Our Simple Christmas Decor

I’m still tinkering with my Christmas decorations, but since the big day is just around the corner, I thought I’d share what I’ve done so far.  I’ve migrated to a more “winter” look than full-on Christmas so things can stay up well into January without feeling out-dated.  That’s handy since winter in Alaska can last well into the months that most classify as “spring”.   I also find that my style is much more simple than it used to be, perhaps that’s an influence of our recent trip to Iceland where they have a very minimal Scandinavian look, or maybe it’s just a lack of time to create so much detail.

Things start out on the front porch, but I’ll share that in another post later this week.  Today we’ll start in the entry way where Red and Flint are the first of my reindeer herd to welcome guests.

Around the corner Gus hangs out above Brinley’s kennel where my cute storage bench used to be.  It was a victim of her teething stage and so now the kennel lives in it’s place.  Ahh the sacrifices we make for children….

Just past the entry the media cabinet in the family room became a bottle brush Christmas tree farm just like last year.  I’ve added the lighted houses in the pedestal cloches, a few more trees and this cute little red truck, which used to be an ornament.

The mantel has a frosted garland and trees.  All of the trees except the two twig ones light up and create a pretty glow in the evenings – or pretty much most of the day since this is winter in Alaska!

I found the light up bottle brush trees at Joann Fabrics this year and am very pleased with them, especially since I got them for a great price with a sale and a coupon!  I’ll be watching to see if they have any in their after Christmas sales.  The two mercury glass trees came from a local vintage shop called Revive.  I’d been hunting for some all over town and had pretty much given up when I found them tucked away in a display at a great price.  If she’d had more I would have snatched them up too.  They also had hollow centers and access through the trunk section so I crammed a strand of fairy lights into both to give them a soft glow as well.  I may just add a strand of the same lights to the two twig trees so everything lights up!

Next to the mantel Sebastian has a view out the window next to his own tree.  Max moved out to the living room this year from the office where he’s been the past few years.  Now he is one window over from Sebastian.

On the couch I’ve got a couple new festive pillows.  I picked up the Ho Ho Ho and tree one from Target’s after Christmas sale last year, but had to ship them to my Mother-In-Law’s house because they wouldn’t ship to Alaska.  Good thing I was able to visit and pick them up earlier this year. 🙂  The red plaid pillows are from JoAnn Fabrics’ fall line.  Pay no attention to the coating of dog hair – that’s what I try to do…

The side table next to the couch got a touch of color with this little wreath and lantern.  I found the lantern at a garage sale earlier this year for just $2 and the wreath was another JoAnn’s sale find for around $5.  I love how they look together.  This is the only time of year I decorate with red, but I love the pop of color during the long winter months.

The tree is behind the couch, next to the nativity on the curio cabinet.  When we first moved in 4 years ago I had a hard time figuring out where to put the tree, but this spot has worked out perfectly and become the tradition in our house.  We have a new tree this year, after our tree of many years stopped lighting up in several sections last year.  It’s an after Christmas clearance deal, so it’s nothing special but it will work for a few years until I can save up and somehow justify the cost of my dream tree along with the vintage style candles for it.

The tree has a bit of Scottish flair after our trip this year.  We picked up a couple of ornaments while there to continue the tradition of growing our collection.  Unfortunately one of those new ones met an untimely fate when Luna and Brinley ganged up to attack the tree soon after it went up (repeat that phrase about things you do for your kids…).  You’ll notice there’s less ornaments on the lower sections of the tree for that exact reason! But our Harris Tweed highland cow and Scottie dog are still safe… for now anyways.

I had this sign for the nativity made last year after the holidays and really like it above the creche.  It’s the perfect compliment to the simple style of my beloved Willow Tree nativity set.

Over in the dining room, Moe found a new home this season on the scroll wall hanging where we put up the holiday cards we receive.  I really enjoy seeing him more often this year and think this will be his ‘usual’ spot going forward.

Next to Moe, this new addition came to us from WA where my wonderful Mother-In-Law went on a mission to find him at an antique shop I follow online.  Several ‘elves’ have made an appearance around our home this year and I think they are great care-takers for our herd.   I haven’t named him just yet, so if you have suggestions I’m all ears.  He reminds me of the Nordic elves we saw depicted in Iceland and even the Scottish Highlands so maybe I’ll do a theme using either of those cultures.

My dear, Milo ended up in the other windowsill, where he’s safe from the dogs.  I’d be pretty heartbroken if something ever happened to him.  His expression seems to say he knows how dangerous being closer to the floor could be in this house!

On the back wall of the dining room I hung my North Pole sign from last year under the windmill and decorated the top of the buffet with faux winter greens, antlers and gold tone votives.  I’d like to make some twig luminary trees to add to this set-up and since the look is “winter” rather than Christmas I’ve got time to do that even after the holiday.

The two votives in the front are new this year.  They were a fun little find at the Alaska Chicks Vintage Market a few weeks ago.  At just $2 each I thought they were a great price too!

The new mug rack also has a few more additions to it for the holidays after the Alaska Chicks show.

This “Merry” Rea Dunn mug was one of my favorite finds that day thanks to one of my favorite vendors, Rustique Designs.  She’s who I got the other Rea Dunn mugs from and who made the reindeer sign and nativity sign!

This sweet little fella was also part of my Mother-in-Law’s adventure to the antique shop.  Isn’t he just the cutest thing ever?  While he’s not quite “Christmasy” I just couldn’t not put him out right away after she made the effort to find him for me.  Plus the little sprig he’s holding kinda looks like holly and the red rim ties him in to the season – at least in my mind. 😉

There are also little touches of Christmas in the other rooms, including this little church in the laundry room.  It started out as an ornament, but I like it much better as a decor piece here after a few little modifications.

Below the shelf is another little elf with a reindeer buddy just his size to keep him company.  These two also started life as ornaments – I think I’m sensing a trend here.

The office window where Max used to sit is now home to the lovely Daphne who joined the herd last year.  She’s got her own little tree and some pretty votives to light up the dark.

Also in the office is this sweet little fox I found at the grocery store!  He was the last in the display and just begged to come home with me.  He’s looking quite dapper on the daybed, among all the pretty pillows.  He also needs a name so keep those suggestions coming!

In the hall bathroom another couple of ornaments turned decor add a little touch of the season to the existing decor.

In our bedroom are two pretty little reindeer my sister found for me last year.  They too started as ornaments, but now they hold their own on our nightstands so we have some holiday cheer at the end and beginning of each day.

In the guest room, there are some little Santas on the nightstands.  If you follow me on Instagram, these are the find I made at that lovely store I made it out of only spending $10!

The chair in the guest room also got a little update for the season with this simple pillow I found at Hobby Lobby during our recent trip down south.  I’m so glad they already had Christmas stuff out while I was there!

So that’s the tour of our Christmas decor.  I hope you liked it!  Stay tuned to see what I’ve done out on the porch, or get a sneak peek over on Instagram! 🙂

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DIY Product Packaging

As a small business owner, I’m always looking for ways to give my customers a great end product without added expense to my bottom line.  I know many other small business owners have a similar need so I thought I’d share update I recently made to my packaging.

I’ve always provided my photography customers with digital images rather than prints.  When I first started out the media of choice was CDs, so I found a free template online and altered it to fit my needs so I could print covers for the jewel cases I put the CDs in.  My customers really liked this packaging and it was fairly low cost for me, especially when I shopped sales or used coupons for the CDs and cases since I could print the cover on my home printer.

Soon CD’s gave way to USBs as the preferred media.  I would have loved to order custom USBs with my logo on them, but that would have required me to raise my rates to cover the huge expense.  Since I like to work with DIY clients who need an affordable photography option that didn’t fit my business model.  So instead, I came up with a simple option using materials I already had on hand – a bulk lot of kraft favor bags and Thank You stickers.

Using items I already had meant this new option was free for me (except the cost of the USB), but I knew my stash of materials would eventually run out and I wanted to have my brand represented like I did with the CD covers.  So I picked up some circular labels and designed a “Thank You” message with my logo that I can still print at home.

My customers who have received the new packaging have all really liked it.  The pack of labels only cost me $10 and will provide about 100 labels so with the kraft bags I bought in bulk, it only cost me about $0.25/packaging.

I originally purchased the bulk lot of kraft bags in three patterns a few years ago on one of the daily bargain sites I follow.  I’ve used some for other projects before this so my inventory is limited but should still last a while.  In the meantime, I’m on the hunt for another bulk offer so I can replenish my inventory.

I’m pretty proud of the end result as it shows off my new branding and keeps cost down so I can continue to offer the rates my customers need.  I’d love to hear what you think of my low-cost DIY packaging option, so leave me a comment below!

From Lantern to Vase

The best thing about thrifting is that you often find pieces that can be reworked into something new.  Usually that involves a coat of paint or major altering of the original item, but every once in a while you stumble upon a super simple upcycle that requires barely any effort.  That’s exactly what happened with my new vase.  The mason jar style and the green tint to the glass are what caught my eye at the thrift store.  But it had a different purpose when I first saw it.

It was a lantern for a small votive candle!  I didn’t originally intend for it to be used as a vase but when the Hubs brought home flowers and I needed another large container for a second bouquet this new treasure was on the counter and the idea was sparked.  I simply pulled out the votive holder rack, filled it with water and plopped in the flowers.  That has to be the quickest upcycle ever – literally 30 seconds flat!

I kept the votive holder rack in case I ever want to use it that way again, but I see many more days as a vase with summer bouquets in it’s future! 🙂

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Welcome Spring

The calendar says that it’s officially spring but in Alaska spring is “break-up” season, which is why we still have about a foot of snow in the yard.  Granted, the snow is disappearing – just not quick enough for my preference.  So rather than lament spring’s tardiness outside I changed up the decor inside to feel a bit more in line with what the calendar says.  The Hubs brought me home flowers recently so that bouquet has been the centerpiece on our table and the large candle I’d had there moved to the windowsill in the family room where the dogs tunnel is below it so they don’t seem to notice it.

I kept things simple in the entryway with two new pedestal cloche stands from World Market, cute little beehive skeeps from JoAnn Fabrics and my Pottery Barn knockoff basket filled with the DIY neutral eggs I made last year.

I love how the little skeeps fit perfectly inside the glass domes.  I love the bright colors of spring but I like to keep my decor simple these days and this gives just enough color while remaining neutral with a farmhouse flair.

Next to the front door my big oil can got some pretty dogwood branches, which are the perfect height to hide the ball chucker we keep in the corner for when we take the dogs out front to play!

The media cabinet got a few little touches of spring as well.  All items I pulled out from storage and one of the little faux planters I recently created.

I don’t remember where I got this little chick or the basket but they fit together perfectly!  Plus pairing two little items together means it’s a little less likely to get snagged by one of the fur babies.  The other side of the cabinet has a free Easter printable I found online a few years ago and my green shamrocks.  Since I don’t decorate for each particular holiday anymore (St. Patricks, Easter, etc.) but rather the season I just use it as greenery now.

The mantel is still a work in progress, but my cutie little wool lambs take safe haven up here away from the fur babies.  I got the white candle sticks on the local buy/sell page for $20 and the brown one was a recent thrift store find.  I’m in the process of painting and distressing it to match the others and plan to add some fun moss or boxwood balls to the tops of each.  The cute birdhouses came from JoAnn’s and will eventually be used as photo props and in the backyard.  The wreath was also from JoAnn’s.  I just couldn’t pass up the pretty purple color.

The tray next to the table got a pitcher of tulips and a cute little bird to accompany the rustic frame I’ve had here for a while now.

Over in the dining room I kept the lanterns from the winter decorating but swapped out the filler for split pea to give them a spring feel and added smaller bee skeeps like the ones in the entry way.  In the middle I paired a cute bunny ornament and a basket of carrots from storage in the cloche I found at Home Goods on our last trip down south.

In the window is my favorite farmhouse lantern, filled with moss for a spring feel and my clearance ceramic bunny I found at the end of last season for just a few dollars. The other side of the windowsill was a safe haven for a few more small pieces, including some hydrangea stems in a green bowl I thrifted some time ago, the fun little moss bunny I love to pull out each year and one of my vintage votives.

Before I had a chance to get this post up I’d already swapped out the wreath above the mantel so I thought I’d share that change.  I got this boxwood wreath from Target and thought it would look good in this spot for most of the year.  It’s just the right amount of farmhouse style mixed with spring.  The purple wreath moved to the front porch where it coordinates well with the purple front door. 🙂

So that’s my attempt to usher in spring indoors while I wait for it’s arrival in my garden!  How did you decorate for spring?

No-Cost Large DIY Tray

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Here’s another quick project I did as part of my inventory for the holiday bazaar.  This large tray started life as a cabinet drawer.  When we installed the laundry room cabinet we took out the drawer on one side because we needed clearance for the sink drain.  Knowing I could use it for something, I kept it and eventually took the tracks off.  When I did, I immediately thought to make it into a tray.

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But I was busy and it got set aside for more priority projects.  When it was crunch time to create more inventory for the show I pulled it back out, dug through my stash of supplies and found two handles we had replaced on our desk cabinets.  They were originally gold, but a quick couple coats of ORB gave them more of the farmhouse style I was going for.

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The hubs helped me attach them, since I’m not good at making things line up.  He also had the brilliant idea to use Q-Tips to paint the screw heads once they were in so they matched the handles’ new paint job!  Have I mentioned recently how much I love that man? 🙂

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Although it didn’t sell at the bazaar, it’s found a home in our guest room.  It’s just the right size for the bed at 20″ by 20″ and can easily be moved to the hope chest when it’s bedtime.  I plan to stage it with some simple toiletries guests might appreciate when they visit.   I know I’ve seen similar set-ups on blogs I follow so I’ll be looking back to get an idea of what all I should include, but I’d love your suggestions as well.

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Since I had the handles and spray paint on hand the entire project didn’t cost me a cent.  Functional and free.  It doesn’t get much better than that!

Linking up at: Knik of Time’s Talk of the Town, Tater Tots & Jello’s BFF and Savvy Southern Style’s Wow Us WednesdayStone Gable’s The Scoop and Thrifty Decor Chick’s Before & After Party!

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TDC Before and After

Our Budget DIY Wedding

Summer has arrived and along with it come wedding season.  Since our wedding was before I started the blog I’ve never shared it here but I thought you’d enjoy seeing our budget-friendly DIY details, so here’s a quick recap.

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We chose a restaurant in Boulder, Colorado as our venue because they had a beautiful garden area where we could host the ceremony.  Rather than spend money on decorations that would only be seen briefly we kept things simple and let the focus be on us and the lush backdrop.

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I ordered bouquets for myself and my sister who was my Matron of Honor from a local grocery store’s floral department and added burlap wraps with ribbon and a rhinestone pin to each.  Since the hubs wore his uniform he didn’t need a boutonniere which was an additional cost savings to not having to buy a suit or tux.  We requested his best man – who was his brother – wear a navy suit, which was readily available in his finance VP wardrobe.  I gave my sister free rein on her dress selection just asking her to pick something navy blue as well, so she found an option she can wear again at a reasonable price.  My mom paid for my dress, which we found at David’s Bridal for around $900.  I had a local seamstress add a purple sash I bought online to the waist to customize it a bit.  I found a rhinestone headband and simple veil online for a good price and bought shoes I could wear again to complete the look.

The reception was held in the restaurant’s upstairs dining room where the tables were arranged in long rows.  We placed a simple burlap runner that my mom made down each and sprinkled river rocks from the dollar store (if I remember correctly we cleaned out their inventory! LOL) between the frosted votives provided by the venue.  I ordered a bunch of daisies from the same vendor we used for the bouquets and snipped the heads off so they could be added in randomly among the rocks and candles.

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01-01The venue provided printed menus customized for us as part of the package price.  They were simple but worked well with the tone of everything else we had going on.

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Our favors were photo tile coasters I made with modge podge and my own Alaskan photography.  The place cards on top were tied with simple jute twine and the symbols notified the wait staff which entrée each guest had pre-selected.

01-01Our guest book was made of pre-cut card stock in our wedding colors where guests could leave a note and slip it into slots in a scrapbook.  I later added photos of each guest next to their cards to finish the project.  I found the scrapbook on clearance for around $15 and used a coupon to buy the card stock as 12″ x 12″ sheets that I cut down so the total cost with the photo prints came to around $30.

The frame we had nearby held the day’s schedule printed on our wedding stationary – left over stock from a DIY kit I picked up at Michaels with another coupon to make our own invitations and response cards.  The frame later became décor in our home and now holds a recipe for a good marriage which I toasted the hubs with at the reception printed on some left over stationary.

01-01The venue was able to make simple cakes so I requested a two tier Chantilly cake with berries for a garnish, which was DELICIOUS!  (FYI – We’ve since discovered that Whole Foods has a Chantilly cake that is practically identical so we order one whenever we’re in Portland to celebrate.)  The rhinestone monogram topper was another Michaels coupon bargain that ran me around $5.  It later became an ornament for our Christmas tree with the addition of a ribbon hanger so now we can enjoy it every year.

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My mom picked up these little treat bags on clearance and added some of her favorite candies.  We borrowed a basket from the venue and set them out next to the cake with a few extra daisy heads and a votive to dress them up a bit.

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We also saved by not hiring a DJ. Instead we put together a playlist of music for both the ceremony and reception.  A friend helped make sure the right song was selected for the first dance and other important moments, which only took a few moments away from her enjoying the event.

As a photographer myself, I knew the importance of having a visual memory of the details of our wedding, so we made photography a priority with a chunk of the budget (photography credit for all photos to Nicole Nichols Photography).    The other big expense was the food, but it was very good and well worth it.

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I don’t have the exact figures anymore but the final total came to around $8,000 thanks to our budget conscious shopping and DIY choices. That didn’t include the rehearsal dinner which was covered by the hub’s family, but that was something that had been saved and planned for in advance.

I encourage couples planning their wedding to prioritize what they want and compromise on the things that aren’t as important or don’t have as much of a lasting impact. It is possible to have a dream wedding on a budget, it just takes planning and determination. 😉

DIY Strawberry Gutter Planters in 4 Easy Steps

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The hubs and I tackled several projects over the weekend thanks to some glorious weather.  I’ll be sharing them all in due time, but here’s one of the ones I’m most excited about – our new Gutter Strawberry Planters!

The install was pretty simple, just 4 easy steps:
1.  Install boards across the space to hang the gutters from.

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2.  Hang the gutters from the boards.

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3.  Add end caps to each side of the open gutters.

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4.  Fill with dirt and strawberry plants!

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It took longer to find the materials at the home store than it did to install and finish this project!  The hubs may drill holes in the bottoms of the gutters to allow for drainage, but we’ll see how it goes for a few days before he finalizes that thought.

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I love that they are high enough to be safe from our berry picking dogs and because they are behind the shed they are protected from the moose.  Plus this spot gets full sun for a large chunk of the day which is what makes strawberries sweet.  Hopefully the plants like their new home and start producing sweet success soon!

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