For the first time ever, it occurred to me this year to make one advent calendar for all the kids to share. As I was putting the finishing touches on it yesterday night, I was shaking my head at how in the world I had managed to pull off making one for each child for so long, without losing my sanity. Then I remembered that I had lost my sanity years ago, and it all finally made sense.
Besides saving me time and (theoretically) my sanity, there are other advantages to this new method: Since I only have to come up with 24 treats and not 192, I can put bigger/nicer things in for items that can be shared, such as this book that was in the calendar for today. This means that there are zero Dollar Tree-like trinkets in there, which goes well with my new "less is more" motto. If I'm going to give them a treat, it will be something of nice quality, practical, and not clutter/junk. About half of the days are filled with goodies that fit that bill, while the other half are filled with German candies (thank you, CostPlus World Market!).
Soooo, anyhow, I needed a design that could accommodate various size gifts, and enough for 8 kids each day. This means that advent calendars based on uniform containers like matchboxes or toilet paper rolls never work well for us. I also needed something that wouldn't cost an arm and a leg in craft supplies, was adorable and eye-catching while fairly easy to make, and that wouldn't break my heart to throw away after each day was opened because I'm not trying to store anything unless I absolutely must. If you have looked at my "Advent Calendars" board on Pinterest, you know this decision is serious business for me!
I discovered the above idea for an advent calendar in just enough time to pull it off. It was originally sold as a craft kit on a German website. I created my own knock-off version by using paper lunch sacks for the body, creating a template for the antlers from this design (I scaled it down to fit 2 pairs of antlers per sheet of paper), and using white Avery brand self-sticking round labels in two sizes (#5294 for the larger eyes, and #5293 for the smaller eyes and noses). I designed the noses on the template maker on avery.com. Other than cutting out the antlers, this project really was pretty fast and easy. For items that were too large to fit into a lunch sack and leave enough room at the top to fold the bag over, I cut the bottom off a second lunch sack, and glued this "sleeve" to the first bag to make it taller.
This calendar now adorns the top of our piano. Like most years, after I had stayed up too late finishing it, the kids were up bright and early today, excited to open the first bag. I forgot to give them the speech about if they get up too early, they don't get to open the calendar until lunch that day... So yes, I'm tired today! ;)
(To see design ideas from years past, please click here: 2014, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2008, 2007. Evidently, 2009 and 2013 didn't get blogged about.)