Friday, January 15, 2021

Winter crochet projects this week for Creative Idea Friday...

Hi everyone! I hope your wintry January's are moving along nicely. :) I know that I'm in the minority, but I actually like January, gray skies and all. Part of it is that my wedding anniversary is in January, part of it is that I enjoy the cozy feeling of deep winter. Speaking of wedding anniversaries, Mike and I celebrated ours on the 8th (16 years!) and as is the thing this year, it was different than usual. Romantic takeout, cocktails at home, and watching of The Crown marked our anniversary dinner this year, ha ha! But you know, it was absolutely delightful!

In other deep winter news, I've been hard at work on crafting. I started a baby sweater for Allison!

This is a Baby Surprise Jacket, one of my favorite baby patterns of all time. You knit what appears to be a blog, and when you sew 2 small seams, voila! It's a baby sweater. :0 It's moving along quite quickly, hoping to have a finished sweater to show you next week! 

But onto crochet, as that is our main theme for this week! I was listening to the We Crochet podcast this week (which I highly recommend, btw, if you're at all interested in crafts. I listen to their sister podcast, Connecting Threads, even though I don't sew, and really enjoy it!) and they got me all excited for a specifically crochet winter focus. The newest edition of their magazine includes a winter themed collection called Wintertide that I am really jazzed about now:

We Crochet Magazine, Issue 5

I do love projects that are themed after winter, as distinct from the holidays. I love holiday projects too, but they are different to me: there are holiday themed items, and then specifically winter themed items that have a cozy, warming feel, and often inspired by winter colors like blues white, and purples. Needless to say, this magazine is in my cart over at We Crochet. :0

Blankets are one of my favorite winter projects, because they keep you warm *while* you make them, so they do double duty! Each New Year, I am inspired by the Attic 24 blanket CAL (crochet -along) and despite having plenty of blankets in my house, I could not resist this year's edition, especially given our continuing pandemic situation. It's the perfect project to work on while snugged up at home! This year, the theme is a Meadow inspired blanket:

Attic 24 Meadow Blanket CAL

And aside from weaving in ends, I completed part 1 this week!

Once you get the stitch pattern down, this is a great and soothing tv watching project. If you're at all interested in crochet, I encourage you to give this a try! I would say it's advanced beginner level, and Lucy includes a step-by-step tutorial with tons of pictures, so you can do it, I know you can! Any yarn you like will do, but Wool Warehouse has the special yarn packs with the colors the designer picked specificaly for this blanket. Even with the current delayed shipping situation (and Wool Warehouse is in the UK), I got my pack within 2 weeks, which I think is amazing speed! But obviously you could also approximate these colors at your local craft store with a nice soft acrylic in worsted or dk. She just released part 2 of the colors today (it's week by week, but you can catch up super easily and work at your own pace!) and I'm sooooo looking forward to working on this over the weekend!

I've also been busily learning to play my finger cymbals, but that's a post for another day. 🀣 How are you doing this week, dear reader? What projects are you working on this January? Sending you lots of hearts this winter!

Friday, January 8, 2021

Creative Idea Fridays for the winter, and some cute crafting updates!

 Merry Christmas everyone, and happy New Year! I'm very glad to be back with you for another year of fun chatting about creativity, crafty hobbies, wellness, prayer and books. 


I hope that you all had lovely holidays this year. Ours were quiet, we certainly missed seeing family the way we usually do, but we still made a very nice time of it and truly enjoyed it. The kids are happy and healthy, and that's all that matters!

For my part, I did alot of knitting, and with a white Christmas and everybody home, it was the perfect cozy time for it! In big news, I finished frog and toad!

*trumpets blare*

Aren't they cute?

Let's have a closeup on the outfits, please.

Pattern available via Frog and Toad Cast. This includes instructions for both critters, plus both of their outfits!

I definitely enjoyed the challenges involved in knitting these two, especially the steeking for the eyes! I tell you, I needed a sip of wine to work up the courage to make that first snip into my knitted baby frog. πŸ˜‚ But it worked out, and it's so exhilerating to try new things!

I've also been enjoying my dancing from home this winter. Looky what Santa brought me this year!

I've been taking ballet classes on Zoom, and this portable, adjustable barre is soooooo much nicer to use than the back of Mike's desk chair. 😁 The feet swivel in for against the wall storage when not in use. It's perfect for me, and I absolutely love it! 

The other new dancey project that I have taken on is something within my main dance passion of Egyptian style belly dance, but is completely new to me: finger cymbals.


Finger cymbals are...scary to me. :-0 As you can imagine, it is challenging to both play a musical instrument (one that is completely new to me), plus dance at the same time. Within Egyptian style belly dance, while you certainly see dancers and musicians playing finger cymbals (called Sagat), they aren't quite as common as in Turkish style belly dance. Here in North America, you often see dancers performing a style of belly dance called American Cabaret, which is a melding of belly dance influences, including Turkish. So those dancers are usually playing the finger cymbals (referred to in this context as zills), and American viewers often become familiar with them via seeing a dancer performing in this style in a restaurant. I've never studied with a teacher who instructs in American Cabaret style (though I've taken a few workshops in Turkish dance, which I LOVED, especially the folk dances, although the finger cymbals segment was a total disaster for me 🀣), so I've never received any long term formal instruction in playing finger cymbals. As part of my goals for the year, I have resolved to learn!

It helps that my favorite online teacher started a session for them as part of her daily drills series, and this format is absolutely perfect for a budding learner of finger cymbals. Everyday at lunchtime, Monday through Thursday, for 30 minutes, I sit in front of my laptop and drill finger cymbal sounds and patterns with her. Yesterday we (gulp) stood up to also do some simple hip drops and traveling steps while playing the cymbals. It's structured as a slow building process, which is exactly what I need. Each day this week, I could feel myself being slightly less bad at it, LOL! But it's coming along. And the thrill of taking on something totally new and intimidating like this has me in a very excited place! 

So! What we'll be doing here on the blog until Lent are a creativity focus that I'm calling Creative Idea Fridays, and then sometime in February we'll turn to Lenten planning and strategies. Maybe we'll do a Lenten book club? We'll see! I'm excited to see what kind of inspiration strikes! 

Do you have any goals for the new year? I would love to hear about them in the comments!

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

4th Week of Advent: Baking and dancing towards Christmas...

Hello everyone, and I hope that your Advent is wrapping up beautifully, just as mine is. 😊 I have allllll of my wrapping still to do, but otherwise am in good shape. I made cookies this week, I should have taken pictures for photographic evidence, ha! Because I am not the best baker, but these turned out well. Most of them have already been consumed by children living in my house. ;-) We made Peanut Butter Blossoms and Italian Chocolate Balls (we put chocolate chips in instead of walnuts, though!).

We were also excited to light the final candle in our Advent wreath:

I wasn't feeling well on Sunday morning after a terrible night of sleep, so we watched the 8 am mass that my parish had streamed for the 4th Sunday of Advent. I have us reserved for the 10 am mass on Christmas day, so hopefully that all goes without a hitch!

Prior to the bad night of sleep though, I had my online Christmas themed dance show, and that went great! Picture me dancing in a bright red gown in the middle of our living room, which was cleared of all easily movable furniture, a camera mounted on a ladder, and my family marooned in their bedrooms. πŸ˜‚ As the organizer wrote to us later, she appreciated our hard work, especially because she knows it isn't easy prepping a piece, setting up your own "stage," and being your own grip and director. There's certainly an unnatural element to performing solely online, with the lack of dedicated performance space and audience/performer energy exchange, but we're all getting a bit more used to it in the dance community, and making the best of it for the time being. I've finally gotten to a place wherein I've accepted that this is the way it is for the time being, and I might as well find the joy and new opportunities that these online shows present until we can go back to in-person shows. I'm lining up some opportunities for the first part of the new year, and really looking forward to working on some new pieces. I will say that performing online means that I have become more choreographed and artistic in my approach to what I present in dance, since there is no crowd energy to feed off of for improvising. It's different for me, and challenging in the best way possible, so I'm seeing that as a positive!

In terms of holiday/wintertime crafting, I've been a busy bee. I promised an update on the Advent gnome, and so here is my in-progress Gnutmeg!

The stitch marker is holding the spot for a belt buckle. The final clue is out today, and I can see that we will be assembling some of the other pieces we knit (nose and beard, various icords for limbs, I'm assuming) onto the gnome, and also adding some final surprises! I'll post a photo after the holidays when I have him all finished. 

I also worked a bit more on Frog:

Creepy, I know, with the disembodied eyeballs. πŸ˜‚ Terrifyingly, the pattern calls for you to *cut out holes for the eyes* and then stitch them on in a way to create eyelids. I have the spot marked out with stitch markers, but have been too chicken so far to proceed. I'm picturing unraveled green yarn all over my couch, and me in tears guzzling wine off to the side. Someone may have to come hold me afterward. 🀣 I'll post an update after the new year!

Speaking of, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and happy New Year! I'll be posting again the week following New Years Day, and using the time to recharge and think of creative new things we can chat and pray about in 2021! 

*virtual group hug*

Friday, December 18, 2020

Third Week of Advent: Preparation and Peace

Happy Friday everyone, and happy Third Week of Advent! I'm always excited to light the pink candle:

...AND our parish is still open, so we were able to attend our favorite 11 am Sunday mass! They announced this week that Christmas masses would be by reservation (to assure that the capacity restrictions won't be a factor) so I called and made ours for Christmas day at 10 am, also our favorite mass for that occasion. I know Christmas eve is a favorite for many, but there is a serenity on Christmas morning that has really taken hold of my heart in recent years. Plus, there is way less demand for attendance at that one, so it's always quiet and peaceful. :-)

Our Advent calendars continue to thrive! Here is our magnetic one, we're progressing right now through animals, shepherds and stars:

The Holy Family, of course, is reserved for the spots of honor. ;-)

Soooo, I am very much not a huge fan of the Elf on the Shelf tradition (it's just odd to me, but to be fair, I suppose one could say that about any number of holiday traditions), but Anne LOVES IT and has talked nonstop about the elf they have in her classroom at school. Mike lives for this kind of stuff, so he bought an elf, and he and Anne have been guiding this thing around our house for the past few weeks. Apparently, elves "just appear after Thanksgiving", rather than being bought at Target, I almost screwed that one up. 🀷🀣 At any rate, Felix the elf has become a member of the family, and he even helped me photograph my Christmas doily this week to submit in a class in my online crafting community:

Weird, but true

In other crafting news, I'm making my nephew a frog:

Pattern is Frog and Toad from From and Cast

Looks like a green blob right now, but I promise, it'll be a frog. :-0 He's green, so kinda Christmassy? Won't be able to say that about the accompanying toad, we'll save him for New Years. ;-) I'll make it my goal to get caught up on my Advent gnome this weekend, and photograph him for next week's post!

Speaking of New Years, there's obviously no belly dancing this year owing to all of the restaurants being closed for indoor dining right now (amongst other factors), but I'm in an online Christmas themed show this weekend that I'm *really* looking forward to! After that is done on Saturday evening, I'm excited to relax into the holiday season with some cookie baking and wrapping the next day with the kids. 😍

How was your Third Week of Advent? Look for next week's post a bit early, given how the holiday will fall in the week, I'm thinking Wednesday!

Friday, December 11, 2020

Second Week of Advent: Re-developing a winter routine, and settling into serenity

Hello all, and I hope that your Second Week of Advent is going well! We're hanging in over here, and looking forward to some cozy hygge time coming up as we move into the coldest part of winter. This week, we lit the second candle on our Advent wreath:

...AND we were able to go to mass in-person, which was delightful! Our parish is doing some fundraising for repairs to the stained glass windows, so I purchased a CD of our magnificent music minister singing hymns that we enjoyed on the drive home. The kids have also been keeping up with our variety of Advent calendars, and everyone is quietly having a good time with those. 

That morning also heralded the feast of St. Nicholas, and as always my kids left their shoes by the hearth, and were rewarded were some chocolate gold coins and boos. 😎

We did not practice this tradition when I was growing up, but as a parent I have always been on the lookout for ways to draw Church traditions into our home life in ways that would capture my kids' imagination and help them to carry their own faith into adulthood. I have really enjoyed this one, and I know that they do, too.

Sunday was a busy day, as it was also pickup day for the poinsettia and wreath fundraiser at Anne's school. The red ones this year are particularly spectacular!

We seem to have settled into a happy Advent routine, and I'm pleased about that. In terms of other  winter things, we're trying to make things as joyful as we can. The kids are both back in school after being on remote learning for a week, and things are going great. They both are content and happy. 

I've also been crafting, and finished a Christmas doily for a gift this week!

Pattern is Eversong

I just love the color. And...

*drum roll*

I FINALLY finished Mike's cabled cardigan that I've been working on for like 10 years. πŸ˜‚

Isn't he so cute?!

It's a success! He loves it, and I'm SO GLAD to have that out of my work-in-progress basket!

I'm also working on a few dance projects, including preparing for an online show next weekend, and that all has given me a much needed sense of purpose and nervous excitement! These are all good things, and right now, we need to focus on the good, for sure.

How has your Second Week of Advent been going? I would love to hear about it in the comments!

Friday, December 4, 2020

First week of Advent: Acceptance, traditions, and Hallmark Christmas movies...

 Happy Friday everyone, and I hope that everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving last week (where applicable ;-)). We truly did; it was quiet, but lovely. And I did enjoy my Black Friday of online shopping and movie watching from my couch, that's pretty much what I do every year anyway, hee hee!

This month, I thought we would quite naturally focus on Advent each week, and we're now nearly to the end of the first week of this liturgical season. My family put up our Christmas tree last weekend, decorated the house, and of course got out our pleaothra of Advent activities. Advent week 1 candle lighting was a GO!

Everybody is ready for some fun, we did have to glue on an angel wing this year, something untoward happened in the box during the off season :0


I was glad to have a home Advent wreath more than usual this year, since once again, our parish did not offer mass this past weekend. :( Father did announce that we will have an in-person option for the remainder of Advent, so I can't wait to go this weekend! But back to Advent Week 1. The kids were a bit unenthusiastic about my Advent joy, but I gathered them round to light the candle (Anne did perk up a bit to wield the candle lighter thingy), and we read the reading and short prayer from Lisa Hendey's book, which is excellent:

We also have a multitude of Advent calendars, from chocolate to magnets to Playmobil Back to the Future. I've been exerting quite a bit of energy rallying the troops, because my kids don't seem as into it this year, which makes me sad. They are now 15 and 9, I suppose it isn't a huge surprise, but they've always loved Advent traditions. I do think this year has taken a toll in this regard, we're all having to try harder to do things that we've always loved, it's the underlying depression and anxiety of our current situation taking hold, I believe. So I just pressed on, hoping that they'll come round as the weeks go on, and I do see some Advent calendar activity here as the week draws to a close, which makes me happy.

Overall, I think that I've come to a sense of acceptance and resignation that for the time being, our lives are different than usual, and instead of wallowing in the mourning and despair, I can try to find ways to still make things fun and bright. So I really put aside any impatience I would normally feel when we were decorating the tree and the kids inevitably started arguing or carelessly broke an ornament, and just treasured the experience and joy of it, because the children *truly* love this season and are building memories from these types of family moments. I made hot cocoa for them, and had Henry select a holiday playlist for us to listen to as we decorated. From things that both have said to me, I know that they remember these experiences fondly, and I want to give them both as special a Christmas this year as possible.

I'm also slowly coming to terms with the fact that this may be our last Christmas with a true Santa experience. Anne is 9, and still wholeheartedly loves and believes in this tradition (by this age, Henry did not) and so I'm trying to just enjoy every moment instead of getting melancholy about eventually losing this unique magic. We never know what is in store for us, and so why fret about next year when next year isn't even guaranteed? It really still is magical with her, and I want to treasure every single second. 

The other thing that has been making me smile this Advent season is Hallmark Channel Christmas movies. Each weekend, I record the new ones that catch my eye (we have both Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries) and then watch them when I have free moments during the week. I use their app to keep track of which ones I want to catch, and check them off after viewing. This type of organization really appeals to my innate librarian qualities, and the whole experience makes me so happy. 😍 The Hallmark Channel offerings are lighter, sometimes funny, just true romcom. On Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, the themes are more serious and heartwarming, and I kid you not, I have cried during a few of them. I dare you to hold it in when a parent finalizes the adoption of their beloved child on Christmas eve! Good stuff, truly. 

That was my First Week of Advent, and hoping for continued peace as we move into the second. How about you? πŸ€—

Friday, November 20, 2020

A Cozy Indoor Packing List for the weeks ahead...

Welcome back, friends, to our final installment in Fun Friday (taking next Friday off from blogging to spend Black Friday shopping online with my family, hee hee), but I have to admit, it doesn't feel like a very fun day, does it? Things are worsening here, as they are worldwide, and I have a feeling that it's going to be a very long winter, sadly. On top of that, I barely have reason to leave the house much right now given the public health guidelines, and that's only going to worsen in the coming weeks, so I'm doing my best to emotionally manage it. And so I thought today's installment of Fun Friday could be a focus on ways to make our indoor time super cozy and delightful. I've been working on building up our supplies this week myself, and thought I would share. :)

1.) Books - Because of course, right? This *is* a librarian's blog, after all. Load up, my friends! Visit your local bookshop if you are able, or otherwise order some titles in print or digital. I think we can all agree that complete escapism is absolutely essential right now. :-0 For my part, I'm currently reading the lovely Amish Christmas at North Star:

Quick blurb:

One night four lives entered the world by the hands of an Amish midwife, just outside North Star, Pennsylvania.

Rebekah’s Babies, as they are called, are now grown adults and in four heartwarming novellas each young person experiences a journey of discovery, a possibility of love, and the wonder of Christmas...

I also have this on my bookshelf from last Christmas, and am planning to pull it out!

2.) Puzzle Books - While shopping with Anne earlier in the week at our local Dollar Tree, I happened upon a display of word finds. Hark. Word finds? I LOVE WORD FINDS! And I haven't worked on any in like, 25 years. :-0 And these were winter and Christmas themed. This isn't the one I bought, but akin to this one:

I bought both a winter themed one and a Christmas one. I love simple ways to occupy my mind like these. I also kind of like picture mazes, but I restrained myself on that one. 😁 Ultimate Dot to Dot books are another great idea!

3.) Jigsaw puzzles - Continuing the puzzle theme, a Facebook sponsored ad read my mind (creepy!) and got me thinking about jigsaw puzzles. Both of my kids loved puzzles when they were little, and although I'm not particularly good at them (500 pieces is a challenge for me, 1000 pretty much impossible!) I truly enjoy working on them. I purchased this one, and it is a DELIGHT. The entire family is enjoying working on it. And because none of us are particularly adept puzzle solvers, the joy just keeps giving, because it's still not completed yet, LOL! Each day, a few of us head over to it to slide in some pieces.

I put in an order for some Christmas puzzles too, excited for those to arrive!

4.) Hand Crafts - You all know that I love my knitting and crocheting, and indeed, I've enjoyed the big yearly yarn sale over at Knit Picks and We Crochet this year more than ever. But I also espied some new hand crafts that I thought would be fun to try, and thought maybe Anne and I could try them together. I ordered a punch needle kit, and I have to say that I am very intrigued. I am not familiar with this craft at all, and can't wait to learn about it! I purchased this one:

I see that it's now out of stock temporarily, but they have other kits as well! And they also have embroidery kits, which Anne is interested in. I have my eye on this fall leaf one:

Trying something new has me all atwitter with excitement. And it's much needed, for sure!

5.) Flavored hot cocoa - Doing our grocery shopping this week, I saw a collection of flavored hot chocolates packaged together, and quickly snapped it up for the kids. This one had peppermint, mocha, Irish Cream and Salted Caramel. When the weather gets cold, I have the urge to fire up the kettle. I like tea, and the kids love hot cocoa. Which reminds me! Celestial Seasonings has their holiday collection teas in stock, and they are THE BEST:

Nutcracker Sweet is my favorite tea of all time, I drink it year round. The kids are favoring Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride, and the pumpkin tea was delightful all October long. Oh it makes me so happy to even think about fun hot beverages!

All right, that is my list for bringing home the cozy. Have anything to add to the list? I'd love for you to leave your ideas in the comments!

Friday, November 13, 2020

New classes are good for our minds and spirits...


Hello everyone, and welcome to another edition of Fun Friday for November! I think we need this now more than ever, yes? It's getting pretty wintry in my part of the world, and things are also getting even more challenging with regards to the pandemic, so it's going to be a tough haul over here for the winter. But we can do our best to keep our spirits up! Last week we talked about holiday crafting with new and upcoming -alongs, and this week I thought we would focus on trying our new classes!

With our current situation, of course, we're pretty much talking online classes for the time being. There might be some in-person opportunities right now, but I know that's much more limited at present. We'll get back there! In the meantime, to try and look at the positives, online classes present a greater variety to choose from, sometimes offering instruction/instructors that you otherwise would not have access to. This winter, I think online classes are an important way to keep our minds engaged, our spirits lifted, and our souls feeling a connection to others. *heart*

For my part, you know how I am with dance. ;-) I love it! Since the summer, I've been taking an online ballet class, which I had not done since I was in my teens. I am finding it challenging in the best way possible! I have even worked my way from Introduction to Ballet to Advanced Beginner ballet, LOL! It's *difficult*, to be sure. I'm using different muscles and movement pathways than I'm used to. But it's absolutely awesome, and a great lift to my week on Tuesday evenings, all from the comfort of my home office. I'm taking the classes via Rosa Noreen's Grace Academy. She's based in Portland, Maine, but via Zoom anyone can access her classes from anywhere in the world! She's an absolutely delightful instructor, and has adorable cats that visit during class, too. :-)

Rosa also teaches belly dance (same link above if you'd like to try an intro class!), which you all know is my very favorite. My local belly dance classes have been back in-person since September, but I've been supplementing with other classes and workshops online as I see them pop up in my social media feeds. Right now, I'm taking a 4 week practice series for November based around slow "gooey" movements with a dancer I admire who lives on the West Coast. Aside from doing time zone math to get the class time right, it's now easy peasy to study with her! It's for 30 minutes a day, Mondays through Thursdays, and I'm loving it. It gets me moving during the week, and focused on technique. It's also inspiring new ideas for me on a slow piece I could work on over the winter.  

If you're at all interested in dance, do some searching online and I bet you'll find an instructor you could study with via Zoom for the winter. It's really kept me going to discover and try out new things this way! Fitness is the same. I take Piyo and Body Sculpt online via Zoom, and my wonderful Zumba instructor offers online classes that I'd love to get back to. I *highly* recommend Zumba dance fitness, and I'm sure you'll be able to find tons of people offering these online right now!

To tie together our themes from the past two weeks. Craftsy offers a slew of online classes for knitting, crocheting, sewing, cake decorating, and more! These are not live classes, but still, an impressive library of possibilities. Is there anything specific you'd like to explore in an online class? Pop your ideas into the comments and we'll see what we can find out online!

Friday, November 6, 2020

It's yarn sale season! And upcoming holiday mystery craft -alongs...

 Happy Friday everybody! I have deemed November to be a Fun Friday month, and each week will post some frivolity about upcoming opportunities in hobbies and enjoyable online classes. I think we could all use more frivolity in our lives of late, yes? This week our topic is CRAFTS! 


We do chat about crafts a good deal on this blog, but we don't always focus specifically on mystery -alongs that are tailored to a holiday season, do we? Yes indeed, we need mystery gnomes. And we also need mystery dolls!

If you're a knitter, I think we can agree that you need an Advent Gnome in your life: 

And his name will be Gnutmeg, what more detail could you possibly need?! This Mystery Gnome -Along starts December 1st, and the pattern is available for 50% off through tomorrow (11/7), so do rush over to purchase if you'd like to participate! I chose wintry colors for my Gnutmeg, and I can't wait to get started! He will be knit with fingering weight yarn, for planning purposes.

If you're a crocheter, then you need a Christmas doll to brighten your home this holiday season, I do think this is mandatory. ;-)

I've never made a doll before, so I'm excited to try this one! This pattern is also on sale, in this case until 11/20. It's 50% off until then, which is the day before the MCAL begins! So this one begins in just over 2 weeks, the weekend before American Thanksgiving. The doll's name is Sally, and she will have a holiday theme and outfit!

Since I don't have all of the needed colors in my yarn stash, it is fortuitous timing that Knit Picks is having their annual Big Sale this coming Monday, November 16th. Despite having enough yarn to survive the fallout of the apocalypse (the zombies will all have handknit socks and sweaters ;-)) I look forward to this *every year*. I log onto Ravelry that morning, and sip coffee while participating in the excited chatter in the Knit Picks Lovers group leading up to the sale prices dropping at 9 am EST. Then I partake in the stampede to the best deals on the yarns that I had on my wist list, and in the inevitable impulse buys of new limited edition colors and other goodies. On my list is a nice acrylic in a bunch of colors to make the Christmas doll, plus a scene of Nutcracker figurines, because OF COURSE TIFFANY IS MAKING THAT. 

Oh my gosh, y'all, I am so excited about all of this! πŸ˜ŽπŸŽ… Is anybody joining me in a holiday craft -along? Getting your fast fingers ready for the Knit Picks sale on Monday? I want to hear all about it in the comments!

Friday, October 30, 2020

A Nutcracker Book Club reading list!


Happy Friday everyone! I hope that your week went well, I know that it's not exactly easy to keep thinking happy thoughts right now. But we persevere! My teaching has wound down, and I had my last scheduled class of the semester on Wednesday with an evening one that ran until 9:30 pm. There are many more evening classes this semester with most things being remote, which is not my preferred timeslot, but I do what I can to help out. I'm relieved that that is all done for now, and am turning my attention back to things that I've been neglecting since this busy streak began. Some of that is dance, which I'll circle back to next week. And some of that is generally time to mentally and emotionally recharge. And being the dancer/reader/nerd that I am, I do that by watching and reading about The Nutcracker. πŸ˜‚

I've mentioned a number of times how attached I am to the seasonal tradition of going to see a Nutcracker performance with my mom, and with whomever amongst my kids are willing to go. This year, obviously, there will be no live performances, and I've been preparing myself for this reality for months. In anticipation, I gathered up my Nutcracker collection on DVD, and planned a Nutcracker day in which I watched multiple productions of The Nutcracker while knitting and consuming much coffee and breakfast food. This week, I watched the Pacific Northwest Ballet (which has a unique set design constructed by Maurice Sendak of "Little Bear" renown) and the American Ballet Theater rendition, performed by the iconic pairing of Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gelsey Kirkland. It was a DELIGHT. I was able to compare and contrast the artistic interpretations within each and generally nerd out on ballet stuff. It inspired me so much that I have the Bolshoi Ballet and New York City Ballet versions lined up to procure from the public library so that I can have another Nutcracker day next week!

This all sparked my curiosity so much that I did some research on the history of The Nutcracker, and now have a little book club reading list set up for myself that I have already embarked on. *halo* Maybe you'd like to join in!

First off, I simply knew that I was remiss in never having read the original "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" by EFA Hoffmann. I knew that the story was a bit darker than what ended up being portrayed in the ballet version, but I think I'm up to the challenge! *virtual fist bump* This book is currently on the way to me from Amazon; it contains the original illustrations, and I knew the Kindle version would not do it justice. I am SO EXCITED!

Next up is this gem, and I've had it on my Kindle forever without making it past the first chapter due to Christmas cozy fiction distractions at the critical time of year. This year, it has zoomed up in my queue, and I cannot wait to dive in! This is about the history soley of The Nutcracker, rather than focusing on ballet history more generally. How perfect is that?! This is pretty much the textbook of our little book club. 😁

This one is a re-read, but definitely a delight. It's written in a more accessible memoir style (whereas "Nutcracker Nation" is more academic) and the enthusiasm of the author for all things Nutcracker and ballet -related is infectious. It's a fun one to read just before Nutcracker season. And right now, it is only $1.99 for the Kindle version!

I hope that this list gives you some fun seasonal ideas if you've always enjoyed The Nutcracker as much as I have! It has give me a much needed lift towards the end of this difficult year.

Speaking of, since the pandemic started, I've started taking ballet classes on Zoom, and I have to's HARD, much, much harder than what I remember from when I was a kid! πŸ˜‚And so, as I was re-reading "Raising the Barre" and the author mentions putting off re-starting ballet classes, favoring fitness classes to focus on getting in shape prior to doing so, I held my breath a bit for her, because in my experience the years of lessons many years before as a child does not really give you a leg up on dancing ballet 30+ years hence. But maybe that's just me. πŸ˜† I have been enjoying the challenge *tremendously* though. Some (though not all) forms of dance feel very natural to me, and this includes ballet, but it's a full mind and body experience that a body past a certain age may find a bit vexing. :-0 But very worth it for the increased flexibility I'm noticing in my feet, and the focus on posture and connection to the floor that translates perfect to my Middle Eastern dance. I'm definitely in love!

Who else is a fellow Nutcracker fan out there? Or do you have other Christmas or winter related books to add to our reading list? Perhaps dance books not relating to The Nutcracker? I'd love to hear them!