Snowflake Bentley would have loved January 21, 2015

1999_Snowflake_BentleyAlthough he isn’t strictly Christmas, I bet Wilson A. Bentley (1865-1931), the first man to ever photograph a snowflake, would have loved the wet snowfall yesterday. The snowflakes were huge, ideal conditions for studying the hexagonal ice crystals.

I stumbled across a short documentary about him when I was looking for more paper snowflake crafts.  His obsession with capturing the snowflakes on his Vermont farm required a unique rig of a microscope attached to one of the first cameras.  This type of photography is called “photomicrography.” In his lifetime, he took photos of over 5,000 snowflakes, one at a time–in a place where there snowfall averages 120 inches a year, I guess he really loved snow.  As the flakes fell from the sky, he caught them on a black velvet-covered tray.  Then, he pushed them into position with a chicken feather so he could photograph each one.

(I’ve got plenty of chicken feathers but none of the obsessive patience it must have taken to do this!)

The Jericho Historical Society was established in 1972 to preserve Bentley’s life and legacy, and this year they celebrated the 150th anniversary of Wilson Bentley’s birthday.  In conjunction with the historical society, there are authorized snowflake gifts for purchase.

One way to learn more about this remarkable man is to read about him.In 1998, Jacqueline Briggs Martin and illustrator Mary Azarian published Snowflake Bentley, based on the true story of his life.  Azarian won the 1999 Caldecott Medal for her illustrations.

I would like to buy a copy of this book for my grandson.  We love “spiriments,” and I can imagine he and I would be out in the cold trying to gather snowflakes to photograph. The photos would make beautiful Christmas cards or winter thank you notes.  Watch out. . .I’m cooking up a great idea. . . and from the weather report, it looks like we might have our photo opportunity this weekend.  Fingers crossed!

bentley-snowflakes

 

 

Blessed be the chalk!

Epiphany ChalkYesterday Natalie wrote a little recalling some Epiphany posts of the past. It sparked me to review some ideas and practices for the liturgical feast.  Today Epiphany is celebrated at the mass on the Sunday between January 2 and 6, but the actual feast day is the 6th (or the 5th if you stick to the strict Julian calendar dates of old- but that’s a whole other post).  The feast combines the major points that showed the new baby Jesus being recognized as man and God’s flesh on earth- the adoration of the Magi, the baptism of Jesus in the river Jordan, and the 1st miracle of the wedding feast in Cana.  The importance and level of recognition of the feast varies around the world today.  It is relatively unnoticed in the US but continues to be a national holiday in places like Finland, where all but a few essential services are closed.  Traditions of the day include activities like the baking of the king’s cake, community carols, and gifts for the children to represent the gifts of the Magi. Did you remember to replace your shepherds with the wise men in your nativity scene?

The formal mass for the feast includes the blessing of the gifts the Magi brought- the gold, the Frankincense, and the myrrh.  Also blessed is sone epiphany water and some chalk. Chalk? That’s right chalk.  The chalk is blessed with the prayer: “Bless, O Lord God, this creature chalk to render it helpful to men. Grant that they who use it in faith and with it inscribe upon the entrance of their homes the names of thy saints, Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, may through their merits and intercession enjoy health of body and protection of soul. Through Christ our Lord.”

Epiphany Chalk 2At the end of mass people take some of the epiphany water and the chalk home.  The water is used to bless the rooms of the house for the new year.  The chalk is used to bless the house.  To do the blessing the chalk is used to write above the door to the house like this 20 C + M + B 15.  The 20 signifies the millennium and century and the 15 the decade and year.  The C, M, and B are the initials of the Magi- Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar but also represent the blessing “Christus mansionem benedicat”- Christ bless this house.  The blessing remains above the entryway until Pentecost (May 24th).  As an added little challenge, tradition holds that the first time any enter through the door they should step first with the right foot- maybe the origin of the phrase “starting out on the right foot”.

Epiphany ChalkI didn’t make it mass to get chalk last Sunday but it’s ok for the “father of the house” to do a blessing as the note is made above the door: “Let us pray. Bless, + O Lord God almighty, this home, that in it there may be health, purity, the strength of victory, humility, goodness and mercy, the fulfillment of Thy law, the thanksgiving to God the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. And may this blessing remain upon this home and upon all who dwell herein. Through Christ our Lord.”  A blessed and happy new year to you all!

What’s the cost of those 12 Days of Christmas?

12 Days D3I had a little extra time while working with a group of kids today. To finish up our time, groups were challenged to see who could list all the gifts of the classic song Twelve Days of Christmas first.  Funny enough none of the groups got the list just right- not sure about the ducks and the chickens that were suggested- HA! After reviewing all the correct gifts for each of the days, the groups were challenged to guess what the cost of the gifts might be.  Following a WILD set of guesses we went to the web and found this little gem: The PNC Christmas Price Index.

According to the website the index was started 31 years ago by one of the economists at PNC.  HE wanted to know what the cost would be for one set of each of the gifts listed in the song.  This initial quest for knowledge has become 30 years of looking at the adjustments and cost rise and fall over time. You can see trends in the US economy reflected in the Christmas Price Index.  The site is pretty cool. There is a lot of interesting financial info- you can look at the total price over time, the price of individual gifts over time, and look how things as varied as the internet and fuel cost have affected the prices.  There is a complete separate section of the site the provides educators with ways to use the information to implement some lesson on financial literacy (don’t be surprised in my classes if you see this round about the 22nd and 23rd).

Great CarolThe site also has lots of fun and clever parts to it.  There is a section dedicated to “updating” the song itself since it “has fallen to an all-time low in popularity”. The section is titled The Great Carol Comeback and features cool renditions of the song for each of the 12 gifts.  Future classics like “Milk Bucket Music”, “Golden Ring Orchestra”, “Bird Call Quartet” and “French Hen Hairband”.  Be sure to check out all twelve of the The Great Carol Comeback.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the 2014 price of one set of all gifts is $27,673.21.  Seems fair, right?

Podcast #63- 275 Days to Go!

Christmas SPiderPodcast #63- 275 Days to Go! Click here to listen to this week’s podcast- Teens & Spiders!

This week Natalie & Jeremy cover a strange range of Christmas topics.  We start with the legend of the Christmas spider (some get rich slow ideas here). We then move to some discussion on our trees, teapots, old ladies, and a plan.  We wrap up with our actual topic for the show- Teen Gift Giving.  How do you shop for those 13-19 year olds in your life?  What are the best gifts?  Is it a mini-fridge?  A book?  A gift card?  Heck- maybe it’s a spider!!

 

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?

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!