By Tamara Kells

I've never been very good at crafts; I have the patience of a toddler. Sadly, my idea of crafting with my children is macaroni pictures on paper plates. Bonus points for painting them.

That being said, I have to admit I did something really crafty one year. I'd been out shopping at a mall and just loved all those huge, bushy garlands dripping with ornaments. I wanted one for my banister. So I set about looking for one, but could never find one of the same "mall magnitude."

I decided to make one myself. That should have been my first clue - that I planned to craft anything, ever.

I pressed on and bought yards and yards of garland, and wired four strands together to make one big, bushy strand. Now, I'm not a big fan of warning labels, but as a novice crafter, I think that there should be a warning label on floral wire. At the very least, the word

floral

should not be included on the same label as

wire

; it implies that it's soft. (Handy tip: wear heavy-duty gloves.)

The week after my fingers healed, I set about stringing the lights. This was when I discovered that wire should not be paired with electricity, especially in my hands. Have you ever had an electric shock? Ask me about it sometime.

Finally, I attached ornaments, ribbons, bows, pine cones, you name it. I probably should have considered making the garland closer to the banister, though - all 15 feet of it. I had to call my daughters, a bunch of times. They had pretty much avoided me during this project. It was probably better that way. Even though I use made-up curse words, I used them quite a bit while making what had quickly become known as "the Beast."

We began to lug the Beast to its resting place. Two hours, several broken ornaments, and two irritated daughters later, we finally had it up, barely. But after we'd vacuumed up the mess all over my living-room floor, the hall, and down the stairs, it actually looked pretty.

We were ready to light it up. I had checked the strings of light to be sure they worked before I began. What I didn't think about was connecting them together. Turns out, there are "male" and "female" plugs. Unfortunately, the Beast won't be procreating any time soon.

I'm fairly sure the scream could be heard two towns over. That, and the torrent of made-up curse words. My girls, Aubrie and Elyse, were laughing, not knowing that I was about to turn my wrath on them. As soon as they saw my face, they made themselves scarcer than Britney Spears' sense of judgment.

Since making the Beast, I've learned a thing or two. Big Labradors, especially two of them, and the Beast don't get along well. Their tails inevitably break a few ornaments or take out a string of lights.

By the time we take it down, the Beast looks like a bedraggled Charlie Brown Christmas tree. The next year, we don't even bother redoing the lights. We just drape new strings on top of the old ones. Once it's lit, though, you barely notice. (Well, that's my story, and I'm stickin' to it.)

So, if you come to my house and admire the Beast, be warned. Don't look too closely. Remember that shock thing?

Tamara Kells lives and writes in Palm, Montgomery County.