Sunday, December 8, 2013

Christmas Decorations - The Master Suite

Decorating my bedroom for Christmas was one of my favorite things to do as a kid. My sister and I shared a room most of our childhood and we had a little faux tree we got to decorate with our colored lights and cast-off ornaments. Our mom let us help with the big tree too, but we liked having our own personal Christmas night light. I guess I haven't really grown up because I still enjoy it!

This year, my bedroom has just a touch of Christmas with the tree and pillows.

 I wrapped my handmade stocking garland around the tree this year, to mix it up a bit from last year. I liked the stockings across my headboard but I'll need to find another way to secure them in the future. I kept having nightmares the stocking holders were going to fall on my head while I was sleeping!

I kept it simple and neutral by adding some of my up-cycled ornaments, silver beads, jewels, and topped it off with a burlap bow.

I finished another chalk art pillow and decided to put it on my bed: "The Stars are Brightly Shining."

And just for the fun of it, I grabbed some cotton scraps and made these wonky little stars to go with it. That's why they're so wee! Aren't they cute? I pinned on some jute twine to the back of them because I thought I might hang them. Not this year, but maybe in the future.

I'm a little obsessed with my initial mugs from Anthropologie: A giftie from my sissy the Christmas I got engaged.

I wish these cookies were homemade. I'm going to my parents in a few days to stay right up until Christmas Eve, so I only made ONE batch of cookies: Pecan Tassies for Justin. He already polished them all off!  These gingersnaps are very photogenic though. Mmmmm...I'm getting hungry!

Hope you're enjoying all the wonderful things this season brings!


Don't miss the other rooms on this tour:

The Entryway

A Meaningful Tree - The Living Room

Thursday, December 5, 2013

DIY Christmas Chalk Art Pillow

Yesterday, when it was snowing and freezing, Justin and I decided to drive on down to IKEA. We've been needing to go return a few items for his customer, so we thought, "why not?" There was hardly anyone there! Like twenty customers in the whole store. It was AWESOME!

I headed straight to the textiles and snatched up a couple of $3 black canvas pillow covers so I could make THIS pillow today! That's the cost of a zipper. Ridiculous. If you don't have an IKEA by you, these pillowcases are probably available online. If not, Hobby Lobby has something similar for around $6. That is still less expensive than buying fabric and a zipper(use a 40% off coupon for extra savings there).

I freehanded my favorite lyrics from "O Holy Night" with a white charcoal pencil and traced over it with a felt tipped white paint marker. If there's any charcoal pencil showing when you're done, just rub it off with a clean white dry cloth.

 I bought the marker over a month ago so I can't recall how much it cost, but it was probably only $3 or $4. I took out a pillow insert from an old pillow that was falling a part (zero $) and that's all folks. Try your own design on any of the multitude of colors they offer! Endless possibilities.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A Meaningful Tree

"O Holy Night!
The stars are brightly shining.
It is the night of our dear Savior's birth.
Long lay the earth in sin and error pining.
Til He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices.
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night, O night divine!
 O night, O Holy Night, O night divine!" - Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure

Trees are a common symbol in the scriptures. Most are familiar with the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, the tree infamously connected with sin and death. It was on a "tree" that the Son of God bore the sins of the world. But there was also another tree in the garden, the Tree of Life. It's fruit is for the healing of the nations and it is a symbol of eternal life. The evergreen tree, because of its perpetually green needles, was decorated with fruit to represent the Tree of Life in early Christian passion plays. The fruit was eventually replaced with colorful balls, but the symbolism remains the same. Because the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, the real reason for the season, each one of us can be reconciled to God and receive the gift of eternal life through Him.

This year, I'm just putting up the smaller of my two full size trees. It will be perfect for the formal living room.

The ornaments I worked on last year were inspired by Jennifer over at Dear Lillie. In the 2012 special interest edition of Better Homes & Gardens, She typed out lyrics to Christmas carols and printed them on cardstock. So perfect! What a wonderful reminder of what Christmas is all about.  "O Holy Night" is my personal favorite.

I wanted my version to be a little more permanent than delicate paper, so I found old caroling booklet images and attached them to pieces of 1/8" MDF. I used leftover scrap Justin had leftover from a custom closet system and he cut the pieces to my specifications (3.5" x 5"). I adhered the paper to the white side, left the back natural, and sealed them with Modge Podge (I use that stuff on everything!) Of course, I couldn't forget the MS fine crystal glitter. I also aged them with some Distress Ink. Gold bows were added to the plainer ones.

I love the sheet music and tiny illustrations.


This year, I made popcorn and cranberry garland for just a touch of red and nostalgia. I haven't done that in many many years (since I was a kid) and never with cranberries. I got the idea to coat the strands in aerosol Modge Podge (of course!) from Pinterest. Not sure how it will hold up, but I like how glossy the berries look. No incidents yet.

The stand is also a new concoction.  I took a faded planter from my backyard and we filled it with concrete and a plastic pipe. Justin is very resourceful, so we didn't have to purchase anything. Works a lot better in this space than a tree skirt.

It's handmade things like this, fruit, nuts, and natural elements that would have been used on those trees of yesteryear. Glad we have the modern convenience of incandescent lights though. Candles on a tree? Who thought that was a good idea?

I still don't have any curtains up, which made it a little tricky to take photos facing the window. And please excuse the rug situation by the front door. The runner isn't big enough, but I'm keeping it here for now because of the snowy weather. It's like 8 degrees today and light flurries. Brrr... Makes me want to curl up by the fire and drink some hot cocoa!

Can you handle the asymmetry? I have always put my tree dead center with the window, but that just didn't seem right with my new furniture arrangement. It's good to push oneself out of her comfort zone sometimes.

I wrapped up a few gifts in brown paper and faux newspaper wrapping paper (purchased both for a dollar). I decorated them with evergreens I had leftover from the front table, jingle bells, candy canes, and mini marshmallow-filled glass bulbs. The ribbon was just whatever I had in my ribbon box. I save ribbons from everything - pajama sets, blankets, you get the point. Cloth ribbon can be reused quite a few times so it is therefore more economical than plastic.

It doesn't have to take a lot of money. It just takes some creativity, resourcefulness, and time. Are you making any of your own decorations this year? What's your inspiration?
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Monday, December 2, 2013

How To Hide Electrical Cords

As I was taking photos of my living room for Christmas, I noticed a lamp cord dangling under my entry table.  Ugh. Why does a little cord have to ruin a perfectly good shot? Well, it doesn't, and here's how to fix it quickly and cheaply.

You know those little adhesive clips everyone uses at Christmastime to hang their Christmas lights?

I used a couple to adhere the cord to the leg of the table.

See? Much better. No more cords messing up my shot.

Remember to follow the instructions for the product you purchase! These ones aren't safe for walls. Good luck! ~Amber

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Christmas Decorations - The Entryway

"Joy to the World, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room.
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing"
- Joy to The World

Time to deck the halls! First stop on the tour: The Entryway

Now that my living room is complete, I've been anxious to get my Christmas decorations up. I actually went out on Black Friday just so I could get some fresh greenery from Lowe's. I've never gone the fresh route before. I'm experimenting this year.  Luckily, it wasn't very busy. I was looking for Paper white bulbs but ended up with this lovely poinsettia instead. I thought it would fit perfectly in that vintage bucket, but I was wrong. I totally had to re-pot it and add those plastic bulbs around the base.  Oh? You thought I did that on purpose? Nope. Just rolling with the punches.  The shatter proof ornaments are great for applications likes this where something will get wet. I added some to my outdoor wreath (above) as well.

I know the clock kinda sticks out against all this blingy silver and mercury glass, but it was a wedding gift from my Mother-in-Law and it plays the prettiest Christmas music. Since this is the electronic free room, it makes the most sense to put it here.

I found this carved nativity from Home Goods last year. I'm kind of picky about my nativities. I still haven't found one I really love.  I  broke up my sterling silver nativity set that I've had for years and placed the figurines under glass.  If you want to make something special, all you have to do is put it under glass. How I do like a cloche.

My husband and I went to Nick's, our local garden nursery, for their Holiday Open House this weekend. I go there all summer, but this was a first and it was so gorgeous. I was totally inspired! I picked up a huge bundle of evergreen boughs and found paper white bulbs there. They take some time to grow though, so I am very glad I purchased the poinsettia to fill the space in the meantime. I added the evergreens to the table to pull everything together.  It smells great in here, by the way.

That's all for now. Come back later to see the rest.


Saturday, November 30, 2013

Up-Cycled Christmas Ornaments

Our first Christmas tree and ornaments, as a married couple, were literally plucked out of the garbage. Okay, not literally, more like rescued. My husband's townhouse neighbors (back when he was single) had a water leak in their garage. The artificial Christmas tree, lights, stockings, stocking holders, and ornaments were near the water and despite everything being protected in plastic bags, they hastily chucked everything out on the curb. Although the decorations weren't my first choice, I couldn't really argue with FREE. The tree was white with red, gold, glitter, and pearly white ornaments. Some of the glass balls were a little scratched (from rubbing against one another in the bag), but I stuck them in the back or turned them inward.

Now that I've acquired some new ornaments and swapped the white tree for a traditional green one (my sis is totally rock 'n' the white tree), I had some old ornaments on my hands. For whatever reason, I couldn't throw them away and now I'm glad I didn't. You may have some scratched, dingy, just plain ugly, or 'those aren't my colors anymore' ornaments laying around too. Why throw them away when you can transform them into something new? It totally takes away the guilt too.

So I have to admit, I had NEVER used Modge Podge in my life until last fall. I know. I know. Hard to believe. I guess I just couldn't think of anything I wanted to decoupage. I can see now I was really missing out. This stuff is awe...some!

Here's what you'll need for these Up-Cycled Ornaments:

 Glass or plastic ornaments, scratched up/ banged up / not the right color

 Decoupage medium, regular or satin (I like satin)

 Fine iridescent glitter, preferably Martha Stewart "crystal fine"

 Wrapping paper, thin and interesting design, cut into strips

Pretty 1/8 inch ribbon or twine

1. Keep the hooks or put hooks on the balls so you can hang them while they're drying. Prop up two coffee mugs or cups and place a dowel/pencil in between to hang the ornaments to dry.

2. Working in small sections, apply decoupage medium or plain school glue on ball and lay strips down, smoothing down the edges as you go. I found this newspaper print wrapping paper at Target for $1. If you can find it, Sheet music or French script would be very pretty. Let dry completely (several hours) before going on to next step.

3. Cover entire ball with decoupage medium. This is where you use the good stuff. They have so many kinds at the craft store. The antique finish would be really neat. Let it dry until no longer tacky.

4. Apply another thin coat of decoupage medium and sprinkle with fine glitter immediately. The crystal glitter works best because it just makes the surface sparkle without taking away from the design on the paper.

5. Add a ribbon and some other baubles and Voila!

Looking for something less labor intensive? Try covering each ball in glue and rolling them around in German glass glitter. VERY FANCY. You can't go wrong with glitter.  I also turned some moss balls into ornaments by attaching ribbon, a bell, and some buttons.

The lesson for today, Kids, is be creative and not throw something away just because it's scratched or ugly.  Make something new it and/or use it in a different way. I love bowls of bulbs placed throughout the house. It's an even better way to showcase special ornaments or when you don't have a full set.  They're not just for trees anymore.

Slowly But Surely

"We shan't be disturbed here. This parlour is for my own particular use." -Charlotte, Pride and Prejudice

So I've written pretty far and in between because of one very good reason. My entire first floor has been under construction for a year. Yes, a year! Who's brilliant idea was it to start a blog during all this chaos? The formal living room and dining room hardwoods have been done for quite awhile, but we didn't put the rooms back together because we still needed to install baseboards and paint them. It's quite a process with all the dust, noise, and moving furniture around. I probably have the best contractor in town (my husband). We get to save a ton of money on labor, but it's not FREE; it costs a lot of patience.

I am so pleased to announce that my formal living room is totally finished! I am so excited to find a little corner of peace and tranquility. It's my little fancy room that no one ever sits in. I invite people to sit in there, but they usually decline. It's silly, actually. We end up gathering in the family room or our little kitchen table instead.

Here's where I get to show off my husband's handiwork. Not the most exciting thing, but he deserves a shout out for his fabulous carpentry skills.

Our flooring was purchased at Floor and D├ęcor. It is prefinished solid oak in two widths - 3" and 5". There were no prefinished register covers so we had to buy them unfinished and stain them to match. I say "we" but I mean Justin. He's the pro.  I guess we still need to fill the nail holes on this one with wood filler, but they are done for the most part. I like how they are built into the floor. It makes them easier to clean.

Our home unfortunately is finished with bull nose corners and orange peel textured walls (like most in the Denver suburbs). I thought it was the strangest thing when I moved out here from Michigan. That means every corner has to have an extra little piece of trim. Justin painted the trim with his small paint sprayer to achieve a nice smooth finish.

 I even touched up the trim along the staircase. Gonna snap some photos real quick before I start decorating for Christmas. I only have TWO rooms I can decorate this year! Well, maybe three if I'm lucky and the dining room gets finished;)

Okay...on to the decorating.

The coffee table from the family room needed a temporary home so I brought it in here. The red chair and ottoman (also from the family room) have been hibernating in my bedroom until now. I thought it would be nice to bring them out for Christmas. The scrolls are new (something I picked up at the antique mall), but everything else is just rearranged and no more green pillows or curtains. I grabbed a couple pillows from the family room too.  Looks like a different room in every way. Apparently, this is the only "before" shot I have where you can see the carpet. Instead of the red chair, I usually have two arm chairs from the dining room. You can see the back of the chairs in this photo.



As you can see,  I don't have any curtains up yet either, just sheers.

I don't have a rug down so I could showcase the floors. They've also been covered up with cardboard (for their protection and cleanliness) while we were working in the other rooms so I'm none too eager to cover them up again. I'm not really sure what I want to do though. I'll right another post to deal with the rug issue later. Slowly but surely, it will be tightened up. I was just so excited to share the progress.

What about you? Have you ever gone through a remodel during holiday season?


Friday, November 29, 2013

Homemade Billiard Ball Vase Filler Tutorial
Pottery Barn version

Each time my sis and I go to the mall we hit our favorite home stores: Crate n Barrel and Pottery Barn. And for the last few months I've seen her moon over the Vintage Pool Ball Vase Filler at Pottery Barn. She can never pull the plug to buy them and I always say, "I could totally make some for you." So I finally decided to make some for her already! Since I know this is something she wants and she does nice things for me all the time. It's the least I can do for my big sister.

The hardest part was sourcing the wooden craft balls, which was the main reason I didn't make these for her months ago.  I could only find them at Hobby Lobby and they were always out of stock when the wood working stuff was on sale. Grrr... I love you, Hobby Lobby! Just wish they had more in stock. I actually purchased them at regular price just so I could actually get some. I guess I could have gotten a raincheck but I didn't. I saw. I bought. I seized the opportunity.

Supply List:
10-12  2" wood balls (PB set is 10 pc)
1" painters tape
acrylic paint, flat, I used Craft Smart (Vanilla, Black, Dark blue, Plum, Holiday Red,  Dark orange, Hunter green, Espresso, Mustard yellow)
Black Sharpie marker, fine point
Modge Podge, satin finish (a.k.a. Mother's milk for crafters. Love this stuff!)
3/8" angle brush, preferably nylon for all brushes
3/8" straight brush
1" straight brush
2 cardboard paper towel rolls, cut into 2" sections (for setting the balls on)
1 screw or nail (for distressing)

The solids were the easiest to do. I basically just painted half the balls in various solid colors with the straight brush, one half at time, drying them on cardboard stands. Brush strokes are great because these are supposed to look handpainted and vintage. Once dry, I located the center of each ball and marked it with a pencil. It was really easy to find the centers on these because the wood grain was still visible. Then I used the angle brush in Cream to freehand the circles for the numbers. Just place the bottom of the bristles on the pencil mark and swirl the brush around in a clockwise direction. You may want to put the coffee down for this part (ask me how I know). Apply 2-3 coats or until it covers.

The stripes could be done one of two ways: Paint the balls in various colors and use the painters tape to cover the stripe while you paint multiple coats of cream onto the top and bottom of ball. OR you can do what I did: Paint the entire ball Cream (I used Vanilla, but they really should have been a touch creamier) and use the painters tape to trace a line in pencil. Remove the tape, then fill in the stripe with color of choice. This might seem harder than taping the stripe off, but the line from the tape is kind of wiggly anyway on such small object and I'd rather paint a dark color on cream than vice versa. Your choice. They're supposed to look hand painted so they don't need to be perfect. In fact, DON'T MAKE THEM PERFECT! That would be silly. They should have some character. We're going for a vintage look. Once again, I used the angle brush, freehand, to create the cream circles on the stripes.

Next, it was time for the numbers. I'm such a nerd, I even looked up the correct colors for each number on Wikipedia. Here's the breakdown:
1. Solid Yellow
2. Solid Blue
3. Solid Red
4. Solid Purple
5. Solid Orange
6. Solid Green
7. Solid Brown
8. Solid Black
9. Striped Yellow
10.Striped Blue
11.Striped Red
12.Striped Purple
13 Striped Orange
14 Striped Green
15.Striped Brown

I also printed a photo of my inspiration to reference the font. Using a fine tip black Sharpie marker, carefully write the numbers in the cream circle of each ball. Again, set that coffee down!

 Now comes the fun part. Take a screw or nail and bang, scratch, and claw the billiard balls to distress them slightly. I tried using sandpaper, but it resulted in more of a rub than a distress, so a screw it was!

Lastly, apply a thin coat of Modge Podge with the 1" brush to seal everything, deepen the colors, and add a teensy bit of shine. You can save a step by using Satin acrylic paint, but I just worked with what I had and what I had was flat paint.

See the difference? Sorry it's blurry. The extra shine really makes 'em pop. As you can see in the PB photo above, there is light reflecting off the surface, so the paint definitely isn't flat.

I want to make some more of these! Maybe in non-traditional colors? Maybe metallic or glitter??? Hmmm........

As I was saying, they were really easy to make. It took longer for the coats of paint to dry and clean my brushes than it took to paint, AND they were a fraction of the price of Pottery Barn's (if you take into account that you're going to use the craft paint for a million other projects, not just this one). On a side note, PB doesn't even carry these anymore.

Took these to my sister BEFORE Christmas! We're not supposed to be exchanging gifts anyway (oops), but I found a loophole. I gave them as a "hostess gift" for Thanksgiving. Sneaky.  I think she thought they were the real thing at first, which made me very proud. PB knock-off success!

~ Amber
P.S. These pics were taken in my home. My formal living room is back together after Justin finished the baseboards last weekend. Yay!  I'll post more pics of the finished room soon.