Friday, December 16, 2011

General Merriment was Had

I hosted (hostessed?) my first Christmas party of the year (perhaps ever in the new house...?) last night.  It was my main group of long time girlfriends -- there were 7 of us total -- and we did a potluck dinner and ornament exchange.  I had fun tinkering around with last minute centerpieces and touches of Christmas around the house.

For the centerpieces I used my glass block vases.  I dumped in some Epsom salt for snow, tossed in some cranberries (I ran them under water to get them wet) and rolled them around in the "snow" for a frosted effect, stuck in some fresh pine branch pieces and  candles.  Next I added a few pine cones that my sister in California sent me  (they are huge and gorgeous -- I use them all year round around the house.  Love them!  I had plans to hang a few up in a group by some red ribbon, but so far... that hasn't quite materialized.  But it's not Christmas yet!  I still have time, right?)   Here's how they turned out:

In retrospect, the elf statue is random and perhaps creepy.  Oh well.

In the bathroom I added a few frosted cranberries to my usual (Feng Shui) stones on the cistern:

They, too, probably would have benefited from some pine branch sprigs, but like the pine cones on ribbons, it alas, didn't happen.

As a last minute decoration for the cross piece of the sideboard, I threw this together:

It needs a little tweaking but in the dim light and nearly on the floor, it was fine...

The dining room chandelier had it's own little party going on:

Wednesday afternoon I made some monogrammed burlap place mats to anchor the plates.  I tend to entertain outdoors most of the time, so I didn't have a set of eight place mats* -- and the plates really needed to be visually anchored to the table.  I was going to write Christmas words like "Noel" and "Peace" on them, but opted for the simple monogram so that I could use them on occasions other than Christmas, and, frankly, due to time constraints.  (I suppose if I can think of 8 Christmas words that end with the letter "N" I could still do that -- suggestions in the comments, please!  Ha ha!)

(I did add cloth napkins after the photo was taken, I swear...) 

The place mats were ridiculously easy to make.  I used the "pull one string" technique to mark a straight line to cut; and made each mat 19" x 14".  Then I starched and ironed them to get them to lay flat and have the tiniest bit of body, and then painted the monogram on using a stencil and a foam paintbrush.  Ideally I would have run the edges of the mats through my sewing machine to hold the edges intact, but again, due to time...    But the mats held up fine for the dinner -- (I mean, really, how much hard use does a place mat get anyway?  And -- worst case scenario, I can make plenty more with the oh, 20 or so yards of burlap I have in my garden shed) and I'll easily get more uses out of them if I am careful in handling them when I put them away.  So - color me pleased with that less-than-an-hour-of-time-spent making those!

Everyone's food contribution was yummy -- and because it's all about the food** I have to tell you all about it.  We had the creamiest, most fabulous hummus and pita bread and a side of tabbouleh salad from Ali Baba for the appetizer, roasted veggies with olives, feta and toasted pine nuts over couscous for the entree, a field greens with pears and goat cheese salad (I don't know where it was from but it was to die for) a really great (and healthy!) chilled broccoli salad from Wholefoods, some totally addictive (or should I say seductive?)  "Seeduction" artisan bread from Wholefoods (can you guess what grocery store is closest to my house - lucky me) and of course an abundance of delicious wines.  Then we moved to the living room in front of the fire and wrapped up the whole shebang with an assortment of tantalizing desserts:  bite-sized cheesecakes in edible chocolate cups, snicker doodle cookies and other sweet goodies and coffee and then did our ornament exchange.

(The dangling frog is my ceiling fan pull!)

The exchange was great fun -- we drew numbers for the order of choosing and had fun comparing what different styles of ornaments everyone had chosen to bring.  (Note:  The number of ornaments sold immediately becomes overwhelming when you are only shopping for one... They all look dazzling and it's sooo hard to choose.)  The ornament I received is THE CUTEST little Old World ornament in the shape of a hammer!  Since we all do Habitat for Humanity it would have been perfect for any one of us.  I'll try to remember to post  a photo of it tomorrow...

Overall -- a successful night of general merriment with dear friends (who also wash dishes --!)  I am ever grateful for each of them.  

I almost forgot to post the photo of my tree!  It's a little blurry...

*      Nor did I have 8 dining room chairs, or 8 wine glasses -- thank goodness for the generosity of  neighbors! 

**   Family joke

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Rustic Sideboard

I've been saving lengths of reclaimed lumber (doesn't that sound so much better than "old wood"?) with plans in mind to build some type of long, narrow buffet or cabinet type piece that is table height for my dining room.  I'll just say... saving enough wood is taking forever.  Patience is not one of my virtues.  And so when I saw this little table on Pinterest

Via Pinterest

I decided to build it as an interim piece.  A quick, (with Red's help) zip-it-together rustic table.

When I started laying out the pieces for sizing and pre-assembly, I realized that I didn't have the right size lumber for the criss-cross legs.  The wood needed to be thicker to allow for notching at the cross. 

I flipped through my mental rolodex* of other small tables I've seen, and remembered this one that I had also flagged on Pinterest:

Via Pinterest
This one is built out of an upcycled wooden pallet so it's a "lighter" look than what I was after, but sometimes all you need is a glimpse of a construction design to use as a go by.  This one worked for me.  I used more of the lumber from my neighbor's old deck.  I wanted it to nearly fill the length of the wall, so I made the ends longer to extend past the legs.  I opted not to wrap the legs at the bottom, using instead a center foot-rail type piece.

I brushed off the dirt with a stiff bristle brush before assembly.  Once built, I hit the exposed sides with a sander, wiped it down with a damp rag, let it dry, and then put on a coat of stain with polyeurethane already in it.  I let it dry and heaved it (and I do mean "heave" -- it's heavy!) into the dining room.  I still need to put felt feet under it to protect my floors.

It will be perfect as a rustic sideboard in my dining room!  I'm having a bunch of girlfriends over on Thursday night this week and it will be the perfect opportunity to break it in.  I'll probably drape it with burlap and a little ribbon and pinecones to give it that holiday touch.  When I finally do save enough lumber for what I really want in this room, I'll re-purpose this to someplace else.  Maybe I'll get a horse -- it looks like it could be a decent hitching post...

*  I still have my rolodex from the 80's on my office bookshelf -- it's retro!

Package Delivery!

I finally finished these this weekend!  This is the project that I've been talking about but wouldn't blog about...

Looking at the photo, I see that I have them off center on the blue pot -- I need to adjust that.  And I need to add a bow on the bottom and middle packages too -- I ran out of the red ribbon.  Ribbon never seems to go as far as I think it will when I am estimating...

At any rate, I'm pretty happy with them considering I didn't have instructions for them.  I saw a photo of them on Pinterest which I have posted below.  The woman who made them made them out of plastic and covered them with scrapbook paper.  Her porch, apparently, stays dry.  Mine gets the full brunt of any weather, so I knew the boxes would have to be quite a bit more substantial.

Via Pinterest

My painting isn't as clean as I would have liked (the fleur de lis are upside down for example -- THAT was irritating when I realized I had the box upside down while painting!) and the box edges aren't as perfect as I would have liked -- up close you can see caulk/sealant and some uneven wooden edges -- but from a distance they are passable.  I hope they last several years.  Ho ho ho!