Sunday, December 2, 2012

Advent Calendar and the Story Behind It

Back in 1986 we lived in a four room house on four acres.  We had already outgrown the house and were contemplating what to do when we were approached by a realtor who lived up the hill behind us to see if we wanted to sell off two of those acres.  It took a lot of talking it out before we decided to go ahead and instead of putting the money we would make into fixing up the house for someone else to buy, to add on and up for ourselves.  It was an eventful 8 months of that year between March and September.  

Things kind of fell into place for us in that my grandmother had recently passed away and we were able to move into her part of the two-family house that my parents still lived in.  The four of us slept in one room - HWNSNBP and myself in the bed, Chris on a mattress on the floor, and Rachel still in her crib.  It was cramped but cozy.    

We had hired someone to design the addition and do the framing and we did the contracting of the other work like plumbing, heating, and electric.  The finishing of the inside was done by HWNSNBP and his band of buddies who spent many evenings and weekends putting in the sheetrock and other various jobs.   There was still a lot of "finishing" work that had to be done when we moved back in in September, and truthfully, to this day there are still some things that have not been completed.  But we added out and up and made a comfortable home for our family of four.

Paging through a book or craft magazine (I don't remember exactly where) I came upon and idea for an advent calendar and knew that we had the basic ingredients in the scrap wood pile.

I asked HWNSNBP to cut me a piece of plywood leftover from the subflooring in a rectangle about 20" x 12" and some one inch strips of 1x4 in lengths to frame it.  I did a quick whitewash of the plywood rectangle and painted the frame red.  The tree was dry-brushed with green paint and no pattern in one try - I think I got real luck with that.  One more red strip of wood was needed for the ornament bar.  Tiny brass nails were positioned on the tree and ornament bar - 24 on each.

On the back it was dated with our names as co-creators.

And each year from then until 2002 we kept track of the kids taking turns to start hanging the ornaments on the tree - beginning with the angel at the top.

There was a store called The Pink Sleigh in a town nearby that had all kinds of craft supplies as well as finished Christmas decorations.  It was kind of like walking into an old candy store with bins of this and that and on top of one of the counters was a partitioned box that you could pick out the little "ingredients" for your crafts from.  I had the kids, then 3 and 5, help me pick out 24 of the little wood and plastic figures and at home I meticulously glued the gold thread to the top of each one so they could become ornaments.

They get all lined up on the ornament bar with the angel first and the Baby Jesus last (one of the nails has gone missing which is why everything is pushed over one for now).

On December 1st we put it up and begin by hanging the angel at the top.

We're not keeping track of who goes first any more as the kids have moved out.  It's basically who remembers first for the day that gets to put the ornament up now.

This advent season we are also trying something else that I had read about on someone's blog.  We're trying to do a Random Acts of Kindness Advent.  Beginning yesterday we will try to do something somewhat unexpected for someone each day.  Nothing really big or too expensive.  Just thoughtful.  For instance - donating a book anonymously to the library, or sharing coupons at the store with the person behind us, paying for the next person's coffee, or leaving a little treat for the mailman or crossing guard or co-worker.  We're still trying to come up with ideas, so if you have any, please feel free to share them - or perhaps, if not for the next 24 days, pick out a few days that you might like to RAK someone.  


  1. Love this post . . . good memories of when your children were young and what a wonderful idea - the random acts of kindness. I will try to spread some of that kindness in this part of the country.

  2. Oh my, that must have been quite some undertaking - but lovely to live in a house with that story. And I can bet with all the DIY going on at the time it wasn't hard to find the wood for the Advent calendar! I love it - that tree is amazing. I can't believe it's just painted on in brushstrokes, it looks so fine and detailed. I like that little mouse (?) I can see hanging on the first nail. It must have been such fun choosing all the little ornaments. Seeing them reminded me of visiting an amazing bead shop in London once - I still have some little glass animal beads I got to use as earrings. And oh dear, I haven't even got my book Advent calendar out yet, just making do so far with the online one my sister sent me.


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