Q Growing up, we always put an aspirin in the Christmas tree water to help preserve the tree. My husband's family used 7Up. Which is better?
A Neither. It's too late for aspirin; the tree is doomed. Forget the soda pop; the tree wants plain water. It's not quite dead, so keeping the tree in water will keep it fresh longer.
Here are other preservation tips from the University of Minnesota Extension:
• As soon as you get the tree home, immediately cut 1 or 2 inches off the trunk and place the trunk in a clean bucket filled with lukewarm water.
• When ready to move the tree to its display location, use a tree stand with a large water capacity. Keep the stand filled constantly with clean water. It's essential that you never let the base of the trunk dry out. If that happens, recut an inch or two from the base and immediately put it back into the water. Use just plain, clean water. There's no clear evidence that floral preservatives or other additives will prolong tree life.
The longest-lasting Christmas trees are:
• Pine or fir, rather than spruce.
• Freshly cut. (A visit to a cut-your-own tree farm is a good idea.)
• Displayed in cool, moist conditions. This is difficult in houses in winter because they're warm and dry, but keep the tree away from heating vents and fireplaces.Christmas card etiquette
Q I like to use computer-generated address labels for my Christmas cards. They are faster and easier. But I was told that hand-written addresses are the correct etiquette. Is that the case?
A No. Labels are acceptable, according to the Emily Post Institute. Many people use them. Because it is the card that matters, most people aren't offended. A holiday card is not a formal correspondence like a wedding invitation, where hand-written envelopes are preferred.Liners for holiday silver
Q Is there a source for glass bowl liners to place in Gorham silver serving dishes? These came from my husband's family, and I would like to use them during the holidays.
A The glass inserts can be difficult to find, but some are available at Replacements Ltd. in Greensboro, N.C. (1-800-737-5223). Currently, it has casserole, relish and lazy Susan liners. You can register with the company for the liners you want and be contacted by phone or e-mail when they come in.More on lutefisk
In response to last week's column on lutefisk, Joyce Nokleby of Benson, Minn, writes that when she brings the stinky delicacy home, she rinses it completely and cuts it into single-serving pieces. Each piece is put into separate plastic bags and frozen.
"I find if I freeze the lutefisk right away and then microwave-cook it frozen, I have no fish smell," she said. "I leave it in the individual zip-bag and cook it in a dish, one minute at a time, checking it. Usually, it takes no more than three or so minutes for a 4- by 6-inch piece. By having smaller single pieces, I can eat it more often without making it the whole meal. It is expensive, but since others do coffee, desserts, sodas, etc. this is my treat to myself!"
Poll: With the cost to raise a child at $245,000, how much will you spend?