Tuesday, November 22, 2011

DIY Advent Calendar! + Twitter Account

Is anyone else out there super sentimental? I have a hard time throwing anything nostalgic away, including certain pieces of wrapping paper! Don't worry, I'm not a candidate for reality hoarding shows (yet). So, when my best friend threw me the most INCREDIBLE bachelorette party (even though I was already married), I had a really hard time even considering parting with some of the pieces from it. You see, she is Martha Steward's protege (or should be, anyway) and she dip dyed (by hand!) ombre tulle as well as hand panting zillions of flowers for decor. I saved both the flowers and the tulle (you'll see what I did with the tulle soon!) to be repurposed. 
Stephanie also sent me a picture of some Christmas art she thought would go well in my (very) pink home. It was a giant Christmas tree from all sorts of collage paper and magazine cut outs with 'Merry Christmas' across the top. Loved it. And when I saw it, the flowers immediately came to my mind as the centerpiece. It has been at least a year since I saw that photo, so I'm going from memory... the actual piece may not have looked anything like this! Also, I've been wanting to make an advent calendar (which always reminds me of Germany), so I decided to combine the two into this piece. Originally the background was going to be black, but I decided I didn't want a black on black frame, so I went with white instead. I'm going to make a smaller, strictly art (no advent) version in black as well. Maybe two. I really like it. 
So, what do you need??

20 x 30 piece of foam board in the color of your choice (or you can paint it with acrylic)
collage paper/magazine cut outs in your color scheme
card stock in your color scheme for the date pockets (1 piece is enough)
decorative paper for the advent tabs
glitter (if you'd like)

I don't have a printer, so I had to free hand all lettering/numbering. If you have a printer, you can do a much better job by printing those parts. If not, you can use a marker like I did.

One other part worth mentioning about this advent is that I filled the dates with things to do rather than candy. The Christmas season seems to fly by each year, so it's a fun idea to do something Christmas-ish every day. I'd love to say this was my idea, but it wasn't!  I have no idea who to credit for it, though.

STEP ONE:
Create your 24 experiences. John and I wrote them together and recorded them in my inspiration notebook. A dear friend (anna, das ist DU!) gave me a beautiful notebook with a picture of the Eiffel Tower being struck by lightning. I love that. It speaks to me... and for some reason in my head, it equates to inspiration. Every time something inspires me for 'la vie' or an idea comes to me, it gets written down here. SO- we wrote them down here. They include things like driving around to look at lights, doing a good deed, baking for the neighbors, watching a Christmas classic, opening a present early, etc. Decide what says CHRISTMAS to your family and go from there! My favorite is "around the world day" where we'll choose a culture and research their version of Christmas. From there, we'll incorporate one of their Christmas traditions into our own celebration. Fun, right? If it's foreign, it's for me! We then wrote down the experiences on little slips of paper (1 inch by 3/4 inch). I used paper because I plan to remove the slip of paper from it's pocket each day and throw it away. That's how we'll count down. If you want, you can use something like card stock with two different colored sides. As you move through the calendar, you can flip it over so that it shows a different color than the days you haven't gone past yet. I thought about using pegs above the date pockets as well, but we don't have a hole puncher :) 

STEP TWO:
Paint your board if necessary! You need to give it time to dry. If not, start laying out your tree. You can do one of two things: you can just go for it and lay out your collage pieces and scraps of paper into a tree shape OR you can cut out a tree shape from poster board and then attach the paper to it. Use all sorts of jagged pieces of paper and don't forget to put ornaments on in a contrasting color! I thought about using the zebra paper to put ornaments on my tree, but I felt like the glittered flowers were sufficient in that respect.

STEP THREE:
Close up shot of the advent section
Cut out your date pockets (I used 2 inches by 1.5 inches) and label them. Again, using a printer would be much easier, but I didn't have that option. Measure out how you want them on your board, I spaced mine 1 mm apart. Leave enough space at the top of each row for your slips of paper to poke out like tabs. After you have it all measured out, glue these first. It's easier to adjust the size of your tree than to adjust the date pockets. I only made 24 because I wanted the rows to be even. I didn't make a pocket for Christmas day, but you can definitely add one in! I glued down my pocket with the tiniest bit of glue right along the edge. Remember that the glue will spread and you need space for the slip of paper to fit in. It would be easier to use a glue stick for that purpose. Lastly, I glittered 3 dates in gold (1, 2 and 3 weeks out from Christmas), again that's just a preference. 

STEP FOUR:
Glue down your tree. This part actually took the longest amount of time for me. I started at the bottom and worked by way up, but it would be much easier to do it the other way, I think. My collage had a lot of layers, if yours doesn't, it will be easier to move quickly without compromising the shape.

STEP FIVE:
Add your lettering. If you aren't aware, I love France. I've been there multiple times and have had private French students from time to time after having taught for our community center. I love the culture, food, countryside, fashion, look, music... everything. So... I'm constantly looking for ways to sneak it into our home :) I chose to say Merry Christmas in French, but you can do it however you'd like. I hand wrote it (again... printer...) on the card stock and then cut it out. I added a line of glue over the lettering and then covered it in black glitter. I used 3M to attach these two pieces to my board, everything else was straight up elmers.


STEP SIX:
Frame and mount! You don't *need* a frame, but I think it's so much prettier! I'm showing you a picture of the calendar without a frame so you can see how much the frame adds. You can always go to the local thrift store and get a cheap frame and then spray paint it in any color you'd like. 
I really love these colors and I'm so excited to incorporate those gorgeous flowers from some one so important to me. Maybe for your tree you'll use family photos? Maybe you'll use invitations from your wedding or other important mementos. No matter what you choose to make your tree out of, I hope you have a great time and really slow down and enjoy Christmas this year. Having the experiences under THIS tree will be so much more precious in the years to come than any other presents you may give or receive under the original Christmas tree. If you're lost for ideas- here are the 24 I have in my calendar. If you have any great ideas, please add them!
1) Create a Christmas paper chain
2) Put up lights 
3) Mail our wishlist to Santa
4) Bake Christmas cookies 
5) Decorate the house
6) Watch a Christmas movie
7) Decorate the small tree 
8) Bake for the neighbors
9) Make an annual ornament 
10) Wrap presents 
11) Go sledding
12) Watch a Christmas classic
13) Go ice skating 
14) Remember those not with us
15) Go light seeing 
16) Have a candy cane eating contest 
17) Go window shopping
18) Donate to charity
19) Go caroling
20) Go sledding
21) Open one present early
22) Do a good deed
23) Drink homemade cocoa + read the story of Jesus' birth
24) Read T'was the Night Before Christmas 
Now then, I officially started a new Twitter account. This time it's specifically for all things 'la vie', which means quick links to all things crafty, beautiful, gluten-free and fun. Feel free to follow me at 'lavieauna'! Remember, you can also follow 'la vie' through twitter, networked blogs, your google account, blogger or the "follow by email" option on the left hand side bar. As always, thanks for reading!





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