Sep 14

Setting Up an Outdoor Christmas Scene

Lighted reindeerDecorating the lawn with a Christmas-themed scene is a tradition of the season. Some will choose a Nativity display. Others will prefer a snowman or Santa and his reindeer. Still others will want something modern, but that still evokes the spirit of the holiday, such as a tableaux of the Grinch and citizens of Whoville. But whatever your tastes in outdoor lawn decoration, there are some basics you’ll want to follow.

Safety is the first and most obvious consideration.

If you use displays containing glass, ensure they’re well protected from kids with bicycles, dogs and other rompers who can break something. Even plastic parts that chip off can easily cut a bare foot. If your display contains lights, ensure that you use extension cords that have enough capacity. An overheated wire, the result of using too narrow a gauge, is a fire hazard. Make sure they’re placed and secured so that tripping is unlikely.

Accidental damage is even more likely, though.

Ensuring that your display lasts through many seasons is easy with just common sense precautions. Wind is common in most climates during the Christmas season. Supporting your scene doesn’t take much more than a little thought and effort. Look around your display from all angles. Give it a nudge in every direction. Using a series of stakes and ropes, short and thin boards or rods, and other props you can make a sturdy, wind-resistant display.

Rain is another obvious potential problem. Most plastic displays present no problem. But scenes containing straw, cardboard or even wood can rot quickly. Mildew builds up fast on wet wood. Cardboard will become mush in a good downpour. Straw will create a home for insects even more rapidly if it gets moist.

You have several ways to solve that problem inexpensively. You can house your display in a tent designed to look like part of the scene. Or you can build it under an awning or roof overhang. Or you can just select materials that will weather well.

Give a little thought to how to erect and protect your outdoor Christmas decoration. Your efforts will be rewarded many times over. It will last through several seasons, decreasing the cost and effort of creating that scene that delights you and your neighbors.

Sep 14

Outdoor Decorating Ideas for the Holiday Season

Lighted reindeerEveryone is familiar with the longstanding practice of putting up outdoor Christmas lights. That’s still a great way to decorate the exterior of a home. But go beyond the usual and add some delightful twists to your decorating efforts.

A string of colored lights wrapped around the pine tree in the front yard is fine. But take advantage of modern technology. Add a holographic snowman to your lawn and delight the neighbors and yourself. These simple devices will project a snowman image in 3-D anywhere you want. You can walk all around the display and see a snowman in Christmas colors.

Take the next step and add motion to the scene. Moving light shows that project Christmas-themed images can be anything from simple colored lights to complete video. You can light up an outdoor bush or project a scene onto the garage door. You can make the shadows dance under the eaves or twinkle the angel decoration on the top of the house.

Add real objects to the light display and flesh out the decorations.

The Nativity scene is a holiday favorite and still works well in many decorating schemes. Spruce it up a little by adding some spray-on snow if you don’t live in a climate that provides the real thing. Add some realistic touches by putting down small clumps of straw inside and outside the manger.

Sadly, though, sometimes a person will get the idea to ruin the scene. So, you may want to invest in some security. Devices such as a buried-in-the-lawn wire alarm system can alert you to unwanted visitors in the night.

Mailboxes provide the perfect opportunity to exercise your creativity. You can go for traditional ribbons and bows or spruce it up with decorative red and gold-colored paints. Or, you can go a little more abstract and design a decorative wreath made from non-traditional materials. An icy-crystal look can be achieved by using white wire hangers and shiny translucent plastic.

Place a white or colored light in the center of the wreath and hang it from the mailbox. You can run the wire down the pole and along a thin extension cord to the lawn lights. Or, use a solar-powered light that stores up energy during the day and releases it at night.

If you have trees and/or bushes in the yard they give you plenty of objects to decorate in traditional or unusual ways. Strings of lights work fine. Faux-icicles are still a great favorite. But be creative and use some miniature figurines to make your design unique. Tiny figures from the Grinch Who Stole Christmas are an idea. Or, sprinkle the foliage with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs carrying out their characteristic actions.

Even the lawn itself can be a huge canvas. Light strings, solar lights in the shape of a wreath, some special glow-in-the-dark paint of the type that washes away after a few weeks…. The list of possibilities is bound only by your imagination.

Sep 14

Indoor Decorating Ideas for the Holiday Season

Christmas dayYou can approach the holiday season with a sense of dread, or you can make it great fun. You can think about the 101 things to buy and do before Christmas, or you can focus on the joy and beauty all around. One easy way to help tip the scales is to decorate your home and office to match the festive season. When you arrive, the decorations are bound to give you a lift.

There are the traditional, and still great fun, decorations: popcorn strung on strings, ornaments hung on the tree and fireplace, a wreath on the door. Now go beyond the routine to create a space that matches the mood you’d like to create.

You may have a number of houseplants that are large enough to support decorations. They can be livened up with small Christmas tree bulb ornaments. Or you can make them delightfully different by shopping for something unusual. How about some miniature Snow White and the Seven Dwarf figurines to attach to that indoor bonsai? Or, maybe your taste runs more to Indy 500 cars. Get some tiny red and green racers and hang them from the indoor palm tree.

Any surface around the home presents a great opportunity to display books, photos, photocubes, small sculptures and many other objects that can bring to mind the holiday season. You could lay out some Christmas-themed books on the coffee table. Or, you might try building a short plastic mountain of photocubes filled with pictures from past Christmas seasons.

Glass jars and bowls provide the perfect chance to exercise your creativity. Fill them with objects traditionally associated with Christmas. Pine cones, walnuts and other natural items bring to mind snow covered hills and crackling fires in the hearth. Or, go for something more abstract that still shows the season’s colors. Red and green marbles make a great base into which you can insert brown rods with yellow and red ovals attached.

If you have stairs or an indoor balcony the railing gives you still more room to work with. They look terrific covered with twisted ribbon in seasonal colors. Or you can just dot them sparsely with a red bow or two.

Naturally, you should consider how best to place those strings of miniature multi-colored lights. You can drip them off the railings like icicles or you can run them horizontally. But to really make the best use of lights, consider curving them into a design. It could be a personal logo or a word of holiday cheer spelled out.

Lights can be placed in other locations as well. Anyplace that two surfaces meet in a line makes for a good spot to run a string. The highest point of an angled ceiling makes a good spot to illuminate. Or, you can run them around the edge of a corner table for something a little different.

Add some Christmastime plants here and there and your home or office will welcome you. A friendly space is a great mood elevator to remind you of all the good things about the season.

Sep 09

Setting Up a Christmas Village



One year, my mother in law came into my house with a large box right before Christmas.  I didn’t think much about it, and I was delighted when she set it in front of me and opened it up.  Inside was a beautiful Christmas village and I was so grateful to her for giving me a few of her prized village.

The first year I set up the village, I did so with pain staking detail.  Everything had to be in the perfect place and the village needed to be asleep under a layer of cotton snow.  The second year was done with the same attention to detail but the third year was a rushed occasion since the birth of my son kept me busy.

Finally, after a few years of rushed displays and then several years of having two children help me set it up, I realized that the secret to a perfect Christmas village set up, isn’t in all the perfectly lined streets or even in the pieces themselves but in the memories that are created when you set it up.

Of course, I might be saying this since none of my streets line up and none of my villagers every make it through the set up without dancing around under the fingers of two little boys, but I like to believe it to be true.

If you love Christmas villages and truly want to have a few great tips to making your village display like a dream, then there are a few things you can do to make it perfect.

  1. Don’t Fuss:  This can be a killer to many Christmas villages, there is too much fuss, the snow is perfectly laid out, the houses are exactly 2.2 inches from each other, the people are set out in 93.4657 degree angles and no one wants to look at it for fear that they might breath on it.  Just let the pieces fall where the inspiration takes you and you will be surprised at how beautiful that village looks.
  2. Let it “Wow” your guests:  This is an important point of setting up your Christmas village and it has more to do with the space and less to do with the village itself.  Make sure you display your village in a place that can be seen easily and is up and out of the way of little fingers.  This way, your guests will be greeted with a prominent Christmas village and since it is high up, it doesn’t look like the Rebel Alliance has been fighting the empire in the quiet Christmas streets moments before your guests arrive.  It also saves you the hassle of yelling out (repeatedly), “For crying out loud, Yoda does not fight Darth Sidious on my Christmas rooftops.”
  3. Keep it small:  With all the wonderful village items out there, it can be difficult keeping your village to a minimum and before you know it, you need a formal dining room table that seats 12 just to hold your village.  The key to a successful set up of your village is to only have a handful of pieces in one place.  If you have more houses and buildings, you can disperse them through your home and have little elements of your      village decorating the entire house.
  4. Have a focal point:  This doesn’t have to be a focal point exactly but I would strongly recommend having a piece or a few pieces that have special meaning to you.  For me, it is a large ceramic Christmas tree lamp that my grandmother made. It is a bit too big for my village but every year it goes into town square and the Christmas village celebrates Christmas with the biggest tree on the “village” planet.  Using the tree always brings a smile to my face and my children love to hear the history behind the tree each year.
  5. Remember Electrical Outlets:  Lastly, remember to place your Christmas village near an electrical outlet.  I have done this more than once, where I set up the Christmas village exactly as I wanted it only to remember that there was no outlet close to where I set it up.  If your village doesn’t use any electricity, then this isn’t a worry that you will have.

And there are a few tips on setting up your Christmas village but the most important thing to remember is that your Christmas village should be special for you and your whole family.