Friday, November 29, 2013

Much Ado About... EVERYTHING! -- posted by John

I'm finally getting around to writing about performing as Don John the Bastard in Much Ado About Nothing with the Newberry Community Players. I met a lot of wonderful people there, especially the prettiest girl in the whole wide world, and my new very bestest friend, Marianna. We go together like peas and carrots.

We are much better looking, and a lot less awkward in real life than in this picture, lol.  (Btw, George made the rose window on the set behind us.  It, too, was better looking in real life.)  Marianna didn't have any lines since she was late auditioning.  She played a maid who eavesdrops while sweeping.  Nevertheless, she lit up the stage with her beauty.  It's true; she's a lovely girl.

Two more beauties I met are the ebullient "Miss" Ellen and her illustrious mother, "Miss" Laura.  Miss Ellen is the brilliant director of the Newberry Community Players, and even though her mother was her assistant, everyone knows Miss Laura is the grande dame of the whole affair.  They helped me so much by encouraging me to understand my character, and pushing me to express the explosive anger they wanted for Don John.  I'd never done anything like this before, and "villainous bastard" was certainly new to me, lol.  But they never gave up on me, and in the end I think I made them proud. 

Likewise Nicole, the assistant director, was also invaluable.  She took me aside, away from everybody, and pounded away to get me to properly gesticulate and deliver my lines.  I feel like I've learned so much.

So it's been a busy couple of months for the Allens.  I had frequent rehearsals, George and Richard helped build the set and were all-round general maintenance.  Mom and Sarah Grace helped make costumes, and were available at each rehearsal to do whatever needed to be done.  During the performances George was in charge of the music, and Richard was busy running errands and giving cues.  Mom and Sarah were backstage armed with safety pins and glue guns, and while we were on stage, they were in the wings with the script to assist the performers.  Thanks y'all for everything!

Here's the link to the last show of the play, and Sarah put minute marks at each of my scenes.  Unfortunately this is my least favorite performance, as I felt like I rushed through my lines.  The friar, Mr. Rendleman, filmed it as well and said he'd get us a copy.

I think sometimes things happen in your life that are a much bigger deal to you than to anyone else involved.  Maybe that's the case with this play.  I was in the right place, at the right time, with the right people, and I know I'm better for it.  Maybe somebody should remind Miss Ellen's laid back husband, Dr. Hunt, that there may just be God's providence behind all that take-out!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Farewell -- posted by Don John the Bastard

After seven performances and innumerable rehearsals, we had our cast party after the last matinee Sunday.  Ever since, this scene and music have been running through my head.

Christian Bale as Melvin Purvis

Monday, November 4, 2013

A Test -- posted by Mom

Billy and Gary have already taken it, just so you know.

Click on the Forvo link below, listen to the first five pronunciations, and determine which one is the most smug.


Friday, November 1, 2013

Much Ado -- posted by Mom

We've been busy with John's rehearsals for Much Ado About Nothing in Newberry, so we neglected to post.  He's Don John, the villain.  Unfortunately the director doesn't want a smoldering Don John but rather an explosively angry Don John.  Our phlegmatic John will actually be forced to act as a consequence.  I've thought of stomping his foot or twisting his nose, but I can't imagine ANYTHING getting John explosively angry... except perhaps if I stomped Sarah Grace's foot or twisted her nose... but I can't actually do that, now can I?

Oddly enough John had never seen Much Ado About Nothing even though it is an Allen family favorite comedy (at least the Kenneth Branagh version).  Funny how something thought to be a beloved family experience is something the Young Guns were either too young or not yet born to remember.

Unfortunately everybody hates Keanu Reeves' Don John.  I think he was supposed to be smoldering but, to me, he came off as just plain dull-witted.  So poor John has no one to imitate.  The first performance is next Friday so I'll let you know.  And I won't spare his feelings.  You know me, Gru's mom, as they say.

Here are the latest Rick Steves' episodes we've watched:

Fifteenth-century Florence was the home of the Renaissance and the birthplace of our modern world. 

In this second of a two episodes on Florence, we’ll enjoy more of the exquisite artistic treasures of the city that propelled Europe out of the Middle Ages. 

We decided on Duolingo for our French studies (thanks Will!).  It is soo much fun.  If fact, Billy is going to take French with us (Gary thinks google translate has already made him fluent so I don't think he feels the need).

Imagine this: After seeing Semiramide (the 1990 version from The Met with Marilyn Horne), we promoted it like crazy to Billy.  (Mr. Lane's graphic design business is right there at Covent Garden by the Royal Opera House in London, yet Billy has never been to an opera!  For shame.)  Anyway, Billy happened to be flipping through a bunch of miscellaneous DVDs and lo and behold he saw it!... accidentally!... at a good price!  Only, Billy calls it Semilolmide.  Anyway, this opera is the most beautiful production I have ever seen.  From the rich set and costumes, to the orchestra, awesome singing and acting, everything was just gorgeous.

Did I tell you that on Valentine's Day, unbeknownst to either of them, Sarah gave Billy a ticket to the Royal Opera House and Billy gave Sarah lovely opera glasses?  (Or "binoculars on a stick," as it were.)  It was like The Gift of the Magi... sorta, but not really, yet a really cool exchange nevertheless.

Oh I can't wait to see Don John's long skinny legs in tights with the fitted doublet with high standing collar, falling band, wings, tight sleeves, cuffs, dipped front, peascod belly and skirt of medium tabs; unpaned trunkhose with canions and codpiece.  In other words, I can't wait to see his spaghetti noodles dangling from those Shakespearean puff pants!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Operation: Old World -- assignment posted by Mamma Mia!

We plan to use this blog as a hub to post various items for our European studies.  Unfortunately the embed code didn't work (the thumbnails would have looked nice) so I had to go with the links.  Boo.

I don't know why poor Michelangelo was given a mere two minutes versus Leonardo Da Vinci's hour-long episode. is clearly Team Da Vinci.

Leonardo Di Vinci Full Episode

Michelangelo Mini Biography


Friday, October 11, 2013

Planning Our European Vacation -- posted by Riccardo

We've been planning our European vacation while we are studying Europe.  That way we can decide what we are most interested in seeing.  Billy is going to help us with the UK leg of our trip.  Of course, he thinks we should spend the whole time in London!

We got interested in Italy because my brothers and father went to workout and I was home with my mother and sister.  We were bored, so my mom found a movie we could watch.  The movie was called Big Night.  It is about two Italian brothers who came to the US to start a business together.  I won't spoil it for you.  But ever since that night, we started studying Italy.  My brothers and father watched it too since we loved it so much.

I also started listening to Louis Prima a lot and I began dancing at night with my mother and sister.  I serenade them with a song called Buona Sera.  I spin Mom like a tornado, and Sarah Grace like a top.

Buona Sera Lyrics

Buona sera signorina buona sera
It is time to say goodnight to Napoli
Though it's hard for us to whisper buona sera
With that old moon above the Mediterranean sea
In the morning signorina we'll go walking
Where the mountains help the moon come in to sight
And by the little jewelry shop we'll stop and linger
While I buy a wedding ring for your finger
In the meantime let me tell you that I love you
Buona sera signorina kiss me goodnight
Buona sera signorina kiss me goodnight
(Buona sera signorina buona sera)
(It is time to say goodnight to Napoli)
Though it's hard for us to whisper buona sera
With that old moon above the Mediterranean sea
In the morning signorina we'll go walking
Where the mountains help the moon come in to sight
And by the little jewelry shop we'll stop and linger
While I buy a wedding ring for your finger
In the meantime let me tell you that I love you
Buona sera signorina kiss me goodnight
Buona sera signorina kiss me goodnight

We've been watching Rick Steves' Europe.  He's a travel expert who has a great show on PBS, but we've been watching them on Hulu.  He teaches travel tips, culture, and history.  Dad wanted me to post what all we've seen so he can catch up with us.  (Sorry to our non-US friends-- Gary said he can't get this in England.)

Rome: Ancient Glory  Part one of three on the Eternal City, this episode resurrects the rubble and brings back to life the capital of the ancient world. Focusing on the grandeur of classical Rome, we’ll marvel at the Colosseum, the Pantheon, and the empire's exquisite art.

Rome: Baroque Brilliance  This second of three shows on Rome reveals a city busy with life and bursting with Baroque.

Rome: Back-Street Riches   In this third of three shows on the Eternal City, we’ll explore this grand metropolis — so rich in art and culture — on a more intimate scale, delving into its back lanes and unheralded corners.

Siena and Assisi:  Italy's Grand Hill Towns  In this episode, we explore Italy's two greatest hill towns: Siena and Assisi — plus the countryside in between. If you fall in love with Italy, good chance it'll be right here.

European Travel Skills: Part II  In this second of three shows focusing on travel skills, we’ll visit Venice, Siena, and the Cinque Terre in Italy to learn about trip planning, packing, safety, and — perhaps the most rewarding skill of all — connecting with the locals.

The Best of Sicily  The island of Sicily has a complicated past making it distinct from Italy: spicier food, a more festive lifestyle, and people who are Sicilian first, Italian second.

Also, here's a link to a slideshow from Serious Eats9 Awesome Italian Cheeses Everyone Should Know

We finished La bohème.  It had a sad ending, but it was deep.  I love Pavaroti's voice.

We finally saw The Godfather I & II.  The older kids had seen it but we Young Guns hadn't.  I didn't like all the lying, and murder, secrecy, and darkness, but it was interesting, and some parts were even funny.  I knew about the Mafia before the movie, but it gave me a better insight into how the Mafia works and how they could fall into all that.

I'm so excited to have our trip to Europe.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Italia! -- posted by Giorgio

I'm writing this post because my mommy is making me.  I need to write more because I don't write much.  In fact, I don't even speak much.

When we said we were on an Italian kick, we meant it.  After we watched Big Night we started studying Italy.  On my birthday, we went to the Italian festival in Columbia, where there were Italian meatball subs I loved.  I tasted different wines like Sarah's Prosecco and Mom's Peach Bellini.  We also had pizza, mini canollis, Italian chocolate custard, and Spumoni cheesecake.

We listened to Italian music from the band and we also heard some songs from Louis Prima.  We saw some ballet, and listened to opera singers.  There were Legionnaires dressed in Roman uniforms and they had grape stomping and a gondola.

We also watched the bocce tournament and we played bocce into the night.  It was a cool day and there was a nice breeze. 

After the festival we found all sorts of things for our studies.

We saw this:

Dad joked that Sarah is not allowed to marry a singing Italian tour guide!

Since we've been studying Italy we've made lasagne and spaghetti.  Will made tiramisu.  We had antipasti with prosciutto and plums and apples and tomatoes.  We had Gorgonzola cheese which is strong with a pungent smell.  I like it but it isn't my favorite.  I preferred the water buffalo mozzarella.  We had Italian bread and Chianti.  The next morning we had mascarpone cheese on bagels.

Oh, and we're starting the fourth act of La bohème, which is an Italian opera by Puccini.  It is the one performed by Luciano Pavarotti.  I like it.  I like it a lot.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Thursday, September 12, 2013

King Louis (Prima) -- posted by Mom

Aunt Mary recently turned us on to Big Night (with Tony Shalhoub and Stanley Tucci) which we thoroughly enjoyed.  But when we googled Louis Prima, we were shocked and delighted to find he's the Dixieland jazz musician behind many familiar tunes.

Jungle Book's King Louis "I Wanna Be Like You"

Elf discovers New York: "Pennies From Heaven"

Back to the Future: "Night Train"

Some Favorites:

After Big Night we had omelets and buttered pumpernickel (for lack of a nice hunk of Italian bread).  Bill remedied that by picking up some delicious Italian bread on the way home from work!  We're on an Italian kick now.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Ambergris -- posted by Mom

Interesting, and a little weird that I've never heard of this before.

 Click here for the Daily Mail article.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Friday, August 2, 2013

When She's Gone ("Cups" cover by Binoculars on a Stick)

As the youngest three of her seven brothers, we have not only enjoyed Sarah Grace's friendship and love, but her motherly care as well.  She taught us to turn the other cheek.  We're gonna miss her when she's gone!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Sweet and Delicious -- posted by Mom

Just ate a peach from our prize peach tree we didn't know we had.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Son of a Peach -- posted by Mom

The kids found a peach tree on the property today... a peach tree bearing peaches!  How did we never notice it before?  It's not like it was found on the back forty--  it's by the workshop where there is heavy Allen family traffic.

And nobody is particularly weirded out by this but me. :/

Friday, July 26, 2013

Allen Family Kickball -- posted by her brothers


Why Am I Just Now Seeing This? -- posted by Sarah Grace

Must watch until the end. 

Billy actually bragged on being part of the 74,000,000+ who saw this before us.  :p

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Despicable Me 2 -- posted by Mom

It's rare when all the boys can get their schedules together for the theatre, so we were thrilled when it happened for this flick.

Oh how I love Daddy Gru!  And I want Agnes.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Independence: It's Not Just A Day -- posted by Sarah Grace

SarahGraceAllen's The 4th 2013 album on Photobucket

No doubt when you're at the Lexington County Peach Festival, there are some sights to behold. This time, we saw a genteel, pleasant-looking grandmotherly type... until we noticed HE had a full, gray, Tom Selleck mustache.

Of course being there again brought back memories of watching Billy enjoy a slice of genuine Southern Americana (which is identifying more Southern than American these days) when he came with us to the festival back in 2011. He had never seen rusty old pickup trucks with Confederate flags waving off the back, or tasted peach ice cream, or watched families dancing the Shag in front of the bandstand. Prior to the Peach Festival, while playing a game, Billy learned the hard way that we value freedom over respect... a lesson he'll never forget. So this year when the band played Aretha Franklin's "Think" (with the refrain of "freedom") and then "Respect," I had to text him letting him know where we were, and that we were thinking of him.

Yes, we love our freedom for our God, Bibles, and family, and when like-minded people congregate in lawn chairs watching their kids play frisbee or throwing the football while waiting for the fireworks show, there's a certain communal peace and contentment. Unlike much of the world, we know who we are.

Once the sun went down, we broke out the Dollar Tree glow sticks, and this year, after playing the traditional glow-in-the-dark ring toss, my brothers decorated me the Queen of Tron. They also reenacted a chain gang scene from "O Brother Where Art Thou?"

There's really no place like home.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Great Swelling Words of Theology -- posted by Mom

ὑπέρογκος (hyperogkos)  -- overswollen

2 Peter 2:18  For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.

Jude 1:16  These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men's persons in admiration because of advantage.

For Our Home Scholars:  Here's the list of theological terms I want you to learn but not necessarily use, lol.  However, you will be quizzed nonetheless. :)

Monday, July 1, 2013

Drew and his Nephew -- posted by Mom

In this current ice age, it was warming and delightful to see that Will's co-worker we recently met chose a picture of himself holding his baby nephew for his Facebook profile pic.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

1984 Adrian Rogers Quote Worth Reposting -- posted by Mom

“Friend, you cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of freedom.  And what one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. The government can’t give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody. And when half of the people get the idea they don’t have to work because the other half’s going to take care of them, and when the other half get the idea it does no good to work because somebody’s going to get what I work for. That, dear friend, is about the end of any nation.”

-- Dr. Adrian Rogers

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Waiting on June -- posted by Richard

This is Holly Williams.  She is the daughter of Hank Williams Jr. and the granddaughter of Hank Williams, who was a famous country singer-songwriter.  Her father is a famous singer too.

Sometimes my mother gets on a roll studying strange things.  She's not a big fan of most country music, but some of it she loves.  She was learning about the history of the kind of country music she doesn't like and she found this song that she does like!  It is a ballad.  Even though Mrs. Williams is actually singing it, it is really written as though her grandfather is singing about her grandmother.

I really love Mrs. Williams's voice.  It is both smooth and raspy.

I also love this song. I love it so much I wish I had written it for my wife.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Public Enemies -- posted by John, George, and Richard

The movie Public Enemies became an interest when we realized Melvin Purvis lived in the same neighborhood as our great-grandfather, George W. Waring.

To this day, Purvis holds the record for capturing more public enemies than any FBI agent.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Skywatcher's Guide: Eye-Catching Triple Planet Huddle in Evening Sky -- posted by Sarah Grace

We saw this last night!  It was so tight and vibrant that it almost looked artificial.

Then again, we once mistook a Shell sign across the interstate for a gigantic harvest moon....

Skywatcher's Guide: Eye-Catching Triple Planet Huddle in Evening Sky

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Winston and Clementine -- posted by Mom

The Binkster, Milk and Honey Acres awesome foreign correspondent, alluded to Winston Churchill's letters to his wife Clementine in his wonderful and much appreciated guest post below.

The Thinking Housewife shared some insight into the relationship of the Churchills in her series on famous couples.  We were surprised and delighted Winston had it in him.

Winston and Clementine

Sunday, April 28, 2013

A Guest Post by Billy Lane


Living in a country with so much heritage and history, one might forgive me for being somewhat blasé about all that is right there on my doorstep.  Allow me to explain.  Despite walking past numerous tourist attractions everyday on my journey into work in London, I never visit them.  I’ve yet to ride the London Eye, yet to visit the Houses of Parliament, yet to be enthralled by the Royal Opera House, yet to set foot inside the numerous galleries and museums housed inside impressive buildings.  The problem is, when it is on your doorstep and you see it everyday, in your recreational moments, you tend to avoid it.

That’s London, and that’s my excuse.  What I didn’t have an excuse for however, was not paying a visit to Chartwell - the home of Winston Churchill, Britain’s most revered and notable Prime Minister.  I had assumed, wrongly, that Chartwell was buried deep in the countryside somewhere, miles away from anywhere.  Imagine my surprise when I found out that it was a mere twenty minute drive from my house.  Imagine my further surprise, when I realised that during my jaunts in my car to stretch its legs and keep the battery active, the route I took narrowly avoided driving by it by about half a mile!

I joined the National Trust two years ago, with the intention of visiting some of the wondrous places my country has to offer.  Chartwell is one of the houses looked after by the National Trust, so I organised to meet up with some friends and make a day of it and see what it had to offer.

It had nothing to do with The Allen Family’s indignation that somewhere so historic and important and nearby was being ignored by me!

Chartwell is indeed buried away amidst country lanes and leafy surroundings.  You drive through narrow, twisting roads, lined with trees when out of nowhere you see the sign for the entrance.  The car park is situated a fair distance from the house, so as to not spoil the setting I suppose.  The walk is leisurely and comes with some impressive views of the surrounding fields and ponds (complete with black swans) that Churchill had put there.  Unfortunately, the gardens were not yet flowering, so all I saw in that regard was a bunch of twigs and soil, but I do intend on returning in the summer to see them in all their glory.  

The house is, of course, one very striking piece of architecture.  I took some photos from a vantage point in the woodland opposite, that show you how grand it looks.  Inside, it is very quaint, and kept as it was when Churchill lived there (even to the extent of having a fruitcake on the dining table).  The National Trust do not allow photography inside the house, as many of the items inside are personal artefacts of the Churchill family and not owned by the Trust.

The walls are adorned by landscapes Churchill had painted, each with their own attached story, and one of the upstairs rooms contains all his ceremonial dress and medals.  The kitchen is filled with the lingering smell of the spices that he was fond of, and the lower ground floor contains probably the most interesting and personal items one would hope to find - his personal love letters to his wife.  Reading through them, seeing their pet names for each other and how he would write to her to get things off his chest, or just to tell her something mundane, or to tell her how much he loved her, was heart warming and a joy to behold.

His studio is adjacent to the main house, separated by the gardens, and contains a large collection of his paintings.  The kitchen garden is nearby and continues to grow all the produce that Churchill grew in his days there.  Interestingly, the restaurant is seasonal and serves dishes based on what is grown in that garden.  I had a delicious cottage pie, so fresh and tasty - I can’t wait to go back in the summer and see what the menu has to offer then!
In the peace and serenity of the surrounding fields, you can look at the house, gardens and lakes and easily see how Churchill fell in love with the place.  It really is a sight to behold, and truly a remarkable insight into the life he lived there.