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DECORATE FOR THE HOLIDAYS IN ONE AFTERNOON

Add some flair and save some time with great products and sound advice

Holiday decorations have come a long way since your parents used to string those old, clumsy light sets on the bushes. Technical innovations and other improvements in holiday decorations have paved the way for easier options if you plan to decorate this season.

Although some of the "old standby items" still make the cut for decorating, there are a number of non-conventional items you should consider to adorn your home. Among some of the "trendier" products you'll see on hardware store shelves:

Rope Lights -
Also known as tube lights, these decorative lights have been around for a few years and just keep getting better. They can take the form of holiday characters like reindeer and Christmas trees, or you can use their unusual yet handy "shapability" to wrap around porch railings and entry columns. Get a little creative with how and where you string them and who knows what you can come up with!

"Snowflake" Lights -
Somewhat new to the decorating scene are shimmering snowflakes that stand alone or come as part of a longer strand. Sold typically as 10-packs, the individual snowflakes are strung together and can be placed in windows, trees and bushes or tacked onto shutters or lattice work for a "snowfall" effect. Longer strands of icicle lights are also available with snowflakes dangling from the bottom row.

Pre-Lit Artificial Christmas Trees -
Somewhat commonplace anymore, these trees can be assembled in less than five minutes and, thanks to improvements in quality, look like the real thing. As far as lighting is concerned, the fiber optic trees are fantastic. Some even have revolving color wheels in the base that continually change the light patterns on the tips of the tree's "needles," creating a shimmer effect. Stand back and look hard Â… you may be convinced your tree is the real thing!

Commercial-Grade Light Sets -
Commercial light sets are stronger and can handle more wear and tear, the bulbs burn brighter and up to six strands can be strung together for greater decorating ability. Make this investment now, and your lights will last year after year without having to be replaced as often. Typical commercial-grade sets retail for roughly $10 a strand or less.

Light Clips -
If you've been living without these for the past few years, I commend you on your work ethic, but it doesn't have to be that hard! To take the strain out of stringing the house with lights, light clips allow for hanging lights off gutters and around window frames without nails. There are even clips for hanging lights off of bricks for masonry homes. The clips are inexpensive and can be re-used, and what's more, when it's time to take the lights down off the house (hopefully not in April), the clear clips can be left on for next year. It'll make your job that much easier!

If you read through this and decide you still need some help, don't despair - ask the helpful folks at your neighborhood Ace store! And remember, if you have home improvement questions and need a little advice, send me an email at asklou@acehardware.com - I'd be glad to help!

Go inside and grab a cup of cocoa, your work is finished and the house looks great!

-Lou

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