Even though Christmas is still a few weeks away, I feel as if I'm getting an early gift this weekend. Why? Several weeks back, some friends and I planned a little getaway to Cedar Rapids to visit the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library. With all the holiday hubbub picking up steam, I feel lucky to have this mini-vacation already on the books.
It will be my first visit to the museum, which is sponsoring an exhibit on the work of Alphonse Mucha, considered by many to be the father of the art nouveau style. It's hard not to like his work, with its intricate floral borders and layers of color. The exhibit will feature jewelry, sculptures and lithographs from the Mucha Foundation in Prague and London, providing an excellent chance to see world-class art without paying world-class airfare!
As part of our trip, we plan to stop at the Trumpet Blossom Cafe in Iowa City, a vegetarian/vegan restaurant that opened earlier this year. My mouth is already watering at the thought of its cardamom-berry pancakes, served with cinnamon butter and vanilla-maple syrup.
Of course, you don't have to leave town to have a little adventure this weekend. There's plenty going on in the Quad-Cities to keep you feeling festive and bright through a damp December weekend. Here are just a few ideas.
Stroll through the season
Whether you are interested in doing a little holiday shopping or simply taking in the sights and sounds of the season, many area merchants have pulled out the stops to sponsor Christmas walks this weekend.
The Village of East Davenport will celebrate the season with its Christmas festivities -- which include horse-drawn wagon rides, living window displays and opportunities to meet Santa -- from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday. Pack extra hats and mittens so you can stay out late for the fireworks Friday night, or double the fun by returning between 6 and 9 p.m. Saturday as the festivities continue.
Christmas in LeClaire, meanwhile, will take place from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Highlights will include free carriage rides, a live nativity scene, a bake sale, and a bazaar. Santa, quite the busy fellow, will be strolling the streets of LeClaire as well.
Old St. Nick also will be making an appearance -- with Mrs. Claus, no less -- at the Hometown Christmas Walk in Fulton. The event will be held from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Friday and will feature music, a craft show, and kiddie train rides. If strolling isn't quite your speed, there also will be an illuminated two-mile run/walk starting at 6:30 p.m.
Aledo's Holly Days will get under way Friday with a parade on Main Street at 5:30 p.m. The festivities, which will feature living window displays, trolley rides and decorated trees in the park, will continue Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Finally, the annual Geneseo Christmas Walk will take place from noon to 8 p.m. Saturday. Highlights will include family activities, an afternoon 5K run/walk, a lighted parade, and -- you guessed it -- an appearance by Santa.
Whew! That's a lot of making merry for the jolly old elf. You, fortunately, aren't flying in from the North Pole to take part in the festivities, so feel free to pick your favorite to attend (and let Santa cover the rest).
Get a little crafty
If you're looking to add a handmade touch to your holidays this year, two excellent opportunities to do so will take place this weekend.
First, the Family Museum, 2900 Learning Campus Drive, Bettendorf, will have ink stamps, paper punches, glitter and other art supplies ready for Holiday Card Day from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday. Visitors to the museum can make holiday cards for their own personal use or to send to folks in care facilities and the armed forces.
Card-making supplies and instruction are free with admission to the museum ($7; $4 for ages 60 and older, ages 1-2, and families of active military personnel; free for younger than age 1). For more information, call (563) 344-4106 or visit familymuseum.org.
If greenery tickles your fancy, you can learn how to make your own Christmas wreath out of natural materials Saturday at the Wapsi River Environmental Center, 31555 52nd Ave., Dixon, Iowa. The class, which is free, will take place from 10 a.m. to noon.
A whole lotta' 'Hallelujah'
One of the most striking holiday traditions in the Quad-Cities -- and I do mean tradition, as this year will mark the 132nd performance -- is the annual production of Handel's "Messiah" by the Handel Oratorio Society. In the years I have gone, I have been bowled over by the sound of the famous "Hallelujah" chorus being sung by more than 200 voices. At that point, you don't hear the song so much as feel it vibrate through you.
This year the performance will take place at 8 p.m. Saturday and again at 2 p.m. Sunday at Augustana College's Centennial Hall, 3703 7th Ave., Rock Island. Featured soloists will include William Ferguson, Philip Zawisza, Emily Truckenbrod and Amanda Crider. Tickets are $20; $16 for seniors; $10 for students, children, and Augustana faculty and staff; free for junior-high and high-school students and their families. You can order tickets online at augustana.edu/x15671.xml or by calling (309) 794-7306.
The itinerary: Dec. 7-9
-- National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library: Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays, noon-4 p.m. Sundays,1400 Inspiration Place SW, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. "Alphonse Mucha: Inspirations of Art Nouveau" will be on display through Dec. 31. $12, $10 for seniors, $5 for students and active military members, $3 for ages 6-12, free for children 5 and younger. (319) 362-8500, ncsml.org.
-- Trumpet Blossom Cafe: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5-9 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5-10 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sundays, 310 E. Prentiss, Iowa City. (319) 248-0077, trumpetblossom.com.
-- Christmas in the Village of East Davenport: 6-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11th and Mound streets, Davenport. (563) 323-8868., villageofeastdavenport.com.
-- Holiday Card Day at The Family Museum: 10 a.m.-noon and 1-3 p.m. Saturday, 2900 Learning Campus Drive, Bettendorf. Free with admission ($7; $4 for ages 60 and older, ages 1-2, and families of active military personnel; free for younger than age 1). (563) 344-4106, familymuseum.org.
-- Natural Wreaths Class: 10 a.m.-noon, Saturday, Wapsi River Environmental Center, 31555 52nd Ave., Dixon, Iowa. Free. (563) 328-3286, scottcountyiowa.com/conservation/wapsi.php.
-- Handel's "Messiah": Performed by the Handel Oratorio Society, 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, Centennial Hall, Augustana College, 3703 7th Ave., Rock Island. $20; $16 for seniors; $10 for students, children, and Augustana faculty and staff; free for junior-high and high-school students and their families. (309) 794-7306, augustana.edu/x15671.xml.
Today is Sunday, Dec. 8, the 342nd day of 2013. There are 23 days left in the year. 1863 -- 150 years ago: For the whole of last week we have been favored with the most delightful Indian summer weather, and mercury ranging from 40 to 65 above zero. The river is entirely clear of ice and looks as mild and soft as summer. 1888 -- 125 years ago: Albert Johnson was appointed a deputy in the circuit clerk's office. 1913 -- 100 years ago: 800 or more tons of earth in six landslides covered 38th Street for a distance of 200 feet near 7th Avenue and destroyed much property. 1938 -- 75 years ago: One of the 350-foot towers, which with a new transmitter will increase the power of WHBF to 1,000 watts day and night, has been completed on a 20-acre tract at 23rd Avenue and 51st Street, Moline. 1963 -- 50 years ago: In cooperation with The Associated Press, The Argus presents to its readers a complete, beginning-to-end account of one of the most tragic and dreadful chapters in American history, the assassination of President Kennedy, available in book form, and now in preparation. The book is entitled "The Torch is Passed." 1988 -- 25 years ago: Deere & Co. stockholders received good news of a boost in their quarterly dividends from 20 to 30 cents per share of common stock. The dividend, made to stockholders of record on Dec. 30, will be payable on Feb. 1, 1989.