2013 Advent Calendar

2013-advent-calendar1 Unlike last year, I’ve been quiet about my industrious advent calendar-making this year. Thanks to a world-class babysitter (what would we do without moms?), I had the luxury of working on this year’s calendar at a leisurely pace, and though I’m not sure it packs quite the visual punch of last year’s, I’m so so pleased with these itty bitty houses. There’s a lot of love poured into them. 2013-advent-calendar5

Yes, I made 24 balsa wood houses from scratch. Did you know you could cut balsa wood with scissors? Such a great discovery – it made things go really fast. These houses are three inches high, and each one is filled with either a sweet treat or an activity tag. The activities include things like “donate toys”, “color hair with chalk” (I got one of those hair chalks for when winter break starts), “breakfast in bed,” “go ice skating,” “family movie night with popcorn and the works,” etc. The treats are chocolate mint stars and peppermint fudge from Trader Joe’s and coin chocolates, which are always a big hit. I thought a daily treat was too much, so I inserted a sweet every other day (still too much? probably). 2013-advent-calendar62013-advent-calendar82013-advent-calendar7

Clearly, I have a sickness. As I glued together house after house, and then painstakingly created shapes out of washi tape (no two houses have the same embellishments) etc. etc., I had to wonder what my purpose in life is. 2013-advent-calendar22013-advent-calendar3 2013-advent-calendar9

And just like last year, I assembled a little “toy basket” from which K will be able to select a wrapped gift on a few of the days. 2013-advent-calendar4

I spent a crazy amount of time planning this calendar. And you know, it makes me so happy – all of it: the planning, the hunting down of the supplies, the executing. There were some trial and error (I started off making clay houses — that didn’t go so well), and my Washi tape collection was a little limited in color as I would have loved pops of pink and light orange, but overall, this was a very successful project since I had almost everything on hand. Oh, it’s hard to see, but I also added some white details with this cool paint pen.

When K wakes up every morning to peel off the roof from the house of the day, nothing compares to that look of giddy anticipation and sheer delight. Nothing. So worth it.

How about a little tutorial? I think these would make great ornaments too and the decoration possibilities are limitless. Here’s an illustrated step-by-step guide (you can, of course, make any size, but I got these handy dandy 2″x36″ thin balsa wood planks, which generated about 6 houses each. They’re only about $1.50 per plank at hardware stores, and I used 6 planks):


37 thoughts on “2013 Advent Calendar

  1. What a lovely advent calendar, Sanae!
    As an architect I work a lot with balsa (or used to work, before the massive introduction of computers…) and I love it.
    Thank you for the tutorial!

    1. I haven’t done a lot with balsa wood, but it’s so easy to work with, I love it. My dad used to work for an architect and would build models out of balsa – it always looked so intricate!

    1. Aw, thanks Erin! I’ve been wanting to make little houses for a long time and I was so happy when I stumbled across the balsa wood!

  2. Adorable and amazing! I spent so much time thinking about advent calendars, that I never actually made one 🙁
    Will have to start now for next year!

    1. I spent so so long thinking about this calendar, it’s kind of embarrassing :-). And I don’t think I would have done it this year if it weren’t for my mom visiting…thank you!

  3. Wonderful! I’m waiting a couple more years until my kids are older to put this much effort into it (and maybe it has to do with how exhausted I am this year 🙂 But, I think this is on my list for future years. So beautiful. I love your style.

    1. Thanks, Amber! I actually made K an advent calendar when she was two and it totally flopped, so you’re smart to wait.

  4. This is stunning – what a labour of love! What amazing memories you are creating for K, Sanae – showing her how much she means to you and giving her a childhood of precious memories. And yay for moms that allow for it to happen:)

    1. Thank you, sweet Lucinda! I sure hope she’ll look back on these days and remember them fondly, though I have to admit a lot of it is done because I love it 🙂

    1. Thanks, June! I was originally thinking it would be single use, but the roof comes off pretty cleanly and they still look great, so I think I’ll use them as ornaments. K also likes playing with them to make villages for her tiny dolls 🙂

  5. This is beautiful and amazing. Your purpose in life is to create beauty and inspire others, and out of that, make the world a better place. I would love to make this next year…one question: how to you get the treats out?

    1. Oh, you’re making me blush, Sophie! Thank you for your kind words! As for the treats, I didn’t put a lot of glue on the paper rooftops, so they peel off easily. 🙂

  6. Hi Sanae,
    a long absence here in the comments section but i was there every day, gazing at your awesome craftiness! (and to lazy to hop from feedly to your website to leave a comment, shame on me!!!!)
    I adore the monday outfit with the grey pants and this lovely white shirt. One question about the polka dot fabric: you wrote this was cotton from joanns, it drapes so well, i thought it could be rayon, but is it more of a quilting cotton? And those houses are just awesome, gorgeous. I’m smitten and highly tempted to build some and use them as ornaments on our tree this year. Thanks for inspiring us!

    1. No pressure to comment, Marit! I’m just so happy you visit my little space 🙂 The fabric might have been in the apparel section, since it is surprisingly thin and drape-y. I’ve had it for a long time though, so my memory is pretty spotty. It’s definitely 100% cotton, that much I know. Thanks for the advent houses love! Another cute idea would be to just make house-shaped ornaments that aren’t three-dimensional. You would just need one house-shape, poke a hole, and maybe use leather cording, decorate and done! It would significantly cut down on the time it takes to make them. These would also make adorable gift tags, don’t you think?

  7. so beautiful. if your purpose in life is to a) explore creativity, b) create beauty c) share your creative process with the world so they may too create beauty or even just admire it, d) keep your family doted upon and spoiled with this beauty and creativity designed often for them, i can think of worse things than to be a creative inspiration to many and a really awesome mom. now, how do i get my mom to make me this advent calendar?

    1. I think you’ve got a pretty sweet deal going with your mom already, Ashley! And yep, you’re right, there are far worse things in life than spending hours concocting crafty schemes 🙂

    1. You’re very welcome, Tasha! I have a lot of balsa triangles from making the houses which are begging to be made into a garland. I love balsa wood too!

  8. Just popping in to say- this is SO AMAZING! You are really very clever and creative and talented and awesome- I have a girl crush LOL. Your daughter is so blessed!!! Happy haolidays.

    1. Pretty darn cute, right? I had this crazy concept initially of making clay houses that could be used to hold candles, and thank goodness for balsa wood because I never would have finished the clay houses!

  9. holy wow, these are really cool. good job you for being able to plan and execute all those cute little houses! I feel simultaneously proud and ashamed every time I see the office envelope advent calendar I hung from the ceiling on christmas lights for the kids. Lol!

    1. I think your advent calendar is awesome, Tara! My productivity pretty much started and ended with that advent calendar, unfortunately. I’ve been completely wayward with handmade gifts this year…

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