christmas tree

  • De-Trimming the Tree

    epiphanyausIf you observe the church calendar, you know that today is the Feast of the Epiphany. This day marks the last day of the 12 days of Christmas, and as such is the more traditional day when the garland is stowed away, the ornaments and nativity scenes are boxed up and the tree comes down.

    treeThis is not usually a fun job, nobody really wants to do it. Call it the after Christmas blues or an eagerness to get back to normal routines, but you know it just like I do that a warm body is nowhere to be found when it's time to put it all away. I have known some who leave their tree up far longer, trying to avoid the inevitable, and redecorate it for Valentines Day, hehee. But, seriously, if you have a real Christmas tree, the fire danger gets to be a bit high if you keep it around too long. So bribe the troops with some warm brownies right out of the oven and get 'er done.  Promise what you must if you need or want the help, but maybe you will do as I've been and just put on your favorite music, crank the volume up a bit and tackle the task yourself. You can then enlist someone to drag the tree down to the curb later.

    I've been de-trimming our tree and house now for a few years, and actually look forward to it now. It has become the peace after the storm for me, another time to reflect not just on the Christmas season but also the year.

    See, it's all in how you frame these things, hehee.

    Photo courtesy: epiphany, tree

     

  • Feeding the Birds at Christmas

    wintertime bird feederThis morning the radio announcer was seeking to encourage all of us hardy Minnesotans with his news that sunrise is now, officially, occurring earlier in the morning. Yes, it's true, about 1 minute every other day earlier.  So, basically that means a month from now, sunrise will be about 15 minutes earlier. It might be small, but I'll take it.

    Our tiny bird friends must count the winter days too in their own little way. It is pretty surprising that their little bodies can somehow survive the extreme temps of the northern states, but it is due at least in part to bird lovers everywhere who hang suet feeders from the barren branches in their yard. I did a little research on suet and discovered that, really, it is simply lard with nuts, seeds, berries, etc added in. Used to be that women would actually save the bacon grease or the fat rendered from beef, and use it in recipes. But now, there's no need to save it up.....just get a few small supplies together and we'll make some Cupcake Liner Suet Bird Feeders!

    how-to-make-suet-feeder-8

    Truth is, these look quite festive too hanging on the trees, don't they?! :) What a win-win for Christmas!

    To learn all the ins and outs of making these, check out the instructions here. Watching the birds is not just a spring and summer activity anymore ~ this is something we can all do, even if we aren't home owners. Just think of the little wings you'll be buoying, and saving their lives in the process. If you're looking for a new Christmas tradition to add into the mix, try this one. How sweet would that be?

    Merry Christmas to the birds too. :)

  • Alternative Christmas Tree

    2009 Christmas TreeIt is true that I love my big and wide and real Christmas trees for the holidays. In fact I kind of love bringing the outdoors in all year long, and I bet many of you are like that too. If I could find a way to live outside all year long and stay warm, dry and comfortable, I'd be all over that. Okay, maybe not, but we are one of those families that does leave the window cracked open in the winter for the fresh air, so there's that. :)

    Today's post highlights just that...bringing the outdoors in and using a bit of creativity to do it. We just spent the afternoon putting our vegetable garden to bed for the winter, so now the garage is full of gardening paraphernalia. The tomato cages caught my eye as we were stacking them in the corner, and my imagination began twirling . . . hmm,  what could I do to transform those wiry things into something useful, pretty, festive. And, apparently I'm not the only one to have those thoughts.

    I love love LOVE this idea for decorating the deck and even the big window flower boxes we've got outside our living room window.  We had a stray cat last winter that decided to use those window boxes as her litter box, ugh! So we've got plans to put something in there this year, and this is just perfect! Simply invert those tomato cages, wrap with some weather-proof garland and lights, and wow, what a fabulous view both from the inside and out!

    But, that's not all! Bring 'em inside, put one in the corner of the bathroom, another in the kitchen, scatter them around the house...so easy and so creative! And, honestly, what could be better than a tree in every single room? Nothing, I dare say, absolutely nothing.

     

    Photo credit:  nedesignbuild.com

     

  • O Christmas Tree

    issuu.comO Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree,
    How lovely are your branches!
    O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree,
    How lovely are your branches!
    In beauty green will always grow
    Through summer sun and winter snow.
    O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
    How lovely are your branches!

    I've already shared with you how I was always that girl who wanted the tallest, widest, biggest tree on the lot only to get it  home and have to have the boys cut off an inch or two (okay, a foot) just to get it in the door. When we lived for a brief time in a condominium that disallowed real trees, I purchased my first ever artificial tree. It was a sad day indeed!

    But, that artificy was small and slender and not messy, lending it at least a little saving grace (emphasis on little). What if we could combine the real smell of pine with a small size AND be kind to the environment? ENTER: the live Christmas tree! Just like the infamous Christmas carol sings, "In beauty green will always grow through summer sun and winter snow..." You really can have it all!

    Whether you grow this live Christmas tree yourself or purchase it from a grower, there are a few things to know that differ from trees that are cut down.

    • If you live in a cool/cold climate, introduce your live tree slowly to the warmer environment of your home by putting it in  your unheated garage or porch for a few days. If you bring it the house straight away, it will signal it to start growing which isn't a problem in the short run, but if you plan to plant the tree in your yard after the season (and this is such a fantastic idea on so many levels), that burst of growth will not be a good thing.
    • While it's in the garage, check it for insects, critters, eggs. Needless to say, you don't want to skip this step. :)
    • Place the tree ball in a large galvanized tub and locate it in the coolest room of the house so that it retains as much moisture as possible.
    • Use rocks and/or bricks to stabilize the tree so that it stands upright securely.
    • Decorate as you normally would, and water the tree regularly so as to keep the roots/burlap ball moist but not soaking wet.
    • When it's time to introduce it back outside, reverse the process by placing the de-decorated tree in the garage for a few days. And, then plant it!

    It's best to limit the tree's indoor time to no more than 10 days. With three tree likely appearing last on the scene, going this route might require an adjustment to your normal way of decorating for the holidays. But, I really really like this idea....it gives everyone the opportunity to anticipate the tree while enjoying all the other activities that go with the season.

    Check out some of the decorations that Merry Stockings has on the website, too. There are stocking kits, ornaments, Christmas Tree skirts and more! Shop early for the best pricing. :)

     

    Photo credit:  issuu.com

  • The Incredible Edible Christmas Tree

    cheese platterSometimes the simplest ingredients put together in a creative way make the best food. Are you going to a holiday party, perhaps your office party or a neighborhood gathering? Short on time? Or are you having some friends over for a casual holiday shindig and you know you don't need to be fussy with the food? This edible Christmas tree, made of your favorite cheeses, grape tomatoes and fresh sprigs of rosemary is the perfect ticket.

    I was thinking, too, that if you want to add even more interest, you could sprinkle on some snow i.e. feta crumbles! If you don't like white space, you could fill in the border by drizzling some raspberry chipotle sauce.

    Speaking of raspberry chipotle sauce, another really easy appetizer to take to or serve at a holiday party that is also quite the looker is to empty a bottle of that spiciness over brick of cream cheese. Use a very festive platter and you won't believe the compliments.  The combination of the heat from the sauce and the creaminess of the cheese is only surpassed in delectability by how this looks. So stunning!!

    The recommendation temperature for cheese in order to have superior taste is, you guessed it, room temperature! Setting this platter (or your Chipotle Cream Cheese) out ahead of time could prove hazardous if you are hungry!

    How would you modify this delicious, pretty, edible Christmas tree?

     

    Photo courtesy

  • A Christmas Tree for Small Spaces

    driftwood treeI have always been the girl who wants the biggest Christmas tree on the lot. And, I admit, there have been more than a few times that we get the tree home, and the boys have to cut off several inches to sometimes even a foot so it'd fit!

    A few years ago, I broke myself of that habit when we lived in a small condo in the suburbs of Minneapolis....it was efficient, cute and served our purposes and needs at the time. But, when Christmas came and it was time to put the tree up, there was a lot of shuffling of things around in order to make room for it. No big, expansive bird-nesting tree for us! If only I'd seen this idea back then!

    We now live in a restored mansion with big, expansive rooms, and honestly? I still think this would be fantastic as a second tree, say above the fireplace or just on any blank wall? Yes, please! Once Christmas is over, the driftwood "shelves" could pull double duty and hold other decorative items. The rustic feel of this space-saving tree would also work perfectly at the cabin where extended family gather to celebrate the holidays.

    So practical, so pretty, so charming!! Hang your ornaments, string your lights, top it with a star or angel. Even a pretty little skirt around the bottom would absolutely work.

     

    Photo courtesy

  • Bonfire Bucket

    Christmas is a time when we typically have more guests visiting our homes . . . good friends, extended family or even those Christmas carolers!  We have the opportunity to give a gift of welcome and warmth right on the front porch.

    I am a big believer in keeping things as simple as possible, so when I saw this idea of using an old galvanized pot and loading it up with some logs, clipped evergreen branches, pine cones and some white lights, that little voice inside of me said "yes please!" I love how the white lights give the appearance of a glowing fire, like a little bonfire right there on the porch.

    This time of the summer is a great time to pick up pots like this at your local gardening center or even the garden section at the big box stores. Find the biggest ones you can for this project, and I suggest you pick up several. This project is perfect, yes, for the front porch, but think also of the possibilities indoors . . . perfect for decorating the hearth, or how about in the corner of the bathroom or the guest bedroom to serve as a nightlight for guests? I think there are so many places to grace with this simple-to-put-together and down-to-earth decoration.

    Here's all you'll need for each bonfire bucket project:

    • 1 galvanized bucket/pot
    • trimmed evergreen branches (think Christmas tree!)
    • 3-4 small logs
    • 4-6 pine cones, various sizes
    • String of 25 white lights

    Simple to put together, too!

     

    Photo Credit

     

  • Cleaning up after Christmas

    My Target ad has a sale on plastic storage bins this week, from special sizes to hold wreaths and ornaments, to the regular box shapes. I'm certainly not ready to pack away my holiday decorations yet, but it did get me thinking...what are some things I can do to make that process easier? And even better, what could make next year's decorating process smoother?

    Our empty stockings are now laying in a pile, having served their purpose for the year. I realized a while ago that each hanging-ribbon should be stored in its own stocking. This year, I'm adding a photo of how the stockings are hung on the railing with even spacing. Sounds silly, but I always end up rearranging the garland and untying/retying them several times to get it right. (Probably not so tricky if you're using stocking hangers on a mantle. :))

    If you have a real tree, Kevin Sharkey suggests putting a large plastic bag around the base, under your tree skirt. Then when you're ready to bring the tree outside for trash or for the birds, you won't have such a needle-y mess. Maybe you could even store a bag with your tree stand now, so that you remember for next year.

    Does anyone else have an empty cardboard box lying around after present-opening? Maybe ten? Don't recycle all of them, but instead cut them into pieces and wrap your strings of lights and tinsel garlands around them. No more untangling battles when it's time to light the tree next year! Thank you, Taylor at Household Management 101.

    I've seen a couple of good tips on Pinterest for storing ornaments, if you don't want to buy special bins. One from the Greenbacks Gal is storing small ornaments in empty egg cartons. Another from Martha Stewart is making your own storage by hot-gluing plastic cups to a sheet of cardboard. I like this because you could make the boards any size you want, to fit the size of your bin and the amount of ornaments that you have.

    What are you doing to simplify or organize your post-Christmas cleanup?

  • Burlap Christmas Decorations

    You've probably noticed that burlap is hot in home decor. Perhaps because it can complement so many decorating styles, this simple fabric is showing up everywhere from do-it-yourself projects to chic home stores. Christmas decorating is certainly no exception. A quick perusal of Pinterest turned up a treasure trove of burlap items.

    One of the simplest ways to add burlap to your home is on the dining table. A simple length of fabric can serve as a runner to anchor your centerpiece and serving platters. Or take it to the next level by weaving together 2 colors of burlap, as shown by the gals at Six Sisters Stuff. Yes, that's right, you can buy colored burlap - just imagine the additional possibilities! :)

    Michelle at Sweet Something Designs layered burlap placemats over red plaid for a nice textural contrast. As she demonstrates with her outdoor tablescape, this look could easily be tweaked to work for any season or holiday.

    If you're interested in a little splash of burlap in the living room, a throw pillow is perfect. Etsy, the source for so much handmade loveliness, has several cute options for Christmas and winter. Or try making one yourself, using Amy's example at All In A Day.

     

     

     

     

     

    How about a little burlap on the front door? There are many different styles of  burlap wreaths, to suit any taste. Most use some type of embellishment.

     

     

     

     

     

    Allison, from A Glimpse Inside, wrapped the burlap around a form and added ribbon medallion flowers. Linda at Craftaholics Anonymous used strips of burlap, and Brooke created a ruffled look.

    Kathryn of NannyGoat wove a wire hanger through a long strip of burlap; you can't get much thriftier than that! She also attached her fabric rosettes with pins instead of glue, so that they easily can be switched out for different accent pieces in another season.

    Check out these adorable Christmas trees, made using burlap and other materials. Once again, the unique texture is what makes this fabric really stand out.

    Artsy Va Va added some metal stars to give her trees a more rustic look. The Shanty 2 Chic versions combine burlap and canvas fabrics for a clean, crisp wintry design - check out both tutorials, for the ruffled tree and the one covered with rosettes.

     

    In keeping with this trend, Merry Stockings is excited to present a new personalized burlap stocking. Choose red or green trim, the perfect look for your mantle this year.

    If this post has inspired you to try some burlap crafting, here are a few tips:

    • If you aren't able to find colored burlap, you can spray-paint it any color you want! (from Brooke at All Things Thrifty)
    • Burlap will dull your good fabric scissors, so use an old or inexpensive pair. (from Six Sisters' Stuff)

    Do you have any burlap decor items in your home? Anything you made yourself?

     

  • Christmas tree farms

    When I was a kid, my parents took my brothers and I to a local Christmas tree farm to cut down our Christmas tree. My parents provided us boys with great memories as we all cherished piling into the station wagon and heading up north to get the tree. Some years it snowed and we brought sleds. Some years we brought our ice skates and skated on a pond close to the farm. It truly was a special time that even as kids we cherished. Looking back on those memories is fun and when my wife and I started having kids we continued the tradition. Going to a farm and cutting down your own Christmas tree is so much fun and I personally think more memorable than going to Home Depot to get a tree.

    MerryStockings recently hired a writer to capture the fun of Christmas tree farms and all that they represent. The article is something we will post on our website and we hope you take a few minutes to read it. It's a great article and a great summary of a wonderful tradition.

    Full article: Christmas tree farms

    Thanks for stopping by!

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