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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 ย — 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!

The Ins and Outs and What-Have-Yous

I love this stage of a project… I can totally see the finish line and it’s glorious!

But vaguely chaotic. We’re kind of working in fits and starts on several projects at once. Just tying up loose ends. So I figured I’d take this opportunity to do a catch-up post about all of the little what-whats of our porch makeover. There are a few details that really don’t amount to an entire post, but they certainly deserve some recognition, so here we go!

1) String lights

Back in AZ, these tiny sparkleys are commonplace year-round. Here in PA, they seem to be considered a seasonal item. Weird. If you ask me, the white ones are a lovely addition to any outdoor area.

We just joined 2 strands to create a single line on the inside-side of the porch. The lights provide a gentle ambient glow as well as subtly defining the space.

If you aren’t a fan of the plain look, you could go with any of a WIDE array of decorative string lights. They’re sold everywhere now & come in every color & theme imaginable.

Google: Outdoor string lights = 23,590,000 results

Remember when it was just chili peppers?

2) Roll-Down Shade

These super-functional shades not only provide shelter from the late-afternoon sun on our porch, but also afford us a measure of privacy. Which is nice for anybody, but especially so when your house sits atop a hill…

… which makes standing on the porch like standing onstage. Which is nice when I’m all dolled up & watering the flowers in a distinctly ladylike fashion… Not so nice when I’m in my pajamas, with full-on bed head, waiting for Lucy to do her business.

In the bonus column, roll down shades aren’t expensive. And they last a loooong time. And if you need to, you can restring them ๐Ÿ™‚

The only drawback is that they’re not so child safe… ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

As with any drawstring blind, the strings are a very legitimate strangulation risk. So if you’re planning to use them — or already do —ย please, please, please carefully supervise children playing near them at all times and make sure the blinds are never left in the “down” position when you leave the area!!! Also, make sure that when they’re in the “up” position, the strings are securely fastened far out of reach of children.

Overall, though, the blinds are a really great feature, affordable & a snap to install. We chose a medium-brown, matchstick shade because we dig the natural look, but there are several varieties if you want something more finished looking.

In fact, talking about how great they are is really making me want to add more… like one on each side of the porch… hmmm… I don’t know.

Would that make it look too boxed in? I’m gonna have to think about that…

3) Chicken Wire?

Yes. We have chicken wire on our porch. But no cee-ment pond, so we’re OK.

The chicken wire was actually a child-safety solution offered by my very clever father-in-law. You see, Sonia kept trying to slip through the bars of the porch railing. Crazy kid.

It was the world’s easiest install: We just got a couple of rolls of plastic-coated chicken wire from the hardware store (green was the darkest color & therefore would blend best with the black railing), wove them between the bars and secured them with zip ties.

Easy. Cheap. Effective.

And almost invisible when you look at the house from the sidewalk. Except when the Morning Glories climb it… which looks beautiful. Win-win.

And while the flowers may enjoy climbing the chicken wire, Sonia does not… because it digs into her little toes. She be cooped!! ๐Ÿ™‚

4) De-ugly the doorjamb

The big, awkward, glaringly white screen door we can’t do anything about. It belongs to the landlord. We could — and I do dream about — remove it completely & put in our own wooden screen door, but that’s not in the current budget.

What we can do is try to make the weird-looking area above it slightly less appalling.

So I touched up the trim with the red color we’ve used on the rest of the porch. Then I painted the wooden plank with an almond-colored paint that I’m also using on our new address plaque. (A post on all that drama soon…)

Just a little tidier ๐Ÿ™‚

I also continued the line of the frame all the way down to the doorstep.

Which was easier on the left side of the door than on the right…

But I soldiered on and managed to create a relatively straight line that more or less replicates the actual trim on the opposite side of the door.

The concrete patchwork is courtesy of our “handyman” — apparently he needed to rip apart the doorjamb in order to install a new doorbell.

I don’t know exactly how I’m going to conceal the damage, but I’m sure there’s an easy enough solution.

Sorry. This is a kinda crummy shot. I was losing the light fast. I’ll definitely have a better one for the porch makeover reveal.

5) And finally, the yellow flowers ๐Ÿ™‚

Those of you who are familiar with “Rules” have probably seen them before:

That’s one there in the background. There are actually two & they’re identical. I find them whimsical ๐Ÿ™‚

When I actually found them, they looked like this:

I’m sure they looked lovely in somebody’s garden at some point in time, but by the time they ended up in the resale shop, they were really faded and frumpy.

So I wiped them clean & taped off the handles (Masking tape was OK, since the tape wasn’t actually touching the paint, just shielding the wires from it, so removing the tape wouldn’t mess up my paint job.)

Then I hit them with a couple of thin coats of spray primer.

Then I sprayed them with some “Marigold” yellow spray paint.

That was it.

Then I hung them up to dry on the rail posts at either end of the porch. I didn’t plan on using them on the porch, but over the course of time, I grew fond of them. They’re cheerful & I like the way they cap off the ends of the porch. So they’ll stay for a while ๐Ÿ™‚

How do you not smile when you see that?

Anyway, we still have a few projects to finish.

Here’s what we’ll be working on:

1) Finishing the address plaque & adding a detail to the top of the doorjamb

2) Installing peekaboo flashings on the porch steps

3) Installing new light fixture

4) Making/installing dropped-ceiling-effect DIY lighting, etc.

5) Spiffing up wicker table/chairs & storage shelf

6) Finding a/some cool wall hangings

7) Adding potted plants

So stay tuned! These little projects go quickly ๐Ÿ™‚


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