Archive | December 2014

Christmas Cookies!

Every year at Christmas time, my mom turns our kitchen into a branch of the North Pole and makes batches of cookies the likes of which are not matched on this side of the Mississippi. Every year, she seems to get more creative and has more fun with it all. The cookies get more elaborate, from the classic ginger and molasses cookies, to chocolate thumb prints, to melted snowman cookies. In fact so many are made that we cannot eat them all. So what do we do? We share them!

So this afternoon, in the pouring rain, and aided by my brother driving me places, I delivered bags of cookies to our neighbors and old family friends. I’ve held this job for a few years and always have a blast doing it. Granted, I’d prefer making the deliveries when it isn’t raining, but oh well. It’s one of my favorite things to do. I get to wear a big red coat and deliver cookies to all! I’m not Santa, but hey, I do what I can with it. Merry Christmas all! And to all, a good night.

Family Game Night! Strategy and Bargaining

When all four members of my family, me, my mom, dad, and brother, are all gathered together, we always play some board games, card games, or have some form of friendly competition. Tonight was game night and the game of choice was Settlers of Catan. This game requires serious patience, negotiating skills, and a willingness to renege on previous contracts to win. So basically its the best way to learn how to play the political game. It always takes a few hours, always is filled with hilarious moments, like when it seemed that 6 of 8 consecutive rolls came up 7, which costs people resources and shuts off a production tile, or the funny kibitzing that consistently happens in any game of ours. It was a friendly reminder of all that I love about being home with my family. I’m gonna settle in, as I’ve got a few more weeks of this!

The Hobbit: Dragons, Battle, and Beauty

I love The Lord of the Rings, both the films and the books. Both are masterpieces of their respective media, both tell of glorious heroes, tragic loss, and inspiring sacrifice. The first in the Lord of the Rings cannon was a short book called the Hobbit, which Peter Jackson turned into 3 more movies. The last one was released on December 17, which was right in the middle of my finals week. If I didn’t have a final exam the next day, I would have gone to the midnight premier. But I did not. So I waited until I got home and was with my family. We went to see the movie on Monday night. It gave everything one could expect from a film in the Lord of the Ring universe. There was great battle action, violence, dramatic dialogue, magic, moral arguing, ancient feuds, killing orcs, and funny hobbit scenes in the Shire. The subtitle of this last Hobbit movie was “The Battle of Five Armies”, and that was a very accurate description. Most of the two hour movie was filled with the different phases of the epic battle that included Orcs, Men, Elves, Dwarves, and other mystical beasts. Even for a Lord of the Rings movie, the violence was at times gratuitous, but there was catharsis in a love story, and beautiful friendships formed and tested in the most unlikely of places and ways. This trailer doesn’t capture the full scale of the movie, but it does a pretty good job of it. While I know there are some pieces of the movie that don’t exist in the book and that will annoy purists, I encourage all to see it and me entertained and enthralled by The Hobbit. And yes, there is a dragon that spectacularly burns and destroys a town in the opening sequences of the movie, but there’s more to it than that. Go see it! It is a beautiful demonstration of how isolation destroys the heart, how love hurts, and how beautiful friendship can be. I enjoyed it. I think you will too.

Welcome to The Holiday Inn and to Musical Theatre!

I’ve done and seen many shows. I’ve written about the process of being in one, the memories in them, the lessons to be learned from them, the fun of performing in them, and the joy of my friendships in them. I don’t believe I’ve written about going to see one. Well now I will do that! Sunday night, the Goodspeed Opera House put on a production of Holiday Inn. This is a live stage version of the Irving Berlin musical movie featuring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire from 1942. I haven’t gotten to see the movie version, but the musical version was brilliant. I thoroughly enjoyed it. There was great music, dancing to make me both awed by and envious of the men on stage, clever plot points, brilliantly funny characters, a lively crowd, and everything you could ask for out of a musical. Our seats were close to the stage and off to the right side of the house. It was cool sitting there, because some of the staging used that area for the actors to interact with the audience, so it was so cool to be the people with whom they broke the fourth wall. Here are some highlights from the show.

Seeing a show tends to lift my spirits and make me remember how beautiful the stage is. I’m reminded of all the lessons I learned performing, and how beautiful life can be. True, musicals are an idyllic version of the world, but there is alwasy serious truth in the songs sung and stories told. Ol’ Man River brings out the pain and dreariness that life can have. Some Enchanted Evening tells how beautiful love is and can be. And Defying Gravity challenges us to look beyond our limits and fears. Take an opportunity to listen to show tunes, or watch a musical. I’ve been better for it. I believe many people would be if they chose it too. Watching a musical lifts my spirits. It reminds me to take a chance on my skills and to find my way through. I hope this reminds you to do so too.

Christmas Musical Beauty

Every year at St. Peter Claver Church in West Hartford, my parish, a Christmas Concert is arranged and put on to put people in the holiday spirit. The music director for our parish, Tim Stella, just happens to be the organist for Phantom of the Opera on Broadway (yes, that Phantom on that Broadway). Needless to say the choir gets great training and lessons from Tim. I know, I sang in the choir for one year and performed in this concert. I learned more about singing in that one year than any other stretch of time I’ve ever sang and I’m thankful to Tim for teaching me all he did. I was also thrilled to get to attend the concert and listen to music from the wonderful choir, the talented instrumentalists, our wonderful cantor, Amanda Kohl, Tim’s talented wife Flo, and our supremely talented guest soloist, John Cudia, who happens to have played both Phantom and Jean Valjean on Broadway (no biggie). Here he is shown as the Phantom on Broadway.

The music ranged from beautiful duets, like a version of The Prayer and Gesu Bambino, to spectacular solo performances like O Holy Night, Grown Up Christmas List, and Will There Really be a Morning, to great choral pieces like Do You Hear What I Hear and Light of the Stable, to a comedic version of the 12 Days of Christmas. I did record all of these, but I can’t find a way to put the recordings in the post here. So I found the best versions I could of whatever was out on the worldwide interwebs.

I love the Concert every year and was thrilled that I could go again this year. It got me in the Holiday spirit very well.

Home sweet home

Exams are over, papers are complete, loose ends are tied up, and fun was had. The semester is now complete. Now that my exams are over, I’m back home! Mom got me from Boston this afternoon, and we drove back to West Hartford CT in time to catch dinner with my Dad and Brother. We caught up with them at the Wampanoag Country Club for a nice dinner together. Dinner time conversations are always a fun time. They range from old stories from my parent’s time in college, to political news and jargon, to law stories, to sports updates, to virtually anything else we can think of. I love family time. Especially when it comes over deliciousness like this cheesecake wrapped in caramel and almonds.

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When I got home, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the trees were already decorated. And we decided to stick to the tradition of having a blue Christmas tree. I don’t quite get that tradition but at least it looks nice! I’m gonna enjoy my break!

Take a Breather at the MFA

I’m done! I’m done! I’m done! It’s not quite as good as finishing last semester, but its still a good relief. It was a difficult semester, with a lot of lessons learned, and with a good number of stories to tell. Everything from an increased interest in basketball, both playing and watching, to sweet jobs with WTBU covering games for BU, wherever I can watch them, and doing radio shows with them, to harder schoolwork. I finished my last exam today, and I walked out of it feeling free and relaxed, as the hardest semester so far, mentally at least, came to a conclusion.

So what did I do when the semester ended? I went to the Museum of Fine Arts over near Northeastern University to relax. They have an exhibit now of Francisco Goya’s art. I did not realize how talented and how versatile an artist he is until I saw his work for myself. He was able to do portraits,

pencil sketchings of weird stuff,

Holy images,

and pictures of innocent playing children.

It was a nice way to end a hard semester. I’ll head home tomorrow, and look forward to a nice break, a chance to rest up, and I’ll come back in the next semester rejuvenated and ready to go.