Friday, December 21, 2012

Recycle Christmas Cards

(Ideal central motif card to use)
Recycling Christmas cards has been my hobby for a number of years. I have taught 1st graders-to adults, including my neighbor Helen who was in her 90s when she learned to make them. Most go on to make many boxes.

These make wonderful gift boxes for small items such as jewelry, scarves, money, checks, and candy.

My directions are simpler than many I found online. I published a how-to in the kids' magazine put out by Focus on the Family last year.

If you choose to make them, have fun. The first one is a little hard, but after that you can make many. Kids, especially boys, seem to make the most!

What you'll need:

  • Old Christmas cards
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Stapler, white glue or tape

How to make them:

    Below is an example of an asymmetrical design. It can make a cute box too, but some parts will be lost in the folds.
Cut the card on the fold line (if you choose a card with a central motif, the boxes are normal looking. Asymmetrical designs look funky, but are fun too.)

  1. On the inside of the card hold the ruler from one diagonal corner to the other, and draw an X mid line. Can use pencil if you want to erase your mark later.
  2. On the short end, cut a slit from the end to where the two lines intersect There will be two cuts on each end. (See the picture below)
  3. Repeat on opposite end.
  4. Place the ruler on the inside of one line. Hold it and bend the card towards the inside and crease, or use scissors, ruler or a glue stick as a creaser/iron.
  5. Repeat on each line, creasing toward the middle.
  6. Fold the short end (wall) up.  Cross the two shorter legs criss-cross under the longer "tab" that has been created that sticks out past the short end.
  7. Fold the tab to the inside (they are creased). Place a piece of tape on the tab and stick it to the inside "wall" (short end) of the box.
  8. Repeat for opposite long end.
  9. Repeat the three steps above for the opposite short end.
  10. Repeat the above steps for the back of the card. This will be the bottom of the box.
  11. Optional: Cut a piece of paper or cardstock to fit inside the box to cover up the greeting and signature from the card. Tape in place.
  12. Make the bottom of the box just like the front side. If the card is not too thick, you can fold the two sides through all steps. You can also use scrapbook paper to make boxes as long as they are not too big. Thinner paper isn't as strong as card stock. 
See the folded sides and the X in the middle. Note: cut the folds on the shorter side of the rectangle, fold in and make the tab which is taller hold the legs in. You can use glue, tape or a staple to secure the end.

This is how to use the ruler to find the center of the card from one corner to the next. See picture above to see the drawn x. Fold the sides to the center and crease. (The man in the picture was such a good sport he allowed us to use some of his cards from his "tacky Christmas sweater" to make boxes.)

After both halves of box are assembled, but the bottom into the top. (How do you like my "tacky Christmas sweater"?) At this point, you can fill the box with candy, etc.

Happy Christmas boxes!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas Colors-Red and Green

Modern Christian Symbolism
  • Red - Christ's blood shed for our sin on the cross. (John 19:34)
  • Green - Eternal life in Christ. (John 3:16-17)

Green is specifically an evergreen color, as evergreen trees are said to never die, nor will we if we live our lives according to the word of Christ.
Many of the early Christians were originally pagans who celebrated Yule. When they started celebrating Christmas they wanted to bring some of their old, beloved customs into the new holiday; among them were the Yule log and the Yule colors red, green, silver and gold.

I am busy, as I know you must be too, decorating the tree and house, cooking yummy goodies, and wrapping presents. Christmas music is playing, and I am picturing the heavenly choir and organist pictured above as I hear "O Holy Night" and "O Little Town of Bethlehem" and feel a peace in my heart despite the busyness. May peace bless you too in this special season of love.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Chocolate is a favorite color because it reminds us of treating our taste buds. I am not sure I could live with the pimped out refrigerator graphic above long term, but it is fun to imagine it in my kitchen.

If you are redecorating your master bedroom, consider combining yummy shades of chocolate and sky blue colors. The orange in browns compliments the blues, the opposites on the Color Wheel.

Sometimes, chocolate receives bad press, read the following for an update on Myths about Chocolate, it is good to know the truth!

Both the Mayans and Aztecs believed the cacao bean had magical and divine attributes, appropriate for service in even the most sacred rituals of birth, marriage and death. By the 17th century, chocolate in drinking form was a fashionable quaff for the European elite, who believed it to have nutritious, medicinal and aphrodisiac properties. It’s been said that Casanova was especially enamored by its charms.
And the love affair has yet to wane. Chocolate manufacturing is a more than $4 billion industry in the United States alone, and the average American eats at least half a pound of the confectionery every month.
But chocolate is a funny thing. In recent years it has become the darling of nutritionists as health benefit after health benefit has been revealed — most notably that it lowers the risk of stroke and heart attacks. Yet, it’s long been the character actor bad guy in any number of scenarios, including acne, weight gain and high cholesterol.
But is chocolate’s bad reputation warranted? Should we embrace it as a miracle food, or shun it as a deleterious delight? Here's the dope on chocolate's most notorious myths.
1. Chocolate raises bad cholesterol
If you’ve given up chocolate in the name of lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol, you may have been unwittingly sacrificing the sweet treat for nothing. Quelle tragique! While it’s true that chocolate contains cocoa butter, which is high in saturated fat, much of the fat comes from stearic acid, which doesn’t act like saturated fat. Studies have shown that chocolate does not raise bad cholesterol, and in fact for some people, chocolate can lower cholesterol levels.
2. Chocolate is high in caffeine
Contrary to popular belief, chocolate is not loaded with the jitter-inducing compound known as caffeine. A Hershey’s chocolate bar contains 9 milligrams of caffeine and a Hershey’s Special Dark bar contains 31 milligrams, as compared to the 320 milligrams found in a Starbuck’s grande brewed coffee. Darker varieties are higher in caffeine, it’s true, but not as high as many people think.
3. The sugar in chocolate causes hyperactivity
Excessive sugar causes kids to jump off the walls, bounce off the ceiling, and generally mimic a rogue helicopter, right? So we thought. But more than a dozen good-quality studies have failed to find any link between sugar in children's diets and hyperactive behavior. Two theories: It’s the environment that creates the excitability (birthday parties, holidays, etc) and/or that the connection is simply in the minds of the parents expecting hyper behavior following sugar-fueled revelries.
4. People with diabetes have to give up chocolate
Chocolate does not need to be completely avoided by people with diabetes. In fact, many are often surprised to learn that chocolate has a low glycemic index. Recent studies suggest that dark chocolate may actually improve insulin sensitivity in people with normal and high blood pressure and improve endothelial dysfunction in people with diabetes. Of course, always check with your doctor before ripping open the candy's wrapper.
5. Chocolate causes tooth decay and cavities
A study investigating the development of plaque from chocolate found that chocolate has less of an effect on dental plaque than pure table sugar. Of course, most of us aren’t snacking on straight sugar, but another study backed it up when it showed no association between eating chocolate and getting cavities. In fact, a study from Osaka University in Japan found that parts of the cocoa bean, the main ingredient of chocolate, thwart mouth bacteria and tooth decay. Fighting cavities never tasted so good.
6. Chocolate makes you gain weight
Well, not necessarily. Obviously, monumental hot fudge sundaes aren’t going to do your waistline any favors, but a large study funded by the National Institutes of Health found this: Consuming a small amount of chocolate each of five days during a week was linked to a lower BMI, even if the person ate more calories overall and didn't exercise more than other participants. Hello, chocolate diet.
7. Eating sugar and chocolate can add to stress
A study found that eating about an ounce and a half of dark chocolate a day for two weeks reduced levels of stress hormones in the bodies of people feeling highly stressed. (Aren't we all stressed in this season? Hello Chocolate!)
8. Chocolate lacks nutritional value
If you’ve seen any of the deluge of scientific studies touting the health benefits of chocolate, you know this is not true. But just how nutritious is chocolate? It has bona fide superfood status. A typical dark chocolate bar contains as much antioxidant capacity as 2 3/4 cups of green tea, 1 glass of red wine, or 2/3 cup of blueberries. In addition, chocolate also contains minerals and dietary fiber.
9. Chocolate must contain at least 70 percent cacao to be good for you
The general recommendation is to consume dark chocolate with a minimum of 70 percent cacao to reap the health benefits; in general, the darker the chocolate, the higher the antioxidant content. However, in one 18-week study, participants who ate a small amount of 50 percent cacao chocolate experienced a significant reduction in systolic and diastolic blood pressure. As well, another study showed short-term improvements in blood flow and blood pressure after consumption of a 60 percent cacao dark chocolate.
10. Chocolate is an aphrodisiac
The Aztecs may have been the first to believe in the connection between chocolate and amorous feelings — Montezuma is said to have consumed large amounts to enhance his romantic forays, and Casanova imbibed pre-seduction as well. But numerous studies have yet to find conclusive evidence that chocolate physically gets the fires burning. That said, chocolate is sensual to eat, lowers stress, and may have aphrodisiac qualities that are psychological in origin.
11. Chocolate causes acne
Although any teen will tell you that chocolate causes acne, studies going as far back as the 1960s have failed to show any relationship between chocolate consumption and acne. An extensive review in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that “diet plays no role in acne treatment in most patients … even large amounts of chocolate have not clinically exacerbated acne.”
The moral of the story is: Eat chocolate! Alas, eat it in moderation. An average 3-ounce bar of milk chocolate has 420 calories and 26 grams of fat, almost as much as a Big Mac — and that's a fact. (My advice is to shun Big Macs and, instead, have a chocolate snack!)
I hope Santa fills your stocking with lots of chocolate this year...I'm assuming you have been very good.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Mistletoe's Color Legends

Kissing under the Mistletoe has been a custom I've observed for many years around Christmastime. I never knew until recently that the custom began with the druids in northern Europe.

"They believed mistletoe had curative powers and could heal lots of things, including separation between people. So when two enemies happened to meet under an oak tree with mistletoe hanging above them, they took it as a sign from God that they should drop their weapons and be reconciled. They would set aside their animosities and embrace each other under the mistletoe." This excerpt is from Christmas Gifts That Won't Break: An Advent Study for Adults by James W. Moore.

Another legend about mistletoe involves color.
"In pre-scientific Europe it was believed that mistletoe plants burst forth -- as if by magic -- from the excrement of the "mistel" (or "missel") thrush. According to Sara Williams at the University of Saskatchewan Extension, "It was observed in ancient times that mistletoe would often appear on a branch or twig where birds had left droppings. 'Mistel' is the Anglo-Saxon word for 'dung,' and 'tan' is the word for 'twig'. So, mistletoe means 'dung-on-a-twig'." Not exactly a word origin in keeping with the romantic reputation of mistletoe plants!

While belief in spontaneous generation has long been discredited, the word origin of "mistletoe" is not as fanciful as one might at first think. "By the sixteenth century," says Williams, "botanists had discovered that the mistletoe plant was spread by seeds which had passed through the digestive tract of birds." And folks had known for some time that the berry of mistletoe plants is a favorite treat of the mistel thrush. So while their reasoning was somewhat askew, the old-timers were justified, after all, in naming mistletoe plants after the bird most responsible for its dissemination.

As might be expected from a plant that has held people's fascination for so long, mistletoe plant has also carved out a niche of fame for itself in literary annals. Two of the better-known books of the Western tradition feature a particular mistletoe shrub prominently -- a mistletoe shrub given the pseudonym of "golden bough." And herein lies yet another twist in the tale of this remarkable plant.

In Virgil's Aeneid, perhaps the most famous book in classical Latin literature and one of the most famous poems of all time, the Roman hero, Aeneas, makes use of this "golden bough" at a critical juncture of the book. The "golden bough" was to be found on a special tree in the grove sacred to Diana, at Nemi; a tree containing a mistletoe plant. The prophetess Sibyl instructed Aeneas to pluck this magic bough before attempting his descent into the underworld. Sibyl knew that, with the aid of such magic, Aeneas would be able to undertake the perilous venture with confidence. Two doves guide Aeneas to the grove and alight upon the tree, "from which shone a flickering gleam of gold. As in the woods in the cold winter the mistletoe -- which puts out seed foreign to its tree -- stays green with fresh leaves and twines its yellow fruit about the boles; so the leafy gold seemed upon the shady oak, so this gold rustled in the gentle breeze." (Aeneid VI, 204-209).

The title of Sir James G. Frazer's anthropological classic, "The Golden Bough" (1922), derives from this very scene in Virgil's Aeneid. But just how, you might be asking, can something green like mistletoe plants become associated with the color gold? According to Frazer, mistletoe could become a "golden bough" because when the plants die and wither (even evergreens eventually die, of course), mistletoe plants acquire a golden hue. Fair enough. But once again, botany and folklore most likely must be mingled to arrive at the full explanation.

The perception of goldenness in the dried leaves of mistletoe plants was probably influenced by the fact that, in the folklore of Europe, it was thought that mistletoe plants in some cases are brought to earth when lightning strikes a tree in a blaze of gold. And a fitting arrival it would be, after all, for a plant whose home is half way between the heavens and the earth."

Enjoy those kisses under the mistletoe, just don't eat the berries because they are poisonous!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Emerald Green is Pantone's Choice for 2013

Let's hope that Pantone's announcement of Emerald Green as the color of 2013 is prophetic of good financial times on their way.


Pantone name emerald the colour of 2013

Pantone, the global authority on colour, announced emerald green as the colour of 2013.
BY Olivia Bergin |    
The Duchess of Cambridge in an emerald Mulberry dress in London in October, 2012
The Duchess of Cambridge in an emerald Mulberry dress in London in October, 2012 Photo: REUTERS
Every December, Pantone, the provider of professional colour standards to the design industries, announces its colour forecast for the following year.

Just look to the Duchess of Cambridge - who recycled a positively regal-hued emerald Mulberry dress for a public appointment at the Natural History Museum last week.

"The most abundant hue in nature, the human eye sees more green than any other colour" explains Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Colour Institute of the shade, adding: "This powerful and universally-appealing tone translates easily to both fashion and home interiors."
But how is the annual colour determined and what does it mean in terms of fashion trends?

Pantone's Institute combs the world of entertainment to travel, sports events to new textile developments - looking for colour influences. The fashion world's adoption of green also plays a part: its recent rise on the red carpet and on the catwalks, and in men's sportswear knitwear and ties, add to Pantone's belief that emerald will "continue to make a statement beyond spring and summer into fall and winter."



Colors for Christmas

Elvis rocked out on Blue Christmas years ago, with romantic lyrics.

I'll have a blue Christmas without you
I'll be so blue just thinkin' about you.
Decorations of red on a green Christmas tree
won't be the same, dear, if you're not here with me.

And when those blue snowflakes start fallin',
that's when those blue memories start callin'.
You'll be doin' alright with your Christmas of white,
but I'll have a blue, blue, blue Christmas.

And, let's not forget his rendition of White Christmas

I'm dreamin' of a white Christmas
like the ones I used to know
where those treetops glisten and
children listen to hear sleighbells in the snow.

I'm dreamin' of a white Christmas
with every Christmas card I write.
May your days be merry and bright
and may all your Christmases be white.

If you decorate for Christmas, let me know what colors you use, I'd like to
report back what colors the majority of readers report. And, for incentive, the first one to respond will be receiving the Elvis Presley CD "It's Christmas Time."


Reindeer Jobs

Questions & Antlers

Q: How in the world can Santa’s reindeer make the grueling trek all the way around the globe, working through the night with only short rooftop breaks?

A: They’re females, that’s how they do it.

In most deer species only males grow antlers, but that’s not true for reindeer. And because most mature male reindeer shed their antlers in the winter, it’s safe to assume the antlered reindeer working their magic on Christmas Eve are female.

Q: Since reindeer are fairly large, averaging 4-5 feet in height at the shoulder, where did Santa come up with his tiny fleet?

A: Christmas reindeer are most likely a subspecies from the Svalbard Island off of Norway. Svalbards measure roughly half the size of other reindeer.
It is obvious the female pictured above has less antler weight than her male friend. However, in pictures of Santa and his reindeer helpers, the deer definitely have antlers. Now, about Rudolph...???

                          Rudolph,  keeping things merry and bright!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Tacky Taste

Yoko Ono is in the headlines for her new fashions for men. Nearly 80, she still grabs the news headlines with her provocative designs.

"Yoko Ono has nearly done it all -- contemporary art, music, activism. But as she nears her 80th birthday, the widow of Beatle John Lennon is dabbling in something new: the fashion world.

This week in New York, Ono unveiled her first ready-to-wear collection -- an edgy unisex line called "Fashions for Men," based on sketches Ono first started in 1969 and gave to her husband as a wedding present that year.

The capsule collection includes apparel, footwear and accessories. One of the most provocative pieces is the "hand" wool suit, featuring a white handprint over the crotch of a pair of black trousers.

Bare shoulders peek out of paper-thin tight-fitting knit tops in pink or black. Tank tops and shirts are also provocative, with peekaboo holes.

"I was inspired to create 'Fashions for Men', amazed at how my man was looking so great. I felt it was a pity if we could not make clothes emphasizing his very sexy bod," Ono said in a statement.

"So, I made this whole series with love for his hot bod, and gave it to him as a wedding present."

More than 40 years after that wedding, and 32 years after Lennon's assassination, Ono was able to bring the collection to life thanks to Humberto Leon, the co-founder of uber-chic New York fashion emporium Opening Ceremony.

Leon said the idea first started to gel when the two met in Japan.

"We met about three years ago, at our opening in Tokyo. And when we met, she mentioned to me that she had done some drawings," Leon told AFP at the presentation of the collection.

"About a year and a half ago, we met and she showed it to me and together we said, 'Oh, why don't we make this come to life!'"

"We went as close as we could to what she had originally envisioned for John back then. It's exciting to see it all," Leon said.

Ono, wearing a double-stacked black top hat with whimsical puffy white bows and a black jacket revealing ample cleavage, signed copies of the book -- which includes some of her sketches -- published to mark the collection's debut.

The Tokyo-born artist -- raised in both Japan and the United States in a well-off family of bankers -- became a global icon when she married the rocker from Liverpool and really never left the limelight after Lennon's 1980 slaying.

Ono -- who was long accused of sparking the break-up of the Beatles, a claim she vehemently denies -- earned plaudits for her performance art and her work as a tireless campaigner for world peace.

Ever since her Montreal honeymoon with Lennon, during which the couple called for peace from their marital bed, Ono has pursued the fight. In 2002, she launched the "LennonOno" grant for peace in Iceland, given every two years.

She has also campaigned against world hunger and fracking.

At the fashion opening, her adoring fans have not lost an ounce of enthusiasm."

I am decorating a Christmas sweater to wear to a "Tacky Party." Thinking of tacky clothes, I have to give Ono credit for the tackiest I've seen yet.

What do you think?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Red's Significance in Les Miserables

With the blockbuster, Les Miserables, to open soon in theatres, the following article about the choice of red for key scenes makes perfect sense.


For 'Les Miz' and more, the color red makes a statement

It's a strong color. Costume designers tend to use it sparingly. But sometimes the situation just calls for it.


Les Miserables
In "Les Miserables," a sign of Fantine's (Anne Hathaway) fall is her red dress. (Laurie Sparham, Universal Pictures / November 29, 2012)

For most of "Les Misérables," things do not go well for Fantine. Abandoned by the father of her child, she goes on a long spiral down the economic ladder and winds up working in a brothel. And although she's always featured with a splash of color in the film, by the time she's selling her body there's only one color left for her to wear: red.
"In 'Les Misérables,' one thing [director Tom Hooper] wanted to have was color. Fantine always had to have reds and pinks in her outfit," says costume designer Paco Delgado. "I love to think in terms of color for characters and in moments of the movie. Color really connects with emotions that shape the psyche of the audience."
Color is naturally part of the decision-making process for costume designers, who must consult with production designers and the director to make sure whatever the actor wears in a given scene complements or contrasts with the scenery around them. But beneath that initial decision making, the ultimate color choice carries with it a lot of other meaning, meaning that usually just brushes past the audience the way foreshadowing does in a book. But when the color is red, everything goes out the window. Shown on an actress (or an actor), red makes a statement: This is an important moment, this character needs to come front and center.
"Red's a very attention-drawing color," says "Django Unchained" costume designer Sharen Davis. "You put a red outfit on the female lead, and she's usually going to be turning a corner or trying to be very sexy — it's a pivoting point where they're trying to be bold and aggressive."
Although Quentin Tarantino's "Django" itself isn't covered in red (outside of the blood), splashes do pop up — a burgundy suit, for example. Davis, who earned an Oscar nomination for her "Dreamgirls" work, notes, however, that when the lead actresses in that film stepped into a dream sequence, over to the bad side, they were in red beaded dresses. "It does have a meaning," she says. "But you use it sparingly."
Sparingly, primarily, because no one wants to jerk the audience out of the fantasy experience of the story and into the mechanics of how the strings are being pulled. Some directors don't shy from "on the nose" use of bold colors — Jacqueline Durran, costume designer for Joe Wright's "Anna Karenina," earned an Oscar nomination for her work with him on "Atonement" and recalls, "He specifically wanted Benedict Cumberbatch's character to wear yellow in that film ['Atonement'], because it is the color of cowardice."
But for the most part, it's about knowing the right time and place to deploy the red bomb. "You have to decide: Do you want it spot on?" asks Deborah Nadoolman Landis, former president of the Costume Designers Guild, now the director of the David C. Copley Center for Costume Design. "Is this costume going to sabotage the scene? Because if we're looking at the dress, we're not listening to what the actress is saying."
Color choice can be a tug of war between a costume designer who knows the power of red and a director who wants to pull it out for great effect — and gratuitous use of the color isn't necessarily the fault of the designer. Notes Landis, "Costume designers don't have the final decision on anything. The decider may have changed from producer to director over the years, but the costume designer has always been just one piece of the visual context of the frame."
"Certain directors — none that I worked for — that's their big idea and how they've always envisioned it and they have a crush on the leading lady and she has to be in red," says Mark Bridges, costume designer for "The Master" and "Silver Linings Playbook."
Fortunately that wasn't an issue in "The Master," where red is brought out in subtle, careful spots: The first time Philip Seymour Hoffman's title character is seen, he's in red patterned pajamas. "We did that to catch [Joaquin Phoenix's character] Freddy's attention," Bridges says. "We wanted to compel his mind."
In the occasional instance in which a director might be more demanding in his use for that red flag color, "Lincoln's" costume designer JoAnna Johnston suggests there are ways to get around it, like toning the brightness down. "You do sometimes hear directors saying, 'I see her in red,' because it's classically sexy and hot and all of those things, but what's interesting with red is when you drop the color around a little bit — a bit more orange, a bit more blue — then it can send out an entirely different signal."
In "Lincoln," the nearly overwhelming need for earth tones and black suits made red almost impossible, but Johnston found the right spot: as the character Elizabeth Blair (Julie White) is bundling her father into a carriage. "I gave her a very strong red shawl," she says. "I wanted her to have strength in that scene — she's quite fiery and strong and a modernist. That's the only time I felt it would be right to use it."
But for Johnston — who used red to great effect in highlighting the "clues" in "The Sixth Sense," prudency with red is warranted in any film; costume designers shouldn't fear being obvious: "Whether it's a sexy silk dress or a man in a red cloak, it's got drama, and people love seeing red. It may be a cliché sometimes, but that's good too."
No doubt about the power of red to convey drama. BBL

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The World's Most Famous Step-Father

The El Paso Museum of Art will host an exhibit dedicated to the world's most famous step-father.

Saint Joseph
December 2 – April 21, 2013
Dorrance and Olga Roderick Gallery: Retablo Niche
Anonymous, Mexico
Saint Josephand the Child Jesus, 18th Century
Oil on copper
Gift of Mrs. Dubois Tobin
Continuing its focused, thematic exhibitions from the retablos permanent collection the El Paso Museum of Art announces the exhibition Saint Joseph on view in the Roderick Retablo Niche Gallery from December 2nd, 2012 through April 21st, 2013. Known to many as Christ`s surrogate father, Saint Joseph has been historically depicted in art as a haloed or crowned member of the holy family. The seventeen retablos included in this exhibition examine the traditional iconography of color, costume and pose as well as the attributes with which the saint has been portrayed. Shown exclusively in close contact with the Christ child in several creative variations influenced by local traditions Saint Joseph`s role as Christ`s guardian is a recurring, significant feature.
This wonderful museum is located at One Arts Festival Plaza in El Paso. The phone number is:
Feliz Navidad!