Friday, November 30, 2007

Mmmmm... Protein....

I made these biscuits this week and they're super yummy yet require only commonly on-hand ingredients. They are a great way to use one of those two-for-one cottage cheese sales and reheat nicely, too.

Two tips:
1. I think next time I'll reduce the butter because that is a ton of butter.
2. When you go to mix in the cottage cheese, you might as well say to heck with it and mush it all up with your hands. It needs lots of squishing to combine at all and you're going to get messy trying to get them on the cookie sheet anyway, so just imagine you're the foley artist for a horror movie and get in there.

2 cups all purpose flour
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 16-oz. container low fat cottage cheese

Preheat oven to 450. In a large bowl place flour, salt and baking powder. Stir until combined. Add butter and mix until it becomes the size of small peas. Add the cottage cheese and stir until just combined.

Using a large soupspoon your already gunked-up hands, glob onto a non-stick cookie sheet in about 8 piles. Bake until golden, about 12-15 minutes. Serve immediately, because they'll be all melty and yummy in the inside.

These are great with soup or salad, keep nicely in the fridge and are eminently nukable.

HAPpy holidays!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Dobro people are cool.

I got better. Might have something to do with Toby and I not waking up until J was home around 7pm.

And also, I got this awesome email from a guy who teaches dobro in the area. I found him online, emailed him once about lessons, and then failed to contact him a single time even though he sent lots of tantalizing email about local folk/country/americana play-ins.

Tell me this wouldn't cheer you up just a little:
I sent him this:
I've really enjoyed reading your updates and have often thought, "geeze, I should get over there and take a lesson or two", but I've made a sad decision...

I'm selling my poor neglected dobro. I simply don't have time to practice it along with my professional stuff (classical) and my toddler- plus, we have a 2 year-old and we're expecting again in March.

Here's my craigslist ad:

It's a Regal Black Lightning, I bought it at Folk of the Wood and literally played it once. It has been in our music room by itself and lonely.
I'd like $600 for it.

If you have a student or friend who might be interested could you please forward this to them? Is there anywhere else I might post it?

Take care and thanks again!
{and he replied}

Congratulations on the "expecting" news. The type of music we play is very social and it sounds like your dance card is full.
I was looking forward to working with you. We have another classically trained Dobro student and he learns very fast. He is progressing with the art at a fantastic rate. This gIves me a lot of satisfaction
and nurses the illusion that I can actually teach well. The reality is that he knows music theory and understands how important practice is to the learning process.

Allow me to suggest another option.

Guitar Option: E

Keep the guitar and play it later when the kids are in school!
I am fundamentally against selling good instruments (my wife claims its a mental illness).
So keeping learning options open is always tactic.

We will respect any decision that you make. And support you if you choice to make a tragic life altering mistake like selling your Dobro.

Best wishes,
Awesome Dobro Guy (IF you happen to be from the Portland area and are looking for a teacher, I'll happily give you his contact info.)


I hate days like today. I was impatient with Toby, on edge in general and no fun to be around.

I'm not sure I'll post anything more; I'm so taking a nap.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

meme me

Meme: n.
A unit of cultural information, such as a cultural practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another.

I've seen a couple of nicely written internet memes lately and I would like to combine them into my own personal Ubermeme. I suppose the use of the word "personal" or "private" doesn't really mesh with the idea of an internet meme, meant to be passed around and completed on various "tagged" blogs as it spreads like a virus through the content-needy keyboards of the world. If you like my meme, consider yourself tagged!

So here it is:
Favorite moments performing
Most embarrassing moments ever
Favorite embarrassing performance moments!

In the spirit of the season, today's moment happened at the end of the Nutcracker. We played it without any cuts, and in my memory it took nigh on three hours to complete. There is something special about the stuff you play in high school- I remember that repertoire much more vividly than the things we fly through in the various gigs I have now. We used to rehearse this stuff once a week for months, and there was the added frisson of nervous self-consciousness involved with anything done in my teens.

So there we were in Davis Concert Hall at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. It's a pretty nice hall, truth be told. I loved the way the wood floor clip-clopped under high heels, and it was the most formal place I knew of in Fairbanks; still is. People predominantly wear jeans or Carharts to the symphony and in one memorable occassion a clarinetist forgot her skirt and wore only a slip, but I digress.

We had played the piece admirably- things just had a way of coming together for our pastoral symphony. I've been a ringer in a quintillion amateur groups since and know that "miracle concerts" are more related to attitude than skill. People enjoy playing, so they play. Sometimes they practice, more often not. Performances are so much better than rehearsals because the extra energy of nerves and fancy black duds helps the weekend players listen more carefully and look up at the conductor just a glance or two more often.

Three hours and a satisfied arctic audience later, we all stood to accept our standing ovation. And I felt that horrible running tickle of a dry winter nose-bleed. I turned to get off stage but there was a wall of stands behind which a line of trombones were planted, and not one of them moved but rather seemed to glare into my soul. Brass can look that way sometimes when you startle them. Finally I just shoved through where I could, my neck hot and my skirt feeling wrinkled and clingy at the back of my knees. The whole thing seems like no big deal now, but at the time as a teenager it was mortification incarnate. There were hundreds of people on stage, and hundreds more in the seats. In a town where you WILL see people you know and are expected to wave when you drive the three miles to Fred Meyer, it felt like the whole world was witnessing my unsanitary bodily malfunction at what was intended to be a rare moment of formality. I bet not one of them remembers it, but that feeling of being trapped on stage took a long time to dissipate for me.

There are lots of other stories which will no doubt appear more embarrassing to the reader, but the timing of this one made it the most personally intense. I still like to see an escape route gap in the stands behind me before we start playing. I don't have anything planned for March yet, but the possibility of blessed events coinciding with musical ones has crossed my mind. Would madame like some black towels to sit upon perhaps?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Doing our part... for the economy.

We bought/received this as a big huge Christmas present this weekend.

It looks really nice in our living room. Our Materialism Guilt Reduction plan is to cancel cable and get a Tivo box for the public channels instead. I have decided that Tivo is essential. It is sooooooo nice to never "have to" watch tv, even though sitting there comatose is clearly not much of a hardship for us in general.

My other new plan is to just screw it and do my bible study while watching. I know. It's clear what my priorities are, right? Well, that's where I am right now, and I'm not going to get up any earlier or give up any time with J. I need all the time I can cobble together during the day for practicing, so there it is. We'll see how it goes, maybe I'll trudge upstairs if the tv's too distracting.

I really like our church's take on Christmas- our pastor and his friends started this old idea of the Advent Conspiracy. " international movement restoring the scandal of Christmas by worshipping Jesus through compassion, not consumption."

As you can see from the flatscreen 42"-er, we aren't exactly turning it all over to God yet. It's hard to find a balance between doing what we'd like to and doing what we're expected to do. It doesn't feel fair to skimp on generous people we may see only a couple times a year. For us, the reduction of consumption will start with our immediate family and the people we're able to give to relationally.

Monday, November 26, 2007


Here are four aspects of Mt. Toby as taken near the end of November in the year of our Lord 2007.

1) Quick as the season of the cherry blossom: This is how he does everything lately.

2) Seriously silly like the mischievous ravens of Hokkaido.

3) Curious as the monkeys in the hotsprings of Nikko.

4) Hungry as... actually, I'm not sure why he wanted to lick the lense, but I will say he was so stealthy I didn't realize he had tried until I saw this.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Satellite Radio is my friend.

I love road trips. The time for conversation, the views and sometimes interesting radio, the change.

It's not nearly as fun when you're pregnant, though. I'm really worn out. My legs feel all itchy and tight and I need a shower.

We heard one of the Bartok violin concertos while driving through the Columbia River Gorge, which I thought worked out rather neatly. Otherwise our soundtrack began with the Bluegrass Gospel Train through the Flathead Valley, progressed to Prairie Home (almost no Garrison vocals today!) and various talk shows. We even did a brief stint on the Classical Christmas station, but after a while the ridiculosity of melismatic opera treatment for "We Three Kings" type of junk got on my nerves. (A while= 3.5 minutes)

Speaking of listening, at the Montana Grandparents' pad I played a note on the piano (middle C) and asked Toby to sing it and he did. He also saw a toy violin and mimicked the motions with the correct hands while singing. Can you see my chest puffing up? Or, wait a tic, that could just be another second-pregnancy symptom.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

But we aren't moving our there.

Shopping at the height of the holiday crush this weekend in Kalispell I was reminded why I love small town life.

  • The most crowded stores still left plenty of elbow room and I felt no need to disinfect myself upon re-entering our home.
  • We paid no man for parking.
  • When we decided to go home the commute took no longer than the occassional deer or red light dictated.
  • There were plenty of carts and nothing I wanted ran out even though we went late on Friday.
  • When we stopped for Starbucks the guy chatted with us for a full 20 seconds after he had given us our order, even though we were in the drive-through. No one honked.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Grandma's got the golden ticket.

We happily have several great-relatives here for Toby, and the chances are good that they will stick around long enough that he'll remember them.

We have great grandma Doris, who is very sweet and lives in an assisted living doohicky just down the street from J's parents. It's a nice place(seriously- the residents look happy and it lacks that old-folks-home smell) and she's a kick. Last night we asked her who she liked for president and she said either Mitt Romney or Hillary Clinton. She watches the news channels and has lucid reasons and opinions about most of the rest of the field, though like everyone we've talked to she didn't know much about Huckabee except that he's got a cool name.

Here are great grandma's thoughts on the election: Obama is interesting, but too inexperienced and not proficient enough at the nuances of dealing with the media or international relations. Clinton is strong and knows how to play the game as long as she can keep her over-the-top rabidness in check. Guiliani (which she pronounced Goo-leeahnee) has too many things dividing his constituents (catholic, yet 3rd marriage and pro choice, etc.) and also "he has a certain scent of the mafia about him, don't you think?" (tee hee) Thompson seems too much like a media "bumpkin" and hasn't made enough of an impression. In light of full disclosure, she might be into Romney because he's Mormon like she once was.

When she first said, "I like Mitt Romney and Hillary Clinton," I wasn't sure whether she meant for them to be opposed, or on the same ticket. That might just be a worthwhile concept in a two-party world: two-party tickets?

Pretty sharp, eh? And great grandpa, who is 92 today, is still living in his own home in California, though he spends a lot of time in the midwest with his girlfriend. He's fun, too- likes to tease his daughters and do the things that irk them, like playing in the candle with a spoon while they try to clean up after the Thanksgiving feast.

Right, then. It's off to get through a few more movies: we have a list and we've been hard at it. It's a rough job, but somebody's gotta do it when there's a new flatscreen hdtv the size of Manhattan in the basement. Right?

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Lovely lovely!

We cooked and ate and enjoyed the day together. My mother in law, Debbie, and I are scarily similar in a ridiculous amount of ways. We both like to do things our way, but both think of ourselves as helpful & easygoing, so when we're making things in the kitchen "together" much hilarity ensues.

We're all trying to wear off a few of the bazillion sugared calories by sitting in the living room watching Fido. I'm not sure the relatives like it, but J's parents did so our work here is done.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Webcams you can move: rrrrt, zssssst, rrrrrt

We are heading out, destination: Kalispell, Montana.

Here's a really cool webcam
mounted at the airport there. You can move it around- actually make the camera turn from your keyboard! Nifty.

Even though we aren't going there right now, here's my favorite hometown webcam. Look at this when you think your weather is annoying. There are generally a couple of super cold days each year (colder than -40, for example) when the ice fog settles in and you can't see that cute church across the parking lot. Also, note how daylight savings time has been rendered even more ineffectual by The Fairbanks is Dang Far North Effect (tm). Here's a cuter Alaska one which watches red squirrels, in North Pole (the town about 15 miles outside of Fairbanks).

We'll be posting from the Toddler Spa's Big Sky Resort as long as no one explodes from all the fabulous food.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Eve.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Should should should should HAVE TO

The holidays have always been good times for me, and I felt bad for people who stressed about them. This year I'm starting to understand maybe just a little.

First off, no one came to our open house, which isn't all that surprising when you take into consideration all we did was put a sign out on the main road. I forgot to even put it on Craigslist until too late. Or... maybe we could have told every single person in Oregon and still no one would have stopped by because we aren't going to be able to sell it until Toby's growing pubic hairs. Sigh... at least it's clean...?

There's this purply-grey house-selling cloud settled over my right shoulder. It says we shouldn't go away for the holidays, that we should plunk ourselves down on the corner with a big sign saying "BUY MY HOUSE AND I'LL GIVE YOU A PUPPY" and wave it about like the Mattress World guys. I know that trying harder probably has nothing to do with selling FSBO real estate, but it still feels like the thing to do.

I am excited about seeing our relatives and more importantly having Toby expose them to his brilliance, but I don't relish the trip or my expandingness. I know it's annoying when pregnant women complain about how big they are, but GUYS! This is not a "cute bump" pregnancy. Apparently the backs of my arms, the width of my hips and the area just under my chin are all closely involved in growing baby bits, too. They have expanded accordingly, and we are not quite to six months here.

Who doesn't feel hyper aware of the state of their body when visiting relations? Fit people, I suppose, but then they can just feel all svelt and glowy while they bring me another vat of Dreyer's Egg Nog ice cream.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Thee carrss, dey broake.

But they should be returned to us tonight all better for the low low price of 800 (billion) dollars.

The house is almost sorta kinda ready. See?

The grocery valet is not included in the asking price but we could be convinced to negotiate. I was cleaning up the garage today and still can't fathom how we need all this stuff. It will take us seventeen years to get it boxed up and down to Salem, and another thirty to unpack.

We have another open house tonight, so keep your keyboard crossed.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

And then we watched the paint dry.

We are in the middle of our first open house (SUNDAY 1-6!!!!!!) but I'll tear myself away lest I forget to post. There are throngs of people crowding their way through our door, making offers left and right. I'll let J hold them off for a few precious minutes with you.

We painted the bedroom finally.

For some reason it looks really grey on my screen, but it's a sort of green on the wall. Not minty though. So I'm all painting-tired, and J must be double that because he did all the studly ladder work.

Continuing in the home selling naval gazing trend, let me tell you all about how we steam cleaned the carpets and they look awesome.

HEY! Wake up! I'm not done droning, and I need you to tell all your friends to at least stop by our place because we've only had one chick actually come in. Seriously. Go. Tell them all.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

I do know how, I'm just out of practice.

Heh! It's technically Saturday, so bully for me and my Nablaksdfha self.

We just watched Children of the Corn. By we I mean I'm watching, surfing and baking while J has fallen asleep on the floor. I am incapable of falling asleep with the TV on- it used to curse me to skip sleeping entirely whenever I went to a sleep over because I didn't want to be so geeky as to shut of the set. (As you can see I've always been this incredibly secure.) I remember this movie being suuuuper freaky to the point I could barely watch, but now it's mainly funny. I wish Stephen King hadn't wussed out with the alien/monster ending like he so often does. He is always a better read, except in Stand By Me.

Speaking of reading, I haven't made it through anything not on a screen or a music stand for a long long while. I've had Cormac McCarthy'sThe Road on my nightstand undisturbed for quite some time, and I've been re-reading the same section of N.T. Wright's New Testament dealio for close to a year.

I see Oprah Herself is endorsing Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet. I completely loved that book in high school- I read it twice back to back.

It's not just that it's hard to find the time, it's that by the time I am free to sit quietly without serving anyone shorter than my viola case my mind is empty and gently buzzing. Something like what I imagine Hannah Montana music must sound like. So the only reading I feel up to is the clues (and sometimes answers) in my Will Shortz crossword compendium #14.

Friday, November 16, 2007


A post over at OhForFun jogged a memory, and I thought I ought to post this instead of cluttering up her comment space.

I was hired once to do a commercial for air conditioners, and we were "playing" the 4 Seasons. It was in my Tokyo days and I was asked to bring as many multi-cultural girl friends as I could drum up for $350 each. I told them up front they were being hired for their race and hotttness, and nobody said no. None of them played for real, and some of the instruments were lacking a string or two: it was hilarious.

Non-string players do the funniest stuff when they give the instrument a shot. Mostly there are lots of locked and swinging shoulders (think Thriller!) which results in the Cinderella sweeper bow maneuver: picture the motion of a scythe across the strings and you're halfway there. They also tend to go kind of cross-eyed while trying to keep that wily bow on the strings. Usually the viola-side elbow gets propped somewhere twisty on the torso, which makes their spine instantly shoot out backwards at an angle like that dude Igor in Young Frankenstein. I know it's mean, but come on, it's funny. I've found that most people can tell right off the bat if somebody in Hollywood is faking it, so that's always nice to know.

Anyway, my friends totally dug their 1.5 seconds of fame and as I remember since we were all professionally made up and young, we went out on the town that night. The finished ad involved lots of slow-mo and wide angle shots of a whole bunch of instruments with a soupy-sounding desecration of the already trampled Vivaldi piped in. We each had our split second of stardom- I swear it was at least as artistically fulfilling as a Bond CD.

I swear I would have traded the whole paycheck for a tape of that thing, but sadly for the whole internets, one never did materialize.

The kind of rain you have to squint to see.

I'm gonna post right now because it's 1:46 in the afternoon and I'm already tired out. Not because I have much to say, so I'll chatter as though you were all here in my kitchen, and I could make you a cup of coffee and a slice of my new favorite cranberry pumpkin bread. I'll even bake some extra berries and brown sugar on top the way you like.

Toby and I cleaned up the Aumsville Toddler Spa facility, loaded our stuff in the Jeep and trundled back up to PDX in a yucky rainstorm this morning. Can your really say rainstorm in Portland? It's just kind of spitty out, and grey. I used to love the big storms we got in Texas and New York. Tokyo, for that matter, has some impressive weather what with being on a modest-sized rocky island in the middle of several oceans and such. Portland needs to commit to a more passionate take on rain.

I cannot believe how much crap we had from just staying there a week. We made a big trip to Walmart (yay, capitalist oppressors, seduce me with your cheapness- and the fact that fricken everything is now made in China anyway) and also schlepped my mom's steam cleaner back to take a whack at our downstairs carpets before putting the house on the market this weekend. It took 8 trips in and out of the stupid lackluster rain to get it all in there, and half of it will wait to be unloaded until J I can get to it later.

Toby really actually was kind of helpful, sort of. He'll carry stuff around now, and understands the full meaning and ramifications of, "put that back right now." He likes to have jobs to do, and it's way easier to convince him to lug a bag of frozen pierogies equal to his weight into the house than it is to get him to stop running around barefoot in the garage careening in circles while flapping his hands for no obvious reason. I think it's all a shell game from here until he graduates high school. Look, honey, a college with coed dorms! If you get a 1600 on your SATs we'll make sure that's where you're kept.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


The elementary's called Englewood, which should immediately make all of you think of Tupac. You know, California Love? Shake it, baby, shake it? Englewood always up to no good?

Although, turns out in Cali it's spelled Inglewood. You know how wack those west siders are...

Also turns out that half the kids in that school fail math and reading and the class sizes are 26+, but it still gets a satisfactory rating.

Maybe I am destined to become that woman who home-schools her brood, rarely showers and mutters to herself while her eyes glaze over in the supermarket bulk food section. Toby was crying in Walmart today, so we're halfway to some kind of stereotype, right?

We always do this.

J walked from work to the house and back today just for a bit of excercise. It took 17 minutes each way. Hoowah!


He says to me, "This neighborhood looks better at night. Some of these places are kinda dumpy." And I know at least one block of what he's talking about- a block behind us toward the big brick high school is crammed with "cottages", a few with seventies sheets in the windows and beater cars out front.

But our block is nice, and looking out our kitchen window they get nicer as you go. None of the dumpy places look full on Methinated or any of that, and he admitted it's "still a really quiet neighborhood."

I've always wanted to live downtown somewhere, and for the most part a bit of urban grit is appealing. There is a sliver (okay, a chunk) of my mind dedicated to worrying, though, and it is having a field day with this five-sentence cell conversation. Dude, we didn't even check out the elementary school before signing up for this place; what kind of parents are we?

Will we have to sit on the back deck while the kids play furtively in the back yard, tied to us with petite chains and wearing police beacons? Will every cool sculpture and flower box be raided the night we put it out by vagrant teen zombie gangs? (Sorry about that zombie part, I'm still thinking of Fido.)

Now that I think about it, if we ever do expand the kitchen it would be soooo easy to slip in a small panic room.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Shiny and New

Well, here we are again. It's so much harder to post when I don't really have computer access. Reading my favorite blogs just isn't going to happen on dial up and without my handy favorites list. I'm bummed because last year in Nablkaoithgj I met a lot of folks because I decided I would try to comment on several new blogs a day as well as posting on mine. Maybe once we get back to Portland.

I've been trying to figure out why exactly I think my life will be easier to balance and appreciate when we're in an honest to goodness house. A big part of it is just knowing J will be closer to work, and he'll gain 90 minutes a day to sleep or run or surf the internet. Whatever he wants, at least he won't be driving. Another shining beacon of hope is the ability to have a snazzy little studio in which to teach. I'll keep my college job, too, but I miss the flexibility of a home studio and the freedom to choose and fire students at will. I've only actually fired like two, ever, but still it's pleasant to think I will be in control. I always rather enjoy control. Fun new house factor number 3: my parents will be even closer! (I better type that really softly or Toby will crawl out of bed to do a softshoe routine while twirling a baton. Or something more masculine, who knows?

And the other nifty new house factor? That it's new. It has the shiny appeal of reinvention. Since high school I have moved every three years or so, and each time I've liked the chance to cull away lame habits and behaviors like they were so many boxes of gradeschool memorabilia collecting dust underfoot in the garage.

With this move I would like to continue my quest for consistency. I hope that with my own studio room thingie, I'll be able to commit to spending a certain amount of time in there each day practicing and studying the bible. I have been spotty about both lately and it's driving me nuts. One of my worst qualities is that when I am starting to feel panicky about my own lack of well-spent time I tend to project that all over whoever's nearby. I get cranky and impatient. The impatience is especially ironic since what am I so worried about all that precious time for, when I will clearly spend it NOT doing what would make me feel better?

Knowing another Ward is on his way, and having heard lots of moms of 2 tell me that the first few years with 2 is a tough transition, I think now's the time to get some habits going. Even if it's less time than my ideal, some every day will keep the nasty Miriam at bay.

IF we can sell our place and no one else swoops in on this one first.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Lucky #13

Well, this is it. My lamest Nablokaherk post yet. Or shortest.

They accepted our offer with the contingency that we can sell our place first.

In the immortal words of Clark Griswold, "this is crazy, this is crazy, this is crazy..."

Here's a ditty from the Carmina Burana I was complaining about. With the choirs and soloists, it's not nearly so boring to rehearse. I have highlighted my favorite lines: mooning the moon/fate, and everyone crying after the stringman is struck down. I wonder if there will be an audition for the string man's now vacant chair in the viola section...

O Fortune,
like the moon you are changeable,
ever waxing and waning;
hateful life first oppresses
and then soothes as fancy takes it;
poverty and power
it melts them like ice.

Fate - monstrous and empty,
you whirling wheel,
you are malevolent,
well-being is vain
and always fades to nothing,
shadowed and veiled
you plague me too;
now through the game
I bring my bare back
to your villainy.

Fate is against me in health
and virtue,
driven on and weighted down,
always enslaved.
So at this hour without delay
pluck the vibrating strings;
since Fate strikes down the string man,
everyone weep with me!

Monday, November 12, 2007

We just walked in off the street...

2pm yesterday- J goes to an open house at a place with, like, 12 square feet of space. It's thriftstore cheap, and it's in a neighborhood we like so it seems worthwhile to look.

2:10- Seeing that access to the one bathroom (no shower!!!!!!!!!!!?) requires going through what would be our kids room, J wisely decides to politely leave.

2:15- Just around the corner he notices that another house that caught his eye has people in it.

2:30- He emerges from the house with a halo of bluebirds chirping around his head and some squirrels pulling at his pants leg. A racoon fishes his cell out of his coat pocket and dials my number for him.

4- In the middle of a grindingly boring rehearsal (Orff= not "the man" in relation to viola parts when orchestrating. Snore.) I can't stop thinking of the fact that J called a house beautiful and that he knows what a coved ceiling is. And that he practically squeaked, "it's so cute!"

8am today- We obnoxiously call the agent for the house to see if she can let us see it.

9am- We skip from room to room pointing out things we like. Like that there are lots of rooms (4+) and that it was build in 1908 and that the original hardwoods are there, under some new carpeting only recently put down. Also at some point the owners bought the lot next door, removed the buildings and made a honkin' big yard. We think the only reason it hasn't sold is that they bought their paints at Drab Bros. Taupe-Grey Emporium and appear to have had an aversion to plants of any sort.

5pm- The agent meets us at a coffee shop and we make an offer.

6:30pm- While eating dinner I realize I'm not worried about this one either way. If we don't get it then we don't have to move. If we do, then I get to live in a rad old place and J can walk home for lunch.

8pm- We go back and walk around the adjacent blocks with our Meth-dar (like radar, see?) on high, but all we see are sweet well-maintained craftsmen and cozy Tudor cottages. There is a dog in the next yard, but when I tell it to cram it, it does. And then after a few minutes the pup's owner comes out to see who's snooping around yammering about expanding this, building that and debating the qualities of arbor vitae vs. your leafier hedges. When there are two wierdos in the yard of the vacant house next door, you want the kind of neighbor who'll come out to see what's what as far as I'm concerned.

Looking at it all laid out like this, I realize it's kind of like proposing to somebody after meeting them on your first day at the tabernacle or something. Shazah!

ps. We can't do "Noah", sadly, because then it's Noah Ward. No Award. Huh- sigh.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Orff, I'm tired.

I'm trying to type quietly because my parents are sleeping in the next room. They're combining an elk hunting trip with a visit to my mom's parents in scenic Opportunity, Montana and will probably head out before we even wake up.

I'm tired from driving to and fro playing in Podunk Symphony Orchestra. We're doing Carmina Burana- you know it, even if you're not a musician. It's that dark-sounding orchestra thing with a big choir going Eee Eee Aww Aww (ka-BOOM) Eee Eee Aww Aww (ka-BOOM) Ee Ee aw awwwwww-e-ehhh. I think it't the Damian theme, which is funny now that I think about it since J is pulling for that as a middle name just to drive me crazy.

Meanwhile, here's a picture of Toby from about a year ago. He used to do these amazing push-ups before he really stood much. Mostly if he was naughty, I'd tell him to drop and give me twenty. As you can see, he complied with a smile.

Man, it took about 17 hours to upload this on dial-up. I almost missed my Nablkadhr deadline.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Salem: not a slum!

We drove around Salem and Keizer, Oregon today looking for neighborhoods where we might someday decide it's worth it to buy a house, then schlep all our junk over, pile in and set up shop.

Salem gets a bad rap, particularly from Portlanders. There's a popular email going around describing the different area's theme Barbies. I don't remember the exact specs, but it was something like this: Beaverton Barbie (our current locale) is a SAHM who cuts you off in her mini-van and talks on her cell 23.5 hours a day and wears expensive sweats with words written across the bum, Portland Barbie's wearing all recycled fiber clothes and sports an endless this war bumper sticker on her Prius, though she'll flip you off faster than let you into her lane. Well, Salem Barbie had something like a toddler on one hip, cut off shorts and a leather jacket with one pocket stuffed full of Meth and a switchblade in the other.

See? Poor Salem, it really has a lot of charming areas.

Look at this:

Near downtown, hardwoods meticulously kept (built 1924), lots of attention to vintage stuff, 3br and only $219.

For 219 in Portland, you get... uh... nothing. Maybe a mobile home where a suspicious death investigation recently occurred over off 82nd.

Salem's got historic areas, one of which we totally covet: bordered by the incomparable Minto Brown Park with its jillion miles of bike trails. It's charming, and not in the real-estate meaning where charming = divey and moldered.

I'm off to play the last performance of the opera until Aida in the spring. Bon soir, mes amis des ronguer. (we're watching Ratatouille)!

Friday, November 09, 2007

That is total TP.

After posting a bunch of angsty stuff about playing and being new in town (geeze, I've been here more than a year- why do I still feel new?) and such, I have run into several interesting conversations both in real life and through the laptop.

One of the opera's violinists is moving out of state and has decided not to audition for the local stuff where she's headed. Instead she'll take a non-music degree at the university, which will give her a scholarship for playing in the orchestra. Sounds great, I smiled and nodded, but THEN she said, "I came to terms with the fact that I was at the peak of my playing a few years back and could do nothing more about it, and I just don't want to work up an audition for groups I'm not sure will interest me." She is a whopping 42 years old.

That first thing, about the peaking? Scared the crap out of me. I have never thought this way, ever. Thinking about this Theory of Peaking (TP), I realize that not only do I disagree, but I'd like to live my life in a way that disproves it. Who doesn't want to see themselves as a better artist ten years down the road? How is it possible that playing a musical instrument, which is a time-based artistic expression involving a billion jillion variables, would suddenly NOT be able to change? Geeze, if I ever feel that I think I will walk away from the music stand and put up a viola for sale sign right then and there. (Unless I'm playing with Bjork or the Orpheus. Then I'd wait until after the gig.)

I think we get better the more music we encounter. Or the more co-performers we adapt to, or the more we discover what it is that really turns us on or off. Actually, I know it's worn out but I'm pretty sure that the things we encounter everyday have a profound effect on our artistic lives. Not just how we deal with people or what we choose to play, but how we play and hear everything.

Every teacher worth his salt (and many who are not) uses little stories, images, similes and metaphors. Passages become icey, dancing, hot, fat, shy, you name it. I was once thoroughly embarrassed when I went to play for a (male) famous violist at about age 20 and he saw the word "Sexy" written over a tie in my Bach. (My teacher was a little out there at the time...) Who hasn't had a chase scene, courtship, argument suggested to them in a chamber music coaching? We live to make context*, and if you have more stories to draw from, it stands to reason you will have better stories to tell. That alone invalidates the TP. And I haven't even gotten to the technical aspects of playing.

I remember when I was about 16 I went to my first "real" music festival (the defunct Johannessen International School of the (snarky) Arts in Victoria, BC) and there was this Russian hot-shot violin teacher in his 60's who everyone worshipped. Isn't there always? Everyone thought he was amazing, and the thing they all said was that he got better with each year. I remember hearing him practice scales & arpeggios every single morning across the quad: it didn't sound like just "maintenance" to me. He continued to improve, technically, well into his seventies. But what if you don't think you can do that?

Another great example of the anti-peak is Karen Tuttle. I studied with her in my undergrad in weekly studio classes, and I'm going to be completely honest. She was a great person of spunk, and taught some people incredibly well, but by the time our paths crossed she had lost some control of her small motor skills leaving her unable to play "well". But! I still enjoyed some of the things she demonstrated in class, in particular when she would show the range of colors she wanted in a certain phrase. Her playing not only still had merit, I would lay money (no coupons, even!) that for her purposes it was better than it had been in her youth.

Yet another pivotal teacher of mine lacks the kind of rich, deep, consistent sound you might expect from a person of their professional stature. However, every musical idea this person attempts is transmitted with such striking clarity that audiences are utterly convinced of the truth in the interpretation. The pieces are better for this person playing them, and there's a healthy cult following of the violist's career and teaching. I love to listen, and I fully expect that they would choose to play differently 5 years from now, because they consciously make sure their playing continues to evolve.

Anyway, I love when I get stuck on an idea or am in the throes of some funk and God dumps 14 examples of other folks' thoughts in my lap. These conversations have been so specific and unexpected (the TP chick and I were merely discussing which of her plants still needed homes) that I can't get around them with a label of "coincidence."

*We can talk about concrete music at a later, hopefully less verbose, date.

Thursday, November 08, 2007


I don't care if you're the personnel manager and have played in this orchestra for like 30 years and have a nasty temper. I want you to know you should NOT be doing origami with cellophane or whatevertheheck you were doing in the middle of a RECITATIVE*! That's just rude and annoying, Mr. Cruddy Unprofessional Trombonist. Also, you are often out of tune. Pblttlbltlobltltltltlt!

*the super-quietest part of an opera, where all the strings try to whisper notes together and of exactly matching lengths while a singer does solo vocal gymnastics, and the conductor's eyes bug out a little while sweat runs past them onto his harpsichord.


I don't know how late I'll be home tonight after the opera (the first time I typed that it came out "oprrra", which when I think about it could be kind of catchy) so I thought I'd post now to relieve any anxiety and eliminate the chance I might forget.

How's about I tell you about a movies you should see?

Fido. If you like
a)odd characters
b)Carrie-Ann Moss
c)50's retro design
d)movies about servants behaving poorly
e)zombies, you will love Fido.

It's a strange trip, involving a world stuck in the 50's (the set design and cars are sufficiently entertaining!) where zombies have become domestic servants. It's also a boy-and-his-dog story. My parents liked it, I think, though they thought it was really wierd. Usually when we bring them the freaky stuff, they hit the hay if it's too out there for them, but BOTH stayed up PAST 10pm for this.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

My grass...

I wonder if it will ever be green enough.

Today I recieved a very nice compliment about my playing, and I'm still not entirely satistfied. I want the "you won the audition and also here's a free puppy and an eggnog latte" to go along with the sentiment.

I am the kind of violist where critics/commentators/friends usually mention my sound or my musicality, both of which are pretty much my favorite things about the viola; they're what make it the best instrument. Since they're what I like to hear in others, it is a huge boost when somebody gives me positive feedback on my own sound & expression. But there are other strengths I'd like to have. The strengths that win auditions, for example.

Consistency (n): harmony of conduct or practice with profession.
While I was working on my fairly useless doctorate (FUD in Music Performance), my teacher and I focused a lot on consitency. After moving to Portland, I was given audition comments along the lines of, "you can sound wonderful but it sometimes fades in and out and needs to be more consistent. How's about we hire no one and you sub for us for the next 17 years instead, 'kay?"

I admit I sometimes agreed with their assessment, especially of the short excerpts of my playing on which they base their opinions. You can't afford to lose concentration or have something unexpected crop up- in fact, allowing those possibilities is unprofessional. Jen the wunderbar said it very well- whatcha have to do is evaluate the Suck Factor, and just decide to bring the very worst sections of any performance and eventually your playing in general up to the minumum SF. Seems obvious, but it's easy to instead focus on shifting, for example, or bow control or rhythm or speed or getting convincingly through whatever nasty passage you need to have ready by rehearsal tomorrow. With concentrated effort, consitency's what I've worked on- mostly with the aid of my MD recorder, lessons with a great teacher from the Symphony section, and more- ha- consistent practicing of excerpts specifically.

Today's compliment? Somebody told me I am, "a very precise, very accurate player...[with] nothing to work on specifically". I giggled at that last bit- hopefully she thought I was just overwhelmed with joy and agreement. In my mind, that meant that for the 15 minute audition-type thing I played, she thought I demonstrated "consistency", and confirmed I am indeed heading in the right direction. I wish she had said, "now you're #1, you're the tops, here's a secret contract in which we've provided for a maid and weekly masseuse." But oh well, I can buy my own dang (extremely consistent- kudos to the Mr. Bucks corporation) latte.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Gaslighting for fun and profit.

I think this baby is gaslighting me. Our heavenly Wiki teaches: Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse. It uses persistent denials of fact which, as they build up over time, make the victim progressively anxious, confused, and unable to trust his or her own memory and perception.

Since the little noodle (II) can't really deny or confirm facts in his current location, he has taken instead to poisoning me with my own hormones.

Last night after writing that cheery post, I spent like an hour slobbering and bawling to J about how I wish I was better at everything and how guilty I feel that I get insane with boredom some days. I know there are parents out there who would love to get as much time with their offspring as I do, and mostly I do enjoy it. Yesterday was rough. Part of it was the newfound skillz Toby decided to work on: whining and getting his feelings hurt. So he would whine and I would say, "Please ask me for what you want. How do you ask nicely?" and he would say, "Iiiiiice? Ice? Ice! Iiiiice?" so I'd say, "What word do you need to use? I don't like it when you whine like that." and he would say, (pause to inhale all the molecules in the kitchen and a few from the front hallway) "waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh".

Other times he'd say, "Water? Waaahdur?! Water!!" and I'd say, "It's right there, by your toybox." and he'd inhale half the living room and 1/3 of my left leg and go, "waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh."

And then I'd poke myself in the brain with one of our barbeque skewers.

He's really an easy kid. That's the problem. If I can't be patient with a generally rockstar, laid-back, easygoing kid, what is the matter with me? And how am I going to do right by two or three of these units?

So this morning I resolved to take it easy, to just try and enjoy my day and to not miss any of the good stuff. I got up early, showered even, and then went in to change the kiddo for the day. At one point, as I bent down to get something he had knocked off the table, he kicked me full force squarely in the eyeball. It's by far the most painfull thing he's done to me, and it actually made me cry like the wacko mom I'm starting to think I am. I didn't reprimand him much because it was a semi-unintentional accident, except to blubber, "no kicking, Toby- see, it hurts Mama." He looked at me like he was trying not to laugh.

Within a few minutes we were back on track giggling at a book, but there are days like this where in the end I don't know if I'm just being a completely horrible wussy mom to even feel this sorry for my sad pregator self. The stupid thing about hormones is they take something minor that legitimately bothers you and turn it into International Huge Crapfest 2007.

I've read that they used to just knock ladies out, give them a c-section and wake them up to their new bundles of joy. I wonder how far in advance the knocking-out part can take place... say, 4 or 5 months?

Monday, November 05, 2007

She cooks, she cleans... she snores.

I've always done things in semi-obsessive spurts, which is fine as long as it's a hobby or you're twelve years old. It gets more embarrassing now that I have responsibilities beyond myself and, say, a dog. For example, I'm supposed to keep a house not only in order, but arrange it thoughtfully yet casually and always with a hint of hip irony so that every room reflects who we are inside (geeze thanks, Oprah, HGTV, a million bloggers and apartment therapy).

Meals are more difficult because they require preparation and constant forethought. They should be provided with thought to the habits you want to cultivate for the rest of your kid's life- that's right, this is the first arena in which I have already begun to do things because they are easier, even though I don't like them. Lately I've been seen popping Cheeze Dogs (I am not kidding) in the microwave, genuinely happy that Toby at least remembered to say Weenah, Pweeeez. The word "weiner" and the weiners themselves introduced themselves to us at a certain Montana Toddler Spa, but I ain't gonna lie and say I wouldn't have given them to him myself after seeing him polish them off his plate and ask for more. He's at that stage where he wants only one thing (mostly) for a few days and then, when you're in the groove and on board and have laid in a nice supply he changes his mind. It's frustrating to prepare what he loved every bit of yesterday only to have him leave it and beg for something else. We don't really give in to that within the course of one "meal", but once he goes tepid on something he sticks to it.

J's new job means we actually have the ability to eat dinner together, all at the same time and place, without waiting to eat until 8:30pm. I find myself suddenly unprepared and frozen (ha! because we heat up frozen chemicals for dinner! ha!) in the spotlight, even though I used to fancy myself a proficient enough cook: I even enjoyed it. Now it seems like such a challenge to get real food together and to remember that potatoes are not a vegetable.

In Japan, my closest friend was also into cooking and she knew all the Japanese veggies and such, so we often collaborated in her kitchen, spending hours over a bottle of wine and a mess of impromptu ingredients. That is my favorite kind of cooking, and life.

Nowadays I'm fairly convinced that both in my cooking and in finding some ridiculously small shred of balance to cling to, I am in need of better recipes. I want somebody else to show me what to do, tell me what works. Should I keep trying to sub with all the groups in town or focus on my chamber music and teaching? Should I scramble to get more on my career plate or just let it go for a few years and try to practice consistantly without immediate goals? Should I finally try cooking those wheat berries I bought months ago from the bulk section at Winco or just fall back on 10-minute couscous with parmesan (again)? Is bagged salad really going to give us all cancer of the butt and turn everyone's farm into a Walmart parking lot?

You see the connection, no? Failure in one area, slippage in some part of my duties as a Miriam and I feel like it is all about to go. I literally end the day feeling lame unless I can get it all in the air at once, and that just isn't happening very often. If I cook up a storm, I don't practice enough. If I take Toby for a fabulous park-filled walk, I nap through the precious bathroom cleaning appointment. And then it's suddenly 9pm and I'm kind of full and grumpy and sleepy and several other of the dwarves, and I just want to curl up with some crosswords and go to bed. Who goes to bed that early? (Hi, Mom!) I guess the great meandering pregasaurus does, that's who.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Frumpity frump frump.

Look, sunshine. It's cheerful.
Tonight we talked favorably about a minivan.With no trace of irony.

I have started clipping coupons. My mom saves them for me.

I am in the market for some heel-less black shoes, and if you tail gate me I might just drive even slower.

My blog is sometimes about my toddler, and the other day I caught a glimpse of my cousin's kid's soccer picture on the fridge and thought hmmmm...

I graduated high school right about the time my college viola student toddled off to her first day of Kindergarten.

Saturday, November 03, 2007


It's the third of November. The third day of posting. And the third time I am feeling inadequate and unprepared.

I should be given a hefty bunch of handicap points today, though: I'm posting from Aumsville, Oregon on dial-up. That's right- there are still people in the world who cannot get DSL because they live too far out in the sticks for anyone to bother running the cables to them.

In lieu of actual thoughts, I'll tell you about Josh Bell's playing the other day. It was great- way better than I had thought it would be, even. I think I've successfully cultivated my "jaded professional" skin, thick and scaly with a slight green tinge to it. There are plenty of amazingly talented players who I respect, and a boatload of others whose technical ease I covet openly. But the "I think I'd like to play chamber music with/ buy all their cds/ listen to/ even pay actual money to see rather than scamming comps from friends" category is pretty empty. In violin there are some old guys plus Victoria Mullova, Gil Shaham, and now Mr. Red Violin himself.

He even played a snippet of Red Violin music as an encore- and I remember being annoyed with that fricken melody about 1/3 of the way in- and it was literally stunning. When it was all said and done and we mere mortal musicians were milling our way toward stage right, a violist with the best sense of humor started to play- faux extra poorly- the first few bars of that Kreutzer etude we have all played a million times.

Anyway, JB was a stud, as advertised.

Also, the violist next to me is going to be my friend. She may not know it yet, and I may have to stalk her a little. This I know, and this knowledge is mine simply because she answered my, "Great shoes!" with, "Thanks- they're from Cross Dressers dot com." and smiled one of them straight-forward Minnesota smiles.

Friday, November 02, 2007 which she comported herself impeccably.

What a day!

I spent the best part of it with a cool and seriously world-famous new friend. I met her on the internet and she is rad. You know her, but it would be so gauche to violate her privacy and brag about her true identity. Let's just call her Wonder Woman, shall we?

I am most proud of how I put my best personality traits on display with Fabulous Boisienne Wonder Woman.

A few, modest examples:
  • I showed her my carefree, delightfully spontaneous side. (I spilled on myself. Twice.)
  • I proved that I keep my incredible attention to detail from becoming tedious. (I forgot the title of the piece on which I based my final Doctoral Lecture Recital. From last year. And this after I brought it up.)
  • I demonstrated my consistency and determination. (I required a trip to the loo every hour on the hour, and more often when it became at all inconvenient.)
And now, I am exhausted. The opera performed tonight and it was my most how-many-pages-left playing yet, although the singers were fabulous and my true love was even there to hear it.

At some point this month there will be a post that counts, one that really hits the viola out of the parking lot. For now, this is all I got.


Thursday, November 01, 2007

Now with Labels! for Nablaeroiueajhflgjf.

I am jumping right on in to Nablaofdhtag, with a pithy, amuse-bouche of a post. Tomorrow. Maybe.

Today, however, I'm heading back to my beloved Podunk, Oregon to play a rehearsal and concert with their esteemed orchestra. Famous heart-throb violinist (betcha didn't expect to see that phrase outside the early 19th century, but just read his press packet! He puts the sexy in the string section.) Josh Bell is playing with them.

I like his playing, he's always fun to watch. He once sort of sprayed sweat on my music accidentally. When conductors do this it's annoying, but Mr. Indiana was somehow not so bad. This one time, at band camp Aspen, he played so sexy he broke his chinrest. It's made of hard wood and metal carpenter clamps, but he snapped it like a cockroach under his manly, musical chin.

He's rumored to be nice enough, and he's certainly had brief but memorable relationships with all sorts of my friends. He used to provide a big party for whatever festival he played, which is pretty much the smartest way ever to ensure a loyal following in the classical community. Forget the blue-haired ladies, buy yourself some patrons with a bottle of rum and a case of Coke.

Time for me to pile into our mileage car and head out. You may be the last people I say more than a polite sentence to for the next ten hours, so wish me well my friends. I don't even have a stand partner to play games with. Hmph.