Advent Calendar

I love the look of chalk on blackboard. It reminds me of gourmet bistros and cafes – and we know how I feel about silver and gold decor to celebrate the holidays. . . it’s just classy. So here we have it. A classy bistro Advent calendar. It’s just what you were wishing you had, right? I think that thought crosses all our minds this time of year. “I wish I had a classy bistro Advent calendar”. Well, today I can help you make that wish come true. . . .
Truly, every year, close to this time, (but usually much closer to the day after Thanksgiving) I am wishing I had an Advent calendar. I’m not wishing for just any Advent calendar though; I’m wishing for a re-usable one that means something special to our family. I’d like one that I can customize to fit the personality of our family that particular year, and one that re-directs our thoughts and actions to the true meaning of Christmas and how we can honor and love others during this season.
I have made advent calendars in the past, but they were tedious projects and, honestly, didn’t hold up very well. I felt like I spent too much time and money, and they were difficult to use in the end.
So this is what I came up with this year. It’s quite possible to roll it up and save it for next year, but it’s also easy and cheap enough that you can toss it and do it again next year.

Of course your calendar can say whatever you want it to say, but in case you need a starting point, here is what our cards contain:
1. Read a book about the story of Christmas.
2. Call someone you miss and tell them!
3. Smile and say hello to as many people as you can today.
4. Put a package together for Any Soldier.
5. Sneak a special treat onto your neighbor’s porch today.
6. Send a card (snail-mail style) to someone special.
7. Get ice cream after school today!
8. Intentionally drop a “lucky penny” as a gift for a stranger to find later.
9. Play Uno tonight.
10. Hug someone you love today. . . lots of times!
11. Play a board game as a family tonight.
12. Decorate a card and write, “You are SPECIAL!” on it. Leave it in your library book and turn it in, so the next person will find it.
13. Give a treat to someone who won’t expect it.
14. Donate a toy to charity.
15. Go for a night-time walk, bike ride, or drive to see the Christmas lights.
16. Make hot apple cider and sit around listening to Christmas music and looking at old photos.
17. Go to the local yogurt shop for a treat.
18. Leave a note in someone’s pocket that says what you love about them.
19. Count up spare change and go to Food For the Poor to make an online donation.
20. Turn off the TV, and the lights. Make hot chocolate and read Christmas stories by candle-light.
21. Play the “Good Manners” gift game (there will be a post on this later – stay tuned!)
22. Do a chore for a family member.
23. Wrap Christmas presents and make reindeer food (more on this later)!
24. Tonight: Put out reindeer food, cookies for Santa, and snuggle up in bed with a book about the first Christmas.

That old saying, “Necessity is the mother of invention” is so, so true. The whole design of this calendar evolved out of efforts to simplify and keep it as affordable as possible. To save money, I re-purposed a frame we already had in the house. For the daily cards I used folded strips of cut paper instead of individual cards in envelopes. To save time, I used poster board that you can find at the grocery or drug store, and I drew my numbers with marker and a stencil instead of making a trip to the craft store for expensive labels or stickers. Even using a pencil to fill out the cards stemmed from pure coincidence. When I went to fill them out, I was searching for something that wouldn’t leak ink through to the front of the card and settled on pencil. I realized after the fact that this was indeed a lucky move – now if I want to change the cards up next year, all I have to do is erase!
Beginning to end, once I had my supplies together, I think this took a total of about 90 minutes to make and cost less than $10. That’s not too shabby. That’s a one night project while you watch the X Factor. Here’s how to get it done:

1 Picture frame (Go ahead – use one you already have in your house. I did! I just put the paper over the glass/picture that was already in it. Slide the paper right between the frame and the glass.)
1 sheet black poster board cut to fit your frame (Bonus! Poster board can often be found at grocery stores and drug stores – no special trip to the craft store.)
2 sheets white card stock cut in 24 2″x6″ strips (or any white paper cut into strips)
Chalk in your chosen colors (I used light green, blue-green, and white)
Fine tip markers that match your chalk (I used light green, blue-green, and gold)
chalk fixative or hair spray – Aquanet is best
poster putty

How to:
Measure your poster board to fit your frame. Trim accordingly. Test it out to make sure the fit is right.
With the poster board out of the frame, draw your title, layering colors if you like.
Spray with fixative or hairspray (so the chalk won’t smear if it’s touched), let dry.
Cut your strips of white paper. I used 2″x6″, but you really need to size it to match your frame. You’ll need to measure your frame, then figure out the best arrangement for the cards and choose your dimensions accordingly. You’ll want to leave about a half-inch or more between the cards.
Fold the cards in thirds.
On the center portion on the front of each card, use a stencil (or use a dime and a nickel) to trace two different sized and colored circles. (I used two shades of green).
When you’ve finished with the circles, number the cards 1-24 in your complimentary color felt-tip marker (This is where I used gold).
Lay your poster board out on a table or the floor. Take your stenciled, labeled, and folded cards and arrange them on the poster to your satisfaction. Use poster putty on the back of each card to hold them in place.
Use chalk to draw “frames” around each card in alternating colors.
Carefully remove cards, spray poster board again to set “frames”.
Fill out your cards, fold them, and mount them again on the poster board.
Attach your poster board to your frame simply by laying it over the existing picture/glass and sliding it under the edge of the frame. If any edges are loose, use poster putty to fix it to the picture surface.
Hang it up, and start counting down!

P.S. If this is your first time here, check out this post to see another way you can give to charity this Christmas, without leaving your house and without spending any extra money! You might even want to put it on your Advent calendar. . . .