Janell Holter, residing at the Marion County Lake, says her motto is she never met a Christmas tree she didn’t like. And with 36 trees in the home she shares with husband Roger, she is serious in her convictions.

“Christmas was my favorite time as a child,” she said.

About 15 years ago, after she and Roger were married is when her creativity blossomed and her Christmas trees and other ideas mushroomed.

“I would always buy things on sale, or I would go in when everything was marked down really cheap. I would make an offer, and (store personnel) would let me buy it all, of course,” she said.

Upon arriving home, Janell would show her latest bargains to Roger.

“He would just look at me and say: ‘Are you kidding?’”

Janell said she prides herself on buying merchandise at reduced prices.

“One time I bought Christ­­mas lights for 12 cents. These were the ones that didn’t sell, but there was a variety of multi-color and clear lights.”

Janell still works outside the home, but only until 1 p.m. so she can indulge in her hobbies in the afternoons and on weekends.

“It doesn’t take a lot of time, but coming up with different ideas takes time,” she said.

Employed in the cafeteria at Tabor College, Janell said she likes to decorate on and off campus.

“I always decorate the college cafeteria no matter what,” she said. “I do love the kids. They are all like grandkids to me, and all are very polite. I am basically one of the oldest ones there.”

Most afternoons, Janell said she will start tinkering until she comes up with something.

“Originally, it was just at Christmas, but now I do things all year long,” she said.

Janell said when she would make holiday trees or other repurposed items, she made them for her and Roger.

“I didn’t care how it looked for anybody else,” she said.


Janell went to a floral design school and is a certified floral designer.

“That’s been years ago,” she said, but it helped, especially with ribbons. “I didn’t realize that other women couldn’t make a bow.”

The first couple of years, Janell would decorate two trees, but then she started adding more than two.

“I started wanting more, and I never thought I would be into glittery, sparkly, materials, but I am,” she said. “It just sort of took off because I knew I could do it for myself.”

For many years, Janell said, she would bring their adult children many of her creations.

“Now, they give us things they don’t want anymore and think I can do something with them,” she said.

Janell said she continues to expand on her inventory of ideas, and then goes about making them a reality.

One of her newest hobbies, she said, is buying old lamps and having Roger take the inside out (wiring).

Demonstrating how she can turn an old useless lamp into a thing of beauty, Janell said she takes it apart, including the weights.

“Most lamps have weights in the bottom,” she said.

After the lamp’s insides are removed, she paints it with an acrylic paint. Using ribbon off a roll and making it into a large bow, she said, the next step is placing a stand at the top for a candle to sit level on.

Coasters work well as a stand, she said, having found small, round silver ones on clearance.

Another idea that came to fruition involved flameless white candles that she said were wrapped in wrapping paper.

“I made 12 or so of those and gave them away to friends, but I did get base,” Janell said.

The process of stuffing

Another idea she shared started with a large No. 10 can.

“I put Styrofoam inside the can, place a tree inside of it and then decorate it,” she said. “It’s just a tiny little Charlie Brown tree.”

After the tree is in the can, Janell said the next step is “stuffing.”

“I just start stuffing flowers and berries in the (artificial) tree,” she said.

She also makes larger Christmas trees by using larger cans.

Most people might pay anywhere from $30 to $50 for something Janell said she makes using discounted merchandise or things she finds free.

“A lot of people know it isn’t hard to make, but they don’t want to do it. They want someone else to do it for them,” she said.Janell and Roger Holter cuddle their two Schnauzers, Hidee and Gretta, in front of a 12-foot Christmas tree they created for the holidays.

Shabby chic ideas

As her hobby continues to grow, she said she enjoys refurbishing mirrors. One of those mirrors was a very bright, beaming gold-colored mirror, and she did the “shabby chic” on it.

“I dry brushed the acrylic paint on,” she said.

Janell said dry brushing is done when the paint brush is dipped into the paint and then is brushed onto a paper plate until most of the paint is on the plate. “Once the brush is ready, it can be used on the mirror,” she said.

The reason for a dry brushing technique could be to give something a rustic, antique-look or to preserve artwork on the mirror’s surface, she said.

“There’s no right or wrong way to do this,” she said.

Janell said she finds a lot of her mirrors and other furnishings at estate or garage sales.

“I bought three globes so that I could see how to make them myself,” she said. “People could save so much money on decor.”

The Holters have made a lot of furniture, and for them, it’s just teamwork. Roger said Janell wanted a fireplace in the bedroom so he asked her to draw it out and he would make it.

After it was completed, Janell painted it.

They have also made a frame and headboard to a bed for one of their daughters.

“We didn’t make the mattress, though,” Roger said.

Roger and Janell will also make things for their granddaughter and great-granddaughter.

“He made a nine-foot Christmas tree, took it apart and we went to St. Louis to see our granddaughter,” Janell said. “When we got there, Roger put it back together for her.”

The Holters have four children: sons R.L. and Chris, and daughters Sherry and Tonya.

In addition to Roger and Janell, the other members of the household are Hidee and Gretta, a couple of playful Schnauzers.

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