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Christmas Symbols and the History Behind Them

Posted by Suzie Canale on Wed, Dec 07, 2016

Christmas is the season for time-honored traditions experienced with friends and family.  We mark this special occasion by decorating with particular items in order to make our homes feel festive for ourselves and for those who visit.  Twinkle lights, wreaths and trees are in high demand throughout Boston and are slowly appearing on doors and spotted within windows.  Just by driving by a house lit up by tiny rainbow bulbs, many of us experience a feeling of uplift and immediate joy.  Holiday décor plays a very strong influence upon creating the magic that the Yule Tide brings and the emotions that effervesce from these beautiful signs we associate with Christmas.  Every year, families partake in seeking out these novelties but have you ever wondered where the traditional influence began?  Find out what makes a balsam a Christmas tree and why a circle of garland eventually resulted into a holiday wreath.  You may just be surprised how these icons earned their fame and resulted into our most cherished seasonal ornamentation!

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Christmas Trees

Here’s an interesting fact:  Did you know that Christmas trees are the only single variety of arbor grown in all 52 states?  Yup- and that even includes Alaska and Hawaii!  Balsam, spruce and fir species are the #1 cultivated species in the U.S. and that’s all because of our love for Christmas!  Historically, there’s a ton of stories claiming the truth behind the Christmas tree but the one I like best is the tale about how the ancient people in the northern hemisphere celebrated the winter’s solstice, (the longest day of the year).  They believed that the Sun God had cyclical levels of feeling well during the warmer season and weak during the cold.  On December 21st, there would be a celebration for the Sun God because it was the end of her “ailing term” (the cold dark nights) and the beginning of her health once again (the return of heat and sunlight).  The people would mark this occasion by using pine and evergreen boughs to hang in their homes as a gesture for an early spring arrival.  They chose pine because it held its bright green color throughout the year.  The early Vikings and Romans also implemented a similar ritual when they displayed Christmas trees as a sign of continued health and everlasting life.

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Wreaths

As you can imagine, wreaths have been used as a symbol throughout time holding both a positive and negative implication.  Depending on the culture, region and religion, this icon could be gifted as either a token of victory or hung as a sign of death.  In “Christmasy” terms, the shape being a circle is typically tied with unity, everlasting love and “infinity” depictions, almost always recognized as a pleasant connotation.  As you might see today different styles woven out of berries, twigs or branches, the wreath is traditionally made with pine bows because past civilizations sought after its unchanging green hue.  If you’re Catholic, you might be interested in knowing that the wreath became associated with Christmas after the resurrection of Christ as it became used as a sign of eternal life.  

Tags: Symbols of Christmas, Christmas Wreaths, Christmas Trees, Christmas, Christianity

Christmas Gifts from the Heart, Not from Your Wallet

Posted by Suzie Canale on Sun, Dec 04, 2016

December is a great time to spend with friends and family but sometimes we forget what the holiday is all about.  Frequently, our concerns are focused on checking off our list of presents we feel we have to buy, complaining about the long lines in the department stores.  I’m not saying that our purchases during the season aren’t gifted with good intent, I’m just stating that much of what we buy to wrap up and put underneath the tree is unnecessary. Hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars later we are merely left with that feeling of “thank god that’s over” while we sweat over next month’s credit card statements.  

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It’s just not what Christmas is supposed be about so why not make real presents with our hearts instead of our wallets this season?  Not only will they be appreciated more, they won’t leave you fumbling to make January’s mortgage payment.  If you have little ones, you might really want to take this suggestion seriously.  One day they’ll be making holiday preparations for their own families.  Teaching them that Christmas isn’t about how much you spend early on is a life-long lesson that someday they’ll appreciate.  You don’t have to be overly crafty or talented to make beautiful presents either.

Tags: Symbols of Christmas, Christmas, Holidays, Gifts

Dressing Up Your Doorsteps for the Holidays

Posted by Suzie Canale on Fri, Dec 02, 2016

It’s time again to make plans for your holiday décor since the season is now upon us!  As you’re reading this, you’ve probably begun to make a list for garland, wrapping paper and maybe even a tree but please keep in mind that there’s plenty to do outside of your home as well.  Did “Christmas Vacation” just flash across your head, remembering the efforts of Clark Griswold blacking out his neighborhood with an extravagant light display?  Although hysterically funny, I’ll reassure you that decorating the outside of your home doesn’t have to be this elaborate…

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By using a few easy tips, you’ll be able to create a beautiful holiday presentation without spending gobs of money or using up precious time that could be better spent with family.   By “Recycling, Refurbishing and Reapplying” certain items that you already own, you can transform your plain entryway into a gorgeous welcoming display for friends and family.  Many people believe they have to be “Martha Stewart” in order to achieve a “magazine cover” appeal but judging by this guideline, you clearly don’t.  Shake off your worries and roll up your sleeves because it’s time to get going on your outdoor holiday decoration!

 

Recycling

Check in the garage and attic for anything that can be used to hold either small or large arrangements.  Iron cast urns, ceramic pots and metal containers are fabulous for holding pine and other seasonal greenery.  Next, poke around for last year’s lights and take a few minutes to both untangle and plug in to see if they still work.  Typically, the previous winter’s bulbs are tossed out for convenience but you’ll be happy to save a few bucks reusing rather than spending unnecessary finances.   

 

Refurbishing

Sometimes we toss out certain objects because they become a little shabby, worn or rusted, particularly things used in the yard such as planters.  Instead of automatically discarding them, we should be thinking first if they can be fluffed and buffed for future purpose.  When setting up an outdoor holiday display, these items become treasures by simply giving them a good cleaning and applying a fresh new polish of paint.  Marble, cast iron and metal materials are fantastic for this process and will come out looking brand new when placed on the doorsteps stuffed with pretty foliage.  

 

Reapplication

I love naturally growing outdoor foliage and even though the flowers have disappeared until spring, there is plenty still available for the picking.  If you live near wooded or forested areas, simply clip a few smaller branches from nearby trees and combine together in an outdoor pot.  Make sure you are collecting from a variety of species and you’ll soon learn that you don’t have to be a floral designer to make stunning arrangement both in and outdoors!

Tags: Holiday Decor, Christmas, December, Pottery

Ornamental Magic on a Budget

Posted by Suzie Canale on Fri, Dec 02, 2016

hristmas time is here and the bells are ringing, music is flowing and the decorations are being hung with care!  One of the biggest yuletide displays is the beloved Christmas tree, which is customarily decked out with shiny baubles and lights.  This presentation is the focus of the celebratory decor so it’s important to take pride in choosing themes, color palettes and textures.  


But wait a minute…  This can be EXPENSIVE!

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photo credit via http://www.nomeatathlete.com/

Have you ever really done a good accounting check on how much ornaments, tinsel and lights can cost for only a single year?  Generally, tree accessories can be a fortune ranging anywhere from $5.00 to $50.00 for a single package.  Holiday companies have made a fortune over charging for personalized gifts and hanging tokens when realistically we’re only using them one day out of the whole year!  I mean come on!  How much is overspending when it comes to dressing up a tree?

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photo credit via http://www.bhg.com/

Through careful research, I’ve found some great ways to cut back on the elaborate ornament fees by just using a little imagination.  Make your tree gorgeous without having to tap into the kids college fund and show your guests you can still implement a look with style and taste!  Start checking in your closets, attics and basements because I guarantee- you’ll have everything you need if you do some prep work before hand.  Be sure to add both perishable and nonperishable items including dried fruits and antique relics that have been passed down for generations.  Select only materials that are small in size and durable enough to be featured on branches that might be whimsy.  This is a fun activity for the entire family so get together and raid the house for anything and everything that will make your tree uniquely spectacular!

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photo credit via http://stowandtellu.com/

Tags: Holiday Decor, Christmas, Kids, DIY, Christmas Ornaments, Crafts

What Do Your Christmas Lights Say About You ?

Posted by Suzie Canale on Mon, Dec 21, 2015

I bet it’s no surprise that certain colors that you naturally gravitate towards can tell a lot about your personality. People who like red tend to be passionate and creative while those who gravitate towards shades of indigo and purple tend to be attracted to mystery and adventure. If yellow is your thing, there’s a pretty good chance that you’re upbeat and highly sociable or green can mean that you love the outdoors and are a free spirit.  Color can depict several aspects of a human being and can be used in areas of therapy, occupational advances and even relationship building.

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But here’s something I bet you didn’t know…

 

Christmas lights can also reveal a substantial amount of information just by your selection in variety, shape and lighting hue!  Since the choices have grown quite a bit since the days of the traditional rainbow strings, decorators are allowed to express themselves better and please customers more efficiently.  The Christmas lighting companies are well aware of this trend and have included hundreds of different models to opt from so you might want to do your homework!  Whether it’s to illuminate your house or to wrap around the tree, Christmas lights are the new and popular method of conveying your family’s character!  

 

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Tags: Holiday Decor, Christmas, December

Boston Area Charities to Donate to at Christmas

Posted by Suzie Canale on Wed, Dec 16, 2015

Sometimes the holiday season can be a difficult time for people.  I know the image of Scrooge just popped into many of your heads but those I really speak of are the homeless communities of Boston.  The temperatures are typically freezing, the days are shorter and everything seems to increase in cost by double.  It’s the sad face of December in the northeast for many and that’s without adding the factor of gifts to friends and families.  For some Bostonians, that’s not even a possibility…

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photo.credit; theguardian.com

Boston has always been looked upon as a melting pot, which joins together no matter how dim the situation might be, particularly when we’re talking about being cold and hungry.  Local shelters and day programs need our help to support those struggling and lucky for us-it is very easy to do!  Whether it’s donating a new blanket or offering to serve a Christmas dinner at a shelter kitchen, there’s a way for us all to help make this season jolly for everyone.  So if you’re looking for some cheer to spread around, try getting involved with these very special non-profit organizations located right in the heart of our city.

 

Rosie’s Place                                                           The Woods-Mullen Shelter

889 Harrison Ave, Boston, MA 02118                     794 Massachusetts Ave, Boston, MA

Phone:(617) 442-9322                                                  (617) 534-7101

 

The Women’s Lunch Place                                       Harvard Square Homeless Shelter

67 Newbury St, Boston, MA 02116                          66 Winthrop St, Boston, MA

Phone:(617) 267-1722                                               Phone:(617) 547-2841

 

Oasis Coalition                                                        Father Bill's Place

101 Arch St, Boston, MA 02110                             38 Broad St, Boston, MA

Phone:(617) 807-0940                                             Phone:(617) 770-3314

Tags: Charity, Christmas, December

Cool Christmas Centerpieces on a Budget

Posted by Suzie Canale on Mon, Dec 14, 2015

Cool Christmas Centerpieces on a Budget

 

Christmas decorating is a lot of fun but it can also be really expensive, which puts a damper on things fast.  The lighting, linens and ornamental baubles throughout the home can be quite costly so where we can find a little room to save, we have to nab it!  One of these areas can be found within floral centerpieces.  By implementing creativity and imagination, you will see that you can design stunning arrangements that are both budget savvy and eye appealing.  There are a multitude of materials lying around our backyards, basements and attics that are just waiting to be reused for this year’s seasonal décor.  These are just a few ideas to get you started with your planning for the Christmas festivities!

 

Ornaments

ornaments center piece

photo credit: FlowerFactor

Ornaments can do more than simply hang on a tree!  Their intricate colors and designs are perfect for crafting such as this centerpiece made with ribbon, pine and round Christmas ornaments.  All you have to do is find a foam base and start glue gunning the materials in the desired format.  Oblong and circular work well but for those who are confident, try a box or triangular shape.   In no time at all you’ll have a pretty and seasonal presentation like this one!

 

Candles

 

Candles are a great investment because you’ll find that they have multiple purposes besides just lighting a room.  Select a low serving platter or a cheese dish and place white candles in the middle, leaving room in between.  Fill in the spaces with cranberries and place in the center of the buffet.  Not only will the glow compliment your dishes, but you’ll save a few bucks by utilizing what you already own in your home.  

 

Fruits

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photo credit: myhomeideas.com

If you need a fast and workable arrangement this holiday, I highly suggest this ingenious idea of layering fruit in a clear glass vase.  The container should have sizeable width and accessible height to accommodate multiple shapes and sizes.  Raid your refrigerator for oranges, lemons, limes and berries (anything with bright color) and finish it off by clipping a couple of branches from your tree.  Voila!



Tags: Flower Arrangements, Christmas, December

Vegetarian Christmas

Posted by Suzie Canale on Fri, Dec 11, 2015

 

Vegetarianism is growing in popularity for many reasons including weight control, organ health, animal conservation and dental hygiene.  There are many different types of non-meat-eaters including those who eat fish and dairy but omit pork, beef and chicken.  Due to this expanding range of vegetarians, several people are giving this diet a try because they’re able to tailor their food selection with omitting everything they like.  

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Lucky for many of us (I myself am a vegetarian), eliminating the meat and poultry from diets has gotten even easier because food companies, supermarkets and farmers are realizing the growing demand to eliminate fat and increase healthier eating habits.  Grocery stores now offer a wide array of non-meat products such as veggie burgers and tofu based meals allowing us to find the foods that are nutritious and appetizing to our taste.

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With that said, is it possible to host a holiday dinner such as Christmas without serving any meat as a main course?  Is the turkey and roast beef what makes this feast so special or can an all-vegetable menu still satisfy an entire house of guests?

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I believe that it can if you take special care in selecting particular dishes that will both compliment one another as well as fill everyone’s bellies.  Having platters of only raw celery sticks and carrots as appetizers may encourage a rumbling growl from stomachs and in all honesty, there’s a better way to go about it without having to starve.  Over the years, I’ve collected some fabulous additions to my holiday fare that is both filled with vegetables and satisfyingly delicious!  Here’s what I’ll be cooking in my kitchen this Christmas for both my meat eating and vegetarian guests.

Looks good to me!



Tags: Christmas, Chef, cooking, Vegetable Garden

How to Liven’ Up a Flower Shop During the Holidays

Posted by Suzie Canale on Thu, Dec 10, 2015

The holiday season can be a wonderful time for most but for others, there’s a lot of stress and hard work involved. If you’re a local flower shop, you really understand this statement.  Florists have to move a ton of product just to pay for the increase in overhead during the month of December due to heating, staff and wholesale product prices.  For the larger floral operations, they have competition against supermarkets, truck stops and even buy-in-bulk stores like Cosco.  There’s a constant price war and in the end-you’re lucky if you can break even.  For the smaller flower shops who are struggling to sell their red amaryllis and rose arrangements, they too battle against lower quality look-a-likes sold by neighboring entities who can shove a few poinsettia plants in the window and call themselves a greenhouse.  Plain and simple-it’s a tough time of year for these guys so they need to do everything they can to attract customers.

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Thankfully, they’re doing a great job because business proprietors and employees have allowed themselves to think outside the box.  With creative ideas that work to relax, enchant and excite potential patrons into choosing their store over the others, floral companies are effectively overcoming the saturation of the market during Christmas and are winning back the prestige of their seasonal décor as they should be.  Here’s a few ways that are setting these guys apart from the rest!

 

Music is the Key

Music is the number #1 stimulator that encourages the emotion of happiness.  Plug in those speakers and fire up Nat King Cole, Andy Williams or even “Alvin and the Chipmunks Holiday Sing Along” to alleviate tension and increase the spirit of the season!  Both your customers and staff will thank you.

Something’s in the Oven

When you have something cooking in the oven, the scent works its way into our neuro-system releasing anxiety and frustration. When the food baking is something sweet, the effects are quadrupled. Offer a nice plate of Christmas cookies to all those who enter your store and make sure you have both gluten and sugar free options for those who prefer an alternative to sugar or have dietary restrictions.

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The Wonder of a Flocking Machine

There’s nothing like watching a flocking machine do its magic on a tree farm!  The buzzing sound coupled with the white flakes floating up in the air can make anyone smile so if you’re on the fence about making the investment-go for it!

Light It Up

It doesn’t matter if the lights are rainbow-colored, blue, purple, white, red or silver- bulbs are a must when decorating your business for the season.  The effect promotes a sense of ethereal and softness curtailing those moods that might be a bit brittle during the month of December.

 

Celebrate Like It's Family

Do you realize that the people who choose your shop to do businesses with during this season are also welcoming you into their holiday celebrations?  Your entity has become a part of their family’s festivities just buy purchasing the perfect Christmas tree, poinsettia plant or pinecone centerpieces from you!  

 

Where There’s a Santa- There’s a Way…

Grab a person who works for you and put them in a Santa Suit!  They don’t have to look the part, but they do have to smile and say “ho, ho, ho!”  You wont believe how excited the younger customers will be and what it does for your company’s environment as a whole.

 

Don’t Forget It’s Called the “Season of Giving”!

They don’t call it the “season of giving” for nothing, you know!  Contact your local non-profits and donate a few vases and plants for elder and homeless dinners or even ask your local library if you can participate in a free flower arranging demonstration!  You’ll feel great and you might even stir a little interest you way!




Tags: Christmas Trees, Christmas, Florist, Flock, Santa

Flowers are 2015’s Holiday Gift of Choice

Posted by Suzie Canale on Wed, Dec 09, 2015

Tis’ the season of giving and if you’re like the rest of the world, you’re probably starting to feel a little anxious about how all of the shopping will get done!  The truth is, there’s just not a whole lot of time left to purchase all of the holiday presents written on your list so you’ve got to come up with a realistic plan.  Gifts should be thoughtful, accommodating and affordable for your friends and loved ones.  Forget the expensive trinkets, useless junk and endless hours spent waiting in long lines and try something new!

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Floral gifts are beginning to make a gigantic comeback as 2015’s gift of choice and there’s no doubt why.  Flowers are both cost efficient, easily attainable and pleases a wide variety of people, particularly the fussy ones who are hopeless to buy for.  Select varieties that are compatible to the giftee (no scent for those who dislike strong odors, plants for those who might be allergic to blooms) and watch them praise you for the heartwarming sentiment

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When selecting the right floral product, you want to keep in mind a few factors.  Not every arrangement is appropriate for everyone so you’ll want to do your research first.  What colors do they prefer?  Do they like Christmas décor or subtle non-denominational pieces?  Is the climate chilly or hot and do they prefer sweet aromas as apposed to fruity?  It might seem silly but there are many instances where it is of the utmost importance to do your homework before calling or ordering on line.   For example, you wouldn’t want to give a poinsettia to someone who has a nippy cat or dog for a pet since this species must be kept inside from the cold weather and are poisonous to ingest.  The best gifts during the season are ones appropriate for the entire household’s enjoyment and safety.

 

Now that we’ve nailed down the basics of gifting with flowers, how about we browse the possibilities and head to our local florist!

 

 

Tags: Flower Arrangements, Thomas Kinkade, Christmas, Flowers

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