Monday, November 29, 2010

Dollar Store Stars

Welcome back everyone!  Are you exhausted and reveling in your Black Friday Bargains? 
I thought of many of you as I lazily read the paper, sipped a hot cup of coffee and shopped online.  :)
Hope you found some great deals!

Even if it wasn't a super-amazing-black-friday-deal, today's project definitely falls into the "bargain" category!
It had been a while since I'd stopped into the Dollar Store to see what was popping up for the holidays. 

I was immediately drawn to these stars, which is weird.  I mean, Santa (no offense, bro) is certainly festive and all, but totally not my style.

But, the stars' overall shape reminded me of nice barn stars, and they were metal, not plastic, so I thought they had some potential.  And I liked the twine hanging loops already on them - I wouldn't have to add/change those, which was nice.

So, I bought 3. 
Sorry, Santa, but you're getting a makeover.

This project went so fast, I didn't even take "during" pictures - it's that simple.
1) I wiped down the stars and gave them a quick coat of bronze spraypaint to cover up Mr. Claus.
2) Once dried and cured, I took one star and gave the front side a cover of spray adhesive.
3) I stuck burlap to the adhesive (it dries sooo fast!)
4) I trimmed around the burlap edges, tucked them under the sides and adhered with hot glue.

And now, my Nativity has a nice north star for their "manger". 
Mary and Joseph are super thrilled, can't you tell? :)

Step 5 is optional, but I covered the back of the star with brown kraft paper to cover up my handiwork.  I like a finished edge, people.

I also just tucked the twine hanging loop down behind this star - I didn't want to cut it off in case I'd like to hang the star somewhere else later on. 
I don't know if you've noticed, but I'm a fickle decorator. :)

I opted not to cover the other two stars in burlap for now, because I have another [potential] project in mind.  But I like how this one turned out so much, they may just have the same fate!


Friday, November 26, 2010

Wreath Makeover

Hi there!  Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family and friends - I know I did!
Since we're now officially in full-on Christmas mode, the V Side is entering Christmas-palooza right along with you. :)

I like saving money, finding bargains or making things in my home look like a million bucks when they really cost only a couple.
But that doesn't mean I'm not willing to invest in quality.
I believe that you're better off spending a thousand dollars on a sofa that is a classic shape, color and texture that you'll be able to update for 15 years, rather than buying a cheap sofa for $300 that won't hold up or will go out of style in just a few.

It was with this philosophy in mind that I invested in my first "real" Christmas decorations many years ago.
I was single, living in my cute little townhouse, and I wanted a pretty wreath for my front door. 
But as I've mentioned in past posts, I'm super particular when it comes to evergreen. 

So, when Pottery Barn came out with their bay leaf line (LOVE!!), I jumped on it.
I bought the garland for my mantle, and the round version of this wreath:

Hey, gimme a break, it was 2001!  They don't even make the round version anymore!

Sigh.  So pretty though, right?

I loved that wreath.  It hung on my door, facing the bright afternoon sun every holiday season for 8 years.  And then last year when I pulled it out of storage, I finally noticed it looked like this:

Don't see it?  Here's a close-up:

The sun had bleached my poor wreath and turned it into a mottled mess.  SAD.

BUT, I noticed, other than the color, it was actually still in perfect shape!
I wasn't ready to let it go just yet. 

First I "fluffed" up the leaves to try and make sure there was a little bit of space between as many of them as possible.

Then I trimmed off all the mistletoe berries, twigs, and cute little sparkly doodads to save for later.

I took her to the garage and spent a week or so spray coating the leaves in Navajo White (it's just a hair creamier than Heirloom White) - it's one of my favorites, and I think it's the perfect "winter white"

This process took a little longer than a normal spraypainting project because of all the leaves.  It's tough getting an even coat because they all seem to overlap!  It got a little frustrating at times, but by God I was determined. :) 

Once it had dried for about 3 days (mainly because I was too busy with our friend The Redhead being sick to tend to my wreath), I brought it back inside and reattached all its "bling".  I just used the hot glue gun and made sure to tuck the blobs of glue behind the bases of the leaves as best I could.

And now, she sits back in her rightful place on my front door, with the same classic lines that sparked our love affair, now with a new updated look:

And I'll totally admit I smooched that wreath when it was finished. 
It's THAT cute. :)


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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Perfect Potatoes + Happy Thanksgiving!

Quick post today folks - lots to do and to quote Jessie Spano, "there's no time!  There's never! Any! Time!"
(I'll marry you if you can name that show/episode ;) )

I don't have a project for you today, but I'm sharing secrets: the secret to perfectly creamy, lump-free potatoes for your Thanksgiving dinner.

Are you ready?

Here it is:
This wonderful invention is a potato ricer, and it's the bomb-diggity.
Last year, I hosted Thanksgiving for the first time ever.
It was for Mr. V's side of the family, which is
A. Ginormous
B. Full of giant, farm-fed men. 
This is a meat and potatoes group, and as the host, my primary duties were the um, well, meat and potatoes.  No pressure.
For whatever weird reason, I was terrified of making lumpy potatoes.  I didn't want to be known as that poor girl who can't even make potatoes right.
The ricer works just like a garlic mincer.  Once your potatoes are boiled, you put them in the ricer, squeeze, and your potatoes are shoved through little holes and come out the other side looking like.... rice.  Go figure.
The result is a mass of fluffy potatoes that whip up like a dream.
If you listen to Paula Deen (AND I DO! :) ) you just add some sour cream, milk (a tablespoon at a time), a little minced garlic, about a tsp of salt and some fresh ground black pepper, some butter and top it off with a little parmesan cheese, and you'll have potatoes to.die.for.
[food network image]

(At least I'm told my potatoes were to die for at our office Thanksgiving pot luck, but whatever.  You can feed co-workers anything and they'll eat it :) )
So go.  Go buy a ricer.  Make fluffy potatoes.  Enjoy their creamy, carb-y goodness.
Then take a nap.  And be Thankful.
Have a wonderful holiday everyone - I'll be back on Friday with the start of the Christmas madness.
Until then -

Monday, November 22, 2010

Another Use for Baby Food Jars

Still looking for something to do with all those empty baby food jars?

How about another $0 centerpiece...
..that you can use year-round!

I took some basic elements:
a natural fiber placemat, and a simple white tray.
To make it "fall",
I added acorns from my parents' backyard,
some rocks,
and trimmings from the boxwoods in our front landscaping.

Easy-Peasy, yep yep

This can easily go from fall to winter/Christmas by subbing miniature ornaments, pinecones, cranberries or peppermint candies for the acorns and rocks.  Add a festive ribbon around the jars if you're so inclined, or swap out the boxwood for evergreen.

This spring, use small trimmings from budding trees, or plant a fat peony or hydrangea in the jars and leave the tray plain.

365 days of a cute kitchen table and not spending a dime is right up my alley. :)


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Simplifying the Holidays, One Step at a Time

So, the holidays are here.  Like RIGHT.NOW.HERE.

I started making my lists for all our holiday gatherings (because that's what freaky list-loving people like me do)
and all the ancillary things I need to do between now and December 23rd to make December 24th & 25th as relaxing as possible.

Up toward the top of that "other" list that's making me hyperventilate is Christmas Cards.
And here's the thing - I love them, I do.

I love sending them, I love receiving them, I love admiring those friends and family members who really go for it and write the official Christmas letter.
I love how family friends of ours, rather than writing up a big braggy list of accomplishments for the year, turn their "Newsletter" into a photo essay [with awesome captions] of their family's year in review.  And it never disappoints: it's hilarious.

Photos of the year are my favorite way to do Christmas Cards.

In years past I've toiled over Photoshop [or one of a thousand other photo-editing sites/software] for many evenings, choosing the photos from the past 12 months that best represent our year.  THEN coming up with a color scheme or theme and arranging, arranging, arranging.  Then starting over and designing again.
 This year I just don't have the time.  I have these:

So, I'm simplifying.  Instead of spending hours at the computer designing Christmas Cards, I'm enlisting the help of our friend Shutterfly.

I was browsing their latest design offerings, and I was shocked at how many cool new designs they have.  And they're designed - not the cookie-cutter "I chose this holiday greeting when I got my photos developed just like 9 million other people" look.

Check them out for yourself:

Um, and they have matching address labels.  SOLD.

So basically, Shutterfly is saving me hours of time that I can use to wrap presents.
Or make treats for our neighbors.
Or pffft, who am I kidding?  Cozy up on the couch with Mr.V. and a glass of wine! :)
And I'll still have cute cards to send to the people we love.

And that's how the blogger simplified Christmas.


*Disclaimer:  On the V Side is not affiliated with Shutterfly. 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Natural Candles

This post is going to be a little bit fruity.
[Sorry, bad joke.  Couldn't help it.]

If you're still looking for a lovely, inexpensive way to dress up your Thanksgiving table, look no further than Mother Nature.

This is an apple. 
It's good for a snack on the go, smothering in caramel,
and for making appearances in pie and big glass bowls.
But it's also a candleholder. 
No, really.
This is so easy, and cute, too!
Don't believe me?

Step 1:
Hollow out the top (or side, if you prefer) in a circle, about an inch (or a little less) deep.
(you can trace the shape of a tealight on the skin of the apple if it helps- use a marker you can wipe off)

Step 2:
Shove a tealight candle in the hole

Step 3:
Incorporate into your Harvest decor, light 'em up, and enjoy.

See, Easy!!

You don't have to just use apples, either.  You can use pears, gourds, oranges, lemons or any other non-mushy item!  You just have to make sure there is some structure to the vessel otherwise you'll end up with a mess.  I find apples are the easiest, they come in a variety of colors and they tend to be the most classic when it comes to decor.

I've used mine in this display of gourds, but these would also look great lined up on a runner down the center of a table, or even sitting at different heights on chunky candle holders!

They're super versatile, and when you're done
you can totally eat it!
(Just, you know, remove the tealight first... :) )


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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Gratitude Garland + Giveaway Winner!

Congratulations to Kaity at Kaity-Bug Crafts!  You are the winner of the $35 gift certificate to CSN Stores!
Kaity, please shoot me an email at to claim your prize.  Thanks!

[photo source: BHG]

I am really lucky to have my immediate family all within about 15 minutes.  OK, and my sister lives 6 blocks from me.  We're weird.  But Whatev.
Every Sunday we go to church, then everyone heads back to my parents' house for brunch.  It's a great time for us to catch up on the previous week, fill one another in on what's coming up, and it's the one time for the most part we know we'll see each other.  The kids look forward to seeing Grandma and Grandpa, the girls get to gab and the guys get... well they're fed.  And they really don't ask for much else.  ;)

I've come to really look forward to and appreciate these days.  So, what better time to gather 'round the table and remind ourselves of just a handful of the many blessings we've been given.

I picked up several sheets of card stock in fall colors at Archiver's.  Now, you can find scrapbook paper/card stock at a lot of other places much cheaper than at Archiver's, but they have a little value-added to offer:  when you purchase paper there, you can use all their die-cutting tools free of charge.  And the thought of cutting out 50 leaf shapes by hand was enough to give me hives.  So, off to Archiver's I went, armed with a coupon.
For less than $6 and 11 minutes of my time, I had a boatload of perfectly trimmed leaves, and I did not have carpal tunnel syndrome from cutting them myself...
Worth. Every. Dime.

 I cut these two different leaves that were the same size, but then out of my scraps I cut some smaller leaves for filler.

I brought the leaves with me to Sunday brunch, and it was a fun activity as everyone got to work.

[who doesn't love Buzz lightyear? ;)]
Once, home, I took my base ribbon (just a standard 1/2 inch grosgrain) and laid out my leaves on the floor to get an idea of spacing and length (you'll notice a certain someone was desperate to make another cameo. 
He butted into every.single.shot. so I finally gave up.).

Then, I just punched a hole in each leaf, and used a smaller ribbon of the same shade of brown to tie them (tight) to the base ribbon.  This took about a half hour (less than the time it took me to watch a tivo'd episode of "Oprah").

I'm really pleased with the result, and it's a nice reminder of just a tiny, tiny bit of the things we have to be thankful for this season.

Right now I have it hanging as a nice trim to my drop cloth curtains, but hopefully we'll be able to work it into the decor somehow for our Thanksgiving at my parents' house.

And if we want, we can add to it each year.  I kind of love the idea of watching the kids' handwriting change, as well as what they're thankful for.

I know this idea isn't original, but I don't think there's anything about counting your blessings that ever goes out of style.  :)

What's on Your Gratitude Garland this year? :)