Need a Little Christmas? You can have a piece of 2013.

Noah’s grandmother Christine is the first to decorate the day after Thanksgiving, and she is also the first to pack her decorations, just hours after December 25.

Holiday lights, train, and other displays are disappearing, many ending with the new year, often around the 12th day of Christmas, January 5.

Until January 12, you still have time, though, to witness one of the best gingerbread displays in America, Gingerbread Lane, at the New York Hall of Science in New York City.  This gingerbread display, designated as Guinness World Record Holder, is celebrating its 20th year.  It is the handiwork of one man, chef Jon Lovitch, and he works all year to build his sugar-coated creations.  Here is a great New York Daily News article that includes several videos demonstrating the construction process. What I like best about Lovitch is that he has a PLAN that puts  The Yule Log 365 to shame.  Here’s his annual timeline–and Lovitch does all of this while holding a full-time job!

On January 12, Lovitch disassembles the village and gives away the individual parts—houses, trains, and other confections.  The give-away begins at noon–bring your own cardboard box.

Countdown begins for Christmas 2014!

COuntdown CalToday the Yule Log begins our countdown to Christmas 2014.  With Christmas 2013 fresh in everyone’s memory, we begin our look forward to next Christmas.  We enter our next cycle of countdown ready to better the experience for all our loyal readers.  We are award-winning tree designers now, so the stakes are high!  We have made plans for this next year and are excited to share with all of you.  There is so much exciting Christmas news and adventures to share.

To help keep you up to date we have set a regular schedule for our blog posts and podcasts.  We will share a new post every Monday and Thursday as we countdown for 2014.  New podcasts will be uploaded on the 12th and the 24th of each month.  Stay tuned as we try to capture more Christmas spirit, attempt to start an app, plan a Christmas in July adventure, and return to the Festival of Trees.  Merry Christmas to all!!

Podcast #59- Hours to Go!

Happy XmasPodcast #59-  Click here to listen to our most recent podcast- Merry Christmas 2013!

Happy Christmas to all from the Yule Log 365!  Natalie & Jeremy wrap up 2013 with some thoughts about the year past, a visit to the Nationals Christmas Center, a new idea, and plans for a better 2014.  Listen in and hear all the details, including who doesn’t like White Christmas! Hoping everyone has a day of warm hearts tomorrow and throughout the season.  Merry Christmas!!

I didn’t get my John Waters Christmas card

John Waters Mug ShotAs much as I embrace Christmas, I do not embrace all of Christmas–the really odd, the grossly commercial or the genuinely creepy.  I tend toward traditional Christmas carols, Advent wreaths, and midnight Mass; therefore, despite the fact that we are practically neighbors (we live in the same Baltimore metropolis), I  don’t think I will ever receive a John Waters annual Christmas greeting–I’m not on his A- list of 2,000 recipients.

Waters, who is famous for writing and directing Polyester (1981), Hairspray (1988) and Cry Baby (1990), has thrown a holiday party the weekend before Christmas for the last 50 years (according to an interview with The Baltimore Sun).  I’m not on that guest list either.  I’d love to experience the weirdness, just once.

I have a better chance at seeing his one-man Christmas show, which toured 10 major cities this year, finishing at the Baltimore Soundstage on December 19 and 20.    If you find Waters’ irreverent humor, well, humorous, check out some of his past Christmas cards and a link this year to the Baltimore Sun Magazine‘s photo gallery of Waters’ Christmas decorations.

Clove Orange Pomander

photo (51)We had a snow day today, so I was able to do more Christmas preparation than usual.  At the grocery store, we bought oranges and cloves so that I could make some clove orange pomanders to celebrate the season.

Clove orange pomanders have a long history back to the Middle Ages, when people carried pomanders made of silver, gold, wood, or other material, enclosing a mixture of spices, the scent of which would ward off unhealthy odors and illness.  A woman might wear this item on her waist, suspended by a chain.  There’s an excellent website that illustrates types of pomanders  during the Medieval and Renaissance periods.

By Jane Austen’s time and during the Victorian Era, exchanging clove oranges became customary during Christmas and the New Year.  This website discusses the historical significance and gives excellent directions for making them at home.

The Wartski family firm in London sells fine jewelry and objets d’art.  They have several beautiful examples of pomanders, including a silver segmented one that is so beautiful (and, probably, so valuable).  This 1547 painting is featured on an antique jewelry website.   I wonder if I could begin a collection of pomanders–I should stick to oranges (although cloves can be an expensive purchase).   250px-Pomander

A word of caution.  My oranges need ribbon and more cloves.  I think I should have used smaller oranges with rinds that were not quite as thick.  I wound up with Band-aids on both thumbs because whole cloves are sharp, and it takes a little effort to pierce the rind of the orange.  Also, if I had used ribbon first, I would have had a natural line to follow.  My patterns leave a lot to be desired.

One year L’Occitane en Provence sold a clove-orange scent in candles, lotions and hand cream.  It must have been a holiday scent because I was given the shea cream as a gift, and when I went to the store to buy more, the scent was discontinued.  If you know of somewhere else that sells this particular scent, let me know!  For me, the smell of clove oranges and Christmas are tied together.

So much of life is in small things

So much of life is contained in small things.  What holds meaning for you?

Each week, The Washington Post Magazine publishes a column featuring small essays about items that are important to us.  This week’s column was a beautiful reflection on a religious medal that the author’s family carried through several generations.

photo (50)As I baked our annual candy cane cookies and packed them away in the Ward Paradise Fruit Cake tin, I realized that Christmas is all about the items of significance—the ornament, the wreath, the candle or nativity set.  It’s easy to go to the store and buy everything at once, but it’s collecting the old, small, hand-made or important over time that makes Christmas. When my parents give us “heritage” gifts, these special items beat a store-bought presents any day.

I don’t know when I became the keeper of this tin that my mom used to pack away cherry winks, snowballs, and other Christmas cookies.  I suspect I appropriated it one year in my young mother days and didn’t give it back.

This Ward Baking Co. tin was designed to hold a fruit cake, and my quick research reveals its from the 1920’s.  My mother thinks that the tin was manufactured by the Continental Can Company, where my Aunt Pauline worked for most of her life.  Pauline may have given it to my mom in some ordinary transaction, like taking home leftovers in Tupperware.  I don’t know.  Ward Baking Company, I learned,  became the largest bread distributor in the country, the baker of Wonder enriched bread products and the maker of Hostess Twinkies.

Chances are the beautiful tin with the birds of paradise on the top may have been an ordinary object for many in the mid-1900’s, but it’s bruised and scratched surface is made more beautiful now to me by years of use and Christmas memories.

We “scream” for Christmas

The Capitol Christmas tree was lighted this evening.  I wasn’t there, but the video of this evening’s ceremony was posted on Reuters.  Multi-colored lights?  I don’t know how I feel about that.  The tree is beautiful, though.  I hope Roger and I have an opportunity to go to Washington, D.C. this Christmas season.  There are so many tree traditions in our nation’s capital!  New York City, make room.

Scream ornament

On the radio this morning, I heard about a tree that I MUST see this season.  A lesser-known Christmas tree that was lighted today is the Union Station Christmas tree, an annual gift from  the Norwegian Embassy to all Americans.  This tradition, started 16 years ago, usually features a tree decorated with Norwegian ornaments, flags, and other items of national significance.  This year, the tree is decorated with 700 reflective ornaments of Edvard Munch’s famous painting, The Scream.  I’ve included a link here to The Washington Post article.

Multi-colored lights?  Symbols of modern suffering?  What is Christmas coming to?