Sometimes I feel like a decorating Scrooge. I hate the look of store-bought holiday decorations and I don't like paying for them. Because I'm a humbug, I use the "scrounge and improvise" method of holiday decorating. This allows me to give my home a festive look while feeling smug about saving money.
If you're on a tight budget, but still want your home to look great for the holidays, try some of these projects:
* Don't like using your fireplace for fires? Place 10 or so thick pillar candles of varying heights in it and surround them with pine cones.
* String together a delicate-looking garland using pyracanthus berries and bay leaves. Use a regular sewing needle, poke it through 10 or so berries and then through a bay leaf and repeat until you get the desired length. Drape it over a picture frame, mirror or doorway.
* Still have a pumpkin or two left over from an autumn centerpiece? Place it/them in a dry birdbath or on a garden chair out in your yard and surround with tree branches (pyracanthus, eucalyptus, bay or whatever else is handy). Add a few brightly colored leaves, or several glass tree ornaments.
* Make a fruity candle holder. Use a knife or an apple corer to remove a plug of apple or pear into which you place a candle.
* Have a tired-looking wreath from last year? Vacuum it, or take it outside and blast it with your hairdryer to remove the dust. Tie a scarf or two around it for more color, or use costume jewelry to give it more sparkle.
* Make luminarias out of tin cans. Fill several cans with water and freeze. Remove from the freezer, nestle in a towel (so it doesn't roll away) and use a hammer to nail through the can, creating spiral, star burst or heart-shaped patterns.
* Christmas stockings look limp and sad when hanging empty from the mantel. Fatten them up by filling them with crumpled tissue or newspaper. Put a plastic cup with a bit of water in it inside the stocking and add a bouquet so it peeks out top.
* Make your own photo tree ornaments. Use recycled Christmas cards or thin cardboard you have decorated. Place two pieces together and cut out a star shape, circle or square to create the front and back of the mini frame. Use an X-Acto knife to cut an opening into one of the shapes. Glue a photo into the opening, add a paper clip to the top of the frame and glue on the back side. Hang with a satin ribbon from your tree.
* Make a mini-swag. Bundle together sprigs of rosemary, pyracanthus, bay or eucalyptus. Tie together with a long ribbon and hang from a doorknob, the back of a chair or a drawer pull.
* Do you have a chandelier over your dining table?Dress it up with pine boughs, sprigs of holly, or a garland of cranberries. Tie a ribbon around the neck of each lamp. (Be fire safe: Don't place greenery near the light bulbs.)
* Nothing smells better than a clove pomander. Fill a bowl with oranges, lemons or limes you have dotted with cloves and place on your entry table.
* Do your children have gloves or mittens for which they have lost the mates? Don't toss them! Sew on buttons, bits of ribbons or small glass ornaments and use as tree decorations.
* As you receive holiday cards this year save the stamps on the envelopes. You can use them in collages, on gift tags or to decorate gift packages. To remove the stamps from the envelopes, soak them in water for an hour or so and they'll slide off the paper. Dry face down on a bit of wax paper.
* Dress up a bookcase by placing pine cones you have spray-painted in gold, a bowl of glass ornaments or small wrapped boxes in openings here and there.
* Use a wreath as a centerpiece. Lay it flat on your table and fill the center with a collection of pillar candles or a mound of glass tree ornaments.
* Start saving egg cartons. They make ideal storage containers for small tree ornaments.
* Recycle holiday cards to use as gift tags, to decorate packages, to use as place cards at a dinner party or to re-send as postcards next year.
* Brighten a dark corner by filling a clear cylindrical glass vase with a string of low-voltage tree lights. For a more diffuse look, fill the vase with tissue paper first.
* Add the finishing touch to your holiday table. Tie a candy cane or tree ornament around each napkin.
* Create an aromatic aura under a candle. Collect 50 or so bay leaves. Flatten them between the pages of a book for a week or so. Arrange them in a sunburst on an end table or buffet. Place a candle in the middle of the ring of leaves.
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