Tag Archives: winter

My Thrifty Oasis

January 8, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

With a new year, we all like to start with a clean slate. It’s a chance to do things differently, with more attention to purpose. That was my intention when I started this yearlong renovation of an unused room in my home.

My goal was to create a personal oasis that was not only functional but also serene. I wanted a simple, clean, and elegant look that would stand the test of time.

As I assessed the space, I struggled to decide on the color palette. I finally chose a white-on-white scheme with gold undertones. Actually painting the room, however, would have to wait until the end of the year because my focus would be on each and every DIY piece going in the space.

These individual installments were the basis of my yearlong DIY series in Omaha Home. Starting each project, I had to consider the sequence and time of year for each installment. Photo shoots were outside, which allowed me to add a personal touch to the visuals of the story without spoiling readers’ anticipation for this grand reveal.

Let’s recap the five projects that led to this point. For any readers wondering about the black dress I wore in each photo, you can read the backstory in my opening letter to this issue. Catch a glimpse of the dress in the photos of the finished room, too.

Coffee Filter Light 

Lighting is crucial for setting the mood of any room. But who knew coffee filter light fixtures could turn into something this glamorous?

My first project in this series showcased my first-ever attempt at creating a coffee filter lamp. After 15 hours of folding and hot-gluing coffee filters, this turned out to be much more time-intensive than I had anticipated. The end result, however, offers a great bang for your buck.

Wall-mounted Vases

Having a beautiful arched window in my room was pure luck, so I didn’t want to hide it with heavy window coverings. I wanted to accentuate the window’s design elements. I love what shutters do on outside-facing windows, so I tried to duplicate that look on the inside. Using some dock wood leftover from a prior DIY project, and some paint, the reclaimed wood made the perfect backdrop for my wall-mounted vases.

Repaired Vintage Chairs

Some might see junk at thrift stores. I see winning lottery tickets just waiting for me. It’s all about perception, right? A pair of classic vintage chairs—discovered while thrifting—found a new home in my remodeled room. The happy duo are fabulously seated in front of the window. They also happen to be my favorite DIY project to date.

Repurposed Vanity

A buffet turned vanity? Yep, you can repurpose any piece of furniture, and this shining star got a head-to-toe makeover in soft metallic gold paint. The paint I splurged on (funny how far you can stretch one little jar of paint if you get creative).

Mantel Makeover

The mantel offers a decorative focal point to the room. All it needed was a good sanding (and a coat of the same white paint used throughout the room remodel) to tie everything together.

Once the DIY projects were complete, I recruited my professional friends from Marco Shutters to help me maximize the small closet space. They even designed additional shelving for shoes, jewelry, purses, and accessories. Although I wanted to add softness around the windows, I needed something for privacy while adding elegance. Shutters were the perfect finishing touch.

While all of this was underway, I got to work painting the walls, trim, baseboard, and ceiling. My steps were inverted compared to how I would normally approach a room makeover, as I typically paint a room first, adding the furniture and design components later. Nevertheless, it all came together perfectly. As the grand reveal drew closer, I felt so good about each design decision made along the way.

My favorite part of the remodeling process was placing all of the DIY projects in their designated spots and decorating the completed room. The end result was the boutique-like experience I was seeking, a seamless balance of design and function. As it turns out, you do not have to sacrifice elegance for being thrifty.

Visit readonlinenow.com to review the six previous installments in this DIY room remodeling series in Omaha Home

This article was printed in the January/February 2018 edition of Omaha Home

Omaha Home Entryway

December 28, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Happy New Year!

I finally made it to the finish line on my yearlong makeover, which began in our January 2017 edition. It’s a special treat to feature the results in this first independent issue of Omaha Home.

Previously, Omaha Home appeared as a section inside the full subscriber-edition of Omaha Magazine, with an overrun edition of Omaha Home printed as a standalone magazine available at select distribution points around town. Now, the magazines are being printed altogether separately.

Subscribers to Omaha Magazine will still receive Omaha Home, and the magazine’s digital presence is still available through omahamagazine.com. The only thing that has changed is that the two magazines will be polybagged together rather than perfect-bound as a single publication.

For those who have been following my room makeover series, you might have noticed the black dress that appeared in each photo shoot. The backstory is simple. I found this vintage dress eight years ago for a mere $10 while thrifting. It sat on my clothes rack all these years. I couldn’t bear to part with it, but I also couldn’t find the right occasion to wear it. All of my DIY photo shoots were outdoors leading up to this issue, and I thought the dress would make a nice unifying element to the series. Look for the dress again in the photos from my room’s grand reveal this issue.

I would like to thank all the wonderful people who allowed us to take photos on their property for this yearlong project. Finally, I could not end without a big thank-you to my “behind the scene guy,” my husband, Richard. He listened to all my ideas, helped me saw wood, load/unload the truck, prop up mirrors for photos, and dressed up and danced with me at an old farm for one photo shoot. (Your constant encouragement and support did not go unnoticed.)

We wish you a year of glorious change and success in 2018. Thanks for reading!


This letter was printed in the January/February 2018 edition of Omaha Home

Sandy Matson is the contributing editor for Omaha Home.

Fleece-Lined Freedom

December 1, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

This time last year (December) I was pregnant, which was such a foreign feeling. The thought of spending the holidays with a little one was something I could barely wrap my mind around. Now, I can’t imagine my life without our tiny girl. This first year has been a joy, and it has meant so much to make Rosie a personalized mobile, headbands, teethers, etc. With cold weather just around the corner, a cozy poncho was in order. Turns out most vendors don’t make winter coats for 9-month-olds, and ponchos are a lot easier to just throw over a car seat anyway. Plus, I’m pretty obsessed with how cool she looks in it.

Folding Instructions











  • 1 yard linen fabric
  • 1 yard fleece fabric
  • Sewing machine
  • Thread to match fabrics
  • Scissors


  1. Cut felt fabric to 1 yard x 1 yard
  2. Fold felt fabric in half, twice, to form a smaller square.
  3. Fold corner-to-corner to form a triangle shape.
  4. Using your scissors, cut a slight circular curve through all layers of the fabric.
  5. Unfold into a near-perfect circle. Lay on top of the linen fabric, and cut out the same shape.
  6. Measure the size of your child’s head and cut out a circle that size in the center of the felt fabric.
  7. Cut out a slightly larger circle out of the center of the linen fabric.
  8. Hem the linen fabric about 2 or 3 inches in from the large circle, and about 1/4 inch from the small circle.
  9. Lay the linen fabric centered over the felt fabric, and using a sewing machine, sew the two pieces of fabric together.
  10. Cut into the visible felt fabric about 2-3 inces, all the way around, to create a fringe.

This article was printed in the Winter 2016 edition of Family Guide, an Omaha Publications magazine.

Hot Mess under the Sack

October 9, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

makeup: Chevy Kozisek
styling: Nicholas Wasserberger
models: Nancy Anaya, Landon Watson, Ashley Glantz

While winter brings long nights and unforgettable memories, nostalgia returns every season for bygone years. Remember sleepovers with sleeping bags? Remember when puffy coats were the rage? Oh, and that crazy night? Remember that time.

A Place to Hang Your Hat

January 4, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Wintery months in Nebraska can be a real drag. Literally. We drag the outdoors in, sludging with us mud, snow, and salt. And unfortunately, not all of us are blessed to have a mud room or even an entryway closet. This year,  after your kiddos get done shoveling the driveway, give them a place to hang their sweaty hats, wet coats, and snowy gloves. Use it as a towel rack in the bathroom, or in the bedroom to hang those clothes that are always on the floor. This coat rack can add some vertical interest to an otherwise empty corner and bring some functionality to your space. And best of all, because the poles collapse, it can be easily stowed away during the summer months when your house doesn’t resemble a public pool.

What You’ll Need:

  • Three 5-foot wooden dowels
  • Hot glue gun
  • Jute string
  • Three s-hooks


  1. Gather your dowels together in a bunch and space out the bottoms into an even triangle.
  2. Lean the dowels together and cross them about a quarter of the way down.
  3. Tie the jute string around one of the dowels and dab a bit of hot glue between the knot and the dowel to keep it in place.
  4. Weave the jute in and around all three dowels, securing them together. This may be done easier if you have a friend holding them in place while you wrap.
  5. Tie off the jute when you are finished, again securing it with a dab of hot glue.
  6. Give the jute a cleaner and more dramatic look by wrapping a single string up each dowel, securing it with some hot glue.
  7. Hang the s-hooks on the jute bindings.



Come On In

November 19, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Breaking the Ice

February 11, 2015 by

For many area families, summer doesn’t really begin until Omaha’s 15 outdoor public pools open for the season, and the closing date is a sad reminder that swimming has ended for another year. But even on the coldest of winter days, families can still satisfy their longing to get in the water by visiting any of the city’s indoor pool facilities.

“They are open, public facilities so anyone who pays the admittance fee and follows the rules is allowed to use them,” says Tracy Stratman, recreation manager for the City of Omaha Parks, Recreation and Public Property department. “Those indoor pools are so valuable because our summers are so short. I think they’re like hidden gems in the city.”

Full-size, 25-meter indoor pools are housed at Mockingbird Hills Community Center at 10242 Mockingbird Drive and Montclair Community Center at 2304 S. 135th Avenue. Common Ground at 1701 Veterans Dr. in Elkhorn became part of the Omaha indoor pool facility group several years ago after Elkhorn was annexed, but it is a membership-based facility.

“Montclair and Mockingbird are not membership-based like Common Ground, so you do not have to be a member, it’s a pay-as-you go. We do have punch cards and seasonal passes, which obviously drop the (per visit) cost,” Stratman explains.

“Swimming really is a life skill,” Stratman says. “Swimming is one of those sports or activities that really hits all ages and all abilities. Even if you’re recovering from an injury or are an older adult, there’s always something you can do in the pool. But there’s also a level of competition if you’re a seasoned lap swimmer or even a competitive swimmer.”

Krista Andress, an Omaha mom with sons ages 13 and 11, says her family has enjoyed swimming at both the Mockingbird and Montclair facilities and that she researched Omaha’s recreational centers online before moving here from Colorado a few years ago.

“We’re a recreational family. We like to take advantage of community rec centers,” she says, adding that she and her husband actually met while working at such a facility in another community. “Swimming is great exercise and swimming at a community center pool is really a great family activity.”

The former lifeguard adds, “I’m a big advocate that everyone should learn how to swim.”

Swimming lessons are available through the City of Omaha for all ages, starting with Float for Life at nine months through group lessons for children and older youth, Stratman says. Adults or children can also sign up for private instruction.

“As a parent, I think this is the perfect time for swim lessons because there’s not that rush to get them comfortable in the water before the season starts,” Stratman says.

Drop-in admission fees for Montclair are only $4 for adults and $3 for youth and seniors, and kids under age 2 are admitted free. Special reduced admission periods and designated open recreational swimming hours—as well as lap swimming hours, exercise classes and lessons—are posted on the City of Omaha website at www.cityofomaha.org/parks.


Frozen Assets

December 3, 2014 by and

You may want to start your child’s winter wardrobe with the luxury quilted leather youth coat from Saks Fifth Avenue. It will cost you $2,350. If you’re on a budget, the shearling jackets for girls or boys from Burberry are priced at $995. That leaves you enough money for a handmade pair of $38,000 Testoni alligator-skin boots. Toss in some high-end Gore-Tex gloves for $200. Add a crystal
fox Russian kid’s hat for $750. Voila! You’re set for around 40 grand for one of your children.

Or, you could spend under $200 for an entire wardrobe—or even under $100 if you’re super savvy—and do a better job of keeping your child warm and dry. It’s not about money, cutting-edge technology, or even having the warmest coat. It’s all about layering.

“Layering is so important because you can add or shed depending on the temperature and conditions,” says Scott Marble, owner of Canfield’s Sporting Goods. “It’s not just about keeping warm. It’s about not getting too warm, too. It’s a balancing act.”

Take an example: Your child goes to school in the warmest down coat available. The temperature rises as the sun comes up, he or she goes outside and plays hard and, all of sudden, the child is wet from sweating. Most likely, they will take that coat off and be running around in the cold in a base layer soaked with perspiration.

Three layers are the standard. Ideally, the base layer—the clothing closest to the skin—is made of a polyester blend with wicking attributes. You don’t want wet fabric against skin. But, cotton usually is fine on most days. The second layer is your insulation. Layers of fleece are good, down or polyester-fill jackets are fine, too. The outside layer should protect against wind and water.

Numerous companies now have coats with removable fleece inner linings, Marble says. And many of them are now reasonably priced. “Kids grow out of coats pretty quickly,” he says. “You can definitely understand why parents would want to keep costs down.”

The best shoes or boots for winter are those with some sort of waterproof lining. Waterproof and breathable linings are the ideal to keep feet from getting wet from perspiration during activities. Gore-Tex has long been the standard for breathable, waterproof materials, but it’s pretty expensive for a coat or pair of boots that may only be used one season. Luckily, Marble says, the market is now saturated with several high-tech Gore-Tex-like fabrics. “You can get high-quality stuff now
for a good price.”

Sometimes parents forget the last step: Protecting the extremities. A good fleece cap is relatively inexpensive, as are fleece gloves. But, going too cheap on gloves can be a bad idea, especially if those little hands will be sitting inactive outside for a long time. You’ll want to get both a light pair of gloves for activities and a thicker pair for, for one, sitting at the late-season football game. And we all know this from building snowmen in our youth: It’s a lot nicer when your gloves have a waterproof liner.

Once you have the proper gear, Marble says, be prepared to adapt to the conditions.

“Is the child going to be running around a lot? Playing in snow? Just sitting in the cold and wind?” Marble asks. “The activity often dictates what you wear. That’s just always something to keep in mind.”


Seeing the Light

December 2, 2014 by and

I don’t care for winter weather very much. I was raised a Southerner, which makes living in Nebraska a bit of an adventure for me. I’ve been in the Midwest almost longer than anywhere else, and it was very freeing for me to finally realize that “getting used to” Midwestern winters is simply a myth. If you are raised never owning a winter coat, let’s be honest. You will never get used to 4:30 p.m. sunsets,
below-zero temperatures, and winds that feel like they are peeling back your skin.

I never heard the term “snowbirds” attached to people before I moved here. But I know I want to be one if I can afford it. All the benefits of living in beautiful Nebraska during warm weather, but no ice and snow in the winter. Sounds perfect.

But truthfully, it really isn’t even the brutal winds or the scary driving that make Nebraska winters challenging for me. It’s the darkness. That going to and getting home from work when it feels like midnight and knowing the only time you really can see the sun is over the weekend. (Well, if it happens to be one of those rare weekends when it all aligns). Because as we all know, there are parts of the winter where we can go for weeks without a break in the clouds. I would never make it in the land of the Midnight Sun.  It took me a while to finally connect my winter depression to the lack of daylight. I had always just thought it was because I was a displaced Southerner and wasn’t used to freezing cold for days on end. Or wearing mittens and boots. Discovering that it was actually Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, was incredibly therapeutic in itself. This is something that can be planned for and treated successfully. Doctors treat SAD symptoms with light therapy, medications, or even counseling.

Women are more likely to have SAD, but men have more severe symptoms. For most people, those symptoms start easing in soon after school starts and can weigh on the person until springtime. Those indicators can include feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, oversleeping, weight gain, and cravings for food high in carbohydrates—like pasta and sweets. As I learned, simply being able to identify what’s happening and why was a huge first step in determining a plan of attack.

Those, like me, who know what’s coming as the daylight hours get shorter, can do things year-round to make ourselves more resilient to the onset. Consulting with your physician is the first step, but also doing important things—like establishing regular indoor exercise. If you don’t go to a gym, bundle up and walk outside on days that are tolerable. Invest in a treadmill. Even 10 or 15 minutes of effort helps. The goal is to keep your body moving and awake, so that you don’t ease into four months of sedentary couch sleeping.

Keep healthy food choices in your house. The darker months coincide with the most sugar-filled, comfort-food-laden times of the year as well, so it’s important to treat your body kindly.

While I will never, ever be okay with Nebraska winters—I really am okay with Nebraska. I love living here, and I see this as just something that many of us have to manage.

I can’t leave this without mentioning two very serious warning signs. If ever, at any point, you find yourself turning to alcohol or drugs to self-medicate; or if you find yourself considering suicide, please do not hesitate to see your doctor immediately. If you are in crisis, call 911.


Does your family have a fire escape plan?

February 15, 2014 by

With the winter months upon us, families nestle in their homes trying to stay warm, spending time by the fireplace and preparing comfort foods. As the temperature drops, residential house fires occurrences rise. Several factors contribute to the increase, including the use of personal heating devices, candles, and unattended cooking equipment.

Knowing how to prevent household fires, along with what to do when a fire occurs, will be beneficial to your family when every minute matters.

Start with prevention

The National Fire Prevention Association suggests your family start with the basics by:

  • Checking your household smoke detectors monthly;
  • Replacing batteries in smoke detectors annually;
  • Ensuring that your house or building number is visible from the street;
  • Memorizing the emergency phone number to the fire department;
  • Ensuring all exits are properly working and free of obstructions, specifically windows;
  • Designing a home fire escape plan.

They also recommend that families conduct a fire safety walkthrough of their home monthly to eliminate any potential fire hazards such as overloaded electrical circuits or faulty wiring.

Have a basic plan

Boys Town Pediatrics knows that developing a plan is important for those times when seconds are critical. Making a family fire escape plan can be a great opportunity to remind children about the importance of safety. Designing a fire escape plan can be easy with the following steps:

  1. Make a map of your house’s layout, showing all windows and doors.
  2. On the plan, make note of two exits out of every room, including the quickest exit outside.
  3. Pick a meeting spot outside the house where the family will gather after an emergency happens.
  4. Go over the basics in fire safety such as staying low to keep out of the smoke, never opening doors that are hot to the touch, and how to find the most immediate and safest route out.

Test the plan

The best way to ensure your plan will work is to hold a fire drill. Inform the family that there will be a fire drill within the next week. Waking your child in the middle of the night may be alarming, but we advise planning a drill in both the evening when it is dark as well as during the day.

After the mock drill, tweak your plan as needed. Remember to revisit the family fire escape plan every six months or after a child has changed rooms.

For more information on fire prevention and safety, visit the U.S. Fire Administration website at www.usfa.fema.gov.