Monday, November 30, 2009

Weekend of New People

On Saturday Ella finally took me down to her Dad's house in order to meet her baby sister! Naimh is now 8 months old exactly and she's pointing, starting to say recognizable syllables, and getting oh-so-close to crawling. She's pretty adorable. Holding her consisted more of bracing her while she squirmed than actual holding- she's a strong baby!

Ella got a car for her birthday (or something like that, I think it showed up this summer which is after her birthday, but whatever) so I sat in the passenger's seat and navigated while Ella drove through London. We were using the London A-Z and at one point (I'm not sure how this happened) we ended up a good 4 pages beyond where I thought we were...oops. I think we ended up going too far East and having to back track a bit, but we didn't do any "oh wait, that was the exit" or "turn around, turn around!" so points!

Mark, Ella's dad, was tired when we got there, but he kindly supplied us with assorted cheese and crackers and tea and we had a great time playing with the kittens and having a very involved discussion about pets until Naimh woke up from her nap.

It was a pretty great visit: cheese, kittens, and a baby! Do you really want anything more?

On Sunday I went to evensong with Sarah Titterington and her parents at St. Pauls (I'm getting to be an old hand at this whole evensong thing) turns out this week is the first week of advent so the Christmas trees were already up in the sanctuary and there was a giant advent wreathe in the corner. I tried sketching some of it to put in my sketch book/journal for the class I'm taking with Mical. Obviously I didn't get my paints out so I was writing detailed color notes on the sketch "silver grey blue" "silver grey blue, but darker because it's in the shadow" I realized as I wrote 'brown' and then crossed that out to 'grey' that just because I know what color that object is in the light (for instance: wood) doesn't mean that it is actually appearing that color right now.

After evensong we went to YO! Sushi (yes, that is actually the name of the restaurant) for a bit of tea and a snack. It is so nice to see all of them, they're lovely people. We had a good talk about things we might do in Kansas when everyone is there for the wedding in August. Kansas in August, who thinks that is a good idea temperature wise? Sarah and I keep joking that we should make sure all of the guys are in full morning suits (tails, waistcoat, cravat, top hat) since that is an English tradition.

Sunday evening (and here is where the new people come in again) I went to a meet up of blog readers from which is a feminist leaning news and pop culture site. They were such lovely people! And none of them were musicians! We ended up at this bar right next to Tottenham Court Square that was *deserted* except for us (I guess Sunday early evening isn't a big time for bars?) so empty was it that we actually were hanging outside for a while convinced that it wasn't open until I asked (innocently and just covering our bases) "We did try the door, right?"

I think all told there were about 14 women there. I was on the younger side of things, but felt right at home anyway. Most people were ex-pats of one kind of another: Canada, America, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and a couple of actual English people. They were lawyers, Women's rights activists, a recently published novelist (who I will tell you more about at Christmas since at least one of her books is becoming a gift), book store clerks, unemployed, and me. (I'm sure there were some other careers as well but there was such a flurry of talking that it was hard to keep everyone straight. I only caught about four names total.) Anyhow the evening was really lovely and I'm glad I had been brave enough to go show up at a random place in London to meet random people I knew very little about other than that we all enjoyed reading the same blog. Which, actually, it turns out is a fairly useful thing to know- there is a sort of baseline for assumptions you can make about that person.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

I've spent the afternoon eating stuffing and pretending like I'm going to have an appetite for all of the food that I've been making. (But really, let's be honest, it's all about the stuffing. And the cranberry sauce.)

Hey, guess what? My VISA SHOWED UP TODAY! So I'm good to go until November 18, 2011 now! And all that work that I've been doing? ALL of it is legal now! Woo!

We're having Thanksgiving at Sarah and Dave's place this year since A: they have the biggest living room/dining space and B: Sarah's parents are here, which is great because they are fun. There is going to be about 14 people there (Will there be enough chairs? No.) and since this year there are going to be a number of meat eaters- I've put myself in charge of the turkey again. Finding a turkey in London...

There was a giant turkey breast for sale at Morrisons, but since it was 35 (!) GBP, I Tesco's had a sale on Chickens: 3 for ten quid, so I did that and then bought a couple of giant turkey legs since I figure that white meat is white meat, but turkey dark meat and chicken dark meat are *different.*

Currently in the oven I have two chickens, one turkey leg, and a rolled up roast of turkey breast. On top of the stove I've got one small casserole filled with stuffing and one loaf pan filled with stuffing (the loaf pan is staying at my flat so that Ella and I can have left overs.) The brussels sprouts aren't done yet, the corn bread and cranberry sauce was made yesterday, and this blog entry is turning in to a to do list for me...but that's still fun reading, right?!

Cranberries were hard to find this year, probably because I'm no longer living or going to school right next to a fancy, expensive grocery store. I managed to find *one* package so there is only a very small batch of cranberry sauce this year. (I may horde it. I'm not making any promises.)

I hope you all enjoy your Thanksgiving and have a wonderful holiday!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Woo Hoo! (Update)

I'm no longer sick! Which is *fabulous* I have a bit of a cough still (it's a weird one, originating in my chest rather than the throat tickly coughs that I am more used to) but other than that I am good to go! Which is good, because I am going.

This weekend I was the project manager for Guildhall's Continuing Professional Development (CPD) weekend which means that I was running around getting equipment, preparing the tea stuff, collecting feedback forms, and (my favorite) purchasing lunch.

Here's the thing- I really like food shopping. Aisles of produce make me happy (particularly when the fruits and vegetables are piled up all abundant and colorful like) and this was shopping with other people's money! Brilliant! So I had a lot of fun with that.

Mical signed me up for an Artist's Journal class to take with her (online!) just before she left to go back to Seattle, so I've been working on that as well. I have a little set of watercolors that I bought way back last September during my "I don't have to be a musician to be creative" defensive phase after I found out I failed my first year assessment. It's a super cute little set of watercolors and I've been carrying it around in my backpack for ages. The difference now is that I am *also* carrying around watercolor paper in the form of my new Artist's Journal that I made.

So during the CPD weekend I started sketching and painting and it was really lovely. I'm particularly proud of the watercolor I did today of Adam who was recording the weekend. He wasn't paying attention to the group and was instead reading things on the Internet which useful for me since that meant that mostly he stayed in one place. Yay! Adam thinks his arm muscles should be bigger and his legs longer, but whatever.

On Friday the Leadership department was having a scratch session which is an evening where people show work that is in progress. Nell invited the alumni to present something as well so I was *Brave* and I asked if I could show the video of the last night of the Aerial/Marimba gig. We had a little bit of technical difficulties with the projector but in the end we got it all hooked up so that the video was projected on the wall and the sound came through the speakers in the room (the better to hear all the crowd noise!) What I showed was very different from what everyone else was doing, but it went over well and I had a great time explaining how we had made it and what the goals on the piece were and what we were going to start exploring next. So that was really nice. It was also great to meet the new first years and see the current second years again and hear what they've been working on. There is a really comfortable and energetic vibe to the department these days and I'm really happy for them.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Swine Flu

I knew I wasn't washing my hands around the tykes quite enough... It started on Friday with a bit of a sore throat before getting full blown enough that I was shivering and had a blinding headache by Saturday. Meredith brought over a thermometer today and I'm ranging between 37.5C and 38.6C usually hitting 38.1C.

Which, for those of you who know Fahrenheit better than Celsius, is a range of 99.5F to 101.5F, and usually hitting 100.6F.

Meredith is returning the Flu Buddy favor and getting me the Tamiflu this afternoon. Thanks to her I also now have some soup, toilet paper, and shampoo- all of which I had managed to run out of. So yay Meredith!

I feel the worst at night and wake up many, many times to blow my nose, both cover up more and kick the covers off, and just generally from muscle pain.

Then, during the day, I'm just bored. But I don't feel like standing up. I am drinking lots of fluids though, and though I haven't really been napping- I also definitely haven't been exerting myself.

So there you go- update for today.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Highlights (and lowlights)

High: We were referred to as "Graduands;" it was in The Guildhall which is old and venerable and cool; I ran into a bunch of old friends; I didn't trip on the stage; Latana's whole family was there to say 'hi' to; I had family there; I won a bottle of champagne (random prize draw); Meredith came to celebratory dinner; and Samir gave us a free bottle of Prosecco

Low: Grandpa was feeling poorly and couldn't make the ceremony; my diploma looks like it was printed on a laser printer (possibly a highlight actually because I think that is *hilarious*)

High: I'm so totally on top of this Christmas show thing. And the nursery kids got really into singing about putting on warm clothes (see? fun AND educational! It's cold outside! Put on a hat! Side note: what is with all of these three year olds having gloves? I'm sure I was much older before I was allowed to have hand warmers with individual fingers). I've already used "Galaxy of Games for Music Class" book that Grammy brought over from the US for me. Music club went really well (we finally broke it up into two sections because the 20+ kids was just getting too crazy. I have the nursery tykes and Linda has the reception tykes) and I still totally love my job. So much.

Funny: I got an email today from work informing me that one of the classes is singing "Too the loo" instead of "Toodaloo" and could I please correct that with them? Heh.

Highlight: After ages and ages spent calling all sorts of people trying to find a sub for Tuesday (graduation) Ella finally agreed to sub for me. So I ended up making this kick ass lesson plan complete with sheet music and hand drawn pictures all tucked inside of a handy blue folder. (I remain incredibly pleased with my lesson plan folder.) Ella did a great job, I got reacquainted with a bunch of people I had lost track of while calling everyone I knew to find a sub, and on Wednesday my lesson plan was all ready for me and laid out. I had two new kids on Wednesday trying out the class and one of the mothers stuck around to watch. Her three year old sat on her lap and was *dying* to join in which a: is great and b: means, I think, that I need to step up my game for the six year olds- make it a bit more challenging? Working on that one. *Another* highlight is that on the stairwell while bringing the kids back down to their parents I got not one, but TWO hugs from a kid who was only in my class for one session before getting bumped up a level. Thanks sweetie!

Low: Um. I still need to work on classroom management? Though I'm probably not as bad at it as I think I am given that the mother in the classroom said that the class was great and since she has a six year old, I figure she's better able to judge than I am.

Highlight: Mical and Dan and I have spent two days wandering the V&A. It is such a treasure trove of awesomeness. I actually started getting teary and a little breathless when walking into the theatre and performance displays (think I should do more of that? Yes, I think so too.) Speaking of which- they had a short clip from my favorite dance scene in Billy Elliot the musical and I still get goosebumps listening to/watching it. For those of you who haven't seen it yet- would you please do so should you ever get the opportunity? Please? We also spent a bunch of time in the textiles and lace sections.

Today we looked at the jewelry collection and a little exhibit about Owen Jones which was interesting on it's own but made even more interesting by the lecture that was going on to a tour group. I was fascinated and getting really annoyed by the students who were so clearly ignoring the woman who was so excited about the subject. I actually tracked her down when they moved to another room to a: find out who she was teaching for and b: tell her I thought she was amazing. She teaches at the Courtauld Institute of Art History and it was a group of undergrads that she was shepherding around. Ooh! And they have a history of dress programme! Neat. Anyhow-I've probably just spent too much time online trying to figure out who she was- but I finally found her- she's one of the current PhD students there. And she's awesome.

The British Museum (ages ago!) was also pretty great. Old stuff there.

It's been really nice having everyone here (Grandpa Frank, we missed you!) and finally having a chance to really chat with everyone. I think that has been my favorite part so far- all the conversations. That being said, it is a weird sensation hanging out with people who are on vacation and belatedly forgetting that you are not also on vacation and in fact have work tomorrow and really should be figuring out what you're going to teach those small children!

Last night Mical and Dan and I went to see the London Philharmonia play Shostakovitch 5 and Night on Bald Mountain. My friend Gwen was recently hired as a violist with them (congratulations!!) and so we met up with her for tea and tasty desserts before the concert and that was super fun even though the bakery we were in was directly over the trains and so was a bit...loud. It was also super fun watching Mical and Dan with the concert (Grandpa may or may not have been bouncing along to the music a little bit. A very little bit...) Anyhow- success! But now I am *tired* so sleep it is.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Grandparents Are Here

Grammy arrived on Tuesday and hung out with me at the Tyke's school while I had a meeting about the Nativity play with the reception teachers. She made friends with the cleaning staff (lovely, lovely women) who took very good care of her and brought her tea and chocolate cake. I'm afraid I have been walking her very hard as we then took my usual walk home which is probably over a mile. Possibly over two... she's been a trooper though and spent Wednesday exploring the V&A and Science museums while I was at work.

Thursday we took a little easier and went up to Walthamstow to look at the William Morris Gallery which is housed in one of his childhood homes. It was fascinating- there were some of the wooden blocks they used for printing the wall papers and chintz, there were amazing tiles done by Burne-Jones, and even one of the "medieval" dresses that Morris designed when they were painting Arthurian legends and he met Jane Burden.

My favorite part (I had a lot of favorite parts; one of my favorite parts) was reading about the Red House which was the first building designed entirely by Philip Webb (one of Morris's friends) and was used as an early experiment ground for all sorts of ideas tying decoration and the finer arts together. Basically it sounds like the whole place was decorated by the Pre-Raphaelites and early Arts and Crafts Movement and everyone hung out there (it was where the germ of Morris & Co. was started) and had lots of dinner parties and creative sparks. So, perhaps if I could subtract the whole marital infidelity thing - could I have that life? And maybe not quite so much decoration- the photographs of the inside of the house are actually a bit dizzying.

Mical and Dan arrived yesterday afternoon and Grammy and I joined them at their flat for a bit of a chat. It was really good to see them and I'm so looking forward to this trip! Time with grandparents!

Today we are meeting for lunch and then heading to the British Museum. I'll let you know how that goes!

Thursday, November 5, 2009


I've missed them. I know I was getting all frustrated with them just before mid-term break, but we're back now and it's all good. We're gearing up for Winter festivities (yes, I know Halloween was just a few days ago- but in my mind it is Christmas all the time.) The nursery tykes have some winter themed songs to sing and the Reception tykes are putting on a whole nativity play!

Apparently that is a done thing in this country- schools do Nativity plays. The one that we're doing is called "Whoops-A-Daisy Angel" and is by Nikki Davies. It's got cute songs that don't seem like they'll get *too* annoying by mid-December and it has a cute little plot:

Whoops-a-Daisy Angel is always rushing around and making mistakes- so she never gets any of the good jobs- like dusting moonbeams. Instead she has to count snowflakes...Then one day she gets an exciting job! She gets to tell the shepherds on a hill that Jesus is born. So finally she gets something right.


I cut both the songs that mention "Jesus" or "Christ the Lord" and now the only time he is referred to as anything other than a baby is in French. It still weirds me out that we're doing a nativity play but this is just about as secular as I can make it. So that feels more comfortable to me. For next year I kind of want to write my own...we'll see how that goes.

I'm excited about how I've decided to hand out parts and do the staging and whatnot. There are three reception classes so each of them get to be a part as a unit. That means one class is the Perfect Angels, one class is the Snowflakes, and one class is the Whoops-a-Daisy AngelS. (I've pluralized everything.) That way each class can make their own costumes as a group and they all sing together.

There are two songs that the whole year group sings and then each class gets their character's song as well. For the set we'll have three benches- one for each class- so they'll all be sat as a group and when it is their turn to sing or speak they just stand up where they are. None of this funny business with walking across the stage or anything like that.

The costumes will be white clothes (they've all got white turtlenecks for their school uniforms anyway) and then various headdresses: perfect halos, crooked halos, and some sort of snow flake headdress. Not entirely sure what to do about wings for the angels, but some of the reception teachers are trying to figure out what to do with that. The reason we're trying to keep away from having the parents really getting involved with the costumes is the concern that they will get overly competitive and each try to outdo the others. Not so good for uniformity in costumes...

In any case we are all kinds of on top of this project and I'm getting pretty excited about it. I also have the songs running through my head constantly. So the reception years are totally sorted.

Nursery years are a bit harder to sort out for this winter extravaganza. I should probably just go with a bunch of traditional Christmas songs since they are three years old and have never sung them before- but I have to sing them over and over again as well so I want to make sure that they are still fun for me as well. There is one about snowflakes that I found that I'm excited about. And one that we learned this week about the cold wind whistling around various body parts --but that one only changes one word per verse which is more repetitive than I am really willing to deal with.

It is a fine line to balance with kids songs- being repetitive enough that they can learn it and understand the pattern and being different enough so that it is not obnoxious. For the wind whistling song I am thinking of writing a short B section so that it changes just a little at some point.

Enough with the Christmas show- we also started using instruments! And oh. It went so very well. We have a rhyme this year "if you play before I say, then I will take it away" and I was ruthless-- which worked WONDERS. They treated it as a game and sat quietly and payed attention and it was awesome. We even had a little "explore your instruments" time where I told them to figure out other ways of playing and then looked around the circle and did my best to congratulate each child on something creative they were doing. My favorite was from one of the nursery classes where a little girl was putting her egg shaker on top of her bent knees and then pulling them apart so that the egg shaker fell on to the carpet. It was really fun to do and not something I ever would have thought of. The kid who kept hitting his head with the claves though? I said "what a great idea, doesn't it hurt though?"