Archive for February, 2009

Swan Lake

Posted by laura on Feb 27 2009 | Awesome, Fun

Well as it turned out, the SFB didn’t need my help last night after all. They didn’t even need Amy’s help, and she knows the Pas de Quatre, for crying out loud. Sigh, maybe next time. I’ve wanted to see Swan Lake since I was a little girl, and it was everything I hoped for, save for the fact that Mum couldn’t go with me. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Pas de Quatre, here’s an ABT version for your reference.

And here’s a great parody you should watch as well from Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo.

Those guys just kill me.

Since I didn’t end up getting to wear my new ballet slippers, I guess it’s a good thing I wore these instead:

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Oh yeah, fellow babies! I went for broke and wore these with my red velvet swing coat. Amy had one of the best lines of all time when she looked at them and said, “If I had those shoes, I’d invent reasons to wear them. Did they come with a babysitter?”

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Ballet Journal

Posted by laura on Feb 26 2009 | Awesome, Uncategorized

Good news, everybody. I finally wore holes in my first pair of ballet slippers. Woo hoo! Here they are in all their shredded glory.

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I can hear you now – Laura! Has it ever occurred to you to wash those things? Well, Honest Abe, I do. But this studio has tons of classes and they all wear different types of shoes. Not to mention all the people who stroll across the floor in their street shoes even though there are signs everywhere saying to take them off. (It’s just like the signs at the pool that say “Everyone MUST take a cleansing shower before entering the pool!” Yeah, right. We’re all about to stroll around wearing skin tight scraps of clothing and do handstands on the bottom of the pool, but that shower is just soo dorky!)

As I left class this morning, I told Joan (teacher Joan, as opposed to neighbor Joan) that I was off to see Swan Lake tonight in San Francisco. She said she was going on Saturday, and we’d have to compare notes. And then she added, “Don’t forget to take your shoes! You know – just in case they need some help.” Good thing I have new shoes, eh?

newshoesDon’t they just look precious? Although, to do it right, I really ought to have placed a long-stemmed red rose lying next to them, added a nice Gaussian blur and a poetic little quote at the bottom in a flourishing script. Something like, “The song of the world begins with one step” or “Dancing reveals the music of the heart.” You know the drill.

I’ve never been to Swan Lake, however, so I’d better do some cramming over at You Tube. I’ll let you know how it goes tonight!

Oh – and one more thing. Do you see something new, something fancy, something deeply satisfying in this post? That’s right, folks; wrapping text. I have longed for wrapping text for a year. I actually made it work once a long time ago, but HTML and I go together a bit like oil and water, and I never could make it happen again. Then Tom helped me upgrade my WordPress a week ago, and I thought I had it in the bag. Still no go. Then Tom realized that my theme was a bit on the old side and he fixed it up for me. So here’s a mighty THANK YOU to Tom!! For putting up with me and being such a superstar. You’re the greatest.

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Hearts

Posted by laura on Feb 25 2009 | Awesome, Tasty

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Remember Valentine’s Day? I know – it was such a long time ago. The memory is still fresh for me because I still have a bit of lingering carpal tunnel from cutting out approximately eight thousand hearts. Don’t get me wrong – I love love love making valentines with the kids. It’s one of my favorite things. In fact, I like doing it so much that I get a little over-invested and consequently never get my own finished. If you’re still waiting for one, it should probably arrive just in time for Saint Patrick’s Day.

For the teachers this year, we decided to make some bags of chocolate cookies.

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We made Hershey’s chocolate cookies from an original 1980’s recipe clipped from… ah yes – Seventeen Magazine.

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It all began one afternoon when I was hanging out with my friend Cindy, flipping through her Seventeen, and we came across this recipe. She jumped up and said, “Let’s make these!!” and I thought, “You can do that?” I guess I must have started baking a bit at home by then, but I can’t really remember a time when I saw a recipe and thought – “I’m going to make this right now.” I thought she was wild! (Don’t even get me started about the time my friend Meredith decided we should make pecan pie for dessert one night at her house. Just the memory of it still makes me a little lightheaded.) I might have been just the slightest bit timid back then.

So this recipe has been with me since high school, but I don’t break it out very often. Not because I don’t like them. I like them too much. Anyone who knows me could quickly tell you I’m not squeamish about sweets. But these guys – I have to give them all away, pronto, or I will eat them. I will eat every one of them, and it’s embarrassing.

On Valentine’s day, we started out the day with breakfast at the Dipsea.

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This cafe is right on the water, and the morning was grey and rainy – the perfect cozy breakfast stop. It’s also right across the street from the studio where I take ballet, and I was able to hit class after our breakfast. Heaven.

Later in the morning, two of our west coast godchildren came over to play and then sleep over. We had such a great time! One of them had mentioned off-handedly the weekend before that he would like to try chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream made with chocolate instead of vanilla ice cream. Now that’s my kind of wish! Let’s face it – he’s ten, and I’m occasionally concerned that my fairy godmother powers will wane when he becomes a teenager. I’m hoping to stay helpful to him just by sheer love, but it’s always nice when you can grant a tangible wish. I love this egg-free chocolate chip cookie dough from the days when egg was still on Hot Wheels’ no fly list, and it was just the thing to use. We all got to mash up our chocolate ice cream with frozen cookie dough, and it was ahhhmazing.

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Vacation’s All I Ever Wanted

Posted by laura on Feb 22 2009 | Uncategorized

I can’t believe it’s Sunday already. What happened?! That was the fastest week in history. We had an amazing break, but for right now, I’m just going to focus on the last day of school before break.

Friday the 13th started out inauspiciously (surprise surprise). We were informed about an hour before school let out that Honey’s third grade teacher was resigning over an investigation into anomalies in her classroom’s standardized test results from last year. The investigation has been going on since October, with her teacher on leave since the beginning of January. It’s been messy, emotional and confusing for everyone.

When you buy a house, it’s location, location, location. When you get married, it’s communication, communication, communication. And when your kids start school – well, it’s both, really. The past few months have demonstrated this quite neatly for us. I won’t burden you with all the details, but I can tell you that if a classroom full of parents with well developed “send all” email abilities gets wind of a favorite teacher being placed on administrative leave over the holiday break, all hell will break loose. And if there is no clear communication from the school before the term resumes, you might be amazed at what the children know once they get together again. (Like the student who knew that their teacher had been arrested for letting them chew gum while they took tests.)

The communication from the school board is sensitive in an situation like this, and I am respectful of the privacy issues involved, but this local drama really demonstrated that if you don’t control the story, your image takes a hit. Just ask any movie star or professional athlete. I think you have to provide clear, regular communication, or people will be inclined to suspect you are Up To Something. Our administration missed an opportunity for some major damage control by simply not communicating early, often and clearly with the parents in this case.

I’m not going to dwell on the bad stuff in this scenario, although there’s plenty of it. I am going to tell what happened after I got the email about Honey’s teacher resigning. I went in for the last hour of her day on Friday because one of the other parents had arranged for a San Francisco Opera Guild member to come into the class and conduct this interactive class called “Sing a Story.” The opera she introduced them to was the Magic Flute, and it was a fantastic class.

She started out by going over the rules (she’d clearly done this a zillion times). She told them she would have two types of questions during the program; arm up (she raised her hand to show an individual answer) and arms out (she spread her arms wide to indicate a collective answer). She ran a couple of test questions by them so they could practice, and there’s where the fun began.

She asked an Arm Up question. “What instruments can you find in an orchestra?” Pointed to a student. “Violin!” Yes! Next? “Horns?” Yes! Next? “Ok – oboe, timpani, bass, cello, viola, harpsichord…” – this kid was a walking DK series book on the orchestra. The opera lady just blinked at him and said, “Ok! Great!”

Next up were the Arms Open practice questions. “What day is it?” The kids blasted back, “Valentine’s Day!” “Friday!” “It’s not Valentine’s Day, that’s not until tomorrow…” “The thirteenth!” “I know but we’re celebrating it today…” “The last day before vacation!” She just laughed and called them off. “Ok ok, let’s try something simpler…….. What’s your teacher’s name?”

All of the parents in the back drew in their breaths, and then I had to laugh to myself. Poor woman – how could she have known this was the single room in the district where that was a seriously loaded question?! The kids just went off, and she looked truly bewildered.

After that, she told the story of The Magic Flute. Do you know it? It’s very long and very complicated. Mozart, that trickster, decided it would be hilarious to give everybody the same name on top of his usual convoluted story line. Even the opera lady got her Tamino and Pamina mixed up in the telling, and Pamina and Papageno were more than a little confusing as well. When she reached the end, we all sighed in relief, and one of the students in the class asked an Arm Up question. “What happened to Papagena?” The opera lady had been trying to streamline things a bit and left out one of the characters, so she did a little fancy dancing to explain why. BUSTED.

The program was terrific, though – she had costumes and taught the kids small bits of the music and they all acted the story out together. She’d pull different kids up to be the main characters in various major scenes, and she’d play small selections of the music as they went along. There’s a highly dramatic moment when Tamino and Pamina are so overcome that all they can do is sing each other’s names, but it was difficult to appreciate the beauty of the moment due to the giggling of the mortified actors. Mostly, though, they were enthusiastic and engaged.

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I don’t have many photos without all the kids in them, but I did want to show this one cool effect – four kids were given sleeves with these cloth flames and they made two arches for their classmates to pass through for the Tamino’s trial by fire. It was such a simple yet successful effect.

When it was over, everyone gathered their things and headed out to vacation. As we shuffled out into pelting rain (and even sleet that day), I couldn’t help but think that the trials of silence, fire and water were oddly symbolic and appropriate for this class.

Well that’s all for now folks. It’s Oscar night and if you’ve been listening, they’ve been playing the “wrap it up already!” music at me for some time. I just have to say thank you to my mother and father for always encouraging me. And my sister and brother for leading by example…hppfh! Oh! I’m so sorry – I’m not really laughing – I’m just overcome with emotion – and to my wonderful husband for his brilliance and for keeping me grounded – and my two beautiful children who alwmusic…….

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This n’ That

Posted by laura on Feb 11 2009 | Fun, Making, Reusable, Tasty

Is it really possible that I’ve resisted using an n’ in my blog titles for an entire year? Yes it is. I had to check my list of posts, and it’s hard to believe, but true. So watch out, y’all, because this might be the year of the apostrophe. 

ANYway, last weekend was a nice one here. Amy and Andy had our kids over to play on Saturday morning and Tom and I drove into SF to have a breakfast date and a stroll around Chestnut street. We had a lovely breakfast at The Grove, which is this very cozy offbeat kind of place – I love it because they have at least a dozen different types of seating arrangements to choose from. There are traditional small café tables with chairs, tables with benches, benches built in around a fireplace, and a random odd assortment of reclaimed seating from heaven only knows where. Theater-style seats and wooden blocks and cushy old couches.

I love a place like this because you can tailor your seating to the light, your mood, or even what you’re eating. You know the feeling; sometimes you want your tea in a mug and other times it’s just better in a teacup. Or, you love to eat cereal out of the ceramic bowl your son painted, but your sorbet really needs to go in that vintage cut glass dish you got at the flea market. 

Right. So Saturday we ended up in an ideal sunny corner by the door, and I got the bench seat, which just made my day. Tom was so taken by his perfect toast that he took a picture, which you can see here if you’d like. (Funny thing about that shot is that he seems to have missed his toast and focused on his Vegemite, which yes, he carried with him that morning. That’s devotion.)

After a beautiful breakfast we wandered around Chestnut for a while. We each got some quality time in heaven that morning – Tom in his and I in mine. Seriously – I could spend a week in that place. It’s awesome. After that, we took a walk down by Chrissy Field and watched the crazy surfers out by Fort Point. 

The rest of the weekend was also lovely. Honey had a couple of birthday parties to go to, and we had fun using recycled paper and yarn to wrap up her gifts. Here’s a shot of one of them:

I have this huge foldout mailer from Veer that I’ve been saving because it’s covered with tiny photos from their stock and I love the look of it. We used that and some extra bits of yarn to wrap up this packet. Some party highlights:

- sleepover with swimming and TWO movies

- ’sleep’ part of the over started after 11pm

- art party the next day

- soap making with tiny plastic bug inclusions!

Life is seriously good, and all the girls were completely washed up by about 3pm on Sunday. 

The other weekend’s accomplishment was raisin bread, which I’ve been promising to bake for about a month and a half.

I used the recipe from the King Arthur Cookbook that Mum gave me years ago, and it was GOOD. 

So that’s the weekend wrap-up, brought to you in timely fashion on Wednesday (or Thursday for you Aussies and East Coasters).

Love n’ stuff,

laura

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Things Are Looking Up Again

Posted by laura on Feb 07 2009 | Awesome, Knitting, Tasty

The first thing that happened this morning was I woke up at 6:30 thinking about worker compensation issues. This is good and bad; good because we just hired a cool new employee at Good Dog, and bad because it was 6:30 am on a Saturday and our kids hadn’t woken up yet. There can only be a handful of miraculous events for which the sole appropriate observation is sleeping through them, so you can see I missed a major opportunity today.

Just when things were looking grim for the start of this weekend, Honey popped into our room and asked, “What kind of tea would you like this morning?”

Now, I am fortunate enough to have a few friends who read this blog of mine, and some of them have kids who are younger than ours. It is to them that I say – I have a message for you from the future. Eight is great.

Eight is great. Eight is a number I do not h…wait! There’s more. She popped back a few minutes later and asked if she could please cut up a few pieces of fruit and put them on a platter for me. There were fine chopping and platter hand gestures involved. Feeling very much like the Queen of England, I replied that we would not be at all distressed if she were to slice some fruit for our royal personage.

Here’s what happened next:

Breakfast and knitting in bed. Things are definitely looking up.

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Rain and Shine

Posted by laura on Feb 05 2009 | Fun

Superbowl Sunday was a gorgeous day here. In fact, the past 4 or 5 days have been immoderately nice, causing most people to shake their heads slowly and say, “But we really need rain.” Seriously, there is no satisfying folks sometimes. It can be a jewel of a day – the light just so, the birds putting on a spring concert that you suffer months to hear back East, and the earth smelling like heaven itself, and someone will complain that it’s not raining.

Yes, it’s grounded in truth; we need the rain. Towns are starting to go into panic mode around here and it’s only February. It’s going to be a long summer I think. But unless you know a helpful rain dance or have some major connections above, why complain on a day that’s simply a gift? So Sunday we took a hike up a nearby hill, and this is what we saw:

We took our dear friends and neighbors who are moving to Houston at the end of the school year. Was this a little underhanded? Perhaps. Michael kept breathing in deeply and sighing. Do I feel bad about it? Nope. I want them to miss it so much that they scurry back as quickly as possible.

On that note – East coast family? What temperature do you see outside your window? This is FEBRUARY here. Just think about it. We have a guest suite with your name(s) on it. 

In the afternoon we stopped by our friend Denise’s house to watch the game and to have dinner with a group of friends. It was delicious and relaxing. Her garden looked like a fairy tale in the afternoon light:

Today we finally got a bit of the rain we needed. I just read that typically January is our wettest month, averaging about 11 inches of rain, and this year we had 1.08 inches. So today’s rain was a welcome sight. When Hot Wheels and I rode to class this morning, he had a blast going through all the puddles, as evidenced here:

He started out with a couple perfect muddy racing stripes, but once I told him they were there, he rode through every puddle asking, “There – did that wash them off?” Not exactly.

It was a great day for birds, though. They were all out, and the egrets were looking particularly fetching with their neck feathers all puffed out like boas. We didn’t see any herons, but they get the day off because yesterday I finally saw one eating a gopher. I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me since they gulp down fairly sizable fish, but something about that picture is all wrong. It really should have a wicked stomachache today!

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Success

Posted by laura on Feb 04 2009 | Making, Tasty

Now that’s more like it.

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Epic Bread Fail

Posted by laura on Feb 02 2009 | Making

I guess I’ve been lucky in the bread department in the past. I don’t make it regularly, but I love the process. I particularly love testing it when it’s done – hot out of the oven with some honey on top, just to be sure. A couple weeks ago I made a wheat bread with some oat flour and molasses that came out well, and last week I thought I’d try one with oats and wheat germ and wheat flour just to give it that superhero quality I like. It was dense and grainy as I kneaded it, but was looking pretty good in general. Here it is midway through the rise:

It smelled heavenly while it was baking, and then it came out like this:

I think that ’substantial’ would be a kind word for it. What happened? What could cause such a well intentioned loaf to turn out so flat and dull? Let’s just take a look up close…

Ah yes – now, can you see what I’ve done here? You can? Well I wish you’d tell me, because I have no idea. Maybe it just had one too many ingredients.

It doesn’t taste awful, but it’s too much of a dense, nutrient-rich endurance food to be enjoyable. So if you’re planning an incursion, let me know and I’ll ship it right out to you. Otherwise, it’s going to the chickens.

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