I’m Baaack! DIY $10 Christmas Wreath

Hi there, friends! I do apologize for my absence the last few months. Summer brought about a LOT of traveling and events, and also gave us some exciting news: we are expecting a little boy due to arrive sometime mid-February! Needless to say, I’ve been doing a lot of napping, and not so much blogging. BUT! I am hopeful that the next few months will be a little more successful in terms of blog posts (at least until the little man arrives).

To start off, I am going to share a super easy DIY with you all. And the best part about this DIY is that it is also cheap!

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This Christmas/winter wreath cost me a total of $9.23. Granted, I did use a coupon or two, and I found the supplies on sale, but it was all from Jo-Ann’s, so more than likely you can score the exact same wreath supplies for an equivalent cost.

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Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A grapevine wreath
  • One “leafy” faux branch
  • Two “twiggy” faux branches
  • Two pinecone “branches”
  • One faux needle branch with red berries

First off, find a section of the grapevine wreath that has a horizontal vine or two; you’ll need this to hold the “branches” in. Take your “leafy” branch and slip it in snugly.

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Stick the branch with the berries in slightly below the leafy branch, making sure that the leafy branch is still visible.

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Your next step is to add in the twiggy branches. I really like these because they have little bells in them, so every time you open the door (in theory) it’ll jingle. How’s that for festive? Layer them on top of the leafy branch, but make sure they stay behind the berry branch.

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The final step is to stick those pinecones in. I ended up putting one on the bottom next to the berries, and the other tucked in behind the leafy branch, but do whatever makes the wreath feel balanced.

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And that’s it! Easy-peasy. You could also add a ribbon if you want to dress up the wreath more, but for myself I like the bareness of the vines. I think it feels more wintery that way.

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Enjoy!

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How to Make Your Own DIY Driftwood Mason Jar Candelabra

Whew! That’s quite a longwinded title! But trust me, this little how to is far from difficult.

The dog days of Summer are fast approaching, and I’m sure you’re dreaming of long evenings outdoors as much as I am. Long evenings outside demand some dreamy lighting, so I’m here today with this fun craft:

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Cute, right? I have to confess, I didn’t come up with this entirely on my own, as the inspiration came from Pinterest (hello, fellow Pinterest addicts!), but the design is completely my own.

So, with that out of the way, here’s the how-to.

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What you’ll need for this project:

  • A piece of driftwood (at least 2.5-3ft long, longer if using larger Mason jars)
  • 3-5 small Mason jars (need not be actual Mason jars, as you can see)
  • Twine
  • Screw-on hooks
  • Picture hanging wire
  • Wire cutter
  • Scissors
  • Pliers
  • Tea light candles  (preferably no-flame, battery powered ones; these ones from Amazon are nice, since they come with a  remote)
  • Ceiling mounted hook (not pictured)

All right, let’s get started.

Step one will be to cut down the twine. You’ll want a 2ft segment for each jar. More than likely you’ll end up cutting off some extra, but this length makes it easier to work with.

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Once your twine is all cut, you’ll need to tie one end to the jar. Wrap it under the bottom of the lid lines, so that it doesn’t slip off.

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Next, you’ll take the rest of the twine and wrap it a couple of times around the driftwood. Knot it if you wish, but that isn’t necessary. Leave about a foot of twine between the driftwood and the jar, so that it hangs down. You can make it longer or shorter depending on your preference. Also make sure to leave several inches free at the end, so you can screw the hooks in.

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After that, take the other end of the twine and tie it around the jar again, making sure that the knots are on opposite ends of each other. This ensures that the jar hangs evenly. You should be able to adjust this fairly easily, especially if your jars are tapered.

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Repeat the last three steps with all of the jars. You can leave the hanging lengths even so that your jars hang in a straight row, or stagger them like I did to make a pyramid shape. Also remember to leave some space in between the jars so that they don’t bump into each other; 2 inches or so should be enough.

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Your next step is to screw those hooks in. Leave an inch or two off the end.

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Then, tie the picture hanging wire onto the hooks. You can make the wire long or short, depending on how far down you want the driftwood to be from the ceiling.

Your last step is to put the candles in, and you’re done!

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Hook it onto a hook wherever your heart desires (I put ours on our porch).

Let the porch parties begin!

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Weekly Dishes – Pepper Beef

Hi folks! Hasn’t the weather lately been lovely? At least it has been here in the PNW. I’m going to blame the sunshine for keeping me from posting this last week. ‘Cause who wants to be inside when it’s sunny out?

This week’s dish has a somewhat long ingredient list, but is actually fairly simple, and is a great choice for when you’re craving Chinese takeout. It’s another family favorite, and was one of my top choices as a child. Even with the pepper in it. My own kids love it too.

Here’s what you’ll need:

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  • 1 lb. Thin cut beef (or breakfast steak cut thinly)
  • 3 Green bell peppers, sliced
  • 1-2 Onions, thinly sliced
  • Vegetable oil for cooking (about 2 tablespoons)

Sauce A – Meat marinade

  • 1 teaspoon Sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon Cornstarch (flour works too)
  • 1 tablespoon Soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Mirin (a Japanese sweet rice wine; sherry is a good substitute, just add 1-2 tablespoons sugar to sweeten it)
  • Sesame oil, to taste (I usually put about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon in)
  • Ginger (fresh or powdered), to taste
  • 1 clove Garlic (about 1/2 teaspoon)
  • 1 tablespoon Vegetable oil

Sauce B – Broth

  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 tablespoon Cornstarch
  • 3/4 cups beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon Soy sauce

All right, now if that list of ingredients scared you, put those fears aside. Trust me, it’s not as scary as it sounds.

Step one is going to be assembling your sauces. Get a larger bowl for sauce mixture A, because you’ll be marinating your beef in it. The second mixture will fit in a smaller bowl (I use a cereal bowl). To minimize on utensils, start with all the dry ingredients first, then add in the wet. If you’re substituting sherry for the mirin, don’t forget the extra tablespoon or two of sugar when you’re doing this step.

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Next, set mixture B (that’s the little bowl) aside and grab your beef and mixture A (the big bowl). Mix in the beef so that it’s thoroughly coated in the mixture, and let stand for 15 min.

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While the meat is marinating, cut up your green bell pepper and the onion. Try and slice the onion as thinly as you can.

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Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a wok on high (you can use a regular frying pan, but I’d advise sticking with a non-stick, no pun intended). Once the oil is hot, add in the peppers and onion, and fry for about 2 minutes.

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When the vegetables have just started to soften, remove to serving bowl.

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Wipe out the pan with a paper towel if needed. Add more oil to the pan, and once it’s heated, add the beef. Fry on high for about 3 minutes.

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Before the meat is completely cooked (aka while it’s still a bit pink), add sauce mixture B and cook until it starts to thicken slightly (about 1 minute).

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Add in the pre-cooked vegetables, and cook until heated through.

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And you’re done!

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I serve this with white rice and sometimes make some store-bought spring rolls in the oven.

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Enjoy!

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DIY Garden Sign

Hi friends! I have another fun little project to share with all of you today.

I recently found this old 2×4 cutting in our shed. I think I’d set it aside at some point thinking it would make a good swing seat. Of course, without the right tree branch or power tools to turn it into one, it ended up just sitting there.

But when I rediscovered it, I realized it would make a perfect sign. Then it proceeded to sit in the dark again for a couple weeks more (please tell me I’m not the only one who does that).

So this afternoon, I finally went upstairs, got my can of spray paint, and decided to go for it. The result?

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Here’s what you’ll need for this project:

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  • a piece of 2×4 (preferably at least 1 foot long, and up to however long you want it)
  • a can of spray paint (I used red, since it was what I had, but a pink or blue would be fun too)
  • a marker (I have a silver pen in the photo, but ended up going with gold; you’ll forgive me, won’t you?)
  • a hook and nails (you should be able to find a picture hanger kit with these pretty easily at any craft or hardware store; not pictured)
  • a hammer (not pictured)
  • a towel (not pictured)
  • newspaper

Step one is to make sure that your board is clean. Wipe off any dirt or dust (or cobwebs), and make sure it’s dry.

Take that board, the spray paint, and your newspaper on outside. Lay the newspaper down, and if you happen to struggle with slight winds, you can use masking tape to hold the newspaper down (don’t do it on a super windy day, otherwise you’ll get paint all over you).

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Now shake up that can and get spraying.

Let the paint dry completely (the drying time will vary depending on your paint variety, and how much you put on). If you feel it needs another coat, go ahead and put on a second coat.

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Once it’s completely dry, take it back inside, and grab your marker. Now I did a terrible job at centering my letters, but a quick rule of thumb is to start with the middle letter (or letters if your word has an even number of words), and write those first, making sure to center them. Then write the remaining letters. If you feel that you have terrible handwriting, you could always use letter stickers, but bear in mind that they may not last as long.

Draw the arrow last.

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Once you’ve written the word(s) down, take the board off the table, and lay the towel down. This will keep your table and your board from getting scratched up while you hammer the hook on, as well as soften the sound (should you have sleeping babies or sensitive neighbors).

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Place your hook on the board as close to the center as you can.

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Then, hammer in one nail, just enough to hold it in place. Realign the hook to make sure it’s level. Hammer in the second nail, and then hammer in the first all the way.

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And you’re done!

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Yay! You could literally write whatever you want, but I love the invitation that a “garden” sign indoors makes, even if you don’t have a garden.

Now go have fun!

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P.S. If you’d like to know how I lined my shelf with fabric (like you can see in two photos above), you can find that tutorial here.

How to Plant Potatoes, and Other Things Like That

How is it April already? Seriously, didn’t 2016 just start? Spring is already here, and I am just now starting to think about our garden. So here’s my first garden update for 2016.

I was enjoying the lovely sunshine outside yesterday, when I realized that my blueberry plants were starting to get flower buds.

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Then I noticed that my pie cherry tree was starting to bloom.

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And then I saw strawberry blossoms…

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And so I promptly realized, it was high time I started working on my garden. When all the plants around you are acting like it’s Spring, then it’s probably time for me to start acting like it too.

So, today, I dug up my garden.

Digging up a garden that has sat dormant all winter is work. Not necessarily HARD work (I can think of things that are harder), but it is work regardless. But thinking ahead to the rewards that I hope to enjoy this Summer makes it all worth it.

So to help fuel that dream, before I picked up my shovel and hoe, I picked up my trowel, and started some seeds.

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Good potting soil is a must for seedlings. Certainly you can use soil from your garden box, but if you really want to help your starts along, go ahead and get the potting soil. I like using these starter pots because you can plant them right into the soil! That’s right, these pots are biodegradable.

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I started 4 pots each of beefsteak tomatoes, yellow pear tomatoes, and watermelon. (I’ll share more about the asparagus next time) YUM! Let’s see if I actually succeed in getting any watermelon this year; last year the bugs munched mine (insert sad face here). Anybody have any tips on keeping pests away from watermelon and cantaloupe?

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Once I was done with that, I put them all on a cookie sheet (#repurpose, anyone?) and brought them in. If you’re planting along with me, don’t forget to water them. Go ahead and soak them; a good initial watering is essential.

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And don’t forget to label them. If your seed packets are empty, you can certainly use them. However, if you are intending to keep the seeds for future planting, then you’ll need to put them in a dark, dry place to store. An easy way to label is with masking tape and a bright, colorful marker.

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Ta-da! Now set them next to a sunny window.

Then it was time to go back out to those garden boxes.

This is what they looked like to start with:

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I had already gone out a couple weeks ago to turn the box on the right, but the one on the left was virtually untouched since last fall (I had weeded it a few days ago, but nothing else).

During the process of shoveling the dirt, I discovered a few goodies:

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I wonder who put those there?… ; )

I also discovered that I had neglected to dig up my potato crop enough last year. A FEW (*cough* 6 *cough*) apparently had remained in the ground (oops), and were starting to produce shoots. So, rather than toss them, I decided I’d replant them. We’ll get back to them.

After giving it a good turning with my shovel, I took my hoe and chopped up those big pieces.

Now back to those potatoes. Planting potatoes really is quite simple. You need potato starts (with eyes on them), soil, a shovel, and patience.

Start with a trench about 6in deep. Potatoes will need a double covering (initial covering at planting, and a second covering several weeks in when they have decent foliage), so you need to give a little extra room for the soil.

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Drop in those potatoes, making sure the eyes are on top, and that they are at least 2 in apart from one another.

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Then, cover them with about 4in of soil.

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Don’t forget to water them! (I did, but thankfully remembered and went back out)

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Once that was done, I moved on to the second box and dug it up. I didn’t hoe it out today, since I want to give it a second turning (turning the soil allows the nutrients to blend together, and also helps kill off weeds).

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So that was all for today. My next garden update will probably be in a few weeks, when I get my compost. I may even have some first plantings to share! What fun!

What are you growing in your garden this year?

Just for fun, here are a couple more pictures from our backyard:

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Make Your Own DIY Spring Wreath

Spring is here! Spring is here! Spring is here! (Can you tell I’m excited?)

And now that Spring is officially here, I can share this post with you guilt free. If you’re anything like me, if you can stretch the use of your seasonal décor longer, you do. So my Christmas wreath hung around for quite a while. I won’t tell you when exactly it came down, but let’s just say that my door has been wreathless for only a few weeks. That Christmas wreath was going to be used for as long as I could.

But now it’s time to move onto better, brighter things, so yesterday, I sat down and made my Spring wreath, which I must confess, was easier and funner (that’s a word, right?) than I thought.

Here’s what you’ll need for this project:

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  • A metal wreath frame (I actually saved this one from my Christmas wreath)
  • 8+ faux flower bouquets (Mine were from the dollar tree)
  • 2ft length of wide ribbon (not pictured)

One word about your choice for the flowers: try and stick with a one or two color scheme. My flowers were all white and yellow. If you want to go more for a wildflower feel, then you’re welcome to mix colors, but pay attention to the type of flowers you pick. The cohesiveness of this wreath really depends on the colors (or type) you go with.

This really doesn’t take much work. All you need to do is stick the stems into the prongs of the wreath frame. Start from the top of your wreath, and work your way down each side. Try and weave your stems into the prongs as much as you can, so that they end up either covered by the other flowers, or come to the bottom of the wreath (which you’ll wrap with the ribbon).

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At this point, if you have extra flowers, you can continue to put them in and make it flowers all around, or you can do what I did, and add in the ribbon.

Your last step is to wrap the exposed stems and wreath frame with the ribbon. If you choose a silkier ribbon, it will feel more formal; burlap will make it feel more rustic. Choose whichever you prefer.

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Tie a pretty bow, and you’re done!

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This project probably took me 20 min max, and that was with photo-taking and dinner prep happening at the same time! Super easy.

Hope you’re enjoying Spring where you live too!

Make a Seasonal Scrapbook Frame in 3 Easy Steps

Yay! Spring is finally here! Well, ok, technically it’s not for another few days, but here in the PNW, you need only look outside to know that it has arrived. Daffodils and cherry blossoms are EVERYWHERE (and that’s an awfully good thing).

To celebrate this momentous occasion (that happens every year, but hey, it’s still exciting!), I am going to share a fun little project with you, just in time for the weekend (again, I’m celebrating a bit early).

These scrapbook pages are the result of several years, mostly because I didn’t have always have time at the beginning of a season to put on together. The actual creation of one of these pages really only takes 5-10 min, but somehow, Spring was the last one that got made (Spring cleaning, anyone?).

Here’s what you’ll need:

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  • A 12×12 picture frame
  • 12×12 Cardstock/scrapbook paper
  • Clippings of fun photos or illustrations
  • Double-sided tape (a glue stick works fine too)

A few words of advice on picking your cardstock and photo clippings: you can pick a patterned backdrop or one without for your cardstock, but if you choose a patterned one, try and pick one that will “frame” your work, like the one I picked. A patterned one will create movement and add color and life to your overall composition, but with the movement comes busyness. Keep that in mind when you’re picking out your photo clippings too; you don’t want your backdrop to clash with the images that are supposed to be the main event. As for the clippings themselves, pick photos or illustrations that speak to the season you’re going with (for example: fireworks are a perfect choice for Summer, but not so much for Winter. Unless you celebrate Chinese New Year).

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Your first step is to figure out which photo/illustration you want to have in the center. It should be one of the biggest ones that you have, to maintain a balanced look over all. Go ahead and adhere it to the paper.

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Next, arrange the remaining cuttings around the big one (but don’t adhere them yet – you may want to rearrange them). Play around with the layout until it looks balanced and feels right. Go ahead and layer your clippings on top of each other, but remember to only overlap slightly; you want to be able to still see the majority of the image.

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Once you’re happy with the layout, go ahead and adhere the remaining cuttings to the cardstock.

And you’re done! Stick that paper into the frame, and hang her up!

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Just for fun, I’ll share some of my other seasons with you:

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I really can’t decide which one is my favorite… it might be Summer. But I’ll have to wait a little longer for that one.

How to Make a Necklace

Now I know that this how-to has nothing to do with interior design or home decor, but it was a fun little project I did this week that I simply had to share with you all.

Several months after our wedding, I lost one of the earrings that I wore for the ceremony. I was so bummed; they were my favorite pair that I owned at the time, and I was so disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to wear it any more. I held onto the leftover earring because I couldn’t bear to part with it, and I had hopes that I would be able to find a way to use it, or perhaps even find another identical one (or, miracle of miracles, find the lost earring).

Then, a few months ago, I had the idea to turn it into a pendant. I was so excited about the idea, but didn’t get around to doing it til this week, and I am so pleased with how it turned out.

Here is what you’ll need for this project:

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  • One earring (you may be able to use a post earring for this project, but I used a dangle earring)
  • Pliers
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Wire cutter
  • Necklace chain

The whole process is really quite simple; all you need to do is to twist the earring post around the joint portion.

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Once you’ve finished wrapping it around and creating a loop, cut off the remaining wire with the write cutters.

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Then, string the chain through the loop, and put it on!

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I’m so happy to be able to wear my earring again!

How to Set a Table – Christmas Edition

Christmas is two days away, folks. Are you getting excited?

One of the funnest (yes, I said funnest) parts of Christmas is the food, and along with it, the table setting that decorates the table. But if you, like me, haven’t really even thought about what you want your table to look like, fear not, I’m here with some easy table settings for you.

I have three different styles of table settings for you today.

The first one is your naturalistic one. This one is great if you’re hosting brunch, or simply want a more casual table setting.

Here’s what you’ll need:

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  • Evergreen branches (I have three different kinds here, but ended up only using two. You really don’t need a lot; one or two branches should be plenty)
  • A white table runner
  • An oil lamp (if you don’t have one, a large pillar candle with a base would work)
  • Tea light candles with holders
Your first step will be to cut down those branches. Make short segments so they’ll lay flat.
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Next, lay down the table runner and place the oil lamp/pillar candle right in the middle.

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Lay the branches around the lamp/candle as if you were framing it. Spread them out so that they cover most, but not all of the table runner.

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Then “sprinkle” the tea light candles around, and you’re done!

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Voila! You can make the branches as thick or thin as you want, but personally I feel that less is more in this situation.

The next table is a little more formal, but is the easiest of the three. I call this one the Golden Holly.

Here’s what you’ll need:

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  • White round placemats (one for each place setting + one for the center)
  • Gold ornaments
  • Two candlesticks
  • Holly branch (pick one with lots of berries)
  • Your trusty salt and pepper shakers
Step one for this table is much like the first table: set out your placemats at each seat, and one right in the middle. Set your candlesticks an equidistance away from the placemat on either side.
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Next, place that holly branch on the placemat in the middle and sprinkle the ornaments around it.
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That’s it!
The third table is great for the kids table (or anyone who is a kid at heart). I call it the Nutcracker and His Friends.
Here’s what you’ll need:
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  • A nutcracker
  • A Christmasy tablecloth (stick with something monotone)
  • Fake snow
  • A small wood stump
  • Some ceramic animals
  • Any items that are foresty

You all know step one by now: lay out that tablecloth.

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Next, lay out the snow, making sure to keep a small section open for the nutcracker and the tree stump.

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Then, put out the “friends” in such a way that it looks like they’re playing in the snow.

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I love this little birdy, and how serene it looks in the snow. Just a happy little bird snoozing away.

There you have it. Which one do you like best?

How To Style a Coffee Table

This how to is akin to my How to Set a Table (Thanksgiving edition); the end result is going to look different depending on your personality, style, and what you have available.

Styling a coffee table will largely be determined by the room it’s in. A formal living room will look best with a table that’s more artistic, less utilitarian (unless of course your style is minimalist, in which case the second coffee table I show you would fit better). The family room coffee table is going to be a work horse (it’s just the nature of the room) so you’re going to want something that’s functional. You’re not going to want to have to clear the space every time you go in to use the room.

So let me talk about picking a coffee table first. As I mentioned earlier, your table will need to fit the needs of the room you’re putting it in. So while the living room coffee table need not be large, you’re going to want something more heavy duty for the family room, since that’s the room you’ll be doing the most things in (like board games, crafts, etc.).

I’ll share my living room coffee table first:

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As you can see, it’s a more flowery table. The sides are actually drop leafs, and can be put down if there’s going to be a large crowd, so it’s very functional, but overall, the style is not utilitarian.

I’ve also practically covered the table, but that’s fine, because I’ve still left space for cups and plates, should I serve any food to my guests (which trust me, happens frequently). The main goal for the living room coffee table is to look pretty.

How to Style a Coffee Table 2

How to Style a Coffee Table

So go ahead and put a whole bowl of pinecones and a pretty frame on there. Be creative.

The second table is the one in our family room. It is one solid table, and I like it that way, because this is the table the kids play on, sometimes literally on top of. You want this table to be large and sturdy.

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You can see that Sophie (our dog) wanted in on the photoshoot.

You’ll notice that I’ve put my “decorations” on one side. This allows me to have part of the table already cleared for play. You are more than welcome to center your tray/basket, but be prepared to move it a lot.

 

How to Style a Coffee Table 3

A quick word about your tray: keep it useful. I like to put the books/magazines I’m currently reading, or books that the kids find interesting in mine. You could keep your coasters in it too. It’s purpose is to store all those things that tend to be transient, those items that need to stay out because you use them frequently.

In each table you’ll notice that I practice one rule: the rule of three. For some reason, three items together is really pleasing to the human eye. So try and keep your decorations down to three main items (this is where the tray is really useful, because even if you have multiple items in it, I still only counts as one visually). I’ve also tried to have the items staggered in size: one low, one medium, one high. They’re also small, medium, and large, respectively. Keep these tricks in mind, and you’ll be styling in no time.