Friday, October 27, 2017

Why We Collect Toys For Tots

This December, for every unwrapped toy donated at Copeland Christmas, our family will also contribute. Our charity of choice is Toys For Tots. We're super excited!

Here's why we donate toys and cash to a charity...

Back when we first brought the display to Palm City in 2006, visitors tried to contribute to the light bill. Back then, we used 65k incandescent lights...people assumed our power bill was high and they constantly wanted to show thanks by giving us money. We used to lie and say the electric bill only spiked nominally. We refused the money. But then we'd find $$ left on the counter or in the mailbox. Once we got a letter from a family saying they made a charitable donation in our name because they were so touched by our display. That's when we decided to partner with Toys For Tots and funnel 100% of the money to kids in Martin County.

"To be honest," says Danielle, "I am somewhat uncomfortable with collecting people's money"
"I want people to come here and see the display with zero obligation. December is our time for US TO GIVE to the community and for the community to simply receive."
That being said, we are overjoyed and humbled by the amount of toys people drop off at our house. Each year, our favorite day is when we drop off the toys at headquarters. I usually ask to peak at their staging area and I'm always overwhelmed to see tables upon tables upon tables of toys, all sorted by age.

A quick story...
Back in 2015, a van pulled up and kids started piling out. All seemed normal at first. No big deal.

Then the back hatch opened and the kids plus mom+dad started pulling dozens of toys from the van for Toys For Tots. A+ to those parents for taking their kids on a shopping spree to buy toys for less fortunate kids. They brought good toys Star Wars toys and Barbies.

Another story...
One year, a family decided not to get each other Christmas gifts. Instead, they pooled their money and bought toys for tots. When they dropped off the toys at Copeland Christmas, they shed a tear because they were so joyful and fulfilled by having done what they felt was the right thing.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Throwback to 2009 Copeland Christmas

Here's a few of favorite photos from the 2009 display at our old house. That house had so many good places for different scenes!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Mega Tree at Copeland Christmas

We love the mega tree. Let me tell ya a little about how we made it.
mega tree
From January to November this is our flagpole! In December, we hang lights from the top and call it a Mega Tree.

It's a Sunsetter 20 ft Telescoping flagpole that's been cemented into the ground. During December, we take off the flag and replace the gold finial with a homemade tree topper. We used a wooden bun and coat hooks from the hardware store to make the topper. We attach a star to the top of our DIY topper and voila!

Since Christmas lights surprisingly weigh a lot, we have to secure the mega tree with guy wires.

Each strand is secured to the grass with a tent stake and zip tie.

In years past, we've done more elaborate trees, but we like this one just fine. It went up in a few hours.
mega tree
This year, the mega tree has 24 strands of green LEDs. We can control each strand separately so we can make it look like it's spinning, filling up, unfilling, twirling, etc. We can also control the star separately from the tree too.

mega tree

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

How to make north poles for a Chistmas display

Here's our parts list and the steps we took to create the north poles. Over the years, we've seen many variations of this's not something we invented ourselves. It's a fun project that takes a full weekend to complete and the results are pretty rewarding (at least for us). 

Important: this project requires knowledge and understanding of wiring and electricity. We don't recommend that anyone use this writing as a tutorial to create your own north poles. That being said, we did consult a licensed electrician so our north poles are safe.

If we would have had to buy all the materials, the total project cost would have been around $300 for 10 north poles. Fortunately, we had a lot of the materials on hand so we only had to spend around $200. 

First, here's the Home Depot shopping list. I think I ended up returning an unused can of expandable foam.

We also ordered ten 6 ft spt2 extension cords and ten cleat sockets from Amazon which look like this:

Here's the globes that we repurposed from another project. 

Here's what we did......
  1. Sand all the barcodes and part numbers off the 3 in pvc pipes.
  2. Spray paint 3 inch pipes and couplers with white paint. Allow to dry overnight.
  3. Cut the 1/2 inch pvc pipes in half.
  4. Set the couplers aside for a while.
  5. Lay down all 20 pipes on the floor.
  6. Glue the small pipes inside the large pipes. Allow to dry. 
  7. We wanted all the stripes to be identical, so we made a little template that helped with the taping.
  8. Spray the pipes with red paint after taping them to look like candy canes. Allow to dry overnight. 
  9. Lay the pipes down on the floor again.
  10. Fish extension cords through the pipes.
  11. Spray expandable foam inside the pipes so that the cord and small pipe are held snugly in place. Allow time to expand and cure.
  12. Snip off the female ends and discard them.
  13. Peel the tape off
  14. Place couplers on the top of the pipes
  15. Properly wire the sockets to the cords (must be done by a person with electrical knowledge)
  16. Add a bulb, top with a globe. 
  17. Pound the rebar into the grass being careful not to hit buried lines.
  18. Slide the north pole over the rebar.
  19. Run an extension cord to the north pole.

Post project thoughts...

  • I kind of splurged by buying the precut 2 ft pipes, but it saved a lot of time by not having to measure, cut, and, sand the 8 or 10 ft pipes. Plus, they might not have fit in the SUV.
  • I left a lot of little steps out......for example, I couldn't find 4 inch painters tape so I had to make due with 2 inch tape and just had to do twice the taping....a pain.
  • I could have used red cut tape instead of the red paint....but it fades and peels in the sun. Not sure how the paint will hold up. I wonder if it will scratch off during handling.
  • I could have used acetone to dissolve the codes, but it took longer and came out messier on my test subject.
  • I could have added a clear coat....meh.... 
  • We could have probably gotten away with not painting the pipes white first. But the white covered up some of the faint leftovers of the upc codes.
  • Some people use multiple bulbs with different fixtures, some drill holes in the pvc and poke mini lights through them. Some people paint make the stripes differently. Some people use silicone to secure the globe. Some people use a spool of wire with vampire plugs vs repurposing the extension cords. There's so many variations of this project......
  • They'll be bulky to store, so I'll probably try to find a short trash can and use some kind of foam so they don't scratch up against each other.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Candyland scene made with carved styrofom

So excited that the candyland scene is nearly done!! Just need to finish the rest of the room now.

Christmas Tree Decorating Tips 2015

Christmas Tree Decorating Tips 2015

Ever wonder how many lights and ornaments you'll need for your Christmas tree? Just ask Google. In fact, all you need to ask is how many ornaments and autofill knows where you're headed with your question. The answer depends on how tall your tree is. Go ahead and try it.

I'd go ahead and up your ornament count if you plan on putting the tree in the middle of the room or if you'll see the back of the tree due to a mirror or rotating tree stand.

Have you ever seen a tree with very few ornaments at the top and a few at the bottom? Yep, the center is always jam packed with ornaments. Here's a tip to prevent such a tragedy. 
First, unpack all your ornaments, eyeball the collection and mentally compare to the size of your tree, then begin decorating. It's so common sense but it'll help every time.

Another tip that makes your Christmas tree look like a decorator trimmed it: Add a good amount of glittery or shiny ornaments toward the tree trunk....inside the tree. They will catch the light at certain angles and make the tree look fuller and better. a pack of premade bows from the wrapping paper aisle ($2 for a few dozen). Now use the bow to bundle three ball ornaments together. Do this with half of your ball ornaments. Now tie the bundles to the branches. You'll have twice the dimension since some ornaments will be singular and some will be bundled with bows.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Making Christmas Village Mountain Backdrop

Today we made some more progress on the village scene. We made mountains to place behind the scene. 

First, we started with a 4 x 8 ft sheet of 2 inch polystyrene insulation. We cut a two foot section of it and carved it up with the sculpting tool from Hot Wire Foam Factory (not sponsored).

Next, we carved up a few pieces of one inch polystyrene, sanded all the pieces with very gritty sandpaper, and stood it all up to see how it would look. Looks good.

Next we painted it dark brown with inexpensive acrylic craft paint and let it dry.

 Then we used a dry paint brush to paint on white paint. We googled a few mountain images to see where we thought the snow might naturally fall and we kept painting till we thought it was done.

 I went back in with a bit of black paint on the closest hill to add a but more dimension. Looks good!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Making a mini Christmas Village Using Styrofoam

Today I made the styrofoam base for the Candyland village! Why does it have to be 90 degrees here?

  I started out with three 4x8 sheets of polystyrene insulation from Lowes. I used a utility knife to cut out a bunch of odd shapes, then I stacked the shapes together with wooden BBQ skewers. 

Next, I used a cool tool from Hot Wire Foam Factory called a sculpting tool to cut through the styrofoam. When you turn it on, the wire heats up and lets you slice right though styrofoam. I love it. You can even bend the wire into different shapes. This is my third hot knife and I definitely like this one the best. They didn't pay me to say this.
Disclaimer: I'm no artist. All the sculpting was done haphazardly and awkwardly. But it looks really good. I think this is one of those projects which you literally can't mess up. The messier the better. And when I painted the ice with blue paint, I didn't know what I was doing.....I just painted any of the recessed areas and left the closest areas white. No real science here either. 

Once the sculpting was done, I took apart all the pieces and glued them together. I thoroughly researched what type of glue to use and I settled on Glidden Gripper. And they didn't pay me either.
 It was pretty fun to carve little stairs into the snow mountains and to visualize where all the little lighted gingerbread houses will be placed.
I added a few heavy jugs to the top of the mountains so the glue would really grip. Then I started painting the ice with blue acrylic paint. I used whatever old paint and brushes I had on-hand.
I must say, I love all you crafters who post videos to Youtube. I never would have thought to carve stairs and paint ice unless I had seen it on the internet. 

 Once the base was done, I decided to make a frozen pond. I sculpted out a shallow hole, painted it blue, then poured in some clear two part epoxy.
I knew I wanted to make frozen water, so I once again turned to Youtube.  This was a few days ago.

I found a bunch of methods so I tried three out. Clear silicone, mod podge, epoxy. I poured the mod podge way too thick. After 5 days it was still too gooey. The caulk never dried at all, so maybe I had a bad tube. The epoxy worked super awesome.

The epoxy I used is leftover from a tiki project we did a few years back. We used it to coat a wooden bar that we made for the backyard. I remember it being pretty expensive so we saved it hoping to make use of it someday. It's from FiberGlass Coating, Inc. here in Florida.

It's supposed to dry perfectly clear, but I think it has a bit of a brown tinge. Once I add skaters and some flaky fake snow, it will look great!

I could have gotten super picky about this project and really made everything perfect. But I'm happy I decided to be content with not being super perfectionist about this. 

Next step: I got some fiber optic hair extensions on Amazon for a few bucks. Yes I just said that. I'm going to see if I can incorporate those into the snow somehow. Then, I'll run some RGB light tapes along the back and add a few blue icicle lights to give it some dimension. Then I'll add more mountains to the back and I'll be DONE!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Making Faux Gumdrops for the Mini Christmas Village

I made some faux gumdrops for the mini Christmas village this year. They turned out really good and I'm super excited to see them in what I call the "Candyland section" of the village display. Here's a pic from the 2010 display. We lay down a styrofoam base, then add houses and accessories. Then we add snow.
Some folks might use real gumdrops for this, but all the lights get pretty warm and I don't want a sticky soup melting in my house. Plus, I cannot store really candy...that would be begging for a rat and bug infestation.
I used two ice cube trays, plaster of paris, acrylic paint, clear glitter, and sewing pins. It couldn't be easier and it definitely brought out my crafty side.

I mixed the plaster of paris per the instructions. I filled up the trays and let them sit overnight.
One of the funnest parts of the project was the EXPERIMENTATION at the beginning. Before I made the entire batch of gumdrops, I made a few, painted them, then glittered them to make sure I would like them. I quickly realized a few things.

First, filling the trays completely with POP, made the gumdrops a bit too large for what I want. So, I decided to only fill the trays 50%. 

Next, it was a pain to paint each one, then set it to dry without smearing the paint off. So, I decided to try sticking a toothpick into each gumdrop after the pop set for about 15 minutes. I was really happy with the toothpick, but I wanted something that wouldn't ruin my styrofoam. Safety pins!!! I'm pretty proud I thought of this. It helped me paint and glitter them in a snap. Plus, the tiny little pinhole won't be noticeable in the styrofoam.
I used super inexpensive acrylic paint from Walmart that I already had. I mixed up different tones and had fun with it.
I think I'll use them to form little fences and borders around the village. I guess I could make gumdrop trees too.