Friday, December 19, 2014

The Nutcracker: Four Takes on a Holiday Classic

This post originally appeared at ChooseChicago.com, where I am a contributor. 

Since its 1892 adapted premiere in St. Petersburg, Russia - choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, with a score by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky - E.T.A. Hoffman's story "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" has been enchanting audiences worldwide. With new versions of the classic appearing every year, here are four different Nutcrackers on stage this holiday season, each bringing to life the magic of Christmas through the story of Clara and her nutcracker that springs to life on Christmas Eve.


HouseTheatreNutcracker

The House Theatre's fresh and moving version of The Nutcracker (pictured above) brings audience members smack dab into Clara's family drawing room, as everyone gathers to celebrate Christmas Eve. Though it centers on young Clara's journey to rescue Christmas after the heartbreaking death of her older brother, this magical take focuses on bravery and unity in the face of fear, and features amazing puppetry, original song, and many laugh-out-loud moments. Now onstage at the Chopin Theater, this performance engages kids of all ages, and is one of our family's favorite holiday shows.
At the Dance Along Nutcracker, guests are invited to don their ballet shoes and hit the stage alongside professional members of Ballet Chicago. You'll never see so many aspiring ballerinas in one room in your lifetime. The story is interactive and audience participation is a must, so wear your prettiest, flounciest tutu. An hour before each performance, members of Ballet Chicago will teach basic ballet positions and movements. Music for the Dance-Along Nutcracker is provided by the Lakeside Pride Symphonic Band.
The Noble Horse Theatre is the only theater in North America to present the historicNutcracker...on horseback! Clara, The Mouse King, the Sugar Plum Fairy, and the noble horses bring Tchaikovsky's unforgettable music to life. You'll see beautiful fairies on horseback, toy soldiers battling the mouse army, and amazing white stallions. Matinees last approximately one hour; evening shows are 90 minutes, dinner optional, and are B.Y.O.B.
And finally, the Joffrey Ballet's classic adaptation of The Nutcracker, which will sweep you into a winter wonderland complete with spectacular scenery, elegant costumes and exquisite dancing. This is perhaps the grandest Nutcracker in the city, and a beloved holiday tradition for many families. Tchaikovsky's glorious score is played live by a full orchestra in the beautiful Auditorium Theatre, adding to the splendor of a holiday evening at the ballet.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Holiday Shopping Made Easy with Softcard #IC #Softcard #ad

Disclosure: I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Softcard. I received a promotional item to thank me for my participation.


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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Experience Chicago: Give Your Loved Ones Outside-the-Box Presents This Holiday Season

Disclosure: This post originally appeared on ChooseChicago.com, where I am a contributor. 

What do you get the person in your life who has everything for the holidays? Or the kid in your life who already has a toybox packed with toys? Consider gifting a unique Chicago experience! Here are seven meaningful gift ideas that will bring the best of Chicago into the life of your loved one. 
The gift of live theater is a gift that keeps on giving throughout the year, and one that the whole family can enjoy. The Chicago Children's Theatre's Holiday Passes are the perfect gift for that special kid or family in your life: CCT's Holiday 2 Pass is $60, and is good for two admissions to any performance in Chicago Children's Theatre's 2014-15 season, while the Holiday Family 4 Pass is $120, and covers four admissions.
All tickets are completely flexible, so lucky giftees can chose to spread their admissions across two shows, or let their Family 4 Pass fund a fun family outing to Chicago Children's Theatre. Chicago Children's Theatre Holiday Passes arrive ready-to-present in a holiday gift envelope and include a small gift from CCT. Both passes offer up to 20% off single ticket prices, and no fees. To purchase, head over to chicagochildrenstheatre.org.

Shedd Aquarium

The Shedd Aquarium's Trainer for a Day program is a gift that no marine animal-loving kid or adult will forget: The incredible program gives guests an exclusive chance to go behind-the-scenes at this world-class aquarium, home to 32,600 marine animals, from snails to whales. The Abbott Oceanarium's three million-gallon tank makes it one of the largest indoor marine mammal facilities in the world. You'll spend the day assisting a trainer with daily routines and lending a hand with training and feeding sessions at the Oceanarium.
This once-in a lifetime experience is hands-on and personalized: you'll be able to watch as meals are prepared for five dozen animals in the marine kitchen, step into reserve areas and stand poolside, learning and participating in the day-to-day duties of the trainers. The best part, though, is the unforgettable chance to interact with the dolphins, belugas, sea otters, sea lions, and penguins. The program is open to adults and children ages 12 and older - children ages 12-15 must be accompanied by a paying adult - with pricing starting at $325 per four hour session. In addition to the premier Trainer for a Day program, the Shedd also offers private penguin encounters, beluga encounters, and behind-the-scenes tours. Visit sheddaquarium.org or call 312-939-2438 to reserve your spot.

iFly

Give the gift of flight with iFLY Indoor Skydiving. iFLY Indoor Skydiving's two Chicago area venues in Rosemont's MB Financial Park (5520 Park Place) and in Naperville's Freedom Commons (1752 Freedom Drive) are offering a variety of flight packages, gift baskets and gift certificates. iFLY is also a perfect "staycation" destination to beat the winter blues with an excursion that will thrill everyone in the family. The Earn Your Wings basic package includes two flights for $69.95, while the Spread Your Wings for Two gives four minutes of flight to be shared by two people, including videos and a personalized flight certification for $141.24.

Give the gift of pampering with a Leah Chavie Skincare Boutique gift certificate for a holiday inspired cranberry and pomegranate enzyme treatment. The cranberry treatment uses the fruit enzymes to gently dissolve dead skin cells; The enzymes also have antioxidants and anti-aging properties. Leah Chavie Skincare Boutique is a research-inspired skin destination, physically designed and fashioned with the most high-tech equipment and exclusive treatments on the market. Best of all you can purchase a certificate for the cranberry and pomegranate enzyme treatment - or any of Leah Chavies signature facials - online at leahchavie.com/shop.

312 Chicago stands out as one of the city's favorite restaurants for authentic Italian cuisine. A gift card to attend one of Chef Luca Corazzina's Scuola 312 cooking classes is for the foodie in your life: participants learn not only a variety of culinary techniques but they also have the chance to enjoy the dishes that are cooked. Every guest will also receive recipe cards and a bottle of 312 Aged Balsalmic Vinegar. Classes are $45 per person. For more information call (312)696-2420 or email Holly.Sandberg@312Chicago.com

Steppenwolf Theatre

Steppenwolf Pass will bring live theater into the life of your loved one, letting them create their own season experience with the Tony Award-winning Chicago theatre company. Good for either three or five tickets to any play in Steppenwolf's 2014/15 subscription season, the Steppenwolf Pass lets you mix and match plays so you see what you want, when you want. And, with the Pass you save up to 40% off regular ticket prices!
The 3-Play Pass is $150 and the 5-Play Pass is $250-that's just $50 per ticket. Instead of paper tickets, the Pass is a plastic, wallet-friendly card. Once you've made your seat reservation through the box office, simply present your card at the window up to 15 minutes before showtime to pick up your tickets. Gift certificates can be purchased for any dollar amount and are redeemable for tickets to any Steppenwolf production. If the total amount of the gift certificate is not used for the first transaction, the remaining balance can still be applied to future ticket purchases. For more info, visit the Steppenwolf Gifts page.

Gifts for gorillas? Presents for primates? Give special gift items directly to the animals from yourself or on behalf of a loved one and support Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago's free zoo, one of the oldest in the U.S. Select from a wide range of fun, interactive and essential animal care gift items at www.lpzoo.org/wishlist. Some special gifts include boomerballs for an Amur tiger, full-length mirrors for fabulous flamingos, special food items for specific species and much more. Gifts range from $1 to $100. Then, plan a trip to the zoo together with your loved one, where you can see your gift in action. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Celebrate the Holidays at American Girl Place Chicago


This post originally appeared on ChooseChicago.com



Last year, the day before Christmas, I took two of the sweetest girls I know - my daughter and her BFF - to American Girl Place, where we had brunch and enjoyed the holiday decor. It's one of my 5-year-old daughter's favorite spots in the city, and one of her favorite seasonal activities. If you're looking to create a special holiday memory with your special American girl, take her and her favorite dolly to American Girl Chicago, where a sweet cafe, special events, and a store filled to the brim with everything a doll needs await.
American Girl Place

At American Girl Place Chicago, you'll find all your favorite American Girl dolls - from historical favorites to the Bitty Baby and the Bitty Twins. The bookstore offers titles that focus on creativity, history, and of course, girl power. The in-store Hair Salon will help you fix up your doll's 'do and at Creativi-tees you can make your own matching doll and real kid t-shirts. Complete your doll's world with a huge selection of outfits, accessories, and furniture. While you're there, check out the 2014 special holiday doll dress, which comes complete with a special charm created just for the holidays.

You'll need to make a reservation for the timed seating brunch, lunch, afternoon tea, or dinner at Chicago's American Girl Cafe. Brunch is $19 per person, excluding tax and gratuity; seating time: 9:30 a.m. Lunch is $22 per person; seating times: 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m. Afternoon Tea is $19 per person; seating time: 4 p.m. Dinner is $23 per person; with two seating times at 5:30 and 7:30 p.m.

For an extra special experience, American Girl Place Chicago is inviting girls and guests to celebrate the season with an American Girl Dinner with Santa on Friday, December 5th and Thursday, December 17 at 5:30 PM. You'll enjoy a holiday dinner together in the Cafe, and your girl can pose for a 5 x 7" photo with Santa at his winter wonderland in Water Tower Place. Tickets are $31 per person and reservations are required.

American Girl Place Chicago will also be hosting theater excursions to see AnnieAlice in Wonderland and The Nutcracker at local theaters: you'll start with tea at American Girl Place and then head out by bus, dolls in tow, to the theater. It's a great way to introduce your daughter to the amazing world of live Chicago theater.

The events calendar at American Girl Place Chicago updates frequently, so check back often, and plan your visit around one of the many festive happenings. Consider spending your night at a Magnificent Mile area hotel that offers special, sweet amenities for girls and dolls.

To make a reservation for the American Girl Chicago Cafe, call the reservation hotline at Call 877-247-5223 or book online at americangirl.com.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Capturing the Holidays @BestBuy #CanonatBestBuy #HintingSeason @CanonUSAimaging

Disclosure: The reviewer has been compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift Card and/or received the product/service at a reduced price or for free


The holidays are here and I find myself wanting these days to just sloooow down! Can I have a couple extra hours in the day, please? Can I just free time for a few seconds to savor the delight in my children's eyes as we bake sugar cookies, trim the tree, open their advent calendars with glee? 


Friday, December 5, 2014

Five Ways to Celebrate the Holidays Outdoors in Chicago


This article originally appeared at ChooseChicago.com

Zoolights - Blog

"Bundle up, get outdoors and explore" is our family's wintertime mantra. When dressed properly, being outdoors in Chicago is a joy, even in the dead of winter. During the holidays, when the streets are alight with colorful lights and charming decorations, exploring the city is even more fun. Here are five fun ways to celebrate the holiday season in Chicago outdoors.

Belt out your favorite Christmas carols in Millenium Park
Caroling at Cloud Gate

Celebrate the holidays in Millennium Park, with festive Christmas Carols when Caroling at Cloud Gate returns on Friday evenings, November 28 through December 19 at 6 p.m. This free program showcases the best of the best Chicago choral groups and invites visitors to sing along, too. Hundreds of singers gather each week near the "Bean" to sing the joys of the season during these 50-minute caroling sessions.

Skate to your heart's content at an outdoor ice skating rink
Ice Rink - Millennium Park - Article

Chicago Park District's outdoor ice skating rinks are located all around the city, welcoming both beginning and advanced ice skaters. Skating season runs through February 23 at most outdoor rinks, weather permitting. 

Party with the animals
zoolights

Lincoln Park Zoo's annual ZooLights festival features thousands of colorful light displays throughout the zoo as well as special visits with Santa Claus, live music, holiday crafts and large-scale ice carving. The festivities take place every weekend from November 28 to January 4 (closed Dec. 24 and 25); check the zoo calendar for related festival events.
Visitors can also ice skate at the Farm-in-the-Zoo ($5 admission; $5 skate rental or bring your own). For one night only, December 3, Louis Glunz Beer, Inc. invites zoo patrons to a special night of beer sampling during BrewLights, a new way to enjoy the zoo's famous ZooLights: From dark lagers to pale ales, a dozen varieties of beer will be available at several different taps throughout the zoo.  

Tube down FROZEMONT
MB Financial Park in Rosemont is a 200,000 square-foot entertainment and dining complex whose 10 venues offer upscale international cuisine, live music and comedy, state-of-the-art film, bowling and more. This holiday season ushers in the brand-new FROZEMONT ice skating rink and a four-story tubing adventure "Polar Peak" - open to the public Friday, December 12. Visit MBParkatRosemont.com/Frozemont or call 847-349-5551 for a complete schedule of skating and tubing hours. Admission to the ice rink is free; Skates can be rented onsite for $8. Tubing tickets can be purchased online or onsite for $20 per hour.

See the holiday lights on an old fashioned horse and carriage
Horse Carriage Holidays

See the holiday lights while cuddled under a blanket in a turn of the century, antique horse carriage. Noble Horse offers has two pick up locations - Michigan Avenue (820 N. Michigan Ave.) or Old Town (1410 N. Orleans St.). They'll also provide a pick-up and drop-off service from your residence, hotel and restaurant. Bring along a thermos of hot cocoa for an extra sweet ride!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Our #DisneyKids Preschool Playdate

Disclosure: I received products free of charge to host a #DisneySide Celebration. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.

Recently, my daughter held a little get together - a #DisneyKids Preschool Playdate!

We have Disney on our minds as we're planning a trip to Disneyland in the late winter. Have you ever been to Disneyland? We've been to Disney World several times, but this will be our first time at California's Disneyland and we can't wait! 
I dream of visiting Disney over the holidays!