Weekly Home Help with last-minute holiday preparations, new upgrades to Google Map Maker, decorating tips and more.

If decking the halls is something you typically save for the last-minute, not to worry. Lifestyle expert and celebrity stylist Robert Verdi shares his tips for putting together a beautiful and low-stress holiday.


Set the stage. Instead of decorating your home in a sea of red and green, consider using more neutral shades like silver and burgundy. Silver is one of the easiest colors to decorate with for the holiday because it transitions seamlessly into the new year. Use mercury glass balls, silver balls and white for a festive, wintry look that is good all season long.


Hostess with the mostess. If you're attending an event, always come prepared with a small gift for your hostess. If you're hosting, be sure to stock up on extra food and beverages for unexpected guests. To make any spread more stylish, simply arrange meats, cheeses and other small bites on slate tiles from a home store.


The finishing touches. You don't need to spend a fortune to put glamour into your gift wrapping. Brown Kraft paper makes a great holiday gift wrap because it's earthy, inexpensive and can be customized with ribbons, stamps or stickers. Or, add a little touch to any regular gift to make it visually appealing. For example, when you give a candle, present it with long matches and a beautiful bow. Remember, no gift is complete without a thoughtful hand-written note.


-- ARA


Decorating Tip: Let your nose guide you


Place potpourri and scented candles near your entry and throughout your house. Or, better yet, bake some cookies shortly before guests arrive. (And, of course, always exercise due caution with open-flame candles.) Kitchens and bathrooms are a great place to put scented candles and smaller seasonal knickknacks.


-- Scripps Howard News Service


Home-Selling Tip: Disclosing all information is law


Remember that federal, state and local laws require home sellers to disclose any disfunction of the home that materially affects the property's value or desirability. This includes problems with structural integrity (foundation, plumbing, roof); health and safety hazards (asbestos, lead-based paint, radon); and legal conditions (pending lawsuits).


-- FrontDoor.com


Tip of the Week: Start a new family collection


Start investing in a collection –– something that can continue to grow throughout the years and can be passed on to the next generation. Check out online auction sites for vintage decorations.


-- Scripps Howard News Service


Did You Know …


On a single night in January 2011, 636,017 people were homeless in the United States, a 2.1 percent decline from the year before. -- HUD.gov


New Product: Google Map Maker upgrade


A new version of Google Map Maker lets users add unmarked hiking or biking trails, rivers, ball fields, buildings, landmarks and anything else that is missing. According to Google's Lat Long Blog, this allows users to add detailed information to the places they know best: their hometowns. Once approved, the additions will be seen on Google Maps and Google Earth.


-- Consumer Reports' Electronics Blog


Going Green: Successful recycling vending machine in U.K.


Ever seen those machines that dispense money in return for glass bottles or aluminum cans? ReVend Recycling, a U.K.-based reverse vending machine manufacturer, says the same thing can be done with light bulbs and batteries. So far, they had a successful pilot program at an IKEA store near London where recyclers received either an IKEA in-store voucher or a donation to a charity of their choice. More are planned for Germany and Denmark. Unfortunately, they are not in the U.S., yet, though the company says they plan to expand here.


-- Earth911.com


Garden Guide: Keep some houseplants away from kids, pets


Some houseplants contain latex-type juices. Examples include aloe and poinsettia. Ingestion of the latex can cause a cathartic (purging) reaction by irritating the large intestine. The actual toxins in poinsettia are unknown, although it is no longer classified as extremely toxic. Reactions to poinsettia for humans range from none to dermatitis to nausea and vomiting. If you have pets or children in the house, make sure these houseplants are out of reach.


-- University of Illinois Extension        


GateHouse News Service