Picket fences mean something special in Charleston, South Carolina. They’re called “Badges of Honor,” and represent the sacrifice homeowners made during the Civil War by donating their wrought-iron fences to the cause. When homeowners refrained from returning their fences to iron, it signaled where they stood during what was known in the Confederacy as the War for Southern Independence. We learned about the significance of shutters, Robert Smalls and a lesser-known tea party during a two-day stay in Charleston.

Growing up in central Pennsylvania, eating local meant picking pecks of fresh cherries from the orchards outside of Gettysburg, more pickles than would seem just or legal to a non-German, and on Jan. 1 of each year savoring some lovely roasted hog maw, aka sausage, potatoes and cabbage stuffed inside a pig’s stomach. Happy New Year!

A 2010 trip to see New England’s fall colors opened Deb Koesters’ eyes to something far more stimulating. She and welding artist husband Dick were at Snow Farm, a craft learning workshop, in Williamsburg, Massachusetts, when she discovered wet felting quite by accident. She initially enrolled in jewelry-making, only to find it “too fiddly.” So she switched to wet felting. “It was so much fun, I was mad that I hadn’t learned it earlier in life,” she says.

Shea Wilkinson is never far from a sewing machine. She sews for Artifact Bags and also does her own artwork, primarily wall hangings. She had been making quilts all her life, but started taking it seriously while teaching English in Mexico. “I had a lot of time on my hands, and it really blossomed,’’ she says.

Celeste Butler isn’t just sewing a quilt. She’s telling a story and preserving history. “I’m passionate about what I’m doing,’’ she says, “and leaving that legacy behind for my children and grandchildren.’’

What’s the one word that sums up who you want to be or how you want to live? It’s the hottest question on social media this time of year as users challenge each other to name a word — and discover something about themselves in the process.

Velvet, ah yes. Faintly nostalgic. Luxuriously silky. Subtly reflective. And smart enough for the office. That's right. Traditionally velvet has been reserved for evening, but it's especially modern when paired with denim. You can't beat velvet's casual panache if you're looking for glamour …

Christina Mainelli is just like her customers. She wants to bring more green into her home in unusual and interesting ways. Mainelli runs The Green House and designs handmade goods for home and garden. She says plants cheer up a room, bring in life and light, and offer interesting focal points.

Buying a sofa is kind of like buying sheets, only bigger and more expensive. You want the right size and feel, and a good look that coordinates with the rest of the room. But with a sofa, you’ve also got to think of dimensions, room flow and other important details that contribute to a decision. Here are some tips to keep in mind before test-driving any models.

The Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium is giving your Christmas tree a second life. The evergreens are the perfect toys for elephants, bears, big cats and more. “It’s something that’s new to most of them, or at least it’s a novel item,’’ said Dan Cassidy, the zoo’s vice president of animal management. “So the bears and big cats especially, they like to rub their faces in them.’’

When someone spots a dining room or bedroom outfitted with French doors, admiration generally follows, as if the doors are special and rare. While not rare, they certainly are special, and homeowners can’t get enough of them. It’s no surprise then that these doors — whose style dates back to the 16th century — have made their way into the bathroom. If you want to give your bath an elegant or updated look, consider replacing your current shower door with these beauties. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Kids grow fast. That means their rooms have to roll with the changes, which requires a makeover every few years. Your son or daughter likely wants a say in how their bedroom should be decorated and furnished, which can lead to conflicts if their daring design dreams clash with your more practical vision.

Did you know that Claxton, Georgia, is considered one of the fruitcake capitals of the world? Two bakeries there combine to make 4 million pounds of fruitcake each year. Strangely, National Fruitcake Day is Dec. 27. Strange, because one would assume it would be celebrated before Christmas, because that’s its time to shine.

You can choose brightly hued paint colors, opt for lighter-toned flooring or carpeting and add extra lamps and light fixtures. But if you really want to illuminate the living spaces in your home, there’s no substitute for natural sunlight. It’s a big reason why carefully placed windows, skylights, doors with glass, light wells and transoms are coveted among homeowners and home shoppers alike. And the perks of ample natural light are plentiful.

Should water sit for several hours to allow chemicals it contains to dissipate?  The horticulture program coordinator for the Douglas-Sarpy County Extension Office says yes, but not for the reasons we expected.

The holiday shopping season is in full swing. The packed shopping malls and long checkout lines can be stressful for all parents, but even more so for new moms and dads shopping with baby in tow. From fussy tantrums to emergency diaper changes, it’s essential for new parents to always be prepared for any scenario when shopping with their tots.

A favorite Friday afternoon tradition for Assistant Editor Marjie Ducey is to window shop at Legacy Art and Frame as she walks home from the bus stop near 49th and Dodge Streets in Dundee.

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About the magazine

Inspired Living Omaha is a premium publication of the Omaha World-Herald, delivering to Sunday subscribers. Spotlighting home, design, fashion, food, entertaining, design, travel + more. To start your subscription, call 402-346-3363 or e-mail us at customerservice@owh.com