Ideas to make your holiday easier and brighter.

Ideas to make your holiday easier and brighter:

Avoid a last-minute scramble by mailing holiday cards now. Use a boxed set or go online to order custom photo cards. Some websites will even mail them for you directly. Ship gifts now, too, and you'll save big on express shipping later on.

Repeat decorative holiday elements to pull a room together. For example, sprinkle red throughout the room, from the tree to the table to the pillows on your sofa. Decorate with the same greens and themes (glass ornaments, reindeer, a plaid pattern) as well.

The simplest way to achieve a professional look with holiday decor, says HGTV host Sandra Lee, is to stick with just two or three colors. Decide on a palette before you shop for a quick and easy selection process.

To counteract winter's dirt, mud, salt and snow, have the dog groomed and be sure to include a shedding treatment to remove as much excess hair as possible. Your holiday party guests (and your sofa) will thank you.

Add an extra special splash of color to a red-themed Christmas tree by using fresh red roses. Water tubes available at flower shops will keep the blooms fresh for about a week. Simply tuck a single rose into each tube, then nestle among tree branches.

Dust the guest room, remove clutter and set out extra blankets. If time permits, arrange a welcome basket full of snacks, bottled water, cozy slippers, a night light, reading material and information about your area.

Add a vintage element, such as homemade gingerbread men, hand-strung popcorn or a cranberry garland. It's an instant way to create a sentimental, old-fashioned feel with your holiday decor.

To dress up a dining table or hearth in no time, start with a decorative tray. Set a white pillar candle in a hurricane glass in the middle, then surround it with glass ornaments in colors that match your holiday decor. Add a few inside the hurricane, too.

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