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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Get Creative - DIY Magnetic Advent Calendar - Make it in 30 minutes for Under $20

For several years now I've been locked in debate with my husband, with him thinking we need new advent calendars, and me using copious amounts of tape to mend the not-so-sturdy cardboard boxes and keep the one we had going. Then last year I came up with the brilliant idea to make a new advent calendar to hold our traditional Playmobil pieces.

See for as long as my eldest has been old enough to help open little boxes, we've had the same Playmobil advent calendar. It's designed so these variously sized cardboard boxes hang on a cardboard backer and you take each box down and open it on the appropriate day. Inside each box is a small plastic version of something you'd find in a forest; a small tree, a bush, baby animals, full grown animals, piles of fruit and other foods, and finally a sled and a fellow in a red suit. Each day in December, as we count down the days until Christmas, my daughters take turns opening tiny boxes and carefully decide where to place each piece in the "forest" on the top of my bookcase. And when Christmas has come and gone I pack each piece back up for next year.

The problem is the little cardboard boxes weren't really designed to be used over and over again, and well they are falling apart. My husband's solution to this would be to buy a new advent calendar. He'd love to get a new one each year, or heck two, one for each kid. (And I think there is an expectation that you'll use the advent calendar just once and let the kids keep the toys.) But I like our tradition fine just the way it is. The kids enjoy watching the animals arrive in the forest, until on the final day Santa himself shows up. They like guessing who or what is in the next box, and trying to remember how many rabbits there should be, or when the porcupine will arrive. While they may have argued over who's turn it is to open the box on any given day, they've never fought with me over packing it back up at the end of the celebration.

When I decided to create a replacement advent calendar I had two challenges facing me. First it had to be cheap. It had to cost under $20, or hubby would have a valid in point in his argument that we might as well just go out and get a new calendar. And secondly the boxes had to be various sizes, some quite large, in order to hold the different pieces.

I spent over a month trying to come up with something; shopping around online, browsing through stores in real life, clicking through Pinterest pins, looking at advent calendars on etsy. Everything was either too expensive or not the right size. And then I had a lightbulb moment where it all just came together in my head.

You know those little reuseable gift boxes that they sell at the dollar store? Well they come in all sorts of sizes. And they're cheap. The tiny ones are less then a buck a piece. But I needed them to hang on the wall.... Hmm.... Well I could glue them all on to something, but then I couldn't hand them to the kids to open. Wait, what if I put magnets on the back? And then put them on a tin cookie sheet and hung that? Or wait, even better, what if we just hung them on the metal front door? Brilliant. Perfect.

I had to visit a few dollar stores to find everything I needed, but I spent well under $20.

Here's what you need:
* 24 Christmas print gift boxes in various sizes.
* 24 Magnets, nice heavy ones.
* Several sets of peel and stick numbers & letters.
(You need to look at how many 1s and 2s come in a set and buy enough to get twelve 1s and eight 2s, for me this equaled three sets.)

Step 1: Figure out what size or pattern you want for each day, and then label the boxes 1 through 24 using the numbers from the peel and stick set.

Step 2: You will need a hot glue gun and also a metal file and/or exacto-knife. I discovered this through trial and error. If you simply glue the magnets on the bottom of the wee boxes they won't stick. Once the glue cools it easily snaps off the slick smooth paper, or just tears the paper with it. The fix for this is to file the bottom of the box, or even easier score it with the exacto knife. Using the sharp tip of the knife tear into the paper, but not all the way through the box, drawing a pattern that looks like this:

Step 3: Use the hot glue gun to glue the magnets to the "roughed up patch" on the back of each box. Set them aside to cool.

Step 4: Fill the boxes with small treasures or treats and then arrange them on something that the magnets will stick to. For us, that's our front door. But it could easily be an oversized cookie tray or the side of your fridge.

For me, I love that we can keep reusing our little Playmobil forest year after year. However you could easily use this as the starting point of your family's own personalized advent calendar filled with whatever lightweight items catch your fancy.

Anyone going to make one? What are you filling yours with?
Have any other creative advent calendar ideas? I'd love to hear 'em.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Saturday Nov.22nd is National Donate Your Hair Day, Kids Can Do It Too #BeautifulLengths

Tomorrow, Saturday Nov.22nd, is National Donate Your Hair Day. If you've been thinking about cutting your hair to donate now would be the perfect time. When you donate your 8-inch or longer ponytail through the Pantene Beautiful Lengths program Pantene pays to have the hair turned into high quality real hair wigs, which are then made available for free to cancer patients in need.

Since launching in Canada seven years ago, with the support of thousands of generous Canadians from coast-to-coast, Pantene Beautiful Lengths has donated thousands of high quality, real-hair wigs to help women living with cancer regain their confidence and sense of self.

It is a very cool program, one that is near and dear to my heart. Back in February I cut my knee length hair and donated 24 inches of it to the Pantene Beautiful Lengths program. But you don't need to make that drastic of a cut, you just need to meet a few minimum requirements:

* Donated hair must be a minimum of 8 inches long (measured from just above the elastic band of the ponytail to the ends)
* If donating wavy/curly hair, you may straighten it before measuring
* Hair should be freshly washed and completely dry, without any styling products
* Hair may be coloured with vegetable dyes, rinses and semi-permanent dyes; it cannot be bleached, permanently coloured or chemically treated
* Hair may not be more than 5 percent grey

My daughter's reactions to my big hair cut were initially mixed. My kids were asleep when I got home. The first time the six year old saw me after my haircut, she just followed me around and just stood there staring at me with this dumbfounded look on her face. Eventually she said something inane, like "Um... I'm going to go get dressed now." and then she came back and stared intently at me some more, until I finally asked her "Well, what do you think of my hair?" and she said "It looks very nice mommy" but you could tell she was just trying to be polite. After a long pause she added, "But it's curly!!" in this sad offended tone. I explained that the stylist had curled it, but that once I wash it and it dries it will probably be much straighter. She had this look of total relief of her face. "Oh, whew. Well you better wash it right away then! Right now!" I told her it might still be a little wavy since it is so much shorter and lighter now." And she said in this very serious tone, "Well, I sure hope it's straight. I need it to be nice and straight and just like mine."

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Great Canadian Giveaway Link-Up ~ Week of Nov.20th

Welcome to the The Great Canadian Giveaway Link-Up 
This is a weekly link-up, with a new linky published every Thursday (often up by Wednesday night).
Wednesday, November 19, 2014

I'm Not Ready For Christmas Yet. Like Seriously, Can't We Wait Until December to Start This Thing?

It snowed. Last week as I was getting ready to leave for a trip to visit Dearborn, Michigan, it started snowing. Big fat fluffy flakes that instantly melted as they hit the still warm ground. My children cheered and jumped and spun and screamed the entire way to the bus stop. They tried to catch each fuzzy round flake on their mittens and their tongues. I thought their snow excitement was cute until I realized that my kids equate snow with Christmas. Since that first fuzzy white flake came floating down I've been badgered constantly to decorate and put up the tree. Not happening.

Above and beyond that I have a four year old who insists that if there is any accumulation of snow that means the day will magically transform into Christmas Eve. I have tried to explain to her that snow does not necessarily mean Christmas and that Christmas does not necessarily mean snow. I have shown her a calendar and counted off the thirty-some days 'til Christmas. She will act like she's getting it, nod, smile... and then the next day when we walk outside to find snow once again falling she starts bouncing and screaming "Maybe tonight is Christmas!!" Um. No.

Our tree is not up. I went to Frankenmuth and saw all the beautiful decorations, and bought a few, and my husband and I talked about putting the tree up. But then I came home and looked at the front room and remembered that we have even more big furniture bits stuffed into it then we did last year, and I have no clue how I am going to rearrange all this stuff to fit a tree in and who's idea was it to get the kids a Lego table anyway? I'm pretty sure the answer involves moving some things to another floor of the house. I get tired out just thinking about it.

Then yesterday I found my seven year old tearing the place apart looking for The Elf. I clued in when I caught her moving furniture to check behind it. Apparently someone in my daughter's second grade class has been having daily elf visits since the day after Halloween. My girl came to the logical conclusion that the elf must be here somewhere, but we just haven't noticed him yet. So when I walked in she was methodically taking our entire house apart piece by piece, like some sort of CSI crime scene gone wrong.

I would like to have a talk with the parent who thought it was a good idea to have their elf arrive on Nov.1st.
Like seriously. No. Just no. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The World's Largest Christmas Store @BronnersXmas {not really wordless, Wordless Wednesday}

Bronner's Christmas Wonderland bills itself as the World's Largest Christmas store. The place has over 100,000 square feet of Christmas goodies.

There's plenty of other reasons to visit Frankenmuth, there is so much MORE than just Bronner's, but Bronner's is more then excuse enough for a visit, if you get what I mean. It is a packed floor to ceiling, every spot is full of something, don't blink you might miss it, and maybe you should look twice, sort of place. I have found so many beloved and unique ornaments there over the years.

And well, where else would you find an entire seaside themed ornament section, with multiple octopus ornaments to choose from?

Seriously.   Something. For. Everyone.

Do you do a themed Christmas tree (and if so, what's the theme?) Have you ever been to Bronner's?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Why Aren't We Visiting Michigan More Often?

Michigan. It's right there over the river. I mean I gaze across the river and look at Belle Isle, or Detroit at least once a week. Yet I don't travel across the border that often. Once upon a time it was different. We used to go to the states with my husband's parents All Of The Time. They would hop over to the states to go shopping every second saturday, like clock work, and often enough we'd go along for the ride. My mother-in-law would pick up groceries and we would shop for games and used books. All Of The Time.

The ever present Detroit skyline.

Things change. We had things to do on the weekend. Work sometimes, or recovering from a Friday night. We no longer went along with them that often. My husband's parents got older. My father-in-law developed alzheimer's and was no longer allowed to drive. My mother in law didn't like driving in the States. So my husband drove and we took them a few times. Somewhere in there the tragedy that was 9/11 happened, and it became more of a bother to cross the border. Eventually a passport became required, and for a very long time we didn't get around to getting ours, so we stopped visiting Michigan.

The Great Canadian Giveaway Link-Up ~ Week of Nov.13th

Welcome to the The Great Canadian Giveaway Link-Up 
This is a weekly link-up, with a new linky published every Thursday (often up by Wednesday night).
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About Me ~ Maple Leaf Mommy

Hi, I'm , a Canadian stay at home mom to two rambunctious little girls.
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