Month: November 2013

Fundamental life skill: Folding paper Christmas trees

Forest of origami Christmas trees

A few days ago I posted about about my literary-inspired Christmas tree that’s helping me cope with an 85-degree holiday season on Guam. If you read down to the bottom of that post, you might have noticed a few origami map Christmas trees that complement the whole nontraditional-traditional island-y Christmas thing I’m going for.

I’m all for collecting random essential and not-so-essential life skills, and this is one worthy sharing. If you’re looking for an incredibly useful life skill to add to your repertoire, you need to learn how to make these (ridiculously simple and impressive) trees for yourself. They’re cheap, easy, and people will be impressed–especially this time of year.

All you need is Christmas music to set the mood, paper (in this case, old maps), scissors, and possibly a peppermint mocha.

Step 1: Start with a square. It can be a little beat-up.

Step 1

Step 2: Fold in half diagonally, from corner to corner, twice. You should now have an “X” crisscrossing your square, like so.

Step 2

Step 3: Fold in half horizontally–twice. Now your square has plus-mark shaped folds on top of the X:

Step 3

Step 4: Fold along one of your existing diagonal folds. Make sure the point is pointing toward you. Then press the left corner in and down toward the bottom point.


Repeat with the right corner.

You should now have a smaller square, like this:


Step 5: You should have four little flaps on your square. Mash each one flat, making sure to keep the point at the top sharp.

I like to use a pen or pencil for this step, because it helps keep the top point sharp.


Go around your tree, flattening each flap and folding the pages out of the way like a book as you work your way around.


When you’re through, your tree should look something like this.


Step 6: It’s time to make your tree’s trunk. Adjust the flaps of your book so there are four on each side, like this:


Now, see the little trunk  shape I’ve sketched on the tree? Envision (or draw) those lines on your tree and use scissors to cut along them.

It’s starting to look like a tree.


Step 7: To make branches, cut little slots through all four layers on each side of your tree, like this:

Step 7

Now, fold each of those slots straight up to make triangle shapes. This creates the Christmas-tree shape and helps keep your tree from unfolding.

Step 7

Fan the leaves out and stand your tree up. You’ve just breathed new life into a highly impressionistic, internationally-inspired, non-traditional Christmas-sy Douglas Fir, and you’ve added a new life skill to your collection. Brava!


You could go crazy and make a whole forest.

A hand-built bookish Christmas tree

One year when I lived in the West Texas desert, I decorated a tumbleweed for Christmas. I have a deep-seated dislike for artificial Christmas trees. Where’s the spirit in plasticky pine needles? Besides, it seemed appropriate, given the cactus plants and mesquite trees outside my window. 

In keeping with the spirit, and given my current location in the Mariana Islands (and the absence of real, freshly cut Christmas trees), I should have decorated a palm tree for Christmas this year. Instead, my husband and I decided to build a Christmas tree ourselves.


Something like two hundred books out of our personal library (and one painful papercut) went into the building of this masterpiece. We turned the AC down, put on a Pandora Christmas station, sipped hot apple cider, and started stacking–biggest textbooks at the bottom, smaller paperbacks near the top. This is a diverse tree, boasting everything from Suzanne Collins to Charles Dickens to J.R.R. Tolkien.

I wonder how Dickens would feel about being stacked in with Star Wars paperbacks.

This is how I feel about my our new Christmas tree:

too much caffeine

I know. I know. Too much caffeine. If you want to build a tree of your own, I’d suggest starting with a wide , solid base. I love the big glass incandescent bulbs. Not as energy-efficient as the new LED versions, but definitely better suited to a book tree, if you ask me.

There’s no secret to this kind of art. Just stack carefully and keep the mulled cider nearby.

I’m in the process of getting the rest of the house in the stylin’ island Christmas spirit, too. Origami map tree garland, anyone?


I like it. But for all my efforts, it’s still 85 degrees hot outside.

Favorite Places on Guam: Infusion Coffee in Upper Tumon

Ask me what I miss about the States, and I’ll tell you I miss road trips and Starbucks.

I miss being able to drive a few hours north to the Appalachian mountains, and knowing that most of my family and friends are on the same land mass.

I miss the white chocolate peppermint mochas and caramel apple spices from Starbucks that fed several winters of late-night study sessions in college.

I’m a freelance writer, and I’m learning that if I want to get anything done, home is not the place to do it. The coffee shop is. Something about a warm, creamy latte and coffee shop sounds makes for better motivation than anything I could drum up at home.

Home is for curling up on the sofa and reading books. The coffee shop is for hitting the books with purpose.

Infusion is my Guam sanctuary for doing just that. The location in Upper Tumon is my favorite–complete with a view of the ocean, friendly staff, decent wi-fi, and lots of seating that lends itself well to hiding behind a laptop. The atmosphere is relaxing, even if the music isn’t always.

The best part? The baristas even know how to spell my name. This is something my own grandmother gets wrong on a semi-regular basis.

I am one very happy coffee drinker. Now, to find Guam’s equivalent to a road trip…