Tutorial Tuesday! Rustic Centerpiece

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.


One more.

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 . . .

29 thoughts on “Tutorial Tuesday! Rustic Centerpiece

  1. It’s a large centerpiece, yes, but very balanced and beautiful!

    I too, am blessed with a wonderful mother-in-law. We (5 kids under the age of 12) lived with her for 6 months after my husband got out of the Air Force. She was a sweetheart to let us turn her life upside down and I love and admire her BIG heart!

    Again, great job!

  2. WoW! I was really worried about how that was going to come together, seeing all those different components, but that looks really neat! You’re so right about needing to be choosy when picking fake flowers…a bad choice is the fastest way to take your project from classy to dime-store reject.

    This reminds me of the time I was asked to decorate the coctail area of a friend’s wedding. She wanted simple, classy, yet ecclectic. All I did was go to the thrift and pick out tons of different glass containers, cluster tehm together on tables, fill them with water and use food dyes to tint the water in the shaded colors of her wedding. $25 worth of glass, a few votives to reflect off the cut edges, and we had a whole room full of pretty. People would ask me where I got them, and wouldn’t believe the decor could come together so inexpensively. I’ve had friends borrow them several times over since then, there are just so many uses for thrift store glass!

    • Ha! Worried, were you? You know, there are times when crafting/decorating where I really blow it, and the outcome is a hideous beast, but luckily it’s not too often. Extremes: I either kick-butt or suck it. LOL.
      Very cool about the wedding . . . that is a great way to cut-costs, while not compromising on having lovely decorations. Glass is such an incredibly versatile element. You can use light to enhance it, fill it with things, etc… I love that we are able to just walk right into a thrift-store, and walk out with treasure 🙂

  3. My mother in law buys the neatest gifts! I tell my wife that I married her for her mother!!! 🙂 She is a very kind lady and for that I’m very thankful!

    That is one sweet centerpiece! I like that you kept it neautral.

    Customers buy frames from thrift stores and have me restore them.

    • Thankful, indeed! I have heard too many horror stories in which people are forever doomed to live in their in-laws scorn and disapproval. Yuck! LOL. Hopefully your wife knows you married her for her, too!
      That’s super cool about the frames. I can see why they might want the old charm, and then with your help, turn them into new.

  4. You’re good at this. Funny thing about seeing that is I used to have a kitchen set just like your mother-in-law’s. It never had a nice centerpiece. I’m not creative that way. Really nice work.

    • Thank you very much! And it warms me to hear that we have similar thoughts in regards to purchasing gifts for our friends/loved ones. It seems to silly to me to just buy an ole thing, or slap a gift-card in an envelope. Of course there will be times where you can’t buy the perfect gift, but figuring out a little about who the person is goes a very long way!

      • it sure does. I remember a time when I found new a jar jar binks cup with jar jar head on it and straw and gave to my young nephew. It was the hit gift and yet was only 50 cents for me in a thrift shop brand new still in the package. But I knew how much he loved jar jar. it is not the money but knowing the person

  5. I LOVED your choices every step of the way. I was with you.

    I’m not suggesting I could have created something with as much WOW factor as you did, but I often pass something unique in a store (Target, Walmart, Michaels, Hobby Lobby, consignment stores) and have a ding, ding, ding experience. KUDOS on your creative genius at play.

    And, I still want to buy that book with all the unusual words in it so I can keep up with you. Yes. I notice them.

    I, too, had a wonderful MIL with whom we lived for a number of years. She always made me feel special and wanted and I loved her dearly.

    • Gloria,

      I just adore your comments. You, to me, are one of those people who put sincere effort into what you are going to say. I assume you must have many followers in which you keep in contact with through-out the week, but I just want you to know how much I appreciate being of those people who receives such warm-hearted, genuine feedback. Thank you.

      And you should definitely buy that book . . . It’s a heckuva lot of fun confusing people 😉

  6. Mother-in-laws get a bad rap in the media, so it is wonderful to see you praise yours so adoringly. I, too, had a fabulous mother-in-law. Sadly, she passed last year, but hardly a day goes by where I don’t think about her. Here is to wonderful mother-in-laws the world over!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. Appreciate it!

    • You are so right! A reputation rivaling that of an evil step-mother, don’t you think? What a joy it has been the last day, discovering others who cherish their mother-in-laws with the same alacrity as I do mine. I am so very sorry to hear of your mother-in-law’s passing. I can imagine the loss you must have felt at having to say goodbye to someone who meant a great deal to you.

      My pleasure; thank you for doing the same!

    • You are so nice to say that! Decorating is like anything else, you know? Confidence is key. Your choices are reflected in how you personally feel about them. If you’re wishy-washy about something, others will be, too. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment 🙂

    • Hi Bill!

      Why, thank you! While my attempts in creating this piece didn’t lie so much with the harmonious as they did with the decorative, it is my hope that you are right, and a certain amity is provided when any come to gather at the dinner table.


  7. During the tutorial, I wasn’t sure how all of that would look together, but that center piece is fantastic. I like the wooden stand because you can carefully move everything at once.

    Oh the spikey balls are buckeyes.

    • Thank you, and I’m glad you weren’t disappointed by the final result 🙂 And yes, moving it is fairly easy, so long as you have people!

      Ah, buckeyes. Great name for those lil buggers. Happy Friday!

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