Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas 2011

Its the most wonderful time of the year! :) Indeed! Whats to not like - the spirit, the cheer, the music, the festivities, the dazzling lights, the carols playing on the radio all day long, the kids recognizing them  from having sung them at school even if there parents just sung 'Jingle Bells' as kids themselves! Once again I am indeed thankful to the Lord for having given us an opportunity of experiencing a country and its culture firsthand.

So we thought of making cards for the kids' friends and teachers thanking them for touching our lives in the way they do. I browsed some absolutely wonderful blogs for some ideas and was amazed at how creative people are. Each idea was so wondrous and resulted in such beautiful products. It was so easy to get inspired and motivated. Unfortunately I do not exactly remember the blogs from which I got the idea for our Christmas cards (it was a mish mash of a couple of ideas) but I am putting up a link to another awesome blog which, in turn has links to many more interesting and awesome crafts, bloggers have done for Christmas.

We started out with using the clean side of used paper to make kids' handprints in red and green. We used Acrylic paints.

Followed it by letting them dry for a bit and then brushing a layer of glossy Mod Podge - my super favorite recent discovery and while it was still sticky, we sprinkled a generous dash of red, green and silver glitter.

I don't have pictures for the remaining steps because we were knee deep in all the work but basically, I cut a triangle the size of the Christmas tree we wanted to place on our card and then cut it into strips careful to place them in order. The kids then glued the strips to the pre-prepared card cutouts (from white poster board) after they had drawn and colored the trunk with a brown crayon. I think a trunk made out of brown construction paper might have looked better but we didn't have any at hand. Nevertheless the end result was stunning. We also used cut strips to make borders and small cut squares to make gifts under the trees. I have to say that the cards look even better than they do in pictures because here the glossy finish isn't showing too well.

Also finally we collected our ceramic ornaments from the workshop we had enjoyed immensely at the Lillstreet Art Center. (Winter classes at Lillstreet Art Center begin January 9 and registration is open with a full schedule of classes available oniline at They offer classes in a wide range of mediums from metalsmithing to ceramics, photography to painting. Be sure to check them out.) And that proved to be the final straw for getting our very own Christmas tree :) Its a little silver one and only endorses the ornaments we are proud to have made ourselves even though they are far from perfect. I might just indulge in topping it with the very beautiful Christmas Tree Star I have my heart on but am not sure if I'll be able to find the time for it with a whole lot of play dates and busy social lives my kids feel they have a right to!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Ring in 2012 with Blue Man Group

Blue Man Group, the critically hailed theatrical phenomenon on stage at Chicago’s Briar Street Theatre (3133 N. Halsted Street), is wishing Chicago a Happy 2012 with three performances on New Year’s Eve. The day of performances kicks off with a matinee show at 4 p.m. for families to celebrate the holiday together and ends with the 7 and 10 p.m. performances featuring a complimentary champagne and sparkling cider toast and party favors. The final performance of 2011 will feature Blue Man Group counting down to the New Year and playing a special rendition of “Auld Lang Syne” on their custom made instruments including the Tubulum.

Blue Man Group’s production provides its audience with a unique and thrilling multi-sensory experience that blends innovative theatrical spectacle and dynamic original music with hilarious comedy, art, technology and science to create a performance experience unlike any other.

In the show, the Blue Men encounter a variety of environments to discover, engage with and explore of-the-moment situations with cutting-edge technology. Many of the signature scenes that have made Blue Man Group one of today’s best-loved theatrical productions have been in the show since its opening, though new material has been integrated. Newer passages include Blue Men interacting with “GiPads;” a funny and perceptive look at contemporary communication vehicles; and a pulsating new finale featuring an original Blue Man Group music score.

With rave reviews and accolades, from the Chicago press and media, under its belt, Blue Man Group’s appeal is multi-generational, with several projects specifically designed for young people, including “Making Waves,” a popular touring exhibit for children, and the recently launched national “Invent an Instrument” competition.

So if you are looking to welcome 2012 with a BANG, say goodbye to 2011 with one of Chicago's most celebrated entertainment shows, the Blue Man Group.


Tickets prices for the 4, 7, and 10 p.m. shows on New Year’s Eve are $55 - $75. Tickets may be purchased at the Briar Street Theatre by calling the box office at (773) 348-4000; by calling Ticketmaster at (800) 982-2787; at all Ticketmaster ticket centers or via the Internet at For more information, visit

Monday, December 12, 2011

"The Nutcracker"

We enjoyed a very beautiful performance of The Nutcracker at the Elgin Community College (ECC) Arts Center this past Saturday.

The holiday classic was divided into two acts, the first where the celebrations are on at the Stahlbaum's on Christmas eve as adults and children dance to merry tunes, run around and wait eagerly for the Stahlbaum kids' Godfather and the talented toymaker Drosselmeyer. Among other things what striked us was the simple yet elegant setting of a 19th century household on the eve of the grand holiday. The set seemed to come alive with the vibrant Christmas tree in the background as also the people in lovely costumes who surrounded it. The children were immensely talented, as one being a mom of two young kids is bound to notice :)  They acted so well, danced in perfect rhythm and co-ordination and seemed to be enjoying themselves so much. It all looked like one big happy family. The expressions were so real and natural, I almost felt like a part of the party myself.

I and my 4 year old daughter waited for the second act with a lot of anticipation to look at all the different dances we had only read about in the kids' books and looked at pictures. What we didn't know was that the act is going to be all dance without a single word being spoken. If you are familiar with the story, in the second act, in honor of the young heroine Clara who has saved the Nutcracker from the Mouse King and helped him turn back into a prince, a celebration of sweets from around the world is produced: chocolate from Spain, coffee from Arabia, and tea from China all dance for their amusement; candy canes from Russia perform a Trepak; Danish marzipan shepherdesses perform on their flutes; Mother Ginger has her children emerge from under her enormous skirt to dance; a string of beautiful flowers perform a waltz. To conclude the night, the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier perform a Pas de Deux. Each one of the dances was more fascinating than the other. Even my 6 year old son who is not easy to impress sat mesmerized. My daughter can't wait to learn ballet herself. It was the first time we saw ballet live on stage and to say that we were in awe is an understatement.

The ECC Arts Center had secured the services of the ECC Culinary Arts and Hospitality program to prepare a delightful selection of gourmet treats for a pre-show Clara's Christmas Tea Party in the Spartan Terrace dining room, just down the hall from the theater. Fare included delicious hot chocolate and festive pomegranate cranberry "mimosas;" a mouth watering selection of tea sandwiches including peanut butter and jelly, turkey and cranberry, smoked salmon and chive cream, roast beef and horseradish cream and sundried tomato, fresh mozzarella and basil pesto; plus assorted scones and Christmas cookies.

 The ECC Arts Center has a diverse line up of events, both touring artists as well as their own college/in-residence ensembles. You can check out the interesting 2011-12 season here.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Holiday Lights Tour Experience

So we took the Holiday Lights Tour past Saturday. Needless to say the city looked magnificent in all those dazzling lights, smelt exquisite in those smells of cinnamon and coffee wafting through the air and just felt so 'tugging on your heart strings' kind of magical with the festivities and the cheer and the happiness on people's faces, the Christmas carols playing in the background  as the trolley meandered its way through busy with the holiday crowd streets. We were treated to the festive lights and enchanting sights of wintertime in Chicago, including the twinkling lights of the Magnificent Mile, the posh Gold Coast Neighborhood, Macy's Holiday Windows, Daley Plaza's 40-foot tree, the John Hancock Plaza tree, Navy Pier's Winter Wonderfest, Buckingham Fountain and the Christkindlmarket. 

The lightly narrated tour which was supposed to be 2 hours long ran for an extra half an hour owing to rush traffic and also earned us a parking ticket as a result :( Apart from that there was nothing to not like about it. With stops at two brilliantly illuminated holiday attractions, we had time to hop off at both the Zoo Lights at Lincoln Park Zoo and the Christkindlmarket, a traditional German American Holiday Market with distinctive crafts, artistic glass ornaments, delicious sweets, holiday food and drinks. Both the stops were so much fun by themselves that we are planning to return to just those to spend more time at each of those.

The tour is great for especially families with young kids or older people who get to see much of the city without having to walk in the cold. Both our kids had an awesome time riding the trolley as well as at both the stops. Just a word of caution to park for close to 3 hours. We parked at Pearson St 2 blocks from Michigan Ave where the parking was available for a maximum of 2 hours and we thought we would make it in an additional 5 minutes or so but we returned a half hour late and had a ticket by then.

The "Holiday Lights Tour" runs on Fridays and Saturdays, Nov. 25 - Dec. 23, 2011, with four departure times at 5:30 p.m., 6 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. The tour departs from Chicago Water Works Pumping Station located at Michigan Avenue and Pearson Streets across from Water Tower Place. Tours hold 32 passengers each and tickets must be purchased in advance online at