10 December 2014

"The 25 Days of Christmas"

from www.25daysofchrist.com
In November I saw this cool idea online at www.25daysofchrist.com.  This family has a tradition of putting a special ornament on the tree for each of the 25 days of December leading up to Christmas, and each ornament is symbolic of some part of Jesus Christ's life or teachings.  Along with the ornaments, they read certain scriptures and quotes from church leaders, and watch related Bible videos on lds.org for each of the 25 days.

When I saw this, I thought it was an excellent idea for not only focusing on the events surrounding Christ's birth, but also focusing on the other important parts of his life as we go through each day leading up to Christmas.  I decided I would get a set for us, and maybe some for gifts.  But when I looked at their website, I found that they don't sell the ornaments, they just set the supplies to make the ornaments yourself.  So since I would have to take the time to make the ornaments if I purchased their kit, plus their ornaments are cute, but they aren't exactly my style, I decided to make my own.  It was early November, and I decided to make a set for our family, one for my sister, Michelle, and her family, and one of Michael's sister, Mindy, and her family.  I knew it would make for a busy November, especially if I wanted to make them and get them in the mail early enough to arrive at the sisters' houses in time for them to use them starting on December 1st this year.  So once I had totally convinced myself to actually take on this project, I gathered my supplies and got to work.

I found thin little wooden ornaments complete with holes already, so I didn't have to do any drilling.  I found a really nice packet of scrapbook paper that was perfect for what I had in mind.  And some dark red spray paint for the wood ornaments, some darker/shiny paint to go around the edges, some thin twine tie on loops to hang the ornaments, some really cute & simple burlap bags with red ribbons on top to put the ornaments in (they were actually wine bags), some mod podge to stick the paper to the ornaments, and I ended up getting some clear acrylic sealant later on to spray on once they were done.  And later on I happened to find a really cute mini Christmas tree at Michael's, and once I replaced the ugly ribbon that it came with, it was the perfect little tree for our family's ornaments to hang on.

So, first I went online and found images of silhouettes to use as patterns, printed them out, and got to work cutting out the silhouettes from the scrapbook paper with an exacto knife.  Most of them were pretty simple to figure out a silhouette for -- but some were more tricky.  Like with the scripture story where the men lower the man with the palsy down through the roof of a building so the Saviour could heal him -- I tried more than once to cut out a silhouette of a man in a stretcher, but instead it just looked kind of like a lumpy caccoon.  (I finally went with a man walking for that one -- since that's what he did once he was healed).  I think my favorite cut-outs ended up being the animals, the 3 wise men (I had to use other silhouettes and tweak them in photoshop to get a good pattern of 3 wise men that would all fit together on one of these little ornaments), the bread and wine flask representing the Last Supper, and the boat.

I also painted all the wood ornaments with a couple coats of spray paint each on front and back, then when they were dried I used a mini roller to roll the darker shiny paint around the ornaments' edges.  Once the paint was dried and all the paper silhouettes were cut out, I gave each ornament a coat of mod podge to attach the silhouettes to the ornaments, then gave each one a coat on the back sides too.

And I decided that instead of just printing out some papers with the scriptures and quotes for each day, I wanted to make it a little nicer so I made a book on blurb.com.  On each page I included the day, which ornament is used for that day, which video(s) to watch that day, and I used the scriptures and quotes that they used on the 25daysofchrist.com website (but I decided to include the entire text of each scripture, instead of just the scripture reference, so all the reading material would be in one place).  And I found a painting to go with each day in the book -- most of the pictures I used are traditional pictures from the "gospel art" section on our church's website, but a few I had to be more creative and looked to Google for help finding a relevant picture).  So I was able to order three of these little books, and I'm pleased with how they turned out.

Everything was going well, until I was mostly done with the ornaments, and noticed that even though they were dry, they still seemed just a bit tacky.  I didn't want them to stick together when they were being shipped, or when they were in storage when not in use at Christmas time, so I read on the mod podge bottle that if your project is still tacky after drying you can use a clear acrylic sealer to help with that.  So I went to Michael's and picked up a few spray-on cans of mod podge brand clear accrylic sealer.  I sprayed down all the ornaments, and waited quite a while, but even after they dried they still seemed somewhat tacky.  So I gave them several more coats, following the instructions on the bottle.  Still, the same result.  I had them laid out on a tarp in the garage, and I made the kids and dogs all stay out of the garage this whole time.  But after a few days of spraying on coats and leaving them to dry, I noticed that they were starting to get a little dust and dog fur on them, so I carefully removed the dust, then I picked them all up and set them aside in a little pile while I carefully swept the floor and the tarp off so everything would be clean.  I went to lay the ornaments out again to try another coat, and they were stuck together!  Some of them weren't stuck badly, but others were completely stuck, and some pulled the paper apart as I carefully unstuck each one.  After all the time I had spent on this project, I was really upset! I just left them all, and waited for Michael to come home.  That night after the kids went to bed, he helped me try to salvage as many as possible, picking off tiny spots of paint and paper that had stuck onto them from the other ornaments.  If you know me, you know I like to have things turn out just right, especially if I'm going to put a lot of time and effort into something, so I wasn't very happy to see all the little imperfections.  Michael was trying so hard to help me feel better, but unfortunately it didn't help when he told me I should look on the bright side now, because when we give the ornaments to our family members they won't have to worry about their kids touching them and messing them up.  I actually had a mini meltdown that night, and I don't think Michael knew what to do with me as I sat in the garage and balled (I'm not really one to cry easily, usually).  But Michael kept telling me we could salvage them.  Eventually we got enough for 2 of the 3 ornament sets to still be use-able.  So after spending that much time, I gave up on the 3rd set -- I decided it would be better to just scrap it and buy a different gift for Michael's sister, rather than starting over.  But things were looking a little brighter the next morning, and I went and bought some more supplies, and got busy replacing the ruined ornaments.  It took some time, but they were done surprisingly quickly.

And I decided to give all the ornaments some more coats of the sealer, but to wait a lot longer to let them dry (I had previously been waiting overnight, thinking that would be plenty of time -- and the bottle didn't say how long to wait to let it dry).  But apparently that was a big part of the problem, because when I waited 2 1/2 days for one coat to dry, it worked a lot better.   Of course, with all the extra time it took, I was close to not getting them done to ship in time to be used for December 1st this year, but I did finally finish them.  It didn't help that the book order got delayed for some reason, and took almost an extra week to get here.  But at least blurb.com's customer service was great, they refunded my shipping costs and sent the books overnight when they had been printed, and once the books arrived they looked great.  And I guess that gave the ornaments a little longer to dry too. 

Even though they didn't really feel tacky anymore, I didn't want to risk the chance of them sticking again at all.  So after I tied the little twine loops on each ornament, I put each one in a separate snack-sized ziplock bag.  They just barely fit into the burlap bags (and the little books can fit in the bag too, if you squeeze them in).  And I was able to get them in the mail just in time to arrive by December. 

Phew, I'm glad that's over with.  (This is why I don't take on lots of big crafty projects very often).  But I am pleased with the results, and I think our sisters like them.  We started doing our 25 Days of Christmas on Monday, using it as our family scripture reading for the month.  The boys seem to like it too, each taking a turn to hang an ornament on the little tree each morning.  I'm glad to have this as a new tradition for our family, and I'm glad to be done with making them.  :)


***Update:  The other day an old friend from med school saw my blog post about this 25 Days of Christmas project, and she asked if she could order a copy of the book from the website I used to print it, so her family could do this tradition too.  I thought that sounded like a great idea.  I used blurb.com to make the book.  I had used blurb before to print our family blog books and some photo books in the past, but I had never made any of the books available for purchase before.  But I went to the website, and it was easy to set it up.  First I made a couple minor corrections that I had noticed the book needed.  Then I set it so the book is just for sale for the cost of printing (no profit -- although I did spend my time putting the book together, the original idea wasn't mine, so I felt it was best not to make a profit from it.  The original idea for this book and the ornaments came from www.25daysofchrist.com).  So now there is an option to buy the book in paperback, hardback image wrap, or hardback with a dust jacket (our family ordered the hardback image wrap and we were pleased with it).  Anyway, here is the link if anyone else is interested in using this book for their family's personal use:  http://blur.by/12KBok1

1 comment:

Natalie said...

Stephanie I love this idea, thanks for sharing. We have done a modge podge of things for christmas scripture study every year, but I think this is so meaningful and something we could use forever. I think I will order this book and maybe even try and make some ornaments.