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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.


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!

Dreaming of a White (and Silver) Christmas

So… we’re not going to do a tree this year for a variety of reasons: including a ninja-fast 4-year-old with a penchant for breakable objects & a cat who we’re pretty sure descends from schizophrenic mountain lions. But mostly it’s because we’ll be out of town for most of the holiday season & couldn’t justify spending big $$ on a tree that our house sitter would get to look at more than we would.

Fortunately, we DO have a fireplace with a mantle. I’ve somehow never had a mantle to decorate before. So, of course I had to play!

I decided on a simple theme: White and silver.

First, I sprayed some pine cones I bought a while back (as autumn decor for the porch) with some white spray paint I had lying around. Then I coupled them with jingle bells in glass vases to create a cheap, easy grouping with both texture & bling.

I also thought that since we weren’t doing a tree, it would be nice to honor the age-old tradition that led to modern-day Christmas trees: Bringing evergreen branches into the house. So when Dan went over to his folks’ house last weekend, I asked him to bring back some clippings from their many, many pine trees.

I just nestled them loosely in a large vase I have with some rocks & water in the bottom for counterbalance. (Plus, maybe the water will help keep the branches fresh longer. I’m not sure if works the same with sticks as with flowers…) Then, just to be doubly sure they wouldn’t fall prey to our cat, I stuck the vase to the mantle with some double-sided tape.

I totally dig the way the vase of boughs turned out. Very natural. And it smells great!

But I needed to balance out the other side of the mantle with a little height of its own. So when I saw these candlesticks at the local thrift store, I snapped them right up. They weren’t originally silver — and frankly, I was not at all fond of their weird, swirly finish but that was easily remedied with a little spray paint.

Once they were silver, I topped them with white pillar candles in varying heights for an understated visual appeal that easily holds its ground against the largesse  of the evergreen branches.

Then, to represent our AZ roots, I tucked a bare wreath behind a cool little bird ornament I picked up recently. It’s actually a dove, but to us it calls to mind a Cactus Wren, the state bird of Arizona.

(Cactus Wren photo taken just outside of Tucson by Terry Sohl. Courtesy of South Dakota

And to represent where we are now, I centered the entire mantle with a small pewter piece that features the three rivers of Allegheny County, PA.

Finally, I put a wedding photo we love & a portrait of Sonia — both black & white — into silver frames I had around the house. The family pics personalize & soften the potentially stark look of my silver & white theme. Plus, when it’s time to hang the stockings, they’ll serve as identifiers… kind of like photographic place cards.

Overall, the mantle is more of a seasonal look than a holiday look, which we appreciate because we can keep it up until spring if we want.

And working on it inspired me to gussy up the front porch a little, too.

(Stay tuned — that post is coming up very soon!)

So how about you guys? How’s your seasonal decor coming along? Are you going for broke or keeping it simple? Where do you stand on themed -vs- free form holiday decor? Did you trick out your mantle this year? We’d love to hear what you guys are up to!!!

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