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!

O Holy Night- Another Christmas Music Post!

Snowy Holy NightHappy 2014!  I am excited to be writing my first post in the new year.  I’ve been trying to come up with an organizational plan for my weekly posts.  I work much better if I have a plan, or perhaps theme, to guide my actions.  So for my first Thursday post each month I am going to focus on music!  No better place to start than with my absolute favorite Christmas song of all time- O Holy Night.  This song has been at the top of all my lists for years.  It is musically sound and even the worst versions can still prove somewhat enjoyable.  But when it’s good, O yeah!

The song originates in France.  It was written by Adolphe Adam in 1847  for the poem Minuit, Chretiens (Midnight, Christians).  The first performance was in a small french church to celebrate the repair of the organ.  The first singer was a well-known opera singer of the day.  The topic of the poem, and thus the song, is the birth of the savior and our redemption as man.  Check out the opening verse and chorus:

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Til He appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;
O night divine, O night, O night Divine.
 

St P crecheThe song has always had great success over the last 150+ years.  It has been recorded by world renown singers, bands, choirs, and orchestras.  It is part of many small church repertoire for the holidays.  Notably it is part of history as well.  In 1906 it was the first live performance on the new AM radio program.  That first broadcast version featured voice and violin.  It is truly timeless.  A recording made in 1916 is still being sold today!

One of the things I resolve to do with Christmas music this year is to find new versions of songs I love.  For O Holy Night I discovered a great version through a post on a friend’s Facebook page with a recording of Auld Lang Syne.  It featured three singers from the Broadway show Spider-man singing acapella.  I went a little further with some Youtube searching and discovered the had a recording of O Holy Night.  Not just their version, a great version.  Give it a listen-

This is my new go to favorite for this tune.  (Bonus is that one of the three guys is a JMU alum- Go Dukes!)   As I sit here watching the snow fall on a cold winter night it definitely fills me with the spirit of Christmas!

Need a Little Christmas? You can have a piece of 2013.

Noah’s grandmother Christine is the first to decorate the day after Thanksgiving, and she is also the first to pack her decorations, just hours after December 25.

Holiday lights, train, and other displays are disappearing, many ending with the new year, often around the 12th day of Christmas, January 5.

Until January 12, you still have time, though, to witness one of the best gingerbread displays in America, Gingerbread Lane, at the New York Hall of Science in New York City.  This gingerbread display, designated as Guinness World Record Holder, is celebrating its 20th year.  It is the handiwork of one man, chef Jon Lovitch, and he works all year to build his sugar-coated creations.  Here is a great New York Daily News article that includes several videos demonstrating the construction process. What I like best about Lovitch is that he has a PLAN that puts  The Yule Log 365 to shame.  Here’s his annual timeline–and Lovitch does all of this while holding a full-time job!

On January 12, Lovitch disassembles the village and gives away the individual parts—houses, trains, and other confections.  The give-away begins at noon–bring your own cardboard box.

We “scream” for Christmas

The Capitol Christmas tree was lighted this evening.  I wasn’t there, but the video of this evening’s ceremony was posted on Reuters.  Multi-colored lights?  I don’t know how I feel about that.  The tree is beautiful, though.  I hope Roger and I have an opportunity to go to Washington, D.C. this Christmas season.  There are so many tree traditions in our nation’s capital!  New York City, make room.

Scream ornament

On the radio this morning, I heard about a tree that I MUST see this season.  A lesser-known Christmas tree that was lighted today is the Union Station Christmas tree, an annual gift from  the Norwegian Embassy to all Americans.  This tradition, started 16 years ago, usually features a tree decorated with Norwegian ornaments, flags, and other items of national significance.  This year, the tree is decorated with 700 reflective ornaments of Edvard Munch’s famous painting, The Scream.  I’ve included a link here to The Washington Post article.

Multi-colored lights?  Symbols of modern suffering?  What is Christmas coming to?

Podcast #55- 188 Days to Go!

Reagan:Mr. TPodcast #55- Click here to listen to our latest podcast- Unusual Christmas Finds!

We’re back!  Finally Natalie and I found the time to get back to our podcasts.  We are so sorry we have been neglectful of our Christmas audience!  We are back to it, good thing too since there are just 6 months left until Christmas 2013.  Today we get back in the swing with things by making sure you KNOW about lots of very weird Christmas gifts, practices, and ornaments.  We then talk about getting your PLAN in order for this year.  Be it saving, organizing, creating, building, or searching, time is running out to get that special thing finished in time for the holidays.  We close out with making sure we have something to DO.  Jeremy is on the hunt for odd Christmas treasures and building my own nativity.  Natalie is meeting with her mom to set the craft calendar for the rest of the summer.  Thanks for sticking with us and keep checking for more regular updates.  Merry Christmas!

 

Hall of Fame Santas- Class of 2010

Hall of FameIf you’ve been keeping up here at the Yule Log, you will remember us introducing you to the International Santa Claus Hall of Fame.  The purpose is to preserve and honor those who have greatly contributed to the Legend of Santa Claus.  The first class of honorees was names in 2010. Fourteen men served as charter members to the hall.  Today we look at three honorees of note.

Bill-StrotherBill Strother, the Miller & Rhoads Santa, did his work at the famous department store in Richmond, VA.  Born in 1896 Strother started his career as a stuntman.  He started as Santa at the legendary store in 1942.  He took the role seriously.  His makeup was created by Max Factor himself and was incredibly realistic.  It took 2 hours to apply.  His Santa display was a real act.  He arrived by coming out of a chimney.  He used a concealed microphone with his assistant to learn the names of the kids before they got to his lap.  A news article in 1951 reported that he was the world’s highest paid Santa.  Tens of thousands of kids, and adults, would visit him until his untimely death in 1957 in a car accident.

Edmund Gwenn

Edmund Gwenn

Edmund Gwenn was the jolly Santa in the Hollywood classic, Miracle on 34th Street.  Gwenn was born in 1875 in Wales.  His father kicked him out at the age of 17 when he reveled that he wished to be an actor.  Gwenn found his way to London where he was lucky to be discovered by George Bernard Shaw.  Shaw would feature Gwenn in six of his plays.  The actor would take a break from the stage to serve in the army during World War I.  After the war he moved to Hollywood and found work in many films.  He iconic role in Miracle landed him an Oscar in 1947 for playing Kris Kringle.  Gwenn played Santa in the actual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1946 and 1947.  

Robert George

Robert George

Robert George was known as the Presidential Santa.  George was born in 1928 in Nebraska and worked as a barber.  In 1949 George had a vision that he should live as Santa Claus.  After the vision he began living as Santa year round.  His first Christmas after that he spent the holidays being Santa for needy kids and sick seniors.  Fate seemed on his side when he was invited to be Santa in Washington for President Eisenhower.  In 1962 George moved to California.  He married Stella Chaney, daughter of screen legend Lon Chaney.  Their home was decorated year round for the holidays and was known as “Santa’s Dreamland”.  His role as Santa in Washington continued for Presidents Kennedy, Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Bush.  In 1997 his life was the basis for the Lifetime television movie “A Different Kind of Christmas”.  George passed in 1998.  

There are so many great men, and even a couple of women, in the Hall of Fame.  Keep checking back for more about the most interesting ones in the coming weeks.  

Podcast #53- 259 Days to Go!

angels1Podcast #53- Click here to listen to this week’s podcast- Recycled Angels and Famous Santas!

Natalie and Jeremy are back!  It’s been over a month since we last did a recording.  Far too long!  We have both decided that the new method of posting and recording isn’t really working for us.  We don’t do well with the every few days and every couple of weeks Christmas fun.  We need the daily Christmas joy and excitement to keep the spirit alive.  This week’s podcast starts with something to DO: make angels out of recycled soda cans.  Natalie found the plans and we tried them out today.  Hear how we did it and listen to our  opinions of the craft.  Next we get to things we need to PLAN: like our very own Festival of Trees.  Listen in to see how we are planning to bring this activity to our own place of work.  We challenge you to plan a way now to increase the joy of Christmas with others this year.  Finally we close out our recording with something to KNOW: your introduction to the International Santa Claus Hall of Fame.  Wet your appetite for interesting Santa tidbits.  Find out why Mickey Rooney was inducted into the Hall in 2012.  We will be posting more on this topic in the coming days but this is a good start.  Merry Christmas!

angels2angel

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!

Santa and Christmas – Gangnam Style

5:45 a.m.  A blur of dancing Santas on the gym television screens caught my eye.  From Australia, a group of 150 were dressed as Santas and dancing Gangnam style on the deck of the Australian naval ship HMAS Ballarat in Sydney Harbour.

The purpose was to raise awareness for a charity fun run next month, where organizers expect upwards of 5,000 Santas in Sydney and 25,000 throughout Australia.  Through this huge event, Variety, the Children’s Charity, delivers millions to help poor, disadvantaged, and handicapped children.

No podcast today!  The whole house smells like mint and chocolate because I’m baking candy cane topped brownies tonight to prepare for our tree designing party tomorrow. (My first “from scratch” brownies.  Recipe from Sugar Plum Blog here.) We’re gathering at Jeremy’s house to practice setting up our trees for the Kennedy Kreiger Festival of Trees, and we plan to have the entire group help us to record our weekly podcast.  More tomorrow!