At this time of year there is much advice floating about to “use natural materials” to create amazing holiday decorations cheaply. Indeed I’ve floated much of it myself.
However it did occur to me this afternoon as I watched a resourceful young woman picking pinecones off the side of the road, that for the average suburban or urban dweller with little land at his or her disposal, it might not be second nature to make the most of what you have – both because you feel there isn’t much; and because of the great plethora of cinnamon-scented whatsits greeting you at the big box stores which make it ever-easier to hand over the plastic card.
Yet the more we hand over the plastic card, the more hours we have to work to pay off the contents of those highly inconvenient statements that appear with teeth-grinding regularity every month. So wouldn’t it be better to shave off a little here, a little there, and grind the teeth less fiercely?
And, since the children are always needing shoes and there seems to be no limit to the amount of insurance we are supposed to carry these days, why not start with holiday decorations – something whose usefulness is fleeting, cost far too much money, and which look best in rustic, handmade form?
Resources are everywhere, we just need to retrain our minds to see them.
In many ways, our tunnel vision can be laid squarely at the feet of marketing teams who have showed us how we need to decorate and what decorations need to look like for far too long. Trained thus, it’s hard to look at a ‘hand painted’ Merry Christmas sign on aged barn wood and make the connection between that and the half gallon of remnant paint you have propping up a couple of pieces of scrap wood in the cellar. Somehow we categorize the former as “magic” and the latter as “mess.”
Believe me, that rustic barn wood is not kissed by the breath of angels, nor is it in all probability, barn wood. (How many old farmers laugh at this barn wood obsession these days I wonder?) In fact, it’s probably not as rustic as the pieces you found next to the paint can.
Sand the wood a bit, grab a pencil, map out your letters, and start painting. Remember, your bad handwriting is someone else’s ‘boutique country.’ Drill a couple holes, attach some wire (found in the bottom of the bottom of the junk drawer), and hang it. Glue gun a couple pinecones on it if you’re feeling defiant.
You just saved yourself $29.99.
Most of you don’t want a sign. That’s okay – I use the sign merely as an example of something you can create once you pull that silk curtain away from the wizard and realize that you can create it. It’s a symbol of looking at things differently.
So with that in mind, let’s look at an average small yard and use it to decorate the front door step.
First, our resources
And they’re not inspiring. There’s a naked dogwood and a solitary overgrown boxwood in a corner. The vegetable bed has gone to sleep, as has the prized hydrangea on the side of the house. In the back, the chain link fence is absolutely covered in wild grape tendrils.
Now our tools: A pair of pruners, a glue gun, a strand of white lights (you know you’ve got an extra), and a spool of lightweight wire (you have my permission to pay good money for that one).
Then, a wreath.
Cut down the grape vines (or honeysuckle, or bittersweet, or Virginia creeper – you need to anyway, they’re taking over). Put the ends of three or four in your hand and wrap them like a hose to make a circle. Keep going until it’s the thickness you want and use your wire and/or another vine to roughly hold it together.
This is your base. Most stores would charge you $9.99 for this alone, and you’re not even finished.
Remove the awkward dogwood branch you’ve been meaning to prune all summer and cut off the small sprays of berries on the end. Insert them throughout the framework of the wreath.
Your wreath is now worth $13.99, and when you glue-gun small pieces of dried hydrangea onto it, you can add another three bucks.
For the pièce de résistance, the boxwood (which also needed a summer pruning and never got it) gets a light haircut and offers a bit of greenery to balance all those tawny colors. Put two or three sprigs together with wire, then insert them deeply into the base.
Boxwood isn’t cheap and elevates your wreath into the realm of ‘boutique-worthy.’ If you’re not satisfied, fiddle with it until you are.
Next, a miniature ‘tree.’
Go out to the vegetable garden and grab one of those rusting tomato cages. Turn it upside down and wire the three spiky legs together to form a cone at the top. Use a few more of those vines to wrap it like a spiral, using wire to hold it to the cone. Follow up with the lights, and don’t get precious about it – remember, we’re working for ‘rustic.’
Now put the base inside an unused pot, plug in the lights, hang your wreath on the door and stand back and see what you just created from what you had. If you really want to get fancy, pick up some pinecones or Osage oranges from the side of the road (c’mon, everyone’s doing it), and fill the pot with same. Fill another couple while you’re at it – groupings look best in threes.
You just saved yourself a lot of money. If you involved your kids, you can count this as “instructional bonding time.” If you involved a bottle of wine and your spouse, you can count this as “couples skill building.” Whatever you call it, call it good.
Look around you. Find your resources. There is another way.
Merry Christmas everyone!