This post was most recently updated on May 18th, 2015

My love of this season – from the end of August through the end of December – is well known in my family. I love every single thing about the fall and onset of winter … the Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s holiday circuit, the foods, the changes in weather, the disappearance of bugs and snakes – absolutely everything. Which is why I am loathe to understand how it is that every single year my husband fails to comprehend the importance of getting the Christmas decorations up the weekend after Thanksgiving so I can have the maximum amount of time to enjoy them before they come down on January 2nd. Every. Single. Year. It’s maddening!

This year, I took it upon myself to begin the outside decorating without his help. No small feat because I am unable to wield a chainsaw to cut down a tree and unwilling to climb the tall ladder to the top of the house and install lights. But … I can tackle the front porch, the back outside entry & the front fences. As usual, budget concerns prevented me from racing to the home décor or craft store and buying the elements I needed to complete the Look I was going for this year. But … we have cedar trees galore and those branches, laden with beautiful blue cedarberries, make lovely swags and garlands for FREE! (I swear, that is just my favorite word EVER!) I headed out onto the property with my trusty tree loppers and collected quite an assortment of nice cedar trimmings (which had the added benefit of shaping up some of the more ungainly-looking trees). I had gathered up buckets full of hedge apples earlier in the fall and decided they would carryover into winter – I just love their bright green color and they were still in good shape. So, with just a few simple items …

I was able to transform this …

Into this …

And my bland back entry from this …

Into this …

Please don’t pay any attention to the faded, ugly siding and the old windows and doors … we’re working with a 60 year old house that hasn’t seen any improvements until we moved in a few years ago. And if you’ve been reading me for any amount of time, you know how that little arrangement is going. I’m puttin’ lipstick on a pig and I know it, but it’s the idea that counts, don’t you know?

The galvanized tub herb tower I built a few summers ago was a welcoming space for some cedar branches and silk poinsettias that my mom had left over from one of her projects. A salvaged window screen that I’ve had for years makes a nice backdrop for the cedar arrangement and an old red lantern that my husband dragged from our old house to this one and forgot about in storage. Hedge apples in an old calf bucket with a few sprigs of cedar added a touch of color and the whole thing will hold up against the wicked south wind that plagues us way too often up here on this hill. Festive, functional and free … fa la la la la la la la la.

The back door is an absolute eyesore – one my husband swears is going to be replaced soon. I figured I could draw attention away from it and toward something more attractive by adding a cedar swag and bow (leftover ribbon from last Christmas’s shopping at the dollar store) to my iron bed frame turned bench and using more cedar in the ancient flower pot I dug out of my grandma’s basement years ago. An old tractor tire rim with another calf bucket of hedge apples and cedar sprigs is really just there because I love that old rim and didn’t want to put it away until spring when I’ll redecorate, seasonally speaking. At photo time, I hadn’t added some pretty lights inside the window above the bench and the beautiful stained glass Santa my dad made for us a few years ago, but they’re there now, adding another pretty punch of color against that horrid tan siding.

I also dolled up our front porch, the window wells outside the kids rooms and the front fences with more cedar, lights, hedge apples and discarded ephemera of the season. Now, when we come home in the dark from dance on Monday nights, we get a warm, twinkling welcome – most of which I’ll be able to leave up all winter. Because when the colored lights and Christmas-y stuff comes down, the cedar/twinkle lights combination will continue to look natural until spring which means no barren wasteland of outdoor space. That would be depressing.

The whole point of this post is to remind you that you don’t have to spend a fortune to have a warm, well-decorated home – any time of year. Looking to nature, family or friends for free items can often provide just what you need or want to give your home a custom look that’s inviting and budget-friendly. And it’s an even bigger win when you can use the same décor for the entire season rather than just the holidays.

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