Nov 09

Christmas Village Accessories

Lemax

Lemax

When it comes to Christmas villages, there are tons of buildings to choose from.  You can find Victorian, modern and whimsical buildings and you can find them as animated treasures or simply lighted.

Despite all the choice behind the buildings and the charm they exude, a Christmas village just isn’t the same without the accessories.  These are the little touches that add a world of imagination to your miniature world.  Accessories take it from being simple buildings set up on a table to a winter wonderland complete with villagers, lights and trees.

Although there are tons to choose from, there are a few that are must haves for any Christmas village.

Things are going to the trees:

Although you can have a Christmas village without trees, they really do add a great element to a village and make it look much more Christmassy if you add a few evergreens to a park area or lining the streets.

Star light, star bright, street lights make a shining example:

Okay, you can’t really put up any stars in the sky of your Christmas village but you can line the streets with street lights.  These are a wonderful touch and you can find so many different types of lights from traditional, to one decorated with wreaths to multi-lighted street lamps.  You can also find some that are perfect for a Santa Wonderland; street lamps wearing Santa hats.

The friendly neighbor:

Every village will need villagers and although you can pretend that they are all inside enjoying the cold evening in front of a warm fire, it doesn`t have the same effect as it does if you have a few villagers out enjoying the winter evening.  I like to have a variety from people walking down the streets to people singing carols to children playing in the snow.

Let`s landscape:

When it comes to homes, there really isn`t that much landscaping being done.  I mean, everything is under a layer of snow, if you live where it snows, and it really isn`t that much fun for anyone to be out setting up their landscape but you can always landscape your Christmas village.  In fact, I would strongly recommend that you do.

Set up fences, add bridges and maybe create a few frozen ponds for your ice skaters.  Each accessory you add to your Christmas village will only add to the charm, personality and depth of the scene.

When you do choose your Christmas village accessories, the only suggestion that I really like to stress is to have fun and enjoy what you are doing.  There is no need to stress over something that should be light-hearted and whimsical.

Oct 30

String Christmas Lights Safely

Christmas TreeThere are three main areas to watch for when putting up Christmas lights, indoor and outdoor: shocks, fires and falling.

Electrical products have become significantly safer over the past few decades. With GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interruption) outlets, non-reversible plugs and other innovations of the recent past, it’s rare to get shocked. But the possibility still exists.

It takes only about 100 volts to push less than 2/10ths of an amp through your body, which is enough to kill or cause serious harm. The 120V, 5-20amp systems common in households provide more than enough to do the job, especially if your hands are moist and/or salty. Salty water is highly conductive.

The most obvious thing to check is the insulation. Storing multiple strings of lights away for a year, jammed into a box with ornaments, can easily strip a small hole in the plastic around wires. Missing insulation is even more likely if the lights were hung last year by tacking them on with u-shaped nails. Those compress the insulation and sometimes even puncture it.

Being shocked isn’t the only possible outcome from electricity, though. A simple spark near a piece of exposed wood won’t usually start a fire. But wood shavings produced by insects or construction can provide a starter. A piece of dried paper from insulation is almost as good as the wick on an oil lamp. That’s just one reason it’s always recommended to keep oil, paint thinner and similar solvents away from the walls in the garage.

An artificial tree will be made from or coated with flame retardant material. They’re very hard to combust. But a natural tree, especially one that has dried out over a few weeks period, is a potential fire hazard. With care, the risk is very low. But it’s worthwhile making efforts to ensure that any tree strung with lights is not exposed to a source of electricity. Don’t leave any sockets open and ensure there are no breaks in the insulation. Don’t use spliced wire on a Christmas tree.

But falling is probably the most common hazard around Christmas time.

It’s common to use a tall ladder to string lights inside and out. But that activity should never be undertaken solo. Make sure someone is there to hold the ladder when you climb and when you descend. Friction is never assured. One slight body movement can produce a sideways force that pushes the ladder out from under you.

Always use a ladder with non-slip feet and set it one foot out for every four feet in height. As always, avoid using the top two steps. Indoors it’s helpful to have someone secure the ladder if it’s more than three feet tall. Even a fall from a step stool while stringing lights on a tree indoors can result in serious hip or arm injuries.

Hazards are more common during the holiday season because of the greater use of lights that have been stored, slippery floors from more frequent cleaning and other seasonal behaviors. Compensate by taking extra care.

Oct 13

How to Secure a Christmas Tree

Christmas TreesWhether it’s a two-foot table decoration or a massive 20-foot behemoth for a cathedral ceiling, no one wants the Christmas tree to fall over. Apart from the damaged tree, there’s the mess to clean up and potentially broken ornaments. Fortunately, preventing that is easy with a little bit of common sense and moderate effort.

First, a little elementary physics. Don’t panic! No math involved. Trees are unstable for the same reason a baseball bat held heavy-end up in your palm is. But, wait, you say. The tree is bigger at the bottom than the top. The baseball bat is not.

True.

But one thing is the same: in each case you have a tall rod that can rotate around with a push. The taller the rod, the less force is required to make it rotate. Once it starts, it continues until it reaches equilibrium (in this case, the ground) – unless there is a force in the opposite direction to stop it.

So, the key to making a stable Christmas tree is to make sure there are forces opposing any sideways motion. That’s not too hard to do. You just have to keep a couple of simple things in mind.

Tip #1

Give it a secure base. That’s obviously most often achieved by using a Christmas tree stand. That can be as simple as two boards nailed into the bottom or it can be a large plastic or metal base. Two things help: make it as wide as possible and as heavy as possible.

A wide base provides a resisting force by pushing back against the floor anytime a force pushes the tree sideways. The wider the base, the bigger the opposing force. A heavier base provides the same kind of opposing force, just by a different means. It’s hard to push a heavy object over when it’s close to the ground.

But that base can only produce a stable tree if the tree is well secured to it. That may involve pushing the screws far into the tree. Or, it may require that you fill the base with material that keeps the tree from tipping. In every case, ensure that the bottom of the tree is perfectly flat and snug on the bottom of the base.

Tip #2

If you’ve done everything reasonable you can with the base, you might need to work at the other end. If you secure the top of the tree, it can even more effectively resist sideways motions. You’d have to snip the line to get it to fall. If your tree is tall, or likely to be subject to accidental shoves, this may be the way to go.

Kids, dogs or cats who like to climb the tree can all produce a Christmas tree that is horizontal rather than vertical. Not good. But very hard to guard against 24/7. Securing the top of the tree with a thin, invisible line is a simple solution.

Screw a small hook into the ceiling. Thread a thin, transparent length of fishing line around the upper branches of the tree and loop the other end over the hook. Tighten until the tree is about to be lifted off the floor, then slacken slightly. Flexible, strong and secure. And practically invisible.

Oct 09

Christmas Villages

Lemax

Lemax

When I first became a mother, I expected trips to the doctor’s office to be a horrible experience for my children.  I was sure that I would have to drag them to the car, wrestle them through the door of the doctor’s office and then deal with screaming throughout the entire visit.  I had, after all, seen other mothers doing the same thing every time I went for a check up.

Thankfully, that wasn’t the case and I always attribute the ease that the visit had with the large Christmas village that he has set up in his waiting room.  It is up year round and it is a beautiful Lemax Santa’s Wonderland village.  It climbs lazily up the side of a gradual hill, hidden amongst the miniature evergreen trees and snowy slopes.

There is the reindeer take off center where Santa and Rudolph practice a few turns above the building.  There is the elf skating pond where little elves skate and enjoy a cool but crisp day of skating.  There is the gingerbread house where you are positive warm and tasty treats are being baked.

There are actually a thousand and one different things to discover in that village and my children race to the glass protecting it, their noses pressed against it as they try to figure out what was added since their last village.

The Christmas village is up year round, since it is much too big to take down each year, but it doesn’t run except in the holiday season.  During that time, a large fake Christmas tree sits at the top of the hill and it is almost like the magic from the tree has trickled down and brought the village to life.  The trains that run through the village finally start their sedate journey and the children whisper about the polar express and how many lucky children are going to see Santa at his workshop that sits at the top of the slope.

This is what Christmas villages are for.  You could say that they are for the decoration, a way to spruce up the home and make things fun for holidays, but I really think that they are for the magic.  The warm lights that glow from the small windows, the charm that exudes from each door and the visions that dance through the imaginations of miniature people happily preparing for Christmas.

There are so many different facets for Christmas villages and we bring those facets to you with helpful tips on setting up your own, finding the best accessories or simply in looking at a few of those great products that are out on the market.

So please, come and enjoy our Christmas village as we navigate the streets of this wonderful collectable.

Oct 09

Christmas Tree Skirts

Christmas dayI found out, long ago that I am not a sewer.  I mean, I would love to have the ability to create wonderful crafts and cute little outfits but if you ask me to use a thread and needle, my brow creases and my lips pucker as I try to create a straight line that looks great and doesn’t fall apart.  Of course, my stitch doesn’t serve well for either function or decoration and I always give up.

My son’s first Halloween was the only exception when I spent a very long month sewing together a lizard costume for my son. It looked cute and you couldn’t really tell that it was made by someone who had no clue what she was doing, but it definitely wasn’t a masterpiece. Once Halloween was done, I gladly gave the sewing machine back to my friend, put the costume in a keepsake box and when my second son was born, I went to the store to buy his first costume.

But what does this have to do with Christmas Tree Skirts?  I am talking about the wrong holiday but it has everything to do with Christmas since I can’t sew and although I would love to have a beautiful Christmas tree skirt with intricate stitching and vibrant color swatches, it just won’t happen if I am left to man the sewing machine.

I am sure that I am not alone in this inability and I’m probably not alone in wanting a nice Christmas Tree Skirt that doesn’t cost sixty or more dollars from the store.  There is something nice about lining the bottom of your tree with something that you created on your own but that can seem like an impossible wish if you don’t sew.

Of course, as any good designer will say, “All you need is inspiration,” and you can tie your homemade Christmas right through to your Christmas skirt.  Here are some great ideas for making a Christmas tree skirt without using a needle and thread.

Pile on the Fabric:

This is my preferred choice of Christmas tree skirts and I love the fact that I can mix it up every year.  There are actually two ways that you can do this and both work fine.  The first way is to head out to a local fabric store and purchase several yards of a favorite fabric.  Once you have the fabric, bring it back and drape it around your Christmas tree base.  The only thing you should take into consideration is the rough edges but you can fold them under and leave a looped edge instead.

The second way is to find a festive and beautiful table cloth; you may even have a few available in your cupboard. Like the fabric, drape it around the Christmas tree.

Both options allow a lot of room and you can layer the fabric with multiple colors and textures.

Go with a train:

This is a great choice if you have children since they love trains.  I purchased my train after Christmas one year for next to nothing and it was a great investment until the cat ate it but I digress.  Trains can be a playful way to dress up the bottom of your tree.  Create the mood by wrapping the base in a plain white cloth and then hook up your train so it looks like it is moving through a wintery landscape.  When you add the Christmas presents, you can make tunnels and buildings for the train to travel past.

Personalize it:

You can really personalize your Christmas tree skirt if you don’t actually go with fabric.  Instead, create a base with a white or colored cloth and then make a design on the cloth using stones, shells, ribbons or anything else your heart desires.  You can create them just by using unusual items and it looks beautiful under the tree.

Hot Glue Gun:

If you are set on having a traditional Christmas tree skirt but you just can’t sew, I would recommend following a tree skirt kit but instead of using thread, use a hot glue gun for seams.  Your tree skirt won’t be as sturdy as one that is sewn but I have seen people use hot glue and the end result is just as nice.

If all else fails with these ideas, you can always go to the store and pick up a tree skirt.  They can be found in a range of colors and patterns and despite the hefty price tag, can be a wonderful element for under your tree.

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

Lemax

Lemax

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.