Monday, December 05, 2011


I have a pretty poor track record when it comes to crafts.  Whenever I attempt a project, even if I follow the instructions carefully, the result is usually a fail.  Take, for example some Christmas cookies I saw in a magazine a few years ago.

These are the cookies as presented in the magazine.

This is what happened when I tried to bake them.

The other day, I saw these cookies on Pinterest and I was tempted to leave a comment about my experience with it, but I decided against it.  There are some things people need to learn for themselves and anyway, the Pinterest crowd doesn't seem to be very interested in reality.

 Pinterest is where I saw this Advent calendar.

I liked its clean red and white pallet. How hard could it be to paint a bunch of clothespins and glue them to a board?

For years I have wanted to make an Advent calendar.  Upscale catalogs have nice ones but they're usually things you could make yourself with fabric or yarn scraps and it's ridiculous to pay $98 for twenty-four tiny mittens on a string at Garnet Hill.

I've tried to knit my own tiny mittens, and always got bored before finishing even the first one.  This time I was determined to succeed.  I found twenty-five clothespins and gave them to Seamus to paint while I went out to buy the rest of the materials.  I did some calculations:  twenty-five clothespins spaced three and a half inches apart meant I needed an eighty-seven inch board.  That's more than seven feet.  For some reason, the Pinterest photo had led me to believe that the Advent calendar would be small and manageable, you know, like the size of a photograph on pinterest.  Now it appeared I was making the world's largest Advent calendar.

No doubt I amused the Lowe's shoppers who saw me attempting to scan the end of an eight food board at the self scanner and nearly take a guy out by the ankles.  I also smacked it into the top of the doorway when leaving the store.  At home, Seamus had painted ALL the clothespins red even though I had told him that we needed to paint half of them white.  I will spare you all the painful details, but in the end, I didn't even have a wall long enough to hang it on and had to resort to the space over a doorway.

Jon was not happy with the hooks I bought to hang it with as he felt they would work themselves off of the nails and the calendar would fall on the unlucky head of someone walking through the doorway.  I like excitement, but not that much excitement, and allowed him to improvise a way to hang the thing with leather thongs.  Leather thongs don't exactly say Christmas, but neither does an Advent calendar that doubles as a guillotine.

The finished product.  Not only is it long, it is heavy.  See my left hand, straining to hold it up in this picture?

There aren't packages hanging from all the clothespins.  That's because wrapping twenty-five tiny presents is HARD.  Hanging them is hard too, when you've accidentally painted the clothespins shut. Don't worry, I got them all wrapped and hanging eventually.  Note that the gifts are out of reach of the children.

After all that work, I read about how to make a clever Advent calendar from rolled-up pages from the Anthropologie catalog.


  1. I don't understand where people find the time to make all those perfect crafts. I think there's a craft sweatshop hidden somewhere in the back of an AC Moore or Hobby Lobby.

    I made an advent calendar using a cookie sheet and some other crafty crap and it took hours. Can't imagine how long yours took.

  2. This year's advent calendar is 24 red and green bags, numbered, and filled with little goodies. Then I hung them from the cable railings in the hall stairway in random order, just to make my girls have to hunt an additional 15 seconds for each day's bag. Because I filled the bags, then numbered them later, I can't remember what's in each on, so each day is a surprise for me too.

  3. I'm impressed. That is a substantial advent calendar. As a grandmother, I have also looked at the expensive calendars at Garnet Hill and fantasized about them, but I just can't bring myself to buy.
    For one, the two girls have three full sets of doting grandparents. I fear a glut of presents may not be such a good thing.
    Two, little things add up.
    But I do love the idea of calendars as they mark time and nibble away at what can be overwhelming anticipation.
    So I think right now I favor the old fashioned kind of calendar where you get to open a flap and see a picture each day.
    I gave up on crafts long ago. But I do like making cookies with a 3-year old. She's not particularly fussy about the way they look.

  4. I discovered the secret to the candy cane cookies. Lay the two ropes side by side and gently roll them together. it's way easier than trying to French Braid the blasted things!

  5. Pinterest is the triumph of hope over experience. My latest failure involved baking marbles. I've made the candy cane cookies with moderate success, using Little Miss Sunshine State's method, but overall my Pinterest attempts are lackluster.

  6. I think it looks great!
    Still, the stuff on Pinterest looks more professional than I could ever hope to make things look, so I realize they set the bar unreachably high for people like me.

  7. Wow, apparently I am new to the crafty advent calendar trend. I still buy the .99 cent paper ones at Trader Joe's. My kids are easily amused.
    So, who gets the gift each day? Or did you make a 7-foot long advent board for EACH child?? ;0


  8. Oh my goodness! An 8 ft board!! And you're so right --you'd never imagine from the picture that it's going to be such a behemoth!

    Really, I think the fact that you persevered after calculating the length of the board deserves some kind of parenting award.

  9. My advent calendar came from an Estate sale, purchased as a gift for me from a favorite aunt. It's a big Pottery Barn Christmas tree, most likely made by some tiny child in a Chinese sweat shop.
    I made and laminated little cards on my computer for each little appliqued pocket. The kids don't get gifts. They get to do things as a family or for others like take a plate of cookies to a friend, make a long-distance 'I Love You' call to someone, hot cocoa and snuggle night, drive around and look at lights night, pick a toy of yours to give to the poor or make cookies or watch a Christmas movie. We even have a card for buy our Christmas tree day.
    This way everyone gets to participate and I don't go broke.
    My kids love it and the cards are reusable from year to year, so it's really easy.
    It think your 8 foot board looks great! And, I agree the pinterest one does not look 8 feet!

  10. I am rather worried how easily you had access to leather thongs.

    Do you and you partner regularly use thongs?
    Did you wash them first?
    Do the children know how their lovely advent death board is being supported?
    Have you told them about the thongs?
    Do you insist they wear hard-hats in the house?
    Why not?

    An advent calendar is a lovely idea, but how on earth do you decide what goes in each packet?
    Who gets the packets?

    I've always believed in simplicity.
    I just score of each day in December on our standard kitchen calendar as it passes, and have a whisky to celebrate another day of metabolic deterioration.
    Works for me.
    (And it's cheap)

  11. Your cookies look tastier.

    That is an awesome-looking advent calendar. We hang up an advent calendar every year but usually forget to use it.

    (A propos nothing, the word verification I'm getting for the comment box is "gynotol." It sounds like an OTC pill for putting one's lady parts to sleep. This is what I enjoy about Blogger.)

  12. I like yours! You'll be able to use it again every year which makes it, in the end, worth the time. I don't know if I'd have the patience to wrap all those gifts though, Maybe little gift bags hanging from the clips next year?

  13. Patience, I am not a huge fan of Christmas, but found this blog to be very entertaining. I enjoy the style of your writing, your humor and honesty. It is a refreshing read.