Wednesday, December 6, 2017

How to Make An Outdoor Light Swag

The front of the house here at Sweetwater has five light fixtures.
Two on the sides of the door and three across the front of the garage.
So nice to have all of that light.
Not so nice if I want to decorate those lights for the holidays.
Buying swags for FIVE lights is really not an option for someone as CHEAP thrifty as I am!
So over the years, I have learned to make my own using stuff that is almost free.
Read on to learn the trick behind this pretty swag.
Did you notice how this swag has a lot of dimension from front to back? 
I used to just gather up some greens....wire them together in the middle and tie it with a bow.
They looked okay but were sort of flat!
I discovered a trick for making these fuller versions.

Chicken Wire! 

An eight inch strip of chicken wire can be cut using a sturdy snipper.  I am so lucky that Mr. S gifts me with these romantic type presents!  I guess he knows what I will actually use!
Form the eight inch strip into a cylinder by folding it over and pinching the sides in.  It is helpful to use work gloves when you do this...chicken wire is really hard on your hands.
Now you have a form/base for your scraps of greenery.  I love the fact that you can use some pretty shabby greens in the back of your swag.   Just keep snipping greens and pushing them into the wire.  After you have the top and bottom of the swag the shape you like, start adding greens that stick out and make the swag look full from the front to the back.  You don't need to put a lot of greens in the center because your bow will go there.

 When you are pleased with the greenery, you add a bow.
Bows seem to be intimidating to people.  Making a fancy bow is really pretty easy.  Check out this link to see a step by step of the process.

 I used some of that fun netting as the background for the bow on these swags.  That stuff is easy to find...I have seen it at the dollar store, Lowes and Micheals.  I like how it makes the plaid ribbon stand out.

These swags on the wire cages are especially nice because of how they can be attached to the lights.  Simply run a length of ribbon through the back of the cage.  This ribbon can be tied around the light.  No worries about wires that can scratch your fixture.
 I am always pleased that the swags look like something that I went out and purchased!
They frame the entry and add a lot of holiday oomph for little or no money!

Happy Decorating....

Before I go.....The Sweetwater entry is decked out for the holidays too!  I had an old grapevine wreath that was the perfect size.  A few scrap greens and some leftover ornaments from the Festival of trees event.....I am liking this a lot!

Have A Great Day!

Friday, December 1, 2017

DIY Hostess Gift Tutorial: Birch Log Decoration

There is something about birch logs and branches that says "holiday" to me.
This cute little holiday decoration is a great hostess gift and so easy to make.

How to make a Miniature Birch Log Decoration

3 birch sections about 6 inches long
Paddle wire
Accent berries

Step One:
Cut a 2-3 inch birch log into six inch peices.

Lucky me....I have a big bucket of birch logs in the garage.   If you don't have access to the woods to cut your own can buy a few logs almost anywhere.  It kills me that they cost $5 a log...but I guess that since one will make at least 2 of these decorations...that isn't bad.

Lucky me....I have one of these:

It is called an Alligator Lopper.
It is electric...
It makes short work of cutting small logs.
It runs about $70....hmmm....great Christmas gift for someone!

Step Two and Three:
Wire the set of "logs" together using the paddle wire.

Wire some sprigs of greenery and berries together with wire.

You can use fresh or artificial greens for this.
You can also use hot glue for the logs if you wish.

Step Four:

Tie a ribbon around the logs to cover the wire.

Add the greenery.

Top with a pretty bow.

So Simple
So Elegant
So Inexpensive


This gorgeous book would be a wonderful companion gift to go along with your decoration.

The paperback is available from Amazon for $10.99.

So I will leave you with this quote from Frost:

Have A Wonderful Day!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Hostess Gift Tutorial Day 2: DIY Gnome!

Nothing says Scandinavian Christmas like a Tomtem, Gnome or Elf!
Why not make one of these charming little fellows for a hostess gift?

You probably have the supplies on hand.  If not, a trip to the thrift store will get you everything you need to make a bunch for only a few dollars.


Toilet paper tube or 3 inch birch log

Styrofoam ball


some kind of "beard material"....fiberfill, an old halloween wig, sheepskin

Old sweater sleeves

Wooden Bead

Hot Glue Gun

Sewing machine or needle and thread.

  • Cut off a sleeve of the sweater you are using for a hat.  Use the bottom ribbing for the bottom of the hat and machine or hand stitch the side into a cone shap.
  • Cut a rectangular piece of the body sweater fabric to wrap around the toilet paper tube.  Tuck the ends into the tube opening and glue down. (Skip this step if you have access to birch logs)
  • Wrap fiberfill around the styrofoam ball and glue to the top of the tube or log piece.
  • Add a longer piece of the fiberfill to create a beard.  If you are going all can purchase sheepskin remnants.  I got mine at Axe Man Surplus for $1.00.  You will want to glue the beard from the top of the head.  These Tomtens don't have faces....just facial hair.
  • Stretch the hat on the head....position it so that your little guy has some charm.
  • Glue the wooden bead onto the center of the "face".

In little or no time, you have a fun hostess gift.  If you want to go all out could head to IKEA for some Lingonberry Jam to add to it.  I am sure there are other Scandinavian treats that would make good long as it ISN'T Lutefisk.

Speaking of Lutefisk....I just finished a great book that will call to anyone with Minnesota roots...

A quirky and interesting read.

Have A Great Day!

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Saturday, November 25, 2017

A Week of DIY Hostess Gift Tutorials

Things are pretty much in full holiday mode around here....although since we are having a late Thanksgiving "gather and gobble" on Sunday....Mr. S has requested that I restrain myself a bit and leave a few remnants of fall the house feels a little like Thanksgiving.

Some of you may have noticed that I have been struggling to get posts written on a regular basis...
I have decided to change that!
I have a Goal: I plan to post EVERY DAY this week with quick tutorials for easy to replicate hostess gifts.  I hope this goal will motivate me to post more often....and inspire you to get your craft on!
So here goes!

Coverless Book Bundles Holiday Style


Coverless book bundles were all the rage a few years ago.
They are the epitome of "shabby chic".

Shabby Chic is not for everyone....but...if you change it up to have a HOLIDAY theme....then these work for almost any decor style.

Do you know how hard it is for a retired "librarian" to rip the cover off of a book?
Well...I had to get over that for this project.
Since I promised you a tutorial....a tutorial you shall have...(even though I believe MY clever readers are all be smart enough to figure this out on their own!!!)

  •  Find some old books....the thrift store is a great source if you don't have any lying around.  The older and dingier the better!  Look for groups of books that are similar in size. 
  •  Remove the soft casing of the book and make sure to remove any printed pages that precede the blank page. Most books have one blank page before the work of the book begins, so you want to leave that page as the top “page” of the book. When you remove the cover, don’t worry about peeling off the binding, the more weathered your binding looks, all the better for the look of your bundle. 
  • Play around with stacking your books.  It will all depend on the books you have.
  • Add your holiday sentiment.  I used the PRINT ON FABRIC technique to print the words on strips of canvas.  You can just use a fabric marker or sharpie to write your words.  Any kind of glue works to add the strips of canvas to the spines of the books. 
  • Wrap the books with a fun holiday ribbon just like you would wrap a  present. You can tie a bow or not tie a bow. It’s up to you.
You have just created a holiday themed vintage book bundle!
This is a perfect hostess gift. It takes little time and only costs a couple of dollars (or free if you use your own old books).
You will probably want to make a few so that you have one for your own!

Have  A Wonderful, Crafty Day!
Stay tuned for tomorrow's Tutorial!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

This Year's Festival of Trees Contribution

Once again the Sweetwater Daughter and I were privileged to participate in the Auburn Homes Festival of Trees.
Our mission was to create a specific look using a white flocked tree.  
Our color scheme needed to be red, black and green.  
The theme was " I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas".....but I would add "Oh what fun it it....!"

How to get this look:

The oversized ornaments came from (would you believe) Costco and Menards. They didn't cost much so we could use a lot.  Some of the ornaments got a coat of black spray paint.  (Finding oversized BLACK ornaments just wasn't possible.)
The plaid ribbon is woven deeply into the came from Tuesday Morning.
The "Christmas Crackers" were constructed from a piece of pool noodle and some black and white wrapping paper.  The red bows added a bit of color.
The glittery red and green sprays were probably the most expensive thing.  We found them at a wholesale place, but you could do glitter free branches for next to nothing.
The top hat tree topper was a real find at Pier One.
Faux packages wrapped in our color wave took the place of a traditional tree skirt.

It has been so much fun to create these trees over the past few years.
One of my favorite parts of being a blogger is being able to go back a look at projects from past years.

The Mitten was the theme....
Big Woolen mittens and plaid ribbon....
Slices of wood with the book characters modge podged on them. 


Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree

Full sized records....
Black and White checked ribbon....
Cardboard Jukeboxes and Classic Cars....
A Poodle Skirt tree skirt.....

And All That Jazz!

Gold and Glitz...
Big Instrument ornaments....
Jazzy Black Top hats....
Piano Key Fleece tree skirt....

A Walk in the Woods

Lots of Gnomes....
Woodland Creature Ornaments....
Big Sugar Pine cones....
Resin Antlers....
Rustic floral accents....

Wow...looking back makes me anxious to get started decorating at home...
NOT until after Thanksgiving!  MY RULE!

Have a Wonderful Day!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Easy Decor: Dried Orange Slices

If you buy a few oranges on your next trip to the grocery store, you have the makings for some decor accents.
Dehydrated orange slices are simple to make.  They are a great transitional decoration to use all through the fall and into the Holidays.

The process is so simple that I feel sort of silly telling you how.

Cut some slices.....

Blot as much juice as possible with a paper towel.

Place the slices in a single layer on baking sheets.

Put them in a 200 degree oven.

Let them dry for about 2 hours.

Be sure to check them often in the last half hour.  Sometimes a thinly sliced section will burn.

Take the dried slices out of the oven and cool on a wire rack.

That is all there is to it!

The dried fruit looks nice mixed with some cinnamon sticks and baby pine cones.

The little copper strainer is just the right size for the windowsill over the sink.

 I added some pine cones and orange slices to a small potted plant.  It is a nice transitional Thanksgiving vibe.

I found these inspirations for other uses of dried orange slices.


 The thermometer here reads 19 degrees....a great day to have a slow oven toasting some orange slices.

Have A Great Day!

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Sunday, November 5, 2017

Get Your Holiday Tool Kit Ready

Don't you admire/hate those people who have all of their holiday shopping done before Halloween is past?
I know I should be doing this....
Somehow...I really don't get in the spirit of shopping until at least Thanksgiving.

I do start to put together an essential Holiday Tool Kit to have ready for the hectic holiday decorating, wrapping and shopping!
I thought I would share my "gotta have" list with you.  I would love to hear what your essentials are.

Paddle Wire

You won't believe how many times you will use this.
It costs about $3.
I keep a paddle in the craft room and the junk drawer.

It is great for hanging decorations....without damaging surfaces.

It is the way to secure the center of a fancy bow!

Paddle wire is available at craft stores and on Amazon.

Wired Ribbon

Costco has 50 Yard spools of wired ribbon for $6.99.  I don't think there is a better deal out there.
This ribbon works for everything.

I always buy a pure red and a burlap look.  
You won't believe the ways this will work in your holiday wrapping and decorating. 

Here is a link to a tutorial all about tying fancy bows.

Pine Cones 

Pine cones are accents that work in November as well as December...and even up until Valentine's Day.

If you have pine trees or access to them.....start collecting all sizes of pine cones.  We have trees with those tiny "mini" cones.  I gather tons of these to use as filler. 

Start watching at the grocery or craft store.  You can find deals on those wonderful cinnamon scented cones.  Instant Holiday atmostphere is just $5 away!

If you feel like splurging....invest in some giant Sugar Pine Cones.  I have been able to order them in bulk for around $3 a cone....but even at twice that....they have a dramatic impact. I think this arrangement could work from November to January.

 Cellophane Wrap

I love to use this simple clear cello wrap to dress up a hostess gift.  If you buy food can make that home baked treat look pretty upscale.  If you have some on hand you can add some instant glamour without much expense or fuss.

All Kinds of Tape/Adhesives

This is the time to buy those 3 packs of clear tape both single and double stick.  The ones at the dollar store work great for most things.
Zots...are great for sticking paper to paper.  You can also use them to put paper on glass....easy to remove.

Command Strips...great to have on hand to temporarily put up holdiday themed art.

Spray Mount Adhesive....make sure to have a full can.

Modge Podge...even a small bottle from the dollar store may come in handy.

 Picture Frames
Start gathering small sized frames from the thrift store.  You can frame cute family photos with a holiday theme or a beautiful holiday card from the past!  Print out a favorite quote captured from the internet and present it in a frame.  (wrap it in cellophane for a classy touch)

Those are just a few of the things that are in my arsenal. 
I know I won't have the ambition to get the big shopping items purchased before mid-December....but I can be ready to do some small things.
The whole idea is to have things on hand so that you don't have to take time out to go to the store when inspiration hits you.

What are the things you deem essential for your holiday preparations?  I would love to hear from you!

Have a Great Day!