Please help me fill my advent envelopes
November 17, 2011 10:04 AM   Subscribe

With the boyfriend out of the job, money is a little tight for Christmas this year. I'd like to make an envelope advent calendar for the two of us - basically, I'll decorate and number the envelopes and inside each one will be a fun activity or item for us to share. Please help me fill my envelopes!

Here are some ideas I've had already:

1) A few coupons for things we can do together, in the vein of "Good for a free massage!"
2) Small, exotic food items - warm drink mixes or teas seem fun, especially.
3) A recipe and some of the ingredients in an envelope to be made that day?
4) A Christmas ornament, or better yet the materials to make an ornament together?

The only criteria are that the items can't be trinkets (neither of us are big stuff people) although I would love to include some neat, useful items that we'll continue to use from that point forward. I don't have a ton of money to spend on this, so cheaper is better, although one or two more splurge-y items would be okay. And they should fit in an envelope!
posted by warble to Grab Bag (21 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
How about a little invitation inviting your boyfriend to the couch later in the evening to watch a favorite Christmas movie together. Give all the that there will be a cozy blanket and a bottle of wine or some hot chocolate for sharing?
posted by daydreamer at 10:13 AM on November 17, 2011

One of them should be a map for a treasure hunt. (And the your treasures can be something edible, like candy, instead of a trinkety thing.)
posted by phunniemee at 10:15 AM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Another invitation that has an element of schadenfreude....maybe an invitation to take a walk and look for the tackiest, most over-the-top light display in your neighborhood. Maybe make a game out of it -- split up, each of you with a camera phone, and you take pictures, then meet back at your place and the winner of the "most stupidiest light display" contest the two of you have gets some modest prize.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:15 AM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Maybe a gift card to a coffee or dessert place - enough for you both to get your favourite drink/dessert.
posted by backwards guitar at 10:21 AM on November 17, 2011

Stringing Popcorn and watching "White Christmas" or "A Christmas Story" should be one. I think my kids and I are going to do that this year. Here's a way to make popcorn in the microwave without buying pre-packaged Microwave Popcorn to save some money.
posted by TooFewShoes at 10:25 AM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

I just mentioned this in another AskMe: unusual fruits like persimmons and pomegranates won't break the bank but are kind of special and holiday-ish, at least to me.

Put an orange and a fist-full of cloves in an envelope. Make a Pomander together.

You could make Salt Dough Clay and make ornaments together. If you're into that sort of thing, you could make a nativity scene out of the same stuff. You could splurge on the kind of paint they paint model airplanes with, or you can color the clay with food coloring.

Coupons for invitations to activities are good:
- 1 free Skating in the park (or whatever is nearby).
- 1 free Sledding (if weather cooperates).
- Make and decorate christmas cookies together.
- Make gingerbread houses together.

I like Empress' idea about finding the tackiest light display. Mrs. gauche and I went out to Goodwill once with the express goal of buying the ugliest, most garish "Bill Cosby sweaters" we could find, male and female, and wearing them the rest of the day. You can get away with something like that for probably under $10.

If you're handy like that, you could sew him a stocking.

Your local library may have some good christmas movies or CDs so that you can set the holiday mood for cheap.

If you can afford the booze, make homemade egg nog. It's much more special than the icky stuff at the grocer's. Put a coupon for that in the envelope.

You could also put several things together. Movie one day, egg nog coupon the next, ornament-making stuff the third, then some candles the next, and you put them all together on the last day as a special date night or something.
posted by gauche at 10:32 AM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

posted by Seboshin at 10:53 AM on November 17, 2011

I like the idea of tucking recipes in the envelope - unlike the special tea-bags or drink mixes, you might have all the ingredients for a Hot Toddy or Hot Buttered Rum in the kitchen already. So, in the envelope, you put a card that says "Hot Buttered Rum and listening to the Nutcracker overture", and a recipe for the drink.

For that matter, are your envelopes big enough to hold a CD? It can be a Christmas CD you already own - the point is that *now* is the time to listen to it.
Or sing along.

Oh, also be sure to do theme days; Solstice Dec 22, Dec 6 is St. Nikolas Day (i.e. Santa), and Dec. 13 is Santa Lucia. These little heart-shaped woven baskets are a traditional Lucia craft, or you could do something involving candles. (oh, and Festivus, can't forget Festivus)
posted by aimedwander at 11:06 AM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

*Pages of pencil games to solve together, from a GAMES magazine, or a crossword, sudoku, etc.?
*Small puzzle from the dollar store? (to fit in the envelope, you could take it out of the box and put the pieces in a ziploc bag)
*Gingerbread cookie cutters and decorations, to make cookies together? (ninjabread men!)
*Origami paper to make origami cranes or stars for Xmas ornaments?
*Shrinky-dink paper to make shrinky-dink plastic rings together?
posted by flex at 11:10 AM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

The question that I just posted this answer about an Advent Calendar in also has some great ideas. My friend's calendar ideas are all about experiences, traditions and keeping it simple.
posted by peagood at 11:14 AM on November 17, 2011

If you both enjoy being competitive, put in a mystery ingredient and challenge yourselves to spend an hour creating something with that ingredient. Afterwards you can have prizes for "most edible" and "weirdest color."

Make a cut-and-paste poetry kit by cutting words out of magazines.

Read favorite stories/poems aloud

Turn on the radio and dance

Do some research on free/cheap activities in your area - volunteer at a soup kitchen, go for a walk at a nice park you usually don't get to, go to barnes and noble to hear a favorite author give a talk, wine tastings, movie screenings, museum promotions

Make a cake, a pot of coffee, have some friends over and play scrabble

Host a caroling party if you are musical and have musical friends - bowl of punch, ask people to bring snacks, and you're good to go

Put on a really beautiful piece of music - Barber's Adagio for Strings, or create a Pandora station of xmas music, or something you'll both enjoy - turn off the lights, light a candle, lie on the floor and just listen

Foot rubs
posted by bunderful at 12:03 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm reminded of this question, which contains lots of things that could work. Those are monthly-scale, but you might be able to break them up into daily-fun chunks Buy all the stuff to make cookies one night, bake them the next, and decorate them the next.
posted by tchemgrrl at 12:45 PM on November 17, 2011

Oh! May not be possible if you're not a hoarder like me, but one thing my mom always did with us kids was, she'd pull out the stack of all the cards we received last year, and our job was to cut out gift tags. Usually people didn't write on the inside lefthand of the card (but if they did, we could always glue on a piece of wrapping paper to cover it up), so that just meant picking my favorite part(s) of the card image (the angel's head, say, or Santa's dog) cutting out a circle or rectangle around it, punching a hole in it, and stringing a piece of white curly ribbon. Those would then go into a little box, and get used whenever anyone needed to wrap a gift. Your envelope (I'm imagining manilla envelopes, not business-sized) would then hold all the cards from last year and a long piece of ribbon.
posted by aimedwander at 1:27 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Put two small stickers in the envelope, one for you and one for him. When you open the envelope, you each take a sticker and hide it somewhere on your skin, underneath all your wintery layers of clothes. Then you go to bed and try to find each other's stickers. Also works with temporary tattoos.
posted by kate blank at 1:43 PM on November 17, 2011

Since you'll be putting dates on these envelopes, you can use your city entertainment calendar to plan ahead - look up events going on in your town, and find something free or cheap that you think you'd both enjoy. A church performing the Messiah, a town holiday parade, a carol-sing at a community center, a local school or community orchestra concert, etc. Or ongoing stuff like a museum that has a holiday-themed exhibit, a zoo or botanical gardens that has a lights festival. Or heck, forget the holidays, just scour the listings for a band he'd like, or organize some friends to go to pub trivia.

Oh, and holiday-flavored chapsticks! Festive and good for smooching.
posted by aimedwander at 2:00 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Making sugarplums is fun. Here's a recipe:

1 cup raisins
1 cup bite-size pitted prunes
1 cup dates
1 cup currants
1 cup candied cherries, dried cherries,
or dried cranberries
1 cup walnuts
1/2 to 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
granulated sugar

Using a meat grinder or a food processor, grind the fruit and nuts and mix well. Work into the mixture as much confectioners' sugar as it takes to form 1-inch balls. Roll in granulated sugar, then place on a rack to dry for 24 hours. Leslie Harpold advent calender 2006 Dec. 05

These are really tasty. Rum (or bourbon) balls are also very tasty. Christmas cookies are fun to make -- if you have cookie cutters you can also make bread dough ornaments with the same shapes. (And if you don't, use a knife and then guess what each other tried to make. We always had one cookie cutter that was bent out of shape and we had no idea what it was. So we'd each decorate it as our idea, one seahorse, one elephant, on Kentucky, say.) All of these things also make good presents for the other people in your lives.
posted by Margalo Epps at 3:44 PM on November 17, 2011

you can buy a few different seed packets (like 1$ each) and plant them together and make your own little herb garden: basil, oregano, spearmint, etc. :)
posted by fuzzysoft at 4:58 PM on November 17, 2011

- Go to the tree-lighting ceremony if your town has one.
- Go caroling.
- Field trips. There are probably exhibits at the library, the Historical Society, and lots of other places. Sometimes they're really interesting, and if not, it's still an outing.
- Go see all the free or cheap things that are tourist-y, like historical houses and sites, waterfalls, etc.
- Go to the Library and look up genealogy, or the history of your town, or something else he might enjoy.
- Gift Certificate for Dinner @ Chez FakeFrenchName. Cozy candlelit dinner at home of bread, onion soup, coq au vin, and rustic apple tart. All easy and affordable to make. Buy a bottle of inexpensive champagne if you can splurge.
- Get some love poems online or at the library. Read them to him.
- Sometimes you can buy pretty bath salts individually. Give him a few, and join him in a hot bath with candles and music.
- Decorate a tree, or something.
- homemade fudge sauce, and some really good ice cream
posted by theora55 at 6:03 PM on November 17, 2011

You guys... these are all such awesome ideas! Pretty much exactly what I was looking for. Thank you SO MUCH. I'm making a list of what will go in all my envelopes today and I'll post my action plan here as soon as I have it.

Thank you! (And if somebody's still lurking on this thread and wants to share anything else, I'm still watching it!)
posted by warble at 8:51 AM on November 18, 2011

Okay, here's my final plan. Thank you again to everybody for playing along and making this the best envelope advent ever! I'm marking any ideas I used as best answers.

01 THU: chai
02 FRI: supplies to make paper snowflakes to hang in our windows
03 SAT: left 4 dead fight night!
04 SUN: mystery grocery shopping list for fancy dinner & vodka for vanilla extract
05 MON: fancy dinner @ chezfakerestaurant: recipes, etc.
06 TUE: hot cocoa
07 WED: massage coupon
08 THU: directions for how to make vanilla extract + vanilla beans
09 FRI: tickets to the denver botanic garden light display on saturday
10 SAT: small snack to take along to the gardens ***CHRISTMAS LIGHTS IN THE BOTANIC GARDEN DATE
11 SUN: ninjabread men! + recipe for gingerbread
12 MON: tickets to ice skating downtown on tuesday
13 TUE: tee and cakes gift cards for hot drinks after ice skating ***ICE SKATING DATE
14 WED: popcorn kernels + directions for making it in a cast iron pan
15 THU: tea
16 FRI: small chocolate treat
17 SAT: first half of treasure map
18 SUN: second half of treasure map - TODO what's the prize at the end?
19 MON: sudokus/pencil puzzles to do on the plane (can print from online?)
20 TUE: mix cd of christmas music
21 WED: mystery grocery shopping for pomanders (oranges)
22 THU: directions for making pomanders + cloves
23 FRI: holiday lights photographic scavenger hunt walk
24 SAT: the annual christmas ornament
25 SUN: small iTunes gift card for a couple shows to watch on the trip home
posted by warble at 9:54 AM on November 23, 2011 [5 favorites]

This is super-awesome. I am jealous of your boyfriend. I sincerely hope I'll have the time next year to put together something like this for my husband.
posted by aimedwander at 11:32 AM on December 15, 2011

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