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Brock Tozer’s Top 5 New Christmas Albums

December 4th, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Music
Christmas Music 2014:BrockOne of my roles, at CHRI, is Music Director, which means, in part, that I get paid to listen to new music.  (How cool is that?!?)  So, when our promotions team asked if I would consider writing an article, for the December e-magazine, I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.  The way I see it, if I “have to” listen to all of these albums anyway, why not at least give you the scoop on what to expect?  If it saves you a few dollars or, even better, helps you find a new favourite Christmas album, it’s worth it.

Truthfully, this is something of a slow year, for CCM Christmas albums, at least in terms of quantity.  Hopefully though, what the industry is lacking in quantity, it has made up for in quality.

Here are 5 of this year’s new Christmas albums, in no particular order, worthy of your attention…

Carolyn Arends, “Christmas: Story of Stories”

carolyn_arendsI think it’s extremely telling that Carolyn was able to more than double her $11, 000 goal, on Kickstarter, this past spring.  She clearly has a lot of fans, and for very good reason.  “Story of Stories” is what you would hope for, from a Carolyn Arends Christmas album; winsome, clever, thoughtful, acoustic.  If you like your Christmas music with a gentle touch, “Story of Stories” is for you.

Rend Collective, “Campfire Christmas: Volume 1”

rend_collectiveThis one has been touted as 2014’s “surprise” Christmas CD, since it didn’t appear on any of the album release schedules leading into the fall.  What a great surprise!  The album cover is a riot, and how could anyone not love songs like “Ding Dong Merrily On High (The Celebration’s Starting)”?!  Simply put, if you’ve liked Rend Collective’s albums, in the past, you won’t be disappointed here.  Promise.  It’s extremely fun, and just the right mix of originals and classics.

1 Girl Nation, “A Very 1 Girl Nation Christmas EP”

1_girl-nationI think 1 Girl Nation fills an important niche in CCM right now (that of the tween girl market). The production work is tight, on this EP, and the song arrangements are, to be completely frank, not as predictable as I was expecting them to be.  Overall, it’s a reasonably solid EP, and I have to give them specific props for not ruining “Let It Go”, from “Frozen”, even though the original is still slightly better.  It was a pretty gutsy move, to cover such a popular (and recent!) song, but they pull it off nicely.

Michael W. Smith, “Michael W. Smith & Friends: The Spirit of Christmas”

michael_smithI’ll get right to the point by saying that, in my opinion, this is Michael’s best album of the past 10 years.  (It’s also his best Christmas album since 1989’s “Christmas”.)  To say that Michael didn’t phone it in would be an understatement.  His special guests include everyone from Little Big Town, to Martina McBride, Lady Antebellum, Bono, Amy Grant, Vince Gill, Michael McDonald, and Carrie Underwood.  In fact, Carrie’s vocal performance, on “All Is Well”, makes it the “must hear” Christmas song of the year…wow!  Michael seems content, on nearly all of these tracks, to let his special guests do most of the shining.  When you combine these elements with his impeccable piano playing (and harmonizing) abilities, it makes for one great Christmas album.

Aaron Shust, “Unto Us”

aaron_shustCan I be completely honest?  I haven’t been big on Aaron Shust’s music since, his 2006 hit, “My Savior My God”.  For this reason, I was completely taken aback, by how much I truly loved “Unto Us”, from the very first note right to the very last.  Aaron has teamed up with the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, and producer David Hamilton, to craft something truly timeless here. As I was listening, I couldn’t help but imagine these songs being used, as the soundtrack for an epic stage re-enactment of the Christmas story.  The originals are stellar, the covers are fresh, and there isn’t a weak (or even weak-“ish”) track on the entire album.  If you like your Christmas music BIG, like I do, don’t pass this one up!

Christmas 2014 also features full length offerings from the likes of Kim Walker-Smith, Peter Furler, & Laura Story, as well as EP’s from Chris August, and more.  I don’t have space to cover them all but, suffice it to say, there really is something for everyone, in the family, despite the aforementioned fact that it’s a bit of a slow year generally.  Go grab yourself a new favourite Christmas album and, most importantly, from my family to yours, Merry Christmas!!

Care Baldwin shares a Christmas craft the whole family can make

December 4th, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle
CareWhat you’ll need:

basket
pine cones of various shapes & sizes (I used approx. 70… having lots of mini ones helps with filler – ie: Step 4)
ribbon
misc. beads, glitter, accents, etc. (optional)
plastic bag (preferably dark colour or close to basket colour)
newspaper stuffing
hot glue gun
masking tape
short string of LED Christmas lights (depending on the size of your basket). It’s best if the string is green because it hides better, but I liked the shape and warmth of these.

 

basket_diy_1 Step 1:
Put the paper stuffing in to the plastic bag and fill the bottom of your basket. (This is so you don’t use up your pine cones where people can’t even see them!)
basket_diy_2 Step 2:Tape the string of lights randomly on to the plastic bag so it’s scattered throughout the basket. (You’ll want to make sure the end hangs over the edge so you can plug it in).It’s going to look weird until you cover it up with pine cones.
basket_diy_3 Step 3:Carefully, using the hot glue gun, glue pine cones on to the bag. Start with the larger ones and make sure you don’t cover up the light bulbs. It’s sort of like a puzzle at this point, trying to fit everything and keep it random.
basket_diy_4 Step 4:At this point, you’ll see lots of holes where the bag or the string of lights is showing. Use mini pine cones to fill these holes and the accents can be used to fill really small holes.
basket_diy_5 Step 5:Finish with a bow around the handle.

 

Tips:

  • You can use red berries or silver/gold accents to make a more Christmas-y basket. I made mine more Winter-y so I can display it all winter-long!
  • The great thing about pine cones is that the scales go in one direction, so don’t be afraid to shove them in to the holes and they won’t fall out.

Christmas Baking 2.0. Paleo Christmas Treats from Ashley Elliott

December 4th, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Advice and Tips
AshleyLast year I decided to make a few changes to my diet. I wasn’t completely sure what the end results would be and I certainly wasn’t expecting to have a “life-style change” as people like to call it. I went on a six week cleanse, cutting everything out of my diet except lean proteins and vegetables and a bit of fruit – that’s right no dairy, no sugar of any kind, no wheat of any kind for six weeks! Thankfully coffee and tea were still allowed – my saving grace :)I’ve never been a large girl but I have always enjoyed eating which usually left me above my ideal weight and fitness level. I very quickly shed those extra pounds during the cleanse and honestly felt better than ever. I was more focused, I slept better and overall I looked better. It seems crazy to say it but it was an epiphany moment for me that what we eat truly affects the way we look & feel – duh! But for me I had to live to know it.The crazy cleanse led me to explore a new way of eating and a new relationship with food. Although I don’t stick 100% to the traditional Peleo diet, I still incorporate some dairy and legumes into my diet, I do try to adhere to a lot of the cave man’s ways. No refined sugars, no wheat’s, no processed foods. Now that Christmas has rolled around, my sister (who is following the same diet) and I decided to tackle some of our favourite Christmas baking recipes, Paleo style. Here it goes!

1. GRAIN-FREE SUGAR COOKIES from againstallgrain.com (I’m slightly obsessed with this site!)Cookies turned out okay considering their grain free but definitely have a different taste than your traditional sugar cookie. They burn very easily!!RECIPE sugar_cookies

 

2. SWEET AND SALTY CHOCOLATE BARK from paleoleap.comSo simple, so yummy! The salt on the chocolate is what makes this.RECIPE bark

 

3. SEVEN-LAYER BARS from againstallgrain.comThis one takes time so anticipate at least an hour, if not more, to make this plus it needs to cool. Danielle recommends an hour but it’s best if you leave it overnight in your fridge to make sure everything hardens together that way you really get the layered effect. RECIPE layers
4. GINGERSNAP COOKIES from againstallgrain.comThis was by far my favourite of all the recipes. It took no time to put them together. My cookie cutter was large so the recipe only made around 10 cookies but you could make them smaller. I will definitely be making these again before Christmas.RECIPE ginger_cookies
5. Sugar Free Chocolate Fudge from chocolatecoveredkatie.comThe secret ingredient here is banana! This whipped up in no time at all & if you stick it in the fridge it’s done in a hour. A good recipe to have in your back pocket and is safe for pretty much all allergies and food sensitivities.RECIPE fudge

If you make any of these recipes or any other innovative Christmas baking I’d love to see your creation! Post it on CHRI’s Facebook page – www.facebook.com/CHRIradio or Twitter or Instagram using #CHRIchristmas.

Happy Baking!

How to Pack A Care Package for a loved one from Dianne

December 4th, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle
care_pack_4As a child growing up we would prepare care packages for family members that were far from home. I remember one Christmas when my eldest brother, being in the military, was stationed in Alert, North Pole. As a family we wrote letters and cards, thought of crafts to make, gag gifts to make him laugh and special, favorite food items, knowing he would enjoy
them. We’d wrap every single item to place in this large box and away it would go! I understood, even at a young age, that we were bringing home a little closer to him and he could feel the love that was behind the gifts.

Well today as a mom, my sons have grown and moved away from home and the care package tradition continues. Since the first Christmas when my eldest son was not able to make it home I’ve bought, wrote, baked and prepared care packages to send to him. Here are a few things I’ve learnt along the way:

  • Keep it simple – The first and most important lesson I’ve learnt. It’s not really what’s inside the package that makes it special, but the thought and effort put into it. Think of simple things that will make your special someone laugh and smile at what you thought of. I sent a package of Christmas lights one year which, of all the items in the package, was what they talked about the most. Cute!
  • care_pack_8Breakable items do sometimes break – I’ve tried all kinds of packaging for those special little trinkets that I so wanted them to have for Christmas. Most of the time I’m successful, but there are those moments when you hear it’s been broken. Prepare yourself beforehand and if it’s really that important then maybe consider giving it to them when they’re home the next time.
  • Bigger items do cost more to send – I’ve learnt that if my son needs an item that is larger in size, I’ll send money for him to purchase it himself, or I buy it online and have it delivered. Never thought I would say this but what a great way to shop!
  • Give lots of time for delivery – Plan to send your parcel a few weeks in advance to Christmas. It’s far better for them to receive it early to enjoy, then to have it delayed or lost in the mail, which is very disappointing for everyone. However, I do have some amazing Canada Post stories of my packages being delivered on a Sunday! Or, I’ve used the wrong address and it was delivered to the correct address. You can tell I pray over my packages!
  • care_pack_2Be wise in the baking items you send – Banana bread will go moldy, trust me. Cookies are the best thing to send and if you have a recipe that’s tasty and doesn’t fall apart in transport, even better. I bake Whipped Shortbreads and Bachelor Button cookies that are tasty, and melt in your mouth. Go to the dollar store to buy Christmas cookies tins, line with a Christmas napkin (or two) and fill to the brim. Your loved ones will appreciate it greatly!
  • Connect via FaceTime, Skype and Social Media – I remember when my son moved to New Zealand and left a couple of days prior to Christmas. He arrived at his destination on Christmas Day (staying with friends) and sent me a picture. He was standing on a beach, holding a surf board with blue sky behind him and rolling surf. When I opened that picture via email and saw his face I cried (happy tears of course). Care packages come in all sizes and that picture did it for me.
  • care_pacK

  • All in all, have fun and be creative!

Last but not least, when my sons are home for Christmas, it’s always a special time of decorating the house, baking and preparing all their favorite foods, spending time around the dinner table, talking, laughing and sharing / building memories. Cherish each and every moment with them. And when they’re sometimes far away, they and you will still be close at heart.

dianne

Merry Christmas, from our home to yours!

Dianne

Pictures of Christmas Around the World

December 4th, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

Bijing

Bijing

An illuminated Christmas tree is seen in front of the National Stadium to celebrate Christmas Eve in Beijing. Christmas is not a public holiday in China, but it is celebrated across the country as Western traditions have become increasingly popular.

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Brussels

Brussels

Christmas lights illuminate La Grand-Place in Brussels. Children in Belgium have 2 Christmas visitors. On Dec. 6, St. Nicholas Day, Saint Nicholas (St. Niklaas, if you are Flemish) brings presents. Then, on Christmas Day, Santa Claus delivers additional gifts.

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Sydney, Australia

Sydney

The Christmas holiday falls during Australia’s summer it is popular to go camping during this time. Natives decorate their homes with trees and lights, but also display bunches of “Christmas Bush,” a native Australian tree with small green leaves and cream-colored flowers that turn red in summer. In each state capital, there is a “Carols by Candlelight” service where famous performers sing holiday favorites.

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Belarus

Belarus

Performers sing Christmas carols, locally known as “kolyadki,” in the Belarussian village of Semezhevo, about 100 miles south-west of Minsk. Many Orthodox Belarusians mark the New Year according to the Julian calendar.

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Berlin, Germany

Berlin

Christmas angels and Santa Claus ride on Segways in Berlin. In Germany, Advent calendars are a big part of the holiday celebration. Several types are used, including 2 made from fir tree branches. One has 24 decorated boxes hanging from it while the other features 4 candles.

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Ottawa, Canada

Ottawa

The Rideau Canal Waterway in Ottawa, Canada, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is lit up for the holidays. There are many Christmas traditions in Canada due to the various cultural backgrounds in the country. Some open gifts on Christmas Eve and others wait till Christmas Day. Other types of celebrations include a “Taffy Pull” (a party for singles to meet) and “Sinck Tuck” (dancing and gift exchanges).

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Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Rio de Janeiro

Fireworks explode near a traditional Rio de Janeiro Christmas tree during the official lighting ceremony at Rodrigo de Freitas Lake. In Brazil, Santa Claus is called Papai Noel. Favorite holiday foods include chicken, turkey, ham, rice, pork, and fresh and dried fruits.

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Panama

Panama

Panamanian dancers celebrate the Christmas holiday season wearing traditional clothes called polleras in Panama City. Polleras originate from the Azuero Peninsula in central Panama.

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Mexico

Mexico

An actor performs on the streets during the “Three Kings Day” festival in Mexico City. “Three Kings Day” is a Christian holiday in Mexico that celebrates the Three Wise Men who brought gifts to the baby Christ.

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London

London

Christmas traditions in the UK are much like the US. Christmas trees, holly and mistletoe are used as decorations. One difference: instead of milk and cookies, the children in London often leave mince pies and brandy for Father Christmas.

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Italy

Italy

The Vittorio Emanuele II Gallery, adorned with Christmas lights, is pictured in downtown Milan. One of the biggest ways to celebrate the holiday in Italy is by displaying the Nativity crib scene. Many families display the cribs in their homes and place a baby Jesus in it on the night of Dec. 24.

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Russia

Russia

People dressed as Father Frost, the equivalent of Santa Claus, and Snow Maiden greet passers-by during a New Year’s parade in Bishkek, Russia. In Russia, New Year’s celebrations are very important (sometimes more than Christmas). Father Frost brings presents to children. The traditional greeting on New Year’s is “S Novym Godom.”

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Bondi Beach, Australia

Bondi Beach

Australia’s world famous Bondi Beach hosts the annual Sunburnt Christmas Festival on Christmas Day. About 4000 partygoers celebrate a summertime Christmas on the beach with DJs, bikini contests and an Aussie BBQ lunch.

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Finland

Finland

Rovaniemi, Finland is proud to be the official home of Santa Claus. Visit the Santa Claus Village in Lapland anytime of the year to meet Father Christmas and cross the magical Arctic Circle. After you meet Santa, take a sleigh ride with traditional Sami reindeer and learn more about Lapland’s native people.

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Reykjavik, Iceland

Reykjavik

Christmas in Reykjavik is a magical time with its winter landscape and unique traditions. Visit the Christmas Village in Hafnarfjordur or Reykjavik’s main Christmas Market in Ingólfstorg Square for unique holiday gifts and Yuletide music. And for children, there are not just one, but 13 Santas, or Yule Lads, bearing gifts.

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Nuremberg, Germany

Nuremberg

One of the most impressive Christmas markets in Europe can be found in Nuremberg, Germany. The sprawling market in the city’s Old Quarter has more than 200 vendors that sell seasonal and traditional goods, like mulled wine and handmade ornaments. And a wooden Ferris wheel, carousel and steam train create a winter wonderland for children.

Source: travelchannel.com

Mary, Did You Know? By the Pentatonix

December 4th, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Artist Spotlight