October 20, 2021:

Holy Hathor! I can't believe an entire spring and summer have gone by, and now we're into fall. I'm outside in my Shezebo today, enjoying what will likely be the last warm sunny calm day of the season. We've had a wonderful streak of weather and the rains finally came to erase some of the deficit from this summer's terrible drought here in Southeast Wisconsin I've battled (losing, unfortunately) sod web worm damage and drought damage. The grass is slowly starting to recover but now I've got an excessive tribe of not only squirrels, but also chipmunks that are digging up everywhere to hide their food supplies! My fault - I fed them too much during 2020 and earlier this year there was a babyboom as a result. I'm trying to rein myself in, but I confess - the little buggers are so cute, I find it hard to resist when a chipmunk comes and stares at me, like he's telepathically communicating with me to "GIVE ME SOME NUTS, LADY!" I've been getting everything ready for winter, which may be a tough one this year. But today, a glass of wine, and watching home improvement shows on Discovery+. Take care!


Sunday, December 5, 2021

Final Round of Christmas Tree Decorating (With Fingers Crossed Behind My Back) - And the Tree's Revenge


Yes, I confess, I've been fussing with the Christmas tree.  I added still more ornaments, but the tree still looks pretty naked to me. I know this may sound a little cray cray (okay, maybe a lot cray cray) but maybe the tree is eating some of the ornaments at night...

I swear, if I lived in a warm climate I'd strip the tree down, haul it outside and spray paint it with a light layer of white paint.  Maybe that would make the rose gold/pink ornaments show up more.  As it is, there are not enough of them to show up on the tree.  I though about but fought off the urge of ordering yet MORE ornaments and decided I am not going to order more rose gold or blush pink ornaments until Christmas clearance sales are on (after Christmas).  Thus, the tree has way more gold and clear glass ornaments on it from my prior years' stash and it's not anything like the rose gold inspiration trees I published photos of earlier.  

Beyond frustrated and extremely disappointed.  The 2021 tree is an okay looking tree, but it's not what I wanted, it's not what I'd envisioned.  Nobody likes a "fail," but this year, my tree is a fail.

This is the FINAL tree -- so I say, but don't believe me.  This is actually Attempt 3 or maybe it's Attempt 13, which yes, I admit, doesn't look much different than Attempt 2 or Attempt 1 (except for the too large and gaudy gold pointsettias that were removed), but it is different.  OY!!!

It's Final (Round 13???)

After sitting here a few nights looking at the aftermath of Attempt 2, I decided that part of the problem was with the bottom row of branches that I was not able to adequately fill in the gaps with the materials/decorations I had on hand.  So, I got down on my hands and knees on Friday morning (12/3/21) and got a good workout bending the ends of the very strong branches upwards between one and two inches (some were much harder to force upwards than others).  I also pulled the tips on each of that bottom row of branches more upward.  Some of the gaps between the branches and between the bottom row of branches and the next row of branches above it were filled or somewhat filled more by this process.  Not so noticeable during the day when the lights aren't on, but very noticeable when the lights are on - the lowest level of the tree has been "tightened up."  

You probably can't tell from the photo either but I did some "rearranging" of the ribbons to fill in some of the gaps/holes I kept (and still keep) seeing.  And yes, I added even more ornaments.  I find it hard to believe, but there are only a couple boxes of ornaments left in basement storage, and I SWORE that they are not going on this tree this year.  I'm DONE.  Every time I think about putzing with the tree further, I think about the Band Perry song and that stops me, LOL!   

In the photo above I can see the white "frosted" effect that I found so pretty and led to me ordering this particular tree in the first place.  That "frosted" look hasn't really shown up too much in prior photos.  

This year it's been Jan versus the Christmas tree, a continual struggle over several rounds for more than a week.  I thought I had won (finally), but last night (12/4/21) the tree got a TKO when, right after I'd plugged in the extension cord that has the lights plugged into it for the top half of the tree, I stood up only to see a light that appeared to be sputtering and then blinked a few times and out it went.  And with it, about half of the top third of the lights on the tree.  A PARTIAL BLACK OUT!  

WHAT THE (BLEEP)!  This is only the second and third season for ALL of those lights.  They're LED lights, they aren't supposed to "burn" out after a couple seasons of Christmas use, for pete's sake!  I don't leave my tree lit 24/7.  So now - how on earth can I fix it?  The tree is fully decorated.  I am NOT going to un-decorate the top half of the tree, take down the ribbons and attempt to fish out the bad light string and replace it. 

Soooooo, I may end up resorting to what I did in 2019 with my 10 years-old wired pre-lit tree where more lights were burning out seemingly daily:  I inserted battery operated LED lights.  The "warm white" didn't exactly match the color of the other lights, but they added light nonetheless and I could string them where I wanted the lights to be (more or less).


The Tree Is Finished - Yes It Is, For Real. I Ain't Adding One More Ornament To It. I Swear.

After the failure of Ribbon Application on Christmas Tree 101, I ended up taking it ALL off and started over.  That was after once again binge-watching several "Ramon at Home" Youtube videos and other designer videos on how to put ribbon on trees.  This is how the second attempt at ribboning (is that a word?) the tree turned out:

Before:  Ribbon Failure
After:  Ribbon Will Do

I also added some more picks to the tree topper decorations and am satisfied with it.  It's about the only thing that turned out relatively well on the tree.

It's Finished! (Round 1)

I had to get down on my tummy and wiggle around the tree like a giant worm to get the tree skirt under it and covering the tree stand.  The branches were very close to the floor, leaving maybe a foot of space.  I tried to work the tree skirt around on my knees but I wasn't able to get really under the tree that way to get the tree skirt properly tucked around the tree stand.  Maybe my arms are too short???

I determined on Sunday night (11/28/21) that I was done decorating the tree, and sat back that evening with only battery-operated candles and the lights on the Christmas tree (plus the light my lap top puts out), lighting the living room.  

The longer I sat on my sofa last Sunday night with my handiwork staring me in the face, I came to the conclusion that the decorations just didn't look right.  I kept focusing on the giant (and rather gaudy) pointsettias.  They were too much, or I had not decorated the rest of the tree enough to compensate for their large and gaudy glory.  I knew I'd have to do something, probably remove the pointsettias.  But I really didn't want to redecorate the entire tree.  I'd already spent hours first assembling it and fluffing the 928 tree tips, and then weaving six strands of LED warm white lights in and out of all the branches.

Monday was dedicated to running errands and taking a 43 minute bus ride downtown to visit my dentist.  By the time I got back home, the only thing I wanted to do was get into my warm slippers, wrap an afghan around my shoulders and drink a couple of glasses of wine while catching up with my emails and the news on MSNBC online.

Which brings me to Tuesday, 11/30/21.  The day dawned sunny and hit a high of 46!  The bird bath unfroze and those intrepid sparrows of mine were taking baths at the height of the day, LOL!  I spent my time switching between working outside to rake/sweep up yet more leaves, pine needles, pine cones and peanut shells left by my squirrels - working without a jacket or hat on, and hauling up a couple boxes of additional Christmas tree decorations from the basement. I ended up not using the second smaller box of decorations.  I stripped off the offending pointsettias.  The tree looked naked but also more balanced, I think the flowers were out of proportion to the rest of the decorations and ornaments I'd put on the tree.  But I needed to add more ornaments anyway to fill in the blank spaces where the pointsettias had been.

I added 34 additional ornaments (yes, I counted them) from the second box, many of which are larger (4 to 5 inches) decorated glass balls and finials.  I have more ornaments I thought about adding, but I decided to just go full stop.  I SWEAR.  Here is the finished, completely done 2021 Christmas tree:

It's Finished! (Round 2)

Well, we'll see.  When it comes to my Christmas trees, one of the givens is that I never stop putzing around with it.  I am going to try and break myself of that bad habit this year.

Friday, November 26, 2021

The Never Ending Saga of the 2021 Christmas Tree - Decorating 101

 Hola!  Today I did epic duty and individually applied and then twisted, twined and tweaked 590 lights on my Christmas tree.  I did not buy a pre-lit tree, after experiencing the slow death of lights on my previous 6.5' tree that served me well for 10-11 years.  Each year for the last 3 years of her life, she lost more lights and I was helpless and clueless on how to fix them.  I couldn't wrap my head around lights on half the tree still working after 10 years, and half the lights on the tree just deciding to die after 8, 9 and 10 years.

So - today was suck it up Jan, get the lights on the tree!  I got the box filled with lights from basement storage and spent about 3 hours doing my best to weave the strands of lights in and out of all the branches.  I started at the bottom of the tree as a decorator on Youtube told me I should do, and with one last string of 120 lights to work up to the top of the tree thinking I'd have more than enough, I see it looks a bit sparse of lights at the top 15 inches or so.  DRAT!  I will pick up one more box of lights if I can find something in LED "warm white" at the supermarket tomorrow.  Sigh.

Then I wanted to put the ribbon on. I pretty much ran out of steam, but no excuses.  There is ribbon on the tree.  Am I happy with how that ribbon looks?  Nope.  It is a far far cry from Ramon at Home's gorgeous trees with perfect ribbon that he makes it look so easy to do - and I can't do it!  Right now I'm thinking I'll take it off tomorrow, but maybe I just need to tweak it some. 

I am feeling rather inadequate right now.  As punishment for failing Christmas Tree Ribbon Application 101, I'm going to spend the evening re-watching every Ramon at Home video on how to decorate a Christmas tree. For your viewing "pleasure," below are two shots of the tree with the lights (and the ribbon) on it.  I have started on the tree topper as well, and discovered a box of picks and florals that I ordered at the end of last season that I totally forgot about.  I'll be using some of them on 2021's tree. Right now I'm not happy with the status of the tree topper either, it needs more pizzzaaaazzzz!

I definitely need to do something about that ribbon, OY!  I really need to rev up my "decorating the Christmas tree" MOJO.  

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Happy Thanksgiving! Happy Me, the Christmas Tree is Up!

 Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!  I wish all to have a wonderful day with family and friends.  Feast and be merry.  I'll be making my own feast later on - filet mignon, scalloped potatoes (from a box mix - easy peasy), baby green peas, being careful to leave room enough in my tummy for at least one mini chocolate eclair!  

Are any of you a Three Stooges fan?  As a babyboomer, I'm very familiar with them, grew up watching their old clips and series on black and white television back in the day.  Now they're on Youtube.  Every year, I send a clip to my siblings for Thanksgiving, Easter and Christmas.  This year for T-day, it was Curly "stuffing" a turkey.  I'm sitting here laughing just thinking about it - CLASSIC!  

Yesterday Mr. Next Store Neighbor (the husband part of a sweet young couple with a 2 year old girl and another little girl born a few weeks ago) invited me to join him in a visit to a highly styled wine and spirits store - Total Wine (Spirits, Beer & More).  It's just a little too far for me to walk there from my house and no easy way to get there by bus from where I'm located, so since they opened a few years ago, I haven't been there.   It's pretty overwhelming!  And from what I saw, at least in the wine section, they have better prices than buying wine at the Metro Mart and a gigantic selection, it's a superstore for all beverages and things related to alcoholic beverages.  

The place was PACKED!  I shouldn't have been surprised; people will do last minute shopping the day before major holidays, that's just par for the course. But I was still shocked at how crowded the entire shopping center was - hardly any parking spaces available.  Inside the wine and spirts store itself - a very large space - it was crowded with shoppers in all aisles, even the ones I thought would be the most obscure.  So much for the mainstream media's constant whining about "inflation, inflation" and it's impact on "average" American families.  I live in a very "average American families' neighborhood and saw no signs of people having any problem spending oodles of money on cart loads of goodies in the jazzy liquor store.

I was dazzled by the displays, in the wine section (the area where I spent the most time browsing and oogling) some of the wine bottles were just gorgeous, dressed in glittery gold, silver, or  jewel tones applied directly to the bottles in lieu of paper labels.  I picked up a few items I normally wouldn't have bought (dark chocolate and red wine blend, anyone?  OOOO LA LA!)  I may be sampling the dark chocolate and red wine blend this evening.  

Fittingly, it is snowing right now in southeast Wisconsin - the first snowfall of the season that has lasted more than five seconds, occurring on Thanksgiving Day.  Further north it snows much earlier in the season, but it's rather late for the first snowfall here in Milwaukee.  It won't stick around long though, unless we get a foot or more (I'd better check the forecast), because the ground here isn't frozen yet.  The snow is melting upon contact with the ground, and the ambient air temperature is 36 degrees F.

But seeing the large wet white flakes cascading down from the grey sky is firing me up to get the Christmas tree decorated.  I unboxed the new tree I'd ordered yesterday.  I should have followed my own advice to others and put down a sheet before ever attempting to assemble it.  DUH - Jan, the Dummy, did not do what she told others to do.  Now I've got a mess on my hands after several hours spent first assembling and then fluffing out 928 tips over parts of 2 days!  Holy Hathor, it seemed to take forever, but probably something like 4 hours total ( A LOT OF TIME FLUFFING),  spent on touching each and every one of those branches to fluff the tree to, well - not perfection, but I'm not fussing with one more branch! (And, of course, right after I typed that I found myself staring at what appeared to be a particularly obnoxious hole in the bottom area of the tree that demanded I try and remediate it immediately!  And I've been puttering around moving inner branches here and there pretty much every 15 seconds since I started typing this).  

Anyway, here is the new tree in her naked (EEK!) state below after what is turning out to be Round One of fluffing - taken before Round Two: fluffing the fluffing (does that make sense?):

I won't lie - I am thoroughly in love with this monster of a tree and already wondering how I will EVER get it lugged downstairs to the basement once the season is over, but to quote Scarlett O'Hara, "I'll think about that tomorrow."  Perhaps I should have shopped for a slimmer version of a frosted tree, but when you fall in love - well, what can I say?  I'll deal with it by moving the wing chairs a bit further from the tree once it is fully decorated than in previous seasons.  Right now they're shoved pretty much to the sides of the room so I have space to bring in my step ladder if I need it in order to string the lights, design the "tree topper" and then decorate the tree with ribbon, ornaments, floral picks and probably a miniature kitchen sink somewhere, just because.  

I take back what I said yesterday about the branches not appearing to be as "frosted" as I thought they should/would be when I first saw the tree online in all its glory.  These photos show that the tree IS frosted, and I am loving the way the pine cones are really showing up as "stars" of the Christmas Tree Show!  You'd think at 70 I'd know better by now than to judge a tree all scrunched up and sad looking in a box, begging me to take it out and make it beautiful like it's supposed to be.  

After my break, I'll vacuum up the needles and little bits of pine cones that came off the tree as I was unbundling it from the box and then fluffing out each "trunk" with those 928 smaller branches.

The longer I've been sitting here in the living room (where the laptop will now be located until the Christmas tree comes down some time in January) looking at the new Christmas tree parked in front of my picture window, the more I'm falling in LOVE with it!  

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Holy Cow - This Is Going to Take Forever to Fluff This Tree!

Hola and oh my goodness.  What have I done?  I am not ready for this!

 Here's the box the new Christmas tree arrived in - after I opened it earlier this afternoon.  When it first arrived, I thought to myself OH OH.  This is going to be one smushed up tree.  How on EARTH did they ever fit a 6.5' full Christmas tree in this box...

Oh boy, I was SOOOOOOO right.  Do you think I should run for President in 2024???  I'll only be 74 years old, much younger than either Trump or Biden.  Think about it - maybe it's time to hire a wise old formerly hot chick attorney to do the job.

It will take me forever to fluff this tree.  Here's the bottom-most third of the tree, I have thus far managed to fluff two branches and not done a very good job of it, LOL!  Something tells me I'll be fluffing for the next five days if I want to try to get the tree to meet up to my expectations.  The tree has 928 tips.  OY!  It looked SOOOOO pretty in the ads selling it. I will have to fluff and fluff until my fingers fall off.  And the "frost" on the branches is barely visible.  Maybe once the tree is properly fluffed it will show up more???  I do like the large pinecones though, that's something anyway :)  

And I also like this.  I don't know if you are able to tell from this not so good photo, but the individual branches on the stems have slightly different color tones, and I really like how it makes this decidedly scrunched up PVC tree look a little bit more "realistic:"

And it looks like all of the "frost" on this tree just happens to be on this one branch that I photographed.  Geez Louise.  I can already see I'm going to have tons of clean-up to do. I KNEW I should have put down a sheet under the tree once I had the stand situated.  Drat!  I will suction up the fall-out from my attempts at assembling and fluffing the bottom third of the tree tomorrow morning - early - and then put a sheet down to (hopefully) catch all the stuff that's going to fall off the tree during the next several days as I assemble, fluff, fluff, fluff until I drop and then decorate.  Oh my sigh (a big one).

Monday, November 22, 2021

Another Pale Pink/Rose Gold Christmas Tree for Inspiration - She's a Beauty!

 Holy Hathor!  This is gorgeous:

From Pinterest.

Trying "Evergreen" Garland for the Christmas 2021 Mantel

Hola!  All the years I've been decorating for Christmas, I've never had an "evergreen" garland on my mantel.  I've decorated with white feather boas with white lights woven in and out, and lots of silver and gold; one year at the second Maison Newton home (that I sold in 2014 to retire to the current Maison Newton) I clipped some evergreen branches from shrubs in my backyard and used them on the mantel and also in the dining area in floral displays.  Some years I've done more simple decorations with ornaments, white lights and candles - no feather boas, no garlands.  But never anything with an actual "evergreen" garland.

So, this year, I thought - of course after I'd already sent in a steady stream of orders to various online vendors with no garland ordered - "Hey, why not see if you can find a nice artificial evergreen garland and use that to decorate the mantel this year." 

I shopped, and shopped, and shopped online until I nearly dropped (but did not).  I wanted as inexpensive an evergreen garland as possible, and as luxuriously looking as possible, thick and fluffy, two goals (price versus looks) that seemed to be on opposite ends of the Rainbow.

But, after visiting and revisiting several vendors and checking out endless streams of garlands until it felt like my eyes were going to fall out, I settled on a garland I kept going back to at Michael's online store. I decided to "up" the price I was willing to pay a bit, and I ended up purchasing this 6 foot Douglas Fir and Pinecone Garland by Ashland:

I got in on sale for $17.99 (regularly $29.99).  Here's a link.  I did pay extra for delivery, but it was worth it as there is no Michael's store that I could easily reach travelling by foot or bus from where I live.  

The garland arrived today and I have to tell you - it's gorgeous!  It is made entirely out of soft PE (not PVC) so each of the bristles has a very realistic appearance and the garland is soft to the touch and totally flexible, there is no wire in it as there is in garland made from PVC.  The pinecones are a good size (but not gigantic) and very realistic looking.

LOVE!  It really is beautiful garland and a steal (I think) at $17.99.  It is not "thick" per se, but I intend to interweave one or two of my white feather boas in and out of the branches to make it look sort of like "snow."  There will also be lights interwoven and some ornaments and/or glittery floral picks, maybe all together.  And maybe some battery-operated candles.   Artistic license - you know how that goes, LOL!

I can't wait to start decorating the mantel.  I've been watching Youtube videos left and right, and going through Pinterest images until my head is spinning.  I'm starting my Christmas decorating earlier this year.  I hope the living room including the new Christmas tree I purchased, will be finished by Thanksgiving Day so I can spend Thanksgiving luxuriating in a fully decorated room.  I started shoving the furniture around and vacuuming yesterday, will finish that today and maybe unbox the new tree and get it assembled.