Greening Christmas: Trees and gifting

The Tree
The last time I wrote about a Christmas tree, we were using an artificial number that I found abandoned in our building’s basement.  That tree served us well, but for the past two years, we’ve had the real deal (the artificial tree is still hanging out in the basement, just in case there’s a year we aren’t able to get a real tree).

On Saturday afternoon, Matthew and Gabriel headed out to PaPa’s (Matthew’s grandpa) to cut a field tree (i.e., a tree growing in an unmowed field where it would eventually be cut down anyway).  These field cedars are not what you find at a tree lot (or a Christmas tree farm — we saw lots of those in Oregon!).


They all have a sweet, Charlie Brown Christmas vibe, and I’m totally good with that.  Of the few that were about the right size, Gabriel picked this one, and Matthew cut it down with the “chainsaw.”

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Bicycle rack?  Christmas tree rack?  Same difference!  Not quite as cool as hauling your Christmas tree by bicycle, though (the distance to Matthew’s grandpa’s rules out that option for us).

We had a bit of a debacle with the tree last year, due to an inferior tree stand.  My MIL came to the rescue with a much better hand-me-down, and we had no problem getting the tree in place this year.

We didn’t have time to decorate it on Saturday night.  Gabriel waited very patiently until after breakfast on Sunday morning, and then we got down to business.


We have a nice assortment of kid-friendly (read: sturdy) ornaments for the lower branches.  (Tip: if you run out of ornament hooks, unbent paperclips work very well.)

Tree, trimmed!

Official tree-trimming dance?


Green wrapping
I swear I started a post on this topic a year ago, or at least took some pictures, but I cannot find said pictures anywhere.  My strategy last year involved using pages from the December issues of our [free] local foodie magazines (Sauce and Feast).  There were lots of festive pictures to go around (think cute cookies, candy canes, etc.), and it worked well.  I’m planning on doing more of the same this year.  Receiving blankets also make great reusable gift wrap!

Experiential gifts
This type of gift requires no wrapping.  Remember that time I wanted to be Pink?  Specifically, the high-flying, aerial artist on display at the Grammies (and throughout her 2013 ‘Truth About Love’ Tour).  Well, it turns out that there are aerial arts gyms in St. Louis.  We looked at classes at Bumbershoot Aerial Arts last spring, but the timing wasn’t right.

When Matthew brought it up in November, there was an “Intro to Silks” class that worked for us, and I suggested we do it as our Christmas present (in addition to taking care of Christmas shopping, this route made it a bit easier to swallow the price).


We’re doing pretty basic things, but our instructor didn’t waste any time getting us on the silks.  The above photo is a bit deceiving — my legs are in a wide V-shape, and NOT straight out to the sides.  Our third class is tonight, then we break for two weeks, and finish with three more classes in January.

Pre-loved gifts
I’ve been thinking about getting Gabriel a doll house since his birthday this summer.  Though he doesn’t know he wants a doll house, I think he would enjoy playing with it (and I would enjoy doing it with him).  I didn’t want to break the bank on this purchase, but I also wanted something decent.

I’ve been checking Craigslist off and on since mid-November.  I had my eye on a Plan Toys model with an asking price of just under $200, complete with furnishings.  That was still really more than I wanted to spend (especially since I don’t know if G will enjoy it), and so I waited.

Two weeks ago, another option popped up, also made of wood (brand is Ryan’s Room, which I’ve never heard of), asking $100, and very close to where we live (it would have been tricky on the longtail, but I could have easily biked it home, if we had a flatbed bicycle trailer).  It’s not perfect, but it’s in pretty good condition (I negotiated $20 off the asking price).  I’m really looking forward to watching his reaction on Christmas morning!

Gabriel is very into playing doctor.  We have a pieced together “doctor’s kit,” and I love seeing the creativity he uses in creating doctor instruments.  I didn’t want to undermine that creativity by running out and buying a plastic play doctor set, but I liked the idea of adding to his medical kit, so when I stumbled across an awesome, real (I think — we’ll see!) stethoscope at the St. Vincent de Paul thrift store, I snatched it up.

That about does it for us.  I’d love to hear about other great experiential or pre-loved gifts — please share your ideas!

O Christmas Tree

Well, I’ve finally recovered from Thanksgiving (let’s just say our travels were a little stressful), which is a good thing, since Christmas is now upon us.  Unlike last year, when I was quite “blah” about the festivities, I’ve really been looking forward to them this year.

Maybe it helps that we have a bigger apartment, one without a queen-size bed in the living room, which gives us space for a tree and a few decorations.  We also have a mantle where we can hang our stockings.

When we moved here in June, I noticed a few items tucked under the basement stairs in a storage area, left by previous tenants long gone.  It smelled musty and looked dark and spidery, so I didn’t investigate too closely, but I noticed an artificial Christmas tree.  I assumed it was more or less junk, but you never know, so early last week, I braved the spiders and dust, and pulled out the box.

My efforts were rewarded with a simple 6-foot tree that was probably used once before, quite clean and in great condition, complete with a string of lights.  I set it outside to air out for a day anyway, and set about the more difficult task, convincing Matthew that this once, just this one year, it would be okay to have an artificial tree instead of a real tree, and it would save us the time and effort of hunting down a real tree* and the constant sweeping up of pine needles.  And heck, compared to last year, when we didn’t have a tree at all, this marked a real upgrade.

We agreed to use my found tree, and, with that decided, we spent Sunday making our apartment nice and festive.


I have some fabric somewhere that will make a decent little tree skirt.  All of the ornaments on the bottom branches are made of wood or fabric, safe for curious little hands.  So far, Gabriel is nonplussed by the tree; unless we’re over by it, he more or less leaves it alone, which is fine by me.

Environmental-impact wise, both artificial and real trees have their downsides.  Finding a used artificial tree (whether that’s one that just happens to turn up in your basement, or one from Craigslist or a garage sale) certainly reduces the impact, but there are other options.  Instead of having an official Christmas tree, my MIL is decorating the fruit trees in her front yard, as well as her houseplants for indoor decorations.   While Christmas trees are a well-rooted tradition, there are plenty of ways to create a festive holiday space without a tree.

*While there are a number of tree lots in town, as well as cut-your-own tree farms nearby, most conventionally grown Christmas trees are sprayed with chemicals that I don’t want in my house.  In years past, Matthew went out to his grandparents’ and cut down a small field tree (i.e., a tree growing in an unmowed field where it would eventually be cut down anyway).