I blame my Christmas insanity primarily on my mother.  She doesn’t possess the kind of “everything MUST BE PERFECT” insanity, which I greatly appreciate as our gatherings tend to be laid-back comfortable family events, but there’s still some crazy there.

Themed Christmas trees.

As kids, my brother and I would help Mom decorate the tree (under Dad’s watchful supervision from the living room recliner) with all our random ornaments – things we made at school, old favorites, ones we’d been collecting since our birth (a tale for another day), that kind of thing.  Our tree always was beautiful, but full of eclectic, non-matching things.

As we grew older, Mom began experimenting with different decorating styles.  Stringing the lights vertically instead of horizontally (a great time-saver if you don’t already do this).  Accenting with ribbon.  Using a large bow on the top of the tree instead of the standard star or angel.  This first lead into decorating colors, where she’d buy ribbon and lights of a certain color and hang accenting ornaments in the tree.  Ultimately, it became tree themes – entire Christmas trees decorated around a single idea completely decked out with separate garlands, ribbons, lights, ornaments, whatever.

Growing up in this environment, I always thought themed Christmas trees were cool, even when Mom would drag out all of her frog ornaments for the beloved “Frog Tree” (she’s been collecting frogs since she was a teenager, so yes, she has plenty of frog ornaments – among other things).  Apparently, not everyone had a mother who did this as I learned with my husband’s family.  His mother has been decorating the tree the same way for probably 20 years, only adding new things as they came in.  Sure, the tree is lovely, but I’m too easily distracted by shiny objects to do the same thing year after year.

If you ever catch a glimpse of all my Christmas decorating stuff, this will become clear.

I’ve done “Silver and Gold” trees.  I’ve done “Candy Wonderland” trees.  I’ve done “Red and White”.  One year I even did a tree entirely in black and silver and gothic fabulousness, and it was probably my most favorite tree ever.  So the themed Christmas trees are in my blood, and as much as I try to recycle things from previous years, sometimes I’ve just got to go out and get a few new accents here and there for my next brilliant idea.

Now that you’ve got the history behind the madness, I can actually post what I wanted to talk about.

Yesterday, I brainstormed some ideas for a themed tree while keeping in mind my $20 budget for the Crafty Christmas Tree Challenge.  Originally, I was thinking the ol’ “Red and Green” standby – ornaments of mittens, stockings, Santa Claus, reindeer, that sort of thing.  But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to do something totally different that, of course, I’ve never done before.

First, I picked my color scheme.  I chose these colors primarily because they are the colors of multi-lights.  Michael loves the multi-lights, so he’s getting multi-lights.  These I will have to purchase, because I don’t own any.

So bright, it's blinding!

Next,  I decided the decorations must be non-breakable, preferably soft and plushy, and lo and behold felt and fun foam come in all these wonderful colors.  Now that I had my materials in mind, I could go about deciding on a theme.  What can I make from felt and fun foam (besides everything)?

Red and Green traditional Christmas-y type ornaments could easily go here.  Stars, angels, stockings, Santas, snowmen, reindeer, sleighs – all the Christmas bells and whistles.  But this is Michael’s second Christmas – the first where he can actually see and enjoy and play with the stuff on the tree.

So I thought toys.  Cars, airplanes, trains, rocking horses, blocks, stuffed animals.  But I know my little boy too well, and there would be nothing left on the tree.  Plus, I’d feel strangely pressured about what to put up there considering little Madelynne’s on her way and I’d have to add some more girly touches.  I was a serious tomboy, so having a little girl is frightening enough as it is.  No go on the toy tree, at least until I have more options to work with.

Also, some strange part of me wants their to be an educational aspect to the Christmas tree.  Christmas is not all about presents and Santa Claus, but I’m not fond of the full-blown Nativity story either for a 16-month-old, so how else can I make this work?

And then it came to me, staring at the two laundry baskets full of stuffed animals that belong to my son (or that he’s stolen from me and claimed for his own).  Animals.  Michael loves animals.  I thought it would be cute to also include ornaments of alphabet letters, different fonts and sizes and colors, and have an animal for every letter.

Thus, the “Alphabet Animals” tree theme was born.  I spent part of the afternoon gathering supplies and Googling animals that begin with “X” and some other letters I was having trouble with.  (I’m going with Xerus for X – they’re a genus of African ground squirrels that look just like our squirrels, so ta da.)  Today, I want to go out and gather more fun foam and felt (a trip to Dollar Tree – hooray!) and start finding cool fonts to make letters from.

So.  Overview of current ideas to work on.

  1. Fun Foam.  Not only super-useful for cutting out animal shapes or letters, I also want to make chains like one of those paper chains we made out of construction paper at school.  A sturdier alternative that will probably survive being packed away for years to come.
  2. Felt.  Primarily for the ornaments, I think, but I may come up with something more awesome.
  3. Shrinky Dinks.  I have a package of colored Shrinky-Dinks that I bought for something awesome months ago and promptly forgot about.  I plan on cutting various sizes of circles, punching holes in them, and either stringing them as garland or making little dangly mobile-looking pieces out of them.  These are the only thing I’m counting towards my budget thus far, because everything else I’ve gathered is scraps leftover from other things.  Buying more felt and fun foam today will go on the budget, however.

And that’s the game plan.  Wish me luck!