Posted in Bows, Christmas, Christmas Decor, Christmas Tree, Collection, Department 56, Disney, DIY, Holidays, Home, Home Decor, Homo-made, Jim, Make Your Own Bow, Ornaments, Reflections, Ribbon, Tips

How to PERFECTLY Decorate Your Christmas Tree!

Finished Christmas TreeEvery fall, as the holiday season approaches, I become more and more excited to decorate my home for Christmas! No, Scrooge, it’s not because of the commercialization of Christmas; rather, it’s because of the joy I get from opening, inspecting, and placing each of my decorations around the home. It adds a special warmth, a glow, and a happiness to my home each Christmas season, something that you just can’t describe. It’s a feeling that escapes words… a feeling of happiness and joy, remembrances of fond memories, promise of new memories & excitement, plus a dash of holiday magic.

I hear so many people complain as Christmas approaches “Oh God… I have to set up my tree”, or “It takes forevvveeerrr”, “I have to make time to decorate…”, etc. I decided to show a step by step guide to decorating my tree, my way. If you don’t like it my way, obviously, go seek out the thousands of other Christmas tree tutorials, but if you’re interested, read on to see how I do Christmas the Brad way.

Step 1:
YOU DON’T NEED A FANCY TREE!

Plain tree with white lights
I use an artificial tree for many reasons. We’ve had a real tree in the past, but it’s just kind of messy. I’ve found using an artificial tree is just a lot simpler. There are so, so, so many different kinds of artificial trees on the market, some very expensive and elaborate, and some simple. I live in a small apartment with limited space, so I chose an inexpensive ($50!) 6 foot tree.  It’s not pre-lit, but that’s ok with me because I’d rather light it myself and control all aspects. Think like bakers and cooks: It’s the equivalent of using unsalted butter. It just helps you control the final outcome better.

Once you open the tree, take the time to shape each branch. Pro tip: Put on some thin winter gloves to protect your hands if your skin gets dry in the winter. Once the tree is shaped how you’d like, add lights. I only used white this year, but use whichever color you love. Stand back from the tree and look for unlit spots. Make sure you light the tree as evenly as possible.

Step 2:
Add your Angel, Star, or Bow FIRST.

This is probably a controversial opinion. But, like I said, this is my way. Once my tree is shaped and the lights are added, I add my topper. If you choose a star, or an angel, put it on now. It helps you keep the tree organized, full, and helps you know exactly where to place each ornament. I like to place ornaments close to the topper, so when I’m adding them near the end, I won’t have to do any guess work. For my topper this year, I decided to make a bow out of some burlap ribbon. You don’t know how to make a bow? It’s easier than you think.

  1. First, use wire edged ribbon. It doesn’t have to be an expensive ribbon, but the cheaper stuff is a little harder to form into nice shape. I say go middle ground.
  2. Allow 3 or 4 inches of the ribbon to be the tail, and pinch the ribbon to gather it into a bunch like in pic 2.
  3. Create a loop at your desired length above the pinch and then add the end of the loop to the pinch spot held by your thumb and finger like in pic 3.
  4. Repeat step 3 again, as many times as you’d like, always gathering the pinch at the same place. Work slowly and if you mess up, it’s ok! It’s just ribbon. Pics 4 & 5.
  5. Then, use a zip tie. Lie it flat on your workspace (my couch, haha!) and place the bow over it. Pull tight with your other hand.
  6. Once the bow is held together tightly, adjust and shape each loop.

My bow this year was made out of the burlap ribbon, and I added a little classic red in to give it an extra pop.

Burlap Bow

Step 3:
Add your Garland or Ribbon.

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Probably the second of my controversial opinions – I add the garland or ribbon before ornaments. I think adding it first gives the ribbon or garland some room to breathe, and you can adjust it when adding ornaments if needed.

I used the same ribbon from the bow, and cut three tree lengths. Since my tree is small and in a corner, I ran one ribbon streamer down the front center, and one on each side. You can easily fasten the tops of the streamers to the tree with bent wire ornament hangers.

The secret is to gently tuck the ribbon into the tree branches naturally, and let it fall. I fastened when necessary with a bent ornament hanger. Don’t let it look too forced, and don’t keep it taught across the top of the tree. Weave it in and out. It’s part of the tree!

Step 4:
Add your Filler Ornaments.

Once the ribbon or garland is how you’d like it, then you add your filler ornaments. These are inexpensive ornaments that really “fill” up the tree, hide the blank spots, and make it look like a million bucks.

I use 8 larger ornaments and hang them from the inside of the tree or on the far edges, to make it look a lot fuller than it does. And then I add 40-50 smaller globe ornaments. I use a large selection of shiny, dull, and glittery to add a lot of dimension.

4

As you add the filler ornaments, the tree begins to really get full and have an attractive shape. *I added a LOT more than this, but I’m missing the second photo. Sorry!*

Step 5:
Add your Theme Ornaments.

These are the ornaments that take your tree from looking like a department store tree to looking like your family’s tree. Use your favorite characters, your Hallmark ornaments, sentimental pieces passed down from family members that are gone, and any and every thing you find fun, interesting, or exciting for your tree.

I use TONS of Disney ornaments, plus Jim has a large selection of Simpsons and Christmas Vacation ornaments. We have ornaments for the 13 years we’ve been together with the year from each year, homemade ornaments from family members, and mementos from trips we’ve taken. Check out a selection below:

After filling the tree, next to it, I added filler ornaments to a glass bowl, and placed a few decorative items on a shelf. I displayed my classic Lenox Mickey ornaments Jim’s grandmother started (and his mom continued after Tutu passed). I also placed the wooden reindeer and snowman my parents made when I was a child, and Jim’s collection of snow globes he started with his grandmother.

And here is the final product. After a lot of work and planning, I’m incredibly proud of my Christmas tree for 2018. I think it makes our home incredibly warm and happy, and I think Jim really likes it, too.

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I hope you learned something in reading this blog post. Please let me know in the comments below what you do each year, and what you think!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone reading!

Posted in Collection, Disney, Disney California Adventure, Disney's Animal Kingdom, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Disneyland Park, Disneyland Resort, Epcot, Geek, Magic Kingdom, Music, Park Audio, Park Maps, Pin Trading, Walt Disney World Resort

Disney Parks Collection

I’m a huge fan of Disney Parks. If you know anything about me, you know that.

Both Walt Disney World Resort, in Florida, and Disneyland Resort, in California. I think there are both amazing places to visit, and I believe every.single.person should experience them, at least once in their life.

There’s just something about Disney that can’t compete with any other theme park in the world. The theming is beyond spectacular. The individual areas of the park paint a picture for you, the visitor. You actually feel like you’re in the jungle, on a mountain, in a specific country, or even in the fantasy world where your favorite animated characters are real. They achieve this through endless techniques – forced perspective for buildings, scents near restaurants and shops, background music to establish time period and walking pace, carefully planned sight lines to hide buildings, pathways with hidden turns, and so much more. All of the techniques Disney Imaginears utilize treat your eyes and ears to the fantasy that unfolds in front of you.

The most common question I hear from my friends is “which resort do you prefer?” There are hundreds of blogs, articles, and opinions ad nauseam over which resort is better, but frankly, I don’t give a damn. I love both resorts, including all 6 parks. There are pros and cons, for sure, but I’d love to be in any of the 6 parks at any given moment, rather than living my regular life.

*Side note: I haven’t visited any of the international parks, yet. Some day.

Obviously, I can’t live at Disney ALL the time, so that’s where my Disney collection comes in. I have so many items that have allowed me to bring a piece of the Disney experience home.

I just have a true collector’s personality. For me, it’s part of the chase. My husband says I’m a hoarder, but I vehemently disagree. It’s that I love having in my physical possession reminders of the things I’ve done, experienced, and the memories I’ve made. It just feels good. And, like I’ve mentioned with Christmas houses, my collection allows me tangible connection to moments in my life that I have cherished.

When it comes to Disney, it can be expensive. I’ve shared previously that I collect Disney pins. But, my collection is so much more than that. I collect some expensive items, many inexpensive items, and lots of free things – whatever speaks to me and helps me remember the experiences I’ve been fortunate enough to have in my life.

Follow these links to check out mini blog posts about the different aspects of my collection, Disney PinsPark Maps, and Park Audio.

Do you want to read about more? Let me know in the comment section!

Posted in Collection, Disney, Disney California Adventure, Disney's Animal Kingdom, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Disneyland Park, Disneyland Resort, Epcot, Magic Kingdom, Park Maps, Walt Disney World Resort

Disney Parks Collection: Maps

This mini blog post is a stub from my Disney Park Collection Post. Check it out here.

My first, and perhaps favorite, Disney souvenir are the park maps. Yes, like I mentioned before, these “souvenirs” are free. And free is good. Let’s face it, Disney is expensive. I’m not complaining, and I do think it’s “worth it”, but yes; the fact is Disney is expensive. Park maps are free when you walk into the park. They are full color, fold open brochures with attraction highlights, evening entertainment schedules, and the best part – the map.

I have Disney park maps from every park I’ve visited from the summer of 2000 through today. And what’s really cool, when my friends visit the parks, they bring me back maps, too. It’s a free souvenir that means a lot to me.

I love to see the way the parks have changed over time. Since the maps are animated, the changes in the park over time are really interesting. When an attraction closes or a path is re-routed, the map is updated and it’s as if the attraction/path/activity never existed.

An awesome example is the expansion of Fantasyland. When Disney decided to expand Fantasyland, they demolished Mickey’s Tooontown Fair. Today, Mickey’s Toontown Fair is completely gone from the map – as if it never existed.

Another awesome example is from Disney’s Hollywood Studios (Formerly Disney-MGM Studios)

This one is a little harder to see. *cough* the maps got wayyyy smaller over time *cough*. I snapped the newer one upside down so you could see the changes in the park more easily. You may click the link to open the picture in its full size if you’d like. Disney’s Hollywood Studios has had way more than a name change – the back of the park is entirely different! I also like how “Rock’n Roller Coaster” says “coming soon.” Hard to imagine the park without that attraction, isn’t it?

For this reason, I love keeping my collection of park maps. Like I said, it’s free, they are small, I keep them in a small box on a bookshelf and can reference them whenever the Disney geek within me wants to play. 🙂

Do you like the maps? Let me know what you think in the comment section below!

Posted in Collection, Disney, Disney California Adventure, Disney's Animal Kingdom, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Disneyland Park, Disneyland Resort, Epcot, Geek, Magic Kingdom, Music, Park Audio, Walt Disney World Resort

Disney Parks Collection: Audio

This mini blog post is a stub from my Disney Park Collection Post. Check it out here.

A hugely important aspect of Disney’s legendary theming is music. As you walk into each area of the park, your mind is taken somewhere else. To a certain time period, a location, a country, or an intangible idea. And music helps make that illusion all the more real.

Disney has been hit or miss when it comes to releasing the audio they feature in the parks. Sometimes, it’s unavailable in the “real” world altogether. Other times, they feature some on their sporadic park official soundtrack releases. I have a small collection, but here it is:

Since I suffer from a tiny bit of OCD, the releases are organized by the date I purchased them, starting at the bottom. The first CD I purchased was the official soundtrack to the “Main Street Electrical Parade”. I saw the parade during my first visit to the park, and I just had to own that infectious song.

Each year, and visit I made to the parks, I would always check and see if there was a new release. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to the timing, but when they came out, I purchased them. They have a sense of exclusivity to them – you can’t just purchase tracks on iTunes, or through Google. Most times, these tracks are only available on the disc for purchase inside the park.

Frustratingly, but understandably, the official soundtrack is often filled with repeat music and 4-5 new tracks. Of course, collectors and park aficionados like me want all new, but Disney has to appeal to the casual or first time visitor.

Thankfully, there are special releases like the 40th Anniversary Haunted Mansion release which has a new ride-through. Or the Event Party album which features the awesome Happy Hallowishes audio. They also released a standalone album of the now-retired Wishes fireworks show. It holds a special place in my heart because that’s the regular show that played when I worked there during my Disney College Program days. Sigh.

Some of my favorites are the highlights of the “Main Street USA” background music, Soarin’s musical score, Cinderella Castle Medley, Epcot’s Illuminations soundtrack, Space Mountain soundtrack, fireworks and other evening entertainment score… the list goes on, and it just feels good to listen to. Sometimes, my coworkers come by my desk and they give me that look that says “what the hell are you listening to?” as I just smile, bobbing my head happily.

Yes, Disney parks soundtracks are mixed in with the “normal” music I play regularly. Am I weird? Yes. Do I care? No. Weird people are cool.