Podcast #61- Island Christmas Call

mele-kalikimakaPodcast #61- Click here to listen to this week’s podcast- Island Christmas Call.

This week we check in with our friend Siobhan in Hawaii.  Natalie gets all the details on the unique island twists on the Christmas traditions.  Listen as they talk about outrigger Santa, Christmas lights on palm trees, trans-Pacific Christmas trees, and music.  They also introduce an awesome concept, what I think is the best idea so far in 2014!  Keep June 25th open on your calendars my friends- Mele Kalikemaka!

 

Eddie WouldSpecial audio bonus!  Listen to some more of the conversation to hear about the Wave and to find out where “Eddie would go”.  

 

 

An unexpected happening- Miracle Post?

miracleSince January has five Thursdays, I get to do a bonus post.  This unexpected happening could be considered a miracle by the most basic of definitions.  Natalie’s staircase post earlier this week got me to thinking about miracles.  Miracles seem to be closely connected to Christmas too so I thought might be good to get a little miracle talk going.  Trying to define miracle can be a little bit of a challenge.  It’s made up of something that is “hard to say”.  Unexplainable?  Yes.  Religious?  Maybe.  Supernatural? Perhaps.  Webster’s definition labels it an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs.  All clear now right?

Hardly.  We use the term quite often in all manner of ways.  A baby is born.  A miracle!  A team wins against the odds.  A miracle! You find those papers you thought you lost.  A miracle!  There can be severe, dramatic miracles like a person suffering from disease who is suddenly, without explanation,  well.  The vision of a religious figure coming to those in need.  A survivor of a disaster who never should have made it.  There can be simple miracles like the “answer to your prayers”. The chance meeting of THE person you will spend the rest of your life with.  Even being in the right place at the right time.  There are the more formal and well-known types of miracles- those in religious history and texts.  Tales like the parting of the Red Sea, the works of Jesus of Nazareth, and the flight of the prophet Muhammed.  After a lot of reading and lots of definitions I come back to it really is just any good event that isn’t likely that can’t be easily explained.  Miracles can reward us, teach us, lead us , or enrich us.  Bottom line for this Yule Logger- no matter how you slice it, Christmas is a miracle.  Embracing the miracle of Christmas all year long doesn’t need any explanation.  Join us, won’t you?

The Miraculous Staircase in the Loretto Chapel: A Christmas Story?

chapel staircase2-LOn our honeymoon, I insisted that we see the miraculous staircase in the Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe.  Roger was against this kind of nonsense because the chapel is now privately owned, and there was an entrance fee. The cheesy sign at the door said “Miraculous Staircase TM as seen on Unsolved Mysteries.”    I insisted because I had heard that this chapel is a destination wedding location.  (Indeed, if you are getting married, you may want to look into these affordable packages.)  The new bride won, and we took a quick tour.

Three years later, I had thought that the legacy of our brief encounter with the beautiful spiral staircase was a few photos in our honeymoon album; however, this summer, I found a Norman Rockwell Christmas book at a flea market, and it contained a short story, “The Miraculous Staircase” by Arthur Gordon (originally published in Woman’s Day Magazine in 1982). Gordon told the  same mystery story of the staircase in a Christmas light.  In his story, the nuns had to leave the nearly-finished chapel to serve a measles-ridden village two-days away.  During the time they were gone, a humble carpenter named Joseph arrived on a donkey and built the staircase.  The nuns returned on Christmas Eve, and, at the stroke of midnight, the staircase was revealed.  In the short story and in the legend published online, the carpenter disappeared. There is no record of payment.chapel staircase 3

Here’s a link to the official Loretto Chapel website, which references the story. I have included a short clip from a video that explains the staircase.

I can’t wait to read more of the Norman Rockwell Christmas book.  I have a feeling there will be more Christmas surprises.

A True Tradition- Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Macys LogoAlmost through the first month of our new format for 2014!  My fourth Thursday entry each month will focus on tradition and/or history somehow connected to Christmas.  For January we’ll have a tradition steeped in history or is it  a historic tradition?  Hmm…  Either way, I’m talking about the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  In my family it is most definitely a tradition.  We have watched this parade together since my earliest memories, and definitely every year my sister has been alive.  But the parade has a huge history having just held it’s 87th march.

Macys 2Today the parade is a modern marvel full of dancers, bands, floats, singers, balloons, and technology everywhere.  Over 3.5 million people watch it in person on the streets of Manhattan and 50 million more tune in to watch on TV.  10,000 volunteers and scores of city workers insure the success of the parade in our modern times but it didn’t start that way.  Let’s talk history!  The original Macy’s parade began in 1924.  It is the second oldest Thanksgiving parade in the US.  (the oldest is the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade- originally the Gimbel’s Parade.  Yes, that Gimbel’s!)
The original Macy’s parade was based on and took over a parade  from Newark, NJ where it operated as the Bamberger’s Parade.  That first parade in ’24 was re-named the Macy’s Christmas Parade.  It began in Harlem and moved through Manhattan to end in Herald Square in front of Macy’s Department Store.  It included floats, bands, and animals from the zoo in Central Park.  The parade ended with the arrival of Santa Claus who was crowned as “King of the Kiddies” in front of the store.  Changes started right from the beginning and the parade had been modernized and improved continually for 90 years.  The iconic image with the parade has to be those giant balloons!

Macys 1Balloons were first added to the parade in 1927 with Felix the Cat.  He was filled with just air and carried through the streets by volunteers.  Helium was added to the balloons the next year (we can talk about some of the challenges of the helium balloons another time).  Also in 1928 began the release of the balloons.  They were let go at the end of the parade and each had a label.  If you found the balloon you could return it to Macy’s for a $100 prize!  That practice would end when the competition to “find” the balloons became too dangerous.  But the balloons are still one of the most popular parts of the parade.  Lots of different balloons have been part of the parade over time.  Some of the additions include Mickey Mouse in ’34, Donald Duck in ’35, Bullwinkle in ’61, Underdog in ’65, Cat in the Hat in ’94, and Buzz Lightyear in ’08.  Some balloons have made many different appearances in the parade.  “Harold” is a character who was in 4 different parades (1945-1948) as 4 different characters: a clown, a baseball player, a policeman, and a fireman.  Mickey Mouse, Spiderman, and Hello Kitty are some of the balloons appearing in different versions.  The winner is Snoopy.  Charlie Brown’s pet beagle has had seven different balloons in the parade- a record set in 2013.  A few interesting facts related to these balloons.  During World War II the balloons were given to the military to use- over 650 lbs of rubber!  Macy’s is the largest helium consumer after the US Government.  When a shortage occurred in 1958 the balloons were filled with air and moved through the streets on cranes.

Macys 3Aside from those incredible balloons, how did the parade grow into the global event it is today?  The parades of the 20s were watched by hundreds of thousands of people on the streets of New York.  It has been held every year since 1924 with the only break from 1942-1944 for World War II due to restrictions on fuel, rubber, and helium.  The awareness of the parade grew first from the radio broadcasts of the action.  Yes.  Radio! The parade was broadcast live on radio from 1932-1951.  The first television broadcast of the parade was an experiment in 1939.  Local tv broadcasts started in 1946 and national broadcasts followed in 1947. That year was the same year the parade got lots of attention from the movie Miracle on 34th Street.  The film used filmed scenes from the actual parade the year before.  NBC became the exclusive television broadcaster of the parade in 1952 with the name of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Color broadcasts became the norm in 1960.  NBC has been that exclusive broadcaster for the last 62 years, winning 12 Emmy awards since 1979.  Since the parade is in public other broadcasters can set-up shop and show the parade too.  CBS shows the parade too with the name The Thanksgiving Day Parade on CBS.  You can also catch it on local channels in the New York area and even streaming online.  The three-hour spectacle has become a focal point to officially begin the holiday season.  As we say in my family- “we can’t start our Christmas until Santa gets here”.

So make your plans now to include the parade as part of your holiday plans in 2014.  Tune in 9:00 AM, Thursday, November 27, 2014 on NBC.  Book a hotel and go in person maybe.  Until then find out more about the parade, play games, and shop at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade official website.  You have 308 days to wait for THE kick-off to the holiday season!

*Santa* Brand Book 2013–A marketer’s dream

Two of my dearest friends and my husband are in the marketing business.  When I saw the *Santa* Brand Book 2013, I recognized the perfect marriage of my love of Christmas with the public relations language that surrounds me day and night.

Quietroom, a British advertising agency, has updated their *Santa* Brand Book each year since its creation in 2010.  Every page made me laugh out loud.  Here’s the cover.

*Santa* is a Concept, not an idea. It’s an
Emotion, not a feeling. It’s both Yesterday
and Today. And it’s Tomorrow as well.

When I read this opening, and the pages that followed, I was totally hooked on Santa.  Jeremy and I talk about what will make The Yule Log 365 more of a brand and less of a blog experiment launched by two friends.  Clearly, we need professional help!

Time to Think $$$

christmas-moneyWe’re still getting our routine established for 2014 and Thursdays are my day!  I’ve planned my first Thursday post each month to be music and my second Thursday post to be about crafts, DIY, or home-made gift ideas.  This week, my third Thursday post, will be about money!   That’s right, money.  I might discuss how to get the most for your money.  Maybe it will be something about how to use your money? It could just be more hints on saving your money and planning for the holidays.  The Yule Log has had many posts about saving for the holidays and how to do it in a clever or fun way. Look back at one of our earliest posts from 2012- START NOW!  We’ve been thinking of ways to save since our beginning.   This week that’s exactly what I have for you another fun way to save.

52weekchallenge-lgToday’s idea you may have seen making the rounds on social media. It’s called the 52 week challenge.  The basic premise of the challenge is to set aside a specific amount of money EVERY week.  By taking the challenge you have almost $1,400 at the end of the year.  The popular version out there has you start the first week with putting aside $1.  The second week you put in $2, and so on through the end of the year.  This seems like a fun way to save.  Might be super fun for a family or a young couple to work in together.  I’m imagining a lot of excitement the first couple months as you put away just $5 or $10.  The struggle would be when you get to November and are putting away $45 or more a week.  Even the hardiest saver might find this to be a challenge and that fun-loving young couple will have moved on to new monetary pursuits.

52 week reverseHere’s the twist on the challenge that I support- reverse it!  Start the first week by putting away $52.  Then every week after you save a dollar less.  This means when you get to November you only have to sacrifice $5-$8 a week.  Anyone can do that!  You still end up with the same total at the end  but the “sacrifice” each week is not as high.  You might even decide to put in more that the required amount each week.  I’m going to try it as a new thing for 2014.  This saving coupled with my Christmas account and my $5 jar- I’ll be set for the whole holiday season!

 

Did you know? A yule log burns no more

The Yule Log Washington PostIt wasn’t until I read a letter to the editor in The Washington Post that I remember that there was a yule log display  in President’s Park near the National Christmas tree. For years, huge logs, lifted and deposited by forklift and guarded by a National Park Service employee, burned in the fire pit . Before Roger and I visited President’s Park in 2012 to visit the National Christmas Tree, I vaguely remember standing on the Ellipse on a cold December evening sometime in my childhood–probably the mid-70’s.  With the prompting of this article, I think I remember the fire pit!  (I am going to consult my mother on this issue.)

The yule log was discontinued before the Christmas 2012 season, the explanation being that the design of the annual display left no room for the fire pit, so it was covered over.  I, for one, didn’t realize that we have lost a treasure–until it was too late!  I did find a Facebook page dedicated to resurrecting the fire pit: Bring Back the Yule Log. I’ll be following that page, too.

Here is a more recent letter written by Marsha Schmidt on January 4, 2014 explaining her memory of the yule log and her efforts to have it reinstated.  I think that Jeremy and I should support the return of the yule log and make it our special 2014 mission!

Podcast #60- Wreaths and Gnomes?

crayon wreathPodcast #60- Click here to listen to this week’s podcast- Wreaths and Gnomes?

Tonight Natalie and Jeremy set out to catch up on the 2014 countdown, discuss some recent events, and to review plans for our wreath a month project.  We got to the wreaths eventually but listen in to see how we worked in Fitbit, OCD statistics and numbers, the Disney movie Frozen , and the Travelocity gnome.  It all connects.  Really.  Be ready to make some wreaths with us when you finish listening!

 

Wreath a month? That’s a go!

1510784_10202631586058118_442989884_nFor 2014 my focus is to try to be more organized with my posts.  My first each month will be about music and my second each month will be about creating something for this year’s celebrations.  It might be a craft, some type of DIY creation, or a home-made gift.  This time it’s a craft project- specifically a wreath.  When I was very young my mother made a beautiful wreath using just a wreath frame, green yarn, some wooden beads, and a bow.  It is one of my favorite decorations today- and I have LOTS of decorations:)

Prior to Christmas I attempted to make a small version of the wreath to give as a gift for Secret Santa at work. It went pretty well but it took WAY more hours to do that I predicted.  The supplies and directions are simple.

Supplies:
Flat wreath frame- I used styrofoam- light-weight and affordable.
Sturdy dark green yarn
Red decorative bow

1538794_10202631585698109_1138671801_nDirections:
Cut a piece of yarn about 12 inches long.  Use this to determine the size yarn you will need.  Wrap it around the frame and tie it into a small bow.  Cut off the excess yarn.  THis is the length yarn you will need.  Cut about 100-200 pieces this length to start.
Take each piece of yarn and tie it into a small bow on the frame.  Yarn should be close together, nearly overlapping.  The bows should be tied at different spots on the front face of the frame to give it a full bushy appearance.
Continue cutting yarn and tying bows until the entire frame is covered.
Add your decorative bow when finished.  You may want to add other beads or decorative items.

I intend to make a full size wreath this month.  It will go to the Festival of Trees in November as a donation.  This is the first of my  wreath plan for 2014.  I happened upon a post on the Buzzfeed website titled “50 Wreaths You Can Make Out of Anything”.  Of course I had to read more.  There are lots of great ideas in there.  Some are pretty elaborate and time-consuming (#s13, 18, 37, and 50).  Some are quite simple and quick (#s 4, 16, 33, and 36).  Others are pretty weird or just not my thing (#s8, 14, 41, and 44).  But then there are those that are just right!  My first four to make are #s 2/3, 9, 32, and 43.  That will get me to June.  On our next podcast Natalie and I will be discussing some of the wreaths.  Maybe we can each do one a month?  That would give us 24 wreaths created by the Yule Log.  Sounds like the start of a great plan!

Baby, It’s Cold Outside–No Kidding!

snowflakeOn this cold, cold day, I thought it was appropriate to re-visit the Christmas statistics from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).  Each year, they release Christmas weather statistics for the meteorologically curious.  Outside, this morning, it was a mere 1 degree.  How does that compare to recent Christmases?

In Baltimore, the coldest Christmas on record was within this lifetime–1983 with 3 degrees outside.   The second coldest was 1872 when it was 5 degrees.  In contrast, in 1964, it was a crazy 72 degrees.  Hard to imagine wearing shorts on Christmas when we’re all bundled up inside today.  According to the Farmers’ Almanac, the 1980’s were some of the coldest Christmases on record.

I prefer the Norman Rockwell snowy version of Christmas, even though we’ve seen only a few in the past 50 years, with over 5 inches on snow in 1962 and a little over 4 inches in 1969.

What to do?  Stay inside and keep busy preparing for Christmases yet to come.

  • Start a $5 jar for next year.
  • Try out a Christmas cookie recipe for 2014.
  • Crush your 2013 candy canes and make peppermint hot chocolate or peppermint bark.
  • Put away your Christmas decorations?  (Not yet!  I have to wait a little longer!)
  • Cut up your Christmas cards into gift tags for 2014.

Send your ideas to The Yule Log!