Gift wrap that grabs people

23430917_SIt’s true that once unwrapping starts, the gift’s the thing. But until that moment, making the giftwrap something special adds to the excitement and allure of the holidays.

If you want your gifts to capture attention even before they’re opened, here are a few ideas to help your presents have a presence under the tree.

Go metallic: This is actually a very easy way to make your gifts eye-catching. This photo shows both gold and silver, but you may want to choose one or the other. Select one or two metallic papers, and two or three types of ribbon in a matching metallic finish. Vary the ribbons and papers to create a charming vignette of shiny gifts. Bring the bling to your holiday gifts.

Select a single look: Choose one pattern of gift wrap and a ribbon that works well with it, and wrap everything the same. Consider buying one of the wire-edged ribbons available at warehouse clubs this time of year, with many yards for under ten dollars. Having all your presents in the same design will create a signature wrap for you every year that people will look forward to seeing.

6245227_SGo for the unusual: If you have small gifts, wrapping them in money – either U.S. or foreign currency – makes an intriguing look. (Of course, you don’t have to use the Ben Franklin shown here – dollar bills will cover it.) Some people like to wrap gifts in the Sunday funnies. You can use wrapping that adds to the gift inside – for example a dishtowel can wrap a kitchen tool or a scarf can cover a new shirt.

If you let some of the creativity you used to pick out your gifts to choose the right wrapping choice, you may be surprised to see that your presents are appreciated even before they’re opened.

Decorating your tree inexpensively

16590126_SIf you’ve just moved into your first home, you may want a special holiday tree but can’t rationalize spending lots of money to decorate it. If so, this blog is for you. Here are a handful of ideas to make your tree brilliant and special without investing much money.

Lights: These are often a loss-leader in stores during the holidays, so you can pick up a batch for a reasonable price. If you can, spend a bit more and get the LED lights – they are more expensive initially, but they use much less energy and last longer, so you will save money in the long run.

Ribbons: Your local warehouse store has a wonderful selection of holiday ribbons with 50 yards running under $10. Choose one that appeals to you and matches the mood you want to present and use it liberally as a garland. Notice the way the ribbon on the tree in this photo curls and curves – adding a lot of personality and style.

Edible decorations: Bake ginger cookies and hang them on your tree. Pick up a bag of foil-wrapped chocolate decorations at an import store to add glitz, and you can eat them later. A package of candy canes is reasonably priced and they add charm when hung on branches.

Make it yourself: Holiday gift-wrap can be cut into shapes and hung on your tree. Festive gift tags add color and personality. Check out Pinterest to see what other suggestions people have for handmade holiday decorations. You’d be surprised what you can do with a few supplies and nimble fingers.

Go old-fashioned: Ball ornaments are generally available in a wealth of colors at good prices. Be sure to get plastic or shatterproof if you have pets or children. Even a few of these scattered among the other decorations can make your tree feel finished. If you really want to kick it up a notch, consider tinsel to add the final touch of holiday bling.

Decorating a tree is really not about money. It’s about imagination, style and the joy of having your own tree you created in your new home.

Children and Thanksgiving

23849264_SThanksgiving is a family holiday and you can make sure everyone enjoys themselves by getting people involved.

Even small children can play a part when preparing for Thanksgiving. Start with simple tasks and build to more complex roles as your children get older and more able to contribute. Here are a few ideas.

Youngest children: Even a toddler can draw a Thanksgiving picture to put on the front door to welcome guests. Any crafts created in preschool or grade school can grace a table or buffet. Assign simple duties such as helping to set the table to make them feel a part of the day.

Grade-school children: How about assigning each child a side dish to help create? Go over the menu and ask which dish sounds like the most fun to make. You may want to pull in an adult who is not the primary chef in the house to help make the dish – giving them a chance to bond and contribute to the holiday. Children at this age could also be responsible for setting the table and creating a Thanksgiving centerpiece.

High school children: By this age, a teen can take over one or more dishes for the Thanksgiving table. You might want to have them help plan the menu – adding appetizers or a special dessert to go along with the pumpkin pie. If there will be younger children attending, ask your teenager to come up with activities to keep the small fry entertained and out of trouble before, during and after the meal.

Take the time when at the table to ask everyone what they are thankful for from the past year. You might want to discuss the topic in advance with younger children so that they have a chance to think about their answers.

Finally, involve the children in the clean-up. The more hands to help, the faster your whole family can relax and digest that incredible dinner!

Getting ready for Halloween – Decorating

15317524_SHalloween is second only to Christmas for dollars spent on decorations. It’s fun to play with the holiday by decorating your home and yard. Here are a few ideas to bring Halloween into your home.

There are three directions to choose for your Halloween plans: classic, cute or scary. There are so many options for buying or making decorations that choosing one will help narrow down your decisions.

It’s easy to capture the classic look if you already have decorated your home for fall. You can add a few Halloween-themed items to take it that next step. For example, adding a witches hat and rustic broom in the photo above turns a classic fall arrangement into a nod to the end of October.

16024438_SCute is easy too. Grab a handy stuffed creature or two and add a few non-scary Halloween items such as uncarved pumpkins and Halloween candy. Nothing frightening here – this is a good choice when dealing with more timid little folks who may be overwhelmed by the season.

10776894_SScary is a great choice if you have teenagers in the home. The easiest way to handle this is to give them a budget and free rein. Visiting a local haunted house or two can help with inspiration. If you’re in charge, skeletons, spiders, snakes and dim lights can make your Halloween décor startling and spooky.

Warehouse, discount and dollar stores provide plenty of fuel for making your home fit the season, whichever direction you choose. For more ideas, search “Halloween decorations” on Pinterest. You’ll see a bevy of purchased and homemade ideas – all designed to please you, make you smile, or scare you to pieces.

St. Paddy’s Day Dinner

17759325_SSunday is St. Patrick’s Day, and many people, whether of Irish descent or not, will be celebrating. If you’re planning a traditional corned beef and cabbage dinner or something less standard such as beef stew made with stout, take a few minutes to decorate your table for the holiday.

This place setting is easy to imitate or turn into a centerpiece. One fun image is the rainbow and pot of gold. Use colored paper or have a local young person create one with crayons – you can have one per person or a large one that runs across the center of the table.

Check party stores for black pots like the one in the photo – you may be able to find one left over from Halloween. Pick up some gold tissue paper and gold covered chocolate coins to fulfill the promise of a leprechaun’s pot of gold. No pot available? Use one of your own cooking pots  there are no rules on what the pot should look like!

Several grocery stores at the moment are carrying shamrock plants, or you can recruit those same children to draw or cut out shamrocks to decorate the table. Use green ribbon to tie napkins in place of napkin rings.

14238716_SIrish Soda Bread provides a great addition to any St. Pat’s dinner that is impressive, delicious and very easy to make. For a recipe, check the Internet or visit our Fulton Home’s Facebook page for a link to the Barefoot Contessa’s tasty recipe.

A half-cup of currants and a teaspoon of caraway seeds make a real difference when creating an authentic loaf. For a final special flavor, add a teaspoon or two of brown sugar and coat the top with a tablespoon or two of white sugar dissolved in water about five minutes before the bread is finished baking. That slight sweet taste and the surprise flavor of caraway will make your guests grab for soda-bread seconds.

Show Your Love for Valentine’s Day

12110886_SYou can take small steps to make this Valentine’s Day something special for those you love. It doesn’t take a lot of time or money to let people know how you feel in numerous ways this Thursday. Here are just a few suggestions.

Start with breakfast: Do you like foam on your coffee but don’t have the equipment? You can recreate the froth with the instructions at this website. Take a toothpick to create the heart as shown in the photo. Coffee drinkers in your family will appreciate it, and you can do the same with hot cocoa for the little ones.

8720696_SAdd a few decorative touches to set the dinner table to celebrate the day. Whether you’re fixing a romantic meal for two or an entertaining evening for the whole family, adding red paper napkins and a few candles and some heart-shaped decorations makes a big difference in the look of your table.

If you would rather not buy decorations, take a walk through the seasonal area of your grocery or drug store. Heart-shaped candies of all shapes and colors can be scattered on your table to make a festive display. Larger chocolate hearts can serve as favors by each person’s plate.

17446774_SFinally, how about making or buying a special Valentine’s dessert? Any favorite cookies can say I love you with squeeze on frosting like the ones in the photo. Cupcakes with pink icing or a red velvet cake in heart-shaped pans become your own special Valentines gift to those you love.

The Decorating Power of Red

8161349_SRed is daring. Red is romantic. Red is sexy. That’s one reason why it’s the color of Valentine’s Day. A splash of red makes an outfit come alive. Whether you love red or not, the color is almost impossible to ignore.

In honor of the holiday, how about looking at red in decorating? Here are three variations on using red in your home, depending on just how daring you feel.

Hard-core red: This photo shows a room where red is the dominant color. This rich dark shade of red takes over the space. Red can be a great color for dining rooms because it raises the energy level in a room and draws people together, encouraging conversation. Your dinner parties could be livelier with red walls.

The secret to this type of luminous and rich red color on your walls is multiple coats of paint. Stop at one or two and you will end up with a red that looks washed out and flat. Plan on at least three coats, and consider five. It’s a lot more work, but getting a result like this makes the effort worthwhile. Also, notice that the rest of the room’s decor is fairly neutral. Once you commit to red, really watch out for any other color choices. Red like this is generally enough color for one space.

2409263_SA splash of red: By choosing red leather for this dining room’s chairs, the homeowner adds style and a spark to the space. Once again, neutrals keep the red to the forefront without having the color overwhelm the room. You may notice that the brown flowers in the rug look almost rust against the red. This actually works because of the extremely neutral effect of the rest of the room. The red chairs ensure that the table is the focal point of the room. Remember that your eye will always be drawn to any red in your home.

8961688_SJust a touch of red: If you’re not ready to jump into the world of red full-blast, how about dipping a toe in? This light fixture provides a dramatic impact in the room and saves it from a boring neutral look. If a permanent fixture seems too extreme, how about adding in a couple of throw pillows or a vase? You could even test out your red comfort zone with a bouquet of red flowers. But you might want to wait until later in the month – those red blooms are quite expensive at the moment!

 

Post-Holiday Organizing

You can make next year’s holiday season easier if you think through the process of clearing up after this year. Here are a few organizing ideas for this week.

Put next year’s holiday card list together: Go through all of those envelopes to make sure no one has changed their address in the past year, and see who you may need to add or subtract from your mailing list. You may also want to pick up some cards on sale so you’re ahead next year. If you’re not up for the post-holiday sales, check online for discounts on holiday products.

Let go of unused holiday items: Are you finding that some things in those holiday boxes never get out? If you are not using some of your holiday finery – whether it is home decorations or that snowman sweater that makes you feel stupid every time you wear it – get rid of it rather than packing it up for another year.

Consider a light upgrade: LED lights are safer, very pretty, and use much less energy. On top of that you can string many of them together without creating a fire hazard. It may be time to move on to this newer light technology. The cost of these lights keeps dropping, which means that there’s a good chance that the warehouse and discount stores will have even more reasonably-priced options next year. You may even be able to pick up some that change color – quite a sparky option for your front yard!

Pack and label holiday items: Do you have to sort through the ornaments to get to your holiday plates? Is it a struggle to untangle your favorite bead garlands every year? It may be time for a holiday intervention. Consider containers, packaging and effective arranging to bring you holiday cheer next year when you unpack everything again.

Make next year’s holiday a little bit easier by planning ahead this year, creating a merrier season for you in 2013.

Make Holiday Place Settings Special Simply

Simple things can take a holiday table out of the ordinary and make it something special. You don’t need to spend a lot of time or money to get a beautiful looking table in your home. Let’s see a few possibilities.

This photo shows a festive table that required very little effort. By tying the silverware with some holiday ribbon, you have an instant splash of color and charm. Throwing a few confetti stars on the plate makes the entire place setting inviting. The table decorations are also simple – greens and ornaments. By coordinating colors and style the hosts made this table ready for holiday guests.

Here’s another simple but charming place setting. The simple napkin ring is highlighted with a couple of candy canes tucked inside with the napkin, and holiday cookies add to the final look. For an inexpensive holiday tablecloth, check out the seasonal fabrics at your local sewing store. Then just buy enough to cover your table properly and hem the two edges. Let the natural selvage serve as a hem for the long sides. The snowflake tablecloth in this photo coordinates well with the cookies and small silver balls scattered on the table.

This plain white tablecloth gets its holiday cheer from poinsettia table runners down the center and crossing to make the equivalent of placemats for each place setting. Inviting gift-wrapped favors, a cluster of cinnamon sticks, and a small pair of Santa’s boots complete the look. No need for special holiday china if your table linens show the season. More wrapped gifts and gold candles complete this holiday tablescape.

You don’t have to mimic Martha Stewart to set a beautiful table this year. Just use your imagination and a few extra elements, and your table will look as inviting as the food you will be placing on it. And have a happy holiday from all of us at Fulton Homes.

Pick and Decorate a Designer Tree

Have you always wanted your holiday tree to look as beautiful as the ones you see in stores or designer spaces? Like anything professional, choosing and decorating a tree well is a matter of following certain steps. Here are a few tips to make your tree as lovely as you want.

Tree choice: Choose a tree which has the proportions and branches to stand up to a wealth of decorations. In Arizona, the most common live holiday trees are Douglas and Noble. Douglas firs have many branches, but they can only support the lightest of ornaments. Also, they are dense, which means that all of your lights and decorations need to be on the surface. If you want to create drama, choose a Noble fir, like the second tree on the left with the pink tag on it in the photo above. This variety of tree can support heavier ornaments and allows you to see into the tree itself, providing the opportunity to layer decorations.

Lights: There are two common errors with lights: not enough and the wrong placement. To really make a tree shine, figure on about 100 lights per foot. That’s three to four times more lights than most people use, but the difference is dramatic. Next, place the lights toward the middle of the tree, not at the ends of the branches. Don’t run them in a line. Instead, place the light strings in random patterns on and between the insides of each branch. With lights set up like this, they will appear and disappear as people walk around the tree, and the brilliance will showcase the rest of the decorations.

Garlands: These are optional, but be generous with your choices. Often today, you will see designers use large pieces of artificial foliage or feathers instead of garlands. Notice how this choice works well with the tree on the right.

Ornaments: Think in terms of balance. Put larger ornaments toward the bottom and smaller ones at the top. Distribute colors and types of ornaments evenly.

Tree skirt: Instead of a standard round tree skirt, consider a length of fabric such as a white to resemble snow or dark velvet such as the one used on this tree. Just tuck the raw edges underneath and drape the fabric gracefully.

Throughout your decorating efforts, step back regularly to check the full effect. This may take more time than a standard approach, but the extra effort is worth it in the end.