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By Nick Caruso

One of my favorite parts of the holiday season is gawking at tawdry, awkward and straight up weird holiday decorations. I can’t help it. There’s so much fun to be had rubbernecking at tacky decorations! I blame my strange fascination on this guy:


But there can be lessons learned in witnessing the good, the bad and the tacky. Lessons for all of us, like how not to decorate your home for the merriest, jolliest season of them all! I’ve searched high and low for some of the strangest and most repulsive holiday decorations around, and here’s what I found:

The Holiday “Tree”


This might be how the holidays are celebrated in Hawaii, but if your home is located within the continental United States, you probably want to avoid a tropical feel. It’s going to look really silly if/when we are “blessed” with some frosty white snow. (Someone, please explain this to my neighbor…in Connecticut.)

The Clark Griswold Home


Guess this homeowner never heard of the saying “less is more.” Have we learned nothing from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation? And think of that electric bill! (We thought energy-efficiency was in this year!) If your home looks like this, you probably have a fire hazard (or 10) on your hands. Yikes!

The Can of Christmas


So much for taking the commercialization out of Christmas. An ornament of my favorite sodamixer isn’t my personal favorite choice for ornamenting my...

Read more: The Good, the Bad and the Tacky: Holiday Decorating Don’ts

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By Nancy Brachey

L(TNS)–Plants that were just there through the year suddenly get important in December. That’s when we look to our landscape for ways to make the house look festive.

You may be surprised at how much is out there that is useful and beautiful. Evergreens with leaves that are broad and shiny or light and feathery.

Berries that are yellow, orange or red. Crazy looking seed pods and woodsy pine cones. The well-stocked garden should provide some of these things to use for winter decorations indoors.

Use them to make a plain evergreen wreath of magnolia leaves or cedar branches or a more extravagant centerpiece with candles and ribbon for the dining room.

Many of our most popular evergreens such as aucuba, pine, magnolia, ivy and cedar as well as the bright berries of holly, pyracantha and nandina make excellent choices for these projects.

As a beginner, you should start simply, perhaps by covering a mantel or table top with short branches of pine and magnolia leaves accented by pine cones and candles. Do this as close to your party or Christmas as you can so that the greenery will look its freshest then.

If you have an elegant or rustic vase, consider filling it with evergreens of varying shape, texture and color. Then pop in stems of holly berries or nandinas. Because the stems are in water, they will last a few weeks. Aucuba cuttings will even start to produce roots in a vase.

I know that not all of you...

Read more: How To Use Your Landscape to Deck the Halls

holiday_gifts(TNS)—Stuffing cash in an envelope — or tucking it in a box of chocolates like my Dad used to do — can be a pretty great gift in many households. Unfortunately, some people do view cash as a tad impersonal.

Yet, there are plenty of other creative options for show-me-the-money gifts that can go beyond the usual U.S. savings bonds.

If you want savings bonds, Series EE savings bonds issued from November 2015 through April 2016 will earn a fixed rate of 0.10 percent — so they’re not all that exciting. Series I savings bonds issued during that time earn a composite rate of 1.64 percent for the first six months after the issue date — and a portion of that is indexed to inflation every six months. See www.treasurydirect.gov for how to buy savings bonds as gifts online.

But if you’re looking for other ideas, here are five on-the-money gifts:

––Ever think about five gold rings? You could dish out roughly $750 for five gold rings, according to the 2015 PNC Christmas Gift Index. The price for a simple, no-fuss gold wedding band is about flat from last year, according to PNC. (Granted, you could pay $700 or more for just one attractively designed man’s gold wedding band.)

But the price of gold has been trending down lately and was down roughly about 10 percent in late November from a year ago. Some think the downward trend will continue. Gold would start at around $128 for one-tenth troy ounce American Eagle gold coin as of Nov. 30, says John Abbott of Abbott’s Coins in Birmingham,...

Read more: 5 On-the-Money, Out-of-the-Box Holiday Gifts

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Pasadena_Calif_generic.jpgA hot shot in the world of weather is letting go of his LA home. Dallas Raines (convenient name for a weatherman, no?) recently listed his house in Pasadena for $3.498 million. Perched high on a hill with sweeping views of the skyline, the two-story gated home sits on over an acre of sought-after Los Angeles land.

Built in 2007, the 4,700-square-foot space offers stainless steel appliances, black granite counters, a bar for boozing and a den with a fireplace for those chilly Los Angeles nights when the temperature dips below 70. The home includes three bedrooms and five bathrooms, a putting green, a sports court, a fire pit, a swimming pool, and—if you need a place to house your in-laws or recently divorced old college roomie—a pool house with a kitchenette, bathroom and bedroom.

Raines bought the property in 2008 for $2.9 million.

Listed for: $3.498 million

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