Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Shelves!

I know I said I'd post about these shelves a while ago, but I'm just slow like that.  So, without further ado, please say hello to my Christmas shelves!  (I know, I know, the lighting is appalling.  Such is rental house life.)

As I've mentioned previously, we don't have a fireplace, which means we also don't have a mantle.  I spend many, many minutes gazing longingly at all the lovely pictures other bloggers have of their gorgeously styled mantles.  They're always so seasonal and, well, perfectly mantle-y.  Alas, I have no such space on which to exercise my seasonal decorating skills, so I've had to improvise.  Enter IKEA.  A few years back I purchased a pair of lovely shelves with pretty wrought iron brackets, and they have since provided me with a canvas for seasonal decorating!  Woo hoo!  With the notable, and tragic, exception of my first attempt at hanging them (which began with my ludicrously foolish idea of not using wall anchors, and ended in one of the shelves crashing to the ground and smashing several of my favorite glass and ceramic pieces to smithereens...), they've performed swimmingly.

I really love decorating for the seasons, and as each one approaches, I'm always telling Stephen that the one I'm decorating for right then is my favorite.  I'm apparently very fickle.  There are so many elements that I love about this year's Christmas-scape.  This clock is a perpetual shelf resident, but his neighbors are always changing:

 I can hardly stand how cute that little cheese dome is with the tiny pine cones under it!  I put shells under there in the summer, and I was delighted that the pine cones fit so perfectly for the winter.  The glass Christmas tree was a crazy Salvation Army store steal.  I happened to be in the store last summer when they announced that all Christmas items were 15 cents each for the next 5 minutes.  What?!  Yes, please!

This is the other end of the clock's shelf.  I went with a natural winter theme this year, with lots of pine cones and a few shells thrown in for good measure.  We live in Florida, after all, so I really can't leave out the shells entirely even in the winter.

That lantern is one of my very favorite pieces.  I found it at a flea market, and just can't get enough of it.  This shelf also has 2 of my favorite mercury glass pieces.  I love how they sparkle, and how they contrast with the rustiness of the old lantern.

 Lastly, here's my little elf, tucked under the fern with the lovely glass bird my sister gave me.  Isn't he cute?  I made several from a Martha Stewart pattern and gave them as gifts a few years ago.  Oh, and yes, I'm aware of the sea of dust in which he's standing.  These shelves, being as high up as they are, happen to be quite low on my dusting list.  As in, they don't really make the list at all.

So that's how my shelves look for this Christmas.  I'll probably leave that all up until February or so, since none of it (other than the elf) is overtly Christmas-y.  Hope you like them, and I hope you have a wonderful time celebrating Christmas this week!!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Our silly, happy tree

Merry Christmas, all!  I know I've already posted about Christmas-y things, but I realized I hadn't said that yet.  So there you go.  Consider yourself Merry Christmased. ;)

I think it's about time to show you our comically uneven Christmas tree.  No, I don't mean that it's tipping over or anything like that.  You'll see what I mean shortly.

When Lily was littler, she was excited about the tree, but not crazy excited.  Last year, when she was 3, was the first year she really actively helped decorate.  This year, however, we have a little boy who can walk (unlike last year, when all he could do was lie on the floor like an uber-precious lump of preciousness), and HOLY COW are boys different from girls when it comes to Christmas trees.  Or at least my boy is VERY, VERY different from how my girl was around our tree.  It became clear within a few short minutes of starting to decorate that our tree was going to have to be completely bare in the entire area of James's reach.  Lily didn't mind this too much, because we got out her step stool and she happily decorated higher than her brother could reach.  We didn't, however, stop James from "helping" entirely.  I left a bunch of plastic ball ornaments on the coffee table which he threw at the tree with gusto.  He definitely thought he was contributing to the loveliness of the tree. :)

As a result of James's, umm, enthusiasm for ornaments, our tree looks ludicrously nude from the middle down.  To add insult to injury for this poor tree, I'm pretty bad at evenly spacing our lights.  I start from the top, so not only does the bottom half have no ornaments, it also has a very paltry smattering of lights.  All this combines to make a very comical looking tree.

Ridiculous, huh?  It's a slightly scraggly tree already, a fact which we just accentuated.  Alas, such is life with a toddler boy.  But really, when he looks like this, who cares about some silly tree?

 Be still my heart.

On the bright side, I do really love our ornaments.  We have a pretty good collection of hand-painted German glass ornaments which are definitely my favorite.  I especially like the ones with a slightly matte finish, rather than the super shiny ones.

Isn't that little house cute?  And that fish?  I just love them :)

So that's our tree!  A little pitiful, but still cute.  Hope you like it, and I hope yours is a little less sparse!

I'm linking this post up to Thrifty Decor Chick's Christmas Tree Party

Sunday, December 4, 2011

O Little Town of Paper-Towel-Tube Bethlehem

Hello hello!  I've finally finished the advent calendar I've been working on for the kiddos, and I'm thrilled with how it turned out. (Lily, who gets candy everyday from this magical creation, is even more thrilled.)  I actually have several advent calendars already.  As in, I have an entire box of them crammed in a closet because I'm just too overwhelmed by the idea of getting them all out and setting them up.  Why then, you may ask, would I create yet another?  Well, you see, I have a compulsive urge to make cute things that will not be shouted down by silly considerations like reasonableness.  I saw this idea on Pinterest and knew I could (and MUST) do it myself!

Via Pinterest
How. Cute. Are. Those?  I absolutely love them!  Lily saw me looking at them and immediately asked if we could make some.  Why yes, my sweet girl, we can!  As you can see, this crafter was just making a little village, but I thought it could be easily adapted to fit my advent calendar purposes.  I have a really lovely nativity scene (the Willow Tree set, actually) and I thought a little village of these houses would be a great stand in for Bethlehem, surrounding the stable.  This is the nativity scene the village surrounds:

To begin my project, I collected paper towel and toilet paper tubes until I had enough to make 24 little houses, which turned out to be just 2 of each type of tube.  (I may or may not have unrolled half a roll of paper towels and piled them on the counter because I was WAY too impatient to wait to get my hands on that roll, but that's neither here nor there.)  I first tried cutting up the tubes with scissors, but that didn't work at all.  It just mangled the fairly flimsy cardboard, much to my dismay.  I ended up using my largest butcher knife to saw through them.  It worked like a charm, but probably looked pretty odd.  I wish I could have gotten a picture of myself sawing away at toilet paper tubes with a huge knife.

Once the tubes were cut, I moved on to decorating and assembling them.  I really liked the white houses, but the red and green roofs don't really fit with my mostly green and blue decor.  To solve that little mismatch, I just used some scrapbook paper I already had in the right colors to create roofs for my little village.  I also didn't bother cutting out doors or windows, but painted them on instead.  Here's a close up shot of the houses:

After all the houses were assembled, I painted a number on each roof and arranged them on "hills" around the nativity scene.  For my hills, I just piled some books and covered each stack with a floursack kitchen towel.

I think they look snowy. :)  Was there really snow on the hills of Bethlehem the night Jesus was born?  I doubt it.  However, I think my little town of paper-towel-tube Bethlehem is pretty darn cute, inaccurate though it may be.

Doesn't it look good?  It's so fun to see Lily climb up on a chair and search for the house with the right number on it.  Even though she already knows what's under them (a Hershey's milk chocolate nugget), she's so excited to peek under each day's house.

I'm going to try to scrounge up a long, short box to put the little houses in once it's time to put them away, since I'm certainly keeping them!  It'll be so fun to see James joining in the fun next year :)  Do you have an advent calendar?  Have you ever made one?  Let me know!

The Lettered Cottage

Friday, December 2, 2011

Christmas stockings, anyone?

Well, my laptop is alive and kicking again!  I've been sewing and crafting like a mad woman in anticipation of Christmas, and now I can post about it!

You've already seen my bookpage ornaments, so today I thought I'd do a sort of double post about the cute little stockings I've made and the star ornaments I've been making to go with them.  If you follow this blog for very long, you'll soon discover how much I LOVE burlap and linen.  Probably my two favorite fabrics to work with for home decor projects.  Actually, when I say favorite to "work with", I should probably qualify that by saying that, in truth, burlap is the most annoying fabric in the universe to work with, but the results are so pretty I'll just ignore that aspect. ;)

I've seen lots of burlap stockings this year, so I decided to put my own spin on some.  Our house doesn't have a fireplace, with the result that we have no proper mantle from which to hang stockings.  I do, however, have 2 shelves that serve as my seasonal decorating space in our living room.  Each shelf is held up by 2 wrought iron brackets that have a little loop at each end, making them the perfect place to hang some small stockings.  Haha!  Problem solved.  I'm not entirely sure what I'll do if we have any other children, since the 4 stockings we have now look so perfect together, but I'll cross that bridge if we ever come to it.  For now, I just needed 4 stockings.

I scaled the stockings to fit with the small shelves, so each is about 6 1/2 inches from cuff to heel, and about 8ish inches when hanging.

I didn't have a pattern, so I just drew a rough stocking shape on some paper, and used it as a guide.  Each stocking is lined with muslin, and has a white linen cuff.  The muslin lining doesn't really have a purpose, as we won't be actually putting anything in these, but it does peak through the burlap a bit, so it looks nice.  The linen cuffs were a bit of a problem.  I planned to sew the stocking and then attach the cuff with my machine after I'd turned the stockings right-side out.  Umm, yeah, that didn't work out.  At all.  The stockings are so small and stiff (Remember my comment about burlap being annoying?  Consider this be be exhibit A.), there was NO WAY I was going to be able to maneuver them under my machine's foot.  Soooo, I had to hand sew those suckers in there.  Not my original plan, but it ended up working out fine. Since these stockings are so small, and really just decorative, it doesn't matter that the cuff is just hand sewn in.  Plus, they're so stinkin' cute, who cares if the inside looks a little rough?  I've already sold several on Etsy, and I'm delighted that they'll be brightening other people's homes this Christmas, too!

As you can see in that picture, I decided to label each stocking with a cute little star charm.  I hand-shaped the stars out of polymer clay, baked them in the oven, and then painted a little monogram on them.  They turned out so well that I'm making lots of them to give as gifts.  Here's a close-up of the ones I did for our family:

How great are those?!  They have a little twine attached for hanging, either from a stocking or as a separate ornament.  One customer ordered a set with red letters, rather than black, and those turned out really well, too.

So here are our stockings in their Christmastime home.  I apologize for the heinous lighting in this photo, but we have very little natural light in our living room, so there's not much I can do about it.  Boo!  (Cue toddler-style tantrum)

I'll do a post soon about my holiday decorating on those shelves (the other one is, obviously, not pictured above), so this is just a sneak peek. :)  Hope your holiday decorating is coming along well.  I absolutely love decorating for this time of year.  And yes, most of that went up the day after Thanksgiving!