Reindeer Cam: Watch reindeer and see who’s been nice!

reindeercamReceived a tip from Gini, another one of my good friends who is trained to spot interesting Christmas happenings and forward them to me.  Last year, two enterprising Michigan (Gini’s from Michigan, so maybe there is a little bias) men installed a webcam on their property and created the website , Santa’s official reindeer live feed, so that children around the world could watch the reindeer all day and see Santa feed the animals at 11 a.m., 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.  Meanwhile, in the background of their festively decorated pen, there is a ticker tape listing all of the young people who have written to Santa and reported that they have been “nice” all year long.

There is an app available for download ($1.99) so you can check in at any time.

The list of nice children is difficult to read and is a little blurry, but I imagine if you time it right, showing your children Santa feeding his reindeer is a big hit. I have opened the app three or four times, but so far, I’ve only been treated to reindeer eating.  Not too thrilling.  Looking forward to a glimpse of Santa.

The FAQ’s indicate that there are three ways to be included in the “nice” list, one of which is to donate to the reindeer feed.  There’s an address so children can write to Santa and get their names on the “nice” list.  There is a Facebook page, and on the website comments, both positive and negative, continually feed down the right side.

Started in 2011, the website received millions of visitors, and they’re back again this year.

White House Tree(s) 2012

Christmas officially arrived at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue yesterday.  The Obamas kicked-off the holiday season with the grand premiere of the 2012 White House Christmas decorations.  Keeping with tradition, Mrs. Obama selected a theme for all the decorations.  The 2012 theme is “Joy to All”.  This includes the Joy of giving and service to others, the Joy of sharing our blessings, and the Joy of welcoming our friends and family.  We covered much of the history of White House Christmas in previous posts (February 15th blog, search White House).

This year there are 4 tress in the Grand Foyer.  These are all decorated with ornaments representing the last 50 years of First Ladies.  In total there are 54 trees in the White House for 2012.  There are also tributes to our armed forces.  The East Landing has wreaths with red, white, and blue yarn and trees with patriotic ornaments.  The “official” White House tree is located in the Blue Room.  This year it is an 18’6″ Fraser Fir from Jefferson, NC.  The tree is decorated with ornaments decorated by military children living on military bases all over the world.  The tree is beautiful and if you have a chance to visit the White House during the holiday season you will certainly love it.

To find out more check out the White House Holiday webpage.  The page has information on this year’s decorations and the history of decorations.  There is much more too.  There is a nice video of Bo, the dog. You can download an beautiful illustrated tour book.  There are details on the 2012 Christmas book marks.  The White House chefs have this year’s cookie recipe for Ginger Crinkles.  In honor of our troops you can fill out an Honor Card with a pledge to serve your community.  There’s even a guide on how to build your own Christmas snow globe.

Some brief updates on some other DC trees:
The Capitol Tree will be lit in a ceremony on December 4th at 5:00 PM. 
The National Christmas Tree will be lit in a ceremony on December 6th at 4:30 PM.  The nationally televised event features host Neil Patrick Harris and a collection of music acts including James Taylor and Jason Mraz.  


Overwhelmed with possibilities: Christmas Mania

All that we have been waiting for is here:  Jeremy and I want to post several times a day to cover everything we are seeing and doing for the holiday season.

Here’s a mish-mash of what I’ve been thinking about for the last 48 hours:

  1. Changing my cover profile.  Who knew?  OK.  Everyone knew but me.  There are many, many beautiful cover photos to dress up your Facebook wall.  I went to this article to get some ideas, but that launched me into a general search for more cover photos.  I settled on two photos (one for me and one for The Yule Log)–both of beautiful shiny Christmas ornaments.
  2. Improv Everywhere did a very funny spoof of Black Friday shopping.  They set up outside of a New York City dollar store.  The volunteers camped out in a long line and then stormed the business when it opened Friday mornings.  Check out the YouTube video.  I subscribed to their email feed so I can get up-to-date notice of their humorous behavior.

3. 12 Ways to Nerd Up Your Christmas Trees:  This Mashable article has 12 photos of truly crazy Christmas trees.  While I’m partial to the first (a Christmas tree made of books), check out the third Christmas tree–a Lego tree 33 feet high that was installed in London.  Jeremy’s dream come true, for certain. (The bacon tree in this article is really creepy.)

4. Gold Christmas Tree?  This one is in Tokyo, created by a jewelry store.  It’s worth $4.2 million.  I can just picture Eartha Kitt purring over this one!

5.  Don’t even get me started on Pinterest.  Everything is Christmas–idea after beautiful idea.  I created a Yule Log 365 Pinterest page today.  I’ll be loading it with this and that from today forward.

Speaking of shiny objects, that’s just what’s wrong with me.  Christmas is distracting me–everywhere!


Song of the Week #20- Do You Hear…

This week our song is one of my favorites, Do You Hear What I Hear?.  The song was penned in October of 1962.  As I looked into the origins of this piece of music I was struck by the many historical connections beyond Christmas.  1962 was a year of much strife.  The US was bogged down with the Cuban Missile Crisis and the world sat on edge at the thought of a nuclear war.  The song was written as a plea for peace.  The lyrics tell the tale of how the word spread about the birth of Jesus.  From the night wind, to the little lamb, to the shepherd boy and then to the king who told it to the people everywhere.  The two writers of the song were married but had a history all their own also.  Lyricist, Noel Regney, was a Frenchman from Alsace that was drafted into the Nazi Army during WWII.  He turned double agent for the French Resistance and helped with the Allied effort until breaking his arm in an attack.  Composer, Gloria Shayne, was an American who grew up next to Rose & Joe Kennedy, and their son, future president Kennedy.  She would find her way to New York City as a pianist where she worked with legends like Sondheim and Berlin.  The song was tremendously personal to them and they wrote that the originally could not sing the whole song without emotion taking over.

The original recording was made in 1962 by Harry Simone Chorale (also known for an original version of the Little Drummer Boy) and was played often.  But it was in 1963 that the song became a true hit.  Bing Crosby released his recording in October of that year, not long before the Kennedy assassination.  When he sang it in December on the Bob Hope television Christmas Special.  The song brought some deep emotional response to the nation and everyone wanted a copy.  Today there have been tens of millions copies and over 100 recordings.  Classic versions come from the expected standards- Andy Williams, Johnny Mathis, Perry Como, and even Kate Smith.  Listen to some of our interesting choices here:

Harry Simone Chorale– The original recoding ( I actually had never heard this one!)
Bing Crosby– He does almost every holiday song so well 
Vanessa Williams– Live recording from a Holiday concert in Vienna
Whitney Houston– Live performance from the Tonight Show
Rosie & Elmo– Live performance on the Today Show
Manheim Steamroller– Interesting video to go with the recording



Podcast #44- 27 Days to Go!

Podcast #44Click here to listen to today’s podcast- Trees, Pudding, & Fruit!

We’re back for our first podcast after the Festival of Trees!  We start off with a review of the last week and our activities.  Listen as we discuss Black Friday and all of our adventures at the Festival.  Next we welcome our special guest Lauren and get to the heart of our podcast- tasting!  We taste cookies and fruit cake.  The reactions are varied, so listen to hear more.  Stay tuned this week as the Christmas season is now in full swing.


Secret #1 For a Perfect Christmas

Remember that on the 25th of each month we have revealed one of our secrets for the perfect Christmas in 2012.  Today we share Secret #1- Love AND Family.

Before we share our #1 secret, let’s review numbers 10 through 2:

#10- Simple can be better.
#9- There is always room for one more.
#8- Christmas is not the time to bear a grudge, forgive!
#7- Memories are more magical than we think they are at the time.  
#6- It doesn’t have to go your way.
#5- Tradition, no matter how silly or bothersome, is key.
#4- Children!
#3- Giving time is more important than giving things.
#2- It’s okay to forget.

Lots of thought has gone into what will be our number one.  No doubt we will be spot-on for some readers and some might think we are way off.  Thinking of that original Christmas we were inspired for our number one.  Putting all of our secrets together and keeping the spirit of the true meaning of Christmas in focus, here is our #1: Love and Family.

That’s right, Love AND Family.  With those ideas guiding you and your actions for the holidays all will go well.  The original Christmas was centered on these ideals.  The love God had for the world caused him to send his son, Jesus Christ, and his family welcomed him to humble origins.  That simple family moment in the manger has given so much to the world over the last 2,000 years.  Mary & Joseph loved the baby Jesus and raised him to go out into the world to make his mark.  We must strive to make our Christmas one of love and family.  Too much time, energy, and money is spent trying to do otherwise.  Love will guide us all to make the best Christmas ever.  Use that love to strengthen family.  Family can mean many things.  It could be your blood relatives, close friends, or even strangers.  Families come in so many varieties, after all we are one huge family of mankind.  Remember all your family at the holidays.  Love AND family, that’s the key to a great Christmas 2012!


What sled? Santa arrives in style

We were back at the Festival of Trees in Timonium today, this time to celebrate my birthday in style, with many members of my family.  Since we had Noah, we made the obligatory visit to Santa’s lap.  Like many parents/grandparents, we were unsure how he would react to the stranger–in every family,  there’s one year of the crying photo with Santa.  This picture is of Noah telling Santa what Grumpa wants for Christmas.  Quite an interesting conversation.

Santa arrived at the Festival of Trees the morning after Thanksgiving, as part of the preview party, and that got me to thinking about his arrival in malls and gathering places all over the world.  We talked and wrote about the business of mall Santas several times early in The Yule Log’s history, especially on April 18.  I briefly considered making a Mrs. Claus outfit, and Jeremy revealed that he, too,  has worn the Santa suit.

Santa arrives in a number of unusual ways, and three days ago, in Reading, England, Santa was arriving by abseiling from the roof of Broad Street Mall when his beard got caught in the mechanism.  He was suspended for 40 minutes until a co-worker rescued him.  This is one time that an artificial beard is an advantage.  I’ve included a YouTube video.

Current pop rock hit by Train is “50 Ways to Say Goodbye.  On the internet I found just about 50 ways for Santa to say “Hello.”  Here are a few of the most interesting.

Annual Santa parachute drop cancelled due to high winds in the Shenandoah Valley. Polish American Fire Company provides transportation.

Anaheim, California (and several other places) Santa Arrived by hot air balloon.

Waterville Valley, New Hampshire–Santa arrives by dog sled team.

Kirkcudbright, Scotland–Santa arrives by boat.  YouTube Video.

Michigan Shopping Mall Santa arrives by helicopter.

What’s your ideal arrival?  Traditional parade, sleigh, horse and carriage or modern helicopter, motorcycle or limousine?

Black Friday- 2012

You’ve seen the ads, read the posts, and made your decision on this crazy annual transition to the holiday season.  Today was Black Friday 2012.  (well, I guess it technically started on Thursday night this year).  If you have been reading and following the Yule Log then you are familiar with our thoughts and ideas about this uniquely American tradition.  Natalie again posted yesterday promising her manifesto on the subject.  She was home busy cleaning the fridge last night (and nothing says Christmas like clean fruit and veggie drawers).  No cleaning projects for me, I was out in the madness of the moment.  Black Friday has become one of those annual experiences for me.  It just has to be done.  I have gone for years with family, but distance and other factors now let’s me go with new friends.  This year I dragged along my good friend Allie.  It was her first time and we did plenty of prep to be sure she was ready.  Flyers scanned and labeled.  Lists made.  Budget set.  Comfy shoes and snacks on hand.  Apps loaded.  Let me share our play-by-play of the grand adventure:

We began at my house at 7:00 PM.  After some quick strategizing and sharing plans we set out.  First stop was Michael’s for their 30% off everything coupon offering.  Next we headed to Wal-Mart for what they called “Event 1”, the 8 PM deals.  We got in and out by 8:20!  Next we darted cross town to Toys R Us.  Toys and bargains in hand we jumped into our first snaking line of the night.  Christmas luck shined on us and we were directed to a new line that moved really fast.  Out of there and on to Target for some advertised bargains.  First bump in our night- the LONG line in electronics.  We bailed on that part of our quest and check-out in the front lines.  Then it was back to Wal-Mart for “Event 2” at 10 PM.  This was the new option for the mart of the big deals that were guaranteed.  With a TV, blu ray and HDMI cables in the cart we headed to check out.  Screeching halt to our progress as we hit the wall of guests waiting to pay.  The next 50 minutes was spent making new friends in the line and hearing other people’s stories about Black Friday glories from the past (and a weird tale of a worker’s illness). While in the slow line, Allie was finally allowed to use the bathroom too.  When we left Wal-Mart we still had time left to run to Sear’s before the midnight opening of Kohl’s.  Snagged some good deals on tools there and then headed to Kohl’s.

Finally it was actually Friday!  Black Friday for real, landed us in our first outside line of the night.  We queued up in the chilly night air and waited about 8 minutes for the doors to open. We divided and conquered this time.  We swarmed the store, got everything on our lists, and somehow were the first people to check out with our cashier.  Back to the car by 12:10!  On to Best Buy and the largest crowds so far.  The newly remodeled Frederick store threw me for a loop since I wasn’t familiar with the new store layout. We got out in decent time and once again had everything on our list.  By now Allie and I were ready for some food.  Where to go at 2 AM on a Friday?  IHOP of course!  Full of eggs, bacon, and hash browns we headed back to Sear’s for the 4 AM door busters.  While there we also did a short walk-through of the mall (no purchases).  After this my novice companion was starting to fade.  We went to Bsocov’s and Allie stayed in the car to “rest” a little.  I snatched up pillows, socks, and some good gifts for super cheap.  Had to stop at Home Depot next to get my 99 cent poinsettia plants.  Allie “rested” some more:)  The time was now after 5 AM and we were entering hour 10!  Allie was re-energized and we hit our last three stores.  Lowes had BOGO storage bins, a fire safe, and other gifts on the list.  Staples had a crazy deal on some needed school supplies, including Sharpies.   Last stop in Frederick was A.C. Moore for 40% off coupon use.  After a quick pit-stop at my house to unload the car we headed to Timonium for the Festival of Trees!.  We got there a little early so we made one last stop at Wal-Mart to grab the last of our deals- $4 fresh pine wreaths!

Black Friday 2012 was a total success!  Allie is now a veteran and we had a great time on our adventure.  Ending with the Festival of Trees was also really fun and we still had money left to buy some special treats there.  Looking forward to Black Friday 2013!  Who wants to join us?


Gray Thursday, Black Friday and Refrigerators

FNP's photo of us taken at Gaver Tree Farm.

Photo by Bill Green, published in Frederick News Post today.

10:00 p.m.:  Just received a call from Jeremy who is out shopping with Allie.  At the time of the call, they had hit three or four stores, in timed intervals according to the sale fliers, and they were walking into a Walmart–without a cart.  He informed me that carts are too cumbersome on Black Friday.  Allie told me that another of Jeremy’s Black Friday rules is that she can use the restroom only upon entering the store because after that they are carrying all of their purchases. No time for bathroom breaks at the checkout.

I am happy to celebrate this madness–by phone–although I am dismayed to know that my partner in blogging has succumbed to this season’s early shopping frenzy.  In my Thanksgiving manifesto (which I threatened many times but never wrote), there is no shopping until midnight.  This is a long rant that I will save for a future post.

So, while he’s out joyfully joining the shoppers (there were NO parking spaces at the Walmart when he called), I did what?

Cleaned the refrigerator. The kind of cleaning that involves taking apart all of the shelves and scraping off the sticky stuff at the bottom of the fruit bin.

I decided the most excellent kickoff to the holiday season is to prepare space for future party foods and leftovers.  Want to know the truth?  A jar of pickles fell on me when I opened the refrigerator, and the pickles caused a chain reaction that left a bowl of cooked apples spilled throughout the refrigerator.  Roger and the dogs retreated to the bedroom after receiving enough of my ire.

What am I thankful for late on this Thanksgiving evening? Here’s a short list.

  • My husband, despite the fact that he did not help me clean the refrigerator, because he drove to three gas stations to find six copies of today’s Frederick News Post.  The 7-11 employee thought maybe I just wanted six sets of the sale inserts so I would get more coupons?  That thought did not occur to me, but I bet people do this!  Roger took the newspaper apart at the counter to show her my picture.
  • Having such an abundance of food, that I had to clean the fridge to make room for more.
  • Receiving countless congratulatory texts, calls, emails and Facebook posts celebrating the article in the FNP.
  • The reporter, Danielle Gaines, for the time she took to actually read the blog–I mean read it from the beginning. The photographer, Bill Green, who made us look like two civilized people.
  • My family, friends, dogs, chickens (which make for excellent conversation wherever we go–especially today).

I’d have to say that the best part reading the article about us in the FNP today was the opportunity to read in print someone else’s perspective on the whole year of my friendship with Jeremy through our Christmas celebration.  Somehow, we have remained friends through almost 365 days (-32) of our Yule Log blog.  It’s an interesting test.

This Just In…

The Yule Log 365 is officially part of the Christmas season kick-off now.  Check out the article from today’s edition of the Frederick News Post- Yule Log 365 article.  We are both so thankful to share this crazy adventure.  Wishing all our readers, friends, and family a very Happy Thanksgiving!