Archive for October, 2013

Cavalia Odysseo

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

Cavalia, the masterminds behind elaborate big top traveling shows, clearly have ignored W.C. Fields’ famous entertainment advice to  “never work with animals or children.” Odysseo, their latest production, features no fewer than 64 horses as its stars—11 different breeds that prance around a stage bigger than a hockey rink.

An ethereal homage to the bond between humans and horses, the show is as much engrossing as it is a marvel of theatrical production values. The 10 story tall big top is home to a stage which features three-story hills, valleys, and at one point, a lake. Although larger than life, the performance has a very intimate feel as riders, horses and acrobats appear onstage. It’s like being allowed into a secret society with these magical, majestic creatures.

The prowess the performers display, be it defying gravity or working with the horses, leaves audiences  of all ages awestruck. You don’t have to have any equestrian knowledge to enjoy the show, but true riders will appreciate the full range of jumping, prancing and roman and trick riding. It’s visual marvel for everyone, although evening performance tend to run rather late as the horses—and performers—need a half hour intermission during this two hour show.

Gather Round and Listen to These Spooky Stories for Kids

Monday, October 28th, 2013


There’s still time before ghosts and goblins come out to indulge in a good spooky story. Here are a few—old and new—to set the mood. Tip: Audio versions let you enjoy the full haunting effect with your kids.

The Twits, by Roald Dahl

Dahl has a delightfully gruesome sense of humor and this creepy dark comedy of a disturbed husband and wife is one of his best. The Twits taunt and torture each other without mercy. The audio is read by Richard Ayoade who makes even the piece of “maggoty green cheese” stuck in Mr. Twit’s beard seem downright frightening. Available on Amazon.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, by Alvin Schwartz

A classic collection of ghoulish ghost stories. It includes chillers like “The Big Toe” and “The Thing.” The stories are short and gruesome, but as with Dahl, there’s whimsy, too. The late character actor George Irving narrates, and if this collection isn’t enough there is also More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones. You can hear the entire audio, free, on YouTube.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Washington Irving

There are many excellent recordings of this timeless story of the headless horseman. George Guidall does an excellent narration, which you can find at

The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe

Anything by Poe is chilling. This classic story, though, of a murder and then the victim’s haunting heart, is one of the first ghost stories I read as a child, and still one of the best. Available in audio on Amazon.

A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz

A contemporary take on nine classic Grimm’s fairy tales. The twist is that Hansel and Gretel are the lead characters in each one. This is a mild but engaging collection, perfect for younger kids. Johnny Heller narrates at Tales2Go.

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

A good story to revisit even if you’ve seen the movie. A young girl steps through a secret door into an alternate universe that seems magical at first but takes a harrowing turn. The Kindle version on Amazon (a bargain at $1.99) includes audio and video bonus material.

The Wolves in the Wall by Neil Gaiman

A lesser-known Neil Gaiman work, The Wolves in the Walls is eerily compelling. Lucy hears “sneaking, creeping crumpling noises” and is sure there are wolves living in the walls of her home. Gaiman narrates in his suitably dark voice. Available on Amazon.

Settle in with any one of these, then grab the pillows and popcorn for a very spooktacular story night!

Time Shift Your TV – Hats Off to Dr. Seuss!

Monday, October 28th, 2013

Cat in the HatFew hats are as famous as the tall Cat in the Hat’s iconic topper.

Beloved storyteller Dr. Seuss (Theodore Geisel) loved hats. He began collecting them in the 1930s. His sister, Marnie, mentioned the fascination with headpieces in 1937, when she told a newspaper that he had a “peculiar hobby—that of collecting hats of every description.” At that time, she estimated he had “several hundred.”

Now, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Dr Seuss’ second book, The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, the author’s hat collection is on tour, leaving his estate for the first time and traveling to art galleries around the country.

From Nov. 2–18, the exhibit, Hats Off to Dr. Seuss!, will make a stop in the Washington, D.C. area at P & C Art Galleries in Alexandria, Virginia. An opening night reception with the curator, Bill Dreyer, of the show will take place from 5 to 8 p.m. 

Along with 26 original hats from Dr. Seuss estate, the exhibition will feature works adapted from Geisel’s original drawings, paintings and sculpture.  After stopping in the Washington area, the show travels to Florida, Texas and California. (Complete tour schedule here.)

As for TV specials and shows featuring the Cat in the Hat, you can watch the original 1971, 25-minute TV special on YouTube, and there are videos, puzzles and games for the current Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That PBS show on the PBS Kids websiteThe Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot about Christmas special is slated to air on Nov. 27 on PBS (check local listings).


Dancing Queen

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

Chances are you’ve enrolled your child in some kind of dancing class. After all, we want to provide our kids the opportunity to be well-rounded, multi-dimensional people. Maybe they’ve dabbled in ballet, Irish step, hip hop and jazz or perhaps even tap. They probably have played or even mastered video games such as Dance Dance Revolution. And no, watching “Dance Moms” definitely does not count.

But have you ever encouraged your kids to just dance? Do you ever just turn the music up and dance with abandon? We’re not talking a tear down the house hootenanny. No twerking or grinding—just that good old fashioned way to catch the beat and have fun. Granted, we can all feel self-conscious out on the dance floor at times and very few of us can really cut the rug with any true skill. But to help your kids have the chutzpah to go out on a dance floor at a wedding, bar mitzvah, or school dance and just dance? That is a real gift you could give to your kids.

Check out this New York Times Article that explores the lack of dancing in our society. may inspire you to turn off the TV and turn up the music.

Time Shift Your TV – Halloween Wars

Monday, October 21st, 2013

Pumpkin Devil


One of the most creative and fun rituals in our house has always been the carving of pumpkins for Halloween.

We spread newspaper on the kitchen table, assemble all the tools and start scooping and sculpting.

My artistic husband never needs photos or templates to help him form a pumpkin-carving plan. He doesn’t draw his design before cutting. He’s old school all the way—just start right in! And he always goes big and bold, usually making giant smiling, happy Jack-o’-lanterns, encouraging our kids to do the same. 

But I tend to need a little help. I need to look at other artwork for ideas to get me going.

If you do, too, here are some pumpkin-carving suggestions, starting with the Food Network show Halloween Wars. It premiered on Oct. 6, but repeat episodes and new episodes are airing at least through Oct. 26. (You can find the listings online).  The show focuses on five teams of cake decorators, pumpkin carvers, and candy craftsman facing off against each other to create creepy-themed confections. Their creations take the idea of pumpkin-carving to a whole different level with elaborate scenes and sometimes really scary results. Some of the results can be seen here. The Food Network website also has many other “How to Carve a Pumpkin” pages.

That’s not the only site with pumpkin creations and ideas. Here are some more:

– Martha Stewart, of course, is always a good place to start. She offers templates you can download and copy. Her pumpkin gallery, which includes etched pumpkins, fanged pumpkins and just plain old funny faces for pumpkins can be found here.

– Southern Living offers templates and other ideas for how to use pumpkins, such as cutting a pumpkin in half and turning it into a cooler at your Halloween party.

– Better Homes and Gardens has some sweet and simple pumpkin ideas, starting with a smiling cat and mouse.

– Reader’s Digest has more plain and easy ideas, with ghosts, spiders and grins, and includes stencils for downloading.

And for those you like to push the envelope, take a look at The site has photos of all sorts of edgy ideas and includes several funny celebrity pumpkin faces, ranging from Richard Nixon to Lionel Richie. 

Hope you and your family get inspired to create a true pumpkin masterpiece!