What a woman really wants for Christmas

Yesterday, Jeremy wrote about the song of the week, “Santa Baby.”  In the song, the Christmas list Eartha Kitt (and later singers) presents includes rings, a platinum mine, a yacht, a fur coat, a duplex and signed checks.

What does that stuff really cost?

The exercise of calculating the costs reminded me of one of Jeremy’s first posts  where he found a website that calculated the total cost of the items related to the 12 days of Christmas. (See Jeremy’s post on December 27, 2011–a million years ago!)

I started with the song lyric “with some decorations bought at Tiffany’s.”  Tiffany & Co. boasts sterling silver decorations from mini mittens ($35) and a mini crystal teddy bear ($30) to a hand-painted porcelain ball ($225).  Unless I conducted my search poorly, there’s nothing collectible for 2012–but I guess the simplicity and elegance is all I would need.  I like the sterling silver Paloma dove ($175).  Of all the material demands the singer makes, decorations bought at Tiffany’s (at least at Tiffany’s online) won’t thrill me.

How about a fur?  I think the exact line is “slip a sable under the tree, for me.”  I went to local furrier Mano Swartz in Baltimore.  Not a single mink had a price tag–just “request more information.”  Darn.  I know that female mink pelts are generally softer and, therefore, more valuable than male pelts.  General sources (responses to curious women like me, I guess) report that a coat might retail for anywhere from $7,000 to $27,000.

I could price a yacht.  I chose to look in Newport, R.I. for dealers because I figure that’s where our rich and famous go to play (at least they did 100 years ago).  A 60-foot 2012 yacht from Bluenose Yacht Sales costs. . .wait for it. . .I don’t know.  “Contact us about this boat” is the best I can do.  I’ve embedded a video in case you want to drool.

I wouldn’t even know how to go about pricing a duplex–suffice to say that it depends on the city, and I figure she might have had London or Paris in mind.  Roger would be happy with Santa Fe.  I think an “out-of-space convertible, light blue” in 1953 (the year of the song’s publication) in today’s dollars is around $250,000.  Actually, I searched “1953 light blue convertible” and the first price I got was $4.00 on eBay–that’s for the plastic replica.  I don’t think that’s what the lyricists had in mind.

She ends with a “ring–I don’t mean a phone.”  If we go to local jeweler, Smyth (where Maryland gets engaged), and look at their signature collection, the settings alone are around $3,000–forget the diamond.  In this case, the website advertises, “Please call or come in for pricing.”

This exercise in excess has taught me  if I have to ask, I can’t afford it.  Thankfully, I don’t want it, either.

Song of the Week #15- Santa Baby

This week our focus song places the spotlight on the lighter, sillier side of the holidays.  Santa Baby is a tongue-in-check tune about a Christmas list including furs, things from Tiffany’s, and a deed to a platinum mine.  The lavish requests are all addressed to Santa, since she’s been an angel all year.  The song was written in 1953 by Philip Springer and Joan Javits (her uncle was NY Senator Jacob Javits, namesake of the Javits Center).  Santa Baby is one of only two top ranked Christmas songs written by a woman (the other is song of the week #9- Little Drummer Boy).  The original recording was made by Eartha Kitt with Henri Rene and his orchestra.  It was a huge hit and Kitt said it was one of her favorites.  Hundreds of live and recorded covers have been over the years.  One of the most well-known was the 1987 version recorded by Madonna for the album A Very Special Christmas.  The collection of songs raised money for Special Olympics.  Check out some of the recorded versions of the hit:

Eartha Kitt– The original recorded version from 1953
Madonna– 1980s cover from the material girl
Taylor Swift– a country sound for the tune
Miss Piggy– Even the Queen of the Muppets gets in on the act
Michael Buble– His version (for guys) changes it up to Santa Buddy and updates the lyrics

Podcast #40- 62 Days to Go!

Podcast #40-Click here to listen to this week’s podcast- Sweaters, trees, and 80 degrees!

We’re back!  After a week off for our autumn hiatus we bring you the latest from the Yule Log.  This week we review our latest posts and discuss thoughts on advent chains, Christmas trees, holiday prep, and sweaters.  The Christmas sweater requires much more thinking and Natalie has some ideas she shares about how to turn wearing the ugly things into a way to do good for those in need. We also review our baking and cooking plans for the Yule Log and cookies are on the horizon!  Listen to hear more about our Christmas push and a plea to borrow some trees.


Saint Francis Xavier, One of the Christmas Saints

Today I decided to do a little reading to find out more about the Saints related to Christmas.  Of course I found most things to be written about the most well-known: St. Mary, St. Joseph, and St. Nicholas.  As I read more and looked to less familiar sites online, I discovered some writings about the “Christmas Saints”.  These are the main Saints with feast days during the advent season.  There are saints for almost every day in the Catholic calendar, but only the “major” saints are considered Christmas Saints.  AS best I can tell, their feasts are celebrated during advent in part because of the important work of these faithful servants.  For today I picked one to find out a little more about, Saint Francis Xavier.

Saint Francis was born in 1506 in Navarre, part of modern-day Spain.  He was the son of an aristocratic family, but much of their wealth and stature was lost when his father died and the Catholic Spanish forces invaded Navarre.  Francis moved to Paris to study and was ready to become an academic as his family had planned.  Instead, he joined with a new friend to devout his life to missionary work.  He was good friends with Ignatius of Loyola and with 5 others they would form the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits. In Paris on Montmartre they took vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.  From France he would move first to Venice and then on to Lisbon.  There he would begin his real life’s work as a missionary.  He took out to bring the word to the Peoples of Asia and those Portuguese living in the empire.  He based his work in India and preached to the poorest of the poor.  He lived among them and shared their food and housing.  Much of his work was with lepers and the very sick.  His work moved him into Malaysia and then Japan.  In Japan he would convert the first Japanese Christian.  From Japan he planned to move into mainland China.  Unfortunately he caught fever and died before making the journey.  Saint Francis is said to have converted the most people to Christianity since Saint Paul.  His work with the masses was heavily partnered with music.  Francis put the verses of study to local music to help the indigenous people hear the message.

“What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” (Matthew 16:26)  These words from Jesus are believed to be the ones that caused Saint Francis to devote his life to faithful mission work.  He is included as one of the Christmas Saints because of his tireless efforts to show all people the joy we receive with the arrival of the baby Jesus.  He led a life of pure sacrifice.  Sacrifice is leaving yourself behind at times for a greater good, the good of prayer, the good of helping someone in need, the good of just listening to another. The greatest gift we have is our time. Francis gave his to others.  Pray for his intercession during the advent season if you want your time spent in advent to bear fruit long beyond the season.  He is the patron saint of Japan and of all missionaries.

St. Francis

The 13th Day of Christmas–New book

Jason F. Wright, author of Christmas Jars (see Jeremy’s post on January 13), has a new book out this season, The 13th Day of Christmas.  I remember that when I read Christmas Jars, I felt the desire to get started on my own jar savings plan right away Will this new book live up to the national bestseller that his first story, Christmas Jars, became?

Released just a few days ago, this is Wright’s tenth book, and the plot, like the theme of all his books, centers around his deep faith in God and God’s plan for us on earth.  The title references the possibility of a lost verse in the famous “12 Days of Christmas” song.  Nine-year-old Charlee is critically ill, and her family has fallen on hard times.  On December 12, Charlee discovers a note that promises twelve days of gifts and stories that will reveal the truth behind the Christmas carol with the hint of a miracle to come.

I was skeptical about Christmas Jars and ended up reading it through to the end, even shedding some tears.  I’m looking forward to first reading the book myself and then sharing it with others.  Could be the best stocking stuffer this year!

Toys for Tots

Yesterday I ordered the materials to support a Toys for Tots drive for this holiday season.  The charity is an official mission of the United States Marine Corps Reserve and covers all of the United States and its territories.  In just a couple of weeks the bins and posters will arrive and the collecting can begin.  I have always been impressed with the absolute professionalism and success the organization has every year.  Hopefully my coworkers and all involved will help make 2012 a great year for the program, now celebrating its 55th year.

The Marines Toys for Tots Foundation got its start in Los Angeles in 1947.  Major Bill Hendricks was living there with his wife working as the director of Public Relations for Warner Brothers.  His wife wanted to donate a doll but could not find a place to do so.  Hendricks had an idea to get fellow Marines to help collect items and then distribute them to needy children.  They organized  collections in bins outside Warner Brothers theaters and collected over 5,000 toys.  The original objective was to “bring the joy of Christmas to America’s needy children.”  With so much success, in 1948 they took the program national.  With his influence at Warner Brothers, Hendricks was able to get lots of celebrity support.  He even got Walt Disney to design the train logo and the original poster.   Celebrity support has been a big part of Toys for Tots’ success over the years.  Celebrities supporters have included: Bob Hope, John Wayne, Doris Day, Frank Sinatra, Charlton Heston, Sammy Davis Jr. John Glen, and Johnny Carson.  First Ladies Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, and Michelle Obama have served as national chairpersons. Nat King Cole recorded the original theme song for the national campaign that has been used and re-recorded over time.

From its start until 1979 the Marines collected both new and used toys.  The Marine Reserves used down time during their training weekends to fix and refurbish the donated toys.  Starting in 1980 only new toys would be accepted.  The drives were limited to only locations where there was a Marine Corps Reserve unit.  Since 1996 the reserves have expanded the campaign to include area without a reserve and to have collections with community volunteers.  The program is one of the most successful charities around and maybe the most successful designed just for Christmas.  Since its start over 500 million toys have been collected.  In 2011 they collected over 16 million toys distributed to more than 7 million children.  Toys for Tots is always included on rankings and lists including being named an Outstanding Non-profit Organization of the Year, Reader’s Digest Best Children’s Charity, getting 4 stars on Charity Navigator, and being listed on Forbes’ Gold Star List.  If you decide to be giving this holiday season, please be sure to put Toys for Tots on the top of your list!

Ugly sweaters, ugly sweater parties, and more

Roger and I did a sweep through Barnes & Noble tonight, with my husband allowing me just a few minutes to check out the featured books.  I saw that Rock Your Ugly Christmas Sweater was published in early October, and it looks like the 200+ photos of people and pets at their holiday ugliest will be a best-seller.

Author Anne Marie Blackman runs the website myuglychristmassweater.com.  Who knew a person can make a living from this?  Some of the featured sweaters have ornaments and lights in strategically placed areas, which make the possibility of wearing said sweater in the office virtually impossible.  Co-author Brian Clarke Howard is a web editor for National Geographic and a specialist in ugly Christmas sweater lore, having published several articles on the subject.  Thumbing through the small book, I figure it would make a great stocking stuffer and maybe a good door prize if you are planning your own ugly sweater party.

Last season’s big selling was The Ugly Christmas Sweater Party Book, by a trio of ugly sweater vendors.  They, too, have their own website, uglychristmassweaterparty.com.  It’s difficult to decide which of the two websites had the ugliest sweaters. The sweater party guys have been on Jay Leno and a few other talk shows, TheYuleLog’s holy grail of success.  

And, here’s the rub, I’m pretty sure I have worn (with pride) a number of the ugly sweaters featured on the sites.

That’s not to be confused with Glenn Beck’s offering, The Christmas Sweater, a serious Christmas tale about a poor boy who rejects a sweater his mother makes for him. Reviews are not positive, but I will be looking for a copy at the library to make my own decision.

While I am just a visitor in the land of ugly sweaters, I defer to my YuleLog partner, Jeremy, who is most likely a specialist in the field.  We have much to talk about on next week’s podcast.