Top Tinsel Towns: 10 Surprising Cities Whose Holiday Charms Are Worth Unwrapping

Accept it, the winter holidays overshadow everything in December, whether you’re a Scrooge or a Tiny Tim. The majority of us fall somewhere in the middle. Along with the joy, there’s the stress: making the frenzied rounds of holiday parties, wandering the aisles of CVS for pre-packaged mistletoe or the last box of Hannukah candles, dutifully enduring the office potluck.

But there are some who truly adore this time of year. They festoon their homes with pine branches, pinecones, and pine-scented Febreze; they install outdoor holiday lighting that rivals the Vegas Strip. They revel in heading to the Christmas tree farm to cut down a fresh spruce, watching “Love Actually” on autorepeat, or going with that special someone to a menorah lighting.

So these folks need to find metros that share their ardor. As it turns out, some cities are more on this celebratory wavelength than others. We set out to find those festive places that go all out for tree lightings, parades, and holiday-themed everything.

“For a city to be really attractive for the holidays, it needs to offer something for everyone—from kids to the grandparents,” says Kirsten Maxwell, founder of kidsareatrip.com, a site about family activities. The events they offer, she says, need to bring every generation together.

The jolly realtor.com® data team dug into the numbers to find those magical metros that are catnip for holiday lovers. We looked at the 150 largest metros around the country and sifted them down to one per state. Our criteria were:*

  • Google searches for “Christmas Parade,” “Hanukkah,” and “Festivus”
  • Seasonal cashiers as a percentage of all employees
  • Percentage of realtor.com home listings with a fireplace or chimney (because, Santa)
  • Christmas tree and holiday decoration businesses per capita
  • Toy stores per capita
  • Alcohol consumption rates by state (holiday parties, oh my!)
  • Number of Christmas trees cut down per state
  • Percentage of all flight arrivals between Dec. 19 and Dec. 23 (to estimate how many folks are going home for the holidays)

Best cities for holiday loversClaire Widman

So hitch up those sleighs, and we’ll find you a holiday match. Ho ho ho.

1. Hickory, NC

Median home price: $232,000

Holiday highlight: Enjoy some of the nation’s finest Christmas tree farms … just don’t get run off the road like a Griswold.

Union Square in downtown Hickory, NCWikipedia CC

This place takes its Yuletide festivities seriously. Every year, an 18-foot tree in the mountains of North Carolina is cut down and erected in the city square, where it’s generously decorated. The lighting takes place the week before Thanksgiving—and thousands of community members come out to watch it, and the parade beforehand. It’s a big deal.

So how does it work, you ask? “The parade wraps up downtown, and Mr. and Mrs. Claus light the tree,” says Dana Kaminske, spokeswoman for the city of Hickory. “We have hot chocolate and cookies. And the downtown retailers stay open. All the money raised from the professional floats goes into a scholarship fund.” Got it.

Before December arrives, this town is already in full holiday swing. There’s the Western Piedmont Symphony’s holiday concert, and the holiday kick-off event at the Hickory Museum of Art. Or chill out to a frontier Christmas vibe while strolling through what’s purported to be the nation’s largest collection of “rescued and restored” log cabins, in Hart Square.

2. Eugene, OR

Median home price: $337,275
Holiday highlight: 
More Christmas trees! No. 1 in the nation for piney production

Oregon’s Ugliest Sweater RunOregon’s Ugliest Sweater Run via Facebook

Eugene residents love getting outdoors to run, bike, and hike, so naturally, that’s how they hail the holidays, too.

Case in point: Oregon’s Ugliest Sweater Run, which takes place here a couple of weeks before Christmas. It’s your typical 5K run, just requiring that contestants be outfitted in that hideous knitted garment an aunt bought them a few years back. If that doesn’t do it for you, try the Jingle Rush 5K, where you’re provided antlers and bells at the start of the run, and hot chocolate and cider upon completion. Heck, the city’s nickname is Track City U.S.A. Winners never quit!

To stave off dehydration, head over to the Holiday Cocktail Party at the Provisions Market Hall. You’ll guzzle holiday libations and beer from local breweries, all while digging Rat Pack-era tunes.

3. Buffalo, NY

Median home price: $166,525
Holiday strength: 
Great for kids, lousy for bank accounts—the highest concentration of toy stores per capita

Even the deer love Buffalo during the holidays.Joel Lim/Getty Images

In the 19th century, Buffalo was one of the first cities to install electric streetlights, earning it the nickname City of Light. They’re still gaga over their lights here, as evidenced by the ultracool display of more than a million LEDs that you’ll see as you drive through the Fairgrounds Festival of Lights. More than 15,000 cars wind their way through the spectacle during a two-week period every December.

“This past Saturday, we had 1,500 carloads,” says Marty Biniasz, marketing manager at Erie County Fairgrounds. “Drivers can listen to Ho-Ho Radio and our holiday soundtrack as they drive through.” After all, what would a festival of lights be without Ho-Ho Radio?

The Fairgrounds also has a 3,000-square-foot maze. Once you find your way out, you can grab your Santa suit and head over to SantaCon Buffalo for drinks with 5,000 other Santas.

Did we mention that Fisher-Price, one of the world’s largest toy companies, is based in the Buffalo region?

4. Pittsburgh, PA

Median home price: $171,500
Holiday highlight: 
Hi, Mom! An unusually high number of townies return home for the holidays.

PPG Place Ice RinkLori Kemp/Getty Images

During the mid-20th century, Pittsburgh was a steel and coal-producing behemoth, and transporting those products required a massive network of railroads and locomotives. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise to hear that model trains play a big role in the Steel City’s holiday celebrations.

“There were so many [trains] in Western Pennsylvania,” says Bill Humphrey, public relations director and vice president of the Western Pennsylvania Model Railroad Museum. “People think of us around Christmas time, which all goes back to the tradition of setting up a model train around your Christmas tree.”

During the holiday months, the museum opens up and guests pile in to share nostalgia for the city’s past. The museum’s best-known model train is a 1/87th scale model that replicates the network of trains and tracks that ran between Pittsburgh and Cumberland, MA, in the summer of 1952.

But it’s not all diesel and ironworks here. The Winter Flower Show and Light Garden at the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is another December tradition. Luminous orbs, oversized ornaments, and festive lights add to the allure of orchids and poinsettias.

5. Sarasota, FL

Median home price: $350,000
Holiday strength: 
Drink up! Alcohol consumption spikes here in December, thanks to a plethora of parties.

Venice Christmas Boat ParadeEducation Images/UIG via Getty Images

When you think of the holidays, you probably picture snow and snowball fights—not temperatures in the high 60s to low 70s. That doesn’t stop folks here from celebrating hard. So if you want the festive atmosphere without the chill, then Sarasota might be your place. Just make sure to bring your boat!

The annual Venice Christmas Boat Parade floats along the waterways from South Nokomis Beach to North Venice Beach. Participating boats are transformed into decorated Christmas floats with lit-up reindeer and palm trees.There’s also the Downtown Sarasota Tree Lighting Celebration and the Jazz Christmas Concert at the Centennial Park.

Feeling wistful for the white stuff? Swing by Snow Fest Sarasota, where you and your children can play in manmade snow. The free event attracts around 15,000 guests and offers pony rides, snowman building, and jelly bean juggling—because why not?

6. Hartford, CT

Median home price: $259,950
Holiday strength:
 A fine place to celebrate eight crazy nights

Winter in HartfordDenisTangneyJr/iStock

Cue the Hanukkah celebrations: Connecticut has one of the highest concentrations of Jewish residents in the country.

To kick off the first day of Hanukkah, townies gather at the Blue Back Square in West Hartford for a menorah-lighting ceremony held by Chabad of Greater Hartford, a community group. Afterwards, they get to watch a live carving of an ice menorah and 3-D dreidel printing. Be honest: You’re curious about the dreidel printing.

“In West Hartford, around 25% of the population is Jewish,” says Susannah MacNeil, associate vice president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford. “We have a very vibrant community and a wide variety of Hanukkah celebrations. And latke tastings.”

Other holiday entertainment in the region includes the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and the Hartford Gay Men’s Chorus, which regales the crowds with its annual fave, “Nutcracker: Men in Tights.”

7. Providence, RI

Median home price: $342,450
Holiday highlight: 
Need help with holiday decor? You’re in the right place.

Providence, RIdigidreamgrafix/Getty Images

One of the world’s largest toy makers calls the Providence region home: Hasbro, the maker of Monopoly and My Little Pony. And Providence sure loves its toys.

“The holidays are our time of the year,” says Emily Brownell, manager at Henry Bear’s Park, a mega toystore in Providence.

Providence has all the holiday attractions you’d expect, plus a few extra. You can watch “A Christmas Carol,” which will be performed for the 40th year at Trinity Rep in downtown Providence. Then you can throw on some holiday attire and run the holiday-themed F.I.T. ‘Mas 5K Trail Race-TrailFecta. Want to show the state love even on your Christmas tree? Swing by the visitor center at the Rhode Island State House, where Rhode Island ornaments are on sale. Deck the halls!

8. Salisbury, MD

Median home price: $299,950
Holiday highlights: 
Throw a rock in any direction in December, and you’ll hit either a holiday shop or a Christmas parade. So don’t throw rocks, OK?  

In Salisbury, holiday traditions seem to stick around. There’s the annual Salisbury Christmas Parade, from Mount Hermon Road to East Main Street, which has been going strong for 71 years. The parade includes fire trucks, marching bands, Santa Claus, and Saul the Salisbury Jaycees Bear.

The Emmanuel Wesleyan Church in Salisbury hosts a Christmas Eve candlelight service and a Christmas play called “How to Have the Best Christmas Ever!” Be prepared to take notes.

In nearby Ocean City, which is part of the Salisbury metro area, holiday lovers can enjoy the Winterfest of Lights. This is the 25th year of the event, which illuminates more than 1 million light bulbs. Imagine the electricity bill!

9. St. Louis, MO

Median home price: $189,950
Holiday highlight: 
An exceptionally high concentration of fireplaces. Cuddle up!

St. LouisJByard/iStock

Anheuser-Busch, the iconic St. Louis company, shows its appreciation for the city by hosting an annual Brewery Lights event that runs from mid-November to the end of December. It features s’mores, ice skating, and—duh—beer. Just save the Bud and Michelob Light for when your skates are off.

The classic holiday activities make the city great for the holidays, says Anthony Paraino, director of public relations of Explore St. Louis. “People come into town from all over, just to see the light displays,” he says. Endless showings of “Meet Me in St. Louis” on TCM don’t hurt the tourism trade, either.

10. Lafayette, LA

Median home price: $210,000
Holiday highlight: 
Shopping and shellfish 

Lafayette stands out for its unique take on holiday traditions. This shrimping town bills its season as Christmas on the Cajun Coast. So of course, festivities include a decorated boat parade down the bayou.

“Santa and some of his helpers and the mayor turn on the city’s [Christmas] lights, and then all the kids gather around the shrimp boat to take photos,” says Carrie Stansbury, executive director of the Cajun Coast and Convention Bureau. Delicious.

*Data sources: realtor.com; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Bureau of Transportation Statistics; Google Trends; U.S. Department of Agriculture; U.S. National Institutes of Health; and Yelp.

 

Posted by Lance Lambert on realtor.com

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5 Holiday Looks on the Nice List

Festive ideas for decking your halls this season, straight from the source.

If Santa’s decor has been on the top of your wishlist ever since he claimed his home on Zillow, now you can make it happen. We highlighted five ways you can easily incorporate his holiday style into your home.

 

 

Posted by Renee Meininger on Zillow

7 Kitchen Items You Really Need for Thanksgiving: Do You Have Them All?

Nobody wants unnecessary kitchen clutter. Marie Kondo and Alton Brownhave drilled it into our heads that our artfully arranged kitchen storage spaces should be stocked (never stuffed) only with multipurpose, untrendy, chef-style kitchen gear; leave the Spiralyzer for somebody else’s yard sale! And yet, if you’re planning to host a classic turkey-and-fixin’s Thanksgiving dinner every year, there are a few specialty items that you’re better off investing in. And yes, some of them are even (gasp) uni-taskers.

We talked to Kristen Miglore, creative director at Food52.com, to reveal some kitchen gear you actually need for Thanksgiving dinner.

1. A roasting pan with nonstick rack

Classic stainless-steel roasting pan with nonstick rack from Mauvielfood52.com

The most essential piece: a place to cook that bird. Sure, you could wrestle a disposable foil roasting pan on top of a cookie sheet, but it takes only one wrong move with those flimsy things and your precious bird is all over the floor.

“A sturdy roasting pan with a nonstick rack will make your life so much easier on Turkey Day,” says Miglore. It’s a pan you can actually use year-round for roasting chickens, big cuts of beef, fish, or even veggies. “I just used mine to braise a couple of bunches of collard greens last week—the pan was stuffed!”

This Mauviel version (above) includes a rack and flavor injector ($170, Food52.com). A more budget-friendly choice is available as an Amazon special ($30.56, Amazon.com).

2. A fat separator

A fat separator makes making gravy a snap.oxo.com

“A fat separator is a one-off, but they’re inexpensive, and by that point in the day, you’ll be very glad you have it,” says Miglore. Fat separators make it easy to extract the meat drippings from the fat by allowing the fat to rise to the top. The spout pulls from the bottom of the cup, so that you get only the lean juices.

This Oxo version ($14.99, Oxo.com) has a 4-cup capacity, stopper, and strainer cap on the top to catch little pieces of vegetables or spices that fall in with your drippings as you pour off the pan. If your family is like mine, good gravy is perhaps the most essential part of the holiday meal, but getting it right can be tricky, especially if you make it only once a year. Treat yourself to a fat separator, and make that last-minute task stress-free.

3. A long, sharp carving knife

Dansk Classic Fjord teak-handled carving setfood52.com

A sharp chef’s knife can work in a pinch, but if you’re going to do it right, a carving set is the way to go.

According to Miglore, a proper carving set should include the stabilizing fork that makes carving much easier. And when the pressure is on, you should probably take every advantage you can get. Nobody wants to see the looks of horror on their guests’ faces as they destroy an innocent roast turkey in front of them.

If you want to splurge, this teak-handled set above ($79, Food52.com) is perfect for special occasion roasts. The reviewers at Wirecutter suggest a more affordable set from Messermeister ($48.95, Amazon.com) for its “good looks, wallet-friendly price, and high performance.”

4. A meat thermometer

The Lavatools meat thermometer keeps overcooked turkey at bay.amazon.com

Gone are the days of waiting for a button timer to pop up on the turkey and calling it done. Inaccurate cooking results in dry, overcooked turkey breasts and/or dangerously undercooked thighs. There are a host of techniques for producing the perfect, juicy, delicious bird, but all involve a meat thermometer.

“I pull out my meat thermometer not just on Thanksgiving, but to be more confident every time I roast a chicken or sear a steak,” explains Miglore.

If you want a basic model, the Lavatools PT12 above ($24.99, Amazon.com) is recommended by Wired for its fast readings and Thermapen-style folding probe. If you prefer to read the temperature from afar without having to open the oven, the ThermoPro TP07 is a best-seller ($35.99, Amazon.com) and has a 300-foot range, pre-set meat temperatures, and programmable temperature alert options.

5. A big carving board with a moat

A cutting board with a moat is ideal for juicy turkeys.food52.com

“A big carving board with a moat will save you from having juices escape onto your counter,” explains Miglore.

Great for cutting anything with juice, from turkey to watermelon, a cutting board with a moat is the rare kitchen tool that is incredibly practical but also beautiful and special for the holiday.

Food52 sells this eco-friendly 24-by-18-inch model ($130, Food52.com). For smaller kitchens, Kohl’s has a 16-by-12-inch model ($37.99, Kohls.com).

6. A large, rimmed serving platter

This huge, rimmed platter is the perfect turkey presentation device.Fishseddy.com

“A large serving platter with a good rim is handy for passing at the table,” says Miglore.

If you’re not planning to carve the turkey at the table, it’s also the perfect vessel for getting your turkey from the kitchen to the table. Without a rim on your platter, it’s easy to spill turkey juice over the side—especially if the person bearing the platter has been indulging in predinner cocktails. It’s best to play it safe. This 20-inch platter from Fishs Eddy is what I use ($42.95, Fishseddy.com). It doubles in the summer as a gigantic salad platter.

7. Quality pie pans

Having decent pie pans is so worth it.Amazon.com

Pie can be a fiddly thing to make. The crust can be fussy: It has to be browned but not burned, and baked just right so the filling is set but not dry. My first few years hosting Thanksgiving, I used disposable pie pans, but they broke the crust if you let them bend at all while moving them. The next year, I cheaped out and got glass pie pans at the dollar store. I paid the price because one of them split in half in the heat of the oven, ruining that pie and flooding the oven floor with uncooked filling.

The lesson I learned, twice, was to pony up for decent pie pans, even if you use them only once a year. They’re easy to store and just might motivate you to bake a peach pie this summer. This Pyrex three-pack from Amazon has nice handles and is extremely affordable ($13.17, Amazon.com).

 

Posted by Audrey Ference on realtor.com

Home Decor That Inspires Amour

Set the scene for quiet moments with furniture, lighting and all the subtle touches that add romance to a room.

Editor’s note:  Love is in the air. Why not part with tradition and observe Valentine’s Day in a way that also involves your home?  After all, home is where the heart is. Sure, you could make reservations. But maybe the ultimate in romance is a candlelit evening at home. And those long-stemmed red roses have their appeal, but what about buying your sweetheart (or yourself!) a rose bush that will provide endless blooms? And if you’re celebrating solo, there’s no better way to treat yourself than splurging on something beautiful for your home – it’s a gift that keeps on giving. To inspire you, we’re delivering a weeklong bouquet of tips for filling your home with romance.

Valentine’s Day is the perfect time of year to add a little ooh la la to your home. After all, it’s still cold out and getting dark early, so your rooms should look inviting to you and to any guests you may invite in.

Clearing the clutter and adding a few flowers are a given, but you can take it a step further with romantic touches throughout your home.

Wall treatments

The wall treatment you choose can enhance your design choices in a way that no other single element can. Before you begin, think about the basics of the room — the quality of the light, the room’s proportions, any architectural features you want to emphasize or downplay, and the furniture and fabrics you plan to use.

Photo courtesy of Kendall Wilkinson

Color, texture and trim all play a role in how your wall treatment works. Consider how you can use a range of surfaces, such as wallpaper or fabric panels, and hues via paint or plaster, to create depth, interest and charm in your space.

Finally, before deciding on any wall choice, factor in how it will look and work in conjunction with how the room is used. Soft shades in any hue will create romantic flow throughout your home.

Lighting

How a room is lit affects the overall impression of the space. The ideal lighting scheme is natural light supplemented with ambient, task and accent lighting.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Photo from Zillow listing.

The combination of lighting and sunlight can completely change the feeling of a home. A balanced mix of the two sustains the warmth of a room while allowing you to create different moods. The right lighting can add drama and elegance.

Put every light you can on a dimmer to control the mood of your space. If you’re feeling extra romantic, add a crystal chandelier for a shimmering effect.

Furniture

Take your time when shopping for furniture. It’s usually a large purchase, and one you will probably have for a considerable length of time.

Photo courtesy of Jamie Herzlinger.

Photo courtesy of Jamie Herzlinger.

If you are feeling challenged in your furniture quest, don’t hesitate to contact a design professional to assist your search. Learn what appeals to you personally. And don’t be afraid to mix and match different styles — that is what reflects your personal style and adds some romance, too.

A room with a blend of pieces that appeals to you is inherently more interesting than one that resembles a furniture showroom. But no matter what you choose, it’s important to find pieces that are comfortable, of good quality and will last.

Spa and steam

Since master bathrooms are often the largest bathrooms in the house, lots of options are available. Your master bath might include a walk-in closet or dressing area, a separate shower and a tub, plus a water closet. It might even sport enough space for exercise equipment, a sauna, spa or soaking tub and steam shower.

Photo courtesy of Morgan-Keefe Builders.

Photo courtesy of Morgan-Keefe Builders.

Master baths are places where you can splurge on materials and finishes. Because they don’t get as much wear and tear as family bathrooms, you can opt for features that require a little extra care. No matter which choices you make, the result should be both soothing and functional.

Fireplaces

The key to a successful family room design is keeping comfort in mind — and nothing warms a room physically and mentally more than a fireplace. This is the space where you and your significant other settle in to read, play games, watch movies and unwind at the end of the day.

Photo courtesy of Kerrie Kelly.

Photo courtesy of Kerrie Kelly.

The fireplace — whether indoors or out — is a gathering place that embraces family and friends while exuding a relaxed style. So strike a match or flip the switch to let the ambiance begin.

What romantic additions have you made to your own space?

 

Posted by Kerrie Kelly on Zillow

10 Thoughtful Holiday Gifts the Entire Family Can Enjoy

Mark three, four or even more people off your list at once with these gifts the whole family will love.

It’s always a challenge to figure out the perfect gift for a friend or family member, but it’s even more of a puzzle when you’re trying to pick a holiday gift for the whole family.

Family gifting is becoming more common as holiday celebrations get bigger and bigger. It’s a great way to honor the holiday spirit without breaking the bank or going crazy trying to figure out gift ideas for each family member. A family gift is meant to be something that the entire family can enjoy together. And with the holiday so close, we wanted to give you some last-minute ideas that you could easily organize without ordering anything online.

1: Movie Night

A gift card for Netflix is something that the whole family can enjoy together for months. You can choose different denominations depending on how many months you’d like to gift. Pair the certificate with a basket filled with a few different types of popcorn and boxes of movie theater candy.

Gift: Netflix Gift Card, bestbuy.com
Pair With: Snack + Candy Basket

2: Socks For All

Gift a bright, colorful pair of holiday socks for everyone in the family. You can choose coordinating colors and designs so that everyone can wear them together on Christmas. Also include gourmet hot cocoa mix or a selection of holiday teas.

Gift: Tommy Hilfiger Fair Isle Socks, macys.com
Pair With: Gourmet Hot Cocoa Mix

3: Board Games

Rustic White Photography, LLC

Rustic White Photography, LLC

Choose two or three games based on the ages of the family members. Classic, go-to games that usually work well are Jenga, Pictionary, Clue, Monopoly or Scrabble. You could also try finding games at your local thrift store and bringing five to six retro board games as a gift.

Gift: Retro Board Game, target.com
Pair With: Assorted Holiday Dessert Basket (for Game Night!)

4: Mobile Printer

Though the kids might steal it away, a wireless mobile printer is a great family gift. These printers allow you to print pictures directly off your mobile phone or tablet. They’re small enough to toss in a bag, and they’re lots of fun to bring to parties (or even to break out and use on Christmas Eve!).

Gift: HP Sprocket Photo Printer, bestbuy.com
Pair With: Batteries + Photo Paper Packs

5: Shopping Membership

Another gift that will keep giving the whole year is a membership to warehouse clubs like Costco or Sam’s Club. These stores offer great discounts on bulk items, but you can’t shop there unless you’re a member. Pair the gift with a classic Costco bakery item.

Gift: Gold Star Membership, costco.com
Pair With: David’s Cookies Butter Pecan Meltaways Tin (via Costco)

6: Pizza Night

Put together the makings of a fun, homemade pizza party for the whole family. Pick up pizza dough, fresh mozzarella cheese, marinara sauce and toppings like fresh tomatoes or prosciutto. Pair it with a pizza stone or a pizza cutter. For an extra fun presentation, stop by your local pizza place and see if you can buy one of their large boxes. You can cover up their logo with a piece of paper and write your own note on top.

Gift: 13-Inch Pizza Stone, bedbathandbeyond.com
Pair With: Chef-Inspired Basket

7: Do Good

Through organizations like Global Giving, you can purchase gift cards that allow each recipient to go onto the site, choose the cause that speaks most to them and make a donation. It’s a lovely gesture and a great way to teach kids about the power of generosity and giving.

Gift: Donation Gift Card, globalgiving.org
Pair With: A Gift That Gives Back

8: Jump-Start a Vacation

Airbnb

Airbnb

The gift of travel is one of the most amazing presents you could give a family to enjoy together in the coming year. A gift certificate to home-sharing site Airbnb would be a great way to help jump-start vacation plans, allowing the family to choose any spot in the world to enjoy their time away together. If you know there’s a specific place that they would like to visit, you could even include a travel guide book for that city or country.

Gift: Airbnb Gift Card, airbnb.com
Pair With: A Fun Gift for Travel Lovers

9: Steel Fire Pit

Daniel Pratt, 2013, Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Daniel Pratt, 2013, Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved

This fire pit would be a great gift for a family that has a beautiful outdoor space to enjoy. Pair it with firewood and a s’mores kit, including marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate bars.

Gift: Steel Fire Pit, homedepot.com
Pair With: Homemade S’mores Kit

10: Rock Band

If the family you’re buying for loves video games, then this Rock Band set is perfect. Everyone can take turns being a rock star and choosing their favorite songs. Set it up on Christmas Eve so everyone at your holiday dinner can join in on the fun.

Gift: Rock Band 4 Bundle, bestbuy.com
Pair With: Gifts for Music Lovers

 

Bah Humbug: 5 Bizarre Holiday Light Fails

Deck the halls with lots of lights, fa-la-la-la, oh whatever. To celebrate the holiday season, we’re gifting you with a selection of five holiday light fails, so you can feel better about the light choices your neighbors make.

Hydrated Santa

A little too much milk there, Santa. Funny or crass? We will let you decide!

Meh!

For those feeling underwhelmed this holiday season, this light job is ideal.

Bah Humbug

Greetings from your friendly neighborhood Scrooge!

RIP Rudolph

Now this is just messed up. Way to make all the neighborhood children weep, buddy.

Ditto

We kind of like this example of “What they said.”

Have you seen any holiday light fails? Post them to our Facebook page! 

 

Posted by Zoe Eisenberg on RISMedia’s Housecall

How to Decorate Simply for the Holidays (With Big Impact)

Focus on these three areas to maximize your decor efforts.

You may have dreams of decorating your home like it’s a display window at a fancy department store, but then reality strikes: You’ve still got gift shopping and wrapping to do, holiday parties to attend and host … not to mention your everyday life to live.

Don’t get overwhelmed. Go for intentional minimalism. Some years, less is more.

Simple decor can still have a big impact — not the least of which is relieving you of some holiday hustle and bustle. All you need to do is hone in on sprucing up three key areas in your home.

Target your tree

The most obvious place to start is your Christmas tree. For an easy, fuss-free tree, go with a monochromatic color scheme.

Metallic ornaments give your tree extra glitz and seasonal sparkle.

christmas1

Metallic ornaments give your tree extra glitz and seasonal sparkle.

Another option is to use all neutral colors so you don’t have to worry about balancing a color palette or tree placement — it will coordinate with any room’s normal decor.

Make your mantel magical

If you have a fireplace in your home, the mantel is an ideal spot to bring a little holiday cheer, but don’t make it too complicated.

christmas2

Cotton branches intertwined with silver artificial garland.

Choose a statement-making garland to hang or drape across the top. Place some candles on the mantel to light at night, and you’re good to go.

Top off your table

The holidays are a prime time for entertaining, hosting, and gathering around the table. So bring seasonal flair to your table with a beautiful garland, which can go a long way as a table runner.

christmas3

A garland made of magnolia leaves and evergreen creates a dramatic table runner.

Make the decor as simple as placing a lush garland in the center of your table and mixing in candles for added ambiance.

Decorating for the holidays has never been so easy. Focus on these three spots, and your home will feel magical and holiday-ready in no time.

Photos courtesy of White Buffalo Styling Co

Posted by Lindsay Jackman on Zillow