Category Archives: Thanksgiving

End of Vacation

Okay, so technically my vacation ended yesterday morning, when I went back to work. But I had off this afternoon and evening and I ran errands (target-Christmas décor, toiletries, etc), did some baking (morning glory muffins and pumpkin bread), some meal prep for the week ahead (pasta, quinoa), laundry, and oh…now I’m exhausted just reading about it all. I should have been like, reading and relaxing. Maybe I can do that next!

Tomorrow starts a two week stretch of what is looking to be somehow the busiest two weeks of the year. Let’s take my normal teaching schedule, stop it at 6:30 but move some people earlier, and then add a Broadway show every night and four on the weekend, plus two church services. And voila, you have a ridiculous schedule, BUT one that I’m really looking forward to. I had a blast playing a Broadway show last year, and I’m excited to be in the pit for the King and I. After that it’s only one more really busy week, one week finishing up, and then…TWO weeks of vacation. Two glorious weeks.

But my house looks awesome. I’m thrilled I got the place decorated for Christmas this year.

Thanksgiving went well. My two pies were a giant success, and I wish I could eat pie every day. Yes, my crusts are ugly. If I made pie more often I’m sure I’d be better at them, but I have enough problems with my weight!

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Everybody seemed to love both pies though. Should I share the recipes? Is anybody reading?

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Thanksgiving plate and a terrible picture of the table…

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We went for a walk in the afternoon on Thanksgiving day—over to Forest Park and by the ice rink, where there was a giant snow pile.

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Christmas decorations. I finally decorated with a tree for the first time since my divorce. I’d always had a tree since I graduated from school, but then the first year on my own I didn’t bother, and then Louie had never done one, so he didn’t care at all…and a few years went by. This year I got in the holiday spirit early with a Messiah gig and I said, you know what, I’m doing it. I got a new artificial tree (I actually love them, plus since I’m traveling over the actual holiday it’s just way easier to deal with) and found all my ornament and decoration boxes, and boom! The tree arrived Wed, and then I woke up Friday morning and decorated it, and now we (and all my students!) will enjoy it all month long.

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It’s weird…for the first while after my divorce I felt like nothing in life was quite real or permanent, but now I feel grounded, like I know where my life is going, and I’m happy with it, and I’m busy working and loving it, and I have so much Christmas stuff happening, and I’m just really in the right mood. I feel happiest when I’m on the busier side, even though I cherish downtime…and being so busy just feels more festive somehow. It’s also been challenging working through everything with Louie and making our holiday traditions work together, and all of that baggage that comes with dating somebody who already had decades of life without you. It’s not easy, but it’s well worth it, and I’m so thankful for him. And though he doesn’t care as much about the tree, he thinks it’s fun and he sees that it brings me joy.

We’re giving this guy back tonight sometime. It’s been fun having an extra dog around.

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Both are named Louie.

So there you have it, some serious thoughts, some fun thoughts. Oh, and I did this yesterday…so much fun!

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It’s weird, being a freelance musician. You want to talk about work, but sometimes it feels weird or awkward. ESPECIALLY on social media, because you don’t want to be bragging or making people jealous, but I like to share what my life is like. So many people look down on freelance musicians, teachers, musicians in general, and I sometimes let that bother me, but the truth is, I kind of love what I do. My students are generally awesome people (and often hilarious), I work with other great musicians (especially with the quartet, but across the board), and I get to do all kinds of different things in my day to day life. It’s a struggle sometimes, the schedule, the sheer amount of things to do, keeping track of expenses and deductions and accounts, keeping up on practicing, BUT it’s worth it overall.  At least I try to convince myself of that Winking smile

Happy Thanksgiving

I’m in between making pies right now—chocolate bourbon pecan is in the oven, and then I’ll make the old fashioned cream.

I’d offered to bring pie to Thanksgiving dinner at Louie’s mom’s, mostly because I love pie. I figured since Louie’s brother is vegan I’d try to make a vegan thing too, and picked out an amazing looking pumpkin cheesecake. I finished teaching last night around  6 and started working on it, because it was a bit involved—lots of food processing and blending of cashews, pecans, tofu, etc. We even made the marble effect, and then starting baking it. I’m not sure if my oven is a little cool—I usually think it is, but then I worry, so I didn’t turn it up. It seemed to need more time in the oven, so I kept checking it every 5 minutes, and gently jiggling it to check texture. I took it out another time…and somehow the bottom of the pan popped up and the whole thing fell out onto the oven door…

After quite a lot of tears and self loathing, Louie helped me clean it up, we tried a little bit (verdict, might have been better if cooked all the way) and then decided that one less dessert on Thanksgiving was okay.

So that’s how my vacation is going so far! I have today and tomorrow off work, and I swear I’m not going to answer work emails (the good thing is that on holidays you get less, but the bad thing is that I was already behind so there are a few burning holes in my email inbox), practice (except I agreed to play a gig Sunday morning that has two rather challenging pieces, somehow!) or even think about work (ha!, that was a joke).

Here’s a few snippets from the past week:

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Had a really good quartet concert—played Mendelssohn and Onslow and it was great. The venue was really nice too, and we’re hoping to play again there (a local church, Bethel Lutheran).

I also had a few students play in the SLAMTA (music teacher’s association) playathon at the Galleria Mall. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the kids had a great time and I always enjoy activities that build community and encourage practicing.

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I got a review published in the American Music Teacher! And we are dogsitting for my friend Jen’s dog Louie. He’s a hilarious little guy, who was afraid to go downstairs, though last night he finally did, which was awesome. It’s important to know my kitchen is downstairs, and that’s where the dogs are fed, so we had to carry him down the stairs many times, and he hated this. (Never mind that when he got there he got food, he still hated it and was terrified.)

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And yesterday we took both dogs on a little hike at Forest 44 Conservation area. It isn’t a terribly scenic place to hike but it’s easy to get to, not too crowded, and you still get into the woods and get fresh air away from the city, so it’s a favorite of ours.

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So: coming up, playing for Mannheim Steamroller, playing two weeks of the King and I at the Fox Theatre, various Christmas gigs, lessons, juries, end of semester grading (I actually have papers to grade for one job!) and then it’ll be Christmas vacation. I’ll have two actual weeks off, well, almost, from December 25 to January 7, no work at all other than some practice, likely. That doesn’t count as work, even though it is, somehow.

I’d better check on my pie. Right now my dessert making is 0 for 1. Hoping to make it 2 for 3 by noon.

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you have a wonderful time celebrating with your friends and family and loved ones, and I hope some of those categories overlap.

Thanksgiving Travels

How was your Thanksgiving? Did you have a wonderful meal with friends and family?

Louie and I headed to visit my grandmother, my parents, and other various and sundry relatives in NW Ohio. It was about a 7 hour drive each way, and we stayed for two nights. We had Thanksgiving dinner and a birthday party in honor of my grandmother’s 90th birthday.

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I often forget how beautiful it is where my family lives. My dad grew up there also…it’s farm land, small town, but very beautiful, especially on the land where my grandparents lived for years, because they worked hard to make it so.

Anyway, dinner was delicious. Salad and rolls to start, turkey, mashed potatoes/gravy, stuffing, corn, sweet potatoes, and baked apples. For dessert we had pumpkin, mincemeat, or pecan pie. I had mincemeat which is my favorite, and also some of Louie’s pumpkin, and a bite of pecan too. My relatives are great hosts!

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The nice weather only lasted one day—the second day we were there it rained the entire time. Boo.

We took pictures of the cousins who were there, plus a picture with significant others.

I should have taken more pictures, but the rest that I had turned out pretty horrible! Lots of pictures with eyes shut or blurry. Maybe my mom got some better ones Smile

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This was at breakfast in the hotel. We stayed at the Heritage Inn in Archbold, Ohio and one of the defining features is a giant fake tree in the breakfast area.

Anyway, today I’ve been puttering around the house, catching up on email and calendar scheduling (constant!), running various errands, and generally getting ready for the next few weeks. It’s been nice to have a day to get ready—I hate traveling and getting back at the last minute. I think that’s one of the things that made November hard was having a trip and not being able to have a day to recover. Or maybe I’m just a bit lame?

All my relatives seem to think I work too hard. I think people imagine violin teachers as people who teach a few hours a day, handing out candy while covered in cat hair. The reality is that if you want to make a decent income you have to really hustle and cram those students in! There is only so much time each day that people can come for lessons (unless they are home schooled, retired, or have flexible work schedules) so it means eating dinner late and working into the evenings. And I don’t think I work too hard…or if I do, at least Louie works hard too. We aren’t the sort of people to sit around, and I want to be making a difference in the world..and be making a decent living teaching violin!

I’m trying something new this week and scheduling some tasks that I normally do unscheduled. I’ve been reading Gretchen Rubin’s Better Than Before (I finished Happier at Home recently too) and got some ideas about how to improve my life. Sometimes I will sit down at the computer to send some emails and before I know it several hours have passed. I’m going to try to have specific wake up and get to work times, and really make sure I’m using my time wisely. The goal is to have free time where I am truly free rather than constantly working or feeling like I should. Self-employment is not for the faint of heart.

The other thing people always suggest is to check email less often. I did set my phone so that it only pulls email every hour. I wonder if looking at email less often truly does save time? Will people just call instead (this is absolutely what I don’t want, nothing takes more time than phone calls, or causes me more stress) if I don’t respond to emails quickly? I would probably prefer texts in some cases, but emails are often easier to keep track of. Anybody have thoughts?

I’m off to practice for a bit before dinner now. I read a friend’s facebook status recently that referred to his violin practice, and I’ve been thinking about that lately…practice as a constant, something you do, rather than practice as something result-oriented. I should go more into depth with that thought in a future blog post!

Vacation Recap

Oh hey there.

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So, I’m back to work and all, after being gone for a lovely part of a week in Phoenix visiting my sister Leslie and her husband Peter.

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If there’s a suitcase, it must be filled with cats.

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They live next door to this big pile of dirt.IMG_8366

I went for a run and took a picture. I look like a sparkly vampire, don’t I. Note the palm tree in the background. I couldn’t find the beach though.

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The first morning I woke up and this stuffed monkey was outside my door. I’m not sure whether it was a gift or a threat.

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I need this print for my house too.

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Peter and the cats hanging on the couch.IMG_8339

Albergo and Catalunya like to help each other clean and groom. It’s adorable.IMG_8402

Leslie made the crusts. I think she was possessed.

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We did some serious baking. Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie.

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Dutch Apple Pie and Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake.IMG_8455

Martha Stewart’s Mac and Cheese. I stirred the bechamel sauce for over 20 minutes waiting for it to thicken. Tears were welling in my eyes, but it did finally thicken and tasted AMAZING.IMG_8448

We did some serious wine drinking. That giant bottle was a housewarming gift that they saved to serve at Thanksgiving. I can’t tell if the picture is blurry or if the effects of the wine have yet to wear off.

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Lots of food was made, brought, and eaten. It was a wonderful day.

A few days before Thanksgiving we had lunch with the Boring Runner. It was delightful, and I’m glad I finally got to meet him after reading his blog for years.

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Naturally we had to take photos. We all wore blue so we’d look good in the photos.

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Why yes, my head IS bigger than everybody elses. And I was looking at a different camera, apparently.IMG_8377

This is my laugh or my “I’m poopin” face.

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After our blogger lunch Leslie and I decided we had to get fro yo to really feel like bloggers. Then again she’s absolutely NOT a blogger, but I like to pretend I am. It’s weird that we sat outside to eat eggnog fro-yo in November, but that’s Phoenix for ya.

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I don’t think I got enough toppings to count as a real blogger.

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Did you know Trader Joe’s sells cats?

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Food Coma

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It’s been a great week. Food, friends, family, cats, baking, and eating. I thought I’d pop in to wish you a Happy Black Friday and to ask if you are getting a really good deal on a television to please buy me one too!

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Turkey Trotting.

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The world’s largest bottle of wine.

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Part of the spread. It was delicious.IMG_8472

And hanging on the couch with Catalunya while my sister and brother-in-law are at rehearsal (they are musicians too.) Catalunya tried to bite me several times.

More to come but for now, I’m back to my relaxing!  Putting up a few pictures on my blog is HARD WORK.

Vacation Time

I have a whole week off from teaching!

My last two posts were pretty cat centric, so I thought I’d try to balance it out with a less cat post.  I’m finishing up all the stuff I need to do to go out of town (laundry, packing, calling my grandma to wish her a happy 88th birthday!) and I’m pretty excited about that.

The weekend was fun. Last night I went to a “pajama party” at my friend April’s house. I didn’t know that I was actually pretty good at the game of “flip cup” because I’d never played before. I was a natural at flipping my cup. I didn’t play too many rounds though, because I didn’t want to make the other folks feel bad. Also I got bored and really prefer to just chat with people.

(I should have taken pictures, but my pajama pants didn’t have a pocket for my phone.)

I did take some pictures of a couple sandwiches I ate over the weekend (which includes Friday.)

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I do love sandwiches. If pressed I’d say my favorite food is pizza, but sandwiches are definitely a close second.

I did play a wedding yesterday. The season has slowed down a bit, but I had one yesterday and two next weekend.

The Crystal Ballroom at the Crowne Plaza.

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I believe that’s my finger at the bottom. It’s possible I should consider trying to take better pictures.

We played for the ceremony and a bit of the cocktail hour (not the whole thing which always seems a little odd to me, but whatever.) People were dressed to the nines, as usual. I had fun looking at the hairdos and dresses!

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And I did some running. This was after a particularly cold run in the park on Friday evening. It was dark by the time I got back, which I wouldn’t do on my own but I went with a friend who had a big dog so I wasn’t worried. The dog enjoyed running but not so much running in a straight line and not inspecting various trees and things along the way. I’ll be okay for the Turkey Trot on Thursday but don’t count on seeing any PR’s or even respectable 5k times from this girl. But I’m back at it, and that’s what’s important.

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I’m back on the “take a lot of selfies” train too. I figure since it’s the Word of the Year there’s no shame. Plus my hair looks good in that picture and I like my black turtleneck. (Eyebrows are suspect but we can’t have everything now, can we?) Truth: my student was stuck in traffic so I had some time to kill. BOOM.

Traveling to a very different climate is always a challenge. I hate wearing a coat to the airport and then just carrying it around, so I’m going to try just wearing a hoodie instead…I’ll be warm enough for the brief time I have to be outside I hope, and then I will also be cozy on the plane. I have a couple books queued up on my Kindle AND I’m excited that we will no longer have to power down our electronics during takeoff and landing. Before there would be these awkward amounts of time where I’d have to sit and think or read the SkyMall magazine (or bring, *gasp* a regular book or magazine to fill the gap) but no longer!

Oh and to make you jealous, here’s our Thanksgiving menu:

Turkey, stuffing, gravy, carrot-ginger soup

Pies

Mac & Cheese, Brussels sprouts salad, pumpkin gooey butter cake

pumpkin orange cornbread, butternut squash pudding

Corn casserole, AmishCorn, Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Mashed potatoes, creamed leeks, cranberry

“legit” cajun red beans & rice, chocolate cake

The list is in order of what person is bringing what (names removed—we have an amazing email conversation happening)—I’m the one making Mac & Cheese, Brussels sprouts salad, and pumpkin gooey butter cake. I’m excited to do some cooking and relaxing this week.