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We all love an Advent calendar!

As today is 1st December, I thought it would be fun to look at that Christmas favourite – the Advent calendar!

As a child, I can remember being SO excited about opening the little numbered windows in the run up to Christmas Day. Back then, there was nothing more than a picture behind each door or, if I was very lucky, a chocolate and I found it thrilling! Today, you can buy Advent calendars stuffed with 24 ‘surprises’ ranging from chocolate to gin and everything in between, with just as many aimed at adults as children. Each to their own of course, but I can’t help feel it’s another nice little innocent tradition that has been thoroughly hijacked by commercialism! But hey ho… I thought I’d do a bit of delving and look back into the origins of the Advent calendar.

An Advent calendar is used to count the days of Advent in anticipation of Christmas. Technically, the date of the first Sunday of Advent can fall anywhere between between November 27 and December 3, but today, pretty much all Advent calendars begin on December 1. It’s widely accepted that the Advent calendar was first used by German Lutherans in the 19th and 20th centuries but is now common across most Christian denominations.

Traditionally, Advent calendars featured the manger scene, Father Christmas or idyllic snowy landscapes and featured paper flaps, windows or doors, covering each date. The little windows opened to reveal an image, a poem, a portion of a story (such as the story of the Nativity), or a sweet treat. Often, each window had a Bible verse and Christian prayer printed on it and Christians would incorporate this into their daily Advent devotions.

Today, as well as covering a mind-boggling array of indulgent treats, the calendars can take the form of fabric pockets, painted wooden boxes with cubby holes for small items or, as I spotted online, a train set with 24 mini waggons, each loaded with a present… and so on and so on. So much for any religious significance!

In the snowy northern climes of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden there is a tradition of having a so-called ‘Julekalender’ ­– the local word for a Yule, or Christmas – calendar (even though it actually is an Advent calendar) in the form of a television or radio show, starting on December 1 and ending on Christmas Eve. I’m amazed this hasn’t caught on over here! Surely we could have a series of 24 gardening, cooking and dancing shows to trot us up to Christmas in a very merry frame of mind! But then, that wouldn’t seem all that different to our usual TV scheduling, would it?

Oh, but that’s enough of my cheek. My granddaughter Grace will have a lovely traditional Advent calendar (with perhaps just some small sweetie treats!) and I know her little face will light up with joy as she opens each window and begins to feel the magic of Christmas. Smiles, Joanna.

 

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Remembrance Day memories

Whenever we see poppies our minds often turn to Remembrance Day. The new Jane Shasky Perfect Poppies pad has lots of ideas and pages to inspire you whether the card is intended for Remembrance Day, a sympathy card or just a card celebrating someone who is no longer with us.

This particular card shows a photo of my late grandmother’s first fiancée. I say first fiancée as, sadly, this was around the outbreak of the first world war was when she was in her late teens and looking for a husband. So many of our young soldiers and airmen didn’t survive even one posting or flight and this young man was just such a casualty. She went on to meet several others and over the next few years of the war she lost every fiancé as they got engaged. Finally though, there was a happy ending and, just after the war she met my grandfather – hurray! He survived, left the army and although I wasn’t lucky enough to meet him, he died around 1950, so they had a very happy 30 years or so together.

This design uses our memories die and two sheets from the pad. The backing paper which has been matted onto some plain red card and a toppers sheet which I have snipped with my decoupage snips and made all the flowers into individual pieces. I then built them up again to make this corner display using Pinflair glue gel.

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Lovely Las Vegas

Las Vegas – one of the few cities in the world whose name makes me smile! I have wonderful memories of Las Vegas with family and friends when Richard and I got married there. Now not everyone shares my view – many (often those who haven’t visited) think it’s all cheesy drive through Elvis wedding chapels and cheap eateries.

You couldn’t be more wrong. Las Vegas today still has the showgirl heritage but it has moved on and there are now more Michelin starred restaurants than any other city in the world, I believe. The hotels are often very reasonably priced and just wandering down the Strip (main street) is entertainment in itself. The theatres and concerts are amazing and definitely West End or Broadway quality.

The Bellagio has its famous dancing fountains (as in Oceans 11). The Venetian has a gondola ride within the hotel (over a mile long) yes inside the hotel and the reception area is a beautiful take on the Michelangelo ceiling in the Sistine Chapel. There are casinos yes (ok, ok so maybe I do indulge in some blackjack – it’s fun!) but there are also lovely swimming pools, gorgeous spas (Caesars Palace has a room where it snows!) and masses of excellent restaurants. Alternatively if you are on a budget – there’s always Panda Express – where we paid about £6 a head for us all to have loads of delicious Chinese food.

I wonder if the Las Vegas travel board would like to employ me – I’m not trying to sell Vegas trips, just saying if you haven’t been … there are tons of beautiful places there included the truly beautiful Italianate chapel where Richard I tied the knot!

This card was one I simply had to make. The image is a painting by Evgeny Lushpin (pronounced Eugeny), a Russian artist I discovered just recently and I think it would make a wonderful card for someone going on a trip – perhaps on a stag or hen weekend or holiday? The die used as an embellishment is the Signature dies Morning Glory Vine. Enjoy!

 

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Have a Holly Pond Hill Christmas!

I wanted to share a couple of Holly Pond Hill Christmas cards with you today – hmm not that many weeks to Christmas, have you made all your cards yet?

Of course the first thing you are going to do is say “Have you?” and of course the answer you knew was coming is… nope nothing like all of them yet!

One year I promise I will be a super organised Christmas person, I will plan in advance not only what we are eating, who is coming and when, but also make my cards months in advance. I’m not succeeding very well on that list this year. Currently I have no clue if my girls are with me on Christmas Day or whether as we have done in the past we postpone the big day to December 26th.

It’s so much harder when children are grown up, they acquire other families (their in-laws) that have just as much right to Christmas Day as you do and, shock horror, they even occasionally want to go away for Christmas! I do wonder what the reaction would be if Richard and I went away for Christmas, not sure they would think that was right! No stockings, no-one to cook and clear away on Christmas Day – noooo!

But back to the cards – Christmas in Holly Pond Hill is a fabulous CD. If you haven’t got it already, then it’s definitely on my top 5 list for making Christmas cards and I can recommend it. I love the little characters and there are also some amazing images without furry bits too!

Both the cards use the matching backing papers that come with the toppers on the CD (easy to find!) and the little parcel on the right uses the (SD553) Small Box Envelope die and again a paper from the CD.

Maybe aim to have half your Christmas cards done by the middle of November Joanna? Hmm … maybe!

 

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Birthday Brollies and Boots!

I thought these cards paired rather well together – brollies and boots – British weather and all that. So one card features rain clouds (we may just have had some of those this summer) and the other the pretty lacy wellies in the Signature Die collection.

First, the sweet little card that uses an image from the Donald Zolan (pad 2) collection. She’s a dear little girl and I love the children’s innocence in his artwork. The card measures 8 inches square and uses the Signature dies Lace Parasol die. The clouds are from the Signature Dies ‘Weather Forecast’ die, as are the raindrops.

The other card is also 8 inches square and uses backing papers from our backing paper collection (Volume 3) and then obviously the Wellies using the Signature die ‘Lacy Wellington’. The flower pots are also die cut (SD025 Flower Pots) and then pieces snipped from Signature dies Climbing Rose and Trailing Ivy filled up the pots!

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