December 21, 2014

Let Your Light So Shine...

One of my favorite things to do in the evenings leading up to Christmas is to drive around town and look at all of the lights. I absolutely love it when I turn in to a neighborhood that has lots of houses decorated in holiday cheer. Some people go all out and it's nice to see. The more creative, the better. 

This year, after a seven-year absence, Jones Beach is once again hosting its Holiday Lights Spectacular. Last Friday was a clear, starry night, so my family and I loaded in to the car to check it out. Through the windshield, all kinds of bright vignettes passed by our eyes. There were Nativity scenes, twinkling tunnels, beach scenes, movie characters. I was particularly happy to spot R2-D2. Toward the end, the items from the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas" play out in huge sculptures of colorful light. We all had a good chuckle when my son asked, "Why are they called Calling Birds? Are they carrying cellphones?" The show also offers a visit to a Christmas Village where we walked through a hay maze and then warmed up for a few minute by a campfire. It was a lovely time.

Another nice thing that we did this Saturday was to drive out to Hicks Nurseries to see their walk-through Christmas display. For the price of some non-perishable food items, we got to take a stroll amongst animated scenes of the North Pole. On site were also a few live reindeer. My kids really enjoy our Christmas family outings. I hope that they will remember them always...

"And this is the record,
that God hath given to us eternal life,
and this life is in his Son."

~1 John 5:11


November 24, 2014

A Musical Saturday

Saturday, November 15: This very musical day started off at 8:30 AM at the High School where my daughter was selected to take part in a program brought to us by the Suffolk County Music Educators' Association called PEAK, which stands for "Parents, Educators, and Kids." The program offered a unique opportunity for a parent to engage in music classes alongside their child. My daughter and I walked from classroom to classroom for a series of 40-minute courses which included Singing Games, Ukulele, Chorus, Boom Whackers, Folk Dance, and Musical Theatre. The event ran until the afternoon and culminated with a performance on the stage. My daughter liked the Singing Games the most. As I always like to try different instruments, I really got a kick out of playing the Boom Whackers. It was an enjoyable day.

The day's musicality continued into the evening at a concert venue called the Space. After convincing me to go, my good friend Marquis had brought for me a ticket to see Steve Hackett in concert on his "Genesis Extended" Tour. I must explain that, in my youth, I had missed the boat on Genesis. By the time I was in Middle School and was really getting into music, Genesis had already become an MTV pop band and didn't interest me all that much. I was completely unaware of their progressive rock beginnings in the 70s. When Marquis got the tickets, I decided to download "Wind and Wuthering" from iTunes, just to familiarize myself with some of the songs that I might hear at the concert. I clicked on the "Play" button for the first time and KAPOW! I instantly knew why early Genesis is so special. That album was all I listened to for about two straight months. Since then, I've explored many of the early Genesis albums and the music is just marvelous! So, on Saturday, November 15, I got to see Steve Hackett play an amazing concert. The only drawback was that the venue cranked the volume to an unnecessarily uncomfortable level, but the band sounded fantastic and played many of the great classics that I now adore. Fun night!

"Give, and it will be given to you.
A good measure, pressed down, shaken together
and running over, will be poured into your lap.
For with the measure you use,
it will be measured to you."

~Luke  6:38


November 16, 2014

"Disney On Ice: Frozen" & Other Cool Art

On Sunday, November 9, I surprised my daughter by taking her to see "Disney On Ice: Frozen" at the Nassau Coliseum. Truth be told, this event was also a surprise for me. Knowing that my daughter is a big fan of the Disney movie (she dressed up as Elsa for Halloween), I had looked into tickets for the ice show when it had first been announced, but, unfortunately, seats were much too expensive so I quickly passed on the whole idea and put it out of my mind. Then, last Sunday afternoon at about 5:00 PM, I heard a radio advertisement saying that tickets were still available for the very last show at the Coliseum. With showtime being a mere two hours away, I looked it up on the computer just for a goof. I almost couldn't believe my eyes when I saw that the prices had dropped to $18 each. I quickly told my daughter to get ready to go out. Soon, we found ourselves at Nassau Coliseum amid an audience that consisted of mostly kids dressed up like their favorite Disney characters. As the house lights dimmed, the colorful shine of thousands of glow sticks danced before my eyes. It was a great atmosphere and a cool thing to see. Then, we were instantly transported to the kingdom of Arendelle where Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, Sven, and Olaf told their popular story on the ice. It was a delightful show and my daughter was very happy!

Another cool thing that I did this past week was to stop off at the Mills Pond House Gallery to see the latest free exhibition brought to us by the Smithtown Township Arts Council. This one is simply called a "Member Artist Showcase" and features the works of many local artists. I had several favorites pieces. May your week ahead be a masterpiece painted in all of the colors of your heart! Cheers!

"Summertime Dreams"
By Max Titmus

"Holy Mackerel"
By Bernadette De Nyse

"Still Life"
By Debra Puzzo

By Al Martorana

By Arntian Kotsa

By Justin Greenwald

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy
and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope
by the power of the Holy Spirit." 

~Romans 15:13



October 19, 2014

Leaf Peeping

Last Saturday morning, my family and I departed on a road trip that had been on our to-do list for many years -- a leaf peeping run to upstate NY. As we were loading our things into the trunk of the car at 9:00 AM, the rain was pouring rather heavily, but forecasts had said that the weather in the Catskills would clear up at around 11:00. With a leaf peeping adventure have such a small window of opportunity, we decided not to let the chance go by for another year. Unfortunately, the weather during our drive stayed wet, causing heavy traffic and turning what should have been a two-hour drive into more than 4. It was afternoon by the time we finally rolled into the entrance of Minnewaska State Park, though the rain had cleared out and the sky was fluctuating between periods of overcast and sun. We quickly changed into our hiking boots and stepped on to the trail that circles Minnewaska Lake. Here, our long ride in the car was well-rewarded. Our eyes were met with beautiful shades of browns, reds, oranges, greens, and mustard hues in all directions. I recall thinking that if I could pick up the landscape and pop it into my mouth, it would probably taste like butterscotch.

We stayed at the park for most of the afternoon until it started to get chilly out. Then we headed out to get dinner and to check into the Super 8 Hotel. Sunday would prove to be a much nicer day with clear blue skies and sun. After having our breakfast, we drove south to the Hudson Valley area and Bear Mountain State Park. It just so happened that the park was celebrating Octoberfest for the weekend and we ended up on a long line of cars to enter the park. The entire area surrounding Hessian Lake was set up like a huge bazaar with lots of vendors and food booths. It was a very fun atmosphere. Though, the thing that I enjoy most about Bear Mountain is the system of hiking trails that meander through the park. These paths include a walk through a zoo and several trailside museums dedicated to local geology, history, and wildlife. I really enjoyed viewing the mastodon bones. One can also take a long hike through the woods and over a footbridge to visit the ruins of Fort Montgomery, a Revolutionary War stronghold. In all, this was a fun trip and I was so happy to have finally gotten to see the changing foliage in upstate NY. A beautiful autumn journey...

"You make known to me
the path of life; you will fill me
with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures
at your right hand."

~Psalm 16:11