{FAMILY} The Nutcracker: Celebrate Christmas With Clara

To those who know me or who have been following my blog, it’s no secret that I’m a fan of the Nutcracker ballet. I’ve seen the holiday classic for 35 consecutive years now – 3 times last year alone, and 2 times planned for this year.

Each year I wonder if I’ll tire of the dreamy dance, and each year I’m pleasantly surprised by clever twists, captivating costumes, challenging choreography and the new dancers that grace the stage to perform my favourite ballet.

I leave each performance anticipating the next, and the tradition continues year after year.

Ballet BC Nutcracker

Ballet BC presents a run of performances each Winter, performed by either the Alberta Ballet, or the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. This year, one of the most prestigious dance companies in the country – the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, will be returning to the stage, and I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us.

The role of Clara will be performed by Sophia Lee – a Vancouver-trained ballerina and Principal Dancer for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, and I’m looking forward to seeing what this talented and versatile artist will bring to her role as the leading lady.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the holiday tale, here’s a brief synopsis:

Danced to Tchaikovsky’s glorious music, the story follows the wondrous adventures of Clara, her Nutcracker Prince and the Sugar Plum Fairy. The turn-of-the century fantasy is set in a stately mansion where young Clara’s Christmas dream world features toy soldiers, dancing mice and a mischievous bear who steals the Christmas pudding. When Clara’s Christmas gift comes to life and defeats the evil Mouse King, she’s whisked away to a magical kingdom, where the Sugar Plum Fairy reigns. Whether you’re beginning a new holiday tradition or revisiting an old favourite, you’ll be enthralled by Clara’s escapades with her Nutcracker Prince.

Each year, I like to share the gift of dance with my readers through a giveaway, and this year I’m so excited to be giving away a pair of tickets to the December 10th performance at 2pm. Enter to win below:

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Ballet BC Nutcracker

More Info:

Artistic Director: André Lewis
Choreography: Galina Yordanova and Nina Menon
Music: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Costume Design: Paul Daigle
Scenic Design: Brian Perchaluk
Lighting Design: Michael J. Whitfield

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{FAMILY} The Nutcracker: Always On Pointe

I’ve been going to see The Nutcracker ballet at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver every year since I was 3 years old, and after over 30 years of Sugar Plum Fairy-twirling, soldier sword-yielding, mouse menacing, and ringleted ballerina dreaming, people often wonder what keeps me going back for more – year after year.

Nutcracker

My oldest daughter and I – off to see The Nutcracker

The truth is, each year’s performance is like a brand new experience for me. While the music has remained the same since the first adaptation of the story in 1891, Tchaikovsky’s familiar Nutcracker Suite perfectly compliments the ever-evolving choreography that accompanies the classical Christmas ballet.

I love that Ballet BC brings in guest ballet companies each year to perform their own rendition of The Nutcracker. Last year, The Royal Winnipeg Ballet surprised guests with Canadian-themed twists, and this year, Alberta Ballet returned with some surprises of their own.

The choreography, led by Edmund Stripe, was sophisticated and stunning, yet it preserved the youthful liveliness of the children’s tale. As in previous years, the performance featured over 80 young dancers from dance schools across the Lower Mainland, but this year the tiny dancers were brought to the forefront of several scenes, performing technically-challenging steps seamlessly and with contagious enthusiasm that lit up the stage.

Alberta Ballet The Nutcracker local students DSC_2193

Local dancers rehearsing for Alberta Ballet’s The Nutcracker

The sets and costumes, designed by Emmy Award-winning designer Zack Brown, brought an elevated level of drama and realism to the stage this year, featuring lifelike costumes, sparkling snowflakes, and comedic whimsy to characters like the grandfather, who merrily trotted across the stage with a bouncing head of silver locks that had the crowd bellowing with laughter.

Alexandra Gibson played the role of Clara in the opening performance, and her exuberant acting and technically-sharp dancing made her character believable and engaging throughout the performance. I recognized Alex from previous Alberta Ballet performances (along with her identical twin sister Jennifer who shared the stage), yet her performance this year seemed to have an elevated level of energy and maturity.

Company Dancers in Alberta Ballet's The Nutcracker 6893

When the Sugar Plum Fairy glided across the stage, shimmying effortlessly en pointe in her sparkling gown, I immediately recognized the dancer as Christiana Bennett, a prima ballerina who had danced with Ballet West (and starred in a ballet-themed reality show Breaking Pointe in 2012).  Christiana shone brightly, proving to be an asset to the highly-acclaimed Canadian dance company.

This year’s performance of The Nutcracker was astounding, a can’t-miss holiday event for both seasoned ballet enthusiasts and first-timers alike.

Lucky for you, tickets are still available for the remaining dates:

December 30th @ 2pm & 7:30pm

December 31st @ 2pm

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{FAMILY} Canuck Place: Light A Life This Holiday Season

Canuck Place Children’s Hospice has provided a place of comfort and compassion for children with life-threatening illnesses and the families who love them for over 20 years. Recognized internationally as a leader in pediatric palliative care, they have been providing fundamental programming and support to better the lives of families in need. But the demand for their services has become greater than ever, with the number of families in their care nearly doubled in the last 10 years, and they need your help.

This holiday season, you can help Canuck Place to light the lives of those families in need through their Light A Life campaign. To celebrate the holidays, they have been sharing 12 days of gratitude, celebrating the stories of the families, doctors and volunteers behind their organization, helping them to thrive and change lives over the years. Here are some of my favourite gratitude stories from their campaign:

Canuck PlaceCanuck Place

Read about 10-year-old Caitlin, who ran in this year’s Canuck Place Adventure Race with a broken toe and a courageous grin, determined to raise funds for the children’s hospice that provided so much care and support for her brother and their family until his passing in 2011.

Canuck PlaceCanuck Place

Learn more about Dr. Hal Siden, who has provided pediatric palliative care for the children and families of Canuck Place for over 16 years, mentoring the next generation of care providers, and lifting the spirits of his patients with his faithful, four-legged sidekick Poppy.

Canuck PlaceCanuck Place

Check out the stories behind why Karolina Durda and the other 300+ volunteers have donated over 23,000 hours of their time in the last year to the children and families who have relied on the services of Canuck Place.

At Canuck Place we believe the end of life should be lived as fully as the beginning. Your contribution can change lives.

Give the gift of life by donating to the Canuck Place Light A Life campaign. It’s as easy as writing a message honouring someone you love or remembering someone you’ve lost, making a small donation, and dedicating your message to that special someone through lighting a virtual candle on the Canuck Place website.

DONATE NOW

Please help to spread the word about this important, life-changing cause by sharing this post, and following/sharing the stories behind Canuck Place. Here’s how to find them:

Website – Canuck Place Children’s Hospice

#LightaLife

{FAMILY} The Nutcracker: A Reignited Passion For Dance

Last year, after 4 years of taking weekly ballet classes, my daughter decided to take a break from the classical dance genre to try something new.

At first, my heart sank. I had grown up with a passion for the arts, and watching my little girl sauté and pirouette on stage each year had made me so proud. But I soon realized that instead of dancing vicariously through my daughter, it was time for me to return to the barre myself, and I’m still taking adult ballet classes today.

When I treated her to a mother-daughter date to see The Nutcracker last year, her passion for ballet was reignited and she decided to give it another try. This year her class will be performing their own rendition of the holiday classic and my little girl is thrilled to be dancing in the Arabian scene – one of our all-time favourite Nutcracker pieces.

Nutcracker

The Arabian dance performed by Alberta Ballet

I’m looking forward to watching my tiny dancer perform on stage once again this year, and I’m excited to share with her our annual holiday tradition of watching professional ballerinas perform in The Nutcracker in the beautiful Queen Elizabeth Theatre again this holiday season.

This year will be my 34th consecutive year of watching the production, and each year I look forward to seeing how each choreographer and dance ensemble put their own twist on the famous Christmas ballet.

Nutcracker

Choreographed by Edmund Stripe, and decorated with more than a million dollars worth of dazzling sets and costumes designed by Emmy Award-winning designer Zack Brown, this year’s production promises to be an unforgettable event. Ballet BC’s artistic director, Emily Molnar explains the decision to bring Alberta Ballet back to Vancouver:

“Vancouver audiences were delighted with Alberta Ballet’s The Nutcracker when it was first presented here in 2011. We’re pleased to bring back this magical version of the famous Christmas ballet with its live music performed by the VSO, extravagant sets and costumes and the talented dancers of Alberta Ballet. The Nutcracker is unforgettable family entertainment that is sure to enrich your holiday season.”

Nutcracker

Each year, I like to share the gift of dance with my readers through a giveaway, and this year I’m so excited to be giving away not two, but four tickets to the performance (a $280 value)! Enter to win below, and stay tuned for my review of this year’s show.

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Nutcracker

THE NUTCRACKER

Choreography: Edmund Stripe
Music: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

QUEEN ELIZABETH THEATRE

December 29, 2015 7:30pm
December 30, 2015 2:00pm
December 30, 2015 7:30pm
December 31, 2015 2:00pm

 

{FAMILY} Wish List: Holiday Outfits For Kids

Each year I create a photo book to gift to my parents and in-laws for Christmas. The photo books highlight memorable moments from from of our year – lost teeth, birthdays, dance recitals, vacations – and each book is always finished off with a photo of my children sitting on Santa’s knee. With my oldest child in her eighth year, we’ve created quite a collection of these books and holiday Santa photos – they have become valuable keepsakes for both our family and the grandparents who receive the books as gifts.

The outfits that my children wear for their photo with Santa and for our family Christmas dinners over the holidays are an important part of the holidays for me. Christmas is one of the few times that I get to dress up my children and snap formal photos of them together to include in those special keepsakes of their grandparents. If it weren’t for the promise of holiday cheer, it would be nearly impossible for me to capture my little munchkins in such happy spirits together.

This year I’d love to dress them in similar outfits – and these three brands have exactly what I’m looking for – but I can’t decide which way to go – fancifully formal? Playfully casual? Or Modernly monochromatic? Here are some of my favourites, maybe you can help me to decide:

Fancifully Formal – Redfish Kids

Kids Holiday Outfits

I was recently invited to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the popular, high-end children’s clothing brand Redfish Kids, and I couldn’t stop drooling over their holiday collection. Assertively stylish and made of high-quality fabrics such as velvet and taffeta, their formal frocks and handsome velvet pieces were simply adorable! My picks: the Simon says vest for my boy, and the Dolce dress for my girls.

Playfully Casual Yet Chic – Peekaboo BeansKids Holiday Outfits

What I love most about the Peekaboo Beans holiday collection is the promising longevity of their products. Their holiday outfits are dressy enough for Christmas dinner, yet comfy/casual enough for my kids to wear to school and for playtime after the holidays have passed. My picks: The Rockslide Leggings and Dazzl’n Dress for my girls, and the cute yet casual Ranger Pants and Looking Good Pullover for my boy.

Modernly Monochromatic – VonBon

VonBon

I just can’t resist a clean, black and white look for the holidays, and Von Bon‘s latest line hits the mark when it comes to fresh, fashion-forward kids wear. The swoon-worthy outfits pictured above would pair perfectly with the red accents of the holidays (and our Dalmatian too!), and the modern pattern screams chic! Not to mention, these adorable styles could be recycled throughout the year.

Which looks do you like best? 

A Week By The Lake – Unplugged

For the last week, I was (almost) completely disconnected from the digital world, and it was exactly what I needed.

Lake

Ruby Lake, BC

Our family rented a house on the beautiful, serene, hidden treasure that is Ruby Lake, located in the heart of BC’s Sunshine Coast. Joined by another family, we settled into our lakeside retreat and enjoyed 7 days of outdoor adventure – completely unplugged from technology.

Our days were filled with family fun on the water – boating, paddle boarding, swimming, and tubing, and our nights were spent eating on the sun-drenched deck, and stargazing under the moonlit skies.

At first I was nervous about the idea of a full week without Wifi. Due to the nature of my work, I am constantly plugged in – writing, checking in on social media, and responding to client emails. The thought of being completely disconnected from the digital world was daunting, and I was embarrassed by my distress.

But a week spent gazing at the breathtaking views of the lake, enjoying moments with family and friends and being physically active outdoors, left me feeling refreshed, revitalized, and ready to return to reality.

I’m going to make more of an effort to unplug. While I love technology and the opportunities that have come to me through the online world, nothing compares to real-life, offline adventures.

Lake

10 Punny Valentine’s Day Cards For Kids

While I’m enamoured with the beautifully handmade projects that grace the boards of my Pinterest friends and blogger besties, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m just not a crafty mom. I don’t DIY – I buy.  And while I may not know my way around crafting scissors and punchies, I do appreciate a good play on words. I like to think of writing as my creative outlet – my craft. So while others are sharing their carefully-cropped Valentine’s Day decor, I thought I would share with you 10 Valentine’s cards that gave me a giggle. Puns totally intended.

1) Yoda Best. Thanks to the hubs, my kids have become big Star Wars fans, so this one gave our whole family a geeky giggle.

2) You’re The Obi-Wan For Me. Also Star Wars punny.

(Note: follow the link to download this one and print it at home)

3) Mint To Be Friends. Refreshingly punny.

4) I Only Have Eye For You. Arrr you going to be my Valentine? Endless pirate puns..

5) You’re The Bomb. (Crafty! You can make this too, follow the “Source” link for directions)

6) Love You A Latte. Mama likey. (Printable/DIY – follow the link)

7) Meant to Bee Friends. Because this one is totally on-brand. (Printable via link)

8) I’m Crazy Pho You. Every time I read this, Madonna’s Crazy For You pops into my head…

9) It’s So Mice To Be Your Friend. Cheesy, I know. (see what I did there?)

How-to link below.

10) I Hope You Have A Kickin’ Valentine’s Day. Because ninja. (another printable)

And because I’m on a roll, here are 2 of my all-time favourite cheesy puns (both based on 70s/80s songs):

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I’m joining some blogger friends on a homemade Valentine’s Day craft train – sharing giveable, receivable and edible Valentine’s crafts with our readers. Follow the links below and spread the love!

Mama Papa Bubba – Handmade Valentine’s for Kids
The Write Balance – Delicious Valentine’s Day Treats
Little Miss Mama – Handmade Gifts For Friends

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5 Christmas Songs That Won’t Give You A Migraine

Christmas is in 5 days and I couldn’t be more excited! School’s over, I’m “working lite” (when you’re self employed, it’s impossible to completely turn it off), the Christmas shopping is (almost) complete, and the eggnog is chilling in the fridge. Holiday mode is in full swing and so are the festive tunes that are filling my ears everywhere I go!

I’m so in love with music, almost every genre, but when it comes to Christmas songs, there are some that make me cringe – migraine-inducing, nails-on-chalkboard shrieking, repetitive tunes that I can’t bear to listen to for another holiday season (jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the…shhhht). So to save your ears (and your sanity), I thought I would share with you 5 songs that won’t give you a migraine this Christmas.

Christmas Songs

1) Christmas Time Is Here (Vocal) – Vince Guaraldi Trio (A Charlie Brown Christmas Soundtrack)

2) Last Christmas – Wham! (watch the video for a giggle – 1984 George Michael, need I say more?)

3) Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) – The Rosettes

4) So This Is Christmas – John Lennon

5) What Christmas Means To Me – Stevie Wonder

If you’re too lazy to make your own Christmas soundtrack, check out all of the great holiday playlists on Songza – including “A Mad Men Christmas”, “Classy Christmas”, “Wild Christmas” and a ton of other great lists!

Note: I am in no way affiliated with Songza, I just really love their App. 

Wishing you all a peaceful, stress-free, love-filled holiday season, from my family to yours.

Happy Holidays

The #1 Thing My Husband and I Fight About Over The Holidays

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose, and the halls all decked with boughs of holly. ‘Tis the season to be jolly, right? Well as much as I LOVE Christmas, there are a few things that come up each and every year that cause the hubs and I to toss aside the holiday merriment in favour of bickering over the tiniest of holiday details. And while there’s a list of things that fill our roster of holiday mini-battles, there is ONE disagreement that comes up every single year that we have yet to resolve: THE HOLIDAY DECOR. I blame the differing childhood family traditions for this one.

“The stocking were hung by the chimney with care”

I grew up with beautifully-embroidered, personalized stockings (with our names in the same fonts of course!), hung in a perfect row, evenly spaced, in one or two of the primary holiday colours that complimented the white and gold accents that surrounded our home. So naturally, I envisioned my mantel to look something like this:

Christmas Stockings

Clean, simple and elegant in my opinion. Who doesn’t love a Martha Stewart-esque display?

My husband, that’s who.

He grew up with a family tradition of decorating the mantel with handmade stockings made by each member of the family. All different patterns and colours, in varying sizes, shapes and materials. Names weren’t needed as each stocking was so unique to its owner that there was never a question as to who each stocking belonged to. His family’s fireplace decor was festive, colourful, inviting, warm, and sentimental. And I’m not saying that I hate this idea – I just come from a different place.

I think he envisioned our mantel to look a little more like this:

Christmas Stockings

Cute, just…not my style.

“Oh Tannenbaum”

And the Christmas tree. While I grew up with a monochromatic, look-but-don’t-touch, window display style Christmas tree, decorated in white and gold ornaments and sprinkled with baby’s breath and fresh flowers similar to this one:

Christmas Tree

The hubs grew up with a more kid-focused, rainbow-coloured, tinsel-laden version of the holiday shrub, similar to this one:

Christmas Tree

He doesn’t understand why I cringe when my children hang their unmatching ornaments around the bottom of the tree, and why I won’t let them wrap the tree in a sea of sparkly silver and blue tinsel. He just doesn’t get that I like to have only white lights evenly spaced, and each ornament hung at an equal distance from each other, in matching colour sequence from top to bottom, with only the most dainty of ornamental pieces. And I don’t think we will ever fully agree on which decorative style is better for the holidays.

So there you have it, every year when I bring out the box of Christmas decorations, the battle begins. The hubs rolls his eyes and begins with the same questions: Why do we have to use these ugly stockings with our names on them? Why can’t we use the stockings from when we were kids? Or We should get blue decorations for the tree and decorate it with lots of tinsel!

No and no thank you.

This year I’m giving in and biting my tongue. Not really because I’m being nice or fair, but more because I’ve been forced to against my will. With a new addition to the family, and a store that no longer carries the matching personalized stockings that we’ve used in the past, we’ve had to mix it up a bit. So this Christmas our mantel looks like this:

Christmas Stockings

And our tree – decorated only by our children (which explains the undecorated top and back of the tree, and giant bow), looks like this:

Christmas Tree

And you know what? Seeing the proud smiles on my children’s faces (and my husband’s face because he’s finally getting his way this year), makes it all worthwhile. Kind of.

Light Up The Holidays With The Nutcracker Ballet {Giveaway}

Last year was the first year that I was able to share my annual holiday tradition of seeing the Nutcracker ballet with my daughter, and it was a memorable mother-daughter experience that we will never forget. It was the first time that my little ballerina was able to watch professional dancers perform the Christmas-themed ballet on stage, and she watched the entire performance wide-eyed – completely in awe of the magic that unfolded on the stage before her.

This year I can’t wait to surprise her again with tickets to the Nutcracker (presented by Ballet BC), this time performed by Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet – one of the most prestigious dance companies in the country.

“We excitedly present this ballet each year as it ties our past to our future. With Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet celebrating its 75th Anniversary this year, we are very happy that Vancouver is part of our exciting touring season and that we are working with Ballet BC.”

– André Lewis, Artistic Director of Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet

Nutcracker

Photo by Vince Pahkala

Sprinkled with a few Canadian-themed surprises, this rendition of the Christmas classic promises to surprise and intrigue even the most knowledgeable of ballet connoisseurs, and the sparkling tutus, magical characters, and life-like set decor (snow falling from the sky – a childhood favourite scene) make the Nutcracker an unforgettable experience for the whole family to savour.

Not only is the Nutcracker the can’t-miss event of the holiday season, but it supports young artists across Canada who aspire to pursue a career in dance.

“Casting over 70 talented, aspiring young dancers from close to 20 dance schools across the Lower Mainland, this gives us a chance to support the local dance community. This marks the first opportunity for these young dancers to perform with a professional ballet company. We are excited to provide this experience to so many young artists.”

– Emily Molnar, Artistic Director of Ballet BC

Nutcracker

Photo by Vince Pahkala

Share this magical ballet adventure with your family and treat them to an evening they won’t forget.

In true Christmas spirit, I offer the gift of dance through a giveaway for Bits of Bee readers! Enter below for a chance to WIN a pair of tickets to this year’s unforgettable performance of the Nutcracker ballet.

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NUTCRACKER

Choreography: Galina Yordanova & Nina Menon
Music: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

QUEEN ELIZABETH THEATRE
DECEMBER 12 – 14, 2014 • Performances at 7:30 pm
DECEMBER 13 – 14, 2014 • Performances at 2:00pm

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