Hansel and Gretel – an East Van Panto

UBT Review: Hansel and Gretel

My childhood memories of attending pantomimes are pretty limited – my only recollection is that of a visit to the James Cowan Theatre in Burnaby to see Gumboot Lollipop, upon which my mother would always volunteer me or my poor hapless brother to go up on stage. So, it’s a fond – albeit nervous – memory that was shaping how I was going to react to The York Theatre’s East Van Panto. And might I mention that my four-year-old daughter in tow kept asking if the witch was going to put her in the oven?

I was pleasantly surprised, and left the York theatre last Friday night with sore sides from laughing.

As I reside in the Fraser Valley, I feel a bit out of touch with the culture of East Vancouver. A swinging Saturday for me includes a trip to Costco and Willowbrook Mall. But once the East Van Panto got underway with their quirky and wonderful rendition of Hansel and Gretel, I found myself wishing that I, too, belonged to the culture of Commercial Drivers and Sunrisers.

To say Hansel and Gretel was charming and brilliantly written would be an understatement. The initial musical interlude, complete with the wit and charm of Veda
Hille and her ensemble set the tone. The backdrop set, painted by Laura Zerebeski, is bright, spooky, cartoon-esque and almost reminded me of Emily Carr. The narrator of the show was a barista who, fittingly, couldn’t spell or read the names of whom the drinks he brewed belonged to. And the first musical act was complete with beard-sporting, plaid wielding hipsters marching around with their coffees and mason jar mugs. Let’s not forget the adorable children that were part of the show, complete with their Bludnstone boots.

The Cultch did a splendid job of recreating the story of Hansel and Gretel, who are left in the forest because of a wicked stepmother who no longer wants to spend her money to feed them (really, it’s because evil stepmother is a food blogger and her bad reviews put all the restaurants in town out of business and sent them packing – so there’s actually nothing left to eat). So, as you can see, in this case, the traditional tale adapts its storyline to a sense of humor that only those who live in the Vancouver area would understand. For example, instead of the traditional forest, the kids are left out in Stanley Park, and are infiltrated in the early morning hours by Lululemon wearing, yoga posing joggers. I laughed so hard!

The show is full of hilarious 80’s musical numbers, cabaret chorus lines and even a hysterical rendition of Lady Gaga’s Poker Face, complete with a giant gingerbread man jumping around like Justin Timberlake on the Ellen Degeneres show a few years back. Hansel and Gretel’s characters are well acted and delightful – my daughter particularly loved Hansel and his goofy personality. But it was hands down Allan Zinyk, who plays the Dame Edna drag queen reminiscent step mother/witch who stole the show. His pink brocade skirt suit, nasal voice and tongue-out taunting of the audience left everyone hollering in delight.

The best line of the night? When poor Hansel compares his immobility in the witch’s oven to Roberto Luongo’s rigid contract and no trade clause – upon which Gretel replies that “that joke would have been funny in the 2013 panto”.

I can’t wait to see what the Cultch comes up with next, and I will definitely be bringing my family! The East Van Panto plays at the York Theater until January 3, 2016. For more information check outwww.thecultch.com/events/hansel-and-gretel-an-east-van-panto

Holiday Toy Review – Fisher Price Bright Beats Dance & Move BeatBo

Recently, my kids and I were lucky enough to try out Fisher Price’s newest kid on the block – The Bright Beats Dance & Move BeatBo – an interactive and entertaining toy aimed at children 9 to 36 months of age. At first I couldn’t figure out what the BeatBo was supposed to be – is it an alien? A bunny?

My daughters and I decided that it was a Martian (fitting, since we’re really into outer space right now)and that it is fun and easy for us to play with. In fact, this toy is an excellent tool to encourage your child’s gross motor skills through dance, sight and other commands.

What we liked best about BeatBo was that it learns and grows with your child through 3 modes:
•  Dance ‘n Move Mode shows BeatBo shaking his hips, nodding his head and playing lively music, which encourages your child to jump around, dance and get active.

• The Learning & Games Mode helps teach baby ABCs, colors, counting and more – and features the popular ‘Freeze Dance’ for even more fun.

• Finally, our personal fave in our house – the Customized Sing-Along Mode – which lets you or your child record a phrase – and BeatBo will remix it into his next song! My 2 year old daughter absolutely loves to speak into the BeatBo’s tummy and hear a silly version of her own voice chattering back at her!

The only thing that I would change about this toy is that the low volume setting is a bit too quiet for us, whereas the loud can get a bit noisy! Otherwise this toy was a huge hit in our house!

BeatBo is a great gift option this holiday season, as not only is it an interactive and fun toy, but offers the learning aspect as well. You can find Fisher Price Bright Beats BeatBo at most local retailers for around $49.99.

Holiday Toy Review – Barbie Saddle and Ride

Holiday Toy Review: Barbie Saddle and Ride

My 4 year old loves to play dolls. I could easily listen to her construct imaginary scenarios and act out settings all day. She especially loves to change all of Barbie’s outfits and re-enact the day’s events at preschool through the eyes of her various dolls.

So when I presented her with the Barbie Saddle and Ride to “play with” (so mommy could review it) she was absolutely thrilled. She immediately began to act out an imaginary world where Barbie was a horse trainer and was preparing for a big race.

The coolest thing about this toy is that it moves. By clipping Barbie’s gloved pink hand into her horse’s mane and push the button on the top of her horse’s brow, Barbie will lift herself up into the horse’s saddle on her back and the horse starts walking on its own! You can even groom the horse by brushing its mane.

This toy includes Barbie wearing equestrian fashion and accessories and her horse with movement feature. The toy requires 3 AAA batteries (not included).

Some Yelp Help

While mindlessly browsing through social media the other day, I fell across a hilarious post about ironic/entertaining/”anything but helpful” Yelp reviews. One witty mother had provided a Yelp review on having a newborn baby.

In a nutshell, she gave it 1 star out of 5 – far from a rave review – and basically mused that although she was “super looking forward to having a newborn” she instead was disappointed with the “long, gruelling hours with no pay”.

Yelp-12-e1428462519136

Check it out: http://www.theuglyvolvo.com/yelp-reviews-of-newborn-babies/  (Credit to Raquel DApice from The Ugly Volvo)

I thought this was hysterically funny and I’ve decided to take it to another level. In honor of Raquel and her humour, I’ve decided to review a few things that I endured in that first year-ish of motherhood.

First trimester of pregnancy:

I’m giving this a weak 1 out of 5 stars. I’m disappointed, really. After all, in the first 12 weeks I was really looking forward to feeling morning sickness and tender boobs, because golly! that would mean that the baby was healthy and everything was going according to plan! But honestly, throwing up everything I ate EVERY DAY, surviving on only premium plus crackers and ginger ale, and not being able to wear a bra gets REALLY OLD, REALLY QUICK. Plus, I suddenly have a bloodhound’s sense of smell, and dear husband insists on breathing on me, reminding me that he ate an onion or drank a beer. Note to self: do not kill husband, as he may come in handy once baby is born.

Second trimester of pregnancy:

The 2nd trimester was GRAND! I have a lovely belly (but that doesn’t mean you can touch – so please don’t, strange lady), I can feel baby wiggling around, and I haven’t thrown up lately! A solid 4 out of 5 stars. We just missed 5 out of 5 because of the time baby kicked me SO hard in the cervix that I actually ran to the bathroom, expecting a foot to be sticking out of my lady parts.

Third trimester of pregnancy:

2 out of 5 stars. I’m too tired to write this now because for some reason, I can’t sleep anymore. And I have to log roll myself out of bed. And I peed my pants the other day. And I’m starting to feel nervous about labor (nothing to do with the ultrasound tech exclaiming how large baby was). It won’t get stuck in there, right?

Labour and delivery

I just don’t think a negative 7 out of 5 is appropriate here, because that’ s just rude to all those other moms that are frolicking in their 2nd trimesters. But my mom always taught me that honesty is the best policy, so here it goes:

Someone told me labor pains feel like strong period pains. Well, I honestly don’t know what kind of period that person had, but it must have been something akin to having an angry zoo gorilla flinging your insides all around and repeatedly smashing you against a wall. Don’t get me started on my husband. I can’t make up my mind if I want him to rub my back, or to get as far away from me as possible. Despite all the pain, I still have a keen awareness that there is a chance that I will poo when I’m pushing. Mortifying.

I also give the nurse a zero out of 5 for laughing at me when I gave her the laminated copy of my birth plan, but then a 5 out of 5 for when she helped me have a shower after everything was over. Bless her.

But once the baby is out and all snuffly and pink, plopped onto my chest, and my heart is soaring higher than the highest galaxy – well, that’s just a solid 5 out of 5. Best. Day. Ever.

Breastfeeding

I had an easy time with this, in terms of milk supply and baby’s latch. I think I might be an anomaly, as many people really struggle with breastfeeding. So let me begin by saying

Breast or bottle, whatever choice you make, it will be the right choice for you and your baby

I really can’t stand the pro-nursing zealots and the vehement bottle feed supporters, each shouting, preaching and pushing their views onto others. Especially onto those new mothers that are feeling overwhelmed and aren’t sure what the right choice is. Can’t we all just get along? Isn’t is important that baby is healthy and thriving? I remember my friend telling me a story of pumping her breast milk into the wee hours of the morning, and her nipples were so cracked and destroyed that THE PUMPED MILK LOOKED LIKE BLOOD. But she wanted to persist with the nursing because someone had told her “it was the only way”. Let’s face it, folks – that isn’t healthy for anyone. Plus , blood-milk probably doesn’t taste too good to the baby. Overall, it doesn’t matter if your baby is getting breast milk, formula, donor milk, or whatever else you choose – as long as you are informed properly and you are giving that baby lots of love.

So for me, I’d say breastfeeding was 4 out of 5 stars. It just missed a perfect score because no one told me that the baby would feed 600 times a day for the first few months, rendering me useless on the couch in the same rotten pair of pyjamas for weeks at a time. Thank god for Facebook and late night Golden Girls reruns.

Being a Mom

Some days, zero stars. Some days, 5 out of 5. But most of all, there is no relevant review – yelp or otherwise – that can even touch each of our personal experiences as mothers. How we can sense just what our babies need before they even know, how we could sniff them out of a crowd, blindfolded, in a snowstorm – that’s how unique and beautiful their smell is to us. And how we could never, ever imagine our lives without them. In fact, we can hardly remember what it was like before they were born.

FIRE BAN? NO PROBLEM!

TREATS TO THE RESCUE! BEAT THE FIRE BAN WITH THESE NO-CAMPFIRE GOODIES

yum

It’s no secret that every child in summer looks forward to the timeless and traditional act of roasting marshmallows around a campfire. Let’s not forget about nestling that perfectly golden-brown goodie into a graham cracker sandwich, complete with a hunk of milk chocolate, making a delicious and gooey s’more.

But what happens when it’s a hot summer like this one, and the mere mention of an outdoor fire sends Smokey the Bear barrelling your way, ready to oust you and your ideas of a fire with a watery blast? This summer in British Columbia has seen a province-wide fire ban – which is a good thing for the tinder-dry forests, but very sad for the happy campers (especially the children). Any hopes of poking a stick into some hot coals, igniting a marshmallow into flames, or playfully licking strings of marshmallow goo from your fingers are dashed this year….leaving behind sad kids and shelves of s’more kits, unbought on the store shelves.

Thankfully, the fire ban doesn’t include propane BBQs and fire pits! So don’t fret, moms and dads – here are some ingenious ideas for campout treats that your kids can enjoy, thanks to a propane flame!

Tasty Roasted Banana

What you’ll need:

One banana per kid

Chocolate chips, M&M’s, smarties, or any other small chocolate candy of your choice

Mini-marshmallows

Tinfoil

This is a simple, easy and delicious treat that can be done on the BBQ. You simply slice an opening in the peel of your banana, ensuring you slice the banana lengthwise so it folds open and creates a boat of sorts. Sprinkle the middle with the chocolate bits and marshmallows and wrap that puppy back up in tinfoil, and roast on a medium-heat BBQ for 5 to 7 minutes. The result? Gooey, chocolatey banana goodness. But be careful before giving to the kids, because it gets very hot!

 

banana

Ice Cream Cone S’more

This one is super easy and just about as good as the s’mores.

What you’ll need:

Ice cream cones (preferably sugar or waffle cones)

Chocolate chips, or other chocolate bits such as M&M’s or smarties

Mini-marshmallows

Feel free to add other fruit, sprinkles, caramels, or any other treats that you desire

This one is easy and fun to assemble. Get the kids to fill their cones with all the goodies that they can fit, and then wrap the cone fully in tinfoil and roast on the BBQ for 5 to 7 minutes. The result? Viola! A s’more that doubles as an ice cream cone!

Mini Chocolate Orange Cakes

If your child is anything like my daughter, they’ll love helping with the cake mix preparation involved in this unique treat. Since you need to pre-mix a cake mix for this one, it might not be the best for roughing it in the bush, but if it’s just a backyard BBQ, it’s perfect.

What you’ll need:

A chocolate cake mix, premade and mixed

6 large oranges

Cut the top 1/3 or ¼ off the top of your orange and hollow out the pulp. Fill ¾ full with chocolate cake mix, put the top of the orange back on, and bake in a tinfoil topped aluminum pan, on a low temperature BBQ for 30 minutes. The result: a delicious, delectable chocolate cake baked inside an orange, which is just perfectly infused with citrus flavor! Move over, Terry’s Chocolate Orange – there’s a new kid in town! Don’t forget to top with whipped cream or ice cream!

Popcorn

This one requires nothing – no prep, no ingredients, nothing – only an old fashioned container of the tinfoil stovetop Jiffy Pop. Hold it over your propane fire pit or your BBQ, and smell that savory aroma of popcorn!

Hope these yummy campfire treats help you and your families enjoy those traditional activities this summer, regardless of the fire ban!

Moving on up!

I am so very pleased and excited to post this link – my very first published article in a magazine! I feel very blessed and honored to write for such a great magazine, and I hope to be able to show you even more articles in the future!

http://www.urbanbaby.ca/disneyland-your-guide-to-having-fun-and-saving-money/

…and yes, you will see in the article a goofy (no pun intended) photo of my family, posing with Mickey Mouse. Sometimes, when I look at the pic, I feel like a celebrity :). Sort of.

 

disney

 

Unmilestones

“Just Let Me Lie Down” by Kristin van Ogtrop.

A great book. A wonderful writer. A raw, hilarious, and warming memoir of the working mother.

This post is dedicated to her, and the book’s excerpt that struck me hard. Made me put my feet back on the ground, even if it was just for a moment, and look at my kids….I mean, really LOOK at them. Smell them. Breathe in their energy, their innocence, their fabulousness.

The excerpt is called “Unmilestones” and it’s profound.

A milestone is a baby learning to walk. First word. First home run, first ballet recital. First trip to Disneyland. Accomplishments.

But what about those unmilestones? van Ogtrop muses over the sudden halt of bathing with her son. An “unmilestone”, in her words, is an “[i]mportant developmental moment in the lives of your children that no one notices but that, regarded as a whole, present the depressing truth that your kids are growing up and away from you”.

I think of this excerpt when I look at my oldest daughter’s legs, and wonder when they went from stubby and full with baby fat, to lean and lithe. When I can’t remember how my youngest became a babbling toddler, since it was surely just yesterday that she was an infant, hungrily reliant on my breast milk?

van Ogtrop muses that she wishes someone “would institute a system in which a pleasant chime rings whenever an event that you’re going to want to remember is happening”. And I wholeheartedly agree with her. In fact, I’m going to stop writing right now and invent this chime. I’m sure I have some old batteries and some string somewhere around here….

And perhaps this invention will help those people who think that having a 3rd or 4th child will help them to relive these “unmilestones” properly this time around, but nevertheless these same people always end up looking at each other as they realized their children outnumber them and say “wtf?! why did we do this again???”

xo