Second Tuesday Art Walk #2

It’s time again for Second Tuesday Art Walk.  The Art Walk is a relatively new feature to my blog, and it won’t always have a theme. But this month I realized that I developed a theme without even trying.

And it is . . .

Attainable Beauty

I love browsing home decor magazines to find inspiration and to dream.  Everything looks so perfect – and so effortless.

But in the real world, most of us have to face a few challenges when we want to improve our homes.  Budgets, time constraints, a lack of help, having to compromise with family members, or simply the fear of trying something new:  These are all speed bumps that can slow down a great idea – or stop it in its tracks.

So here today are some gorgeous but realistic projects – and some inspiration – for those of us out here in the real world.

Let’s get started!

Weekend Bathroom Update

Do you have a room in your house that you’ve been meaning to remodel but the time has never been right?  Meg got tired of waiting for a full remodel of her small bathroom so she decided to do a weekend update.

What a difference a weekend can make.

Photo courtesy of hello farmhouse

Be sure to check out the before photo.

Transforming an Old Kitchen Cabinet

Rachel spent $15 on a salvage shop cabinet and turned it into a darling little desk for her daughter.

Photo courtesy of Shades of Blue Interiors

The top opens for more storage space.

 

Board and Batten Mudroom Walls

Why make a project any harder than it has to be?  Lindsey found an easy way to get the classic board-and-batten look she wanted for her mudroom walls – and she did it all herself.

Photo courtesy of repurpose and upcycle

Lindsey’s project reminds me of this beautiful dining room remodel.

Stunning Breakfast Nook Update

Kathryn transformed her average-looking breakfast nook into something that belongs in Better Homes & Gardens.  It’s so fresh and elegant.  And that high-end wallpaper?  It’s actually stencilling!

Photo courtesy of The Dedicated House

 

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Something New For Fall

Sometimes it’s fun to toss convention aside and try something new.

Kerryanne’s charming new fall designs feature a soft pastel color palette.  It’s a fresh take on fall decor – and so gorgeous!

Image courtesy of Shabby Art Boutique

These colors make for a graceful transition from summer to fall.

Kerryanne is also offering a lovely free printable from her fall collection!

Save Your Allium Seed Heads

Last Christmas, my friend Loralee gave me this sweet little bit of holiday cheer.

To make this, she used some things she had on hand:  A small clay pot, foil wrap, and a dried allium seed head.

What a fun hostess gift!  And it got me thinking about the endless possibilities for holiday decor using allium seed heads.

So this summer I looked for them.  I only found one allium seed head in my own garden.  But what a beauty it is – like a firework frozen in time.

And recently a very nice neighbor gave me all of her allium seed heads.  She had a fun variety.

How would you use these in holiday decor?  I’m just starting to come up with ideas, but I’ll be sharing my creations with you, successful or not, later in the fall.

 

Tips for Hanging Wall Art

My husband Chris is almost a foot taller than me, so we don’t always see eye to eye on where art should be placed on a wall.

Hanging art on a wall correctly is an art in itself.  So here to help us today is invaluable’s “How to Hang a Picture” step-by-step guide.

Photo courtesy of invaluable

About the Featured Photo

So about that clock in the featured photo:  Don’t you just love it when you find the right thing by accident?

Recently Chris reorganized his basement workshop.  He was getting rid of some things and brought a mid century clock upstairs to see if it was still working.

I didn’t even know he had this clock.  He has very early memories of it from his childhood.  I cleaned it up a bit and propped it in our laundry room, on the counter, just to get it out of the way.

Then I realized it looked great there.

You’ll see it for yourself, along with (finally!) our laundry room remodel before and after photos, in a post soon.

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Basil in Eggs

A few weeks ago, I took on one of my favorite spring chores:  Cleaning and organizing our small greenhouse.

The shallow upper shelves are great for holding smaller pots and collections.

 

I love working in the greenhouse and could have spent hours just rearranging pots.  But the reason for organizing the greenhouse was to make room for my seedling trays.

This year I’m experimenting with the various types of seedling trays to see which one works best for me.

Greenhouse growning

I’m also growing some annuals that I haven’t tried to grow before.

And of course I’ll be sharing the results of these experiments before next year’s growing season.

But today, I want to focus on a couple of simple basil seedling “recipes” that I’ve cooked up in the greenhouse.

Basil in Eggs

Last year I posted about these Easter eggshell planters and vases. But I didn’t mention the other little project I tried with cracked eggshells:  Using them as pots for basil seedling starts.

It was easy:  Using a toothpick, I poked a small drain hole in the bottom of each shell.  Then I added moist seedling starting mix (which, right or wrong, I usually blend with moist potting soil), and then the seeds.

Then it was just a matter if keeping the seedlings indoors in filtered sunlight and keeping them moist.

growing seedlings in eggshells

Of course this eggshell idea is nothing new.  We’ve all seen it on Pinterest and Instagram – and not just using basil seeds.  Just about any easy-to-grow herb or annual can be started this way.

It’s a fun way to share seedling starts with friends. What’s even more fun is to dye the eggshells first with food coloring

growing seedlings in eggshells

to make cute Easter party favors.

growing seedlings in eggshells

Basil in eggs are also a sweet addition to holiday place settings.

An adorable idea, but is it all it’s “cracked up” to be?  After tying it, here is what I learned:

Pros:

Basil can be a bit touchy to transplant,  but with Basil in Eggs, all the recipient has to do is thin the seedlings a little (leaving two or three), crack the eggshell so that is has enough cracks to allow the roots to grow through, and then plant the seedlings, eggshell and all, into a 6-inch or larger pot.  The roots remain relatively undisturbed.

Cons:

The eggshells are small, so the soil dries out quickly.  Unless the seedlings are grown under a clear plastic cover to hold in moisture, they will need to be watched closely and watered often.

Also because the eggshells are small, the seedlings need to be transplanted while they are still fairly small or the roots will  be crowded.

Basil Loaves

Last year I started basil in the greenhouse and later moved it outside to the vintage wash tub.

growing basil

Moving the basil to the tub only took a few minutes because my basil starts were in “loaves” of soil that were easy to transplant.

I started the seeds in the larger plastic containers that supermarket salad mix comes in.

I poked drain holes in the bottom of each container and then added several inches of moist soil and the seeds.  Then I placed the covers loosely on top.

starting basil indoors

starting basil indoors

I misted the soil occasionally to keep it moist.

When the seedlings began to emerge, I pushed the cover to one side slightly (about a half inch) to make a gap for air circulation.  When the seedlings reached about an inch in height, I took the cover off completely and thinned the seeds so they were two to three inches apart (although conventional wisdom says they should be about four inches apart).

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When outdoor temperatures were warm enough, it was time to transplant the basil into the wash tub.  I carefully turned the first container upside down and gently pushed on the bottom.  And it all came out as one solid block – a tidy loaf of basil and soil!

If I had any trouble freeing a loaf from its container, I just used a utility knife to cut down the center of the plastic container.

Then I just plopped the loaves of basil into the wash tub (which I’d prepared with soil) and planted them.

Many people prefer to direct seed their basil outdoors.  But starting basil indoors means I can begin to harvest it sooner and it’s protected from surprise cold snaps.

Repurposing Plastic Containers

This time of year I eye any plastic food container to see if it will help with seed growing.  This cherry tomato container was repurposed as a dome for the basil seedlings I’m growing for my mom.

starting basil indoors

So the greenhouse is looking a bit like a science lab these days.

But the seedlings seem happy.

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


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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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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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Sources:

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


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Three Charming Little Easter Decor Ideas

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission if you make a purchase using these links


 

Easter falls in March this year, so it’s not too soon for me to share three fun little decor and gift ideas.

1.  Tiny Little Eggshell Planters and Vases

I love it when I can combine a couple of ideas and get something new.  The March edition of Martha Stewart Living had a beautiful little one-page article on using the shells of goose, turkey, and duck eggs to make mini vases and baskets.  Then I saw something on Instagram about starting seedlings in eggshells. Those ideas got me thinking.

I remembered the eggshells that I had painted black as part of my Haunted Hatchlings Halloween scene.  They looked good and, because of a little trick I had discovered, they were also crack and shatter resistant.

I decided to try a variation of those eggshells to make tiny little planters and vases for Easter using the shells of the brown eggs that I had on hand.

DIY Easter Decor: Egg shell vases and planters.

Cracking the Eggs

So for a couple of mornings, when making breakfast, I saved the eggshells. I placed each egg in a shot glass and cracked it carefully around the top with a knife so most of the shell would be left intact but I could still lift off the top and empty the egg easily.

DIY Easter Decor: Egg Shell Planters and Vases step one: cracking the egg

I didn’t worry too much about getting a very straight break since the uneven, broken edges add charm.

Coloring the Shells

I used a gel food coloring (Betty Crocker Classic Gel Food Colors) to color the eggshells.  Since they were brown shells, the color did not turn out as clear and bright as they would have with white eggs, but that didn’t matter because this was just the base coat.  The interior of the shells turned out bright and pretty.  To add to the variety, I left a few shells undyed.

DIY Easter Decor: Egg Shell Planters and Vases, step two dying the egg

Adding Some Sparkle

I wanted my tiny vases to have some elegance and polish so they could be used even after Easter.  So I thinly coated the exterior of each shell with metallic craft paint (Dazzling Metallics “Dark Patina” and Martha Stewart Crafts Multi-Surface Metallic “Gold”), and then I squirted them lightly with water from a spray bottle.  I let the water run down the sides of the shells to create a mottled finish.

DIY Easter Decor: Egg Shell Planters and Vases, step three: adding some sparkle

Reinforcing the Shells

To make the shells crack resistant, I painted two coats of Mod Podge on the outside of each shell and one coat on the inside.  Although the shells were noticeably more stable after this, I still had to use care when working with them.

Making the Shells Stand Upright

Now I wanted the shells to stand upright.  So far I had only used materials that I already had around the house, so I wanted to continue doing that.

I am a bit of a vintage button weirdo, and for some strange reason I tend to hoard them.  So I glued vintage buttons to the bottom of each shell as a base.

DIY Easter Decor: Egg shell vases and planters, step 5: Adding a base

Adding Flowers and Tiny Plants

This was the funnest part of this fun project.  I used a small teaspoon to fill some of the shells with pre-moistened soil, and then I carefully planted tiny succulents.

DIY Easter Decor: Egg Shell Planters and Vases, step 6: planting the tiny plants

Other shells became vases for tiny flowers from my garden: Primroses and violets.  Of course I knocked a vase over by accident. It didn’t break, but I did discover that the food coloring does bleed into the vase water, so just a warning about that.

DIY Easter Decor: Egg Shell Planters and Vases, step six, adding the water and flowers

Table Decor and a Gift

I’m planning to have one on each place setting and then let my guests take them home.

DIY Easter Decor: Egg Shell Planters and Vases

 

DIY Easter Decor: Egg Shell Planters and Vases

2.  DIY Dinner Napkins: A Simple Project Just Got Simpler

Sometimes to get the table decor I want for a special occasion like Easter, I have to make my own dinner napkins.  And recently I decided to make some sets of dinner napkins to give as gifts. This is such a simple task:  Measure, cut, and hem the fabric. How could it get any simpler?

By eliminating the measuring and cutting.

While at the fabric store looking for an easy-care cotton fabric to use for my dinner napkin project, I found myself standing in front of the fabric quarters:  Those pre-cut pieces of cotton calico fabric that come in a wide variety of colors and patterns and measure 18 X 21 inches – just right for a dinner napkin.

DIY Easter Decor: Making an easy dinner napkin

But could I really just buy the fabric quarters and hem them?  It seemed too easy, so to make sure I asked a fabric store employee. She confirmed that since they were 100% cotton, they would indeed work as dinner napkins.

Solid-colored fabric quarters work best because they are double-sided.  With most patterned fabric quarters, the pattern only appears on one side and the opposite side is blank.

To iron, pin, and hem them took me less than 15 minutes per napkin, so making a set of six took under an hour and a half.

DIY Easter Decor: Making an easy dinner napkin

A set of six dinner napkins makes a great hostess gift.  I made two sets in one afternoon and bundled them using lace ribbon and vintage buttons.

fabric quarters - finished napkins1 wm

And I still made them with my own two little hands – even if I did take a shortcut.

3.  A Sweet Yet Practical Hostess Gift

You may not have time to make your own hostess gifts, but you can still give something handmade.  If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I love the soft and whimsical dishtowels that Cousin Lolli makes in her fabric studio in Fort Bragg.

For Easter, it’s hard to find anything more adorable than her carrot and bunny dishtowels. She created them using images from vintage children’s books.

Adorable handmade carrot and bunny dishtowel by Lolli Jacobsen, available on Etsy

Dishtowels are always a wonderful hostess gift, and they have the added bonus of being packable and unbreakable.  Most of Lolli’s dishtowels can be found on Etsy.


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Three Ways to Simplify Party Hosting

If you are planning a holiday party, you are probably so busy right now that you barely have time to read this, so I will get right to the point:  If you think you will have time to mix cocktails for your guests, you probably won’t.  Bring out that perfect chilled or heated dessert at just the right time?  Doubtful.  Hover around the food table so you can let your guests with dietary restrictions know which foods are safe to eat?  Not likely.

Even if you did somehow manage to get across the room, mix that cocktail and bring it to your guest before he or she dies of thirst, it would come at a very high price:  Missing out on visiting with all the other guests you pass along the way.

I have learned the hard way that it’s no good to flit around nervously at your own party, trying to do a million things at once. Your guests will enjoy the party more if you are relaxed and have time to chat. And so will you.

So here are a few simple suggestions to help make that happen.

1.  A DIY Cocktail Station

Since I do not have the first clue about how to mix a cocktail, this task lands squarely on the capable shoulders of my husband, Chris. But he doesn’t want to be anchored to a bar all night.  So he sets up a little DIY cocktail station so guests can help themselves.

This is the simple countertop station that he recently set up.

Party Hosting Tips - DIY Liquor Station

You could definitely have some fun with this idea and set up a more elaborate station.  Shakers, mixers, garnishes, and glasses should all be available for guests to help themselves.

Sometimes if Chris knows that several guests will want the same drink, he might pre-mix a pitcher of just one type of cocktail.  But even so some guests want to mix their own drinks a specific way.

Of course for this to work, you have to be able to trust your guests to know their limits or have a safe ride home.

2.  A Cookie Table

Chilled or heated desserts can be tricky for a party, especially an open house where folks are dropping by at different times. The most practical dessert would be something that can sit for several hours at room temperature – namely cookies.

Many people, myself included, shy away from foods that are difficult to eat while standing and mingling.  But cookies are easy and portable – no fork or plate is needed.

For a cookie table to be interesting, the cookies should be beautiful, tasty, and small. Small cookies mean that folks can sample a variety without feeling guilty.

My mom, Erika, makes wonderful cookies using old world recipes.

cookie table - party hosting tips

Whenever she volunteers cookies for my parties, I jump at the opportunity.

cookie table - party hosting tips

It spares my guests from my own baking efforts, which are marginal at best.  Add a bowl of nuts and some chocolate and you’re good.

We all know someone who loves to bake, so if you don’t have time to bake or don’t enjoy it, seek that person out to bake cookies for your party.

3.  Food Tags for Guests with Dietary Restrictions

Guests don’t always want their dietary restrictions to be a topic of conversation at parties.  So instead of pointing out which foods your friend with a dietary restriction can eat, make little tags and signs to place near the food.

For example, a few gluten-free appetizers can be grouped on one platter with a simple “GF” sign placed in the middle.

Party Hosting tips - Gluten Free Tray

For this sign, I used a wooden stir stick as the little signpost and a flower frog to anchor the sign.

Party Hosting tips - Gluten-Free Tray

Similar signs can be attached to bowls of gluten-free crackers and chips.

No more worries, and no more having to scream “Don’t eat that!” from across the room.

4.  Now Enjoy the Party

My suggestions do require a little planning and work in advance, but that will pay off later when you are able to relax and enjoy the party.

Happy Holidays Dear Readers!

This will be my last post before the new year, so I want to take this opportunity to wish all of my dear readers the happiest of holidays. We will meet here again in January.

Happy Holidays!

 



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A DIY Cake Stand for Holiday Entertaining

I was shopping recently with my mom, Erika, and we ran across a beautiful red metal footed cake stand that I just loved.  I prefer to buy vintage or handmade when I can, but this cake stand was new and mass produced.

So my shoulder devil started arguing with my shoulder angel, saying I should just go ahead and buy it.  But then Mom’s voice cut through the clamor.

“You could make your own.”

So I gave it a try.

A Visit to the Thrift Stores

Originally, the plan was to use a metal candlestick for the base and the lid of a cookie tin for the platter.  But I ran across a small metal flower pot at a thrift store.  Used upside down, it would be a nice stable base for the cake stand.  Price:  69 cents.

I wrote off the cookie tin lid idea after realizing that most are not big enough.  So at a second thrift store, I found a round metal platter that would do nicely.  Price:  $2.39.

DIY cake stand using a flower pot and a vintage metal platter

Painting the Cake Stand

I used two Rust-Oleum paints that I already had on hand.

For the base and for the top of the platter, I used Rust-Oleum Gold Rush Metallic.  It has a vintage appeal and is the same spray paint that my husband, Chris, used when he spruced up the heat registers in our 1927 house.

For  a little contrast, I used good old Rust-Oleum Satin Heirloom White to paint the underside of the platter.  It’s same color I used to paint this hose basket for my greenhouse and this serving tray.

A little Super Glue held the two pieces together.

The Result

The cake stand looks nothing like the red one I originally fell in love with.  But my Frankenstein monster cake stand is unique.  And I can use it for many things:  Cakes, cookies, appetizers.  Elevated food stands really add a festive touch to a buffet table.

DIY cake stand

Of course I do not trust the surface to be food safe.  I will use either a plate or some parchment paper with the stand.

DIY cake stand

So I’m safe from my shoulder devil – for now.


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I could spend all day looking at all the beautiful vintage and handmade cake stands on Etsy.  These are especially charming.

RoxyHeartVintage cake stands

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A Special Holiday Giveaway and a DIY Gift Bag Tutorial

It’s long overdue for me to express my appreciation to each of my readers and subscribers for your loyalty.  Your comments and encouragement are what keep me going.  Thank you so much for indulging me by reading my blog!

My First Ever Holiday Giveaway

As a special reader thank you, I am holding my first ever Holiday Giveaway, consisting of: (1) A personalized monogrammed gift bag handmade by yours truly and (2) a novel that begins and ends on Christmas Eve.

I got the idea for the giveaway when I started making these cute monogrammed drawstring gift bags (the tutorial is later in this post).

Holiday Giveaway: Monogrammed gift bag

They are lovely whether cinched or uncinched.

Holiday giveaway: Monogrammed gift bag

They are such a fun combination of rustic and glam.  And they are just the right size to hold a book.  One of my favorite holiday reads is Year of the Angels, by Erika Madden.

A historical fiction novel based on Erika’s childhood memories, the story begins on Christmas Eve 1944 and ends on Christmas Eve 1945 – with a year of changes and challenges between.

The story takes place in a small Bavarian village during World War II and is softly told from a child’s perspective.  The Lindner family’s love for one another sees them through intense hardships and heartbreak.

Holiday reading: Year of the Angels

Erika is my mom, so of course this story is very compelling to me personally because it’s part of my family history.  Erika so beautifully captures the magic of childhood during a difficult but simpler time – and reminds all of us to appreciate what we have now.

The winner can enjoy this fun holiday gift set: The bag and the signed novel Year of the Angels, or give it to someone special.

Holiday giveaway: Year of the Angels novel and gift bag

The bag will be monogrammed with the letter that the winner designates.

In addition, one runner-up will receive a signed copy of Erika’s most recent novel, Cries from the Fifth Floor.  It is a paranormal thriller – a suspenseful joy ride through the best and worst of New York City. The Big Apple is still a place where dreams come true for one small town girl – if she listens to the voices in her head!

Crie from the Fifth Floor

This novel is so much fun because the main character is a strong woman whose horizons expand as the story progresses.

Here is how to enter the giveaway:

Rules for the Giveaway:

  1. Follow me on my new Instagram page     Instagram   – and/or follow @mysweetcottage.com on Pinterest.
  2. After you follow My Sweet Cottage on social media, leave a comment on this blog post so I can enter you in the drawing.  Let me know if you want me to follow you back.
  3. Don’t worry.  I won’t be selling your name to anyone.  This isn’t that kind of giveaway.
  4. The winner and runner-up will be chosen at random.  Open to U.S. residents only – with my sincere apologies to my followers elsewhere.
  5. Enter before noon PST on Tuesday, December 1, 2015.  Winner and runner-up will be announced on this post on Wednesday, December 2.

NOTE: THIS GIVEAWAY HAS CLOSED

  • Winner:  Jann Olson
  • Runner Up:  Jane Milliken

The Gift Bag Tutorial

Want to make your own muslin gift bag?  Here is a quick how to:

Materials:

  • Heavier muslin fabric, washed, dried, and lightly ironed (leave a few creases for character), cut into 10″X12″ pieces
  • Ruffle yarn –  I used Coats Red Heart Boutique Sashay Boho Tambourine
  • Heavy garden twine
  • An alphabet stencil
  • Craft paint

You will also need a sewing machine, scissors, a tape measure and a small stencil paintbrush.

Materials for muslin gift bag DIY

The ruffle yarn, which I love and also used for this holiday gift wrap project, looks like lace when pulled apart – “unruffled,” if you will. It has a light dusting of tiny sequins on the bottom band, a very festive and elegant touch.

Ruffle yarn when unruffled and sewn onto the muslin bag.
Ruffle yarn when unruffled and sewn onto the muslin bag.

It is a bit of a challenge to keep it unruffled while sewing, but that is  the most difficult part of the project.  I just used a lot of pins.

The ruffle yarn is fun because of the color variations.  Each bag winds up being unique.

Finished muslin gift bags - monpgrammed

The bag is very simple to sew.  I can best show you how I did it with photos.  Just hover over any photo for instructions.

I used a combination of Dazzling Metallics Venetian Gold and Americana Light Avocado paint to get the tarnished gold look I wanted for the letters.

Monogrammed muslin drawstring gift bags

These little guys are easy to make.


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