“Into the Woods” and out of the woods and home before dark

The blizzard-that-wasn’t messed up my week a little — but also gave me a work-from-home day, so I’m calling it even.  I was supposed to go to a concert on Monday night at Subculture, featuring Jason Robert Brown, Sierra Boggess, and (the real draw for my friend and me, since JRB is doing a whole series there and we can see him another time), the one and only Norbert Leo Butz. I saw him in “Big Fish” (he was great, the show wasn’t memorable), but otherwise haven’t seen him in anything – just fell in love with his voice as Fiyero in “Wicked” and Jamie in “The Last Five Years”. I’m bummed that it got canceled, especially since it’s unclear whether Norbert will be joining JRB in one of his other shows.

But I can’t really complain, because even without a Norbert sighting, this was a two show week for me. Wednesday night I went to see “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime” (more on that soon, probably next week) and on Sunday, after that yummy brunch at Max Brenner, I went to see “Into the Woods”.*


I’ve talked about “Into the Woods” a little bit on this blog before, but not in any depth. It’s an interesting show. I’ve now seen four productions of it, meaning it’s tied with “Camelot” for the show I’ve seen the most times. I’m not sure that makes it my favorite show. In many ways, it should be. As I’ve said before on here, I love stories about story, and “Into the Woods” is certainly that. It’s also about fairy tales, which are some of my very favorite things. The music is sometimes catchy, sometimes beautiful. I haven’t listened to much else by Sondheim, so I can’t say how it compares, but the songs do run through my head after I’ve heard them. It has quirk and charm and hope, but no easy answers. All things I like. But it also has a ton of plotlines that can keep us from caring that much about any given character and a first act that can feel long while the second one can feel rushed. I like the show, but I have problems with it.

The Roundabout production is a unique one, put on by a company called Fiasco Theater. The show consists of a group of ten actors playing all the parts. There’s always doubling in “Into the Woods” – the narrator is sometimes played by the Mysterious Man, the Wolf is usually portrayed by one of the princes, and so forth. But with only ten actors, this production had to get creative. The princes, for instance, also were Cinderella’s stepsisters, and one of them played the Wolf while the other doubled as Milky White, the cow. The costumes were minimal, usually just a base with different props  or items of clothing added or subtracted to indicate character. Jack donned a coat to play the Steward, and the prince, when playing the Wolf, picked up a – well, I don’t want to spoil the surprise.


Those surprises were a huge part of the humor of the first act. At the talkback my friend and I attended after the show, one of the actors described a good set as being like a great playground, with lots of great toys. As the show progressed, we never knew exactly what an actor might pick up to convey a certain character or to represent an object or setting. The set is centered on the piano, which is present throughout the show and which is exploded out to become the set itself. Piano harps lined the wings of the stage where curtains usually hang; metal keys formed the proscenium framing the stage; and ropes representing piano strings crisscrossed the back of the stage. From the ceiling of the stage and extending out into the house hung a ton of chandeliers. My friend mentioned that she’d read a review that said the set looked like it had been ordered off Etsy – I’d amend that to say it came from Anthropologie, and I was fine with that!

The actors had great rapport, not surprising considering a core group of them make up the Fiasco Theater company. Most of them did their MFAs together at Brown and they’ve done a number of shows together. They weren’t a diverse bunch, and I’ve heard more polished singing before, but their acting was great and overall the music was as lovely as ever. They left out a few things, including the Midnight bits where fairy tale advice is offered, but the show was left more intact than it was in the recent movie.

For me the most interesting part of this version was the turn from first act to second. It’s always a shift, but in the first act the gimmick of the minimalist casting and staging was always at the center of the joke. In the second half, the doubling loosened a little (partly because several characters die!) but the gimmick was still there – it just didn’t matter as much. Maybe it’s because the second half is so serious compared to the first, but I felt myself get caught up in the story in the second half in a way that I didn’t in the first. Some of that is the story itself – the fairy tales are shallower as they wend their way toward the happily ever afters. But some of it was done through choices by the directors, choices that kept the focus on the action.

If you have an opportunity to see this production, either here before it closes on April 12 or elsewhere if it continues to travel, I recommend it. It has all that I already love about this show, and it’s put on by a creative and talented group of people. I’m interested to see what Fiasco Theater does next!

Have you seen this production, or another one? What do you think about “Into the Woods”?

*I know I’ve probably said it twelve times on this blog by now (and more in person – sorry, friends), but if you live in NYC and you’re under 35 (or have friends who are under 35, which, you all do) and you’re not taking advantage of HIPTIX and HIPTIX Gold already, you are missing out. To recap, HIPTIX is free, signing up to it gets you two $25 balcony tickets to each show put on by Roundabout Theatre Company. HIPTIX Gold involves a $75 that gets you access for a year to two $25 tickets per show – but this time on the floor. I’ve seen five different Roundabout shows since then (and I’ve seen “Cabaret” multiple times, because it stretched across two seasons), and all of them have been really well done.



Brunch at Max Brenner

It’s a snowy day here in NYC — not as snowy as we’d expected, but snowy enough, and because mass transit was shut down last night and is only slowly getting back to normal, it’s a work at home day for most of us. So while we’re all hopefully cozy, let me share an experience I had this weekend that will make you hope you have hot cocoa in your cupboard.

It was Sunday morning and my friend and I were meeting in Union Square. We were headed to a matinee performance of “Into the Woods”, but first we needed brunch. We didn’t have a set place to meet, so when I texted her that I had just gotten off the subway, she texted back to say she was walking up from the Strand, and did I have any interest in brunch at Max Brenner, since it was right near Union Square.


I’d never eaten at Max Brenner, but I’ve walked past it dozens of times over my years in NYC. And I knew one thing about it: It’s all about chocolate. My answer, of course, was yes.


We settled in at our table and took a glance at the decadent menu. There were breakfast items like waffles and pancakes that sounded intense, and I opted to keep things simple: mac n’ cheese, and a hot chocolate with marshmallows.


My friend got hot cocoa too, and they came in these funny little handle-less mugs. I loved the plates they were sitting on, too!


By the time our lunches came I was too hungry to remember to take pictures of it, but my mac n’ cheese was delicious. Not my favorite — that still, weirdly enough, belongs to Panera — but still pretty good.

As we wound down after eating and chatted, I kept snapping photos of the decor. There were stacks of giant chocolate bars sitting along the backs of the booths.


And on the walls you might spot inspirational chocolate messages, like this one.


The hot chocolate machine behind the bar looked amazing — I want one for my apartment!


When our bill came, it was in this awesome tin.


And when it was time to leave, we took a detour to check out the chocolate shop.


We managed to leave without buying anything… this time. The meal was pricey, even for NYC brunch, but it was a fun experience and I’d go back again — maybe just for dessert. Bet they have a wonderful chocolate cake on that menu…


Borrowing e-books from the NYPL


Thank goodness for the New York Public Library. There are about a million reasons to be grateful for libraries, but over the last month or so I’ve discovered a new one: e-books.

Yes, I know e-books have been around for a while now. I’ve had an e-reader for four years and I actually really like e-books. They’re great for when you want a new book RIGHT NOW and you don’t happen to standing in a bookstore. Or when you finish a book and the sequel is already out. But the problem with that ease and accessibility, of course, is that it leads to impulse buying, and impulse buying leads to me spending way too much money on books when I have a stack at my desk I’ve been meaning to read — one of the joys and perils in working in publishing.

I’ve known for ages that it’s possible to get books out of the library and download them onto an e-reader. It always seemed like a good idea, but a pain in practice — it involved downloading a client to my laptop and then hooking my Nook up to my laptop. I think Kindles are a little better configured for this, but I don’t have one anymore.

What I do have, though, courtesy of my dad’s old work’s Christmas raffle a year ago, is a Nook tablet. And as of a month ago, that tablet now has two awesome e-book apps: Overdrive and 3M. They let me borrow e-books from the New York Public Library (and the Brooklyn one, once I add my Brooklyn card) anywhere I have a wifi signal. It’s not much harder than buying from the Nook store, and it’s FREE.

Guys, I can’t stress this enough: All my impulse e-book buys are now free. Yes, occasionally they won’t have the book I’m looking for, or I’ll have to put it on hold, but then there are plenty of others I can get right away. I think I’ve read somewhere around fifteen e-books (maybe more!) since making this discovery, and I couldn’t be happier. I just found out that Meg Cabot’s adult romance novels just were reissued in e-book, and I found them all from the library. Guess what I’m reading next!

You may not have a tablet, but since you aren’t me, it’s probably safe to assume you have a smartphone. If you haven’t already, download the Overdrive and 3M library apps and link them up to your local library. Your credit card — and your library! — will thank you! I’ll still spend plenty of money on books, because just like with my favorite TV shows, reading is an addiction for me, but now I can read even more books and not feel guilty about spending so much on them.

Do you read e-books? Have you fallen in love with library apps?


Murder mystery marathon

I have a problem.

Okay, it is not necessarily a real problem. And it’s one I’ve dealt with before. But it’s still a problem. And that problem is, I’m obsessed with a TV show.

I was coming back from a friend’s house right before sitting down to write this and as I walked up the stairs I thought, “I can squeeze one more episode in before bed.” But then I remembered that I was already a day off schedule with blogging this week, and I told myself I needed to write something tonight since I didn’t get anything written over the long weekend.

Why not, you ask? I’d like to say it was the movie night with friends or the long brunch yesterday, and yes, those definitely contributed. But the real reason is, I can’t stop watching “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.” And the actual problem is, I only have a few episodes left.

I’ve never been good at rationing TV shows when they’re available to binge, and I do have an addictive personality when it comes to narrative. I mean, I recently watched ten seasons of “Grey’s Anatomy”, getting far past the seasons where things actually made sense, because I just needed to know what happened to all those characters. Watching “Grey’s” didn’t stimulate me, though, in the way that marathoning “The West Wing” did a couple years ago, and it certainly didn’t make me laugh the way “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries” does.Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries - woman in a bob haircut with bangs and a crystal headpiece and a gold gun

You might think that a show about murder wouldn’t have me laughing and smiling throughout, but Miss Phryne Fisher, Lady Detective (it’s 1920s Australia, and she’s kind of a flapper, so deal with it) is just so freaking awesome, I can’t help it. Her confidence, her intelligence, her bad-ass nature, and her ability to always have a great time, even — no, especially — when chasing criminals around Melbourne in spectacular clothing makes every episode a pleasure to watch.

Her sidekicks are also a lot of fun, as is her crime-solving partner, Inspector Detective Jack Robinson. Phryne and Jack have some delicious chemistry, but she’s also having a fabulous time sleeping with attractive men who she meets along the way. She has a rich, fulfilling life, and it’s so much fun to watch.

I first heard about the show on the awesome romance novel site, Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, and I knew it was something I’d enjoy. In some ways it reminds me of the other murder mystery show I follow, “Castle” — it’s about a somewhat by-the-book police detective and an over-the-top civilian solving cases together, with wonderful chemistry. Only the gender roles are swapped and Phryne is way more capable than Castle is. My favorite thing about it? Phryne and Jack are such equal partners, they almost always run into danger together. He knows better than to try to protect her or make her stay back, because she can handle anything that comes her way!

It’s winter, and it’s cold here in NYC, so if you’re looking for something to curl up and watch with some tea or cocoa in hand, check out “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries”. There are two seasons on Netflix, and a third in production.

Now I’m off, because I really have to start this episode before it gets too late!

P.S. The series is based on a book series, so I might check that out, too!

P.P.S. Came back after watching the episode to add this:

Hey Ladies at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe

I’ve talked about Housing Works’s bookstore café on this blog before. It’s a bookshop in SoHo where all of the merchandise has been donated, most of the staff is made up of volunteers, and all of their profits go to support the good work done by Housing Works, an organization dedicated to helping people with AIDS and HIV. I love any and all bookstores, especially used ones, but Housing Works is special because of its mission, its beautiful space, and the awesome events that are held there.

I went to one on Thursday night. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while (or talk to me in person!) you might know that I love the site The Toast and even had a couple pieces published by them last spring. The Toast does a lot of things really well, and one of those things is humor. Many of the humor posts are by one of the Toast’s founders, Mallory Ortberg, but I would have to say most people’s not-Mallory favorite humor on the site is the Hey Ladies series. You can read them here — make sure to start with the oldest one and work your way forward. I’d say go and do it now, but you might never come back from that rabbit hole.

Back in the fall the two writers responsible for Hey Ladies, Michelle Markowitz and Caroline Moss, held a Hey Ladies: Live! event at Housing Works. I went with a friend and was treated to an hour of live readings of the emails of a group of fictional women living in or near NYC whose unhealthy group dynamic is so terrible and yet so compelling. The thing is, reading this series, you’re laughing at and horrified by these women, but you also come to realize that you’ve been on email chains that, if just a little more over the top, might have been just like these ones.

And I know I’ve started emails with “Hi ladies!” before. I know, I’m ashamed.

Thursday night was Part 2 of Hey Ladies: Live! at Housing Works. The theme was Home for the Holidays and the women read several holiday-related email chains, from St. Patrick’s Day (in Hoboken…) to the merits of seeing a high school ex on Thanksgiving Eve — and a premiere of a new piece, the characters’ letters to Santa.

Here’s the thing: Except for the Santa one, I had already read all of these pieces. But it didn’t matter — the delivery of the readers had me laughing the whole time. The “real” hey ladies emails that they read between pieces, submitted by the audience, were also a blast. I just hope no one recognized themselves!

My friends and I really enjoyed ourselves, as I’ve had at every event I’ve been to at Housing Works. If you’ve never been, pop in to browse the next time you’re in SoHo, or check out one of their events. You won’t be disappointed!

And seriously go check out the Hey Ladies series over at The Toast. I promise you’ll laugh!

The Improvised Shakespeare Company

After all the theater and New Year’s celebrating I did the week before last, I decided I needed a quiet week and weekend. Besides a choir rehearsal and a brunch, my evenings and weekend were left wide open, perfect for relaxing. I’m pretty sure that’s the only reason I made it to the gym three times last week. If I do it again this week, it’ll be cause for celebration.

Anyway, it was late Sunday afternoon and I had just gotten home from my brunch, with a short stop on the way back from Manhattan to run some errands. I was sitting at the kitchen table eating some cereal and counting down till 6 p.m., when I could pick up my laundry.  Around 5:30, my cell phone buzzed. One of my friends from brunch had told me she was going to see a performance by the Improvised Shakespeare Company that evening, and now she was texting to say one of her friends couldn’t make it and did I want to come along.

The show was at 7 p.m., at Theater 80 on St. Mark’s Place, a small theater I’d never heard of before. It was going to be a bit of a rush to get there, and I’d have to wait to pick up my laundry on the way home, but I’d heard about this show from friends before and it sounded like something I would love. Besides, it was only an hour – I wouldn’t even get home all that late.

I’ve said it before, but one of the best things to do when you live in NYC is to be willing to say yes to random opportunities. The only other improv experience I’ve had since moving to NYC was Freestyle Love Supreme, but I knew this was something I shouldn’t miss. I made it to the show with just a few minutes to spare and found out my friend had front row seats. I sat down, met her other friend who was there, had a nice chat about “Downton Abbey” (don’t spoil it, I was coming back from the show when it was on and haven’t watched yet!), and then the lights went down on the house and up on the stage and it was time for improv.

The title of the one hour improvised performance was suggested by an audience member: THE MASK OF MURDER. It was, as one of the players noted, both the opening AND closing night of this very special Shakespearean show. Hee. Five men proceeded to enact a show that was a mishmash in themes of Macbeth, Hamlet, and perhaps King Lear, with some interludes with French soldiers that reminded me of the mechanicals from A Midsummer Night’s Dream or the Watch from Much Ado About Nothing.

It was over-the-top and absurd, and while I’m not sure their speeches were all in iambic pentameter, the language WAS decently Elizabethan – except when they were quoting song lyrics. There was a long running gag involving references to songs by R.E.M. My friend and I both had a little trouble catching this since neither of us know that many R.E.M. songs, but most of the audience got it. I cracked up when crows became an important plot point, since a group of crows is called a murder, and we all laughed when a character said he hadn’t done something because he’d been too busy counting crows.

Each actor portrayed at least three and sometimes more characters, and by the end of the hour practically everybody was dead, as they should be at the end of a tragedy. The only one left was the mad wife of a duke, who was now queen due to everyone else being dead, in large part because of her machinations. I’ve forgotten her closing speech already, but it was one of many that included great rhyming couplets.

The show was silly, the jokes were dirty, the actors were clearly having a fantastic time – I’m sure Shakespeare would approve!

The Improvised Theater Company is based out of Chicago but they come to New York every few months. Check out their site to join their mailing list and find out when you can see a show. I know I’ll be going back!

A sunny day at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

It is bitterly cold in New York this week, which makes it to perfect time to remember warmer times and places. I mentioned my California trip on this blog a few times last year, but I never quite got around to sharing many pictures of it. I’m feeling especially nostalgic now because for my first three years here, I spent MLK Jr. weekend in San Diego with one of my best friends. Last year I went in June instead as part of a larger California visit, and this year she’s visiting me in March, which is exciting! She’s only been to visit once since I moved here as her PhD program keeps her very busy.

But I am kicking myself a little for not scheduling a trip. We’ve had a mild winter up until now, but the claws have come out, and San Diego is just so lovely all the time. The weather was always in the sixties during my January visits, and we usually spent at least one afternoon sitting and reading in the sunshine and another visiting one of the many outdoor attractions of San Diego.  We also spent a lot of time watching movies, especially Jane Austen adaptations and whatever TV show my friend has decided I should watch next. (She has very good taste.)

If you ever find yourself in San Diego with a day to spare, consider checking out the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Located a ways outside the city, it’s different from the famous zoo (which is also definitely worth a visit – I went a few years ago and enjoyed wandering around). For one thing, it’s huge – 1,800 acres. The zoo is only 99 acres. For another, there’s a huge range of “safari” experiences you can choose to follow. My friend and I mostly walked, except for a tram ride which went around one of the enclosures, so we were tired at the end of the day, but it was totally worth it. If you’re a bit leery of zoos, know that this one has a really great mission: “San Diego Zoo Global is committed to saving species worldwide by uniting our expertise in animal care and conservation science with our dedication to inspiring passion for nature.” Their goal is to end extinction. And at the Safari Park, the animals really seem to have a lot of space, which is something I appreciated after the other zoos I’ve visited.


And some of the animals are RIGHT THERE, like these flamingos. I’m pretty sure there was only a wooden fence separating us from their pond.


Or this deer — we were walking along a path and happened to notice it crossing into the brush and away. You can just see its back leg and tail as it disappears.


The gorillas were a bit farther away. There was a deep ditch, almost like a moat, between us and them, but in person we could spot the tiny baby gorillas.


We even got a glimpse of Pumba’s brother, a warthog, hanging out with some zoo employees who were telling us all about him. Here he is, lying on his side. Can you spot his tusk?


The lemurs are in a special enclosure. You can walk through and visit them, but make sure to shut the door tightly behind you so they don’t escape!


A view of part of the park from above, just to give a little perspective!


The Africa Tram! It travels around a large enclosure while a guide points out the many animals visible from the tram.


I’m pretty sure this is an adult antelope and its baby, but if I’m wrong, let me know!


A rhino, resting. I remember hearing about the plight of the white rhino on this tour, and I was sad to hear that one of the zoo’s white rhinos (possibly this rhino?) died last month, meaning there are only five left, all in captivity.




And because I can’t resist, three giraffe pictures. They were almost my favorite part of the Africa Tram ride. My favorite part, which I couldn’t quite capture on my camera, was a few animals (maybe wildebeest, but I can’t remember) taking off at a run across enclosure for no apparent reason, and all the other animals pausing and then following them. I’m not talking about one or two other animals — it was dozens. Herd instinct, perhaps?



After the tram ride, we visited the lions, who were resting.



And then we stopped by the elephant enclosure – just in time to see a young elephant get his tusk capped!


We poked our heads in the petting zoo…



…and rounded out our visit by visiting the new tiger enclosure. One of the tigers (I think his name was Teddy) was new and got fed through the fence by a zookeeper who explained to us the work she was doing with the tiger to get him trust and obey her.


On our way out, we each purchased a souvenir — for my friend, a stuffed elephant, and for me a stuffed tiger. And we did spot one last friend on our way out — this wandering turtle!

Hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse of California sunshine — I know I needed it! And I may or may not have looked up last minute airfare prices for flights to San Diego… Too expensive, unfortunately, so I’ll have to find some warmth here in NYC!

What’s your favorite winter getaway, and what do you do to think warm thoughts when you’re stuck in the cold?








Stories in the Theater


I’m on the subway on a local train. It’s Saturday night and even though I’ve just left Times Square, the train isn’t crowded. I spot an express train across the platform and consider switching, to save some time, but decide it’s not worth it.

It’s my third night of theater in a week, my second in a row, and I keep thinking about the shows I’ve seen. I’m listening to the Broadway cast recording of “Into the Woods” to drown out the teenagers – or maybe they’re college students – talking at each other at the other end of the car. But I saw the movie last week, and I’m seeing the stage show soon, and it fits in with the where my thoughts about the other shows are going.

“The Real Thing”, which closed this weekend and starred Ewan McGregor, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Cynthia Nixon, is a Tom Stoppard play about a playwright and his complicated relationships. It had me thinking about writing, and storytelling, and the way we talk to one another. If we rehearse something we want to say, or write it down, before we tell it to someone, does that make it less genuine? If words are polished instead of spontaneous, what does that do to their meaning? And what about the stories we tell about our lives? When I’ve told a story so many times that it has its own rhythm when I tell it, does that make it more real or less real? Does a story lose truth when it’s been shaped, or does it gain it?

“Side Show”, which also closed this weekend, is a musical based on a true story about conjoined twins. But it takes liberties with their history, and within the show there are stories shaped around the characters that aren’t always true, stories shaped to achieve certain goals, from freedom from abuse to entertainment and profit. Even though the story isn’t all true, there’s truth there – isn’t there? Even though it’s been molded and retold to provoke a reaction from the audience, the heart is still there – and if some of the themes in “The Real Thing” are to be believed, the shaping of it might be what reveals its truth.

I don’t want to give too much away about “The River”, starring Hugh Jackman, since you can (and should!) go see this well done, thoughtful play before it closes on February 8. Knowing too much about it might spoil it. But I will say it’s about the parts of ourselves we choose to share with others, and the patterns we find ourselves in. How do our histories and baggage impact our present relationships? If we tell someone something about ourselves, something true and special, is it diminished by having been shared with someone else?

“Into the Woods” is about stories too – it takes familiar fairy tale sand subverts them, going beyond the happily ever afters for a glimpse of what happens next. We tell stories to make sense of what happened, to remember and understand – that’s why the Baker’s Wife says that the Baker must tell their son the story of how it all happened. But I think one of the (many) messages of “Into the Woods” is that our stories don’t really have endings. Until you’re killed by a giant, there’s always an after ahead of you.

I’ve talked about stories on this blog before, and it’s obviously a lens through which I view life and theater. This blog itself is made up of stories of mine, some better told than others. Often they’re condensed, refined – I don’t put the raw cut of my life or experiences on display here. Does the fact that they’re polished versions of my life, neatened up around the edges and given a beginning and an end, make them less true? Or is that just what has to happen when you write something down? Writing gives stories a different life and form – maybe it doesn’t have to be a question of better or worse. Maybe it’s just a question of getting the story told.

And of course, all of these pieces of theater which I’ve talked about were themselves shaped, each word carefully chosen and expertly crafted to present the writer’s vision. But “The Real Thing” and “Side Show” and “The River”, and when I see it in a few weeks, “Into the Woods”, are all live theater productions where the interpretation of the writer’s words is found in the dialogue between how the actors choose to live the writer’s words and the impact their actions have on the audience.

I’m not on the subway anymore. I sit on my couch, typing up what I wrote the other night by hand, tweaking and adding and shaping it until it says what I want it to. The thing about spontaneity is that it’s easy to get it wrong the first time, to say something that you don’t actually mean, or forget to say something you desperately wanted to. Once you capture your thoughts in words on a page, it’s up to the reader – or the audience – to decide what you meant. You’ve done your best – now sit back and be ready to be misinterpreted.

Christmas Eve as We Grow Older

First posted December 24, 2013.

Excerpts from “What Christmas Is as We Grow Older”

By Charles Dickens

Time was, with most of us, when Christmas Day encircling all our limited World like a magic ring, left nothing out for us to miss or seek; bound together all our home enjoyments, affections, and hopes; grouped everything and every one around the Christmas fire; and made the little picture shining in our bright young eyes, complete.

. . .

Therefore, as we grow older, let us be more thankful that the circle of our Christmas associations and of the lessons that they bring, expands! Let us welcome every one of them, and summon them to take their places by the Christmas hearth.  

Welcome, old aspirations, glittering creatures of an ardent fancy, to your shelter underneath the holly! We know you, and have not outlived you yet. Welcome, old projects and old loves, however fleeting, to your nooks among the steadier lights that burn around us. Welcome, all that was ever real to our hearts; and for the earnestness that made you real, thanks to Heaven!

. . .

Welcome, everything! Welcome, alike what has been, and what never was, and what we hope may be, to your shelter underneath the holly, to your places round the Christmas fire, where what is sits open-hearted!

. . .

On this day, we shut out Nothing!

. . .

I heard parts of this essay long ago, as pieces of it were worked into the production of A Christmas Carol I performed in as a kid. The whole thing is worth a read, but these excerpts are my favorite bits.

Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, as the year ends I hope that you too find that your circle has expanded, that old and new aspirations have a place by your hearth, and that the new year brings hope and peace.

And as the Muppets say:

The Angel Tree at the Met


One of my best friends was in town this weekend, and because she’s an art history person we had to make one of our annual visits to the Met. Her boyfriend had never been, so we gave him a quick highlights tour — and during it we came across a holiday exhibit that I liked almost as much as I love the origami tree at the Museum of Natural History. It’s called the Angel Tree.


My photos came out a little blurry, but I loved the angels on the tree and the variety of figures on the ground. If you look at the picture above, you can just see an elephant. According to the Met’s website, the scene is a nativity, with 18th century Neapolitan figures. It’s the legacy of a woman named Loretta Hines Howard, a passionate collector of creche figures whose collection was first exhibited at the Met in 1957. Howard began donating figures to the museum in 1964 and they’ve been exhibited at the holidays ever since.


Howard’s daughter, Linn Howard, worked with her mother on the displays for many years, and now continues the tradition with her own daughter, Andréa Selby. There’s more information on the Met’s site, but I definitely recommend popping into the Met before January 6 to check it out — especially since the Met’s admission is pay-what-you-want. Make sure to visit the period rooms in the American Wing while you’re there! They were closed when I went this weekend but are always worth a visit!

I’ve covered some of the major NYC Christmas trees, but I’m sure I’ve missed some! Anyone have a favorite to share?