December 31, 2012

Top Ten Thrifty Finds From 2012

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season. Mine was absolutely magical!

Lots of time spent playing with my son, putzing around in my house and just genuinely enjoying all the fun and festiveness of this time of year. I am so glad I took a few days off from blogging to just unplug and enjoy everything.

Oh, and I ate a bit too much, but that is what New Year's resolutions are for, right?

I thought I'd jump on the bandwagon of top ten countdowns for the year. I love a good bandwagon. Who doesn't?

But instead of top viewed posts or top DIY projects, I am doing my top thrifting finds for 2012. Because, hey, thrifty is what I do best.

So in no particular order, here are my most favorite thrifty finds for 2012:


1. Toy Phone   2. Watering Can   3. Enamelware Basin   4. Turquoise Typewriter   5. Croquet Box


6. Toolbox   7. Ice Cream Churn   8. Ceramic Christmas Tree   9. Fire Extinguisher   10. Gurley Candles

I've used each and every one of these in my house. Some of them over and over again.

I have used the heck out of that turquoise ice cream churn. Everything from a flag holder at 4th of July to a fall flower vase. And that ceramic Christmas tree was a hit and a half at Christmas in my dining room. The toolbox is still the centerpiece on my kitchen table and the toy phone always has a place on the shelf in my living room.

The only one of these that I haven't used is the fire extinguisher. Don't get me wrong, Sparky was a fun find, but I am scared it's going to blow up my house. And really, how ironic would it be that I would need a fire extinguisher to douse the explosion caused by my fire extinguisher.

It has left over, very old fire extinguisher chemical in it and I need to get it drained before I bring it inside and finish cleaning it up. Yes, I know I bought it six months ago.

OK, well that's it for now. I'll be back to my somewhat normal posting schedule this week.

Have a fun and safe New Year's Eve!



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December 20, 2012

Have Yourself A Very Merry Christmas

It's official. I'm signing off for Christmas break.


Gotta put my Mommy hat on and produce the Christmas to end all Christmases around here. Or as much as I can get done in the next few days.

Wishing you and yours a beautiful holiday season! See you soon!

The tutorial I used for making my blackboard art was from Rachel at Holy Craft. The wreath design was from The Graphics Fairy (I used a simpler font for the word JOY than she shows). And the Santa pitcher was a thrift store find - he was pretty battered and dirty, but hey, he was winking at me. What's a girl to do.



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December 18, 2012

Every Time A Bell Rings . . .

So I've been playing around with creating a printable holiday chalkboard piece for you, but I couldn't find a saying that was doing it for me. Deck The Halls, Let It Snow, Joyeux Noel - they all seemed to be done to death.*

Then all of a sudden it came to me. My favorite line from my favorite movie!!!

Free holiday chalkboard printable - Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings

It's A Wonderful Life!

Oh, and that's the name of the movie too.

And how did it come to me, you ask? I glanced at my holiday header. With bells on it.

Sometimes all you have to do is stop trying so hard and it sort of smacks you in your holly loving face.

You are welcome to print it out. It is sized as a 8x10 print.

*No offense intended for those that have made something this year that says Deck The Halls, Let It Snow or Joyeux Noel - please feel free to bash my NOEL sign on the front porch all you want :)



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December 17, 2012

Pam's Holiday Home Tour Part 3 - The Living Room

This is the last installment of my holiday home tour series for this year. With the events on Friday, I was hesitant to write about this today. It just seems so trite to be discussing cute Christmas decor when so many children in Connecticut won't be celebrating any Christmas at all.

But then I thought that maybe some of you would want a little levity in your day. I know I do. With all that has occurred this weekend, it is easy to get glued to the tv trying to figure out how this could have happened. I have felt the need to step away from the tv remote for a while and just look at pretty things for a few minutes, so thought you might be in the same situation.


My prayers and thoughts are with the victims, their family and friends and the emergency personnel of the area.

My buddy Frosty and I would like to take you on a tour of the living room today.

December 13, 2012

Pam's Holiday Home Tour Part 2 - The Dining Room

OK, like I said yesterday this will be a photo rich post with no compelling commentary due to my being behind on the never ending Christmas to-do list.

So I give you my dining room.


December 12, 2012

Pam's Holiday Home Tour Part 1 - The Kitchen

Over the next few days, I'm going to take you on a magical mystery tour of the holiday decor in some of the rooms in my house. Today is the kitchen. Or as I like to call it - the thrifty, vintage Christmas fun-o-rama!


I kept the table rather simple this year.

December 10, 2012

My Holiday Front Porch

I kept going back and forth on whether I was going to use blow molds on my front porch this year or not. On one hand, they are fun and vintage looking. On the other hand, they can be a tad bit tacky if not done correctly.

Originally, I was thinking of the big old candles, one on each side of the door, but then thought they'd be hard to keep standing in the wind tunnel called my front porch. Decision made. No blow molds would grace my porch.

Two days after I had decided that I was definitely, under no circumstance, putting blow molds on the porch, I ran across jolly old Saint Nick here at an antique store and sort of fell in love with him.

December 9, 2012

Tinsel Hanging 101

For those of you born after 1970, I thought I'd share my technique for hanging tinsel, also known as icicles, on the Christmas tree.

First, look all over creation for a store that actually sells tinsel. Not as easy to find as one would think. It's almost like tinsel isn't a popular Christmas tree adornment nowadays, but we all know that isn't true!


Through much scientific research, I have found that it is most eye pleasing to place three pieces of tinsel on each branch. No more. No less.

Gingerly select your three tinsel strands by grabbing them in the exact middle of the strands (a tape measure may be helpful) and placing them onto the branch 1.29 inches from the tip.


You may want to hold your breath when doing this, so you have a steady hand. If not, you may twist the tinsel and crease it and no one wants to look at mangled tinsel. Select three more strands and repeat.

Throwing of tinsel onto the tree in big gobs is strictly prohibited. We will have none of that! Applying tinsel is an art form and should be treated with reverence.

After spending an entire delightful evening painstakingly applying tinsel to the tree, stand back and admire your shiny, sparkly creation.


Seriously, this was the first time in probably 40 years that I have put tinsel on a tree. Did it a lot as a kid and then kicked the habit around the time they invented fake trees and twinkle lights.

It was sort of fun to decorate with tinsel this year. At least for the first half hour.



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December 6, 2012

Christmas Bokeh

While you have your tree up you have the perfect opportunity to play around with taking photos with a cool bokeh effect. Bokeh refers to the blurry globes of light in the background of a photo, in this case from the Christmas tree, and it just goes hand in hand with Christmas photos.

Easy to understand Christmas bokeh tutorial @ houseofhawthornes.com

Canon 50mm f/1.4
f/1.4
200 ISO
1/8 sec

For those with a DSLR (if you don't have one, just skip over this gobbledygook and go to the point and shoot section):

You need a fast lens, which means a lens with large wide open aperture ability. A large wide open aperture equates to a small aperture number, i.e. 1.4, 1.8, not 5.0, 6.0.

This is my most favorite lens in the whole wide world.

Easy to understand Christmas bokeh tutorial @ houseofhawthornes.com

The Canon 50mm f/1.4. It is a prime lens, so it does not zoom in and out, but it takes incredibly sharp photos and can handle low light situations, so you just suck it up and use your feet to zoom yourself in and out. They also have a 50mm f/1.8 that is normally around $100 and is fairly similar. It's one of the best buys in lenses out there. (No, I am not being paid by Canon, I just love this lens).

Shoot in Manual Mode or at the very least Aperture Priority (you need to have the ability to pick your aperture).

Do not use flash, if you can at all avoid it.

Use a tripod or set the camera on a stack of books if you do not have one. To reduce shake even more, you can use the timer (drive mode) on your camera, so it takes the photo a few seconds after you press the shutter button.

You should be fairly close to the object (Santa). From my illustration you can see that I was 2 feet from Santa and Santa was 9 feet away from the tree.

Easy to understand Christmas bokeh tutorial @ houseofhawthornes.com

I was actually sitting on the floor in front of the coffee table, but since I have a hard enough time drawing a standing person, a sitting person was out of the question. My artistic talents only go so far, people. I'm not Picasso.

For large globes of light, the object (Mr. Claus) should be farther away from the tree (like my 9 feet) and for smaller bits of light the object can be moved closer to the tree (maybe like 3 feet).

If you want circles of light you need to use the lens at its most wide open (my lens was a 1.4, so I shot this at 1.4). If you are not wide open, then you will get angled circles (hexagons and such).

On this photo I changed from f/1.4 to f/2.8 and you can start to see the angles on the circles.

Easy to understand Christmas bokeh tutorial @ houseofhawthornes.com

Which would totally make them not circles anymore, so maybe they are just called octagons. Not a bad look, just not exactly what I was trying for.

If you are too closed, let's say f/6.0, then your lights will be too much in focus and you will not get a bokeh effect.

For those with a point and shoot:

Your best shot with a point and shoot would be to stand far away from Santa (instead of 2 feet from Santa, maybe stand 10 feet from Santa), use the highest zoom setting and zoom in tight on him and hopefully this will blur your background enough to turn the lights into blurry globes.

Or use the portrait mode, which should focus in on the object and blur out the background quite a bit automatically.

I tried it several times with my old point and shoot and honestly couldn't get a bokeh that was anywhere as nice as I could with my DSLR on the Manual mode, but it's worth a shot.

You gotta try new things or else you dry up like an old fruit cake. Sometimes I don't know how to end a post and just put something stupid in there (like now).

Easy to understand Christmas bokeh tutorial showing you how to take beautiful holiday photos



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December 5, 2012

Vintage Shiny Brites


I bet you were expecting to see a tree decorated with Shiny Brites. All in good time. Should it really take a week to decorate a skinny, 5 foot tree?

But this photo was taken when I was just starting the tree decorating process the other day. I had just unwrapped all my ornaments and tossed them in a Coke crate, so that I could make sure everything had their hangers securely attached before I put them on the tree this time. Lacey's favorite pastime is wagging her tail as she walks past the tree and getting ornament hangers snagged on her butt, so I was trying to avoid any unfortunate accidents this year.

I turned around to grab another ornament and ran to grab my camera instead. Nothing says Christmas more than a jumble of Shiny Brites.

This is where my Mom would say that a nativity scene or a choir or something like that probably says Christmas more. But in a commercial sort of way, Shiny Brites do it for me.

What says Christmas to you?



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