For Christmas last year, I wanted to give my mother-in-law something she would really love. (I’m weird about gifts, and am unable to buy things just for the sake of having a present to give.) It has to fit, you know? A well thought out gift is very much like offering someone a piece of their reflection; they see all the best parts of themselves in it, without all the blemishes and flaws normally so apparent.
Before I go into the tutorial, a bit of background. I believe I have yet to mention our living situation, yes? Well, I used to think of it as unique, but more and more it seems to become quotidian with each and every passing month our economy stays rooted in debt. My husband and I — for the time being — are living with his mother. For years we paid exorbitant rent prices, and in return had a lovely space with which to entertain. Our town-home was 1400 sq. ft. and stunning, let me tell you! We poured much time and energy into painting and decorating, and enjoyed every minute of it. However . . . it also cost over $2,000 a month. Yowsa! When I stopped working as a nanny, and decided to take this Providential moment in my life — however long it may last — to finish my first novel, we also decided that we would give up a portion of our autonomy in exchange for some much needed financial relief. Michael’s mother, Susan, graciously accepted us into her home. Susan is incredible. I love my my mother. I also love my father and step-mother; however, I know that we couldn’t live with either of them — mostly because of me. I intuit and perceive, and being the over-sensitive Mollusk Girl I am, would be worrying about every microscopic detail, fretting about becoming a bother and burden, and so on and so forth. Susan is calm. Susan is easy-going. Susan is Michael’s mom. I need these blue personalities around my red one, or else . . . I will absolutely go insane.
Oh. I forgot to mention that my eleemosynary mother-in-law did not just take in her second eldest and his wife and their ridiculously adorable Chi-pup (Susan has made it clear that our tentative residence is permanent so long as Bella is included in the package.), but also her eldest son after he was laid off a 9 year job, and her youngest, after she turned down a professional career in soccer. Michael and I were given the master bedroom, her daughter given back her room, and my brother-in-law has set up camp in the den — creating a makeshift bedroom of his own. There is also a 12 year-old lab who, if properly utilized, could make a few fur coats — A DAY — with the hair she sheds. Modern Family? Um, yes, you could say that. Happy? You bet your bumble-butt, we are. (Sorry, I don’t know what a bumble-butt is, but I liked the sound of it and went with it.)
What I am trying to say is I am thankful. Incredibly, forever indebted, make you a tiara of Amazingness, thankful to my Susan. Without her, none of this — writing a novel, blogging, catching up on 10 years of lost sleep — would have been possible. I love her dearly. And so, when she allows us an opportunity to be generous with her — we take it!
This tutorial is generous in the way of time, however, not in terms of dollars. Which is exactly why I thought it was a splendidly idoneous craft to choose, following yesterday’s post on frugality. Altogether, I would guess I spent somewhere south of $15 for the entire piece. Hours, this very honestly was north of 5-6. I labored and deliberated over everything, wanting to to be perfect for her, but every purchase came from a thrift-store.
I had a very specific design in mind, and while a few pieces were destined to be a part of my creation, there remained a few components requiring my most creative out-of-the-box thinking.
This is what Susan’s dining room table looked like pre-Christmas:
How about a centerpiece, I thought to myself! Why, Cara, that’s a marvelous idea; simply marvelous! And off to the thrift-stores we went!
As you may know, it’s nearly March, and Susan’s centerpiece is well and done. I have taken it apart, though, to show you how it all came together. The first piece (which is optional) is something Michael made using a few pieces of scrap wood we had laying around the house. Just a hammer, nails, and wood. Note: Michael did lose a finger in the process, so I suggest combing through your most handiest friends and selecting wisely. No! Come on! He did not lose a finger. Sheesh! What kind of wife do you think I am, letting him wield tools without the proper knowledge of how to use them. Can you imagine the disastrous outcome? His bloody nub would have ruined the pretty wood-stand I envisioned. 😉
Here it is, completed.
Well done, my love. You are oh so talented!
Next, we start putting our goodies together!
This is a candle-stand, mason jars, votives, tea-lights, and these adorable glass raspberry butter dishes (?) I found for .50 at The Salvation Army. I think I may have squealed when I saw them. I filled a couple of the mason jars with rock salt to add dimension, texture, and splash of neutral color.
This is another mason jar — a large one — that I filled with those little spiky-balls that fall off the tree around the fall/winter seasons. Tons of them just sitting in the grass. I sprinkled a few pink petals inside. I forget what kind of flower it is, but they are real and they stay that color forever!
Of everything we purchased, I think this is my personal favorite. I love bottles. Blue glass bottles, to be more specific. This piece, though, was meant to be subtle, as Susan’s kitchen has a lot going on already. For the most part, I stayed scrupulous about adhering to the neutral theme, using whites and clear glass. Look at these tiny vases and bottles! The one on the far right is my very, very favorite — a silvery-grey, almost.
After strolling up and down the aisles of Michael’s (The craft store, not the man), I found the flowers I wanted to fill these vases, and cut them accordingly. Nothing too outlandish; every bloom has an authentic look about it. One must always use prudence and caution when selecting faux-flowers. Very easily the desired effect can become not so desirable. The idea is pick ones that look real, that blend together well.
This little creamer pitcher cost me about $1. Can you believe it? Gorgeous. Shape is very important when selecting pieces. Pick things with sloping lines and a curvy body. Mm-hm, that’s right; I said curvy body. Wink-wink, nudge-nudge. I filled it with more flowers, again being conscious of what would look most natural.
These saucer plates cost me 1.25 for 6! Ornamentally (made that word up) speaking, the pattern is simple and delicate, but it stands out because of the collective subtly elsewhere.
Now this is a bit of a cheat, because Susan already had this piece in her house. I swiped it from the hutch and filled it with vanilla scented rose candles, pink and purple flower petals, and rock salt.
This darling white ceramic bric-c-brac cost no more than $2. I filled this, too, with rock salt, bound 6 tapers in varying shades of neutral with twine, and stuck em right in there!
We had this vase already. After a good cleaning with Windex, I sent my helpful Hubby out to the front yard to gather sticks about yey long. I quickly cut out a few paper roses (See this tutorial for a more in depth look: https://thislittlelight516.wordpress.com/2012/01/31/tutorial-tuesday-paper-bouquet/) and slid a few over the twigs.
At this point, you must be wondering “How much more can she possibly fit on that stand?” Well, a lot! I’m a ‘Go Big or Go Home’ type of gal, and don’t see the point in doing something if I’m not going to give it 100% of me. Hm . . . this could perhaps explain why it’s taking me over 2 years for me to write and edit my book. Is it 12:30, already?!
Just one more thing, I promise! These oil and vinegar containers are gorgeous. The picture, quite honestly, does not do them justice. The glass, the color, the etching, the cork and the topper — I fell in love with it all.
Are you ready to see it all put together?!? Me, too! Let’s hope I can remember how to do it. LOL.
Susan loved her present, by the way. We surprised her upon coming home from a short vacation, and actually, we had just barely finished when we saw her car bump into the driveway. Talk about perfect timing; thank you, Jesus!
I hope to make something similar to this for my own home one day, but until then, I am so abundantly glad I could make a gift for my lovely, kind, gracious, thoughtful, wonderful mother-in-law. She sits at the north end of the table every morning, sipping her coffee and playing on her ipad. I know she loves it, which, really . . . is why this gift belongs to me just as much as it belongs to her.
This post is dedicated to you, Susan. Love you with all my heart.
Happy Tuesday, Everyone!
Until next time . . .