Thursday, April 30, 2009

Conducting duck

Mama Duck attempts to conduct Beethoven's Ninth backwards. Her babies are confused. Photo taken early April in Blackhawk, California.

Little Red Riding Hood

Stefan plays the role of Little Red Riding Hood on the patio of a Mexican restaurant in Blackhawk, before a visit to the car museum in early April.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Beautiful music, part II

If I could play as well as Julia Fischer, I would play this Sarabande by Bach this way. Why can't we get more of this honest, unpretentious playing from other celebrated musicians?

Beautiful music, part I

I'd like to start sharing music with you on my blog, alongside everything else. If I can get my act together, I'll record something for you, my own singing, maybe an original composition...hmmm...but for now, here's a gorgeous piece by Antonio Vivaldi, sung exquisitely by Cecilia Bartoli. Here's the translation thanks to Wikipedia:

Sposa son disprezzata (in Italian)

I am wife and I am scorned,
I am faithful and I'm outraged.
Heavens, what have I done?
And yet he is my heart,
my husband, my love,
my hope.

I love him, but he is unfaithful,
I hope, but he is cruel,
will he let me die?
O God, valor is missing -
valor and constancy.

Everything from scratch

Well, almost everything. I am weaning myself from as many processed food items as possible. I don't buy cookies anymore. I bake them all myself from scratch. I try to avoid buying bread -- I can bake it myself. Pizza? I'm doing it on my own now, sauce and dough. Ice cream? Homemade. Oh yeah, it's a lot of work (mostly planning), but it's worth it. I like being self-sufficient, and I also like knowing exactly what I'm ingesting. I hate looking at the ingredients on a package of cookies or crackers and finding things I don't recognize and things that I do that I know are bad for you. No more transfats! I don't bake with shortening anymore (there's a load of transfats right there). Of course, I'm still going to buy an occasional package of hot dogs for the kids (but no nitrites or nitrates!) and some frozen potstickers -- although I'm feeling much more comfortable making my own now. I just have to learn how to make my own wrappers -- which I hear is simple but seems really time-consuming.

Life is very food-oriented these days. I have to really be organized to make sure I've got about two loaves of healthy bread baked a week, homemade cookies for Maylin's hip hop class snack, and meals made of mainly whole foods. It might be interesting to find out if I'm saving money going this route. I'm definitely saving money in the bread category. I always feel like the supermarkets are robbing me when it comes to bread. Come on -- over $4 for a little loaf of whole grain bread? And I know it's $2 wholesale. And it's even cheaper when I make it at home.

Okay, gotta check on the bread. See ya. Eat well. Take care of that body. Everything hinges on your health.

Am I still here?

Oops, blogging went by the wayside. I am exhausted right now, but just wanted to say that all is well over here. We did have a bout of the stomach flu last weekend but we got over it just fine.

I have a beautiful new kitchen now. Designed by John, executed by his best friend from Ohio. I'll post pics when I get it cleaned up again.

Stefan is an amazing child. Still very loving, sociable, giving. Seems to have a gift for music -- he can sing the first four notes of our clean-up song that we learned in Chinese class ("dah-dah-dah-dah"). Did I mention I've been taking Chinese with Stefan? It's been an excellent review for me. I've never used so much Chinese since age five! And whenever we sing the clean-up song, Stefan actually cleans up! John says that that song alone is worth the class fee.

Stefan is also very much an intellectual. Loves numbers and letters, and can identify so many things! He knows most of his animals, including giraffes, zebras, and flamingos. He still can't actually say the words, but when we ask him to find the pictures in the book, there his little index finger goes.

He's a boy, so he's also into cars, trucks, trains, planes, fire engines, construction equipment. Can all boys at the age of 19 and a half months identify a forklift?

Maylin had been really focused on her artwork, but now, she's a bit more balanced. She's doing great at ballet -- a real natural. And exquisitely beautiful, perfect lean body, long legs. For those of you who know ballet-speak, she was able to do a passe in releve with her arms over her head. Unbelievable! Without really being taught. It was just demonstrated to her. She also just started taking hip hop classes and is great at that as well. I was quite a good dancer as a young girl -- it's neat to see that that part of me is in her.

Maylin's also taking Chinese (over a year?) -- and I've actually heard her speak to her teacher in Chinese. Wow.

This summer, she'll be doing soccer, swimming, ceramics, and Camp Armitage! What's Camp Armitage, you say? Well, it's this little (rather, big) idea that I had in October or November of last year. At the time, I was having fun teaching different subjects to Maylin's classmates. Wouldn't it be great to teach these kids out of my home whatever I wanted? My interests and talents are diverse -- if I taught different things, I wouldn't get bored. So, I sent out an e-mail to parents of Maylin's friends to see if this idea was worth pursuing. There was a resounding "yes," and within a week, I had fourteen kids signed up for camp, for two separate week-long sessions. I offered to teach some French, Chinese, singing, piano, science, arts/crafts, cooking, and baking. Did I miss anything?

You might be thinking that I'm nuts to have eight kids (including Maylin) taking over my house for five days in a row, 9-4 pm. I actually think it'll be great fun, and I've got parent volunteers and my sister-in-law to help, so I think everything should be under control. I've promised several people that I would blog my adventure, so check in here once in awhile.

I've received my first registration form and check, so that's exciting! I haven't worked out all the expenses, but I should be able to at least break even. The other exciting thing is that I'm designing a camp t-shirt for the kids so I can spot them quickly if we go to a crowded park.

I am seriously into baking now. I've got two whole wheat loaves in the oven at the moment. I have a lot to learn before I teach the kids how to do it. I'm pretty good at the cookies although I'm trying to find out how to make my cookies consistent visually from batch to batch. Two batches ago, my molasses spice cookies were delicious and a beautiful dark brown. This last batch, they were delicious, but a not too appealing lighter brown. I'm scratching my head on this one. I've also been making my own pizzas, including the dough. Trying to perfect that. Sometimes my crust is like a cracker. I want a soft crust on the edges, but crispy on the bottom. I just ordered a baking stone, so that might help solve a part of the problem.

I recently got this crazy idea of doing some cooking shows for kids -- for TV, or youTube. John thinks I'm nuts, but I think it'd be so cool!!!

Last thing, I'm also into making ice cream. It's my latest project. In the last week, I've made two ice creams. My lemon one was pretty good, and my strawberry has an awesome flavor but leaves a sticky residue on the spoon. I'm pretty sure I overcooked my custard, but does that have anything to do with the residue?