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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The advent of Christmas and other things.

Every now and then I spend some time lurking on Pinterest and crafting blogs. I have a whole board dedicated to yule type crafts and ideas and every so often I open it up to look at all of the projects I could do… if I had unlimited time and unlimited money. In a perfect world my house would look like a playbook of perfect projects and perfect parenting. But I don’t have money, and I don’t have time, so seeing Pretty Polly’s Perfect Party Planning and Paper Project Post makes me feel a more than a little inadequate. In fact almost every project blog makes me feel slightly inadequate, I simply don’t have the time and money to reach those levels of achievement on a weekly basis. Let alone blog about it. Sometimes I wonder if these types of blog posts set the bar too high, and create an artificial sense of inadequacy to those parents who simply accomplish the basic day to day life necessities (me most days, still in my bathrobe right now). It’s so important to realise though that these blogs are just snapshots of someone’s endeavors. Simply the finished product shown in a flattering light, after all, photographs only show one angle. And that goes for my blogs too! The parents putting these blogs together aren’t their fancy crocheted toilet roll cover or their 5 year olds haute couture birthday party. They are creative people with cameras, who like to share their triumphs. So instead of feeling inadequate I need to realise that the people behind the blogs are human too and that the stuff we don’t see is just as integral to the finished item as the pretty pictures we do see, which tell one side of the story.

This year I set myself a challenge. I have wanted to make an advent calendar for the last few years. I see an advent calendar as a great way to engage with your kids if done properly. I want to make something a little special with activities, concepts and ideas. I see advent calendars as an excellent learning activity, both as a counting and a patience exercise. Given that I didn’t even start thinking about the calendar until 2 days before December 1 the deck was stacked against me.

After spending hours cutting up fabric and then realizing the idea of sewing all of the pockets was beyond me right then, I had a brainwave. A few years ago, I went to wedding that had pyramid boxes for the favours and from this sprung the idea of Christmas tree shaped boxes and from there the idea grew, so this is my Perfect Pinterest Project .

The pictures I took don’t show me spending too much money at spotlight or sitting up late until 2am with my almost deliriously sick and tired husband cutting out cardboard templates. It doesn’t show me facepalming because after making my own calendar to move away from the candy paradigm I ended up putting more candy in. They don’t show the wonky pencil lines or bad folding, they don’t show my half started fabric bunting calendar or the painstaking cross referencing of the little notes with my diary so the activities matched up with our work schedule and salary. They don’t show any of that, just the finished masterpiece photographed from a flattering angle. Looks great doesn’t it!

Late Night Picture when we finally finished

And what did I put in the boxes day by day?

1. Today is the first day of Christmas, lets find a tree and decorate it! Trees are a symbol of new life after winter. The idea comes from our northern hemisphere where it snows during Christmas time. In New Zealand we celebrate summer solstice and it is sunny. But we love the smell of Christmas trees anyway. MMmm

2. Here is some candy we can use to make some stained glass window biscuits, when we hang them in the window we can see the sun shine through them.

3. Lets draw a map for Santa so he can find your house. Here are some doubloons for your pirate treasure.

4. Today we’re going to the farmers market , we can look at the beeswax decorations and listen to the buskers play music. Here is a dollar to give the musicians. What is a Christmas song you know?

5. Christmas is a time to remember people who have less than us, lets get some food from the cupboards to take to the food bank. The food bank is a place that gives food to people who are hungry and don’t have money to buy food. They are very kind.

6. Here are some pine cones we can use to make beautiful decorations. Today we can also choose a special Christmas decoration for the tree from the trade aid store.

7. Here are some candy canes so you can make peppermint hot chocolate and wear your lovely new summer pyjamas.

8. Tonight we are going to go for a night picnic to look at the stars and see the Christmas lights on our way back home. We are going to look for Rehua (antares) which is the summer star. It symbolises summer fruit and summer heat.

9. Today is your nativity play, you get to dress up today, here is your costume. Grandma and grandpa are going to watch you sing!

10. Today you go to grandmas house, here is $20 so you can buy a present for mum and a present for dad. Have fun choosing!

11. Only 14 days until Christmas, lets going to the berry picking! Berries are the first harvest of the summer season. We like strawberries and raspberries but there are also lovely native berries likemakomako, konini and purple hinau berries.

12. Today mum makes the Christmas pudding, can you help her? Here are some lucky coins we can bake into the pudding to find!

13. Look under the tree, here is a Christmas story for you to read with dad tonight.

14. We’re going to the beach today, lets build a really big sandcastle and decorate it.

15. Here are some stickers so we can make a card for grandma and grandpa, who else do you want to make cards for?

16. Today we are going to make gifts for your teachers, homemade chocolates!

17. Movie night! You get to stay up late and watch a movie with mum and dad and eat popcorn. We have a special Christmas movie for you.

18. Let’s decorate biscuits and make a gingerbread house together

19. Here are some stamps we can use to make wrapping paper out of old newspapers and paper scraps. Now our presents can be beautiful under the tree.

20. Today is the longest day and the shortest night. It’s called summer solstice. We’re going to harvest our garlic today.

21. You have lots of toys you don’t play with any more, can you help me choose 3 of them to give away?

22. Today we are going to make cheese and have a pizza party with our new pizza oven.

23. Today is Christmas eve eve! We are going to plant a beautiful native tree to replace the one we cut down. This is the pohutukawa which is the New Zealand Christmas tree.

24. Tonight is Christmas eve, light the Christmas Candle, hang out your stockings and leave a biscuit for santa. Does he need a key to get in?

25. Christmas day today. Check your stockings!

A lot of these ideas come from my current favourite book ‘Celebrating the Southern Seasons’ by Juliet Batten. She has a blog about it here. Her book is a fabulous guide to seasonal celebrations relevant to those of us in the southern hemishphere and has great ideas for creating traditions related to New Zealand and the seasons. Themes for the Summer Solstice are the colours Gold and Red, harvest with freshly baked bread, honey and berries and the traditional story Kauri and the Whale or Demeter and Persephone. 

So far the advent calendar is going down a treat, and my sons don't care if I took pretty pictures and blogged about it or not.
Candy Cane Hot Chocolate


  1. Wow! I totally get this post!!! I felt exactly the same about Pinterest & the blogs I read - and then I started blogging and realised I became one of them... And as you say, I generally write it in a way that highlights the positives to make me & my craft look AMAZING! But I do also try to point out things that didn't work out so well for others to learn from my mistakes without having to fail themselves on their first few attempts ;)

    Also, I love the advent ideas! Totally pinning it for next year!!!!

  2. At the food blogger's conference I attended a few of the so-called 'Mummy bloggers' and I passed wry comments about the beauty of our photos. All the food we photograph is to be eaten by our families, so we don't have time to make perfect photos. We still go for flattering angles, but actually, I'm not going to delay feeding the children to do it. I loved the idea of an advent calendar this year (and saw some great ones on Pinterest). In the end I bought a quilt that we can re-use every year. I just couldn't be bothered. I think I will try and take more photos showing some of the mess - just so no one feels bad if my photos make things look easy!

  3. ....and your calendar is lovely too by the way! I love the NZ references to our local environment.

  4. Ahhh my comment was eaten! Long story short, gorgeous calendar but even better message :D I felt very inadequate when attempting ours BUT once I started working with my children to create an advent calendar that fit with our family it was a lot of fun. It doesn't have to be picture perfect to create beautiful childhood memories xx

  5. Thanks for your comments guys. I really value the feedback. Make Do Mum - I have a feeling I should have just bought a nice reusable one rather than hemming and hawing about making this one. But I imagine if treated well I'll get a few Christmases out of it!

  6. Hi Sian, I have used small paper bags (used for party favours) from spotlight before and cut out numbers for on the front. Now I use a wooden party favour box (in the shape of the tree) that I got in a Christmas sale, which the kids love when I get out, as the boxes are small, I have to write the activity (same sort of things you do) on a small card, and if there are any favours they have to sit outside the box. We do something everyday, but to make it easier, some of those days are just a little treat, or a new christmas book, so that we arent rushing everywhere. I love those wee boxes you use :-) Rachel (from SHEAF :-) )