Dept. 56 Village at Dollar Store Prices

Wednesday, November 26, 2014 |

There's something calming and magical about a ceramic Christmas village.
As a child, my favorite thing to do during the holidays was to curl up under the tree, next to my Mom's ceramic village and while away the hours just looking and imagining.

I adore Christmas stores...especially ones with the big Department 56 layouts.  I love all the intricate little details of those ceramic wonderlands.  Problem is, the price tags are enough to twist that love into loathing.
My Mom's Christmas village was not the typical store-bought-pre-finished variety.  Somehow, she won a full Currier & Ives set back in the day.  She has always been amazing with a paint brush in hand, and I loved watching her work.  When I was about 8, she got me an inexpensive ceramic church from the craft store, and told me that I could start my own set, if I wanted to.  Of course I did!

Here's my church, painted circa age 8...

That was the beginning.  And for many years, around Thanksgiving time, I'd start to work painting a new piece for my village.
Just 17 years later (yes, that does make me 25) I now have a nice little Christmas town for my family to enjoy, at a FRACTION of the cost of a pre-painted set.
NO, this is ABSOLUTELY NOT a quick and easy project.  In fact, it's quite the opposite.
But, it is an endeavor that you will take immense pride in, when complete.  And it is also a project that your family, and hopefully generations to follow, will pass down and make part of their own holiday traditions.
Many craft stores carry unpainted village pieces.  There are also some great online sources.  I purchased a lot of my pieces online from a store in Arkansas, R&R Ceramics.
I do have a few actual Dept. 56 pieces that I've acquired for Christmas presents, etc.  No buildings though, just people and accessories.  The little campfire crew below is one of those pieces.
This year, my daughter, who is 6, wants to paint her first ceramic ornament.  I am hoping she falls in love with these projects as much as I did.  Sharing a love of painting is the perfect Christmas gift for me to give.  It's one that I was blessed that my Mother gave to me, and I am hopeful that my daughter will continue the tradition. 
Giving thanks this day for all of my old and new-found blog-reading and blogging friends out there in cyberspace.
I hope that you each have a blessed and wonderful holiday.
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Spirit Fingers

Wednesday, November 19, 2014 |

 I'm not much of a "crafter" if I'm being honest with myself.  I love craftiness and crafty people, but when all is said and done, I just don't have the energy to scrapbook, or to make pumpkins out of old sweaters.  Maybe someday...
That being said, I DO love handprint art projects.  It's one of the only "crafty" projects I try to do on a somewhat routine basis because, for one, the kids love it.   And, it's freezes the "hands of time" (couldn't help it) while those cute little fingers and are so petite and adorable.
There are tons and tons of pins on pinterest about handprint art.  If I'm ever needing inspiration, I pour through those, and then kind of bust my own move and add my own take on what I've seen.

I love hot glueing ribbons, googly eyes, bits of pipecleaner, glitter, or whatever else I can think of to bring in some dimension and interest.
I always write the kids names and ages by each hand.  I just do that with a sharpie.  Easier than painting, in my book.
We try to do some type of handprint ornament each year.  Last year it was snowmen,
but we've also done Santas, reindeers & angels to name a few.
I use their footprints, too, whenever I can.
And these babies always get a spot of honor in the house around the holidays.
We make handprint art for birthdays!
And any holiday we can think of!  Above, we used the sides of their hands for pumpkins, and thumbprints for bats and spiders.
Fourth of July (there are off white hands in there, but it's hard to see, and thumbprint stars)
And of course spring time and Easter...
But at the moment, we're geared up for Thanksgiving here, so our little turkeys are taking center stage...
Wishing each of you a wonderful Thanksgiving.  There is much to be thankful for.  
So get out some paint, and use those cute little fingers to help you get into the spirit of whatever holiday happens to be coming down the pike!  It's a quick project that will be cherished for a long time to come.

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Drama of the Dining Room: Termites, a Plethora of Lights & Moulding Insights

Wednesday, November 12, 2014 |

When we moved to our home in the country last year, we knew there were a lot of gut jobs ahead of us.  The dining room, however, was not supposed to be one of those.  But, when all was said and done, it had not only become a gut job, but also a serious gut check.

Here was the dining room before we purchased the house.  I love this room.  It is bathed in light throughout the day.  It has two large windows and a beautiful set of french doors which lead out to a covered porch.
 Our plan for this room was so simplistic...just add moulding, paint, change the it a day.
That WAS the plan.  UNTIL....dun dun dun...
We found THIS!
This was my face (and my hair and makeup were perfectly coiffed like this at the time, too, in case you were curious).  

Then again, now that I think about it... it probably looked more like this...
That's my "You've gotta be flipping kidding me with this horrible turn of events" face. And yes, I do enjoy rocking my hotel-inspired-stash-them-in-my-suitcase-when-I-leave-the-holiday-inn shower caps every now and again while I DIY. 

While pulling down the existing chair moulding in the dining room, I stumbled across the dreaded termite tracks.  More demolition followed, and when all was said and done, a horror story unfolded before our eyes.  The structure of two exterior walls of the room were almost completely compromised.  Below is a close-up of the header that was atop the french doors. 
You could stick your finger in the middle of that header and just shred pulled pork in a crock pot.  Horrific. 
Needless to say, DOWN came walls, and UP went the budget for this job. 
Slowly Humpty Dumpty was put back together again.  We started putting up the moulding that we had originally envisioned.  AND, went through four different chandeliers trying to find "the one".  The one pictured above was the third one we tried.  Too dark.  
 This was the one we tried before that...too modern.

Can you believe I'm still married?  I'm sure most people would have filed some type of papers after the third chandelier install (not to mention the four rugs I went through)...

BUT after months, many new studs, and several chandeliers, our dining room finally came together.  Here it is now:
 As you can probably tell, we are big fans of color and pattern around here.  This room was bright already, and I wanted it to read that way...light, happy and inviting.
A little bit formal, and a lot bit fun.
The chandelier we finally decided on is probably the most formal and fancy aspect of the room, but it's hard to take it too seriously when it's paired with the yellow houndstooth rug.
These shots were taken this summer, so the decor here is a little more citrus-y and beachy than it is right now.

 Here's Miss Mustard Seed shooting the room for Cottages & Bungalows magazine...
 And a couple of shots of the current fall/thanksgiving decor...
Thankful.  That is an understatement.  We are thankful round here for a lot.  Happiness, healthfulness, smiles and hugs from our three little mischief-makers and lots of family and friends nearby.

And last, but not least, thankful that this termite-infested-hole-in-our-wallet-burning-never-ending-"it's just cosmetic"-OMG-I-can't-believe-we bought-this-pit dining room project has FINALLY come to an end!

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Burlap Pillow Talk

Thursday, November 6, 2014 |

I've had a fair number of comments and questions about our burlap pillows.
 Firstly, yes, I made them.  And if you know how to turn your sewing machine on, you could make some too.  I'm really very much a novice behind my machine, and I managed to tackle this project without too much trouble at all.

I like using burlap for a couple of reasons.  First, it's not a pricey fabric, and with kids at home and never enough $ in the budget for all I'd like to do, burlap is a go-to for me.
Second, I love the rustic look that burlap can add to a space.  To me, it's saying..."we don't take ourselves too seriously 'round here."  And I dig that.  I love to pair it in kind of unexpected with toile in our guest room.
A lot of people don't love this look, they think these two fabrics can't be friends.  But, to me, toile is French Country, and what on earth, I ask you, is more country than burlap?!  If you're thinking rooster figurines and wooden trash cans with little heart cut outs, yeah, those are country too, but we don't do that country here.

So, how did I make them?  Well, first off, if you don't know how to sew an envelope pillow, I would refer you to one of the million tutorials out there on the web for making one.  Here's one from Craftaholics Anonymous. DON'T BE AFRAID.  If you can use scissors, and sew a straight hem, you'll survive.  Trust me.  Besides your burlap fabric, you'll need burlap ribbon.
 This is what I used.  It's a 3" wired ribbon.  And you can probably get 2-3 pillows made from this roll (depending greatly on the size of pillow you're making, obviously).
Once I had my piece of burlap fabric cut for the front of the pillow, I used this ribbon to start pinning my ruffles.  You will start at what will be the bottom of the pillow, pinning and sewing one row at a time.  The bottom of this first row of ribbon should sit approximately 1.5" up from the bottom of your fabric to allow for seam allowance and clearance for the ruffle when it's sitting up. 
I really just eyeballed how long/large I wanted the ruffles to be, then pinched the fabric where I wanted a crease, and pinned it off.  I continued this way along the length of the pillow.  Once your first row is pinned, sew the ribbon onto the burlap fabric with a straight seam made at the tippy-top of the ribbon, just below the wire.  It's easiest to sew in the direction that is along the grain of your pinches...if you sew the opposite direction, your pinches will want to pull out under the presser foot.  In the image above, I would be sewing from the left toward the right to keep the seam along the grain of the pinches.
Just keep following this process row by row moving up the burlap fabric.  Stagger the pinch location on each row so that none of them line up one on top of the other.  That will help achieve the ruffled look.  Your top ruffle will need to be approximately 1.5" below the top of your panel to allow for seam allowance and to prevent it from pulling oddly if too close to the top. 

Now that your ruffle panel is complete, you just sew the front panel to the back panels as you would with a regular envelope pillow...again, see a youtube or other online tutorial on this if you need some help.  When you sew the front panel to the back panel, that will stitch the side edges of the ruffles so that they have a finished edge.  

Voilá!  You've made your own burlap ruffled pillow.  Now granted, this pillow is NOT going to be super snuggleworthy, so if that's what you're scouting, don't even think about going down this road.  On the other hand, if you're just looking for some rustic, textural detail in your space.  Look no further, this be your pillow. 
I've used the same technique to make a toile and burlap runner for my dining room table...
Hope some of you give this project a try!  Have a great week...

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