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Seasonal decor, tree care and the "good" dishes

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Seasonal Decor Tips

If you have a shed, it can be transformed into a festive eating area to celebrate fall. A gourd-festooned centerpiece and seating places adorned with chinaberries are eye-catching against a plain table and chairs.

A cozy cottage's white theme (if you don't have one, just go for a white-themed living room) makes for an almost anything-goes setting for the holidays.

An all-natural tree evokes Christmases past and fills the room with the scent of fresh pine.

Fresh-cut Tree Care

Check the freshness-Run a brand through your enclosed hand; needles should not come off easily. Bend the outer branches, which should be pliable; if they are brittle and snap easily, the tree is too dry.

Size it right-Know which tree size (the height and width) you can use before heading to buy one or cut one. Trees look smaller outdoors but bigger indoors.

Display it safely by using a sturdy stand, one that's designed for your tree's size and water needs. Fill the stand daily with tepid fresh water. Keep decorated trees away from all heat sources (like fireplaces, direct sunlight, heaters and vents.

Prep and refresh the tree by making a straight cut, taking 1 inch off the butt; immediately place it in water to improve its water uptake. It can stay in a bucket full of water several days before going indoors.

Dispose of your Christmas tree properly-Never burn any part of the tree in a wood stove or fireplace. After the holiday (or holiday season) is over, place your bare tree curbside for pickup. You can also place it outdoors and decorate it with bird treats!

Using the “Good” Dishes

The China
Did you know that it's best to handwash your china? That's regardless of whether it's dishwasher-safe. And when using dishwashing detergent, avoid lemon, orange or any other type of acid, or a liquid that contains chlorine bleach, according to Sara Vestal, lead supervisor of china and crystal restoration at Replacements Ltd. “Acids wear the finish, and chlorine leaves behind a residue that breaks down china at a molecular level.”
What this means is that you won't see the damage right away; it'll take a while, but eventually, you will.
If you still want to use the dishwasher, use the gentle cycle, a mild detergent and load the dishwasher carefully. And always use lukewarm or warm water, never hot or cold water (can cause cracks).
And store the china in a room that has the same temperature as the rest of the house (not the attic or basement).

The Silverware
It's OK to use the good silverware on a regular basis, not just for special occasions. Regular use develops a patina, which actually improves the appearance. And exposure to the air causes oxidation, which produces a darkening in the pattern that makes the design stand out more (this is a good thing).
Handwashing is also highly recommended; wash immediately after use and wash well (don't soak in any water too long).

Sources: “Faux Or Fresh?” by Kathy Van Mullekom-The (Sunday) Vindicator, Dec. 9, 2012 and “Company-Ready”-McClatchy Newspapers-The (Sunday) Vindicator, Nov. 17, 2013

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