Advent Calendar & DIY Leaf Garland

A couple of weeks ago I hauled the kids to our usual haunt, Tarjay, in search of many things; one of them being an Advent calendar.  We’ve never had one in our little family and my family never had one growing up but it’s a tradition I want to start with our rugrats.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t too excited about Target’s selection but imagine my joy and surprise when my friend from college, Kristen, asked me the very next day if I’d want one of the ones she’d designed.  I took one look at it and my excitement went through the roof!  It’s gorgeous!  Online it’s beautiful but in person it’s even more so.  It consists of 26 cards, one for each day of Advent (duh) and on the back of each card is the reading for that day and a short reflection.  On the front is a watercolor design (each day is different!) illustrated by Clarissa Krajewski.  You can either purchase it in printable form (you print) or you can purchase a pre-printed one and have it sent to you.  If you’re still looking for a calendar this year, I highly recommend this one!  During one nap time last week, I got ours all hung and ready.  See?
It’s hanging in our kitchen, where we’ll be able to pray with it around mealtimes when we’re all in one spot.  I got a little crafty with how I hung it after a long naptime and a dose of ambition called my name last week.  I used twine I had leftover from this soap dispenser project to hang the cards and along the twine I strung leaves that I picked off some tree branches Anthony had trimmed off of some trees in our front yard last weekend.  I’m not sure what kind of trees they are but the leaves are similar to magnolia leaves in that they’re thicker, a little waxy, and stiffer, making them perfect for this project.  After I cleaned them (I just swirled them around in some water + dish soap in the kitchen sink), I used our hole punch to punch a hole at each end of each leaf.
photo 3 (9)
Then I simply strung leaf after leaf onto the twine.  photo 1 (13)All of that probably took me 20 minutes…not long.  It was actually so refreshing even if it was a tad tedious because while I worked I listened to Bonnie’s podcast interview with Kristen on This Inspired Life.  If you haven’t heard, you should lend your ear.  Bonnie tells about her now-four-year-old son’s run-in with death at his birth.  You guys, he had no pulse for 61 minutes!!  But he’s now a happy, healthy, normal little boy thanks be to Jesus and the intercession of Blessed Fulton Sheen.  That’s all I’m going to give away…go listen when you get a chance!  (Pssst…If you don’t have a chance to listen right away but are dying to find out more about this miracle, you can read about it here on Bonnie’s blog.)

Back to the leaves…after I was finished stringing, I grabbed my favorite gold spray paint (Metallic Accents by Rustoleum), hung the strands on our swing set, and sprayed each down with a couple of coats.
 photo 2 (14) 
You can even make strands like this to serve as garland for your Christmas tree or mantle or anywhere that could use a little sprucing!  Silver, gold, red, blue, sparkled…oh the options!

It bears mentioning that…I hung two stands, as you can see in the first picture, and strung and painted one strand at a time.  The only reason I’m telling you that is because I realized, while stringing the leaves onto the second strand, that I had picked EXACTLY the right amount of leaves to fill both strands.  It was crazy.  Here I was listening to Bonnie’s miracle and stringing, stringing, stringing until I was done stringing and there were zero leaves left but I was done stringing anyway.  Here are the two ends of my second and final strand to serve as proof.
photo 4 (8)
I had even gone outside and grabbed more leaves before I started this strand because I didn’t think I was going to have enough.  I know I’m rambling about it and you probably think I’m nutso, but let me just tell you, it was crazy.  Enough said.  :)

The last thing I did before I hung each card was hand paint a little arrow design on each clothes pin.  I used a small test pot of the color Sonora Rose (by Valspar) I had on hand and a small paint brush and went to town.  It only took me about five minutes.
And that’s it!  I had everything I used on hand making this project 100% free and man, I love those kinds of projects!  I love how our calendar turned out and I can’t wait to start praying with it!
[P.S.  I have hanging 27 cards even though there are only 26 days in Advent.  The “instructions” card was too pretty not to hang and the way that I hung the cards, it looked better to have an odd number of cards on top and an even number on bottom, so I included it in the bunch.  Also, I hung the calendar over the frame collage but I’m thinking I might take the frames down because it looks a tad cluttered.  I’m not a huge fan of that collage anyway and have been itching to switch it up so after Advent might be my chance…]

Do you have an Advent calendar tradition?  What about Advent traditions in general?  I’m looking to expand ours so do tell!  I can’t believe it starts next weekend!



  1. Just bought the advent calendar printable version. I LOVE IT. Can't wait to use it. Hopefully I can hang mine up before Advent is over.

    Happy Birthday, Anthony!

    1. Ha! You sound like me! The fact that I have mine up already is a small miracle! I'm determined this year to decorate more than usual (we're known for putting our Christmas tree up on Christmas Eve...) and to do it right after Thanksgiving. We'll see how far my determination carries me in real life... :)

  2. That advent calendar looks awesome! We're still in the process of finding one that works...I try something a little different every year. Might have to add this one too :)

    1. It sounds fun to try something different every year, even if you don't intend to! I might file that away. New is exciting. :)

  3. Wow I love the leaf garland!!! That is so beautiful!!!! :) You are one of the most creative, inventive people I know. Seriously. Thanks so much for all the kind words Sheena! And HAPPY BIRTHDAY ANTHONY!! :)

    1. Thanks Kristin! Best compliment I've gotten in awhile and it made my day!! Thanks again for the calendar! I love it...if I haven't mentioned it enough. ;)

  4. Look at that! I was just here to read about your Advent calendar and then you mentioned me! I'm so flattered! Thank you!

    (Your podcast was good, too, lady!)