Wednesday December 13, 2017

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  • Decorating Wisely: Christmas…

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    I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We spent the day at my mom and dad’s farm.

    We ended it…
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Decorating Wisely
Friday, 01 December 2017 17:44

Decorating Wisely: Christmas decor

By Glenda Wise


I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We spent the day at my mom and dad’s farm.


We ended it by helping them put up their Christmas tree. My dad just had surgery on his hand, so he needed some help getting the decorations out of the attic and the tree put up. According to my Facebook newsfeed, it looks like many of you have been hard at work putting your beautiful Christmas decorations up.


Keep posting! I love seeing them all. We have everything done except for the tree.


We’re going back to the Christmas tree farm this weekend to pick our tree and bring it home! Each day we’re bringing a little more Christmas into our lives.


Wednesday night, we attended UAFS’s annual Season’s Greetings concert. It was fantastic, as always. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend it next year.


The admission is free; it’s their gift to the community. Afterwards, we drove over to Van Buren to check out the Hodo House. It was amazing! You need to add that to your Christmas to-do list. Grab some hot chocolate and make the drive. You won’t regret it.

On to Christmas decorating! Maybe I’m getting older, maybe it’s all of the projects I’ve had to complete, I don’t know, but I’ve been in the mood to simplify some of my decorating. Here are my favorite designer “keep it simple” tricks:

• You know how much I love fresh decorations. Fresh flowers, fresh garland, etc. If I had an endless supply of money and time, everything would be fresh, but that’s not the case, so I have to make do with what I have available to me. Here’s a great little trick I’ve learned through the years: start with a faux wreath or garland base and add fresh evergreen trimmings. This gives the illusion that the entire wreath or garland is fresh.

• Pinecones are a great way to add a fresh element. You can wire them and hang like ornaments in garland and wreaths. You can pile a bunch in a bowl or I like to mix pinecones and sparkly ornaments in a beautiful bowl for a simple and inexpensive centerpiece. I’ve also read that you can bleach them to make them white. I tried it, it didn’t work for me. Maybe I did something wrong, if you’ve had success with this, please let me know.

• Adding fresh fruit to a pretty bowl also brings the fresh element to your décor.

• It’s all in the presentation. Showcase small ornaments by presenting on a cake stand and cover with a cloche. This simple trick creates an instant focal point for your coffee table or kitchen island.
The main thing is to have fun with your decorations. Don’t feel the need to make your decorations just like everyone else’s. Make them unique and special to your family.





Friday, 17 November 2017 22:55

Decorating Wisely: Christmas Trees

By Glenda Wise


We had the best time last weekend taking pictures at the Pine Grove Christmas Tree Farm in Charleston. We took family pictures with ALL of our families. My parents, sister and her family, Donnie’s mom and did, his sister and her husband and, of course, our girls. The farm doesn’t technically open until this weekend, but just being there will put you in the holiday spirit. The rows and rows of trees are naturally beautiful and they have a few festive Christmas decorations to give you that extra special holiday spirit. Even if you don’t use a real Christmas tree, I highly recommend you take an afternoon this holiday season and visit the farm. They have hayrides, farm animals, and hot chocolate all at no charge. If you do choose to have a real Christmas tree you should consider purchasing it from them, their prices are reasonable and they are a local family.

Speaking of Christmas are my favorite tips about decorating them for that pro-look.

• If you’re using a real tree or a non-prelit tree, you will need to put the lights on first. The best way to do this is to start from the inside and weave them in and out of each branch. This lights the tree all the way through.
• Next, add your ribbon if using. I like using some ribbon just to fill in holes. When Donnie and I were first married we didn’t have that many ornaments, so ribbon was an inexpensive way to fill the tree.
• Now, the best part! The ornaments. I love getting out all the ornaments from years’ past. When we travel, we try to buy an ornament for our tree, that’s a fun little way to reminisce about past family trips. I keep all of the handmade school ornaments from the girls. I want to say a special “thank-you” to all the teachers that do those projects. They are truly appreciated and priceless.

• Once all the ornaments are on, you can go back and see if there are any empty spots. If so, just add a few berries or other fillers to fill them.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention, one more exciting thing happened at the Christmas tree farm! My niece got engaged! It was so sweet, her now fiancé planned it all out. There were signs in the Christmas trees and he got down on one knee, it was awesome!

Saturday, 11 November 2017 23:47

Decorating Wisely: Friendsgiving

By Glenda Wise


Our little Friendsgiving get together is fast approaching. We’ve got the menu all planned, timing of cooking scheduled, and so on, but what about the tables and overall tone? As much as I would love to have big beautiful centerpieces dripping with Bittersweet, that’s just not going to happen for a couple of reasons: time and money. Hmm…those two things tend to dominate a great majority of many of our decisions, don’t they? I mean just because I’m lacking those two very important factors doesn’t mean I can’t have what I want and you can too!


First of all, we have to get it out of our heads that time and money are the two most important aspects of any gathering. Yes, they help…a lot, but there are creative ways around that. The most important elements of any gathering are making guests feel at home and setting a gracious tone. Here are my favorite ways to set a thankful and gracious table:


Host Chairs: Yes or No? I say, no. I don’t like making my guests feel different from me, plus that’s just not my style. I prefer to sit back and make my guests the star for the day.


Matching China and Stemware or Not? Personally, I don’t have enough of anything to match. As much as the beautiful Pottery Barn holiday tablescape gets me every time I visit their store, I don’t have it in the budget to spend a couple thousand dollars on tableware. I choose to mix and match what I have. I try to use items that are in the same general color family, but if I don’t have enough I keep a few clear plates on hand. They are available at Wal-Mart for a few dollars each. They are perfect, because, well, clear goes with anything.


Every Gracious Table Should Have: A warm and inviting tone that serves as a gathering place for family and friends.


Traditional or Not? Anyone that knows me knows that I love tradition. I believe there’s something special about keeping up with old traditions, but I do like to buck the system occasionally. This is usually accomplished by adding a splash of the unexpected. For example, I like to add a touch of pink and purple to my Thanksgiving table. When done in small doses these colors actually complement the traditional red and orange color scheme quite nicely.


My last words of advice: Embrace what you have and make it work. There’s a certain joy and satisfaction one gets that simply can’t be bought.

Friday, 03 November 2017 21:24

Decorating Wisely: Natural Selection

By Glenda Wise


I hope you all had a fantastic Halloween. There were so many awesome events around our community. One of my favorites was the annual Storybook Forest hosted by Good Times Theatre. I hope you all had a chance to check it out this year, if not, you really missed out and you need to make it a top priority next year.

Now, that the last Jack-o-Lantern has been put away and your Christmas planning has begun, it’s time to turn our attention to Thanksgiving. This is one of Donnie’s favorite holidays and as much as I love Christmas, I do love Thanksgiving. I love the quality family time, the food, and I really love all the natural elements of the season.


I love seeing what I can do with my outdoor treasures. Case in point, remember my magnolia garland? Well, I had a few more branches than I needed, so I just threw them onto the empty lot next to us, but I kept them close enough I could easily get to them just in case I needed them for anything else. After I took down my Halloween decorations I needed a little something in a vase in my breakfast area, so I just grabbed a few of those dried magnolia branches and tossed them in the vase. Voila! Instant fall arrangement!

Lately, I’ve really been into color blocking. This is an easy way to add a substantial amount of color without looking too busy or too hard to arrange. Color blocking can easily be accomplished by gathering two different colors of fall leaves and arranging one color on side and the other color on the other side.

Layering is another way to get a big impact with little effort. Start with items like walnuts or acorns in a vase and then finish the look off with bunches of wheat. The items in the vase will help hold the wheat in place as well.

Gnarly branches are a natural way to add interest and an instant focal point. Simply put in a cute little vase or stone urn and you’re finished!

The best part about fall is using what you have to make “flower” arrangements. You get to think way outside the standard floral arrangement box. You know that I love fresh flowers, but I don’t always have them left in the budget, so I splurge and do a few fresh flowers mixed with the other elements I’ve mentioned. If you’re like me and still want a few fresh blooms, it is best to buy one type of flower in one color. This gives you a more fluid look when you’re only able to use a few fresh flowers. For example, if I were decorating with the gnarly branch, I would place a few little blooms in a small vase beside it. This gives it color and a bit of softness.

This weekend is supposed to be beautiful, not particularly the traditional fall day, but a great time to get outside and forage all your fall decorations.

Friday, 27 October 2017 10:17

Decorating Wisely: Countdown till Christmas

By Glenda Wise


Halloween is fast approaching and guess what that means?! The Hallmark Channel Countdown to Christmas is finally here! The first Christmas movie started at 1:00 pm Friday! I’m beyond excited even though I don’t have a lot of time to watch TV, it’s nice to turn on a feel good movie after a long day. In honor of Hallmark’s Countdown to Christmas beginning this weekend, I thought I would make our own little Countdown to Christmas.

For the remainder of October
• Make a budget
• Make a list of gift recipients broken down by type of gift, i.e., homemade or purchased
• Start picking up stocking stuffers as you see them (The Target $1 section is great for this...although their dollar section isn’t really a dollar section anymore it’s more like $3)
• Get your Christmas card list in order...update with new addresses, etc.
• Plan homemade Christmas gifts
• Make nonperishable homemade Christmas gifts
• Make preparations for any Advent fun

• If you haven’t already done so, take your family Christmas pictures
• Make and freeze cookie dough
• Order/purchase Christmas cards and, ideally, have them ready to mail the first week in December (Note: I said ideally, I have a hard time getting this done by then, but, hey, goals, right?)
• Decorate the house (now, this is totally up to you, but although I love Christmas decorating, I also love Thanksgiving decorations and don’t decorate until after Thanksgiving)
• Make a list of local Christmas activities you want to attend and put them in your calendar. I also pencil in when I need to purchase tickets if it’s an event that requires prepurchased tickets.
• Plan your Christmas meal(s)
• Mail holiday party invitations towards the end of the month.

• Make perishable homemade Christmas gifts
• Deliver homemade Christmas gifts
• Mail Christmas cards
• Wrap gifts
• Finish holiday baking
• Enjoy the holidays!

Two of the most important things you can do this holiday season is to make time to volunteer and/or donate to help out those in need and most of all, remember the reason for the season and don’t get too bogged down in the hustle and bustle.


Friday, 20 October 2017 20:29

Decorating Wisely: No Fuss Fall


Well, it seems last week that I forgot to submit my column. I’m thinking that means...well, I don’t know what it means exactly, other than I just forgot! Since the weather seems to be feeling a bit more fall-like, it makes me really want to put the finishing touches on all my indoor fall decorations. Of course, we all need no-fuss decorating, so here are a few of my favorite no-fuss and inexpensive fall decorating ideas.

• Get inspired by the outdoors. Take a look around at all the beautiful landscaping and items outdoors and bring them in. For this easy and beautiful centerpiece, simply submerge a few green apples in water in a tall cylinder vase and add a few cuttings from outdoors. If you’re lucky enough to find hedge apples outside, use them. I love the bumpy texture of them and their beautiful green color. Hint: Don’t be stingy with the cuttings. Leave some of the branches long and flowy. Just think to yourself about how a tree really grows outside. This centerpiece would be beautiful alone, but to give it that finished professional look set the vase on a large galvanized tray and fill the remaining space on the tray with the apples.

• Place a single pumpkin under a glass cloche to make the pumpkin instantly stand out and give it some specialness.

• Perch pumpkins on top of candlesticks to give your fall display various height interest.

• Use old books to give your fall decorations interest and texture. I like to perch a pumpkin or two on top.

• Place a bundle of wheat in a silver urn for a mix of sophistication and farmhouse.

• Fill a wood tray with mini white pumpkins.

• Use Kraft paper as a table runner topped with sprigs of seeded eucalyptus and votives. You can also add a few pie pumpkins in for a bit of color.

The main thing with fall decorating is to keep it natural and utilize the natural beauty of outdoor elements.

Friday, 06 October 2017 20:59

Decorating Wisely: Halloween Party

This past weekend we hosted Grayson’s last Halloween party. To say that I’m sad is an understatement.


We’ve hosted a Halloween party since she was in Pre-K. Yes, there were many years that I thought to myself, “Why in the world did I start this tradition?” but in the end I am ever so glad that we continued it. Parents of young children, heck, even older children, I strongly urge you to start some sort of tradition with your kids. Now, it doesn’t have to be a party, it can be anything, just something that they look forward to every year and that they will look back on as a good memory. I promise you that you won’t regret it.

Grayson has always loved Charlie Brown, so she really wanted to do a “The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” party. This was actually pretty easy to pull off with minimal costs. Of course, it started with the invitation that was Charlie Brown themed. We opted to do a dinner and movie kind of thing. You guessed, it the movie was “The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” We set up our projector and outdoor screen and lots of blankets. The outdoor screen was made of PVC pipe and a white king-sized bedsheet. Grayson had a whole vision for this outdoor movie night. She wanted café lights for the lighting, so I ordered a few boxes from Amazon and we strung them near the movie area. Just an FYI, I try to make or repurpose as many things as I can, but when I do have to purchase things, I try to make the purchase count, like the café lights. I know without a doubt that they are something I will reuse over and over again. For example, I know we will use them at our Friendsgiving celebration.

For the dinner, we served chili, a veggie tray, and other small finger foods. For the movie, we set up a popcorn bar. Guests were able to scoop their popcorn and add whatever they wanted like candy corn, M&M’s and pretzels. This was a big hit!

Also, Grayson made a Charlie Brown-themed banner for photos. She did this with Linus picture she enlarged on the printer, cut out stars from her Silhouette and a twin-sized bedsheet.

The party was a big hit and the weather was perfect. I couldn’t have asked for anything better for her last party.


grayson alex carley 002

popcorn bar 002

photo banner 002

group halloween 002

outdoor movie 002

Saturday, 30 September 2017 15:56

Decorating Wisely: Magnolia Garland

Hello all! I hope you enjoyed a break from me last week. I’ve been busy with my last semester, Grayson’s last Nutcracker and so many other “lasts” this year ahead of many firsts next year. I was able to play hooky for an afternoon last week and get my front door fall decorations finished. I posted a picture on Facebook and had a couple of people ask me how I did it. I thought I would devote this column to helping you out with garland tips I’ve learned throughout the years (after many, many failures).

First of all, I didn’t want to spend much money so I had to figure out a way to get what I wanted without spending a fortune. I made a Facebook post that I was looking for magnolia tree trimmings and my friend responded that he had just trimmed his tree and I was welcome to as much as I needed. Donnie loaded up the back of his truck and brought them home. Score!

Here’s what you need to get started with your own garland:
• Whatever base you want. My base was magnolia branches, your base can be cedar branches, pine branches, etc. You will need more than you think, so load up twice as much.
• Paddle wire. This is simply wire wrapped around flat plastic. You can purchase this at Wal-Mart or any craft store.
• Rope (optional)
• The proper screws in the proper place (we’ll get to that in a minute).

To get started you will need a large space to spread out (preferably outside because it will make a mess). Next, layer two or three branches and start wrapping with the paddle wire. Do not cut the wire, you want one continuous piece.

(Hint: Leave your branches a little long. Don’t cut them too short because it’s nearly impossible to make a full garland with little sprigs.)


Now, just keep layering and wrapping with the wire. It will take a little bit to get in the groove of it, but eventually you will get in the rhythm of it. Don’t worry about a few bare spots because you will be able to fill in with smaller sprigs when you hang the garland. At this point, you’re just getting the bulk and length of the garland done. I mentioned a rope was optional. Some people prefer to use a rope to help with the process, i.e., you do the same thing but attach the branches to the rope with the wire. The rope is sort of a guide. Iv’e never really done this, because I didn’t learn it that way, but it may help you so I thought I would throw it in.

Now that the bulk of your garland is complete, it’s time to hang it. This is where the proper screws in the proper place comes in. After all these years, I still try to do things my way and it never works out for me. Donnie had the flu this past weekend along with a bad cycling accident and I just really wanted to hang the garland myself and be done with it without disturbing him, but I’m sure you can guess how that went. Grayson and I tried everything to do it ourselves, but to no avail. It was just too heavy and too long to not have the right screws in place so I had to break down and call one of our subcontractors to come over Monday morning and put the brick screws in for me. Low and behold, after he left I easily attached the garland in a matter of minutes by myself.

Finally, after the garland is hung, fill in any holes with smaller branches.


Now, all you have to do is add other décor like mums and pumpkins and enjoy!

Friday, 15 September 2017 22:59

Decorating Wisely: Thanksgiving planner

I know it seems a bit early, but I’ve already started thinking about Thanksgiving. I mean, heck, we’re already to mid-September, wasn’t it just Labor Day?! Also, this year will be a bit different due to Ashton’s work schedule. You all know what a stickler I am for holidays and traditions, so we’re figuring out a way to preserve our holiday traditions while working around scheduling.


Ashton’s normal days off are Tuesdays and Wednesdays, so if the holiday falls on one of those days she’s golden, but I guess you know where that leaves her on Thanksgiving because the news never stops even for turkey and dressing.


Yes, Thanksgiving at the farm will have to be scheduled a bit earlier in the day this year, so she can go before work, but where does that leave all of her co-workers that don’t have any family nearby? One of them told me that the station bought them Chinese food last year for Thanksgiving.


I said, “Oh no, not on my watch! You will have a traditional Thanksgiving meal!” We have opted to do a Tuesday before Thanksgiving Friendsgiving. Now you guys can see why I feel the need to start planning now because I’m finally in my last semester at UAFS and technically, I’m still in school on that Tuesday, but fingers crossed I will not get sick and have to use any of my days allowed by my professors until that day.

Technically, Thanksgiving is about 9 ½ weeks away, but I believe you can never start too early planning and working out timelines. I apply this to most everything I do. Am I saying I never have a problem or late? No way, but I sure would hate to see my life without all of this initial legwork. It would be bad, very bad!

For something like this, I personally don’t think it’s too early to send out invitations. Especially for a holiday celebration. They all know they will be working, therefore, I just want them to know that we will be doing something special on a day that they can come.

• Pin, pin, pin away on Pinterest and look through old cookbooks for tried and true family favorites.

• Sift through and turn all those ideas into real plans by finalizing the menu and recipes.
• Make a shopping list of all the ingredients you need. This includes everything you have on hand, because at this point, you’re just trying to figure out what you need. This includes cooking gear, i.e., a roasting pan, etc.
• After you make the list, go through your cabinets and mark off anything you already have.
• Make a general serving plan and the items you need for that.
• Finalize décor.
• Start clearing out cabinets. This is also a great way to take inventory of your cooking gear.

• Divide the list from Week 6 into three categories: Perishable, Non-Perishable and Cooking Gear
• Start purchasing nonperishables and cooking gear as your budget allows. It’s a lot easier if you spread the expense out over the next few weeks.
• Order anything needed online and reserve anything you need to rent like tables and chairs.


• Develop your cooking plan based on your recipes and menu items.
• Based on the plan, divide the perishables by the date you’ll be buying them.
• Clean out the fridge and freezer.
• Press or dry clean table linens.

• Buy the perishables you will need based on your cooking plan.
• Items to make ahead and freeze are pie dough, bread, cornbread.
• Arrange your tablescape and other decorations. If using fresh flowers, go ahead and place the empty vase where you want it and then all you’ll need to do is fill it with flowers.
• This is the time to do what my mother-in-law calls, “clean the corners” i.e., get in there and scrub all the stuff you miss the rest of the time.
• Buy the turkey! Dang..almost forgot the star of the show!

• Buy any remaining perishable items.
• Start defrosting piecrusts.

• Prepare pies and like items.

• Chill wine/beer.
• Prepare sides.
• Defrost breads and other premade frozen items.

Of course, this is a general suggestion as to how I do things, but tailor it to your needs and traditions.

As I’ve mentioned I love tradition and I think it is so very important in a family, but I think there is always room to add new ones and evolve as your life seasons evolve.


I’m looking forward to this new tradition and inviting new people to be a part of our old traditions.

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