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Sunday, December 11, 2011

More Christmas Decor

We have guests this weekend and happily, our Christmas decorating was completed on time.

As you may recall, we used red cedar garland for our fireplace mantel and since I had plenty of extra, I took that to the buffet in our dinning room too. As you can see, it was a sad autumn display that needed some help anyhow.
I cleared it off, putting some items away until after the holidays but I kept the decorative glass jars that I had filled with small pumpkins and gourds. They needed a quick rinse so while those were drying, I started to lay another piece of fabric along the back of the display, again using that to give the garland some height. 

After this was in place (nothing fancy clearly), I put the garland down and turned to the glass jars to begin filling them. I filled one with leftover lime green beads, topped with ornaments, while the other was filled solely with ornaments of all shapes and colors.

Next, I followed the same process as the mantel, nestling different ornaments and snowflakes in place ... this time including a few other items I found in my colors like a musical note ornament and some glittery and festive apples.
I flanked that with three of the same trees used on the fire place for one side, a gold deer on the other, and a white ceramic deer directly in the center.

For my dinning room table, I remembered I had purchased a glass cake stand (or stand of some sort, I don't even know) a while back. Sadly, the base of it broke on its way out of my car. But the dome was still in tack and as luck would have it, it fit pretty well on top of a tall serving tray I use. So I filled it with some snow, beads, pine cones and green snowflakes and with that (and a few candles on the sides) ... my centerpiece was done. Easy peesy.
Then of course, there was the tree. After some debate, I decided the tree must match or it will give me anxiety just looking at. I have no time for anxiety (I'm barely sane now that my kids are old enough to fight with each other) so I popped off for some more ornaments, beads, lights and a tree skirt in my colors: chocolate brown, champagne, gold and lime green.

The kids helped me get that in place and I used some extra ornaments with the strings broken off to fill a tray that was already in this room.

BTW, how cool is that "W?" It says "Wise Men Still Seek Him" for those of you--like my hubby--that can't read it. He was confused as to why I just picked some very large, random letter of the alphabet to put in our living room and couldn't understand what, o what, it had to do with Christmas.  Oy.

So, now we have some calming but festive colors and a pretty tree to watch as we listen to Christmas music and enjoy time with friends and family. May you find time and peace in doing the same!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Merry & Bright Christmas Decor

With Thanksgiving behind us, the Christmas music in full swing and a long weekend to get stuff done, it was officially time to kick off my Christmas decorating!

To give my house a nice, pulled-together look, I've been gradually moving in the direction of a Christmas color scheme each year. This particular season, I've been liking the idea of chocolates, golds, champagne and lime green. Generally speaking, I recommend a minimum of three colors that you'll repeat throughout your space. So if you traditionally like red and white, consider adding silver or a deeper, burgundy red. For something contemporary, try white, silver and a pop of bright pink or a cool blue. All combinations that can really be fun.

To get mine started, I pulled out a handful of old Christmas ornaments that fit the bill and scooped up a selection of new items on Black Friday. I tried to stick to the shatterless ornaments in various colors and textures (glittery, matte, etc.). I also picked up some glittery snowflakes from target, $1/4 and stopped at a dollar store as they sell sleeves of ornaments for a buck ... a great option if you don't want to spend a fortune but are looking to change things up.

For the basis of my fireplace mantel, I also picked up real red cedar garland. I like cedar because it's soft, not sticky from sap and tends to lay very nice on flat surfaces. You'll generally find these garlands (often used in outdoor spaces) at DIY or home improvements stores like Lowe's or Home Depot. I got mine for $14 or $15 at Home Depot (20 feet). If you've been thinking of using the faux stuff, consider giving this a try.

After I cleared the mantel, I laid down an extra piece of fabric to give the garland a bit more height. There's a short "lip" on my mantel and I wanted to make sure the garland would sit well above that.

Then I cut a piece of garland that would span the length of my mantel, plus an extra 12-18 inches on each side. Since the garland all lays in one direction, once I got the main piece in place I began cutting shorter pieces to layer in the opposite direction, filling in any spaces that were a little more bare and making sure I had strands that laid down in front of the mantel.

Next, I took some pretty brown beads I had found and did two swoops in the front, simply taping the ends to the mantel. I followed that with another swoop of lime green beads. This provide a little extra glam in front, and would be framed up nicely by the stockings I hung later.

Then I began layering in ornaments of various sizes. I simply nestled them into the branches, changing up the colors and placement ... though not necessarily with any grand plan in mind. If there was a bare spot, it got an ornament. And because they were just sitting there, I had a handful that crashed to the floor (remember my recommendation for the shatterless type, well case in point...) but were quickly swooped up and put back in their wintery home. Thank you, oh creator of real-looking plastic ornaments!

I kept a vase with Manzanita branches on the right side of the fireplace for height. These branches live there year round, but this guy got dressed up with a few of the smaller round ornaments and a few snowflakes too. On the other side, I added three glittery trees in brown and gold ... scores from the after-Christmas sales last year. Note you can order manzanita branches from a multitude of places online (or you can just find some sticks or check out other retailers that sell faux branches, e.g. Crate and Barrel has white this year).

Whether you're decorating a fireplace mantel, dresser, sofa table or any other surface, there are some simple design rules you can follow for some bigger items you add in addition to your garland. One, you can do something symmetrical, using objects that match exactly on each side which will easily balance your display. The other option is to do one item on one side, and three on the other. Generally speaking, the total "volume" of the one item should be equal to the volume of three. Keeping both sides similar in height and width will help you achieve this look. It certainly doesn't need to be exact but putting a pineapple on one side and three grapes on the other isn't gonna do it.

So ... after all that was in place, I added my stocking hangers and stockings, drizzled some lime green beads over the top of everything and snapped some pictures. It's very festive and fun! As a final touch, I wrapped a few odd boxes from around the house in matching Christmas paper, this helped me bring everything together.

Shall we do a before and after photo?



I plan to use the rest of my cedar garland to decorate the buffet in my dinning room. I'll be back with pics from that Christmas update later this week. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Beautiful Basket: "Sweet Traditions of Christmas"

I know, I know. My poor, sad, little blog has been sitting abandoned since *gasp* Halloween. Since we're just a few days shy of Thanksgiving, that's pretty pathetic.

But I'm back today, actually with something a little different ... a guest blog! I wanted to share the work of one of my very talented friends, Cheryl. There are some people in this world who really have a gift for, well, gift baskets -- and she's got it!

Just in time of the holidays, we're sharing her most recent creation, a basket she did for a charity auction we do at our work this time every year. The idea is amazing, packed with simple goodies that deliver a very special experience. Whether you're looking to share a pretty basket with a teacher, neighbor, friend or charity, try Cheryl's tips for giving something truly amazing!

Take it away, Cheryl ...

First, supplies!
·        White Basket 
·        Red Crinkle 
·        Tony Bennett Christmas CD
·        Ziploc® Limited Edition Holiday Design Qt. Size Bags 
·        Glade® Holiday Baking™ Candle  
·        Cookie Cutters 
·        Parchment Paper  
·        Wilton Green Color Mist   
·        Wilton Red Color Mist    
·        Wilton Cookie Icing      
·        Holiday Sprinkles           
·        Holiday Dessert Paper Plates     
·        Holiday Beverage Paper Napkins

 Note: Cute black kitty not included with gift basket. :)

Next, the idea ...

"Sweet Traditions of Christmas"

Whether you’re looking to create a special gift for a loved one, friend, or donation to support a charitable organization – there are loads of simple ideas. Here’s one …

Make a memory complete including senses of smell, taste, and sounds to last a lifetime – a fun activity for a crisp winter afternoon or evening.

It’s as easy as gathering Christmas cookie and candy recipes passed down by generations and placing them on decorative recipe cards. Or pick up that Christmas cookie book sitting right under your nose at the grocery checkout aisle.

Include cookie cutters, colored sugar sprinkles, decorations, and packages of holiday napkins & paper plates.

Set the mood by tucking in a scented candle and Christmas CD by a favorite artist and your favorite songs.

Add embellishments of special candies – such as red, green and silver Hershey Kisses, Candy Canes or individually wrapped mints!

Christmas memories I love most are of making fudge, caramels, and baking & frosting cut-out cookies with my family. And sampling during the process was an added bonus!

So … take a little time and you, too, can pass on traditional smells, tastes, and sounds of the season.

And may you, your friends, and family enjoy sharing the wonders of creating Sweet Traditions of Christmas!

Cheryl actually took time to put these very words to paper, rolled it up, secured with a pretty ribbon and included it in the gift basket. Great idea!

Cheryl also used a light-weight crafting material to line the basket and when everything was (beautifully) packed inside, rolled it up and tucked it in ...

She also knows how to make bows from regular ribbon and floral wire. (No worries, someday we'll show you how to do this; it's easy.) If you don't know how to make your own, go store-bought for this extra special touch on your basket.

Awesome right? Here's the aerial view.

This basket really packed a powerful punch and received many bids at the silent auction it was in. It helped to raise money for a great cause and will certainly make for a very special day of baking for the recipient. I love that Cheryl didn't just include gifts, she created an experience that will create special memories ... in an amazingly beautiful way.

Hopefully you'll find a few ideas you can use yourself this holiday season -- cheers!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Spooctacular Party

The big Halloween party for my son took place this weekend and I'm happy to report everyone survived (and by that I mostly mean the parents who stayed to help). I'm unhappy to report, however, that my camera is on the fritz so I'm unable to share all of the pictures. Booooooooooooo

That aside, we had a lot of fun!! Most of the kids were able to make it so we had a pretty hearty crew of 13 kids and a fair amount of adults too.

As we prepared for the day, my job was to work on decorations, spooky treats, game ideas and prizes. My husband was working on other activities to keep guests busy.

With a sunny weather report ahead of us, things were looking good for some of the things we planned -- including my husband's idea to have the kids help stuff a scare-a-crow. It sounded like a great idea until I went outside an hour shy of party time to find him frantically sawing and piecing together PVC pipes so he could make a "standing" scare-a-crow (which he had yet to purchase straw for). *head slap*

I threw my hands in the air and said, "can't we just have a normal scare-a-crow like everyone else???" Apparently not. Instead he just stuffed about eighty yards of burlap into my hands and said "I need a head!" "Need a head?" I said. "You can have forty heads with this much material; what the heck were you thinking.?" His reply ... "I've never needed a head before." Good grief.

Whatever, I had string cheese fingers to make so this conversation was going to have to wait for another day. Speaking of those, they were one of the simplest snacks I made ... and also one of the many I didn't photograph. But basically they looked a lot like this, mostly because it's where I got the idea from, found here. I believe they used green peppers for the fingernails; I sliced pieces of red grapes because I had them on hand.
Fingers Made Out of Cheese Halloween Recipe

I also used cupcake pics (because they have blunt ends instead of sharp) to make summer sausage and cheese kabobs as well as fruit kabobs that skewered grapes, pineapple slices and strawberries. The cute little pics I found made these snacks look extra special ... if only I had a picture to show you!! Ugh. You'll have to take my word for it.

I also doctored up a few black plastic bowls I had from previous parties to put out a few simple and healthy treats. I made a little sign for each using scrapbook paper and scrapbook stickers. One was labeled "spider eggs" (A.K.A. black olives) and the other "ghost babies" (known the rest of the year as yogurt covered raisins).

For an on-the-go snack, I filled small Halloween treat boxes with mixed popcorn: cheese, plain and caramel. This was a quick snack for busy parents too.

For something sweet, I made two ghoulish treats, including graveyard pudding cups with crushed Oreo dirt and white chocolate dipped ghouls. And the kid favorite ... white chocolate dipped donut holes turned eyeballs. A heavily requested treat!

I gave you a sneak peek at the beverages I prepared for the party, shown again below.

To make the mummy juice boxes I simply wrapped them with gauze or medical tape. A single roll yielded about six. As I wrapped, I let the tape gather in places to give it a more dimensional look. I also left a little gap where the eyes were placed. These were a huge hit!!

As you can see in this pic, it's not one of my parties if the water bottles don't get in on the fun too. I think it's such a simple way to incorporate your colors or theme, and it doesn't take a lot of time or money to do it. While I used a variety of Halloween colors to make several different versions, the ones shown above were definitely my favorite.

I simply cut scrapbook paper into strips, wrapped it around the bottle and used hot glue to keep them in place. The "Boo" used in this version was actually from a set of glittery shapes that were sold as confetti. And the small eyes were part of variety pack I bought for eyes on the juice boxes. The mini bottles provided a perfectly portioned and healthy beverage option for my little party goers.

As I alluded to in my scare-a-crow prelude, we planned a variety of activities to keep the kids busy including broom races. Participants mounted their brooms and dashed around witchy hats in the hopes of winning a prize from my cauldron.

Each party goer was also given their own pumpkin that included some pre-stocked goodies but also offered a place to keep all their treasures. I used a special paper punch and more of the glitter confetti to make name tags so pumpkins didn't get mixed up.

Though the weather was beautiful, I had planned some indoor games just in case -- including a pumpkin scavenger hunt that lead to some Halloween treasures. The clues were all written on foam pumpkins and those were hidden throughout the house. Many included "instructions" to up the fun factor. For example, one clue read, "Crawl like a kitty as low as you're able, now make our way under the table." In an instant I had 10 little kitties on their knees, meowing as they peeked under every table they could find. These kids were good!

The next clue (found under our dinning table) read, "snakes and toads and big brown mice, go to the place where we keep the ice." And like a flash of magic - you guessed it - I had a brood of rodents and snakes slithering and squeaking over to my refrigerator. This game was as fun to watch as it was to play!

The day concluded with some cookie decorating (to take home and save for later) and pizza for everyone. It was admittedly exhausting but it was fun all the same.

Here's to a safe and fun Halloween for all!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Keepsake Holder

The other day I was at Michael's Craft Store and happened upon two clearance picture frames. Since they didn't have a back or mat, they likely came from the custom framing department. It's not difficult to find frames like this in any store that has a framing department; they usually sell these off the shelf versions in addition to the completely custom frames they build. And they often have previously used or built frames in clearance piles ... just need to find your store's stock.

I took the last two and snagged an artificial rose for each on my way out the door. Then it was just choosing between the handful of ideas I had for them. The frame was made of wood, very textured and had a somewhat worn and grayish look. Since the lines and style were clean and the frame chunky, it still seemed contemporary enough for my liking.

I thought it'd be cute to put a rose in one of the lower corners, keep the frame open and string a picture wire across it to hang keepsakes like photos, art, wedding invitations, birth announcements, anything special really. I also wanted to dress up some mini clothespins with scrapbook paper and Mod Podge; they would be used to hold the keepsake in place.

When getting started, I noticed one of the sides of the frame was scraped so to hide it, I pulled a few leaves off the roses and laid them out in the corner of the frame, concealing the scratch and then gluing them in place. Then I used a wire cutter to snip the head of the rose and hot glued that to the corner.

Next, I flipped the frame over, and screwed a framing "eye" (little screw with a loop) into the part of the frame that the glass would normally rest against. I used a measuring tape to place them approximately 2 1/4 inches from the top on each side. Then I simply twisted a picture hanging wire through the loops.

Here's what it looked like from the front.
That's just paper underneath it, mostly so you can see the wire.

Once that part was ready, I took some scrapbook paper and cut itty bitty pieces to cover each piece of the clothes pin. Regular glue would have worked but since I had it, I used Mod Podge to glue it to the wood and coat the top to give it a little sheen.

Once I had the longer parts covered (see pic), I cut pieces for the bottom sections too. (I didn't want the paper to go over the wire, causing it to crease over time.)

Once I made two of those, I just needed a picture to display and I was done! That's when I found this handsome little man who wanted to show you the finished product.
Though I did add a picture hanger to the back in case I found a spot on the wall, I think it makes a more unique display sitting on a table instead. I like using things in different ways and this fits the bill. I think it works better on a surface versus hanging on a wall. You be the judge.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Santa's key

As I build my inventory of items for the upcoming craft fair, I wanted to cease the chance to create something that has been swirling around in my head for a couple months now.

It all started with a question from my son, "how does Santa get into our house?" I told him Santa usually comes down the chimney which lead to a host of other questions like "doesn't he burn his butt?" and "where is our chimney?" (a very good question as I don't actually know...). Then I resorted to something I think my parents once told me since our childhood homes didn't have fireplaces ... he uses a "magic" key.

And that lead me to this project.

I needed a few simple supplies which included ...
  • a plastic silver bracelet (purchased for $0.99 at Michael's craft store)
  • a swirly wooden "S" letter (purchased at Hobby Lobby for $1.99)
  • ribbon (had at home)
  • findings (a jewelry accessory, pic below)
  • jingle bells (left over from a previous project)
  • silver key ornament (on sale for $1.20 at Hobby Lobby)
And I used some left over paint from the Jingle All the Way blocks I shared earlier this week.

The first step was to use the metallic spray paint to cover all sides of the "S."

While that was drying, I got out the rest of the supplies.
Including the findings I mentioned earlier. I bought a pack of these jewelry clasps a couple years ago and they last forever.

First I cut the thick ribbon into a thin, 1/4 inch thick strip. Then I strung it through the three jingle bells, tied a knot, and tied that to the bracelet. I then used the ends of that same ribbon to tie the "S" to the jingle bells and bracelet. It looked like this:

Next I added a finding to the top of the key, and I used the thicker piece of ribbon (leftover from the smaller one I cut for the bells) to string it through the circle, tying that to the bottom of the "S" and made a bow. And presto, that's it!

Now it's set to hang and ready for Santa ... just in case he has a few two many cookies and a chimney shimmy doesn't look promising by the time he gets to our house. (I may also add a mini clothes pin to the back of the bells in case the kids have any special notes they want to share with the big guy when he arrives!)

How does Santa get in your house?