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christmas decorating tips

  • Cranberry Centerpiece

    gift wrappingWhen I was little I remember my mom teaching me, painstakingly so, how to wrap presents. She would clear off our huge dining room table, get her sharpest knife out of the drawer and have that grin on her face like she was about to create something magical.

    She was patient and taught me simple ways to measure how much paper I needed so there'd be no bulky look. She used no scissors, but instead would crease the paper with her fingernail, then slide the sharp knife in between the paper and swish, swish, swish, the piece was cut.

    I thought, wow, this could be called art! She showed me how to fold the corners and to use minimal tape but at the most strategic places so as not to detract from the package. And, then came the bow.

    It was all a pretty lengthy process, and once when I asked her why we take so much time to wrap, she said that the wrapping is part of the gift, it is a sacrifice of time and a thing of beauty. I never ever forgot that.

    cranberry centerpieceNow, we aren't wrapping any presents today or learning how to do it (altho that's a great idea for a future post), but rather emphasizing that some things that may seem unnecessary or that border on obsession really make a difference. Whether it's wrapping gifts, hanging just the right curtains or choosing a striking centerpiece, it all matters. ENTER: a cranberry centerpiece!

    To make something elegant or jaw dropping beautiful or unique does not necessarily require great expense. If you have time (your most precious commodity), you have it all save a few simple craft tools: foam balls, hot glue and cranberries!

    I think you know what to do. Have fun. :)


    Photo credit

  • Cranberry Ornaments

    cranberry heart ornamentI've been browsing the internet, searching for more ways of using cranberries that don't involve adding a ton of sugar. There are literally dozens, maybe even hundreds of great recipes using cranberries that do add sugar, but there are just so many ways to use these precious little round and red nutrient gems that defaulting to sugar isn't even necessary. What do you think about these adorable ornaments?

    Using just a few simple craft items, you can make these homespun creations yourself. All it takes is some thin wire, jute string and your imagination. Oh, and of course cranberries. You can either dry the cranberries first (as shown) or use fresh. You can see the ones in the picture are a bit wrinkly and shrunken, but the ornaments are just so earthy and sweet and would look so cute hanging on your tree.

    The process is a simple one. Just thread your cranberries with some thin wire, twist close the loop and shape into bells, Christmas trees, stars or hearts. Or anything else your heart desires! Tie a piece of jute string to the top, and that's it. This is definitely a  project that the kids could help with, too.

    And, whose to say these have to be just for Christmas? They would also work for Valentine's Day, for Memorial Day, for the 4th of July and Thanksgiving just to name a few. We certainly don't need a holiday either! I think this heart shaped decoration is charming at absolutely any time of year.

    This whole series around alternate uses for cranberries began when I popped a couple of dried cranberries in my mouth only to be surprised at how tart and almost bitter they were. Since then I've been on a mission to find ways to use up the cranberries in my house since I won't be popping them in this mouth again anytime soon. Stay tuned for more ideas in the days to come.

  • More Upcycling of Jars

    We have a room off of our kitchen that, once upon a time, was actually the butler's station. It has a pass through window into the dining room, and every time we're in there we imagine ourselves buttlering the royal family, lol. Actually, tho, I'm pretty sure the counters in this room with their clutter of jars would have the butler fired on the spot. Gotta do something with those jars.

    So, what to do, what to do. There are all kinds of ideas all over the net for the upcycling of canning jars, but these ideas today wouldn't necessarily require the heavy duty kind. Just any old jar that you've emptied and hung on to, thinking you'd have a use for it, will absolutely do!

    sugar jar 2 This idea uses old candle jars and turns them into fun see-through canisters. Perfect since they have an air-tight lid! If you buy a set of cannisters at a department or kitchen store, you'll likely spend upwards of $40 or more, but these are just pennies to make if you already  have basic crafting supplies in the house. Love that.

    Simply paint a wide strip around the jar, either just going part way or all the way around, whichever you prefer. I like the look of the brush strokes showing, so I'd opt for just half way around. Paint two coats, and after it's dry, hot glue some jute or twine around. And, of course, since it's chalkboard, if you change your mind and want to store beans or rice in the jar, just erase and relabel.

    painted jarAnother project I saw involved painting a jar white, and then wrapping burlap around the top. Or the bottom. If you want an attractive way to store items that aren't that great to look at, this is an excellent idea. If we used the short, squatty jars, you could even store your brillo pad or dish sponge in it at the kitchen sink. Lots of lots of uses for this one. TIP:  Instead of painting the outside of the jars, try putting a bit of paint on the inside and swirling it around. :)

    I found both of these ideas from, so if you'd like to see more of these ideas, hop on over there.

    And, merry jar upcycling!


  • Paper Snowflakes

    I don't think making paper snowflakes ever gets old. Nor are we ever too old to make them, they are fun, creative and EASY! It's a great activity for a Saturday afternoon or a school day that's been called off due to weather. Gather 'round the table, have some hot cocoa and a cookie, and make snowflakes.

    I was looking around the internet for different designs and I actually saw a paper snowflake that was 3D, it was gorgeous. This simple little paper crafting project has come a long way baby! You can make them simple as ever or get very elaborate.

    Below are several pictures of what you can do with some paper, a pen and some scissors along with links at the bottom for instructions. Have fun!


    snowflake 1


    3d snowflake


    snowflake 2


    snowflake 3


    snowflake 4


    snowflake 5


    Photo courtesy: One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six


  • Dangling Ornaments

    hanging ornamentsI love all things that dangle . . . beads, glass prisms, macrame, wire artwork, it's all good. There is something about a free floating object that finds its way into my heart nearly every time. And, at Christmas, we have the splendid opportunity to play with all kinds of dangling things!

    The other day while I was shopping at Target I saw giant ball ornaments, I think they were about the size of a dodge ball!  Intended to be hung in a window, or randomly from the ceiling for sure, but I started envisioning 6 of them suspended from the ceiling above the Christmas dinner table ~ all the same color with sparkly glitter or jewels, or the colors of the rainbow, whatever suits your fancy! Whoa, can you imagine what a dramatic center piece that would be?!

    I think this idea here comes in a close second. You can pick up a box of these kind of bulbs at most places for not that much money, throw in a roll of thin silky red ribbon and you are good to go. They're so easy to put together that you can give your hands something to do as you watch some of the Christmas specials on tv. This would make for a very stunning display in any window, at the corners of french doors, and of course over the Christmas dinner table.

    I bet if you try this idea, you'll start getting into the dangling thing too.

    Merry Dramatic Decorating!

    photo courtesy

  • Snowman Ornaments

    snowman ornamentsWe are continuing with our SNOW theme in honor of the first measurable snowfall that is due in the next few days here in Minneapolis. I don't think there's a single Minnesotan that really expects the snow to hold off for much longer. These cute li'l snowman head ornaments turned-diy-garland will make you smile even if the weather outside doesn't. Promise.

    What is so great about this idea is that you can get the kiddos involved. Picture it ~ they are happy, no, ecstatic that school was cancelled today and they've been out playing in it ever since . . . sliding down hills, throwing snowballs and building their first snowman of the season. They come in from the cold, and you've got tomato soup and grilled cheese ready to warm them up just like the quintessential soup commercial, right?!  With lunch over in a flash, now what? Thankfully you saw this post and picked up the supplies one day after work in preparation for this day. No wonder your kids think you're a are!

    • 10 small foam balls
    • air dry clay (5# tub is less than $10 at Target)
    • black beads
    • black paint
    • cosmetic blush
    • 1/4" ribbon
    • Florists wire
    1.  Cover the foam balls with the air dry clay, adding extra to form the nose.
    2. The clay will dry quickly, so go ahead and wet the areas where you want the eyes, then attach black beads.
    3. Using your imagination and a toothpick dipped in black paint, draw the mouth and other facial features.
    4. Apply rouge to the cheeks. Awww!
    5. Cut 10 2" pieces from the florist wire, bend each one at the center and push into ball
    6. String your ribbon through and hang wherever you want.....the tree, over a door, in the window, etc.


    Photo and Design courtesy:


  • Snowball Candle Holders

    snowball candel holdersI don't know about you, but I'm really drawn to the unique. I like to mix the traditional with the modern and come up with one-of-a-kind furnishings, decorations and gifts. Today's decoration idea starts with simple and humble items, and transforms them into a real thing of beauty. Whenever I see an idea like this, I think about that HGTV cooking show, Chopped, where the chefs are given a basket of ingredients. Their challenge is to take each one and transform it and somehow still come out with not just a meal that makes sense, but one that looks beautiful and tastes amazing.

    These candle holders are just like that. You start with the simple, clear glass votive candle holders from the craft store and end up with a sparkly, even elegant display that will make even a battery powered candle glow with romanticism and warmth. I love that.

    • Votive glass candle holders
    • Mod Podge
    • Epsom Salt (Seriously, I know, right?)
    • Tea Light candles (wax or battery powered)
    1. Paint the mod podge onto the outside of the candle holder and roll in a flat bed of Epsom salt.
    2. After it dries, repeat step one.
    3. Let it dry again, and that's it!

    Look at how they glow!

    snowball candle 1

  • Alternative Christmas Tree

    2009 Christmas TreeIt is true that I love my big and wide and real Christmas trees for the holidays. In fact I kind of love bringing the outdoors in all year long, and I bet many of you are like that too. If I could find a way to live outside all year long and stay warm, dry and comfortable, I'd be all over that. Okay, maybe not, but we are one of those families that does leave the window cracked open in the winter for the fresh air, so there's that. :)

    Today's post highlights just that...bringing the outdoors in and using a bit of creativity to do it. We just spent the afternoon putting our vegetable garden to bed for the winter, so now the garage is full of gardening paraphernalia. The tomato cages caught my eye as we were stacking them in the corner, and my imagination began twirling . . . hmm,  what could I do to transform those wiry things into something useful, pretty, festive. And, apparently I'm not the only one to have those thoughts.

    I love love LOVE this idea for decorating the deck and even the big window flower boxes we've got outside our living room window.  We had a stray cat last winter that decided to use those window boxes as her litter box, ugh! So we've got plans to put something in there this year, and this is just perfect! Simply invert those tomato cages, wrap with some weather-proof garland and lights, and wow, what a fabulous view both from the inside and out!

    But, that's not all! Bring 'em inside, put one in the corner of the bathroom, another in the kitchen, scatter them around the easy and so creative! And, honestly, what could be better than a tree in every single room? Nothing, I dare say, absolutely nothing.


    Photo credit:


  • O Christmas Tree

    issuu.comO Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree,
    How lovely are your branches!
    O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree,
    How lovely are your branches!
    In beauty green will always grow
    Through summer sun and winter snow.
    O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
    How lovely are your branches!

    I've already shared with you how I was always that girl who wanted the tallest, widest, biggest tree on the lot only to get it  home and have to have the boys cut off an inch or two (okay, a foot) just to get it in the door. When we lived for a brief time in a condominium that disallowed real trees, I purchased my first ever artificial tree. It was a sad day indeed!

    But, that artificy was small and slender and not messy, lending it at least a little saving grace (emphasis on little). What if we could combine the real smell of pine with a small size AND be kind to the environment? ENTER: the live Christmas tree! Just like the infamous Christmas carol sings, "In beauty green will always grow through summer sun and winter snow..." You really can have it all!

    Whether you grow this live Christmas tree yourself or purchase it from a grower, there are a few things to know that differ from trees that are cut down.

    • If you live in a cool/cold climate, introduce your live tree slowly to the warmer environment of your home by putting it in  your unheated garage or porch for a few days. If you bring it the house straight away, it will signal it to start growing which isn't a problem in the short run, but if you plan to plant the tree in your yard after the season (and this is such a fantastic idea on so many levels), that burst of growth will not be a good thing.
    • While it's in the garage, check it for insects, critters, eggs. Needless to say, you don't want to skip this step. :)
    • Place the tree ball in a large galvanized tub and locate it in the coolest room of the house so that it retains as much moisture as possible.
    • Use rocks and/or bricks to stabilize the tree so that it stands upright securely.
    • Decorate as you normally would, and water the tree regularly so as to keep the roots/burlap ball moist but not soaking wet.
    • When it's time to introduce it back outside, reverse the process by placing the de-decorated tree in the garage for a few days. And, then plant it!

    It's best to limit the tree's indoor time to no more than 10 days. With three tree likely appearing last on the scene, going this route might require an adjustment to your normal way of decorating for the holidays. But, I really really like this gives everyone the opportunity to anticipate the tree while enjoying all the other activities that go with the season.

    Check out some of the decorations that Merry Stockings has on the website, too. There are stocking kits, ornaments, Christmas Tree skirts and more! Shop early for the best pricing. :)


    Photo credit:

  • DIY Snowy Ball Ornaments

    snowy ballNobody here in the upper Midwest has spoken the "S" word yet, but we all know that these beautiful autumn days are numbered. Despite our best attempts to bribe the gods, winter will come, the snow "S" will fly and we will do what we hearty Minnesotans do in these situations: embrace it complain. I moved here from Washington state 10 years ago, and have never stopped being amazed at how long a Minnesotan can discuss the weather when they don't like it, lol. So it is with great hesitation that I show you this very doable, fun DIY project today. But, never mind the naysayers, here we go!

    This project has been posted on Pinterest from several different people, but I think the idea may have originated with the ever lovely Martha Stewart. I love the look of these, they look so lacey and sparkly, and the fact that it uses common crafting supplies is a big bonus in my book.

    So, let's get started. The gist of this project is that the snowy ball is made out of string that is wrapped around a small water balloon and then dipped in watered down glue. A wise suggestion would be to make just a couple of these to see how it goes before delving into the 100 that you will undoubtedly want once you see them. Okay, slight exaggeration, but maybe not. I love the idea of giving these as gifts to coworkers, extended family, girlfriends, etc. It is a small, thoughtful and very creative gift that anyone would love to receive. That said, there's also nothing wrong with  making these for ourselves, right?


    • small package of water balloons
    • tacky glue
    • plain white string
    • glitter
    • ornament hooks
    • water
    1. Blow up your balloons so they're about 2" in diameter and tie a knot.
    2. Without cutting a piece of string off the roll, attach the end to the knot on the balloon.
    3. Then randomly wrap the string around your colorful little sphere. Isn't this fun?!
    4. Squeeze some tacky glue into a 4" bowl and add some water so it's pretty runny.
    5. Roll your string-wrapped balloons around in the glue until all the string has been coated.
    6. Sprinkle on glitter to your hearts content.
    7. Attach a twist tie to the end of the balloon and twist the end closed to form a small loop.
    8. Using a small piece of string, hang the twist tie loop on your shower curtain rod.
    9. After 48 hours, pop the balloon using a pair of tweezers, and remove the balloon.
    10. Wrap it up in a pretty box or hang on the tree!

    Project credit

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