Monday, September 29, 2014

Disney's Aladdin - 9/27/14

This past Saturday was Julia's big day; a day trip to Broadway in New York City to see Aladdin with the original cast. Her birthday trip last year was to see The Lion King, and she loved it so much that it might be becoming a tradition. If The Lion King was spectacular, then Aladdin was even better.
Aladdin Playbill

We hit a lot of traffic getting into the city. In an ideal world, we would have gotten there and parked with enough time to spare to have a nice lunch before heading to the theater. In the real world, we grabbed a snack at a Starbucks. Not ideal, but not the worst thing ever.
Girls and the Marquee

To say that Julia was excited would be an understatement. To say that she was ready to burst into flames at any moment would be more accurate. Uncontrollable smiles. Excited chatter. Hopping around in place. Good stuff...
5th row balcony (I like the balcony)

We had seats in the fifth row of the balcony, overlooking the stage. These are my preferred kind of seats, whether for a show like this or a concert. I like the perspective of being up and above the action, with a good panoramic view. According to the notes in the Playbill, Disney's first Broadway musical was Beauty and the Beast in 1994, and in the same year the Disney Company signed a 99 year lease to renovate the 1903 Amsterdam Theater to its original glory. All major Disney musicals since then have had their opening run in this theater. Corporate money can do good things, and this is one of them; the New Amsterdam is a spectacular old theater. Just sitting in this restored ornate old gem is like taking a trip back in time.
View from our seats
As for our show itself, Aladdin opened this spring. James Monroe Iglehart won the Tony award for lead performance in a musical (as the Genie), and I can certainly see why. At 6 foot tall and 295 pounds, football fans could imagine Warren Sapp who can sing and dance. Amazing. I could gush for a long time over this show. The music from the film was terrific. The additional music they added to turn this into a full length stage musical was equally good. The performances were great, especially Iglehart and Adam Jacobs as Aladdin. The staging was terrific. In two and a half hours of show there was never a let up. Singing, dancing, jokes, effects. The time flew by. There were so many little jokes and references embedded in the show that you had to pay attention or you would miss things.
New Amsterdam Theater

All of the cast was great. Jonathan Freeman as Jafar. Courtney Reed as Princess Jasmine. Don Darryl Rivera as Iago. All of the secondary characters were fabulous. It is a real treat to have seen the original cast; something that I hope the kids will appreciate later if they don't now. The effects were amazing. I'm still not 100% sure how they did the magic carpet...

Of the dozen or so Broadway shows I have seen over the years, I would rate this behind only Les Miserables and Miss Saigon. There was general agreement that this was better than The Lion King (which was also excellent). I thought it better than Phantom of the Opera (most overrated musical ever...), and it was better than Victor Victoria (even though we did see Julie Andrews, which in and of itself is a Broadway lifetime highlight).

Writing this two days later, Julia is still abuzz with excitement. As a parent, I guess that is the best you can ask of a birthday gift to a daughter. She's probably wondering what she will get to see next year. So am I.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Broadway 2014 - Aladdin

Julia loooooves music and musicals. There aren't many things she likes as much as her musical fixation du jour. Recently, this has been Aladdin.

Last year for her birthday we took her on a day trip to Broadway to see The Lion King. To say that she was over the moon would be an understatement.

When the subject came up of what we should do for Julia's upcoming birthday this year, it really came down to a question of "what musical should we see?" Julia has seen Les Miserables in Philly and The Lion King on Broadway. Aladdin on Broadway seemed like a perfect choice.

In order to have time to get properly excited and fully bask in the anticipation, she got her main birthday present a little early, and we are in full throttle ramp-up mode for a trip to New York in the near future.

Happy girls make the world go 'round. And we have a seriously happy girl in the house these days.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The road goes ever on and on...

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.

Grace, age 10, is my little reader. Over the course of the summer, between 4th and 5th grades, she devoured a lot of books, not the least of which were all 7 of the Harry Potter books (4,193 pages in total). She reads new books as fast as we can find them for her.

Tonight, when getting ready for bed, she asked me if we had anything else for her to read. A thought occurred to me. We went down to the living room ("library") and I took a sacred book off the shelf. The Hobbit. If she can read all seven books of Harry Potter, she can certainly read this. She may even be disappointed/underwhelmed by The Hobbit. I hope not. It is a book that holds a special place in my heart, and I hope she enjoys it. And after that, I hope she reads and enjoys The Lord of the Rings.

I can't help but to wonder what a kid these days will think of these books, having been exposed to a lot more than I ever was at that age, just in terms of what she will have seen in movies and on TV.

These were magical books to me. I hope they are to her as well.

Far over the Misty Mountains cold,
To dungeons deep and caverns old,
We must away, ere break of day,
To seek our pale enchanted gold.

Out with the Old...

The last quarter of the year would be bringing us to the end of a three year lease on the 2012 Honda Pilot (where does the time go?). This blue Pilot was the successor of a leased red 2009 Pilot, and we loved both vehicles. They were both well-equipped, big, heavy, safe and could haul any amount of people (8, comfortably) or gear (lots and lots and lots).

We have loved our Honda Pilots, and they have treated us well. However, we have been aware that the number of times we have needed to haul three seating rows worth of people or a ton of gear have been relatively few and far between. The flip side of "we have a ton of space and hauling capacity on those few instances when we need it" has been counterbalanced by not very good gas mileage and the fact that these big tanks eat tires for lunch. Needing to buy an expensive set of tires inside of a three year lease kinda stinks...

So with the realization that there are only four of us, and routine gear hauling requirements are minimal, we went to our go-to guy at Scott Honda to pick out a new vehicle (Eric Bausman, highly recommended, tell him I sent you...). We had agreed that the incumbent choice would be another Pilot, but that we would also look at Odyssey minivans and CRV small-SUV's. On the drive to the dealership, Grace asked Amp what color car we were going to get, and Amp said "anything but white."

Three hours later we drove home in a brand new 2014 CRV. White of course. Go figure.
2014 Honda CRV

Leasing isn't the right choice for everyone, but I like the fact that Amp and the girls get a new vehicle every three years. Safe. New. Reliable.

In some ways, I will miss the Pilot. It was big and could haul anything. And it was heavy and solid. Short of having Amp and the girls driving an actual tank, it is hard to imagine something that felt bigger and therefore safer than the Pilot. I have always like the thought of Amp and the girls safe and sound in their big blue tank.

But the CRV's safety ratings are excellent, it gets 50% better gas mileage than the Pilot (yes, 50%, that's not a typo), and the chances of it burning out an $800 set of tires inside of three years is basically non-existent. So... thus begins the era of the CRV.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

GVHS 34, Strath Haven 14

This was a close 7-7 game at the half, but the good guys pulled away in the second half with solid defense, some good running, and a few timely passing plays. Having an interception return for a touchdown called back for defensive holding that would have put us down 21-14 didn't hurt either.
Strath Haven's 400+ marching band

But the most impressive thing of the evening, by far, was the Strath Haven band. Our band is decent sized, and fairly good I think. Strath Haven was a whole different thing altogether. One of the other parents told us that (including color guard) the SH band totals 415 kids (ok, 415 young adults).

We were sitting in the home stands maybe 10 feet from our trumpeters. Every time the two bands did one of those competing battle-of-the-bands things, we could hear their band over ours. Clearly. They filled the opposing bleachers. When they marched onto the field for their halftime show, it looked like Napoleon invading Russia. And they were good. They were tight, loud, and big, filling the field from end zone to end zone, sideline to sideline. No matter how good a small or medium sized band might be, there is just something about the spectacle of a band that size that you can't get from anything other than...well...a band that size.

Hats off to the Strath Haven band.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Football Season

It's getting toward Fall, and that means high school football (at least it does around here these days). Which I find somewhat surprising. My daughters aren't the biggest sports fans in the world, to put it mildly. But they sure do love going to our Garnet Valley football games.

For Grace, It is a chance to wander around and socialize with her friends. I don't think she ever pays the least bit of attention to the actual game. Julia loves going and seeing her friends (everyone seems to know her, and say hi), but she also surprises me by paying attention to the game itself.

I'm glad the kids are enjoying it. As much as I do like going to the games (and actually watching the football...), we wouldn't be going if the kids didn't want to. So I am glad that they have each found something that they like. It's gotten to be a routine over the last couple of years that if there is a home game and we don't have something else specific going on, we'll be there.
Upper Darby at Garnet Valley

The first game of the year was a loss at Unionville (which we didn't go to). Apparently, we scored a TD early, missed the extra point, and then didn't score again for the rest of the game, while Unionville kicked a pair of field goals and registered a safety. Ugh. We have a young team this year, having lost many important graduating seniors, and I'm not sure how good we will be (at least compared to last year's state playoff team).

Last week's game was a 34-20 home win over Upper Darby (which we went to). The game wasn't as close as the score.
Garnet Valley band

Tonight, to my great satisfaction (having watched my hometown Springfield team lose to them every single year growing up), we beat Ridley at home 21-14. We went up 14-0 before giving up a 92 yard kickoff return to make it 14-7. With about 3 minutes to go in the game, we broke off a 33 yard touchdown on 4th and 3 from the 33, making it seem that the game was over. Ridley added a TD in the closing minute to get within 7, but that's as close as it got. Nothing is quite as much fun as beating Ridley.

In addition to the football, the kids enjoy watching the marching band, which includes a few of our neighbors' kids. Last year's theme was Pirates of the Carribean. This year it's Harry Potter. Early on, it looks like a promising show, but they need some work...

Next week...another home game.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Daimler Ferret Scout Car

Having driven past this at least 100 times (on route 309 near Coopersburg), I'm glad I finally stopped and took some pictures. On the side of the road, not 10 feet from a major road, is an armored car of some sort. I've always wondered what it was, but have generally been in the middle of a long drive to or from work or family visits to north Jersey.
Daimler Ferret front/side

A link to a picture closely resembling this vehicle is here, where it is labeled a Daimler Ferret Mk 2/6 Scout Car. According to Wikipedia, there are a ton of minor variants of this vehicle, of which 4,409 were produced between 1952 and 1971. I have no idea what model this is. Nor does it matter...but there it is, and it looks cool.
Daimler Ferret rear

It took a decent bit of Googling to identify it. Given the general appearance, my first impression was that it was some sort of British WW2 light armored car. I was sort of close and sort of not. It is a lot more modern than I would have guessed, and so I spent time looking at WW2 armored cars of all nations to no avail. Eventually I stumbled on something that got me close, and then I found the picture linked above that got me to the right place.

I have no idea why it is sitting there rusting by the side of the road in Coopersburg, but at least I know what it is.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

First Day of School - 2014

Another summer is gone and the kids go back to school, or as parents everywhere put it, "it's the most wonderful time of the year".

The only commentary I could have is the same thing I say every year: another year? Already?

Our high school sophomore.
Grudgingly humoring Dad

And our 5th grade goofball.
Not bothering to humor Mom

Someday soon, maybe she'll grow into her backpack... Or not.
More backpack than student

Goofballs or not, I couldn't be more proud. Now if they would just slow down the whole growing up process just a little bit...

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Last of the Magoos

We were sitting and watching one of the Harry Potter movies with Grace, who plowed through all 4,000+ pages of the seven books in the last month (at age 10), when we noticed that she would only watch the movie sitting close to the TV. We asked why she did that, and the predictable answer was "because I can't see it clearly from back there lying on your bed."

And so after a quick visit to the eye doctor, the last member of the family now has glasses. She is to wear them for TV and blackboard at school - trying not to wear them for computer, reading or anything up close so she doesn't train her eyes to need them more than she already does.

When I had to get glasses for the same reason, somewhere back around 7th grade, I was devastated. She thought it was cool, and couldn't wait to pick out the frames. Good for her.