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Designing your own holiday

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This year, you can recapture with your own two hands what the holidays are really about. All it takes is a little effort, a little inspiration, and, yes, just a little daring. People will say you're doing that simple-living thing, getting back to basics. And you will make it look good, too. Here is a sample of do-it-yourself ideas to inspire that old-fashioned holiday revelry.

You could buy a Christmas tree, but where is the satisfaction in that? Real celebrators cut their own. Here are some tree farms close to the city. (Saws are provided.)

            • Remelt's Evergreen Acres, 6303 East River Road, West Henrietta, 334-2072. Open Saturdays and Sundays after Thanksgiving.

            • Stokoe Farm Trees, South Road, Scottsville, 889-2340. Open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays after Thanksgiving.

            • Bauman's Tree Farm, 1340 Five Mile Line Road, Webster, 671-2820. Open every day after Thanksgiving.

            • Wilberts Christmas Tree Farm, 1272 Salt Road, Webster, 800-462-6749. Open every day during daylight hours.

            • Holmes Hollow Tree Farm, 2334 Turk Hill Road, Perinton, 223-0959. After Thanksgiving open weekday afternoons and weekends.

            • Freckleton's, 1651 Harris Road, Penfield, 872-1758. Weekdays you can cut trees yourself on the honor system. There will be a saw hanging by the farm sign for you to borrow. Staff will be on hand weekends and evenings. There are also 20 horses at the farm.

            • Urtz's Evergreens, 2050 Walker Road, Palmyra, 315-597-6121. Open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays after Thanksgiving, from 9 until dark.

            Keep your trees fresh for three to four weeks with nothing but water, says Bill Urtz of Urtz's Evergreens in Palmyra. If you cut your own tree, bring it home and put it in water immediately. If you buy a pre-cut tree, cut off the bottom inch of the trunk to expose new wood. "If it gets dry, the bottom of the trunk glazes over and the pores seal up," says Urtz. Make sure your tree stand reservoir is large enough to keep the cut surface of the trunk submerged in water at all times. A one-quart reservoir is a good size.

            After the holidays, Rochester residents can leave their trees at the curb for trash pick-up, or they can recycle them at one of several drop-off sites open in January. Call the city at 428-5990 for sites.

Instead of spending hundreds to deck the halls, simplify with some time-honored decorating traditions and a little creativity.

            First, bring in the aromas of winter merrymaking. Susan Smith of Orchard View Country Market in North Rose has a recipe for mulled apple cider that "makes the whole house smell wonderful," she says. Put one gallon of apple cider in a pan along with 1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar, three ounces frozen orange juice concentrate, two teaspoons cinnamon, three teaspoons allspice, and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg. Simmer (very gently) for a couple of minutes. The mulled cider will keep in the refrigerator to be reheated later.

            Now, get decorating. For popcorn and cranberry garlands, use plain, slightly stale popcorn (it won't break as easily), fresh cranberries, a sturdy needle, and a long piece of thread or fishing line. The garlands can be left outside after the holidays for the birds.

            Remember clove oranges? They are probably the easiest holiday nostalgia item. Just push a bunch of whole cloves into an unpeeled orange. Or, Jan Mater-Cavagnaro and Christy Johnson of craftygal.com, a Rochester-based zine for creative living, have a spruce-up for the citrus favorite: "use a citrus zester to create geometric designs in oranges, lemons, or limes. Poke dried cloves into the fruit in a variety of patterns," they suggest.

            Mater-Cavagnaro and Johnson have some other simple decorating ideas: Replace the curtains in one window with decorations. "Tie ribbons in seasonal colors across the rod," they say. "String on bells, garlands, or other sparkly things."

            Use ribbon to tie seasonal cookie cutters onto wreaths, garlands, or trees.

            Put the extra branches you cut from the bottom of your Christmas tree to good use: "Wire together the boughs on one end, tie a bow around it, and hang it up."

As self-sufficient as you are, you still may need to buy a few things this season. Try these stores for your winter holiday shopping.

            Tradition Fine Judaic and Israeli Gifts on South Winton Road at Twelve Corners (244-3540) is full of children's books, Hanukkah decorations, and dreidels that range from 20-cent treats to works of art that will cost you much more. "And, of course, many, many, many menorahs," says Lenore Weinrieb, a worker at Tradition.

            You can find Kwanzaa sets at Mood Makers Books at Village Gate Square, 274 North Goodman Street (271-7010). And you can find a selection of handcrafted, American-made kinara, menorahs, and nativities, made with a variety of materials from stained glass to ceramics, at The Creator's Hands, 336 Arnett Boulevard (235-8550).

            For red money envelopes, decorations, and food for Chinese New Year, try Lee's Oriental Food at 900 Jefferson Road (272-7020) or Hikari Market in Mt. Hope Plaza (461-3180).

            For the celebration of Eid Al-Adha, a Muslim holiday that often involves sacrificing a lamb and distributing the meat to family and the poor, go to Halal Meat at 315 East Ridge Road in Rochester (342-4776). Halal meat, or meat that is permitted to Muslims, is available year-round at the store. Butchering orders should be made in advance.

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