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Party Like A Pro

Task: Become a host worthy of a toast 

The Expert Salem native Kelsey Parcell Smith is a corporate event planner with a degree in experience design from BYU. She is currently an event planner for First Colony Mortgage as well as the marketing director for River Bridge Event Center in Spanish Fork. She got her start as the venue director at River Bridge where she learned everything that goes into cultivating killer parties, from big weddings to intimate get-togethers. Here are her top tips for creating events to remember.


Kelsey always thinks about how to make guests feel welcome. ìGoing to something alone, whether itís a game night or a bunco party, can be intimidating, so as a host you should do your best to give people opportunities to connect,î Kelsey says. She makes as many introductions as possible at the beginning of the party to get awkwardness out of the way so everyone can start chatting more comfortably. 


Donít forget about all the practical prep tasks like getting good background music going, having great food and drinks out, and adjusting the room layout to feel open and inclusive. ìI also love incorporating scent into any event with candles and diffusers,î Kelsey says. 


We live in Utah, which means non-party planners are planning plenty of parties and functions for the local church congregation. Cue the overwhelm! Kelsey advises taking your planning back to the goal of the event ó connection, teaching, or celebrating. Then, focus on teamwork, teamwork, teamwork. ìIf you feel like you donít know what you are doing, utilize the talents of your team,î Kelsey says. ìGet someone who is good at decorating to head that up, and then find someone who is comfortable bringing food together.î 


The mark of a successful soiree is different for each one. One of Kelseyís favorites was a ìVendor Friendsgivingî for business owners in the wedding industry. ìThe purpose was to emphasize community over competition and we had an hour where we circled through rotations and had vulnerable conversations about areas of our business where we needed help, as well as chatting about where we were doing great,î Kelsey explains. 


Balloon arches have been having their day in the sun for years now and Kelsey still believes they are on the rise. ìI love balloon installs,î Kelsey says. ìThey are an easy way to create a wow moment for guests without taking up a lot of space,î she says. She encourages hosts to find a great balloon artist who can make it look classy and chic. One of her local favorites is Balloon Boyz. Other high-impact decor options include lighting displays, interactive art and experiential food moments, like finishing a dish table-side, whether itís freshly mixed guacamole or torching the creme br˚lÈe.


Whether itís just a few friends for dinner or a wedding with 300 guests, favors tie it all up with a bow. Some of Kelseyís favorites have been custom watercolor paintings, potted succulents and personalized olive oil bottles.

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Break The Ice

Task: Take the plunge on the latest health craze

The Expert You might know Mitch Mathews as the BYU wide receiver who gave us that iconic Hail Mary touchdown win against Nebraska. Itís been almost 10 years since that moment, and these days he is focusing his drive and energy on entrepreneurial endeavors and raising two little girls with his wife, Madie. One of the things Mitch has done to stay in shape after his sports career is embracing the practice of cold plunging. The trend is a form of cryotherapy that involves immersing yourself in cold water to gain health and wellness benefits. In college, he did ice baths for recovery, but these days he gets iced up for mental and physical benefits. 


ìI got interested in cold therapy after I did a crazy excursion to Poland with 10 buddies to meet Wim Hof,î Mitch explains. Wim Hof, also known as ìThe Ice Man,î is an extreme athlete, motivational speaker and Guinness World Record holder. ìWe stayed at his house, did 10-minute cold plunges up to our necks, hiked half naked in sub-20 degree weather, and lived!î Mitch says. You donít need to go all the way to Poland to get pumped up, but a few Wim Hof videos on YouTube just might have you craving some cold therapy. 


ìThe science says between 35-50 degrees is a great range, and 11 minutes a week is optimal to get all the mental and physical benefits,î Mitch explains. Some people start out at 60 degrees, which is colder than you might think when you consider that the average temperature of swimming pool water is in the high 70s. 


According to Mitch, freezing your buns off on purpose is not just an exercise in mental toughness. ìI feel like it launches me into peak energy and clears brain fog, boosts immunity and reduces swelling,î he says. The research on cold water therapy is still emerging, so there is no way of saying for certain it does ëX-Y-Z,í but many personal anecdotes describe muscle recovery, mental clarity and mood boosting benefits. 


ìI tell people to start with 50 degrees and then work down,î Mitch says. ìTry to slide into the water without freaking out. Then do four-second exhales and a big inhale. This helps you calm down and helps fight the urge to gasp for air. Conquer the water!î Mitchís internal dialogue is all about staying calm in the chaos. ìThe water is chaos and it wants to make you freak out,î he says ìBut if you can learn to stay calm in the chaos, itís a good metaphor for lots of things in life.î 


To stay safe, Mitch suggests not going longer than 10 minutes and not cold plunging alone until you have plenty of experience. In fact, freezing your face off in the group is his favorite way to do it. ìThe best way to cold plunge is in a group,î he says. ìAnd then get in a sauna afterwards.î 


Mitch suggests warming up to the idea of being ice cold with a few minutes of cold water in the shower, or standing outside without your coat and deliberately breathing in some cold air.

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Polish Your Porch

Task: Elevate your entry with perfect porch decor 

The expert Mapletonís Jamie Kinross is an interior design content creator with a passion for all things decor and DIY. She loves styling spaces for clients as the one-woman show behind Jamie Lee Designs Co., as well as beautifying her own home ó project by project. Listen up for some styling secrets to pep up your porch! 



Get out those wreaths and fluff them up! But how big should they be? ìYour wreath should be approximately two-thirds the width of your door and most standard wreaths are 24 to 26 inches in size,î Jamie says. When it comes to attaching them, Jamie prefers command hooks instead of over-the-door hangers for a cleaner look. 


Layering your doormat is an easy way to add texture and color to your homeís entry. ìI love the timeless look of black and white checkered rugs under a doormat,î Jamie says.


Jamie says the most common mistake people make with styling their porch is forgetting about it altogether! ìThe porch is the first impression of your home and should be decorated as an extension of your home,î she says. ìMake it as unique and spunky or as timeless and tasteful as your interior.î If you have craftsman vibes going on, Jamie says warm and maximalist items are the ticket. For something modern, incorporating more masculine and larger-scale elements is the move. 


When it comes to adding greenery to your porch space, Jamie loves faux plants for a handful of reasons. ìNot all porches allow for the right amount of sunlight or enough coverage for real plants,î Jamie explains. ìItís also easy to forget about caring for your outdoor plants, and replacing them year after year gets expensive!î  


James says one of the easiest ways to take your entry from builder-grade to beautiful and boujee is by swapping out your house numbers for a larger-scale version. Other easy upgrades with big impact include adding premium light fixtures and door hardware. And if you add some great seating, you can sit outside and enjoy your styling success. ìAdding seating to your porch adds interest, charm and curb appeal,î she says. 


Lighting your entry well makes it warm and welcoming. Recessed lighting is not only practical but pretty, and wiring in sconces and pendants is a great way to add oomph. For seasonal touches, Jamie loves utilizing battery and solar-powered string lights and lanterns. 


When the holiday season rolls around, Jamie always does these things to bring festive fun to her entry. 

ï Swap out regular doormat and wreath for holiday versions. 

ï Change up greenery for seasonal foliage. 

ï Pumpkins for fall, floating witch hats for Halloween, and trees, bells, and twinkle lights for Christmas. 

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Flower Power

Task: Get your partner the perfect petals 

The expert Andrea Robertson of Flamingo Friday Floral Co. is the queen of bold blooms. Andrea is a boutique floral artist, and she loves creating from her home studio in south Utah County. Whether it is a large wedding installation or a custom order, Andrea curates botanical beauty. Here are tips for how to get your special someone flowers they will adore and remember for years to come. 



ìThe biggest mistake I see is guys forgetting the special occasion all together,î Andrea jokes. ìBut also, trying to pick something last minute or not knowing her favorite flowers or colors makes it hard, too.î Andrea advises putting in your floral order a week in advance for a typical arrangement, and up to three weeks early if you want something special. 


If you have zero idea what your girlfriend or wife wants, Andrea says there are a few varieties that are pretty widely loved. ìMost women like hydrangeas, peonies, ranunculus and tulips,î she says. ìAnd if you arenít sure on color, itís always wise to stay neutral with whites or light pinks.î 


Larger custom arrangements will run you around $150 to $200. ìThat amount will get you something large and gorgeous,î Andrea explains. But $20 can get the job done, too. ìYou can always run to Trader Joeís and get a couple bunches of tulips and hydrangeas,î Andrea says. 


If you really want to go all out, here is the plan. ìSee if she follows any florist on social media and reach out to them,î Andrea says. ìBoutique florists like myself thrive on fun custom orders.î Another way to make it special is to make it sentimental. If your first date was a hike with wildflowers, ask the florist to incorporate wildflowers to bring back that memory. 


The most beautiful blooms in the world can wilt before they take her breath away if you are not careful! ìDonít keep them in a hot car ever,î Andrea says. ìBut other than that, most flowers will be OK without water for a couple hours. Then, once you are home, snip off the bottom tip and get them in water ASAP.î 


If your love doesnít love flowers, go for a plant. They are still a thoughtful gesture and plants last longer. Andreaís fave is a snake plant. ìThey are excellent air purifiers, really low maintenance, and affordable,î she says. 


Being a florist means you get to be part of peopleís happiest days of their life, but you also get to be a bright spot on challenging days, too. Once, Andrea included red roses as part of her wedding pickup order, even though the wedding she was working on didnít include red in their color palette. ìThe next day my friend messaged me about getting an arrangement to take to the cemetery for her mom. At the end she mentioned her momís favorite color was red, and I knew right then why I bought those red roses!î

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Fair Play

Task: Be a good sports parent 

The Expert Utah Valley University athletics mental health specialist Kevin ìDoKî Woods was brought on staff back in 2018 specifically to help the schoolís student-athletes manage the pressures of competing in Division 1 athletics. DoK played basketball at UVU from 2007-2013 and graduated with a behavioral science degree before going on to earn a masterís degree in counseling, sports and health psychology from Chicagoís Adler University. Beyond DoKís impressive credentials, he has the emotional intelligence and people skills that make him a trusted advocate for student-athletes at UVU. 


This might come as a surprise to few people, but DoK says one of the most common and worst mistakes parents can make when it comes to their childrenís sports is putting high expectations on performance outcomes too early. ìPushing too early and not allowing the child to develop deliberate play can harm the childís enjoyment of the sport and lead to early retirement,î he says. ìThe enjoyment of playing should be what ignites the competition and longevity.î 


Instead of putting the focus on achievement and ìwinningî from the outset, DoK suggests focusing first on developing discipline and consistency with practice and training. ìDiscipline reveals the commitment one has to their dreams, before that dream is established,î he explains. 


What do you do when your kid comes home complaining about a coach? First, listen and let your kid vent. ìWhen you give your kids a safe space to speak on the issue and about their frustrations, it will give you the brave space where you can provide feedback and suggestions,î DoK says. And when you do provide guidance, always keep it centered on the childís efforts and what he or she can control. 


When an issue does need to be resolved with a coach, DoK suggests empowering your child to speak to their coach by themselves to set expectations and goals. ìThis teaches them not to assume things, but to be open to uncomfortable conversations that can lead to collaboration in the future,î he explains. DoK believes that letting kids practice communicating with coaches and leaders directly from a young age teaches them important life lessons and helps them become independent and self-directed adults. 


But what about when a parent does need to step in? DoK says that these interactions always go better when the parent has invested some time and effort into establishing rapport with the coach beforehand. And then take these tips to heart:

ï ìRespect the coach as a human being who is providing leadership and guidance to your child through sports. Approach them with a willingness to learn, and have consideration for them as the decision maker.î

ï ìBe prepared with specific questions, concerns or film to provide more context for the coach. Narrow down questions and donít ask something broad like, ëHow do I get my kid to play more?í A better thing to say might be, ëI understand there are different levels of talent here on the team; Iíd like to know what my child can focus on to achieve a higher level of play.íî

ï ìDo not compare kids. When you leave other kids out of the conversation and only focus on your child, it keeps the conversation from getting defensive for the coach. Remember that each player is a piece on the board and the coach needs to figure out which pieces work together well.î 


DoK says at the end of a sports year or season, if you have had a bad experience or are considering switching up your team or program, ask yourself these questions: 

ï Is my athlete being treated with respect?

ï Is my athlete being taught?

ï Is my athlete given a chance to perform?

ï Is my athlete enjoying the experience?

If the answers to most or all of the questions is no, consider making a change. 


OK, enough talk about conflict! What can parents do to be supportive? ìBe present as often as you can, be interested in their sport, and have fun investigating ways to improve performance,î he says. ìDiscuss diet, sleep and goals. Encourage the fun of the sport. Praise them when they handle a difficult moment well, and praise their willingness to take on challenges.î

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Toy Tailors

Task: Find the right fit when it comes to gifts for kids

The Experts Sisters Mandy Merrell and Melody Craig are the experts behind ìThe Toy Testing Sisters.î These toy connoisseurs share information on all the latest and greatest toys, as well as detailed and age-specific toy guides. In short, they wade through the thousands of toys on the market and tell you which ones are worth your money. Mandy lives in northern Utah and Melody is in Highland, and they have five kids between them to help out with all the testing/playing. @toytestingsisters


Yes, you can just stroll the aisle at Walmart and pick up whatever is the shiniest and biggest, but youíll miss some real gems. ìWe love being able to help parents and grandparents know about unique toys that will last and get played with forever,î Mandy says. 


Mandy and Melodyís toy guides are often grouped by age range, and they have found that for toddlers ages 2 to 4, itís all about ìopen-ended play.î Items that follow this philosophy encourage creativity and unstructured exploration. ìFor this group, we love acrylic blocks, a nice wooden playhouse, and play couches,î Mandy says. ìAnother great idea is to invest in a silk. Silks are getting more popular and you will be blown away at the things your kids will think of to do with them. My kids love to make up games with them like ëthe floor is lava,í setting up play scenes, and dress up.î 


For ages 5 to 7, Mandy and Melody recommend items that engage the brain with problem solving, imagination and creating. ìIn this range, itís all about building, whether itís a race track or pretend-play items,î Mandy says. 


Mandy says between ages 8 to 10, things get a little more challenging for toy buyers. Some of her favorite options for big kids include a 3-D printer, Beblox (a lego alternative), marble run (Trestle Toys is a great brand), baking items and jewelry kits. 


Most kids go through phases where they get obsessed with a specific TV show or movie and want every toy to be based around that theme, whether itís Paw Patrol or Mario. But Mandy reminds us that all those phases come to an end. ìI always suggest that if your child is into a specific character, buy them smaller items like figurines of the character rather than something big like a large dollhouse with that theme,î Mandy says. ìOften, those bigger items that are branded specifically donít have the quality you want.î 


ìEspecially in Utah, where we have lots of kids, I love recommending family toys like a swing or a play couch that works for all ages,î Mandy says. ìThese things take more investment, but you will get your moneyís worth because everyone will play with them for years.î 


The Toy Testing Sisters love shopping local, and some of their favorite Utah-based shops are Teton Toys (located in Lehi and Orem), Blickenstaffs (Provo) and Over The Moon (Bountiful). As far as Utah-based toy companies, they love Hello Sugarhouseís blocks and wooden toys (find them on IG at @hellosugarhouse). 


Most parents are trying to find ways to get their kids off screens and into the backyard. A cool toy like a zipline or a mud kitchen can help. ìGetting a nice, solid-wood mud kitchen is fantastic for encouraging outdoor play,î Mandy suggests. ìAnd it will last long enough that your grandkids can play with it someday.î 


When your child gets invited to a birthday party for a neighborhood or school friend and you are not sure what to get, Mandy has a couple go-to items that are general and gender neutral. ìI love picking out a fun game and pairing it with a cute treat or a NeeDoh Nice Cube.î If you are wondering what in the world a NeeDoh Nice Cube is, allow us: Itís a cool new sensory toy that you can squish and squash and it goes back to its original square shape. You get the fun factor of slime ó without the carpet-ruining risks. Youíre welcome.