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?

$100K Neiman Marcus Chicken Coop for Christmas?

beau-coopStopped into Tractor Supply for a chicken font, and the air was filled with the little peeps of chicks.  This time last year, Roger was building our own chicken house, laboring over the roof, windows, and  siding.  Where’s the chandelier you might ask?

If Roger had just consulted the Neiman Marcus Christmas Book 2012, he could have purchased a $100K chicken house, the “beau coop.”  Blogger Matt Hickman described the Christmas luxuries available in the Neiman Marcus fantasy gift catalogue highlighting the chicken house, complete with a library for human visitors.  What the gift catalogue description fails to provide is the monthly cleaning service because all chickens poop, even high class cluck girls.

The Christmas Book begins with nearly affordable gifts, some even under $100, but most are several hundred to several thousand dollars.  The fantasy gifts go way beyond unreal.  I would have liked a walk-on role in the Broadway musical, Annie, but at $30,000, I bet I would have been cast as one of the evil orphanage matrons, perhaps Miss Hannigan’s sister.

For kicks, check out the Christmas Book 2012, and I’ll let you know when the 2013 version is released in October.  I wonder if Neiman Marcus needs suggestions for future gifts.  I’m sure I can think of some!

A Very Merry Christmas Museum

NCCIt’s been only three weeks since Christmas 2012, but already it seems a lifetime ago.  The rush of life moves forward and the joy and glow of the holidays can quickly fade.  As I was seeking some facts for my post today (all about a monthly collection for gifts- come back the 20th for that) I came upon some lists of events in history for January 15th.  I read about the opening of the British Museum (one of my absolute favorites) on this day in 1759.  That got me on a quest to find out about any Christmas Museums.  Yes, there are many: small, large, seasonal, parts of other museums.  You name the type and you’ll likely find a display somewhere, but very few that are full-time, year-round exhibitions of Christmas.  There’s the Christmas Story House in Ohio, the Santa Claus Museum in Indiana, the Aluminum Tree and Ornament Museum in North Carolina, and the Hallmark Ornament Museum in Indiana.  Incidentally that last one houses the only complete collection of every Hallmark Ornament produced since 1973!  The one that stuck out as THE one for me was the National Christmas Center, located in Paradise, PA.

NCC1The National Christmas Center is one of the sights found on the Travel Channel’s list of the “Most Christmasy Places in America”.  Joining this small town attraction on the list were Branson, MO, Las Vegas, the Mall of America, and FAO Schwartz- pretty big deal company!  The Center is a family attraction and museum located just off Route 30 in Amish Country in south-central Pennsylvania.  Their title includes the phrase “Experience the wonder of the world’s most beloved holiday”.  It definitely seems like it lets you do just that.  The Center is open to the public weekends in March and April and daily from May through December.  Groups can tour the center in January and February.  Adult admission is $12 with discount tickets available easily online.  The center offers both a local and an online gift shop.  There are 15 main galleries covering thousands of square feet and many smaller exhibits of a more personal size.  The galleries focus on a particular aspect or historical aspect of Christmas.  Yes, Virginia shares a recreation of the story around the famous letter.  Santa’s workshop is recreated and you can see scenes from Christmas Around the World.  There is a look into Santa History, Christmas Antiques, Tudor Towne, and Train Mountain.  A popular draw is the gallery of 1950s Woolworth, showcasing the look and products of that time.  My pick would be the life-size recreation of the First Christmas and the collection of hundreds of Nativity Scenes.  One gallery has a 3/4 life-size nativity set carved from wood, nearly 100 years old.  Take the virtual tour on the center’s website to see a glimpse of each gallery.  It certainly seems like a great trip for any time of the year.  Check out the review by Skye, a real-life mom of 5, on Real Mom Reviews for some thoughts on taking the kids, seems like a solid plan.  Maybe this will make the list for our field trips in 2013!

Stocking Stuffers? Amazon Add-ons has what you need

hutzler-banana-slicerMelissa Guynes Kirkner posted a link to a “Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer” on her Facebook page with the cryptic comment:  “I know what everyone is getting for Christmas this year!”  I took the bait and clicked through to the Amazon link.  Melissa suggested we read the customer reviews–and she was right.  There’s enough satire there to browse for a while–and for an English teacher to use as a future lesson:  “Root cause for our obesity” and “Threat to Our Democracy.”  All humor aside, the Amazon Add-On program is a gem of an idea for you to find easy stocking stuffers at little cost.

The Add-On program is simple.  Amazon offers free super-saver shipping for orders over $25, but many of us manage to select items that bring us to within five dollars of that amount.  For just a few dollars more, you can meet the free shipping minimum and stock up on unusual stocking stuffers–like bacon flavored toothpicks.

Today, there are 263,165 Add-On items for you to browse and buy.  Look for the little blue “Add-on” flag.  Waste of a Sunday afternoon?  To each his own.  I spent a while browsing the Add-Ons and came up with some gems that are silly, practical and/or odd.  Somehow I shopping wandered all of the way to mustache chip clips.

Then, I began clicking through the seasonal decor, all on deep discount.  Heaven help me!

You still have a full 11 months of shopping before 2013. The next time you’re making an Amazon purchase, consider adding something on from Santa.

My disorganized Christmas observations: the “big day” is less than a week away

tumblr_mdyht3O72N1rzx3umo1_500Tonight, I am going to write about the “other Christmas,” the one that doesn’t go the way we wish. The one where the present isn’t exactly right.  The one where your Christmas tree falls down–not once–but THREE times.

I was returning some Christmas ornaments at Wal-Mart yesterday, and the cashier next to me generated a receipt that literally fell to the floor and curled up in circles.  Seems the customer was purchasing 100 Wal-Mart gift cards.  I’m sorry to report that I did not ask what he was going to do with those gift cards. I am figuring it was a charitable venture.  While his gift cards may be going to a good cause, many of us will receive gift cards that remain unspent.  In fact, Business News Daily reports that $1.7 billion in gift cards will not be redeemed.  The good news is that when we do redeem the gift cards, we spend an average of $25 more to than the face value.  That’s a plus for the businesses.

I buy gift cards all the time, and I especially like the huge variety of cards available, but I admit to having a special gift card pouch where I keep the ones Roger and I have not used, and that’s a lot.

Unrelated to gift cards, here’s another link I stumbled across.  Curious about the British royals and how they will spend Christmas?  So am I!  The official news reports lunches and dinners in a steady stream of celebration, punctuated by observations about Kate’s daily maternal well-being.  The unofficial version is in Alison Jackson’s photo shoot for People Magazine.  Will and Kate look-alikes pose in a number of irreverent photos of the imagined Will and Kate Christmas.  Check it out!

Jeremy has been seriously counting down his top 10 Christmas secrets, and they’re something I look forward to each month. This list is 19 lessons we could learn from our favorite Christmas movies.  Loved Lesson #1:  Think about the size of the Christmas tree you’re going to get because you’re the one who has to bring it home.  The movie clip shows Hagrid dragging the Hogwarts tree in the snow.  The rest are cute and clever. I don’t think Jeremy’s tree woes are due to the size of his tree, though.

Last random thought?  If your Christmas tree does fall down several times, you need a new tree stand.  Roger and I have a Davis tree stand that looks a little like something from a ’60’s sci fi movie, but it is amazingly sturdy.  This link demonstrates how it works.  Despite phone calls all over the Baltimore area, I was unable to find one to gift to Jeremy.  Does anyone know where we can buy this?

Back to my holiday meltdown. . .

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?


Ready or not!!

Well, it’s official. Christmas is coming! If you went into any retail store today you couldn’t miss the arrival of the holiday merchandise displays. Years ago we had to wait until Thanksgiving to see the multitude of offerings from every store and company out there. Today it starts super early. Even weeks ago you could find some small displays of Christmas items, but today is the full-on arrival of the holly and the ivy. As soon as the kids head to bed after trick-or-treating the stores transform the halloween displays to winter wonderlands. Candy corn makes way for candy canes and Casper the Friendly Ghost gives his shelf space to Frosty the Snowman. It can make for quite the odd vision if you catch it in mid-changeover!

The switch to all things Christmas is not limited to retail displays. Magazines and other media get on board too. The November issues of some of the local magazines arrived today and include all the details on how to get your Christmas rolling right now. Complete calendars of parades, parties, concerts, and more crowd the pages. Sales ads are focused on gift suggestions and holiday displays. Target and Toys-R-Us sent out their mini-catalogs full of ideas. I noticed my first lit tree on the way home tonight- bright white LED lights. It’s exciting that the rest of the world is catching up to us at the Yule Log in preparing for Christmas 2012. All that remains is for radio stations to start playing Christmas music and the transformation is complete!

Another little note about today’s importance. November 1st is All Saints Day too. Or All Hallows or Solemnity of All Saints for Catholics. (FYI, a Solemnity is the highest ranking feast day in the liturgical calendar. The observance begins with a vigil the night before.) This day is in honor off all the saints, even the unknown. There is a lot of good reading about the history of the celebration, definitely worth a read. Start with a google search and enjoy.

Christmas Light Exchange

Today I did a little searching to find out more about LED Christmas lights.  I discovered that for the last three years Home Depot has offered an exchange program for new LED lights.  The program is designed to replace your old lights with new energy-efficient lights.  In 2011 Home Depot offered a $5 off new lights coupon in exchange for your old lights.  You could get up to 5 coupons, a $25 value.  Here’s the catch: the 2012 trade-in event only lasted for ten days (11/3-11/13)!  Home Depot hasn’t announced any details for a 2012 exchange yet.  Keep your eyes open on those flyers for the dates and specifics for an exchange this year.  Lowe’s is expected to have a similar offer this fall.  I don’t currently own any LED lights.  I am considering a trade, but we’ll have to see what the offers are.  Maybe we should use LED lights for our Festival of Trees entries too, hmm…

Fall = Craft Festivals!

Fall has officially arrived!  It is October and that means there’s some type of festival, craft fair, or show every weekend.  This is the perfect time to get out and about and spark your Christmas ideas.  These shows run from the simple to the elaborate.  There are smaller church and neighborhood fairs.  Maybe a local fire company fundraiser or a local PTA night of crafts.  There are larger “shows” that might require an admission or some travel.  These are usually much larger and at some location like a fair or carnival grounds or maybe in a field house or warehouse.  Then there are the mega festivals that are full-on magnets for the craft crowd.  These are the ones that take over a whole town and can be your whole day.  Whatever your taste, get out there and visit one or two.  Your approach can take a variety of angles.  You could just go and watch the people and observe the crafts and creations to get ideas.  This can be of supreme value.  You might find just the right home-made inspiration to spark your own gifts this holiday season.  Maybe you’ll discover a new local candy or cookie that you will introduce to your family and friends come December.  The ideas you can absorb at these fairs is unlimited.  Of course if the idea is that good you might just have to purchase it.  Fairs and festivals can be great places to get amazing gifts.  Unique and original items are everywhere.  Might be the perfect pair of earrings for your sweetie, maybe that awesome wool sweater for mom, an original watercolor for dad, or some clever ornaments for the children.  Believe me- if you can think of it, you can probably find it out there somewhere.  Get in the car and let’s go!  Here are some local possibilities for your upcoming weekend adventures:

Oct 5-7: Sugarloaf Craft Festival in Timonium, MD
Oct 6: Cultural Arts Festival in Oakland Mills, MD
Oct 6-7: Fall Fest Weekend in Mt. Airy, MD
Oct 6-7: Railroad Days in Brunswick, MD
Oct 10-14: Autumn Glory Festival in Oakland, MD
Oct 13-14: Catoctin Colorfest in Thurmont, MD
Oct 13-14: Great Pumpkin Festival at Summers Farm in Frederick, MD
Oct 20: Myersville Harvest Festival in Myersville, MD
Oct 20: Holiday Craft Show at Westminster High School
Oct 20-21: Fall Harvest Days in Westminster, MD
Oct 27: Fall Frolic at Glen Echo Park in Glen Echo, MD
Oct 27-28: Christmas Craft Fair in Salisbury, MD
Oct 28: Halloween on the Farm at Crumland Farm in Frederick, MD


Boston and Christmas

I have trained my family well. Ian and Lacey are visiting college friends in Boston, and where do they go? Christmas in Boston, a store open year- round, dedicated to Christmas.

Like the Christmas Spirit stores in Ocean City and Rehoboth, Lacey found that every tree was decorated with a specific theme, and she sent photos of her favorites, including the Irish tree.

No time to travel to these distant cities? The website, Christmas in NYC, has all of the ornaments grouped by the same themes. I love how I can select “pets” and have plenty of ornaments and other decorations to choose.


At home, I’ve been working on a project that I saw on Pinterest, turning ordinary assorted tins into extra glamorous gift containers. I’ll post photos as soon as I’m done.