Wednesday, 29 November 2017

A Driftwood and Eucalyptus Advent Calendar


Last Sunday, I was up in the loft going through the Christmas things looking for the advent boxes I made last year. I had intended to get them out again, but when I found them all I just wasn't feeling it. Some of them were in quite a bit of disrepair, while others were empty since the contents had been eaten or played with. The thought of sorting them out five days before the start of Advent made me feel a little faint, frankly. They were a wonderful thing to make but they took a really long time. 

So I decided to do something different this year, something quick and simple. I usually hang my advent garland down the banister and add chocolates and treats for the children, but I'm aware that that will be very tempting and chewable for Ziggy this year, so I'm not going to risk the garland being chewed to death, or Ziggy eating chocolate. Both would be disastrous. 


I wanted something I could hang on the wall: puppy proof but accessible and fun for Bella and Angus. Based on a few ideas I'd seen on Pinterest, I decided to hang 24 small parcels from a driftwood stick decorated with eucalyptus. Simple and plain, nothing complicated. Choosing the contents was fun. I aimed for two thirds food, one third gifts, and sticking to a tight budget so shops like Poundland, Home Bargains and supermarkets were where I did my shopping. For non-food based gifts I chose things that both children could enjoy, as each little parcel contains two gifts, like stickers, erasers, key rings, Christmas socks and lip balm.


For the food, there are of course chocolate and sweets in those little parcels, but I added things like those individual flavoured hot chocolate sachets, and those funny little milkshake straws that you put in plain milk - in short, the kind of things the children wish I would buy in the supermarket but that I always say no to.


Wrapping was fairly quick, a couple of minutes per parcel. I don't think I will ever tire of the brown paper and string look for gifts. It's cheap, can be recycled unlike most foil based Christmas wrapping paper, and is suitable for any occasion. Plus it's just really pretty. And that ball of red and white baker's twine is about to go into it's third Christmas. I remember it was a huge ball when I bought it for something like £8 or £10 but when you think that you can pay a couple of quid in the supermarket for a metre or two of ribbon I think it's pretty good value to buy it this way. 


The fiddliest job by half was hanging them all onto the wooden stick. It's also quite heavy, what with 48 small things dangling from a piece of wood, and I wasn't sure that a little picture hook would take the weight. Bless John, who drilled a hole into the wall for me last night, with a proper wall plug and screw, just so I could hang the calendar in the dining room. He rolled his eyes and huffed a little (another one of Gill's crafty ideas....) but I'm sure he loves me really...


I really like it's position in the dining room, in a funny shaped wall space next to the asymmetrical chimney breast and shelves.


I hope the children like it. My two are almost eleven and eight but, with Bella off to secondary school next September, I realise that I may not have that many more years of wrapping small toys and chocolate snowmen (parents of teenagers - what on earth do you put in their stockings?!) at Christmas. This may be the last year she puts things like Sylvanian Families on her Christmas list. She's the only one in her class not to have a mobile phone. What I'm saying is I want to make the most of these sorts of traditions for the children before they lose interest. What I'll do then is make an advent calendar for John and I - twenty four little bottles of gin perhaps?

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

My girls are well into their 30's - they never lose interest in my experience and family traditions continue - some may need adjusting to suit the age as they get older but they will always look to carry on those traditions that make your family Christmas special.
Wonderful advent - simple is always best - I am struggling with mine due to lack of time - might have to abandon them this year!

Coastal Ripples said...

Advent calendars still going strong here with my three boys: 30, 28 And 25. They will always be happy to have whatever you put in them. The tradition is the most important thing. Yours looks lovely. B x

Hooks and Needles said...

Love the brown paper and string. I always try and buy decorated brown wrapping paper. I'd never thought of buying plain brown wrapping paper before, thanks for the idea.
I've been trying to remember what I've put in mt teen boys stockings 15 and 17 yrs now. Apart from chocolates and sweets, I've put in a small torch and batteries, stationary items, those folded flannels that expand in water. A toothbrush, a sponge, a handkerchief, pkt tissues, a weird alien or dragon type thing you soak in water. A key ring for their school locker. I usually look in Peacocks clothes shop - one yr they sold plastic reindeer with sweets for poo! Often their stocking fillers are rude so haven't bought anything there since!
This yr they have a Kevin chocolate carrot from Aldi. Memory stick for school so they can send info to and from home school computers. Small diary etc. A small ornament for their room. A cross stitch coaster in a plastic holder. Hope that's given a few ideas, I did ask once if they still wanted stockings and they still like them. Even the crazy filling items too. All the best, Cathy x

Jennifer Hays said...

It's really nice, Gillian. I think it's a very clever way to keep things away from the dog but still have a calendar for the kids to enjoy. I only ever buy the cardboard calendars with chocolates in them, which we put on the floor under the Christmas tree. But when we had a dog, we needed to keep them up on a table. I don't know what to suggest for stockings or advent gifts in the future...I'll probably still do the same kinds of things I've always done, like candy, small toiletry items, socks, batteries, etc., because I think I'd like to get those things now and I'm very old. :)

Susan Smith said...

Love it and so very clever. Can't imagine too much chocolate hanging in an advent calendar here at the moment with our 30+ days we've been experiencing (not usual), but it looks so nice and simple. I'll admit to not knowing what to buy my teenage grandchildren any more. Too much out there. Ah, so John does "the look" too, as my kids & I say to Hubby. Take care.

Julie said...

I stopped doing a home made Advent calendar with chocolates and activities when I returned to work full time when my children were 10 and 14. However the next year they asked me to do it again. Three years later I have just spent ages writing out the activities and sorting the chocolates. I think they would still like the things in your calendar so hopefully you can keep the same traditions for a few more years.

Anonymous said...

This looks lovely – what a great idea. Your husband sounds much more accommodating than mine! This year I have relented and ordered my three teenagers Hotel Chocolate advent calendars (a big treat and apology for being quite grumpy recently). Usually I buy them traditional winter-scene ones so they'll be amazed. As for stockings, I now buy fewer but more expensive gifts – less tat, more quality! They're very happy with that. Socks, toiletries, chocolate, books. I don't think they'll ever not want a stocking; Christmas is the time of year when we can all allow our inner child out :-)

Anonymous said...

My brother in law was astounded as the father of 3 boys to watch our girls opening their stockings - they were always delighted by smallest random girly stuff- hair bobbles, those round cotton wool pads for taking off makeup, emery boards, pretty sticky notes, silly badges, magazines, nail varnish, I would collect these over the year to spread the cost. I confess to finding it more difficult for my son, but thankfully he loves sweeties!☺

Ali said...

Looks great some great things there (I don't suppose you can remember where you got the make a monster stickers??) My two boys are 17 & 14 ans still both want advent calendars and stockings :-0 lol

Gillian Roe said...

Sainsburys! X

CJ said...

Teenagers like iphones and cash in their stockings from what I can gather. Beautifully done, you have made me wish I did one this year. I have been lazy and bought one with little opening windows in it. They sent me the wrong one, then refunded the money so I could order the right one, so basically it has been free. I love the brown paper look as well, especially with that red and white peppermint string. Nice job my friend, you are on track for a Top Mother award. CJ xx

VeggieMummy said...

Beautiful - love the bakers' twine and brown paper. My girls are 19 and 24 (just!) now and still love a stocking. Like acoatalplot, they contain quality rather than quantity now. Neither is into makeup, but books, Lush items, Costa cards so they can treat themselves, socks, stationery and, of course, chocolate, always go down well. You will find that the contents evolve naturally as they grow. Maybe Ziggy should have his own advent calendar with doggy chews?! xx

Librarian said...

Remembering my own teenage years, at Christmas time I very much turned into a little girl again, insisting on having a chocolate Advent calendar exactly like I used to have when I was little. And I still do! So, I guess when your children grow up, they will still love their little gifts and choccies. Don't we all?
Your calendar looks great, and the brown paper and red-and-white string are much more beautiful than any glittery foil could be.
Good idea not to have things within your puppy's reach!

Last year, I had the biggest and most wonderful Advent calender ever from O.K., who built a whole Christmas village for me out of little cardboard houses, filling each of them with something useful or sweet. This year, he'll get the village filled by me. I hope he will like his gifts - two of which are small bottles of liquor :-)

Gina said...

What a lovely idea and it loos so pretty too.

Country Rabbit said...

wonderful idea...my daughter has her christmas with her father and his family this year...instead of a big pressie ive wrapped smaller gifts for each day of december and hung them on our maileg elf...i think its more meaningful than lots of gifts on christmas day besides i wont get to see her christmas day so its like a little pre christmas for all of us ;)

Lin said...

What a great idea - and stylish too.

Amy at love made my home said...

I love it and I am sure that your children will too. What I also love is that your daughter doesn't have a mobile. Good on you!! I think it is wonderful for children to enjoy their childhoods as children, a lot easier said than done in any time, let alone these days I realise, but well done to you and to Bella too for going with it. You will find lovely things for stockings I am sure - after all we all love socks and notebooks and things like that no matter how old we are - and chocolate! Happy advent!

Attic24 said...

If there is chocolate/sweets involved, then the teens will still be very invested in celebrating advent, well at least that's my experience of having 13 and 15 year old little people. They LOVE advent, well they love that they get to eat chocolate at breakfast time. Stocking fillers don't change that much - I tend to put more semi-useful stuff in stockings for the older ones, things like pens, notepads, chewing gum, smelly spray stuff, hair bobbles, new face flannels, keyrings, little puzzles, lip balm etc and there are still chocolate coins and a chocolate animal of some sorts.
Your advent idea is awesome, I love the idea of B and A rootling around looking for the right parcel each day. xxxxxxxxxxx

Attic24 said...

LOL CJ, an iphone and hard cash will feature in our teen stockings this year I'm afraid. Sad but true.

harknessangels said...

What a lovely advent calendar! I love the brown paper wrapping and bakers twine!

Carolyn Styles said...

Deodorant, post-its, pens, a small book, chocolate, stamps, a USB stick, nail varnish, lip balm, Lush, body spray, notebook, named pencils, index cards (for revision!) - kids are 17, 15 and 12 this christmas : )

Little Miss Know-it-all said...

In our house it got to be too much chocolate... 😳
I then did chocolate Advent calendars on alternate years and inbetween I would do "little gift" ones with the usual bits and bobs - but that got really cluttery (3 girl chaos!). I found a sweet little book that had 24 Advent activities so photocopied each one for the 24 days and juggled them so that the activities suited weekdays/weekends. This was a popular gift of time and started new crafting traditions without the plastic clutter! The older girls lost interest eventually and the youngest then got a Playmobil Advent calendar a couple of years in a row, meaning that we have a whole Playmobil nativity, shephards and kings (+ camel) and Christmas forest with workshop, Santa and reindeer... the grandchildren are thrilled with this latter play option each Christmas at our house! Their mum, interestingly, goes to the trouble of doing a gift Advent calendar for them - all four!! And the other two daughters do them for their husband/BF... So a family tradition, after all!
(my husband brought me a tea Advent calendar from his travels last week for us to share over the next 24 days 😉)

Jo said...

That looks pretty chic Gillian. I have a felt Christmas tree I bought 9 years ago in a Laura Ashley January Sale. It is traditional - and very easy - to put two chocolate coins in each pocket which the girls are not allowed to have until after school. They have never asked for anything different and think it is such a treat. I think I have got away with that one! Heidi goes to secondary school next year so I guess we are on our last all out believer Christmas. I am not sad for the passing of time with my children, I love watching them grow up but how short the children have in the true wonder of Christmas seems to be the only thing I rue as far too quick. Jo xx

Fay said...

This was such a delightful post to read! It's been a joy to follow your blog since the children were...3? and 5...but haven't commented (I found you via Posy, because her family and ours have cardigan corgis:). I love your creativity, your perseverance, your honesty...and the many lovely things you craft. Happy Holidays! Fay from CA,NH,SC USA

Jane said...

I absolutely love this Gillian. In my experience they don't tire of Christmas traditions as quickly as you would think - we're still on advent calendars at 22 and 25! I like the sound of the gin calendar for parents ... xx

Anonymous said...

Where do you buy eucalyptus leaves from? I love them but have never seen them in any of the supermarkets.

handmade by amalia said...

I love the natural look of your advent, Gillian, and that stamp set! Gorgeous!
Amalia
xo

Ali said...

Thank you lovely x

Kris Keena said...

Teen-age boy -16- stocking content: Gift cards for online gaming, his favorite candy, awful 'Axe' drug store body care that makes him smell like a 35 yr old man. fresh earbuds. Sigh. Was more fun when they were younger...

Amy B said...

Thank you for sharing a beautiful, fairly quick, seasonal project. I love it! As teens, my kids still love the unexpected in their stockings - little games and whimsical objects give them permission to play. Changes from year to year and while we might not see them play with things right away, we see them showing them off with friends later. Yoyos, Slinkies, flashlights, mini-baseball or basketball games, Sillyputty, etc. And, all the practical things listed in other comments, too. We also held off on the smart phones until they were 16. Both kids are very well-adjusted and while they "suffered," we don't regret that decision a bit.

Gillian Roe said...

From a little florist in my town, it's usually only a pound or two for a bunch. Most florists stock it, they use it to pad out bouquets I think. :-)

Donna said...

My girls ate 26 and 33 respectively and and still expect advent calendar.They love all our christmas traditions. And I hope when they have children themselves they will pass them all on.
I love your advent Gillian. Merry Christmas x

Alison Williams said...

I have a 13,10 & 7 year old. I used to do them a fun 'make and do' advent calender full of mince pie/snowflake making and christmas movie watching. I stopped it a couple of years ago, after a partically busy time and with my eldest starting secondary school. I guess a was worried my eldest might mock and put the others off.
All 3 of them asked for the 'make and do' calender back this year - all be it a little too late to organise! so i very much look forward to doing it again next year! I think you might never be too old for advents.
For the last 2 years I've made my partner a larger/cider calender! He loves it! Each bottle sits on the top of our shelves with a numbered tag that my daughter takes great pride in making.
Merry Christmas, Ali x