The holidays come with a built-in time deficit -- baking the cookies, planning gifts and meals, wrapping, cooking and staging holiday traditions can drain all the joy out of the season for a harried mom. Reclaim some Christmas magic with clever use of all those strings of lights you have stashed in the garage or attic. In no time at all, you can throw together sparkling holiday decor to impress the family and your guests -- and you don't have to limit the lighted looks to the holidays.
1. Window Cascade
Hang a waterfall of light in your front windows by looping rows of icicle lights back and forth so the strings of tiny bulbs sparkle in a continuous rain of light. When the drapes are open, the lights are welcoming and provide a measure of privacy as they obscure the view from outside. Close the drapes and send dazzling lights out over the decorated yard or a pristine snowfall. A window cascade will silhouette a tree or a life-size Santa tableau located in front of the window.
2. Chandelier Branch
Christmas lights are pretty enough to display year-round when you wrap them around a bare, curved branch and suspend it over the dining table. In a vacation beach house, hunt for an interesting driftwood branch in the tideline after a storm; let it dry to silvered and salt-encrusted splendor before winding one or two strings of white incandescent or LED lights from one end to the other. Let loops of the light strings hang down in places and crisscross in others like an unruly, glowing cloud. Try round, multicolored bulbs over an eat-in kitchen table. Clump red and green pillar candles in glass hurricanes in the center of the table for a Christmas Eve tree-decorating party.
3. Garlands and Fairy Glow
Transform the Christmas tree's room into a magic fairyland with blue light strings hanging from the ceiling molding. Run one string up a door frame near a power outlet and keep attaching more strings of light until you've circumscribed the room. At night, the blue lights lend an unearthly glow. Plug in the tree for the final jolt of glittering enchantment. A tree with all-blue or all-one-color lights will be trendy and traditional. Try something new by using Christmas lights instead of pine garlands to wrap around a pier-glass mirror, a banister or the edge of the mantel. It's much less messy to clean up after the holidays, and a pine-scented candle will ensure everyone still enjoys that evergreen Christmas tree smell.
4. Brilliant Boho
Your boho-chic teen might love the colorful Christmas lights enough to keep them up all year. Stretch a thin wire at ceiling height behind her headboard and suspend strings of colored lights from it to fall like a gaudy curtain. Hang strings of multicolored holiday lights from a fourposter to make a light canopy that gleams off the patterned velvet bedspread. Wind colored lights around the bulletin board over her desk, and drape them like valances over the windows. Wrap Christmas lights around a pendant lamp or chandelier, and dump a few more strings in a large glass canister in the corner to create a sparkly tangle-of-light sculpture for a sleepover.
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