Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Festive Christmas-y-ness

On Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent, we started decorating for Christmas. It's the earliest in the season that we've ever gotten a tree, but we figured we'd only get busier with school and gigs as the weeks went by. So Nathan, Andrew, and I bought a tree and various other needed items and got to work bringing Christmas cheer to our house on Sunday afternoon and evening... our first Christmas in our new place!

I made a wreath for the front door:

(Well, I bought the greenery part of the wreath at Home Depot, and then added the other stuff myself.)

And Andrew helped me make a similar swag to go above the door to the kitchen. We used leftover branches from the bottom of the Christmas tree that we trimmed off.

Andrew is great at making big bows. At one point I started to say, "Should it be more like..." and he interrupted, "Speak again and they will be your last words." So I'd say he takes his bow-making pretty seriously. Don't interfere with Andrew's artistic process.

Andrew claimed the stairway as his decorating domain, and wound a garland and white and red lights up the banister. I added a little string of jingle bells around the bottom post.

We are enjoying the fact that we now have a fireplace and mantel. (Actually, two of them!) In the living room, this is what I came up with:

The mirror was a yard sale find for just $5 last summer, and Andrew dragged it up from the basement to put on the mantel. I added pine boughs I bought at Home Depot (I find it weird to have to pay for such things, having grown up in the country where we could run out in the backyard and cut our own!), candles, pine cones, ornaments, and the two lanterns.

And hanging beneath the mantel, Andrew and I carefully hung red and silver ornaments. Then I laid cedar boughs in the fireplace (which isn't functional right now) and added white pillar candles.

I put a reindeer ornament we have standing among the greenery. I think he likes it there.

And of course, here's our Christmas tree!

Yes, we don't have a tree topper. Maybe I'm just picky, but I cannot find one that I like. They mostly look too gaudy or ridiculous to me. Hopefully one of these years I'll find the perfect one! (Or maybe I should try making one...?)

I love our ornaments, though.

Glass icicles:

And I love this ornament that was a wedding present:

In the TV room, we have a second fireplace. That room is generally less, well, respectable than the living room, as we haven't yet spent much time fixing things up there since we moved in. As you can see, the sconces over the mantel really need to be replaced! But I tried to spruce the place up a little nonetheless.

Those stockings were made for us by a woman from Nathan's church when we got married. But this year we bought four stocking hangers, because we figure we'll need to get Andrew a stocking... and why not a little bitty stocking for Baby as well? (Even though he or she won't be breathing in the piney scents of Christmas yet this December.)

The TV room is also home to Nathan's recently acquired (given to him) organ. I put seven porcelain angels (bought at a yard sale over the summer... who says you have to shop for Christmas ornaments in December?) on top and added twinkle lights, tiny silver ornaments, and pillar candles.

And that's what our house looks like this December.

Happy Advent to all!

Thursday, November 24, 2011


I have so much to be thankful for:

my husband Nathan, who is also my best friend, who selflessly emptied my barf bowl more times than I can count over the past 10 weeks, who spoils me with love and affection, and who can always make me laugh.

our baby, 16 weeks along and doing great. and I'm even pretty sure I felt our little guy move in there yesterday, a sudden ticklish flip-flop while I was lying on the couch... quite amazing. talk about something to be thankful for.

my family. they are all wonderful, and I consider myself blessed to have family members so fun, so smart, so funny, and so thoughtful that if one could choose families, I would have picked them out for myself.

my in-laws and their love for us. this morning when I came downstairs in my pajamas, they said, "you can do whatever you want today; in fact, if coming downstairs has worn you out, you can go take a nap!" being at their home is offering us much-needed rest.

my brother-in-law Andrew, who lives with us, and is not only a good brother-in-law but also a good friend.

my friends. I will probably do a whole post about "how to be a good friend to a sick pregnant woman," because many of my friends have been just the perfect example of that, and I am thankful.

our house, which is very much a work in progress but nonetheless is spacious, and warm, and a very decent roof over our heads. there really is no place like home.

my students. they don't always practice enough, but I love them all anyway, and I'm grateful that I get to make a living as a freelancer and a teacher.

our church. a year ago we were not in such a happy, uplifting, and welcoming place to worship. we love our new church home, and we have both been refreshed by it!

music in my life, each and every day. it just makes the world a more beautiful place.

food, and not only the fact that we can anticipate an abundant feast this evening, but also the fact that I am finally feeling much better and can enjoy it. and can even type the word "food" without vomiting. As weird as it probably sounds, that's pretty miraculous to me right now.

Thou hast given so much to me,
Give one thing more, - a grateful heart;
Not thankful when it pleaseth me,
As if Thy blessings had spare days,
But such a heart whose pulse may be Thy praise.

~George Herbert

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2011

funny moments

We are having a lot of fun and happy moments around here. Baby is lovingly referred to as "our little guy" ('guy' being used in the gender-generic term, of course) and is referenced quite often.

Some of my favorite moments are the ones where Nathan makes me laugh. Like these recent happenings:

the first

One of the strange things about this pregnancy has been that I'll get fits of teeny tiny burps. Fortunately for the greater public, the burps are inaudible, but unfortunately for me, they occur about every second for several minutes at a time. (It's almost like hiccups, but it's not.) Nathan can observe them if he's close to me, and he is mystified: "Where can all that air even be coming from? You're making me question the fundamentals of the burping process."

I know, it's gross. I'll add it to the ever-growing list of "Things No One Tells You About Pregnancy."

Over the weekend early one morning I was laying with my head on his chest, and a burping fit ensued. I suddenly realized that Nathan was firmly and rhythmically patting my back, and I laughed, "Are you burping me?"

"Yes," he replied.

"You'll make a good dad; you already know how to burp babies."

"I won't burp the baby. If the baby needs to burp, it can burp itself, but we won't encourage it. Otherwise it may grow up to demonstrate excessive burping behavior, and wouldn't we regret that?"

the second

This morning as we were both waking up, I poked gently at "our little guy," as I have taken to doing lately, and said to Nathan, "I'm just so fascinated with navel-gazing these days, and I keep hoping one day our little guy will poke me back."

Nathan declared, "Please do not tap on the glass!"

Hah. That guy makes me laugh.

{That's pretty much why I married him.}

Sunday, November 20, 2011

twinkles and pizza

My little Montessori school violin class performed earlier this week at a weeknight school "coffee house." I was so proud of them for learning their Twinkle variations and theme so well. And I couldn't help being pleased to hear more than one teacher or parent comment with apparent surprise, "I thought the beginning violins would sound the worst of all the beginners, but they sound great!"

After the violins had performed, a wandering flutist in fourth or fifth grade was looking for the program order, and I pointed it out to her and showed her which performance was about to begin. She declared, "Thank you! See, the world isn't all evil and corrupt after all. Thank you for being helpful."

Kids. So funny.

But right after that, someone took the last piece of pizza that I had been eyeing.

So maybe the world is corrupt.

It makes you wonder, anyway.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

happy things

Number One

in improvisation class:
Pierre (taking attendance): and Sarah is here...
Wei-Ting: and her baby!

Number Two

later in class:
me: sneezed
classmates: bless you
Wei-Ting: and bless your baby!

Number Three

upon playing a trio with my husband and my brother-in-law:
Maggie: yay, it's all four Skinners!
me: momentarily confused, then happy

these are happy things because yes, there's another person with me at all times, and, while I think about this constantly, I don't expect others to, and when they do, it makes me smile.

it blows my mind on a daily basis that I'm growing a real person with not only fingers and toes {we hope so anyway} but also a personality; a unique individual whom I just happen to have the privilege of housing for the next five-ish months.

{and then 18-21 years after that I suppose.}

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

shorts with tights

Last week I ran into a clothing store to look for a belt.

But then I saw these brown corduroy shorts with a floral print in the perfect fall colors.

And then I saw that they were in my size.

And then I saw that they were $4.00.

Now, if you're like Nathan, you're saying something snarky like, "Gee, I wonder why they were only $4.00."

{He does not approve and I think he died a little inside when I wore them the other day.}

But oh I love them!

I hope you enjoy the view of my unmade bed in the reflection behind me, and if you look closely, you can even see the silver rim of the bowl beside my bed. Yeah, been using that a lot lately.

I'll write more about that later, I'm sure.

Let's just say that the term "morning sickness" can be a little misleading, and perhaps a bit of an understatement. Or an enormous understatement.

It's all going to be worth it, though.

And in the meantime, I have corduroy shorts!

{Which will probably not fit me for much longer.}

Monday, November 14, 2011

good days

{First: thank you everyone for your kind comments, offers of congratulations, and well-wishes about our baby! We are so happy and it makes it even better to have friends share our happiness with us!}

Yesterday was a good day. In part it was a good day simply because I had looked forward to it for so long. It was the day of a school orchestra concert, which just so happened to be the final day in a straight month of grueling 13-14 hour days of school, teaching, rehearsals, and gigs that seemed endless. I was just so very weary and ready to have a morning where I could sleep in, or an evening to be home with Nathan. So yesterday was good because it meant an end to the extreme craziness, and a new beginning of weeks where I actually will have some time to study, practice, and even rest.

I had a 2-hour morning dress rehearsal in Cambridge, and then during the break before the concert, Melissa and Roman and I walked to Felipe's taqueria in Harvard Square for lunch. I had the best burrito: refried beans, salsa verde, onions and cilantro, sour cream, guacamole, and lettuce. I would seriously consider driving to Cambridge just to have another one, it was that good.

Then it was back to Sanders Theatre for the concert: Beethoven's Egmont Overture, Prokofiev's g minor violin concerto, and Berlioz's Symphony Fantastique. A good program. I particularly love that violin concerto, especially the second movement and the way Prokofiev can make you catch your breath with an unexpected change of rhythm or harmony in a beautiful phrase.

My friend Mackenzie, who is a student at Harvard, came to the concert. I was so happy to get to see her. I used to babysit for Mackenzie when she was just a little girl, and now she's a sophomore at Harvard! I told her our baby news and we enjoyed the idea of having her babysit for my own baby in the near future, and what a lovely coming-round of things that would be.

After the concert, Mackenzie offered her nearby dorm room as a place for us to sit and chat, so we walked there together. Harvard yard is closed off right now with security guards at the gates checking IDs and only allowing Harvard students through, because of the "Occupy Harvard" movement going on in the yard. Mackenzie and I took the long way around, and walked past demonstrators chanting at the gates. I could see the tents set up in the yard, too.

It was fun to get to see where she lives. The houses at Harvard have so much character, especially the older ones. Hers has stone steps and window nooks to die for. We talked for a while -- an hour, maybe -- before I had to head home. Mackenzie is one of those people who is just such a delight to be around that I always find the corners of my mouth hurting from so many genuine happy smiles.

Mackenzie developed severe stomach problems after doing medical work in Africa a couple of summers ago and has been on a feeding tube for about a year now. Can you imagine not eating food or drinking anything for a year? She is such a good sport about it and remains determined to continue in her premed program at Harvard and someday return to Africa. And she's keeping up with all her classes even while she continues to have medical testing done.

It was great to spend time with her, and I hope we can do so again soon.

One of her roommates snapped a photo for us before I left. (Please ignore my wind-blown hair and overall disheveled appearance.)

So yesterday was good. Today was pretty good, too. I stayed in bed until about 10 am, at which point I got up and actually felt well enough to make cinnamon muffins. The first time I've baked or done much in the kitchen in I don't know how long. Then I measured, ironed, and blind-hemmed bro-in-law Andrew's new tux pants for him before teaching six lessons and conducting my kids' orchestra.

And tonight I was done with work by 7:30. An evening at home! Amazing.

The best part about today? I didn't throw up all day. And while I've had waves of nausea and queasiness throughout the day, it's been so much better than the past nine weeks or so have been. (More on that later.) I am hoping that this is the dawn of a new era.

I'm sitting on the couch drinking my homemade version of a London Fog: earl grey tea, coconut milk, and honey.

And life seems more manageable than it has seemed in a long, long time.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


They say that a picture is worth a thousand words.

I'm thinking that this one is worth at least four.

{We're having a baby!}

{And we couldn't be more thrilled.}

{Due May 11, 2012.}

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Pi / Pie

A friend shared this on facebook today and it's too good not to pass along.

Mind blown, indeed.


I've really been wanting to learn to knit for a while now. Maybe when I finish my master's degree this May I'll have some time to sit down and learn. I think I need someone to teach me, though; the patterns are, for all intents and purposes, in a foreign language indecipherable to those not already in the know about knitting.

Well, today my eight-year-old violin student Elaine told me that she's recently knitted a hat, and some hand puppets, and tiny gnomes, and all manner of other items.

And then I felt pretty unaccomplished.

Sheesh, kids. Limitless potential and all that.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

An Ode to Melissa

Let's say your friend asks you when you want to meet to carpool to orchestra in the morning and you reply, "Aren't you going to pick me up at my house and bring me a chocolate chip bagel and a chai tea latte for breakfast?"

Most people would laugh at your joke and then arrange a mutually convenient place to meet for the usual morning carpool to school orchestra rehearsal.

Not my friend Melissa.

She showed up at my house in the morning with a still-warm toasted chocolate chip bagel with hazelnut cream cheese and a chai tea latte with soy milk, just the way I like it. And drove me to school while I munched on my bagel and sipped my chai.

I know, you're so jeal.

Everyone should have a Melissa.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Recent Weather Happenings

This October was a bit unprecedented for weather, at least in my personal East Coast experience over the past eight or nine years.

It snowed the night of October 27. In the morning I took a few photos:

It was just a light dusting, but still... snow before Halloween!

And if that wasn't enough, we got a more significant snowstorm on the 29th/30th:

My poor chrysanthemums were crushed!

Some people on the news were calling it "Snowtober," but I think that's ridiculous. If you must create a word mash-up, "Ocsnowber" would be much better.


This morning I was browsing through some photos, both old and recent, on my iPhone. I came across a few good memories.

There was the time last spring that my brother Jonathan and sister-in-law Jenn visited us from California. We went to the New England Aquarium, where Jenn took lots of pictures. And I took this one of Jenn:

Then there was the time last May when my lifelong straight hair decided to be slightly curly for a while. I was perplexed:

The gig I played last spring, which my brother-in-law Andrew also played. We were seated next to each other and thought we should photograph the occasion since it's probably the only time that we, a violinist and a horn player, will ever sit next to one another in an orchestra. As for our horrified expressions... well, it turned out to be probably the worst orchestra in the world.

Driving back to Boston from Maryland at the end of my time at NOI over the summer. I had so many good memories and pictures from the festival itself that when I climbed into my car I remember thinking I should document the end of it all, too.

And finally, practicing with my good friend Melissa the day before our grad school ensemble auditions this September. {I had been wearing a cardigan but it was warm in her apartment, thus my atypically bare arms.} Lounging on the couch with our legs crossed, because clearly that is the best way to get some serious practicing done.

I'm glad I live in a time when snapshots of daily life are so easy to take, and so convenient to share.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Musical Chickens

For the past two weeks, most of my evenings have been spent in rehearsals with the L--- Symphony, preparing for tomorrow night's concert program of Sibelius Symphony No. 1, Respighi's Gli Uccelli ('The Birds'), and Les nuits d'été by Berlioz.

I first heard the Respighi over the summer at NOI, where one of the unconducted chamber orchestras performed it. I really like the whole piece, but my favorite movement to play is probably La Gallina, "The Hen."

It just makes me smile to play it. It does sound so much like pecking chickens!

In fact, I can't decide which one is a better musical representation of chickens, Respighi's version or Saint-Saëns' Poules et Coqs from Carnival of the Animals.

What do you think?

Before you go, listen to the Prelude to The Birds, another movement I particularly like. After the stately introductory material (written in the style of music of the baroque era, although Respighi wrote the work in 1927), you'll hear brief previews of all the aviaries (cuckoo, nightingale, dove, and of course, hen) that will be making appearances in later movements.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Dear blog,

You've been a little neglected lately, and consequently, a little boring.

Sorry about that.

My life since the beginning of September has been crazy, to say the least.


In a good way, mostly.

Definitely difficult, though.

I haven't seen some of my friends since August. I feel like I've been dead to the world, just barely keeping my head above water and getting to all my classes, lessons, and gigs.

Let's take last week for example:

{drive to Boston}
10:30-12:30 string orchestra rehearsal
{drive home}
2:30-3:30 teach private lessons
{drive to nearby high school}
3:45-4:15 teach private lesson
4:30-5:45 conduct children's orchestra rehearsal
5:45-6:15 teach private lesson
{drive to Lexington}
7:00-10:00 LSO rehearsal
{drive home}

{drive to Boston}
10:30-12:30 string orchestra rehearsal
{drive to Montessori school}
1:45-2:40 teach violin class
{drive home}
3:15-6:45 teach private students
{drive to orchestra rehearsal}
7:30-10:00 GSO rehearsal
{drive home}

{drive to Boston}
10:30-12:30 string orchestra rehearsal
1:00-3:50 Mendelssohn seminar class
4:00-5:00 violin lesson
5:00-5:30 dinner
{drive to Lexington}
7:00-10:00 LSO rehearsal
{drive home}

{drive to Boston}
10:30-12:30 string orchestra rehearsal
{drive to Ipswich}
1:30-5:00 teach private students
{drive home}
5:30-6:30 iron black concert pants, search frantically for a clean black cardigan, dinner
{drive to Boston}
8:00-10:00 string orchestra concert at school
{drive home}

{drive to Boston}
12:00-2:45 quartet rehearsal
3:00-4:20 improvisation class
5:00-6:00 quartet coaching
{drive to Lexington}
7:00-10:00 LSO rehearsal
{drive home}

Well, I'm sure you're bored just looking at my schedule.

I, however, am exhausted just looking at my schedule. Much less living it.

And lest you think my weekends are relaxing, let me assure you that they are not.

I have a billion emails to which I must reply, scheduling matters to which I must attend, oh, and I can't play Paganini's Caprice #11 worth beans.

And when amidst my daily activities am I supposed to practice, exactly? And when am I supposed to do my homework?

I am tired. But I will keep plugging along at life.

I like grad school, I do. But a part of me is so ready for it to be May already.

{With a little Christmas between now and then, of course.}