book

8 days to Christmas – day seventeen is here!

Just 8 days to go until Christmas – are you excited or worried about the size of your ‘things to do before Christmas’  list?

Ornament calendar

While this ornament looks fancy and is bigger than most other ones, it was still just two simple pieces interconnected to make our reindeer.

Images of the press out reindeer ornament

Lego City

I love the little chef with his tray of biscuits that my son found behind flap 17! He is inspiring me to go bake something, too…

Lego chef with a tray of biscuits

Lego Friends

Today’s ornament from the Friends advent calendar is colourful and cute – but is it a boot on wheels or an unusually shaped vehicle?

Lego boot on wheels

Christmas book

Tonight’s Christmas book is The naughtiest reindeer in the zoo which will be a nice story to read while those biscuits are cooking I think!

Day sixteen in the Christmas countdown!

After a busy day on the Santa train, the kids were tired but happy to open the 16th flap of their advent calendars…

Ornament calendar

Back to fitting pieces together, for day sixteen the press out advent calendar provided a blue gift box above an image of Merrit the Elf carrying many gifts to Santa’s sleigh.

Elf carrying tall pile of gifts

Lego City

A simple little cupcake trolley was behind flap 16 in the Lego City Advent Calendar.

Lego cake trolley

Lego Friends

Hanging on the tree, this Lego Friends ornament is quiet cute, but it was one of the hardest Lego constructions we’ve come across. It looked like one circular piece was attached to multiple hinges and the other circular piece was floating above it – there was no obvious way to attach it. Eventually, we realised that the white space it was floating above was actually a white Lego cylinder! From that point, assembling the cupcake was easy!

Lego cupcake Christmas ornament

Christmas book

There was an old bloke who swallowed a present will amuse us tonight as we continue our “Christmas book a night” advent activity!

Christmas advent day fifteen

Second last Saturday before Christmas and there is Christmas everywhere, including day fifteen of advent calendars!

Ornament calendar

In today’s calendar we still pressed out two pieces but strangely they do not interconnect – we have two decorations! It sort of makes sense as not many people go around with one ice skate, but still felt a little strange.

ice skate decorations on the tree

Lego City

The anticipated Christmas tree popped out from under flap fifteen.

Lego Christmas tree

Lego Friends

We are debating what the Friends ornament from day fifteen actually is… To me, it looks like a platter or board for holding cupcakes to hand around at a Christmas party, but my children think it is a present. Once hanging, it does really look like a present, but why are there raised bits (that look like Lego cupcakes!) randomly sticking out from it?

Lego cupcake platter checkboard

Christmas book

Happy Christmas Spot is the cheery little book we will read tonight. Have you read this one with your kids this Christmas?

Day fourteen in our Christmas countdown

How is your advent countdown coming along? We’re up to day fourteen and the collection of things created is growing, so let’s see what is behind the latest flaps…

Ornament calendar

Again, we’re back to the northern winter concept of Christmas as we pressed out a snowflake tonight. I quite like the snowflake – for such a simple ornament, it has depth and a charm to it.

A charming snowflake tree ornament

Lego City

Here are some presents to wonder about what could be inside – they are interesting shapes rather than just the box shapes we’ve seen in Lego calendars before (like the lidded box in 2017 and solid gifts in 2015)

Lego Christmas presents

Lego Friends

I really like the cute little piano we got in the Friends calendar tonight, and my daughter is happy as she has a piano (ok, she rarely plays it and she gave up lessons, but it’s there!)

Lego piano ornament

Christmas book

Little Miss Christmas is our book for tonight, which will be fun as I haven’t read that one in quite some time.

2018 advent calendar day thirteen

It’s not Friday so the 13th must be a lucky day after all! We all feel pretty lucky to have our advent calendars to open and Christmas Day to anticipate, anyway.

Enjoy day thirteen in our countdown!

Ornament calendar

I like tonight’s hidden picture of an elf painting a bauble for someone’s tree – our press out bauble was even easier to make though!

red babuble images from the advent calendar

Lego City

The Lego City advent calendar today produced a girl eating an ice-cream – something we can relate to doing at Christmas time!

Lego girl holding an ice-cream near the ice-cream machine

 

Lego Friends

My daughter enjoyed putting together a simple wreath from her advent calendar tonight.

Lego wreath, green leaves, red flowers

Christmas book

Heading back Down Under, our book tonight is Santa Koala… so I suspect there will be singing along with reading as we laugh at the antics of the bush animals while Santa snoozes!

Christmas countdown day twelve

Day twelve seems it should have some significance, given the 12 days of Christmas song and traditions!

Ornament calendar

Behind tonight’s ornament, we found that Merrit has a green elf friend! The two elves are ringing the Christmas bells, and we got to make a bell to hang on the ornament tree.

Press out ornament advent calendar day two

Lego City

More suitable in an Aussie summer than a northern winter, today my son made an ice-cream stand from behind flap 14. It does look a little strange near the woman with a snow shovel, but it is a cute little stand and has tempted us all to grab an ice-cream…

Lego ice-cream stand

Lego Friends

This is another of those advent calendar items you just have to ask why? Tonight, my daughter found the pieces to make a large, blue trophy – although my husband was reminded of the Star of David and a Hanukkah candelabra. I’m wondering it this is again a representation of one of the Friends, but surely we could have a symbol of her sport instead of the winning cup?

Anyway, it is colourful and took a bit more skill to construct so my daughter is happily adding this to her collection of decorations.

A Lego trophy cup decoration

Christmas book

Tonight we are going to enjoy reading Santa’s busy night and look for the details in the illustrations (given the plot is a little simple for us non-toddlers!)

Eleventh of December, counting down!

Exactly two weeks to Christmas Day and we’re opening the flaps on day eleven in our advent calendars. Have you managed to open each flap on the correct day so far? We have, but it has been close a couple of times when we’ve been out.

Ornament calendar

Well, we’ve had a Lego City snowman and a Lego Friends snowman, so who is surprised to find a press out ornament snowman? Snow and snowmen have become so entrenched in Christmas imagery, but it still feels irrelevant as we don’t have a snowman at Christmas in Australia!

Snowman cardboard ornament

Lego City

Full steam ahead for Christmas! Ok, it’s not a steam train but we did find the pieces to make a bullet train in tonight’s Lego City calendar.

Lego bullet train

Lego Friends

Again, this ornament feels over sized, but it is a cute lantern that took a little work to put together. The single leaf on top is unusual, but my daughter took a spare flower from day six to make it complete.

Lego Friends lantern

Christmas book

Snowman, skiing, throwing snow – they are seem to go together so reading The Angry Birds Christmas book by lantern near a snowman seems appropriate!

Advent countdown reaches double digits!

Day ten – reaching double digits is important for kids so why not for a Christmas countdown!

Ornament calendar

As a white cat looks at the wreath on a door, we created our own Christmas wreath to hang on the tree. The bow is large so the wreath felt a little unbalanced, and like it is facing the wrong way, but it hangs nicely and adds more colour to the tree.

green wreath with red ribbon from the advent calendar

Lego City

I can’t say we’re sure what we found behind today’s calendar flap – a ball with two stands or two goal posts perhaps? What do you think it is meant to be?

Lego ball and stands

Lego Friends

In the  Friends ornament collection, we added a candle tonight. It felt very large as we made it – especially with the scale of Lego things we’re used to – but it was simple to create and would look ok on a Christmas tree.

Lego candle ornament

 

Christmas book

We are looking forward to some fun with he rhymes and pictures as we read A very pirate Christmas tonight. Let’s hope someone can rescue Santa in time to save Christmas!

Day nine of advent calendars

The weekend is drawing to a close but the advent calendars are still going strong!

Ornament calendar

The calendar added an angel to our tree today, and revealed a picture of an angel atop a snow covered tree.

collage of angel press out decoration from advent calendar

Lego City

Getting into the Christmas theme today, the Lego City calendar produced a light stand with mistletoe. Putting the mistletoe together was a little different – the leaves sit in a small hole in the flowers’stalk, and the the stalk can be fitted into other Lego pieces as usual.

Lego work woman and snowman near lamp

Lego Friends

My daughter loved the rocking reindeer that she found behind flap number nine of the her Friends calendar tonight.

Lego rocking horse ornament

Christmas book

And tonight, we are going to be reading Bubbay – the first book we reviewed on Love Santa and very Australian. We can look at the pictures, think about the Dreamtime and talk about appreciating what we have.

Seventh day of advent calendars

Friday night and opening advent calendar flaps is a nice way to star the weekend so we opened the flaps a little earlier this evening just for fun!

Ornament calendar

Today’s ornament is some holly – this one doesn’t work quite as well with the perpendicular pieces but it is certainly part of Christmas traditions. The image behind the holly was a fox looking at a snow covered bush.

holly for day seven in advent calednar

Lego City

The Lego City calendar had a woman behind flap seven; she is rugged up in a scarf and comes with a shovel (for moving snow perhaps, or just for a general work site?)

Lego woman with shovel

Lego Friends

In the past, Lego characters have had a little camera to hold so this one felt really big and cumbersome in my hands once it was made by my daughter tonight.

Lego purple and white camera ornament

Christmas book

Tonight, we are going back to the Aussie theme and reading Emily’s Bush Christmas followed by the Christmas Wombat (it’s Friday so we’ve added a second book!)

Christmas calendars, day six

Day six – it may be quite (very!) warm in many parts of Australia today, but all our advent calendars are focussing on cold weather for day six!

Ornament calendar

I think this is a very pretty ornament – the subtle purples on the blue and white gives it a sense of depth and cold that adds to the realism of our snowflake.

Cardboard nowflake Christmas decoration hanging on a tree and being pressed out of a book

Lego City

Yesterday was the Lego Friends snowman, and today is Lego City‘s turn, complete with a hot chocolate.

Lego snowman with huskie and sled in the background

Lego Friends

And today’s Lego ornament is a stocking, complete with mistletoe.

Lego stocking ornament

Christmas book

Tonight we will be reading a bit of applause for Mrs Clause, although I’m not sure I need any reminders about how many jobs are still on my to do list! Of course, I’m pleased to say we will happily help Mrs Claus with the pile of Santa letters she needs to write!

The Nutcracker (book & puzzle) – review

The NutcrackerSmiling boy holding the Nutcracker book

by E T A Hoffman, retold by Rachel Elliot
illustrated by Valeria Docampo
Paragon, Bath, 2017

Age group: around 4 or 5 and older
Format: 24 page book ad 36 piece puzzle

A classic Christmas story (one even done in the Myer windows!), this version of The Nutcracker includes a jigsaw puzzle for young children with the book.

The story

A girl, Marie Stahlbaum, is given a wooden nutcracker on Christmas Eve. The nutcracker comes to life and fights an army of mice then takes Marie to the Land of Sweets where they meet the Sugar Plum Fairy and other dolls.

Some history of the Nutcracker

Hoffman originally released The Nutcracker and the Mouse King in 1816, and the full story takes longer than one night.

The story has been retold and presented in many ways in the last 202 years. Alexandre Dumas retold it as The Nutcracker which became the basis of Tchaikovsky’s ballet by the same name in 1892. It has been made into a few movies and telemovies, including Mickey Mouse, Tom and Jerry and Care Bare versions.

Parts of the music from the ballet are also well known and used in movies such as Disney’s Fantasia, the 1950’s marionette TV film The Spirit of Christmas, and the 1954 Little Match Girl movie. There have also been recordings, video games and TV shows made with parts of the story and/or music of The Nutcracker

Some versions are only loosely connected to the original story, and there are variations in the character names – Marie Stahlbaum has had different surnames and also been called Clara (the name of Marie’s doll in the original book).

A 1996 musical, The Nutcracker Musical, goes further into why Franz became a nutcracker and how Clara could help change him back – note that Franz was her brother in the original story. A light opera, this musical includes the full 12 days of Christmas as well!

My review

So, onto this book version of The Nutcracker!

I love the illustrations – they are beautiful and a combination of real and whimsical. The colours are muted to give atmosphere rather than standing out as a child’s counting or colour book.

collection of pages from The Nutcracker book

The story is about Clara, starting when she received the nutcracker on Christmas Eve from her godfather, the best toy maker in town. Her brother fights her over the nutcracker, and the nutcracker’s leg is broken. The toy maker repairs him and she promises to always keep him safe. After the Christmas Eve ball she remembers she left him under the tree.

Clara goes downstairs to get him and when she approaches the tree the magic occurs and she shrinks. She sees the mouse king, then the nutcracker and toy soldiers come to life to battle the mouse king. When the nutcracker is surrounded she throws her shoe at the mouse king to save the nutcracker. The nutcracker wins and then takes Clara to his kingdom which is the land of sweets. As she watches the sugar plum fairy dance, she gets sleepy and wakes up back home under the tree on Christmas morning.

While it is a long story and a reasonable bit of text, our three year old friend was enchanted by it – and now is desperate to see the ballet!

The puzzle was challenging for a three year old, but he achieved it… The pieces were a good size for his little hands and easily fit together. Overall it was a good activity for a pre-schooler, especially as the book gave context to the image on the jigsaw.

Young boy putting together the Nutcracker puzzle

Would we recommend it? I would recommend it – the illustrations were beautiful and captivating just as The Nutcracker should be, blending dreams into reality.

And our three year old friend still wants to dance with a Nutcracker so it obviously impressed him!

 

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