Friday, December 4, 2015

DIY Advent Calendar & Festive Holiday Mantel

I have been sponsored by Command Brand and received product for this post. All expressed opinions are 100% my own, and all additional products selected were chosen by me. This post also contains affiliate links*. Read my full disclosure

Decorating for Christmas has always been a favorite pastime of mine. Some years, however, I let the pressure to have a "perfect holiday home" get to me, and lose the joy the season brings trying to get it all done. This year, instead of trying to tackle decorating our entire home and going over the top everywhere, I decided to focus on what would bring my children joy and fill their little hearts with wonder. What better way than a homemade advent calendar?
Today, I hope you are inspired by how I made it with some simple materials and I'm also excited to give you a glimpse of our festive mantel.

If you are a regular around here, you know I love to change out my mantel season to season. Since it's not original to the house, it rests against the wall with nothing in the center. I am constantly trying to come up with creative ideas to fill it, so it seemed like the perfect spot to display the advent calendar!

I love versatile decorating so that changing things up from season to season is a breeze. This is why Command Brand products are my go-to solution. I love that I can decorate without having to put nail holes or thumb tacks in the wall or mantel.
I was thrilled when I discovered Command now offers hooks with transparent strips. How cool is that? I've been decorating with their products since college, and boy, have they come a long way since then! You can find these particular hooks and more options at a variety of retailers nationwide and online.

This post will show you how I displayed the advent calendar. How you fill each one is up to you! Use your imagination and get creative! (Or look on Pinterest for ideas.)

I wanted to keep it fairly simple, but be fun and personal for the kids. I chose to use plain envelopes and wrote the number for each day on the front with a gold marker. Each one is filled with a handmade card, drawing or paper cut-out with a different activity to do that day such as, "Watch Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer", "Get a book at the library about winter or Christmas" and "Make a card for someone you love and mail it."

Some also have small candies or items related to the specific day (like a little bag of sprinkles for the day we are going to bake cookies, and a chalkware Baby Jesus for Christmas day.

Once the envelopes were finished, I got my hooks ready to get the advent calendar displayed on the wall. I literally put it up on November 30th after the kids went to bed. I wanted it to be a huge surprise when they woke up!

I used ten Mini Hooks to hang it in five horizontal rows (five cards to hang on each row).
I did have to measure this part to make sure it was even inside the mantel, making sure they were all the same distance. That was probably the worst part since I don't really like math and had to actually do some "work" to figure out the correct distance. Once that part was over, I connected the string and made sure to secure a knot near the base of each hook.
I also wanted to shine some light inside the mantel, so I used the Command Medium Hooks on the inside to hang a strand of Christmas lights. The wood is smooth, so the hooks attached without a problem. It's important to note all of these hooks should only be used on smooth surfaces.
Once all of that was secure, I added my advent cards. All are filled with lightweight items, so no worry of them falling off during the month. I attached them to the string with mini craft clothespins.
Next, I really wanted to hang some simple garlands to the front of the mantel. Instead of buying expensive ones that I often see for sale (and love), I looked around my house to see what I could find. I used some pom pom trim that I had on hand and a thick piece of yarn that I attached some tiny ornaments to. So simple (and free since I had all of these things already)!
I used the Decorating Clips to hang the garland (again measuring to make sure it was evenly spaced). Since these particular hooks are so small and transparent, you can't even see them. When Christmas is over, I will probably just keep them up to use for future vignettes!
I added some gold star wall decals on the inside to make it even more magical.
For the top of the mantel, I was going for a soft, whimsical, vintage-inspired look with lots of candles, shimmer, and sparkle. I filled in around an antique print of Mary with bottle brush trees, vintage tinsel, and my collection of chalkware angels. 
To finish it off, I wanted to hang one more banner above the mantel. I display my glittered BELIEVE banner every Christmas, and this year, this seemed like just the spot for it. I used two clear Command Medium Hooksalso with the transparent strips. The banner isn't heavy, but the string needs to be taut so it doesn't droop too low. 
Once I had it tied securely around the base of the hooks, I wanted to conceal them, so I quickly came up with the idea to make some yarn tassels and add glittered stars to the front of them. Again, very simple and using what I had! 
Both kids were thrilled when they came down to find it on Day 1 and every morning since they have woken up asking to come down and open the next! (Here is Owen "showing Rudolph himself.")
I had so much fun doing this project and even though it's only been a few days since we started, I can tell how much the kids are enjoying it. I know it will become a tradition to enjoy year after year.

I hope to share a holiday home tour post sometime in the next couple of weeks and will have more detail pics from the mantel then. I decided not to participate in a large group tour this year, so I could focus on my family and really soak in this season I love so much. I will be showing a glimpse of my living room on Monday, so be sure to come back for that!

Till next time...
~Alice W.

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