Ok, we have a fun little craft for you guys, complete with an easy how-to, and some festive photos.
But first of all, we finally got our tree decorated this weekend…
We’ve shared a bunch of different trees with you guys over the years, and each year it has been fun to switch a few things up with a new “theme” like classic silver and white, citrus inspired lemons and real dried oranges, pastel pink and soft green with silver bows, crafty paint strip ornaments and ribbons, and a fun white to pink to to red gradient tree from last year.
But this year there was a new theme in town: family. We just wanted to fill our tree with meaningful ornaments. Things that were one of a kind, homemade, personalized, given to us by someone special, and otherwise memorable to us. It was actually the first year that we had enough to fill a big tree (we usually relegate them to a smaller tabletop tree), which was good timing since we have a big girl around who’s really into helping these days.
And since handmade ornaments were a big part of the mix, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to try my hand at making three dozen new ones, all with a woodsy yet colorful spin.
The first step was trudging around outside looking for a fallen branch that was about 3″ in diameter. After finding it and yelling “eureka” (true story) I brought it into the garage and fired up the miter saw (picture me grinning like a fool while whispering “don’t cut your fingers off”). It was actually pretty simple to keep the blade straight and make a bunch of vertical cuts, so I was able to slice the whole branch up to make nearly three dozen little round slices.
One half of the branch was a little more gnarled on the inside than the other, so it was funny that around half of them had cool weathered holes in the middle while the others were smoother and less holey. The next step was letting them sit/dry out for a while (I actually made these slices about two weeks ago) because I didn’t want to paint or seal damp wood for fear that it would become a crumbly rotten mess. So if you don’t have time to do that, maybe try hunting down pre-cut wood slices, or see if there’s some method for speed-drying them (maybe sitting them in a box of rice or something?).
Late last week I couldn’t stand waiting anymore, so I sanded them all just to make them extra smooth, and finally broke out three paint pens. I tried my hand at three different designs. We’ll call the one on the left “arrow” (I started by drawing the one in the middle and then just added two others flanking it). The one in the middle can be called “fraction” (I just made a wide-ish pizza slice on each one and colored it in). And the one on the right can go by “dipped” (I experimented with thinner or thicker “dippings” on different angles, just to change things up).
I really liked the idea of letting a lot of the wood grain show through (as opposed to painting or coloring the entire front) but the little pop of color is really fun – and super simple. As for the exact paint pens I used, I had luck with a red and green Sharpie paint pen, and a turquoise Elmer’s Painters pen (they’re a few bucks each at places like Michael’s or JoAnn).
About twenty minutes later, I had this collection of lovelies.
Then I took them outside and said “remember when you guys lived out here?” and gave them a good spray coat of Aileen’s Gloss Finish Sealer (on the front and the sides, and later on the back when they were dry). Sealing wood slices can help to keep them from flaking and it also gives them a nice little polished look, which is a cool juxtaposition to their rugged edges and gnarled centers.
After they had fully dried for 24 hours out in the garage, I brought them back in and drilled tiny pilot holes into the top of each one (I strategically chose what part should be the top so all the arrows would be straight, but some of the fractions and dipped ones would be slightly off-kilter since I liked the interest that those angles would bring to the tree). Then it was as simple as sticking eye-hooks into each of those pre-drilled pilot holes at the top and screwing them by hand.
I already had some old metal ornament hooks to slip through those eye-hooks, so that was all they needed to finally find their way onto the tree.
I think the red ones are my favorite. They really pop with the green background. And the total cost for three dozen wood slice ornaments = $11, which breaks down to around 30 cents each (that total includes all three paint pens, the spray sealer, and the eye hooks). Psst- You can check out a bunch of other wood slice ornaments here.
These new guys are in good company with a bunch of other ornaments that we’ve made over the years (like the green zebra you can see in the top right of that shot above) so that gives us the warm fuzzies. In fact, it’s probably a good time to toss out some links to those other homemade ornaments:
- Here are some faux antler ornaments along with a bunch of colorful “ceramic” animals (and some swirl-painted glass bulbs) from 2011
- Here are a few “snow” covered and feather filled glass ornaments from 2008
- Here are some real dried orange slice ornamets from 2009
- Here are a few baby’s first Christmas ornaments from 2010 (with Clara’s silhouette and hand prints on them)
Oh and a bunch of people saw a peek at the tree on Instagram and Facebook before it was decorated, noticed that it was new, and asked if it was real and where we got it (we got it up about a week before we added ornaments and just gazed at it naked for a while. The tree was naked. We were fully clothed. Except for Burger).
Anyway, back to where we got the tree. It was a hand-me-down from my mom (the box is long gone and we didn’t see any brand markings on it though – so if anyone has something similar and knows the brand we’d love that info to pass along) and we’re completely enamored with it. In fact, we’ve already donated our old tree, which we faithfully enjoyed since 2008. It’s hard to tell in photos, but this one is pretty real looking and sort of droopy-in-a-good-way (it’s feathery on the ends, which makes for a nice effect). Especially all lit up in that bay window of ours. Just ignore the blue trim – I’m waiting for Santa to come paint that for me.
But back to the decorating process. It was the first year that Clara had a real active interest in helping us the entire time, and she was even able to hang the breakable ornaments since she’s a careful steady-handed gal (zero ornaments were harmed in the making of this tree, although I did have about five mini-heart attacks, but I was so glad I let the bean do her thing in the end).
It pretty much worked out to be broken down into three rough zones. Clara took the bottom, I took the middle, and John got the top thanks to his long legs and added wingspan.
As for what went where, it was really just a free-for-all. I placed all of the ornaments out on a little white pedestal table off to the side of the tree, and we all just took turns grabbing whichever one caught our eye. We taught Clara just to do one per branch, but that was really the only direction we gave her – along with “don’t forget the sides and the back.” As we hung them, Clara would ask us where each one came from, so we had fun telling her about one that came from our honeymoon, one that we got in Hawaii with her, a few that were made by readers and given to us last year during our book tour, some that we had made in past years, some that were given to us by family members, etc.
I worried I’d forget a bunch of their origins, but when the entire table had been cleared and the whole tree was full, I don’t think there was a single ornament origin that we couldn’t recall. It’s funny how that stuff sticks with you.
And someone was VERY PROUD of herself.
Here she is posing in front of “her tree.”
And here’s the tree at night in all of its reflecting-in-the-bay-windows glory. The funny thing is that the old owners of the house must have put their tree right in this spot when they lived here. I never would have known that except when we moved in and I redid the floors, I remember finding a bunch of faux pine needles in that corner when I swept things up.
Oh and here’s the 411 on those festive reindeer – they were such an easy project back in 2011. And the tree skirt is just two faux sheepskin rugs from Ikea that we steal from other places in the house and shove under there each December.
So there you have it. A tree without a theme, except for a sweet memorable/handmade hodge-podge. Complete with a tiny tin hamburger.
What are your trees looking like this year? Any fun themes or color schemes? Do you go real or faux with them? Did anyone else make any ornaments? I’d love to get Clara in on the fun next year, so I’m already thinking about some baked ones (either clay or even gingerbread ones) that we could seal/paint/hang together. Could be fun…
Psst – You can peruse a ton of other holiday projects right here.
Update – Wanna know where we got something in our house or what paint color we used? Just click on this button:
Update Number 2: Plus you can check out all of our favorite holiday decor finds here – many of which are under $15!