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10 Attempts to Thwart Christmas Tree Thieves

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Cindy Lou Who proved that being cute won't stop the Grinch from stealing your Christmas tree. Luckily, Santa's posse has other strategies up their fuzzy red sleeves.

1. SKUNK SPRAY

The University of Minnesota was losing dozens of evergreens worth thousands of dollars from its grounds every Christmas season. Rather than buying trees, thieves were carrying away entire trees or cutting the tops from larger evergreens to use as holiday decor. That ended when the University's land care team began spraying the trees with skunk scent. The Pepé Le Pew plan is working: Since 2012, not one stinky tree has disappeared.

2. FOX URINE

If you're fresh out of skunk spray, fox pee will do the trick. In Lincoln, Nebraska, the parks department's holiday shopping list includes four gallons of fox urine from a trapping supply company. Parks workers spray city trees with the urine and post signs warning that the scent becomes unbearable indoors. For a double whammy, the city added a hint of skunk essence to its fox urine in 2012 and didn't lose a single tree.

3. HEAT-ACTIVATED SULFUR SMELL

Rounding out the olfactory category is a sulfurous concoction used in Port Republic, New Jersey. Port Republic Mayor Gary Giberson said he doesn't know what the chemical is, but it smells like rotten eggs when it's brought into a warm home. Would-be tree thieves have stayed away since the town introduced the spray with accompanying warning signs.

4. WARNING SIGNS WITHOUT THE STINK

It's the seasonal version of the fake ADT sign. The Sheriff of Lancaster County, Nebraska described a rural homeowner who deterred tree thieves for several years by posting warning signs without actually spraying the proclaimed scent. That homeowner's luck ran out when, assuming his tree had grown too tall to steal, he stopped posting signs and lost the tree.

5. GOVERNMENT-RUN STAKEOUTS

Minnesota's Department of Natural Resources staked out a North Woods property for two nights to catch a young couple in the act of stealing spruce trees from government land. The Yuletide Bonnie and Clyde had cut down nearly 2000 trees, which they planned to sell, before they were arrested.

6. BOY SCOUT-RUN STAKEOUTS

As Scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 374 in St. Louis, Mark Wilbur battled Christmas tree theft for 30 years. On a blog for Scout leaders, he recalled that "when heating oil was 50 cents a gallon and before guns started appearing in robberies," Boy Scouts took turns sleeping at the troop's tree lot to discourage thieves.

7. SECURITY CAMERAS

Today the members of Troop 374 stay nestled snug in their beds while security cameras keep watch for them. But the cameras haven't quite earned their badges. They've recorded the same woman raiding the troop's Christmas tree lot three years in a row without aiding in her arrest.

8. AIR PATROLS

The Irish Christmas Tree Growers Association isn't relying on cameras to ward off would-be bandits. Member growers hire security guards on their farms, and the Irish police have launched air patrols to catch gangs of tree thieves.

9. HIGH-TECH TRACKING DEVICES

Meanwhile, police in East Dorset, England have introduced "secret tracking equipment and DNA technology" into trees and other holiday items sold at local garden centers. When the effort eliminated tree thefts in 2012, the police decided to make "Operation Pine" an annual tradition.

10. FOLLOW THE TINSEL

Not all British counter-Grinch-telligence operations are worthy of James Bond. A shop assistant in Wales merely followed a trail of tinsel out the back door to apprehend a man who stole items from the shop's Santa display, including a fully decorated tree.

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Live Smarter
Why the Best Time to Book Your Thanksgiving Travel Is Right Now
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You're never going to get a true steal on holiday plane tickets, but if you want to avoid spending your whole salary flying to visit your relatives over Thanksgiving, the time is nigh to start picking seats. That's according to the experts at Condé Nast Traveler, who cite data from Expedia and Skyscanner.

The latter found that it was cheapest to secure Thanksgiving tickets 11 weeks before the holiday. That means that you should have bought your ticket around September 4, but it's not too late; you can still save if you book now. Expedia's data shows that the cheapest time to buy is 61 to 90 days before you leave, so you still have until September 23 to snag a seat on a major airline without paying an obscene premium. (Relatively speaking, of course.)

When major travel holidays aren't involved, data shows that the best time to book a plane ticket is on a Sunday, at least 21 days ahead of your travel. But given that millions of other Americans also want to fly on the exact same days during Thanksgiving and Christmas, the calculus of booking is a bit more high stakes. If you sleep on tickets this month, you could be missing out on hundreds of dollars in savings. In the recent study cited by Condé Nast Traveler, Expedia found that people booking during the 61- to 90-day window saved up to 10 percent off the average ticket price, while last-minute bookers who bought tickets six days or less from their travel day paid up to 20 percent more.

Once you secure those Turkey Day tickets, you've got a new project: Your Christmas flights. By Hopper's estimates, those flights rise in price by $1.50 every day between the end of October and December 15 (after which they get even more expensive). However, playing the waiting game can be beneficial, too. Expedia found that the cheapest time to book Christmas flights was just 14 to 20 days out.

Before you buy, we also recommend checking CheapAir.com, which tracks 11,000 different airfares for flights around the holidays to analyze price trends. Because as miserable as holiday travel can be, you don't want to pay any more than you have to.

[h/t Condé Nast Traveler]

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Big Questions
Why Can’t You Wear White After Labor Day?
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Wearing white in the summer makes sense. Desert peoples have known for thousands of years that white clothing seems to keep you a little bit cooler than other colors. But wearing white only during the summer? While no one is completely sure exactly when or why this fashion rule came into effect, our best guess is that it had to do with snobbery in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

The wives of the super-rich ruled high society with an iron fist after the Civil War. As more and more people became millionaires, though, it was difficult to tell the difference between respectable old money families and those who only had vulgar new money. By the 1880s, in order to tell who was acceptable and who wasn’t, the women who were already “in” felt it necessary to create dozens of fashion rules that everyone in the know had to follow. That way, if a woman showed up at the opera in a dress that cost more than most Americans made in a year, but it had the wrong sleeve length, other women would know not to give her the time of day.

Not wearing white outside the summer months was another one of these silly rules. White was for weddings and resort wear, not dinner parties in the fall. Of course it could get extremely hot in September, and wearing white might make the most sense, but if you wanted to be appropriately attired you just did not do it. Labor Day became a federal holiday in 1894, and society eventually adopted it as the natural endpoint for summer fashion.

Not everyone followed this rule. Even some socialites continued to buck the trend, most famously Coco Chanel, who wore white year-round. But even though the rule was originally enforced by only a few hundred women, over the decades it trickled down to everyone else. By the 1950s, women’s magazines made it clear to middle class America: White clothing came out on Memorial Day and went away on Labor Day.

These days the fashion world is much more relaxed about what colors to wear and when, but every year you will still hear people say that white after Labor Day is unacceptable, all thanks to some snobby millionaires who decided that was a fashion no-no more than 100 years ago.

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