DIY Advent Calendar Village

I have promised to post about our this year’s Advent calendar, so here we go. Ever since I have kids, each year I make a DIY Advent calendar (you can all see them in the DIY section).

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We had a lovely Advent Houses calendar last year, which you can see here.  Some houses got damaged and were thrown away, but most of them I put away in a box, so we could reuse them this year. There were 16 houses preserved, so I had to make 8 more things to go with them.

I decided not to make more houses again, but instead to add a little bit of landscape to it. Also, there were a few things I got as calendar stuffers, that didn’t fit into the houses anyway (like the bottle of bubble bath, plastelines, kaleidoscopes…), so I had to make something bigger to hide them.

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I really wanted to make those cone-shaped trees and the hills in the back from the beginning. Funny were those kaleidoscopes. They actually didn’t fit into any of those trees either, not to mention if I even tried to put them together. Also I was kind of short on coloured paper (and on time… and on ideas…), so I ended up just rolling them into red paper… and then making at least an arch out of it. To add a Christmas-y feeling to it, I added a yellow star on the arch. Which actually looked like an ode to communism on the red background, haha, definitely not what I intended, so I added a comet-tail behind it. ;-)

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Also the tattoos didn’t go anywhere, since I didn’t want to break the surface, so I made an ice-skating area out of them.

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Fun fact: Liv hasn’t discovered it yet, but underneath the big mountain, there’s a treasure chest hidden. I was going to go for an owl or something like that, but then I put those Chocolate gold coins in there and it just called for a treasure… hah.

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So yeah. That’s about it. Once again it reminded me that paper + glue + super precise work is not exactly my piano forte. But my kids are not harsh critics (yet), and it is kind of fun anyway.

(Btw, this is my favourite of all houses… One that Liv took last year and draw on it and added the green roof and yard!) <3

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And if you haven’t read my post on what we put inside, here is a detailed post about it. As always, I tried to go for stuff they either needed, or I knew wanted but also would get used, something more or less creative… and a few sweets, to make them happy after all. It’s funny how I’m always anxious in the beginning to find enough meaningful little things that would go in there beside sweets (want to narrow them down to rather less than more), and in the end it always seems that I found/got rather more things than I intended…

Anyway. Here’s the whole picture again of everything we put inside this year.

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Have a wonderful Advent!

DIY Advent Calendar Stuffing Ideas

Hello friends!

Need a last-minute inspiration for your DIY Advent calendar stuffers? Here’s what I got my kids this year.
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  • Gloves (because they need them!)
  • Glitter paint (hey, after all, it’s Christmas time..) for Liv and marbles for Sebi
  • Some sweets
  • Chocolate gold coins
  • Play-doh
  • Bath-tub paints
  • Beads and sequins
  • Christmas lights! (’cause who doesn’t love those!:-)
  • Llama and horse-shaped stick-its
  • Kids-friendly temporary tattoos
  • Sylvanian family hedgehogs (actually, this one is from my mum)
  • Grape-sugar lollipops
  • Paper straws (though, I’m not a big fan of straws, they love them, so at least a bit more eco friendly version of that…)
  • Bubble bath
  • Colours for decorating cookies
  • Kaleidoscopes (those are actually too from my mum)
  • Stamps (one saying “Made with love” … :-)
  • Toy car and trucks (call me cheap, but I found those in my parent’s cellar and took them.. :-)
  • Lego princes figures (ok, those are more for Liv, because her princesses need men, haha, but anyway..)
  • Paper cut-outs
  • Lip balms
  • Kid-friendly nail polish (only because Liv started asking for one not long ago…)
  • Deco tapes
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I’d love to hear what you made/got for your kids this year!

A whole post on our this year’s Advent calendar will come soon (tomorrow?). So keep tuned! :-)

DIY Advent Calendar Idea!

Hey there! Do you like to do your own Advent Calendar for your kids? Need a last minute idea to give it a special tweak? :-)

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Since I have kids, I do our advent calendars myself… This one, however, is not for us. (For my kids, I am doing an update on our last year’s Advent House Village… but a full post about that is [hopefully] going to come tomorrow.

This one I made for my friend and her two lovely kids! She called me 2 days ago with this idea to make a Santa backdrop on which she would attach her own packages and asked me to help her make the backdrop.

It was actually so much fun! I hadn’t done any such large(r)-scale painting for a very long time, so it was fun to get back to something like that.

The Santas are about 1m high, made out of something we call here Kappa Board. (Cardboard with foam in the middle… usually used for model-making.) You could use any cardboard really, but this one has the advantage that you can just pin the packages (if they’re little) on it if you want, since there’s foam in between the paper-sheets. And it’s great to work with. And also, I just happened to have it at home, so it was convenient, hah.

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I’m not a very big fan of the whole Santa Claus-y thing, but this was really fun. Found a pretty illustration on pinterest, and I liked the fact that it’s not the classic Santa in red..

I will write an update on this, when I get a photo from my friend with the packages on it. Just thought, this might be a fun last-minute thing someone might want to do with their advent calendars. :-) My kids (Liv) sure want that for next year! It was hard keeping them away from it :-)

DIY Advent Calendar(s) With Illustrated Windows

I have started two years ago a tradition (it seems) in our household to make each year a DIY advent calendar for my little one(s).

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This year the book shop and publisher Artforum was giving away printed pictures of Vladimir Kral’s illustrations from the wonderful Slovak version of the Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder (in honour of it’s this year’s reprint) to cut out and use for your DIY Advent Calendar. So I just had to use those (since Vladimir Kral’s illustrations are just truly wonderful!).

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Somehow I had set my mind on making paper houses this year. Of course, I did not realize what it meant to make 24 paper houses, before I started. Haha. I’m just crazy, really. I drafted, cut and glued them all myself. But it was fun! It meant 3 nights with little sleep, but still it was fun! :-)

But I have to admit, had I started to do them earlier, it might be without the sleep deprivation. Though, then again…. naaah, who am I kidding… I know myself, I just would do it the same way, even if I had more time. I just can’t stop, once I start doing something (like this).

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Since it was not done in one night, Liv saw the making of her advent calendar. First, she said she didn’t want one. I said ok, I’ll do it for myself then. On the next day however, she already saw three finished houses. And she loved them right away.

Right away she wanted to add to the process of making them and said she will paint them. Though, my intention was to leave them white, I love that she wanted to do it with me, so I didn’t tell her anything. And she started to draw on them. And glue on them. And put surprises inside of them for me! How wonderful is that!

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This house already has it’s own garden and a drawing with daddy.

I do love the fact that it’s going to be something we both worked on! I know she will in time probably paint them all… And I’m so looking forward to it! Though I did not at all intend it that way, I think it’s so much better when she takes something I created for her and turns it into something else!

Call me crazy, but I also did a second advent calendar. Yes, I am cockoo.

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(Work in progress)

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Though I have two kids now, one doesn’t need an advent calendar yet. Still, I had those extra pictures… And I just wanted to try a second thing with them. Last year I wanted to make an advent calendar with toilet rolls, but we didn’t have enough rolls at home (and I decided to make it last minute, so there was no time to collect them), so I made something else. So this year I had put away toilet rolls throughout the year, and now I had a huge bunch of them stored away. And I just had my mind set on using them too. So I did.

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I did decide to use it somewhat differently though. This one is not full of things. It is actually empty. Yes, you heard (read) me right. One side is open. It is a calendar of Thankfulness. Because there is so much to be thankful for… and it has been on my mind this year a lot. We have been through such a difficult year, but I very strongly feel, that still, no matter our hardships to almost even put food on the table in a certain period of this year, we still have so much. So much. As opposed to others in this world, who struggle even so much more.
I know Liv is still young to fully understand this, but she has already such difficult themes going through her head, I thought it might be a good idea to bring in this idea of thankfulness. So each day, we say one thing what we are thankful for. And “put” it inside. In the end it will be (hopefully) full. And we can read all of the things we were thankful for on Christmas Eve.

I hope it will work out. :-)

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It can be any little thing. I don’t interfere with what she says she’s thankful for. Today for example it was that daddy bought new plasters (band-aids). :-)

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(Liv also came up with taping over the numbers of the days gone by, to see better the countdown of left days till Christmas. What a good idea!)

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Oh, almost forgot. What did we put inside this year?

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Well, actually Liv really needed new socks, panties and (less needed, but still) slippers. So not wanting to buy too many un-needed stuff, and not wanting to spend too much (and having to buy those anyway) I took advantage of that and put it in there. Also, I saw those cute wooden traffic signs somewhere for 6 euros. Liv loves to play with cars and she’s very interested in traffic signs lately. When we go somewhere we talk a lot about what those signs mean. So I bought those. And divided these into a few days. 11, to be exact. :-)

The rest is some little things. A play-dough, two lollipops, chocolate lollipop and two chocolate coins, a stamp, a cookie cutter, a jingle bell, a cute little striped suitcase, a wooden whale to paint on, decorative tapes, cooked chestnuts (Liv loves those), modeling clay and this thingy you can look through different glasses you add to see how insects see (cool, not?).

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I didn’t put numbers on the houses this time. I meant to. But then I thought… ah who cares, it doesn’t matter in what order she will open them.

Fun fact for the end. I put each slipper in a different house (because the houses were too small to put in both into one). Ha. :-)

Easy DIY Advent Calendar

Can you call something a tradition if you have done it once? But then again, everything has to begin somewhere. I have started a tradition in our home last year, by making our own advent calendar.

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I was not entirely sure I would make one this year. Due to the joys of a long lasting intense nausea of an early pregnancy, followed closely by very low energy and some work related duties (not to mention those of trying to keep our household at least in a more or less usable shape), I was putting any thoughts of it off. Yes, if you’ve been wondering- or not- that is indeed, why it has been so silent around here since summer. I am getting back to life, though. Finally. Slowly.

Only after talking to a dear friend, who asked if I was going to make an advent calendar this year too, by which time it was end of November, I realized I had only a few days left to make something. And that I would be sorry if I would not do something and leave this “tradition”. That’s a thanks to you, my dear, for that kick in the butt!

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Suddenly in those coming 3 days, I got surprisingly many ideas how to make the calendar, each one totally different. Probably too many ideas. That only meant in the end that I couldn’t decide what to make. So again, I put it off. Until I decided last minute (oh, those last minute projects!) to just go with what I have at home and stay low-key.

So I re-used those brown paper bags from last year, which I decorated simply with strips of Christmas wrapping paper.

Liv is not yet 3 years old and she does not know numbers yet. Ok, she knows a few and she’s quite interested in what is what. But numbers don’t have quite such a big meaning yet as they do for us (beyond 3 or 4, it just gets a lot). So I didn’t want to just paint numbers on the bags, but incorporate also a visual that I think would be more interesting for her. (Actually, it’s still in a similar sense as to why I added the animals last year.)
That’s why I printed some nice pictures with numbers I found on Pinterest on hard paper and added those to the bags.

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After opening a bag we tear off the card with the number and put it back up. The pictures make a nice decoration and it also helps Liv to see how many days have gone by since we started and how many days (packages) left to Christmas.

It’s all very simple, relatively fast done… and it looks nice, even though they’re just hanging there on a string.

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I even already came up with the idea that we will leave the strings hanging there after Christmas (just take down the packages and numbers, of course) and hang there Liv’s paintings and creations. I wanted a place for that anyway for long, just never got to do it. And also I always tend to think of more complicated ideas how to do something, overlooking just the plain simple things that are actually around you which can do the job just as well. So I’m already looking forward to that!

Of course, Liv asks to open more than one package a day at once, but so far she’s done well and accepted if I say we open the next one tomorrow… we do have to talk about it sometimes 10x a day, but she has not opened more at a day yet. Sweet girl.

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I do admit though that it helps that she got another advent calendar from her grandmother, which has tiny books for each day. This way she can open one bag and take out one book each day, which is quite a help in negotiating with Liv.

If you’ve been wondering what I’ve put in those bags… I will tell you. Funny that there’s tons of inspirational pictures of advent calendars, but (almost) nobody wants to share what they put in there. I guess it becomes kind of a bit personal. Of course, you can put in there anything you like. I will share though what I’ve put in there, just in case it might help someone to get a kick as to what the content might be.

I basically had most of the things gathered after a visit to a stationery shop and to a sweet danish shop called Flying Tiger, which by the way the same friend I mentioned before recommended to me. I didn’t know it before, but I have to say it became probably my new favourite shop soon after entering it. They have a lot of cute stuff, lots of DIY aids, a sweet -scandinavian- style, low prizes… No, I am -unfortunately- not getting anything for praising and recommending them.

So, here’s my list:

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  • a castanet (percussion instrument)
  • kaleidoscope
  • chocolate egg
  • stamps (with stamp pillow)
  • a new toothbrush (she needed that anyway)
  • striped socks
  • band-aids (what kid doesn’t love band-aids?)
  • fun stacking pencils (number 8, if you’re wondering)
  • DIY play figures to colour
  • stamps
  • hair-bands
  • wooden stamps for painting on fabrics
  • a lollipop
  • a candle in the shape of an owl (actually I cheated there and took out a leftover candle we used last year as our advent wreath)
  • blowing markers
  • sticky bookmarks
  • washi tapes
  • stickers which you can paint on
  • more stamps
  • a little red suitcase with white dots… what else is there to say except it was too cute not to take it…
  • a hair clip in the shape of a butterfly
  • and more stamps
  • Progresso colouring pencils
  • still to add: something I will sew. Probably clothes for dolls or an Indian headdress.

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Ok, I know there are a lot of stamps in there. That was of course no intention. I first bought the wooden ones to work with fabric. Then I bought a package of 9 stamps which were cute and I divided them into 3 days… since they were each 3 red, 3 green and 3 blue ones. I also might have divided them into 9 days and covered more with one bought thing. But I thought that would make it too many days seem the same. And then I bought the stamps with the ink pillow, which were just too cute not to take. As I think of it, I might have done a stamp advent calendar, where each day there would be just one stamp. Hah. Maybe next time. Year.

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I have to admit, I spent a bit more than I initially wanted for the advent calendar. I got a bit carried away in the stationery shop and the flying tiger. You could easily take the things I got and divide them even more into more days. I also had the intentions of adding more stuff I would yet do for Liv myself. But since I got more things than I meant to, I don’t have to make them anymore, or I will just save them and give them to her for Christmas.

BTW, Liv’s reaction on December 1st, when she found the hanging bags was simply cute. “Does anyone have a birthday?” she yelled excited. :-)

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Oh, and I also made a kind of reverse advent calendar for myself. I took out an empty box and I will put inside something each day and donate it somewhere at the end. I still have to figure out where, but that’s the least concern, really. It’s been bugging me that we have a lot of unused stuff around at home anyway, so this way it will at least help get rid of some of it.

Have you done a DIY advent calendar? I would love to see your versions!

Have a beautiful December!

DIY Advent Calendar (almost tutorial)

Last year, I had a really strong urge to decorate our home before Christmas. Maybe it was just the joy of the coming winter, or to get into a Christmas-is-coming-mood… I’m not really sure anymore. Anyway, I wanted to make our home special in something for that time of year for Liv.

This year, I’m not really there yet. I’m not sure whether it’s because of the (relatively) mild weather that has been most of the time up to now, the tiredness of a long loooong sickness Liv has had for the last 6 weeks… or something else. I guess it will come. I usually feel very decorating-y during autumn and winter.

There has been something else on my mind this year, though. I’ve planned to make a DIY advent calendar for Liv for some time.

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Though because of the already mentioned long illness, I realised it was time to make it only about 2 days before December started. So I finished it on Dec. 2nd, heh. But on the 1st it was half-way there, so we didn’t really miss anything. Not that my daughter would care, anyway. She doesn’t understand yet what Christmas means, nor countown, nor calendar days, or anything else having to do with it, really. Except perhaps opening the packages :-)

While I was doing it, I suddenly realised, I’m not even sure I really agree with the whole thing. Getting a present each day until Christmas. Why should a child get anything each day? What is the thought behind this tradition, anyway? Won’t it just teach her to be more fixed on material things? Not right now, of course, but if we should keep it up as a tradition. But then again, why shouldn’t she get something small, even if it is every day for some period? And the joy she had when finding something she liked… I love to think of and create stuff that Liv might enjoy and be happy about in any way. (Obviously, otherwise this blog would probably never exist).

Well, I’m not quite sure about my standpoint there. And I’m open to discussion on that topic, if anyone would have something to say about it :-)

For my part, I didn’t even think about it, until I was already making the advent calendar. I guess it was much more about the excitement of a DIY challenge for me, rather than thinking about the philosophy behind it.

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So back to the calendar itself. My original inspiration was this lovely DIY advent calendar with animals. So I started looking up animal digital prints. I meant to find some that would be black and white too, as in their version. I might have painted them myself, but there was rather little time for that to my taste and, most of all, a lack of inspiration and energy.

Since I wanted them to be (more or less) in the same style, I started looking up alphabet animals illustrations. Oh, how convenient there are 24 letters in our alphabet and 24 days in December ’till Christmas. :-)

Originally I wanted them to be (almost) life-like, in the Montessori philosophy. But then I came upon those looovely ones by Paola Zakimi. Look her up. SO sweet.

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I printed them, each one twice- one mirroring, so that they could be two-sided. Then I cut them out, glued them together, putting a cardboard inbetween to add firmness.

I could have printed them right on heavier paper, which might have saved me the time of gluing the cardboard inbetween, but I wanted to save money (had to print it in a print shop, since our printer at home is not such a high-quality one for pictures). If I had a laminating machine, I probably would have laminated them instead of doing the cardboard. Well… one day, perhaps…

I bought some brown paper-lunchbags, on which I painted the numbers. Had to do it one by one, always assign a thing for each day to adjust the size of the bag (and therefore the number too).

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A work in progress.. (while watching a movie… I love watching movies while working on something where I don’t need to concentrate too much)

Not that numbers and days would matter to Liv yet. Who knows, if we will follow the numbers or if it will come to just opening whatever bag Liv gets a grab on. Or opening more at a time, rather than one day one bag. I’m really curious how that will turn out. Until today, she didn’t even pay much attention to it hanging there. Only this morning I think she realized there’s something for her in each package and she wanted to go right next to open another and it took quite some persuasion to get her mind away from it.

So now you may wonder what I put in those bags?

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Here is my list:
Warm socks
2 cars (my girl loves cars)
a fabric elephant with magnets in its legs
Finger puppets
Hair clips
a little bunny
a little dog
Rings… some tiiiny rings (still too big for Liv’s little fingers, actually)
a Lip Balm in the shape of an owl
a little stamp with a ladybird
Coloured pencils
Crayons (we love drawing& painting)
Sticky notes
Stickers
a Jingle bell
a Pine cone
a (compressed powder grape sugar) lollipop
Beans (yes, beans indeed! we love to play with them)
aaand the big finale: a Wooden Duo-Puzzle

I still want to add a little outfit for a doll I still have to sew.

I have to say, I did not buy all those things. Since I like the philosophy of second hand and vintage things… I made a little tour through my parent’s basement, where still some of our old toys are hidden. So it came, that the cars, the finger puppets and the fabric elephant with magnets are taken from there.

I divided the finger puppets into more days. 10 would be too much to play with at once anyway (in the beginning), so at least I have more days covered. Liv already got the first 4, the rest I divided in groups of 2. She was sooo happy about them! It was a joy to see her excitement!

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not the best quality picture, it was taken just with my phone (in the evening), but if you could hear her squeak with delight :-)

The stickers and the stamp are left overs from my nephew’s birthday party. The cone and the jingle bell I had at home.

The rings are still too big. And she’ll probably loose them soon enough anyway. But it is something I wanted to give her for some time. She loves our rings, my husband and I wear, especially our wedding rings. We always tell her they mean that we belong together. And then she likes to take it from one of us, so she would be part of us (I guess). So that’s why rings.

The owl lip balm- I took it just at an impuls because it was hanging next to the rings and I liked it. And Liv likes owls.

I know Liv will be happy to have new pencil colours and crayons. She is quite an artistic little thing. And I look forward to that Duo-Puzzle. I stumbled across it in a shop. I love wooden, intelligent toys. And this seems perfect for her right now. It will be a present for the 24th.

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I’m not even sure if she’ll get anything else from us. Yet. Since she doesn’t really care yet. And we get her stuff all the time when we find something interesting anyway. Or I might make my own version of these beautiful sorting bowls I wanted to buy for her for a long time now. I would totaly buy them, if the shipping costs to Europe weren’t almost as high as the bowls themselves.

I meant to hang the animals and packages on a branch, originally. But it was raining for 3 days, just as I was making the calendar. Not being at rest until I tried anyway, I went into the rain and brought some branches with me home. But then I realised they were soaking wet (and dirty) and I couldn’t hang that on our wall.

Then the idea came to me, that I wanted to hang empty frames on a wall around a big one with Liv as a baby. Why not hang them into the empty frames, right? At least it made me paint and hang those frames finally on the wall. That only took me about a year or so, since I first had the idea.

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So.. that’s it! That was a pretty fun project. And it’s actually quite pretty on the wall. Definitely better, than the empty spaces that were there! Now I’m looking forward to how it will look like when all the packages are taken down and only the animals will remain. It will probably hang there for a while, even after Christmas. Until I get bored with it or come up with something else to do with the frames. :-)

What would you give into such an advent calendar?
I’m thinking of more sensory based things for next year, if I keep it up as a tradition. We shall see.