By LESLey LINSLEY Citizen Columnist
There are only two days left to shop or decorate your tree if you haven't already done so. One of my most popular columns that I write for this next-to-last column of the year is about last minute ideas that cost almost nothing but make an impact.
While most of my ideas are not the most elegant, they can be practical, certainly easy to find or create with what you have on hand and they are meant to get you thinking creatively for your own last-minute decorating and gift ideas. There's still time to pull it together.
1. Who doesn't love fresh flowers any time of the year? Make a gift of paperwhite bulbs set into a pretty container. (They are available at any garden center). Get them started with river stones, shells, or sea glass in the container with the bulbs on top. It's nice to give the entire present this way so the recipient doesn't have to put it all together. By New Year's the green shoots will appear and by mid January your friend will have blooming flowers. They will last for a month which is more than you can say for real flowers.
2. This year the theme of the Aids Art Benefit Auction is elegance. We were asked to create something that represents this theme. My symbol of elegant is going to be an orchid. While this motif will be presented in the form of a decoupage print under a glass plate, a real orchid in a glass vase is a good last minute choice.
3. A Christmas Cactus will go on blooming year after year. It might seem mundane or cliché but if you are frazzled and short on time, consider buying Christmas gifts while doing your grocery shopping. For twenty bucks you can buy 6 bunches of the same flowers for a really lush presentation. Wrap with tissue and a beautiful bow. Add a bottle of wine to the mix and you've got it made. Here's a tip from a gardening daughter: A couple of drops of Clorox in water adds to the life of cut flowers.
4. If you've saved past Christmas cards that include family photographs, consider making a little album of these photos for the friend or relative. My daughter received this as a gift and was totally touched that the friend had saved all her cards over the years. You can, also do this with photos you've taken. Add cutouts of relevance around the photos. Sometimes it's fun to have an actual album that is tangible, not just on your phone.
5. Here's an idea I got from a designer friend. It will now become a staple in my gift-wrapping box. He used plasterer's tape for ribbons (240 yards for $19) 4" wide and self stick! This has to be the best deal of a lifetime. The tape looks like a white mesh. When you put it on a package it looks as elegant as lace. I used it over shiny red shelf paper - economical for large packages. The tape is wide and inexpensive for the amount of "ribbon" needed. I made the ribbon for my front door wreath with it. Look for the rolls in the paint department of Home Depot.
6. Last weekend I did a demonstration for making decoupage Christmas ornaments at our home center. It's fun, it's easy, it costs nothing, it's creative and personal and can be as elegant as your choice of motifs. Give one gorgeous Christmas ball decorated in a personal way, put it in a tissue filled box with a beautiful bow (made from plasterer's tape!). Here's how to do it. A good source of paper cutouts is a glossy December magazine. Look for all sorts of "scripty" typefaces in different sizes and colors. Cut out initials, sayings, names, greetings, images and borders. Apply to the ball with either white craft glue or decoupage finish. Bows, wreaths, polka dots, etc. can be used to create an overall collage. I even cut up and ad for striped ties to create a band around one ornament. Use ripped pieces of colorful tissue paper to create an interesting background over which you add your graphic motifs. Add a coat of finish over the cutouts. For a last minute finish use clear nail polish. The kids will have fun with this project as well.
7. Simple stitch project: Add a band of a decorative, elegant ribbon trim to plain hand towels. You only need a small amount.
8. Use styrofoam balls and elegant ribbon to wind around and around each one. Fill a bowl and add sprigs of cinnamon. And a reminder: those pomander balls made with cloves and oranges or lemons and limes are easy to make last minute. Wind with ribbon to hang in a closet and bring as a hostess gift.
Leslie Linsley has written more than 50 books on crafts, decorating and home style. She resides on Nantucket with her husband, photographer Jon Aron, and has a store on the island that specializes in her one-of-a-kind creations. Her latest book is "Key West, a Tropical Lifestyle" (Monacelli Press), with photos by Terry Pommett.