Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Time to trim the Tree Part 1 - Lights, Baubles, Action!

I always like to have my tree up and decorated by the 1st December but this year my tree has been up since the second week of November! Why so early you ask? - well several reasons 1. I wanted to do posts for this blog on how to trim a tree 2. I adore Christmas and simply couldn't wait, so I chose to celebrate my birthday by decorating my tree! 3. I am almost 38 weeks pregnant and standing and stooping to hang ornaments and twirl lights and garlands around branches for long periods during our current heatwave would have not helped my poor, swollen ankles! I am so pleased I chose to set up my tree earlier than usual - I feel organized and prepared knowing that one of the bigger tasks involved in decorating for Christmas has already been accomplished.
This is my tree, unadorned and set out in the spot I chose for this Christmas, next to our cast iron wood burner in the corner of our formal living room. Remember - I am in Australia - it is summer here and the fire will not be lit, otherwise, it would not be so close to the fireplace!

It is a faux tree and I have owned it for ten years. It is starting to look a little tired, the needles are starting to drop off and I hope to replace it with a taller, bushier spruce or conifer but not this year. Maybe, I will purchase one in the New Year sales. This tree was purchased in a Boxing Day sale - we were disappointed to find all the trees had been sold so I took the liberty of asking a sales assistant whether I could purchase the tree which stood decorated at the front of the store at the 50% off price. They said yes and just asked us to return a few hours later so they could remove the decorations!

I always used to have a real tree and I loved our family tradition of visiting the Christmas tree farm to choose a tree but I was running Christmas decorating seminars out of my home during November and finding that my tree was just not lasting until the end of December. One year (the year I was expecting a baby) I had to take down my tree the week before Christmas and find a replacement - a very sorry looking specimen- a self-sown pine seedling cut down from the side of the road. On the morning I chose to decorate my new 'weedy' tree I went into labour and was hanging ornaments in between contractions! By morning tea time, I had a decorated tree and even managed to get the angel on the top - it was not my best decorating effort but if you have ever tried to decorate a tree during labour you would understand why! Shortly after this, I had made my way to the bathroom, my husband had come inside after being out on the farm and following a few more powerful and painful contractions and with just one push, my son was born and delivered into the hands of my husband! The midwife was still on her way but I was ecstatic - my fourth child had arrived in time for Christmas and my tree was decorated!

After this experience, especially as I surveyed the pathetic pine I said to my husband - 'That's it - no more real trees!' I have found too, that the faux tree is much easier to decorate, it holds the ornaments well and the branches do not droop. The effort of keeping a tree alive is avoided and the needles do not endlessly drop all over the floor. If you want the scent of a real tree you can actually buy a pine scented spray. I believe 'Crabtree & Evelyn' make a beautiful 'Christmas scented' room spray which can be used for this purpose.

Now I have shared my most infamous tree decorating story, I can show you how I decorate my tree. I always start with lights, beginning at the top of the tree and winding them down towards the bottom, ensuring that the strands are set well back into the branches. Many people make the mistake of putting the lights on last. The plastic strands are then visible which ruins the effect - I have even seen this mistake on the pages of a top interior design magazine. I prefer clear lights and have used two sets on this relatively small tree. Professional decorators always advise to use as many lights as your budget can afford - in this case 'less is not more'.

Next step for me is baubles. I am using a traditional colour scheme of red, green and gold. I have more red than gold baubles, so I choose to use these first, ensuring that they are spaced evenly around the tree - don't forget to decorate the back of the tree too! These baubles are not glass and although I would prefer to have glass, because I have tile floors I have opted for plastic - this also means my younger children can help hang the tree ornaments without any risk to themselves or financial loss to me when they inevitably drop some!

I then use the gold baubles and space them in between the red baubles. If you are using a silver scheme, consider buying more silver baubles than your other chosen contemporary colour. If next year you change your couch or soft furnishings or decide you do not really like the purple colour scheme you chose this time you can go out and buy more baubles in a different colour that also works with silver. I have more red than gold because I found several sets in the Christmas sale at Spotlight last year for a drastically reduced price!

Once the baubles are in place I move onto the hanging ornaments. I have quite an assortment of tree ornaments that I have collected over the years. Each year I add a few more to my collection. I usually buy them in the post-Christmas sales. As much as I love some of the contemporary designs and colours for Christmas, I resist the temptation to purchase ones which do not work in with my traditional tree. I have a few novelty angels but even some of the cute ceramic children's tree ornaments (such as Winnie the Pooh characters) do not look quite right with my gold mesh reindeer and Russ angel figurines.

The ceramic airborne 'St Nicholas' is one of my favourite tree decorations but the wooden heart decoration reminds me of the person who Christmas is really about and the reason why we celebrate. Jesus who lives in my heart will always be the focus of my family's Christmas!

This is my tree with the baubles and most of the special decorations in place. The garlands of beads that I wind onto cards each year are to go on next and need to be unravelled. Some have fallen off in the storage boxes and become tangled, untangling them is one of the most time-consuming tasks - never mind the girls enjoyed decorating themselves with all the strings of sparkly beads. So much more glamorous than tinsel! I personally, have an aversion to tinsel - sorry for those of you who love it but I always advise others to 'lose the tinsel' and I once put up a sign on my door for one of my seminars 'You are now entering a Tinsel Free- Zone'! I'm not sure why I dislike tinsel so much - perhaps it was the straggly tinsel that went onto the tree in my childhood home that overshadowed the beautiful vintage glass ornaments or the fact that my dad used to wind it around the television - this is one item in my home which I would never choose to accentuate! Neither do I use spray on snow on the windows - this is Australia for goodness sake and it is totally unseasonal! It is also why Frosty the Snowman never makes an appearance! My mother once made a snowman covering a plastic wastepaper basket with cotton wadding and she brought it out every year to sit next to the tree. I think she thought it would delight us children and he was rather amusing, very kitsch and quirky (he also turned yellow over the years!) but truth be told I was more fascinated and mesmerized by the delicate Polish glass ornaments with their pointed spires and glorious colours which shimmered when the lights reflected onto them - so the lesson is, don't think your children will prefer childish decorations, you may be surprised at their appreciation of some of the more beautiful tree decorations!

If you wish, you may choose to have a second tree just for your children to decorate to their heart's content. In some years I have had a second tree in the kitchen which we decorate with gingerbread stars, popcorn strands and homemade paper angels. This year the younger girls have helped construct paper cones for a special hand made advent calendar which I will show you in another post - still have to make a few more cones and buy some treats to go inside. These cones also make lovely tree decorations and can be filled with nuts or candy, so I thought I would share with you now, a few pictures for inspiration.

I'm aware that for some of you reading this that you are barely over all the preparations you made for Thanksgiving and are now only thinking of pulling out the boxes of Christmas tree decorations. Perhaps you do not even set up your tree until Christmas Eve! Each family and different countries and cultures have their own traditions. I do love the stories of Victorian Christmases of days gone by, when the parents would send their children to bed and then later on the true Eve of Christmas, would call down the children to see the Christmas tree, all decorated and sparkling with real candles lit just for that moment. How magical would that be!

I could not possibly leave decorating my tree until the night before Christmas and who knows I could even be in labour if my baby is a late arrival (and most of my children are!) I will show you more in my next post of how I trim the tree and add the finishing touches - the garlands, the bows, the Angel who sits atop and the displays that accompany my tree (not a cotton wool Frosty the snowman of course!) It's time - lights, baubles, action!

With Love and Joy,


  1. We do some parts of our tree the same as you, and other parts differently.

    I always wrap tinsel around the trunk of the tree first. I know you say you don't like tinsel, but I love the gold in the very centre of the tree. Next on is the lights, with the tinsel behind them we get light shining in the middle of the tree & reflecting back out. Definitely agree with you that lights need to go on before any other ornaments though.

    Ornaments: we normally start with the other ornaments, then put the baubles on at the end to fill up the gaps. But like you, most of the bauble are plastic - the kidlets love playing with them & I find it much less stressful to let them take a plastic bauble off to play with then a glass one. The glass & crystal ornaments will remain packed away now until my littlest is old enough to just look & not play.

    Your house is looking lovely, can't wait to see the rest of your decorations.

  2. Ah, how nice to read of someone who adores Christmas as much as I do! :) I LOVED your story of labouring whilst decorating the tree, that is so lovely! Your tree and your children are just beautiful. Keep well Ann, you're in my prayers in these final weeks of your pregnancy! Saminda xo

  3. What a lovely post & you have a lovely tree! The pictures are great & I especially like the one of your daughter with the decoration box - too cute! Praying for you during this countdown! Looking forward to your big news!
    Renata :)

  4. You amaze me with your well thought out planning in colors and what goes with what.
    Did I see $3.59 for those glorious balls????
    Wow! I need to go to after Xmas sales i think,
    I am sooo busy avoiding crowds I usually don't go.

  5. Kylie -
    You read it right $3.59 reduced from $15 a set - but come to think of it,I bought them well after Christmas. They were trying to get rid of the last of their stock. I also bought Christmas card holder lights for $8 reduced from $40! I've used those silver butterfly clips to add a little 'bling' to them - cards are arriving in my mail box so it is up and in use!

  6. You decorate just as I do:-) Great minds think alike...LOL! Thanks for stopping by , we had such a lovely Thanksgiving , but now I am in total Christmas mode:-) And I stopped by your other blog first and loved your twin story!


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