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O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree, How lovely are your branches!

SUNDAY is family day…the day before going back to work/school…the day we do everything together. This Sunday, it included picking out our Christmas tree. This annual holiday tradition conjures up many happy memories of picking out a real Christmas tree in years past.
My children (six and four) are in the back seat singing the Vince Guaraldi Trio version of O Tannanbalm…O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree, How lovely are your branches! My husband in the front seat is not thrilled that I broke out Charlie Brown this early in the holiday season (I have a slight obsession with Vince Guaraldi’s music and listen to it more than what is probably normal).
There are certain things that I really, really want every holiday season and a real Christmas tree is first on the in line among my mom's crown roast for Christmas Eve dinner, baking Christmas cookies, and attending Christmas mass.
My family, picking out our own Christmas tree in Colorado. My sister is hanging the angel and I am "snowing" the tree.
Growing up, my family adopted my Dad’s Christmas tradition of snowing our own real tree with Ivory Snow. This tradition started out nice until my mom was always the last one standing decorating solo. My Dad and my brother and sister and I would suddenly reappear after my mom had completed about 90% of the tree by herself.
Out of the seven popular Christmas trees to choose from (Scotch Pine, Douglas Fir, Noble Fir, White Pine, Balsam Fir, Fraser Fir and White Spruce), we almost always choose the Fraser Fir because they have thick branches to handle lots of ornaments and that lovely fresh pine smell.
The story of how the Christmas tree came about starts with the German, Martin Luther, who was on his way home one night when he was struck by the sight of stars shining through the branches of a fir tree. He cut one down and dragged it home to decorate it with candles trying to emulate the sight for his family.
The tradition was later brought to England in 1846 by Prince Consort Albert, the German husband of Queen Victoria who was very fashionable…so the Christmas tree became a stylish tradition not only in England but America too.
The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is a world-wide symbol of the beginning of the holidays. It will be lit Wednesday, November 28 and decorated with more than 30,000 multi-colored lights and crowned by a Swarovski star. We’ll be watching it at home on NBC from 7-9. 
My sister Paige and I in front of the Rockefeller Christmas tree in NYC.

Top Ten Musically Inspired Ways to find your Zen during the holidays

You know that scene from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation when the doorbell rings as the in-laws arrive…the ding dong gets louder and the tone becomes more dramatic by the minute? That’s the feeling the holidays bring…you hold your breath and hope for the best.  
Most people have high stress during the holidays due to family get-togethers. Here are some muscially inspired ideas to help improve the stress that the holidays can bring.
1.       Frankie Says Relax: Mark Twain said, “When you strive to make an impression, that is the impression you make.” So maybe have the attitude that you aren’t trying to impress anyone and just be yourself. 
2.       ‘Til Tuesday- Voices CarryStay neutral like Switzerland and let your company do the talking. This way you won’t feel bad about saying something you shouldn't or giving out too much information.
3.       Bobby McFerrin- Don’t Worry, Be HappyTake a walk outside in the fresh air, do the dishes, keep your yoga date with your sister…You’ll come back feeling happier and much more relaxed.
4.       Salt-N-Pepa- Let’s Talk About Sex BabyHaving the in-laws in the house might not make you feel in the mood, but the closer you are with your husband the more of a team you are together.
5.       Natalie Wood- I Feel Pretty, Oh so PrettyGo to the spa for a massage or facial. Get your hair and nails done before, during or after your in-laws arrive. It will not only make you feel pretty but also better about everything and you’ll look and feel like you’re on top of your game.
6.       Dionne Warwick- That’s What Friends Are For: Invite your friends over and bring fresh blood into the mix to ensure good times and instant comradery.
7.       Queen- We Will We Will Rock You:  Watch sports, sports and more sports! Football is a great way to pass the time and keeps everyone entertained.
8.       Loretta Lynn- Wine, Women and Song: Wine is your friend! Enough said!
9.       Billy Joel- We Didn't Start the FireTry to steer clear of discussing politics and religion.
10.     Madonna- Just Like a Prayer: pray for patience.
This holiday, keep things simple and stress-free and try to have as much fun as you can. I love this Chinese Proverb: "Govern a family as you would cook a small fish- very gently." Here's to a gentle holiday season! 

'Tis the Season for Stuffing Mailboxes

One of my favorite parts of the holiday season is checking the mailbox to see if we've received greeting cards! It's better than opening a present! The hard part is deciding which card to choose. I find myself agonizing over the card selection because there are simply too many beautiful options. With so many to pick from, deciding can be more overwhelming than picking a family moment worthy of mailing. These are some of my favorite cards. I hope these ideas will inspire you to send your love and holiday cheer this season. 
The Newsletter...Updated
A holiday "year in review" is a more updated way to share the highlights of the year with your friends than the standard newsletter. Newsletters have never been my favorite...they're usually too long and too cheesy! These "report" cards keep it short, sweet and clean.  Snapfish AYear in ReviewMinted Annual Report and
Minted Year in Review are classy and colorful.

A Bit of Whimsy
There are several holiday cards have an extra oomph and pizazz that can make your card stand out from the rest. Some of them you can even add to your tree. Peartree Greetings Cheer  , Peartree Greetings mittens, Peartree Gigham photos on a string and  Rifle snow and sled ornament have a special whimsy that delights and dazzles.
Thick Paper
I am such a fan of ultra thick paper. The paper from Pinhole Press has a red candy center that makes it as good as a sweet candycane. Pinhole Press 2013 is a classic and classy way to say "Happy New Year!" Minted Joyeux Noel made with thick paper is a treasure. You can even choose to design it with rounded or scalloped edges.
Extras and how to make them last
My other favorite part is dressing up the envelope with bonus pictures on the label and stamp. Create your own stamp on Zazzle and add a label that shares a preview of what's inside. It's like the whipping cream on top! Here are a few ideas on what to do with your holiday cards to make them last and enjoy them longer...make a photo book and turn your cards into contact images on your phone.
The Moma store has the ever whimsical Robert Sabuda pop up cards. For the past several years, I have favored the accordion-style Christmas card. Below are some of my past creations.

Christmas cards are the best present of the season. 'Tis the season for stuffing mailboxes!

Places to browse: Pinhole Press, Tinyprints, Snapfish, Peartree greetings, Minted, Rifle Paper, Moma Store, and Shutterfly.

Let It Out...Dance All Day!

Dancers are a different breed. They dance ALL the time in regular everyday settings. A dancer doesn't just bend over to pick something up, they ponche, plié, cambre...I think most everyone has an urge to break out and dance. We are ALL dancers!

There is great joy found in movement and if we celebrate that happiness and dance when the mood strikes us, we'd be happier! Dance is magical; it makes us feel alive! How many of us look forward to getting into our car so we can blast the speakers and let go of the day with a song that makes us happy and feel like dancing? That feeling escalates when we can fully move to it. If that mood strikes and the feeling to dance takes over in the middle of the work day instead of at a concert, club, when you're cleaning your anyway and you'll bring smiles to those around you.

Jordan Matter is a photography genius for capturing this feeling in an exquisite book, Dancers Among Us. Matter photographes professional dancers in unconventional places like offices, crossing a busy street, climbing a tree...Dancers can tell stories with their body's and an everyday person can relate to the feeling they create. This book is a reminder that there is beauty and joy in all of us and we should jeté whenever and wherever the mood strikes. 

This is just a taste of photographer, Jordan Matter's Dancers Among Us. It's one of those books you can keep flipping through and continue to find inspiration and imagination over and over again.

Similar to Jordan Matter's photography is a dance music video that follows three dancers (Anne Marsen, Daisuke Omiya, and John Doyle) across New York City. It's fascinating to see how people interact to dance in a public space. Jacob Krupnick's "Girl Walk//All Day," spreads the joy of movement and inspires you to find that joy in your own everyday scenario.

The soundtrack to Girl Walk//All Day is a dancer's best friend. D.J. Girl Talk is a master mashup musician. Play a Girl Talk remix and you will have the urge to boogie around the town too! I can't get enough of Let It Out! You can't help but move and shake in a joyful way. Think: Rihanna, ELO, Devo, General Public, Jay Z...See Girl Walk//All Day for yourself here. Watch it on your lunch break and you'll have an extra zip to your step.

Be inspired by artists Jordan Matter, Jacob Krupnick and Girl Talk then DANCE like no one's watching!

Family photo of me and my children dancing at the beach.