I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw him bending over the bath. I'd never seen anything so big. . .
Monday, October 31, 2011
Thursday, October 27, 2011
The good news from the garden is that the possible early frost or hard rain I feared would destroy my blooms never arrived, which means I have more photos to share. I had forgotten to show you those dainty darlings, the hardy cyclamens, now floating like tiny lavender ballerinas above their variegated leaves. Here is some information about them from Ed Hume, the Northwest's most beloved garden expert.
The roses continue to open, as do the mums. It isn't over yet. In fact, even as I write this I see the sky clearing off and the autumn sun brightening every color in my landscape. Who knows what the next few days will bring? Not even the weather forecasts can be sure. But you can be sure of one thing; this day is a day in your life. Are you living it to the fullest and noticing the beauty of your surroundings? I hope so.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
But this week, my husband and I spent some happy hours in our Tacoma garden, trimming and weeding, and saying goodbye to the blooms we've nurtured through a too-short summer that turned into fall. Today I want to share some photos taken that day. I know I will return to look at them in a few weeks, when November wind and rain have stripped the trees bare and my plants lie in repose under blankets of mulch. Enjoy!
All photos by Candace Brown Copyright Candace Brown 2010
Friday, October 21, 2011
It's a good thing my husband drove us home to Tacoma from Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre Thursday night, because my mind was not on the road. It took me the whole trip and part of today, to absorb and analyze my impressions of the new musical "Saving Aimee." It's an aural and visual feast, the result of a rich combination of talents both on and off stage. But in addition to great music, acting, and humor, it also gives you plenty to think about.
I'd been curious to see how the story of controversial female evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson (1890-1944), would translate into a musical. The production satisfied my curiosity in surprising ways, and it introduced me to an influential character from history, one I didn't know about. By now, she's almost forgotten. But not for long.
"Saving Aimee" tells how McPherson came from a humble background only to acquire fame, fortune, and a huge following, as the first evangelist preacher to move religion into the Hollywood arena, turning it into show business. She designed the template future televangelists would follow. A strong, dynamic, and fascinating public figure, McPherson seemed the embodiment of contradiction. She was a true believer who, it was claimed, healed the sick, and she definitely gave much of her wealth to the poor and disenfranchised. And yet she also left an apparently loving husband, and could not have had much time for her two children during her rise to stardom.
McPherson founded the Foursquare Church, a Pentecostal denomination now having a presence in about 140 countries around the globe. The grand Angeles Temple she designed and opened in Los Angeles held 5,300 people and would fill to capacity, leaving others waiting to get inside. Her religious services equalled theatrical productions, complete with all the drama, costumes, scenery, music and props (including live animals) that exemplified the glamour of Hollywood at the time. To serve the needs of this extravaganza, she wrote 13 opera and 175 songs. McPherson broke new ground as the first woman to preach over the airwaves and started her own radio show as well as the L.I.F.E. Bible College.
McPherson became a media sensation for her dramatic preaching, faith healing, romantic life, and the controversy surrounding her claim of being kidnapped, when she disappeared for about a month in 1926. Many people thought she fabricated this story to cover rumors of an affair. She also became addicted to prescription drugs and suffered a nervous breakdown. This musical portrays McPherson sympathetically, as a victim of the press. But anecdotes from those who knew her, or lived during those time, offer views of a complex personality with moral strengths and weaknesses.
Part of my curiosity about how this character's story would come across had to do with religion. "Saving Aimee" is not out to save souls, although I'm not saying it's impossible that someone eager to be saved might not have been affected that way. Certainly the cleverly designed stage set that features tall staircases running up each side and culminates in a towering pulpit, and the brilliant spotlight that makes "Sister Aimee's" white gown take on a heavenly glow, could send shivers down the spines of the repentant. Instead of preaching though, the musical examines what drives us, human frailty, and the complicated nature of many peoples' lives. It presents those aspects of organized religion that can totally captivate some of us and make others of us squirm. Set in a time of extremes, with a fragile affluence that would soon crash along with the stock market, it felt relevant to the economically, politically, and theologically divided America we live in today.
The show comes along as yet another totally new musical produced by The 5th Avenue Theatre, one of ten in the past 11 years, four of which have gone on to Broadway and two of which won Tony Awards. Pretty impressive. No wonder Seattle, along with New York and Chicago, ranks among the top three cities in America for musical theater. The enthusiastic crowd that night seemed to prove the point of The 5th's mission to offer Seattle audiences only the highest quality productions. This one brings together a fine bunch of songs powerfully delivered, characters you'll always remember, and a set designed with mulitple functions that allowed scenes to flow smoothly from one to another. Let's hear it for the stage and lighting crews. Sometimes the action moved right out into, or came from the audience. At one point, a huge golden cloth billows out over the seats for a dramatic effect you'll have to see in context to understand.
Well-known TV personality, Kathie Lee Gifford, wrote the book, lyrics, and some of the music for "Saving Aimee." She says she was inspired by, and eventually obsessed by, the life story of McPherson, referring to her as "the most famous woman you've never heard of." With music by composers David Pomeranz and David Friedman, plus inspired direction from the theater's own Executive Director and Artistic Director David Armstrong, it certainly comes with great credentials. Quite a number of seats on Thursday's opening night were occupied by people from New York's musical theater scene, as were some of the roles.
I can't offer enough praise for actress Carolee Carmello, who played Aimee. She has appeared in ten Broadway shows, a number of Off-Broadway shows, television productions, touring productions, and more and it's easy to see why. In my opinion, she nailed it. Her strong singing voice, charisma, and fine acting abilities brought the character to life.
Other members of the cast with Broadway experience were Ed Watts (as Robert Semple and David Hutton) and Roz Ryan (as Emma Jo.) Exceptional local talent included Judy Kaye (as Minnie, Aimee's mother), Brandon O'Neill (as McPherson and Ormiston), Ed Dixon (as Aimee's father James and preacher Brother Bob), Charles Leggett ( as Asa Keyes) plus the 14 members of the ensemble. All did outstanding jobs. I saw some familiar faces and expect to watch the careers of many of these artists continue to advance within the field of creative energy this theater generates. But their talent is only part of the reason the audience rose for a standing ovation at the end. I applauded the orchestra, choreography, stage sets, lighting, costumes, hair and makeup, and everyone else who contributed too. As always, they each added layers of rich emotion and realistic texture to the experience.
Whether or not "Saving Aimee" represented McPherson accurately, or the way you personally think it should have, you still feel the power of this grand old theater and those who call it home. What overwhelmed me, and what I still pondered as I went to bed about 1 a.m., was how to adequately describe the magic that results when the creative efforts of so many, many people, on and off the stage, combine in perfect harmony.
For those of you who might view the arts as less than vital to the health of a society, please open your eyes. Give yourself the opportunity to discover this fine example of teamwork, where the contributions of all matter equally, and where everyone believes in giving their best effort toward a common goal. That kind of energy and focus contains a power that makes magic happen, whether in a show or a society. We need creative people to solve all kinds of problems. Art nurtures creativity.
No place ever felt like a more perfect setting for magic than The 5th Avenue Theatre. When I had the opportunity to interview David Armstrong a few months ago, he said to me, "The magic of the show happens where the energy of the audience and the energy of the performers meet. You just feel completely drawn in and you can lose yourself entirely in the experience on the stage." Give it a try. Feel uplifted.
"Saving Aimee" closes on October 29, so don't miss your chance to see the West Coast debut of a show people will be talking about. You can order tickets here: BOX OFFICE
Congratulations to everyone involved.
Thursday, October 20, 2011
England during the lifetime of the author Jane Austen (1775-1817) might seem as distant as a dream, but you can experience a sense of her world this weekend by driving a short distance from Tacoma or elsewhere in Western Washington. Come celebrate the romance of the era through an author event featuring a live dance performance by Nonesuch, a Seattle area English Country Dance ensemble.
On Saturday October 22, at 2 p.m., the Barnes and Noble book store at Alderwood Mall in Lynnwood (link has directions) will sponsor a release and signing of "Jane Austen Made Me Do It" which happens to be written by one of Barnes and Noble's own booksellers named Laurel Ann Nattress. With a self-explanatory subtitle of "Original Stories Inspired by Literature's Most Astute Observer of the Human Heart," it sounds intriguing. If you just can't wait, I offer this link so you can order it right now.
Quoting from the Barnes and Noble website, the biographical information for Ms. Nattress reads as follows: "A life-long acolyte of Jane Austen, Laurel Ann Nattress is the author/editor of Austenprose.com, a blog devoted to the oeuvre of her favorite author and the many books and movies that she has inspired. Nattress is a lifetime member of the Jane Austen Society of North America and a regular contributor to the PBS blog Remotely Connected."
The dance ensemble's Artistic Director Victoria Bestock said, "We are 14 dancers and three musicians who perform English Country Dance. We willl be in costume and have live music and will do about a 20-25 minute performance of dances Jane Austen would have done." Following that performance, the members of Nonesuch will involve the audience in a 40-45 minute lesson, teaching the basics of their specialty through a dance Bestock says is "very easy."
She also mentioned that many people attending the event are planning to come in costume and added, "It will be a leap back into an era we've all read about." Why not take the leap? You can return home with a new interest and a great new book to read.
For more information on English Country Dance and other folk dance events in the Pacific Northwest, please follow this link: http://seattledance.org/english/ Prepare to be swept away into refinement and romance through literature, music, and motion.
Friday, October 14, 2011
Organic beer? You bet. The base malt for all of Elliott Bay Brewing Company's house beers starts with 100% organic barley, and these brewers were the first in King County to produce USDA Certified Organic beer. The range of organic beers they offer exceeds that of any other brewery in the state of Washington.
In a recent interview, I asked one of the owners, Todd Carden, if he could pick a favorite beer. "I tend to like IPA styles the most," he said, "hoppy beers ranging from every day IPA to the big double Imperials. But I also enjoy trekking with beers through the seasons. When it’s winter, I want to taste those winter beers. It’s always refreshing."
And it's refreshing just to try something new now and then. Last week, I had lunch with some friends at the Burien location and for the first time, I tried the Organic Coffee Stout. Wow! The coffee flavor really came through. In other words, if you're typical of people in the Northwest, who love both coffee and craft beers, it's an interesting combination. But don't take my word for it; try it yourself, or select from all these choices, including this fun offering of the season: MASHING PUMPKIN ALE.
Want something to eat with that? Here you can download the tempting regular menus for both the West Seattle and Burien locations. And here are the October Food Specials for West Seattle and Burien. For lunch with my friends, I kept it simple, ordering the Smoked Turkey, Bacon, and Swiss Sandwich, which could have easily fed two. But I shamelessly ate the whole thing because I simply could not stop. My friends had the Imperial Ruben and the No Doubt Stout BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich. My husband relished The Cuban. We all went away happy.
But we won't be away for long. It's the time for fall flavors now, but each month brings new reasons to return.
"After all these years," Carden said, "when we start to approach November and all of a sudden you see all those winter beers coming out, you go, 'Ah, what a great time of year.'"
'Tis a happy man who can make a living while living his bliss. Carden, his business partner Brent Norton, and head brewer Doug Hindman, all know that kind of happiness. "I love the craft aspect of what we’re doing," Carden said.
The creative challenge must take into consideration such factors as how weather affects the hops crop, the sugar content, and yeast, a wild organism. "It takes somebody at our level, who knows what they’re doing, who can be adaptive to many changing things," he added.
Speaking of "changing things," the leaves may change, and so will the seasons, and even the seasonal beers. But one thing never changes, and that is the craftsmanship, creativity, and sense of fun that goes into everything brewed by Elliott Bay Brewing Company.
No matter what is going on in the world, remember to appreciate every day and enjoy the simple pleasures, like an occasional lunch out for some great pub food and a craft beer, shared with friends. Life is really very good. Just ask Todd Carden.
Thursday, October 13, 2011
Do you love lefse, crave krumkake, have a hankering for herring, or long for a longboat? Would you recognize a Hardanger fiddle, or Hardanger embroidery? Rosemaling? Do you like the taste of cardamom, lingon berries, butter and strong coffee? If you happen to be a descendant of any of the thousands of Scandinavian immigrants who settled in the Pacific Northwest starting in the 19th century, you probably know these symbols of Norse culture, along with many more. Even if you lack a singe drop of Scandinavian blood, you can still learn about all of this on Saturday, October 15, 2011, when Tacoma's own Embla Lodge No. 2 of Daughters of Norway presents:
NORDIC FESTIVAL -- A CELEBRATION OF OUR CULTURAL HERITAGE
FREE ADMISSION AND FREE PARKING
TRADITIONAL MUSIC BY NORDIC EXPOSURE AND THE NORMANNA MALE CHORUS PLUS TRADITIONAL DANCING BY THE EMBLA LODGE LEIKARRING DANCERS.
Vice President Mardy Fairchild offered plenty of good reasons to attend:
"We will have 19 vendors selling a wonderful variety of arts and crafts including artwork, Scandinavian designed wrapping paper, knitted items, wheat weaving, Scandinavian antiques, books, clothing cookbooks,and rosemaling. We will also have food items to choose from including Julekake, Danish Pastries, Lefse, Norwegian cookies, Swedish Meatballs, and Split Pea Soup."
The enthusiastic vendors each donated an item from their inventory to add to the many prizes being awarded throughout the day, which runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
For a map, click here.
|photo credit Daughters of Norway website|
Now, a little history . . .
Here in the Pacific Northwest, Scandinavian pride has always been strong. The hard working fishermen, shipbuilders, teachers, carpenters, loggers, farmers and other tradesmen and professionals who made this area their home helped to create civilization in the wilderness. Most importantly, they brought their rugged determination, admirable skills and values, and fine personal qualities (to say nothing of great pastry) and contributed all of these to our regional character. But lest you picture only a bunch of hearty men, let me remind you of the equally hard working, proud, and determined WOMEN who came with them. Among those were the visionaries who formed the first of three independent lodges that joined to create the Grand Lodge of the Daughters of Norway a century ago, on February 20, 1908.
The first of these was Valkyrien #1, in Seattle, started in 1905, chartered by the Norwegian men’s Lief Eriksen Lodge #1. The men originally voted to charter the women’s lodge subordinate to their own, but those strong pioneer ladies would have none of that. They wanted, and got, their own organization. Two years later Embla #2 in Tacoma, which is now the largest D.O.N. lodge in the country, was chartered by the local Sons of Norway lodge, and in the same year this was repeated in Spokane with the formation of the Freya #3 lodge.
The aims of the organization are the same now as in the beginning:
"To unite into a sisterhood, women who wish to preserve Norwegian heritage,
to maintain among members a knowledge of the history, culture, and language of Norway, and to build a strong support system and bond of friendship within the sisterhood"
Nordic Heritage Museum
Scandinavian Cultural Center at PLU
Sons of Norway
Cyndi's List (Research your Scandinavian roots)
PLEASE COME ENJOY THE NORDIC FESTIVAL
Monday, October 10, 2011
"All of us kids went to the show 'Country Doctor' this evening. It sure was a swell picture," she wrote on this date, seventy-five years ago. I knew nothing about the movie, so I sat down my cup of tea, opened up my laptop, and started doing some research. The more I learned, the more I realized that my mother had been one of millions of people swept up in a world-wide frenzy that provided an irresistible distraction in the midst of the Great Depression.
The movie "The Country Doctor," as it turned out, was based on the story of Dr. Allan Defoe, the doctor who delivered the famous Dionne quintuplets, the first in the world to survive past infancy. The children themselves also appeared in this and other Hollywood movies. Here is an entertaining review of "The Country Doctor" published in the New York Times in May of 1936, a few months before the movie came to the small town theater in Western Washington, where my mother saw it on that long ago October evening. The reviewer refers to Mr. Dionne, father of many children, as "a rabbity little man."
I mean no disrespect to my mother when I point out that she took part in the national hysteria. She was a good, kind person, who happened to adore babies, in the extreme, all her life. She was, in fact, obsessed with babies. At the time the quintuplets were born, my mother, then in her late teens, no doubt relished thoughts of marriage and babies of her own. So it came as no surprise to me that she would adore the Dionne quintuplets. I never thought too much about finding old yellowed newspaper clippings about them among her things after she died.
Like everyone else, I knew about the Dionne quintuplets, but somehow I remained ignorant of the the whole complex, disturbing, and still contradictory story, until today.
A French Canadian named Oliva Dionne and his wife, Elzire Dionne, lived on a farm in rural Ontario, Canada with their five young children, when Elzire gave birth two months prematurely to five more, on May 28, 1934. The tiny identical baby girls, all from the same egg and each weighing under two pounds, were named Yvonne, Annette, Cécile, Émilie, and Marie. When word got out, they became an overnight, worldwide sensation.
By many accounts, the babies received loving care at home from the beginning, were kept warm and fed on a regular schedule. But by the time they reached the age of four months, government officials in the province of Ontario, influenced by Dr. Defoe and the potential financial consequences of such an oddity, declared the family unable to properly care for the infants and took custody, making them "wards of the King." Against their parents' wishes, the infants were removed from the family home to live in a special hospital built expressly for them, across the street from the farm. From then on, decisions concerning their care were made by Dr. Defoe and other authorities. Exploitation had never before been accepted with such mindless glee and fascination. One of the girls, as an adult, called it a "circus."
Known as "Quintland," the hospital served as the only home the children knew for the first nine years of their lives until their family won back custody in 1943. It has been called Canada's first theme park. The parking lot held 1,000 cars and a gift shop sold souvenirs to the thousands of visitors who came each day (the most frequently quoted figure being 6,000 daily) totaling over three million in the years during which the children lived there. Their staff of attending nurses dressed them up in matching outfits and trotted them out on display two or three times each day, in front of large windows with one-way viewing, screened to obscure the girls' awareness of the curious crowds who fought for position to get a look at them. As adults, the Dionne sisters remembered seeing movement and hearing noises beyond the screen, but didn't realize what was going on. Quintland became an extremely lucrative tourist business for the government, even more important and profitable than the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. Along with Dr. Defoe, they appeared in countless advertisements for many products.
A trust fund established for the girls grew rapidly, but by the time they were 18 and could have collected the money, only a fraction of it was left. Many profited from their fame, but probably the province of Ontario most of all. Even the girls' family benefited, in that a 20-room mansion was built for them when the quintuplets returned home, to replace the old farm house, all paid for by the trust fund.
Over the years the father, Oliva Dionne, has been portrayed as everything from a heroic and loving parent who fought for custody to a man who sexually abused and exploited his own children. He was purported to have thought of exhibiting the infants in the United States shortly after they were born, which may have been part of what led to the government taking them away. Doctor Defoe lives on in history as both a savior and an entrepreneur, depending on opinion. Books, documentaries, articles, and even the accounts given by the surviving daughters themselves offer differing viewpoints and interpretations of what happened to them.
Seen by some as valuable objects in an exhibit, having only limited contact with their own family, and kept in relative isolation, these innocent children lost the opportunity for a normal upbringing and home life. But then perhaps the home life offered did not offer much. As adults, their struggles to maintain some privacy never ended. As of this month, October 2011, only two remain alive, now 77 years old. They still receive fan mail from all over the world.
Here are three of them, Yvonne, Annette, and Cécile, being interviewed in conjunction with the 1994 release of a Canadian movie, a fictionalized version of the story, called "Million Dollar Babies":
And here is a look at the movie.
An autobiographical book called Family Secrets told the story in their own words. And this is one of the best, most comprehensive articles I've found: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3683/is_199401/ai_n8716816/
How strange to think that the five babies my mother adored, as much as today's teenage girls adore rock stars, now number only two, two women about the same age Mom was when her own life came to an end, and maybe not so different. As she matured, I like to think my mother looked at the Dionne quintuplets with compassion rather than fascination. But have we as a society learned anything from this story?
With modern communications faster than anything my mother could have imagined, celebrity can occur in mere minutes and go on to make the individuals involved miserable to a degree never experienced before.
My "to do" list gathered some dust today, but I've learned a lot. Right now citizens of our nation, and the world, feel burdened by economic troubles similar to those of the Great Depression. They too, seem to need distraction. But next time you feel tempted to ride the wave of freak show curiosity and voyeurism, please remember the very real human lives involved.
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
It's odd to connect voting with an act of delectable, senuous, indulgence, but I hope you will this time. I know a candidate who has plenty of endorsements, including the big one that really counts: MINE. Trust me.TOP POT DOUGHNUTS and I go way, way back. I've known this business since it was born. (See the link below, to the whole fascinatingTop Pot story in my magazine article.) That's why I volunteered to do some cyberspace door belling when I got this message from co-founder Mark Klebeck, who started Top Pot with his brother Michael, over a decade ago.
"Top Pot is proud to have been nominated for BEST DOUGHNUTS for the 2011 Evening Magazine's Best of Western Washington. The contest is ending this coming Sunday and we would be grateful for any votes that could come our way." (Here's the link, folks: http://best.king5.com/top-pot-doughnuts/biz/19066)
If only decision making could always be this easy. Just think of it; no confusing voter's pamphlets, no questionable campaign literature, and absolutely no moments of hesitation. But why should you bother? Because TOP POT DOUGHNUTS are simply THE BEST, and so is their coffee. And even if you don't like doughnuts, (oh, p-l-e-a-s-e) you will still want them to win after you read this article I wrote for SeaPort Airlines Magazine, last year. You can see the archived online version through this link. Look for the article on pages 28-31.
It tells the whole crazy, wild, funny and wondeful story of how two brother in Seattle, just working at construction and playing rock and roll, ended up with a company doing over $30 million a year in revenue, and it tells how that company got its name. (You won't believe it.) But since that article was published, Top Pot has moved on from selling their doughnuts at Starbucks and as of September 16, 2011 you will find a vast assortment of their freshly made treats at all 68 locations of QFC grocery stores, from Stanwood, WA to Portland, OR, and including two locations right here in TACOMA. And of course you should also visit their original Top Pot cafe' locations, the ultimate coffee and doughnuts shops! They are not only the favorite of millions, but also serve the official coffee and doughnuts of the Seattle Sounders and Seattle Seahawks sports teams.
Second chances don't come along that often, but here, I'm giving you one right in this blog.
Please vote. Here's the Evening Magazine's Best of Western Washington link again:
http://best.king5.com/top-pot-doughnuts/biz/19066 Remember to vote before Sunday, Oct. 16.
Ah, life is so sweet. Let's meet for coffee and doughnuts soon.
Note: the photo at the top of this page was used with permission from Top Pot Doughnuts