A Quick War Horse Review

A Quick War Horse Review

Let me start out by saying that I haven’t written a “theatrical review” piece since … well, since I was getting a grade for it.  I have almost NO experience with Broadway shows, and I don’t remember anything about specific acting styles or anything like that.  I do like to think, however, that I can tell when a play has been done well, and when it’s been filled with life.  War Horse is exactly that: brimming over with life.  The show was practically breathing.

I was so concerned that I was going bawl my eyes out throughout the entire show.  I’m (most of the time) pretty good at giving myself in to the spirit of the production and fully suspending my disbelief when it comes to seeing a play, so if there’s going to be some emotional stuff happening . . . yeah, that crying lady is probably me.

Really, though, I spent most of the time feeling breathless.  Sure, I cried a few times because of the plot, but watching the puppeteers bring those horses (and birds) to life was an emotional experience in itself.  I loved that the puppeteers were very simply there.  No extra attention was called to them, and there was no attempt made to hide them, either.  When Joey was a young horse, one of the puppeteers was moving the entire time, gently heaving the horse’s chest as he breathed.  Honestly, they were all moving the entire time.  Joey’s ears would flick every once in a while, his tail would swish randomly . . . I don’t know if I can say much more without getting annoyingly gushy about it.  The puppets were absolutely mesmerizing.

The show as a whole was . . . formidable.  An emotional force.  The only static part of the set was a giant scrap of torn sketchbook paper, which was used as a projection screen throughout the show.  I’ve seen plenty of shows that use projections terribly, and this was not the case for War Horse.  For the most part, the projections were subtle and did a good job of providing a little bit of constant setting to such a sparse stage.

I appreciated the cast, as I don’t imagine that it could be easy to share the stage with such amazing puppetry.  The accents were pleasant, the leads were strong, and the rest of the cast made for a very satisfying ensemble.  For the most part, I found there to be a quiet symbiosis between the actors and the horses, and I think that they definitely rose to the challenge of interacting with these massive creatures.  I became emotionally attached to many, and fell in love with a few of the characters, which is, for me, a sign of a job very well done.

The show is marketed as a family show, and is recommended for kids aged 9 and up.  For the most part, I agree.  Courage, faith, and love are all prevalent themes, and the ending leaves you with hope.  I will say, however, that, oh my goodness you guys, this show is physically powerful.  There are moments of music and lighting and rumbling and war that are overwhelming even for me, an almost 30-year old woman.  There are deaths, there is darkness, there are ghostly soldiers, and a little mild profanity.  You know your kids’ ability to handle mature content; use your expert judgment!

I’m so grateful to Omaha Performing Arts and the people behind War Horse for allowing me to see this show.  I don’t think I would have gone to see it without a little nudge, and I’m incredibly glad I did.

Time for a little chat…

In return for this and a previous post, I received two complimentary tickets to War Horse from Omaha Performing Arts and the touring show.  All of the thoughts in this post, however, are my own.  I also paid for my own sippee cup of wine.  I also missed 4 or 5 minutes of the show due to a false-alarm involving suspicions of a Norovirus Attack . . . as long as we’re being honest.

War Horse at the Orpheum! (Plus me probably crying a lot.)

War Horse at the Orpheum! (Plus me probably crying a lot.)

Something I don’t excel in (at this point of my life) is pushing myself out of my “entertainment comfort zone.”  Anything that can threaten my delicate crazy-lady emotions has been fairly off-limits since I had the children.  I can’t even look at the zombie’s face featured on the sign of the local “water pipe” shop without feeling a little bit like running and screaming.  Blackfish? Are you kidding me?  Er, no.   House?  You realize (SPOILER) a newborn baby dies right in the nursery like 3 episodes in, right?

Needless to say, I really like to watch things about unicorns and rainbows right now… or very far-fetched sci-fi and spy stuff.

Which is why I was surprised to find out that I had requested to see War Horse at the beginning of the Omaha Performing Arts season last year.  War + horses?  I can handle seeing harm come to adults on-screen better than I can animals.  I almost said “Ah, yeah, um, so busy, man what a bummer, can’t make it, gosh, sorry!”  Then I watched this video and almost made a blubbering fool of myself in one of the trendier coffee joints in town:

Barely two minutes of video had me filled with the good tears.  They were almost spilling into my coffee.  You guys I have just got to see this show.  First of all, I have a bit of a British Obsession, and anything set in England tends to be extra-appealing to me.  Secondly, anything that can summon that kind of an emotional reaction from me in a public and hipster-filled location is something that I owe it to myself to see.

So I’m going.  And I will definitely report back afterward.  I haven’t even talked about the obviously amazing puppetry and acting that is going to be happening.  I’m sure you’ll hear me gushing about it for weeks.  I think you should try and see it, too, though.  Interested?  The Omaha Performing Arts has some pretty awesome promotions going on right now for the show.  Here’s all the fine print (I’ll make it regular-sized so you don’t have to squint):

Family Night:

A limited number of tickets will be available at one-half price for the opening night performance of WAR HORSE, Tuesday, April 8. Tickets will be available to one adult and one child, age 9 to 18 years of age.  The half-price tickets can be purchased at $32.25 each from Ticket Omaha by using the promotion code – FAMILY14. There’s a limit of one ticket per adult and one ticket per child. No more than two tickets per adult or per family. Seating will be available in the Grand Tier and balcony areas of Omaha’s Orpheum Theater. This show is recommended for children ages 9 and up. Additional tickets may be purchased at the regular ticket prices.

Other Promotions:

Promo Code: KIDSNIGHT. Buy one adult’s ticket and get the child’s ticket for free, up to age 18. Good for Tuesday evening only on Price Level 2 (loge and the front of the grand tier balcony for the locations). Subject to availability.

Promo Code: VETS 14. Offer of the 25% off tickets and $5 of each ticket would go to the Disable American Veterans. All price levels. Offer good for shows on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday at 7:00 p.m. only. Subject to availability.

Promo Code: HORSE14. Offer of 10% off tickets with $1 of ticket price going to Nebraska Humane Society’s Equine Program. Good for Price Levels 1, 2 and 3. Offer good for shows on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday at 7:00 p.m. only. Subject to availability.

 

If any of you end up going, I would LOVE to hear your thoughts!  Hope to see you there!

 

Time to get real:

Omaha Performing Arts is compensating me for this blog post with two tickets to see the show.  All content (except for the promotional fine print) is from my own brain and is my property.  It feels good to be honest with each other, right?

A Few Morsels of General Omaha Awesome…ness.

A Few Morsels of General Omaha Awesome…ness.

This crazy curtain pattern and a tasty beer are usually in the background when I’m blogging…the skanky bananas, however, are not.  I forgot to take any corresponding pictures… so we’re going with this one.

 

I’ve had a few reminders lately that OMAHA IS AWESOME, and I thought it would be a good idea to share it with you all, my favorite dudes.

Stories Coffeehouse

We had an Omaha Bloggers meeting today at a place called Stories, waaaayyyyy out in the boonies.  Maybe not quite the boonies, but 180th and Pacific.  If it weren’t for the Dodge expressway, it would have been quite the trek for me.

I’m not trying to be disrespectful when I say “the boonies,” though.  What I’m trying to say is that it’s well worth the drive.  I’ve never been to a place with quite the same feel as this one.  It’s like… walking into Pinterest?  Yeah.  It’s like walking into the actual Pinterest.  There’s an entire wall made of cupboards and drawers, plenty of chalkboard paint, delicious-looking crazy decadent pastries, bistro-type meals, and two pretty serious deal-sealers for me.  Let me put them in bold for you:

Three different roasts of drip coffee (dark, medium, light) and FREE REFILLS. 

Maple Bacon Popcorn.  With for-real chunks of bacon in it.

Can I hashtag that?  I’m doing it. #maplebaconpopcorn

This place has a pretty awesome backstory.  The owner’s impressively knowledgeable and personable daughter handed out some samples and gave us a verbal tour of the shop, which is a veritable smorgasbord of local, women-run businesses.  Check out the Stories story here:

Ladies Night at Midtown Crossing

Although I’ve always been a little (it’s ridiculous, I know)  intimidated by the seeming trendiness of Midtown Crossing, I’m pretty pumped to say that the place is about to make one of my lifelong goals a reality.  (Well, mostly.)

You see, I’ve been involved in a steamy, passionate, long-time love affair with the Food Network, and, back when Emeril was a big deal, I would dream of watching someone cook in front of me, and then get to taste the results of said cooking.  Just seeing the way those lucky old ladies enjoyed the BAM! that was placed on their tables made me crazy, crazy jealous.

Now, Midtown Crossing holds a “Ladies Night” once a month, and April is bringing Ladies Night in the form of a cooking class.

You guys.  I get to be the lucky old lady!

and you can, too!  The event is on Thursday, April 10th, and is free, free, free.  All you have to do is register by sending an email to contact@midtowncrossing.com.

The class is called “Hot Off the Pan:” Simple 30 Minute Meals from Pantry to Plate.  It will be a guided, educational tasting put on at Chef2, with two 30 minute sessions at 6:30 and 7:00 pm (if it fills up, they will try to add more slots).  I personally haven’t been to Chef2, but I hear they sell some killer oils and vinegars.

Here’s the menu:

1st course: French baguette with Italian Herb olive oil/Lemon salt
2nd course: Mix greens with a blueberry balsamic/blood orange oil vinaigrette 
3rd course: Seven grain orzo pasta/sun dried tomato pesto/smoked serrano salt
4th course: Ice cream with chocolate balsamic reduction

I have to admit that I’m a little nervous about the 2nd course, seeing as how I think that blueberries are the living worst, but I’m totally willing to give it a try.

So, what do you say?  Want to come with me?

 ***

Let’s be real here:

In the spirit of honesty, I have to tell you guys that I’m receiving a $25 gift card to Midtown Crossing in return for blogging about this event and sharing it on social media.  Don’t call me a sellout, okay?  I’m about to see one of my lifelong dreams achieved, here.  All I have to do is imagine that the cook in front of me is a young Tyler Florence and MY DREAMS WILL BECOME REALITY.

The Local Awesome: Penelopy Paper

The Local Awesome: Penelopy Paper

The Local Awesome category has been quiet for a while now. . . and I’m going to change that today with a business that, although not geographically local to me, is definitely local to my heart.

There are a few things in this world I’ve been questing for . . . scouring The Pinterests like a brave and relentless (okay, let’s be honest, actually fairly lazy) adventurer.  One of these things is a meal-planning printable that is EXACTLY what I’m looking for. After what feels like 500 years of learning how to meal-plan, I have finally found a meal planning style that works for me.  I use an app on my phone for my actual grocery list, though, so it’s been hard to find a printable that meets all my needs.

Of course I could make one myself, but, frankly, I don’t want to, and I don’t have the design skills to make something that would fit the image I have in my head.

Enter my uber-talented cousin, Meghann.  She’s been here a few times in blogger form, but now she’s got a brand spankin’ new stationery business that goes by the name of Penelopy Paper.  You should totally check it out.  What makes me so happy about this situation is that she is fluent in the language of scatterbrained creative frazzled lady. . . without actually being scatterbrained and frazzled herself.  Somehow, with the fantastically awkward instructions I gave her, she managed to create just the thing I’ve been questing for.

lilie-meghann-beach

You would think, what with me considering myself a writer and all, that I would be able to communicate my ideas a little bit more effectively… but, for some reason, when it comes to telling someone exactly how I want something to look, I really struggle to find the right words.

Even with me giving directions like this . . .

Hip and trendy, but like a house you admire but are a little afraid of spilling wine in. Oh my gosh, did that make any sense?”

. . . Meghann was able to crank out just what I was looking for.  Since I use a grocery list app, I didn’t want any space to be wasted by an official “grocery list” section.  Our lunches/breakfasts/snacks are pretty interchangeable, so I just wanted official weekday sections for dinner, and some generic sections for the other meals.  Finally, I just wanted a little “notes” section so I could jot down some list items when they popped into my head.

penelopymealplan1

 

She also whipped up a matching calendar and household planning sheet to go along with the meal plan.  She had the totally brilliant idea of sliding the calendar into the clear plastic sleeve of a binder and using a dry erase marker to fill it in . . . I don’t think I could have thought of that in a million years.

penelopymealplan2

 

I’m so pleased with my meal planner for a lot of reasons, but mainly because it’s a total match to what I had in my head . . . and I had to put almost zero effort into making it come into existence.  Don’t you think this occasion calls for a giveaway?  I know I do.

Just do your thing in this little giveaway box doohickey thing down here, and you’ll be entered for a free (already designed) printable of your choice from Penelopy Paper.  Giveaway ends at midnight on Tuesday, March 25th!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

There are plenty of awesome products at the Penelopy Paper store, but if those aren’t your style, just send her an email!  Chances are, she’ll be able to translate whatever language you speak into a design that makes you happy.

Meghann also makes some gawwwwgeous art.  I contacted her a while back, asking her if she could do an ink drawing of four birds (2 parents, 2 babies) on a mostly leafless tree.  What I got back blew me away:

penelopypaper3

She’s got this super cool Society 6 store where you can purchase her art not only as prints, but in about as many different forms as you can imagine.  Clocks, coffee mugs, stretched canvas, totes, pillows . . . plenty of totally sweet options.

 

(Maybe not ANY form you can imagine.  You probably can’t order a real tattoo from there.  Actually, I’m pretty positive you can’t.)

 

ANYWAY.  Enter the giveaway!  Buy some printables!  Plan your meals!  Climb a mountain!  Watch an entire season of something on Netflix!  Hug somebody you feel comfortable hugging!

 

(But seriously, enter the giveaway.  Maybe share with your friends.  High five?)

The Local Awesome: The Unique Skincare Boutique

The Local Awesome: The Unique Skincare Boutique

Have you ever had someone rub your face?

No, I’m serious. I’ve had two facials in my life, and both of them were the most relaxingexperiences. Dare I say, even more relaxing than a full-body massage?

I recently had the pleasure of getting a facial from Bri Nejad atThe Unique Skincare Boutique, and I just can’t keep my mouth (or fingers, I should say) quiet about it.

It’s one thing to go to a salon for your pampering, but visiting Bri’s boutique isn’t your normal salon experience. When you walk into the Unique Skincare Boutique, you can simply tell from the second you step in that you’re visiting a labor of love. You see, the boutique is an in-home business, and Bri has done a fantastic job of helping you feel at home without feeling awkward about actually being at someone’s home. The entrance is separate from the rest of the (gorgeous) house, and greets you with a quaint little waiting room complete with cookies and cucumber water.

Bri offers a bunch of facials, and I chose to go with the Glacial Facial. I had just finished all the seasons of Northern Exposure, and was feeling a little bit like all of my Alaskan friends had left me sad and alone, so this was perfect. Bri herself has actually lived most of her life in Alaska, and she has created a facial meant to take you on a mini-vacation to the Land of the Midnight Sun. All of the products smelled and felt wonderful, and Bri simply has magic hands. The environment is serene, and the music she has chosen is peppered with the sound of Alaskan wildlife, and (if you’ll allow me to totally geek out here) sounds like the music from Build Mode in the original Sims game. If you’ve played this, you will understand that it is the most relaxing music ever. Also, I frolicked happily home with a package of homemade “Alaskan Bark,” complete with chocolate, dried cranberries, and dried blueberries. Getting a facial and walking out of it with chocolate in hand? That’s a win all around.

One of the most awesome things about Bri, however, is that this lady is knowledgeable.It’s nice to be relaxed, sure, but it’s even more relaxing to know that the person massaging your face knows and cares about the products she’s using. Bri’s been in the skincare business since 2006, and her knowledge is totally apparent. I asked her what it is about skincare that she loves so much:

Bri: It was a huge struggle to find my “career path”, but when I found skincare, it was true love. It’s my ideal career. I help people feel beautiful and I get to be creative, educated, and professional while still finding joy when I work. I leave work truly happy.
Skincare is based in culture, tradition, science, communication and the healing power of touch. All things I love. IMO, it’s the best job on earth.

The other thing she’s got plenty of? Passion.

Bri: So often is this profession flooded with people who are just looking for a “job” and often right out of high school. They burn out quickly, realizing the complexity and maturity of what it takes to do well as a skin therapist. I feel this is where I excel- I love to learn and grow. But I also really love the intrinsic value of helping others.
And I get to be a full time mom- something that can’t mean any more to me than it does. Best gift on earth for both him and I.

Finally, I asked Bri which of her custom-created facials is her favorite:

Bri: I love them all!! I created them all myself based on all my experience over the last 7 years with thousands of clients. I finally get to do the facials I’ve always wanted.
But if I have to pick I would choose the Alaska Glacial facial (second runner up the seasons facials- spring and summer particularly). I love the products, the result, and the fact that it’s a full sensory experience. A unique facial you could honestly not find anywhere else. (I dare you!)

Bri also offers pretty much anything to meet your waxing needs… It may not feel like it right now, but I swear summer is coming, and we all know how important it is for your eyebrows to look good when you’re wearing a swimsuit!

Basically, Bri and her business are awesome, and booking an appointment with her is something you’ll ending up thanking yourself for. The product line she uses is all-natural, and she’s offering a special $10 off your first facial. Check out her website to see what she offers, as well as a cheerfully informative blog to keep you updated on her business and the business of skincare in general. And don’t forget to like her page on Facebook to get in on special deals and giveaways!

Nothing makes me happier than finding a local business with an owner who’s genuinely in love with what they do, and finding one run by a stay at home mom makes this Local Awesome even closer to my heart.

Now, go forth and book a facial!

The Local Awesome: Omaha Bicycle Co.

The Local Awesome: Omaha Bicycle Co.

My dreams have come true.

For someone who does most of her work on a computer, a good coffee shop can be pretty important.

Up until a little over a month ago, my best choices were McDonald’s (they have wifi) and Panera. Neither one is super-close, and they’re both chains. There’s a local coffee shop that’s just a bit further away, but I can’t help but feel like I’m a little too “pregnant mom-blogger” for the hipster crowd that usually resides there.

I’d been watching for a few weeks as a small group of bicycle-riding people revamped a small, neglected store in downtown Benson. When the unlit neon sign advertising “espresso” went up in the window, my heart started dancing like Kevin Bacon on prom night and I couldn’t wait to see what was going to show up in that little store.
This was when the Omaha Bicycle Co. swooped in to save me forever from spending too much money, driving too far, and low self-esteem caused by horn-rimmed, trendy stares.

Sitting down with owner Sarah Johnson was the most relaxed Local Awesome interview for me to date. Sarah is an Omaha native, and has worked in various bike shops over the years, but is finally bringing her 10+ years of bicycle experience into her very own shop. Over coffee and within the warm walls of the OBC, I learned that there are three things at the top of this lady’s list when it comes to her business:

1. The Coffee
2. The Bikes
3. The People

Those three things are in no particular order. In fact, #3 should probably be at the top, but for dramatic effect, I’ll leave it till the end. (You know me, I’m a sucker for dramatic effect.)

OBCcoffee

First of all, the coffee. Oh, man. These guys bring in a brand of coffee from Chicago calledIntelligentsia. It’s delicious. Now, I’m not the world’s most distinguished coffee connoisseur, but I can tell when a cup of coffee is damn good. If you go to their website, you’ll see that they are a direct trade coffee company, which means that they deal directly with the farmers. They travel to the actual farms in countries like Guatemala and Rwanda twelve months out of the year. How’s that for quality concern?

They’ve got coffee for everyone, too. You want something sweet and covered in whipped cream? They’ve got it. You want a plain black cup of Joe? They’ve definitely got it. You’ve got a persnickety kid who hasn’t taken a nap and only wants to eat an espresso cup of whipped cream? Trust me, they’ve got it.

OBCbikes

Now, here’s the other ingredient that makes this place so cool: the bikes. When you walk in, you’re greeted with warm-colored walls, great décor, a fully stocked espresso/coffee station, and an entire wall of bicycles. That’s right, bicycles. These guys not only make spectacular coffee, but also fix, build, and sell great-quality bicycles. There’s a healthy-but-small selection of new bikes for sale, but they mainly focus on custom-builds and repair. Every time I’ve walked in the door, I’ve seen Vince, the man with the bike-fixing plan, quietly working away behind the counter in back. Sarah is also responsible for bike work, and is actually a certified “fit technician,” which means that she’ll create a bike that fits you like it came attached to you when you entered this world. When you want them to build a custom bike for you, expect an interview. These guys want to find out who you are and what you do. You want a bike that will mainly get you to the grocery store, but someday take you biking across the West Coast? Or, you want a bike that powers your iPhone while you pedal to your destination? These guys have got you covered.

OBCteam
Vince, Sarah, and Katie

Granted, coffee and bikes are awesome. You know what’s truly truly awesome, though? Walking into a business for the first time and being genuinely welcomed. You know what’s even more awesome than that? Walking into a business the second time and being recognized (and then being genuinely welcomed again).
Sarah is very vocal about how important community is to her and the Omaha Bicycle Co. I went through my usual questions when we sat down together:

Me: Why Benson?
Sarah: There’s so much going on here. Benson is proud of Benson… and it’s just full of so much life.
Me: What’s your favorite thing about the shop?
Sarah: The people. Hands down. It’s like a place where people can just come out and geek out about bikes. I love it when people say, “I heard it’s a bike shop and a coffee shop, how’s that work?”

I don’t think Sarah will mind if I tell you that she got a little emotional talking about how much support she got from the community during the process of creating this business. The Omaha Bicycle Co. was built in spite of some rather unfortunate circumstances and a very uncertain summer, and the Omaha bicycling community wasted no time in lifting her up and carrying her through a very difficult time. An IndieGoGo campaign made over $15,000, and the donations keep on coming in the form of a beautiful back patio, and even a Christmas tree from a mysterious Secret Santa. The perky blonde making coffee? That’s Katie, and she’s there as a volunteer, working for tips.

“Community. That’s what I love more than bikes, is people.” Sarah said. “People make things happen.”

The shop is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9-7, and is closed Sunday and Monday so that they can fill their bike orders. They’re open till 10 PM on First Fridays, though, and are also constantly organizing group rides and other events that you can learn about by liking them on Facebook.

So, for realskies, guys, you’ve got to check this place out. Come for the coffee, come for the bikes, come for the people behind the counter… you’ll get a smile and a warm greeting, regardless of why you’re there.