Will the forest city have a fringe festival?

Jesse surveying Walker Park (formerly Walker Elementary School) for a potential fringe festival.

There is a new initiative in town called “Forward for Fun” where every one of the Rockford’s 14 wards is being allocated several thousands of dollars in grant money for creative projects. I learned about this on Friday and was immediately excited. I talked to Jesse about it and he felt the same way. We have a certain calling for planning and executing public art-based events.

One of the first steps to acquiring a FFF grant is to float your idea past your alderman so yesterday, I pitched a Rockford Fringe Festival to Chad Tuneberg. In an email, I told the Republican it would take place at Walker Park the weekend July 8-11 with July 7 reserved for invite-only rehearsals. The outdoor event would embrace and offer diversity and variety in the form of an exciting lineup of live theatre. Gimme!

Maybe we could connect to this for electricity?

In a nutshell, I’d book several self-produced plays that would run one after the other on an outdoor stage that weekend. A weekend of seeing numerous original plays in one area could be a lot of fun. I invited the alderman to talk in person about this. There are many details to iron out including port-o-potties, electricity sources, fencing, food trucks, stage set-up, etc.. We’ll see what happens.

Last week, I applied for a different grant for a simpler project. It’s a small $500-grant and it would help me organize the 2nd Annual Winter Solstice Poetry Caroling event. Even if I am not awarded the grant, it’s not too soon to ask you to mark off Wednesday, December 21, 2022 for poetry caroling! Save the date!

Of course, I’ll continue to create and organize free, public events until I die but it would be nice to have some city funding and publicity behind them. Right now I solely rely on social media to get the word out. It just isn’t enough and has a desperate feeling to it.

But I’m not desperate; I’m compelled. There’s a difference. At least that’s what I tell myself.

It’s a short blog today, one that’s more of an update than anything. The reason is because Naked Angels Tuesdays@9 is resuming in person on March 22 (hallelujah!) and I’m part of the writer lineup so I need to focus my efforts on playwriting. I don’t want to kick off our live event with bad writing!

Until I get my play written, I’ll be posting very short blogs for the next several days. Until then, thank you for reading! -Connie

Meet your (wine) maker

Mr. Coppola! Where are you? (Screen grab from Google Maps.)

Jesse got home from Boulder yesterday so we celebrated with a bottle of Francis Ford Coppola’s delicious (but headache-inducing) pinot noir. There was a time when we weren’t that picky about our vintners, but for the past few years we have been loyal to Coppola’s brand. The reason is there is a rumor that the filmmaker lives in our neighborhood.

Friends I respect have told me “it’s true” and local journalists from Rockford Register Star and Townsquare Media have written and spoken on the record about the movie mogul’s presence in Rockford. Even the Chicago Tribune published an opinion piece about it.

“…Francis Ford Coppola has been spotted in Rockford a lot lately and is reportedly eyeing property along its spectacular and underwhelming riverfront. Yes, it is both. Coppola is working on a project there. It is a place of intrigue.”

Kristen McQueary, Chicago Tribune, December 10, 2018.

Jesse and I have gotten on our feet and tried to figure out which house could be his. This is a small city; it shouldn’t be that hard but we haven’t figured it out.

We haven’t figured it out because the rumor is just that: a rumor. I am going on the record and saying that Francis Ford Coppola does not live in Rockford and he doesn’t own property here. I’m not convinced he has even visited because I’ve never seen photographic evidence or real proof from a reliable source.

But my husband and I enjoy giddily indulging in the academy award winner’s wine while acting out our favorite scenes from The Godfather. Jesse’s partial to the Marlon Brando “You come to me on the day of my daughter’s wedding” scene but I love the Talia Shire “Michael! You lousy bastard! You killed my husband!” scene. Her character’s name is Connie, something that fills me with ridiculous glee. This is how we party in Rockford in February.

Thank you for reading my blog! I’m headed to the medicine cabinet so I can take an aspirin for this headache. See you tomorrow. -Connie

The Scent of a Stranger

Dirty, disgusting and smelly. Feel free to judge me; I deserve it.

I woke up around 1:30 in the morning with the scent of a strange man all over my body. I have no idea what this man’s name is. All I know is what he smells like. Even after showering, I can still smell him all over me.

It is my fault, my sin. I still haven’t told my husband about this but I know he’ll understand. He knows how impatient and impulsive I can be.

Last night, I was shopping with my oldest daughter. She needed new jeans and my husband wanted a new pair of warm pajamas. While Jocelyn shopped in the teen section, I ventured to the men’s section and quickly found a pair on the clearance rack for $19.99. They were Jesse’s size and I knew he’d look good in them so I bought them.

When I got home, I took my nighttime shower. I toweled off, moisturized and dried my hair. Instead of crawling into my own jammies, which are actually my husband’s sweatpants and college sweatshirt, I decided to wear the jammies I just bought him. I couldn’t resist. They looked so warm and inviting. Jesse is still in Las Vegas for work so he wouldn’t need them for another week. I told myself he’d appreciate it if I broke them in for him.

I got into bed; sleepy, comfortable and content. I said “good night” to my kids, and talked to my husband on the phone before falling asleep. That’s our custom when one of us is out of town. I didn’t tell him about the new pajamas. He went to bed thinking I was sleeping in what I always sleep in, the old orange and greys sweats.

I’ve been wearing Jesse’s sweatshirt and sweatpants to bed every winter for 17 years. Time for a change?

I startled awake at 1:30 a.m. It wasn’t a loud noise that woke me up; it was a strange smell. I immediately realized I was wearing dirty pajamas. Those nightclothes I bought on clearance had obviously been worn by a heavily-cologned man before being returned. My God, they reeked and so did I.

Still do. I can’t get this strange man’s smell off of me.

I should have known better. I worked in retail for six years. I know full well that people frequently return merchandise after they wear it. And I know you’re supposed to wash the clothes once you get home. I know about cooties, COVID and chemicals. But last night, I was selfish.

And cold, lazy and tired. I saw my husband’s pajamas and ignored all the warning signs. Let my mistake be a lesson to you all: Wash your clothes after you buy them, before you wear them!

I’ll tell Jesse about it tonight when we have our ritual “good night talk.” But now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to finish laundering my sheets, blankets and new jammies. Thank you for reading! -Connie

2022: The Year Of The Charcuterie

Make 2022 “The Year of the Charcuterie!”

I know. You’re sick of the charcuterie. You think they’re pretentious. Boring and repetitious. Unpleasant and unappetizing. Gross and unsanitary because, eww, fingers!

Agree to disagree?

I used to dread cooking for my family. When they were little, it was fun. But as the kids got older (they are 11, 13, 15 and 16), it became harder to serve a meal everyone liked. Besides that, I noticed that there was something stultifying about family meals.

We didn’t really “come together” at the table. The fact that Jesse and I sat at the “heads” meant that the kids were automatically stuck in a place of subservience and expectation. I can’t think of a single meaningful conversation that has ever taken place at the table. It was glorified chit chat and who needs that?

Enter the charcuterie board!

It’s 2022, but I first learned about the charcuterie last summer when I read Julia Child’s book, People Who Love to Eat Are Always the Best People. I was instantly obsessed. I bought a couple boards for less than $20 and when I got home, I immediately started experimenting with the ingredients I had on hand.

My first charcuterie. Gone in five minutes.

By their definition, charcuterie boards are supposed to display a variety of meats but I am a “work with what you got” gal, plus my 16-year-old daughter is a vegetarian. The rest of my family eats meat, but also appreciates the nutritious vegetarian charcuterie, like this Halloween-themed board.

A sugary charcuterie for Halloween.

Sugary charcuteries don’t disappear as fast as boards filled with fruits and veggies. If you have leftover candy and cookies, “take it outside” to a nearby forest preserve. A picnic table easily transforms into a charcuterie board and your hikers will appreciate lots of options (healthy or otherwise) available at the trailhead.

Picnic table set up as a charcuterie for hikers. By the end of the day, the leftover candy and cookies (and everything else) were gone.

When you need a break from sugar, throw together a fresh option like this.

Back inside, spinach and artichoke dips go a long way with the charcuterie. And don’t be afraid to add leftovers. Replenish boards with veggies and crackers and you won’t have to cook that night.

On chillier days when you need comfort and warmth, add cornbread, Brussels sprouts and quesadillas to your boards. You won’t be disappointed.

Tired of raw veggies? Comfort food like cornbread, quesadillas and Brussels sprouts will satisfy your eaters.
Happy Thanksgiving!

The charcuterie comes in handy for holidays, birthdays and breakfasts.

A birthday charcuterie for my newly-minted 15-year-old son.
A breakfast charcuterie of omelettes, toast and fruit.
Late night charcuterie for my daughter who didn’t get home until 9:30 p.m.

The charcuterie isn’t limited to humans. Try creating your own “backyard board” for the birds, opossums and squirrels that visit your yard, porch or balcony. Here’s our Nutcracker-themed spread. I made their “nutcracker” out of stale ice cream cones smeared with peanut butter and bird seed.

A Nutcracker-inspired charcuterie “for the birds.”

A charcuterie board is a clean slate. Every day, it gives you the freedom to be creative, resourceful and fun. They are inexpensive, take less than 15 minutes to prepare and clean-up is easy because most of the food is “clean.”

“Moo Tubes” and little wrapped candies add an element of fun to the boards.
Hummus and pita chips are a charcuterie staple.

Sometimes you won’t have beautiful, colorful ingredients to fill your charcuterie board. Don’t worry! Your spread will be eaten even if it doesn’t reflect every color of the rainbow.

Vanilla pudding, avocado toast, meats, cheeses, veggies, fruits, pita chips and hummus.

Whether you load your board with meats-and-cheeses, or veggies-and-fruits or a combination of whatever you have on hand, your innovative spreads will bring sustenance and joy to your eaters.

Don’t forget the vegans in your life!

The charcuterie has improved my entire culinary outlook. Though I will continue to cook some traditional meals, I am (unofficially) declaring 2022: “The Year of the Charcuterie!”

Thank you for reading. I showed you mine; now you show me yours! -Connie