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...

Instax Love

Both daughters received Fujifilm Instax Mini 7s cameras for their birthdays this year.  They were gifts from my dad, who is a very snap-happy person himself.  Now the girls can take their own instant pictures, which are much like the Polaroids of yesteryear, only the photos are only the size of a credit card.

With the Christmas decorations up downtown, the girls and I went on a photo walk recently.  These are pictures I took, altered to look like Polaroid images.  Because I'm super-duper nerdy like that.

And these are some of the better pictures the girls took.  I think I should have adjusted the settings on the cameras.  The pictures were too faded to scan in some cases.

The important thing was for them to have fun.  They love walking in the city.  

The indoor pictures look best. Here are three from the skating rink, and another set from Little Sis's stash.

Instax film isn't cheap.  My dad has been our main supplier, getting boxes off eBay for less.  Wal-Mart carries twin packs of film for a decent price.  Each film cartridge gives you 10 pictures.  I'm trying to teach the girls how to budget.  Save your film for moments you really want to capture.  The message isn't sinking in as well as I would like, but if they spend their film, too bad.  They either wait for the next holiday, or save up allowance and birthday money to buy their own.  (I must say, though, I rather enjoy how Little Sis likes to pose her toys for pictures.)

There are some really awesome accessories and films you can get for Instax Minis.  I'm going to get some mini clothespins and baker's twine, so the girls can display some of their photos gallery-style.  One very cool  website I found is for a store called Mochi Things.com.  They carry a large supply of fantastic imported films (too pricey for me, but awesome nonetheless), decorative stickers, and fabulous albums.  My favorite albums?  Here and here.  They also carry a couple of awesome lenses:  Hello Kitty! and Mickey Mouse!

I guess the best thing about these little cameras, besides the fact that my girls are little and instant gratification is a good thing, is that we'll never run out of gift ideas.  They can always use new film cartridges!

And yes, I have a Pinterest board for this.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

The Herdmans were the worst kids in the whole history of the world.  They lied and stole and smoked cigars, even the girls, and talked dirty and cussed their teachers and took the name of the Lord in vain and set fire to Fred Shoemaker's broken down tool shed.
One of my all-time favorite Christmas stories is Barbara Robinson's The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.  The book was first published in 1972.  Twelve years later, when I was in first grade, the television movie version starring Loretta Swit and Fairuza Balk aired and the book was all the rage at my elementary school.  Teachers read it out loud, and I remember classes gathering in the library to watch the TV movie.

Here's another bit of awesome family entertainment!

It's such a classic.  The meanest kids in town show up at church one Sunday, because they heard there would be refreshments.  It happens to be the day the Sunday School kids meet to cast the Christmas pageant.  The mean kids take over all the lead roles, learn about Christmas, and help the town see the Christmas story in a whole new light.

Last year, Big Sis went on a field trip to see the stage play.  (The joke:  She could have been a Baby Angel in the play, but didn't want to do it.  She was so afraid her actor mommy would pressure her, she even hid the form they gave her in theatre class!  Sigh.)  Although I read the book to her when she was four, the story was mostly forgotten.  This year, we watched the TV movie, read the new picture book adaptation, started the original book, and we may even see the play again this weekend!

Our copy is a paperback reprint from a few years ago.

And yes, if you think your child is a bit too young to sit through the novel, there is a picture book edition!  Published in 2011, the illustrations are by Laura Cornell, best known for her collaborations with Jamie Lee Curtis.  The essential story is there.  I like the novel better (too much funniness to be contained in a picture book!), but the picture book is a great introduction.

Excerpts are available at the HarperCollins website.
One of the fun parts about reading the book now is the girls are Christmas pageant vets themselves.  After some rough patches - Big Sis had a hard time in her lamb years, despite making her debut at 3 months old as Baby Jesus - the girls settled happily into their roles of angel and lamb last year.

Ah, Christmas...

Obsessive Christmas Nostalgia Disorder: My Dad's Christmas Junk Tapes

My dad made us Christmas junk tapes when I was little.  That's what I called them.  They were two VHS tapes loaded with six hours of holiday specials and cartoons, mostly taped off the Disney Channel and Showtime, but they also included some of the network television staples. I had the tapes for ages, but in the years since our VCRs fell by the wayside, the tapes have disappeared.  I've spent a few years trying to find some of my favorites from the tapes.  Some of the shows were easy, like  Frosty the Snowman and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  Some I only found again after the girls were born.  And some...  sigh.

The internet is my own personal junk tape, I guess.  Rather than share holiday clips every Monday, I've been sticking them on the Facebook page - have you "liked" the Silver Shoes & Rabbit Holes Facebook page? - and on this one little Nostalgia Disorder post.  I don't know how long some of the YouTube videos will last, but I'm grateful to the folks who upload this stuff for everyone to see.

This was at the end of a tape, and cut off just as Mr. Hooper
came to Bert and Ernie's.  I always wanted to be the
little girl with the curls, skating with Big Bird.
ABC Family shows this Rankin-Bass favorite, but it's edited.  Some lovely
person posted the complete version on YouTube.
A classic from Halas & Batchelor.
Not specifically Christmas, but this classic was on a tape!
(This was on one tape.  This special was on another.)
(I love this.  Love it, love it, love it.  Ron Moody is awesome.)
I know the tapes also included the Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre episodes "Hansel & Gretel" and "Rapunzel," Mickey's Christmas Carol, and I'm pretty certain this was on a tape, too.  
I miss these tapes.  My daddy compiled some great stuff for us. This may not be everything, but it's a good sample.  
Oh, I know something that's missing:  commercials.  After all, sometimes we missed hitting the pause button during the commercials, or Daddy recorded the show via timer.  I remember most of the network shows came from CBS, so here's a little bonus I found on YouTube! 

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