Today's post is a double dipper. The same post going up on both of my blogs. Decorating the public garden for Christmas is where my passion for horticulture and Christmas come together. Along with the whole horticulture crew I decorated a 30 foot spruce with ornaments. The main thing that made this possible was the availability of large shatter-proof ornaments at a local big box center. Without this I would have needed a lot more money. These 10 dollar ornaments have been 4 to 6 times that online.
The first time I saw that sturdy Spruce I wanted to decorate it for Christmas!
There is an image here of my boss on the ladder that gives you an idea how high up the ornaments had to be placed. What you cannot get a sense of is the difficulty in getting the ladder positioned to keep the climber and safe, not to mention the ferocity of the wind.
Did you think I was going to say Happy Groundhog Day? Today is February 2nd, and that means that Punxsutawney Phil comes outside to tell us whether we will have 6 more weeks of winter. Sounds really American doesn't it? Well, it comes from Germany, like much of our Christmas tradition. Candlemas is a Catholic holiday that comes 40 days after Christmas and marks the end of the Christmas season. Why 40 days later, you ask? This is the Feast of the Purification of The Virgin. According to Jewish law the Mother of a "man child" is considered unclean for 7 days, and she remains for 3 and 30 days "in the blood of her purification." Sheesh, no wonder we don't hear much about this. As the name implies, this is also the day that Catholics, and Orthodox Christians, have their candles blessed for use in the home.
More relevant to we American Christmas fans, Candlemas Eve marks the date to remove all greenery. It is said that each remaining piece of greenery after this date represents a goblin you will encounter during the year! If you keep your Christmas tree up throughout January and your friends and neighbors scoff at you, let them no that everything stays up 'till Candlemas Eve!
So, what's up with the Groundhog thing? Well, back in old Germany, Catholics have a tradition of watching for the hedgehogs shadow as a prognosticator of winter's end. They brought that tradition along with Christmas trees and candles and Christmas carols, etc. Just like with those other German traditions the Americans added the fireworks and hoopla.
What's that, you say? It isn't Christmas yet here in the States? Well, It is noon on Christmas Day in Japan. Merry Christmas Jason and Asami. Do you know that Santa Kurohsu has eyes on the back of his head for watching how children behave? Perhaps Daikoku or Hotei-osho will bring you luck! Today I am posting a few links to fun Christmas sites. The first is called Is It Christmas? If you have been visiting this site you know that the excitement is building! Here is a Xmas tree made entirely of Mountain Dew cans. Next, cool photos of Xmas lights being used in more personal ways. Here is a neat link to a hand bell game, try to keep up with the tune, play with your kids. Here is an astonishing light show coordinated to music, (when will someone put one of these together without completely ruining the song), still cool though. And, finally, a big thank you to my wife for finding this website, The Astonishing Adventures of Lord Likely. Lord Likely reminds me that I have not posted a link to my favorite non-Christmas website, boasting the most extensive collection of images and information on Victorian-era robots.
Happy Holidays everyone! This is a special post today. You see, because I'm crazy for Christmas, people like to ask; "Danatello, what do you need for Christmas?" The truth is I found everything that I need in life the day that I met Amanda, December 19, 2000. Today I want to tell you about a couple of special websites. I learned about them from 2 BBOH readers; my friend Sheila in Brooklyn, and Uncle Dan in Illinois.
First, Uncle Dan wrote to tell me about a super cool website for disabled folks. In our family we have both mental and physical disabilities. The website is called Ouch! I am embarrassed to admit that I had not considered that disabled people may be visiting this blog, for shame! I am linking to the Christmas page, but be sure to read the about page also, thanks.
Sheila writes to tell me the sad tale of her friend's son Liam. Liam, along with hundreds of kids per year in the U.S., has been diagnosed with Neuroblastoma. That's a form of pediatric cancer. Historically funding for pediatric cancer research has been low. This year the parents have gotten together and baked 8,000 dozen cookies in order to fund research. As I write this, all the cookies have been sold! (Darn, I have to learn to type faster.) Selling all of those cookies was incredible, but there is still more to do. Please visit the Cookies For Kids' Cancer website and learn more about how you can help. Here is a link to Liam's blog. Here's a song for Liam, Merry Christmas.
In an earlier post I discussed the story of the missing Holiday Jingles cookies. As I have said, a regional brand here in the Midwest called Salerno made these incredible Christmas cookies when I was growing up. Years ago they were bought out by Keebler. Down the road Keebler sold them. Of all the Salerno cookies, the only one that Keebler held onto was Holiday Jingles. Interestingly they did not actually keep the recipe, just the name. More interested, I guess, in the marketing than the actual product. Today, Salerno markets the same recipe as Santa's Favorites and Keebler puts out Keebler Jingles.
TODAY I was shopping for boots at Target and, low and behold, they were carrying both brands. I have just completed the taste test and I have some bad, real bad, news for those of you who can get the Keebler one...
They suck. This has nothing to do with my childhood memories, just my honest review, worst cookie ever! When I was a kid we made ornaments out of dough that were not for eating, just for looking, but kids being kids, we always made each other eat one. That's exactly what these Keebler crap sticks taste like.
My advice, if you have moved away and cannot get the Salerno Santa's Favorites, beg a family member or friend to send you some, they can find them at Target.
If you have not seen this yet, there is a website where you add your face to a funny elf video set to music. Oh, that's not me over there, that's my wife, cute, huh? here is a link to our video. After you watch you can make your own with up to to 4 characters. The same company also made a Scrooge Yourself website. Here is a link to my Scrooge. Just for fun, here's a link to my It's A Wonderful Life elfamorphosis, featuring George Bailey, Old Man Gower, Clarence and Mr Potter. And, how about my wife and I elfed as South Park caricatures? Here's the link.
After you watch a video you can make your own. Please come back a post the address for your elf video into the comments.
What are you waiting for? Go Elf yourself!
This book tells the story of what happened one Christmas Eve when Blitzen et al came down with a cold and poor Santa was left in the lurch! Santa talked to a friendly whale who agreed to be piloted by the jolly elf so that children would receive their gifts. The Christmas Whale is a cute little children's story written in 1945... or is it? Believe it or not, the story is true, I have seen documentation of the events that lead up to this epic occasion, as well as the movements hence of the now famous creature. I am part of an amateur group that has been investigating the whereabouts of this friendly cetacean. After decades of reasearch we are convinced he resides in Lake Michigan trapped by man's makeover of his ancient realm. For most of the year he is way up north by Canada and lumbers about Lake Superior, but in the dead of winter, when the northern waters freeze, he comes down to the warmer waters of Chicago. Long before I knew my wife I used to go out looking for him in December aboard the Red Witch. When you're in Chicago you can go whale watching on Friday nights aboard the Red Witch, I just probably wouldn't mention that you're looking for the Christmas Whale. Some day, I'll meet the creature, mammal a mammal, and look into his giant eye, look into his giant heart, to thank him and wish him Merry Christmas!
Now available for your video iPod is a screensaver version of the WPIX Yule Log. The Yule Log program ran on WPIX in New York on Christmas Eve and Christmas day every year from 1966 to 1989. It has started up again since 2001. The WPIX Yule Log is a 4 hour long program with nothing on the television screen except a loop of the fireplace at Gracie Mansion, the mayor's official residence. Along with the fire is a track of traditional Christmas music by some of my favorites like The Ray Conniff Singers, Arthur Fiedler/Boston Pops, Percy Faith and Nat King Cole. The idea is that New Yorkers who don't have a fire can enjoy the look of one on television. That is one of the coolest things any big city mayor has ever done. A screensaver version is now available for your iPod. Here is a link to the download page. (The download link has gone away again, I'll contact someone about it this season, 2008; here is a link to the Yule Log on youtube.)
Here are 2 interesting facts about the Yule Log program. The original movie had to be reshot in 1969, but because a fine rug had been ruined during the '66 recording, the mayor would not allow the reshoot at Gracie Mansion. The fireplace we have seen since was shot at a home with similar andirons that was found in California after a nation wide search. The Yule Log is featured in the movie Metropolitan. This movie tells the story of the decline of the debutante lifestyle in NY in the eighties. If you like movies set at Christmas time, this one is really well written and one of my favorites to watch. I Tivoed it last night and I am going to watch it tomorrow.
This evening, my wife took me to a store called Old Time Pottery. This place was gigantic like an Ikea and they have endless rows of home decor. They claim to be the largest Christmas store, and I don't know if that's true, but they certainly have a lot of Christmas stuff. Everything is at unbeatable prices. If you have one of these within 50 miles you should check it out. The same artificial alpine tree that's $30 in other stores is marked $8.88. Everything is priced like that. You might not find the quality that you need in some things, but these prices are crazy. They had an aisle of gift boxes and bags with the biggest selection I have seen, and again, for maybe half the price. Also, because they have all kinds of home decor, you might also find some good gifts just by exploring. Here's a Christmas song to get you in the mood for the Christmas Rush.
I grew up in Chicago. Of course, I have found memories of Christmas. As an adult I have been looking to enjoy the things that made Christmas special. A short list of things that I enjoyed at Christmastime includes; Firestone Christmas records, oranges in my stocking, homemade stockings, cut rock candy from Peerless in Chgo, a live Christmas tree, turkey, ham, stuffing, pretzels in a giant tin container, a variety cheese wedges in a green plastic tray, venison sausage, hanging c-9 Christmas lights outside, golden Christmas lights on the artificial tree, life size Empire light up Santa Claus blowmold, copious amounts of black tea, a wood burning fireplace, small fabric elves, homemade ornaments including Styrofoam balls pierced with glittering costume jewels and a little drummer boy made from a wooden clothes pin, pumpkin pie, and Salerno Holiday Jingles.
Today my wife bought me a box of Santa's Favorites cookies, which was quite sweet of her. Are you asking, "Where are the Holiday Jingles" Here's the short version. Salerno, a regional company, made Holiday Jingles for as long as I can remember. These were anise flavored cookies with red and green sprinkles in a green cardboard box. Those cookies no longer exist. When Keebler bought Salerno they stopped Salerno from using the Jingles name. Keebler has since put out it's own inferior version pictured above. Today Salerno makes the cookie using the same recipe and calls them Santa's Favorites. (I have met Santa and I can tell yo that hey are, in deed, his favorite!) The problem with Santa's Favs is that they don't have the same shapes and textures as the oldies. You know what? They taste the same. So, if you are nostalgic for the old Holiday Jingles try the new version and let me know what you think.
What are the things that made your Christmas special?
For Christmas this year Jones Soda Company has some cool new flavors. Jones Soda is famous for putting out unusual and limited sodas. For Halloween this year they put out a Candy Corn soda. The first time that I ever heard of a wacky Jones flavor was their Turkey and Gravy Soda back in 2003. "Wow," I thought, "that's really cool." The following year they put out what they called a full meal. The flavors included the Turkey and Gravy, Cranberry, Mashed Potato, Green Bean Casserole and Fruitcake. At this point I said, "Hey, that's straight out of Willy Wonka!" Big change this Christmas, no Turkey! The new flavors for Christmas are; Christmas Ham, Christmas Tree, Egg Nog and Sugar Plum. What no Glögg? But seriously, I am going to order right now. Here is the link. They also have a Chanukah pack with Latke, Apple Sauce, Chocolate Coin and Jelly Donut.
A few years ago my wife and I made felt ornaments for Christmas. These are easy and fun to make. Basically, you and your kids just cut Christmas shapes out of colored felt. The felt is available at any craft store. Cut every shape in pairs. Sew the two together and leave part open so that you can stuff the ornament to give it more dimension. That's it. The fun really starts when you ad on the extras and come up with ways to make your felt ornament unique. For example, when you make a Christmas tree shape, sew on buttons to represent ornaments. The image at the top of this post is of some new felt ornaments that you can buy in a store. I say it would be fun to make the new style at home. There are templates available on-line or in holiday magazines for the basic shapes. Many sites also recommend using cookie cutters to trace around. One neat idea is to use Elmers glue to make a design and then cover it with silver or gold glitter. Here are some images to get you thinking.
Here's a game that I stumbled upon. The game is called Winterbells. I try out a lot of Christmas games online. I am no good at these games, so I
look for something fun an easy. In Winterbells you have a little bunny that jumps up and rings bells. All you have to is move your mouse.
From the same website, try Snowrider! Just click the snowball to jump the rocks.
If you have mastered those, try Flight of the Season, which is much more difficult, at least for me! As you fly over, just click on the houses to deliver the Christmas gifts.
Here are some fun products recommended by my wife, Amanda. She has a great blog if you like to have fun gardening. Here is a link to Kiss My Aster. One of her favorite websites for fun gift ideas is Archie McPhee. Below are a few of the fun items you will find there. (Bacon and Sushi wrapping paper, Sushi and Cowboy gift tape.) For your listening pleasure, Wrapping Christmas by the Waitresses.
Your Instructors on how to assemble and decorate a Christmas tree are
Iris and Fern - 2 fluffy tailed kitty sisters!
A full day of excavating the storage room in search
Finally all have been found. Including a few boxes
After a quick sorting thru of the tree box,
This is the first of many eBay alerts that I will post. I am letting Christmas collectors know that there is something worth watching on eBay. Today there is an Empire Plastics blow mold of a snowman. This particular snowman is of interest to the collector because he is adorned in a white top coat and tails. The eBayer calls it a Clown Snowman, I don't know if that's official.
Empire Plastics, or to be more precise, Empire of Carolina Corp, produced light up blow molded characters for Christmas from 1967 to 1978. Each piece is marked with Empire Plastics Corp, followed by a year. I do not know if the year refers to when the piece was made or just to the first year that a particular mold was created.
We buy them because we remember what our parents had when we were kids and also because they were really made to last. These were of higher quality than what is being made now and sold in the big box stores.
Here is the LINK to the eBay auction. What do you think, is it worth the money?
***UPDATE: Item is now $152.50, $177.50, $201.50,
My wife sends me links to cool Christmas gear. Today I am sharing some links to cool Christmas T-Shirts.
Don't Stop Beleivin' T-Shirt @ Busted Tees
**The next item is from A&S T-Shirts
Silent Night Inn T-Shirt @ A&S T-Shirts
Mele Kalikimaka T-Shirts from Bill Watson
Any one of these shirts will make you the coolest person you meet at a Holiday party :0)