Archive for December, 2011|Monthly archive page
I snagged some last-minute tickets to the Dec. 20 Mannheim Steamroller concert in Stephens Auditorium in Ames, and I was expecting to love this show. It’s not the kind of music I would normally listen to — I guess it’s considered New Age — but it’s great at the holidays. Kind of like Christmas carols on crack.
But I was terribly disappointed in the concert, especially the first half. To start with, right after the opening number, the band’s leader gave a rather lengthy commercial for purchasing the group’s CDs, which put me off. And about half of the first section of songs reminded me of the music played at the Madrigal Feast I used to go to every year. Not exactly rousing numbers. Lots of sleepy, creepy recorder solos, if you get what I’m saying.
But I could live with that. What I really couldn’t stand were the visual effects. During most of the songs, cheesy videos ran on a large screen behind the band. I think Mannheim Steamroller celebrated its 25th anniversary last year, and I would say some of these videos were with them at the beginning. At least they looked like the 1980s. They were so distracting that I had to close my eyes.
As I was sitting there, I was thinking, holy cow, we’re in this beautiful auditorium and we can SEE the band performing and HEAR the band performing, and they have a light show going on, and — oh, what the heck, let’s show a movie at the same time. Do our senses need to be totally assaulted? I think I would have been distracted and annoyed even if the visuals were better quality. Do they think we all have attention deficit disorder?
Well, it really ruined the concert for me. That and the kid behind me who talked through the WHOLE THING.
The second part of the show was considerably more upbeat, starting with a rousing version of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and ending with the wonderful Carol of the Bells. After a standing ovation (during which I grumpily remained seated) they came back to play two more numbers, including Deck the Halls (on crack — gotta love it). But even then, they ruined it for me by showing a nasty-looking montage of self-serving media clips and album covers.
I closed my eyes.
Those of us lucky enough to live in Ames and work at Iowa State often take for granted the special places on campus.
Reiman Gardens is one of those places. I go there often enough, mostly in the spring and summer, that I don’t think to visit there in the winter. But that’s a mistake, because there’s plenty to see there right now. Garden hours are 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily (closed on Christmas and New Year’s Day); each Thursday in December the Gardens are open until 8 p.m., and admission is free after 4:30.
Now is a great time to see the holiday display “Snug as a Bug” in the Conservatory and shop for unique holiday gifts in the gift shop. The butterfly wing is another great place to visit during the winter because it’s toasty warm in there! The Conservatory displays change frequently. The current holiday display features oversized luna moths, orchids, poinsettias, decorated evergreens, lilies, and other spectacular blooms.
Farm House Museum is another interesting place on campus to visit during the holidays. This year the theme was “Greenery Galore: An 1880s Farm House Christmas.” The exhibit featured 19th Century Santa Claus prints, vintage Christmas trees, and other yuletide decorations.
Living History Farms is a family-friendly destination during the summer and fall months – and, sometimes, in the winter.
This weekend marked the living museum’s “Prairie Christmas” event. The visitor center was all decked out with activities for the kids: an old-fashioned taffy pull, crafts, cookies, and Santa’s workshop.
Throughout the 1875 town of Walnut Hill, children and adults could experience costumed reinactors in the Tangen home, the church, and in many shops and businesses.
Carolers from the Walnut Hill Choral Society entertained inside the church, where kids were offered cups of popcorn mixed with gumdrops.
A horse-drawn wagon provided rides throughout the town.
Inside the house, ginger cookies were being rolled and cut out, and popcorn was being strung to decorate the family’s Christmas tree.
At the General Store, kids could write and mail a letter to Santa and buy penny candy. At the print shop, kids could print their own gift tag. In the drug store, they could make old-fashioned peppermint toothpaste.
And everywhere you looked, there was Santa.
The event was held from noon to 4 p.m. today and cost $5.50 for admission. Following an afternoon of stepping back in time, visitors could buy all kinds of cool things at the museum store: old-fashioned candy, books, dishes, cookie and biscuit cutters, toys, dishcloths, straw brooms, and more.
Living History Farms operates regular hours May 1 through October 14, and a farm site is available in addition to the town of Walnut Hill. A “historic dinner” season runs from October through March. Dinners are served in the 1875 Tangen Home and in the 1900 farmhouse. Living History Farms is located at 11121 Hickman Road, Urbandale.
Another holiday season has arrived like a steamroller, and I find myself in the same situation as I do every year: Unless I quit my full-time job, I absolutely cannot find time to shop and decorate and bake and wrap and send Christmas cards and attend mandatory holiday parties AND find time to enjoy all the wonderful events that are scheduled exclusively at this time of year.
I find it terribly frustrating. This weekend, for example, I wanted to attend Iowa State’s WinterFest activities Friday night but instead opted to get a jump on decorating my house. On Saturday, I finished decorating, did my usual weekend chores, and attended my husband’s office party. What I would have preferred to do was attend Prelude to Christmas in the Amana Colonies, but there was no way I had time to do that.
On Sunday, I had the best of intentions. I was headed with my daughter to the Holly & Ivy Christmas open house at Salisbury House and Terrace Hill, plus Christmas shopping in Des Moines. As we drove into downtown Des Moines, I ran through my list of places I needed to shop and it became clear that we didn’t have time to do everything. So we shopped. Holly & Ivy just wasn’t as much of a priority.
I haven’t started my Christmas cards yet – I’m about a week behind on that. I haven’t wrapped a single gift or baked a single cookie. I’d say that right about the time I get caught up, it will be Christmas weekend and all the holiday events will be over for the year. That sounds about right.
I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: Thanksgiving and Christmas need to be moved farther apart. And all the holiday events need to happen in January so normal (busy) people can enjoy them.