Budget-Friendly DIY Holiday Decor

It’s the most wonderful time of the year- that is until my holiday budget winds up on a runaway train.  Gifts, decor, party hosting, charities: It adds up fast.

So today I’m sharing three little ways to save on holiday decor.

Free Holiday Greens

I love to use fresh evergreen sprigs for DIY wreaths and decor.  I could buy bundles of greens at my local florist or nursery but that would be silly considering I can get them for free.  How?

Well, my local big box hardware store sells fresh Christmas trees in their nursery area.  As a courtesy, employees trim unwanted branches from the trees to tidy them up for customers.

These unwanted branches sit in a big pile and, if I ask nicely, the employees always let me take some.  In fact, they usually encourage me to take as much as I can carry.  After all, it’s less for them to dispose of.  And I get a nice mix since they sell spruce, fir, and pine trees.

I use the branches in garlands and to decorate my front porch.

Budget holiday decor: Branches with a vintage lantern

And in simple floral arrangements.

Budget holiday decor: Roses and evergreen branches

My wreath last year cost me nothing.  I just used the free greens with a wreath form and some garnishes I already had.  Basically, the wreath was made up of scraps.

Budget holiday decor: A wreath made with random scraps

It was not my best work, but you get the picture.  To make it, I used the same method as when I made this foraged wreath a couple of years ago.

I also added a little holiday cheer to my greenhouse by making a Frankenstein monster of a tree.  I used a section of a large branch that we had on hand as the “trunk.”

My husband drilled a hole in the “trunk,”

drill

I placed some greens into it,

Budget holiday decor: Making a Frankenstein monster tree

Put it in a pot, and added some lights.

Budget holiday decor: DIY topiary

I ended up with what looked like a little topiary tree for the greenhouse entrance.  (This photo was taken before we added the new greenhouse foundation.)

But my mom, Erika, takes it a step farther.  She uses bare branches from her own garden to create holiday beauty.

Using Bare Branches

Once the leaves fall from the trees, the beautiful structure of the branches is revealed.  Mom spray painted cuttings from a small dogwood tree to create this wintry look for her fireplace mantel.

Budget holiday decor: painted branches on mantel

She used 6-foot-long branches from a mountain ash tree, some curly willow branches, and more of the dogwood branches to create this winter arrangement in an oversize urn.

Budget holiday decor: large holiday arrangement

The mountain ash branches are painted white.

Budget holiday decor: painted branches

She also used ormanental seed heads from her garden and some silk flowers she had on hand.

Budget holiday decor: large arrangement closeup

This large arrangement will be a stand-in for her Christmas tree – a fun and beautiful change of pace.

At some point, I want to try a different version of Mom’s idea: Taking several large, straight cut branches and turning them into a small indoor forest.

A Dollar Store Find

Last year, I noticed that my local dollar store sold shipping supplies, including five-yard rolls of brown shipping paper.  It was thicker than the craft paper I had seen at craft stores.

I was burned out on gaudy holiday bling and in the mood for understated, organic-looking decor.  So I bought a roll to use as gift wrap.

I used strips of unbleached muslin and burlap fabrics (leftovers from other projects) as ribbons and bows.

Budget holiday decor: gifts wrapped in shipping paper

I stenciled some of the packages.

Budget holiday decor: gifts wrapped in shipping paper

And monogrammed some of them.  The thick paper held up well to the craft paint.

Budget holiday decor: gifts wrapped in shipping paper

I really kept it simple, but I love how these packages turned out – with a bit of an “old-world” vibe.

Budget holiday decor: gifts wrapped in shipping paper

Since I have a lot of shipping paper left, I’ll be experimenting with new looks this season.

So when it comes to holiday decor, free can actually get you pretty far – and so can a dollar.

Note: All posts on this blog are for entertainment only and not intended as tutorials.


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Start Paperwhites Now for the Holidays

I wish I wasn’t so predictable.  Almost two years ago to the day, I posted about starting paperwhites indoors for a beautiful holiday centerpiece.  And now here I am again – back to remind you that if you enjoy having fragrant paperwhites around for the holidays, the time to start them from bulbs is now.

My earlier post explained in detail how to force paperwhite bulbs indoors, so I won’t go into that here.  If you’ve never forced paperwhite bulbs before, that post is very helpful.

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I’m just starting my paperwhites for this season, but I thought it would be fun to share what I did last year.

Finding the Look

To me, the fun of growing paperwhites is choosing the right combination of container, pebbles (natural or glass), and decorative accents such as moss, twigs, berries, even shells, to make an attractive display.

The possibilities are endless.  I used all kinds of containers last year: A silver urn, a vintage porcelain candy dish, a ceramic urn, and some  glass containers.

forcing paperwhites: bulbs in various containers

I started one bulb in a small jar.  Then I placed that jar inside a larger jar and lined the inside with moss.

Forcing paperwhites: using glass jars

forcing paperwhites: using glass jars2

The end result is a paperwhite that appears to be sprouting out of the moss.  On the other arrangements, I hid the pebbles under a blanket of moss to give the arrangements a softer, natural look.

forcing paperwhites: Various containers

I created a vignette with a lichen-covered branch from the garden for a little natural texture – and drama.  This photo shows the stage I enjoy the most – when the first flowers are beginning to bloom.

forcing paperwhites: A vignette

I moved the silver urn to the front porch. In moderate climates, paperwhites are usually fine in a protected area outdoors. In fact, I’m going to play around with that idea more this year:  Blooming paperwhites in containers on the front porch.

paperwhites on the front porch

The silver urn still needed a little something so I shopped my garden for twigs and more lichens.

paperwhites: closeup of natural accents used

Adding free or inexpensive natural accents always makes the arrangement look elegant.  And in the dead of winter, it’s fun to bring the outdoors in.

Paperwhites as Gifts

I started a few arrangements to give as gifts. They are wonderful hostess gifts. Throughout the year, I kept an eye out at thrift stores and estate sales for anything water tight that would make a unique paperwhite container.  I looked for attractive vases and urns, vintage milk glass bowls, vintage footed candy dishes, and cute pitchers or jugs.

Here I used mostly glass containers – some just large jars.  The fun of using clear glass containers is that, as the bulb begins to sprout, so does its root system, and you  can actually see the roots winding between the pebbles (although not so visible in the photo below).

paperwhites as a gift

Wired craft store berries are an attractive addition, but they also serve as stakes to keep the paperwhite blossoms upright as they grow.

With each arrangement, I included a card explaining how to care for the paperwhites.

paperwhites with care instructions

The card read:

Caring for Paperwhites:

Keep the water level just below the bottom of the bulb so that the roots are immersed.  These bulbs should start blooming in a week or so.  They can be enjoyed indoors – or outdoors in a protected area. Once the bulbs have finished blooming, they can be tossed into the compost bin.

Then they were boxed up and ready for giving.

paperwhite gifts boxed and ready

They hadn’t yet started to bloom when I gave them away, but that was actually a good thing.  The recipient could enjoy the show – and the fragrance – when the blooms began.

Disclosure:  Affiliate links are used in this post.


Get The Look

Bulb kits also make wonderful hostess gifts, and here are a couple of especially nice choices.  Plus, for DIY arrangements, extra-large bulbs in bulk (the larger the bulb, the more flowers!) and some sweet containers for one-of-a-kind arrangements.

paperwhites-get-the-look

Clockwise from center:  Paperwhite Bulbs, 20 Count, Largest Commercially Available | Netherland Paperwhite Growing Kit in Blue Ceramic Planter (green also shown here) | Vintage Green Jug | Glass Flower Vase | Milk Glass Tear Drop Design Footed Bowl | Bamboo Flower Pot Self-Contained Garden Kit


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Small Table Solutions for Holiday Dinners – And Some Dinner Party Themes

This time of year, magazines, Pinterest, and Instagram are packed with dreamy images of holiday tables large enough to seat armies and piled high with picture-perfect holiday decor. Somehow, guests cheerfully manage to pass serving dishes between the towering centerpieces, candle groupings, and festive bric-a-brac.

Yeah, right.  In the real world, once the food platters arrived, most of that stuff would have to go.  And in the real world, dining room tables and family celebrations come in all sizes – even small.  So today I’m sharing a few tips for decorating a small table without sacrificing space.

Use Scaled-Down Centerpieces

I have a tiny dining room that can only house a small table.  But because my husband loves to cook the turkey, we happily host Thanksgiving.

For small holiday tables, it’s best to keep the look festive yet clutter-free.  So I keep my centerpieces compact.  They don’t sprawl across the table, and they are not too tall.

Take last year’s centerpiece for example.

Holiday table decor: Jewel toned centerpiece

In an urn with a small base, it didn’t take up much real estate on the table.  And it was just tall enough to add interest without being a distraction.

Choose an Interesting Theme

Since I have to carefully edit what I do put on the table, I try to come up with an interesting theme.  Last year it was jewel tones.

A lively tablecloth and flowers,  and amethyst runners and napkins, kept the mood festive.

Holiday table decor: jewel toned table decor

And the year before that, it was serene earth tones and rustic textures.

Holiday table decor: subtle elegance

Again, these looks are clean and simple.  On a small table, any more decor would add clutter.

Use Smaller Plates

Over the years, dinner plates have gotten bigger and bigger.  Many modern dinner plates are 12 inches wide.  Get a few too many of them on a small table and things look crowded.

For dinner parties, I often use our antique china plates which are just under 10  inches wide.  They are a better scale for the table, and they still hold plenty of food.

Use Narrow Chairs

According to Emily Post, for guests to be seated comfortably there should be at least six inches between chairs.  So using narrow chairs means that more chairs can be placed at the table.

Place the Silverware on the Plate

Another way to keep the look clutter-free and add the appearance of more space between place settings is to use this restaurant-inspired trick.

Rolling the silverware in the dinner napkin and placing it in the middle of the plate (as opposed to beside the plate) saves space.

Holiday table decor: silverware

Rethink the Placemats

When I’m trying to seat eight people on my small dining room table, placemats wind up too closely spaced to look good. Scaled-down chargers can be a nice alternative.

Bending the rules a little is fun too.  Simply using smaller, attractive dinner napkins as placemats can work.

Last year, I placed narrow homemade runners across the width of my table to give the place settings definition without taking up space.

Holiday table decor: homemade runners define the place settings

Which leads me to my fun new way to define a place setting without taking up any table space at all.

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Put It Under Glass

When we are not hosting dinner parties, we take the leaves out of our table and it becomes a small square table – great for two to four people.

It’s an antique table from the Craftsman era, so to protect the wood – and make the table easier to clean – we had a piece of polished glass cut to fit over the top.

custom cut glass table top

Sometimes we put a tablecloth under the glass and sometimes we just enjoy the look of the wood. Either way, it’s super easy to clean now. This is a wonderful option for a small table.

And it got me thinking.  I started playing with ways to define place settings by placing gilded leaves – in this case, witch hazel leaves – between the tablecloth and the glass. (For how I gilded the leaves, see this post.)

Holiday table decor: gilded leaves under glass

They are placed fairly tight around the edge the of the plate – again keeping the look compact.

The dark tablecloth adds elegance and sets off the golden leaves.

Holiday table decor: gilded leaves under glass closeup

And as you can see, the leaves are under the glass, so they don’t interfere with anything on top of the table yet they still add interest.

Leaves can also be arranged under the glass to expand the look of the centerpiece.

Holiday table decor: Gilded leaves as centerpiece under glass

The possibilities here are endless.  For spring and summer, flowers or fern fronds would be fun.

Of course, once we expand the table for Thanksgiving, our glass top won’t fit.  But at least this started me thinking, so this year my Thanksgiving decor just might include leaves pressed under glass.

Have Fun

Whatever the size of your dining room table, things always turn out better when you enjoy decorating it. So don’t forget the most important tip of all:  Have some fun with it!

35 Dinner Party Themes

Recently, ProFlowers reached out to me to share their wonderful post “35 Dinner Party Themes Your Guests Will Love.”  It’s a compilation of dozens of creative dinner party themes with helpful filters such as style, season, and guest size to help plan the perfect holiday get together.

In addition to being packed with creative ideas, the guide is beautifully photographed.  I hope you enjoy perusing it as much as I did!

ProFlowers Dinner Party Guide


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Saving Four Innocent Chairs from the Dumpster

This past summer, my husband Chris and I were enjoying a bike ride in our neighborhood.  It was a beautiful day, and at the time Chris was still clinging to a tiny shred of hope that his wife might actually be sane.

That hope was about to be dashed.

The Chairs That Needed Me

We came across these four chairs, which someone had kicked to the curb.

chairs before rehab

A few people were looking at them, but everyone wound up walking away.  They were destined for the dumpster.  So of course I had to step in.

At first glance they looked like rattan chairs. But on closer examination the frames appeared to be oak.  The non-loadbearing cross-braces were a mixture of bamboo and rattan.

Bamboo - cane - oak chair before rehab

So they were very solid.  They just needed a lot of work, starting with a good cleaning.

Cleaning

Using fine steel wool, I scrubbed them down with denatured alcohol. Then I rinsed each chair with water.  Cleaning was probably the most time-consuming part of rehabbing these chairs.  Every nook and cranny of every chair needed to be cleaned.  One chair in particular was heavily covered in black soot.

Reupholstering

I thought that reupholstering these chairs would be a snap.  The seats looked removable.  I was hoping to remove each seat before I cleaned the chairs.

Turned out the seats were built into the chairs.  They would be impossible to remove without destroying the chairs.  So I removed the fabric and padding.  Each chair had a tack strip for the seat cushion which also had to be removed.

furniture rehab removing the chair pads

Apparently whoever built these chairs didn’t intend for them to ever be reupholstered.

As a solution, Chris cut new seat bottoms from scrap plywood he had on hand.  We would secure them to the top of the original seats once I added the new cushions.

tools-for-working-on-the-chair-pads

Finally the fun began:  Choosing the fabric.  I chose an outdoor fabric with a fresh, tropical pattern.  Then I used my trusty old electric carving knife to cleanly and easily cut the foam for the new chair pads. For more detail on how I reupholster chair pads, check out this post.

Refreshing the Wood

Using a rag, I wiped the chairs down with Howard Restor-A-Finish in Golden Oak.

Fixing the Caning

Some of the original caning was coming unraveled and some was missing. I had never worked with caning before, and I ordered the wrong size.  It was a bit thinner than the original caning.

But I only needed to replace the caning in a few areas, so I used it anyway. And it was very easy to work with once I soaked it in water for 30 minutes.

I figured that once the new caning was stained to match the chairs, the discrepancy in size wouldn’t be very visible anyway.

Furniture rehab new caning

Turned out the new caning didn’t absorb stain very well, but luckily we have many half-used cans of stain on hand, and eventually I found one that worked.

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Finish

I applied a coat satin finish to each chair.  This went quickly since the finish could be applied with a rag.  This really made a difference, giving the chairs an elegant, subtle gleam.

Almost Done

A few of the metal feet on the chair legs were missing, so Chris attached new ones, and then he attached the newly-upholstered chair seats.

 

Were these chairs really worth all the work?  Well, it would have been a shame for them to wind up in the landfill, but if I had it to do over, I just might have left them on the curb hoping that someone else would rescue them.  And I really should have learned my lesson after the chair project I did earlier this year.

Indoor/Outdoor Chairs

But now that all the work is behind me, I love these chairs.

Especially because of the outdoor fabric, they look elegant yet informal.  And they are so versatile:  Great for additional indoor seating or for garden parties.

furniture rehab tropical fabric

Bamboo - cane - oak chairs after rehab

Chairs after rehab

They are still not perfect, but they are old so imperfection is part of the charm.  And they are a far cry from what they were before.

before

One More Rescue

So in summer I impulsively rescued those four sad chairs that needed a ton of work.

Meanwhile, at an estate sale, Chris found a little mid-century bar that barely needed anything.  But it wouldn’t work, or fit, in our house.

No problem.  It turned out to be a fun little addition to our patio for a few late-summer get-togethers.

Midcentury bar

This is post is for entertainment only and not a tutorial.


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Sources:

Howard Restor-A-Finish is a wonderful product for refreshing furniture.  It’s quick and easy to apply, so we use it all the time in our furniture rehab projects.  It is available in many stain colors, and I used the Golden Oak finish for the chairs.

The lovely finish I used on the chairs was General Finishes Arm-R-Seal in Satin.


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Creepy Plants and Gleaming Pumpkins: My Fall Decor

As wonderful and carefree as summer is, I’m usually not sad when it ends.  I love this change of seasons:  The crisp, chilly air, the changing colors, the spiderwebs hanging in the walkway.  Okay, maybe not so much the spiderwebs.

But in fall we have to take the good with the creepy.  So I have two little decor projects to share – one slightly creepy and one the visual equivalent of comfort food.

We’ll start with slightly creepy.

1.  A Creepy Little Bush

Recently I was at my local nursery looking for winter pansies when I stumbled upon something much more beautiful – and just a bit haunting:

A cushion bush (Calocephalus ‘Silver Stone’).

Cushion bush

The plant tag even described the branches as “ghost white.”  I loved the slightly creepy look of this little starter plant.  And it was on sale, so how could I resist.

The Pot

I could just see it in a black and white themed container on my front porch.  And I happened to have a tall white pot that would elevate this plant so that it would be noticed next to the front door.

cushion bush with french pot

Adding Height and Contrast

Obviously, I would need some height in this potted arrangement – something taller than the cushion bush.  And something dark to act as a background so that the bush’s ghostly, twisted branches would really stand out.  But another plant would add too much texture.

So I remembered these dried ornamental leaves from an old arrangement.

Dried exotic leaves

I don’t even know what they are, really, but their thin stems would make it easy to stake them into the soil behind the cushion bush – after I spray painted the leaves black.

The Creepiness

I wanted the container to look beautiful and slightly creepy.  And what is more vaguely disturbing than a baby doll head.  I’d had this little concrete baby doll head for years, and no one but me has ever liked it.  So it was perfect.

Fall decor cushion bush

The Crowning Touch

I arranged the container in a black plastic pot and set it inside the tall white pot.  I elevated the plastic container with flat stones until it stood an inch or two above the top of the white pot.

Fall decor black and white

And then I bought an inexpensive grapevine wreath at the craft store, spray painted it black, and cut it so that it would easily  fit around the pot.

black and white fall decor

This way, the scene is elevated a bit, yet the plastic pot inside is somewhat concealed.

The long black leaves are a great backdrop for the white branches.

cushion bush

The black and white theme looks good with our charcoal front door.

Black and white planting container fall decor

I was tempted to do more – maybe add a jolt of an unexpected color, or add more creepiness, but adding more of anything would have detracted from the ghostly bush, so I decided to stop right there.

black and white fall decor

Since both the plant and the wreath were on sale, and I already had everything else, this container cost me around $5 to put together.

Closeup cushion bush with small statuary item

Are you ready for some color?  Let’s go inside.

2.  Gleaming Little Pumpkins

Metallic pumpkins are hot this year.  And although I’m not one to jump on every decor bandwagon that comes along, I love the warmth and beauty of metallic finishes this time of year.

So I bought a bag of little pumpkins.

small decor pumpkins

I wanted to try coating them using sheets of gold leaf, but once at the craft store I found “premium gold leaf finish” paint.  So I bought one in classic gold and one in copper.

I made the mistake of trying the copper first on a couple of pumpkins. The paint made them look more pink than copper.

pumpkins being painted

So for damage control, I wound up painting over the copper with the gold paint.

On most of the pumpkins, I used a damp paper towel to wipe off a little of the gold paint after I applied it – a sort of mini rag-rolling project.  I wanted the pumpkins to still look real, but with a slight metallic gleam.

Once the gold foundation was dry, then I used the copper paint sparingly in just a few places to add a little more patina.  Again I muddled the paint with a wet paper towel after I applied it.

fall decor metallic pumpkins flatlay

I do like the warm glow of these pumpkins.  It’s a look that will get me past Halloween and into Thanksgiving.

fall decor metallic pumpkins

While painting the pumpkins, a failed attempt at using fallen birch leaves as stencils led to a little discovery: The birch leaves looked beautiful with a thin coat of gold paint, accented by just a touch of copper paint on the edges.

fall decor painted leaves

For now I’ve scattered the leaves and the pumpkins around the living room.

fall decor pumpkin with hydrangeas and love-lies-bleeding
Pumpkin with dried hydrangeas and love-lies-bleeding

pumpkins with books

fall decor metallic pumpkins and painted leaves


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The premium leafing finishes that I used on the pumpkins are made by Precious Metals.  There are 8 colors available.


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The June Bug Heads to Yosemite

Back in July, I talked about the makeover of our 1966 Airstream Caravel (aka “the June Bug”).  I also shared a bit about our brief camping trip to Deception Pass State Park.

Airstream Caravel with chili pepper lights

That trip was trial run to work out any glitches before our September road trip to Yosemite National Park.

Yosemite has been on my bucket list for a long time, and since we just returned I thought I would share a bit about that gorgeous place.

But first, a couple of recent improvements to the June Bug.

The June Bug:  A Work in Progress

With a vintage trailer, there is always something that needs fixing, doing, or improving.  So before our Yosemite trip, we ticked a couple of little things off of our “to do” list.

New Curtains

I’ve always disliked heavy, light-blocking window coverings.  For years I’d been meaning to do something about the curtains in the June Bug.

curtains over banquette

Good quality, but a little too drab and heavy for my liking.  In such a small space, we need to bring light in, not block it .

And I wanted something whimsical.  We only use the trailer a few weeks a year, so why not have some fun with it?

Of course there is no finding ready-made curtains for a 1966 Airstream.  But sewing them was easy. We chose an inexpensive calico print with ladybugs and daisies.

Curtains

Because the interior walls curve, we have a cable system to secure the curtains at the top and the bottom.  It’s similar to the system that we used for our burlap greenhouse shades.

I think the curtains also look sweet from the outside.

Trailer exterior with curtains

A New Kitchen Faucet

The trailer came with a very small kitchen sink and faucet.  We recently replaced the sink with a larger one, but that silly little faucet remained.  It was almost impossible to rinse pots and pans.

Sink with old faucet

So right before our road trip, we replaced it with a larger bar faucet.

Upgraded faucet

So much better.

Now were were ready to hit the road!  Hopefully.  With a vintage trailer, you never really know.

On the Way – Sort of

We headed south from Washington State but veered west to spend the first evening at Nehalem Bay State Park on the always-breathtaking Oregon coast.

Oregon coast sunset

Chris immediately set up one of the vintage lanterns that he has been collecting.

Coleman lantern in vintage airstream

Big Trees

Our next big stop was at Calaveras State Park in California, home to giant sequoias.  They are some of the oldest living things on Earth.

Giant sequoia

Yosemite!

The June Bug is only 17 feet long, so we sacrifice living space but gain convenience.  I think it’s a great trade off because we can camp in sites that are often inaccessible to larger RVs.

Chris had researched the various campgrounds at Yosemite and White Wolf was high on his list.

Initially, I was not thrilled to learn that White Wolf had no “facilities,” as far as water and electrical hookups, at the camp sites.  But we had a generator and propane, so it didn’t really matter.

And any reservations I had dissolved once saw the campground. Located at 8,000 feet, the camp sites were nestled among granite boulders.  The air smelled wonderful.  There was just something magical about this place.

White Wolf campground

And it was a great hub for enjoying high-country day hikes.

Of course it got cold at night, so a crackling campfire was always a plus and sometimes brought us visitors from other camp sites.

trailer at white wolf

These high-country campgrounds are open only a few months of the year.  By the time this post is published, all the tents and RVs will be gone, leaving nature to reclaim White Wolf until next summer.

The Little Things Matter

At Yosemite, everything seemed to big to me.  The mountains were right there, and they were huge.  We learned that the towering El Capitan is the largest solid granite rock in the world.

But we also learned this fun little factoid:

Chipmunk, right?

golden mantled ground squirrel

Wrong.  He’s a golden-mantled ground squirrel.

This sporty little guy is a chipmunk.

Chipmunk

And he looks slightly insulted by our mistake.

I’ve decided that I’m not going to post any iconic big picture photos of Yosemite here because you’ve already seen the best of them by the likes of Ansel Adams and other great photographers.

Instead I thought it would be fun to zoom in on some of the small things that often get overlooked.

Like this little trace of past human presence, perhaps from an old farm or ranch, on a valley floor hike.

Yosemite valley hike

Or a rusty directional sign on a high-country hiking trail.

Yosemite hikers sign

Farther down the trail, the waters of Lukens Lake were still.

Lukens Lake Yosemite

And on our hike to Mt. Hoffmann, I was surprised to find the dreamy May Lake High Sierra Camp – a remote hike-in camp for backpackers.

May Lake High Sierra Camp

This camp was already closed for the season, and a small crew was winding things down.

tent at May Lake

During breaks, they create art on an old chopping block behind the kitchen.

bottlecaps

If you’re ever in Yosemite, I highly recommend a drive to Olmsted Point for sweeping views of the Sierra Nevadas.

And a walk among these otherworldly subalpine trees.

They are probably much older than they look.

Subalpine tree yosemite

Subalpine tree Olmsted Point Yosemite

One day we took a tour bus to the top of Glacier Point.  But we chose to hike back down.  There are two trails to choose from, and we chose the “Four-Mile Trail” which is actually almost five miles.

The switchbacks have old rock retaining walls which were likely installed by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression.

glacier point hike Yosemite

A Ghost Town

We had planned to stop at other parks on our way back to Washington State, but there was so much to see at Yosemite and we stayed there too long.

We did manage to make a few quick stops on the way home, and the most interesting one was outside Yosemite’s east entrance:  The ghost town of Bodie.

It is a true ghost town – in the middle of nowhere.  The road to Bodie stretches on for miles.

Road to Bodie

Bodie is now a historical park and is kept in a state of “managed decay.”

Inside the abandoned homes, dust is undisturbed.

Bodie lounger

Bodie crib

Water damage is not repaired.

Bodie living room

Weathered exteriors are not repainted.

Bodie doorways

Bodie - walthy residence

Life in Bodie’s heyday was probably so much simpler yet harsher than life today.  There were several funeral directors and undertakers in town, which tells you something about life – and death – in Bodie.

Time To Head Home

Whenever we take a road trip with the June Bug, it takes me a few days to adjust to living in such small quarters.  But after that, I wish we could just stay on the road forever.

rearview mirror

About These Photos

I’m considering framing some of my favorite photos from this road trip – especially since my goal is to start rotating my wall art from time to time.

And I’m kicking off my new page over at Søciety6 with a few of the photos posted here. So if you enjoyed any of these photos and would like your own art print, or if you just want to browse, pop over and have a look.


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A Plumbing Leak Becomes an Opportunity

As most of my readers already know, plumbing leaks can lead to all kinds of catastrophes – and wonderful opportunities.  A few years ago, we fixed a small plumbing leak in our main floor bathroom and made a few upgrades in the process.

I’ve shared a lot about our master bathroom addition, but this post is about our little main floor bathroom, which is original to our 1927 house.  At one time, it was the only bathroom in the house.

1920s bathroom

The original porcelain tile wainscoting is in pretty good shape for its age.  It has a fun black and white accent strip and, although it has a few fractures here and there, I would never dream of replacing it.

1920s bathroom - original tile
1920s bathroom original porcelain tile

The floor has the hexagonal tile that was popular in the 1920s.

1920s bathroom - floor file

The Leak

We knew about the leak when we bought the house.  It was a slow leak, but somehow water was getting behind the faucet wall when the shower was running.  From there it leaked into the basement.  No big urgency in fixing this, but we knew we had to address it eventually.

The Ugliness

This was a cute little bathroom – except for the ugliness going on in the tub surround.

For starters, it was obvious that someone had tried to fix the leak before. They’d removed some of the porcelain tile work around the tub faucet to access the pipes behind the wall.  And then they patched over that hole using 4 X 4-inch modern ceramic tiles.

There were also some dingy laminate panels on the wall above the tile wainscoting.  The laminate didn’t look original, and my guess is that at some point (probably during the house’s 1950’s remodel) the tub fixture was fitted with a shower head, and the laminate was added to waterproof the wall.

The Opportunity

When Chris was ready to tackle the plumbing leak, he had to remove that modern ceramic tile patch and a panel of that ugly laminate to see what was going on behind the wall.

So I came home to this.

1920s bathroom - plumbing repair

Oh darn, I said, they don’t make laminate like that anymore, so we will just have to replace it all with something else.

But what?  We wanted something that looked original to the house.  And something subtle so the subway tile was still the main attraction.

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There is an old Carrera marble transition strip between the hallway and the bathroom, so we decided on Carrara marble.  It is the same type of marble we used upstairs in our master bathroom addition.

The large marble tiles were easy to find and reasonably priced at a big  box store.

1920s bathroom after adding Carrrra marble

Now that’s more like it.  I love how the marble adds substance to the room.

What about those missing subway tiles from the previous repair attempt?  White is a tough color to match, so new white subway tiles, even porcelain ones, would not be an exact match for those old, original tiles.

Chris noticed that the manufacturer’s name was on the back of one of the original tiles, so he Googled it.  And amazingly, he found some 1920s tiles for sale that were made by the same manufacturer.

The only catch was that they were 3 X 3-inch square pieces, not the 3 X 6-inch rectangular pieces we needed.  But this was as close as were were going to get, so we used them anyway.

square tiles
Original subway tiles on the left, and the found vintage square tiles on the right.

We felt a variation in the tile width would be less noticable than a variation in the color.

We also took the opportunity to update the tub and shower faucets and the curtain rod.

New rain showerhead

We upgraded the shower caddy.

Bathroom before with laminate and old shower caddy
Before
Bathroom after with Cararra marble and new shower caddy
After

The old bathtub still looked pretty good but just needed to be resurfaced.

And other than a new coat of wall paint, the rest of the bathroom remains the same.

1920s Bathroom wm

 

1920s bathroom

Oh, yes – getting back to the leak.  Turns out the old galvanized pipes were failing, and Chris was able to replace them.

Sometimes a plumbing leak can be a blessing in disguise.

Burkedecor.com is all new

More Bathroom Inspiration

So enough about this little bathroom. How would you like to see some real dream bathrooms?  And sort through them by size and style to find just the inspiration that you’re looking for?

Shutterfly’s 100 Easy Bathroom Ideas is a wonderful tool for finding fresh bathroom ideas.  Photos of our Master Bathroom Addition are included in the mix of gorgeous bathrooms and innovative ideas in this guide.


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Fun with Brick and Mortar

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know all about our little Sunglo greenhouse, and, like my husband Chris, you’ve suffered through all my whining about how the foundation, made of  pressure-treated lumber, bothered me because it looked unfinished.

Greenhouse foundation before

Now some greenhouses don’t even need a foundation like this.  But ours had to be elevated a bit so it would be tall enough to fit over two garage windows.  And the result is extra ceiling height in the greenhouse, which is nice.

The Problem

The ugly wood wouldn’t have mattered so much if the greenhouse were standing on its own out in the garden somewhere.  But it is attached to the south end of our circa 1927 garage.

The Solution

We decided to try wrapping the foundation with Brickweb “Castle Gate” Clay Thin Brick.

It sounded wonderful:  Thin genuine clay bricks adhered to 28″ X 10″ backing sheets for easy installation.  No spacers needed, no messing with individual brick pieces (or at least very few).  Essentially, it would be like installing sheets of tile.

thin brick sheets

sheet of thin brick

I’ve done several interior tile projects, and, many years ago, I did a simple brick and mortar garden edging project using bricks from a friend’s old chimney stack.  So I was hopeful that I could pull this off.

Preparing the Foundation

The Brickweb sheets could not be applied to the raw wood, so first Chris prepared the foundation.

Now I must mention that this post is not a tutorial.  It’s only intended to share our novice experiences installing Brickweb.  If you decide to try it yourself, check out a few of the comprehensive videos and online instructions created by professionals.

Anyway, back to Chris preparing the foundation.  He used a circular saw and a utility knife to cut HardieBacker cement board.

cutting HardieBoard

He used an impact driver – and screws designed specifically for use with the HardieBacker cement board.

An impact driver and HardiBoard screws

The screws were easy to countersink, which is important since we needed a smooth, straight subsurface for the bricks.

Attaching HardieBoard to pressure-treated lumber

Now that the foundation was prepared, I had to get a move on.

HardieBoard on Pressure treated lumber

Cutting the Brickweb

While most videos I found briefly mentioned that Brickweb could be cut with a tile cutter, I could not find a video that actually showed the process of cutting it.  But I assumed it would be just like cutting tile.

I rented a standard-sized tile cutter (aka “wet saw”) at the small tool rental department of my local big box hardware store.  But after two water pumps immediately failed on me, we (because by then Chris had been pulled into my misery) returned the tile cutter and went where I should have gone in the first place: To an actual tool rental center.

But this setback was a blessing in disguise.  I would need to cut the Brickweb sheets lengthwise (and at a slight angle), and the sheets were 28 inches long.  So by then I had come to realize that I would be better off with a tile saw that had a large cutting platform.

I wound up with a tile saw that the rental center called a “rail saw.”  A bit intimidating at first, it turned out to be exactly what I needed.

rail saw

 

rail saw

Brickweb makes wonderful corner sheets.  They mimic the full thickness of real brick and make corners look very realistic.  But in my experience they are a bit tricky to cut lengthwise.  Since they are molded at a 45-degree angle, it doesn’t work to cut them on a tile saw.

I cut my corner piece as far as I could on the tile saw, which wasn’t far, and then Chris cut it the rest of the way with his Dremel.  This took some time but worked well.

cutting thin brick corner piece with a Dremmel

Adhering the Bricks

The Brickweb sheets were cut and ready to be adhered to the foundation.  I watched several videos and read some online instructions on how to adhere them.  Most said to use a thin-set adhesive.

But I learned to check the label on the thin-set adhesives because some say “not for use with resin-backed tile.”  And I’m pretty sure that includes Brickweb.

The adhesive is a powder and needs to be mixed with water using a mixing paddle attached to a drill.  It’s kind of like making cake batter with a giant mixer.

mixing thin set adhesive

Just like with tile, I used a trowel to apply the adhesive to the foundation.  Then, starting with that corner piece and working out, I attached the Brickweb sheets.  I worked a small area at a time so the adhesive wouldn’t dry before I could attach the sheets.

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I wanted to make sure the actual bricks, and not just the web they sat on, were going to stick to the foundation.  So in addition to slathering adhesive on the foundation, I buttered the back of every sheet with the adhesive.  Better safe than sorry.

adhering brickweb to the wall

After I adhered each sheet, I wiped away any excess adhesive between the bricks so I could mortar the bricks later. I had to use little shims to keep some of the sheets straight and level, especially the ones that I’d cut with the tile cutter.

The Mortar

Before applying the mortar, I let the adhesive dry completely.  Then I applied a sealer to the bricks.  This would make them easier to clean later.

Then it was just a matter of mixing some type “S” mortar mix and using a grout bag to pipe the mortar between the brick joints.

mortar bag

I had never used a grout bag before.  There is a preferred “twist and squeeze” method that isn’t easy if you have small hands.

Once the mortar was in place and allowed to set a bit, I knocked off the excess and smoothed it using a mortar tool.

mortar tool

mortar drying

After it set even more, I wiped the mortar with a brush to clean off any tiny loose bits, and I cleaned the excess mortar haze off of the brick fronts.

The Finishing Touch

We wanted an attractive wooden rain cap to top off this little brick wall.  We couldn’t find anything with the exact dimensions that we needed, so we found something close at a locally-owned lumber yard, and they milled it down for us at no additional charge.

Before Chris installed the rain cap, he painted it to match the trim on our house and garage.

raincap

And now we have a greenhouse with a quaint little brick foundation. It looks solid and finished – like it’s here to stay.

Before . . .

greenhouse foundation before

After!

Greenhouse foundation after

front of greenhouse closeup of brick

Sunglo greenhouse with thin brick foundation

Greenhouse with garage
Lean-to greenhouse attached to our garage.

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Roses, An Easy Patio Tablecloth, and Some Vintage Finds

Are we already in August?  As usual, the summer is going by too fast, and now we only have a few weeks left – with so much we want to do.  So I’ve decided to put this blog down for a little late-summer nap.  While it’s sleeping, I’ll be working on projects to share with you in September.  At least that’s the plan.

And since this is my last post until then, I have all kinds of things to show you.

Costco Roses with Summer Garden Clippings

As I mentioned in my previous post, My Three-Season Greenhouse, my husband gave me two dozen Costco roses for our anniversary.

Arranging roses in a Sunglo Greenhouse

With so many roses, I thought it would be fun to break them into several different arrangements and include some fresh clippings from the garden.

I gathered some of my favorite vases and headed to the greenhouse.

Vintage vases

I had to work fast because it was warm in there and I didn’t want the roses to wither.  I came up with these three arrangements.

Thriller, Filler, Spiller

The old thriller-filler-spiller technique used in container gardening also works well for floral arrangements.

Roses, lady's mantle and love-lies-bleeding in a vintage glass vase

  • Thriller:  Red roses
  • Filler:  Lady’s mantle flowers (Alchemilla mollis or Alchemilla vulgaris)
  • Spiller:  Love-lies-bleeding (Amaranthus caudatus)

I love the fresh green of the lady’s mantle flowers as a substitute for fillers like baby’s breath.  The crimson-tasseled annual called love-lies-bleeding adds a little drama and works nicely with the color of the vintage glass vase.

Manicured

I set yellow roses upright on a spike frog in a vintage milk glass vase for this buttoned-up look for the master bedroom.

yellow roses with dahlias and maidenhair fern in a milk glass vase

I tucked in maidenhair fern (Adiantum) fronds from the shade garden and, around the perimeter, Bishop of Llandaff dahlias.

This late in summer, most of my summer perennials are starting to fade, but because I deadhead these dahlias, the plants bloom for months.

Classic

I put the remaining roses in a tall crystal vase with honeybush (Melianthus major) leaves around the perimeter.  These large silvery leaves add a touch of glamour.

roses with honeybush leaves in a crystal vase

An Easy DIY Patio Tablecloth

Feeling like the summer was getting away from me, I hosted several small get togethers on our patio last week.

Planning the table decor is always half the fun, and I wanted a tablecloth that would complement our china and the chair cushions.

At the fabric store, I came across a whimsical home decor fabric called Sannio Cabana by SMC Swavelle Millcreek.

outdoor table setting

It was 54 inches wide, so I just asked for a 54-inch cut of fabric and hemmed it to have a square tablecloth.

home and garden - outdoor table setting

The square tablecloth worked well with the 42-inch round table.  I positioned it so that it draped elegantly between the chairs yet guests didn’t wind up with a bunch of extra fabric on their laps.

home and garden - square tablecloth on a round table

With a tablecloth this lively, I didn’t need much else in the way of table decor – especially on such a small table.

home and garden - patio party table setting
Photo courtesy of Lisa Wildin

Not wanting to attract bees, I didn’t use any flowers.  The centerpiece was a citronella candle.

home and garden - citronella centerpiece

That and a couple of dryer sheets under the tablecloth did a fairly decent job of keeping pests away.   (Note: For more tips on keeping bugs from crashing a patio party, see this post.)

Minted's Limited Edition Art Prints

My Recent Vintage Finds

I always look forward to the annual garage sale that my neighborhood hosts.  I never participate because I would rather cruise around and see what everyone is selling.

This year I scored with two of these tall fir cabinets with leaded glass doors – for $5 each!  The style is an exact match to the original built-ins in our house.

home and garden - vintage cabinets

They have that “old schoolhouse” smell that I love.  I have several ideas of where to use them in our house, so we’ll see what happens.

My friend, Carolyn, participated in the sale and when I admired these adorable mid century salt and pepper shakers that belonged to her mother, she gave them to me.  Thanks Carolyn!

Mid century salt and pepper shakers

They are perfect for our vintage trailer, the June Bug.

And then while visiting an antique store in the historic Fairhaven district of Bellingham, we found this spike frog to add to my frog collection.

vintage flower frog

I couldn’t resist that rustic patina.

See You in September

I hope those of you living in the Northern hemisphere have a chance to get out and enjoy what is left of your summer.  Let’s meet back here in September!


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Here are a few fun tidbits from around the web, including the fabric (at a lower price than I paid) and the salad plates I used in my table setting.

Late summer design inspiration

Center:  Villeroy & Boch Switch 3 Cordoba Salad Plate  Clockwise from top:  Set of 2 Vintage Flower Frogs  | Sannio Cabana fabric by the yard | 4″ Daisy Milk Glass Ruffletop Vase | Beettle Kill Pine Candleholder with Citronella Candles


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My Three-Season Greenhouse

It’s been a while since I talked about my greenhouse, so I thought I would show you what is going in there.  This won’t take long.

Because nothing at all is going on.

Sunglo greenhouse
Sunglo lean-to greenhouse

My little greenhouse is empty.

It has done its job well, so all the plants that grew or overwintered in there are outside for the summer.  Some plants haven’t gone far.  The tomatoes and a few others are in containers just outside.

Assorted plants

Seasons of the Greenhouse

The greenhouse has earned its short summer break.  Over the past three seasons, it’s been a busy place.

Fall

Winter temperatures here in the Pacific Northwest can dip below freezing, which is hard on some plants.  Before I had the greenhouse, I used to overwinter a few tender plants in our little mudroom – where they were in our way all winter and didn’t do very well.

So last fall it was nice to have the greenhouse for overwintering the plants that I wanted to baby:  Begonia tubers, small citrus trees, several tropical ginger plants, a mandevilla, and some jade plants and other succulents.

Allsop Home & Garden

It was also a good place to dry the hop vines that I harvested.

Hops drying in the greenhouse

Winter

Then came the holidays.  I love to grow paperwhites from bulbs to have as holiday decor and to give as gifts.  The greenhouse was the perfect place to start them.

paperwhites

After Christmas, I couldn’t bring myself to throw away my poinsettias even though I was tired of looking at them.  So I just moved them to the greenhouse until spring.  Then I planted them in the shade garden to live out the summer.

Spring

In spring it really got crowded in the greenhouse.  From seeds, I grew Lizzano hybrid tomatoes, basil, and an annual called love-lies-bleeding.

I also started begonias and elephant ears from tubers.

I bought two starter tomatoes, a lemon boy and a Manitoba, transplanted them into bigger pots, and kept them snugly in the greenhouse until it was warm enough to put them outside.

I also sheltered tender seedling geraniums and fuchsias that would have crashed had I put them outside too early.

So how is everything doing?  Let’s have a look.

Tuberous Begonias

The begonias went outside in May.  I’m not sure why, but this hasn’t been my best year for growing them.  We had a hot spell in spring, followed by a cold snap, so maybe that had something to do with it.

Begonias
Tuberous begonias

Begonia and bench

Love-Lies-Bleeding

In full sun, the plants are about three feet tall.  In part sun, they are puny and miserable – something I will remember for next year.

Love-lies-bleeding
Love-lies-bleeding

The crimson tassels are beautiful in fresh floral arrangements.

They also dry very easily for use year-round.  To dry them, I just clip the tassels and hang them in the shed.

drying

Basil

Basil was very easy to start from seeds in the greenhouse and transplant later into an old washtub.

basil
Large-leaf basil

Here in a corner behind the greenhouse, the plants get protection from winds and receive afternoon sun.  And since they are elevated, they are protected from pests and are easy to harvest.

Tomatoes

I always look forward to delicious homegrown tomatoes.  So I am overprotective of my tomato plants. This year, I kept them in the greenhouse until mid-July.  With the fan kicking in, the door open, and the shade cloth on, the temperature was perfect.

The fruit developed early.  Some even ripened in the greenhouse – much earlier than they would have ripened outside.

They are all producing well.

Lizzano hybrid tomatoes
Lizzano hybrid tomatoes
Lemon Boy Tomato
Lemon boy tomato
Manitoba
Tomato: Manitoba

Everything Else

Other plants that were sheltered in the greenhouse are now sprinkled around the garden.

Cleaning the Greenhouse

Once all the plants were finally out of the greenhouse, I gave it a thorough cleaning.   And now it will stay clean and empty all summer!

Or not.

It’s such a handy place to put together floral arrangements, and Chris gave me these roses for our recent anniversary.

roses

In my next post, I share the arrangements I made using these Costco roses and cuttings from the garden – including the love-lies-bleeding.

One More Improvement

Now I have just one more improvement planned for the greenhouse. The foundation, made of pressure-treated wood, looks too raw and unfinished to me. (Insert eye roll by my husband here.)

greenhouse foundation
Greenhouse with pressure-treated wood foundation

But I think we may finally have a plan to make it look better.

We will be tackling that project soon, so stay tuned.


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CREATIVE HOME AND GARDEN IDEAS FROM THE HOUSE DOWN THE STREET