Saturday, August 22, 2009

More Questions MORE Answers More Tips

Again, please accept my apology for deleting some comments on the last post. That is just a rookie blogger not paying attention..I will try to be much more careful. If you spend enough time commenting, I sure want it to post.
I have received so many emails from bloggers that are loving the questions and answers in this series. A few have questions regarding price, which I don't feel comfortable talking about on the blog. Every home is different. Let's just say this is a luxury service and not a necessity. But if you really want to know you can email me It is not that it is a big secret, I just don't want my customers to have their business out in the blog world.
Ok,for more questions....and still feel free to leave more if there is something you need to know. Once I actually start working on trees I will post pictures that will actually show you what I am talking about. Maybe I can get a friend to help me and we can do a little video...I so understand that many of you have said that it is just too early for you to think about Christmas. I get that, but in my business, if I don't do this now, I will not be able to. As of this week, my tree schedule is almost full. Getting everyone scheduled is one of the hardest parts of my job.

Several bloggers have ask about garland for the banisters and the mantle. INVEST in good garland. There is nothing that makes a bigger difference. Skimpy garland is one of my pet peeves. If you already have "thin" garland and need to use it, then double or triple it. Full garland makes everything look better. Personally, I like fresh garland, but since we start decorating so early,that is not always possible. So we use a good fake garland (preferably pre lit) then we add more lights to it. If the customer wants some of the "real stuff", we go back and add it closer to Christmas or on the day they are having a party. It is easy to cut up and stick in and then if it becomes a fire hazard, just pull it out.

I am going to make a confession here.. I am normally so tired after the holidays that I do not take my stuff down until the end of Jan or Feb.....So our trees stay up from October until late January. Another confession, and this one will probably scare you, but unless we are going out of town, I rarely turn the lights off my inside trees. There is nothing more peaceful to me than all the trees on,(white non blinking lights of course)a fire in the fireplace,(and in our case sometimes the AC on at the same time) Christmas CD's playing,(that's another post), great candles burning and rocking one of my grandsons to sleep. That's it...I have never typed that before, but that's the ultimate peaceful night for me. And because my little ones live really close, that happens several nights a week. Thank you God!
I put a small tree right by Jack's crib, so if he wakes during the night,he sees his tree and hears his Christmas lullaby CD.
Another admission (which Amanda laughs about often),
I have a CD player by the crib and I make sure that it plays all night...right now my favorite is Celine Dions Miracle lullaby CD. OK,I got off track....but a great tip if you have little ones.

Back to the garland...the best way to attach it is to use the garland itself and twist stems underneath it to keep it in place. I will try to do an entire post on banisters and mantles. I have a mirror behind my mantle, so the last few years I have used mega garland....then wedged "cheap" candlesticks of all different sizes and heights all through the garland and topped them with heavy large glass ornaments instead of candles. I use pre lit garland, then add fresh garland and add lots of pearl lights. Once I get them out, I will show you a picture, in case you are not familiar with them. I use the green and red balls that are heavy... the leaded glass look..At this point I realize things that I use all the time,I may not be very good at conveying to you.
Another tip...never throw out an old tree. Use it outside with lights and you have an instant outside decoration.

At my house and at many of the houses I work on, we use 3 and 4 ft trees, usually with a theme, throughout the house. It just adds so much to a bathroom, bedroom,kids have a special little tree. I will give you some theme ideas in a separate post.
Another tip....if you find a great ornament at Walmart, Big Lots, etc, that is a great price and a great look, buy them all. Do not try to figure out how many you need to even the tree out (don't make the tree uniform) buy them all. They will not be there when you go back.
I cannot tell you how many trees I do in VERY expensive homes, that are full of 1.99 ornaments.
As soon as Walmart and Target put theirs out, I will show you some good buys in pictures. I was in Hobby Lobby today and if their ornaments are on half price next week, which they do at least once a month, I have my eye on about 10 different ones and I will buy everyone they have of each of those.

I feel like I am rambling tonight and that might be because I have been fooling with Christmas stuff all day....but I promised you one CHEAP, GREAT TIP to make your tree full. I wish I had one close by so I could show you..but I will in the next post...
Buy boxes of the cheap glass whatever colors you, green, gold, silver all work well.....In several sizes.....let's just say buy enough to give you at least 100 balls. Stay with me...this is a good investment...Take the ends off them.....THROW them away,(where you would normally put a hook)!! When you start working on your tree, start at the center and work out...NOT the outside of the limbs where you will put your good ornaments but on every available branch, stick those ornaments in as far as you can on the limb... a few will break in your hand....a few thousand have broken in mine, but the light will bounce off these glass ornaments and make your tree look three times as FULL. I promise. I am not sure I explained that great, but will make a picture and show you. You can get these kind of ornaments in boxes at the dollar store.
One other thing, I have received multiple emails about colored lights. By all means use them if you like them. I just don't!. At a few houses that I do, we use them on smaller trees...

AND just so you can have a laugh tonight, this is my welcome home every night during tree season. After working more hours than I can count, aching in every part of my body, when I drive into my neighborhood at night, the first house I see is one covered in every color light you can imagine, very poorly hung, with the emphasis on blue lights(hate them) blinking like crazy. You get the picture. (Please don't write me if you use blue lights, just keep using them...Walmart needs to sell them.) I always just laugh and think what a sense of humor God must have.

That's it for tonight.....surprises coming this next week. Leaving you with a few pictures of my day and something else you MUST have.

This is a must have. I go through at least 200 rolls during the tree season.
I have been organizing ribbon, getting ready for the season.
This is the little guy that I rock the most right now. I wish there were words BIG enough to tell you how much I love him.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

More Holiday Decorating Questions

I am going to answer a few more questions tonight...and in a few days a surprise, so tell your friends to check out my blog. It seems like just sharing as I think..which is scary, worked fine in answering the questions last I will do that again tonight.
I really do want to give you some tips that will give you a new look, make decorating your tree easier and give you some new ideas.

One blogger wrote today that she could not imagine having someone else decorate her tree. Most of my clients are so thrilled to leave home early in the morning and come home and their halls are DECKED. Several have told me it is the happiest day of the year to them. So that makes me happy.

One question was about her tree being too short for her ceilings, what do I do?....I have several customers that have that problem.....Using plywood, make a box to place your tree on top up...It works perfect, and you can use lots of fabric or an extra large tree skirt over the plywood and it not only lifts your tree, but gives you a beautiful way to display your packages. If you have questions about this email me.

Many of you want to see pictures of the trees from years past...I will be glad to post them, but want to be sure and check with my clients first. I will be posting (hopefully) every few days as we finish trees this year...and mantles and staircases and buffets, front doors (we go no further than the front door wreath)! NOTHING OUTSIDE!!!!!

Do I use my clients things or my things? In
most cases I have originally bought their things at market in years past and helped design their look, but I always incorporate anything of theirs that they want to use. (unless it is so ugly that I just cannot do it). Believe me I have seen some UGLY stuff... We normally figure out some way to use any heirlooms. Also, most of my clients want to add something new every year. This is something we normally discuss the year before. I am always on the look at market for new things for my trees.

I am a big advocate of letting small children have a tree in their room and have it just special for them. I have seen some of the cutest trees that kids have put together....that express their interests...As a matter of fact you can use so many different things on a tree....not just ornaments.

Do you like colored lights? Just a flat no, though I do them at a very few houses. I don't like blinking or colored lights. I like the peaceful look...We will discuss this later.

No, I do not have a degree in interior design...just have a business tax number and just work....

How did I get started is repeated over and over. WE all know and have the confidence in SOMETHING that we just do well, with little effort. I do trees! I don't cook, I don't sew, I don't do a million other things, but I can decorate a tree.

Memory ornaments? Put them on a special smaller tree....You will be able to see them better and they will not get lost in your big tree. I have a customer that has all his grandmothers old ornaments...the thin, easily broken glass ornaments...He loves the memories that each we show them off on a special tree.

What are some of the big don'ts? Don't use hooks, don't think too hard about getting things balanced when you are decorating the tree. I start in the middle, move to the top,then move to the bottom, no particular just all comes together like a mosaic. Don't be afraid of mixing many different things. Don't have one tiny thing sticking up on the top of the tree....Use the gauze netting. It covers a MULTITUDE of SINS. (I will show you this later)

Do my clients give me free range? Almost always...I know what they like but rarely are they there when we are working. (I know most of their housekeepers well and most of them cook for us which we love)

Do I do just the tree or the whole house? Normally the entire house. Do I still enjoy it? I had to laugh at this question..It is super hard work. I hate the banisters and normally have someone working for me, do these. It just kills my legs. I don't take chances on 12 ft ladders like I did for years. I am much more careful, but I will tell you I am tired to the bone every night. Come home, unload and reload for the next day. My SUV becomes a traveling tree. I have to be ready for anything that comes up. Most days we work 12-16 hours. We count down, as in 33 to go, 32, etc....But what I do still love is the feeling that I have made someones life so much happier. I keep using the words client and customer and really all these people are my friends.

Ok...that's probably enough for tonight. I will leave you with a few pictures....that happen to be on my computer...most of our trees from last year are on a computer that one of my best helpers EVER, has. She is our photographer. And she did send them to me, but I cannot find them tonight. Just the truth...
In a few days there will be more questions and answers and you can always ask me anything as well. In the next post I am going to tell you how to LOAD your tree very inexpensively. I have a feeling it is a trick you have never seen. (unless you know me)

I would really rather talk football than trees, but I am thinking most of you would be bored.

This happens to be my mantle which is larger than this and I will show you a better picture later. Yes, that is fresh garland layered over artificial garland.

This is part of my collection of Disney ornaments. I am going to do a big Disney tree this year, but this was the centerpiece on my table. I loved it and we figured out a way to keep it lit by using a tree skirt and running the wires under it and down to a plug. Everyone wondered how I had it lit. This is not a great picture of it. I will find a better one later. And to top it off, it was on one of the old green tinsle trees. (one I had to buy new and pay way too much for)

This is a Start on Answering Your Questions About My Holiday Decorating Business

I am going to begin to answer some of your Christmas questions.
This will probably be in several parts, so hang with me and I will try and answer every question.....

1. Do I decorate real trees or "artificial " trees?
Out of the 70 plus trees I (we) did last year, we did 3 real trees. Those were at houses that are just meant for "REAL trees"...old restored homes that have perfect spots for HUGE trees.. That was the not the case when I started doing trees 17 years ago. Now they make artificial tress that look so real, that are pre-lit and can be left up so much longer than a real tree. Pre-lit trees have been upgraded 100% in the last five years.
I have always loved a real tree for the smell, but the ones we did last year, absolutely did not smell. I think they must use so many preservatives in the trees that you no longer get that strong Christmas tree smell. Besides I make up a special concoction to spray on my trees, so I can make any of them smell "fresh"!

2. What is my favorite theme for a tree?
Umm, that is a tough one as I have done them all. I could tell you the ones I like least but I won't as that might be your theme.
Two of my favorites trees are old fashioned trees filled with ornaments collected over the years and then new ribbons and balls that add a classy look...
Another one is an iced fruit filled tree (straight out of Southern Living) filled with sticks, heavy ornaments and tons of iced fruit.
During the season I will be showing you some of these. That leads me to another plus for artificial trees.. the sturdiness of the limbs.
You can get that perfect look and I am really partial to the perfect look. I really like the showroom look planned out and one that has the more different kinds of things on it, the better.
THAT leads me to a great TIP!...write these down as I may forget to say some of these again. THE MORE DIFFERENT TEXTURES and SHAPES on the tree, the fuller the look you will get. One of my pet peeves is a skimpy tree. This is a remark I hear often from my clients, "Do you think you could get one more thing on that tree?" and the answer is always yes...
OK before I go any further, I better warn you, I like a LOADED TREE. Let me see if I can give you a little example of a one of my trees

I have collected exquisite ornaments from sample sales and I have a small fortune invested in one of my trees. BUT, you do not have can pick up balls and ornaments from places like Hobby Lobby, Michael's, T.J.Maxx, Big Lots, and many other places and get the same look...throughout the season I will try to show you things that I have found. The key is knowing what to buy and what to mix. ANOTHER HINT...I use NO hooks, and have no drop on any ornament, I wire everything to the limb. I will show you this later, but you will be amazed at the difference it makes. I also do several whimsical trees for kids and for the top of staircases and they are so much fun...especially in the new green and red.

3. What is in this year?
Glitz and more Glitz...But I always say do what you love.

4. How did I grow my business?
I started with 3 houses about 17 years ago and they were friends. They had seen my trees...that was back in the day when I did a tree in every room (those days are over)
Then it was just word of mouth and as of today my schedule is 80% full for this year with everyone having a date. That is all I have worked on the past few weeks. The scheduling is one of the hardiest parts of my jobs... So many things go into that, as many houses have 2 and 3 large trees, several mantles, staircases, and on and on. So some homes require me along with 5 elves to work 2 days to finish one house...and some days it seems like we will NEVER finish. We do the first house the first day in November and we do not take a day off until the middle of December. We work Thanksgiving Day, 7 days a week...and it is grueling. There is no way I can get sick, or at least too sick to work, plus there are always those days we have light problems. (this is when there is a great temptation to cuss and many times we give in to that temptation) JUST FOR THE RECORD!
If we miss one day, it messes the entire schedule up.
5. How do I stay on top of things?
I study trees at market, I tear pictures out of magazines. I am always on the look for something different.
One person wrote that she loved Christmas but wanted to scream when she walked in a Hobby Lobby and saw Christmas in May. I not only want to scream, I want to lay down in the middle of the store and cry. It always seems like I just got my stuff all put up.
6. What do I use for tree toppers?
I am not a fan of toppers. We try to work the tree all the way to the top and then I use fabulous netting and ribbons to blend the entire tree. If someone has to have a star or an angel, maybe an heirloom, we work it into the front near the top. I will try to show you an example of that in days to come.

As you can see this could go on and on...I got through 6 questions and I had 60 plus questions. I promise at least 6 more tomorrow. I may think of a better way to answer them. Tonight I am just typing as I think of things. If you have an specific questions about anything I answered here, leave it in the comments and I will try and explain it better.

Monday, August 17, 2009

I am Pooped But I Have a Winner or Maybe Winners

What a sweet boy to play his DSI while I got a pedicure today

Jack and I have kept Jack and Parker all weekend so Amanda and Micah could have a romantic getaway to celebrate their anniversary. We love every minute they are here...but a 19 month old has ENERGY PLUS SOME. This Grammy is a bit tired tonight. But we were glad for the kids to get away and have some alone time and see a good ballgame, shop, do some FINE Dining which probably included
SOME FINE WINE. They even brought us some Sprinkles cupcakes tonight when they came home. What a TREAT!!

Parker starts back to school tomorrow, which I hate. I will just say it "I HATE SCHOOL"!...wish he could travel with us on a whim. I just love having that boy around. At least we do get to take him and pick him up from school everyday and hear about his day. And his Mom is good with us taking him out for a week at a time several times throughout the year. (Sorry School Teachers) He is an extremely SMART kid, so missing school is no biggie! And so far we have had teachers that totally agreed that travel was the best education. At 10, he has been to over 40 states, so I think that covers a multitude of subjects.
I looked over at Jack last night and he had his Mickey Ears On.....He really loves "The Mouse"! His Grammy really loves "The Mouse" too!!!

On to the Winners...there were so many cute captions and most were right on the mark. but we had to choose one or two or three....The blogger that wins the GRAND PRIZE is
Jensmere at Count It All Joy. She had so many cute captions.
I could hear him saying everyone of hers ....

Since there were so many, two more that will receive some surprise in the mail soon.......and they ARE
Nancy at Bacardi Mama Reruns again! and

Spencer at Bellamere Cottage Holy see something new everyday. Can't wait to tell the folks about this one!
Be sure and visit all three of these blogs. They are all GREAT!
Winners please send me your name and address information to

Off to finish working on the Christmas post....Before I start giving tips, I am going to answer your questions and that just might be tomorrow .