Ah, Nutcracker….

In costume for Trepek with one of the other guest performers

There was a time when I barely gave the ballet, “Nutcracker”, little if any thought. I mean, I appreciated it as a holiday tradition and I remember the year my nephew was old enough to attend. They were in Houston so of course it was a highly professional performance and my sister still fondly recalls the event. It is indeed a great way to introduce a child to ballet with the wonderful array of characters and the variety of dance. Since son has been in the dance world I have come to more appreciate the other value of Nutcracker.

It is the money-maker for a lot of studios, but set that aside for the moment.What I’ve learned is that as a private studio grows, it’s expansion can be related to the quality of the Nutcracker performances. Can it be held in some sort of theater? Can they bring in one or more professional dancers to ply thea key roles? If so, these two points can be used in advertising their ballet programs.

The performing company our son dances with ends their fall season early enough in November to allow the dancers to take on guest roles for those studios who can bring in professionals. Since he does the Russian Dance so well, that has been a staple for him although he’s done many of the other parts, too. His first real contract was to perform the Russian Dance with the Delta Festival Ballet in New Orleans. Several years ago I put together a family trip to see him and it may be  time to do so again. They almost always schedule their Nutcracker for the weekend before Christmas which means like this year, he will be flying home Christmas Eve. It will be his third performance of the season (one Christmas Carol and two Nutcrackers) and this is why we don’t bring them for Christmas. Since rehearsals and sometimes an extra performance begins right after Thanksgiving, they are generally exhausted by the time the last one is over. The couple of days of rest before we fly them in gives them all a chance to catch their breath.

Decorating For Christmas…..

We keep our decorations up until after Three Kings Day, 6 January

I do and always have appreciated people who go out of their way to decorate for the holidays. By the way, that does not mean I like having Christmas items in the stores next to Halloween, but that’s not the point of this post. I’m fine with using Thanksgiving weekend for decorating, although we rarely start before the second week of December. We’re pretty modest in our efforts, especially compared to those who have all sorts of outdoor lights and displays. Back when we had a spare artificial tree, we did put one on the front entrance. When that one finally became rather ragged-looking, we didn’t replace it and Hubby decided he wanted to swap to a live tree in the house. We do also have a cute table top “Cajun Tree” given to us years ago by my sister-in-law. It has miniature alligators, crawfish, and bottles of Tabasco as ornaments and there have been a couple of times it was our main tree if we travel over the holidays.

Having room to store a lot of decorations is one issue. More to the point though is having to rearrange so much stuff to make room is one of the real reasons I limit what we do. The other is I’m fine with taking a few hours to get everything up. Spending at least a day and maybe longer for the elaborate lights, etc.,. isn’t anything we want to deal with. During the many moves we made in the Army, Hubby’s final assignment was in Puerto Rico and that was where we learned about Three King’s Day (Jan 6th). It’s a very big holiday throughout the Caribbean, Central and South America and that became our new point for leaving decorations in place. I do admit if we had the space (as does my sister), I would have multiple small trees so I could do themed decorations for each one. We’ve put together quite the collection of scuba, ocean-themed and tropical ornaments and that’s generally what winds up on the tree.

Hubby was scheduled to teach a scuba course today and his student had to cancel so top of his to-do list is going in search of a tree at one of the places where it is also a fund raiser. Sometimes they sell out early, but that’s where he likes to start.

 

Friends Gathered Around….

Despite our efforts to gather “loose” friends for Thanksgiving, I just found out we missed one. It was a situation where both individuals had to work, but their schedules were such they couldn’t celebrate together and I didn’t realize that or we would have certainly issued the invitation. We did have a lovely dinner though with a beautiful fried turkey and all the trimmings you could ask for. I really have to get the recipe for those sweet potatoes au gratin. Which brings up an interesting point. Later, when we were down to four, we were talking about the sweet potatoes and it turned out none of us like the sweet potato casserole topped with marsh mellows. Hubby and I prefer strictly savory, and one person prefers pecan and brown sugar topping. Oh, and speaking of toppings, I was successful in doing the low-carb green bean dish only to discover Hubby really wanted the traditional. I have leftovers though and will get some of the famous crunchy onion topping and make him a special dish.

I have two friends who couldn’t attend and I will be delivering leftovers tomorrow to each of them. I will be sure to make turkey soup this coming week. Last year after Christmas, I messed up, didn’t get to the soup in time and therefore wasted a lovely turkey carcass. I haven’t decided yet on the final turkey dish, but there are several we enjoy. Pot pie is always easy of course.

Although rain had been threatened, it held off and we were able to dine outside. With more than six, it’s our best option and we can fit up to ten at that table. It’s a bit tight and does work better with eight. We can set up for more inside, but it requires rearranging furniture and is a bit of a pain.

Reminder of Holiday Emotions….

It’s been a while since I posted about this and I was in a conversation the other day with a friend when the topic came up. I do enjoy the holidays (especially after the cleaning lady has been here to help prep) and try to keep them from being too hectic. My success rate for that one is up for debate, but we always manage to get through them fairly intact.

The sad fact though is holidays can be extremely difficult emotionally for people who have suffered the loss of a loved one, economic set-backs, a relationship that has come apart, family estrangement, and numerous other problems. In most cases, reaching out to the individual is absolutely the right thing to do. Your offer might be declined and that’s when it can get a little tricky. The initial “no” could be for several reasons. The temptation is often to try to urge with the, “You really don’t want to be alone, do you?”; or “Come on, it will be good for you.” Notwithstanding good intentions, it’s hard to know when to press and when to back away. What I tend to do is say something like, “I understand and we’d love to have you, so consider it an open invitation if you change your mind.”

It has been a long time since I’ve spent a holiday alone and back in the day it was a mixed bag of when I really was okay with being alone and when I appreciated being included in others’ celebration. In any case, I hope all of you have a Happy Thanksgiving in whatever form that takes.

Not Exactly Bucket List….

It’s NASCAR Championship weekend again which means the largest influx of tourists we have at one time every year. (As in thousands) Helicopters buzz in and out to bring VIPs directly into the Speedway. The truck championship is tonight, the Xfinity Car is tomorrow night, (I think it’s a night race), and the Monster Energy is Sunday afternoon. As I have previously posted, I did go with Hubby to the races twice and then gently and lovingly explained to him that now having had the experience, it really would make more sense for me not to go. He loves everything about it – the pre-race events, the entire race, and so forth. By this, I mean getting to the Speedway at like 10:00ish in the morning and staying until the race is over. He simply can’t have as good a time if I am with him. I have something good to eat for when he comes in and we both enjoy our weekend more. The past few years, he’s taken photographs for the newspaper and for his own pleasure.

This year is special though. The newspaper arranged for him to have actual press credentials which are much more tightly controlled for this weekend than for the rest of the year. This allows him access he normally can’t have and it’s perfect for him. He has all these new lenses and what have you and is even planning to have a second camera with him for tomorrow and Sunday. Quite honestly, I don’t know how he lugs all that around at one time for hours on end, but it’s part of the whole deal. As we discussed this morning, it’s a “bucket list” type thing even if he doesn’t have the $10,000 camera lens to go with it.

Well, There Was This One Time….

With Veteran’s Day approaching, I was invited to speak to a group on Wed about my “Inadvertent Pioneering” time in the Army. I am usually asked about why I haven’t written my memoirs yet. I think I’ve mentioned in previous posts it isn’t time for me to do that yet. I do capture bits and pieces and occasionally do a post here about different incidents. One amusing vignette had to do with the .45 pistol I had when I was in command of a large unit at Fort Campbell, KY (I think I’ve posted about that.) For those who aren’t familiar with the .45, it’s the same pistol you see in war movies from WW II through Vietnam. It was replaced with the 9 mm. Anyway, for reasons that aren’t terribly important, an individual convinced me I should be able to field strip and reassemble my pistol with my eyes closed and I ought to be able to do this in under 1 minute. I decided to develop this skill and so, when I was at my desk with enough spare time, I would check my pistol out of the arms room and work on this. As usual in the office configuration, my First Sergeant and clerk were in the outer office that led into mine. They became accustomed to this and the First Sergeant would time me.

At this point, the fact that I had one of the largest company-sized units at Fort Campbell and was the first female to do so was still somewhat of a curiosity. One day I was going through the pistol field strip and reassemble with my eyes closed. I called, “Time?” to my First Sergeant and opened my eyes to see one of the other company commanders from a different unit standing in my doorway. “There was no way I wanted to interrupt you,” the visitor said. (I was under a minute by the way). The gentleman had come to introduce himself because our units did have occasional interactions, but it was fairly obvious what he was really doing was checking out the “female” aspect as much as anything. It wasn’t a bad first impression to make.

Back and In A Whirl…..

The trip home went fairly well until close to the end when a wreck slowed traffic to a crawl and rain pounded for a while. Both situations were manageable and we literally swung into the house to drop bags off, then went to catch the last hour of early voting and proceeded to the annual Rib Fest. The organization, This Is For The Kids, does the Rib Fest and it was founded by a local man who was also later elected to City Council. Each year in leading up to the Fest, they ask for nominations of non-profits that focus on children. It has grown over the years and I ordinarily cannot attend because it’s usually held the same weekend that I travel to Louisiana. That’s how it was scheduled, but it was another of the events re-scheduled due to Hurricane Irma. We didn’t stay long, although did bring ribs and roasted corn home for dinner. In fact, since we wanted to sample from all three rib places, we had leftovers we enjoyed last night as well.

Sunday was a totally full day with yet another rescheduled event, the one-man play “Gospel of Mark”, at the Seminole Theatre. It was first done in the Middle Ages when the all-powerful Church felt religious plays were what the populous needed. The drama of this particular play was such that it actually provided a degree of entertainment and inadvertently laid the foundation for modern theater as we know it. The way it was explained to me is because plays began to be “too secular” and the Church sent them beyond their walls. With less restraint, religious themes gave way to others. This play endured as a piece of theater history and has been done on Broadway and in London by notable actors such as David Suchet, who played Inspector Poirot in several movies and the television series.

I have my usual commitments to take care of and am helping out a friend who is in the hospital so not much downtime is planned for the next few days.

October Trip, Headed Home……..

I guess you never really know when coincidence will strike, or perhaps yesterday was another of those “meant to be moments”. I mentioned before I was taking a later than usual flight on the Shreveport to Atlanta leg. I woke up early as always though and in arriving early at the airport, I thought, well, I’ll see if I can get on the other flight, not expecting to have any success. The gentleman checking me in said he didn’t think I could, but he would send the bag up and I should talk to the young lady on the desk. I waited until everyone had gone into the jetway and she smilingly said he’d called her and she had only one seat left in the back of the plane. That was fine.

I proceeded on board and sat next to a woman, who as it turned out had never flown before. It does help to have an experienced flier in such cases although she wasn’t as anxious as one of the other passengers who was across the aisle seemed to be. If you’ve never been through Atlanta airport, it is huge,  with multiple terminals and an excellent train system, but it can be quite confusing your first time there. When I learned the woman had only 47 minutes to catch her connecting flight, I was concerned. That was 47 minutes before the next flight left, not boarded. Atlanta is a good airport, but not for tight connections. Then we were delayed in departure by more than 30 minutes, which is highly unusual for Shreveport. I alerted the attendant to the situation and she said several people had tight connections with the extra delay. She gave everyone their gate information and I told the woman next to me as soon as we touched down, I would check her flight status and perhaps that flight was going to be delayed as well. It wasn’t. There were four other afternoon flights to her destination though. The attendant did explain the connection issue to the passengers as we landed (small plane with 24 on board) and asked if those who could wait would allow the rest of us to deplane first. Since I had plenty of time, I told my seatmate I would go with her and make sure she was taken care of. Fortunately, we did come into the same terminal and were only six gates apart. She could walk faster than me and I told her to go ahead and I’d come along just to check on her. Her connecting flight was on another, larger jet, so they did have about another fifteen passengers in line when she arrived. It was nice she didn’t have to go through the hassle of being re-booked and I hope the second flight went well for her.

October Trip, Day 3……

Okay, I generally post only about my trips in these situations, but I am going to deviate from that. It was a good day visiting with my dad and sister. On the other hand, after the longest gap since 1997, my new novel, To Play on Grass Fields, is out. I need to explain about this book though. It is very different from any of my others. As I mention on the website, it is darker, more intense, and has a strong political tone. The easiest way to explain it is if you ever read and enjoyed Atlas Shrugged, you should be okay. That is not to say it is anywhere nearly as long or has the making of a classic, but merely to give an idea of what it is like.

I developed the idea for the book more than twenty years ago when I was in Haiti for Operation Uphold Democracy in the waning months of my career. I retired soon after returning from that deployment in a coincidence of timing, not because of. The position I held while in Haiti gave me insight into some discussions I would not have ordinarily had. Those conversations and my own observations stayed with me and I struggled with how to articulate what I wanted to present in the book. Now, as with most novels, while there are absolutely true elements woven in, it is written for drama with what is referred to as “literary license”. Therefore, revelation about the incident in the Caribbean should not be taken as literal.

If this book does not appeal to you, don’t worry. I do intend to have Shades of Deception, the new scuba-themed novel out in Jan or Feb. If I can ever figure out one more sub-plot to Small Town Quilting Treasures, I will have that out next summer.

Oh, I did have my catfish meal which is a “must” when I come back to Louisiana.

Sorry, I was going to upload the cover of the book, but am having computer issues. (That will ne explained in my next post.)

When You Don’t Have Galleries…..

Pink Mangroves by Mimi Dickson

I was an infant in the first town we lived in, but it was the third one I can remember that was large enough (and that wasn’t huge) to have an art gallery or two. As it turns out, there are more there now although that isn’t the actual subject of this post. People who come to Homestead are a bit startled to see we have no galleries. There were some and during the real estate bust, a number of properties closed or changed hands and one of the impacts was to lose the galleries. Notwithstanding the fact I do buy lottery tickets, we still haven’t found that individual with a couple of million dollars to come in and open a gallery. It is difficult for local artists and in response, one of the Council members established an “Artist in the Spotlight” Program several years ago. An artist is selected and has a two-month exhibition. It was hosted by the Community Center which is a nice facility. After the historic Seminole Theatre re-opened, they installed a very nice hanging system and the exhibits are held there. A number of artists in Homestead Center for the Arts have been featured, and in fact, we will have three in a row spanning August through January. (The painting in here is currently on display.)

One of the excellent restaurants I’ve posted about (Chefs on the Run) has always displayed local art and as of last week, the Capri Restaurant (which also has Pub 935) joined in. The back room, known as the Gallery Room, had photographs and paintings, and I had noticed they seem to have been there for quite some time. We engaged in a discussion and I had not realized the owner’s mother had been one of the founding members of the Homestead Art Club. The Art Club had declined due to different factors and one of the HCA members revived it a few months ago. Membership is flourishing and they have now entered a partnership to display art and have a new exhibit every three months. Neither of these options is ideal as the artist has to be contacted for a sale and that reduces the chance for “impulse buys”. On the other hand, their work is  displayed to the public and they can take pride in seeing it. And yes, sales do get made. By the way, if you do happen to know of anyone looking to open an art gallery, this could be the place.