Saturday, December 5, 2015

Oh Christmas Tree: DIY Potted Topiary Skinny Christmas Trees in Urns

It's that time of year again folks. The time of year you either love or hate... Christmastime! I for one love this time of year. From the decorations, the music, the food, the fun, the traditions with family and friends...I could go on and on ;). I just wish it all lasted a little bit longer and didn't seem so rushed!!

I'm guessing you're no Scrooge yourself if you're reading this post, and you just might like decorating for Christmas as much as I do. I've accumulated so many decorations over the years that it now takes me more than one day to fully deck out the house (don't judge ;). I really love the warm ambiance Christmas lights and trees create so much that I have several trees scattered about the house.

I decided (in July oddly enough) that I was going to try something new with our living room Christmas tree. As you may know I put an upcycled media cabinet on one side of the fireplace, and a new (but also upcycled) matching cabinet on the other side. This left me with no room to put our extremely wide tree in the corner. 

Now I could do some heavy lifting, or massive rearranging, but honestly I was over that tree. It was a lot of work putting that big ol' tree up (taking up almost an entire day) and it was so wide and so top heavy that it somehow ended up toppling over almost every year, breaking ornaments and scratching the floor. Funny story (well, now it is, not at the time) when I was about fifteen weeks pregnant that monstrous tree fell on top of me and as I struggled to lift it back up I wondered if Cory would come home from work hours later to find me trapped under our Christmas tree with ornaments tangled in my hair. Somehow, after what seemed like forever, I managed to push that beast back up to its rightful place, but not without envisioning myself as the poster child in a commercial for life alert.

Question? If a tree falls on you when you're pregnant, and no one is around to help you, does it get to stay? Heck no! My mind was made up after dealing with that monster for over a decade, it was time for a new Christmas tree. I looked at the space I had to work with and it came to me: I could put up two skinny trees in urns on either side of the fireplace. It would look unexpected and elegant at the same time. I was so excited I immediately looked up Christmas trees online and found a steal of a summer clearance deal on two 7 1/2 foot pencil thin trees. I can't quite remember exactly what I spent, $50ish sticks out in my mind. I know it wasn't much considering brand new tree prices (I'm such a cheapskate). If I could have gotton away with finding matching trees on Craigslist or at the thrift store that would have been my first choice, but that would have been like finding a needle in a haystack.

I then searched and searched for the perfect urns. If you have ever looked into buying semi-large urns, you know, those darn things are expensive. I ended up getting some nice ones for $20 a piece at an end of summer clearance sale at Home Depot.

I was super excited to finally get my urns because I didn't want to use them just for my Christmas trees. I planned to make them into multi-purpose, multi-seasonal decorations. My first project using the urns was my fall leaf tomato cage trees. These Christmas trees are my next undertaking. I also have some ideas brewing for future decor projects with these urns so look for those soon ;).

I had a few options on how to make my urns into bases for my Christmas trees. I could fill the base with rocks and stick the tree pole in the middle of the rocks and hope it was stable enough to hold the tree up but I no longer wished to play the toppling tree game. I could also pour cement into the urn and stick a pvc pipe in the middle to hold the pole straight and secure like Jaime at a well dressed life did. It worked out great for her wide tree so it should work out perfect for my skinny trees.

I decided to take it one step further and pour the cement into plastic pots (that would sit inside the urns) that I had stashed in the garage. This way I would be able to remove the Christmas tree base in case the cement/pipe got in the way of whatever future uses I had for the urns. I then went to Lowe's and bought a 1 1/2" diameter pvc pipe for $1.29 that was just big enough for my tree pole to slip into snugly. We also picked up a bag of concrete. I was now ready to make my new trees!

Potted Christmas Trees Supplies

  • 2 Urns
  • 2 Christmas trees
  • PVC pipe to slip your Christmas tree pole into
  • Concrete
  • Plastic pots
  • Garbage bags
  • various tools (level, saw, etc.)

The first thing I did was cut down the PVC pipe. I figured 9 inches in length so that the bottom branches would be just touching the top of the urn.

I planned on preparing the urn "bases" while it was warm outside but time got away from me (as it often does) and I had to put them together while it was cold outside. I set up my concrete mixing area in the garage and opened the door. I lined my plastic pots with garbage bags since they had drainage holes in them. I filled a watering can and grabbed a terra cotta pot to scoop out the concrete mix (yep found that in the garage).  I also brought out a level to make sure the pvc pipes were straight.

I followed the directions on the bag and in less than five minutes I had completed bases. Definitely an easy project, although a little messy. For sure wear a mask when mixing cement so you don't breathe in any dust and maybe gloves would be helpful (as you can see I did not wear gloves).

I let the cement dry for a couple of hours, cut the garbage bags away and then brought those puppies inside to see if they would hold the trees up. I put the bases inside the urns and since I was unable to find two of the same size plastic pot I had to slip a couple of flat rocks down the side of the smaller pot so it would not move at all when the tree was up.

They worked perfect! I could not be more pleased with how straight and stable my "homemade" bases hold these trees up. I snapped tons of pictures and it was hard to weed through them so I have a lot of after shots :). I could just sit in my cozy Christmas living room all day long!

I'm glad I purchased the 7 1/2 foot trees since with the added height of the bases they measure to be about 8 1/2 feet, just perfect for our 9 foot ceilings.

I really love how my homemade potted topiary Christmas trees turned out, it was very little effort for two elegant Christmas trees that I'm sure we'll enjoy for years to come!

Well I'm off to work on bathroom projects both here at our house and at the lower unit of the grey apartment building! Until the next post which may be Christmas or bathroom related, we shall see!


Thursday, November 26, 2015

Don't Fence Me In: Rustic Reclaimed Wood Trough Tabletop Centerpiece

Today I'm going to show you all a fifth grade woodworking project. Ha! Not really. But as I was working on this particular project that is totally how I felt. But hey, regardless of whether or not this is a school project a ten year old would do, I never got to do any cool woodworking stuff when I was a kid (so unfair, right?). When I was younger I was a girly girl, for sure, glittery pink unicorns oh my (some things never change ;). I was also in Girl Scouts for years but I don't remember us dabbling with wood and tools. I just remember doing tons of crafty projects, oh, and cookies, lots and lots of cookies...

Ok enough about my misspent youth ;). Today I'm giving you all a quick tutorial on how to make a rustic tabletop trough. I've wanted to make one for quite some time now, I was just waiting for the perfect wood to fall into my lap. A good amount of free fence pickets that look like barn wood became all mine as you know if you read my previous post on a DIY reclaimed wood frame on a builders grade mirror. So of course that would naturally be the wood I would use for my trough.

Cory had found me a wide wood piece that had been a part of the fence gate. I figured it would be perfect for the base/bottom of my trough. I trimmed it up so that the edges were flat. I hemmed and hawed about putting the frame of the trough over the base piece (covering it) or on top of it (letting the bottom wood show). In the end I decided I wanted a taller trough and it would look more like the farmhouse rustic look I was going for if I constructed the frame on top of the bottom piece of wood.

 I then cut two pickets to that same length for the sides. Then I cut two little end pieces to the width of the bottom piece of wood minus the longer side board end pieces so the little pieces essentially slipped in between the long pieces. I only did this because I wanted the ends of the long pieces to show next to the small pieces, again I was going for the most rustic look possible. My boards were by no means perfect since they not only had been outside in the elements for years giving them a slightly warped, not so straight and perfect look but I also have the cutting and measuring skills of a ten year old (just kidding ;) I'm getting the hang of it!).

Now I was on to construction. I hand nailed a couple nails to attach the long side pieces to the small end pieces. I had planned on just gluing the whole thing together with no nails because I wanted to keep it very rustic, that and I don't have a nail gun (it would make a great Christmas present ;) hint, hint, wink, wink) but I figured the nails would help hold the frame together and provide a little stability while the glue dried.

After hammering nails (which by the way made the wood look even more rustic when my sad, non-straight hand nailing skills chipped off some wood) it was on to gluing. I used liquid nails glue and frog tape (my new fave tape) to hold everything together.

 I put a thin bead of glue on all the connecting spots, pressed it all together and taped all over the place to keep the joints tight while drying. I flipped the trough over onto the top and placed some heavy objects on the base to further hold the wood together.

Throughout the entire process Cory voiced his doubts about the construction of my trough holding up. I did not let it faze me. The trough was not going to be holding boulders, or used as a toddler toy box, farm animals were not going to be eating out of it, it was purely for decoration. It was literally going to sit there and look pretty. I saw no need to make it hurricane resistant. I definitely appreciated his input but I was going for form over function. 

The true test to see if my amateur construction skills worked would be to see if my trough held together after the glue dried. I let the trough dry all day and then flipped it over. It held together! I took the tape off. It held together! I picked the trough up and set it on the table. It seemed very stable. I even tried to move the wood and it wasn't budging. Yay! It worked!

Here's some pics of the finished trough. I put in some mini pumpkins, a light up leaf garland I got for $1 at Walmart on clearance and some of my wax paper leaves to fill her up. I got my trough done just in time for Thanksgiving so I can use it as a centerpiece to decorate my Thanksgiving table :).

Since this is my last "fall" post I'll share with you all one of my other crafty fall projects, a stained and stenciled crate I used to hold a mum on the front porch :).

Obviously these pics were taken around Halloween, before the weather turned cold and before I killed that poor mum with my black thumb.

I also stenciled a North Pole crate for our elf on the shelf, Oso (yep, Jackson named him), for his arrival on our front porch on Thanksgiving night. We started the elf on the shelf tradition last year when Jackson was 2 1/2 and it really was fun stashing him in crazy places and positions and it added some magic to our holiday ;).

I used a couple of different sized circles and triangles I found in my stencils to make the compass since free handing a perfect circle is not one of my better talents.

I killed two birds with one stone with this crate by using it for Oso to show up in and for a Christmas decoration. I'll definitely be stashing it somewhere with maybe some greenery, ornaments and battery operated lights to add to my holiday decor.

Hope you all have a happy Thanksgiving with your family and friends!! XOXO!

A Christmas post that I have been planning since this past summer is up next!


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Mirror Mirror on the Wall: Easy DIY Reclaimed Wood Frame on a Builders Grade Mirror

I would love to tell you all a romantic story of how we were taking a lazy Sunday afternoon drive through the country to see the beautiful autumn foliage and just happened upon a farm having a barn sale with country treasures galore including the most awesome, rustic, chippy barn wood ever.

But that's not the case.

For this post on the continuation of my toddler son's/guest bath renovation I'm going to show you all how I framed out the builders grade mirror, for free, with fence pickets.

Yes, that's right. Fence pickets. Beat up, old fence pickets that were headed straight to the garbage or quite possibly a bonfire...

Lately we've been over at the apartments sprucing up the lower unit of the grey building. Oddly enough the tenants put in their notice about a week after I posted A Before and After Tour of the Lower Unit in the Grey Apartment Building. So Cory decided some minor painting and renovations should be done to freshen the place up. 

While we were there I couldn't help but notice the fence in the backyard. The fence is a project Cory has been meaning to do for a while but fences are kind of pricey so it has been put on the back burner while other more important projects get done first. The poor fence has more pickets missing every time we stop over. Quite a few were laying on the ground just begging me to take them and repurpose them into something great :).

So that's just what I did. I took a few home just to see if I could use them for something. The more I looked at them, the more I loved them. They looked like old rustic barn wood. The fence had been painted dark red at one time and was completely worn and chippy. 

I had been throwing around using some cedar wood (that the dogs had chewed on) from Jackson's playset as a frame for the bathroom mirror. I also wanted to whitewash it so it would flow in the bathroom. I was just waiting for Cory to tear off a couple more long pieces that needed to also be replaced. But now that I had these awesome fence pickets I need not wait anymore.

I brought up a short piece and held it up to the mirror. It looked to be a good size for the job and was even more worn and rustic looking than the wood from the playset. Yay! So I immediately got to work planning my mirror frame.

Before I could do anything with the frame I had to clean the dirty wood since I didn't want any dirt, pieces of wood or paint chips anywhere in the bathroom (or my home, for that matter). I took a bunch of pickets outside to the patio table. I used a tupperware container of warm water with dawn dish soap and a scrub brush to scrub the boards clean of all the dirt and loose wood and paint. After scrubbing I rinsed the pickets with a bucket of water and laid them out flat to dry in the sun.

Now that I had clean pickets I started measuring and planning out my mirror frame. Since I'm such a novice at woodworking of any kind, I drew out my plans :).

I decided to go with a butt joint since not only is it the easiest to do (beginner logic at it's best here ;) but I thought it would look the most rustic of all the different joints. I cut two pickets down to 37" and two down to 35 1/2". I'm proud to say I used the miter saw all by my lonesome while Cory was at work and didn't mess up at all on any measurements or cutting, and I still have all my fingers (totally  joking, safety first guys)!

I did a dry fit and taped the pickets up on the mirror to see how it would look. They looked pretty darn good just the way they were. And yes, that is my son playing in the sink with about 25 owl cups (the things you'll let your kids do to get some work done ;).

I white washed a small sample piece of wood along with trying a couple of new techniques out, but in the end I decided to just go with the chippy red barn wood look that the pickets already had (someday I'll show you all the techniques I tried ;). The barn wood look flowed quite nice since I have cherry picture frames and a cherry wood etagere type shelving unit in the bathroom. I used the clear coat from my cabinet transformations kit to seal the wood and prevent any pieces of wood from coming off that I might have missed while scouring the pickets clean.

I then debated on how to attach the wood to the mirror. I thought about gluing them but I had no idea which glue was the best for this project and some of the pickets were slightly warped. Then Cory suggested velcro. Of course!! I can't believe I didn't think of that! That completely solved all my "attachment" problems plus I still had a bunch left over from my DIY storage ottoman from a thrifted end table

I gathered up my supplies: pickets, velcro and scissors and got to work putting the velcro on the mirror and then matching it with the pickets. This part of the project couldn't have been any easier! The pickets were very lightweight so I have no fear of them falling off the mirror.

I simply pressed the board to the mirror to attach and if need be I can pull it off at any time. Easy peasy.

After I was done, I decided that one of the boards didn't look quite right, it was really warped and stuck out in all the wrong places. So thankfully (since I used velcro, woo hoo!) I was able to just pull it off, re use the velcro from the bad piece and put up a replacement piece.

Here's the finished look. I just love the mixture of rustic and traditional. 

Here's a couple of close ups to show the awesome chippy, rustic, barn wood look of the fence pickets.

Obviously my mirror cleaning skills leave a tad bit to be desired...But ignore that and check out the fabulous wood grain!!

For this project I spent a grand total of $0. I used reclaimed fence pickets, velcro I had stashed for projects such as this and poly that I already had to seal the wood. I think my fave thing about this wood frame is that it's removable. If we decide we want to change up the look to be more traditional we can just pull the wood off, no harm, no foul.

I still have another project up my sleeve for this bathroom before she's finished so look for that soon!!

Up next, a crafty Thanksgiving, or well pretty much anytime, decor project ;)


Friday, October 30, 2015

Take Out the Trash: DIY Toddler Sized Wheeled Trash Can and Garbage Man Costume

I'm continuing with the short break from the owl bathroom renovation to bring you guys a cute DIY Halloween post. It's a little outside of my realm of decorating and renovating but it's a tutorial I felt I needed to do for all those parents and grandparents of toddlers who love garbage trucks.

Ha, yes, I will admit my son loves all things garbage truck related. As soon as the loud, clunky garbage truck can be heard on the street, Jackson is off to peer through the window or to go outside (weather and attire permitting) to see. Our daily activities are jam packed with his numerous garbage truck toys and watching garbage trucks on you tube. 

Since Jackson is three he is old enough to pick out his own Halloween costume. It was no surprise to me when he immediately said he wanted to be a garbage man. Normally I'd do a short online search for a costume, find the cheapest and cutest one, spend $15 or so, and be done. Quick and simple.

Not this time. My search revealed nothing, not one costume for sale anywhere. Apparently garbage men don't rate in a world where superheroes, firefighters and police men are saving the day. What I did find though were pictures of toddlers in homemade garbage men (and garbage truck) costumes.

Ok, so I guess I had to make Jackson's garbage man costume. It looked pretty easy. Most of the pictures of toddler garbage men were wearing jeans and a t-shirt, donning safety vests and toting pint sized garbage cans on wheels. No problem, I thought, I'd just buy a safety vest and a little garbage can on wheels. The safety vest was easily found and cheap, I found one on eBay for $5 shipped. I checked that off the list.

The garbage can was another story. Who would've thought that kid sized trash cans on wheels don't exist (except in China, for a ludacris amount of money). There has got to be an easy way to make one, I thought. A bunch of kiddos out there had wheeled trash cans with their costumes so maybe there was a tutorial or something on how to do it. No, not a single one. So I came up with my own plan, that I asked Cory to help execute.

This was my plan: I figured we could buy a small trash can with a flip lid, drill holes on both bottom sides, slide a metal rod through and attach plastic grill wheels to the rod. Cory had his doubts, especially when we were in Menards and I was looking for the supplies we needed, but I figured it would work out perfect!

I picked up a 7.5 gallon flip lid trash can at Walmart for $9. Jackson really likes Waste Management so I spray painted the can green and bought some inexpensive stickers off eBay to decorate it. I knew this garbage can would turn into a toy he would play with for years, and he could help take out the trash with it ;), so I wanted it to be unique and personal.

I had thought we could just pull the wheels off of a gas grill that a tenant left at one of the apartments but after Cory tried every way possible (even kicking the poor forgotten grill) he decided those wheels were there to stay. So I purchased inexpensive grill replacement wheels for $3.99 each (which I later spray painted black for a more authentic look). I then bought a threaded metal rod for 79 cents. Using Cory's expertise we also bought 8 washers and 4 nuts to make the wheels spin and to keep them in place. Here's the broken down supply list:

Toddler Sized Garbage Can on Wheels Supplies

  • small (child size) trash can, I used a 7.5 gallon touch flip lid
  • 2 grill replacement wheels
  • threaded metal rod
  • 8 washers (2 slightly smaller than the other 6)
  • 2 regular nuts
  • 2 neoprene nuts

Cory put together the trash can while I was at work so I have no pictures of the process. However I can explain it and show you after pics :).

Cory wanted the rod, once installed, to be as close to the outside of the can as possible so that Jackson could tote around real garbage later without it getting stuck in the rod. This is totally a personal preference and you can put the wheels anywhere you want to make your can look more authentic. 

He measured in and up on both sides and drilled holes slightly larger than the size of the rod so it could slip through. Then he measured the width of the can, the wheels and all of the nuts and washers to come up with length he needed to cut the rod. He used a pneumatic cutting tool to cut the rod (you can also use a hack saw or an angle grinder to do this).

Then he slipped the rod into the can and started the wheel assembly. First he slipped two washers, one larger and then one slightly smaller onto the rod against the can, then he screwed on one regular nut followed by one washer, then the wheel was slipped on followed by one more washer and finished with screwing the neoprene nut on. 

Cory said doubling up on the washers may have been overkill but since Jackson is a destructive 3 year old he wanted to give it as much room to move as possible.

To complete his garbage man costume I purchased a few garbage related patches and sewed them onto the shirt sleeves. I also found a Jackson patch that I sewed onto the safety vest. We got lucky and borrowed a garbage man hat from my Dad (I did see tons of Waste Management hats on eBay if you're not that lucky) who lives out in Arizona, and coincidentally is a garbage man. I know what you're thinking ;) but really we never encouraged Jackson's love for garbage trucks even though my Dad happens to be a garbage man. Jackson's fondness of garbage trucks came as an unexpected, pleasant surprise and only made us wish more that my parents still lived in town so Jackson could see his garbage man Grandpa at work.

Here's some pictures of the finished costume. I had to bribe Jackson with candy so he would let me take them ;).

On a side note (and an even crazier coincidence) our garbage man happened to work with my Dad before my parents moved 5 years ago. He loves seeing Jackson and tells us hilarious stories about working alongside my Dad. He's also informed us that there are tons of kids out there that love garbage trucks and come running outside to see him and his truck. He lets Jackson throw garbage into the back of the truck and he smashes the garbage so Jackson can see the truck at work.

After the Halloween parade at Jackson's school we just happened to be taking the above pictures of Jackson in his costume when the garbage man stopped by. Of course we raced outside to see him and show him Jackson's costume :).

How awesome is our garbage man? We couldn't have asked for a better garbage man to have with Jackson loving garbage trucks so much!

Jackson literally jumped for joy when he saw that his little garbage can fit on the truck!

Seriously, how many garbage men would let a kid smash the garbage? I'm pretty sure our garbage man made Jackson's day :)!

I know this hasn't been a typical post from me but I just had to do this DIY Halloween toddler garbage man tutorial because, well, there aren't any out there in Internet land. Or at least there aren't any tutorials on how to make a toddler sized trash can on wheels. Hopefully I can help out at least one parent or grandparent of a garbage truck obsessed kid to make their child's day with their very own garbage can. I can certainly attest that Jackson loves his trash can :).

Hope you all have a safe and happy Halloween! More on the bathroom reno is up next. I cannot wait to show you all :)!


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