Homespun :: Christmas S'more Jar

Well it's that time of year again in case you've been under a know, ho ho ho and jingle bells and all that. I really love Christmas - it's a time of family, fellowship and celebrating the birth of Jesus. Plus, there's always better food around than usual and time off from school and work. What's not to love about that? I have no problem with gift giving and receiving, but over the years I have been soured at the consumerism of this country - especially around Christmas time. It has made me not want to participate. Every year it gets worse - this year I saw Christmas decor out before Halloween! I hear the message loud on clear - let's completely skip Thanksgiving - a holiday where we STOP and give THANKS for what we HAVE (read between the lines: no buying stuff!) and move right on into the season of buying. I find it, down right hysterical that the media is telling me day after day that we are in a recession, the economy is tanking. Yet the mall parking lot is packed and there are people coming out of stores with lots of bags looking for their SUV's. There are no bread lines at the mall, people.

See now I've gone and done it...I wanted to do this precious little post about Abby and I doing our sweet handmade Christmas crafts and my soap box found its way out next to my keyboard again. Sorry 'bout that.

On with the show, shall we?

So what I was GOING to say's that time of year again. The time of year when we need to give a gift to the teacher in our life. Although this is Abby's first year of real school, it's her 3rd year of having a teacher at Christmas. We've been around the block a few times. So we like to do little handmade thingies that are inexpensive but show thought and love...this year is no exception.

You can ask my Mom (in fact she could probably produce a picture that tells the same story). I have always been a handmade Christmas gift kind of girl. When I was young, I would use my own money and buy a ton of candy. I would parse the candy out into little baggies and tie them up with ribbon curly cues. Then, I would put little name tags on them and put them in a basket and take them to school to pass out to my friends. The bags were always well received.

This year, Abby and I did "S'mores in a Jar". We filled mason jars with a graham cracker/brown sugar mixture, marshmallows and chocolate chips (Publix had a wonderful sale on Ghirardelli chips - perfect timing!). Then, we kinda "do up" the mason jars with some fun tags and an ornament. For the tag I did a simple piece of white stock paper covered with a fun design from "My Mind's Eye" (one of my faves). I embossed a gold Christmas and added a star brad. Inside we have the directions on how to make the s'mores bars as well as a little message from the kitchen of Club Amaro. Add a little raffia, a mini clothes pin and a fun ornament from the dollar bin at Michael's and WAA LAAAA!

Sun vs. Tree

This picture was taken in a field of trees just outside the city limits during the fall of 2008.

I have so many pictures of trees, but this is one of my personal favorites. To me, I feel the sun is fighting to get through those beautiful leaves – and the leaves have decided they are not going to budge.

Staging and Redesign Tip of the Week

Choose a focal point

Try to give each room a focal point, whether it's a fireplace, a window with a great view, the television, a bed, etc.  Determine what your focal point is and then rearrange furniture to bring attention to it.  A focal point will make the room look more unified.

Smart Move Design, a home staging and redesign company serving central and northern NY

By me? No...bayou

The view of the Bayou Bonne Idee from my aunt's pier. Mer Rouge, Louisiana

Bring the outdoors in

Now is the perfect time to bring some nature into your home and add a little "wow" 
Cattails make a dramatic display -  Cut them down to place in a vase on your mantle or table. 
Leave them long and put them in a large vase in a corner of the room.  
Add some of those feathery reeds you see along the side of the road. 
You can also turn your bed at an angle in a corner of the bedroom and place your display in the corner behind it.  Don't forget to coat the cattails with hairspray so they don't explode! 
For another look - pick up some dead tree branches and spray paint them. Put them in a vase,  alone or in an arrangement. Black is dramatic, but don't stop with black - experiment with different colors and coordinate with a set of dishes, a decorative pillow, a throw, etc.  

Pinecones are plentiful now and look great in a bowl as a centerpiece. Add some acorns and nuts. Use individual pine cones as place card holders at your next holiday dinner.

Smart Move Design, a home staging and redesign company serving central and northern NY

Home Staging Tip of the Week

When getting your home ready to sell, giving your rooms a fresh coat of paint has a big payoff. HomeGain surveyed 2000 Realtors and statistics show the return on investment for painting interior walls is 150%.

Pick a neutral color palette - this does not have to mean white or beige! Try Benjamin Moore's Adam Gold, Celery Salt and Richmond Gray. Or Sherwin Williams' Divine White, Softened Green and Humble Gold.

Flat and eggshell paint tends to work best when selling -it hides imperfections and dries to a smooth finish.

Adventures in color

Is choosing paint color your worst nightmare? For many homeowners it is.

Amy Wax, author of Can't Fail Color Schemes, says color combinations you feel most comfortable with will make up your unique signature palette.

Take a cue from nature and your surroundings. Collect items with the colors you love and you will begin to see a pattern. Think about the mood you are trying to project in each room.

Calm and serene? try shades of blues and greens. These are calm, cooling and relaxing.

Optimistic and happy? Yellow is the color for you -and it can stimulate conversation and memory.

Passionate, energetic and stimulating? Red and orange colors are great for eating, socializing, and feeling confident!

There is a wealth of information in books and on the internet to help you nail down the colors that will work for you and your home. But if you are not a do-it-yourself type of person - hire a redesigner, color consultant or interior designer - they can help.

True Value has a fun color quiz for you to take to get you started - click on the link and it will bring you to the quiz. Color Quiz

Lisa Ryan is the owner of Smart Move Design, a Home Staging and Redesign company serving Central and Northern NY.

What you see (and smell) is what you get

(photo from

At least that's what most buyers think when viewing a home for the first time.
That's why, when selling, making your home neutral is so important.

If your home has distracting colors, strong decorating elements, or noticible odors (food, pets, tobacco, etc) then a buyer will have a hard time visualizing their things in your house.

So neutralize the bold wallpaper, paint colors, & carpet.
Take down those political, religious, personal "statements" & family photo groupings.

Put away the cat litter box, refrain from cooking with garlic, onion or curry before a showing, and smoke outside.

Make your home the kind of home that ALL buyers walking through the door will see themselves living there.

Lisa Ryan owns Smart Move Design, a home staging and redesign company serving central and northern NY

Home Staging Tip of the Week

Let the sun shine in.

Buyers love light and airy living rooms. Open up your window shades to let some light in. Cheat some sunshine with a light-colored paint and lots of artificial lighting. You can never have too many lamps. Uplights are an inexpensive way to add lighting behind furniture and plants. Last, arrange the space with lightly colored furniture, and you'll have a living room that brightens your chances of a sale.

A recent vacant staging lighting dilemma -

This charming room had nice big windows in the front and these two side windows shown in the picture. Unfortunately, the three large front windows opened to an enclosed porch which darkened the room. It also had no ceiling light.

Light paint, light furniture, and 3 floor lamps placed in a triangular pattern helped give this room a nice glow, especially in the evening.

Smart Move Design is a Home Staging and Redesign company located near Syracuse, NY and serves the Central and Northern New York areas.

Let's barter!

Barter: To trade goods or services without the exchange of money.

I've always been a trader at heart. From trading marbles and rocks, barbie doll clothes to books, the love for trading hasn't changed since I grew up. My most recent "trade" is for salon services.

I am redesigning a small salon space in return for pedicure and manicure services. What fun! Not only do we both get to do what we love, she gets a new look to her space and I get some lovely guilt free nails and toes.

While bartering can't happen all the time as there are bills to pay, I definitely will barter when I can. Hmm, wonder if they would take staging services for my car payment this month?

Do you barter?

Smart Move Design is a Home Staging and Redesign company located near Syracuse, NY and serves the Central and Northern New York areas.