Tuesday, January 12, 2010

how to make the most of your Christmas tree

step 1: select (or cut your own) a fresh tree of a good-smelling variety. Wait until the week of Christmas to do this, so you can get it cheaply, and have the pleasure of staying up all night to decorate it and wrap presents.
step 2: decorate the heck out of it, to the point that your family complains about how bright it is, and could we please not put every decoration we own on it?
step 3: water at least twice daily, but only until New Years Eve. You'll want to let it dry out a little before you take it down, so as to cause the most discomfort to those assigned to remove decorations and lights. Also, it will shed more needles this way, leaving them underfoot to be crushed with every step, releasing again that wonderful smell.
step 4: wait until you have guests coming before you start to take it down. it should be brittle and dry by then, so taking the lights off will release that heavenly scent, and you will get needles in your hair, your clothes, poking you in the arms. well, not you, so much as the child/children assigned to this job. I keep each string of lights in a separate baggie, so the kids know how many they have to remove beforehand.
step 5: before removing the newly naked tree from the room (did the tree shrink? I could have sworn it took up more space than that when I brought it in), clear all rugs, pillows, boxes, furniture, etc., from the path to the door, and sweep or vacuum everything. You don't want to scoop up dust bunnies with your pine needles when you put them away for later.
step 6: search the house fruitlessly for a suitable pine-needle container. realize you just used the last empty ice cream bucket to store your sisters wedding cake top in the freezer (hoping nobody thinks it's ice cream before she's back from her honeymoon and can take it home with her. you did label it, didn't you? go make sure you labeled it, just in case). Find another bucket, wash it out (it had packets of soup in it, they can go somewhere else). wait for it to dry while you try to get the kids to please take all their Christmas presents out of the living room.
step 7: drag tree out front door, across porch, yard, driveway. make sure you scrape it past everything you can, maybe even run into things for good measure. you want to leave a nice thick trail of pine needles. pine needles are great for making your pathways less slippery. don't put the tree in the garbage or on the curb for pickup just yet - you might want more pine needles.
step 8: on your way back in the house, pick up any larger branches from path, and sweep the porch. don't worry about these pine needles - they will make a great mulch for your flower beds, so just sweep them off that direction. toss the branches in the yard waste bin. sure, they won't pick that up again until spring, but they won't hurt anything by being in there.
step 9: back inside, sweep up the heavy trail of pine needles and put them in the now-dry ice cream bucket. you'll use them later to stuff sachets or pillows or something. probably. get a crumpled paper lunch sack to put the rest in when the bucket is too full. set these aside, without putting a lid on or folding over the sack.
step 10: remove any other traces of Christmas from living room, knocking over bucket and/or bag of pine needles at least once, to enjoy that heavenly scent all over again. start tossing stray pine needles in fireplace instead of crumpled paper bag, to avoid tipping bag again. they'll make it smell nice if/when you next light a fire in there.
step 11: store bucket and bag of pine needles somewhere logical, so when you finally decide to make those sachets or pillows, you'll know where to find it. try to locate last years bucket, and the one from the year before, so they can all be together. after about an hour, give it up, and promise yourself that next time you come across one of those buckets, you'll immediately put it with the other one. really.
step 12: after a suitable time has passed, preferably after your city's tree pickup has long since ended, giving you no other option, get out that trusty (rusty?) chain saw, and cut up your Christmas tree for firewood. the needles will be very brown by now, so you probably don't need to save them with the rest. but if you want to, make sure you put them in the same place, and label them clearly (where did I put that bucket?).
step 13: stack firewood neatly out of the weather. you don't want to be burning fungus later.
step 14: realize you only thought you did the last two steps, when you stumble across the now very dry and very brown fire-hazard of a Christmas tree, somehow hidden behind the fence (oh, yeah, I brought it back here when I was headed for the chain saw, but then I remembered I had clothes in the washer, and I went to take care of that. must have forgotten about tree.), and shove entire tree, tip first, into your yard waste bin instead.

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