Monday, November 29, 2010

25 days 01 hrs 07 min 18 seconds

It began to snow today.  It was the kind of snow that was quite unexpected and very wet!  I was in Walmart, and it was snowing when I emerged about twenty minutes later.  The snow fell as if each individual flake was being weighted down by a droplet of water, instead of the big, fluffy flakes that usually fall.  Later on, the wet snow turned to little ice balls that clinked on the roofs and windows of our homes.  Seeing white on the ground is a nice change from the dull browns and yellows of dead vegetation that we've been stuck with for weeks.  Indeed, my brother can hardly wait to build a snowman and have me pull him around on his red sled.  It's definitely "beginning to look a lot like Christmas" around here.  More and more of our neighbors are putting up lights and decorations.  The city workers have already adorned the lamposts with the seasonal, silver-garland light up snowflakes.  Tomorrow shall be a joyous occasion due to the fact that my mom finally gave me the "go ahead" to start decorating and putting up the tree!  I have been waiting to do this long before Thanksgiving, but knew that it would be detrimental to my health to try and decorate before turkey day.

In honor of the Christmas Countdown, I've found a rather odd Greek legend concerning some mischievious creatures and how to be rid of them.  I hope you enjoy!

In Greek legend, malicious creatures called Kallikantzaroi sometimes play troublesome pranks at Christmas time. In order to get rid of them, salt or an old shoe is burnt. The pungent burning stench drives off, or at least helps discourage, the Kallikantzaroi. Other techniques include hanging a pig’s jawbone by the door and keeping a large fire so they can’t sneak down the chimney.

The picture (above) is of Boston (not my town).  It was taken in a park and is not digitally enhanced at all.  Cool, huh?  The Greek legend is from : 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

27 days 4 hours 15 mins 53 sec

The wind howled, causing the house to shudder.  Outside, the snow piled in high drifts, transforming the yard into a frozen tundra.  The moonlight cast an eerie glow on the lonely landscape.  Turning away from the window, Lizzy confronted the task that lay before her: decorating for Christmas.  She had been forming a plan for decorating while hauling up the boxes from the basement.  The tree would stand in the corner, becoming the focal point of the room.  Although it was more economic to buy a fake tree, Lizzy promised herself that she would buy live trees as long as she lived.  She loved the way they smelled, loved how it was like bringing a piece of nature inside the house.  This year's tree was about six feet tall and pretty "chubby" as trees go.  The best kind, she thought.

Reaching into a box, Lizzy pulled out three strings of colored lights.  She would only decorate with colored lights, and she would only decorate with the regular lights; not the new LED ones.  It was important to her that the decorations look traditional, and the LED lights just looked to "clean" and bright.  "Shoot!" one of the bulbs needed to be replaced, and she didn't feel like testing each light in the strand.  Setting the strand aside, she dug out the gold and maroon ribbon.  Singing along with the Christmas music, she wove the ribbon throughout the branches.  The tree was already transforming from the twinkling lights and ribbon.  Next, Lizzy found the box with the glass bulbs.  It would take her a good ten minutes before she untangled all the ornament hooks and start hanging the bulbs.

At last, she began placing the colored glass balls all over the tree.  A blue one here, a red one there.  The backside could use a little more green, she thought.  The fire crackled, sending up a shower of sparks.  It's getting a bit toasty in here.  Despite the heat, she walked into the kitchen and make a cup of hot chocolate with whipped cream on top.  Turning back to the tree, she decided to put the special ornaments on next.  There were the handmade ones: the Santa, snowman, gingerbread man, and the snowflakes.  Then on went the crystal ornaments of the dove and cross.  The final touch was adding the tinsel.  The tinsel was special to her because it wasn't something her family had every year.  It was too dangerous to have around her tiny siblings, or the cat might accidentally swallow it.  Now that she was on her own, she could douse the entire tree in tinsel if she wanted to.  She didn't douse the tree, but carefully placed the right amount in all the right places.  The tinsel was her favorite part of the tree.  She loved how the tree sparkled.

Taking a step back, Lizzy surveyed her handiwork.  It's beautiful, she thought.  As her spirit swelled with joy and pride, she turned to the rest of the room saying, "Now, what are we going to do with you?"

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

31 days 03 hrs 58 mins 0 seconds

Dear readers, I am very sorry that I have been majorly slacking in my posting lately.  In my defense, I did try to post the other day, but Blogger wasn't working and I ran out of time and patience with the site.  So here I sit tonight, posting some more stuff for the Christmas last. 

Every year during December, ABC puts on a thing called The 25 days of Christmas.  This is when they play all the Christmas classics like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, and Santa Clause is Coming to Town.  As you could've probably guessed, I'm in love with ALL of these shows :)  But the cool thing is that ABC does a countdown to the 25 days of Christmas countdown.  Tonight, Aladin is on.  One of my favorite Disney movies of all time :)  I must give a shout-out to my mom and say thank you to her.  The other day she was out and picked up a tv guide of the entire 25 days of Christmas shows so that I could see what was going to be on.  Thanks, mom!

For tonight's Christmas post, I thought I would share some facts about the many traditions of Christmas and how they started.  Please enjoy!

Santa Claus was born in US in the 1860's he was named this as he had a white beard and a belly, so he was named Santa Claus as this was the Dutch word for St Nicholas, Sintaklaas. Although the Dutch had bought him with them in the 17th century, he did not become an important person at Christmas until the Novelist Washington Irving put him in a novel that he wrote in 1809. This first Santa Claus was still known as St. Nicholas, he did smoke a pipe, and fly around in a wagon without any reindeer, but he did not have his red suit or live at the North Pole, he did however bring presents to children every year.
In 1863 He was given the name Santa Claus and bore the red suit, pipe, and his reindeer and sleigh.
Now Christmas celebrations vary greatly between regions of the United States, because of the variety of nationalities which have settled in it.

The tradition of having an evergreen tree become a symbol of Christmas goes back past recorded written history.
The Druids in ancient England & Gual and the Romans in Europe both used evergreen branches to decorate their homes and public buildings to celebrate the Winter Solstice. Over the years, these traditions were adopted by Christians, who incorporated them as part of their Christmas holiday celebration.
Trees used specifically to celebrate Christmas are mentioned in the early 1600's in Germany and surrounding countries. The families would set up these trees in a prominent location of their home and decorate them with colored paper, small toys, food, and sometimes candles. As these people moved or immigrated to other countries, they brought this tradition with them.
Through the years many different things were used to decorate Christmas trees. As the world moved into the 1900's, many trees were decorated with strings of popcorn, homemade cards and pictures, cotton to look like snow, candy in all shapes and sizes, and occasionally, fancy store made glass balls and hand blown glass figurines. Candles were sometimes used, but often caused devastating fires, and many different types of candle holders were devised to try to prevent tree fires. Electric tree lights were first used just 3 years after Thomas Edison has his first mass public demonstration of electric lights back in 1879. The early Christmas tree lights were handmade and quite expensive.
Today, Christmas tree ornaments can be found in nearly every size, color, and shape imaginable, and they are used to decorate the millions of Christmas trees used throughout the world.

Mistletoe was often hung over the entrances to homes of the pagans in Scandinavian countries to keep out evil spirits. An old Scandinavian myth tells of the seemingly invulnerable god, Balder, who was struck down by a dart made from mistletoe. The tears of this mother, Frigga, became the white berries of the mistletoe, and it was decreed that the plant must never again be used as a weapon.
     Frigga, who was the goddess of love, henceforth gave a kiss to anyone who passed under the mistletoe. It may be that our present custom of kissing under the mistletoe derives from this old legend.
     Legend holds that the Druids, who were members of a pagan religious order in ancient Gaul, Briton and Ireland, held the mistletoe in such reverence that if enemies met under it in the forest, a truce was declared for the day.  It was their belief that only happiness would enter a home when mistletoe hung overt the door.
     When the Yule season approached, the mistletoe was cut down from the sacred oaks by the Prince of the Druids who used a golden sickle. The mistletoe was distributed to the people who believed it possessed powers of the protection against sickness and evil. Later among Christians it came to symbolize the healing powers of Christ.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

38 days 05 hours 13 minutes 30 seconds...

Irish Christmas Tree

Holiday Greetings!
Okay, so for my next Christmas post I have found someting truly spectacular that I didn't even know existed: an Irish themed Christmas tree (and decorations).  I think that this is absolutely brilliant, if you're the kind of person who can appreciate fairies, shamrocks, and leprechauns.  The person who decorated the tree above obviously spent a lot of time and money in decorations, but she did post a section on how to make an Irish Christmas tree with bare essentials, cutting down on time and cost.

Setting up an Irish tree with the bare essentials

Obviously I used a lot of ornaments and decorations for my Irish tree, but if you don’t want to spend that much time and money then here are the bare essentials I recommend.
  • Wrap the tree in bright green and gold ribbon.
  • Hang shamrock ornaments on the tree.
  • Hang Irish snowman ornaments on the tree. These ornaments are gorgeous enough to carry the tree on their own.

She also posted some directions for making various ornaments.  I'll post them here if anyone wants to have a go at them.

Setting up the flying Irish Fairies

Irish fairies decorating a Christmas Tree One of the more magical elements on this tree is the appearance of Irish fairies flying around, hanging beads and ornaments. For years, I’ve created this effect with white doves, but for an Irish Christmas tree fairies are perfect. This sort of thing always draws attention from guests and everyone who sees it.
Here are a few tips for hanging the Irish fairies:
  • Use white sewing thread (or whatever color matches your ceiling) to hang the fairies. You could also try “invisible” thread.
  • To keep the fairies from twisting and rotating randomly they require two anchor points. This keeps them still and pointed in the direction you intended.
  • Fairies that are “hanging ornaments” need two strings, both anchored at the ceiling. If your fairy has little loops like mine, then you can simply use one long string slid through the loop then pinned to the ceiling at two different places.
  • Fairies that are posed “hanging beads” require only one string anchored to the ceiling since the beads attached to the tree act as the 2nd anchor point.
  • Hang the fairies at different heights and distances from the tree to create a more natural look.

Making pot of gold ornaments

The pot of gold ornaments are very easy to make.
What you’ll need:
  • Little plastic pots (black)
  • Plastic gold coins
  • Green spray paint
  • Green glitter spray paint
  • Tissue paper
  • Gold cord
One other idea is to use gold foil wrapped chocolate coins instead of plastic coins. They would make a nice little Christmas treat for the kids - and the adults for that matter. They might actually even look better. These pots would also work great on a Sugar Plum Tree. Just fill them with your favorite candy.
What to do:
  1. Spray paint the pots green
    Take a plastic black pot and spray paint it holiday green or whatever shade you prefer. This may require 2 or 3 coats to get solid coverage. You can leave the pots black if you prefer, but I recommend painting them because black doesn’t show up very well on the tree. Obviously, if you can find green pots then you can skip this step all together.
  2. Spray paint the pots with glitter green
    This is just to make the ornament stand out a little more. Without the glitter spray paint, the pots looked pretty drab and boring. I know the glitter doesn’t show up very well in the photo, but trust me, the pots look a lot better with the glitter.
  3. Stuff the pot with tissue
    This is just so you don’t have to fill the pot with a whole bunch of coins. It saves a little money. Tissue paper is what I used, but just about anything will work.
  4. Tie gold cord to the handle
    This is to create a hanger loop for the pot. You can actually hang the pot by it’s handle, but when you do this the pine needles obscure the view of the coins and the pots also have a tendency to slide off if you don’t place them just right.
  5. Place gold coins in the pot
    Arrange the coins so they cover the tissue and so that they poke out of the pot a little.
  6. Optional step: glue the coins
    The coins can fall out very easily, so you might want use a little dab of glue here and there to secure the coins in place. I personally did not bother with this.
Okay, that's all I have for today.  There are a ton more ideas and how-to's on the website listed below.  Please take a minute to visit it and read about how each ornament represents a certain aspect of Irish culture.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

41 days, 10 hours, 27 mins, 30 seconds....

Christmas greetings, my fellow readers!  You may be annoyed with me right now because I said the word "Christmas" before Thanksgiving has even occurred.  Don't worry, you'll get over it.  I absolutely love Christmas-It's my favorite time of year.  So in honor of this wonderful season, I am doing a Christmas countdown.  Notice the lovely countdown widget  on the right hand side of my page.  Right then, I am going to try and post something Christmas-y every couple of days.  It may be a craft, game, decoration idea, recipe, etc.  If any of you have any ideas you want posted, let me know.

I'll start off the countdown with one of my own creations....Christmas candles.  I am an absolute candle freak and have found a way to fuse my two loves together: candles and Christmas!

First off, you will need the following items:
*candle wax (you can buy clear wax or you can melt down old candles)
*a way to melt the wax (you can use a candle maker or an old pot on the stove)
*candle wick (approx. 1 inch per candle)
*candle fragrance (optional...get Christmas smells like cinnamon, peppermint, etc.)
*cold water with ice cubes
*a shallow dish to contain the cold water and cubes (it won't get ruined w/ wax)
*Christmas cookie cutters
*an old pie plate or tin lid (this will hold the wax, so don't use anything important)
*exact-o-knife (Hobby knife), old spoon, Popsicle stick (anything to kind of scrape/pry wax)
*Styrofoam plate
*hobby paints (optional)

Alright, the first thing you should know is that these candles are made primarily for decorating.  They will only burn a total of about 20 minutes, before the wax burns completely through the candle (and thus onto any surface the candle is placed on).  Secondly, do not hang these candles on your tree if you have lights on your tree (and what tree doesn't?).  The heat from the lights will melt the candles and make a waxy mess of your floor and tree, and pose a possible fire hazard.  Okay, enough with the disclaimers.

1) Melt the wax.  If using an actual candle maker, following melting instructions.  If using a pot on the stove, turn the burner to low and let the pot heat up a bit before placing wax in it.  As the wax begins to melt, keep stirring it. 

2) If you are using plain wax with no color or scent, now is the time to add the scents and colors.  Make sure you stir the whole time you are adding these ingredients.

3)Okay, let the wax alone for a minute and grab your shallow dish and fill it about about half an inch with cold water and place ice cubes in it.

4) Cut a few wicks for your candles (about 1 inch) and set aside.

5) Now grab your pie plate/tin lid and fill with melted candle wax.

6) Place pie plate/tin lid in the water bath you made earlier (be careful as the plate/lid will be hot from the wax).  If you are using the tin lid method, then your water bath should not exceed the height of the tin lid.

7) As the wax cools, insert the cookie cutter in the wax.  Now wait for the wax to cool.  You want the wax to be pliable, but not so much so that it falls apart. 

8) Now you can either leave in the cookie cutter or take it's your call.  You need to take your hobby knife or Popsicle stick and cut around the perimeter of the cutter and the perimeter of the pie plate/tin lid.  Scrape out excess wax and dump back in the candle maker/pot to re-melt. 

9) Carefully remove cookie cutter if you haven't done so yet and using your knife like a spatula, gently pry up on the candle form and transfer to Styrofoam plate to cool completely. 

10) You can use a sewing needle or something of the sort to gently bore a small hole in the center of the candle to insert the wick.

11) Once candle is completely cooled, you may paint it.  For example, if you made a red stocking, you may want to paint the top part white to look like an actual stocking.  Warning: do not light candles that have been painted...this may cause toxic/harmful fumes when burning.

12) Enjoy your home made holiday decoration!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Fall is Here

Some may call it dreary, but I say it's beautiful.  Some may describe it as disconcerting, but I feel peaceful.  Turning my face towards the heavens, I see that the clouds aren't moving.  The sky is nothing but a big mass of grey clouds, forming a thick blanket through which the sun cannot peek.  The air is on the verge of being frigid, but I find it exhilarating.  A thin, autumn breeze pierces its way through the trees, rattling the skeletons of leaves.  It sounds as if a Native American rain stick is being repeatedly tipped on end.  Leaves crunch and crackle as I run into the woods, going nowhere in particular.  The smell of campfires lingers in the air.  It appears as if Mother Nature has abandoned her children, letting them succumb to the icy death of winter.  Trees are barren, leaves dead, and once green grass is now brown and brittle.  All signs of new life have ceased to exist, but then again, what does one expect in fall?