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Christmas Lighting Displays

by ‎10-19-2016 03:37 PM - edited ‎10-19-2016 03:38 PM

Christmas lighting displays - now before I begin let me say I don't expect you to go to the extremes, I do.  First, because you are probably sane, and for me, that train left the station in regards to Christmas lighting several years ago.

House Lights.jpg

 

Start with a plan, a simple outline sketch of your home or the building/buildings you wish to light. You don't have to do what I do and that is start from detailed scale architectural drawings that I sat at my drafting board for days to create. 

Preplan Lights.jpg

 

On your drawing mark were each one of your outdoor electrical outlets are located.  This will help later when deciding where to start your light strings without excessive need for extra extension cords later.  Nothing is more frustrating than stringing a lot of lights only to find you put them up backwards with the wrong end of the cord at the far end of the gutter instead of closest to the wall outlet.  I have done it...more than once.

 

Additional Tips:

 

  • Mark the light strands on your drawing with arrows indicating the direction that they need to be run.  Remember not to over load circuits or breakers and always keep yourself safe.  
  • I also mark where "ground effects" like Bliss lights or free standing lite up pieces will go in the yard as well.  
  • I mark on my drawings each light strand with the male and female ends of the plugs so that it is less time up on the ladder and less frustration.  
  • Designate any extension cords you intend on using and the approximate length of each on your drawing so that you know what you will need and what to purchase.  
  • All Christmas lights list on the boxes just how many strands can be connected together and these are not recommendations, they are safety regulations....follow the warnings.  Over loading a circuit or breaker is bad news and always leads to trouble.  Most electrical outlets are 15 amps or 120 volts.  If you intend on running lots of lights or longer strands may I suggest LED bulbs, they use less current and tend to last longer as well. 
  • After your sketch or drawing is done, pull out your Christmas lights andCHECK   Most people do not take the time to do this from year to year but I have gotten into the practice of checking every single strand and every single bulb before even thinking of putting them up.  Why... ?because the lights spend more time in the box in the barn or garage over the months than on the house at Christmas time.  There is no telling if a hungry squirrel decided that your lights might be a tasty snack in the off season or maybe a stand became frayed or brittle.  If you check them now you will be in for less frustration trying to find why things are not lighting and your circuit breakers are failing.  Either way it is a good safety remainder to do this. 
  • And lastly before you put up your lights, LABEL them.   I mark each strand with a permanent marker and a label tag ie "First floor gutter run" or "Garage Roof".....that way I know what strand goes where and it saves time and misery.  Don't tell yourself you will just remember which strand goes where because you won't.  

Now it’s time to decorate….. Bushes and Trees can be TOUGH.  Odd shapes, nothing is perfectly square or round, and it is difficult to do it right and not make it look like a strand of lights just hanging there. Here are some tips on how to make you trees, bushes, and kitchen counters look glorious.

IMG_7157.JPGLighting Trees

Fir trees or any others that look like Christmas trees are somewhat easier than hardwood trees to light.  Start at the top and drape the power cord down the back of the tree towards the ground so you can later hook up your extension cord to run power to it.  Then work your way down the tree towards the bottom either draping the lights or wrapping them in a cylindrical pattern.

 

Hardwood trees, like maple, oak or elm trees provide a different challenge.  They are never symmetrical, some branches are longer than others and it is hard to estimate the number of lights necessary to complete the task. Just remember that it doesn't take a lot of lights to make a tree stand out when it is dark outside.  And the tree itself will virtually disappear after the sun sets any way...only the lights will be visible. 

 

You only need to make a basic out line of SOME of the branches to make a tree light up beautifully.  Start at the bottom and run a STRAIGHT line of lights up the tree trunk just off center of the trunk to the left or right.  Wrapping the lights around the trunk will confuse the eye and over load the trunk with lights as compared to the branches. 

 

Then when you get to your first desired branch to light up (it doesn't have to be the lowest one mind you) take your strand out in a straight line following the curves of that branch from trunk to tip. Again don't wrap the branch.  I use a staple gun making sure not to crimp the electrical line.  Then at the tip follow back on another straight line back towards the trunk.  Again, you are looking to define the trees natural lines, plus wrapping the line uses up much more light stand.  This way your lights will go farther and the tree looks more natural.

 

Once back to the trunk go a little higher and repeat the process.  Your final section of light strand will then come back down the trunk of the tree off centered once again to the ground were you can make your connection for power.  It sounds confusing but it is easy to get the hang of and your trees will look natural and spectacular.  Give it a try.

 

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Lighting Bushes

Bushes and shrubs are tough to estimate in terms of how many lights it takes to make them look festive.  It takes more than you might think because you will be wrapping them around the circumference of that bush.   A good way to estimate the length of light stand or strands you will need is measure the height of the bush or shrub, then multiply that number by it's width.  Than take that measurement and multiply it by three.  An example, the two vertical acacia bushes that line my front entry way are roughly 6 feet tall, and 3 feet wide. 3 X 6 = 18...times 3 = 54 feet of lights..  for each bush.

 

Start at THE TOP. (really..not at the bottom?).  Yup at the top.  But, start your light strand so that it drapes over the top of the bush towards the ground in the BACK of the bush with the electrical plug just off the ground. The whole idea is to NOT make it look like a straight line of lights.  Nothing is straight in Mother Nature and remember when it gets dark the bush will virtually disappear and all you will see will be the lights. You want to avoid straightness (this way the ONLY straight and vertical line of lights will be in the back).  Plus, this way the electrical connection will be at ground level and the lights will be suspended off the ground making the lights appear to "float in midair".

 

Don't make the mistake of "wrapping" the bush in lights or walking around it laying the lights from top to bottom, this will make it look like a suspended coil of lights, not a bush (unless you like that look in which case there are no rules, go for it).  By making large "S" shapes with your light strands and making the loops as UN uniform as possible, some big some small...the lights will be much more random and define the bush shape better. 

 

Feel free to weave the lights in and out of little branches to make it follow the shape of the bush.  It takes a little practice but do your best to space the lights out so that the other end of the cord winds up being at the lowest part of the bush so that you can make your electrical connection and move to the next bush.  If you have to you can fiddle with the lights after they are on the bush to make the end of the cord reach to where you need it to be. Keep the cord ends about a foot off the ground if you can.

 

I use extension cords BETWEEN bushes so that no lights are hung in a midair "tight rope" between bushes.  This also breaks up the line of sight end defines each bush as its own visual experience.  Try to find the shortest needed extension cords for this and you can hide them on the ground.. they won’t be seen at night.

 

One last thing, take the time to clip a few of the lights to a small branch or twig, if your lights don't have clips, an occasional wire twist tie from a bread wrapper will keep your lights in place during wind storms of heavy rains and snow.  That way you don't have to decorate more than once and you can enjoy the light show. 

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Lighting Kitchen Counters

Here is a trick to decorate kitchen counters without taking up much space and it is again easy and simple to do. Simply take a strand of garland and lay it out flat on the floor.  All garlands are made around a center piece of sturdy wire.  Splay the greenery to equal sided of the wire to fold it flat.  Then simply place it up against the back splash of the counter with that center core wire at the point where the counter top and the back splash meet.  This will shape your garland like the letter "L" and will fit the space nicely.

 

The just do a little "fluffing” by taking some greenery from the top and pulling it down and some from the bottom and lifting it.  This fills in the space nicely and takes up virtually no room at all. I then just put whatever was on the counter beforehand back into place (appliances etc.).    The greenery adds a festive touch but doesn't use up valuable real estate and only takes a few moments to accomplish.

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Christmas lights are kind of my "electrical metaphor" for my private time with our creator.  And I don't just means the times when I say out loud, “OH please God don't let me fall off this ladder, or please don't let me get electrocuted".  I truly mean this when I say this.  

 

The holidays come so quickly that is it so easy to get swept up and feel like they pass us by before we are even prepared. I know it is only October.  But starting now extends the holidays and keeps me in the spirit longer. To be honest, it's not about the lights at all, it's all about the feeling that I am actively in the moment and remembering the important things in life while doing so. 

 

Enjoy.

 

-Dan

 

My Blogs: Dan-Blogs

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Comments
by
on ‎10-19-2016 04:09 PM

Enjoyed the blog and pics,

Image result for thank you christmas animated images

 

by
on ‎10-19-2016 05:53 PM

Dan, 

Beautiful lighting and well done 👍 

by
on ‎10-19-2016 07:50 PM

DAN....WOW!  That is beautiful and very, very detailed.  I am glad you shared your love of Christmas with us.  Thank you.

 

Hey....won't be long before Santa and his reindeer arrive, lol......

 

 

Image result for animated santa flying

by Maxikat
on ‎10-19-2016 08:37 PM

Looks like so much work but the results are breathtaking. Thanks so much for sharing.

by
on ‎10-19-2016 08:49 PM

Dan,

All I can say is WOW.....just......WOW!!!!!  I bow down to you, oh great one....oh great creator of AWESOME holiday light display!!!!!  The thought, careful planning and marvelous execution of this project just blows me away!!  If I were to try to put lights up, I would be like Chevy Chase in Christmas Vacation and haphazardly climb a ladder with lights, and staple gun in hand!!! ha!  And probably electrocute myself in the process!!!  I have a true admiration for people like you, Dan!

I may just try the lighted garland along the countertops...think I can handle that, but all that other outdoor lighting is best left to the experts like you!!  Thanks so much for sharing...your home is beautiful and I love what you said about your time alone with our creator as you assemble all of those beautiful lights!  That is truly what Christmas is about!  Enjoy your holidays, and I love you on the Q!

by
on ‎10-20-2016 12:40 AM

Excellent tips Dan! I like the countertop idea - and I am thiinking "why didn't I think of that?". 😀 Also, the bush tips... excellent. I do often think people's bushes look rather silly done in straight lines around them with light strands just strung between them blowing in the wind!!

 

You do seem to love your decorating! So, have fun! Then, sit back and enjoy your beautiful house and the holiday season!! 

 

(It still may be kinda early, but ... Merry Christmas.🎄)

 

by sunny girl
on ‎10-20-2016 12:39 PM

Dan, I have been watching since the CVN days!!  You are a great host, smart, and easy to listen to.

All the best to you.  What a spectacular display.........Merry Christmas............

by bernih53
on ‎10-20-2016 01:17 PM

so happy you enjoy it so much! love seeing the lights!

by nibbler
on ‎10-20-2016 02:51 PM

Christmas is my favorite time of the year. I watch your shows and others. So much fun and laughter with the hosts.keep it up will be watching.

by Mindy2
on ‎10-23-2016 12:26 AM

Wonderful and Beautiful, just like you!!! Blessings to you and Your Family!!!

by sydneycarol
on ‎10-23-2016 08:29 AM

good morning Dan Smiley Happy What a beautiful home you have! I enjoyed reading your blog, especially the counter top tip. Why haven't I thought of this simple but beautiful way to decorate them? Well, I certainly will be doing that this year!! Thank you for that brilliant idea and a very Merry Christmas to you and your family including your beautiful fur babies!!

by minnie& muffs
on ‎10-23-2016 02:22 PM

Thanks for sharing Dan!! Beautiful!! You are my fav host / try not to miss any of your shows espesically Christmas!!! Thank  You again!!!

 

by goody two shoes
on ‎10-27-2016 11:48 AM

by: Goodie 2 Shoes 

 

Thanks for the beautiful Christmas decorations one Question:  How about the table top trees you had 2 years ago 

by Kringle Express.  We are older adults down sized our living arrangements would lie those table top trees Please.

 

Thanks 

by Xmaself
on ‎11-07-2016 01:41 PM

Dan, I love how you love the holidays! I do, too. I have been called the Crazy Christmas Lady, and a few other names, too, but that's OK. I start decorating in October, too. I want to be able to enjoy the season and not stress about what still needs to be done. And when you put up 21 Christmas trees in your house, that takes some time.  Anyhow, I was watching the day you told the story about being a child and having your dad take you out to look at the barn roof. A few days later, I saw a post on Facebook that said something like "May you never be so old that you stop searching the skies on Christmas Eve." It made me think of you. I changed the wording a bit in case it was copywrited and made mugs for all of my adult children, my brother and sister in law and....you. My grandkids are getting hand painted Santa face mugs but I wanted something different for the grownups. Those mugs say, "Don't ever get so grown up that you stop checking the sky on Christmas Eve!" On the other side is a picture of Santa in his sleigh flying through the night sky. A note from Santa will be included with them. I can't wait to send them out. I so love listening to you describe how you do some of your decorating. I even love to watch you if you aren't selling something for Christmas!  I made one for you in hopes I will be allowed to send it to you. Just FYI, it was hand made by me in our ceramic shop. It is glazed and food safe. It can go in the dishwasher, too.  Smiley Happy  I am going to send the mug to you at QVC with the hope that you do get it. Thank you so much for making the season a little more special. I hope you get your mug, like the letter and have a wonderful holiday season. 

by dvig0216
on ‎11-11-2016 02:24 AM

Dan,

Thanks for the ideas and beautiful pictures.  Your home looks phenomenal.  I just showed my husband and he replied,

"Don't even think about it".  LOL

Will keep in mind some of your ideas -- thanks again...