Cedar Reindeer Rescue

The At the end of August I drove past a number of items that had been placed curbside.

I saw potential in several pieces, including the two cedar reindeer.

They are similar but not an exact match. Even the wood is different colours. And those fuzzy pink noses! A cross between Rudolph and Pinocchio.

I used nail polish remover to remove the pink noses and the plastic neck ribbons. I also removed the plastic eyes which had been glued on crudely, and one of which was missing.

Then I watered down some white latex paint and gave them a quick whitewash. The cedar was untreated, so it absorbed almost all of the wash in some spots, which added to the rustic, country look.

The whitewash made them look a tad more like a matching pair.

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Nature’s Spider Repellants: Horse Chestnuts

It’s autumn and with the crisp, fresh air and trick-or-treaters comes the annual invasion of spiders into our homes.

The link between indoor insecticides and blood cancers in children reported by the Harvard School of Public Health in 2015  should be of concern to us all.  of

I understand that spiders are an extremely beneficial insect, but if I’m footing the bills I want to have some say over roommates. And since infancy I’ve had a major aversion to spiders.

Now, there is always the catch-and-release approach, or the tissue-to-toilet disposal method, but there is a way to vastly diminish the number of spiders in our homes without either chemicals or confrontation.

Simply place a few Horse Chestnuts at the foot of door jams on doors leading outside and on windowsills and you should see far fewer, if any spiders. Be sure to replace them each autumn.

The good news is that if you know someone who has a Horse Chestnut tree, they’ll likely welcome you to take all you want. They present challenges.

The outer shell usually opens and releases the chestnut shortly after it falls to the ground and then quickly breaks down. But until then they are spiky and a bit dangerous for children and pets galloping around the yard..

The chestnuts themselves are very slippery – especially when wet – and present their own potential hazards on a busy lawn or walkway.

Don’t get me wrong. The trees are worth it. They are spectacular to look at and the spikes of scented blossoms in May are dizzyingly lovely.

A friend’s sixth grader has to come up with something he can make and sell each year at his school’s Christmas craft fair. In an effort to get him to consider selling Horse Chestnuts I picked a sack full.

Then I scrounged around the house for materials to create this display.

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Popcorn Tin to Seasonal Porch Decor

I have seen dozens of these metal tubs – which were either popcorn tubs or garbage cans next to a child’s desk.  But their junking prospects are often diminished by appearances that they have been receptacles for vomit or dirty diapers.  But this one, rescued from a neighbour’s garbage (not even the metal recycling pin – gasp!) was spotless, and so it received a stay of execution.

The minute I got it home I applied a coat of Rustoleum red spray paint. The next day it got another coat. Then the rain came. And those who are familiar with the south west coast of Canada will understand when I say it rained for 30 days and 30 nights. And as I only spray paint outdoors, it was forgotten.

Christmas was just around the corner and a friend asked for something seasonal to put on her porch for her open house. A tub full of greenery was perfect: fast and easy. I pulled out the now red popcorn tub and decoupaged to its front the top of an old Christmas card.  The rains I mentioned had been accompanied by very strong  winds and the entire region was littered with fir boughs.

 The cost was $0 (the paint was on hand)

 

Window Blind Weight Gift Tags

A few months ago a neighbour put a stack of old vertical blinds on the curb – and left them there for several days of rain (and mud). At that point no one would take them for blinds, so I figured fair game. I took a few strips of the blind (still rolled up in my studio waiting for inspiration to strike). I also took a handful of the metal weights. They just screamed ‘altered tags’

I washed and dried them, and then applied a couple of coats of gesso to each side. Then I painted each on both sides.

While the paint was drying I downloaded Victorian Christmas images. When the paint was thoroughly dry I applied a good coat of gel medium to the printed side of the paper then applied it face down to the painted weight.

When the transfer was completely dry (ideally 24 hours), I rubbed the paper off using my wet fingers. When that process was finished and dried I sprayed each with a coat of polyurethane and then embellished each tag with fabric scraps, buttons, keys, imitation pearls, etc.

The “Compliments of the Seasons” text was applied differently. I tea dyed these pages and I found that they didn’t transfer as well, so I reprinted the images but not reversed (which one would do for the gel medium transfer method), and instead I decoupaged the paper onto the tags. Otherwise, the method was exactly the same.

A number of people have asked me if they could use these for tree decorations.  They are quite a bit heavier than the average Christmas ornament, but it depends on the tree and the strength of its branches. They look absolutely smashing atop a wrapped gift or tied to the neck of a bottle of wine or herbed vinegar.

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Christmas Bells

I’ve been making some holiday wreaths and door hangers to give as gifts to neighbours and friends.  I live out an area where there is an abundance of free greenery (without stripping the neighbours’ trees).  (I’m conscientious about harvesting – I only take a little from each plant).

I’ve been amazed at what I can make from material on hand. In particular, Christmas bells.  Sometimes a little gesso or paint  was required, some wire, twine or ribbon to attach them. But check out the variety of Christmas bells I was able to make in an afternoon.  My uncle lives in a seniors complex and I’m going to take some wreath, door hangers and jars of my homemade cranberry sauce for him to give to the ladies in his complex who have been wearing a path to his door bearing cards and gifts.

Recently I posted a wreath I made from a tire rim I picked up from the side of the road. One of the features of it was little bells at the top made from little peat pots sitting idle on my potting bench.

  It cost me nothing to make this, but I added the trumpet that I used as fun ivy planter in the summer.

I want to keep the trumpet, so I am going to take it off, add a bit more greenery and add it to the “Uncle” pile.

A pair of rusty, paint-splattered cheesegraters hanging from a scrap plaid flannel bow make a rustic hanger on a fun neighbour’s fence.

A couple of years ago I rescued a food grinder and used the cups as planters in a wine holder (see junk gardening).  They are bell shaped, and after a couple of years in the garden sporting pretty rust.  And look wonderful hanging from a burlap bow on another neighbour’s  gate.

 

When I took my batteries to the local recycling depot recently, I noticed they have a bin where people can drop off lightbulbs.  Note to self: source of extra burnt out lightbulbs for my tree ornaments.  I noticed that some of them have a bell-like shape.

I put then into empty toilet paper rolls to hold them and then gave them a couple of coats of homemade white chalkpaint.

   when the base was wet with paint, I wrapped a strip of scrap lace around it. It acted like glue. When everything was dry I used some scrap wire to attach it to the base of a bow made from scrap white cotton and attached to an assortment of seasonal greens and holly berries.

  My uncle has a new neighbor who’s door is currently unadorned. Not for long.

Also on my potting bench is a stack of small terracotta pots. I dabbled some white paint onto a couple of them. You don’t always have to sand paint off an item to create a distressed look: on a porous item like terracotta, a light coat with missed spots does a decent job.

I used jute to hang these together and to hang a little bell inside each.

  It was waay too sunny  outside when I took this photo of the bells attached to a pinecone wreath.

  My followers may remember the light fixture I repurposed as a pretty birdfeeder smorgasbord last spring.  I have a new use in mind for the base, and lo and behold the glass shades are beautifully bell-shaped.

  I have some spare vintage coffee spoons that I hung inside each shade as a clanger.

then I used strips of torn scrap cotton (an old bed sheet) to attach the bells to a porch wreath I already have.

These would also make pretty wedding bells.

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Christmas Thyme

Included in a shelf lot recently purchased at auction was a plain jane but working chime wall clock.

Given the time of year I wanted to redo it in a manner that would contribute to seasonal décor but would also work for the rest of the year.

My friend Cindy has commented several times recently that everything I paint is white.  Wanting to avoid finding myself in a rut I reached for a tin of green latex paint that I got from my municipality’s paint exchange program (people can drop off their leftover paint to keep it out of landfills, and members of the community can take paint for free. The only drawback is that one is limited to the colours and types of paint on hand. If you like white latex, as I do, you’re golden. But for this Christmas clock I grabbed a tin of hunter green and a box of plaster of paris and made some homemade chalkpaint (2/3 paint to 1/3 plaster of paris: stir extremely well). But I wanted more depth, so to give it layers of colour I did put on a good coat of white first.

A folk artist friend that the trick to mimicking the look of layers of paint that have been applied years apart is time. When we’re working on a project we can’t wait 10 years to make sure the bottom layers are well cured, but even 24 to 48 hours makes a nice difference in the end result.

After letting the top coats cure for a couple of days I distressed the newly-applied paint using the dull edge of a butter knife on key edges, the edge of a scraper on finer edges, a screwdriver and hammer to create the impression of naturally occurring dents and holes in the paint and finally with steel wool (starting with coarse and moving to fine). Then a couple of coats of Minwax clear wax to give that distressed paint job a silky touch.

 

I gave the pendulum a couple coats of white gesso and then used the gel medium transfer method to apply the soft image of an angel. I then attached a small wreath made from lightweight wire and sprigs of fresh thyme that will dry and look whimsical.

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Peace of Junk

It may be the biggest shopping season of the year, but the junk material repurposed into these Christmas vignettes didn’t cost a cent.

 

The salvaged wood that the Peace sign is made from was the bannister of the outside of a commercial building that was demolished.

The star at the top of the sign is made from a collection of antique schoolroom rulers: a couple of which I’ve had since childhood.

The candle stand is a vintage lawn sprinkler that I rescued from the top of a garbage pile at a local residential demolition site.

Candle Holder from Vintage Lawn Sprinkler

The greenery and candle holder is an antique colander that I have had for years but stopped cooking with because it was getting chipped.

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The lantern was a garden lantern, but I rescued it from a neighbour’s curb.

A bundle of wire sitting in my storage area for ages (origin unknown) inspired this simple wreath.

Candle holder from repurposed rusty lamp base

I just wrapped a scrap of burlap around the light socket, strung some pine cones into a wreath with lightweight wire and dropped it over the burlap, then hot glued the bottom of a red candle to hold it in place.

The wreath is simply some greenery and dried rosehips from the garden tied to a coil of rusty wire.

Simple but Christmassy

 

Sharing the spirit of the season:

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Creating Christmas

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Christmas Windows

Many years ago I spent a romantic Christmas in Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario. The historic town is full of heritage buildings, all classically decorated for the holidays.

Star of Wonder

Decorations extended to the windows, many of which bore lighted candles at night. Driving through the streets of the town at night it was easy to forget you were in a motor vehicle and instead believe you were in a horse-drawn carriage in a pre-electric time.

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Across the western world we decorate porches and decks, staircases, trees, mantles and tables… and inspired by the windows in Leighton House, the bed and breakfast where I stayed, I have begun decorating windows. Not like the big shop windows, but quaint, rustic decorations.

Nursery Window

 

Vintage toys

Farmhouse Kitchen Window (vintage pudding bowls stuffed with greenery and candles).

Shuttered Window

antique car horn with seasonal greens clipped from the garden

seasonal garden greens and antique car horn

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