Snow Day

Well, so far it’s just a regular day for me because I don’t start teaching until 3:30. How is it out there? I’m safe and warm at home and enjoying a lazy start to the week…as usual.

Valentine’s Day Weekend was fun.  We went to the Missouri History Museum on Saturday to see the 250 in 250 exhibit (about 250 years of St Louis History) before it closed. I’d gone with my parents but Louie hadn’t seen it and I thought it was good enough to see again. It was freezing cold and as we power walked from where we parked to the museum, I tripped over a small bump in the sidewalk and fell. As I landed I bent my pinky and wrist backwards, hit my left shoulder and almost hit my head!

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Walking is hard, evidently. More concerning was how much my pinky finger hurt (remember, I play violin, so that’s important.) I haven’t played since then…my pinky is feeling a bit better today but it’s still sore at the joint and it worries me a little. It’s definitely improving though, so hopefully by tomorrow I will feel confident practicing again, because SATURDAY is our first quartet concert of the year and I really want it to go well.  I’d had high hopes of doing a lot of practicing over the weekend, but what can you do? Playing on a hurt finger doesn’t make it better.

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We went to Five Bistro for V-day dinner. We’d thought it would be pricey, but we had NO idea! (I suppose we could have called). The prix fix menu was delicious, but the weird thing was that when it was over we were still kinda hungry and wished there had been more food. Every course was delicious but tiny. We were glad we went out though, and despite the meal costing as much as a plane ticket enjoyed ourselves. We also enjoyed being in the restaurant with a ton of other people, all of whom were likely experiencing the same sort of thing..awkward sticker shock by the menu, deciding to stay anyway, enjoying the taste of their meal, noticing how little lamb chop was served, realizing they were paying this much and considering running through Taco Bell afterwards. We did the wine pairings too, and the one thing I will say is that I enjoyed ALL the wines, even the white wines, which I never have in the past.

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Front and back of house scenes of a snowy day. The front steps will definitely need to be shoveled. I suppose that would be an excellent workout for today!

And check out this awesome picture Leslie sent me of my niece:

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I should get a matching “I love my niece” onesie.

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Scenes from the “zoo”.

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How much snow did you get? I won’t complain a bit thinking of all the people who have just been getting hammered this winter! It’s pretty to look at, though I’m glad I haven’t had to venture out in it yet. Since it’s a holiday I suspect the roads are a little worse than they might be normally.

Taco Tuesday

Confession: I didn’t have tacos today.

BUT I did have tacos on (I think) Sunday night, so that totally counts, I believe. Vegetarian (perhaps even vegan, but I’m not counting) tacos with sweet potatoes, seitan, onions, and peppers. I am not a huge fan of peppers but I’ll tolerate red peppers that are cooked. I am a huge fan of onions and sweet potatoes though.

As an aside, I can’t say “sweet potato” without thinking of “Suite Potato” which was the name of a family concert with the Canton Symphony many years ago. My sister Leslie had this sad, homestar runner like way of saying “Suite Potato” that went on all season in anticipation of the family concert. I don’t have much recollection of the actual concert, but I do recall her saying “Suite Potato.”

I’ve decided that my life has gotten kind of boring lately. I’m spending entirely too much time focusing on the violin and teaching and playing and practicing and whatnot, and what is left? Yeah, sure, there’s running and dog walking and pet parades and such, but I feel like mostly it’s work and then TV watching. Which honestly, is totally fine LIVING it but writing a blog about it…perhaps a bit boring? Maybe it’s my fault for not making what I do sound more interesting. That’s probably what I really need to work on. Because obviously work is important and what people mostly do in their lives, right? And TV, especially Dr. Who and then Broadchurch because you miss David Tennant as Dr. Who, well those are both important and interesting…right?

Two fat cats

One of the highlights of every week is quartet rehearsal.  We rehearse nearly every week on a morning, because that just works well for us. Oh, and we have a concert coming up on February 21 at 7 pm. I was thinking about playing chamber music the other day. While at school (back in the day) I wasn’t really into chamber music. I had a few groups here and there and they generally dissolved with great drama, anger, and resentment between the parties involved. We never managed to get our acts together and be mature enough to really have fun and play together. I’ll never know if this was mostly my fault or just bad luck but the most awesome part of my quartet is that AS OF YET we still get along well enough and respect each other and have a great time making music. I’m sure we each have days where we leave rehearsal a little annoyed and it’s not that every rehearsal is just a love fest (though many are, in that we end up just telling ridiculous teaching stories and waste half the rehearsal doing that!) but that we learn from each other, we work hard, and we are (mostly) all on the same page as far as our goals and our commitment to the group. I also feel that my playing has improved since joining the group and it’s just been one of my favorite things that I’ve been involved with in the past year. I’m really looking forward to our next concert as it includes two of my all-time favorite quartets—Borodin’s Quartet no. 2 (my guilty pleasure piece) and Shostakovich’s 8th quartet.

I was having a discussion with Louie the other day about being our best selves, and I said to him that I really felt I was in the best violin playing shape of my life. l don’t know if that’s true exactly, because how does one know? But I do know that I feel like I am, and that I feel like I’m becoming a real violinist, and a real person, and I’m not living in anybody’s musical shadow or following them around anymore, and it’s really been quite fun. I won’t say that I don’t have moments of feeling like a total failure but overall, I’m enjoying what I’m doing. I’m also not saying that my calendar is totally full and in fact today I thought to myself, wow I have mostly wasted the day AND I’ve gotten most of what I needed to get done done…I need more to do! But then I remembered a whole bunch of things that I should be working on so I think I just had one of those days where I didn’t feel stressed or productive. I could use more paying work, but who couldn’t? And I’m sure that the calendar will fill up and get crazy again soon and this is just the late winter lull…and I’m trying to take advantage of it and have fun! And it’s been easy to do that on the weekends at least.

Anyway, that’s my brain dump on this here “Taco Tuesday.” I had bean soup for dinner.

Bean soup

I like to take this stuff and make it in the crockpot. Today I added “Soyrizo”, carrots, a can of diced tomatos, and some barley I had on hand. It turned out great and I had nearly two bowls worth.

Soup is good food

Beggin’ Pet Parade

The Beggin Pet Parade was this morning in Soulard, and since the good folks at Purina sent me two VIP tickets in addition to some great goodies (leash, blanket, treats, frisbee) we HAD to go. Nearly 70 degree weather was the icing on the cake and I knew it would be a great day.

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I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect or what would be happening. I’m not a huge “group activity” or “festival” person because I get impatient and overwhelmed easily. But I figured we could manage a parade and besides, we had tickets to the VIP tent—which meant food and drink. Now, before you get too excited, remember I’m not eating meat right now and I had practicing to do later, so no drinking for me. We had hoped to run into my friend April but there were just too many people and the phone service was slow so we couldn’t communicate where we were well enough to find each other.

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Only water for MacKenzie too.

I won’t bore you with unnecessary details (I know, who AM I?) but we had a great time just walking around. MacKenzie loved sniffing all the other dogs and enjoyed being out in the seriously unseasonably lovely weather.

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Louie and I had fun people and dog watching and checking out the neighborhood. We walked the entire parade route before the parade and then decided to go back and get some food at the tent. There wasn’t much offered without meat but we got a little pasta and salad. There was a long line for the bar and since we weren’t day-drinking (like most do at these events, I do get jealous of people who don’t need to practice or do homework or other work later on weekend days!) we didn’t feel it was worth it.

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And the perhaps lame part was that we decided to skip the parade. We’d seen a ton of dogs already and the weather was almost too nice to just sit around. Maybe we are weird, but we decided to walk around more and went all around Lafayette Square as well.

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Swans! And geese and ducks!

The rest of my weekend was nice as well. Yesterday was beautiful and while I did have to work in the afternoon I managed to get a nice run in in the morning.

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See I took a picture!

Here’s the two cats hanging out—this is pretty close for them but they seemed content enough for awhile! Fatness (dark cat) is pretty aggressive and territorial but Chloe (white cat) has learned that she’s MOSTLY all talk and just ignores her.

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Last night we decided to go out for dinner to a local Chinese restaurant. We wanted to get green beans with a black bean sauce and this egg tofu with mushrooms dish. When our server informed us that they were out of the egg tofu, we were disappointed, but asked her which of the regular tofu dishes she recommended. We picked one of her favorite choices to order. The food came out a few minutes later and I tried a bit of the dish. I looked at Louie after my first bite and said, “I think this has chicken in it.” (Remember, we have been not eating meat for a few weeks now!). We asked the server if the dish had chicken, and she said, oh no, no chicken. Only mushrooms and pork.

(We decided to eat it anyway, since sending it back would also be wasteful, and we aren’t even REAL vegetarians. We learned a valuable lesson which is to ask if a meal has meat even if you think if won’t because, for instance, it is listed under the vegetarian portion of the menu, because you just NEVER KNOW. Also the dish was really quite tasty and a good recommendation, just not a good recommendation for a couple who is awkwardly trying to avoid eating meat.)

Did you go to the pet parade? Do you find it uncomfortable asking for special treatment if you have dietary restrictions or food allergies?

Groundhog Day

When I lived in Cleveland I always felt that “only” having six more weeks of winter was a pretty nice thing.

It seems that most people like to look to the groundhog in New York to see if the winter is ending but growing up we considered Groundhog Day to be a pretty local thing, not something nationwide. If it was cloudy that meant that winter was over. It didn’t always work though.

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Either way though, it seems that six more weeks of winter are in order for me. If I believe the whole groundhog day concept, which I’m pretty sure is definitely scientific fact, even more so than climate change and vaccines saving lives.

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Look! A cat in box…in a box…

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Look at those eyes. Is it empathy….or murder?

Yes, this is a gratuitous cat pictures blog post. I thought it might help your Monday be more enjoyable.

Is everybody watching the Superbowl without me?

I’ve had a wonderful weekend. I’m not going to lie. It’s been awesome and lots of fun and I’m sad that it is nearly over.

The fun started Thursday night when I met April for dinner at Gringo. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned but Louie and I have decided to follow a vegetarian diet for about a month. So it’s been a fun challenge to see how to avoid eating meat. We are still eating cheese and eggs and all those delicious animal products but avoiding actual flesh.

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So I read the description of my meal and I’m not sure what I expected but it was basically nachos with egg and avocado. Not too bad but not what I thought I was getting! We also split the guacamole which I love and had a few margs…well I did at least ;)

Friday was a busy day. It started with a trip to the dump and ended with dinner at Ranoush on the Loop and watching The Imitation Game. The movie was very good but I had a lot of questions afterwards about what was fact, what was fiction, and how a bunch of cryptographers failed to initially check for the most common word combinations when trying to crack a code. Turns out that part was fiction.

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Saturday afternoon we took a hike, another from the book, 60 Hikes within 60 Miles of St Louis. I picked a hike around Howell Island Conservation area, but we made a few mistakes with that. Firstly, it was incredibly muddy at the beginning of the hike…which was also the end of the hike. And we didn’t realize there would be hunting. I think I read the phrase “conservation area” and assumed that meant “not killing stuff” and didn’t keep reading. But we did the long loop anyway, didn’t get lost in a field where the trail went kind of cold, and had a great time.

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It was kind of a bleary day, but was actually really nice for January. It started drizzly towards the end and we got a bit nervous but it never turned into much.

After the hike we decided to go out to dinner, so we hit up Stellina Pasta since they had a few good looking vegetarian options. I got tagliatelle with spinach, mushroom, and a garlic cream sauce and it was really delicious. I wouldn’t ordinarily order food with a cream sauce, but the beauty of not eating meat is that you can get your calories from other fatty sources. Or at least I tell myself that. It’s nice, by the way, following a diet that isn’t about ME and is about not eating meat. I don’t know how I feel about this sort of thing sometimes…it’s hard to know what the best thing to do is, but it does seem that eating less meat is probably a good thing. I haven’t missed it too much because I’ve upped my pasta intake. I also plan to return to eating meat, because I don’t want to WORRY about things.

Today we had a family brunch (well, Louie’s family) with delicious pumpkin waffles made by his brother! I think I ate about 100 of them. Or four. Also the grapefruit was excellent. Then I actually had to do some work (ugh, work!) on the computer for a variety of things and we did manage to get to the gym. One of the things we are both trying to do is get workouts in when we can, and if that means mostly on the weekends (this time of year my weekends are light and freer) then we do it then. It works for me. I’m trying not to stress over what I can’t do and focus on what I can.

Oh, and I’m NOT watching the super bowl. I didn’t get any party invites and I don’t watch football (possibly related) so I’m just at home, thinking about dinner and Dr Who. And my to-do list for the upcoming week, which is of course huge and much more than I will actually accomplish.

I considered waiting to publish this until tomorrow due to the game, but then I remembered 1) any readers won’t be watching either, they will be just playing with their cats and 2) I don’t ACTUALLY have any readers since I don’t blog regularly enough nor on any actual topic.

I believe the children are our future

One of my students showed up with a 2 by 2 Rubik’s Cube. I didn’t even know that was a thing. He showed me how to solve it in about two seconds. By that I mean, he attempted to show me how to solve it, but I still didn’t get it. Maybe with practice. But he solved it, repeatedly, in about two seconds. Maybe next week he’ll bring the bigger one!

My first student’s sister gave me a violin book that was evidently on my front steps. At first I thought, wow, that’s been there all night, but then I remembered that I did indeed leave the house to run errands earlier in the day. And didn’t remember seeing it. The book in question: I know the student who it belongs too, and she had thought she’d forgotten it the night before. Evidently she’d dropped it, but I wonder if she dropped it down the street and somebody saw it and knew I taught violin and that it might be mine, and dropped it on the steps for us? Either way, lucky it didn’t rain overnight!

My other students were fabulous in their own ways. My last student had a great lesson involving playing duets by Hindemith from the Doflein books (I’m trying them out on him and having a great time with them…I’m not sure he is, but I think it’s wonderful all the “modern” music in them…by “modern” we are talking early to mid-1900’s) and then a fun time with Brahms Hungarian Dance doing lots of “DRAMA.” I love when you get a student to the point that they can start making real music and teaching them how to show emotion in their playing. Not that you can’t do that, kind of, from the beginning, but there are SO many technical things to worry about.

Music is fun. And while I actually enjoy nerdy technical things while I’m playing and actually enjoy (sometimes!) practicing technique and thinking about all those amazing things in the Basics book especially in regards to bow technique, it’s especially fun to teach a student about rubato, and timing, and expressing emotion ( not necessarily YOUR emotion, but just emotion in general, like acting) in the pieces. That’s the most fun. Teaching beginners is so much harder for me!

My youngest student today kept requesting activities during her lesson. Granted, they were different activities than the ones I was suggesting, and probably easier, but I love when they suggest their own activities. It also reminded me that I need to do the easy fun activities more often with other students. Sometimes I forget and worry that they are going to want to learn more new stuff and get bored…when I need to focus on continuing to improve what they already know. Another student worked diligently on a c sharp minor scale and didn’t even complain it was too hard, which was amazing.

I should write more about the good stuff. Teaching is exhausting many days, but today I feel invigorated. Of course, I had two day off cancellations and my last student wasn’t coming either, so it was a shorter day…maybe that’s why I feel better about it. But maybe it was just a good day, where I feel like, yeah, these kids are all right. People like to complain about kids these days and how they aren’t as smart, or strong, or hard-working as “we” used to be. I would disagree. My students are generally remarkable and give me hope for the future. And they are, as far as I can tell, pretty normal kids.

This article from the Washington Post was going around the web the other week. Nothing in it surprises me in the least, but maybe it would be of interest to you. I like the line, “We shouldn’t be surprised we can train the brain.”

thoughts about violin, teaching, running, life.