Homemade Advent Calendar*

Preparing My Heart for Christ with Belgian Chocolate

I’m sure you’ve all been wondering how I spent my free time in November. I spent it making advent calendars for me and Dave. Heads up for the devout among you, this has nothing to do with preparing my heart for the coming of Christ and everything to do with preparing my mouth for a daily piece of delicious chocolate (sanctioned by Jesus!).

Because I’m a 5-year old trapped in a 38-year old body, I get a Neuhaus advent calendar every year (two because I don’t want to share with Dave). I love the designs on the front and the anticipation of opening the little paper door to reveal my surprise treat each day…until the day when I’m greeted by a piece of dark chocolate. Then my 5-year old palate wrinkles its nose.

In past years, I’ve toyed with the idea of making my own advent calendar so I can fill it with chocolates of my choosing. But I’m lazy and not even remotely crafty.

But early in November, my ADD took over and I searched the internet for homemade advent calendar ideas. Because that was the best use of my time. Oh how my to-do list suffers when I get one of these brilliant “project” ideas.

This homemade advent calendar idea resonated most with me. But I think I might have mentioned I’m lazy? So I thought about buying these pre-made tins on Etsy. But as lazy as I am, I’m also cheap and picky. Since I want to retire early and have super cute tins, I decided to make my own in my voluminous free time.

This is the part of the craft project blog post where I’m supposed to say how easy this project was. This was a raging pain in the ass so easy. I started this nonsense during the first week of November and I didn’t finish until December 1st, which is actually four days after advent started, but who’s counting. Advent calendars always start on December 1st, I don’t make the rules. I stopped counting the time this project took when it reached 12 hours.

Now is the time in the craft project blog post when I’m supposed to tell you how to torture yourself do this.

“High-Maintenance Homemade Advent Calendar” Steps:

1.) Buy shit:  Having no crafting experience, this involved making a non-technical shopping list (i.e. paper cutter thingie, stuff to make paper stick to the tins, way to make numbers appear on the paper, etc…) and losing my Michael’s virginity. The only reason I didn’t leave in a huff when the cashier asked for $99 (seriously?!?) was that I’d already blown an hour and half wandering around the store in a stupor. I was by that point what I like to call committed.

2.) Design and cut (with fancy new circle cutter I can’t imagine ever using again as long as I live) two decorative paper circles for each tin. Curse each time the paper slipped and the cutter created a useless ellipse.

3.) Realize cutting circles out of the paper wastes a ton and return to Michael’s for two more packages.

4.) Tape (using special tape I had to order) smaller decorative paper circles onto larger background circles.

5.) Freak out about something happening to the paper given how much time steps 1-4 took. Research paper preservation products. Select acrylic sealer spray.

6.) Decide not to number the circles. Hope no one ever dares to question this decision. Thank you.

7.) Obsessively worry about my spraying competence and ruining my precious circles. Become frightened by how often the phrase “my precious circles” enters everyday conversation. Find YouTube spraying tutorial and consider hiring a professional spray person. Wonder if inhaling a toxin and the possible subsequent failure of my internal organs is a reasonable response to an aversion to dark chocolate.

8.) Choose the windiest fucking day since Hurricane Irene to spray toxic shit onto the circles. End up shellacking myself (three coats!).

9.) Wash tins. Dry tins. Be completely blown away when this takes two hours.

10.) Find Simon & Garfunkel limited engagement channel on Sirius. Finally learn Art’s harmony on “You Can Tell The World.” Sort of.

11.) Tape circles to tin lids.

12.) Stick magnets to bottom of tins.

13.) Obsessively arrange tins on magnet board. Take many mediocre photos.

14.) Buy chocolate. Feel the need to explain project to store clerk. Ignore her look.

15.) Use a random number generator to randomize the order of the chocolates. If you think I’m kidding, you don’t know me very well.

16.) Insert chocolates into tins.

17.) Eat delicious chocolate daily.

Enjoyable steps include: 10, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, and portions of 1 and 2.

Cost Comparison

Now is the time when I smugly tell you how much money I saved by doing this myself.

–Two Neuhaus advent calendars = $60 plus tax

–Two sets of premade magnetic tins from Etsy plus a magnet board = ~$120

–“High-Maintenance Homemade Advent Calendars” = $222.57 ($139.01 without the chocolate)



So I spent a lot of time making homemade advent calendars that were more expensive than what I could have bought premade. But my calendars are super cute.   

Here are my precious circles waiting to be shellacked. Each one is stuck to the paper-lined cardboard with painters’ tape.

Here are my 24 finished tins on the magnet board. I couldn’t get a good picture of all 48, so use the reflection to imagine Dave’s set too.

Close up of my favorite pattern.

The chocolate on the left is called Louise and is filled with milk chocolate (of course!) ganache. I think the confetti look is pretty. The chocolate on the right is called Sapho and it’s my favorite. It’s filled with almond praline.

The funky-looking chocolate below is called 1857 and is filled with praline studded with crushed spicy speculoos cookies.

Happy Advent! I hope your holiday preparations go smoothly. Do you do anything special to mark the days before Christmas?


*I toyed with the idea of naming this post “Oh my God, that’s the crafty shit,” based on the Prodigy song “Funky Shit.” Because I want to, you know, build community with other apathetic agnostic, advent-calendar making, listeners of the Prodigy on the internet. But since I had to explain the reference even to Dave, I decided there aren’t any other apathetic agnostic, advent-calendar making, listeners of the Prodigy. So much for finding my tribe.

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16 Responses to “Homemade Advent Calendar*”

  1. reagan
    Wednesday, December 7, 2011 at 8:02 am #

    I really like your sarcasm in this piece. :)

    • logyexpress
      Wednesday, December 7, 2011 at 11:30 pm #

      I’m pretty happy with how this project came out and I’m super happy to eat the chocolate, but it turned out to be more of an undertaking than I would’ve liked!

  2. Kristen Tarajos
    Wednesday, December 7, 2011 at 12:12 pm #

    I planned to make my own Advent Calendar with the kids. I needed something to occupy them during our 8 hour drive to Vegas. After seeing this Jesse Tree Project , I thought I could easily adapt it. I bought all the supplies (same paper you used!). Cut and assembled exactly one box, grew tired and gave up. Maybe next year I’ll finish it!

    • logyexpress
      Wednesday, December 7, 2011 at 11:37 pm #

      That’s so funny that you were making a calendar too…coincidence? Uh, yeah!

      I think the promise of chocolate kept me going. Also wanted my dining room table back.

      The boxes and ornaments at that link are very cute. Constructing boxes myself is not something I believe would be in my skill set though, since cutting circles out of paper proved to be almost too challenging!

      Did you win big in Vegas?

  3. Erin
    Thursday, December 8, 2011 at 1:34 am #

    This really cracked me up. Gina from my moms’ group really is crafty and designed this advent calendar:
    which got picked up by HP and is included in their holiday promotional materials:
    (see p. 5)
    I think I will send her a link to this post. Hers was about $200 cheaper, and she says it took an hour.

    I’m with you on the random number generator. I made a quiz about the parents-to-be for the cousins’ baby shower and used a random letter generator to make sure the responses were in random order. That threw some people off because they thought I could not possibly have had the same parent show up as the answer two times in a row. What else can a scientist do?

    • logyexpress
      Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 12:05 am #

      OK, is it wrong that I hate Gina just a little bit? Her crafty posts are definitely the kind that make me uber-aware (along with the evidence from this post) of my total non-craftiness.

      Although, I will say that her method probably wouldn’t work for me. Most of the chocolates I used are naked (a few are wrapped in foil) and I wouldn’t want to have them just sitting in open bags. The tins are sealed and keep my precious chocolates safe.

      Thanks for the random number generator love, makes me feel a touch less goofy. I did alter the order for one or two chocolates–the one cream one I got popped up close to last and that didn’t seem good, so I moved it to day one. And I broke up a glut of three of the same kind in a row. But yeah, random can look pretty non-random sometimes, way to be tricky on the baby shower game! Science!

  4. Rebecca Latson Photography
    Thursday, December 8, 2011 at 6:35 pm #

    Yes, your tins are very pretty. After laughing uproariously through this post, I decided that – should I ever decide to buy into the whole Advent calendar thing – I will order one online….

    • logyexpress
      Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 12:06 am #

      I believe you can get a Neuhaus calendar online. They are very good (if you like dark chocolate!). Or you could just buy some chocolate and eat it whenever you want. But that would be too easy.

  5. cinquecentoproject
    Saturday, December 10, 2011 at 5:43 am #

    This was so great. Although I don’t listen to Prodigy, or use an Advent calendar, I am an apathetic agnostic who still loves Christmastime, so maybe our tribes overlap. I actually tend to refer to myself as ignostic, but most people roll their eyes when I say that. lol.

    My mom had advent calendars for us every now and then, but we didn’t always stick to it.

    As I looked at your calculations, I couldn’t help thinking that if you use the calendars for 5 years, you’ll really come out more or less even and plus you get chocolate control.

    I only put up a string of lights around the stairway railing for decorations. The lack of cold and snow here, as well as the fact that I am not having any family gatherings in Sicily, leaves me with few reminders of the season. I love the songs and the movies though and I just ordered “Love Actually.” Yay.

    • logyexpress
      Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 12:10 am #

      Oh good, let’s be in the same tribe. It will be fun! I like ignostic. Totally going to use that.

      Doing the math on the break even point is totally something I would ordinarily do, but I was so exhausted by this project I didn’t bother. Hopefully I coated the paper on the tins with enough acrylic sealer to last at least 5 years.

      Wishing you Christmas-ey goodness in Sicily, even without cold and snow and all your family.

  6. Recovering Supermom
    Saturday, December 10, 2011 at 9:46 am #

    This cracked me up! I’m sorry I’m laughing at your pain. The tins did turn out amazingly, though.

    And good thinking cinquecentoproject on being able to use them again and again!

    • logyexpress
      Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 12:11 am #

      Thanks! Please laugh at my pain. I realize I’m ridiculous.

      Yes, these tins better hold up for YEARS!

  7. momfog
    Saturday, December 10, 2011 at 9:57 am #

    This reminds me of the year I decided to make my own wrapping paper. Super fun, but also super expensive. I’ve used Dollar Store wrapping paper every year since.

    I love the Advent Calendar and the chocolate. Especially the chocolate.

    • logyexpress
      Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 12:12 am #

      Wow, I think I need a post on the homemade wrapping paper. I try to buy the ugliest/most inappropriate paper I can find for my brother. It’s tradition.

  8. shrinkingwmn
    Tuesday, December 13, 2011 at 10:56 pm #

    I’m with Recovering Supermom, I was laughing at your pain the entire post 😉
    I would never even think of making an advent calendar let alone go through with it if somehow the idea entered my head…I think i’d just buy the chocolate, leave it in the box it came in and eat a piece daily, Mmm chocolate! lol
    While I am not an advent calendar creator I am a Prodigy fan and apathetically agnostic so I’m two thirds of the way a match to your tribe so there must be others out there that match your criteria exactly lol…and now I have that Prodigy song stuck in my head *rolls eyes*

    • logyexpress
      Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 12:22 am #

      I can be so lazy, but when I get an idea of the perfect way to do something, I can also be very stubborn.

      I almost left Michael’s halfway through the shopping and I could have made a fairly clean escape. But I pressed on. I’m really enjoying opening the tins each day, so there’s that. By next year maybe I won’t even remember the pain.

      Yea for another tribe member!

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