a little something extra

Thursday, January 31, 2008

page 123 tag

Tripp tagged me with this meme. The instructions are to pick up the nearest book of 123 pages or more. Find page 123. Find the first 5 sentences. Post the next 3 sentences. Tag 5 people.

OK, here goes...

Be not too tame neither, but let your own discretion be your tutor.

Suit the action to the word, the word to the action; with this special observance, that you o'erstep not the modesty of nature.

For anything so overdone is from the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first and now, was and is, to hold, as 'twere, the mirror up to nature; to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure.

Yes folks, Hamlet's Advice to the Players (Act III scene 2), as printed on page 123 of A Sourcebook in Theatrical History: Twenty-five centuries of stage history in more than 300 basic documents and other primary material, by A. M. Nagler.

I'm not going to tag anyone specifically. If you feel like participating in this meme, consider yourself tagged!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

there are no calories in this post

Because this one isn't about food.

My weekend plans got fairly thoroughly rearranged today, thanks to a message from friend M* who lives in Atlanta, and to the weather forecast.

Originally I had planned to use this weekend to work on painting the living room and hall in my apartment. I didn't know whether I would finish them -- they're not large but they will require a fair amount of time and attention to prep. But at least I intended to make a good start.

Then I found out that the weather forecast has us slated for rain. All. Weekend. We need it; our drought level was terrible, and we simply skipped the rainy season last winter. So I'm not kvetching about the rain. Not even a little bit. It's been raining off and on for about 36 hours now, and according to my local paper's website it's supposed to keep raining through Sunday. This is good news overall, though bad news for would-be painters like myself.

Since it makes no sense to try to paint while it's raining, I will just not paint this weekend. I may spackle and sand, if the mood strikes. I will also not paint next weekend, since I will be running up to the Bay Area to see friends and plays. And as La Jersild always said on her blog... don't come burgle my house while I'm gone, it's all boobytrapped, you will die a horrible tortuous death and thereafter be eaten by the attack cat, etc. etc. and so forth.

(No, I don't have a cat at all, let alone an attack cat.)

(No, you don't need to try to remedy this situation.)

The second and happier reason to revise my weekend plan was the email I found from M* this morning, saying she is coming to this conference. I've gone to the first two iterations of this conference, last year and the year before. When info started circulating about this year's edition, I farmed it out to a bunch of friends (including M*), inviting them to stay at my place if they decided they wanted to go to the conf. Nobody took me up on that, and I let that plus the prospect of painting woo me away from planning to go myself.

I haven't seen M* in about a year and a half. So the prospect of her visiting a 90 minute drive away, instead of being a 5-hour flight away, means I shall go!

I have to work tomorrow, of course, and I have plans in the evening that I don't want to miss. Then on Saturday I have an appointment at noon for a badly needed haircut, but I can call to see if there's any room in the schedule to shift it earlier. Once my hair is cut, I'll go up to the conference and kibitz for the day. I have tentative Saturday night plans, but I haven't received confirmation and it's been weeks since I last saw the person supposedly throwing this party, so I'm sort of doubting it's going to happen at all. Another person mentioned a different party on Saturday night, but hasn't called to confirm either. That makes it easier to consider skipping both erstwhile options to hang out at the conference for a bit longer.

I have a 9:30 a.m. call at the COWHN on Sunday to rehearse the Mozart we're singing during the service. But maybe I'll take M* up on her offer of hotel room crash space at the conference site, and drive down early in the morning. It would be a nicer drive in the daylight, even if it's rainy dreary daylight.

So, to recap, the original plan was --
Saturday: prep to paint, go get hair cut, paint paint paint, go to one or both potential parties
Sunday: breakfast at home, Mozart, service, farmer's market, paint paint paint

The new plan looks like --
Saturday: get hair cut as early as possible, go to conference, hang out with extremely cool people I rarely see. Probably stay overnight.
Sunday: breakfast in the car while driving back down for Mozart, service, farmer's market. Maybe spackle and sand. Maybe make pasta sauce? I've used up the last of the batch that was stashed in the freezer.

See, the food snuck in there after all.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

bread, then bed

A rainy evening is a good time to make soda bread. It probably wouldn't be too kind to yeasted bread, but soda bread is hardier. And heck, it's Irish cuisine -- they're the people to turn to for recipes that work when it's wet and cold.

So this evening I made three loaves, then ran to the nearby grocery store for a jar of honey to go with them. Cut the mostly-cooled loaves into wedges, wrapped them up in foil, and handed the whole package off to the agreed deliveryperson I mentioned in yesterday's post. Done!

The rest of the evening has only held putzing. I paid a couple of bills, reread the first several months of this blog, answered some email, didn't answer other email. I had thought I might prep the hallway for painting, but I don't think the spackle would dry well as the rain comes down outside. It can wait till Saturday morning.

Good night, y'all!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”

The above quote comes to us from J.R.R. Tolkien. And the unexpected motif of today was: food.

It was an ordinary day. And my ordinary days ordinarily have something of a food focus anyway. There are many reasons why I like to cook -- it's creative, it's cheap, it helps keep up the variety in my vegetarian diet, I like to shop for food, and when I get to feed other people too, so much the better!

Ordinarily I only cook dinner a couple of times a week, because it then takes me several days to eat up the leftovers. I carry my lunch to work almost every single day, which uses up a lot of those leftovers. Same goes for the days when I have rehearsal or some other commitment after work that means I need to bring dinner along for the ride too.

For a while, I subscribed to Cooking Light magazine. And I cut a lot of recipes out of that resource. I mean a lot of recipes. I let that subscription lapse in 2004, and I still have a ton of recipes I haven't tried yet from that publication and other sources. There they sit, in a manila envelope on my shelf with the cookbooks, the clippings grouped into big general categories (main dishes, vegetable sides, soups, breakfast/brunch stuff, etc.) Patiently waiting their turn.

This week I pulled two new recipes from the bunch to try. The first was a cassoulet made with white beans, root veggies and faux sausage. I made that Sunday night, after visiting the farmer's market on Sunday afternoon. This was my first attempt to cook with parsnips. I felt like a birdwatcher adding a new species to her "life list."

The second new recipe was tonight, a light curry of onions and chickpeas served over garlicky sauteed spinach (another part of the farmer's market haul). I made plain brown rice to go with it. And while the cassoulet was just okay, tonight's menu was a winner!

In Tripp's Monday video blog, which I was looking forward to throughout the day yesterday, he asked for recipes and recommendations. So I posted the chickpea and spinach menu directions along to him, happy to share the good stuff I had found.

After dinner, I called a friend from the Church of What's Happenin' Now, to help me out with a delivery of -- you guessed it -- yet more food.

The Church of What's Happenin' Now has a teen group that gathers a couple of times a month. Their sessions always include dinner, which is provided for them by various other parts of the church community. This week, it's the choir's turn to feed the teenagers.

I volunteered to make soda bread. I have my late grandmother's recipe for a slightly sweet, white soda bread with currants or raisins. It's superb breakfast food, but not quite right for dinner in my opinion. What I have in mind for tomorrow's teen feast is a plain fruit-free soda bread made with half whole-wheat flour. I've made it before and it's yummy and quick. So my plan is to make two loaves tomorrow evening.

Unfortunately, the hungry teens meet before I can actually get there on Thursday. We're supposed to drop our contributions off at 6:30, at which time I will be somewhere on the 405, creeping along with the rest of the rush hour lemmings.

Since a couple of the other choir members live in my neighborhood, I emailed them today to see whether one of them could take my bread over on Thursday. One of them came right through -- and since he has kids who participate in the teen group, it's easy for him to take my bread along.

So. Food for me today, check. Food for friends today, check. Food plan for tomorrow, check. Food delivery arranged for teen kids on Thursday, check. Food food food... anybody up for Oliver?

Monday, January 21, 2008

more pretty, less mess

The bedroom is put back together. And I must say, I'm quite pleased with how it looks! The test patch revealed that I had originally bought too intense a color, so I picked up a gallon of plain white and mixed it in. That had just the effect I was looking for. Now the furniture is back in place, pictures and so forth re-hung, bed remade. I keep going back in there just for the pleasure of looking at it.

I'm not a crafty enough painter to get into faux finishes or anything complicated like that. Maybe in another lifetime. But the paint job is clean, smooth and fresh looking. I was a little concerned that the new wall color would make the dings and scuffs on the painted baseboards stand out, but because most of my furniture sits along the walls in there, I don't notice the baseboards at all.

I'm willing to paint baseboards in a home I own. Not so much in a place I rent. And since the place I own has baseboards that are varnished natural wood instead of paint, I don't even have to do that! Though I approved the tenants repainting the entryway (they got rid of the rose pink I put in there, which I liked but I realized was an idiosyncratic choice) I've forbidden them to paint any of the woodwork, just in case.

Mental note, though: it's a bad idea to move my bed by myself. No grave harm done, but I am reminded that it's fundamentally a smart choice to get help moving items that are heavier than you are.

No more painting will happen until at least next weekend, so for now, corners of the living room are dedicated to storage of paint and painting equipment. Not the most aesthetic addition to my decor, but at least it's temporary, and all for the greater good.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

painted lady

The bedroom is now wearing its second coat of paint. It's a beautiful, sunny, dry weekend here, perfect for painting. I have the bedroom window cranked open to let the paint fumes out. (Yes, you chilly East Coasters, I am rubbing it in just a little bit.)

Though friends A* and S* both offered to help paint when I saw them last weekend. they both bowed out on my invitation to tackle it this weekend. S* had scheduled herself to be out of town this weekend, and A* has had a stressful week and needed some down time. No harm, no foul on either count.

But as y'all know, I am not generally the Queen of Patience. When I get in the mood to do a project like this, I don't want to wait. And I often overdo it.

So first, I consider it a personal best that I tackled only one room by myself this weekend. And not even a whole room. 3/4 of a room. The fourth wall of my bedroom is all built-in storage, which is painted off-white to match all the woodwork in the place. No way was I going to paint that.

I did a lot of the preparation work on Friday night. Took down the pictures and hangers from the walls, spackled and sanded where repairs were needed. Moved small furniture pieces out of the room and pushed the big ones (bed, two low bookshelves, chest of drawers) towards the middle. Put up all the blue tape around the edges of the paintable walls. I still slept in there Friday night.

Saturday I had a morning obligation, but the afternoon was free for painting. Down went the dropcloths, and up went the first coat of paint. It was predictably splotchy, but still, just getting some color up on the walls made a tremendous difference to how I felt in there.

It was pretty, but still stinky. I fled the worst of the fumes by decamping to my favorite neighborhood coffee spot, where I found an art troupe preparing for a workshop or something they were going to do in there. They busied themselves taking down the lights strung all over the ceiling, moving furniture from one room to another... it felt just like what I had done to get ready to paint!

My impatience has in the past led me to skimp on the amount of time I've let paint dry and cure. I tried not to make that mistake this time. The first coat dried all evening and overnight, plus through the morning. I slept in the living room, on my air bed. Very comfy.

Second coat went up this afternoon. I expected the muscles in my arms and shoulders to pay the price, but in fact, my legs are the most sore -- probably from climbing up and down the stepladder, on top of the walking I did yesterday, a couple of miles on concrete.

Happily, there doesn't need to be a third coat. I'm going to let it dry overnight again, and since the office is closed tomorrow for MLK Day, I'll put the room back together then.

I'll also Freecycle the leftover paint. I'll wait to post it until I've painted the living room and hallway -- they're getting a different color than the bedroom did -- then I can offer all the leftover paint as a lot. It's not much, but still, I'd rather see it get used than thrown away. The bedroom color is called Roslyn's Blue, and the living room will be a light green called Zen Mist, both by Glidden, for those of you playing along at home.

I do have to look into how to dispose of the empty paint cans and other latex-paint-besmirched debris that will result from this full project.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

yesterday's moment of prophecy

One of the errands I embarked on yesterday was to get the glass replaced in the frame of a print I have had for a long time. It's probably the piece of framed art I've owned the longest; I've had it reframed once already, but when I moved to CA it wasn't well padded enough and the glass broke. I stashed the piece somewhere flat and safe and forgot about it for a while.

Well, now that I'm on my apartment-painting kick, I was motivated to deal with this outstanding errand on two fronts. One, I needed to move the piece anyway in order to prepare the room it was in for the onslaught of my paint roller. And two, once the room where it will ultimately hang is painted, I want to be able to put it up.

The piece is a poster-size reproduction of a photograph of a ballet dancer's feet and legs from about the knees down. She wears battered canvas ballet slippers and mismatched tights and leg warmers with holes in them; behind her feet, you can see the speckled floor of a rehearsal studio. This is no glamour shot; this is a working artist. And her fifth position is terrific. She is in plie, somewhere between two steps, but there's nothing slipshod about this moment. For me, the piece says "Art is hard work!"

My parents bought this piece at an auction that my ballet company held as fund-raiser during the first year that I belonged. I helped carry pieces across the stage for bidding, as did the other dancers. This was the one I wanted, and my parents didn't hesitate to bid on it. If memory serves, my folks paid $90 for the poster; I remember thinking that was a whole lot of money.

So after I posted yesterday's blog entry, I pulled out the piece to take it to the framers'. In the border around the edge of the image runs the acknowledgment of the artist's name and the exhibit from which this poster is drawn.

Lo and behold...

It's from a 1979 exhibit at the LONG BEACH MUSEUM OF ART.

Now, 25 years after I was given this poster... I live about half a mile from the Long Beach Museum of Art. Erin and I walked right past the museum on our way to dinner when she visited here in the fall.

Wow. Who would have known that I would wind up here?

Friday, January 18, 2008

no-commute day

I organized today to work at home, since I had no meetings on the calendar and no other reason why I would specifically need to be in the office. Skipping the round-trip commute saves me an hour and a half on an ordinary day, and that is very nice! It's now after 3 p.m and so far the only driving I've done today was to move the car this morning. I had found parking on a side of the street that gets swept on Fridays, so once the other morning commuters were gone, I moved my car to another place, out of the sweeping path.

I've read and reported on three of the scripts I brought home for this day of non-commuting. None were awful, but only one of them earned the impulse for me to bring it to the attention of my colleagues who are involved in planning our next season. The other two have been weeded out; screening is part of my responsibility.

I brought home a few more, but I am tired enough now that I think I may stop. No playwright or play should have to overcome the additional obstacle of my being tired or cranky or otherwise in a less than hospitable frame of mind. Reading and reporting on three plays in a day is enough. If I get inspired to read the others over this three-day weekend (my office is closed for MLK Day on Monday) I'll do so. If not, they'll be at the front of the queue on Tuesday.

I'm waiting for the last load of laundry to finish. Once I've folded the clothes and put them away, and remade the bed with the clean sheets, I'll venture out to do a few errands. I have a little jewelry repair to arrange, and a piece of hanging art that needs new glass in its frame. And I need to pick up some coffee beans -- I'm hoping that this independent neighborhood business carries organic, shade grown, fair trade options. They roast their own coffee, which is one of my all-time favorite aromas.

If I'm really motivated and organized, I'll get the grocery shopping done. Isn't the life of a working artist just unbearably glamorous? ;-)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

musings on time

One more night at work, and then I will have fully discharged my responsibilities for the current show. Tonight is our second post-show audience discussion, and it will bring my total-nights-at-work to eight out of the last thirteen. Throw in two evening choral rehearsals and the night I saw J*'s show in Laguna among those five "free" evenings, and you can see why my apartment isn't painted yet. Ben & Wanda did a great job with their studio painting and reorganizing job, though -- if you haven't visited the Atlanta Chronicles in a while, go over and check out the pictures linked there.

Next week looks deliciously calm for me, in comparison to the sprint of the past couple of weeks. My upcoming weekend is heavier on daytime obligations than evening plans, Monday is a holiday (though I still have a Pacific Chorale rehearsal in the evening), and then Tuesday and Wednesday after work I am free. Free! Free!

Thursday is the regular choir rehearsal night for the Church of What's Happenin' Now, Northern Outpost. Friday night I'm going to have dinner and play games with some friends up in West Hollywood. That's a heinous commute on a Friday at rush hour, but my friends are worth it.

Sometimes I wonder what it's like to have discretionary time, and to wonder what to do with it. I have never lived that way. Thanks to my lifelong involvement in extracurricular arts, I always have an imposed structure on my leisure time.

I like it that way. I'm a planner and an anticipator by nature -- looking forward to something is half the fun of the thing itself. But there's an entirely other thrill to the spontaneous event or outing that comes together at the last minute, like my afternoon with S* did on Sunday.

Tough to build "be spontaneous" into my calendar, though. Hmmmm.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

another review

The L.A. Times review is up, and it's good. Enjoy.

The Variety review is up, and it's not good. So I'm not linking to it. Take that, Variety.

I'm actually watching the show again tonight -- something I don't always do. But I'm in the building to conduct the first of two post-show audience discussions. The second one is tomorrow night.

Most specifically, tonight I'm watching the show because we have a substitute actress going on. Not an understudy -- we didn't hire any understudies for this show. But the actress who normally plays one of the roles had a family situation arise that requires her to miss tonight's performance. Because we had about a week's notice on this, we were able to recruit one of the other performers who works with us regularly, to prepare for and do just this one show that the regular actress has to miss.

So tonight I'll do a curtain speech preparing the audience for that (I'm couching this as a "special occasion,") then I'll watch the show and pop back onstage after bows to do the audience discussion.

All of which means I must now go brush my teeth, fix up my face, and be backstage in 13 minutes. Au revoir, y'all.


As my sibs and associated in-laws know, my parents have the charming custom of sending a potted amaryllis bulb to each household as an Advent gift. Though I didn't bring any amarylli along on the cross-country move to California, I have now been here for three Advents. Thus, I have three amarylli to play with.

This year's bulb bloomed, a beautiful four-blossom stalk. The flowers were a deep coral on the ends of the petals, shading out to white at the center. Now the flowers have died and I've cut the stalk off, so the greenery remains. We'll see whether it decides to put up another stalk before it's finished.

I tried to overwinter the two bulbs from last year and the year before. I followed the instructions from the National Arboretum, but had to fudge a little because there is no place in my apartment that sustains the faux-wintertime temperature that the instructions call for. Once this year's bulb arrived, I brought the older two out, repotted them in fresh soil, watered them and hoped for the best.

One of the older bulbs has put out greenery, but no sign of a flower stalk yet. The other was much slower to respond, but is now putting out a flower stalk with no sign of greenery to feed it. Curiouser and curiouser!

Perhaps between the two of them I will have all the ingredients for one healthy amaryllis. Or maybe they'll catch up with themselves. Whatever happens, I'm pleased that they're both doing something.

The only downside -- I'm finding that amarylli harbor tiny fruit flies. I'm going to have to search for an environmentally friendly fruit fly banisher.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

delicious day

Two parts to this entry -- first a movie review (really more of a movie remark), then a recipe.

This afternoon I trucked up to Pasadena to see a matinee screening of The Savages with my friend S*. Laura Linney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Philip Bosco. There was some seriously wonderful acting going on.

I experience movies very differently than I take in plays. I don't work in film at all, and I am not very well educated about its history, nor especially sensitive to its techniques. When I watch movies I am very alert to the stories and characters, but not terribly hip to how that story is being told with film's visual and editing techniques.

Nevertheless I enjoy movies very much, and when the artists are working at as high a level as they are in The Savages, there's a lot there for me to enjoy.

I got home a little before 8 p.m. I had bought fresh kale at the farmer's market earlier in the day, intending to make a favorite dish that would provide me with portable suppers this week. They're important because I won't have another evening off till Friday, or possibly later. Tomorrow I have Pacific Chorale rehearsal after work, and Tuesday and Wednesday I'm staying at work to conduct post-show discussions with our audiences. Thursday I have church choir rehearsal, getting that Mozart ready. Greens will keep for a day or two in the fridge, but I didn't think this kale stood a chance of lasting till Friday in good shape.

So I cooked when I got home, and now I am well fed. Here's the recipe, from Moosewood Cooks at Home:

Gingered Greens and Tofu
1 cake water-packed tofu, which you tossed bodily into the freezer when you brought the tofu home from the store. Earlier upon the cooking day, you took it out and let it thaw.
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup dry sherry
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
3 Tbsp brown sugar
6 cups or more fresh greens -- kale, chard, Chinese cabbage, bok choy... whatever you like -- they should be washed and spun dry. Chop 'em if your palate prefers that texture
2 Tbsp fresh grated ginger (the stuff in the jar is fine, but truly fresh is even better)
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp lime juice - fresh is best
a sprinkle of cayenne pepper or a dash of chili oil (optional)
chopped toasted cashews (not salted)

1. Cook some rice to serve with the finished dish. Preheat your oven to 350.
2. Combine the soy sauce, sherry, vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 1 minute. Remove from the heat.
3. Unpackage the tofu, pouring off the liquid. Press the whole cake between your hands over the sink, squeezing out as much of the liquid in the tofu as possible. Cut the tofu up into 1" dice and place them in a nonreactive dish.
4. Pour the cooling marinade over the tofu pieces and set aside for 5 minutes or so.
5. Wipe down a baking sheet with a little nonstick spray. Place the tofu pieces in a single layer on the baking sheet, reserving the marinade. Bake the tofu pieces for 10-15 minutes; watch that the bottom surface doesn't get browner than you like.
6. Heat the oil in a large dutch oven. Stir in the ginger, then add the greens -- you may need to do this in batches until the greens cook down in volume.
7. Add the lime juice to the reserved marinade. Add the chili oil or cayenne if you're using it, and stir well to combine.
8. Stir and cook the greens until they are done to your taste. Some varieties take longer than others. If you are working with particularly sturdy greens or you're in a hurry, you can cheat by adding 1/4 cup of the marinade to the pot and clapping on the lid, letting the greens steam to hasten their cooking.
9. Remove the tofu from the oven and add the pieces to the pot with the greens. Add the rest of the reserved marinade and stir well to combine.
10. Serve over rice, topped with toasted cashews.

Omnivores, I think this method of preparing greens would also be nice with seared shrimp or scallops, or with stir-fried chicken.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

color my world

We opened the play last night, and I believe the playwright and director were both happy. The audience was full and enthusiastic. The first (mixed) review is already up. I'll link to the L.A. Times and Variety reviews when they are posted.

So today, I didn't have to go to work -- unless I wanted to pick up my glasses, which I managed to leave behind when I went home after the opening night party. Whoops. I decided I could live without them for the weekend.

Even though the party went late -- and I could have stayed much later, but I knew this was coming -- I had a 9:30 a.m. rehearsal call this morning. My church choir is part of the combined choral force singing Mozart's short, easy Coronation Mass as a fund-raiser for the Long Beach Mozart Festival. The concert is coming up Feb. 1, and this morning all the choristers rehearsed together for the first time. The second time will be a couple of days before the concert, and then we're on.

9:30 a.m. is too early to sing. But at least this music is light and fun, and it is emblazoned on some brain cells that learned it when I was an undergrad and will never let it go. So being tired and glasses-less didn't hurt me for this rehearsal as much as it might have for some others.

Afterwards I went to the aforementioned favorite coffee spot. I was slated to meet my friend A* there, whom I hadn't seen in a while. I was early and hungry, so I ate lunch while I waited for her. We hung out and chatted for an hour, and discovered that we're both interested in painting our apartments. So, we're going to help each other with those projects, providing company and labor and motivation to get it done.

Thus, I came home and put up a test patch of the paint I think I'm going to use in the living room and tiny central hallway of my apartment. I bought the paint a while ago, but my landlady didn't approve the colors I wanted. She's one of these people who thinks that rental property should always be white, because potential future renters will be put off by color. Now that I've been here 18 months, I no longer care what she thinks. Whenever I move out, if she wants to paint the place white again, she can do so.

The potential living room/hallway color is a light fern green, which I think will look nice with my deep red upholstered furniture and dark to medium wood tones. My living room windows face east, so I wanted a color that would be nice in the morning sunlight but would also take compact fluorescent lamplight well at night. I also have a fairly saturated periwinkle blue that I'll test in the bedroom, which gets strong western light. The carpet throughout the apartment is a very neutral light brown with a nice repeated textural pattern, and the baseboards and woodwork are creamy off-white. I fear I'm going to have to put a fresh coat on much of the baseboard and doorframe footage, because the fresh color on the walls will point up the scuffs and chips in the older paint on the trim. Oy.

I also want to put color on one wall of the kitchen -- the other walls are dominated by cabinetry and window, so what wall is there can stay as it is. But what color for the kitchen? Off-white ceramic tiles on the floor, warm oak cabinets, and a ballet-slipper pink vintage stove. Hmmmm. Suggestions?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

blogs I like

I'm in my office, noodling around on the computer, having finished dinner (brought from home, black bean soup and a couple of corn muffins) and waiting for it to be time to go into the theatre for tonight's final preview of the current show. Things are going well, knock wood.

There are links for select friends' and family members' blogs here at Lagniappe. But I read more widely in the blogosphere than just that august company. So for today's post, I thought I would share a few of my other favorites. -- where my Canadian friend Mikel writes about Web life, politics, and many other interesting things.

A Veggie Venture -- where a food blogger in St. Louis posts vegetable recipes, many of which are very Weight Watchers-friendly (I'm not doing Weight Watchers, but I do consider that a recommendation for the healthiness of the recipes on her site)

The Homesick Texan -- where a Texan in exile writes about the foods of her homeland and her efforts to recreate them in her New York City kitchen. Excellent writing about much more than just food.

Single Ma's Fabulous Financials -- a no-holds-barred personal finance blog that I find highly entertaining.

No Impact Man -- in which the writer documented his effort to live at net zero environmental impact for one year in New York City. Fantastic writing, as well as many adaptable green living ideas.

post for yesterday

It was actually quite a productive day, but all that productivity left no time for blogging. By the time I got home following my show's third preview, shortly after midnight, I was too tired to turn the computer on. Straight to bed for me. (Ben, this means I still owe you email -- it may be a few more days.)

Since I'm working in the evenings this week, I've taken the mornings off. Hence, I'm sitting in my living room at 9:40 a.m., wrapped in the enormous blue fleece jacket my parents brought me from their cruise in Alaska a couple of years ago, just contemplating taking a shower and getting ready for work. I'll float back and forth between the office and the rehearsal call this afternoon, then attend the fourth and final preview tonight. I don't expect to take many notes tonight, but it's still important that I see it to give the playwright and director the feedback they want and the encouragement they need.

Those two had a tough time earlier this week. The director is extremely sensitive, and the playwright is not terribly diplomatic when giving notes. This was a bad combo to start with, but it got much worse when the playwright started feeling like the director's attention was never available. Thus, playwright got that much more aggressive about giving notes, started giving notes to the actors without the director knowing about it (bad bad idea), and lots of feelings got hurt.

Hence, I finally got them both to the table at the hotel bar next door to the theatre after Tuesday night's preview, and with some prompting and prodding, they started to fix it. Yesterday was much better, and I think we're on the road to a happy opening night.

Personally, as much as I'm looking forward to opening night, I'm also looking forward to having the bulk of my work on this show finished. Between final rehearsals, previews, seeing J*'s show, and my choral music commitments, I haven't had a night off since Jan. 2. I'll have this Sat. and Sun. evenings off, unless something comes up, and then I'm booked again till next Fri. the 18th. Things open out a little after that.

I've finished my coffee. Time to wash the breakfast dishes and have that shower. Y'all have a wonderful day!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

watching New Hampshire

This is the first Presidential campaign I've gone through without the influence of broadcast television. It is a weeeeeeird thing to do, let me tell you.

First, it has shown me how much independent work I have to do in order to make myself the kind of informed voter I insist on being. Seeking out the candidates' websites and reading their position and policy statements, finding webcasts of the debates, figuring out my newspaper's bias and accounting for it.

Second, it has shown me how much the subliminal or overt emotional content of campaign advertising on TV has worked me up in the past. While the stakes are very high indeed, I feel calmer about this election than I have about others. Of course, it also helps that I feel like I can readily support whatever ticket emerges from the Democratic primaries and caucuses. I prefer Obama first, Clinton second and Edwards third, but any combo will do.

This is also the first Presidential election where I will feel the full impact of the time delay, voting on the West Coast. In past elections, I've had friends who grew up out west or who lived out west rail and complain about how the elections get called in the media before the West Coast polls have even closed. Now, I'll be in the middle of that.

So tonight, while I wait for the time for our show's next preview to roll around, I'm clicking and refreshing Cee Enn every few minutes to see what the voters of New Hampshire have decided. I find it gratifying to see a close race on "my" side of the aisle -- having more than one strong candidate is gooooood.

So, who do you like?

Monday, January 07, 2008

back in the musical saddle

Pacific Chorale resumed its usual rehearsal schedule tonight, after a scant two Monday nights off (Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve).

We started with the two pieces that will make up our May concert -- after a few weeks of this, we'll back up and work on the music for our March concert. The rehearsal season is uneven, so our artistic director decided to restore the balance by working this way.

Tonight we read two movements of Horatio Parker's Hora Novissima, which was extremely popular in the 19th century but lost favor after World War I. It sounded too German -- and it really does sound like Brahms sometimes, even though Parker was born in New England.

We also read a chunk of David Del Tredici's setting of "Paul Revere's Ride" -- shout out to Ben and Wanda, since the mighty ASO Chorus premiered this piece. (You can't actually name the ASO Chorus without saying "mighty" first. It's true.)

And in a strange moment of coincidence, I recently saw Hila Pittman, the soprano who premiered "Paul Revere's Ride" with the mighty ASO Chorus, originating another role at a small theatre here on the West Coast. Her husband, the composer Eric Whitacre, has written an opera called Paradise Lost: Shadows and Wings, which I saw in its world premiere at the theatre run by my aforementioned friend J*. Pittman played the lead, and the moment she opened her mouth for her first aria, it became abundantly clear why.

Back to tonight's rehearsal. I am not the world's strongest sight-reader, though I am always working on improving that element of my musicianship. So rehearsals that are mostly reading leave me tired. I am tired. Good night!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

recipe for Glenn, and everybody else

I found out this Christmas that somehow I have become the family keeper of this fabulous recipe. Must be because I'm the family vegetarian, and this is a veg recipe. Enjoy!

loosely adapted from a recipe in "Food and Wine" magazine, years ago

2 heads fresh cauliflower, washed, cored and cut into florets
2 cups dry Champagne
2 cups stock -- I use vegetable stock, but chicken broth would surely do as well
3 or more garlic cloves, smashed
2 large sprigs of fresh thyme, or a healthy teaspoon of dried thyme
salt and pepper
2 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
1/2 lb Gruyere cheese, shredded (yes, it really matters that it's Gruyere)

1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
2. In a 9x13 inch baking pan or casserole dish, pile in the cauliflower, Champagne, stock and thyme. Cover with foil and roast for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
3. Remove the foil, turn the oven up to Broil and cook another five minutes, until the exposed parts of the florets are turning golden brown.
4. Carefully remove the pan from the oven and turn the oven off. With a slotted spoon, take the cooked florets out of the pan and put them in a covered dish to keep warm. Reserve the juices from the pan; if you used fresh thyme, discard the sprigs' stems.
5. In a saucepan, melt the butter. As soon as it stops foaming, add enough of the flour to make a loose paste -- you will probably not use the full 1/4 cup. Season with salt & pepper. Stir and cook until the roux turns the color of peanut butter. This takes a while. Be patient.
6. Add the pan juices and the milk to the roux; stir till the roux is completely incorporated. When the sauce is smooth and begins to thicken, add the shredded cheese. Stir until the cheese melts completely and the sauce is smooth again.
7. Pour the sauce over the cauliflower and serve immediately. This keeps well and reheats divinely. Leftovers, should there be any, also make good soup -- just add a couple of cups of hot stock and whir it up with a stick blender.

hither and yon

That was the theme of yesterday. After coffee in the morning at my favorite neighborhood place -- it's a little farther away than the one right around the corner that I thought I would haunt regularly, but I like the favorite's ambience better -- I got gussied up and drove down to Laguna Beach.

First stop: an Episcopal church for a wedding. The bride is a first soprano in the Pacific Chorale, and she and the groom are both subscribers at my theatre. They are lovely, lovely people and they had a correspondingly lovely wedding with many friends and lots of family in attendance. And since there were so many Chorale members present, the congregational hymn singing wasn't bad either.

At the reception I met the young couple who had been in the pew behind me. He's a singer who recently left Chanticleer in order to enter grad school full time in choral conducting; she's a music teacher who recently played an important role in the big holiday extravanganza at an even more extravagant church. They're very nice young folks, and she's interested in opportunities to do plays for young audiences, so I gave her my card. If she follows up, I can connect her with my theatre's casting director and we'll see where things go from there.

My friend J*, an award-winning director, had a show opening at Laguna Playhouse that evening. So she and I met up for a random late-afternoon meal and a quick shopping trip to a toy store so she could get opening night mementoes for her cast and crew. The house was nearly full even though rain (sacre bleu!) was forecast later in the evening. J* had two other guests as well as me; one of them I already knew, and the other I thoroughly enjoyed meeting.

Unfortunately, after the day full of socializing, my energy level and mood crashed right around intermission. I did get to meet the playwright and the theatre's artistic director, so that was friendly/intelligent/useful. Still, as my attention span shrank and my fatigue grew, I know I didn't fully grasp the second act. I'll have to ask J* to email me a copy of the script so I can get what I missed the first time. And perhaps drop a hint that if one of her other two guests gave me a call sometime, that wouldn't be a bad thing...

Friday, January 04, 2008

a day and a night

This is one of those workdays that started around 9:30 a.m. and will continue to at least 9:30 p.m., probably later. There was a break for dinner & an errand, but apart from that it's All Theatre All The Time. I'm working this evening because our show is in tech, which in my level of professional theatre means working noon to midnight, with many short breaks and one long meal break in the middle. They landed on a run-through tonight, so here I am, spending my Friday night at work. I knew it was likely to go this way, so I didn't even consider making other plans, but still... sigh.

Accomplishments during this long day's journey into work -- we picked our last show for this season (and the heavens opened and the angels sang Hallelujah), the schedule for my next intern's work got clarified, I reuned with the playwright for my current show (who just flew back into town yesterday), and I picked up opening night gifts for said playwright & the show's director a week before I need them.

On that trip I also picked up a gorgeous handmade card for the couple whose wedding I'm attending tomorrow. They are both over 70. I find their choice to get married extra courageous and charming because of their advanced years, and I am delighted they chose to invite me to the ceremony and reception.

The heavens actually did open today, by the way. It's raining in southern California. Sacre bleu!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

three days in, already blew it

Do you make New Year's Resolutions?

I do and I don't. Don't, in the sense that I don't think making teeth-grindingly determined resolutions is especially good for me. Do, in the sense that with the turn of every year I do a little private ritual of writing down good intentions and goals for the year. I think them out, write them down, focus on them for a while...

and then I fold up the paper, put it away and don't look at it again until the following turn of the year. I am often surprised at the percentage of the "resolutions" I achieved, and that there are often one or two that fall completely off my radar.

This year one of my resolutions was to write something on my blog every day during the month of January. I didn't actually do my ritual until late in the evening of January 1, and missed that day o' blogging. Missed yesterday too because after work I spent my evening finishing my reading for a panel I'm sitting on; the panel "meets" by phone next week to complete its work. So, two days down, no blog posts.

Here we are on day three. And for the next 28 days, you can expect a post every day. Some of them may be nothing more than reports on what I did or will be doing that day, recipes, opinions about music, descriptions of experiences. Probably nothing as in-depth as the Sabbath posts were. But, my plan is, they will be daily and they will be here!

How can you help me with this goal? I'm so glad you asked!

You can help by responding in the comments. I am not an actor; I don't like monologues. Nothing motivates me to blog like seeing your smiling binaries showing up in my comments.

Readers who keep blogs and want to jump on this daily bandwagon for January, please do!