Back-to-School Mantelscape

Don’t yell!  I know we are all in full Summer mode right now, but the school bell will be ringing before you know it and we just wanted to share this great idea–originally posted on September 13, 2016–for a back-to-school decorating project that will have you and your kiddos excited for the first day of school! Whether you homeschool or do public school, this is a fun and creative idea.  I might do it myself and my kids are grown–ahh, but I do have grandchildren…

I have never, ever thought much about a mantel-scape.  My house is not brimming with magazine-level decor or “scapes” of any kind, really.

But the thought of having a finite area to decorate kind of appealed to me when I began to mull it over.

And since the hubs and I built a new mantel last year, it really is due for an upgrade in the decor department.  I just threw the look pictured below together quickly to keep it from being naked.  I posted our DIY pic on Facebook and when a former Maven (hi, Kara!) mentioned in a comment that she couldn’t wait to see what I would do with it, I was a little stymied.


What would I do with it?

It was only recently that the idea began to form.  Wouldn’t it be fun to do something different each month?  Nothing extravagant, and mostly consisting of items already in the house.

Yes, that could work.

So, as much as I’d love to jump onto the Halloween theme now (I’ve already been playing with some items for it), I figured September is best pigeon-holed as “back to school” month.

And while we are a homeschooling family with no school bus stops by our driveway, we are “back” at it this month!  So, yeah….I’m lovin’ it.


What you see is mostly items scavenged from around our home.  In fact, why don’t I just list for you the breakdown?

 Found at Home
encyclopedias & books
ruler & pencils in cup
wooden puzzle
chalkboard blocks
clipboard with worksheet
flannel board
 Made for This Project
felt ABC & 123
page bunting
 Purchased for This Project
jute for bunting
artificial apples

Wow!  Just typing it out I’m thinking, “How cool is it that you can pull something together like this with stuff you already have?”  I LOVE IT! 

And really, the basic ideas to keep in mind are:

  • vary the heights of the objects (high and low)
  • balance the colors (sprinkle them throughout and focus on a few colors)
  • balance the “weight” (doesn’t necessarily have to be symmetrical, it should just feel balanced)
  • use pics of other mantelscapes that you like as a guide


I bought the jute for $4 and a bag of fake apples for  $9.99 (but there were 6 in there–and yes I bought it specifically for the mantel but that’s only because my old fake apples from a Thanksgiving arrangement finally bit the dust after too much hot/cold attic storage!).  Pretty cheap mantel!


Now, I have to confess that, never having cared about a themed mantelscape before now, I really didn’t know where to start!  Oh, Pinterest…you amazing idea generator, you!  Yes, Pinterest saved the day.  I pretty much used an image on there for my template and just ran with it from there.  And that’s how I roll, really.  I’m not super great at completely original ideas, but I AM super great at taking an existing idea and developing it.  


The main inspiration image I saw used dictionary pages for the page bunting.  I thought about cutting out pages from a book, but….well, book-lovers just don’t do that!  So, I went online and found images of old pages from dictionaries, school primers, maps, etc., and printed them out.  Then I used a flag bunting template (that I also snagged on Google images) to pencil in the cutting lines on the printed pages.  A quick hole punch through each top corner and they were ready for stringing onto the jute!



I was unsure if mantelscapes would be something I could get on board with.  But y’all, I am loving this idea and can’t wait for October, November, and December!!!

Happy ‘Scaping, Y’all!


Sew, Have You Tried This?


Guess what is better than straight pins for laying out and cutting a pattern?  WASHERS!!  For real.  

Way back in time, like maybe 2000, I was asked to help make costumes for a regional youth dance festival that our church was putting on as part of their annual Youth Conference.  The lady in charge had us meet at the stake center to lay out and cut the pattern pieces that we would then take home and sew.

The costumes were very simple, but the coolest thing about this experience was that I learned a great sewing trick that I continue to use to this day.  Get you some 2-inch stainless (I think) washers.  The middle hole is about 7/8 inch.  I have about 20 or so in a little plastic container that I found at home somewhere.


It is so great to lay these washers (sometimes you might want to stack 2 of them together) right on top of the pattern piece.  It saves a lot of time/fingers/stress.  

DIY Mason Jar Spice Shelf

Have you ever had a project in mind but it was still just in the planning phases when suddenly you just decided that it had to happen now?

That’s how this spice shelf came to be.

See, I have this drawer.  (And by the way, I’m totally kicking myself for not snapping a pic of it before the project started.)  It was my spice drawer and it was a mess.  Problem was that it had two layers of jars and if you didn’t put each one back just so, you couldn’t close the drawer.  And I could never find all my spices.  And I didn’t even keep the baking spices there.  This was just the savory ones!  I hated that drawer.  I was so ready to change over to canning jars when I heard that my Canadian best buddy had done that.  

And one night I just snapped.

“I’m getting rid of all these stupid bottles right now!”

Never mind that I didn’t have a spice shelf made or even have the supplies purchased for it.  I had the jars (lots and lots of jars that I was able to get from a friend who dejunked them in a move) so I figured…why not?



So, I pulled out every single stinkin’ spice and herb that I had in that drawer and hiding in any other cabinet in the kitchen!  I pulled them all out, put them on the counter, and my youngest daughter and I sorted them.  Yep, I had several multiples.  See, this was a good thing?  Now I’ll know exactly what I have.

I felt energized.  Giddy.  


The carcasses of all those annoying little bottles!

Into the jars they went.

But in the absence of any labels, I used Post-It notes to keep track of what was what.  And those spice jars sat on my counter (in my very small kitchen) for two or three days while we worked on the shelves.  jars-with-post-its

But now that it’s all done.  I’m in heaven!  I absolutely adore it.  


I’ll share with you how we decided the sizes and what we used.  You could totally customize this kind of shelf to whatever size you wanted.  I knew that I had 50 jars to accommodate so I had to base the measurements from that.  I figured 5 shelves was as much as would fit above the chair rail.  So we measured for 10 jars on each shelf with a couple of inches space  above the jars and an inch or so space between jars.  

To build the spice shelf, we used 1×6 boards and basically made a box.  Then we placed the 4 boards to make the inner shelves and screwed them into place.  Then we used trim pieces to make the shelf rails and nailed them into place using decorative tacks (they look kind of like miniature railroad spikes).  As you can see at the top there is a narrower board attached to the unit that is used to screw the whole unit into the wall–into studs…this thing is heavy!!


To get the barnwood look, I used a dark stain on the boards.  Then when the stain was dry, I dry brushed with some acrylic craft paints (‘cuz that’s what I had on hand!) and used a cloth to wipe and smooth the paint to get the desired look.  I found this part to be the most enjoyable!  I’d love to dry some green and/or blue on another project to see what kind of look that would give me.  


You can see below the board on the right has just the stain (applied with a cloth) and the board on the left has had some acrylic paint dry brushed and wiped on.  I didn’t want a perfect look–I wanted it to look worn and aged but not overly distressed.  I recommend prepping all the wood BEFORE assembly; it’s just easier.  


I just adore my new spice shelf!!  It was a real collaboration between my husband and myself.  Every time I look at it, I just smile.  It is a beautiful piece of art, in my humble opinion, and makes a real statement in my kitchen.  

I would LOVE to share detailed instructions with you, but honestly….we made it up as we went along.  And that was half the fun!!!  But feel free to ask any clarifying questions!  



Halloween Mantelscape

halloween-mantelscape-5Some people are very gory and graphic with their Halloween decor.  In contrast, some people don’t even like to say the word “Halloween”!

I guess I’m somewhere in between.

I don’t do all the gore and super creepy stuff.  But I enjoy the pumpkins, costumes, candy, and the tame spooky stuff associated with it.

So if you hate Halloween, by all means, keep scrolling.  

If you like it….I think you’re gonna like this!


Over the years, I’ve collected a few fun Halloween items.  Some I love, some are just cheap place fillers.  But together they work pretty well.  At least for me.

I already had the dark open-weave fabric as well as the skull, potion bottles, Spellbook (which is really just a fun candy box), votives, and crow.  I purchased the cat plate, the black frame, the small Jack-o-lantern, and the wooden pillars that it sits on.  I also purchased the “Trick or Treat” sign in the first image (Hobby Lobby for something like $10).  I already had the Jack-o-lantern that sits in front of it.


I needed something with some height and, look as I might, I just had nothin’.  But I found some great rubbery plastic branches at Michael’s and they were on sale for $4.50 each!  I love them and think they balance out the black accents nicely.


Oh yeah, I also purchased that chalkboard bottle at Walmart for a few bucks.  My daughter drew a skull and crossbones on it for me.  One of my favorite accents is the drippy candles, which I posted about earlier this week.  SO incredibly easy!!  And you can do whatever colors you want!


I found the cute cat plate at Hobby Lobby for just a few dollars–I needed something round and a bit brighter for that spot.  The pillars that the pumpkin is on are just two wooden candle pillars from Michael’s that I painted gray.  They aren’t even attached to each other!  I like to keep my options open.


If you ignore the gross, old fake log unit in the fireplace, it makes for a pretty nice package altogether, doesn’t it?

And now, what to do for November……

Spooky Drippy Candles

drippy-candles-8It all happened because I was thinking how boring my black candles were–I had bought them for my Halloween mantelscape and had foregone the much-more-expensive-but-way-more-cute black and orange striped candles.  What could I do to liven up these boring tapers?



So I went to the crayon drawer and started hinting for orange, green, and purple (I love those colors together for Halloween!).  And I knew that they needed to be fairly light in color to show up on the dark candles.  My girls and I lit the black tapers, peeled back the paper on the crayon, and hoped for the best as we held the tip of the crayon near the candle flame and watched it melt, droop, and drip its way down the taper’s sides.


Instant satisfaction!!!  

And we just couldn’t stop!  It was so much fun that after we did the black tapers, I grabbed a bright red crayon and melted it over some old white tapers.  SO FUN!  


Now maybe red drippy candles is too creepy for you.  That’s fine.  But do you see the possibilities here?  What a fun way to decorate for next to nothing!  And the drippy look made my candles pop on my mantelscape!  LOVE IT!!!


Have some fun with this one–grab some cheap tapers and your kids’ old crayons and just play!!!  It’s strangely addicting!!