Friday, December 7, 2012

Christmas Lights

This was the first year that I tried putting up Christmas lights on our house. To be fair, I did a half-hearted attempt to wrap some lights around the porch the last few years but this is the first time I actually bared the elements to put lights up along the eaves troughs.

To be honest my wife has been asking me to put lights up each year but I never felt up to the task. Probably had to do with the image of Clark Griswold climbing up on the roof, staple gun in hand wiring up thousands of lights. Then the lights not coming on and having to check each bulb to see which one wasn't working. My adventure wasn't quite as challenging but it did have it's hiccups.

Step 1: Getting all the lights... The thought of decking the halls has been on my mind since I was about 16 and I would drive by houses that could be seen from outerspace and my friends and I would be in awe and say... That's what I'm going to do when I have a house. In any case, the last few years I've been buying a few lights here and there after christmas when they're on sale. Mistake #1, which I'll explain later. Down to the basement I go to grab the supplies and outside I go,

Step 2: Prepping the lights... Taking the brand new lights out of the boxes I proceed to untangle them and get them ready to go up on the eaves. Not testing them out. Mistake #2 (but a minor one I have to admit) and determining which way to plug them in, Mistake #3.

Step 3: Stringing the lights... Up the 6 foot ladder (mistake #4) I go. My house is a newer one in a subdivision where the main floor ceilings are typically 9 feet or more. Luckily I'm somewhat tall and can reach the eaves of my house fairly easily. Just have to stretch a bit by the garage but, all the while, in my mind I'm wondering how and if I'll be able to reach the eaves where the roof peaks by the front door. I'm sure it will be fine :) .

Stringing on the lights along the garage has been very easy and quick but then I realize... I think I want to get rid of some of the slack within the lights so I thought... Eh... 10 more minutes of work, no problem. This way if I need extra length I don't have to do things again later. It's a bit of a challenge taking out the clips that attach the lights to the eaves but not too bad.

Onto the peak of the house by the entrance. Moving the ladder onto the porch I find out that I can reach the right and left sides of the peak but at the centre I fall a bit short. I have to get the ladder closer but unfortunately the 2 stairs to the porch are there. I have to find something to place the ladder on. Yes, I know what you're thinking, bad idea. down to the basement I go. I search around for anything that is big enough and stable enough... block of wood, nope, old toobox... Not wide enough... I end up picking up a box of big university text books. They seem stable enough let's put them to good use. Went outside and was able to put a bunch of them together to create a fairly stable base but my 6 year old daughter wasn't that convinced and told me to be careful.
Tested it out a bit, and carefully made my way to the top. Strung a nice set of stars along the peak eaves and not a wobble on the ladder. Off to the last string.

Step 4: kind of: Starting over
As I was about to hook in the last 10 feet of lights I just realized... the plugs need to be on the other side. I don't know if the clean air got to me, or what, but I actually did think about this before I started the process and my brain was completely reversed. So down come the lights. By this point my neighbour who had been out running errands stops by and sees me stretching on my short ladder and offers his 8 foot ladder. Bless him. This speads up the process dramatically and I manage to set up the stars in the middle a lot better and more efficiently. Thank goodness.

Step 5: lighting it.
After some death defying acrobatics and about an hour longer than it should have taken the lights have been strung and the moment of truth arrives. I go to plug in the lights and flip the switch in the house that turns on the lights... Nothing. I plug the cord into the second plug and once again flip the switch... Nothing... After switching back and forth a few times and getting the same results I step back. Then it hits me... There's a light socket on the ceiling of the porch. So running the lights back over to that socket, plug it in and voila. We have chrismas lights... Sort of.

Turns out the feature that is a bit of the highlight, the stars in the middle of the porch peak, half of them are not working. Luckily I still have the 8 foot ladder and take down the middle section. I take the lights inside because my hands getting a bit numb at this point and try and find the burnt bulb. I plug in the lights and guess what, they're all working now. I shake it around to see if I can make the lights go out again but they're staying on. Back outside I go. At this point I've gotten quite quick at hooking the lights in and it's now no problem stringing the centre lights up. I plug the stars in to make sure they are still working as I'm hanging them up. 10 minutes and they're up and working. A few hours later, it's dark and we decide to turn on the lights... Sure enough, the stars are out again. Rather than going through this again I decided to just go and buy something new the next day.

I ended up finding the exact same stars and headed back home. I tested them first and then up they went. Success!!!! Kind of

All the lights are now on but one or two of the strands bought at the end of the season at half price last year, surprisingly, don't have the same colour led lights. Some of the lights are an odd yellow colour and not like the white light of the others. It looks a bit off but I'm willing to live with it this year.

So what should have been about an easy one hour job turned into a multi day event. Although I now feel justified in having procrastinated putting up lights over the last few years I do like the satisfaction of having completed this and I did learn some key points in the set up process that I'll apply next year (assuming I want to). Namely... Buy a tall ladder, test the lights beforehand, think about where things get plugged in.

Next up... The Christmas Tree

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