Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all!

I went to Christmas Eve services with the in-laws tonight, and it seems that years of singing Handel's Messiah have left me unable to hear certain bible verses without the accompanying music showing up in my head. "Good wi-i-ill too-wards men!"

Friday, December 17, 2010

Crisis Averted

On Wednesday morning, I woke up, checked my e-mail, and discovered a disaster in progress: the church hosting the Voci concert scheduled for Saturday afternoon had booked a wedding for the same day, and the concert was now without a home! We have been advertising our concert, selling tickets, and our commissioned composer is flying in with his entire family to hear the new piece he wrote for us. Our poor administrator (T) found this out late Tuesday night, and spent the night having anxiety dreams about our homeless choir. (I often check my e-mail fairly late at night, but was tired enough on Tuesday to go to bed early, which saved ME from a sleepless night.)

The women of Voci are very impressive. We are all busy people, with full-time jobs, kids, etc., but we leapt into action. Calls were made to churches, pleas were sent out by e-mail, and by lunchtime we had two churches that were willing and able to host us for a concert three days later. Church A is a place I'd sung before; a friend from another choir called the church on our behalf (she's a member there) and verified that they were free on Saturday, all within twenty minutes of my initial e-mail plea. They were not available for us to rehearse that night (our previously scheduled rehearsal night), but could accommodate us on Thursday evening instead. Church B had an office administrator that said the space was free, but we had to get the permission of the music director to use the organ & piano.

All day, T had been leaving frantic messages for our music director, J. By 3:30 pm, we had not heard back from either J or the MD of Church B, so T made the executive decision that we would hold rehearsal at our usual time and place, while continuing to research our performance venue. At 4:45, the board president and I met at Church A to tour the space. It looked perfect for our needs, and their administrator (a choir director herself) was extremely sympathetic and helpful. In the meantime, J finally checked his messages (he had been giving exams all day), and confirmed with T that Church A would be workable. Problem solved!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Traffic Karma

I must have used up all my good traffic karma on Sunday. Today I picked up DH at the airport, and what should have been a 45-60 minute trip took us 1 hour and 49 minutes. Add to that the hour his flight was late, the 15 minutes for customs (reasonable) and the 45 minutes it took for his luggage to appear on the carousel (not so reasonable).

KLM's website refused to tell me what time his flight was actually scheduled to arrive: all it said was "in flight." If I had known it would be an hour late, there were a number of things I could have done with that hour: run some errands, read the Sunday paper (yes, I'm a little behind this week), etc.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Warp-Speed Laundry

Dear B,

I'm very grateful that unlike your brother, you actually remember to bring your P.E. clothes home to wash every now and then. However, in the future, I recommend that you present them to me a little earlier than 8:15 am on Monday morning, as neither our washer nor dryer have a warp-speed setting.

Love,
Mom

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Traffic, Concerts, Chores, Etc.

The traffic gods smiled upon me today. On Friday and Saturday, traffic going to my evening concerts was awful, and I was late for call despite allowing 45 minutes for the drive. Today was the day with a quick turnaround--I finished one concert in Oakland at 6:00, and had to be in San Francisco for another one by 7:30. It only took me 35 minutes--no traffic at all until I reached SF, and only a little slowdown there.

Four concerts and one Nutcracker (co-stage manager) this weekend, and DH is off enjoying the cold and dark in Sweden. The kids did almost all of the chores I requested today, but they have some interesting blind spots. M took out the trash that was in the kitchen trash can, and even put in a new bag, but somehow never saw the three bags of extra trash sitting in front of the can. Both kids emptied the dishwasher (mostly--they left the coffeepot and filter, because those weren't assigned to one kid or another), but putting their dirty dishes into the empty dishwasher never occurred to them. I arrived home this evening to a counter full of dirty dishes, and complaints all around that they were running out of clean underwear. (Gee, I wonder why mom hasn't had time to do the laundry this weekend?)

Onward to Nutcracker: this week I'm working three outreach performances, 1.5 dress rehearsals, and one regular performance, plus I have a ticket to see B dance in one of the shows. Oh, and if you didn't make it to any of my FOUR concerts this weekend, you have one more chance next Saturday!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Volunteers

This year, I'm in charge of scheduling the backstage crew (stage managers & runners) for the Nutcracker at B's ballet school. It's mostly straightforward--contacting the people who have volunteered (all parents are required to help with something), and trying to find the best arrangement of people & times. I just have one question for a certain parent: why on earth would you sign up for backstage crew if you have to work the first show weekend and will be out of the country for the second?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Friends, Family, Gluttony, and a Little Excitement

If it's possible to eat too much good food, I think I've done it. Last night's Thanksgiving dinner was fun: as usual, we provided the basics, and our assorted guests brought dishes to share. We had turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, yams, dressing, mac & cheese, scalloped onions, green bean casserole, Tofurkey, squash soup, three kinds of cranberry sauce (two canned and one made by B), pumpkin pie, and apple crisp.

Today, Mom, Dad, my sister E, B, and I went on our usual Black Friday expedition. We don't believe in getting up early to hunt for bargains (if I really want to shop for bargains, I do it online). We meet in the late morning at an upscale shopping area (Union Square in San Francisco, Fashion Valley when we lived in San Diego, Eastview Mall in Rochester), and shop for a couple of things while enjoying the people and the stores. Today, E bought a pair of black pants, Mom got a lovely leather coat, B got a gold belt to go with her new dress (that was the hardest to find, since she's so skinny), and B also got some clothes. For lunch, we made our usual stop at the food court, where I always get the Korean BBQ spare ribs. (The second large meal of the holiday.)

The afternoon was a little more exciting than usual. As we were descending on the curved escalator to the first floor, we heard thumping noises behind us. All of us immediately assumed someone was falling down the escalator, and we all did the same thing: stepped to the side and grabbed the handrail with both hands (so we wouldn't be pushed over). Lo and behold, it was a purse snatcher, shoving people out of the way in his mad descent down the escalator, followed closely by a woman yelling "stop him!" At the bottom of the escalator, a male shopper tackled him, and when we left, the thief was being held down by two or three men, presumably awaiting mall security!

For dinner, DH and M joined us at Ton Kiang, our favorite Chinese restaurant in SF. We had another feast: scallion pancakes & potstickers to start with, Peking duck, Mongolian beef, Szechuan shrimp, Singapore noodles, spareribs in sweet orange sauce, asparagus sauteéd with garlic, and sesame balls for dessert. I was so full that I gave half of my sesame ball (one of my favorites) to B!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Movie Night & Mom's Taxi Service

The family went out last night to see the new Harry Potter movie. Good movie, overall, but definitely part one of two. Can't wait for part two! B invited several of her friends to go along, but since we couldn't go to any of the early showings (B doesn't return from ballet class until 8:00 on Fridays), her friends' moms all decided the 9:00 show was too late for their daughters.

Today DH and I are running our usual Saturday taxi service. M was out the door at 8:15 to join the Scouts in Scouting for Food. B left with DH at 9:15 for her pre-ballet teaching assistant gig, and returned a little before 11:00. M was dropped off at our house around 11:30 (one fewer trip for me!), then B and I took off at 11:40 to get her to Nutcracker rehearsal. (Poor kid has a six-hour rehearsal today, in which she'll probably dance for about five minutes.) The rest of us are at home having a quick lunch, then we're off at 1:00 to take M to fencing. We'll be home around 4:00, need to pick up wreaths to sell for the Scout fundraiser, then B has to be retrieved at 6:00. Oh, and today's the Big Game at Cal, so dropping B off at the ballet school was entertaining. Hello, Stanford fans who were walking down the street in front of my car, have you ever heard of a sidewalk? Or at least moving to the side when a car comes up behind you?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cleaning and Planning for Turkey Day

Turkey Day preparations are under way! The house is mostly clean (a few things to do tomorrow morning), and my parents arrive tomorrow at lunchtime. Our garage fridge is occupied by a giant frozen turkey (I'm a day ahead of the usual schedule for defrosting). We're not expecting a lot of people this year (eleven so far), but we always get the biggest turkey we can find, since DH loves turkey sandwiches.

I've been using the turkey recipe in the Joy of Cooking (1975 edition) since I started cooking turkeys, and it's always worked for me. According to our invitation, this is the twentieth Thanksgiving dinner I've cooked. Turkey, sage dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy from a can (makes last-minute prep easier), traditional cranberry sauce from a can (both whole-berry and jellied), and pumpkin pie have been constants at every dinner. I sometimes throw in another vegetable dish, and our guests bring all kinds of interesting things.

I hope y'all have fabulous meal planned for next week, too!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Snow White Photos

Current mental soundtrack: "Friendship" by Cole Porter

All six shows went well, with no major disasters. Occasional mishaps (several crashes were heard on the stage at Wednesday's preview), but overall it went quite smoothly. Here's a photo of our Duchess Dahlia:



And our light board operator:


Onward to holiday concerts and Nutcracker!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Snow White

It's Snow White production week at the middle school, so we've given up any pretense of family dinners this week. B has a small role (Duchess Dahlia) in the Ebony cast, and M is running the light board for the Crimson cast, so we have one kid in each of the six total shows. And, since we have two kids involved, I've been assigned to two committees: backstage and costumes. I am attending every single show, either backstage, in the costume room, in the audience, or in combinations of those.

DH and I saw the preview show yesterday afternoon. M did a fine job running the light board: in other words, we didn't really notice the lighting, which means nothing went wrong. It's a typical middle-school play: the handsome prince is a foot shorter than Snow White, the seven dwarfs are played by girls, and no one on the stage knows what to do when the kid on curtain duty misses a cue.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Scheduling Needs To Be Done Earlier!

It's November 1st, and I JUST received an announcement from B's choir teacher about the date of the winter concert. Naturally, it's on the same night as Nutcracker dress rehearsal. B has already been pulled from one of her Nutcracker performances because she's missing rehearsal this Saturday (she has a role in the school play, and was assigned to the matinee performance), and missing a dress rehearsal is grounds for removal from at least one more show. The last two years, the winter concert was the second Wednesday in December, so I had hoped that by not signing up for Nutcrackers that week (necessitated by my schedule and DH's schedule), we'd be covered for the concert. Looks like I guessed wrong...we're hoping that the choir teacher will be flexible about an alternate assignment.

We still have one potential conflict coming up--both B's ballet school and B's choir teacher have the afternoon of December 4th reserved, but neither one has a time! I can make an educated guess for choir (4:30 pm the last two years that M sang at the tree-lighting ceremony), but the ballet school won't tell us until the week of the rehearsal.

Friday, October 22, 2010

M's Weekend

The calendar for this weekend is filled with M's activities, for a change. He is off at a birthday party sleepover right now. Tomorrow morning, we pick him up at 9:00, and have to have him up in Hercules by 10:00 for a piano studio class. He'll be back from that a little after noon, then we leave just before 1:00 to pick up his carpool and go to fencing class. Sunday is an in-school fencing tournament, and Monday is the first tech dress rehearsal for the school play (he's running the light board for one of the casts).

B's weekend, on the other hand, looks very relaxed. She'll be gone Saturday night and all day Sunday, at a beach house with L and her family.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Win-Win Deal

Every year, it seems there's one of "those days," where getting everyone where they need to be at the right time is a challenge. In previous years it's been Mondays, but this year it's Thursdays. DH and I carpool to work, so we can only have one car on campus at a time, but we need two cars on Thursday evenings to pick up M from fencing and B from ballet, both at 7:30, in different cities. DH teaches from 2:00-5:00, so we usually end up coming home at lunch: I can work at home with one car while he takes the other back to work. Today was even worse--there was a Boy Scout parent meeting at 7:30. I worked from home (avoiding the protests and pickets on campus), DH went to the meeting, and I picked up M on time and B twenty minutes late.

While I was picking up M, his instructor introduced me to another parent from our town, who wants to carpool on Thursdays. This works out perfectly for both of us--it's easy for me to deliver the kids to fencing, but pickup is the cause of all this car juggling. It's easy for T's dad to pick up kids from fencing, but the timing is bad for getting them there. So, starting next Thursday, I'll be delivering B to ballet, then M & T to fencing, then head back to pick up both B and DH at 7:30, while M will magically be delivered to our house. Yay!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Be Prepared

Current mental soundtrack: "Be Prepared" by Tom Lehrer

M has been enjoying the Boy Scout meetings, and is headed out on his first camping trip this weekend. DH and I went shopping today to pick up some clothing and equipment for him. I'm very thankful that we already had a lot of backpacking stuff at home (sleeping bags, cooking gear, etc.), because we spent a small fortune at REI today (and a bit less at Target). Both of our backpacking tents bit the dust several years ago, so we had to buy a new one. And a good day pack (I think we have a dozen backpacks now, of all different sorts). Every piece of clothing M owns is made of cotton (jeans, T-shirts, and sweatshirts), so we bought a pair of convertible hiking pants, some synthetic T-shirts, and wool hiking socks. Plus a fleece jacket: we live in California, so he hasn't owned any sort of jacket for years.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Where Did the Weekend Go?

Yesterday was nice and relaxing. I slept in while DH took B to her ballet class, then had a leisurely lunch before heading out to take M to his afternoon fencing class. In the evening, B and I had dinner and saw Diablo Theater Company's production of Annie, with B's friend M, her brother, and mother. Dinner was at Eleve, a Vietnamese restaurant that was quite good. The show was fantastic, and we all had a good time.

Today was the Voci fall retreat: rehearsal from 9:00-4:30 (with ample snack breaks and lunch). I never cease to be amazed at what good cooks the members are!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Singing Sunday

It's been a long day with lots of singing. I started off the day subbing in the church choir--always a lot of fun to show up and sing beautiful music (and get paid for it!). After lunch, I picked up B's friend from ballet to spend the afternoon at our house.

Mid-afternoon was Alison Howard's memorial at her house. Voci sang two of Alison's favorite songs, we listened to all kinds of stories about her life, and enjoyed some delicious food.

After the memorial, we headed out to another Voci member's house for the soprano sectional (the altos had theirs on Thursday). We got a lot of work done in two hours, then we all went home for dinner.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

September Stuff

We survived Orinda Idol--they didn't win (although they did the hardest piece and performed it beautifully), but the girls had fun rehearsing all summer. So much fun, in fact, that three of them (A has moved to LA) are going to keep rehearsing and learning new music. We (the moms) think that we can find them little performance opportunities once they learn a couple of songs, and it will be a lot less stressful for all of us than competing!

M has decided to join the Boy Scouts. All of his friends are Boy Scouts, and apparently there's a merit badge to be earned by recruiting another member, so they've been inviting all of their friends. M was amenable to the idea (we did warn him to keep his atheist thoughts to himself), so we went out and bought him a handbook and Scout shirt this weekend.

B has a role in the school play, and M is running the light board, so they will both be busy with rehearsals. The play is "Snow White," and B has been cast as "Duchess Dahlia." The plays are always double-cast, to give more students a chance to participate, and her counterpart in the other cast is none other than her best friend L!

I'll try to post a little more consistently from now on--the last week of Orinda Idol prep completely wore me out, and it took me another week to recover!

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Moms' Team At Work

Yesterday morning's Orinda Idol rehearsal with the girls turned into a protracted brainstorming session with the moms.

Last night, as soon as the announcement about equipment came out, I e-mailed the organizers about the mic problem, and was told that it couldn't be changed. This morning, we e-mailed and called some other people that we thought might be more helpful, but their hands were tied, and they couldn't help us. M's mom called our choreographer (daughter of the original contest organizer), and found that she was in the same panicked state that we were. She and five of her friends are competing in the next age category, and they had also counted on the four mics available at the audition.

We ran the girls through their choreography without mics in their hands, and we all agreed it looked really bad. So, the decision was made to make dummy mics: props that were big and shiny, and would give them something to hold in their hands, while the actual sound was picked up by mics on stands. Which then led to discussion about where to place the mics, as I have been very carefully balancing their sound this summer, and having them move around the mics was going to create problems. I started researching mic placement (asking people with show choir experience, since I only perform classical music), and other moms went to Michael's to start work on the new props.

In the late afternoon, we finally received some good news: the girls will be allowed to use the emcee's mic, so they are going to have four wireless mics after all! The girls' choreographer appealed to her mom, pointing out that while the high school girls were fine with the change, it wasn't fair to the "little girls" to make them change their choreography this close to the performance. (My daughter laughed at being characterized as a "little girl," because she is a very dignified eleven-year-old, but she agreed that whatever works is good!) It went up the chain from there, and now we have enough mics. Thank you, thank you, thank you N!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

One, Two, Three, Four

B and her three friends have been practicing since May for the Orinda Idol competition, a week from tomorrow. A talented high school student did their choreography for them, I worked on music, and we've been assuming all along that they'll be using the handheld wireless mics they've used in previous years. We discovered tonight that they will only have THREE mics available this year (last year they offered us four, although we only used three), so they're going to have to rework some of their choreography. A week before the performance. Aargh!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Back in Business

Mental soundtrack: "My Romance" from Jumbo, by Rodgers & Hart, arr. Kirby Shaw

Sorry it's been quiet recently. There was vacation, followed by a weekend visit from my college friends, then a week of learning to make digital scrapbooks (I'm 1/3 of the way through our trip now).

School started today (yes, one of my children is a night owl like me, and one isn't):


It was nice and quiet here most of the day, then from 3:30 on it was all a blur. Picked up the carpool (line was long today), dropped kids off, went to the grocery store, made a quick dinner, signed a gazillion forms, went to dress rehearsal for S&P's House Music fundraiser (Sunday at 4:00!), then off to Voci rehearsal. Got home at 10:15, "helped" M with his math homework (only had to sit next to him and watch him finally solve on his own the problem that had been stumping him), reviewed some French verbs with M. Off to have a snack and go to bed!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Not a Hummingbird

We've had a steady stream of hummingbirds at the feeder outside the dining room window, but today's visitor was a little more unusual. During dinner, B looked out and saw a black-capped chickadee drinking out of the feeder! He was chased away by a hummingbird, but eventually came back for a few more sips.

Monday, August 2, 2010

SuperAlto's Travel Reviews: Osprey Porter 46 Travel Pack

All ratings are out of 5 possible points 


Overall: 5

Website


We bought four of these packs for our trip, and would recommend them to anyone who wants to travel light. They are small enough to carry on the plane, but roomy enough to hold all of our gear for three weeks. The straps are adjustable: the packs fit both my 5'0" daughter and my 6'3" husband. The hip belts enabled us to carry a reasonable amount of weight. My pack weighed around 18 pounds, fully loaded, and DH's weighed probably twice that (he bought a lot of books along the way). We were especially grateful a couple of times during our trip to not be dragging giant wheeled suitcases behind us: the time we had to sprint to catch our train (which had moved to another platform), and the day we arrived in Venice to find all the vaporettos on strike, leaving us to walk to the hotel with our luggage.

Yes, that pile is all the luggage we carried for a three-week trip!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

SuperAlto's Travel Reviews: Alcôve & Agapes No. 241

All ratings are out of 5 possible points

Overall: 5 (would definitely book again)

Location: 5
Comfort: 4
Staff: 5
Breakfast: 5
Website


This bed & breakfast was rented through Alcôve & Agapes

Location: This B&B is located in a 17th-century building on Ile Saint-Louis, in the heart of Paris. A short walk to Notre Dame or the Metro, and surrounded by shops selling Berthillon ice cream.

Comfort: The flat is on the third floor of the building (70 steps), with no elevator. There is a private entry leading directly into bedroom 241. A second bedroom lies next door, with two twin beds, and room for a cot if needed. These two bedrooms share a shower and toilet in the hallway. The hallway is divided by a heavy curtain from the third bedroom (and separate bath) that is also available (No. 359). The beds were comfortable, the towels were soft and thick, and the rooms were bright and airy. The only sink was located in the same room as the shower. After using the toilet, we had to go to the next room to wash our hands, often interrupting someone in the shower. The street below is busy, with many restaurants and shops--on hot nights, it's too hot to sleep with the windows closed (no A/C), but too noisy to sleep with the windows open.





Staff: Carol was extremely generous, kind, and helpful. On the first day, we arrived from the train station too early to officially check in (she wasn't done vacuuming), but in addition to letting us store our luggage in the room, she offered us drinks and had saved pastries from breakfast for our ever-hungry children. She recommended good restaurants, remembered our favorite pastries at breakfast, and was always available to answer questions or just chat.

Breakfast: Delicious! Every morning we were faced with a basket of assorted croissants, a plate of fruit, a pile of chouquettes, a baguette, yogurt, butter, and four kinds of jams/jellies, all on a beautifully set table:

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

SuperAlto's Travel Reviews: Cod. 091 Historic Center - Monti

All ratings are out of 5 possible points

Overall: 5 (would definitely book again)

Location: 5
Comfort: 5
Staff: 5
Breakfast: n/a

Website



We rented an apartment in Rome through the Bed and Breakfast Association of Rome.

Location: The apartment is centrally located, near a Metro stop and within walking distance of the train station and the Coliseum. (We also walked to Vatican City, but I don't recommend trying that unless you REALLY like walking.) We were on a quiet street in a Roman neighborhood, buying our groceries and eating out without encountering hordes of other tourists. As advertised, the apartment is on the third floor (68 steps from the lobby), with no elevator.

Comfort: A spacious two-bedroom apartment, IKEA-furnished, with air conditioning and a washing machine in the small kitchen. The bathroom was split, with toilet/bidet/tiny sink in one room, and shower/small sink in the other room. This is a good layout for four people, as one person in the shower doesn't tie up the entire bathroom.







The kitchen was adequately equipped for our needs, with dishes, utensils, and assorted pots and pans. We cooked a small dinner most nights: pasta, canned sauce, meat sauteed in a frying pan. The washing machine (once I figured out how to operate it) worked well, and we eventually found the drying rack in a closet. The beds and couch were all comfortable. The towels were a bit on the thin side, but there were plenty of extra ones.

Staff: Marie at the Bed & Breakfast Assn. was very helpful, answering my various questions and suggesting apartments that fit our needs. Once we arrived at the apartment, Rosa, the owner, was friendly and helpful. Unfortunately, she did not speak English, and I don't speak Italian, but she managed to communicate most of the necessary information to me, only once having to call her English-speaking daughter to answer one of my questions. She also left us a bottle of wine as a welcome gift.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

SuperAlto's Travel Reviews: Residenza Il Villino, Florence, Italy

All ratings are out of 5 possible points

Overall: 5 (would definitely book again)

Location: 5
Comfort: 4
Staff: 5
Breakfast: 5
Website


Location:  Il Villino is centrally located, within walking distance of all the major sights. It was a bit further from the train station than we had anticipated, and we elected to take a cab when we departed so that we wouldn't have to make that hike again in the July heat.

Comfort: We had a family suite on the first floor, between the entrance door and the gate pictured above. The children had a separate bedroom with twin beds, while DH and I slept in the main room.



The couch was lumpy and uncomfortable, but we didn't spend much time sitting on it. The beds were very comfortable. There was also a dining table, a refrigerator, and a private bathroom with a shower. The bathroom was quite cramped, with the toilet and bidet a step down (we called it "the well"):


The suite was spacious, with high ceilings, but the windows and shades were kept closed for security and privacy, so there wasn't much natural light. The air conditioning worked well. We felt very secure at Il Villino, with electronic locks on all the doors and gates.

Staff: All of the people we met were friendly and helpful. Sergio was on duty when we arrived. He showed us how to operate all of the various locks and keys, showed us a shorter walking route for our return to the train station (we must have looked rather tired and sweaty), and recommended a delicious restaurant for dinner.

Breakfast: Delicious, varied selection. Blood orange juice, tea, coffee, and either cappucino or espresso made to order. Fresh fruit, meat, cornetti, packaged toast, and more. Breakfast was served outside in a lovely courtyard:

Monday, July 12, 2010

SuperAlto's Travel Reviews: Pensione Guerrato, Venice, Italy

All ratings are out of 5 possible points

Overall: 5 (would definitely book again)

Location: 5
Comfort: 4
Staff: 5
Breakfast: 4
Website




Location: Pensione Guerrato is located next to the Rialto Market, within easy walking distance of all the major sites. It was easy to reach from the train station, despite a vaporetto strike that left us on foot for the day.

Comfort: We were assigned to room 25, on the top floor, a quad with private shower:


As advertised, there is no elevator, and 75 steps to climb. Our room had a double bed and two twins, with adequate air conditioning. The room and bathroom were spacious, bright, and clean. The only problem we had is that hot water was in very short supply on the top floor. Our showers (brief ones!) ranged from lukewarm to cool.

Staff: The staff was very friendly and helpful. Piero was on duty when we arrived from the train station, and he helped us store our luggage until check-in time, and directed us to a coffee shop where we could get some breakfast. During the evenings, the woman at the desk (sorry, I forgot her name!) gave us excellent recommendations for dinner, and accurate directions to get to the restaurants.

Breakfast: The food was plentiful and tasty, but the coffee left something to be desired. (I am not a coffee drinker, but M and J are, and M refused to drink it at all.) A typical breakfast consisted of coffee, tea, orange juice, apple-filled cornetti (yum!), yogurt, soft cheese, packaged toast, and probably something else I've forgotten. Italian opera played in the background added to the atmosphere, although the dining room seemed to be exclusively populated by Americans.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Counting Down

One week until we leave for Europe! (And, for those of you that know my real name and where I live, we are not leaving our house unoccupied, so don't bother coming by to steal our stuff :-) )

DH returns from Portland tonight, I've FINALLY finished our massive filing/shredding/organizing project, and I still have a million things left to do.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Outdoor Performing

Current mental soundtrack: "The Coolin" by Samuel Barber

S&P sang last night at the Temescal Street Cinema. It was an interesting concert. After a week or more of warm, sunny weather, we ended up performing on a foggy, windy day. I dressed appropriately for the weather: long underwear (top and bottom), T-shirt, blazer, dressy scarf, fleece jacket, hair in a ponytail to keep it out of my mouth. I felt really silly putting on my long underwear in June, but was very glad I had done it. The only part of me that was cold was my hands, and everyone in the choir had the same complaint. By the end of the performance, we were all having trouble turning pages with our frozen extremities, and my fingers didn't stop tingling for an hour afterward.

Outdoor performances are always entertaining. We had sirens, a helicoptor, wind blowing the conductor's music, and kids riding bikes in front of the "stage." We made an unusual number of mistakes (probably because we were half frozen): at one point, we lost the entire always-reliable alto section for four measures of the "Geographical Fugue." Every performer has those occasional lapses, but nothing gets the adrenaline going like the realization that the other four singers in your section had the same brain lapse, and there is no one left on your part! Overall, the performance was okay. The audience seemed to enjoy it, and there only a few REALLY "interesting" moments. :-)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Please Reform MY Insurance!

Gotta love those insurance companies. (Although my doctor's office shares some of the blame for this story.) DH and I work for the same employer, and I've been covered under his plan for a number of years. With the astronomical increase in premiums for 2010, I figured out last fall that it would be much cheaper to cover me separately, since I'm in a lower salary band than DH. Same insurance company, same plan, just a change of policyholder name--shouldn't be a problem, right?

The trouble started in February when I tried to refill my allergy prescription. The drugstore told me that the insurance company refused to pay for it without a "prior authorization," so I called my doctor's office and was told it would take several weeks to process. I called again the following month, to find that they had no record of ever having spoken with me. This time I went in in person, handed them the form, and the office staff was very apologetic, and assured me it would be fastracked. I waited another month, called them back, and was informed that the insurance company hadn't responded yet. I called back again yesterday, and they had no record whatsoever of anything being submitted! This time, I got someone who passed it up to my doctor right away, instead of to her assistant.

The fun doesn't end there. I got a new prescription the same day for another brand of allergy meds. Got a call from the drugstore saying that my insurance wouldn't cover that one, either. Back to the doctor, who went with a generic from the approved formulary this time. Drugstore called again tonight: yes, the insurance company will pay for this brand. Unfortunately, there's a shortage of it (maybe since the insurance company is forcing everyone to use it), and they haven't had any in stock for the last three weeks!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Unexpected Sights

Two days in a row of unexpected sights while driving the middle-school carpool. Yesterday, as I was leaving the school, two log sections rolled down the hill into the street about twenty feet in front of me. Must have gotten away from the tree trimmers. Today, we turned onto G. Blvd., and saw a blizzard of white office paper lining the road, and a garbage truck with its blinkers on. M walked around the corner after I parked the car, and reported that the papers seemed to be packing slips and things. I later heard from L's mom that they were papers from some local businesses headed off to the shredder. The garbage company sent out a crew pretty quickly (one truck parked right in front of our house, but I didn't think to ask them what was going on), and cleaned them all up.

School's out, DH is in Beijing, and next week will be a flurry of Orinda Idol stuff: music rehearsals, choreography sessions, and, most importantly, dress shopping.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Homework for the Parents, Two Years Later

It's state buffet time again. B did her report on Minnesota, and didn't have any idea what we should cook. I posted a request to my Facebook friends, and most people agreed that we should make some sort of "hotdish," preferably with either wild rice or tater tots. Also suggested were rhubarb pie, bundt cake, jello with marshmellows, lutefisk, and anything with wild rice. (I had no idea that Minnesota was known for wild rice.)

In the oven right now is "Mom's Wild Rice & Chicken Casserole", which had all of the ingredients my Minnesota friends felt were necessary: wild rice, chicken or ground beef, cream of mushroom soup. I hope it turns out well!

*   *   *   *   *

 Photo (11:20 am):

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Take This Kid Instead

And now for a completely different shopping trip. Yesterday we dragged M out to the mall. He is heading to Disneyland this weekend for a choir trip, and has been complaining that his black dress shoes pinch his feet. So, off to buy shoes. We went to the mall. We went into one department store. Over his protests, we forced him to try on TWO pairs of black tennis shoes (the horror!), because he didn't like the soles on the first pair. We bought the second pair (on sale!), and left for home.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Leave the Kid at Home Next Time

We headed out yesterday afternoon to pick up some floor pillows for the gaming area, since the old beanbags are really uncomfortable, and a couple of T-shirts for B. We came home with a sofa for the gaming area (who knew that IKEA had $149 loveseats?), a T-shirt for B, two pairs of jeans for B, a skirt for B, a headband for B, a rug for B, and a body pillow for B. Guess which kid went shopping with us and which one stayed home?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Two Wheels

Current mental soundtrack: "Poisoning Pigeons in the Park" by Tom Lehrer

I finally decided what to do with my March Madness winnings: I bought a bike today. I haven't owned a bike since grad school, and REI is having a sale this week, so DH & I stopped by to take a look. I had been eyeing a pretty blue one online, but they didn't have any in stock. Instead, I ended up with an even nicer green one (the official color is "wasabi"), complete with front and rear lights powered by pedal power. It's not the color I would have picked if there had been a choice, but it's growing on me. (And for some strange reason, I had to buy myself a limeade afterwards.)

Now I just have to wait for it to stop raining so I can take it out for a spin!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Six Performances

Current mental soundtrack: random selections from Sleeping Beauty, by Tchaikovsky.

Just got back from watching B's evening performance. She did a great job, and it was fun to finally see her on stage for an extended period. When kids first start performing in ballets, they're usually on stage for about a minute, and then they're gone. The entire second half of tonight's program was Sleeping Beauty, and she was in the opening number (4:48 according to the track list the stage managers were given), then stayed on stage as background throughout the first half of the work. (Did a good job acting, too.) She has one more performance tomorrow afternoon, which I won't see because I'll be at the Voci concert.

Checklist for tomorrow (I have to remember all of this when I leave in the morning):
  • Ticket for morning pre-ballet show
  • Money for lunch with B (she's requested Bongo Burger)
  • Campus parking permits for lunchtime parking ease
  • Voci concert outfit (top, skirt, socks, shoes)
  • Silver jewelry for concert
  • Makeup
  • Hair stuff (curling iron, styling creme, hair clip, bobby pins, etc.)
  • Water bottle
  • Music
  • Snack for self before concert
  • Shaker for possible use in one piece
  • Caramel pecan brownies for intermission bake sale
  • Dinner (t.b.a.)
  • Warm jacket & scarf 
  • Black top & black jeans for evening ballet show (assistant stage manager). Keep black concert shoes & socks
  • Notes for ballet show
DH is on chauffeur duty--he will be dropping B off at the ballet school at 8:30 tomorrow morning, then returning there at 2:00 with three of B's friends and my sister. After he drives everyone home (including B), he and the kids are going to a party at a colleague's house.

Garland Dancer

Current mental soundtrack: "Today, this Spring" by Libby Larsen

To hear my mental soundtrack, be sure to come to this weekend's Voci concerts!

B is performing this weekend in Sleeping Beauty, so I'm spending my "spare" time as one of the crew of stage managers.

Here she is backstage:



And here's a photo taken from the wings during yesterday's outreach performance:


It's fun watching her class progress. They started off as cute little beginners who mostly moved at the right times, but not always in the right direction. By now, they are starting to look like they know what they're doing. Their feet point the same way, they move at the same time, and they look like ballerinas.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

They're In!

Just got the announcement--B and her friends will be in Orinda Idol again this year. I've been waking up in the middle of the night wondering if they would get in, if I did everything I could to help them, if I should have steered them towards an easier piece, etc. Now I can go back to my more normal middle-of-the-night senseless worries :-)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

To and Fro and To and Fro and...

Current mental soundtrack: Hymn 355 from the Episcopal hymnal (yes, I
sang at church this morning)
Yesterday I wore my chauffeur hat; three round trips to the ballet
school! First was the usual Saturday morning pre-ballet class (B is a
teaching assistant). Then back home for B's Orinda Idol audition at
1:55. Back to the ballet school after that, to drop off B for her 1:30
rehearsal (late). A final trip to pick her up at 5:00.
DH took M to fencing, went to Costco, and got M a haircut. Each of us
also took a trip to the grocery store, because we didn't remember
everything the first time.
B's audition went pretty well, although I'm not 100% certain that
they'll get in this year. B, L, M, and A picked the hardest of the
pieces I gave them to choose from, and A is having some trouble
holding her part against the others. They didn't start work on it
until after the musical (two weeks ago), so it wasn't as solid as I
know they can do.
DH cooked a fabulous dinner last night, after all that driving around.
Porterhouse steaks, potato salad, corn on the cob, and fresh
strawberries (that we were too full to eat!). Our first BBQ of the
season :-)
Off to dim sum after church!

--------------------------
Sent from my iPhone

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Hei, jäkkä däkkä düüdi aadi oodi aadi üüdi ambo

Current mental soundtrack: "Announcement III", by Jaako Mäntyjärvi

Long day is finally over! DH is in Crete this weekend (he finally made it there after having his original flight cancelled because of a transportation strike), so the kids and I got to travel together all day today.

We left home at 10:00 this morning to get B to the pre-ballet class she TAs for. While she was in class (10:30-11:30), M and I had coffee and breakfast across the street.
Next stop was M's fencing class from 12:00-1:30. B and I ran some errands, and picked up lunch at Costco.
At 2:00, we returned to the ballet school for B's afternoon rehearsal (2:00-3:00). I also got to stay and watch, since I'm one of the stage manager crew, and we were instructed to take notes today.
We got home at 3:30, fed the dogs, packed our bags, and were out the door at 4:05 to meet up with my carpool.
The three of us, plus two other singers from my choir, made it into the city pretty quickly. We met up with two other singers, and had dinner at Taqueria El Castillito, our usual stop before San Francisco concerts. The "super nachos" are enough to feed a family, and very tasty.
Concert warmup began at 6:30, and the concert at 8:00. It went quite well today--the, um, "interesting" things that happened in yesterday's concert didn't recur. The kids had their own role: Mäntyjärvi's "Announcement IV" refers to unaccompanied minors in the audience, so at the appropriate moment in the piece, the entire choir pointed to M & B, who fled the room! They had a great time acting this out:
Under health and safety regulations, unaccompanied minors are not allowed in this performance except by written permission from the composer. Unaccompanied minors will be removed and may be destroyed.
The encore was Mäntyjärvi's "El Hambo," which satirizes Swedish folk dancing, the Swedish Chef, and who knows what else. I brought a wooden spoon to dress rehearsal on Wednesday, since I just couldn't imagine the Swedish Chef without cutlery ("bork bork"). This evolved into banging the spoon on a pot held by my neighbor, since we weren't able to do the clapping written in the score (no time to memorize the piece).

For the post-concert reception, I made a lemon poppy seed bundt cake. My fellow carpooler baked a lemon bundt cake, and someone else brought lemon bars. I guess we were all in a lemon mood!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Bork Bork

Current mental soundtrack: "Answer: The Cow" by William Bergsma

Tonight's rehearsal was long and difficult. I knew it would be that way before we started, and I was right. I love singing with S&P because it's fun to sing challenging music with a group of excellent musicians, but I think that this set is testing the limits of our muscianship. One piece in particular, Per Nørgård's Wie Ein Kind, has sucked up a lot of our rehearsal time. To give you an idea of how difficult it is, last week our conductor made the perfectly reasonable request that we try to observe the dynamics in this piece. I think I missed about half of the dynamic changes--the rest of my brain cells were committed to singing the right notes at the right time. (Those of you who have sung with me in the past know that I can sight-read almost anything, which tells you something about this piece!)

That being said, I think it will be a fun concert. Some very modern-sounding stuff, but also some very entertaining texts. (And be sure to stick around for the encore!)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Unexpected Snags

Current mental soundtrack: "Mister Sandman" (I think this one is going to be stuck in my head for the next five months--very catchy tune!)

DH and I are going on a business trip this week, leaving tomorrow and returning Friday. This was scheduled at the last minute, but everything seemed to be going smoothly until tonight. My sister can stay with M (B is at camp all week), the other mom in the carpool can drive for us, and I am scheduled to be home in time for the Voci retreat on Saturday. Our plane tickets were booked yesterday, with us flying into a larger airport about two hours away from where we're going (saved ____ University about $1000). The plan was to rent a car and drive from the airport to the university tomorrow night.

DH just called at least a half dozen car rental agencies, and I checked both Travelocity and Expedia, and we got the same answer each time--not a single rental car to be found anywhere in the airport! We've never had that happen before! So, as he was starting to panic, I pointed out that his first appointment Thursday morning isn't until 10:00, and discovered there were plenty of cars available Thursday morning. (I have no idea why we couldn't get any of them ten hours earlier...) I booked us a hotel online for one night, he called the hotel we're supposed to be staying at to tell them we would be arriving the next morning, and we have a car confirmation in hand now. Whew!

The hotel I booked is one that we last stayed in thirteen years ago, when M was just a few months old. I wonder if they still have green sheets?

Monday, April 19, 2010

B's Birthday

Current mental soundtrack: "Mister Sandman" by Pat Ballard

B's birthday party was a success! The treasure hunt I planned worked out quite well--none of the clues were too easy, and only one was too hard (the crossword puzzle).

The theme was Ugly Dolls, and the prizes at the end of the treasure hunt were keychain Ugly Dolls wrapped in gold tissue paper. The clues included a word scramble, a cryptogram, sheet music ("Rubber Duckie"), a walk with a compass and measuring tape, and a jigsaw puzzle.

The cake was vanilla with homemade lemon filling and buttercream frosting.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Wait, Did I Remember To Put Sleeping and Eating In the Schedule?

Projects completed this week (besides the usual work, chauffeur duties, grocery shopping, cooking, laundry, and rehearsals for S&P and Voci):
  • Two Peter Pan rehearsals at B's school (co-music director)
  • Attempted retrieval of M's cell phone, which was confiscated on Monday when it rang in French class. The school has instituted a new rule that confiscated phones have to be picked up by a parent. Of course, when I showed up on Wednesday afternoon, no one could find the phone. M did get it back yesterday.
  • One rehearsal for Annie at M's school. I helped out in costumes--none of the other moms on duty that day could tie a tie. I only had to stay for the first hour or so, but when I went to pick up M at 6:30, I had to wait until 7:10 before he finally appeared. Fortunately, Voci rehearsal is only five minutes from my house, so I still made it on time.
  • Two dozen cupcakes baked, filled, and frosted last night. Four will be included with a dinner I'm bringing to some friends [see below], and the rest are for S&P retreat on Saturday. (Vanilla with raspberry filling and buttercream icing.)
  • Apartment in Rome booked for July (had to dig out the fax machine that's been stored in our garage for the last four or five years)

Projects in progress:
  • Making dinner tonight for a friend who's just had surgery. I will make potato soup and pick up a loaf of bread this afternoon before taking B to ballet class.
  • Organizing B's group to audition for Orinda Idol. The signup deadline is next week, and B and her best friend L (who sang together in the last two competitions) waited until this week to decide they wanted to try again. L's mom wasn't thrilled by the idea, but B really wanted to do it, so she's going along with it. After several phone calls between the girls, they finally decided who they wanted to join them this year. They talked with their friends yesterday, and I finally had a spare minute last night to e-mail the moms. Both moms got back to me within half an hour with positive responses! (It appears that a lot of moms are online between 10:00 and 11:00 pm.)
  • Picking suitable music for the Orinda Idol group. I have been collecting pieces for the last couple of months, but not knowing who would be singing, I have some SSA and some SSAA pieces. Now to figure out what will work with the group we have.
  • Baking (scheduled for tonight after ballet) and decorating (scheduled for tomorrow night after retreat) B's birthday cake for Sunday.
  • Putting together the treasure hunt for B's birthday party on Sunday. Most of the clues are prepared on my computer, but not yet printed out. Two clues still need some work before Sunday. I have no idea if the clues are too easy or two hard for these girls.
  • Prepping for S&P retreat tomorrow. I'm temporarily the alto section leader (until D returns in the fall), so I have to run the alto sectional. As assistant conductor, I get to run the SA sectional that follows. (At least the cupcakes for lunch are already done.) Retreat is 10:00-4:00, which pretty much wipes out the entire day.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Choosing a Choo Choo

Current mental soundtrack: "Beautiful Is the World" from Siddartha Fragments, by Jude Navari

Today's pre-Europe adventure was booking train travel. Twenty-one days in Europe, two countries, six travel days, sounds like a six-day Eurail France-Italy Saver pass is the way to go. But wait! The best way to get from Lyon to Venice (according to the schedule) is overnight. Since there's a change of trains after 7:00 pm, that counts as two days on the pass. Does that mean we need a seven-day pass? Well, no, because we can just buy tickets from Venice to Florence for less than the cost of an additional day on the pass, so we're back to the six-day pass. (I don't know how many hours of online research it took for me to be able to write this paragraph, but it was quite a few!)

I ended up purchasing a six-day Saver pass for four, reserved seats for three on the TGV from Paris to Lyon (DH will already be there), and two double-sleepers for the Lyon-Venice overnight leg. It's too early to reserve the other overnight leg (Rome to Paris), and we're going to wing it for the shorter daytime trips in Italy.

Naturally, after buying these, I found one snag in my plans: In order to use our Saver pass for the family, all four have to be present to validate the pass before use. In other words, DH is going to have to take the TGV from Lyon BACK to CDG to meet us before any of us can use the pass to get to Lyon!

At least the credit card company didn't blink at the charge...

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Too Much Security?

We are planning a trip to Europe this summer: three weeks in France and Italy. DH acquired the plane tickets for us a couple of months ago, as he had enough miles saved up to buy two of the three tickets we need. (He will already be in France for a conference, so his airfare is covered).

After spending February and March reading guidebooks, I've finally decided on an itinerary, so I started yesterday by trying to book a B&B in Paris for the end of our trip. I promptly ran into the first snag of our trip. Our credit card company declined the online transaction, so I had to call them to confirm that we were indeed trying to book a room in Paris. Then I had to wait for the owner of the B&B website to reset the queue (I couldn't resubmit the transaction until she cleared it). Second try--still declined by the credit card company. Called them again to complain, emailed the owner to reset everything, and waited a few more hours to try again. It finally went through this time.

Today, I attempted to purchase some other things online (normal purchases for me), and discovered the card had been blocked AGAIN. Third call to the credit card company in two days--the woman I spoke to this time had to call her supervisor to clear things up. It seems that I made some sort of change to my account information (I'm presuming this is related to deleting the work number they had for me that hasn't been valid for four years) that threw me back into limbo.

I appreciate their attempts to prevent fraudulent use of my credit card, but I'm annoyed that it took THREE phone calls to them to straighten it out. It should only have taken one. And, I had to make a phone call to a retailer to tell them to try my credit card again, since my order didn't go through. I hope the rest of the planning goes more smoothly.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Random Stories From Today

Today, after Peter Pan rehearsal, B and I stopped by the house to pick up M, as we had plans to eat dinner with friends while B was at ballet class. He was ready to go, as promised, but he was puzzled by faint music that he was hearing inside the house. He said it was all through the house, and a little louder when he put his ear next to the toilet and next to the heater vent. I asked him what kind of music it sounded like, and he reported it sounded like a guitar. Once he got in the car, he decided to turn on his iPod, to drown out the mystery music. Lo and behold, his iPod was already on, and had been playing music in his pocket! (He ranked this one up there with the staple episode.)

B had a great time at ballet class, because no one showed up to teach her two-hour class until halfway through! The girls were very diligent and did their barre work, making up their own combinations as they went along. The school pianist was there for the whole class, and B reports that he thought they did a great job. (Their regular teacher is away this week--they had a sub on Tuesday, and a different one today.)

One more M funny tonight: he has a French test tomorrow, so I was helping him study by quizzing him from the textbook:
     M: What does "ou" mean?
     E: Where.
     M: There! (pointing to the word "ou" in the book)
     E: WHERE.
     M: There! Oh...

A classic "Who's on First" moment!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunny Sunday

Current mental soundtrack: Star Trek theme (kids were watching one of the movies earlier tonight)

Today's accomplishments:
  • Laundry: First six loads washed, dried, and folded. Last load in the dryer right now.
  • Garden: Didn't do much today, but did some weeding and picked up several buckets of yard waste.
  • Baking: B saw our four overripe bananas and requested banana bread, so 1.5 loaves are now sitting on the counter (they don't last long around here)
  • Treats: Matzo brittle made for S&P rehearsal tomorrow night. It was a successful experiment--I saw the recipe in the newspaper earlier this week and thought it sounded interesting. Four thumbs up from the family. Still need to pick up some hummus, as our Safeway was sold out today. 
  • March Madness:  After seven years of entering a friend's pool, I actually won this year! Yes, I know the tournament isn't over yet, but our friend has calculated that no one else has enough potential points left to catch me. Woohoo!
Happy Sunday!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Growing Teenager

Current mental soundtrack: "The Brain is Wider Than the Sky" from An Emily Dickinson Mosaic, by Daniel Pinkham

Took M to Tarzhay this afternoon for a new wardrobe, since he's outgrown almost everything he owns. The final tally for the afternoon: four men's T-shirts, one nice shirt, two pairs of shorts, a Personal Pan Pizza, and a box of cookies. He consumed the pizza and several of the cookies on the way home, and declared he was still hungry.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spring is Here

A nice, relaxing weekend, with nothing on the calendar for next weekend, either. Yesterday we planted some new flowers (to replace the ones that didn't make it through the winter), and I did a bunch of badly needed weeding. Today, I got up and found that DH had made us pancakes for breakfast. B heated up my lunch for me (we split a frozen pizza), and I'm cooking ham, asparagus, and scalloped potatoes for dinner.

Oh, and I correctly picked Cornell to advance to the Sweet Sixteen, along with St. Mary's, so I'm doing pretty well in the pool :-)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Dessert Tower

For today's Voci fundraiser, I bought a "dessert tower" to display the mini cupcakes I baked:



Closeup of cupcakes:

(Chocolate and white cakes, filled with raspberry filling, and topped with chocolate and white-chocolate ganaches.)

Friday, March 12, 2010

Spring Forward is Coming

I need to keep better track of when Daylight Savings Time begins. Silly me, I said "yes" to subbing at a church service this Sunday, not realizing that being there by 8:55 am means 7:55 am body time, or roughly when I get out of bed on a weekday.

It's going to be a busy weekend here (nothing new, I suppose, to readers of this blog!) Saturday, DH has a work event in the morning, so I will be out from 10:00-2:00 delivering kids to and from their activities, and fitting some shopping in during the down time. (The snake needs to be fed, B needs some craft supplies, and we always need stuff at Costco.) At 5:00, DH has another work event, but this one is happening at our house, so from 2:00-5:00 we will be frantically cleaning and organizing. While DH is having his meeting, I will be baking goodies for the next day.

Sunday morning is the aforementioned church service, then Sunday afternoon is the Voci fundraiser. DH is on setup/cleanup crew, I am providing desserts (mini cupcakes this year), and singing and conducting. Fortunately for us, M decided earlier this week that he wants to make dinner for us--he has been making croque madame sandwiches for himself, and wants to share. I suggested that Sunday would be a GREAT day for him to make dinner, and he agreed!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Manic and Not-So-Merry Month of March

March is supposed to be a relaxed month, unlike the frenetic months of December and May, when everything happens. So why is this year so crazy? I haven't had any time to work in the garden (I usually start pulling weeds in the yard during February), and my taxes still aren't done. Two concerts last weekend and one fundraiser concert this weekend, which does explain a lot of the craziness. Plus I'm spending more time on B's musical this year than I have in past years--still trying to get the various scores pasted together in semi-final form.

We received some sad news at rehearsal tonight--one of our founding members is leaving the group, because her ovarian cancer has metastasized, and the prognosis is not good. And, since that's clearly not enough bad news for one family, her husband has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She's coming to the concert this weekend, and like the trouper she's always been, she's still bringing the food she promised for the reception. :-(

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Update to a Busy, Busy, Expensive Week

Last night I came home from rehearsal around 10:45, and tried to check my e-mail. No Internet. Sometime yesterday evening, our router died, so we'll add that to the list of things to replace.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Busy, Busy, Expensive Week

Yesterday evening, DH took B to her ballet class, while I went to a meeting at her school about fifth-grade camp. Our rule is that whoever has the kids gets the minivan, so I got to drive the Saturn. On the way to school I noticed that it was even harder to steer than usual: when I got home, both front tires were noticeably low on air. We've known for several months that the car needs new tires, but haven't gotten around to taking care of it. This morning DH went out to look at it, and the left front tire is entirely flat.

So, the schedule for today ended up starting with driving DH to work. Normally we carpool, but I was already planning to work at home because of some other things on the schedule. He would have taken the car in for new tires today, but he had an appointment with the optometrist. (Yes, he needs new glasses, and so do I--my appointment was yesterday.) Tires are on the schedule for tomorrow morning.

First planned stop of the day: B got her braces off this morning, and her upper teeth look beautiful . But, the orthodontist has referred her to an oral surgeon to have four ankylosed baby teeth removed a.s.a.p.


Next scheduled stop: Poppy gets to go to school this afternoon. M's science class is having Dog Day, when students bring in their dogs. (They're studying genetics right now.) At least this one isn't going to cost us anything, other than a $3.99 bag of doggie treats.

Then, a quickie house cleaning before the piano teacher arrives. Dinner will be a frozen lasagna (B requested homemade, but I told her it wasn't going to happen this week.)

I've spent almost all of my spare time this week balancing the checkbook. Every year we swear we won't wait twelve months to do it, and every year we end up doing it all in February and March. I do have to balance the checkbook before I can do our taxes, because of the myriad of work expenses and reimbursements and honoraria that DH accumulates every year.

S&P dress rehearsal tonight from 7:00-10:00. Come hear us this weekend!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Shakedown

DH & I just returned from B's school auction. Despite having moved here four years ago, this is the first time we've attended. We were very impressed by the organization, and the multitude of ways they've found to get more money out of the parents :-) We got off pretty lightly, mostly because we don't have enough $$$ to bid on the big-ticket items. In addition to the entrance price (which did include a tasty dinner and lots of wine), we purchased the following fixed-price items:
A set of note cards with B's self-portrait on them ($15). Yes, the school is selling us our own daughter's artwork.

A black & white 8x10 portrait of B ($65). A photographer shoots the kindergarteners and fifth-graders every year for the auction. Neither of our kids attended kindergarten here, but we also purchased M's fifth-grade portrait two years ago (without actually attending the auction). Now that we have two, I supposed I should probably get around to buying frames for them.

A ticket to the "Fifth Grade Girls' Farewell to G--------" party in June ($50). One of those things we wouldn't want her to miss, despite the price, since I'm pretty certain all of her friends will be there.

Some of the live auction items that would have interested us if we had the money:
Dinner & movie with B's teacher (sold for $1,500). (One of the other fifth-grade classes had two parents in a bidding war, and that one went for over $5,000!!!)
A week in a Florentine villa (sold for $3,200). We would have tried bidding on it if it had been available in July, since we're planning to be in Italy, but we couldn't have gone that high.

Since California's school-funding system is such a mess, parents in wealthy communities like ours have to dig into their pockets to pay for things like arts education, P.E. teachers, and librarians. And parents in non-wealthy communities just have to do without :-(

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Emily's New Bed

B decided last week that she wanted to spend her savings on a third American Girl doll (Emily), which led to a discussion of where the new one is going to sleep. Molly and Kirsten, the two dolls she already has, have beds set up in her closet, but there wasn't room on the floor for a third bed. We had already decided previously to put in a shelf so that the girls can have a second floor to their living quarters, so we came up with the idea of making a hammock for Emily.

 

It never ceases to amaze me what can be found on the Internet. I have some basic crochet skills, so I googled "doll hammock" and quickly found two different patterns. B liked this one better, so we went to the craft store to pick up yarn and a crochet hook. B was kind enough to pick out fat yarn, so the crocheting went very quickly. The wooden dowels took a little longer, and I didn't drill all the holes straight, but I don't think anyone will notice.

 

We still haven't hung the hammock yet, but it's going to go underneath the white shelf as soon as I get to the hardware store to buy some hardware. DH kindly put the shelf up for us yesterday, and B wants to go to the fabric store to get something to use as a carpet for the second story.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Gong xi fa cai, and Happy Valentine's Day!

DH did make to to DC on Thursday, and today he arrived home safely. I picked him up at the airport this afternoon, and discovered that he and I had bought each other identical boxes of chocolate (See's one-pound Nuts and Chews). Great minds think alike!

After the airport, we went to the Tech Museum in San Jose to see the Star Trek Exhibit. The kids have really gotten into Star Trek this year: we started the ball rolling last spring when we insisted they watch a few episodes of the original series before going to see the new movie. M has watched all of the original series now, and I don't think B is far behind. The exhibit was fun--we had our picture taken on a replica of the original bridge, although we declined to pay $28 for it at the end. They also had a transporter set up, and we watched ourselves disappear on the monitor. Lots of props and models, and a long timeline of happenings in the Star Trek universe. I hadn't realized before seeing the timeline that Star Trek: Enterprise (the one series we didn't watch) occurred BEFORE the original series in the timeline.

By the time we got through the exhibit, we were hungry and tired, so didn't stay to explore the rest of the museum, although it looked interesting. After some discussion, we agreed to have dinner at The Fish Market in San Mateo, since it was on the way home and we hadn't been to a branch for quite a while. (It used to be one of our favorite restaurants when we lived in San Diego.) The wait for a table was 45 minutes to an hour, but DH got us on the list upstairs at The Top of the Market, and we had a delicious seafood dinner in honor of the two holidays today.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

And You Thought This Was a Good Idea, Because...

Last night, I was sitting on my bed reading with B, when M came in and said, "Mom, I think this is the stupidest thing I've ever done." That certainly got my attention! He then showed me his thumb, with a staple neatly stuck into the ball. I guess I'm just not a natural-born blogger--it didn't occur to me that I should have taken a photo :-)

Fortunately, the staple wasn't very far in (just the tips), so I told him to pull it out, wash his hand with soap and water (yes, both soap AND water), put some antibiotic ointment on it, and then bandage it so he wouldn't leave bloodstains around the house. Being a teenager, he had to argue with me about the ointment, so I let it slide (I'm pretty certain he's up to date on his tetanus shots).

Of course, we had to know how he did it. He said that the stapler was jammed, so he tried to push the staple back in with his thumb. B was astounded that anyone would try that!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Ripples in the Snow

The big snowstorm on the East Coast (a.k.a. Snowmageddon) is having its effect on our household in sunny California. DH was scheduled to leave tomorrow morning for a meeting at NIH. We got a call today informing him that the second leg of his flight (Chicago to DC) has been cancelled. They're still hoping to have the meeting later this week, but I'm not certain he's going to be able to get out there on Thursday, either. I guess we'll just have to wait and see. On the bright side of things, this means I don't have to get up at 6:00 am tomorrow to drive him to the BART station :-)

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Neverland Redux

The spring musical at B's school was announced right before Christmas break, and guess what? They're doing Peter Pan this spring! (M's school did the play, not the musical, so it's technically a different show.)

I haven't posted much recently, because this spring I'm co-musical director, and I've been busy trying to get the music in order. The rental company provided scripts for the kids, an e-mail version of the score (because they didn't mail the hard copy on time), and a hard copy of the score by mail. Naturally, none of them are the same, even before the director started making his own changes! In addition, both versions of the score have the orchestration reduced for one piano. Since we have in the "pit" both a piano and a keyboard (and three pairs of hands to play them), plus a percussionist, I've been re-orchestrating the reduced score for our forces by listening to the movie over and over.

The Mary Martin version of Peter Pan is extremely hard to come by on DVD. Even Netflix doesn't have one to rent out! Fortunately, someone has posted it on YouTube (in fifteen segments), so I've been able to listen to it there. I had started by buying the CD, but the vocals are so loud that I can barely hear the orchestration, and they also left off the non-vocal selections, like the overture.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Splish Splash

We're having a bit of weather here this week. Yesterday morning, I went into the garage to get something before leaving for work, and stepped in an enormous puddle of water. I started bailing with a sponge and a bucket (the mop fell apart last week, and I haven't bought a new head for it yet) while waiting for DH to finish his shower and investigate the cause. After four buckets of water, I decided this was a ridiculous way to do it. Instead, I grabbed a bunch of "dog towels" (cheap white towels from Costco that we use for everything dog-related), sopped up the water with them, then put them in the washer to spin dry. Repeat until floor is dry.

In the meantime, DH finished his shower and took a look outside. He didn't find the puddle by the door that he was expecting. He then looked up and saw the waterfall coming down from the gutter. We hadn't gotten around to cleaning the leaves out of the gutter yet this year, so he got to do it yesterday in the rain, while I mopped.

Today it's raining even harder. Strawberry Creek runs in front of our building at work, and it's normally a little trickle. Today we walked over the bridge and looked down to see a raging torrent! Muddy brown water, way over the banks, rushing downstream.

Just got an e-mail from our town saying that the power is out to both B's and M's schools. Not any of the other schools in town, just theirs. Since our house lies between the two schools, I'm assuming we don't have power, either.

Update (10:21 am): Middle school is officially closing for the day. No word from the elementary school yet. 

Update to the update (10:46 am): Middle school has power again, so they will stay open.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Singing vs. Sports

I just spent a nice weekend on San Diego. Saw my parents, had a lovely lunch with my former choir carpool, and sang in the PWC concert this afternoon.

Am I the only non-football fan in the US? There was some big game today involving the Chargers: the singers were checking the score at intermission, and I went through airport security surrounded by fans in green jerseys. (I don't even know which team is the green one!)

Monday, January 4, 2010

Non-Furlough Furlough

You've probably heard about the budget crisis in California, and the furloughing of state employees. I work at UC Berkeley, but since my position is funded by federal money, I'm not subject to the furlough program. However, I'm being forced to take three days off without pay this week, because the campus is officially closed and I used up all my vacation time over the last two weeks. I have no idea why they chose these dates--everyone who has kids has ended their vacations already, because school started today.

I have to say, though, that I'm getting a lot done at home. Our annual New Year's letter/card is almost finished, I've reorganized two cabinets in the kitchen (prompted by the arrival of DH's new china), and today I completely reorganized the Christmas decorations.

For the past decade or so, we've had three medium-size boxes of ornaments (DH's mother loves to give us ornaments to mark occasions), a large cardboard box (with stockings, lights, etc.), and small cardboard box (the box that the stocking hangers arrived in). The ornament boxes had already been sorted into 1, 2, and 3, with selected ornaments from boxes 1 & 2 being used each year. I moved things around so that next year, we'll only have to open ornament box #1. The large box had a torn handle this year, so I moved the contents of both boxes into plastic bins (that match the zillion other plastic bins in our garage), one with outside stuff and one with inside stuff. The only thing that didn't make it into a bin is the Christmas tree stand. I also had the bright idea of putting each string of lights into its own Ziploc bag, which should reduce the tangles for next year.

Two more days to go. I supposed I should tackle the unpacking of my suitcase next. (I did the Christmas decorations today because tomorrow is tree pickup day; otherwise, I probably would have unpacked first.)

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Christmas 2009

We're on the way home from our annual holiday pilgrimage to San Diego. In addition to seeing family and eating too much, we did some fun stuff.

The days before Christmas were spent shopping and wrapping gifts. I had done the big shopping ahead of time, but still needed stocking stuffers. I discovered that it's very difficult to find rolls of Lifesavers--I finally ended up with Lifesavers candy canes.

On the 26th, we drove up to The Red Bee to shop for craft supplies and say "hi" to the owners.

The next day, DH's parents rented a motel suite in Big Bear Lake, so we drove up with the whole gang and went sledding. (Pictures soon--I don't have any on this iPhone.) We started at the $25 per person tubing hill, complete with conveyer belt to get back up the hill, but after lunch it became too crowded. The following day, we found a great hill. We only had to buy two $5 Forest Service parking permits, so that was a much better deal! The kids sledded until they were exhausted, then we headed back to San Diego. DH's accident-prone sister somehow managed to sled into a rock and give herself a mild concussion, but she's doing fine now.

On the 29th, M turned 13, so we are now the parents of a teenager. We celebrated by going to the San Diego Zoo with my parents, followed by dinner at Jasmine and homemade cake.

I also squeezed in a shopping trip to Fashion Valley, two PWC rehearsals, and dinner at Fidel's Little Mexico.

We should be home in a little over an hour. No matter how much fun it is to go away, it's always nice to sleep on my own bed.


Sunset at my parents' house