Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Very Merry Christmas, or Something Like That

pius programIt was is if we just were not meant to go.  Each of the four of us had messed things up in some way.  I got the ticket time wrong.  Munchkinhead didn’t communicate Mr. Munchkinhead’s changed plans.   Mr. Munchkinhead came up a day later than originally expected.  And Mommy spent fifteen minutes not parking the car.  It was such a kerfuffle.

But, we did finally get there, only half an hour late, to St. Josephat’s Basilica for Pius XI High School’s Christmas concert.  None of us had been in the Basilica before – as far as we know, though Daddy claims Mommy has been.  It was quite something to be seen.  Large dome, elaborate painting, gold leaf detailing and stained glass.  We sat in the balcony area under a mini dome with four scenes depicting four virtues, only three of which we could decipher from the Latin words below.  The inside of the dome was ringed in large letters spelling out sentences in Polish.

The Pius students performed from the front of the sanctuary and the highest balcony at the back.  The poor Madrigal Choir seemed to have to keep going back and forth between the two.  Choir is definitely the high school’s strong point.  All of the five separate choirs were quite good.  The band, orchestra and dancers performed as well.  We couldn’t really see the dancers where we were sitting.  The music reverberated throughout the sanctuary, filling the dome with sounds of the season.  It was by far the best setting for a choir concert that I’ve ever experienced.

St Josephat's (1) 

Mommy, Munchkinhead, Mr. Munchkinhead and I sat spread out in the middle pews.  Only people in the first two rows of the balcony could see down below, so we had plenty of room to just sit and listen and sing along when th e program directed.  The concert was quite good and I’d like to make a regular thing of going.  However, next year, logistics planning a little more ahead of time might be helpful.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Taking on the Mountain

Table Mountain is one of the key features of Cape Town. It's outline represents the city on signs and banners. Nelson Mandela spoke of viewing Table Mountain from across the water on Robben Island, viewing it as an emblem of hope for the mainland to which he would return to someday. Locals tell tourists, if you only do one thing in Cape Town, go to Table Mountain.

Table Mountain from town. Click on it to view the large size and see where the lower cable station - outlined in red - lies on the mountain.

Table Mountain is a beautiful land mass, but it is also a tourist spot. There is a cable car – made in Switzerland – that will take you from the lower parking lot to the top of the mountain where you can stand and gaze out over all of Cape Town, Table Bay and the Atlantic Ocean or into a milk bottle of fog, depending on the weather. You can also eat at a cafe atop the mountain, buy some souvenirs and then take the large cable car back down the mountain. Or, you can walk.

I wanted to walk. I had seen people coming down on foot when I'd first visited Table Mountain's parking lot last Sunday. It was now a week later and I had my heart set on going up the path.

I walked from one end of the parking lot to the other but I could not find anything that looked like a footpath entrance. Finally, I approached two Table Mountain employees in bright green sweatshirts standing near the ticket booths. They informed me that the path entrance was a 15-minute walk (about a mile) down the paved road and one of them quite adamantly, after giving me quite the evil eye, insisted that I couldn't climb the path in “those shoes.” I informed her that I was quite capable of climbing in my hiking boots and headed down the road. I didn't fully believe them because I had seen people descending a path directly below the cable car and because of the girl's rudeness, but I figured it was worth a try.  Road along Table Mountain.

Sure enough, just under 15 minutes down the road, I found the path entrance, marked with a small restroom building. I topped off my water bottles and began the climb. The path quickly became rocky and when it joined with another path I wondered if I had just climbed off the water run-off instead of a footpath. It's something I've been known to do before.

The walk was beautiful and the beginning was a steady even climb over crushed rock and red soil. Beautiful and delicious smelling flowers lined the path. The day was overcast, warm with a heavy breeze. Perfect weather for walking outside. I was glad to be wearing a dress as its billowing in the breeze kept me pleasantly cool. I met others, people going up at a faster pace than me, people coming down. Everyone was friendly. I had packed water, a can of almonds and a citenge in my shoulder bag (as well as some souvenirs and presents I'd picked up earlier in the day). Every 20 minutes or so, I would stop for water and almonds, laying out my citenge on a rock so as not to get Munchkinhead's dress dirty. Sweat washes out, that African red dirt is resilient.  Starting the climb.

The path turned steeper, large boulder-like rocks instead of crushed stone. The climb became more intense and more of an actual climb using hands and arms to pull my body up the next step as the path wound through the gorge. I paused after a long stretch of steep large rocks, near a good sitting place, and went to my bag for my citenge. It wasn't there! I'd forgotten to pick it up after my last stop 15-minutes back down the hill. At first I thought, “oh well, that's gone” and continued on a few more feet. Then I paused. 15 minutes – 30 round trip – was not much in the scheme of this adventure and it was one of my favorite citenges from Zambia, depicting a village scene with men smoking around the fire and women nursing their babies. I also was beginning to wonder if I could climb back down these massive boulders I'd been pulling myself over. So I turned around and headed down.  The path up, and down, and up again.


People on their way up assured me my citenge was where I had left it. One group even apologized for not picking it up. That was sweet of them to even consider it. Going down was much harder than going up. I often had to sit on the rocks and scoot until my foot could reach the next boulder below. A gentleman in bare feet scampered past me, going up at a seemingly unbelievable pace. I reached my previous resting place and found my citenge. This time, going up only took 10 minutes.  Citenge, right where I left it.
 

The climb became even steeper after that and the views ever more breathtaking. Notes began to appear on the stones, messages left by previous climbers for others following. “Don't give up now.” “You're almost there.” The bare-footed gentleman came scampering back down past me. A good sign; I must be getting close. Another group came past going down, “only 35 more minutes to the top!” Thirty-five minutes later, I was still in the middle of the path, but had caught up to a local couple I'd passed going back for my citenge. We had ascended into the mist that shrouded the top of the mountain. My glasses were fogging up constantly. The fog became thicker and the air colder. I was glad I'd gone back for my citenge as I wrapped around me like a shall. The three of us continued on together.  Showing off the view.

Finally, the ground flattened around us and a large stone pedestal with a map rose up, a beacon in the mist. We checked the map, but it didn't match the paths available. We headed on the path that continued going up. Timber poles with chains connecting them guided us up a steep slate route, providing needed handles. Suddenly, there were other people. People who had come up on the cable car and were gleefully taking pictures on top of Table Mountain. We'd made it. I'd done it!
 
Top of Table Mountain

I looked around. It looked like Daly City. You couldn't see more than 5 feet in any direction. No spectacular views from here, those had all been had on the mountainside. I didn't care; I'd climbed Table Mountain.


I met a lot of people from many different places at Table Mountain. Many of them said something about my shoes, but only the two Indians flat-out said “you can't.” The lady at the lower cable station and a guy sitting on a boulder on the path, smoking!, who told me I needed to take off my shoes to keep going. Because climbing a mountain in socks would be such a good idea. They'll never know I made it to the top, but I know, and I know my motto remains true, “anything you can do, I can do in heels.”

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Morning at George's



I thought Id like to go to church on Sunday morning. I already had a two-day bus pas that stopped at a church downtown, so I thought I'd attend there. St. George'sCathedral is not only the oldest cathedral in southern Africa, it is also the seat of the Arch Bishop of Cape Town. I bet you can all name one Arch Bishop of Cape Town, even if you don't realize it. This was Arch Bishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu's church.

It's a beautiful old stone building in the classic cross shape with tall stained glass windows. The seating is wooden chairs linked together rather than pews and the kneelers are individual cushions stored under the chairs in front of each row.

This was my first Anglican service, so I didn't quite know what to expect. I soon found my familiarity with Catholic mass quite useful in navigating the service, though there was far less kneeling. The congregation present for service seemed a mix of local members and tourists, people of all shapes, sizes and colors.

The reverend conducting the service explained the guest speaker listed on the program could not attend as he had been needed to escort Arch Bishop Emeritus Tutu to Nelson Mandela's burial in Qunu. The two had left Cape Town at 4 that morning for the burial proceedings. I was able to watch a bit of the burial live on tv at lunch after service. Arch Bishop Emeritus Tutu was one of many clergy walking the long road behind Mandela's coffin after the funeral ceremony.

A brass quartet welcomed everyone into the church before the service started. A processional led by someone swinging a ball of incense marked the start of the service, with the choir, the preachers and a whole onslaught of others in long purple robes walking around the sanctuary and up to the front. The church conducts its services in English, Afrikaans and Xhosa. Songs and recitations are printed in all three languages and the congregation is invited to use whichever they choose. Most of the talking-at parts of the service were done in English, although some of the readings were done in other languages. The Old Testament reading was from Isaiah, read in Xhosa.

Much of the service was devoted to remembrance of Nelson Mandela and the sermon talked of both him and John the Baptist – the New Testament reading was about when John is in prison and sends a message to Jesus to ask if Jesus is the messiah. There was a beautiful poem dedicated to Mandela read by the poet. And a special musical offering on a South African instrument that I think was called a Zeze. The instrument itself looks like a bow and it was played by rubbing a stick along the hard, curved part of the bow. The lady held one of the hard, curved part in her mouth but I don't know if that did anything or was just to old it. It had a very unique, eery but pretty sound.

The service was beautiful and it hardly felt like two hours had gone by when it ended. There was a coffee hour afterwards, but I didn't stay. I wandered around a bit to admire the sanctuary and take some photos. And I found something delightful that really made me smile. A Kimberly-Clark paper towel dispenser in the washroom!
 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Happy Reconciliation Day!

Today is Reconciliation Day, a national holiday in South Africa that celebrates national unity.  Interestingly, the date was chosen because it was the commemorative date of two bloody battles, one celebrated by the Afrikaans and one celebrated by the anti-apartheid movement.

The street near my hostel was barricade off on one side, leading from the stadium into downtown, all the traffic was routed onto the other side. I thought I'd go check things out. The first thing I wandered into was a stage area where four men were singing barbershop quartet and gospel songs. They were followed by a disco group that was not quite as enjoyable.

Then I headed down the walkway next to the road, which had been named the Reconciliation walk for the day. There was a long white banner stretching down the fence for many, many meters. Different stations of the South African national colors were set up along the way with balloon arcs and small stages marking their territories. Each station had matching paint, brushes and stamps that people were using to decorate the banner. Most of the writings on the banner were remembrances to Nelson Mandela.

Each area was playing its own, extremely loud, music. This made for some very interesting sounds on the sidewalks between the stages. The stage nearest to my hostel was blasting old school hip hop. The next one over, salsa. Down a ways, African music of some sort. There were dancers in the street, dance teams and the station workers dancing.

The blocked off part of the street appeared to be for some sort of parade-ish activity. Different groups came down the street, seemingly whenever they felt like it, at whatever pace they wanted. There was an African drum group, a brass marching band, some people on stilts, a pack of security guards in neon green vests, and lots of dead space. No one sat along the curb to watch, but people walking along the sidewalk watched or ran out into the street to join. It was different than a US independence day celebration, but still quite lively and fun.
 
video
 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Monkeys!


Saturday morning's first stop was the local Spar. Knowing I would likely spend a good portion of the day out in the sun, I thought I better get myself some suntan lotion. $18.00 for a normal sized bottle. $18! Ouch, that hurt, but not as much as being roasted in the African sun would hurt.

As soon as my last conference session ended, I scampered off for the big red tour bus and a place called Monkey Jungle. How could I pass that up?! Monkey Jungle is actually an area inside of World of Birds Wildlife Sanctuary. It was awesome.

There were so many birds! And they were right there next to you, around you, overhead, below your feet. It was awesome, a bit scary, and a bit messy.  I was walking along one route, and there was suddenly an owl in the middle of the path, just sitting there, stretching its legs here and there. On another path, a different owl perched on a branch directly in front of the out gate, guarding the exit. A family of ducks waddled past, Momma duck honking and Papa duck guiding, herding their babies down the red rock path. One nearby mother couldn't resist the moment, saying to her own children, “see how the children are listening to their mother?”

Penguins frolicked in a cold shower. Tortoises glided across the dirt far faster than you'd think possible – except for the two that were busy mating. I guess he didn't read the sign that said “Please do not sit on the tortoises.”  A baboon griped the gate of his cage, reaching through and pulling on areas as if trying to get out. Something in the parrot area kept greeting me as I entered his aviary area, “Hello. Hello. Hello.”   Meerkats stood at attention atop a little hill.

 Chickens of all types, black, fluffy white, brown, squawked across the park.  White peafowl that looked like peacocks dressed for a wedding strolled together around a large compound.   Male turkeys strutted in front of the ladies.  One turkey stood under the cassowary's food dish, stretching it's long neck up, attempting to get scraps thrown its way as the cassowary threw back its fruit salad.

 That cassowary scared the bajeebus out of me! I'm walking along the path, looking at various birds and suddenly I'm face to face with this giant dinosaur-looking thing. And when I say face-to-face, I mean it. The cassowary was as tall as Munchkinhead. Shortly after scaring me, it decided to have lunch, so I didn't get a good picture.
 
video

But my absolutely favorite part of the World of Birds Wildlife Sanctuary was the part that had lured me there in the first place, Monkey Jungle. I entered a separate park area where squirrel monkeys were scampering everywhere. Two park workers suggested I sit on a bench, but I wanted to see the monkeys, so I declined. I walked around, watching the adorable little monkeys, taking pictures and smiling.

I decided to sit on a nice grassy patch where a father and his young daughter were relaxing. Monkeys ran all around us. One climbed over my boots. Two climbed on the girl's head. Then a park worker came over and threw a handful of seed on me. Monkeys everywhere! One scandalous little monkey lifted my skirt off the grass looking for food underneath. Several scampered onto my lap, including one with a little baby hanging on its back.  It was so much fun!  I wished Munchkinhead could have been there with me.
 
 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Other Half of the Day


Has this really all been one day? I'm a lovely shade of tomato. I should know better, but I didn't pack sunscreen because I wanted to carry my bag on – which didn't get to happen anyway, on any of my 3 flights. Oh well, I have to spend the next 5 days inside, anyway.

My plan for the afternoon was to head into downtown, get a ticket for the Rocky Horror Picture Show performance and visit the District 6 museum. Well that didn't quite work out. It took me about 2 hours to walk to the theater. Tickets for tonight's performance were sold out. The museum was closed, it's Sunday. But I still had a great afternoon.  Downtown reminded me a lot of Amsterdam, with its brick-paved, car-less side streets and curvy roads.  I suppose that comparison probably makes sense.

I stumbled upon another Mandela tribute. The Cape Town city hall is the first place Mandela addressed the public after his release from prison. Across from city hall is a large plaza. There were police everywhere. The ends of city hall's street were barricaded off. Railings covered in flowers and signs lined the area in front of city hall. Large screens with massive speakers were set-up on the sides of the plaza. Current images from the front of city hall blazed on their screens. I stopped for a bit. It was hard not to be moved by the outpouring of expressions all around.

 
I also tried another strange new drink. This time, it was Frankie's Olde Soft Drink Co.'s Dandelion & Burdock soda. I have no idea what burdock is, so I can't tell you if the soda tasted like it. And, I don't eat dandelions, so come to think of it, I can't tell you if the soda tasted like those either. But, it was pretty good. A bit tangy. I'd put it in the cream and sasparilla family, though it's not the same as either of those.

The receptionist at the hostel had advised me to check out an open air market downtown. I hadn't really planned on it but found myself there. It was mostly curios and outfits. All the fun fabrics had already been made into things. I headed through, glancing at things as I went. After moseying through the market, I regained my bearings and followed the “V&A Waterfront” signs back to the waterfront. My feet ached, and my legs hurt. But it's hard to tell yourself you can't go on when you're surrounded by pictures of Nelson Mandela and all you're doing is walking around on a sunny afternoon.

By this point, I was considering going back to the lodge, just to sit down somewhere, but I didn't really want to spend the rest of the day waiting for bedtime. Instead, I found one of the City Tours hop-on-hop-off buses and hopped on. It was fun. First, we went back downtown. - I should have started with the bus. - As we wound out of downtown, we went through the area known as District 6. In some ways, it made up for not being able to go to the museum. The bus tour explained the history of the area. It had been Capet Town's most diverse area. When apartheid started, the government forced everyone out – every single person out of an entire neighborhood – and destroyed all the homes. Most of the district is still grass and weeds.

Then, we went up to Table Mountain. I got off the bus there, but I didn't go up the mountain. It wasn't until we were leaving that I realized you could actually climb up and not just take the cable car.  The view was amazing even from the parking lot.

From there, we went around the back of Table Mountain, past the Twelve Apostles and down to the beach. What a beautiful beach! White sands, blue water. There were washed up oyster and sea shells everywhere. I've now touched both sides of the Atlantic. The only other body of water I can say that about is Lake Michigan. The bus tour wound around the coast and dropped us back at the Waterfront. I attempted to head back to the lodge.


Attempted is the key word there. I walked a bit down the road, paused, decided I was probably going the wrong way and turned around. Three steps back and I heard my name. It was my friend who's one of the main organizers for the conference that starts tomorrow! I was very happy to see him. One, because he's awesome, and two, because he was able to point me back towards the direction I was supposed to be going. There happened to be a massive craft shed between me and the road I needed, so I did a little shopping on the way. ;)

Half-a-Day in Cape Town


Nothing beats waking up to a sunrise and birds chirping – somethings are true no matter where you are in the world. I thrust my feet out from under the fluffy duvet to allow the soft breeze to waft over them. Ah, warm air and cool breezes; my favorite. After 30+ hours of traveling I was happy to be lying in bed and it hardly even bothered me that I was awake at 5am.

My first morning in Cape Town! I spent most of it down at the Waterfront, wandering around, exploring, shopping. It reminded me of both Venice and of Pier 39 in San Francisco. Boats, water, tourist shops, a movie being filmed, people, people and more people. People with cameras, people with strollers, people with smiles, and a lot of people in Nelson Mandela commemorative t-shirts of one sort or another.


After perusing a three-floor souvenir shop where I briefly contemplated buying Alfred a four foot tall, six foot long carved rhino statue, and even more briefly considered buying a Zebra skin rug, complete with head, for my and Munchkinhead's Africa room, I wandered over to the Nelson Mandela museum building. The building is the ticket station and launch port for ferries over to Robben Island, where Mandela was held in prison. It seems like the tours work a lot like Alcatrez: buy a ferry ticket, go over to the island, do a tour. At 9:30am, they were sold out for the entire day. Disappointed, but not surprised, I wandered off to explore more of the area.

A giant distance marker stood near the water along a boardwalk. Lots of arrows protruded from the post, proclaiming the distance and direction of major cities around the world. “San Francisco 16690 km,” “Chicago 13662 km.” Those numbers felt huge. I didn't even bother trying to compute them into miles.

There was a giant ferris wheel, which looked pretty fun. I thought I'd give that a try. A nice gentelman, originally from Cape Town but who has lived in Australia for the past 30 years offered to share a ferris wheel cab with me. That was fantastic, because he was able to tell me about what we saw out the windows. And from way up top, we could see a lot. There was Table Mountain behind us and Devil's Peak off to the side. One of the stadiums built for the World Cup 2010. An oil rig brought down from West Africa for repairs. Hotels and shops and docks. It was grand.

 
After some more window shopping, I headed back towards my hostel. I was getting very thirsty and knew I'd need lunch soon. I had hoped to find a grocery store, but while I found Pick and Pay signs, I could not locate the Pick and Pay. Then, as I neared the street leading to my hostel, I saw a familiar green tree down the street. Spar! Spar was one of the higher end grocery stores in Zambia. I figured it probably wasn't higher end here, comparatively, and headed over. My find of the day: cream soda flavored milk. That sounded so strange, how could I not try it?! And, it was bright green! It was ok. It didn't really taste like cream soda or milk. I don't know what it tasted like. Green stuff, I guess.

After a refreshing lunch of rolls, cheese and guava juice, I'm set for another adventure in a different direction.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Les Mis is anything but Miserable

Les mis cover Last night, Munchkinhead and I went to see Les Misérables at the Skylight Theater in the Third Ward.  We’ve both seen Les Mis live before – I saw it in London and the touring Broadway production in Milwaukee – and we saw the film together when it was in theaters.  This production blew all of that out of the water.  I was thoroughly impressed with everything from the theater to the performances to the sets and costuming. 

We had mid-level price tickets as all the cheap seats were sold out; high in the balcony in actual chairs perched behind a padded balcony.  We could see everything as long as we were willing to lean forwards every once in awhile.  I loved how embellished the stage floor was, such that you almost couldn’t see all the little tape L’s marking prop placements.  The theater provided the usual Footlights program as well as an Audience Guide with an extensive history of Victor Hugo, his works and the Les Mis musical.

The costuming of the production not only helped place the show in the property historical period, it also helped tell the story.  The ensemble in any given seen was dressed in dirty beige while the main characters wore colored garments.  The wigs were occasionally a little distracting – Munchkinhead and I were both surprised to see Fantine pictured as blonde in her headshot because she looked so awkward in that blonde wig – but it’s theater, everything’s supposed to be a bit over-the-top.

The set design was elaborately simple.  Props felt minimal and many, many pieces were reused in many, many ways.  The wagon cart that falls on the man Val Jean rescues was also Fantine’s death bed, part of the courtroom, part of the barricade and a table at the Thénardiers’ inn.  Trap doors in the stage were well utilized, as were rotating set pieces.  This is only one area where Skylight’s production far outshone the traveling Broadway show I’d seen back in ‘02.  The Broadway production tried too hard with it’s sets.  This production was well-balanced.  The sewer scene was very neat, though the running water sounds near the end of a 3-hour production are a little cruel.  And Javert’s suicide scene was exquisitely done.

The show was exceedingly well cast.  When Fantine, played by Susan Spencer, walked onto the stage, she looked like a tiny little thing compared to the other cast members.  I expected a squeaky little voice like Bernadette in Big Bang Theory.  Then she opened her mouth to sing and had the most wonderful, thick voice that filled the auditorium and wrapped the audience in a wool cloak.  I melted into my chair.

My favorite character, Enjrolas – because he his is the only part I can actually sing-a-long with somewhat decently – was played by Tommy Hahn and did not disappoint.  His swagger and bombastic manners were perfect.  Little Cossette, played by Harper Navin for the night we saw, warbled a bit during “Castle on a Cloud,” but it seemed fitting for a scared, cold young girl.  I wondered why Gavroche, Luke Brotherhood, pointed out to the audience so much, but his singing was very good.

Val Jean, Luke Grooms, and Javert, Andrew Varela, played well off each other, almost as good as Chris Barrie and Craig Charles in the 8th season of Red Dwarf.   The costuming and hair did a good job of making it easy for the audience to tell the two similarly built men apart.  Their duet was fantastic, especially since they did my favorite verse combo, unlike the film version.  And of course, the Thénardiers, Eric Mahlum and Rhonda Rae Busch, kept everyone laughing with their silly antics, expressions and physical clowning around.

Munchkinhead and I both absolutely loved the show and were very glad we came.  As splendid as it was, I could only think while watching, “the book is so much better.”

 

Les Misérables plays at the Skylight Music Theater on Broadway Ave until December 29th. Tickets here
If you’re in Milwaukee, I suggest checking it out. 
If you like the Les Mis musical, I suggest reading the novel.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Christmas Carol – or something

A Chirstmas Carol program cropped This past week’s second theater outing was a non-traditional Christmas Carol with Munchkinhead put on by Milwaukee Entertainment Group at the Brumder mansion.

We took our seats in the small basement theater, nice high chairs in the back, and quickly learned that it was going to be an interactive evening.  Oh dear.

The small cast, well two of the three members, were bustling around the room handing out props and parts.  We each received a small square plastic wrapper of some sort.  Open, empty and with a suspicious expiration date on it.  This was our “fire” noise.  It did sound remarkably like a crackling fire. 

I was handed a small handbell, A6, and just as I was about to offer katrina in hat (1)it to Munchkinhead, who acutally plays handbells at church, Lori Minnetti – lottery girl, and everybody-but-Scrooge in this production, approached with a script part.  “I have a bell!” I declared.  “Well then, it will have to be you,” she said turning to Munchkinhead.  “You’ll be the plump sister.”  Lori warned Munchkinhead that she’d be chased, put a fun red bonnet on her head, left her the script and went off to find a dog.

The production began with an introduction by the third actor, James P. Iaquinta – who I’ve apparently seen as Santa aside The Great Ecclestone’s Rudolph.  He explained the history of A Christmas Carol, announced the story’s 170th birthday and then went into a spectacularly inaccurate account of 19th century copyright law that bothered me for the rest of the evening.  Mr. Iaquinta narrated the story by reading Dickens’ own abbreviated-for-public-performance version and interspersed it with a wonderful rendition of Scrooge and occasionally a bit of another character.

Overall, the production came off well.  Many of the impromptu audience-cum-cast members  had some difficulties coming in on cue, saying the right lines, or remembering which part they had, but several were good.  There was an amazingly good dog and the prop lady could really dance.  Munchkinhead managed to blush on cue, did her lines well and gave the third actor, Ted Tyson, a good run for it when he chased the plump sister all over the room.  She was in and out of the rows of chairs so quick.  Scrooge had an off-cuff remark about her being to spry for the old man.  I wondered if he was supposed to have caught her.  Out running him in heels, that’s my little sister!

It’s definitely a different way to do A Christmas Carol, but it’s the right play to do differently.  If your up for a little adventure, some silly hats and spending your evening blowing to make wind sounds, this is your show.

A Christmas Carol at Milwaukee Entertainment Group runs one more show this weekend.  Tickets are available here: http://www.milwaukeeentertainmentgroup.com/.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Noises Off, Actors On

Noises Off cover This weekend turned out to be quite the theater weekend for little old me.  On Friday, my good friend, The Great Ecclestone, invited me to join him at The Milwaukee Rep’s opening night of Noises Off.

If you’re looking for a fun and easy-going show that will fill your evening with enjoyment, take your mind away from your problems and leave you giggling, Noises Off  isn’t a bad way to spend your time.  If you know an actor, take one with you.

Noises Off is a British farce written in the early 1980s.  It’s about a touring theater crew and their adventures.  Or a bit more accurately, a small, low-budget touring crew and their mishaps.  Scene one sees them doing their final rehearsal midnight before opening night.  Scene two gives us a backstage view to happenings mid-way through the tour, and scene three gives us an audience’s perspective of the end of their tour and their sanity.

It was cute.  I’ll start there.  It was very cute.  One character, Brooke, played by Kellley Faulkner, has the most adorable bustier set and purple shoes. 

It was also quite funny though I got the impression that is much, much funnier if you’re actually in the theater.  Sitting between two actors, I found myself glancing back and forth between them wondering why they were laughing at many instances.  And some of the intended humor – like when a character is seeing walking across a back platform across many doors that are supposed to go to different rooms – just wasn’t funny to me.  Also, the cast of the production, backstage, warming up to go on by flinging their limbs all over the place, also not funny to non-theater folks.  It reminded me of that Big Bang episode where Penny tries to teach Sheldon to act.  But I suppose it’s good that actors can laugh at themselves, even if no one else is laughing with them.

The cast is phenomenal.  My favorite was Lloyd, played by Joe Dempsey.  He had two very distinct UK accents, one for when he was in his character-character and for his actor-character.  That was delightful.  I was especially impressed with the actors’ ability to make carefully scripted and rehearsed bits look like improv.

Costuming – I already mentioned those fabulous shoes, and set were well done.  I actually found myself forgetting that the same set had simply rotated around.  And I wasn’t distracted by the costuming – aside from wanting those shoes – like I have been in other productions.

Noises Off is running at the Rep until December 22nd in the Quadracci Powerhouse theater.  Tickets and more information here.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Runaway Brides all Found

bride of the high country On Sunday, I started the last book in Kaki Warner’s Runaway Brides trilogy.  On Monday, I finished it.  The final book, Bride of the High Country, is a wonderful read, back in Mrs. Warner’s original style of Heartbreak Creek and Pieces of Sky.   As you can tell, I had a hard time putting it down.

Bride of the High Country does have its sex scenes, but they’re far more romantic and less raunchy than those in Colorado DawnBride of the High Country is first and foremost a love story, and then a romance novel.  It’s also the story of strength, softening and survival.

The final novel in the Runaway Brides trilogy tells the story of Lucinda Hathaway, the New York society woman first introduced in Heartbreak Creek as a fellow train-passenger headed West with Maddie, Edwina and Pru.  The first novel was Edwina’s story; the second, Maddie’s.  Now it’s Lucinda’s turn, and the story starts back several years with Lucinda as a 12 year-old orphan in New York’s Five Points area.

Much like Jessica in Pieces of Sky, Lucinda is running from painful memories in her past.  Running towards an unknown destination that takes her to America’s post-Civil War Wild West.  Of course, one can never out-run the past and Lucinda is forced to face hers.  The story is well-told and beautiful – though I do have some qualms with the author’s decision to have Lucinda reveal her painful past to her friends on her wedding night.  She could have waited a day!

As the novel progresses from the heartbreaking beginnings in Five Points to the beautiful ending in Heartbreak Creek, it crosses over events from the other novels.  These events are often summed up quickly.  What took pages of suspense and agony in the prior novels are covered by the new main character as if they were rather inconsequential.  Having read the other novels recently, I found myself skimming these passages, “yeah, yeah, I know what happens here, let’s get back to the new story.”  Yet I can see these portions being important for keeping the three novels together as one story. 

Because the trilogy novels overlap in time somewhat, it’d be really neat to read all three of them put together into one book with the perspectives switching around.  Perhaps a bit confusing, but still neat.

Of the three Heartbreak Creek novels, Bride of the High Country is the best-written and most engaging.  It keeps the love story high, the sex scenes tasteful and the death to a minimum.  I’m glad I didn’t let my disappoint with Colorado Dawn dissuade me from reading this book.   And even though this book contains some spoilers for the other novels, I’d actually recommend reading this one first.

Now, what Kaki Warner series to explore next…

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

My New Purse

I loved my yellow purse.  It was actually my second yellow purse.  I loved the first one, too.  Yellow was such a nice way to immediately brighten up an outfit, especially when that outfit was covered in a black trench coat.  But, my purse was falling apart and I had to admit it was time to move on.  I was sad. I hate trying to shop for purses. None of them every seem to be what I want.

Then I saw Mommy’s new purse – purse and tote collection rather – all made by her.  And she had a new pack of yellow and green fabrics that had arrived in a kit for her.  Ooooh!  So Mommy and I got out one of her patterns and started making me a new purse.

front of purse I pulled out all the yellows from her kit as well as one of the greens and then rummaged around her fabric closet for some more yellows and something for the lining.  The purse is a patchwork quilted purse so there’s lots of opportunities for fun patterns.  In addition to the yellows from the kit, I used scraps from a dress I had with mud huts on it and scraps from one of Katrina’s dresses that was white with yellow and black flowers.  I used two greens from her kit and scraps from a pair of under trousers I’d made for Mr. Trizzle, as well.  We used her Accu-Cutter to cut the strips, so they’re actually straight.

Adjustments

The pattern is a simple, lined bag with a handle and a front pouch.  I made some additions: a divider to create two inside pockets, a row of three small pockets on the back of the inside, a small cell pocket on the inside of the front pouch for my cell phone, plastic ring to clip my keys onto so they wouldn’t get lost in the bottom of the bag, and plastic backing to make the bag water-resistant.

The Divider

inside of purse (2) The purse pattern has four pieces: outside, front pocket, handle, bottom.  I used the outside pocket to cut a piece from the lining on the fold.  I folded this piece so the rightside was facing out and the fold was at the top of the piece.  I basted the raw edges to the back lining piece.  When the lining was fully assembled, the folded piece created a pocket in the back section of the purse.

The mushroom fabric is the divider, front and back lining, the yellow is the bottom lining.

Row pockets

I know that I have lots of little things in my purse that would wind up swimming in the bottom of a bag and never be found.  To give these things a home, inside of purse (1)I made some smaller pockets along the inside of the back of the purse.  This is in the pocket area formed by the divider.  I took a long rectangle of fabric, hemmed it all around and then stitched it down across the back lining piece on the sides and bottom.  To turn it into multiple pockets, I stitched to straight lines from top to bottom of the piece at roughly 1/3 intervals.

You can almost see it in the picture.  The row pockets are the flowered material on top of the mushrooms.

Cell phone Pocket

I always want my cell phone easily accessible and in an outside pocket.  But the outside pouch on the purse pattern is quite large.  So, I decided to add a home for my cell phone in the front pocket.  It’s positioned so that when the purse is on my right shoulder, I can reach inside with my right hand and pull it out easily.  It’s a simple rectangle of fabric, sewn down on the sides and bottom with triangles sewn at the top corners to help enforce the stitching.  It works well.

Key Ring

purse key loop The ring for my keys is probably my favorite addition.  My last purse had large metal rings connecting the handles to the purse.  I would use the little metal clip on my keys to clip my keys to those rings and prevent them sinking to oblivion in the bottom of my purse.  I found a brown plastic ring somewhere in Mommy’s sewing room that was once part of who-knows-what.  I cut a long rectangle from the row-pockets fabric, folded it long-wise, sewed a seam on the long side, turned it and pressed it.  Then I put it through the plastic ring, folded it back on itself and sewed a line just above the ring to keep the ring in place on it’s holder.  I basted it to the lining bottom fabric and sewed it in place when the handle was attached to the bag.  It hangs inside the purse from where the handle meets the bag.

Water-Resistant Lining

purse lining My other modification turned out to not be such a great idea.  We found some iron-on plastic, for coating table cloths and that sort of thing.  I thought it’d be great to help protect the contents of my purse from rain, puddles, spills etc.  So, I cut plastic for the lining front, back and bottom and ironed it on to each piece.  Assembling the back was a little tricker because the lining pieces were stiffer, but it wasn’t too much of an issue.

However, once in use, my purse was very noisy.  It sounded like a krinkling shopping bag every time I rummaged in it for anything.  At one point, we had to take the purse apart a bit to fix a bad seam.  When I opened the purse’s insides, I discovered muct of the plastic had torn or was coming away from the fabric.  So, I just tore it all off.  Oh well.

Finishing Touches

Mommy had put some embroidery on her purse and offered to add some to me. I chose a squirrel!  He’s got this mischievous look, like he’s up to no good, like he just stole that acorn in his hands from under your nose.  I love that.  He’s hanging out on the back of the purse.

back of purse with squirrel

I love my new purse.  I keep thinking about what I’d do different next time, but that’s the learning experience.  Besides, I could always make another and have one for each season, like Mommy ;)

Monday, October 21, 2013

When Powderpuffing was Good and we had Couches

working girl This week, I finished a very delightful book, The Working Girl in a Man’s World: A Guide to Office Politics by Jan Manette.  Jan’s a pseudonym, which aside from being cute is relevant here because Jan’s my great-aunt.  That’s why I decided to read this book.

The Working Girl in a Man’s World may be nearly 50 years old – published in 1966 – but it is still very relevant.  And I’m guessing more useful than a lot of this woman-navigating-man’s-world stuff we get fed now.  The reason I say that is Working Girl focuses as much on good business practices as it does on anything gender specific.  It just places those business practices in a female context.

In fact, Working Girl’s age is actually a strong point for the book.  The author tackles a lot of issues that are no longer discussed, things that have been thrown out over time as either not allowed to be relevant or not allowed to be true, yet they are very true. 

For example, Working Girl discusses the affect a woman’s biological cycles can have on her day-to-day life, including her productivity, how she’s feeling, etc.  This has become a taboo field in workplace considerations even as women’s cycles have become more accepted general conversation.  A woman has to always be as a good as a man, so her monthly issues simply cannot be an issue.  Yet that’s not really true.  I like that Working Girl acknowledges the issue, presents it as accepted by both men and women and  discusses how to deal with it.  And by the way, I want couches in ladies rooms again!  How awesome.

Another topic that wouldn’t be accepted today but that is skillfully discussed in Working Girl is men’s need to feel important and needed.  The past fifty years have pretty much banned men from being allowed to feel this way, or at least acknowledging it, and personally, I think that’s the most damaging part of the women’s movement.  We all know you catch more flies with honey than vinegar, and we all should know you get further building people up than putting them down.  Working Girl reminds readers to build up their coworkers and superiors (male and female) and offers some pointers on how to do it.

The chapter on sex in the workplace is fantastic.  “What can a married man get you?  He can get you (1) pregnant and (2) fired.  And then where’s your career?”  There’s also chapters on working through tough times at the office, what to do if you decide you don’t want to climb any higher, and helping those coming along below you.

Luckily, there’s still copies of Working Girl available.  If you know a working girl, pick one up for her.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Ruffled Baby Blanket

I love when my friends have babies.  It’s such a good reason to knit!

Jessica's blanket (3) croppedA few months ago, one of my friends and former-colleagues out in Cali announced she was going to have a baby.  I wanted to make a blanket for the baby, but I knew it had to match my friend in some way.  She’s fun and quirky, yet very put together and always on-top of things.

I decided to go with cotton yarn so that it would be soft and easily washed.  And I decided to do stripes to give it a little flair.  Then I chose colors that reminded me of my friend, the types of colors I’d see her wear or around her home.  I went with a brown-olive-yellow mix and an orange-yellow-white mix and added ruffles for addition softness in the blanket.

The top and bottom ruffles were done by using larger knitting needles than the rest of the blanket.  the side ruffles were done with short rows.  The top ruffle isn’t very distinct as I used needles only 2 sizes larger than the main needles.  The bottom ruffle is a bit more pronounced because I used needles 4 sizes bigger.  However, I think I could have gone even bigger.

My friend loved the blanket, and that’s always the best part.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Second Runaway Brides Novel

colorado dawn It’s been awhile since I finished the second book in Kaki Warner’s Runaway Brides trilogy, Colorado Dawn.  I guess what really sums up my feelings about this book is that I didn’t order the final book in the trilogy until yesterday, months after I finished Colorado Dawn.

Colorado Dawn focuses on Maddie Wallace, one of the town-ladies met on in the first novel.  She had married a Scottish officer some years ago and, felling abandoned by him, had fled Scotland for the US with a new career as a professional photographer.  Now, her husband has finally tracked her down and come after her himself.  His perspective on who abandoned who is a little different.

I had been enjoying Kaki Warner’s books as fun historical fiction with a bit of romance and adventure.  Colorado Dawn seemed to hop the fence to full-blown romance novel.  That’s not really my thing.  I just found it incredibly hard to believe that in the late 1800s, a young lady sitting at a dinner table with all her friends would have her hand under the table playing with her husband’s junk.

So, yeah, the descriptions get a lot more vivid, which sort of takes away from the rest of the story.  But, it is still neat to follow the main characters from Heartbreak Creek, and there’s still a good story in the book.  The new lover introduced in this book is straight from Scotland so it’s fun to parse through his thick accent. 

The action isn’t nearly as nail-biting as any of the other Kaki Warner books I’ve read, but that’s ok by me.  It was in some ways a nice break to be able to put the book down and go to sleep when bed time came.   We’ll see if the third book is more along the lines of the Blood Rose Trilogy or this book.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Sticks to Your Ribs

me in 4 year old kindergarten When I was four, my parents put me in 4-year-old Kindergarten, half-day, with Mrs. B.  I think Mrs. B went by that because she  figured four-year-olds couldn’t pronounce her long, presumably Polish last name.  Judging by my school picture that year, I didn’t like 4-year-old Kindergarten much.  But I don’t know if that’s really the case.  Maybe my dress itched or I was having a bad day.

Even though I went every morning for an entire school year, I only really have one memory from 4-year-old Kindergarten.  I loved the paste we used for art projects.  It was delicious.

Elmer's, in a white tub with an orange, screw-on lid that had an applicator stick attached to the underside.  The paste was thick and white and had a bit of a nutty flavor.  I looked forward to art projects so I could nibble on the yummy goop.  The teacher’s assistant, however, did not share my joy of this exquisite delicacy.  She reprimanded me – and I think I even had the paste taken away from me.  Now there’s a reason to pout.

Eventually, I stopped eating paste.  We stopped using it on art projects.  We used rubber cement – stinky and awful, snotty texture, like okra – and glue – too bitter.  Now, I use double-sided Scotch tape when I stick pieces of paper together, and that doesn’t even look appetizing.  Maybe someday, I’ll have a 4-year-old of my own (or borrow Alfred’s), and we can share some paste together.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Farewell Football

This past Saturday was my last day at football out here in the Yay.  I’ve loved, absolutely loved going to football each week.

The Legend brought me along about 10 months ago or so.  He knew I’d been wanting to play.  I’d never actually played football before, other than middle school gym class – which was incredibly intimidating as a future NFL quarterback was in my gym class.  - But I’d really wanted to try playing because I was having such a hard time finding football fans out here.  I figured people who play football were likely to be fans.

Not only did I find football fans, I found an amazing group of people who were welcoming to anyone who showed up.  As long as you were willing to get on that field and try, you could play.  No one asked “so, where are you from?” or “what do you do?”  like they did at every other Bay Area meeting, group or event I’d been to (aside from church).  I felt so happy; I didn’t feel like an outsider.

The group changes every week.  It’s whoever shows up for some amount of time between 1pm and sundown, even though we rarely actually start playing until well after 2pm.  Some weeks, we have one game at a time with teams of 5 or 6.  Other weeks, we have two games at the same time with teams of 7 and several subs.  Often, the number of games and sizes of teams fluctuates through-out the afternoon as people come and go.  That only adds to the welcoming atmosphere.  Come for as long as you can, even if it’s only 30 minutes.

This week was extra special.  I arrived shortly after 1 and stayed all afternoon until we didn’t have enough people remaining to keep playing.  It was after 8pm by the time I walked off the Berkeley high school campus.  Several of the other players declared that since it was my last day, I didn’t have to rotate out if I didn’t want to, so I played most of the day.  (People sometimes argue about rotating out, so I usually volunteer to go to the sidelines so others can play.)

My team insisted I try quarterbacking.  “This is ridiculous,” I insisted back.  Our team of 8 players had 4 or 5 decent quarterbacks.  The other team had one, The Legend, who’s usually only a fill-in QB.  They kept urging me to give it a try.  “I can’t throw.”  “Just one drive.”  That one drive turned out to be one play.  We scored!

- I better not try playing QB ever again; I’ll ruin my 100% completion record. ;)  -

There was also more extra fun.  One of our usual quarterbacks brought her camera and herded everyone together for a group photo so that I could have a picture of everyone.  That was quite the task!  And, in addition to the photo, I got the sweetest present ever.  Another one of the usual quarterbacks got a small autograph football; everyone wrote little messages and signed it.  Absolutely perfect present.  I felt so special.

I am really going to miss this group, and playing football.

last day of football (2) cropped

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Starting a New Kaki Warner Trilogy

heartbreak creek Another Kaki Warner book devoured in about three days.  When I get my hands on these things, I just can’t put them down.  I may be addicted.

I recently finished Heartbreak Creek, the first in her Runaway Brides series.  The four main characters of the series are introduced in this book.  What’s interesting, is that the series has four main characters, but only three books.  In some ways, this book was about two of the ladies’ stories, but only one of the stories really had an ending.  I wonder if the other lady’s story will continue through the other books.

In Heartbreak Creek, we meet a young Southern belle, widowed by the Civil War and now family- and plantation-less who decides her only escape is a new husband.  So she becomes a mail order bride for a Colorado rancher looking for a sturdy farm woman to help him raise his four children.  This poor woman can’t even cook!  That provides plenty of amusement.  Lucky for everyone involved, her half-sister goes along for the ride and is an excellent cook and has many other useful skills she’s able to share.

It bothers me a bit that the character who doesn’t seem to have her own book is this half-sister, daughter of this book’s main character’s father and mammy.  She does play a very important role in this book for most of the story, but her own love life is left unresolved.  I’m hoping that’s not the case by the end of the series.

As usual, I found myself laughing frequently during the story, gripping pages tightly in nervous anticipation and fighting to put the book down at 3am when I really needed to go to sleep.  No tears this time, but that’s fine by me.

Having read all of Kaki Warner’s Blood Rose Trilogy novels, I was expecting the same sort of plot line here.  I was pleasantly surprised.  While the novel does have a big climatic life-or-death scene like her other works, it doesn’t feel as much the main focus as in her other books.  This book feels far more about the love story and the everyday hardships of throwing yourself into a completely new world.  And, the adventures aren’t just physical safety fights, especially when someone suddenly winds up with two wives!

I enjoyed this book more than the last two I’ve read – and I liked those well enough.  I don’t know that I’ll ever find any of her other works as intensely, emotionally infiltrating as Pieces of Sky, but I’ve already ordered the next in this series.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Sing for Your Supper, or at Least for Your Friends

Isn’t it amazing how you can be friends with someone for years and have no idea about how their special talents?  Then they blow you away, suddenly shining and astounding you with their awesomeness.

That happened to me this week when I went to hear Short Fabulous do an open mic night in the City.  I knew she did open mics, but I’d never been to one.  I sort of pictured her sitting on a stool, strumming a guitar and moping aloud in the way all devastated open mic performers of my imagination do.  But, boy did I have that wrong.

Short Fabulous strolled nonchalantly up to the stage, positioned the mic and introduced herself.  Then, she launched into singing.  A cappella style!  The song was upbeat and it didn’t take long before the crowd was stomping and clapping along.  She had fairly similar participation in her following 3 songs.

I enjoyed the fairly witty lines and her use of technically incorrect grammar, i.e. “more strong,” as we were earlier having a conversation about how people can get away with that in songs.

The open mic night did have several of those standard guitar-playing singers, including one young gentleman who sounded astonishingly like Tracy Chapman.  I liked his set.  The first performer was an elderly piano player who was absolutely amazing. 

Later, there was also a violinist, a balding man in a baggy sweater, likely in his 60s, who then accompanied a young spoken-word artist.  The comedian was a bit odd.  First he explained that lesbians are all angry because there are no – erm, todgers, in their relationship.  Gay men, however, are very, very happy because they have two.  He then proceeded to tell very insulting jokes about his wife, after introducing her in the audience!  Very interesting evening.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Airplane Tetherball

fischer price airplane My sister, Alfred, and I were very creative with the games we’d play growing up.  Often, we’d make our own version of some toy we wished we had or that our school or church had.  My post about our attempts to bungee jump is one example.  We even made our own tetherball, sort of.

Our shared bedroom had a little alcove in it with a lower-than-average ceiling.  - The alcove I wrote about in Don’t Shoot, I’m Not a Real Princess! – The ceiling was low enough that if I stood on my bed in the alcove, I could touch the ceiling.  The ceiling had a light fixture on it.  A round fixture with a round, bulbous frosted glass cover.  The frosted glass cover was held into the metal fixture by 3 screws.  The screws were evenly placed around the fixture and held the frosted glass cover in place by the pressure the bottom of the screw placed on the cover’s rim.  This meant the screws were not screwed in tight such that there was space between the screw head and the fixture rim.  This is relevant, just wait.

Alfred had a toy airplane.  A plastic, Fisher Price airplane that had little round-hole seats in it for passengers and a pilot.  The plane was rather large, probably about a foot long and a foot in wingspan.  It had wheels and coming off the nose was a long yellow plastic cord so that the plane could be pulled along.

For some reason, we decided this large, heavy, plastic airplane would make a great tetherball.  So we took that yellow pull-cord and tied it to one of the screws on the light fixture.  The cord fit perfectly in that little space between the screw head and the fixture rim.

Then, Alfred stood and I kneeled on my bed and we batted the plane back and forth at each other, ducking to dodge hard swings and smacking it back at the other person.  It was all great fun.

It was all great fun until the one time we were playing with it and the round, bulbous frosted glass fixture broke.  Broken frosted glass all over my bed.  Pooey.  The airplane didn’t hit the glass.   We didn’t really know why it broke.  Even looking back, I’m not sure.  Perhaps the screw with the plane on it was twisted just enough to put too much pressure on the cover’s rim, maybe it was tweaked at an angle that pierced the glass and caused it to shatter, maybe the screw came loose and the cover fell out and hit something on the way down.

I also don’t remember getting in trouble, but I’m sure we must have.  We certainly didn’t play airplane tetherball again.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Open Door is Open for Worship!

open door's first service History was made in Richmond this past Sunday.  It was the first service for Open Door United Methodist Church.  Open Door is a new church with very old roots, born of the merger between El Cerrito United Methodist Church (where I’ve been attending mostly since I moved here) and Good Shepherd United Methodist Church.

El Cerrito UMC was founded with the City of El Cerrito as the home of the first Sunday school in the area.  I don’t know much about the history of Good Shepherd UMC other than that its old letterhead proclaims it to be an Inter-racial community of faith.  That makes me think it was founded sometime in the 60s. 

The Good Shepherd church building, which is now the building for Open Door, is beautiful and was built by the people of Good Shepherd.  It’s two floors, upstairs being the sanctuary and a small office and downstairs being the fellowship hall, kitchen and a small playroom.  It’s a peaceful, rustic wood with stone accents and lots of stained glass windows depicting church stuff and the history of Richmond.  Each side of the sanctuary is floor-to-ceiling clear windows.  To the right, a view overlooking the Bay; to the left, an indoor garden with trees and lots of greenery.

The first service was wonderful; the pews were very full.  The two churches had been worshiping together for awhile already so the faces were all already familiar.  The service began with praising and ended with dancing.

There was one new element introduced today, pew sign-in books.  They’re red books were each person in the pew puts their name, address and email and then checks the appropriate “member,”  “visitor,” etc. box.  My mommy’s church has red pew sign-in books very similar to these.  I was excited.  Munchkinhead and I always enjoy drawing little pictures in the check boxes.  I drew a kitty face today.

The sign-in books will take some adjustment for the congregation.  Lots of people tried to hand the books off to the row behind them instead of passing them back down their own pew.  We’re not used to having things only go down one pew.  Usually, what we’re passing around are clipboards with sign-up sheets for church events and volunteer opportunities.  They start at the front of the church and are passed from there, arriving at the back pews already full. 

I think people will get the hang of the new books soon.  It’s a pretty small adjustment for such a big occasion.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

It’s that Time of Year…

Tomorrow is a very special day.  It’s Mommy and Daddy’s 34th wedding anniversary.  My sisters and I made them a present and they aren’t allowed to open it until tomorrow.  I can’t wait to hear how they like it!  No, no, it’s not snakes in a can that pop out at you.  Though that would be very fun…

the ceremony (5).1 edited for blogI have lots and lots of great memories of spending time with Mommy and Daddy, but some of the best are actually when their squabbling.  Not angry fighting, just old-married-couple bickering. 
(Photo: Mommy and Daddy at their 30th Wedding Anniversary vow renewals.  Daddy doesn’t like his photo online, so I edited it.)

My mommy has this delightful way of saying my Daddy’s name in a manner that seems to say, in one little syllable, “that is totally inappropriate and you should not be doing it and don’t you dare do it again even though I know you will but I still love you dearly anyway.”  It’s adorable and makes me giggle. Makes Daddy laugh, too most of the time.

One of the best things is when they’ve been arguing over something factual that can be checked and the moment when Daddy realizes Mommy was right the whole time and he doesn’t really want to concede that she was right but can’t honestly keep claiming he’s right.  Somehow, those conversations just sort of end and Daddy suddenly has something he needs to do somewhere else.  Though there are the rare occasions where he goes, “ok, ok, you’re right; I was wrong.”  Then he tries to hug Mommy, and she’s still so upset about being told she was wrong to begin with she scowls.  It’s so cute, like little bunny rabbits munching in the garden.

Here’s to plenty more years of nice little squabbles, and plenty of non-squabble moments, too – Happy Anniversary Mommy and Daddy!

Other Posts related to Mommy and Daddy’s Anniversaries:

Mommy and Daddy in love

Their song

The importance of beer in a relationship

Thursday, July 4, 2013

La Cerrito aux Folles

Capture 85 I’m sure there was a time and are some places where 20 Methodist going to see a production of La Cage Aux Folles as a church outing would be quite scandalous.  But, the San Francisco Bay Area in 2013 is not that time or place.  And what a fabulous outing it was!

The churches music director is the music director for Contra Costa Civic Theater’s production of La Cage Aux Folles, which runs through July 21.  Of course we had to go.  We were very excited to find that the band, including the music director on keyboards, is visible through the entire performance on a nice ledge perched over the center back of the stage.

CCCT has outdone itself with two fantastic musicals in a row.  After how amazing Next to Normal was, I was holding my breath a bit, half-expecting La Cage to fall back to the theater’s usual level of so-so musicals.  Instead, I was blown away.  The singing was grand, and the dancing – my goodness, the dancing was absolutely amazing.  All we could talk about after the show (other than the music director, of course) was “where did they find so many amazing male dancers for community theater?!” 

The 5 or 6 gentlemen that played Les Cagettes spent most of the three-hour show leaping, kicking, twirling and tapping in high-heeled mary janes.  The splits, the cheer-leading jumps, the pirouettes, were all jaw-droppingly impressive. 

The show was excellent, and the cast, crew and musicians should all be very proud of themselves.  If I had to give one piece of criticism on the performance it would only be that the woodwind player could use some more practice time with his clarinet.

The story part of the musical was ok.  The plot felt a bit hidden, sort of stuffed into the end as a reason to have all that spectacular dancing.  But I suppose it’s such a classic now, that hardly matters.  If you’re in the East Bay area and can make room in your weekend schedules this month, I’d recommend checking it out.

Side note: My favorite part was Sunday morning when everyone was settling in at church and the music director began playing tunes from the show for the “get ready for church to start” music.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Last of the Three: Book Review of Chasing the Sun

chasing the sun I was finally able to read Kaki Warner’s third book in the Blood Rose Trilogy, Chasing the Sun.  This book focuses on the youngest of the three Wilkins brothers, Jack, and his love affair with a saloon singer from Canada/San Francisco.

This isn’t Warner’s best book in the series, but I still devoured it in about three days.  By the third novel, the reader is pretty familiar with the general plot lines.  Different danger, different bad guys, different lovers, same general outcome.  There’s also now so many characters – all the main characters from the first and second books plus a few more – that the protagonist characters seem to get less depth than their forerunners.

The historical setting is excellent and well-researched, as always.  This novel takes place in the 1870s, after the Panic of 1873 and after the US has stopped using silver to mint coins.  This sets a background for the Wilkins family to encounter some financial issues as their silver mines become nearly worthless and debts they incurred for investments in the mines come due.

A nice surprise and change from the other novels, Chasing the Sun starts out in San Francisco rather than on the Wilkins ranch.  Much to my delight, San Francisco is accurately depicted as a cold and grey place bustling with a wide variety of people crowded into a tiny little space.  The transfer of the main story out to the Wilknis ranch presents a nice comparison between the ranch’s wide open spaces beautiful landscape to the busy city.

My favorite part of this novel was the descriptions of Jack’s travels around the Pacific: Australia, Hawaii and other Pacific Islands.  It’s really neat to think that even nearly 150 years ago, people could still travel the world and come back to their families.

If you’ve read the other books in the Trilogy, Chasing the Sun provides a nice follow-up and a sense of closure with the characters.  If you haven’t read the other books, I’d recommend not picking this one up first.  It’s a bit difficult to understand without background from those books and contains some spoilers.