Monday, December 28, 2020

Eric, The Half-A-Tree

If you've been here a while you know my Christmas decorations usually involve some big builds, like the illusion wall from Labyrinth or a life-sized Thestral.

This year was far more chill, of course, so John and I only had one project we wanted to experiment with, just for fun. It was nice having zero pressure, what with no parties to host, and this actually turned out kinda cool!

So here, let me take you on the hilarious journey of Eric, the half-a-tree.

We have a new roll of mirrored Mylar on hand for a future geek build (awww yeeeah), and that got us thinking about the small back corner in our dining room.

The Mylar is thin as tissue paper, so our first challenge was getting it smooth on the wall. I figured we'd have to glue it to a giant piece of Masonite, but that sounded like way too much work, so instead we tried just taping it up:

...which  looked terrible. So many ripples!

But it was a start.

Next I put on a pair of cotton gloves and helped smooth the Myler in each direction by running my hands over it, while John pulled on the edges, to tighten it up.

That made a HUGE difference; now it was almost mirror-smooth!

Considering how much giant mirrors cost, I'm shocked I haven't seen any DIYer's playing with this.

Next, we unwrapped one of the Tree Pops from the garage:

(I HIGHLY recommend our shrink-wrap method when you pack up your trees. You can leave the lights on, which saves a lot of setup & take down time.)

This is a cheapie $30 tree from Walmart, which meant the metal hinged branches are easy to bend around... LIKE THIS:

They say the windswept look is in.

I found out after the fact that half-trees actually exist, and sweet Stay Puft are they expensive. Please, gang, save your money. Just grab an inexpensive tree off Clearance this week and mangle it like we did! Muahahaaaaa.

This is a deep cut. If you're humming along, then you are officially the bee's knees.

John built a new stand out of some 2X4 scraps that brace the tree all from one side. This is essential, because next we're gonna slide Eric up 'til he's flush against the mirrored wall, annnnnd:


I love the lower part where the reflection cuts off the branches; it really looks like the tree extends into another room!

Even I have a hard time finding the center line where the tree stops and the mirror begins.

Next we covered the thin masking tape with a larger white vinyl tape - the same we used in the big office re-do earlier this month - to mimic wall trim, and hung garland from Command Hooks to further hide the edges:

This took very few decorations to fill, since, you know, there's only half a tree there. It's become our hodgepodge tree: I keep adding things from you readers and friends. John declared this his favorite; he likes the homey eclectic look.

When I took that pic a couple weeks had passed, so you can see our Mylar has started to ripple again. Either the Mylar itself is stretching, or the masking tape we used isn't strong enough to hold it taut for more than a few days. Drat. I wouldn't let John put any holes in the wall with staples or nails to strengthen it, though - and we definitely don't want to start all over -  so we've decided to live with the ripples.

The finishing touch was hiding the base with a 3-sided box, which John made from foam board hot-glued together:

My original plan was to tape Mylar over the baseboard on the wall so the box would have a reflection, too... but then I got lazy, and didn't.  :P

I want to decorate the plain white box soon; maybe some gold foil designs cut on our Cricut?

Here, I dragged the table out of the way to get a better front view. It's... not great, ha:

Pretty lackluster without the side illusion, and by now the Mylar is VERY ripply. Then again, the ripples give it sort of a magical waterfall look, so I'm not too mad at it. Feels very Through The Looking Glass. In fact I'm already day-dreaming about a future "Alice in a Winter Wonderland" themed party. I mean, building the escape room alone - can you imagine?! Ooooooooh. Yep, that's going on the list, heads up, John.

To improves this in the future I think I'd try to wrap the top and bottom edges of the Mylar around something to act like stretcher bars. Or I'd use spray adhesive to smooth it onto a giant piece of Masonite and lean it against the wall. Or I'd just find a better sticking masking tape, ha. (I can tell you blue painter's tape didn't work well; that's what we tried first. The masking tape held better for longer.)

Can you think of any other non-damaging ways to hang this Mylar, gang? I was adamant about not drilling or nailing anything into the wall, since our poor house gets pretty beat up around Christmas most years, and I didn't want to add any more patches.

Oh hey, and you don't have to buy a big $25 roll of mirrored Mylar like we did: I spotted a metallic silver tablecloth at Dollar Tree that I bet would be almost this reflective. Definitely worth experimenting with!


I hope this gave you a smile and some fun ideas for the future. I also really hope you're having a restful break at home, eating good things, watching good things, taking naps, and being silly as often as humanly possible.

The past few weeks have been a roller coaster of both tragedy and joy here, as I'm sure they have been for you. I'm trying to see both as reminders to live out the love I feel right now, to say the things that need saying, to push through the awkward, to stop and listen, to go and give. Don't wait.

Don't wait.

As always, remember you are loved more than you feel, appreciated more than you know, and needed more than you can ever imagine.

I love you all, thanks for making me feel so loved in return. I've been hesitant to mention any forms of support this past month because I know money is tight, but I want to thank every one of you who've, incredibly, continued to support us financially through Paypal. Just... wow. John and I are flat gobsmacked, and incredibly humbled.

Also quick reminder: while the folks who donate through Paypal are automatically entered in our monthly Squeegineers give-away, EVERYONE can enter via e-mail, so please check the details here, and be sure to get your e-mail entry in before the 31st!

The prizes aren't much, but it makes me happy to pass on some of the little treasures I keep unearthing in my office closet. This month I've added a few never-worn tees, an original framed painting by our own Bianca Roman-Stumpff, and one of the Labyrinth pillow covers y'all loved so much from the Wonderland room:

Definitely a little of everything - plus I'll be adding a fun surprise this week, so stay tuned!


  1. Why not stretch it like canvas over a large frame? Or glue it to some melamine or something.

  2. WHAT what are those giant colored bulbs on your tree? I MUST know about them! Where did they come from, how do I get some?
    Thank you!

    1. We searched everywhere for those giant lights the year we built our big gingerbread house, never found them - and then stumbled across these last year on Clearance at Walmart for $20! Ain't that just the way? :p

  3. I did something a little bit similar this year. A few years ago at an estate sale, I got a box of 6 mirrored tiles (a square foot each). I hadn't figured out what to do with them yet, but this year I decided to put them on the bookshelves that are behind my Christmas tree. They magnify the lights and add sparkle to an area that's otherwise kind of dark. I just leaned them up against the books, and put a small blob of poster putty at the bottom to keep them from sliding. I love the look, and next year might try something like your idea to put more of the branches to the front, since it's really only a 1/4 circle of the tree that shows (it's in a corner).

  4. You could make a wooden frame and staple the mylar to it like a canvas. You'd have to be really careful about not ripping the mylar though, as it would be slightly away from the wall.

  5. Mylar is tough to handle. The best way to have NO ripples is to use a spray adhesive. Go slowly down the the wood, only spray 12-18" at a time, so you can smooth and stretch the mylar. Let it dry completely before standing up on edge. You may need to reinforce the top edge with GAFFERS tape(fabric, not vinyl like Duct tape). Run a small edge on the top and fold the tape to the back of the plywood or MDF. Understand mylar is plastic and wants to stretch in odd directions. Which is why most theaters use real mirrors with a layer of Ivory Soap or hairspray over them to dull the reflection of the stage lights.

    1. Ahh, this is super helpful, thank you! I was hoping someone with theater experience would weigh in!

    2. Sam is correct Gaffers tape is the way to go. its strong but removes easily so it wont ruin surfaces if you do stick to taping it to the wall and not plywood or masonite.

  6. Fiddledy dum, fiddledy dee, Eric the half-a-tree!

    Fantastic, it looks beautiful!

    1. That song has been stuck in my head since I saw this post.

  7. If you need a smaller piece of Mylar, Dollar tree also has rolls of mylar wrapping paper, which is a bright color on the front side, but shiny silver on the back.

    1. Omigosh, you're right, I didn't think of that! And then you don't have all the crease lines the table cloths have. Brilliant.

  8. Eric is half a tree and fully awesome! That's such a clever idea with the reflective wall.

  9. From many years of being a teacher with cement painted walls, have you tried handitak? It's that putty like substance that holds all kinds of paper. It shouldn't harm the paint on your walls (but test it first).

  10. I do love the Monty Python song reference!
    When I worked for Magnavox in the early '80s we made 45" rear-projection TVs, and they replaced the huge glass mirrors with mylar ones. The mylar was stretched over what looked like metal picture frames (with some extra bracing). It was nearly as good as a front-surface (big buck$!) mirror, and much lighter and cheaper.

  11. Love your Christmas tree! I've made my own with three bamboo garden stakes, Christmas garlands an a lot of zip ties. In the dark, with the twinkling lights on, it looks like a tree. But if there are any cheap trees left tomorrow I'll buy one and give your version a go. And by the way, thanks for being you, the both of you. This is always a good place for inspiration, laughs and an occasional good cry.

  12. That is a super clever idea! My husband used to make mylar for years, & would bring the off, & end cuts home. Presents under the tree looked amazing, but man, I HATED working with it- my inner perfectionist couldn't get it smooth enough. I can't wait to show him how you used it!

  13. I have a few small desktop sized trees - which are notoriously anemic in branches - and have always fluffed them just halfway and set them against the wall on my desk. Makes them look fuller, and takes less desk space. LOVE this full size half tree setup! It looks amazing all gussied up.

  14. Next year attach the mylar to a corner, and do a quarter-tree!

  15. For those who are scratching their heads at the “Eric the half a tree” joke, here’s the original:

    1. thank you! somehow, I knew Monty Python had to be involved :)

  16. we used to smooth it out with a heat gun.

  17. Command strips might work. You can buy replacement packs of just the strips with no hooks.

  18. "As always, remember you are loved more than you feel, appreciated more than you know, and needed more than you can ever imagine." Love this... and very much needed. Can I quote this??

  19. I'm in love with Eric Half A Tree, and Blu Tac will hold your mylar without leaving any marks.


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