Thursday, March 17, 2011

DIY Spring Decoration

Since we've moved to a house that has a mantel above the fireplace, I've been having fun figuring out how to decorate it for holidays.  The Valentine's decor was taken down a while ago and I've just finished decorating it for spring!  Well, maybe.  I keep tweaking it.  But here's what I have so far.

I wanted to do something new for Easter, mainly because I didn't have a mantel before and didn't have anything that seemed to fit it well.  I also didn't want to spend a lot of money, if any at all.  So, I dug into what I had, repurposed a few things, made a couple small purchases, and ended up with this little hybrid of my "egg collection" and some real, live grass!

 Originally I wanted to get some fake grass, but dang, that stuff is expensive.  So, instead I looked around the house for some long, narrow containers to use as planters.  I landed on these two drawer organizer things I had gotten at a garage sale for $0.50 cents last summer.  I filled them with potting soil and grass seed from the garage, watered them, set them in the window sill, and a week later I had grass.  Once it sprouted, it really grew fast!

 I took some green construction paper from my studio and folded it to make these covers to hide the ugly manilla containers.

Then I rolled up some masking tape into loops and used it to stick some of this miniature white fence along the front. You can find this at craft stores or any store where they have little village decorations.  I had some on hand from my Department 56 stuff (and more from my mom, who freelances for Dept 56 painting buildings!).

 The only thing I purchased brand new was a box of these feather butterflies.  I had aspirations to make a garland of butterflies that didn't work out quite as well as planned...well, it's still in the works.  I got a package of them for 40% off with a Michael's coupon. I wrapped the wire around a wood skewer to get a "spring" shape, and shorten the wire without having to cut it, and stuck 'em in the grass.

 The letters I made out of foam core.  I found an image of grass using Google Images, masked out the letters in Photoshop, printed them on sticky-back label paper, slapped it on a piece of foam core, and cut them out with an X-acto knife.  Then I spray painted some bamboo skewers silver, stuck the pointy ends into the foam core, and trimmed them to the height I wanted.  Voila! Free but effective.  (Well, free because I already had this stuff around)

 I've never really found a great way to display my egg collection, until this year.  They looked so underwhelming, tiny and short, along the long, horizontal mantel. But, the wheels began spinning when my 3 year old broke apart one of my old Junk Mail Gems craft show display pieces. Good ideas can come from breaking stuff!  I noticed that the old brass candlesticks that I had painted silver, worked perfectly to hold an egg and give it height on a pedestal.  So, I went to work recycling my already recycled displays, giving the candlesticks a fresh coat of silver paint, and using them to hold my eggs.

I tend to get a little spray-happy with my silver paint.  I've used it to bring so many dated, brass decor items into this century.  I didn't stop at the candlesticks...I picked up 4 little ceramic rabbits at the thrift store for $0.39 cents each, and painted them as well.  I think my new bionic bunnies add a little extra Easter-y flare without being too cheesy and literal.

 Overall I'm pretty happy with it...not bad for about $7!  The candle sticks (and 1 bud vase) really helped the little eggs fill the space both vertically and horizontally, and I love having something "alive" as part of the decoration.  Spraying all of the pieces silver helped tie all of the different silhouettes together.

I'll probably re-position things a million times between now and Easter, but then that's half the fun.  I'm pretty sure my husband thinks I'm crazy when he sees me fiddling with my eggs AGAIN.  But, hey, that's the price you pay when you marry an artist and designer.  The wall sculpture above it I actually made 7 or 8 years ago for our living room (copying one that I saw for hundreds of dollars at a furniture store)'s the color scheme of our carpet.  But, it matches well with the spring colors!

We still have over a month until Easter, but spring starts in just a few days!  It's not too late to get out an interesting container and plant your own green grass...see what you can come up with for a little "live" decor!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Easter Eggs that "WOW!"

 I've got the spring itch really bad this year.  So bad that a couple days ago I planted some grass seed in a little planter in hopes of seeing some green soon.  Well, okay, I figured it might be a cool "live" Easter decoration...I'll post pics if it turns out.  Maybe it's the fact that we've had record snowfall this year, or because we've barely had any above-freezing stretches all winter...or maybe it's because we just moved to a lake and I am dying to see rippling water overtake the snow and ice.  Whatever the reason, I've already put out my Easter decorations even though it's not until the end of April!

So, in an effort to get you all thinking warm, green thoughts of spring and Easter, I'm posting some cool Easter egg decorating techniques today!

Silk Tie Eggs
This looks like such an awesome technique, I can't wait to try it!  It utilizes silk ties, so it's a great way to clean the unwanted ties out the closets of the men in your life, or a fun thing to shop for the next time you go to the thrift store.  Last time I was at Goodwill I picked up several with "silver" tags, which were 50% off that day, and now I'm counting down until egg coloring time! I'll be sure to post photos of my process and let you know if it works.

After coming across this on the web, I thought I'd surf a little more and see what other unique egg decorating ideas I could find.  Here are a few that stood out...

Onion-Dyed Nature Eggs

While you're raiding the closet for ties, grab an old pair of nylons and try these great eggs too!  The link says to use onion skins and boil the eggs for 2 hours to get this look.  I wonder if you could do the same with regular egg dye?  I was wondering how I'd find leaves like this in Minnesota, being that everything green is still buried under feet of snow.  But, I do have a little fern in the house I might try.

Lace Eggs
Leave it to Martha Stewart to come up with some beautiful Easter eggs.  Check out her lace eggs here. Pretty!!

Marbled Eggs
 My mom always used to make these really pretty marbled eggs with special dye that came in little glass bottles with rabbit-head-shaped caps on them.  She'd fill a glass bowl with water, then drip the dye into the water.  The dye floated on top, and she'd swirl the egg around while lowering it, then pull it out.  The dye was kindof oily and sticky.  They seem to have disappeared from the market...she's been unable to find them and after Googling it, it seems that many other people are having the same problem.  But, I was able to find this tutorial to make them yourself with ingredients on hand.  So, Mom, give this one a try and let me know how it turns out!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Fort

As a kid, the house itself, albeit overrun by toys, is a grown-up thing.  The shiniest stuff is always breakable and out of reach. The sink requires a step stool to reach.  The corners of the counters and tables are right at head-banging level.  The doorknobs can lock, but Mom and Dad have a secret key to get any of them open.  So, your only escape from the world of adults is your bedroom...UNLESS, of course, you have a super awesome, secret fort!!

We recently moved, and within a few days of moving in my husband and I noticed that the bottom shelf of one of the built-in shelf units downstairs had a curtain in the back instead of wood.  Upon further investigation, we discovered that this was the entrance to a super-secret fort.  With a spiral staircase, we didn't think to look for a closet underneath like you might with regular stairs.

We waited about a week or so before we unveiled the fort to Sammy, our 3 year old.  I wanted to get in there and clean it up, paint it, and make it incredibly awesome for him...or at least give him a jumping-off point to give it his own awesome touch.

It was all pretty brown and dingy, so I took some colorful paint left-over from various home painting projects to brighten it up.  This included the underside of the steps too, of course, and stripes on the vertical ribbed paneling.
 I ran some rope lights around the inside, and plugged them into a little dimmer switch controller, so Sammy could easily turn them on and off. I also hung a couple battery powered push lights on the walls.

 During a trip to the fabric store I came across a package of wall "stickers"...little trucks, airplanes, and trains with wallpaper paste on the back.  I scattered these around the inside as well.
 You can see above that I left a rectangle of the wood un-painted on one step.  This spot holds the history of the fort, hand-written with pencil by the kids who came before us.  Here you can find out who originally built the fort, who added decorations, who "was here" on various dates, who painted their toenails in the fort, and even a record of who farted in the fort.  Now how could I have painted over that? We'll add our own history to this little record!

 I wanted to reveal the fort to Sammy through a game of hide-and-seek, one of his favorite games that we play almost daily.  He counted with Daddy while Mommy hid, in the fort of course.  Let's just say he was pretty excited to find Mommy in this hiding spot of all hiding spots!

Not long after the reveal of the fort, we took a trip to one of Sammy's favorite stores, Choo Choo Bob's Train Store.  They had a wall of posters for $1.50 so I let him pick one to hang on his fort wall.  Without hesitation he chose this one (above), of "Engineer Emily" from the Choo Choo Bob Show.  As his mom, I'm pretty happy with his choice for his first girl poster.

This fort also has a secret 2nd entrance, under the steps in the's open but you'd never think to look there if you were coming down the stairs.

Toby LOVES to play in the fort as well.  For a little guy who isn't quite walking yet, it's pretty exciting to have something so cool that is accessible by crawling!

I'd still like to make a new curtain that blends in more with the shelf to make it even more secret, and maybe add a shelf or two inside for toys.  But, this industrial designer Mommy will try her hardest to refrain from doing too much, so that my boys can do what THEY want with the fort as they get older! (As long as they don't take girlfriends in there!)


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