Spoiler alert! Christmas Tree and Fireplace take their place in a long history of festive holiday throwaways. I call them throwaways because you throw away your money on impulse, put them into storage and forget about them by the next season. Neither is exceptional, but that doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy them. Jenny might call them nap worthy.
I miss having Christmas decorations in the house. Christmas decorations, Christmas music and Christmas trees have been part of my life since I was old enough to pull decorations from the tree, break them and listen to my father lecture me for an hour about how we would have to spend perfectly good money to replace them.
For me that would probably have been somewhere between the time I first became mobile and the time I actually understood what the words meant.
You see my father loved Christmas but he hated spending money, and I can’t think of two passions more ill-suited to drive the same person. He made up for it in small ways, the most memorable being leaving everything up until late February or early March. Partly he did this because he wanted to get the most for his money, but he also did this because he didn’t want Christmas to end.
I inherited his love of Christmas decorations and music, but the frugal gene somehow passed me by. The mere fact that I probably buy two apps for every one I review attests to this.1 And come Christmas I love to fill the house with trees, nativity scenes, candles and music, not to mention the need to play Christmas movies from Thanksgiving to New Year—It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street (the real one), of course, and a bunch that people may never have heard of such as Shop Around the Corner, Good Sam (which still hasn’t made it to DVD).
But I can’t decorate for Christmas anymore. Carol and I embraced a lifestyle that is anathema to Christmas decorations, or any kind of home decoration for that matter. We now participate in Siamese Rescue.
How can rescuing cats put an end to Christmas decorations in the Stephens household, you might ask?
If you do, you obviously don’t have more than a couple of cats. Cats, you see, have no respect for property. Ask Jenny Manytoes, and she’ll tell you right out: If it can’t be scratched, clawed, eaten, upchucked on or put in the litter box, well….
Oh, excuse me, there is nothing that can’t be scratched, clawed, eaten, upchucked on or put in the litter box. That’s what things are for. Why else would God give those things to cats?
One or two cats can cause mischief. A herd of foster cats can strip a house of Christmas decorations in less than a week. Before you have time to play your Christmas Mp3 collection through the first time you will find cats swinging from the light strings like Tarzan, batting your ornaments around the floor like soccer balls, chewing through power cords because they couldn’t possibly be useful for anything else, batting at the fiber optic display on your mantle, carrying the baby Jesus and other nativity pieces in their mouths like kittens and dangling from the limbs of your Christmas tree.
Provided it’s still standing.
That’s before they leap on the mantle and slide across the surface, knocking every CD into the fireplace. If you don’t have a fireplace the floor will do fine because then the CDs can be used as a shiny new litter box.
They don’t learn this behavior overnight. Cats learn very much like monkeys learn. They remain oblivious until the first cat accidentally knocks an ornament from the tree and bats it around the floor. Then the behavior spreads like a virus.
The first offending cat was a stray we took in for my niece Joy, a pretty little black and white dappled cat we named Pinto Bean (we went through a bean names phase—Garbanzo, Vanilla, Cocoa and even Saltarina, which means “jumping bean,” because she bounced two or three feet when she ran) .
We had already been picking up stray ornaments and hanging them higher and higher in the tree. Then one night we noticed one of the limbs wavering. We looked closer and Pinto’s head peeked out. We took him from the tree, but that was only the beginning. Tree limb sitting became a cat hobby that increased in popularity until the day the entire tree came crashing down under the weight of foster cats.
And that was our last Christmas Tree. After that the cats retaliated by knocking every decoration they could find from its resting place. We patiently replaced them until the day we saw Jenny batting playfully at a cranberry scented Christmas candle. While it was lit.
I caught it before it actually fell to the floor, liberally applied antibiotic cream to the burns, and that was the end of our Christmas decorations.
All that we had left were fireplace and Christmas tree videos and our DVD collection that includes everything but Good Sam (the VHS tape long ago disintegrated and we threw the VCR player away when one of the cats peed in the tape door).
We could keep the fosters in kennels like they’re kept at the pound, but we’re not Republicans. We believe freedom is for the every cat, not just for those with people who can afford to pamper them. We want our cats to get used to laps and cuddling and affection so they warm up to their new adopters quickly.
And we want them to get all that destruction out of their systems so they can put their wild kitty oats behind them and settle peacefully into their new homes.
So we do have kennels for the very sick cats who need constant care and medication, and for cats who need to be quarantined after we bring them home from public shelters where they were exposed to many nasty communicable diseases. But the minute we know they’re healthy, they’re free to run at will.
In the meantime, we can celebrate Christmas on our iPads with Christmas carol apps, Christmas game apps, stupid Santa apps like Dancing Santa and Tickle Me Santa. And Christmas Tree and Fireplace, which I’ll be reviewing in today’s post.
Christmas Tree’s name should explain the app. You have a Christmas tree for your iPad and you decorate it. The tree is beautifully rendered in HD as are the dozen or more ornaments available for decoration.
While you’re decorating or admiring your tree you can select a Christmas tune to play in the app, or one of your personal mp3 Christmas files in your iPod library. You aren’t stuck with happy Christmas music, you can throw in Spinal Tap’s Christmas with the Devil or Bob Rivers’ twisted Christmas music.
Once you finish, you can save a photo to your iPad photo library. And you will want to because once you close Christmas Tree, your beautiful tree is gone—stripped back down to the bare branches to be decorated again.
Truthfully, Christmas Tree is gorgeous but I’ve seen better apps on the iPhone, including apps that save your tree to enjoy in the future. It also lacks a lot of features I’ve seen with other digital trees: no lights, no blinking lights, no falling snow. On top of that, I’ve seen trees with more decorations to apply.
The only reason I singled out Christmas Tree is because it is the only Christmas Tree app designed for the iPad.
My favorite iPhone tree is an app called iXmas Tree by Embassy Interactive. It doesn’t seem to be available anymore, which is a shame. The tree itself isn’t as stunning, but the interaction is a lot more fun. Hopefully the developers are retooling it for iPad HD release next Christmas.
iPhone’s iXmas Tree wasn’t as pretty but it was a lot more fun. Here’s hoping it comes back as an HD iPad app
Click image to see full size
Everything I had to say about Fireplace is what I already said about Christmas Tree with one exception, which I’ll get to in a minute. Actually two. Okay, maybe three.
Maybe they’re less alike than I thought. Christmas Tree is a static image that you can decorate. Fireplace is a video, which means the flames sparkle and dance in the fireplace.
You have several audio options—silent, with fireplace sound and with music. If you want to play the Christmas music you have to switch to video mode and then expand it to full screen. This makes no sense to me, but maybe they needed to make the jump to play two different sound channels.
You can also customize your music queue, which is another step up from Christmas Tree. You can add several sound effects to the queue or Christmas songs from the preselected list. You can also select from your iPod playlist.
Fireplace also allows you to customize the settings so the playback shuts down at a designated interval. You can set it to half an hour so you can watch until you drift off to sleep or play in the background for several hours without killing your battery.
The most important difference is video quality. Christmas Tree exploits the iPad’s HD screen. Fireplace doesn’t even seem to recognize that HD exists. The quality is only a little better than VHS, which in my opinion is inexcusable. It isn’t that hard to rent a Hi-Def camcorder and stick it in front of a fire until you get enough footage to loop.
Compression algorithms are good enough these days that developers can deliver at least DVD quality without an exceptionally high overhead. The sound certainly doesn’t seem to suffer, although you probably won’t be listening through headphones. Apps like Fireplace are typically designed to play from your desk or dresser while you’re working on other things.
That doesn’t make Fireplace awful. It simply makes it disappointing. The fire video is pleasant, but it doesn’t leap out with the crispness and clarity that iPad video should.
Several other Christmas decoration apps were released between the time this was written and the time this was posted, which left me with no time or room to review them. Two worth mentioning because they don’t deserve the download are My Xmas Tree and iXmas HD.
iXmas HD may be HD but not on the iPad. Don’t be fooled by the HD, this is an iPhone app that runs in the narrow 320 x 240 iPhone window. Scaled up there’s nothing that impressive, but it might be worth a look on your iPhone.
My Xmas Tee barely qualifies as an app. You get a scrawny tree and a water button. A few hours later it turns into a picture of a Christmas tree you can email. Unfortunately the picture is little more than a promo for the developer.
Jenny Manytoes rates Christmas Tree and Fireplace
Jenny Manytoes would take a nap next to both apps. Both have a lot to like about them, but not enough to love.
The Jenny Manytoes Rating System
Jenny Manytoes, our polydactyl cat
- When Jenny makes biscuits on a product she thinks she’s in heaven.
- When Jenny purrs over a product she’s very happy.
- When Jenny naps next to a product it’s okay with her.
- When Jenny bunches her tail she can live with a product, but she has higher expectations.
- When Jenny leaves it in the litter box….I don’t think I need to explain this one.
Contact me at Email iPad Envy, or
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