Sunday, November 28, 2010


   In spite of the use and abuse of ultra modern engineering and the rushing hullabaloo of the 21st century, people often seem to become nostalgic when it comes to home decorating for Christmas.  Norman Rockwell's creations-marvelous pictures of Victorian villages under the snow, children eagerly waiting for the arrival of Santa Claus while carolers walk around the villages singing Christmas carols.  Thinking to families decorating a beautiful Christmas tree and drinking hot cocoa with marshmallows, makes our hearts feel merry.  These "old world" visions are the reasons why a lot of us desire vintage Christmas ornaments for decorating our homes.  However, truly old vintage ornaments can be difficult and expensive to acquire.

   Not so long ago the nostalgic desire for items from the past has caused a boom in the artistic creation of vintage hand crafted Christmas ornaments in the last 10 to 15 years.  A lot of online and regular retail outlets specializing in vintage items now offer hand crafted classic Christmas ornaments made of silver or tin with that old days flavor.  Hand-blown, gorgeous glass ornaments to dazzle the eye, vintage twenties looking tin ornaments engraved with the early renditions of jolly old Saint Nick, and softly shining bubble lights in an array of beautiful colors.

   Maybe gold and silver glass ornaments shimmering in the soft light of the Christmas tree, whose top is adorned with an old fashioned tin star or a painted angel, looking like it came right out of a Norman Rockwell painting.  Some homemade garland of popcorn and cranberries, strung around the tree along with crystal "icicles" glistening from the reflections of the Christmas lights.  Tiny "gift" looking ornaments and other metallic pieces of tin shapes.  Cotton or cardboard shapes of cutout fruits, birds, and an assortment winter scenes.  There was a time when people would put tiny candles in reflective holders all over the tree.  Their use was highly risky as it cause many a home fire.  Nowadays, it's possible to have the same kind of old world candles without the open flame.

   Current trends are moving towards old wreaths that are made of foil and tin with pearls or angels attached,  as well as traditional wreaths made out of pine and holly with gold ornaments and dried flowers.  Modern Christmas garlands are not as beautiful as vintage garlands made out of small pine limbs tied with natural bonding materials like hemp,  and decorated with colored berries and pine cones.

   For many of us, the Christmas holiday is a  time to relax and think of Christmas's in our past.  Where things weren't harried and busy.  Nostalgia creeps in and makes us wish for when things were much simpler, a time to reminisce.   When  we were kids and didn't have to worry about all of the other things that happen in our life.  When we looked forward for school being out for the Christmas holiday, going down to the department store to see Santa (before they had malls), loading up into the car to check out Christmas lights,  looking at the brightly wrapped presents under the tree and guessing which ones are yours.  Decorating with all of those wonderful old decorations and ornaments kind of brings us back to that time, even if it's just for a moment. 


   The upside down Christmas tree is one of the strangest trends seen in a while.  There are some people who probably like the idea.  An upside down Christmas tree is just a matter of personal preference, some people love the newest trends while others prefer traditional decor.  How long will the upside down Christmas tree be popular?  Only the consumer knows for sure, after all, we do determine such trends.  If people stay fascinated with the upside down Christmas tree, then it will become a mainstay.  If the upside down Christmas tree is ignored by consumers because it is just too bizarre,  then it will go away just like any fad.  I am a traditionalist myself.

   Every retailer that is selling the upside down Christmas tree is quick to point out that the tradition came from the 12th Century in Central Europe.  They would hang the Christmas tree upside down from the ceiling instead of right side up.  The meaning behind using an evergreen tree was the triangular shape symbolizing the Father, Son and The Holy Spirit.  No matter which way the tree is placed, a triangle is a triangle.  The tree can lay on the floor if someone prefers, it's still a triangle.  You can't blame the retailer for going with the current trends if it  makes them a little extra money and makes someone else happy to have found it.

   Some people believe the reason behind the upside down Christmas tree is possibly sinister, and the only explanation for its resurgence must be an evil one.  Placing a Christmas tree in the upright positions points toward the heavens, so if the Christmas tree is upside down, the tree top is obviously pointing in the opposite direction.  Why would anyone purchase an upside down Christmas in the direction of perdition?  I just think it will be something trendy or chic, for people who want to be different. There is nothing wrong with being different and not conforming to everyone elses picture of a Christmas tree.

    Retailers who are selling the upside down Christmas trees state the benefits of placing a tree this way as:  It's simple, with the wide part of the triangle up in the air, it makes more room available for presents, and it also let's those prized ornaments and other decorations hang out instead of into the tree.  The artificial upside down Christmas tree is more expensive.  A decent one goes for anywhere between 350 dollars and all of the way up to over 600 dollars for an averages sized 7 1/2  foot tree.

   Retailers are also proclaiming the space saving commodities of the upside down Christmas tree.  If you're worried about room just get a slim tree.  I can also see the good points to someone who collects ornaments as a hobby, it lets them hang down better, because of the triangular shape of the upside down Christmas tree getting smaller as you go down the tree.  This would be very good for showing off that prized  collection you couldn't hang before.  Whichever direction your Christmas tree is pointing, it's all about the spirit and the enjoyment of the holiday season,  everyone makes his or her own choices and preferences whether other people like them or not.  Like I said earlier, there is nothing wrong with doing something different, maybe it will become a new tradition in your family for many Christmas's to come.


   Eggnog is the starter of that wonderful holiday season.  It's what reminds us that the wonderful time is about to begin.  That time when peppermint mocha's, presents, family, friends, carols, Christmas movies, decorating trees, and eggnog is abound.  It's that time of the season already.  It makes you think when something like eggnog was invented and how.  Did it begin as something special just for the holidays or was it begun in a whole different way?  The creamy richness of that powerful drink is something well worth the effort of looking into and that is just what we are going to do.  So before you begin your holiday season take a look at this and become enriched in all the flavorings of Christmas.
   The history of eggnog is a bit shrouded.  A lot of people believe that it was brought from England to America which in a way could be true.  After all, the word is related to a lot of wine punches and milk drinks that were made in the English tradition.  When brought to America however, it was not necessarily what the old world had in mind.  Instead, Americans brought rum into the equation and took out the wine.  So, the idea is that rum was traditionally called "grog" so goes the term "egg-n'grog", after that it was shortened to  eggnog.

   Now on to another story.  There are people that believe that the word "eggnog" comes from the term "noggin", which was what they called a certain type of wooden mug.  Along with that story comes the belief that eggnog was originally sherry and milk (not the wine and milk as the above story stated).  There are many that believe that the stories should run together.  Meaning that the drink was actually called "egg'n'grog in a noggin".
   Through Colonial America it was considered a great wintertime drink and very popular indeed.  It was rich, smooth, spicy, and alcoholic.  It was the perfect combination for those early Americans.  In the 1820's, a man named Pierce Egan put a recipe in his book taking out the rum and adding brandy which further increased the popularity of the drink.  In the 1800's it was a social drink.  It was drank at every party around that season and was considered not to be in good spirits if you did not serve the drink or even drink it.

   Believe it or not, it was not only a Christmas drink.  It was a tradition for all the men to try to finish numerous drinks of the stuff on New Year's Eve.  It was a test of one's manhood.  George Washington loved eggnog.  He had his own concoction which involved rye whiskey, rum and sherry.  It was very powerful and it took some type of person to be able to get past a glass.
   While debatable as to its sources we know one thing, that eggnog has been enjoyed in many traditions.  While most of us enjoy the flavor of eggnog without the liquor, we can at least all be thankful for that one person that helped our wonderful tradition be born.  With the first glass of eggnog poured, the holiday season begins.  May many more glasses be passed around and the feeling of the holiday spirit with it.
   Here's a little recipe for non alcoholic eggnog, if you like it, don't be afraid to pass the recipe onto someone else!

"Holiday Eggnog"


-12 egg yolks

-5 whole cloves

-4 cups of milk

-4 cups of cream

-1 cup of sugar

-3/4 cup of Splenda

-2 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract

-1 tsp of ground cinnamon

-3/4 tsp of ground nutmeg


   In a saucepan over low heat, blend the milk, cinnamon, cloves and half a teaspoon
   of the vanilla.
   Keep stirring while the mixture heats, and remove from heat just before boiling.
   In a bowl, mix together sugar, Splenda all egg yolks.
   Gently add a little at a time, pour in the milk mixture while whisking.
   Transfer mixture to saucepan over medium heat while continuing to stir.
   Keep stirring until mixture starts to resemble custard.
   Don't let boil.
   Pour and strain the mixture into a pitcher.  Making sure to remove cloves.
   Let pitcher stand in refrigerator for approximately 1 to 2 hours.
   Gently stir in the cream, vanilla and ground nutmeg.
   Let stand in the refrigerator overnight.
   Spread some holiday cheer all around.



   When we think of diamonds, colored diamonds aren't usually what come to people's minds.  The fact is however, that fancy colored diamonds are not unusual; they come in almost every shade and hue imaginable, and in many cases, are more valuable than "colorless" diamonds.

A Glorified Lump of Coal?

   Diamond-known to the ancients as adamantine-is what is known as an allotrope of carbon, and in chemical terms, is identical to common forms of coal and graphite.  The difference lies not in the chemical composition, but rather in how the molecules are arranged.
   Diamonds form far deeper beneath the earth's surface than coal or graphite; the carbon ins subjected to extraordinarily higher pressures (up to 440 tons per square inch) and temperatures (as much as 2300 degrees Fahrenheit).  This causes the molecules to be bonded to each other in a tetrahedral arrangement, accounting both for the hardness of diamond and the eight-sided shape in which they occur.

Blue-grey diamond that sold for over $30 million dollars

   Shades of Difference

   Colored diamonds are ones in which this molecular arrangement has been contaminated by a chemical reaction with some other element.  A diamond that is made from pure carbon and has no structural flaws would be as perfectly transparent as pure water ice.  However, no such 100% flawless diamonds have ever been found in nature.
   Colored loose diamonds range in color from pale blue and storm gray to dark amber and even black.  Pink, purple, reds, and oranges have also been found.  The color depends on the nature of the chemical impurity; amber and brown diamonds result from nitrogen; when internal flaws are present, they may be pink or red.  A grey coloration is caused by boron, whereas a deep blue diamond may be the result of hydrogen.

Are They More Valuable?

   Colored diamonds are not necessarily more valuable than clear or colorless ones, although they may be.  If a collection of loose diamonds includes gemstones with a yellowish tinge, they may have less value; jewelry retailers often discount the price of such gems.  On the other hand, pink and red diamonds are exceeding rare, and command high prices on the open market when they are available at all.
Grading Colored Diamonds
   Like their clear counterparts, colored diamonds have a unique grading system used by gemologists when analyzing and evaluating such stones.  These range from "faint on one end, to "fancy" in the mid range, and "fancy dark" for those with the most intense coloration.

Famous Examples

   The Hope Diamond is a blue diamond that is currently on display at the Smithsonian Institute.  One of the most valuable diamonds on earth (and the inspiration for a series of comedy films featuring a bumbling French detective) is the Dar-l_Nur, an enormous pink diamond that is part of the Persian Crown Jewels.

   Colored diamonds of many different shades-including a "chameleon" diamond that changes color-are part of the Aurora Collection, which has published photo images of their gems and can be seen at the London Museum of Natural History.