Category Archives: Decorating

How to have a natural Christmas

Minimalist tree from Michael’s Craft Store

I love Christmas and part of what I love about it is the beauty and fun of it. But I am changing some of my seasonal customs this year, because I’m learning more about materials and practices that are not healthy for the planet.

I came up with some ideas for having a more natural Christmas this year. Would you like to try it? Maybe it would be hard to make all these changes, but it wouldn’t be difficult to do a few, at least.

Here are some ideas for reducing, reusing and recycling during the holidays.

I am decorating with more natural materials.

  • What I love: I feel good about doing my part for the planet, even if it’s in small ways. And I really like the cozy, simpler vibe.
  • I am getting a real Christmas tree. 75% of Americans put up a plastic Christmas tree. My tree has a smell and an appeal you cannot replace with plastic branches and can also be recycled and composted.
  • I am not using tinsel or flocking on my tree. It’s pretty but not recyclable.
  • Following the advice of YouTuber Garrett LeChic, I am saying NO to glitter: glitter is a microplastic that is terrible for the environment, including marine wildlife. You also cannot send glitter-decorated cards to deployed troops or people in hospitals, and there is probably a reason for that.
  • For holiday sparkle, I’m using glass ornaments I already have that reflect the lights. And fewer ornaments this year, so they really stand out. Minimalist trees are trending!

I am changing the focus of this season from shopping and consumerism to exploring other kinds of activities and self-care.

  • What I love: not struggling to find parking, having lots of time for exercise, cooking and making my home a home, saving money!
  • Shopping can be addictive! I used to shop for fun and at no other time is shopping more fun than at Christmas. I decided to cut way back on the time I spend in stores. I can’t remember the last time I was in a mall! Now, I shop only for what I absolutely need and I think intentionally about whether I really need it.
  • I avoid commercials on television, radio and YouTube by using a SmartTV, playing my own content in the car, and investing in commercial-free YouTube Premium.

I am exchanging fewer gifts this Christmas. 

  • What I love – no more pressure to shop for the perfect gift.
  • Spending more time writing notes in Christmas cards.
  • Saving lots of money. I am even saving more gas!
  • I feel more in tune with the real meaning of Christmas.
  • I made an agreement to exchange only one small gift or to share a special meal or experience together (such as a concert) in lieu of presents.

I am choosing gifts that are consumable or reusable.

  • What I love: I can make some of my gifts. Colors and sizes are never an issue.
  • I give edible gifts, such as sweets, nuts, popcorn, etc.
  • I give consumable self-care gifts, such as seeds from the garden, bath salts, scrubs and balms.
  • I give gifts of books, cards and board games that can be used again and again and don’t require batteries or electricity.
  • I wrap gifts in materials that can be reused or recycled: fabric, cardboard, cotton string, white tissue, etc.

I’m making more of my baked goods and eating at home.

  • Why I love it: it’s healthier, tastier and less expensive than eating out. I have really been shocked at how bakeries and fast food restaurants are using so much plastic these days! It seems like everything comes in a plastic clamshell packaging. But that wasn’t true not so long ago. Baked goods came in paper or cardboard containers that were biodegradable. The world does not need more plastic, so…
  • I’m cooking lots more and experimenting with fresh herbs and produce. I feel a lot healthier and it’s much less costly, for example, a roast chicken: a cinch to make!
  • I am eating more vegetarian meals — beans, legumes and tofu.
  • I found and am using unbleached parchment paper. You can recycle or compost it.
  • I’m reading ingredients and not purchasing items that have high fructose syrup or artificial colors and flavors.
  • I’m baking some of my Christmas treats. I hope to make a Yule Log cake this year!

Let’s hear from you!

I am really just beginning to live in a way that is more respectful of the environment. What other ways could I have a “green” Christmas? Post your tips in the comments!


How to make your poinsettia last after Christmas


Would you like to keep your poinsettia plant alive and well after the holidays? Watch this video to learn poinsettia preservation tips.

Learn how to decorate with fresh greenery

Photo by Lum3n on

Happy Holly Day!

It’s wonderful to add the natural touches of holly, pinecones and greenery to your Christmas or Yuletide home decorations. Even before the birth of Christ, greenery was an important and symbolic part of winter festivities.

  • The Christmas colors of red and green come from the ancient use of holly in December celebrations. Evergreen holly is associated with everlasting life. Its red berries symbolize vitality and in Christian times became associated with the blood of Christ. The ancient Romans brought holly into their homes for the winter festival of Saturnalia. The prickly leaves were thought to protect the inhabitants of the house. Holly also figured in pagan rituals and celebrations.
  • Evergreen pine trees and pine cones have been associated with immortality or long life since pre-Christian times, as well as strength, as they stand up to winter storms. The ancient Romans associated them with the goddess of love, Venus and ancient Celts put them under their pillows as a fertiility charm.
  • MIstletoe is another evergreen plant that has been associated with Christmas. This is another plant that was used by the Romans during Saturnalia and it was also revered by the Norse peoples, who associated it with the goddess, Frigga. Ancient Celts believed mistletoe helped bring good luck, fertility and healthy crops.

Would you like to learn how to decorate with greenery? Peg from Merrifield Gardening Center shows you how to create gorgeous table decorations, swags and bows in this new video.


How to select a real Christmas tree

Photo by Valeria Boltneva on

Happy Christmas Tree Day! Do you prefer a real Christmas tree or an artificial Christmas tree? If you said “real,” you have plenty of company.

According to a Statista survey, Americans purchased more than 26 mllion “real” Christmas trees in 2019. Real Christmas trees sell for about $78 on average and artificial ones are around a $100 on average.

Do you worry about the environment when considering a live tree? Don’t fret. For every tree cut, 2 more are planted. They are also recyclable. And there are Christmas tree farms in every state in the U.S. But most artificial trees are manufactured abroad and not always with the safest of materials.

Christmas trees have been around since the 1500s and were introduced to North America by German soldiers working for the British. In the old days, Christmas trees were decorated with fruit and nuts and were lit by candles.

When it comes to Christmas tree types, you have lots of options. Perhaps the most popular type is the Fraser Fir. Fraser Firs smell great, have good needle retention and their branches are ideal for draping electric lights and tinsel and for showcasing ornaments. Unfortunately, I’m a little allergic to them, so I pick other kinds of trees for my home.

Balsam firs are another good option. They are a darker green than Fraser firs and are highly fragrant. They are also a little more affordable. I often pick a Balsam or Douglas fir. Douglas firs are nice and bushy. Hanging lights and ornaments is a little more tricky than on Fraser Firs. Sure, they drop more needles, but I don’t mind. That’s part of Christmas for me.

If you are lucky, you might find a Virginia pine, the most popular variety in the South, which tends to be small to medium-sized.

When shopping for a real tree, run your fingers over the needles and gently bend the outermost branches. If a lot of needles fall off or the branch breaks, the tree is dry. Find a batter one. 

To extend the life of your tree, keep it well watered (I check mine every day) and keep it away from heat sources. If you lower the temperature of the room, it will last longer. The National Christmas Tree Asociation also cautions not to burn any part of the Christmas tree in your fireplace or wood stove.

I usually buy my real trees from Home Depot. The kind I pick costs less than $40 which is a real bargain compared to tree lots. And please tip the fellows who saw the trunk and load the tree for you! 

Christmas Tree Decorating Tips

Did you know that the WAY you fluff your artificial Christmas tree can affect how the ornaments hang?

Me, neither! In this video, you will learn that fun tip and more, like how to make a designer-style, bow tree-topper. You’ll be fascinated at how this tree comes to life under the skilled decorating hands of this Merrifield Garden Center designer. Enjoy!

Happy Poinsettia Day! How to Select and Care for a Poinsettia

This is a good time of year to pick out a Poinsettia for you or for a friend. Poinsettias are different, beautiful and affordable — and they don’t have any calories! 🙂 Sometimes, you can buy 3 for $10 on sale. Guys like them, too! Think about giving one as a colorful holiday surprise to anyone who needs a lift or as a way of saying thank you.

Here’s how to pick out a good one: the center little yellow-green nubs are the flowers (the red “petals” are actually leaves). These should be closed, they’ll open eventually. Skip a plant that has curling, yellow, or dead leaves.

Don’t let the plant get cold on the way home. Unfortunately, you have to take the pretty wrapping off the plant pot, as you don’t want the poinsettia to stand in water and get wet feet. If the soil feels dry to the touch you will need to water it. Take the plant to the sink and gently run water into the soil until it pours out of the drainage holes. Drain well. Place on a water proof plate and situate the plant near a sunny window away from direct heat and cool drafts. Check soil daily for dryness.

Poinsettias are not poisonous, but they’re also not cat food, so if you have pets at home, you may want to purchase the convincing-looking artificial ones.

Check out this video for more tips…

How To Decorate Your Mantel for Christmas (Video)

img_5407.jpgWhen I HAD a mantel, I loved decorating it for holidays. I used to incorporate silver-toned frames of my family and friends, along with candles, ornaments, real greenery, ribbon and deer.

Now I do the same thing, but with my wall of bookshelves.

Here are two videos that showcase great looks to try and add your own personal touches.

These decorators share their approaches to creating a beautiful, decorated Christmas mantel.

The first video is by Liz Fenwick. I like this video because she really explains the mechanics, measurements and specifics for building the decorative elements on the mantel.

In this how-to video, designer Eddie Ross reveals his approach for decorating a fabulous Christmas fireplace mantel with simple greenery, Christmas lights and glowing candles. I love how he shows how easy it is to change a few elements to create two very different looks. You could do a different look each week! Or you could change it up for a holiday party…or New Year’s Eve.


A video look at the White House Chrismas decorations — with Bo!

Bo makes a final inspection of the 2012 White House Christmas decorations before 90,000 visitors come through the doors of the People’s House this holiday season. Find out more about the 2012 White House Holiday celebrations, including the special tributes to troops, veterans and military families at

Water your Christmas tree daily

It’s really important to keep your tree watered!  Water daily.

How to put lights on your Christmas Tree

If you are anything like me, you struggle with getting the lights just right! My tree looks like this: way too many lights near the top, too many clumped together, not enough lights. Usually, a more spatially aware friend takes pity on me and helps me do it evenly, and the results are so beautiful. Once I accepted that more lights really were needed, I had a prettier tree.

My tips are

  1. Play some Christmas music — I love the Charlie Brown Christmas album for this!
  2. White lights or colored lights? It’s hard to pick. Why not both? One year, I did both. The effect was beautiful! I had the color I wanted, but the brightness from the clear lights. Some years, I do color lights when I am going for a more colorful tree. Last year, I left the colorful ornaments in the box and did an all silver and gold tree, with fewer ornaments but lots of lights.
  3. Don’t rush it. Go slowly and you will get better results. If you have to, start over.
  4. Enlist a friend…or help unravel the cords, circle the tree and drape the tree with lights. It really helps to have the extra hands.
  5. Tuck, tuck, tuck those lights in — some deep and some closer to the edges of the branches, so you have that nice “depth” effect.
  6. Strategically position some of the ornaments near light sources, especially if they have glitter on them.
  7. Stop and take some pictures of you and your family decorating the tree, as you do it. You’ll be so glad to have these to look at later!

Here are some tips from the experts…

First, the lights. You will need 100 lights per foot of tree.

Secondly, some of those light strings contain lead. It will probably say so, on the box.  So wear plastic gloves to protect your hands, and wash your hands afterwards and before eating anything (like Christmas cookies!), so you don’t accidentally contaminate yourself.

Now for the decorating…

From what I’ve observed on YouTube, you can approach this a number of ways.  Some people start by wrapping the trunk with a string of lights. Some people weave the lights up and down around the tree, and others wrap each individual branch, starting at the trunk and working outward.

Here are some videos that demonstrate those techniques…

Here’s the “wrap each branch” technique from Colonial Wiliamsburg…

And here’s the “weave around the tree” approach from Home Depot…

How do you put up your Christmas tree lights?