Podcast #67- 316 Days to Go!

candy cane hearts

Podcast #67- 316 Days to Go!

Click here to listen to our latest podcast- Catching up for 2015!

We try to get back on track this week and collect our thoughts for 2015 podcasting.  Natalie and Jeremy discuss thoughts about holiday bargains, the 2014 Christmas wrap up, and lots and lots of craft ideas!
Snowmen, winter and snow days off from school also feature prominently in our chat leading up to Valentine’s Day 2015.  Listen in for all the details.

Merry Christmas: Sounds of Hawaii

During Christmas season palm trees are decorated with lights in the Normandy Isle neighborhood in Miami Beach, Florida, USAWe checked in this week to find out more about how Christmas happens in Hawaii. One of the topics that came up in our conversation with Siobhan was music.  The same familiar carols, hymns, and holiday songs are heard throughout the islands.  White Christmas drifts out of the speakers right there under the twinkle lit palm trees and Winter Wonderland is heard at the beach side pig roast.  But there are some differences too, like the Hawaiian Twelve Days of Christmas. For most Americans the Hawaiian Christmas song is Mele Kalikimaka.

Hawaiia Santa


This ukulele driven Christmas classic was written in 1949 but Robert Alex Anderson, known for his uniquely Hawaiian sounds.  The song gathered lots of interest and many fans from the start.  The popular 1950 radio recording featured Bing Crosby & the Andrew Sisters.  The song’s name is known as the Hawaiian way to say Merry Christmas.  Not entirely true. It is a translation, of sorts. To get the whole story behind the name we go back to 1778 when Christmas first came to the Islands with the arrival of Captain Cook.  The holiday did not catch on immediately.  It would not become wide-spread until the arrival of New England missionaries in the 1820s.  These missionaries helped to translate the language and to create a written version of the Island tongue.  The words Merry and Christmas were spoken by the Hawaiian natives and due to the differences in language sounded like Mele Kalikimaka.  The terms are a Hawaiian phonetic translation of the English phrase.  Simple.  The lyrics are simple too- basically a repetition of the same two stanzas:
     Mele Kalikimaka is the thing to say
     On a bright Hawaiian Christmas day
     That’s the island greeting that we send to you
     From the land where palm trees sway

     Here we know Christmas will be green & bright
     The sun to shine by day & all the stars at night
     Mele Kalikimaka is Hawaii’s way 
     To say Merry Christmas to you

It really is a happy, cheery little song.  Listen to it’s carefree lilt and imagine a warm breezy holiday picnic on the beach.  This version by Bette Midler should help set the mood.  Aloha!!

HNY HawaiiI learned the Hawaiian phrase for Happy New Year too- Hau’oli Makahiki Hou.  The phrase grew from the period or resting and fasting with 4 months of no war and no conflicts.  The term Makahiki translates to year.  Han’oli translate to Happy, and Makahiki has a track on year.  I will be looking into more foreign language faves in our area for Christmas.

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.

Duncan Royale at Frederick Community College

Display CaseSure enough, just when I “need a little Christmas” I find it at Frederick Community College while I’m searching for a lab in the library. In the main hallway on the first floor, there are two showcases of Duncan Royale Santa figurines gifted to the college by the family of Donald B. Rice, Sr. 

The figure of “Black Peter” caught my eye first because of Jeremy’s explorations into the topic.  The “Sir Christmas” is my favorite.  There is little that I could find explaining the background of these collectibles, produced in throughout the 1980’s and early 90’s.  With limited production, they are now traded at increasing prices from $150+ per figurine.  This link to Christmas Treasures will give you a look at the entire collection.Sir Santa

The display included two books about the Christmas series, so I think my next step is a visit to the local library.Bad Santa

Byers Choice Carolers – Collectibles for me!

BaboushkaByersChoiceRussianSantaCarolers2012We did a series on Christmas collectibles last June, but somehow I missed one of the most interesting collectibles. Jo Boroff, my sister’s mother-in-law, has a house full of the Byers Choice Carolers, and she continues to collect them each year.  What makes these figurines, with their mouths permanently open in song, so special?

This video, which features the history of Carol Byers’ journey from hobbyist to entrepreneur to a family-owned corporation, is inspirational.  Throughout the video, the viewer is treated to a close-up of the crafting process. Unlike other collectibles turned out on an assembly line, these dolls are designed and assembled by artisans, each with his/her own stamp of creativity.

The video also highlights the family’s contributions to charity and the community around them.  It was enough for me to think I need to start collecting these figurines, but at $60 – $100 each, I’d have to think long and hard about the series I would collect–many of the figures are limited to 100 figurines.  The figurine pictured here is “Baboushka.”  I thought Jeremy would appreciate the Russian influence.  This link will take you to the website and the 2013 collection.

The most exciting discovery?  The factory (with a museum and free tour) is only 2 hrs and 38 minutes from  my doorstep, in Bucks County, PA.  I see a field trip in my near future.

The narration of the video concludes with, “The spirit of Christmas is something the Byers’ family specializes in, and they practice it 365 days a year.”   With that attitude, The Yule Log ought to consider investing.

Podcast #50- 336 Days to Go!

Christmas Books 2Podcast #50- Click here to listen to this week’s podcast.  Books, Books, and More Books!

This week we join you from our first Yule Log field trip of 2013.  Our journey took us to the Hagerstown Wonder Book and Video.  We had a little contest to see who could get the most Christmas gifts in 30 minutes with just $25 to spend.  Listen to find out who wins with 12 gifts found.  We also continue to share something to KNOW, something to PLAN, and something to DO.  All of these can be traced back to books in some way or another.  Give a listen and let us know what you think!


Photo Cards: a time capsule

Over the next week, you and I will be taking down and packing away our decorations.  As I specialize in recycled Christmas cards, the ones from this year will be added to my stash, but how about the photo cards?

I like to keep them from year to year and hang them in groups by family.  It’s fun to see how they change and grow.  This article in The Atlantic captures one couple and 40 years of their Christmas photos.  They posed year after year in front of their tree, with their household around them.  Something in these photos is far more honest than our pre-packaged, touched up, sweater-matching efforts of today.


In a modern take on the same topic, blogger Kristi, at “I should be mopping the floor” demonstrated her photo gallery wall.  It’s a beautiful tribute to her family over the years.  I wish I had started this when my boys were young! Maybe it’s not too late for you?


Another simple way to save photo cards that can be a craft with a young child, is to create an annual photo book bound with small rings.  Here’s a link to a step by step tutorial posted at HoneyBear Lane, and I’m sure you can find additional ideas in a similar style.

christmas card book  (12)


The Salvation Army

salvation_armyWhen discussing some groups for giving this year we mentioned the Salvation Army.  We wanted to share more about this familiar organization to anyone shopping this time of year.  The Salvation is an international movement, an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church.  Its message is based on the Bible, it ministry is motivated by the love of God, and its mission is to preach the gospel of JEsus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.  The group was started in London, England by William Booth and his wife Catherine.  In 1852 they started as wandering ministers trying to win the lost multitudes of England to Christ.  By 1865 they stopped the street mission and set-up official shop.  This is seen as the birth of the modern Salvation Army.  Their first converts were made-up of thieves, prostitutes, gamblers, and drunkards.  In 1867 there were 10 full-time workers.  By 1874 they had over 1,000 volunteers.  They named the group “The Christian Mission” and the volunteers called Booth the General and referred to themselves as the “Hallelujah Army”.  In 1878 Booth officially adopted the name Salvation Army.  The group was a huge success in the UK, converting over 250,000 people from 1881-1885.  This success soon spread to America.

Red KettleIn 1879 Eliza Shirley hosted the first meeting in the US in the city of Philadelphia.  The group caught on quickly and successfully spread.  In 1886 President Cleveland welcomed them to the White House.  Soon after came the birth of the iconic red kettles.  In 1891 Captain Joseph McFee promised to find a way to feed the over 1,000 needy people in San Francisco.  He had no idea how to make his idea happen or how to pay for it.  McFee remembered back to his sailor days in Liverpool and a large pot located in port to collect money for the poor.  He created a similar pot in the bay area and raised the money to provide the meals.  This idea spread nationwide fast, by 1897 over 150,000 people were provided meals.  That idea in San Francisco became what we know today as the Red Kettle.  Kettles can be found all over the world from Europe, to Korea and Japan, to Chile.  Funds collected in the kettles are used to help with dinners, clothing, toys, and other financial assistance to those in need.   Today more than 4.5 million people in the US are helped from the kettle giving from Thanksgiving to Christmas each year.

RockTheRedKettleLogoThe Salvation also reaches out in other ways to help raise much-needed funds for their holiday efforts.  For 2012 there are lots of ways to add to the bell ringers efforts.  On December 8th, Walmart joined the efforts with their “Fill the Truck” Campaign designed to fill 18-wheeler truck trailers with toys for those in need.  Hanes has partnered with the Salvation Army to provide 500,000 socks for those in need.  J.C. Penney has their Red Kettle campaign that lets customers round-up their purchase to make a donation to the Salvation Army.  Saturday, December 15th, at 7:30 PM PST you can log-on and tune-in for the annual Rock the Kettle concert.  The concert will be broadcast live on-line from Los Angeles and features music from Hot Chelle Rae, Andy Grammer, Owl City, and more.  For sure the Salvation Army is making sure their message is heard this Christmas.  Please consider dropping some change in the next Red Kettle you see.  If not, at least wish the bell-ringer a Merry Christmas!

My Christmas Room- Jimmy Dean?

Dean- XmasSomething happened today that was quite rare.  I heard a Christmas song that I didn’t know.  I had never even read or seen anything about it!  This is worth noting, for sure.  The song was My Christmas Room, recorded by Jimmy Dean.  It was on his 1965 album, Jimmy Dean’s Christmas Card.  Research showed me that this album is difficult to find and quite the “get” for any Christmas music collector.  Dean was hugely popular in the 50s and 60s.  Outside music he also had TV variety shows and other business ventures, most famously- sausage!

The song is a simple tale about a man that wants to be able to keep Christmas all year (sound familiar?).  He wants to have it in a special room in his house.  He knows that a simple man would not have a great, big house to have a room just for Christmas.  The solution is to keep Christmas in his heart.  Finding this little-known song was a real Christmas treat for me.  Maybe I’ll find a few more in the coming weeks.  You should check out My Christmas Room.  Here are the lyrics so you can follow-along:

Xmas RoomIf I owned a great big house, I’d have a Christmas room.
When things about me all went wrong, I’d find Christmas still in bloom.
There would be a great big tree with evergreen perfume,
Its branches bright with memories safe inside my Christmas room.In summertime when tempers flare, when peace seems a never thing,
I’d slip inside and I’d abide where herald angels sing.

But since I’ll have no great big house when Christmas goes away,
Then make my heart a Christmas heart that carols every day,
And let it be my Christmas where good will toward men shall stay.

In summertime when tempers flare, when peace seems a never thing,
I’d slip inside and I’d abide where herald angels sing.

But since I’ll have no great big house when Christmas goes away,
Then make my heart a Christmas heart that carols every day,
And let it be my Christmas where good will toward men shall stay.