Sunday, November 30, 2008

That high-priced organic pumpkin

In case you were curious, the pumpkin pie turned out very well indeed - the pumpkin filling barely separated at all. (Separating is an unavoidable problem with custard-type desserts.) The finished texture was every bit as smooth and even as the pumpkin puree, the top didn't get overbrowned - definitely one of my better efforts. Not sure whether I'd go out of my way to go organic again next year, but I did save some of the seeds. If they end up germinating and the critters leave them alone, next fall I may have all the pumpkins I could possibly want right in my own backyard. Not that I'd want all 10 seeds to "take" - I'd have way too many pumpkins then! On the other hand, maybe I could sell them at the local farmer's market and make a few bucks for the half-and-half and other pie ingredients. ;-)

Architecture and religious outlook?

While spending the holidays with the Chief's family, we took a day trip to West Point. Beautiful day for it - mild for late November, and not a cloud in the sky, which made for some very impressive views of the Hudson. We also stopped inside the Catholic and Cadets chapels. The Catholic chapel is rather small - seats maybe 150 or 200? The interior is wider than it is tall, with ornamented wooden beams, and an architectural style common in the late 19th century. The interior is painted white or cream, and they've got lots of traditional stained-glass windows (mostly saints, dedicated to the memory of this or that alumnus). The overall effect was of an airy, fairly bright, cozy sanctuary.

The Cadets Chapel is much larger - probably has room to accommodate a congregation of several hundreds. It's modeled on Europe's 14th-century gothic cathedrals, with the stained-glass windows in the upper half of the walls and done in a preponderance of deep blues and dark reds. The layout is more what I associate with Episcopal churches, with a railed-off, slightly elevated altar area, where you also find the organ and seating for the choir. The whole building is in local stone, of a fairly dark gray. Between that and the dark colors in the stained glass, the sanctuary was quite dark, almost gloomy (though the sun had started playing hide-and-seek by then; might be different in full sun). The Chief pointed out how precisely the Bibles and hymnals were arranged at each place. Wonder if the cadets leave 'em that way or if someone goes down each row straightening them after each service?

After seeing the Catholic chapel, we were both struck by the contrast between the two - the Catholic chapel well-lit and almost intimate, the Cadets chapel huge, dark and imposing. Made us wonder if they were designed to reflect a loving, personal (New Testament) God and a stern, Old Testament view of God.

The Cadets' organ was something amazing - the organist was working on something from Handel's Messiah, maybe setting stops. The console had a good 6 rows (that I could see) of organ stops, and there were ranks and ranks of pipes in the front section, with more down the sides and in the rear of the church. I really enjoyed hearing it in action, though I couldn't get any pictures of the console for Mom, as I didn't want to disturb the organist while he was so obviously hard at work. The Catholics, on the other hand, have a much smaller, more modest organ, almost entirely contained in the organ/choir loft. Probably perfectly suited to the smaller space. Pity that chapel was empty - I'd've liked to hear the organ in action.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Pumpkin, take 2

The Chief, knowing how I feel about canned vs. "real" pumpkin, drove me to that fancy-schmancy grocery store to get a pie pumpkin yesterday. The fool thing cost $1.49 a pound! So it's organic; so what. That was a $10 pumpkin! More, when you add in the cost of the gas to get there, and maybe even the $2 I spent on the first one. And yet... When I cut it open, it was a lovely dark orange color, with nice, meaty sides. When I cooked & pureed it, I got lovely, thick, smooth pumpkin puree - if it tastes half as good as it looks, it'll make wonderful pie for Thursday, and pies, cakes and bread until I've used it all up. I even ended up saving several of the seeds to try to grow next year. I have no clue what I'll do with more than one pumpkin - this one alone yielded nearly 1/2 gallon of pumpkin! - but I'm sure I'll come up with something.

And that's tonight's agenda - making a pumpkin and an apple pie to take to Thanksgiving dinner.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

So much for the pumpkin

For all that I know better, I still bought a rather yellowish, jack-o-lantern pumpkin for my baking. Mistake! Afer baking it the other night, then nuking it some more tonight, I realized that nothing was going to make it moister or a richer color. (The redder the meat of the pumpkin, the better the flavor.) It was still going to be pale & dry - good for wine but bad for pumpkin pie. I ended up throwing the whole mess in the trash. >:-(

I may break down and trek over to the fancy-schmancy grocery store where I know they have pie pumpkins, just so I don't have to resort to the canned stuff. Or I may be lazy and use the canned pumpkin I keep on hand for emergencies. I mean, do I really want to make an extra trip to a grocery store this close to Thanksgiving, and for just one item, if it's not absolutely necessary?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Thank a veteran!

I'm married to a veteran, I'm the daughter, niece and granddaughter of veterans, I work alongside them, I see them all over town whether I know it or not - people who signed on the dotted line and gave their country 4 or more years of their lives. Thank you, ladies & gentlemen!

Two down, one to go.

We're now 2/3 of the way through our run; our 2nd weekend went well too. We had very full houses both Friday & Saturday, and Saturday's house included friends & family of 4 of our von Trapp children. Our Friedrich's dad is also in the show (Baron Elberfeld in the party scene, and one of the Nazis) and comes out w/ the other 2 Nazis for the first bow. We knew his family were in the audience that night because that's the only night the Nazis got cheers for their bow! :D

We actually had a fully sold house for the matinee! In fact, the box office even sold "seats" that didn't exist - they sold a couple of patrons tickets for the wheelchair spaces! Did they think they were working for an airline? There were other seating "issues" at the matinee too; so many that we started at least 20 minutes late while our overworked producer and her husband got things sorted out. The audience seemed to forgive us, though, as they were very receptive, and remarkably lively for a matinee audience.

This weekend the applause increased for the nuns every time we took our bows. I'm sure that's due at least in part to the fact that we're on stage for the final "Climb Every Mountain", which is quite stirring, but it's still hugely gratifying to be in such an anonymous chorus (not all choruses are dressed identically, after all) and still get that appreciation.

We learned at the pick-up rehearsal that our costumer had suffered a heart attack earlier in the week, so we were all surprised & pleased to see him at the matinee and cast party. I've got a couple of costume repairs that I'd offered to do for Liesl and Luisa before we knew our costumer was back on his feet, which I still plan to do. He needs to get himself mended before he worries about a ripped seam or a hem that's coming out.

More apples, and a pumpkin

Yesterday we swung by one of the local orchards out near the cabin. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they still had several varieties of apples, so I bought 1/2 peck each of Yorks and Jonathans - more apple pies & cakes are in our future. However, TW also lobbied for us to buy one of their pies, so he wouldn't have to wait for me to bake. Buying from an orchard, we knew they'd use fresh apples, not that canned pie-filling glop. The orchard bakery's recipe is a bit heavy on the nutmeg and doesn't include any ground cloves, but it's otherwise pretty good.

I also bought a pumpkin, larger than I really wanted but one of the smallest they had, for my almost-annual pumpkin "rendering". Possibly as soon as this weekend, I'll bake the thing down, run the "meat" through the blender, and freeze it in one-cup units for future pies and cakes. Pumpkin pie really does taste better with fresh stuff, not canned.

It's really a pretty straightforward process - I pick the reddest-orange pumpkin I can find (the darker the color, the better the taste), cut it across its "equator" and scrape out the seeds, place it on a baking sheet (cut side down) with a rim on it, then bake it for an hour or so at... hmm; I think my Joy of Cooking said 325 degrees? Anyway, I scrape out the meat of it and buzz that and the pumpkin juice in the blender until it looks like orange applesauce. I may not even freeze all of it, as I'm completely out of pumpkin (the 2 cans in the cabinet don't count) and I'd like to make some more pumpkin bread for closing night.

Sneak attack

I do hate it when the weather sucker-punches us. Friday was gorgeous, and the highs got up into the 70s! I actually opened up the front & back doors (which still have the screens in) by afternoon to take advantage of the unseasonably mild weather. Saturday & Sunday were a bit cooler, but still nice. Yesterday, however, November made it clear that it had arrived - the high was only in the 40s and a brisk, chill wind was blowing pretty steadily all day. Today's no warmer; TW actually pulled out his down coat (couldn't find his winter jacket) when we went to dinner this evening. Even though the high was close to 50, it felt colder because we've had so much mild weather lately. This is the sort of quick change that makes me wonder if we're gonna get clobbered by a heavy snowfall. As long as it waits until I can stock the larder, I won't mind a snow day or two.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Warning to diabetics - read no further!

TW just left for the cabin about half an hour ago; I'll join him there Sunday night, after the matinee. He just called from the road "to say 'I love you'." His next words were more prosaic: "Now I gotta get off the phone and drive." :D

Shortly after we got married, one of my friends asked me what it was that drew me to him, since he freely admits he doesn't sing, dance or play an instrument and he has no particular affinity for languages. It's his heart - he's emotionally generous to a fault, and not stingy, either. (He routinely buys a cartload of stuff for our parish's annual "baby shower," has been known to pick up the check for servicemembers in uniform dining at the next table, and is a sucker for any children's charity.) He's not much into this whole theater business, but he tolerates my running off to rehearsals and shows, and occasionally helps out with the tech side for my sake. Yes, it would be nice to have a husband who dances, but it's far more important to have one who treats me like an unexpected treasure. Even though we're not technically newlyweds anymore, we still feel that way much of the time. It's wonderful!

God help the Obama administration...

...because he got one helluva mess dumped into his lap Tuesday night. I just hope & pray that people can let go of the "my point of view on subject X is the only right one" that is so easy to fall into when one gets carried away by the campaign process and instead get down to the herculean tasks Obama's got to deal with. Actually, that's not a bad analogy - Hercules had 12 impossible jobs to tackle - those stables to clean out, the Hydra to subdue, and 10 other dangerous tasks that had killed or maddened others. For the country's sake, let's hope Obama is able to make some headway with the problems he's been set.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

More wonderful music

Just got the e-mail offering me chorus in The Merry Widow. You bet I'll take it - I love that music! And since I've learned that the 3 embassy wives will be cast from the chorus, I still hold out hope that I'll get that little bit more to do. But even if I don't get Olga, Praskowia or Sylviane, I'm looking forward to spending the next few months with Lehar. I even ordered a CD of Lehar waltzes, which came on Friday.

Oo, oo, oo - ballgowns and opera gloves and jewelry and wonderful, lush, extravagantly romantic music - can't wait!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

That's one weekend down, two to go.

Opening night went remarkably well - one or two small problems with lines, and a set piece that went out backwards, but scene & costume changes (and Maria & the kids have some very tight changes!) went smoothly; one patron commented that she "didn't notice" the changes. Hurray!

It's always something of a relief to get past opening night. As I told one friend, hearing applause from total strangers, rather than the friends, family or between-duties crew who sometimes sit in the house during Tech Week, lets you know you really are doing a good job. They're not just being polite because they have to go home with you afterwards. :D

Yes, it's a feel-good show, but the stage version is pretty different from the movie most of our patrons are so familiar with, and of course no one is Julie Andrews, so staging Sound of Music immediately puts you up against certain expectations. However, I heard some good, complimentary comments on the music, the costumes, the sets (our designer accomplished some great feats of engineering!), which is always gratifying. Last night, when the line of nuns stepped forward to take our bow, the applause actually intensified, which almost never happens for the chorus.

We've got our set & costume change routines down pretty well now, which is pretty amazing given how very many tight costume changes and intricate scene changes there are. Those will only get better; by the end of the run, we may have our running time under 2:30 just due to that. For me, the offstage piece is the challenging one. As a nun or party guest, I walk on, sing or deliver a single line, then walk off. That's it - no choreography, no props to fiddle with, none of that. As crew, however... I set and strike pieces for at least 4 scenes, assist a couple others, have one tight change of my own (from party guest to nun), help Liesl with 2 of hers, and generally pitch in collecting props, clearing the way for moving set pieces, and so on. Feels like I'm making a larger contribution off stage than on.

I'm just as glad there's no matinee this weekend; gives me a chance to chip away at the backlog of housework. First order of business? Grocery shopping! The fridge has looked more & more like Mother Hubbard's cupboard the past few days...