Saturday, December 30, 2006

Everyone enjoying their holidays? What are your plans for New Years? I'm getting all dressed up. I'm even wearing my gold shoes. I've been so busy catching up with friends and taking some R&R that I have hardly had time to post. I'm thinking of a writer's New Year's Resolution. Do you guys have any?

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Easily the best Christmas present I received this year was from my loving brother: this charming politiki mug - half peanut, half Jimmy Carter. Can anyone top that?

Which present was the most difficult to access? We found the Barbie quite challenging. What do the packagers think is going to happen to these dolls? My son’s Robo-reptile gave us a good fight too.

I still have fruitcake. It’s the classic, brick-like fruitcake, but I like it. There’s just so much of it! Any takers?

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Darn it! I hate it when this happens.
I've lost a present.
The irritating part of it is that it is a big present. About a month ago, I bought a lovely leather jeacker for my teenager (who never reads this blog.) Where did I stash it? There are only so many places for an item that large. Sometimes it doesn't pay to buy too far in advance - except it was an excellent sale price.

If I stashed it at your house, will you let me know?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Pomegranate martinis & old friends -
great combo.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

I have bought two things recently that I apparently haven't had need of in a while: flour and stockings. These were not for the same event, although both were brought about by the holiday season. I will let you decide what that means about me that I haven't bought flour or stockings for the last couple of years.

The experience of buying each was similar. The last time I bought flour I think there were two choices: flour and self-rising flour. Of course I was in a rush. I thought I could just grab a sack and run. (hhmmm, put that sentence in a different context... - nevermind. My mother might be reading.) Anyway, there I was looking at rows of flour: regular, self rising, organic, whole wheat, bread, cake, and various combos of those. sheesh!

Same with stockings: control top, reinforced toe, sandal foot, 4 sizes, 3 shades of black, a variety of textures and seams. When I was trying to put them on I was reminded why I haven't purchased stockings in two years.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Here is my darling daughter as Sarah the shepherd in the church Christmas play. She's being interviewed about the star she saw. Do you see the cute star behind her? And Joseph having trouble keeping in character?

Now you see the secret behind the authentic smell of our nativity stable.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Last Thursday evening - and afternoon, I attended one of my hometown's finest musical performances: The Senior Chorale's Patriotic Holiday. Last spring I posted about my mother and her 60 back-up singers, expecting my small blog-o-sphere to read it. But my mother, as mothers are wont to do, forwarded my post to all her senior hipster friends who are on-line. They forwarded it to their children and wow - my stat counter jumped off the hook for a couple of days. So now I know you've been checking for my Chorale Post. Sorry I've been delayed. This year I am planning to send off a more formal article to the local paper to see if they'll run it. But for now, here on my blog, I will write my more personal review.

You know what makes the Bowie Senior Chorale (BSC) such a delight? It's not just the talent and enthusiasm of the singers. It isn't the ambition of the totally charming director. It's not the nimble fingers of the beautiful pianist Paula Sparks (yes, she's his mother.) The heartfelt solos by Janet Beck and Ernie Wittsey were wonderful, but they weren't the secret of the choir's success. It's not even the amazing talent of my mother. Of course, none of these hurt, but their success as entertainers lies in something less tangible.

The BSC is a joy because of the relationship between the choir members and their director. At first glance, the youthful Craig Sparks might not strike you as the logical choice to direct this venerable gathering of singers: too young, hair too long. But do logical choices ever produce greatness?

When the choir members took to the risers in their red bow ties and poinsettia-ed scarves, their holiday spirit was barely contained. Sparks, wearing Advent purple, was trying to keep a composed lid on his effervescent pride. As soon as they began performing, you could feel their affection for each other.

Sparks and the singers seem to bring out the best in each other as was evident in Sparks' original arrangement of "The Star Spangled Banner." He seemed to have custom composed the piece to highlight the talents of these singers. They seemed to want to show off his talent by delivering his arrangement flawlessly. I'm a believer in singing the National Anthem whenever given the chance. If, however, you ever get to hear the BSC perform their signature "Star Spangled Banner," stop singing and listen. You'll be impressed.

Sparks' other original arrangement, "Armed Forces Medley," not only provided the most moving portion of the show, but also highlighted the mutual delight the choir members and the director share. Sparks introduced the piece with the "juicy backstory" of the rivalries and allegiances that, rather than nearly preventing the performance of the piece, solidified its place in the Chorale's repertoire. I was so moved to see the pride in the veterans in the audience who stood during their branch's song. Dare I stir the rivalry? I couldn't help but notice that the marines, though fewer in number, stood at the straightest, squared-shoulder attention during their tribute.

You simply have to see this group perform to understand the playfulness of their relationship. The director tries to challenge them with Rachmaninov's "Hymn to the Virgin Mary" - in Russian and they heckle him when he can't recall the title of one song in a medley. They jazz up "Sleigh Ride" with sound effects of jingling bells, cracking whip, and even a whinnying horse. Their soulfulness singing "Shenandoah" brings tears to my eyes. The mischievousness of their encore piece, "Your a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" delighted everyone in the audience. No wonder the choir has almost tripled in size since Sparks took over. It looks like so much fun.

The audience's enthusiasm and adoration of the choir was almost total, with the exception of my dragged-along eleven year old son, freshly grounded until Christmas for academic infractions. Ignoring his sullenness, I eavesdropped on the ladies behind me who marveled at the many charms of the director. “He has such a nice vocabulary.” “Look at him move!” and “He hot!” (I think they might have meant that literally, but I know others meant it another way ;-)

I thought of an idea to interest my son. I told him to look at the chorale members and see if any of them looked like what he imagined his schoolmates might look like in 50 years. He sat up. Ernie caught his eye. “That one with the beard is Jacob. Two behind him is Matthew. Next to him, Colin. Over there is Alex.” He saw them differently now. By the time the Chorale got to the Grinch song, even my sullen boy was won over. Now that's a magical performance!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

There is simply too much deliciousness in the world to be thin.

My workaholic, silver-haired neighbor brought me some yeasty bread, still warm from the oven with a side of chocolate chip pecan cookies.

My Irish-Brooklyn neighbor brought me some Irish Soda bread, fresh from the oven.

I know my other Martha Stewart neighbor always delivers melting cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning. My mother has gumdrop bread ready for me. I just tried Anne's fruitcake recipe which will have to be the topic of another post.

Don't you think it is not only good manners, but also gastronomically wise to eat fresh baked goodies immediately to enjoy their peak freshness?

Friday, December 15, 2006

Are there any gifts from the song, "12 Days of Christmas" that you'd actually like? I guess I could manage the 5 golden rings. I'm not that big a fan of birds. Maybe the pear tree.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

It's easy to get so busy your head is spinning, isn't it?
A lot of my recent busy-ness has been fun: holiday preparations, my daughter's chorus performance, new career opportunities. Some has been frustrating: school conferences, sick kids, deadlines. Some of my busy-ness is ordinary domestic stuff - groceries, laundry, bills. The motherhood parts have been interesting lately watching them learn responsibility and deal with new emotions.

It's nice to find a moment every now and then to be still.

I hope you enjoy the fun in the bustle of it all.

Monday, December 11, 2006

At what point do you give up on ketchup emerging from the bottle in a restaurant? How aggressive is still within the bounds of appropriate table manners? This was my lunch dilemma today. I didn't want to make a scene with all the slapping. My knife was already dirty, so I didn't feel insertion was an option. Could I stick a fry in the bottle?

I was Christmas shopping today in an artsy old textile mill redone into shops. I try to resist the urge to buy too much for myself, but do indulge in a reward or two. Today I bought the word PEACE to place on my mantle. It was bent metal painted red and sprinkled with fake snow. When I picked it up, I was surprised at its heft. Although it wasn't very expensive, it was more of a burden on the long walk to the car than I had bargained for.

Do you find that peace, though appearing to be affordable and accessible, is more difficult to bring into your home than you realized?

Sunday, December 10, 2006

I have had a theatrical weekend.
Today, Peggy & I took our third grade daughters to the Washington Ballet's Nutcracker. The Warner Theater is so impressive inside with it's gold ceilings and crystal chandeliers. The Washington Ballet presents a unique version of the Nutcracker. Bits of Americana are laced throughout the scenery without detraction. The waltz of the Cherry Blossoms with the Dewdrop Fairy was optic confection. The sultry Arabian coffee dance was replaced with an equally steamy Anacostia Indian duet. One of the party guests in the background of the opening scene was guest “dancer” George Stephanopolous. No kidding.

Saturday I helped my friend Anne enjoy her birthday gift of tickets to the Billy Joel based musical, "Movin' Out." Really is was more of a modern ballet than a traditional musical. I had the impression it would be more like "Mamma Mia" than it turned out to be. In this performance, however, all the music was performed by a band with one lead singer. The stories revealed in the dancing portrayed the effects of the Viet Nam war on the soldiers an those who loved them. Some of the scenes were quite touching. One dance bordering on pornographic made me squeamish sitting next to my 13 year old daughter. The band was a lot of fun.
I think tickets make a wonderful gift because the memory of the shared event always fits.

Friday, December 08, 2006

It's happened, just like my optometrist predicted. All of the sudden I can't read a book. My eyes have just rebelled. The only thing that settles them down is the reading glasses. I am trying to learn how to wear them. It is an adjustment my young mind is forced to make for my middle-aged body. rats.

I'm test-reading a Christmas present. Very good too, but I can't tell you the title in case I'm giving it to you ;-)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

4:30 in the morning was not early enough for a Wii. The roll-out of this product has me a bit irate, if you can be a bit irate. I sent Nintendo a nasty gram, not that it will make any difference. Their website suggests that I continue to go to stores at their opening times and continue to call and check back - as if I have nothing else to do in the two weeks before Christmas. Nice gameplan from Big Business. The thing that irritates me the most is that I will still buy the damn thing eventually.

On a brighter note, I finished the puzzle - with a little help from my friends.
I began my new venture of part time pre-school art teacher AND I got another freelance writing assignment. All cool news.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Here's a variation I found of one of my favorite holiday recipes. I got this version from a great baker, so I know it's delicious.

Christmas Cookie Recipe

1 cup of water
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup of sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup of brown sugar
lemon juice
4 large eggs
1 cup nuts
2 cups of dried fruit
1 bottle Crown Royal

- Sample the Crown Royal to check quality.

- Take a large bowl, check the Crown Royal again, to be sure it is of
the highest quality, pour one level cup and drink.

- Turn on the electric mixer...Beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy

- Add one teaspoon of sugar...Beat again.

At this point it's best to make sure the Crown Royal is still OK, try
another cup.. just in case.

- Turn off the mixer thingy.

- Break 2 leggs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit.

- Pick the frigging fruit off floor...

- Mix on the turner.

- If the fried druit gets stuck in the beaterers just pry it loose with a

- Sample the Crown Royal to check for tonsisticity.

Next, sift two cups of salt, or something.... who giveshz a sheet.

- Check the Crown Royal.

- Now shift the lemon juice and strain your nuts.

- Add one table.

- Add a spoon of ar, or somefink.... whatever you can find.

- Greash the oven.

Turn the cake tin 360 degrees and try not to fall over.

- Don't forget to beat off the turner.

- Finally, throw the bowl through the window.

- Finish the bottle of Crown Royal.

- Make sure to put the stove in the dishwasher.

Cherry Mistmas

Monday, December 04, 2006

I stuck in one of those Christmas marketing traps. My son, as half of the children in America do, wants the Nintendo Wii for Christmas. Everyone is out. No one knows for sure when their next shipment is coming. No one is letting you reserve one by paying in advance. The clerks who have been able to say how many are in the next shipment have only said a low number, like 6. What are my chances? The on-line sales are either sold out at regular price, or the bidding is around $600. I'm not doing that. I'd rather wrap up a picture of one.

Why do they do this every year and then act surprised?

I have heard that the local Wal-Mart will have 11 Wiis on sale when the doors open at 6am this Wednesday.
How early do you think I should be? I wonder if there will be a line? Should I make my son come stand in the cold with me? It's the only thing he's asked for.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

I have a couple of fun new holiday drink recipes for any festivities you may have coming up. The trick is finding pomegranate juice. I was delighted to stumble on some sparking pomegranate juice at a Trader Joe's. (I love that store.) I thought it might be fun to mix it with champagne or vodka.
I was right.

I polished up my fancy glasses and we tried them each way. I dropped in some pomegranate seeds to a garnish. I like it better light on the juice.

You could do the vodka variation like a martini, strained over ice, or on the rocks.
I have no idea if the champagne I had was “good” champagne, but this effervescent spirit was easy to overdrink. So remember to pace yourself.

I was thinking of calling the fizzy one a “Pomegranate Sparkler.” I was considering calling the martini version “Persephone's Bargain.” Whaddaya think? Too obscure of a reference?

What else are you guys drinking this season?

Bottom's Up!

Friday, December 01, 2006

I've made a tactical error in my Christmas preparations. I'm thinking about cards and lights and fruit cakes and school art projects and dry cleaning and shopping and all that stuff.
Then I opened a new jigsaw puzzle.
Everything has to wait now. I can't walk by it.