Monday, December 10, 2012

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

No thanks to Mother Nature, of course.  Still waiting on some SNOW to help fuel the festivity of the season. But in the meantime, our house is looking quite in the holiday spirit! (Bad photography warning...)
There's the streeview at night. Given that I'm still only working with my phone camera at the moment, night photography is inherently going to suck. But you get the idea! You can barely make out the colored lights on the pine tree to the right of the house, but they're there! We would love to do more over time, but we've realized that in order to avoid spending hundreds of dollars this year, it makes sense to add elements year to year, instead of trying to go all out right off the bat.  Even the "little" that we did do this year took 3-4 spools of white lights plus 4 strings of colored lights for the tree. 

Word to the wise, LED lights are crazy BRIGHT! Be forewarned that you may light up the entire neighborhood if you rock the LED en masse.  

Here's what our front door is sporting as of right now.  I like that it kind of jives with the snowy white on white theme we seem to have inadvertently fell into, but it does kind of bother me how un-Christmas-y it feels. It would also bother me to have crazy red and green everywhere, because it would SO not match with the blue of the house, so I'm kind of in a lose-lose situation here. I really need to let go of some of my color coordination OCD issues, so I can find a more festive way to dress up our front door for future years. In the meantime, though, it does say WINTER and it goes great with our cool-white lights, so it's fine for now. :)

As for the whole LED vs non-LED, cool-white vs. warm-white debate....  obviously we landed on LED cool-white lights, and for a variety of reasons.  1) LED lights save on the energy bill, so we loved that idea. 2) The cool-white LED lights came in giant spools for a good price.  You can get warm-white LED lights these days, but not in bulk, and they are more expensive so it would have been much pricier to go that route. Also, I do love how the cool-white matches the cool blue of the house. I never thought twice about matching your Christmas lights to the color of your house before, but this is yet again another sign of how OCD I am about colors matching. Plus, the lights are so bright that you really can see the color of the house at night, so it does make me happy that it doesn't clash.

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT:  Do not EVER mix cool-white and warm-white lights.  It's a huge pet peeve of mine when people do that -- just because they are both "WHITE" doesn't mean they are actually the same color, or that they look good together!!! See Exhibit A:

See? NOT the same color, and they clash crazy bad. I don't understand how people can mix and match and not see how bad it looks. And it happens a lot. So please, please. Don't do that.  (And no offense to anyone out there reading this who may have done this... I respect that some people dig it, we'll just have to agree to disagree!)

As for the process of getting those bad boys on the house, this was the first time that Phil or I had ever put Christmas lights on a house before (wrapping a strand or two around our apartment's patio railing was about as far as we'd ever gotten), so it was a new learning experience for us.  I had imagined just gaily sticking up lights while singing Christmas carols and drinking hot cocoa without a care in the world. But, turns out, hanging Christmas lights (at least as a first-timer) is a hard, painstaking, frustrating, bickering-inducing process.  We started with a general plan and idea for what we wanted to do, but quickly found out that there are a lot of details to hammer out before you can actually start... 

Where will they be plugged into? Where do we need  extension cords? Where should the lights start? End? Where exactly on the house should they hang from? How many strings of lights do we need? How can we get them to all connect to each other without shorting out fuses? Why are ladders so scary? Why isn't this enjoyable?

The questions that were unanswered when we first stepped onto the roof seemed to be endless.  But we finally got it figured out.  We started with the plan to staple the lights onto the siding/trim of the house (this was just always how I knew my dad used to do it so I figured it must work).  Well, whether it was our lack of staple gun skills, or our weak staples, it didn't exactly work out. So after one of our many short bicker-sessions of that day I finally conceded that those plastic roof clippy things were the way to go:

I was against them at first because a) I was trying to be thrifty and not spend any more money than we had to (we already had staples on hand, but luckily you get a box of about 75 of these for less than $5 so it actually wasn't so bad) and b) I had a preconceived notion that they are tacky and make the lights hang weird and are too highly visible as big plastic things hanging off your roof. I admit, I was wrong. They're only noticeable if you are looking for them, and certainly only noticeable in the daylight. I started paying attention to how other people hung their lights, and realized most of them use these clippies and I never noticed them until I started looking for them. They made hanging the lights a breeze, and kept us from poking tons of holes in the siding of our house.

Another problem-solving opportunity we got was when we realized we needed to connect the snowflakes hanging from the garage to a power source.  The cord couldn't reach to the nearest connection point of the other lights, and all of our outdoor extension cords had 3-pronged ... plug-in-thingies (what the heck are those called?!), so we couldn't plug them back into the rest of the lights that were nearby.  We also didn't want to run a long extension cord all the way from the roof across the front porch or into the garage to plug them directly into an outlet, nor did we want to risk throwing an indoor power cord on the roof, exposed to the elements.  You see the conundrum here, I hope. But luckily Phil had a stroke (of brilliance), and we came up with this:

That's right, that is a string of random blue lights we've had on hand, that we popped a bulb out of (thereby rendering it dead), and used as a makeshift extension cord. We were pretty proud of this solution, seeing as how it saved us from having to risk major electrical hazard and/or spend more money to buy the appropriate extension cords.

So there is an overly detailed explanation of our outdoor Christmas decorations.  I'll post soon about what we've done inside, including our tree and the whole debate surrounding that (chop our own tree versus pre-cut tree versus live tree).

Lesson(s) Learned: There are a lot, where do I start? 1) Hanging Christmas lights is HARD and only the most solid of relationships can survive it.  2) Unless you are rolling in dough, patience is a virtue when it comes to building up your lights display over time. Start small! 3) The plastic clippy things are a worthwhile expense. 4) Unused strings of lights make great makeshift extension cords. 5) I really don't like climbing ladders.

Phew that was a lot of learning. Anyone else learning valuable lessons about hanging Christmas lights? Any tips from seasoned homeowners on how to make hanging lights as stress-free and easy as possible? We're hoping that next year will be easier simply due to getting this first go under our belts. Fingers crossed!


  1. My 2 Christmas decorating lessons this year:

    1. Plug in the new string of lights at the store before going all the way home to find its a dud.

    2. Keep the puppy away from the tree if you want to preserve the Xmas decoration you made in kindergarten!

    1. Ah, yes, those are two great tips indeed! My family has lost a handful of ornaments to our canine friends over the years. Lesson learned, indeed!