Making A Sweet & Easy Advent Calendar

We’re still working away on the kitchen, so we’ll have update post #561 for you soon (kidding, it’s probably more like #19 or something – but still). This week we’re hoping to share lots of major progress (new counters and a working sink again – finally!). In the meantime, it’s about time we got into the holiday spirit. There’s just something special about spending our first real Christmas in our new house that makes us want to go all out. We moved on the 13th of December last year, so we were technically here for last year’s holiday season, but we were living out of boxes and Clara was too young to really get excited about all of the magic that makes the season so special. But this year it’s on! So I kicked things off by making a little advent calendar to enjoy with Clara:

Oh but here’s how it looks from her point of view (gotta soak up the days that she’s shorter than me, because I’m sure they’re numbered):

This little holiday project was only $7.99 because I used things that we already had and only purchased one thing: this scarf hanger from Ikea:

Allow me to paint you a picture of me at Ikea when the idea slowly hit:

  • I walked by said scarf hanger.
  • I thought to myself “self, there has got to be some other fun use for that.”
  • I stood there with my mouth half open staring at it for a good three minutes.
  • Then realized that it had 28 openings, which is pretty close to 25…
  • … which brought me to the idea of an advent calendar, which I had been meaning to make for the bean.

I decided the three extra circles could be “free spaces” and the rest of them could sport numbered tags and ornaments. Bam: instant advent calendar. It’ll be a fun daily activity to do with Clara (we’ll hang an ornament a day on the tree together as we work our way through the calendar).

I actually whipped it up on December 2nd (procrastinate much?) but alas, we have yet to set up our tree (another sure sign of procrastination). So we’ve been admiring the ornaments as each day ticks by… hoping to get the tree up within the next few days so we can “catch up” and hang five or six ornaments on the tree all at once. Then we can go day by day from then out…

As for how I made it, I just took metal ornament hooks that we already had on hand and stuck various ornaments through them (if they didn’t have hooks already). Then I looped each hook over the circle or bar above each circle (all of them had circles above them except for the top row which had that bar). That way each ornament hung into the circle under that and was sort of framed that way. And of course we worked in some quirky ornaments in honor of our other kiddo (Burger). There’s the hamburger ornament that we found on clearance after Christmas last year at Michael’s for 50 cents:

And the snowflake frame with his cute mug in it from a few years back:

And of course there’s a disco ball since we love to dance (that one doesn’t have anything to do with Burger, except he might get picked up and swirled around the room in celebration after we hang it).

As for the tags, I just cut a tag-ish shapes out of cardstock 25 times (using the first one as a guide and cutting around it like a template to make the other 24). Then I used a hole puncher to allow them to slip over the ornament hooks. But before adding one to each ornament’s hook I googled around for a nice font online (and found this one). So I glanced at it while sketching each number onto my cardstock tag with a pencil (it’s nice to have type inspiration nearby when you’re free-handing something – just for reference):

Then I just traced over each sketched out number with a pen once I liked the shape.

They’re definitely not perfect, but they’re pretty cute:

Oh and I hung it with a removable 3M hook thing, so I wouldn’t have to make a nail hole in the front of our coat closet door:

So we hope to have a bunch of fun holiday stuff going on for the next few weeks among kitchen updates and other projects. Count on posts about tree decorating (we’re doing a tabletop one and a full sized one) and even some outdoor stuff (we’re bound and determined to hang lights and really get festive). Oh and not to mention that Mrs. Limestone sweetly invited me to partake in her fun little Secret Santa thing with some awesome fellow bloggers…

… which means I have to make a few gifty goodies and secretly mail them to someone (can’t tell you who) and see what turns up from another mystery blogger. Here’s everyone that’s in on it:

Should be fun, except that I have total stage fright and can’t think of anything creative to send. Here’s hoping a few days of advent-calendar-ing get my juices flowing. I wonder who has me. Any guesses? We’ll have to try to figure it out together when something shows up!

Oh and speaking of holiday stuff
, West Elm asked us to round up a few of our favorite items over on their site (we weren’t paid or perked, it was just for fun). So you can check out our picks here and then click the arrow to scroll through all of our dorky quotes.

But enough about us. Have you started decorating for the holidays? Are you totally done already? Are you advent-calendar-ing? Have you ever used something from Ikea in an unusual way? How about Secret Santa experiences? Did you manage to give the perfect thing? I’m just hoping I don’t totally choke.


  1. says

    Well, I just made our Advent calendar last night, so pat yourselves on the back: you’re not as much of a procrastinator as I am! Blame it on real life with a 14-month-old :) It’s the thought that counts, right?

  2. says

    AWW! Love your Advent Calendar! What a great idea! I was actually thinking about your move the other day. I was like, hmm John and Sherry did the crazy Christmas dash last year to set up and take down the tree before they moved just for baby Clara’s Christmas! I thought that was so adorable but knowing that you guys were in box city last Christmas I was pumped thinking about the decor this year now that everything is settled and Clara is old enough to get in on the Christmas festivities! I can’t wait to see the decor this year! I really have been waiting since last year for this! :-)

  3. Zoë says

    Advent calendars are huge in England where I grew up, and once I moved to the US, I wanted to keep up the tradition. We have a felt advent calendar that my mum sent over when our son was little, along with the chocolate to go in it (Marks and Spencer chocolate is yummylicious). Several years later, there are are now 3 chocolates in each pocket, one each for our 7 yr old son, our soon-to-be 4 year old daughter, and our 15 month old toddler girl. This year, I didn’t fill the calendar until last night after the kiddies were in bed (yeah, I’m a slacker), and this morning our eldest girl declared that Santa had stopped by to drop off the chocolates – I didn’t correct her, lol.

    My favorite advent calendar from my childhood didn’t have chocolate, but useless plastic trinkets (think random animals and people that had nothing to do with Christmas). I loved opening each door to see what I got that day. I carefully saved each piece in a little shell-covered box and would examine my treasures on a regular basis. At 36, I still have that box full of treasures hidden in a keepsake box, and I get get an excited tingle when I take a peek inside, remembering the joy I felt as a child at Christmastime.

  4. says

    I LOVE the advent calendar! I would never think to use that Ikea scarf hanger that way! (I also bought those same snowflake ornaments for my tree at target! 4/$1.00!)

    We decorated our tree this weekend and I blogged about it. Do you guys prefer your christmas tree with personal ornaments or a matching theme?

    Also (sorry this is so long!) I am a part of a community on The Knot and we do a secret santa (and secret pumpkin, secret bunny, etc) and it always works out great! I think you will love it!

    • says

      As for the tree, we usually like to change it up each year with different colors or themes (you can check out our Projects page for lots of holiday posts from the past to see different tree set-ups). But we always work the meaningful ornaments in there too. Tucked among a bunch of colorful or special ones that we make for that year’s theme!


  5. says

    I’ve followed your blog for three years or so, never commented, but I just want to say: I’m more addicted to your kitchen reno series than I was to waiting for a new LOST episode every week. And LOST is my favorite show ever.

    And I like the advent calendar!

  6. says

    Your calendar is adorable! We’ve always had advent calendars with our boys, and it’s one of their favorites!
    I was so excited to open my email from Westelm and see YHL…very cool!
    Happy Holidays!

  7. Jess M. says

    I love that advent calendar idea!! Might have to ‘borrow’ it!

    We are totally done decorating as of the week after Thanksgiving. Insane I know but we had a big holiday party at our house last weekend so it had to be done early. I have to admit it’s kinda nice with that stress out of the way! Can’t wait to see what you two do :D

  8. says

    I really wanted to do an advent calendar this year, but ran out of time to get one made. Next year for sure! I’ve got to quit procrastinating and get our decorating finished soon so we can enjoy it! The Little House is starting to look pretty festive!

    Can’t wait for the kitchen update!!

  9. says

    I see a Christmas themed solo pinterest challenge in your future :) Great idea for the advent calendar! I’ve been wanting to make one for YEARS and haven’t… maybe this will inspire me!

  10. says

    That’s so cute and easy! I’ve seen that scarf holder at IKEA too, and always thought it would work well for something else. :-)

    I hear ya about the tree. We only put ours up yesterday, and we didn’t even do lights. I might dig them out, though, because it’s looking a little naked without them.

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