Gather some evergreen branches, a few pine cones, holly berries, a pine board, and a couple squares of foam and you're well on the way to an impressive but inexpensive front door holiday decoration, according to local designer Jim Rapp.
"When decorating, really think about the doors to your home. Have fun and don't be shy, but focus on the front door," he said.
"Be creative. Walk around your yard and look at the greenery and ask yourself, 'How would that look in a decorative piece?' But keep it simple," Rapp said. "A big wreath or swag on the front door, maybe highlighted with a spotlight, and some candles in the windows can make a great holiday display."
Rapp drilled a couple of holes about two inches apart near one end of a 17-inch-long, 1x6-inch board, through which he threads a wire for hanging the decoration.
He then glued two square pieces of foam, about 6x6x2-inches, to one side of the board where the greenery and other decorative items can be mounted using staples, or attached to bamboo sticks and inserted into the foam.
Rapp said the mounting boards can be used year after year.
"I like to add a few Christmas ornaments and tie on a large ribbon to finish the decoration," he said. "You can build a nice door swag for about $5 in materials."
One benefit of using natural materials is that they can easily be replaced if the greenery begins to dry out before the holidays are over, but Rapp said fresh greens should last several weeks.
- Teri Ann's sales associate Jimi Sell knows a few tips about how to stretch one nice dress into outfits for several holiday occasions.
Sell's advice on "how to jazz up your little black dress," provides tips on how the appearance of a plain black dress can change with the addition of a few simple accessories.
"We start with the 'Jackie O' version," she said, draping a basic pearl necklace over a black dress.
"Then we can add more layers of necklace-the more sparkle the better," Sell said. "And these necklaces don't have to be expensive, just remember to layer, layer, layer."
She noted that scarves are now being worn flat or tied around the neck, much like another necklace.
"The big trend now is to wrap the scarf around twice, then tie it so the ends stick up-it's just like a piece of jewelry," Sell said.
Adding a wide black studded belt and a small, silver purse to the outfit completed the look for a holiday party dress.
"Belts are big now," Sell explained. "They can be worn low on the hips with a dress or with a white blouse and black skirt or pants."
She said a blouse can also be dressed up with bracelets that add some sparkle to the sleeves.
For the feet, Sell suggested simple flat shoes with a variety of prints, or a pair of black boots.
For women headed to a more informal Christmas party, she recommended skinny leg jeans or slacks with a white blouse and fancy or basic denim jacket.
"You can put a denim jacket over a really dressy dress and it will look fabulous," Sell said.
- If you're looking for a little different kind of drink to serve guests during the holidays, you might try a chocolate mint martini.
Andy Ware from the Marietta Brewing Company has mixed more than a few of the seasonal martinis.
"You start by placing ice in the shaker, then ad an ounce of vodka, a half-ounce of white creme de menthe and a half-ounce of white creme de cocoa," he said.
The ingredients are shaken together, then poured into a chilled martini glass laced with chocolate syrup.
"It's a good idea to have the syrup chilled first so that it will stick to the glass when you pour it," Ware added.
He said there are hundreds of different martinis, including seasonal recipes for pomegranate, caramel apple and apple-tini flavors.
Of course there's always the standard "dirty martini" made with three ounces of vodka, a quarter-ounce of vermouth and an olive or two for garnish, Ware said.
"People can be particular about their martinis, too," he said. "Some like them dry, with just a little vermouth, while others like a wetter martini which means they want more vermouth in their drink."
- Interior designer Sarah Dye says don't forget the tables when trimming your home for Christmas.
"Tablescapes can be part of the holiday decorations, especially on tables that aren't used all the time-like scenes on small end tables or coffee tables," she said.
Dye explained that a tablescape may include a variety of themes, like a nativity scene, a winter scene or a collection of cards or photographs from Christmases past.
"Holidays are a time to share family memories," she said. "And cards and photos are a great way to bring those memories back."
Dye said tablescapes have been a tradition in her family for at least 20 years.
"A friend of mine has fond memories of going to the beach, so I'm going to make a holiday table with sand, shells, and driftwood, as well as with some candles and greenery," she said.
Dye said a good tablescape theme should fit with the rest of the home's holiday decor.
"You also want to place things in the tablescape at different heights, which is more pleasing to the eye, and use a lot of different textures," she said. "Most of all, have fun and use your imagination."