Best gifts gift guide

We are on to the third installment of the best gifts gift guide. (Here’s one and two.) Tilly’s Nest blogger Melissa Caughey shared her most treasured gift—a clay snowman her son made for her.

I totally get the sentimental value of a child’s handmade project. I mean my mom hung paper reindeer my brother and I made each Christmas until I was 25.

I upgraded my handmade gifts from paper reindeer to pretty clay ornaments when I sculpted these for co-workers when I was at Anthropologie.

Christmas ornamentThey were simple, inexpensive, and I could personalize each one for its recipient.

Here’s how:

  1. Roll out the Fimo soft clay (I used the Sahara color) using a nonstick rolling pin until it’s about ¼-inch thick. This takes a little time and effort since the clay is pretty firm. I warmed it a bit between my fingers before rolling it out.
  2. Use cookie cutters to make shapes. I used one of my grandmother’s vintage cutters for this shape, then made a smaller circle in the middle using a leftover piece (from an Anthro project) of PVC that I only pushed halfway through the clay. I do, however, love this faceted gem, these traditional ornament shapes and this pretty flower.
  3. Push the flat side of a bamboo skewer through the clay, twisting gently to make a hole where you want to place the hook for hanging. Create additional decorative holes in the same fashion. You can use the opposite side of the skewer to make toothpick-size holes, like I did in the middle of this ornament.
  4. Place on a cookie sheet and bake according to package directions, then let cool completely.
  5. Paint the hardened ornament using acrylic paint. I only painted one coat on mine; two or more would create a more opaque finish. Let dry completely.
  6. Paint a thin layer of Sculpey Gloss Glaze in the places where you’d like to add glitter. Sprinkle glitter over the wet glaze, tap off excess and let dry completely.
  7. Add a pretty ribbon and hook, and hang on the tree.

What have you made out of clay as an adult that you’re proud to display—and gift?

 

 

 

 

 

DIY home improvements that cost almost nothing

I confess. I procrastinate. A LOT. I always say that I am most creative when it’s the 11th hour and I’m on a deadline. So it would only be natural that I write a story for This Old House about super fast fixes, quick upgrades and easy DIY home improvements that you can do on your home before company arrives. Haven’t yet hung pictures on the wall, even though you’ve lived in the place for months? Gave up on a set-in carpet stain (you don’t have to!)? Need to rid the guest bath of rust? All these answers—and 32 others—are in the November/December issue of This Old House and here too. And you can do most of them in a few hours. Don’t wait until Aunt Bethany comes knocking to get your home in entertaining-ready shape. Start on this list this weekend.

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Here’s a peek at some of my favorites that are super cheap too:

1. Perk up your front or back landscaping with potted boxwoods. Could be my favorite plant of all time. Why? Because boxwoods grow like living sculptures in a pot, look just as good in January as they do in June and require almost NO maintenance (they’re drought tolerant). Oh, and they’re incredibly affordable. Home Depot and Lowe’s have them for about $7.

Boxwoods

I planted four on our patio last December (part of Scott’s Christmas gift; full post on that coming in a few weeks).

2. Hang some photos—or not. I have a trick for hanging heavy items with two hooks on the back. It involves painter’s tape and a level and can be found here. But why hang when resting and layering looks incredible and requires no quick—and rash decisions—and zero commitment, like I did in this dining room. Or here in this office, resting photos on a bookshelf looks modern, fresh and relaxed.

Screen Shot 2013-10-31 at 3.26.20 PM(Photo courtesy of CasaSugar)

3. Light the walkway with lanterns instead of standard landscape lighting. I like the flexibility that lanterns give. We lit the aisle at our wedding with lanterns, and now I have those same lanterns scattered around our tiny patio to create a bit of ambiance when we’re using the space at night.

CIMG3926

What do you have to fix, repair or upgrade before family arrives for the holidays?

 

 

 

Customize curtains in less than an hour

Curtains can certainly be pricey, but what they do for a room is amazing—they add depth, privacy, texture and style. I’ve made no-sew curtains before, but this time I wanted something different, even simpler (if you can imagine).

I bought these very inexpensive sturdy-weight, linen-like curtains from Ikea.

CurtainsTo dress up the curtains and give them a more custom look, I added this velvet trim to the leading edges using heavy duty Stitch Witchery, a nonsewer’s best friend.

Black velvet trim

Because I was inspired by these I saw in Elle Decor.

Curtain inspiration

Here’s how:

1. Iron the panels.

2. Lay one panel out on the ironing board, right side up. Roll out a small section of the Stitch Witchery (like 12 inches) and place it on the panel where you want the trim. I adhered mine right up to the edge.

3. Lay the trim on top of the Stitch Witchery, cover with a damp—not wet—white cloth (colored towels can bleed).

4. Set a steam iron on the wool setting on top for 10 seconds. Don’t move the iron. Note: Don’t cut the Stitch Witchery or the ribbon. Unravel each as you go—until you reach the bottom of the first panel.

5. Repeat all the way down and cut the edge flush with the curtain using good-quality fabric scissors. Then continue down the other edge and on the rest of the panels for the room.

Here’s how ours look.

Our curtains

And here are a few other ideas:

Curtain trim options

How have you customized your curtains?

 

Creative ideas for your holiday table

Back in mid July, I was asked by friend and writer Sarah Stebbins to pitch a few imaginative creations for a story for Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine. She wanted thoughts for a Thanksgiving table–including kid-friendly options–things like centerpieces and simple projects. The idea was that it had to be quick, something you could do in less than 30 minutes and be proud to put on the table.
Rachael Ray November issue
Well, the November 2013 issue is on newsstands now, and I am thrilled to announce that Wendy James Designs is part of this story. It is an incredible honor to be featured with event designers like David Stark (his apple idea, below, is so simple and fun), TV personalities like Clinton Kelly (I am more than a little obsessed with his jewel-tone gourds) and my favorite environmental lifestyle expert, Danny Seo, who creatively repurposed a thrift-store find. Man after my own heart.
Rachael Ray page
My easy decor gets a thumbs-up from the kids’ table. Add googly eyes and a paper beak to inexpensive striped kids’ gloves, fatten (er, fill) with candy and tie with a ribbon (pictured in the bottom left corner of this page).
My Rachael Ray page

Pick up the November issue to sift through 15 fun ideas or keep reading and try one of mine that didn’t make the magazine, like these DIY polka-dot napkins, inspired by the ones pictured below from Anthropologie. (Dotted napkin photo courtesy of RealSimple.com.)

Polka-dot napkins

1. Wash and iron cotton/polyester blend napkins. Don’t use fabric softener.

2. Put a piece of cardboard under the napkin to protect your work surface.

3. Dip a flat unused pencil eraser into gold fabric paint, dab on a clean paper towel once or twice and then onto your napkin.

4. Repeat this process, dotting away in whatever pattern you like.

I opt for plain white dinnerware because I tell myself that whatever I cook–no matter how messy or unattractive–looks better when served on white. But for dinner parties and holidays, sometimes I dress it up. For Thanksgiving, try tucking one large autumn leaf or a collage of a few smaller fall leaves between your a white dinner plate and a clear one.

Leaf platesMake your own tiered trays and serving pieces. I did something similar with a dinner plate and candlesticks to give a client more room to merchandise makeup compacts, but you could easily do this with rustic tree slabs, inexpensive candlesticks and epoxy that’s suitable for wood and glass.

Tiered traysTell me: How are you decorating your holiday table?

 

 

 

 

Check out my Pretty Handy Projects blog on CountryLiving.com

I stalk Instagram for photos of gorgeous DIY inspiration, pretty projects and simple recipes. Some of those I follow happen to be celebrities; others are creative bloggers I admire. Now I’m scouting the feeds I watch for CountryLiving.com and my new Pretty Handy Projects blog. Each week, I find crafts to do, dishes to whip up and projects to occupy a weekend day.
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My first post involves a certain 90210 alum and a Halloween decoration that is not spooky, scary, black or orange. It’s a deliciously sweet centerpiece made for less than $10.

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