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New Twists on an Old Tradition…Outdoor Holiday Lighting

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By: Stefanie Rose Miles

When it comes to outdoor Christmas decorating, I’m fairly frugal.  Ok…when it comes to most things, I don’t like to spend a lot of money.  But I’m not cheap, and I must have fairly, decent taste since we're often complimented on our home decor and furnishings.  And although my dad did teach me everything he knows about exterior illumination, unlike Clark Griswold’s, all mine knows is very little.  Our exterior Christmas decor has run its course and is in desperate need of a makeover.  My less-is-more (and much easier) approach has manifested in life-like, artificial wreaths with red ribbons on all the windows; each with a candle inside on a timer; a larger, decorative door wreath, and oversized bows on the lantern fixtures on either side.  With age, the wreaths are looking worn and the whole "look" is tired.  It's time to take it to a new level and have something special this year, especially for our children who are growing up too quickly.  

Thinking I might save myself some time, money, and storage room, I decided to have local Christmas lighting company come for a free consultation and estimate.  The idea of someone else doing the work (surely more accurately and efficiently than me), who’d come out with just a phone call to replace a single bulb or to resolve any problem that may arise, and who’d come take it all down and haul it away after the holidays, was more than appealing.  In a word….no.  At least where I live, the companies that provide these services obviously do business with people who enjoy parting with far more money than I do.  I’m not opposed to paying extra for convenience, but for an investment in just the basic lighting option, they’d need to throw in all the indoor decorating, cooking, cleaning, shopping, and wrapping for the entire month of December for me to justify the expense.  New Plan A. 

My personal favorite is white or clear lights, and ApexPower offers the trendy solar powered globe string lights on AmazonPrime.  These 21 feet strands of 30 LED lights may be used outdoors or indoors.  They have eight operating modes and list for $12.99 per rope.  Boasting 10,000 hours of reuse, this brand has a higher rating and better reviews than others similar. Plus, there's a bonus--these lights look great on a deck or patio all year long. 

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Want to stand out in the neighborhood with some not-so-traditional lights with color and whimsy?  Chuzzle ball fairy lights are sure to set your house apart.  There are a variety of brands with various rope lengths and numbers of lights per rope, so do some comparison to best suit your needs.  If you like the whimsical, textured look but you’re more fond of the streamlined look—chuzzle ball lights also come in warm white and blue.  On average, these cost around $10 per 15 feet strand.

 

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A tried and true trend over the past several years and continues to make the hit list is solar powered rope lights.  They are durable, flexible, and look great on about anything you want to decorate.  Mounting clips make the hanging task super easy.  Most often rope lighting is seen in neutral, warm white, making them great for all seasons, but they also come multi-colored and in various solid colors.  A 30-40 feet section with 100 lights costs around $18, stretching your dollar even further.

 

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Pathway/walkway solar lights are particularly helpful during the holidays as guests come and go with arms loaded with gifts, luggage, food, beverages, and more.  Many homeowners already have path lights in place and use them year around.  There are adorable Christmas-themed stake lights to intersperse with your everyday in-ground lights, but why not use what you have and embellish?  Duct tape can be found in nearly every imaginable color as well as a number of Christmas themes.  Choose a theme or buy basic red and white in candy cane style and wrap the stakes of your pathway lights in duct tape.  Or just top off your existing pathway lights with wired, miniature wreaths, a bit of greenery, or simply tie the base of the lights with outdoor ribbon and voila! 

 

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Whether you’re in Minneapolis, Miami, Modesto, Mobile, or Montpelier the “Simply Southern” brand (and look) is hot even when it’s cold.  Decorating with mason jars is no new concept, even for Christmas.  However, using them outdoors and/or as part of string lights, is a newer twist.  And speaking of twist—there are a couple of options on the market that offer lights and lids.  You stuff your jars with the lights, twist on the lid, and instant solar illumination.  If you’re going to use them more sparsely or indoors, you may want to go the more cost-effective route and buy a few short strands of battery powered lights and make it a DIY project. You may already have a decent collection in a cabinet or under your kitchen sink.  If not, you can buy various quantities online, and they can be found at supermarkets and other retail stores.

 

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If you have a pergola, gazebo, or one or more seating sections on a patio or deck string curtain lighting is a gorgeous and elegant accent.  You can literally define a space or even create a virtual, semi-private room.  Designate an official entryway by sweeping several strands in two opposite directions and tie back with another strand of lights or outdoor ribbon.  Depending on your front porch/entry design, lighting your front door entrance in a curtain-style can is an extra special way to welcome party guests or anyone arriving for an evening visit. 

 

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Christmas is such a magical time.  As the season rolls around each year something will trigger a childhood memory—a forgotten ornament or hearing Elvis’ Blue Christmas.  You can recapture the wonder with LED string fairy lights. And yes, they are available in the solar powered option! In 72 feet sections, these lights produce a dainty, dazzling effect.  Most are usable in and outside, you can make anything extra magical with these lights, which appear suspended in air, as if by the wave of a wand!  Besides the warm white shown in the photos, they can also be found in other colors.  For around $16 per section, you’ll probably have money left over for pixie dust!  One of the prettiest pictures that demonstrates their mysterious glow is a jumbo size Snow White type mirror.  With just a strand of these miniature fairy lights draped from the top, cascading down both sides—it appears to have instantly undergone fairy godmother treatment!  These would be perfect on the tree, on wreaths, or as special accents on any decor inside or out.

 

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Whatever your style, whatever your budget, seize the day and light the night this Christmas.  Enjoy making memories, and making your home an inviting holiday haven.  Share your spirit not only with your family, but neighbors, and mere passersby.  Happy Holidays!

 

 

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