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Greathall Productions, Inc. - Intelligent listening for the thinking family.

Tuesday July 9, 2013

Welcome to Our JULY E-Magazine

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Inside This Issue:

It's happy, sunny, red, white and blue July-the official month of pool parties, fireworks and delicious foods totally indigenous to summer.  We at Greathall, wish you and your family a glorious, safe, let-loose, relaxing season.

*Exclusive E-Mag Special: Five CDs for the Price of Four

* From the Storyteller, Jim Weiss: "Images of July"

* Reflections from Randy Weiss: "Where the Leprachauns Live" 

*Taking Greathall on the Road

* Jim Weiss May Be Traveling Near You: Jim's Travel Schedule

*Jim's Photo Album

*Digital Download Spotlight: Treasure Island

* Greathall CD Giveaways

*A Delicious Summer Recipe

* Please Join our Facebook Hall

Photo: Our American flag waves happily, freely at Red Rocks Park in Denver, Colorado

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Exclusive E-Mag Special: Five CDs for the Price of Four

With Conference Season nearly behind us, we'd like to extend our Conference Price to a "Virtual Conference Price of "Buy 4, Get a Complimentary 5th CD." This special purchase amounts to a savings of *13.45. You may receive a complimentary 5th CD for every 4 titles you order. Also, you may choose any Greathall item as part of the four but the complimentary recording is a single CD.

To order by email, place your order as normal but be sure to write JULY E-MAG SPECIAL in the NOTES Box. The discount will not be reflected on your confirmation. We'll take care of that on the billing and shipping end from our office. 

Offer Expires July 31, 2013

Photo: A conference table full of so many engaging choices

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From the Storyteller, Jim Weiss: "Images of July"

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July always brings memories of growing up in Highland Park, Illinois. Looking back, I know how blessed an existence I lived, one which provided me with lessons, and images I've used ever since.

To me, July equates to my mother mixing salads, and the smile Mom always gave Dad when he brought in the finished burgers from the grill, as if Dad had just won the Derby.  I have auditory and taste memories tied to the ice cream truck that came by our house in summer, playing the same snatch of song over and over, and drawing the neighborhood kids out of their houses like a magnet drawing iron filings.  (“Mom, I need two dollars.  Quick... it’s the ice cream man.”) I have memories, too, of wild, laughing chases with my friends in the wooded ravines that ran through our neighborhood and down to the shores of Lake Michigan. 

Summer meant Cub Scout Baseball. I was not much of a baseball player, but one hallowed day I hit three home runs in a single game. I didn’t even claim credit because I knew that this was an absolute fluke, a strange combination of my unorthodox hitting “style”, the pitching style of the stunned boy I faced and, I suppose, the alignment of the planets.  The real baseball player in our family was my cousin, John.  Watching him do easily what the rest of us struggled to do was an early lesson in seeking the meeting point of something you do well with something you love. 

For my brother and me, sports really meant tennis.  My father had been a nationally ranked player, and one of Dad’s old friends, a gently humorous gentleman named George Jennings, became our coach.  I studied with George for two years before realizing that he had been the national clay courts champion!  

Once I reached high school age, summer also meant music.  Our town, Highland Park, Illinois, is the home of the Ravinia Music Festival, the summer home of the Chicago Symphony and a beautiful venue for top popular music acts. Many of my friends and I lived within walking or biking distance of the park gates. 

We sometimes went to view, and learn from, afternoon  rehearsals featuring the Chicago Symphony and top solo artists.  For a fraction of the evening concert price, you received a very different, much less formal experience.  It was fascinating to see different conductors and soloists bringing out varied tonal colors from the orchestra, and to hear the give-and-take between renowned soloists pianists. 

I also saw jazz greats there.  Louis Armstrong, jazz’s first (and arguably greatest) super soloist, put on a terrifically entertaining show, filled with stratospheric trumpet solos and gravel-voiced singing; while Duke Ellington was all elegance as his orchestra introduced to us jazz colors we’d never heard from the symphony.  Best of all was Ella Fitzgerald, whom I saw four or five times over the years.  

One of my most vivid memories is of lying on a picnic blanket listening to Ella singing the ballad"Misty" while shooting stars plummeted through the night sky above us.  One year I took my then-girlfriend to see Ella and sprang for fourth row, center seats in the roofed pavilion.  Ella and her trio laughed and joked, but they were serious about their music, and watching them improvise in perfect conjunction, with Ella’s creamy voice in the forefront, was an example of how personal, and how wonderfullly fulfilling, art could be.

I don't know if I fully appreciated at the time what an astonishing opportunity it was to grow up with such a loving family, in the safety of a neighborhood with real neighbors, surrounded by remarkable cultural offerings.  Certainly I realized it later on.  I am certain that it has been reflected in my marriage, my parenting, my choice of profession and the way I try to interact with other people, especially children, and even with other creatures.  The lessons radiate from the images of my own childhood.

Photo: My childhood memories of July were fabulous, but my all-time favorite July memory is walking my daughter down the aisle in July, 2012

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Reflections from Randy Weiss: "Where the Leprachauns Live"

When I was a child, summers were lazy, long and hot. Having parents who spent limited time and energy on my amusement and activities, I didn't go to camp, nor did I have play dates every day.  However, I did have my books, my bike and nearly total control of my time. 

I loved summers.  One reason was that I had time to think. Unencumbered by a myriad things to accomplish, I would sit on our front lawn, thinking, dreaming, looking for four leaf clovers and considering what I would wish for if I actually found one. I'd lie on my back and gaze at the clouds and ponder their shapes. I'd write and illustrate stories and pretend I was a famous author.  I'd hop on my bike and pretend I was driving on the California freeways as I tooled around our neighborhood.  Then I would read a book and imagine what it would be like to be my favorite character. 

I had a Whitman classic book (junior editions with shiny covers) of Heidi.  I could not read this book without a huge hunk of Velveeta cheese in hand, ready to devour, as Heidi's grandfather made her a lunch of bread and cheese. No matter that at the time, I didn't know that Velveta was not at all the same food the grandfather was making from goat’s milk. In my imagination, my snack was made especially for me by the loving old man on the Alm mountain in Switzerland. It was delicious.  And for an hour or so I was Heidi.

Unbeknownst to me, these summers provided the opportunity for me to become not only a lifetime reader but a lifetime imaginer.

Recently I came across this quote about imagination that inspired this writing:"Logic will get you from A to Z.  Imagination will get you everywhere." -Albert Einstein 

Clearly, logic, facts and truths are essential, but coupled with imagination they are truly powerful.

In the 1950's when I was a child, there were only a few TV channels and I didn't know anybody who watched TV all day, and there were no computers, no video games or iPads.  Kids played outside and created games. One summer the city was putting new drainage pipes into our streets. The day that the pipes (huge cement cylinders) were delivered to our street, all the neighborhood kids came out to sit in them. We all gathered in these new, albeit temporary, "clubhouses" just because we could.

My point here is not that the world has changed and children truly don't have all the freedom of space as they did in the 50's-one of the reasons I love our Good Luck Duck recording, which is so reminiscent of those days.  My point is that children need, and can still have, the same freedom of large chunks of un-scheduled time where they can be masters of their own thoughts, dreams and activities, and can learn to cherish the opportunity to do "nothing."  It's during this nothing time that imagination can flourish and dreams become seedlings that can sprout who knows when and where in our lives.

For example, on a recent visit to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC, Jim and I discovered a grove of trees with an enchanting and mysterious undergrowth of what looked like roots growing up out of the ground  (see photo image).  These roots resembled a village of little people/creatures. We were totally charmed and our imaginations soared at what these creatures were all about.  Somehow it didn't seem important to go beyond my own imagination about what these "creatures' really were; it was enough for me to think what I wanted to think...and it wasn't even summer.

On another note, many years ago we had some dead trees removed, one of which left a sizeable but not unattractive stump. A rather snide neighbor (who also had a few stumps on her own property) inquired what we planned to do with the stump. Without thinking, I simply replied, "Nothing. That is where the leprechauns live." She totally had no reply. What could she say to that response? My imagination had kicked into gear and taken charge in what otherwise could have become an unpleasant exchange.

Inside, I was actually half-serious.  I have come to cherish that "half" of myself.

Photo: Jim Weiss visits the village of people/creatures and learns a great deal from them

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Taking Greathall on the Road

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What are your favorite summer sports/activites-team sports, races, running, swimming, practicing your instrument, visiting the State Fair? Anybody up for white-washing a fence? Greathall has a story for everybody.

Here are some of our recordings that feature summer activities:

*She and He: Adventures in Mythology- Cheer as the Princess Atalanta runs a foot-race against her worthiest opponent.

*Animal Tales- Learn the true meaning of "Slow and Steady Wins the Race” from "The Tortoise and the Hare".

*The Adventures of Tom Sawyer- The classic tale of summer adventure features Tom’s discovery that painting a fence can be both fun and profitable.

*Good Luck Duck- Timothy goes to the state fair, and gets tricked into winning a noisy duck-and that’s when all sorts of hilarious, touching events begin.

*Mole Music- A mole learns perseverance and patience as he masters the violin... and inadvertently changes for the better countless lives around him.

Photo: Jim Weiss having some summer fun with dogs, Bonny Jeane and Chazworth. Now, there must be a story within this photo.

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Jim Weiss May Be Traveling Near You: Jim's Travel Schedule

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Up close and personal with Jim Weiss is closer to your community than you may think. Each year Jim travels near and far to present live storytelling performances; storytelling/writing workshops, and more. We are currently working on Jim's 2013-14 calendar and we'd love to include your school, homeschool, library or organization. Please contact us for a Performance Packet as soon as you can.

Current dates and places include but are not limited to:

03  Girl Scout Summer Camp, Oakton, VA
25-27 Valley Home Educators Conference, Modesto, CA

August:                                                                                                                                 In the Studio, Producing Two New Greathall Recordings                                                Jim has limited time available for additional bookings. Please inquire.

14-30 Southern and Northern California Bookings (more to come)
Jim is available for additional bookings in BOTH Northern and Southern CA as well as other locations. Please inquire.

9-16 Ohio/Kentucky Bookings (more to come)
Jim is available for additional bookings in BOTH Ohio and Kentucky as well as other locations. Please inquire.

11-22 Florida. Jim is available for additional bookings throughout Florida as well as other locations.

December: Please Inquire.

Please contact us for further information for January-May, 2014. Specific appearances will be posted soon.

Photo: Whenever, wherever Jim Weiss performs, the mood is excited, engaged and oh so happy.

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Jim's Photo Album

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Have you checked Jim's Photo Album lately? It's located on our website,

Here you will find photos taken of Jim as he has traveled all over the world researching and performing. All the photos included in the album are pertinent to Greathall recordings and will enhance your enjoyment of the stories. 

Photo: Inside Michelangelo's immense dome in St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City. Jim took this shot while researching Masters of the Renaissance


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Digital Download Spotlight: Treasure Island

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One of the most interesting and inspiring features of our recordings occurs when Jim offers an introduction to set the scene for the story to come. These intro’s can clear up potentially challenging or controversial elements specific to the story. In the case of Treasure Island  Jim reveals a bit about the life of the author, Robert Louis Stevenson, which turns out to be a deeply moving, thrilling adventure about overcoming challenges and following ones dreams. Jim tells how Stevenson began the great pirate story for his stepson after sketching a map of a fictional island just for fun. 

The boy so enjoyed this off-the-cuff tale that Stevenson turned it into a book, writing the beloved classic in only about 3 weeks and hardly changing a word or a comma from his first draft.  He, himself, was amazed at this outpouring onto the page.  Of all Stevenson’s beloved novels, stories, essays and poems, this was the only writing that did not call for revision; he was simply meant to write it.

Download Treasure Island today.

Photo: Treasure Island, as told by Jim Weiss

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Greathall CD Giveaways

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Greathall has recently participated in several         FaceBook/Blog Giveaways.

Here are some of the sites where lucky winners were the recipients of their choice of Greathall/Jim Weiss recordings.

Each of these are wonderful organiaztions-well worth a peek at what they have to offer. Thank you to all!




Photo: There are so many fabulous Jim Weiss stories to enjoy. Please be sure to visit the Greathall FaceBook Page periodically to see more Giveaway information.

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A Delicious Summer Recipe

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Randy discovered delicous, refreshing, thirst-quenching Watermelon Juice while visiting our children in Dubai. She couldn't get enough of this amazing drink. Here is a recipe she found on-line. Enjoy.

Watermelon Juice

Author: Cookie and Kate (

Prep time:  9 mins Cook time:  1 min Total time:  10 mins
Serves: 4

Watermelon juice couldn’t be easier to extract. You don’t need a fancy schmancy juicer, just a blender. Scoop the watermelon into the blender, blend for about thirty seconds, and ta da! You have made watermelon juice.

As you would expect, watermelon juice is good for you. It’s high in vitamin A, vitamin C and potassium. It’s about 92% water, so it’s plenty hydrating, too (nutrition source). I thought my juice was perfectly sweet without any added sugar, but I added a squeeze of lime juice for that extra zing.

Refreshing, naturally sweet watermelon juice couldn’t be easier to make in a blender.
1 small sweet, organic watermelon (a 6 pounder will do)
1 small lime, juiced
Slice the watermelon in half. Assuming your watermelon isn’t seedless, slice the halves into smaller strips and use a small spoon to scoop out the seeds. Discard the seeds, and scoop chunks of watermelon from the rind into the blender. If the watermelon is seedless, use a big spoon to scoop chunks of watermelon flesh into the blender. Discard the rind.
Blend the watermelon until it is totally pulverized. This shouldn’t take more than a minute. Squeeze the juice of one small lime into the blender and blend for a few seconds. Pour the watermelon juice into a pitcher or pour directly into glasses, over ice.
Notes from Cookie and Kate
Watermelon juice inspired by my trip to Belize for the launch of Flavors of Belize, the cookbook.
Your juice will only be as good as your watermelon, so find a good one at a farmer’s market or health store.
My 6.5 pound watermelon yielded about 5 cups of juice.
The juice will separate over time, just stir it with a spoon to recombine.
You can make cantaloupe juice using the exact same method!
You might also like my melon cocktails—try the watermelon cucumber cooler or cantaloupe fiesta cocktail.

Photo: Anyone thirsty?

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Please Join our Facebook Hall

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We invite you to join our Facebook Hall and connect with Jim on a regular basis. It is a place where thinking families like you come together to share stories and stay up-to-date on Greathall happenings. We are so proud of the organic growth of our Facebook Hall.

Jim writes updates on Facebook almost daily and his contributions often include storytelling tips and other ideas for family entertainment and education.

If you enjoy this E-Magazine, we know you'll love our Facebook Hall. Please join us today and become part of the conversation.

Photo: Jim Weiss exemplifies the epitome of summer as he climbs a tree with good friends at The University of Virginia. Please "like" Jim Weiss today.

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* Visit our web site for more information about Greathall storytelling audio recordings and performances by Jim Weiss.

* View back-issues of our newsletter in the Greathall archives.