to Lollypop Farms (humane society)
  • Buy a toy for a toy drive. 

I put up just a few activities to get us started tomorrow, and then I’ll be working on the list as we go and putting up more activities on the tree.  I would really like to do more activities that focus on giving to others, as well as those that help understand the meaning of Christmas, which I have done a terrible job of so far.  We read a story by Frank McCourt called Angela and the Baby Jesus, and now BB is asking all these random questions like “Why didn’t the baby Jesus have a blanket?  Will baby Jesus be coming here for his birthday?”  Um, what?  In general I am not very good at explaining things on a three-year-old’s level and this one is really tricky.  If anyone knows some good books, by all means, let me know!  I love the idea of activities for every day, because it really emphasizes presence over presents.  If you haven’t seen it before, check out Advent Conspiracy; I think it’s one of the best ideas I’ve ever heard:

Link to video because I can’t figure out how to embed! Gah!