Sunday, December 22, 2013

Pumpkin vegetable soup

Yesterday I was roasting some pumpkin and decided I didn't have enough for soup so I pulled a second container from the freezer.  Puréed everything, added some veggie broth, then poured into the soup pot in which I'd sautéed onions and garlic in olive oil.  (Because isn't that how so many of the best things start - with sautéed onions & garlic?) We had some old veggies on hand, so those went into the pot too - few potatoes that had started to sprout, a zucchini and a yellow squash that were starting to shrivel, some leftover carrots.  Added some barley because soup is so much better with some sort of grain, whether barley, rice or noodles.

Are you getting hungry yet? ;) TW decided he liked it better without all the extras, but I think it's pretty darn good, especially for a spur-of-the-moment thing.  With any luck, it'll freeze well, too.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Learning a new "language"

I arranged for some dialect coaching, since the director wants Dame Carruthers to sound English and I know I need "professional help" to pull that off convincingly.  Fortunately, I know a professional actor through church who, conveniently enough, is not only English herself but has taught dialect classes.  She gave me several very useful "substitutions", as she called them, that will get me a long way toward my goal of sounding authentically English.  I think the various "o" sounds will present the biggest challenge, but I've got time to get this down.  She's even offered to listen to how I sound once we get into the theater, when the acoustics will change dramatically and affect how I need to produce my sound.

As I told her, all those years I spent sitting in foreign language classes, trying to master the pronunciation so I don't sound so American, are continuing to pay off.

Notes on a first blocking rehearsal

[A little background:  I first worked with this company 20 years ago, but this is the first time I've had anything other than an ensemble part (not counting a "named ensemble member" with a handful of spoken and sung lines).  In other words, with this company, I'm used to being blocked with the rest of the ensemble 99.9% of the time.]

We had our first blocking rehearsal the weekend before Thanksgiving.  Not nearly as painful as such rehearsals so often are, which was nice.  The chorus number we started with went pretty smoothly - not complicated, but enough staggered entrances that it should look animated and not very "director told me to enter when ..."  Sgt. Meryll and I have a tiny bit of business that we may need to get more specific with, but for a first rehearsal, it all went quite smoothly.

The following number is Dame Carruthers with the yeomen.  That was a little weird - me and most of the men's chorus (some of them are "townies").  The director has me blocked downstage for most of it, with the yeomen upstage, and not where I can see them most of the time, which is a strange feeling for someone used to being part of the ensemble, not downstage from them.  As I told the yeomen at yesterday's music rehearsal when we finished rehearsing this number, "I'm not used to having back-up singers!" :D

Maiden attempt at quinoa

Finally got around to making quinoa tonight, using some tri-color quinoa I bought at the "organic" market a week or so ago.  Very pretty stuff - ivory, nearly black, and a sort of reddish-brown.  It smelled for all the world like peanut butter while it was cooking, though of course it didn't taste like it.  I think I either toasted it too long at the beginning or needed to add more water than the instructions recommended, because it was a bit dry and tasted a little scorched.  I may have to try it a few times to get the hang of this.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Unwanted excitement

The Chief and I spent Veterans Day weekend at the cabin.  When we arrived, we started the usual cold-weather opening routine: bring in the groceries, turn on the water and heat.  The propane heater gave him some trouble; first the pilot didn't want to light, then the blower didn't want to start, etc.  The capper was when smoke suddenly started billowing up from the back of the thing, and it's mounted on a wood-paneled wall!  That's when things really started getting exciting - the smoke alarms started going off, as did the alarm system, then the phone rang - the security company checking on us - while the Chief called the gas company to get some "immediate" help.  After we opened all the windows, it took several ear-splitting minutes to dissipate enough smoke for the bells, whistles and sirens to quit, and now it's only 54 degrees in the great room.  Brrr!  Me, I retired to the bedroom, where the baseboard heater slowly warmied the room (64 degrees sure beats 54!) while the Chief showed the gas company guy where everything is.

Turned out the problem was the new siding, or rather, its installation.  The installers didn't account for the additional thickness, so the heater vent no longer fit properly, causing all the problems.  The gas company ordered & installed a new vent pipe, the siding company redid the siding around the vent (it started to melt in one place!), and now we're keeping an eagle eye on that heater when we use it!

Good thing we like turkey!

We got a 10-lb turkey for Thanksgiving, which TW and I shared with a friend from church who had to cancel his travel plans.  We sent him home with leftovers, of course, but still had plenty of turkey for us.  Friday night's dinner was Thanksgiving leftovers (yum!).  Saturday we dined on turkey & dumplings.  Last night?  Home-made turkey soup.  (I love home-made soup!)  Turkey & dumplings again tonight, & tomorrow, too, with enough in the big freezer for 2 more meals at some later date.  Ditto a container of turkey soup.  Yes, it's a good thing we like turkey, given how much of it we have on hand!  After we finish this container of turkey & dumplings, though, I think we'll go for something a little different - fish, or pork chops, or maybe eggplant parmagiana...

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Just bought my first leek

I seem to be developing a King Arthur Flour (KAF) company addiction.  Ever since I liked them on Facebook, I keep seeing all these great recipes I want to try.  The latest is for turkey and dumplings, to use up post-Thanksgiving turkey.  Sounded delicious, so that's what's on tonight's dinner menu.

The recipes calls for frozen mixed vegetables, but suggests using "leftover odds and ends" if you like.  One of the veggies they suggest throwing in is leeks.  When I went to the grocery early this morning to pick up a few things, I added a leek to my purchases.  Only problem is, I've seen 'em but never cooked with them.  Thank goodness for the Internet, where I can learn which part to use (the pale part), how to cut them up, and so on.

Between KAF and the Internet, I find I've become a somewhat more adventurous cook.  Doesn't matter if I don't know the first thing about making this recipe or using that ingredient - between the Internet and KAF's wonderful baking hotline, expert instruction is readily available.

Now to clean and prep that leek...

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Santa, if you're listening...

I've become a wee bit addicted to King Arthur Flour's sites.  Lotsa recipes to try, but also learning of new kitchen toys, er, tools that I need.  The latest - a bench knife, and a couple of donut pans so I can make their pumpkin doughnuts.  In the meantime, maybe I'll use my mini-bundt pan or a muffin tin until I can get donut pans.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

No more squash

I checked my little squash when I got home from work on Friday and was disappointed to see it on the ground; it had fallen or gotten knocked off the vine. :(  I brought it inside, but threw it out yesterday afternoon when I saw it was starting to turn brown.  So much for any hope of getting anything from that attempt at growing my own squash.  It remains to be seen whether I try again next year.

Branching out on the tech side

I've auditioned for lotsa shows since "Daddy's Dyin'" closed in January.  Got a few callbacks, which is always gratifying even though I wasn't cast.  I volunteered to do hair & make-up for one of those shows; set in 1943, I had visions of victory rolls.  That didn't pan out, but I'm still getting a few of the women in period hair, which is fine.  

Today was the first dress rehearsal.  As I told the women I was helping with their hair, today was a "first draft," to learn the specifics of achieving their look, testing it with costume changes and seeing how the colors read under the lights.  There's still some tweaking to do, but the director was happy with how everyone looks, so I'm claiming "victory" in this, my first attempt to do hair or make-up for someone besides myself.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Comments heard upon wearing a dirndl to work on Halloween

I used Halloween as an excuse to wear my dirndl to work today, complete with "ethnographically correct" shoes & socks (which you can't see in the photo).  It was interesting to hear some of the comments:
  • "Are you Anne of Green Gables?"  (My hair is neither red nor long.)
  • "I'm getting a Little House on the Prairie" vibe".  (Dress isn't ankle length.)
  • Coworker 1: "You look like Alice in Wonderland."  Coworker 2:  "No, that's a blue dress." Me: "Only in the Disney version." And coworker 1: "No, it was black-and-white."  (Obviously someone familiar with the wonderful Tenniel illustrations.)
  • "You look absolutely precious!"
  • "You look like Little Bo Peep."
Judge for yourself:

I called that wrong!

Had my audition Friday night, thought it went pretty well - if nothing else, I managed to make the director laugh a coupla times.  I had fun with the little piece I read (they had a selection of readings for us to choose from) and really enjoyed the dance combo.  That was set to the end of the Pirates of Penzance overture, so the choreographer had us finish with "random swordfighting".  There were 4 of us in my dance group, so we paired ourselves off.  My partner "killed" me, so I had fun dying big; ended up on my back on the floor, legs in the air, which came crashing down on the last chord of the music - hit the "button", so to speak.  Yep, great fun. :D

I was delighted to get an email the next morning inviting me to callbacks for Dame Carruthers Sunday night!  The email directed us to follow the link to the sides & music for the role, and I have a copy of Yeomen, so I loaded Carruthers' music onto my iPod and wore it out.  There were 3 of us being called back for Dame Carruthers, one of whom was a lot younger than I would have expected them to consider.  We all read the side a little differently, and I thought any of the readings could be valid; no clues there.  When we got to the music, I ended up singing first, followed by the other two, both of whom sang quite well.  The director then asked me to start the audition chunk again (though she ended up letting me sing the whole bit), which had me wondering how I'd screwed up the first time. :p

Monday was a long day, trying not to think about the waiting to hear.  Checked my email as soon as I got home - nothing.  The afternoon wore on, still nothing, so I started wondering which of the other two "contestants" had gotten the role.  After all, they always contact the "yes"es first.  I finally got an email shortly before 6 that began like every other "Thanks but no thanks" email I've ever gotten:  "Thank you for auditioning for..."  I skimmed over it - general rehearsal schedule, uh huh; dues, OK; first read-thru Sunday, got it.  Then I looked again - they were offering me the role!

At long last I've ended this year's string of auditions with callbacks but no roles!  What's even better is that it's the biggest company I've worked with to date in terms of the size of the stage.  Not as big a role as Sara Lee, but I'll get a solo (with chorus back-up), a yummy quartet and a duet to sing.  The solo goes pretty low - a G below middle C, I think - so I'll definitely need to work to learn to project those low notes over the orchestra.  Can't wait to start! :)

Yes,definitely squash!

Checked my tiny little incipient butternut squash again this afternoon.  It hasn't gotten appreciably bigger, but it's now yellow.  I wonder if I'm gonna end up with the world's tiniest ripe squash...

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Another audition

Got another audition tomorrow night, for some G&S for a welcome change.  I haven't been working on my audition piece as I should so I'll probably end up in the ensemble, but that's OK.  I haven't been on stage since January and I'm going through withdrawal! :D


I checked my squash plants again the other day and was surprised and delighted to see that my latest blossom has a little green nubbin at its base which, while barely an inch long and quite green, is exactly the shape of a butternut squash!  I've got my fingers crossed that I may actually get at least one squash from this plant after all.

"Actual size"

Passed a Mini Cooper in the parking lot at work yesterday.  I noticed it had one of those clings in a rear window which read "actual size".  It would have been even funnier on a Smart car...

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Another callback

Monday's audition obviously went well, since I was called back for tonight.  I'll be interested to see how many of us are in the running for the 2 grandmothers.  

If I'm not cast, I'll probably offer to help with some aspect of tech, just because the director is such a great guy.

This feels weird

Being furloughed is a very strange feeling.  I have a job and yet:
- I'm not allowed to report for work. At least my inbox won't explode while I'm gone, because almost everyone who'd send me email is in the same boat.
- I don't know when I'll get my next paycheck, or how much it will be.  Thank God I did get one last week, so the mortgage is paid for October.
- I'm eligible for unemployment benefits!  That's the weirdest thing of all.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Goldilocks weather

In other words, just right!  One advantage to being furloughed is that I've been able to take advantage of the gorgeous weather 2 days running so far and take a nice, long walk through the neighborhood.  Yesterday it was at home, today at the cabin.  Saw a lot of deer, or at least a lot of tails as they took off upon hearing us approach.  We did see one 4-point buck with a small entourage of 5 or 6, but they headed into the trees as we got closer.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Observations on my very first 5K

Walked in my first 5K today.  It was a beautiful day for it - a bit chilly when I checked in shortly after 8, but quite comfortable by the end, and sunny with just the tiniest breeze.
  • I was surprised by how many people showed up with their dogs - big dogs, little ones, puppies and adults. The organizers were ready, though - they had bandannas for them in the same day-glow green as the race T-shirts.
  • This was a fundraiser for cancer research and prevention, so there were several teams with matching shirts.
  • Part of the route ran along a river, where I spotted a few common loons.  I didn't realize we had them around here!  I also saw some egrets or herons; they were too far away for me to tell for sure.  (can you tell I'm no birder?)
  • Lots of people participated with their children; the youngest one I spotted was only 8 or 10 months old.  Several of the kids were having a great time racing with their parents, playing with the dogs or each other, throwing sticks into the water - the usual kid stuff.
  • Starting at a ballpark meant real restrooms, not the portapotties I'd expected.  That's a good thing!
  • I was disappointed that one hip decided to start bothering me as soon as we left the starting point.  Fortunately, it didn't hurt constantly, so while I did limp rather a lot, I still managed to finish in under an hour.
  • I was surprised by how hungry I've been since I got home!  Yes, that was a lot more walking than I usually do, but I was walking, not running, and I didn't feel I was pushing myself all that hard.
  • Being new to this 5K business, I had no idea what to do with my stuff (keys, wallet, etc.) during the race so I wore cargo pants and loaded up the pockets.  I had wanted to take a book to read on the subway but it would have been too uncomfortable so I left it at home.  Instead, I snoozed on the train and people-watched once I got checked in.  That was certainly entertaining.
  • They played an instrumental recording of the national anthem shortly before the starting horn.  Yes, of course I sang along. :)  I don't know what key it was in, but it was a little higher than I would have picked, especially at 8:45 a.m.  I still managed to sing it all, and the highest note actually felt pretty good, so that was a nice little surprise.
I'm already signed up for another 5K.  This one's at work, the day after Halloween, so they call it a "monster dash", complete with costume contest.  Now to decide how to dress up for the occasion.  It needs to be comfortable for walking and not too bulky, since I'll be bringing it to work in a gym bag along with towel and toiletries so I can shower afterwards.  Any ideas? :)

Saturday, September 28, 2013

They'll have to reunite without the Chief

The Chief and a buddy from his old Reserve unit have been organizing a reunion, to take place in Manhattan the Saturday of Columbus Day weekend.  Nothing very fancy, just 3 hours' worth of drinks, hors d'oeuvres, and getting caught up.  The other night the Chief spent a few hours on line researching hotels and fares.  Short of staying in a VERY spartan room and taking one of those cheap buses, he didn't see any way to do even 2 nights, let alone 3, for less than $2000 for both of us.  Especially given the way we've been spending money to fly out to see Dad while he's still alive, he just couldn't justify the expense.  Maybe we should buy a lottery ticket...

Another day spent playing in the kitchen

Big kitchen plans for the weekend:
  • I got 2 nice spaghetti squash this week, which are now in the oven.  They should fill at least 5 or 6 2-cup containers.
  • I also have a pair of butternut squash to cook; need to replenish my supply, as last week's soup finished off what I had left in the freezer.
  • A batch of rather old apples are currently on a back burner, cooking down to applesauce.  They needed a little moisture, so I poured in a slosh of boiled cider; can't wait to see how that works out.
  • I want to make a batch or two of lemon loaf (if I can find the recipe again), to take to work on Tuesday, assuming we aren't furloughed.  My excuse?  Tuesday is the first day of the new fiscal year.
  • And then there are those mushrooms to be sautéed and added to a jar of spaghetti sauce, which is great served over spaghetti squash.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Still auditioning

I auditioned for one production, got called back, had fun with the improv exercise, but wasn't cast.  I replied to the email that I'd be interested in helping on the tech side but haven't heard back.

Then last Saturday I auditioned for another show.  The director asked me on my way out if I could make callbacks; yes, of course!  Sunday was the 2nd day of auditions, with callbacks scheduled for Monday.  I was therefore a bit confused to get a "sorry, you weren't cast" call Sunday night!  Turns out I had too many conflicts (the show has a rather compressed rehearsal schedule), and the director was able to cast from auditions.  Once I got past my confusion, I consoled myself with having been called back, even if I didn't actually get to callbacks. :D  I also offered to help with hair; 1940s hairstyles should be fun.  I won't be able to do it alone, though - 6 women to coif?  I'd need to start around 4 p.m. to have them all ready for curtain!

Monday I have yet another audition.  I'm not too optimistic about that one, mostly because the women's roles consist of 2 grandmothers and one 20-something.  If the demographics hold true, there'll be plenty of us trying out for those 2 grannies - tough odds.  Later this month I can then, finally, audition for a coupla musical things - 2 G&S shows.  I'd love to get either Dame Carruthers (Yeomen of the Guard) or Ruth (Pirates of Penzance).  For someone my age, the only other option is ensemble, and I've already done ensemble in both shows (twice in Pirates).  I might do it for Yeomen, but not for Pirates - that'll be a summer show, and I try to keep the summer a "theater-free zone" so the Chief doesn't spend too much time as a theater widower.

I've been auditioning for things but not performing (unless you count the sing-out) since Daddy's Dyin' closed in January. This is the longest I've ever spent auditioning without being cast in anything.  I might have made Guys & Dolls had I been willing to take ensemble, but that group rehearses just far enough away that I wasn't eager to make the drive to repeat a "role" I just did last summer.  The artistic director of last summer's group asked me to replace someone in their production of Quartet, but I just couldn't make the schedule work.  I'm glad I got to work my "pipes" a little at the Sing-out; it was the first onstage singing I've done since last summer's Guys & Dolls, which is way too long to go without!

Time to take another look at what's being done this season to see what else I might want to audition for.

"Meals on wheels"

I spent last Sunday making soup for people - veggie beef for the neighbors with the new baby, and squash soup, which is nice and smooth, for the friend w/ cancer who has trouble swallowing.  The kitchen smelled wonderful, of course, and 3 guesses what was for lunch that day.

Fall weather always makes me want to cook up vats of soup; so nice to have a good excuse to do it, and someone to give it to so the Chief and I aren't swimming in the stuff.

No squash this year, I guess :(

I keep checking my squash plants for fruit and finding nothing.  Not sure if they didn't get enough water, or the soil isn't what they need or what, but I keep getting blossoms and nothing else. What's worse, one of the 2 coworkers who got my culls came up to me a few weeks ago now, delighted to be able to tell me that she'd just harvested her first squash!  I'm jealous - everyone else who's got squash plants has squash by now.  Maybe another coworker was right - "You gave away the good ones." ;)

Monday, August 19, 2013

Held together with, well, not tinfoil & baling wire...

Dad gave us a bit of a scare the other day - fell and hit his head, needed to be patched up.  They closed the scalp gash with staples and the cut behind his ear with glue.  We had to tease him about his hardheadedness and being held together with staples and glue. :)

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Ack! Too soon! I'd love another week to prep.

Doing Daddy's Dyin' made me a Del Shores fan, so I was happy to see that another company will be doing his Sordid Lives this season.  However, I just checked their web site for updated audition info - the auditions are tomorrow & Tuesday!  =:o  I need a 2-minute monologue so I'll probably come up with something from Daddy's Dyin' - can't think of anything else I can come up with on such short notice.  Wish me luck!

At least I know there won't be a dance audition, so I don't have to worry about crippling myself again/more. :D

Saturday, August 10, 2013


Back this spring I planted 8 butternut squash seeds, all of which sprouted and thrived.  I ended up giving away 5 plants to coworkers.  The 3 I kept are continuing to flourish - I guess they're enjoying our unusually cool summer this year - and this morning I noticed a few enormous blossoms.  One of the vendors at the farmer's market this morning told me that the butternuts he had available were his first of the season.  I planted late, so maybe I'll be able to start "harvesting" by Labor Day.  I'm looking forward to being able to pick my own and cook with them!

Last week I bought a little anise hyssop bedding plant.  The vendor told me they attract the "good bugs" that eat the critters that eat my plants.  The hyssop also has a nice, light anise smell and a pretty little purple flower that kinda reminds me of a very tiny thistle.  Here's hoping it thrives and does indeed keep squash borers and other vermin away from my squash plants.

Auditions can cripple!

Or so it would seem after this week's round.  I auditioned (unsuccessfully) for a musical.  The dance combo included a little sequence in which you came down on one knee, then reversed and came down on the other.   Repeat that sequence several times, with quads that are not used to having to work that hard, and it's no wonder that I wobbled out to my car afterwards.  In fact, my quads didn't stop swearing at me until yesterday; musta gotten tired of it, though they still mutter a lot, especially when I go up or down stairs.  In an effort to ease my seized-up muscles, I made myself take the stairs instead of the elevator, get up more often to top up my water, or take the longer route when going from point A to point B.

However, it seems I still managed to do something wrong.  Thursday I noticed I was getting an occasional twinge up (or down?) the back of one leg.  By yesterday, it was much more pronounced (woke me up at 4:30 a.m.!) and pretty nearly constant, so that I was afraid I might have torn something.  My doctor told me it was my back (!); turns out I managed to give myself sciatica! 

Now I've got a set of back exercises and stretches I need to do, recommendation for a body pillow, and orders to swim.  First, though, I've gotta find out where all the local pools are, what their hours are, whether any have an adults-only swim period...  Today I got as far as picking up a flyer from the (outdoor) pool that holds a Saturday farmer's market (where I also got some lovely veggies).  Maybe I'll go back tomorrow and actually swim, or at least walk in the pool.

Monday, July 08, 2013

He's plotting travel again...

The Chief has been on the phone with one of his Reserve buddies starting to plan another reunion of their unit.  This time they're looking to hold it somewhere in New York City.  The Chief's buddy mentioned that the Marine Memorial Club has reciprocal arrangements with 3 or 4 nice clubs in Manhattan and Brooklyn.  That got the Chief to wondering what other clubs the MMC had reciprocity with.  Let's see - not just US clubs, but clubs in Canada, France, Germany, the UK, Ireland, Belgium... He's already starting to plan our next trip. :D

My inner reference librarian is at it again

I sometimes joke that I must've been a reference librarian in a previous life because I'm always happy to help people research things, or to share my own notes on this or that topic with someone else.  This weekend I had a chance to prove that to myself yet again.

First a theater friend commented that her little one might have a gluten allergy.  I sent her a few links to gluten-free resources (which I'd started compiling a coupla years ago for my sister when one of her kids needed to go GF) and offered to share some of the xanthan gum I bought over the weekend for future GF baking.

Then a neighbor told us she'd been diagnosed as diabetic and asked for recipes.  I not only sent her some of the recipes I've found online but found a few discounted diabetic cookbooks which I ordered for her.

Got a question? Need some information?  Just ask! :D

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Squash update

A month or two ago I planted some seeds from the last butternut squash I cooked, crossing my fingers that they'd sprout.  Not only did they sprout, but they're doing so well in the relatively small space I have for them that I'm going to have to thin my 8 plants down to 3 or 4.  I may hunt up a large pot or two for the culls; we'll see.

Speaking of squash, there was a gentleman behind me in line at the commissary on Friday who was buying a whole crate of butternut squash!  He told me he liked to roast it.  When I asked if he'd tried squash soup, he said he'd only had it from cartons, so I gave him a very quick rundown of how to make squash soup from scratch (the cashier was finishing ringing up my groceries).  I wonder if he'll try making it?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

All in a good cause

A company I've done lots of Gilbert & Sullivan with is hosting a G&S Sing-Out over Labor Day weekend, during which we'll sing through all the music (no dialogue) of 12 of the 13 surviving shows, with piano accompaniment.  (The company will be presenting a concert version, with orchestra, of Utopia, Ltd .)  Yesterday was the committee meeting that's always the longest - assigning roles to people who'd requested them.  Lots and lots of moving parts to this piece of the process:
  • We had over 130 people sign up and request at least one role (most requested several, chiefly to indicate everything they'd be willing to sing, not because they expected to get lotsa roles);
  • Where possible, we try to give people one of their top 3 choices, where they stated a preference;
  • If we know the people involved, we try to match voice sizes when casting people to sing duets together;
  • we try to give at least a comprimario role to people who requested a role and are trying to break out of the chorus;
  • we try to make sure everyone got something;
  • We try not to give anyone more than their fair share;
  • We don't want to set anyone up for failure (giving someone a part too big for their stamina at the end of the weekend marathon, or too high/low for their range, etc.).
Fairness is one of the hardest things to achieve.  Tenors get more roles, simply because there are fewer tenors requesting roles.  We weren't able to give principal roles to all the women because there were a lot more women, and fewer women's roles.  Good thing Grand Duke has 4 female comprimario roles, and we doubled up on bridesmaids in Trial by Jury.  

Committee members were offered first pick of roles, but we limited ourselves to something we wouldn't be likely to be cast as.  I chose Phoebe (Yeomen of the Guard), since I'm too old to play her on stage.  However, I ended up ceding Phoebe to someone who, I was told, was an excellent singer but who had nothing when we finished. The other committee members were funny; "Are you sure you don't mind?"  I didn't want to be greedy, and I'd've felt bad if the other woman got nothing at all.  Instead, I'll now be singing Angela (Patience), with a side of Baroness (Grand Duke).  And of course I can sing all the choruses I can stand; I'm OK with that. :)

At it again

The group I've done most of my G&S with is doing a "sing-out" over Labor Day weekend, when we'll sing all the music from all 13 of the surviving G&S shows.  12 of these will be done by all registered comers, with conductor and piano accompaniment.  The host company, however, will be presenting a concert version of "Utopia, Ltd", with full orchestra.  Auditions are coming up Friday and Saturday.  I managed to get one of the first slots Friday night - the "get it over quickly" slot.  Competition for the role I'm interested in will be fierce, but I'm not gonna take chorus without at least *trying* for something bigger.  If nothing else, it'll be a good warm-up for auditions for fall shows.  Wish me luck!


The Chief and I headed out to the cabin Friday.  I had to come back yesterday and almost decided to stay home; I am SO glad I didn't!  When I woke up yesterday morning and wandered into the great room, my eyes still half shut, I turned to the window wall.  The view immediately opened my eyes fully - the sun was streaming in through nothing but trees, their dewy leaves sparkling in the sunlight.  The trees always look best at that time of day, when the sun is still low enough to be shining through as much as on them, but yesterday morning the trees were fairly glowing!  The temperature was very comfortable, the humidity too low to be worth mentioning - the kind of day that makes you rejoice in God's creation.

That sort of morning not only makes you glad to be alive, but makes you feel more alive.  That must be the origin of the exclamation "Great day in the morning!"

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A surprise hit

Again tonight, the dinner menu includes green beans from the farmer's market, cooked in sauteed onions & garlic.  Prepping the beans made me think of the last time I served these - out at the cabin, when we had some friends joining us for dinner.  (Went with the "drunken chicken".)  I was surprised at the way our guests raved about the beans.  The woman next door wanted to know exactly how I'd fixed them, as it was the first time she'd seen her husband and son eat fresh veggies willingly, not just out of politeness.  "Um, easy - sautee some onions & garlic in a little olive oil, add the beans, let 'em cook for half an hour or so, until the beans are no longer crunchy."  You can add any seasonings you like, or other vegetables; it's one of those recipes it's easy to improvise with.

Friday, June 07, 2013

I don't usually choose bread pudding

The Chief and I went for a seafood buffet for dinner tonight. The tomato-crab bisque was wonderful, and of course the rest of the seafood offerings were pretty impressive too. The dessert selections weren't quite as good - I'm not a fan of crumb pie crusts - but I decided to try the warm pineapple-chocolate bread pudding, with a bit of hot chocolate sauce ladled on top. Oh wow - worth EVERY calorie! Bread pudding is not usually something I'm all that interested in, but this was outstanding!

Thursday, June 06, 2013

George has lots of company today

We were driving past Mt. Vernon and spotted THIRTY-TWO tour buses parked all in a row! Figuring 80 people per bus, that's a LOT of visitors! I sure hope George and Martha can handle those crowds.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Feeling sorry for Frankenstein's monster

I had to get an EMG last week, which involved getting a slew of leads stuck to my skin so the doc could test my "circuitry" (he even described himself as an electrician for the process). It was not exactly a fun time, though my fingers didn't do any lasting damage to the exam table. As I was lying there getting zapped, I found myself thinking of Frankenstein's monster. If the creature was subjected to far higher voltages than I was enduring, well, no wonder he came to life roaring!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Drunken chicken

Also known as "beer can chicken", in which you stand a chicken over a 3/4-full can of beer and grill or bake it. The Chief and I tried this for the first time over the weekend. It took a bit longer than we'd expected, but the results were WELL worth the wait - even the breast meat was very moist and juicy. We went with a mesquite marinade mix and added mesquite chips to the charcoal. Can't wait to experiment with other marinades or spice rubs.

I've also learned that a mesquite-grilled chicken carcass makes for some rather funky-smelling but very tasty chicken soup.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Monday, April 22, 2013

Nice little nap

I rarely nap - kinda frowned on at work, and by the time I get home, there's no time. Today, though, I came home with a migraine. I'd taken some medication for it, but it hadn't reLly kicked in yet, so I lay down for a bit when I got home. Boy, was that the right thing to do! When I got up, not only was the migraine gone but I actually felt rested. (A "migraine nap" usually just chases the migraine without actually being restful.). Here's hoping I'm able to sleep tonight...

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Guinness bread

Made a second batch of Guinness bread tonight.  BOY, does the house smell fantastic!  I find I love making soda breads - you get that fantastic baking-bread aroma without the hours a yeast bread requires.

Last time I made a free-form loaf; this time I used a loaf pan.  We'll find out tomorrow at breakfast whether it affects the taste, or merely the shape of the final product.

Spending the weekend in the garden (or trying to)

The Chief and I spent most of the weekend in the yard.  He spent yesterday afternoon making a bit more progress in the shed, while I hit the nursery and came home with a coupla trays of bedding plants and a head full of ideas.

It seems the seed impatiens that have been the mainstay of the bed by the front door are victims of a downy mildew.  Apparently this nasty little bug is airborne and can spread for miles; worse, it can last in the soil for 5 years!  The nursery staffer who told me about it said that's why they wouldn't be carrying seed impatiens.  The good news, however, is that new guinea impatiens isn't bothered by this plague, so we can still have vivid color in our shady spots.  I'm also trying begonias for the first time.

The Chief and I are also trying something else new - roses.  We bought 2 climbers for the north side of the house.  Since a few nearby trees have been trimmed a LOT over the years, between storms and arborists, I think we'll get enough light that they'll do OK. The Chief put in a little arbor on that side of the house a few years ago, so this afternoon we planted on rose on either side.  He let me pick the colors.  The nursery didn't offer a lot of color choices in climbers, but I decided to get 2 different roses.  Valentine's Day promises a profusion of small, vivid-red flowers, while Purple Splash should have larger, very fragrant flowers.  We also have a bracket on the arbor for a hummingbird feeder - with any luck, we'll get more hummingbirds this summer, attracted by the roses.

What else are we growing?  The "impatiens bed" is getting one new guinea impatiens, some begonias, and a low, foliage plant called hypoestes.  It'll be interesting to see how they do.  It may be too sunny for them until the trees leaf out; I hope they don't get sunburned.

The planters for the deck railing are getting a geranium, 2 white cosmos flowers, lobelia, a couple of really lovely coleus varieties (colei?) - finger paint and kiwi fern - some miniature sweet william ("wee willie") and a superbell variety called "lemon slice".  I'm looking forward to seeing how those look once they get established.  I had bought a spreading torinia but decided the planters would be too crowded, so the torinia is now nestled between a couple of azaleas, where it should get enough shade to protect it.

I was delighted to see that one of the 2 peonies we planted last year and which didn't do well at all is coming back this year.  We've got our fingers crossed that it'll actually manage to bloom this year.

Also back for a return engagement:  my oregano (its 3rd summer, so I'm starting to believe it'll be a true perennial), rosemary, spearmint, and parsley.  The spearmint & rosemary spent the winter in planters under the deck, where we secured them before Hurricane Sandy last fall.  The spearmint survived despite a few inches of standing water in the pot - that's some hardy stuff!  The rosemary turned dark reddish when the weather got cold, but it's starting to look a bit greener now and is getting new foliage.

I bought another basil and a thyme plant today.  Those will go into one or two planters; haven't decided yet.  I want to give the basil plenty of room to spread, so maybe I'll put the thyme in the other end of the rectangular planter the rosemary is in.

The windowboxes on the shed will get begonias, a new guinea impatiens, a dahlia and a spreading torinia.  I may let the Chief plant those himself so he can have the fun of playing in the dirt too.

Missing Mom

This is the time of year I used to call Mom most often, with updates on the latest signs of spring in the neighborhood - first the early bulbs, then the bradford pears, forsythia, etc.  And of course telling her about my latest purchases for the garden - which flowers I was planting where, how they were doing.

This year's purchases include the "obligatory" red flowers - a geranium for one of the railing planters and a new guinea impatiens as one of the flowers for the front bed (which is getting an assortment this year).

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Finally playing in the dirt

Yesterday it was finally mild enough that the Chief and I could go out and play in the dirt.  We dug up the patch where I tried to grow squash last year, sifting through the dirt to look for and remove squash borer grubs.  I've got some seeds saved from a butternut squash that I'm trying to start indoors.  If they germinate, they'll go into that patch. Now that I have a better idea of what to look for, I'm hoping the squash borers will leave my plants alone this year.

We also did some cleaning up - raking up leaves, cutting back ivy & vinca, doing a good bit of weeding.  I also planted one little phlox plant in the bed next to the driveway.  I hope the ice plant doesn't crowd it out.

The Chief has some anemone (bulbs? corms?) that he bought a couple of years ago.  We'll finally get those babies into the ground sometime this week and hope they grow.

I've had a pretty high mortality rate among my bulbs.  I don't know if something ate them or they died of thirst, but we plan to buy a big batch this fall and hope they come up next spring.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Soup, soup and more soup

I've made quite a lot of soup over the past couple of weeks - 2 batches of pea soup for the Chief, 1 batch of an "Italian-inspired" veggie soup into which I like to dump a bag or 2 of frozen salad shrimp, and a couple of batches of the veggie-beef soup that's oh, so good made w/ oxtails instead of stew beef.  This time, because I didn't have any of the cabbage the recipe calls for, I substituted a bag of frozen chopped spinach.  I've been making this soup and improvising on it for years & years; I can't believe I never thought to dump spinach in it until now.  You can't really taste it, but I rather like seeing all those bits of spinach swimming around in it.  (I'm a spinach fan; what can I say?)

Oh, and I can't forget the awesome batch of pumpkin soup I threw together a couple of weeks ago for an ailing neighbor, and just "happened" to make so much that there was plenty for me, too.  (The Chief isn't a fan so I had it all to myself.)  It was definitely one of my better batches; not only was it nice & thick, but the last-minute decision to throw in 1 tsp of cumin was a very good one.

Still to be made: my nephew's boeuf bourguignon, now that I have a dutch oven to make it in.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Happy birthday, Pride & Prejudice!

I first discovered Pride & Prejudice on a high school summer reading list and have revisited it repeatedly.  I've read the other extant Austen novels, of course, but P&P remains my favorite, with Emma in second place.  I've read several of the take-offs (the novels about other characters, about Elizabeth & Darcy's children, etc.) and while I don't consider myself a full-fledged "Janehead" or "Janeite", I have been enjoying the articles about Jane & her works.  Here's a good one:

Monday, February 25, 2013

*When* is that audition?

I just realized tonight that one audition is next week, not 2 weeks away as I'd thought.  Less time than I thought I had to learn this new piece; I need to get busy!

Lesson learned: Use scissors!

Yesterday I was opening a warehouse-club bundle of toilet paper.  The usual method is hook a thumb under an end flap and pop open.  Not anymore:  yesterday all that popped was my thumb - ouch!  EARLY this morning I was in my HMO's after-hours care, getting said digit x-rayed, prodded, probed and taped.

Next time, I'll either make the Chief open that package or use scissors - no more sprains, please!

Saturday, February 09, 2013

First fruits

Or rather, first fruitcake.  I've rather come under the spell of the King Arther Flour (KAF) catalog lately - bought eggnog extract and eggnog cake mixes at Christmas, sent one sister & family gluten-free pancake mix and other gf goodies, bought a "king cake kit" that I'll be using tomorrow (cake will go to work on Tuesday), some gf flour I used for my first attempt at gf baking from a recipe, not a mix... And a fruitcake mix, which I finally made today. 

The fruitcakes were supposed to be Christmas gifts to neighbors.  Valentine fruitcake, anyone? This particular mix calls for nearly 2 pounds of dried fruit!  I brushed one with simple syrup (and a touch of that eggnog extract) for a neighbor who can't have alcohol, and used Grand Marnier on the rest.  This takes a bit of time; marinate the dried fruit overnight in syrup or liquor, then after the baking (in a slow oven, so longer cooking time), you have to let it cool completely, then wrap it up and let it sit at least 24 hrs before serving.  In other words, I'll be making my fruitcake deliveries tomorrow.  This has been quite the process.  If the results are good enough, though, I may do this again.

Getting the fruit was more involved than I expected.  I didn't like the look of the dried fruit available in grocery stores, so I went to Whole Foods and bought 6 or 7 different kinds of dried fruit, nearly all of which had to be chopped into bite-size pieces, and bought a pound of glazed cherries online to get the 10 oz. the recipe calls for.  (Tip: spraying your knife with Pam before you start makes things go a little more quickly.)  I'll find out tomorrow whether the dried fruit combo - apricots, dates, mango, blueberries, cherries and 1 more - was a success.  However, I'm optimistic - when I called the KAF baker's hotline to ask which of the fruits I'd bought would be best to use, the gentleman who answered thought they all sounded good, and was particularly intrigued that I'd found dried blueberries.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Plotting & planning

... for more auditions.  Decisions, decisions:  Next week, Ragtime - trying to decide what to sing.  Next decision: do I want to audition for Six Degrees of Separation?  And I almost don't want to get cast in Ragtime so I can audition a few weeks later for a Cole Porter show I'd never heard of.  I haven't heard the music yet (it's on order), but it's Cole Porter - what's not to love, right? ;)  If I don't get cast in any of these, then it'll be late fall before I'll be able to do another show.  I'm missing doing a musical - not sure if I want Ragtime (I'd be seriously chuffed (and quite surprised - I expect LOTS of competition) if I were cast as Mother) or want to take my chances on the Cole Porter.  It has only 2 roles I'd be considered for, and one of those is iffy.  Would I take ensemble?  Depends on how much singing & dancing they'd let me do - the more, the better!

In the meantime, I'm gong thru music, planning to cover my gray, trying to get my voice back into training, and looking forward to singing & dancing a few bars for people.  (My last audition, while not a disaster, wasn't all that great; I knew I'd be getting one of those "thanks but no thanks" e-mails.)

Monday, January 28, 2013

On to the next...

One show closes, must be time to find another one to do.  Tonight I'll be checking to see who's got spring shows and find out which ones I want to audition for.  Musicals, straight plays - as long as it's not too far or runs into or past Memorial Day weekend, I'll consider it.  First step is to pick an audition song and get it ready.  My resume's current, and I have headshots; now to decide at whose auditions I'll leave 'em...

Sunday, January 27, 2013

So what did I learn?

... from doing this show? 
  • First & foremost, that I can do more than I thought I could.  My memorization was never quite where I wanted it to be, but I did manage to pull off the role.
  • I found that I was usually able to cry when I needed to, something that I'm sure will be useful in subsequent roles.
  • When I have a LOT of lines to learn, I'll set mini-deadlines for memorizing X number of pages or certain scenes. ("I have to be completely off book by this date, so I'll get this scene down by date A, pages 20-30 down by date B...")
  • With a lot of thought and focus, I can shift from one mood to another in a single scene and make it believable.  That is, if one friend's comments weren't meant only to protect my feelings... ;)
  • I can "smoke" onstage pretty realistically with fake cigarettes.
  • With enough practice and patience, my "opponent" and I can pull off a scuffle.
  • I'm a Del Shores fan - I love the way he writes for women, at least in this play.

Another show closed

Last performance last night, followed by strike (because another company was loading into the theater this morning), followed by a cast party at a nearby diner.  Our marvel of a stage manager (SM) loved her gift (2 season tix to the company's new season and a poster signed by the cast & director), and the director loved his so much he actually teared up!  (Texas-shaped frame with just enough openings for pictures of each cast member, the SM and director)  The director also had all of us sign the lobby poster of the show logo.

Very well organized strike - we were outta there by midnight!  It helps that it was a one-set show and we had plenty of volunteers in addition to the cast & crew, but there were still truckloads of props to take care of, as well as furniture that included an actual upright piano.  Maybe the fact that so much of the stuff was loaned to the company helped a little - that meant those things went home with their owners instead of needing to be shoehorned into the truck.

What a great theater experience this turned out to be.  I learned a lot, both about acting and about my own abilities, got to meet and work with some great people, and learned about a playwright who writes GREAT roles for women and is still writing.  (I've already ordered copies of 5 more of his plays.)  Del Shores is only 55; may he continue to have a productive career!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Before I have to go thru theater withdrawal

Here my show has barely opened and I'm already looking at auditioning for spring shows.  I'll probably go tomorrow for a company I've been trying to break into (they get scores of people at their auditions - VERY stiff competition), another company is doing Ragtime, and a 3rd is doing a Cole Porter show that sounds like fun. The music director and choreographer for that one are both people I've worked with before and would enjoy working with again; only the stage director is an unknown.  Pity my poor theater widower. ;)

A 4-footed audience member?!?

Yesterday when we came out for the curtain call, I heard this strange sound over the music.  Eventually, I realized that odd silhouette I was seeing was a dog roughly the size of a spaniel that had its front paws on the armrest and was barking its head off.  (I imagine the music and clapping were hurting its ears.)  This was no service dog - a working dog would be bigger and better-behaved.  Who brings their dog to the theater?  I can't imagine the poor beastie enjoyed the show, and it may have bothered some of the patrons, especially if they had allergies.

Now I understand why actors don't read reviews until after they close

Opening weekend went pretty well - the house was at least 2/3 full each night and the audiences all seemed to enjoy the show.  The fight scene went very easily - finally felt smooth & natural.  I stumbled a little on my opening speech, but in general I think I did pretty well.  Hardly an award-winning performance, but nothing to be ashamed of, either.  I was a bit thrown when the audience was laughing at points throughout my big, emotional scene, but given the way Shores has other characters throwing in non sequiturs and other interjections to lighten the mood, I can understand it.  I may never know whether I made anyone cry, but at least I know the wig made 'em laugh. :)

We've gotten 2 reviews so far.  The first reviewer gave us 5 stars out of 5, went into great detail (starting with the costumes - my kinda reviewer :D), and had absolutely nothing negative to say.  The 2nd reviewer was less glowing; didn't like the costumes the first reviewer did, mentioned only 2 performers (though both reviewers had the same favorite), and generally said it was fun, but not great.  Funny how 2 people can see the same production so differently.  This sort of thing tends to remind me of The Six Blind Men of Indostan - everyone encountering the same thing, but in very different ways.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

How did that happen?

All along I've been a bit in awe of the size of my role in this play.  The other night, one of my (very experienced and eminently talented) castmates confirmed what I'd been trying not to think about, that mine is the largest role in the show.  How did that happen?!? 

I've always considered myself a singer who acts, rather than an actor who sings, and I only auditioned for this show for the practice.  I never expected to make callbacks, let alone get cast in the lead!  Quite a change for someone who's used to ensemble and featured roles.  I've been trying not to think too much about how big the role is and how much other people's cues and things rely on my getting my lines right. Sometimes, though, it's hard not to stress out, simply because I've never had such a big role before.  I think it would have been less stressful had it been a musical role - I've had plenty of experience learning music and choreography.

TW has been after me for years to audition for straight plays, not just musicals.  I've been doing that, but the demographics have generally been against me (fewer roles for women than for men, fewer roles for "women of a certain age" than for younger women, more women than men auditioning).  Now, though, I'll be auditioning for plays with a new confidence, knowing that at least one director believes in my ability to deliver a huge, meaty role.  Starting Friday, I have 8 chances to do just that.  And in cotton-candy-blue hair! :D

Tech week

Every time I go into tech week, I mention to at least one castmate that I love it because that's when the magic happens.  Having the sets, costumes, make-up, props, sound and lights make so much difference! That's when it starts to feel real, that you really are putting on a show, not just rehearsing for the fun of it.

This tech has been a bit different.  For starters, this company doesn't have anywhere to do any set construction ahead of load-in, so that first day is spent loading materials, not sets.  Makes for a very long day (and very creative set design and judicious play selection).  Monday was our first run on the set, which is usually one train wreck after another because distances are different, spacing is different - everything that affects your timing is different from the rehearsal space.  To my surprise, we had only minor problems, and only tweaks to the blocking. We also added wigs for those of us wearing them.  I was hugely relieved to learn that mine wasn't as extreme as I'd feared, nor was it the distraction it could have been.  ("Will it stay on during the fight? Or when...")  Last night we didn't get thru the whole show because the lighting and sound techs spent a lot of time setting up their cues.  It was also our first full dress; it was great to run things with the full rig - hair, make-up and costumes.  Unfortunately, because the tech work needed so much time, we only ran the first scene of Act II, not getting to the one quick change 3 of us have.  We finally got to work that tonight and I was relieved to see that I have a little more time than I thought I would, especially if I can get someone to help me get my boots off.

Tonight we also choreographed the curtain call.  And yes, it's choreographed, not just blocked.  Our director has us doing a very simple little dance.  Some of the others ("I'm no dancer!") were freaking out a little, but I thought it was fun, of course.  At one point I found myself calling it for people; our director seemed happy to let me, and even let me give a starting count the next time we ran it.  I hope the choreophobes can get comfortable with it; I'm certainly willing to do what I can to make that happen for them.  Now to figure out how to give that starting count so we can all hear it but the audience doesn't realize that's what's going on.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Walking wounded

Such a day!  I had 2 wisdom teeth taken out 2 weeks ago.  (If you want to lose weight over the holidays, tooth extraction is guaranteed to keep you from overeating.)  This morning found me back in the oral surgeon's chair; turns out I had a bit of bone that was trying to work its way out.  He gave me a coupla shots of novocaine, winkled that thing outta there, and sent me on my merry way.

As luck (or Murphy) would have it, today was our second marathon rehearsal (9-4:30), and our last before moving into the theater.  I showed up less than half an hour late (thank heaven for dental offices that open at 7 on Saturdays), still a bit numb, and dove right into the scene they were working when I walked in.  As the anesthesia wore off, it started to feel as though the bit the doc removed had loosened a few smaller bits.  Either it was just an illusion or the bits eventually worked themselves loose, because that sensation faded by the lunch break.

Than there was that dreaded fight sequence.  During the second time we ran the show, I fell during that sequence and landed hard, squarely on my tailbone. =:o   Maybe it was adrenaline, but I was able to pick myself up and continue as if nothing had happened.  Later, though, it started to hurt, so that now I walk a little funny if I've been sitting still too long, and I'll probably have a nice bruise by tomorrow.  If only I'd managed to fall on padding, not bone!