Unwrapping the Gifts of the Magi

the-magi

Unwrapping the Gifts of the Magi

A Christmastime standard is the song, We Three Kings Of Orient Are. The Gospel of Matthew gives us the tale of the Magi, the Wise Men, the 3 Kings of Orient.
Matthew 2:1-12 King James Version (KJV)

1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,

2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.

5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,

6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.

7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.

8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.

9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.

10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.

12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

So, what else do we know about these wise men of the east? Let’s take a look at the traditional profiles of the Magi.

The Gifts

Glorious now behold Him arise
King and God and Sacrifice!
Al-le-lu-ia, al-le-lu-ia
Heaven to earth replies

The Magi came to bring gifts symbolic of what Jesus represents: King and God and Sacrifice. Let’s dive a bit deeper.

Gold – Gift for the King of Kings – Melchior, King of Arabia

Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain
Gold I bring to crown Him again
King for ever, ceasing never
Over us all to reign

Melchior brings gold for the King of Kings. This title worried Herod the most. He was jealously possessive of the power vested in him by the Roman Empire and the legitimacy that the Sanhedrin grudgingly acknowledged for him. A true Messiah would definitely upset the delicate balance of things. Certainly, he wanted to know where Jesus was so he could put an end to this threat to his power. Little did he know that Jesus came for a higher purpose than rulership of the Holy Land. He couldn’t have understood even if they had told him. All he knew was his lust for power and his desperate need to destroy anyone and anything that threatened to unseat him.

Frankincense – Gift for the Word made Flesh – Caspar, King of Sheba

Frankincense to offer have I
Incense owns a Deity nigh
Prayer and praising, all men raising
Worship Him, God most high

Incense made from the resin of the Boswellia carterii or Boswellia sacara tree was extolled in Exodus 30:34-38 as an equal part of an incense to be used only for when Moses was to meet with God.

34 The Lord said to Moses, “Take sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum, sweet spices with pure frankincense (of each shall there be an equal part),

35 and make an incense blended as by the perfumer, seasoned with salt, pure and holy.

36 You shall beat some of it very small, and put part of it before the testimony in the tent of meeting where I shall meet with you. It shall be most holy for you.

37 And the incense that you shall make according to its composition, you shall not make for yourselves. It shall be for you holy to the Lord.

38 Whoever makes any like it to use as perfume shall be cut off from his people.”

As a key part of God’s own personal incense, this seems an appropriate gift for the Christ-child. Fortunately, any one of us can take advantage of the many benefits of Frankincense as long as we don’t add in all the rest of the spices that comprise the blend prescribed for the Holy of Holies. This gift represents recognition of Jesus’ divine nature and the gift of divine forgiveness he was born to bestow upon the world.

Myrrh – Gift for Sacrifice – Balthazar, King of Tarse and Egypt

Myrrh is mine
Its bitter perfume breathes
A life of gathering gloom
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying
Sealed in the stone cold tomb

Oil made from the resin of the Commiphora myrrha tree was traditionally used as a perfume to mask the stench of dead bodies while preparing them for the grave. This gift symbolizes the death that Jesus would eventually have to suffer as the “full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world“. As with frankincense, myrrh is also used for medicinal purposes and is very popular in toothpaste worldwide.


As you can see, the gifts of the Wise Men were certainly symbolic in nature but were actually immediately useful to the Holy Family. I mean, who doesn’t need some gold? The Frankincense and Myrrh were costly gifts but they were also particularly useful for health and sanitary purposes. People have often wondered what use the latter two gifts would be to anyone, but now you know the rest of the story!

12 Things You Don’t Want To Hear About Christmastime

12 Things You Don’t Want To Hear About Christmastime

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me… some safety ideas to drum into your head about keeping Christmas safe and fun. Christmastime is a joy to behold, but can literally be the death of you as you’ll see below.

1 – Toppling Trees

It’s important to make sure that your tree is properly supported. Nobody wants a tree to crash down on their heads or their train sets or even into the fireplace. This is all the more important if you have cats who are inclined to climb the tree and bat at the ornaments. It’s one thing to ensure that you have a broad base to ensure the tree stands upright at all times, but you will probably also want to anchor the tree at various points up the height of the tree if critters are likely to climb up. Securing the tree to the spindles of a staircase near the top could help to keep it from falling.

If you have a natural tree, you’ve cut the thing away from its root structure. Traditionally, the base for real trees involve screws that burrow into the trunk and long feet standing off in three directions. Actually, a disk-like or inverted funnel type of base would be more stable. Keeping a real tree properly watered is also crucial to keep it from drying out and becoming a fire hazard. Tree fires figure annually in about 240 of all house fires with an average of 13 deaths and 27 serious injuries. Carelessness with Christmas trees accounts for up to $16,700,00 in property damage each year.

2 – Firey Wires

As we mentioned above, a dried-out real tree that is heavily decked with electric lights can become a towering inferno. The heat of the lights and even in some cases the wires of the lights could be enough to set a dried out tree afire.

Frayed wires on lights that you are either too nostalgic or too cheap to get rid of from one year to the next can cause a fire whether your tree is natural or artificial. Make sure to inspect your light strands from year to year and buy new ones when you need them.

If you want the same lights your parents and grandparents used since before you were born, there are more modern versions that look like the retro-style lights but will keep you safe and save you energy because they are LED lights.

Another common hazard of electrical lights is the desire to have too many plugged into one socket. Having a massive daisy chain of lights plugged in back to back in a single socket is an all-too-common site during the holidays. This can overload a socket and risk starting a fire within the walls of the house. These are particularly dangerous because you don’t realize your house is on fire until it is way too late and they’re harder to put out because the fire department has to break through your walls to put it out.

3 – Hazardous Hanging

Some people like to put decorations all over the house, inside and out. The important thing is to ensure that you have safe footing wherever you choose to hang your lights, garland or ornaments. Be certain that you have a ladder that is at least as high as you need to reach and that you have someone holding the ladder firmly at the bottom.

Inside, the typical ladder is a folding step ladder that forms an a-frame. People will also often use staircases and balconies as places to try to extend themselves to less accessible places. Unless you’re a professional gymnast or mountain climber, you’re probably not going to do very well hanging over a banister to try to hang decorations. People trying to hang decorations will tend to focus on the process of mounting the ornaments and disregard the awkward position they’ve extended themselves into.

Outside, a leaning ladder is more usual. Making sure that this type of ladder is firmly planted is key. Most modern aluminum ladders have grippy feet at the bottom, but these are of dubious use if there is snow or ice on the ground where you’re planting the ladder. Likewise, if you climb onto the roof, you need to be extra careful not to hit a slippery patch. The steeper the pitch of the roof, the more hazardous it is to walk around on.

4 – Pretty Poison

Some of our natural decor can have a rather bad effect on people and animals. At the top of the list is mistletoe. Every single part of the plant is disastrously toxic to people and pets. You may certainly keep on kissing under the mistletoe, but make sure none of the berries drops off into your mouth!

Another dreadfully toxic decoration is holly berries. It would take only 20 berries to kill a child. Keep it up high and away from toddlers who are inclined to put things in their mouths.

Poinsettias have a reputation for being poisonous to cats and dogs. This is only partially true. The taste of the leaves is so bitter that any animal is not likely to eat enough to have a lethal dose. For those who munch first and regret it later, eating poinsettia leaves is likely to induce drooling,  vomiting and diarrhea.

It’s been found that up to 80% of Christmas lights contain lead. Of those, up to 28% contain lead in quantities that would prohibit their sale in Europe. Lead poisoning can impact your stomach and kidneys and lead to impairment of your brain and nervous system.

Like most aerosols, spray snow is quite toxic if you inhale the fumes while you’re spraying a jolly snowman onto your window. If you’re going to be using spray snow, be sure to keep a ventilator mask on to prevent ingestion of such chemicals as methylene chloride and acetone. This is also still an issue while the snow is drying on the surface you’ve sprayed it on. Keep the kids away until the snow is dry to prevent inhalation of these carcinogenic compounds.

5 – Friendly Fire

What’s Christmas without candles, a Yule log or a blazing fire in the hearth? A good bit safer, to be sure. The days most commonly associated with house fires started by candles are Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. All the more so since the original form of Christmas lights on your tree was to have candles on the branches. Can you even imagine?

We’ve already seen some of the adverse effects of letting your real tree dry out, but even a properly watered tree can catch fire due to frayed wires, sparks from the fireplace, kids playing with matches or any number of sources.

Fireplaces pose a variety of hazards. Keeping the chimney swept is important as is keeping a spark screen in front of the fireplace. Collected soot in the chimney can start an uncontrolled fire as can animal or bird nests that may have been built there in warmer months.

Yule logs were great in viking long houses in the Dark Ages, but not so much today. Modern homes lack the dirt floors and unrelenting Scandinavian winter air that made Yule logs an important holiday tradition. Having an enormous burning log laying across the length of your living room just isn’t something sustainable in modern households. You might want to put one in the backyard, but you still want to make sure that popping sparks from the log don’t set the grass or nearby trees or bushes alight. Wildfires are not festive and you will be charged with arson if you survive the blaze.

6 – Cheerful Choking

Infants, toddlers and pets are all too often tempted by the delightful ornaments we hang for Christmas. Brightly colored doodads and shiny tinsel can quickly wind up in mouths and throats. Cats in particular are inclined toward the consumption of tinsel. The tinsel itself won’t kill them, but when it passes through the string can cause internal damage if you try to pull it out. Cats with tinsel hanging out of their posteriors are a less than festive part of the holiday season.

Another choking hazard during the holidays is all of the wonderful food. It’s a time for generosity and feasting. People tend to chow down during the holidays, setting aside their diets in favor of cookies, pies and sumptuous dinners. The problem is that any number of these dishes can put you in need of the Heimlich Maneuver. Nuts, bones, unchewed morsels of meat, vegetable or baked goods can easily obstruct airways.

Giving bones to pets is an age-old treat, but not necessarily safe. Rawhide bones are a better option since actual bones can break and splinter, causing choking hazards and sharp fragments to puncture internal organs.

7 – Shiny Sharps

As we mentioned above, dogs chewing on actual bones can cause sharp fragments that can injure them internally. Likewise, we have any variety of sharp decorations that can lead to injury. Worst of all, there’s the dreaded icicle of death.

8 – Slippery Slopes

Although we established that skiing, snowboarding, tubing and sledding are awesome ways to stay fit and active during the cold days of Winter, these also combine the unfortunate mixture of an excess of speed and a dearth of friction. This can be a deadly combination. About 42 skiing/snowboarding fatalities are recorded each year while as many as 20,000 kids were injured in sledding accidents in recent years.

This is a risk you’re generally willing to accept when you’re out playing, but if you’re just walking down the street ice and snow can still be quite slippery and dangerous. I actually had this problem walking to work a few years ago. I was walking across the courthouse square on my way to work and then, WOMPA, I was suddenly horizontal. My wingtips might as well have been skis. My head hit the sidewalk and I was seeing in triple for hours afterward. That sucked.

9 – Fattening Foods

A lot of people go off their diets to enjoy the sumptuous treats of the season. That can be a problem if you’ve already got a heart condition, high cholesterol, diabetes or morbid obesity. If you don’t already have one of these problems, you might just push yourself closer to the borderline of any or all of them if you binge during the Christmas season. It takes 3500 calories over what your body naturally burns on a daily basis to add a single pound of fat. The bad news is that the typical Thanksgiving Dinner can rack up as many as 4500 calories. The occasional splurge is not going to have dreadful lasting effects, but the thing about splurging is that it quickly becomes habit-forming. The dopamine buzz you get from happily munching everything in sight will train your brain to keep on munching even when you don’t necessarily even want to. This is definitely a slippery slope.

Another binge item is alcohol. It’s found that 40% of highway deaths during the holidays are due to drunk driving. With all the Christmas parties, family get-togethers and New Year’s Eve celebrations, people find a lot of ways to consume a lot of alcohol and act very irresponsibly. Even with a designated driver to see you safely home, you may still have to deal with the awkwardness that attends facing your coworkers after a night of drunken foolishness at the company holiday event. A coworker of mine drank himself boneless before supper and proceeded to make a complete fool of himself at the company Christmas party quite a few years back. He wasn’t with the company for long after that. You definitely need to know your limit and stick to it. You also need a designated driver, a guest room to crash in or the good sense to wait until the alcohol is out of your system before you head home. Remember to wait at least one hour for each drink you’ve consumed. If you’re going to be expected to leave the party by a certain time, time your cutoff to allow for this safe waiting period or start making arrangements with less besotted buddies.

10 – Family Feuds

One of the biggest problems around the holidays is not burning trees or choking on tinsel, it’s family blowups. As much as we’d all like to have perfect families with perfect lives, people are just people. We rub each other the wrong way.

Old grudges fester from year to year. The person who irked us as a child probably totally steams us as an adult. Even though Jesus is the very embodiment of divine forgiveness, his birthday celebration is typically a chance to reopen old wounds and revisit festering age-old grievances. If you can be the bigger person and begin the process of spreading forgiveness in your family, great. This can be a truly miraculous healing experience for you and your family.

If the hurt is severe and irreparable, you might just want to skip the family get-togethers and get yourself a new family. Friends can be a family to those who can’t go home for whatever reason. Home is where the heart is. If the place you grew up only tears your heart out, you might want to leave the past in the past and move on.

Warning! Harsh Language. Not child-safe!

Warning! Harsh Language. Not child-safe!

11 – Shopping Shenanigans

What’s Christmastime without people being absolutely horrendous to each other while shopping for gifts for other people? Can we possibly get through a Black Friday without people being trampled to death when the doors open? Can we get through the holiday season without people wrestling each other over the last hot selling item at the store? Can we not deliberately smash shopping carts into people’s cars for double-parking? Can we not throw a fit and cuss out the cashier for being so slow?

Apparently not. People wonder why I do most of my Christmas shopping online. Let the UPS guy fight holiday traffic. I’ll sit home and watch Christmas movies and bake cookies.

12 – Ghoulish Ghosts

When worse comes to worst, you might just get haunted! Is there anything more of a downer for the holidays than having a gaggle of ghosts hassling you?

♫ There’ll be scary ghost stories And tales of the glories of the Christmases long, long ago… ♫

Fortunately, none of us are miserly enough to justify being haunted in order to be taught the meaning of Christmas.

Of course, there’s always the mogwai. Just don’t get them wet or feed them after midnight


On this Twelfth Day of Christmas, I wish you a fruitful, happy, healthy and absolutely wonderful New Year. The holidays may be drawing to a close, but here it’s Christmas All The Time. Stop in whenever you like. We’ll have the cocoa hot and the Christmas lights on for you all year long.

11 Facts About Bagpipes That’ll Make Your Hair Stand On End

Eleven Pipers Piping

11 Facts About Bagpipes That’ll Make Your Hair Stand On End

Bagpipes were considered a weapon at one point because they were used to frighten the enemy

  • The bagpipes took the place of trumpets in battle in 1549 at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh
  • The shrill, penetrating sound works well in battle
  • Bagpipes can be heard up to 10 miles away
  • The sound of bagpipes can reach 111 decibels which is louder than a pneumatic drill, power saw and power mower

Bagpipes were made from an inside-out goat

  • Pipes can be made of wood or plastic
  • The reed can be made from water reeds, animal antlers, brass, metal or plastic
  • The chanter is the pipe that can play multiple notes while the drones play a single note
  • The chanter is never silent and its volume does not vary
  •  The bagpipe can only play 9 notes from G to A with no sharps or flats

Not invented in Scotland

#3 – Famous people love the bagpipes

  • Roman emperor Nero was an avid piper. It was during his reign that legions are thought to have introduced bagpipes into the British Isles
  • King Henry VIII owned five sets of bagpipes, but the Reformation he helped to kick off associated bagpipes with Catholicism and they fell out of favor in England
  • King Rama VI of Siam (Thailand) ordered the Great Highland Bagpipe replace the oboe as the official instrument of his elite Wild Tiger Corps
  • Queen Elizabeth II is awakened at precisely 9:30AM every day by her personal piper. Prince Phillip doesn’t enjoy this nearly as much as the Queen does.

#4 – The bagpipes were banned in Scotland by George II

After the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie at the Battle of Culloden, an Act of Parliament was passed in 1746 banning various aspects of Highland culture such as wearing kilts and tartans as well as owning weapons and bagpipes. Owning bagpipes brought a death penalty such as that dished out to piper James Reid. Reid was a POW captured at the Battle of Culloden and hung for owning bagpipes. He protested that they were merely a musical instrument, but they answered that an army never fought without a piper at its head and the bagpipes were qualified as a weapon of war. The Act of Parliament banning highland cultural elements was repealed in 1785.

#5 – Bagpipes are in the Aerophone family

Bagpipes produce sound by causing a body of air to vibrate without membranes or strings or the vibration of the instrument contributing significantly to the sound. They are also qualified as a double woodwind instrument.

#6 – The song “A Flame of Wrath for Patrick MacCrimmon” is based on a historical event

Donald Mòr sought vengeance for the murder of his brother, Patrick Caog. He went to the village of Glenelg and set fire to eighteen houses because they would not turn his brother’s killer over to him. He is said to have stood on a hill playing his vengeful tune while the village burned.

#7 – There are more pipers in New Zealand and the United States than there are in Scotland

Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom use bagpipes in their military ceremonies and in police services.

#8 – Pipers were banned from playing into battle in 1915 due to the unbelievable carnage of WWI

3000 pipers were killed “going over the top” in the face of relentless German machinegun fire. The practice of having pipers lead troops into battle was suspended in the face of the horrific casualties experienced in Tommy Charges during The War To End All Wars

#9 – Flaming Bagpipes!

#10 – March 10th is International Bagpipe Day

#11 – The Elf Queen got me tickets to see the Red Hot Chili Pipers at the State Theater in on March 15th!

Outdoor Family Fun To Wrap Up The Christmas Season

World Snowboarding Day

Outdoor Family Fun To Wrap Up The Christmas Season

During the winter it’s easy to hole up inside like a pack of bears hibernating. However, humans are not bears and there’s a lot of fun to be had outside. This Christmas season, take your family outdoors, get some sunshine and have some good old-fashioned family fun. Here are five ways to have outdoor family fun this Christmas.

#1 Snowbowl

Have a phenomenal game of touch or tackle football in the snow. If you have enough friends together to have eleven people on each team, great. If not, divide the group you have evenly. Dig out the end zones and use cones to mark the corners. It might help to have scarves or hats that are the same color so you can tell who’s on your team, but it’s not a requirement. Hit the snowy gridiron and have some fun!

#2 Sledding

Sledding is fun for all ages and you don’t even need a fancy sled. Plastic disc and toboggan style sleds are available inexpensively but you can also use the lid of a garbage can or a cardboard box in a pinch.Find the biggest, fastest hill you can get to and enjoy a day of rip-roaring fun!

#3 Build a family snowman

This is a great outdoor activity for kids of all ages. Everybody loves to make snowmen. Adults and older children can help pushing the snowball around when it gets too large for the little ones to manage. Young children can be tasked with finding items to adorn the snowman with.

#4 Snow forts and snow angels

Who doesn’t like to make a snow angel or build a fort? If you live in a snowy area it’s almost a required outdoor activity. Depending on how much snow has fallen, you can dig down to create a trench and use the snow you’ve excavated to help build your fortress walls. You can pack the snow by hand or use plastic storage boxes to create snow bricks of different sizes. Sandwich boxes, quart boxes and diaper wipe boxes are great options for making snow bricks or you can go to the toy store and buy snow brick makers.

#5 Snowy obstacle course

Build ramps, hurdles and other obstacles in the snow and challenge each other to run the course. The fastest time wins. The great thing about doing it in the snow is that if you fall, you’ve got a lovely cold cushion to crash onto.

#6 Snowboarding, skiing and tubing

If you have the time and a resort nearby, you can have a great day of family fun out on the slopes. Skiing and snowboarding are great exercise and a lot of wintry fun. A more family-oriented activity on the slopes is to go snow tubing. The tubes are available in single and group-sized. Sledding down the slopes in your snow tube is a great day with friends and family.

#7 Ice Skating

If you have a local pond that has frozen over, ice skating is an age-old way to have fun. People have been skating for winter entertainment for centuries. It’s quite relaxing to glide around dancing on the ice with your loved ones.

Other fun things to do

You can also simply enjoy a hike, walk around the neighborhood and enjoy the Christmas lights or sing carols to your neighbors.

There are a number of outdoor activities to enjoy during the Christmas season. Find one that’s right for your family. Create new family traditions, enjoy spending time together and make it a Christmas to remember.

The 9 Ways That Dancing Can Help You Live A Better Life

Nine Ladies Dancing

The 9 Ways That Dancing Can Help You Live A Better Life

On the Ninth Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me… Nine really good reasons to go dancing as often as possible. As New Year’s Resolutions go, dancing is a fun way to hit a lot of the most popular categories. Dancing comes in a variety of styles, but all of them render a variety of health benefits that we’ll discuss below.

Dancing Your Way To Optimum Health And Happiness

Unlike a lot of gym workouts, dancing is fun and you can keep at it for hours at a time. Likewise, you don’t need special equipment to do it. All you need is some music and a bit of floor space. Even if the music is only in your head or if you’re humming a tune to keep time, you can boogie oogie oogie ’til you just can’t boogie no mo’.

1) Better Balance

ballet-poseDepending on the type of dance you select, balance can play a major part in executing the choreography correctly. Even if you’re just moving to the beat and waving your arms around, dancing works most muscle groups in your body and leads to improved tone, posture and balance. All of these benefits can help if you’re getting older and less steady on your feet. Taking some time out of your busy week to go dancing can help you stay strong and limber well into your golden years.

2) Diminishes Depression

Studies have shown that dance can have an observable positive effect on people suffering from depression. The cardiovascular workout circulates oxygen-rich blood throughout the body and the aspect of being in a positive social setting with a lot of people who are having fun can cause a sympathetic response. People who go dancing have demonstrated less depressive symptoms. Get your heart pumping, your heart singing and your soul reaching out to your fellow dancers if you want a surefire cure for the blues.

3) Expand Energy

hip-hop-energyThe funny thing about the human body is that the more you use it, the more you can. Engaging in exercise of any kind on a regular basis fires up your internal batteries and generates more and more energy. Start slow and keep at it. With dancing, this isn’t all that hard. The more you do it, the more you’ll want to.

4) Find Friends

When you pick a style of dance you would like to engage in, you’re automatically set up to find people who have something in common with you. When you’re in a positive social setting with music you enjoy and people who like the same music as you, you’re already in your happy place. Staying socially active increases happiness which reduces stress and boosts your immune system.

5) Fortify Flexibility and Salves Stiffness

dancing-starsMost styles of dance work all the major muscle groups in your body without being jarring like jogging or team sports. Because you’re staying active and moving in a fluid and rhythmic way, the muscles will stay supple and flexible. When your muscles are worked actively without overdoing it, you won’t experience the kind of stiffness that you experience from a weight lifting session or a game of tackle football.

6) Heart Health

dancingBecause you are moving, your heart will benefit. If you suffer from a cardiovascular disorder, taking up a slow form of dance such as ballroom dancing or certain cultural forms can improve breathing, circulation and overall health. Because there are so many kinds of dance, you can choose the one that is right for you and your physical condition.

7) Slashes Stress

choreographyHaving a chance to get out with friends, listening to music you enjoy and taking a few turns with your favorite dance partner can do wonders to alleviate stress in your life. The sense of togetherness that comes from dancing with a partner or a group of friends takes your mind off of your worries for a while. The aerobic workout and social interaction will improve your frame of mind.

8) Stimulates The Smarts

Aerobic exercise like dance can reverse volume loss in the memory centers of your brain. If you are doing a specifically choreographed style of dance, having to remember the steps and the correct sequence can help to keep the brain active and offset potential development of dementia. As much as we like to sit down, switch on the TV and zone out for the night, that’s really the road to doom. Getting out and engaging socially and concentrating on your dance steps will forestall the ravages of old age.

9) Winnow Weight

elephantdancingdollThis is a gimme. Move more + eat less = lose weight. When you’re dancing, you can burn 400 or more calories an hour depending on the style and intensity. Slower forms will only burn about 200 calories per hour, while faster dancing can burn almost 400 calories per hour. Since it is enjoyable, it is easier for you to keep at it which helps to maintain the consistency needed to lose and maintain your desired body weight.


An added benefit that I discovered for dance is not only that it’s fun, but that it can keep you warm! I was working in a factory that hadn’t quite figured out how to work a thermostat. Some days, when it was really cold out, it was really cold inside as well. By turning on my mental play list, I kept my body moving. This raised my core body temperature and circulated warm blood to my extremities. What’s more, my coworkers got a free show. I kept warm and spread a lot of Christmas cheer. You can’t ask for a better result than that!

Let us know how dance has improved your life. If you haven’t started yet, give it a try. As resolutions go, this one ticks all the boxes. Give it a try this year. Your body and your mind will thank you.

Goodbye 2017

goodbye-2017

Goodbye 2017

Well, it’s been a fun year but we’ve got to say goodbye. Christmas may not be over yet, but 2017 will be at midnight tonight. Why not party down while the clock ticks away?

If you like the excitement of a Times Square ball drop party without the crowd, police checkpoints and freezing temperatures, you can watch the whole thing starting at 5PM Eastern at the official site of Times Square!

New Year’s Eve Party Ideas

If you’re entertaining for family and friends tonight, you’ve got a lot of options for a marvelous year-end wingding. You’re going to want to determine if you’re planning to have a supper or just appetizers and drinks. If you’re having a supper, are you providing all the food or are you having a potluck? Decisions, decisions, decisions.

If you’re planning to have a supper, then your appetizer count should be about 4-5 per guest. If you’re just doing finger foods and drinks, you’re going to want to allow for at least 12-15 per guest. With a sit-down option, you can provide appetizers that can be eaten with a fork. If it’s a standing mingle, you’ll need to stick to finger foods. Likewise, if you’re having a formal get-together you’re going to want to avoid sticky or heavily sauced items that can get on nice dresses and suits. If you’re having a casual affair, messy snacks are perfectly appropriate but be sure to provide a lot of napkins so they won’t be tempted to wipe fingers on your furniture.

Another key point for a wonderful party is providing a variety of drinks. Providing both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks is key. New Year’s Eve is commonly associated with excessive drinking, but keep the kids and the designated drivers in mind. Cocktails and mocktails can be prepared to give a broad selection of flavor profiles. Mocktails are the non-alcoholic versions of their spiked counterparts. Pina Coladas, Margaritas and Daiquiris can be just as delicious without the booze but be sure to make it obvious which is which so the designated drivers and teetotalers don’t get an unfortunate surprise.

Holding a potluck dinner is a great way for family and friends to bond as the year draws to a close. Guests can bring their favorite foods to share with everyone and create an awesome year-end feast. This kind of comfort food can serve as a marvelous backdrop to a happy gathering. It also takes a lot of the stress off of the hosts both financially and in consideration of time and preparation.

However, if you insist on being the hostess with the mostest, you might opt to prepare all the food for the feast. If you are a hardcore foodie, this might be therapy for you. Some people absolutely love cooking and preparing food for others and this can be an excellent expression of your fondness for your guests. If you’re just a masochistic control freak, this could lead to a lot of stress just before the end of the year. Be kind to yourself. If you love cooking for your loved ones, by all means, go for it. If you’re just feeling like you need to pull out all the stops to keep up with the Joneses, do yourself and your guests a favor and just don’t. You should be getting together to have fun as you wrap up the year. Getting stressed out of your brain is going to make you an awful host and the butt of a lot of jokes in the coming weeks.

When it comes right down to it, as long as you are with your favorite people on this final night of the year it doesn’t much matter what you prepare to eat and drink. Dollar store soda and generic chips & dip are going to be just as memorable as a five-course meal and exotic cocktails if you’re having fun. What really matters is ringing in the new year with your loved ones. End the year on a high note and don’t stress about the victuals.

Five, four, three, two, one… Happy New Year!

Not my Santa

parallel santas

Not My Santa

TXT Stories gives us a glimpse at a parallel universe where Santa has no sense of direction. I’m really glad our Santa doesn’t have these problems!

TXTMAS #11 – SANTA’S LOST | by txtstories

TXTMAS EP. 11 – when santa needs a little guidance. 🗺
#txtmas

Posted by TXT Stories on Sunday, December 24, 2017

Some helpful storage ideas

Some helpful storage ideas

Christmas isn’t over by a long shot, but some people like to pack it up and get on with life shortly after Christmas Day. Here are some ideas you might find helpful.

5 holiday organizing hacks to save

Ornament organization 101

Posted by George Takei Presents on Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Fragile Ornament Storage

The video suggested putting them in a plastic cup. Not so sure I agree. If they’re fragile, you don’t want them rattling around a plastic cup like that. Sure, you could give a bit of bubble wrap or some tissue paper to be safe, but that can be cumbersome and the packaging can shift. If you want to be truly safe, think about getting sheets of spongy cushioning. The soft sheets will form around the ornaments and hold them in place.

If you’re storing spherical or nearly spherical ornaments, you might want to consider egg-crate foam sheets. The indentations in the egg crate foam surface create nestling nooks for the ornaments to settle into, but I’d still recommend a flat sheet for the top in order to hold them in place.

If you’re dealing with antique glass ornaments, you might want to consider individual velvet pouches to prevent the paint from being brushed off by friction from the foam sheets. It won’t happen immediately, but damage can occur over successive years.

Wreath Storage

Only do this if you’ve got a wreath made of artificial greens. If you have a fresh wreath, you can get another one next year! That being said, you could very well hang your wreath in an oversized shopping bag in the closet like they show in the video. If you don’t mind dusting the wreath off next year, that’s great.

Let’s consider that there are circular boxes available for the specific purpose of storing wreaths available at most retailers for a modest price. As with your delicate ornaments, you’re going to want to protect your wreath from bouncing around in the box. If your wreath features attachments such as pine cones, plastic fruit or other doo-dads, you’d do well to secure the wreath with a sheet of foam beneath and on top.

Wrapping Storage

The hangers shown in the video are interesting, but that’s going to be hanging on the back of your closet door all year long? Who can spare the space for out of season items? Actually, I’d recommend putting that setup together at the beginning of your holiday shopping so that it’s conveniently available for wrapping gifts as you acquire them.

Another great idea for storing your tubes of wrapping paper during the holiday season is to use an over the door shoe organizer. If you cut the bottoms out of all but the bottom row of shoe compartments, it acts as a sheath for your wrapping paper rolls.

As for storage, you can lay your wrapping tubes side by side in a garment bag. It’s going to keep the dust off and will be long enough to accommodate wrapping paper tubes. You can also flat pack gift bags, rolls of ribbon and bags of bows in with the tubes. You might even choose to use a vacuum seal bag to save space and keep the items fresh and dust-free.

Tangle-Free Light Storage

The most important point of storing lights is to wind them up in such a way that they won’t be tangled when you need them next year. There are a variety of perfectly good options, including the clothes hanger depicted in the video. There are some that look like little plastic ladders, wheels, reels and planchettes that you can safely wind your lights on and unwind them with ease next holiday season.

Lazy Man’s Tree Storage

I guess that’s one way to do it. You could definitely shrink wrap your tree as is and cut it free next holiday season, but what are the chances you’ll cut something you don’t want cut when you go to open it again next year? It may be lazy when you wrap it, but it’s going to be crazy when you go to open it back up.

There are plenty of excellent options. I prefer to put it right back in the box it came from. The artificial tree is structured to come apart, fold up and store away with ease. If your tree’s storage box has become damaged with age, there are a variety of bags and boxes available commercially that you can use as substitutes.

It ain’t over ’til it’s over

I hope you found these tips helpful, but just remember that Christmas isn’t over until Epiphany! It’s only the Fifth Day of Christmas, for pity’s sake. Don’t rush it! Savor the season and enjoy the holidays with your loved ones.

Let the music play

Christmas Music

Let the music play

One of the many special things about Christmas is the music. No other holiday or season is attended by a month of 24×7 radio stations dedicated to playing music specially dedicated to the season. This extended playlist of sacred and secular, traditional and contemporary tunes grows every year with new interpretations, nuances and with original creations.

Some groups bank on their fame to promote the playing of their versions of various traditional tunes. It’s thought that because pop music is pushed off the radio for the season, popular performers want to keep their voices within earshot of their fans and the general listening populace. It could be that they also want to cash in on the popularity of Christmas music in general.

Likewise, bands and performers typically release new albums during the holiday season in order to help boost potential sales in the form of Christmas gift purchases for fans. They will also release holiday music albums to add to the variety available for the radio.

Others depend on talent alone to justify their addition to the corpus of the continuous collection. These guys fall into that second group.

 

Posted by Classic FM on Thursday, December 14, 2017

Music at Christmas time is important to stir the holiday spirit. Everyone has particular Christmas songs and carols that are favorites, maybe for the melody, the lyrics or because they are reminders of special memories.

The most popular Christmas song is said to be White Christmas. It’s popular even in warm and tropical climates where people sing of ‘dreaming of a White Christmas‘, which wouldn’t be very practical.

Other popular Christmas songs and carols are: Silent Night, Away in a MangerO Holy Night, Joy to the World, Hark the Herald Angels Sing and Angels we have Heard on High. Each of these songs are sacred as they are all about the story of Jesus’ birth. Of note also is Handel‘s majestic ‘Hallelujah Chorus‘, which is a favorite that choirs like to sing because of the splendor embodied in the music.

Nat King Cole’s Christmas Song is a contemporary favorite. It evokes happy holiday themes and moods such as you find in songs like Sleigh Ride and Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree. Among secular Christmas songs, there are also funny ones such as I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas, All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth and I’m Gettin’ Nuttin’ For Christmas.  Another sub-genre of secular Christmas songs is the character songs such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman and Dominic the Donkey.

Christmas music is such a broad field that it makes it possible to choose songs for any occasion. There are songs for general listening at home, for a fun informal party or for a formal dinner. As an example, Christmas songs can be chosen to create the right mood at the start of a party, followed by more lively music when the party is in full swing, and still more to slow down the pace when the party is winding down.

Professional choirs, symphonies and orchestras often record performances of Christmas music on albums. For true music aficionados, these albums will provide wonderful listening experiences and make splendid Christmas presents. Listening to albums of these performances is almost as immersive as attending live concert.

Whichever selections of Christmas music are your favorite, it’s guaranteed to create a festive mood and imbue the holiday spirit wherever you go.

Elves’ Day Off

Elves’ Day Off

Well, we probably don’t need to know this much about elf dating but the folks at TXT Stories decided to follow the rabbit hole as deep as they could go.

TXTMAS 2018 #7 – ONE NIGHT OFF |by txtstories

TXTMAS EP. 7 – elves get one day off all year… 😏
#txtmas

Posted by TXT Stories on Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Personally, I’d expect the elves are getting carpal tunnel syndrome therapy on their day off considering they spend all year making toys but we all have our own ideas of how Santa’s helpers unwind.

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