Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Practical Christmas

If you're mindful about your purchases and can see the possibilities in re-purposing existing decor, beautiful holiday decorating can be very affordable. Please step inside my home for this Christmas photo tour!

First, my simple entry transformation...a green wreath on the door with silver ball ornaments and berries has lasting appeal on the cheap. More silver berries are added to the shelf with candle lanterns, creating a new look with existing pieces.

In the living room, the tree is undoubtedly the focal point, setting the color scheme for the rest of the decor. This year, I went with traditional red and green with a bit of plum and peacock blue thrown into the mix. Simply switching out a few decorative pillows and adding a red fleece throw reveals new potential upon the canvas of neutral furniture. I filled a hurricane vase with flawed ornaments, hiding the chips or scratches by stacking them just so (no one would ever know!). I'm also a big fan of candles to warm up the room--choose vivid colors to tie them into the room.

I love berries; can you tell? An indoor wreath brightens up my kitchen as well as a bowl of seasonal fruit. I accented a regular vase of willows with red and gold berries to make it festive.

And last, this is probably the simplest and subtlest of all: miniature ornaments tied to ribbon and strung from the windows. They nearly fade into the background, but I think these little white ornaments and white ribbons evoke the feeling of falling snow.

What are your ideas for transitioning your existing decor to welcome the holidays?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Harvest Wreath

A few years back, my friend Amanda and I threw our own wreath-making party, just the two of us. Martha Stewart's crew should have come to the house and filmed these two amateurs cracking up over our projects, glue guns and floral wire in hand.

I still hang my wreath every year, and I think of Amanda who lives many miles away now. Crafting with a friend is twice the fun--and the end product bears memories of time spent together.

I hope you're inspired to grab a friend and make your own wreath this year. All the supplies can be picked up from your local craft store. For this project, I embellished a simple twig wreath with silk flowers, berries, gourds and feathers, all attached with floral wire. Raffia tied widely at the top serves as a holder and adds to the country harvest look. Since autumn is nearly over, you might try a winter-themed wreath, substituting ornament balls, berries, bells and ribbons on an evergreen wreath instead.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Fall Apple Stamp Stationery

This week, my toddler brought home a large sheet of apple stamp artwork from her Mother's Day Out program. Instead of hanging it on my fridge, I decided to share the artwork with our friends and family by creating these stationery cards for autumn greetings.

Cutting out the stamped paper, I used a brown permanent marker to trace around the "apples" and drew in the apple seeds and stems. Red gingham ribbon wrapped around a brown stationery card finishes off the country look. On the back of the card, use rubber cement to attach some white paper to make room for a personal note.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Silk Flower Arrangements

I'm usually not a big fan of silk flowers--the real thing is always preferable, in my opinion. However, with the luxury of fresh flowers in short supply at my place, I like the way this arrangement looks and making it is a snap!
  1. Go on a nature walk and find a tree branch with a sturdy center and not too delicate branches for your base.
  2. At your local craft store, pick out a few bunches of silk flowers in the same color scheme. The trick is to mimic a small tree in blossom, so choose flowers that have small buds on them and ones that are in full bloom.
  3. Snip the silk flowers from their stems and use a hot glue gun to attach them to the tree branch you selected. Be mindful of your placement of blossoms on the "flowering tree" to achieve a natural look.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Fabric Decoupaged Photo Box

Do you have any scrap fabric lying around that you're looking to re-purpose? I recently took a pair of fabric scissors to a worn, floral bedspread I had back in college. Then, using a couple of coats of decoupage, I adhered the fabric cutouts to a plain white photo storage box. Layering most of the cutouts on top and intentionally overlapping some of the petals over the edge of the box achieved the casual look I wanted.

I often think of decoupaging only when there's paper involved, but fabric works well too! This project takes hardly any time at all to complete. Alternatively, try it on a hat box or any other similar surface.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tequila Lime Tart

I never promised that my posts would be entirely original or even feature projects created by me personally. So, I have to take this opportunity to brag on my dear husband who baked a spectacular birthday treat for me. Craving the sweet-and-tart flavor of a summer lime dessert, I suggested this recipe (Family Circle, July 2009 issue) to him.

Does the photo not say it all!? I mean, the man even garnished the top with crust crumbs and lime slivers! It was delicious, and I highly recommend the recipe (but please note, the baker is already taken).

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Seasonal Color on a Budget

Planting perennials as the core of your landscaping and filling in with annuals based on the season can be a cost-effective way to ensure interest and color all year long. In my front bed (shown above), the perennials are already well-established and consist mostly of shrubs and groundcover.

Since I was on a tighter budget this year but still craving that burst of color for spring/summer, I got resourceful and divided two large mounds of perennial white Mexican petunias into 12 smaller clusters and spread them throughout the front of the bed in a checkerboard pattern. Then I purchased 24 dark purple salvia plants and four 1-gallon snapdragon mixes to fill in the gaps (shown below).

Like icing on a cake, you don't want to skip the mulch! It not only provides vital nutrients to the soil and captures moisture for the plants, but you can't deny it's aesthetic value. When I put down a fresh layer of mulch, it makes everything look new even though only a few of the plants have changed.

All in all, I spent $21 on flowers and $6 on mulch for the front bed that should last me until the fall. Not a bad price for instant curb appeal!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Polka Dot Birthday

Polka dots were the theme for my sweet daughter's first birthday. I made her invitations by printing the details on a simple flat stationery card, then I used a circle cutter to make the balloon shape and attached the striped paper behind it.

I made her a circle-cut banner, hole-punched and tied together with ribbon; it was suspended across the window in the main party area.

Her 4-inch, two-layer smash cake was topped with homemade strawberry frosting (a little runny in consistency, but what can you do when your guests have already arrived!?). Party goers were served cupcakes with buttercream frosting and pastel M&M "polka dots." Foods shaped like circles were also a hit: bowls of cucumber wheels and crinkle-cut carrots with ranch dressing and fruit kebobs of alternating cantaloupe balls and grapes.

When we had Party #2 for local friends (I know, I know...from now on I'll only throw ONE party per year!), I was able to recycle much of the decor, including the circle pendants for the windows and extra balloons.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Weekly Meal Planning Tool

For those of you looking for a system that integrates your recipe organization with weekly meal planning, consider this option.

I keep a three-ring binder with recipes I've clipped from magazines or printed out and taped or glued on the pages. Everything in the binder fits in a category like "Main Dishes," "Appetizers/Sides," "Breads and Breakfast," "Beverages," and "Desserts."

I do my meal planning once a week by picking out recipes and slipping them inside a clear page protector in the order I plan to use them. Then I hang the page protector filled with full-page recipe clippings on my fridge with magnets.

When it's time to cook something, I pull it down off the fridge and bring it to my work area where it remains spill-proof while I cook. Then I move the front sheet to the back and the next recipe is displayed for the following day's meal. At the end of the week, I return the recipe sheets back to the binder and start over.

Note: If one of the meals I've planned isn't in my binder, I put a sticky note in the mix of the week's recipes with the cookbook's name and page number for easy reference.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Confetti Fleece Rug

A spinoff of the "rag rug," I made this two-color fleece rug for my daughter's nursery. Besides several hours of tedious work while watching TV, the whole project only cost $25.

  • 2 yards dark pink fleece
  • 2 yards light pink fleece
  • 1 fish net (from craft store)
  • fabric scissors
Using fabric scissors, cut fleece into 1x6-inch strips and tie in alternating colors to the fish net. You should have enough fabric to make a 3.5 x 5 rug. Just trim the net down to the size you want. Fluff the rug and you're done!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Ladies Spa Evening

Invite your girlfriends over for a relaxing evening of homemade spa treatments! These luxurious ideas are adapted from the book, Home Spa: Cleanse, Refresh, Relax by Jennie Harding.Make a "buffet" of spa treatment options by setting out all the ingredients along with cloth and paper towels for easy cleanup.

Geranium & Olive Oil Foot Scrub | Individual ramekins of sea salt on a tray make it easier for your friends to mix up their own foot scrubs and take them to where they are sitting to do the treatment. Simply use small, circular movements to rub the scrub all over feet. Wipe excess off with a towel after massaging in for 5-10 minutes.

  • 2 t. fine sea salt (exfoliator)
  • 6 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 20 drops essential oil of your choice (geranium or lavender oils work well)

Herbal Foot Soak | In small glass vases, display fresh garden herbs: thyme (cleansing and refreshing) and rosemary (stimulating and warming). Lavender essential oil (skin rejuvenating and soothing) can be substituted for the fresh herbs, if preferred. A generous bottle of milk makes for a luxurious option, adding a splash to the warm water. Soak feet in herbal water for 15 minutes to allow time for infusion.

  • Large plastic bowl filled half-full with warm water
  • Handful of herbs or 10 drops essential oil
  • Splash of milk (optional; softens the skin)