Traffic safety and the holidays


When we were traveling through South Dakota, Roger and I kept seeing “Think!” signs periodically on the sides of the roads. These signs designate places where there have been fatal vehicle accidents. The program was established in 1979, and it served as a constant reminder to us about driving safety.

Roadtrafficsigns.comis a website that has the clever poster above that details some of the traffic safety signs people need to think about as they are driving at the holidays, or any time. For example, the Deer Crossing sign is important because there are 500,000 accidents involving deer each year.

Something to think about.

Collectible #4- Holiday Barbie Series

Original 1988 Happy Holiday Barbie

Continuing on the topic of collectibles, I thought I must include one of the perennial favorites, Mattel’s Barbie.  Barbie has been around for a long time, but she has only had a Christmas line for the last 25 years.  In 1988 Mattel created the Happy Holiday Barbie.  The marketers imagined her as a must-have holiday gift for ever little girl.  Little did they expect that many, thousands actually, happy adults also wished to snatch her up as a collectible.  Supply did not meet demand and a new “market” was born.  She is now known as the first collectible Barbie.  Mattel altered the design model and create the new Happy Holiday Barbie collectible series.  That original Happy Holiday Barbie can still be found on eBay and other online sites with prices varied between $80 and $375.  The series stayed as the Happy Holiday Barbie through 1998.  In 1999 the series changed and the dolls took on new monikers each holiday season.  In 1999 we met the Millenium Princess Barbie.  She was available in traditional style, African-American, and as a brunette, named Teresa.  The next 12 years added many titles and names for the annual doll.  Designer gowns made of luxurious and varied fabrics and colors became part of the draw to collectors.  Special accessories and boxes became part of the holiday design too.  The year 2012 brings the 25th version of the holiday Barbie.  She returns to a Christmas red dress and will be known as simply Holiday Barbie.  The cost for this doll will be just under $50!

2012 Holiday Barbie


If you are looking for other (and more affordable) ways to make Barbie part of your holiday collecting you’re set too.  There is a second series of holiday dolls known as the Holiday Grocery Store Barbies.  These are much more affordable and simple pink box dolls (pink box is some type of denotation for level of the doll that I’m not sure I understand).  These dolls began in 1993 and buyers are urged to collect them all and use them to help decorate for the season.  1993 also was the year Mattel began selling Barbie ornaments.  These ornaments are an annual must have for the collector since the offerings are always for that year only.  There have been more than 100 designs in the ornament collection over the years.  If you are like some lovers of all things Barbie you might be inspired to create a Barbie Christmas tree to showcase all your ornaments!

Trail of Painted Ponies Holiday Collectible


Roger and I were in Hill City, South Dakota when I saw my first Trail of Ponies figurine. The approximately 8-inch figurine was painted with a Christmas theme, and the tag had a description of the featured artist.

In my research I discovered that these art ponies are as big or bigger than the Beanie Baby crazy of the mid 90’s. The idea started with a public art project in New Mexico where almost life-sized horses were painted by local artists and then auctioned. Following this came the figurines in 2002. All of the ponies are limited edition and are signed and numbered. When one of the collectible horses retires, it is put out to pasture. Check out the official website for more details. official website

These ponies are sold as figurines, hanging ornaments and more. I imagine that starting a collection for the holidays or giving the collectible to a horse-lover would be fun!

Christmas Bucket List

This morning I was trying to decide what I wanted to post about today.  I had a lot of ideas but then as I was working in the yard I had a new idea.  Bucket List!  Natalie and I have been talking about our love and excitement for Christmas now for 6 months.  We’ve talked and written a lot about what we do, we like, we know, and we wish.  But what about our dream to do list for Christmas, you know, a Christmas Bucket List?  I will be challenging Natalie to create said list as soon as she returns from her journeys.  This will be our dream list of the Christmas things we hope to do in our lifetime.  Here’s my first one…

Visit St. Peter’s Basilica for Christmas mass.  St. Peter’s is the largest Christian church in the world and a center of Catholicism.  It covers 5.7 acres and can seat thousands.  It took 120 years to build and is sadi to be the burial site for the apostle Peter, its namesake.  With all that space getting in would be easy, right?  Just get to Rome and make your way to the church and wait in line.  Nope!  It is like a quest from the crusades to find out how to get the elusive Christmas tickets for a Papal mass.  Now if you want to go for a regular mass at the Basilica, Pope or no Pope, there are daily masses at 8:30, 9:00, 10:00, 11:00, 12:00 and 5:00.  On Sunday you can choose between 9:00, 10:30, 11:30, 12:15, 1:00, 4:00, 5:00 and 5:45. If you want confession, that’s daily.  To get these tickets, according to a site for visitors, you just go to St. Pete’s Square and find the bronze doors to the Apostolic Palace and request tickets from the Swiss Guard.  I wonder if there is a password needed?!  The site directs readers that wish Christmas or Easter mass tickets to go to the site for the Church of Santa Susanna, the home of the American Catholic Church in Rome.  But if you read closely on that site they let you know in no uncertain terms that they cannot help you with tickets for Christmas or Easter because “having to sit and tell people that they are not going to Saint Peter’s and experiencing their hurt and anger is just too much for us”.  They do let you know that your best hope is to contact the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma, Michigan at the Bishop’s Office for U.S. Visitors , Office of the Vatican in Rome.  You may make your request by fax or email.  Don’t expect a reply to or conformation of your request, there are simply too many!  So how will I be able to know that I can get these tickets for my trip?  Plan far in advance and pray, pray a lot!


Podcast #25- 181 Days to Go!

Podcast #25- Click here to listen to this week’s podcast- Halfway there!

We are remote again this week- it’s challenging to keep close to home in the summertime.  We continue our discussion about Christmas collecting.  Nativity scenes, Rudolph, antique glass, Santas, salt and pepper shakers, and even broken ornaments make our chat.  We also discuss some of the more unique collector groups out there- you know there’s a group for everything, right?

Today also is Yesterday was the 6 month mark for the countdown to Christmas 2012!  Celebrate the milestone anyway you like.  A good friend of mine shared she was enjoying a glass of wine on the deck and listening to Bing Crosby holiday tunes.  What unique traditions do you have to mark time until Christmas?  Natalie and I are still working on our Christmas in July party to mark the progress to the big day!


Secret #6 for the Perfect Christmas

Remember that on the 25th of each month we will be revealing one of our secrets for the perfect Christmas in 2012.  Today we share secret #6- It doesn’t have to go your way.

This secret is pretty simple to grasp.  Things don’t have to be ideal for Christmas to be great.  We can so easily get bogged down with what didn’t work out or happen the way we expected that we don’t enjoy what actually happens.  So what if you couldn’t find exactly the gift you thought would be best, or couldn’t get the tickets to the must see concert, or couldn’t get to where you wanted to be a the exact time.  Embrace the season.  Enjoy the spirit of the holidays.  The most heart warming tales we love to read, hear, or see at the holidays almost all have things not going the right way as a common element.  Rudolph- definitely not what he thought his Christmas would be, Santa too that night.  Charlie Brown- he was certainly not enjoying how things were going at that Christmas Pageant.  All the Lifetime and Hallmark TV movies definitely have the plot focused on something gone wrong or unexpected.  Again I go back to Kevin in the movie Home Alone– little guy left behind by his family and he makes it work.  If we stop and think about the original Christmas we see that things for Mary and Joseph most definitely were not going their way.  I’m sure they did not plan to stay in a stable and Mary to give birth in a stall.  Cherish what happens and use your spirit and energy to make the best of it!

* Today also marks the 6 month point of our countdown.  Half a year gone!  We start all our podcasts with the phrase that “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” and lately the weather has certainly not been what we think looks like it.  I was thinking today that this 90 degree weather and times at the shore is probably exactly what Christmas looks like for lots of people.  Think of the holiday in Australia- right when it’s warm and schools are on holiday.  I imagine the nostalgic imagines of a family Christmas might include the beach, cookouts, and time in the water if you were from down under.  So I will embrace this summer heat and think of how Christmas would be if the hemispheres were reversed and today’s weather was what I got on Christmas morning.  It is also giving me lots of ideas for our Christmas in July party coming up soon!

Ornament trees with a vacation theme


Speaking of collecting, how about an entire tree with one theme? I admit that I have so many ornaments with personal history that I would struggle to keep it simple.

This tree, though, at a store in Garretson, South Dakota, is decorated with a wild bird theme, which I love because it is winter and Christmas.

I have been doing a lot of hiking and camping in the summer, and it would be fun to do a tree with an outdoor theme. I could include a big horn sheep ornament, a tent ornament, symbols of states we visited and more. I could even make picture ornaments of the trip!!

In fact, it would make souvenir shopping more interesting, too.

I have a friend who likes everything related to fishing, and their tree is full of conversation starters–and finding a gift for someone who is a collector is fun, too.

Collectible #3- Coca-Cola “Stuff”

These collectors are some of the most dedicated to their pursuits, and they have had nearly a century to work on it.  Who am I referencing?  Coca-Cola Christmas collectors of course!  There are thousands of collectors of Coke memorabilia and many of them choose to focus their collection specifically on the items surrounding Christmas.  There are lots of different Christmas items to collect.  If you’re not sure how it all started or how to get started, then read on.  One huge claim to fame for Coke at Christmas is the role their advertising had in creating our modern idea of how Santa Claus looks.  (That claim comes from the Coke company itself)

Coca-Cola has had Christmas advertising since the 1920s.  The Santa they used early on was bases on drawings by the famous newspaper illustrator, Thomas Nast.  Nast’s depiction was a stern and strict elf like Santa who wore browns and greens before Nast switched his coat and robes to a red color.  In 1931 Coke decided it needed a new look for its advertising and worked with artist Haddon Sundblom to create such an image.  Sundblom kept the red coat from Nast (contrary to urban legend that red was selected because it was the color of Coke’s labeling).  The jolly image he created was based on the description of St. Nick provided by Clement Clark Moore.  This jolly, happy, and kind soul delivering goodies to kids of all ages became the look of the Coke Christmas advertising, and according to them, the image we embraced as a nation for Santa Claus.  Coke celebrated 75 years of this advertising in 2006.

Early on the ads focused on getting people to see Coke as a drink for all seasons, not just warm weather.  Sundblum’s ads debuted in the Saturday Evening Post in 1931.  The ads showed Santa delivering toys, reading letters from children, and taking a break to drink a Coke.  Sundblum painted the ads for 33 years.  Initially he used a live model to create his works.  After his death he used himself and painted based on the reflection in a mirror.  By the end of the 40s he painted all his works from photographs of the scenes he created.  The paintings quickly moved from magazine ads to store displays, billboards, posters, calendars, even dolls.  Today we see ornaments, plates, figurines, and so much more!  The original paintings by Sunblum are some of the Coke corporation’s most prized possessions.  They have been displayed in museums around the world, including the Louvre.

All those advertising items are the core of the Coca-Cola Christmas collectibles.  The Santa Claus ads were joined in the 1940s by Sprite Boy.  Sprite Boy’s name came from him being a sprite (elf), debuting in 1942.  Sprite, the beverage, didn’t premiere until the 1960s.  Santa and Sprite Boy were joined in the holiday work by the Coke Polar Bears in 1993 as a part of the “Always Coca Cola” campaign.  Serious collectors keep close watch on all the changes and developments.  Like all the collectibles we have discussed there is a society for these devotees also.  Cavanagh’s Christmas Collectors Society is for those who collect Coke.  For your $25 annual fee you receive an exclusive figurine, newsletter, catalog, history, membership card, and access to member exclusive deals.  Coke’s dedication to advertising at Christmas grew to include commercials, films, and seasonal jingle.  Check out this clip to hear one of the most loved Christmas creations by Coke.

Wine bottle Christmas tree

In Garretson, South Dakota, we went in search of the billboard advertised Christmas in the Attic store, only to discover that it had been out of business for several years. Driving through town, I spied this wine bottle Christmas tree in the window of Annie’s Coffeehouse and Wine Cafe. That required a stop for cappuccino and a quick chat with owner, Annie.

While many go for the traditional, I imagine the fun of collecting  the specific wine bottles with unique labels and colors for the tree. Indeed, what a unique theme for a Christmas party! BYOBottle with the most unusual packaging.

I had some difficulty, though, locating an affordable metal display rack. The only one that looked like it would fit the theme is made by Touch of Europe. It’s 4 feet high but a pricey $269.  Anyone else know where I can buy something like this for less?

Check out this HUGE wine bottle Christmas tree I found online…


Collectible #2- Hallmark Keepsake Ornaments

The next Christmas collectible I would like to highlight is the perennial Hallmark Keepsake Ornament.  As I started my look into the world of the keepsake ornament I realized this was not the kind porcelain world of Hummel.  Keepsake ornaments are serious business for the masses.  The annual ornaments are available at any official Hallmark retailer as well as on-line.  So how did the madness begin?

Hallmark corporation started selling the keepsake ornaments in 1973.  The initial collection was 6 different ball ornaments and 12 yard figures.  Hallmark states on their corporate listing that there are 5 main reasons that people purchase ornaments.  There are: 1) to commemorate a milestone; 2) to recall a special memory; 3) to represent a child or grandchild; 4) to pass on as an heirloom; and 5) to express individuality.  Since that initial offering 39 years ago there have been over 3,000 different ornaments created and over 100 series of ornaments.  The oldest series is “Frosty Friends” and has been going since 1980.  There are ornaments for anyone and everyone.  There are those for special milestones- baby’s first Christmas, new home, new marriage, etc.  There are some for interests and hobbies- cooking, golfing, fishing, knitting, grilling- you name it.  There are those for movies, sports teams, animated characters and animals.  Some are interactive, moveable, include photos, have music, lights and more.  Some even link to the “magic cord” that makes them interact in light and sound creating a special show.  Each year sees new and different selections.  2011 had new ornaments featuring classics like Barbie, Spiderman, and Scooby Doo in addition to more unique ornaments like those for Kung Fu Panda 2, Harry Potter, and the Twilight series of movies.  Collectors of all types will be drawn to the Hallmark Keepsake collection.

The ornaments are some serious business.  There is a lot to keep track of to be a successful Hallmark collector.  First you should join one of the 500+ Hallmark Keepsake Ornament Clubs in the US and Canada.  There are 5 in Maryland alone.  For your $30.95 club fee you will receive 2 free membership ornaments, the opportunity to buy club only ornaments, exclusive online member only information and deals, the official catalog know as the “Dream Book”, and your exclusive membership card.  Get that membership card ready for the wide variety of special events at Hallmark stores from now ’til Christmas.  All are open to the public.  First up is Premiere weekend held July 14 & 15.  There there is a Debut weekend held October 6 & 7 and Open House weekend held November 2-4.  All of these events have coupons, limited quantity ornaments available, new series offerings, and weekend only special deals.

For 2012 there will be many great new changes and additions to the Keepsake line of products.  Most won’t be revealed until after Premiere weekend.  I know one HUGE new program is the new iPad application for the Dream Book coming later this year.  The premiere weekend ornaments have been announced.  The 9 ornaments feature Father Christmas, snow buddies, Mickey Mouse, kiddie cars, Rapunzel, Star Wars, Yosemite Sam, a Christmas pony, and a Winkie guard from the Wizard of Oz.  Get yourself ready and start your own wish list.  Check out the online Dream Book and mark your calendar to be there in July