December 17, 2012

The craftiness so far.

Turns out, that Christmas Elf can be a demanding little fella! But we've had lots of fun following his suggestions for crafty Christmas fun and activities that have been left in our Advent Village the last two weeks. 

Here are a few of the Christmas Elf's notes, and the resulting projects:
Gingy* needs a home! Let's make a gingerbread house today!
Untitled

Trader Joe's cute (and inexpensive!) little Gingerbread House kit came in handy for housing Gingy. In the past, I've purchased Wilton kits from JoAnn, and I think I actually prefer TJ's version. The gingerbread in this kit is soft and actually smells spicy. I suspect it might even be edible, whereas the Wilton kits have rock-hard slabs that look fine and gingerbread-ish, but I'm not sure I would put them in my mouth. The texture stamped on the pieces in the kit from Trader Joe's is nice, too. And the little sugar people are totally cute. Definitely worth the $7.99. The only problem we've had has been convincing Lincoln that we shouldn't eat it for dessert EVERY NIGHT after dinner.

This next one was my job, but that didn't stop the Christmas Elf from getting involved somehow.

Untitled

The morning after I finished Juniper's stocking, the Christmas Elf left this note in the village:
Juniper's stocking is finished! Help Mama pick out a hanger!
Of course, by this time, stocking hangers were on sale everywhere and pretty scarce. I ended up finding one when Lincoln wasn't with me, but he hasn't noticed/doesn't care in the least. Short toddler attention span FTW!

Untitled

In case you fancy making your own stockings, I made ours a couple years ago, using a free pattern from McCall's that used to be on their website. Sadly, it's gone now, but it's really a pretty basic stocking shape, and I imagine there are other free patterns and tutorials that would give you a similar result.

The next project is one that I found when I was looking for ideas for this whole Activity Advent thing a couple weeks ago. The materials are cheap (the plastic canvas is about $.50/sheet, and the beads were about $1 for a bag of 50 or so) and the whole thing is easy enough for a reasonably coordinated toddler to do with just a bit of help from a grown up.
Ooh, sparkly! Let's make beaded tree ornaments today!
Untitled

The original source tutorial that inspired this is a highly simplified version, but I couldn't help complicating things a bit. It's in my nature. But for the record, I only made the one in the middle on the bottom row entirely by myself, as a sample to show Lincoln what the Christmas Elf was talking about. For the ones he made, I tied the yarn on for him, and threaded his (dull) needle for him. He decided where to place the beads, and did the stitching himself. They were cute as-is when they were done, but I wanted to make a lasting Christmas keepsake out of them, so in the evening in front of the TV, I turned them into proper ornaments.

Untitled

I backstitched around the outermost row of grid with plain thread, attaching them to felt that I already had around. Then I cut away the excess felt and embroidered Lincoln's name and added the ribbon hanger. I envision them as package tags for the Grandmas, but Lincoln insists that he doesn't want to give any away. Time will tell who will win that battle.

Lincoln's favorite activity so far has probably been making Christmas lollipops. No surprise there, the kid does love candy. I picked up Wilton Candy Melts during a 50% off sale at JoAnn, along with a Santa lollipop mold and some sticks. The Christmas Elf left this note for us:
Santa loves sweets! Let's make Christmas lollipops!
Untitled

The detail in Santa's face is much more evident in the examples on Wilton's website, but I barely have the patience and motor control to pipe the candy into the tiny little nooks and crannies, there was no way that was going to happen with a toddler in charge. Instead, we just used a spoon to dump the candy in the molds sans precision. Naturally, that meant a special bonus, because at the end we could lick the spoon!

For obvious reasons, Lincoln has requested that we revisit this activity, and I think we probably will this week. The bags of candy melts go a long way, and these come out so cute for minimal effort. I also picked up a snowflake mold designed to candy coat Oreos, but I can't stop eating all the Oreos before we get to the project. We may or may not see that one come to fruition!

Also on the agenda, depending on the whim of the Christmas Elf:

Borax crystal snowflakes, like these at Martha Stewart.
Spritz cookies, my own personal fave from my childhood.
Peanut Butter Reindeer Fudge via Niki at Fancy That. Maybe as teacher's gifts for Lincoln's school?

I also picked up whole walnuts, because both David and I remember doing strange little crafts with walnut shells as kids. Though we've not been successful in unearthing any ideas for what to do with them yet.

We made an attempt at pipe cleaner crafts one evening, but that was kind of a bust. Lincoln didn't know what to do with them, and so we sort of just messed around for a few minutes after dinner before stacking the leftovers in a heap on the kitchen counter. Yep, that pile is still there.

And in a terrible bout of miscommunication with the Christmas Elf, we were instructed to make pinecone peanut butter bird feeders one day last week, but we still haven't actually purchased any bird seed to do so. Again, sometimes Lincoln's not the most observant little fella, so he hasn't mentioned our failing in that regard.

He did, however, take note of the time that the Christmas Elf left candy but no note (bad idea), and of each time that the Elf has left a note but no candy (fortunately, the Elf has some concerns about Lincoln's oral health).

Twice now I've gone to bed and awoken in a panic because I forgot to deliver the Elf's message to the appropriate drawer, and have had to stumble half-awake downstairs to my secret note stash to select an appropriate one.

Advent Village

Overall, I think our Activity Advent village has been a success. It's forced me to organize a little bit so we do little bits of fun activities throughout the week, instead of trying to cram in a bunch of stuff on the weekends. And none of the projects have been expensive or time consuming. It can be challenging to come up with an appropriate project that you have all the materials for every day, but we haven't been perfect and no one has cared or complained. I did cheat a couple days, once by omitting the note, and once by leaving the following:
Lots of love from the Christmas Elf. You've been such a good boy this year!
This actually left a huge proud smile on the boy's face, so I didn't feel bad about it for a minute. Daddy's birthday on Sunday also earned Lincoln an extra piece of chocolate so he could share with Daddy, and a note wishing Daddy Happy Birthday from the Christmas Elf. And for the record, he DID have a happy birthday, 'cause this happened:

_322155

Yep, I got to go, too! It was crazy fun, and we would both totally go back in a heartbeat. Have you been? What other Christmas fun are you up to? Indoor skydiving, or otherwise?

*We're big Shrek fans around here. In case you're not and suspect I'm referring to Lincoln's little red-haired friend, you should know that Gingy is actually Shrek's Gingerbread Man compadre.