Saturday, December 12, 2009

Advent #5: Outside Decorations

We did not have outdoor decorations when I was growing up. We decorated every inch of the living room and the bonus room we could, however, so the house was very festive. I love pulling out my childhood ornaments now and picturing where they used to sit in my childhood home, although some are a little worse for the wear after all these years!

When James and I bought our first house, I wanted to decorate outside. So, we went to Wal-Mart and bought way more clear lights than were needed for a 1458 square foot house. In our defense, we were novices. I insisted on clear lights. I like the classy, clear light look outside and the fun, colorful look inside. (The lights on the tree HAVE to blink). We (and by "we," I of course mean "he") strung the lights around the front of the house. James even got up on the roof to string lights around the dormer roof-while I watched with a knot in my stomach that did not go away until he was safely back on the ground. He was very methodical about the whole process. Before any lights could be hung, he got out a piece of graph paper, drew the house to scale and mapped out how the lights should go. For as anal and organized as I am, I do not have this kind of patience. I don't want to deal with logistics: I just want to put them up. In addition to the lights on the house, we replaced the light bulbs in the lights on either side of the garage with red and green bulbs and we put those grid-like lights over the shrubs along the front sidewalk. I loved how it looked.

And then we got the power bill. And James, who rarely denied me anything, said that we would not be doing lights again, unless I wanted to make up the difference in the power bill (we had a his-hers-ours approach to the bills). I decided I did not want to do this and all those lights sat unused for several years.

The second year in this house, I decided I wanted to do something simple and just put lights and garland around the pillars on the porch. That lasted for about a week before I pulled all the garland down because the actual look did not turn out like the image in my head (note: do NOT use the cheapest garland available for outdoor decorating). I left up the lights but took down the garland, only to be told by the neighbor across the street she had been enjoying the way it looked. I guess it did look like what I had in mind-but only from a distance.

Last year, my first Christmas without James, I decided I wanted to really decorate outside. With the help of my neighbor, I put up lights across the front of the house and garage, which I never did bother to take down. I also put them around the pillars. I broke my "clear light only" rule and put purple lights in the rhododendrons that are in front of the porch. I put the grid-lights (I can't think of what these are called) over the little shrubs that sit in front of the rhododendrons. I set up my little wooden snowman on the front porch and plugged him in too. I tied big red (store bought) bows around the lights on either side of the garage. I got a Christmas doormat. And I got to enjoy this for about a week before we were hit with the worst storm this area has seen in 40 years and my shrubs were buried under a foot of snow and my lights along the front of the house were encased in ice. My purple lights did not survive (so NOT happy about that!), nor did some of the clear ones, including one of the strands along the front of the house.

my front porch, 2008

After the storm

This year, I am not doing outside lights. I am being a scrooge as the paycut I took in February makes purposely increasing my power bill a luxury I can't afford. I do love driving through the neighborhood and seeing all the houses all lit up however so hopefully, next year mine can be among them again.

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