The Rebel Tree

Most years, I thoroughly embrace the holiday season.  But, every now and then, I hit a wall.  Last year, it happened around mid-December.  The holiday decor that I’d been so excited to bring out after Thanksgiving suddenly seemed like just more clutter.  And it all needed dusting.  

This season, I hit the wall even earlier.  Before Thanksgiving, thanks to social media, I’d already seen too much too soon: Too many heavily flocked trees groaning under the weight of too many glitzy baubels. 

And all I could think was “This again already?”

So this year, I decided to rebel against holiday glitz – not the holidays, just the glitz. 

My husband, Chris, always looks forward to having a tree, so I knew we had to have one.  But it would be scaled back, simplified, and, well, un-glitzy. 

And it would be given room to breathe.

 

Finding The Right Tree

I wanted a pre-lit artificial tree, but with a specific look:  It had to be very narrow – with lots of space between the branches, and a thick wooden trunk.

I’d seen that kind of tree around.  They are sometimes called alpine trees, and they look similar to these trees. 

I found a very inexpensive five-foot alpine tree at a local craft store.  The tree was not great quality, but I was not deterred.

I brought it home, assembled it in minutes, and fluffed the branches. 

Chris looked a little disappointed. But I had a plan.

Making an Artificial Tree Look Natural

The tree was already mounted on a metal base, and there were 18 inches between the base and the first branch.  So I simply plopped it into a 10-inch tall (and 15-inch wide) peck basket. 

Artificial tree base in a peck basket.

I had some plastic bags on hand that I’d been collecting to send out with our recycling. So I tucked them around the tree trunk and filled the basket with them.  This plastic bag “stuffing” would support the sheet moss that I would be placing on top.

I cut the sheet moss to size and placed it on top of the plastic bags, tucking it into the basket around the edges.  (Sheet moss has really been my friend lately.  I also used it for this fall vignette and in a setting I created for this holiday house.)

How to make an artificial tree look natural
Sheet moss placed at the base of the tree.

I used Buffalo Snow to conceal the cut edges of the sheet moss and give the tree base a wintry look.

How to make an artificial tree look natural.

Now it looked more like a live tree planted in a basket.  Chris was starting to feel better about this whole thing.

Except for the lights, there could be nothing sparkly or shiny on this tree.  So I added just a few frosted pinecones and small white bells that I already had on hand. 

And I used these cute pinecone sprigs from last year’s holiday chandelier decor.

holiday pinecones on a 1920s era chandelier.

 

I tried adding some of my Christmas ornaments – the ones that were made of natural materials or were otherwise non-glitzy.  But even that was going too far.

I also thought about adding berries, but in the end I decided to ban red from the tree altogether.  The tree is a quiet, soothing combination of green, white, and brown.

How to make an artificial tree look natural.

And I chose the peck basket because it also looks natural and has no sheen.

How to make an artificial tree look natural.

 

If I use this tree again next year, I might go with red – maybe plaid garlands or bows.   But who knows, by then I might be in the mood for glitz again – or ready to go back to our old, nicer-quality tree.

I think the mistake I’ve been making all along is that I tend to get sentimental about the ornaments that I’ve collected, and I feel obligated to use all of them every year.   

It was just another case of my stuff controlling me instead of the other way around.  

But this year is different.  I am getting more enjoyment from the few things that I have chosen to display. 

Sometimes less is more.

Vintage putz church

Happy Holidays!

This is my last post before I tuck this blog in, once again, for its long winter’s nap.  Thanks for taking the time to read my blog, and for your input and encouraging words. 

I’ll be back in January.  Until then, may all of your holiday dreams come true! 

Happy holidays

 

Posts on this website are for entertainment only and are not tutorials.

Holiday Reading

The novel Year of the Angels begins and ends with an Old-World Christmas.  But it’s what happens between those two Christmases that makes this book so fascinating.

Year of the Angels

 

Lillipost

Lillypost is the #1 way for parents to discover new books that their little ones will love every month, for up to 50% off of regular retail prices.

 

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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
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Nature-Inspired Gift Wrap – And Nature-Inspired Gifts

The short days and weak light of winter always have me feeling like I’m missing out on the beauty of nature.  So I look for small ways to bring nature indoors. 

Last year, I frosted alliums for holiday decor. 

Frosted alliums

And every year, I start paperwhite bulbs indoors for the holidays. 

Starting paperwhites indoors

For my annual DIY holiday wreath, I usually forage my neighborhood for the materials.

A wreath made of found materials.

When it comes to holiday decor, give me nature over man-made glitz.

Shopping My Own Garden

So last year, I shopped my own garden for natural materials to make “bows” and decorations to use with my holiday gift wrap.  These little package adornments were fun to make, unique, and nature friendly.  And they cost me almost nothing. 

And today, I’m sharing my two favorites.

A Boxwood Mini-Wreath

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I cut short twigs from our boxwood hedge for this buttoned-up little wreath that measured just 5 1/2 inches in diameter.

 

A boxwood mini-wreath

To make it, I bent 19-gauge steel wire into a 3 1/2-inch diameter circle.  Then I used brass-colored beading wire to wrap two-inch lengths of boxwood to the wire circle.  Of course, since I was working with wire, I wore gloves.

I had to work with it for a while to get it right.  I tucked in additional boxwood sprigs where it still looked thin.

Then I tied it up with a bow made of narrow cloth ribbon.

Simple, and it looked so nice on the package.  But it could also be used as an ornament.

A holiday package with a boxwood mini wreath

Fragrance “Bow”

For a bow that smelled fresh and wonderful, I used rosemary sprigs and  bay leaves from the garden and then added a couple of sticks of cinnamon.  

I tied them into an attractive bundle and simply taped the bundle to the package.

A natural fragrance "box" for a holiday package.

 

Since the the fragrance bow consisted of herbs and cinnamon, it was a nice garnish for a kitchen-themed gift.

Holiday packages

These gift wrap decorations were eco-friendly because, once the ribbons and wires were removed, they could be composted.  Or, in the case of the bay leaves, they could be used to lend flavor to a roast or a stew.  

Nature-Inspired Gifts

So if I can make nature-inspired bows, why not wrap up a few nature-inspired gifts?

And especially since, often times, natural or eco-friendly gifts are made by small companies of artisans.  I’d be helping to support the “little guy,” and I always love that.

Here are just a few of the gift ideas that have me dreaming today.

Gifts for Warmth and Comfort

These comfy-looking Merino sheep woolen natural slippers by MerinosShop are treated with Lanolin.  I can’t vouch for the science, but Lanolin, a natural wax, is said to help relieve inflammation.

Merino Wool Slippers; photo courtesy of MerinosShop

 

I’m guessing even the woman who has everything might not have these natural yak woolen gloves by Handcombed.

Eco gloves; photo courtesy of Handcombed.

 

An Oatmeal and Honey Deluxe Bath Bomb by CopperCatApothecary would make a fun stocking stuffer for someone who needs a little pampering.

Oatmeal and honey bath bombs; photo courtesy of CopperCatApothecary.

Gifts for the Cook/Baker

It seems embossed rolling pins are everywhere this year.  This “Herbs” rolling pin by MoodForWood is designed and made in Poland using wood from environmentally responsible sources.  

“Herbs” embossed rolling pin; photo courtesy of MoodForWood.

 

These spools of biodegradable, eco-friendly cotton baker’s twine by DoltYarns would make wonderful – and affordable – hostess gifts or stocking stuffers for the cooks or crafters on my list.

Eco-friendly baker’s twine; photo courtesy of DoltYarns.

 

I love the look of BackBayPottery’s four-cup batter bowl, which is handmade in California.

Batter bowl; photo courtesy of BackBayPottery.

 

Gifts for the Bird Watcher

I’d never heard of bird nesters before, but they seem like a great way to attract birds to the garden by providing them with fibers to build their nests.  And some bird nesters are also very decorative – like this llama fiber bird nester by FoxHillLlamas.

Llama fiber bird nester; photo courtesy of FoxHillLamas.

 

This spiral birdseed wreath by PartyInTheBarn would make a cute stocking stuffer for the bird watcher on my list.

Spiral birdseed wreath; photo courtesy of PartyInTheBarn.

 

And in case you’re looking for a little more holiday gift wrap inspiration, check out these easy holiday gift wrap ideas.

Posts on this website are for entertainment only and are not tutorials or endorsements.

Holiday Reading

The novel Year of the Angels begins and ends with an Old-World Christmas.  But it’s what happens between those two Christmases that makes this book so fascinating.

Year of the Angels

 

 

Lillipost

Lillypost is the #1 way for parents to discover new books that their little ones will love every month, for up to 50% off of regular retail prices.

 

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
Exploring

 


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The Storybook House

Once Upon a Time, in a quiet seaside neighborhood, there was a little shop with the most charming window display in all the land:  Old, forgotten books had been magically transformed into a village of holiday houses.  The covers of the books were the roofs, and the pages were the exterior walls.  The theme was black and white  – printed words on white paper. 

I was enchanted with these holiday houses, and I vowed that one day I would try this project myself.

Fast forward three years.  And my little niece is shaping up to be a bit of a book worm.  So I used her as my excuse – I mean my reason – for making a colorful version of the holiday houses by using a children’s book.  

But, unlike the holiday houses, my “Storybook House” would have a door and a window to view interior scenes.

The Materials

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I headed to the thrift store to find a children’s book with charming illustrations of both indoor and outdoor scenes.

Now, this book was going to be cut up, pages torn out, completely reconfigured.  So I would not be looking for a rare classic.  I found this adorable Little Golden Book, which is still in print.  

The  book measured 6.5″ X 8″.  I would be using the book cover as the roof of the house.   I found a box that measured 7″ X 9″ X 5″.  It would work for the body of the house.

DIY Craft Project Using Books - materials
The book and the box.

Cutting and More Cutting

It was time to turn the box into a house.  For this, I mostly used a straight edge, scissors, and a utility knife.

The House Frame

I cut away at the top of the box until I had a “roofline” to support the book cover.  I folded the two bottom side flaps of the box outward to make the house more stable, and I securely taped the remaining two flaps to form the house’s subfloor.

DIY Craft Project Using Books - frame

Then, I used Mod Podge to adhere Kraft Paper to the box.  This was just to smooth out the surface. 

The Floor

I also cut an extra piece of cardboard to use as the “floor” of the house.  There was an inside lining page in the book which consisted of a charming white-on-pink pattern.  I cut that page out and used the Mod Podge to adhere it to the cardboard piece.  Now I had a floor with a cute “linoleum” pattern.  

DIY Craft Project Using Books - frame
The house frame and the “linoleum” floor.

Then I measured, drew out, and then cut out a rounded doorway and a split window.  After all, there would be a lot going on inside this house, and I wanted it to be visible.

Decorating the House

Finally, it was time for the fun part:  Deciding which scenes from the book I would use for my house.  

Of course, I looked for indoor scenes to paste inside, and outdoor scenes for the exterior.  Then it was just a matter of cutting them to the size I needed and pasting them to the house using the Mod Podge

It was a very forgiving project – if I messed something up, I just pasted something else over it.  After I had everything pasted on, I painted a layer of Mod Podge over the whole house to protect it and give it a satiny sheen.

A Pre-Roof Tour

Here is a little tour of the house before the roof was attached.  

We’ll start with the front entrance.  Here we can see through to the back wall, where a Dad mouse is reading to his children.

DIY Craft Project Using Books - house before roof

 

This is inside the front door.

DIY Craft Project Using Books - house before roof

 

Here we see a bit of the kitchen and, to the right, a chipmunk is peeking in a high window.

DIY Craft Project Using Books - house before roof

 

Back outside, we can see through a window that a tired Dad bear is giving his cub a piggyback ride, while a chipmunk looks out the window of an apple tree.

DIY Craft Project Using Books - house before roof

 

And here you can see the little split window that I cut out.

DIY Craft Project Using Books - house before roof

My work is far from perfect, but the roof pulled it all together.

The Roof

I cut the remaining pages out of the book with my utility knife.  I was careful not to cut into the spine of the book.  I wanted an intact book cover.

And yes, I did feel a little bad about cutting up this cute book.  I’m saving the remaining pages and scraps for possible future projects.

After I had the book cover separated from the pages, it was no longer a book cover.  It was a roof.  And I carefully glued it to the house using plain old Elmer’s Glue-All and making sure there were no runs.

All Done!

The house doesn’t really look Christmassy.  It could be used any time of the year.   But an early winter storm just blew in, and snow is creeping up on the Storybook House.

 

 

DIY Craft Project Using Books - The Storybook House

The interior needed a little light.  I would never use a real wax candle in this little house, for obvious reasons.  So, I added a battery-operated candle sitting on a thread-spool “table.”

DIY Craft Project Using Books - The Storybook House

 

DIY Craft Project Using Books - The Storybook House

Nervous Aunt Heidi’s Child Safety Warning: 

I’m sure you already know that the Storybook House is not a toy.  It’s a decoration.  But it never hurts to share one of the formulas that I live by: 

Babies/Small kids + just about anything = disaster.

And we can’t have that because the kids, the rabbits, the chipmunks, and the bears, well, 

They all lived happily ever after.

 

Posts on this website are for entertainment only and are not tutorials.

Holiday Reading

The novel Year of the Angels begins and ends with an Old-World Christmas.  But it’s what happens between those two Christmases that makes this book so fascinating.

Year of the Angels

 

 

Lillipost

Lillypost is the #1 way for parents to discover new books that their little ones will love every month, for up to 50% off of regular retail prices.

 

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
Exploring

 


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Fall Decor Inspiration

If you’re one of my regular readers, you may have noticed that I haven’t posted anything lately.  That is because Chris and I have been in Europe for the past three weeks!  For someone as fascinated with history, old-world charm, and architecture as I am, it was a dream trip.  Of course I took a million photos, so I will be sharing some of them with you soon.

We just returned, and I am way behind on my fall decor.  So in this edition, as I sit here wide awake at 4:30 a.m., I would like to share some fall decor ideas from seasons past.

Bulbs are Beautiful

Disclosure:  Affiliate links are used below.

Last fall, my Mom removed some of her crocosmia plants.  She offered me a handful of the dried plant stalks that she’d pulled out of the ground, bulb and all, so that I could use the seed heads in floral arrangements.

But the bulbs and roots looked so interesting that I decided to use the whole plant as decor.

Fall decor inspiration: Crocosmia

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 loved the look of the bulbs and winding roots.

Fall decor inspiration: Crocosmia

A Creepy Planter

A couple of years ago, I discovered a very interesting plant called a cushion bush (Calocephalus ‘Silver Stone’).  It became the centerpiece for my creepy little black-and-white Halloween planter.

For more on this planter, check out this post.

Gleaming Pumpkins

For a look that goes past Halloween and into Thanksgiving, I gave some mini pumpkins a gold leaf finish.

 

And I touched up a few birch leaves with the same treatment.  For more on how I did it, check out this post.

 

I found that gold-painted leaves are an elegant addition to Thanksgiving tables.

A Festive Fall Dinner Party

While we’re on the subject of festive tables, one of my first posts shared a lovely fall dinner table that my Mom had created.

But let’s go outside now.

A Hoppy Harvest Wreath

When making a wreath, I like to shop my own yard for material. A few years ago, I made a silly wreath using only hops.

Haunted Hatchlings

I’ll never forget the time that a nest of goofy, terrifying haunted hatchlings landed on our front porch.

 

This look was fun to create, and it’s explained in this post.

A Lazy Woman’s Fall Front Porch

Last year, feeling lazy and thrifty, I shopped my house and garden for fall decor.

Fall decor inspiration: Front Porch

I used what I already had on hand:  Pots, urns, dried flower heads, berries, and fall leaves.

Fall decor inspiration: Front Porch

 

 

Fall decor inspiration: Front Porch

To my surprise, a strawberry plant I was keeping behind the garage was popping with fall color, so I moved it to the front door.

Fall decor inspiration: Front Porch

On the other side of the door, a begonia plant was starting to wind down after blooming all summer.  But its show wasn’t over yet.

Fall decor inspiration: Front Porch

As we got closer to Halloween, I changed the look just a bit.

Fall decor inspiration: Front Porch

Okay, I splurged a little with this fun new pillow cover that I’d found on sale at World Market.

Fall decor inspiration: Halloween pillow

Skeletons and pumpkins worked together to ward off the uninvited.  This is about as scary as we get around here.

Fall decor inspiration: Halloween lights

As you can see, I was too lazy to even remove the tag from the skeleton lights.

But now I need to get cracking on my fall decor for this year.  See you again soon, and I will share photos of some of the cool things we saw in Europe!

Posts on this website are for entertainment only and are not tutorials.

Sources:

  • Floral foam and forest moss were used in the crocosmia arrangement.
  • The premium leafing finishes that I used on the gleaming pumpkins are made by Precious Metals.  There are 8 colors available.
  • For the black eggs that the haunted hatchlings emerged from, I just painted clean cracked egg shells with a roughly 50/50 mix of Mod Podge and folkArt acrylic craft paint in Wrought Iron.  The Mod Podge helped strengthen the egg shells a bit and also added a nice sheen.
  • I love the Victorian skull pillow cover that I found at World Market.  I don’t know if they will be carrying it this year, but I do know that changing out pillow covers is one of the easiest ways to decorate for Halloween.  Etsy has a ton of fun Halloween pillow covers that go from farmhouse to frieghtening, and everything in between.

I think this one by PamperedHomeDecor is especially fun.

 

 

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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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Our Kitchen Remodel Series
Our Master Bath Remodel Series
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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

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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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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.


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Our Kitchen Remodel Series
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Entertaining
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Dan’s Workshop
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Floral Design
Garden Design
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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.



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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