Friday, November 9, 2012

Frugal Advent Calendar - From a Cereal Box!

I have decided to make our own advent calendar from a cereal box.  The idea did come up in my head, but I looked it up to see if anyone had made it before and I found this one:

Not bad, but being the artsy nerd that I am, I was determined to make it "prettier".  So, I measured a 9oz cereal box and made my own printable (using images from Google Image search and Photoshop) to cover it up.  And now I'm making the printable AND the instructions for MY advent calendar available to you!

Materials Needed:
9 oz cereal box
Advent Calendar Printable (click to access and print)
exacto knife or razor blade
craft glue or spray glue
1-inch wide (or wider) paint brush
cutting board or large piece of flat cardboard to protect your cutting surface
ruler for cutting straight edges

optional (for advent calendars with treats inside):
large bag of hershey kisses or other type of small wrapped candy or even a variety of small trinkets
hot glue gun and glue
1 sheet of either: 8.5x11 contruction paper, gift wrap or scrapbook paper
24 strips of construction paper measuring approximately 3" x 1.5" (about 2 sheets of 8.5x11)
1 white sheet of any kind of paper

1. Carefully open cereal box at seam on the side and bottom flaps.  It is glued together, so try not to rip it.

2. Lie it flat and choose a "front" to paste the window sided print onto. I "painted" a thin layer of craft glue onto the entire front side.  If you are using spray glue, spray that portion of the box only, for now.  Make sure you spray-glue either outdoors or in a spray booth, and keep the can a good distance (12 inches?) from the box so it doesn't saturate and warp the cardboard.

3. Quickly, before the glue dries, hover paper over the flattened cereal box to align.  Align the top corners first, then the top edge, then smooth down and out to edges and bottom corners to prevent bubbles. Repeat for back and sides of box (you will have to measure and cut additional "brick" printable for sides).

4. Let it dry for about a half hour, paper is soft and wet from the glue, it will rip if you try cutting into it before it dries.  Lie the box flat, with windows facing you and cutting board underneath.  Time to cut the windows and door!  Line up the ruler to the edge of your windows and begin cutting top, bottom and ONE SIDE of window edges.  Do the same for the door, be sure to cut where the door should naturally open.

5. Flip the box over so the inside is facing you.  Among your print pages, you should have a "Merry Christmas" illustration of Baby Jesus.  Cut that out along the rectangle.  Behind the door, align the Baby Jesus pic (or you can personalize this with your own message/print) over the back side of the door.  Blank side of pic should be facing you. Tape the pic to the door frame, all around the edges.  When your child opens the "door" on Christmas Day, they will be greeted by this adorable picture/message.

PLEASE NOTE: Here's where you make your own decision about what greets your children when they open the windows.  I have opted to just do Hershey's Kisses (two in each window, since I have two children, but that is probably the max that will fit).  You can keep it simple and just write or print out your own messages like "bake cookies today", "movie night", "make cards for neighbors", etc, and tape them right up to the window like you did the Baby Jesus pic.  If you would like some ideas for experiences and activities, check out these pages:

If you plan on including candy or trinkets in each window, proceed to steps 6-9.
Otherwise, tape your messages into the windows and move on to step 10.

6. This part takes a little bit more patience, and is also where the depth of the box comes into play.
Flatten the box so that the interior wall is now facing you.  Fold your 8.5x11 sheet of construction paper , gift wrap or scrapbook paper and fold, cover to fit the opposite wall. Tape it in place.

7.  Temporarily reassemble your box, holding it closed with a couple of rolled pieces of tape inside the seam. Open each window, reach in with a pencil and trace the size of the window onto the interior wall you just lined with paper.

8. Flatten the box with the interior wall facing you.  Now you can see where the windows will be.  You may now either hot glue or tape your treats into each window square.

9. Take your 3x1.5" construction strips.  Open each window flap and glue down one edge of the strip onto the inside flap. Fold along window edge as shown in the pic below. These strips provide a barrier to block the view of the treats from the windows beside it from your child.

10.  Your box is now ready to be permanently reassembled and you can add your finishing touches. A thin layer of hot glue along the inside of the side seam and on the bottom flap works great.  Allow it to dry before moving on to next step.

11.  The roof.  Peak the roof with the top two, widest flaps of the cereal box.  Tape them together in that position.  Take the two, smaller side flaps and fold them over the side edges of your peaked roof.  Tape those in place.

12. You should have left, from your print-outs, the rooftop shingles print. Cut out the shingles print. Align it over the roof to "measure" how much you will need.  Mark with pencil and cut out the excess.  Take the excess piece and measure it over the smaller side pieces (should be triangular now).  Cut out small rectangle shapes, tape to smaller sides. Run hot glue over the larger flaps and place the larger shingle print over it.

13. Cut 24 pieces of ribbon to  about 1-inch long each.  For each window, glue or tape one end of the ribbon to the inside "open" edge of window, leaving a tab sticking out.  Shut window and test the "handle" to see if it opens without problems. The windows should  stay shut if you just push them back into place, but if they do not, secure them with a small piece of clear tape on the top or bottom window edge.

14. For the door, cut a small half-moon slit into the outter edge of the door so your child can stick a nail in to pull it open. If the door does not stay shut when you press on the edges, secure it shut with small pieces of clear tape on the top and bottom edges.

15. You may have noticed that the print out did not reach the bottom of the box.  That's the best I could do about that, here is the solution: Take a white sheet of 8.5x11 paper and cut a wavy piece from the bottom, wide enough to cover the exposed part of the box to the edge, but not so wide that you cover the door's entry!  Glue it to the bottom of the box, repeat with more wavy pieces to cover all around the box. Now it looks like there's snow on the ground!
BEFORE - bottom edge exposed
AFTER - bottom edge covered in "snow"

16. You might also find some loose edges and corners where the paper has detached from the box (due to handling).  You can safely glue these back in place and allow it to dry.

Your homemade advent calendar is now finished!  If you choose, you can embellish it some more, decorate the back, add some cotton to the top for snow, etc.  But, as far as my instructions, it is now complete and ready to use!  Please share photos of your own version of this to: and we will share in our online album.  Thanks for looking!

Monday, February 27, 2012

FREE Magical Crystal Soil Water Beads (Purple) + NO credit card required

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Product description (wording, their own):

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Warning:It non-toxic, no pollution, and smell free. But for your own safety, make sure that keep it out of children. It can’t be eaten! Just only for decoration. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Jersey Explorer Children's Museum

Where: East Orange, NJ
More Info: The museum is open Wed - Sat for prearranged group visits including birthday parties. Walk-ins are welcome on Saturdays from 10-3pm. Click here for a list of times and fees. Saturday is by donation only. There is no charge for adult admission.
Trip Assessment:

Ease ✮✮✮
Expense $
Family Fun ♥♥

FrugalNJ recently visited the Jersey Explorer Children's Museum. Our kids loved the exhibits and activities which included snow making, making basic electric circuits and watching a puppet show. The museum is certainly unique among other children's museums that we have visited. The exhibits were created by volunteers from NJ Youth Corps and included The Tomb of the Egyptian Kings, a two-level tomb where kids navigate secret passages and hidden doors to find the treasure. The Stargazer exhibit is a fictional spaceship that travels across the galaxy. There are five workstations where space cadets learn various roles and how to work together as a team. To see more exhibits, click here.

The official website states that its mission is "to provide educational enrichment to the thousands of children who visit the Explorer and to provide academic and vocational opportunities to the at-risk young adults from New Jersey Youth Corps who built and staff the museum." Weekly educational programs provide opportunities for Corps members to complete their high school education and give back to the community. Their artistic creativity and ingenuity has made the children's museum unique compared to other museums.


The museum is located at 192 Dodd St, East Orange, NJ 07017.

Contact information:

Call (973) 673-6900 if you have questions.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Fire & Ice Festival

Where: Historic Mount Holly, New Jersey
More Info:Saturday, January 28, 2012 from 10:30am - 4pm. There is no admission fee.
Trip Assessment:
Ease ✮✮✮
Expense $
Family Fun ♥♥

Come visit the Fire & Ice Festival held in downtown Mount Holly where a dozen talented ice carvers will transform 300 pound blocks of ice into beautiful works of art. While you're there, taste some of the sizzling entries in the Chili Contest held at the Relief Fire House on Pine Street. To learn more, visit the official website here.


FrugalNJ attended the festival and was very impressed with the ice sculptures and chili tasting competition. There were fire engine rides for the children and other outdoor entertainment.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

American Labor Museum

Where: Haledon, NJ
More Info:
Group tours $5 per person. The museum is open Wednesdays - Saturdays from 1-4pm and is closed on major holidays except for Labor Day.
Trip Assessment:
Ease ✮✮✮
Expense $$
Family Fun


Located in Haledon, the Pietro Botto House, home of the American Labor Museum, is a must see for those interested in the history of work and the labor movement throughout the early 20th century. The house played an important role in 1913, where the leaders of the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) addressed the striking workers of the Paterson silk factory. The official website offers "many opportunities to preserve family histories, attend exhibit openings [and] glimpse at the lifestyle of an early 20th century family." Click here to see a list of exhibits. The 2012 Entertainment book for Bergen County contains a 2 for 1 coupon. The museum is located at 83 Norwood Street, Haledon, NJ 07508. Call 973-595-7953 for more information.