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Let There Be Light: Christmas 2016

I shot this after the first big snow. Decorations not complete yet. The snow on the trees really caught the area lights.

I shot this after the first big snow December 4th. Decorations not complete yet. The snow on the trees really caught the area lights.

 

Ever since I was a child, Christmas lights have cast a magical spell over me. Mood, color, ambiance– combined to create a winter fantasy.

This year Michael and I decided to scale back on the interior decorating and focus primarily on the exterior of the house– since that is what the most people see.

With the unseasonable warm weather we had this year, I was able to work on outdoor projects longer– like repairing and painting stairs and porches, all the way in to November. The trees held their leaves much longer this year, postponing yard clean up as well. So, I didn’t really start decorating until the week after Thanksgiving.

The majority of the decorating took approximately 60 hours over two and a half weeks. I used over 900 feet of garland, 10 artificial trees, 65 bows, thousands of LED lights, 24 egg strobes and 10 laser projectors to complete the effect outside. Every year it’s a little different, depending on time, resources and whatever mood strikes me.

Inside, I didn’t put up any traditional, full-size trees but did decorate 12 ‘stick’ and tabletop trees (3 ft. to 9 ft. tall) along with some mantle and stair garland. In the windows I used 27 LED snowflakes, 28 sets of icicle lights and 36 battery operated candles. I experimented with LED ‘curtain lights’ in 6 windows in place of Christmas trees I’d used in the past.

 

321 Division St. on a beautiful sunny morning after a good snow.

321 Division St. on a beautiful sunny morning after a good snow.

 

Garland and bows decorate the fence around 321 Division Street.

Garland and bows decorate the fence around 321 Division Street.

 

The house before dusk.

The house before dusk.

 

321 Division Street just before sunset.

321 Division Street just before sunset.

 

Looking across the front yard at our spiral tree with the church in the background.

Looking across the front yard at our spiral tree with the church in the background.

 

Trees line both sides of the front driveway.

Trees line both sides of the front driveway.

 

On the hill behind our house.

On the hill behind our house.

 

One of two light & bead trees I created from scratch.

One of two light & bead trees I created from scratch.

 

321 Division from the street.

321 Division from the street.

 

Christmas at home.

Christmas at home.

 

Front porch fully decorated.

Front porch fully decorated.

 

The statue of Liberty on the front center porch.

The statue of Liberty on the front center porch.

 

The front parlor at 321 Division St.

The front parlor at 321 Division St.

 

In the dining room.

In the dining room.

 

The side of the house.

The side of the house.

 

The lights will be on display through at least New Years’ weekend.

Beautiful Christmas: 321 Division Street – A Look Outside

 

The front gate at 321 Division Street, December 2014.

The front gate at 321 Division Street, December 2014.

It’s the 125th Christmas here at 321 Division Street and no snow… yet. With Christmas only a few days away, I wanted to post some pictures to help you get in the holiday spirit.

Here’s what the house looks like on the outside, tomorrow I’ll share some pictures from the inside.

 

Just before sunset.

Just before sunset.

Front entrance before sunset.

Front entrance before sunset.

321 Division Street, from the front corner.

321 Division Street, from the front corner.

Christmas at 321 Division Street.

Christmas at 321 Division Street.

Wreath above the main entrance.

Wreath above the main entrance.

Garland and red bow drape the wrought iron fence surrounding the house.

Garland and red bow drape the wrought iron fence surrounding the house.

Colorful star in the side yard.

Colorful star in the side yard.

The porte cochere from the back.

The porte cochere from the back.

Trees in the yard form the front porch.

Trees in the yard from the front porch.

A view of the house from across the street.

A view of the house from across the street.

Color changing lollipops line the front walk.

Color changing lollipops line the front walk.

Trumpeting Angel.

Trumpeting Angel.

Window view.

Window view.

Large LED snowflake in the side window.

Large LED snowflake in the dining room window.

Glimpse inside from the porch.

Glimpse inside from the porch.

Front porch from the side.

Front porch from the side.

Beautiful Christmas: Twenty One Trees- Decorating Outside

Some of the 21 trees I put up, waiting to be fluffed and lit.

Some of the 21 trees I put up, waiting to be fluffed and lit.

Twenty-one trees. No big deal. (Ha-ha!)

We had a bit of a warm up two weekends ago, so I took advantage of it and got my trees and stakes in the ground.  Then we froze again. I’m glad I started early so I wasn’t forced to work on them in the low teens.

This past weekend I was able to finish fluffing the branches, running the power and lighting the trees. The temperature was in the 40s so it wasn’t too painful. Now we’re back in the low 20s again.

Depending where you live, the weather can play a huge factor in your plans to decorate outside.

Fluffed and lit. Here are some of my 21 trees at dawn.

Fluffed and lit. Here are some of my 21 trees at dawn.

I had told myself I was going to keep it simple (like that EVER happens) and decorate the same as last year, but—- I never seem to be able to do that.

First off, I got some new lights on clearance, last year after Christmas, that I wanted to use. (I got some of those expensive synchronizing lights at 80% off!) The next thing I knew, I was making additional changes here and there. Most of those new lights are on the front porch but one thing affects another.

I decided to spread out the trees instead of the big circle I did last year. I have three groups, two of six and one of nine trees. They are all set away from the house, creating more depth in the yard and making it more fun to walk around.

You might wonder why I put out artificial trees instead of decorating the landscape itself– simple answer: squirrels! Anytime I’ve tried decorating my live trees, the squirrels chew the cords. It’s not only annoying– it’s expensive. (I’m using all LED lights.) Aside from hiding their scavenged treats in them once in a while, the squirrels tend to leave the fake trees alone.

Some of the trees I use are more than 15 years old, dropping needles pretty bad and no longer suitable to use inside. A dozen of them I got at Home Depot after Christmas for $4 each one year. It might look expensive, but it was a whole lot cheaper than what a lot of people spend for a much smaller display.

I’m not quite done with my windows yet and they play a big part in the exterior display. My house is too tall and the porches create another obstacle (as well as visual highlight) to decorating; making it difficult to decorate the upper extremes. The icicle lights and snowflakes in the windows, not to mention the trees; contribute to the overall finished exterior look.

Front porch entrance, almost complete.

Front porch entrance, almost complete.

The windows also create the challenge of coordinating the exterior look with the interior look. This is mostly affected by color. One thing I realized this year: I’m probably never going to have an exterior display that looks expertly designed. Simple looks better from a distance, but all the extras are so much more fun and atmospheric to walk around and through.

Last year I used blue and white lights on the porch and windows, with only a couple color accents on visible trees in featured windows. This year, I’m using a little more color, though my base colors are still blue and white.

I finally found inexpensive bows for my fence. I’m used to getting them for $1 each and this year my previous sources have all gone up to $1.50. Not a big deal– except I need close to 100 bows and they don’t last more than a season due to fading. I finally found a two for $1 sale at a local store chain but none of the retail stores had the quantity I need in stock. So, they are being shipped, due to arrive any day now.

I’ll share more pictures when the windows are complete. It’s been a bit more challenging this year with the weather and our two puppies requiring more time and attention. I still have three weeks, right?

Twenty-One trees done.

Oh, I guess I didn’t mention the eleven full size trees indoors, plus four tabletop trees I need to finish.

I better get on the ball!

 

Decking the Halls For The Holidays: Part Three- Decorating the Tree

Ornaments Galore!

Ornaments Galore!

I love Christmas trees. Of the fourteen Christmases we’ve spent in this old Victorian house, this year it will probably see the fewest number of Christmas trees– with a total of seven if I stick with my plan. In past years, I’ve put up as many as thirty two trees. One in every window and then some. Sounds a little crazy– okay, a LOT crazy– but it’s something I really enjoy.

You can imagine, with that many trees, you have to be a little creative when it comes to decorating all of them. I thought I’d share some general Christmas tree decorating tips, as well as some of the imaginative solutions I’ve come up with over the years to make them unique.

First off, I can’t say I’ve ever really seen an ugly Christmas tree. (Alright, maybe a couple.) Christmas trees can be a personal and unique statement of who you are. It can also be a nostalgic trip through the past. Especially, if you’re one of those people that collects a few new ornaments each year or has ornaments made for, or by members of your family. Displaying them can be fun but also a challenge.

So let’s get started with some general tips and things to consider when planning to decorate a memorable tree. (I’ll be referring to all tree decorations, generally, as ornaments.)

  • Know what you have. Before you start your tree, take a look at the ornaments you’ll be using to refresh your memory. Size, color and quantities of similar ornaments, all play a part in the final outcome of your tree.
  • Start with an idea. Is there a theme to your tree? Will it be certain colors or highlight certain shapes or ornament styles? You may want to add to subtract certain ornaments from your plan if you have a vision for the final look.
  • What element(s) will be your constant to achieve your theme or idea? Several dozen ornaments of a specific color or style? Depending on the size of your tree, you’ll want to make sure you have enough to establish your design element  covering the tree.
  • Are you decorating the tree by yourself or will this be a family activity? If you want your tree to have a certain overall look and decorating it is going to be a family affair… you may want to pre-decorate with your base ornaments (or design element) before letting the family go to town with the rest. It’s also a good idea to keep fragile ornaments out of the hands of small children.

    Example- You have may have lots of unique family ornaments but you want your theme to be red. In order to make sure your tree has an even balance of red ornaments, you may want to space them throughout and then let the family add all the rest.

  • Ornaments don’t have to be expensive or necessarily holiday-related if they help achieve your look. Just make sure you have enough ornaments that will specifically carry your theme.
  • If you want to highlight or feature a collection of special ornaments– you will probably want to adopt the less is more philosophy or else your special ornaments are likely to get lost.
  • Make sure you balance the weight of your heavier ornaments on the sturdier branches and all around the tree. Too much weight on one side can make your tree tip over! Larger, heavier ornaments being concentrated towards the bottom is fine but you should still have a sprinkling throughout as you move towards the top.
  • Be creative and be flexible. Don’t be afraid to add another color or style if, through the process, you discover you need something more. There is no wrong or right look– it’s your tree!

Christmas Tree Themes

Mercury glass ornament tree, accented with berry picks.

Mercury glass ornament tree, accented with berry picks.

I’ve done many different themed trees over the years including Victorian trees, floral trees, mercury glass ornament trees, Santa and angel-themed trees, color based trees… Yes, even Beanie Baby trees. I know friends that do sports, hobby, Disney and occupation-themed trees as well. The possibilities are endless here. To be successful, you’ll need to have enough ornaments representing your theme– to stand out and cover your tree in balanced proportions.

Example- If you want to decorate a snowflake tree but you only have four snowflake ornaments, your theme isn’t going to be obvious. Even a dozen or so ornaments of a specific kind, can get lost on your tree if the other elements over power them.

I love mercury glass ornaments. Really nice ones can be quite expensive and I only add a few new ones each year. In order to fill out my themed tree, I’ve added other types of ornaments like painted glass, to be able to fully decorate my tree but still stick to my theme. I also add floral berry picks that add color and fill space without overpowering my featured ornaments.

Stuffing and Filling Your Tree

Try 'stuffing' the branches to fill gaps in large trees.

Try ‘stuffing’ the branches to fill gaps in large trees.

Large trees present a number of challenges including the spacing of the branches. Lower branches are frequently farther apart and if you don’t address them, can leave larger empty spaces that ornaments can’t always fill. A few years back, I adopted a method I call stuffing the tree to help solve that problem. This fills the void between branches and gives the tree a fuller look.

One of my favorite ways to stuff a tree is to use floral bunches or bouquets. The first step in decorating my tree is to stuff the voids with the bouquets, deeper in the tree. Spacing is still important. I try to fill the largest spaces first, while still spacing the bouquets throughout the tree for balance, which means also adding them where they may not be needed to fill a hole but are needs to give the tree a consistent look.

Another great inexpensive stuffing is netting or tulle. I cut or tear random-sized pieces and bunch them, stuffing the interior of the tree. It’s easy to use and manipulate between the branches, adding a soft effect to the overall look. This also might be a good solution for someone considering a flocked or specific colored tinsel tree. Tulle is available in a rainbow of colors and it’s not permanent so you could change the color of your tree every year, if you wanted– without breaking the bank.

I’ve also used pinecones, raffia and other everyday greenery to give a fuller, more natural effect.

NOTE: If your tree is especially thin, you may want to stuff your tree before you add the lights.

Though stuffing your tree may not add to your initial design or theme, it does play an important part in the final outcome. It can be subtle or dramatic, depending on what you use and how much of it.

Decorating Your Family Ornament or ‘Everything’ Tree

Family tree with only the ornaments creating the base. design element.

Family tree with only the ornaments creating the base. design element.

Since I decided to put up fewer trees this year, that leaves me with an abundance of ornaments to either use or put away.

I decided I wanted to use as many of my favorites as possible but still wanted to have a relatively designed look. Here was my solution.

This might help what many people will find they are facing when decorating the typical family Christmas tree.

  1. I gathered together some red and white ornaments, threw in a few silver ones and used them as my base colors. I inherited a collection of gold laser-cut ornaments (Danbury Mint) that I added next. I could have stopped right there and my tree was looking great. All the ornaments were spaced out with color, shape and style– balanced throughout the tree.
  2. Next I added all those favorite ornaments I love, again, paying attention to spacing. Always make sure that you don’t let one area get too heavy or unbalanced (too many, too grouped together.)
  3. I took a step back and made sure my tree still had a good balance of color, shape, etc. Moving a few ornaments, as necessary.
  4. I finished the tree, accessorizing it with berry floral picks as the finishing touch.
The finished family tree.

The finished family tree.

One of the main reasons I use a lot of floral picks in my trees is that it really helps to blend the overall tree. If you prefer a cleaner or more dramatic look, use picks sparingly or not at all.

Tree Garland or “Who Tied Up Your Tree?”

The use of garland on your tree can make or break your final designed look. Garland isn’t the easiest thing to use. I’ve seen too many trees that look like they were tied up and being held hostage as opposed to adding to the tree’s design element.

Christmas tree garland can take many forms. You rarely see the traditional popcorn and cranberry garland anymore– and personally, I’ve never had any luck stringing it together successfully. There are the metallic tinsel garlands (thick and thin), bead garlands, floral garlands, even grape vine and rafia can be used.

Do you drape the garland around the tree? In a spiral? Hang it Vertically? Do you swag it? All choices you can make depending on your skill and taste. Keep in mind that the way you hang the garland on your tree will also affect the quantity you will need.

My 7 ft. 'natural' tree with grapevine garland.

My 7 ft. ‘natural’ tree with grapevine garland.

You can add garland at any point in the decorating process but I prefer to add it first, if at all. When you wait until the end, moving and re-spacing the garland to get it just right can tangle with your ornaments and cause a big mess. You would also have to move a number of ornaments that would be hidden behind the garland. Adding it first allows you to adjust it until it’s just right, before hanging all your precious ornaments.

Christmas Trees and Pets (Children Too!)

You want to make sure you protect your loved ones, whether thay have two tiny feet or four furry paws.

  • Cats climb trees! They also like to bat their paws at dangling ornaments. I’ve know more than one person that has come home to find a toppled tree due to a kitty-climber. Make sure your tree is weighted properly and keep an eye out for felines that show too much interest in your tree.
  • Ornaments are not dog toys… or are they? My Boxers, even at ten years old, pull ornaments off my tree. I have to keep watch to make sure they leave them alone. It doesn’t matter whether they are round (like a tennis ball), plastic or stuffed (like a chew toy), or long (like a stick)– they all look like toys to them. Dogs being dogs, will chew and possibly swallow even glass ornaments so take precautions to avoid that emergency trip to the vet.
  • The rules that apply to toys with small parts should apply to your Christmas decorations. Try to avoid sharp or small ornaments that might be swallowed. Keep the more fragile ornaments out of reach. By all means, supervise small children around your Christmas tree. As hard as you try, no tree is completely childproof, so be safe!

Finally, a word about our foyer tree. We had talked about eliminating many of our other trees and getting one tall tree that would climb through the stairwell  from our foyer to the second floor. I decided to experiment this year and found I could combine tree sections from two of our 12 ft. trees and created a 20 ft. tree! The poles of the trees were the same size allowing them to be interchangeable. By bending and manipulating some of the branches, I was able to combine them pretty convincingly.

Best Tip of the Day: With a little thought and creativity– and a focus on color and balance– you can create your most beautiful Christmas tree ever!

Victorian Foyer Tree. I created this 20 ft tree from two 12 ft trees we already owned.

Victorian Foyer Tree. I created this 20 ft tree from two 12 ft trees we already owned.

Next Up: Tabletop Centerpieces

Decking the Halls For The Holidays: Part Two- Selecting and Prepping Your Christmas Tree

Live or Artificial… Large or Small… I hope you’ll find some tips here to take a little stress and frustration out of prepping your Christmas tree this year. I highly recommend adults setting up and prepping the tree prior to having young ones participate in the actual decorating.

Choosing Your Tree

There are many things to consider when selecting a new Christmas tree that rely heavily on your own personal taste and the space where it will be displayed. Height , color, fullness and shape are all considerations… pre-lit or not? There are also safety issues to consider, and things you can look for to anticipate the longevity of your tree.

Screen Shot 2013-11-23 at 4.33.42 AMLive or Artificial? For some a matter of taste, could be a cost or storage issue and for others a necessary tradition.

Live Trees- Benefits include: scent, natural and no storage concerns. I have friends that always insist on using a live Christmas tree. Part of their holiday tradition is going out and cutting their own. Very nostalgic. For those that don’t have that luxury, you are likely purchasing a tree that was cut and stored in a refrigerated truck back in August. No wonder there is often little scent and the needles barely make it past Christmas Eve! I’m not going to say a lot here, there is a lot of information online about things to consider and to watch out for when selecting a healthy, safe, live Christmas tree. Remember, the cost does not indicate the freshness!

Artificial Trees– The possibilities here are endless. Height, color, fullness, thick or thin… it’s out there if you look hard enough. Benefits include: Reusable, many are made from recycled materials, more cost effective over time and they are considered safer to display than live trees.

Best Tip of the Day: Strapped for Cash? Did you know there are lots of people giving away trees on Craigslist.com?

There are affordable options out there but artificial Christmas trees can be quite expensive. Remember no tree is perfect, live or artificial. Here are a few things to consider when purchasing a new artificial tree:

  • Fullness and strength of branches. When buying a tree online it’s really difficult to check the quality and details. You want sturdy branches that have lots of tips for a full look.
  • Check the tips for needle drops. Better quality trees tend to hold their needles because of how they are manufactured. Cup the tip (a finger of the branch) and run your hand back and forth on it. You should little or no needles fall off on a new, good quality tree. Overtime, of course, the needles will become more fragile. I have one tree that is 10 years old and it is so well made, the only way I can get any needles to fall off is to pluck them off.
  • Pre-Lit or Not? Personally, I prefer a tree that is not pre-lit. Even though the lights are hidden in the branches and it makes it easier to prep the tree, the light will inevitably stop working. Finding that one missing bulb or short in the wire in nearly impossible. Removing the lights if they stop working can be difficult but you can always add strings of lights to the tree if they do stop working. NOTE: Pre-lit trees can be very, very heavy. Something to consider for moving and storage.
  • Branches. Check to see if the branches are individual and have to be added one by one or if the branches are all hinged to the pole. A tree with individual branches can be stored easier if space is an issue. You have to be careful because the plastic fittings where the branches attach to the pole can crack if there is too much weight or force on the branch. The plastic also becomes more brittle over time causing breakage.
  • Collapsible Pop Up Trees? They do exist! I’ve seen them in traditional evergreen styles and collapsible tinsel garland trees, that seem to be in most of the stores this year. These aren’t usually very full and most can’t hold many or even any ornaments. They are easy to set up and to store but I wouldn’t expect that these would last more than a year or two.
  • As always, shop after Christmas to get your best bargains. Every tree I’ve used for the past 15 years was purchased after Christmas for 70-90% off!

Prepping Your Tree

Decorating your Christmas tree is the fun part. No one looks forward to setting up and prepping the tree, which for me, starts when I take it out of the box, through adding the lights.

Tree Stands. Whether you are using a live or artificial tree, it’s very important to have a good, strong tree stand that is the right size for your tree. It’s also probably a good idea to make sure your live tree stand can hold plenty of water. Most artificial trees come with stands appropriate for that tree. In rare cases, I’ve had to find a better stand so the tree would stand safely and securely in place. If you are reusing an old tree and have had tipping issues– you need a better stand.

IMG_5190

Before

Fluffing the Branches. This obviously only applies to artificial trees. Once your tree is out of the box and assembled in its stand, you need to fluff out all the branches before you add any lights or ornaments. I highly recommend wearing a cheap pair of work gloves during this process to avoid scratches and skin irritation.

Start at the bottom of the tree and work your way around and then up, fanning the tips on every branch as you go so they aren’t laying flat and clumped together. This accomplishes two things:

After

After

1) It makes the tree appear to be much fuller; and 2) It will actually help stabilize and support the surrounding branches.

(If the tree still looks thin or sparse, I’ll cover what you can do to add fullness in the next blog post– and this works for both artificial and live trees.)

Now you are ready for the lights.

Lighting Your Tree.

Stringing your lights on the tree can be one of the most frustrating parts about decorating. I’ll talk about the different types available in a minute– but here are some things to consider when actually lighting the tree: If you prefer a more sparse or uniformly decorated tree, then you want to try have your lights evenly spaced without holes or dark spots in your tree. If you use a lot of decorations, you don’t have to be as concerned with this as some of the decorations are inevitably going to block some of the lights anyway.

I find to get the best coverage, you should move around the tree completely, all in one direction. Save a few strings of lights to fill any troublesome dark spots once this step is complete. I personally prefer to to move around the tree in circles, from the bottom moving up in a slow spiral (horizonally) instead of stringing the lights up and down (vertically) on the tree. I have tried winding lights around the branches to help hide the strings, only to find: a) it’s very time consuming; b) you need a lot more lights; and c) you still end up needing to run additional strings around the tree to fill the dark spots. After I run the lights completely around the tree, I’ll take my extra strings and move around the tree diagonally, to hit the dark spots and to try and avoid creating a noticeable light pattern.

Screen Shot 2013-11-23 at 4.39.06 AMLight Types.

LED lights are the newest technology and also the most costly to purchase. The good news is that after a few years, the energy savings will outweigh the initial investment. If you are purchasing white, pay attention whether you are getting cool or warm white. There is a definite difference and you’ll want to avoid accidentally buying both. I’m in the process of switching over to LED lights completely. One of the best things about LED lights is that you can connect up to 40 strings together end to end, eliminating a lot of extra outlets and cords.

Mini lights make up the bulk of what most people currently use today. They can still have different covers or shapes but if you use different styles on the same tree. Make sure you spread  out each type evenly or you will likely be disappointed with the result. Most mini lights can be connected end to end with a maximum of 3 strings without blowing fuses on the plugs. Mini lights are currently the most affordable and come in the largest variety of colors and styles.

C-Series lights should not be used indoors, period. These are the larger old fashioned bulbs. They are still available but designated for outdoor use only. They can get extremely hot and become a fire hazard, particularly on live trees. I will admit that I have used them on an artificial tree in the past… and they melted the needles on the branches that they were touching.

Multifunction Mini or LED lights. If you want twinkling lights, flashing or fading these are the ones you want. If you use these, you need to run them around your tree more random than uniform and overlap them to get the desired effect. One of the drawbacks is that they cannot be connected end to end and must each be plugged in separately.

White, Colored Lights or Both?.

Completely based on your individual taste, adding colored lights to your tree can create several things you’ll want to watch for. If you use all one color or use the multicolored strings, you should be fine. If you mix colored strings of lights, you need to make sure you evenly distribute the different colors evenly throughout the tree. If you don’t, you could end up with unwanted patches or blotches or color.

The other day I notice one store selling trendy pink, lime green and lavender lights (the wire was colored too.) If you decide to go with something trendy, keep in mind the cost, longevity of the trend and by all means, make sure you purchase enough to finish the job. Keep in mind that 6 strings may work this year but next year you may need 8 and they are no longer available. Then what? Back to the drawing board.

AND, make sure the lights you are purchasing are green wire and not white wire! You may need to look in the box to be sure. White wire strings of lights are very difficult, if not impossible to hide on a traditional green tree.

Now you’re finally ready to decorate!

After you have all your lights on the tree, you might want to take a moment to vacuum up any dropped needles so they don’t get tracked all over the house, especially if your family will be decorating the tree together.

One Last Thought– Say NO to Canned Snow!! The only situation where this might be a good idea would be a live tree. If you do, try and spray it outdoors or take careful precautions to protect furniture and walls if you must spray the tree indoors. Never spray canned snow on an artificial tree unless you plan on throwing it out after that use. And please, please, PLEASE… only spray a tree BEFORE you add lights or ornaments. The spray will ruin them for future use. If you want the snow effect on your tree, buy a flocked tree. They are some other options that I’ll share with you in the next installment.

If you have any questions or comments, please contact me! I’d be happy to help.

Next Up: Decorating Your Tree– To Stuff or Not to Stuff?

Decking The Halls For The Holidays: Part One- Getting Ready

I thought I’d share a series of posts on one of my favorite pastimes: Decorating for the Holidays. From trees to garlands to centerpieces– for some, decorating can be a daunting task. Whether you’re a novice or a pro, and whether you love or dread decorating, I hope you’ll find a few of my suggestions helpful as you begin adding a little magic to your home.

IMG_1680 - Version 2Here we are, one week before Thanksgiving and if you haven’t already, its time to start thinking about decking the halls. I want to start with a few tips that might help spark some creativity before you either haul out the old decorations stored in the attic or hit the stores in search of the perfect holiday items.

Most important: Let your creative juices flow! Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Express Yourself!

Best Tip of the Day: Use Ribbon and Picks & Stems* to hide imperfections and add the finishing touches to your holiday decor.

Five Things to Consider Before You Start:

1. Cost– It might be a good idea to have a budget of how much you want, or can afford to invest in your decorating. It’s very easy to spend more than you intend if you don’t nail down an amount as you start your planning.

Do a little research before you buy anything. What may seem like a simple idea could end up costing you a lot more than you anticipated. Ten ornaments are not going to decorate your whole tree and three strings of lights aren’t going to be bright enough. Be prepared to purchase more than you originally thought you’d need or have a backup plan if you run out.

You can save a lot of money on future decorating by shopping the after Christmas sales where you can usually save 70-90% off retail. In recent years, a lot of retailers are marking down decorations by 50% a week or two before the holidays just to clear the shelves.

Some stores have sales running now. If you wait until after Thanksgiving weekend, you are probably going to pay premium prices. AND– the longer you wait, the smaller the selection.

For the Christmas Fanatic— Keep your eyes open year round for items that might be used seasonally. I’ve found lots of end-of-season clearance bargains where I can find large quantities of items for pennies on the dollar. I have a Victorian house so it’s easy for me to incorporate spring, wedding, and other specific floral bunches and floral picks & stems*  into my holiday decorating. I also have at least one Christmas tree that I decorate with a natural or woodsy theme, making many fall clearance items a perfect addition.

2. Storage– Be realistic about how much space you have for storage. Many holiday decorations are fragile and require careful packaging and storage which takes up even more space. Christmas trees take up a lot of space. I know a lot of city apartment dwellers still prefer buying live over investing in an artificial tree because of limited storage space.

3. Time & Space– Decorating can be time consuming. It can also be very relaxing way to spend your free time if you aren’t in a rush. If this is your first year decorating or you are trying something new– allow for more time. I suggest taking the time to get organized and sort out what you have before you actually start decorating. I always find I’m missing a box or have less of something than I remembered. There’s nothing worse than getting deep into a project and discovering you don’t have enough to finish. When computing your time equation, don’t forget the time you’ll need to take it all down after the holidays are over and store it away.

You can do wonderful things in a smaller space if you put some thought into it. A small tabletop tree in a loft can be as equally effective as a 10 foot tree in a larger home. A few small additions to your space can do wonders to create that holiday atmosphere.

IMG_12444. Theme– Are you going to have an individual room theme or overall theme to your decorating? A color theme, perhaps? Themes are great but can be limiting, especially if you are on a tight budget. Keep in mind that trendy styles and colors might not satisfy you in future years. Consider what will work best with your year-round decor and lifestyle first.

When considering color, remember green ornaments don’t stand out on a green tree. Also, colored lights can be a challenge. I found years when simple red or green Christmas lights were impossible to find! Make sure you have enough before you start!

5. Purpose or Repurpose– As much as I love new decorations, I find it’s more fun to find new uses for old ones. There are elements of my decorating that stay the same from year to year and others that I always change, at least make alterations. I often use items in my holiday design that aren’t specifically intended for Christmas decorating.

Try to incorporate items you already have into your holiday look. The everyday items on your mantle or table don’t necessarily have to disappear until January. Unless you want something completely different, try adding a little garland, artificial poinsettias, a few ornaments… and you can achieve the same festive look.

Holiday decorations that may start to look tired and worn and don’t stand up well on their own, may still work perfectly as part of a larger grouping or display.

Keep in mind that effective Holiday Decorating does not necessarily mean you need to completely transform your space into something different. Try simple accessories and you may be able to achieve the same results. No matter how elaborate your decorating plan becomes, don’t let it become so overwhelming that you aren’t able to take the time to relax and enjoy the beautiful atmosphere you’ve worked so hard to create.

*Picks & Stems– Artificial flowers, berries, fruit and baubles used to accent floral arrangement.

Next Up: Selecting and Prepping Your Christmas Tree

Creating Illusions

In a few hours we’ll begin our first read through of the script, Ragtime, our spring musical, at school. I spent most of the morning getting copies of a character development sheet ready to pass out to the students. The long rehearsal process begins!

I also spent time outside taking down Christmas lights, using this unseasonably warm weather to my advantage.

What do these two activities have in common?

They made me think about how much of our lives we spend creating illusions.

Whether we are decorating for the holidays, or daily life… landscaping, painting the interior or exterior of our homes, we are in affect creating an illusion. Without plantings, color and furnishings we basically have a relatively plain, hollow shell.

In preparation for performance, actors develop characters– their look, how they talk, move and appear to the audience. By carefully manipulating their behavior and appearance, actors can completely become someone else.

How much time do we spend creating these same illusions in real life?

We all live our lives as actors creating illusions. We may want to appear smarter, or richer, or younger, or older. We try to adjust our look in a way that will appeal to others in certain situations. In some cases, we may want to appear sick or tired or unattractive.. but it’s still an illusion. It’s only when we strip off the make up, the clothing, let our hair down and stop trying to be something else –that our true selves are evident.

In the end, don’t we really want people to just accept us for who we are underneath the disguise?

The true reality is that without the costuming and pageantry, most of us would be completely overlooked. Society expects certain efforts towards appearance. Success doesn’t come to most without great efforts of visual transformations.

I say, the most successful people are those that can see beyond the illusion and measure the person hidden underneath by their inner beauty.

In the end, that’s all that is all that we really have.

 

Today’s Pic of the Day: Down comes Christmas. Just the beginning of the process.