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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Christmas, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 1,213
1. Best Selling Picture Books | October 2015

It only takes a couple of beautiful autumn days and the holiday season suddenly feel so much closer. Readers are not wasting time getting into the holiday spirit: this month, our best selling picture book from our affiliate store is the delightful rendition of E.T.A. Hoffmann's Nutcracker, illustrated by Maurice Sendak.

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2. Coming Soon - A wonderful wordless Christmas book

My sweet friend Nicole sent along this YouTube video of her new Christmas book.

Please turn up your sound and enjoy. 

The first snowflakes flutter down and over a village shines a bright star. 

In this charming Christmas story, the birds and animals look for decorations to adorn a huge pine tree.

Sure to become a Christmas classic.  Kerstmis will be available on Amazon soon – please visit this linkAlternatively, you can reserve a copy at Libris.  The music accompanying the video was composed by Nicole’s husband Martin and is available to download from iTunes

The Bout en Moertje (Nut and Bolt) ABC will also be available soon. This comes in a good quality box with 26 loose letter cards and a booklet.  You may remember Bout en Moertje (Nut and Bolt) from a previous post here, and you can read more about Nicole here.

Available from Amazon in early October.

I received no financial compensation for writing this post and have no material connection to the brands or products mentioned. 

Christmas is arriving early this year. Our Australian family are visiting at the beginning of December and staying with us until the middle of January. Terry and I can’t wait to spend time with these two gorgeous little girls (our granddaughters) and their mummy and daddy.

We are already busy shopping and preparing.  How about you, do you like to buy presents early or do you prefer to wait until Christmas Eve? 

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3. The Mystery of the Golden Christmas Trees, by Carolyn Snelling | Dedicated Review

The Mystery of the Golden Christmas Trees is a sharply written and compelling tale that places religious themes in an inviting, contemporary setting.

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4. Christmas Bear Sketches

A very small and sweet story unfolded as I drew these.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

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5. Photo: {My Crazy Family By Marriage}


We may be crazy, but MY GOSH we have fun!

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6. Cracked Christmas Reindeer Ornament

As promised, here's another one of the products I had the pleasure of working on.  I think the concept behind this is pretty self-explanatory.  In case it's hard to tell from the photo, the reindeer's scarf doubles as a hook/noose!  Poor stressed-out reindeer.

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7. Zac & Mia & Willow – YA for your soul

Here in SE Queensland, just before Christmas, an unusual thing happened. It began to rain. I’d almost forgotten the scent of a wet garden and the sensation of damp. It was perfect cosy reading weather. Alas, the week before Christmas with a house full of family and several menus and trips away to plan for […]

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8. Video: Can’t Choose

This is my great-niece. The pretty blonde is her momma, my niece. I love babies. I’m afraid this may be the closest I ever get to a grandchild. :-(

Also. How creepy would it be if adults suddenly shrieked when they couldn’t contain their joy a moment longer? HA!

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9. Painting black (and green, and brown . . . )

Happy New Year!

I'm starting it off by painting a lot of dark little paintings. You may be able to tell what I'm up to here, but I won't spill all the beans yet, and instead will talk about how I'm painting them, and how they're kind of giving me fits.

My plan was to do these with watercolors on illustration board.

So I went into my supply closet, where I knew I had a whole box of boards (Strathmore 500 Series). But when I opened the box, . . . it was empty! Somewhere along the line I'd pulled out the last board; but because the box is a sturdy, very boxy box, I didn't even notice there was nothing left in it except for some liner boards (and whatever they built the box with to make it sturdy enough to ship fancy illustration board across the country without it getting damaged).

And so onto Plan B. I wanted to get these started, and didn't want to wait for new board to arrive, so I dug out some Arches watercolor paper. Which is really beautiful paper. But its very bumpy. And kind of rough. And I'm trying to get used to painting on it. 

The piece above has several layers of different blacks, but still isn't quite what I wanted the finished 'look' to be.

With this next one, I did a bit less, and somewhere along the way figured out I will still need to add some colored pencil to get the final look I want.

So then I started doing just a base layer of color, without worrying so much about modeling the form or any details, which let me relax a little and enjoy just putting some paint down. The 'splotchy' look is driving me crazy though. I wet an area, then apply the paint (see, I do know how to do this properly), but am still getting uneven-ness. It wouldn't kill me to use a larger brush, which would probably fix the problem. But like I said, I now know I'm going to go over it with pencil, so that will even it all out.

I can see I need to fix the buttons on this one, because they're not lined up right. (How did that happen?)

The paper warps, which drives me insane. I am too lazy to stretch it, and don't want to tape it down either (these are really small little pieces.) I learned all that stuff in art school, and remember running whole sheets of paper under the tap in the bathtub, then taping them down to a board to dry overnight. !!!!! I just don't have the patience for that anymore (but do have the patience to fiddle endlessly with a 00 brush or needle sharp pencil point - so go figure). 

Anyways, that's what I'm up to. And I'm not complaining, really! I'm just sharing. I'm actually having fun, and am looking forward to getting these finished. 

I hope the new year is starting off well for you. So far so good here. I confess I was happy to get back in the swing of things after the holidays. Its all fun, and emotionally uplifting, but also exhausting. There comes a point when you just can't eat one more cookie or fat-laden thing, and anything red and green and sparkly makes you twitch, and you know you're done. Amirite?

I did have one bit of drama for Christmas, involving a kitty. I'll copy it here as I recounted in on Facebook, if you're interested (and haven't already read it). It has a happy ending, and won't even make you cry or anything, so its an easy read. And with that I'll say good night, and go back to my little black paintings. Good night!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

* * Christmas Miracle * *
On Christmas EveEve, Tracy kitty got himself stuck in a Barnes & Noble plastic bag, with the handle around his body. He freaked out because he couldn't get away from the crackling bag noise, and although hysterically funny to watch at first (just because it was only a stupid plastic bag), it quickly turned serious as he dashed madly around the house, knocking stuff over, then out the cat door. I heard him and the crackling bag whoosh past the front window and off down the street, poor thing, madly trying to run away from the bag.
So I put on shoes, got the flashlight, and even though I was trying to hurry, felt like the slowest moving beast on the planet - he was long gone, down the street who knows how far and to who knows where? I went to the end of the block, but how did I know which way he turned? He could be blocks away already. I trudged home, simultaneously thinking "Oh, he'll be alright", and "I'll never see that cat again".
A long evening, then sleepless night passed, with me imagining every awful thing that could happen to a cat with a plastic bag attached to himself, and listening for any sound of him coming in the cat door, and getting up more than once to check to see if he'd snuck in. All his beds were empty, and in the morning there was still dry food in the bowl, (its usually totally empty), so I knew he hadn't been back and gone out again.
A long Christmas Eve day of Christmas prep and worrying - no Tracy. Then out to dinner, trying to keep a brave face and smile, and be entertaining to my Mom who was spending the night, doing Christmassy things and just saying "Oh, he's outside somewhere" when she asked about him.
Did I mention I was praying to everyone and anything who might be able to help? Jesus, guardian angels, cats on the Other Side . . . .
Mom turned on "Its a Wonderful Life", and I sat in the kitchen, listening to George and Mary and Mr. Potter in the other room, feeling completely miserable.
And then. Twenty four hours after this story began, in the shadows near the cat door, the next room over, I see a little body. At first I thought it was one of my other cats, but then realized they were all accounted for somewhere else in the house. "Tracy?" . . . He'd popped back outside . . . "TRACY?!" again, and he popped back in, and ran right to the 'treat station' (here, next to the computer) and was perfectly fine! Not a scratch on him! Hungry, but not starving, just his regular self, pretty much. Joy! Relief! There was lots of thanking god, jesus, all the others who'd helped bring him back! In the living room, George Bailey was just starting his journey with Clarence, and so I watched and appreciated George's joy at getting his life back, and it really felt like Christmas.
Tracy slept tucked in next to me, right by the pillow, all night, which he's never done before. Santa brought him a new cat nip cigar, and he's been enjoying that and some Christmas sun all morning.
It does feel like a wonderful life today. And I will never let the cats play with plastic bags again. Especially ones from B&N.
Merry Christmas everyone!!

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10. A Peek into a Christmas Tree Farm

Christmas Tree Farm

By Ann Purmell; illustrated by Jill Weber


Like millions of other families across the country we were one of those that purchased one of the 25-30 million REAL Christmas trees hauled home atop car tops or dragged home this year.

There are 350 million Christmas tree currently growing on Christmas tree farms in the United States, according to the National Christmas Tree Society! The trees have their own society, yet!

We bought ours at a family tree farm run for generations by Ed Dart and a group of relatives and workers in the town of Southold, New York. As soon as you drive in, there is a cozy outdoor fire sending the welcoming smell of wood burning to your nostrils. Ah… Added to this is the scent of warming cider and hot cocoa to make the hunt for the perfect tree into a perfect adventure for the whole family. Step into a 200 year-old barn and you’ll see fresh wreaths being fashioned from greens, holly and such that are harvested on this tree farm.

But the adventure is over till next year, right? Not for Ed Dart and company. In fact it’s just the beginning of prep for NEXT Christmas and the eager families that have found their tree at his family’s farm for years! And tree growers start early so the cycle of tree growing can continue from year to year; and in a way that is respectful of the environment.

When I picked up “Christmas Tree Farm”, I remembered Ed Dart and the other growers across this country that make Christmas trees a reality in homes either with lofty furs in a great room or small table top trees tucked in a corner.

Ann Purmell has written a picture book for kids that will explain the beauty AND hard that goes on before the owner/Grandpa in “The Christmas Tree Farm”, switches on the glowing Christmas lights, posts the OPEN sign and swings open the doors of The Christmas Tree Hut. What has proceeded this magic moment is a year-long effort by some very dedicated people who value what they do.

Thanksgiving through Christmas sees the coming to fruition of their long hours of planting, pruning, trimming and tagging trees as to size and type. Some are spruce, pine or fir. “Some of these are older than Grandpa,” as Ms. Purmell points out.

It’s November, and Grandpa and his two young helpers are sizing up the current crop of trees as to which ones will be felled this year and sold to families for the coming season. Yet, always near the felled tree is planted a new seedling that will continue the growing cycle. Good to know!

Ms. Weber’s drawings are a picture postcard perfect renderings of the farm with families wandering through the woods for their prized and plump tree. Eager eyes and gloved fingers are seen running here and there pointing at and sizing up each tree till the big decision is reached.

What most families do not realize, and what Ms. Purmell carefully narrates in word and picture, is the year long process starting in spring that brought the Christmas trees to this moment and to these families. Hundreds of seedlings arrive in the spring about the size of an adult hand. Some of these planted seedlings will be lost to disease, insects rabbits and deer and so many more must be planted than will make it into full adult trees.

Summer sees the trees with shaggy coats in need of a trim that shapes them into Christmas tree perfection.

Grandpa has a long pole with different colored rings at progressive heights that show how tall a tree is and how much it will cost. The tallest are seven feet tall and it takes more than 15 years for it to grow that tall!

Young readers will love the scene as we peek in the window of the tree farm as it closes on Christmas Eve and the family decorates their own tree. AND one outside is filled with popcorn and cranberries, birdseed wreaths and suet filled stars for the animals.

Ms. Purmell has a whole page identifying Christmas trees of all types and her last page is filled with Christmas Tree Lore, interesting tidbits of info for kids, and a timeline tracing the history of the Christmas tree.

This book makes me want to go and revisit Ed Dart and his Christmas Tree Farm in January, and see what’s doing – and thank him for growing our family tree. Some that we bought will be replanted at our farm so we get to watch the growth process ourselves.

If you read this, “Thanks Ed!” Below is a link to Ed’s Farm or I’m sure your family has a favorite of its own!





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11. Happy New Year!

First off, Merry Christmas to all!  I do hope you all had a beautiful and wonderful Christmas Day.

Merry Christmas!!!!

Mine was just the best.  I feel like my family celebrates the best Christmas.  (No, I'm not prejudiced. Not at all!  ;-)

We had Midnight Mass at our house, and we (the girls) sang all the Propers of Mass XVI, which is the Iesu Redemptor Mass.  It was really quite lovely and I think we did a pretty good job, though ONE sister (I shan't mention any names) sang a part of the Sanctus quite incorrectly and quite in my ear, so there was a faltering moment where the Sanctus was WRONG until we managed to get back on track.  Other than that, all went well and we sang some lovely Christmas carols as well, like In The Bleak Midwinter and Angels We Have Heard on High.


Once Mass was over and all the parishioners that had come to it had gone home, we put the wee ones to bed.  Then, the grownups - or grownuppish ones - put out all the pressies under the tree and laid out stockings for Santa to fill (which he did AFTER the grownups went to bed!) and left a little plate of cookies and a glass of milk out for him to snack on once he'd finished all his heavy lifting.

We went to bed around 3 a.m.

Around about 5:15 a.m. I was woken  by the sounds of wee voices in the living room.  I was determined to get more than 2.25 hours of sleep so I shut my eyes, but unfortunately I'm that Christmas kind of person that cannot get back to sleep once waking on Christmas Morning.  So after a struggle of fifteen minutes I got up and joined the merry throng on the couches and we watched the Christmas tree flicker with its lights and commented on how many pressies Santa had left!

Once everyone in the house had wakened - about 6 a.m., I think it was - my dad and brother started cooking the Italian sausages, both hot and mild, and warming up sweet buns in the oven.  We made coffee and drank bucketloads of coffee while waiting for the first sausages to become available, and made up orange juice so we could have orange juice for the littlies and mimosa for the adults.  (I'd bought champagne a few days earlier.)  We munched on our sausage rolls, went and lit the Christ Candle and sang Joy to the World and put the Baby in the Manger, then we opened stockings.  THAT was fun.  But then all the little ones got down and dirty with the pressies, and that was even MORE fun!  (We made sure to pull out the ones to save for Epiphany first, before we got TOO crazy with the presents.)

Christ Candle

For a couple hours it was mayhem, watching people open boxes, opening your own boxes, throwing out wrapping paper, etc.  All was madness and merriment, while we ate sausage rolls and drank mimosa and coffee and ooooohed and aaaaaahhhed over everyone's gifties.  It was jolly!  Then, of course, we had a nice long day where we could read, catch up on sleep, get pretty, and then we had dinner of gnocchi and ham with a to-die-for meat sauce and all the trimmings of vegetables and salad. (Food is a BIG DEAL in our house!)  It was really a lovely, lovely day.

Now, of course, it is New Year's Day.  Last night we all stayed up - or at least, the grownuppish ones of us stayed up - and we watched Flashpoint to keep ourselves awake til midnight.  At midnight, Amanda and Maria both opened their bottles of whiskey that they had gotten for Christmas and we toasted in the New Year with shots all 'round.  (That's how we celebrate.  We don't exactly go "hog wild" when we party.)

Now we have the Epiphany to look forward to.  That is the official Twelfth Day of Christmas.  Most people do it backwards, counting from the 13th of December to Christmas.  Actually, the twelve days of Christmas START on Christmas Day and ends on January 6th, the Feast of the Epiphany, the day the Wise Men brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the Child Jesus.  I love that we celebrate the Epiphany in our family.  It extends Christmas and makes the entire season that much better.
The Three Wise Men

We are going to be having a delicious roast and baked potatoes for dinner today.  It's going to be epic!  Then we are hopefully going to watch the second Librarian movie tonight.  We watched the first one yesterday, and it was a bit cheesy, but quite good.  (FYI, it's now a TV show, and the main character in the actual Librarian movies is the main character in the TV show, and Christian Kane [Eliot Spencer from Leverage, for the initiated] is in it as well!! I have not seen the TV show, but I wanna! :-)

So, that's all I have for now.  Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Epiphany!! Hope 2015 is an incredible year for all of you.  God bless!

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12. dartmoor christmas, london new year

This year's been amazing but I've also been working very long hours, so it was BRILLIANT to get away with Stuart to Dartmoor for five days over Christmas. Dartmoor must be one of the most beautiful places in the whole world, it's like stepping into a Tolkein book or a Dark Crystal film set.

Photo by Sarah Reeve

Stuart's dad died this year and my parents are far away in Seattle, so we were so glad to be adopted again by the lovely Reeve family. Their poodle, Frodo, was thrilled about GIFT WRAP everywhere.

Photo by Sarah Reeve

Oh, poodle happy day!

Photo by Sarah Reeve

We went for lots of walks, including some which were a bit muddy to suit the footwear of everyone involved.

Photo by Sarah Reeve

I love the tors scattered around Dartmoor, it's like being in some amazing sculpture park.

I call this Pancake Tor.

Boxing Day, in particular, was VERY MISTY. Well, downright wet, actually. But the moor still looked beautiful then, what we could see of it.

This tor almost looks like the ancient rubble of some giants' fortress.

It was so good to be with friends, including glamorous moorland photographer Sarah Reeve (she's @SarahReeve3 on Twitter).

And comedy duo Philip Reeve and his scooter-obsessed son, Sam.

I love how the moor messes with my sense of scale. My Cakes in Space co-author Philip looks like a 1/48th-scale action figure in this setting:

Tiny Reeve o' the Rocks:

And the landscape's so varied, with so many beautiful, subtle colours.

Everything from wide grassy plains (spot Reeve & son by the holly tree)...

...to mossy forests with boulders that look like the trolls in Frozen.

And yes, we occasionally get very wet, but this is okay because we have ponchos! And wellies. Well, I have wellies to stomp around in, I don't know why Stuart doesn't wear them.

But that is why it is so nice to come back to SNACKS.

Philip's parents brought Christmas cake from the local Christmas fête. (We don't really do Christmas cake in the USA with marzipan and royal icing, just fruitcake, so here's a description if you're interested.)

Oh, and Christmas pudding, of course.

The Flake bar in breakfast cereal is Sam's addition to festive food.

And here's the inevitable Mountain of Teabags.

And prezzies! Sam got Mark Lowery books and was thrilled:

But also orange gloop.

I spent a WHOLE EVENING stitching this pug cushion for Philip - to give something genuinely homemade, you see - but I'm not Felt Mistress and it didn't come out exactly how I'd hoped. But then I didn't have time to make another prezzie, so he had to lump it.

Sam and I got busy with Sarah on camera, making light drawings:

And I didn't have time (or shelter) on walks to make landscape drawings, but I did a few portraits in the dry indoors. (I've posted them earlier but wanted to keep them all together in one blog post here.) Here's Sam:

And Sarah:

Philip's dad was making his own drawing with the sketchbook and brush pen I gave him, so he held still much better than Sam:

And a bit of moss I found on the ground:

Thanks so much for hosting us, Reeve family; you're the best! :)

Then it was back to London, and one last hurrah for 2014 at the house of our friends Eddie and Caroline. (Eddie Smith is the sculptor who helps make the more ornate of my hats and their daughter, Dulcie, stars in my picture book There's a Shark in the Bath.)

We even had a surprise piper appearance:

Happy New Year, everyone! Thanks so much for following this blog, and I hope 2015 is a good one for you. Don't miss Philip's Year in Review, which you can read on his blog here.

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13. my christmas message to the nation

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14. Merry Christmas!

And one more Piano Guys Christmas performance - 

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15. Merry Christmas 2014

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas,

Little Orphan Annie Christmas 1942

Peace on earth, and
Goodwill towards all people

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16. Seasonal spirit in OUP offices across the globe

This holiday season, we asked staff in the Oxford University Press offices around the globe to send in photos of cheer and good spirit the the end of 2014.

And Season’s Greetings from all of us at Oxford University Press…

The post Seasonal spirit in OUP offices across the globe appeared first on OUPblog.

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17. Happy Happy and Merry Merry!


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18. Seven facts about American Christmas Music

With that familiar chill in the air signaling winter’s imminent arrival, it’s time again to indulge our craving for Christmas music by Frank Sinatra, Mariah Carey, and more. But first, let’s take a step back and explore the history of Christmas music with the following facts.

  • From medieval Christmas celebrations onwards, the holiday has included Christian, pagan, and secular elements. For example, American Christmas songs range from religious hymns and carols to secular songs about Santa Claus and general goodwill.
  • During the 17th and 18th centuries, American colonists celebrated Christmas with mumming practices, including costumes, pranks, dancing, and musical instruments.
  • Boston tanner and composer William Billings wrote sacred Christmas music in the 18th century.
  • American Christmas music developed from various immigrant traditions, gaining popularity in the United States during the 19th century.
  • Charles Dickens contributed to the popularity of Christmas traditions with his successful novels The Pickwick Papers (1836-7) and A Christmas Carol (1843). Celebrations during this period included door-to-door Christmas caroling, Christmas cards, and “living nativity” scenes.
  • Several classic Christmas carols were produced in the 19th century, including “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear” (1849), “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” (1863), and “Away in a Manager” (1885).
  • The popularity of Christmas music exploded with radio, television, and film in the 20th century. Hollywood has played an important role in the popularity of Christmas music with films like Holiday Inn (1942), Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964), It’s A Wonderful Life (1946), and A Christmas Story (1983). (We couldn’t resist posting this classic scene below.)

Check out our list of classic Christmas tunes below:

Headline image credit: Lighted Santa Reindeer, 2012. Photo by Anthony92931. CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The post Seven facts about American Christmas Music appeared first on OUPblog.

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19. The Greatest Battle

I consider myself a war buff. I love reading historic accounts of combat. I don’t discriminate between time period or conflict. Because of the volume of material, I have probably spent more time delving into World War 2 than any other. When I was in the Army, I drove a beat up WW 2 era Deuce-and-a-half and always wondered about its history.

imageHistorians argue about which battle is the greatest – Waterloo, Stalingrad, Hastings, Yorktown, Thermopylae, Guadalcanal, The Battle of the Bulge, the list goes on. Like everything else in life, no one can seem to agree. When compiling such a list, the qualifiers become important. Things such as lives lost, duration, strategies, and conditions all come into play when deciding which is supreme.

It’s not that I don’t have an opinion, I’ve got plenty of those. I just don’t like to argue in general. I get distracted or flustered and lose my place like when I drop my book and reread the same pages over and over again before I figure out where I left off. Only an argument is live, verbal combat. When I lose my place, I sit there open-mouthed wondering if I look as stupid as I feel. So like everyone else on the losing side, I hone in on one point and try to drive it home even if I am totally wrong and know it.

The Baltic Sea is in New Mexico. It isn’t? I will repeat that thirty-seven times, forcing you to get out your phone and Google it, which allows me time to escape the fracas unscathed. I’m gone, therefore I win.

This leads to my opinion of the greatest battle which I believe is a conflict going on today – right now! RIGHT NOW!

You might think I am waxing philosophically about a moral or ethical conflict for the hearts and minds of people. Think again, I’m nowhere near deep enough for that. No, I am talking about the Battle of the Christmas Tree going on in my den as I type.

This battle has two combatants: The cats vs. the presents. The cats investigated the tree the minute it arrived. They united their forces and conquered it quickly. It is now their territory and they are very protective of it. The two of them alternate on watch and have made a formidable occupation force. Their confidence never waned… until the presents arrived.


As presents do, they marched in slowly but steadily. They landed through the front door and also surprised the occupiers from the garage entrance. Strange men in brown uniforms delivered them, but some were brought in by the woman-thing who seems to be working for both sides. She pets and feeds the cats, yet adds to the stack of presents assaulting from every flank. She is a crafty sort. Worse yet, she puts little ribbons on top to lull the cats from their strategic high ground. They can’t avoid the ribbons, which are almost as alluring as the ornaments with bells.

I have no idea who will win this battle. Epic is too small a word for it. The cats seem to rule the night while the presents hold the day (sounds like a Billy Joel song). It is a seesaw affair likely only resolved by the Take the Tree to the Chipper Treaty.

That landmark agreement is coming soon. Until then, may peace reign in your home unlike mine – where it appears to be an elusive dream.

Filed under: It Made Me Laugh

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20. ‘Twas the Night Before…

‘Twas Nochebuena: A Christmas Story in English and Spanish

By Roseanne Greenfield Thong; illustrated by Sara Palacios


This is a nod of the head both to Clement Clarke Moore, originator of the ageless “The Night Before Christmas” AND a blending of his iconic poem with a fresh take that includes Latino traditions surrounding Christmas Eve.

If you have ethnically blended families, it’s sometimes a challenge to build in an appreciation of the Christmas traditions of both sides. The same may be true of religiously blended families that try to accommodate the respected traditions of Hanukkah AND Christmas. But,it can be done with an open heart and a bit of research.

And as always, here is where the picture book steps to the fore with stories that weave the traditions, foods and family fun so much a part of the holiday season whatever the cultural leanings.

I always get a kick out of Author’s Notes that may often reveal the spark that set a book on its journey to being written. Here, Ms. Greenfield Thong was out in search of tamales late one Christmas Eve at her local restaurants. All sold out. She had enjoyed the tradition surrounding Nochebuena while living in Guatemala and Mexico. Ever hear of the term “ear worm”? It’s a snatch of a song that keeps playing over and over in your head! Who knows where it comes from. Well for this author, a rhyme about tamales did a morph into “sugarplums” that night from the famous “The Night Before Christmas” and the rest is picture book history!

“Twas Nochebuena” is written in English, using the iconic poem plus liberal sprinklings of Latino phrases that make the holiday traditions of Nochebuena or Christmas Eve, come alive for kids. And a handy Glossary of Spanish Terms at the end of the book, provides a go to review of the English/Spanish words and phrases used throughout.

We live in an ever ethnically diverse society, so letting your kids have a peek at the holiday traditions of OTHER cultures, builds in an early recognition of what we share as people, instead of what can divide.

Food, family, plus a whole lot of decorating, provide a commonality among cultures when it comes to Christmas! “‘Twas Nochebuena” is a color-filled Christmas window into the celebration of one Latino family. The food starts with “tamale masa”, and there are MONTONES of them. Decorations or “adornos” fill the rooms of Sara Palacios‘ warmly illustrated Christmas casa. Los Reyes or the wise men are prominently displayed along with the beautiful Christmas tree or “arbol.”

If you’ve never heard of the posadas, it’s a parade that takes place on Christmas Eve in the town. It includes canciones or carols sung by candlelight. Moving from “casa to casa”, the phrase “Le pido posada” is spoken. It is a plea for shelter and is asked of the residents by children dressed as the Holy Family carrying the creche or nativity scene. They are usually turned away traditionally, but always at the last house, they receive a resounding “si”!

Back home, the food and games commence, including a try at the traditional candy-filled pinata. Take it from me, I have sampled the scrumptious bunuelos served at Christmas Eve. Biting into one of these pancake confections sprinkled with cinnamon sugar is a taste treat not to be missed! Have to find a recipe for these!

The evening concludes with mass or Misa del Gallo and a family gathering where much food and “ragalos” or presents await.

If you want to savor Christmas celebrated in the Latino community, Roseanne Greenfield Thong has put together a picture book that allows the shared family traditions of a community to ring out with a glorious and joyful “Feliz Navidad”



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21. Family and friends ,keep near to us….

Celebrating the holidays is a time we can bring people together and forget about our troubles.
Taking some time to visit our loved ones is important.
Have a happy holiday season by taking time for others…

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22. The Shepherd by Frederick Forsyth

It's Christmas Eve, 1957, and a 20 year old pilot has just climbed into the cockpit of his Vampire jet fighter, taking off from an RAF air base in Germany to return to England and home in time for Christmas day.

But ten minutes after taking off, over the North Sea, the pilot runs into his first bit of trouble - the jet's compass is not longer working.  Before long, the jet suffers a complete electrical failure and the young pilot needs to call up every bit of emergency information he had received while still in training.

Before long, the pilot is completely lost in the fog over the North Sea and beginning to run out of fuel.   Bailing out isn't an option - the fighter jet just isn't made for that and it would most likely mean instant death.  Not far from the Norfolk coast, he decides to use a last resort technique - flying triangles in the hope that the odd behavior would be noticed and bring out a rescue plane that could bring the Vampire down safely.

The triangular pattern works, and suddenly, a pilot in an old World War II de Havilland Mosquito fighter with the initials JK on the side is signaling that he understands the problem and will shepherd the Vampire to safety.  Shepherding is when the rescue aircraft flies wing-tip to wing-tip with the disabled plane.

The Mosquito shepherds the Vampire slowly into the descent.  By now, the Vampire had pretty much run out of fuel.  Suddenly, "without warning, the shepherd pointed a single forefinger at me, then forward through the windscreen.  It meant, 'There you are, fly on and land.'"  At first, the pilot sees nothing.  Then, the blur of two parallel lines of lights become visible in the fog.  The pilot is able to safely land his Vampire.

After being rescued and brought back to RAF Station Minton, now just a supply depot run by the elderly WWII Flight Lieutenant Marks, things begin to get odd.  To begin with, Marks can't imagine how the young pilot found his way to the runway on this now preactically deserted base that had been a thriving hub of RAF pilots and planes during WWII.  And, the young pilot doesn't seem to be able to find anyone who knows anything about the pilot in the mosquito who had shepherded him to safety.  The whole story begins to become more and more sinister until the young pilot notices an old WWII picture in a room and recognizes the pilot in it standing by his Mosquito with the same JK initials.

But, who is the mysterious shepherd who brought a young pilot to safety on Christmas Eve 1957?

All through the novella, the young pilot provides himself with the rational explanations of how and why everything he experiences happens.  And most of the explanations are fine. That is, until he comes to the part about the shepherd, where all rational explanation fails, giving the story its surprise ending.

The Shepherd is a short, 144 page novella written in 1975 by Frederick Forsyth, author of novels like The Day of the Jackal and The Odessa File.  It is said he wrote The Shepherd for Christmas as a present for his wife.

This tightly written illustrated story is perfect for Christmas Eve, with its message of hope.

Every year, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation broadcasts a reading of The Shepherd by Alan Maitland on CBC Radio One.  Maitland passed away in 1999, but recordings of him reading The Shepherd are available, like this wonderful 32 minute reading.

This book is recommended for readers age 14+
This book was purchased for my personal library

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23. Merry Christmas....

...if that's your thing.
If it isn't, well, here's a moose.
And a pear.

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24. Merry Christmas to all!

Merry Christmas!  Or whatever holiday you choose to celebrate.  My week here’s a bit off thanks to the holidays and travels to Kalamazoo (which is to say, Bookbug).  Still, we can’t help but do a happy little holiday post once in a while.  And with that in mind . . . .

First off, Rudolph!  Or, rather, the book of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.  Last year NPR told the true story behind the manuscript.  But even sweeter, the answer to a well known Rudolph urban legend . . . and it’s true!

And now, as per our Christmas Revels, Susan Cooper.

Over at Seven Impossible Things, Jules highlights a self-published book that causes me a lot of guilt.  I had every intention of reviewing it last year but the end of the year is always incredibly hectic for me in terms of posts.  So for Christmas Jules gave me the perfect gift: assuaged guilt.  Along the way she tips her hat to one of the most beautiful Christmas children’s books I’ve ever seen.

Finally, last year Neil Gaiman came to NYPL to step into the shoes of Charles Dickens to do a reading of Dickens’ own performance copy of A Christmas Carol.  The results:

And to all a good night!

share save 171 16 Merry Christmas to all!

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25. A smorgasbord of Christmas foods

In many parts of the world, Christmas does not lack in spirit or rich flavors. Though sweets are a major highlight to this festive holiday, there are quite a few notable savory foods to consider. As you are sitting down to your third helping of turkey, take a look through just some of the Christmas foods people will be eating this year:

What sorts of Christmas foods do you have every year? Let us know in the comments below.

Headline image credit: Christmas decoration. Image by Hades2k. CC BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr.

The post A smorgasbord of Christmas foods appeared first on OUPblog.

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