Tag Archives: Christmas

Twelve Posts of Christmas–Music to Your Ears

I didn’t intend to write about this topic, but as I sit here filtering through Christmas music it occurred to me that the way we get our Christmas music fix has changed quite a bit in the last few years. Not too many years past, you either had FM radio or CDs–multi-disc changers if you were fancy. I used to have a 300 disc carousel and player (I spent a lot of money in college). Now, it was not just filled with Christmas music–those accounted for only about 9 CDs– and it also housed my husband’s CDs (he brought the Britney Spears to the marriage.) Regardless, the CD player got used less and less often even though my husband and I really enjoy music. I finally sold the darn thing a couple of years back when I finally admitted it to myself that it just wasn’t the way I was listening to music anymore. There are very few CDs you can listen to anymore from start to finish. And taking out the CDs to listen to in the car was annoying and inconvenient. As I started using iTunes, Spotify, and Pandora I wasn’t even listening to CDs anymore. Oh. You’re not too familiar with all of these? Well let me tell you not only how they can improve the quality of the music you hear, but also, often, save you money–with a focus on Christmas, of course.

Let’s start out with iTunes, which surely everyone has heard of. iTunes is not free. At least not always. However, did you know that almost every week you can download a free song. Just go to “music” and scroll around. And guess what you get in December? Ding, ding, ding. Christmas music. Today (December 12, 2013) you can download Kelly Clarkson’s “Underneath the Tree” for free! But the beautiful thing about iTunes is that you can choose exactly what you want, design your perfect playlist, with your favorite artists. Love “O Holy Night” but want to decide exactly which version buy dozens and dozens of artists is best? On iTunes, you can do that before you buy it! The answer is Mahalia Jackson’s version, by the way. So instead of buying a CD where you really like only half of the songs, you get to search through hundreds of thousand (not an actual statistic) of songs until you get your perfect playlist. And let’s face it. For those of us that love Christmas music, we may add something every once in a while, but we rarely take it away, so once you have your list, you don’t need to spend much more money to add to it. Plus, for those CDs that you do own, there are many ways to download those songs onto your computer to get them on your phone. Then you can pluck your most favorite songs and put them on your Perfect Christmas Playlist.

A coworker told me about Spotify a few years ago. It’s a great site that allows you to listen to entire CDs in addition to playlists. Spotify used to only be available through your computer, and I spent many, many hours listening to Jack Johnson’s entire catalogue of music at my office. Until recently, if you wanted Spotify through your phone or iPad, you had to pay for premium service. It is now free everywhere. What!? This is very exciting. I haven’t used Spotify in a little while because I changed jobs recently and never got around to putting it on my computer. So I didn’t know. I just downloaded it now on my iPad. Literally, just now. It’s awesome. If you know there is an entire CD out there you like, type in its name and chances are it’ll pop up. You can listen to the whole thing. No purchase necessary. And, to make your perfect Christmas playlist, all you need to do is create playlist category and then when the song you love is playing, hit the “+” sign and it is added to the playlist. It’s so easy. My perfect Christmas playlist is being created on Spotify as we speak.

Lastly, there is Pandora. On Pandora, you create stations for the music that you like. As you listen to those stations, you can thumbs up or thumbs down songs. These actions help your station get personalized to you. You can choose broad categories like “Rat Pack Christmas” or “Hipster Christmas” and Pandora will begin playing songs in that genre. And because you interact with it, your “Hipster Christmas” will sound much different than my “Hipster Christmas.” You can also choose multiple artists if you have eclectic musical tastes. My favorite “station” is my Jack Johson/Otis Redding/ Pam Tillis/ Mana/ Norah Jones station. It’s pretty awesome.

Pandora and Spotify do play occasional advertisements on the free service. But they are very brief and infrequent. Both are available in apps for your smart devices to make taking your perfect Christmas playlist EVERWHERE.

My perfect Christmas Playlist (incomplete):

The Man with the Bag– Kay Starr
O Holy Night– Mahalia Jackson
The Merriest– June Christy
Santa Baby– Eartha Kitt
Baby it’s Cold Outside– any version with Ella Fitzgerald
Old Toy Trains– Nick Lowe
All I want for Christmas– Mariah Carey
The Christmas Song– Nat King Cole
Father Christmas– The Kinks
Christmas (baby please come home) –Darlene Love
Blue Christmas– The Perishers
Please Come Home For Christmas– Bon Jovi
Merry Christmas Darling– The Carpenters

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Twelve Posts of Christmas– Sticky Business

I am writing this post with a dream and an idea. Though it can still go horribly wrong. But I was called to sit on jury duty this week, and I have some time to kill because I can’t leave this room–possible for an entire week. So I am drafting this post without actually knowing if this project will work. But it’s so simple it has to work, right? I mean, I only need sticks and hot glue. What can go wrong?

So this is what I am going to try and do today when I get home from jury duty: I am going to make star ornaments out of twigs. I am going to brave the bitter cold and go outside and forage some smallish branches and twigs. I will curse the cold and the fact that I was too lazy to do this in the fall when the damn twigs were not covered in snow and it wasn’t nine degrees outside.

In a feat of self-delusion, I will think that making a star is easy. I mean, I’ve been making them since I was, like, five years old.  I will intend to do many, but will probably cobble together just one, which I will then spray paint gold to hide all the defects.  And add glitter. Lots of glitter. 

How did this turn out?

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Not too bad. If you don’t look at it too closely, that is. Hot glue is kind of blobby. 20131219-212600.jpg

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I was, indeed, annoyed that I waited to do this project when everything was covered with snow.  I though about collecting the twigs many times this fall as we were pruning branches. But I didn’t.  So instead, I rushed outside to the unburned burn pile, snapped some small branches and twigs with the leaves still attached and ran back inside.  My pile was kind of puny.  
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The pile of sticks and leaves eventually became a pile of sticks of varying sizes and lengths. I kept even really short pieces knowing I was going to try and fill in the star. It started out a little uncertainly. I have to admit I really dislike working with hot glue. It’s hard to control, leaves “strings” behind and dries milky.  Getting all 10 joints glued together, without gluing the towel underneath, was challenging.  As I held up the star triumphantly after the last joint, it was really wonky.  The joints were not stable and I  thought I had to scrap the hot glue because it wasn’t working. I went in search of wood glue. Bad idea! Do you understand how long you would have to hold pieces together to get them to stay?  So back to the hot glue.  It’s the only way to do this project in a reasonable time frame.  It just turned out I had to be more patient. 

I think I can get better at this and plan to make more. After I let myself be patient, and actually waited for the glue to dry, I realized that I could use less glue. Because of drying time, though, making one star can still take a while. an assembly line type of system would work, though for making two or three at once.  I thought my mound of sticks would yield more than one star. But adding the “filler” in was a bit addictive so I kept using up my sticks.

In the end, despite my setbacks, I think it turned out nicely and my next one will be even better. I may not even have to paint them gold and cover them with glitter! I haven’t decided yet. They look rather nice in the nude.

Twelve Posts of Christmas–Take a Bough

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Let’s get out into nature and bring in some holiday cheer. With just a bit of effort and ingenuity, you can make a gorgeous evergreen bough for free.

What you will need: one wire hanger, twine or twist ties or thin gauge wire, evergreen snippets. And some ribbon and maybe some ornaments for those finishing touches. 20131214-170855.jpg

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Step 1) take your wire hanger and pull the bottom part straight down from the middle. Straighten the sides so they don’t jut as much. Take your hook and bend down until it forms a loop.

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Step 2) take some glue and wrap thin ribbon or thick twine around the loop. Let dry.
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Step 3) go outside. Find your spruces and your pines and your firs. Even your hollies. Cut some parts about four-five inches long. Careful to take small snips from each plant so you don’t defrock one entirely.

Step 4) starting at the bottom of the metal piece. Begin to layer your evergreen pieces, like shingles. Secure each piece separately before covering it with the next piece. You want the two sides to touch (no gap in the middle) but you can make adjustments as you go. Use your creativity and use your winter berries and twigs and birch bark, etc. Whatever you find in your yard. 20131214-171215.jpg
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Step 5) as you near the top, make sure your last piece is secured a little higher than the hanger end (so that it covers the loop slightly).

Step 6) to finish, tie a large bow or cluster of ornaments at the top.

Step 7) hang from on high and enjoy!

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Twelve Posts of Christmas– Tag, You’re It

Here’s an easy, creative way to make the gifts you give just a little more special–hand made gift tags. I did two styles of gift tag just in case you are not a got-half-way-through-my-wedding-album-and-gave-up-scrapbooking kind of person with lots of overpriced, unused, fancy card stock laying around.

What you will need: card stock* and glitter and glue for style 1 and acrylic paint and brushes for Style 2. You will also need scissors and a hole punch if you have one. I scavenged around my house and came up with some postcards, used note cards, card stock and written-on thank you cards. Here is my pile of random paper.

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I took all that sturdy paper and cut it into squares and rectangles, and ovals**, making sure that if the front had a picture or print on it, the back was plain (i.e. I cut around words and print on the backside). That’s why all of my tags are different sizes.

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Style 1:

This tag style uses the picture or print on your card or postcard and makes it festive. If you can use Christmas cards, your work is probably already done. If not, get out your glue and glitter and get to work.

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These photos don’t quite capture the sparkly wonder that is each gift tag. I couldn’t get the light just right. But, trust me. They are glorious.

Style 2:

Style two lets you create your own design. I stayed true to easy cookie cutter-type shapes so they were easy to make. I laid out a group of tag and got busy.

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I then painted my snowmen and Christmas trees and ornaments, and gingerbread men, and stockings. I just used the acrylic paint I had– which included some odd colors and which disappointingly did not include red. They seem to have worked out despite that. Other than that little commentary, I don’t need to tell you how to paint. You’ve been doing this since grade school.
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After the paint was all dry, I punched some holes in tags to hang from gift bags and to thread with ribbon on packages. I also have this neat sticker making machine that lets me make strips of sticky gift tags. However if you wanted yours to stick, you could use spray adhesive or lightly applied glue. I will go in later and add ” To” and “From” with a fine tip felt or permanent marker to make these tags official.

As always, I encourage you to share these posts and share your ideas or results–especially if you try one of these projects.

* Other ideas for what to use as card stock: the backs or covers of note pads, folders, dried goods card board packaging.

**I actually cut these ovals using a fancy little cutting tool set my friend had. I don’t have one. These were left over from when I did this project a couple of years ago. I probably wouldn’t try and free-hand circles and ovals. That’s okay. The squares and rectangles work just fine.

Update and Brag Session: See some of these tags in action below:

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Twelve Posts of Christmas– Easy Wreaths

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Who doesn’t like free? This easy wreath project is something that you can do in one hour (okay, maybe two hours) from start to finish, and you don’t have to buy anything.*There is no pattern. Just use what you have on-hand, from old t-shirts, to holey socks, to scrap fabric remnants. I chose reds and greens in varying shades because I thought I had enough of them. If you try this project, I would love to see what you come up with. I encourage you not to run out and buy fabric for this, though. Being creative with what you have and making it Christmas-y will be half the fun.

What you need: one wire hanger, and a pile of fabric. Odd and bits are fine. 20131207-133314.jpg
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Your pile of fabric will become strips There is no formula, really. I cut strips about an inch wide and any where from 4-6 inches long. Some of my pieces were a little longer or shorter because that was the fabric I had and I wanted to use it all up. I also learned that the thicker the fabric the thinner the strip. It was no problem. I just ended up cutting some strips in half to make knotting them a little easier. 20131207-141129.jpg

Stretch your hanger until it becomes a circle. It does not need to be perfect, just round. 20131207-134116.jpg

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For this wreath, I left the hook on, however you could snip the two sides beneath the hook and entwine the wire ends together. I left it on to use as its own hanging implement. You’ll see.

And now, take your strips and start tying knots.

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Yes, this step is a bit tedious. The good thing is that you really can’t screw up. I didn’t have enough scraps so I had to go back and cut more, but those were easily blended into the wreath because you can push your knots aside and insert new knots.

When you are done, I think you’ll be impressed with you own project. I embellished with a wire ribbon bow, but if I were a little less lazy, I would have raided my stash of ornaments.

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To hang, simply twist the hook 90 degrees to the back, and you can hang this over the door. If that doesn’t work for you, you can leave the hook as it was and bend it down into a loop. Use your glue of choice to cover the loop with fabric so it doesn’t look so much like a hanger. Now you can hang this from those over the door hooks or from a ribbon. You can also just snip the hook off, just remember where it is because that will be a sharp piece of wire. The fabric should hide the snipped wire. You can hang with a nice piece of ribbon through the wreath.

To see another cute idea using a wire hanger, click on this link.

As always, feel free to share this project. You know, post on Pinterest, Facebook, etc. Just click on links below or copy and paste this page.

*I am assuming you have or can easily acquire a wire hanger.