Before we get into Part III of Tips from a Professional Tree Decorator, take a look at Part II. Now I can tell you my big news. The other night, after a fifteen-year search, I managed to get my dirty little hands on a 1991 Hallmark Star Trek USS Enterprise NCC1701 ornament! But it gets even better. I was able to get it at a very good price. I can’t wait for it to get here and be hung in a place of honor on my completely decorated tree. Yep, I finally finished it, two nights ago. It was a dirty job, but..yadayadayada.
It dawned on me I’ve not mentioned the burning question: Real or Fake
Both trees have their limitations and good points. There is nothing more wonderful than a real Christmas tree, especially if it came freshly cut from the tree plantation on your grandparent’s land. Those days are gone forever, and along with them the really good price – free! The last real tree I bought here in New Mexico was $79. I put it up the first of December and took it down New Years Eve 1999. I think I hauled the last of it out of the condo just as a new century was being ushered in, thus telling you I have no social life.
In my defense I was in a snit: Who knows what kind of relationship I thought I was getting into with that dude. He had the audacity to assume I would show up at a party where he was, then complained when I did not. Okay, it took me another month to get wise and realize I was better off without his stellar presence.
Getting back to the tree, by the middle of December it started looking dry and a little dangerous to light. I would limit my use of tree lights to just an hour or so, which was no fun. By Christmas Day it was so dry, with needles falling everywhere, I realized I could no longer use the lights. I was accustomed to fresh cut trees, not wood chip rejects. I realized fresh trees were not the easiest things to get around here, so I went to the fake.
The drawback of a real tree is the way it dries up so quickly even though you keep watering it and put up a sign telling the dog to drink toilet water instead of tree water or it would end up like the tree in Christmas Vacation. I know the other night on Mythbusters they ‘proved’ it is very difficult to set a real tree on fire, but sometimes you just don’t want to rely on Mythbusters, even though it is my favorite show.
There is one other problem with a real tree. It is sappy. You get the stuff in your clothes, on your hands, and in your hair. When the needles start falling off they require daily removal. When you remove the tree from your house – well, just think of Hansel and Gretel. I swear with that last tree I was still finding dead needles on the Fourth of July!
My sister wouldn’t be caught dead using an artificial tree. Frankly my dear…you know the rest. I would just as soon use an artificial as a real one. You can put it up when you want and take it down when you want and not water it. The needles don’t fall off and somehow end up in the soup tureen on top of the china hutch. So it has no odor. Three words: Pine Scented Potpourri. There are even candles that smell like Christmas tree.
I forgot I had a pine scented Yankee Candle, so I blew out my Beanpod (soy) lemon scented and lit the Christmas tree scent. FYI – Yankee Candles are excellent, but I have decided I like the soy candles by Beanpod. The scent is much more intense. For my Christmas Eve party I will light the Christmas Tree and then light an “Ocean” Beanpod, along with “Day at the Beach” (that has a slight coconut scent) and a lime flavor. If I can find an orange blossom I’ll also light that one. My condo will then smell like Christmas should (in South Florida).
Artificial trees get a bad rap. Okay, it’s very easy for the cats to climb them and pull the branches out the way my parent’s poorly behaved cats do. This year all she is doing is plugging the pre-lit tree in and letting the cats have at it. I’ve threatened to toss some catnip into it just for a little excitement. (Oh, her cats are so bad. The night she brought the bag of kitty Christmas presents in from the car, the seven cats all crowded into the guest room where she stores her Christmas things and pounced the bag, dragging everything out and running with it. I’m serious.)
After a few years an artificial tree starts to look a little lame, especially if it has seen quite a bit of feline activity. I was forced to get a new one last year and I seriously dislike it. Fortunately I’ve managed to avoid lighting it for two years. Last year I had a broken arm and had to hire one of the kids in my youth group. This year I had an inner ear thing. Wonder what I can come up with next year.
Collectable Christmas Ornaments
What is a collectable?
I hate to tell you this, but my treasure is your trash and vice versa. A collectable is whatever you want it to be and then some. There are no rules. You collect what you like. Deal with it. You can spend a fortune or collect on a budget. Unfortunately I don’t know anyone who collects on a budget.
Did you know F. W. Woolworth popularized Christmas ornaments in the United States when he began selling German-made ornaments in the early 1880s? By the 1890 the items were so popular he was making over $56 million a year in nickel and dime sales. If you extend that amount out and calculate for inflation, today those sales would top $1,240,000,000.00! I think this clears up the myth that our society has not been consumer driven until ‘recently.’
Let’s start with the most popular ornaments, those by Hallmark. Keepsake Ornaments have been around since 1973 when Hallmark introduced their first with six glass balls and twelve different yarn ornaments. Over three thousand different ornaments have been created since the first little glass balls. Series include Disney™, Barbie™, Lionel Trains™, Looney Tunes™, Peanuts™, Star Wars™, and Star Trek (my personal favorite). They have sports including Major League Baseball, Football, and NBA Basketball. I am kicking myself for not starting a set of the MLB ornaments, but somewhere you need to draw the line.
There are two other lines of ornaments I am going to mention. The first is Christopher Radko. In 1984 Radko accidentally destroyed a family collection of hand blown traditional European ornaments. He had a very difficult time finding replacements for the ornaments. Like any good son who is obviously trying to replace his mother’s precious mementos before she attacks with a broom or cattle prod, he was forced to take matters into his own hands. Along the way, Radko met up with a man who wanted to revive the craft practiced by his great-grandfather. The two men began working together and were an immediate success.
I first discovered Christopher Radko during his very first trade show in Atlanta during the late 1980’s. He had a tiny temporary booth with several dozen samples of his work hanging from a crude wooden frame. After a second walk through of the huge convention show room I was going to go back and place an order. Radko was swamped. The rest is history. His ornaments are now seen in the White House and collected by such celebrities as Elton John, Ricky Martin, Oprah Winfrey, Robert Redford, Kim Basinger, John Travolta, Robert DeNiro, Dolly Parton, Elizabeth Taylor, Whoopi Goldberg, and Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver – and moi.
Christopher Radko’s only competition is a line created by the super wholesaler Kurt Adler called Polonaise. I have a number of these, including my favorite, their exquisite Ancient Egyptian collection. Like Radko, the Polonaise ornaments only increase in value.
Next we will discuss just how to place those ornaments and how to keep the cats out of my mother’s tree.