It never ceases to amaze me how quickly we go from Fall to the Holiday Season!  I love this time of year; the changing colors, the crispness in the air, but it is also a bittersweet time for me.  My daughters and their families live in another state, as well as my parents, siblings and their families.  I haven’t been home for the holidays since I moved away some 10 years ago.  Every year at this time I long to go “home” to share the holidays with my family.  This year seems even more difficult now that I have a granddaughter.  I would love to share these special family holidays with her and the whole family!

I have begun to pull out the boxes of decorations; a whole collection of houses, shops and people – enough to create several “villiages.”  Christmas ornaments my daughters and I have collected throughout their childhoods.  Garlands of lights and swags of greenery, holiday “themed” dinnerware and linens, down to the guest fingertip towels to decorate the bathrooms.  No detail is overlooked.

With so much to do during this season, I decorate in stages.  After pulling out all the “stuff,” I start with simple centerpieces that I can change up.  The base of my centerpieces usually starts with a basket or tray, some candles, and other natural materials such as stones, shells, pinecones…  This Thanksgiving, I am going to use a black wooden tray filled with mixed nuts (the ones in the shell).  Pewter candle sticks placed among the nuts with pumpkin colored candles (not the scented ones, they tend to distract from the meal being served).  This a simple, but elegant look to a dinner table.  You could even go out to the garden and select a few branches or flowers (we live in an area where we have flowering plants all year long) and lay them among the nuts.

I have used wrapped candies at Christmas as my base; edibiles are something guests can enjoy to snack on before or after a meal.  Coordinate the colors of the candies, candles and tray to make another fun centerpiece.  Christmas bulbs in one color and various sizes, a white tray and clear glass vases with greenery or a string of lights looks terrific!  Fill a basket with pillow stuffing, looks like snow and place a Holiday figurine or little house decorated for the holidays atop of the snow, and add couple of candles makes a great coffee or end table piece. 

This year I am going to make centerpieces for my daughters; reminding them of holidays past and to cherish each year as they set up their own homes for the holidays.


I love to entertain; the planning and the preparation is all part of it.  I think of the person(s) who will be a part of party and make meaningful and personal for them.  I don’t even mind the cleaning frenzy I get into; mind you I have three dogs and a husband that work against me at all times.

You don’t have to go all out to make your home inviting, as my husband says, “they are not coming to see how good a housekeeper you are, they are coming to see you.”   So I try to keep that in mind and not worry about the house so much as I think of little things that will make my guests more comfortable. 

I will clean up the guest room, fresh linens on the bed and towels in the guest bath.  Along with a basket at bedside that contains a book, crossword puzzles, bottled water, snacks, and pain reliever.  I even set up a small coffee bar with mugs, canister of coffee, assorted basket of teas, hot chocolate so they don’t feel they have to wait until they hear someone stirring outside their room to come out.

I place another basket in the bath with personal sized shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, mouthwash, floss, soaps and I even place a bath robe and slippers in the room for their use.  

I create a gift bag and a personal note with travel size lotion and body spray, candies, a scented candle; it doesn’t need to be expensive, just personal.  I set this on the bed so they see it when they enter the room, this let’s them know how much I look forward to their visits and how much it means to me.

These little things take very little of my time, but has a huge impact on my guests.  They don’t care if I didn’t get my floors mopped or the flower beds weeded.  Best of all I get to enjoy my company and the weeds and floors can wait.

Everyone is “Going Green” today.  You hear the term in the tv commercials, your favorite decorating shows and there’s all sorts of new products that have hopped on the train.  It isn’t anything new, just a fresh awareness of the importance of being green.   

I know what you’re thinking… “what does this have to do with decorating?”  Everything!  Beyond the new home building materials, the cleaning products, the renew, reuse and recycle things you can do to help your enivornment; you can use these same concepts in decorating. 

Adding real green plants to every room is a great way to start.  Every room deserves a little “life” by simply adding plants using the same ideas from “Decorating with a Collection.”  Use baskets or similar containers to hold the plants and place them in groups of uneven numbers or an unusual or large plant can stand alone.  There must be a balance of using green plants in a room as with any other decorating element.  Also, using natural items such as shells, rocks, drift wood in recycled containers to hold them brings a bit of nature indoors. 

Simple…  This is a perfect excuse to create a theme for your next dinner party and go beyond the food you are serving!  

Holidays are always family time and we try to make it special; serving favorite dishes, playing games and just enjoying the time together.  At Easter we associate the holiday with bunnies, duckies, and activities like egg hunts.  It is also the marking of Spring, a time of renewal and reflection.  

Dress your table in it’s Easter best.  A beautiful tablecloth, a throw,  or a flat sheet will work.   As with decorating a room with layers, you decorate a table in layers.  Using a second tablecloth or other fabric; pool it in the center of the table.  Next collect small houseplants, figurines, candles, and even river rock or jelly beans to be arranged as the centerpiece on the table.  Don’t forget to carry this theme to the buffet and other areas of the house where your guests will be!

For a Mexican Fiesta you could use things like: chili peppers, clay pots, Mexican tiles, sombreros….  Pots and hats can be lined with foil or plastic wrap and used for serving food and holding utensils.  The tiles are perfect trivets for the hot dishes.

A seafood buffet looks great with fish-netting, Adirondack chairs, sand, plastic buckets, shovels, and shells.  Blue and white serving ware and fish themed dinnerware adds a finishing touch. 

Have a flair for the tropical?  Those surongs that us gals love to wrap around ourselves make great table coverings.  If you are lucky enough to have palm trees; clip a few fronds to use as place mats.  Grass skirts and more of those surongs (you know you have one in every color) tied around the chairs adds a lot of fun!

One last one and then you are on your way to creating a theme for your next dinner party;  have an elegant affair that you need to host?  No problem!   Costume jewelry can be attached to napkin rings, pooled around bowls filled with flowers floating in water, a mixture of candle sticks with same color candles centered on the table. 

Stretch yourself next time you have a dinner party, pick out music, fabrics and serving ware to match a theme and take it to the next level.  You will have fun doing it and your guests will love it!

Okay, did you think I would really stop before I reached 101 ways?  Sorry, not going to happen because I love baskets!  Let’s see, I think we are still in the kitchen: 

28 a long rectangular one will hold paper dinner napkins

29 another for beverage napkins

30 roll your linen napkins and tablecloths; place together in a  basket

Just a note: rolling your linens prevents those ugly creases that always need to be ironed out before you can set your table for a dinner party and your linens will last longer if rolled!

31  a large basket can hold a set of glasses; pull it out for Happy Hour

32 place several herb pots in a plastic lined basket and set on a window ledge

33 large ones can hide mis-matched planters to hold your larger house plants

34 pool side; a laundry basket will hold rolled beach towels nicely

35 another to catch wet beach towels

36 a large one turned upside down works great as a portable cocktail table

37 cassettes, CD’s and DVD collections

38 board games

39 a picnic basket works great for carrying blankets

40 craft supplies

41 pencils, crayons, and markers each in their own basket

Are you still doubting that I can list 101 ways to use baskets?  Or have I lost you again back there somewhere?  Catch up, we have a way to go yet! 

42 in the office, a picnic basket can double as a file cabinet – it’s portable!

43 a bill paying center

44 have a dedicated “In” basket

45 and outgoing mail

46 in the car (yes, in the car), a picnic basket can be a catch-all!

47 a large basket with a hinged lid can be a toy chest and double as a bench

48 put together a “guest” basket for overnight guests, toothbrush, travel sized toiletries, paperback book, pen and staitionary

49 another basket for individual sized snacks in guest room or media room

Have you noticed we are about halfway there!  Hey, are your eyes glazed over?  You will never look at a basket the same way and I bet you will think twice before throwing one away.

Did I tell you I love Baskets!  I’m not sure why… Maybe it’s the textile look, the range of colors, variety of shapes and sizes or is it the versatility?  The best part is that most of them are free or at least fairly inexpensive!  

I use them all over my home for organizing and decorating.  I’m sure I can list out 101 ways to use them, so here we go!

1 line your closet shelves with baskets and fill them with:  

2 scarves,

3 gloves,

4 belts,

4 photos,

5 hats,

6 sweaters

7 In the bathroom, place baskets under the sink, on the counter, around the tub, on the floor.  They can hold a multitude of:

8 roll your bath towels and set on end

9 magazines

10 cosmetics

11 on top of the toilet holds extra t.p.

12 one with a lid to hold female products

13 a flat shallow one works as a tray to hold your Mason jar collection (you know, the ones with the q-tips, cotton balls, brushes)

14 as a trash can

15 in the bedrooms; use one for all those remotes that lay on top of the nightstand

16 several on a blank wall for a visual effect

17 in the foyer under a bench or table to hold all those dog leashes, scarves, mittens, and hats

18 on top of the table or shelf to catch keys, phones, mail

19 in the kitchen… 

Hey are you still with me?  I think the ones in the kitchen are the best yet!

20  in the pantry closet to hold individual packets of cocoa, tea, oatmeal

21 sleeves of crackers

22 group your spices (so you can pull out a set you use in – say, your chili)

23 stack a group of them and display them on top of the cabinets or frig

24 use them to hold dishes when serving food to company 

25 keep your outdoor silver (or plastic) ware, napkins, dishes in a handled one

26 another to hold your ketchup, mustard, and relish – you can even leave them in the basket in the frig!

I think this is my all time favorite use of a basket yet!  Are you ready?  I feel like I’m talking to myself by this point!

27  a basket with a lid (a hinged one if you can find it) to use on the kitchen counter…

You know where you have all those cell phone chargers?  Place a outlet strip inside the basket and make a hole just big enough to pull the plug through it.  Are you beginning to picture this? Place a piece of cardboard or thin plywood on top of this to create a shelf to rest your cell phones on.  Close the lid and it looks so much better than all those cords and phones sitting there!

 Okay, I won’t bore you any longer.  Add a few of your own ideas to share… come on, I know you have baskets laying around.  Put them to use!