If I had to do it over, which I actually do, I would gather new holiday decorations the way I'd build a new wardrobe.
As I mentioned in last week's column, I lost all my holiday decorations in my move to Florida. While coming to grips with that, I thought of a friend who had to rebuild her wardrobe after a sewer line broke during a remodel and flooded her closet, which is as gross as it gets. At least mine was a clean loss.
Just as she started with a good versatile suit, super-fitting jeans and well-made shoes that would go the distance, I started looking for a good solid tree and dependable wreaths that would last a generation. The accessories — scarves and nutcrackers — could come later.
While I appreciate the Norman Rockwell types who like to go chop down and haul home their own saps, and I wouldn't want to take any yuletide fun from those who like to tackle pines to the top of their cars and barrel perilously down the highway like green torpedoes, I'm a fake-tree girl. Artificial trees aren't messy or thirsty, and hold up a lot better than I do through New Year's.
Last week as my daughters and I shopped online for our new tree, I served peppermint cocoa, so it felt more like a trip to the tree farm. I helped them grieve the loss of our last tree, which we had for 14 years, as long as they could remember.
"Look!" I say, "They're all 'easy to assemble.' " That would be a plus.
Our old nine-foot behemoth, now a memory, took half a day to unpack and assemble, based on a 12-color system (put the gray ends into the gray fittings on the trunk, then advance to blue). We fluffed branches until our hands felt as if we'd wrestled porcupines, then we'd string the pine with lights, an exercise that more than once almost cost me my marriage.
As we tree shopped, we debated style — I like branches spread out! I like them full! I like the cotton-candy pink one! — and size – too tall, too small, too fat, too scrawny. But on the lights, we agreed. However much more a pre-lit tree cost, it was worth every cent. Our new faux pine arrived the Friday after Thanksgiving.
True to its promise, as if emerging from Mary Poppins' carpetbag, the tree sprang into place faster than you could say Tannenbaum. Tiers of branches unfolded like upside down umbrellas and sprawled into place. No need to insert one prickly branch at a time. (Progress!)
We plugged it in, and it lit up beautifully — all with no cursing, no injuries, no run to the store for more lights, and, best of all, no need to buy a tree again for 20 years.
A well-made faux tree, like a good suit, is an investment that will pay for itself over time. If you spring for one, here are some sites to visit, along with a few deciding factors.
•Type: Spruce, noble, fir, redwood or polyester pink, you have dozens of options. When picking, consider the shade of green (deep or mossy) or other color, and the open space between branches. Wider-spaced branches let ornaments dangle, while in fuller trees ornaments nestle.
•Size: Decide where you want your tree, then measure in both directions. We were close to ordering a tree that fit all our criteria, then the customer service person suggested we double check the width. The tree we liked had a 70-inch base, which, on second look, would block a doorway. Trees come in wide, narrow, super narrow and even one-sided -- the flat side goes against the wall.
•Lights: Do you want a pre-lit tree or to add your own lights? This choice should be more obvious than Rudolph's nose, but suit yourself. If you choose pre-lit, you'll have to pick clear or colored, regular or LED. I went with clear (like diamonds they go with everything) LEDs, which are longer lasting.
Sources for every budget and style
•Top of the line: http://www.balsamhill.com sells some of the nicest faux trees on the market. They offer high-end, classic, realistic imitations, with spot on color matches in assorted sizes.
•A sense of whimsy: http://www.treetopia.com sells trees with attitude for those who want funky or funny. You'll find lavender trees that sparkle, ones striped like a candy cane, lighted palms and upside-down trees.
•For the frugal: http://www.christmastreemarket.com is the site for low-priced trees. Screaming fake-tree deals also are available at Target or Wal-Mart, but these boxes are big and heavy, so are nice to have delivered.
•Some like it live: http://www.GreenValleyChristmasTree.com let's you buy direct from the grower. Those "fresh" trees popping up on lots all around town were likely cut in October, so they could be trucked to your local seller by November. Many won't last through Christmas. This company cuts your tree from their A-list picks (no bald spots, no crooked trunks) right after you order it, then ship.
•For the rest of your holiday greenery: http://www.Silkflowers.com, one of the country's largest suppliers of silk botanicals, sells holiday floral arrangements, poinsettias, amaryllis, wreaths and centerpieces that would fool even florists into believing they're real, season after season.
Join me next week for frugal holiday accessorizing and entertaining ideas.
Syndicated columnist and speaker Marni Jameson is the author of "House of Havoc" and "The House Always Wins" (Da Capo Press).Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times