Friday, June 27, 2008

Another pie

My cousin (oh, alright, Mom's cousin) is due to pull up out front at any minute. In honor of the occasion, I bought WAY too many strawberries (4 pounds!) and made a strawberry pie, which smells wonderful.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Beasts of burden

Saturday I pulled out our biggest wheeled suitcase, the one big enough to fold a full-size adult into, and crammed it full of all the Pirates costumes that can't go into the wash. It was a pain hauling that thing to the car, then across the cleaner's gravel parking lot, but it was almost worth it just to watch the woman's eyes widen when I stepped up to her register with that enormous suitcase.

This evening the Chief went with me to pick everything up from the cleaner's. No way I could've done it myself in one trip, with 6 police coats, 4 skirts, the MG's uniform jacket and robe, my Act I costume and one of the fanciest pirate sashes. As it was, each of us walked out of there with a very full armload of dry cleaning, which went a long way toward filling my trunk.

But all these costumes are almost outta here. The laundered things are in bags or on hangers, the bobby helmets, nightsticks and miscellaneous other small items are boxed up & ready to go, so now that I've collected the dry cleaning, it's off to the costume closets tomorrow to return everything. (Lordy, I hope we don't find some stray costume piece a week from now!)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Can she bake a cherry pie...?

Signs of summer: crape myrtles start flowering, fireflies appear at dusk, and I start making fruit pies. Saturday I made the first pie of the summer. I got ambitious and decided to make a cherry pie, not because I've ever been a particular fan of cherry pies (I hate the glop in the canned filling!) but because the Chief likes them, so it was a convenient excuse. That, and the Pirates cast party that night. So I bought 3 or 4 lbs of cherries, spent about 45 mins. pitting 5 or 6 cups of them, and baked my first cherry pie.

I first searched thru a few of my cookbooks for recipes. I was surprised to learn that the Chief's big cookbook only had a recipe using canned cherries; not a word about using fresh. Ditto Betty Crocker. Only my 75th-anniversary-edition Joy of Cooking had a cherry pie recipe for fresh cherries. (Admittedly, if I'd looked through my "collection" cookbooks, I might have had better luck.)

The recipe recommended sour cherries, though it conceded that sweet (the kind I bought) would do. It suggested either cornstarch or tapioca as thickener; I went with the latter, and used the higher amount the recipe recommended. The results were rather runny, though the filling did set up after being in the fridge overnight. The taste was also a bit disappointing; not bad, but not as much cherry taste as I'd hoped. Still, not bad for a maiden effort.

Next time, though, if I decide to try this again, I'll wait for the sour cherry season, and search thru my fundraiser cookbooks for a recipe.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


We had some grapes that had gotten a bit past their prime which I was going to throw away. The Chief, however, decided he'd rather throw them into the back yard for the local fauna. I'd've bet the squirrels would have been all over them but in fact it was the birds that first started in on them. We had fun watching a robin peck away at a grape and try to pick the whole thing up in its beak. It finally settled for flying off with a small chunk of it. Another bird did manage to make off with a whole grape but it was moving much too fast for us to get more than the briefest glimpse of it before it disappeared into the trees. All we know is that it was roughly robin-sized and had some red on its head.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Where's the rainbow?

We had a short, intense rainstorm an hour or so ago, while the sun continued shining brightly. But could we see a rainbow? No! I want my rainbow!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Working hard

Had another lesson with my new teacher today. She's really woodshedding my technique, which sorely needs it. She works me even harder than my last teacher, and those lessons would often leave me physically and mentally tired. So far, the great chunk of my lessons has involved a lot of exhortations to put more energy into my sound; now, more; more! And I'd forgotten how mentally wearing it can be to try to understand how a new technique is supposed to work, what I need to do to make it happen, and then remember to do it, and make it a habit.

Then she threw a small wrench into the works today - would I be willing and available to participate in a student recital she wants to put together in about 6 weeks? I'm gonna do it, if only to have a goal to push me to work on the 2 pieces she's given me. I've never done any recital-ing before; this should be a good experience for me (I hope).

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Not sewing a costume, for a change!

Tonight I've been trying to cut out a dress. Just a dress, not a costume. Nothing fancy, just something to wear to work, church, or out to dinner. Found some wonderful fabric a few weeks ago and am finally getting some time to start working on it. I love the print, which isn't as twee as it looks in the photo, and the fabric is just about perfect. Despite being 100% cotton, when I ran it through the wash to prep it for cutting, it came out of the dryer barely wrinkled - this dress is gonna be one that won't need ironing as long as I hang it up as soon as the dryer stops. Even better, it's ever so soft and is light enough for summer but with just enough substance that it has a lovely drape; the pattern has a rather full skirt, and that skirt is going to move very nicely once I get this made up.

I say I've been trying to cut this out because the pattern envelope tells me to cut one size, based on my measurements, but the finished garment sizes on the pattern piece tell me to cut 2 or 3 sizes smaller. It's been years and years since I've used a pattern to sew for myself; I don't remember running into this before. I've e-mailed my dilemma to the company but will probably have to wait until tomorrow for a response. I do hope I get one then, as I've been itching to sew up this fabric since I bought it. I'd love to have the dress finished by the weekend.

No more Ruth

Pirates closed last night. After spending the past few months having so much fun with these people, and Pirates being such a fun show, this is another one I'm gonna miss. Good thing we've got the cast party coming up next Saturday, to ease the pain of "withdrawal". ;-)

One of the audience members last night came up to me after the show and told me she was "eating [her] heart out", as she'd played Ruth herself five times! We had a fun, if short, chat about how much fun Ruth is to do, G&S roles she'd played, which ones were the "best" to do, and so on.

We had our biggest audience last night - they even added a row of 6 or 7 seats to accommodate the demand. Last night's crowd included 2 Birdie alumnae, who were vocal in their appreciation, and my recent voice teacher and one of her daughters. It was flattering to have so many people to talk to afterwards, but also a little frustrating, as it meant I didn't get to talk to any of them for more than a few minutes, when what I wanted to do was sit down and talk with them for a few hours. My Birdie friends did get pictures of the 3 of us together; I'm hoping they turned out.

Our Edith was being quite the shutterbug backstage last night. This was a good thing, because I had forgotten to put my camera in my theater bag, so I got only a few pics of people in the costumes I busted my butt to put together. "Edith" also got a few pictures of Mabel wearing the hat I made for her, so I have that for future reference. I hope someone got a picture of the MG's "uniform" with the medals - they looked very good indeed under the lights. "Edith" also took lots and lots of group shots; so many, she was talking about putting all her photos on CDs to give people at the cast party next week.

Strike was amazingly quick - less than an hour! This was due in no small part to the fact of our relatively minimalist set. Our director & her husband did a very nice job designing a set that suggested the scene without requiring a lot of construction, and the production used very few props. I was surprised to see that the next show in the space was already painting over our set while we were still taking things down and putting them away. They couldn't have waited until the next day?

Costume strike also went very quickly. Being able to put most of the Act I costumes (all but a few pirate costumes) into the collection bags & boxes at intermission helped a lot. To my relief, all the bags & boxes fit into my car, too. Now to haul it all inside, inventory it, clean the washables, haul the dry-clean-only stuff to the discount cleaners...

Friday, June 13, 2008

What does "musical" mean?

First of all, thanks, Mom! While I didn't inherit your perfect pitch, I do seem to have relative pitch (which for my purposes is probably better) and your musicality.

But what does it mean to be "musical"? I've had various voice teachers over the years tell me that I'm musical - good feel for the music, sense of phrasing, that sorta thing. Which doesn't automatically mean I can sing well. I once saw a quote to the effect that having a Stradivarian instrument doesn't mean you can play the thing - you still have to learn the mechanics of it. I guess musicality means that, when you do learn the mechanics, they don't sound mechanical.

At this point in my vocal education, I still have a lot of mechanics to learn but have just about completed all the remedial work I had to do. Now I'm finally able to start working on how to combine technique and musicality to produce a performance, not merely a mechanical exercise. Not "See, I'm singing these notes", but "Ruth is happy to be a pirate" or what-have-you.

And why are humans, at least some of us, musical at all? What evolutionary or survival purpose does it serve, if any, or is it merely a byproduct of something else? There are all kinds of studies demonstrating that abilities in music, math and language tend to track together - if you're good at one, odds are that you're good at one or both of the other two. Since that has to do with brain function, maybe music is a byproduct of language? A predecessor or enabler of language? Discuss.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Too much!

Oy, what a week, and it's only Tuesday! Yesterday was a Code Red day; air quality so bad that asthmatics such as myself really shouldn't venture outdoors without a gas mask. Perhaps because it was a Code day, I woke up w/ another incipient migraine. Managed to keep it at bay with caffeine, resorting to imitrex only mid-afternoon.

Got to work yesterday to find that my computer wouldn't boot up, so I had to use someone else's (which of course didn't have all my apps loaded on it) until IT finally got around to sending someone to fix my computer.

They're moving our office to temporary spaces on Thursday so they can rehab our current space, in a building that probably hasn't been touched since it was built in, oh, maybe the Nixon administration. We're also supposed to get new furniture, to replace the WWII-vintage desks. OK, most of them are newer than that, but I doubt any of them are much newer than the building, which means they're all designed for typewriters, not computers and keyboards. At any rate, we're all going through our desks and throwing out old stuff, filling boxes with the stuff worth keeping, all while trying to continue to do at least some of what the taxpayers are paying us for. Yesterday was thus not a terribly productive day for me, what with the non-working computer, the computer that didn't have my software load, having to fill boxes, then trip over boxes because we don't really have anywhere to put them while we wait for the movers.

I was also stressing over this pain-in-the-butt annual accounting thing we have to do. The online form is very poorly laid out, the system is not particularly intuitive, the instructions aren't much help, and the system kept flaking out yesterday. Grrrrrrrrrr!

Today was both better than yesterday - my computer worked, if slowly, and I had done all but my last-minute packing yesterday - and worse - I kept getting interrupted ("do we need to keep this?" "help us go through this file drawer and see what needs to be archived"), so that I actually finished nothing at all.

On the plus side, today was "only" a Code Orange day, and I had my first voice lesson in over a month. Despite the "Code crud", my teacher was encouraging and told me I was "singing well", I assume referring to technique rather than sound.

Oh, and friends are coming into town Friday night for the show and spending the night with us, so TW and I are trying to clean and declutter. Didn't get much done tonight, but we continue to chip away at it. I'm off work Thursday & Friday, so that'll be when the bathrooms get scoured, the guest bed sheets get washed, and so on.

Mom's cousin called us out of the blue the other night to say he'd be coming thru town at the end of the month and was our offer of a place to stay still good? Yes, of course! Fortunately, the place will already have been company-cleaned once, so it won't take much to spruce it up for him. We'll mostly just continue to declutter and hope for the best.

And just in case I didn't have enough on my plate already, someone pointed out some new jobs that have recently opened up. The person who's sort of shepherding these new jobs thru the HR process gave me the impression that they're having trouble getting folks to apply, which kinda surprised me. After all, how often do you get a chance to try something completely new (i.e., you get to be the one to set the bar), with only a 2-year commitment, with a guarantee of a slight raise and a $100/month commuter benefit if you opt for public transportation? I mean really, what's not to love? Problem is, the closing date for most of them is next Friday, and the report dates are as little as 3 weeks away! Given our office move and everything else, there is absolutely no way I could get a proper application done in time. I may have to make a few calls and see just how firm that deadline is. This is definitely something I need to look into. They sound like really good opportunities working interesting projects, I'm not inclined to dismiss even a small raise, and I'd much rather take the subway (sleep or read en route!) than drive. The biggest - OK, only - problem I have is that I like my current job and and the folks I'm working with. However, this wouldn't be the first time I've left a job and coworkers I liked to try some new, different cool job. Decisions, decisions...

Sunday, June 08, 2008

We did it!

Last night we finally performed with a full cast that was also fully healthy - at long last! B was still a little pale, recovering from his ailment, but of course a little make-up took care of that. The humidity and poor air quality also had some us coughing on crud, but I'm beginning to wonder if perhaps a little of that may lubricate my voice - while I was coughing intermittently all night long, I had no vocal trouble whatsoever.

"Yes, yes, let's talk about the weather"

We've had some pretty dramatic weather this week. Monday we had highs in the 70s; by yesterday the high was flirting with the 100-degree mark! Wednesday we had some wild storm fronts move through the area - a few tornados, very high winds, way too much rain in an oversaturated area, and power outages all over the place.

Last night we had another spectacular sound-and-light show (i.e., a thunderstorm) move through during Act I. After the show, a friend noted with amusement that as the Stanley daughters were singing "How beautifully blue the sky, the glass [barometer] is rising very high. Continue fine I hope it may...", the audience could hear the thunder of the storm outside.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Here we go again

Once again tonight, we performed without a full cast. One of our cast members called to say he was "violently ill" and wouldn't make it tonight, so we had to redo a few things to fill the holes. I wonder when we'll manage a performance with a full cast that's also fully healthy? At least nearly all of us who were there were healthy; our Sgt is still dealing w/ the cough hanging on from last week's cold.

When B called to tell us he was sick, he first tried to call the cast member who'd urged him to audition. When he couldn't raise her, he called me. This is really bringing out the mother hen in me. I'm really going to miss all my chicks when this show closes. ;-)

Old costume photos

I enjoy studying the people in old photos, especially their clothing. It's interesting to see the fads in photography poses, what people choose to wear, how & whether they accessorize - a little social & cultural anthropology. Old photos of actors in costume are even more interesting. I'm jealous of the detail and apparent weight of the costumes, though perhaps the only ones whose photos have survived are the professionals, who could afford something more substantial and more elaborate.

As we've been in rehearsal for Pirates, I've come across a few old photos of actresses playing Ruth. I'm fascinated to see the vaguely oriental look to the earliest of these, and find myself wondering what kind of dancing or blocking those Ruths were able to do in costumes that look fairly heavy. The lefthand picture is from 1880, the center one dates from 1901 and the one on the right is undated. That last one is rather funny; doesn't she look like she should be holding a tambourine or offering to tell your fortune?

Now check out these costume shots, which are clearly from the 20th century:

This one's dated 1919. Suddenly we see the stereotypical pirate hats on Ruth and the Pirate King. I don't know why Ruth's got one corner of her apron tucked up, unless it's to show off more of her fancy skirt. (I wonder what it looked like up close.)The braid and trim on Frederic's jacket make him look like a military school cadet. Notice the skirt on the PK. I'm assuming this is a picture of the old D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, and the PK's costume is probably based on that from the original production, or at least an early one. Maybe it's just the way the skirt drapes, but I think it looks vaguely Greek.

In this 1926 pic, look at Fred's Greek-looking pirate costume. (This is a scene from Act I, when Fred's still in pirate costume. In Act II, as above, he changes from "this alarming costume" to "decent clothing".) Looks like the 1926 Ruth is wearing the same costume used in 1919, though that pirate hat sure does look strange seen from the side, doesn't it?

And here's a 1950s Ruth: still with that pirate hat. I do wonder what she's wearing under that skirt to make it that shape - a funny sort of hoop? a petticoat with ruffles that start just below the hips? The vaguely military style of her jacket (note the cuffs & front "placket") is kinda sharp. You definitely get both the nursemaid and the pirate in this costume.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Breathing easily at last!

Finally got in to see the doctor today, after having a lot of breathing problems the past few days. That's not unusual when my cold moves from my head into my chest, but in this case I think it was exacerbated by the high pollen count and increasing humidity since Monday. Anyway, the doc recommended I continue to use my inhalers at the higher dosage for at least a few more days, if not another week. She then had me do a nebulizer treatment. Wow! I hadn't realized just how tight my lungs had become until after that treatment - my lungs felt much more elastic.

Now I can breathe without thinking about it; a welcome change. Even better, I'm no longer worried that I'll be able to take a proper breath to sing or to say my lines come Friday.

messy mango

Tonight we finally got around to cutting up the mango I bought last week. After a good week on the counter, it had gotten rather too soft for TW's mango cutter, which in this case was more of a mango mangler. The mango was also very juicy; so much so that we ended up eating it over the sink. So picture it - two grown adults, leaning over the sink (good thing we'd already done the dishes), trying not to bang elbows as we made sure to get every last bite out of that mango's skin.

Minty fresh

Just added some mint "shoots" (the shortest ones are at least a foot tall!) to the grocery store roses I bought on Saturday. The roses didn't have a perceptible smell when I first brought them home, but after a few days in a warm kitchen, they smell lovely! Now I've added mint to the melange. Wonder if the mint smell, currently very faint, will also grow stronger, especially now that the shoots are in dirt, not damp paper towels.