This holiday season we've shared all of the various decorations that currently adorn our home. From the large living/dining room Christmas tree, to the smaller mercury glass kitchen tree, we've gone all out this year to ensure we're celebrating Christmas to the max from a decor standpoint. But there's one tree in our home that we haven't mentioned that has a bit of a special place in our hearts.

The little tree I'm talking about is a small three foot tall artificial tree that now sits proudly in our upstairs back window and looks out over our back yard. The ornaments that hang on this tree are the small ornaments that Wendy and I bought for the tree in our apartment for our very first Christmas tree as newlyweds living on our own. Our first tree was quite small, so the ornaments were small as well. Much like our current larger tree, the ornaments were all blown glass, but they are all about one quarter the size of normal ornaments. 

Though the ornaments are too small for our normal tree, we couldn't bear to part with them as they fondly remind us of our first several Christmases together. Therefore, several years back, we purchased an inexpensive artificial tree to display in our home. However, for the last several years, this little tree has been MIA. About four years ago the tree's cheap plastic base broke and left the tree wobbly and constantly falling over. We found a really nice oil rubbed bronze metal bucket at Restoration Hardware several years back...

...but our little tree was never able to sit securely in that bucket. We attempted to correct this problem by shoving plastic bags and scrap wood around the base, but not surprisingly, this didn't work. Go figure. (This is a full disclosure blog, so I'm going to show you this lame photo of wood and plastic bags that was somehow supposed to stabilize the tree. Sometimes, when I do stupid things like this, I wonder how I'm able to breathe and walk at the same time.)

This year, after having not displayed this wonky tree for several years, I decided enough was enough and I was going to do something about it. I started by pulling the tree out of the metal bucket and looking at the base. It was a simple base, a pole and a nub at the end. The old plastic bottom was easy enough to break away, leaving nothing more than the tree's "trunk" and nub exposed.

I decided I'd be able to mix up a batch of thinset and pour it into the metal bucket with the tree in place. Then it was just a matter of allowing the thinset to cure before we had a solid and secure little tree that wouldn't fall over from a stiff breeze or the gentle bump from a crazy dog.

The key to this whole process was ensuring the tree was centered in the container, and plumb to a level ground. Though easily said, it was not nearly as easily done.

We started the process by setting up sawhorses in our basement with a remnant piece of butcher block from our kitchen install. Since the basement floor is far from level, I needed to level the piece of butcher block using a few shims under each corner of the board until the level told us we were in good shape.

Next, I rigged up an elaborate string and clamp system to support the tree. The string was wrapped around the top of the tree to hold is securely, then the top of the string was wrapped around and tied to a few clamps that were clamped to the floor joists in the basement ceiling. This let me fully support the tree from the string and allowed gravity to do the work of making the tree nice and straight.

I worked with the tree and bucket to ensure it was centered and plumb, then I marked the edges of the bucket on the butcher block to be sure I'd know just where I needed to place the bucket.

After mixing up a quick batch of thinset, I poured the thinset mix into the bucket until it was within a few inches from the top...

...then placed the tree back into the mixture and ensured everything was where it needed to be. After about 24-36 hours of cure time I checked on the project. The little tree was securely placed in the bottom of the metal bucket, solid as could be and in no way wobbling. 

The whole thing now weights about 15 pounds and I highly doubt it will be easily knocked over. To freshen up the look a bit, we removed the old ribbon around the tree.

Our little tree was ready for its debut. I carried the tree upstairs and placed it on our bay window where all of our neighbors can see.

After hooking up the lights and getting everything in place we flipped the switch once the sun went down and just stood there and admired our little keepsake ornament tree, now solid and ready to take on a new decade. This little tree represents our DC roots, and it shows us just how far we've come.

Now, whether we're looking in the back window from outside of our house, or we're walking up the stairs and glance into the guest bedroom, this little three foot memory tree is shining proudly. In its new location, It provides light for our guest room and it welcomes us home in the early evening. 

Do you have any special ornaments, keepsakes, or decorations that have ties to significant moments in your life? Have you ever used a material for an unintended purpose to make a repair? Do you have one specific decoration that you look forward to putting out each and every year? Let us know because we'd love to hear.

Comments 4


12/14/2012 at 10:51 AM
I'm not sure where my mother got this idea, but starting in around 1976 when I was 5 years old, each year we (myself and my three siblings) would get an ornament. Sometimes they were all the same, representing a momentous event that year (like ornaments commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Constitution) and sometimes they were different, representing our interests that year (like the cross stitch ornament I got one year). By the time I got married, I had quite a collection of ornaments that, added with my husband's, made quite a cute little tree!

Like you, we started out with a small tree, which was all we needed for the small number of ornaments we had. We bought a full size tree about 7 years ago. As we have had our children, we have kept this tradition going, which means now we add in 4 new ornaments a year. Sometimes more if we get new ones as presents.

Our ornaments are varied and eclectic and our tree would never win any decorating contest but each of those ornaments has a story behind it, which makes it more meaningful than any beautiful-but-not-personal coordinating tree we could do.

Glad you kept the small ornaments for the memories--and I think it looks perfect in the bay window!

I think I need to go write a Christmas tree ornament post of my own now. :)
What a wonderful tradition, Merilee! Your tree sounds absolutely perfect. :-)
12/15/2012 at 8:28 AM
Oh I love it!!! And putting it in that bucket looks so much better than the plastic base :)

We have done the exact same thing in our home. The tree we bought our first Christmas together resides in our spare room, dubbed "the frat room" for its entertainment unit and futon couch.
I wrote a post about it :)
12/16/2012 at 8:10 AM
I also usually have multiple trees. There's a 'primative' artificial tree in the kitchen that's decorated with cookie cutters and cinnamon stick bundles and so forth. There's the big one in the living room with "decore" type ornaments, and in my bedroom, there's another tabletop tree with that's currently the 'family' ornaments. I have plans for a 'fandom' tree in the guest room some day with hand crafted Harry Potter and Tolkein trimmings.
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