Thursday, September 08, 2011

Yummy (Korean) wraps

Hey, this is pretty funny. There have been so many great things that have happened recently that I absolutely need to blog about, but what I just want to share now is what I cooked for dinner last night! Trader Joe's has some incredible Bulgogi beef (marinated meat, Korean-style, pre-sliced), which I cooked up on my stovetop grill, along with some sliced onion. Omigod...they were so good wrapped up in flour tortillas (nuked for 10-20 sec.) with shredded romaine lettuce. So, so delicious!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

My little baker (+ banana bread recipe)


In the last few months, 3 1/2 year-old Stefan has been really interested in cooking and baking. His first foray into the kitchen involved making gingerbread men after reading the story, "The Gingerbread Man." His eyes completely lit up after his first gingerbread man came out of the oven. I was surprised that he wasn't upset that the gingerbread man

didn't come leaping out of the oven and speak to us as he was expecting it to. But he seemed proud that he had made these cookies, from the measuring and mixing, to the rolling and cutting.

Today, he helped me mix the batter for the banana bread. Not my Fannie Farmer recipe adaptation, but one from my "Best Recipe" cookbook. Quite good, nice and moist, tender and full of banana-flavor. Here's my slightly adapted adaptation (no nuts, substituted buttermilk for yogurt):

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and grease and flour a 9-inch loaf pan.

Whisk dry ingredients in large bowl:

2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix with a spatula in a medium bowl:

four small mashed-up, ripe bananas (brown spots? yes!)
2 large eggs
6 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup buttermilk

Dump wet into dry and gently mix with a spatula just until all the dry ingredients have been incorporated. Pour into prepared loaf pan. Bake for 55 minutes (I keep the loaf pan near the door because the rear of my oven, like most, gets too hot) or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then move to wire rack. Eat warm or at room temp.

Store remainder in airtight container or plastic wrap/bag when completely cooled. Leave on counter at room temp or in cool place. Do not place in refrigerator, otherwise it'll dry out. Good for a couple days.

Point Reyes field trip (June 18, 2011)






My apologies for not blogging for ages! As John says, I've been living instead of blogging, which is true. I've been having such a good time that it seemed silly to be writing about living when I could actually be doing it. But, I realize that some of you have been taking my silence as something to worry about it, so I'm here to reassure you that all is well.

Here are photos from our last field trip, with our favorite homeschooling buddies. It was a beautiful warm day at Drakes Beach in Point Reyes. We had intended on participating in their junior ranger program -- reading through an activity booklet, completing the activities, and earning our badges,...but it was just too gorgeous of a day and the scenery was so breathtaking that we just had to enjoy the day and go with the flow of the children's energy. They ended up creating a "restaurant" on the beach, serving up seaweed burgers and noodles. Their kitchen was complete with a grill and a hole for a trash can (which they had to empty on more than one occasion!). And for some reason, they also buried the Greek god Poseidon just outside their restaurant. Wonder how he ended up there!

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The looming feeling is back


Well, that didn't take long! Last night I had that feeling again of having all this stuff to do and not enough time. Probably because I spent all day doing laundry and Cityville (I've retired from that addictive Facebook game as of late last night!). I wrote down a to-do list, and it's quite long. Yep, I've got plenty to do.

After I brushed my teeth last night, I thought that I should read something before bed. But nothing grabbed me. I realized that my mind actually didn't have any room to take anything in, but it had plenty of stuff to get out. So, I've decided to get back into personal journal writing because blogging doesn't allow for the same freedoms -- and you thought I wasn't holding anything back! :)

Tomorrow's my lumpectomy. Not to worry though. It's a benign lump, but large, so they're taking it out just to be on the safe side. They're thinking it might be the kind that keeps growing, and though it wouldn't be bad to have a larger left breast, I think I'll pass on that this time. I'm feeling good about the doing the procedure. Once it's over, I can resume my life without worries lingering in the back of my mind.

[Photo taken at Mt. Rainier, August 2010]

Sunday, January 02, 2011

I've lost that looming feeling


I'm sitting here at my dining table feeling a little bit at a loss. Usually, I have many projects and tasks looming over me, awaiting my attention. I probably still have some left to do, but right now, I feel like all the big ones are done -- am I actually twiddling my thumbs? It's a bizarre sensation, to not have a messy house to clean (which is almost always the case), to not have homeschooling lessons to plan (got that done last night), to not have cooking to do (all done for the day), to not have...ah. Yes, I do have laundry! Thought there had to be something! But laundry can wait. I think I'll go enjoy this precious free moment to play some piano. I'll work on my Chopin nocturnes, just in case I will have to pull them out to play for a couple friends who seem to be intense fans of my interpretation of Bartok.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Yes!

I just looked at my last couple of postings and I thought, "Yikes. People are gonna be worried about me. Time to brighten things up a little."

Things have much improved since mid-November. I'm sleeping better now, I've relaxed my expectations for homeschooling a bit, and I've been happily singing all over the Bay Area -- five concerts in less than two weeks! No more stressing about my identity beyond motherhood. I'm a singer...there's no question about it. I had a cold -- I sang through it. I slept badly -- I sang through it. My voice really surprised me with its resiliency. Ten years ago, when I was studying voice, my teacher complained of my voice's inconsistency. Who knew what my voice was going to sound like each day. With the increased frequency of singing these days, my voice has found its home and usually finds where it belongs with some warm-up.

There's still plenty of room for improvement regarding my voice, so I will keep working at it. Lessons, workshops...whatever it takes to reach my fullest potential.

I'm walking on air these days. The singing, and the company of other friendly musicians, have brought me much joy. And John's been very supportive of my musical endeavors -- getting home in time for me to catch my carpool rides, working at home when I need to do a daytime performance...John knows that a happy home depends on a happy mommy, and I'm here to prove that that is certainly the case.

Now I wonder if I'll suffer some withdrawal symptoms in the next few non-singing weeks. Yikes!

Here's an update on my health situation. All's good, but I may need a lump removed. I'll be consulting with a surgeon next week. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Exhausted? Depressed?

Eh, feeling a little out of sorts today. I felt a little dizzy this afternoon, opted not to take Maylin to karate, and instead, took a long nap with Stefan. I woke up feeling...exhausted. I don't know if I'll ever get caught up with sleep. I feel like I've gone for weeks with 3-5 hours of sleep a night, which means I'm missing out on my REM sleep, the most valuable sleep-time you can get. I've been missing out on my exercise classes as well. My body's starting to really crave that regular physical activity. My hip hop and jazz dance classes can probably help with my sleep problems. Maybe Thursday evening, if I'm not totally wiped out, I can head out to a class.

My body wasn't too happy today, and neither was my mind. My mind should be at ease. After all, we met with our homeschooling charter school's education coordinator and she helped me understand the state standards for third grade, which didn't look as daunting as I had previously thought. Yes, there's some multi-digit multiplication and long division on the spring state test, but it's not heavily emphasized, and who knows? We might be able to make it there by that time. Maylin's picking up new math skills quite easily. It's the memorization part that is hard to make her do. She can do it, but she doesn't like doing it -- I can tell. It's tedious, it's boring -- it's just not creative at all. Not a fitting activity for a super-creative eight year-old who would rather write penpal letters, e-mails, newsletters, how-to manuals, and novels (she's written nearly 5000 words now!).

Ah, while writing the last paragraph, I felt a dark cloud being lifted away from my head and my eyes. I feel loads better mentally! I had a feeling that the writing might make things better for me. This is my therapy.

I was going through quite a bit of anxiety in the last couple weeks. I had had a mammogram and an ultrasound, showing two lumps that were questionable. I was very upset and shocked. I had expected to walk out of the hospital with an a-ok. Instead, I came out with an appointment for a biopsy the following week, a ball of pain down in my throat, and tears that I wouldn't let come out. The worst part of the ultrasound-guided biopsy was my reaction to the local anesthetic (lightheadedness, nausea, imagined sweating), and the agonizing wait for my delayed results. Fortunately, everything came out just fine. The lumps were benign and no follow-up would be necessary. What a relief!

I'm wiped out. Having the kids 24-7 is starting to wear on me. I haven't given myself enough alone time because I've needed to be at home to rest. Tomorrow, I'm going to take a nice, long walk on my own. Maybe take along my laptop and sit at a cafe. Or go to the music library on campus and find some scores I want to study for an upcoming audition tape I need to make.

I've got some research to do. More later!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Failure at novel writing

Maylin's doing great at her novel -- writes regularly and is fast-approaching her 5,000 word goal. In my case, I wrote 2,000 words, gave up on it because I couldn't resolve several mini-plots, and then I started another book -- more like a childhood memoir, but I don't see myself realistically making the 50,000 word goal by November 30. I'll keep writing at my own pace. Why add stress to my life? I want writing to be enjoyable for me, not painful.

I haven't been able to focus on the writing at all, really, as I had intended in the late summer. I am back in love with my first love, music. Didn't expect it to happen, but it did. The right mix of music and people, and bam! I got the music bug again when I thought I had convinced myself that music really wasn't all that important to me. Now it's almost the most important thing to me after my family. How's that for a turn-around?

I haven't been able to make it regularly to my dance classes either. Health issues, sleep issues, I've had lots of excuses. I'm shooting for December to get back into physical fitness.

Speaking of health and fitness, I had a mammogram and ultrasound a week and a half ago, confirming one lump and discovering a second. Monday, I had an ultrasound-guided biopsy to check them out. Tomorrow, I should be getting the results. My guess is that it won't be cancer, but that one lump may have to be removed. That will still be scary to me. Yuck. Don't want to think about it now. We'll just cross that bridge when we get to it.

The big news doesn't end there. Maylin and I are considering completely homeschooling without strings attached. This means that we are thinking about leaving the charter school that has supported us with guidance from a teacher, books, classes, and money for extracurricular activities. We think it may be worth it to remove ourselves from the pressures of state standards, state tests, and continue at our own pace, which for math, may seem slow, but is very thorough and fun. Language arts -- Maylin's breezing through that. No problem. I don't want us to get stressed out about mastering stuff like long division by April, when I don't see the value in stressing out a third grader unnecessarily. If she learns it next year instead (so she can spend this year fully understanding the math concepts), I don't see any harm in that. Even if she learned it in fifth grade, it wouldn't matter much either. I will further discuss this with our Education Coordinator and other homeschoolers, but I think this may be the right choice for us. The main reason for us to homeschool to begin with, was to avoid bureacracy and protect the child's natural enjoyment of learning. I feel our charter school (probably any similar organization would do the same) is beginning to encroach on our freedoms. I think we're outgrowing it. To be continued...

Friday, October 29, 2010

Off-blog in November


Just a notice that I may take a break from my blog for the entire month of November. I will be trying to write 2000 words a day for my novel, hoping to reach 50,000 words by November 30! Maylin's goal is 5000, and she's nearly there already from sheer inspiration. Amazing.

So don't worry about me if it seems like I've disappeared off the face of the planet. I'm just holed up somewhere with my laptop, fingers flying.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Hey, everything's okay now!

Yes, life for me was out of whack, but that's always a temporary situation. Sure, the house is a wreck right now, but at least I feel more in balance now. My choir concerts went wonderfully, my handling of book orders has become second nature, and my t-shirt design is done, but just needs to be formatted correctly for printing. Homeschooling Maylin should resume normal pace shortly (we slowed down quite a bit for most subjects except math and writing), and Stefan will be read to more regularly now. By the way, John says that Stefan can read some words! I'm terribly excited, but Stefan denies knowing how to read. I can give you more of a confirmation later.

Maylin's already written about 2600 words for her novel which will be finished on November 30th. I haven't started mine yet -- the rule is to start on November 1st, according to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) organizers, but I cannot stop Maylin's inspirational flow! No way.

She absolutely loves writing. It helps a lot that she knows how to type. Otherwise, her output would be a lot less. Recently, she's typed up 4-5 one-page "newsletters" (they're really great -- with exciting articles, fictional, of course) on the computer, and a page of secret information, which she won't let me read, on Grandma's electric typewriter.

So here's a revelation. Music is still a big part of my life. I absolutely cannot live without it -- the process of making it and sharing it with others. From 1998-2000, it was the most important thing in my life (aside from John and my family). My dream was to become an early music singer. So I went back to school and got my bachelor's equivalency (almost like the degree, but the university wouldn't waive the general education requirements even though I already had a degree from Cal). I was intending on applying to masters programs in early music, but realized that I had to make a choice between that and my husband-to-be (who would had have a much tougher time finding satisfying work if we ended up in the boonies). At the time, my self-confidence was at an all-time low, and I was mildly depressed. I enrolled in a local masters program in music education, did enjoy it, and applied what I learned to my music teaching jobs, but it wasn't as satisfying as performing as a singer regularly, which I did in the bachelor's program.

After I gave birth to Maylin, I stopped studying and working (four part-time jobs, at the minimum) and devoted myself whole-heartedly to motherhood. Some time after our move to Paris, I was itching to sing again. I thought I would audition for a Baroque choir directed by the famous Jean Sourrisse, but I chickened out. Instead, I somehow landed myself in a small opera ensemble and sang the role of Papagena and the First Lady (one of three ladies, NOT the wife of a president) in Mozart's The Magic Flute. Through the group, I found a wonderful voice teacher and some wonderful friends who, eventually dissatisfied as I was with the direction of the group, started our own opera ensemble. The four of us, plus a soprano who auditioned for us, formed a fun, dedicated group that rehearsed opera duets and trios once a week, with me functioning as accompanist, director, and singer. Sadly, the group was unable to continue after I withdrew due to a pregnancy complication.

Four years later, in Berkeley, one of my friendly neighbors invited me to join her a cappella group, which sang an eclectic mix of pop, jazz, Renaissance, and world music. It was a wonderful group of dedicated moms, which welcomed me with open arms. They re-instilled my confidence as a singer. I even got to arrange a folk song for them, which was a great experience.

Then, I had my breakdown this past summer. I convinced myself that I didn't need music. I told myself I'd be perfectly happy just enrolling in a one-week early music program each summer to satisfy my urge to sing (solos, in particular). I was going to dedicate myself to writing and jazz dance, which, at the time, was pulling me out of my misery. I sadly resigned from the a cappella group to make the time for my new activities (I did it in a poor way, but that's another blog entry).

Unfortunately, I've found that the dancing options for me are pretty slim. I found the most amazing jazz dance teacher, but she teaches only one class a week that's available to the general public (her other classes are for serious college dancers and professionals). Hip hop classes have been more difficult for me to get to. I was taking them mostly for the cardio exercise (and they're really fun, too). I might be able to work it back in by December. The writing I can still do. I'm happy I'm getting back into it now. It should be regular now. I need to be disciplined about it.

But my creative focus is now back in music. I've joined a wonderful choir which focuses on Baroque music in particular, and I've found it to be an experience that's transcended all my expectations -- due to a fantastic director, the most beautiful repertoire, a friendly group of people, and a very special friend-singer (she's like a long-lost sister). Hey, this is a life-changing experience for me. It's like I've finally come home. I'm singing again -- singing music I love, singing with people I love. What more could I ask for? (Leaving the a cappella group was really tough because I loved the people, but I didn't totally love the music).

So my musical adventure is beginning again. I hope to take voice lessons again to get my voice back on track. There are so many things to work on. My breathing technique is not as good as it was in Paris, I think. My upper range has shrunk. My placement comes and goes. What would be fun is to get into a master's vocal program, but that's a pretty silly idea considering my family responsibilities. And, I don't think I could bear spending less and less time with my dear ones. Right now, the time away from them is just about right. I guess, when the kids get older, I'll be able to carve more time for myself. As they become more independent, I'll become more independent. I like how that works out.

It seems that this blog, at least for now, has turned into a "who am I?" exploration. I admire those who seem to have found their calling and are working hard to reach their fullest potential. I am way at the bottom of the totem pole, still just trying to figure out where to focus my energy. Am I just one of those people who will never focus? John calls me the greatest generalist. I may have reached a certain proficiency at several things, but will I ever be a master of something? Is that something to strive for? Or should I be content with being a dilettante?