THE PRESERVE-YOUR-SANITY METHOD TO OPEN CABLE TIES

I had a lot of questions about my winter window box so I'll share a little tutorial (more of a tips and tricks because the how isn't as important as the way you get there). While I was doing the window box last weekend I realized that I use a lot of plastic cable ties in the construction of just that box, not to mention hanging garland and so much more.

By the way, I call these things wire ties, but I have no idea why. That's what Mr. Much More Patient has always called them (were they designed to tie wire?) so it rubbed off, but it never says that on the package. Some people call them zip ties. I digress. The point is, I wanted to share with you the simplest tip in the world for using wire ties.

When you buy a package of the ties, they are all laying flat and you cut the top off to get at them, right? WRONG. If you cut an end off all of the ties will fall out the second you pick up the package.


The place you should cut is smack dab in the the middle of the package. This way you can reach in and pull out a flexible tie from the center. It will bend to come out of the package but you won't lose all the rest of the ties the first time you move the package.


I first saw this tip when we were working with an electrician in New Zealand ages ago. It makes so much sense I can't believe I didn't figure it out on my own, but I rarely see people doing it.

Like I said: ridiculously simple. But also one of those tips that might just save your sanity this time of year.



FRIDAY FINDS

Well, it's December and suddenly weekends are full of checking items off a far-too-long to-do list. The main item on mine is doing all the outdoor decorations on Saturday. It's going to be in the mid-30s all weekend, but it's going to rain most of Sunday, so Saturday is the day for outdoor work. I hope I can power through to get it all finished. And I shall remind myself of the wise words of my friend Eric at GardenFork: Done is better than perfect.

Here's what the window box looked like from inside last year. I loved the glow of the lights. This is also a good reminder of why I should remember to wash the window before I do the window box.


I probably don't need to share all the amazing holiday stuff floating around the interweb with you here. Suffice to say, if you're in the mood for a little holiday crafting/DIY, head over to Pinterest and you'll find something to occupy your time. 

Here's a non-holiday project that is pretty cool: a wood storage shed.

A very different kind of advent calendar (that you should probably keep in the fridge).

Oh my gosh, yum

Loi got a new shipment of antiques into his shop and of course they are incredible. That first desk melts my heart.

If you're shopping, make sure you check out the two gift guides I've done so far: Custom Gifts for Gardeners and Vintage Gift Finds. More to come next week in case, like me, shopping doesn't really start for a few weeks!


And lastly, I am definitely going to be stealing this super simple napkin-folding technique from Kim at Sand & Sisal for any holiday gatherings we may have.

What will you be doing this weekend?

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VINTAGE GIFT GUIDE

Another sign that I'm getting a little older is that I think getting a vintage gift would be lovely. When you're a kid you want shiny and new (ew ... it's used?). But the idea of someone hunting for a perfect, unique gift is a lovely sentiment to me now.

So I bring you my vintage gift guide. Of course, half the fun of buying vintage is the hunt, but here are a few of my favorites.



1. Cocktail picks set: I almost didn't add this sweet little set because I absolutely love it and I'll be sad when it's sold. But I don't need it. Probably. Somebody needs it though. $16.30 but it ships from France, so get on it.

2. Tin cup: It's cute, from the 1930s, charmingly dented and could be used for about a billion things. $45.35, but it's another piece from France so shipping will be higher.

3. Rattan mirror: Serena and Lily has a mirror exactly like this that will set you back more than four times as much. Pick up this one for a fraction of the price and you'll have a much better story to go with it. $43.48 and yeah, from France. I think I got stuck in an Etsy French loop or something. 

4. Ironstone tureen: Bestill my heart. This is a beauty and in case you hadn't noticed, ironstone is tres chic these days. $75, and thankfully ships from the U.S.

5. Mini globe: I'm not sure why I like this so much, but I think this tiny (8 inches in diameter) globe is so cute and would look great on a desk or bookshelf. Plus, globes are just cool. $90.

6. French olive basket: This galvanized bucket, which was used to collect olives, has just the right about of age on it. $75, and ships from Oregon (not France).

7. Brass faux bamboo box: There is no such thing as too many boxes. Everyone needs cute things to collect other things and this fits the bill. $28.

8. Lakeshore sign: This looks a little "crunchy" (to borrow a phrase from "American Pickers") but it would be perfect for a cabin, beach house or summer home. Or even just a beachy decorating scheme.  $165.

9. Brass and marble hanging planter: It's brass and marble and you can put just about anything in it. What's not to love? $48.

10. Amazing teak nesting tables: OK, these are expensive. But they are incredible and someone I know needs to own these. So one of you, please buy these, and send me a picture of them looking amazing in your house. (You can see this falls under the "Gifts for yourself" category.) $695.

11. Metal flower frog. I love vintage frogs because they are cute and interesting and useful. This is a little charmer. $12.50. 

12. Spun fiberglass chaise lounge: I have no idea what is going on with this chair but it's the craziest patio furniture I've ever seen. And for that reason alone it's pretty fantastic. Pick your favorite eccentric family member or friend and have this baby delivered straight to their house. $285. 

In case you missed my Custom Gifts for Gardeners gift guide, you can find it here

How's your shopping going? I'm pretty much stalled out with lots left to buy.


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A WINTER CONTAINER CHALLENGE

One of my favorite projects to do this time of year is decorate outside with winter containers. In the past I've used a combination of found and purchased materials. I always cut my own red twig dogwood because the even though the dogwood you can buy is brighter, straighter and, by all accounts, prettier, it's also incredibly expensive. I also usually find greens as well, be it from trees in the yard or by raiding the cart full of branches cut from trees at Home Depot, which are free for the taking, but I occasionally supplement that stash with fancy evergreens purchased in bundles.

In the past, though, I've purchase a lot of other elements of the outdoor containers. I bought birch branches a few years ago that I save from year to year. I have also bought huge bundles of beautiful eucalyptus which really do make for stunning displays. I've purchases giant pinecones and faux berries, all of which I've saved. I'll be honest, buying some materials helps make really stunning displays and it is certainly easier and less time consuming than foraging for materials

This year, though, I'm not going to spend a penny on outdoor containers. I'm looking at it as a challenge. I'll allow myself to use items I've saved from year to year, but I'm not going to spend any money on anything that goes in the containers.

I spent a good amount of time over the weekend collecting materials, probably about four hours. My grandma's house has foundation plantings (perhaps come kind of arborvitae) that have gone nuts, so I spent a lot of time pruning the worst of them. That netted a lot of material for containers and a fair amount of dead wood to be disposed of. I also went to one of my secret dogwood gathering spots to collect what I could. Unfortunately I didn't come close to getting the amount I needed and I'll have to go back to a spot I found last year for more. 


All of that led to a rather ridiculous scene in my car.



With all foraging and a case of frozen fingers (I cannot find my winter gloves; where do they go every summer?) I only got as far as doing two containers for a neighbor and, to be honest I was in a bit of a rush and chasing daylight. Still, I think they turned out OK and the neighbors will enjoy them. The design is pretty simple: a thick bundle of dogwood circled by 'Limelight' hydrangea flowers as the centerpiece, with prunings from grandma's house and a bit of some kind of pine (also from grandma's) to fill in.

There are many more outdoor containers to decorate. And with my found-materials only pledge, I'll be testing my creative mettle. 

Do you do winter container designs?