A Forest of Good Tidings from Peanuts to Patriots, Long Grove Woman's 50 Christmas Trees Have Individual Themes
Donovan, Deborah, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Deborah Donovan Daily Herald Staff Writer
Three hens clucking their way through "Jingle Bells" in front of a rooster conductor is Alice Smedstad's favorite holiday ornament.
It decorates her farm tree, along with outhouses, a tin house and barn that look like toys from the 1950s, John Deere tractors and peas in Santa hats frolicking in a pod.
It is rather remarkable that Smedstad can select a favorite ornament, because she must have thousands on at least 50 Christmas trees in her Long Grove home.
The Christmas maven proudly proclaims that one or more trees stand in every room - including the bathrooms and laundry room.
Other remarkable trees are the white one commemorating American history in the library; the tree featuring crystal ornaments in the master bedroom; the black tree with African-inspired decor in her son Mark's room; and ornaments designed for children in a cozy loft hallway.
This list leaves out the huge tree with items of fun for each of the four family members in the foyer, the Victorian trees in the second-floor hall, the Chicago tree complete with cows in a first- floor bathroom and the cat tree in the sun-room.
If Smedstad gets as much fun out of other aspects of her life as she does her Christmas trees, she's a very happy woman.
The Long Grove hostess obviously loves showing a guest around her home, turning switches so the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" sounds from the Lincoln Memorial ornament or popcorn bounces in a more frivolous one.
While Christmas decorating has always been important to Smedstad - neither full-time employment nor raising two sons ever prevented her from putting up trees - she has gotten more serious about it in the last five years.
"I had a tree in the basement when I was a kid and always did my room at college," she said. "As an adult, I always had at least a couple of trees.
"Then when the kids were born, I picked up ornaments here and there. With all these ornaments I started developing theme trees. That's how I see the world - this could be a tree."
The whole Beaver Creek neighborhood is invited each year to see the trees. Hallmark sends Smedstad Christmas presents, and her husband, Don, jokes that the ornament company had to change its regional sales plans one year when they moved out of state.
Each tree has a theme. Smedstad adds accessories and chooses the light strings and garlands with care, too.
In the family room, sheep on the hearth are apparently bringing home the forest-themed tree in a wagon.
On a S'Mores tree, the garland is marshmallows strung on twine, while the cat tree has colorful crocheted mice added to a garland. The dining room tree wears Early American style ornaments inspired by ones made of wood or dough. The garland sports apples, cinnamon sticks and cranberries, and the lights are gold in an old-fashioned shape.
"At night it's magical with a gold haze," Smedstad said.
Outstanding trees include:
- The patriotic tree in the library is white this year, and it has become more warlike since Sept. 11.
Smedstad, a history major in college, hangs a Washington Monument ornament that shoots fireworks and a Statue of Liberty replica that plays "The Star-Spangled Banner. …