Monday, December 5, 2011

Hanging Ornaments on the Christmas Tree:

I never once read an article or a blog posting on the particulars of hanging ornaments on the Christmas tree.  Knowing the whys and wherefores is what I call folk knowledge.  The way things are done in any particular family that are passed down to the next generation.  Until today, I didn't realize that there is a ratio of filler ornaments per 2 feet of tree in combination with special themed ornaments.  I slowly began to realize that to outsiders, my Christmas trees must have seemed butt ugly.

I never had themes.  I never had color schemes.  I always thought that tinsel could cover a magnitude of sins.  And to help clarify my thought process, I did a little Internet research to see what I could do to improve or, if nothing else, streamline how I do it.

Some Common Sense Tips:
  1. Buy a quality ornament hook.  One year I picked up a cheap box and even as I slipped them onto the ornaments they didn't feel right.  I came home from work the next day to find several of my heavier ornaments on the floor, the hook having straightened itself out under the weight of the ornament.  Most of my beloved treasures, did not survive the fall.
  2. When hanging your ornaments, try to no hang all the ornaments on the tips of the branches.  Try to get some ornaments back by the trunk, plus midway down the branches.
  3. It's never a good idea to hang ornaments on the Christmas tree light wires.
  4. If you have pets, hang your ornaments from ribbon, yard, raffia or floral wire.  I never met a dog that could resist taking a bite.
  5. When hanging those special one-of-a-kind ornaments, match the weight of the ornament with the strength of the branch.  If they really cause the tips of the branches to sag, hang them deeper into the tree.
  6. Don't be afraid to reposition a couple of inches of Christmas tree lights in order to showcase some of your more spectacular ornaments.
Do you know those boxes of 12 ornaments that are all the same shape or the same color?  You can usually get them for a couple of bucks?  These are called "filler" ornaments.  They're job is to evenly distribute color and sparkle. Christmas tree designers recommend that you have 20 filler ornaments per two foot of Christmas tree.  Put these ornaments on first and distribute them evenly across the surface of the tree as well as back towards the trunk and midway down the branches.

Then place on your one-of-a-kind special ornaments or family heirlooms.  Some designers recommend 10 special/themed ornaments per 2 feet of tree.  Remember to save the gaps in the branches for those longer ornaments that need to dangle.

If you're reading this blog, I know you love Christmas.  I know you probably have a fantastic collection of ornaments that you love as much as your children.  So I want to take a moment and make a suggestion to you.  Not forever, but just for now ...
If you have any tots at your house, or even a bad dog or incorrigible cat, I would recommend that you find a special place for your special breakable ornaments, rather than on the Christmas tree.  Let me explain...

25 years ago, I decked my Christmas tree to the nines.  With no indoor cat, I didn't hesitate to break out my family inheritance.  My youngest child was 2 1/2 and surely was scared enough of me NOT to mess with the Christmas tree. At the very tips, I hung the ornaments that came from my great grandma Minnie -- fairy light, thin as skin, blown glass teapots and samovars, sugar bowls and creamers.  They had traveled with her from Toledo, Ohio on the train.  Minnie had been a milliner.  Her husband, Dennis, a railroad man.  When the moved to Houston Heights, Texas -- around 1898, for Dennis' health, Minnie opened her own hat shop.  And these ornaments came from her shop.
I came home from my second night shift job to find all three kids lined up on the couch, and the tree looking somewhat askew.  Apparently for no reason, my almost three year old son thought he could climb the Christmas tree.  Of course it fell over and of course the only ornaments that shattered into a million shards were Minnie's.

Now, I'm not an idiot.  I know that JJ didn't just decide to climb the tree. I'm know that one of his sister's double dog dared him.  Hey, Christmas was over and there was no threat of ending up on Santa's naughty list.

My point is, those ornaments were irreplaceable.  I have searched the Internet, eBay, Elsy, antique stores -- and i have never found anything like them.  Those ornaments are gone, gone, gone.

If I had it to do over again, I would have opted for safety, for the preservation of precious family memories. I would have waited another 10 years before bringing them out.  I would have place them in a big glass bowl on the dining table, if I couldn't stand NOT to see them every year.  I should have bought Plexiglas display boxes for them and then locked them in the china cabinet.  But that was the price I paid -- don't let the same thing happen to you.


Friday, December 2, 2011

Miss Bee's Christmas Movie Review:

The National Tree:  * * (2 stars out of 5)
Meh.  Yawn.  Zzzzzzzzz.

It had possibilities: a cute teenage son, an emotionally frozen, environmentally conscious widowed dad, the pretty young toy store marketer, but then -- yeah.  It stalled, got boring.  It almost felt like the plot was written by one of those computerized screenwriting programs.

One of my pet peeves is when Hollywood takes a relatively attractive teenager and then attaches too much importance to the good looks, the nice body, the great hair.  And then try to turn said teen into a star.  Of course, it's not just teenagers that they do that to -- however --

I imagine that a young teenage girl, might find this boy cute, but as a mom, his disrespect to his dad left me cold.  I found nothing endearing, nothing salvageable about this child.  And what left me even colder? The dad let it go on.  And on. And on.  It is implied that the boy is 17 years or younger and still living at home.  Whatever happened to the old "My House, My Rules" rule?  So the dad really takes the situation in hand hand and caves, letting that child have his way.  In real life, that child should have been doing chores -  so many chores that he'd be too tired to do anything else but eat, sleep and school.

The movie culminates at the lighting of the National Tree on Thanksgiving day in Washington, D.C. -- so I consider this a holiday movie, but definitely NOT a Christmas movie.  It it came on TV, I wouldn't turn the channel, but unless you're a Brat Pack fan and always wondered what happened to Andrew McCarthy, you don't need to be buying this.

From the Box:
"A Father and Son's journey.  A Nation's hope.

When their Sitka Spruce is chosen as the White House Christmas tree, a father (Andrew McCarthy) and his son (Evan Williams, Degrassi: The Next Generation) set off on an exciting cross-country journey to deliver the tree to the nation's capital.  Facing hardship and adventure as they travel America's heartland, father and soon discover a bond they never knew existed and the true meaning of Christmas.  Full of holiday spirit, The National Tree is a heartwarming and inspiring film for the entire family."  

A Remedy for the Christmas Blues

Heifer International
While we're on the subject of charitable giving, let me mention one of my favorites -- Heifer International. 

I've been donating to Heifer for several years now.  At first it was because I really liked the idea of providing families with a sustainable source of protein.  And it seems like now that I'm involved, a lot of celebs are jumping on the Heifer bandwagon.  But I digress ...

It was also fun to learn about the animals in the program and why they are so important.  I'm telling you, this is one of those charities that are a great teaching tool for your kids.  Instead of just watching you write a check, they can get on line and see other families and THEIR children working with the animals and how it helps them. 

As I've grown wiser and more picky about where I send my charitable dollars, Heifer has managed to sustain the test of time.  Recently I learned that the CEO of Heifer makes a salary of a little over $200,000 a year plus expenses.  WHAT?  I thought my dollars went to help people, not pay some CEO.  But in the grand scheme of things -- he/she needs to make a living too, and compared with some of the other CEOs out there or actors or professional sports people, $200,000 is a drop in the bucket:
    • The CEO of GM made $1.7 million plus $5.3 mill in stock over 3 years plus $2 mill under a long term incentive program.
    • In 2009, Ford's Alan Mulally earned $17.9 million in cash and bonuses.
    • Also in 2009, Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan pulled down a cool mill.  Oh.  And $17 million in stocks and options.
    • I found a reference from 2001 that stated patent attorney Gerald Hosie made $40 million.
    • The head of Johns Hopkin makes over $1.5 million a year.
    • Congressmen and women make $174,000 annually.  Talk about throwing good money after bad ...
    • Leonardo DiCaprio made $77 million on his last two movies.
    • It is estimated that Bruce Springsteen makes around $53 million a year.
    • And Aaron Rogers could pocket $24.5 million if all incentives and escalators are met.
So what is this Heifer all about you might ask?  Here's a little something from the website :
"To End Hunger & Poverty
Heifer's mission is to work with communities to end hunger and poverty and care for the earth.
By giving families a hand-up, not just a hand-out, we empower them to turn lives of hunger and poverty into self-reliance and hope.
With gifts of livestock and training, we help families improve their nutrition and generate income in sustainable ways. We refer to the animals as "living loans" because in exchange for their livestock and training, families agree to give one of its animal's offspring to another family in need. It's called Passing on the Gift – a cornerstone of our mission that creates an ever-expanding network of hope and peace.

I can't imagine a more wonderful idea. 

And a side benefit of your charitable donation is a little magazine that comes to the mailbox periodically entitled World Ark.  It is a great educational tool. It's colorful, easy to read and I bet this would be extremely valuable for ideas for science projects or those who home school. 


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Miss Bee's Christmas Movie Review:

Bad Santa  * * * (3 out of 5 stars)
Bad Santa is hilarious.  Filthy and disgusting but hilarious.  I am not a woman that is easily offended, but I don’t think the “f” word has been said so many times in a single movie EVER.  On the other hand, sometimes it’s refreshing when a film sticks to its guns and doesn’t try to play to the hokey, smarmy platitudes that tend to make up the Christmas movie genre. 
I originally saw this in the theatre.  The audience was made up of wives who had lured their husbands into Christmas shopping with them with the promise of Bad Santa as a reward.  And it worked.  So as it gets closer to Christmas and you just want to hang out with your honey, this might be the movie to get him on the couch.  No need to promise hot chocolate and cookies.  Icy cold beer and some pizza is more in order.  If you are looking for a movie to fill you with the Christmas spirit – this is probably not one.
Raunchy or not, Christmas or not, my only real objection to the experience was the blurb on the back of the box…

From the box:
The baddest Santa ever comes to town in this never-before-seen exclusive director’s cut starring the hilarious Billy Bob Thornton (The Alamo), Bernie Mac (Ocean’s 12) and John Ritter (TV’s 8 Simple Rules).  Ill mannered store Santa Willie Stokes (Thornton) is really a safe cracker with a holiday tradition of making one big score every Christmas Eve with his clever Elf partner-in-crime Marcus.  But this year’s heist-fest could be completely foiled by a snoopy store manager (Ritter), savvy mall detective (Mac), sexy Santa fan and an innocent 8 year-old misfit who thinks the intoxicated and felonious Willie is the real Santa he seeks.  Forget the cookies and milk; this is the grittier gut-busting comedy that Rolling Stone pegs as “a Christmas perennial for Scrooges of all ages.

Your child does not need to see this. As a matter of fact, your college child doesn’t need to see this. 

On the plus side, Billy Bob Thornton don’t make no junk.  I miss Bernie Mac and I miss John Ritter and this gives me an opportunity to remember them again.  But the best part of this movie were the previews, one of them being Kinky Boots with Joel Edgerton and Chiwetel Ejiofor and it reminded me to put that movie on my “Want It” List.  Check it out:

Miss Bee's 2 Cents Worth


Several years ago, while fighting yet another bout of holiday depression, I took a little time to review the ghosts of Christmas pasts in an effort to try and understand where I got derailed.  What was it about those early years that were so fun and so joyous and so hopeful that I've been trying to get that feeling back for 45 years.  

Back in the early 60's, charity was taught in the public schools.  At least in Kalamazoo, Michigan it was.  We learned that no matter how little you had, there was always someone who had less than you.  And so I use Kalamazoo, Michigan as mainstream America.  If it was going on in Kalamazoo, it was probably going on in Omaha, Memphis, Newark -- you get the idea. 

We were introduced to UNICEF through "Trick or Treat for UNICEF."  There was great pride in bringing back to school the little cardboard container with the slot in it filled to overflowing with coins that you collected as you trick or treated.  We would knock on a door and say, "Trick or treat" and hold out our candy bags.  Once the important business was out of the way, we'd hold out the little UNICEF box and say, "Trick or treat for UNICEF."  The town expected it and many folks kept a bowl of pennies by the door for that very purpose.  I learned at a very early age that NO ONE likes it if you shook the little box of clinking coins at them.  

We had canned food drives.  A big box was set up next to the teacher's desk.  After the Pledge of Allegiance, the teacher would ask if anyone had brought in a can.  If you did, you would leap into line, walk up and place the can in the box.  You didn't want to be the only one to be left sitting at your desk.  When a box was full, the teacher would push it back by the blackboard and start a new box.  We had contests with the other classes as to who could be the most generous.  My mom hated it.  She had four kids who all wanted to bring a can every day of the food drive.  Now that I'm old I can see what a strain that must have put on the family budget.  But as a child, I had great pride in putting my can of corn in the box. It was directly because of me, that a family that would not go cornless at Christmas time!

In 6th grade, each classroom was given a Christmas stocking made out of red net and were asked to fill it.  I don't remember who was the beneficiary.  We were given a list of acceptable items and they were to be NEW, not something that you scavenged out of your own life.  Wrapped candy, little toys.  Janet Ward's dad was a dentist and she brought in tooth brushes and tooth paste, not just for our class, but for every classroom in the school.  Robin Lemmer's dad was a doctor and she brought in boxes of Animal Crackers.  Marbles, jacks, jump ropes.  We weren't supposed to bring Army men, but some did.  Mike Taylor brought a pack of baseball cards, but thought twice about it and switched it out for a Super Ball.  And Miss McClay, bless her Irish heart, made just as big a fuss over candy cane as she did over a little book.

But here's the thing, left alone and unadulterated, all of us wanted to help.  We knew that there were people starving in Ethiopia.  We knew that there were kids that didn't have any toys or anything warm to wear.  And, instinctively, we wanted to help.  It made us feel good if we could.  It made us proud that living here in the United States, not only did we have enough but we had a little extra with which to help someone else out.

So I began a mission of watching and listening for charities that I could donated to.  I'm not talking masses of money but dibs and dabs -- $10 here, $5 there.  I made some bad choices.  It's easy to give to the charities that are household names.  As I got older,  I tried to put my money where I could give the biggest bang for my buck.  And then -- while I understand and appreciate the whole global initiative -- I thought I would also like to give locally.  And while giving is good, there is also a fun factor -- call me selfish, but I'd rather use my money to buy ducks and bees, then to give prostate exams.  I would rather make a micro loan to a woman in Malawi for her farm co-op than fund a gifted artist to go to a private school  But that's just me. 

So, my point is this, if you are suffering from the holiday blues, try giving some of what you got away.  Here are some tips for getting your money in the right place.
  1. No matter how much you intend to give, check out that charity first at  Every charity is obligated to provide donors with detailed information about themselves such as annual reports, board of directors, mission statements etc.. 
  2. What is important to you?  While some people think it's absolutely imperative that they spend their charitable dollars to  send special needs kids to the circus, I like to donate my pennies to organizations that feed people.  I think that anything is possible when one doesn't have to worry about starving.
  3. Think local.  Google a list for "charities in" your area or check out your local news websites
  4. How is your donation spent?  The gang over at Charity Watch, most of the "highly efficient charities are able to spend 75% or more on programs."
  5. Do not allow ANYBODY to browbeat or bully you into making any kind of donation. 
  6. In this house if we've got the money we usually don't have the time.  If we've got the time we usually don't have the money -- if you don't have any money and still want to feel good?  Donate your time.  Be aware, however, that many organizations have an over abundance of volunteers at Christmas -- seems like you're not the only one who wants to feel better.  So instead of now, make a commitment to help out in January.
  7. Keep records of you donations.  Don't send cash, don't give out your credit card number EVER to any solicitor that calls you.  Don't use your credit/debit card on any website that is not a secure site. 
  8. Make sure that the charity you are making a donation to is the real deal.  There are a lot of made up, flim-flamming, scamming charities that SOUND like real charity that you've probably heard of.  If it sounds a little off, just postpone your donation and check it out at or your state charity registration office.
  9. Do not fall for the "sob story."  Nor the "down on my luck."  I'm going to sound like a total bitch, but there is a rash of causes that float to the surface during the holidays.  The instigators count on the fact that they are only asking for a couple of bucks.  They are also counting on you being to busy to check them out.  I'm not saying not to give, I'm saying be a little cautious. 
  10. If you've still got kids at home, get them involved.  Let them be the one to drop some change in the bucket in front of the grocery store.  Have them help you pick out a toy to donate to "Toys for Tots."  Better yet, at a toy drive, let them be the one to carry the toy up and actually hand it over.  It is never to early for a child to learn to give.  Got a go-getter of a teenager?  Have THEM organize a toy drive or a food drive with their friends.  It will look great on a college resume.
  11. Don't respond to those unsolicted emails -- also called spam.  Don't click on any link as they might contain a virus.  Instead, Google the name of the organization and study it that way.  Don't open any attached files as well. 
  12. Do not make donations to anyone that asks for a check payable to an individual.
  13. And the FBI wants you to know that "legitimate charities do not normally solicit donation via money transfer services."  And most legit charities websites end in .org NOT .com.
  14. And lastly the best piece of advise that I gleaned from  Once you've determined that the charity is worthy and legit, give generously.