Tag Archives: featured

Thursday Doors: Belgian Beer & Chocolate

This summer I experienced my first time in Belgium. I am not a newcomer, however, to Belgian chocolate. Our first evening there after arriving we took a walk, first to see the “peeing girl” (peeing boy will come later) and then to the Grand Place. Lots of restaurants, bars, and chocolate shops, and their doors, on the way!

Belgian beers are primarily ales with a heavy emphasis on malts and a lot of fruity yeast flavors.

Belgian chocolate is famous for its high cocoa content. It is a favorite of dark-chocolate lovers, such as myself.

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in on the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post and then sharing it, between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time), on the linky list at Norm 2.0’s blog

ThroughTheGate

Follow my European trip with this and previous posts:

October 27, 2018: Dutch Whimsy

October 18, 2018: Nordrhein-Westfalen

October 11, 2018: Landschaftspark

September 21, 2018: Pattensen

September 6, 2018: Birdhouse Cache

August 30, 2018: Achtung, Baby!

August 16, 2018: Ku’Damm

August 9, 2018: Berliner Dom

July 20, 2018: Berlin Walk

June 13, 2018: Thursday “Tors”: Brandenburg

June 7, 2018: Germany

Advertisements

Mundane Monday: Kitchen Close-ups

Good morning and Happy Monday! I don’t teach on Mondays so I tend to have a better relationship with the day than many people do. I had a concert last night, I got enough sleep, and like most Mondays, I usually have a little time to catch up on blogging.

And then the email appears. If I have teaching later in the week, I have to send my teacher prep email. I schedule it with Boomerang to show up in the teachers’ mailboxes on Monday morning, and I bcc my personal account to make sure it arrives. I also send a follow-up email to the classes I taught last Friday. And I schedule that for Monday Morning too because who wants work email on the weekend? Ugh!

Along with those emails, I got my weekly Mundane Monday email from Dr Katherine. For today’s challenge, she posted a photo of a blue butter dish from her kitchen. I wouldn’t have recognized it as a butter dish without the label. What I do recognize is the beauty of glass. As a child I used to collect beach glass in different colors. And one of my favorite wedding photos has my husband’s and my faces framed by a glass.

WeddingGlass

I think my favorite part of the kitchen is also something mineral, as opposed to animal or vegetable. Like glass, there is also a quality about stone, (or even fake stone) that makes me think of timeless and universal beauty. The food that is prepared in the kitchen is ephemeral, but there are other parts of the kitchen that are more permanent. I think that “stone hearth” and “brick oven” and “granite counter tops” are part of our kitchen vocabulary for a reason.

Back in Belmont MA we had a nice kitchen that we had had remodeled from its former 1980s decor. In particular I liked the geometric backsplash pattern we chose, which just came from Home Depot, but it had a historical Italian feel to it. I sometimes used it as a backdrop to photograph other things. Like this jar of Swedish Fish I won for guessing there were exactly 250 of them:

SwedishFish

And on the candy theme, since it’s almost Halloween, several years ago my son got a Rock Candy-making kit for Christmas. The candy grew nicely there on the kitchen counter:

And in one of my more successful home improvement projects, I replaced and installed a kitchen faucet myself.

Faucet

My kitchen in California is much darker and I don’t like it as well for that reason. But that backsplash too makes for some good pictures, if nothing else.

BottlesFeatured

This is our current faucet (that I did not install). And, in CA we have persimmons from a tree in the backyard!

Our new kitchen faucet, with persimmons on the counter behind

This time of year there are always some on the counter, ripening, getting ready for me to make persimmon cookies.

Fuyu persimmons on the counter

The Mundane Monday photo challenge seeks to find beauty in the mundane. It was started by TraBlogger and is continued by Dr. Katherine Ottaway. Stop by and say hello, and submit a photo!

 

Belated Thursday Doors: Dutch Whimsy

Driving to Belgium from Germany, one has to pass through the Netherlands. We didn’t have time to stop much, but we did need to: 1. eat, and 2. find geocaches.

For Thursday doors, just under the wire here on Saturday, I offer these bathroom doors at a McDonald’s in “De Loop” in Echt. De Loop is a business park on the A2 motorway. The McDonalds in Europe are surprisingly nice, and convenient, although no one admits to eating there. If you’re in Europe you’re supposed to sample local cuisine–which we did, but we were also in a bit of a hurry to get where we were going. So Mickey D’s it was.

Rather than the standard blue and white signs, there was what looked like hand-drawn art on the rest room doors:

WomensRoomMensRoomWheelchair

On that day we also stopped in a park to find some geocaches for the day. They were just ordinary containers, so nothing in particular to blog about.

But in this same park in Roermond there was an art installation with a series of objects up on poles. Most of them had round disks with different sized and shaped appendages. Some of them looked more human than others. I couldn’t figure out what they were supposed to represent, and a Google image search I did later didn’t help. So I feel free to add my own interpretation.

StarshipEnterprise

Not a door, but this particular flying disk on a stick up in the trees really looks like the Starship Enterprise to me.

enterprise_wall03_440
Photo credit: Tobias Richter (https://trekmovie.com/2009/02/23/first-look-at-tobias-richters-uss-enterprise-wallpapers/)

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in on the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post and then sharing it, between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time), on the linky list at Norm 2.0’s blog

ThroughTheGate

Follow my European trip with this and previous posts:

October 18, 2018: Nordrhein-Westfalen

October 11, 2018: Landschaftspark

September 21, 2018: Pattensen

September 6, 2018: Birdhouse Cache

August 30, 2018: Achtung, Baby!

August 16, 2018: Ku’Damm

August 9, 2018: Berliner Dom

July 20, 2018: Berlin Walk

June 13, 2018: Thursday “Tors”: Brandenburg

June 7, 2018: Germany

Mundane Monday: Shadow

This week’s Mundane Monday theme is shadow. It’s a good one for Halloween, but I wasn’t reminded of anything Halloweeny for some reason.

I was reminded of memories, and of bright backgrounds that cast foreground objects into shadow. This picture was taken at the Museum of Science in Boston in 2013, when we still lived in Massachusetts. Moving to California was not even the shadow of an idea yet. It was late December, just after Christmas, and my parents were visiting for the holidays. We went to the museum for “something to do” with the kids and grandparents.

My dad’s mobility problems had already begun, and he spent much of his time in the museum sitting on one of the benches, looking out the window at this view. I don’t remember what the object in the foreground is. It looks like some kind of odd historical Rube Goldberg device. Or a spinning wheel, one for the Princess Aurora to prick her finger.

Sunset is very early in Boston that time of year, and you can see the bare trees out the window, with their little squiggly, fingery branches.

I was there too.

12-27 MoS ordered

 

Thursday Doors: Nordrhein-Westfalen

OstrichBabies
Ostrich mother and babies

My husband was born in the German Bundesland of Nordrhein-Westfalen (or, in English, North Rhine-Westfalia). Although the Rhineland has a long and storied history going back to the Roman Empire, my experiences visiting this state have been more mundane: they involve soccer, golf, geocaching, ostrich farms, you know, the usual stuff.

Ostrich farms? Yes, there is an ostrich farm in Essen, near Duesseldorf. The same organization also offers soccer golf, and “Swingolf,” something like regular golf but with larger balls. We spent a fun morning and early afternoon there with friends.

SoccerGolf

But this is Thursday Doors, and there aren’t a lot of doors out on the fairway. (And ostriches can’t open doors anyway). Germany’s first game in what would ultimately turn out to be a disappointing showing in the World Cup was on TV that afternoon. We watched it, surrounded by cabinet doors and other game day paraphernalia.

CabinetDoors

The whole neighborhood was rooting for the home team. Too bad they lost.

GermanFlag

Later we went to find some more geocaches with unusual doors associated with them. This cache was hidden at a church, attached magnetically to a downspout. It was not on this door, but I liked the colors of the door anyway.

NightCaching

And this cache, which we found on our way out of town, was elaborately and cleverly hidden in an old phone booth, now solely dedicated to housing the cache. Superman has found other places to change.

PhoneBoothCache

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in on the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post and then sharing it, between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time), on the linky list at Norm 2.0’s blog

ThroughTheGate

Follow my European trip with this and previous posts:

October 11, 2018: Landschaftspark

September 21, 2018: Pattensen

September 6, 2018: Birdhouse Cache

August 30, 2018: Achtung, Baby!

August 16, 2018: Ku’Damm

August 9, 2018: Berliner Dom

July 20, 2018: Berlin Walk

June 13, 2018: Thursday “Tors”: Brandenburg

June 7, 2018: Germany

Mundane Tuesday: Coral

These posts are getting less and less mundane, but I like the chance to find the theme in my photos and showcase that. Dr. Katherine showed a picture of some beautiful coral mushrooms from the Olympic national forest.

My coral is from the Monterey Bay Aquarium. My daughter had a friend visiting last summer and we took her there for sightseeing.

MontereyCoralClownfish

We found both Nemo and Dory.

MontereyCoralDory

The last image is not coral per se, but is from an art exhibit about plastic that was at the aquarium at the time.

PlasticArt
“Message in a Bottle” by Alison McDonald

Artist Alison McDonald reuses and reforms everyday materials in her sculptures. She writes, “this transformation from refuse to artwork will I hope echo the transformation in our attitude towards recyclable products and encourage more responsible use of our resources.”  

Our coral reefs need this transformation in attitude, and are counting on us to bring it about.

Thursday Doors: Landschaftspark

The Landschaftspark in Duisburg was a steel mill and blast furnace in the previous century, but is no longer used and has fallen into disrepair. It is now an unusual public park, a heritage site commemorating the industrial past of the German Ruhrgebeit, where my husband grew up. Surprisingly, it is a source of unusual doors.

14WholeBuilding

I don’t normally like graffiti, but I found these doors interesting and attractive in a run-down sort of way.

And this windmill was closed and no longer working, a giant silhouetted against the sky. It also had a door, keeping out the tourists.

While we were visiting there was also a concert going on, so we wandered through the old buildings, climbed the hill, found geocaches, all accompanied by a faint techno-beat in the background.

15NotadoorbutPretty
Cement wall with gate to nowhere in particular

It was an interesting juxtaposition of the modern and the historic, of old and new technologies.

01LWPDoor

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in on the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post and then sharing it, between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time), on the linky list at Norm 2.0’s blog

ThroughTheGate

Follow my European trip with this and previous posts:

September 21, 2018: Pattensen

September 6, 2018: Birdhouse Cache

August 30, 2018: Achtung, Baby!

August 16, 2018: Ku’Damm

August 9, 2018: Berliner Dom

July 20, 2018: Berlin Walk

June 13, 2018: Thursday “Tors”: Brandenburg

June 7, 2018: Germany

Fire and Fantasy

When I was in high school I had fantasies of being a concertmaster. My senior year I thought it might be a real possibility, and I was disappointed when, after the audition, I ended up “only” first stand inside, turning the pages. I was used to being a shy, quiet nerdy type who didn’t take up a lot of space. But, I had fantasies that the violin could take me out of all that.

Tuning
Tuning the Arlington Philharmonic Orchestra for the Family Concert

Many years and another instrument later, a lot water has flowed under that bridge. I have been a concertmaster in a volunteer community orchestra, and it is a service position. Sometimes I felt overwhelmed by administrative demands, thinking, “they pay me as much as they pay everyone else: ZERO.” But overall, I loved it. I came to think of the orchestra as a second family. I thought and worried about them outside of rehearsal. And I cried when I moved away.

Having taken up the viola as my primary instrument here in California, my concertmaster days are behind me, at least for now. But last spring after my Telemann concerto performance, my stand partner for the Nova Vista Symphony asked me if I would be principal viola in that group for this concert because he had a conflict with his other orchestra. I looked at my calendar, saw that the weekend was free, and said, “sure, I’d be honored.” I think principal viola is the best seat in the orchestral house: surrounded by cellos, violins, woodwinds, right in front of the conductor, in medias res. The fantasy was back.

And starting with the Bloch Concerto Grosso No. 1, the job seemed seemed manageable. I’d played the second violin part to the 4th movement Fugue of this piece in high school, and I recognized it. And there were a few nice, short solos for the principal viola. I dove right in to practicing those, took them to my teacher, figured out fingerings.

Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire

It took less than one tutti rehearsal before I was in over my head. Enamored of the Bloch, I had given short shrift in practice to the other two much more challenging pieces on the program: Dukas’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances. I felt like Mickey Mouse in the Fantasia version, helpless as everything got out of control and descended into chaos. At one point as the notes went by, my stand partner and I looked at each other and laughed nervously: “Where are we?” “I have no idea. You?” “Nope.” Goodbye to the fantasies of fun and glory, and hello to section leader as service position.

giphy

via GIPHY

This concert was already going to break the difficulty record previously held by Strauss’ Till Eulenspiegel, which this group played a year and a half ago. Then I got two emails about injuries to fellow violists, including my former stand partner. The Mickey Mouse feeling intensified. I listened to the Symphonic Dances and thought, it may be in 3, but who would waltz to that?

PracticeRoom
The dreaded practice room

The 100-day practice challenge Facebook group that supported me through preparing for Telemann last spring was subjected to more than their share of my venting. I would watch other people post their practice videos of a nice fiddle tune, or a movement of the Bach Double, or a cello suite, or some cool ukulele riffs, and I’d be jealous. They sounded so nice, and here I was slogging my way through the impossible, alternating between trying to keep up with the metronome and with YouTube recordings set to 0.75 speed. (I’m only including a still picture here, no video, because, like Vegas, what happens in the group, stays in the group!)

My part-time teaching job became less part-time this year too, with two new schools and two new co-instructors. One night I came home from work and felt so brain-dead I doubt I would have taken the viola out of its case, had it not been for the Facebook group. I recorded some brain-dead Dukas, posted it, and went to bed.

Fantasia

Dear Mickey Mouse, I thought to myself. You brought this on by your tendency to bite off more than you can chew. What can you do about it?

Well, one choice would be cutting back. And I did that, sort of. I cut back on online debates and chores that I don’t enjoy. Another choice would be to do what I do for music that I love. I didn’t love the Symphonic Dances (yet), but what if I acted as if I did? What if this were Beethoven?

I started listening to it all the time, especially in the car while I was driving. I looked at the score while I listened (not while driving). I looked up Rachmaninoff’s wikipedia page. He had a fascinating life: escaped the Russian Revolution and ended up in Hollywood. This led me to think about his stories. The woodwind melody in the first movement is sublime. Later there’s some trippy drug music. If I listen closely, I hear the ongoing struggle. Rachmaninoff suffered from depression from time to time, and this was the last piece he ever wrote, a retrospective on his life and career.

Me trying on a long black dress
The good luck Telemann dress

I told my teacher that my practicing of this piece reminded me of the movie “50 First Dates.” This movie stars Drew Barrymore as a woman with amnesia who must relearn her life and relationships every morning when she wakes up. I felt the same: every time I picked up “Rocky,” as I had come to affectionately refer to it, it was like I was seeing it for the first time all over again. “Well, how many pieces of his have you played before?” my teacher asked. “You don’t speak Rachmaninoff yet!” That helped me be patient. The most foreign part of it was in the right hand, not the left. The music was not square; it didn’t always land on a down bow for the strong beats. I learned to write in unexpected bowings so I wouldn’t second-guess myself when I landed on an accented up-bow. I kept at the metronome and the play alongs, as well as marking and isolating difficult passages. I counted down in the Facebook group to the last day.

Concert day came and I stayed home from church in order to focus and review some spots in all 3 pieces. It felt like cramming for an exam, something I’ve done successfully many times, but which I now think results in more anxiety than is ideal. My husband made lunch. I put on my good-luck Telemann dress.

Wildfire

The air smelled of soot at the concert hall due to a wildfire in the East Bay. I said hi to my stand partners in crime in the viola section and we watched the pre-concert talk together. After all this, I felt pretty good about how the Bloch and Dukas went. My solos went off without a hitch. I never got lost. Even my performance in Rocky I was willing to give at least a B-minus. I missed notes here and there, but not in the exposed or important parts.

I had a small viola solo near the end of the Dukas. It is not technically difficult, but it is important, and it is just me, the only moving part. I am the Sorcerer returned, to set things back in balance after the apprentice’s chaos. And I had a bow of my own, after the bassoons.

ProgramCover
Concert Program Cover

It occurred to me that I’d been so focused on my own anxieties that I hadn’t given enough attention to all the great work going on around me: the cellos just a foot to my left, providing grounding, rhythm, and drive; the concertmaster, who played many solos beautifully and with whom I played a duet in octaves in the Bloch; the conductor who remained cool, composed, and accurate in spite of the too-bright lights making him and everyone else sweat; the viola section, who rose to the occasion with humor and grace, playing an exposed chorale section beautifully; the bassoons who brought the apprentice’s magic to life; the orchestra’s new President who is devoting considerable time and effort to the group; and the neighbors and friends and family who came, expected and un-, to be in the audience. I tried to take a minute to tell them all that they sounded great, to thank them.

I had the best time at the reception afterwards talking with everyone. It turns out I wasn’t the only one who was anxious about the ambitious program, and the feelings of relief and celebration were palpable. To paraphrase JFK, we did this concert not because it was easy, but because it was hard. And it served to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills. It brought us a little closer to the moon and stars.

mickeyfantasia
Fantasia (1940). Image via animationartblog.com

Mundane Monday: Wordless Cat

Dr. Katherine’s Mundane Monday photo shows her cat communicating without words. I know this prompt could be interpreted more broadly, but I can never resist a chance to show pictures of my cat.

We adopted Sadie in 2016, as an adult. She is part-Siamese and a little cross-eyed.She was pretty quiet when she first came to live with us, but lately she has gotten more vocal. She has always been quite expressive without words, even when she didn’t meow much.

Sometimes she’s cute, sometimes she’s fierce:

Or, queen of all she surveys:

Mundane Monday: Light and Dark

Even though it was taken in March, this seems like a good picture for October: it’s orange, brown, and black. The sun is setting, evoking the shortening days. The leaves are long-gone in the picture, though, whereas now they are just turning their bright colors. Dr. KO took her Mundane Monday picture on the Bainbridge Island Ferry. It has water, a reflection, and a lot of blue.

I took this sunset picture around the time I was inspired to start this blog: on a long geocaching trip in the Washington DC area with my husband. We drove along a lot of deserted roads, finding caches placed 0.1 mile apart. The goal in this case was numbers, not cleverness of hides, or even sightseeing. This is called a “power trail.” My husband has done a lot of these. I did it this once. That seemed like enough for my bucket list!

TreesSunset