Sunday, December 20, 2009

Too Much of a Good Thing?

I like flowers. Flowers are pretty, and they smell nice. I plant lots of flowers in my garden (some of which survive long enough to bloom), and I always appreciate having cut flowers in the house. Last night, after the final Voci concert, I received a beautiful bouquet. When I got home, I had a hard time finding a vase to put it in, because B has received FOUR bouquets (plus a single rose) this weekend!

On Friday, I saw her dance in the Nutcracker: she danced in a little duet near the beginning of the show (one of two soldiers that serves milk & cookies to Clara & Fritz), plus she was a member of the Russian Licorice corps in the second act. One of DH's post-docs came with his wife, a dancer, and they gave B her first bouquet.

On Saturday, DH took two of B's friends to watch her dance. Each friend arrived with a bouquet, plus we had purchased one for her, and DH's friends brought a single rose (probably a wise choice on their part).

I think maybe next year we'll skip the Costco bouquet, and go with just a few flowers!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Three Times Before the Tree Grows

I know it's been a while since I last posted; I've had a couple of blog posts rattling around in my brain, but haven't had the time to write them down!

Last weekend was a four-performance weekend. Friday night I worked backstage at B's Nutcracker performance. On Saturday, I left the house at 9:50 am, returned for five minutes at lunchtime, then headed out for another Nutcracker. "Dinner" was 15 minutes at home, spent packing up my stuff, e-mailing and calling carpool members to sort out who was driving, then driving into SF for the S&P concert. With the post-concert reception and the drive home, I didn't get home until 11:30. Sunday afternoon was the first Voci concert (one more this weekend).

On Tuesday, I worked backstage for two outreach performances of the Nutcracker (Act I only), and on Wednesday night I worked the first half of the dress rehearsal before leaving for a Voci dress rehearsal.

Which brings me to the actual topic of this post: Nutcracker music. Although I took ballet as a kid, I never got to perform in a Nutcracker. In college, my women's chorus served as the Boston Ballet's chorus for their Nutcracker production, so every year we would get on the T and ride downtown to the Wang Center. We put on choir robes, picked up our battery-operated candles, and waited backstage for our cue, which was the growing Christmas tree. I still know the musical cues for that--the music grows three times, and the big event happens at the end of the third crescendo. That's when we filed out onto the risers, holding our little candles. Two decades later, I'm still listening for the same cues, because that's when the stage crew has to stumble onto the stage in the dark and remove the furniture (couch, table, and chair), while trying not to collide with the mice frantically throwing gifts and the Nutcracker doll off stage. Next time you watch the Nutcracker, look around during that scene and see what's going on in the dark!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Winter Wonderland

Mother Nature had a surprise for us when we woke up this morning!

The back yard

An unhappy rose bush

An icy branch

B's snowballs

B, L, L, L, & M at school with their snowman

(Photo by L's mom)

Friday, December 4, 2009

Choir Uniforms

Male singers have it easy--they just have to buy one tux and not outgrow it. Women, naturally, have a more difficult time. Some choirs require particular uniforms: you buy the same dress that everyone else wears. Easy enough to do, but because of the nature of dress committees, you usually end up with an outfit that doesn't look particularly good on anyone. (I have at least two long, black dresses in my closet that are gathering dust.)

Other choirs allow you to choose your own outfit, within certain parameters (generally black, full-length, long-sleeved). I've always taken this approach with the choirs I run, because every woman looks good in something different. It does have its drawbacks, though. It's not as formal as the men's unifed tux look, and can frankly look rather ragged with the disparity in styles.

My main complaint today, though, is that I have a closetful of formal black clothing, and can't decide what to wear tonight. Pants? Velvet skirt? Other skirt? Two-piece satin dress? T-shirt, beaded T-shirt, or sweater? Suit jacket or beaded cardigan? Plus, whatever I pick out needs to work with the "Christmas-colored" scarf I've been requested to wear for the second half.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Christmas is Coming

We had a nice, relaxing weekend, with absolutely nothing on the calendar. I played Super Mario Kart with the kids, and they also taught me how to play Rock Band guitar.

Now the holiday madness begins. This month, the family calendar shows 14 performances that we're participating in. In addition, we're going to see The Hard Nut, and B is going to her best friend L's Nutcracker.

Here's a look at our calendar for this week, excluding school & work (I'm pink, B is purple, and M is green):

Both B and I need to clone ourselves, so we can attend overlapping events. M doesn't have that problem, but we're still trying to figure out how to get him to the school dance on Friday evening.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Turkey Day 2009

Dishes are washed (thanks, DH!), and guests have left. Now I'm waiting in line for the shower so I can get the smell of turkey out of my hair.

Tonight, in addition to my family (mom, dad, & sister), we had two postdocs from France, a professor and his wife from Canada, and a grad student originally from Germany, currently attending school in Sweden. Interesting conversation, too much dessert, too much food in general. A good Thanksgiving for all :-)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

How Fast Do Weeds Grow?

I knew M was going to be taller than my mom, but was surprised to see he is also taller than my Dad (formerly 5'9", now a bit shorter). Maybe it's time to measure M again?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Nutcracker & Turkey Day 2009

A collection of unrelated November thoughts:

B is moving up in the ballet world: today she has to stay for the entire six-hour Nutcracker rehearsal, because she dances in both acts. They are running Act I from 12:00-3:00 (3 times), and Act II from 3:00-6:00 (2 times). This year she's a green soldier (featured as one of the two "Milk & Cookies Soldiers" in two shows), and a Russian licorice corps member. They have four casts for eight shows, and B is in Cast A and Cast C this year.

My parents arrived safely yesterday, only a few minutes late. There was some heavy rain which delayed us: B and I barely made it to the airport in time, despite leaving a hour before the flight was supposed to arrive.

The turkey is defrosting in the garage fridge, about half the supplies for dinner have been purchased, and today I bought two extra folding chairs, since we're having some extra guests on Thursday.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

And Straight On Till Morning

A crazy week here, and it's not even December yet!

Today was First Thanksgiving, an annual tradition in the elementary
schools. At the beginning of the school year, we weren't even certain
it was going to happen this year, as the district's long-time
naturalist was let go in the last round of budget cuts. Fortunately
for B and her classmates, the now-retired naturalist volunteered to
help run it this year, along with a large group of parents.

So, I spent 5.5 hours outside at the nature area today, helping with
Native Americam and Pilgrim crafts (other classes were in charge if
games and food prep). We had a feast at lunch: venison, trout, turkey,
quail, green beans, corn, cranberry sauce, corn bread, baked potatoes,
baked apples, freshly churned butter, and a wonderful stew made with
boar, venison, duck, and pheasant.

After a 30 minute stop at home (changed my clothes, straightened out
with the pediatrician's office which flu shot B & M got two weeks ago
and which one they're getting next week, packed a snack and a Diet
Coke), I am now at the middle school, waiting for the opening show of
Peter Pan to start in 20 minutes. The first show for each cast (today
and Thursday) is billed as a "preview" show: cheap tickets with no
reserved seating.

Six total shows this week, then an all-day Voci workshop with members
of Anonymous 4 on Sunday. I'm really glad tomorrow's a holiday!

(First try at emailing a post from my iPhone--I apologize in advance
for typos/formatting errors.)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Second Star on the Right

The middle school production of Peter Pan opens on Tuesday afternoon. M is on tech crew again, running the light board for the "Hook" cast. Although they're not doing the musical version, I'm spending next week at the keyboard as the voice of Tinkerbell. It's fun--a lot different from the usual accompaniment.

The producer loaned me a DVD of the previous production (from four years ago), and I thought Tinkerbell's voice was pretty boring. It was mostly the same tinkle, no matter what she was saying. I've put a little more thought into it, tailoring the bells to her mood, and what I imagine she's saying. The Tinkerbell from the "Tink" cast seems to appreciate it--she's come up to me after both the rehearsals I've been to with them and thanked me for the great job I'm doing.

The final dress is on Monday, then the two preview shows are after school on Tuesday and Thursday. Friday and Saturday I play two shows each, then we'll be done until spring musical season.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween 2009

We had a nice, quiet Halloween this year. This is our third Halloween at this house, and the last two years, we did not have a single trick-or-treater. We put B's lit jack-o-lantern on top of our mailbox, so it could be seen from the road. B insisted this year that we decorate for Halloween, so I bought a string of pumpkin lights and she draped them on the fence. We also added three little pumpkin leaf bags (stuffed with the results of last week's raking), plus she hung two homemade signs and a rubber snake on our front door.

Despite our lack of trick-or-treaters, I always buy candy (just in case!). It turned out to be a good thing, as we had 16 little kids show up at our door! (Fifteen came in a group, two of whom had already been by earlier.)

B went to her friend L's house, and they went out together. We told M to invite some of his friends, thinking we could drop off the mob on a street and wait for them. Most of his friends were not planning to trick-or-treat, but one came along, and his dad dropped the boys off. DH and I ended up sitting on the couch, watching a movie (Star Trek IV).

M originally wanted to go as a vending machine, but we talked him out of it (last year's port-a-potty costume was a pain to make and wear), so he went with a Jason mask and bloody machete from the Halloween store:

B and I had great fun with her Vulcan Starfleet officer costume:

The black mock turtleneck, black boots, and pointed ear tips were mine, and the black pants were hers. We only had to buy a blue sweater (I scoured all of Target looking for a T-shirt, but only found this sweater), make the insignia (aluminum foil glued onto card stock, outlined with a Sharpie), and do the makeup (eyebrows & ears).

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


On Sunday night, our doorbell rang. When I got to the door, I heard footsteps running away, and found a plastic pumpkin in front of our door, containing cookies, candy, apples, and some plastic toys. Also included was a poem telling us had been "booed," and giving us one day to pass it on.

It took us two days (we didn't get home last night until past B's bedtime), but after an emergency run to the grocery store, we've stocked our three pumpkins with Kit-Kats and homemade Rice Krispies treats:

After B gets home from ballet class tonight, we'll be hitting three of her classmates' houses down the street, plus leaving a small bag of treats at the original booer's house.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

And On the Seventh Day, Mom Worked

Washed, dried, & folded five loads of laundry.
Did one load of dishes (kids put away previous load).
Raked front yard & driveway with B while M vacuumed inside.
Stuffed leaves into pumpkin-shaped leaf bags (B is really into decorating for holidays).
Off to the grocery store soon.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Exciting Commute

Just got home from picking up DH in Berkeley. He was planning to come home on BART, but when he arrived at the station, he found the entrance blocked by police. Several policemen with automatic weapons rushed down the escalator. Still no idea what happened.

Monday, October 19, 2009

And The Heavens Opened

Today's forecast was "a chance of showers." They didn't say anything about "a chance of a deluge, right when school lets out," which is what actually happened. No one had a raincoat today!

DH and I lucked out. We walked to our car after lunch to head home for the car swap (Monday evenings require both of us to have a car, but we share a carpool parking permit), and a minute after we got in, the downpour started. A quick dash into the house, and we were set for raincoats.

The carpool lines at both B's and M's school were incredibly long, and there were a lot of soggy kids standing outside. At M's school, the middle-school kids are generally too cool to worry about a bit of rain, but it was coming down hard enough that everyone took shelter while waiting for their carpools.

Local weather station says we received 0.81 inches of rain in slightly over an hour.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Sometimes It Doesn't Pay to Plan Ahead

First Thanksgiving is a tradition at our kids' elementary school. Every year, the fifth graders get to dress up as Native Americans and Pilgrims, and spend a day at the nature center learning about the first Thanksgiving. They eat wild game, do crafts, play games, and have a good time learning history.

When M was in fifth grade two years ago, I remember scrambling to get his Native American costume done, along with B's Halloween costume (I convinced M that his Native American costume would have to do for Halloween, too). This year, B is determined to be a Vulcan for Halloween, not a Native American or Pilgrim, so I decided to be organized and get the Native American costume done in advance. In August, B and I went to the fabric store and got all of the materials needed for her costume, and I finished sewing it last month.

Yesterday, we received an e-mail from B's teacher, stating that there would be no costumes allowed this year. Apparently there was some sort of order issued by the district last year, in response to a complaint about the Native American costumes. I'm having trouble understanding why the costumes were a problem. Admittedly, they were mostly not authentic costumes, but the kids were learning about Native American culture, not making fun of it! And Native American costumes are widely available: I was at the temporary Halloween store yesterday (in search of Vulcan ears), and there was an entire rack of "Indian" costumes (including some pretty skimpy women's outfits).

So much for being organized. Anyone want a boy's Native American costume (men's one-size-fits-none taken in to size 10 Slim), a girl's Native American costume (also size 10), or a women's Pilgrim bonnet & collar?

Monday, October 5, 2009

How Much Is Too Much?

DH and I have been tortoise raisers for quite a while now. Otto, our sulcata, is 16 years old now, and spends his summers roaming our back yard, and his winters in the garage. B wanted a tortoise of her own several years ago, so she saved up her birthday money and bought Ashlee (another sulcata) about four years ago. Ashlee has been a trouble-free, healthy tortoise, up until the past few weeks.

About two weeks ago, I picked up Ashlee to clean her cage, and noticed something hanging out of her rear end that wasn't supposed to be there. It looked serious enough that I called the local reptile vets, and made an appointment for the following day. DH and B took the tortoise in, and it was diagnosed as an intestinal prolapse. The only way to fix it is surgery, so DH called to see what I thought of the $475 quote. How much money are we willing to spend on our daughter's pet? A lot, it turns out. After subtracting a parasite test, but adding a calcium shot, the total turned out to be just under $400, and I got the fun job of giving Ashlee antibiotic injections over the next week. Chalk that one up to the cost of having pets--stuff like that happens, so you just have to deal with it.

We went out last week and bought a new cage for her, since it would be easier to install the sun lamp and keep the heat constant in an enclosed cage. Total for cage and lamps was around $250.

So, this morning, I was sitting in the kitchen finishing my breakfast, when I heard a thump from the living room. I got up to investigate, and discovered that Ashlee had somehow managed to SLIDE THE GLASS DOOR OPEN, climb out, and fall three feet to the floor. Aaargh--do I call the vet? She looks fine--no shell damage, all four limbs appear normal. She's taking a nap now, which worries me slightly, but on the other hand it's a perfectly normal thing for her to do in the middle of the day.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Cake Wrecks

Today B and I went to a book signing for Cake Wrecks. As part of the signing, they had a contest for the best Wreckplica, in cupcake format.

Here is my entry (see the original):

And here is B's entry (see original)

Unfortunately for me, another Cake Wrecks fan had the same idea as I did, and her belly cupcake won the prize. B, however, was one of the top three:

As a prize, she received a carrot jockey necklace:

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Baking and More Baking

I've been doing a lot of baking the last few days. First, B came home on Wednesday, asking me to make sugar cookies for her class potlatch, to be held Friday morning. Normally, to produce cookies for a Friday/Saturday event, I start them on Tuesday night, so I have time to bake and ice them. Wednesdays I don't get home from rehearsal until after 10:00 pm, so it was a bit of a rush trying to get them done on Thursday:

The acorn cookies were a great hit at the Tlingit-style potlatch, along with the tacos produced by some other parents (don't ask me why an Alaskan tribal potlatch involves tacos and sugar cookies for breakfast--the kids planned it entirely themselves).

Next on the list are cupcakes for a friend's birthday potluck (happening tonight). Devil's Food cupcakes (from a box), filled with homemade pastry cream and glazed with a chocolate glaze:

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Feathered Friends

Another Orinda Idol has come and gone. This year, B and her friends did a fabulous job, and we really thought they had a chance at winning the K-5 Group category. After hearing the dress rehearsal and performance, we knew it was going to be between them and the Wicked Girls. Alas, the Wicked Girls won the prize this year, but B isn't too upset about it, as she agreed the Wicked Girls were very good. L, however, is quite put out at "losing to second graders."

Here are the girls in their feathered glory:

S, L, K, & B

Monday, September 7, 2009

Weekend of Labor

It's been a loooong weekend. Our back deck has been badly in need of a paint job for the last year or so, so I decided a long weekend would be the time to tackle it. Because the dogs usually hang out in the back yard when we're away from home, I needed the kids to be home for a couple of days to entertain the dogs and take them out on a leash.

I started prepping the deck several weekends ago, sanding and scraping the loose paint. On Friday, I spent several hours finishing the sanding and scraping, but had to stop when it got dark.

Saturday morning, I scrubbed the deck and rinsed it off, then had lunch while it dried. M helped me put on the first coat, then we let it dry overnight. Yesterday I put on the second coat: three hours and forty minutes from start to finish.



Today was supposed to be my day of rest: an Orinda Idol rehearsal for B in the morning, a quick run to Target, then SimCity and yesterday's Sunday paper. The animals had other plans, though. B took both dogs out this morning, then we left them in M's care. Shortly after we arrived at the rehearsal, my phone rang. It was M, letting me know that one of the dogs had somehow made her way up the stairs and done a #2 on the carpet (despite having been taken outside less than an hour before). I told him to pick up what he could, and I added carpet cleaner to my Target list. By the time I got home, one of the dogs had added a #1 to the family room floor. This is their third day confined indoors, so I don't know why they're suddenly having trouble today. Last but not least, we had put Otto temporarily into his winter quarters (because he can climb the stairs onto the deck). It's pear season outside--the neighbor's pear tree is dropping pears all over the back yard, which Otto loves. I'll just let you imagine what happens when you let a tortoise eat tons of pears and then put him in a confined space: let's just say that the garage door has been open for the last half hour, airing out the garage.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Back To School

Back To School Night at the middle school tonight. They make the parents follow the kids' schedule, with ten minutes allotted to each class. M's schedule this year seems to involve a lot of crossing the campus: the only two consecutive classes he has near each other are PE and English/History. 30's wing to 80's wing to gym to 10's wing to 90's wing to 50's wing.

My project this year is to learn French along with M, since we're planning a trip to Europe next summer. I like the pace of middle-school French: they take two years to cover a single year of high school French :-) So far, so good--assignments are posted on the web site, and the book has come home, so I've memorized the alphabet and the basic greetings that I didn't already know. I've been to France before, but since I was surrounded by English speakers on my business trips, the only French I learned mostly revolved around ordering lunch and dinner (un boule vanille, anyone?). M is having some trouble wrapping his tongue around the language. I avoided singing in French for a long time, but after the first concert I did with S&P in 2007 (almost entirely in French), I think I'm finally comfortable with the pronunciation.

Monday, August 31, 2009

S&P House Music, Take 2

House Music (the annual S&P fundraiser) was a success! I don't know how much money we brought in, but we had a full slate of performers and a good audience.

In the past, we've done HM in the spring, but it's always been a little crazy, trying to prepare for that between our two spring concert sets. The board decided in June to move the fundraiser to August (thereby having a second one this year). Unfortunately, because of the late notice, many of the singers were out of town the weekend of the fundraiser, including the three current members who had organized them in the past. So, since no one else volunteered themself (I did wait several days after the e-mail arrived to see if anyone else would), I offered my services.

I feel like I've spent the last month-and-a-half harrassing people by e-mail! First, there was the push to get enough performers, given that at least a third of the members were going to be away. I sent out general e-mails, individual e-mails to singers who had performed in the past but had not responded to the general e-mails, and follow-up e-mails to make sure that the people who were forming groups were going through with it. At the beginning of August, we had six acts, which is pretty skimpy, but the director thought that we should go with it. We ended up with thirteen acts (I participated in four of them: three as a singer and one as pianist for B & her friends).

Next was the push to get singers to bring stuff, then finally the quest for guests. It turned out we had plenty of guests, plenty of wine, and not quite enough to eat (there was nothing left after intermission!).

In case you're interested, here's a copy of the program:

Now it's time to get back to the rest of my life. School has started, but after-school activities ramp up gradually over the next two weeks. Oh, and Orinda Idol is in less than two weeks, so we're trying to squeeze in a couple of rehearsals for the girls.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

School Registration

School starts tomorrow for B & M.

B's school registration went smoothly as usual. The only difference this year was that her school started an online payment system, so I had already paid all of her fees before arriving at the school today. That saves all us from having to wait in the payment line of previous years. B was thrilled to find out that BOTH of her best friends will be in her class this year.

M's school had some trouble with registration this year. Last year, online registration happened the first week of August. That came and went this year, with no communication from the school. On August 7th, we finally received an e-mail telling us online registration would begin on August 15th. On August 14th, we received another e-mail telling us to wait until the 17th. The e-mail on the 17th said it would start on the 18th, which finally did happen. We were told schedules would be online today. So, of course, we got another e-mail yesterday telling us that we wouldn't be able to get them online, and we'd have to go to the school today between 4:30 and 6:30 to pick up the schedule. Apparently something went wrong at the district level with the new database. As you can imagine, it was a zoo in front of the school, with 800+ students and their parents all trying to find the ends of the four lines for schedule pickup!

M did get into French for this year (a limited number of spaces are available for 7th graders in French and Spanish), but he didn't get either of his first two choices for the other elective slot.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Accordian Effect

You know how traffic often slows down, then speeds up, then slows down again? Tonight felt like that. I rushed to get out of the door to a 7:00 rehearsal at someone's house, then sat around for fifteen minutes after I arrived. (With good reason--the third member of our trio was rushing to get the music copied, and backed her car into another one, which delayed her arrival.) Once everyone was there, we went through our piece a couple of times, then at 7:45 two of us had to rush out to another rehearsal at someone else's house. All members of the octet arrived around the same time, so we rehearsed that piece until 8:30, then I had to rush out the door again to pick up DH at the BART station. (He was returning from a trip to Sweden, and quite understandably didn't want to end his seventeen-hour trip by sitting at the BART station waiting for me.) Naturally, I got there early, and ended up waiting for HIM.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Our Personal Economic Stimulus

The kids go back to school next week, and I'm doing my best to stimulate the economy this week:

Parents' club membership for B's school
Parents' club donation for M's school
Educational foundation donation for district
Yearbook for M
School dance pass for M
PE sweatshirt for M (he lost last year's)
School lunches for first semester
Ballet school tuition for the year
Ballet leotard
Pointe shoes (expensive!)
Pink ballet shoes (for class)
Black ballet shoes (for Nutcracker)
Tennis shoes for B
T-shirts for both kids
School supplies for B (don't have lists for M yet)
Body cord for M's fencing

Oh, and the sewer line backed up last night, so I got to pay the plumber, too.

Growing Up

One of my son's friends just called. I'm still not quite used to the fact that his classmates no longer have little-kid voices. I thought this one was a salesman!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

When Is a Cupcake Not a Cupcake?

When it weighs 1,224 pounds.

I always thought cupcakes were cupcakes because they were small.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

25th Reunion Weekend/Camping Trip

We arrived home yesterday afternoon. It was a fun trip, although I didn't take as many pictures as I should have.

Day 1

Picnic lunch at Humboldt Redwoods State Park (CA):

Skipping rocks at Jedediah Strong Smith State Park (CA):

Day 2

Fabulous dinner of fresh crab, steamed in foil over the campfire at Jesse M. Honeyman State Park (OR):

Reading in the tent:

Day 3

Had our route over the Columbia River temporarily blocked by a truck carrying an enormous turbine blade (the white thing in the middle of the bridge).:

The turbines in action:

Had coffee with one classmate who refused to attend reunion (bad high school experience), then drinks with reunion attendees. Didn't remember to bring camera to either place.

Day 4

Attended a "Chimposium". M & B seem to have learned a lot about chimp behavior:

Reunion dinner at the Moose Lodge. The average age of the serving staff was probably in the eighties (one friend talked with the head cook, who was 96). Dinner was tasty, if a bit old-fashioned (prime rib, baked potato, overcooked green beans, iceberg lettuce salad with choice of ranch, 1000 island, or french dressings). Note the attractive Budweiser lamp in the class photo:

Day 5

Family Day at the park. This was the least organized of the three reunion events. Basically, we were told to go to a large park (117 acres) and somehow find each other. One friend came well prepared with fun things for the kids to do: here's M kayaking with his new friend S:

Day 6

Drove to Seattle, picked up M's best friend from San Diego to tour Boeing factory:

Day 7

Crater Lake

Day 8

Lovely view of Mt. Shasta on the way home

Friday, August 7, 2009

When the Weather Doesn't Cooperate

After all that time spent finding the right outfit for tonight's casual gathering, it turned out to be cold and windy. I did wear the shirt we picked out, but I wore it with jeans and a fleece jacket.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Marshmallows, toasted golden brown over a campfire--who needs chocolate or graham crackers?

Friday, July 31, 2009

Shopping With a Friend

Last night I finally worked out which pair of shoes to wear with the first outfit. After dinner, I sat down at the computer to do some online shopping. My friend MB opened a chat with me on Facebook, and since MB has always had excellent taste in shoes, I enlisted her help. We visited all kinds of websites, and after taking a look at the photo in the previous post, she informed me that I was looking for the wrong color of shoes. She suggested khaki or cinnamon, to go with the skirt. (I have a closetful of black shoes, but have never been into browns.) I was on the verge of ordering a pair of cinnamon sandals, when I remembered an ancient pair of shoes that my Mom had handed me a few years ago. She had found them in my closet when they moved out of the old house, and for some reason she kept them and gave them to me. I stuck them at the back of my shoe shelf, and forgot about them until now. Although they undoubtedly date from my high school years, they are in perfect shape, and just needed a little dusting. I took a photo of them and sent it to MB, and she approved them. So, I have shoes to wear, and I didn't even have to spend any money! Plus I had a great time "shopping" with my friend :-)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Reunion Outfits

High school reunion coming up next week! After much agonizing, here is the almost-final result of three trips to two malls and visits to many web sites:

Outfit #1
This one is for a casual get-together at a tavern (still need some summery sandals). I also plan to iron both the skirt and the top!

Outfit #2
Dinner and dancing at the Moose Lodge

Final tally:

  • 3 dresses purchased

  • 2 dresses returned

  • 1 top purchased

  • 1 skirt purchased

  • 1 pair of shoes yet to be purchased

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Proud Parents

We just received the annual STAR test (California standardized testing) scores for the kids. I can't go around bragging about how well our kids did to the other parents, so I'll inflict my parental pride on y'all instead :-)

Both kids have followed the same pattern: 2nd and 3rd grade were learning years for state testing. B & M did okay on the tests those years, but not as well as we knew they were capable of. In 4th grade, the testing process clicked for both kids, and they started getting scores that seemed appropriate.

Last year M was in 6th grade, and he scored as "advanced" in both language arts and math. He only missed two questions in the math tests, and did quite well in language arts (not his strongest suit, but he's worked hard on it).

B just finished 4th grade. We've always known she was superb at language arts, but she complains that she doesn't like math. I keep telling her she doesn't have to like it, as long as she does well. (DH and I think math will get more interesting as she gets older--memorizing multiplication facts isn't much fun.) Well, she did it--a perfect score in math, and only two questions missed in language arts!

I suppose this means we'll have to take them out for a celebratory dinner at some point :-)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Anniversary Dinner

Nineteen years today--DH and I celebrated with dinner for two at Chez Panisse. Fabulous food, as always!

   Pizzetta with leeks, Lucques olives, and fontina

   Quail with figs, chanterelle mushrooms, & corn
   House-made spaghetti with shrimp, shell beans, and chervil

   Blueberry, peach, and plum cobbler with plum ice cream
   Noyau crème anglaise with Suncrest peaches and blackberries

Sunday, July 19, 2009

In Search of a Dress

Went into SF today with DH & sis. After a nice lunch at the mall (I always have the BBQ short ribs at the Korean BBQ place), we combed the stores looking for something appropriate for the first night of my reunion. DH was amazed at how hard it was to find the right dress. I tried on a bunch, and found one "maybe," but we finally ended up with a nice silk top that's waiting to be paired with a skirt or jeans. I'll take some photos later, after I try it on with what I have at home.

The kids have called home twice this week. They're having a great time in Minnesota: canoeing, water skiing (well, attempting to water ski), tubing, etc. They've been to the Mall of America, where B found the American Girl store and had to do some shopping.

One more week of kid-free living!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Quiet Quiet Quiet

The kids left on Monday for a road trip with DH's parents. They are headed to Minnesota to visit relatives.

DH and I are trying to decide what to do with our temporary empty nest. Tonight we went to dinner at O Chamé in Berkeley, since I had a gift certificate (thank you, Voci!). We walked around 4th Street a little, then headed home. We have tickets for the 12:15 am showing of Harry Potter tonight--we haven't stayed up that late for many, many years. I hope we can stay awake!

This weekend we have a bunch of things planned. On Saturday morning we are going to a brunch to meet a potential political candidate--we've been assured it's not a fundraiser, although I'm sure our name will end up on lists for the future. Saturday evening we're going to dinner at the home of DH's postdoc, with hot-tubbing to follow. Sunday we're heading in to SF to meet my sister, have lunch, and do some shopping. I have been scouring web sites and stores, trying to find the right outfit for my high school reunion next month. I have a little black dress that will do for the cocktails & dinner night, but the previous night is a get-together at a local bar. I've been looking for something casual but elegant--hard to find! The dresses I've seen are either too dressy (B and I found a lovely one last week, but it's more suited to a garden party than a casual tavern) or too unflattering. Maybe a skirt and nice top would be easier to find?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Rice Krispies Treat For One

Rice Krispies treats are one of those things I can't have around the house. If I have a pan of them at home, I'll end up eating just one, then another one, then just one more, and before you know it, half the pan is gone. So, I figured how to make just one serving at a time:


Single-Serving Rice Krispies Treat

1/2 tsp butter
1/3 cup mini marshmallows
1/2 cup Rice Krispies

Grease spoon and microwave-safe bowl with butter. Leave remaining butter in bowl. Add marshmallows. Microwave for 30 seconds, stir. If still lumpy, microwave additional 15 seconds. Stir in Rice Krispies. When cool enough to handle, mold into desired shape.

Makes two small or one large treat.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Putrescent Egg Solids

Just before we left for San Diego, the lilies I planted in front of the fence started to bloom:

When we got back, I discovered that deer like lilies:

The ones between our parked car and the fence were not touched, but all the others not protected by the car were lopped off.

Yesterday, I finally made it to the nursery, where I picked up some deer spray. First active ingredient is "Putrescent Egg Solids." I'll let you imagine what that stuff smells like! After I sprayed it on the plants, Poppy couldn't stop sniffing and licking my garden gloves, so now I'm wondering if every dog in the neighborhood is suddenly going to take an interest in my flowers.

I'll let you know later this summer if the deer spray works.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Fourth!

This is the first year we've attended the local Fourth of July parade. Cute small-town parade--we had a great time! B was part of the group that opened the parade with the national anthem.

There were Boy Scouts, congressional candidates (we're having a special election here in November), swim clubs, horses, and lots of dogs. The parade ended with the Volunteer Marching Band: anyone who plays an instrument was invited to show up before the parade started. There was even a violinist marching along!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Calvin Ball

I took the kids to buy tennis racquets after dinner, and of course they had to try them out as soon as they got home. B didn't want to walk up to the club with M to see if there was an open court, so they settled for our little backyard. Imagine one child standing on the deck, one in the grass, and two ball-happy dogs trying to retrieve all the flying balls...


Current mental soundtrack: "Star Trek" theme (original) [guess what the kids have been watching online]
The kids started taking tennis classes this week, and they're both having a great time. B signed up because her friend L did, then M thought it sounded interesting, so we signed him up, too. We borrowed a racquet from my sister to try out the classes (no point in buying racquets if the kids ended up hating tennis), but I think we're headed out to buy them their own racquets tonight, since E's racquet is the wrong size for them.

I was a little concerned at first that they would feel too far behind the other kids, since they practice with their own age groups, but it doesn't seem to be a problem. M seems to be doing fine in his group--hitting the ball pretty often, and working on his aim. B isn't hitting as many balls, but two of her best friends are in her group, so she's having a lot of fun. They are having a late lunch right now, but agreed to go outside and practice hitting balls with each other after lunch.

The kids are having a busy summer, but with plenty of time for relaxing each day. Tennis for two weeks. Open fencing twice a week (no classes, just bouting). No ballet, no piano, no homework. We had fun in San Diego, then the kids are leaving on the 13th for Minnesota with DH's parents. About a week after they return, we are taking a road trip to Washington for my high school reunion. Once we get back, it'll only be a couple of weeks before school starts at the end of August.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Homeward Bound

Current mental soundtrack: "The Smoothing Iron" (Trad. English, arr. Ken Neufeld)

We're driving home today from San Diego--I'm typing this on my new iPhone somewhere south of Coalinga. We did a lot of things while we were in San Diego:

Family & friends
San Diego Zoo (twice)
San Elijo Lagoon (hiked the nature trail)
Fashion Valley Mall
San Diego Wild Animal Park
Beach (cold and windy)
Memorial service for a friend
Three PWC rehearsals and a concert
San Diego County Fair

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Feeling Disconnected

Current mental soundtrack: "Alley Cat Love Song" by Paul Carey

On Sunday I drove to San Diego with B, M, and the two dogs. The trip went smoothly, with only a few quick breaks, but I discovered in L.A. that my cell phone was not working. At first, I assumed I just wasn't getting a signal in the hills, but as we got closer to civilization, I was still only getting a recorded error message. (No, I wasn't trying to talk while driving--I handed the phone to B and told her what buttons to push.) We finally got through to DH's parents on M's cell phone (which had been missing for weeks--I found it in the beach bag as we were packing for the trip) to let them know when we were arriving to drop off the dogs. We weren't sure how Poppy and the resident dog would get along, but there was absolutely no drama there. A quick sniff, and all three dogs ran off to play.

It took me a while to figure out what happened to the phone. I preordered an iPhone 3G S last Friday, with delivery scheduled for the 19th. I wanted to keep my current phone number, so I requested that they port it to the iPhone. Apparently someone (I suspect the ever-so-unhelpful people at Tracfone, although it's possible AT&T had a hand in it, too) decided that meant my phone needed to be deactivated immediately. So I'm on the road with no phone service until Friday. I tried reactivating the phone with a new phone number on Monday morning, since I still have 200+ minutes good until the end of the month, but after spending way too much time on the phone with "Veronica" in customer (dis)service, she thanked me for being a customer since 2003 and told me my phone was defective, so I should go out and buy a new one, then call them back to get the minutes transferred. Riiiight...

DH arrives tomorrow night, and the internet situation should improve then. My parents have a single connection, with no wireless, which means B, M, my dad, and I are all vying for time on the computer. B and my dad don't spend much time online, but M has taken advantage of being out of school by reactivating his World of Warcraft account. DH has the AirPort Express with him that we use when we travel, so hopefully I'll be online a bit more after tomorrow.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Counting Down

Current mental soundtrack: "Hymn to the Waters" from Choral Hymns from the Rig Veda, Group III, by Gustav Holst

One more day to go! B and I decorated cupcakes tonight for tomorrow's class party:

The cupcakes (what flavor is "yellow" cake, anyway?) are frosted in buttercream, and adorned with fondant decorations. Except for the rocks, which are chocolate (left over from some other project).

Saturday, June 6, 2009

En Pointe

Current mental soundtrack: "By the Rivers of Babylon" by Charles Loeffler

B got a letter from the ballet school last weekend, informing her that she has been approved to start pointe classes next year. The timing was really weird, and even her teacher agreed with that! The letter arrived before the last two weeks of classes, with instructions to buy pointe shoes for girls who are attending summer camp. Since B will not attend summer camp, she was told to wait until September to buy the shoes. So, yesterday the last half hour of class was devoted to checking the fit of everyone's pointe shoes, with a brief description on how to sew on the ribbons and elastic. Except for the handful of girls not attending camp, and the one girl B says did not get a letter. Now, if you were sending out promotion letters to all but one kid in the class, don't you think it would be courteous to send out a non-promotion letter to her, so she doesn't wonder if hers was lost in the mail? Or at least have a talk with her?

Our annual trip to the dance store is going to be an expensive one this year. Every time B goes up a level, she has to buy a new color of leotard. Last year was the year she moved up to a different style of tights, but fortunately those will stay the same from now on, so at least we won't have to buy those. She will get both pointe shoes and regular shoes (the ones I've been buying her at Payless are apparently inadequate, now that she's reached a higher level of dancing), at least one new leotard, and probably some miscellaneous stuff.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Music To My Ears

After all these years of forcing the kids to go to piano lessons and practice, I'm sitting here listening to M happily playing songs from Spamalot, while B sings along. M discovered today that we owned a songbook (easy piano version), and he was inspired to learn his favorite song: "He is not dead, Fred!"

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Sound of Silence

DH is in Australia this week (and going straight to Washington DC tomorrow for another week). B is on the second day of her three-day field trip. It's not my day to drive the middle-school carpool, so I won't see M for another 4.5 hours. Even the dogs are being quiet today!

I'm working at home, enjoying the quiet, and occasionally moving loads of laundry around. I should probably visit the grocery store this afternoon, as M would like me to make him dinner :-)

I'll enjoy it while it lasts. Tomorrow B comes home, then her Orinda Idol group is rehearsing here at 5:00. Yes, she's been talked into Orinda Idol again. She didn't think it was that exciting last year, but her friends talked her into it. They'll be auditioning on Saturday morning with "The One Feather Tail of Miss Gertrude McFuzz/Amazying Mayzie" from Seussical. S is reprising her role as Gertrude, L is singing Mayzie, and B and K have been recruited as Bird Girls. Should be fun! They've had one rehearsal so far, and they sounded good. I'm going to try to convince them tomorrow that they need to focus more on singing with the mikes (handhelds), and not so much on running around the stage!

I ordered the accompaniment CD from Amazon, and had fun using Garage Band to edit the accompaniment track. Auditions are limited to 2 minutes, and the full piece is 3.5 minutes, so something had to go. Simply cutting them off at two minutes resulted in the Bird Girls getting to sing about three notes, so S's mom and I did some creative editing at the previous rehearsal (while I was sitting at the piano). The intro is gone, several measures of the interlude between the two pieces are gone, and they're only doing the middle third of Mayzie's song. I was impressed with how easy it is to edit this stuff in Garage Band. I had already worked out at the piano the measures to delete (had to do it in a way that made sense harmonically), and DH couldn't tell when I finished the first draft that anything was missing!

Saturday will be crazy. B is going to be dropped off at L's house around 10:00, so L's mom can take then both to their 10:50 audition. I'll be at M's 10:30 fencing class in Richmond. At 12:00, M and I leave fencing class. We drive back home, hastily throw B and Poppy in the car, and go to the 1:00 obedience class in Oakland. At 2:00, I drive home, fling everyone out of the car, grab my concert gear (hopefully not forgetting anything important), and drive back to Oakland for a Voci concert. Call is at 2:30, I'm hoping to be there by 3:00. Come hear a fabulous concert!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Always Look On the Bright Side of Life

Current mental soundtrack: see title ^

Today I saw Spamalot with the family and some friends. It was a really fun show--the whole family enjoyed it. I picked it over Wicked because I thought the guys would enjoy this one more, and I think I was right. There were a lot of empty seats, though--I hope ticket sales pick up! After the show, we had a lovely dinner at Khan Toke Thai House. The kids remember this one as the place where you get to sit on the floor, but DH and I just like the food and the atmosphere. They do have cutouts under most of the tables so you don't actually have to sit cross-legged for long periods. B & M are now upstairs playing Rock Band with my sister.

It's been a nice, relaxing weekend so far. Yesterday was the first free day I've had in over a month, and I couldn't figure out what to do with myself! I finally settled on a little shopping with B (I desperately needed a new pair of black high-tops, as the holes in mine were getting pretty big), followed by some time cleaning up the back yard. I deadheaded the roses, weeded (found a three-foot high weed behind a container), and filled the green bin up with miscellaneous twigs and sticks that have been lying around for months.

Not too much planned for tomorrow. B has a playdate with a ballet buddy, I have someone coming over to rehearse a solo, then B and three of her friends are rehearsing at our house for next weekend's Orinda Idol auditions. They're going to sing "Amayzing Mayzie" from Seussical.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Proposition Madness

Are other Californians as confused as I am about today's election? I try to be a good voter--I take the time to read about the issues, and I always show up and vote. However, despite being an intelligent, well-educated voter, reading the official language of the propositions is not always enlightening, so I usually spend some time researching who has endorsed the different sides. I check known liberal (San Francisco Chronicle) and conservative (San Diego Union Tribune) newspapers, and investigate what different organizations recommend.

So, let's see. The SF Chronicle recommends "Yes" on all six. The California Republican Party and the SD Union Tribune say "No" to all. No surprises so far. But wait!

The California Democratic party is neutral on A, D, and E, and supports B, C, and F. The California State PTA (as forwarded to us by the kids' schools) says Yes on A, B, C, and E, and no on D. The UC Regents (we are both employed by UC) says Yes on A, neutral on all others. The League of Women Voters is against A, C, D, and E, and neutral on B. The LA Times supports all except B.

We are heading out to vote soon--I think I've finally made up my mind on most of them, and will discuss the rest with DH in the car. Not that it makes a big difference; I'm pretty certain they're all going to lose (except 1F).

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Hot, Hot, Hot

We're having a heat wave in the Bay Area right now. Even chilly San Francisco was in the mid-80s today. At B's afternoon ballet performance, it was so hot that the light board overheated, and lights started to turn off and on at random times. The second half of the program was performed with very dim stage lighting, because that's all that would work. Tonight's S&P concert was quite warm, too--the church we performed in is one of those where the sanctuary is upstairs. Concert went well, and it was nice and warm outside when we left at 10:00 pm. Come hear us tomorrow in Berkeley!

Off and Running

B has been delivered to the ballet school for this morning's pre-ballet show (teaching assistants get to perform, too), and DH and M are off to fencing class, followed by obedience class. I'm picking up B for lunch at noon, then it's back to the ballet school at 1:00 for the afternoon show. This evening is S&P--come hear us!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

I got to sleep in today, and finally dragged myself out of bed to eat the lovely brunch the kids made (scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast with hearts cut into the slices). After spending a little family time cleaning up the back yard, we went to the pool and hung out there for a couple of hours. The kids had a great time swimming and playing, and I relaxed with a Diet Coke and the Sunday newspaper. For dinner, we went to King Tsin restaurant and had a nice meal.

Yesterday was a little crazy. DH and I each ended up taking one kid for the day. DH got to take B to the pre-ballet dress rehearsal (she's a teaching assistant) from 9:30-11:30, then to her rehearsal from 1:30-3:30. I took M to fencing class (10:30-12:00), obedience class (first meeting without dogs) from 1:00-2:00, then the CMEA choral festival from 4:00-5:00. Each in a different city, of course (DH was impressed when he looked at the minivan's trip odometer: I had filled the car with gas while M was at fencing, and reset the trip odometer--it had over 50 miles on it by the time I got home!)

M's chorus was one of only three middle-school choirs invited to perform at the festival, and the only one that was limited to sixth-graders. I heard two of the groups that preceded theirs--one was a high school group, and one looked like it might have been middle-school girls. I thought M's group sounded really good, for a non-auditioned group of kids. It's too bad M doesn't want to continue in choir, but I'm glad he gave it a try this year. There were only ten boys on the stage yesterday, out of the 50-60 kids in the choir, and I suspect there will be even fewer next year. M likes to sing (he has an excellent ear and a pleasant voice), but he dislikes being on stage.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

To Boldly Go...

Current mental soundtrack: theme song from original Star Trek

Just got back from the new Star Trek movie--lots of fun!

DH and I watched several episodes of the original show with the kids this week, so they would have some idea of who the characters are. B was the only one of us observant enough to notice that the original Captain Kirk has brown eyes, while the young one in this movie has blue ones.

We also discovered that our local movie theatre is under new management. When we walked up at 6:15 to buy tickets, someone was taking photos of the guy selling tickets. When DH asked why, we found out that the guy who sold us our tickets was the new owner of the theater, and had owned it for only three hours! I hope it's a success--we like the theater a lot.

Monday, May 4, 2009

How Lucky You Are!

Current mental soundtrack: "How Lucky You Are" from Seussical

Here is our Yertle:

The mom in charge of costumes is very talented! The green shoes belong to B, but the rest of the costume was provided by the costume committee. There's also a judge's robe that she wore for the final scene.

Yertle & Bird Girl

Jungle Creature, Jungle Creature, & Yertle

Seussical went quite well, and the kids had a lot of fun. From the pit, the most interesting moments were when the Tuesday cast suddenly decided to skip three pages of music, and when the Wickersham Brothers from both casts decided that the measures of rest before their entrances were unnecessary. We managed to catch up :-) There were also some agonizingly long moments on stage as kids tried to remember their lines, or were late for entrances, but the show (eventually!) went on.

Before the Show
Jungle Creature, Who, Who, Who, Jungle Creature
Front: Jungle Creature, Gertrude McFuzz, Who, Yertle the Turtle, Bird Girl, Jungle Creature

Me at the keyboard

Friday, May 1, 2009

Oh, The Thinks You Can Think

Current mental soundtrack: "Oh, The Thinks You Can Think" from Seussical

opens today--I'll let you know later how the shows go. Live performance is always unpredictable, and when a bunch of elementary-school kids are involved, it becomes even more interesting. There will be three of us in the "pit" trying to keep everyone on track (Music Director on piano, Director on percussion, and me on keyboard). As I discovered during yesterday's dress rehearsal, having multiple musicians (and no conductor) makes it a little more challenging when a kid drops a line, or jumps ahead to the wrong verse. The three of us have to somehow read each others' minds and figure out what we're doing when things go wrong.

Like everything else the kids do, this is a fundraiser, so in addition to our parental volunteer time, we're also supposed to provide baked goods to sell at intermission. In honor of the Dr. Seuss theme, I baked four dozen Truffula Trees last night:

They don't look exactly like Truffula Trees, as I had to make do with a palm-tree cookie cutter, which has more fronds and a shorter, thicker trunk. Close enough, though--once I added the colored icing, they started to look more Seussian.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Show Biz, Part 2

Update: S was cleared by the orthopedist to perform her solo in the show, so B is off the hook. S will not be in the chorus numbers in the first 3/4 of the show, but she can hobble around on her crutches well enough to sing the last part. B is quite relieved--she was up last night worrying about fitting into a different cast with only one rehearsal. The funniest thing is what finally reassured her enough to go to sleep: I reminded her that the Tuesday cast chorus did not (and does not!) seem to know where to go when on the stage, so it wouldn't matter if she was in the right place or not!

Now I just need to finish learning the keyboard part before Friday...

Monday, April 27, 2009

Show Biz

B's life just got a little more interesting. Seussical is scheduled for this weekend, and we just found out that her counterpart in the other cast has broken her foot, so B is doing all four shows this weekend. Dress rehearsal for the other cast is tomorrow, so she'll be scrambling to find out where S stands in the chorus numbers (standing order in each cast was determined by height, not role).

I really feel sorry for S--she put a lot of work into this, and happened to have an accident the week of the show. I hope she gets a really good role next year!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

B's Tenth Birthday Party

We survived another birthday party here at the house. I'm amazed at how much noise ten girls can make!

The theme this year was American Girls. B sketched out the design for me, and I put together the invitation:

She also designed the cake that I finished last night:

When the girls arrived, we started them on some crafts. We provided cloth napkins, fabric paint, and fabric markers for them to make doll blankets. I think next time I'll stick to markers--the paint takes too long to dry. Another table was set up for them to design books for their dolls & stuffed animals, since it dawned on me late last night that the doll blankets were too big to all fit on the table at once.

Next on the plan was Molly's Mystery Party Game, which I bought from the American Girl website (on clearance!). It was a bit on the cheesy side, but the girls had fun doing it.

After that, they played Charades. I printed out a custom set of cards for the game, which they played in two teams. In addition to the usual list of movies, books, etc., I threw in several characters from Seussical, since nine of the ten girls at the party are in next week's show.

Last, but not least, came the cake and gifts. The dolls and stuffed friends had their own party (with miniature blondies to eat):

The birthday girl and her cake: