Two roads diverged…

A walk in the woods and girls’ day at the ballet

The contrasts of life never cease to amaze me. It struck me last weekend that I can go for a hike in pristine woods alongside deer and turkey and coyote pawprints….then go to the Nutcracker ballet an hour later. Here’s highlights of those two events.

Reminds me of the ever-comforting Mr. Frost:

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Caroline, Matt and little Rev (too cold to walk any further, apparently)
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Julia, Caroline, Allison (my niece) and "Santa" Nutcracker before the show

Meaning to the Christmas season

Both events were part of the smooth segue to the Christmas season. This season, I’m again wondering how to best give the holidays meaning for our kids? At our home, it’s an evolving answer… And this year, it began with the first snow and an afternoon at the ballet.

A walk in the woods

Our first snow finally arrived last week. I wait all year for the excitement and joy as pure as fresh-fallen snow. I love winter! (Of course, if my commute was more than a skype call, I may feel otherwise.) I love the air that is somehow fresher, the snow that crunches differently each day under boots and I love mixing and matching hats, scarves and mittens. I especially love winter hikes in the woods. So, too, do the kids and especially the pooches.

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Caroline and Matt "tracking"
Rev, continually trying to keep up
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A boy and his dogs. Is this pure joy (or what)?

I know we’re not alone

The woods are home to many other creatures. Sometimes I catch glimpses of them. During Thanksgiving prep, we saved the apple peels and core from our apple-pie making and left them in the woods. We noticed all the apple treats were gone the next time we hiked through that area, with plenty of deer tracks all around. I explained it was a thank-you for them letting Mollie rustle them up.

Girls day at the ballet

Growing up, my mom took us to the Nutcracker Ballet at Northrup Auditorium. Since we’ve lived back in Minnesota, the girls and I have gone to the local production. They typically know some of the younger dancers, we’re all amazed at the professionals–and it officially starts the Christmas season for me! This year, my mom and my niece Allison joined us for the Twin Cities Ballet of Minnesota performance at the new Burnsville Performing Arts Center.

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It was a lovely performance. They again utilized local dancers for many of the parts, including the demanding role of Clara. The cast is 120 dancers. The prime roles were danced by professionals from New York, Texas, Italy and Spain, I believe. I’m most amazed by the male leads: the height they achieve in jumps, stamina in turns and spins across the stage. Wow!

The costumes and staging were incredible. Music, exquisite, of course.  And the story is delightful. It brings up the eternal question: “Was it all just a dream?” I think not. (But then, I think Dorothy may well have gone to Oz in some realm.) *Note: Photos from I wasn’t breaking rules and clicking during performance : )

So now I’m ready for the holidaze — my attitude is, we can rest and spend less $ in January.

Meanwhile, I’ll be enjoying our snow and other holiday traditions.

What gets you in the holiday spirit? I’d love to hear about it.

Ceramics Camp

Ceramics are back!

Several friends and I recall our moms going to “ceramics” a few evenings a month while we were growing up in the 1970s. I suspect it was why I go “scrapbook” and to “book club” (translation = drink wine and chat with smart, wicked funny women).

Puppy bank ceramic creation

So when our 7-year-old, Caroline, was invited to a friends’ birthday party at a new ceramics shop in town, I was intrigued. She had a wonderful experience; I was impressed. She created this adorable  puppy bank:

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When the kids had a day off school, we headed to Manic Ceramic here in Lakeville. It was a wonderful experience, and here’s the highlights:

Toughest part

The biggest challenge was selecting the pottery piece to create! They have an excellent, diverse selection, and owner Penny showed us the stamps, stickers, paints, writing paint pens and other cool tools of the trade, gently getting their imaginations’ kicked into gear. After much contemplation, we had our cozy table full of blank pieces, stickers, paint colors, paint brushes and enthusiasm.

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Julia selected this "peace plate" with lime green, blue and other colors to match her bedroom.
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Caroline selected a crown with a removable top in which to store her rings.
Caroline, for once, was the resident expert, showing us where to find different brushes and paint colors, telling us to do more than one coat of paint for more vibrant colors and confidently painting her own piece.
Notice how she used stickers to spell her name, painted over them, and gently removed them when the paint was dry for a reverse-effect. It was easy for her and looks really nice.
Ceramic helmet
When I saw what Matt selected, I opted to help him instead of create a piece myself. His fantasy football team QB is Tom Brady, so he went for a Patriots helmet creation. Penny printed out the logo on great sticky paper so he could reverse-paint the colors.
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To the kiln

Four hours later, the kids proudly entrusted Penny with their creations. She complimented them, talked with them about how they’d chosen their colors and approach and explained the next steps in the process.

Ceramic creation guidance

My tips if you go to ceramics with kids:

1. Let them create. The piece should look like something they created at their age and ability level. If you want something in your style, do your own piece.

2. Allow about $22 – $40 per piece, which does include all the supplies, kiln prep and firing. They had several smaller pieces (Christmas tree ornaments, pieces you could make into a refrigerator magnet) that were less costly, but smaller pieces would be more challenging to paint for younger kids (and frankly not as much fun and without ample room for more creativity).

3. Allow time – It took us about 3 hours. The best part was conversing while we painted, trading ideas and compliments. We had great chats about what “Patriots” really means, the significance of crowns and how the peace symbol evolved.

7 days later

The kids counted down the days until we could pick up their fired pieces. Check ’em out:

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Nice, Julia.
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Pretty, Princess Caroline.
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Pièce de résistance

I had to warn Matt to hide this during the Vikes – Patriots game, lest it become the target of my frustration. It survived, even if Randy Moss in a Vikes helmet didn’t : ).

We highly recommend Manic Ceramic–and we’ll be back!

Have you done ceramics? What worked for you? To my comtemporaries, did your mom do ceramics? I love hearing about other craft ideas for kids.

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