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Ornament Makeover!

sometimes we have great stuff... stuff we really LOVE
but it just doesn't QUITE FIT what we are doing now in our decor.
or things get a bit worn out, or dated along the way.
that's the time to give it a makeover!

the sweet-faced snowman ornament shown above is a great example,
because he didn't start out like that!

it's a simple white ball ornament, with a drawn-on face
and a miniature clay carrot glued on for a nose.
i made a few dozen for my own tree over a dozen years ago, 
and sent one to my mom that year.
[mine are in storage in Seattle - i found moms at her cabin!]
he had a jaunty red knit cap 
and the box that i packaged him in had a jaunty red knit 'scarf' tied 'round it:
 now, he's still cute. but he's a little bit 'worn' - and his cap came unglued. 
i was going to just fix him, but decided instead to fix him UP!
enter new wardrobe choice:
a creamy ivory knit cap and 'scarf' for the box fits the decor this year
[you know i used scraps from my copious 'Sweater Stash' for this one, right?!]

by slipping a simple decorative hook into the back of his cap, he could hang on a tree.
but i'll probably leave him in the box and sit it on a shelf. 

the box came from Dollar Tree, by the way -
i just drew the same face on it as on the ornament.

i've also spray painted glass and resin ornaments new colors,
added sparkling crystal stickers, and painted letters onto my old ornaments
to make them fresh for a new decor theme! 


Fast, Cheap & Easy Tutorial: Ornament Hooks

 pOp QuiZ:
how many pokes in the toes have you had over your lifetime from stepping on wire ornament hooks?
you know, the ones that HIDE in the carpeting during and AFTER the holidays...
they make us screech and bleed when we step on them. 
they make us yell when our vacuums suck them up and suddenly grind to a halt. 
i hate those things!

so i came up with a solution: i don't use 'em.
i make my own from pipe cleaners [also known as 'chenille stems']

okay, here's the fastest tutorial EVER...

1. gather materials:
a package of chenille stems from the dollar store
pair of scissors

make them disappear into the tree by using a coordinating color
white on a white tree, green on a green tree, silver on an aluminum tree, etc.
make them stand out by using a contrasting color : silver, gold, red, etc. 
2. cut chenille stems in half for regular size hooks, or into thirds or quarters for smaller sizes 
(great on garlands or mini trees)
 3. twist into an 'S' shape, and curl the ends all the way in - like a cursive 'S'.
4. hook onto ornaments
5. hang ornaments

that's it, you're done!
*these hooks are soft - they won't scratch delicate glass.
*the ornaments won't fall OFF of them because of that swirly curl.
*you can squeeze the top swirly curl closed once it's around a branch on the tree, and it won't BUDGE.
even if the cat gets in there and plays ping pong with it.
*they don't end up in a tangled headache-inducing mass between uses.
*they also SHOW UP on the carpeting, so you won't step on them or vacuum them up by mistake!


Tree of Life...

I asked if you collect and use vintage & antique ornaments in your Christmas decor.
 In today's 'Bonus Post', I'd love to share a story about ornaments,
and how they are so much more than just 'decor'...
Over seven years of decorating her home,
one of my residential decor clients has become a dear, cherished friend
This was the weekend in December that I would normally go to her house to put up her tree. I'm missing her this year, and thought I'd reflect on what she's taught me...

Fran is a lovely lady, widowed, who lives in a modest Seattle home. A home that holds the immense treasures that only a lifetime of living, loving, collecting, and fond memories can produce. Some things may have monetary value, but the true worth of Fran's 'estate' is that every single item comes with a story....

Fran's impressive Christmas ornament collection dates from the late 1800's. 
Some ornaments came from her grandmother, then her mother added to the collection, then Fran added her own - three generations of Holiday memories. Each precious fragile bauble is lovingly swathed in pristine white tissue and laid gently in original boxes. Packed into plastic tubs, they are safely stored all year - until the lucky day that I get to go to her house and help her unearth them.
As each box is opened and each little wad of tissue unwrapped, Fran's eyes dance and her smile grows wider. Occasionally I see a tear in her eye, as a memory catches her breath. I hear every story...'These we got on our honeymoon in Spain...' , 'This Dresden angel was mom's', or 'My niece made this for me when she was 7' (she's 40 now). Precious memories of happy times, all brought out into the light each Holiday season. 
[I think it is a remarkably SMART practice to purchase ornaments as souvenirs when traveling - less to pack, inexpensive to buy, and you get to relive the memories each year]
It took hours of work, but it was truly a labor of love - for Fran, and for me. 
She started out as a client and is now a dear friend. We love our time together to chat, visit, catch up, and share Holiday memories. And after the hours of chatter and gasps and the occasional 'Oh Dear!' when one of the oldest ornaments is found to have deteriorated beyond repair (SO sad), all of the special ornaments end up on the tree - and somehow manage to look more beautiful every year!
 It's not a 'designer' tree, not a theme tree...it's a tree of life. Fran's life.
Her life as a child, as a daughter, as a wife, as an aunt. 
It's her story, beautifully told.
Even the old ornaments that are broken and damaged are used...
I heap them into her collection of silver hotel serving pieces, and they look absolutely perfect. In decorating as in life, the lack of perfection is often what is most charming. And damaged doesn't mean something isn't still useful.
Many years ago, she called me to ask if I could help her "bring the Christmas Spirit back" into her home, after her mother died. Which was two years after her husband died. That same year, she lost her brother. Too much for one person, I think. This woman has known so much in life...growing up the daughter of an immigrant farmer, to create a career in broadcasting and hotel management, to her wonderful, loving marriage to a successful businessman who adored her, then figuring out life as a single woman on her own for the first time in her life.
Joy, sorrow, love, loss, pain and passion have touched her, and yet she is vibrant in spirit, young at heart, and a gracious, caring person. I am in awe of what she has experienced, what she has learned, and how she easily admits that she really still has so much to learn. She impresses me. I respect her, I admire her, and I love her dearly.
Fran told me each year as we parted that I make her holidays worth celebrating.... 
How do you respond to that, except with tears and a hug?! 

I treasure this woman, and am so blessed to have her in my life. We share stories, laughter, lots of tea, and lunch. And Love is the Christmas Spirit that she brings to me. Now that I no longer live in Seattle, I will miss decorating for her, but our friendship is still shared across the miles by phone calls.

Before I left Washington, I created a photo album of all of the photos you see above, which are of her own ornament collection, and gave it to her when I took her to tea at the Four Seasons Olympic Hotel in Seattle.
That was where I delivered the sad news that I was leaving Seattle...and the happy news that our time together has been so meaningful to me. With these photos, she can enjoy her beautiful Christmas ornament collection and her memories any day of the year... and so can I.


a Vintage White Christmas

as you might expect from an  
a) decorating enthusiast  b) visual designer & stylist 
and c) owner of fifty-plus tubs of assorted Christmas decor
i try to mix things up every year when i decorate my home.
i love what i have, i just want it to be fresh and interesting each year.

one year, my theme was 'a Vintage White Christmas', 
with some burlap and lace thrown in to echo the popularity of Danish-Euro style...
all this white pine-bough loveliness came about as a last-minute addition to my decor plan!
in the midst of decorating, i went into the local thrift shop [i know, i know....]
where i s
pied two huge plain cardboard boxes labelled
'White Xmas Tree: Part 1 and Part 2'. and they were taped shut
i asked how much for the tree, and was told  
ten bucks - plus 50% off, so a total of FIVE BUCKS.
and you already know what happened next... i said SOLD! so fast it wasn't funny!

the gal cut open the boxes so I could check out the tree, 
and it was a really NICE white nylon tree from the 80's. 8' tall. No lights. 
 Now, I already had a decent white 7' white tree, pre-lit, to use that year......
but here's a hot tip for you:  
NEVER pass up a decent faux tree for a good price.
You may not need another TREE, but you can use the branches for decorating with!
and that's exactly what i did.
instead of using my usual cut greens from outside in the decor,
i stayed with a very light, soft palette and put white branche
on the chandelier, on the buffet, on the dining table, on the tables in the living room, on the entry table...
 everywhere, basically. 

and then i added heaps of ornaments and candles and more to the chandelier 
(and i have to say i just LOVE those fancy blown glass ornaments)
and to the buffet, the dining table, 
the tables in the living room, and the entry table.....  
 filling jars, bowls, serving trays, cake pedestals, and other everyday containers with beautiful ornaments
is an easy way to spread Christmas cheer and your color scheme all through your home
remember my original 'white glass light globe pumpkins' i shared here in my fall posts?

well, THIS is what i do with CLEAR light globes!
i put them into arrangements with greens and ornaments, 
and then tuck a night light on an extension cord inside them.
turn it on, and it glows beautifully - while being very safe.

[i use them outside this way, too, 
and have photos of that to share in another post...]
a sweet way to add 'a little something' to a simple candle: 
a vintage crocheted collar, a silk ribbon and a vintage rhinestone clip earring 
wrapped around a glass hurricane shade.  a candle in a glass jar inside the shade burns safely. 
and because i am truly NEVER 'done' decorating, i made a change after i took the photos...
i put white bubble light bulbs into my chandelier!

my grandma Ward had bubble lights on a tree when i was little, 
and they always bring back sweet memories for me.
these white ones were just too perfect to pass up
[and my grandson LOVED them, so the tradition is passed on!]

this soft, monochromatic Vintage White Christmas theme was so restful
and serves as a basic decor scheme that allows for changes through the years:
the next year, i added seashells for a really beachy theme
and another year, i had a swanky black and white theme...
i'll share those soon!


Embellished Gift Wraps

add a handmade touch to your gifts this Christmas  
by embellishing them with re-purposed materials!

these gifts were wrapped with paper that has a sweater print 
(from an old line by MODA Home called 'fUnKy MoNkEy'!)
and then embellished with vintage trims...
detail shots below:
 a lace doily evokes snowflakes
and a tiny grass nest with vintage flower petals adds a touch of real nature.
 Vintage lace and a sweet carnation pin made from vintage fabric (re-usable!) stand in for a bow
[similar pins available from Rose~Marie Designs]
pinwheel posies are made from the edges of canvas painter's tarps, rolled & glued.
attach to a gift with glue dots, over a piece of Christmas sheet music.
[this makes a great solution for gifts to be mailed - no bows to squash!]
feminine vintage trims make for luxurious wrappings...
wrap a gift IN a sweater!
sew an 'envelope' from the body of a sweater, pop a gift box inside, and safety pin the top closed.
On top, a pouffe of beautiful ribbon or trim, a satin bow, and a bling-y rhinestone clip.
rosettes are made from cashmere sweater arm cuffs. just roll up and stitch to hold.
attach to gift with a drop of hot glue. 
the perfect accent for a sweater is PEARLS... dripping on top of the gift like a tree garland!
sometimes very simple materials get BIG results: 
Sew an envelope from canvas, and tuck in vintage sheet music or a favorite magazine.
Fold closed and tie with vintage trims - like velvet ribbon or seam binding and a canvas flower.
for a more rustic masculine look, combine burlap and twine (from the hardware store!). 
a vintage belt buckle on it's original sales card adds more texture.
making use of vintage trims not only makes for beautiful packages that save resources
[including your MoNeY]
 but they also offer a 'bonus' re-usable gift to the recipient: a pin, flowers, a nest, ribbon, pearls.... 
take a peek in your junk drawer and craft closet, 
and see what you can find to embellish YOUR gifts this season!

 this post and Monday's post are companions to my article in
the 2012 Holiday issue of Creating Vintage Charm Magazine 


Wrap It With Style!

To be a top-notch guest at Holiday parties, 
always bring a thoughtful gift for the host/hostess
and wrap it with STYLE!
Here are a few ideas that coordinate with my current story
in Creating Vintage Charm Magazine
 the Holiday 2012 Issue is available in print HERE
 Giving a lovely bottle of wine, port, champagne, or liquor
is an elegant way to thank a host or hostess for inviting you...

*Make a 'sweater cozy' for decanters and wine bottles - simply cut the arm off of a lovely sweater, and scrunch over the bottle. Tie a bauble around the bottle's neck for a finishing touch.

*Use a stocking as a wine bag! Tuck a bit of tissue into the toe of a stocking, then sit a bottled beverage inside. With a snippet of greenery or more tissue at the top, it's charming and re-usable!

*Simply wrap a bit of burlap, linen, ticking, or other fabric around a bottle (double-stick tape works really well) and then tie with twine. Add a vintage earring or brooch for some bling to dress it up!

Here's a foolproof 'gift bag' idea:
 Tuck a bottle into an old cowboy boot, and add a cushion of burlap.
Perfect for any man or woman with 'cowboy chic style'!

Since we've all seen the 'coffee can as cookie container' trick,
I have a few new ideas for that, as well:
*Simply tie some rustic twine around a silver can for an industrial look. Add a tag made from an old spoon.
 *Make a sweater cozy for a can - cut off the arm of a sweater and sew one end closed. Scrunch it over a can and tie the top with a bow made from vintage lace.
*Vintage metal containers are still a stylish way to present baked goods!
Find them at thrift stores and antique shops,
then add a seasonal detail like a small burlap wreath.

Coming Up: more from my current Creating Vintage Charm article...
Stylish Wraps for Gifts Under the Tree!