BOSTON — No one - but no one - decorates for Christmas like millionaire William Jennings Bryan Osborne Jr. Every year he puts on a light display that could outshine Rudolph's nose.
In Christmas 1993, for instance, he used 3 million lights in a twinkling display that brought thousands of sightseers to his home in Little Rock, Ark. (One airplane pilot said he spotted the glow from more than 80 miles away.) His neighbors got tired of the crowds, so he's had to tone it down a bit, but it's still a sight to behold.
While we never went to that extreme, my family loves to deck the halls, walls, windows - pretty much anything that will stay still long enough for us to slap a bow or wreath on it. (That includes the family dog, who has her very own set of felt reindeer antlers.)
My mom made homemade wreaths out of pine cones from our backyard, while my dad hung sleigh bells in the living room and draped yards of little white lights on the bushes outside.
But the moment we knew Christmas had truly arrived was when it was time to decorate the tree.
My mom had visions of a tasteful, color-coordinated tree, but we knew better. We knew the secret to decorating a Christmas tree was to cram as many ornaments on the branches as you could without having them fall off and break. Our favorites were the ones we'd made ourselves: a rocking horse, teddy bear, train, and a sleigh full of "presents" that my mom had crocheted.
Finally, after the star was placed carefully atop the tree and the cat had sent at least one low-hanging glass ball crashing to its doom, we had one last tradition. Every year, we'd drive into the cold night, looking for lights. Everyone would pick out his or her favorites: elegant homes with white lights or electric candles shining in their windows, or houses that looked like circus tents, with colored bulbs covering every square inch.
Maybe this year we'll take a road trip to Little Rock and see what Mr. Osborne's doing.
These fuzzy fellows make great ornaments or party favors, and are fun to learn how to sew with.
Fold a piece of tracing paper in half. With the fold on the dotted line of the pattern at left, trace the snowman pattern. Cut it out, still folded. Now unfold the pattern. Trace and cut a separate pattern for the hat and a triangle for the carrot nose.
Trace five snowmen on the back (rough) side of white felt. Pin another piece of felt (rough side out) to the front. Cut out snowmen through both layers. Turn the snowmen smooth side out in pairs. Set aside.
Following the manufacturer's instructions, fuse web to the back of the black and orange felt. Leave the backing on. Trace five hats and carrots onto the backing. Note: Cut the top and sides of the hat slightly larger than the pattern so it will overlap white felt. Cut out carrot 'noses.'
Remove backing and put a hat and carrot on each snowman. Cover pieces with cloth and fuse in place with an iron.
Sew carrots on with green thread, using three straight stitches.
Using a blanket stitch (see illustration), sew snowmen together. Hide the knot between the felt layers.
Before you finish sewing, stuff snowmen with fiberfill, then close.
Glue on pompoms for buttons and eyes. (Cut a bit off the backs of the pompoms so they lie flat.) Tie a red ribbon 'scarf' around each snowman's neck.
- From 'The Woman's Day Book of Holiday Crafts,' Woman's Day Magazine, 1996, $24.95. Used with permission.
9-by-12-in. felt blocks (two white, one black, and one orange)
2 9-by-12-in. bonding web (available at craft stores)
2 16.4-yard skeins of green pearl cotton thread, size 3
No. 4 embroidery needle
10 5-mm (for eyes) and 15 10-mm (for buttons) black pompoms
2-1/2 yards of 3/8-in red ribbon
thin cardboard or stiff paper for templates
Paper Teddy-Bear Garland
Paper dolls with a holiday theme. Dress them up with colorful rice- or tissue-paper scarves.
Trace and cut out the pattern at left onto a scrap of cardboard. Cut the construction paper lengthwise into four 6-inch-wide strips. Fold the paper strips into accordion folds 2-3/8 inches wide.
Place center line of the bear pattern on the fold of the first flap of a folded strip. Trace the bear onto the paper. Cut through all the thicknesses along the solid-line outline. Repeat. Do not cut through any folds! Unfold.
Overlap and glue bears' hands to join them. Glue small squares of paper to the bears' backs to reinforce them.
For scarves, cut a rice- or tissue-paper strip to fit across the neck, and a longer strip to fold into a V to make the scarf ends. Glue scarves to bears. Add blue dots for eyes.
- From 'The Woman's Day Book of Holiday Crafts.'
18-by-24-in. tan construction paper
2 sheets colored rice- or tissue paper
For a simpler ornament, cut these stars out of brightly colored paper.
Fold a piece of tracing paper in half. With the fold on the broken line of the pattern at left, trace the star pattern. Cut it out, still folded. Now unfold the pattern.
Trace stars onto the back side of fabric. Pin another piece of fabric, wrong side out, to the front. Cut out stars through both layers. Turn the stars right side out in pairs. Using a blanket stitch (see illustration with 'Felt Snowmen' on facing page), sew stars together. Hide the knot between the felt layers.
Just before you finish sewing, stuff stars with fiberfill, then finish sewing. Sew a loop of ribbon on top to make an ornament.
Brightly colored material
pencil or fabric pen
small piece of ribbon
Christmas Lace Candles
While airplane pilots may never use your house to navigate by, these beautiful candles make great decorations or gifts. You'll need help from a parent or other adult for this.
Melt wax in a double boiler. While wax is melting, carefully cut the tops off the rinsed-out milk cartons. (Cut off the entire folded-cardboard top, so you're left with a box shape.) Put ice cubes in a heavy plastic bag and crush with a hammer. The smaller the chunks of ice, the "lacier" the candles will be. (You may want to do this on a surface other than the kitchen counter. Maybe the driveway.)
Spread aluminum foil over the work surface where an adult will pour the wax. (This will make cleanup easier.)
Fill the milk cartons with ice chunks. Insert a birthday candle in the center of each.
Push the candle into the ice so that only the wick is showing.
Carefully fill three of the cartons with melted wax. Make sure some of the wick is above the wax. Now add a crayon (peel off the paper wrapper first) to the remaining wax. Stir until the crayon has melted and colored the wax. Carefully pour the colored wax into the remaining three cartons.
As soon as the wax has set (about five minutes), use scissors or a knife to cut away the carton. (Do this over the sink.) Peel off cartons and discard.
Let the candles drain completely. Make sure all the ice has melted.
Note on cleanup: Do not pour leftover paraffin down the drain! Pour any excess wax into a spare milk carton or other disposable container. Then carefully wipe the still-warm wax out of the double boiler with a paper towel. When you've removed as much wax as you can that way, wash the pan with hot water and detergent.
Carrie T. Becker
1-lb. box of paraffin
6 1/2-pint milk cartons, rinsed out
3 trays of ice cubes
6 largest size birthday candles
red or green crayon (optional)