It’s been a very full year for us, one of wonderful things, though also some sadness. We’ve sold a house, bought a house, lived out of town for an extended period of time, started a business, soft-launched a project, sent our oldest off to kindergarten and our middlest off to preschool, traveled out of the country, suffered the loss of a dear family member, a sweet cat and bunny, and the injury and illness of another family member and cat. But we are feeling grateful, as we enter the holiday season, for our sweet little family, our home, our loved ones. And I am ready now, after all the upheaval, to return to this place and share a little bit of the crafting that has grounded me over the last year. I’d like to start today with the advent calendar.

I’ve been dreaming about this advent calendar for years, and have even started similar attempts, the first when my six-year-old was only one. But it’s never come to fruition. Until now. I started it late, over Thanksgiving, and of course failed to have it done in time for the first of December! The kids had to wait several more days, and I still have some logistics to figure out — how to hang it, for one. But here it is with all the doors:

Advent Calendar with Doors

I had intended to make little felt doors and blanket stitch the numbers onto them and the doors onto the calendar, but well, being days late already, I opted for needlefelting. I figured I would go back and add doors next year. I don’t know — I like how the doors in the snow, sky and tree are camouflaged, and when the doors are open, they are gone instead of potentially blocking what was behind or next to them. But I think felt doors would look better on the house and barn… we’ll see.

Here’s a peek at a scene from one of my favorite books when I was little, growing up in Germany: The Tomten and the Fox:

The Tomten and the Fox / Tomte und der Fuchs

A close-up of the shooting star in the sky:
Shooting Star

And the sweet animals in the barn:
Sheep, horses, cows and bell in the barn

Cat and mouse in the barn

Here are the children upstairs in the house. On the right, two children are reading, and on the left another child is being kissed by a dog (you can see the dog’s pink tongue if you look closely enough!):

Children and dog in the house

And downstairs in the house, the mother and father hold the baby by the fireplace and Christmas tree:

Mother, father and baby

Since this post isn’t long and rambling enough, I realized something that bothers me about so many Nativity sets — the baby Jesus is almost always lying in the manger and it just seems like someone should be holding such a new little baby. Granted, this is coming from a person who pretty much never puts her baby down, but I just realized this season how “off” it seems to me. I did see some cute Peruvian sets at Ten Thousand Villages where Mary is holding Jesus, and it made me wonder how much our own culture plays into something as simple as where the baby Jesus figure is in the Nativity scene. Okay, back to the calendar. Here’s the whole house:

The whole house

The tree:

Cardinal, owl and squirrel in the tree

That’s a cardinal, an owl and a squirrel — somehow my squirrels always seem to suffer most in my calendars — he’s just not quite recognizable.

And the skunk under the tree:

Skunk

Eagerly anticipating opening the next door:

Anticipating what's behind the next door

The fireplace reveal:

The Fireplace

And finally (though the little ones haven’t seen it yet!), the whole calendar:

Advent Calendar

I love this time of year, the lead-up to Christmas, even more than Christmas itself. I love the traditions from my childhood I can share with my own family, the appreciation I see growing in all of them for handmade gifts. Mia, my 6-year-old, is busily crouched over paper, scissors and glue, making gifts for her classmates and her family. And I am filled with happiness, knowing she not only recognizes how much love goes into the gifts I make for her, but she is getting to experience the joy that I feel when I give handmade presents.

If I have any readers left at all, I’d love to hear what you are making or enjoying this holiday season!