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Lifestyle

How to Host the Ultimate Outdoor Holiday Party

The holidays are here bringing plenty of reasons to entertain. From holiday gatherings with family and friends to posh parties to ring in the New Year, you’ll find plenty of ways to expand your space and enjoy the season by extending your festivities to the outdoors. Make your backyard merry and bright this holiday season with these tips from Darling Homes.

Create a Holiday-Themed Party They’ll Not Soon Forget

Holidays are always merry occasions, but ones that focus on a recognizable theme take the festivities to a new level. For an unforgettable holiday soiree inside and out, choose a theme your guests will go gaga over, such as:

  • Holly and Elves with you and yours dressed for the occasion and plenty of holly to help spread the cheer!
  • Cozy Comfort with traditional decorations in red and green for tried-and-true celebrations everyone will adore!
  • Glitz and Glam with gold and silver decorations adorning your home, settings and serving dishes for a glamorous party to ring in the New Year.

Whatever your theme, extending the merrymaking outdoors is a great way to expand on the fun and give guests more space.

5 Tips for Making Your Holiday Party a Hit

  • Set the stage for a spectacular evening. Renting extra lawn chairs and tables, as well as tablecloths and lanterns, are ideal ways to keep the party flowing. People who have more places to roam tend to stay longer and spend more time mingling with other guests. If weather may get in the way of your plans, consider adding a canopy or tent.
  • Create warm surroundings where people can gather and mingle. Fire pits and patio fireplaces provide a warm and welcoming feel for a holiday gathering. Arrange seating around your outdoor fire feature to encourage your guests to relax and stay cozy. You can even provide materials to make s’mores for an extra sweet treat. If your yard doesn’t include a fireplace or fire-pit, consider renting stylish outdoor heaters for the occasion.
  • Add extra lights for an enchanting effect. String lights from the back of your home across the yard for an extra light feature that’s as beautiful as it is practical. Likewise, adorn trees with glamorous globes in colors or white for an added touch that’s sure to get noticed.
  • Set up a self-serve bar in your outdoor kitchen. It’s an easy way to make your guests feel welcome without adding ‘mixologist’ to your to-do list.
  • Plan ahead with an area set with activities for kids to enjoy. Parents are often challenged to keep kids occupied at get-togethers and may even decide to change plans or leave early when there’s little to keep children entertained. Go from good hostess to great with these simple additions.
    • Set up an area outside for kids to congregate with their own table adorned with cute, kid-friendly dishes, tablecloths and crafts. Creating wearable holiday masks is a traditional favorite. All that’s needed are crayons, safety scissors, string and washable glue for themed masks of reindeer, elves, and Santa and Mrs. Claus. Other simple craft ideas include candy cane reindeer made with string and googly eyes, creating paper ornaments and toys and, for older children, origami figures they can give as presents.
    • Set up a table for cookie or gingerbread house decorating.
    • Create a backyard scavenger hunt for little ones. Hide festive gifts and treats inside bushes and under seating to keep kids busy and provide them with fun toys to play with throughout the day.
    • Have a television outside? Be ready with festive movies that are kid-favorites!
    • Have lots of extra space? Consider renting a blow up bouncy house or a slide.
    • And, always have a back-up plan. Be ready to bring the fun indoors on cold and blustery days.

With these tips for outdoor holiday hosting, you can make the most of every moment as you enjoy a day filled with the sights and sounds of the season.

Lifestyle Tips

Tips to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

A new year is almost upon us. What are you looking forward to? What will change for you? What do you want to accomplish? Those are some of the questions people consider when deciding on New Year’s resolutions for themselves, but they often don’t consider how they will keep their resolution in the New Year. If you’re serious about accomplishing your goal, take a look at these tips to help you keep your New Year’s Resolution.

Plan Ahead

As the holidays roll right past us, we often forget about the New Year approaching and creating our resolutions. Don’t do that this year. Start thinking of your resolution as soon as you can. Make your resolution something more than just what you’re thinking of changing on New Year’s Eve!

Be Realistic

If you really want to stick to your goal in the New Year, make sure it’s something you can realistically accomplish. For example, if your New Year’s resolution is to stop drinking coffee completely, what happens if you are tempted to have a cup? Instead of making your resolution about having no coffee all year, it could be to drink less coffee or even limit yourself to two cups a week. That way, your goal is easier to accomplish and therefore easier to stick to.

Make a Plan

When you plan out how you will accomplish your goal ahead of time, there’s a more likely chance that you actually will accomplish it. If your New Year’s resolution is to be more active, make plans to accomplish that. Get a gym membership and coordinate workouts with friends or a trainer. Create a schedule for yourself that will outline when and how long you will be at the gym. Making a plan will keep you accountable and make your goal easier to accomplish.

Talk About It

Tell everyone about your New Year’s Resolution. The more people that know, the more people to keep you accountable. If you keep your goal a secret, it will be that much easier to forget about it. But if you share your resolution with your friends and family, you may just find someone else who shares the same goal and you can help each other along the way.

Stay Positive

Root for yourself during this process! Resolutions can be hard to stick to but if you keep telling yourself you can do it, then you will. If your goal is to eat healthier in the New Year, remind yourself that you’re better than those free donuts left in the break room at work. Mind over matter.

Keep Trying

On an occasion, you might slip up on your goals. Maybe one day you oversleep and can’t make it to the gym or maybe you get to bed late and desperately need coffee for work in the morning. That’s ok. You might have strayed from your goal a little, but that doesn’t mean you have to quit! Don’t wait until the next year to try again, start over the next day.

If you want to make 2019 your best year yet, start today by planning how you will accomplish your New Year’s resolution. And if your resolution is to own a beautiful new home in Dallas or Houston, we can help you accomplish your goal!

Lifestyle

Top Five Holiday Light Tours in Houston

The holidays are a magical season in Houston. As you take the time to cherish all the little moments before they soon become memories, you can also experience a number of festive lights displays around Houston this holiday season.  Check out the following list of the Top Five Holiday Light Tours in Houston.

Houston Zoo Lights

Experience Zoo Lights at the Houston Zoo as the zoo is transformed into a winter wonderland for its guests and animal inhabitants. Over two million lights will adorn the zoo grounds and enchant those who journey inside. Guests can enjoy a range of different sights from a giant holiday tree to an Enchanted Forest.

Hello, Trees: A Walking Serenade

Discovery Green is home to gorgeous century-old oak trees that will be surrounded in holiday cheer this season, both visually and sonically. Hello, Trees: A Walking Serenade is probably one of the most unique holiday light tours Houston has to offer this year. Montreal art collective Daily Tous Les Jours installed a series of holiday arches under the park’s live oak canopy with an input station at the end that guests can speak into to transform their voice messages to light patterns and music that travels along the arches. This display was inspired by the nonverbal cues that trees use to communicate.

Magical Winter Lights

Wish to escape to a land of holiday magic and enchantment? Look no further than the Magical Winter Lights at Greyhound Gulf Park in La Marque. Not only is this light festival the largest holiday light festival in the area, but it’s also the largest lantern festival of its kind to take place in the United States. Chinese lanterns are transformed into larger than life remakes of well-known landmarks, making it a festival like no other.

Sugar Land Holiday Lights

Spend the season among the sparkle and shine of the Sugar Land Holiday Lights. This showcase of lights takes places at Constellation Field and features 2.5 million lights and over 100 enchanting walkthrough displays. Food trucks, shopping, and children’s activities will also be present. Santa Claus will be in attendance, spreading holiday cheer every night until Christmas Eve, of course.

Mayor’s Holiday Celebration and Tree Lighting

Enjoy a Houston holiday tradition that has taken place for 98 years. On December 1, the Mayor’s Holiday Celebration and Tree Lighting will take place. This spectacular experience includes festive music, captivating fireworks, a visit from Santa, and much more. Not to mention the joy of getting to watch City Hall’s towering tree light up adorned in glowing lights, shimmering ornaments and a gorgeous tree topper. Make sure to bring an unwrapped toy to the Reliant booth for donation to the Salvation Army and receive a light-up Santa hat.

The holiday season has plenty of festive activities in Houston this year. What’s your favorite holiday tradition?

Lifestyle

Top 5 Holiday Light Tours in Dallas

Have you made your holiday to-do list? Before finalizing plans, review our list of spectacular light tours taking place in the Dallas area this holiday season.

Prairie Lights

Drive into a holiday fantasy of dazzling lights and festive activities at Prairie Lights presented by Grand Prairie Parks, Arts and Recreation. Prairie Lights has always amazed audiences with over four million lights, but this year will feature hundreds of new designs in shapes of all sizes. Not to mention, half way through the drive, guests can exit their car to experience exciting activities under the giant holiday tent. Activities include, pictures with Santa, the Holiday Magic Lighted Walk-Through Forest, and a gift shop for some quick holiday shopping.

Fort Worth Gift of Lights

Give a magical holiday experience this year at the Gift of Lights tour at Texas Motor Speedway. Guests can experience the magic of the holidays while enjoying more than a million sparkling lights and 100 captivating displays all from the comfort of their own vehicle. Grand opening night will take place on November 29.

Enchant Christmas 2018

The wonder of the holiday season awaits at the world’s largest Christmas light maze and market, Enchant Christmas 2018. Lose yourself in holiday attraction and make cherished memories under the glow of millions of dazzling lights located at Globe Life Park in Arlington.

Holiday in the Park

How about an amusement park for the holidays? Six Flags Over Texas is decorating with more than a million lights for its annual Holiday in the Park celebration. Six Flags puts on five holiday shows, hosts toasty campfires, serves delicious hot cocoa and displays a huge festive tree. Not to mention, guests can also explore Santa Land and take pictures with the jolly old man himself.

Christmas Lights, Chocolate & Sips Tours

What could possibly be better than a holiday light tour? How about a light tour plus Chocolate? Now we’ve got your attention. Yes, a holiday weekend would not be complete without Christmas Lights, Chocolate & Sips Tours presented by Dallas by Chocolate Tours. Delight in scrumptious treats from premier local dessert venues before enjoying some of Dallas’ most spectacular light displays all from the comfort of a private heated motor coach. Tours will take place in Vitruvian Lights (Addison), Farmers Branch Historical Park, downtown Dallas and select homes in the Park Cities.

It’s easy to experience the magic of the holidays through enchanting lights around Dallas this season.

Lifestyle Tips

Top 5 Mudroom Organization Tips

When guests enter your home, the mudroom sets the tone for what they expect to see in the rest of your house. With that in mind, Darling Homes is helping you set the stage for great first impressions with our set of tips for beautiful, well-organized mudrooms.

Mudroom Lockers

In order to keep backpacks, raincoats, and shoes in check, Mudroom lockers are ideal. Separating each family member’s items into their own space will help keep everything together so misplacing items can be avoided. Darling Homes’ built-in mudrooms do just that with divided spaces that can be used by the homeowners, kids, or a combination of both, providing everyone their own space to place their things when they enter the home.

Utilize Baskets

Organizing smaller items like hats, key rings, sunglasses and even shoes is a great way to keep everyday items handy when it’s time to leave for the office or take the kids to school and can be easily done with attractive baskets, bins or boxes. Choose ones that complement the look of your decor for space that goes relatively unnoticed by guests.

You can separate items by bin or assign a bin to each member of the household to store their own items. Whichever you prefer, you can’t go wrong with this easy storage tip.

Mudroom Benches

Sometimes putting on your shoes in the mornings isn’t the easiest job and taking them off can be even harder, especially if you want to avoid tracking in mud and dirt. Having a bench in your mudroom is more than ideal. Luckily, Darling Homes includes mudroom benches in your built-ins to make changing shoes easy.

Umbrella Storage

Using a tall planting pot as a place for storage in your mudroom is more useful than it seems. Umbrellas, canes, and even baseball bats and golf clubs can easily be stored and help keep your space neat and tidy.

Vertical Hat Rack

Oftentimes, vertical storage is overlooked but helps to organize numerous items using minimal amounts of space. You can use stylish hooks or vertical racks to hang hats, jackets, raincoats, umbrellas and even dog leashes. The more organized the better. After all, your mudroom isn’t just a place to keep things, it’s there to help you stay organized so outings and trips become an easier part of your daily routine.

No matter how you choose to organize your mudroom, Darling Homes Houston and Darling Homes Dallas offer homes with attractive and sensible mudroom designs built to help you keep your home organized and tidy every day of the year.

Lifestyle

Seasonal Fun in Houston and Dallas

Each year, the holiday season draws families and friends closer together. This holiday season spend time with loved ones while creating holiday crafts and delicious treats everyone will enjoy. While you’re at it, take the time to make the season that much more festive with a night out to enjoy a show or one of the many light displays in Houston and Dallas. Here are some of our favorite activities for the season.

Nutcracker Ballet

What can be more festive for the holiday season than The Nutcracker? Tchaikovsky’s classic follows the dream of young Clara and her Nutcracker Prince. Enjoy this holiday classic at the Wortham Theater in Houston by choreographer Stanton Welch from November 23 through December 29. In Dallas, The Nutcracker is being performed by the Dallas Ballet Company at the Granville Arts Center.

Newman Family Holiday Cookie Recipe

A special occasion like the holidays calls for a special recipe.

For the Newman family, the namesakes of our Newman Village in Frisco, each special day is filled with homemade dishes and recipes passed down from generation to generation.

For years, the Newman family has used this homemade holiday cookie decorating recipe for the holidays.

COOKIE DIRECTIONS

Mix and sift flour, soda and salt, then set aside. Cream butter. Add sugar gradually and cream until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time; beat well after each addition. Add extracts and mix. Add sifted ingredients gradually and mix. Tint dough with food coloring as desired. Chill. Roll about 3/8-inch thick on floured board. Cut out desired shapes. Bake on ungreased cookie sheets in oven at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes. Frost and decorate cooled cookies. Approximate yield: 2 1/2 dozen.

COOKIE INGREDIENTS

  • 4 1/2 cups of sifted flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cups of sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp. almond extract
  • Food coloring if desired

ICING DIRECTIONS

Place sugar into mixing bowl. Combine milk, corn syrup, vanilla, almond and blend. Add liquid mixture to powdered sugar and mix thoroughly. If it’s too thick, add a tad more corn syrup. Divide frosting into several cups and add food coloring to each. If using liquid coloring, add a little more powdered sugar until it reaches good spreading consistency. Dip cookie or spread the icing onto cookie with knife. Icing may also be piped on with an icing bag and tip. Decorate with sprinkles or colored sugars. Allow cookies to dry. Enjoy!

ICING INGREDIENTS

  • 1 3/4 cups pf confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tsp. milk
  • 2 tsp. light corn syrup
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp. almond extract

Sugar Land Holiday Lights

Spend the season among the sparkle and shine of the Sugar Land Holiday Lights. This showcase of lights takes places at Constellation Field and features 2.5 million lights and over 100 enchanting walkthrough displays. Food trucks, shopping, and children’s activities will also be present. Santa Claus will be in attendance, spreading holiday cheer every night until Christmas Eve, of course.

Looking for more seasonal inspiration? Check out Darling Homes’ Pinterest boards for additional holiday ideas that will help you celebrate the season.

Lifestyle

Top 5 Things to Do in Dallas-Fort Worth During Thanksgiving

The holiday season is almost here! With all the shopping, decorating and preparation to be done, here’s one less thing you have to worry about: planning fun things to do on Thanksgiving weekend. That’s because we’ve already made a list of the top five events going on in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Home for the Holidays

The day after Thanksgiving, enjoy a spectacular presentation of Home for the Holidays by the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. Let your ears indulge in a sweet sonata while you sit back and relax in the beauty of Bass Performance Hall, the crown jewel of downtown Fort Worth.

Enchant Christmas 2018

Looking to experience the wonder and magic of the holiday season? Look no further than the World’s Largest Christmas Light Maze and Market, Enchant Christmas 2018. And yes, this festive holiday attraction is as captivating as its name suggests. Lose yourself in the light maze and make cherished memories under the glow of millions of dazzling lights. Located just twenty minutes away at Globe Life Park in Arlington, you won’t have to travel far to escape to a winter wonderland.

Christmas Lights, Chocolate & Sips Tours

What could possibly be better than a holiday light tour? How about a light tour plus chocolate? Now we’ve got your attention! Your weekend will not be complete without Christmas Lights, Chocolate & Sips Tours presented by Dallas by Chocolate Tours. Delight in scrumptious treats from premier local dessert venues before enjoying some of Dallas’ most spectacular light displays all from the comfort of a private, heated motor coach. Tours will take place in Vitruvian Lights (Addison), Farmers Branch Historical Park, downtown Dallas and select homes in the Park Cities.

The Nutcracker

Enjoy a holiday tradition like none other than – The Nutcracker, presented by the Texas Ballet Theater. Watch as Christmas Eve comes to life during the enchanting performance of the story that has delighted audiences for generations. You’ll never forget this exquisite experience stepping into a beloved Christmas dream at the Winspear Opera House.

Vitruvian Lights

Watch as the gorgeous Vitruvian Park transforms into a winter wonderland with the flip of a switch at 6 p.m. on November 24. Vitruvian Lights – A Magical Night of Lights will include a performance by the Jordan Kahn Orchestra, gourmet food trucks, delicious desserts, free photos with Santa, an Elf balloon artist, holiday shopping village, Addison Police & Fire Santa’s Heroes Toy Drive and much more. Can’t make it to opening night? Don’t worry, the merriment will continue all the way up until the new year, so friends and families will have plenty of time to come and enjoy this festive celebration.

It’s easy to stop and experience the magic of the holiday season with the numerous events going on in Dallas this year. Get out and enjoy the season!

Lifestyle Tips

Tips for Cold Weather Home Maintenance

Winter is coming! As the cold weather approaches, there are plenty of things you can do to ensure your home stays warm and protected this season. Check out these home maintenance tips that will help you save money and prevent damage to your Darling home this winter.

Protect Pipes from Freezing

Some homeowners like to turn their heat down when they leave the house to reduce their electric bill. However, you may not want to turn it down too much, since the heat helps prevent your pipes from freezing. Make sure your pipes are not exposed or vulnerable by wrapping them in insulation. If your pipes do end up freezing this winter, make sure to call a plumber as soon as possible.

Inspect the Fireplace and Chimney

If your home comes with a beautiful fireplace to enjoy during those cold winter days and nights, it’s important to maintain it properly. Before lighting a fireplace with a flue, make sure your fireplace and chimney are clean and free of any hiding critters. Keep the flue closed all the way when you’re not using it to prevent warm air from escaping your home.

Seal Windows and Doors

Warm air from the inside of your home can easily escape through gaps around windows and doors. To prevent this, seal gaps around windows with caulk and install weather stripping around doors. This small task is inexpensive and can even help you save money on heating costs this winter.

Prevent Ice Dams on Roofs

When heat escapes through the roof, it can melt snow that has landed on the roof. When this happens, ice dams can form from the melted snow and refreeze on your roof’s edge. When this ice eventually melts, sometimes it doesn’t have anywhere to go but through your roof, damaging the inside of your home. Here are a few simple steps that will help you avoid this:

  • Clean out clogged gutters to keep water flowing during winter.
  • Seal areas around vent pipes, exhaust fans, chimneys, and light fixtures to prevent warm air from leaking to your attic.
  • Install a heat cable along the eaves to melt ice. This is something you may want to hire a roofer to do.
  • Add more insulation to your attic floor.

Stock Up on Cold-weather Essentials

If ever a power outage were to occur, you’d want to be prepared. Make sure your family is ready for any unexpected weather by having these cold-weather items on hand:

  • Fire extinguisher
  • An alternative heat source like a generator or wood-burning stove
  • Sand, ice melt, and a shovel

Now you can enjoy your Darling Dallas or Darling Houston home without worry that the winter weather will damage it.

Lifestyle Tips

Top 5 Closet Organization Tips

With each season comes new wardrobe items, testing your organizational skills when transitioning from one climate to the next. If your holiday wish is to walk into your closet knowing exactly where your favorite winter coat is, we’ve got you covered. Check out these organizational tips that highlight some of the great features that Darling Homes has to offer.

Keep It Coordinated

When all of your hangers match and your shoe boxes and containers coordinate well with each other, you’re more visually pleased and motivated to maintain the space. Keeping extra hangers around can also help maintain this uniformity when new purchases come home.

Pro tip: Can’t remember just what’s in that shoe box? Adding a picture or label to the box helps in locating that perfect pair of boots quickly. 

Make Space for Laundry

One of the more unique features Darling Homes has to offer is our “Darling Loop” which connects the master closet to the laundry room in select home designs. This quick access to the laundry room can make it easier for your laundry to be transferred and washed, then placed right back where it belongs.

Separate His and Hers

If you’re sharing your space with a loved one, you’re in luck. Darling Homes offers his and hers closets so there’s plenty of space for different wardrobes. No need to share? Then you’ll be able to separate your own summer and spring wardrobe from your fall and winter items or use the second closet to store seasonal items. After all, no one ever said having more storage space was a bad thing!

Boxes and Bins for Smaller Items

In order to keep similar, smaller items together, it’s easiest to separate them into boxes and bins to utilize the most space while making sure everything has its own home. Having separate bins for your white socks and colored socks can also help avoid chaos when you’re rushing to get out the door in the morning.

Empty Space Isn’t for Sale  

When it comes to keeping everything organized, it’s best to keep comparable items together. Oftentimes, people fill empty space with random items simply because there’s room, but it’s best to keep shirts with shirts and socks with socks, so it’s easier to find them when needed. Bonus points if you take it a step further and color-code each category.

No matter your method for the madness, the layout and floor plan of your Darling Houston or Darling Dallas home will help keep your closet in check and help reduce your stress!

Lifestyle

Top Five Things To Do in Houston During Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving brings families and friends together for a little while before the rest of the holiday season begins. Most share a festive feast together, catch up and enjoy each other’s company, and maybe even venture out to the mall for Black Friday shopping, but sometimes you’re left wondering, what else is there to do?

Well not to worry, because we’ve compiled a list of exciting things to do in Houston during Thanksgiving.

H-E-B Thanksgiving Day Parade

The 69th Annual H-E-B Thanksgiving Day Parade in downtown Houston is the perfect event to take family and friends on Thanksgiving morning. This free parade has been a Houston holiday tradition since 1949, when Santa arrived at Union Station and rode his sleigh to the downtown Foley’s.

Houston Turkey Trot

How about a workout before you indulge in a delicious Thanksgiving feast? They say life is all about balance, right? The 2018 Houston Turkey Trot is a great way to balance your holiday. The run will include three separate races in the Uptown Galleria area designed to appeal to runners of all ages and experience levels. Not to mention, it all benefits a great cause, BakerRipley’s mission to connect and empower Houston, neighborhood by neighborhood. Gather together with fellow Houstonians and celebrate how far the city has come, and how far it can go.

Ice Land at Moody Gardens

Discover a winter wonderland inside Moody Garden’s Ice Land in Galveston. Guests will take a journey from the North Pole to the South Pole and encounter polar bears, penguins, reindeer, and more snowy creatures all carved out of ice and chilling out inside a 28,000 square foot insulated tent. Adults over 21 can enjoy ultra-cool holiday spirits inside Shiver’s Ice Bar creatively sculpted into an igloo. Guests will marvel at all of the marvelous ice masterpieces carved by a talented team led by chief ice and snow carving artist Mr. Qui Guanghui.

The ICE

Test your ice-skating skills on The ICE powered by Green Mountain Energy in downtown Houston’s Discovery Green. This ice rink will have you gliding gorgeously under the glittering Houston holiday lights. The rink is open from 11am- 11pm on Thanksgiving and will also be open during various weekend and weekly hours for the rest of the holiday season.

Texas Renaissance Festival

Don’t miss your last chance to experience the spectacular Texas Renaissance Festival, as it will be ending on November 25. This interactive theme park will take guests on a journey through different eras from the 16th century and beyond. Visitors will travel along shaded cobblestone walkways and pass by almost 400 shoppes that offer unique arts and crafts as well as themed food and beverage. Hundreds of costumed performers are showcased in over 200 enchanting daily performances.

No matter how you choose to spend your holiday season, cherishing every moment with the ones you love is always time well spent. Thanksgiving events around Houston can make the holiday all the more memorable.