Annual tour features 8 decorated houses
December 5, 2012
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Judy Beaver decorates a unique Christmas tree she created from an 18-foot elm. Her Goehring Road home in Cranberry Township is one of eight homes featured in the 2012 Christmas House Tour on Sunday.

CRANBERRY TWP — Eight beautiful homes and their unique Christmas decorations will be on display this weekend.

The Cranberry Women’s Club will offer its 2012 Christmas House Tour from 4 to 8 p.m. Sunday. Cost is $20 per person, and proceeds will benefit MHY Family Services, Gleaner’s Food Bank, the Cranberry Public Library and Cranberry Place.

Last year, the home tour netted $4,500 for its beneficiaries. The Cranberry Women’s Club raises nearly $12,000 for local charities each year.

The house tour will kick off at 4 p.m. at the Cranberry Township Municipal Center, 2525 Rochester Road, where attendees will collect a booklet containing each house’s decoration description and driving directions. The Cranberry Chorale will be on hand to enhance the festive atmosphere with Christmas carols.

Refreshments and silent auction baskets worth $300 to $400 each also will be available.

Cranberry Women’s Club tour coordinator Gina Bianchi said the baskets contain tickets to a number of events in Pittsburgh, including the symphony and every city museum.

“You name a place in Pittsburgh, and we have tickets to it,” Bianchi said.

Tourists will then leave and travel to each of the eight homes at their own pace. Bianchi said a new feature of the 2012 tour will be a refreshment stop at one of the homes at which tourists can sample a variety of Christmas cookies baked by club members. The recipes for each of the cookies will be available on the club’s website,

Bianchi said about a dozen club members gathered Saturday to spend an afternoon baking the cookies for the refreshment stop.

All the homes on the tour are in or on the outskirts of Cranberry Township, and all have been decked out with extravagant and unusual Christmas displays.

Club member Judy Beaver of Goehring Road will welcome guests into her home for the third time this year. Beaver spends about two months making the nature-based Colonial style decorations she favors, using them to decorate her home.

This year, Beaver created a unique Christmas tree by cutting down an 18-foot elm, stripping off the leaves and spray painting it white. She then added pine cones sprinkled with glitter and white paint, glass icicles, crystal snowflakes and snowflake garland. The tree’s topper is a realistic owl family.

Twinkle lights run up the tree’s trunk, and the whole creation is spotlighted to capture the sparkle of the glass, glitter and crystal elements of the tree.

Beaver’s house also boasts a Williamsburg-themed decoration above her front door that includes a pineapple and other fruit. On her deck, Santa peers through the glass on an old door Beaver took from her childhood home. A wagon carrying a lantern and a handful of pine stumps hosting tiny birds also decorate the deck.

“I live to do this,” Beaver said.

Beaver’s husband, Greg, watches politely each year when his wife begins “cloving” oranges and apples for decorations and dragging out the craft gear for the annual Christmas display.

“He thinks it’s wonderful, but he doesn’t want to get too involved,” Beaver said. “He has been very patient because the house is a disaster for two months, with stuff everywhere.”

Bianchi said another unique house is a log home on Route 528. She said the woman who owns the home has furnished it with primitive items, many of which she made herself. She handmade the shutters, tables, and many other furnishings, Bianchi said.

“She has several Christmas trees, all in the primitive style,” Bianchi said.

A home in the Pinehurst neighborhood off North Boundary Road reflects the owner’s recent trip to France, where she was inspired by the color palettes inside the homes she visited.

A French-themed Christmas tree adorns her living room, along with other decorations inspired by France.

Bianchi said she always receives great feedback on the home tour. She said people sending in their checks often dash off a note regarding their experience from the year before.

“Oh my gosh, I get love letters,” Bianchi said with a laugh. “To take the time to scribble a note saying ‘We did the tour last year, and can’t wait to do it this year,’ is amazing. And I don’t get one or two, I get many.”

More information on the home tour is available at Checks can be sent, with a self-addressed, stamped envelope, to Gina Bianchi, 128 Village Drive, Cranberry Twp., PA 16066.