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How to Decorate a Christmas Tree

How to Decorate a Christmas Tree

I know, you’d hardly think a blog post would be needed about how to decorate a Christmas Tree. Yet we’ve been asked repeatedly over the years to share our tree decorating tips. It’s not brain surgery, but there is an art to it.

We’re happy to share a few of our tricks on how to decorate a Christmas Tree, learned from family traditions as well as trial and error. Truth be told, this is where the gay gene can come in handy – we just happen to have an inherent design aesthetic. Christmas Trees are harder to decorate than they look, so let the gays help you out!

family with Christmas Tree at Hotel Del Coronado

When in doubt, just go enjoy a beautiful Christmas tree somewhere else, like this one at the Hotel Del Coronado.

Here are a few tips to get your holidays started off in the right direction.

How to Decorate a Christmas Tree

Follow along with these easy steps:

Choosing a Good Tree

Choose a fresh tree that feels truly heavy when you try to pick it up. The heavier it feels, the more water it has retained – and this helps it last longer. It should also smell really strongly of pine, and when you grab a handful of needles it should leave a slight piney residue on your fingers. Sorry, but no Home Depot trees – they have been sitting in a warehouse, and then a truck, and then another warehouse for weeks. Not the freshest.

Man pointing at tree in Christmas tree lot

Triton spies out the perfect specimen at the Christmas tree lot.

Ask the people at the tree lot to trim the bottom inch off the base of the tree trunk, which will allow the tree to absorb water faster. Last thing anyone wants is a dead tree weeks before Christmas. Can anyone say fire hazard? Or worse yet, a brown Christmas?

Keep it Watered

As soon as you get your Christmas tree home and positioned in the tree stand, fill the stand with warm water mixed with sugar. Make sure you fill it to nearly the top – you’ll be surprised how much your tree will drink. Check it every day and NEVER let it go dry. Once the bottom is dry, it seals up and will no longer absorb water even if you put more in.

Putting on the Lights

When our friends ask us how to decorate a Christmas Tree, this is the first place I start. We use little white lights, but really any will do as long as you have a lot of them. A LOT. Starting at the bottom of the tree, wind the strands of lights from the trunk to the end of each branch. Carefully wind the lights around the branch, working back and forth until you reach the tips. Then guide the strand underneath that branch and over to the back of the next branch were it meets the trunk. Repeat until you have all the lowest branches lit.

Christmas ornaments and lights closeup

The deeper you place your Christmas lights on the tree, the more layers of color and reflection you get.

Many people just set the lights on the branches and all anyone sees are wires. You have to take the time to wind the lights through the branches, weaving the strands in and out so the wires are hidden. Another thing many people forget is that part of a Christmas Tree’s beauty is in its depth. Make sure the lights go all the way back inside to the trunk. Believe me, this effect is magical.

When you think you are done, stand back about 20 feet and squint. (Or if you wear glasses, take them off). I know this sounds weird, but squinting will blur your vision and allow you to see holes in the tree where you did not spread the lighting evenly. I always save out an extra strand of lights for this purpose, so I can plug it in and fill the areas I missed.

The Tradition of Ornaments

Ever since our girls were newborns, we have purchased each daughter a Christmas Tree ornament each year. My mom did this for my brother and I, and when we finally each had houses of our own she gave us our ornament collection. We plan to do the same for Sophia and Ava. Each year, we write their initials and the year on the bottom of their ornaments. When it’s time, they will have a collection ready to go!

vintage Christmas ornament

From the collection my mom saved for me, this vintage ornament has lasted through the years.

One of the nice things about this is that each ornament has a story. When the girls were old enough to pick out their own special ornament each year, their choices reflected their interests at the time. Now when we unpack the ornaments to place on the tree, each one tells a story and brings back a memory from that year of Christmas.

Placing the Ornaments

If you have toddlers or pets in the house, you may already know what I’m about to say. If you have any ornaments you care about, put them at the top of the tree not the bottom. Save the bottom branches for ornaments that can take a beating, or can avoid breaking if they fall. Believe me, we learned this the hard way.

Christmas ornament with kids' initials

Like this ornament labeled with Sophia’s initials, we’ve added to the girls’ collections each year.

When Sophia was just a toddler, she was a quick little thing. One Christmas, we turned our backs for just ONE SECOND. Sophia crawled over and had a fragile ornament in her hand so fast it made our heads spin. Needless to say, the ornament was broken and had to be thrown away. Luckily Sophia wasn’t hurt!

Another tip here is to first place the less important ornaments on the tree, deep inside the branches. Now that you placed lights all the way inside, ornaments will sparkle and show up way back there. This adds further depth and interest to the tree. The favorites and more meaningful ornaments can take a front seat.

Don’t Forget the Back

We are of the firm believe that a Christmas Tree is meant to be decked, even laden, with interesting ornaments. That doesn’t mean you have to hide the good ones where no one can see them. But if your tree is placed in a window like ours, then people can enjoy it from the street side too. Don’t make the poor Christmas Tree feel schizophrenic by having one side decorated all pretty while the back side is ugly and barren. Gotta give the back some love. When you are done, walk outside and see what it looks like from the street. See?

Craftsman house with Christmas lights

Our tree looks good through the front window, framed by the Christmas lights on the outside of our house.

Garlands and Ribbons

If you must, add garlands and/or ribbons to the tree after you’ve placed the interior ornaments but before you’ve placed the outer ones. There is a method to this madness. When we used to use garlands, we learned that putting them on at the very end makes them look like an afterthought. By placing them halfway through, the outer ornaments can be woven into the garlands to look more natural and cohesive.

Just Have Fun With It

As I read this I know I sound more than a little anal-retentive. And guess what? Maybe I am about this subject. With so many friends over the years asking us how to decorate a Christmas Tree, I’ve become well practiced at sharing our tips.

Christmas tree with star on top

The fully decorated tree, complete with star on top!

And now you, dear readers, know how to decorate a Christmas Tree too!

Merry Christmas!

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Celebrating the Holidays with Line 39 Wine

Celebrating the Holidays with Line 39 Wine

Tracking PixelThis is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Line 39 Wine, and our opinions expressed here are our own as always. Content for 21+/

When the holidays come around, I always get excited about entertaining at our house. There’s just something special about having friends over when the air gets chilly, sitting around a fire and enjoying each others’ company. This year we’re celebrating the holidays with Line 39 Wine, and that is bringing next level festivity to our neck of the woods.

Celebrating the Holidays with Line 39 Wine

From California wine country to our house with love, the wines from Line 39 Wine are easy to enjoy – distinctive yet totally approachable. Growing up in Northern California, I was surrounded by wines and grew up to like several varieties that matched my palate. Line 39 Wines are from this area, and are literally named for the region. The 39th Parallel runs through this part of the California wine country. The result is the perfect climate for making good wine. Perfect name for a winery too!

Line 39 Wine sent us a few bottles to try out, so of course we called a friends to come over and share a glass or two. Since we were in the holiday spirit, it was fun decorating the house for the season in advance of our friends arriving.

Decorating the House for Fall

I don’t know why gourds make me laugh so hard, but they always do. There is something inherently funny to me about their odd shapes, random striped patterns and gnarly warts. I just love them. In years past, I may have perhaps been accused of over buying gourds in my obsessive need to decorate with them. This year was no exception, and I went to three different markets to collect just the right menagerie of gourd misfits to place around the house. Throw in a couple ears of brightly colored Indian Corn and BOOM! We’ve got Fall up in here.

Before our friends rang the doorbell, we had the charcuterie platters ready, the Line 39 Chardonnay chilled and the Line 39 Cabernet Sauvignon corked and breathing. And the gourds artfully arranged, of course.

Red or White?

As our guests get settled, the first question is always the same red or white? To this day, I still cannot predict what someone will answer when asked if they prefer red or white wine. Is it their mood? The kind of day they had? Or maybe it’s the siren call of their taste buds demanding a certain flavor profile? Honestly, we have a lot of friends that are sommeliers or close to it, and I still cannot predict what to pour for them. That’s why we always have both a bottle of red and white on hand.

Line 39 Wine sent us a couple of different options to try, and both are delicious.


Line 39 Cabernet Sauvignon – This smooth red packs plenty of flavor, with fruity/chocolate hints that don’t overpower. Our wine expert friends said they detected notes of blackberry, pepper and dark chocolate in this rich ruby red pour. It’s suggested that this wine pairs well with hearty dishes like short ribs, garlic mashed potatoes, and slow cooked pork shoulder. Although not an expert myself, I know what I like. And I like the Line 39 Cabernet Sauvignon a LOT. We served it with our charcuterie board containing salume and other cured meats, sharp bleu cheese and fresh figs.


Line 39 Chardonnay – A solid Chardonnay, Line 39 has bottled a rich, medium-bodied wine that is both crisp and refreshing. Among our group of friends, we have several that favor Chardonnay almost exclusively and they loved this wine. Oaky and fruity, Line 39 Chardonnay lightly tickled our palates as we eased into the evening. Pair this wine with roasted chicken, poached fish and other lighter fare. At the end of our little party, there was no Chardonnay left. I guess that tells you the popularity of this wine – in our crowd anyway.

At our house, we served Line 39 Chardonnay with Camembert cheese, crackers made with raisins and nuts, and fresh slices of sweet and tangy persimmon I scored at the farmer’s market.

Easy To Find

Line 39 Wine can be found in most places wine is sold, and comes in at a good value for approximately $11 per bottle. The quality versus price ratio on these wines is darn good. A quick search via the Line 39 Wine website showed me at least a dozen locations where I can buy these wines. They are all within a very short driving distance from our house.

Entertaining for the Holidays

With Hanukkah and Christmas coming up, we have lots of reasons to celebrate with Line 39 Wine. We’ll be pouring Line 39 Chardonnay and Line 39 Cabernet Sauvignon at our house. Maybe we’ll bring a bottle or two over to a friends’ party as a host gift too!

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Line 39 Wine.

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Halloween at Our House is a Thing

Halloween at Our House is a Thing

Halloween at our house is a Thing, and always has been. Since the kids were babies, we’ve hosted a big Halloween party at our house and it gets rowdier every year. As the kids have grown, the candy frenzy has died down but the tradition lives on. The tradition of Halloween celebrations morphs and changes, but All Hallows Eve is always a night to remember at the Bailey-Klugh household!

Dead Panda and Dead Alice in Wonderland costumes

Dead Panda Bear and Dead Alice in Wonderland costumes were our kids’ themes in 2011.

The Tradition of Halloween Celebrations Begins

At first it started as an opportunity for some of our friends to bring their babies over so we could take them trick or treating together, pushing strollers along the sidewalks amid the older kids who ran around like lunatics. Now our kids are the lunatics, hopped up on candy, sugar and teen drama. We parents now enjoy each other’s company, toasting with a glass of wine and chowing down on Jon’s White Chicken Chili recipe with cornbread.

LGBT family with Halloween costumes

We’ve had some pretty elaborate get-ups. Look how small the girls look in this photo from 2012!

The party has grown a bit – last year there were close to 50 adults and kids roaming around the house. Still, the love of Halloween and the lure of Butterfingers keeps them coming back each year. It’s our thing, and we love it.

Decorating the House

Skull Halloween table decor

Spooky skulls, bones and test tubes make our Halloween table extra fun.

Over the years. we’ve collected a fair amount of Halloween decorations to adorn the house. In fact, there are now 5 bins worth of paraphernalia that we scatter about the property – inside and out. The kids used to freak out over some of the stuff, especially the ghoulish face that emerges with a scream from its spooky coffin. Even now, it still brings a slight discomfort to their faces. Of course this makes us laugh, and then they get mad.

Halloween decor with skulls, Indian corn cobs and black crow

A little Dia de los Muertos inspired, these bowls are filled with mini Indian corn cobs, skulls and adorned with a spooky crow.

Halloween Costumes are a Specialty

Last year, Triton and I decided to dress like the Grateful Dead. Get it??? Dead?  Yeah, so that was fun.

Grateful Dead Halloween costumes

Halloween costumes are a tradition in our family, dating back to way before our kids were born.

Another year we had a Little Mermaid theme going with some close friends, and Triton was – wait for it – King Triton. I was Prince Eric, our friend Erica was Ursula the Sea Witch, and our friends Julie and Nick came as a cross-dressing Ariel and Sebastian. That was pretty epic, considering Nick is a giant ex-military special forces dude (he looked awesome in his Ariel tail and red wig!)

children in costume on Halloween

What a crew for Halloween 2010! But who is that kid in all black – he is creeping me out.

Last year, we had a Game of Thrones theme going. You’ll have to wait until that night to see what our costumes are this year, but I must say they are pretty epic. Maybe it helps that Triton works for a Halloween company called InCharacter Costumes, but we still put most of the pieces together ourselves, scavenged from the bins of years past with a few new extras.

The girls? They will probably dress as pretty teen girls this year, carrying a brown lunch sack and extorting candy from the neighbors – just as it should be. Other parents with their cute little babies in strollers can dodge around them now.

So, what are YOU going to be this year????

gay couple Hawaiian costumes

Oh remember those Halloween parties before we had kids, and we had abs and tans and all our hair? Yeah, well.