I have always loved books and I lenjoyed creating this ABC book based upon our family as a gift for my great nieces, Christine and Ashlynn. This is a gift that came together with a little planning, gathering of photos, and a user-friendly book generator site. With an investment in time and infusion of your own creativity, you can create a one-of-a-kind book for that special toddler who brings joy to your life,
I have been having a blast making photo collage blankets! A collage blanket can be a true gift from the heart for almost any occasion: birthday, baby gift, graduation, Mother's Day, Father's Day, graduation, wedding, anniversary, and so many more! The technology on many sites makes what was once a rather daunting, laborious task, very easy. Collage.com has been my go-to site for uploading photos, designing, editing, and personalizing blanket gifts. I find the site very user-friendly. It has become one of my favorite creative playgrounds!
*Disclosure Statement: This is not a sponsored post. There are other sites for creating collage blankets. Collage.com is a site that I have used and have found to be very user-friendly. The blanket quality and prints have been of a high quality. I would like to share my experience in using this site with all of you.
I just finished this blanket for my great-nephew, Isaac. I wanted this blanket to be a way to introduce "the family" to Isaac. Our family is spread out from Iowa, Nebraska, Texas, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts. Like many families, it is very rare when we are all able to gather in one place and spend time together. I wanted Isaac to have some photos to associate names and stories of our family. With that in mind, I started downloading photos to my computer to create a collage blanket.
Isaac, Meet Some of Your Family...
I wanted to feature our family in this blanket. I hope that my niece will wrap young Isaac in the blanket and periodically “introduce” us to her precious little guy.
I envision it as a family story blanket. My niece might begin the story by pointing to the photo of my dad. “Here is your Great-Grandpa Hanig. He could talk like Donald Duck and often called your Mommy, me, “Charlie,” when I was a little girl. I would respond with 'I'm not Charle!' Then we would both laugh, and then, he might call me George!”
...and so Our Story Goes...
A collage blanket can be a wonderful way tell a story, celebrate those you love, or send a virtual hug. I love being able to make and give personal gifts. Photo collage gifts have become my new favorite gifts to make.
It isn't necessary for me to do a tutorial on "How to Make a Collage Blanket on Collage.com". The site is very easy to use and one is guided through each step. The site offers a plethora of choices. I like that! I'd like to highlight the choices and share some insights.
• Smooth Fleece
• Woven Image
• Cozy Fleece
• Plush Sherpa
• Baby 30×40
• Throw 50×60
• Queen 60×80
Upload Photos: This was so easy! Here's screenshot of the icon "Photos".
Design Templates: There are over 50 templates to choose from, or one can create a custom design. The plan for Isaac’s blanket is called Sweet Dreams. One collage blanket can contain 1 to 30 or more photos. The design template will suggest the optimal number of photos.
Backgrounds: The categories are: Pattern Builder, Solid Colors, Textured, Soft, Nostalgic, Vintage, Geometric, Family, Romantic, Holiday, Patterns. Within each group, there are oodles of choices. I chose the matching background for the back side of Isaac”s blanket from “Soft">"Starry Nights.”
There are so many choices of backgrounds and designs and layouts. Here are some screenshots of backgrounds I "auditioned" of a custom designed collage blanket.
Above is a screenshot of the background menu and 1 possible background choice . It is as easy as a click or two to "audition" backgrounds. You can try out as many as you like. I found contrast is the key to selecting backgournds that make the photos pop. I originally had selected a cute, handprint, kid background for the collage above. When I saw it, I realized it was much too, busy and the light colors didn't do anything to accentuate the photos.
I had so much fun playing with the backgrounds. It was helpful to take a screenshot of my favorites, or save each design as a separate project. Then, I could compare them and make my choice. Now, onto the text selections!
Text: There is a great selection of fonts. Text can be added to almost any blanket. You have the option of personalizing blankets with your own sentiments.
More: Don’t forget to click on the “More” button. It gives you the option to add borders to your photos and create shapes.
After I chose my design and uploaded my photos, I had the option to edit the images. All I had to do was double click a photo, and the edit tools appear at the bottom of the screen. My favorite tool was the crop tool. By clicking on it, I could crop my photo to include faces and eliminate extraneous background. People are what I wanted to highlight in my collage, and close-ups are the best way to go. After I got the “close-up” of the photo, I simply clicked “Done,” and my edited photo went back into the collage.
The site also allowed me to move photos from one spot to another in the collage. This was a very nice feature. (I did tell you how much I enjoy having choices, didn’t I?”)
Isaac’s blanket is a “Welcome to the family. We love you to the moon and back. Now, we’d like to introduce ourselves” blanket. It will be a Christmas gift.
Isaac’s blanket wasn’t my first photo collage blanket. My first photo collage blanket was a “Hugs!” blanket. A dear friend of mine and former school colleague received a daunting health diagnosis. Her school family wanted to do something special for her as she prepared to continue medical treatments. I suggested we do a photo collage blanket filled with photos and memories of all of us. The idea was to wrap her in one big “HUG!” from everyone.
Another good friend proposed the idea to interested parties, and we collected photos via emails and texts. We had enough images to create a front and back photo blanket. Thus was born, our “Hugs!” blanket for Linda. This was a larger blanket. One thing I learned from doing this blanket: Photos will appear larger on your blanket than on your screen. After all, your computer screen is relatively small compared to the dimensions of the blanket. The blanket turned out very well, and Linda had no problem seeing us!
Linda loved the beach and spending time there with her family. This "beachy" image in backgrounds was the perfect back drop for all of our photos. I found it in "Backgrounds" > "Textured" > "Sun Drenched". The comfort "Hugs" blanket was a big hit with Linda and her family. We were so happy to be able to do something to bring a smile to her face. Believe me, there's a whole lot of love and many wonderful memories in this blanket!
Some of the original photos were too dark. The "Edit" tool was very helpful for adjusting the sharpness and lightness/darkness of many of the photos. It was easy to enhance these using the "Edit" tool in the Photo Menu. Once again, all I had to do was click on a photo>"Edit" and the following screen appeared. I was able to adjust the the sharpness, light, and apply filters.
If you are looking for that perfect gift--something unique--something personal--consider creating a collage blanket. Technology makes it quite simple and rewarding to do. A collage blanket can be a wonderful way tell a story, celebrate those you love, or send a virtual hug.
I love the vibrant colors of fall! I have been “playing” with "bits and pieces" and things I already have to decorate for autumn. Today I’d like to share a few of my favorite fall vignettes and how a particular décor eyesore became a fun, one-of-a-kind wall “enhancement.”
Let’s start with the décor eyesore: wall-mounted phone landline plate. We recently opted to do away with our landline telephones. That left a not so pretty landline plate in our kitchen that needed to “disappear.” One of my first thoughts was to follow the tobacco basket trend and hang one on the wall to hide the wall plate and add a faux boxwood wreath to the center. I didn’t have a tobacco basket, but employing the principle of using what I already had, I realized I did have a watermelon basket. One thing led to another, and this was the result!
I am quite pleased with our new, autumn wall decor.
I had purchased the “Welcome” sign at Hobby Lobby. Initially, I was going to copy another blogger and use it as the centerpiece for the front door wreath. (Check out Suzy's DIY wreath tutorial at Worthing Court .) Instead, I decided it fit perfectly in the watermelon basket.
Basic Watermelon Basket Materials:
• Watermelon Basket
• Welcome Sign
• Faux bittersweet branch
• Dried oranges and mixed pieces from saved potpourri
• Few twigs of seeded eucalyptus
• 3 small brass nails
All of the above materials were things I had saved. Yes, I save potpourri in Ziploc bags from year to year. Good potpourri stored in Ziploc bags retains much of its scent from year to year, and the bits and pieces can be used again for texture in displays or incorporated into new fall vignettes.
Meanwhile, the faux bittersweet branch was originally part of a garland that I purchased many years ago. Snipping the branch into smaller pieces have been much more useful in my fall decor, than leaving it intact as garland.
If you like this basket vignette, I encourage you to use the same basic materials I did and design your own basket vignette. All you need is a basket, a focal point, a few tacks, and some bits and pieces of foilage. The focal point could be a sign, wreath, chalkboard, or anything that strikes your fancy!
Our Amazon Echo: Alexa, even got a little fall makeover. I wrapped an orange and cream checked ribbon around her and secured it with tape. The fabric doesn't hinder the speaker quality of Alexa. Paper does. I know. I tried it and it muffled the sound. The paisley placemat in seasonal colors is a great contrast to the gray/green of the chest.
I needed “something” to hold the faux bittersweet in place in this small olive bucket. The “something” I used was some saved fall potpourri. The branches are standing tall, and the potpourri adds a subtle scent of fall. Problem—solution!)
My favorite rooster pitcher was placed on a small table with a candle and a piece of bittersweet from the garland.)
More bittersweet from the same garland on an Amish, wooden, sleigh.
My favorite, childhood pick up truck, painting my husband did of my grandfather’s barn, and more bittersweet in the vase and at the base of the pick up truck and vase complete "the picture".
Faux bittersweet and real (when I can get it) are staples of my fall décor. As you can see, snipping a garland apart or even a floral bush, can extend the versatility of your floral design stash.
A dear friend gave me this coal bucket. Her husband has a sharp eye for collecting “great” stuff. I asked about purchasing it, and she gave it to me! It is one of my treasured decorating pieces. For fall, I filled it with lots of faux stems and faux bittersweet.
Could it be any more perfect?! It sits on top of a wooden toolbox made by my husband’s uncle
I love how the colors in the throw on this Amish rocker compliment the colors of the faux foliage and bittersweet in the coal bucket. (It’s almost like I planned it that way!) This happy “coincidence” was able to occur, because I was focusing on the colors in the foliage and pulling out other elements from around our home that would correspond to the greenery.)
Things are not always what they seem: The “throw” is actually a favorite tapestry tablecloth that I have had for years. I originally purchased it for Thanksgiving dinner and loved its unique design. Throws are great accessories, but sometimes a beautiful scarf, quilt, length of fabric—or a tablecloth can get the job done just as easily!
Don't you just love the glow of candlelight! I love this battery operated candle that can be turned off and on with a remote. I found this large lantern at TJ Maxx over a year ago at a good price. It has adorned our hearth, along with its sidekick: the little birdhouse, for several months. Each season, the lantern and birdhouse get a little "makeover".
I used the same fall foliage to enhance a large lantern that sits on our fireplace hearth. The faux, small red apples contrast nicely with the eggplant and yellow foliage. Of course, I finished it off with a few sprigs of bittersweet.
The birdhouse got its own autumn wreath. I snipped a few pipberry strands from a larger bunch and wove them together to make a wreath.
Those are a few of my favorite autumn décor pieces and tips. Save florals, foliage, potpourri, baskets, and lanterns to use from season to season and year to year. Use wire cutters to snip greens, florals, and garlands a part. Cutting them gives you more pieces to use in vignettes. Open cupboards and search your home from top to bottom for your own treasures. This can be so exciting and satisfying to use what you already have to enhance a welcoming home. Enjoy!
It's that time of year when I start decorating our home with all the glorious colors, bounty, and scents of fall. First stop: Embellishing the front door with a vibrant autumn wreath.
I've been perusing wreaths online and in some of my favorite haunts, and many come with a hefty price tag. I saw a wreath at one national chain store for $69.00. This was a wreath that I considered mediocre at best. If I purchased it, I would "need" to "enhance" it (i.e. more $$$).
I just can't justify spending a lot of money on our front door wreath that will be exposed directly to the weather. I gave myself a challenge: make a full, lush, autumn wreath, that looked like it cost $100.00 or more--for a LOT less.
I have been waiting and waiting for a hint of spring weather to appear to begin some spring decorating. The first thing on my list was to create a "Welcome Spring!" wreath for our front door. I am very excited about how it turned out. Click to read more about the wreath and the tutorial it.
I finally hung a wreath on our front door. Winter weather has continued to make its presence known throughout the month of March and April. It's been getting a little wearisome. I decided, ready or not, I wanted to begin decorating outdoors for spring: First step: A welcoming spring wreath!
Originally, I was going to embellish a simple, yellow forsythia wreath with a bow and possibly a welcome spring sign. Then, I noticed a neighbor's lush hydrangea wreath in pretty shades of pink. It got me thinking and browsing the aisles of Michael's florals.
These blushing, peachy, pink peony floral bunch caught my eye at 50% off and I was committed to creating a luscious, beautiful spring wreath!
I wanted to get the most bang for my buck.
I began with materials I had:
Step One: Use the "Naturally Wired" grapevine wire to wire the two grapevine wreaths together. This was a tip I've adopted from Yvonne at Stone Gable blog. She suggests wiring two wreaths together to achieve the look of a designer/high-end wreath for very little money. Yvonne has some wonderful wreath tutorials and so-o-o-o much more. Click Here the link to her blog: Stone Gable.
Step 2: Use wire cutters to snip the peony floral bunch into individual stems. This is my tip to make the most of a floral bunch. Repeat this step with the remaining floral bunch and greenery.
Step 3: Start with the showy floral peonies. Use the grapevine wreath as a sort of floral frog to begin securing the peony flowers to the wreath. An alternative is to use hot glue or floral wire to secure the stems, but I've always found using the tangle of grape vines holds the stems securely. (Then, I can dismantle the wreath and remake it for another season!)
At this point, there are five peonies and a rose bud secured to the wreath. I had about 4 more rosebuds to add, but I decided to add some greenery, and save the rosebuds for fillers. I also like a 3/4 look to the wreath. It's personal preference. One could fill the whole wreath with another few bunches of flowers.
Step 4: Add the small, white, lacy flowers with the silvery, green leaves.
Step 5: Continue adding small, white, lacy florals and greenery. Then add the pink, lacy florals.
At this point, I thought I might be finished, All that I had left to add was the eucalyptus leaves. I chose the florals and the greens for this piece for color and texture. The eucalyptus leaves definitely bring additional texture with their unique shape. I decided to add them in. (After all, that is the beauty of using the grapevine as a floral frog. I can always take stems out and/or rearrange them to my liking.)
Step 6: Secure eucalyptus leaves to the wreath.
Step 7: Use remaining stems to fill in the wreath. Adding stems on the sides gives the wreath a very lush appearance.
Helpful Tip: I use all the bits and pieces to embellish a wreath, even leaves and florals that "shed" from the stems when being handled to secure them to the wreath. These orphan pieces can act as filler. They can be secured with hot glue to the wreath or wire. In this case, I created wire bobby pins/bent pins and threaded them through the leaves that had shed from the greenery.
Step 8: Make a bow. I like to use wired ribbon whenever possible. This ribbon had a heavier weight to it and was on sale at 50% off. I felt the check was the perfect shade to compliment the silvery greenery that I am so fond of in this piece.
Step 9: Attach bow with floral wire. The placement is a personal choice. I chose to attach the bow to the top and left of center. I use to leave the tails of the bow fairly long, but then they end up hiding the floral pretties. I've studied other wreaths that I admire and realize that most of the tails are trimmed, so as not to flap over the florals.
Here is my "Welcome Spring" wreath hung on my front door. Yes, the reflection is the result of actual sunshine!
I was so pleased with this one, that I made a matching, smaller one for the lamp post.
I am loving this ribbon from Michael's. It is just so sweet. The blushing peony bunches and ribbon became my inspiration for my spring outdoor decorating. More to come on that!
How do you welcome spring? We'd love to here about it. I, for one, am so-o-o ready to get digging in the dirt and literally smelling the flowers. Enjoy!
It is finally spring! At least, it is if you look at the calendar. Outside on any given day, this March has looked more like winter. I can't wait to begin planting pansies, but that will have to wait until Mother Nature gives me the OK. Until then, I have been decorating indoors and have loved adding spring, whimsical pieces to our decor. Take a look.
Once again, I've used what I have, which I admit is quite a lot. I've been collecting favorite pieces and florals for several years. I reuse them, until they reach the tacky stage and then they go in the dust bin. Wire snippers are one of my favorite tools. I often take a floral bunch and trim bits and pieces off of it and use the pieces to enhance another vignette, wreath, or arrangement.
The large mason jar candle is the same one that has been on our dry sink all year long. Each season I change out the the "fillers" in the wreath surrounding the jar. For spring and Easter, I added a few eggs and some pip berry sprigs.
Often times, it's the little things that really tickle my fancy. In this case, I placed two rose colored candle holders in a white tray. I arranged green lentils from the grocery store around the candle holders and then added bits of purple status and baby's breath around the candles. I added the foil bunny and this is one of my favorite pieces. It is by our front door. I feel like it gives guest a nice welcome when the rose candles and mason jar candle are lit.
This vignette is another example of enhancing an established vignette to renew it. In this case, the vintage books and Bob's Van Gogh teapot were already in place. All I did was to add a few spring pip berry sprigs and place the ceramic baby chicks next to it.
I bought a few of these baskets at JoAnn Fabrics last fall when they were greatly reduced. They are so versatile. Here, I took a length of burlap and folded it over to conceal the raw edges. Then, I lined the sides of the basket. Next, I added a couple of bricks to the bottom for a little extra weight. Lastly, I filled the basket with faux forsythia and pussy willows. The burlap liner adds a nice texture to the overall piece and hides all the stems of the forsythia and pussy willows.
I purchased this little rabbit and wagon combination at TJ Maxx last year. I added a few sprigs of baby's breath to the wagon for an added little detail. I am a big fan of E.B. White and I like to use every opportunity to use books: children's, vintage, art, travel, etc. in our decor. Most of the books I use in our decor do have some meaning to Bob and me. In this case, don't you just love how the colors of the book covers compliment the vignette?
I know that many a punch bowl can be found at thrift stores. I have made it a goal of mine to use these cherished pieces from days gone by in our home decor. This beautiful punch bowl was my husband's grandmothers. It is quite grand and has a beautiful pedestal. It had been collecting dust on a shelf and then I decided it was so beautiful, that I wanted to display it in our home. I tried it on our dining room table and it felt too, large. Instead, I moved it to the top of an armoire in the living room. I took apart three mixed bouquets from Pier One, trailing vines from Michael's, floral foam, and moss to create this arrangement.
A favorite children's book: The Velveteen Rabbit and some foil rabbits add a special touch.
More favorite children's books add height to this display. The candlesticks are not my Grandma Marshall's, but she had a collection of American Fostoria crystal. I have picked up a few pieces here and there. They always make me think of her. I like to think of this arrangement as a nod to our wonderful grandmothers.
How sweet is this little orchid in a teacup with moss to hide the orchid pot and a few foil eggs? I often purchase my orchids at Home Depot or even the grocery store floral department. I try to buy ones with a few buds on them. Those will usually last longer and I get the pleasure of seeing the buds bloom!
Our fireplace mantel comes with its own challenges: narrow mantel, audio sound bar, and wall mounted television. I think I've finally found a design plan that works for function and beauty. This is essentially the last arrangement using vintage books as the main staple of the decor. (See post for more.) I kept most of the vintage books, candlesticks, and seeded eucalyptus. I added a few sprigs of pip berries, miniature eggs, and snipped more forsythia sprigs from an existing faux garland to add to the mantel decor.
My mantel is too, narrow for most pre-made garlands. Clipping small pieces of seeded eucalyptus, pip berries, and forsythia was key in achieving a decorative garland-like piece.
I purchased these E-A-S-T-E-R eggs in thread egg holders from TJ Maxx last year. As someone who is always sewing, these beauties make me smile. I'm thinking of turning them around and lettering
"S-P-R-I-N-G" on the back sides so I can keep these up longer.
The little lost sheep was purchased from Pier One. I scooped up a few of the wire baskets in the after Easter sale at JoAnn's last year. I wasn't sure what I was going to do with them, until I returned to my "roots": pip berries and moss. The basket is another example of clipping sprigs from pip berry stems and using them to enhance a basket. The basket didn't need a full bush of pip berries--just a few.
I was tempted to purchase a white, branched, decorative tree for an egg tree display. I stopped myself. I have a backyard full of trees with branches that need to be picked up. So-o-o--that is what I did. I put some floral foam in my little green pot and stuck my branches in it. (I couldn't wait for a warm day to spray paint them white, so I went with the natural look!) Tucked some moss in the base of the pot and hung some eggs and I had my egg tree.
I used moss very liberally throughout my spring arrangements. I wanted that natural, rustic look. Since, I didn't want moss directly on the books in the little house display, I placed the stone house on a plate and arranged the moss around the plate with a few stones. I used the log slab in the same manner around the larger bunny. The forsythia blossoms were ones that had fallen off a garland. I stuck them into the moss around the bunny instead of discarding them.
My collection of little houses, barn, school, and chicken coop are usually displayed on our bookshelves. I have lighted twig branches behind the barn and chicken coop. They look really pretty at night when they are plugged in. I added some forsythia sprigs to make it more spring-like, along with some moss and small rocks to enhance the chicken coop.
I enjoyed having my Christmas plates hung above the sliding glass door so much, that I wanted to find some spring plates to replace them. The plates were purchased at Pier One. Guess what? They are melamine! No one would really know it, since they are hung on the wall. I was delighted to find the bird motifs. I didn't want the display to just say "Happy Easter!" I wanted it to say "Happy Spring!' or just plain "Happy! Happy!"
I always hang a wreath in my kitchen window. It adds to the view as I am doing dishes. This year, I also added the blue glass candle holders and Beatrix Potter figurines.
Isn't this just the sweetest? The figurines were a gift from a student, who knew I loved books. (He loved animals!) I love the way the sun shines through the glass during the day.
I am an advocate of making functional items decorative as well as useful. I painted and distressed these mason jars last year. I use them on top of my refrigerator for easy access to spatulas, wooden spoons, and more. The basket houses some frequently used cookbooks. I wired three carrots together and attached them to the basket. Now, I have very useful spring decorations on top of the frig!
Not to be forgotten is the powder room. (I admit, the striped painting on the wall is a little loud. I have loved it for years, and now I am ready to repaint it. It will get done--all in good time.) I am particularly pleased with this vignette on top of a cabinet in our very small powder room. It has all the elements that please me: using what I have, using what I love, whimsical fun pieces, and a combination that pleases me.
Here's another one of those fun baskets that I purchased for all of a dollar. I simply filled it with moss, a few pip berry springs, and a few faux flowers with miniature eggs.
A favorite Willie Rae figurine on a scooter and vintage books completes the look.
I'll let you in on a little secret. The wreath featured in the opening and closing of this blog, didn't start out as pictured. I enhanced it. By now, I'm sure you know what I did. I added twigs of pip berries and forsythia and simply stuck them into the grapevine wreath.
This was the wreath as purchased from Michael's for a very reasonable price. I loved all the textures in this wreath and the white bunny is just so precious. But, when I got it home...I just knew it could be something more...
It really didn't take much to enhance this wreath. Just as, a few pip berries, forsythia, moss, and colored eggs can enhance your decor for spring. Open your cupboards and look for pieces you love in spring colors. Consider getting them out of storage, like Grandma's punch bowl, and make it something grand (or simple). Enjoy decorating with what you have and treasure, and yes, if you see something you love--you just might need to purchase it!
Wishing everyone a Happy Spring! Let your creativity shine!
Vintage Books, Seeded Eucalyptus and a Bit of Sparkle!
Vintage engineering books, seeded eucalyptus, mercury glass, and some printer's type set letters all came together to don our winter fireplace. It all started with a box of vintage engineering books that belonged to our good friend, Joe Bonk, who passed away last March. His wife, Janet, was "excavating" Joe's room, and feeling a lot overwhelmed. She turned to me and said, "and what am I going to do with these old engineering books?" I immediately replied, "Vintage books are really hot in home decor. I'll take them." We packed the books and I'm sure Janet thought I was crazy. They were old, weathered, and some were missing parts of covers. They were PERFECT!
Thus, began the inspiration for our cozy fireplace decor.
Our fireplace mantel is very, very narrow. It is only 4 inches wide across most of it's length, with a little more to work with on each end. The ends wrap around the fireplace bump out. I had to get creative and work with the space I had. I began by stacking books on the left side of the fireplace. This is the widest spot. I loved reading the titles of each book I selected. I could hear Professor Bonk expounding on the knowledge gleaned from each volume. (Joe Bonk was an engineer and taught engineering at the Community College of Allegheny County. He was much loved by family, friends, and the students he taught.)
The mercury glass candlestick was the perfect contrast to top off the first stack of books.
Next, I tackled the right side of the fireplace. I decided to mix things up and lean a couple of books against a mercury glass candlestick.
As I've shared before, our television is mounted above our fireplace and the sound bar is below. We spend most of our time in our family room/kitchen combination. The space is designed for the way we live. Admittedly, it can be a challenge to "accessorize", but as you can see--I chose to take the challenge and plunge forward.
At this point, I was able to position a few books flat and slip them under the sound bar.
The Traveling Curmudgeon--isn't this a great title! It turns out that this book isn't that old. It's copyright is 2003, but the cover graphic, color, and title are just so fun. It makes me smile to have it front and "off-center" on our mantel.
I placed the red volume on the left to balance out the yellow The Traveling Curmudgeon book on the right.
Now, it was time to add some fun and whimsy. I began to "shop" our home for something more. I found it in the living room! My husband is a graphic designer, printer, and so much more. He collects old, type set letters, and we have many of them displayed in a wall mounted, type set printer's drawer in the living room. It houses many treasures. I moved a few to the fireplace mantel to add more vintage charm. Here, we have our last name "JONES" spelled out. The little, tea stained, handmade, snowman just looks so happy to be part of this vignette.
I placed the typeset letters for "FUn" in front of The Traveling Curmudgeon, for obvious reasons.
Finally, I tucked seeded eucalyptus, miniature pine cones, and a few mercury glass votives throughout the display.
The fireplace hearth is adorned with a large lantern, birdhouse, and a pine cone crock. The empty crock was sitting on the floor and looking rather flat. I selected some large coffee table books from places we've been and stacked them. Once the crock was set on top of them, all I needed to do was to move my ever versatile, variegated, philodendron to the crock. The lush, green leaves are a perfect pop of color in the midst of a Pittsburgh winter.
I use books in our decor throughout our home. We love books, and I try to select books that are much loved and/or have memories associated with them.
Now, take a look at the final reveal that all began with a box of vintage, engineering books. I had considered shopping thrift stores for vintage books, but knowing these books were among the treasures of our good friend, Joe, makes them super special. I think he would be very pleased to see his books on display.
Here are a few more ways I've spread the wealth of Joe's books around our home.
This vignette is in our powder room. It is on top of a wall mounted cabinet, opposite the vanity. I am proud of how this vignette came together. I can see changing the snowman candle out for another candle, or maybe one of my Willi Rae figurines come spring.
Note: I did the paint technique on the walls over 15 years ago. It's been fun, but I am thinking of painting over it one of these days.
My Christmas orchid has finished blooming. I cut back the dead stems, and accessorized the decorative white container with dark stones. I love the structural shape of the orchid leaves, in the smooth white fluted container surrounded by black stones, sitting on top of a stack of vintage books. This vignette has contrast, textures, vintage, modern, and organics all rolled into one! I think it works.
There you have it. I used things I already had. I shopped our home and moved a few things to the mantel that had never had a place on the mantel. Last, but not least, I had a lot of fun reading the book titles and adding whimsy to it all. The moral of the story today: Have fun playing with home decor. Seek out things you love and already have and consider giving them a new location!
Yes, you read the title of this post correctly: Planning for Christmas 2018! Do you buy Christmas cards, wrapping paper, and other Christmas items at the after Christmas sales? Have you ever packed said items away and then forgotten where you put them when the holiday comes around? Or, like me, forgot that you even purchased said items and purchase more of that item in November? I have done all of the above. I am also guilty of squirreling a few items in one closet, because I have a little space, and a few items in another drawer--because there is a little space--and completely forgetting what is where!!!
Part of my New Year's Resolution is to store all like items together, AND make a record of it. I am a visual person, so I decided to use my phone to take photos of purchased items for Christmas 2018 and store them in a folder on my computer.
It's January and time for me to dig into closets, cupboards, and pantries and begin my annual organizing, purging, and clean up! We are experiencing record low temperatures and wind chills and since I am cooped up inside, it is the perfect time to set about these tasks.
I sat down to read a few blogs one morning with a cup of coffee in hand. I started coveting the look of organized pantries, with beautiful containers, and pretty shelf paper. My first thought was, my pantry could never look like that, and then, do "these" people really use their pantries? Next thought, "I want...I "need" to go buy all matching beautiful containers"... I "need" to purchase fun shelf paper!"
Then, reality and practicality set in. I had to slow down, and be true to my philosophy of first, use what I have. Secondly, IF, I were to purchase beautiful, new, matching containers, I needed to measure my spaces first, and take stock of what I really needed. I admit, I have purchased containers recommended by other bloggers or Pinterest boards, only to bring them home and have them be a little too, big, or two wide, and in general, not fit my space. So, I decided to begin with the task of cleaning up, organizing, and assessing what I already have, before running out to get "new" containers--that I might not need and might not work.
I decided to tackle one shelf at a time. Items would be checked for expiration dates, and grouped on my kitchen island by categories. My goal was ultimately, to shelve like items with like items. (I am notorious for "squirreling" things away that are "overflow" items. I find an oh so perfect, second little spot and totally lose track of the "overflow" items. Then, I can't find them when I really need it.) Another goal: Shelve like things together, all in one spot.
I also, decide to make an inventory of each shelf, so I could locate items and take stock of them, prior to making my grocery shopping list. I have never done this before, but there are many home organizers who recommend this, so I thought I'd give it a try.
I began with shelf #2 that holds many baking supplies. I emptied the entire contents of shelf #2, and organized them in categories. For this shelf it went something like this: flour, sugar, powdered sugar, brown sugar canisters, and 5 lb. bags of flour and sugar; cake mixes, Bisquick, Gingerbread Mix; various syrups: agave, Karo, molasses, maple syrup. If you look closely at the before photo, you'll notice, that some of these items were not housed on that shelf. After I emptied the contents of each shelf and organized the items into categories, I took another look at the whole pantry. I looked for items that should be placed in the categories I had placed on the island. Once again, my goal was to keep like things together on the same shelf.
After clearing the shelf and organizing like items together on my island, I wiped down the shelf. (I'm still dreaming about new shelf paper, but I'm willing to wait until I find something that I really like. After all, the current shelf paper is about 20 years old. I liked it then, I like it now!)
I admit, I like pretty things, even if they are hidden behind the doors of my pantry. Several years ago, I spotted these lovely canisters in TJ Maxx. I purchased them. If I had the counter space, I would display them. They make me happy. I don't have the counter space, so they replaced some bright, yellow, Tupperware canister circa 1970's in the pantry. They do take up more space than other, made for 5 lb. bags of flour and sugar containers. At one time, I had considered, replacing them with something more practical and space saving. I couldn't do it. Pretty trumped, practical in this case.
I came up with a solution for keeping my pretty canisters, while being more efficient with the space. My pantry shelves are 12 inches deep. I decided, I could store the extra 5 lbs. of flour and sugar bags, behind the flour and sugar canisters. The bags would be easy to access when I needed to refill each canister. Before, I had my canisters lined up flush with the wall, and put the refill bags and other items in front of the canister (or on another shelf) and it meant moving the items, every time I wanted to bake.
This idea was one of those, "I can't believe I didn't think of this before!" ideas. I was able to continue to use this same space saving idea, with the cake mixes and gingerbread mix. I stored them behind the smaller canisters. I know that the space behind the canisters will vary as we use and add other food stuffs. I envision, Jiffy Cornbread mixes replacing the gingerbread mix, as Jiffy Cornbread is a common food stuff to accompany winter soups.
I was so pleased with the organized shelf #2, that I continued on to shelf #3. (I was saving shelf #1 for last, as I saw this as my greatest challenge. I was hoping that as I organized the other shelves, ideas would percolate and solutions for the top shelf would come to mind.)
Shelf #3 wasn't, too bad. I had done a quick organization of spices in the fall. We purchased this ferris wheel spice rack several years ago. I loved the novelty of it, and have replaced the spices over the years to reflect the ones we use most. That said, I do realize, that it may not be the most practical use of our pantry space, but I've decided to keep it.
Shelf #3 involved throwing out a few expired items, wiping the shelf down, organizing the categories on the kitchen island, and perusing the other shelves to see if there were like items to add to this shelf. I wanted to stay true to my goal of keeping like items together. All Pam cooking spray products are lined up in a row, followed by vinegars, followed by olive oil and the like.
I tackled shelves #4 and #5 and the floor of the pantry all at one time. I had purchased the green bins with handles from the Dollar Tree several years ago. I use them like pull out drawers to contain canned goods and food stuffs by category. I relabeled some of my categories for our current use. Once again, each family's categories will be different. My husband make great pumpkin bread and pumpkin pancakes. I like to make the muffins that require a cake mix and can of pumpkin. (Depending on your preference, spices, an egg, or water can be added to the mix.) Therefore, we always have a green bin labeled "PUMPKIN". That works for us.
I followed the same procedure as the other shelves: empty shelves, organize categorize on the kitchen island, add additional items that may have been placed on other shelves to the categories, and washed the lime green bins.
I labeled all unlabeled bins. I chose to put the bins in alphabetical order.
Shelf #4 and the Floor--AFTER! The clear bins are generic plastic bins. The bottom bins should be labeled, "ONIONS", "PUMPKIN", and "POTATOES". (I know they are out of alphabetical order, I read somewhere that onions and potatoes should not be stored together. I had the "PUMPKIN" bin separate them for any infighting.)
The organization of these shelves pleases me. The bottom shelves are actually an old laminate shoe organizer that I repurposed for the pantry. There was this large amount of space and I really needed shelves, so this was my solution when we moved into our home over 20 years ago and it has worked. Maybe one day, I'll actually add "proper" shelves....maybe...
Breakfast cereal was relocated to the far left on the shelf. I relocated the peanut butter and almonds right next to the cereal. Sometimes, I have peanut butter on toast for breakfast. Other times, I might have a handful of almonds or put slivered almonds on my cereal in the morning. It's all about what works for your family.
At this point, I was feeling quite pleased with my pantry organization.
Finally, it was time to tackle the dreaded top shelf! The problem with the top shelf is things get lost on the top shelf. I have repurposed another laminate shoe rack for the top shelf, so there are actually three levels. The very top is awkward to access, but there is so much space. It goes to the ceiling, and I was determined to use it, but in a more functional manner.
I repeated the same process for the top shelf: empty all contents, organize by category on the kitchen island, wash down the shelves, and give serious thought to the use of the very top shelf. As I cleaned up each shelf, I kept asking myself, how can we best use the space? There is limited real estate in this pantry. Items have to be "used" to have prime location in the pantry. (For example: Plastic drinking cups are used for big gathering and buffet type entertaining. They are not an every day item. They were relocated to the pantry in the basement.)
We seemed to have an abundance of crackers. (Some of them were a little buried and on various shelves.) I used containers I already had to corral them in one place. There are nights when supper is cheese and crackers and a fruit and vegetable tray. Even so, I think we need to pare down the cracker containers and make room for other food stuffs.) Then, it was a matter of opening the bags of chocolate chips, white morsels, cinnamon chips, and putting the various morsels into the containers that I had already established.
I think moving the teas and teapot to two bins on a lower shelf makes so much more sense. I know the teapot will get much more use.
I looked around to see what items had not made it back into the pantry. I had various bottles of flavored vinegars: red wine, white wine, champagne, and a few others. We don't use them that often. I decided to put them on the top shelf in a clear plastic container. I like using these rectangular containers. They can keep like things altogether and can act like a drawer. You can pull it part way off the shelf to access the items within it. I moved the Marsala wine to the same container, as it falls in that "used for cooking-not often" category.
Now, to tackle the tippy-top shelf. It extends to the ceiling, but with my current arrangement, it is awkward to access. Whatever is on that shelf should be something that needs to be stored and is used on occasion. I decided to store some large decorative bowls and serving pieces to my Romance dinnerware collection. My mom gave me quite a few of these pieces. I love getting them out in the fall and using them as part of our decor and having them for special dinners. I also have a large bowl and pitcher from a collection created by Susan Winget. I use these in the fall, too.
This isn't a great photo, but you get the idea. I have 4 large serving bowls, a square flat serving plate, a divided serving platter, and the large pitcher stored on this shelf. It took some doing, and yes, I did have to remove the bin of vinegars and 2 containers of nuts to place these large pieces in this space. I think it is going to work. The pieces are now in one place and they are pieces that I use in the late summer and fall. I had one other large platter to this set. I was trying to keep like things together. The platter wouldn't fit on the top shelf, but I was able to store it on another shelf.
The shelves in the pantry are fairly wide. I decided I could store the large serving platter behind the cereal. The platter was one item that didn't make it on the same shelf as the other serving pieces from this collection, but I am pleased that all of the pieces are located in the pantry, and not some in the corner cabinet in the kitchen, others in the armoire in the living room, and so on. Now, in the fall, I know these items are altogether, and I can easily retrieve them.
Here's a quick recap.
This post wouldn't be complete without sharing one of my favorite organization tools: Command Hooks!
I made use of some of the narrow, side walls of the pantry to hang vanilla beans, coffee, and more coffee on Command Hooks, with the help of some clamps and binders.
At the end of the day, I didn't buy one new (cute) container. I like seeing my pretty canisters and the Dollar Tree green bins give the pantry a pop of color, as well as organization. The clear containers I've had for years fit the space. It all works.
Yes, the shelf paper could be replaced, but I haven't found anything that I really like, yet. Admittedly, the pantry itself, could use a coat of paint and maybe I should install some proper shelves to replace the laminate shoe organizers. All of that can be for another day--or not. Today, I'm pleased and proud of my pantry. I met my goal of arranging items that we use the most in convenient places. I arranged like items together, instead of here and there and everywhere. I used what I already had. As for the pantry inventory--I'll keep you posted on its merits.
I hope I've given you some ideas that might help you organize your kitchen space. I encourage you to adapt these principles to your family's needs: use what you have, organize like items together, label everything, and plan to place items that are most used in the places that are most convenient for your family. It's all about what works for your family!