How to make Santa Claus feel at home |

How to make Santa Claus feel at home

Alexander Lofft knows that the holidays are about more than being naughty or nice. They are about being conscious.

In 2007, Lofft decided to restring his Christmas lights with low energy bulbs, called Light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, to save energy. His old strawberry-sized bulbs each sucked up six watts of electricity. The new bulbs consumed almost nothing.

The possibilities began to alight like dots on a map. Lofft replaced the incandescent lights in his Park Meadows home with their fluorescent equivalents and hauled out his dishwasher and refrigerator in favor of more efficient models.

The result was staggering. The family slashed their energy bills in half, Lofft, said, and saved enough, in one year, to pay off the difference between a high-efficiency appliance and a traditional one.

He especially liked his bluish LED lights. "They look like starlight," he explained. At the end of the holidays last year, the family decided to leave up their decorations to set an example for their neighbors.

Lofft’s philosophy is simple. "If we’re going to use energy, especially for recreation, the less coal we burn, the better. It’s all helping the environment."

Light up the night

Professional Christmas decorator Dana Gillin said most of her clients demand traditional incandescent lights that emit white light rather than LEDs. That’s unfortunate when considering the thousands of homes, and constellations-worth of Christmas lights, she has put up since 1994 as the owner of Elves Inc., also known as Christmas in Park City.

Even with the sluggish economy, Gillin will decorate dozens of houses this holiday, mostly for tourists and high-end clientele. Her most extravagant request came last year. She and her staff spent hours decorating Kobe Bryant’s holiday retreat, where the basketball star spent fewer than 24 hours but nevertheless required a 25-foot fir.

"We had to take the tree down the next day because a Jewish family was staying there," she laughed.

Whether the theme is skiing, Sundance or Chanukah, Gillin said trees are the keys to décor, but the real magic is in the lights. "The lights should be the show," she said.

Gillin advised, for the sake of keeping fuses from blowing, that enthusiasts not string too many lights on a single fuse. "Don’t use more than three strings per outlet," she recommended, adding that people should use caution when stringing lights trees with dense foliage. Conversely, the more sparse the branches, the easier it is to wrap them in lights.

Height, and not just width, is another consideration, Gillin said. Decorators should buy trees that stand about six inches below the ceiling to allow for ribbons, angels and other decorations to rest atop the tree. "People sometimes get trees that are too tall and we have to cut them down," Gillin said.

Another decorating tip to keep in mind: know the weight of ornaments before selecting a tree. Some trees, Alpines and Nordman Firs, have strong branches, while some trees have flimsy branches that will droop or break with heavy fixtures dangling from them.

Practical matters aside, Gillin urged decorators to choose ornaments based on shape rather than texture. She uses oversized pinecones, wicker orbs and several feet of ribbon on trees. "You really want lots of different shapes," she said. But, she added, "No two houses are the same, and no two trees are the same."

What’s greener than greenery?

Parkites make their homes redolent with wreaths, garlands and mistletoes. But most people still have a lot to learn about decorations, even when it comes to one of the most venerated of traditions: the holiday tree.

As many breeds of trees exist as holidays they observe and each leads buyers down separate roads of self-interrogation. Are Fraser Firs the choice plant for kwanza? Can the Silver Tip, popularly known as the Charlie Brown tree, double as both a Chanukah bush and a bonsai-sized Christmas tree? Are Noble Firs all talk?

Some trees at Park City Nursery are four feet tall and can sensibly be placed atop tables and used as center pieces. Other trees soar at 26 feet. Those made mercenary to shop for holiday greenery won’t find artificial trees at nurseries, and may be encourage to select still-rooted blue spruce to plant in yards.

Live trees have been a popular option so far this year for people who want to commemorate anniversaries, births, and the passing of pets, said Kay Hodo, who managers Park City Nursery’s tree farm. "It’s a great thing to plant and watch grow," she said. "You’re actually contributing to your surroundings."

With traditional cut trees, the most important factor to keeping them lush is to water diligently, especially in the first five days. "After we give the tree a fresh cut, people need to get them into water within a half hour," Hodo said. "After that, the tree seals itself and stops absorbing water."

The best way to keep trees from running dry is to select stands haloed with gallon buckets. "If stands only hold two cups, you have to water your tree eight times a day," Hodo warned. "With bigger buckets, you can water before you go to work and when you get home." If properly nursed, trees can last from early December well into January.

If nature isn’t enough, nurseries sell sprays, vitamin tablets and a water-based growth hormone to keep trees from wilting. These products are safe for pets and children, Hodo assured.

The freshness of trees is another bellwether, easy enough to find out, to predict how long trees will last. that the time they reach lots, most trees have been drilled to fit onto stands, but buyers should be wary of firs that have been cut months in advance and left in the cold. "They won’t last as long," Hodo said.

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