December 25

See you in 2013!

Christmas Eve

Photos from this year's pageant look a lot like the photos from last year's pageant...

One last post before tomorrow.  I may pop in here and there this week, but not daily, if you don't mind.

Scenes from this weekend.

Tonight, I'm ready to kick back, read this to the girls...

The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore,
 illustrated by Tasha Tudor.  Rand McNally & Company, 1975.
 ...  and wait for the man in the red suit.

Because me and Santa?  We go waaaaaay back.  Way back.
1978 and 1979

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Winter Break

Winter break is here!  It doesn't feel like a break yet.  So much to do.  So much going on.  Not much peace yet.

I spent the last two days at both of the girls' schools, enjoying Christmas programs and parties, and reading How the Grinch Stole Christmas to Big Sis's first grade class.  I love all those kids.  I don't think teaching would be for me, but I love teachers.  (Speaking of teachers, Vanessa at Silly Eagle Books wrote such a beautiful ode to teachers.)  Here are some scenes from the last couple of days.

Pre-K angel craft.

Grumpy pre-K angel.
My old copy of How the Grinch Stole Christmas from my grandma's.  It was my dad's when he was little.

Our post-Grinch antler craft.

Last Day Before Vacation graham cracker house party!

Pretty handprint wreaths.  When we arrived for the party, the whole door to the classroom was covered in wreaths.

 Our reading time is beginning to dwindle.  Little Sis wanted me to read a couple of Molly McIntire American Girl books to her, so we've started one of those.  Big Sis is still reading her Junie B. Jones books, but I got her the book Just Grace from the library.  She tried that out tonight.  I'm reading The Uninvited Guests - I've had to put it down so many times that I had to start over.  Many Christmas books still on the nightstand, too!  My sister's wedding is tomorrow, and my mother and aunt are coming to town today.  Most Christmas presents are ready to go.  Whew!

Wishing everyone a very lovely holiday.  I'll probably check in at least once before Christmas Day, but I know many of my lovely readers will be busy!


First Snow of the Season

Yes, I got her out of bed to see.

Eight AM

This blew off the house in the night!

As Lola would say, "Snow is my favorite and my best."

She wouldn't put her coat back on.

Christmas Dragon

The Christmas dragon downtown says hi.  

(Why yes, it has been a crazy week.  Yes, I have been too busy to prepare a few real blog posts. Why do you ask?)

The Great Big Nutcracker Post

Sunday, we saw the Ballet Wichita production of The Nutcracker.  It has become a tradition for the girls and me.  I grew up taking grade school field trips to see a shortened school performance, and in college, as a theatre major, I attended several times to see my dancer friends.  (One of them, above in the blue gown, is Big Sis's ballet teacher this year!)  It was wonderful to start attending again, when Big Sis was old enough for the shorter school version.  I sat with her and her best friend when they were four years old - her best friend's parents play Clara's parents each year - and I loved watching their faces.  We did this again the following year, with Little Sis joining us, but last year saw the beginning of all-day kindergarten, so the past two years, I've bought matinee tickets to the full ballet.  The good news?  They like the full-length ballet better.  THE SNOW SCENE.  That's enough to make sitting still for two hours completely worth it.

My little dancer babies are rather Nutcracker-happy this year.  Little Sis decked her pink tree out in ballet and Nutcracker ornaments.  We bought a big Nutcracker at Target this year.  In fact, all of our Nutcracker goodies wound up in their playroom, with their tabletop trees.  Big Sis even saw the school production this year, in addition to our outing.  Not only did many first-grade classes across the city see the ballet, but her whole school saw it - her dance teacher from school was one of the Russian performers!

We had a happy afternoon at the ballet, despite all the madness going on in the world outside, and despite the fact that I'd spent a day and a half incapacitated with the Worst. Stomach bug. Ever.

We have three versions of The Nutcracker in book form in the house now.  We have checked out other versions from the library in the past.  (To see more excellent Nutcracker stuff, please check this post at Julia's Bookbag and this one at Silly Eagle Books.)

Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffman, illustrated by Maurice Sendak, translated by Ralph Manheim.  Crown, 2012; originally published in 1984.

This was our only Nutcracker from the library this year.  I never intended to read it aloud to the girls, as they aren't really ready for the original Hoffman yet.  Sendak wasn't fond of the ballet as he knew it.  When he collaborated with Kent Stowell to design a new version for the Pacific Northwest Ballet, he wanted to bring back the darkness of the original Hoffman tale.  You can listen to an interview with Sendak from NPR's Morning Edition here, where he discusses his vision.  Once again, I point you in the direction of Julia's Bookbag, where Melissa has compiled some links, as well as photos she took of this year's Pacific Northwest Ballet production of The Nutcracker.  There was a film version made in 1986.  It airs on television frequently this time of year.  If you stream, it is available on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Instant Video.  You can still hunt down the DVD, too.

Actually, if I may interrupt myself a minute, let me direct you to good Wikipedia's entry on The Nutcracker.  You can get a good sense of what the original was like, who made changes in their productions and why...

We own two books of the story ourselves.  Both of these were bargain books purchased on post-holiday clearance at Barnes & Noble in years past.  Both were published by Sterling, and came with something special.

The Nutcracker: The Classic Christmas Fantasy [Barnes & Noble Edition].  Contains  E.T.A. Hoffman's "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" (1816) and Alexandre Dumas's "The History of a Nutcracker" (1845).  Sterling, 2009.

I actually bought two of these, so that each girl could have a nutcracker.  One fell apart.  I found his hat behind the computer desk the other day, in fact.  To be fair, he was well-loved.  His twin attended the ballet with us this year, spending most of the performance in the lap of Little Sis.

The Nutcracker by John Cech, based on the story by E.T.A. Hoffman, illustrated by Eric Puybaret.  Sterling, 2009.

This edition was incorporated into some of the Barnes & Noble holiday decor the year it was released.  It was illustrated by Eric Puybaret, who also illustrated Sterling's beautiful Puff, The Magic Dragon.  Although this is an adaptation, it is still a longer and wordier story than most picture books.  The girls do not mind it so much, though.  We have read it over the space of a few evenings, and it's been requested again this year.  Our edition came with a musical snow globe.  (It plays "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.")  It isn't the nicest snow globe.  The water only comes up so high and it has a cloudy look to it.  Still, it was on clearance and the girls have added it to their decor.

We made a Nutcracker Wreath this year.  I learned how to make tutus this summer  When the girls wore their autumn fairy costumes to the preschool, one of the teachers asked me if I'd made the fall wreath they were auctioning off, too.  I didn't know what she meant, but upon checking the auction items, there was a beautiful tulle wreath made with the same method as the tutus (and in the same colors).  I knew I'd be making a wreath this year, and what better than a Nutcracker ballet-themed tulle wreath for Christmas?

We bought a wreath form and several rolls of glittery tulle.  I learned two lessons.  First of all, the super-glittery stuff costs the same as the non-glittery stuff, but there is less on a roll.  Second, be ready to be covered in glitter.

My skirt is glittery.  My sweater and carpet and everything was glittery, too.

Take your wreath form.  Determine how far you want the tulle to stick off the form.  Now cut a length of tulle twice that length, plus an inch or two, depending on the thickness of your wreath form.  Cut a TON more lengths of tulle, using your first strip as a guide.

Now fold a length of tulle in half, and stretch it over some wreath form, holding the loop open with your hand as pictured above.  You then take the two ends, go around the wreath form and through the loop from behind, as Big Sis (my lovely photographer) and I tried to picture below.

Pull tightly until you have a neat knot on top.  When working on a wider base such as this wreath form (as opposed to, say, a piece of elastic for a tutu), I feel more secure tying an extra knot for good measure.

You just keep adding tulle, bunching it tightly together.  We finished ours with some inexpensive ballet-themed ornaments and a miniature nutcracker, and a little help from my trusty Ol' Orange.

Meet Ol' Orange.

The wreath now hangs on the playroom door, obscuring an Ivy & Bean poster and a Tinkerbell wall decal.  Perhaps it isn't the fanciest of spots, but beyond the door is the Nutcracker Christmas tree land.

We had leftover pink and silver tulle, so I used an embroidery hoop that was missing its other half to make a smaller wreath.    The thinner form meant much less tulle.  My disgusting, horrible, wretched stomach kept me from venturing out to get new ornaments, so Little Sis donated a pink nutcracker ornament of her own to finish it.  We gifted it to our friend who played Clara's mom.  (She was already out of costume when we met up with her after the ballet.)  The whole tulle tutu-making method is a pretty versatile crafting skill!  And it's easy.  All you need to be able to do is measure, cut, and tie knots.  So simple.  And the results look so impressive!

 Follow along with Silver Shoes & Rabbit Holes on FacebookBloglovinInstagram, and/or Pinterest!

Sometimes they bicker.  Or tattle.  Or yell.  And sometimes they curl up on the couch together, cuddling and laughing.  I am so grateful to have them.  I am so sad for those who cannot cuddle and kiss and be exasperated by their own.

Thinking about teacher gifts.  They seem a bit more important this year.

Back to happier things tomorrow.

Eleven Days 'Til Christmas!

A few sights around our house and out and about:  gingerbread houses, a monster cookie craft at Daisy Scouts, salt dough ornaments, my Cindy Lou Who mug, our greeting cards on twine, magazine and book trees, Advent calendar ornaments, Instax shots taken during a viewing of Home Alone, tinsel, and a Lindsborg souvenir.

Really?  Eleven more days?  Sigh.  I love Advent.  I love soaking up the holiday spirit.  There's never enough time for me to fully enjoy it.  Not because I'm in a rush to get so much done, but because I truly love the anticipation.  We still have a few gifts to buy, and the girls are making crafty stuff for relatives.  I'm also making book page paper flowers (from a stripped mass market paperback - not destroying anything!) for my sister's wedding next Saturday!

Reading-wise, here are a few things worth sharing.

Mr. and Mrs. Bunny - Detectives Extraordinaire! by Mrs. Bunny, translated from the Rabbit by Polly Horvath, illustrated by Sophie Blackall.  Schwartz & Wade, 2012.

I'd seen this book pinned on Pinterest multiple times, then I read Amy's review of the audiobook on Sunlit Pages and decided I needed to read this one for myself.  (Yeah, I know I said I'd read a grown-up book next.  And now I am.)  This book had me laughing out loud.  I need to read it to the girls after we cut down on our nightstand pile a bit.  Childish hippie parents, rabbit detectives in fedoras, foxes who learn English, garlic breadstick-chomping marmots...  Read this.  It's just too funny.

Terry Gross did a wonderful interview with Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snickett, on NPR's Fresh Air this week.  My husband listened to it driving home the other day, and even he rushed in to tell me about it.  Very entertaining.

I really, really wish I had this book.

This is on TV tonight.  Little Sis loves this movie.  (It's also on Netflix.)  We checked out the book, too.  We love it.

While we love our Christmas characters, we also love when our favorite non-Christmas children's book characters get into the holiday spirit, too!  Here are some of our favorites:

Llama Llama Holiday Drama by Anna Dewdney.  Viking, 2010.
Dinosaur Vs. Santa by Bob Shea.  Hyperion, 2012.
Fancy Nancy, Splendiferous Christmas by Jane O'Connor, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser.  HarperCollins, 2009.
Olivia Helps With Christmas by Ian Falconer.   Atheneum, 2007.
It's Christmas, David! by David Shannon.  Blue Sky Press, 2010.
Madeline's Christmas by Ludwig Bemelmans.  Viking, 1985.
Eloise at Christmastime by Kay Thompson, illustrated by Hilary Knight.  Simon and Schuster, 1999.  Originally published by Random House,  1958.
Merry Christmas, Splat by Rob Scotton.  HarperCollins, 2009.
How Do Dinosaurs Say Merry Christmas? by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Mark Teague.  Blue Sky Press, 2012.

Merry Weekend and Merry Reading!  And don't forget the hot chocolate!

"Are there country dances every night and a pot of cocoa on every table?"  - The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente

St. Lucia Day In Kansas

Today is St. Lucia Day, the 13th of December.  If I were Swedish (or could afford saffron right now!), I might be celebrating with Lucia buns.  Perhaps Big Sis would wear a wreath of candles.  But I'm the great-granddaughter of German immigrants on my dad's side, and a Heinz 57 mix on my mom's side - wait, there might be some Swedish somewhere after all! - and I did not grow up knowing the story of St. Lucia.  But here I am, participating in my very first blog hop:

The beautiful art is by Heather of Audrey Eclectic.  I have been following her on Pinterest for over a year because of art like this and her love affair with all things Swedish and Scandinavian.  She even has a new blog just for this obsession!  See her Etsy shop for more gorgeousness.

Why am I a part of this then?  Was it the Kirsten doll I wished for as a child, when I was supposedly too old for dolls?  I think that started it.  To be honest, though, I think Rick Steves is to blame.  You see, every year, my hubby and I made a point of watching Rick Steves' European Christmas on PBS.  Then my dad made our little obsession worse by getting us the complete Rick Steves' Europe DVD boxed set for Christmas.  And yes, we watch it.  A LOT.  Yes, we are that nerdy.

And our favorite episodes take place in Denmark and Sweden and Norway.  We daydream about when we'll go someday.  And while the Christmas show doesn't venture to Sweden, there is this gorgeous segment in Norway.  It's our favorite part of our favorite Rick Steves episode.

The girls and I celebrated St. Lucia Day early.  We visited the beautiful little town of Lindsborg, KS, "Little Sweden USA," about an hour and 10 minutes from the city where we live, not too far from the tiny farm town in which my grandma grew up.  This was only my third time visiting Lindsborg, though.  The first time was about 6 years ago, when Big Sis was a toddling thing.  The second was only in June of this year, when our whole clan visited for Midsummer.  Now finally, I made it to the Lucia Festival.  There are blessings to losing one's retail job.   This year, there was nowhere else I had to be on a Saturday in December! (I wrote last week about some of the reading my daughters and I did to get ourselves in the mood for the trip.    I won't waste any space re-posting them now, but feel free to visit that post for our list.) When we arrived in Lindsborg, the morning air was chilly (FINALLY) and the sun was bright.  The weather folks were forecasting possible flurries that evening, so we brought our layers.  We parked at the south end of Main Street and followed the sound of Christmas carolers.  We then spent some time visiting shops, especially Hemslöjd, looking at the dala horses, tomtes, straw ornaments, and of course, books.

Okay, we did purchase ONE book.
In the early afternoon, the folk dancing was set to begin.  I bought the girls something to drink, then we settled on a spot to watch the dancing.  Now I knew Heather was going to be in Lindsborg, too, but it wasn't until we saw very, very similar photos posted on our Facebook pages that we realized we were sitting right next to each other!  Note:  If you know a bloggy friend you've never seen in person is going to be somewhere you will be, make a point to really find out what they look like.  Better yet, make plans to meet!

The girls needed a bit to eat after watching all that energy (ha ha), so I took them to a charming coffee shop called The Old Grind, where they split a bowl of potato bacon soup, while I sipped a gingerbread chai.  From the windows, we could keep an eye out for the Lucia procession!  But first, someone else caught our eye.

No matter how gorgeous his costume, my girls are notoriously Santa-shy.

We followed the Lucia procession up Main Street to Bethany Luthan Church.  And everything was beautiful.

After the service, we followed everyone to the lawn for cookies and cider.  Well, to be honest, we skipped the cider.  We were going to need to head home.

One last walk down Main Street.  The sun was hidden behind clouds.  Sprinkles would fall, but we have yet to see any snow whatsoever.

Lest we forget we were still in Kansas, this lovely barn bid us goodbye on the way out of town.

Our spending money was very, very light (stupid bills), so our souvenirs were few.  We returned home with our book, a bag of coffee for the poor working hubby, a julbock ornament, a tiny wooden horse, some more straw goodness I can't link to, a Moomin postcard, this tune stuck in our heads, and two wooden horses, free to the children from Hemslojd. Of course, the day wasn't over.  Once we were home, I still got roped into baking a birthday cake for a stuffed frog, but that's another story...

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