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Archive for the category “landscaping”

Decking the Halls… With Actual Boughs of Holly

So, in an effort to be super-frugal with our holiday budget this year, I asked Dan to bring home some branches from the many pine trees around his parents’ house for decorating purposes.

Then he did me one better. He snagged some real holly too!

I fa-la-la-love that guy!!

I started by using the holly to create a simple sprig that adds a punch of color to our front porch railing.

I also draped plain white string lights along both the top & bottom rail & wrapped the top rail with a silver-trimmed white ribbon.

But it still didn’t look… complete. I don’t know why, but I just didn’t feel done.

So I added some dangling silver ornaments for a little more pop.

Then I hung large jingle bells from the ceiling, using the hooks that held our jam jar lanterns this summer. (Original lantern post here.)

And created an outdoor centerpiece for our wicker table by wrapping a bare wreath with white lights & placing some candles in the middle. I just used a glass bowl, 3 pillar candles of different heights & some white craft sand.

(I dig the way the sand kinda looks like snow drifts.)

It’s not Clark Griswold-level, but I think our outdoor holiday decor looks nice.

Understated.

And it pleased us here at RHR greatly that we were able to use natural greenery, rather than settling for that fake, plastic garland. Always a bonus!

And even better? Using so many repurposed items (string lights, jingle bells, wreaths, craft sand) and shopping the holiday sales/discount bin at the craft store for the rest (ribbon, candles) meant that our transformation was super affordable. All told, I spent about $10.

Not bad, if you ask me!

Perry Como was right  — The prettiest sight I see IS the holly on my own front door!

So, how about you? How’s your holiday decorating coming along? Have you been able to keep costs down by cleverly reusing stuff? Any cool centerpiece ideas? Let us know!

Porch Wrap Up

Here I am takin’ a porch chill while I write this quick curb-appeal-project-wrap-up post 🙂

See the whole makeover, with pics & links to each project here.

It’s just so lovely out here now. I can’t begin to describe.

So I figured this was the best place for me to look back over the time we spent on the project.

(Cue “The Way We Were”)

Let’s start with a budget estimate, since I’m no good at math:

Porch, Gate & Steps — paint, supplies, etc.   = $100

One of the costlier projects we tackled, but well worth it. Plus, you might be able to get the $$ taken out of your rent if you choose to stick with your landlord’s color/manufacturer choice.

Flower bed — flowers & tools  = $100

I admit it. I WAY overspent on this. I bought a bunch of pricey perennials, when I should have opted for all annuals. I could have spent far, far less & still come away with a perfectly lovely garden. Lesson learned. (I blame my desert roots for going all batsh*t with the flower buying.)

Rehabbed furniture — paint, stain, rope, glue = $75

While the table in particular was a lengthy redo — because of all the drying time between steps — everyone seems to agree that it looks brand new now. And it’s sturdier!!

Details — Starburst wall art; mailbox; address sign; mail caddy; lighting (fixture, string lights, candle lanterns); flowerpot storage; marigold ornaments; watering can; seasonal items = $100ish

The detail-y stuff ran about $25 per project, with some being far less (flower pots, candle lanterns) because we tend to use repurposed materials & leftover supplies.

So, overall, for the most part, generally speaking, looking at the big picture… We went from this to this:

for about

$375.

Not bad.

Especially considering that replacing the furniture alone would have cost more than that.

Plus, if I hadn’t gone all nutzo with the flowers, we could have brought it in well under $3-hunny.

And the above pics don’t even demonstrate the beauteousness that is goin’ on up on the porch:

But, of course, there were obstacles.

Which leads me to our soon-to-be-famous (ha ha) Cheers & Jeers feature!

Cheer!

The gate

Is it the prettiest feature of our makeover? No. But it’s functional properties make it far & away our MVP.

Jeer!

The squirrel

I think once we started the makeover, he realized that we’re not, in fact, hillbillies & he lost all fear of ending up in our stew pot.

Cheeky little bastard.

I thought his hijinks were cute until he made off with ALL of my decorative squash and chomped my pumpkins…

See him? Right there in my mail caddy.

Seriously, he has NO fear. He actually takes hostages. For real — he wouldn’t let Sonia’s speech therapist off the porch!!

He’s also eaten ALL of the bird seed out of our pretty feeder. I wish I had a pic of him swinging on that thing. Hilarious!

On the up side, we’re pretty sure that we can take full credit for his successful hibernation this winter — he must have at least a dozen squash & two pounds of all-season bird seed stashed in his little tree house by now, courtesy of Chez Glor.

Cheer!

Our porch stencil & jam jar lanterns

For almost nothing, we created a nice little sitting area just by defining the space with our version of a porch rug & then echoing that space above with our jam jar lanterns.

We don’t like porch rugs anyway. They slip around, curl up at the edges & generally look ratty pretty quick. This alternative gives us the same effect without the hassle. And it was at least $100 cheaper! And the lanterns are just quirky & fun 🙂

Jeer:

Light fixture

I thought this would look much better than it does. I just hated the old light SO much. Something had to be done. Unfortunately, our budget was pretty tight the week I lost my patience with the old “fixture” and I chose to go with a simple $5 replacement just to get the old one outta there.

And while Dan is rightfully proud of his install job (see details here), the fixture itself does nothing for us. It does not make us all warm & tingly. It is not our dream light.

We’ll live with it for now & try frosting the glass & adding some sort of decorative backing or something to obscure the leftover caulk and just give the fixture more overall… presence.

Cheer!

Climbing flowers

I can’t tell you how many compliments we’ve gotten on this simple, simple element of our makeover.

If you’ve got an area you want to obscure or add height to, I can’t recommend Morning Glories & Nasturtium enough. Just give them something to climb on & tend to your Nasturtium. It’s beautiful, but it will take over the whole garden if you let it.

Jeer!

The rain

Nothing, nothing was more problematic than the weather when it came to our Curb Appeal makeover. In fact, I imagine the whole thing would have taken half the time if we’d had good weather all along.

Still, it did make our garden blow up. So maybe our area’s penchant for precipitation isn’t such a bad thing…

Cheer!

Our readers!!!!!!

That would be you!!! I don’t have a pic of y’all, but I wanted to give you guys a quick “ups” for tuning in — honestly, your response to our new blog has been SO encouraging. When we decided to give this DIY blogging thing a try, we weren’t sure that there was an audience out there for us.

But thanks to you guys, we’re actually pretty stoked about moving onward & upward with Rental House Rules and we have tons of ideas for the inside of the house that we probably would procrastinate if it weren’t for you being out there pulling for us 🙂

So please, give yourselves a hand. We’ll wait 🙂

Good job!

And now that all the pennies are counted & the backs are patted, we can move on. No more porch stuff for a while!!!!

But be sure to check back in soon — we’re moving inside & we have so many great projects coming up!

In the meantime, let us know what you think!!!!! We’d love to hear from you! What was your favorite part of our Curb Appeal Project? Have you tried any of our tips? What would you like to do with YOUR rental property? Any projects to brag about? Have you ever spent WAAAAY too much on flowers?

Seriously, we want to know!!! Spill it!!!!

COMING SOON: STEP INTO OUR HUMBLE ABODE — A LOOK AT WHAT’S TO COME!!

Curb Appeal REVEAL

This was our rental house before:

And this is our home today:

OMG, Amy! You’re our new design guru! We’ve never seen such a stunning transformation!

I know, I know. It’s hard to be humble when you’re just so very awesome.

Before (above); After (below)

Wow! We’re just blown away! This must have cost you thousands of dollars!

No, no. As a matter of fact, it was quite inexpensive.

What?!? But the lush, lush garden! And the chandeliers! It’s like Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous!!!

Yes. (Sighs and looks wistfully to the West) My genius is both a gift and a burden…

But seriously, better right???

We certainly think so!

Plus, no fewer than 6 neighbors have stopped by to thank us for putting a little TLC into our curb appeal. There’s a 50/50 split of homeowners & renters on our block, and, well… you can tell which are which. The rentals have long suffered neglect & it shows. And if the word of everyone in the neighborhood is accurate, ours had long been among the sorest of the block’s rental-property eyesores.

Not anymore!!

We’re not gonna say it’s the nicest looking property in the neighborhood, but we do receive plenty of compliments. And putting forth the effort seems to have endeared us to our previously (rightfully) skeptical neighbors. Don’t get me wrong, they’re all very nice people & were always polite… but let’s just say that since the Curb Appeal Project began, we’re receiving more cookout invitations than we used to. Which is awesome.

Rental House Rule #17: It’s your home, even if it’s somebody else’s house. Take some pride in it.

So… How did we go from eyesore to eye candy?

Not necessarily in this order, we: (Click on headings for links to individual project posts)

1) Installed a gate: 

We can’t describe how functional this simple fix has been. Honestly, while hardly the showpiece of our CAP (Curb Appeal Project), it has easily had the most impact upon our lives — in a good way!! Being able to corral the kiddo & dog has turned what was once merely a throughway into an outdoor room.

Highly suggest!

2) Put in a flower bed:

Before (left) ;


Today (center) 

3) Painted the porch and put facings on the steps:

Porch paint before (left); Two-tone lattice (right)

BTW — We also sprinkled the front porch steps with a little sand immediately after painting, to give them traction during rainy and snowy months.

Porch steps before paint & facings (left); traction sand (center); steps with paint and facings (right); porch paint after (center, large)

4) Added a “rug” stencil:

5) Rehabbed our old patio furniture and shelves:

Shelves before (left); Table and chairs before (right)

We went with a “coordinate, don’t match” philosophy…

…to create a cohesive look.

The shelves are done in a Dark Walnut stain.

The table is a combo of Espresso paint and Dark Walnut & Golden oak stains.

6) Gave the entry area some visual appeal by adding wall art:

… and other DIY decor touches.

Like a modern twist on toll painting above our front door… 

… a rehabbed wreath

… and some decorative storage.

7) Added a faux patina to our new mailbox:

8) Made a new address plaque & switched out the old porch light:

Before (left); After (right)

Note: We still plan to frost the glass on the new porch light, but didn’t want to hold up the big CAP reveal over a minor detail. Stay tuned!

9) Added string lights, a roll-down shade & DIY candle lanterns:

10) Added a few other finishing touches:

Like a wrought-iron chair for our flowering flowers to climb…

A cute watering can…

… a new doormat…

… a few pumpkins…

… painted flowerpots filled with squash and pine cones…

… a basket of mums…

… and my fave, a cobalt-blue bird feeder…

So, that’s our Curb Appeal Reveal!!

Come on back next week for more before/after pics, a more-or-less budget breakdown & “Rants & Raves” — a rundown of which projects we most enjoyed… and which we… well… didn’t.

ALSO COMING UP: WE MOVE INDOORS!! BATHROOM MAKEOVER BEGINS; LAMP/SHADE MAKEOVERS & MUCH, MUCH MORE!!!!

All In The Details

OK, so the wicker furniture makeover is going to take just a little while longer — we were abducted by family fun yesterday & instead of going to the Home Depot for more rope, we ended up at a nearby farm petting baby ducks!!

Ultimate Rental House Rule: Paint and pillows are fine, but your family is what makes your house a home.

So, we still have to hit the Depot. Then I have just a weeeeee bit more touching up on the table & chairs. And just generally futzing around to get the porch & yard ready for our BIG CURB APPEAL REVEAL!!!

But, I know I like a little light Sunday blog-reading, and I imagine you’re no different. It’s a lovely way to relax 🙂

So, I’m gonna throw up a quick little post about some of the “finishing touches” we’ve done on the porch.

‘Cause I’m easy like Sunday bloggin’…

Some of you might remember this post about how I added a large mail receptacle to the inside of our porch gate…

And how I promised to switch out the original pine cones for new and different items to turn what could be an awkward-looking, purely functional item into a unique visual draw?

Well, viola! Autumn gourds! Simple, cheap, big visual impact.

Also cheap & easy? Flower pot decor!

I spray painted a few flower pots in bright, solid colors. Now I can use them to house stray objects I need/want on the porch…

Like candles…

And pine cones to throw at a particularly brazen and pesky squirrel…

JUST KIDDING!

The cones are just for decor. But that squirrel IS a complete pain in the patootie.

I also tossed some leftover gourds into one of the flowerpots for a casual piece of fall decor. I also plan to use another flower pot to create a discreet outdoor ashtray. (I’ll do a full how-to on that one soon!)

Flower pots! They’re not just for flowers anymore!

The mums pictured above were a simple solution to an ugly old stump that was uglying up our yard.

I also placed a bright, eye-catching accent piece nearby — in this case a cobalt blue bird feeder — to further distract from the stump.

The flower bed was another place where I worked a little slight-of-the-eye magic to distract from a hole in my climbing vines…

Tip: Is your natural foliage looking a little wobbly or patchy? Use some potted plants or flowers to draw the eye to strong spots & “cover up” holes.

I chose a tall, leafy purple plant that contrasts nicely & has enough height to not look dwarfed next to the climbing vines.

So… there you go! Just a couple of quick visual fixes that anyone can accomplish.

Now we’re off to the Home Depot now for more rope. Yes, I said rope. You’ll see! (Wink!)

COMING UP: WICKER FURNITURE REVEAL

Rain? Check. :(

Howdy, strangers!

Just a quick post about why our big Curb Appeal Reveal post is taking SO long to get up…

Every time we have a free moment to work on porch projects, the skies open up.

But please rest assured, we dash out there & work our little hearts out at every sunny opportunity!

We’re super-stoked to be rounding the final curve in our porch makeover, (we’re SO close) and once that’s finished we’ll put up a huge, meaty post with tons of pics of the entire Shab-To-Fab curb appeal upgrade & links to so very many projects contained within.

But in the meantime, we invite you to take a Rental House Rules tour of your own!

You can simply click backward or forward using the directional prompts at the top of each blog post for a scrolling-style tour…

Or, you can follow these links to some of our more popular posts 🙂

See our:

Flower bed project here 

Armoire makeover here

Mailbox makeover here

Vegetable garden here

Porch stencil here

Bouquet tutorial here

Jam Jar lanterns here

Wreath makeover here

Starburst wall art here

And honestly, honestly — we’ll be back as soon as humanly possible with that Curb Appeal Reveal post. Trust me, we’re looking forward to it as much as anyone!! 🙂

In the meantime, thanks so much for sticking with us through all the weather. Our posting schedule will be much more predictable and sane once we can move indoors…

COMING UP: WICKER FURNITURE MAKEOVER; CURB APPEAL REVEAL!!!

Hector Project-er: Peace Nik Fix

So… long story short: Our front door has a weird, retrofitted exterior doorjamb that was built when an old wooden screen door was replaced with a newer, smaller metal one.

I won’t go into a spin about how very much we’d prefer a wooden screen. Or how switching out the existing one would be a major p-in-the-a because of how the handyman installed it.

Rental House Rule #15: Some things you just have to live with. Work around them.

In other words, there may not be much we can do about the door itself, but there is something we can do about the awkward area above the door.

All we need is love.

Or, in this case, peace.

At first, we were just going to paint the house number in this space above the door, but we kept procrastinating it, because, well… we just weren’t feelin’ it.

Then we considered painting in our last name, but that didn’t feel very “us.” Although we came up with a few amusing family monikers during the process. The Family Glor; GlorCo.; InGlorious Bastards and my personal favorite… New Glorcenshire.

But in the end, we decided to give peace a chance. (Dear Lennon estate: Please don’t sue me over bad puns. John was a genius. Shine on, Amy)

Anyway, once we’d settled on a simple font:

I’ve had this book since I was, like, 9 years old. I found it in my old bedroom last time we visited my folks 🙂

I just used a pencil & drew the letters in by hand. Yay, simple font! Then I grabbed a child’s paintbrush — Sonia has TONS of paintbrushes and doesn’t like the little ones that come in watercolor sets anyway. “Too gross.” It’s kind of her default criticism. — and some of the espresso brown paint I have left over from the address sign drama (here) and filled in my pencil lines.

All said and done, it took about half an hour & cost me zero dollars. Score!!

A small detail, but one that makes me smile every time I see it 🙂 And isn’t that the goal, really?

The flower bed is a constant work in progress. Post on that coming up very soon.

I love how it can be seen from the street, but doesn’t scream,

“PEACE, DAMN YOU!!!”

It’s just kind of there. You can choose to see it or not. Fitting 🙂

COMING UP: WICKER FURNITURE MAKEOVER; FLOWER BED FEATURETTE; TOUCH UPS; WALL DECOR AND MORE!

PS — The big porch makeover reveal has been postponed until the end of the week. Probably Saturday. We decided to hold off for reasons that will be explained shortly. Rest assured, our motives are entirely selfless & show just what wonderful people we truly are! Or at least that’s how we’re gonna spin it… ;->

Hector Project-er : Part One

As in projects. I never project. That’s your hang-up. ;->

But seriously, folks…

I’ve been happily project-ing for the past couple of days, just putting little touches on the front porch.

There is still one major project — namely rehabbing the wicker patio set — but I was still in the thinkin’-about-which-way-I-wanna-go stage until yesterday, so I allowed myself to marinate upon it whilst doing other little detail-y stuff.

Post on my (hopefully) super awesome & totally brilliant makeover coming soon! 

Anyway… I already posted about the wreath I rehabbed to cover up the hardware of a flower box mounted on the inside of our porch gate. (here)

But I still had some tweaking to do on the flower box itself.

But why, pray tell, did we choose to mount a flower box on the inside of our porch gate???

Because of our mailbox. (mailbox makeover here)

While we LURVE our mailbox — and have received numerous compliments upon her beauty — she’s admittedly a petite thang & can’t hande a huge workload in terms of bulky mail.

The flirty little curls on the bottom do well at holding light stuff, like grocery store fliers, etc., but the first time our mail carrier stuffed an Ikea catalog in there, I thought I’d faint.

Oh, the wedging-in… it was awful… she must have been so scared… it’s okay, baby… shhhh… mama’s here…

So, we obviously needed a secondary mail receptacle as:

1) I couldn’t sleep knowing my precious mailbox was in constant danger of physical assault from overzealous postal carriers.

2) I was NOT about to cancel my Ikea catalog subscription.

Fortunately, while I was trying to figure out the best solution, I was also painting/allowing-to-dry the floor stencil I painted in lieu of a porch rug. (Porch stencil project here)

During the stenciling process, I’d just scooted the patio furniture over to the other end of the porch.

Downside = big wicker chair blocking the porch gate made it hard to get in & out.

Upside = big wicker chair became default dumping spot for large mail.

Which got me thinking… If there was a basket or something hanging on the inside of the gate, the big mail could go in there. It would be out of the weather (read: as much as that’s possible in Western PA) and wouldn’t show from the street. Because I know those rascally kids are just waiting for an opportunity to steal my college alumni magazines…

But, after a little deliberation, I decided that a good, sturdy flower box would both provide both the load-bearing & aesthetic quality I demand from my creative endeavors. (I got a rep to protect, yo.)

So I picked up a black wrought iron-look flower box & mounted it directly in the center of our porch gate, facing in.

It was ridonkulously easy & self explanatory, so I won’t bother listing the put tab A into slot B stuff. If you want to install one of these… trust me, you can figure it out on your own.

Then I dropped a rectangular basket inside to catch all those glorious catalogs, magazines and gifts from secret admirers. Still waiting on those. But I have faith.

There were only two problems: One — the mounting hardware showed on the “back” side. Which in our case was the front side. As in facing the street. Two — the basket width & depth were ideal, but it wasn’t long enough to fill the whole flower box.

So, to remedy both issues, I jogged over to the craft store — Yes, literally. I’m a dynamo. NOT. I drove my lazy ass there. And I might have stopped at Starbucks on the way. But don’t repeat that. I’ll only deny it. — and picked up a couple of sprigs of silk flowers and a bag of pine cones.

I used the “faux-liage” to rehab an old wreath. Then I wired it to the offending flower box hardware…

… thereby concealing said eyesore.

(wreath makeover here)

The pine cones were to fill the empty spaces that surrounded our big-mail basket once I’d set it inside the flower box.

I just dumped them in there & primped a little.

And viola.

We have a place for our bulky, unsolicited junk mail. The American dream…

I like it 🙂

It’s plenty big enough & sturdy enough to hold even the most ad-laden Vogue.

And the pine cones can, and will, be easily tweaked/switched out with other small-ish items for a constant, yet ever-changing look. (Just like the wreath on the front.)

I love functional decor I can play with 🙂 Oh, the possibilities!!!

All in all, I’d say the flower box project ran me about $20. I was lucky to get all three components (flower box, basket, pine cones) on sale. It might have cost $20 if I weren’t so savvy hadn’t gotten as lucky.

Still, totally worth it to ensure that I won’t go all “Not Without My Daughter” on our poor mailman come Sears catalog day…

COMING UP: PEACE, GARDENING AND BONDAGE. (Not that kind, you sicko.)

Wreath-hab

We’re at the fun stage of our porch makeover/curb appeal project: the futzing! When I get to make all kinds of small aesthetic & functional tweaks. To a DIY dork like me, this is the best part 🙂

And this quick makeover of an old wreath is my favorite detail-y thing thus far.

It was quick, easy and cheap: The RHR trifecta!

Here’s how I did it:

First, I snipped the wires holding the wooden decorative pieces to an old wreath. (I left the brown string, though. I think it’s load-bearing string.) And pulled off all the little globs of dried glue.

I was left with a bare wreath, which I mounted to our front gate.

(The whys and wherefores of that very soon. Suffice it to say we needed to obscure the hardware of a flower box mounted on the inside of the gate.)

I wanted to make sure it was really on there, because that’s where it’s going to live permanently. Or at least until we move.

Its look, however will be SO easy to switch up.

Allow me to demonstrate:

I grabbed some silk flowers from the craft store (2 for 1 = score!)

Then I trimmed the flowers off the center stems, leaving quite a bit of length on the smaller stems that actually connected to the blooms.

I’m glad I had wire snips for this process & wouldn’t recommend trying it with scissors. Those plastic coated wire stems would laugh in the face of any scissors who would dare challenge them.

I also took off any leaves and offshoots, leaving me with long, bare stems topped with a couple of blooms each.

(Oops. I guess I took this photo before trimming off the leaves/offshoots. Sorry. Just visualize these, but with no leaves & you’ll get the picture.)

Aside from the two big center stems, I was actually left with very little waste.

And I kinda can’t bear to throw those big stems out. I know that the day after I do, I’ll think of some super handy use for them.

BTW — Do you think I should apply to be on that hoarders show? 

Once I got to this point, the rest was so simple it’s almost embarrassing.

I just shoved the long, bare stems as far & as hard as I could, even pulling from the back with my needle nose plies sometimes, until they were all in there nice & snug.

That’s it.

I went with a really loosely structured look on purpose, allowing the blooms to kind of do what they want. I added dimension by letting them jut out in some places while trying my best to tuck them into the wreath more tightly in others. I also gave it some motion by choosing blooms that blow slightly in the breeze. (I was concerned they’d blow off, but… knock wood… so far, so good.)

Overall, it adds a playful, casual touch at the top of our potentially-foreboding-looking steps. At least I think so.

Plus, since I already had the old wreath & mounting wire, and the flowers were on sale, the whole project cost me $7. (If you don’t have a spare wreath, check Goodwill. I guarantee you’ll find one cheap.)

And here’s the best part!

Because I didn’t use any glue or wire to secure the flowers to the wreath, I can (and will) easily disassemble this wreath and create a new one whenever I want!!!

Sidenote: I’m the kind of person who fantasizes about having the time/money/energy to switch out the curtains & art in her home, like, twice a month. Not throw anything out, mind you, just rearrange/rotate things in & out of storage… you know, play 🙂

BTW — Do you think I should apply to be on that schizophrenics show?

Anyhoo … Right now, I’m diggin’ the harvest moon vibe this one’s got goin’ on, but as the seasons change — rest assured — so will the wreath.

I’m just so excited!

COMING UP: THE MYSTERY BASKET; WICKER SHELF MAKEOVER; FLOWER BED MAINTENANCE; AND… PEACE.

Bouquet 6 Ways

$12 is a lot of money when you’re a renter.

So here’s a real quick post about how I make my mixed bouquets worth the outlay:

Even though I’m always tempted by the giant bunches of single-type flowers, I restrain myself & pick a nice, varied bouquet, which will pay off down the line. And be way more fun 🙂

As soon as I get them home, I disassemble the bouquet, remove all the gunky waste & trim down the ends.

Then I grab my biggest vase & play florist for a while! Headed to the bell tower? Arranging flowers is very zen. And foliage is cheaper than bullets ;->

Tip: If there’s a packet of flower food included with your bouquet, use only half to start. Save the rest for later. If not, think about picking up a some plant food. Not expensive + works great + lasts forever = Worth the money.

If I did a good job choosing a fresh bouquet, the original arrangement should last 2-3 days.

But eventually…

… time takes its toll on us all.

Not to worry — a little primping can spruce my bouquet right back up!

So, I find a nice, spacious workspace & pull my flowers out of the vase. I remove any obvious goners & trash/compost them.

Often, during this process, I’ll find smaller flowers tucked amongst the larger ones that are still in pretty good shape — but headed downhill quickly:

I’d feel bad throwing them out quite yet, but they’re not going to last long enough to go back into a bouquet. That’s OK… I just pull them out & set them aside. I can still use them.

Now — I sort through the rest of the bouquet & figure out what can be salvaged. Once I begin to pull out the early wilters, I still have quite a bit to work with. Of course all of them will be a little less plucky than they originally were, but I don’t go throwing the baby out with the bath water. Instead I use my secret trick…

My “secret trick”: Re-trim the stems & change out the water.

Yup. That’s it.

(Don’t forget to add more plant food…)

This refreshing technique was probably once common knowledge, but I’d never heard of it. And almost everyone I know says, “Huh. Well, there you go!”  when I tell them about it. So I guess common knowledge sometimes gets lost along the way.

Anyhoo – it just occurred to me one day (Loooong ago… man, I’m gettin’ old.) that flower stems are essentially straws. And that when the bottom of the straw gets all gummed up, it must be harder for the flowers to get a drink of water.

And no water = dehydration (read: wilting). So I trimmed them.

Then cleaned the vase & added a little fresh plant food.

I mean, would you wanna drink that? 

And they perked right up & lasted for several more days. In fact, they were a little perkiER… like they had a new lease on life. And I’ve been doing it with 100% success ever since. So, there you go. Huh.

Still, if I just pulled out the wilters, trimmed the stems, changed the water and then plunked them back into the same old vase… well, what fun is that? As long as I’m doing all this maintenance, I might as well shake things up a little.

So… I grab a couple more vases. ‘Cause I’m crazy like that. Recognize.

Tip: Vases are stupidstupid cheap at Goodwill. Stock up. They’re hugely versatile & there are styles to fit every taste.

The really nice thing about this step is getting to play florist again 🙂 See: Bell tower. 

First, I take those almost-goners (the ones I set aside earlier) and I trim the stems really short … then I set them afloat in a bowl-style vase.

Trimming the stems way back & letting the blooms sit directly in the water usually gets me another day or two. I’m tellin’ ya — hydration. Learn from the flowers. Drink your 8 cups a day!

Then I took a few of the other small almost-goners & bundled them together with a rubber band, waaaay up near the base of the blooms. I put these into a modest Mason jar for a charming hand-picked effect.

Then I rearranged the remaining viable flowers from the original bouquet & put them back in the big vase, changing up the positioning a little. It wasn’t a huge difference from the first big arrangement, but it definitely cleaned up the look a little.

In all, I’d created three fresh arrangements. All from my one formerly gloppy, days-old mixed bouquet:

These phase two arrangements lasted another couple of days.

When they started to drop petals, it was time to repeat the whole process… disassemble, trim, clean water, reassemble. (Gently.)

Which yielded me three, yes, three more arrangements. For a total of seven. From one bouquet. I’m just sayin’.

1) Original mixed bouquet

2) Floating blooms arrangement

3) Red & yellow flowers in Mason jar

4) Scaled-down/rearranged original bouquet

5) Sunflowers and small blooms arrangement

7) Lily arrangement

8) Red carnations in Mason jar

Full Disclosure: I brought in some of the leaves from my nasturnim outside to accent the lilies.

Tip: Look around your yard. There’s probably foliage out there you could use to spruce up your thinning bouquet. (But please be smart — don’t use anything unless you’re sure it’s non-poisonous. Leaves of three? Let it be! Small red berry? Don’t touch — scary!)

The third set of arrangements lasted me another 2 days before they started to look rough.

And by constantly regrouping the flowers, changing vases & artfully scattering my new arrangements around the house in different spots each time, I created the illusion of being an heiress with an unlimited fresh-flower budget. OK, maybe not. But it did brighten up the place 🙂

So let’s do the math: $ 12 mixed bouquet = 6 arrangements = 1 week of fresh flowers all over the house.

Worth it? Absolutely.

COMING UP: THRIFT SHOPPING & MORE PORCH PROGRESS 

Jam Session (Making Jar Lanterns)

You’ve been so patient with this whole project. I truly want to thank you. So, here’s a big ‘ole post about how we turned some empty jam jars into candle lanterns for a dropped-lighting look that detracts from our ugly porch ceiling!

Aren’t they cute? We’re super stoked 🙂

They add a touch of charm, while also pulling the eye away from our water-damaged porch roof.

And they were really easy & cheap to make — it only took me so long because I had to work on them in 10-minute intervals. I’d say, all told, it was about a 2-hour project. However, a lot of that was trial & error (in other words, doing/undoing/redoing), so it could probably even be accomplished in an hour of focused work.

I started by emptying, soaking & removing the labels from a variety of jars we had around the house. Most were jam jars, but there are a couple of diced fruit jars in there, too. Really, any kind of squat jar (pickles, chutney, whatever…) would work. The idea is to choose a shape that will allow you to access the inside of the jar easily, because you’ll need to insert/remove/light/extinguish the small candles that will sit inside them. Plus a wider mouth = more room for heat to escape, so the glass will stay cooler once those candles are lit.

Once I had clean, clear jars, Dan & I spent a little time figuring out how to create wire baskets for them to nestle in.

Be sure to tighten the belts well to prevent the glass jars from slipping out of the baskets if you need to move them. Especially important if you get strong winds on your porch like we do.

The basic procedure involves creating a “spokes” or “cross” pattern with thin wire…

… to create a support system for the glass jars.

Then belting those wires with a thicker wire around the middle of the jar.

See the entire process here.

Next, I picked up some free (!) wire hangers from the dry cleaner.

I removed the cardboard tubes from the middle and snipped off the twisty end parts. (Using my Dan’s handy little needle-nose pliers/wire cutter combo.)

I chose to hit the hangers with a little copper spray paint… because we had a teeeeeeny bit laying around from the mailbox makeover & I wanted to get rid of it. Plus, I thought it would make the lanterns coordinate more, since I used copper wire on those. In the end, it didn’t really make that much of a difference. They do look better close up, but once they’re hanging, it’s pretty much impossible to tell. Oh well. No harm done.

While they dried, I assembled the other supplies I would need to finish the lanterns, including what I would need to create my oh-so-clever mounting apparatus.

(Apparati?)

What I needed:

Play sand/a scoop/a funnel…

The wire hangers, of course…

The jars, of course…

Mug hooks (like for hanging coffee mugs under/inside kitchen cabinets)

Tea-light candles — the citronella kind, because bugs are yucky

Needle nose pliers with built-in wire snips

Medium pliers

Thin copper wire

To attach the hangers to the lanterns, all I did was loop short lengths — about an inch & a half — of the thin copper wire through the “basket” beneath the thick wire belts & twist them loosely shut.

Easier shown than described (see photo right):

The most important detail about this process is threefold:

1) Make sure you lace the short length of wire behind the wire basket and under the belt wire. That way, it’ll be holding onto both, which will give it a little more stability.

2) Position the mounting loops as close to exactly opposite one another as possible. This will reduce tipping.

3) Leave the loops big enough to later insert the wire hangers.

Once you insert the ends of the wire hangers through the loops, there are two stages of tightening to be done.

First, you’ll want to bend the ends of the wire hangers until they overlap themselves tightly. They need to be tight so the mounting loops can’t slip out of them. (Large, illustrative photo below)

The needle nose pliers weren’t quite muscle-y enough to bend the thick hanger wire while it was snuggled up all close to the jar, so I brought in the big guns.

See the blue-handled channel lock pliers? Yeah. It kinda felt like bringing a gun to a knife fight, but I couldn’t find my medium pliers.

Whatever. It worked.

Rental House Rule #15: Make do.

Then I went back to the needle nose pliers to twist/tighten my loose wire mounting loops into tiny knots, thereby securing the hangers to the lanterns. Mostly.

I’m gonna give you an extreme close up (ECU) so you can see what I mean.

Then, just because I’m Queen of the Paranoid, I hit all the hinges and scratchy, loose wire end bits with some super-duty rubber cement:

This stuff dries crystal clear, so I wasn’t worried about the look of the lanterns being compromised by adding this step.

It made the hangers “stay put” in an upright position a little bit better, which makes for easier hanging.

See how some are staying up & some aren’t? Rubber cement. It’s not going to add any strength, but it does gum things up a little, which helps reduce tipping. To be honest, the lanterns are still a little bit tippy, but the rubber cement gives me peace of mind that they’re not going to just spin upside down out of nowhere. Plus, I’m not worried about getting scratched by loose wire ends when putting the lanterns up/taking them down.

Worthy Of Note: At first, I tried to bend the wire hangers to mimic actual lantern handles — you know how they kind of bend out a little near the base?

Yeah. That was an aesthetic choice that didn’t work out so well… it just made them tippier. 😦 Plus, once they were hung, it was just glaringly obvious that they weren’t all uniform. They looked stupid.

So, I unbent them, leaving them in their original straight position. No big whoop. I actually think they look better straight.

*** QUICK FIX — The round jars were still too wobbly for my taste, even after the rubber cementing. So, to add some stability, I added two more belt wires around the mouth of the jars on the outside of the wire hangers. Did it keep them level? OH HECK YEAH. They’re the least tippy of the group now! Doing the same thing wouldn’t have worked with the square jars, since there’s a little too much space  between the mouth of the jar & the wire hanger. The teardrop-shaped jars were belted around the mouth to begin with (because the shape made it hard to belt them around the middle), so there was no need to add a second set of belts to all of the jars, just the round ones.

I was a bit concerned that the difference would be glaringly obvious, but no. Once they’re hanging up, you can’t even tell…

(In fact, it was such a non-issue I forgot to even take a pic — had to run out to the porch & snap this one just now…)

Anyhoo – by this point, I was getting quite excited!!!

All that was left now was to add some sand, drop a tea-light candle into each jar and hang them up.

Dan did the installation honors, drilling small pilot holes into the cross beams of our porch roof, then screwing in the mug hooks by hand. Thanks, hon!

I poured regular old play sand (Like for sandboxes — but you could buy craft sand at the craft store. It comes in lots ‘o colors!) into the jars up to about the halfway point. Then I took the little foil cups off of my tea lights and dropped one into each jar, settling it down into the sand a little.

I chose to remove the foil cups because that way, the candles would extinguish themselves once they melted into the sand. Now we have the option of either blowing them out or letting them burn out naturally.

SAFETY ALERT: NEVER LEAVE ANY OPEN FLAME UNATTENDED!!!!!!

We don’t just walk away & let them burn out — we make sure to stay in the area whenever they’re lit & check on them frequently. (It just takes a quick glance — no biggie.) And we certainly never assume a candle is out — we make sure — but the sand allows us to be slightly less obsessive about the whole thing. And that’s nice 🙂

Finally it was time to take these bad boys for a test drive!!!

That’s it! It really is that simple.

And we think they look darling. Here’s a few progression shots from dusk to dark.


Now, to address a few safety concerns you may have:

1) Won’t spray painting the hangers cause them to go up in flames once the candles figure in?

No. Using only a little bit of sand keeps the flame far enough away from the hanger for that to be a concern.

2) What about the rubber cement? Won’t that melt/catch fire?

No. I only used a tiny bit — and it’s on the outside of the glass, so it doesn’t come into contact with the candle flames.

3) Don’t the glass/wire hangers get all hot?

Surprisingly, no. Tea light candles don’t really produce much heat. The wide mouths of the jars allow enough heat to escape that our hangers weren’t even warm to the touch after an hour of burning. Plus, the sand acts as a cooling barrier between the candles & the glass, so those weren’t hot, either 🙂

4) Aren’t you worried about catching the ceiling on fire?

Not really. As I said, the tea lights don’t produce much heat, there’s no hanging foliage or anything nearby, the hangers are long enough to guard against the flames touching the ceiling & like I said earlier, we NEVER allow the lanterns to burn unsupervised. But if you do have hanging foliage and/or trouble staying in one area for more than a minute, you could totally use those fake, battery-operated tea lights. (They sell them at party supply stores.)

5) Aren’t you worried they’ll fall on you?

A tad. But really, when you take into consideration the wire baskets, rubber cement and tight belt wires, we couldn’t have done much more to safeguard against fall-age. The most likely falling scenario would involve either the wind blowing them down, or someone SUPER tall (like Guiness Book of Records tall) bumping into them. So… we’ll just take them down when it’s windy… And when we invite circus freaks over… Should be OK.

All said, it was a simple, fun project that adds a unique touch to our blah porch ceiling. And it only cost, like $10. (For the candles/hooks/thin wire. The sand/jars/thick wire we had already.) If you had to start from scratch, buying everything, it would still come in under $20.

So there you go. An outdoor dropped-lighting effect that is affordable, functional, and most importantly to renters, removable.

COMING SOON: WICKER TABLE & CHAIRS MAKEOVER; FINISHING TOUCHES ON THE PORCH; 1 MIXED BOUQUET 6 WAYS; SECONDHAND SHOPPING TIPS AND MORE!!! 

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