Sunday, July 31, 2005

"The pie sisters"

Speaking of pies... The first Thanksgiving after my sister #2 was married, she & her new husband were going to Thanksgiving dinner with his relatives and were to bring a pumpkin pie. S#2 has our grandmother's recipe but had never made it before. It's a custard-style pie, using more half-and-half than pumpkin, and hers turned out kinda pied (pun very much intended!) because she didn't stir the mixture when she added the half-and-half to the pumpkin and spices. As she pointed out in her defense, the recipe doesn't say anything about mixing it! She also excused herself to her new relatives with the explanation that she always did the vegetables in our house: "Maureen and Sister #3 were the pie sisters!"

I love that; makes us sound like an act on Lawrence Welk. "Thankhyew, Bobby & Sissy. And now the Pie Sisters will entertain hyew with ..."

Kitchen goddess

This was one of those days that seem to happen every now and then, when I spend all afternoon in the kitchen on one thing or another. First it was the blueberries we bought last weekend. I decided to make the blueberry crisp recipe from my Betty Crocker cookbook. It's a quick, easy recipe, and called for almost exactly the amount of blueberries we had on hand. It's nothing fancy, but it sure did taste good, even out of the microwave instead of a "real" oven. Unfortunately, it doesn't make much at all; one serving for each of us, with just enough left over for TW's lunch tomorrow.

Next up: salmon spread. Lotsa calcium, what with the salmon & (light) cream cheese, low fat, no sugar, so it "tastes good and is good for you!" - what's not to love? That and some crackers and you're set. (Mom always served it as a party hors d'oeuvre as a salmon ball, rolled in ground parsley and nuts, but we like it straight.)

Then the big project - peeling and cutting up my "seconds" peaches to see how much fruit I'd get. My first surprise was that they were all white peaches. I'd never bought any or even tasted any; these had almost a floral aroma. I got almost as much from my "seconds" as I would have expected to get from the same amount of regular peaches, and for little more than half the price; not a bad deal at all. I ended up with enough fruit for a 9" deep-dish pie, which came out as one of the nicest-looking pies I've ever done. The juice only leaked in one place (I'm so glad I remembered to slide a cookie sheet on a lower shelf!), the edges didn't overbrown, and because I rather overstuffed the pie to begin with, the middle didn't collapse. I actually considered taking a picture, but what on earth would I do with it? Baby brag books are bad enough. Can't you just see 'em all running when I tell people I have pictures of my pie?!? :D This time I added some flour to the filling, which cured the runniness. I think I cut the sugar too much, though (from 1 c. to 1/2 c.), or maybe the white peaches just aren't as sweet as the yellow ones I've always bought.

OK, so much for dessert. Next up - dinner. I always save the drippings when we have chicken or turkey, so I pulled the drippings out of the fridge and started some gravy, then added some of the turkey left over from dinner the other night. Home-made mashed potatoes (TW won't acknowledge anything that came from a box or packet as mashed potatoes) and some asparagus, and I had finally finished cooking for the day.

If we ever invite you over for dinner, you'll probably be the beneficiary of another such cooking jag. Better make sure you're hungry when you arrive!

I'll have to think on this...

Due to a concatenation of circumstances, it looks like I'll probably be sitting out the entire 2005-06 theater season, unless I can manage a show this December or next June. Which means Theater Widower won't be a theater widower possibly for another year; I'll have to come up with another nickname for him. :)

Too much happiness!

TW and I had an impromptu date yesterday. We ended up hitting one of the larger local branches of one 'a' them bookstore chains (I'll name them if they're willing to pay me for advertising ;), conveniently close to the theater where we then went to a matinee of War of the Worlds, which was fun. Kinda noisy - they did say it's a war - and in a coupla places I thought they really pushed that "willing suspension of disbelief" thing, but on the whole we enjoyed it. The special effects were every bit as impressive as you'd expect from Spielberg, the tension very good, the girl playing Tom Cruise's daughter did the best terrified I think I've ever seen from a child, and the boy playing his son was also good. TW spotted a cameo at the end by someone who was in the first War of the Worlds movie. I like when they do that well, which Spielberg did - not blatant, not gimmicky, just a very quick "blink and you'll miss it" moment.

The movie let out just around dinner time. We ended up at a Japanese restaurant with tables out on the sidewalk. The weather was so lovely we decided to eat outside and were very glad we did. The highs only got into the 80s and the humidity was delightfully low - almost unheard of in July! - so we had a lovely time enjoying dinner and people-watching. And boy, the stroller patrol was out in force! There was a constant stream of parents passing with strollers, toddlers on shoulders, kids in their entourage, etc.

Good thing we did that yesterday - today, while the temps are still only in the 80s, the oppressive humidity is back and we're hiding out inside with the a/c.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Maybe I'm not a Sondheim fan

I was starting to prep for auditions for Sondheim's Company, being done by two local companies this fall in overlapping runs. I had read through a couple of synopses on line and wasn't all that taken by the show but ordered a CD of the music. Finally got a chance to listen to it the other night and decided that I won't be auditioning after all. It's bad enough that I didn't particularly like any of the characters, but I wasn't all that crazy about the music, either. I'm not so theater-addicted that I'm going to give up three months of my life rehearsing and performing something I probably won't like.

I haven't seen a lot of Sondheim - Gypsy, West Side Story, A Funny Thing Happened..., and Into the Woods. Except for Forum, they're all downers, and a lot of the characters are decidedly not sympathetic. That seems particularly true of Company (bear in mind that I've read synopses and listened to the CD; I haven't seen it performed). I figure if I want to see rape, murder, adultery and people just plain being mean and manipulative, all I have to do is turn on the TV or pick up a newspaper. It's not something I really want to sign up for.

Whingeing and moaning

("whinge" - rhymes w/ "hinge", means "complain, whine") Taking another class for work this week, teaching us training methods for those of us who have occasion to teach adults, either informally or in front of a classroom. Generally quite useful, but I do have one complaint. They want us to prep materials for practice lessons, including slides, but there are no computers or copiers available, so I spent a couple of hours tonight on the home computer searching up articles for tomorrow. I don't know how I'm gonna do PowerPoint slides for our "final" on Friday. Is it unreasonable of me to expect them to provide the wherewithal for us to do our homework instead of assuming we've all got fully equipped home offices?

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Reasons to love our cabin.

TW and I were out at the cabin again this weekend. Lovely, as always, and we had all the windows wide open. We don't have a/c there, so we were grateful the weather was mild enough that ceiling fans and open windows kept the place quite comfortable, with the added benefit that we can hear the birds that much better.

Yesterday I was at the kitchen counter slicing peaches for TW's birthday pie when I heard a bird very close by. I looked up and there in the rhododendron bush right outside the kitchen window was a cardinal singing his little heart out. As many cardinals as I've seen, I don't know that I've ever heard one sing before. Quite lovely; a pity he didn't stay longer.

I was a bit disappointed in the spiced peach pie. I'd had to use margarine for the crust's shortening, which made the crust rather soggy (lard really does make the best pie crusts), and the filling was a bit sweet for my taste and quite runny. I think I need to adjust the recipe - less sugar, and add flour to reduce the runniness, with perhaps a touch less ground clove. TW thought it was just fine, however.

Our pastor was finishing up his scheduled vacation and decided to join us Saturday morning and stay until today. Hard as he works, it was rewarding to see him visibly relax and catch up on his reading and his sleep. He's been out a couple of times before, and we keep urging him to come out mid-week if he's so inclined. I think this weekend went a long way toward convincing him that he should take advantage of the opportunity more often. We bought the place with every intention of sharing it with friends and family, and this year we've had visitors more often than in previous years; we're hoping that trend continues.

On the way home we stopped at a produce market and picked up blueberries and "seconds" (bruised and overripe) peaches. Not sure whether the berries will end up on my cereal or in baked goods, but the peaches are definitely destined for the oven. One pie goes quickly, especially when you share it with your house-sitting neighbor, so I'm sure TW won't mind if I make another one to experiment with the peach pie recipe.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Just call me a "theater enabler".

Was chatting with a friend and sometime colleague at work today. He asked me how Mikado had gone, which got us talking about singing choruses in public. He sings tenor, so I assured him that, if he can move while singing, directors would love to have him in their cast! He also mentioned that he likes Shakespeare. When I commented that I knew someone who'd just played Lady MacBeth, he started quoting from the play, so I gave him the website of a local group that does "concept" Shakespeare. I recently learned that they don't do "authentic" productions in large part because that's expensive (examine closely the clothing and accessories in any Elizabethan portrait) and they don't have the budget to do it properly. Rather than do bad Elizabethan, they've opted not to do it all, for which I applaud them.

I told him they'll be doing King John this fall and Merry Wives of Windsor early next year. I do believe he's going to look into it. If so, then I'll have "enabled" him in his theater habit; something to be proud of, don't you think? :)

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Pagan babies

This came up as my mom & I were speculating how soon my sister and brother-in-law might have the christening after their first baby is born (expected in about a month). Mom claimed that, when she discussed this with my sister, the latter declared it "wouldn't be a pagan baby for long!"

OK, show of hands - how many of you were encouraged, if not required, by your grade school teachers to save your pennies, nickels, and dimes for "pagan babies"? My mom told me that when she was growing up, the nuns told them they were "ransoming" the pagan babies! My teachers didn't use that verb, but they did still call 'em pagan babies. I imagine the money donated went to missionaries running a children's hospital in deepest, darkest Africa or some such thing, and I doubt that all the beneficiaries, or even a plurality, were actually babies, but still... I wonder how many American Catholic children (did the Episcopal schools do this too?) thought they were adopting a brother or sister? I don't recall thinking very much about it; we were asked for coins, we dutifully brought in our pocket change.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Looks like a done deal

The sing-along casting is out and I will indeed be singing the role the organizer had asked me to look at. Given some of the other mezzos participating, I'm flattered indeed! And I'll get to sing a duet with a friend with whom I've often/frequently shared the stage in the chorus, but in those cases we were always singing the alto line together. This time, we'll be the only ones singing; that'll be a novelty.

This will be quite a thrill - there'll be 60+ people singing, which will make for an exhilarating singing experience. I've sung in groups of as many as 200+ voices and shows with choruses as small as only 6 or 8. If you're gonna sing choruses in public, the bigger the chorus, the more fun!

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Mikado pic #4

"If you want to know who we are"

This shot of our Gentlemen of Japan includes Pooh-Bah (leftmost, with the purple sash) and Pish-Tush (second from right, holding a fan). Though the men of our chorus were outnumbered 2 to 1 by the ladies, they (plus Pooh & Pish) still managed to produce a sound in the opening choruses that greatly impressed my voice teacher.

Mikado pic #3

"Comes a train of little ladies"

The two choristers on the left give you an idea of what the rest of the ladies looked like - cream-colored kimonos with flowers and things stenciled on them. "Very pretty, very pretty!"

Mikado pic #2

"Braid the Raven Hair". Yum-Yum and sisters are learning some unexpected things from the Kinsey Report! From this angle, I think that bow makes it look as though I'm wearing a bustle dress. Great shot of the seahorse on my sleeve.

I think it was during the 2nd week of the run, as the three of us were doing make-up and such backstage, that we decided that Peep-Bo is the youngest sister, because of her rather sarcastic comments (e.g., Nanki-Poo's pending execution "taking the top off" Yum-Yum's excitement about the wedding). Yum is the middle one, and Pitti-Sing is the big sister, giving Peep the evil eye for making Yum cry and telling Katisha to go fish ("there are lots of good fish in the sea!") when Kat comes to claim Nanki, her "perjured lover". Interestingly, a friend of someone in the cast came to exactly that conclusion after seeing the show.

Mikado pic #1

Hmm, I think this worked - first attempt to post a picture on my blog. This is one of the publicity stills from last month's Mikado - Pitti-Sing telling Katisha to leave Nanki-Poo alone "for he's going to marry Yum-Yum!" Because this was posed, not from a performance, it doesn't include the cigarette holder business (Katisha gestures at me with it, I snatch it out of her hand and stick it in my obi), but not a bad shot.

SOOO good to be home again!

Just got in last night from a week-long business trip to England. The temps were about 10 degrees hotter than I'd packed for. Those of you sweating in hot, humid places may think low-to-mid 80s temps sound pretty good, but bear in mind that very few things in England are air-conditioned, given that they generally need a/c maybe 5 days out of the year, and that most of the windows only tip or crank open; very few sash windows, so less cross-ventilation. (Makes for a very stuffy hotel room!) We got lucky - beautiful weather, no rain, and the meetings were productive, not just time-fillers.

What really surprised me was just how very much I missed TW. This is hardly our first such separation - I spent 10 days last summer helping my parents move - but maybe the difference is that, between the time difference (5 hours) and the cost of transatlantic phone calls, I couldn't call him every day while I was gone. But whatever the reason, I was OH so glad to see his smiling face waiting for me when I got off the last plane last night!

Friday, July 08, 2005

Another ego boost

I'm planning to attend a G&S "summer sing" next month, only my 3rd ever - I'm really looking forward to it! Everyone can sing the chorus bits, and the organizer will be casting leads after July 16th (deadline for role requests). I got my request in early, hoping it was sufficiently modest. This will be only a informal sing, not a staged production, but I'm still a bit shy about requesting leads. I also don't want to be greedy - projected attendance is already above 30, and it's usual to share leads around so more people get a chance.

I was surprised and quite flattered to get an e-mail from the organizer the other day, asking that I consider looking at the music for a role I hadn't considered, as I'm not as familiar with that character's show, but now I'll get the music on tape at my next voice lesson. The e-mail came w/ the caveat that the organizer won't be casting anything until after the 16th, once she has all the role requests, and therefore this was not a promise of anything, but her comments on my capabilities (from someone who's worked with full-time professionals for years) were certainly flattering. Even if I don't sing the role, it's nice to be considered!

Tuesday, July 05, 2005


TW and I just got back from a long weekend at our cabin. No schedule, no deadlines, no phone - just the ticket! The weather was kind - not too hot or humid; we were generally pretty comfortable with the ceiling fans and only needed the bedroom fan the first night. We did a little bit of shopping on Saturday and played tourist yesterday, but generally did plenty of nothing; slept in, read, watched a little TV (very little; we only get 2 or 3 channels), and I indulged in another massage yesterday evening. Nice and quiet, lots of flora and fauna to look at, and we're finally getting the place the way we want it, so it's oh, so cozy and welcoming. As TW is fond of saying, you can absolutely feel your blood pressure dropping out there. We plan to go back for an even longer stay sometime around Labor Day; I can hardly wait!