Christmas trees are the centerpiece of our holiday decorations. We want them to be as gorgeous as the professionally decorated trees we see in magazines. Good news. You can decorate like a pro just by following these tips:

Select Your Tree

Professional decorators prefer high-quality artificial trees. They are easier to work with, don’t require water and many come pre-lit. There is nothing wrong with a live tree. It’s fun to take the family out to the tree lot or cut your own. Whichever route you go, choose a tree that fits your space. Tall trees look beautiful in homes with two-story ceilings (like those found in many Sierra Vista homes). If your ceilings aren’t quite that high, a 7-foot tree looks great in most homes.

Fluff the Branches

It’s important to make your tree look as full as possible. That requires fluffing and shaping the branches allowing you to fill in any gaps. If your tree is artificial, you can easily bend the branches to cover up those holes. If you have a real tree, orient it so the side with the least gaps faces outward.

Choose a Theme and Color Scheme

Before decorating choose a theme for your tree. It could be a traditional Christmas, Santa’s workshop, the Nutcracker or whatever appeals to you and your family. Take stock of your decorations to see which fit the theme. Professional decorators use only two or three colors for a cohesive look. White and blue are elegant. Red and gold are bold. You can also tie your colors to those used to decorate the room where you have placed the tree.

Light It Up

Always start with the lights. A pre-lit Christmas tree saves time. An unlit tree allows you to choose whatever style you like. Experts recommend one strand per foot of tree. For a 7-foot tree you will want at least seven strands. How many lights per strand depends on the style you choose. Make sure your lights work before wrapping them around the tree. Start from the base of the tree and work your way up.

Cluster Your Ornaments

Cluster three sizes of ornament balls together for balance and visual appeal. Each cluster can be the same color or a mix of the colors you have chosen. Hang larger balls closer to the center of the tree for depth. Use small ones toward the end of the branches. Clusters should be added in a Z shape down from the top. Add the balls first, then fill in the gaps with your favorite ornaments.

Tie a Ribbon Around It

Skip the tinsel and opt for colorful ribbons instead. Ribbon colors should match your color scheme. Use wired ribbon as that allows you to sculpt loops and bows. Wire will hold its shape better. Check out this guide for easily adding decorative ribbon.

Bring in Nature

Add natural elements to your tree with tree picks and floral sprays. Choose pinecones, berries or even holiday flowers. Use them to fill in gaps and accent your ornaments. Add the same picks to your garlands and wreathes to tie your decorations together.

The Top of the Tree

Tree toppers are needed to draw the eye upward and give your tree a finished look. Choose one that fits your theme. Consider the height of your ceiling, you don’t want the topper to brush it as that will give the room a cramped look.

The Bottom of the Tree

Pick out a beautiful tree skirt in your color scheme and theme. The skirt will hide that unsightly tree stand, protect your floor from falling pine needles (if you have a real tree) and serve as a backdrop for wrapped gifts.

‘Tis the season peace, goodwill and competitive holiday displays! All kidding aside, festive front yard decorations are a great way to welcome guests and spread some holiday cheer. If you’re new to holiday yard décor, we’ve got some tips. If you need inspiration, visit Sierra Vista Dec. 4-13 when our residents will compete to see whose holiday décor reigns supreme.

Start With a Plan

Before hanging your first string of lights, create a decorating plan. Go outside and really look at your home. Decide where your decorations will look best. The roof? Bushes? Porch? Take a picture of your house from across the street and print it out. Draw your decorations on top of it. Once you do, look over the decorations you have. See what you need to add. For more tips, check out this newbie guide to decorating.

Pick a Theme

Tie your outdoor decorations together with a theme. It doesn’t have to be specific. Maybe you love classic decorations. Maybe you want something very modern. Snow scenes, The Nutcracker and Santa are traditional. Get creative and pull from books or movies. A single lantern could be the start of a Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe display. Disney, the Grinch, aliens in Santa caps — get creative and have fun.

Safety First

Your outdoor decorations should be safe for you and anyone knocking on your front door. Use lights labeled with the UL (Underwriters Laboratories) seal of approval and make sure they’re rated for outdoor use. Light up walkways and tuck power cords away so guests don’t trip. Using power strips makes it less likely you will overload circuits. Try solar-powered decorations for cordless light.

Light ‘Em Up

Speaking of lights, there are an overwhelming number of different types. Choose lights that accent your home. Icicle lights if you have eaves. Net lights can be thrown over bushes. Rope lights can be placed around windows. Don’t want to hang lights? Use projectors to cast snowflakes, stars or other decorations on your exterior. Choose colors that will compliment your yard decorations. LED and solar lights can tamp down that electricity bill.

Shop Second Hand

Rather than spend a fortune buying new decorations, check out second-hand shops for used ones. While you don’t want to buy lights or inflatables, you can find wreaths, yard signs, porch decorations and more. If you love DIY, see if there are things you can repurpose to fit your theme.

Decorate for Day and Night

When it comes to the holidays, we tend to focus on how our home will look at night. We forget that people also see our homes during the day. Hang wreaths on your door and windows, fill a planter with decorative candy canes, pile pinecones on a porch bench.

Frame the Door

Wreaths are traditional but you can do so much more with your door. Frame it with colorful garlands. Giant Nutcrackers can stand sentry. If you have planters near the door, add festive touches with lights, ornaments or fake snow.

Inflate the Inflatables

A simple decorating option is an inflatable. They are easy to set up, waterproof and fun. You can use them as focal points and build your display around them. Purchase inflatables that are the right size for your yard and won’t obscure other decorations. Check for sharp objects that could puncture your inflatable before putting it up.

Make it Fun

Decorating your home for the holidays should not feel like a chore. If it does, you might be trying to do too much. Get friends and relatives involved. Put together a to-do list and give everyone a job. Keep everyone’s strength and holiday cheer up with hot chocolate and holiday treats. Once you’ve finished, admire your work and then head inside for a potluck dinner.

Contrary to popular belief, white isn’t the only paint color you can use to make a small space feel bigger. While white does reflect light, it can also make your small space feel boxy and boring. The solution is to choose shades that work well with natural light, cause walls and ceilings to recede and establish the mood you’re going for. For inspiration visit our model homes or check out this list of best paint colors.

Blue and Green

Blues and greens can trick the eye into thinking ceilings are higher and make walls seem to recede. If the room has a lot of natural light, blues can add an airy feel. Greens work well in small rooms with a view as the color draws the eye to any outside greenery the room overlooks. Studies, bedrooms and bathrooms all benefit from shades of blue or green. Colors with blue or green undertones also work well.

Yellow and Orange

If you want a small kitchen or study to feel cozy, shades of yellow or orange can do the job. Pale yellows are perfect for kitchens and hallways as they tend to make visitors feel welcome. Coral is a shade of orange that makes a statement and works well with wood floors. Try it in the entryway or your mud room.

Off-Whites

Bright whites don’t do small spaces any favors, but creams can soften sharp corners. They also pick up hues from adjacent spaces, so the room feels more streamlined. Creamy whites take the focus off the walls. Your furniture becomes the center point of the room which can trick the eye into thinking the room is larger than it is. Hallways benefit from off-whites as they don’t distract from the colorful rooms they lead into.

Yes, You Can Go Dark

Common wisdom suggests that only light, bright colors can make a small space seem larger. That is not the case. You can add drama to a small room with jewel tones. Strong colors work well with artificial lighting so if your room lacks a window, you can still use a highly saturated color. The best way to use a darker color is to paint the ceiling a lighter shade. That can make the room seem taller.

Deciding who will be responsible for your children while you are at work is one of the biggest decisions you will make. Sierra Vista is located near several excellent daycare centers. Which one you choose depends on your family’s needs, parenting philosophy and budget. To find the one that is right for your family, you will need to ask a lot of questions. What should you ask? We made a list:

Are you licensed?

A licensed daycare center has met certain standards set by the state. They are inspected regularly. You can ask to see recent copies of state inspections, any violations and the plan to resolve any violations. If the childcare center you are looking at doesn’t have a license, that is a red flag. The Texas Health and Human Services Department maintains a searchable database of all licensed daycare centers in the state.

What is your teacher-to-child ratio?

For optimal learning, the National Association for the Education of Young Children recommends one staff member for every four infants, one staff member for every six toddlers, one teacher for every 10 pre-school students and one teacher for every 12 school-aged child from kindergarten to 3rd grade. These ratios ensure that your children are constantly supervised and receive the individualized attention they need to thrive.

What is your discipline policy?

Think about how you handle discipline at home. Do you raise your voice? Use time outs? What are the consequences for bad behavior? Make sure you and your childcare provider are on the same page to avoid confusing your child. As a follow-up, ask how the daycare center informs you about disciplinary actions taken. Will staff members call you, send you a note or talk to you in person?

How do you handle conflicts between children?

In any daycare setting there are bound to be conflicts between children. Ask how these conflicts are handled. The answers will probably mirror the provider’s discipline policy, but you should still ask.

How do staff members comfort children?

You know how you respond when your child needs to be comforted. It is important to ask how a staff member handles the same situation. Will staff members hug and talk reassuringly to your child? Will they pat them on the back and tell them to tough it out? There is no right answer, but it should be similar to what you would do at home.

How do you communicate with parents?

This is a big one. Will staff members text, call or email you if there is a situation? Can you call the center to check up on your child? Some daycare centers have apps that update parents in real-time — often with pictures and/or video.

How qualified are your staff members?

If your center offers early childhood development programs, you should ask about teacher qualifications. A good center will only hire teachers with degrees in early childhood education. Most centers have a bio section on their websites where you can learn more about the center’s administrative and caregiver staff members. All staff members should be certified in CPR.

What about sick days?

For the health of your child, there should be a policy in place about sick children. Are sick children allowed to come to daycare? If so, are they segregated from the rest of the class? Most centers require that parents keep sick children at home. Ask if you are required to pay on days your child is sick.

How clean are the toys?

Cleanliness is very important when it comes to childcare centers. Ask how often the bathrooms are cleaned, whether toys are frequently washed and if everyone uses hand sanitizer.

What’s your policy in the event of late pick-up?

It happens. You are running late and won’t be able to pick up your child on time. What happens then? Will you be charged for a late pick up? Are you able to give last-minute permission for a friend or neighbor to pick up your child? The center should have a written policy to cover such an eventuality.

What is your childcare philosophy?

A lot of what you need to know to make a good decision is encapsulated in this question. Whatever the answer, it should mesh with your own philosophy. If it does, you may have found a winner.

Day Care Near Sierra Vista

Little Rascals Child Care Center

19935 Hwy. 6
Manvel, TX 77578
281-489-1017

Primrose School of Pearland

2350 County Road 94
Pearland, TX 77584
713-436-4120

Tottenberry’s Private School & Daycare

7302 Broadway
Pearland TX 77581
281-997-8333

The Goddard School of Pearland

2151 Kingsley Dr.
Pearland, TX 77584
713-413-0600

Kiddie Academy

1340 Broadway Street,
Pearland, TX 77581
832-905-5978

Silverlake Kinder Care

2325 County Road 90
Pearland TX 77584
888-525-2780

The Lux School

2555 County Road 58
Manvel, TX 77578
1-833-LUX-KIDS

Ivy Kids of Manvel

4434 County Road 94,
Manvel, TX 77578
713-489-0322

Between taking the kid to school and holiday preparations it might be tempting to take a break from your fitness routine. That would be a mistake. Autumn is a great time to get outdoors, try new exercise classes and get a jump on fighting off those holiday pounds. If you happen to be a Sierra Vista resident, you have numerous exercise options at your fingertips. If you don’t, here are some tips for refreshing your fall fitness routine.

Get Outdoors

Summer heat and humidity often have us moving our workouts to the gym. Autumn is the perfect time to say goodbye to three walls and a mirror and hello to the beauty of nature. Try a quick morning jog before work. If you’re more of an evening runner, remember that the days are getting shorter. Run early and make sure you wear reflective gear. Get the bikes out of the garage and ride the trails, so the entire family can enjoy exercise on the weekends.

Those Shoes Were Made for Walking

Everyone has time for an evening walk. If you are lucky to live in a community like Sierra Vista, you will have plenty of pathways — not to mention friendly neighbors you can wave to on the way. Make it a habit by setting a time to walk every day. Parents of young children can pack them into strollers and meet up with other parents. Fido enjoys an evening walk, so don’t deprive him. Vary your route so you don’t get bored. If you drive to work, set up a lunchtime walking club and take a few laps around the parking lot.

Plan Fun Fall Activities

Sometimes exercise feels like, well, exercise. Plan fall family activities that involve movement. Take the kids to the pumpkin patch and be sure to thread the corn maze. Plan nature walks to look at the fall foliage. Even holiday shopping can be a workout if you skip snack breaks at ice cream or cupcake shops.

Go For a Hike

Hikes are different from walks. For one thing, climbing up inclines and over logs really works those leg muscles. You also get your heart rate up and burn calories. Be sure to hike with a buddy, bring lots of water, tell someone where you will be hiking and wear appropriate clothing.

Try a New Exercise Class

If you aren’t an outdoorsy person, you can still shake up your exercise routine. Exchange your spin class for a yoga class. Sign up for a fitness center that specializes in interval training. If you haven’t been in the habit of exercising, try hiring a personal trainer. Trainers can motivate you, teach you proper form and make exercise fun.

Set Up a Home Gym

If you have a spare room, you have all you need to set up a home gym. Working out at home has the advantage of convenience. Yes, you can do yoga in your pajamas. If you are shy about working out in front of others, a home gym can keep you exercising as you are unlikely to skip a workout due to fear of judgment. It can also be easy on your wallet. Just download an exercise app and get going. A one-time investment in a Peloton bike or NordicTrak treadmill can be more cost-effective than a gym membership you never use.