Saturday, December 31, 2011

More Merriment

This past week we continued our Christmas celebrations in Indiana, visiting my parents.  This shall be remembered as the Cupcake Christmas -- my sister-in-law provided dessert in the form of a cupcake sampler from a shop in Lafayette.  She cut them up so we could try the different flavors.

Action shot of a bacon cupcake sampling (the base is supposed to taste like pancake; the frosting was very light and fluffy, with a maple flavor):

I also forced the kids to play some of their recital pieces in the main lobby, which is always popular with the people around there, but fairly unpopular with the Thalia and Annabeth:

Then back home late Wednesday night, by which time I was thinking ahead to our next adventure, which was a wedding Friday afternoon.  I had absolutely nothing to wear.  So Thursday morning after taking Thalia to the doctor for yet another vax for the trip to the Dominican Republic, I went to Hancock Fabric and got some poly/rayon ponteroma (on sale for 30% off, plus I had a coupon for 15% my purchase -- woot!).  I used Butterick 5523,  purchased months ago on sale.

I slapped it together Thursday afternoon and evening.  Unfortunately, I chose the size to make based on my measurements and the fact that I had read a review that it was snug through the bodice back.  When I tried it on I looked like a little girl playing dress up in her mom's closet -- I was swimming in it.  That's when I remember that a prime measure for choosing a dress size when sewing is the shoulders -- mine are narrow.  So I took the sleeves off, undid the side seams, walloped about a half inch off all of the vertical seams, and sewed it back up (fortunately I hadn't serged it, choosing instead to use a narrow zigzag, which was pretty easy to rip out).  It was still a little loose, so I put a couple of tucks in the back, made the self-belt thingy, for which I covered a couple of buttons in the purple fabric (I had some large button forms already -- who knows why those were in the button box, but I'm glad they were there), tacked the belt over the tucks, and was ready to go.

In the meantime, Thalia had tried on all of her fancy dresses and discovered that the ones that were an appropriate length no longer fit.  She asked if I could take in the bodice of her 8th grade graduation dress (Simplicity 4070), which was now too big and baggy (as she's gotten taller she's apparently gotten more slender).  This time she styled it with a big black belt and taller shoes.

 It would be better with black shoes, of course.  And the bandaid (from the vax) on her arm brought to mind a tattoo, which I suggested as being sort of edgy with this dress.  Also, a black leather jacket would be edgy, not that she owns one.

So now she has visions of making another of these, but in red with black lace, for a future formal dance.  Also a leather jacket and 6 inch black heels.  No tattoo, though.

The giant Christmas tree at the Metropolitan Building:

View from our table up on the 42nd floor:

Thalia was seated at the other end of the room, with a view of the Arch.  And Rick was running around talking to people when someone offered to take the picture. The wedding was really beautiful, by the way.  The bridesmaids wore purple dresses with little belts in the back (just like me!), except theirs were floaty chiffon.

And I think that's the END of Christmas.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Random Bits of Christmas

We went to a 9pm Christmas Eve service (and Rick sang the actual words to the song, not switching up   Nobis Pacem with Obese Possums as he had threatened).  It was a lovely service that ended up with everyone holding lit candles while singing Silent Night.  Annabeth had never been to anything like that before, since we stopped messing with that sort of thing when she was little and we were living in northwest Ohio where it was too cold and snowy to be dragging a little kid around to Christmas Eve services late at night.  

Of course, that meant that we didn't get home until fairly late, particularly since on the way home we discovered a large subdivision totally lit up with luminaries, thousands upon thousands of them.  They probably do this every year, but we'd never seen it before since we'd never gone out on Christmas Eve before.  We ended up driving around it some just to look at all the luminaries, and got slightly lost.

So, home late, and still had to finish up the annual treasure hunt -- Rick had to finish writing the clues, which this year were a takeoff of Madeline since he and the girls had been reading that aloud a few days before.  Then the clues had to be hidden (the kids were in bed by this time, and theoretically asleep), and the final gifts hidden away at the end of the hunt.

Which meant that when the cat came in the room and stood on my nightstand announcing that the Christmas tree lights had come on at 5:45am, I was totally dead, and tried to shoo him out of the room.  Except the kids were up by 6am.  Self portrait of how I look with less sleep than I need to function rationally:

In spite of the lack of sleep, it was a fun morning.  Santa brought Thalia the latest Percy Jackson book, a fluffy Panda Pillow Pet, and a sweatshirt from the Lotus Casino (which all makes sense if you've read all the books):

I got this swanky vase that they'd found at an estate sale. (This Christmas featured quite a bit of secondhand shopping and some crafting -- Dave Ramsey would be proud):

 Annabeth was thrilled to get convertible mitten/gloves, and as a bonus they were Hello Kitty themed (these were from Thalia):

Oddly, no pictures of Rick opening gifts.  Be assured that he was quite happy to get a Thor Christmas tree ornament.

Next, omelets for breakfast, along with smoked turkey. I was surprised to find a bit of bone in mine, since it was supposed to be boneless turkey.  Then I realized that it was actually a large chunk of one of my molars.  Ack!

Rick headed out to go to church.  The rest of us opted to be heathens, figuring we'd already gone to church the night before.  I took a nap and sulked about my broken tooth.  Thalia lounged with her Panda Pillow Pet
 and Annabeth apparently painted her nails and took dozens of pictures with the camera, which I just now found when I loaded the photos to the computer.

The rest of the day was spent quietly -- fire in the fireplace, watching movies, playing with gifts.  A nice way to spend the holiday, other than the tooth issue.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

So far ...

So far we've had a rat in the tree:

We've gone to see Beauty and the Beast:

We've made butter cookies:
And decorated them (after an emergency trip to the store for sprinkles, etc., when we realized we were almost out):

Including a special cookie Annabeth made for Santa (which I think is so awesome I sort of want to lacquer it and keep it forever):

And had our special family reading of the Christmas story while the kids used the manger scene to act it out:

Still to come: the Christmas Eve service at church, which we usually don't go to.  But Thalia and Rick are singing in the choir.  And Rick has discovered that the words "Nobis Pacem" sound a lot like "Obese Possum", and is wondering if he can get away with singing it that way.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Busy Hands

Annabeth went to a birthday party earlier this week.  She made a scarf for her friend out of fabric she found in the basement, plus some  pompom fringe.

 I had purchased this fabric years ago, probably from Sewzanne's.  Never used it, obviously, and now the kids aren't interested in wearing things with little pink ballerinas.  But her friend loved it -- she studies dance, so it was very appropriate.

Also, I've been knitting a scarf for myself.  Something to do while waiting, which is how I seem to spend a lot of my life.

 I had the yarn, Lorna's Laces sportweight in Cranberry, in the basement for about as long as I had the fabric.  I think I was going to make the kids warm socks; the red color reminded me of Little House on the Prairie.  (I had amazing intentions about what I was going to make the kids over the years.  Also, we have interesting supplies squirreled away in our basement, some of which are holdovers from those projects that never saw the light of day.)

And we've had the annual cat-in-the-Burger's-box photo.

Every year someone sends us something from Burger's Smokehouse.  Every year the cat wants to sit in the box.  And we take the same photo of him in the box every year.  Another Christmas tradition fulfilled.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Ten on Tuesday: 10 Things I have to do before Christmas

Bridgett participates in the Ten on Tuesday meme, and when I saw her blog post today I thought this was a particularly good topic since it involves making a checklist of things to get done this week, which many of us are doing anyway, so it's sort of like multitasking blogging (okay, was that sentence long and run on enough?).  So here's mine:

1. Take Thalia to the county health department for a typhoid shot.  Which isn't particularly festive, but seemed like a clever time to go do it because we're not slogging around to lessons and classes this week.

2.  See Beauty and the Beast at the Fabulous Fox.

3. Wrap presents.  Nary a present has been wrapped by me yet.  The kids have done theirs.

4. Receive more presents from UPS and/or mail.  Because they've been shipped, but haven't shown up here yet.  Which has put a crimp in that whole wrapping scenario.  In the meantime, attempt to not dwell on what will happen if they DON'T show up here.

5.  A bit more shopping needs to be done.  I have the items in my mind, it's just a matter of locating them in a store (this is usually the dreadful part, since merchants seem to have  a startling lack of ESP about what I want).

6.  Make Favorite Butter Cookies from the recipe published in the Post-Dispatch in the early 1980s.  These are the official Santa cookie of our household.

7. Finish pants that are half done.  Actually I don't need these until next week, so I could spend Christmas Day sewing.  Hmmm, that sounds rather attractive ....

8. Help make a present for a family member who I don't think reads this, but maybe they do.

9. Get hair cut.

10. Find time for a nap.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Holiday Weekend

A trip to St. Charles Christmas Traditions, which was about 40 degrees warmer than last year.

 This year the kids collected about 17 or 18 out of 33 character cards, which was much more than last year.  They wanted to find The Town Crier, but alas, he was either on break or else just not there Saturday afternoon.  (The Town Crier falls into the category of people-we-know-playing-characters, thus the appeal, particularly since they must stay in character while talking to us).

Sunday was nearly an actual day of rest, for a change of pace.  In the evening we had a piano recital.

Annabeth warming up beforehand, hence the hat and jacket.  She played Chopin's Waltz Op. 64, No. 1, The Minute Waltz, and also an arrangement of The Holly and the Ivy.  She did a great job with both.

And here's Thalia warming up to play a duet of Sheep May Safely Graze with her teacher, followed by Joplin's The Entertainer (original version).  And she, too, did a great job.

I videoed both kids playing, but not sure I want to subject the world to that much piano recital (the Joplin piece alone is about 7 minutes long). 

We're now taking a semester off of piano.  Thalia has too much school work this year  to spend the practice time. And Annabeth wants to take the opportunity to try violin. (Optimally I'll mention this to the people in charge of the Musical Theater debacle -- that Thalia's giving up piano due to lack of time, while still stuck in a musical not of her choosing which is sucking up a few hours a week  -- and they'll feel racked with guilt, particularly since the head of the place is first and foremost a piano teacher.)

We're rounding the curve and just about in the straight away as we head towards Christmas!  

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Status Report

1. Santa has been visited.

2. Cards (most of them) have been completed and put in the mail.

3. Fall Product sales are over, paperwork turned in to Neighborhood Coordinator, money deposited.  I'll turn in our troop's proceeds today.  I already threw out/recycled most of the flotsam.

4.  Co-op is over for 2011.  So are theater classes.  Last ballet class is later this week.  Feels like acres of free time spreading out in front of us.

5.  The Christmas dishes have been unboxed and are in use.

6..  Creeping closer to the "done with the presents" finish line.

Ten days to go!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

This Weekend

Round one of Christmas was completed Friday night when some of the relatives came over.  Grandma and Grandpa were on their way from Indiana to Kansas City, and stopped at our house, plus an aunt and uncle came by.  We all had dinner and exchanged gifts.

Thalia had a chance to show off her new hat:

Yes, she is aware it looks rather like a chicken landed on her head.  She found it at an estate sale, and realized it would be perfect for Eulalie MacKecknie Shinn (Music Man).  Actually, it'll also be good for Elsa Schraeder.  Or, for that matter, Hello Dolly, Easter Parade ... lots of posssibilites for about $10!

Annabeth stuck with the more traditional Santa cap:

That party broke up late, we all got to bed waaaaay too late.  And were up the next morning so Annabeth could go to a dress rehearsal of the Christmas musical her choir was in at church.  And Thalia worked at the Christmas tree lot at church (required service hours for kids going on the trip to the Dominican Republic -- in addition to raising the money to pay for the trip, getting all the required immunizations and paperwork, and all the other falderal surrounding traveling overseas, they have a bunch of service projects and meetings they're required to attend).

Then zoom home, grab sandwiches to eat in the car, and off to Thalia's ballet class in a drastically different part of the county.  Followed immediately by a trip to a Panera's in yet another part of the county so Thalia could meet with some kids from her history class -- they're going to be debating feudalism in class, and were getting their arguments lined up.  They're the pro-feudalism team, in case you wondered.  I spent the time talking to another mom who decided to hang out there.

In the meantime, Annabeth and Daddy went to the climbing wall and indoor pool.

After that, it was home, order pizza, watch Christmas movies (White Christmas followed by Rudolph) and generally collapse.

And up the next morning to get to church for the Christmas musical!  Except what we didn't realize is that the music director (who is also Thalia's new voice teacher) had decided Thalia should be song leader.  Well, Thalia knew it, but hadn't bothered to tell us.  So she was up there doing a great job of leading everyone in "Infant Holy, Infant Lowly" before the musical started (particularly crappy picture since I wasn't sure about the etiquette of snapping pictures in the middle of worship -- I'm pretty sure  it's considered bad form):

Then on to the show, Arrest These Merry Gentlemen.  Which, by the way, is a cute musical.  It's sort of a send up of Dragnet.  Annabeth played Jo Sabbath.  She had watched some Dragnet videos to prep for the role.  Really, all the kids did a great job.  They did it for 2 services, by which time some of them looked sort of exhausted (the little girl in the white dress behind Annabeth's elbow was one of those  starting to fade, but she sang an absolutely awesome solo and totally stole the show by being so flippin' adorable).

Then lunch at Elephant Bar to celebrate a successful show.  Followed by more climbing wall and pool -- the climbing wall is now closed for the rest of 2011 for maintenance, so it was important to get those last hours in, you know.  The girls spent the evening babysitting for the neighbors.  Rick and I planned to spend the time planning and executing on Christmas gifts, but instead spent the time researching washing machines, since our 10 year old machine has started randomly filling with water when not in use.  A festive end to the weekend!

And now plunging into another week ....

Thursday, December 8, 2011

More about that.

You know, that Musical Theater thing that's been bugging me.

Total side note: Musical Theater is always a bit weird.  One time my friend Chris, who leads a kids' theater group in another city, commented that a lot of the homeschoolers in her group were pretty odd.  And I just sort of snickered, because homeschooling attracts an odd crowd (including those who pulled out of school because their "differentness" made/would make them the kids who got picked on in the halls), and theater groups attract an odd crowd (remember, the entire premise of Glee is that kids in the arts are "different", getting slushied in the halls), so the intersection of the the two sets would be uber-bizarro.

But this incident was just so odd I keep pondering how someone thought this was a plausible idea.

The short version:  The Place We Go To (for theater classes) held auditions for Oklahoma.  And then the next week announced the cast.  Except they'd switched the musical to Sound of Music without telling anyone until they announced the cast list.  Sorta like a bait-and-switch, but with musicals (edited to add that this wasn't a deliberate bait-and-switch -- they weren't being fraudulent so much as being really, really stupid).

The long version:  The Place We Go To has musical theater classes for teens once a week; they're in the evenings and attract kids from local schools as well as homeschoolers.  The first part of the school year focusses on general technique in acting, singing, and movement.  The kids put on a Fall Showcase to demonstrate to their families and friends what they've learned so far.  After that auditions are held for the spring musical -- these auditions are open to any teen in the area, and are advertised in various  venues that are typically used for local audition news (I think most cities have places you can browse to see who is putting on what, and decide if any of it is something you'd like to prepare an audition for).

Additionally, teens can sign up for a second class each week called "Advanced Musical Theater" which gives them extra hours to work on the above.

This year The Place We Got To hired a new director fresh out of school (IU -- yeah, insert that whole IU/Purdue dynamic, given that we're Purdue grads).  And she announced that the Advanced Musical Theater class would focus on audition techniques -- how to prepare for a professional audition.  Cool!

Also, they announced that the musical they'd be putting on was Oklahoma.  So the kids, particularly those in the Advanced class, started to think about which roles they wanted, how they should audition for those roles, etc. etc.

Really, the kids had somewhat cast the show in their minds by late October -- they could sort of see who the director favored (fact of life: directors have favorites.  So do teachers.  And managers.  Kids know this.), who was really good, who "fit" the various roles.

Thalia decided that she really wanted to play Ado Annie.  It would be a fun role for her.  She selected her music somewhat accordingly -- she sang If I Loved You from Carousel (which is basically a musical made up of songs and plot lines Rogers and Hammerstein had left over from Oklahoma).  She contemplated doing When I Marry Mr. Snow to emphasize her interest in Ado Annie, but we didn't have the music.  She worked on the song with her voice teacher for several weeks.  She also selected a monologue and worked on it.  The director had commented that it would be really cool to have separate auditions for singing, dance, and acting, but that wasn't going to work in a class that meets a couple of days a week for a couple of hours at a time.

So, the big day roles around -- auditions!  One of the guys, Senior Guy, hopes to be cast as Curley, and sings Bless Your Beautiful Hide from Seven Brides.  Another friend performs something from Hello Dolly -- she'd like Laurie's part, but knows that the director really likes another girl better ... and so on and so forth.  The kids have been discussing who is going to sing what, which monologues they're considering, for WEEKS. The kids audition in front of the director and the head of The Place We Go To -- the two will discuss the auditions and do the casting.  The director announces that the cast list will be emailed out by 3pm the following Monday.

Except, the following Monday we get an email that the parts will be announced in class.  Well.  THAT'S nerve wracking!  Are they actually going to read the cast list aloud in class?  Really?  When you hear what part you got, you sort of need a moment to catch your breath so you can be gracious, you know?  Especially when you're a kid.

I drop kids off at The Place We Go for class, and hope for the best.  Later, Thalia calls to tell me they need a ride home after Tech Theater class (sometimes they get a ride with someone else).  I ask her what part she got.

"Elsa Schraeder"

Okay, the name sounds familiar, but I can't place it in Oklahoma.  I'm confused.

"Yeah, they switched the musical to Sound of Music.  As soon as I found out, I knew I'd be cast as Elsa Schraeder, and I was."

(Note:  The cast list was actually hung up on a sheet in the hallway rather than being read off in class.  The kids were totally giddy with relief about that.)

Well.  THAT'S weird.  I hang up the phone, and it rings again.  A friend whose daughter is also in the musical theater class.

"So, Gail, what do you think about the musical?"  Her voice sounds strained, like she's remaining calm on the outside, but would really, really like to explode.

We talked.  A lot.  About the difference between the two musicals, one of which focusses almost exclusively on one particular role (Maria), whereas the other has various strong characters, including a kickbutt male role that Senior Guy would be perfect for (he in now Von Trapp, with one solo in a range that he doesn't sing well in, and a song he doesn't especially like -- ironic that Christopher Plummer also hated the musical, yes? -- and this is his final musical for this place since he's graduating in May).  About the way it was handled.  About the idea that people might have decided differently whether or not to audition if they'd known it was Sound of Music.  Might have strived for different roles. About the fact that work on the musical won't begin in earnest until after Christmas, so they had plenty of time to re-audition if they wanted to change the show.  Etc. etc.

So.  Rick decided to be proactive, and sent an email to the head of The Place that was gentle, supportive coaching about the concept that she needed to act quickly to put out the fire that was starting to rage. Are y'all familiar with the book  Mistakes Were Made?  It was pretty much like that -- total entrenchment in the decision.  Sigh.  Emails flew around, phone calls were made.  And a couple of weeks later:

-- Still doing Sound of Music.  Except they haven't worked on it at all due to other scheduling considerations regarding a Christmas show.  I think maybe they'll start looking at the music next week.

-- Realization by Powers That Be that they don't actually have a big enough cast, since you can't double the children as the nuns and guards, since all those disparate roles have to be together on stage.  Gee, if they'd told people they were doing Sound of Music, I wonder who else would've shown up.  Annabeth noted that she might've auditioned.

-- Leisl quit.  Her entire family quit EVERYTHING, effective immediately.  They've been taking classes there (dance, voice, piano, acting) for 7 or 8 years.  Huge supporters. So now notices are going up for open auditions for Leisl, any girl ages 12-18.  Oops.  Her younger sister had been cast in the musical Annabeth is doing this spring, but I think that group has someone to take that part.

-- Thalia has revealed to us that she wouldn't have bothered to audition if she'd known it was Sound of Music.  She says the only decent role (in this venue**) is Maria , and she wouldn't make a good Maria.  Also, she knew she wouldn't get the role of Maria since she isn't the director's favorite.  She would've auditioned for COCA's spring performance instead, or perhaps waited until next semester for some later productions around town.  ** The Muny put Sound of Music on in 2010, and Thalia would've been thrilled to play pretty much any part up on the big stage with professional actors, but this production is with her peers.

I know every place has its quirks and warts.  Any place you go for dance or theater or sports or WHATEVER is going to have issues, because people have issues.  But this whole thing really amazes me.  The Place We Go keeps calling the switcheroo "unprecedented".  Um, maybe it's unprecedented because it's a stupid thing to do.

I think I've left out enough of the juicy gossip of the whole thing to actual make this public.  Part of me doesn't care, since foolish decisions seem to be par for the course when it comes to this entire story.

So, Chris, whaddya think?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


1.  I get a lot more done when I don't bother writing on a blog in the morning.  I've been doing yoga, lifting weights, have the Christmas cards ordered and in hand, have written those annoying emails I'd been procrastinating about, sewn a pair of pants, and am now working on cleaning out the dining room for use when relatives come to dinner on Friday.

2. Also, the Crazy Train visited Musical Theatre class last week.  Of course, one could argue that the Crazy Train is never very far away from any theater production, but this was a particularly whacked out situation.  So I spent several days NOT writing about that, even though I was thinking about it a lot.  I still may write about it.  But now it won't be a matter of droning on and on in righteous indignation, you know?

3. The outside lights are mostly up.  We put them up on Saturday, which was before it got cold out.  Score!

4.  The gifts we need by this weekend are almost all purchased.  We're down to the odds-and-ends part.  Also the part where we need to dig out the wrapping paper and tags.  Which are hidden behind all the boxes we pulled out looking for the decorations.  Which still aren't all the way up.

5.  Schedule for last Sunday:  Be at church at 7:30am so Thalia could sing with her sextet for the first 2 services.  Then home for lunch, and back at 2 for a rehearsal for Thalia that lasted until 4.  Annabeth's musical rehearsal was from 4-5:30 at church, with a parents' meeting at 5:30 (significant because it meant a coherent adult needed to be there).  Then Thalia at the church at 6pm, with the concert starting at 7pm.  None of this would've been such a big deal if we lived closer to the church.  Or if Thalia had her license and we had an extra car for her.  But, you know, whatever.  We spent the day driving back and forth.

The concert was pretty cool, which was to be expected because the music director at our church is amazing.  You could see that he was totally in his element directing all the disparate parts.  Also, the whole thing ran like clockwork.  Again, that's having someone in charge who knows how to put it together, as well as how to run an organized rehearsal.

6.  I should be doing something else right now.   More later.