How to handle a real Christmas tree

Festive Fridays

How to handle a real Christmas tree

Personally, I grew up with artificial trees. I consider them more humane than killing a live tree for decorative purposes, but I recognize that some people love the tradition of going out and cutting your own and I fully support all of the local tree farms that provide an opportunity for people to have natural greens in their houses for the holidays. The following is a guide to finding your perfect tree and some tips for what to do with your greens after the holidays are over.

For those who put so much time and effort into selecting the perfect Christmas tree, due consideration should be given to giving your tree the best possible care. If not, you will surely be disappointed when the needles start to turn brown or yellow, or branches begin to break days or weeks before the season is over. Safety is also an important reason to take proper care of your Christmas tree because a drying Christmas tree also presents a serious danger as a fire hazard. An average Christmas tree should last for about five to six weeks if the proper care is taken.

After selecting your Christmas tree, the first thing that should be done when you get it home is to make a fresh cut and place it into a stand with water. A Christmas tree shouldn’t be mounted dry. The water in its stand should be refreshed regularly. A fresh cut is made by cutting about an inch from the bottom at a slight diagonal to help the tree to absorb water. If a fresh cut isn’t made and the Christmas tree is left exposed to air, the vessels for transporting water can become blocked. This could lead to premature browning and the tree could become a fire hazard due to drying out. Your Christmas tree should be secure in its stand and it should stand away from open flames or sources of heat such as furnaces, fireplaces and air vents, all of which may dry it out.

Decoration of the tree should begin after it has been mounted in its stand. Take sensible precautions when decorating to lessen or avoid your Christmas tree becoming a fire hazard. Ornaments that have an open flame or candles should never be used as decorations.

Christmas tree lights should be checked to make sure the bulbs are working properly, the connections are intact and that no part of the cord is damaged. If there appears to be any exposed wiring or bulbs that are not working or which are working intermittently, that string of Christmas tree lights should not be used.

Select a good Christmas tree stand because water is the most important ingredient to getting the longest life out of your Christmas tree. When selecting a stand, find out how much water it can hold when your tree is placed in it. Some water will be displaced by the base of the tree, so it is important that your decision is not based on the total volume of water the stand can hold.

According to the National Christmas Tree Association, an average Christmas tree can absorb as much as a gallon of water every day. Therefore, it’s important to check the water everyday and refill as needed. To make sure your Christmas tree gets enough water, the Association recommends that one quart of water is provided for every inch in diameter of the tree’s trunk.

After Christmas is over and your wonderfully decorated Christmas tree has provided such holiday joy, it is important to remove it before it dries out. Options to discard your Christmas will likely depend on the services offered by your local government. Some municipalities will pick up Christmas trees on specific days. Some towns may require that residents take their trees to a specific location. In others, Christmas trees will be picked up with the trash on certain dates.

Christmas trees should never be burned in your fireplace! It can cause the build up of creosote, a colorless, oily substance that can lead to chimney fires. A much better alternative is to make mulch of the tree by cutting it to pieces yourself.

If you prefer live trees to artificial ones, please keep these important safety tips in mind to ensure a healthy and happy holiday season with the splendid, natural scent of a pine or fir tree.

10 Quick Tips to Save You Time and Money Storing Your Decorations

10 Quick Tips to Save You Time and Money Storing Your Decorations

Okay, maybe inviting the kittens to help isn’t terribly productive but the process of putting Christmas away for the year doesn’t need to be drudgery. Taking a little time and following these ten tips will help you…

luggage

  • A. Save time by getting your Christmas decorations organized so you can find them quickly and easily next holiday season
  • B. Save space by using boxes that can be easily stacked and organized.
  • C. Save money by storing your Christmas lights and decorations in a way that preserves their quality and extends their life span.

10 Quick Tips

1. Use Clear Plastic Boxes – These are great because you can see the contents without having to spend time labeling each box. Plus the plastic helps protect from moisture better than cardboard. When stacking, be sure to place the largest and heaviest boxes on the bottom and smaller boxes on the top.

2. Box your Beads – Pack the beads in small boxes such as plastic shoe boxes. If you use many strands of beads, larger boxes could become too heavy. To keep the beads from becoming tangled, place individual strands in baggies. If you prefer, you can wrap each strand around empty paper towel rolls and tape the ends.

3. Don’t Heap Up the Christmas Lights – Use reels to wind your strands of lights so they don’t get tangled. You can use Santa’s Bags that include stackable reels. Another way to go is to use a kind of wind up like you’d use for a power cord. If you’re sticking with the clear plastic boxes, you can roll individual light strands into a gallon zip-lock bag to prevent them getting tangled.

4. Save Space with Re-Shapeable Decorations – Bows made of wired ribbon can be flattened and reshaped next year. Wired ribbon garlands and streamers can be tightly rolled. They don’t need to be flattened unless you need to conserve space.

5. Don’t Crush Your Wreaths – Wreaths can be stacked in larger boxes but each wreath should be wrapped with bubble wrap. If they aren’t wrapped then they shouldn’t be stacked. Bubble wrap can be purchased where office supplies are sold. Wreath boxes can also be purchased and are readily available on the Internet and in stores.
Twinkling Strand
6. Wrap Christmas Ornaments Properly – Ornaments should be individually wrapped in white tissue paper or where greater protection is needed, wrap in bubble wrap. Since most ornaments are lightweight they can be stored in large boxes. If you still have the original boxes the ornaments came in, then store them in these and then place them in the storage container.

7. Protect Christmas Decorations from Moisture – If you live in a humid climate using plastic containers may not be enough to protect from moisture. Place packets of silica gel in each container to avoid damage from humidity. Silica gel can be purchased at arts and craft stores. If you cannot find individual packets, you can make your own by wrapping several tablespoons of silica gel in white tissue paper and securing with tape. Several packets should be placed throughout the box.

8. Guard Against Temperature Extremes – Delicate decorations such as ornaments made with photos or wax can be temperature sensitive. Store them in a climate-controlled area or they could deteriorate, melt or stick together.

9. Clearly identify Christmas Storage Boxes – Attach a red ribbon or tag to each Christmas storage box. This will make them easy to identify next Christmas if they have been stored with other boxes unrelated to Christmas decorations.

10. De-clutter – Some people have a tendency to just “hang onto stuff” in hopes that they’ll find a use for it later. Don’t waste space by holding onto old ornaments you know you’ll never use again (unless of course it has some sentimental significance). Just toss out the trash.

christmas wreathA final note: You may also want to consider Christmas ornament boxes and wreath boxes for especially fine ornaments and wreaths instead of clear storage containers. They are available in stores and on the Internet. They are very convenient and some are even acid free for even greater protection for your fine collectibles. They are more expensive, but for high quality, valuable ornaments this may be a worthwhile investment.

A little organization today will take some of the stress out of Christmas decorating next yuletide. Happy un-decorating!

Falling Needles Family Fest Day and Bacon Day

Falling Needles Family Fest Day and Bacon Day

Only one day left in the year and we’re looking at cleaning up and having a jolly good treat.

Falling Needles Family Fest Day

Maybe you’re not ready to take down the Christmas tree just yet, but when you do please act responsibly. Falling Needles Family Fest Day is another of the wacky holidays invented by the folks at wellcat.com

I’ve linked some tips for environmentally friendly ways to dispose of a live Christmas tree. If your township does not provide a drop off point or a curbside woodchipper, you might want to consider the tips in the video.

As far as cleaning up the pine needles in your home, remember to empty your vacuum canister or put in a fresh bag. Whatever the vacuum doesn’t get up can be gathered with a lint roller. You can also use nail polish remover, rubbing alcohol or even hand sanitizer to get sap off your hands after you’ve cleaned up after your tree.

Bacon Day

It’s almost shocking that we’ve had to wait this late in the year to celebrate something as delicious and versatile as bacon. Bacon is marvelous for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Some people even indulge in bacon candy or bacon flavored ice cream. That’s a bit beyond my tastes, but there are countless novelties associated with bacon that you can find if you’re a connoisseur. Bacon Day

For your Sixth Day of Christmas, six geese a flying? Well, geese are wild. Just try finding a picture of them laying.
 

Six Geese A Laying

Look for an Evergreen Day and Oatmeal Muffin Day

Look for an Evergreen Day and Oatmeal Muffin Day

Today, we’re on the hunt for the perfect natural tree and we’re going to fortify ourselves for the search with a hearty oatmeal muffin!

Look for an Evergreen Day

The Perfect Tree Many people enjoy the scent of a natural Christmas tree and have made a family tradition of finding just the right one.

The evergreen tree is a symbol of everlasting life. In the midst of stark winter landscapes, the evergreen tree remains a beacon of hope.

The tradition of decorating evergreen trees began in Germany in the 16th Century and became part of English tradition when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert popularized German ways of celebrating the season in the 1840s. The first reports of Christmas trees in America were in the homes of German immigrants in the 1830s.

Oatmeal Muffin Day

Oatmeal is a classic cold weather comfort food. Who doesn’t remember starting the day with a steaming hot bowl of oatmeal topped with brown sugar, honey or fruit? Oatmeal also makes a wonderful batch of cookies. One of my favorite with or without the raisins.

Oatmeal contains calcium, potassium and soluble fiber that provides heart health benefits and can reduce blood pressure. Oatmeal also contains a compound called β-glucan that can help to reduce appetite.

Blueberry Oat Muffins - Click through for the recipe to these wonderful muffins

Click through for the recipe to these wonderful muffins. Image courtesy of elegantemily at allrecipes.com

Interesting Holiday Stats

Santa Checking His List

Interesting Holiday Stats

Did you know the vast number of resources processed during the holiday season? Below are a few interesting statistics regarding the number of cards and gifts sent, party food eaten, and more.

Holiday Shopping

Holiday sales are expected to hit $439.53 billion this year. December accounts for roughly 15% of stores’ yearly sales, with the exception of jewelry stores for which it is closer to 24%. Most Americans only expect to spend an average of $854 each this holiday reason. On Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday 2013, approximately $12.3 billion was spent.  The new experiment of opening shops on Thanksgiving rather than waiting until midnight on Black Friday resulted in lower percentage of sales on the infamous shopping holiday. Residents of the New England states are anticipated to spend more than the rest of the country, while the South is expected to spend the least overall.

Christmas Cards

Do you enjoy receiving lots of cards in the mail? There are roughly 1.6 billion Christmas cards sent in the United States every year to friends, family members and acquaintances. This makes Christmas the #1 card sending occasion, followed by Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.  The greeting card manufacturers are being heavily impacted by the prevalence of free, instant options available online.

Presents

The number UPS is expected to deliver this year is over 340 million. The busiest day for UPS in the 2013 holiday season was Monday, December 16th when they reached 34 million deliveries, which translates to 394 packages being delivered every second during that day.  FedEx’s busiest day was 22 million deliveries on Monday, December 2nd.

Toys

About 45% of shoppers will be purchasing toys this year, with video games and Barbie being the products most sought after.  California leads the nation in toy production with 10 locations that produce dolls and stuffed animals as well as 88 locations that produce games, children’s vehicles and other toys.

Party food

Are you tired of turkey once Christmas is over? This may be why. The USDA  approximates that there are more than 244 million turkeys raised in the United States with as many as 60 million making it to the table through the holiday season. Americans eat an average of 13.7 pounds of turkey every year! I know I do my share of compensating for the vegetarians among us.  It is also reported that 7.3 billion shrimp are consumed at as many as 46 million holiday gatherings.  According to a Reader’s Digest poll, the favorite Christmas cookie in Pennsylvania is the Pizzelle and the national favorite is the Sugar Cookie.  I certainly enjoy both, but I definitely have a soft spot for a warm chocolate chip cookie.

Decorating

Most malls and other stores begin decorating for the holiday season on November 1st, but as many as 40% begin well before Halloween to get ready for early-bird shoppers.  Shopping centers spend an average of $22,998 on their holiday decorations.  Many retailers begin receiving deliveries of holiday decor in June or July and begin closing out their summer and gardening stock to make way for the yuletide supplies.  You know I love Christmas all year long, but let’s at least wait until after Labor Day!

Christmas Trees

If it is your practice to go chop down a tree and lug it home, check this out. There are 20.8 million Christmas trees cut in the U.S. every year, with the most (over 25%) coming from Oregon. Tree farmers reap roughly $506 million from this tradition. There are $69 million in artificial trees imported from China each year. Artificial Christmas trees have outsold real ones annually since 1991.

Christmas Tree Ornaments

China is the largest producer of Christmas ornaments which totals $592 million from January through August. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates there are around 250 injuries per day from decorating accidents and Christmas tree fires.

Holiday Music

The holiday song most frequently played is “Jingle Bells”. Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” runs a close second, but it is the #1 best selling Christmas single of all time.

Christmas Decoration Ideas for Kids

Christmas Decoration Ideas for Kids

Are you a parent? If so, you already know how much kids love the holidays. That is why you should seriously consider letting your children help you decorate for Christmas.Kids certainly do love the Holiday Season In fact, in addition to just letting them help you hang Christmas decorations, you can let them make their own handmade Christmas decorations. There are a number of benefits to doing so, and you will also find that there are a number of fun and exciting Christmas decorations that they can easily make.  Handmade keepsakes from your child will be a lifelong treasure.  Why, I made a papier-mache planet in elementary school with a yarn ring that my parents refer to as “the blue bomb”.  Their tree isn’t officially decorated until it’s on there.

Most every family that celebrates Christmas has a Christmas tree; therefore, there is a good chance that your family will have one. One fun and exciting Christmas craft project that your children could do involves making their own Christmas ornaments. Christmas ornaments can be made from regular paper or any other type of material. In fact, you can purchase a number of Christmas ornament cutouts or guides from your local craft store. These ornament pieces are likely plain, but already shaped like something, such as a star or a cross. It would be up to your child to paint their ornament. This type of Christmas decoration craft project is great for small children or those who may be making their own Christmas decorations for the first time.  Another excellent ornament that children can help you with is the permanent cookie.  We’ll post a set of directions for these in an upcoming article.

In addition to Christmas trees, a large number of families have small Christmas signs or pictures throughout their home. These signs and pictures often state a Christmas message or have a picture of Santa. Your children could easily make their own paintings or drawings, often with the supplies that can already be found inside your home. Your child’s picture would likely look great on your refrigerator or you could even frame the picture and hang it up somewhere else inside your home. This type of Christmas decoration craft project is ideal for children of any age and, as previously mentioned, is a great way to save money since you likely already have all of the needed supplies.

Kids can bring something to the table besides an appetite if you let themAnother fun Christmas decoration that your children could do is make a centerpiece for your dinning room table. In fact, you may also want to use that centerpiece for your Christmas dinner. If you are looking for a somewhat elegant centerpiece, you could easily have your children make their own. You can do this by purchasing artificial flowers, a large bowl or vase, as well as other decorative items. Your children can easily arrange these items to create their own unique centerpieces for your dinning room table. It may also be a good idea to let them be crafty. Your child may also be able to create a centerpiece in the shape of Santa or a Christmas tree by using construction paper and a few other small supplies.

The above mentioned Christmas craft decoration ideas for kids are just a few of the many that exist. In addition to using your own craft ideas, you can also find a number of other fun Christmas craft projects for kids online. You can find a collection of ideas by performing a standard internet search. Also, in your local library or at one of your local book stores, you may also be able to find a collection of Christmas craft books for children. These books tend to outline the supplies needed, as well as give detailed directions on how to make Christmas decorations. These decorations may include Christmas drawings or paintings, tree ornaments, table centerpieces, and much more.

Kids will enjoy the tree even more if you let them help to decorate it

Regardless of which type of Christmas decorations you allow your child or children to make, they will likely enjoy the experience, especially if you participate as well. For a child, there is nothing like seeing their Christmas drawings hanging on the walls or their Christmas ornaments hanging on the tree. That is why you are advised to let your children make their own Christmas decorations. As mentioned above, there are a number of decorations that they can easily create; decorations that may require little time and money.