Monday, September 29, 2014

The Time I Met Marian

I had something special happen to me a week or so ago.

First, let's rewind to the 90's for a second...

When I was in high school, I got to play the role of Laurey in our school's production of "Oklahoma!"

You can pretend this is me:

 It was my first "favorite" role in a musical that I've gotten to do.

I watched Shirley Jones's portrayal of Laurey in the 1955 film over and over as I got ready to play the part.  I didn't have any acting training when I was young, so she was my "teacher" -- my ideal for stage dialogue, singing and expression.

That was when I was a junior, in 1998.  Shirley came to Mason City to perform at the Surf and serve as Grand Marshal in the Band Festival parade the next summer.  I wanted SO badly to meet her...I went to the concert and was the only adoring fan under the age of 70, and watched her from afar at the Band Festival coronation.  No chance to get close, though.  She was too busy and too surrounded by "official" people.

Now, let's fast forward to adult life.  I've been in a few more shows since "Oklahoma!" and I've earned a degree in vocal music.  Shirley Jones's voice, to me, is one of those perfect voices that has made a lasting impression and I truly believe her voice helped shape the way I sing.

When I started teaching music in Mason City, I became well-acquainted with The Music Man and its glorious legacy.  I got to accompany Harding's fourth grade students to the Meredith Willson house and Music Man Square each spring, and led the kids through a short Music Man singing unit at the end of the school year.  I owned a VHS copy of the film and practically wore it out...falling in love with Shirley Jones's Marian the Librarian.  

I was employed at Stebens when they performed The Music Man, Jr. and was delighted to teach the wonderful music to the kids in the cast.  I felt like I was becoming a small part of a woven fabric of sorts...a special fabric that preserves the show and keeps the people of Mason City enthused about this amazing piece of history.

Recently, Mason City had a production of The Music Man in concert.  Shirley Jones was the host, and played the part of Mrs. Paroo.  Her (dreamy) son Patrick Cassidy played Harold Hill.  I had several friends and former students in the chorus, but hadn't made plans to see the show.  At the last minute I decided it was rather stupid that I wasn't going.  I even bugged my friends Sarah and Molly, who were in the show, to see if I could get backstage at some point to meet Shirley!

I went to the concert alone, which is definitely not a normal occurrence with my husband and fellow theatre-lover.  I treated it as a self-date and rather enjoyed myself.

Did you know that NIACC serves red wine in COFFEE CUPS before the show?!  HA!!!


I drank my secret merlot and perused the concert program.  I noticed the ad for Darlene Love's concert and the fundraiser for which Betty and the Gents is playing for...

and thoroughly, completely enjoyed the wonderful concert.  It was fantastic and I cried through most of it.  It was a collection of historical Music Man facts, photos, songs from the show, and bits of the dialogue.  It was a perfectly designed memoir.  I was so proud of everyone onstage and wanted to give each person involved a big bear hug.

After the show I visited with Sarah and started to tear up when I realized I would probably never meet Shirley Jones, one of my all-time heroes.  Sarah quickly said, "let's just walk backstage and see."  I am thankful for my friend, because


She was a delight...absolutely friendly and kind!  We talked so briefly, but I will never forget it.  I shared that I was a music teacher.  I thanked her for her singing.  I told her I'd been Laurey and that I have dreams of Marian, someday.  She told me I was beautiful.  (WHAT?!?!)

I even got to shake Patrick Cassidy's hand and chat with him for a bit, and he asked me for advice on keeping his throat healthy after a bout of laryngitis.  LOL!!!  I told him to hydrate, rest and steam.  As if he really needed to know those things.  I think he was just being super-kind, just like his mother.

When I posted the photo of Shirley and me on Facebook, my dear friend Michelle told me "Now you just have to meet Julie Andrews."

YES!  So, let's get on this, Mason City.  Julie Andrews.  All my heroes need to be checked off on my bucket list.

And after you bring Julie Andrews to town, you may bring Justin Timberlake.  


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Recipe: (I Forgot To Put It In The) Crockpot Tortellini

I love to find new recipes.  I have approximately 297,403,691 recipes stashed away for later use...they're scattered in cookbooks, emails, my Pinterest account, my phone, and in my school bag.  "Someday I'm going to make that!"  "OOOOO that looks delicious." "That would be perfect for Christmas." "If only I had three springform pans...then I could totally rock that layer cake recipe."  

Basically, I find recipes and never make ANY of them.

That is, until I re-discovered the glorious beauty of the CROCK POT.

I love you, Crock Pot.

When we moved into our new house, I unpacked ours and placed it on the counter...and it hasn't moved since.  I have had loads of fun finding things to make for supper and everything has passed the Tom test -- he's not picky by any means, but he has loved every new recipe I've made in it.

This week, I had a tortellini recipe all set to try on Tuesday.  The sauce is cooked in the crock pot for 4-6 hours on low, then the frozen pasta is thrown in at the end.  Super easy.  Well, Tuesday came along and during the school day I remembered that I'd forgotten to put the ingredients in and set the timer.  Whoops!

With no other supper plans in mind, I decided to try it anyway and just set everything in my Dutch oven to simmer for a while after school.  It turned out perfectly!

Here is the simple 7-step recipe:

1.  Brown 1/2 lb Italian sausage (I used Johnsonville) and 1/2 lb ground beef in a Dutch oven.

 2.  Let it go until the bottom of the pot looks like this:

3.  ...then dump in some red wine.  (this isn't in the original recipe but I don't make red sauce without wine anymore)
This red's name is "Intermingle."  It came from Aldi and wasn't the best.  Shelby and Loni and I tried it during the last Vino Vednesday, and threw most of it down the drain after we found it has a very bitter aftertaste.  It was only $4 so maybe next time I'll splurge and get the $6 bottle :)

4.  As the wine bubbles, scrape up all the bits off the bottom of the pot.

5.  Break a cooking rule and dump in a jar of Prego sauce.
(I don't actually know whose rule that is, but I assume it's a party foul to add jarred sauce according to somebody important in the cooking world.)

6.  Add a can of diced tomatoes with the juice.  I used Hy Vee brand with onion and garlic, I think.

7.  Get it to a simmer, then reduce the heat.  This is the beginning of something magical, people.  

 9.  Forget that your new house has an electric, flat-top stove which makes the Dutch oven handles HOT.  Grab the side of the pan and burn the crap out of your hand.  Yell a few choice words at your stove and cry because you miss your lovely gas stove with dependable heat levels.

10.  Get over yourself and be thankful you have a stove.  Remind yourself to not be such a ding-bat next time you reach for a hot pan.

11.  Get your cute new pot holders out of the cupboards and take a selfie with them.

12.  Set the timer for an hour or so, and let 'er rip.  By "rip," I mean "gently simmer."
 mmmmmmmm...revel in the gorgeousness...
13.  Check on your napping baby and whisper sweet nothings, aka "I'm so glad you're asleep right now" into his cute little ears.

14.  Realize there is a little bit of the "bad wine" left in the measuring cup and pour it into a glass.  These are glasses that I got in Prague when my choir toured Europe in 2002.  Aren't they pretty?
Even bad wine tastes good in a pretty glass.  

15.  While the sauce is working away, take care of some other random kitchen and household chores, like washing baby bottle parts and hanging the nipples on the nipple tree. 

16.  Giggle at the fact you have something in your house called a "nipple tree."

17.  Notice the too-ripe bananas, which are way too ugly to be sitting on such a cute little tray (which was kindly given to us by our beautiful neighbor Danika).  

18.  Write a mental note to make banana bread before an army of fruit flies takes over your house.

19.  Finally, when the hour is over, dump in the frozen pasta, turn the heat off, and cover.  In 10 minutes supper is done!

20.  Serve with salad, bread and a snuggly baby.  (no actual bread in the photo because we were all out)

Okay so it's 20 steps instead of 7.  Try the recipe, it's great!

The next one I'm going to try is called "Autumn Delight."  Why on earth would someone name a beef/mushroom soup/onion soup/egg noodle recipe AUTUMN DELIGHT?!

Happy Crocking!

Love, Betsy

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Best One Yet

My 33rd birthday was the best one yet!

I joked with my coworkers and husband that all I wanted for my birthday was a uninterrupted 3-hour sleep session on our poofy gray couch with the Hawkeye fleece blanket.

Jude caught a little cold and hadn't been sleeping well for a week or so.  It's rough when your all-night sleeper goes back to waking up two or three times a night...I felt like we were reverting back to newborn days.

By the time my birthday came along on Friday the 12th I was WIPED OUT.  However, no amount of tiredness is going to keep me from having fun on a dinner date followed by seriously fun quality time with friends!!

Tom and I went to one of our favorite restaurants, Chop.  I ordered my once-a-year Filet Oscar.  I might have to change my rule to twice a year or more, because


(imagine I just climbed up on my kitchen table and shouted that out for effect)

(now I'm climbing off the table)

It really is THAT good.  A perfectly tender and lean filet topped with crab meat, hollandaise sauce and asparagus.  Greek pasta on the side and a healthy pour of Malbec.  You should drop everything and get to Chop NOW and order this meal.

After I shook myself out of my steak-induced stupor, Tom and I went over to the Historic Park Inn and met up with some of our nearest and dearest.  I love, love, love this hotel...if you've never been there, you should go check it out.

My friend Julie gave me a grab bag of birthday fun-ness as soon as we walked in, which included a sparkly tiara, a pink hair extension, birthday girl button, glow bracelets and a My Little Pony eraser that doubled as a perfect garnish for a martini glass.  LOL!!  

This is my Kati.  She is my genius hairstylist and helped me make sure my pink polyester hair was properly attached.  :)

As the night went on, I decided everyone needed a picture wearing the crown.  As if we needed any more proof that I hang with the coolest folks ever, here is the Gallery of Princesses:

(if Ryan's lovely wife Heidi is reading this, we forgot to get your tiara shot!)

We were blessed to come home to a sleeping baby and my amazing parents who had sat with him for the evening.  I really wish my parents lived closer -- and they're not even very far away!  Is it true for all of us that our parents just become more and more valuable to us as we get older?

On Saturday, Jude woke up and ate at his normal 5:30 time, then went back to sleep.  I gladly joined him in going back to bed.  I checked on him at 7, and he was still out.  I checked again at 8, and again at 8:30.  Believe it or not, my adorable little guy slept until 9:00.  

WAHOOOOOOOOO!!!!  Mama got her SLEEP!  Thank you birthday present ever.  

Later on that morning we met my dear friend, Katie, and her 4-week old Kylie at Cabin Coffee.  The babies bonded and discussed their plans for the upcoming MCHS girls' basketball season (Katie is the JV girls coach!):

And then we had fun watching the Iowa/Iowa State game at our neighbors' house! 

Here is Jude with his newest BFF, Dan.  I'm noticing that sometimes my son finds a particular human that he just loves -- he stares at them, smiles and giggles at them, and basically just attaches himself to them.  It's so precious!!

I wish these fun weekends would just keep going, but I guess work has to happen between them in order for us to really appreciate the special times.  :)

Have a wonderful week everyone!

Love, Betsy