Sunday, December 26, 2010

Companion cube

Fiona and I had a lot of fun making this for Noah. We made a five-sided box from mat board and cut a hole for the kleenex. Then we used foam sheets to make the shapes to cover it with.

If you aren't familiar with the Portal computer game, the term "companion cube" will mean nothing to you, but maybe you can appreciate our creativity anyway.

My blacksmith

Look what my personal blacksmith got me for Christmas! It's a special tool which attaches to the angled lip of my new baking sheets to allow me to insert and retrieve bread from the oven without further singeing the faux-fur on my winter jacket, or my eyebrows for that matter. He custom-made it for me, and it works perfectly.

It's particularly well-suited to making little foccaccia breads for Christmas-leftover sandwiches which he can grill on the panini press I gave him. Love that tidy convergence.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Slightly demented Christmas decorations

Christmas is a time of traditions, of course, and teenagers and pre-teens hold onto those traditions at least as tightly as the rest of us. I suppose it's partly nostalgia on their part, but also the alluring excuse to be completely childish. Still, some things change.

Case in point #1: the Playmobil advent calendar, used over and over for many years. This year, though, the girl-child is found hanging upside down from the garland. The boy-child has enacted a spell (or perhaps some violence) upon the kittens, overturning the cat basket on them in the process. The cat is roasting in the fire. The mom-person is partying at the top of the Christmas tree, holding a bottle of wine and taking a swig from a beer stein. For the record the wine and beer did not come from the advent calendar; they were misappropriated from the medieval castle set.

Case in point #2: The fetching gingerbread house, nicely decorated with all sorts of features and decorations, including a snowman of toffee bonbons, a tree covered in M&Ms and cola balls, translucent window glass, and a bonfire around back. But off to the left a doghouse for the family pet, a starfish named "Mu" with a penchant for exercise balls. Mu is lying in a pool of blood but seems quite content. What has happened here? "It's a mystery!" I'm told. A crime scene, perhaps? 

Saturday, December 18, 2010


I slept in this morning! We were up late last night, and today had absolutely nothing scheduled.

Last night was the community choir concert. Sophie is doing her first season with the ensemble. Unfortunately she was put in the middle riser so that her sense of pitch could help those in the first row. Which probably benefitted the auditory appeal of the concert, but meant that she alone amongst the choir was totally hidden. I could occasionally catch a glimpse of her shoulder but that was about all.

Erin accompanied. It's a paid gig for her -- a not-insubstantial sum for learning a dozen and a half pieces in time for the first rehearsal and then attending every rehearsal as the choir gradually learns its parts and polishes things up. She did fabulously! She's exquisitely sensitive, manages a kajillion page-turns totally on her own, plays musically and knows exactly when to take the bull by the horns and railroad the choir into melodic and rhythmic cohesion.

It was the choir's 25th Annual Christmas Concert. My dad sang with them for a few years before his death in 2003. Then Erin sang with it for two years, and Noah for one, before they both defected to Corazón. The choir director throughout those 25 years has been the wonderful woman who took Erin to S.E. Asia two years ago. So it's great that Sophie is now taking her turn with them, and that Erin has come back to support it as the accompanist. The choir  is a good one for a community so small and it has a lot of heart, and personality. It even inspired a funny and touching chapter in Caroline Woodward's latest novel. It was a lovely concert, and there was a fabulous community potluck dinner / party in the hall afterwards, with kids running around, people with canes and wheelchairs, old folk, young parents, lots of hugging and singing of carols around the piano.

And now there's almost nothing on the schedule for the next week. Chuck works, Erin has one shift at the café. I teach a few violin lessons and work a morning at the clinic. But no group classes, choir rehearsals, Summit String rehearsals, no trips out of town for lessons or orchestras, no violin lesson for my kids, no driving Erin to and from school.

Today I did some more work rehabilitating the rink from last week's thaw. There's a nasty four inches of crusty snow on top of an inch and a half of frozen slushy stuff that adhered to the rink surface. And the dog walked through it at some critical juncture, making nasty bumps and potholes. It's taken me hours to get it shovelled off, and it will require a few more floods to be back to its smooth state of glory from earlier in the month. Oh well, it will be worth it.

And we started in on the gingerbread house. We used to do some sort of gingerbread construction every year, but we let this habit lapse and I hadn't realized how long it had been: Fiona has no memory of ever decorating a gingerbread house! I know we've done this since she was born, but I guess the last time she was too young to really appreciate it. So it was high time. Sophie and Fiona were, as usual, workhorses in the kitchen, managing huge amounts of the work themselves.

Then to top it off, Noah cooked pasta dinner for us all.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

This girl's a keeper

It was Erin & Noah's last Corazón rehearsal of the year, and I needed to do grocery shopping, buy dog food, help Fiona with her Christmas shopping and do my own last-minute gift-garnering. Roads were slushy, and nights come early these days. It was a Tuesday I wasn't looking forward to, especially since Chuck had a meeting and wouldn't be home to help with supper. I would arrive home at 7:30 pm with three tired and hungry kids, and a vanload food and stuff and no energy at all for pulling together a meal.

And so I was sure pleased to see what Sophie, home alone for the afternoon, had conjured up: two beautiful pizzas, made from scratch on freshly leavened dough, ready and waiting to be popped in the oven to feed us all. Very impressively, she even managed to touch some actual Meat and spread it on the omnivores' pizza!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Symphony of the Kootenays

What a difference for the kids, Erin especially. It has been years since she hasn't been if not the most advanced violinist in whatever orchestra she's playing in, at least one of the most advanced handful, patiently waiting for others to figure out where the E-flats and shifts and syncopations are. The last time I remember her being really challenged, in the mid-range or bottom half of an orchestra, was in 2003, when she was 9, at a summer Suzuki institute.

We drove for 5 hours and arrived with 40 minutes to spare before the first rehearsal, checked into our motel and made it to the theatre in time for a leisurely tune-up. We rehearsed that afternoon and evening, and again the next afternoon. Almost 8 hours of rehearsing packed into less than 24 hours, and then that was all. After that there were just the performances: one Saturday night and one Sunday afternoon.

Erin sat back of the 1st violins, I was sitting with my old quartet-mate at the front of the seconds, and Noah sat at the back of the violas. None of us had, er, gone overboard with preparing for this gig. I realized I hadn't performed on violin in almost ten years, much preferring viola, but the viola section was well-stocked especially with Noah there and they were in need of violins. Erin hadn't even done more than visually look over her parts, but found her groove and really warmed to the challenge of essentially sight-reading two hours of music. She did fabulously. Noah took a couple of rehearsals to get past his deer-in-the-headlights reaction to having to adjust, remember, mark in and learn scores of bowings on the fly. His note-reading is good these days but bowings? Not so much. But his confidence grew so that he was feeling quite accomplished by the time the performances took place.

We played part of a Mozart piano concerto, a Purcell Sinfonia, a Handel Aria with oboe solo and the better part of Handel's Messiah with a reasonably competent community choir. Pretty lightweight accessible stuff, nothing too challenging, which was a nice first gig with this group. The other orchestral musicians and the vocal soloists were mostly second- and third-string professionals or former professionals. Nice bunch of people, both on the performing and the administration side of things. And a very novel, very exciting and grown-up kind of experience for my kids.

Even though we already drive many more hours a month than we would like, we all felt that this experience was worth the ten extra hours of travel. Not only that, but unlike all the other musical activities we do this one was a black-ink fiscal proposition, rather than a red-ink one. And we found a very nifty café at which to pass the three hours between motel check-out and the last performance. We're hoping to do a couple of other weekends with the orchestra this year.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010


I think I've been much better about not over-extending myself recently. But things are piling up a little now. Running has been put on hold. I've been able to squeeze rink maintenance in, but nothing else.

Tomorrow the giant wholesale dried fruit & nut order needs to be sorted and delivered. I spent all evening tonight working on the labels and accounting for that.

The next day Noah, Erin and I leave for Cranbrook to do a weekend gig with the Symphony of the Kootenays. Five hours of driving each way, with two overnights. Hopefully we'll get back late Sunday evening. It's mostly baroque stuff (Messiah, Purcell, more Handel) so should be manageable for Noah who has excellent baroque instincts and can sight-read extremely well with those instincts assisting him (otherwise ... not so much). I'm actually playing violin rather than viola. I hope I can play more or less in tune; it has been years since I've performed on violin!

The younger girls will be staying home with Chuck and enjoying Christmas by the Lake.

Next week is a mess of lessons, group class, choir rehearsals of various sorts, a trip to Calgary, a frantic trip back home in time for an Annual General Meeting of the VFA Society and a long complicated board meeting the next day.

Somewhere in the midst of it all I'm supposed to be conjuring up some sort of holiday season, including gifts for everyone. Virtually nothing has been started.


Fiona and Sophie just arrived in from skating announcing they'd invented gods as a result of playing some twisted game of Simon Says.

Sophie's god is Chaezploz, the god of beverages.

Fiona's god is Applodox, the god of paradoxes.

My kids are weird.

Neologism of the day:

Tireturd. n. A concretion of sand, dirt, salt and slush, sprayed up from the roadway while driving only to freeze into a disgusting icy brown chunk in the wheelwell of your vehicle. Prone to dropping off in carports and garages. Best kicked off if possible in roadside parking spaces rather than at home.