As a kid, I used to love going with my grandparents to a tree farm in upstate Connecticut and finding the perfect Christmas tree. Well, here in the Big City, the tradition's a little different. Every year, I go to this one, special vendor in Hell's Kitchen, a sweet, French-Canadian couple from Quebec. Fraser firs are my favorite (their needles last longer), and this couple's are beautiful! Here I am on a cold winter's night in New York City. It took a little digging, but with all those trips to the flea market, I'm used to it!


Here's Jaithan with the bundled tree. A fresh cut was made and the bottom branches removed. Just don't throw them away! They're the perfect way to decorate a fireplace mantel as well.


Back at the apartment, first I gave the tree a good drink of Sprite (the sugar keeps the needles attached longer), then placed it in an antique urn I found at the flea market years ago. To stabilize it, I used a floral oasis, then covered it with pretty green sheet moss.


For my grandfather, the fuller the tree was, the better. But for me, not the case! It's the ornaments I love, and that's what I like to showcase. That's why I always go in with my clippers, removing weaker branches and cleaning out the inside.


As you can see, it's much more airy but with an overall shape that's still quite pretty. And now for the lights! Even though this tree is small, it still took 500 miniature white lights, if you can believe it. To make sure the tree is evenly lit, I wrapped every branch, including the trunk. That way, you avoid seeing wires crossing from limb to limb. First, I started from the bottom and worked my way up to the middle. Then, I began again from the top and worked my way down.


Here's the tree completely lit! The shape's good and the light's even. And best of all, no unsightly wires across branches!


Now for the fun part! Here's my collection of antique ornaments spread out on the coffee table. First, I started with the larger ones, filling in holes or gaps on the inside of the tree. Then, for the tips, I did graduating sizes from large to small, starting from the bottom and working my way up.


Now that all the ornaments were hung, it was time for Jaithan to go in with all the antique mercury glass beaded garland in pretty shades of gold and green.


Here's one of my favorite vintage ornaments, a mercury glass Santa! I love his snowy white beard. This one used to hang on my mother Margie's tree back in Greenwich.


And here's another special Santa, this one my grandmother Dottie's from Poland. Can you believe Ronda from one of my favorite blogs All The Best—she did a very sweet profile on me a little while back—has the very same one? Hers too had been her husband's grandmother's. I love it with all the mercury glass garland.


This ornament I found at a tag sale years ago. I love its shape, its intricate detailing and all the pretty colors.


This one I found antiquing in the Catskills last fall. The frosted tips have real glass glitter!


And now, for my newest (and cheapest) find ever! About a month ago, I was up on the 7th floor of Bergdorf's for a book signing where there were all these little, red feather birds that I loved. When I saw the price (65 bucks), I nearly fell over! Then, just last week, Jaithan and I were at the Rite-Aid around the corner from our apartment buying paper towel (white, never patterned), when I found the cutest little Christmas cardinal that would rival even the bourgiest Bergdorf's bird. The price? 99 cents.


Finally, the finished tree! Even though I'd trimmed it down a bit, now that it's all done, we love it! There's a vintage feel of Christmases past, full of beautiful ornaments—and memories—collected for years. And what about you? Do you have a favorite ornament on your tree? I'd love to hear about it. 

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