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Holisticonline.com

Bring Outdoors Inside For Holiday Decor
By Laura Jones, Ohio Department of Natural Resources

Snow has fallen across the state, shopping malls are busy, and holiday music fills the air. Sights and sounds of the season are all in place, signs that our favorite holiday season is well under way. And, while it may be cold, winter is a great time of year to be outside enjoying nature -- especially if you're interested in putting together some hand-made holiday decorations or just picking out the perfect tree.

Nature offers a variety of seasonal decorations in the form of aromatic greenery, colorful dried blooms and seedpods that add extra "spice" and personality to home decorating projects. A simple evergreen wreath comes alive when embellished with dried teasel, Queen Anne's lace or coneflower heads gathered in a local woods or meadow.

A wonderful gift from nature is the pinecone. From glitter- covered ornaments to pinecone fire starters, they seem to offer an endless array of holiday trimming possibilities. One easy accent is to create scented pinecones. Place the pinecones in a sealable plastic bag, add few drops of cinnamon oil and give the bag a few shakes to distribute the scent, then let sit overnight. Afterward you can put them in a festive basket for display or in a decorative bag to offer as a gift.

You might also want to consider giving the pinecones back to nature in the form of a bird- feeder. Tie a string around the base or top of the pinecone. With a spatula, carefully wedge peanut butter in between the petals of the cone, roll in birdseed, then hang it outside for your feathered friends to enjoy.

Bringing nature's magic into your home with a yule log comes from an ancient pagan celebration. The yule log's modern tradition calls for it to be burned in the fireplace on Christmas Eve to inspire good fortune in the household.

Creating this festive and entertaining centerpiece is easy. All you need to do is find a small log and cut it to approximately 12 inches in length. Decorate it with greenery, pinecones and berries and then use it in the center of your holiday table. But remember to keep all accents natural if you're planning to burn the yule log in your fireplace.

Shopping together for a Christmas tree and other decorative greenery is a holiday tradition for many families. For added fun, why not choose a tree from one of the cut-your-own Christmas tree farms? A fresh-cut tree remains one of the most popular symbols of the season.

Below are a few tips on how to choose the healthiest tree and keep it fresh through the holidays:

  • Determine the freshness of a tree, wreath or other greenery by lightly grasping a branch and pulling on the needles. If few needles come off, the tree is fresh.
  • Christmas trees shed old needles and grow new ones each year. So, an abundance of brown needles collected in the branches is merely an indication of age, not freshness.
  • Once home, if you aren't ready to bring the tree inside, temporarily store it out of the direct sun or wind, in an unheated garage, on a porch, or under an overhang. Any tree stored more than two or three days should be set in water.
  • Inside, you'll want a tree stand that is large enough to hold at least a gallon of water. Cut trees will absorb large amounts of water for the first week they are indoors, so remember to replenish often. And, when choosing the location for your tree, avoid placing it near heating vents or anything that's flammable. Your tree will remain fresh indoors for up to four weeks if given proper care.

When it's time to trim the tree, don't abandon your decorations from Mother Nature. Intersperse among the twinkling lights and shimmering glass balls a pinecone here or seed pod there to give an extra special look to your Christmas tree. Strings of popcorn and cranberries are other fun and colorful substitutes for store-bought tree garlands. They can also be recycled into food for birds and other wildlife once the holidays are over.

A helpful hint: string stale popcorn, stale and fresh cranberries to make the work go faster and easier!

The look and smell of fresh greens and dried flowers surpass that of any man-made decoration.

So, let your imagination take flight when bringing Mother Nature's natural bounty indoors this holiday season.

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