Monday, December 22, 2014

Lost in "The Music of the Night"

I think any theater lover has a bucket list, the "must see" shows and Phantom of the Opera has always ranked high on my list.  I was extremely blessed to have the opportunity to see this amazing show on Friday, courtesy of my friends at the Straz Center and the Tampa Bay Bloggers!  This proved to be a wonderful date night for me and the Hubs, who is not a theater lover like myself but who always says he wants to see it again.

I'm slightly embarrassed to actually say this out loud but I didn't really know the plot prior to seeing the show.  I knew it was about this man, the Phantom, who was in love with a performer but that was it.  I was unaware how much suspense and danger filled the theater and never realized I'd be on the edge of my seat the entire performance (literally on the edge of my seat...I never sat back against the seat for one second).
Waiting for the show to start
When we walked in, I was surprised to see the curtain was lifted and you could see the stage/scenery right away, as well as the covered chandelier (which was absolutely stunning!!!  None of my pictures do it justice).  We were instantly able to appreciate the hard work of the creative team.   From the extravagant costumes to the use of shadow figures to tell the story of the Phantom's past,the Creative Team nailed it! I was floored by the effects used to create the boat scene.  Every aspect of the lighting design, set design, and costume design made it that much easier for the audience to find themselves feeling like they're in the Paris Opera House with the rest of the cast.  It was truly amazing! Kudos to the Creative Team for transporting me from my seat and into the story!!!!
If the atmosphere wasn't enough, the cast of US Tour of Phantom of the Opera brought it home for me! The caliber of their voices were like nothing I've ever heard before. The beauty that Katie Travis brings to Christine Daae is unbelievable. Storm Lineberger brings such a depth and soul to Raoul in his first experience touring with a show.  The Phantom is brought to life by the amazing Chris Mann. I loved him as a finalist on The Voice and I was so excited when I looked at the cast and saw his name in the lead role! He brought such a darkness to the Phantom that I wasn't prepared for.  I just can't say enough about the entire company!!! They brought to life the songs I've grown up loving.
Katie Travis and Chris Mann
Courtesy of the Straz Center
Courtesy of the Straz Center
These performers are also so grateful. I might have been obsessing over the show on social media (before, at intermission, at the end, and pretty much every minute since) and I instantly saw how much these performers love what they do and how much they love their Phans.  So many of them have liked an Instagram picture or favorited/retweeted a tweet that I've posted.  You don't see that too often and it really is a nice feeling to know that what you're saying about a performance is being seen and appreciated by the cast.
Unfortunately I didn't make it to the stage door :(
From the moment the orchestra started warming up and the organ played those famous notes to the final curtain call, I found myself in love. In love with the story. In love with the characters. In love with the music. In love with it all.  I was left speechless and wanting to experience it all over again. This truly was the most amazing theater experience I've ever had and I'm so grateful to the cast and to the Straz Center for that.

Phantom of the Opera will be at the Straz Center through January 4th.  Believe me when I say that you do not want to miss this show.  It is life changing.  For tickets,visit the Straz Center's website.

For more information about the North American Tour of The Phantom of the Opera, visit their website, follow them on Twitter, like them on Facebook, and on Instagram.

Disclaimer: I was provided tickets to this amazing show, thanks to the Tampa Bay Bloggers and the Straz Center, in exchange for this post.  All opinions are 100% mine (and I could gush all day about this show)

Friday, November 28, 2014

Back from the Dead

I think it's safe to say that I'm back!!!  I know I keep saying that but this time, it's for real.  After not having a computer for over 6 months, we finally have one!  I can get back to doing what I love, documenting my life!  Now all we need to do is get the pictures off my old computer and move them to this one.  I have so much to share!!!

We've been having too much fun!!!!!


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Sometime you just need a break

There comes a time where you need to take a step back, look at what's going on, and re-evaluate.  That's where I've found myself lately.  I logged on a few days ago and saw that I hadn't posted since the end of April.  Obviously I've taken a little break from blogging, which was totally unplanned, but I guess I needed it.  I've been keeping up with my reading of blogs (not so much with the commenting) so I haven't  been completely cut off from the blogging world but the demands of it had taken its toll.  Unfortunately I was trying to keep up with all of the other bloggers out there. I found myself getting discouraged because everyone else's blogs were taking off and mine wasn't. The posts I was writing weren't the type of posts that I used to write.  They seemed so different to me.  I was coming up with topics just for the sake of getting in a post every day just to keep up.  Bottom line, I had lost the joy I felt when I started on this journey and wasn't being true to myself.

So much has happened in the past 3 months.  My kids finished up school and I now have a soon to be 2nd grader and soon to be Kindergartner.  I had knee surgery.  We had lots of family time.  I dyed my hair red.  And I didn't document any of it.  Sure I have it all on Instagram but it's not the same.  I don't have it on here so when I finally decide to turn this blog into a book, those moments won't be included.

We just got back from a 10 day Disney vacation where I put down my camera and was just present.  Sure I took some pictures on my phone and had my camera for our character meals, but other than that, I just enjoyed myself.  We had so much fun, ate way too much, and made so many memories.  I think it actually helped me remember why I started this blog.  It wasn't to make money.  It was to document my life and my experiences.  Sure, it would be great if I could earn a little off of it but if I don't, it won't be the end of the world. Because bottom line, in 20 years when my kids are grown, I want to be able to look back and have this space to turn to when I want to remember the good days.

Dinner on our last night at the Spirit of Aloha Luau at the Polynesian Resort

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Ghost The Musical

I am a theater girl.  There's no denying how much I love going to the theater.  I think it started when I was little.  My mom and dad always had music on around the house.  We grew up with country, classic rock, "elevator music" as I called it, movie soundtracks, and Broadway tunes. I've had Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat memorized for as long as I can remember.  Telling a story through music is a beautiful thing.  I can remember the first musical I ever went to.  It was Damn Yankees, featuring Jerry Lewis, at what's now called the Straz Center when I was in middle school.  I can still remember what I wore (it was the early 90s so it was ridiculous) but it was the night I truly fell in love with musical theater.

I was so excited to go to the Straz Center last night for Opening Night of Ghost the Musical.  The Hubs doesn't share the same love for the theater as I do so I asked my mom to be my date for the night.  She loves the movie Ghost plus loves going to the theater so she made the most perfect date!  We made great time over the bridge to downtown Tampa, which is completely unheard of at 6pm. We picked up our tickets and headed in.  We got there early, thanks to no traffic, but it gave us a chance to catch up.  With so much going on in our lives, it was nice to just sit and talk, even if I do talk to her every day.
The gorgeous Straz Center
(photo by Rob Harris)
When the time came, we headed to our entrance and were escorted to our seats by one of the lovely volunteers.  I was quite pleased with the view from our seats!  I didn't know what to expect because I've never seen the movie Ghost besides the famous pottery scene.  So I had nothing to compare the show to, which I think was a good thing.  When the show started, I was instantly blown away by the set design.  The use of video images and video screens in the overall set design was something I had never seen before!  The visual effects they were able to achieve were hands down, the best I've seen.  There is a scene where the cast is standing in the rain.  It looked so real! And all that was used was a screen and video images of rain. Unbelievable!!!

I always stalk the Playbill to see what other productions cast members have been in.  I was pleasantly surprised to see a lot of cast members list RENT in their resume.  I love RENT so anyone that's associated with it wins points in my book. I knew I wasn't going to be disappointed!  Stephen Grant Douglas, who played Sam Wheat, was Roger in a regional production of RENT and his voice fit the bill.  He was fantastic! He did a great job of bringing the character to life (or death I should say). I'm sure it was hard to make it look like he was a ghost but he nailed it in my book!  Molly was played by Katie Postotnik.  She is absolutely gorgeous.  I wasn't too sure about her voice at first and then she sang "With You", a song about how Sam's death affect her.  It was in that moment that I was captivated by her. The tone and depth of her voice was absolutely beautiful.  Katie and Stephen, besides having amazing voices, had great chemistry and their voices sounded perfect together.  Whoever cast these two in these roles did an amazing job!
Steven Grant Douglas and Katie Postotnik, Ghost The Musical Tour. © Joan Marcus, 2013
As for the story, it was just okay in my book.  Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed the show but I didn't identify with it as strongly as I have other shows.  My mom had mixed reviews about it because it was quite different from the movie.  She came in thinking it was going to mimic the movie plot and there were only a handful of scenes from the movie.  I did not have anything to compare it to since I have never seen the film. I think that helped me to appreciate the show a little more than she did.
Carla R. Stewart and Steven Grant Douglas, Ghost The Musical Tour. © Joan Marcus, 2013
While the plot might have missed the mark a little, the technology and set design really won the show for me. I sat in complete awe of it.  They were able to create a distinction between Sam and the other ghosts from the living people and were able to do it when side by side with another person (as seen in the above pictures). They were able to create depth on a flat stage. When someone died and became a ghost, it happened in an instant. You were left looking at the person as a ghost and a human at the same time. It was truly magical. I don't think I can say enough about it!

Overall, I enjoyed the show. Is it the best show I've ever seen? No but it wasn't the worst I've ever seen. Would I recommend going to see it?  Absolutely! But for all my Tampa Bay area friends, you better act quickly!  Ghost the Musical will be at the Straz Center through April 27th! If you're not in the Tampa Bay area, you should try to see it when it comes to a theater near you on its first national tour!!!

Thank you to the amazing people at the Straz Center for partnering with the Tampa Bay Bloggers!  I was able to attend this production in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are 100% my own! This is theater people...I take it very seriously!


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Knowing when to "Let It Go"

I wrote this post last week for the Tampa Bay Moms Blog.  I've explained all of the stress that have been going on in my life and this post was like therapy for me.  I love writing so much but the experience I had writing this post was truly organic.  The words just flowed and it turned into the piece I'm most proud of.

I feel like it's been so long since I've been on the blog that I should re-introduce myself. Hi, I'm Jess. I'm a full time working Momma who just learned the biggest Mommy lesson of all time: Knowing when to Let It Go (like the Frozen reference???  Gotta thank Debbie for that one! There will be more than one of these references so bear with me!)
As moms, we're charged with handling (or juggling in my case) so many tasks at one time on a daily basis. Keeping our children alive and happy, keeping our husbands/boyfriends/partners happy, managing the household and everything that comes with it, school responsibilities, extra curricular responsibilities, social obligations, and throw work responsibilities on top of it if you're a working Momma like me. When you sit down and look at everything a mom is responsible for, it's amazing we're all not in the looney bin by now. That's a lot of responsibility and pressure to put on one person. And to make it worse, we're so critical and judgmental towards our fellow Moms. We're expected to handle it all with grace and poise and not let everyone see we're falling apart at the seams.
That's where I found myself the past few months. Trying to hold everything together as best as I could while my life was spiraling out of control. I can't help but think of the amazing song "Let It Go" from Frozen. First off let me say that I absolutely adore this movie and the soundtrack. Granted we've been listening to it nonstop since it came out, to the point where I pretend the CD isn't in my car anymore, but it's still amazing. Just listening to "Let It Go" has brought me to tears before. The message is so powerful.
Don't let them in. Don't let them see. Be the good girl you always have to be. Conceal, don't feel, don't let them know. Well now they know
I was struck by that lyric. That's exactly what I was doing! I was drowning on a daily basis but I was putting on the happy face. You know the one. The one that makes everyone else think everything is fine when it's anything but. We've been dealing with my daughter's health issues with no answers. My son had a seizure at school, which was the worst day of my life. I had another kidney stone. My husband had a heart scare. I had just switched jobs. School and dance and family obligations were piling up. There was no light at the end of my tunnel. I was putting on a brave face each and every day. I was acting like nothing was going on, that there was no stress in my life.
One day I realized that I couldn't hide it anymore. There was no way I could pretend like it wasn't too much for me. That's when it hit me...I have to let it go. I have to stop pretending that I have everything under control. I learned to say no. I took a step back from some of the things I was involved in. That's why you haven't seen me on the blog since Christmas. I had to focus on the most important thing in my life, my family.
You know what I realized? I realized it was okay to say no. It was okay to let other people know you're overwhelmed and need help. I learned it's okay to feel like you're drowning because you're not the only one. I realized I'm not the first mom, nor will I be the last mom, to be going through what I was going through. I realized I didn't have to be the picture perfect portrait of Motherhood. Being a mom is wonderful and a dream come true but it's messy and crazy and it's hard. I've finally come to terms with that. I've become okay with knowing I'm not going to live up to society's expectations of what a Mother should be. I'm okay with that because the only opinions that matter are my children's and they think I'm doing an amazing job!
It's time to see what I can do. To test the limits and break through. No right. No wrong. No rules for me. I'm free. 


Monday, April 21, 2014

Princess and Mommy Tea Party

You are cordially invited to the most royal tea party in all the land!

Princess and Mommy Tea Party

Sunday April 27, 2014


Sage Supper Club
22 N Fort Harrison Ave
Clearwater FL 33755

$25 per Mommy/Princess pair

Join us for a tea party straight out of a fairy tale! At the Princess and Mommy Tea Party, moms and daughters will be treated to a royal good time! Come dressed as your favorite princess (Moms…you too!!!) or choose one of the princess dresses that will be available at the party. All proceeds benefit Dance Central.
“We believe in dance education. What we offer goes beyond just steps, and children can truly flourish and grow as individuals from our program. Dance Central is committed to providing quality dance lessons in a safe & family oriented environment. Our goal is to produce great kids who appreciate the arts and are prepared for the future. Although our Scholarship Fund is just building, we are aiding families that have been with us through the years who are going through tough families emergencies and need the extra support from their second family at The DC. We assist families with dancers interested in classes from recreational dance to competitive dance”


Friday, April 11, 2014

Tiny Dancer

It's funny the way my life has turned out.  I'm not girly at all  yet I'm blessed with the girliest of girls.  I grew up playing sports and being with the boys.  Now I find myself spending my days at the dance studio.  And you know, I wouldn't change it for the world!

Almost 2 years ago I was debating whether to put Emmy in gymnastics or dance.  She's naturally coordinated and athletic.  She's strong despite her tiny frame. Ultimately, Emmy chose dance.  We found an amazing studio, one that was recommended to me by a former patient's mother and from my aunt.  My aunt was a professional dancer and told me to look into Dance Central because she used to dance with the studio owner. Ironically enough, it was the same studio my patient's mother recommended.  We met Miss Kelley and Emmy fell in love.

Last year, Emmy had a hard time.  She did really well with dance and was so cute! But we were going through a lot with her health-wise. She was sick a lot and went through a period where she just wouldn't dance.  Miss Kelley supported us (mainly me) throughout the whole issue.  We took a month off and Emmy regrouped.  Then she ended up having surgery a few weeks before the recital. Emmy still managed to perform, looking oh so cute!
Left: Emmy's first day of dance
Right: Emmy's last day of dance at the recital
We took the summer off to see if Emmy's health issues calmed down.  But we also took the time off to let Emmy grow up a little.  Being a very young 3 and having the demands of routine and structure that come with dance, on top of going to school for the first time, was a lot for her I think.  I think she just wasn't ready for all of that.  So when she said she wanted to go back to dance, I knew this was for real.  So we have spent every Saturday morning at the studio this year. She loves learning new moves and learning how to make her body do new things. She got to know her "big girls" (the elementary/middle schoolers who help teach her class) and loved doing what they could do. She did a great job at the winter performance, proving that spiders can be the cutest things in the world!
"Itsy Bitsy Spider" at the Winter Performance
As we near the end of the season, I just can't get over how much she's grown up.  She's learned so much and she's loving every minute of it.  This time last year she wouldn't even dance unless I was sitting in the doorway.  Now she's telling me I can't be backstage at the recital because I'm "not a dancer like her."  I can't get her to leave the studio on Saturdays.  She would stay there all day if I let her.  That just goes to show that we chose the right studio.  Emmy found her home at Dance Central and I couldn't be happier.
Dancing with the big girls
How we spend our Saturdays 
Only a matter of time before she's doing this without the wall's help
Showing off the new DC boy shorts!!!  She thinks she's a big girl now!
I'm happy that she's found her home because she's going to be spending a lot more time at the studio next year.  Emmy (or EmmyBell as Miss Kelley calls her) will be a member of the Competition Team next season!!!!  She's so excited (and so am I).  She can't wait to get to perform and show off all her moves!  I'm so proud of her! And she's proud to be a DC Dancer!!!!!

Thank you Miss Kelley for welcoming us into the DC Family and loving my EmmyBell as much as you do. She absolutely adores you and I'm so thankful that we have you in our lives!!!  Thank you for believing in her and helping her see how much she's capable of!