The Great Christmas Tree Hunt of 2015

Every year we bundle up and trek through a near-forest of green in search of the perfect Christmas tree. We've done it in near blizzard conditions pregnant chasing a toddler, and we've done it in balmy 60 degree temperatures in rain boots and a sweatshirt pulling two little ladies on a sled. The experience is much like childbirth in that it is painful, exhausting and often filled with screaming, but you can't wait to do it again once you see the end result. You definitely get a little bit of amnesia and don't remember until you're standing on the top of the hill, snack-less, with two little voices alternating between demands of food and potty that you swore last year you'd just cave and buy your tree at Lowe's. It's the worst and the best, and I will probably do it again every year for the rest of my life.

Since we are new to the area, we had to find a different tree farm this year. We lucked out and found a fantastic place about ten minutes from our house. Big Tree Plantation has it down to a science. They offer Santa visits, complimentary hot chocolate, a sweet little holiday store filled with decorations, wagon rides up to the farm and volunteers from the local boys' lacrosse team to tie your tree to the roof of your car. This place was awesome!
We convinced the wagon's driver to take our picture. Now we have a grand total of about five pictures of the four of us since I'm always the one taking the picture!
 This arrangement lasted all of about six seconds, but it was very cute while it lasted!
I leveraged the free hot chocolate to get my smiling picture of my little angels, ha.
 After nearly an hour of searching ,we found our perfect tree. At just shy of 11 feet, we went a little crazy this year!
Once the tree was home and firmly planted in its stand, it was time to lift our little elves up to hang our ornaments.
We only broke about fifty.
Here's the final product. So worth all of the blood, sweat, tears, scrapping elves and eternally dropping needles...
Speaking of elves, we watched Elf with the girls yesterday for the first time.
 Love that movie! 

This morning at the grocery store, the Catfish accosted an elderly lady who offered her a marshmallow sample, yelling "Is there sugar in syrup? Then YES!!!!"

Ten days and counting...

Holiday Swag Tutorial

Picture me running like a crazy person through the Christmas tree farm with a 39 gallon bag gleefully collecting discarded clippings. Yup. It has never occurred to me before to ask for clippings at our local tree farm, and the employees were more than happy for me to take extra clippings off of their hands! They even wrapped quite a few of the larger clippings in with our tree at no additional charge!

 I have added fresh clippings to nearly all of the garland in my house, and it has made an incredible difference in the look and smell of my holiday decor. Because I went a little overboard with my clipping scavenging this year, I had more than enough leftover to make these fun little swags to hand under my carriage lights. It was a quick, easy and very inexpensive project, and I will definitely be making these again next holiday season! 
What you'll need to make two swags:
 a variety of tree clippings, roughly 12-18" (I used two different clippings)
floral wire
two bows
two wire coat hangers
six small weather resistant round ornaments (or small pinecones)
any other fun little weatherproof decorations to add at the end
six twigs, spray painted with Krylon ColorMaster (I used gold, but you can easily do red, silver or any other color)
It is also helpful to have a small, sassy helper, ha!
 Gather your first set of clippings in a bunch, stems pointing downward. Gather a smaller set of the same type of clipping pointing in the opposite direction. When you're satisfied with the fullness, add your second variety of clipping. Secure with floral wire.
 Use floral wire to attach your bows, twigs and ornaments, sticking your twigs behind the bow to secure them. The Catfish and I had a great time scouring our yard for the perfect twigs. Two quick coats of spray paint and the twigs along with a small section of grass in my backyard were a beautiful gold color!
 Stretch your hanger lengthwise, then place your swag on top and secure with floral wire.
 You're now ready to hang your swag anywhere you'd like! You can also adjust for a horizontal placement by making each bunch of clippings an equal length and securing your bow horizontally.
These two swags should last outdoors throughout the season! Because I already had the floral wire and small ornaments, the cost for this project was a whopping $6 (I've found that Walmart has the best pricing on spray paint, coming in at $3.47. The bows were from Michaels at $1.99 ea. minus 50% and an extra 20% off all sale)! 

Since this was my first attempt, I went with a pretty basic design, but I'm hoping to up the ante a little bit next year and add more color and texture. 

Happy Holidays!

Christmas 2014 Home Tour

I absolutely love decorating for the holidays and was successful this year in wearing my husband down enough that he finally gave the go-ahead for me to start breaking out the Christmas decor around November 10. I know that sounds crazy early, but, decorating for Christmas in a new house can be a daunting task! We also traveled back to Chicago this Thanksgiving, so it was nice not to feel rushed when we got back home. Since I was able to do much of my decorating early, I can focus now on our unexpectedly large Christmas tree (more on that later!). 

After somewhat impulsively painting my front door blue a few weeks ago (for the record, the paint sample was about five shades darker than what we ended up with, although the brighter color is growing on me!), I was excited to put up the door hanger I made last Christmas (thanks, Pinterest!).
 It drives my husband nuts that the J in Joy is off-center. 
That happens to be my special skill! 
Mid-gulp-30s, and I still struggle to cut in a straight line.
The entryway trees were a labor of love too, emphasis on labor. 
I scored the 4' prelit trees from Michaels for $19 each then ordered planters from Amazon for a whopping $6 each. I used Hobby Lobby ornaments and little red bows to decorate. Then my husband I cemented each tree into its planter. 

Moving inside, I strayed from my usual flowers-in-the-center-two-pictures-flanking motif for a more asymmetrical look. The score of my holiday season is the little tree dish that I found on a random pop-in at Goodwill for $1! I'm in the throes of a gold spray painting obsession, so I have been scouring antique and hobby stores for things to spray!

The tiny pinecones are courtesy of my lovely neighbor, J., who continues to spoil me rotten. She brought me an enormous box of the most beautiful pinecones from a trip years ago out east. She is feeding my spray painting obsession, ha!
 I tried not to break the bank on decorations- I plan to add more each year and maybe pick up some after-Christmas sale items to add for next Christmas. For now, I repurposed a kitchen serving dish with these ancient holiday candles and, again, some Hobby Lobby ornaments and J.'s pinecones.  
 I'm so excited to fill our sweet Advent calendar for my husband and the girls. I'm finally wising up and planning to put the SAME candies in for everyone so there are no battles over who gets which treat.
 I found this fun runner at Target and plan to keep it out through the cold weather months. I'm really liking gold lately...
 And again with the spray painted pinecones...I can't help myself.
 Here's the tiny tree my girls decorated with sweet little ornaments from their grandma and some tiny balls from Michaels.
 I also shockingly spray painted some backyard twigs gold.
This sign makes me happy. It also cracks me up because my neighbor thought it said "Have yourself a very crazy Christmas".

 I've also been on a mission to find clippings to supplement my garlands. 
I had a rather embarrassing trek in suede booties through the snow a week ago to rescue a beautiful branch that had fallen by our clubhouse. I like to keep it classy. 
 I added some colored ornaments to my old front door wreath to hang over our mantel. Next year I plan to upgrade the garland. For the time being, I just stuck some of the clippings from my snow adventure here and there.
 The girls are slowly decorating the craft Christmas tree and have added some fun holiday art projects to our window. Since we have a stainless fridge that doesn't hold magnets, we've had to be creative with our artwork placement.
 More on the top project in another post!
 Nothing too crazy going on in the front hall bathroom. 
I do have to point out that the Catfish loves the peppermint soap so much that she has been accosting guests with requests to "smell my fingers!" after a trip to the bathroom. 
 My husband is BEYOND thrilled that I finally finished our stair garlands. He has endured an incredible amount of discussion and has politely feigned interest in the thousands of Pinterest pins I've made him view.
 I went with a bottom staircase garland so that the tiny hands going up and down the stairs can still use the bannister. I'm noticing that having the decorations lower makes them less likely to be touched and pulled at by the aforementioned tiny hands.
I started with plain garland from Michaels and added Hobby Lobby shatterproof ornaments along with red and gold picks from JoAnn Fabric. 
Then I used two different kinds of clippings to add some depth and variety to the garland. 
 So there it is- the highlights of my Christmas decor for 2014!

I can't wait to host family in a few weeks and am looking forward to making some fun new holiday memories in our new home this year.

Happy Holidays!