Writers Advance Boot Camp at the Cove, Asheville, NC

I spent last weekend at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove, in Asheville, North Carolina, for the Writers Advance Boot Camp. Located in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, this is my kind of place. 
My room, in the "Pilgrim Inn" (one of a couple at the Cove), was top notch, from the bed and pillows to the bent twig rocking chair in the corner (see below)--a great place to pray and read. 
The common seating areas (see below) were inviting. I would have totally enjoyed them if I'd had any time to do so, but I worked like a rented mule. 
Most incredible, though, was the people. Worshipers. Writers. Passionate, responsive, appreciative, good people. Most of them even pretended to like me. 

A Night at the CSO

The lovely Robin and I joined our old friends (well, him, anyway) Thom and Cindy Speakman last Saturday for a lovely evening at Cincinnati's historic Music Hall. Together, we enjoyed a concert by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, conducted by guest conductor Han-Na Chang, Music Director of the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra and Artistic Director of the Absolute Classic Festival in Korea.
Robin and I tried to remember the last time we'd been to Music Hall. Short answer: It's been too long. Longer answer: Maybe an event (the Nutcracker?) when our kids were in grade school. Yeah, that long ago. Much too long, as it is a wonderful venue.
Our seats were in the second balcony, which afforded a great view and beautiful sound. The program included Tchaikovsky's Suite from The Sleeping Beauty, Korngold's Violin Concerto (with guest soloist Simone Lamsma), and Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. It was an enjoyable program, made more so by good company--and a surprise reunion during intermission with more friends, whom we hadn't seen for thirty years or so! 

The Symphony Hotel Restaurant

The lovely Robin and I enjoyed a double date last Saturday evening with our friends, Thom and Cindy. We began with dinner at the Symphony Hotel Restaurant, across W. 14th Street from Music Hall.
The Symphony Hotel offers a unique experience (and yes, it is also a hotel). We pre-ordered (via email) our entrees for the five-course dinner. The menu changes monthly, and the only choices to be made are for the entree and dessert. We all had the roasted tomato soup, salad, and black rasperry sorbet. I enjoyed the prime rib (I try never to miss a chance for prime rib) and Robin loved her Amish chicken. For dessert, we both had the seasonal berries...which could have used a little sugar or whipped cream.
The restaurant makes the most of their floor space. There's no dance floor, for sure. The building, at 210 W. 14th Street, was originally an old mansion that was later converted into a hotel. We didn't explore the rooms upstairs, but according to their website (http://www.symphonyhotel.com/), they do accept reservations.

It wasn't a cheap experience by any means, but the location for an evening at the symphony couldn't have been more convenient.

The Fireside Theater, Ft. Atkinson, WI

The lovely Robin and I had an absolutely marvelous time at The Fireside Theater in Ft. Atkinson, Wisconsin, a few evenings ago with about forty Salvationist friends from the central U.S.A.
The Fireside is a dinner theater owned by the Klopcic family from its inception fifty-one years ago. It is the only Actor’s Equity dinner theatre in Wisconsin and a popular destination for couples, families, and tour groups from all over the place, not just southern Wisconsin. The buffet meal was substantial, endless, and delicious, and the service was exceptional.
After the meal our group was ushered into the theater where we enjoyed a two-act musical, "The Sensational 70s," that was impossible NOT to sing along with. The compact eight-piece band, eight vocalists, and master of ceremonies kept us entertained throughout--though I carried a lot of the harmonies from my seat in the third row back. 

"The Sensational 70s" continues through February 22, the first of seven shows planned for 2015.  The Fireside is located at 1131 Janesville Avenue in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin.

Camp Wonderland, Wisconsin

The lovely Robin and I enjoyed a few days at The Salvation Army's Camp Wonderland in Camp Lake, Wisconsin, this past week.

We were there to share with about forty men and women of God who comprise the SA's Central Territory TEC (Territorial Executive Council) in a series of wonderfully sensitive sessions. We made so many new friends, whose paths we hope to cross again soon...and often!

It was a great time with amazing people in first rate facilities in a beautiful setting.

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Icefest and Bookfest 2015

I had a great time Saturday at Hamilton, Ohio's biennial IceFest and Ryan Tavern's BookFest. IceFest's theme this year was "Hamilton Goes Hollywood," and the sculptures displayed throughout the downtown area were fun, beautiful, and impressive.
Alas, I saw only a few of the sculptures, as I was occupied by BookFest, the biennial event, BookFest, at Ryan's Tavern. The event allows the chance to meet numerous authors and browse their work, talk books and writing, etc. I was honored and excited to be a part of it. I got to visit with so many friends and even sold some books!
I also enjoyed speaking at the Mad Anthony Writers seminars presented at the Miami University Hamilton-Downtown meeting room that morning (while the lovely Robin babysat my book table next door).

It was a great day, very productive and enjoyable. Thanks to Hamilton for hosting IceFest again, to Victoria Ryan for putting BookFest together,  and to all those who stopped by to say hi!

Boarshead Festival 2015

For many years now, I have wanted to experience the Boar's Head Festival at Christ Church in downtown Cincinnati. One thing or another has prevented me (last year it was a snowstorm the day of the ticket distribution). But this year, the lovely Robin and I attended, in the company of our friends Doug and Julie, and I'm so glad we did. 
The Boar's Head is probably the oldest continuing festival of the Christmas season. On its six-hundredth anniversary in 1940, it was first celebrated at Christ Church, Cincinnati. This year's performances mark the seventy-fifth year. 

The pageant is rooted in ancient times when boars were hunted as a public enemy. At Roman feasts, boar was the first dish served. Roasted boar was a staple of medieval banquets, much like our Thanksgiving turkey. As Christian beliefs overtook pagan customs in Europe, the presentation of a boar's head at Christmas came to symbolize the triumph of the Christ Child over sin.

The festival began with the entrance of the yule sprite bearing the tiny light of a burning taper. From it, the Dean of the church lit the great Festival candle and held it high before placing it on the altar.
From that moment on, the music and costumes and beauty of the celebration entranced us. At the midpoint of the program, cast members strode and climbed through the audience, singing the Wassail Song and wishing everyone a happy new year (below). 
From that point in the program, the mood turned worshipful as the nativity of Jesus was beautifully depicted, in one procession after another, including shepherds, magi, and more, filling the church with music both ancient and familiar. 
We attended the final performance of the weekend (I had it on good authority that this would be the best in many ways) starting at 5 p.m. on Sunday. 
It was a delightful experience, especially enlivened by the participation of numerous children in bright array. I'm so grateful to Christ Church for offering this massive event every year, and to Robin, Doug, and Julie for enjoying it with me.