It’s the final stretch for us home-istas as we prepare to visit or welcome loved ones into our homes. Every time I get to this point in the celebration I say to myself, “why did I think this would be a good idea? I’m tired, I’m overwhelmed, I can’t get everything done.” But God is always faithful and He tells me what to do, not do, and when our guests arrive and we are all having a great time, I confirm that it is worth the effort that goes into preparing the sustenance and establishing a place and where people can connect in a meaningful way.


CLEANING – Felicia “Lady” Hawkins is the owner of Changing the Atmosphere (CTA) Cleaning Service. She is a dear friend and valuable resource. I asked her to give me her last minute tips on getting our homes ready for guests.

If time is too short for a deep clean, focus on the public areas. She says we can do a “light dusting in the living/family/dining rooms. She suggests using a Swiffer Duster on tables, shutters, blinds, or any surface where particles are visible. If there is clutter, I say grab a big laundry basket and place items there to be sorted on Friday or Saturday. (This will be a less expensive activity than a Black Friday spending spree.) After the dusting is complete, vacuum the carpet or rugs or damp mop wood floors with plain water.

Another must for Lady, is to clean the bathroom(s) that guest will use. Make the shiny surfaces sparkle with an all-purpose cleaner like Formula 409. Fabuloso is another good all-purpose cleaner and it smells great and really freshens toilet bowls, bathtubs, and tile floors.

Lastly, the kitchen needs to be clean for cooking in a safe and sanitary way and if it is open to other public areas – we need to cook in neat way – like we are on a TV Show. Clean the space as you go and put away items that are not in use at the moment to reduce visual clutter.

CUTE ATTIRE – I often say that Thanksgiving is like the “Superbowl” for home-istas. I believe that my “uniform” can help me play well. My goal is to look elegant still being comfortable so that I can get all of the last minute preparation done. I describe the outfit as something that is part “Jackie O dress” and part Nike workout gear.

I have found that a hip or waist length tunic (in a cotton or a nice blend) over slacks or modest yoga pants give me a good balance. I can move easily and still look nice and it is breathable so I don’t get too overheated. I especially love a patterned top over solid bottoms because spills are not so noticeable and the tunic and dressier yoga pants are fairly forgiving in case I eat a little too much. I do choose comfortable and stylish 1½ inch heels. I’m short and the day is better when I am 5 feet 1½ inches tall.

GREAT GUESTS – The best guests are people who are coming to enjoy the party and to help. My mom, sisters and sister-in-law’s are awesome. All are home-istas. When they come to visit, especially at Thanksgiving, each one pitches in to help me do whatever ever needs to be done. They corral kids, they set tables, they keep their eyes on the powder room and restock the TP and soap. They wash and dry dishes after dinner is finished. They tell me that the food is great and mean it. They bring a dish to share and label it so I know to whom the serving platter should be returned. They don’t take over, they support. They come to visit me, not to inspect the condition of our home. They laugh and smile. They have my back! Remember to be thankful for the great guest who come to your home or for being a great guest yourself.

Happy Thanksgiving – And may God be greatly praised during your celebration!

Home-ista Kelly


A Few Decorating Ideas…

November 19, 2011

The celebrations of Thanksgiving, CHRISTmas and New Years – are times when many of us choose to share our homes with friends and family. And because we want things to be comfy and “perty” it is a good time to do some decorating.

Actually this is not correct. Budget allowing, any time is a good time, to do a bit of decorating spruce-up, because a comfortable and attractive home is a wonderful blessing to enjoy.

I think it is fun to visit the “showroom” of a local store to get ideas. Retailers are great at laying out room motifs that look appealing and feature new and interesting combinations. Warning: if you are an impulsive shopper, leave your checkbook and or debit/credit cards at home. Do take your “camera phone” to capture the inspiration, so you can plan how to reapply in your dwelling before you make the purchase.

I recently went on an inspiration field trip at a store called Merridan. Its home office is in Louisville, KY and it recently opened a new store in greater Cincinnati. Merridian has unique furniture, case goods and accessories that can help us home-istas express our style. On my last visit, the design team allowed me to take some photos to use as examples of ideas we might make use of during the holiday season.

Set up your furniture so that people can talk to one another.

I know – people want to watch TV. Still, especially on Thanksgiving, it is great to encourage people to interact in a meaningful way by setting up the furnishings so they can talk while watching the Detroit Lions or Dallas Cowboys.

One way to do this is to have a sofa facing the TV and then chairs perpendicular to the sofa. The furniture is in an L shape. If the chairs are pull slightly away from the wall it might make the space more cozy and allow people to chat without yelling. In this picture the described arrangement would have Calvin Johnson, the Detroit Wide Receiver on screen just opposite the sofa. The coffee table would be great for a game of Monopoly.

The same type of L shape can be done with a sofa and love seat or sectional.

Give your family and guests a place to put a beverage.

I love the way end and small accent tables give us a place to set a snack or book. These cool little tables are connectors that bring pieces together and they are often reasonably priced and add “personality”. If a table is used on both ends of a sofa you want to make sure they are either the same or at least visually balanced. If one goes between two chairs you have lots of flexibility.

Use the color and patterns of accessories to add visual interest.

Color blue pillows paired with white and brown pillows make for a relaxing spot to lounge, talk, or take an after dinner nap. While the vibrant area rug in this seating display, adds  a texture that cozies up the space. Similarly, the diamond patterned rug in the picture above adds energy because the harlequin configuration causes the eye to move around the whole area.

Bring in some items found outdoors or made of natural materials to remind us of the wonder of God’s creation.

Clip a few live branches from your tree and display in a glass vase...

Different sized glass baubles are displayed on a recycled glass tray

Please let me know what ideas you are using to “tweak your decor” for Thanksgiving. Post a picture so we can be encouraged and inspired.

Happy, getting ready…

Home-ista Kelly

P.S. The Merrdian store in Cincinnati is located at 12130 Royal Point Drive, which is off of Field’s Ertel Road. The website for more information is

P.S. P.S. I did get a little something for myself… I have been hoping and praying for a new dining room table. I’d had the old table for about 16 years. My sweet, sweet husband got it for me as a belated birthday gift. To be financially responsible I am re-using my old chairs. I am so grateful… Thank you God 🙂

When dear friends, Adam, Heather and their two young sons, came for dinner a few years back, Adam paid me a huge – but unintended compliment. I heard him say to say to his wife, “This is a really nice house. You know what’s missing… the clutter.” I had to laugh, and I admitted that a lot of the clutter had been corralled in anticipation of having them as guests.

Ironically every time I do a “de-cluttering clean sweep” of mostly mail and un-filed papers, but toys, clothing, and kitchen contents are included too, I confirm that I want to live with less clutter more of the time.

As you prepare to have guests for Thanksgiving, this is a great week to purge the visual noise that makes your décor less vibrant. The picture below is my kitchen desk/workspace and I’ll use it is an example of some principles that might be helpful.

First think about how a space needs to function. My desk the hub where I think, dream, pay bills, work, write, etc. The key items needed are my laptop computer, phone, and office supplies. The desk is also my five-year old daughter’s favorite workspace where she uses the computer, draws pictures and does “homework” She needs crayons, markers, tape and place to put all of the finished artwork. My teenagers also do homework, Facebook and check their fantasy football stats here too.

Keep in mind how to you want to area to feel -which will affects the choices for how it looks. The desk is part of our kitchen and I want to feel organized, hopeful and welcoming. The layout of the space along with the colors used, textures, are the vehicles that help create the feeling. I basically have natural materials in neutrals with a few splashes of a burnished red.

Now, move (or get rid of) the non-essentials. This is usually the toughest thing to do. But, I do not need really really, to have my high-school yearbook or two board games in this space.

You will have to identify a permanent new “home” for the items that are being “relocated” and those that stay.

For the items that will remain, find permanent homes that make the items look as attractive as possible.

I think my laptop is pretty on her own. But the magazines needed a to be de-emphasized so they are on the left in the woven basket. It’s an open container so they are easy to access, but it looks neat.

Koah’s crayons and markers are in a red lidded-box from TJ Maxx. It looks great and adds a pop of my accent color, and she can move it to where ever the art is happening. I repeated the red by spray painting a wooden “K” from Hobby Lobby. I used picture-hanging putty to attach it to the tile.

The large brown woven basket with the lid is a great place to “temporarily” stash stuff like unopened mail, school papers, recipes to try, keys, or whatever needs to be hidden. However we have to go back and handle its contents daily or it might be “out of sight, out of mind” which will cause another set of problems. (Both woven basket were purchased at Pottery Barn and I suspect similar ones can be found at Target, Crate & Barrel, Pier One, etc.)

Most of the items that get hidden in a de-cluttering sweep have permanent homes outside of the kitchen in a four drawer metal filing cabinet or in binders that live in the cabinet above the desk.

Use your space creatively to store what you need. Half the cabinets above the desk have binders. The other side has dishes and serving pieces. I put plastic organizers in the drawers to make it easy to find, tape, pencils, post-it notes, my label maker, etc.

Important side note – clutter thrives like weeds in a garden – because we are all so busy that we rarely take the time to purge, sort and put away the “stuff” when or before it comes into the home. Once a permanent home is identified, I can usually manage the clutter if I commit to spend 15-30 minutes handling stuff daily.

So… force yourself to take time daily – to corral the clutter. Maybe you can put things away before you go to bed. Or set the timer for 20 minutes and address mess after dinner. Purge before you head out for work. Or regularly plan to have guests and purge before they arrive. Just joking…

More on décor next time…

Happy De-Cluttering

Home-ista Kelly

P.S. My desk is not this neat the vast majority of the time! But, if needed I can clean sweep it in about 90 seconds

As I think about the countdown to Thanksgiving, I feel great excitement and smidge of trepidation. In a sense this event is like the “super bowl” for people who like to cook and entertain. Similar to the players in the big game, I have the desire to execute with excellence and the nerves that go along with the desire.

One of the things, besides prayer, that helps me manage the nerves is to plan and plan some more. Over the many years of eating, helping and observing my mom, mother-in-law, great grandmother and a myriad of friends and co-workers at Thanksgiving, I have learned some of the things that make for a good plan.

My plan starts by asking and answering some key questions in early November.

I talk with my loved ones and friends about their plans for dinner? Where are people planning to dine? If I am hosting, I confirm who is available to attend? What is the menu? Who will bring which family favorites? Who will prepare new recipes? Will anyone be staying overnight or through the weekend? Does anyone have a food allergy or situation that I need to keep in mind? Etc, etc, etc.

As I address these questions, I typically write the answers down. And… then four years ago when I hosted my large extended family for first time, I set up an Excel spreadsheet that includes my cooking plan and other to-do’s. Though I don’t really use the matrix to do any math computations, it was an easy way to document my decisions and to-do’s in a way that I could easily see what was what. The extra benefit is that I could re-use it the next year by making a few modifications. Here’s a sample of the sheet I use…

Thanksgiving Sample – Menu & Cooking Plan
Dinner Dishes Who & When Cooked Status Serving Dishes Notes
Turkey Breast 1 KLW – Wednesday Mom’s white platter
Turkey Breast 2 Mom Loraine Done
Dressing Monday In Freezer White server with lid
Mashed Potatoes Wednesday White server with lid
Mac & Cheese Gerri Glass dish with lid
Candied Yams KLW – Mon Done Mom’s slow cooker
Green Beans Tanya
Pick up Turkey Ham Wednesday Glass platter Heavenly Ham
Gravy Thursday AM White gravy bowl
Cranberry Sauce Monday Glass bowl
Corn Bread/Muffins Tuesday Red ceramic platter
Rolls Tuesday/Wednesday Bread warmer
Tossed Salad Thursday Wooden bowl
Desserts Who & When Cooked Status Serving Dishes Notes
Sweet Potato Pie Kathy Y
Chocolate Cake KLW – Wednesday
Pound Cake Mom
Brownies Tanya
Vanilla Iceream Uncle Randy
Beverages Who & When Cooked Status Serving Dishes Notes
Bottled Water Allen & Tyna Bronze Bev tub
Soda Kathy Y Bronze Bev tub
Sparkling Wine Kelly Bronze Bev tub
Other To Do‘s Who & When Status Notes
Extend Invites Kelly 11/5/11 Done
Print Thanksgiving Verses Kenny 11/22/11
Set-up & Set Tables Boys 11/23/11
Set-up beverage station on desk Kenny TGD
Participants/Guests Notes
Wilson Tribe 5 Kenny – watching sugar intake
Smith’s 2
Boyd’s 2
Files’ 5
Peters’ 5
Kathy Wilson 2 Tori is watching her salt intake
Randy Wilson 2
Total 23

I know this is not the easiest to read, but maybe an excel matrix like this could help you in your planning?

Here are two more ideas for those who are saying the spreadsheet is just too much.

1.      The next two weeks are a great time to eat the food that is currently taking up space in your freezer. You will likely need that valuable kitchen real estate for items that you prepare ahead and or for leftovers. This would be a good time to use the “menu planning” suggestions from my first post to creatively use those frozen jewels. This exercise can be a test of your creativity as you try to figure out how to use three different packs of ground beef, a bag of frozen shrimp and two bags of smoothie strawberries.

2.      Early November also provides a choice opportunity to make a “sample” batch of any recipe that is temperamental. Last weekend I baked two “test” batches of homemade rolls. I don’t make them very often and I didn’t want to have a snafu on the big day. I’m glad I did because now I know which recipe works best and I can have confidence that this item will be yumm-o. The cost of making a batch of homemade rolls – about $7.00. The benefit of working the kinks out in advance – priceless.

Wishing blessings on your preparations!

Home-ista Kelly

I probably use the word “love” too loosely.

For example, I often say, I just love Martha. Though I suspect it is not the Martha that you are thinking of. If you guessed Martha Stewart, you are right that I greatly respect her business ability and drive. Her skills and creativity are boss. She is definitely someone I’d like to meet; and yet the Martha that I looove, is someone whose last name I don’t even know.

My Martha is an old-school home-ista from way back. She lived during Bible times and became famous because she was a dear friend of Jesus. We don’t have a ton of details about her life, but the things we know are fascinating.

She was the eldest of three siblings who lived together in a large family home. One of her claims to fame is that she had a passionate desire to serve and enough confidence in her homemaking skills to invite Jesus and his entourage home for dinner after church. The story is told in Luke, Chapter 10. Can you imagine having such affection and assurance that you would just say, “Good Teacher, it would be my great honor if you and all your associates came to our home for dinner? Will you come?” At a minimum, she was signing up to feed thirteen-hungry people and that’s a lot of work.

Many of us will be hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year and it includes entertaining thirteen people. Our thoughts about the work load might be total anticipation, a high level of trepidation or a combination of the two. It seems that my self-assured Martha had a little of both, because the reality of getting a big repast on to the table caused her nerves to get a little frazzled.

Here’s what I mean. After the guests arrived, things must have not been going as planned. It eventually got so bad that Martha said to Jesus about her sister Mary, “Pastor, would you please tell my lazy little sister to get in the kitchen and help me get the vittles on the table!” Jesus replies with both humor and sincerity in His voice. “Martha, Martha. Dear heart, Dear one. Mary has chosen to spend time with me to learn about God the Father. She is being blessed by our conversation. This is waaay more important than getting an elaborate meal on the table at a certain time. And I won’t take that away from her.” Then I imagine, that Jesus motions for Martha to come and join them… and she does. (This is the home-ista version of the story. To get the precise reading please check it out in Luke 10:38-42.)

One of the reasons I love Martha is because we share a similar flaw. Sometimes we just go – too far. We get laser focused on the specifics of what needs to happen, such that we forget why it is happening in the first place. I bet Martha invited Jesus to spend time with Him, not to impress Him with her leg of lamb. This is not so say that the meal didn’t matter. To be clear Jesus doesn’t say, “Forget the chow, woman. We don’t need it.” No, he says, remember what is most important.

Over the next few posts, I will be sharing some of my favorite tips and strategies to help us prepare for the upcoming Thanksgiving Celebration and Feast. Along with these specific how-to’s, I will be reminding all of us home-istas, to keep the most important things as the most important things.

And – what are the most important things related to the celebration of Thanksgiving in the 21st century? To me they are:

•      Giving thanks to God for His presence and provision.

•      Connecting with people whom we care for or who care for us.

•      Enjoying a delicious meal that brings back good memories of past times.

•      Using the comfort of home to help to create new positive memories.

So before we dive headfirst into details of the cooking, the cleaning, the entertaining, and the being a good guest, let’s focus on some ways to keep the most important things most important.

These have helped immensely at the Wilson Tribe celebrations:

  • Set a grateful tone by adding “thanksgiving” Bible verses to your place cards or table settings.
  • After dinner, gather up the crew, young and old to have a big round table discussion. We printed the following list of questions and then cut them out so that one question is on it’s own slip of paper. We put them in a hat or basket. Each person draws a slip and then shares the answer with the whole group. This little exercise has sparked some of the best and most meaningful conversations.
  1. Name a person – who is not in this room – that you are thankful for and why?
  2. Describe a blessing that came in disguise. It did not look like a blessing at first, but became one. 
  3. How has God shown faithfulness to you this year?
  4. How will you plan to be a blessing to someone next year?
  5. Name one possession that is on your “I am most thankful for” list and why it’s there…
  •  Have some enjoyable activities ready to go for those who want to participate. Play board games, have a card (euchre/spades/rummy/bid wiz) tournament, get your Wii on, line dance, ladies watch some of the football game with the men folk, set up a craft/coloring table for the little kiddos, go for a group walk, have a family touch football game, break out the old picture albums, sing karaoke, take pictures and text them to other loved ones, etc, etc, etc…

I’d love to hear your ideas to keep the THANKFULNESS in Thanksgiving. What say you?

Home-ista Kelly

P.S. Martha’s other claim to fame is that Jesus raised her brother from the dead, but that is a story for another time.

P.S. P.S. All posts will not be this long.