Denver! Resolving to Spend Less in the New Year? Start with a Bang – January FREE Events

Just because you blew your wad on holiday gifts doesn’t mean you have to stay home in January. There are gee-gobs of FREE Events in Denver January 2014, starting with New Year’s Eve:

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Downtown Denver Fireworks
December 31 (9 p.m. and midnight)
The sky will once again sparkle over the 16th Street Mall at the close of 2013 with the New Year’s Eve Fireworks Downtown. The two spectacular fireworks shows will occur at 9 p.m. and midnight. For the best viewpoints, stand along the 16th Street Mall. Costumed entertainers will interact with crowds between shows, including magicians, mascots, balloon artists, stilt walkers, comedians and more. Best of all, it’s not going to be that cold; the evening will be 35-45 degrees and clear. It’s very crowded down there, I recommend taking the Light Rail.

Of Course FIRST FRIDAY will be alive and well on January 3rd at all your favorite Denver Arts Districts.

January cultural FREE DAYS: 

Denver Art Museum: Saturday, January 4th (the museum is FREE every first Saturday)

Denver Botanic Gardens (York Street): Monday, January 20th

Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield:  Tuesday, January 7th

Denver Museum of Nature & Science: Monday, January 13th

Denver Zoo (3 Days!): Friday, January 10th, Saturday, January 11th, Wednesday, January 22nd

Clyfford Still Museum: Wednesday, January 8th

So pack a nice lunch and go get your Culture on in January, for FREE!

Holiday Decorating: It’s in the Details, Like FREE Pine Boughs (Here’s Where to Get Them)

This post is #100! Thanks for celebrating this milestone with me. Enjoy!

Nothing screams “It’s Christmas-time!” quite like the fresh boughs of the humble pine tree. Green, needle-y and great-smelling. I used to buy a big box of cut mixed pine boughs every year. They are beautiful, but pricey. Last time I checked a box was $40, and that’s wholesale! I swore to forgo the greens this year. Problem was, I missed them. Then it hit me. The tree lots all over town are always cutting off the bottom branches. What happens to them? They usually go in a big box and get tossed out or composted. But if you bat your big eyelashes and ask real nice-like, they will probably let you have some. Do note that not all lots will give away the boughs. Some sell them as well, and some just aren’t so nice, but it’s worth visiting a couple lots if you have to. I got lucky at my local Whole Foods. They had a big bin of boughs and told me I could have as much as I wanted. I went back twice 😉 (Note: this was the Cap Hill Whole Foods. I asked at the Cherry Creek store and well, they weren’t as nice). The WF trees are locally grown (at least here in Colorado) and so are very fresh and long-lasting. (Do be warned that, just like a fresh tree, as they dry out they drop needles!) I’ve got boughs all over the house. It smells great and is, obviously, rather festive. Here are some ideas for using fresh pine boughs:

Use in flower arrangements instead of or in addition to regular greens.

Tuck into plants.

Tie a few together with a pretty ribbon and hang on your door, on the backs of dining chairs, or any vertical surface that needs some cheer.

Lay a few along your dining table, bar or buffet.

Is your holiday tree a little thin? Tuck in a few boughs to fill it out.

Wrap them around vases, candles, & plant pots.

Make your own fresh wreath or garland.

Weave around a chandelier (just keep it away from the sockets).

Lay along window sills with pine cones and lights.

Here’s what I did with my free pine boughs…


In flower arrangements.

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Tucked into houseplants. (This one also has a couple bird clip ornaments, a few feathers, and a little velvet deer.)


Hung on the curtains.

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Boughs tied together with ribbon. (This one is on our back porch door.)


In a vase, here with some peacock feathers.


Under a candle.


Laid along the dining table.


An unexpected spot, here tucked into a tall lamp.

Get some boughs and get creative! Happy Holidays!

Gettin’ Crazy with the Gift Wrap…Fun DIY Ideas for Creative Gifts from Stuff Already in the Craft Closet.

Gettin’ Crazy with the Gift Wrap…

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This year I decided to seriously get my gift on with some creative wrapping. I pulled out all sorts of funky things from my craft closet; leftover bits and odds and ends from other projects, feathers, end-of-spool ribbon pieces, washi tape, old greeting cards I couldn’t seem to part with, crafting bits from gifts I’ve received, etc. I laid everything out and played with putting different things together, and came up with some unusual gifts indeed…

Here are 8 unique ideas I hope will spark your creativity this holiday season! I’m assuming you already know how to wrap a box, so I’m focusing on the toppers.  (if you need help with the wrapping, It’s Martha Stewart to the Rescue) The first 6 are all with matching silver paper. (A new big fat roll, purchased from the thrift store of course, for $1.99) I like the gifts under my tree to match, I’m just anal like that. I got weird with the gifts I’m mailing out to family.

#1 Wrapsody in Blue

For this one I put together a couple blue feathers, a few vintage chenille wires twisted into tear-drop shapes (I think I got these in a grab bag of crafty stuff at a yard sale), a tree cut out from an old greeting card, a circle of textured card stock, and stick-on rhinestones sheet cut into strips from David Tutura (available at most craft stores)

The Ingredients:



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It’s all attached with simple Scotch tape. I also cut a gift tag out of the leftover card stock and edged it with more sticky rhinestones. Best part is, because it’s a gift for my man, I’ll get to save and reuse the feathers again 😉

#2 Arsty Fartsy

I’ve had this weird obsession with origami cranes lately (more on that in future posts) so I made one as part of a present topper from an art magazine page (great origami tutorials HERE) and added black feathers and crystals (I have a bag of old chandelier crystals), with some black and white washi tape wrapped around in place of ribbon.




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Again, everything is attached with Scotch tape, hidden under the crane. (and I can reuse it all again!)

#3 Furry Fun

I always a have bunch of faux fur scraps around (that’s just the kind of gal I am ;-)) I cut one into a circle (beware, cutting faux fur is crazy messy), and added simple loops cut out of the wrapping paper under it. Looking back I should have added more loops. I admit I got lazy, it was after midnight and my little wrapping fingers were sore…

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#4 Whimsical Pug

We have two pugs. If you know anyone with pugs, you know we get a pug-crazed and have pug stuff everywhere. Something about those smushy little faces makes you do things you wouldn’t normally do, like collect weird stuff with pugs on it…I cut this pug face out of a card from last year, it was just too damn cute. I added a bit of sparkly green sticky ribbon and another piece of grosgrain ribbon from an old gift.



By the way here’s the cards I cut out to use on gifts:




Again using only Scotch tape.

#5 Popping Up All Over

Here I used the pop-up inside a cute card I received last year. It was very easy to cut out of the card. Because the design is so large, I added only a simple bit of the sparkly green sticky ribbon.




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#6 Peacock Fantasy

This one is my favorite. I broke out the hot glue gun for this assemblage. I used a gorgeous piece of wired peacock feather on black ribbon as a base, and tied 2 black ostrich feathers together with a single peacock feather. I topped the tie point with a curl of the ribbon, glued a crystal into each end, and topped it with a short bit of Swarovski Crystals.




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#7 Mom Likes Purple

I used a bit of green and purple wrap for this one, along with a bit of purple silk flower, lavender textured card stock (cut in a circle and little strips), a couple purple floral crystals (usually used in bridal bouquets and what-not), more of that sparkly green sticky ribbon, and a piece of amethyst stone.




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I used the glue gun on this one as well.

And finally…

#8 Au Natural

This one was inspired by the lonely little owl I had in a box of craft supplies. He’d been there for ages awaiting a home, and now he has one. The box was wrapped in a clean brown paper bag, turned inside out and cut to size, and topped with the owl, a few vintage chenille wires, printed washi tape, raffia, a bit of the David Tutera sticky rhinestones in orange this time, a couple crystals, and a couple sticks of nice incense. I also used the hot glue gun on this one. I added a gift tag cut out of the paper bag and edged it with the sticky rhinestones.




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And all my holiday wrapping is DONE! Everything was done using bit and pieces I already had around, all I bought was the $1.99 wrapping paper. Now on to the holiday cards. A crafty woman’s work is never done 😉


My Holiday Decor Video, as Promised.

Here is the video of our holiday decorations as promised. You’ll see my infamous bubble lights and ornament spinners in action, and the funky assortment of ornaments on our Asian/India-inspired tree. (FYI the spinning ornaments featured in the video are all hand-blown/painted Polish glass purchased at Neiman Marcus Last Call during the big pre-Thanksgiving sale for an average of $10 each. They retail around $50. I get a new one or two every year.) You can see the blog on the mantle HERE and the blog on the tree HERE. The video is all shot on my iphone, I know it’s a bit shaky, so be kind, I did the best I could. (It was edited in iMovie) Now if Santa would just bring me the Cannon 5d Mark II camera I want, my pictures and videos would be much improved 😉


How to Trim Your Christmas Tree Like a Pro…and Some Unusual (and Cheap!) Holiday Tree Decorating Ideas


As you can probably guess from my tree, I’m into unusual holiday decor. “Traditional” has no place in my decorating vocabulary. In today’s blog I’m going to share some secrets of the pros for trimming your tree, and I’ll show you my unconventional tree-ness as well. I used to be a pro. I worked as a floral designer and event planner for over a decade, so I have a few industry tricks up my holiday sleeves. (Note: I am a serious Maximalist, the Liberace of Holiday Decor. If a minimal look is what you’re into, this may not be the DIY for you.)

Much like the last post on Holiday Mantles, the basics are the same: (I’ll not bore you by repeating the details today, if you want to delve deeper click the Holiday Mantles link)

The Basics:

1. Theme

2. Foundation

3. Lighting

4. Balance

5. Layers

6. Details

My tree theme is Indian/Asian in jewel tones. Over the past 4 years we’ve been collecting lovely themed ornaments such as peacocks, elephants, dragons, and even a couple sweet little Buddhas. To fill in I’ve added lots of pretty wired ribbons (a great (and cheap!) alternative to garland.), lots of more simple ornaments in jewel tones, some vintage and antique ornaments, and my favorite, feathers. There are scores of peacock and dyed ostrich feathers (purchased years ago on Ebay, and still going strong! A big visual impact for very little cash.) on our tree, making it rather unusual and really striking. I love unusual themes and color schemes. Try something weird! Go modern with black and white. Elegant with a monochromatic scheme, or get crazy with toys and primary colors. Sky’s the limit! I’ll share some other really fun trees I found at the end of this post.

We upgraded to a larger tree this year. We were lucky enough to find this very well made pre-lit faux tree at Goodwill for $40. I love it! All the lights work and it comes apart and folds up for storage. I saved hours of work because it is pre-lit. Always start your tree out with the lighting! And use a ton of lights. That’s the biggest pro tip I can share. A small 3-4 foot tree should have 600-1000 lights, and a 6-8 tree should have about 1600-3000. I know, it sounds like a lot, but it looks fantastic (ie: professional). Keep the lights steady, as a tree of all flashing lights is rather garish, and no one will notice your pretty ornaments. (I little dose of flickering lights is ok, just not the whole tree.) Do choose lights with green cords, unless your tree is flocked, then matching white cords are in order. Martha Stewart has a good diagram for putting lights on the tree:


She says: “Lights should be added to your tree before other decorations. Our technique will play up the depth of the tree better than draping lights only around the perimeter, while also concealing the wires.

How to Deck Out Your Mantle Like a Pro for the Holidays (A DIY…on a Cheap-Ass Budget, of course)



In today’s blog I’m going to share the secrets of the pros for doing up your holiday mantle. I used to be a pro. I worked as a floral designer and event planner for over a decade, so I have a few industry tricks up my holiday sleeves. I’ll be showing you all kinds of holiday goodness over the next couple of weeks, but today it’s all about the mantle. (Note: I am a serious Maximalist, the Liberace of Holiday Decor. If a minimal look is what you’re into, this may not be the DIY for you.)

The Basics:

1. Theme

2. Foundation

3. Lighting

4. Balance

5. Layers

6. Details

1. THEME. For a polished, professional look always start with a theme and/or color scheme in mind, and stick to it. Usually a 2-3 color scheme works best. In keeping with a teeny tiny budget, I work with what I have. This year, because of a couple key thrift store finds, I had an abundance of gold and brown. As a bonus, this elegant color scheme goes great on our mantle. I went through all the holiday decorations and gathered up everything that was brown and gold.

2. FOUNDATION. Start with a solid foundation, something that “anchors” the look. In this case, my foundation is about 16 feet of faux garland, doubled over itself on top and draped in the front and down the sides. The Garland is firmly seated in place so it will hold what is to come. (A few of the wired bits of garland are tucked in between the mantle and the wall. If you need something to anchor to, I highly recommend those 3M removable adhesive hooks. They are a life-saver! Well, at least a wall-saver.)

  * A Note on Faux Garland. I love this stuff. It can last for decades, it’s cheap, and it’s positionable. When the garland I’ve been using inside starts to look a little shabby, I move it outside. The trick to getting this stuff to look good is “fluffing”. The little branches are all wired and get squished. You need to fluff up the garland by gently pulling up the branches and shaping the greens. I find most of my faux garland super-cheap at the thrift store, and I even found a big bag of it that one of my neighbors had thrown out. Free! Score!

3. LIGHTING. Lighting is really part of the foundation. Make sure the color of your lighting goes with your color scheme. White pretty much always works. I recommend LED lights. I know, they are more pricey, but they last longer, use less energy to light, and won’t get too hot and burn your house down. That would suck. There are two big common mistakes many people make with lighting. The first is not enough lights, and the second is messy lights, ie: wires showing and lights sticking out all over the place. No one wants unsightly lights 😉 To look like a pro, wrap your lights around the garland, tucking in any wires that show, and use a lot of lights! I used a 150 string on my mantle, and it is just barely enough, even with the added string of bubble lights.

4. BALANCE. From the foundation up, make sure your mantle is visually balanced. Find the center and place decorations evenly out from there. (Unless you are going for an asymmetrical balance, like I did for my Thanksgiving Mantle) Stand back every so often while your working and give it a good look to be sure everything is even.

5. LAYERS. Get in deep! Layers are key for a pro look. Place items tucked in the back, on all sides, in the middle, everywhere! Layering gives visual depth and fullness.

6. DETAILS. The little things count. Polish off your display by paying attention to the details. Are your cords tucked in? Are all the lights working? Stand back and give it a good looksy. Does it need a final touch of bling?


OK, there are the basics, let’s get started.

Foundation & Lighting. Here I have my foundation greens in place, and my white lights wrapped into the garland. (Yes, that’s dorky-ass me and my iphone reflected in the mirror, glad you can’t see that I’m in pajamas)


Next, more lights (a string of bubble lights. I love these things. I find a place to use them every year) and a few sprigs of glittery faux eucalyptus I picked up at the thrift store last year.


Time for a little sparkle with a bit of gold lame’ fabric tucked under the front and behind the sides. The fabric is secured in place with the wired garland branches. Lame’ is cheap! My favorite fabric source is Distinctive Fabric.


Now we get busy with ornaments and pine cones. The pine cones I save and reuse every year. All of the ornaments came from the thrift store, collected over the years. (Even our wacky stocking was a thrift store find). Most of the brown and gold ones are from a big bucket of Martha Steward “shatter resistant” (read: plastic) ornaments I snagged at the Goodwill a couple weeks ago for $5. They were new! (retail $39) Can’t beat that with a stick.


All the ornaments were simply secured to the garland with the wired branches. Easy peasy. Note the Balance & Layers. There are pieces at every depth and level. And for the final detail, I tucked in some pheasant feathers to the middle and either end. I use feathers for just about every holiday. Cheap, festive, unusual, and reusable. Done! Well mostly. I am looking to change out the red candles for white ones…


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There’s much more Holiday Goodness to come! FOLLOW the blog and you won’t miss a thing.