Monday, August 31, 2009

Book Review: Other Places - A Family's World War II Experience in Germany and the US

Author Ria Veeren takes readers back to World War II and the struggles of one Dutch family in Other Places. The story is her story as she tells of her immigration to America in 1948 and also of the events which led to her immigration.

Of interest in the book are parts of her family's life in Holland and in Germany during World War II and her father's role in providing for his family during a time of war. Excerpts from her father's, Jack Veeren, diary will appeal to those who have an avid interest in history. The elder Veeren, a photographer, served as in interpreter for the Americans immediately after the war.

Those of who have never lived through a war or have the memories shared by the greatest generation will benefit from learning about the effects of a war on everyday people. Other Places is this experience for one family and worth reading.

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Book Review: defining Twilight; Enticing Teens to Learn

"Quick," I said to my teenager. "Define futilely." The eyes that bore back into mine were blank, almost oblivious to my question. "Are you woolgathering?"

"What is this?", asked the teenager who was now experiencing grave misgivings over the decision to walk in to the room with me as I sat reading.

So began my excursion into defining Twilight by Brian Leaf, a delightful book chock full of vocabulary words. What's the deal?

The Twilight book series by Stephenie Meyer has been the latest rage among teens and young adults for a couple of years now. The movie is seen on a regular basis at my house as others descend in droves. The books are so popular that I've walked in and found the teens playing Twilight Trivia or reciting favorite lines of the movie. The books are kept close as a reference so the kids can be sure of their facts.

I admit I had seen the movie, but had not taken time to actually read the book. When asked to review defining Twilight, I knew I had to bite the bullet and jump head first into the land of chaste vampires. The Twilight book was fun to read, and it was full of wonderful words not commonly used by teens today. Do they understand the meanings?

Enter Leaf's defining Twilight, and it's a match made perfect for any student studying to take one of the college entrance exams. Leaf has provided an entertaining way to use the Twilight book as an aid to learning vocabulary. It's a great concept. Read the page in the book, and define the word. There are also quick exercises to use to complement learning the definitions.

It sure beats digging out the old Digests I had to use when I was studying for the SAT. Perhaps I would have scored better on the standardized tests of my day if someone had made learning the vocabulary more pertinent to the times.

Leaf will release his second book in the Defining series in October. I can't wait to see the words he defines and introduce them to my teen.

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

You really do have "Fun at The Fred"

Two for One tickets for Peter Cetera (tonight) at

The Fred? What's a Fred you ask? "The Fred" is short for the Frederick Brown Jr Amphitheater in Peachtree City, Georgia. It's an outdoor amphitheater with a fantastic sound system, tables, food, regular and lawn seating and a great line up of concerts every year.

This year Kenny Loggins, LeAnn Rimes, Get Back! (the cast of Beatlemania), The Beach Boys, The Spinners, The World Famous Glenn Miller Orchestra, Hippiefest (4th annual), Peter Cetera and Amy Grant are and were part of the line-up.

Tonight is Peter Cetera's final night at The Fred. I went last night and was surprised. I like Chicago and I like Peter Cetera, but wasn't jumping up and down about seeing him. My mistake... it was a great, absolutely first-rate, concert.

Not only is his voice in tip-top condition, but the songs he's written are amazing. I had no idea he had touched so many in his career.

It's interesting going to concerts of some of the "oldies" (not that there's anything old about Cetera!). I love going to the concerts, but many didn't do much after their peak back in the 70's or 80's or whenever. The concerts are like a walk down memory lane. Loads of fun, but nothing new. Sometimes you can really tell that the voices have had some wear and tear, songs are changed slightly to accommodate aging voices.

None of that is true with Cetera. His voice got stronger as the night went on. He has continued to be "more than Chicago" through the years and has a prominent solo career. I had forgotten how many songs he has done!

The band and backup singers with him last night were stellar. I would buy a CD by his female singer, Kim Keyes. Phenomenal talent! Ditto Bruce Gaitsch, lead guitar. He does an outstanding song about 3/4 of the way through the concert that I'll buy if it's on a CD somewhere. Every band member is a stand-alone great talent... put them together, add Peter Cetera into the mix and WOW!

There are still tickets for tonight's concert. If you go to you'll see two links on the front page for 2-for-1 tickets! What a bargain...

p.s. yours truly had backstage passes so I had my picture made with Cetera. Good looking guy... from all angles

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Last night for Hippifest and it's a must-be-there-event!!!

No matter where you are in Atlanta... no matter where you are in the state of Georgia... hop into your VW or your van and head to Peachtree City for Hippiefest!!!

Tonight is the last night of this jam-packed musical night of flat out fun, fun, fun. Humor, history and loads of surprisingly good music will keep you swaying, clapping and singing along until the end.

Chuck Negron of Three Dog Night fame ends the show with his powerful voice singing One (is the loneliest number), Joy to the World (Jeremiah was a bullfrog...), and other songs you'll instantly recognize and love, no matter what your age.

Flo & Eddie of Turtles fame host the event and then, right before Negron, they wow you with some of the very memorable Turtles hits.

Mitch Ryder had everyone up on their feet... think CC Rider and other great Detroit Wheels rock n' roll music.

I'd love to have heard more from Badfinger! They had loads of hits and unfortunately we only heard a few. Of course, that was true of all the bands on tap last night at the first Hippiefest show in Peachtree City at The Fred.

Who doesn't remember Brewer & Shipley's "One Toke Over the Line"? They open the show, and start everyone rockin'.

The only problem I had with the entire show is there's a bit of downtime between each act. The momentum gets revved up and then there's peace and quiet for just long enough to lose the high. Oh man, does that ever remind you of the 60's and 70's? I went with my two sisters and we made quite a few jokes about that one... Granted we were just babes back when some of this music was popular, but we still grew up listening to it all and could sing every word (thankfully it was loud or those around us would have cleared out.... singing is not one of our better talents).

Dig out your tie-dye, bell bottoms, head bands, scarf tops, platform shoes, dangling jewelry or whatever you have that reminds you of the 70's*, then pack your cooler (food, beer & wine allowed) and go to The Fred tonight. The only allowable excuse for NOT going is if you happen to have tickets to see GREASE with Taylor Hicks at the Fox.

Psychedelic. Flower Power. Peace. Love... and all that stuff.

Tickets at or call The Fred Box office at 770-631-0630.

*there's a good mix of those who get in the mood and dress up, and those who come in regular style dress. It's an outdoor concert and a beautiful venue. Food and beverages are available. Tickets are still available. Bring your blanket and sit on the lawn!

For more information, please see the tour's official site at (I'm getting on the list so I'll be sure to find out where Hippiefest 2010 is going to be... )

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Chang chang ah chang-itty chang shoo bop

Grease... had me a blast!

First, before I forget, here's a BIG tip if you're one of those that likes to sneak out when the play ends and the clapping starts: Don't. Do not leave. Stick around.

Hint as to why: Later today I'm heading to the store to buy Taylor Hicks' new CD.

OK, now that I have that out of the way, here's my thoughts on Grease at the fantastically Fantabulous Fox Theater in Atlanta.

It was good, you know what I mean? (are you saying, tell me more, tell me more?)

What a way to celebrate the end of our long summer nights and the beginning of school!

'Nuff, I'm going to stop trying to pull in the catchy, memorable lyrics from songs and just give you the scoop. It was fun, even before the 8 o'clock official start of the play. Another hot tip: Do not be late, be in your seats early or you'll miss some cool action.

I would recommend that you not see the movie prior to seeing the play as it's hard not to make comparisons. The play is slightly different from the movie version, although similar enough that you'll enjoy even if you're a movie-version Grease fanatic.

Also, if you're like me, you "hear" the songs as sung by John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John and friends when watching the play. They're not identical and shouldn't be. Think of Travolta and Newton-John on music steroids. The Grease cast have polished, strong, voices and they shine.

This is a sanitized version of the original stage musical Grease by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey. If you'd like to find out more about the history and understand why the play differs just a bit from the movie: and

Taylor Hicks of American Idol fame does a superb job as "Teen Angel", the role originally played by Frankie Avalon. He won't be in every show, so if you're going because Hicks' name is included, be sure to check. I noticed that some of the people around us where there simply because Taylor Hicks had a role. It's great that his participation is introducing some to the theater. I heard a number of people say they wished he had a bigger role or had more songs in the musical. His inclusion was definitely a high point!

Grease is great. One of the many things I loved was the interaction the actors had with the audience. By the end of the show even the most staid, regardless of age, were clapping and moving with the music.

I'm always awed when I encounter great talent. Everyone in Grease deserves a standing ovation. I highly recommend the show --- tickets are still available and well worth the expense.

My laugh lines are a little deeper, the music is still running through my head and I have a new CD to purchase...
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