Wednesday, 25 November 2015

DIY Advent Calendar & What to Put Inside!

It's almost December! So here's a new DIY tutorial to get you in the festive spirit. Today I'm sharing how I made this crafty reusable Advent Calendar using a mini wooden drawer set. This has to be the most versatile advent calendar for adults or children (maybe even pets!?) Give as a gift or keep in your own home; it's a unique countdown to the big day. Fill the drawers with whatever takes your fancy or scroll to the bottom of this post for ideas on what to put inside your hand-crafted advent calendar. Forget those shop bought chocolate calendars, this is one you'll be excited to bring out every single year...


25 Wooden Drawer Set
I found this online at The Works about a month ago. It was £12 which I thought was a bargain considering I've seen these on sale for much much more. I can't find it online, they must have sold out but it's worth visiting your local 'The Works' shop to see if they have any in store. Some key words to Google are '25 drawer set' 'craft drawers' 'wooden craft drawers' 'wooden advent calendar'
Another option would be to buy smaller drawer sets such as sets of four and build these up together but of course you'll end up with a much larger advent calendar!
I've even seen the basic structures made completely from scratch using cardboard.

I've gone with a red, gold and bronze theme for my advent calendar but you can paint yours however you like! I'm using big tubes of cheap acrylic paint (also from The Works) which have worked very well. There's no need to use expensive paint, just use what you have. I did the frame in a deep red (mixing two paint colours to get the right shade) and I painted each drawer in either gold, bronze or red.

You'll need numbers for each day in December, either cut out from card or you could use stickers. I pulled a few things off old Christmas cards and used them for decoration. Allow your imagination to run wild! You can decorate as simply or as extravagantly as you like.


Start by painting the frame of your wooden drawer set. I mixed two shades of red to get the colour I wanted and painted generously straight on to the wood with a large paintbrush. I started with the sides, let them dry, and then moved on to the inside of each compartment. You may need to do two coats but mine was good to go after one. Let it dry completely. While you wait, paint the drawers! 

My drawers are a mix of red, gold and bronze. I didn't want two colours to sit next to each other in the calendar so I split the number of drawers into 3 piles and made sure to paint enough of each colour. You could always paint your drawers all the same and just use embellishments for decoration.

This is the fun part! You can start to decorate each mini drawer. I numbered all my drawers from 1 to 25 just like a traditional advent calendar. But I also wanted to add some extra details. I chopped up old Christmas cards, used glitter card, string, ribbon, stickers and tiny tags. I stuck on my embellishments with either double sided tape, sticky foam pads (for a 3D look) or a regular glue stick. You could even paint on or draw patterns. Once you're happy, your advent calendar is complete! 
Now it's time to fill it full of surprises! Is your calendar for your partner or your best friend? For the children in the family or for your cats? Keep reading as I've listed my favourite ideas for below. 


Beauty Bits
Those expensive beauty calendars that are selling out everywhere can be achieved at home if you fill each drawer with sample size products. Tiny nail polishes, perfume samples, individual eye shadows or mini mascaras can fit inside each drawer. If you know a makeup lover this would make an exciting gift.

Pamper Products
If you're not so keen on makeup but enjoy a pampering session then how about little pots of bath salts, mini bath bombs, soap, bath soak, face and body creams?

Man Pampering
(See above) but swap the girly products for aftershave, shaving creams, shower gels and all things considered to be part of a manly beauty regime!

Pet Calendar
Ok, so they may not get as excited about this advent calendar as you will, but it's always nice to include our pets in Christmas traditions. Fill each drawer with tasty treats that your pet loves or small toys such as catnip mice!

Teeny Tiny Gifts
Wrap up extra small prezzies with wrapping paper and ribbon and pop a teeny gift into each drawer. How wonderful will it be to open up a little parcel every morning in the lead up to Christmas Day? You could make this part of a larger gift especially if all the little ones can be put together to form the main present.

Following on from above, if you buy a lego set you could put one or two bricks inside each drawer to be collected over the month of December and then save the best or biggest piece until Christmas Day so the set is complete and the model can be created! Great for kids and big kids (any Star Wars lego fans would love this)

Ideas & Inspiration
How about a handwritten note inside each drawer? This idea is great for couples or families with young children. Every day there's a new festive activity to try out. Anything from 'Visit the Christmas Markets' or 'Decorate the Tree' to simple things like 'Watch a Christmas Film' and 'Eat Christmas Cookies!'

Collect your favourite photographs from 2015 and pop a mini print inside each drawer. At the end of the month you'll have 25 photos you could string up and display like bunting or collage together in a frame. If you think a photo advent calendar is a little boring a fancy chocolate with each picture will cheer things up!

Boozy Calendar
I don't think I know any bottles of alcohol small enough to fit inside these drawers, but if you're clever you could decant different spirits into shot sized containers for a boozy treat at the end of the day.

Fancy Chocolates or Sweets
For those with a sweet tooth, you can't beat a chocolate advent calendar. Fill this one with a friend's favourite sweets or chocolate. The advantage is you can really personalise your calendar to individual taste.

Wax tarts, scented tea lights or mini sample sized candles for that one person who is obsessed with burning smelly things! 25 tea lights would see you nicely through Christmas.

Yes you read that correctly! Why not! Silly festive underpants for the men or fancy knickers for the women! A new pair of pants leading up to Christmas would be unique and useful. You don't have to spend a fortune, you can buy Primark knicker sets for a few pounds. Roll them up into small bundles and tie with ribbon. Maybe save one luxury expensive pair of pants for Christmas Day?

What would you put inside your DIY Advent Calendar? If anyone has made their own advent calendar this year please send me your photos on Twitter as I love to see your creations. This DIY is certainly a full day project. If you do all your painting in the morning and prep your embellishments while it dries, you'll be sticking on the final touches by evening. It's a lovely way to start Christmas, play some carols in the background and you're bound to be in a jolly mood by the time you've finished!


Monday, 23 November 2015

How to Use Printed Photos this Christmas

I love printed photographs and I'm always looking for new places to get quality beautiful prints of my iPhone snaps. I was excited to give Cheerz a try when they kindly offered me the chance to review two of their products. I decided to have my pictures printed in Polaroid format with their original Cheerz box and pick a few favourites to be made into square photo magnets...

The Cheerz website was easy to use and a pleasure to order from. You can upload photos from your dropbox, facebook page, instagram feed or computer. My prints arrived in little sturdy boxes, perfect for presents (just gift wrap and pop into a Christmas stocking). The paper stock is of a lovely glossy thick quality and the photos were printed sharply and true to colour. In fact I think some of my front-facing camera snaps looked even better than they do on screen! So what are some unique ways to use and display your printed photos for Christmas?

Monday, 16 November 2015

Compress Your Bag for Winter!

I'm a carry-everything-but-the-kitchen-sink kind of person and slimming down my handbag was never going to be easy. But when Sure challenged me to 'compress my clutch' to celebrate the release of their smaller and handbag friendly compressed antiperspirant, I was keen to give it a go!

I am cheating a little... I'm using a small bag instead of a clutch but I hope you'll forgive me because this Primark steal is my favourite everyday bag to use when I don't need to carry quite so much around. It has sneaky zipped pockets on the outside and inside and a soft faux leather exterior. I think it was only £6! So what exactly is in my bag at this time of year and how have I managed to carry only the essentials?

Saturday, 7 November 2015

The Leather Satchel

A real classic is a beautifully made leather satchel. If you haven't got some sort of satchel style bag in your collection, then this is a good place to start. This handcrafted bag was kindly sent to me from Cut Make Trim a small team based in London who sell their full range of satchels every weekend at the Jubilee Hall Craft Market in Covent Garden. This one is known as the 'Dexter' and also comes in dark brown. It's the perfect size for both work and play. I can carry notebooks and pens alongside my purse, keys and phone. It's made with butter soft leather so it's flexible (and smells really good) unlike stiff and structured satchels, the kind I never get along with. 

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