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Post-show reflections

"So, the shortest day came & the year died..." and another Revels show has come & gone. I miss it. So Bad. This one really touched my heart deeply. I am very glad that I did it. Was I crazy for doing both the kids' chorus music director job AND being a chorus member? Well maybe a bit, yes, but it actually was manageable. Wednesdays were reeeaalllyyy long days, but a dear friend who lives about 4 minutes from my school allowed me to stay with her on those nights instead of having to drive all the way back home. The weekend rehearsals were kind of ADHD being pulled in different directions at the same time trying to discharge all my responsibilities both to the kids and to the adult chorus. Still, we worked it out without too many issues. Tech week at Lisner was a pretty tight exact schedule (and I didn't get to eat much), but actually was less of a problem than I thought it could have been.

Would I do it again? Yes, I think so, for the right show.

The show itself kicked butt! Wow - we had several sold out performances (I think 4 of 9), and the rest were quite full. Tickets sales were an average of 25% higher than any other show we've done and the 2008 Quebecois show was a big hit! The Irish ambassador came to a show & addressed the crowd saying lots of great things about it, so that was really cool. My stage family was The Best One I've ever had. There was lots of love to share and I miss them all So Hard it hurts! I'm glad I get to see many of them one more time on Friday night at the cast party.

Tech week

It started yesterday. Dear Lord, help me. Now we find out just how insane I am for doing two jobs in one show!

Revels thoughts

I've been the music director for the Revels Kids Chorus for 4 years and it's been great! They remind me of why I actually wanted to be a music teacher in the first place. Great parent support, no grading crap to do, they're there to have FUN and learn, they'll try & work hard, and they act like... well, kids who can play! Not 'tude-y kids who "have to go to class". I really love them, they are indeed special children of my heart. But... well, I'm a performer too and while VARF feeds part of that need, so does actually being in a show & performing onstage. I haven't done that since 2009, and I do miss it.

This year, Revels is doing an Irish show. Think Irish potato famine & coming to America, etc. Now, I told the adults' music director some time back that if they did a celtic theme, I was going to audition for it. I did - and I was chosen! *whee* Problem is, I know I'm going to miss the kids very much. (sometimes they're what gives me the strength to go to work the next day & face my "regular" school classes) We had our first rehearsal last Wed. evening & there was a quiet moment where I was approached by a person in management (although not one of the Directors, per se) and she mentioned that they were wondering if I would consider still being the Kids Music Director - even though I'm in the regular adult chorus as well. !?!? This situation happened before with a different person, and as I recall hearing, they were none too pleased with the results, so I never considered that they would try it again. I told the person that, and that I had not expected them to ask me. That I was flattered, and would *consider* the idea if they wanted to discuss it with me. I have heard nothing else, so perhaps they have changed their minds. If they are serious about this idea and wish to speak further, I will have some soul-searching to do. It would be a LOT of work, and I will need to consider my stress level/job/life/home balance very carefully.

Still...

Merry Christmas, every one!

So... Christmas just came early, as far as I'm concerned. :D And can you tell that I'm just so pleased about it??

Back story: you see, we sort of got volunteered/drafted into hosting Christmas at our new house. I get why, even if I'm not ready to do so, and there's some amount of stress trying to get prepared to do this. However, we've kinda slowed/stopped on the unpacking part since our move back in April & this rather gives us the kick in the pants we needed to "git 'er dun", so I suppose it's for the best. I've got to plan two meals, and some snackage for Wed. (although I have the basic ideas about that). We need to wrap gifts, and clean out the living room so it's actually fully usable. I still have to clean the house. *sigh*

BUT - here's why I'm happy today. Ed's dad just gave us a dining room set! It was the one they used when Ed was growing up & he had been storing it forever. Dad Sr. gets to clean out some clutter (to him), and we get a needed set of furniture (didn't have one). I really like the style, it's still nice & sturdy, Ed gets memories, and I get a piece of his history to share in our new life together. Past meets present! Since we're hosting dinner... it's going to get used right away. Yay! *kermit arms*
Guess what? In a sense, Congress IS us. We the People are at least partly responsible for this mess. We *chose* them. We *elected* them (sometimes over & over & over ad nauseum). Now people want to whine and point fingers and blame "the other guy" (and it's ALWAYS the other guy's fault, right? there's never any shared responsibility, oh no), all the while conveniently forgetting their own part in this debacle. I've begun giving the following sort of response to folks who are upset about all this, and frankly who isn't? A) Did you vote? If not, this conversation is over. Either go register to vote, or find your voter card and get in line for a booth. B) You did vote? That's great! Thank you for using your rights. Now for a different question, did you "vote the party line"? If so, how's that working out for you, huh? Don't like the results so much? Vote Again, and perhaps this time, please consider a refreshing CHANGE from Dem. or Rep. Vote for somebody else! Maybe we'll get something accomplished then. Last election in Nov., if the person was an incumbent, they did NOT get my vote. Not a single one of them. My MIL and my dad both stick straight to their "party" no matter what and it drives me crazy. I wish people would think for themselves once in a while instead of just blindly choosing the same old thing. Because then this is what we get - the same old thing.

The BIL/SIL trip

Well, last time I posted, I had mentioned this & said there was more to come. This is the update I promised.

This was a Brothers-In-Law/Sisters-in-Law get together at the Lake of the Ozarks in central MO. This way, we all had a basically central location to meet & a long drive to get there.

A few general thoughts:
1. It was a great idea but took lots more planning than I anticipated, even trying to keep it relaxed & "loose". The good thing was that my husband said that it was "just right" in terms of scheduling. He said there was enough organized activity balanced with enough "down time" to kick back & relax doing his own thing. From an introvert? That's a big compliment.
2. Money matters are ... complicated, and tricky to address. 3 out of the 4 couples had planned well for the costs/expenses of this trip. 1 couple, not so much. That makes it ticklish to address when you are planning dinners, eating out, cost of activities that people want to do, but do NOT want to foot the bill for others who didn't plan as well but who still want to participate. I wound up making a phone call to that sibling, had to ask what her budget was, and basically gently suggesting that she might want to double what she had planned to bring for spending money. I hated that - VERY awkward conversation! *sigh*
3. Even with having lots of options for people to go do their own thing, or go in smaller couple groups, we all wound up going together as one large group for activities. Which was fine, because the whole point of the weekend was to get closer as an extended family & strengthen our ties. Still, I had thought that maybe a few times we'd break into smaller groups... oh well. One late afternoon, almost all the sisters went to the pool together while the brothers stayed in the condo & dinked around online. Whatever. It worked out pretty well overall.
4. Renting the condo was a great idea, but you've gotta stay in contact with these folks. I had one get taken out from under me because we didn't communicate well enough with each other. If things seem shady? Walk away. There are other choices out there. It meant I paid a bit more because it was a lot later in the season & close to our arrival date, but we had a good spot in the end.
5. Four days together was plenty. More than that had potential for us to get sick of each other. :)

FOOD
Breakfast was on-your-own. One morning, there were scrambled eggs on offer. One morning, we had biscuits & chipped beef gravy. I brought homemade breakfast quick breads, there was cold cereal & milk, fruits, coffee/tea/juice... it was easy.

Lunch was local choice. THAT was a mixed bag of adventures. We ate at a diner the first day... now, how can you go wrong with a 50s diner, right?? WRONG. Oh boy, it was bad, but we will forever remember it & laugh with an eyeroll. One day, we spent about 45 minutes looking for a lunch spot - couldn't find one choice, the next was closed, and finally in aggravated exasperation just pulled into a parking lot with a mexican joint by default which turned out to be pretty darn tasty!

Each night, one couple made dinner. That was nice, because everyone pitched in to clean up. That made it go fast, no one had to do all the work all the time, and boy did we eat like ROYALTY! Baked chicken, baked salmon, pork loin roast, steak... YUM. :)

ACTIVITIES
The most expensive activity was horseback riding, but everyone agreed that was the top choice. So I booked a 2 hour trail ride for all of us & it was really nice. We actually got more like a 2.5 hour ride due to an unfortunate & unforeseen accident. There were only 10 people allowed on this longer ride, so it was all 8 of us & one other young couple, plus the 2 wranglers. About halfway through the ride, the last couple got swarmed by yellow jackets/hornets. It resulted in her getting bucked off, and Marie caught her horse that was panicked & muscling its way up the trail to get away from danger. We all got clear of the area and waited at the turn-around spot for a bit. The wrangler at the back was taking care of the couple, and amazingly no person got stung despite the swarm that stung the horses! The girl was bumped & bruised a bit, and the wrangler walked us individually back through to the other side of the trail. Once we were all together again, he took them back to the stable while the other wrangler finished our trip. At the end, as we headed back to the stable, the ambulance was still there so she took us on a further loop until they had finished up & left. I did have one question from a safety standpoint - in this day, WHY did they not have any form of communication device with them?? Trail walkie-talkies, two-way radios, or even a cell phone?

Another day, we took a cave tour and then went to a local winery. Both were just sort of ok. I think we should have gone a bit further afield to places that seemed more promising.

On our last full day together, we rented a pontoon boat, and spent 4 hours playing/swimming in & driving about the lake. That was very enjoyable! Jon & Marie fished for a bit, and Jon finally caught a catfish. Did you know they "grunt"? Yep, that's the noise they make.

We all brought board games to play in the evenings, and that was pretty fun. We didn't even wind up watching movies or going to play mini-golf.

We won't make this an annual event, but maybe every two years would be a nice choice. It was great just to get together when there aren't weddings, holidays, funerals, or other events - it was merely vacation, and it was good.

Um. Hi?

Yeah, I know. It's been ages. That's what happens with me & journals. I get so busy living life that I just really have no time to write about it. I suppose that's the way it *should* be, huh? I don't even know when the last time was that I posted. Well, let's assume it was sometime last year -

2012 Summer
* My youngest sister got married in Denver in July. It was a fun, retro-style 1940's wedding! They're coming up on the first anniversary now. Interestingly enough, that was the same night of the Aurora theatre shooting. The theatre was 1/2 mile from my sister's house. They got home & fell into bed at midnight from the wedding, 30 minutes before it happened.

2012 Fall
*MDRF began in August.
*Revels began in Sept. I was children's music director for the 3rd year. Show went really well!
*School began in Sept. Sigh. The 3rd grade was hell. The 5th graders were ok for the first semester & then they were already ready to move on to middle school. We were ALSO ready for them to go.
*Thanksgiving was at our house this year & we had problems with the turkey not getting done. I think the roaster oven is having heating problems. We need to get it checked out before November -this- year!
*Christmas came & went. Ed got sick for most of the break, but the time off was lovely.

2013 Winter
*Got together with a friend for some baking days. One Saturday, we made lots of breads. The next time, we made cookies! Fun & delicious. :)
*Ed had his 40th birthday in January. His mom wanted to do a surprise party for him at her house & it mostly worked until the very last moment before he opened the door! :) Pretty fun, though.
*We had been looking at houses for a long time & in March, we actually put in a bid on one & bought a home in Leesburg, VA. Very stressful time...

2013 Spring
*Move-in to the new house happened (mostly) on April 5. Naturally, that was also the beginning day for VARF rehearsals. I had no life for the next 10 weeks. Between work, packing, unpacking, and faire, it was BUSY. Really almost too much.
*Spring school concert was in mid-May, the week before SOL testing began. This left a whole awkward month to go afterward. We sure could have used the time for rehearsal, but all things considered, this really worked out the best. I knew it would be so & was glad to be proven correct. Did I mention the 3rd graders "performed" on this concert? Did I mention that they were hell??
*June was a big stressy mess. THIS is why I was serious about needing to have that concert in May. All of the various end-of-the-year "stuff" that has to happen in a school: grades, award assemblies, graduation, field day, testing, insane children, various small events/programs, etc... Oh, and VARF was still going on. OH, AND Revels decided to record a cd that month! Since I was both singing in the adult chorus for it AND directing the children's group for their songs on it... oh I can tell you I nearly lost my mind. I actually snapped at one of the world's sweetest ladies and then needed to call & apologize the next day after talking out my pent-up stress/fury. It was a Bad. Week. I did learn some lessons from it that I will remember for the next time, so I guess that it was a growth experience.

2013 Summer
*So far, it's been quiet. YAY!!!!!! I need that for now. Later this month, we are having a 4 day BIL/SIL weekend at the Lake of the Ozarks in MO. (BIL/SIL means the brothers-in-law & the sisters-in-law). Got the idea from a Revels friend. More to come about that after it happens. Should be fun though.
*July 4th at my sister's house is coming up. I'm bringing a red/white/blue trifle dessert made with strawberries, blueberries, and angel food cake with the world's yummiest pudding! I'm also bringing a game called Molkky. It's always a great celebration!

What's up, pussycat? (whoa - oh - ohhh)

*points to you if you get that reference*

So, um, yeah... It's been a while, right? Sorry about that. I never said I was good at this journaling thing. In fact, I believe I said I wasn't. But I'm still here & I do read all of you!

I had a really good time last weekend baking with a friend. We made oh-so-much bread! Yummy goodness is now occupying my freezer. :) We will get together again in a few weeks & make cookies - which ones to choose though?!?! Oh dear, the choices that must be faced. ;)

I have made a decision, for better or for worse, I am leaving ACPS at the end of this school year. I am just done. I know there's a worm in every apple, but I think I've eaten most of the apple bits here & pretty much all that's left is worm. I hope I can find another job quickly, but we will see.

Ed's birthday is tomorrow. He'll be 40, and finally in the same decade of life as me! *hehehehe*

Not much else is new: Revels is over for the winter season, VARF is getting ready to kick back up, school carries on with all that stuff. Life is what it is.

More good recipes

So, went over to my sister's house for the annual 4th of July celebration. Fantastic time as usual. My job was to bring a side dish so I chose 2 salads, vegetarian-friendly. Here they are for your edible enjoyment:

CORN AND TOMATO SALAD

One big bag of frozen corn (about 32 oz.)
2 large fresh tomatoes
1/2 large onion, chopped (about 1 c.)
1/2 c. chopped fresh basil
2-3 sprigs fresh oregano
2 TBSP white vinegar
1/4 c. olive oil
about 1/4 tsp. minced garlic
Parmesan cheese

1. Cook corn in microwave. Drain off any water & set aside to cool.
2. Chop tomatoes & onion. Put in mixing bowl. Strip oregano leaves off stems, chop basil leaves, and put them into the mixing bowl. Add cooled corn.
3. In a small bowl, mix together vinegar, olive oil, and garlic. Pour over vegetable mixture. Salt & pepper to taste. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese & serve.

*tips*
1. The original recipe calls for you to boil fresh ears of corn, then cut it off the cob, etc... don't. It's more work than it's worth & frozen is FINE.
2. Don't use balsamic vinegar here unless it's the white balsamic kind. The dark vinegar will discolor the look of the salad.
3. I like serving this salad chilled.
4. If you wanted to add some cooked bacon crumbles on top, I can't see that it would be a bad thing... :)


SPINACH AND ORZO SALAD

1 package of uncooked orzo pasta (16 oz)
1 package of baby spinach leaves, chopped (10 oz)
1/2 lb. crumbled feta cheese
1/2 onion, chopped
3/4 c. pine nuts
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. ground white pepper
1/2 c. olive oil
1/2 c. balsamic vinegar

1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil & add the orzo pasta. Cook about 8-10 minutes until done. Drain & rinse with cold water. Set aside to cool.
2. Chop onion and spinach. Place in large mixing bowl. Add cheese & pine nuts. Stir together. Add orzo a few large spoonfuls at a time until the ratio of spinach to pasta looks pretty good.
3. In a small bowl, mix together olive oil, balsamic vinegar, pepper, and dried basil. Pour over spinach/pasta mixture & stir until well blended.
4. Refrigerate & serve chilled.

*tips*
1. VERY IMPORTANT - I found that you WILL NOT need to use that whole package of pasta. Good grief, I have a big bowl of orzo left over! I finally quit adding it to the spinach and still had about 1/3 of it left over. Sheesh. My advice is just to cook about 10-12 oz. of orzo. Now what to do with the rest....
2. It calls for 3/4 c. of pine nuts, but I used a 1/2 c. package & it was fine. However, next time I would toast them first.
3. It calls for 1/2 pound of feta cheese, but I had a 6 oz. package & it was also just fine.
4. The recipe calls for white ground pepper. I didn't have that, just regular black pepper & guess what? It was fine too.
5. If you wanted to top this with crumbled cooked bacon... I can't see that it would be a bad thing. ;) Or grilled chicken, and that would make it more of a main dish than a side.

Anyway, both of these are good summer salads. They don't heat up your kitchen much, and are quick & easy to make.
I am alive, just in case you were wondering... ;P

I survived the school year. The end.
I survived another year of VARF & it was really good! New garb, new character, AND we nearly hit 12,000 for an all-time new attendance record!!

Now, on to something tasty. Or perhaps that should read some tasty things? Anyway, whatever. Here's the skinny on the yummies. First, a chicken salad reminiscent of Indian spiced dishes. Then, a winning dessert that is super easy & delicious. Becca, Mere? this is for you two.

SPICED COUSCOUS AND CHICKEN

3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
salt and pepper
4 medium carrots thinly sliced
1 c. whole wheat couscous
2 c. shredded chicken
3 TBSP. unsalted butter
1/2 c. sliced almonds
1/4 c. golden raisins
4 scallions, chopped (white & light green parts only)
1/2 c. chopped fresh cilantro.
greek yogurt and/or harissa for topping

1. Bring 2 1/2 c. water to boil in medium saucepan. Add 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, the ginger, 1 tsp. salt & 1/2 tsp. pepper. Add carrots & cook 3-4 minutes just until crisp-tender. Drain carrots, but reserve the cooking liquid.

2. Put couscous & chicken in a medium bowl. Pour 1 c. of cooking liquid on top. Stir then cover with plastic wrap & let it sit for 5 min. Fluff with fork.

3. Melt butter in same saucepan over medium high heat. Add almonds, raisins, scallions, and remaining 1/4 tsp. cinnamon. Cook while stirring until nuts are toasted, about 2-3 minutes. Add cilantro.

4. Uncover bowl of couscous & chicken. Add cooked carrots, rest of the cooking liquid, and the almond/raisin mixture. Mix well & cover for about 5 more minutes.

When you serve this, top with a spoonful of the yogurt and/or harissa as you like.

*NOTE - this is a great picnic food because it tastes just as good served cold as it does warm. Tonight, I'm going to hollow out a tomato & serve it in a tomato half as an edible bowl!


MELTED ICE CREAM CAKE

1 pkg. plain white cake mix (try not to get one with pudding in the mix)
2 c. melted ice cream (choose your favorite flavor but use a premium brand like B&J)
3 large eggs

Yes that's right. 3 ingredients. Now pay attention - the ice cream needs to be a premium brand with little overrun because you don't want a lot of air whipped into it. That will mean just one pint is all you need to buy. I used Cherry Garcia.

1. Preheat oven to 350. Oil & flour your pan (I use Baker's Joy or Baking Pam).

2. Put the cake mix, melted ice cream, and eggs into a mixing bowl. Blend together on low speed for one minute. Stop & scrape down sides with spatula. Beat two more minutes on medium. Batter should look thick, & well-blended. Pour batter into prepared pan. Place pan in oven.

3. Bake for about 38-42 minutes. Remove from oven & cool on rack for 20 minutes. Then invert onto rack & cool for 30 more minutes while you make frosting.

Chocolate Marshmallow Frosting

2 c. powdered sugar
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
6 large marshmallows
4 TBSP butter
1/3 c. + 1 TBSP. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1. Sift cocoa powder & sugar together into a bowl.
2. Place marshmallows, butter, & milk into a medium saucepan over low heat. Stir until mallows are melted but watch milk so it doesn't scorch! about 3-4 minutes.
3. Pour over sugar/cocoa mixture & add vanilla. Beat until smooth & satiny. Frost cake immediately.