Holidays/Seasonal

Seeking Holiday Holiness {Christmas House Tour 2014}

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Lately I have virtually toured so many homes for Christmas, and I am so excited to be posting our Christmas house tour now. Last year was my first year decorating a house for Christmas (see the tour here), and it was such a fun experience. This year, I tried to change things up a little bit while still using most of the same decorations. I was able to get by with only buying a couple spools of ribbon, three live wreaths and a $2 artificial wreath, a garland, and four 25 cent cloth napkins at a thrift store.

But before the photos, let me say something.

Christmas is the time of year when nearly everyone becomes a home decorator. As we put up our lights and our trees and deck the halls with our own unique and sentimental items, homes are given new life that we treasure for those few short weeks at the end of every calendar year.

But with that comes a huge temptation to compare ourselves to others. So, I want this house tour to be different. Please don't compare yourself to me as I so often do to other people. I look at other people's homes on blogs and Instagram and in magazines and movies, and I get self conscious. A million thoughts run through my mind. Maybe we should get a bigger tree. I wish I could take better pictures. Why don't my vignettes look like that? If only I had a bigger budget. I wish our house had more architectural details. 

I often scoff at the materialism of consumer Christmas as we have made it these days. Jeremy and I don't spend inordinate amounts of money on gifts nor do we make that the focus, but yet I fall into the same trap of pride when I idolize a beautiful Christmas over a holy one.

This year, I want Christmas to make me more holy. More like that Jesus who was born as a baby. I want to take the time to soak in His work and word. I also want to make family memories, and I want to find joy in the home God has blessed us with, but not at the expense of holiness.

So my prayer is that you will be inspired by the little things we did in our home to make your home a place for family togetherness, warm memories, and personal sanctification this holiday season. Be inspired that it doesn't have to be expensive or perfect. It doesn't have to touch every room in your house (I really only decorate three rooms).

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I'm preaching to myself on this one and reminding myself of the true meaning of the season. In that spirit, come on in. I decorated the front porch for our Christmas card photos. I will show some more of those later once the cards go out :-) All that stuff doesn't sit on the porch permanently, but it's fun to dress up for a special occasion.

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When you open the door, you're greeted by more garland and a wreath in the stenciled hallway. The fresh garland and boxwood wreath on the front door are from Trader Joes. The artificial wreath is from a thrift store. Here is our living room. It is laid out differently than last year, but I LOVE having the Christmas tree in the window. It looks so pretty lit up as I drive home at night after work. I also changed around some of the pillows on the couch and pulled from other rooms for the Christmas season. I love my little vintage Christmas card display. I may change out some of the photos for Christmas cards that come from friends as they begin to come in the mail. I printed all of these out from the Graphics Fairy for free and clipped the little clothespins on red and white twine from Michaels. I made a bunch of those little boxwood wreaths from wire hangers, floral wire, and boxwood clippings from the bushes in our yard. One of my favorite things is this Christmas tree forest on the coffee table. I bought the metallic trees at Home Goods last season and made all the rest (see tutorial here)

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Here is the living room from the other angle. Last year, my tree was all metallics and neutrals. This year, I added a few pieces of black and white stripe ribbon for some contrast and I love it! Next year, I want to wrap the whole tree in black and white ribbon, but I ran out of ribbon and didn't want to spend any more money :-) I reused some Free DIY Pinecone Ornaments  from last year. Let's head into the dining area! Tip of the day: setting your table automatically makes your home feel more decorated.

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I changed out some pillows this year on the banquette and added pops of red. Last year, the whole house was pretty neutral, but I had fun adding in classic red. I got all four of those plaid napkins for $1 total at a thrift store. We were given the Christmas plates. I threw some leftover ornaments in a bowl, free tree clippings in mason jars, scattered pinecones around, and called it done!

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This time of year, I love spinning Christmas records. We found several at a record shop a couple of weeks ago, and we have been enjoying them so much! A few more kitchen details... Finally, our little reading and music room. I love dressing up this mantel. Even though we don't do a real tree, having real fraser fir wreaths (which are always $5 on Black Friday at Home Depot), brings in the scent of fresh greenery. I drew that handsome buck on the chalkboard, and he wishes you a very Merry Christmas. Finally, I hung some sweet little DIY boxwood wreaths with that candy cane twine over the window.

Thank you for coming over, friends.

Go love your home. And seek Jesus this season.

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5 FREE & EASY Christmas Decoration Ideas

5 free & easy Christmas decoration ideas

Ah, Christmas. The most wonderful hectic time of the year. Time and budget seem to run in shorter supply. That's why I really tried this year to go easy on my pocketbook and my pocket watch with FREE & EASY Christmas decorations.

It was my first year decorating a full house for Christmas, and I was able to get away with only buying 2 mini silver Christmas trees, $6 worth of ornaments, a few strands of lights, two fraser fir wreaths, and a few simple craft supplies.

So, I'm here to talk to you about using what you have and what you can get for free to make your house Christmas ready. For more Christmas house pictures, see the tour.

5 Free & Easy Ways to Decorate for Christmas

1. Shop your yard

5 Free & Easy Ways to Decorate for Christmas

Winter is time to prune the bushes, and why not take advantage of that opportunity to use some of those plants for your Christmas decor. I trimmed rosemary, lavender, boxwood, and holly from our flower beds and used it all around the house. I also collected pine cones from a local park and made ornaments and extra decorations (see pine cone ornament tutorial here.) If you don't have a yard, you can always visit a park to pick up clippings or ask a friend if you can help do their gardening :-)

Mini boxwood wreaths and rosemary on the table settings.

Holly & Rosemary as accents.

Pine cones everywhere.

Fresh greenery really adds a touch of natural cheer, and your bushes will thank you for lightening their load.

5 Free & Easy Ways to Decorate for Christmas

2. Beg for scraps

5 Free & Easy Ways to Decorate for Christmas

Someone recommended to me this year that I visit a Christmas tree lot and ask for their leftover tree clippings. I went to the Home Depot tree lot, and they had a bin FULL of leftovers from the bottoms of Christmas trees. I came away with a trunk full, and that fraser fir is all over my house!

I made a wreath. I added it to my table centerpiece. I filled vases. I made arrangements for above the kitchen windows. If  it needed green, it got it. It automatically made everything look more decorated, and I didn't spend a penny.

3. Use the unexpected

5 Free & Easy Ways to Decorate for Christmas

Sometimes things laying around your house that aren't even necessarily Christmas items can be festive when put in the right context. It doesn't have to be frosted or have Santa's face on it to say "Merry Christmas." I pulled some scrabble letters out of the dusty game in the basement. I used books in Christmas colors to add height to my Christmas village houses. I pulled out some old candlesticks and replaced the candle with a pinecone. I put greenery in a gold vase that usually holds warm weather blooms.

4. Repurpose ornaments

5 Free & Easy Ways to Decorate for Christmas

If you're like me, you have a few extra ball ornaments laying in the bottom of your storage bin that don't make it onto the tree every year. Use them in centerpieces, on table displays, or nestled in garland.

5 Free & Easy Ways to Decorate for Christmas

5. Wrap with what you have This year, rather than buying holiday specific wrapping paper, I decided to use simple craft paper and twine I already had (twine is my solution for everything), and do some creative things with the wrapping.

I treated it like a chalkboard.

I added super cheap red snowflake ornaments ($2.50 for a 40 pack from Walmart) to the packaging.

5 Free & Easy Ways to Decorate for Christmas

6. (BONUS TIP) Kittens If a neighborhood cat has kittens in  your front yard and then abandons them the week before Thanksgiving, you can raise the kittens during the holiday until they are old enough to be adopted and take pictures of them in all of your Christmas decor. They are a (not) free and (not) easy but completely adorable addition to any holiday home.

Just saying...from experience.

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Caring For Pinecones & Making Them Shine

Pinecones are all the rage in holiday decorating. Like these from Pottery Barn...

pinecones
pinecones

You could spend $14.50 on pinecones at Pottery Barn, or you could pick some up from your yard for free. I chose option B.

I collected a full bag of pinecones at the park closest to my office one day while on a lunch break walk. But, there's more to pinecones than just collecting them and taking them home. YOU MUST BAKE THEM BEFORE CRAFTING OR STORING!

It's important to BAKE pinecones before you craft with them. 200 degrees for 45 minutes should do the trick!

I've read horror stories of maggots hatching from collected pinecones that weren't treated. My skin is crawling just thinking about it. Baking the pinecones not only kills any critters that might be hiding inside, but it also hardens the sap so that they aren't sticky anymore!

Baking pinecones before crafting

As soon as I got the pinecones inside (DON'T WAIT ON THIS!), I baked those cones at 200 degrees for 45 minutes on foil lined baking sheets. I put them in the oven before heating it up and waited for the oven to cool to remove them. Be sure to keep an eye on them as they bake so you don't burn them!

Easy & (nearly) free pinecone ornaments

Then I laid them inside of 3 separate cardboard boxes and spray painted them in several coats of Oil Rubbed Bronze, Silver Glitter, and Silver Metallic Spray Paints.

easy & (nearly) free pinecone ornaments

Then I removed the stem from the pine cone. It should break right off.

Tie some twine in a knot and clip it as close to the knot as possible

easy & (nearly) free pinecone ornaments

Then put a dab of hot glue where the stem used to be and secure the base of the knot on the glue.

easy & (nearly) free pinecone ornaments
easy & (nearly) free pinecone ornaments

And voila!

easy & (nearly) free pinecone ornaments

You can also just use the pine cones to accent existing decorations! Check out our holiday house tour for more pine cones everwhere!

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Simple Christmas

It's amazing how quickly the present becomes the past. How easily the current moments become the moments we wish we could relive again, and how little we notice as they pass in front of us. This year, I'm reminded of the importance of cherishing these soon-to-be-past moments and letting the simple things be enough. It sounds cheesy. Maybe it is. But it's true.

As winter spreads out its icy arms once again and hugs the world with wreaths and mangers and holly, the familiar sights, sounds and smells of the season churn up otherwise forgotten memories of Christmases past.

Suddenly I am seven years old again, and the air mattress in my grandparents' den is like a bed fit for a princess when I fall sleep with the anticipation of Christmas coming the next day. The clock tick lulls my sisters, cousins, and me to sleep, and the chime of every hour brings us closer to the excitement of the morning. We wake each other up earlier than the adults would prefer only to find that a ribbon across the doorway is deterring us from going to see Santa's bounty too soon.

Then I'm twelve, and colored pencils are the perfect instrument to write out my long awaited yearly Christmas play for the grandchildren to perform. I have been planning the script and writing the songs since October, and if I can only get everyone to do it my way, this will be the best Christmas play in the history of Christmas plays. With only a few fits and fights, we pull off yet another modern take on the Christmas story as written by the illustrious playwright, yours truly, and the adults even seem to enjoy it.

Soon I am fifteen, and my family is making a long road trip to visit my grandparents' home in small town, Kentucky. We arrive, and the snow capped roof tops around the town square make all the Roberts girls squeal with delight at the picturesque scene. When we reach the parsonage where Grandy and G-Daddy live, the warmth of the fire and the smells of Grandy's baked goods lure us inside where we find ourselves engulfed in the hugs of people we love and miss so dearly the rest of the year. My dad challenges me and my cousins to our traditional game of Monopoly, and we spend the days soaking up every minute of family time.

It is even somehow sweet to remember when I was sixteen, and I had jaw surgery just days before Christmas. My face was the size and shape of a basketball, and I could only eat liquid food. My mom put dressing and gravy in a blender, and it tasted like a feast. I felt happy for a moment until someone tried to take my picture and I yelled at them the best I could with an almost immovable mandible. Yes, even that Christmas brings a smile to my face now.

One more blink and I am 19. It's my sophomore year of college, and my (then) boyfriend Jeremy takes me on a day trip to Chattanooga to see a light display. We are eating Italian food by a roaring fire and a Christmas tree, and I can't stop thinking that this is the best date ever and hoping I get to spend my life with this guy, although he doesn't even know yet that I love him.

And now here I am--writing this blog and nearly crying with the fullness of all of these memories. The strangest thing is that I didn't even know they would be such important memories when they were only moments.

This Christmas season I will be living through lots of moments. Some will be magical even as they pass through my fingers, and others will need time to season them into something sweet. I pray I will savor the moments while still allowing them to pass freely. I can't hold on too tight, and I know that the Lord has a season for everything.

I spend a lot of time planning for how I will celebrate this season. I peruse pinterest for hours looking for the perfect Christmas tablescape. I plan a "to do" list of things that I hope will somehow make Christmas more complete.

But Christmas is simple. It's a king being born in a manger, for crying out loud. There were smelly animals who didn't use litter boxes, and they didn't even have Christmas cookies or anything. It's shepherds listening to the voices of angels to go see this baby in a barn. It's God's humble descent to earth. I love the holiday parties and the presents and the shopping and the Rockefeller tree and the hooplah, but the sweetest parts of Christmas are the simple things. I think simply capturing those moments as they pass and remembering the event those 2000 years ago that gave us a reason for those memories, is the only thing on the bucket list that really matters.

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May your Christmas be simple and the sweetest yet.

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