Preparing for Advent :: A Few Fun Finds for 2012

by | Nov 16, 2012 | Advent and Christmas, Advent Fun Finds, Puzzles | 35 comments

As you might have noticed, I’ve been spending some time preparing for Advent!   Each year my goal has been to be ready before the baby arrives by the first Sunday of Advent, having all my shopping completed, but that doesn’t always happen.   I can’t believe Thanksgiving is next week already!   Anyways, I still have quite a few decisions to make for this year but, like I did last year, I thought I’d share a few of the new things I have set aside for this Advent.

The last couple years we have been assembling a puzzle (or two!) each Advent.   In 2010 we assembled the Our Lady of Guadalupe Puzzle.  Last year the kids loved The Nativity in the Woods Puzzle, followed by the gorgeous Holy Family Jigsaw Puzzle and the They Come Bearing Gifts Puzzle for Epiphany.  For this year I considered the Peaceful Prince Jigsaw Puzzle and this O Star of Bethlehem Snow Globe Puzzle, but in the end I settled on this beautiful Glorious Nativity 1,000 Piece Jigsaw Puzzle.  (I’m also planning on ordering this one for one of this year’s O Antiphon Gifts, but more on that later!)

We always set up a card table to use for assembling our Advent/Christmas Puzzles.  This year I purchased a beautiful Silent Night Table Cover to place over the card table.   (For those of you that don’t have a second table option for puzzles, this Stow & Go might be a good solution.)  

I have our Advent Prepare and Rejoice Mantel letters ready to go, and this year I will also be covering our mantel with this lovely Silent Night Mantle Scarf! (It is also available from Catholic Embroidery.) 

I always spend lots of time in the kitchen, especially during Advent and Christmas.  This year I ordered the lovely Venite Adoremus (O Come Let Us Adore Him) Apron made by Catholic Embroidery… I actually offer it for sale over at Catholic Cuisine or you can enter a giveaway for one over at Catholic Embroidery’s Blog!

Our He’s Coming! The Importance of Advent CD by the Altar Gang isn’t new, we’ve owned it since it came out 5 years ago, but it hasn’t been pulled off the shelf in quite some time.  I think my younger children, especially, are going to love listening to it!  Here are links to the MP3 download and CD, or you can purchase them from Holy Heroes.

After seeing Catholic Embroidery‘s recommendation, I pre-ordered Advent at Ephesus from The Benedictines of Mary. According to their website, a significant amount of the proceeds will go directly to their community. In addition to assisting them with their present needs, the funds will also go towards the future construction of our permanent monastery building! (I ordered mine directly from the sisters, but it is also available from Amazon.)

How are your Advent plans coming along?  I’d love to hear about them in the comments!  


  1. Anonymous

    I can't begin to tell you how much your planning posts help me!!!!! Thank you! Off to check out the links, and continue to browse through all your past Christmas posts!

  2. Julie

    I am going to make a Jesse tree for the first time this year. And also going to make "prepare" for our mantle and actually get a new advent wreath.

  3. T

    Ummm…somehow I missed that thanksgiving was next week and thought I had a lot more time before Advent was here. I am hoping to be able to get a Jesse tree put together and finalize our st. Nicholas celebration.

  4. Jessica Gordon

    Thanksgiving falls early this year (November 22nd) and Advent begins later (December 2nd), so we still have just over 2 weeks until the first day of Advent! But yes, Thanksgiving is a week from TODAY! Crazy… I need to start making a grocery list! :/

  5. Anonymous

    Your planning gives me so many ideas. I really appreciate them! I too, want the Advent at Ephesus CD. I have their Christmas one and I'm sure this is just as beautiful! I also LOVE the Silent Nigh Mantle Scarf…it is exactly what I want and need!! Hoping I can get it and I'll use your link if I do! Thanks again! -Genevieve

  6. T

    It's just our little family this year so I am keeping the menu simple; since I know our 3 littles might eat a whole plate combined if I am lucky.

    So, what do you so with the puzzles after you finish them? Also, do your children get their stockings on St. Nicholas day or Christmas and do you do Santa?


  7. Anonymous

    I was at the Mt. Angel, OR Abbey this past weekend and was devastated to learn Fr. is no longer making CANDLES!!!!!! Thankfully, my set of candles will get us through this season, but I need to start thinking ahead to next year!

    I'm trying to get dedicated to finishing the Jesse' tree I started last year (as in, I bought the materials!).

    I'm also thinking of different ways to count the days. Last year, we unwrapped a book each day and read it, but I think my kids are getting a bit old to enjoy this as it wasn't a huge hit last year (they are 7-12 now).

  8. Patty

    I feel as though I took a nap (three months ago) and someone woke me up and informed me that Thanksgiving is next week! Time is passing way! too! quickly! Beautiful ideas 🙂

  9. Krista

    Too funny, Jessica – I JUST ORDERED THE SAME PUZZLE THE OTHER DAY!!! It's from Vermont Christmas Co., so can't go wrong for me!!!! 🙂

    Got all sorts of things planned for this season – advent wreath & calendar, St. Nikolaus, St. Lucia feasts especially, Jesse tree, O Antiphons, the 12 days of Christmas, lot's of books, a few DVD's & other puzzles and a Christ candle, too! LOVE this time of year, even though it's super busy!

    Thanks for ALL of your wonderful ideas and links, too!!!!


  10. Anonymous

    Jessica, how much and when do you tell your children about the gifts that come on Christmas? I hope that makes sense. I don't want to give too much away just in case your children read this!

  11. Anonymous

    I love the tabel cloths, they are so lovely!

  12. Anonymous

    Whoops, table. That is what I get trying to type and nurse at the same time. 🙂

  13. Party of Eleven

    Just bought "He's Coming"! Thanks for the recommendation 🙂

  14. Jessica Gordon

    We leave the puzzles out for a week or two (or until Epiphany) once they are finished, and then I put all the pieces in a gallon-sized ziplock bag before putting them back in the box. That way if the boxes every get dropped/opened they won't get lost or mixed up. I store them on the top shelf in our game closet, in the back, and plan to start rotating through them again, after a few years or once we aren't able to find a new puzzle we love.

    On St. Nicholas Day our kids receive new slippers (most years) filled with Chocolate Gold Coins, a note from "St. Nicholas" and a few other treats, along with their new picture books each year. On Christmas Eve the kids hang their stockings.

  15. Jessica Gordon

    Santa… This is a hard one to respond to in comments/emails, though I am asked it frequently. The short answer is: No, we don't do Santa. (But I also think it is up to each family to decide what they do with their own family – though I will share what we do here in our home…)

    I grew up with Santa, and don't remember when I discovered the "truth". Hubby remembers very clearly finding out that "Santa Claus" was not real and being very upset that his parents had "lied to him." I'm sure every child reacts differently.

    For our children we are very honest about what is real and what is make believe. St. Nicholas is VERY real, and the gifts they receive on his feast are given "in the spirit of St. Nicholas." They will understand that more as they get older and the young ones translate that to "from" St. Nicholas for now. The same goes for their stockings on Christmas morning.

    As for the gifts under the tree, the kids open three packages each from my husband and I, representing the three gifts that Christ was given. They know the gifts are from their parents and are always so thankful (I love all the hugs I get on Christmas morning!!) after opening them.

    Still, that doesn't mean that their isn't any "magic" on Christmas Night in our home! 🙂 The kids have yet to catch us putting the gifts under the tree, and "St. Nicholas" still gets some of the credit in their little minds.

    I remember one Christmas when the older ones were really young and Rascal ran by my bedroom in the morning and saw all the wrapping paper all over the floor and said as he continued to run down the hall towards the Christmas Tree "WOW! Santa sure got in there!" It made me laugh since we had never encouraged this in the least, yet he still "believed in Santa"… Basically we let them believe whatever they want to about St. Nicholas, but if they ask us straight out, we won't lie to them. Does that make sense?

    The year before last, as the older three were really understanding/thinking that mom and dad did everything we threw them off… We had a bunch of my siblings over to decorate Gingerbread Houses on Christmas Eve and after everyone left we headed to Midnight Mass. Since my family had gone to the earlier Mass my sister Mary waited for us to leave and then went back to the house to put out all the gifts and fill the stockings for us! St. Nick (Mary) even left a note in my stocking for "one clean Christmas Eve kitchen!" and left it spotless!!!! On the table was a note to all the kids from "St. Nicholas" saying his list had been left at home and he couldn't remember who's stocking was who's, so the stocking were all mixed up and labeled with names. 🙂 It was such a fun and exciting night! They are still trying to figure out how all those gifts got put under the tree! lol

  16. Jessica Gordon

    I know!! I found that out as well. I still have a small set from them, but I don't think I want to burn them now, they are so pretty! I also have a small pillar set that I think we will use this year…

  17. Jessica Gordon

    It is a beautiful puzzle! I'm glad to hear that you will be enjoying it this year too! It sounds like you are going to have a lovely Advent and Christmas!

  18. Jessica Gordon

    I just answered this up above in the comments. My children don't tend to read the comments, but it is getting more challenging to keep them away from my blog this month as I start sharing our Advent plans!! 🙂 Thanks for your consideration!

  19. My beautiful ordinary life

    Jessica, I bought some pillar candles for Advent last year and noticed in your pics that you have them on stands within a wreath….How big is the wreath? Last year I tried buying the live one at Costco to do something similar…and it was just too enormous for my dining table…let alone the breakfast table that we typically eat at.

    Probably just need to look more or go to florist.

  20. My beautiful ordinary life

    I bought ours from Quick Candles…They were quick when I needed them and all colors …they are huge…should last me a few years!

  21. Kelly

    Oh, I love that mantle cloth! I actually wanted to order it last year. SO pretty.

  22. Jessica Gordon

    Our wreath is very big! The first couple years it was smaller, using leftover branches that were trimmed from our tree, then we started buying the live wreaths from Costco, but being inside on our coffee table they dried out too quickly. After that I purchased two of the artificial wreaths from Costco – one for my front door and one for our wreath.

    We set up the Advent Wreath on our coffee table and it takes up a lot of space, but since it isn't our dining table it isn't a problem. We light the candles during our family prayers/rosary every night. If I was looking for something for a dining table I would lean towards something much smaller, with tapers or votive candles.

  23. My beautiful ordinary life

    Gotta respond: We do St. Nicholas and tell my kids that Santa and Nicholas are the same. We let them know that all the funny stories about Santa aren't true (like reindeer flying, etc.), but he was a bishop, etc. And St. Nick sends our children notes every year…and gives them one present under the tree in addition to small stuff on his feast day. In fact, St. Nick gives them something related to a theme: one year everyone got robes from St. Nick…one year it was camping chairs…etc…It's all magical! I love the season and my kids love it, too.

  24. Jessica Gordon

    Me too! It had been on my "wish list" for a couple years now! 🙂 Before that I didn't have much of a mantle that I could have put it on! 🙂

  25. My beautiful ordinary life

    Ok…I hear ya. Maybe I need to move it! That may be easier in the long run. I used to have tapers in the past, but have a hard time with them lasting all season; hence, the move toward the pillars! 🙂 Thanks for sharing your ideas. As always, I love it!

  26. Jessica Gordon

    That sounds very similar to our home, Carla, though just the notes and gifts on the feast of St. Nicholas, and stocking stuffers, are "from St. Nicholas." The themed gift is a fun idea!

    As you all know, we celebrate the saints all year long, so St. Nicholas is already very very real to our children, as he should be – and you put it better when you said you tell your children that the "funny stories" aren't true. That is what I was trying to point out that we don't do here.

    Our kids have had the CCC video St. Nicholas: The Boy who Became Santa since they were born (we had my childhood VHS and I finally bought the DVD for this year).

    Yes, it is a very magical time of year, no matter how you celebrate!!! 🙂

  27. T


    Thank you for sharing 🙂 I know Santa can be a very hot topic, which I think is silly but oh well. I am always interested in the.tradtions others do. We had not planned on doing Santa but last year my oldest (3.5 at the time) embraced the idea of Santa and we just went with it.

  28. Jennifer Elia

    We do something similar. St Nicholas leaves a little treat in their shoes on December 6th and then fills their stocking on Christmas. My daughter is starting to wonder, and isn't sure what side of the fence she is on. We have always been upfront with the fact that Saints are in Heaven, but they can work miracles on Earth. So, I leave it at that, miracles are real and can never be explained. The gifts on Christmas come from us and we have never done the whole "I'm calling Santa if you are naughty." We try hard to focus on Jesus and serving others. We point out that St Nick gave because he loved Jesus and wanted to serve him, not because he expected anything in return. The kids are only allowed to make lists of what they want in their stocking and these are small, inexpensive items (I have a $20 limit per stocking and usually don't even spend that much, shoes are a $1.50 limit). I think as Catholics it is easy to explain the force of those that we cannot see in our lives, just like St Anthony or praying a novena to St Therese. We let them enjoy the fun and "magic" of the season but stay away from all the hype.

  29. Jessica Gordon

    "Miracles" – that's the word I should have used, it describes our family Christmas traditions much better! Christmas is full of miracles. I hate trying to put into words what we do here… I'm much better at just sharing pictures! 🙂

  30. Jessica Gordon

    I've still got this topic on my mind tonight and wanted to mention a book we added to our collection, after talking to Charlotte a few years ago: A Gift From St. Nicholas

    The author touches on all the different versions of Santa Claus/St. Nicholas and then goes on to explain WHY we give and receive gifts at Christmas, rather than from who… A few quotes:

    "Be careful with your questions, lest you get the wrong reply; instead of asking who brings gifts, perhaps you might ask why. To solve the puzzle of the gifts beneath the Christmas tree, you'll need to know the tale of why the gifts are giv'n from me."

    …and towards the end of the book…

    "The children were not meant to think the gifts had come from me; the gifts were meant as evidence, God's love is plain to see. Jesus is the Star of Christmas – a brillant Star He is, for giving gifts was not my thought, the credit all is His!" … and… "He said that if we give good gifts to others who have needs, that He'll return good gifts to us, like harvest from our seeds. And when we give in secret, not expecting in return, rewards will be far greater than if gain we tried to earn."

    Anyhow, it is a really sweet book. I always like reading it around the time we pick names of other children from the tree at our parish to purchase gifts for each year.

    The last couple years we have struggled with having time to make gifts to give, but this year (without a new baby) we are refocusing on that goal once again and the kids have all started focusing on what they want to do for others. 🙂

    I'm also hoping to finally begin the "Christkindl" tradition which Maria Von Trapp talks about in her book. We did it a few times growing up, and I did it again during Advent at College! We will probably draw names on the first Sunday of Advent.

  31. T

    I am not familiar with Christkindl. What is it?

  32. Katie

    How do you keep your little ones from messing up the puzzle or taking pieces? Do you put the table cloth on top of puzzle when you are not working on it?
    Your home ALWAYS looks sooooo TIDY!!!

  33. Jessica Gordon

    Last year was the first time that we lost a puzzle piece. We finally found it about a month later, but apparently, while I was at the hospital having the baby, the youngest two decided to have a "puzzle piece fight" … sigh… Usually I don't have any problem keeping them away from the puzzles, but I guess I do need to be home in order to do so! lol

    I do have to tell the little ones "no, don't touch" just as I have to do with the wood stove and other things around our home. With some of the children they were gentler with the puzzle when they feel included, so I will sit with one of them and "help" them add pieces to the puzzle.

    It really hasn't been much of a problem in our home, but then again I suppose it would totally depend on the children's temperaments. This year, with our new little guy (who just finished pulling everything off of a shelf behind me) it might not be as easy!

  34. Jeannie

    I used to order those candles as well and just called only to find out that he is not making the candles anymore. It's a shame because they were very high quality and I liked supporting the monastery. I also liked using the pillar candles because they lasted throughout without having to blow them out right after saying our prayers. With the big ones we were able to leave them on throughout dinner. What to do…


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