Last Minute Finishing Touches

1It’s the week of Christmas and I’m still tweaking my holiday decorations.  I wanted something above the mantel in the family room and had been looking for a farmhouse style sign that said “There’s no place like home for the holidays” but hadn’t been able to find one locally.  I considered DIY’ing one, but knew that wouldn’t happen with my current to-do lists.  So I came up with a quick DIY alternative using items I already had and a free printable.

I dug out this large classic frame I’ve used on the mantel several times before including St. Patrick’s and Halloween.  I filled it with some light colored burlap material from my fabric stash and used the cardboard baffle inside to keep the fabric tight.

bcOnce it was closed up, I turned it over and added a free printable I found online thanks to  fellow blogger Lil Luna to the glass on the front using glue dots.  This made placement much easier than trying to attach the print directly to the fabric and center it in the frame under the glass.

dHere’s how it looked all put together.  Sorry for the late night photos, but daylight is a rare thing when I’m at home working on projects these days.  Unfortunately this frame has seen better days and no longer has good hanging options on the backside, so we had to get creative when we went to put it on the wall – especially one made of stone.

aThe Hubs and I came up with a solution using more items we had on hand and now it completes the fireplace wall – just in time for Christmas!

eAnd while we’re talking Christmas decor, I’ll give you a quick tour around the house of my other displays, since I’ve been meaning to do that with photos I was able to take during our minimal daylight hours.

Next to the fireplace I used my collection of bottle brushes along with another free printable I found on the Little Glass Jar blog.  I flanked everything with two of our favorite lanterns filled with pine cones and mini light strings.  Please overlook the dust I apparently didn’t notice when taking these photos – because it’s so common in our household, hence the name of this blog!

treestrees2In the entry way a lighted garland is the perfect base for several woodland style characters, including this super cute driftwood reindeer I just added to the herd this year!  I haven’t named him yet, so if you have suggestions I’d love to hear them.  I also picked up that cute little stuffed fox this year and think he makes a perfect buddy for Santa – plus he makes a great prop for winter time photos shoots with small children!  He’s in need of a name as well so share those ideas too.

entrydeerfoxOut front there’s a new wreath on the door as Rusty greets visitors.  I usually get a live wreath, but the fundraiser I used to buy from is no longer available through a friend, so decided to go faux and get something I can use for several years.  The classic combination of silver and gold should fit in with any holiday style I try over the coming years.

doorwreathI shared my decor on the dining room buffet on Facebook a while back, including the new wall decor I got this year so be sure to get a peek at that.  On an adjacent wall I placed another new piece, this barn wood angel.  I picked her up at the Colony High School Holiday Bazaar that I attend every year.  She was created by the same vendor who made the barn wood star that hung above our nativity set last year and then became part of the gallery wall.

angelThere are a few other decorations around the house, but they are minimal and most have been shared here on the blog before so I won’t rehash them.   I hope you enjoyed the project and quick holiday tour!

Our New Star Tree Topper

I’ve been on the hunt for the past several weeks to find a new star topper for our Christmas tree.  Although I’ve seen a variety of adorable alternate tree topper ideas, I like the tradition of a star atop the tree.  We used to have a large glittery copper paper star, that met an unfortunate demise when it fell off the tree and Bacardi ‘revamped’ it.  Last year we used an IKEA star, which is now on the nativity creche I shared last week.  It worked, but I didn’t love it and knew I wanted something new this year – besides, it looks a lot better with the nativity set than it did on the tree.

I was planning to DIY a star topper I saw on Pintrest but couldn’t find the right materials locally.  I also browsed Etsy for some ready to buy options, yet couldn’t find anything I loved.  So the top of our tree sat naked for the first few weeks it was up while I continued the hunt.  Luckily, during a recent stop at Walmart I spotted a gold colored faux mercury glass star that was ready to plug in and light up.

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The box it came in was fairly beat up, so I looked for another one that hadn’t been abused, but after searching through all of the tree topper shelves I confirmed this was the last one in that style.  While it would still be pretty even if it didn’t light up, I didn’t want to pay full-price if I wasn’t going to get the glow atop my tree like I was envisioning.  Since it was quite early in the morning, the store wasn’t busy and a very nice sales associate helped me find an outlet make sure it still worked.  It lit right up as soon as he plugged it in, so I said I’d take it.

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That night it went on top of our tree.  Since the plugs for the tree lights are in the middle of the tree and the star’s cord didn’t reach that far, I had to run an extension cord through the tree to plug it in.

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It’s the perfect finishing touch to our tree and well worth the little extra effort and hunting.  It’s got a rustic and vintage vibe with the mercury glass look, yet is classic and modern too.  If only I’d known to search for mercury gold star to begin with!

I’m pretty sure we will be replacing the tree for next year – I’ll be on the hunt for a bargain during the after Christmas sales – but the size and style of the new star should work well with any tree we get, so I’m planning to enjoy it for many more years. 🙂

Updating a Tired Creche

z2Hello lovelies!  Did anyone else blink and last week fly right by?  It sure did for me!  Although it went by fast I was able to enjoy some downtime with the hubs and our fur babies while catching up on editing client photos and several holiday projects I’ve been wanting to do.  The first was creating a creche for my Willow Tree nativity set.

I wanted something rustic to compliment the rest of our decor so the creche that Willow Tree sells wasn’t going to fit the bill.  I’d pinned several DIY ideas on Pinterest but none had tutorials so I was planning to wing it and see what I came up with.  Luckily before I dove in and attempted anything I spotted this creche on one of the local buy/sell pages for just $7!  I quickly messaged the seller and arranged to pick it up that evening before someone else could swoop in on my bargain find.

crecheI knew I was going to revamp it a bit so when I got it home I gave it a thorough once over and came up with a game plan.  The first thing I did was remove the battered pine cone on the corner.  Then I removed the extra pieces of bark on the beam at the top and loft area to simplify the overall look.  I set it up on the curio cabinet and filled it with the nativity set to see how everything fit and decide my next step.  It sat like this for a few days while life rolled on but this past weekend I enlisted the Hubs help to make the final few changes.

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I wanted a star above the roof of the stable because it’s such a huge part of the story.  I had an IKEA tree star we used last year that I was replacing and on a whim tested it with the creche.  It was the perfect proportion!  I had planned to have the Hubs clamp a dowel to the back of the stable but we didn’t have a dowel or clamps that were the right size.  The Hubs suggested we use a piece of pipe left over from the foster room bed and gave it a test fit to make sure it would fit in the base of the star and inside the clamp.  He had to grind the end of the pipe down a bit but it fit like a glove.  When we were test fitting the whole assembly on the back of the creche we discovered that the base of the star itself fit in the clamp and decided to forego the pipe and just use the clamp.

2Unfortunately, the back of the creche was very thin and didn’t provide enough grip to hold the screw and soon the weight of the star had spun the clamp out of position.

3My crafty Hubby came up with a solution quickly, recommending I hot glue the bracket in place and we put a brace below the bottom of the star to hold it in place.    It was such a simple idea and it worked like a charm.

4With the star secured, I filled in the open areas of the back wall with the pieces of bark I’d removed from the other areas along with moss from my crafting stash.  I attached it all with my new glue gun, which replaced it’s aging predecessor after it started splitting along the seem and oozing glue everywhere.

The screws for the star bracket and brace were visible inside of the creche, but I was able to hide them with strategically placed pieces of bark on the back wall and the cross beam at the top of the roof so they aren’t even noticeable.  I also had the Hubs trim the two front corners of the base at an angle to better fit the top of the curio cabinet.  (Sorry for the late night photos, but daylight hours are extremely limited around here this time of year so I tend to just let the Christmas tree be our light source, hence the glow to the right.)

0I re-positioned my nativity set inside and covered the bottom board with paper shavings from one of the holiday sausage gift sets we’d bought to enjoy together.  The brown coloring camouflaged the bottom board and coordinated with the bark perfectly.

zNotice that open spot in the shavings on the left?  It’s where I plan to place one of the three wise men from the set I just won on eBay!  I also scored the ox and goat set for a super deal so now I have a whole set minus the camel, which I’ll look for next year.  Until then I’m absolutely giddy with how the whole project turned out and am looking forward to using it for many years to come. 🙂

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DIY Birch Candles

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Thanks to Pinterest inspiration, the hubs recently made several of these amazing birch candles for decor at my recent company holiday party.  We used a couple of trees from our property that had died but hadn’t come down yet.  He cut them at various lengths and used a special drill bit to carve the hole at the top for the candles.  He did burn through several drill bits to get the whole lot done but other than that he said they were relatively simple to make.

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We grouped them in trios at the party inside of white wicker wreathes as centerpieces on the tables which drew compliments from employees and the venue staff who said they were nicer than anything they ever offer!  Now that the party is over I’m using some of them on our dining room table with a faux evergreen wreath I picked up for a few bucks at the Dollar Zone.

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It looked pretty good, but a little plain so I added some pine cones and feathers to give it a finished look.  It works with my classic rustic Christmas decor and will transition into the new year afterwards without lifting a finger, which is exactly what I need these days.

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We’re less than a week from Christmas and I’m finally getting the house decorated, but it’s better late than never.  I’ll share more of my holiday decor next week, including how I used more of these beauties on the mantel, so stay tuned! 🙂

Christmas at the DB&DT House!

Merry Christmas!  I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas.  Here at the DB&DT home we had a fun time introducing Bacardi, Stoli and Luna to Christmas presents, which they all got to open themselves.  Bacardi wasn’t too sure about the idea at first, but she eventually figured it out.

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The excitement made Luna a little unsure, so she hid out under the tree while the dogs opened their gifts and then proceeded to act like toddlers on a sugar binge.

LunaTree

Eventually she came out to see if there was something for her to open.

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And seemed fairly pleased that there was several items with her name on them.

LunaPresent

The first was this fun fishing pole toy from Uncle Mark & Aunty Mere!  She was ready to pounce as soon as she saw it!

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Now that she had this gift opening thing figured out she moved on to the next present, one from mom and dad.

LunaPresentBag

She had to dig to the bottom to find it!

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And almost thought the bag was the gift!

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But it was actually a play tunnel!  I think she thought the bag was better at first…

LunaTunnelFace

But curiosity won out and she decided to investigate.

LunaPresentTunnelUnsure

She explored slowly and didn’t seem to notice the window in the middle.

LunaTunnelWindow

Probably because she spotted something interesting at the other end, which she quickly attacked!

LunaPresentTunnelReady

LunaPresentTunnelPounce

LunaPresentTunnelAttack

Big sister Tequila wasn’t to happy about her kitty kat being hidden inside this new thing.

LunaPresentTunnel

Even when she could be seen in the window.

LunaPresentTunnelWatch

Big brother Stoli was also worried about his kitty.

LunaPresentTunnelStoli

Luna however, wasn’t too happy that they could peek in at her.

LunaPresentTunnelStoli2

But without a doubt, the tunnel was the biggest hit of all the presents, keeping the dogs and the cat – as well as the hubs and myself – entertained!  The hubs gets all the credit for picking this one out!  But all that play eventually made for some tired kiddos and humans…

StoliDadChill

So we had to take a break before opening the rest of the presents, which included more toys and fun.  We wrapped up the day with a walk in the snow and a yummy Christmas dinner followed by special treats for the kiddos.  I look forward to many  more Christmases this this goofy group. 🙂

A Mini-Date at Alyeska

I had a photo session scheduled over the weekend out at Alyeska Resort, which is a well-known Alaskan ski destination and when I found out that the hotel was offering free tram rides up the mountain that day I asked the hubs if he wanted to make a day trip out of the booking. Game to spend his day off with me, he agreed to come along.

Although we’ve lived in the area for almost 2 years, I hadn’t been up to the hotel until recently when I was asked to shoot an elopement there this fall, but I didn’t get a chance to explore the area so I was excited to have an opportunity to check it out.   The hubs had last visited the hotel about 10 years ago, but that was before the tram was installed so there was plenty of new things for him to see too.

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It was foggy down by the hotel, but we heard that there was fresh powder up on the mountain which is why the hallways of the hotel were crowded with skiers and snowboarders waiting to head up the mountain when we first arrived. Luckily, most of them were already up top by the time we finished my session and headed up ourselves.

Just like when we rode the tram in Juneau we climbed into the fog bank hoping for the best.  The view on the way up made me feel all Christmasy inside!

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The fog started to clear as we approached the tram terminal at the top.

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This was the view as we stepped off the tram! Sorry for the glass reflections, but it was the only spot to get the shot.

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The view got even better as we headed out of the tram area and passed a small café which was PACKED with folks trying to catch a quick meal before getting in some more time on the mountain before the limited daylight hours passed. We hung out in a ski lift chair at the end of the walkway that was set up as a swing for a while just enjoying the experience.

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We visited the little gift shop/museum called the Round House which is the octagonal building seen in the photos above. They were having an end of year inventory sale and I found a pretty scarf that was super soft on sale for just $16! The view from the walkway of the Round House was absolutely stunning and just required a panoramic shot to capture the whole scene.

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I spotted another photographer on the walkway around the shop and asked if he would take a photo of the hubs and I with the beautiful background, which resulted in this shot. Notice that new scarf!? 😉

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Next we headed over to the Seven Glaciers restaurant where we sat in a corner with windows on both sides so we could see the tram as well as the people coming down the slopes.  Check out the amazing view!  Even the hubs had to do a panoramic picture!

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But I mostly enjoyed checking out this view… 10
As we waited for our food we spotted the same photographer who had taken our picture working with a bride and groom out on the edge of the slopes! Seeing him work, I felt bad that I’d set the camera to auto before handing it to him to take our photo! Oh well.  While we were eating I spotted these cool bells hanging from the ceiling. I’m not sure what they were from but they were obviously made by a crafted by a skilled artisan or two as the bells themselves had etchings and the collars they were attached to were quite intricate.

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We enjoyed our lunch, watching the tram come and go as the light started to fade and the number of people out on the slopes dwindled.

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We decided it was time to head back down the mountain and start the journey home. Although the tram deck looked empty when we first arrived from the restaurant, it soon filled with folks carrying their snow gear and ready to head back to the hotel for the evening, which made our tram back down much fuller than our tram up had been.

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As we descended, we entered the fog once again and slowly the hotel appeared as we approached. It was definitely an entirely different weather experience on the ground than it was at the mountain top.

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We headed back through the hotel pausing to warm up by the large fireplace where a moose mount sported some festive cheer.

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And as we left the hotel we spotted this polar bear who unlike the moose, didn’t look too excited about being dressed up for the holidays.  Maybe his scarf was a little too tight.

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We don’t have a lot of down time with our busy schedules, so I’m grateful we were able to fit some in around other activities. It was a perfect winter mini-date to get us excited for Christmas.

Meet My Herd

Each of the women in my family has a decorating theme at Christmas. For my sister it’s snowmen and for my mom it’s Santas. For me its reindeer, which is totally fitting for life in Alaska! But I don’t just welcome any ol’ reindeer into the herd. I have to feel a connection with them. And once they are in the herd they have to have a name. Let me introduce you to a few of my favorites.

HollyHolly has my shotgun rider during the Christmas season for several years now. Even when traffic is insane and I’ve had a bad day I’ve got a little bit of festive cheer looking back at me from the dash.

RudyWhile Holly keeps me festive inside my ride, Rudy is my Christmas spirit ambassador on the outside, high atop my antenna!

FinkFink is a fun little guy that my mom found for me. There is a button under his pedestal that when pushed makes him collapse over, but he pops right back to attention when it’s released! 

Fink2

Noel

Fancy swirls make Noel so pretty and feminine. But she’s tough too and can still pull a sleigh.

MaxMax is a hand me down addition to the bunch who I adore and welcome back each year.

MIloI locked eyes with Milo’s sweet face at a craft bazaar and never thought twice about bringing him home with me. I just love his little floppy ears, twig antlers and big goofy nose. I smile every time I see him. 🙂

MoeMoe’s knotty knees and gangly feet were just too sweet to pass by. I’m sure he was crafted just for me and I plan to keep him forever.

GusAlthough he can be a real couch potato but I still adore Gus’s casual laid back vibe.

RustyRusty was too big to make the journey from Virginia to Alaska when I first moved and I dearly missed him every Christmas. Luckily, he made the trek to our new home when we brought my ’55 up north.

WoodyMy favorite, Woody also had to be left behind in Virginia until our recent haul brought him to the last frontier, where I hope he will soon be joined by a Mrs. Woody and maybe even a little one or two!

FlintRedFlint and Red are two of the newest members of the herd, having just been found last year. They found a safe haven from the dogs on the mantel and I love how they look there.

SebastianElegant and poised, Sebastian whistled at my mom in the store so she knew he was a keeper. I’m not joking. He was the only one on the shelf but she wasn’t sure he would ‘speak to me’ as much as he did to her, so she put him back on the shelf and walked over to the next aisle to “think about it”. Then she heard someone whistle from the aisle she’d just been on. When she looked around the corner there was no one there, except Sebastian. She took that as fate and bought him for me.

Of course this isn’t everyone in the herd, that would just take too darn long – There are at least 10 who live on the tree alone! There are few newbies this year who are on interview. If they don’t fit well with the herd I’ll find them another home to be festive in next year. So now that you’ve heard about my wacky Christmas decorating, I want to hear what your traditional décor includes!