Christmas trees and fire safety

mc-btbonfire-1-013114-nn-tifA North Jersey site published a story today about an annual Boonton Township celebration involving a bonfire of burning Christmas trees, complete with a chili cook-off.  That’s a great way to safely enjoy a tree on fire, under the supervision of the local fire department.  Unfortunately, Christmas trees can be the fuel of much greater disaster.

Closer to home, we read about the recent devastating fire that destroyed a beautiful Annapolis mansion, and, more important, the lives of a loving family, was made more sad when fire investigators determined that the catastrophic blaze was caused by an electrical problem that ignited the 15-ft. Christmas tree skirt and tree.

The key is hydration.  A dry Christmas tree can ignite and burn much more quickly than a well-watered tree.  When a tree begins to lose its needles, that’s when it’s time to take it down.  The National Fire Protection Association demonstrated the very real danger with a video contrasting a fire started with a dry tree vs. one that is hydrated.

PBS News Hour produced a segment about Christmas tree fires that explores a much more scientific explanation about why a tree fire can happen so quickly and be so dangerous.  The video illustrates that tree can ignite and spread in 18 seconds.  Although only a tiny percentage of trees (about 250 of the 30 million sold anually) are involved in fires each year, the cost of the property damage is in the millions of dollars.

All of the safety tips emphasize that trees do not spontaneously combust.  There must be a heat source.  In addition to keeping the tree watered, it should not be set up near a heat source–like a fireplace or heating vent.

When Roger and I light our Christmas tree on fire in the fire pit sometime this summer, the same enthusiasm that I have for the 20-foot blaze will be tempered with my memory of how this same uncontrolled fire can wreck lives.

Podcast #64- 104 Days to Go!

Beach-Shell-Christmas-TreePodcast #64- 104 Days to Go!
Click here to listen to the newest podcast- Time to Start Again!

Natalie and Jeremy are getting back to work.  After a long nearly 6 month break, it is time to refocus our Christmas spirit. We are excited to get back to sharing all the joys of the season. Today we took to the mobile studio and recorded while on the go (forgive the poor recording quality- a little studio trouble). We discuss our lack of Christmas in recent months and our renewed energy for the Christmas spirit. We talk about elves and trees and make the announcements about our tree themes for the 2014 Kennedy Krieger Festival of Trees. Give it a listen and let us know what you think about our tree ideas. Looking forward to getting back to our 2014 structure of KNOW, PLAN, and DO in the coming week.  Merry Christmas everyone!!

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”.  

 

 

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!

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!