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tricks for your treats!

it seems like caramel apples are everywhere this fall...
several magazines have them on their covers (FOLK, Martha)
and a few more have images inside (Country Living, Matthew Mead, BH&G)

well, i'm joining the party ;0) 
i JUST found these images in my files, and thought i'd pop them up here for you
because there are a few SUPER EASY IDEAS shown in them:

1. sit your caramel apples on a bed of raw sugar - and sprinkle a bit on top, too. 
it doesn't melt into the caramel, but it will stick to both the top
and the dripping gooey stuff that ALWAYS seems to slide off the bottom onto the plate.
the caramel apples shown here are lady apples - very small, and very easy to eat!
2. display your caramel apples or cupcakes on a plate, then sit the plate on top of a glear glass vase that has been filled with with fun decor - like these sparkly foam pumpkins [at Dollar Tree, a buck each] or real orange mini-pumpkins, or a few bags of candy corn. you can use several vases of different heights on your serving table for great results AND these are much more stable than a cake stand. 

[Here's a decor tip: you can re-use candy for decorative purposes. you just have to store it in an airtight container between uses. one of my residential decor clients had two HUGE glass vases that she filled up with candy corn every fall - we're talking about five GALLONS of candy corn in them! when i came in to decorate for the Holidays, she'd have me dump that candy into the sealed plastic containers where it was stored all year. it wasn't EDIBLE, but it was re-usable - and that saved her about fifty bucks each year!]

3. serve popcorn or trail mix from a large glass vase - and use regular coffee cups to scoop & serve! you could easily tuck a colorful paper napkin into the cup handle, too. this also works well for serving soups - use a ladle to serve instead, but the cups are a perfect portion size AND easy to hold.

looking at these images of caramel apples and popcorn makes me think of caramel popcorn balls - one of my favorite childhood treats. my mom also made popcorn balls with corn syrup, sugar, and KoolAid powdered drink mix for flavor & coloring. i had four kids, and making popcorn balls just took too long because i was always having to chase around after someone..... so i would CHEAT! i gave them a sweet, fun popcorn treat that was just as good as popcorn balls without all the work.

my 'trick and cheat' popcorn treat:

pop the corn, then pour it into a paper grocery bag
drizzle it with a LITTLE bit of melted butter
mix together a little bit of salt, KoolAid/CrystalLite powdered drink mix & sugar in a mixing cup
sprinkle the mix over the popcorn in the bag
shake in the paper bag to coat the popcorn with the sugar/KoolAid mixture
dump into a huge bowl [or glass vase, as shown above!]
serve to ravenously hungry kids... and adults ;0)  


Art Class #101: The Art of Arranging

 This country-style cabinet in an entryway serves as a perfect place for seasonal decor -
it's the first thing you see on entering this home, 
and it welcomes residents and guests alike every day.
By simply replacing small items on the three shelves, 
a fresh new look is achieved every three months or so.

Ok, admittedly, for ME, this is a simple undertaking.
But I am getting questions from readers asking me things like 
'How do you know WHERE to put things? How do you ARRANGE them?'

well, I am so very glad you asked!
Time for another 'Art Class #101': let's talk about the Art of Arranging

speaking of 'arranging'....
I first heard the term 'L'arte d' arrangiarsi' when I read the book 'Eat Pray Love' a few years back.
 it's Italian. and it means 'the Art of Making Do'
or literally, 'the art of arranging nothing into something'.
sounds a lot like what i try to share here, huh?!
let's take what we have, and learn a new way to 'make do'...
 let's look a bit closer at the shelves in the top photo 
and find some artful components...
the theme is simply autumn, and the subtext of that is nature.
look closely for repetition - in color, shape, texture, imagery, subjects, and number.
 and of course, you'll see balance, scale, and composition.
all of these work together to form a 'still life' vignette in home decor and store displays.

here's how it all works together:
on the top shelf, left side:
* a small print is leaning against the back of the cabinet - this helps bring a brighter color to the dark background, and also reflects the theme of nature. the sunflowers on the table in the print speak of fall.

* three small ceramic bowls in the 'Jewel Tea Autumn Leaf' pattern are lined up in front of the print - using items in odd numbers (quantities of 3 and 5 are most common) are pleasing to the eye. several small orange pumpkins and a grouping of leaves & nuts fill them for the effect of 'abundance' during the harvest season. also, the bowls are small and do not block the view of the print behind them.

[the items in these bowls are cheesy plastic stuff from the dollar store. it doesn't matter - you can't really SEE them, they just add a bit of color and keep the bowls from being empty.]
 on the top shelf, right side:
* you can just see the small print on the left in this photo. at the edge of it, a wood birdhouse has been placed, with a branch of leaves behind it - this hides the right edge of the painting so that it does not appear to 'float' on the shelf. the 'hidden edge' is integrated into the arrangement as it leads off to the right side. the birdhouse speaks again to the 'nature' theme of the display.

* three small Sweet Sweater Pumpkins are placed in a tight group, along with a few more leaves. their rounded shapes echo the bowls, and the odd number of 3 objects is repeated. however, symmetry isn't the goal: if you lined the pumpkins up like the bowls are, this arrangement would be unbalanced to the eye.

* we've created two arrangements on this small shelf, and linked them with the print and birdhouse.
on the middle shelf, centered:
* first, note that this shelf is arranged with a centered placement - different than the shelf up above, which had two arrangements on either side linked by the print in the center. vary placement for interest!

* two sets of four are used here, but due to their placement, they read as two sets of three to the eye - the three ceramic pumpkins on the left and the three stacked leatherbound Bibles are what you see first.

* the ceramic pumpkin plate sits behind the other ceramic pumpkins - displaying objects on different levels and depths adds a sense of movement to your displays, and keeps them from looking like a police lineup.

does anyone out there remember Christopher Lowell? he was always talking about 'lifts, levels, and elevations!' - he was right! stack things up, stand things up, lean them... use all of the 3-dimensional space you have, instead of just sitting things level with one another.

* then your eye travels to the right, where you see the standing wood Bible box and the small pumpkin in front of it - their similar color makes them a secondary focal point on this shelf.
 on the lower shelf, right side:

* you see a repeat of the top shelf's Jewel Tea Autumn Leaf pattern ceramic bowl, just in a larger size, and the orange ceramic pumpkin from the middle shelf, and the trio of Sweet Sweater Pumpkins from the top shelf - this repetition of form and pattern ties all of the displays together.

a vine wreath stands at the back, adding color and brightness to the dark background and height to the composition.

* fall leaves have been tucked into the wreath, the bowl, and under a pumpkin in front - these 'soften' the hard edges of the planter and bowl, and also offer a change from all of the 'round' shapes used here.

* the rusty copper metal planter is a color that appears in the ceramic pumpkin, so we are keeping things in the same tonal family. silver metal wouldn't work here. and gold might be too garish. [speaking of which, the lamp bothers me. the gold IS too garish, the green shade is too vivid, and the light is too bright. however, it's what was available for the space at the time. if we can find another small lamp, we'll replace the green one]

* did you notice that the wreath, copper planter, and bowl make a trio? this is another repetition of three, along with the 3 sweater pumpkins used. also: the three sweater pumpkins and ceramic bowl are NOT placed directly below the ones used on the top shelf. these are placed on the opposite side of the composition - repetition and balance, but not symmetry.

just one last thing to point out:

* the warm wood surface of the shelves and the green stained trim on this cabinet really worked well with the colors used in this season's display. like a frame on a painting, the furniture can set off a composition OR it can compete with it. try moving your furnishings around seasonally.... for instance, in summer and spring, a pale pine cabinet would work very well here to display lighter-toned accessories for those seasons.

OK, now go empty your shelves and start rearranging!!!


simple solutions: easy fall table decor

[photo credited to Chez Fifi http://fabulousfifi.typepad.com/chez_fifi/page/20/
Here's what she said about this and other photos: "I took the photos below at a wonderful press event held this past weekend at Moss Mountain Farm, outside Little Rock, Arkansas, the home of P. Allen Smith (www.pallensmith.com) the fabulous host of the PBS series: P. Allen Smith Gardens."]

if i could choose anywhere to host a fall dinner party or a thanksgiving dinner,
it would be in a setting like THIS one shown above! 
what a delightful way to create a memorable autumn event. 
this is a wall built with straw bales that fronts a party tent. brilliant.
can't you just picture this at dusk, with candles glowing and soft music playing?

oh, sorry... that's not a 'Simple Solution' at ALL, is it?! enough dream sequences...
let's get back to the real world of trying to fit decorating into our already busy schedules!

one thanksgiving arrived and i had been so busy at work that i forgot about the table decor.
that sounds completely AWFUL, doesn't it??? well, life happens sometimes... we've all been there.

after a mad dash through the house ensued,
with me grabbing anything and everything that looked remotely like it would work....
amazingly, it DID work!
 no one ever knew that i threw the decor together in minutes...
here's how it worked:
*used a fabric scarf - very large, almost sari-like -as the tablecloth.
it allowed the golden wood of the table to show, and created a garden lattice effect.
to continue that unexpected 'fall garden' theme, 
*filled some white ironstone bowls and platters with 'natural' elements i had on hand:
a faux acorn vine, creamy white resin and my sweet sweater pumpkins,
bleached leaves, and dried hydrangeas right from the yard.

*white pillar candles placed in tall glass vases added lots of sparkle
AND kept the flame away from little fingers

*place markers are Scrabble tiles arranged on each salad plate 
to spell out the name of the guest who would be sitting there.
the little plate above was for my sweet almost two year old grandson.
no, he didn't eat from it ;0)

after getting rave reviews on the decor, a little light bulb went on:
stop fussing over the table, Deb! keep it simple and make your day a whole lot easier...

the next year, here's what i did on the table for thanksgiving:
*folded a white linen tablecloth and used it as a runner.
*filled some glass italian yogurt jars with water and CHEAP white carnations
*scattered some bleached leaves and votive cups with tealights in them down the runner.
*set placesettings with my white dinnerware, linen napkins, glassware, and silver.

it only took me about FIFTEEN MINUTES to do this whole thing!
the flowers still smelled good, the candles still glowed and flickered warmly...
it still said 'fall' and 'thanksgiving' and 'family'...
it just WHISPERED it instead of shouting.

(and instead of last-minute fretting, fussing and foofing of the table,.
i was sitting in a chair with a glass of wine, visiting with my daughters and grandsons.
now THAT is something to be thankful for!)


Inspiration: Down Home Displays

 this past week i was at DOWN HOME American Country Antiques in Orange, California
shooting a story for FOLK Magazine's Holiday issue (November 2012)

there were SO many inspiring autumn display and decor ideas in the store
i found myself spinning around in circles to take it all in and photograph it!
i just had to share a few of my photos with you
(just the ones that won't be included in the magazine story)

the creative owners and dealers at this shop REALLY go above and beyond 
with their vignettes, themes, details, and presentation  - 
and the great part is you can find totally usable ideas that are easy to replicate in your home!

case in point, that wall o' crates shown in the photo up above. 
really, how much more simple can you get?
the interest is in the fact that the crates are all different sizes, filled with simple yet beautiful items.
wood crates, wire crates, wooden dresser drawers... use anything!

and then there's that metal SINK. be still my heart.
what a great idea - hang up an old metal washbasin or sink on the wall 
as a place to display seasonal decor.
it's an idea that would work perfectly on a big front porch, too...
 a picturesque gathering of gourds and pumpkins, bittersweet vines and leaves
fills an old metal wagon on top of a huge wood harvest table.
amazingly detailed and painted canvas pumpkins, made by hand - 
and i LOVE the old metal bread rack display fixture!
vintage Halloween collectables are one of the hottest items around, 
and this store has more of them in one place that i have ever seen.
look at this charming party scene using vintage items...
 i know it gives ME some great ideas! how about you?

 the two ladies who created this sweet display AND the canvas pumpkins 
won the award for  'Best Fall Theme Booth Display' - 
voted on by their fellow dealers! well done, girls!

in a spooky dusty corner of the shop, you'll find a mad scientist's lab!
creepy and gothic apothecary jars filled with specimens, 
dusty old books and yellowed photos and even a gargoyle...
if there can be a style called 'shabby chic', then THIS has to be called 'creepy chic'!

 the store completely changes with every season, 
so no matter when you visit, you'll find new delights around every decorated corner!
[and i haven't even shown you the best stuff here, because those photos are going into the magazine]

thank you, owners peggy and don arbenz for your time,
and for letting me take 245 photos of your beautiful store!

Down Home American Country Antiques
 200 East Chapman Avenue  Orange, CA 92866


Get Warm & Cozy Fall Decor in 5 EASY steps!

It really is possible to change up the look of your home each season without going to a lot of trouble. 

This former client's home is a perfect example of some simple ways to update your decor seasonally, 
and pull a warm and cozy look together...fast!

1. Use Your Existing Artwork

The painting on the wall in her dining room, above, was moved here from its 'regular' spot in a hallway.
I just had to use it here because the colors are so warm and inviting, and perfectly coordinate with the hues of the centerpiece. The painting that is usually hangs in the dining room has cooler tones in it, and looks lovely in the hallway now.

Moving your art around seasonally not only helps you to get a fresh new look in your rooms, but also provides you an opportunity to notice and appreciate your art more. It's easy to speed past this lovely work of art when it's in the hallway - but in the dining room, one can sit and enjoy the scene during a leisurely meal.

2. Freshen Up the 'Everyday' Accents

Those big urns with arrangements of silk hydrangeas on the buffet stay here year-round as 'base pieces'.
Seasonal changes are achieved by simply tucking additional flowers & foliage in there to change it up a bit each season. It's really not necessary to get something completely new - just a bit of restyling makes a huge difference. What look like leaves in the photo are actually huge velvet poinsettias in a gorgeous rust color - I nestled them into the sides of the arrangements so that they don't really look like poinsettias.  

[Be open to using things in ways other than how they are intended to be used: My client got these at 75% off at an after-Christmas sale. Because of their color and shape, they are the perfect addition to her fall decor.]
3. Life Happens - Keep Decor Flexible

The tablescape is oh so simple - which is important, because my client could remove it easily for entertaining. She had a toddler and TWIN infants at the time, so a lot of activity was happening around this table. When she wanted it to look beautiful, she could easily re-create this simple arrangement on her own.

The runner is a really inexpensive roll of spun cocoa fiber that my design partner Karen picked up at the local craft store - it comes doubled up, but we liked the look of just one layer because it's almost like the delicate veining in fall leaves. We unrolled it and let the ends just curl under the table sides. Then a collection of ceramic pumpkins was placed very causally on the runner.
In this close-up you see yet another way to use a wreath! Here, one made of wheat & various seed pods surrounds the ivory cake plate. If she wants, my client can remove the candles and leaves on the cake plate to display a fancy dessert there during her dinner party. Like I said - EASY!

ok, I am going to share something here that still baffles me.....

This woman had EXCELLENT taste. She hired an interior designer to help her furnish and decorate this beautiful executive home. She hired me to come with my design partner and decorate her rooms for every season. But she, herself, would never EVER buy a new thing for the house or move anything that was already there. Not on the mantel, not on the table, nothing. She felt we were the 'professionals', the 'experts', and knew more than she did - so she just waited around for us to come and decorate. For the five years that I decorated for her, we encouraged her to change up the entry table or the mantel or the dining room table centerpiece - nope. Wasn't going to happen. I loved working for her, but I just wanted to shake her and say 
"It's YOUR HOME. Live in it!!"

No one is more an 'expert' on your home than YOU are! I hope all of you out there in blogland feel 'at home' enough in your rooms that this is not a problem for you!

4. Coordinate the Elements

In the entry, I used the same trick of adding faux stems to an existing 'everyday' arrangement - a swath of bright leaves and berries tucked into this urn of magnolias adds a pop of color. A few funny little faux pumpkins add whimsy but still work with the more formal nature of the home. A snippet of the same leaf & berry garland tops the mirror on the wall, coordinating the look. The moral is: When you see a seasonal garland or bunches of leaves/flowers that you love, buy a few of them. You can cut them apart or use them whole in many different ways around your home - but the whole look stays coordinated and 'designed' because some of the elements repeat themselves from room to room.
This close-up of the mirror shows the OH SO SIMPLE garland just bent over the top edge of the frame.

And though I added the beautiful autumn quote to this photo in my editing program (as suggested in this post), it would be SO easy to use a transfer to put a quote on your mirror for the season. When the seasons change, grab a credit card and scrape the transfer ink off of the mirror.
[you can pick up beautiful 'wall words' and similar transfers for pennies on the dollar at discount stores like Ross, Marshalls, and Big Lots!]

Even if you have real, live, growing plants in your home, you can easily add some fake flowers and leaves to them for seasonal interest. Which brings me to myfinal tip of the day:

5. when your indoor flowering plants stop blooming, 
you can FAKE IT!

I know I am usually all about cheap solutions, 
but here's where you want to spend a bit more:

go to a local craft store or fine garden center, and get a few stems of the same flower that grows on the plant naturally. (Orchids, Calla Lilies, Poinsettias, Mini Roses, for example) and then insert the FAUX STEM right next to the real stem of the plant. Nestle the faux flowers into the real foliage, and your refreshed plant is ready for the season!

 shared online:

Cupcakes & Crinoline | Project Inspire{d}


$5 Fall Wreath Makeover

You know I love 'making do' with what's already on hand... 
here's another 'Fast, Cheap & Easy' TM project that does exactly that!
Follow along and I'll show you how to take an old wreath from flab to FAB
[and remember, these tips would work for ANY season]

 my mom had this fall wreath stored in the garage. she's used it for years, and it's okay.
she bought it on clearance at Target
[yeah, the nut doesn't fall far from the frugal tree around here!!!]
but i knew i could make it better, and look exactly like the ones we saw over at that swanky store. 
she was eyeballing those wreaths over there and i could tell she wanted one...
so i simply MADE one for her instead by making over the wreath she already had.

 i enlisted one of my TOP TIPS as a stylist: cheap fake foliage. 
 yep. i went to the Dollar Tree and bought some stems of colorful fall fabric leaves for a buck each. 
mom had a few larger branches of dull-colored leaves that i mixed in, too.
here's what you need for this project:
scissors and wire cutters [scissors cut through the plastic stem, then wire cutters snap the wire inside]
branches/bunches of fabric leaves, flowers, whatever you want to use
an existing wreath

you can start with a new bare wreath or strip a wreath completely down and start over, of course, 
but i'm just showing you how to 'pump up the volume' of something you already have on hand.
spread the branches of leaves out on the Dollar store bunches, 
and slide the leaves up toward the ends of each branch.
cut all of the small branches of leaves off of the larger branches, as shown here.
leave @5 to 6 inch stems on them.

you'll end up with a large supply of short-stemmed leaf bunches.
choose one type of leaf to start with - i selected the dull brown leaves to use first, 
because i wanted them to be in the 'background' of the arrangement.

simply begin inserting the stems right into the existing wreath at regular intervals
[think of it like a clock, and insert them at 12,3,6, and 9...etc.]
by pushing the stems into the wreath structure, they should stay in place with no problem.
[you can always add a drop of hot glue if you are worried about windy conditions, etc.]

when you tuck them in, nestle them behind the existing foliage as shown here.
continue around the wreath until you have used all of that type of leaf. 
you'll have a balanced arrangement working with one type at a time.
this first step has already filled out the wreath, making it more lush and abundant

now take the brighter, more vibrantly-colored leaves and insert them into the wreath
place them closer to the front of the arrangement, right next to the existing flowers, etc.

again, place them evenly around the wreath
[at 2,4,6,8,10, and 12 on the clock, for instance]
this helps to keep the wreath's rounded shape intact as you work.
after adding the additional leaves, the wreath looks three times its original size!
 for just a few dollars, we've revamped an old wreath and made it fresh and new
(and just like something that costs $125 at a swanky garden shop)
i love that!
 that's a pretty big improvement over the sparse twiggy 'before' shot, don't you think?
and yes, you CAN do this with REAL leaves, too! [read that as FREE LEAVES]

here are some great ideas for using wreaths in fresh new ways:

* lay them on a table as a centerpiece -

with a candle, cloche, bowl, or pedestal in the center.

* sit them on top of an urn or planter, then nestle a flowering plant in the center.
makes a beautiful 'collar'.

* use them as a 'tree skirt' for a small holiday tree.

* loop them over the bracket of a wall-mounted lamp

* hang them in multiples - connect wreaths together with beautiful ribbons

and hang vertically or horizontally

shared online:

chic and crafty thursdays @ the frugal girls


'Fast, Cheap & Easy' Idea: Fall in Focus

In a companion post to this one on Saturday,
here is another 'Fast, Cheap & Easy'TM idea for decorating with FREE natural elements:
 use your camera!
 head outside, in search of natural elements that reflect the beauty of the season.

you might come across some gorgeous grasses, waving in the breeze, like these...
which are located in a median strip next to the parking lot of a car dealership!
[art class #101 tip:
by focusing in closely on the grass in these images and making it fill the entire photo, 
everything around it disappears. even the car lot. ]

even if you live in the heart of a city, 
you can find natural elements to photograph:
*head to a local park, museum, library, or even indoor courtyard at a hotel for great landscaping
*go to the farmer's market or green grocer to find fresh local food and flowers
*visit a local home + garden center or nursery for beautiful foliage and flowering plants 

snap photos to your heart's content (don't we LOVE digital cameras for just this reason?!)
and then head home to print them out - 
in full color for a blaze of fall, or artfully subtle black & white -
and frame them 
 [cheap frames available at dollar stores, thrift shops, and target dollar bins]

hang your finished work on your walls, lean them on the mantel or bookshelf, 
clip them with binder clips to a wire or ribbon strung across a wall or window,
or take them into your office for a lovely seasonal change at work.

in small spaces, this is a perfect solution to 'too much stuff'
it's an easy way to personalize your rooms each season.

while you are editing them, here's another idea:
add a quote about nature or fall right over the top of your image. 
[adding a layer of text is an option in almost every graphic/photo editing program. 
OR you can print out a quote on a piece of clear acetate, 
then place that OVER your photo when you are framing it.]

if you don't have a favorite verse or quote to use,
finding them is easy - a simple Google search gave me dozens to chose from.
check out my 'fall quotes' search results here


VIP Pumpkins!

look what you can do with my sweater pumpkin tutorial!!!
if you'd like to make your own versions of my original Sweet Sweater Pumpkins,
you can get the tutorial here 

this is Big Bear (been in the family for decades, and is very, very well-loved)
holding some VIP (Very Impressive Pumpkins) that i recently made 
for some VIP (Very Important Precious ones) kids in my life...

when i came across some very elusive sweaters with orange stripes, 
i knew i just had to make these with them.
my nephew, nieces, and grandsons will be the happy recipients of these fall treats.

over the years, i have seen so many different and creative versions made using my tutorial...
please share your photos on the HOMEWARDfound facebook page
or leave a link in your comment here so we can all see what you've made!


Back to Nature

the best thing i learned as a display designer & stylist is this:
there is a LOT of FREE STUFF out there waiting to be found in the world!
it's just waiting to be reinvented into something else.

it's free for the taking (sometimes it takes WORK, but it's worth it) 
and once you get into the habit of looking for it,
you'll be picking up stuff everywhere.
i am NOT talking about dumpster diving this time, either!
nope. i'm thinking about your yardthe alley behind your house.
the vacant lot at the end of the street. the park, the office complex, the schoolyard.
the ditch next to the country road on the other side of town.
i'm thinking of all the trees that drop leaves and pinecones and seed pods
of all of the weeds and grasses that grow in clumps and through cracks in sidewalks
of all of the ivy vines that climb over fences into schoolyards
tumbleweeds that blow across deserted parking lots 
thistles and cattails that grow in ditches by the side of the road
and of all of the dead branches on old trees laying in piles next to dumpsters.
all of those elements of nature are out there, waiting to be discovered.
waiting to be gathered, brought inside, and arranged with purpose on a mantel, table, or shelf
so that the gorgeous colors and delicate details can be seen up close
every photo here shows simple grasses used in various settings
all of the grass was free for the picking practically everywhere i looked...
all i had to do was cut it with a pair of scissors
or pull it out of the ground, shake off the dirt, and use it.

it really doesn't get much easier than that!
so when you head out on a drive this weekend, look on the side of the road -
and see if you can't discover some really amazing feather grass
or maple leaves or seed pods in a eucalyptus tree to add to your Fall Decor!

all photos by debkennedyimages [for retreat, 2009-11]