Holiday & Entertaining

“Can We Make It Like The Home Alone House?”

Psst- Today’s a big day for us. Assuming the bun cooperates, we get to find out what the baby is, and hope to share that news with you guys by Friday. We’re also doing some showhouse kitchen selections and working on the Children’s Hospital, so we’ll be running around, but will try to drop in on comments as often as we can!

But back to the Home Alone house. That was Clara’s quote about decorating the outside of our house for Christmas. She loves “Kevin and Bros” as she calls them (yes, Buzz = Bros to her), and has even picked up that they have a similar type of house to ours – albeit a ton bigger and fancier. So we did some family brainstorming (listened to Clara tell us what we should do) and came up with the following plan:

Here’s where we ended up.

I think my favorite things are the wreaths in every window (they look just as fun from the inside looking out). Or the lighted garland around the portico railing.

Or the red lanterns full of lights with our blue door nearby.

Or catching a glimpse of our still-to-be-decorated Christmas tree through the bay window on the side. Sidenote: I’ve wanted to repaint those white trim pieces that hang down like a sabre tooth tiger for months. Just making those dangly bits the same color as the siding and leaving the trim around the window white will look so much better I think.

The wreaths ended up being an awesome deal, thanks to stacking a few sales, so this, my friends, is how you get eleven 24″ outdoor wreaths that would have been $88, for $53 instead. First of all, they had been marked down to $5.99 (from $7.99) at Michael’s, which meant I couldn’t use any Michael’s coupons that I had (their coupons are usually for full-price merchandise only).

But knowing they match competitor coupons, I quickly googled “JoAnn coupon” while standing in line on my iPhone and they were running a “20% off your entire purchase of holiday decor (including on-sale merchandise)” sale with a coupon that I could get right on my phone. So the sweet lady at the register honored the coupon, and that’s how we got eleven 24″ outdoor wreaths for $4.81 a pop instead of $8.

She also said it was cool to use the coupon towards holiday ribbon, so for another $12 I grabbed three big spools of gold and returned home with everything we’d need to hang these suckers in every window. Or so I thought…

The upstairs windows were pretty simple, it just took a little finagling with the storm window and the screen to get them out of the way so we could crack the window open enough (from the top) to slide the wreath out with the ribbon wrapped around it to hold it up. One tip is to clutch that ribbon like it’s a hundred dolla bill, because it’s annoying to keep dropping wreaths out the window and having to run downstairs to get them.

Once I had said wreath out the window and was holding the end of the ribbon, John just closed the window right on the ribbon (we could pulling it up if we wanted to raise it or let more ribbon hang out the window if we wanted to lower it). Locking the window held it pretty securely, but just in case we also used a thumb tack stuck into the ribbon and the very top of our wooden windowsill for good measure, since we’d seen that mentioned here (it only makes a tiny pinhole at the top of the window where our blinds cover it anyway).

The downstairs windows were a different story (both literally and figuratively). Somehow their extra long storm window panes on top (these windows are taller than the ones upstairs ) didn’t allow for us to stick the wreaths out the top of the window unless we completely removed all of the storm windows, which defeats the purpose of them since it’s cold out these days. So we opted to hang the wreaths from the outside of the house on a ladder for the lower level, instead of using the window to hold them in place.

We didn’t want the ribbon getting pinched or gathered around a plant hook screwed into the top of the window, because the ribbon for the upstairs wreaths looks nice and flat, so we devised these handy little “trapeze things” as we called them, to keep the downstairs ribbon flat like the upstairs stuff.

They were just wooden dowels with two very small holes drilled in each side and some wire strung through them to create a flat little plane for the ribbon to be wrapped around.

Then John could hang that trapeze hook over a plant hook that we had screwed into the side of the window, but the ribbon would still stay flat. To keep everything secure, he stapled the ribbon together to make a loop around the hanging trapeze thing while up on his ladder (that way I could stand back and make sure they were all the same height before he stapled).

See the two subtle staples in the picture above that are holding the ribbon? So far they’ve been up about 4 days without any breakage or ripping, so we think they should hopefully hold up for the season and we have high hopes of reusing them future years too. You know we’ll keep you posted if they all jump off the house or something though (and now I’ll go knock on some wood).

Next up was the garland around the portico. We just swagged it a few ways to see what we liked, and eventually used a few cable ties to keep it all in place once we pinned down our favorite look. We tried going up the peak in the portico, going around each of the pillars, and finally ended up liking it this way the best. Something about the light already coming from the top of the portico (our little porch light) made the garland lights going up that high look like too much upper-action, so keeping them low felt more balanced. And we thought it was nice for them to drape down the steps like this.

Oh and I bought these three strands of lighted garland from Joss & Main for $18 each I think. Not a bad deal, and they all can be plugged into each other to make one long strand, which is nice and convenient.

Then we broke out the candle lights for each window from our old house (we used to have three of them in the side windows since you saw the side of the house a lot from the street) and were so glad to have the right number for this house. Well, not enough for the garage, but the idea of going in and out of the garage to turn them on and off each night sounded annoying, so we opted not to add any more to our count, and just stuck with 9 of them inside.

Finally, out came the old red lanterns from Ikea a few years back, which we filled with lights (one strand per lantern) and just connected them all to each other. Placing them on every other step ended up being our favorite spot for them (we tried them down on the walkway and on either side of the door, but this was the winning placement) and thankfully we had an outlet right on the porch for the garland and the strand of connected lantern string lights, so no blackouts were caused in the making of this holiday scene.

We certainly have seen fancier holiday lighting displays (there are some gorgeous ones in our neighborhood) and we have some pretty elaborate dreams of adding to ours over the years (like decorating that Chirstmas-tree-esque holly on the right corner of the house, and getting a big lighted wreath for the front door), but for now, we’re pretty proud of our first attempt at a holiday display here in this house. One of our neighbors even stopped by to asked me all about the garland and where we got the red lanterns, so that was nice. I might have been a little too into the conversation, but what can I say, I loves me some holiday glow.

I worried it would be kind of ugly during the day without the magic of the lights, but I’m happy to report that it’s not too bad that way either. Sidenote numero dos: Oh how I wish I had pulled that weird doormat at the bottom of the stairs out of the way – I’ve been meaning to put it in the garage after we finally found a wider one for the front door, but somehow it ended up down there. 

Are you guys decorating the outside of your house? Who goes all out and follows the roof-line with lights? What about those awesome draped trees that look like weeping willows but they’re just a mass-o-lights. Love that so much.

Psst- To see how we decorated the outside of our house last year and the year before, click here and here.



Another Year Of Our Thanks Jar

For the fourth year in a row we’ve filled up our little thrift store jar that we etched with the word “Thanks” back in 2010 (you can read how we made it here). So before everyone dives headfirst into the gravy bowl (what? that’s not a thing?) we thought we’d stick with the annual tradition of sharing a few glimpses of some things that ended up on the list this year.

Spoiler alert: one of them’s you guys. So let’s just pause for a moment so I can tell you how good your hair looks and how nice you smell and how flattering that shirt is and most of all, how grateful we are that you drop in on our blog.

This past year has been insanely wild and wonderful: moving into a new house, a new baby on the way, a whirlwind book tour, working on a showhouse for Habitat For Humanity, hearing Oprah say our names. Look, I’m so ver clempt I didn’t even use parallel structure for that list. We just don’t have the words to explain how amazing and completely unexpected this little blog journey has been. We never could have dreamed that first post in 2007 would ever lead to this life, and I’m so so thankful that my techie hubby was all “let’s start a blog for fun” and I was all “a what? that sounds nerdy.”

Anyway, I’m rambling. Back to the “thanks jar” tradition. For anyone who needs a refresher, every year since 2010 we’ve each stuck a piece of paper in it every day during the month of November with a different thing that we’re grateful for. You can see a few things that made the list in 2010, 2011, and 2012. This year was even more special because Clara is so articulate and color-happy that she got to dictate every single one of her card to us, and had fun coloring each one as she went along (last year there was a lot of us asking “are you thankful for… books?” and this year she came up with each item all on her own). Plus there’s a card where she drew me and my head looks just like a football. Priceless.

This year we also tried a new color system. Instead of everyone picking a randomly colored card each day, Clara’s are all yellow, mine are all orange, and John’s are all red. So when we flip back through this year down the road, the colors will clue us in on who’s “talking” (sometimes our chicken scratch starts to blend after staring at a ton of tiny pieces of paper).

Some of our favorite things that Clara listed were:

Meanwhile, John and I had some funny overlapping ones (we both specifically shouted out The Walking Dead, iPhones, and the mighty miter saw).

Every year at the end (usually Thanksgiving Eve or Thanksgiving Day), we open the jar to read them all together – and we also go through the batches that we’ve saved from the past years. It’s sweet how they freeze time and remind us of things we’d never remember otherwise (old shows we watched that have since been canceled, places we visited, “hot” songs that we loved that have since been completely forgotten, weird inside jokes). I love that we’ll always have them to peek back on.

Sheesh, and to think my original plan for this post was just going to be typing “Happy Thanksgiving” with this cute chalkboard pic and letting you guys go eat your stuffing in peace. I’m going to go ahead and blame the hormones. They make you wordy, right? No. Then maybe it’s the smell of cookies baking (they make me delirious). Can’t. Stop. Talking.

We hope you all enjoy safe travels, good food, loving company, and weird dreams about Bound 2 a nice post-dinner nap. We’ll be spending the holiday with the fam along with diving into some kitchen stuff and a few Children’s Hospital projects that we can’t wait to share with you when we come back (three pounds heavier).