Wednesday, November 30, 2016



   There's no sure-fire way to capture the beauty of Christmas lights in a photograph.  But, there are a few tips that might help.  Here are five things to try when photographing the lights come Christmas.


Take a lot of Pictures.  Often, the trick to getting a few beautiful shots is to take several attemps and to simply get rid of the weird ones.  Especially with using a digital camera, it's very reasonable to take a hundred shots so that you can get five pictures that you really like.  If at first you don't succeed, try, try, again.


Turn Off the Flash.  Sometimes capturing great shots of light in an otherwise dark area happens when you turn off the flash.  Having the flash on can overcompensate for the brightness of the picture and leave your photograph distorted.  If your pictures just aren't coming out right, try turning the flash off for a few shots and see if the results are any better.


Zoom In.  To get those stunning images that light right up off the page, you may want to try zooming in the camera.  Photographers are able to capture perfect micro shots from physically standing still but, with the camera, zooming way in.  That way, you can still position yourself where the lighting is best but capture precious details that would otherwise go unnoticed.


Try Your Motion Settings.  Depending on the great Christmas displays you're trying to photograph, there may be some motion involved that you have to overcome, i.e., lighted star with various twinkles, a lighted deer that rocks back and forth, and so on.  Many cameras have a motion or action setting to help you nab the perfect shot regardless that your subject is currently moving.  Experiment with the setting to see if it can't help with your photographic goals this winter.


Try Various Angles.  Another experimental aspect that may end up giving a great shot is just rotating the angles at which you approach your target.  Christmas lights will have various glares as you move around; trying to capture the same scene from different angles , with various heights, with various tilts of the camera.  Even the best photographers can luck into the right shot.

   Play around and see what works for you.  As long as you're happy with the results, you can chalk the experience up as a success.


   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.


   December is a time to celebrate our faith, be with our family, and enjoy great food. But, there are more food holidays in this month than you might think. Actually there is a national food holiday for everyday of the year. In this article, you'll not only find out which food holidays are in December, but you'll also find suggestions on how to celebrate each holiday.


National Pie Day December 1: Pies are so easy to make, especially if you start out with store bought pie crusts. Just make a quick filling, bake, and enjoy.

National Fritters Day December 2: Try a nice apple fritter for breakfast with a big cup of coffee.

National Apple Pie Day December 3: Apple pies are so easy to make, but since you just made a homemade pie, why not pick up a Mrs. Smith's pie? Just bake and add a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.

National Cookie Day December 4: This is definitely the time to bake cookies. Get out your favorite recipe and make a large batch for friends and family.

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National Sacher Torte Day December 5: Sacher Torte is a chocolate cake that was invented in the 1800s. You can find many recipes online or you can just bake a regular chocolate cake instead.

Microwave Oven Day December 6: For this food holiday, do something fun and find a recipe for candy that can be made in the microwave.

National Cotton Candy Day December 7: This is another food holiday that can be really fun. Spend the day at a local theme park, which happens to be one of the best places to find cotton candy.

National Chocolate Brownie Day December 8: On this food holiday, do something easy yet decadent by jazzing up a store bought brownie mix.

National Pastry Day December 9: Visit your favorite bakery on this fine food holiday and stock up on all your favorite goodies.

National Lager Day December 10: Head to a nice pub and enjoy a delicious lager with meat and potatoes.

National Noodle Ring Day December 11: There are several variations of this dish. Just go online and find a recipe that sounds great to you.

National Cocoa Day December 12: Is there anything better on a cold winter night than curling up with a blanket, your sweetie, and a hot cup of cocoa?

Ice Cream and Violins Day December 13: I'm not exactly sure how this food holiday started, but does anyone really need a reason to enjoy ice cream?

National Bouillabaisse Day December 14: Enjoy a hearty fish stew on this food holiday.

National Cupcake Day December 15: This is another great food holiday. Just make your favorite cupcakes and enjoy.

National Chocolate Covered Anything Day December 16: Go all out of this food holiday and make your favorite candy, chocolate covered cheesecake, and even chocolate covered pretzels.

National Maple Syrup Day December 17: Enjoy a delicious stack of pancakes on this food holiday.

National Roast Suckling Pig Day December 18: I'm not sure who actually has time to roast a whole pig, especially during the holiday season. For this food holiday, just serve pork chops or a nice ham instead.

National Hard Candy Day December 19: It's almost Christmas, enjoy a nice candy cane.

National Fried Shrimp Day December 20: Head out to your favorite seafood restaurant and enjoy jumbo fried shrimp.

National Hamburger Day December 21: On this food holiday, go all out and make gourmet hamburgers. Stuff them with blue cheese and top them with pepper bacon, slices of avocado, and flavored mayonnaise.

National Date Nut Bread Day December 22: Date nut bread is delicious served with sweetened cream cheese.

National Pfeffernuesse Day December 23: These are a heavily spiced cookie. If you wanted to, you could make gingerbread men cookies instead.

National Eggnog Day December 24: On this food holiday, serve up a big mug of eggnog topped with whipped cream and cinnamon.

National Pumpkin Pie Day December 25: Enjoy a nice pumpkin pie with your holiday feast.

National Candy Cane Day December 26: After all the Christmas activities are done, sit back and enjoy a nice candy cane.

National Fruit Cake Day December 27: If you like fruit cake, enjoy a nice slice. If not, enjoy another type of cake instead.

National Chocolate Candy Day December 28: Go to your local department store and stock up on all the boxes of leftover Christmas candy.

Pepper Pot Day December 29: This is a Jamaican soup and the recipe can be found online. This is a great recipe to make if you're tired of the cold weather.

National Bicarbonate of Soda Day December 30: Put your baking soda to use and make some delicious baked goods.

National Champagne Day December 31: Ring in the New Year with a nice glass of champagne or sparkling cider if you don't drink alcohol.


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Besides all the popular winter holidays, there are lots of other reasons to celebrate throughout the month of December. Check them out.

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December 1: Special Kids Day - If you have any special kids in your life, make this a day for them to remember.

December 2: International Day for the Abolition of Slavery - You may have thought that slavery was abolished long ago, but it still goes on.

December 3: International Day of Disabled Persons - Spend the day like a disabled person would. I bet you will appreciate everything you are able to do that other people might not be able to.

December 4: National Cookie Day - What else would you do on National Cookie Day?

December 5: Bathtub Party Day - A party in the bathtub? That just sounds wrong.

December 6: St. Nicholas Day - It's like having a Christmas before Christmas.

December 7: National Cotton Candy Day - Try to not get sick from eating too much sugar.

December 8: Wild Card - Believe it or not, there are no holidays (that I know of) on the 8th. Make up your own holiday.

December 9: Weary Willie Day - Take a nap. It will make you feel better.

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December 10: Human Rights Day - Exercise all your rights today.

December 11: UNICEF Birthday - Don't forget to throw a party with balloons and everything.

December 12: Poinsettia Day - Decorate the house in poinsettias (but if you have pets keep them all up high!).

December 13: Wild Card - Make up another holiday.

December 14: Wild Card - And another...


December 15: Cat Herders Day - I've heard of cattle herding and sheep herding...but never cat herding. Why not give it a try, and see how it goes?

December 16: National Chocolate-Covered Anything Day - Of all the chocolate holidays throughout the year, this one's my favorite. I mean, you can cover anything in chocolate.

December 17: Wright Brothers Day - Hold a party for them. Who cares if they don't attend? A party's a party.

December 18: International Migrants Day - Write a thousand word essay about the effect of the increasing number of migrants in the world.

December 19: Day for South-South Cooperation - No, I didn't stutter.

December 20: Mudd Day - Have a mud--er--mudd fight.

December 21: Humbug Day - This is the one day each year you have a reason to go around telling everyone, "Bah, humbug!"

December 22: National Haiku Poetry Day - Speak in haiku all day. Five syllables, then seven, then five more.

December 23: Festivus - It's like a festival that anyone can attend.

December 24: Christmas Eve - Of course, you know what Christmas Eve is. No? It's the day before Christmas, silly.

December 25: A'phabet Day (No 'L' Day) - Not only is December 25 Christmas Day, but it's A'phabet Day. No 'L's allowed. Remove them from your vocabu'ary, p'ease.

December 26: National Whiners Day - It's okay to whine. In fact, it's encouraged on National Whiners Day.

December 27: Wild Card - Finally...you need to get one more wild card in before the year is over. Make this one special.

December 28: National Chocolate Day - Eat some chocolate...but it doesn't end here. National Chocolate Day goes on into the 29th, as well.

December 29: National Chocolate Day - Eat some more chocolate.

December 30: Falling Needles Family Fest Day - Let the dried up needles fall off the tree, then dance around it. Barefoot.

December 31: Make up Your Mind Day - Is it--wait. No, maybe not. Yep, I guess it's my birthday, after all.