Saturday, December 10, 2011

The 2011 Chocolate Chip Guide to Christmas

Welcome to the Chocolate Chip Guide to Christmas 2011....

We've made our list and checked it twice...

Here are a few of our favorite things of the holiday season:

Our favorite television programs......

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Truly a classic!! My brother, cousin and I used to ROFL watching those kids rock out to Schroeder's tunes on the piano!!! I know EVERY dance- Do you?  Now even my 7 year old even joins in!
It's not Christmas until my mother hears Linus respond to Charlie Brown's plea:

"Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?"
Check it out on hulu now:

The Sound of Music

"The hills are alive....."

I absolutely LOVE watching the Sound of Music which traditionally airs the week between Christmas and New Year's Day. The music, the songs, great plot and story line...Just LOVE it!

Watch this classic and sing all the songs with the children.

New addition to our 2011 guide..."It's a Wonderful Life" The timeless classic starring Jimmy Stewart helps us to reassess what's truly important in life.  You can usually catch it on Christmas Eve.

The Arts....

Alvin Ailey- Revelations

"I've been 'buked and I've been scorned...."

Sinner Man, Fix Me Jesus, I Wanna Be Ready, Wadin' in the Water.....I LOVE every movement of this signature classic of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre.

Without a doubt my most favorite activity of the season!  So excited to be taking my 7 year old ballerina for the first time this year. 

At least one tear (who am I kidding, MANY) will find its way down my cheek as I watch mesmerized by the strength, beauty, fire, power, joy and grace of this American classic set to the Negro spirituals. Revelations touches my soul every time!

Catch Ailey at the New York City Center now thru January 1, 2012. You won't regret it.

The Nutcracker Ballet

Whether you see the NYC Ballet perform George Balachine's The Nutcracker (I promise to treat myself in 2012) (thru December 31st) or a local more modest production, the story of Clara and her most favorite Christmas gift set to Tchaikovsky's score is not to be missed.

Special Events...

The 20th Anniversary Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Gardens

Thru Jan 9, 2012 up in the Bronx where the people are fresh...(my hometown).  Check out what is without a doubt the BEST way to see NYC!

March of The Wooden Soldiers

As performed by the Rockettes at the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City thru January 2, 2012
Ah this brings back such fond memories of my high school years....Shout out to Cardinal Spellman's Flag Corps who perform it annually

And the traditional NYC spots....

The Tree at Rockefeller Center

Check out the tree and watch the skaters and while you're there watch the Christmas Light Show across the street that beams off of the facade of Saks Fifth Avenue.
Although we've yet to brave the cold and long wait at Rockefeller Center, your local ice skating rink will certainly do the trick.  We're particularly impressed with World Ice Arena in Flushing Meadows Cororna Park

Nothing follows ice skating better than...

Hot cocoa in a mug!

For 2011 we've added a new Westchester spot to our fav list.

And don't forget Spencer's secret ingredient: a dash of cinnamon

MarieBelle Soho: The Cacao Bar
484 Broome St, between Wooster St and West Broadway
Simply divine European-style Aztec Hot Chocolate- YUMMMMMM!!!!

Cocoa Chocolate Shop
2107A Boston Post Road
Larchmont, NY 10538
Phone: 914.834.6464

Check out Mommy Poppins Ultimate NYC Hot Chocolate Crawl for other spots throughout the city

Don't forget to add Your Personal Touch...

A warm gathering of family and friends. Potluck with the girls night out crew or your neighbors. In all the "busy"ness of our demanding schedules make sure you make time to share joy with those you love.

Your signature holiday dish
Like my Aunt Nora's cookies!  Mine is CHEESECAKE!! Ask my husband, the kids, their pediatrician (even her husband and staff put in their requests) and teachers...
I only whip them up for the holidays which makes them an extra special treat!
I'm also known for my Gingerbread Waffles (thanks Rachel Ray).
Share you speciality with the Chocolate Chip family:)

and finally but FOREMOST...

The Reason for the Season: Celebrate the birth of Christ

Join our church family.  Your invitation is open and endless!
Christian Cultural Center
12020 Flatlands Avenue Brooklyn, NY

Whatever you do make this blessed and joyous holiday season an extra special one for you and your family.

From our family to yours,

Merry Christmas!!!!!! 
Prospero ano y felicidad! 
Wishing you prosperity and happiness in the New Year!

THE FINAL STRETCH: The Private School Application Process

I know that we're not alone as we prepare for the final stages of the admission process for independent schools for the 2012-13 academic year.  The recruitment events, open houses and informational sessions have ended.  The applications have been/are being submitted.  Parent interviews are being conducted. Student visits scheduled and entrance exams are being administered.  It can be a daunting and demanding process but it's one of the journeys many parents take on their quest for academic excellence for their children. 

With the admissions deadlines quickly approaching, I reached out to our friend, Gina Parker Collins, Founder of RIISE- Resources in Independent School Education to get some last minute words of wisdom for parents in the final stretch.

Indeed, we are approaching the holiday season wrought with festivities, pageantry, gift wrapping, and gift giving. It is a race to the finish struggling to be mindful of the value of family and the time we spend together.

Some families have a competing race at this time of year, the private school application process. Some have crossed the finish line and completed the process, while others are still looking and hoping for opportunities to find the right school that's still looking for great candidates.

Here are a few things to keep top of mind:

* If you've completed the process then take a breather and enjoy the holidays. But, if you have not sent a thank you note send one, then take a breather!

*The interview. What should you expect?  What does the admissions team want to know? What are they looking for? Remember you are in the driver's seat too, so ask thoughtful questions. The Admission team wants to like you. They also want to know that your family will contribute your time, talents or both. As for your child, let them know they have the stage, the spotlight, the chance to share what they know and love.

*Search out current families in your close and distant circles for insight on the culture of the school community to make sure that what you love about school really exists.

*Make sure your first choice school knows they are number one. Beware!  Be honest about your first choice.  There can only be one!

*Work on a Plan B. It is very important to have a strategy for attending the best possible school if your child doesn't get accepted to any of your choices. There are good charters and public schools out there but you have to do the research. Let’s Talk Schools  is a great online community to check out.

*Be prepared financially. Financial aid or not, tuition is a fiscal responsibility, for a long time. Think of it, do the math.  If you have applied for support pray you get what you need (you’ll know when you get acceptance letter). If you don't, please don’t give up, I have seen success in the appeal process.

*Lastly, if you are not accepting the offer of placement please notify the school immediately with a thank you note so they can offer the space and financial support to another family.

Perhaps you are a family just starting to consider private independent schools, it is never too early to start looking. Ask around and visit school websites. Begin to think about your values and personalities as a family and match them up with schools mission. Think about what your families return on investment should, or can be. The spring is a great time to begin to make appointments to casually tour campuses. Organizations like Prep for Prep, Oliver Scholars , and Reach are great prep programs for the older kids, and Early Steps for the younger. Make sure to visit us often at RIISE, and check out Family Voices blogs, RIISE spotlights, Workshops & Events, from a parent of color’s perspective on independent schools.

Happy Holidays & Phenomenal New Year Chocolate Chip!

Gina Parker Collins