Masterpiece’s Les Misérables

Masterpiece, a division of PBS (Public Broadcasting Service), brings television dramas to American audiences.

Their programming includes contemporary works and even adaptations of literature’s classics. Some of their popular programs include Sherlock, Bleak House, and Downton Abbey.

Tonight WDSE-WRPT is hosting an advanced screening of Masterpiece’s Les Misérables first episode. It’s being held on a large screen of a local arts building. This six episode miniseries airs on PBS beginning April 14, so this is truly an advanced viewing.

For anyone who needs a refresher on ‘Les Mis’, this next bit is for you’

Les Misérables takes place after the French Revolution ends. Les Mis is the story of Jean Valjean, a peasant who was jailed for stealing bread. He attempts to get out a few times and had years added to his sentence. After spending close to two decades imprisoned, Jean Valjean is released. Jean Valjean is constantly on the move, meets many unique individuals, and always seems to run into trouble despite trying to better his outlook. How does this all play out? You’ll have to see for yourself!

Now, here’s what I thought of episode one. This may contain spoilers!

*Note: at this viewing there was a wide range of ages and backgrounds of both men and women. Everyone was very excited to see this episode.

This first episode is nothing short of a work of art. It’s beautifully written and crafted. The costumes are gorgeous and period appropriate. The actors looked the part! It’s music enhanced the mood without being overwhelming. Sets were well chosen and it was visually stunning. A lot of natural scenery was used to add a sense of enormity and scope to the story which gave a great sense of wonder and perspective.

It starts off after the last battle of the French Revolution at Waterloo. The scene was large in scope and gave a good visual representation of just how many people were killed. It was impressive to see the scale of destruction and gave a clear message of the revolution’s debilitating effect on the county.

This episode clearly sets up three characters to focus on for the duration. It explains their background, attitudes, personalities, and begins to show the transitions into the next ‘chapter’ of you will of this epic saga. You can’t help but feeling like you’re sharing in their stories. It’s an unspoken emotional aspect that can be explained in a ‘less is more’ fashion. The set, score, costumes, and sheer talent of its actors all compliment each other.

By the end of the episode, I was hooked. I cannot wait until the next episode! To be this excited for more after ONE episode, it has to be good! I would definitely recommend seeing this version.

New Section

Greetings!!

I’ve been thinking about a few new sections, as I mentioned in an earlier post. I’m ready to announce one of those sections today.

This new section will focus on movie reviews. Some are new and others will be recent releases – not in theaters anymore, but released to rent and own.

Within the next day or two, I’ll be releasing my first addition to that section.

Be on the lookout!

Spring Things

I’m sure you’ve noticed: I have not been on for some time.

Much has happened between then and now. I wrote a few pieces for a local magazine; it was a great pleasure talking to new people and quite the experience. But it wasn’t for me at the time. I learned a few new things along the way. Not only about writing. Life stuff, too. Lots of little life lessons. Thankfully, most of the major lessons were “completed in past chapters”.

A friend of mine recently asked how my writing is going. That’s part of the problem: it isn’t going. Of course, I have ideas. I just haven’t gotten that far yet. I’ve been coming up with a litany of reasons why I couldn’t. Take your pick. Too tired, too busy, too unfocused, and the list goes on.

Well, I’ve a few ideas I’m sifting through. A number happen to be ‘features’ on people or places. Let me tell you, I used to hate features. With a passion. I think it’s because what I find interesting or unique in their story is often completely opposite of others. The structure is wildly different in how the story is told, too.

Enough for today! I’ll be back soon with some more news.

Libby Spehar and the Snooty Fox Tea Shop

Kombucha slider: 4 small glasses of 4 different Kombucha flavors on tap.

I wrote this story because I find Libby and her story to be inspiring to what we can achieve if we follow out passion. I enjoy tea immensely and really enjoy meeting new people. I met Libby Spehar and her coworkers at The Snooty Fox, which Libby owns. Libby’s journey is really unique so far. So here we are!

This is the story of Libby Spehar and the Snooty Fox:

Libby Spehar’s passion for tea, teaching, and her community lead her to open a tea shop of her own. In October of 2015, Libby opened The Snooty Fox Tea Shop. Soon after making the decision to pursue her dream, Libby learned of a place being built in Chester Park on East 8th Street.

“The idea came and then the location presented itself within a couple days,’ said Libby.

The building is a multipurpose unit containing both businesses and apartments. The ecofriendly space, upcoming availability, and location in Chester Park were what she was looking for. Soon after, Libby worked with an architect to design the layout.

“The location was a selling point,” she added. “The opportunity to create something from scratch was really exciting.”

Libby really took time to explore her interests to find a unique shop name. Libby studied in London and was intrigued by the pub names. She researched pub names there to “get her creative juices flowing”.

“I was looking for inspiration. I wanted something fun and whimsical. Memorable and maybe unusual,” she said of her research.

Libby also spent time volunteering. During this time, Libby helped to rehabilitate orphaned and injured animals. Foxes were a favorite of hers to look after. There was one fox who refused to eat. This left an impression on Libby; it was an experience she will never forget. With her love of the interesting pub names and nature, The Snooty Fox Tea Shop was born.

“Tea, originally, was regarded as a medicine. There is a lot to learn about tea. It’s all connected. It’s a healing thing,” said Libby. “Sharing tea or making someone tea or having someone else make you tea – it’s all very comforting. It’s like an act of kindness.”

She enjoys bringing knowledge of her customers to help them find a flavor they will adore. Libby’s love of sharing information inspires even young people. She has had children create art for her in the form of pictures and clay sculptures of foxes.

“The simplest way to put it is just these are things that I love and I want to share with people,” Libby said of her passions. “I like sharing cool stuff. That’s my nature. I get really excited about stuff and I need to tell people. I kind of have a teaching bug in me. I come from a long line of teachers. I like sharing information. It’s something I’m really passionate about, too.”

There are three styles of tea to drink while enjoying the atmosphere of the shop – loose leaf, bubble and kombucha.

Loose leaf is the most commonly known variety of tea. It is offered both brewed in the shop and in bulk for brewing at one’s leisure. The loose-leaf tea offers different blends to try. There are 120 flavors of bulk tea alone that customers can try. Libby picked each tea and has drank each one.

Bubble tea is served chilled – a hit in the summer. There are both seasonal and year-round flavors. Bobas are what give bubble tea its name.

The kombucha tea is s fermented tea that contains probiotics. Their kombucha is brewed within house by two brewers – Libby’s brother and sister-in-law. They use a seven tea blend and filter the water.

They use repurposed oak barrels. One is a 30-gallon barrel that was used to make rye whiskey and bourbon. Their primary barrel is a 60-gallon barrel that held French chardonnay. Libby and her team are brainstorming options for expanding the kombucha selection.

“We’re the first place in town to have it on tap like we do and we’re kind of cutting edge,” Libby said of their kombucha, “We’re adopting stuff that so far only the coasts and bigger cities have.”

At Libby’s shop there are many teas to taste. Libby and her staff love to help customers find something delightful. In helping their customers, the staff of The Snooty Fox build relationships with the people in the community – from two-year olds who adore kombucha to first time tea drinkers.

“We can get non-tea drinkers something they’ll like. There is something for everybody. (There is a type of tea for) every time of day, every mood, every feeling. I could pick out your favorite tea for a certain kind of music you want to listen to,” says Libby of hesitancy to trying tea. “We’re going to find something really good for you, to make you smile.”

The customers of The Snooty Fox form a diverse crowd of people from the community. There are both social justice and kombucha groups. Many professors stop in. Students writing their thesis papers are also among those who stop by.

“We try to foster really solid relationships of every kind,” she said. “College kids, graduate students, families, neighbors who walk here. I feel like we have been embraced by the locals and the college kids and I am proud of that.”

Challenges happen for every business. Having the support of customers and the community can make or break the future of the business. It is because of this support that The Snooty Fox has been and will continue to be a success.

“Our relationships have sustained us in the hard times. If we didn’t have such a connection with our customers, I think it would be a lot harder to keep going when it is tough,” Libby said of their customers. She added, “I feel super supported by our community of customers and enthusiasts.”

In the future, Libby and her crew are looking to try new things and share it with their fans and newcomers alike. In fact, Snooty Fox kombucha tea will be served at some of your favorite local shops.

“We just try to be respectful and kind to everybody,” Libby said. “All are welcome here.”

Seeds of Change

Expanding opportunities.

Yes! Yes, it is still winter. There is ice on the lake and show on the ground. It’s early March, but spring is coming. Nothing can stop that. Thank goodness! I really enjoy other seasons.

Change and come with the seasons. No one can deny that. Every year, season, month, week, and day we have an opportunity to start afresh. That’s what is so compelling about waking up to another day – we never know who will walk in or out of our lives or what circumstances we’ll be immersed into.

Anyone who knows me is quite familiar with the fact that I love tea and like talking about what’s going on in life. I use a lot of interesting, sometimes odd, ways of describing thoughts and feelings.

So allow me this small tangent:

We are the teabags and the water is life. As people, we’re all different. Those differences are the flavor we offer when steeped in the waters of our lives.

Sometimes, we take our teabags out early or leave them in to steep a little longer than we should. There’s plenty of examples both ways. You’ve seen it, I’ve seen it. Happens every day.

Shouldn’t be a problem, right? Wrong.

That’s where we often get in some sort of trouble.

Taken out too soon:

  • Missed opportunities with jobs, experiences, and relationships.
  • Regrets! Yes, all those regrets we said we’d avoid!
  • Doubts of whether or not we made the right decisions.

Taken out too late:

  • Wondering why the blazes we waited so long to leave that person, place, or job.
  • Being hurt in such a way that greatly reduces our mental or emotional status to the point where we can’t go on normally.
  • Becoming angry, bitter, hurtful folks who’ll stop at nothing to destroy others.

Of course, the list for both goes on and on.

My thoughts: learning what we, as individuals are capable of doing. Seize your moment, but don’t be too hasty or delay too long.

Tangent over. Take it for what you will. It’s not much, but it’s what I have to offer right now.

Anyways, my big change came within the last couple months. I decided to give freelance writing a second chance. So far, my ‘luck’ has seemed to change. My writing business is thriving, small as it may be when compared to others, but it’s growing!

Falling into Labor Day

Summer has officially come and gone. It is hard to believe fall has already arrived. For many kids school begins this week. Though many years have passed since my public school and college experiences, fall is still bittersweet. 

Summer offers freedom in so many ways. Easier parking and driving, warm weather and sunny days, anything feels possible. Those long summer days that tease us into this sense that time stands still…. That one summer blurs into the next with nothing in between. 

I don’t know about you, but during those few short months, I feel ageless. Almost like a child again except now I have a job and bills.

I’m not sure what this fall has in store for us. Whatever happens, I hope there is much laughter, love, and beautiful fall colors.

Coffee Shops as Places of Gathering

These days it’s quite common to hang out in a coffee shop. At one point or another, most of us have stopped for a hot beverage with friends, family, coworkers, maybe even a new love interest. The role in coffee shops has no doubt shaped our lives on multiple levels. 

It’s where we go to catch up with old friends and wonder how time passes so fast. Sometimes we can feel as if the tides of time are pulling us apart through our varied experiences. To be honest – that is okay. It means we are growing. Just because people drift apart doesn’t always mean that it’s permanent.

 It’s where we go with our families on Sundays to drink coffee and hot cocoa. Where plans for the week ahead or upcoming vacations are made. Or what we are going to get (or make) as a present for a loved one. It’s where we play board games, laugh, and enjoy each other’s company.

It’s where business folks meet to discuss work. Often you’ll see them between mid-morning and just after lunch (1 p.m.). They discuss matters both great and small.  You see, anything can be planned or solved with a warm cup of coffee and a willingness to move forward. At the end of their meetings the smile (usually), shake hands, and go their own ways.

It’s where we go on first dates. You’ll know those couples when you see them. They’re shy, awkward, and flustered. Not all of them, of course, but you’ll still know them. This could be the make or break date. Will it last? It’s anyone’s guess really. By the end of their time, they’ll have an idea whether it’s going to work out. 

It’s places like this where I enjoy spending time. All these snippets of stories in the community, to witness a slice of another’s life as a fly on the wall. That’s what makes coffee shops unique.