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Denver is still a top card-sending city

…but many are turning to e-greetings.

Season’s greetings are still flowing through the mail at a pace that will keep Denver near the top of the list of the most prolific holiday-card-sending cities. But local businesses and just plain folks appear to be migrating toward new forms of conveying warm winter wishes.

The proof is in the mailbox.

(Photo: Jill Alyn looks at Christmas cards Wednesday at Wordshop, her store in the West Highland shopping district. THE DENVER POST | RJ SANGOSTI)

Media personality Gloria Neal says she had received 25 Christmas cards by this time last year. This year, she has received five.

PR maven Wendy Aiello says dead-tree cards are arriving at her firm at half the pace of last year. “But e-cards are up 500 percent, or more,” she says.

There was a time, five years ago, when Denver Botanic Gardens spokesman Will Jones faulted his friends for sending e-cards.

“I’d say, ‘Oh, man, my friends are too lazy or too cheap to go buy a card and stick a stamp on it,’ ” he said. “But now, I’m shocked when I open the mailbox and see a card.”

The gardens pruned its own holiday-card list to 300 this year and sent out easy-on-the-environment e-cards to the rest of the 2,000-member list, Jones said.

Still, U.S. Post Office spokesman Al DeSarro said that on Dec. 14, the post office’s biggest mailing day, Denver stations processed nearly 3 million holiday cards and letters, putting the city in third place behind Santa Ana, Calif., and Phoenix for highest per-capita mailing.

“We’re seeing a pickup of interest,” DeSarro said.

Santa’s Footprints by the Fireplace

Santa, or St. Nick, visits our house early each year. It is a tradition in my family to celebrate St. Nicholas day on December 6th. Jolly Old St. Nick visits overnight and fills our stockings. Santa comes and just leaves a present under the tree on Christmas Eve. It’s a nice way to split up all of the loot and gives my girls a little holiday preview.MHM-santafootprints-3

I decided this year with all the snow on the ground, to have a little extra fun. I made St. Nick footprints from my front door (we don’t have a chimney) to our gas fireplace and stockings.

To do this activity, you will need fake snow, or Insta-Snow powder found at SteveSpanglerScience.com, craft stores and all over this time of year. Imitation snow comes in a dry, powder form. It fluffs up and becomes wet and cold when water is added. It feels like the real thing. With the right amount of hydration, you can even make snowballs with it.

MHM-santafootprints-1I began by cutting out an outline of my husband’s boot with construction paper.

I put the stencil on the floor and filled it with snow. Then I flipped it over to make the opposite footprint and filled it with snow. I did this across my floor to make it look like he had dragged snow in on his snowy boots.

After I had filled in all of my footprints, I determined that I had used too much snow. I filled each footprint with enough snow to cover the floor completely. They didn’t look completely real.

The next morning, the snow had partially dehydrated and the footprints looked more realistic.

You can also wrap up some Insta-Snow powder in a box and leave it under the tree Christmas morning. It can be a present from Santa – snow he took from the roof of his house in the North Pole. The elves made the snow “dry” so Santa can deliver it without it melting. The dry snow is magical and can puff back up to real snow with just some water. Put a small scoop of snow powder in your child’s cupped hands, and then pour a cup full of water on the powder. It will grow and expand and your child will ask to do it again. And again. Just make sure you make snow over a bowl or receptacle unless you want it all over your floor.

We have had several discussions in the Spangler offices about how to make the footprints. Some say to do it the way I did, and some say to do it in the reverse. Put a footprint on the floor and sprinkle snow around it instead of filling it in. You can experiment and determine which way looks more realistic. We’d love to hear your comments about what you think makes a good footprint.

Guest blogger Susan Wells is the mom to two girls, ages 4 and 8. She enjoys enriching her daughter’s education by finding the learning in everything. They especially enjoy science activities. She works as a blogger and social media strategist for Steve Spangler Science, a Colorado company dedicated to helping teachers and parents get children excited about science.

Winter WonderLights at The Wildlife Experience

Recently, I admitted that I only pretend to like Holiday Decorations. While this is a true statement, there is an exception: Holiday Lights. When it comes to Holiday Lights, my enthusiasm is genuine. I love Holiday Lights. There is something so magical about the glow against the blackened sky. The soft colors on the snowy landscape make me feel like a kid again. They transform the mundane, ordinary world that we’ve seen a thousand times into a magical place where anything is possible: Reindeer can fly; dreams can come true, and jolly ol’ St. Nick knows your name and how you’ve been all year.

WinterWonderLightsOn Friday, December 4th, my family and I were able to attend a sneak peek of Winter WonderLights at The Wildlife Experience. (I was given free admission for the three of us to this event in exchange for an honest review, and some images in this post were provided by The Wildlife Experience.) We knew it would be a cool experience…and with the weather front that had settled in the area, a cold experience…so we bundled up and then threw on some extra layers just to be safe.

My daughter hates wearing a hat and a coat, let alone more than one layer of anything, so the preparation for our adventure was less than desirable. It only took a reminder that we were going go see Santa to get her to comply. In fact, she got so excited that she forgot all about the layers.

I’m glad we dressed warmly, because it was cold. If you go when the temps have dipped below the freezing point (like we did), it is cold; there’s no way around it. Had we not dressed appropriately, we would have not been able to linger outside as long as we did. For me, the light sculptures were worth it. They were beautiful. Driving by lights at night is a great experience, but walking under them, standing next to then, and getting close enough to touch them, is magnificent.

WWL_polarPassClaire had a blast. To be honest, layers or not, my daughter handles the cold really well. She would have trudged three miles across a windswept frozen tundra with the promise to see Santa at the end of the trek. She met him briefly for the first time last year at the mall, but she doesn’t remember much of that exchange. This year, she just turned 4-years old, and the magic of Santa is very real to her.

After we saw all the lights outside, the path led us into the building where we had a chance to write a letter to Santa, warm up with some hot cocoa, and then walk through Globeology. Because we’d been there before, our little tour guide tugged us through that section at top speed. We also had the option to see “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” in the movie theater, but the thought of waiting one more minute to see Santa pulled us in the opposite direction. “Santa’s waiting for us, Momma! Santa’s waiting! Come on, Daddy!”

Big Hug for SantaWe ended up back outside in Santa’s Village. Unlike a typical mall visit, Santa and Mrs. Claus were in their own private little house. It was warm, and the atmosphere was intimate and calm, a contrast to all the holiday bustle outside. Santa remembered Claire, even though she’s grown so much since last year. She told him what she wanted for Christmas, and he had some good advice for her to follow to achieve those goals. They gave each other a big hug, posed for some photos that we were allowed to take ourselves, and we made our way back out into the cold.

But, Claire didn’t feel the cold. Such an awesome visit with the big man himself had her oblivious to the dropping temperature. Seeing real reindeer in Santa’s Village just fueled the fire. I think she floated to the car, through the crisp night air, and I’m not sure that her feet have touched the ground since.

Check out Winter WonderLights at The Wildlife Experience for yourself!

Winter WonderLightsLogoWHEN: Open nightly December 11 – 24
5:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. (last ticket sold at 8p.m.)

WHERE: The Wildlife Experience
10035 South Peoria (one mile east of 1-25 at the intersection of
Lincoln Ave. and S. Peoria) Parker, CO 80134
720.488.3300

COST: Adults (13-64) $9, Seniors (65+) $8, Children (3-12) $6 Children 2
and under are free. Members of The Wildlife Experience receive $2 off
Winter WonderLights admission.

WEBSITE: TheWildlifeExperience.org

Traditionally Speaking

December is here, and we’re about ready to check off another year. It’s hard to believe that 2010 is just around the corner. (Stock photo by djayo)

December is a traditional month of celebrations, whether it’s Hanukkah (12th), Winter Solstice (21st), Festivus (23rd), Christmas (25th), Kwanzaa (26th), or just the fact that we’ve made it through another year. You don’t have to be a religious person to find joy and peace in the season. (Even though peace and quiet may be hard to find until well into January.)

December is not only the traditional month of celebrations, it’s also the celebratory month of traditions.

Our daughter was born four years ago, and with the beginning of our new family came the start of new traditions for us. We moved away from our Midwestern relatives over 10 years ago, and while we’ll always cherish the memories of our childhood, creating new traditions in our own little family here in Colorado has been so exciting. For us, there is something magical about new traditions, knowing they hold the potential to be passed along through the generations, just as their older counterparts are.

Traditions of old are special, and I think it’s great to pass those along through the generations, if that’s what’s important to you. I’m also a firm believer in starting new traditions. Which is more beautiful, a rose in full bloom or that first tiny bud? I dare say they both smell sweet.

I don’t know about you, but I love experiencing “First Annual” events. If it’s a big hit, we’ll do it again next year, and a new tradition is born. If it doesn’t go as planned, it’s pretty easy to adjust or scrap the idea altogether for next year. It’s easy to have fun when you’re the one making up the rules.  Every tradition we celebrate in December started somewhere.

What traditions do you have in your house? Do you put up a Christmas Tree? Do you hang Stockings by the Chimney with care? Do you light the Menorah? Is an unadorned Festivus Pole more your style? Do you hide a stuffed Grinch somewhere in the house every day in December and wait to see who finds him first?

What traditions, new or old, are special to you? Share with us, and check back to see how everyone celebrates December!

I’m making a list and checking it twice.

It’s that time of year again! Barely two weeks ago, sleigh-bells were ringing; were you listening? In the lane, snow was glistening, and it was a beautiful sight! Because this is beautiful Colorado, of course, it was in the 70s right after that.

Still, we know that Winter is just around the corner, and for our family, that means it’s time to get the Holiday Letters done. (stock photo by lusi)

I love doing our Holiday Letters. Every year, I tweak The List. Even with some addition and subtraction, we try to keep the number hovering around an even 100. We receive about as many, and we use them in our decorations. One year, I strung the cards and photos on ribbon and they graced our banister. Another year, we affixed them to the door of our coat closet, and they brightened the whole room. I haven’t decided how to handle the wonderful onslaught of cards this year.

Every year, our Holiday Letter is a little different than the year before. Some years, I’ve written a poem, updating all our friends and relatives about the highlights of our year. Some years, it’s more of a traditional letter. (I keep everything to one page, though. Anything longer than that, and my eyes glaze over, so I can imagine what happens to our poor recipients!) This year, I’ve written our missive in Pop Quiz form.

Wait. What? Did she say written!?

Yes, the Holiday Letter is done. The photo cards were created in October and have arrived. The envelopes are addressed, and the letters are printed.  (I haven’t decided if any snowmen will be punched in the process of creating this year’s letter or not!) They are ready to stuff, seal and mail by December 1st. The year Claire was born was the only year I’ve missed my self-imposed “they have to be mailed on December 1st” deadline. I had her on the 30th, and she and I weren’t even released from the hospital until the 2nd, so getting them out on December 3rd was the best I could do.

One of my sisters times her holiday cards so that they arrive on December 1st, and even I think that’s a bit extreme (says Pot, as she’s chatting with Kettle).

Every year, we do a family photo of some sort. Before Claire was born in 2005, my husband and I would pose with our kitties, Merlin and Jasper. Yes, we were those people. In 2005, we cheated.  We had a great friend come to the hospital and take our very first family-of-three photo.  That photo, coupled with Claire’s birth stats doubled as The Birth Announcement AND our Holiday Letter, all done on the same photo card. Merlin and Jasper were bumped from the photo, but I didn’t hear them complain too loudly. This year, I was able to include three photos: a photo of Claire, a photo of my husband and I, and a photo of the three of us. Fancy!

Speaking of fancy, why not just send electronic cards? I’ve gladly embraced technology and have changed most of our lives over to the electronic age, yet I can’t bring myself to end this tradition yet. A ton of people on our list aren’t as electronically advanced as we are. Plus, there is something so magical about putting the Holiday Stamps on an envelope. On the flip side, there is something I’m not ready to give up yet when it comes to physically opening mail from far away places.

So, what about you? Do you send Holiday Cards? Are you going more electronic this year? Are you doing anything different than last year? Share with us!