Sunday, April 26, 2009

Song and Dance

You know how when you watch a musical or an opera, you can't quite suspend disbelief enough to avoid thinking, "Yeah, right... nobody spontaneously bursts into song or dance in real life..."?

Well, there are several videos floating around cyberspace that show the reactions of everyday people in everyday places when a select group of public improv performers do exactly that, and in the most unexpected times and locations.

Most recently, in the Central Station of Antwerp, a sizeable group provides choreography to the infamous "Do Re Mi" song from The Sound of Music.

I think T-Mobile did a great job on their "Life's For Sharing" advertisement, which took place in Liverpool Street Station back on January 15.

(My favorite moment is about two minutes into the clip, when an elderly lady laden with shopping bags joins the fun and dancing, with a priceless expression of enjoyment.)

Of course, there's the infamous "Food Court Musical" put on by Improv Everywhere:

I love watching the expressions of the onlookers in all of these videos, ranging from disinterest to curiosity to surprise to real enjoyment. I really get a kick out of this kind of social experiment.

How would you respond if everyday life - in a train station, on a subway, in a mall - suddenly became extraordinary?

Really, don't we all need a little more music in our lives?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day

For some wonderful, worshipful thoughts on Earth Day, visit Missy at Daily Portion: Green is a Common Sense Color. I couldn't agree more with her thoughts on living a life of simplicity!

"Though I can be political, living greener is not political for me. Nor is it about running out and buying lots of "green products," or being the trendiest girl on the bandwagon.

Simply put, I did not make this ground on which I step, or paint the sky. Of my will, I cannot make a single blade of grass grow, or a stem bud and then flower. I am here as witness and steward, and worshiper of the Maker. I want to treat less callously what He made. And with a clothespin, a homemade meal, a planted seed, give thanks."

By the way, did you know that what you choose to eat has more effect on our planet than what kind of car you drive? A United Nations study reported that the meat industry is responsible for producing 40% more greenhouse gas emissions than all the cars, trucks, planes, and ships in the world put together.

Christopher Flavin of the Worldwatch Institute says, "There is no question that the choice to become a vegetarian or lower meat consumption is one of the most positive lifestyle changes a person could make in terms of reducing one’s personal impact on the environment. The resource requirements and environmental degradation associated with a meat-based diet are very substantial."

Interested in exploring vegetarianism this Earth Day? Why not pledge to be veg for 30 days?

Monday, April 20, 2009


On Saturday Nathan bought us a house.

Actually, the story starts long before that, back in the fall when we started looking at houses together. We saw a lot of really terrible houses, and we sometimes despaired that in our price range we wouldn't be able to find someplace livable, with space for two musicians, two Steinways, and a few dozen little violin students who need space to traipse in an out of each week.

Shortly before Christmas we found a four-bedroom, two-bath property that seemed workable. We looked at it again on December 23rd and said to ourselves, yes, this has potential. We'll refinish the floors, repaint all the walls (that looked as though someone had enjoyed a couple of six packs and then decided to paint), re-do the electrical, put on a new roof, take a sledgehammer to the disintegrating upstairs bathroom and start over... etc... etc... and we'll be happy here. We can overlook the rusty trailer in the neighbor's yard. We'll somehow remove the tree that's growing into the side of the garage before it does any more damage. And we'll put up curtains to disguise the fact that only a few feet of space separate our windows from neighbors on either side.

So we made an offer on the house, and we were excited because it had enough space for us and our pianos, space for lots of cooking and having friends over and having a sewing and craft room and even space to store all my bargain coupon purchases.

It was a short sale, which actually means that the process is anything but short. So we waited for three months, and just when we thought we were going to close on the house, instead we found out we weren't going to get it after all. The sellers' financial troubles had been getting worse and worse while we had been waiting to buy their house and save them from foreclosure. There were multiple liens on the house as well as attachments for other debts owed. The family was going bankrupt and they'd be foreclosed on after all.

So we got our deposit back, and we were sorry we had wasted three months waiting on this house that wasn't going to be ours after all.

Nathan was particularly sad to see the two-car garage slip through his fingers, where he had hoped to put lots of manly tools and set up a woodworking shop.

I felt pretty optimistic that something better would come along, or at the very least, that there was some reason we shouldn't be in that house after all.

So that is the story of the property on Swan Street, and how we thought it would be our first house, and then found out it wasn't to be.

Now here comes the wonderful part.

We started looking at properties again. We saw a few online that looked promising, but our realtor told us there were already offers on those homes. We looked at a place or two that, like most properties we'd seen in our price range, were a little bit horrible, and definitely much worse in person than in online photos.

Then we saw a property in our online updates that looked really promising. Our realtor told us it was generating a lot of interest. We wanted to see it, but my schedule was opposite Nathan's from Friday through Sunday, and finding a time we could both meet with our realtor proved impossible. So Nathan went alone on Saturday morning while I was teaching violin lessons. I had a good feeling about the property and told him that if the place was perfect and there were other offers on the table, he should make an offer. I trust him, and we've looked at lots of places together and we know what we're looking for. Around 11:00 am I got a text message from him stating,

"It's done. I offered $XXX. Don't worrry; you're gonna love it."

When I was finished teaching, I called him and he told me, "This house is beautiful." Now, "beautiful" is not among the words we had used to describe any other affordable properties we had seen, so I knew this house was something special.

We squirmed with excitement all day until we found out at 6:00 pm that the offer had been accepted.

Yesterday after church I got to see the house. The seller's agent met us there and said to me, "So you're the very trusting wife! Welcome to your new house; hope you like it!"

It is perfect. I love it so much I can hardly wait to move in, so much I could hardly sleep last night imagining us living there and making it our own, so much I smiled the whole time I walked through the house yesterday seeing it for the first time.

I love the cheery white kitchen cabinets, the hardwood floors downstairs, the wooden bar and open beams that separate the kitchen from the living room, and the beautiful backyard that is almost a quarter of an acre. I love that it has three bedrooms and an office, a living room and a dining room, closets, a pantry, and two bathrooms. I love the built-in bookshelves in the living room.

I love the historical district sign on the front stating the original owner's name with the date "c. 1852." I love the quaint New England-ness of it. I love the stairs up the back leading to a second-story deck and a separate entrance to the upstairs, where there's a guest bedroom, a second bathroom complete with a shower, a sitting room with a skylight, and a sink, counter, and mini-fridge.

I love the unfinished basement that's nevertheless divided into separate storage rooms so everything looks neat and organized, and I love the old-fashioned soapstone triple washbasin in the basement by the washer/dryer hookups. I love the backyard door to the basement, so in the summers I can carry the laundry straight out to a clothesline in the yard.

I love that it's in a nicer town than the first property we tried to buy. I love that it's imperfect and will provide us with many projects to work on together. I love the detached garage, so Nathan can have his tool storage and workspace after all. I love that while the upstairs ceilings slope with the roof, most of the rooms have ceilings so high my very tall husband can't even reach them, so he feels comfortable.

I love that it isn't a short sale or a foreclosure, just a nice regular family moving somewhere else, so we can be fairly certain that we will in fact own this house in the near future.

I love, love, love this house.

(I do not love the hospital green shade of most of the interior walls, but that's what paint is for.)

If all goes well, it will be ours by the end of May.

Isn't God so incredibly good to us? We couldn't have known that something so perfect for us would come on the market in our price range, but God knew, and when He said "No," to the Swan Street property, I trustingly believe that it was because such a wonderful "Yes" was right around the corner.

The view from the front:

The kitchen:

The living room:

The living room again, which opens to the kitchen:

The dining room:

One of the two downstairs bedrooms:

The little "sitting room" upstairs:

Another view:

The upstairs bedroom:

The backyard:

The historic district sign:

Dear old house, if you could talk, what stories would you tell us?

I really, really want to live in this house.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

She Dreamed a Dream

The tale of David and Goliath... all the greatest sports movies... true stories of inner city children overcoming their environments to thrive in school. We love underdogs, don't we?

Well, here's a good one for you.

She lives alone with her cat, says she has never been kissed, and is teased by children in the street. You might be tempted to judge this book by it's cover. But 47-year-old Susan Boyle has become a singing sensation on the show "Britain's Got Talent." She's a devout catholic and the youngest of nine siblings. She's currently unemployed, but she's always loved the arts, and she even briefly attended acting school in the early 90's before she left school to care for her sick mother. She says, "I love singing. It keeps me going."

Grab a kleenex and go watch this lady sing.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Celebrating Easter

An interesting prayer was prayed at our church on Easter Sunday, with a sentence that went something like this: "Lord, help us to overcome the grief of Good Friday and celebrate your resurrection today."

I thought that was odd. It was Easter. No one in that sanctuary looked grief-stricken. And while I'm sure no one was without his or her personal griefs and troubles, It didn't seem as though anyone could have trouble overcoming Good Friday and celebrating Easter with joy!

You see, I think it's hardest not to enjoy the resurrection, but to properly observe Lent and Good Friday. Hardest to remember day in and day out that I am dust and to dust I shall return, hardest to remember that it may as well have been I that drove the nails into Christ's hands.

We live in a post-resurrection era: we are alive, and so is Christ. Far harder, then, to live constantly in the reality of the things we don't know experientially - our own transient natures, the briefness of our earthly lives, and Christ's death - than to blithely enjoy those we do know: daily life and Christ's completed atoning sacrifice.

We do not, as many a pastor has been fond of saying, dwell in a life that exists between Good Friday and Easter; rather, if we are Christians we live between one certainty and another: Christ's resurrection and our eventual resurrection with Christ "at the sound of the last trumpet."

I understand the premise behind saying we live in a sort of constant Good Friday or Holy Saturday as we await Christ's second coming. It's a world full of suffering, injustice, hurt, loss, and grief. Jesus knew it would be so, and said, "You will always have the poor among you," and, "In this world you will have trouble."

"...But take heart! I have overcome the world."

And he has.

Lord, help us to not only celebrate the Easter season with joy, but to keep with us the lessons you teach us through our observation of Ash Wednesday, Lent, and Good Friday.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter!

"Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades."
(Revelation 1:17-18)

Nathan wrote and played exquisite music for our church service, featuring a full array of brass instruments, percussion, organ (of course), handbell choir, men's choir, regular choir, etc. I was so proud I almost cried as I rang handbells and sang this morning.

Then Nathan and I hosted an Easter celebration at our apartment for the third year in a row. We had fourteen guests. I served ham, potatoes, green bean casserole (with fresh green beans, not canned), green salad with plums and pecans, fruit salad, pasta salad, homemade rolls, carrot cake, and pound cake.

We all had a wonderful time celebrating Christ's resurrection.

I am very, very tired.

Friday, April 10, 2009

List Methodology

I have a quirky way of making to-do lists: I often make them after I've already done all the tasks. For example, yesterday after doing several loads of laundry, scrubbing the shower and the bathtub, cleaning out and organizing the bathroom cabinets, lifting up all the couch cushions and vacuuming inside and under the couch, cleaning the oven, organizing the pantry and kitchen cabinets, and finishing my Easter skirt, I promptly sat down at the table and wrote a to-do list in my planner consisting of all the things I had accomplished.

Then I checked them all off, one by one, and felt a sublime sense of satisfaction that my day had been well-spent - and there was a paper trail to prove it.

I wonder if I'm the only person who writes to-do lists after the fact?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Three Things I'm Loving Today

1) These environmentally-friendly, super-cute Simple sneakers. (Why does eco-friendly have to be so expensive?)

2) Spicy Sweet Potato and Coconut Soup. YUM.

3) Priscilla Ahn's voice.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


I'm supposed to be determining my Easter menu and then doing the grocery shopping, but I got sidetracked by a bunch of great recipes on Vegan Dad that look amazing. I wonder if my guests would object to an "Ethnic Vegetarian" Easter theme this year?

Look at all these tempting recipes!

Channa Masala
Cashew Chickpeas
Yellow Curry Coconut Chickpeas
Coconut Curry Chickpeas
Crispy Cajun Chickpea Cakes
Chinese Dumplings
Indian Potatoes and Peas
Chickpea Tostadas
Creamy Kale Potato Soup

I admit it; I have a thing for chickpeas. They just make everything better.

I guess I'd better stick with ham, potatoes, rolls, and other normal things for our Easter menu.

But as soon as Easter is over, I'm going to try all those recipes!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Queens of the Night

Wow, Miranda is at it again, this time conquering(?) the "Queen of the Night" aria from Mozart's The Magic Flute.

Listening to her sing really amuses me for some reason. It's funny, of course, but it's also delightfully disorienting to hear her microtonal (and, um, "macrotonal") key migrations. I actually think it takes a lot of skill to sing with the unexpected key changes (and here, rhythm anomalies) she continually surprises us with!

I should mention that I've previously featured some other winning performances of this aria on my blog, including the "Hansel of the Night" version (this kid doesn't even need to raise his eyebrows to sing high, as Miranda suggests singers do in her free voice lesson):

(Did you catch the alarming wrong chord in the piano around 1:20?

Then of course, there's Florence Foster Jenkins, who really gives Miranda a run for her money... or is it the other way around?