Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Any Minute

Today as I waited in line at Wal-Mart I noticed that the woman behind me was pregnant. The cashier looked over to her and asked, "When are you due?" To my surprise, the woman replied, "Today!"

I couldn't help doing two things: First, I smiled, and then, I stepped away a little so my shoes would stay dry if her water broke.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Imago Dei

Over the past weekend FavoriteBoy and I were privileged to hear three separate performances of an eight-part choral setting of Psalm 23, composed by a friend of ours, Dustin. Dustin is a senior in college; a down-to-earth, humble tenor who can fill a room with lush melodies and then run outside for a game of frisbee.

As a musician, daily I rub shoulders with people possessing beautiful gifts that mirror God's creativity. Holly moves air through her trombone and produces loud, clear tones. My young students slip their small violins beneath their chins, draw bows across strings, and learn the careful placement of fingers that bring notes off the page and turn them into melody. My own husband hears a complex symphonic work and recreates it by ear at the piano, or sits at the computer and uses music software to bring to life the compositions and arrangements in his mind. I lift my violin onto my shoulder and feel the cool smoothness of the wooden chinrest. It is altogether normal that my fingers can navigate the fretless black fingerboard to find the highest or lowest tones. Encountering these abilities daily, they seem mundane.

Hearing Dustin's piece sung over the weekend - an exquisite work with beautiful sonorities, intellectual text-painting, and soaring vocal lines - served as a reminder to me that the people I see, chat with, teach, and love every day all bear nothing less than the image of God. And I too am allowed to participate in this image-bearing, this God-given creativity.

My cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the House of the Lord forever.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Soft Pretzels

Whenever we find ourselves running an errand at the mall, Nathan wants to get soft pretzels from the little shops there. I recently decided to try making soft pretzels, and I'm glad I did! They are very fun to make, from the rolling and shaping to the bathing in water fizzing with baking soda. I've made two batches, one using this pretzel recipe and the other using this buttermilk pretzel recipe. They definitely tasted slightly different, but I'm not sure which one I preferred - both were delicious, with slightly chewy exteriors and soft, light insides. Do buy some coarse sea salt for sprinkling on top; it's worth it.

They are really not that difficult to make, and much cheaper than buying pretzels at the mall.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Caterpillar Hot Dogs

A few weeks ago I came across a recipe for something called Caterpillar Bread. It's not just bread, though - it's more like a fancy homeade hot dog wrap-up. I knew that the fun of making these would fit my enjoyment of cooking and baking, while the hot dogs would fit Nathan's enjoyment of, well, hot dogs. So naturally I had to make these twisty little creations. They turned out to be quite tasty!

I served them drizzled with mustard and ketchup.

Healthy? No. But a very fun treat! The recipe makes enough dough to wrap up a full package of 8 hot dogs, plus a little left over which you can shape into rolls. Nathan and I had these for dinner two nights last week; three for him and one for me each time... a perfect way to use a package of hot dogs. (Note: The recipe calls for pork floss, which I didn't use. I also used less sugar than the dough recipe called for.)

Audition: It's Over!

I wanted to thank those of you who contacted me in various ways to ask about my audition. You are all so thoughtful! The audition was a pretty good experience. I played well - not perfectly, but decently. Now I just have to wait and see if I get one of the two full-tuition graduate assistantships the school is giving out this year.

And then I have to decide if I want to go to this particular school or not. If I decide this isn't the school for me, I'll probably be applying and auditioning at a few other schools within the next six months or so. Decisions, decisions... I'm no good with decisions.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


It's 7:30 in the morning, and I'm about to depart, violin in hand, and go to a grad school audition. Yes, I've applied to a graduate program for a master's degree in music performance.

There are two reasons why I should feel exceptionally calm about this particular audition, at which I will be playing the first movement of the Tchaikovsky concerto and the third movement of the Bach A minor solo sonata. First of all, I already know that I will be accepted into the program. Secondly, I don't even know for sure that I want to go to this particular school. So why am I freaking out?

I shouldn't be, but I am. And since I am, I decided to give myself a pep talk. It went like this: "Hey Self, remember that great compliment you got from your last teacher? You are an OK violinist. You might not play every 32nd-note double-stop perfectly in tune. You might not keep the bass line in the Bach perfectly even or consistent enough. But you will probably not totally bomb. Probably not."

I'm going to play everything through once more. And then I'm off.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Cool Blog: A Year of CrockPotting

I stumbled across a very interesting blog recently: A Year of CrockPotting. This blogger is making something in her crockpot every day for a year. And if you're thinking of "standard" crock pot fare, think again. She doesn't just do meat-and-potato main dishes; she has slow cooker recipes for roasted garlic, candied nuts, and even pound cake!

I'm planning to try a variation on her Enchilada Casserole (minus at least some of the cheese since I'm not a dairy person) sometime soon. Yum!

By the way, if you love slow cookers, you need to have the Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook. I received mine as a gift from Amber and Matt, and I just love it!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Grammatical Sins

I've become somewhat resigned to the tragic grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors I find in our church bulletin every Sunday morning, but I just can't get accustomed to hearing people speak from the pulpit with blatant inconsistencies or errors. Here are two recent examples:

"Now, as the ushers come forward to receive our tithes and offerings." (FavoriteBoy and I looked at one another aghast and exclaimed in whispers, "That's not a sentence!")

"Will you promise to preach the good news of the gospel, and will you blah blah blah, and will you blah blah blah? If so, please signify by saying 'We do.'" (Temporarily bewildered, I attempted to decide between saying what I had been asked to say and saying the correct thing. I ended up saying... nothing.)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Oh, Those Yankees

NEW YORK — A construction worker's bid to curse the New York Yankees by planting a Boston Red Sox jersey in their new stadium was foiled Sunday when the home team removed the offending shirt from its burial spot.

Yankees President Randy Levine calls it "a very, very bad act" and is considering pressing criminal charges against the construction worker who did the clever deed.

Read the whole article here.

A lawsuit over a harmless prank? Really? Doesn't anyone have a sense of humor anymore? (Oh wait - it's just the Yankees who don't.)

Actually, it looks to me like the Yankees may have reversed some very different sort of curse by excavating Ortiz's jersey. Previously he was in a bit of a slump (.070), but with the removal of his No. 34 jersey, his performance improved rapidly and noticeably!

Friday, April 18, 2008

3 Steps To Signing Your Posts

Notice how I have a signature at the bottom of my most recent posts? I think it adds a nice, personal touch.

And because I'm never one to hoard information, I'm going to tell you how to create your own. It's a snap - you can create your signature in under five minutes and have it automatically attached to all your future posts!

Step 1:
Go to My Live Signature. Scroll down the page and click "Proceed." (You don't need to register, login, or give out any personal information to use the site.) On the next page, select "Create a new signature." You'll be taken to a page where you can choose to scan an image of your own or use the "signature creation wizard." Click to use the wizard.

Step 2:
Type in the name you'd like to use to sign your posts, and in the next field, just type the letters or numbers you see. Now you get to choose from 120 fonts. Just pick the one you like best and think best fits the style of your blog, whether it be classy, sophisticated, or whimsical. I used font #9 because it's a bit similar to the way I really sign my name. Once you've chosen your font, you get to choose the size you want it to appear, the color you want (there aren't many options here), and finally, how much of a slope you want. That's it, you've created your signature! Doesn't it look nice? Click on "Want to use this signature?" A pop-up will appear, and you're going to tell it to generate an HTML code for you. Now select the top option, "Generate a code for my handwritten signature." There's your code, ready to be used.

Step 3:
Now you get to add the signature to your posts. Here's how you do it in Blogger. From your dashboard, go to Settings > Formatting. At the bottom of the page you'll see a text box for your Post Template. Copy the code you got at the end of Step 2 and paste it into this box. As soon as you save your settings, that code will appear in every future new post you create. Just keep it at the bottom of the post, and all your posts will have a personalized signature at the end, just like this one.

P.S. Comment and let me know if you try this on your own blog - I'd love to drop by and see how yours turns out.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Tempos and Good Vibrations

Ten-year-old Anna's piano lesson today was spent working on a piece filled with triplets. Before she began to play, she commented, "Really, if it weren't for this," - and she pointed to the word Moderato at the top of the page - "the triplets could be as fast or as slow as you want. And so could the quarter notes!" I was pleased with her realization and understanding, as all too often students have misconceptions that an eighth note is "a fast note" or a whole note is "a slow note," rather than perceiving the speed of any note within the structure and proportion of the overall tempo. As we talked about this concept a bit, Anna exclaimed, "So if the tempo were really slow, a quarter note could last, like, forever!"

"Wait," she amended, "Not forever, because eventually the piano strings would just chill out with the vibrating."

Computer Genius

As I was trying to open a Microsoft Word document, the mouse arrow froze in the center of the screen. I waited a minute, tried moving the mouse again - still frozen. With a sigh, I restarted the computer. Still the mouse seemed frozen. Just before hitting the restart button again, I glanced down at the mouse and noticed that the red light wasn't on. A different kind of light went on - one in my sluggish brain - as I realized that the batteries in the mouse simply needed to be replaced.

I'm a computer genius.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Oh Boy Oh Boy Oh Danny

This funny video makes me laugh a lot, and actually reminds me - the second soloist in particular - of Nathan. When I was practicing my part recently for Beethoven's Ninth, Nathan would "accompany" me by singing, "Freude, freude, freude, freude, freude, freude, freude, freude!" Try as I might to teach him other words to this great choral symphony, Nathan would simply have none of it. The third muppet to sing also reminds me of Nathan; those of you who have met him have probably heard him whip out his freakishly high soprano voice for some deserving occasion, like an impromptu performance of 'O Holy Night.'

I guess FavoriteBoy has more in common with the muppets than just his eyes!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

FavoriteBoy The Fix-It Man

The sewing machine isn't the only new thing here in our apartment. FavoriteBoy built me a nice kitchen shelf to go above the stove, and I painted it to match the cabinets that I had repainted last year. Didn't it turn out nicely? I love having the extra space.

And I love having a handy husband! Recently we took a trip to Sears and expanded FavoriteBoy's tool collection. After all, when we got married we got lots of lovely things for the kitchen, and not so many things for the toolbox. Here's the acquired collection - both old and new - on display.

Lest you think that FavoriteBoy is the only handy one around our home, I want to point out that one of the hammers on the table was mine long before we were married. I also own some screwdrivers, pliars, and a ratchet set. When I lived in this apartment alone while FavoriteBoy was still in school, I sanded, painted, replaced doorknobs, drilled out stripped screws, and did all sorts of other fun things.

That said, it's awfully nice to have FavoriteBoy around to do some of those things now. Since we got married, he has replaced the yucky old shower walls with nice new ones, taken up the carpet (?!) in the bathroom and put down vinyl, and built me several useful shelves in addition to the one pictured above.

And sometimes while he works around the apartment, I make him pizza!

It's called division of labor, and it works for us.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Cute Tote Bags

I am loving my new sewing machine! That husband of mine spoils me rotten. Since getting it on Saturday, I've taken in and hemmed a pair of pants, finished a pair of pajama shorts I had started a few summers ago using my Mom's sewing machine, and made two little bags using this tote tutorial. I am so pleased with how the totes turned out. They are just the right size for wallet, cell phone, keys, and whatever other little things you need to carry with you.

How cute is that? Don't you just want one?

A fat quarter is just the right amount of fabric for one outside color or for two linings, so the mixing and matching is fun but the fabric costs are low. They are so easy to make! I'm sure I'll be making several more... and I bet these are just the sort of thing little girls would love, so if you have children in your life, these are a great little project.

New Look

I decided that after four and a half years of blogging, I really ought to come up with a cool blog design instead of just making slight adjustments to a standard blogger template. Let me know what you think of what I've done so far. Of course, I still have changes and improvements I plan to make!

I found a really helpful tutorial for customizing your blog over at Chocolate on my Cranium. This is a blog I discovered thanks to Amber, whose adorable Easter Bags led me to this tote tutorial. (Incidentally, my wonderhusband bought me a Pfaff sewing machine over the weekend, and I inaugurated it by making two cute bags yesterday. I'll post pictures soon!)

Anyway, after seeing Cocoa's cute tote bags, I explored the rest of her blog and found her fabulous html tutorials. If you're interested, you can start with Customizing Your Blog - Part 1.

I'm loving all the scrapbook-style backgrounds over at Shabby Princess!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

NSPO Takes On The Ninth

I performed Beethoven's 9th Symphony over the weekend. What a blast! And Nathan deemed the performance more enjoyable than the time we heard the BSO do the 9th. I found this somewhat hard to believe, but he explained that he was raised to appreciate amateurs and volunteers making terrific efforts, and high school choruses having amazing opportunities, and those sorts of things.

The chorus was comprised of a semi-professional adult chorale combined with a high school choir. Some of the adults in the ensemble were, well, rather elderly. During our warm-up prior to the concert, the conductor spoke to the choir for a minute. As he praised the high schoolers for their hard work, he added, "Those of you in the P. M. Chorale have probably sung this work many times - some of you probably sang it under Beethoven himself!"

Funny. I love a funny conductor.

This evening I am going to have a violin lesson with said conductor, who is also an excellent violinist. It is the first violin lesson I've had in almost two years. I am excited and nervous.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Guilty Consciencecert

My violin students from the public school classes I teach had a concert last week. They surprised me by playing rather well all in all. I was a little annoyed with them for doing so well. After all, I had been becoming increasingly convinced that I might, well, discontinue this particular teaching job after this year. Once I saw those shining faces before me playing first-year staples like Ode to Joy and Frere Jacques, I felt a twinge of doubt.

Lots of people congratulated me and told me how grateful they were to have a strings program in the school now, and how much it meant to the students, and how wonderfully the violinists had played.

The twinge of doubt redoubled itself and was joined by a twinge of guilt.

Sigh. Decisions, decisions.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Blood Tests

I have a cold. This isn't really surprising, or unusual, or even worth mentioning, because I get sick all the time. I catch anything and everything that anyone anywhere has. I get sick every week or two.

The problem is, yesterday morning as I was just starting to feel congested and achy, I was sitting in a hospital waiting to have my blood drawn three separate times over a period of four hours. The needle pokes were unpleasant, and the hours of waiting were boring, but by noon the test was over and done with. I came home and wondered to myself how long it would take to get results from the test. Upon Googling, I read that the test results are unreliable if you are sick.

Now why didn't the nurses, upon hearing me sniff and sneeze, tell me this little fact?

Viola Jokes

Tomorrow I'm playing Beethoven's 9th Symphony with one of the orchestras I play in. I'm pretty excited; it's the first time I've played this symphony, and who wouldn't be excited about performing Beethoven's 9th? It may not be the most high-caliber performance of the 9th in history - a lot of the players in the orchestra are amateurs and volunteers - but it will be spirited and fun.

Today in our dress rehearsal after we finished the second movement, the conductor said, "Let's turn to the third movement." A violist said innocuously, "Aren't we going to play the second movement?" The conductor paused for a moment as he realized that the violist was quite serious. "We... just... did..." ventured the maestro, as the entire orchestra burst into laughter. Another violist sighed and proclaimed, "These kinds of things are why everyone makes viola jokes!"

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

You Win Some, You Lose Some

There are many things that could make sitting in Boston traffic for two hours worthwhile. A paid job, for example, like the proofreading job to which I formerly commuted. A symphony concert perhaps. Or maybe a date to a classy restaurant.

Is a three-hour dentist appointment, which turns out to be the most thorough pointless and painful dental experience of one's life worth such a traffic experience? (An appointment complete with five-millimeter gum-probing with a sharp device, unnecessary and poorly-done dental impressions, rubbery chemical grossness left in my unrinsed mouth for a half hour, and an unsanitary environment in which all of this took place. Oh, and an appointment at the end of which nothing had been accomplished towards filling my cavities.)

I submit that it is not worth it.

In fact, today was a pretty awful day.

Just to end this post on a brighter note, while today may have been the worst dentist appointment I've ever had, yesterday I had the best doctor appointment - more specifically, rheumatology appointment - I've ever had.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Warmer at Last

On the bottom right-hand corner of our computer screen are three little display boxes. One shows the weather conditions and temperature in our city of Beverly, Massachusetts, one displays the weather in my home town of Nevada City, California, and the third shows the weather in Nathan's home town of Erie, Pennsylvania. Most days when I look at these small rectangles I sigh with disappointment - the sun is shining in Nevada City, and the temperature is 50 or 60 degrees.

Today I look at the screen and smile as I lace up my tennis shoes to go for a run. 61 degrees! 11 degrees warmer than it is in Nevada City today! The sky is grey and overcast, and the wind is so strong it blows the door back at me as I try to step outside. It is delightfully warm, and the wind keeps my skin cool and dry as I run on the street just yards from a beautiful beach. The ocean is loud and beautiful, and I allow myself to stop and pick up sea glass - to add to my collection - on the run back.

This kind of weather is invigorating, the beach is enormous and awe-inspiring, and a day like today reminds me that living in Massachusetts isn't so bad. I think that Spring may finally come, after all.