Podcast #65- 90 Days to Go!

Yarn LightsPodcast #65- 90 Days to Go! Click here to listen to the newest podcast- Knitting ornaments and Trivia too!

Listen in to get the latest updates on the Yule Log’s entries for the 2014 Festival of Trees, some quizzes on Christmas Trivia, and an update on the return of our daily posts.  Natalie and Jeremy talk about some Christmas yard sale finds and deliver more details about their tree designs.  You too can be part of the Festival- volunteer to help with the fun! 

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!

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.

Peep Show and Christmas

ChristmasPeepsPeeps, the sugary, marshmallow treat, are a part of just about every Easter basket, on par with candy canes at Christmas.  Jeremy sent a link to The Washington Post’s seventh annual Peeps diorama contest asking me why The Yule Log failed to enter this year.  I could remind him that I sent an article to him LAST year about a similar Carroll County Arts Center Peeps contest.  We can agree that great minds think alike–just on different schedules.  You can expect The Yule Log will be making a Christmas-themed diorama in 2014.

Meanwhile, what will our diorama be called?  Merry Peep-ness?  Santa and his eight tiny Peep-deer?  T’was the Night Before Peep-ness. . .The Peepcracker Ballet . . .The possibilities are endless. The Peeps website lists all of the annual contests, so I’ve marked the page here.  I’m expecting Jeremy to do one of his post-holiday raids on the local stores to stock up on the leftover Peeps. Better yet, I think we should stock up next year on all of the holiday peeps–the neon green trees, the brown gingerbread men, and the white snowmen Peeps.  I had better check the diorama rules to see if ANY kind of Peep is an OK kind of peep–or do we need to stick to lavender bunnies and yellow chicks?

I “LIKED” Peeps on Facebook and took the Peeps personality quiz. (I didn’t get results, but the questions were clever.)  Lo and behold! Peeps has a web page dedicated to Christmas Peeps recipes.  With my belly full of the candy I raided from Roger and C.J.’s Easter baskets, I’m not too motivated to bake anything with marshamallow Peeps, but that’s not to say that I won’t be ready tomorrow.

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!

 

Walking in a Winter Wonderland (literally)

WTD 13This Saturday, January 12th, is Winter Trails Day 2013.  This special day is a national event hosted at hundreds of resorts and nordic centers across the US.  The purpose of the event is to introduce people to the winter sports of snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.  Last year over 10,000 people participated in Winter Trails Day 2012.  The great part about the event is that it’s free!  Each site will have the experts and equipment on hand to help you get started on your new winter activity. Follow the links at www.wintertrails.org to find out all the information you need to get started.

CC skisThe closest location to Frederick is Liberty Mountain Resort in nearby Carroll Valley, PA.  The events at Liberty run from 10:00 am- 2:00 pm.  No registration is required, although pre-registration will save time when you arrive.  Liberty only offers snowshoeing, no cross-country skiing.  They will have 6 educational stations for you to visit as you take a walk on the snow.  Check out www.libertymountainresort.com for all the details.  They also have a great listing of all the fitness benefits of snowshoeing.  If you want to try the cross-country skiing, you can drive a little further to the west to McHenry, MD.  Wisp Resort will offer both activities on Saturday from 9:00 am- 5:00 pm.  You are limited to a 2-hour time to try things out.  They have some fun activities like a kids snowshoe race, a cross-country skiing scavenger hunt, and a bonfire.  For all the specifics on the day head to www.wispresort.com.

SnowshoesSome quick facts before you head out for your first experience:  Anyone can snowshoe.  There is no fancy equipment or techniques to learn, you can start immediately.  You burn 45% more calories snowshoeing than walking or running at the same speed, 46% of snowshoers are women, 12% are ages 7-17, 55% are under 45 years old, and over 1.4 million participate in the activity annually in the US.   It is a peaceful and serene activity- perfect for the mind, body and soul!

If you always wanted to find a fun winter activity that the whole family could do, this is it (and generally no ski lifts).  All ages can participate and it’s a great workout.  It could also be the start to a great Christmas idea for 2013.  New, or slightly used, equipment and gear can be picked up fairly cheap at an end of season sale or swap this spring.  You can plan now for some travel or outings in winter 2013.  Think of the smiles when the gifts are unwrapped and everyone has a ticket to or a coupon for a family winter fun weekend with snowshoeing and cross-country skiing!

 

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!

“Call Me Maybe” and “Gangnam Style” Christmas Light Shows

20121209-013316.jpgHow much did you budget this year for your electricity bill? Just wondering.

My sister, Susan, showed me several lip sync versions of “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen this summer–the Naval Academy, the US Olympic Swim Team, and more. This latest in lawn ornamentation, though, is unreal. The house and yard lights are synchronized to match the music. It makes the Griswold’s efforts look lame. Here’s a YouTube video of a house in Chesapeake, VA, and the Holt Family has a website gives directions. Their light show is synchronized to not one, but four, songs–including “Gangnam Style.”

As if this wasn’t enough. There are two houses that have synchronized lights to “Call Me Maybe.” The second one is equally amazing. Michael Rosenwald’s Washington Post blog reported that a Bel Air, Maryland man has set up 10,000 lights in homage to the pop hit.

Finally, check out this house in Perth, Australia. According to “The 12 Days of ‘Gangnam Style Christmas Light Displays,” the house was shut down after only three days because of the crowds it was attracting. The same article has several links to “Gangnam Style” light shows. I guess you can spend all night watching the videos on YouTube and skip the cold and the crowds.

Black Friday- 2012

You’ve seen the ads, read the posts, and made your decision on this crazy annual transition to the holiday season.  Today was Black Friday 2012.  (well, I guess it technically started on Thursday night this year).  If you have been reading and following the Yule Log then you are familiar with our thoughts and ideas about this uniquely American tradition.  Natalie again posted yesterday promising her manifesto on the subject.  She was home busy cleaning the fridge last night (and nothing says Christmas like clean fruit and veggie drawers).  No cleaning projects for me, I was out in the madness of the moment.  Black Friday has become one of those annual experiences for me.  It just has to be done.  I have gone for years with family, but distance and other factors now let’s me go with new friends.  This year I dragged along my good friend Allie.  It was her first time and we did plenty of prep to be sure she was ready.  Flyers scanned and labeled.  Lists made.  Budget set.  Comfy shoes and snacks on hand.  Apps loaded.  Let me share our play-by-play of the grand adventure:

We began at my house at 7:00 PM.  After some quick strategizing and sharing plans we set out.  First stop was Michael’s for their 30% off everything coupon offering.  Next we headed to Wal-Mart for what they called “Event 1”, the 8 PM deals.  We got in and out by 8:20!  Next we darted cross town to Toys R Us.  Toys and bargains in hand we jumped into our first snaking line of the night.  Christmas luck shined on us and we were directed to a new line that moved really fast.  Out of there and on to Target for some advertised bargains.  First bump in our night- the LONG line in electronics.  We bailed on that part of our quest and check-out in the front lines.  Then it was back to Wal-Mart for “Event 2” at 10 PM.  This was the new option for the mart of the big deals that were guaranteed.  With a TV, blu ray and HDMI cables in the cart we headed to check out.  Screeching halt to our progress as we hit the wall of guests waiting to pay.  The next 50 minutes was spent making new friends in the line and hearing other people’s stories about Black Friday glories from the past (and a weird tale of a worker’s illness). While in the slow line, Allie was finally allowed to use the bathroom too.  When we left Wal-Mart we still had time left to run to Sear’s before the midnight opening of Kohl’s.  Snagged some good deals on tools there and then headed to Kohl’s.

Finally it was actually Friday!  Black Friday for real, landed us in our first outside line of the night.  We queued up in the chilly night air and waited about 8 minutes for the doors to open. We divided and conquered this time.  We swarmed the store, got everything on our lists, and somehow were the first people to check out with our cashier.  Back to the car by 12:10!  On to Best Buy and the largest crowds so far.  The newly remodeled Frederick store threw me for a loop since I wasn’t familiar with the new store layout. We got out in decent time and once again had everything on our list.  By now Allie and I were ready for some food.  Where to go at 2 AM on a Friday?  IHOP of course!  Full of eggs, bacon, and hash browns we headed back to Sear’s for the 4 AM door busters.  While there we also did a short walk-through of the mall (no purchases).  After this my novice companion was starting to fade.  We went to Bsocov’s and Allie stayed in the car to “rest” a little.  I snatched up pillows, socks, and some good gifts for super cheap.  Had to stop at Home Depot next to get my 99 cent poinsettia plants.  Allie “rested” some more:)  The time was now after 5 AM and we were entering hour 10!  Allie was re-energized and we hit our last three stores.  Lowes had BOGO storage bins, a fire safe, and other gifts on the list.  Staples had a crazy deal on some needed school supplies, including Sharpies.   Last stop in Frederick was A.C. Moore for 40% off coupon use.  After a quick pit-stop at my house to unload the car we headed to Timonium for the Festival of Trees!.  We got there a little early so we made one last stop at Wal-Mart to grab the last of our deals- $4 fresh pine wreaths!

Black Friday 2012 was a total success!  Allie is now a veteran and we had a great time on our adventure.  Ending with the Festival of Trees was also really fun and we still had money left to buy some special treats there.  Looking forward to Black Friday 2013!  Who wants to join us?

 

Podcast #43- 34 Days to Go!

Podcast #43- Click here to listen to this week’s podcast- Tree Time!!

“A Christmas Greeting”

It’s finally here!  The 2012 Festival of Trees sponsored by the Kennedy Krieger Institute.  We have been talking, planning, and preparing for the festival for months.  Back in the summer when we created our Christmas bucket lists we added sponsoring a tree for the festival.  That dream has now come true. Today’s podcast was recorded yesterday at the Cow Palace on the Maryland State Fairgrounds.  After seven hours of tree decorating we discussed the festival, the trees and people we saw, and the whole experience.  Listen to hear about zombie trees, alcohol trees, Noah’s tree, a strawberry tree, and more.  We’ll be writing all this week about the Festival and our experiences.  Check-out the Yule Log’s facebook page to see lots of pictures from our day of decorating.

“I Spy Christmas”

Be sure to make your weekend plans to include the 2012 Festival of Trees.  Our 4-foot entry is titled “A Christmas Greeting” and is decorated with all hand-made ornaments constructed out of old Christmas cards.  Our 7-foot entry is titled “I Spy Christmas” and is a puzzle tree with hidden ornaments you can find by following the clues.  You can also see hundreds of other decorated trees, wreaths, gingerbread houses, and more decorations.  There are crafts, music, a carousel, pony rides, and trains.  Santa will be there and so should you.  Order you tickets in advance and save- go to festivaloftrees.kennedykrieger.org.