Thursday, April 30, 2009

Lisa Hannigan

A few months ago I took my girls to see Jason Mraz.
I decided I could live without Jason.
A little too gleefully Obama-fied for me.
But I loved his opening act.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is Lisa Hannigan, an Irish colleen with a hauntingly beautiful voice and songs to match.



She has several songs on YouTube and her own website.

If I were you I would download her album.

Oh, that's right.

I already did.

The Search for Perfection

No, silly, I don't mean ME!
I am having too much fun to be anywhere close to perfection.
I have had, however, a long-standing search for two things:
The perfect pizza dough
and
the perfect chocolate chip cookie.


I think I have found the pizza dough, thanks to this blogger, who has a pretty fun blog for young moms or anyone interested in living frugally and fantastically.

Here it is:

Pizza Hut Style Pizza Dough


1 1/3 cups water
2 tsp sugar
1 1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp cornmeal
3 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1 1/2 tsp yeast

Add ingredients to bread machine, according to manufacturer's settings, and run dough setting. After the machine beeps, roll out the dough. You can roll the dough into two 9x13" pizzas (great for kid's lunches!) or into two medium pizzas or a large pizza and an order of breadsticks. Parbake the crust with a drizzle of olive oil on it at 450 degrees for ten minutes. Remove the crust and add sauce and toppings. If making breadsticks, add your breadsticks at this time. Place into the oven for another ten to fifteen minutes or until golden and bubbly. Enjoy!
Note: one variation of the recipe has you sprinkle the cornmeal on the pan, not mix it into the dough. I kind of liked it mixed in. Also, if you mix the dough in your bread machine, make sure you use bread flour.
Check out the blog for more hints on using this recipe.

Well, that covers pizza dough.

Enough excitement for one day.

Chocolate chip cookies hover on the horizon.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Chicks and the Marine

My friend Julie raises chickens for eggs and for fun.
She generously shares her multi-coloured eggs with her friends.
Of which, did I mention, I am one?

We are chick-sitting for Julie this weekend.
Seven adorable chicks of varied breeds.
They are cheeping in their box in the family room.

Charlie got all GOOEY when he saw them.


And, of course, he couldn't help being GOOFY too.


I told him I would post the photo if he pulled a funny face!

Here are some chick pictures for your enjoyment.





Someday, when I'm more motivated, I will tell you the story of Attila the Hen.

Zebras and Giraffes

I bought these a few months ago for my newly renovated spare room:




I got them from Zimbabwe Artists' Project, a non-profit in Portland.
Which has a VERY HARD TO FIND location by the river.
With NO PARKING SPACES AT ALL.
It is, however, run by a couple of very personable types who were happy to let me buy these two wall hangings, even though they were supposed to be for a show.

I LOVE THEM.

Add those babies to the list.
Of THINGS THAT I LOVE.

I love them because they are cheery and bright, depicting two of my favourite animals. They have a hand-written note from the artist on the back, telling the story of the art.

I also love them because they serve a greater purpose than just decorating the walls of the African-inspired room.

Here is the PR for ZAP:

ZAP celebrates the artistry and accomplishments of women from rural Weya in eastern Zimbabwe. Through education, sale of their art in the U.S., and special projects, ZAP helps women become economically self-sufficient. Women of Weya are subsistence farmers, mothers, and householders as well as artists. Most women live on their own, providing for families. Some are widowed, others are single heads of households, since throughout Zimbabwe men leave the rural areas to seek work in cities.
Women’s income from agriculture is unpredictable and limited. Sales of their art helps women afford food, clothing, school fees, medicines, transport, seeds and fertilizer. Since the market for Weya art in Zimbabwe is extremely limited, sales in the U.S. are critical. ZAP pays much more than any other buyer, delivering cash at the time of purchase, and we provide health care to the artists.


Add to this the fact that inflation in Zimbabwe is, I don't know, a million percent and rising, and you get an idea of the hopelessness that many of the people must feel. I like thinking that my happy walls have helped an artist to provide for their families a little better.

Go here to read more about ZAP and meet Dick and Heather. They are very nice.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Happy Day!

Charlie's coming home on leave tomorrow.

Nieces and nephews are happy.


Siblings are happy.


Even parents are happy.

My Music (revised)

You all know I love my music.
So, I've added a playlist to the bottom of the blog.
I've put it on "autostart" so that you don't have to manually start it.
Which could be annoying to some of you, because my music selection is fairly eclectic.
So vote to the right on your passion.

Okay, I couldn't get the stupid poll thing to work, so you'll just have to leave me rabid comments if you don't like my music.
So sad.


Ellen made a good point. So you other layabouts don't even have to comment, I've taken off the autostart. I've put the playlist at the top, as you can see, so that you can listen to my cool songs without having to scroll all the way down.

If you want to.

A teardrop for fallen Americans


This is an interesting bit of little-known history that my friend Brenda suggested for a post.
Heck, I'll post anything if a friend cares that much about my blog!
But this is worthy in its own right.
Read this excerpt from the official pamphlet on the monument.
(If you want to read the whole thing go here.)

“To the Struggle Against World Terrorism,” was conceived as the events of 9/11 unfolded and Russian artist Zurab Tsereteli walked the streets of Moscow. Struck by the outpouring of grief he observed, a memorial with an image of a tear formed in his mind. Shortly after the attacks, Tsereteli visited ground zero and looked to New Jersey’s waterfront for an appropriate site for a monument honoring victims of the World Trade Center terrorist
attacks.
Bayonne was a fitting location; the city was an arrival point for many New York City evacuees on 9/11, a staging area for rescuers and offered a direct view of the Statue of Liberty and the former World Trade Center towers.
A gift from Tsereteli and the Russian people, the memorial is made of steel sheathed in bronze. Standing 100 feet high, its center contains a jagged tear. In it, hangs a 40-foot stainless steel teardrop, representing sadness and grief over the loss of life, but also hope for a future free from terror. Etched in granite on an 11-sided base are the names of the nearly 3,000 killed in the 1993 World Trade Center bombings and terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.


According to the caption on the above photo, which I found on Flickr: There are no signs leading you to find this remarkable monument. The walkway is lined with stones donated by those in remembrance of this day. The site is directly across from the Statue of Liberty, and looking at that skyline, you truly do see what's missing.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

We're going walkabout

Yes!
Travel is imminent.
Well, looming on the horizon, anyway.
Reading the Garfields' travel blog has given me the itch.

It reminds me of when I got back from my big USA trip in 1976.
Every time I saw a plane overhead my heart wanted to be on board.

So today I booked two tickets for Sydney on September 25th.
Itinerary yet to be determined, but it will definitely include KANGAROO ISLAND. They call it the Australian Galapagos.

These photos were taken on the island.
By someone other than me.



But I will be there SOON.
Hobnobbing with the kangaroos and koalas.
Think I'll go now and sing a rousing verse or two of "Tie me kangaroo down, sport."

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Yoga and Tulips

When I was a fairly limber 20-year-old, I took a yoga class at Waikato Hospital.

Side note: I was working in the cancer registry of the hospital at the time, with a girl named Raewynn.

This is the lovely Waikato Hospital.


What is a cancer registry, you ask?
I think it was a pity job.
Pity for me and for my boss.
Our boss was Arthur Nisbet, an ex-military type who should probably have retired.
Raewynn and I sat in a little office that was underneath the nurses' quarters.
I used to sneak up to the nurses' kitchen and eat their fresh white bread smothered with butter and this divine raspberry-apple jam.
Arthur was just down the hall.
I don't know what Arthur did all day, but Raewynn and I entered (by hand, of course, because this was a hundred years ago) all of the hospital cancer stats onto large record sheets.
I blithely wrote down, every day, patients' names and diagnostic codes in the records, without any thought for their anguish.
Lung cancer, breast cancer (the diagnostic code is 174, if you care), malignant melanoma, benign tumours. They were all just words to me.
Now I know better.

Back to yoga.
I loved it.
It was easy for me.
Our instructor (an elderly man whose favourite trick was inhaling water up one nostril and exhaling it out of the other) was big on Salute to the Sun.



I loved it too.
Tree pose?
No sweat.











This one, not so much.











Many years passed and yoga was NOT a part of them.

About five years ago, I realized that if I was to have any chance of enjoying myself in my old age, I needed to get back to yoga.
So I embarked on a love/hate relationship with yoga classes.
Our instructor is ex-Marine and runs a tight ship.
Every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon I fight with myself.
"Shall I go to yoga tonight?"
"You certainly need to."
"But I'm tired and it hurts!"
Sternly: "You know you'll feel better if you do."

And I do.
Eventually.
Last night was no exception.
Even the downward dog hurt.

Enough of that!

We went to the tulip fields in Woodburn yesterday.

It was sunny and hot, the tulips were at their peak, and you could see snowy Mt. Hood against the blue sky.


I love Joshie's scrawny little neck.


Jenny and The Boys.
That's Jeff in the wild sunglasses.


Some of my favourite close-ups.



The only way to get a photo of Natalie when she's running free is this.


Our sweet McKenzie.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Improvising

When it comes to playing music, I have always been a "read-the-notes, play-what's-on-the-page" kind of gal. Improvising, at least when it comes to music, was a foreign concept to me. As a piano teacher, I was a bit of a stickler for getting everything "right".

Music therapy has changed me.
Most things, especially musical, do not seem so black and white any more.
These days, my students get to be more creative.
"Sure, we can play that rhythm a little differently, as long as you understand how it is supposed to sound."
"Yes, we can play that piece again and again if you want to."
And surely a favourite..."Okay, we can skip that piece if you really hate it."
Now, I give students opportunities to improvise with me at the piano.
Sometimes we play on the black keys.


Sometimes we play on the white keys.
For some of them, it is the best part of the lesson.
Others refuse to do it and that's okay too.

Improvising in music is like making tiramisu without even knowing the basic ingredients.
It's like sewing a dress without a pattern.
Or planting a garden without knowing the identity of the seeds.
There is no guaranteed outcome and you have to take risks.
Sometimes the outcome is just okay.
Sometimes it is serendipitous.

Improvising is still a new skill for me, one that I do not feel brilliant at, but with which I am beginning to be more comfortable.
Yesterday, I attended a continuing education class for my Board Certification called "Improvisation for Everyone."
Eight participants and two instructors got to play with cool instruments all afternoon.
There were no dull moments...


...and lots of wild and wacky ones.

It's hard to describe the change of mindset that is brought about by the act of improvising. It is a mindful "letting go" of the planning process and a conscious attention to that exact moment in which you exist with your fellow musicians. There are no expectations or rules. For me, it is a complete contrast to the rest of my life and quite liberating. Don't get me wrong, I love my life. BUT. It is full of responsibilities, diligence, planning, lists, and work.

Once in a while, it is nice to let the music have its way.

Friday, April 17, 2009

On walking


I love to walk.
I don't necessarily love the kind of walking I do in the morning with my friends, up steep hills and down and up again.
But I do it anyway, in an apparently futile effort to get fit and skinny.

Most of the time it hurts.

Yesterday, I had a purposefully car-free day.
I biked over to the walking rendezvous in the morning.
I rode my bike in the afternoon to teach piano.

It was the kind of sunny, mild day that brings Oregonians out of their cocoons.
Riding home, I passed all kinds of people.
Young boys on their bikes and scooters.
Skinny women and teenagers out jogging.
Schoolchildren walking to the store.
Moms pushing strollers with little kiddies in them.

I felt connected to my neighbourhood in a way that I never feel when I'm driving in my car.

Later in the evening, Mum and I walked down to see a friend, taking an offering of tulips and good chocolate.
On the way, we admired the lupines-to-be outside the fire station.
I told her stories about little grandsons and walks we have taken down this road.
About people I have met as I walked.

We visited our friend.
And came home with baby yarn that she didn't want any more.
A serendipitous swap.
I foresee a baby afghan in my future.

For some unique thoughts on the topic of walking, go here.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Middle-aged women (Revised)

Once in a while, I feel like my best days are behind me.

You know how it is.
My body is misbehaving.
I groan when I rise from a chair.
Exercising feels like cruel and unusual punishment, no matter how hard I try.
I forget more than I remember.
Lately, my bread rolls turn out strange every time.
My piano students don't know who Simon and Garfunkel are...is... whatever.
When I'm asked my birth year, I have to scroll WAY down the list to reach 1956.
I can't remember the last time Jeff and I danced the night away.

Today, I watched a video that made me want to cheer for all of the middle-aged women of the world who still have important dreams.
Unfortunately, embedding has been disabled on YouTube, so you will have to go here to watch it.


It is TOTALLY worth the 7 minutes to watch it.

You will see Simon Cowell in awe.

I cried.

Revision:
Okay, I just watched it again with Mum.

I cried twice.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I had forgotten...

...about this:


This is cool in two ways.
You can enlarge your paltry vocabulary.
And you can earn rice for hungry people.

Seriously. It really works.

Do it.

N.B. The above picture is not a link.
This is.

This I Love Part II

One of the things that makes me deliriously HAPPY is being surrounded by family...kids, grandkids, spouses, and now my Mum.
ESPECIALLY when they are all getting along.

Lately we have been hosting A LOT of family get-togethers at our house.
This time of year we have Jeff's, Annie's, and Charlie's birthdays all within three weeks of each other. Throw in Easter and then the EDWIN weekend and every weekend has been a party.

Easter Sunday was no exception.

For cute photos (of which I have NONE) click on "Life's Lessons" to the right.

Everyone was home except for Charlie, who was sorely missed.
He is out in the middle of the Mojave Desert on field ops and has been out of cell phone range for a couple of weeks. But he even managed to borrow a friend's phone (who has SOMEONE OTHER THAN VERIZON for a carrier) and called home while we were all together.

Dinner was noisy with conversation.
Jon and Jeff debated global warming.

We made them go sit on the couch so that we didn't have to listen any more.

Bethany mocked my opinions on bottled water.
She thought my posting on the subject was tongue-in-cheek.
I was hurt!
I thought my family knew how seriously I take my position on bottled water.
Obviously I have not ranted loudly enough on the subject.
I will have to rant more often and louder.

Then maybe I'll be exiled to the couch.

Jonnie brought his X-Box with a new guy game.
The men were gleeful in their X-Box saturation.
Nobody went home until 11:30pm.
Things got a little crazy.
Natalie walked around with a harmonica in her mouth for an hour, breathing noisily in and out, with glazed eyes.
Great Nana went to bed.
Women and children started to collapse on our lovely big, cushy couches.
Everyone got slightly loopy.

Eventually, they all went home.

And I couldn't stop thinking about how lucky I am.

It's a Tea Party

Are you attending a tea party tomorrow, tax day?
Go here to find out if there is one organized for your town.
Jeff, my intrepid Mum, and I will be there.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Spring flowers

A separate post, so as not to bore you.

The garden is rampant with colour.
I couldn't resist sharing.

Checkered lilies, quirky little flowers.



Grape hyacinth, a modest, reliable bloomer.


A rather exotic daffodil.


Primulas, perennials which have multiplied profusely.


A close-up of the sweet hyacinth.


These little beauties flowered for the first time this year and smell heavenly. I think they're some kind of narcissus.


Not from my garden, but from my hubby.
Because I've been sick, I think.
Or maybe because he got his new car.

A Sweet Day (in more ways than one)


After work this morning, I met Annie, Bethany, Mum, and four kids to shop for wedding accoutrements.
Crazy, you say?
Indeed.
But nevertheless....mission accomplished:
Bridal shoes, fabric and pattern for bolero, chosen and purchased.

When we arrived home, the sun was shining fiercely on the deck.

We played.



And lay in the sun.


And played some more.



After a couple of hours, everybody got grumpy and then they went home.

Witness the remains of a very scrumptious box of chocolates, bought by mistake by me, at Grocery Outlet, on the way home.

Happy Easter

A lady opened her refrigerator and saw a rabbit sitting on one of the shelves.
"What are you doing in there?" She asked.


The rabbit replied:
"This is a Westinghouse, isn't it?",
To which the lady replied "Yes."
"Well," said the rabbit,

"I'm westing."

Ha!

Thanks to Uncle Ozzie for that one.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Announcement

Annie is getting married



to Edwin.

We think he's pretty cool.
He loves Annie.
He seems to "get" Annie.
So we love him too.
He comes with two little boys.
Whom we will add to our stable of little grandsons.

Edwin is a soldier in North Carolina.
The wedding will PROBABLY be in June.
We say "probably" because it is, after all, Annie.

Maybe it will be in August.

Or tomorrow!

A joke

What goes "Ha ha ha, boink"?

A man, laughing his head off!


Well, I thought it was hilarious.