Saturday, December 14, 2013

Family tree ...

This year's wooden bread board gifts started as a Red Oak sapling that my husband and I planted to commemorate our wedding anniversary in 1990.  It grew into a stately tree, but could not withstand the last several years of drought.

Last year, our 'Anniversary Oak' was cut down and the trunk taken to a mill and sawn into planks. We let them dry and season for a year before giving the wood new life for Christmas 2013.

Bread boards via Alamodeus

Together, my husband and I designed, cut, sanded and seasoned a number of handcrafted bread boards. You may have noticed from previous posts that these homespun beauties are a particular favorite of mine.  I must admit I'm a sucker for a handsome wood board!

Bread boards and cheese board via Alamodeus

We made several artisan boards this year in a variety of shapes and sizes, including a cheese tray. The grain in Red Oak is particularly attractive once the wood is seasoned with oil, and seasoning makes all the difference in preserving the wood for generations to come.

Image via our favorite Austin shopkeepers at Mockingbird Domestics

Seasoning a bread board
We applied coconut oil and beeswax to create a water-resistant surface. This protects the wood from wear and tear, giving it a longer life. Here's how: Microwave 1/4 tsp. of beeswax in a microwave-safe bowl with 1/4 cup of coconut oil for about 45 seconds. Apply the beeswax/oil mixture to the new cutting board while it is still warm.

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Cleaning the bread board
Rinse with warm soapy water, but never immerse board under water or allow them to soak. This will facilitate bacterial growth and cause the wood to crack when it dries. Wipe the bread board with white vinegar after each use to keep it disinfected. The vinegar works well against E. coli, salmonella, and staphylococcus. Apply it with a paper towel. For easy application, keep a spray bottle filled with vinegar in the kitchen.

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A word about wood maintenance with oils
Depending on frequency of the board's use and cleaning, I would suggest a light application of oil every month or so. Although popular with woodworkers, I'm personally opposed to the use of mineral oil because it is a petroleum based product derived from crude oil - not food safe in my book! Vegetable oils are natural, but most will turn rancid. So, skip the thought of olive oil or almond oil. If you want to keep your board beautiful, food-safe and long-lasting, I recommend coconut oil. Coconut oil is one of the most stable oils and is highly resistant to rancidity.

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Eliminate odors naturally
If you are using your board for cutting meat or veggies, you're likely to have some lingering odors on the wood. Some food odors such as garlic, onion, and fish, are difficult to avoid. But, you can rub the board with coarse salt, lemon, or baking soda to remove heavy odors. Let the substance stand on the board for 2 to 3 minutes, then wipe off the treated surface. Rinse the cutting board and allow it to dry.

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I hope all who receive our wooden bread boards will appreciate these beautiful, simple objects created with love.

Now, let's see what the rest of our 'Anniversary Oak' wants to become.

Divide and conquer ...

When not just any room divider will do, it's time to get creative!  Old doors and windows are great choices, as are more unexpected elements.

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It's all about cottage charm when using weathered door panels to divide a space from floor to ceiling. A scruffy veneer is perfect for shabby chic or rustic decor.


With a little recycling magic, used plastic bags can be cut into strips and tied along fishing line to make an artful, luxe-look screen as in the photos above via WallHome.

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I like the way rustic wire lattice framed in wood gives visual separation without closing off the space entirely.  The same can be accomplished with a wooden dowel and rope.


Taking a few brilliant, DIY steps with rope can create screened work spaces, too.  Images above via Remodelista.


Images above via John Douglas (left) and Fabulous Finishes (right).

A large framed white board defines sleeping and sitting areas in the image (above left). To the right, a barn wood wall was constructed to divide spaces for dining and dozing.

Images above and below via
Love, love the slat wall construction used to add privacy to the bed (above and below).

There are countless ways to divide public and private areas, and do so beautifully with minimum investment.  It just takes a little ingenuity to divide and conquer.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Holiday dressing ...

I've been thinking of draping my dressform in holiday attire this Christmas. I love all of the greenery skirts and brilliant red bows.


Images above via Miss Beets (left) and Vogue & Coffee (right).

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Maybe a bit of velvet glam and a flocked petticoat would add a little holiday panache.


Over the top (left, via) and missing a top (right, via), are both creative ways to tackle wire forms.

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Could I?  Would I?  Should I?  Why not?  There aren't that many occasions that call for a well-lit dress!

Holiday packages: Sewn paper ...

The homespun look of sewn paper gift wrap is such a charming personalized packaging technique. I found lots of inspired crafters who've shown me the way.  Now, I'm itching to stitch.

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Red thread.  Definitely, red thread!

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Odds and ends make their way onto these handcrafted holiday bags (above).

There's no way you can go wrong with little paper candy pouches for stocking stuffers. Cut from simple shapes and filled with favorite treats, these pouches are adorable.

Images (above and below) via

Sewn paper projects are only limited by imagination.  Christmas decorations galore can be made with a little time, scissors, thread and paper.  Looks pretty simple.

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I'm thinking somewhere between ornaments, mobile and garland there is lots of room for creativity.

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I do think I'll need to invest in a big, circle hole punch before tackling garland. The thought of cutting dozens of circles by hand fills me with terror!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Gold and good cheer ...

For me, gold painted branches always induce oohs and ahhs. They're like Mother Nature with a Bob Mackie makeover.

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So, I began thinking of ways to incorporate this look into my own holiday decor this year. I've seen so many inspiring photos of tree branches festively dripping with ornaments and mini-lights.

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Whether suspended from a chandelier or perfectly balanced in a vase, I love the way tree boughs and twigs move indoors as seasonal decor.

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That really started me thinking about our recently pruned Mountain Laurel tree and the beauty of the branches that had been removed.


Images above via Franciskas Vakre Verden (left) and Austin designer/stylist Maureen Stevens (right).

Taking my cue from unadorned gilded boughs, I decided to tackle this little experimental project for the holidays.

Golden holiday tree via Alamodeus.

With my daughter visiting today, I put her into service assisting with spraying a coat of gold paint before adding a light dusting of snow and ornaments.  So easy!  Now, my office will not be barren during the Christmas season.

Kraft wraps ...

There's nothing like the simplicity of Kraft paper for creative gift wraps. So, come all ye crafty ... let's find inspiration in twigs and twine, stamps and stars and bits of buttons and bows.

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The moment I saw the 'trees' on the gifts above, I knew I wanted to create this look for Christmas presents this year.  I have a stockpile of twigs, yarn and thread, and plenty of Kraft paper.


Images above via Makoodle(left) and Sweet Paul Magazine (right).

Small remnants of fabric, twine and little notions are fabulous for adding personal pizzazz to simply wrapped presents. I'm a big fan of yarn and pompoms, too.

Gift wagon by Alamodeus

For the holidays, I decided to decorate my little green wagon with small gift boxes wrapped in Kraft paper. Each package is tied with recycled red felt that was used to create bows and adorned with berries, leaves or small glass ornaments.

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Stamps are a natural embellishment for paper wraps, too.  Love the birds (above) and the sweet little trees (below) used to add a lively charm.

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Stickers, either purchased or crafted by hand, bring so much pleasure to the gift recipient, and become the focus of holiday wraps.

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I can't say enough good things about the marriage of twine and paper.  Love, love the work of the clever maker of these gift card wraps who made a handsome statement by hanging these from a tree branch.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Removing labels from wine bottles ...

I needed to remove labels from some of my collected wine bottles to complete a little project I had in mind. So, I surfed the net for suggestions. Let me tell you, the advice I found online was all over the map. So, I jumped in and did it with a little self-training along the way.

Here's my tutorial on removing labels from wine bottles:

1.  Gather the bottles and cut the metal label from the bottle neck with a razor to remove. (You want this collar off because it will become exceedingly hot during the next step.)

2.  Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

3.  When oven is at temperature, lay the empty, uncorked bottles directly onto oven rack for about 10 minutes until the bottles are hot.

4.  Use oven mitt to remove one (very hot) bottle at a time from oven, and place bottle on a towel.

5. Holding neck of bottle with oven mitt, gentle slide razor with other hand under the label edge and pull up.

6. THIS IS THE TRICKY PART. Some labels will come off easily and cleanly. Others will not.

7. If the label does not come off, set the bottle aside to cool. Once it has cooled completely, immerse the bottle in a tub of hot water for about 20-30 minutes.


8.  Using the razor, once again try to peel the label from an edge.

9. Dry the labels on wax paper to save. Once dry, labels can be pressed under a heavy object (like a book or bread board) to flatten.

10.  The bottles can be scrubbed to remove any glue residue from the labels.

Viola! Labels are ready for future use, and bottles are now ready for my next project.

All photos by Alamodeus.

Making glassware from wine bottles ...

I've wanted to make glassware from wine bottles for the longest time. Last Christmas, I received a glass cutting kit (thank you Santa!) and have been waiting to carve out time to use it.

Ephrem's Original Bottle Cutter Kit. Image via Alamodeus.

First I removed the labels (click here for my tutorial) and cleaned off any remaining adhesive residue. After drying the bottles, I adjusted the cutter to the desired glassware height and scored the glass following the kit instructions.

Wine bottle placed on adjustable height glass cutter.  Image via Alamodeus.

The bottle is then heated with a candle along the score line. This takes a little practice to make sure the bottle is hot enough without being so hot that cracking occurs.

Ice is applied to the score line all around the bottle causing the glass to break (more often than not, exactly as intended.)

Now it's time to wash off the candle soot, dry and sand the glass edges. The sanding takes some time, but worth the effort to get a smooth edge finish.

Glassware made by Alamodeus from wine bottles.

I love how my rustic wine bottle glassware turned out. These will be fun to use at our completely casual Thanksgiving.

Finished wine bottle glassware. Image via Alamodeus.

First, these green goddesses need a test run.  Perfect timing for the just released Beaujolais Nouveau 2013 from Georges Duboeuf.  Santé!

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