Friday, May 30, 2008

Music Theory Degrees ARE Useful!

Tonight, I finally put some of my education to use. The story requires a bit of explanation, though...

First, I meant to post this part a couple of days ago, but didn't get around to it. B's birthday was in April, but her birthday party (at Spun Sugar) is not happening until tomorrow. Why the delay? Well, we stopped by in early April, after she'd settled on a venue, and found that they only do birthday parties on Saturday afternoons. The rest of April and first part of May, B had ballet rehearsals scheduled on Saturdays. Then came Memorial Day weekend. So, we ended up with tomorrow, which looked pretty good. Until we started sending out invitations. It turns out that this is the weekend of the big Brownie campout. And also the auditions for the local version of American Idol. We lost several kids to those events, plus some to family stuff (graduations, etc.)

Now, on to the usefulness of a music degree. In addition to her friends not being able to attend her party, tomorrow's date meant that B & her best friend L weren't going to be able to audition for Idol, because the only remaining audition slots were during the party (and it's not really a birthday party if the birthday girl leaves). Today, around 5:00 pm, L's mom was able to secure them a late audition slot tomorrow, with just enough time to get there from the party. Since I didn't think they were auditioning, I hadn't read the rules, but I did so tonight. They are auditioning as a group, and groups singing harmony are allowed to perform a capella. However, they are not singing harmony--they are singing "The Bear in Tennis Shoes," a classic campfire song. Soooo, here's where I put all those harmony and voice-leading skills to work. I composed a cheesy piano accompaniment, recorded it on my iPod, and transferred it to a CD for the karaoke machine at auditions tomorrow. I went with the first take, and it came out okay (I don't think you can hear me muttering verse numbers under my breath).

Monday, May 26, 2008

Summer Is Here!

Not that you can tell by looking outside. But, on my last trip to Berkeley Bowl, they had both cherries and apricots at reasonable prices. They're not at their peak yet, but good enough for a quick fix :-)

Yesterday we caught up on a bunch of yard work. Weeding, sweeping, cleaning up branches, and installing a new mailbox. Today, B and I went shopping for stuff to fill goody bags for her birthday party next weekend. We settled on gel pens, bubble stuff, and cheap plastic Slinkys. We'll also add some candy later this week. Now I'm going to lie back and relax for a while. Maybe I'll get a turn on the Wii later this afternoon--I stayed up much too late last night playing The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Unfair Water Rationing

Our local water company, EBMUD, has imposed mandatory water rationing due to drought conditions. While I think this is clearly the right thing to do, they way that they are going about it unfairly rewards water wasters.

Single-family homes are being asked to reduce total water usage by 19%, based upon the last three years of water use. Customers who do not reduce total use will be penalized. So, people who were already conserving water will have to cut back by the same percentage as water wasters.

We arrived here in the Bay Area about 1.5 years ago, so we don't have three years worth of bills to average. Shortly after we arrived, I took a look at our water usage, and made an effort to cut back. I set the automatic sprinklers to run three days a week (they had been going every day), and turned them off completely in a couple areas of the garden. This made a HUGE difference in the amount of water we used: we cut back our daily usage by 60%. I also compost, rather than using the garbage disposal, and we already have a stupid low-flow toilet that has to be plunged several times a week. We only run the dishwasher and washer when they're full, and we don't leave the water running when brushing our teeth.

I thought we were doing the right thing by reducing water usage before it became mandatory, but it turns out I was just making our lives more difficult now. Instead of simply cutting back our outdoor watering (which, by the way, made our house settle to one side when the clay soil dried up over the summer, preventing interior doors from closing until the rainy season started), we have to find more things to cut. I've asked the kids to take shorter showers (they were standing around, enjoying the hot water), and I think this has finally convinced DH to stop pre-washing the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher.


Monday, May 19, 2008


B and I love performing, but we are quite glad to to be done with this past weekend!

Friday's and Saturday's S&P concerts did prove to be quite warm, so the women went with short sleeves/sleeveless black tops. (The men left off their tux jackets.) We also decided, while changing in the bathroom, that we were all going to wear our black sandals and forget the hose + closed-toe shoes that are normally required. I was not the only woman who brought a whole bagful of black clothes--many of us wanted to see what everyone else was wearing and exactly how hot it was going to be.

We saw B dance on Saturday afternoon, and enjoyed the show, but we discovered that the Julia Morgan Theater does NOT have air conditioning. I felt sorry for the dancers--they looked really hot and sweaty.

Sunday's Voci concert was not as hot, so we wore our regular long-sleeved outfits. (We did all bring short sleeves, though, just in case.) The concert went quite well, and M even admitted to liking some of the music :-) B didn't like it, but she made some very creative alterations to her concert program. I'll try and scan it later this week, but the best one was the sketch after the translation for "Agnus Dei" ("Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world..."). There's a little drawing of "God's Lamb" with his "Sin Repeller," repelling a "Sin".

Friday, May 16, 2008

Too Darn Hot!

I'd like to sup with my baby tonight,
Fulfill the cup with my baby tonight.
But I ain't up to my baby tonight,
'Cause it's too darn hot.

A couple of weeks ago, I put together a group to sing Chris Allen's arrangment of "Too Darn Hot" from Kiss Me, Kate at the House Music concert. Apparently we were just a couple of weeks early. It is a little after 2:00 pm now, and 98°F at my house (80° indoors). Yesterday topped out at just under 100°, according to our wireless thermometer, and I'm curious what today will bring.

I am rethinking what I plan to wear to tonight's concert (see new "Upcoming Concerts" listing -----> ). Generally, when I sing with a group that doesn't have a uniform, I try to err on the side of formal and tasteful. However, long sleeves and a long black skirt are not looking like good choices for tonight. We have been given permission to go sleeveless tonight, but the only sleeveless black tops I own are decidedly on the casual side. (And I don't think a "little black dress" will do, either.) Maybe I'll just bring a wide selection of black clothing and see what the temperature is like inside the church.

Monday, May 12, 2008


DH is in Beijing this week, and apparently he cannot reach my blog (or anyone else's). I guess they're shutting down access before the Olympics--wouldn't want anyone to find out what the rest of the world is thinking, would we?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day!

I hope all the moms out there are having a great day! I'm sitting in bed right now, waiting for the kids to finish making pancakes. They brought me a mug of tea and the Sunday comics to keep me company while I wait :-)

Friday, May 9, 2008

When It Rains, It Pours

Why is it that everything is always scheduled on the same weekend? This weekend isn't going to be too bad (Voci concert, fencing class, ballet rehearsal, drop DH off at airport), but the following weekend is when everything hits. It would be really nice if things were spread out over a couple of different weekends!

Things we are going to do next weekend:

• Friday evening ballet performance (B)
• Friday evening S&P concert (me)
• Saturday morning pick up DH from airport
• Saturday morning fencing class (M)
• Saturday afternoon ballet performance (B)
• Saturday evening S&P concert (me)
• Sunday all-day fencing tournament (M)
• Sunday afternoon Voci concert (me)

Things we are NOT going to do next weekend, because we couldn't figure out any way to get to them:

• Friday evening piano recital (M & B)
• Friday night overnight field trip (B)
• Saturday afternoon birthday party (B)

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Waste Not, Want Not

Going to the grocery store is getting to be more and more expensive, but I realize that we are MUCH better off than a lot of other people in the world. I often take a head-in-the-sand approach to international affairs, but it's hard to avoid noticing the food shortages around the world right now.

On a personal level, I'm trying to not waste as much food as we have in the past. As the daughter of parents who grew up during wartime, I have been trained to never throw out leftovers. However, they often end up sitting in a container in the fridge until it's too late to eat them. One trick that has worked for me: instead of pouring all the leftover soup/stew/whatever into one big container, I divide the leftovers up into lunch-sized portions right away, and stick them in the freezer. I still sometimes find a year-old portion of frozen chili (ick!), but I think this helps.

Tonight's dinner is going to be chicken stew, made with the leftovers from the Costco roast chicken we had for dinner on Monday. First, I made stock by simmering the carcass with chopped carrots and celery (I couldn't find an onion). Next, I removed the bones, added the chopped chicken and some frozen corn, and simmered a bit longer. I have a pot of orzo cooking next to it, which I'll add soon. Oh, and garlic salt--that went in at the beginning.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Irises in Bloom

Finally, some pictures of my irises:

blue and white Dutch irisesThe blue and white ones are Dutch irises. The pink one in the back is a bearded iris. It did bloom the day after this photo was taken, but before I was able to photograph it, DH accidentally vacuumed off the petals! (Don't ask.)

Bearded iris Pagan DanceThis bearded iris is called "Pagan Dance."

flower bed with blue and white Dutch irises and bearded iris Pagan Dance, Jennifer Rebecca, and Stellar LightsThis is the front flower bed. A couple of things have just been planted--on the side nearest the house, I added a blue delphinium and some pink Oriental lilies. Hopefully I'll have photos to show you later this year.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

It's a Golden Day

The musical is over, but I seem to be living with Willy Wonka and Veruca Salt. All day long, I hear either M singing "Pure Imagination" or B singing "I Want it Now!". Maybe we can form our own musical theater troupe :-)

I played keyboard (banging out the melody, while the music director played the piano accompaniment) for three of the four performances, and the kids were very impressive. Fourth and fifth graders singing, acting, and dancing. In any live performance, there are usually what I call "interesting moments," and this was no exception, but the kids got through it all. Missing props, missed entrances, and Charlie choking on a chocolate wrapper and having to be led offstage to cough it up. Some of them really showed a lot of poise. One of the Willy Wonkas (the show is double cast) ad libbed wonderfully when the curtain didn't open at the right time: "We will conduct the next part of our tour by boat. [pause in front of closed curtain] We will conduct the next part of our tour BY BOAT. [pause] Now where did I leave that boat? [pause] I know I left it somewhere around here. [the curtain FINALLY opened to reveal the pink candy boat, and stagehands sprinting off to the sides].

I missed the last show to perform at S&P's annual House Music fundraiser. B and her best friend started off the show by singing "The Bear in Tennis Shoes," complete with original choreography. This is always a fun concert--an eclectic mix of music. Mozart arias, Broadway tunes, folk music, and everything else. M was at the last performance of the musical (he ran the light board this year), but the rest of our family enjoyed the concert.

Friday, May 2, 2008


Today is opening day for Willy Wonka at the kids' school. It's been fun watching it come together. I'm really impressed by all the work that's gone into this, and by the fact that the school's choral music teacher has these kids (4th and 5th graders) doing a full-length musical every year. I've never heard of another elementary school doing musicals like this--only high schools and some middle schools.

The dress rehearsals this week have been chaotic, like dress rehearsals always are, but everything seems to be coming together. The Music Director is playing the accompaniment on the piano, and I'm helping out the singers on keyboard. As of yesterday's dress rehearsal, the keyboard was there, but no amp or light. So, I sat in the dark and played music that the singers couldn't hear :-) Both of those things are supposed to arrive today, so I'll go to the school a little early and check out the sound balance with the amp. Hopefully I'll get it right, and won't drown out the soloists.