25 November 2011

Top Five Friday: How I Found Peace (or Avoiding the Crowds on Black Friday)

I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.  I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. 
~ George Bernard Shaw

One of the blessings of being back in a relatively small town is the downtown area.  Historic Fredericksburg is one of my all time favorite places to be, and I’m not just saying that as one of its proud Southern daughters.

Today is Black Friday.  A day when manners, already almost completely forgotten on a normal day, are completely thrown out and insanity and incivility rule.  Just as I sat down to write this, I heard on the news about a woman in California who maced other shoppers just so she could get the last Xbox or some such nonsense.  I would like to think this is something that only happens somewhere else, but several years ago I witnessed two grown women, well into their 40s, having a screaming match ~ complete with hair pulling and punching ~ over some item, now long forgotten.  It was my first and last foray into the hell known as Black Friday.

This year, since I was home, I opted instead to support local shop owners and producers.  What a contrast to the big, noisy chain stores!  Shopping was actually pleasant and was an almost centering experience.  I talked and joked with each store owner, clerk, and customer that I met.  The gifts I bought were unique and special and chosen with care.  More importantly, I planted a seed of kindness and generosity at each store that I hope will grow into a life-long relationship and maybe, if we’re both lucky, friendship.

If you are ever in the area and would like to experience warm Southern hospitality while you shop, check out my top five favorite stores and boutiques and all the other great places in and around Historic Fredericksburg.

Vera Bradley.  Need I say more?  You will also love the almost two story Christmas tree decorated with beautiful ornaments, including some Christopher Radko.  Upstairs you’ll find some of the most luscious linens ever to grace your table ~ holiday or otherwise! 

Books. Books. And more books.  Can you tell I love books?  A couple of friends on my nice list are avid bibliophiles.  So shopping for them was a cinch here.  Especially since they especially like old, out of print, or rare books.  Riverby’s is a book lover’s haven, with three stories and couches in different nooks and crannies where you can settle down with your favorite Jane Austen or Walt Whitman.  Of note: check out the Art and Civil War sections.

This has always been my go-to shop for gifts for my home chef and foodie friends.  Which sometimes includes “Merry Christmas to me!”  Ah well.  Today I bought a few stocking stuffers for my close “Captivating” girlfriends, and also a metal food mold ~ think sushi shape, and a tiny silver spoon just for fun.  They also have ornaments, tablecloths and unique gifts in the home section.  Always artfully decorated at this most wonderful time of the year.

This home store was new to me and I fell in love with it.  It was like stepping into the parlour in an old French chateau.  The wall colour is a muted blue ~ almost a pale, pale Wedgewood. I ended up purchasing twelve adorable little pear candles to use a place holders for an elegant dinner.

Another new to me store.  I got to meet Tanya and her watercolours are beautiful.  I bought a couple of original pieces depicting fall scenes in Fredericksburg and the Shenandoah Valley.  With the right frame, it will be perfect for my friend who moved away from all her family and friends in Virginia ~ a little piece of home on her wall.

There are lots more stores I could tell you about, but this is Top Five Friday after all!

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

23 November 2011

The Eighth Annual Saint Cecilia Arts Festival: The War Between the States

Art is the only way to run away without leaving home. 
~ Twyla Tharp

Well, we did it again.  Another November, another successful Saint Cecilia Arts Festival!  And by all accounts, it was the best one yet.

Once again we wooed and wowed the audience by turns with poetry, Broadway, original music, moving monologues, and side-splitting comedy.  But this year we added a twist: a theme.

2011 marked the 150th Anniversary of the American Civil War, so that was our main theme.  To broaden it a little for our artists, we added four sub-themes: War, Tragedy, Honor, and Survival.  Both Sullivan and I wondered how the artists would interpret the theme.  They did not disappoint.

The Civil Strings

Civil Strings was our Featured Artist this year.  They performed four beautiful pieces, two of which are personal favorites: Theme from Schindler’s List and Ashokan Farewell, from Ken Burns’ Civil War series.  Over Farewell, Donald Maclean, one of the members of the quartet, read the Gettysburg Address.  It was a moving performance that ended the evening on a wonderful note (if you’ll pardon the pun).

Michelle Jacobeen, mezzo-soprano
Michelle Jacobeen returned and performed two numbers from Broadway musicals.  One was as a Civil War nurse – I Never Knew His Name and one from the musical Jekyll and Hyde – A New Life.  As she did last year, Michelle won the hearts of our audience with her lyricism and dramatic interpretation.

Janet Purdy, mezzo and Maria Bissex, sorprano
Maria Bissex, soprano, sang two songs not normally associated with a Civil War theme: an incredible version of Empty Chairs and Empty Tables, and a moving duet arragement of Into the West, where she was joined by mezzo Janet Purdy.  The latter was one of my personal favorites; believe me when I say that the Annie Lennox version does not do this piece justice.  You need to hear this duo’s harmonies!

Eric J. Kingsepp, Hannah DeRegibus,
Paul Dunlap, and Mikaela D'Eigh

I think it is safe to say that the highlight of the evening was the Went with the Wind skit by Carol Burnett.  I remember watching this skit back in the day, and laughing until my sides ached.  The drapes weren’t green velvet, but the red silk still got the desired response: Starlett [yours truly] had to wait a full minute and a half for the laughter to die down so she could say her next line! 

The menu this year matched the theme, with some stalwart favorites sticking around: Fried Chicken Bites [my mother’s receipe], Sausage Balls [Paula Deen’s recipe], Petite Ham Biscuits, Bacon-Wrapped Dates, Petite Pumpkin Pies, and Pecan Tassies. 

We also had a cheese board donated by Fields of Athenry, a sustainable and organic farm located in Purcellville, Virginia.  And this year’s  spotlighted winery, Breaux Vineyards, is located in Loudon County, not that far from Athenry.  The owners down at The Virginia Wine Experience in Fredericksburg were kind enough to give us a discount on a case of some of Breaux’s nicest vintages.

To see more pictures, read the event program, or simply to learn more about the great work these group is doing to renew culture in the local community, visit The Saint Cecilia Group at www.saintceciliagroup.org and click on Past Events.   I promise you’ll be marking your calendars for Saturday, 17 November 2012!

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

03 November 2011

The Eighth Annual Saint Cecilia Arts Festival

To send light into the darkness of men's hearts - such is the duty of the artist. 
~ Schumann

Every November, an exciting event celebrating the beauty of Art and the art of Beauty takes place in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia.  Now in its eighth year, the Annual Saint Cecilia Arts Festival has grown from a small group of friends gathered around a piano to almost two hundred attendees and over two hours of outstanding performances!

For the first time this year, The Saint Cecilia Group has chosen a theme for the festival: the commemoration of the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War, with the sub-themes of war, tragedy, honor, and survival.  Although not all the works performed will deal directly with the Civil War, the heartbreak, pain, suffering, and acts of heroic sacrifice of war are recurring themes no matter if it’s 1865 Gettysburg, or 2011 Afghanistan.

The show will be at St. Mary’s Lyceum,
313 Duke Street
in Alexandria, Virginia and tickets are on sale now through November 12 at The Saint Cecilia Group.  But get them now; they sell out fast!

Thank you so much for supporting local and regional talent! Yours truly will be performing once again, in among other things, a skit with one English know-it-all and one with a very well known Southern rascal in a skit involving . . .a curtain. 

See you on the 19th!

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

02 November 2011

November 2011 PAD Challenge

Poetry is a mirror which makes beautiful that which is distorted. 
~ Percy Shelley

It’s already Day 2 of Robert Lee Brewer’s Poem a Day (PAD) challenge for November.  I wish I could say I’m late posting this because I was busy writing a poem.  However, today I will take up the challenge. You go read all the rules and find out more at Robert’s blog.

November is a month dedicated to writing.  You have the National Novel Writing Month, and also a Non-Fiction version.  I would have loved to do either of those, but my track record for writing isn’t so hot.  So I will start small.  A poem a day may seem insane, but for me, it just flows.  Sometimes it flows like spring water and other times it flows like some other kind of water!  But the point is to write.  Every day.

And hopefully at the end of 30 days, there will be 10-20 poems worth keeping and publishing in a chapbook.

Writers, dip your pens!

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

P.S. So what have I been working on??  Just one song and two skits for the Annual Saint Cecilia Arts Festival ~ but that’s another post for another day! ;)