Christmas Tradition Ideas From Our Home

Thursday, December 29, 2011

This year, we started what we hope to become some new Christmas traditions with our son. Of course, cutting down a real tree has always been one of them.

But here are a few more that we added to the repertoire this year:

Washing dishes by the light of Christmas lights strung over the window:

Singing Silent Night at the candlelight service is also one of my all-time favorite Christmas traditions. Following church, we thought it would be so much fun to throw mattresses on the floor and have one big family sleepover on Christmas Eve, with an over-the-top pancake breakfast in the morning. (Hint: try egg nog instead of milk in your favorite pancake recipe-yummo!). Aren't we cute?
My all-time best Christmas memories revolve around huge family get-togethers at my grandparent's house with a huge feast and gift-opening frenzy. But the most cherished moments center around an entire extended family listening intently to my grandpa as he spoke about the First Christmas and the real meaning behind the holiday.

What are your favorite traditions and memories?

Eight Ways to Display Artwork on a Budget

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Displaying artwork in your home does not have to be a pocket-burner. In fact, most of the artwork in my home cost less than $25 each. Let's talk about easy ways to add art, culture, themes and color to your home for a lady on a budget:

1. Art Prints: purchasing prints of original paintings happens to be very cost-effective. The images above are prints, even though you can't tell by looking at them. The left image on the top pic came from a bookstore in Northern Wisconsin. The one on the right was from an art auction on our honeymoon cruise. Just for attending the auction, each person received an art print for free. The bottom image shows three framed images we have hanging in our son's room. Each frame contains a print we bought at an art store in Florida, supporting local artists. If you can't tell, the theme in our son's room (and most of the house) is nature-centered, and these prints pull that theme together easily.

2. Make friends with artists: this one just sort of happened by default, but my best friend happens to be an uber-talented watercolorist. She has gifted us several original paintings and prints that we excitedly hang from our walls. Her mother also gifted us an original watercolor that hangs in our bedroom. These beautiful, hand-painted images are some of the most cherished gifts we've ever received.

3. Scour vintage and consignment shops: The painting above was purchased for $4 at a local consignment shop. This picture hangs in our office, which is painted the same blue and yellow in the picture. Score!

4. Frame art greeting cards: This is a close-up of an image from above. Not only is this a print of a watercolor, but it also came in greeting card form. Some spectacular art can be bought in greeting card form for usually around $1 to $5. They often fit perfect inside 4x6 or 5x7 matted frames.

5. Book pages: Sometimes book pages are beautiful enough to frame, especially special vintage finds. Sometimes, even children's book pages are whimsical enough to display. Above is a garland of pages from a $0.10 thrift store book, hanging in our son's playroom. Who could resist that outrageous cow anyhow?

6. Mirrors as art: Mirrors have a magical way of adding dimension and extra perceived space to your home. This mirror anchors our side-by-side dining room windows. The frame also has a beautiful ornate design with an antique-y finish. Etched, vanity, or other artistic mirrors make wonderful substitutes for works of art in your home.

7. Printed book pages on Etsy: I purchased the prints above from a local brick and mortar handmade shop, but the artist also sells on Etsy. I bought three matching 8-1/2" x 11" frames and three coordinating vintage-y scrapbook paper pages to display the prints in. (Sorry I can't remember the artist off-hand). These food-themed beauties hang in my kitchen, of course.

8. Pretty fabric or papers also make lovely frame-worthy art. I've seen a lot of vignette-style arrangements of framed scrapbook paper. In fact, I framed some ornate Oriental fabric for my sister for Christmas as part of an Oriental home decor-themed gift. This can be a great way to anchor the colors you have chosen for any particular room in your house, especially when you can't find any artwork to match.

As a note: most of the actual frames in my home were picked up at Hobby Lobby on their 1/2-off days, which happen just about every other week.

Happy decorating!

Children's Book Inspiration

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Taking a break from all the Christmas hubbub, this is what's inspiring me right now--vintage children's book illustrations:

Love the geometry, colors, and beauty:
children's book page
I might save this one to frame for Easter. It's just right, yes?
Children's book page
Children's book page
children's book page
You can't tell from the picture, but the these ornate illustrations are printed with shiny metallic inks:Children's book page
Who wouldn't want a rickety mansion of a treehouse like this?
children's book page
This page is currently being used as a page divider in my personal journal. In fact, it's the first page I see, because I love looking at it:
Children's book page
A treehouse city? Yes, please.
Children's book page
Each of these books was carefully thrifted for its beautiful use of color, imaginative designs, charm and aptly-drawn childlike quality. Love love love!

Christmas Around Our House Part 2

Monday, December 19, 2011

Just give me one men's plaid XL shirt at the thrift store, and this is what I can do with it:

1. Christmas wreath: starting at the sleeves of the shirt, I cut a bunch of fabric strips. I hot glued each piece down to my thrifted straw wreath (50 cents!!!) as I went, overlapping pieces the whole way. Then, I took three more strips and made three rolled roses. To make the red "foliage," I cut a bunch (maybe a dozen) of squares out of some spare red fabric I had. Fold them in half once, then in half again, and glue them down. You can round the top edges to make it look softer.

Christmas wreath
2. Christmas garland: starting at the hem of the shirt, I cut long strips of fabric about 1-2 inches thick. I tied three pieces together and braided them. I connected two braids in the middle to get enough to go around the doorway. Don't mind the little ornaments. Haha! Though I think it would be neat to hang bulbs from the garland at intervals. Hmmmm. Might try that when I get home.
Christmas garland

3. Christmas Forest: The three tall trees I thrifted a couple of years ago. Recently, I found two foam cones at the thrift store. I wrapped each in extra fabric strips from the shirt. I wound the strips around and used sewing pins to hold them down. I made the star ornaments several years back with felt and embroidery thread. I hung the last two stragglers on my trees with matching gold buttons for an extra touch.

 Christmas Forest
4. Framed Christmas Greetings: I thrifted this frame for a fun DIY photo shoot at my wine and cheese party last year. I strung two fabric strips from the back of the frame and hot glued them down. I cut out 9 total 2x2 inch squares from some green scrapbook paper I already had. Then, I stenciled in the letters. Then, I just stapled the letter squares to the fabric strips. Voila!

Merry Christmas frame

Call me the crafty thrifter, this was so much fun! I loved the project, because it formed a color theme throughout the house. The color-coordination makes all the decorations flow together. I still have a little fabric left, so I might have to drum up another project. We shall see.

Christmas Around Our House Part 1

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Here are a few sneak peeks into merry Christmas-making around our parts:

Our local community park does a huge Christmas light show during the holidays. A big fellow in a red suit hides out in one of the heated shelters.

At Santa's Workshop
Seeing Santa
Peanut wore his hat for the occasion. Do you see how intent he is here? He had some serious business to do with the Big Guy.
One of the Christmas traditions both my husband and I were adamant about bringing into our family was cutting our own tree every year. We even did this before the Peanut was in the mix. It's been unusually warm here in Wisconsin, making it much easier to continue that tradition without complaining. Once home, we had a tiny tree-raising ceremony complete with pink cheeks and hot chocolate.

Christmas Floral
Here is where we remind Peanut about the true meaning of Christmas. And the scene behind our learning the lyrics to Away in a Manger. He likes to point to "the stars in the sky" that look down where he lay.

Putting these meaningful touches all around our house is such a source of joy for me. Seeing my son start to understand all the concepts of Christmas and engaging in all our traditions is just amazing.

More to come!

One Scary Moment Equals More Gratitude

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I normally wouldn't post about personal medical topics, but I experienced the scariest moment of my life yesterday morning. I woke up, coughed, and suddenly couldn't breathe. My throat closed up and I felt like I could've died. It was disappointing and terrifying feeling like my body had failed me. After what felt like hours, but probably was more like one minute, I sat down and finally caught a breath and then another. After an ER trip determined I was fine, I went back to life as usual, taking breathing a little less for granted and coughing a little more hesitantly.

With more breaths afforded to me, I thought it appropriate to express my gratitude for what's been happening lately. I am so thankful for:

1. A healthy family. Everyone in my home is feeling well.
2. An exciting meeting at work this week.
3. Accidentally falling asleep with my son, watching Christmas movies, more than once this week. Daddy came in and carefully transplanted the boy into his own bed and then reclaimed his place next to me.
4. Washing dishes under the light of Christmas lights. This will never get old.
5. Putting the finishing touches of Christmas around the house.
6. Teaching the Peanut Christmas carols. We're working on Away in a Manger, and he loves to sing it over and over and over while looking at the nativity. I am more-than-happy to oblige.
7. Watching my nephew's church Christmas program and enjoying lunch afterward with my all-time favorite, beef tips and gravy.
8. Feeling a little like a pioneer with a freezer fully stocked with venison and frozen shredded zucchini.
9. Feeling very supported by my husband who, uncharacteristically, waxed philosophical and offered his massagin' hands.
10. Seeing my Peanut revel in the simple joy that his own light-up Christmas tree brings him at bedtime. It makes a great night light!