How Texans make the most of Christmas along the coast
When Santa slides to a stop on the upper Texas coast this year, odds are he’ll have on flip-flops and sunscreen. And that’s the way we like it.
With our average December days hovering in the 60s, here are five fun ways to make the most of a coastal Christmas.
1. Build a sandman
Build a snowman (or woman) from sand and let the shore’s natural doodads inspire accessories. Give your sandman sea stones for eyes and seaweed instead of a top hat. Frosty’s coastal cousin wouldn’t sport a scarf, but he’d look debonair in a necklace of shells.
Who needs snow?
“Making a snowman from sand is just as much fun,” said Lucinda Wierenga, who has spent decades sculpting sand on the Gulf Coast and who wrote the book “Sandcastles Made Simple.”
How to make a sandman
Here’s the scoop on building your own sandman. Beginners might want to keep it small. For supplies, you need a bucket of sand, a bucket of water and items to decorate your sandman.
1. Start with a large handful of very wet sand.
2. Take a handful of drier sand and put it on top of the wet sand.
3. Follow with wet sand, then dry sand — get the picture?
4. Move it back and forth gently until you have a blob of sand. Do not squeeze.
5. Roll it in the driest sand you can find.
6. Make three balls of various sizes and stack them up.
If you want to try a larger sandman, you’ll need a form such as a bucket with the bottom cut out. Fill it with sand, pack it down, and shape using a putty knife or any household item with a straight edge. You also can try the heavy plastic used by nurseries to keep roots from spreading. Use the plastic to form a tube, fill it with a mixture of wet and dry sand to form a strong column of sand. To create eye sockets without crumbling the head, use a melon scooper.
2. Send a ‘Don’t you wish you were here’ card
Want to make your friends and family members in the Northeast slightly green? Send them holiday greetings with a photo of your family soaking up rays on the beach, without a snow flurry in sight.
“I have many customers who confide in me that the pleasure of these cards is making their Northern relatives crazy,” Susan Henry, a photographer based in League City, said.
Henry takes photographs for about 50 such cards each season. But shooting on the beach occasionally has pitfalls.
This year, a 3-year-old girl in an elegant Christmas dress took one look at the Gulf and streaked straight to the water. Before Henry could say, “We’ve got a runner,” the child was ankle deep in sand and splashing away.
3. Create a showboat
There’s nothing like 40 strands of twinkling white lights to brighten up the family boat for the holidays. Tiki Islanders Christina and Kevin Stevens, with their children Hunter and Hanna, spend preholiday weekends decorating their 30-foot offshore fishing vessel. They aren’t alone. Several hundred owners of vessels, large and small, will sail into the season with boats decked in holiday bling.
The type and scope of decorations may call for negotiation.
“My husband, who’s an engineer, said he’s going to build reindeer flying off the deck, but I told him we’re going to do a tasteful decoration,” Christina Stevens said.
Havre Lafitte Boat Parade is set for 6 p.m. Dec. 13, beginning at the mouth of Lake Madeline Channel near Moody Gardens.
The League City 53rd annual Christmas Boat Lane Parade also begins at 6 p.m. Dec. 13 and will feature more than 100 decorated power and sailboats. The vessels will move along the Clear Lake channel from the South Shore Harbour Marina and Nassau Bay Lagoon to Galveston Bay.
4. Light the palm fantastic
Neat rows of twinkling palm trees fill the salt air with holiday cheer, but how do they get that way?
How you light a palm depends on the type of palm it is. And it’s harder than it looks, Raymond Brown, of RT Holiday Services, said. This year, Brown is in charge of lighting the palms at the University of Texas Medical Branch on the island. If you do it yourself, be sure your ladder is secure. If you start to fall, there’s not much to grab, Brown said.
Leslie Youngblood, who directs the lighting of palms for Moody Gardens’ yearly holiday extravaganza, suggests using LED lights because they’re durable and last longer. She cautions do-it-yourselfers to go slow when lighting the spiky palms.
“You can string together up to five strands of the LEDs, but then you should start over with a new extension cord,” Youngblood said.
Not doing so can overwhelm the system and blow the breaker, blacking out your holiday lights, Youngblood said.
How to light a palm tree
Planning to bring your palms to light? Here are some pointers from Raymond Brown, of RT Holiday Services:
1. Begin with a clean base. Remove stubs or old fronds for optimum wrapping space.
2. Wrap the trunk evenly about two to three fingers apart, or three to four inches. “If the rings of lights are not evenly spaced, it’s going to look weird,” Brown said
3. Remember palms are a soft wood, so staples don’t stick easily. It’s best to use a staple gun with 9/16th of an inch staples, Brown said.
4. Palm tops must be lit carefully underneath or with a net of lights to keep the wind from undoing your décor.
5. Be forewarned: The tops of some palms are too flimsy to illuminate. And, if you decorate the stem and the ball only, you can have the unintended consequence of what may look like a lighted male organ, Brown said.
5. Coastal baubles
Be one with your geography when you decorate your Christmas tree. Whether you’re sticking to a single coastal theme or selecting an ornament to add to your seaworthy collection, there are many to choose from in these parts.
Wanda Dinklage, who owns House of Interiors in La Marque, creates a special coastal Christmas tree each holiday season. House of Interiors typically unveil trees in October.
“This year, we blew them out of the water with our coastal tree,” Dinklage said. “We started with a flocked tree and hung ornaments of sea urchins, shrimp and crabs, with glass that looks like ocean bubbles. We used aqua and teal with iridescent mermaids and all kinds of sea creatures.”
At Strand Brass in Galveston’s downtown, coastal ornaments are a favorite with locals and tourists, manager Ginger Herter said.
“My personal favorite is Harriet the Hermit Crab, but our top sellers are the miniature glass palm tree with a string of colored lights and the jellyfish with silky tentacles,” she said.