Christmas Wreath – How to make a beautiful Christmas wreath for $7 or less

Christmas Wreath

Nothing seems to say “welcome to our home” during the holidays like a beautiful Christmas wreath!

I can’t tell you how long I’ve dreamed about this, and needless to say, I have been so excited about the possibilities!

You see, because we have been in the process of carving out our little slice of heaven deep in the woods, we have had many projects to complete. I know you know the feeling, so you can probably relate to my excitement right about now. We’ve had trees to remove, ground to move, grass to plant, gardens to grow, a stacked stone terrace to create, a forest to care for… not to mention a home to build! So… the finishing touches are sometimes the last things that you get to focus on.

My husband has worked so hard over the last several months, trying to get things completed before winter. One of those projects was my Christmas gift! Of course he didn’t think of it as my Christmas gift, but I quickly claimed it as my own!

For the last 4 years of the building process, and many years of dreaming before that, I had a vision of being able to decorate the front door area of our home for Christmas. So, for the last few months, Dan has been creating a stone walkway that leads from the top of the stone terrace steps, to the front door (here is the previous year’s stone terrace cottage garden project that we did, and here’s what the cottage garden project looked like only 3 months later), the stone entrance, and all of the paint, moldings, and finishing touches that had to be done to the entrance before the snow started.

Well… he finished it…and what a beautiful job he did! Now it was up to me to decide how to decorate the space. Because this is our first year being able to decorate outside, as well as the fact that I like to find a way to have what I love for the lowest amount possible (for example, all of the work done & materials needed were paid for by our siding company…but that story is for another day), I needed to find a way to have something beautiful for little cost.

I knew that I wanted a Christmas wreath to start with, but everywhere I looked, they were at least $20 or more…and that was for little “homely” wreaths. I wanted a nice full wreath to welcome our holiday guests.

I did think about making my own, but the snow came “in a big way” before I was able to go out & collect evergreens, so I decided to find a way to buy something I loved, while not paying much in the process…you know how I love to find creative ways to do that ;)

After going to several places to find the perfect wreath, we finally gave up & decided to go over to Lowe’s and pick up our long needle pine roping that I had spotted there last year. Thankfully, they had it again this year… and… it was only $6.97 for 20ft of roping! Other places I had gone where charging almost $3 per ft!

In the checkout line, while looking at my new beautiful roping and being quite happy with myself for snagging such a deal, I was still saying to myself… I sure wish that I could find a wreath that would match this long needle pine garland. Then the idea hit me like a ton of bricks! Why not buy another 20ft section and turn it into my wreath? After all, it’s only $6.97!

So…we checked out with 3 rounds of roping instead of 2, and I rode all the way home with the biggest smile on my face! I tell my husband all the time… “Aren’t you glad that it doesn’t take much to make me happy!”

Here’s a picture of the long needle pine roping, that I will use for both our garland & the wreath for our front door.

Long needle pine roping

It comes bundled up in these nice manageable little rounds. Then, you simply cut the ties and unwind the roping.

To Make Your Wreath

- Decide how big you want your wreath (make sure it will fit on your door & allow it to open & close properly)

- Start by making a circle with one end of the garland and securing it with wire (don’t cut the roping)

- Continue to wrap the roping around the circle securing it to the initial circle every several inches

- As you tie continue to tie the wreath together, try to secure it “under” the long pine needles to keep the wire from showing

- Have someone hold the wreath up for you & turn it, so you can see what part should be the top

- Add a wire for hanging

- Decorate with little bits of decorations that you already have, or little things that you collect from the garden

- You could decorate with, pine cones, twigs, ribbon, bow, rusty bells, holly twigs, berries, or anything that you love

Here is my wreath after it was hung & ready for some finishing touches.

Christmas Wreath

And of course, here is what the garland and wreath look like all finished.

Christmas Decorations

I hope you find a way to have the front door of your dreams, and a wreath that says “welcome to our home” this holiday season, while saving alot of money in the process!

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Decorations at Christmas – Small spaces, small budgets, no problem!

I wanted to share some different creative decorating ideas with you, as you consider your decorations at Christmas.

Festive Branches

The simple idea that I want to share with you today is not only gorgeous, but it also comes in at ZERO cost = FREE!

Not only is is free, but it’s also a fun way to decorate your space throughout the whole year.

When considering the focal point of traditional Christmas decorations, the first thing that comes to mind, is the big… beautiful…fresh cut…evergreen Christmas tree. No matter how much you’d love to have the typical Christmas centerpiece, maybe you don’t have the room for it in your small space. Or, perhaps your budget won’t allow it. Maybe you or a family member has allergies to evergreens. If you’re like me, you might just be in the mood to try something new, or add to your growing line up of holiday decorations. Whatever situation you find yourself in, I want to help open your mind to the countless ways there are for you to decorate for the holidays!

You may even decide to keep this simple centerpiece up all year, and use it for every holiday, every celebration, and every season, no matter how much space you have, or what kind of budget you have to work with… remember we’re talking FREE here! (I have lots of ideas for this below!)

The idea begins with a simple tree branch, then expands into beauty that is only limited by your own imagination!

Before I explain further, take a peek at a few examples of how some people have already used this idea in their homes.
(click on any picture to see different sizes, or their other pictures)

Christmas branch

Charlie Brown branches

How to display the branch
- Hang over a table
- Put in a vase
- Stick into a flower pot
- Hang on wall

How to keep the branch sturdy in it’s container
- Sand
- Crumbled newspaper
- Fabric
- Beans
- Rice
- Rocks

Decorating the branch itself
- You could keep the branch natural
- Spray paint it white, gold, silver, light blue, pink, etc.
- You could sprinkle glitter on the branches while the paint is still wet
- Wrap each section in fabric
- Wrap with white or colored lights
- Wrap with ribbon

Christmas decoration ideas to hang from the branches
- Christmas ornaments
- Pictures
- Birds
- Mittens
- Mini stockings
- Pinecones
- Bird nests
- Buttons
- Bells
- Felt balls
- Keys
- Feathers
- Ribbons / bows
- Hearts
- Bead garlands
- Christmas cards
- Paper snowflakes
- Stars
- Tinsel
- Cookies / gingerbread men
- Anything you can imagine!

Idea: Dress it up even more!
When cutting things out of paper, think about using some sort of paper that will bring even more interest to the item that you are creating. Here’s an example of what I mean. Instead of white paper, you might want to consider; sheet music, wrapping paper, pretty napkins, cards, copies of old letters, scrapbook paper, construction paper, etc. You can find lots of pretty things to download online.

Theme Ideas

Have you ever wanted to add a theme tree to your decorations, but couldn’t bring yourself to leave out your traditional family tree? Well, this is the perfect way that you could have both! As a matter of fact, why not have 2 or 3 different displays around your house!

Many times a theme can be communicated through color or collection. In the “color” theme, you would decorate the whole display using different items, but all of the same color. When using a collection, everything can be different colors, but the same types of items. Example: all vintage mittens, vintage baby bonnets, all bells, all snowflakes, all miniatures, all birds, etc.

Look at these other beautiful examples

Christmas Vignette

Branch Tree

Christmas garland decor

Pretty little felt trees

Christmas branch

my tree full

Pastel Branches

Christmas tree decor

The twinkling tree

First Christmas decor

Red window with garden view

Where can I get a tree branch?
- Your backyard
- Your neighbor
- From a friend or family member’s backyard
- Curbside (other people’s yard debris, can be your gorgeous decor)
- A walk in the woods
- A logger

How big should my branch be?
- This is totally up to you! How big of a branch can your space handle, and what kind of look are you going for?

How else can I decorate my centerpiece throughout the year?
- Winter decor – birds, paper snowflakes, pom-pom snow balls, snowmen
- Valentines Day – hearts, candy, red/pink paper chains & flowers
- St. Patrick’s Day – paper clovers
- Spring – flowers, paper mushrooms, birds, nests
- Easter – blown out Easter eggs
- 4th of July – anything red, white, and blue
- Summer – pictures of vacations, paper butterflies/lady bugs, flowers
- Birthdays – yearly picture of birthday person, paper numbers
- Anniversaries – wedding pictures, hearts
- Autumn – dried leaves, acorns, moss, mini pumpkins
- Anything you can imagine!

Who knew that a simple tree branch could be so beautiful!

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Thanksgiving Blessings

Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to You All!

I hope you have a wonderful day of celebration with your family & friends.

I have so many things to be thankful for, my wonderful husband, my 4 amazing children, my loving parents, my brother & his family, all of our extended family, our church family, and everything that God has blessed us with.

My heart is full of gratitude, and this beautiful old hymn rings in my heart…

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Here are a few articles that you may enjoy for your special dinner!

How to Carve a Perfect Turkey

My Favorite Stuffing!

Candied Carrots

Many blessings to You!

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Creative Inspiration For Your Home and Garden

I don’t know about you, but every so often, I need a really good dose of creative inspiration! I am so thankful for the abundance of resources that we have available to us today. There was a time (not so long ago), that in order to find creative visual inspiration, you would have to order a subscription to a magazine…then hope that there were some good pictures in that month’s issue ;) Now, our options are literally unlimited!

One of my favorite places to find creative visual inspiration is Flickr.

For your daily dose of creative inspiration… here is a slide-show of some of the photos from the group! I hope you enjoy…I know that I do!


I decided to get a professional account there, so that I can add as many pictures to my account as I’d like. I also belong to several groups, where people that share the same interests gather to share their favorite pictures. At Flickr, not only can you find pictures on any topic that your heart desires, but you can add them to your favorites, save a person as a contact if you like their pictures, add your pictures to different groups, comment on any pictures, and more! The site is totally free to start your own account, and you can use the site as much as you’d like.

One of the “slight problems” with Flickr is, there are SO MANY pictures to look through, that it might take a while for you to find the “best pictures”, and a few hours can pass by without you even noticing! This is why I created a new group called “The Best of Home and Garden.”

I created the group to give people a special dose of creative inspiration, without all of the work of sorting through thousands of pictures, while trying to find the perfect one. The group is free to join, and even though we receive many pictures to be considered for inclusion, we only allow the best of the ones we receive to be included in the group. This ensures that people who take the time to look through the group’s photos, will thoroughly enjoy their time with us!

I would love for you to take a second & join the group and submit some of your favorite pictures for possible inclusion! I only ask that you please not be disappointed if it is not chosen to be included. Because even though we love all kinds of pictures, we are trying to use discretion when deciding which ones to allow into “The Best of Home and Garden;)

A BIG thank you goes out to everyone who has already submitted pictures, it is really appreciated!

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Garden Center Secrets – 10 Tips for getting the best price at your garden center

Cottage garden
My beautiful cottage garden, filled with bargains from my local garden center!

One of my favorite things to watch for in the spring, besides my garden coming alive, is… the opening up of local garden centers.

I get such joy, when I see the workers pulling out bags of fertilizer, soil mixes, and potted trees & shrubs, and I know that the center is almost ready to be open for business.

I’ve learned alot while shopping at these places, and I have also learned some secrets along the way!

You know how I am… I love to find ways that I can still have exactly what I love, while finding it for the best deal possible, if not for free. And, although that may seem impossible to some people, I see the process as an adventure!

The local place that you buy your garden plants might be called a landscape center (or centre – depending on where you live), plant center, nursery center, farm center, or a garden center, but whatever your center is called, the following 10 tips will still apply to you.

Tip #1: ALWAYS grab a cart as you walk in
Not only will it be holding your new found treasures, but it also speaks “I am here to buy” to the those that you might be speaking to.

Tip #2: Don’t get distracted
When you are shopping for the best deal, there are a few “best practices” that you want to go by. One of them is, go for the best deals first, then take your time to browse around. If you don’t do this, you stand the chance of someone else walking out with your deal!

Tip #3: ALWAYS smile & be truly friendly to the staff
You are most likely going to be making frequent stops to the center throughout the season, and you want as many friends as possible on the inside. Besides, they deal with enough grumpy people throughout the day, so your kindness will be a welcomed treat. I always ask myself…how can someone come into a place filled with such beauty and still be Mr/Mrs grumpy pants? Somehow some people still find a way…ugh! Do you think the staff looks forward to helping people like that? I think not!

Tip #4: Look for ripped bags
Because garden centers sell so many bags of soil, fertilizer, grass seed, and other bagged items, many times these bags get ripped. Instead of just throwing them away, many times they will put them in a plastic bag and sell them at a very deep discounted price! I’ve seen bags of product that might have originally cost $50, get marked down to $5! So, if you are in the market for grass seed, fertilizer, compost, or other bagged products, this is a great way to get the best deal!

Tip #5: Head for the clearance racks!
Unlike stores that sell other types of merchandise, garden centers have the challenge of dealing with living products, that are constantly moving through different stages of their life cycle. Unfortunately for the center, it is much harder to sell a flowering plant that is not yet in flower, or a perennial that has just finished flowering. Fortunately for us, we know that this is only a stage in the life cycle, and that this little plant will once again come into bloom!

Terrace Garden Cobblestone Steps
Ivy that I got for $2 per flat – 12 plants per flat!

Cottage garden
This gaura filled in so nicely & became a large focal point of my cottage garden – great deal for $1.50!

Of course, this is only one reason why plants are put into the clearance section. Maybe the plants aren’t selling, or perhaps they don’t look as fresh as they once did? Whatever the reason, many GREAT deals are to be had in this section. I have purchased many .50, $1, $2.50 plants, that were normally $10, $15, or $40! The only plants that I do not buy in this section, are annuals that have already spent all of their blooms.

Tip #6: Do a quick scan for sale signs
Each store has a particular color that they use for their “sale” signs. Learn what color your garden center uses, then do a quick scan down the isles to catch a glimpse of where the sales might be.

Tip #7: Ask for help
Many people that work in the plant center are full of knowledge, and want to help you succeed with your garden. Ask lots of questions, so that you can gain as much knowledge as possible about the plants you are about to purchase. This is free help, that will be very valuable to you!

Tip #8: Try to find a male employee to work with, when you’re looking for a deal ;)
I’m sorry guys, but it’s SO true! Maybe they were put in the plant section because it was the only job opening in the store? Maybe they want to keep things less cluttered? Maybe they have different taste about what plants are attractive? I’m not exactly sure of the reason, but in my experience, they try to “get rid” of things as quick as possible…especially at the end of the season!

Tip #9: Ask for the deal (my favorite secret!)
You have no idea how many times I was able to get a great deal, just because I asked! You may need to speak with a manager to get a better deal, but after you spend enough time at your garden center, you will come to know the staff and who you might need to talk to.

Here are a few examples of “deal starter questions” to ask.

- Is this the best price available?
- It looks like you have alot of these could I help you move them quicker?
- This plant looks a little tired, maybe there is a better price you could give me?
- If I were to buy several of these, what kind of deal could you give me?

True Story:
I sent a friend of mine to go pick up some large pots of flowers for the church. I described the ones I wanted to her, as I had fallen in love with them over the past week. They were very LARGE pots of ivy planted in a ring. The center opening of the ring was the size of an average pot of flowers. This opening made it possible to remove the current flowers, and replace them with different ones to match each season. They were so beautiful & I knew that we could do so much with them at the church.

I knew that they were currently priced at $19, and for the huge amount of ivy and the beautiful burgundy mums that were currently placed in the center, I thought that was a great deal. I told her to talk to a manager, and say… “we would like to purchase some of these pots for the church. I see that they are on sale. Is this the best price today?” When she found the manager and asked him, he said to her… “Well, I think that those plants are so ugly & I want them out of here! You can have them for $2.50 each!”

We purchased them in the fall, so we left the beautiful mums in the center until Christmas, then we replaced them with poinsettias. We were able to use spring flowers for a while, but because the ivy is an outdoor variety, it is now looking a bit tired…so I will plant it outside so we can continue to enjoy it! So much enjoyment for SO LITTLE money…all because we asked!

True Story:
I went into one of my favorite garden centers, and as I walked through the doors, I noticed a pallet of roses that had a sale tag of $5 each. Needless to say, I grabbed a long flat plant cart instead of the regular shopping cart. I looked at all of the roses in the store, not just the ones on the sale pallet. I found a male employee/manager, and said…”I see that there are some roses that are marked $5 here on the pallet, but how much are the similar roses over there in the back?” He said… “hmmm, well, I guess you can have any of the roses for $5″!

Quickly thinking about my new gardens that need plants, I said…”Well, you see that I have already this large plant cart with me, and that I am prepared to buy. So, if I bought several roses, what kind of deal could you give me today?” He thought for a second and said…”If you buy several, you can have them for $2.50 each” Trying not to act to crazy with excitement, I said with a smile… “ok you have a deal”. Then, I proceeded to quickly find the most beautiful, most healthy, and biggest plants in the store! I was able to quickly set aside $600 of gorgeous roses… for which I only paid $37.50!

Cottage garden
My beautiful CHEAP roses!

That day I also picked up all of the remaining LARGE rhododendrons for only $6 each, which normally sold for $45 each! I got that deal buy saying…”You saw all of those roses that I just took off your hands, so you know I’m a buyer! I see that there are 8 rhododendrons left on the shelf over there. What price would you give me, if I were to buy them all?” He said… “If you take them all, you can have them for $6 each!” So off I went singing the Hallelujah chorus, and giving thanks all the way to the car!

Rhododendrons in the cottage garden
Gorgeous Rhododendrons!

Cottage garden
Hardy Hibiscus only $10 for a box of 15 LARGE roots!

* At the end of the season you can get SUCH good deals, so I make it a point to go in more often during the last weeks of the season!

Tip #9: Leave your number
Because garden centers have to pay to have dis-guarded plants & un-purchased merchandise hauled away, many times they will be open to having you haul it away for them…for free of course ;) Just talk to them about their policy, then offer to leave you number, and tell them to feel free to call you when they have items that they can’t sell. If they are of interest to you, this is a way to get them free of charge. Of course the plants will most likely need a little TLC, but hey… you’re a gardener & that’s what you do!

Tip #10: Visit Often!
Not only will this help you to become more familiar with the plants, but you will also be able to develop a better relationship with the staff. You will also start to see the patterns that happen in your stores every week.

For example:

- There are new sales with each new shipment to help make room for new plants.
- There are new sales every week to go with the newspaper ads.
- Clearance mark downs happen on a whim… first come first served!
* Many times employees will be in the process of marking items down, and you can ask “what else is going on sale & can you make a sticker for me?”

If you don’t visit often, you will miss out on all of these great deals!

Of course… the best reason to visit often is… just because you want to ;)

Enjoy your new deals, and making your garden exactly what you want it to be!

What tips or thoughts do you have? Be sure to leave them in the comment section below!

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Canaries Add Beauty And Song to Your Home

canary cage
There’s nothing quite as relaxing, as being blessed with an early morning serenade of song, from the chorus line of finches outside of my bedroom window in early Spring.

It starts as soon as the snow starts to melt, and for some reason, they start warming up around 4am. Not that I’m always up at 4am, but occasionally, I roll over & become startled just enough to catch the beginnings of what promises to be a day filled with inspirational song.

I think you would love a canary of your own, who was always there to sing for you!

Having raised parrots & different types of birds for several years myself, I can speak first hand of the joys of having an avian friend in your home.

Not only are canaries easy to care for, but their beauty is unmatched, both in appearance & song! They come in all shades of white, brown, red, and of course yellow.

Each type of canary has it’s own unique singing style, so it would be best for you to listen to a few different types of birds sing, before you decide which one you would like to call your own.

Beautiful Cages

If you know me at all, you already know how much I love bird cages! There’s just something about them, that is so wonderfully heartwarming to me. I never seem to tire of seeing a beautiful cage. Perhaps it reminds me of the joys of raising birds that my family shared together. In any case, to me…nothing speaks “elegant” more than a beautiful bird cage in your home! And what better use of a beautiful cage, than to be a home for a beautiful singer!

Cost

You can find canaries for $35-$100. The price depends on the area in which you live, as well as the type of canary that you ultimately decide to purchase.

Having a singing canary in your home means… never again will you have to wait for spring to enjoy the joyful songs in your home!

I thought you might enjoy hearing a few different canaries perform. I’m sorry ahead of time, because I know you wont be able to resist after hearing them ;)





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