4 Distinctions Between A Designer and a Decorator and why you need to know the difference

There’s something about the New Year that makes us want to clean, organize, purge, remodel and redecorate! I’m no exception. Though we’ve had an unseasonably warm and dry winter, Monday morning was cold and cloudy. I watched from the window as the  ice and sleet turned to snow. It seemed like a good day to spend a little time sitting by the fire and working on the plans for the organizing, remodeling and redecorating I want to do in this New Year.

I’m not alone. Many of my friends and family are embarking on home projects. I think there’s something innate in most of us that causes us to want to create beautiful living spaces. Certainly, networks like HGTV and DYI have tapped into this and it’s made them very successful.

Sometimes, as you embark on your project you might find that you could use a little help. But getting help can be confusing. For example, Interior Decorator and Interior Designer are titles that are often used interchangeably. While there is certainly overlap, there are really two distinct things. If you’re seeking help with your projects, make sure you understand the difference so you get the help you need.

So, what is an Interior Decorator and what does he or she do?

  1. Interior Decorators address the aesthetics of a space. They are responsible for applying the finishing touches to an area. They choose colors, fabrics, textures and furnishings. It’s their job to make sure these things work together to express the preferences and personalities of their clients.
  2. They work within the confines of an existing space to make it beautiful. In addition to applying finishes, they determine furniture placement. Correctly placed furniture enhances the functionality and beauty of a space.
  3. They often shop for their clients, sourcing furniture, fabric, finishes, curtains, rugs and decor.
  4. While there are courses available for Interior Decorators, there is not a licensing requirement.

Interior Designers, on the other hand address the function of a space. Of course, function has a tremendous impact on the aesthetics, and sometimes Designers will also function as the Decorator as well, but Designers work within a scope that is deeper and wider than that of a Decorator.

  1. Designers need to be knowledgeable and aware of building code and structural requirements. They need to understand the building process because they may need to suggest moving walls, doorways, windows, plumbing, or even building an addition.
  2. Designers can work directly with architects, engineers and contractors.
  3. They seek to understand how a client will use a space.  After understanding the needs and desires of a client, they will design structures and changes to best meet those needs.  Again, these could include structural changes. They consider how light, sound, heating and cooling will affect the comfort and function of a space.
  4. In most states, Designers must meet educational and testing requirements and be licensed before they can claim to be a Designer.

So next time you’re in the middle of big project and decide you need some help, you’ll know where to turn. In the meantime, if you’re tackling a DYI project and get a little stuck, send me an email. Chances are good I’ve tackled it at one point or another, mostly because I am addicted to remodeling and decorating. I really would love to help!

5 Quick, Homemade, Budget Friendly, Last Minute Gift Ideas

In just three days the sun will rise on a Christmas morning. All of the preparations, whether complete or not will be set aside for the celebration. The weeks of planning and busyness will cease,  the stress and planning will fade making way for peace, joy, and laughter as we celebrate that baby in the manger, Emmanuel, God with us.

If, in these final days before Christmas you find yourself in need of a last minute gift and a budget that is nearly exhausted, here are five homemade, budget friendly, last minute gift ideas. Each is easy to make, useful and can be beautifully presented. You could buy them in a store but in less time that you would spend fighting traffic and for a fraction of the cost, you can prepare these at home. All of them make terrific gifts!

Chocolate Chip Cookies in a Jar

(I saw these at Walmart for $6.00 a jar)


1 3/4 cup flour

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 1/2 cups semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips

1 quart sized mason jar, or equivalent jar, such as from spaghetti sauce.


Combine the flour, baking soda and salt. Place in your jar. Tap around the edges with a spoon to pack it.

Add the brown sugar next and tap it down as well.

Add the white sugar followed by the chocolate chips.

Baking Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Beat 3/4 c. softened butter, 1 large egg, and 3/4 tsp. vanilla in a large bowl until fluffy. Add the contents of the cookie mix jar and mix well making sure to incorporate any clumps.

Drop by the spoonful onto an uncreased cookie sheet and bake for 9-11 minutes. Let set for a couple of minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool. Makes about 2 dozen.

Click here for a printable version of the recipe.

You can find a printable instruction label here. It can be tied around the jar or glued to the back using a glue stick.

Peppermint Body Scrub:


4 cups white sugar

1/4 cup crushed candy canes

1 cup olive oil

20-25  drops peppermint essential oil

You will also need a glass jar.


Measure and pour the sugar into a mixing bowl. Sugar is a wonderful exfoliant.

Add the olive oil to the sugar, and stir. This should look like damp sand. Be careful not to use too much oil, just enough to dampen the sugar.  If the sugar is too dry after adding a cup of oil, you can add more, 1 tablespoon at a time until you reach the desired consistency.

Add peppermint extract.  Peppermint has been shown to reduce depression related anxiety, sore muscles, headaches and skin conditions.

Place a handful of your crushed candy canes in a ziplock plastic bag, and make the pieces even smaller with the help of a rolling pin. Alternatively a food process works great. The candy should be similar in texture to the sugar.

Place some of the sugar-and-oil mixture at the base of the glass container, and then sprinkle with a layer of the crushed candy. Continue layering until the container is filled. Use ribbons or fabric to decorate the jar. Makes approximately 4 cups.

For a free printable recipe click here.

Brown Sugar Vanilla scrub:


1 cup of packed brown sugar

1/2 cup olive oil, (almond oil is great too)

1 tsp of vanilla extract

Optional: 1 teaspoon of vitamin E oil, or 1 teaspoon of coconut oil.

Mix all ingredients until the mixture resembles wet sand. Put mixture in a jar. Use fabric and/or ribbon to decorate the jar.

For a printable recipe click here.

Hot Chocolate Ornament:

The ornament pictured here was created by my daughter, Alia.


Hot Chocolate mix of your choice.

Candy cane, coarsely chopped.

Glass Ornaments


Using a funnel, place enough hot chocolate mix for one, 8 oz cup in a clean, glass ornament.

Add the chopped candy cane.

Replace the top, and add a ribbon by which to hang it.

To use, empty contents of the ornament into a cup, add 8 oz of hot water and stir. These are fun little gifts for kids!

Cider Mulling Reindeer-

(Makes 6 Reindeer)


3 Large oranges

3 cups firmly packed brown sugar Mulling Spices (I used this recipe)

6 small whole nutmegs

12 whole allspice

36 whole cloves

6 Red Hot Candies

Black Edible gel food coloring or edible marker


Slice 3 the oranges in half, and scoop out the flesh. Take care to avoid breaking through the outer orange rind. Crumple up tinfoil into small balls to fill your orange halves. Place orange halves cut side facing up, on a baking sheet. Bake at 225°F for 3 hours, until dry and hard. It might help to turn the over about 2 hours into the baking time. Cool the oranges completely. Pack your mulling spices firmly into each orange half.

Creating the Reindeer:

Place a whole nutmeg in the center to make the Reindeer head. Push it firmly into the mulling spices. Using a food safe marker, create the eyes. Food safe gel dye can work too but I find it tends to smear. If you choose this method, paint the eyes a day ahead to allow the gel to dry thoroughly. Place a red hot candy at the base of the nutmeg to form the nose, then  place 2 whole allspice as ears on either side of the nutmeg. Use 6 whole cloves on each Reindeer head to form the antlers.

Wrap your Reindeer Mulling Spice tightly in plastic wrap.

To use, place the entire Reindeer in a gallon of Apple Cider or Juice and simmer.

A printable version of this recipe can be found here.


Why We Made Our Own Christmas Wrapping Paper and the Unexpected Gifts it Brought

14 moves in 18 years. That was the reality for my son Joseph. In his 18th year he calculated the number of moves we’d made in his lifetime. 14 …  14 in 18 years. Some of those moves were across town, but some involved packing up every earthly possession and 5 kids, and boarding an airplane to fly halfway around the globe.

Boxes, bubble wrap, packing paper and packing lists. I have a well-developed, extensively tested system for packing, moving and unpacking a household. But that’s a post for another day.

In an early move, when bubble wrap was beyond my budget,  I discovered that the newspaper office sells “end rolls”. When they run the paper through the printing presses there is always some left on the roll. Those are the end rolls. Not only that, they can be purchased for next to nothing, currently $1.50 at my local paper. The diameter will vary.  I have had rolls as large as 18” across. Through the years, we have used miles of this stuff. It makes fantastic packing paper and it’s much more budget friendly than bubble wrap.

One of my favorite uses for the end roll is wrapping paper. Throughout most of our life, the monthly income would fluctuate, sometimes quite drastically. One December we were hit particularly hard. I had no idea how I would buy presents for the kids let alone paper with which to wrap them.

After I’d figured out how to have something for them under the tree, I still had the dilemma of how to wrap those gifts. Then it occurred to me. I had a newspaper end roll. I had planned to create stamps out of potatoes but I happened onto two foam angel stamps marked down to mere pennies.

At home, I gathered the kids around, unrolled the paper across the table, retrieved a bottle of gold paint from my craft closet and spread it on a plate. I carefully showed them how to place the stamp in the paint then on the paper. The three of them shared the two stamps and before long we had a nice roll of glittery, golden, angel wrapping paper.

Every present, purchased or made was wrapped in golden angels. It didn’t matter that the paper was all the same. The golden paint caught the lights from the tree. The packages shimmered and the kids beamed. They proudly showed their creation to guests and visitors.

That started a favorite tradition. We didn’t always make wrapping paper but every couple of years we would return to the practice. We added stamps to our collection. As the kids got older, more creative and more skilled the end product changed. But the shared fun, the bonding, the sense of pride, the love, these things remained.

For this post, I anticipated making some paper while the kids were at school or work. Then the girls got wind of my plans. The protests were loud and complete. Three girls (those kids still at home), three voices, making their desires known. They wanted to help! You aren’t going to do that without ME?!

So, with a great deal of effort, we found a time when all were home and homework was done. An iPhone provide the Christmas music, an essential element of the experience.  Three girls, ages 21, 18 and 15 gathered around the table once more. We pulled out the paint and paper and stamps and they went at it.  I think they enjoyed it as much last night as they did when they were children!

I smiled, not the smile that is merely a polite expression on one’s face, but the kind that reaches to the very soul. The kind that reflects a heart at peace and full of joy, a heart that has found a moments rest among the busyness of life and of this season. A heart that remembers the meaning of the season because the love of the season is reflected in the faces of her children.

We laughed. Anna painted a star and announced she’d created a self-portrait. Later she painted a gift box and announced the same, “I’m a gift,” she said. Yes, she certainly is. Then she stamped out golden angels at a pace to rival the printing press. Alia was slow and meticulous, using brushes to add detail to her stamped images. Abigail’s boisterous voice filled the room and shook the rafters as she bent over her section of the paper.

We wanted a snowflake and a star so we carved them out of potato halves creating our own homemade stamps.

They decided hand prints would be fun, and paper with their handprints would be perfect to wrap my gift . They painted Anna’s nose red, and she posed her gold paint covered hands to resemble antlers as another girl snapped a photo.

Amidst the laughter and painting one of the girls paused and thoughtfully asked, “Did we make paper when we were little because you didn’t have money for wrapping paper?” Silence. Where noise and laughter had echoed seconds before, silence. 3 sets of eyes, all turned to me, all waiting for this answer. I am not sure why it mattered to them, but I knew it did. I knew this question was about more than wrapping paper. “Yes,” I said. “Initially, that is how and why the idea came to me. But you guys loved it and it gave you such pride and that’s why we continued.”

I went on to explain to them that sometimes the hard circumstances in our lives can lead us to things we might not have found otherwise. We had some tough years, especially early on, but without those years I do not think I would have taught myself the things I did. I would not have developed some of the skills and creativity that I so value, that have become a part of who I am.

It’s been said that necessity is the mother of invention. This is truth has been born out in my own life time and time again. And sometimes, the result is so much more than even our wildest hopes can imagine. That Christmas, all those years ago, I was simply looking for a way to wrap gifts for my littles.

I got that and something infinitely more important and precious. That need created treasured memories for my kids. It gave their little selves a sense of accomplishment and pride. It fostered creativity and created a space for laughter and fun and love. The times we gathered around the table with stamps and paper and paint are worth a thousand times more than the money I saved on the wrapping paper. Store paper would have been forgotten as quickly as it was crumpled into a black trash bag and put in the bin.

I doubt the kids can tell you what they got for Christmas that year. But they remember the paper. Because ultimately it wasn’t about paper. It was about family, about memories and creating, about being together, and laughter and love. As we celebrate that baby in the manger, the very essence of love itself let’s not forget that here is where the real magic of Christmas is found.