to “Make it Nice” on a Shoe String©
By Arlene W. Correll
It was getting
towards the end of the month and even though I did not need a thing, nor
did I seem to want a thing, I realized I was getting low on money. What brought it
to my attention were all the sales flyers that were coming into our post
This got me to
thinking of our younger days when we were just starting out and really
did want or need things and quite often were low on money.
How did we manage with 5 kids and ourselves?
used to say that necessity was the mother of invention.
I took that to heart and really got quite creative with it.
With that in mind, I took a stroll down memory lane as to some of
the things we did to “make it nice”!
“Make it nice” was and still is a family saying in our house.
“Make it nice, Make it nice” was what Carl insisted upon
whenever we decided to so an ordinary project.
I recalled the time
we really needed bookshelves and the only thing we had were long barn
boards and a bunch of old cement blocks out in the barn.
Well, there you go. We used those shelves for a very long time in
one of our homes. We lay
the cement blocks so the holes showed out and we used those little
openings for knick knack display areas.
For book ends we
filled quart mason jars with marbles.
You might use colored sand, beads, buttons, or shells.
On one shelf we used 2 duck decoys for bookends.
Don’t throw away those old beer steins.
They make great bookend. You might have to put some sand or small
rocks in the bottom, plus you can stick pencils, etc in them also.
These were quite handy when we needed to grab a pen or pencil.
You might use some baskets that have some nice gourds in them.
(Remember to shellac them.) Or some nice pebbles.
How about a couple of piggy banks filled with change, or any kind
of old antiques or dolls. I
remember one shelf had old antique flat irons on each end.
also recalled one time when we were decorating a bed and breakfast we
were building. Money was
always a problem then. This
place had lots and lots of rooms and lots and lots of windows that
needed drapes and curtains. We
just did not have the dollars to take care of the problem.
The solution was to buy pretty, but inexpensive flat twin sheets.
However, we could not buy just the flat sheets; we had to take the
fitted ones with them also. We used the
fitted ones to make the valances and used the flat ones to make the
mid-length sides hanging down. They
really looked nice and cost about a 10th of what drapes would
have cost. Matter of fact
they looked so good, we never did replace them with regular drapes.
In the event you
only needed to cover a few windows, you could probably find some nice
sheets at your local Good-will store for a really reasonable price.
I found some for only $1.00 and $2.00 each. You may not even need to turn over a hem.
Your curtain rod may well fit though the folded top part of the
flat sheet. A nice tie-back
could be made from a pair of old leather shoe laces, with a cup hook in
the wall to attach it to. For
a real dramatic flair, tie them back with some colorful scarves.
No money for curtain
rods? Well, if you live in
the woods or have access to the woods, a fairly long and straight limb
will do and it will probably surprise you on how well it will look in
your rustic homestead.
In the event you
like the country or antique look, use an old, but now longer functional,
long handled spade, rake, or household tool for a curtain rod. Leaving the utility end on the handle will make an
interesting wall decoration.
During the time in
TN, when we were still dealing with the B&B, we needed luggage racks
for the guests. Too
expensive! So, I scrounged
up old piano benches and painted them so they matched the room décor.
They made great luggage racks and would still do well for a guest
room in your house. Besides
you could store your guest’s towels in them and just whip them out
before the company arrives. In your guest room you could install a
couple of hooks on the back of the door. Just ask your guests to return
their towels to the back of the door in order to dry, that way your
bathroom is not overloaded with extra towels.
One of the things I
like to do is to save all the little soaps, lotions, shampoos,
conditioners etc that I find in the hotel and motel rooms we stay in now
and then. When company is
coming, I put them in a little basket with the face cloth and put the
whole thing on their bath towel. Then I place it on their bed.
It is so thoughtful looking and always gives you an A+ on the
hostess side of your universal report card.
Back in 1967 we quit
our jobs and moved to a farm we bought in Northern New York with the
last of our resources. We
got quite creative back then. We
took one old shed down and we re-salvaged enough barn board to make all
our kitchen cupboards with it. It was very nice with the grey weathered
wood. Our only expense was the black wrought iron type hinges and
handles we had to buy.
||We used old copper pots with holes in the bottom
as waste paper baskets. Old
galvanized pails that no longer held water were utilized as magazine
holders in various rooms. Boys,
did people think we were clever! An
old copper oval wash tub we found in the field was recycled as a wood
holder next to our fireplace. Sometimes I did nothing
more than shine them up and put a sealer on them.
On the old galvanized pails, I spray painted them flat black and
did a tole design on them.
An old steamer trunk found for $2.00 became a great coffee table.
|I made some great throw pillows from a huge box of old ties that I bought one time at an auction for 50 cents. I opened the ties up, ironed flat, laid the wide ends next to the narrow ends in a style or color that I could live with. Sewed them up and when I had a long enough piece, I folded it over, sewed up two and a half sides, stuffed them with batting and hand stitched the remaining opening. We got lots of compliments on those pillows.||
|One Christmas we really wanted to give
some spiffy gifts without the spiffy price tag.
We had just acquired a big box of junk at an auction. It had
every thing from horseshoes to old silver forks and spoons in it. All
for the enormous sum of $1.00! Carl
fashioned some really nice money clips out of those antique spoons.
He cut off the bowl end, grounded it down, bent the handle into a
money clip, and I shined them up. They were beautiful. Each and everyone
was a different lovely design and many people are still using them
today. For the ladies we
took the old knifes and forks and fashioned some great wind chimes. I
know several that are still out in people’s gardens after all these
years. For kids we knew, we
spray painted the horse shoes flat black and painted Jamie’s (or
whatever name was needed) room on them.
We attached instructions to each one suggesting they put the
horseshoe open end up, so their luck would never run out! Plus, we added
additional instruction telling them to ask their parents whether or not
they could put these on the outside of their bedroom doors.
Carl likes things
neat. That includes in his
workshop. “Make it
nice”, always the key words prevailed there also.
No matter whether we were flush or flat, each new place we started in
had a long 2 x 4 with jar lids screwed onto it. The jar was then filled with assorted nuts, bolts, screws,
nails, etc and screwed on to the lit.
Prior to screw the jars onto the lids, the 2 x 4 was screwed into
the ceiling rafters in the garage or workshop.
Screwed, not nailed. Because when we were ready to move onto the
next place, Carl just unscrewed the whole thing from the ceiling rafters
and moved them to the next place.
|Don’t throw away those old straw hats.
Or if you get a chance to buy a bunch of them for 10 cents each,
do it! They make great
hanging planters. Old work shoes and boots became charming planters in
our garden. Just remember
to put a
hole in the bottom
Stuff the toes with pebbles or if the toe has a hole in the
top of it, try putting in some hens and chicks and a nice geranium out
the top of the boot.
|I remember one time we only
had enough money to buy a van with 2 front seats. This made it hard to deal with 7 people and only two seats.
Carl made to boxes with a space towards the back to slip another
board into it. I cut up an
old twin mattress into 4 sections and covered it.
With the boards in the slots we had two good seats.
When the boards were down and the 4 sections were put back
together, it was a great place for the kids
|to sleep while we drove.
Of course this was back before the buckle up law.
However, if the problem came up today, one can still find a
junkyard and get cheap seats with buckles when one needs them.
One time we needed 3
kitchen lights over our island counter. No extra $$ in the kitty for
that deal. I purchased 3 large aluminum colanders for $1.98 each, 3
small tart (pie) pans for $1.50 total and Carl electrified the
colanders, installed them in the ceiling, (using the tart pans as the
ceiling plates) over the island, and he did one extra thing to “make
it nice”. He put a dimmer switch on the wall.
So at full on, we had lots of light and when we wanted atmosphere
and dimmed them down, we got the most wonderful pattern of light on the
ceiling, not only in the kitchen but out into the dining area of the
great room. Talk about a
conversation piece. This never failed to charm anyone who came to the
house for the first time. Plus we loved it!
I could go on and
on. I guess what I am
getting at here, is that the universe is full of abundance and all you
need to do is to think 360 degrees about things and your world will
start filling up with so much stuff, it will be amazing.
As I reflect on all
this, I realize that those things we did in the old days out of
necessity are things that are considered charming décor now.
The next time you
need something and start to make it, remember to “Make it Nice.”
), free lance writer, award winning artist and avid gardener is
mother of 5 and the grandmother of 8.
For almost 40 years she was an International real estate
consultant and during the last 20 years of her career traveled to many
parts of the world. She
has been a cancer and stroke survivor since 1992.
While working and raising her children she had many hobbies
including being a very serious home-vintner for approximately 14 years
while residing in upstate New York in St. Lawrence County producing
2,000 to 3,000 bottles of wine a year.
She was the president of the St. Lawrence County chapter of the
American Wine Society in
"Tread the Earth Lightly" & in the meantime
may your day be filled with...
Peace, Light, and Love,
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