Second Tuesday Art Walk #5

Sweet and Simple Holiday Gift Wrap Ideas

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.

Photo courtesy of Growing Spaces

Ruffle Yarn Ribbon

A few years ago, I used ruffle yarn as ribbon – with fun results.

Easy holiday gift wrap using ruffle yarn

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.

Photo courtesy of the.beauty.dojo

Paper Doilies

Last year I became obsessed with old-fashioned paper doilies.

Easy holiday gift wrap using doilies

I mostly used them with plain craft paper, but sometimes with fancier paper.  They were easy to attach using a glue stick.

Holiday wrap using paper doilies

 

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.

Photo courtesy of Designer Trapped in a Lawyer’s Body

DIY Paper Tassels

Tassels are hot this year.  And Debra at Vintage Paper Parade shares an easy way to make them.

Photo courtesy of Vintage Paper Parade

Fabric Strips

One year I used torn strips of muslin fabric, left over from a sewing project, instead of ribbons and bows.  The result was a soft, old-world look.

Easy holiday gift wrap using torn fabric

 

Happy Holidays Dear Friends!

I’m putting this blog down for her long winter’s nap, but we will pick things up again in January.  Until then, I wish you and yours every happiness that the holidays bring.

Happy Holidays!

 

 

Posts on this website are for entertainment only.

 

Holiday Reading


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Floral Design
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Frosted Alliums for Holiday Decor

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.

The Inspiration

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.

The Experiment

Disclosure:  Affiliate links are used below.

 

I used matte white spray paint that I had on hand.  I wanted the seed heads to look frosted, not flocked, so I used the paint sparingly.

While the paint was still wet, I dusted each seed head with Buffalo Snow Flakes iridescent sprinkles (which I also had on hand) for a subtle sparkle.  Then I carefully shook off the excess.

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.

Frozen Forest

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.

 

Nutcracker’s Adventure

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.

Holiday Drama

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.

Want to make your own?  Check out the DIY putz house kits and other putz on Etsy.

AgedWithThyme’s tiny putz saltbox house kit is especially cute.  I love that colonial look.


Holiday Reading

Want to see more? Browse my photo gallery or check out these categories:

Our Kitchen Remodel Series
Our Master Bath Remodel Series
Entertaining
My Shop
Dan’s Workshop
Decorating and Holidays
Our Little Sunglo Greenhouse
Floral Design
Garden Design
The June Bug Diaries
Our Laundry Room Remodel

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Second Tuesday Art Walk #4

Small Handmade Gift Ideas

Hostess gifts, stocking stuffers, gifts for co-workers, hair stylists, and lunch buddies:  I always need small gift ideas around the holidays.

But I love the small gifts.  They are an opportunity to give something fun – something unique and handmade.

So in this Art Walk, we’ll be looking at a few DIY and artisan-made gifts.

Easy-To-Make DIY Gifts

For most people, this time of year is busy – too busy for elaborate DIY projects.  So I’m showing you a couple of my own simple projects and a couple of projects that I would love to try.

Fir Scented Sachet Ornaments

Last summer on our trip to Maine, I bought a bag of Balsam fir needles.  It smelled so wonderful – like a high-mountain hike.

Recently I made sachet ornaments using the fir needles as the filler.

Fir sachet ornaments: DIY gift idea

These ornaments are nice to hang on artificial trees to give them that “real tree” scent.

Fir sachet ornaments: DIY gift idea

And they can be bundled into gift packs.

Fir sachet ornaments: DIY gift idea

After Christmas, they can be tossed into closets, drawers, or chests to keep those smelling nice.

You can find the tutorial for making these at the end of this post.

Cute, Tiny Refrigerator Magnets

I’m in love with these adorable little magnets that Stephanie made.

Photo courtesy of Ingenious Inkling

Who wouldn’t want one (or several) of these?

This craft looks so fun and easy.  For the tutorial, click here.

Batik Dinner Napkins

Last year at a fabric store on Black Friday, I found cotton batik fabric quarters (aka “fat quarters”) for 75 cents each.

They measured 18 X 21 inches and the fabric was double sided – perfect for dinner napkins.

I bought an assortment and made a set of 8 eclectic dinner napkins.

And all I had to do was double-fold hem the edges (for how to sew a double-fold hem, see this post).

DIY Batik Dinner Napkins
Batik dinner napkins: A fun DIY gift.

What could be easier?  And the fabric was made in India, machine washable.

Rope Trivet

Jess made this elegant trivet from a clothesline rope.  The texture looks so luxurious.  Now I want to learn to crochet.

Photo courtesy of Make & Do Crew

For the tutorial, click here.

 

Artisan-Made Gifts

These handmade creations are on my list of small gift ideas for this year – although I worry that if I buy them I will want to keep them.

Disclosure:  Affiliate Links are used below.

Geometric Ornament

Elegant and contemporary, this handmade ornament by Waen would make an impressive hostess gift.

All Natural Spa Gift Set

I can think of a few people on my gift list who deserve a little pampering.  And I can feel good about giving this all natural beauty set by LittleFlowerSoapCo  because these products don’t contain palm oil.

But what I really love is that this set can be customized with several luxurious choices for the soap and the lip balm.

*If allergies or sensitivities are a concern, ask for and check the list of ingredients before purchasing.

Personalized Passport Cover

Yes, we have one in our family:  That person afflicted with wanderlust.  A personalized, embossed leather passport cover by ShopAlwaysRooney would be just the ticket for our world traveler.

Gourmet Sea Salts

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.

I wish I’d had this sign by BelvedereCollections then, since it would have answered the question that my friends and family were too polite to ask.

By the Way

Oh by the way, if you enjoy cheerful, fragrant paperwhites blooming indoors during the holidays, now is the time to start them from bulbs.

Check out my posts Growing Paperwhites for a Beautiful Holiday Centerpiece for the how-to and Start Paperwhites Now For the Holidays  for more paperwhite inspiration – and ideas for giving them as gifts.

Posts on this website are for entertainment only.


Sachet Ornament Tutorial

It was so easy to make these sachets.

Tools and materials:

  • Fabric cut into 4.5 inch squares (this is a great way to use up leftover fabric scraps)
  • Fabric Scissors
  • Pinking shears
  • Narrow fabric ribbon cut in 8-inch lengths
  • A bag of Balsam fir needles
  • A sewing machine
  • A tablespoon

How to Make:

  1. Good sides facing out, I sewed two fabric squares together on three sides, leaving 3/8″ seams.  I looped the ribbon and incorporated it into my stitching in the upper right-hand corner.
  2. So now I had a little fabric bag with a ribbon loop in one corner.  I scooped about three tablespoons of fir needles into the bag.
  3. Then I sewed up the top of the bag, again leaving a 3/8″ seam.
  4. Then I finished each edge with pinking shears.
Step 1 - sew two fabric squares together on three sides
Step 1
Step two: Fill the fabric pouch with fir needles
Step 2
Step three: sew the fourth seam
Step 3
Step 4: trim the edges using pinking shears
Step 4
Finished sachet
Voilà!



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Decorating and Holidays
Our Little Sunglo Greenhouse
Floral Design
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A Blue and White Thanksgiving

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 Inspiration

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.

Denim fabric, muslin fabric, and accent ribbon.

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.

Blue and white Thanksgiving table decor

A classic outfit deserves minimal but well-chosen accessories:

Gold painted leaves.

A DIY gold painted leaf

Blue and white serving pieces.

Blue and white serving pieces

Crystal and understated floral arrangements.

Blue and white Thanksgiving table decor

Blue and white Thanksgiving table decor

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.

Earth-toned Thanksgiving table decor

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!

Post on this website are for entertainment only.


Want to see more? Browse my photo gallery or check out these categories:

Our Kitchen Remodel Series
Our Master Bath Remodel Series
Entertaining
My Shop
Dan’s Workshop
Decorating and Holidays
Our Little Sunglo Greenhouse
Floral Design
Garden Design
The June Bug Diaries
Our Laundry Room Remodel

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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

 

BurkeDecor.com

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.

Posts on this website are for entertainment only.


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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).

BurkeDecor.com

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.

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.

 


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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


Disclosure:  Affiliate links are used in this post.

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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