meet along the way: Joannie Smith

Women do incredible things. Here, we feature the stories of women who are a part of the Southeast Missouri community by way of living here, being from here or passing through. We hope these stories inspire you to connect with others and that they encourage you to be who you are in the world. We need you and your unique gifts.

This story was first published in the December 2018 issue of “The Best Years (TBY).”

This year, Joannie Smith decorated 165 Christmas trees.

As the owner of the Yule Log Cabin just outside of Scott City, Missouri, it’s her livelihood. And it’s also proof: Smith knows a thing or two about decorating for Christmas.

Smith founded the Yule Log Cabin in 1989, specializing in Christmas ornaments of every kind. Her shop, located in two log cabins nestled in the woods, has since become a Southeast Missouri Christmastime tradition.

If there is any type of traditional or obscure ornament being sought, Smith’s trees more than likely display it: the Yule Log Cabin offers everything from sports, musical instruments and women’s empowerment ornaments, to peacocks, food and locally and internationally handmade ornaments. Smith also sells Christmas trees, as well as wreaths she makes from fresh-cut greenery.

Her love for Christmas goes back to childhood.

“It started with my grandmother. She made it magical,” Smith recalls. “She lived in a little bungalow house. … She had a flock tree that went around with pastel ornaments on it. With 17 grandkids, she had a stuffed animal for everybody, a package for everybody, so that was my memory. And then my mom carried that on. So I always love that whole feeling of it.”

Smith’s development of her shop was a gradual process: she grew Christmas trees at her choose-and-cut tree farm for 17 years, where she first began selling ornaments. When she realized the demand was for ornaments and that most types of Christmas trees didn’t grow well in Missouri, she began buying her Christmas trees from growers in Michigan and focusing full-time on selling decorations. Her business has continued to grow.

Each year, the Yule Log Cabin’s Christmas trees are decorated differently from the previous year, and Smith decorates a feature tree as the centerpiece at one of the cabins. This year, it’s an upside-down rotating tree decorated with Egyptian glass.

Want in on a few of Smith’s decorating tips? Read on.

Tip #1: Display your favorite things on your Christmas tree.

“I like to use unusual things in trees,” Smith says. “We all have our favorite things — why not display them on your Christmas tree?”

Smith recommends using everyday objects to create a theme for each tree. Smith’s favorite tree in her shop demonstrates this tip: Smith uses a garden hose as garland coming out of a vintage spigot and a garden hoe with a bow for a tree topper. She fills the tree in using picks that have cherry tomatoes on them and baskets full of plastic vegetables.

Tip #2: Try new things.

“I tell my customers, just try it. If it doesn’t look right, tweak it; do something else,” Smith says.

Smith practices this tip with Holly, a mannequin she dresses differently each year. Last year, Holly was a bride. This year, Holly is dressed in a nightgown and has four baby dolls around her.

Smith decorates Santa in the bathtub using a different storyline each year, too. This year, he has two skunks bothering him while he’s trying to take a bath.

Doing new things with old decorations each year will help keep your decorating feeling fresh.

Tip #3: Try out this year’s trends.

In addition to the classic themes of snowflakes and snowmen — which Smith says are always popular — natural elements inspired by nature are trendy this year.

“Mixing in a little bit of shine with some naturals is a big thing,” Smith says. “Plaid is still in — it’s the second year on going with buffalo check.”

One example of this in Smith’s shop: hanging horizontally from the ceiling are branches she collected from her front yard, on which she hangs Christmas ornaments.

Bringing nature inside in ways such as this can help your home feel like the outdoors while you stay cozy.

Tip #4: Carry a color through a tree or a room.

One of Smith’s favorite trees within her shop is the bug tree, which features a butterfly net as the tree topper, along with bug ornaments throughout the tree. She uses the color lime green throughout to make the tree look cohesive.

“Bring out a color to draw it all in to make it all one composition,” Smith says. “Then these picks, you don’t really notice them, but if they were gone, you would think, that just looks boring. It makes it all come together.”

Most of all, have fun and be creative while decorating your home for Christmas.

“Art was always my strong point — that’s what I started out majoring in, in college,” Smith says. “Instead of paints, the medium is ornaments. It’s a good creative outlet.”