Christmas Cheer in the Soden House

Grinch front yard Christmas decoration

Maybe it's just me, but I'm having a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that New Years has passed and it's almost February.  Here I thought time would slow down a bit now that we've gotten ourselves married and in a routine with the house and Zoey (our puppy), but I guess not!

I've discovered (unsurprisingly) that one of my favorite parts of home-ownership is getting to decorate for the holidays.  I had a blast coming up with ideas for Halloween, and had even more fun crafting displays for Christmas.  Here are a few things I came up with:

Wood Slice Wreath

Christmas wood slice wreath

As always, I got the idea for this wreath from Pinterest.  The tutorial I went off of can be found here.  Lucky for me I already had the wood slices cut since they were left over from our save-the-date magnets.  I knew they'd come in handy someday, and I finally found the right project to use them!  The only other supplies you need are a flat wooden wreath form (which I found at Michael's) and wood glue.  The berry strands were also found at Michael's and I already had the burlap from a previous project, but you could decorate this wreath however you'd like.
Tip: instead of permanently adhering the berries and bow to my wreath, I used twist ties to attach them so they could be easily removed and swapped out.  This way I can change the decor on the wreath to coordinate with other holidays!

Fireplace Mantel

Christmas fireplace mantel decorations

I decorated our downstairs mantel with the following items:
-an old window frame that was backed with chicken wire (originally made for our wedding)
-the window frame was then decorated with some small burlap signs that I made out of scraps I had around the house.  The letters were free-handed and drawn on with Sharpie.
-wine bottles of various colors and sizes
-various red berries/dried flowers
-white tree branch garland found at Steins Gardens and Gifts
-twine Christmas trees found at Michael's
-twig tea light holders found at Hobby Lobby

Christmas Tree Ornaments

I have to admit, originally the amount of ornaments I was going to make this year was a miiiilllleeee long.  I just found so many tutorials that I loved and somehow I thought I'd get them all done in time for this season.  Boy was I wrong.  At least I have the supplies bought so I can get them done for next years tree....

birdie cake toppers Christmas tree ornaments

The idea for the above ornaments goes to Kevin.  They're the cake toppers I made for our wedding cake!  While making them last year I said something the long the lines of "these guys are so cute!  I wish there was a way we could use them after the wedding."  And Kevin responded with, ".....why don't we make them into tree ornaments?"  

High School graduation tassel Christmas ornament

Proposal Christmas ornament

A few other ornaments I made were also sentimental.  The first is an ornament filled with the tassel from my High School graduation (yeeeaaaahhhh class of 2004!), and the second is filled with sand from the beach in Cancun where Kevin proposed.

And last but not least I'd like to share the Christmas decoration project that Kevin and I are most proud of....

Grinch Lawn Decoration

Grinch front yard Christmas decoration

This project was a HUGE labor of love, guys.  It was a lot of work from start to finish and we're really happy with how it turned out.  I love that it's a decoration we'll be able to use for years to come, and I think it really makes our house stand out from the others in the neighborhood.  The idea came from seeing this meme online:

Great idea, right?  Totally perfect for my husband who hates putting up lights...

Here's some vague directions on how we made our Grinch:

1. Make a stencil:  I'm fortunate enough to work for an ad agency that has it's own print house so I had a huge hook-up for this part.  I just took the picture of an existing Grinch lawn decoration that was for sale on Etsy and had it blown up and printed out.  The image was actually 'tiled out' and printed on multiple sheets of 11" x 17" size paper, so I had to tape all the pieces together to get my full-size stencil (which was around 5' tall).

2. Get your plywood:  Since we didn't want to spend an arm and a leg on this project, Kevin and I ran to Home Depot and just bought a big board of cheap, fairly thin plywood.  Now if you don't have a big truck to haul your plywood in you can pre-measure your stencil at home so you know exactly how big it is and then have an employee at the home improvement store cut it down to size for you.  (Even after doing this we barely got the board to fit in my tiny Toyota Yaris hatchback!).

3. Cut it out:  If you didn't guess this already, you'll need a jigsaw for this next step.  Now originally we were going to borrow a jigsaw from a friend, but then found out they were fairly reasonable in price (less than $40) so we bought one for ourselves.  Using a pencil I just traced my stencil onto the plywood and Kevin carefully cut it out with the jigsaw in the garage.  Once it was cut out he used a piece of high grit sandpaper to smooth out the edges.  *I should also mention that if you want your Grinch to be able to hold a strand of lights in his hand, make sure you cut a decent size notch where his thumb is.  If you make the notch too large the lights won't stay and will fall off.

4. Prime it:  Unless you are able to paint your Grinch outdoors, I'd highly recommend using a latex primer rather than an oil-based one since oil-based primers are super smelly and a pain to clean up.  But that's just my personal preference.  We used Kiltz Latex Primer:

5. Draw your outlines:  This is where some artistic skills come into play.  I free-handed all of the inside lines for our Grinch myself, which actually wasn't too hard since I had the outside cut-out for a guide.  If you're not as confident in the drawing department, my suggestion would be to cut your stencil into sections and trace each part of the Grinch as you go.  For example, I would cut off his shoes and trace those, then the white puffy stuff around his ankles and waist, then his neck, etc, etc. 

6. Paint it in: This part is where I didn't do my research and screwed up.  When I painted in my Grinch I decided to use some old acrylic paint that I already had on-hand in my stash.  Even though acrylic paint isn't really made for outside use I figured once I sealed it that it wouldn't really matter.  Well...I was wrong.  Too bad I didn't figure this out until the damage was already done.  Read on and you'll see why.

Grinch front yard Christmas decoration

After I finished painting in all of the large blocks of color it was time to outline everything in black.  This part is very tedious and requires a steady hand, but really is worth it since it helps all the details stand out.  As you can see in the below picture, before painting my outlines I pre-sketched everything in white chalk so I had a guide.  (Don't worry, all those smudge marks from the chalk can be easily wiped off with a damp cloth after your paint is dry.)

Grinch front yard Christmas decoration

After the Grinch was all painted and the darker shades of color were added he looked like this.  Not too shabby! 

Grinch front yard Christmas decoration

7.  Seal it:  The final touch and last step was to cover the paint with a sealant so our Grinch would be protected from the winter weather we get here in Wisconsin.  After doing a ton of online research it seemed that the best product to use was a spar urethane since it's made for outdoor use and prevents fading.  I think it's important to note that nowhere on the can did it mention what kind of paint it could cover.  This is where I made my mistake.  I followed the instructions on the can and sprayed on four coats of spar urethane on both sides of the plywood just to be on the safe side.  After we attached the hardware (explained in the next step) we proudly displayed our Grinch outside our home, and after two days the spar urethane started flaking off.  Unfortunately I don't have a picture documenting this, but the moisture from outside had caused the sealant to go from clear to cloudy and start to flake away.  You could literally scratch the spar urethane off with your fingernail.  This was a huge problem!  Not only was the paint not protected, but the spar urethane left a cloudy residue on the paint leaving the colors looking patchy and dull.  Well- I couldn't have that!  So I ended up using a green scrubby pad to take off what sealant I could, re-painted the Grinch for a second time and then headed to the store to find a different product.  At this point I was surprised to learn how many sealants are not made for outdoor use or for painted projects.  Even the guys at Home Depot and Menard's didn't know what product I could use to safely seal up my outdoor acrylic paint project.  If you use acrylic paint, DO NOT USE this product:

FINALLY after weeks of searching I found this: Krylon's Acrylic Crystal Clear Indoor/Outdoor  sealant.  *insert angels singing here*

The only problem was by the time I found this product, Christmas had come and gone so it didn't really make sense to put the Grinch back up to test the durability.  Big bummer.  He's been hanging out in our garage ever since, waiting patiently for his big moment in the spotlight next year.  (Though I am planning on propping him up on the back porch sometime this winter to test it anyway, so I'll keep you posted on how it goes.)

Now if you want to avoid the fiasco I had, my recommendation would be to use a paint that is designed for outdoor use.  Since I still ended up using my acrylic paint I can't give you any brand suggestions, but if anyone has any ideas of what product to use please feel free to share in the comments!

8. Add hardware to the back:  We put four eyelet screws into the back of our Grinch; two on the left side and two on the right side, making sure to leave at least a foot or so of space in between them.  In case you aren't familiar with these kind of screws, they look like this:

We bought two metal rods that were small enough to be threaded through the eyelet screws and staked them into the ground to help our Grinch stand up.  I'm sure there are better ways to make your Grinch stay upright, but this is the idea we came up with.

Grinch front yard Christmas decoration

If you really want to have your Grinch stand out at night, you can buy a spotlight and have it staked into the ground somewhere in the front.  This made a big difference with ours since we don't have any street lights nearby.

And there you have it!  Not too bad for our first Christmas in our first house if I do say so myself  :)

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