Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Update

1. Pumpkin guts stink.

 2. At the gym this morning, the little park district pre-schoolers in their costumes paraded in and the whole place, all the treadmillers and weighlifters and slow-biking-People-readers (that's me) burst into applause. Too sweet for words, but I really teared up when I saw the boy wearing our elf costume. I bought that little red and green outfit with real jingle bells on the felt shoes and hat for Christmas 2006 but it failed to make the holiday card that year (see above for one of the sad outtakes - has there ever been a poutier pic?) The girls had both long outgrown it and Nora put it on one last time in December last year for fun but I couldn't part with it until this September at our school Halloween costume exchange.

The piles of cute donated costumes on tables on the playground after school were a huge hit with parents and kids, somebody even donated a gray shark outfit, but in the whirlwind of grabbing and trying on, I didn't get a chance to see who took the elf. Now I know Elfie has a new home and a new life and it does my heart good.

3. FYI to my friends and colleagues: I will not be "participating" in "Daylight Savings" this year. Just expect me an hour late or an hour early or whatever the heck it is because I can't I can't I can't handle both the cold AND the dark this time around. The cruel farce that ANYONE benefits from taking away our afternoons feels sadistic today. I'll see you in the spring. If you want me after this weekend, I'll be huddled under a blanket, staring at my full spectrum therapy lamp.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Once and A Year

A double dose of musical theater this weekend and what riches we enjoyed!

The shows A Year With Frog and Toad and Once collected fourteen Tony nominations between them; both tell poignant stories of deep love between close friends. That the two best friends in Chicago Children's Theater's production happen to be amphibians who speak in the most simple prose does not lesson the depth of their devotion nor the breadth of their charm. Arnold Lobel's wise stories have been adapted and set to music by the brothers Robert and Willie Reale, who mine the source material for humor as well as moments of sweetness. Toad, the more impetuous of the pair, gets huge laughs responding "Bleh!" to the hibernation wake-up calls of his friend and yelling "Grow!" at his newly planted seeds.

I was happy to see my favorite of Lobel's stories on the stage and entranced by the soft shoe dance moves that were perfection in their simplicity and grace. Good friends need little more than each other and less is more in this production. Pared down prose becomes poetry ("When you are sad, I am sad. That is how we are...") and all is well.

The beloved indie film Once has a minimalist charm of its own, with its handheld camera shots of first time actors on the streets of Dublin. The story is a slip of a thing, five days in the life of a busker and a house cleaner, young and unnamed, who decide to make a demo tape together and almost become involved. Any fan of the film would enter the Broadwayified show with trepidation, but have no fear; all of the music remains and a new kind of magic is forged.

What makes the production stand on its own merits separate from the film is the creative staging -- a single set of an Irish pub that transforms into a music store, a cramped bedroom, a beach at dawn, through movement, suggestion and our imagination. The naturalism begins even before the show starts, when the audience is invited on stage to buy beer and wine from the bar. A piano is rolled out by stagehands and a crowd of unmiked musicians begin what appears to be an impromptu concert of Irish and Czech folk songs, culminating in a heartbreaking acappella rendition of "On Raglan Road."

The Broadway-style emoting from the pretty leads of Once at the Oriental Theater did leave me missing Glen Hansard's quiet charisma and Marketa Irglova's honesty and lack of guile. But you can't deny the gorgeousness of the songs nor the copious talent that makes them come alive onstage. The entire ensemble sings and plays and acts with such skill that their instruments become extensions of their characters - the passionate violinist, the banker-with-a-dream cellist, the animalistic drummer -- well, come to think of it, those are pretty stock characters, but they are vivid and new when they play these well-known songs with invention and love. While "Falling Softly" is treated with kid gloves, the song "Gold" has been reimagined from a few measures in the film into the beating, glowing heart of the show. A beautiful show.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Frenzy Baking, Year 4

You know me, you know I'm a pie girl. Cakes just ain't my thing. But fall carnival season rolls around again and you know, it's for the kids. So. Pull out Joy of Cooking, wash yo hands! and make another Blitz Torte (that's "Lightning Cake" for how quick you can throw it together) with Chocolate Satin icing. What do you think? I think it's too tiny to entice a cake walk winner but whoever walks away with my little darling will love that first bite.

 Adorably homemade or a craptastic hot mess? Needs more candy.

This was my first try. I used the high rounded pan that we got from Miette in the Ferry Building in San Fran last summer, thinking a four by four inch pan would bake as fast as in a 8" by 2" pan. Nope. Molten disaster. I rebaked this, threw on the extra icing from Round Two above and Mia ate it for breakfast.

Previous Frenzy Baking Fun:

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Autumn Soundtrack

Pure joy. "I'm alive!" (Thanks, Julie.)

And if we're going to go there, we must go HERE:

And surprise! (Thanks, Jessica.)

(Thanks, Brent):

And there's the line and Win Butler's wailing of it: "We remember our bedrooms and our parent's bedrooms and the bedrooms of our friends!" that calls to me something about childhood and remembering and distance and longing and oh I can't explain it, you have to listen, the song does the taking for me.

And finally, there is always the letter.

This Is Water

David Foster Wallace giving the commencement address at Kenyon College in 2005. The full text can be found here.

For me, the most essential part is this:

"...If you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down. Not that that mystical stuff is necessarily true. The only thing that's capital-T True is that you get to decide how you're gonna try to see it. This, I submit, is the freedom of a real education, of learning how to be well-adjusted. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn't."

Wallace's sacred option is the one I choose. To stop, take a breath and see again this world and everyone in it glowing with the fire of love and the miracle that we are here, together.