Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays From The Frugal Tree


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Thursday, December 22, 2011

$0.25 Ornaments, Customized!

Well I guess it's nearing that time . . . holiday and seasonal clearance. As the "big day" approaches, steeper discounts seem to be popping up to rid and thin stock of holiday ornaments and decor. Oddly enough, I never seem to take part in these great deals as I typically am buying new holiday decor at the beginning of the season and am "decor'd out" by the end. Perhaps I'll try to be a bit more attentive this year if I head out after the holidays to do any shopping.

In the meantime, I found these great little picture frame ornaments for 25 cents a piece at the local Dollar General store. I knew I wanted to use them this year with the silver and crystal theme I have going on indoors.

Hmmm, what to place within the frames? Photos? Cut up holiday cards? I knew I wanted something displayed within that would equally match the color story in the room. I remembered I had a silver metallic sharpie marker. I took out the front display paper in the frame and flipped it over, using the back as the "new" display surface. I used the silver marker to draw straight, diagonal, overlapping lines to create the look of brushed aluminum or nickel. I grabbed one of my many fine-point, black Sharpie markers (I love these things and use them like crazy) and wrote out some holiday words that came to mind.

Should I hang them on the fireplace mantel or set them amid the mantel's decor? Perhaps hang them vertically down a small wall area? That vertical look must have stuck in my mind. I looked at the grapevine tree and its somewhat plain trunk and thought, there is my vertical surface. I thought I was done with this tree, guess not. Now I am . . . I THINK?

I love the new shimmer these little frames give to what was a rather dark area on the tree.  Are you still "fussing around" with your Holiday or Christmas trees too?

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Holiday Greeting Cards As Simple Decor

I've received a few holiday cards that perfectly fit the design aesthetic used this season throughout the home.  So, why not incorporate them more?  I know framing cards is nothing new but seeing as I have never done it before, I figured I would share how nicely they can become a decorative piece . . . a frugal decorative piece.

Whenever I see unique frames for cheap at thrift stores, yard sales, etc, I snatch them up.  They come in handy for spur-of-the-moment projects such as this.  If you need one in a jiffy, head to DollarTree.  You can easily modify one of their frames with spray-paint or other accessories to make it better suit your theme.

A holiday card speaks to the color story used in this room.
Added to an equally appropriate frame, it becomes a frugal decorative element.

I have a few more "perfect cards" that I can use in other rooms, so guess I'll be digging out some of my back-up frames for use or modification today.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Quick Peanut-Butter Blossom Cookies with a Twist

Well, it seemed like good, cookie baking weather today. Kind of overcast with a chill in the air. Traffic was a bit crazy so I kept errands local, putting off more serious shopping since it was getting too close to noon. Yes, I can't handle holiday commotion. Who really can? I suppose some love being out among the hustle & bustle, but not I. I'll opt to hit the stores early in the a.m. next week to finish up.

In the meantime, during some local runs, I picked up "the cheater's way" to peanut butter cookies . . . thank you Pillsbury. Oddly enough, the one thing required to make peanut butter cookies into blossoms, Hershey Kisses, were out of stock. Yes, I had a myriad of other Hershey Kiss varieties staring me in my face but I wanted PLAIN ONES!!! (and apparently, so did everybody else.)  What are the chances?

After a run to another store I found them. Thank heavens. Anyway, they are done, the house smells warm and inviting and I thought I share a simple addition I do to make my PB Blossoms a bit more unique. Are you ready? It's REALLY SIMPLE . . . I roll the dough in cinnamon-sugar before baking. The cinnamon really adds a special, extra touch (or should I say taste) to the exterior of the cookie. Now I only have to TRY to resist eating them all. (I'm craving one now due to this post!)

Cooling cinnamon peanut-butter blossom cookies. 
Of course home-made peanut-butter cookies are wonderful, even without a "kiss" but in a jiffy, these Pillsbury ones are great and the cinnamon trick makes them seem a bit more home-made.  It'll be our little secret.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Weeping Grapevine Tree

Many have commented on the "alternative tree" seen in the background of some of my previous posts. My Weeping grapevine tree as I like to call it, being a play on a Weeping Cherry, developed due to some leftover, "branchy" pieces of grapevine I had from the diy topiary project I completed.

I didn't want the pieces to go to waste and they "fell" so nicely when held, creating an umbrella-type shape, that the idea for a tree immediately came to mind. Now, I only had bought new colored ornaments last year for the "normal" evergreen-type indoor tree so I'm not quite sick of them yet, however this idea had to be put to use . . . especially with the abundance of grapevine utilized in new ways outdoors this year.

The Traditional Look
Last year's tree with the new green & bronze colored ornaments.

The Not-So-Traditional Look
This year's look with a whimsy, grapevine tree.  Lighter ornaments
from many years ago were reintroduced and complement the crystal decor.

I like both trees but am glad I created this grapevine version.  My initial idea (years ago) was to create a 7 -8 foot tall grapevine spiral topiary just as the ones I placed outdoors on the stone pillars. After working on those, I knew a LOT of time and patience would have to be given to creating such a monster.  I will do it eventually.  In the meantime, this alternative version was the perfect, simple solution and really became much more than I had expected.

Read the process I used to create this weeping grapevine tree.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Applesauce & Cinnamon Ornaments Smell So Good!

Over the weekend I decided to try my hand at some Applesauce Ornaments. I remember my aunt making these when I was younger and attaching them to the ribbons and bows of our presents. The dough is simply equal parts of applesauce to cinnamon. Roll it out, cut with cookie cutters, dry and hang. A great little activity for the family.

Applesauce star ornaments hung as an accent on this indoor display.

They smell so good. However, they don't taste so good. I did try a nibble of the dough and the cinnamon is very overpowering (obviously). Can you blame me? They look like cookies!

Anyway, my little ornament tree which usually displays wooden ornaments from my childhood is being used to display the completed "cinna-ornaments" as I've been calling them. I really like how they look on this tree, not to mention the great fragrance this little display gives off.

Some music note ornaments hung on the "Charlie Brown" tree . . . a sapling I rescued.

I'd say give em a try if you never have before. Here are the steps I used to make these easy applesauce ornaments.

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Friday, December 9, 2011

Simple Yet Elegant Wire & Gem Ornaments

I decided to go a bit minimal on both the Holiday tree and its decor this year.  I often will reuse ornaments from years prior and "mix it up a bit" by combining a few new colors or elements to keep it fresh and interesting.  I had bought a set of mini ball-ornaments with pearl, opaque and iridescent finishes for a small pencil tree I placed in a hallway about 10 years ago.  Sheesh . . . ten years ago?  I guess enough time has passed to reuse them without feeling I was looking at the same ole tree.

I also had small, silver ball-ornaments as well and decided to mix a few of those in.  I already decorated the room with pieces of cut crystal.  I enjoy the elegant and refined look such pieces produce during the holidays.  Not to mention, these pieces were all bought second-hand at local thrift stores for great bargains.

I have been keeping my eye on antique and vintage chandelier prisms at Ebay but they always seem to go too high this time of year.  (note to self . . . "Look for crystal chandelier prisms when it's 100 degrees outside")  I know these pieces would be the perfect accompaniment to the holiday decor in this room, producing more sparkle, shimmer and icy elegance. (O.K. I may do this "crystal thing" again next year as I like it so much!)

In the meantime, I decided to create some ornaments to add a bit more interest and glimmer to the tree.  I utilized items I had around the house and created these in less than hour.  Wire, Gems and a Glue Gun is all it took!

What do you think?  Click the link provided above to read about the process I used to make these simple ornaments.

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

An Icy Holiday Mantel

I love the elegant look of cut-glass and crystal pieces during the holiday season. They almost create an enchanting, icy aura throughout the space. My collection has been slowly growing with collectible pieces I find at thrift shops. I'd have to say this year is by far the best the mantel, table and dining room has ever looked. All the crystal pieces create a spectacular display of simplicity and refinement. The miniature lights from the tree add a twinkling brilliance across the pieces as well.

Crystal glass is combined with fresh cuts of White Pine and Leyland Cypress.  Silver ornaments combined with grapevine spheres are strategically placed throughout the greens.  Clear glass gems, also used to make some custom, homemade ornaments, are tastefully scattered among the mantel as well.

See more of this room at the Christmas Decorating Ideas page.

What unique elements have you placed upon your mantel this year?

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Organic Holiday Table With Crystal, Silver and Green

Due to my use of grapevine and natural decor outdoors this year, I decided to continue the trend indoors for a cohesive transition. "Au naturel" was the intended direction this year. Fresh greens from Leyland Cypress, White Pines and other evergreens around the property were used among all the arrangements. Crystal glass is strewn throughout to create an icy, mystic aura and the natural elements of Pine cones and grapevine spheres pull in the organic elements used outdoors. For a bit more glimmer, some silver ornaments were added, while keeping within a somewhat muted color palette that retains simplicity and class. I'm rather liking this more expressive, less literal interpretation for the holidays. Hope you enjoy!

To see more of this room and what was done this year, visit my Christmas Decorating Ideas page.

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The Lettered Cottage

Monday, December 5, 2011

Outdoor Holiday Decor Continued

Well, I know at some point back in Autumn when I created my "porch art" for my front entry I mentioned I would keep it up until the holidays.  My set of three Alpine artificial trees typically are placed in this location. However I really like the look of this display and once I began adding a bit of greenery to it (just to experiment), I knew it was a keeper.  Besides, it's nice to change things up a bit each year.

My grapevine branch and stone art gets a holiday makeover with the addition of a huge bundle of woven grapevine at the base (to replace the "wreath of leaves") and fresh clippings of Leyland Cypress and various other Pines.  Some miniature white lights were also added for nighttime ambiance and shimmer.

I enjoy using free items from nature when decorating, especially during this season.  It just seems so fitting to combine the colors of brown grapevine and the bright greens of pine with clipping of other shrubs with red/orange hued leaves or berries.

Some leftover pieces of thick grapevine were cut into "log-like" piece, tied up with some twine and placed upon a green leafy bed of Leyland Cypress.  I really like the soft, webbed feature of the Cypress as an alternative to Pine "needles".

I was trying to come up with a solution for a "trouble spot" on my porch . . . the outlet.  I have an outdoor lighting timer and numerous plugs running into this outlet in a rather visible spot.  Throughout the year I have an inverted planter over the mess of cords and timers.  This of course is easily hidden with lots of planters during the warmer months.  In the Winter, I have to get more creative.  I wanted to place greens on top of the inverted planter but in what?  I didn't want it to look too odd or intentional.  I was looking for an old rusty bucket to fill with greens and set on top but alas I have none (note to self, "look for old rusty pails at the antique shop").  I stopped by the local flea market looking for solutions and saw an old plant hanger there (the kind you place coco-shell liners in for hanging baskets.)  Heck, I have one of those at home.  I left without that one and pulled mine out of storage, still with it's coco-shell and leftover dirt within.  I would have liked it to be a bit larger but it was adequate for its purpose or should I say, its REPURPOSE!

A repurposed hanging basket filled with various pine greenery, pine cones and bundles of tied up twigs.
Free outdoor decor!

The full ensemble of natural, free decor.  A burgundy ribbon adds just enough color to set it off and tie in with the rest of the focal areas around the property.  An old wrought iron entry mat adds some additional detail, interest and helps mask the inverted planter a bit more.

Well I promised you I would speak about the items used to create the front entry seen in the DIY Topiary Tree Project post.

All free and all-natural decor includes tree branches to span the top of the stone columns.   White pine garland, grapevine wreaths, cuttings of various pines and cypress around my property for the green, cuttings of Azalea  and Barberry for colorful leaves and stems with red berries.  Jute twine for tying it all up.  I really love the outcome this year.  The best yet!

Hopefully you are all having much success with your own decorating.  I really did some neat stuff this year indoors too so please stop back soon to check out my freely-made and "whimsily-created" weeping grapevine tree (in lieu of the typical evergreen style Christmas/Holiday tree).

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Thursday, December 1, 2011

DIY Topiary Tree Project

A welcoming entry of "all-natural" materials.

Well I finally put my hand to creating a grapevine topiary-type tree.  I have been talking about doing this for years.  Originally,  I wanted to create a large scale one for the interior of the home in place of a "normal" evergreen tree; perhaps about 7 foot tall.  I may still do it but now know how much time will be required to create one of that magnitude.  I decided to "go small" first and see if I could make it work before attempting to "upsize".

Grapevine Topiary Seen Atop The Stone Column

To make this project you will need:

1) Tomato cages at the height of your choice.  I purchased two 42" tomato cages at Home Depot.  They were under $3.00 a piece.  They also had 52" which I originally thought I would choose but these actually are quite tall enough for my intended purpose - atop two stone entry columns.

2) Wire mesh (chicken wire) for a base (if you require a weighted base - optional).  This can be purchased at most hardware or home improvement stores.  I bought it at Ace Hardware for a prior project.

3) Wire snips/cutters and pliers.

Cages, Wire Mesh, Wire Cutters and Strewn Grapevine

4) Paddle Wire, Floral Wire and/or Small Ty-wraps.

5) Brown or similar colored spray paint (optional).

6) Tons of grapevine.  (Free from the woods or purchased in garland/spirals from online sources such as Amazon).

8) Miniature outdoor lighting (brown grapevine lighting recommended)

8) Lots of patience and perseverance!

I placed my tomato cage on top of the wire mesh and cut a square with the wire snips to fit the circumference of the cage.  Once cut out, I carefully folded the corners that extended beyond the "circle" inward over top of the bottom ring of the tomato cage.  I snipped the wire where necessary to make it neatly "foldable".  Use your pliers to bend and press the wire inward tightly around the bottom ring of the cage and to clamp it down securely.  This base is intended to weigh-down the topiary with rocks or a brick (as I used).

Getting ready to cut a square of wire for the cage's base.

NOTE: Use caution when handling the cut ends of the mesh wire.  They are sharp.  Use the pliers instead to bend them into place.

The corners have been carefully folded inward over the bottom hoop of the cage.

If you so choose, you may elect to do a quick spray paint of the cage itself to mask the silver so it blends better with the grapevine you will later be wrapping onto it.

Once dry, begin wrapping grapevine to the base.  You may want to use the thicker diameter vine at the bottom and work upward with the thinner more pliable vine.  You will want to connect the bottom "base" grapevine well with paddle wire (floral wire) or ty-wraps.  I used paddle wire.

Thicker vine has been secured to the base and diagonal spirals are beginning to be added.

Due to the tapered shape of the cage, you can not simply wrap the vine continually from the bottom to the top as it has a tendency to slide upward (unless you constantly want to wire it in place).  Instead, you will begin to wrap the pieces upward at an angle (diagonally).  Go to the bottom, attach another piece in another location and wrap upward at an angle again.  You will want to begin attaching and wrapping in this manner, both clockwise and counter-clockwise, alternating every so often so that your vines begin crisscrossing over one another in an "X" shape.  Soon you will no longer need to use any paddle wire or other means of attaching the vine as you will be able to weave it through itself to hold it in place.

A brick for weight is still visible within the structure.

If you want a weighted base, you want to be sure to add a few rocks or a brick before you totally weave the form closed with vine.  However, it's pretty easy to shift the vine around to create an opening to slide a weighted object inside if you forget.

Another angle

You may elect to fully cover the form with grapevine or leave it a bit more open as I have done.  If you choose the latter, you will be able to observe any lighting you place around the structure the whole way through which will give the illusion of more lights.  You may want to choose brown miniature lighting as I have done so it blends in and is less noticeable during daylight hours.

I placed my completed structures on top of concrete planters to give them a decorative base. They are set atop 8 foot stone columns.  At this height, the brick inside is not visible.  I placed cuts of evergreen around the top of the planter before setting the topiary structure down.  This helped mask any signs of the mesh wire base that may have been visible.

A concrete planter is used as a pedestal for the topiary tree.

I would estimate that each topiary took about 3 hours.  I worked on them over a 2-day period.  I also ran out of the free grapevine I pulled down from the trees along my road and from my own property or I would have continued adding more.  All in all, I'm quite pleased with the finished result and can always add more grapevine at any time should I choose to do so.

This project cost less then $20.00 total in supplies.  The biggest "cost" would be your own labor but you can't put a price on your time when you end up creating a project of which you can be thoroughly proud.  In that case, it makes it ALL WORTH IT!

For more projects such as this, see my post on Grapevine Galore.  I will be adding more information about this completed entry project and the all the natural materials used to create it, as well as the additional, coordinating decor for the front porch and doorway.  I'm going "Natural-Minimalist" this year so please stop back for more soon! 

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