Life is a Song (or at least it should be)

Last week I was so excited to go to see Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella at the Ordway.  It was a super fun show (seen with incredibly fun people).  Cinderella did a lovely job and the step sisters were hilarious).  A definite highlight was when the fairy godmother was doing her thing and it turned into a black light show.  This made me excitedly remember the terrible black light theater in Prague, which now is a magically ridiculous memory that I can enjoy without feeling too scarred.

Now that I am reflecting on my most recent musical theater experience, I think we should all take a moment to consider the ways in which our lives would be better if we lived inside of a musical.

For example, one time, for my sister’s birthday in the Boundary Waters, I tried to make our lives into a musical for a special birthday present for her.  The first line of the show was, “Rain, water that falls from the sky” and then I proceeded to serenade her with a song about the rainstorm we were experiencing while packing up our tent.  She may disagree, but I maintain that it made a crappy day of muddiness so much brighter.  All because I gave her the gift of song.

Ok, back to the reasons this is a good idea.

  1. Musicals are usually very colorful.  And who doesn’t love a little color in their lives?
  2. You can wear fancy hats.
  3. There is such a sense of community and camaraderie.  Everyone in town knows the same lyrics to the same songs and cheerily sings them together.
  4. Your heart would have a good measure or two to prepare for a change in emotion.  “Am I about the be terrified?  The music warned me, so I am able to properly respond to this scary situation.”  “I was nervous, but now I know that something happy is about to happen!  I can’t wait!”  “I wasn’t sure how I felt, but I listened to the music and now I know that I am in love.”
  5. Have a problem?  Don’t fight about it, sing about it!  Imagine what the world would be like if we sang about our conflicts and feelings, rather than yelled about them.
  6. We’d all be in great shape from dancing all day every day.
  7. I wouldn’t need to spend time figuring out what to wear each day – it would be predetermined and I would have a very small window of time in which to put it on.
  8. We could experience life in so many different time periods.
  9. There would be so much more frolicking in our everyday life.  This is something that I think we all could benefit from.
  10. We can play with all sorts of animals, such as mice, pigeons, and cat puppets operated by puppeteers wearing all black and standing near you, but you wouldn’t acknowledge them.
  11. Life would be so much more magical… and sparks of light and glitter would surround you in those magical moments, so you would be sure to recognize them for what they are.
  12. At some point, you would probably have the opportunity to fly through the air, whether in a bubble or attached to ropes.
  13. Great sound effects to all that happens in life.
  14. Entrance music in everyday life.
  15. Being over the top in all that you do is perfectly acceptable.
  16. You can sing about happy things.  You can sing about sad things.  You can even sing about boring things.  The important thing is that you sing.
  17. The ability to tap dance upside down.
  18. Cheesy lines would be totally acceptable.
  19. Happy endings.

I’m pretty sure that the only downside would be the difficulty in keeping straight some of your friends who have multiple identities in life – such as Townsperson #1 and Dancer #7.  Well, that and laryngitis.

Where the Dream Began… Rockefeller Center

Merry Christmas Eve, friends!

As my Christmas gift to you this year, I’d like to invite you to come ice skating with me below the tree at Rockefeller Center.  This is really the mutual lifelong dream which began my Christmas trip to New York with Rachel. 

My whole life I have dreamed of skating in this magical place.  Let me tell you: it did not disappoint.

We saw the tree from a distance – glorious in all of its lights.

We got in line, and thought, “are we going to make it through the line in time?”  because we knew there was a private event happening after the next skating timeslot.  We couldn’t stop taking pictures and gazing at the tree while we waited.  It was the most festive and pretty queue I’ve stood in. 

Then, they let us in!  It was a tremendously exciting moment.  The moment we knew our dreams would be coming true.

We went into a super tiny warming house, bought our tickets (cost an arm and a leg, but TOTALLY worth it) and then got our skates.  We had them store our boots and bags.

We step out onto the ice.  This is always a terrifying moment for me, as I generally skate once or twice a year, and in that first second of finding your skating legs, you never knew how it is going to turn out.  Falling the moment I stepped on the ice wasn’t part of the dream.  And thankfully it wasn’t part of the reality either. 

We began to skate.  There was Christmas music playing softly in the background.  Along one of the long sides of the rink you could look up and see the people waiting in line.  On the two short sides of the rink, you could look up and see trees covered in white lights, along with gold and silver flags lining the rink, and blowing in the wind.  And let’s not forget the throngs of people standing on the sidelines, watching the festivity on the ice below.  Then on the fourth side of the rink, the main attraction, the tree.  If I thought it was a sight to behold while looking at it from eye level, the view of skating below it and gazing up at the colorful splendor, was really something.  

There was a fountain with the iconic golden statue below the tree.  The fountain was the perfect white noise to give you a feeling of privacy, like you were the only ones on the rink, as you couldn’t readily hear the conversations of those around you. 

When we started skating, it was a bit crowded, but soon it thinned out and towards the end of our time on the rink, there were not many people left on the ice at all.  Even at the most crowded times, the rink was still comfortable to easily skate at your own pace (unless your pace is speed skating) because they limit the number of people on at any given time.

on the ice!

It was fun to watch our fellow skaters: the mother and daughter in adorable jackets and hats, the family, the couples, and the pageant winners.  Yes, you heard that correctly.  A group of about a dozen pageant winners/contestants, in their fancy short skirts and coats, complete with sashes that say things such as Miss Arizona Teen USA came on the ice with their videographer.  Utah: great skater who twirls and everything.  Arizona: just like it was impossible to count the number of lights of the tree, it was impossible to count the number of times she fell. 

This evening was Christmas magic at its finest.  We listened to Christmas music, shared Christmas memories and favorite Christmas traditions as we skated rounded and round.  We couldn’t stop smiling – there was so much Christmas joy in our hearts that evening.  And there continues to be overwhelming Christmas cheer whenever I think back on this amazing evening.  Dreams really do come true. 

My writing probably cannot do this event justice, so we’d like to invite you to join us at Rockefeller Center and skate with us, in the video below.  Remember to tie your laces real tight for good ankle support, toss some tinsel in the air, and press play. 

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night. 

See you on Boxing Day!

a Christmas Joy rough patch.

Saturday started out so promising… so full of Christmas joy.  I had Starbucks Christmas Blend coffee for the first time (it is amazing – how have I never purchased it before??).  Then I baked Christmas cookies with Heidi and Cara.  Also wonderful.  I came home, finished my felt Christmas trees while simultaneously watching a Christmas movie on Netflix and the beautiful snow falling outside my window.

I packed up the cookies and my Christmas cheer for Hope’s Christmas party: it was a night full of promise.  Promises of Mr. and Mrs. Claus stopping by for a visit, of Home Alone being watched, of snowflakes being cut out, and of games being played.  Christmas magic everywhere.

And then disaster struck.  Completely out of the blue.  Well, 71% out of the blue.  Well, if I’d connected the dots it really wouldn’t have been that out of the blue at all.  I need new tires, but haven’t gotten them up, and apparently the car guy new what he was talking about when he said I’d better get them before it snows.  It was kind of like my car was going ice skating.  And there wasn’t even THAT much snow.  I felt like such a lame Minnesotan when I turned around a mile from home in just two inches of snow.  My poor little car couldn’t handle it.

I said, “Hey Car, you should do more than just spin your tires.  You know, like maybe drive forward.”  Car said, “Laura, that is a GREAT idea.  Why didn’t I think of that?”  I said, “I don’t know car.  You’d think it would have been your first response to me pressing on the gas pedal.”  Car said, “Laura, I was being sarcastic.  Maybe if you would give me tires that actually work, I would do my job a little bit better.”  I said, “Fine.”  Car said, “Fine.  And we turned around and went home.

To help ease my sorrows, Tiffany offered to make us dinner.  (us being me and Tiffany, not me and my car)

In efforts to regain some of the lost Christmas joy, we went for a magical stroll in the snow to take in magic of the neighborhood Christmas lights.  I was definitely starting to feel better – much more Christmassy.  It was like we were living in a snow globe.  Love.  I even had to be held back from frolicking amongst the giant candy canes at the neighbor’s house.  One house has their lights choreographed to music.  Since I didn’t have my boom box on my shoulder, we couldn’t tune in to the designated radio station.  We tried singing a couple songs to see if they worked.  But eventually we just had to walk away.

Next we played “slide down the icy street in your boots”.  I didn’t think I could play at first – too much traction on the soles of my boots and safety consciousness in my heart.  When we found some slipperier ground, I timidly joined in the fun.  Next game: see if you can catch the super giant snowflakes on your tongue.

And for the grand finale of our stroll in the snowflakes, we thought it would be the most magical to walk through the woods near our house that are a part of a local park.  While we approached the park, I got out my cell phone so that we could listen to Wintersong while walking through the woods while living in our Minnesotan snowglobe.  What could be more magical than that, right?  

Then Tiffany saw this sign.  

Yup, you’ve read correctly.  The woods were CLOSED due to an archery tournament.  WHAT?!  Who has archery tournaments in the middle of the ‘burbs??  We weighed our options, and decided that the sorrow now in our hearts would be better than the pain of being shot by an arrow.  With heavy hearts we walked away.

We tried walking around a random tree on the side of the road while listening to the pretty music, but it just wasn’t the same.  

Then we went home.

We ate dinner.

We watched a Christmas movie.

I went to sleep and dreamed of candycanes, sugar plums, and future Christmas parties that I would actually get to attend.*

*those were not my real dreams.  but I wish they were.


Fall Perfection

Sometimes you go outside after have a complete meltdown baking cupcakes and it is a perfect fall day.  So you embrace it for all its worth.

If you aren’t sure how to do that, here are my tips!

1.  Beautiful weather.

when I think "beautiful day" I think "llamas"

2.  Beautiful friends. 

3.  Corn maze.  Pick one you can’t get lost in.  Loop around and come out the entrance.  Confused?  Yes.  Lost and panicked?  No. 

4.  Giant roosters.  They add to anything.  For other giant chicken escapades, read this

5.  Hayrides.  At this point you might get separated from your friends.  Don’t panic.  You can just get on the next one.  If you don’t believe me, I have emotional photographic evidence below.

happy; with anticipation

distraught, terrified, deeply saddened

relieved; tentative joy

6.  Apple donuts and cold apple cider. 

7.  Picking apples. 

8.  Did I mention fun friends on a beautiful fall day?  Because that is kinda key. 

Friday Funday part 1

My friend Rachel doesn’t work on Fridays, and since it is summer, neither do I!  We have dubbed Fridays: Friday Funday, and we think of ways to have fun on Fridays.  Oh, and then we have the fun.  It would be a little lame to just stop at the thinking.

We are two weeks in and are looking forward to this coming Friday when we fulfill our 2-year-old dream to go horseback riding together.  It will probably be magical.  But we can’t just jump right into that.  We need to start at the beginning, because it’s a very good place to start.

Two Fridays ago, we spontaneously began our tradition with a boatload of Friday fun.  (This is literal.  We were in a boat).

Rachel had a fancy t-shirt coupon for a free salad at Noodles, so we split a delicious summer salad and our mutual favorite: Pasta Fresca.  Over lunch she regaled me with tales of the cell phone mafia.

Then we decided to hit up the Container Store.  I have seen this store on the horizon for years and always dreamt of going.  I love containers so much.  Probably too much.  And I probably should be a much more organized person for how much I like them.  This store was a little slice of organizational heaven.  I spent my first trip just taking in all the sights.

if you look carefully, you can see the sparkly green paddleboat-ness

After this,  we spontaneously rented a sparkly green paddleboat, and sailed the high seas (or peddled our way at a slow, but reasonable pace, around the tiny chain of ponds).  I enjoyed the warnings posted on the boat to peddle slow as your legs may grow weary.  We also enjoyed watching a group of pre-teens rock their boat as much as possible while drenching themselves under the fountain.

maze winner!

After our paddleboating excursion ended, we wound our way through the landscaped maze.  You’d think that with all my hedgemaze experience that I would have been a natural.  I was not.  But I did eventually catch up with the mazing-expert.

never give up! never surrender.

Then came the most magical part of our afternoon.  We sat and chatted in Adirondack  chairs, next to a pretty garden, under a weeping willow tree.  I could have sat there forever.  I want to go back and sit there again.  Who wants to go with me?  It is like sitting in a fairy tale.

Family Weddings: the best weddings

I do love a good wedding, and I must admit I’m a little sad that I’m already on wedding 4 out of the 5 weddings I am attending this summer.  (that being said, if you are looking for a plus one, I am your girl.  Weddings are the best!)

waiting for his bride

This past weekend, my cousin Steve married Kaia.  We’ve known Kaia for many moons now, and are thrilled to see them wed. 

Part of the reason I love family weddings, other than being excited for the bride and groom, is that all the family from all over the states comes into town and we are all briefly reunited.  I love that.  My family is spread out over lots of states, and we don’t get to see each other nearly as often as we should.  And now that cousins have adorable little children, it is even more exciting. 

Steve and Kaia’s wedding was, in a word: them.  Kaia is a talented graphic designer, and her wedding, from her dress and hair, to her centerpieces, to her programs, to the bridesmaids’ rings, reflected her style.  It was the kind of wedding you’d see in a magazine. 

They had an incredible band playing during the ceremony.  Kaia walked down the aisle to instrumental Fix You by Coldplay (amazing) and they exited the ceremony at the end to Home by Edward Sharpe (love that song). 

I loved this song from the slideshow: Andrew Peterson, Dancing in the Minefields.  Yes, I just purchased it on itunes.

And I love this photo…

The sanctuary was filled with candles.  It was gorgeous.  Steve’s niece was the flower girl and she was adorable in her tutu sitting in a little red wagon. 

The reception was at the Landmark Center.  I had never been there, but always had hoped to attend a reception there so I could see the inside of it.  It is a stunning building, just as I suspected. 

Congratulations, Steve and Kaia!  Your wedding was beautiful!  I am so happy for you both, and am looking forward to some cousins’ dinners in our future and the next round of telephone pictionary 🙂 

Wedding numero tres of the summer

Only two days into summer vacay, and I’ve already attended my third wedding of the season.  At the previous two, I have been a photo-slacker, so I tried to do better at this one.  It wasn’t hard – it was a magical day. 

First off, I have never been to a Jewish wedding before, and it was chock-full of beautiful traditions.  (Thanks Marcus and Kat for putting a guide in your programs).  Secondly, I have known Marcus since elementary school, and he is such an amazing guy.  I could not be happier for him and Kat.  While I am still getting to know Kat, I love everything about her that I do know, and most of all, I love that she brings out the best in Marcus. 

I don’t think I’ve seen a more excited bride.  Kat was adorable: prancing down the aisle when she entered the sanctuary, and sporting the hugest smile I’ve ever seen as she and Marcus exited at the end.  It makes me smile right now just remembering it… 

The reception was also beyond words.  It was full of energetic fun and excitement.  And it was FANCY.  I was not nearly classy enough to be in attendance 😉 Waiters with hors d’oeuvres, wine overflowing, and the most delicious cupcake centerpieces, wow. 

The speeches were all magnificent.  I laughed, I cried (not really, but did feel a bit teary) and they were all touching.  Well done, friends and family of the bride and groom. 

Then came the dance.  First off, did I mention that instead of a DJ they had the dueling pianos from the Shout House?  It was phenomenal.  SUPER fun.  Their first dance was lovely, and then they broke into Hava Nagila – people came running to the dance floor to circle around the happy couple, while everyone else clapped joyfully along.  Then the couple was lifted up in chairs: I’ve always wanted to see this in real life 🙂  It was just so fun! 

In addition to just a beautifully celebratory day, it was also fantastic to spend the evening with some of my dearest friends, including getting some time to hold to cutest baby on the block, dressed adorably in a fun dress, little white cardigan, leggings, and lacy ballet slippers. 

LOVED everything about it.

Congrats Marcus and Kat!

Cupcake Camp

A couple of fun girls from church came over to learn all my secrets to a successful cupcake baking experience.  The real secret was that I don’t actually know what I am doing, and I just make it up and hope for the best!

We made these delicious cookie dough filled cupcakes, which naturally were from my favorite cupcake recipe provider: Annie’s Eats.  

Besides having being super fun to bake with and hang out with, cupcake day with Hilary and Kari had other perks too, such as wearing this awesome baker’s hat:

Please note the awesome hat and adorable rubber spatula: 2 keys to a successful baking experience

Here is some of the sage advice that I passed along to them, forever changing their baking lives.

  1. Cute cupcake liners are the key ingredient to any recipe.

    Exhibit A

  2. A little flour spill is nothing that can’t be overcome.

    Exhibit B

  3. If you are out of toothpicks and can’t do the traditional clean toothpick test to see if your cupcakes are done, touch the top of the cupcake.  If it springs back up, it is ready to come out of the oven.  If it is not done, you should bake it longer, plus it will eternally have a finger indentation in your dessert.
  4. 3 Tablespoons of milk really will do wonders to take your frosting from a substance that looks like clay, to a substance that looks like delicious frosting!

    Exhibit C

  5. Sharing is caring and fun.  Unless you are using your amazing new cupcake corer.  In that case, you should share, but then take it back as soon as possible to hoard all the fun for yourself.

    Exhibit D

  6. Hiding edible treasures will brighten anyone’s day.

    Exhibit E

  7. Cupcake insides that are surgically removed are definitely meant to be eaten before any baking project is finished.

    Exhibit F

  8. When in doubt, always double check the recipe.

    Exhibit G

  9. Fancy cupcakes are so much more fun when you tackle them with a friend.  Then your 4 hour baking project will only seem like 3 1/2 hours.  3 and 1/2 hours of laughs – not too shabby of a way to spend a Sunday afternoon!

    Exhibit H

  10. These cupcakes are delicious.  I would recommend them.  Time consuming, but pretty easy!

    Exhibit I

  11. Watch your friend’s face when they eat a cupcake from you.  Their face will light up with pure joy, and you will feel elated at your baking accomplishment.

Exhibit J

I had so much fun baking with you, girls!  I can’t wait to do it again sometime soon!!!  🙂

    Starsheep, babies, and cupcakes.

    This past weekend was the kind of weekend to write home about.  It was just that good.  It was filled with my favorite people and doing some amazing fun things.  Oh, how shall I even begin to recap?

    Friday = Baking Day.

    Steph and I threw a baby shower for our dear friend Sara on Saturday, so Friday was prep for that.  I’m fairly certain that Jesus knew I wouldn’t have time to accomplish everything I needed to and still sleep, so He arranged for my principal to allow us to work from home on Friday afternoon.

    *Disclaimer: we did not have kids at school on Friday – the afternoon was already slotted for report card prep.

    So in between entering grades, I made mini muffins (baking tip #1 – know how many a recipe makes.  This may prevent you from making 24 giant mini muffins instead of 36 actual mini muffins)

    I also baked Oreo Cupcakes and chocolate cupcakes.  I was excited to use my new adorable spatula and decorating dots from Jill and my decorating book from the sibs. 

    And I made use my own brilliance.  They were a hit!  Here are some photos of the epic success.  (Please humor me while I celebrate when this happens, because not all of my baking turns out brilliantly). 

    Saturday = Crazy Busy Day O’ Fun

    In the morning we had Sara’s baby shower.  It was so fun to celebrate with her, and also amazing to see friends I hadn’t seen in years.  I loved catching up with everyone so much!   My students were also excited to hear about the baby shower, and promptly requested a field trip to the hospital to visit my friend and her baby when the baby is born.  Don’t worry Sar – I asked, and none of them have a bus, so they accepted the crushing of their dreams with the answer of “no” to their field trip wish.

    Then Saturday night, my church had a film fest – it was incredibly fun.  People could form a team and then were given a two week window to make their 3-6 minute films.  Everyone was a assigned a genre, a mandatory prop: a hula hoop and a mandatory line: It’s like drinking from a firehose.

    After the premiere of all the films, awards were given.  It is the one time of year our church dresses up.  Personally, I made good use of my bridesmaid’s dress from my brother’s wedding.  It was the right choice.

    I must say I love attending church with so many ridiculous and creative people.  A lot of groups, including my roommate and some other friends of mine made really funny movies.  I think if you search 707 Film Fest on the internets (specifically youtube) you should find some of them posted for your enjoyment

    This by far my favorite: (before watching it, you should know that The City is an online platform for churches – similar to facebook, yet quite different – and that is where we sign up for events and get info on what is happening at the church etc)  (You should also know that you don’t need to be familiar with The City to enjoy)  (You should also know that this will not leave your head for weeks)  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.  But you should still watch it.

    You should also know that afterwards I was able to meet several members of the band.  It was a real honor.  I got my starsheep poster autographed and have it hanging in my room.  

    Which brings us to Sunday.  The day of rest.  Thank goodness!

    An Uruguayan Christmas

    Christmas Card #2 Merry Christmas from me and the Uruguay-an Mafia!

    A mafia man living in Uruguay who loves his gelato invited us into his home for Christmas .

    Or, we went to a hole in the wall restaurant in Punta del Este, Uruguay, and our waiter seemed like he probably should be in the mafia, and his parents started the first gelato shop in Uruguay?  in somewhere?  The details are fuzzy.  The important part is that there were still dodgy Christmas decorations up in August.  And naturally (in honor of my friend Jill), I had to take a picture with said dodgy Christmas-ness.