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Favorite item of the week

Candles add a magical element to your home during the holidays -- or any time of the year, for that matter. That's why people enjoy them so. With the clock ticking closer to celebration time, here are some suggestions for pulling together illuminating displays in a flash:

Fill a cut crystal bowl with water and add a few floating candles.

Instead of logs, fill your fireplace with candles placed on appropriate holders. Assemble pillars, votives and other candles in varied styles, widths and heights.

Create a display using tall drinking glasses (cordials, wine or champagne glasses); birthday candles (white ones will look the most elegant) and table salt.

Simply pour salt into the glasses and stick a candle in each one, using enough salt so that the candle extends above the lip of the glass, as shown in the photograph here from Country Sampler's Decorating Ideas magazine.

The key is to amass several of them together to create a dramatic effect.

Design tip

Buy or make a cover for your down- or polyester-filled comforter or duvet to prolong its life and change its look. In fact, the combination of a warm comforter and washable cover eliminates the need for a blanket and bedspread, so making the bed is a snap.

Some people even go without the top sheet if the comforter cover is washable, as are the percale and flannel versions. When necessary, simply remove the cover and wash as you would a sheet.

Millennium home

While futurists talk about robots, virtual reality rooms and the highest tech gadgetry coming to tomorrow's houses, the biggest changes ahead will occur in the ways we use and inhabit our homes, reports the Trends Journal, the publication of the Trends Research Institute in Rhinebeck.

For starters, expect a mega work-at-home trend as "telecommuters" take advantage of current and emerging technologies that enable them to interact with colleagues from across town or around the world.

Also ahead:

Virtual sales pitches will be made without making sales calls.

Community spirit will be rekindled as work-at-homers become more attuned to what's going on around them.

Opportunities will again arise for door-to-door sales, only it won't be the Fuller-Brush man ringing the bell this time around. Instead, people will be selling custom-designed meals to fit a customer's health profile or educational software custom-tailored to a child's educational needs.

Ahhhhhh . . .

Since everyone is going to be spending so much more time at home over the next 1,000 years, they'll need to be comfortable. And pampered.

Why not start now by transforming your bathroom into your own personal sanctuary -- complete with comfortable robe, loofahs and homemade facial masks?

Carol Endler Sterbenz tells you how to do it in her new book, "The Home Spa: Creating a Personal Sanctuary" (Andrews McMeel, $19.95).

The book gives you ideas on what you need to assemble to create your own home spa -- thick towels, slippers, candles, etc. -- and what you may want to create. Instructions for making faucet sachets, scented milk baths, hand-molded soaps and much more are all here.

From the home front

"Human beings are the only creatures that allow their children to come back home."
Bill Cosby

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