Monday, December 29, 2008

Almost a Teenager

M turned twelve today. I can't believe he's only a year away from being a teenager! We spent part of the day at the San Diego Zoo with both DH's family and mine. We managed to sneak a birthday cake into the cooler this morning without M noticing, so we were able to thoroughly embarrass him at lunchtime with our singing.

Dinner was at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants: Fidel's, in Solana Beach. B and I split a chimichanga with an extra side of rice. I'm afraid to climb on the scale after all of the food I've been eating this last week!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

'Twas the Last Shopping Day Before Christmas

And all through the mall,
Many creatures were stirring,
But it wasn't bad at all!

DH and I have never been to the mall on Christmas Eve before, but somehow December got away from us this year, so we had a few things left to pick up today. We were expecting a zoo, so I actually volunteered to get out of bed early (early for me, that is), in hopes of beating the crowds. It wasn't as bad as we had expected: although there were people circling the lots in hopes of getting parking spaces close to the stores, we just went to our usual corners of the different malls we visited, and pulled right into parking spaces. The longest line of the day was the one at the grocery store, and even there we had no trouble parking. (I chatted with a guy who was retrieving carts, and he said that we arrived at the right time: earlier in the day, people had been circling for 10-15 minutes before finding a place to park).

Now it's time to wrap those last few gifts, and get the stockings ready. Our niece and nephew are also spending the night here at their grandparents' house, so I don't think any of the kids are going to fall asleep anytime soon. Maybe "Santa" can sneak those stockings out sometime before midnight...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Whish! Whoosh!

Current mental soundtrack (and source of the title): "Angel on a Cloud" from Angels are Everywhere, by Daniel Pinkham

The holiday craziness reached its peak here last week.

On Wednesday, the handle fell off of the toilet in the master bath. I took a photo of my temporary wire replacement for this blog, but I downloaded it to the wrong computer, and can't get to it right now. I thought it would have been a good symbol of how busy our week was--no one has had time to go to the hardware store for a new handle, so we're making do with a piece of wire.

On Thursday, M and I both came down with a virus that's been making its way around the schools here. M spent the evening on the couch, but I was scheduled to work B's dress rehearsal and learn the ropes for backstage. Since this was my first show working backstage, I didn't think it would be a good idea to skip the dress rehearsal and just show up for the performance. The other moms on the crew took pity on me, and I spent the rehearsal huddled in a corner of the stage, watching everyone else work around me.

On Friday, I spent the day in bed. I missed B's choral performance (the assembly was in the morning, before I staggered out of bed). In between picking up kids from school, I tried to run one errand, which ended up taking a looooong time. I circled the parking garage for ten or fifteen minutes before finding a space, then had to work my way through the crowds at the store. I was exhausted by the time I was finished! B had a Nutcracker performance Friday night, so DH took her in while I rested some more.

On Saturday, B danced in two shows, as a soldier in the battle scene. Our family watched the matinee, then DH and Matt headed home to host a party for a visiting job candidate, while I stayed with B to work backstage. Since I wasn't available to cook this week, DH ordered pizza from Zachary's Pizza for the party. It was weird coming home to a party in our house, but at least B and I got some leftover pizza for a snack.

On Sunday, B had her last Nutcracker for the year, and I worked backstage again. Afterwards, B went off to a slumber party at L's house, and I packed for our trip.

On Monday, we picked up B from L's house, and were on the road to San Diego at 8:00 am. We arrived at DH's parents' house around 3:30, and have been relaxing here ever since. Internet access is not good here (dial-up, or sometimes if I sit in a certain corner of the house, I can pick up a neighbor's unprotected wireless signal), so I probably won't post much until we get to my parents' house next week.

Today, B and I are going to see the Nutcracker at the Civic Theater. This is the California Ballet production (the school B started ballet classes at, before we moved to the Bay Area). Should be fun! Afterwards, B and I are going to have dinner at one of our favorite restaurants (she still hasn't decided between Spices Thai Cafe and The Fish Market), then we're heading to a PWC rehearsal for the evening.

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Let It Snow

DH took a photo on the way to work this morning:



Lunchtime now, and it's still only 36 degrees outside, according to my weather widget.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Almost Done

Three concerts and one Nutcracker down, one concert and one Nutcracker to go before the weekend's over. Next weekend is four Nutcrackers, then we're done for the month.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Angels Are Everywhere

Current mental soundtrack: "Angels Are Everywhere" by Daniel Pinkham

I think I'll go back to Christmas-tree cookies next year--angels are a lot of work! Last night I did the faces, hands, dress, wings, and halos in frosting. I dusted the halos with a little bit of gold luster dust, which gives them a nice metallic look. I was thinking of leaving them that way, but B took a look at them after school today and declared that they HAD to have hair and faces. So, we grabbed the food markers and got to work. B did the ones with brown hair, and I did the ones with black hair.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Angels By the Dozen

It doesn't feel like Christmas around here unless I'm frantically turning out dozens of cookies. B's ballet school requires each family to donate treats for the Nutcracker, and both Voci and Sacred & Profane need treats for their receptions, so I try to bake the same thing for everyone, and time all my donations for the same weekend. This year it's going to be angel cookies, as the Voci concert theme is fire, angels, and peace, and the Nutcracker has little angels in it. Yes, I know I could just bake some brownies from a mix (and that would probably be the smart thing to do, given my time constraints at this time of year), but they wouldn't be as pretty or fun as the decorated cookies.

Baking at this time of year does require some advance planning. Since I don't have any rehearsals on Tuesday or Thursday this week, those have been set aside as my baking and icing nights, respectively. This is what my dining table looks like right now, with eleven dozen angels waiting to be decorated:



Naturally, since I had everything carefully scheduled, something else came up. This week's was M's choir party, which turned out to be TODAY, rather than tomorrow as I was hoping. Since there was no hope of having any angels iced in time for second period today, I whipped up three dozen Christmas trees yesterday afternoon. They're not fancy--just sugar cookies (leftover dough from the angels that I put in the fridge), sprinkled with green sugar before baking.

Next week will be the second round of cookies. Holiday gifts for all kinds of people: the kids' teachers, their piano teacher, the mailman, and the family members with whom we've agreed not to exchange gifts with this year. And an extra tin or two, because I'm sure I've forgetten someone on that list!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Brrrr!

Current mental soundtrack: "The Shepherd's Farewell," by Hector Berlioz

It was cold yesterday! Well, cold for our area of California, at least. Whenever we have "cold" spells, I take great comfort in looking up the temperature where we used to live, in Rochester, New York.

When I picked up B from school a little past noon (it was a minimum day), it was only 44 degrees outside and cloudy. B is a child who is NEVER cold (wears a T-shirt all year round), but she came out of her classroom and promptly stopped to put on her sweatshirt. Last night, the thermometer says it went down to 32 degrees at our house, and DH reported ice on the dog's water dish this morning. I'm glad we (meaning DH, of course) wheeled my lime tree inside for the winter earlier this week!

Oh, and yesterday's low in Rochester was 11 degrees (according to weather.com), so I guess I can't really complain about life in California :-)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

It's Beginning To Look a Lot Like Christmas...

Current mental soundtrack: "Psalm 122" by Arvo Pärt

The first holiday performance weekend is over with. Yesterday, B & M sang at the local tree-lighting ceremony with their respective school choirs, then the whole family headed in to Berkeley to attend the Voci concert.

Today (in addition to the usual laundry and raking and vacuuming), B and I hung the stockings, put up some outdoor lights, and wrapped the first round of gifts. I had put icicle lights on our white picket fence earlier this week, but B really wanted colored lights, so today we wound a couple of strands around a tree in the front yard.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Dress Shopping

Yesterday, B and I went shopping for a new holiday outfit for her. It was actually less traumatic than I expected, given that she has previously stated her distaste for empire waists, short skirts, long sleeves, ruffles, and anything too warm. We started at Tarzhay, and didn't find anything suitable, so we headed off to JC Penney. Wonder of wonders, we found two dresses in her size that she was willing to try on, and she decided the one I picked out looked better on her than the one she picked out. It does have long sleeves, but she was willing to accept that in a holiday dress. Now we're negotiating when exactly she's going to wear it. The Nutcracker performance we're attending is definite, but that's just one occasion. I feel that she should wear the dress more than once before she outgrows it, so we agreed on Christmas Eve (but not Christmas Day, for some reason), and possibly a concert that she's attending (although it looks like it won't work for logistical reasons). Now we just need to work out what she's going to wear for tomorrow's outdoor tree-lighting concert.

If you're anywhere near the Bay Area, come hear me sing this weekend and next! (Concert listing at right)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Conspiracy Theory

Current mental soundtrack: "The Angel" from Rachmoninoff's Six Choruses

On Monday night, after S&P rehearsal, I had a close encounter with a pedestrian. She was wearing dark clothing, and crossing at an intersection with no lights. By the time I saw her in my headlights, I had to slam on the brakes, and she started sprinting, so we managed to miss each other.

Tuesday night's close encounter was with a cyclist, riding after dark, who didn't stop for the stop sign at a confusing intersection where I was trying to make a left turn. (It was one of those four-way stops where the streets are misaligned.)

At this point, I was wondering if I needed to get my eyes checked, but Wednesday's close encounter proved that there's simply a conspiracy against me this week. It was broad daylight, and I had just picked up M's carpool at the middle school. A student waiting to cross the street must have not seen me coming: as soon as there was a break in oncoming traffic, he started running across the street, right in front of me.

I wonder how many people are going to leap in front of my car today...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

No Turkey Today

Current mental soundtrack: "A Hymn to the Virgin," by Benjamin Britten

A nice, relaxing weekend. On Saturday, we spent an hour or two raking leaves and cleaning the gutters, but that was the only thing resembling work that we did.

I started off today by going to church (subbing in the choir). After an hour of so of singing lovely music, I picked up the family and we headed over to San Francisco to meet up with my sister and parents. The plan was to go to the newly remodeled California Academy of Sciences. For those of you planning a visit, I have one piece of advice: buy a ticket in advance! After driving around Golden Gate Park for a while, we found a parking space, and strolled through the park to the Academy. It was about 1:30 pm, and they had already sold out for the entire day! We opted to walk across the street and visit the DeYoung Museum (our kids' favorite museum).

For dinner, we went to Ton Kiang, our new favorite Chinese restaurant. We had a feast: the Peking duck was the best we've ever had (crispy skin, tender meat), and we also had crab, squid, spareribs, shrimp, and potstickers. Yum!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Turkey, Again

Current mental soundtrack: "Mack the Knife"

Tonight was the first of several turkey-based meals to come. (Last night was microwaved leftovers, which doesn't really count). I got this recipe from an online friend, and modified it to suit our tastes. It's become very popular in our household:

Turkey Pot Pie
2 cups diced cooked turkey
2 cans mixed vegetables [I like Vegall Original, because it has potatoes. You can also use frozen]
2 cans turkey gravy
1 can buttermilk biscuits [I usually buy two, because everyone wants extra biscuits]

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine turkey, vegetables, and gravy in a 2-quart casserole. Bake uncovered for 15 minutes. Remove biscuits from can and split each in half. Place biscuit halves on top of turkey mixture, and bake as directed on biscuit can. Serve with extra biscuits

Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday

Current mental soundtrack: the Wii Sports theme (guess what the kids are doing?)

My family has a tradition of going shopping on Black Friday every year. We don't buy a lot of stuff, but we pick up a couple of things on sale, do a lot of window shopping, and have a nice lunch together. DH thinks we're insane, so we leave him at home :-)

The parking garage seemed a bit emptier this year than usual, although it's hard to tell: at 9:45 am, I drove up to the seventh floor and found it nearly empty. The mall wasn't too crowded during the morning, and we were actually able to get a table at the food court at noon without waiting too long (no longer than we would have waited on a regular weekend shopping day). By the time we finished our trip, there were a lot more people out shopping, so maybe things picked up in the afternoon.

I didn't buy anything really frivolous this year. I picked up a nice pair of socks and some underwear for myself, and a new pair of dress shoes for B (since she's outgrown her old ones). My parents did buy some more expensive items: Christmas presents for my sister and me. B found some little decorations for her Crocs, and my mom bought a pair of tennis shoes.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Night Of Thanksgiving

Current mental soundtrack: "Rosa Mystica," from A.M.D.G., by Benjamin Britten

'Tis the night of Thanksgiving,
And here in our nest,
DH is settling down
To a well-deserved rest!

The children are nestled
All snug with the dog,
Dreaming visions of video games,
While I sit and blog.

The dishes are done, [thanks, DH & Mom!]
Stock's bubbling in the pot,
I don't know how much I ate,
But I'm sure it was a lot!

With apologies to Clement Moore :-)

Happy Turkey Day!

I was even more disorganized this year than usual, and Thanksgiving somehow crept up on me before I got around to sending out the usual invitations to stray grad students and friends. So, it's just my family this year: parents, sister, DH, and the kids. Of course, I don't actually know how to downsize my menu, so I suspect we will be eating Thanksgiving leftovers for the next year :-)

Our menu is pretty traditional:
  • roast turkey

  • sage stuffing (made from white bread}

  • mashed potatoes

  • gravy

  • cranberry sauce (both jellied and whole berry)

  • green bean casserole

  • pumpkin pie with whipped cream

Some years we've tried sweet potatoes (the ones with the gooey marshmallows on top), but I think we won't be needing them this year!

Have a GREAT Thanksgiving, and try not to eat too much!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Death March

Weekends just fly by around here! On Saturday, DH had to go to a work retreat, so he wasn't able to take M to The Big Game (Cal vs. Stanford). Fortunately, my parents are here for Thanksgiving, and my dad was interested in attending. So, we left the house at 10:00 am on Saturday, dropped B off for her pre-ballet class (she's a teaching assistant), then parked the car on campus. I got M and Dad started in the right direction, then Mom and I walked back to the ballet school to pick up B (on game days, parking in Berkeley is at a premium, so I didn't want to move the car). The three of us then walked to lunch, walked back to the car, and walked back to the ballet school for Nutcracker rehearsal. Finally, a last trip to the car (we hiked over four miles that day), where we hung out until the game was over. After a quick trip to Costco to pick up pizza and groceries, we finally arrived home around 5:30.

It was a good weekend for our football teams: Cal beat Stanford, and Harvard beat Yale :-)

Yesterday, we raked a small mountain of leaves. The green bin was stuffed full, and we had five or six bags of leaves left over, which are now parked next to my compost pile. After a quick trip to the grocery store, my sister came over for dinner, then I sprinted out the door to Voci rehearsal. It's a lot more rushed when rehearsal starts at 7:00 rather than 7:30--I was still scrambling to get my music in order during the first half of the rehearsal!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

And Around Again...

Today's destination of choice was M's middle school. Dropped off the carpool just before 8:45 am. Picked M up at 1:30 to go to the orthodontist (he got his braces off today!). Took M back to school at 2:30. Picked up the carpool at 3:30.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Round And Round We Go

Four trips to the elementary school today! DH did the first trip, dropping B off for school at 8:00. I was next, picking her up at 12:20 (they're on an abbreviated schedule this week for parent-teacher conferences). We went back at 1:45 for B's 2:00 audition for the spring musical, and also stopped by the book fair. Last trip was DH and I at 4:00, for B's conference.

At 5:00, B and I left our house for the trip to the ballet school in Berkeley (normally about 20 minutes). I drove through town, made a right onto the freeway onramp, and discovered that traffic was at a dead stop. It took another 10 minutes to make my way around the cloverleaf (finally driving on the shoulder with the other cars that were trying to exit the mess) and leave the freeway. We made a U-turn and decided to attempt one of the other routes over the hills, but traffic on the main road was so backed up (presumably because of the freeway problem) that we had still not managed to leave town at 5:25! At that point we decided to make another U-turn and just go home, as B informed me that students who arrive too late for class are not allowed to participate.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Shades of Beige

Since B has moved up to Level 4 at her ballet school, she is now required to add foundation and powder to her makeup kit for the Nutcracker. We stopped by the drugstore on Thursday, and were completely overwhelmed by the selection there! We spent about ten minutes trying to figure out whether she would look better in Creamy Ivory, Golden Bisque, Neutral Buff, or another one of the million shades out there. We finally gave up, and decided to visit a department store today. A little pricier, but bringing home the wrong color from the drugstore could end up costing quite a bit, too.

Is there a method for choosing the right color at the drugstore? Other than buying more than one color and taking them home to try on? I have to admit that I know very little about makeup. I wear it for performances, but I order my foundation and powder from Zhen, a company that specializes in makeup for Asian skin. (And I remember spending way too long about a decade ago, holding the catalog up to my face with my mom and sister, so I could figure out which of Zhen's six shades I should order.)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Lessons Learned Today

1. Although Corelle dinnerware is generally break- and chip-resistant, dropping a stack of bowls onto a tile floor creates a spectacular mess with little tiny slivers of glass all over the kitchen. (Only the bottom bowl in the stack of three broke, so I guess it does live up to its claim.)
Shadow Iris Corelle

2. Homemade macaroni and cheese has to be made with whole milk: skim milk gives it a weird, grainy texture, and no one will eat it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Thundering Ballerinas

Last night, while waiting for B to finish ballet class, I was sitting on the stairs outside the classroom. B's class was rehearsing their part for the Nutcracker next month. I was listening with half an ear to the music (the part that builds up three times before finally climaxing at the growing of the Christmas tree). Very pretty music. Suddenly, the mood was interrupted by what sounded like a herd of elephants! I'll bet you never knew about the elephants in the Nutcracker :-) (Okay, they're really soldiers, still learning the funny way that the soldiers are supposed to run.)

That section of the music always reminds me of the Nutcrackers I sang with the Boston Ballet in college. The growing Christmas tree was always our cue to quietly file out and prepare to sing in the next scene, so that music is firmly embedded in my mind.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Weekends Aren't Long Enough

The kids have a four-day weekend: tomorrow is Veteran's Day, today is a staff development day. I'm currently waiting for them to get out of bed (yes, it's almost 10:00 am here), and wishing that I could have a four-day weekend, too. I have enough stuff to do to fill up a bunch of four-day weekends!

This weekend was taken up by a Sacred & Profane retreat (all day Saturday), a lab party (Saturday night), sleeping in on Sunday (woohoo!), and planting 30 daffodils on Sunday afternoon. Oh, and the ninth load of laundry for the weekend is in the washer right now. At least I get tomorrow off--maybe I can catch up on some of those projects!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Did You Vote Today?

DH and I voted on the way to work this morning. I spent quite a bit of time yesterday afternoon studying the twelve state propositions on the ballot. Voting in California is a little strange--there are always a bunch of propositions on the ballot that I don't think should be there. I'd rather just vote for our legislators, and let them study the chicken-farming industry instead of everyone in the state voting on the size of chicken cages!

At least we don't live in San Francisco--they have an additional twenty-two local propositions on their ballot, including attempts to decriminalize prostitution and to rename a sewage plant after our current president.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

SimCity 4

I took advantage of the extra hour last night, and stayed up late playing SimCity 4. M bought the game a while ago, but I haven't had enough time to really sit down and play it until now. DH and I both enjoyed the original SimCity, but haven't really played any of the sequels. My experience with the original came in handy last night, as M was VERY impressed that I was able to put together a functioning city from the beginning! It's hard to impress an eleven-year-old boy in the video game arena!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Photos

As promised, here are the rest of the photos:

B dressed as Jasmine from the Deltora books:

Girl costumed as Jasmine from the Deltora books by Emily Rodda

B with her pumpkin:

Girl with jack-o-lantern

M with his pumpkin:

Boy with jack-o-lantern

Internet Wedding

I just spent my lunch hour watching a online friend's wedding--streamed live for those of us that don't live nearby. Very cool! It did feel rather sacrilegious, though, to be eating my lunch during a wedding :-)

Congratulations to MA, Dan and Matthew!

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Night Before Halloween

Costumes are done, jack-o-lanterns are carved, pumpkin seeds are roasted.

M's costume:porta-potty Halloween costume

(Check back tomorrow for B's costume and their jack-o-lanterns)

Battening Down the Hatches

It's supposed to rain most of this weekend (actually, it's already started). I think we're ready for a storm. DH brought in Otto last night (I still have to set up the heat lamp/thermostat/timer combo for the winter). This afternoon, after picking up B from school and rushing to the grocery store, I raked the front yard (again!), and got the leaves into the green bin while they were still mostly dry. I also cleaned out the grate over the storm drain in the driveway (completely clogged with leaves and dirt), and our sump pump is in good working order.

On the way to the grocery store, B asked me if I liked rain. She loves rain, and getting wet, but I had to answer that I both liked it and disliked it. We need the rain, and everything looks so clean after a good storm, but I don't like gray skies or mud. Especially gray skies--I find it really hard to get out of bed on overcast days.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Halloween Is Almost Here...

...and neither of my kids' costumes are done yet. B's is going to be pretty easy. She is dressing as an obscure character (Jasmine from the Deltora books) who wears gray pants, a gray tunic, has wild hair, and carries a bird on her shoulder. I bought her a long gray T-shirt and pants, and a fake bird that I need to sew onto the shoulder of the T-shirt.

I spent this evening working on M's costume. He decided to be a Porta Potty this year! I bought a large box last weekend, and some poster paint. Tonight I cut out a door, then we painted the box together. I just finished taping on a roof (another white box). I'm a little worried, though: the forecast for Friday says it's going to rain. I covered the roof with a white trash bag, which I hope will be enough to keep the rain off his head. I'm envisioning blue paint running everywhere, though, and I'm not sure what to do about that. Any suggestions? (Other than buying more expensive paint that won't run.)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Detour, Detour

It never fails--if I'm running late, the world seems to conspire to make me even later! Mondays are very tightly scheduled, with just enough time to squeeze a quick errand in (usually picking up some produce at Berkeley Bowl), but I didn't end up having time to shop today.

On the way to M's fencing class, we got stuck behind a sloooooow car for ages (two-lane road, no passing allowed, speed limit 50 mph). Once we reached the next town, the road opens up a bit (two lanes in each direction), so I thought we were set, until we reached the scene of a major accident that completely blocked the road. They waved us off to the north, and I assumed I could just follow the other cars to get back on the road. (I was driving the Saturn today, and we keep the Thomas Guide map in the other car.) But no, the traffic started peeling off in all directions, and I ended up spending 10 minutes wandering through El Sobrante before finally giving up and backtracking to the (closed) main road. This time, as I crossed the road, I did the sensible thing and rolled down my window to ask the flagger how to get back onto the road. Fortunately, the southern detour was quite obvious (a zillion cars on a narrow street), and we made it to fencing class only 10 minutes late.

This was 10 minutes of the 20 minutes allotted for the Berkeley Bowl stop, so I decided to go ahead and get gas at Costco (just down the road from the fencing school), and proceed straight to B's ballet class. When we arrived at the ballet school, we parked on the east side, as usual. The school is in the middle of a block, accessed by a path running east-west across the block. We got to the sidewalk to find our second detour of the day: the path is closed for construction, so we had to walk around the block and in through the basement. We'll find out now if DH checks his voice mail, because I left him a heads-up message so he'd know where to park when he picks her up.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Trees

Have I mentioned here how much I hate the trees in our front yard? There are two liquidambar trees, and the leaf season has begun. I can live with the leaves (although I just spent an hour raking leaves as they were falling), but it's those stupid brown balls they drop the rest of the year that I detest. Last spring, we sent both M & B out every weekend with a bucket, and every weekend they were able to fill a bucket each with those spiky balls.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Corn Maze

Yesterday we went to Cool Patch Pumpkins, home to the largest corn maze in the world. We met some friends and their daughter there. The kids wanted to go off on their own, so after paying the entrance fees and getting maps, we set them loose.

The four adults carefully read the map,

Cool Patch Pumpkins Corn Maze

and followed the most efficient path through the maze (which meant bypassing Starbucks Station).

Cool Patch Pumpkins Corn Maze

The kids, on the other hand, went for the most direct route through the maze, which involved a lot of extra paths (previously trampled by other maze-goers), and at one point climbing through the corn. They went straight through the middle of the maze to Starbucks Station, then out through the exit.

We also bought pumpkins while we were there:

girl with pumpkinboy with pumpkin

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Baking Is Finished

Current mental soundtrack: "Angels on the Head of a Pin" from Angels Are Everywhere, by Daniel Pinkham

As promised, photos of the cake balls:

cake balls


And for the cake contest, B decorated this castle:

haunted castle cake


My entry for the cake contest:

octopus cake

It's the first time I've tried using fondant to cover a cake. The cake and starfish came out pretty well, but I think my octopus sculpture leaves something to be desired. He looks rather deflated.

Baking Progress Report 2

Cake balls are finished (I'll post a photo tomorrow). They didn't turn out quite as pretty as I would have liked, but overall they look okay. (Especialy considering I'd never done candy coatings before.) B's cake is baked, and she started decorating while I was at rehearsal tonight. My cake is now defrosting on the counter, and we will decorate together after school tomorrow.

Off to bed!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Baking Progress Report

Between picking up B from school and taking her to ballet class today, I baked and crumbled the cake for the cake balls, and mixed with the buttercream frosting I made on Sunday. (Sorry, no time for photos!). B and I stopped at Spun Sugar on the way to ballet class, and picked up some additional supplies (2 more pounds of fondant, and another pound of candy melts). After dinner, from 6:30-7:00, I shaped the balls, and put them away in the freezer before leaving for sectional rehearsal.

I'm going to try covering my cake with fondant, which I haven't done before, so I had to buy some additional equipment this week. I saw a 20-inch fondant roller at Michael's on Saturday, but since I'm too cheap to pay $21.99 for a plastic cylinder, I made my own; I stopped at Ace Hardware on the way to lunch today, and bought a 24-inch piece of PVC pipe for $3.29.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Another Busy Weekend (And Busy Week Ahead)

Busy weekend here, but I guess that's not news to anyone :-)

Next year, if I happen to mention here that I did something silly like order 37 bulbs (each of which needs to be planted 8 inches deep), will someone please bring me back to reality? The first dozen are in, but that still leaves a bag of 25 to go.

Today, we took F to San Francisco, along with DH's postdoc & wife. We mostly did the same walking tour as last time (minus the cable-car ride), but today was a much more exciting day in San Francisco.

First was the Italian American Heritage parade. We got to see floats and bands and all kinds of Italian-American dignitaries in fancy cars. And, let's not forget the Norcal Waste Systems Precision Drill Team--garbage men with cans on wheels, doing precision drills. And the Ferrari show in Washington Square. The kids received not only candy thrown from the floats, but also bread thrown from the Boudin Bakery wagon (a hunk of baguette in a paper bag).

Second, this is Fleet Week in San Francisco, so we skipped the touristy shops on Pier 39, and crowded onto the wooden pier to watch the air show. The Canadian Snowbirds performed while we were still eating lunch, but we saw the USAF F-16, a red biplane, and the Blue Angels.

This is going to be a crazier week than usual. B and I are both preparing cakes for the cake contest at her school's fall festival, plus I am trying out cake balls for the boutique at the festival. Which means that by Friday at 3:30 pm, the kitchen here has to produce two decorated cakes and dozens of cake balls. Of course, this is the week I have activities on my two normally free evenings: a sectional on Tuesday, and the middle school Science Night on Thursday, so it looks like I'll be working late into the night. I drew up a schedule, and completed the first two tasks tonight: bake and freeze my cake layers, and mix up the buttercream icing (which keeps well in the fridge).

Friday, October 10, 2008

Clueless in Berkeley

DH and I went out to lunch today with our friend F (the one with celiac disease). We went to a place that we've been to many times before. F ordered chicken fajitas, with corn tortillas. DH emphasized to the waitress that F was allergic to wheat, and she wrote it down on the order form.

Lunch took forever to arrive--it's never been this slow before at the particular restaurant, even when we've arrived with large groups of people. A different waiter put the food on the table, and left before we noticed that they had included flour tortillas, not corn, with F's order. It took another ten minutes to get the attention of our waitress, and the following conversation ensued:

F: I ordered corn tortillas, and these are flour.
Waitress: I made sure to tell the kitchen that you're allergic to wheat.
(pause) Is flour made from wheat?
DH & F: Yes!
Waitress: I'm sorry, I think that's the only kind we have. Would you like some bread instead?

This Election Is Going To The Dogs

Have you seen the September 25th issue of Nature? The cover article is about the presidential candidates and their stances on science and technology:


Obama and McCain on Nature cover



Now, if you happen take a break from reading, and set the journal down flat on your desk, here's what you'll see:


Obama and McCain on Nature cover with dog ad

Rather interesting ad placement, isn't it?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Sump Pump

I'm working at home today, while the plumber replaces our outdoor sump pump. He finally finished about 15 minutes ago, after a trip to the hardware store to buy a pipe fitting. (Actually, it was three hardware stores, because the first two didn't have the piece he needed.) And the job took longer than expected, because for some reason our sump doesn't have a standard electrical outlet for the pump, so he had to do a wiring job.

We noticed last spring that our sump pump wasn't working, so I bailed out the hole and discovered that the circuit breaker tripped every time I lifted the float up. Since summer is dry here, I procrastinated calling a plumber until last month. It's always something with older houses--we also had to redo the front sprinkler system this summer. I wonder what's next...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

All is Quiet

On a normal Tuesday, I would be rushing home from work right now to start the afternoon chauffeur schedule. Instead, I'm still sitting here in the office, working away. (Okay, typing a blog entry, but this won't take too long.) B is away on an overnight field trip, so I don't have to pick her up at 2:50. On Tuesdays, the other mom drives the middle-school carpool, so M will be deposited on our doorstep around 3:45. (I hope he hasn't lost his house key yet!) And, since B is gone, there's no rushing to get dinner on the table by 4:30, since she won't be going to ballet class today.

Somehow, when planning this week's meals on Sunday, my brain registered the fact that our friend with celiac disease will be here, but did not make the connection that B would not be here to go to ballet class. (Normally, on ballet days, we are using the crock pot so that we can eat at 4:30). So, we are having a gluten-free crock pot meal today. I bought some wheat-free soy sauce, and am making those Korean-style ribs that everyone enjoyed last week:

I used the marinade recipe I found at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4793091, and modified it slightly for the crock pot (instead of the grill):

1 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup sesame oil
8-10 cloves of fresh garlic, crushed (I used a garlic press)
6 large green onions, chopped roughly
3 pounds short ribs

Combine all ingredients and marinate overnight (I just do it in the crockpot, and if some of the ribs aren't quite covered, I turn them over in the morning before starting the crockpot). Cook in crockpot on low for 8 hours. Serve with steamed rice.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Lost & Found

Things found this weekend, while cleaning B's room (guest coming tomorrow who will be sleeping there) and looking for stuff in the garage (B is going on an overnight camping trip with her class):

  • My copy of Madeleine L'Engle's A Wind in the Door, which B and I were looking for a couple of months ago,
  • A stuffed animal named "Patrick," whom M has been looking for,
  • Much dirty laundry, some of it already outgrown (apparently B has been using the cram-it-all-into-the-closet method when asked by DH to clean her room),
  • The utensils for B's Playmobil kitchen, which I have been searching for for six years! We bought her the dollhouse when she was 3, so I didn't put the small pieces out, just the large furniture. We moved to San Diego in 2002, and when she was old enough for the utensils, I couldn't find them anywhere! Those Playmobil boxes finally turned up today, wrapped in a Target bag, in an unlabeled box containing a magazine rack. DH is trying to claim it wasn't his fault, but I know that if _I_ had, for some unknown reason, decided that a magazine rack and dollhouse furnishings belonged together, I would have put a LABEL on the box!

B and I also took the opportunity to go through the dresser to remove outgrown clothes, and the bookshelf to remove outgrown books. Now, her dresser drawers close, her closet opens, her stuffed-animal basket is no longer overflowing, and her bookshelf has room for the books she actually reads. My living room is still a disaster area (guess where all those books are currently stacked?), and I still haven't finished strapping the bookcases (yes, all the tools are lined up in front of the living room fireplace, along with the ladder), but at least one room looks better!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Random Tidbits

Last night I subbed as conductor for a rehearsal. When I agreed to do this back in August, the tentative plan was to have me work on A Ceremony of Carols, which I know pretty well (I've conducted 2/3 of the SSA version, and sung the full SATB version before). Naturally, plans changed, and I ended up rehearsing some really difficult pieces that I'd never seen before: 8-part divisi, dissonant harmonies, tricky rhythms. The choir and I managed to survive the evening. And now I can get back to my regularly scheduled life--maybe I'll have time to read the Sunday paper tonight. (And the Monday and Tuesday papers, too.)

In gardening news, someone came by last night and removed the tops of my geraniums:Geranium Brookside nibbled by deer

The culprit also nibbled one of the echinaceas, but not any of the other four:Echinacea Monroe nibbled by deer

And, for some reason, there are flies lurking outside our door today. Every time someone opens the door, they sneak in. Since arriving home 1.5 hours ago, I've killed five, and I can hear a sixth buzzing around.

Dinner tonight (at 4:30 pm) is another crock-pot experiment: Korean-style BBQ ribs with rice.

(Thanks to mundungus42 for today's title)

Update: A total of ELEVEN flies were dispatched in the house this afternoon. I'm beginning to wonder if one of us has a corpse in the closet!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Relaxing Weekend

I got a bunch of stuff done this weekend, but of course, not everything on the list (the bookcase straps will have to wait for another day). Saturday morning, I chauffeured the kids to their respective fencing and ballet schools, and stopped by Costco in between. In the afternoon, DH took both kids (plus some of B's friends) to the Cal football game, so I had a very relaxing afternoon. I read for a while, then went to Target. After stocking up on paper towels, soap, and juice (among other things), I went window shopping at two of my favorite stores, The Container Store and Sur La Table.

Sunday was chore day. I bought groceries, deadheaded the roses, washed six loads of towels and sheets, folded the six loads of clothing that were washed last week, and planted 25 saffron crocuses in the flower bed by the porch. The crocuses were a little bit of a pain. I have most of my bulbs in chickenwire cages, but the Dutch irises have already started to come up, so I had to carefully uncover the rightmost cage and open the top while trying not to break off any of the plants sprouting through the holes. (I only broke one, so I didn't do too badly.) About half of the crocuses are in the cage, and the other half are not, so we'll see if anyone eats those.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Chore For The Week

Last weekend, I finally started securing all of our tall furniture to the walls. Yes, we moved to the Bay Area nearly two years ago, and no, I hadn't gotten around to it yet. So far, I've done the two tall bookcases downstairs, and the IKEA bookcase in M's room. This weekend, I'm hoping to get to B's craft armoire, the three tall IKEA bookcases upstairs, and M's loft bed. That should take care of the tall stuff. I just stopped by Home Depot and picked up some more straps while M was at his piano lesson today.

Are you ready for a quake? I read somewhere that 55% of the injuries in the Northridge quake were caused by falling objects. Not just those of you in California--the Midwest has had some big ones in the past. I'm slowly working on stuff, and hopefully I'll be mostly finished by the time the Big One shows up.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Changing Seasons

Summer is my favorite season. It's warm outside, the sun shines, and there are so many different kinds of seasonal fruit to choose from. Today, the calendar has caught up to what I've been thinking for the last week or so: summer is over. The leaves are falling in our yard, the heat is on in the mornings, and I've started cooking more cold-weather food. (Since we don't have air conditioning, I try not to use the oven in the summer.)

Last night we had one of our favorite casseroles, Broccoli Rice Casserole. DH and I first tasted this at Threadgill's Restaurant in Austin, Texas. In Austin, you can buy the casserole at the grocery store. Once we left Austin, we had to make it ourselves. I finally picked up a copy of the Threadgill's cookbook a few years ago, and cut the recipe down to manageable size (which is why there are weird amounts like 2/3 can of soup). I usually bake this in a 9x13 pan:

Threadgill's Broccoli And Rice Casserole
1.5 cups long grain rice [uncooked]
1 Tb butter
2/3 cup diced onion
2 heads broccoli, chopped medium-coarse (use flowerets and softer part of stalk)
1/3 cup cold water
2/3 lb Velveeta, cut in 3/4-inch cubes
1 can sliced water chestnuts
6 oz mushrooms, sliced
2/3 can cream of mushroom soup (undiluted)

Cook rice and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large skillet, melt butter and sauté onion. Add water and broccoli to skillet. Cook over medium heat [covered], stirring occasionally until broccoli is slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and mix in cheese, water chestnuts, mushrooms, cream of mushroom soup, and cooked rice. Place mixture in covered casserole dish and bake for about 25 minutes. Stir and bake 25 more minutes.

Adapted from Threadgill's: The Cookbook, by Eddie Wilson

Friday, September 19, 2008

Forms, Forms, Forms

The beginning of a new school year always brings with it an onslaught of forms to fill out. I don't know how people with more children deal with all the paper that comes home! I had thought that we were done filling out forms for a while (since school started at the end of August), but in the last week I've had two field trip forms (one multi-page, since it's for an overnight), and B just returned from ballet class with her Nutcracker permission slip. Off to consult the calendar now, to try and figure out which sets of rehearsals & performances we can actually get her to!

Arrrr!

Happy Talk Like A Pirate Day!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Setting Goals

Last night was Back To School night at B's elementary school. On one wall of her fourth-grade classroom, the teacher has put up a little writing project by each student. Clearly, the instructions were to write about their goals for this year, along with drawing a self portrait. Most of the kids want to improve things like their reading, multiplication, division, etc. One kid wants to learn to play the clarinet better. Our daughter's goal for 4th grade? To learn to run faster:

I will learn to move my legs faster and my arms faster, while of course staying on the track.


I guess this sums up her school experience pretty well. She's a bright kid, who already reads fluently, writes better than her mother, and has no trouble with math. What else is there to improve, besides her running?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Only In Berkeley

Last tree sitter has descended.
Photos courtesy of Nick Matze:


UC Berkeley police negotiating with tree sittersAround 10:15 am: The campus police chief, other officers, and
someone with a camera are in a box dangling from the crane.





UC Berkeley scaffolding going up around tree sittersAround 10:30 am: The scaffolding going up




Crowd watching removal of tree sitters at UC BerkeleyAround 11:15 am: The crowd
The scaffolding has reached the lower platform. The white-coveralled scaffolding builders have been joined now by others in dark clothes, who are removing more branches from the tree, along with the tree-sitters' possessions. The three tree sitters who were on the lower platform are now clinging to the tree.
After 21 months, it looks like the Berkeley tree sitters are finally going to be removed. DH and I drove by the stadium on our way to work this morning, and saw workers in white coveralls bringing in scaffolding. We took a break about two hours ago and hiked up the hill to watch for a while. Police everywhere on the ground (we watched some guy being handcuffed and patted down), police in a cherry picker, police in a box dangling from a crane. Of course, we forgot to bring a camera, but one of DH's students was there, and he promised to send photos. I'll post them when they arrive.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Earthquake Country

Anyone else feel that 4.0 that just occured? (http://earthquake.usgs.gov/eqcenter/recenteqsus/Quakes/nc51207740.php). Epicenter was about two miles east of M & B's piano teacher's house (she's not home this week). M thought it was cool.

DH grew up in California, so he instantly identified it as an earthquake. I was reading in bed with B, and my first thought was "What just hit our house?" I suppose I'd better get used to these, living in the Bay Area.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Back To School Night #1

M's school had Back To School Night tonight. It was fun to look around the middle school, and go from class to class following his schedule. The school very thoughtfully stationed eighth-graders all around the school to direct lost sixth-grade parents.

Two of his teachers have VERY appropriate names. During first period, he is taking "Cycle," which is an exploratory class for sixth graders (different subject every seven weeks). He is currently assigned to wood shop, under the care of Mr. HarWOOD. Second period alternates between P.E. and choir, which is taught by HARMONY Murphy.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Scheduling the Family Dinner

We are trying out a new schedule for Tuesdays and Fridays this year, which involves family dinner at 4:30 pm. I'm not sure if I like the schedule (it was very rushed today, trying to get dinner on the table), but the only other time we can eat together on those days is 8:00 pm, which is B's bedtime. The problem is that this year, B's ballet classes are much later: 5:30-7:30 on Tuesday and Friday, 6:00-7:30 on Monday. With the 20-30 minute drive, that pretty much precludes having dinner at a normal hour.

Mondays I've given up on--there is no hope of having anything resembling a family dinner. The kids both have late-afternoon activities, in two different cities, and I have an evening rehearsal in yet another city. We're still trying to figure out the best arrangement for who's taking who where in which car:

Monday
   4:30 Leave for M's fencing class
   5:00 M's fencing class begins
        (30-40 minute gap for errands)
   6:00 B's ballet class begins
   6:30 M's fencing class ends
   7:00 My carpool to rehearsal departs
   7:30 B's ballet class ends

Sunday, August 31, 2008

SuperAlto's Walking Tour of San Francisco

M & B have been wanting to ride the cable cars for a while now, so we decided to have a mini-vacation today. The itinerary I came up with worked pretty well, so I thought I'd share it (in case any of my readers ever want to try it). Things we didn't do today (but have done in the past or looked interesting) are in brackets [].

First, we drove to San Francisco, and parked in the Sutter-Stockton Garage. Sundays are cheaper than the rest of the week--three or more hours is only $7.50. When you exit the garage, take the elevator down to Level 2, and take the pedestrian exit on Bush Street (past the motorcycle parking area).

Turn right on Bush St.

Take the next left onto Grant Ave. This takes you through the main tourist area of Chinatown, and continues on to North Beach (Little Italy).
[If you're hungry for either Chinese or Italian food, these are good places to stop for lunch.]

Bear left onto Columbus Ave.
[As you cross Vallejo St., you'll pass The National Shrine of St. Francis of Assisi, established in 1849.]

Turn right onto Stockton St.
[After you pass Washington Square, you can turn left onto Filbert St. to visit Saints Peter and Paul Church, founded in 1884.]
[Or, you can turn right onto Filbert, and follow the signs to Coit Tower for a nice view of the city.]

Continue down Stockton St. until you reach the waterfront. There are a number of things you can try here:
  • Check out the touristy shops & carousel at Pier 39

  • View the sea lions at Pier 39 (Hint: don't go down the tourist part of the pier: instead, go down the wooden pier that parallels it on the left, towards the little lighthouse with the palm trees.)

  • [If the weather's warm, don't bother waiting in line at the Ben & Jerry's you'll see by Pier 41. There's another one further down Jefferson St. that has much shorter lines.]

  • For the classic lunch of clam chowder in a bread bowl, head west along the waterfront, past Pier 43 1/2, until you reach Fisherman's Wharf (at Taylor St.) We dined at Nick's Lighthouse, and enjoyed our lunch, but the other restaurants and stands looked just as good.

  • [For burger lovers, there's an In-N-Out Burger on Jefferson St., between Jones & Leavenworth.]

  • [For the world's best chocolate milkshakes (and possibly the world's longest line for ice cream), Ghirardelli Square is the place to go. Continue along Jefferson until it ends, turn left through Aquatic Park, and cross Beach St.]

To return to your car, make your way to the cable car turnaround at Hyde St. & Beach St. Look at the long line of people buying tickets and waiting to get on the cable cars. Ignore all of them, and walk a couple of blocks up Hyde St. You'll see brown "Cable Car Stop" signs along the street. Pick one (not the first one, if there are already lots of people waiting), and flag down the cable car when it comes by. Have $5 ready when the conductor asks for your ticket. Get off at the end of the line (or a little before, if you want to walk around some more).

[Union Square has lots of upscale shopping--I always like window shopping there, but I usually don't buy too much stuff. DH likes the Apple Store at Stockton & Market.]

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Back to School Shopping, Part 2

School supplies are all taken care of, and it only took two trips to Staples! When the kids arrived home on Wednesday, I grabbed B's shopping list, and asked M for his. Naturally, when I returned home with the pile of stuff, we found a SECOND list of stuff that he needed for science. Nothing fancy, just some graph paper and colored pencils, but it meant another trip to the store today.

Today was the second day of school. M came home sick in the middle of the day. Fortunately, it seems to have been a short-lived intestinal bug, and he's feeling ready to go back to school tomorrow.

B also left school early today, but this one was planned. She finally got the retainer she's been wanting (in lime green, no less):

Girl with lime-green upper retainer
She was supposed to get a bottom retainer today, too, but that one didn't work out, so we have to go back next month and get a fancier model for the bottom.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

One More Day!

I'm not sure who's more excited about school starting tomorrow--the kids or me! I've always liked school, and there's something about starting a new year and buying new school supplies that I really enjoy. I actually look forward to getting their shopping lists and heading out to buy shiny new notebooks and pencils.

Other than the school supplies, I think we're all set. They both have shoes that fit, and clean clothes. For M, I gave him some filler paper and mechanical pencils for the first day (he already has a binder). B got some cute pencils I found in a drawer: one with her name, and one with musical notes. Since she's entering fourth grade, I'm sure we're going to have to buy her a durable binder, too. I remembered to buy lunch fixings when I went to the grocery store yesterday (hot lunch doesn't start at B's school until September 8th, while M didn't like the pre-order lunch on Wednesdays).

M liked my idea of going down to the middle school this afternoon, map in hand, to figure out where his classrooms are going to be. He's also going early tomorrow, as another member of his carpool has to arrive early to straighten out a class. B's school has registration this afternoon, from 4:00-6:00. We'll try to be there around 4:00, so she can hang out and ask everyone else what teacher they will have.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Back to School Shopping, Part 1b

I THOUGHT we were done with the clothes shopping, but no, B waited until yesterday to tell me that her tennis shoes had holes in them. Off to Payless we went today in search of new shoes. I did have the foresight to have M put on his shoes for me before I left: sure enough, they are getting too small, so I had to buy him a pair, too.

B's shoes were easy enough--find a couple of pairs of plain white tennis shoes and try them on. She can wear either girl's or women's sizes right now, so she has plenty to choose from.

M is a little harder. First, he refused to go, so he was informed that he would have to wear whatever I brought home. Second, we had an experience last year when I bought him "skate shoes," and he decided a week later that they were terrible for running, so I had to buy him a second pair of shoes with better soles. Also, despite being a 6th grader, he's not so great at tying his shoes, so I was very happy last year to find a pair of men's shoes at Payless with elastic laces (he has long since outgrown the Lands' End kid's shoes). This year, no such luck. I found him some inexpensive, lightweight, black tennis shoes with an appropriate sole, but he's going to have to start tying his shoelaces.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Bagging

If a customer shows up at the grocery store with his or her own bags, then it's pretty safe to assume that he/she is trying to cut down on the use of plastic bags, right? So why do baggers take the last couple of items and give them each their own plastic bag? We're not talking about heavy cans or giant packages of toilet paper: today, it was a carton of ice cream (the 1.5 quart size that used to be a half gallon) that got its very own bag. A couple of weeks ago, it was a loaf of bread. The reusable bags were pretty full, but certainly had room for one more item.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Back to School Shopping, Part 1

Over the last week or so, I've managed to finish the first part of back-to-school shopping. Once upon a time, I used to buy each kid a "nice" outfit for the start of school. A pretty dress for B (not a frilly one, but a play dress), and a nice shirt and slacks for M. Now that they are both preteens, the concept of "nice" clothes has gone out the window. This year, B got a pair of embroidered jeans (Lands' End) and a T-shirt (Target), while M got two black T-shirts (Lands' End) and a black sweatshirt (Target). (M already has plenty of jeans, thanks to my mom).

Then there were the new ballet clothes. B's ballet school, like many others, has a different color of leotard for each level. Since she moved up this year, we had to buy a periwinkle leotard for her, plus two pairs of new tights. She is such a tall kid that we ended up buying "petite adult" for her, which, of course, costs more than the kids' stuff. In addition, B is going to be a teaching assistant for one of the pre-ballet classes on Saturday mornings, so we bought a second leotard (I insisted she pick one out from the bargain bin, and she did), then splurged on a matching skirt.

Part 2 will be the school supplies, but you won't hear about those until next week, since we don't get our lists until the start of school.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That

Current mental soundtrack: "Anatevka" from Fiddler on the Roof (Jerry Bock)

Today's accomplishments:
  1. Got everyone out of bed at the appointed time. This may not sound like a difficult task, but it is! The kids have been on "summer" time, meaning they've been getting up whenever they felt like it. Since school starts next week, I thought it was time to get them back on a schedule. Last week, they were awakened at 9:00 am. This week, it's 8:00 am. Next week, school starts on Wednesday, so B is going to have to be out the door by 7:45 every morning (M doesn't have to leave until 8:30).

  2. Picked up DH's new iPhone. He's out of town, so it's mine to play with for a couple more days :-)

  3. Picked up B's new glasses.

  4. Took M to the orthodontist. He's had braces on his front teeth since January, and I think this was the FIRST visit that he did not have any loose brackets. (Which probably means something will break tomorrow.)

  5. Cleaned house and cooked dinner for DH's uncle, aunt, and cousin. Cousin P has just returned from a summer-school class in Europe, and his parents drove up here to pick him up at the airport and buy him some furniture for his new apartment.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Molly's New Clothes

After looking at the prices for official American Girl clothing, B and I were very glad to find free patterns for Molly's clothes, available at American Girl Playthings. I thought this would be a good time to teach B to sew--how hard could it be to sew doll clothes?

We decided to start with something simple that didn't require a pattern: a fleece sleeping bag. (The official bed that we ordered with Molly came with a bedspread and pillow, but no blanket, so B thought we needed one.) That turned out pretty well:

American Girl Molly with homemade sleeping bag
Next on the list was a set of underwear, which morphed into summer PJs when we couldn't find suitable underwear fabric. This is where the teach-B-to-sew plan started to fall apart. After showing her how to pin the pattern and cut out the pieces, we got to the point in the directions where we were told to sew them with a "knit stretch" stitch. Knit stretch? After 18+ years of using this machine, I had to dig out the manual to find out how to do it. It involves a special presser foot, and holding the fabric on the wrong side of the foot. The photo below is of the second pair, that I made by myself after B went to bed. The first pair we made didn't have the lace trim, and B thought both top and bottom were too long, so I whipped up this set:

American Girl Molly with homemade underwear
Last item was a set of winter pjs. B picked out a flannel plaid for them. I had forgotten how much fun it is to match up plaids while sewing. The skinny seams (1/4" seam allowance) and little tiny pieces didn't help, either. But, Molly now has a comfy pair of flannel pjs for winter:

American Girl Molly with homemade plaid flannel pajamas

This turned out to be a lot more work for ME than I had bargained for, but B and I are both pleased (I have no idea what Molly thinks of all this). For a little over $25 in fabric and notions, we have two pairs of pjs, a fleece sleeping bag, an extra set of summer pjs/warm underwear (which is probably going to be given away), and enough fleece for another blanket or two. Next on the list is going to be a sundress, I think: B is concerned that Molly is too hot, as she came with a sweater and heavy skirt.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Understanding Marketers

I'm well aware that catalogue retailers share names with each other. I understand why I get garden catalogues, and toy catalogues, and clothing catalogues, since I have a history of ordering such things. I am completely mystified, however, as to why today's mail contained a WIG catalogue! I still have all my hair, thank you, and it's not even gray yet!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Waiting for Molly

B has never shown much interest in American Girl dolls. Their marketers are certainly on top of things: when B was just a toddler, they started sending their Bitty Baby catalogue to our house. I looked through the catalogue, then gave it to B to look at (and chew on). Now that B is nine, they send the regular catalogue. The most recent one arrived a month or two ago. B looked through it, didn't show any interest, so it went into the recycling bin.

Fast forward another month. I walked in the door from the Tahoe trip on Monday night, and was immediately greeted by B, bouncing up and down, wanting to know when the next AG catalogue was coming, so that she could order a doll. She was momentarily disappointed when I told her they only send them to us once a year or so, but then DH pointed out that they must have a web site. We sent her off to bed with the promise that we'd look at the web site on Tuesday.

On Tuesday morning, we ordered Molly, her accessories, and her bed. B paid for it herself, out of her savings account. Both our kids get birthday and Christmas money from two sets of grandparents, plus a generous weekly allowance from us. In return, we don't ever pay for toys or souvenirs--M even had to buy his own Nintendo DS and bicycle when he couldn't wait for Christmas. M tends to spend his money on video games, but B has mostly collected stuffed animals, which don't cost very much.

So, what brought on this sudden change of heart? B discovered that her best friend owns three of these dolls, plus a bed. They must have had a good time playing with them last Friday!

She is anxiously awaiting the arrival of the UPS guy today. We've been tracking the progress of the package across the country, and it's currently "Out for delivery." She's already asked me several times when it will be here, and I've told her that the UPS truck usually arrives in mid-afternoon, but it could be after dinner, too. I've also reminded her that screaming is not appropriate--if she hurts my ears, I might just have to keep her box!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Old Friends

Current mental soundtrack: "In Old Mexico" by Tom Lehrer (I think this one was inspired by the photo of the Mexican restaurant at the end of this post)

Yes, I know I haven't blogged in over a week. I went away for a long weekend without my laptop, so now I'm catching up with my online life.

Eighteen years ago, when DH & I were married, a group of my college singing buddies came up and sang at the wedding. Four years later, the next one walked down the aisle, and we had such a great time that we decided to stop waiting for weddings to get together. Every two years since then, we've spent a four-day weekend at someone's house, staying up late and talking.

This year, we went to South Lake Tahoe, where S's family owns a cabin. The out-of-towners flew in to SFO on Thursday and Friday, then I drove everyone up in our minivan. It was a leisurely drive up there, punctuated by multiple stops for coffee. We tried to take photos everywhere we went, since several people couldn't make it this year. (One even had a flight booked, but ended up with a last-minute crisis at work.) We arrived at the cabin to find that the power would not turn on, so we had fun talking by candlelight.

The next day, after an early-morning coffee run (it would have been easy enough to make coffee over the gas stove, without electricity, if someone had had the foresight to pack ground coffee instead of whole beans), we drove to Emerald Bay to see the postcard view:


We also tried to go swimming, but the beach parking lots were all full by the time we got out the door. Plus, we had to be back at the cabin by 4:00 to meet the electrician.

This is the local coffee shop:


On Sunday, we took an extremely scenic route through the Gold Country back to the Bay Area. Destinations and routes were chosen partly by which names on the map were most interesting. We drove down Slug Gulch Road, visited Fair Play and Fiddletown, and finally made our way to Jackson for dinner. We were only able to find one restaurant in Jackson that was open for Sunday dinner:


Monday alternated between airport trips and sightseeing in San Francisco. We all had a great time, and are already planning the next trip.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Missing Comic-Con

We didn't make it to Comic-Con this year--DH's family planned a trip to Yosemite for that week, and by the time everyone started backing out of the trip, it was too late to get tickets. I guess this gives us an extra year to think about what to wear to the next con...

Since we weren't enjoying the sunshine in San Diego last weekend, we got some work done around the yard. Last year, when I discovered how many rocks there were in the ground, I decided to dump them all on a patch of dead grass in the back yard and call it a rock garden. The rocks are still coming out of the ground wherever I dig, and the rock garden isn't full yet. It does look a little neater now--yesterday DH and I dug a trench around the area and put in some edging, so that the rocks stay put. (The dog and tortoise were dragging them all over the place.)



The lilies I planted in the front yard have finally bloomed:

Stargazer Lily

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Fun in SF

Today we took a day off from work for a mini-vacation. We started off the morning at the DeYoung Museum, where there's a special Dale Chihuly exhibition. I've always loved glass art: once upon a time, when we lived in San Diego, I even tried taking glassblowing classes at UCSD. I don't think it's the right artform for me--I'm a person who likes to think about each step before taking it, and molten glass is too fluid to allow time for contemplation.

I thought all of my photos were going to be blurry, since they don't allow flash photography, but a couple turned out pretty well:

Dale Chihuly Boats at DeYoung Museum
Dale Chihuly Mille Fiori at DeYoung Museum
Dale Chihuly at DeYoung Museum

The second half of our mini-vacation was our anniversary dinner, delayed from Monday night. Well, actually we had an anniversary lunch today: dim sum at Yank Sing. Very tasty, as always!

Amazingly enough, all four of us enjoyed the day. Both kids loved the museum (B had been there before on a field trip), which surprised me. I expected that getting the kids up early during summer vacation to go to an art museum would cause some complaints. I'm happy that I was wrong :-)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Eighteen Years

DH and I have been married 18 years today. According to Wikipedia, the traditional gift for the 18th anniversary is bismuth. Do you know where to buy a gift made of bismuth? I certainly don't! I followed the Wikipedia link, and discovered that "[b]ismuth compounds are used in cosmetics and in medical procedures." Sounds very romantic :-) I think I'd prefer the modern gift, which is porcelain!

Yesterday, our family played Dungeons and Dragons together. We've played off and on through the years, but DH and I haven't had the time in recent years to do anything on a regular basis. M, though, has really gotten excited about D&D this summer, and he ran his very first adventure yesterday as DM (Dungeon Master). It was very good for a first attempt, once we convinced him to stop micro-managing the players. He's already hard at work on our next adventure.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Memories

Current mental soundtrack: theme from SpongeBob SquarePants (guess what M is watching right now)

One of my projects this summer is to go through eight years of photos that somehow haven't made it into albums yet. I'm trying to put dates on all of them, so we can at least box them in chronological order (DH bought a bunch of archival photo boxes, since he wasn't feeling optimistic about me getting them into albums). It's been fun going back through the years. Most of the photos from 1999 and earlier are already in albums, although I just found a pile last night of miscellaneous ones from 1992-1997.

One of the problems with this project is that I keep getting sidetracked by LOOKING at the photos! I found some absolutely adorable ones, and if I can get DH to get the scanner down for me (he keeps it on the top shelf of an upstairs cabinet, instead of on the desk where I can use it), I'll scan some of the older ones.

In addition to pictures of my adorable kids, I've come across a bunch of photos from a previous job. I used to work for a music workshop called International Workshops. During the year, it was part-time work from home, but for three weeks every summer, I went overseas and worked on-site. It was work, from early morning to late in the evening, but I got to spend time with a bunch of good friends, eat in nice restaurants, and sleep in a hotel room (where someone ELSE got to wash the sheets and towels and clean up).

Sunday, July 13, 2008

White Picket Fence

This weekend we caught up on some yard work. I added some more flowers to the strip in front of our fence:

flowers by white picket fence
When we had our front sprinklers redone a couple of weeks ago (right before our vacation), I asked them to add a drip line in front of the fence, so I wouldn't have to water these by hand. The flowers seem to appreciate the more consistent watering--some of the plants were noticeably bigger when we returned.

It's a work in progress right now. I plan to add more perennials, along with some bulbs for early spring.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Today is Wednesday

8:20 pm: 87° outside, 89° inside. The windows are all open. B is still at the swim club, watching her friends race.
Current mental soundtrack: "Salve Regina" by Josef Rheinberger.

4:00 pm: 101°. Not as bad as yesterday.
1:30 pm: 100°. B is off to a birthday party (a good day for a pool party). I'm going to work a little longer, then go out to the local nursery and buy a couple more flowers. My front flower bed hasn't had anything in bloom for the last month (I'm still waiting for the lilies), and there is still a large empty space in front of the fence.
11:40 am: 94°. B has been x-rayed and been introduced to that lovely goop they use to make impressions. (I can still mentally taste the stuff, and it's been years since I've tasted it!) We stopped by Berkeley Bowl (the best produce store ever) and picked up some fruit and veggies.
9:40 am: 82°. Off to get B's teeth x-rayed at the orthodontist

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Power Outage

Current mental soundtrack: "Farewell Song" from the Sound of Music

Today was another scorcher: 108° at our house. We spent the afternoon running errands: orthodontist for B & M, toy store for B (going to a birthday party tomorrow), drugstore to get ibuprofen for M (since they put a much stronger wire on his braces today), fencing class for M, UPS Customer Service center to pick up the XBox. (RRoD update: the box has returned, but we haven't plugged it in yet).

We got home around 5:20, and discovered that the power was out. We threw on swimsuits and headed to the swim club for an hour or so, where DH joined us. After our swim, the power was still out, and the recorded message at PG&E said it would be out until 8:00-10:00 pm. Of course, this was a day when I had planned ahead, knowing I would be coming home late and not wanting to cook in the heat, so I had three-bean chili sitting in the crockpot, not cooking. We decided to go out to dinner at Chow's. After a brief visit to the Apple Store, we came home to brave the darkness. As we drove home, we saw exactly where the edge of the power outage was--one block east of the kids' school. No lights to the west.

I've decided that I can live without lights for a while, but worrying about the food in the freezer (all that Costco stuff) and being cut off from the Internet was much more annoying :-)

Monday, July 7, 2008

Pool Closed

Current mental soundtrack: "Amarilli, Mia Bella" from 24 Italian Songs and Arias, Medium Low Voice (I think I just saw a picture of an amaryllis somewhere, which started this soundtrack)

It's over 100 degrees here, so I packed up the kids and headed for the swim club. They were in the water for a grand total of five minutes before everyone was ordered out of the pool. Some kid had an accident, so the pool's closed until tomorrow.

Maybe we should have bought the house DH wanted--the one with the pool. (We didn't buy it because I thought it was too expensive and didn't have enough lawn in the back yard for the tortoise and dog.)

RRoD update: UPS called, and said they couldn't find the package in time to get it on the delivery van for this morning. They offered to deliver it tomorrow afternoon, but we already have two orthodontist appointments and fencing class scheduled. However, it turns out the UPS center is near the fencing school, and they're open in the afternoons, so it looks like I'll be able to pick up the XBox tomorrow.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Seven Habits

Current mental soundtrack: "King Tut", by Steve Martin

(Tagged by Anna Banana)

A. List seven habits/quirks/facts about yourself.
B. Tag seven people to do the same.
C. Do not tag the person who tagged you or say that you tag "whoever wants to do it."

1. I have a perpetual mental soundtrack (usually alto parts to obscure choral works), so I rarely listen to music.
2. My towels have to be folded a certain way--if some visitor (usually Mom) helps me with my laundry, I refold after she leaves.
3. I like to order chicken feet when we have dim sum.
4. Reading in the car makes me carsick
5. My favorite fruits are cherries and apricots (but you already knew that, if you're reading this blog)
6. I love reading on the beach.
7. I always have a Diet Coke with my lunch.

I don't think I have a lot of readers! The only three whose identities I'm certain of are Anna Banana (who tagged me), mundungus42 (who inspired Anna Banana), and DH (who doesn't blog). Anyone else out there, please consider yourself tagged!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Sunny San Diego

RRoD update: Did you know that UPS can't reschedule delivery of a package until after they've tried to deliver it? Micro$oft sent me a notice last week that M's XBox is on its way back to us. Unfortunately, they scheduled delivery for this week, when we're all in San Diego. Even though I had the tracking number, I had to wait for them to try to deliver it (twice, because they tried a day earlier than the scheduled delivery date) before they would consent to reschedule it. They kept asking me for the InfoNotice number they had left on my front door, even though I kept telling them I wasn't home to get their notice. Of course, now I won't be able to leave the house on Monday until they deliver that box!

We are having a whirlwind vacation week in San Diego. First couple of days were spent with DH's parents, who only have dial-up Internet (in case you've been wondering where I am). We went to the beach (Oceanside), Mulligan's (an amusement park in Temecula), and the San Diego County Fair. We are now at my parents' house (with decent Internet access). We've been with them to the San Diego Zoo, and are going to the beach (Del Mar) tomorrow.

Today was the day of eating. On the way to the airport to pick up my sister, we stopped at Tommy's for lunch. Knowing what was coming up, I "only" had chili fries and water--no burger. Next stop (midafternoon) was DH's uncle & aunt's for a barbeque. I had a sliver of B's burger, some baked beans, and some fruit. Unfortunately for me, three desserts showed up after that, and I HAD to try all three. Two ice cream cakes, and a homemade cake. Last, but not least, my parents treated us all to Peking duck and crab at Emerald Chinese Seafood Restaurant. Whenever we go there with my parents, DH, kids, and my sister, we always order two Peking ducks (because we REALLY like Peking duck). Every time, the wait staff is astounded by this display of gluttony. I can understand enough Mandarin to translate what they're saying to my parents as they place the order. It's usually something along the lines of "TWO Peking ducks? Are you sure? That's a lot of meat!"

Oh, and we went to my favorite fireworks-watching spot this evening, La Jolla Shores. They have a nice fireworks display at La Jolla Cove, plus on a clear night you can see a bunch of other shows up and down the coast. Tonight was rather hazy, so we only saw one other show over the hills (and there was a tree in the way of my view), and heard a couple of explosions from the Del Mar Fairgrounds. We, and a lot of other people, forgot to check the tide charts before setting up our chairs, so a lot of people ended up jammed up against the sea wall as the tide came in.

[Anna Banana, I'll work on your meme tomorrow!]