Spruce up Your Spruce: Caring for your Christmas tree

A natural Christmas tree has a way of conjuring up memories of holidays past; the pungent smell of fresh pine needles, the sight of twinkling lights wrapped around the branches – not to mention all the colourful gifts waiting to be opened underneath – are all powerful reminders of the spirit of the holidays. Without proper care however, your majestic Christmas tree can quickly become a Charlie Brown-style twig or even a fire hazard. By following these six steps, you can avoid a cleaning headache on Boxing Day. 1. Choose your tree wisely. Not all Christmas trees are created equal. Fir trees, like the Douglas or Balsam Fir, and pine trees like the Scotch or White Pine hold their needles long after being cut down. Other varieties, like the Nordic or White Spruce, have poor needle retention and should only be bought and used as “living” Christmas trees (with the roots still attached). 2. Pick a healthy specimen. As a general rule of thumb, fresh-cut Christmas trees will last longer than pre-cut ones. Watch out for trees that have a large number of browning needles, or ones whose needles are rigid or fall off when brushed – they’re well on their way to becoming kindling. 3. Keep your tree hydrated. After bringing your tree home, cut about an inch off the trunk to allow water to flow into the stump. Keep your tree outside in a bucket of water for a few hours before mounting it indoors. You should purchase a Christmas tree stand that allows you to water your tree, and change the water at least once a day. 4. Cover your floor. Protect your floor from pine needle, debris and sap by choosing a tree skirt that is at least as wide as the tree, if not longer. For easy cleanup, place a plastic tarp on the ground under your tree skirt. When you’re ready to take your tree out to the curb, simply roll up the tarp and toss any fallen needles into the trash. 5. Remove any fire hazards. Keep your tree well away from fireplaces, space heaters, candles or other sources of heat; they’ll not only dry the tree out, they can also cause it to ignite. Check the cords of Christmas lights for exposed wiring and replace any bulbs that aren’t working. 6. Decorate with care. After mounting your tree, give it a day before decorating, to allow the branches to settle into their natural position. Add the heaviest decorations, like the lights, first, wraping them closest to the tree. Follow them up with draping decorations like tinsel, then the ornaments, and finally the star!

The 10-Minute Holiday Cleanup

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a… dust bunny? With all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, keeping your space ready for Santa’s annual inspection can seem like a tall order. But not every cleaning job requires hours of work. This solid ten-minute cleanup will ensure your home is ready to entertain over the holidays. First, grab a laundry basket and gather up your clutter. This includes anything you don’t want guests to see. (We’re looking at you, Elf on the Shelf.) Focus on clearing out common areas, like the front entrance, kitchen, living and dining room and bathrooms. Throw in anything and everything that doesn’t belong, toss it in a closet and sort through it later. Next, wipe down surfaces, focusing on the bathroom and kitchen. Use quick disinfectant wipes to leave surfaces shiny and clean. If you’re pressed for time, don’t worry about moving things around. If you’re really pressed for time, cover the surfaces with holiday-themed decorations. (We’re looking at you, Elf on the Shelf.) Give the bathroom a once-over. Nothing fancy: pour some Pinesol into the toilet bowl, wipe down the mirrors, clean the sink and lay out fresh towels. Polish it off with some candy cane-scented pot pourri to give your WC a festive touch. Sweep, sweep, sweep. You want your floors to pass the “step test”: Can you walk across the floor in your stocking feet without picking anything up in them? Good enough. Finally, vacuum your carpets. Don’t concern yourself with the nooks and crannies; the key is to make those comforting “vacuuming lines” on the carpet, to show guests that you care about cleanliness – or at least pretend to.