Welcome to the December edition of Second Tuesday Art Walk. I hope you’re enjoying this holiday season.
About a week ago, I had my first gift exchange with a small group of friends. I’d shopped early for their gifts, knowing that I would have tons of time to wrap them. Unlike previous years, this time I would make sure that each friend received an amazing, festively wrapped package – a package so stunning that she would not even want to unwrap it.
At least that was the plan.
Of course that didn’t happen because I waited until about 20 minutes before I had to leave the house to start wrapping. Having tons of time just meant I could procrastinate longer.
So for me, simple gift wrap ideas are always the best. But simple can be beautiful. Today I’m sharing a few fun and surprisingly easy gift wrap ideas.
Car and Tree Cuteness
Heather at Growing Spaces shows us how to make a car and tree package sure to bring out the kid in all of us.
Ruffle Yarn Ribbon
A few years ago, I used ruffle yarn as ribbon – with fun results.
Easy to find at craft stores, ruffle yarn is nice to work with because it can be pulled apart for a lace-like look, and it usually contains tiny sequins for a subtle holiday glimmer.
DIY Scandinavian-Inspired Gift Wrap
White wrapping paper and a sharpie – what could be easier? Andrea at the.beauty.dojo shows us how easy it is to get that clean, minimalist Scandinavian look. And she also offers us free printable gift tags to complete the look.
Last year I became obsessed with old-fashioned paper doilies.
I mostly used them with plain craft paper, but sometimes with fancier paper. They were easy to attach using a glue stick.
And I found they were more interesting offset on the package rather than centered.
DIY Gift Bag From Wrapping Paper
Some gifts just don’t fit in a box. And I don’t usually realize that until the last minute. Luckily Tasha at Designer Trapped in a Lawyer’s Body has a simple tutorial for creating a gift bag from wrapping paper.
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you might remember that in September I urged you to save any allium seed heads that might be growing in your garden. And now I’m going to show you why.
Last holiday season, my talented friend Loralee gave me this adorable gift, which she made herself using an allium seed head.
It got me thinking about all the ways we can use allium seed heads in holiday decor. So I’ve been doing a little experimenting.
Finding Seed Heads
Allium plants are grown from bulbs. In my area, they bloom spring to summer, and then the flowers turn into seed heads that are highly ornamental. They come in many sizes, heights, and shapes. Some are huge, some are tiny.
I found only one seed head in my own garden, but it was pretty spectacular.
And in early fall, a neighbor offered me all of her allium seed heads. She had a nice variety.
Some still had seeds so I left those outside for the birds until the weather turned.
And I let them all dry indoors completely before I began using them.
Even though I shook off the excess, little bits of the Buffalo Snow Flakes continued to shed. So in this case I probably would have been better off with a spray-on sparkle.
Working with the alliums took a little patience because some of them were still shedding seeds.
And the seed heads got tangled together very easily. They were brittle and fragile, and I had to be careful not to damage them.
Still I am happy with the results. Here is what I’ve done with them so far.
I like to keep things simple. By securing allium stems of varying heights to spike frogs,
I made a frozen forest to go behind the vintage putz church that once belonged to my husband’s parents.
The smallest allium seed head is secured to a tiny spike frog. It towers over a three-inch German nutcracker as he wanders through a miniature forest.
The seed heads were on long stems. Some of them were almost as tall as me. I had fantasies of making a full-sized allium forest with them. But getting them to stand securely on such tall stems would have taken some doing.
Still I had one dramatically curving stem that was almost three feet tall, and I wanted to do something special with it. I was able to secure it, and a few other stems of varying heights, by inserting stem wire into the bottom of the stems and leaving a couple of inches of floral wire out of the stem. I used wire cutters to cut the stem wire to size where needed.
Then I secured them to a piece of styrofoam set in a shallow clay bowl.
I covered the styrofoam with preserved moss and added a some small vintage ornaments. I chose one good example of each type of seed head to make this crazy thing.
What Mom Did
Of course I frosted way too many seed heads so I gave some to Mom. Her first career was in floral design, so I was curious to see how she would use them.
She mixed them with materials she had on hand to make this lovely piece for her entryway.
Mom is amazing with all things floral. She could have made five of these in her sleep in the time it took me to put together my “Holiday Drama” creation.
Posts on this website are for entertainment only and are not tutorials.
About Putz Houses and Churches
Putz means different things to different people, but really any piece of a holiday-themed miniature village can be considered putz.
This set of gourmet sea salts by purposedesign is nice for any foodie, but the presentation is handsome enough for the hard-to-shop-for men on my list – at least those who like to cook or grill.*
*If allergies or dietary restrictions are a concern, ask for and check the list of ingredients before purchasing.
Indoor Herb Garden Kit
Plants and seedlings – or even the promise of them coming soon – can brighten drab winter days. This little seed kit by Mountainlilyfarm comes in a cute wooden berry basket, and the seeds are grown in the Ozark Mountains.
For the Crazy Cat Person
Until a few years ago, that crazy cat person would have been me. Priscilla is now our only cat. But for many years we had three cats – plus the occasional foster.
For the past several years, my husband Chris and I hosted Thanksgiving in our tiny dining room. We learned that the key is to be prepared. We planned ahead, and we divided tasks. Chris was a natural in the kitchen, and I clumsily muddled through as his sous chef.
But my favorite part of preparing was planning the table decor. So today I’m sharing my blue and white table from last year’s Thanksgiving dinner.
Denim for a Thanksgiving tablecloth? Why not. Last year, I became obsessed with this denim fabric. The pattern reminded me of a block print fabric from India.
I got some white muslin to make napkins and some white and blue ribbon to continue the theme.
We all know that denim jeans can go anywhere. It’s all how you put the look together. And the same is true for a denim tablecloth. I wanted a look for my table that was the equivalent of wearing jeans with heels and a tailored white blouse – elegant and classic.
A classic outfit deserves minimal but well-chosen accessories:
Gold painted leaves.
Blue and white serving pieces.
Crystal and understated floral arrangements.
Thanksgiving table decor can be very elaborate – but that never works for my tiny table. It just means moving more things off the table to make way for the feast.
Small Table Solutions For Holiday Dinners
Last year, I published this post that shared some tricks and tips for hosting holiday dinners on a small table. That post also shared a few of my previous Thanksgiving table looks.
This year we will be dining in style in this gorgeous dining room. Wherever your Thanksgiving takes you, I hope you have a wonderful one!
It’s finally time! Today I’m taking you on a tour of our completed laundry room remodel.
If you’re a regular visitor (hi, Mom), you know that this remodel has stretched on for months, and I’ve been writing posts as the project progressed. If you’d like to get caught up on past posts about the remodel (which was done in conjunction with our mudroom refresh), here is the list:
And at the end of this post I’ve listed sources for, and information about, some of the products that we used in this remodel.
The laundry room measures only 7′ X 7′, so our goal was to make the best use of the space without overloading the room. The house was built in 1927, so I wanted the laundry room to be a mix of old world charm and modern efficiency.
Although my husband Chris and I came up with a detailed plan for the room, Chris did most of the actual work. My brother Dan gave us the initial push we needed by brainstorming with us about how to bring the plan to reality. Dan also helped to reroute and replace the plumbing – and later in this post you will see the beautiful built-in that he made for the room.
Now we’re inside, and this is what the north wall used to look like.
I liked having a utility sink. But there was very little surface space for folding clothes, and ironing in here was too much of a hassle because the only electrical outlet was up on the wall behind the appliances. As for storage, there was a little recessed wall cabinet, but it was very difficult to access. Things stored in there were quickly forgotten.
Here is how it looks now.
I think the space actually looks bigger now.
The appliances are 36″ tall, so the new sink base cabinet, which matches our kitchen cabinets, had to be customized to be taller than an ordinary base cabinet.
The quartz countertop had to be 38″ high – but that’s only about two inches higher than your typical kitchen countertop.
And it’s 33″ deep, which is almost 10″ deeper than a kitchen countertop. So there is lots of space for folding clothes and doing other projects.
Of course, with the deeper countertop, the upper shelves are not easy for me to reach without a ladder or stool. Our initial plan called for cabinets instead of shelves, but cabinets would have been just as difficult to access. And any shelf or cabinet that we hung near the window could only be 8 inches deep or it would obstruct the window.
So the shelves hold things that we don’t need often – like shoe care supplies.
A basket of rags sits on a lower shelf within reach.
And the shelves are a fun way to display a few vintage items.
And no matter what time it is anywhere else, it’s always 2:00 in our laundry room.
Chris remembers this mid century clock from very early in his childhood. Recently he brought it upstairs from the basement to repair it, and I stashed it in the laundry room to get it out of the way. And here it stayed – the perfect round object to go in the middle of all the straight lines on the north wall.
Chris has a plan to get it running again, but either way I love the way it looks in this room.
I thought about finding some way to conceal the valve box, but I turn the valves on and off every time I do laundry. So it’s fine.
We chose a stainless deep sink to use with a Delta faucet.
The East Wall
In the northeast corner, we hung hooks for a couple of vintage coat hangers – one that we found inside the kitchen wall during our kitchen remodel (and that we later realized the original home owners must have brought with them from England). The other belonged to my German grandfather.
This is what the east wall used to look like.
The little area behind the door, only 14 inches deep, was a mess.
And this is how it looks now.
I came up with the idea of an L-shaped shelf above a tool rack. Chris used a couple of leftover shelves and made it happen.
The portable space heater from the before photo isn’t needed anymore because Chris added ducting and a heat vent to the room.
And it all tucks neatly behind the door.
Originally I wanted a built-in ironing board, but then I realized that I was too in love with the new wall paneling. I didn’t want a built-in ironing board to detract from the look. So a tabletop ironing board hangs behind the door, and I just take it to the counter to use it. This little downgrade saved us a few hundred dollars, and it’s probably just as easy to use as a built-in.
The South Wall
I didn’t get a before photo of the south wall, but this is how it looks now. Not the best photo, but I had to climb up on the countertop to get it.
The Southwest Corner and the West Wall
The southwest corner was a cluttery embarrassment. Only close family members were allowed to see this.
(By the way, Chris is proud of me for getting both toilet plungers into the before photo. Yeah, I really got my point across with this shot!)
There was a lot stored here. I found new homes for the things that didn’t really belong in the laundry room. And there would be some storage in the new sink base cabinet.
Still I knew we’d need more storage, and I wanted it to be easy to reach. A rectangular- or square- shaped cabinet, placed in this corner, would eat up too much floor space – and ruin the flow. We realized a corner cabinet would be perfect here.
Dan has built many cabinets for himself, so he offered to build us a corner cabinet – one that would match the sink base cabinet.
The little top drawer is very convenient, and there is a surprising amount of storage here. It works nicely in this corner, with the countertop fitting just below the window frame.
I used a portable wooden drying rack for years. It would collapse at unexpected times, and it was a pain to store. I find myself using this wall-mounted rack all the time.
So this was the west wall before.
And this is the west wall now.
I went with inexpensive matchstick roller blinds for now, and I’m enjoying them. But I may get something else for the windows in the future since these aren’t very easy to roll up and down.
The washer door clears the corner cabinet – barely.
Even air space counts in a room this small. Between the two windows, we installed a stainless retractable clothesline.
It stretches across the room, giving me seven feet of space to hang laundry.
It’s high enough not to strangle us when we walk in, yet low enough for me to use easily. I love it since I have so many items that I would prefer to air dry.
The Light Fixture
With the windows, this room gets tons of natural light. We did hang a vintage light that we had in storage.
I guess I lied when I said this project was done. This room still needs a small towel bar. But we are very happy with the way it turned out. It’s functional, it works hard for such a small room, yet it’s has a cheerful, airy vibe. I love spending time in here – even if I am just folding clothes.
I hope you enjoyed the tour. In case you’re interested, I’ve listed a few things below that are either the same as or similar to products we used in this remodel.
Posts on this website are for entertainment only and are not tutorials.
These Radiance Fruitwood Imperial Matchstick Bamboo Shades are very similar to the ones we installed in the laundry room. But as I mentioned above, ours are a little difficult to roll up and down. Their quality matches their modest price. Still I love the way they look. They do let a lot of light in, which is what I wanted for the laundry room. But of course that doesn’t work for every situation.
My niece is learning to talk. Her vocabulary is constantly expanding, but at the moment she is an expert at getting her point across with just a word or two.
For example, when I saw her the other day she cautioned me, in her sweet little voice, “Careful. Heavy.” I knew immediately that she was talking about fall decor.
She was trying to remind me that many things we use in fall decor can look heavy to the eye. Pumpkins, sunflowers, hay bales, mums, hydrangeas: They can all look bulky. So I needed to be careful or I could cross that fine line between festive and foolish.
Then she gave me a look that said “And get a move on, Auntie, it’s already October!”
Our little chat helped me choose this month’s theme:
Elegant Fall Decor
This year, I’m in the mood for something fun yet elegant. This is what I found for inspiration.
Corn Stalk Wreath
Here corn stalks have been deconstructed and made into a whimsical wreath that would look good on any door.
French Country Dining Room
Oui merci. White pumpkins, candles, and hydrangeas give a relaxed, rustic vibe to this French-inspired dining room. The simple linen tablecloth keeps the look balanced.
If the pumpkins below had been placed on a heavier table, the look might be clunky. But by using a skinny metal table that blends with the wall behind it, we have a vignette that is airy yet still sets a fall mood.
I found two gorgeous porches that offer endless inspiration. I’m sharing one photo of each, but I encourage you to click through the links to see so much more.
White mums? What a great idea. Symmetry and a muted color palette keep this entrance tasteful.
Rustic Lighting and Natural Materials
With the days getting shorter, its a fun idea to add a little extra lighting to a covered porch. Swap the white pumpkins for other seasonal ornaments and this look will work for months.
This gorgeous centerpiece uses grasses, fall wildflowers, and long-lasting greens.
I love how the grasses capture the natural light and add a soft texture to the arrangement.
It’s fun to combine tried-and-true pieces of fall decor with new items – or to put a new spin on the tried and true.
Faux Olive Branches
Kathy at A Delightsome Life has two tutorials for making these beautiful faux olive branches. They are an airy complement to heavier fall decor.
Seems I always have to go off in a different direction. White pumpkins have been so popular, but last year I painted mini-pumpkins for a warm, metallic look that would last through Thanksgiving. These were fun to scatter around my living room and use in table decor.
And I found inspiration from my most reliable source: Mom. Her crocosmia plants had multiplied over the past summer so she had to remove some.
Crocosmia seed heads are a nice accent in floral arrangements. She offered me a handful of the plants she’d pulled out of the ground so I could use the seed heads. The bulbs were still attached.
The bulbs and roots looked so interesting that I decided to use the whole plant as decor.
It was simple: I filled a shallow clay pot with floral foam and then covered the foam with forest moss. I inserted a small bamboo garden stake in the middle and then secured the crocosmia stalks to it with garden twine.
I love the look of the bulbs and winding roots.
I used some seed heads elsewhere.
Featured Etsy Artist
Fabric pumpkins are everywhere this year. Some are better than others.
You wouldn’t expect a piece of fitness equipment to come with an unhealthy odor but, a while back, I bought a new yoga mat that had such a strong chemical smell that I had to return it.
So when RugPadUSA.com asked me to review one of their eco-friendly rug pads, I thought it would be an interesting experiment.
Of course, to keep my review as accurate and impartial as possible, it was essential to shop for a new area rug to go with the new rug pad. A sacrifice, I know, but one that I was willing to make for the sake of journalism.
The rug and pad would be going in the room where we do our morning yoga stretches. Because of the yoga, Will at RugPadUSA.com suggested I try the Superior Lock 1/4″ rug pad. It has a natural rubber backing to keep the rug in place and a recycled felt core for comfort.
So let’s talk a little about my new rug and rug pad.
I only buy inexpensive rugs because my cat, Priscilla, won’t let me have anything nice. If you have a pet, I’m sure you can relate.
So I fell in love with a rug that I found at Ross. At $49 for a 5 X 7 rug, it was a bargain.
Years ago, when I was on a budget and buying wall-to-wall carpeting for a basement, someone told me that it was okay for me to buy inexpensive carpeting as long as I upgraded the pad – because an upgraded pad would help the carpet wear better.
So I am going on the assumption that the same would apply to an area rug and a rug pad.
The Rug Pad
The Superior Lock 1/4″ rug pad arrived quickly and with minimal packaging. And no chemical odor. In fact, no smell at all that I could detect.
Rug pads are really nothing to look at, but I think this one, with its felt core, has the look of quality.
So far, my experience with the rug pad has been positive.
No chemical smell. And actually I learned that many rug pads sold in the big-box stores are made with PVC or plastic and could contain toxins. The materials and chemicals in these rug pads could also harm floors and rugs. Which leads me to:
My rug pad is made of natural rubber and recycled felt. So it should not harm the floor, the rug, Priscilla, or her humans.
The pad is the exact dimension I need for the rug. RugPadUSA.com custom cuts the pads at no additional cost.
When I do yoga stretches on the rug, the pad keeps it securely in place on the hardwood floors.
I feel that the thickness of the pad makes my bargain rug look and feel luxurious.
The rug pad has a 20-year warranty.
And it was made in the U.S.A.
The inevitable has happened. The rug and pad have attracted the riff raff.
Actually, I can’t think of any disadvantage to this rug pad. In my opinion, and for my needs, it’s a keeper.
A warm thank you to RugPadUSA.com for sponsoring this post. All opinions expressed are my own.
Note: I’m still redecorating My Sweet Cottage, so please pardon the dust!
Recently, we decided to invite a few friends over for dinner. We wanted to have one last party on our back patio before the weather changed.
But we didn’t stop to think about how early the sun goes down this late in summer. The patio sits in the far corner of the garden, and there is no lighting there. So once it got dark, candles alone would not be enough. We had to set something up – quickly.
If done right, outdoor lighting can be gorgeous. I was inspired by the magical, romantic lighting at the garden concert we attended earlier in the summer.
But of course we didn’t have time for anything that elaborate. At this point, all I could hope for was lighting that was adequate but not glaring.
I had a strand of Edison-style filament bulbs that I use during the holidays. We attached one end of the strand to a long bamboo pole. The pole was then anchored to a tree.
We ran the lights above the table. On the other end, we attached the strand to a tree branch because that was our only option.
It wasn’t elegant, but it would get us through the night.
Once the sun goes down, so does the temperature. So we made sure we had plenty of fuel for our heat lamp.
I momentarily considered setting out some blankets in case anyone got cold, but with the heat lamp it really wasn’t necessary.
The citronella centerpiece took me about 10 minutes to put together. I set a tall glass candle holder in the center of a small clay saucer, filled the saucer with water, and added some leafy twigs from the garden.
It was compact enough for the small round table. Flowers would have attracted bees, which is why I used only the fresh twigs to add some interest.
No matter how hard I try, by late summer my garden looks like an overgrown monster. I used to let this keep me from entertaining, but I’ve come to realize that no one really minds the monster but me.
Still it’s nice to create a diversion. Chris set up his mid-century bar across from the patio. This was where the party would start.
I tossed a few blossoms into the bird bath,
Tucked a few citronella candles around the patio,
And we set up our iPod player for music.
As neglected as it was, the patio still had some charm.
Goodbye to Summer
Everything worked out.
We were warm, the bugs stayed away, and we could see each other.
It’s raining today. We really needed the rain, and I hear it’s going to stick around for a while.
But at least we enjoyed the last warm day of summer.
Posts on this website are for entertainment only and are not tutorials.
We used the Vickerman lights, which I love. However the bulbs are glass, not plastic, and the filaments are delicate. The globe string lights are perhaps sturdier, although I haven’t tried them. The heat lamp is very similar to ours.
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 . . .
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.
Sloped ceilings can add so much character to a room. But they can also be challenging to work with.
Tricia really made the most of her little A-shaped dormer space with this DIY built-in bed. I love everything about this. Be sure to check out her before photos!
Mandi calls her trailer, The Nugget, “the cutest vintage trailer on the internet.” And I can’t argue with that.
Check out The Nugget’s Reveal and you’ll fall in love too. The interior photos start about halfway through the post, and there are a lot of charming details to see here. My favorite little detail is the kitchen faucet.
Yes, beauty in the form of luxury furniture and accessories!
One King’s Lane has reached out to let me know about their Labor Day sale from 8/31/17 – 9/5/17, when they are offering a site-wide discount of 20%! And on Monday only, 9/4, they are offering free shipping in addition to the sale. Just use the code “OKLSHIPSEPT”. Prices on all eligible items will be as marked, and some exclusions apply.
Enjoy the Summer!
Now I’m off to take a late-summer blogging break, but let’s meet back here on the second Tuesday in September. Thanks so much for visiting today, and enjoy your summer!