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Feature Articles
 Best of the Low Carb Blogs
 Make it Low Carb
 The Perfect Holiday Table
 Date Nut Bread!
 Christmas Tree Guide
 Low Carb Cookies!
 Managing Christmas Stress
 A Homemade Christmas



  Expert Foods

      Creating the Perfect Tree by Lora Ruffner

                             "Faith is the strength by which
                       a shattered world shall emerge into the light."
                                                                            Helen Keller

Before you venture out to buy that "perfect tree" you'll need to decide where it will fit in your home. See placement tips below, but once a spot is chosen be sure to measure BOTH the ceiling height and the width of that space.

Also, measure your tree stand to determine the maximum diameter of the trunk. Finally, take into account the height of your tree stand as well as the height of your treetop ornament. Use these measurements to help find the perfect tree for your home.

Take a Tape Measure:
Take the tape measure with you when you shop so you don't buy a 6" diameter tree trunk for your 4" diameter stand or a 9 foot tall tree if your ceilings are only eight feet.

Where to Place a Tree:
Avoid placing your tree near a heat source (sunny windows, radiators, heating vents, and fireplaces). Try to keep the tree out of high traffic areas where it might be bumped or overturned, or where someone might trip on light cords. Don't place it in any spot that might be dangerous, such as next to a fire in the fireplace or up on a wobbly table.

Before Leaving Home:
Take heavy gloves to protect your hands, and a tape measure to help select the right size tree. Find a blanket to protect your car from pine needles and sap. Take twine or rope to tie it securely to the car (unless you know the tree lot will provide this). Locate a saw so a fresh cut can be made before placing the tree in water. Fill a bucket with lukewarm water so your tree can start drinking water as soon as it gets home and has a fresh cut. Find your tree stand (or determine if you'll need a new one) and set it up. Confirm the maximum tree trunk diameter that will fit into the stand.

Tree Stands:
Choose tree stands for stability and size. Look for models that hold large amounts of water so you'll spend less time refilling the water chamber. Also, pay attention to the size of tree trunk that each stand will accommodate. The taller your tree, the bigger diameter of the trunk. Get a stand that is easily adjustable so the tree can be leveled.

Choosing a Tree:
Trees with shorter needles (such as Fraser or Noble Fir) are often easier to decorate as they offer some space between branches for decorations as well as some stronger stems to hold heavier ornaments. Learn more about the many types of Christmas trees and find out the characteristics and uses of each type.

Space Between Branches:
Something else to consider when choosing a tree is that it is usually most attractive when the ornaments hang straight. Many trees today are groomed to be lush and full yet be aware that ornaments may hang at an angle on such trees. For ornaments to hang straight you'll want a tree with some space between the branches. To test a tree, take an unbreakable ornament with you and hang it on several branches to see if there is room for it to hang straight.

Select a Fresh Tree:
How can you tell? Needles should look shiny, green, and fresh — not dry or brown. The needles should not fall off when you pull on a branch.

Transporting your Tree:
If possible lay the tree inside your car or trunk for the drive home. If you have a long drive with the tree on the roof of your car, you may want to wrap it in a tarp or old blanket and tie securely.

Making the Cut:
Once you are home make a new cut (of at least 1/2") so the tree will begin to soak up water immediately.

The Right Height:
Also, depending on your ceiling height, measure and cut more off the bottom of your tree if necessary.

Stand the tree in a bucket of warm water in the corner of your garage, sheltered patio, or basement until you are ready to move it inside the house.

If your carpeting is thick or uneven you may wish to put down a circle or square of plywood so the tree stand sits on a flat place.

Plastic Base:
Set plastic or a waterproof covering on the floor where your tree will stand.

Install the Stand:
Many people prefer to install the tree stand outside where needle drop won't matter. To do this, tip the tree down on its side and tighten the clamps of the stand around the base of the trunk. Lift the tree to a standing position, being careful not to damage the feet of the tree stand. Now, make any needed adjustments in vertical alignment so the tree stands straight. Finally, carry your tree (with the stand attached) inside and fill the water reservoir with water immediately.

Optional: Secure Stand to Board — If you have a very large tree, or are worried about it tipping over, some tree stands can be attached with heavy screws to a large flat piece of plywood which will give it some additional stability. Do this in place, before bringing the tree inside and putting it into the stand.

The Top — Sometimes small adjustments may be needed on the top of your tree, depending on your ceiling height and the type of ornament (angel, star, etc.) that will be placed on the top. Clip away any stray branches that may be in the way, but avoid chopping off the tallest vertical branch if you can. Use clippings to decorate your mantle or to make a centerpiece.

Trim it Up — Don't be afraid to trim down any imperfect branches or boughs that hit adjacent furniture or walls. Try to trim at an angle that is about parallel to the floor, so cuts are less noticeable. Use these boughs to decorate your mantle or table, keeping them in water until you arrange them.

Water, water, water:
Always keep your fresh tree in a stand that holds water. Check the water level daily . For the first few days you may need to refill the water every few hours. (Set a timer to remind you to check it.) After about a week the water intake will slow down and daily refills should be fine.

Water, or more? — There are a lot of myths that you can add an aspirin to the water or that Sprite seems to work, but in truth, just plain water is all you really need to keep your tree fresh. However, if you wish, there are some additives and sprays you can purchase that promise to keep trees fresh longer. Ask about them where you buy your tree, or at a local garden center. You can also keep a Christmas tree fresh longer by applying a before bringing it indoors.

How to water — The best way is also the hardest way. Take towels, a water jug, and some patience. Get in close to the tree stand. If you can't see the water level then place one finger into the water reservoir and begin to add water slowly. (A watering can with a long spout is helpful.) Stop adding water when you feel the level nearing the top of the stand. Wait a few moments to make sure no water leaks onto the floor.

Secure It:
If you are concerned about kids or pets knocking the tree over, be sure to secure it in several places up the trunk with fishline, twine, or cording attached to small eyehooks in the walls at various locations. (Make certain however, that the lines are well out of reach and won't pose any danger to children or animals.)

Order of Placing Decorations:

  1. Lights
  2. Garland
  3. Decorations

Inside, Outside — Arrange lights 'inside' your tree (about halfway from the tips of the branches to the trunk of the tree) as well as on the perimeter of the tree.

How Many Special Ornaments? — Mix one of a kind special ornaments with more generic "filler" ornaments. To make an impact, plan on using about 10 special themed ornaments (10 birdhouses, music notes, etc.) for every 2 feet of tree.

How Many Filler Ornaments? — Create repetition by using a consistent filler ornament on your tree. This is a good way to stretch a growing collection of themed ornaments too. Plan to use at least a dozen "filler" ornaments for every 2 feet of tree. These can be inexpensive glass balls readily available at discount stores.

Where to Put Ornaments — Place ornaments and other decorations 'inside' your tree as well as on the tips of branches, to add depth and interest.

Taking Trees Down:
The best way to avoid a major mess is to prepare to take your tree down before you even put it up. Just place a plastic tree bag (available at hardware stores) underneath the stand, which you can hide with a tree skirt. Then, when the holidays are done, pull the bag up around the tree, stand and all, and carry it outside. Remove the stand before recycling the tree. If some needles do scatter inside, sweep them up; needles can clog vacuum cleaners.

Call your local recycling department to get information on recycling trees for mulch.

Don't Burn It:
Many experts recomended that you do not burn your Christmas tree branches due to fire dangers, so dispose of your tree according to local regulations via trash collection, chipping for mulch, or recycling.

The Smart Way to Store Ornaments:
Whether they're heirlooms passed down to you or homemade treasures your kindergartner crafted, ornaments need to be stored with care to maintain their pristine condition for next Christmas. Here's how:

1. Choose the correct container: The experts at Silvestri, a top manufacturer of holiday decorations, recommend storing ornaments in sturdy, partitioned cardboard boxes. You can buy these, but sectioned boxes, which you can get free from liquor stores, work just as well. Forgo plastic containers; they don't allow air flow, so moisture can become trapped and damage the ornaments.

2. Wrap them right: Protect your ornaments before boxing them by wrapping them individually in acid-free tissue paper or 100 percent cotton cloth. Don't overstuff the compartments or you'll risk crushing the contents.

3. Find the ideal spot: Ornaments should be kept in a cool, dry place. Skip the attic (extreme temperatures can cause paint to flake) and the basement (dampness and mildew can cause irreparable damage). The best choice is an upper shelf in a closet where they can remain undisturbed until next December.

Copyright © December 2006  Lora Ruffner and Low Carb Luxury



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