Book now for Mickey?

In a previous post, Jeremy emphasized the importance of starting your planning for holiday parties and events of the 2012  Christmas season–both to relieve stress and to make sure that schedule conflicts do not arise. That point was made clear when I met with co-workers tonight to plan an important event to be held, tentatively, the first weekend in December.

First, I knew that my family has a long-standing tradition on or around December 8. Conflicts already? Second, I started to consider my energy level and ability to commit to being the organizer of an event (albeit with a large group) in the 2012 holiday season. Will I have time?  Am I really worrying about having enough time in December as early as July?

I wondered if The Yule Log was making me hyper sensitive to the holiday season. Am I crazy? (Rhetorical question.) Readers may remember that last week I reported that Hallmark revealed its holiday ornaments and Michaels craft store rolled out its program, “Make Your Joy.” Marketing has begun, and I am its victim already.

In the Manchester Evening News yesterday, the newspaper reported that bars and restaurants have rolled out their Christmas menus. According to the article, the local Hard Rock Cafe had already made 100 bookings for the holiday season.   Other restaurants also had plenty of inquiries and deposits.

Conversely, the website yourfirstvisit.net lists the best weeks in 2012 to visit Disney World, and the top three are the first week of December, the last week of November (after Thanksgiving) and the second week of December because the crowds are the smallest but the decorations and attractions are terrific.

My conclusion, then, is that the only place in my world where people are not going to be in super crazy holiday mode is between Thanksgiving and December 25 is Walt Disney World.  Tickets are on sale now.

I thought “Christmas in July” meant that people can take advantage of great holiday bargains in the middle of summer.  Instead, I’m stressing out about the calendar.

Podcast #29- 153 Days to Go!

Podcast #29- Click here to listen to this week’s podcast- Bethlehem, O Little Town.

This week we dish a little on the week in review- mangers, crafts, and of course music.  Our new topic of discussion is focused on the song of the week- O Little Town of Bethlehem.  We talk a little about some of the recorded versions of this classic and look at the variety of forms.  Natalie has the epiphany that she doesn’t like a lot of Christmas songs, or does she?  We wrap up with a return to our craft ideas, which will be our focus next Monday.  Crafts?  Yup, only 5 months left of prep time!

Don’t do it alone!

On Saturday, my sister Susan and her two sons (ages 9 and almost 5) spent the rainy day at my house.  We drew up a list of what we might want to accomplish. Everyone got to contribute to the possibilities.  It looked something like this:

  • Make a Lego creation for Howard County Fair
  • Make waffles
  • Drink hot chocolate
  • Feed chickens watermelon
  • Jelly sandwich taste test–which jelly is the best?
  • Birthday present craft for two grandmothers (cannot be revealed because two grandmothers read this blog)
  • Small turtle craft made from foam pieces
  • Wax paper butterfly mobiles
  • Clay pot people (birthday or Christmas gifts)

I admit that this is a ridiculously involved list, and there was no expectation that all of it would be accomplished; however, the key factor in the success of the day of crafting, for me, was having my sister present to motivate me.  She brought her supplies and ideas.  I brought mine, and away we went.  Roger clears out when we bring up the extra folding table!

My point is that if Jeremy wants to get that nativity set made, he might want to recruit a friend who is willing to make a set, too.  Not everyone likes to work this way, but thinking back to the popularity of quilting and knitting circles, I think many people benefit from the energy of the group.

(Here’s a tip:  When I am working with my nieces and nephews, often, I try to have a photograph of the finished product and/or one I have made myself with clear steps that can be checked off as we go.  Everyone benefits from knowing the end result. And don’t choose something that takes more than 30 – 40 minutes when working with elementary children.)

I made jelly with a friend earlier this summer, and some of those jars will be gifts.  Canning is a labor-intensive task that is most definitely better when shared.  What might have been a lonely, hot, sweaty day was enhanced by conversation and blueberry smoothies.

One of my friends once said that making cookies together was the best Christmas gift I could have given her.  Another said that wrapping presents together was a gift in itself.   I recommend that if you are getting a slow start on your hand-made Christmas gifts, purchase two of everything and recruit a friend.

P.S.  Fig jelly was the favorite–yes, it’s true.  I believe some people (especially children) turn off when they hear “fig” jelly, but it is better than blueberry and peach.  I have the ballots to prove it!

Building a Nativity Set

With six months to go there are so many projects to get started!  All this talk lately about our bucket lists has me itching to get started on one of my items.  I decided today to start looking into what it would take to build my own nativity set.  What options and designs are out there?  What format would I like to use?  How difficult will it be?  Guess what? There are lots and lots of people out there with the same idea!  I am no more clearly planned out for this project than when I started my hunt.  I will need many more hours to review web sites, blogs, and photos.  Just surf the over 500 comments in response to the questions on building a nativity set found on ask.com to get a rough idea.  I thought I’d share just a few of the interesting finds I made today…

Woodworkers Nativity Sheet– This site gives a basic overview and a short list of links.  If you want to make an heirloom set from wood this is a nice starting point.

Crafty Nativity Set– This blog details a crafty based display a man created for his daughter.  This one looks like lots of fun to make and would be a great gift for Christmas lovers of all ages.

Build a Children’s Nativity Set– Another crafty creation.  This is a great idea to make with the children in your family.  It is very simple and can be modified to take on different looks.  Keeping it simple is a good idea when working with the kids.  I think this might be the one that I make with my nephew this fall!

Knitivity Book– No I didn’t make a typo, it really is called Knitivity.  This is a how-to guide on making a completely knit version of the manger scene.  This one I am including especially for Natalie- I sense a challenge forming with this one 🙂

The nativity build is my new quest!  I hope to have one attempt complete by the end of summer.  If you have any experience with this activity, please let me know.  I’ll need all the guidance and advice I can muster.

Away in a Manger and Susan Boyle

On Monday, I was ready to talk about “Away in a Manger.”  Even though it is still one of my least favorite carols, I have a new-found respect for its origin and the different versions that have been recorded.  According to the origins of Christmas carols, this carol was written around 1883 to celebrate the anniversary of Martin Luther’s 400th birthday.  Historians believe that the song was incorporated into celebratory pageants, perhaps with a figure representing Martin Luther singing this lullaby to his children.   Since Martin Luther’s birthday is November 10, it is not surprising that the tune became associated with Christmas carols.

I  (and Roger because he was sitting next to me) listened to a dozen or so versions of the song. I found that the traditional American tune is much less appealing than the “Sweet Afton” tune written in 1837 by Jonathan Spilman (also called “Cradle Song”).  I loved the Susan Boyle rendition that Jeremy listed in his post.  I thought she was just a television phenom with 15 minutes of fame.  I was surprised to learn that her 2009 album, The Gift,  went platinum in many countries and sold 3,000,000 copies in the United States.  I also liked the version by the Celtic Woman and another by Haley Westerna.

There’s a recording that I haven’t been able to find from 1996 that combines St. Paul’s Anglican Choir singing one version with St. Christopher’s Roman Catholic choir singing the alternate tune.  The idea of the two tunes as a duet sounds lovely.

Roger nominated his favorite version, the King’s College Choir of Cambridge.  I agree that hearing the angelic voices are beautiful.

Lesson learned:  maybe it’s not the song that I dislike after all.  I just needed to find the most appealing version!

Mark your calendars!

Believe it or not you need to start planning your holiday calendar of events.  If you don’t have a holiday calendar, it’s time to make one.  This is the calendar that has all your plans, preparations, and events for the best Christmas ever in 2012.  Since January we have been giving many ideas on how to plan and organize for your upcoming Christmas success.  So much of your individual success for a great season depends on the planning and that calendar is key.  The Yule Log will be sharing some key events to place on your Christmas calendar.  Today I have two to be sure you get down.  Both are multi-day festivals.

The Maryland Christmas Show.  This annual two weekend event is held in Frederick at the fairgrounds.  In its 29th year the show features hundreds of vendors with all types of crafts and arts for Christmas.  The show fills all 7 buildings and 2 tents with beautiful and original gift and decorating ideas.  Food and music is a key part of the show and Santa does make an appearance.  Cost is $7 for adults and $4 for kids.  Festival runs November 16, 17, 18, 23, 24, and 25.  Show is open 10-6 daily, closing at 5 on Sundays.

The Festival of Trees sponsored by the Kennedy Krieger Institute.  This annual charity event is held at the Maryland State Fairgrounds and housed in the Cow Palace.  Featuring trees, wreaths, and gingerbread houses designed by businesses and community organizations, the festival offers all displays for sale to benefit the institute.  In 2011 over 500 displays were created.  In addition to seeing all the beautiful creations there is music, entertainment, food, crafts and more.  The event is one of the most popular in the region and lures visitors from many states.  Cost is $12 for adults and $6 for kids.  The 2012 Festival of Tress will be held November 23, 24, and 25 and is open from 10-9, closing a 6 on Sunday.

Make Your Joy

I have three pages of notes about “Away in a Manger,” and I apologize for my whining rendition on Monday’s podcast.  It’s not my favorite, but I have new-found respect after listening to about 3 hours of different YouTube renditions.  Roger asked what we talked about on the podcast, and when it wasn’t “Away in a Manger,” he said, “What did we listen to all those versions for!!!”

I will return to the annoying Christmas carol later.  On Monday, I received an invitation from Michael’s to join “Make Your Joy,” an app for organizing Christmas and inspiring Christmas crafting.  After Jeremy’s top ten bucket list, I gave some thought to his idea of making everyone’s gift.  When we were younger, my mom instituted the policy that all immediate family gifts would be hand-made, and dreaming up the hand-made part was fun.  It led to my brother making a ping-pong table (thanks to our neighbor, Doug Gasch’s help), my sister sewing a pair of jeans (I think) and my other sister making batches of fudge.  (I admit to a pretty horrible pine-cone necklace for my mom, but we won’t go there today.)

Meanwhile, inspired by Jeremy’s idea, I started to work on a Christmas gift for Jeremy.  Impatience is my downfall, and if it is multiple steps, I like to cram all of them into one laborious, curse-laced evening.  Ask C.J.  He can tell you.  That’s not really what the seasonal spirit involves.  When I registered for the “Make Your Joy” site, I liked that one question asked if I liked my crafts to be “one hour or less” or “multiple sessions.”  Hah!  Where was the choice, “already complete?”

“Make Your Joy” is a combination sweepstakes and Christmas organizer.  I registered for the website, and now I have won a chance to go to Baja California, Mexico for six nights at the Rancho Pescadero Hotel.  The better part of this prize is a one year gift of bi-weekly housecleaning by Merry Maids, 12 Massage Envy massages and a $500 Michael’s gift card.  There are monthly prizes, too.

All I have to do is participate in the website’s various features, and I am entered in the drawings.  By registering, I’m entered once.  Then, I can make a holiday to-do list for a second entry.  There are additional ways to participate, like making a Michael’s activity, looking at individual projects (a Michael’s version of Pinterest) and more.  I already have the Michael’s app because I like to have their coupons when I hit the checkout register.  I’ll be looking through the Michael’s organizer more completely the next few days, but I’m not convinced that it will be my go-to app this season unless the app comes with live demonstrations and phone calls of encouragement.

P.S.  I have paint, brushes and some patterns for tole painting a picture for my mother, but I am seized with total panic.  If anyone has experience, I’m in need of a lesson.