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Celebrate Your Child’s Milestones With A Custom Ornament

three hand painted holiday ornaments

Commemorate A Special Event in Your Child’s Life With A Personalized Ornament

The holiday’s are truly an amazing time of year, full of so much cheer and celebration. As the new year quickly approaches, this is also a time of joyous reflections of all the special moments and milestones that you shared with your child throughout the year! That is why Calliope Designs has an entire line of customizable milestone holiday ornaments to help you celebrate your little one’s achievements year after year!

Take a look below at some of our favorite moments to commemorate with a personalized ornament!

Babies’ First Christmas Ornament

The addition of a new baby is a reason for the entire family to celebrate. Personalized ornaments commemorating a baby’s first christmas, adoption date, or birthday are the perfect gifts for new parents, grandparents and extended family members!

With so many designs to choose from, our favorite is the photo ornament that allows you to add your favorite photograph of your little one. Every time the ornament is hung, it will be a sweet reminded of your growing family.

Child’s First Steps Holiday Ornament

And they’re off! Baby is up, and soon to be running at this rate! With how fast our little ones learn new things, it’s impossible for everyone to be there for all the big “firsts”.

With Calliope Designs “First Steps” ornaments the entire family can celebrate your little one’s first big steps!

Toddler Lost Their First Tooth Ornament

If your kiddo lost their first tooth this year, chances are your household is getting ready for a lot of visits from the tooth fairy! No matter what your family’s traditions are, losing your first tooth is always the most special and memorable.

Losing baby teeth is just one of many more signs to come, that your little one won’t be little forever! Celebrate this sign of growing with a commemorative ornament!

Teen’s First Driver’s License Holiday Ornament

Watch out world, we got a new driver on the road! And weren’t they just learning how to use a spoon? All jokes aside, a teen’s first driver’s license is a big deal for everyone in the family!

All the new responsibilities and freedoms that come along with open road deserves to be displayed with pride for years to come.

Young Adult’s High School Graduation Ornament

Our special little ones don’t seem to stay little for very long. It seems like just yesterday the youngster in your life was just taking their first steps. But now they are walking at their graduation ceremony!

Whether this year brings your family a high school grad, college graduate, or even a career advancement, Calliope Designs has a personalized ornament for you. This is a moment your young adult has been working towards for years, and a milestone that deserves great sentiment and celebration.

Share this and many more landmark events with your friends and family with one of our many hand painted children’s milestone holiday ornaments.

And read our blog, “Your Guide to Personalized Christmas Ornaments” for more tips on all the ways you can customize an ornament today!

Personalize Your Calliope Designs Ornament Today!

click here to personalize a gift from Calliope Designs today

Every new year gives us so many reasons to celebrate. Imaging the holiday cheer of reliving all the “little” big moments over and over again with a commemorative ornament! If you are looking for the perfect gift or simply want to memorialize an important memory, we are sure to have an ornament that matches your exciting life event.

Spend some time looking through all of the different options, appropriate for a variety or age ranges, and find out why so many families have incorporated Calliope Designs personalized ornaments into their holiday traditions, for over 44 years!

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Today’s a Good Day to Shop for Custome Ornaments From Calliope Designs!

Cheerleader: Black Uniform, Personalized christmas Ornament

Why You Should Shop Custom Ornaments Today!

Today is  Sunday, October 6th, 2013, and it’s a good day to shop for your family’s personalized ornaments for the upcoming holiday season!  I’ve just been informed by the men in my family that there are 14 hours of televised professional football today.  And while there are probably lots of fun things the non-football viewing population can do other than shop, we at Calliope Designs notice that when the big football games come on TV the orders start coming in on our website. Maybe football means Fall and the holidays approaching.  Maybe it’s just having some free time.

I hesitate to make a general statement that’s gender-oriented – there are many women who love football and the games and parties!  And there are many men who like to shop for personalized ornaments!  Whoever sends in the orders is enjoying a nice relaxing session of online shopping, choosing just the perfect ornament for each family member, personalizing it with care, and getting absolutely the best selection available before the rush of the holiday season.  All of our new products are entered and pictured.

If you’re not ready to shop for Christmas perhaps you’d enjoy a project of making some ornaments with your kids.  Be sure and search our blog for How To Make Your Own Dough Ornaments at Home post.  What a fun project, inexpensive materials, great results…. and not too messy in the kitchen.  This means everyone’s having fun doing something they love on this Sunday afternoon.

Handmade Custom Creations for a Great Cause from Calliope Designs

It’s a drop dead gorgeous day in California and I plan to attend the Calabash Festival in Forestville CA.  It’s a benefit for Face to Face, a food resource for HIV/AIDS patients in the county.  Over 100 artists have created beautiful items from gourds of all shapes and sizes.  Some are painted.  Some are carved.  Some are created into toys, others into beautiful decorative pieces.  There is jewelry and there are hats.  It’s amazing and fun and fanciful… and for a good cause.  So I’ll miss the football games today.

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April’s Special Sugar Cookie Recipe

mint candies

I love your ornaments, I buy at least one every year! Last year we moved early December from Turkey to Texas (we are military) and we did not receive our household goods until new year’s eve. So the only ornament we had on our little substitute tree last year was the one I bought from your company! Here is the recipe for the sugar cookies and my mom’s famous Christmas candies!

April’s Special Sugar Cookie and Candy Recipes

April sends her favorite Sugar Cookie recipe to go with her guest blog post:

Mix:    Mix separately:

in one bowl:
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt

3 1/2 cups flour


in 2nd bowl:

1 cup butter

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

½ tsp vanilla

Mix both sets of ingredients together.
Refrigerate overnight
After cutting your shapes, bake at 400° for 6 to 8 minutes

1 ½ sticks Crisco
2 lbs powdered sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla
1 Tbsp butter flavoring
Add warm water until you reach your desired consistency.

April’s Mom’s Favorite Christmas Candy recipes!

Christmas Candies

Chocolate Covered Peanuts:
Melt 1lb chocolate and mix with 1 bag Spanish peanuts. Drop into ¾” candy cups.

Peanut Butter Bites:
Melt 1lb peanut butter chocolate and mix with 1 cup crunchy peanut butter. Drop into ¾” candy cups.

Mint Candies:
Melt 1lb white chocolate and mix with 1 bag peppermint stick. Drop into ¾” candy cups.

Grow your Holiday Traditions with Custom Gifts from Calliope Designs

Celebrate any occasion with a personalized ornament from Calliope Designs. View all our amazing and diverse designs on our online shop today!

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Best Rolled Sugar Cookie Recipe

sugar rolled cookies

Jill Saunders posts a sugar cookie recipe on  She recommends handing out the recipe with your gift of cookies because you’ll be asked for it!  It must be really good and it’s sure to be tried at our home soon.  We wanted to post a good recipe to go with April Bruinekool’s guest blog post.

Rolled Sugar Cookie Recipe Perfect for a Family Project

Original recipe makes 5 dozen, Change Servings:


  1. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cover, and chill dough for at least one hour (or overnight).
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Roll out dough on floured surface 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Cut into shapes with any cookie cutter. Place cookies 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets.
  3. Bake 6 to 8 minutes in the preheated oven. Cool completely.

Grow your Holiday Traditions with Custom Gifts from Calliope Designs

Celebrate any occasion with a personalized ornament from Calliope Designs. View all our amazing and diverse designs on our online shop today!

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Christmas Craft Memories Guest Blog Post by April!

mom with girl baking cookies

My daughter is a year and a half old. I am so excited to be able to begin doing crafty things with her like my siblings and I used to do with my mom!

Holiday Baking with my Daughter

For Halloween, our major project was our pumpkins. We wouldn’t carve them, we use to paint them. Painting them gave us so much more freedom in choosing our designs, and the pumpkins lasted longer. For Thanksgiving, we would make turkeys from our handprints. Christmas was always my favorite. We would make different ornaments. We made snowmen with popsicle sticks, reindeer with clothespins, and we would buy plain white globes to paint. As much fun as all that was, my favorite activity for all three holidays is making sugar cookies. Preparing the dough, cutting the shapes, and then decorating them with all the different colors of icing.

Thank you to guest blogger April Bruinekool.

Grow your Holiday Traditions with Custom Gifts from Calliope Designs

Celebrate any occasion with a personalized ornament from Calliope Designs. View all our amazing and diverse designs on our online shop today!

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Baby’s First Christmas Stocking Stuffer Ideas

A Red Stocking personalized christmas Ornaments

Your Baby’s First Christmas will be exciting and fun for Mommy and Daddy, and certainly happy for your child as well.  Is a Christmas Stocking part of your family’s tradition?  Did you have a fun time picking out just the right stocking and maybe have it personalized with the baby’s name?  We hope you purchased a big stocking because as your child gets older, the stocking stuffers get larger too!   We encourage you to add, as the first gift in your baby’s Christmas stocking, a personalized Baby’s First Christmas ornament from Calliope  We have so many cute ones to choose from.  You can even have one that is All About Baby, with his or her birth stats, name, and holiday greeting all done to order.

Here are some suggestions for stocking stuffers for baby by age:

Newborn to 3 months old:

– A new Binkie!  Maybe a red, green, and white one just for Christmas day and all of the fun photos that will be taken.

– Cute baby socks with ruffles and pink for little girls, and trucks and blue for little boys.  You can never have too many newborn socks.

– A cute Christmas onesie, decorated with cute pictures of ornaments, a Christmas tree, reindeer or Santa.  Also good for those wonderful Christmas photo sessions.

– A board book such as Goodnight Moon, or Global Babies.  It’s never too early to start reading to your little one and teach them a love of books and reading.  And so many baby board books are available now.

– A cute chewable stuffed animal or creature!  Something that has texture, scratchy, soft, smooth, and something that has bright colors.

– A not too noisy rattle or something baby can wrap a little hand around and shake.  Just make sure it’s not too hard and won’t hurt if banged against a little head or face.

– A sweet music cd to play at bedtime.  Something soothing, with a good clear beat and rhythm, like ethnic music. Idea: Dreamland, World Lullabies, and Soothing Songs.

– A teething ring for those coming months.

From 3-9 months:

– A Whozit!  A favorite interactive stuffed funny faced toy loved by many children.  (We needed 3, one for the car, one for purse, one for home)

– Again, small board books. Baby can now turn pages and look at books on his or her own, but other fun books that can be read from the backseat passenger.

CDs for the car.  Sesame Street Favorites, Pete Seeger: Folk Songs for Young People, Peter Paul and Mommy, The Beatles 1, and other fun sing-alongs.

– More socks

– A cute Christmas T-Shirt with matching tights or pants.

– New mittens and cap for snowy days outside

Healthy treats for baby.

– New toothbrush

– A sippy cup

– A new tiny teddy bear.

From 9 months to a year:

Socks or slippers with treads or traction on the bottom, for those early attempts at walking.

Christmas Sweat Shirt, with matching pants or tights.  Always be thinking about those Christmas photos.

Bath toy, a new rubber ducky perhaps?

Bath mitt and fun gooey tub paints.

Teething rings and toothbrushes.

Board books of colors and shapes

Music CDs for bedtime and in the car.

-Fun age-appropriate healthy packaged snacks and drinks.

These are just getting started ideas.  Of course, it’s not necessary to go overboard with gifts and toys for a child this age.  Your time is the most valuable gift you can give your baby, and lots of hugs, kisses, and special times together.

Grow your Holiday Traditions with Custom Gifts from Calliope Designs

Celebrate any occasion with a personalized ornament from Calliope Designs. View all our amazing and diverse designs on our online shop today!

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Start Your Own Family Traditions for Christmas Eve

pajamas family of 3 personalized christmas ornament

Every person who celebrates the Christmas holiday brings their own family traditions to their adulthood.  And when a new family is formed through marriage, or living together, there will be new ideas and compromise and creativity in starting new traditions that can be a blend of both family’s past, or completely new.  Family traditions don’t have to begin when there’s a baby, but if one hasn’t before, this is the perfect time to start thinking about what you would like to do with your child over the coming years of celebration.  Let’s start with Christmas Eve, the beginning of the story of Christmas.

Start and Keep Family Traditions for Years to Come

Some ideas from friends, from our family, from the internet, and from magazines:

– Is religious worship going to be part of the holiday for your family?  If so, visit your church, or if you are not a member of a church, find a lovely house of worship to visit that evening.  It is truly hard to resist the beauty of a wonderfully decorated church at night, the candlelight, the red ribbon swags, the fresh evergreen smell, and the beautiful story and hymns.  In our family, we loved to go to midnight services at the local Episcopal church in San Carlos, California.  It was a treat to go and be out so late, and also had a beautiful calming effect for a good night’s sleep.

– When do you have your main holiday meal with family? Is Christmas Eve a simple meal?  Prepared at home, or take out?   It took my mother, who is now 93, many many years to realize Christmas Eve was the better night to have a big fancy turkey dinner with all the trimmings.  Yes, it was fun and festive and delicious.  And we all helped clean up the table and dishes.  Then the next day, Christmas Day, we had a beautiful spread of leftovers for dinner and she, my mom, didn’t have to spend the entire day cooking!  We weren’t from a big family – no aunts, uncles, cousins, to share the holiday cooking.  So it was all on our mother to prepare, and this was a lovely tradition we established.

– Do you decorate the tree on Christmas Eve when the children are asleep?

– What arrangements do you make for Santa and the Reindeer?  Cookies and milk?

– Are Christmas stockings, stuffed with age-appropriate small items going to be part of Christmas morning?  Believe it or not, my adult children still want their stockings if they are home for Christmas. And now there’s a son in law and grandson, so we are still in the stocking stuffer shopping club.

– Will you have a Christmas eve family photo in front of the tree?

– Would you enjoy taking the kids for a drive around town to see the decorated homes?  Does your town have a Santa Claus Lane, where everyone on those blocks decorates their homes?

– Do you have a favorite Christmas movie to watch every single Christmas Eve?  How the Grinch Stole Christmas, A Peanuts Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street (first filmed in 1947!), Babes in Toyland,  The Nutcracker, A Christmas Carol, Frosty the Snowman, Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, or The Polar Express to name a few.

– Are you going to open just one gift for each person on Christmas Eve?  Many families do this right after Church services.  And one of the cutest ideas I’ve heard from a friend was that everyone gets new matching pj’s on Christmas Eve and then poses for a holiday photo.  – That was a Grandmother gift by the way.

Whatever your Christmas Eve traditions become they will be yours, they will be remembered, they will be treasured.  And many will be passed down through generations.  Favorite recipes, fabulous ornaments for the tree, fun photo albums of Christmas past.

Grow your Holiday Traditions with Custom Gifts from Calliope Designs

Celebrate any occasion with a personalized ornament from Calliope Designs. View all our amazing and diverse designs on our online shop today!

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Welcome New Neighbors with an Ornament

House for Family of Five Personalized Christmas Ornament

Good Neighbors Are a Blessing! is the favorite term our customers like to put on a personalized Welcome to the Neighborhood Christmas ornament gift.  We all know that when someone moves into the neighborhood the first couple of months is a blur of boxes, unpacking, furniture delivery, home decoration, painting, even gardening to get the yard in shape.  It’s often difficult for new neighbors to make the first moves to meet others living in homes around them.  That’s why it’s a tradition to take a few first steps to introduce yourself and welcome them.

Say Hello to Your New Neighbors with an Ornament Gift

Some ideas to let them know this new neighborhood is a friendly place, and that you are looking forward to becoming acquainted.

– Leave a welcome card in their mailbox with a little note saying hello and including your name and phone number.  You might mention it if you have children, and what their ages are.  You might offer info re the best pizza place in the area, a good daycare facility, or that you like to walk for exercise every day and maybe they would enjoy joining sometime.

– Knock on the door and introduce yourself!  If you feel comfortable, and don’t think they’ll mind, just say hi and where you live and welcome!

– Have a little casual BBQ if it’s nice weather, and include another neighbor family.

– Invite them to a community event you might be involved in.

– Of course bring a platter of cookies, or a casserole if you have time and the inclination.  A plate of sandwiches would be nice too. Food is always welcome when a family is unpacking.  Keep it healthy and simple.

– Offer to give a hand, or explain the recycling procedures in the neighborhood.  Depending on where you live, this can sometimes be complicated.

– Tell new neighbors about a Neighborhood Watch program!  Give them a few phone numbers.  Everyone always appreciates greater security in their area.

– Organize a block party so everyone can meet each other.  This will get all the kids together too, and they usually make friends fast and want to follow up with play dates later.  At least the new family will get to see everyone and can smile when they see a familiar face at the grocery store.

If the neighbors move in close to the holiday season, you know it is going to a little bit of a harder Christmas celebration for them.  A new home, away from old friends and perhaps family, and not finished unpacking all make for a stressful holiday season.

– Invite your new neighbors to go Christmas tree shopping.  It’s likely that you know the best lot to go to, or the best woods if you are going to cut your own tree.  They would surely appreciate this offer.

– Make your own, or purchase a personalized new home ornament for them, one that has their names on it, and maybe the address of the home.

-Invite them over to bake Christmas cookies one afternoon and include their children!  An unpacking mom will not be in the mood to make cookies in her new kitchen but would appreciate you bringing that Christmas fun to her children.

– Make sure there’s a Christmas card in their mailbox, welcoming them to the neighborhood and wishing them a Merry Christmas!

-Have a casual tree trimming party and invite a few neighbors over to meet the new family.

-Find a Christmas caroling event and be sure to include them.

There are so many nice things that we can all do to make our neighborhoods filled with friendly people.  And always remember, Good Neighbors, ARE a Blessing!

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Christmas In A New Home

holiday home decorated with lights

It’s never easy to move, but it’s usually fun to have a new home.  By “new” we don’t mean brand new,  but new for you.  And Christmas is right around the corner, so hopefully, you’ve marked the boxes that contain all of your Christmas home decorations and personalized Christmas ornaments so the holidays will be bright and sparkly.

“Our First Christmas Together in Our New Home”

Moving Day has come and gone.  The reality of the move is evident throughout the house filled with cardboard boxes, wrapped up artwork, furniture in odd places, and who knows where anything is!  All spare time in the weeks ahead will be devoted to unpacking and reorganizing the family’s possessions.  Then next comes finding out where the closest Trader Joe’s is,  which roads are backed up during the morning commute, a good daycare school, and a place to get the car fixed.  Moving is rough.

And sometimes being in a new home is a little rough too. No one is sleeping as well in their new rooms.  There are different creaks and sounds during the night.  Lots of new general maintenance issues to deal with, and paintings, artwork, and mirrors to hang in each room.  To paint or not to paint?  Will all this stuff fit in the garage or basement?  What to do with all the boxes and packing materials after the boxes are emptied?  And, did I mention?, Christmas is coming right up. The kids are starting to worry…. will Santa come here?

Some ideas on making your First Christmas in Our New Home a memorable event!


– Whatever the state of your home right now, be sure and find your box of Christmas home decorations, and do some nice decorating.  Maybe this isn’t the year to go all out in every nook and cranny of the house, but do some of the simple but meaningful things.  Put a wreath on the outside of your new front door.  Or a cute sign or banner in the front yard.  Hang the stockings up on the mantle, waiting for Santa on Christmas Eve.  Put a Snow House or other Christmas oriented theme centerpiece on your dining table, and get out the red candles!

– Be sure to have a family event going to get the Christmas tree.  Or, if you have an artificial tree, set aside a whole day to set it up.  There’s nothing quite like the night you turn on the Christmas lights for the first time to make everyone excited about Christmas.

-Decorate the tree as a family, or …. invite a few friends over to a tree trimming party… keeping it simple with some mulled wine, or apple juice, some purchased Christmas cookies, some yummy cheeses and crackers, and friendship.  Your friends will understand everything’s not unpacked yet, and they might even offer to give you a hand for an afternoon!

-Enjoy looking through your ornament collection and telling your children about where certain ornaments came from, and letting them find their own personalized Baby’s First Christmas ornament, and other family ornaments with their names on them.  Talk about Christmas celebrations at other homes you’ve lived in and which parts of those celebrations you want to continue in this new home.

– Put up a few outdoor lights or something to show your new neighborhood you are ready for Christmas.  Decorate the mailbox with something colorful.

-Have a few friends over to make dough ornaments.  This only requires some white flour, Morton’s salt, water, and food coloring, and some willing hands to mix and knead the dough.  Here are our special instructions on Making Your Own Dough Ornaments At Home.  It’s great fun!


– Make sure you plan a Christmas Eve and Christmas Day that is family oriented.  If you are still unpacking, keep it simple.  Lots of people have Chinese food on Christmas.  Get what the kids love, and if it’s turkey dinner, consider purchasing a ready-made dinner from your local Whole Foods or other markets that offers a yummy rotisserie roasted Turkey!  Go ahead for once and use pretty Christmas paper plates.  Keep the stress down, you’ll all have more fun.

– Invite some friends over close to Christmas day to watch a Christmas movie.  Pick one the kids will love – there are so many available on Net Flix, or at the local video store.  Think of fun holiday finger foods for everyone.  But again, keep it simple, or make it a potluck.  And, not every party has to be for dinner.

– If you have moved far from friends and extended family, set up some specific times to have a Skype Christmas together.  Everyone’s busy at this time of year, so it’s a good idea to plan ahead and book 15-20 minutes with the grandparents, friends, old neighbors.  The children will love their turn to talk and will be so happy to see their friends.

– Watch for a local caroling opportunity or nativity play in your new neighborhood.  Be sure to attend all school holiday events – a great place to meet some parents of your children’s new friends.  Get out and sing with a group, whether it’s in a neighborhood and house to house, or going to visit a local senior citizen’s group living.

New and Old Traditions:

– If it’s a new or old tradition, be sure to make or buy a new personalized ornament with your entire family on it celebrating “First Christmas in Our New Home”.  Have it personalized with everyone’s names!  Choose a cute saying or add the address of your new home on the base.  And don’t forget the year.

– Now’s the time to remember the best of your family traditions, and keep them.  The continuity is important for the kids and it will make this first Christmas more fun.

-Take lots of photos!

-Make the house smell pretty with spiced apple juice on the stove.

– If you go to church on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, be sure to plan ahead and find a house of worship that’s close by and check the times of the services. Continue your family tradition of worship.

-If you put out cookies and milk for Santa and Reindeer, please don’t forget this year!

– Find cute stocking stuffers and treats for the Christmas morning stockings.  If your computer is set up, do most of your shopping online and have things gift wrapped. If that’s not right for you, try to keep it simple, with no midnight assembly projects!  (you might not be able to find the tools!)

– Keep the holiday music playing, and sing a lot!

And remember, Christmas comes but once a year!  Enjoy your First Christmas in your New Home.

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Keeping the Holidays Meaningful for Your Children

child with gifts

Get Your Children Hooked on the Holiday Spirit!

In this generation of kids growing up, I like to call them Generation ME, it’s so very hard to keep things meaningful. As parents we want our kids to be happy and love to see their faces when they open a new gift or surprise, but how do we keep them from EXPECTING a gift every time they bat an eye?
I have been guilty on occasion to go a little overboard at Christmas time, I love seeing all the gifts under the tree and I love the Christmas morning reaction. I have found myself improving over the years and trying to focus more on the meaning of the holidays.
We now volunteer every Christmas to wrap and deliver gifts with our local toy drive, we bring and collect food for our local food bank and I try to explain to my children that even though we are blessed to be able to have the things we do, it is not a guarantee, and we are never above anyone else.

Our family motto is “Do unto others as you expect they should do unto you.” We truly try our best to live by that. The holidays are not about the gifts we receive but the gifts we give, and the most important of those gifts are not physical items!

Julie Howard, from Quebec, Canada

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Christmas Trees – Real or Artificial?

Tree with Angel and Snowman Personalized Christmas Ornaments

We started our family-owned business back in 1971, making and selling “dough” ornaments at local crafts fairs, especially the popular Dickens Christmas Faire in San Francisco. The dough ornaments were novel and cute, and everyone loved our imaginative creations, but one thing about them….. they were heavy! Of course, in 1971 there were few artificial trees available, but as the years passed these trees became more popular for a variety of reasons, and for us, it was that they were able to hold the heavier ornaments.

Now our ornaments are made from polymer clay and are quite lightweight averaging about 2 oz per ornament. Here’s an interesting article on the discussion: Are real Christmas trees better for the earth than artificial ones?
Friday, December 07, 2012 by David Gutierrez, staff writer of

Should You Buy a Real or Fake Tree?

Environmentalists for whom Christmas trees are an important tradition face a dilemma: should they buy a real or an artificial tree? Well, according to plant biologist Clint Springer of Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, buying a single artificial tree once a decade has a significantly larger carbon footprint than buying a new real tree each year over the same time period.

“At this time of year, choosing a real Christmas tree is one way that an average person can make a difference in terms of climate change,” Springer said.

According to Nielsen Research, in partnership with the American Christmas Tree Association (an industry trade group for artificial trees), U.S. consumers will purchase approximately 21.6 million real trees and 12.9 million artificial trees during the 2012 Christmas season. The National Christmas Tree Association, a trade group for real trees, reports the purchase of 28 million real trees and 8.2 million artificial trees in 2010.

Selecting a greener tree
Reviewing the research on the two types of trees, Springer notes that you would have to keep an artificial tree for 20 years before its carbon footprint is smaller than that of 20 real trees. These numbers come from a 2009 study conducted by the consulting firm Ellipsos.

“[The] study … concluded that a seven-foot cut tree’s impact on climate is 60 percent less than a seven-foot artificial tree used for six years. So while cut trees are not carbon-neutral, in terms of carbon-use, they are better than artificial trees.”

Artificial trees’ carbon footprints come in large part from the fact that most of them are made in China, and therefore, shipping them around the world consumes enormous quantities of fossil fuels. In addition, said Ellipsos founder Jean-Sebastien Trudel, artificial trees are usually constructed from polyvinyl chloride. This plastic is manufactured from petrochemicals in a fossil-fuel intensive process. In addition, trees made from polyvinyl chloride tend to release volatile organic compounds into the air, often causing respiratory allergies or other distress.

According to Springer, many people select artificial trees for reasons that have more to do with price or accessibility than global warming. But many other people, he noted, falsely fear that real trees will give them allergies.

“Ultimately, people need to make the choice that makes the most sense for their family,” he said, “but they should keep in mind that real Christmas trees do not trigger allergic reactions. Farm-raised trees are too young to be reproductive in most cases, so pollen is not an issue.”

He noted that some people might be sensitive to a real tree’s natural scent. In such cases, he recommends pine trees rather than firs, due to pine’s weaker scent.

The concern that real Christmas trees get moldy is also exaggerated, he said.

“From what we know about household allergens like mold spores, a house with a real tree does not usually show a higher rate of indoor air pollution than a house with an artificial tree, because mold spores found on live trees do not usually become air-borne,” Springer said.

Learn more:

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Secret Santas Emerge and Exchange Ornaments!

San Francisco Cable Car with santa personalized christmas ornaments

Exchanging gifts with friends and family is a fun process! Why do so many of us say “I’m going to do this a new way next year!” Well, because sometimes it becomes stressful to find just the right item for each person on your list. Sometimes it gets way too expensive, with the credit card bills mounting up for January and February payment. And sometimes it takes us far away from the meaning of the holiday – whether religious, a family celebration time of joy, or a relaxing break from work or school.

Gift Exchange Celebration – Secret Santa

On idea to try to reduce the stress and expense and time and still enjoy the spirit of giving is to do an ornament gift exchange. Whether it’s for a large extended family, co-workers, or sorority sisters, etc., an ornament gift exchange lets the group give and receive a gift, enjoy watching others open their gifts, laugh and oooh and ahhh over the adorable selections, and enjoy the togetherness of the holiday season.

The Secret Santa approach is to assign or draw names to each person participating in the exchange. Then the giver can have fun shopping for one special ornament for that person, and find something that really suits them or something that had happened in their life that year. We really think a personalized Christmas ornament is the best option for this type of party!

We like the ornaments are hand-crafted, but it is also common to see exchanges of commercially produced ornaments, heirloom ornaments, or antiques. Usually, a basic standard of cost and style is set, to ensure that all of the ornaments are roughly similar. The ornaments should all be gift wrapped…. which is one fun way to get people to pick your ornament first!

Another exchange idea to have a “white elephant” approach. Everyone draws a number when they arrive at the party. When the exchange begins, the person with the number one picks a gift and opens it to see the ornament inside. The person with the number two can either pick a gift ornament and open the ornament or “steal” the first ornament, forcing the first person to choose another ornament. Limits may be placed on the number of times an ornament changes hands, and as a variation, the number system may be abandoned, and people may just pick wrapped ornaments at random.

A third way of exchanging would be to have all the ornaments out for view with a bidding type of system! Perhaps this would be an opportunity to raise a little cash for a local charity or Toys for Tots event.

Holiday foods, music, tree decorating and holiday-related games make this event even more festive. However, you decide to conduct an ornament exchange party enjoy yourself. Start a tradition in your neighborhood, workplace, or book club. In fact, you can even draw next year’s name at the end of the party!