Christmasy Things

Peanut the Mutt is merrier than she appears. She plays and plays, then has to nap, you know.

Two more days until Christmas! 

Today, I'm just going to share some pictures of a few Christmasy things we did this season.

Of course, we decked out our house. Same white tree, nothing very new.

Little Sis and I attended Illuminations at Botanica with her Girl Scout troop.

Both girls and I made it to closing night of the Victorian Christmas event at Old Cowtown.

This year, it was called "A Dickens of a Christmas," and showcased scenes and characters from A Christmas Carol. 

We bought some fun old vinyl for our collection. 

We made silly photo props and spent 20 minutes posing and taking funny pictures of each other, in order to create our Christmas card.

The girls were in the church Christmas pageant again. Little Sis has declared she will always be a lamb. Big Sis went back to being an angel.

And Little Sis drew this, and I think it's perfect.

Wishing you great joy and peace.

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A Christmas Story

In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash by Jean Shepherd (Large Print Edition).
Originally published by Doubleday, 1966.
Current edition, Broadway Books,1991.

This is my current reading material. I accidentally grabbed the large print edition, because I liked the cover. I'm silly that way.

As promised, here's a little look at what the girls and I were up to the past month. Sunday, we wrapped up thirteen performances of Philip Grecian's play adaptation of A Christmas Story, based on the beloved holiday movie, with some extra bits from the original Jean Shepherd stories thrown in. I played The Mother (Mrs. Parker), Little Sis played Randy (Ralphie's little brother - yes, she was a boy), and Big Sis played Helen Weathers, the smartest, toughest girl in school. Ralphie's classmates get more to do in the play than in the movie, and there are actually two speaking parts for little girls.

Do I need to tell you what the play is about? Surely you've seen the movie. Here in the U.S., 24-hour marathons run on cable during Christmas. I first saw it on HBO at my babysitter's house as a kid.

This trailer is so terribly, terribly 1980s. That music!

Thirteen performances over three weekends. Honestly, that's a lot for adult actors, but for ten children - ! Our kids ranged in age from five (kindergarten) to thirteen, and they were such troopers.

Here are a few phone photos I took during the run. We made the local paper twice. The cake was a closing matinee gift from the actor who played Miss Shields. Here's Little Sis in the dressing room, with her hair styled with pomade. The overalls and shirt are her own. And there she is early in the rehearsal process, trying on the snowsuit for the first time.

You can see more pictures from our production on the Wichita Community Theatre Facebook page.

We haven't watched the movie yet this year, mostly because some of the lines for the play were different, and I was having trouble getting the movie out of my mind, even without a recent viewing! I am, of course, reading the book from which most of the movie adapted. Perhaps I should have grabbed this one instead, which only contains the stories used for the movie. 

Here's Jean Shepherd's radio show from  Christmas Eve, 1974.

The grown-up cast and crew have been posting links to stories for each other on Facebook. I thought I'd share some here, if you're interested.

"We plunged into the cornucopia quivering with desire and the ecstasy of unbridled avarice."
Haha! Or, here are some links to merchandise related to the movie.

After we struck the set on Sunday, I took the girls for a drive out west of town, to a couple of neighborhoods known for spectacular light shows. While we were heading to one destination, we came upon a yard decked out in tribute to A Christmas Story! It was the perfect way to end the run of the play.

See the big replica lamp and crate? Santa and the slide, and Flick stuck to the flagpole? And the house, complete with Ralphie in his bunny suit and a little leg lamp in the window

I hope you enjoyed my little A Christmas Story post! On to more books soon.

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Zombelina Dances the Nutcracker

Zombelina Dances the Nutcracker by Kristyn Crow, illustrated by Molly Idle.
Bloomsbury, 2015.

Zombelina is back, and she's in The Nutcracker! How exciting is that? She's a holiday crossover, and sometimes I think we could use a little ghoulishness with our Christmas cheer.

It's a familiar story. Zombelina is excited to audition for the annual Nutcracker ballet.

Her friend Lizzie is very talented, too, and Zombelina is a bit worried until...

Zombelina is cast as Clara, while Lizzie is in the ensemble. They have a heart to heart, though, and while Zombelina is sad for Lizzie, Lizzie is happy for Zombelina. Friendship wins, everything is fine.

It's actually a pretty straightforward tale, until Zombelina throws her shoe at the Mouse King.

Unfortunately, Zombelina's Grandpa Phantom is haunting the theatre. He can't help causing chaos!

Zombelina knows she's the only one who can keep Grandpa Phantom preoccupied. She begs Lizzie to take over for her. Lizzie doesn't know the choreography, but Zombelina's legs do....

Yep. Zombelina's legs do the dancing under Lizzie's nightgown.

While Lizzie is dancing, Zombelina plays "Hangman" with her grandpa, thereby saving the show!

Despite her detachable limbs and green-hued skin, Zombelina is kind and caring. It's a cute book, and might make a nice gift for a little dancer in your life.

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The Nutcracker (Lisbeth Zwerger)

The Nutcracker is a favorite in our house, but you probably knew that. Each year, I try to feature a book or two or twelve (or more), along with photos or crafts. Last year was special for our family. Big Sis made her Nutcracker debut as a mouse. It was such a wonderful experience that I was SHOCKED when she announced she did not want to audition this year. I never did figure out why, but she told us she wanted to wait until next year, when her little sister was old enough to audition, too. Instead, the three of us auditioned for the community theatre's production of A Christmas Story, and last night, we began our third week of performances. (We close on Sunday. I'll share more about that next week!) Because of A Christmas Story, this year marks the first time in four years we will not get to see the full production of The Nutcracker, complete with live orchestra and the snow scene (my favorite). I was able to meet the girls downtown for the school field trip version today. It's shorter, with recorded music, but it's still beautiful. Their school dance teacher danced Arabian, and another girl in Big Sis's class was a mouse. We saw so many familiar faces on stage this year, and I could tell Big Sis can't wait for next year.

Tomorrow, I'll show you a fun and funny Nutcracker-related title, but I'm going the traditional route today. We recently borrowed this book from the library.

Wonderment: The Lisbeth Zwerger Collection. North-South Books, 2014.

It's a lovely Lisbeth Zwerger treasury, and one of the stories is The Nutcracker!

She illustrated the story twice. The first time was in the early 1980s, under the title The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. I would love to get a copy of it, as it looks gorgeous, even if the art is more traditional. She illustrated the story again twenty years later. The stand-alone copy is now out-of-print in the U.S.

Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffmann, retold by Susanne Koppe,
translated by Anthea Bell, illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger.
NorthSouth Books, 2004.

I was excited to see it reprinted in Wonderment. It is a retelling of the original story by E.T.A. Hoffmann. It is simpler to read aloud than the (translated) original, but still wilder than the ballet version most of us are used to seeing.

The girls and I decided that Marie looks just like an old-fashioned china doll.

On Christmas Eve, the Stahlbaum family receives a little nutcracker from Marie's godfather, Councillor Drosselmeier. Marie takes a special liking to him, and is told by her father that she may be the one to care for him. After Fritz, her brother, breaks the nutcracker's jaw, Marie places him in a glass cupboard in place of Clara, her new doll. Suddenly, Marie hears noises. Mice pour into the room, including the terrible mouse king, who has seven heads! Frightened, Marie accidentally puts an arm through the glass. She hears the Nutcracker call the toy soldiers to battle. It ends with Marie throwing her shoe at the mouse king.

Marie's mother finds her bleeding and feverish. Godfather Drosselmeier visits, and she asks him why he did not aid the Nutcracker. She knew she saw him that night, perched on the clock.

He presents her with a repaired Nutcracker, and proceeds to tell her a story.

It is the strange tale of Princess Pirlipat, transformed into a nutcracker by a vengeful mouse queen. The curse is finally broken, only to be passed on to the one who broke the spell.

There is another battle and a victory. There is a visit to The Land of Toys. It's a strange tale, and you really must read it someday, if you haven't already done so.

And finally, Marie wakes from her lovely dream. Drosselmeier arrives with his nephew.

The story ends with Drosselmeier's nephew proposing to Marie. "She looks too young to get married!" was the first thing to pop out of my little girls' mouths.

I love Zwerger's illustrations. Her style is unmistakably her own. Just look at what she did with Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz!

Another Nutcracker-related title tomorrow!

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