Week # 7 Song- Jingle Bell Rock

The week has flown by so quickly that we almost forgot to share the song of the week!  Last week we looked closely at 1958’s Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.  That song was written to answer a hit from the previous year, this week’s song- Jingle Bell Rock.  The catchy favorite was penned by Joe Beal and James Boothe, although there is a little controversy about that.  Check out the film Crazy to learn more about writer Hank Garland’s claims to the song.  There is no discussion to be had over the original recording artist.  Bobby Helms recorded the song in 1957 and it became an immediate hit.  The song has rock in the title but it really leans a little more country in its sound.  Technically it is rockabilly in style taking from the early roots of rock and roll in the US.  The song has much guitar twang and groove like other songs of the time- Rock Around the Clock comes to mind.  The original version remains the most recognizable although many others have released covers of it.  Check out these samples to get a feel for the many sounds of Jingle Bell Rock:

Original Version– Helms 1957 hit. 
Amy Grant– The popular singer has a more laid-back style in her recording.
Billy Idol– Yeah, Billy Idol!  His version is worth a look-see, check it out.
Brenda Lee– Close to the original but with a female singer and sound.  
Rascal Flatts– A more modern country groove, including some big horn sound!
Disney– Mickey and pals share a sing-a-long version for the whole family.




I’ll give you the moon and the stars


Tomorrow night is the Blue Moon, the second full moon in the month of September. The actual full moon will occur tomorrow morning as we eat breakfast. Tonight’s nearly full moon was lovely, and it got me to thinking about celestial events near Christmas 2012. The full moon closest to Christmas will occur on December 28. It’s also called the Full Cold Moon.

Images of a starry night with the full or crescent moon are part of Christmas art and decoration. The nights are longer and the temperature makes the stars seem more brilliant. Of course, there’s the star of Bethlehem, too.

We give ornaments in the shapes of the moon and the stars, often topping our trees with stars. Many consider giving their loved one a real star, sanctioned by the International Star Registry. Seems like there’s a nearly inexhaustible supply to give, right? Sounds super romantic.

Before you go the route of a genuine star as a Christmas gift, check out this article in Wired Magazine. The author researched the authenticity of the company’s claims and came up short.

I think naming a star for someone sounds supremely romantic. Does it matter that your special star is not registered with The International Astronomical Union? Yes.

The author of the Wired Magazine article suggests that If you are the type who loves to wish upon stars, consider a more tangible moon and star gift–binoculars and a book about the heavens. I think that’s a unique idea, especially if the gift giver offers to star gaze together!

Oh Canada!

During Monday’s podcast Natalie and I briefly touched on Canada and wondered about any unique Christmas traditions that might be from our neighbors to the North.  Of course I immediately went home and got to sleuthing online.  What I found is that the Christmas traditions of Canada are very similar to those in the US.  Santa? Check.  Decorated trees & homes? Check.  Sending of cards & giving of gifts? Yup.  Family celebration and church attendance?  Done deal.  There were a few curious differences as well.  Canada has many ethnic groups including the native Inuit.  The Inuit celebrate Christmas including a festival named Sinck Tuck.  The festival is centered on a huge dance party and exchanging of gifts.  Ethnic influences come into play for some regional differences at Christmas throughout the large nation.  In Nova Scotia the traditions of the British Isles plays heavy, including the huge annual Mummers Parades.  In Quebec, Vive Le France!  The French influence is definitely seen in the post midnight mass meal.  The center piece is a pork pie, Le Tourtiere (maybe Natalie and I can cook this sometime!).  Other regional differences don’t necessarily come from ethnic roots.  On the Labrador coast children are given unique candles at Christmas.  These candles are created using stored turnips from the summer harvest.  In the far North they hold taffy pulls in honor of St. Catherine, the patron saint of single women.  This really is a chance for single women to meet single men- a Christmas singles dance!

The 1918 Halifax tree gifted to the city of Boston.

Nova Scotia is home to some of the largest pine forests in the nation and it’s all about the trees there.  Each year they find the biggest and the best tree to send to Boston to recognize the US city’s assistance after the Halifax Explosion in 1917.  Over 2,000 people were killed when the SS Mont Blanc loaded with explosives for WWI collided with another ship and exploded.  The devastation of the explosion, the damage of the smoke, and the huge wave of water slamming into the city caused widespread destruction.  The citizens of Boston and the Red Cross provided much-needed aid and help to the people of Halifax.  In 1918 they sent a tree to Boston to thank them.  This tradition continues to this day and the gifted tree is the centerpiece of Boston Common.  The lighting of the tree kicks off the holiday season in Boston.  The few traditions I have discovered so far are quite interesting and I am eager to do some more research- expect some more Canada from me soon:)

Do it yourself Christmas Potpourri


Pinterest is a guilty pleasure, and this week i noticed more and more Christmas crafts and ideas are being added to the regular feed of clothing, wedding ideas and cute pets. Today, I stumbled across holiday potpourri. I can’t wait to try it.

Right about now, Michaels craft stores fill their foyers with red mesh bags of cinnamon scented pine cones that make my eyes water. I’m excited to make real holiday potpourri. Two years I a row, I received a homemade gift of potpourri. It smelled terrific and lasted at least 30 days before I decided it had lived a fully scented life.

Here’s the link to the blog, Make It Do, where I found the recipe and three cute ways to wrap the potpourri for gift-giving.

Podcast #33- 118 Days to Go!

Podcast #33- Click here to listen to this week’s podcast- Childhood wishes and Trees!

Natalie and I have a short dish on our conversation with the folks at the Festival of Trees.  As future “designers” for this year’s festival we might be part of some press for the event.  We also take a look at the week in review and then move into some good discussions on possible gifts related to your college students.  The Sears Wish Book and Christmas candy take a turn for talk (we’re making candy next Monday!!). We also beg some more for you to vote for our tree decoration theme.  Go to the Yule Log entry from August 18th to cast your vote before the Saturday deadline.

Sears Wish Book Celebrates 60th Anniversary

Roger and I were talking today about Christmases past, and he reminded me that Christmas shopping for us as children was a tour through the Sears Wishbook.  Both of us remember studying the advertisements and turning down pages as hints for our parents.

As of 2009, Sears has put its Wishbook online, but on Friday, August 24, Sears Canada celebrated the 60th Anniversary of the Wishbook.  Sears Canada CEO Calvin McDonald toured his hometown of London, Ontario and hand-delivered the Wishbook to his neighbors.  (I have included a link to the Sacramento Bee news story here.)

There’s a great article summarizing the history of the Wishbook on the Sears Archives. With all the shopping choices we have today, it’s easy to be nostalgic for the past, when 605 pages (1968) was more than anyone could want or imagine!

Secret #4 for a 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 #4- Children!

That’s right, children.  Christmas would not be possible without children.  After all it was the birth of a child that we celebrate at Christmas.  If you have children of your own you know all too well how they make the holiday better.  New parents become children themselves with the excitement of becoming Santa Claus for their little ones.  The joy and happiness of a child during the holidays is a special gift to parents and grandparents.  That gift spreads to many outside the family too.  Seeing a children’s choir perform or a Christmas pageant spark a smile in even the most hardened Scrooge.  You can also make your holiday better, and a child’s too, by giving to charitable causes like Toys for Tots.  Giving your time or donations to children at the holidays is a priceless way to share the joy of the season.  Finding a way to include children in your Christmas plans will make the season better for sure.

Candy Christmas gift


I saw this candy in a glass creation on Pinterest posted by my-creativeway.com. I don’t know much about the blogger, but she has great ideas. Her three candy bouquets featured Jolly Ranchers, Tootsie Rolls, and mints. I went for the mints because they’re easy to make in red and white for the holiday season.

I made this one as a birthday gift with possible Christmas gift giving in mind.

The original suggested hot glue to fasten the candy to a styrofoam ball, but I used pearl-headed straight pins which would make re-gifting with new candy really easy.

I hope to make more of these. Except for the candy, I was able to gather all supplies at Michael’s. The total cost was wine glass ($2.99–but I could have purchased an interesting glass from a yard sale or antique shop if I had been patient), 100 pins ($3.99), styrofoam ball cut in half $.50–but I had to buy six balls in a package for $2.99), and mints ($13.00–I figure I could make at least four with the huge package I bought. The smaller package was $2.99, and that would have been enough. The red ball and ribbon were things I had at home. Let’s say that adds another $1.00. Total cost under $15.00, but with planning, I could get well under $10.00.

What other candies would look great for the holidays? How about mint balls or fireballs?


More on Trees!

As I shared on Tuesday, I have become more interested in knowing about the business of Christmas trees in the US.  I have started doing more research into the subject and I am hooked on the specifics!  On Monday during our interview at Gaver Farm Laura shared a little about the differences between firs and pines.  Blue Spruce, White Pine, Douglas Fir, Scotch Pine.  If you’ve shopped for a real Christmas Tree you’ve heard or seen these names.  I wanted to know what all my options were for trees so I turned to the web.  Some of the best information I found came on the website Christmas Trees and More created by the University of Illinois Extension office.  Guess how many types of Christmas Trees are grown in the United States- 8? 10?  There are more than 20 varieties produced here in the US.  I’ll share just a little about that with you now.

The first group includes Deodara Cedar, Eastern Red Dear and Leyland Cypress.  These are more popular in the Southeast and the Cypress is a really good choice for those with allergies.  Next up are the Pines.  Afghan Pine (big in Texas), Austrian Pine, Red Pine (it’s actually green and bushy), Ponderosa Pine (may have 10″ needles!), Virginia Pine (strong aroma), and White Pine (largest pine in the US and state tree of Michigan and Maine).  The Scotch Pine rounds out this group and is the most popular tree in the states.  The Spruces are a third group to consider and include Black Hills Spruce (stiff needles), Norway Spruce (watch out for falling needles), White Spruce (state tree of South Dakota), and the Blue Spruce (state tree of Utah and Colorado and might live to be 600 years old!!).  The final group is the firs made up of Grand Fir, Fraser Fir, Nordmann Fir (very popular in the UK), Concolor Fir (strong citrus scent), Balsam Fir (this tree’s resin was used to treat Civil War wounds), Noble Fir (sturdy and used for wreaths, swags, and garland), and the popular Douglas Fir (great scent and can live to be over 1,000 years old!).


Spirit wear for the spirited season

All of my friends’ children and two of my own are headed back to college this week.  Facebook is buzzing with photos of dorm life and new classes.  Now is the time to stock up on college spirit wear for holiday gift giving.

The college bookstores are bulking up on spirit wear and unique items to offset the fact that they are struggling to compete with online book sellers and textbook rentals. (Read this article in Publisher’s Weekly.) Often, the stores on campus offer a “move in” deal of a t-shirt and baseball cap  in a two-for-one deal.  Also, another route is to shop at discount stores near the college campus–Walmart, Kohl’s and Target to pick up college apparel and accessories including towels, waste baskets, and office supplies with the desired logo.

I remember a dozen years ago when anything with a Duke logo would satisfy my teenage son at Christmas, even socks.  I went to great lengths to find items, even contacting alumni near the campus.  Of course, shopping for these items online is easy today. I love two websites, Babyfans.com and kidsarefanstoo.com, which offer a world of infant and toddler-sized merchandise for the future fan. I even found a set of Duke crib bedding at Walmart–where was that 20 years ago?

With items purchased from college campuses and discount stores, you could create a magnificent gift basket for almost anyone on your list from parents to be to the impossible teen.