Make sure all outdoor lights and decorations are rated for outdoor use. Only use heavy duty, outdoor rated extension cords. Always use ground fault circuit interrupter receptacles (or portable GFCIs) to prevent electric shock. Keep connections as free from snow and other moisture as possible. Check all cords, sockets, and other decoration parts for wear and tear. Use fasteners for lights to attach, not staples or nails. Practice ladder safety. If you’re not adept at working off a ladder, it’s best to leave this to the professionals. There are also many beautiful light choices available now that do not require getting up on a ladder, such as star lights.
We should all know by now how to pick out a fresh tree. There shouldn’t be any big needle drops when the tree is banged on the ground. Needles should feel relatively soft and will be hard to pull out. Have the tree man remove at least 2 inches of the trunk bottom, it should feel sappy and sticky. Get the tree home and into water as soon as possible. Trees are cut in the early fall and stored till the season. This year with an unseasonably warm fall, trees are not lasting as long as usual. Colder weather makes the tree more dormant, thus trees will tend to be drier.
If you have pets and young children, you must take more care with your decorations and your tree. Keep the tree out of foot traffic. Make sure the tree is placed securely in a tree stand sufficiently sized for the tree. It should hold at least 1 gallon of water. Check the water level daily, it should never get lower than six inches. With cats and very young children in the home, it’s a good idea to surround the tree with a baby gate. No gate? Secure the tree trunk to the wall with fishing line and screws. Keep fragile decorations high up, out of little ones’ reach. Remember that children don’t recognize that ornaments designed to look like candy or cookies are not food! Put them up high or don’t use at all.
Holiday season is a high fire hazard time, so a little extra care is needed. Double check all lights and cords for fraying and other wear. Do not attach more than 3 strings to an extension cord. Keep the tree at least 3 feet away from any heat source. Lights and other decorations using electricity should only be on when someone is present. Never cover an extension corn with a rug. One-third of all tree fires are due to some electrical malfunction. A little care will greatly reduce that chance. Always turn off lights when leaving the house or going to bed. Candles need extra care as well. Always use with a flame proof base or receptacle. Never place anywhere near the tree or anything flammable. There are LED candles available now that look so real you’d never know they weren’t. Candles cause yucky soot on your walls and ceilings. Scent warmers are great for a lovely holiday smell too.
Take the usual care when using your fireplace during the holiday season. Make sure it’s clean and the flue is open before lighting. Remove any hanging stockings. Use a sturdy screen and have it in place always. Never burn anything other than hardwood logs cut specifically for fireplaces. Wrapping paper can contain chemicals that can flash or become toxic when burned. Even evergreen branches can flash when burned, so keep out of the fireplace. All fires should be thoroughly extinguished before leaving the house or going to bed.
KATHLEEN WEAVER-ZECH & DEAN’S TEAM CHICAGO