Seven Quick Takes Friday Vol. 22



I hope all my American readers had a Glorious Fourth! (I’m assuming not all of you are Americans…I could be wrong in this) It rained on and off here, which lead to a crazy packed movie theater. My brother, his girlfriend and I went to see Despicable Me 2, because sometimes you need minions in your life.



If you haven’t seen the first one, that’s OK. This isn’t a movie that requires you to have seen the first one, although I do recommend it, just because it’s super-cute.

After the minions, my parents and I had dinner at Max and Erma’s. Nothing quite says the Fourth like a big cheeseburger and a cookie. I finished the day by making a raspberry cream pie and watching 1776: “This is a revolution, damn it! We’re going to offend somebody!”


Today I also have off, so I’m cleaning, cooking, reading, and then going to Act II music tech rehearsal tonight. Music tech is where you just practice the music without costumes, lights, all that stuff. Sometimes it’s called a sitzprobe, but we don’t sit. We block per usual. But the focus is on the music, first and foremost. Also in music tech, we’re working from the top down–meaning the numbers with the biggest number of people, down to the solos. (In a sitzprobe, you sing through the whole show, in order.) So since I’m only in the Finale, I hope that this means short rehearsal for moi. Because tomorrow starts…


Tech week.

Tech week is where all the parts of the show come together: lighting, any special effects, costumes, scenery, music from the pit. Everything at one time. Now, we have really been ahead of the game this year in that we’ve been doing lights, moving scenery and props in and out of the scenes, and even incorporating some costumes, for the past week. So I think it will go more smoothly than tech usually goes for a show of this size. At least I’m hoping so. We start at 9 AM and go until we’re done. People usually bring lots of food so we can fortify ourselves when we’re not on stage. 🙂 I probably won’t be in full costume tomorrow–just some pieces, but will start full costume next week. We’ve got a pretty quick change between “At the End of the Day” and “Lovely Ladies”–just “I Dreamed A Dream” is between them–and the LL costumes are fairly elaborate.


Speaking of LL costumes–yesterday I made my hat! I’ll have pictures up later, but basically I took a star hat frame and added a ribbon, feathers, and a cluster of flowers. It’s so adorable. I love it! Maybe I should’ve been a milliner?


Pope Francis’ first encyclical is out today. Read it here. It’s been called and encyclical written “with four hands”, because B XVI began it, so I’m really interested to read the final result. (Which I will do after this is up) In other church news: two new Saints! Bl. John Paul II and Bl. John XXIII are going to be canonized. Rock on!


Books I read this week: Kisses from Katie; started Jane Austen: A Life In Small Things, and Love Walked In.


Monday and Tuesday are my annual testing-palooza at the resort (AKA Nationwide Children’s). Let the fun begin! I’m sure most of the tests will be fine; I’ve been feeling great. But one never knows.


Seven Quick Takes Friday Vol. 7



OK. Me, being me, we have to start with this. The March for Life is in D.C. today. I’ve never been, but I have a lot of friends who are attending. I pray that they will have a good March and that maybe this year the people in D.C. will listen.

I’m pro-life for a lot of reasons: I’m Catholic, for one. I love kids, for another. But also because I was born in 1982, and my mother could have aborted me. Not that she would’ve, because she loves kids and wanted me rather badly; she and my father had sort of given up on my ever showing up when I was conceived. I was–I am not–a “perfect” human being. I am massively, genetically flawed. I am expensive to keep up. I’ve almost died a lot of times, and I’m pretty sure no parent wants to experience that once, let alone more than once.

Parents have filed “wrongful birth” suits because their child was born with CF. That chills me.  Life is life. And we have  a duty to protect it. Places like this are doing the work of it, and we have to support them.

So, yes, I feel pretty strongly about this, because those babies? They could be me.


Well, OK, we started with the heavy! Whew. But I honesty couldn’t let the MFL go by without commenting on it. It’s the way I’m wired.


T.S. Elliot, famously, said April is the cruelest month. I think January has more right to that than April. Christmas and the holidays are over, the world is full of snow and grey and generally gross (at least in Ohio), you just want to hibernate but you can’t, and you may or may not have failed in your yearly resolutions to do better. The days are longer, but not warmer–yet. And of course January is 31 days. Oh well. I console myself with things like opera and good books.


On the reading list this week: Everyday Divine; Cravings; The Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena, and hopefully finishing Fulton Sheen’s Life of Christ this weekend. I’ve been dipping into this for awhile and it’s time to just finish it. I’ve also been weeding out the library. I only want books that I love and that I read regularly. You don’t meet the criteria, you be going to Half Price Books very soon.


January does have one thing going for it: since it’s cold and gross you can spend time straightening the house and organizing it. So that’s a plus. Right now, that means the library and the basement–two areas that are sort of “undefined” since I moved in over a year ago. The basement is waiting on furniture and c., and better storage units (as in, something beyond the black stacking blocks I used in college). The library is the manifestation of Psalm 23: “My cup overflows {with books}.”


Have I posted library pics here? I can’t remember, so here’s a taste:

One of the library shelves

One of the library shelves

This is OLD so I’m going to have to update these later. Book photography!


Some of you may know I write other places than just here. I write regularly for Suscipio, a Catholic women’s blog. We’re women from all walks of life: students, moms, singles, whatever. The blog is written by a bunch of regular writers and contributors, we have a book club, and all sorts of fun. Here are my last two columns: this one, about the presentation in the temple, and this one, about the finding of Jesus in the temple. (I’m doing a yearlong series on the Mysteries of the Rosary and Faith, since it’s the year of faith. We start the Luminous mysteries next week!)

Adventure! My first Met Opera

Mary (Joyce DiDonato), Act I

Mary (Joyce DiDonato), Act I

OK, I’ve seen Met Operas before; in fact, I won a lot on DVD. But today I saw Maria Stuarda as part of the Met’s “Live in HD” transmission program. It is what is sounds like–a Saturday matinee performance of the opera is beamed to theaters all over the world, LIVE, so we are seeing what the 4,000 some people at the Opera House are seeing and hearing. Since I love Joyce DiDonato, who was singing the title role of Mary, Queen of Scots, I knew I had to see this. This was also the Met’s debut of this Donizetti opera, based on a play by Schiller.

The story of Mary, Queen of Scots, is tragic any way you look at it. Crowned Queen of Scotland at six days old, spirited away to France, where she was engaged to the Dauphin, Francis, she grew up in the French Court and eventually became Queen of France when her father in law died. Sadly, her husband Francis died young, and she went back, alone, to Scotland, to be queen of a nation she hadn’t been in since her birth. Her disastrous second marriage to Henry, Lord Darnley, ended with his murder, and she was imprisoned by her cousin, Elizabeth I, due to her belief (and plotting) that the English throne was rightfully hers, and not Elizabeth’s.

Mary and Leicester , Act I

Mary and Leicester , Act I

She was imprisoned for 10+ years, and yet she still had the power to charm men. Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, was one of her conquests, although nothing came of their relationship. He had once been a suitor for Elizabeth, but was rebuffed, even though she loved him passionately.

Elizabeth eventually signed Mary’s death warrant, and she went to the scaffold after writing both Elizabeth I and her brother-in-law, the King of France; the latter letter was signed, “Mary, Queen of Scots, written at two o’clock in the morning.”

Mary’s story has always ignited debates and art–many books have been written about her, along with movies and plays. This opera continues her legacy. Although the two women never met, the opera, using Schiller’s plot device, gives them a thrilling vocal duel of a meeting which ends Act I (see picture below). Both women speak what they think is the truth–Elizabeth, that Mary is a scheming, proud, husband-killing woman, and Mary, that Elizabeth is a “vile bastard” (vil bastarda, in the libretto) who pollutes the throne of England by sitting on it.

This opera is part of Donizetti’s Tudor Queen triology: Anna Bolena, Maria Stuarda, and Roberto Devereux (which has yet to be staged at the Met. Anna Bolena was staged last year). The music is pure bel canto, with lots of ornamentation and beautiful lines, as well as thrilling effects in both instrument and voice lines.

Elizabeth (L) and Mary in Act I's confrontation scene

Elizabeth (L) and Mary in Act I’s confrontation scene

The cast, led by DiDonato, does this piece more than justice–it brings it to vivid life. I love watching every second of the drama. DiDonato first sang this role with the Houston Grand Opera, and her performance here is superb. Her voice is glorious and perfectly embodies Mary, Queen of Scots, with all her pride, fire, and devotion. Elisabetta (Elizabeth I) is sung by a South African soprano, Elza van der Heever, making her Met Debut in this bel canto, coloratura role. She says in her interview that the director asked her to play the part with some masculine swagger, and she does it very well, not being the staid, regal queen, but almost a ghost of her father, Henry VIII. Her ambivalence about signing Mary’s death warrant, which opens Act II, is superbly done, as is the heartbreak  over Robert’s desertion, which leads her to destroy her rival queen.

And the man in all this? Matthew Polenzani is a glorious Leicester, courting both Mary and Elizabeth, but Elizabeth is out of duty, while passion is with Mary. He was a slippery historical character whose main goal was to be King, and neither woman would give him that, in the end. His wife, Amy Dudley, died under mysterious circumstances, and this is what led to the final end to his romantic relationship with Elizabeth. But he is still the courtier born, and is able to manipulate the Virgin Queen’s heart, and arrange a meeting with Mary. But Elizabeth, upon seeing her rival, cannot give in to mercy, and heaps abuse upon Mary’s head, until Mary can bear no more. Polenzani’s voice is like butter, and an utter delight to hear.

I was amazed at the clarity of the production, both in sound and picture; we could see every detail on the sumptuous, perfectly period costumes, and truly enjoy them (even the chorus members had beautiful gowns and suits to wear!). The staging is very dark–either red or shades of black and grey–which suits the serious tone of the opera. Highlights were: the confrontation scene; Mary’s first aria, where she dreams of her French childhood; Elizabeth and Leicester’s first act duet, where he begs the queen to meet with Mary; Mary’s confession to Talbot, her ‘jailer’ but also sympathizer and champion, where she admits the mistakes she’s made in her life, and the final twenty minutes, where Mary prays with her Catholic household, consoles Leicester, who is brokenhearted at her death, and is lead by Hannah, her faithful lady in waiting, up the steps to the scaffold. Truly emotional opera. DiDonato even looked like she was trying not to cry at her first curtain call!

It is a brilliant production and the story of the tragic queen is well told, with finesse and elegance. I’m sure it will be available on DVD before the end of the year, and do try to see it. It’s a short opera–about three hours (with an intermission), so it’s not bad time-wise. I can’t wait to see more of these transmissions, and hopefully make it to the Met soon to see an actual live production in the house.

Thanksgiving 2012

Happy belated Thanksgiving to all of you!
This month’s big adventure–so far–was Making The Turkey.

Now this wasn’t a whole turkey–it was just the five of us for Turkey Day. So I made a turkey breast–6 lbs. I had been lusting over a recipe for Turkey breast with rosemary, leeks and apples in a Pampered Chef cookbook since I was a teenager, so getting to make it was a culinary dream come true.

Turkey Prep–Apples, onions (in place of leeks), seasonings


The Bird

Ready to Eat! (Also made the gravy to the right)


The store didn’t have leeks so we made do with onions. You slice the onions and apples into rings and place them at the bottom of the roasting pan. Set the turkey ontop. Brush the turkey with olive oil, then sprinkle dried rosemary over the bird. Roast in a 350 degree oven for 1 hr 50 minutes to 2 hrs 20 minutes. I think we went a bit longer than that, but it was delicious and juicy and the skin, holy jiminy. The skin was incredible.

Yesterday I saw some old friends who were in town for Turkey Day, and got to meet some adorable kidlets that I hadn’t met yet, namely:

P and his Dad

This little guy, whose Dad I’ve known since high school, and

Me and Evie

This adorable babe, who is a little over a month old. I’ve known her dad since the first day of high school–we were in French I together–so, 16 years. I was in his wedding and am also good friends with his wife, who is a medical genius (she’s going to be an OB). This is their first kid and she’s precious!

It’s amazing and baffling to think that the people I met back in high school are still my friends, and are getting married and having babies. Wow. But the kids are truly adorable and a lot of fun.











Day 26: Fairy Tale References in Popular Culture

As well as adaptations and re-tellings:

  • ABC’s Once Upon A Time uses characters from the Disney canon–not necessarily all fairy-tale characters (Mulan and Lancelot, for example)–and places them in the modern world. So far, some of the characters are: Belle, Rumplestiltskin (even though, to the best of my knowledge, he hasn’t shown up in a Disney movie) , Snow White and her stepmother, and her prince; Pinnochio and his father, Geppetto, and Jiminy Cricket; Maleficient; Cinderella; Captain Hook; The Mad Hatter and the Queen of Hearts; Hansel and Gretel; Aladdin’s genie; the Magic Mirror.
  • Disney’s Lilo and Stitch references Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling to illustrate how lost Stitch, as an alien being, feels on Earth among humans.
  • Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Into the Woods has been referenced many times in this series. The stories they use are: Jack and the Beanstalk; the Grimm Brother’s Cinderella; Rapunzel; Little Red Riding Hood; and Sleeping Beauty and Snow White (tangentially). The stories are tied together using the characters of a Baker and His Wife. The Baker is actually Rapunzel’s brother, and the Witch in the story is the one who took Rapunzel from her parents after the baker’s father stole the greens from her garden. The first act covers the stories as we know them; the second part covers “what happens after the stories ended?”
  • The British film The Red Shoes uses Andersen’s story and sets it in the world of ballet.
  • Sleeping Beauty became one of the greatest ballets of all time after its premiere in Imperial Russia in the 19th century. Music by Peter I. Tchaikovsky and choreography by Petipa. The role of Princess Aurora and the Lilac Fairy are highly coveted in the dance world.
  • The film Ever After retells Cinderella as if the characters were real people in 17th century France.
  • Shrek uses many fairy tale characters, including Puss-In-Boots, a Fairy Godmother, Snow White and the Dwarves, Pinnochio, and fairies.
  • The Steadfast Tin Soldier is a part of Disney’s Fantasia 2000.
  • Thumbelina was made into an animated motion picture in the 1990s.
  • The Emperor’s New Clothes  was spoofed, in a sense, by Disney’s The Emperor’s New Groove.
  • The Princess and the Pea inspired the musical Once Upon A Mattress.
  • Cinderella has seen several versions in opera: Cendrillion, by Massenet, as well as a version by Rossini.
  • Joyce DiDonato as Cinderella at the Royal Opera House

  • Hansel and Gretel is also an opera, popularly performed during the holiday season as a “family” selection, since it’s in English and involves creative and funny costumes (like actors dressed up as fish in ties and tails!)

Man as fish! And scary cooks

  • The opera Rulsalka plays off Andersen’s Little Mermaid, but uses the Slavic idea of merwomen who lure men to their deaths with their music and tempting appearance  Rusalka, like the Little Mermaid, falls in love with a prince and wants to become human. She also fails in getting him to marry her, and returns to her watery world, but the prince commits suicide in order to be with her.
  • Renee Fleming as Rusalka, making her deal with the Witch