Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Mamma's Year End, uh....Review

No, I didn't write a musical revue about my year...though that's a brilliant idea! Next year maybe!

What I did have was a BRILLIANT year! Oh yes, this mamma has so many wonderful things to reflect on...

This is my favorite post of the year - I love to look back on my old ones and remember what wonderful experiences I have been blessed to have in years past. Enjoy!

Mamma became a Producer

I'm not gonna lie, I have mixed feelings about this one. This year, I (along with the ever impressive Drama Dad) produced 2 full fledged musicals. While I'm super proud of the accomplishments, I didn't always find the process to be my favorite experience. It's hard to even define what a producer does - and in my case I also took on other roles including costumes and production management. And while I feel like I did about a million things as a producer and it took SO much of my time, it's hard to define what those things were  - phone calls, errands, emails, checks, counseling... and dealing with the crappy stuff like people not getting along, people unhappy with this or that - the kinda ugly underbelly of co-leading 50 plus people towards a mutual goal. But it was also amazing to see things coming together (as a result of a LOT of hard work from a LOT of people) and to see audiences loving the productions and those involved having wonderful experiences. I learned SOOOOOO MUCH! Here's a bit from our shows:

In March, Huntsman Entertainment officially co-produced our first production - Next To Normal!

And in June, we produced The Music Man (with Super Summer Theatre.)

The Music Man was also Piper's first opportunity to be IN a show and she was a hit! She's a BEAUTIFUL dancer, singer and actress and was well loved by all who worked with her. I was SOOO proud of her!

Mamma got a VACATION....S!!

First of all, I got to spend 2 amazing weeks in Hawaii aboard the Pride of America where my hubby was doing a 10 week contract. We had a total blast!!!

Then when we found out Steve would be heading back out for Christmas this year (3rd year in a row - booo!) we decided to celebrate Christmas early - at the HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH! Our first trip to visit the Mouse in 5 years!

After two days of Disneyland Magic, we headed south to Sea World! Our friend Jon plays Chip the Elf and we had an awesome time!!

Doing Disneyland with older kids was an absolute blast! We really look forward to going back more often! 

Mamma fulfilled her Theme Park Dreams...mostly!

As long as I can remember I wanted to do a theme park show! I even auditioned back in the day and I think I would have eventually gotten hired if the park hadn't closed...oh well! But this year I was hired to put together a little Halloween theme park style show for the Las Vegas Valley Water District's Haunted Harvest Festival! It was SO fun! We were "The Band Scary" and we had a LOT of fun!!


While we started on this endeavor last Fall, I didn't talk about it in last years final post because we were keeping it on the down low - but it's something I'm VERY excited about!

It's kinda a 2 part thing - we created a country vocal group with our friends Kelly and Brandon Albright - fellow musical theatre friends who we've know for YEARS! Our group is called GHOSTLIGHT! (A ghostlight is the light left in a theatre overnight so when you come in the next day you don't fall in the pit or anything. It's a theatrical term with a rustic sound so it's PERFECT for our group!) This is one of the best things I have ever done in my life. Not only do we sound amazing together, but we have a blast together.

Here we are singing at the Boyscouts big Centennial Celebration! (Steve missed it because he was out of town.)

And you can visit our website!

And THEN our awesome group created an awesome Country Revue show! It's called Keepin' It Country and it's SO much fun. I love doing this show!

PLEASE check out our promo video!!!

And our website!

Mamma's family ROCKED!!

We entered Rolling Stone Magazine/Hyandai's My Family Rocks contest and we were selected as National Finalists! We got SO much support from family and friends and ALMOST won a new car and a trip to the Grammy's! We took second, but we totally WON because we were completely and totally overwhelmed by the love and support of our family and friends. :)

Mamma got Legally Blonde!!

We had been planning to go back to Bermuda this past summer to do another show, but they decided that we needed to wait a year, which ended up freeing up my time to audition for Legally Blonde, the Musical! I love the show, it's fun and I thought it would be a great experience. Well - I got cast as Paulette - the slightly white trashy love lorn hairdresser from Boston! Oh my gosh, I had the time of my life - made incredible new friends and got to do a show with my Hubby who played Warner, the hot ex-boyfriend. Playing Paulette has been my favorite role to date and I will forever hold a bit of her in my heart. Check out a bit of Paulette below!! AND here's what the review had to say about Steve & I... "The multitalented Steve Huntsman makes an egotistical skunk of an ex-boyfriend as Warner Huntington III (“Serious”). Sandra Huntsman (his offstage wife) is a standout as the beautician Paulette Buonufonte. She sports a believable “Southie” accent and she delivers the show’s strongest vocal performance in her comically touching song of lost love and dog (“Ireland”). Evan Litt delivers as the hunk-a-babe UPS man, Kyle, Paulette’s love interest. Their precisely danced spoof of the unbearable “Riverdance” is side-splittingly funny." 

In Conclusion...

I'm SO grateful to have had a wonderful year full of many wonderful memories and experiences, opportunities to learn and a fresh desire to really follow my dreams. 

Most importantly, my biggest joy in life is my wonderful husband and my amazing little ones - who aren't so little any more. We had millions of moments of laughter and joy, some heartbreak and anger and frustration. But through it all, we stick together and keep going and the light always outshines the dark. Simply, I LOVE MY FAMILY!!!

2014 is already shaping up to be an incredible year and I'm excited to see what's to come and enjoy the journey!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

My Journey to Gluten Free

A lot of people have been curious about my newly instated Gluten Free status. So, I thought I'd share!

About 1.5 years ago, I went on the Paleo diet (well, Paleo except Dairy. I still ate dairy). I loved it! I felt great, lost was wonderful. Then we went to Bermuda where vegetables were the most expensive things you could buy - and by expensive, I mean $6 for one Bell Pepper, $4 for a head of lettuce expensive. So I went off the Paleo diet. And I still felt ok - but I was walking and swimming a lot. And I was in freaking BERMUDA!

But when I got home, I couldn't get myself back on the Paleo diet. Just couldn't do it! I loved my breads and sandwiches and donuts and cakes...mmmm....

I started having stomach aches all the time - I can't remember if I had them before the Paleo thing. Nothing severe, just constant aches. And I was getting SO bloated! By bed time, I would look 6 months pregnant! It was frustrating. I thought maybe something I was eating was upsetting me, so I decided to try some elimination diets.

I settled on Dairy first - just a random choice without any research 'cause that's how I roll...sometimes. And it lasted about .8 seconds because I LOVE dairy. LOVE it. LLLLLOVE it!

So my stomach aches continued as I puttered around, thinking I should do something but never really taking action, eating a lot and gaining weight.  I also was getting frustrated that I seemed to have fuzzy brain all the time, was constantly forgetting things, but I just thought I'm getting older, have a lot going on and am slightly insane.  All of which are actually true. But I digress...

Then one miraculous day, I came across this link on Facebook. And VOILA!  There are 10 symptoms listed, here are the ones that applied to me:

1. Digestive issues such as gas, bloating, diarrhea and even constipation. I see the constipation particularly in children after eating gluten.
3. Fatigue, brain fog or feeling tired after eating a meal that contains gluten.

5. Neurologic symptoms such as dizziness or feeling of being off balance.
6. Hormone imbalances such as PMS, PCOS or unexplained infertility.

10. Mood issues such as anxiety, depression, mood swings and ADD.

Whoa! Epiphany! The article explains that Gluten Intolerance is different than Celiac Disease. Just read it! I also did some other research and while Gluten Intolerance may or may not be recognized by the medical community the way Celiac Disease is, it's definitely an issue.

So I went on a gluten elimination diet, which is actually pretty challenging - at least it was for me and my love of all things bread. But I had done it before - with the Paleo diet you eat NO grains! so at least I knew what to do for the most part. And I did allow myself other grains, like rice and lentils and such. 
It takes a while for the gluten to work out of your body, so I didn't notice huge changes. The major one was the headaches! 

I had been having some pretty bad headaches - headaches that felt like sinus headaches. I also thought I had a lingering sinus infection. ALL disappeared when I quit eating gluten. 

My stomach aches did ease up and I'm not sure if I noticed the bloating subsiding or not.

During this time, I was in rehearsal for Legally Blonde. It was a little challenging because not getting the carbs was an adjustment and sometimes I felt tired or weak easily at rehearsal. It takes me a while to remember I have to eat more and more frequently when I'm not getting the carbs. I started keeping snacks on me at all times.

One night, however, we were having a late rehearsal or early or something and the director had promised to bring in dinner. So I didn't really eat, of course forgetting that most stuff that people would provide a crowd has gluten in it. Sure enough, pizza! And I was starving. It had been just over 2 weeks on my elimination diet so I thought well, let's see what happens! Usually it's recommended to wait a little longer than that, but circumstances being what they were, I went for it. Well, within a few hours I had a headache. And I suddenly felt very fuzzy in my brain. And very impatient and emotional. It was a TOUGH rehearsal anyway and by the end of it, when I got in the car to leave...tears. TEARS! Sobbing, crying over nothing! My husband was like - what's going on. It's been a long time since I've had just a random emotional fit but it's not completely foreign to me. Finally I said to him - I think it's the gluten! Oh. My. Gosh! It had to be!

My feelings about this discovery were decidedly mixed. On one hand, I was excited that maybe I could feel better! On the other hand, I love gluten filled products! And I don't want to be one of THOSE people. You know, the ones who make their food allergies/intolerances everyone else's problem?

I had just had an experience where 2 relatives with gluten issues were really rude to me about my own birthday cake, even though I had gone out of the way to provide a healthy, fruit alternative to the cake. Like somehow I was intentionally torturing them by having birthday cake. On my birthday. Left a really bitter taste in my mouth. 

ANYWAY, though, I accepted that I should make the jump and go gluten free. It's not been easy and I've in no way been perfect. I slip up a lot. Like yesterday. For saltine crackers of all things! Sometimes it's a calculated risk and sometimes I just forget. And I don't like most gluten free alternatives. Gluten is what makes baked goods soft and moist, so gluten free bread, aside from being over $5 for a tiny little loaf, is dry, tasteless and nasty. I can do it toasted as grilled cheese or on a hamburger, but no pb&j's here. I mostly just avoid breads and other such nonsense. 

I feel better. And I've lost weight! But more importantly, I feel better. I think I've only gotten one really bad headache since I officially went off gluten and I think it was neck muscle related. I rarely get bloated unless I eat too much sugar or gluten. My sinuses are all cleared up, except today because I ate a lot of gluten over the last few days. My brain functions better, it's sharper. I'm less emotional! If I start to feel angry or impatient or irritable, I usually realize I had gluten in the last 24 hours. And if I get irritated with my kids, they say mom, did you have gluten? All my digestive functions are more pleasant. 

And... I make great efforts not to be one of "those" people. I have a special need so I just have to plan ahead. I'll bring snacks and foods I know I can eat. And if I forget, I try to suffer in silence. Ok, I was pretty vocally bummed last week at family dinner that I missed out on all of the 3 desserts provided, but I forgot to bring my own. I didn't think ahead! And while I won't turn it down if someone wants to provide something special for me, I am grateful for it, I don't expect it. 

I know I'll be adjusting for sometime - even 4 months can't re-program a lifetime of eating habits. Fortunately, during Legally Blonde I made a wonderful friend who is also gluten free, so she gave me a lot of tips and turned me on to some yummy products that are awesome!!

So, there it is. I'm Sandra and I'm gluten free. Almost always, anyway. :) 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The missing ingredient...

Welcome to deep thoughts from the DivaMommy.

I am on a perpetual mission of self discovery and change. Especially so lately as I have been tackling some of the issues that I feel hold me back from meeting my true potential. It's slow and frustrating but ultimately the progress I have made makes me keep going...most days. But that's another post!

For a really long time now, I have felt like I'm missing something in my life - I had no idea - was it something I needed to do or have? Was it something I was doing that I shouldn't?

Well, thanks to some projects and opportunities that have come my way and I'm pursuing,(and no, I won't tell you about the ones that aren't already happening because I firmly believe this: I have my answer!

I was missing MUSIC! I know, that probably sounds crazy considering all the performances I've been doing lately, but I was missing creating music performing music instrumentally and vocally. I love theatre and I have certainly been extremely involved in the musical theatre for over half my life but it's very different! I miss playing the piano - I used to play guitar, I used to write music. I have missed making music and listening to and performing non-musical theatre music!

I now have my own Cabaret show which is a dream come true - every month I assemble a small group of singers, select a fun theme and have a super fun 90 minutes singing! It's a blast and I'm also using at a platform to get back to my musical roots.

But I've dusted off my keyboard, bought my guitar back from my brother-in-law and picked up a new instrument or two.. and I'm in love! And my kids are getting interested and we've had a family jam session or two. It's nice to re-discover this part of myself. And that feeling like something is missing - it's shrinking!

Hopefully by filling the creative parts of myself, it will help in tackling the every day mundane tasks that get me down - you know, housekeeping, cooking...yawn! But I long for a clean, organized environment in which to create and good, healthy foods for me and my family. Babysteps...I'm on the path!

Monday, December 31, 2012

Mamma did WHAT? A year in review!

Well, another year has come and gone...and what a year it's been! Here's a look at 2012. I will fondly remember you!!

Mamma got to SING!

I have performed more this year than ever, I think! I'm going to highlight several experiences, but this is a tribute to all the singing/hosting opportunities I've had!

January - Leading Ladies Concert
(Stephanie Sanchez, Me, Francesca Camus, Kellie Wright - W.O.M.A.N.)

March - The Very Best of Andrew Lloyd Webber Concert
(Me with Jordan Bondurant - "All I Ask of You")

November - Showstoppers
(Don't Rain on My Parade)

I am now a rotating host at Talk of the Town and Hit Parade -
Weekly Variety Shows at Sams Town and The Suncoast

 Mamma Got a VACATION!

For the first time in our married life, my hubby and I got a real, 2 week vacation all too ourselves. Our first week was spent in Orlando at Disneyworld and Universal Studios, then I joined Steve on a cruise for a week. It was magical.

Magic Kingdom!

Animal Kingdom!
Competing in American Idol Experience @ Disney's Hollywood Studios
Yes, I won my round. :)
(we didn't take pictures on the cruise, busy doin' a whole lotta NOTHING! It was magical.)

Mamma got to sing with FAMOUS PEOPLE!

This year I was asked to perform in 2 choirs backing up 2 different celebrity icons. It was amazing.

With Jennifer Hudson at the Smith Center Opening Gala
With Barbra Striesand at the MGM Grand Arena
It's hard to see, but I swear I was there!

Mamma got her HUR DID!  (Hairspray)

I single handedly organized the costuming of this show AND did much of the construction. I'm still tired from it...

Mamma got CRAZY!

I did a show. A real theatrical production with rehearsals and sets and costumes...the real deal! I played Irene in Crazy For You. It was a blast. And, sigh, I did the costumes.

Evan Litt and the gown, the perks of costuming myself!
In my "naughty" red dress!

Glenn Heath and Myself!


Yes, I know you know - we got to spend 2 whole months living in Bermuda. It was amazing. Such a wonderful experience for our family.

Our reason for being there - ONCE ON THIS ISLAND

Mamma got HER OWN SHOW!

That's right, folks! I have my own monthly cabaret show and I love it! It's super fun to pick themes and invite guests and sing my little heart out! It got off to a slow start, but Decembers show was gangbusters! So much fun. :) Oh, yeah, here's some lovely thing the local critic said about me and the show: 

"Tonight at 10 brings Sandra Huntsman. Community musical lovers know her from a score of shows at Signature Productions and Super Summer Theatre. She hopes to appear on a monthly basis, and if her premiere set is any indication, her run should last forever.
Huntsman's act - which will feature different themes and performers with each installment - is enriched by a variety of entertainers. She obviously recognizes talent. Her latest show included hubby Steve Huntsman and Brandon and Kelly Albright, all well-known local names and, even better, dynamo singers. Despite their ability to zoom freely up and down octaves, they choose to put lyrics at the center of a song; their melodies are transformed into playlettes. And when the four belt full throttle, yikes, better to cling to your seat.
Also on hand was area singer and master of ceremonies Lou DeMeis, whose vocal abilities and nuances in phrasing managed to make the title song from "Camelot" sound new.
The anchor of the evening, though, remained Huntsman. Her clear, sensitive soprano is not just well-trained, but expressive. She becomes one with her material. She focused on songs from musicals she's never been cast in, and all I can say is, hey, casting directors, grab a ticket and come take another look."

My ad for the show..

Kellie Wright and Me - finally a duet!

Me and Lou DeMeis...what a great guy!
Next Months Theme
And, last but not least....

Mamma's family ROCKS!

As much as I love to sing and perform and travel, my heart and core will always be my family. And we had such a great year! The kids are growing into such interesting souls and we have really good times together. Going to Bermuda for 2 months did so much for our family and I cherish every moment we have together. I really do! I adore them all! And, we take killer family photos.

So here's hoping your 2012 was a year to remember and looking forward to 2013. I know it's going to be another great year for us!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

How Do We Do It? - Part 2

Hi there! Just following up from THIS POST regarding our family photos!

Today I am going to discuss location, photographers, posing and editing!

FOUR: Location, Location, LOCATION!

This years photo shoot location didn't turn out the way we planned whatsoever, but I'll get into that in a minute.

Finding a location might be the most difficult of all. You need an interesting place, with good light and permission to do it there. And sometimes, you're in public. For two of our earlier photoshoots, the location set the tone more than a theme. Our first "fun" photo shoot was in 2008 at the "new" shopping center, Town Square!

Fun with light pole and even a trash can!
Sometimes we had to work around...65% off signs! We edited it out in other images. 
We returned for my princess photo shoot a year later!

In 2010, we ventured out to Nelson, NV. There we payed a $25 fee which I felt was very fair. And though there were a number of other shoots going on and people, it wasn't quite as crazy as a public shopping center.

Here, the location was often the star of the show!

You'll see a bunch more from Nelson under posing. 

For 2011, we had a bunch of props, so we just headed out Apex to the desert and set up! We ended up under some high power lines which was not awesome...I kept feeling the electricity! It was bizarre, but made for some great photos!

This year, we drove around for 2 days looking for a location! We headed up to Mt Charleston first. Dead and boring! And cold. Brr! We usually do pictures a little earlier in the year. Then we drove to the Red Rock area and looked around a lot! Nothing we loved. We had to get back to pick up kids from school. The next day we went back. The location we loved at Calico Basin was off limits. Poop! Then we found another place off the road and we decided that was it...until our brother in law wasn't able to let us use his truck at the last minute. Double poop! We tried to figure out another truck, but it wasn't happening. So we decided just to set up in our backyard and do a lot of editing. Which was nice to not have to travel in hair and makeup and wardrobe, but man...the editing....oy!

Ultimately, when it comes to location, do your research and scout around. And, be willing to go with the flow. Think about the people in your family - a bathroom nearby would be good for small children. I also bring water and snacks when we're on location. Also think about lighting and time of day - this is where your photographer comes in handy. We should have started our Mad Tea Party shoot an hour earlier - we ran out of light and didn't do some of the photos we had wanted. 

Also, we like outdoor locations because the lighting is just the best.

FIVE - Photographer

Having the right photographer is ideal. We're lucky that my husbands sister Sheree is a great photographer! She really works with us a listens to what we want, but uses her editing eye to get the best angles and lighting. We pretty much pose ourselves, which is discussed in the next section, but she's our eye to make sure everyone is seen and framed correctly! Check her out! 

SIX - Posing

This is possibly the hardest thing to conquer. We are very fortunate in that our kids love to take photos and are very outgoing. Chloe and Piper love Americas Next Top Model and Project Runway, so they really "try" to pose and SMYZE! Even Ryder knows how to rock it and Lola - well, she still just has fun. We make it like a holiday and keep them involved in the whole process - and keep in mind their personalities as we dress them. Making them comfortable really helps!

When it comes to posing, think of levels and dimensions. And interest. Not everyone has to be together. Olan Mills clumps - BORING!

Bathtubs, some sitting, some standing - even Ryder's out in the corner. I'm holding Lola's hand to keep her still. I think it really works!
Not every photo has to be smiling or looking at the camera! This one is one of my all time favorites! It's a simple line up with an interesting background. We aren't all looking at the camera. And Lola's just being a baby! 

I love the little things about this one - my red shoes, Chloe hodling her skirt, Piper's distant stare, Steve and I holding hands, Lola just being a baby...yes. My favorite. It's not too posed or contrived.
We repeated the lineup a bit this year...
Love this one, too! The pairings make this interesting! And we had no idea the kids were doing all that on their own.
Sometimes it's great when they look like a candid moment...because they kinda are! I love it when Sheree tells us to just interact and then catches a moment. 

Sheree told us at to "laugh" at Ryder...and it worked!
Caught in a laugh. I LOVE this photo.

Movement is FANTASTIC! 

Just walking over the bridge! It's OK that we aren't looking at the camera...I like the candid moment.
Use your environment! We've sat on cars, bathtubs, curbs - I love this one just leaning up against the wall! 

Again, TOTALLY cool that we aren't all looking at the camera. Get a variety! And we always tell the kids if we're "serious" or "smiling" so they know. Of course, Lola usually just smiles, but it's endearing because she's the youngest!

Even this "regular" photo is interesting because of the levels and groupings.

3 - 2 - 1 groupings! And levels. And a color palette! And something interesting in the background. Not boring at all!

One last trick - my husband will often put together a posing guide - he'll search the internet for interesting poses and makes a collage. He uses these when he's posing cast photos a lot - because he does really crazy cast photos... but they help the actor/model/family member know what to do.

Here's one for fun as an inspiration! 

My best advice is to get your family involved, have fun, and keep the atmosphere light. And keep it simpler if your kids are younger. Gauge your own family and be able to go with the flow! Really, we have a BLAST doing our photos, and I think it shows.

SEVEN: Editing

This is another area we are lucky to do ourselves. We've been working with photoshop for years, so we edit our own photos. Sheree loves that, too, because it takes HOURS to edit photos! Most of the time it's just playing with exposure and setting and then adding fun effects! But when we add in circus backgrounds:

it becomes a really arduous process.

This one, the first from our shoot, took 2 hours. For ONE PHOTO! Mostly because we had to edit out the background, which meant painstakingly cutting out the entire family and all of the tables and props! Here's the process....

The raw, unedited original.
Seriously. 90 minutes just for Steve to cut it out! And then he plays with color, exposure...etc.

Select a background...
Put them together!

And sometimes we have several variations of one this!




The "bus" photo underwent quite and edit, too!

Editing makes a good picture GREAT! Your photographer should be a great editor as well. But if you want extra fancy stuff, plan on paying an extra fancy amount! Again, it's a lot of work. But so worth it for those fun family photos!

Feel free to ask me any questions.  And enjoy!