The Halls are Decked


We live in an apartment and storage is always a consideration, so consequently we don’t have many boxes of Christmas decorations. I thought I might liven things up by making some decorations using things from outside or around the house. Some of them turned out well, but some didn’t, and I wanted to share them all with you.

We made a string of buttons and suspended it as part of a garland over the fireplace (photo above).

The Advent wreath from the kitchen is going strong, and we’re lighting it at dinner time each night.

I do like how the walnut ornaments turned out.


I wanted to string orange slices into a garland, so I sliced them thin and dried them in a low-heat oven for a few hours. They looked good in the beginning, but I don’t think they’ll last much longer. I may have baked them instead of dehydrating them.

I had a rosemary table-top tree, and it was so pretty. Then it suddenly died. It turns out that rosemary is a really high-maintenance plant when it’s inside. Now it’s outside in the cold, shriveled up and brown. It couldn’t be helped.

I also tried to make some wooden snowflakes by gluing pretty mesquite branches together, but I had a hard time. They turned out rather precarious.


The tree…the tree is glorious. That’s because she’s fake. It happens to be our very first Christmas tree, and I love sitting next to it while I work on these projects at home.

We resisted the urge to fill it up with new ornaments. We have a small collection of ornaments that we used to hang on a garland in our previous, smaller apartment, and we add a new ornament each year. We didn’t have a star, so I put a hat on top. I think we’re going to make a star at some time, but the hat will do for now. We won’t put presents under it until Christmas Eve, partly so Lane won’t go crazy, but mostly because they’re not ready yet.

It would have been so much simpler to order a couple of toys from Oompa like we did last year, but this year the gifts we wanted for both of our kids needed to be handmade.

I’m working on a quilt for Tom, and Doug is working on a dollhouse for Lane.

20091218-quilt-work 20091216-dollhouse-work

Each night we spend time on these projects together, and it’s been extremely satisfying to work on them.

20091219-quilt-topYou can tell the quilt is in its early stages in this photo because there are only two mugs on the dining table so far. I think I may finish it today, and then I’ll have a lot of cleaning up to do!

Update: finished just in time! Tom’s quilt and Lane’s dollhouse.

Thanks for joining me in this little holiday house tour. I hope you are enjoying your Christmas plans!
About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. So many things I want to say!
    I think your fireplace is the most amazing thing I’ve seen in ages. It’s really cool!
    As for ornaments, I couldn’t resist the urge to buy some last year (first tree too) but stuck with just a couple special ones and then just basic baubles.
    I was wondering how do you live Santa’s tradition. I’m not sure how it’s done over there, but here in Spain grown ups leave the presents under the tree during the night or when the kids aren’t looking and then just pretend it was Santa who did it, so no presents under the tree until the very last minute here!

    Gracia´s last post…The first day

    • Thank you Gracia — Doug actually built that fireplace for us.

      On Christmas Eve we’ll hang up stockings for Santa, and the stockings are filled with snacks and little things. The gifts under the tree will always be from me and Doug.

  2. Please tell us about the little drawers behind your lovely quilt.
    Thank you!

    • that’s an old card catalog file.

      • Rachel did a great post on finding that card catalog and what we keep in it….it was on Smallnotebook about a month ago….

        check it out, that thing is the best craigslist find ever!!!

  3. Your home looks so lovely and peaceful, Rachel. I can’t wait to hear more about that dollhouse!!


    steadymom´s last post…O Christmas Tree

  4. Wow. That fireplace…

    Southern Gal´s last post…Family and Favorite Cookie Recipe

  5. @Rita – Aren’t those cool? They’re old card catalogs. She has a longer post about them here.

  6. Rachel, it’s all lovely. I brought rosemary in from our garden last week and thought it was really nice and festive and then it died too and wasn’t so festive anymore. :)

    Merry Christmas to you and your beautiful family.

    Can’t wait to see the quilt!

    Emily@remodelingthislife´s last post…Randomly Festive

  7. love all your little touches.

  8. Great fireplace! Kudos to Doug! Love the dollhouse, I want to build (put one together) for my daughter when she turns 2 next year. The quilt is a great idea, unfortunately I am all thumbs when it comes to sewing. :)

    Happy Holidays!

  9. I love the dollhouse and the quilt! What treasured gifts these will be! Thanks for sharing the good and the not-so-good. You’re human!!

    mrs.e´s last post…An Old Friend

  10. I, too, am mesmerized by the fireplace. Did Doug make that, as well, or do you live in the most awesome apartment complex ever??

    We do the oranges, as well, but we do them traditionally- stuck with cloves, wrapped with a ribbon, and rolled in cinnamon. They’re so fragrant after hanging over a fireplace.

    Good luck on the quilt!

    Evenshine´s last post…Step away from the baby

  11. We tried stringing lights in our home for the first time this year and it’s a total disaster! Every strand was either waaaaay to long or waaaay to short and either way they look terrible. But we laughed the whole time, and left them anyway. I think it was a much more memorable experience than the successful decorations.

    Ps. I agree, the fireplace is killer!

    Anna´s last post…The Girls’ Guide: Learn How to Wear Heels

  12. So does the fireplace Doug built actually house a fire or is it purely decorative. I think this is a fabulous idea as we also rent and I would love something like that.

    Shannon´s last post…Why Our Family Eats Animal Products, Part 2

  13. My favorite thing(s) is the four little red birds hiding in the wreath hanging on the fireplace. We do have a few more of the little tiny birds just in case the next few Christmas’s have extra little ones in our nest. I can’t even add up how often I think about putting those redbirds in the wreath, it randomly pops into my mind all year. On ornament night, i put them up last with the biggest smile. This year when i put them up, my back was still hurting from putting up the fireplace! Good times!

  14. I love the orange slices – so festive just with the pop in color! And THANK YOU for including the link to your Advent wreath – I’ve been wanting to do one since last year but I never made a note to get it done & we don’t have a Christian bookstore anywhere close-by. Your idea is both charming, practical, won’t get ruined if children to get their hands on it as well as pretty! Perfect!

    Vicki´s last post…Luminaries and little ones

  15. Thanks for sharing a peek into your hokiday home. I do love your handmade mantle’ it’s just wonderful! Was this crafted just for the holiday or is it a year-round decoration? It definately adds character!

    • I think we’ll leave it up year-round. We used to have a tv there, and I think we like this better.

  16. Such special gifts! How sweet it will be in years to come to have these photos of you both hard at work on their gifts.
    Truly wonderful.

    Lisa Rae @ smacksy´s last post…Oy Christmas Tree

  17. You guys–Doug and Rachel–are the most talented, fascinating, interesting people I have ever known. The fireplace is just divine. Doug should special make those and sale them! The dollhouse is truly magical. It brought tears to my eyes seeing it. Wow! Lane will love it! Doug should special make those and sale them too! Oh boy how I wish you guys lived in League City!

  18. Thank you for sharing. Your home really looks quaint… Yes, will love to read more about the quilt and dollhouse when they are gifted! ;D

  19. OK, I love everything about this! Your garlands look so lovely, and your tree is just great– especially the hat! I think your home looks wonderful. Thanks for all the fun and frugal ideas. Merry Christmas!

    liz´s last post…daylight graph

  20. I just love your Christmas tree and your decorations!

    Rona´s last post…"The Closer" ~ Don’t Miss The Season Finale

  21. I love the handmade gifts–so thoughtful! Several of mine are handmade every year (this year: cloth garlands and posy pins, both which require no sewing), and you’re right, it is really rewarding to work on them.

    Minnesotamom´s last post…Best LOLCat I’ve seen in awhile…

  22. Lovely home. And good for you for mentioning what worked and what didn’t… you’ll notice I didn’t exactly blog about that half made doll sitting in our basement. Bonus points to you for honesty.

    Adele´s last post…Inundated

  23. Wanna come decorate here? :)

    Rachel, you are SO GORGEOUS. Seriously, mama.

    Megan at Simple Kids´s last post…Simple As That: Reconnect with Nature

  24. Leave the rosemary outside and keep soil moist… it might just come back. I have a “bush” outside that constantly fights with the raspberry bushes for survival, but it keeps going on threw flood, dog digging, and lack of sunlight. It’s not super cold here, but really wet

    If it survives, it could become the welcoming tree outside the front door next year.

    Jana´s last post…Vomitous

  25. That fireplace is amazing!

    All the decorations are so lovely and cheerful.

  26. Rachel, are the cranberries in your Advent wreath getting icky at all? Just curious…

    I too really like the fireplace, and love all the decoration and holiday bustle at your house – thanks for sharing!

    Cary´s last post…a little more Christmas in the air…

    • I tossed three or four that became soft, but the rest still look good and I’ve had them since before Thanksgiving.

  27. I admire your quilting ability! Way to go with the homemade gifts.

  28. I just want to chime in on that fireplace…absolutely LOVE IT!

    Sleepy Cat Hollow´s last post…For Today ~ 21 December 2009 ~ Simple Woman’s Daybook

  29. Love the orange slices! It reminded me of my last year’s orange-whole cloves ornament. It took me a while to make but I loved it. It smells so good even though it only last for a few days. I think I might make a couple in the next day or two. Thanks for the reminder!
    I am not sure how I came across your blog but I am glad I did. I think you have much wisdom on handling finance. I spent last couple of days (and nights) reading through your posts. Time well spent on my part!
    Merry Christmas to you and to your lovely family!

    Our Lives´s last post…Twenty-One Months Old

  30. How lovely to each have a project to be working on! Sounds like a sweet Christmas memory in the making.

    Anna´s last post…Home Together

  31. Wow, the decorations and hand made gifts pictures made me part of your family life. thanks for being an inspiration and being real as always.

    Zengirl´s last post…Gifts from heart during Holidays

  32. Love that you and your husband are hand making your gifts. My father made me and my sisters a dollhouse when we were young and it was our most prized possession. Your quilt looks lovely! I fell in love with your card catalog last month and your fireplace is fantastic! Well done. Have a very Merry Christmas :)

    Kristen´s last post…holiday happenings

  33. I am wondering if I am going to finish 4 peek-a-boo bags before Christmas!! May we all get our projects done in time!! (with no stress…ok…with as little stress as possible!)

    Meeks´s last post…Inspirational Poem: The Night Before Christmas

  34. I’m loving all your garlands. Like everyone else, I’m loving the fireplace too. Is there a tutorial in the future? I think we’d all love a guest post from Doug.

    Meg´s last post…Personalized Money or Gift Card Holder

  35. So much interest in the fireplace! I’ll see if I can do a post about it soon.

  36. i’m loving your fireplace. my husband made the fireplace in our last home out of steel. isn’t it great to have a handy husband? and i love how simple you guys are keeping christmas. i had a hard [and mostly unsuccessful] time at reigning in my husband over the gift list. i think we’ll have to discuss christmas of 2010 way in advance so there isn’t too much emotion involved.

  37. Fabulous mantle, Rachel! We do the same thing with Santa filling stockings and us bringing gifts. This year they were store bought–some years they’re homemade. Have a very merry Christmas!

  38. rachel, beautiful creativity! i love your apartment (still loving that card file you scored!). i remember your saying last year you didn’t have a tree. your first is glorious, but it is the dried oranges i am seeing all over and on your blog that i love! almost as much as the stacked mantle you have!
    happy holidays to you and your beautiful family.

    nicola´s last post…the creativity of others

  39. Your projects are so special, Rachel! Everything looks so beautiful, festive, and most of all simple elegance!! Wishing your family a Merry Christmas today!!