Wednesday, November 24, 2010


   Where did tinsel come from?  Its origins are murky, but it was apparently first made in Germany during the 1600's.  It was made by hammering out a paper thin silver alloy and then cutting that into strips.  It's unlikely that this first version was as thin as what it is today.  It was used, not only on Christmas Trees (which were just catching on in Germany) but also on any other decoration that needed a little shine from statues to fireplace garlands.  Since candlelight, lanterns and fireplaces were the primary method of lighting homes, reflective surfaces were often used to maximize the light.a
   The early stuff was meant to be reused, carefully gathered from the trees and decoration to be used again the next year.  Unfortunately, silver-based metals tend to tarnish when they aren't used or aren't kept next to the skin (some claim it was the candlelight that tarnished them, but simple disuse could do the same).  Cheaper alloys were introduced that also had the added benefit of not tarnishing, but were too heavy for their function.  Early tinsels were all made out of metal and were expensive and fragile to use as decoration.  Until the early 1900's, using the glittery decoration was a status symbol.

   In the 1920's the cheaply made aluminum based tinsels made it affordable for everyone.  By the 50's the aluminized paper used to make it, became a fire hazard when coupled with copious lights, decorations and dry Christmas trees.  Today, it's mostly made from PVC-that's Polyvinyl Chloride.  PVC is a controversial vinyl used in many products.  It's difficult to recycle and there have been questions about the toxicity because it must be mixed with toxic additives to be of any use.
   Besides being made out of PVC, there are a host of reasons not to use tinsel today.  First, I know of none of the market today that's biodegradable.  We're talking about using something that's highly disposable in large quantities for brief decorative use.  Another reason not to use tinsel is that no tree recycling program will take trees loaded with tinsel.  You have to take all of it off.  If they are using the trees for mulch, the tinsel will lower the quality of the mulch because it doesn't biodegrade.

   Those with pets or very small children should also look for tinsel alternatives.  Cats like to eat the stuff.  Most of the time this is amusing, but it can kill them.  Tinsel can't be digested and can tear up the intestinal tract.  You also can't vacuum if there's any tinsel on your floor.  Instead you have to make sure that every stand is off the carpet before vacuuming.  Otherwise you could end up with a broken vacuum.

If you do use Tinsel

   Less is more.  Don't over do things by loading the tree down.  Instead allot yourself a small amount of tinsel and use it sparingly all over the tree.

   Reuse your tinsel.  Strip the tree as much as you can and place it in a box to be reused.  One box could last several years if used the right way.

Tinsel Alternatives

   Popcorn Strings-A classic DIY project, you just need popped corn, a needle and thread and some time.

   Glitter Spray-Use some safe glitter spray to give your tree a little glitz.

   Ribbons-A few well placed curly metallic ribbons tied to the outside of the tree will be easier to remove but can also add the sparkle you're looking for.  While metallic ribbons aren't biodegradable either, you might end up using less of them.


   Popcorn is considered a junk food but if it is it is one of the healthiest junk foods around.  It actually has some things in it that are good for you like fiber.  You can eat a lot of popcorn before it adds up calories.  four cups of popcorn has only 92 calories and only 1 gram of fat if it is popped with hot air.  These numbers are more if you pop your popcorn in oil.  The nutritional value of popcorn is 71% starch with other carbohydrates, 10% protein, 3% fat and there are a trace of vitamins and minerals and 14% of the kernel is water.  If you pop your popcorn with a hot air popper it has much less fat than if you use oil methods.
   Popcorn has a hard kernel and when the kernel dries a little water is sealed inside the popcorn kernel so when the kernel gets heated up to a certain temperature the water inside the kernel actually boils and the pressure causes the kernel to pop into popcorn.  It literally turns itself inside out when it pops,  showing off its white interior.

   The native Americans brought popcorn to the world, cobs of corn have been found that date back to 5,600 B.C.  Native Americans believed that tiny demons lived inside each kernel of corn and when the demon's house was heated, the demon would get mad and he would explode.  Or possibly the demon would escape in the explosion.  The Native Americans first introduced popcorn to the European settlers at the very first Thanksgiving meal in 1621.  Popcorn was part of the feast and in the morning some of the popcorn was left over from the feast, so the Pilgrims poured milk and sugar on the leftover popcorn and ate it for their breakfast.  That was probably the first puffed cereal.  Popcorn was called popped corn, parched corn, or rice corn.  It didn't get the name popcorn until about 1820.
   In the early 1920's, silent films were being shown and street vendors would set up their popcorn machines outside the movie houses and before going into the movie, many people would buy some popcorn to enjoy during the film.  At first the theater owners hated the mess the popcorn would make to their theaters, but soon the theater owners realized how much the patrons liked having the popcorn and they soon put popcorn into the lobbies of the theaters for the patrons to buy right in the theater.  The theater owners got used to cleanng up the mess that the popcorn would make and they made money selling the popcorn to their customers.

   Today popcorn is still a popular movie food.  We American's love to eat our popcorn while we watch a good movie.  American's eat over 17 billion quarts of popcorn a year and the average American eats about 68 quarts all by themselves.  Only about 30 percent of the popcorn we eat is from the movies or sporting events.  The other 70 percent is what we eat at home.  American's love their popcorn.  It is one snack that has lasted throughout the history of the United States.