Sunday, December 30, 2012

On making the world a better place.

Sometimes I think the world would be a better place if we handled conversations as if they were journalism. This would mean leading with the main idea, the most important fact, and then filling in with all your colorful details. Of course I know this isn't really always the best idea. I, for one, am quite partial to telling stories with dramatic pauses, imitative facial expressions, and a good deal of build-up. In revealing disheartening news, I know that leading with the biggest punch maybe is not ideal. But when it's just an "oh-I-was-talking-to-so-and-so-the-other-day-and-you'll-never-guess-what-happened" sort of story, it can get frustrating to have all this dancing around the subject and interjections of "it was just so funny" before you even know what it is that is such a big deal.

Friday, November 30, 2012

NaBloPoMo, Day 30! The last one!

  • Tonight, my piano studio counted 87 cookies we'd baked after we'd all had well beyond our fill. We used cookie cutters for most, but we also cut our own. I made a partridge in a pear tree. We also did a quite accurate depiction of our piano teacher. So that was fun. Exhausting. But very fun.
  • You know, when you show up to a rehearsal not knowing what you'll be playing exactly, and it happens to be a number you haven't yet looked at, and you're sight reading at full speed, and your choir director who will also be running the pit also happens to be sitting in for the first time that day, and she asks after a bit if you're sight reading, it's kind of exhilarating, but it's also muy stressful. Because whoa, those notes go fast. And yes, I'm doing OK for sight reading but yikes bikes. It was rough, guys. What a Friday afternoon.
  • It's an even more exciting Friday afternoon when a visiting pianist plays one of the pieces you're playing for your jury in a few weeks, and he plays it at about 175% of my speed. And while I don't really agree with that tempo musically, I also know very certainly that my fingers will never be able to do that. And ick. You just don't want to practice after watching that.
  • And I didn't practice today. True confessions, yo.
  • In other news, November's over! So NaBloPoMo is too. You've all been lovely -- a great audience.
  • In other news, November's over. And it hasn't snowed. How am I supposed to finish my 3 South bingo if I can't roll around in the snow or sled on a saga tray?!
  • I got paid today for Secret Garden! And while I totally would have done it happily without pay, it's nice to get mail in CPO. And then when the mail is money, it's even better!
I can't promise I'll be posting quite so frequently in the coming weeks (or months, but hopefully it won't come to that). But I'll try a little.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

NaBloPoMo, Day 29

Hidey-ho, y'all.
  • Tonight, I went to a little restaurant called Austin BBQ. Now, it's no Goode Company, but it's some very decent brisket and tastytastic cornbread. Also, they have Blue Bell ice ceam. So there's that.
  • I have had so many adventures in the Fischer kitchen this year because of the microwave inconsistencies -- namely, that the microwave hasn't worked for about a month now. Last time, at 1 a.m. snickerdoodle time, I ended up softening two sticks of butter on a cookie sheet in the preheating oven. (It worked marvelously.) Today, I needed to melt some margarine (yes, margarine), so I did so in a somewhat suspicious but altogether passable skillet on the stovetop. I'm not entirely sure if the brown bits and other lovelies on the bottom of the skillet stayed on the skillet when I poured the melted butter impostor into the batter.
  • I'm learning to play a little drum set in my percussion techniques class. I'm not usually a braggart, but today, my facial expressions had nearly everyone in the class, including the professor, laughing to the point of tears. I considered it a highly successful class.
Again, maybe I'll make it in bed before midnight. But the last time I said that, it didn't exactly happen.

NaBloPoMo, Day 28

Welcome, welcome.
  • Today, I tried "snapea" crisps. They are weird, sort of like shrimp fries or shrimp chips or whatever they are, but without the fishy flavor. Kind of addictive, but also the sort of food where things just get stuck in your teeth and too much is too much. So whoa. 
  • Somehow, I'm getting the impression that there is a whole heck of a lot to practice in the coming weeks. More than will fit in an hour a day. My schedule doesn't usually allow for more than an hour a day. You see the predicament here. I will be on the hunt for a solution.
  • Tonight, I participated in an attack tea party. 3 South: we bring the tea to you. And then we find a way to get in your room and sit there drinking tea and knitting until you come back and try to remember why you became an RA in the first place if all these sillies were going to be crashing your Wednesday night.
  • Everybody's busy, all semester long. Especially at Wheaton. So when you open a devotional or prayer time with "things are really starting to pile up" or "as our lives really ramp up and start to get super-busy," it's somehow not all that satisfying. Yes, we know we're busy. But if we're "really starting to get busy" right as the first month of school is ending and as fall break is approaching and as B Quad starts and as we head into Thanksgiving break and as we come back from Thanksgiving break and as we head towards finals, and as we go through finals, we're not really reminded of the times we're not dying of stress. A better option might be to try to find a day you're not running around from the early morning until well past dinner and enjoy the fact that you've got a little extra time. Because we're all busy, and it doesn't seem to be letting up any time soon.*
*Disclaimer: I'm fine, not dying of stress, not over-committed. Just so we're clear.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

NaBloPoMo, Day 27!

We're almost there!
  • Events that happen once a year are funny. You either look forward to them or shrink back a little bit, not really wanting to deal with them (winter juries). The thing is, this past Thanksgiving is my second of four while I'm in college. Half of my Thanksgivings are gone. This is the only sophomore year fall semester I'll get. It's important, then, to make the most of it.
  • I just remembered a frozen banana I put in my freezer before I left for Thanksgiving break. I'm thinking midnight snack. Don't you feel informed?
  • Also, I have a little conducting evaluation tomorrow. I'm feeling a little bit like this, except we're doing asymmetrical meters, not sforzandi.
  • Also, I just remembered some theory homework I haven't done. We're all set here, aren't we? 

Monday, November 26, 2012

NaBloPoMo, Day 26

  • Something a friend of mine said popped into my head tonight: "If you are lovely and kind, people will bend over backwards to help you." This was in the context of allergies and servers at restaurants, but still. It applies. Yes, to life in general. No, this wasn't spurred by someone's unusually eager helpfulness. I just thunk it.
  • I had a real go-getter of a day. I got stuff done. I practiced far beyond what is required of me. I showed up and did what I was supposed to do. Way to go, me. It's been a good one.
  • I don't care what you say. Small classes will always trump big ones. Regardless of how dynamic your lecturer is, my itsy bitsy discussion-heavy classes will always win. Yay music majors.
  • Maybe I'll sleep before midnight? And be a go-getter again tomorrow? Maybe? 
  • Shoot, guys, that was two Annie songs in one bullet.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

NaBloPoMo, Day 25

Welcome back to me!
  • I'm back at Wheaton, and it's lovely to be out of the car. I've had tea and popcorn and watched a couple episodes of Fawlty Towers. It feels like I've been here a whole lot longer than just four hours.
  • If you, like me, have a serious aversion to Guy Fieri, read this. It's highly entertaining.
  • Alias is an amazing show. Go watch it now!
  • If you ever find yourself in St. Louis, pop into Companion. They sell bread, and their cornbread in particular is particularly delicious.
  • Thank goodness November is almost over, because you guys can't take much more of this, I'm sure.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

NaBloPoMo, Day 24

Well howdy. This is a story about me. Sometimes, parts of my family go on road trips. In today's case, that trip is from Houston to Wheaton. Today's drive took us to Missouri, but that's irrelevant. What is relevant is this: when my mother goes to sleep early, which she always does, my sister and I are left to our own devices, and this is a dangerous thing. We have to be quiet, but we are witty Winchell folk and like telling stories. The solution is what you see above. We've had full conversations of typing, misspelling, intentionally misspelling, silent giggling, and jokes about cheetah pants. Thus, tonight is just a little screenshot of our tiny lives in Springfield, MO.

This has been...POETRY ALIVE.

NaBloPoMo, Day 23

I'm thankful for many things, but I will tell you about nine of them, because nine is a nice number.
  • my major being what it is. A conducting class where you practice clapping and moving your arms in different directions and focusing without looking like you're focusing. A theory class with six people where you look at the structure of music. Aural skills, where you sing badly and nobody minds. A daily date with my brain and a piano in a practice room. If these are the things that fill my days, I'm pretty sure everyone else is jealous.
  • food, and how I get to be picky about what kind of figs I want for Project: Homemade Fig Newtons.
  • health. I haven't been in the hospital since I was three, folks. That's some kind of crazy.
  • that I'm having a hard time coming up with a Christmas list. 
  • people who bake with you in the middle of the night and tell you their shenanigans and think you're funny and listen to you rant and make your life so entertaining and worthwhile.
  • a puppy who lies stretched out on the couch and does nothing but sigh contentedly while you pat her (very large) tummy.
  • anything soft.
  • contrast between things that are infinite and finite, rational and irrational, sweet and salty, crunchy and pillowy. You just appreciate things more when you see its opposite. You just do.
  • mornings when you can wake up and just stay there, snuggled. No need to get up. You have all the time in the world.

Friday, November 23, 2012

NaBloPoMo, Day 22

Well, for all the planning-stages thoughts on what to make for Thanksgiving -- ruminations on pop-up turkey thermometers, brines, sides, desserts, and predicting what other people will eat -- came to a head today with what actually happened.

A breakdown of the menu, when all was said and done:
  • duckies! cured in some combination of salt, orange zest, thyme, sage, and other lovelies
  • mashed 'taters: not my favorite, but we aim to please here
  • a carrot and sweet potato puree, featuring apple cider and other flavors of fall
  • broccolini with some cheese and walnuts
  • fennel gratin with lots of crispy-crunchy panko bread crumbs
  • and for dessert, a pie featuring grapefruit curd, caramel cream, caramel sauce, and a mile-high meringue, torched with everyone's favorite Bernzomatic propane buddy. All atop a graham cracker crust. Different, but ooooooh. Delicious.
The truth of it all: everything was tastytastic. Except for maybe the mashies. I underseasoned them, and the one dish I wasn't responsible for (the duckies) took longer than expected, making the consistency of the mashed potatoes a little gluier than if they had been served immediately after ricing/mixing.

And all this is more information than you ever needed or wanted! Yay blogs!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

NaBloPoMo, Day 21

The thirty things nearest me:
  1. Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 (Platinum!)
  2. My computer
  3. My sister's computer
  4. Various Apple cords
  5. My phone
  6. the game plan for Thanksgiving
  7. My sister's phone
  8. Pillows
  9. Blankie
  10. Water
  11. Burt's Bees
  12. My sister
  13. My sister's pillows
  14. (Wouldn't it be great if My Sister's Keeper were the next thing?)
  15. Pens
  16. Stamps for when I like to pretend I'm a teacher
  17. Mock trial affidavits
  18. Scissors that look like a pig
  19. A little pot that holds quarters
  20. A curious craft called "scoubidou." What.
  21. Coca-Cola paraphernalia
  22. An Indian headdress sported by me for the paper* staff photo two Thanksgivings ago
  23. A pirate pinata
  24. Daisies, painted
  25. A funny rug
  26. Cookbooks aplenty
  27. A large bottle
  28. A safety pin
  29. Stitch, the stuffed animal
  30. A penny...Lincoln!
Have I mentioned how sorry I am not to actually be writing anything of value to you?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

NaBloPoMo, Day 20

With any luck, tomorrow will bring two things I've been meaning to do for a while now:
  • make this cake. I've always had good excuses. Something else flashier and more glamorous pops up. It's not the right season. I'm out of whole wheat flour. I don't have buttermilk or yogurt. (Also, who measures butter in thirds of a cup?) Excuses are now gone, and this is happening tomorrow, if I have anything to say about it.
  • see people who are in Houston! This one hasn't really been about excuses, I've just been a whole plane flight away. So I'm here, they're here, it's go time.
And you're getting gypped. You've gotten two very short, not very substantial posts. And I'm sorry.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

NaBloPoMo, Day 19

How do you write about the things that bother you in a public forum? Especially when the things that bother you are things that other people do. People can be rude, people can be stupid, people can just frustrate you sometimes. And whether they end up reading your blog or not, you can't just air frustrations willy-nilly on this big internet thing.

If writing is supposed to be a release, there has to be something for you to release. When that doesn't happen, you end up writing about your other releases. You write about baking cookies at odd hours or napping or crafting. That's all fine and well, but it kind of defeats the purpose, don't you think? So maybe a goal in the near-time will be to find a way to make that happen. If you've got any ideas, holler.

Disclaimer: No, I am not keeping enormous frustrations bottled up inside. I talk about them plenty. When it comes to the end of the day, though, and you need something to write about, it's difficult for such a substantial hunk of life to be off-limits.

Monday, November 19, 2012

NaBloPoMo, Day 18

This is a story best told sequentially.

Yesterday, I took a seven-minute study break nap. I looked like this:

Then, today, I took a two-hour nap because I slept through all but five minutes of the sermon. And obviously, unintended sleep demands intended sleep. For two hours.

I then did a photo scavenger hunt, which is, ironically, not pictured.

I studied for about ten minutes for tomorrow's quiz on classical music history.

I talked a lot and finished a scarf I've been crocheting.

Then, it was 12:00, and Abby wanted to do something (but didn't know what). In my brain, it took about ten minutes to decide what to do and make it to the kitchen.

In real life, it took 55 minutes.

We made cookies. See? (I'm the one with the cookies.)

Many minutes later, it was 1:57 and I needed to blog.

All this to say, if I make it out of tomorrow's quiz alive, it'll be a miracle. Night night, y'all.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

NaBloPoMo, Day 17

You know, I was just kidding about the turkey. We're actually going for some duck instead. But first, I learned something about turkeys! More accurately, about the pop-up timers that are jammed in them. Inside them is a tiny spring (tiny!) held in its compressed position by an epoxy that melts at a specific temperature -- in the case of turkey, usually 181 degrees. Epoxy melts, spring goes pop, turkey continues to cook, nobody's happy except Butterball.

But all this is irrelevant because we're eating duckies! And other side dishes that, according to some family members, are "too weird." Excuse me, but we've got to expand people's horizons somehow (including my own), and when you're off in Illinois for eight months out of the year, you have to take the opportunities you can get. So decisions have been made, food will be tasty, and people will like it more than they expect. Mark my word.

Friday, November 16, 2012

NaBloPoMo, Day 16

Thanksgiving is approaching, and it's got some real potential this year. It's always fun to plan lots and lots of things that you get to make, all from scratch and all by yourself (probably). It's especially fun this year because I'm thinking it might finally be time to do a big turkey. We haven't actually had one in my memory of Thanksgivings. It's basically a big science project, and for all food-related science projects, we turn to the one, the only Alton Brown. Winner. So that should involve a nice brining time and some aromatics or something we stick into the middle of Big Bird. And then we roast the little buddy.

Sides-wise, I'm thinking color. Orange things and green things, mainly. And then lots of carbs. With some sugar at the end. Yep, sounds like a winner of a meal.

NaBloPoMo, Day 15

First, this: we're halfway there! 15 out of the 30 days in November have passed, and I haven't failed yet. Huzzah!

Secondly, I give you a direct quote from a conversation I had with a friend a month or so ago: "My mom, she doesn't understand me and cheese."

So here we are. The secret's out. I don't always like cheese. The deets:
  • There are some cheeses whose flavor is just too strong: blue cheeses, some brie, emmentaler, feta, some gouda. Oh yes, and cottage cheese. Who thought that was a good idea?
  • I don't remember what I think about camembert or havarti.
  • Some cheeses don't offend me, but they just don't taste like much. Looking at you, American and Monterrey Jack. And shredded mozzarella.
  • The cheeses I like, I want to taste. If it's cheddar, it better be the sharpest you can find. Parmesan? None of the Kraft green shaker bottles, please. Commit!
  • The main rule here is this: if you're going to put cheese on my pizza/burger/sandwich, it had best be adding something other than color and calories. Nuff said. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

NaBloPoMo, Day 14

I'm pretty sure I amuse my piano teacher (hereafter DPH) on a weekly basis. I mean, I don't sit in on other people's lessons or anything, but something tells me I'm my own breed of crazy in there.

He'll ask questions like, "Now how did that feel?" right after we change something, and I honestly tell him that it felt pretty much the same.

Or today, I had a little memory slip, and he was just about to put the music back up and let me look at it. It went like this:
DPH: I really just want to show you this one thing.
Me: No, hold on, I've got it.
(tries and fails)
DPH: I really think...
Me: Nope, I've got it.
DPH: OK...
(fails in a different way)
Me: OK, self, just slow down a little. Again.
Me: OK, show me what you wanted to show me.
DPH: Well, I was just going to show you this pattern...
Me: Yeah yeah, it's chromatic and descending, I know.
DPH: Oh, so you knew that?
Me: Yeah, I just had to start it. I knew it was a c-sharp something, I just had to figure it out.
DPH: Oh. Well great!

Or when I beat him to the punch.
DPH: Let's try that again.
Me: Gotcha.
(plays a ditty that happens three times)
Me: So the second and third ones were good.
DPH at the same time: Well, those were a lot better, especially the second and -- right, just like that.

Or when I bring in nutso imagery:
DPH: How's the Dello Joio memory coming along?
Me: Right, I thought you were going to ask that, so I was coming up with an analogy just now. I think it's like a grid or matrix of some sort that's supposed to hold smaller stuff inside it. And if that's what the piece is, then I've got the grid matrix thing in place and I just need to stuff it now.
DPH: Oh. Well OK. See you next week!

And I hope you had as much fun reading that as I did reliving the whole thing.

NaBloPoMo, Day 13

Sometimes I wonder what my life is. I'm not even being profound. This was my night:
  • trying and failing to focus on theory homework throughout. 
  • playing piano in a horn studio recital. And that studio is full of characters. Let's just say one of them gave me a program autographed in chalk ("because it's permanent") as a token of gratitude for my participation. What.
  • this video being posted by a couple girls on my hall as a lament about mock trial team stacking. Note: bad vocals are allegedly intentional.
  • crossing my fingers that my theory class for next semester will stay at the 4-person size at which it currently sits. Because that'd be awesome.
  • having a friend I was supposed to Skype with be in the ER instead. (said friend is entirely OK now, no worries.)
Like I said. What is my life.

Lots of fun, but never quite what you expect.

Monday, November 12, 2012

NaBloPoMo, Day 12

So I'm sitting here, figuring out what to write about while watching The Next Iron Chef, and I've got nothing. Therefore, these are my two main thoughts:
  • Pineapple and tomatoes. That's an interesting combination. Kind of like tomato jam! Which is delicious!
  • I used to watch this and Top Chef and other shows like that and think that that would totally be my bag, I could rock it, and it would be the best thing ever. And maybe with more training, I could. Maybe. But what I'm grateful for is that I don't actually have the desire to. I love cooking, but there's not this looming what-am-I-going-to-do-with-my-life, maybe-this-maybe-that feeling. And that's nice.
Oh, and if you've got more inspiration than I do, this blogger's open to suggestions. Hit me up.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

NaBloPoMo, Day 11

One thing that most everyone at Wheaton develops is introspection. Knowing yourself, what you need, is of high importance, it seems, and along with that comes a piqued interest in personality tests. One offered by Career Services is the Gallup test, StrengthsFinder, which asks you something like 177 questions to discover your top five of 34 strengths. It's a lovely confidence booster and a sort of common language. As with most people, I like my strengths. They tell me these things, in this order:
  • I am a relator, meaning that I pick a few close friends, but I know them really well. In a large-group situation, I just need a couple people to talk to, rather than wanting to talk to everyone however briefly.
  • I individualize people. I don't like labeling people, generalizing, any of that. I'm particularly proud of this one because I think it's one everyone should have to be a decent human being.
  • I analyze. I need to be able to prove something if I'm going to believe it and act on it. I have decision trees in my head.
  • I'm a developer, so I take people wherever they are and help them improve. I also get excited about improvements, even if they're tiny. 
  • I'm an arranger. I put people in groups well, arranging people and schedules for maximum productivity. (I think this might also have something to do with efficiency, which I like a lot.)
As happy as these things make me, my brain's getting a little full of personality stuff right now. Here's why:
  • At some point, you have to stop thinking about yourself and what type of person you are and actually do something with your time. 
  • Personality tests can sometimes become like a self-fulfilling prophecy: "Well, I'm a developer, so I would typically behave this way, so I guess that's what I should do" or "That's not one of my strengths -- I wouldn't do that, so I shouldn't."
  • To some extent, self-discovery should happen by your own self, not by a test.
That being said, these tests give me a lot of insight into people I'm just getting to know. So that's nice.
Also, two people I know (kind of) got engaged tonight. I mean, it's cute, but whoa. You're a year older than I am. This is not OK.

NaBloPoMo, Day 10: Goodbye and Good Morning

Secret Garden closed tonight, and there are some moments that will stick in my brain for a nice, long while. The people will stick longer.

But this particular evening was a long one. After we changed out of our costumes for the last time, we began dismantling nearly every platform we (or they, rather) built.  I personally picked up something like 300 screws off the floor.  I stood on wood while other people took out screws. I mopped half the theater floor.  What followed was a series of "secrets and surprises," which, due to their secret and surprising nature, cannot be shared here.

Now scroll down and check that time stamp. Roughly 4:30 a.m. I didn't dilly-dally. It's those darned secrets and surprises. They only work late, late, late at night when everyone should be sleeping.

I'm not sure I completely understand all that goes on in that building, but there's something different about it that I don't dislike. For the moment, my time there is done -- they don't have any musicals slated for the near future -- but something tells me I might still be spending some time there.

Pardon the vagueness and rambling. I need to process, but first, I think it's sleepytime.

Friday, November 9, 2012

NaBloPoMo, Day 9

And the crafting has returned! Since September, I've been working on a couple different dorm room improvement projects. The first I call "birds on a line." Yes, I did cut those out myself. Yes, while watching Survivor.

Inspired by my own creation, I began to ponder a corollary to "birds on a line." Something else in silhouette? Something outdoorsy? Garden-party-esque? Animals? Planes? All modes of transportation? Heavens, no. Something much simpler was in order. I present the newly completed sequel, "clothes on a line." (Yes, I also cut these out, but during episodes of Bones instead.)

NaBloPoMo, Day 8: Cabbages

In the last week or so, a particular idea has come up twice: once, a professor said it, and tonight, a person quoted that professor. That idea is this.
"A cabbage needs no other cabbages to be a perfect cabbage. Humans are different in that we need other humans to shape us and improve us."
I don't fully remember the context of the first instance of this, but tonight it was used in the context of The Secret Garden. Seeing as this musical hardly relies on plot for its substance, the show's relationships are essential for it to have any meaning for the audience. Everyone must be aware of the ways in which the characters are different from cabbages.

In fact, I am not a cabbage, in case there was any doubt, and neither are you.* Just some food (oh dear) for thought.

*Oh the profundity. I sure hope no one out there's actually planning to get anything out of these posts because it's slim pickings.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

NaBloPoMo, Day 7

Today, I pretended I was a goose in my conducting class. I looked ridiculous.

But it's what I was told to do, and it fixed something, I think. So because it's late and I'm tired, today's post is this: what is the most idiotic-looking thing you've done recently? And if you can't think of anything, I think it's about time you get your goose on.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

NaBloPoMo, Day 6

Well, we've re-elected our president, and honestly, I'm neither thrilled nor concerned. I know, I know, voting is important, and politics and government matter, but when my daily life in almost 20 years of living hasn't been obviously affected by the party in office, it's hard to make myself care. And in any case, all of the history teachers I've had have said something to the effect of "most politicians start out far left or far right and become more and more moderate as elections and terms progress." So here we are, I'm ignorant, I'm apathetic, and in this area, that's OK with me. (I know, it shouldn't be OK with me, but it is, and I'm not pushing it.)

Note to family: don't even want to hear how politically ignorant I am. I know.

Monday, November 5, 2012

NaBloPoMo, Day 5: Winners.

I have a friend named Darby who plays the piano, and she played in the concerto competition tonight. She did not win, but if you ask me, she should have. (Note: the guy who did win is entirely deserving, but you root for your friends, case closed.) Here's why:
  • I don't like listening to classical music, much less piano concerti. But I could listen to her piece all day.
  • It's very easily solfeged, and very stickinyourheadable.
  • It's just so preeeetty. (This isn't her, but it'll give you an idea.)
  • You can tell it's hard, but she makes it seem easy and doesn't even seem to get all bogged down in the technicality of it all (even though she's acutely aware of exactly what needs to happen when).
  • She doesn't have the whole arrogance thing going on. That's always a plus.
All this to say, there is still hope for me in the world of listening to classical music. Because if she can make it manageable, that means it's not a me-flaw that I don't like going to concerts and listening to all that, it's a them-flaw. And pinning things on other people is a great life strategy, no? 

NaBloPoMo, Day 4

Muffins are often misunderstood. For a long time, I misunderstood them, but I'd now like to think I understand them properly. Mainly, I know that they are not cupcakes. They don't have to be as sweet as cupcakes, and they shouldn't be as tender as cupcakes. They don't have to be as uniform in texture as cupcakes. They don't have to be healthy, but it's not bad for them to have some nutrition.

A muffin should have a hearty crumb. Ideally, it would have a crispy-crackly top or outer layer with a softer, but still chewy, interior. You should be able to taste what kind of flour you use. Butter or oil should make a difference.

Yes, I know, it sounds like some weirdo health freak baker talking, but it's true. When you go for a muffin, you at least want to think you're eating something semi-nutritious, whether you realize it or not. Peaches are nice, but they're even better when you throw a little ginger in there. Rye flour does something nice to pumpkin and banana. I put rosemary and fig butter in my oatmeal the other day, and those flavors would make a nice muffin.

Everything you've been doing with your muffins is great. Make muffins you like. But just know that if I'm your muffin man, you'll be getting something faintly sweet, hearty, unassuming. All great qualities, in muffins and in people.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

NaBloPoMo, Day 3

And I accomplished all my goals. I slept, I practiced, I baked. It was lovely. I hope to do it again soon. Also, crafts.

But I can't just leave a whole post at that. Instead, here are a few thoughts on the little show I'm working on:
  • There is essentially no plot. Blame: Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • Instead, we look at pretty costumes and exciting people and see how both change over the course of two hours.
  • We're about as loyal to the original script as I am to this blog when it's not November.
  • Ditto for the score.
  • I have the job of handing an actor a stick from the pit in the middle of "Final Storm." Tonight, I realized during the prologue that the stick was missing. I whisper to our music director. He texts the stage manager. The stage manager tells the director, who finds his way backstage to tell one of the cast members, who then mimes to me from the other side of the stage that she will be bringing the stick over, and would I like to receive it over the top of my stand or under my keyboard. With great purpose, she comes onstage for her scene change, slides the stick under the keyboard, and moves the panel she was originally slated to move. A well-oiled machine. 
  • I have issues with the show as a piece (namely, with the music; blame: Lucy Simon), but I am quite fond of the people in our production.
Maybe more later, maybe not. Go change those clocks - it'll be the best thing that happens to you while you're sleeping.

NaBloPoMo, Day 2

Much has been accomplished today: I had a conducting evaluation, I helped paint the floor of the theater black, I stirred some polyurethane, I got back a midterm that was labeled with a shockingly high mark, the official opening night of Secret Garden happened (and we sold out the run of the show today), and I spread my little social butterfly wings and ended up at TGIFriday's (heaven help us all) with a whole slew of theatrical people well past midnight. And now I'm preparing myself for a nice two-and-a-half hour sleep before doing a little Fischer 3 pranktime.

It's the days like these when exhaustion doesn't quite register because everything's been so fast and fun that you forget you're supposed to be tired. You forget that you haven't been in the room with your roommate for about a week when one of you wasn't sleeping. And come the end of tomorrow night's show, I'll remind myself of all this, and we'll do some catching up. I'll get reacquainted with my bed, but also with the practice rooms, and maybe even the kitchen. Maybe? Maybe. But I guess I'll keep you posted on all that.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


Welcome to November. Chances are really good I'll fail miserably at this, given how hectic this month promises to be, but it's worth a shot, I think. And because I'm in the time of day where focusing isn't quite practical, we're going with the bullets:

  • This post doesn't have to be anything special because it's just November 1. I totally deserve an introduction post.
  • Tonight marks the first of eight performances of The Secret Garden with an audience. (I'm in ze pit.) It's kind of exciting.
  • Because I don't always get a minute to sit down at the computer (to do things like whip out a little blog post) until well into the night-time hours, posts in the wee hours of the morning definitely count for the day before. Don't even try to tell me they don't.
  • There are two girls on my floor who qualify in my book as absolutely insane, and they're hilarious for it. They make music videos every evening, and my friend and I popped into one the other night. Just a day in the life.
  • While there's little chance I'll actually post every day in November, there's even less of a chance these posts will be substantial, clever, entertaining, or otherwise worth your time. Sorry about that, but it's just the way it is.

Sunday, September 30, 2012


I'm writing from a place I've never written from before. I'm not even speaking metaphorically. I mean that my friend Abby and I are hiding out in the bathroom of two girls on my floor. Note that it's 1 a.m., and they're currently on their way back from a movie. We will be surprising them. It'll be a great time. And we're so excited. We also did a mini photo shoot while we waited.

  • We will wait until we hear laughter. (We left them a cute set of notes on their marker board, so we expect a response as our alert signal.)
  • We will wait until we see the light turn on in the room.
  • We will quietly pack up our computers and get ready.
  • We will welcome them to their own room with much volume and fanfare.
  • If we miss our opportunity, we will wait in the bathroom until they come in. Just hangin'.
Moral of the story: don't leave your door open when you're not home.

Disclaimer: they love and adore us and are also far creepier than us, which is the only reason this is OK.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Because I am cruel.

Today, I made cookies. They are a wee bit lemony, and they have poppy seeds in them. I then smushed some blackberry cabernet sorbet (ooh! ahh!) in between two of them. It is delicious, and I thought you'd like to know.*

*except that it's really just because I'm evil. But we'll pretend it's in the interest of representing my life accurately on this here blog. Because I do that so faithfully.

Happy Friday.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Something I could get used to

You know, I’ve never been the type to really look forward to summer. I mean, it’s nice, but it’s always been a three-month heat wave punctuated too frequently with days when I just can’t wait for school to start back up. This summer’s been nice, though. Different. I got to shave off a nice month of the summer right from the get-go by being in London for most of May. And now, filling my days with cooking whatever strikes my fancy, learning the score to a hard piece of musical theatre, reading a couple Agatha Christie novels, and bopping around Houston to visit friends - that’s something I could get used to. I mean, already this summer I’ve gotten to make all these fun things:
  • tostadas 
  • peanut noodles 
  • a fancy BLT, fried egg and all 
  • turkey chili 
  • strawberry froyo 
  • peach streusel cake 
  • chicken tikka masala 
  • raspberry scones 
  • whole wheat chocolate chip cookies 
  • jazzed-up apricot goat cheese prosciutto paninis 
  • a “corn chowder” salad 
  • gingerbread cookies 
  • biscuits! 
  • blackberry apricot pie 
  • pork tomato ravioli
  • honey-yogurt tart with blackberries and raspberries 
  • barbecue sauce 
  • pulled barbecued chicken sandwiches with that barbecue sauce 
  • strawberry conserve 
  • tomato jam
look how cute!

And there’s plenty more where that came from. All I’m saying is, I think I might finally get what all the fuss about summer is about. It’s about time.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Remember these?

Way back when, I decided to embark on a mission to make some faux-buffalo chip cookies, and in the last couple of weeks before finals, I settled on something close.

Adjustments I made from the very beginning to what I've got now:
  • less sugar because mine spread too much. Instead of a cup of brown and a cup of white, we're down to 3/4 cup brown and 1 cup powdered sugar. Powdered sugar? In a cookie? Yes, because somewhere along the line I decided the texture of these cookies was something like Mexican wedding cookies, which use powdered sugar. I'll stop now - I can hear you getting bored.
  • more salt because it makes me happy. Also because there's enough sweet stuff in these cookies to singlehandedly give you a cavity. A little salt is nice.
  • more flour because they were just too wet.
  • different mix-in levels, for accuracy's sake.
  • one other important distinction: you may recall the day that I unsweetened some sweetened coconut and was pleasantly surprised when I didn't get a call from maintenance telling me our bathroom pipes were clogged with coconut. No? Well, I do. In any case, I used the extra sweetness from the sweetened coconut as an excuse to nix some more of the sugar. Did it make a difference? Who knows.
In any case. We're here now, and I like cookies. These are some nice little guys. They're not identical to the original, but you know, these are darn good little suckers, and this way you get to eat the dough. Priorities, people.

2 sticks butter
3/4 cup light brown sugar (NOTE: I used 1 1/4 cups sugar + 1 1/2 T. molasses)
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. salt
3 cups flour
1 1/2 cups oats
1 3/4 cups cornflakes
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
3/4 cup Heath bar pieces/toffee chips
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup coconut

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Beat butter and brown sugar until creamy. Add in eggs and vanilla. Whisk together all dry ingredients, then add them. Add oats, cornflakes, chocolate chips, toffee chips, pecans, and coconut. Scoop. Use an ungreased cookie sheet lined with parchment. Bake at 375 degrees for 16 minutes or until you poke them and, while they don't like it, they don't poke back. That's how you know.

**Also: these make a crazy ton of cookies. Like 64 if you make the dough balls the size of golf balls. Go easy or make friends.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Les Mis: what a croissanwich.*

Well, you can’t say I didn’t try. This was my last chance for that musical, and it’s not looking too good.

The good bits:
  • Jean Valjean had a nice voice, as did Marius.
  • There was a pretty expressive pit.

The neutral notes:
  • Schönberg must have really had a thing for the perfect 4th because it’s literally everywhere. “On My Own.” “Look Down.” Name a song, and it’s there.
  • Fantine had a moment where I was sure she was singing something like a low D. This is just ridiculous.

List of grievances with the production:
  • Eponine. She literally sounded like a pop star. You do not put riffs into “On My Own.” It just doesn’t work that way. No ma’am.
  • There was what I call the “bright light of death”: both when Fantine died and when Eponine died, there was a crazy bright, stark white light focused directly on the dying character. It nearly blinded me, and it was aimed at the stage. What are you doing, light crew?
  • Speaking of lights, there were some crazy effects going on with the battle scenes. I mean, do random (but remarkably evenly spaced) little beams of light directed at various parts of the stage really look like explosions or gun shots to you? Because they don’t to me.
  • Way heavy on the amplification. Excessive, really. What’s more, they added some serious reverb to Fantine on more than one occasion. Is that really necessary? No, no it’s not.
  • In the wedding scene towards the end, the men in tuxes weren’t wearing black socks. They were wearing black tights. That just looks awkward. You’re in a full tux with a vest and tails. Act like it.
  • Javert’s death was as lame as they come. He was standing on a bridge. Expectation: the bridge will lift up, Javert will jump off. Reality: Javert “jumps” off bridge while it’s on the stage, then the bridge lifts up, and Javert twirls around to make it look like he’s falling. Are you for real right now?

List of grievances with the musical itself:
  • Too many characters. Maybe 80% of the audience was seeing this show for the fifteenth time. Doesn’t matter. I couldn’t follow the plot. Oh, someone just died? Too bad I don’t even know his name. If you want me to care about your characters, at least make it obvious which ones I need to care about. I don’t have enough caring for a whole dozen, I just don’t.
  • Along those same lines, “I Dreamed a Dream” was way too early in the show. We just met the woman! I can’t sympathize with her situation when I’ve seen her running around the stage for ten minutes!
  • Nearly everything in the show is super high on the passion scale. I get it, you have convictions. Everyone can’t sing like “this song is the most important one you’ll hear in this whole musical” if everyone else is doing the same thing. It’s like I said before. You just can’t care about that much stuff that strongly. (Note: this went under grievances with the musical because those songs demand power. You try belting and sounding apathetic at the same time. It doesn’t work.)
  • I’m all for continuity in a musical, but this feels like you’re listening to the same five songs for three whole hours. It’s why any 30-second clip from Les Mis is so obviously Les Mis. It all sounds the same.
Oy. I don’t know how anyone’s supposed to go to sleep after getting this worked up.

*see Seth Rudetsky's deconstruction of Les Mis for full explanation (3:15)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The first full day.

Yes, we got in at 8:30 a.m. yesterday, but the first half of that was spent going through customs and getting to our hotel-like little conference center (hereafter "here" or "home").  A little nap, a big dinner, and two blistered heels later, we had familiarized ourselves with the city some and picked up many, many brochures for concerts and shows. I slept well.

The morning and afternoon were spent in class today, with every spare moment being used to see what tickets were available for what, when, and how much.  Most of us got tickets for a play tonight at a small theater about fifteen minutes from here. It didn't have a ton of substance and was surprisingly feministic, but the lead actress was good and there were a few funny moments. More importantly, I learned that you're allowed to bring food and drink into theaters here, which is odd.

We learned at one of our meetings before we left that one of the people who went on this trip two years ago saw a whopping 37 shows. This is ridiculous. I don't know how anyone would have the energy, much less the time, to go to that many. So far, here's my interest list, with the asterisks representing the shows to which I already have tickets:

  • *Filumena, tonight's play
  • Ragtime
  • Jersey Boys
  • The Wizard of Oz (with new songs added by everyone's (least) favorite, Andrew Lloyd Webber) 
  • *Singing in the Rain
  • *Sweeney Todd (with Imelda Staunton, a.k.a. Dolores Umbridge, and Michael Ball, the original Marius in Les Mis, among many other things)
  • The Great Gatsby, which is now a play
  • Noises Off
  • The 39 Steps
  • *War Horse
  • *Les Mis, to which I've gotten tickets because if anything is going to change my mind about that musical, it'll be the London production.
  • Peter Pan
  • *Matilda, which apparently is amazing.
  • any number of Shakespeare plays in foreign languages at the Globe (see note)
  • Company
  • The Lion King
  • Shrek, if I'm desperate (Update 5/10: apparently not that desperate. I saw it today, and I still wonder why Sutton Foster ever chose to be in that musical.)
  • Wicked, if I'm more desperate
  • *Billy Elliot
  • Einstein on the Beach, a Philip Glass opera in case I'm feeling adventurous 

Note: the plays at the Globe are lovely, especially because you can get standing tickets in the yard for five pounds. The bad news: ushers are apparently quite strict about the fact that you will be standing for the duration of the play, no leaning allowed. This might be the sort of thing you do once for the experience, and then never again. Or leave at intermission. That sounds nice too.

But for now, we're in ticket-hunting mode, sleeping and eating when we can. Wish us well.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

What a year.

My goodness, it's been quite a year. Almost exactly a year ago was prom, but so much has happened since then. Let's recap, shall we?
  • I graduated (and went to the subsequent parties). That was a biggie.
  • I taught VBS to 3-year-olds. Happening again this year? Uh, duh.
  • I partied it up on a houseboat at the Texas-Oklahoma border with the Tallowood seniors.
  • I led my tribe to victory at Camp Tallowood.
  • I traipsed up I-45 all the way to Colorado Springs with my motley crew of a team for a mission trip.
  • I baked up a storm, then met my dad in the kitchen each night to see how much of it we could put away (if only so I could make something else). I'm telling you, summer: nothing quite like it.
  • I was roped into a last minute pit-playing job for everyone's favorite student-produced musical, Floyd Collins. Best decision ever (and I'm doing it again this summer).
  • I said goodbye. A lot.
  • I did perhaps my least favorite thing for a whole month: endured oodles upon oodles of small talk through the death they call orientation and adjusting to life in a new place.
  • I became part of the Symphony Orchestra and the Women's Chorale (never thought I'd see that day).
  • I ate at Alinea, an insanely expensive but equally innovative and delicious restaurant in Chicago.
  • I invented a new method for outlining papers, designed especially for all you visual learners out there.
  • I met up with some friends from high school in Chicago and almost missed the train back to Wheaton...oops.
  • I blogged every day for a month!
  • I went a little nuts with the door decorations.
  • I made it through my first Christmas Festival! And finals!
  • I popped into Philadelphia for a little stay with my sister. Except for all the fun vomiting that went on there, I've been missing that a lot lately. There was a puppy. There was a fuzzy blanket. There was a comfy bed. And there was delicious food. And there was no need to set an alarm for the mornings.
  • Christmas happened! (Brilliant, Margaret. Christmas in December, who would've thunk it?)
  • I switched from the College of Arts and Sciences to the Conservatory of Music. That really was brilliant. No, really.
  • I finally got some classes I cared about. I also made a decision only a crazy person would make in voluntarily taking Inorganic Chemistry. Who am I?
  • I flew home to surprise my friend for her senior recital! Not only was it the biggest surprise I've pulled off to date, but it was the focal point of the first two weeks of my spring semester.
  • I set off to make a recipe for some copycat buffalo chip cookies. Almost there, but that's another post.
  • I shadowed two pit conductors in the big city of Chicago. Fun times, fo realz.
  • I secretly trained to "run" a 10K on April 1. And by "run," I mean "get myself from point A to point B on foot at whatever speed I can muster." And by "secretly," I mean "everyone outside of my family knew."
  • I showed a whole orchestra the wonders of Texas on our orchestra spring break tour to Texas! Made me love my state so much more.
  • I made a couple more doors.
  • I learned to play the flute.
  • I applied for a bunch of things and didn't get them.
  • I applied to be the sophomore class's Conservatory representative and the orchestra's Assistant Business Manager and got them!
  • I baked a million things, and made a list of a million more to make this summer.
  • And I missed all of you. 
Now listen. I'm coming home. But first, a stop in London to become a cultured person, sort of. B&Bs! Buggy rides through the countryside! Eating in pubs! Seeing musicals! Picnics on gingham cloths! By the time you see me again, I'll be interested solely in eating scones and drinking tea with my pinky out. Looks like you'll have some catching up to do. Better hop to it.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Surprises, round 2.

Today, I got to pull off my second respectably-sized surprise of the calendar year. In late January, I was told by some people on my floor that I should sign up for the Chi Town Half Marathon, to which I sensibly said, "Ha, no." At this point, I made a deal with one of those people to run as far as I could one afternoon, and if it was more than six miles, I would consider the Half Marathon. And thank goodness, it was not. But it was a good effort at 4.1 miles of a running/walking combo. So I signed up for the 10K instead (6.2 miles instead of 13.1). But for someone with such an impassioned lifelong anti-running streak as I have had, what would make this more fun? Keeping the whole thing a secret from my family, of course. All this for a few reasons: first, because surprises are fun; second, because I wasn't quite sure how it would turn out; and third, because it's just nicer not to have to deal with all the questions about how "training" is going (snerk) and whether I'm nervous about it and whether it was really a good idea.

So I ran just a wee bit at first, taking off for the orchestra tour to Texas, the two colds I had (still not sure how that's fair), and a weekend in Memphis. And although I never really got the hang of running more than about half a mile without walking some, running a mile became not nearly as big of a deal.

And then came the fun part: race prep! Secret trips to Target. Free ("free" meaning "included in the price of registration") quarter-zip meshy shirt thing with snazztastic thumb holes to feel like a real runner. Stealing applesauce, granola, and Chia seeds (wonder-seeds that gel when mixed with water) for breakfast the morning of.

We set out for Lincoln Park on a rather chilly, wet morning at the very early hour of 6:30, and after much to-do about parking, riding the bus, using the port-a-potties, and dropping off bags at the gear check tent (even though I might ask why you would leave your "gear" at the start line when, theoretically, any gear you would have brought would have been for the run anyway). We lined up, started the race, finished the race, kablam.

And at this point, my need for energy is kind of taking over my desire to give you a very factual account of this event. My condolences. Maybe later. But I'll leave you with this thought: peer pressure has never had such positive effects.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Another day, another door.

This one was inspired by 4-year-olds everywhere. I'm already gearing up for VBS.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

I had a realization yesterday: I am so incredibly grateful that we need food to survive.

It sounds weird, but think about it. If eating were merely an option, like wearing jewelry or makeup, then who knows what I'd be missing out on? If we didn't have to eat at least three times a day, the demand for food wouldn't be nearly what it is. If we didn't have to eat food to survive, then those who regularly did so would be weird, like people who wear pounds of makeup and a bajillion clangy bangles just because they can. Besides that, not needing food would mean that our bodies wouldn't need the energy it provides, which would mean that the typical eating person would be considerably larger than is desirable.

That was one bizarre paragraph. But all this is to say that food is delicious. Oreos, cereal, chocolate, sweet potatoes, animal crackers, chicken, peanut butter, all that stuff. Delicious. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Let's catch up.

Since we last chatted, quite a bit has happened. I made a trip to Texas by bus, enduring many bus trips where a certain couple across the aisle clearly had never heard the phrase "get a room." Of course, the trip also featured many pleasant things, like frantically pointing at the latest herd of cows, staying in homes of very hospitable Southerners who enjoy nothing more than force-feeding you strawberry shortcake, and convincing yourself that it would probably save time to just sleep in your concert black. All in all, a good trip. But it's good to be back.

But as nice as it is to have a routine, it's even nicer when your routine gets interrupted, as mine recently has. Due to all kinds of bizarre circumstances, I'll be going to Memphis next weekend (no, not this weekend) with the Mock Trial team. I'll be playing the role of Timekeeper, an important part, to be sure. Plus, since memorizing the bell schedule and synchronizing my watch down to the second with the school clocks in middle school, I think it'd be safe to say that timekeeping is my passion. So, to Memphis we will go.

And I wouldn't be truly back in the saddle again if I weren't baking. I'm carrying on with the Buffalo Chip Challenge, and if you ask me, it's going fairly well. Round 2 is this week's project, and it is significantly closer to the real deal than Round 1 was. And I would show you a picture, except my camera cord seems to have gone on a little walkabout. But soon, I promise. (Update 3/19: I found it, see?)

They didn't spread much at all. They were not too sweet. I think we're almost there. (The one thing I'm not so sure about is the texture. Mine were more like your normal cookie, whereas the originals were crumbly; when you bite in, your teeth don't compress the cookie at all, they just separate the part of the cookie in your hand from the part of the cookie that will soon be in your tummy. Let's hope that made as much sense to you as it did in my head. Your cookie should stand up to your teeth, show it who's boss.*)

But to hone my procrastination skills just that much more, I've recently discovered a few new food blogs. Exactly what I need, I'm sure. My favorite at the moment: Homesick Texan. Maybe I am one, but more likely is that the food looks perfect. I've already started a list, and I'm kicking it off with this. Followed closely by cookies and cake and cornbread and tomato jam and salsa and, when summer finally rolls around**, lots of peach ice cream. Crank up the ovens, I'm a-coming.

*Clearly, those hours on the bus took a greater toll on my mental faculties than I realized.
**And who decided Illinois could be 81 and sweaty in March?! This is so not what I signed up for.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Gone to Texas.

You say, "Big deal, you're going home for spring break. Party time." But no, this is no ordinary trip home. This one involves 49 hours on a bus and many musicians. But it's late, I won't keep you. (And let's be real, I'd like to sleep, too.) I'll be roaming the countryside with all them cows and buffalo, and you should pop on in for a concert sometime. There'll be a Hoe-Down, a violin concerto, a piece by a Finnish guy, and a whole lot more. Here's where we'll be and when. Holler if you're in town, I'll shoot you some more specific details about the concerts. They're sure to be barn-burners.

Sunday, March 4: Dallas, TX
Monday, March 5: Waco, TX
Tuesday, March 6: Tyler, TX
Wednesday, March 7 (in the mornin'): Longview, TX
Thursday, March 8: Houston, TX
Friday, March 9: Little Rock, AK
Saturday, March 10: Jefferson City, MO

Now sing yerself a li'l ditty in preparation for this here tour:

The stars at night are big and bright
(clap, clap, clap, clap)
Deep in the heart of Texas.
The prairie sky is wide and high
(clap, clap, clap, clap),
Deep in the heart of Texas.

The sage in bloom is like perfume
(clap, clap, clap, clap),
Deep in the heart of Texas.
Reminds me of the one I love
(clap, clap, clap, clap),
Deep in the heart of Texas.

The coyotes wail along the trail
(clap, clap, clap, clap),
Deep in the heart of Texas.
The rabbits rush around the brush
(clap, clap, clap, clap),
Deep in the heart of Texas.

The cowboys cry, "Ki-yip-pee-yi"
(clap, clap, clap, clap),
Deep in the heart of Texas.
The dogies bawl and bawl and bawl
(clap, clap, clap, clap),
Deep in the heart of Texas.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

I charge thee...

I have but a simple message for you all on this fine, fine evening: if you have not yet experienced the wonder of sliced, frozen banana, it's high time.

The specifics are these:
  • You must slice, then freeze. No one wants to make unattractive noises and flail upon realizing that biting off a big chunk makes your teeth very very cold.
  • You must eat with your fingers. It's just banana slices. There's no reason to bring silverware into this.
  • The experience really is heightened if you think of yourself as a three-year-old while eating. I mean, if you're picking up banana slices and smiling to yourself about how delicious they are, don't you just get that popsicle-on-a-playground feeling? And aren't all playgrounds built for three-year-olds?
Now hop to it. No time to waste. Those bananas are calling your name.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Everything's coming up roses.

Not too terribly long ago, I had to meet with the dean of the conservatory at Wheaton to switch from being an arts and sciences kid to being a conservatory kid. And in this meeting (I'm skipping a lot of steps of this story here), I was essentially double-dog-dared to find a pit conductor in the Chicago area to follow around, admire, badger with questions, and just generally stalk. All of this by spring break (which is fast approaching, I've realized). So beauty of beauties, I did, with much help from various faculty in getting email addresses, setting things up, all that. All this to say, last night, I spent a solid six-and-a-half hours at Drury Lane Theatre in a nearby little suburb for their current production of Gypsy. And it was supah fun.

There were two shows last night, one at 5, and one at 8:30. For the first, I sat with the other pit-dwellers on my own little bench with the heavily marked-up score, borrowed from the assistant conductor. And I wore cute little headphones that fed a little bit of everyone in the band, a little bit of all the people on stage, and a lot of the double bass (since his balance control box was the one I was hooked up to). And this was when I learned that the people playing in this pit (a) cannot see a thing going on onstage, and (b) cannot see the conductor except via a tiny screen clipped to the stand. Exciting times.

But not as exciting as the second show, when (brace your collective internet self) I sat on the podium next to the conductor. Who was also playing keyboard. And cuing everybody everywhere. And turning a million tiny knobs and pushing a jillion tiny buttons and flipping a kazillion equally heavily marked-up pages. This wasn't exciting only because I could see the spit flying from the actors' mouths, or because some actors stood five feet away from me to address "Mister Conductor," but because of a little something that happened during intermission. I was just minding my own business, getting comfy in my very prominent chair for Act 2, when a teenage girl walked up to the pit, held out her Playbill, and said, "Could one of the two of you please sign my program and date it?" at which point I snerked and turned to the conductor, saying, "Pretty sure she means you." But 'twould have been mighty funny if I had signed and dated her program. As if anything would have gone differently at all had I not been there.

In any case. It was a lovely evening. And he even invited me back to come see the show from the house tonight. And I get to bring a friend. Tickets? Totally unnecessary. We're just meeting him in the lobby, and he'll walk us in. Oh, don't mind me, just being chummy with important people in the real world.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Insanity, baked.

I'll cut right to the chase: Wheaton has bizarre things called raids whereby your hall stays up very late and puts on a themed event for the other halls on your floor. There are loud raids and silent raids. Loud raids involve waking up the people on the other halls and forcing them to watch you sing and dance and play silly games. Silent raids involve being very quiet, decorating the other halls and leaving cute little (often edible) presents for them to wake up to at reasonable hours.

And this is all relevant BECAUSE my hall did a little silent raid last night. And as you would expect, I was in charge of the cute little edible presents. And as you would expect, I went a little overboard. Because when you have to make 200 cookies, why wouldn't you do something as elaborate as possible? I mean, it's Valentine's. It's all about being elaborate.

Yes, I know, the quality's awful. But when you just made 200
cookies, you don't exactly feel like finding a real camera.

If you couldn't tell, these were a lot of work. But they were also fun. I got to be super-sneaky -- aside from separating eggs, softening butter, and actually baking these guys, all of this happened in our floor lounge, which is definitely not a kitchen. And I got to do all sorts of fun fractions to figure out how many parts to cut each log into during the slicing phase. And making royal icing means getting rid of excess royal icing, which translates roughly to roaming our hall asking if anyone wanted "frosting à la carte" (which they did).

And even better, I was able to make cookies to my heart's content and know that they would all be eaten, no pushing or shoving required. It was delightful, except for the waking-up-this-morning-after-only-five-hours-of-sleep thing. Small potatoes.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

BCC, round 1.

So many developments! Mother of all mothers responded to my plea for sample buffalo chip cookies, which I happily received, photographed, measured, analyzed, and ate. Here is what I noted:
  • These are big cookies. On average, they're about 2 1/2" in diameter and 1 1/4" tall at their thickest point. Think dome-shaped. (Actually, now that I think about it, they could theoretically be half-spheres, but the likelihood of that actually happening is on the slim side. For sure.)
  • These are dense cookies. There's so much stuff in them that's not actual dough - chocolate chips, corn flakes, coconut, toffee chips, pecans, and oats - that these cookies end up being very, very heavy.
  • These are weird cookies. They're not quite crunchy, not quite soft. They crackle when you chew them (thanks, cornflakes), but they don't crumble when you bite into them. 
  • These are sneaky cookies. You don't taste every ingredient at once (particularly looking at these little toffee chips). And the oats? You have to hunt for them. There aren't very many. Chocolate chips, on the other hand, are everywhere.
With this in mind, I tweaked some random internet buffalo chip cookie recipe, and this is what I got, ingredient-wise:

2 sticks butter
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups oats
2 cups cornflakes
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
3/4 cup Heath bar pieces/toffee chips
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut

OK, now looking at that list, you might not see any red flags. Clearly, you don't live in Tinytown, Illinois, where grocery stores decide not to carry unsweetened coconut. All of this led to a little experiment in my bathroom involving me, a bag of sweetened coconut, two bowls, and lots of rinsing, squeezing dry, re-rinsing, and re-squeezing. Yes, you read that right: I unsweetened a bag of sweetened coconut. Dedication right there. (Also, I'm never buying sweetened coconut again because there is some serious funk coating those flakes.)

But I finally got around to making the first batch, and after tasting the dough, it seemed like it might need a little more salt, a little less sugar, some more chocolate chips, and maybe a few fewer cornflakes. Science detour time: sugar makes cookies spread, so I had a hunch that if there really was too much sugar, then the cookies would spread more than they should. And guess what. They did. Science is a winner.

Also, the yield on this recipe is insane. I halved the one I found online to get this recipe, and it still made close to 60 normal-sized cookies. Sixty! Ridiculous! (I mean, my music theory class was happy, but still.)

Flavor-wise, pretty good. I think the proportions of mix-ins are good. Texture-wise, they were a little gooey. (I'm blaming the sugar.) And they browned on top before they were done inside, so I'll have to toy with the temperature a little. But overall, not a bad start.

So for next time: less sugar. More salt. Maybe more chocolate chips. Keeping the cornflakes where they are. Fixing temperature problems.

And I have pictures! Original first, my first attempt second.
deliciousness, half-eaten.

newbies, in abundance.

Sunday, January 29, 2012


It's nearly the end of January, and I've just now come up with a resolution for 2012, one that I'm really excited about.

In Houston, there's a somewhat elitist, somewhat sneaky little business that sells take-and-bake meals for busy parents who apparently don't understand the catharsis cooking provides. In addition to these meals, the woman who owns the business made some top secret "buffalo chip" cookies (hereafter BCCs), which she sold for a pretty ridiculous price, especially considering that the base for the cookies was bought in bulk and then embellished. Not cool, Madame Baker. I'm onto you.

IN ANY CASE. This semester, my little buffalo chip cookie, I will figure out your secrets. I will make many many versions of you and force you on my roommate, suitemates, floormates, orchestramates. I will conquer this ludicrous $1.25-a-cookie nonsense. I will discover your recipe, or something close enough to be a stunt double. And hopefully, come semester's end, you, the blog-bearing world, will have access to the fruits of my labor. Because no one should charge that much for a cookie. No one should be able to call "secret recipe" on a cookie that's not even made from scratch. Disgusting.

Here's what I know so far:
  • The cookie does not spread when it bakes. It is a tall cookie, a beauty, more like a mound than a disc. 
  • Cookies made with butter tend to spread more than cookies made with shortening. Cold dough spreads less than room temperature dough. 
  • Alton Brown did an experiment with chocolate chip cookies, changing key variables to make them thin, puffy, or chewy.
  • The texture of BCCs comes from some combination of oats, cornflakes, coconut, and chocolate chips, with additional help coming from any number of sources, such as pecans, potato chips, or rice krispies.
  • They are delicious.

And now, a poem, inspired by Pippin:

We've got magic to do, just for you
We've got oats and 'flakes to bake
We've got cookies to form, ovens to warm
Apron strings to take by storm
As this recipe we will make

*Note to Mom: Any li'l buffalo chippers you want to send my way will most definitely prove useful as taste-testing subjects. Just sayin'.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Surprise! (snicker, giggle, ha!)

This weekend was the culmination of So Very Much. Way back in October, I told my really great friend Laura that I, so unfortunately, would not be able to go to her senior recital on January 20 because I would be back in Illinois.

Then, when I was invited to the Facebook event for the recital (darn you, Facebook), I had a moment where I wished I could "pull a Jonathan Moore," a phrase which here means "show up to the senior recital of a person a year younger than you who most definitely did not know you were coming," which was exactly what happened to me at my recital last March.  And wishing all this made me think, "What if I did?" Alas, I discovered that I was to play in a concert on the very same afternoon at the very same hour as her recital. It was with the heaviest of hearts that I relayed this news to Laura.

This looks like my heart was heavy, no?
But then, fast-forward to the end of October. Inspiration struck. I discovered that the concert on January 20 wasn't actually a full-blown orchestra concert. It was just a concert featuring concerto competition winners, whom the orchestra was to accompany. Knowing that concerto orchestrations don't always call for a full horn section, a little baby plan was born in my brain. In the few weeks that followed, I was more or less on edge about asking my orchestra conductor, who at the time seemed very menacing and rather uncompromising, if it would please please please be all right for me to skip the January 20 concert in favor of going to my friend's recital. Apparently, it was a good day for him, or someone had given him cookies or something (now that I think about it, we did have cookies at rehearsal that day), because he didn't seem to have a problem with any of it. Scuzzore.

After this was all the waiting. And the secret-keeping. Because at that point, I had a perfectly great, documented excuse for missing the recital, we'd both gone through the disappointment of it all, and I love being sneaky and surprising. So I didn't tell her. Oops. This was especially hard when I would find myself sitting on her bed, and I listened to her lament that she'd chosen THE ONE FRIDAY I couldn't possibly be there. And I had to sympathize without laughing. I'd like to think I gained some acting skills somewhere in there, but one can't be sure. But it was by far the biggest secret I've ever had to keep from someone. It was thrilling.

And once school got back for the second semester, coming home two weeks later was pretty much my motivation for everything. My deepest apologies to all at Wheaton who heard way more than they ever wanted to about all this. I had to tell somebody, and Laura wasn't exactly available. January 19 came, I flew home and called Laura after my "grueling rehearsal for the concert," then proceeded to be jumpy, nervous, excited - the whole bit - for the following sixteen or so hours. Lots of sneakiness ensued, waiting in the car until the coast was clear, slumping in my chair in the back so as not to be seen, and then getting to deliver my favorite surprise ever after the recital. It would have made for great TV. OH WAIT. It did. Keep half an eye on my little Facebook page for a video soon. Because of course you're all as interested in this as I am. Right. Good. For now, photos will have to suffice.
So so much fun.

Monday, January 16, 2012

A first time for everything.

Tonight, I experienced a first. I had my first slip-fall in the snow. There are three things deserving blame:
1. I am not all that graceful.
2. These boots, ooh, they do NOT have traction. Warm? Yes. Fuzzy? Yes. 'Tractive? Nope. Will I keep wearing them? Oh, sure.
3. I was impatient (or something), so I cut across a snowy field when there were perfectly lovely snow-free sidewalks available.

Verdict: it's all the fault of the boot company. I'm ruling out numbers 1 and 3 as irrelevant.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Snow again, and another door.

Let me just say this: it's one (very unpleasant) thing to have snow smacking you in the face as you walk across campus. It's an entirely different thing to look at all of the cold from the warmth of your room. It's lovely.

But it's even better when it's a huge white, undisturbed expanse except for one little trail of footprints. In fact, the other day I cut a corner, making my own little tracks in eight-inch-deep snow, and a few hours later, I was going the same way and got to step in my very own bootprints, so as not to disrupt any more snow. Silly? Yes. Worth it? You bet.

Other excellent parts of snow being everywhere: seeing TINY TINY prints made by TINY TINY people. Also, seeing little puppy prints! So great! Makes me want to go squish something.

And finally, I put on my little crafty persona to clothe my previously-gift-wrapped, now-naked door.* Too much fun.

*Note that there are some hard-to-see little almost-origami-except-it's-not-because-I-cheated-with-glue flower things nestled in the blue spots shown above.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Broken record here.

Yet again, I must apologize. For realsies this time. It's been almost a month, and I'm terribly sorry to leave you hanging. (This is the part where you pretend that you have indeed been checking back often and with great anticipation.)

But here we are. Welcome to January, to a new year, and to a new semester. Tomorrow, I'll be back in Illinois, where I belong for 2/3 of the year. And you know, as settled as I got in Houston over the break, I do believe it'll be good to be back. New classes (and new things in general) have quite the charm. I won't ever have to return to last semester's literature class. I get to receive more grades for sitting around and talking about music. It should be fun.

But as much as the new semester will be fun, I have very little news to share. That's what breaks are for, I guess: for not doing anything particularly noteworthy, but instead gearing up for a whole slew of noteworthy events ahead. Kind of stinks for you guys, that I've been MIA for multiple weeks, and when I return, it's with nothing but a little filler. But because you're here, and because you've gotten this far, I'll just leave you this list of some of the random, relatively inconsequential stuff I filled my time with since we last chatted here (and I'm aiming to do this in chronological order, but I make no promises):
  • a little trip to Philadelphia and New York (which included going to see the not-half-bad Addams Family musical)
  • a lovely bout of some kind of sickness that involved lots of very cute expulsion of material that my body deemed foreign
  • getting reacquainted with my bed
  • getting reacquainted with a full one (because somebody decided to bring home a very British - and sadly uninformed in the ways of Winchell family card games - significant other)
  • a whopping six sweaters (among other things) for Christmas
  • a couple trips back to the old HSPVA. Nothing makes you miss home like pretending you still live there.
  • going to see an entirely student-produced play. Props to them.*
  • and lots and lots of catching up with friends, which permeated the whole trip, and thank goodness for that.
  • and then saying goodbye to them all until June. That was rough.
See what I mean? Nothing important. So, so sorry. Let's just hope something exciting happens soon, or I'll have to start coming up with more exciting things to post about.**

*every pun intended. And I've already apologized.
**Ideas on that front? Do tell me in those comments. I mean, I feel like a museum curator over here, boring everyone to tears.