Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Making a March Madness Wreath

March Madness has begun! I know this because my son-in-law is a Jayhawk and the games have begun! I didn't really care for sports growing up - I basically played what I had to in high school and left it at that. My dad and brother are huge sports fans and I do remember them going to see the Knicks at Madison Square Garden one year and yelling themselves hoarse!

I visited Lawrence, Kansas, home of both the origin of the game of basketball and the Jayhawks during March Madness last year. I could not go anywhere without running into something Jayhawk. My daughter was being ordained at that time and some people actually came to the service decked out in Jayhawk clothing! I knew then that these people were serious about the game. I haven't a clue about brackets, but my son-in-law gives you an idea on his blog here: I also find it funny that the University of Kansas uses the letters KU. The reason apparently is that the University of Kentucky already uses UK. However, then you have the actual Kansas State University which cannot use the already used KU and uses K-State - go figure!

I thought wouldn't it be great to make them a wreath to hang on their front door during the season. So, I went to a few craft stores to pick up what I needed. I always go to my four favorites (Michaels, JoAnn, Hobby Lobby and A.C.Moore) carrying a 40% off coupon - that way I can make things that don't cost an arm and a leg! Luckily these four stores are all in close proximity. Here is a list of what I bought:
2- 25 yard rolls of blue tulle (you use your NCAA college colors)
1 - 25 yd. roll of red tulle
1- 18" styrofoam wreath form
2 letters - K and U. I used 5" letters. You would of course use whatever letters your college uses.
I already had some florist wire, acrylic paints in red and gold, a spay can of clear paint and a hot glue gun with glue sticks.
1. Cut your blue tulle into 21" lengths
2. Cut your red tulle into 21" lengths.

3. Take your piece of tulle and fold it in half. Then take the looped portion and slide it under the wreath.
4. Take the cut ends and bring them over the top of the wreath
5. Pull them through the loop on the bottom and tug 
6. It should look like this
7. Continue doing this with the blue all around the wreath. Then gently open areas around the wreath to do the same with the red tulle. I had about 11 blues in each section. I placed 3 reds for every 6 blues and then after the next 5 blues placed 2 reds. This gave it a nice look that wasn't too matchy matchy.

8. Using a scissor, trim all the ends to 3" to give it a clean look

9. Paint the tops of your letters red - or whatever color your school uses. Let it dry and paint the sides the second or third color. KU is basically red and blue, but has accents of yellow because of the Jayhawk mascot. If you are unsure of your painting skills, you can use painter's tape to cover the area's needed.
9. Once they are dried, take 2 or 3 pieces of florist's wire, bend them in half and make 2 small circles in the bent area. This is so you have something for the hot glue to adhere to.

10. Take your hot glue gun and generously add glue to the back of the letters while holding the wire in place until it dries enough to hold, which should be only a few minutes. For placement, I knew I would have one letter higher than the other on the wreath, so I put my wires in 2 different places
11. Using the wire, firmly attach your letters by wrapping the wire around the wreath form
12. Add a ribbon to hang it with and there you have it!


Monday, March 17, 2014

Sharing Memories - Grades 7 and 8

     For me, grade 7 was the start of a new beginning. I think it was for many, but for me in particular, it was because I had moved to a new area and so I was literally starting over again. We always hope with a new beginning, even at the tender ages of 11 and 12, that we won't make the same mistakes we made in our last school, will be more popular, won't be bullied, would stand out etc. We had moved in June, so I had made a few friends, but most of them were going to a Catholic school and the rest were not in any of my classes. Being that my current school for some reason didn't allow for my good grades to stand for themselves by putting me in a regents class, I started out in the general class. Elementary school was not separated by IQs, so this was something new to me. Another new girl P, was in the same situation. Her name interestingly enough, came right after mine in roll call and we not only ended up dear friends, we also followed each other alphabetically all through school sharing many of the same classes. We both knew something was wrong when the material was so easy for us. The powers that be realized it as well and after the first semester, we were transferred into the honor's class. That was wonderful, we both enjoyed the challenge, but it brought along with it two things - having to make new friends all over again and having to start "New Math" with a semester deficit. P was a little more science and math minded than I and picked it up after a bit, but I was lost and stayed lost pretty much for the rest of my high school math career!! Of course, they threw New Math out shortly after, but it was all I had to enter the realm of higher math. (note: see wiki regarding what New Math was here:
     We met a few really nice girls and that little group of ours still remains connected meeting once a year for a day of lunch, reminiscing and catching up. We spent much of grades 7 and 8 writing and passing notes to each other which became named our "personal science notes" One of us actually kept them all and every now and then we read through them for a good laugh.Another thing we enjoyed during junior high was making corsages for each others birthdays. Back then it was a big thing and you could tell how popular a girl was by how many corsages she had. One girl in particular always had her entire dress front covered. Each year had a different theme: 12 -Pennys, 13- bubble gum, 14- dog biscuits, 15 -lifesavers, 16- sugar cubes (for sweet 16), 17 - lemon drops, 18 - cigarettes. Basically you made a corsage which had ribbons hanging off it with the year's pieces attached to them. The number of pieces attached corresponded with the year itself.  We decided they were looking tacky, so we chipped in the buy a corsage done at the florist shop with carnations and the pieces

     I had my first boyfriend the summer between 7th and 8th. His name was Gary and he lived in my neighborhood. I first thought something was up when my girlfriend and I were sitting on the brick gates to our development and the boys sitting on the gates across from us started throwing crab apples at us. I looked at my friend as if to say "what's up with this?" and she said, "I think one of them likes you!" I will never understand why throwing  things at someone means you like them, but she was right. The next day they were sitting on the curb across the street from my house. My mom thought it was a hoot, but said not to encourage them. This went on for several days till I finally got a note inside my mailbox from Chris telling me his friend Gary liked me. I hadn't a clue what to do about it. Gary Donnelly was a cutie, a year older but several inches shorter than me. I figured what the heck and enjoyed much of the summer hanging out with them and my other friends, till the fateful day of "the kiss".  My friend JoAnn and I were sitting on a hill behind our development and Chris and Gary happened along and joined us. Gary, as usual, sat next to me and we enjoyed talking about the usual interests of pre-teens. Out of nowhere, Chris said, "Kiss her Gary." JoAnn chimed in, "Yeah, kiss her." So Gary leaned over and kissed me! All I knew to do was sock him like I read about Anne of Green Gables doing to Gilbert! Oh my gosh, he was SO mad! They both cleared out and the next thing I knew as we made our way down to the street, there was a huge sign in chalk at the intersection of my street and his that said "Linda Rots! Linda Pots!" Of course everyone saw it and I was a bit humiliated, but it eventually blew over. I never did hang out with Gary again, though years later Chris had a crush on me and we hung out for a while.

     My main memory from 8th grade was Mr. Heinz's English class. I loved him! He was so much fun and always had us reading interesting things. He is directly responsible for two things - introducing me to the Broadway theater and my obsession as a teen with Davy Jones! In the fall, for a class trip, we went to see Oliver! at the Imperial Theater in NYC. Back then you could get seats in the nosebleed section for $5, so everyone got to go. My mom gave me my aunt's opera glasses so I could see things better. This was even better than the movies! It grabbed my imagination, my love of music and the feeling of being directly involved in the process was amazing. I knew then and there that I wanted to perform in musicals. It starred the fantastic Georgia Brown as Nancy and Clive Revill as Fagin. The part of the Artful Dodger was played by a young British actor named David Jones. I was instantly in love! You can see David at the bottom of the stairs in the above photo which also has my ticket stub from the second time I saw it. 
      I wanted to meet him, but of course on a school trip there is no time for hanging about. So I decided to write him and got a reply very quickly. Thus began the plotting and planning to see the show again. Luckily my dad worked in Manhattan, so I had a way in and back.
I went to see the show again in the summer, but this time, made sure I got there early to hang at the stage door before the show to see if I could catch him. I did! After the show, my dad and I ended up having tea with him in the diner across the street.  Thus began a simple "friendship" with David (he never really liked being called Davy) that was fully fueled by a massive crush. Everyone was so aware of it that at my 40th reunion people mentioned it! I am sure he knew that, but he was really nice about it. I made friends with a few of his friends and while I didn't hang with him much in his off time, he always remembered me long after he became famous as one of The Monkees. I wrote a series of articles about my times with him for Flip magazine when I was 17. I tore out my pix from it because I didn't like them, but here is one of the articles.                                                     

A few years later, he did me a favor by writing a lovely letter to a girl with hodgkins who had written me after the article appeared in Flip. Here is a copy of his letter to her... I find it  interesting as
I look back at these years, how much the affected my life. I went on to appear in my high school's musicals, Up With People, starred in many community theater shows and even sang in Europe!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Let's Go to the Movies!

     When I learned of this weeks blog challenge, #52sharingmemories, I knew I would have fun with it. All week I have been humming "Let's Go to the Movies" from Annie and thinking about how much joy they have brought into my life. I am a huge fan of the cinema! Not too sure about those silly dancing hotdogs, but a fan none the less.

     I am not sure what my first movie was, I am sure it must have been something Disney like every other  child in America, probably Bambi, Cinderella, or Peter Pan on the television, or maybe Lady and the Tramp at the movie theater. I really don't recall. I lived in the Bronx, NY when I was young, so there were many theaters nearby - in fact one was within walking distance on Boston Post Road. This is the theater that sticks in my mind as my first experience. The year was 1958 and the movie was Tom Thumb starring Russ Tamblyn. I loved the movie and I especially loved Russ Tamblyn - in fact this movie made him top of my list for many years. Later I saw him in the old movie Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and of course West Side Story - two big favorites of mine.My uncle and aunt were with me - they were only five and seven years older than me, so they got stuck dragging me to a lot of things!
None of this is what sticks out so deeply in my mind - it was previews for the next movie that did.  The Blob was the first one and it terrified me.
I watched as it oozed out of doors and into homes eating up everything in my path and could just picture it coming down my street. Then they showed I Married a Monster from Outer Space!
Now I was seeing scary monsters coming at me along with the blob. I can tell you I did not sleep that night, nor did I sleep well for a few nights after, until my mom reassured me it was all pretend.

     Fast forward a few year to 1961. We had moved out to Long Island, so the movie theater there was in the next town. It was a big deal to go. I had seen Pollyanna with Hayley Mills the year before and of course got attached to her - I wanted to BE her. She had that wonderful British accent, big smile and sweet demeanor and everyone loved her. I begged my parents to be able to see The Parent Trap with my girlfriend. This meant her parents took us there and my dad would pick us up. Oh my gosh I loved this movie! It lead me to dream of being an actress and to what my friend Jill calls "the tricky Linda England -Aunt switch" which happened a few years later and got me into big trouble - some day I will blog about it. At any rate, Janet's mom got us there almost a half hour after the movie started. I am not sure why. I don't know if we left too late, there was traffic or what, but by the time we walked into the theater, they were at the point in the movie where the one sister cuts the back of the dress off the other sister at the dance, just before they realize they are sisters. I was so hooked. There was no way Janet and I were going to leave the theater until we watched the first part that we missed. We didn't have any money left because we had bought a popcorn and some soda, so there was no way we could call my dad and let him know to come a bit later. We just leaned back and enjoyed the movie. When we got outside, my dad was STEAMING! He was furious that we didn't call and he wasted all this time waiting for us. I did not get to go to the movies again for a long time, but it was okay, I just kept singing "Let's get together" and dreaming of a career in the movies!

      When I was around 13, the movie Tom Jones came out. It was pretty progressive for its day and a bit ribald for the times. I wanted to see it so badly, but my mom absolutely refused to allow me to go. There were no movie ratings back then, but she had heard enough to know it wasn't  for an impressionable young girl. However, my Aunt Florry was clueless! I often spent a week at her house to hang out with my cousins Ann Marie and Susan and we usually manged to get into some mischief  here or there. I was there that summer and we decided we wanted to see this forbidden movie. Aunt Florry wasn't sure, but we showed her the reviews about how good it was, so she let us go. Of course, I was hooked as usual and started wearing my hair in a low ponytail like the character Tom Jones.

       I don't think more than a week went by when my mom casually asked if I enjoyed Tom Jones. She caught me unaware and I started stumbling all over my self! I finally asked what gave it away and she flicked my ponytail. DRAT! I pinned that one on my cousins, but I am pretty sure another long wait to see a movie ensued. Oh, and by the way, yes that is the same Albert Finney who played Daddy Warbucks in the film Annie. He was pretty hot when he was young!

     After that escapade, I went on to enjoy lots of other movies - especially after I moved further out on the island where we actually had a movie theater nearby.  In my senior year of high school the movie Wait Until Dark with Audrey Hepburn came out. My friend Pauline and I decided to go see it one night. Notice I said one night, not one afternoon... It was an incredibly scary, suspenseful movie. They don't make movies like this any more. We screamed and clutched the arms of our seats. In the movie, the bad guy (Alan Arkin) had a van with curtains. They showed it several times. As we came out of the theater and started walking to her car, we noticed a van with curtains near it. We totally freaked ourselves out getting into the car and out of the parking lot!   

     I have to end this with my favorite musical of all time. West Side Story was so incredible! The combined genius of Bernstein and Sondheim made West Side Story one of the quintessential American musical films of all time. The music was gritty, then soared to beautiful heights and plummeted back down again. The typical Sondheim trick of layering five or six songs into one masterful piece was amazing. The dancing was superb. Oh, I wanted to be a Jet and have Riff as my leader - wait! no! I wanted to be Maria and sing her beautiful songs - I wanted to marry Tony! I probably can say I spent most of that year singing all the songs on a daily basis - my high school friends can attest to that! They still remember standing outside during a fire drill and me singing and acting out all the parts to "I Feel Pretty" in front of everyone.

        I wanted to play Maria so much, but this little white girl didn't have a chance. I had a friend who was a stylist and he dyed my hair dark and put dark makeup on me for an audition for Maria when I was 21. However, the director just couldn't buy me as a Puerto Rican girl. I did get the part of the dream vocalist and got to sing "Somewhere" which in  the Broadway version was done while a dream sequence ballet took place. I enjoyed every rehearsal, all the friends I made doing it, the dance teachers who taught me to move - it was about as good as it could get!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Big George, our Gentle Giant

     I had planned a totally different blog for today, but something happened  that I just felt I needed to address. I am a HUGE Celtic Thunder fan. I discovered them on a PBS special seven years ago and have been a big fan ever since. Every year I would say I wish I could go to a concert, but their local concert was invariably over Thanksgiving weekend when I was down on Long Island visiting my family. Then, like magic, they picked a different weekend and I asked my hubby if for my birthday and Christmas (both in the same month) I could buy a ticket to see them in person. He said yes and like a teenybopper, I went to camp out at the box office so I could get a good seat - and I did - first row! Not long after, we made plans to visit my daughter in Kansas a month or so before my concert in NY. Then, surprise, surprise, Celtic Thunder changed the venue for a new DVD they were filming from PA to Kansas City - only 40 minutes from my daughter AND in the same week I was going to visit her! I called her and said, "Remember when you offered to buy me a ticket to see Billy Joel for my birthday/Christmas/Mother's Day gift and I said no"? Well, I think if its possible, I have a concert I would like to go to while we are visiting. She laughed and said OK and I ordered my ticket for the filming. I was going to be 25 rows back, but I was happy as a clam because it was being filmed and would be a cool way to see them for the first time.

      I got to the venue in Kansas City and met Kathy, another fan I had gotten to know on their facebook page. She and I got there early hoping to meet them before the show, but they were doing interviews all day, so we just sat in her car playing their cd's and getting to know each other. Finally, we went to dinner and then the show. I was so excited! I had a great time looking at all the loot for sale and listening to the chatter of all the fans who had come. I made my way to my seat and got ready...they did not disappoint. Even though they were far away, their energy was contagious. All of them sang so well and were so engaging and I really hoped I could meet them.

     After the concert, I went to the backstage door feeling a little silly at 60 to be hanging out at a stage door. I had done tons of that as a teen, but as an adult it was a little strange. However, the lads (we don't call them guys) all came out more than happy to sign autographs and pose for pictures. Here is the one I had with George that night.
     Now, it was time for the concert I had the first row tickets for. I had started following them on twitter and Facebook and learned George was a huge Harry Chapin fan. I am too, and had all his albums - yes, the vinyl kind, not CD's.  I haven't played them in years and actually had bought new CD's, so I thought maybe George might like a copy of the first album which had a wonderful insert with pictures of Harry.
      Once again, I got to the venue early. This time, I was in luck. Because it was not an arena, the tour buses were parked right on the street next to the theater. I met  Ryan and had a nice little chat, and then Neil. I asked Neil if he could get George as I had this gift for him and he said, sure he would go backstage and get him. He also kept saying "You're so kind." which I thought was kind of cute. In fact after the show he came out to where I was standing in line with other fans and remembered my name and said, "Linda - did you like the show?" I was touched he remembered my name and several girls pounced on me after he left wanting to know how he knew my name!. But I digress. Shortly after Neil went inside, George came out looking for me. I raised my hand and he came over to where I was standing. I gave him the album and he was really touched. He said it would hang in pride of place in his house. We talked about Harry for a while and then other singer-songwriters that we liked and I encouraged him to look into Randy Newman and a few others he hadn't heard of. Then he asked if I had his personal CD and I said no, I hadn't gotten it yet. He said "Wait right here," and ran back into the theater. A few moments later, he reappeared with a copy of his CD. He asked if I would like it signed, and of course I said yes. He asked if I would listen to it and report back to him letting him know which songs I liked and what my review of the whole album would be. He said "Promise?" and I said "Promise." Then he said, don't tell anyone I did this, I don't usually do this!

     We spent a good half hour chatting and I was really touched by the time he spent with me and the fact that he felt my opinions were valuable. He was a really stand up kind of guy.
During the show he looked at me during one of his solos and winked. Then while taking bows, he came right up to where I was sitting and pretended to tip his hat to me. Afterwards, while I waiting on line to meet the others, he came by and said thanks again.

     Fast forward to the next year where I saw them at two different venues. When they were in Schenectady,  I was poking around and ended up inside the theater during their sound check. I sat in the bleacher section and just observed. Then I thought, I really shouldn't be here, but didn't know how to leave without being found out. So I hunkered down till it was over. It was interesting to see the guys when they weren't expecting anyone else to be around. There was a lot of joking and slagging going on and at one point, George whipped out his cell phone and said loud and clear, "How do you spell Emmet is a dick!" I almost laughed out loud! I have to admit, that is a special memory for me as silly as it is. In Poughkeepsie I ran into George and chatted and had another picture taken - this would be my last taken with him.
     We fans had been waiting a long time - close to an hour - to see the "lads" and say hi - and yes, I was by now a "Thunderhead," seeing 2 shows a year. As usual George was one of the first ones out and ran by us with his suitcase saying "Just let me get this settled on the bus and I'll be out." Sure enough, less than 10 minutes later, he hopped off the bus and signed everyone's programs or t-shirts

     This past fall, I saw the show twice. The first show I saw George near the venue and he shouted hi. The next night, he was in the lobby signing autographs and I had him sign my Thunderhead t-shirt. I took a picture of him, but sadly it turned out blurry.
     Last month, I bit the bullet and bought a ticket to go on the Celtic Thunder cruise. I had heard stories of the previous cruise where everyone had a wonderful time and how much fun they had running into all the lads on the boat and how gracious they were - even going down long hallways and signing people's posters that were on their doors. I heard lots of sweet stories about George.

     Today, as I write this, I am in shock. George had a massive heart attack at his home in Glasgow last night and passed away. He was only 46. His fellow performers in Celtic Thunder are reeling under this news and my heart goes out to them and his lovely wife and daughter. He was a huge family man and adored his wife Carrie and daughter Sarah who is only 13. Normally he would be touring doing PBS promos for the fall tour, but for some reason, he did not go.  How wonderful he spent his last days with the people he loved most. His last tweet, which was last night was this:

Mar 12
Harry Potter night tonight again with Sarah. There's nothing like it………. The movies are ok.

We will all miss him, his friendly demeanor and his wonderful sense of humor.

As George would say, NNGB - night night and God bless.


Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Story of Lambkin


 When our kids were younger, we had them join 4H so they could enjoy activities and learning experiences. We rented a house on a mushroom farm along the Hudson River, so we had plenty of space for animals. Hubby had built a small building that our kids ended up using to play Cowboys and Indians (and before you go all crazy on me, my hubby is part Indian!). They had drilled some holes for their guns to "shoot" through and it had a drop down "window". We already had guinea pigs and Lop Eared Rabbits, a Lab Mix and a Border Collie, but no larger animals. My daughter T desperately wanted a little lamb. The little building would be a perfect place to house one.

     We found the perfect lamb on a farm nearby and T bundled her up in her arms and "carried" her home in the car. She was a Corriedale and she named her Violet Lambkin, but everyone just called her Lambkin. Like most of our animals, she was quirky. I think perhaps she had been removed from her mother a little early and found a new mother at our house - a spring horse the kids used to ride on.
You can see it in the background of this picture -except, by the time Lambkin came, it was hanging in a tree and missing its tail and a leg...or two. It didn't matter to her, it was mommy. The very first day she ran to it and tried to nurse - it was so sad, but so funny! That evening as we attempted to get her into the shed, she bleated and bleated. We couldn't figure out why until we realized she was crying for her mommy. SO, the horse was unhooked from the tree and hung in the shed. She stopped crying and all was well. The next morning we realized we weren't going to get her out of the shed until mommy came along. So began years of taking the horse from the tree to the shed and back again. She never stopped loving it!

     The kids all enjoyed her and T thought it would be fun if they taught her to play soccer - which they did! She would butt the ball with her head and go running after it and butt it back to whoever was playing with her. The next trick was to teach her to respond to the word up which she readily did. T had a great idea while they were making videos of their guinea pigs (The Lone Guinea Pig), to have her put her head through the tire swing - they got her to bleat and then said, "Metro Goldwyn Lambkin"! I have a video of it that I wanted to share, but I can't get it to load.

    One day we heard bleating on the porch and poor T came in crying with something in her hand. Apparently Lambkin had tried to play with our Border Collie Flower and unwittingly broke her toe. Flower responded by biting a piece of her ear off - which is what T had in her hand. Tearfully she asked hubby could he please sew it on and how was she going to show her in 4H with part of her ear gone! Sadly, that was not something daddy could do and he told her many lambs had notched ears and left it at that. (If you look at the photo on top you will notice the notched ear on the right) She never did show her. I think the only problem we ever had with Lambkin was that she got so good at butting the ball, that she started thinking it was funny to butt my son when he came out - if he rode his bike, she butted him off, if he was running around, she would run after him and butt him - one of those moments when you understand there are some things you shouldn't teach animals! It got to the point that he wouldn't go outside and play and started to gain weight, so that was when we decided to find a new home for Lambkin. We found a lovely family looking for a pet for their farm and they came by to pick her up, but they could not get her to go into the trailer. Then we all laughed and showed them our really sad horse which now had only one leg and part of its face. We took it out of the tree and put it into their trailer and Lambkin immediately ran inside it. I often wonder what became of her and the horse, but that was the official end of 4H animals at our home.