Sunday, October 4, 2015

O Columbia

A couple of weeks ago, a friend and I attended the chamber opera, O Columbia, performed by Houston Grand Opera.  A chamber opera is very small and has only the most basic costumes, orchestra, and stage setting.

This opera was about the space shuttle Columbia disaster.  The stage was backed by a large sheet and shadow puppets enhanced the performance.  The costumes were black trousers and tops for all and the set consisted of a bed, a ladder, and various small props.

The opera was lovely!  The songs were thought provoking and interesting - it's rare that I hear an opera in English so it was a treat to not have to follow along with the subtitles.  The story of Columbia was woven into a larger theme about exploration and risk, and while I understood it, I was initially confused, as was my friend.

I'm glad we went to the show.  It was a unique opera and an interesting experience.  

Friday, October 2, 2015

Miss me?

I've missed you!

We had visitors for the last week or so...and now we are dealing with a household filled with icky illnesses.  

I want to tell you all about the fun things we have been doing, but I'm exhausted today.  I was up most of the night with a sick boy.  I'll be back soon....

Monday, September 21, 2015

Baseball and the Zoo

Last weekend, we weren't as busy as we tend to be on the weekends.  My husband took the older boys to a baseball game on Saturday night while I had a movie night with Baby Boy.  I thought Baby Boy would be jealous of the baseball game but he loved just chilling out with a bowl of popcorn and a terrible movie.  (Of course, he thought the movie was quite brilliant).

On Sunday morning we went to the zoo.  The morning was cool and Big Boy suggested we go see the lions because they are usually hot and dozy by the time the zoo opens on warmer mornings.  It was a great idea - they were active and playing a lion version of soccer.  It was interesting to watch.

Rainbow in fountain at Hermann Park

New baby giraffe at the zoo

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


Yesterday, tragedy was all over the news.  Both here in Houston and near my home in Canada, horrible events unfolded involving children.  It it all so sad.  

Rest in peace, young ones.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Disney's The Little Mermaid by TUTS

On Sunday Little Boy and I had a very special outing - we saw the musical of Disney's The Little Mermaid.  This was Little Boy's first full-length stage show.

We went with friends, and Little Boy was so excited - we arrived early and he wanted to sit in the theatre for an extra half hour but instead we looked around the displays in the lobby.  When we did sit down, Little Boy got a kick out of looking for shooting stars on the Hobby Center ceiling.

The show was wonderful!  The costumes were beautiful and the performers moved as though they were swimming.  There were some special effects, which added to the show and did not distract from the plot line.

Little Boy was surprised at first.  I think he thought the show would look like the cartoon film.  He also thought Ariel's hair wasn't red enough.  He's probably right.

After a few minutes of confusion, he really got into the show.  He watched quietly and wasn't too wiggly with the exception of one song in the second half.  There are a few songs in the show that aren't in the movie - most of these songs serve to advance the plot line without extensive dialogue.  Little Boy thought one of these songs was boring.  He was right.

I noticed that Little Boy wasn't particularly interested in the dialogue portions but he loved all of the songs and dancing.  He tried to figure out how everything worked and he was impressed with the wires that the characters hung from to "swim" across the stage.

After the show we had dinner out with friends - another big treat.  After he ate his burger, Little Boy got tired - I think from all of the excitement.  It was perfect timing - the meal was over and we had a lovely afternoon.  I took him home and tucked him into bed.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Houston Grand Opera Studio Showcase

On Thursday night I went to an excellent performance of the Houston Grand Opera (HGO) at the Wortham Center.  It was their 2015-16 Studio Showcase, where all members of the Studio perform in the same programme.  

Our evening started off with 2 small friend and I were lost on our way from the underground parking garage to the theatre (it is easy to get lost as the garage services multiple buildings). We asked one of the security employees for help and she drove us in her small golf cart to where we needed to be.  It was a long drive and she drove EXTREMELY fast.  So fun!!

Once we got to the theatre, we could not figure out how to get up to our seats on the mezzanine.  Turned out there was a good reason for this - the mezzanine is only accessible with an usher through a specific elevator.  We spoke with an usher and she called for another usher to take us up.  Then yet another usher came by and upgraded our seats to the orchestra section!  We had great seats with a lovely clear view of the stage.

The show was a series of scenes from different operas, and each scene was introduced by a host/narrator who described the opera's overall storyline and then pinpointed where the scene belonged in the plot.  He then introduced all of the cast members in the scene and discussed heir awards (they have won so many awards!!!) and experience.  This host made the evening special.  He was funny and informative - a joy to listen to.

The stage dressings were minimal but very clever and effective.  The creative costumes gave most of the opera scenes twist.  For example in the pieces from the Marriage of Figaro, Figaro and Susanna were dressed as a 50s couple (I think 50s - she was wearing a full house dress and him an undershirt and open button shirt over).  Cherubino was clad in denim with a leather jacket - a love-sick menace.  It was cute and refreshing.

My absolute favourite performance of the evening had the simplest set - just costumes and a single rose.  The piece was "Tell me about my mother" from Carmen, and Don Jose (I'm sorry I have no idea how to make the accent on my keyboard) was wearing a soldier's uniform.  Micaela (again, no accent) wore a day dress.  It was a beautiful, moving, stirring performance that drew me in completely.

There were only 2 pieces I didn't love.  The first was a haunting duet from Susannah called "How long's it gonna last, Sam?".  This was beautifully sung and almost sent shivers down my spine with it's unsettling tension, but I didn't enjoy watching that much pain, fear, and anger.  I understand that it's not an "enjoyable" scene and therefore it was performed wonderfully, but it just wasn't for me.

The other piece was Hansel and Gretel....I never like this.  I don't love the story and I don't love the opera.  

The show finished with the rousing selection "Here's to your fresh smile" from La rondine (Puccini).  The set was said to be reminiscent of Andy Warhol's warehouse parties.  The stage was covered in silver pillow balloons with a disco ball and the costumes were amazing.  It was a great piece to end on - so much energy!

I can't wait to go to next year's showcase, but also I wish I could go to more of the shows this year.  What is holding me back?  A few things.  Opera is, of course, expensive.  So buying the tickets seems like a proper commitment to me.  It's hard to commit in advance to a show because I need to ensure that my husband can watch my sons and that I have someone to go with (and usually whomever I'd go with also needs to set up a sitter).  Also the cheaper tickets seem to be purchased months in advance!  I plan to try to get to as many shows as I can this year!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Labour Day Weekend

We had a bit of a nutty weekend.


We had planned a camping trip.  On Saturday morning we packed up and travelled to Stephen F. Austin State Park (  It's a lovely place!  It looks more like a city park than a campsite.  It's full of lawns and large trees.  We set up our campsite and the boys rode around on their bikes.  

After lunch while the smaller boys napped, Big Boy beat me in an Uno tourney and did some off-road biking with a new friend.  Friends of ours arrived to join us for some outdoor fun and after a while, we all decided to go for a short hike.  We zipped up the tent but left everything else outside.

We hiked to the nature centre and the minute we stepped inside the rain started bucketing down.  It was a crazy downpour - steady and with as much pressure (at least) as our shower!  It went on and on.  

Once the rain let up we crept out of the nature centre to find our other friends had arrived in their car!  They drove the smaller children back to the campsite and the rest of us hiked back through some serious mud.  I was proud of Big Boy.  It was sloppy, mucky, and slick but he hiked like a pro.

When we got to our campsite we found devastation.  Our tent was standing and completely dry inside but all of the rest of our stuff was soaked, muddy,  and ruined.  There was no way we could stay.  My friend had left her mobile phone on the table (in the rain) but the case protected it and it still works!

Our friends invited us back to their house where we cooked our camping food and had a great time.  The kids stayed up late.  Then we drove home and started unpacking the muddy, sloppy mess.  I won't even describe how bad it was.  Thankfully my husband did most of the work.

The sky was darkening on this hike!

On Sunday we packed up a picnic and headed over to Battleship Texas State Historic Site (  Our State Parks Pass allows us to enter this historic site for free.  At the Battleship Texas State Historic Site you tour the USS Texas - a massive battleship that was commissioned in 1914.  

The kids love this ship and so do I.  This was our second visit.  You can wander through most of the decks and it's set up as a museum.  Some rooms are preserved so that you can look into them and imagine what life was like as a soldier - such as the dental office and cafeteria.  Some areas are open and you can wander through and look at (or touch if you are my boys) everything.

There are guns that the kids can sit on and operate - by operate, I don't mean "shoot" more like "aim".  The guns are kind of like small cannons.  I don't know much about guns but I'll include some pictures if you are interested.

We spent a couple of hours exploring the ship and then had our picnic. We didn't go to the San Jacinto Battleground this time.

While I love this ship as an outing, I was nervous during our visit.  There are a lot of obvious dangers for my boys - they could easily fall through most of the fences around the edge of the ship (into the water or onto a lower deck) and there are brutal stairs and ladders between the levels.  Also many tripping hazards.  I would definitely not feel comfortable taking my boys alone, another adult is necessary to help them and keep them safe.

This was the view of the ship from our picnic spot.

You can sit on these guns and use the pedals to aim them.

You can see into the ship channel when you are aboard the ship.

Sleeping quarters.

This is a ladder/staircase between the levels of the ship.  

On holiday Monday morning, my husband took the boys for a bike ride.  When they came back we went on a family outing to the McGovern Centennial Gardens (  

This was my first time walking up onto the mount.  It's only 30 feet high, but it offers a lovely view from the top.  There are warnings about keeping your kids and pets under control on the winding trail up the mount, and our boys did very well.  Aside from some "fast walking" there were no issues.  

The boys loved walking on the bridges near the waterfalls on the mount.

After walking up the mount, we explored the Arid Garden, the Rose Garden, and the Tudor Family Pine Hill walk with the Friendship Pavilion.  The Friendship Pavilion has an amazing ceiling.  It was a gift from Houston's sister city, Taipei.

This was the only picture I took of the mount today - you can see it just left of centre behind the big lawn.
The waterfall is directly down the middle.

View from the mount.

The Arid Garden

The Rose Garden

Statue of Confucius near the Friendship Pavilion

Friendship Pavilion