A Thrill of Hope

Every holiday this year, I’ve kept decorations to a minimum.  Rather than stressing about getting everything taken out, set up, and put away, all for only a couple of weeks of enjoyment, I’ve used only what I really love.  After sorting out the Christmas decorations, donating what I didn’t want to keep, I noticed I didn’t have anything to put on the mantle.


To fill the void, I knew I wanted to add a wooden sign (for warmth) with a song lyric on it.  After tossing out several options, Ben said he liked ‘A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices’ best.


To create the sign, I used two 1 by 12 inch reclaimed cedar boards, salvaged from our neighbors replaced siding.  After cutting the boards to 36 inches wide, I flipped each over to secure together with scraps of tongue and groove pine and 1 1/2 inch wood screws.


Using Photoshop, I created a digital design and had planned to print it as an engineer print to transfer.  I didn’t have time to get there, but when I picked the boys up from school, I asked a teacher friend of ours if I could use the projector to trace it.


Sure, it took some time, but it wasn’t terrible and the boys decided to ‘help’ me trace.  When I returned home, I laid the paper out, centering it on my boards, then taped one end to keep it from shifting.  Transferring the text is so easy with carbon paper. Years ago, I bought a pack of 20 sheets and have used them for different projects.  I just shift my sheet around to the parts I haven’t gotten and trace the design with a mechanical pencil tip, minus the lead.


Then, I turned on the Gilmore Girls revival and started filling in with paint.  It’s far from perfect, and you’ll see there are still bits of the carbon peeking out if you look closely.  If you have a cutting machine, that is certainly a great option to save time.


It’s the center of the mantle, with a white ceramic house (filled with a battery-powered strand of twinkle lights) and simple bottle brush trees round out the mantle top.


A string of adorable wooden and plaid trees, from Target’s dollar spot, and stockings identified by initials hang from railroad spikes.


I’d love to get a few bigger brush trees to add more height and color on the sides.  New stockings are also on my to do list, since these aren’t my favorite.  I don’t think the boys really appreciate the dangly beads on theirs.


Another super holiday addition is a red plaid throw and a vase of evergreen branches clipped from our trees.


No mess, no stress, and all is easily stored away once the season has passed.

Green and Plaid Thanksgiving

Each Thanksgiving, I combine plates, glasses, and silverware we already have with a few new pieces to create a table setting.  In 2011, we had a navy and gold theme, complete with DIY’d bread boats.

Thanksgiving 2011 Place Setting

2012 was the year of neutrals including gray, gold, copper, and wood.

Thanksgiving 2012 Table Setting Candles

In 2013, seemingly to make up for the lack of color the previous year, I went color crazy with cacti, pink, orange, yellow, and red.


This year, fresh and simple won me over.  Plain white plates and bowls, clear glasses and silver flatware are always my base layer.  To shake things up and create a different look, I add color through the centerpiece, napkins, and accents.


After spotting a black and white flannel in the fabric store, I knew it’d make the perfect runner.  Along with mustard yellow printed fabric to create napkins.



In place of flowers, I went for practicality in the form of living herbs.  Not only does the potted greenery brighten the table, we can use the fragrant leaves to season the meal.


Green stemmed goblets continue the color around, and are my most recent dish addition.


In place of standard candle holders, I popped tea lights into black and gold plaid tumblers from Target.  Perfect way to use the decor after the holiday.  Shallow leaf-shaped bowls are used as butter dishes and scattered around the table along with hand carved wooden knives.


For a little warmth, wooden coasters, made by my brother-in-law as wedding favors, are mostly decorative.


All that’s left to do is get everyone over, make the food, and enjoy the company.  This is the first big holiday meal we’ll get to create in our remodeled kitchen-those double ovens and extra burners should come in super handy.

Mini Halloween Haunted Houses

I’m assuming most kids love decorating for holidays, Halloween included.  My boys certainly do and hounded me to start decorating as soon as the calendar turned to October.  The bats from last year were a favorite so they’re back.


To change it up a bit, we varied the pattern, the boys standing back telling me to go higher, lower, left, or right.  Setting the fake crows around was a big hit with them, too.


On the lamp, even one on the door handle.


I surprised them after school with a new decoration, a street of mini haunted houses on the entry shelf.


Using scrap 2 x 4 and 2 x 6, I cut small house shapes, then attached tiny chimneys of scrap strips.


Once spray painted black, white, and gray, I used Sharpies to add details like windows, doors, and shingles.


Ev’s mini food/critter obsession came in handy and he placed pumpkins outside each door and birds perched on rooftops and around trees.


Small twigs are hot glued to a thin MDF strip to look like dead trees, bight green moss around the bases to hide the glue.



In years past, we’ve gotten two trick-or-treaters so I don’t care to go all out decorating.  Instead, just enough to make the boys happy.  Since the houses are a hit, maybe I’ll make another set for Christmas.  How do you decorate for seasons?  All out or just a splash in high traffic areas?

White (Paper) Christmas

This year, I took a cue from the traditional first wedding anniversary and went with a paper theme.  Using plain white paper and cardstock, I crafted several fun ornaments and decorations.  Even better, I didn’t spend a cent this year.  Here’s our finished tree:


We already had clear and silver glass balls, so I used some as filler.  The green orbs are actually foam vase filler.  I just stuck a metal hook in.  After Christmas, I can pull the hangers off without damage.


Back to the paper.  Origami critters didn’t take long to make, and the boys had fun choosing animals from my book.  Reindeer, of course:


Flying owls:


And goldfish are my favorites.


The pheasant looks more like a T rex.  We also went old school and made paper snowflakes.


To give a little movement, I also used 3 inch wide strips to make a garland.  This couldn’t be easier.  Just cut zig zags, leaving a 1/4 inch or so left.


A bokeh tree, just because.


Over in the family room, we hung our stockings and added a small winter scene.


More paper snowflakes, bottle brush trees, and paper houses.  I had all the trees, though more would have looked great.


As a kid, I loved my aunt’s ceramic village.  Seriously, anything miniature gets my undivided attention.  Sticking with the paper theme, I decided to craft a few small buildings.  Using this cute design as inspiration, I made my own taller version with more windows.


Three nestled in snug with the trees looks cute.


To help fill in around the stockings, I filled small votives with pine tree clippings.  They look like mini potted trees.


Our rail road spikes turned stocking hangers are back, too.


With the other projects we’re planning and prepping, kitchen!, these are the only areas I’ve decorated.  Keeping it super simple this year to help balance out the crazy that happens.  Are you finished yet?  What areas do you decorate?

Halloween, We’re Ready

I’m not sure how it happens, but every year Halloween sneaks up on me.  For the past month, the boys have talked about their costumes.  E requested a cloud with rain.


I had every intention of sewing his costume, but didn’t have enough white fabric on hand.  In the spirit of Tim Gunn, I “made it work” by using a sheet of foam core to create two identical cloud shapes.  Fabric scraps connect the two sides, making it a sandwich board style.  Paper rain drops hang from thin fishing line below.  Before Halloween, I need to paint a rainbow to add, because that’s what the little man wants.

V, the crazy kid, wanted to be a battery. Seriously, this kid comes up with some of the most un-kid things.  Credit card at 3, then a stop light, and a Rubik’s cube.  A battery fit in perfectly.


Ben saved me a box big enough for V to fit in.  I wrapped the bottom of the box with two sheets of black poster board (from the dollar store) to get the general idea.  Two sets of paper cut Duracell letters are attached with double-sided tape, and white out to write ‘alkaline battery’ below.  For the terminals, I pulled two different sized canning lids and hot glued them on top.  I suppose I should cut arm holes, but it was a fun costume to put together.

Decorating our entry was just as fun.  E helped me tape paper bats and rats to the walls.  Michael’s clearance several years ago, but we made a few more to fill in.


He made a few custom creations, too.  Can you spy his bat in the picture above?  Later on, he added a witch on a broomstick:


Decorations pop against the white wood wall.


A few dollar store crows sit on the shelf along with rubber rats that the boys especially love.  We found the skull in the back while exploring, so I painted it gold and set it out.


Somehow, a bird got trapped inside a lantern.


Decorating with kids is so funny.  The little things that excite them cracks me up.  Who knew rubber mice could be so hilarious?!  Little boys, that’s who.