Christmas Break

Little Sis got this sweet little placemat from her friend at church. She left Santa a note to say "I love you." (He answered.)

This Christmas break is flying by! I cannot believe it is the last day of 2014. I have a cough and cold now. We are being lazy right now, but soon, we must tackle Mt. Laundry.

As promised, here is a look at some of our winter break.

A trip to Illuminations at Botanica, on the first evening of winter:

This little guy was in the gift shop. His price tag was a bit too steep for me, but I wanted him. You know I did.

The girls and I sat outside the downtown branch of the library, listening to the Christmas carol carillon concert across the street. We love the old City Building / Historical Museum.

The girls got a Christmas tree cookie pan with sprinkles and icing in their Advent calendar. I made the cookie and the white icing. I let them take it from there. (Too. Much.)

Little Sis was a lamb in the church Christmas pageant again. Big Sis did not want to be an angel again, so she opted to be a shepherd instead. Three days later, we let them stay up to attend the 11 PM Christmas Eve service. I'm not sure that was the best idea. It was a bit much for Little Sis, who is wired so differently from her sister. I think we'll attend the 7 PM service next year.

Christmas morning was low-key. So was dinner. My dad and grandma joined us. I made this cake. Mr. B made a pork roast.

Big Sis got her own vintage "big-eyed" doll with a tear: a Love Me Linda by Vogue. (This blogger does a nice job of describing her. There is also a Flickr pool devoted to her.)  She and Little Miss No Name got acquainted. There were lots of Legos this year (Ghostbusters!!!), a new Sonny Angel, some bacon-themed stocking stuffers.

I took Big Sis to see the other local production of The Nutcracker. (Maria Kowroski and Tyler Angle from the New York City Ballet guest-starred!) We drove around to look at lights. The girls' fairy godparents came bearing gifts (including a beautiful Nutcracker music box for Big Sis, and an awesome airplane picture frame for Little Sis). We had a late Christmas at my sister's, where Little Sis got this awesome Amelia t-shirt, and Big Sis received a box of A Series of Unfortunate Events and the book Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu.

Mr. B has been to work a few days. The girls and I have snuggled at home with Netflix (this show, total binge-watch) and Blu-Rays (YES). We started reading the first Harry Potter book together. We've enjoyed sipping Winter Spice tea and eating lots of chocolate. (Ritter Sport Coffee and Hazelnuts may be the most amazing thing ever. I have awesome friends.) And look at the candle my friend Amy in New York brought me!

Our white Christmas landed on the sixth day of Christmas. We braved the cold and snow to see Into the Woods. [Our thoughts? Big Sis and I liked it. We did not like the changes made to Rapunzel's ending. It weakened the story. Little Sis did not like it, and wishes the old Bernadette Peters/Joanna Gleason stage version was back on Netflix. You know we're a theatre family when mom and kiddos can compare a movie musical to both a filmed stage version and live local productions...]

I snapped this picture of the theater marquee in the snow before we left.

We have no big New Year's plans. Mr. B is home, but between illness and housework, my energy is waning. I hope everyone out there in Blogland has a beautiful 2015!

See you next year!

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The Twelve Days of Christmas (LeUyen Pham)

The Twelve Days of Christmas, illustrated by LeUyen Pham.
Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 2014.

Happy Sixth Day of Christmas! Which one is this...  Oh yes, six geese a-laying.

Okay, so while I like the imagery in the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas," let's face it, it's pretty repetitive. The only version I like to listen to is the one by John Denver & the Muppets. Of course, anytime we hear or sing the song, my whole family must add in Miss Piggy's "ba dum dum dum"s after "five gold rings."

But the images in the song are beautiful, which means they can lead to some fabulous illustrations. I bought a sweet Little Golden Book version at the used book store, illustrated by Sheilah Beckett, which I planned on sharing with you. Alas, I don't feel like doing two "Twelve Days of Christmas" posts, and this gorgeous new version I checked out from the library won.

I love LeUyen Pham! And her take on this carol is a treasure. The little couple is charming and sweet, there are adorable bits of humor, and wait until you get to day eight. WOW.

I love the illustration for "five gold rings." Look at the little fellow, hushing one of the geese from the next page.

And this is where the book turns spectacular. These maids a-milking are special.

Same goes for the dancing ladies, the leaping lords, the pipers and drummers.

The song culminates in one glorious multicultural mix of characters.

After the thrilling illustrations, I was pleased to find the song itself in sheet music form, as well as an explanation of the Twelve Days of Christmas.

There isn't much more for me to say, is there? I'm so not a reviewer. I'm more of a "Hey! Look at this, isn't it cool?!" sort of blogger.

Tomorrow, I'll take a little break from books, in order to show you a bit from our week. I cannot believe tomorrow is New Year's Eve! Christmas Eve was really a whole week ago? Huh, what? Where did our week go, let alone the past year?!

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On the Second Day of Christmas...

Or I suppose if you must, you could call it the day after Christmas, but I prefer the whole 12 day thing. Seems like a lot of work for a one day event.


Happy Friday!

Merry Weekend!  Happy Reading!

I will post a bit next week, but with the girls out of school, I expect I'll spend a bit less time on the computer. I'll share some pictures and a few more books.  Hope everyone is well.

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Bring a Torch, Jeannette, Isabella (Adrienne Adams)

Bring a Torch, Jeannette, Isabella, a Provençal Carol Attributed to Nicholas Saboly, 17th Century, illustrated by Adrienne Adams. Charles Scribner's Sons, 1963.

Because I love Adrienne Adams. And old Christmas carols. And old books.

Merry, merry Christmas, dear readers!

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Holly Claus

Oh, goodness. Okay, first of all, as I begin this post, please forgive my crappy photographs. I still want to share these books, which I have since returned to the library, but I had no idea how out of focus some of the pictures were. Bad blogger. Bad photographer, too, but I never pretended to be good.

Okay.  Now that my apologies are out of the way...

The only non-picture Christmas book I've completed this year is this fat, lush middle-grade fantasy, The Legend of Holly Claus by Brittney Ryan.

I checked out the picture book, Holly Claus, The Christmas Princess first. I remembered it from Christmas displays at the book store. Then I realized it was an abridged version of a much bigger book.

The Legend of Holly Claus by Brittney Ryan, illustrated by Laurel Long. HarperCollins, 2004.

This is a pretty fabulous book. A poor young boy in Victorian New York writes his first letter to Santa Claus. He isn't even sure he's doing it right. He's never written before because, despite his poverty, he's never felt like he needed anything. This year, though, he asks a simple question. "Santa Claus, what would you like for Christmas?" That question makes it possible for Santa (known as Nicholas) and his wife to have their one desire: a child, the first child born in The Land of the Immortals, also called Forever. This is a purely secular mythology. Nicholas doesn't have a backstory as a Turkish bishop. There is no mention of Christmas in traditional religious terms. Forever is the land where mortals who have left something memorable behind - something to last forever - go when their time on earth is through. They earn their immortality. Nicholas is the king of Forever. Mere mortals may think he lives in the North Pole, with elf toymakers, but that's just an idea he let loose. The elves are really goblins, and and The Land of the Immortals exists on an entirely different plane.

There is an evil immortal, long-banished to an underworld prison. Herrikhan can only escape if he can possess a willing, completely pure heart. He curses the baby Holly by encasing her heart in ice. In order to survive, she must always be cold. As part of the curse, no one is allowed in or out of Forever, save Nicholas at Christmas. Herrikhan secretly leaves her a magical telescope that allows her to look out into the mortal world, yet she only sees the good things. She longs to visit that world, especially The Empire City, known on Earth as New York City, to which she feels drawn. She knows it is her destiny to go there and earn her rightful place among the Immortals.

As a young woman, she finally finds her way to that city, on her own sleigh drawn by rainbow-hued reindeer. She befriends homeless children who live in Central Park, and is led to a toy store, where she finds herself a job. She has a gift for making dolls that reveal the innermost dreams of children. She is also drawn to the taciturn owner of the store, a young man who seems much older than his years. It becomes obvious that he fits into the puzzle of her life somehow. All this time, she is preparing to meet Herrikhan, hoping to survive the whole ordeal before her father comes for her on Christmas Eve.

Oh, did I mention Holly's talking animal friends? A wolf, a fox, an owl, and just to confuse things, a penguin. I know Forever is not actually the North Pole, but hey...

The black and white illustrations are courtesy of Laurel Long (see The Magic Nesting Doll). Her illustrations were enhanced and colorized by Jeffrey K. Bedrick for the picture book adaptation. The story is still very long for a picture book. I think it plays out much better in the full-length novel, however, the full color illustrations are pretty spectacular.

Holly Claus: The Christmas Princess by Brittney Ryan,
illustrated by Laurel Long with Jeffrey K. Bedrick. HarperCollins, 2007.

The books are no longer available new, which surprised me. They were part of the Julie Andrews Collection, which was once published by HarperCollins and Hyperion. The Collection seems to have moved to Little, Brown. Perhaps that's the reason the books are out of print? Used copies seem plentiful on Amazon, however, and my library had multiple copies of each. Brittney Ryan maintains her Facebook page, still promoting the books, although the website has gone quiet.

Anyway, the Holly Claus story is a nice Christmas fantasy, perfect for fairy lovers. It could take its place on the shelf next to L. Frank Baum's The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, another Santa fairytale origin story.

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