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My Happy Place: Thanksgiving Edition Updates

    Entertainer
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    Happy Thanksgiving! Please allow me to share with you in gratitude a few selected highlights from my series "My Happy Place." As you gather with family and friends today please remember those who may not be as fortunate. I am grateful to the people who donated to the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Their kind acts will ensure meals for people today and throughout the holiday season.

    We also pay tribute to Aidan Sheahan, the son of Tara Sheahan, who together with Aidan contributed the Yoga Breathing video to help us destress. Aidan passed away this year and we will share Tara's beautiful sentiments about him: "Sometimes Angels on Earth are called back to Heaven." We are also posting their breathing video to help you this Thanksgiving day. 

    Last year during Quarantine, JoAnn Seagren and Scott Lang started impromptu cooking classes to bring their family together. The Zoom cooking sessions became so popular that JoAnn put together a cookbook that we are sharing with you today. We are also reprinting the recipes for her Frosted Banana Cookies that so many of you wrote to say you found particularly yummy.

    And last, but not least, we are republishing the message from actress Rashada Dawan, who knew she wanted to help the community find a pathway out of some of the gun violence in Chicago. When she returned from touring in the "Lion King," she started Karaoke for Peace. In a new update she is bringing back her B.Fli Summer Camp for Performing Arts to give children on the Southside of Chicago an avenue to express their creativity, and a way to bring joy to the community. 

    Without my Editors (Brian Tallerico, Matt Zoller Seitz, Matt Fagerholm, Nick Allen and Nell Minow) and the contributing writers at Rogerebert.com, we couldn't bring you these reviews and series. I am so grateful to have such a smart and caring bunch of people to work with. Happy Thanksgiving to them and their families. 

    To see previous installments of My Happy Place, click here for parts one, two, three, four and five.Chaz Ebert

    1.

    Donate to the Greater Chicago Food Depository

    imageCourtesy of the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

    There is great joy found in giving to those in need, and I cannot think of a better place to contribute a Thanksgiving gift than The Greater Chicago Food Depository. It consists of a network of more than 700 food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and other programs that provide food where it is most needed in Cook County. Other benefits and job training programs are also in place to support the community. 

    You can make a donation here or by sending a check payable to Greater Chicago Food Depository to the following address: Greater Chicago Food Depository, 4100 W. Ann Lurie Pl, Chicago, IL, 60632. You can also find out how to get involved here. For more information on the Greater Chicago Food Depository or to make a donation, see here.

    UPDATE: I want to express my utmost appreciation to three people in particular who refused payment for work done at Rogerebert.com and, who instead, allowed us to donate their compensation to the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Their acts of kindness will help feed people this Thanksgiving Day and throughout the holiday season. They are Attorney and Assistant Editor Nell Minow, Karen Horne, Senior Vice President of Equity and Inclusion at WarnerMedia, and Actor David Moses. 

    2.

    JoAnn Seagren, Managing Director of JA Glynn Private Wealth

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    In my previous life, (BC: Before Covid), leaving the fast track of work and social obligations to take a pit stop long enough to have meaningful conversations with my two children, ages 26 and 28, was rare. Not that we didn’t want to do this - we did - but we are all highly motivated, hard workers who love the outdoors and being with friends, and somehow weeks and even months would slip by without a spoken word between us. 

    But as the pandemic hit, we found a happy place we never anticipated: Family FaceTime Cooking. It all started with my son Parker’s request for Banana Cookies the first weekend of March 2020. I was about to bake them and pack them into a box headed for Seattle, and then I had an idea: I’d teach him how to bake his own cookies. His sister and her boyfriend in Boston heard we were doing this and they said, “We’re in!” and my husband decided he’d be the baker here in Chicago. A night of conversation, laughter, delicious soft, frosted banana cookies, and of course, excessive consumption, ensued on FaceTime. 

    We decided to avoid sweets for a while and cook dinner instead the following weekend, and I sent a simple recipe they loved from their childhood: Chicken Colorado with rice and a salad. Week after week, we found our happy place with cooking and conversation and we didn’t miss a single week for 5 months! We have even celebrated 3 birthday dinners so far. I imparted motherly cooking wisdom and motherly advice sometimes, too. I received comfort and inspiration every week, despite the stress of quarantine.

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    We used our Family Cooking text group throughout the week to follow up on ideas discussed during cooking, and we’d share serious and humorous thoughts, podcasts, articles and videos. In August, scheduling got harder and I suggested we might put Family Cooking on hold for a while, but there was a resounding NO! and so we adjusted to every other week or so. 

    I’m compiling all of the recipes, photos of the dishes we cooked, and some screen shots of our video calls in what we voted to name the Covid Comfort Cooking Cookbook. I’m sending it to family and friends for the holidays, along with my gratitude for the truly meaningful time we experienced as we engaged face-to-face virtually, sharing an activity that paved the way for genuine and inspired conversations, love and laughter.

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    Frosted Banana Cookies

    ¾ cup butter
    ¾ cup sugar
    1 egg
    ½ tsp. vanilla
    2 mashed ripe bananas
    ¼ tsp. salt
    1 tsp. baking soda
    2 cups flour
    Cream butter.

    Add sugar and blend. Add egg, vanilla and bananas. Sift together flour, salt and soda. Add to egg mixture. Place dough by teaspoonfuls on a greased cookie sheet. Bake 350 degrees for 8 minutes. They should be golden on the edges only when you remove from oven. Cool on wire rack with a piece of waxed paper. Makes about 3 dozen.

    Frosting:

    6 TB brown sugar
    4 TB butter
    4 TB cream or whole milk
    2-3 cups of powdered sugar
    ½ tsp. vanilla

    Place brown sugar, butter and milk in pan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat and add enough powdered sugar to make spreadable, not too thick, not too runny. Add vanilla. Return pan to lowest heat so frosting remains soft while you frost the cookies. Frost the cookies when they have slightly cooled. The frosting cools fast and “hugs” the cookies.

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    Chicken “Colorado” (Serves 4)

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees

    ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
    4 TB minced fresh parsley
    1 tsp dried oregano
    1 clove of garlic, minced
    ½ tsp freshly ground pepper
    4 medium chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
    3 TB melted butter

    Combine Parmesan, parsley, oregano, garlic and pepper with a fork in a broad, flat medium bowl. Using tongs, dip chicken breasts quickly in melted butter  - both sides - then roll in cheese mixture. Place in shallow baking dish. Drizzle any extra butter and any extra cheese coating over the chicken. 

    Bake at 375 degrees for 25 min. until tender. Pour the juices over rice or couscous or potatoes or other veggies you choose to serve with the chicken.

    Also good left over cold (picnics!). It can make sandwiches or be put in salad, too.

    UPDATE: JoAnn and her husband Scott have recently sent family and friends their 86-page Covid Comfort Cooking cookbook full of recipes, articles, and other inserts to amuse you while you are cooking. You can read it in full here.

    3.

    Tara remembers her son, Aidan (Sunfeather) Case Sheahan (1992-2021)

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    Last year, we shared Tara Sheahan's Breathelab video scored by her son Aidan ‘Sunfeather’ Case Sheahan, who passed away this year. We join Tara in paying tribute to him in her words and in passages from his obituary...

    Tara Says: "Sometimes Angels on Earth are called back to Heaven. Aidan received that call on June 9th, 2021. And reflecting on his life as a pro slopestyle skier, soaring off huge jumps, sometimes landing backwards on purpose, we realized he always knew how to fly. "  

    He shared his mom Tara’s passion for yoga and meditation and made a movie called "Insight," produced by his friend Matt Hobbs of Vital Films, about meditation as key to training and competing in action sports.

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    Aidan Sheahan - "Insight" from Vital Films on Vimeo.

    His dad Casey was an extraordinary role model for Aidan through his own love of skiing and traveling the world as the former writer, editor, and publisher of Powder Magazine. He had him on the slopes at 3 years old and Aidan would fearlessly go straight down the hill with a smile that lit up the mountain. Casey also taught Aidan how to fly fish when he was just big enough to hold a fly rod. They journeyed both with the family and as just the two of them to rivers and lakes all over the Rocky Mountains, camping and bonding over a fire, under the stars, in the beauty of wild places. His brother Caelin, who loved sharing technology with Aidan and teaching him how to play video games which they played together their whole life, is now a gifted ‘coder’ and project manager in Denver for a healthcare company. He was also Aidan’s ‘bestie,’ and they bonded as toddlers watching "Thomas the Tank Engine," digging forts in the snow, navigating new schools together and catching fire flies. 

    Known as DJ Sunfeathr, Aidan loved performing his own electronic music at venues from Aspen to Denver. Aidan and Tara created Breathelab for a TED Talk in Kansas City to inspire kids to meditate by combining music and breathing practices together.

    Tara says: "Aidan’s girlfriend and soulmate Alyssa, a yoga teacher and skier who lived with Aidan in Snowmass, Colorado, crossed over from cancer in May 2020. After her passing, Aidan just wasn’t sure where he belonged.    

     I lived with Aidan for his last year on this Earthplane, and realized that when someone goes through their ‘dark night of the Soul,’ the only place to find peace is to be peace. I meditated on the emotions that Aidan was stalking: tranquility, self-acceptance, self love and stillness. Casey, Caelin and I did everything we could to keep him here. In the end, his Soul chose to go the Creation. He may have left in his physical form, but his Presence never left.  

    The morning of his passing, I spoke to Chaz about our shared knowing that Aidan and Roger were One with the life force energy that flows through all things. We could feel it in one another. That bliss of knowing we truly are Spirits in a body having a human experience. We are never alone. We are loved unconditionally. We are free."

    We are now pleased to present, once again, Tara Sheahan's Yoga Breathing Exercise...


    Tara shares how she finds her Happy Place teaching Breathelab natural nose breathing to millions of people who want an instant way to find a burst of uplift. Her music is created by son Aidan "Sunfeather." He created this track for Erica Ford’s New York Peace Week, an event to end gun violence with love-in-action. 

    "We’re designed to breathe through our nose - it’s how we secrete ‘feel good’ hormones by activating the lower lobes of the lungs," says Tara. She learned the neurobiology of breathing when she was 42 years old and training for the Winter Olympics in cross country skiing. She then studied and taught meditation and breath work for 20 years. "I wanted a quick way to get the benefits of a more quiet mind and inner happiness. And believe it or not your Nose knows how to get you there," says Tara.

    Tara gives us a tip if we want to continue. "You can find more Breathelab practices at newly launched www.Ameliorate-Your-Life.com, an extraordinary wellness program from the comfort of your own home!"

    4.

    Rashada Dawan, actor and founder of Karaoke for Peace

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    My #happyplace used to be telling stories on stage. As an actress and singer I had the privilege of traveling all over the world performing in "The Lion King" and other plays and musicals, but while on tour I kept hearing so much sad news about gun violence in Chicago and particularly in my neighborhood on the Southside of Chicago. I came home and kept hearing the same and knew I wanted to be part of the solution. I didn't have a lot of money but I could donate my time and talent. I took cardboard boxes and paper and pasted them on foam board to make signs. I copied sheets with lyrics to songs, and I went to the areas where there had been the most gun violence and set up my Karaoke for Peace stand. I wanted to reach out through song and compassion to inspire peace. Part of my performance was done in collaboration with a memorial for a policeman who was killed. And what I found is that lots of people wanted the same thing, to come together for peace. Some sang with me, some wanted hugs, some shed tears. But in the coming together we found a shared humanity, and for at least those brief moments, peace. 

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    To be honest, the coronavirus pandemic and quarantine sent me into the process of grieving. We were in the middle of a production of “Intimate Apparel” which was to be featured at the Northlight Theater in April, and we had to stop abruptly after the dress rehearsal. I cried after I left the stage with my theater family. However, amidst acknowledging my aching heart, I am grateful to say that I have also found another happy place: in my home and in my community! As a proud South Shore resident, time has been given to me to help bring healing to my neighbors and to my home as a mother to my two daughters. I love being present to help my teenager stumble through her teens and to watch my 3-year-old discover the lyrics to “Let It Go” from Disney’s Frozen and “How Far I’ll Go” from Disney’s "Moana". So, I’m learning that happy places can be in more than one place and for that, I am grateful. 

    Rashada Dawan's Karaoke for Peace program was covered two years ago by CBS Chicago's Audrina Bigos.

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    UPDATE: Rashada Dawan will be operating her six-week B.FLI Performing Arts Summer Camp for children ages 7 to 17 next year. Everyday, students will explore various disciplines including improv and sketch, dance, creative communication through hip-hop, acting and vocal performance. Students will start the day with a daily affirmation, then break out into groups to experience an intense schedule of instruction to become well-rounded, advance-level performers while embracing and enhancing their natural abilities in performing arts. Professional performing artists currently employed in the business will teach their specialty each day. A performance will be held at the end of the 6-week program for artists to show off their skills in front of a live audience. For more information, click here.




    Original: https://www.rogerebert.com/chazs-blog/thanksgiving-in-my-happy-place
    By: Chaz Ebert
    Posted: November 25, 2021, 5:13 pm

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