Sunday, October 3, 2010

What happens in dance class, stays in dance class.

     This past Thursday was my second Indian dance class.  (We do 1/2 hour of Classical Indian dance and a whole hour of Bollywood-style dance.)  There were 3 new additions to the class:  three boys that I teach!  Ummmm.....awkward!  You should have seen the looks of panic on their faces as I walked up.  They said, "*gasp*  It's Ms. Lyn!", then they huddled together to discuss the situation. 

     Luckily, these are very good boys who do as they are told.  I couldn't have handled it otherwise.  I told them, "Hey guys.  I won't say anything at school if you don't.  It'll be our secret!"  Relief flooded over all their faces.  I can see why.  Do you know how brutal middle school is?  If the other boys found out that they were taking a dance class with FEMALES in the class, including their teacher, they would totally get beaten up.  We're going to treat it like fight club.  The first rule of Bollywood Dance Club is:  you do not talk about Bollywood Dance Club.  The second rule of Bollywood Dance Club is:  you DO NOT talk about Bollywood dance club!

On the plus side, the parents of the 3 boys are now going to join the class as well.  Hooray!  This will make it much less awkward (for me anyway) and more fun.  :-) 

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Crazy White-Chick at the Indian Dance Class 101

Yep.  That would be me.  In case you haven't heard, I LOVE Bollywood movies and I watch a lot of them.  So when I found out that Arya International (the dance company that provides the dancers for many Bollywood movies) was teaching a dance class in my area, I totally went for it!  I have to say, I was pretty nervous before the first class because I thought everyone would look at me funny and wonder, "what's that white girl doing here?"  Last night, however, I went anyway just to see if I would like it.

Well, I did feel a bit uncomfortable at first. Not because of my race, mind you, but because I was the only adult in the class!  (They combined the teenage and adult classes.)  Not only that, the other girls were students at the school where I teach!  Their parents (including dads and brothers) stayed to watch us in our first ever Indian dance class.  How embarrassing!  I almost called it a day, but as soon as I started dancing, I forgot all about them.  As it turns out, I LOVE Indian dancing and I'm actually not too bad at it.  I was happy that I wasn't that person who stumbles and holds up the whole class.  I kept up with those 16-year-olds pretty well, if  I do say do myself! 

We did a half-hour of Classical Indian dance and a whole hour of Bollywood-style dancing.  Barefoot.  I was afraid my feet were going to kill me, but they didn't.  Hooray!  Our teacher is a real Bollywood dancer and had flown over from India.  He has been in several Bollywood movies as a back-up dancer!  I'm SO going to look carefully in the background of some of those movies to see if I see him.  :-)

Anyway, I hope to chronicle my experiences in this blog as I continue to take this dance class.  It's just too much fun not to!  Also, it might  be entertaining for some to read about the old-white chick in the teenage Indian dance class.  I'm starting to think I was Indian in a previous life.  Not that I really believe in reincarnation, mind you.  I just have always REALLY loved Indian culture, even when I was a child.  There's no real reason for me to like it this much. ... or to be SO happy while dancing Indian-style. 

I want to challenge all of you out there to take a class in something you're interesting in even if you feel ridiculous.  It might be worth it!
What do you really love that defies explanation?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Journaling for Mental Health

I have found a tool that has been helping me and I'd like to share it.  Journaling!  It's not a new idea at all but the process and the function were new to me.  I was reading a book about how to access your creativity and the author recommended the following how to:
1.  Write as soon as you get up in the morning, until you fill up 3 pages.
2.  Don't think about what you're writing.  Just write whatever pops up into your head.  The important thing is to not stop until you've filled 3 pages.
3.  Never go back and read what you've written.  The point is to get the negative thoughts OUT.  (Reading it will just put them back in.)
4.  When the notebook is full, throw it out!

What this has done for me:
When I journal in this way, I find that most of the negative "chatter" swirling around in my head goes away.  I also find that I don't need to unload on people.  You know when you just want to complain to someone?  I find I have less of a need to do this when I journal in the mornings.  It's like emptying out what's bothering me onto the pages.
Lately, I have been dealing with fertility issues.  I hadn't realized I was going on and on about it so much until a coworker said to me, "Yes, Lyn, we KNOW!"  after I had made a comment about how much it sucks to not be able to have a child.  I don't want to burden people and I don't want them to get sick of hearing me.  I'm sure it makes me tiresome to be around.  Anyway, the journal is helping me.  I usually feel like I have an elephant on my heart, and this journaling activity lightens the load.

I'd encourage you to try this.  What do you need to unburden yourself of?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Beating the Sunday Blahs

Most people feel like Monday morning begins on Sunday afternoon.  (I know I did!)  Lately, I have been making an effort to turn Sunday afternoons in to a positive time that I look forward to.  Here's my new Sunday routine:
  • Get up around 8 or so
  • have my 1 cup of coffee that I allow myself per week
  • have a nice breakfast of eggs and veggie browns
  • read a good book for an hour or so (I'm currently reading "The Girl that Kicked the Hornets' nest".)
  • around 10, I start cleaning.  I always do the kitchen and bathroom (they are the dirtiest rooms in the house), then I do the floors, laundry, and whatever else I have time for before noon.
  • 12 - go out to eat with my family (hubby, mom, dad, brother)
  • go grocery shopping (the best time to go is when you're full!) - also:  don't forget the flowers!
  • other housework (Today, I swept off the roof.)
  • treat myself to TV, blogging, or facebooking
  • make soup for the week's lunches (Last week was chicken soup.  Today, I'm making lentil soup.)
  • make "special treat" supper.  It's hard to come up with good treats when you can't eat wheat, dairy, or sugar but I've come up with Italian antipasta as something I look forward to.  It makes Sunday evening feel special. ..AND - there's nothing like a clean house and a closet full of clean clothes to make you feel good and ready for the week! 
  • hot bath
  • read silly book &/or magazines (Silly chick lit.  Nothing heavy.)
  • bed at a decent hour
So far, this routine helps me look forward to Sunday afternoons, and helps me to feel good about the upcoming week.  Also, I used to spend Saturdays feeling guilty about not doing the shopping and cleaning.  Now that I know it'll get done Sunday, I can enjoy my Saturdays guilt free!  

 My antipasta plate:  (from bottom, clockwise) - palm hearts, turkey slices, roasted tomato and garlic, artichoke hearts, pepperoni slices, mixed olives, pickled pearl onions, prosciutto and figs.  In the middle - marinated mushrooms and roasted red peppers.  Topped with blanched asparagus (drop in boiling water for a minute.  Works best with skinny asparagus.)  I drizzle a vinaigrette on top, made from olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and fresh basil.  Yum!

I almost forgot this week's flowers that I chose as my treat this week:
Irises and Tully Pods.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

An Affordable Luxury

I love Calla Lillies!  They are such elegant flowers.  No frills, clean lines, and just beautiful.  I have taken to buying flowers for myself each time I go to the grocery store.  It's a no calorie treat!  I used to buy myself a candy bar or something bad to eat on the way home.  Now, I pick out flowers after I'm done getting everything else on my list. 

This treat won't contribute to my weight and I get to enjoy it all week!   Every time I walk in the kitchen and see them, I feel a burst of happiness.  Worth it!

What's your favorite no-calorie treat?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The DIY Pedicure

After my last post, I feel the need to post about a light and fluffy topic.  Pedicures!  I love a good pedicure, but since my husband and I are both  teachers who don't get paid over the summer (and we won't get paid until the end of this month), I felt like I shouldn't spend the money on something as frivilous as a pedicure.  BUT - my feet were in need of one so I decided to do it myself. 

At first, I really didn't want to but I thought, "if a pedicure costs $35.  I'll save that much if I do it myself.  It's like getting paid.  If someone were to give me $35 to give myself a pedicure, would I do it?  Of course!"

Most of us have what we need for a pedicure around the house.  I had several bottles of nail polish sitting around that I rarely use, and some nail polish remover.  Other than that, you don't need anything special.  I was reading in a magazine that facial exfolients and moisturizers work just as well on feet too!  Here's what I did:

My DIY Pedi:
Step 1:  Take a hot bath and  make sure to keep feet under water to soak.
Step 2:  Exfoliate with whatever you have  on hand.  I used St. Ives Apricot Scrub.
Step 3:  Get rid of dead skin on heels with a pumice stone if you have it.  If not, skip this step and just make sure to exfoliate well in step 1.  (I happen to have a pedicure razor that I bought at Sally's for just a few bucks.  Love it!)
Step 4:  Get out of tub and dry feet.
Step 5:  Moisturize with whatever you have on hand.  I used CVS brand moisturizer.
Step 6:  Remove nail polish (if needed).  Instead of regular nail polish remover, I use Boots Conditioning Nail Polish Remover Pads.  I get them in England when I go.  I have not found anything similar in this country.  One little pad will remove all of your polish on both feet, it doesn't dry your nails out, and it doesn't smell terrible!  Most nail polish removers give off fumes that give me terrible headaches.  This doesn't.
Step 7:  Apply two coats of polish and one coat of clear topcoat.  I don't know why I was drawn to this unconventional blue, but I was.  I guess I'm in a blue mood! 
Step 8:  Let dry thoroughly and enjoy!

It' not perfect, but my feet feel a lot better and this will hold me over until the paycheck comes in. 

Sunday, August 15, 2010

His Name is Khan, and he is NOT a Terrorist

My Name is Khan
All Americans should watch this movie.  Really.  I saw it this weekend and loved it.  Shahrukh Khan plays a character that has Asberger's Sydrome who falls in love with a single mom, Mandira.  Their love is unconventional, but very sweet.  The focus is the love story, but there is the back-drop of 9/11 which happens in the middle of the film  and changes their lives forever.  Many of us have never considered that innocent Muslims who live in America were also victims of 9/11.

Watching this movie has made me more sensitive to some unpleasant things that are going on currently.  Two stand out to me:  (I already had these thoughts before seeing the movie--it just made me think more about them.) 

1.  People are freaking out and trying to prevent a mosque from being built down the street from the ground zero.  Not AT ground zero, mind you; but down the street.  (Also, there is another mosque that already exists that is even closer to the site which nobody mentions.)

2.  Right-wing media idiots are trying to organize "parties" where people burn copies of the Qur'an.

Reasons why we should not prevent a mosque from being built at that site in NY:

1.  It's not AT Ground zero.  It's down the street.

2.  It will not be for "the enemy".  This mosque will be built for AMERICANS who have the misfortune of having the same religion as some very bad men.

3.  This idea that Islam is synonymous with terrorism is dangerous thinking and just isn't true. I have heard people say that Islam is a violent religion and it's something in the religion that promotes bombings, etc.  Well, what about the Northern Irish terrorists who bombed London all those years?  We never said "ooh.  Let's prevent a church from being built anywhere near any of the bomb sites", did we?  Also, Timothy McVeigh was Christian.  Did we knock down churches in the area?  What about all the Catholic priests who molest boys?  Is there something in Catholicism that promotes that?  Of course not!  There are bad people in the world, and they can be of any religion.  Also, no matter what the religion, there are people who will use the ideology to justify bad behavior.  Let's not condemn whole religions here.  Especially in the land that was founded on freedom of religion!

4.  Let us not forget that there were innocent Muslims who died in the Twin Towers along with everyone else.

5.  Yes, the Muslims have "jihad".  Well, Christians have "crusades".  Isn't that pretty much the same thing?  Killing people who don't conform to your beliefs?  The crusades were really bloody, horrible battles.  All done by Christians in a far away land.  The people of that land still associate the word "crusade" with some awful, awful events.

6.  I know Christians today who think it's okay to break the "thou shalt not kill" commandment to go abroad and kill Muslims.  We can go over an kill them, yet they cannot have a peaceful place of worship?  Doesn't this strike you as insane?

7.  Whatever happened to "turn the other cheek" and "love thine enemy"? 

Reasons why we should not have mass public burnings of the Qur'an:

1.  First of all, what would it accomplish?  Really!

2.  We didn't burn bibles everytime an IRA bombing occured in London; nor did we burn bibles when over the Oklahoma City bombing.  Why start burning books now?  I think this whole thing is racism in disguise.

3.  It's only going to make the bad guys hate us even more.  (and by "bad guys" I mean Islamic terrorists.  Not ALL muslims!)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Rules of Classy-ness

Through reading other people's blog posts, I came across some rules on how to achieve a timeless, classy look.  "Chic", if you will.  Here they are:

1.  The 2 color rule - I'm still not 100% sure what this is, but French women follow this rule when dressing.  Sure, no more than 2 colors, but does this include neutrals and toenail polish?  If anyone knows about his rule, please enlighten me! 

2.  Either wear a necklace OR earrings.  Not both.

3.  Either make-up your eyes OR your lips.  Not both.

Audrey Hepburn followed these rules and, as we all know, she was the epitome of class.  People still try to emulate her simple grace.

Recently, I went to a reunion of sorts and I used these rules.  Here I am, trying to look classy:

I think I followed the 2 color rule by wearing only blue and black, but I did have pink nail polish.  Also, there is more than one shade of blue in the necklace.  Maybe I didn't follow this rule after all!  Can someone PLEASE explain this rule?

I chose to wear a necklace and no earrings.

I chose to make up my lips by wearing red lipstick (something I never do), and no eye make-up. 

What do you think?  Any other ideas on how to be classy out there?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Office Therapy

I recently read the book "Apartment Therapy" by Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan, and am now working through the suggestions in it.  (I found out about this book b/c one of the blogs I follow had a really great post about it.)  The premise is that you will feel much better about yourself if you get your living space in order.  Also, it's not about being "hoity toity" and having a beautiful house or apartment, but having one that is right for YOU and supports you in your activities.  I have found it very helpful. 

I was skipping around and decided to focus on my office for the past few days because it needs the most help.  Everytime I walk in here, I feel like "ugh"!  Office clutter seems to pile up the fastest, doesn't it?  I had piles of bills from over 10 years ago!  Also, my filing cabinet was crammed full of old stuff and was disorganized so files were piling up on my desk, the floor, etc.

Mr. Gillingham-Ryan suggests color-coding your files so you can see major categories at a glance.  My files are now pink and purple for personal stuff, green for professional stuff, and brown for house stuff.  I am so happy now that there is a place for all the paper clutter that has been covering my desk for years.  Also, I never knew what to keep and what to throw away, so I kept everything!  (You know....just in case.)  The following list in the book helped me greatly:

Keep:                                       For how long:
1.  Personal Letters -                permanently
2.  Tax returns -                        permanently
3.  Credit Card Statements -       7 years
4.  Mortgage Statements -          7 years
5.  Bank Statements -                 7 years
6.  Investment Statements -        7 years
7.  Tax deductible receipts -       7 years
8.  Insurance Policies -              3 years of renewals
9.  Warranties, User's Guides -   Life of Product  (or as long as you own it.)

Do NOT keep:
1.  Personal or holiday cards
2.  Utility bills (unless deductible)
3.  Rent receipts
4.  Nondeductible receipts or bills

Go ahead and declutter that office.  It doesn't take as long as you think it's going to, and you'll be glad you did!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

America: Don't be this guy!

I understand iphones are cool and all, but I really hope I never get like all these people I see who are permanently attached to them.  This was taken on a boat trip through the beautiful Killarney Lakes in Ireland.  Surrounded by SO much beauty and this guy never looked up from his iphone!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Greece: The Good, the Bad, and the Amusing

The Good:

I have a whole separate post on the good things about Greece. Here’s a recap: The islands, the food, the color of the ocean, siestas, tavernas, open-air cinemas, sunsets, beautiful flowers, frappes, kids running around at night, etc.

The Bad:
As with every country, you have to take the bad along with the good.  I always feel that an outsider has no right to criticise a country.  After all, if you don't like it, go home!  However, since my mother-in-law lives here, my husband is half-Greek, and I have spent every summer and every other Christmas here for the past 10 years; I feel I have earned the right to mention a few things I don't like.  (If you are Greek, please don't take offense,  I think the good outweighs the bad, and I am the first person to criticise things I don't like about my own country.)  Here are some things I really find hard to take when I come here:

-Athens - NOT my favorite place! It has all the problems of a big city without any of the convenience. I only liked Greece once I got out of Athens. By all means - go to Athens to see all the old stuff (Parthenon, etc.). I was really glad to see all that. The first time. After you’ve seen it all though, Athens is just a big, dirty city.

-Rude people - Admittedly, not all Greeks are rude. I find them to very rude in Athens, but really very friendly once you get outside of Athens.  Once, in Athens, an old Greek lady literally pushed me out of the way saying "op op op op op!"  I think that's the Greek for,"Get out of my way you dumb tourist!  I'm trying to get that taxi!"

- NO ONE waits in line. Ever. When you go anywhere, instead of lining up, the Greeks will push into a chaotic mob and elbow you out of their way. (Little old Greek ladies are the WORST!) I have been conditioned to wait my turn. If you try to do this, you’ll never get anywhere because everyone pushes ahead of you. Once the crowd begins to thin out, then a whole fresh mob of people will push in front of you. I have culture shock over this every time.

-Rules are for someone else - Most Greeks seem to have this mentality. Rules (even traffic rules) are for someone else. We once got totally yelled at by a man who had a red light, but he wanted to run it. We were walking across the street at the time (obeying the signal), and prevented him from doing this. (This is just one, small example. People create traffic lanes where there are no lanes, etc.) I always have underlying anxiety because I feel like anyone could do anything at anytime.

-Speaking of traffic - When driving in Athens, if you don’t go immediately, the person behind you will honk and curse at you. If you do go, then the car on street you just went in front of will honk and curse at you. Either way, you’re screwed.

The Amusing:
(I was going to call this “the ugly”, but I decided to think of it as amusing.)

- There is still smoking inside of buildings. When we went to the bank, (another thing I don’t like: things take FOREVER. Even simple things like going to the bank can take hours.) Anyway, we were at the bank, and the woman at the desk lit up and started smoking! I couldn’t believe it. Okay, though. It was a bank. Fair enough, I guess. What really shocked me was when we visited my mother-in-law in the hospital a few years back when she had a minor operation. People were smoking IN the hospital! Even the doctors and nurses smoked, right in front of the patients! (WTF?)

- Sidewalks are not for walking. Anywhere there is a sidewalk, people have planted trees in the middle of them. They cut holes in the concrete and plant trees in them every few feet. Of course, this makes walking on the sidewalk impossible. So then, everyone walks in the street while the angry drivers honk at everyone to get out of the way. To me, this is crazy.

-Gum - On the trunks of the above mentioned trees, there is tons of gum. Apparently, this is where youngsters put their used gum instead of throwing it away. Yuck.

- Ancient Plumbing - Most places have old plumbing with very narrow pipes. This means that you cannot flush toilet paper. Next to every toilet, they have a small trash can where you’re supposed to put used toilet paper and things you normally would flush. Ick. (This is another thing I find it hard to get used to.)

-Cats - They seem to be everywhere! Apparently, the Greeks won’t put down animals. This is nice in theory, but what do you do when the stray cats take over and there are packs of dogs which terrorize children? Sometimes, putting down strays is for the best.

Monday, July 5, 2010

More Things I Like About Greece

Other things (in addition to the islands) I like about Greece:

1. Food - I know we Americans think we have the best food, but Greece has us beat. I’m not even kidding! Now, I’m not talking about fancy, complicated dishes. Greece has just good, simple food but of the highest quality. I think this is because they haven’t succumbed to factory farming practices the way we have. The fruit and vegetable are the best I’ve ever tasted. They are grown locally and are picked when they are ripe.  Things like peaches and melons are just to die for.  Even broccoli tastes amazing over here!

The best lamb I have ever had has been in Greece. Alex says this is because the animals spend their whole lives eating fresh herbs that grow naturally on the hillsides. (Things like rosemary, oregano, and thyme.) The herbs are thoroughly incorporated into every part of the animal. Who knows if this is the reason, but I can tell you: there is nothing like Greek lamb chops!

Yogurt and honey - both are the thickest ever, and are totally delicious. The honey has the consistency of caramel. I’ve never found any like it outside of Greece. Also, they have different kinds. Today, we bought pine and chestnut honey. I can’t wait to try it!

Greek sweets - Did you know that there are LOTS of different kinds of baklava? Also, other baklava-esce desserts? Sweets are a big part of Greek culture. If you are invited to someone’s house for a meal, don’t bring flowers. Bring sweets! The sweet shops are even open on Sundays (nothing else is) so that people can get a beautifully wrapped box of sweets to bring to Sunday lunch. My favorites include the following:
  • baklava (the REAL thing. Not what they call “baklava” in Greek restaurants in America.)
  • kaitifi (made with “string” pastry instead of filo. It looks kind of like shredded wheat.)
  • ekmek (a Turkish dessert which is kind of like kaitifi with thick, whipped cream on top)
  • Chocolate “pasta”, which is a kind of cake which is layered with cream, then coated with a layer of chocolate. Alex’s favorite!
  • ice-creams - We all know that the Italians have a the best gelato, but I think some of that know-how must’ve gotten into Greek culture because they have amazing ice-creams over here. 
  •  I tried a new dessert this time. I don’t know what the Greek name is but the translation is “honey balls”. They are like donuts, soaked in honey, and topped with chopped nuts and cinnamon. Fantastic!
Frappes - Since it’s usually hot outside, the Greeks have a tradition of drinking cold coffee. They take really finely-ground instant coffee (like a really fine powder) and whip it up with water, sugar, and condensed milk. It makes a wonderfully frothy coffee drink. I think they were doing this long before frappucinos were invented.

2. Tavernas - I also love that you are more connected with the outside when in Greece. When you eat at a Taverna, you sit outside, usually under trees or a trellis. On our last night in Spetses, our table was on the beach, inches away from the water. Awesome! Also, it’s nice that everything you order automatically comes with a glass of ice-cold water. (Even if you order a glass of water, it will come with a glass of water!)

3. Siesta - Everyone takes a siesta from around 2 or so until around 5 or 6 in the evening. The shops close around then and reopen. The cool thing is that everything stays open until after midnight then. I love going to a Taverna at 11 at night and all the children are running around, playing while the adults chat and have a meal and/or a drink. It’s a really nice atmosphere.

4. Open-air cinemas - There are cinemas, which are usually on a roof-top, where you sit outside and watch a movie (on the side of a building or a screen) while the sun goes down. I love it!

5. The amazing turquoise water - When I first saw the ocean in Greece, I thought they must’ve poured turquoise dye into the water. It’s an amazing color! I’ve never been able to capture the color on camera. You just HAVE to come to Greece and see for yourself.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

My Favorite Greek Islands

My husband and I just got back yesterday from the islands of Hydra and Spetses.  If you're going to visit some isalnds in Greece, these two are close to Piraeus and are easy to get to.  I've been to other islands like Santorini, Mikonos, Paros, etc., but I find that these two are just as good as (if not better than) any of the more famous ones.  Here goes:

1. The Island of Hydra (pronounced “eethra”) - I have been to several islands, but Hydra is my favorite. It is the only one that does not allow cars on the island. Everything has to be carried by donkey or mule. This makes me feel like I have gone back in time. Also, it has the best swimming. You can jump directly off the rocks into deep, cool, clear water.

There is a café right on the water that I like going to. Here is a picture of some things I love to eat there:

At sunset, you can’t beat a fresh peach juice at Hydronetta bar. They juice the peaches right when you order it. Delicious! Also, I don’t think you can beat this view of the sunset. I know that the island of Mikonos is famous for that strip where you can have a drink and see the sunset, but Hydra is better. When we were on Mikonos, it was just so jam-packed with tourists that you couldn’t even get a seat. Even those who did manage to get a seat were squished and didn’t really look relaxed. (I have heard Mikonos described as “a piece of Panama City that they stuck in Greece”. I agree.) On Hydra, there is always a seat, a relaxing atmosphere, and you don’t have to wait to get service. Plus, the sunset is better because there isn’t as much haze. I never get tired of looking at this view:

2. The Island of Spetses - Very different from Hyrda, but still very nice. Cars and motorbikes are allowed on this island. There is an old harbor which is nice to walk along at sunset. This trip (for the first time), we rented a motorbike and rode around the entire island. I loved this! We found a small, secluded, almost private beach where we stopped for a swim. Awesome! If I were going to live on a Greek island, I’d live on Spetses and visit Hyrda.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Why I Love Ireland

A friend once asked me, "Why do you even want to go to Ireland?  I mean, there's nothing much there."  My answer was "because it's beautiful!  ...and the culture is so interesting".  Yes, it's probably not as cosmopolitan as other places but it makes up for it in other ways.  My favorite is the southwest of Ireland.  They say that if you've only been to Dublin, then you haven't been to Ireland.  To me, the Southwest is real Ireland.  Here is a list of why I love it so much.

1.  The People -  The Irish are some of the nicest people you will ever meet.  They are open, welcoming, and will buy you drinks all night if you're not careful.  As a tourist in other countries, sometimes you feel like the locals don't really want you there.  In Greece, I have been LOOKED AT as if to say, "go home, tourist.  This is my place!"  In Ireland, I've never felt that way.   As you walk down the street, the old men will wink at you and say, "Hello, how are ya my dear?"  Lovely.
2.  Pubs - We just don't have the equivalent in the U.S.  Our bars seem to usually have a somewhat seedy "meat-market" element to them.  Or the music is so loud you have to shout to hear anyone.  You wouldn't usually go to a bar alone unless you were trying to hook up.  Irish pubs, however, are kinda like coffee shops but with beer.  It's a relaxed atmosphere where you can sit, have a pint, and chat to the local characters.  It's perfectly alright to go there as a single woman and no one will think anything of it.  The musicians that play are usually not up on a stage and will chat with you between numbers.  Also in some pubs, if you bring along an instrument and want to play along with them, it's totally okay.  How cool is that?  

3.  The Countryside - Beautiful!  Check it out.

4.  The smell - There is a very faint smell of grass and peat and sea.  This smells like Ireland to me! 

5.  The Sayings - When refering to a man, they say "yer man".  When refering to a woman they say "yer one".  "Feck" is used instead know, but it's not considered a curse word at all.  Even little old ladies say it.  "Slainte" = cheers!  "Gobshite" and "eejit" = my favorite insults.  In Kerry, they put the word "so" at the ends of sentences.  I don't why but it's cute.  (As in "shall we go to the pub so?")

That's good start.  I'll add more tomorrow.  For now---off to the pub so!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Cuisine and Fashion at the London - Stanstead Airport Holiday Inn Express

Well, here I go again.  I'm off traveling on my own.  I do admit that it is very selfish of me to leave my poor husband on his own working while I traipse off to Ireland.  For some reason though, I feel compelled to go out and do my own thing lately.  I guess it's my last hurrah before I start fertility treatments again.   (Which will hopefully work this time.)

Traveling by yourself is lonely but at the same time, it can be very liberating!  We all live in a bubble;  (Some more than others) surrounded by people we know, our books, habits, jobs, etc.  When you get out of that, it can really help you get to know yourself.  Once stripped of all of my creature comforts and cohorts, who is left?  Just me.  It's nice to know who that is.

Okay, I'll stop the whole introspective, pycho-babble thing now.  I flew into London Heathrow Airport today and took three buses to get to Stanstead airport.  Now, I'm staying overnight in the Holiday Inn and I'll catch a flight to Ireland tomorrow.  Why did I stay in a hotel when I have lovely lovely inlaws who live really close to Heathrow?  I mean, I would love to see them but I didn't want to crash on them for such a short time.  Also - have you ever seen me after a transatlantic flight?  It's not pretty!  This way, I can be ugly and anti-social and just sleep, shower, and blog until my heart's content.  I hope to see them later when I would be much better company!

Tonight's dinner was unexpectedly delicious and entertaining!  There was a "curry of the day" on offer in the restaurant.  Since the only people who work here all seem to be Indian, I figured this was probably the most authentic  thing  on the menu.  Afterall, I've heard it said that there's nothing more English than an Indian curry!  Well, I was right.  It was lamb curry, served with rice, poppadoms, naan, and steamed broccoli and cauliflower.  It was better than a lot of curries I've had at Indian restaurants in the city!  As I ate, there were three bunnies chasing each other on the grassy hill right outside the window.  It was very fun to watch.

Also, fun to watch was the local color.  Lots of people seem to do the park and ride thing where they stay a night at the Holiday Inn, then get a reduced parking rate for the rest of the week while they catch a shuttle to the airport for their trip.  A good idea, really.  Anyway, there were some interesting characters around and I love to people watch.  One woman stood out to me.  She was probably in her late 50's and was wearing a canary yellow silk blouse, a mustard yellow knit wrap, with jeans, and mustard yellow spiked peeptoe high heels with orange toenail polish.  (I never knew yellow could clash with itself until today.)  Also, bleach-blond hair.  She was flaunting around the place like she felt really stylish.  It was Great Britain's equivalent of "ghetto fabulous".  I loved  her! One day, I hope to have her confidence and really own my style!

If you had told me "hey, let's go to the Stanstead Airport where we will get a delicious Indian meal, watch some bunnies run around, and check out the fashion scene!"  I would have thought you were NUTS!  But there you are.  If you're in the area, check it out.  It's a hoot.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Florida Trip

I am testing this out on my husband's new laptop just to see if I can do everything and put up pics before I take it with me to Ireland.  This is the summer of me!  I decided that I would take the time to visit friends this summer.  (It was my new year's resolution.)

Anyway, we just got back from Florida where we had a great time!   My dear friend and her husband live there and I hadn't seen them in about 4 years.  We went to the pool, the beach, ate junk food, played games on their Wii, watched movies, and got up to general mayhem.  It's so worth the effort to go visit your  friends!  You won't remember your tiredness, effort, or expense but you'll have awesome memories that will last a lifetime.  Do it! 


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

My Mug Says.....

I thought I'd share the saying that is written on my favorite coffee cup.  Reading this in the morning makes me feel peaceful and happy and sets me up nicely for the day.  The mug is various shades of blue and it says:

"May the sun bring you new energy by day, 
May be moon softly restore you by night, 
May the rain wash away your worries, 
May the breeze blow new strength into your being, 
May you walk gently through the world and know its beauty all the days of your life."

--Apache blessing

Isn't that nice?

Monday, May 31, 2010

Care and Feeding of a New Oboe

As you know from my last post, I recently bought a new oboe from Carlos Coelho Woodwinds.  (Sorry, this is a bit of a commercial for him.  I think he's just great!)  I bought my English horn from him about 5 years ago and have been very happy.

Along with my new oboe, came a goody bag.  (Love the goody bag!)  In it was a screw driver, cork grease, an instrument stand, 2 Loree stickers, and a silver polishing cloth.  There was also a beautiful purple, silk swab.  It seems like such a shame that it's only going to be used for a spit rag! 

Each new oboe from Carlos also comes with a 2-year warranty for cracks.  This is great because if an oboe is going to crack, it'll do it in the first year or so.  If it makes it past 2 years,  you're usually home free!  Oboes are notorious for cracking.  I think this is because of the really small diameter of the bore in the top joint.  The air pressure is too great and, along with the sound waves vibrating through the wood, it's just too much for the instrument to take.

In order to prevent cracking, it is very important to break in a new oboe properly.  Here are the instructions from the Loree factory.

How to Break in Your New Instrument (from Loree factory):
  • In the beginning, play the instrument for no more than 10-15 minutes at a time.  Swab it, return it to its case, and keep the lid closed.  A few hours later or the next day, you may repeat this procedure.  each week, you may add 5 or 10 minutes playing time.  After about 3 months, you should be able to play it as you wish.
  •  On chilly days (or in a cold room) always warm the instrument before playing it.  This may be done by holding it against your body for a few minutes, or cradling at least the top joint in you hands.  If the oboe was left in an unheated area on a cold day, you must not play it until it has had a chance to warm gradually.  (I can vouch for this.  The one time my old oboe cracked, it was in a freezing cold practice room.)
  • During the break in period, we recommend you to oil regularly the bore of you new instrument (about one a week).  Be sure first, that the bore is well dried and cleared of moisture.  Then, put some drops of "F. Loree" natural bore oil, preferably on a feather, and apply a light coat of oil gently inside the instrument.  After a few months, you can progressively reduce to oil your instrument.  (Note:  There are oboists who are dead-set against oiling the bore.  My opinion is that you should oil it in the beginning to keep moisture from getting into the wood.  Once broken in, I personally don't keep oiling it.)
 Additionally, Carlos has his own set of instructions for breaking in a new oboe.  Here's what he says:

Suggestions for Breaking in and Care (from Carlos):
  • Warm up instrument to body temperature.
  • NEVER warm up the instrument by blowing hot air into the bore.
  • **Start by playing low notes only.
  • SWAB!!!  We recommend a silk swab.  Try swabbing from the top joint to the bell.  It will prevent to pull back all the water through the top joint and your swab will never get stuck!  Swab constantly, especially if the weather is dry.
  • Start by playing only 10-15 minutes at a time a couple of times a day during the first week.  Increase playing time 5 to 10 minutes a week.
  • Clean and oil the mechanism about every 8 weeks.  Try to keep the wood clean.
  • We do recommend oiling the bore.  It may be necessary ti oil the bore on specific occasions.  Let's talk first!
  • Keep swabbing........swabbing.....!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

My New Baby

So it's not a child from India yet (sorry to disappoint), but it's an oboe from France.  Yes, I unexpectedly bought a new oboe last week!  It was time for a new one since I had had my old oboe for 12 years now and, as all good oboists know, they blow out in about 10-15 years.  The sound (of my old instrument) was starting to spread and the pitch was less reliable than before. 

How does one accidentally buy a new oboe?  Go to an oboe party, of course!  (Like a tupperware party, but with oboes.)  A colleague of mine had 8 Loree oboes shipped from Carlos Coelho Woodwinds to his house.  Several local oboists came and tried them out.  Some brought their old instruments to sell.  Anyway, one of the AK models stood out to me.  I went back and forth between the AKs and the Royales before eventually deciding on this particular AK model.  I know, most oboists prefer the Royales because of their BIG sound and sturdy feel, but I decided not to get one.  Here's why...... 

Why I chose the AK over the Royale:
  • When I play with an orchestra, I usually play second oboe so I shouldn't out-boom the principle oboist.  Also, when I play first oboe or solo gigs, it's usually in chamber groups, opera, or church solos which require a sweet sound.  A big, boomy sound is not really what I need.
  • I felt that the Royales kind of boxed me in.  I like the flexibility of the AKs and I like that it allows me to bend the pitch easily if I want to.
  • My old oboe is an AK and I have loved it for 12 years!  
  • The sound of this one was similar to my old one, but better!  (Darker, and more focused)
  • The low notes played like warm butter.
  • I feel more comfortable on the AK and it shows in my playing.
  • The Royales cost $1000 more.  I had to ask myself, "Does this really sound $1000 better than the AK?"  My honest answer was no.
If money was no object, I would've bought one of each.  But---until I win the lottery, the AK is my instrument.

I kept my old oboe.  It makes me feel safe to have a spare.  If I have to send one off to be repaired I can still play on the other one.  Also, if I have an outdoor gig or something I can play the old oboe with no worries!

BTW - I'm a Loree girl.  I've played other oboes but I really prefer the sound of the Lorees.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Copland's 3 Planes of Listening

This week I am doing listening exercises with my students and I came across something I think is worth sharing.  The American composer Aaron Copland wrote a book in 1957 entitled, "What to Listen for in Music".  In this book, he describes what he calls the "Three Planes of Listening".  While there is no new information here, I have found it useful because it's so clear.  It helps my students focus and really hear more deeply than before.

The Three Planes of Listening:
1.  The Sensual Plane - It's not what it sounds like.  The sensual plane is the level where you're aware of the music, but you don't listen enough to really make a judgement about it.  It can even be background music.  When you notice instrumentation or the quality of the sound, that's the sensual plane.  Most people never listen to music outside of this plane.

2.  The Expressive Plane - In the expressive plane, you notice how the music makes you feel.  For example, you might notice that a minor key may make you feel down and a major key might make you feel up.  Also, fast music might make you feel nervous.  In this plane, you can visualize what the music might represent.  (Like a storm or a beautiful sunny day.)  Sometimes, I have my students draw or paint a visual representation of a piece of music that I play for them.  I wasn't aware of it at the time, but I was helping them to hear music in the expressive plane.

3.  The Sheerly Musical Plane - This is the plane at which most musicians, conductors, critics, music teachers, and judges listen to music.  In the purely musical plane, you can separate the music into elements such as tempo, pitch, dynamics, key signature, time signature, form, chord analysis, etc.  It contains all the jargon as well.

It helps me to be aware of these 3 planes.  When I listen to a student play, I usually am listening on the Sheerly Musical Plane while most parents listen on the Sensual Plane.  This explains some of the discrepancies in judgement that sometimes occur.  Also, sometimes it's helpful for me to just sit back and listen on the sensual plane just for the enjoyment of it. 

Next time you listen to any kind of music, try listening on the three levels and see if it changes the experience for you.  I'd love to hear what you think.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Sometimes, you can go back. (Temporarily)

This past weekend was really cool for me because I got to hang out with some old college buddies of mine.  You know the saying, "you can never go back"?  Well, sometimes you can!  Several people came in from all over to attend a special alumni weekend at my university.  It really was just like old times.  Hanging out with the same people in the same places made the time just melt away.  Now, I'm back in the real world and am wondering if I dreamt it all.

This got me wondering:  Why do we like to have reunions so much?  I mean, we all have current friends we hang out with, right?  ...and one would presume that we've developed past our old colleagues and have become different people than we were then.  Those old people won't know the "new" us.  Why have college and/or high school reunions?  I have to say, I also recently hung out with some old high school buddies too and had a fabulous time.  Why is it so fun?

I think it's because when we see these people, we feel grounded.  We met them at a time when we were still developing and were dreaming of what we would become in the future.  The possibilities were endless.  As we age, our possibilities seem to shrink and reality sets in.  Seeing your school colleagues makes you feel like you have possibility in your life again.

It's also fun to see what people you knew way back when are doing now.  When I find out how successful some of my colleagues are, it makes me feel like that too is possible for me.  Minds open, possibilities present themselves, new thoughts form.  
Plus, I adored those people back then and I adore them now and it was just plain FUN to see them again!  :-)

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Plan

This week I got some not-so-great news about my ongoing adoption process.  (For those of you who don't know, I am adopting from India.)  We applied over a year ago.  (Last March)  We were told that it would take 10 months for a referral, then another 10 months for the government to process the paperwork before we were allowed to bring our child home.  So, 20 months total.  A long time, but doable. 

Well, after forking over tens of thousands of dollars and hearing nothing in over a year, I contacted the adoption agency.  It turns out that now the wait time has increased to 18-24 months  THEN the 10 month processing time.  So it could take 34 months total.  Plus, I thought the time started from when we applied.  Nope.  It starts from when we're approved.  We were approved  in July 2009.  (It takes a few months to do the homestudy and to take all the online parenting classes you have to take.)  So that means we've been waiting 9 months from then.  (Not eleven like I had thought.)  So it will take another 2 years before we get our child.  Two years!! 

What's even worse it that they do not allow concurrent adoptions so I cannot adopt a local child in the meantime without them putting this one on hold.  Also, if a miracle happened and I were to magically become pregnant, they would also stop the adoption until the child was 1 year old.  (Which means they stop the wait time too!  This is madness because I could hypothetically have a two-year-old by the time this adoption goes through without them stopping it.  Argh!)

After sitting with this and thinking, I've come up with a plan of sorts.  I am 35 and I am hearing the loud ticking of that clock and I do not want to waste 2 years of what's left of my fertility (so to speak) waiting on this adoption  that might not actually happen.  (Because who knows what they'll decide in 2 years' time?) 

So here's the plan:

1.  Continue to get as healthy as possible.
2.  HAVE FUN this summer and visit friends in Florida and Ireland.  (Because once kids are in the picture, trips like this are not likely to happen.)
3.  Once I get back from said vacation, go back to the fertility clinic and try all that crap again.  I have lost 30 pounds since the last time I tried fertility treatments so I'm hoping my body will respond better.
4.  Add acupuncture to the fertility treatments.  I've read that combining acupuncture with fertility treatments can increase the success rate by as much as 65%.  Plus, I've had some success with acupuncture helping my migraines so I'm hopeful that it will help with this too.

This way, I'm at least trying in the meantime while I wait FOREVER on my Indian baby.  At least if fertility treatments don't work again, I'll have the adoption going on the back burner.  

Thursday, April 22, 2010

You don't have to go far to enter a totally different world.

I was struck today about how close you can be to a place, yet so far.  At one of the schools where I teach, I can literally see the acupuncture place that I go to from the window of my classroom.  How can utter peace and relaxation be just a stone's throw away from a place that is so....not?  By just going a block down the road, you can be in a totally new world.  Crazy, if you think about it. 

Also, I was thinking today that I really love teaching kids.  Sure, I could probably make more money doing something else, but I really get to see the good in what I do.  My students can make me laugh, can make me furious, or sometimes can make me very proud and happy.  With kids, you never know what the day might bring.  You might get thrown up on, get yelled at, cried on for no apparent reason, or sometimes they might floor you by doing something fantastic that you never saw them do before.  Things can turn in an instant.  This makes me feel alive.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Market Finds of the Week

Okay so I seem to have lost my blogging mojo lately.  I don't know what my deal is but I can't get the motivation to write about anything lately.  When I first started this blog, I couldn't wait to write about all sorts of things.  Now, I can't get the motivation to sit down and write.  It's  not like nothing has been going on.  In fact, I've been crazy busy.  I guess when you're busy, you're just too exhausted to write about the day's goings on when you get done with them.  Hopefully, this is just a passing phase.

The only thing I really want to write about these days is what I get at the farmer's market, which is a shame because apparently no one else is interested at all in reading about it.  Oh well.  It makes me happy so I'm going to do another farmer's market post today.

First of all, Ted got his hot cross buns!  Don't they look awesome?  I had to smell them all the way home so I couldn't resist just having one bite just to taste.  They really are super scrumptious.  Ted immediately snarfed three of them!

Check out these flowers.  I think they're called Delphinium (?).  Anyway, I call them by their other name, "pretty blue flowers" and I couldn't resist them.
I found some even better eggs than last week.  These are from free-range chickens who are also eat grass and bugs in addition to their feed.  This makes the eggs more nutritious and healthy.  You can't really tell in the picture but the yolks are seriously orange.  This is how egg yolks are supposed to look, but we have gotten used to the pale yellow color which indicates lower nutrient levels.  Also, if you look at the egg in the middle, it is slightly green.  The lady told me that this egg came from a particular type of chicken that lays green, blue, and sometimes rose-colored eggs.  Cool.  I made scrambled eggs with them when I got home and eating them was a whole new eggsperience!  (Sorry---couldn't resist.)  They are much eggier and sturdier than other eggs. 

I won't bore you with all the veggies and other things I got today.  I did get some goat meat to try.  I'm curious to see what that's like.  Anyway, I just seem to be excited about food lately.  Who knows why?  Now I really know what Julia Child meant when she said that shopping for food is more thrilling than shopping for a dress!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

More Farmer's Market Veggies!

I went to my local farmer's market again today.  Sure, I have to get up early on a Saturday morning, but it's so worth it!  I have become a bit of a veggie snob.  The drab, supermarket veggies that have been picked green and ripened on the back of a truck and shipped across the country, coated in a film of petroleum (even the organic ones) do nothing for me now.  I have come to realize that fresh veggies that have been picked ripe and eaten within a few days are far superior!  Not just in taste but in texture.  They snap, they crisp, they have bite, etc.

Anyway, since I'm spoiled I went out again today.  Here's what I got:
Kale, fava beans, broccoli, an English cucumber, purple green onions, asparagus, strawberries, hydroponic escarole, spinach, herb plants, lamb chops, local, free-range eggs, and shrimp.

Look how beautiful these shrimp are!  (...and only $7 for all of these shrimp.)
I have never seen purple green onions like these before but they looked interesting.  I tried them when I got home and they have a delicate, sweet taste.
No hot cross bun today for Ted  (hmm... that could be a good band name couldn't it?  "No Hot Cross Buns for Ted".)   However, the bread lady had homemade Granny Smith apple and pecan muffins so I got him one.  The bread lady said she would make us some hot cross buns if we wanted to buy at least a dozen.  When I got home and told this to Ted, his eyes lit up and he nodded vehemently.  I guess we're getting a dozen hot cross buns next week!

The farmer's market has transformed the whole shopping/cooking experience for me.  It used to be a chore to plan out the week's menus, make a list, then go to the store and try to find everything.  Now, I have no list!  I just go and see what they have and what looks good.  Then, I decide what to make with it when I get home.  It makes the process much more enjoyable and creative.  Here's a salad, that I threw together from the things I bought today, to have with lunch:

It has strawberries, spinach, mixed lettuce, parsley, pecans, lemon juice, and olive oil.  A little weird I know, but it was delicious!

So here is my garden-to-be.  I bought some basil, English thyme, and oregano plants.  Hopefully, I won't kill them and they will be the start of my herb/veggie garden.  We'll see. 

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Bag o' Greens

What's better than getting fresh, organic veggies from your local farmer's market?  Having your aunt grow them in her garden and give you them for free!  Look at this bag of greens she gave me from her garden.
Don't they look awesome?  There is a mix of two different types of lettuce, arugula, spinach, and broccoli.  My aunt has had a garden ever since I can remember and now she's doing everything organic.  I'm really happy because I have someone to ask for gardening advice!  I really want to start a garden but I have severely brown thumbs.  Really.  I can't even keep a house plant alive.  I did try to start an herb garden once, but the darn squirrels ate everything I planted.  Who knew squirrels ate things like garlic and swiss chard? 

For you gardeners out there, here is some advice she gave me: 
Before you plant, mix compost and cow manure in the soil.  (You can even buy these things at Walmart these days.  Not that I support Walmart---I'm just sayin'.)
After you see leaves shooting up, put fish emulsion on it.  I've never heard of this, but you mix a teaspoon of it in a gallon of water and put it on once a week.  My aunt says that her garden absolutely took off when she did this.  It makes sense.  When you use conventional fertilizer, you're only putting 3 nutrients on.  Fish emulsion provides a whole spectrum of nutrients.  (Also, didn't the Indians bury a fish in the ground when they planted corn?  They knew what they were doing.)

I think I'm going to start small and try an herb garden again, but I'm going to see if I can make a cage or something to keep those pesky squirrels out!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

My Farmer's Market Loot

I have been meaning to go to my local farmer's market for some time now, but have been too lazy until today.  The market is on Saturday mornings from 8 - 12, which is usually when I love to sleep!  Well, today I sucked it up and went because I am getting more and more angry with the food industry and I want to support local economy.  (Don't even get me started!  If you want to know more, I highly recommend reading "The Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollen.  Two friends of mine recommended it to me and I'm so glad they did.)

Here's some of the loot I picked up today (Ignore what's in the back.  That's just what was on my messy counter):

On the left, we have some local honey which I was very happy about since eating local honey is supposed to help with allergies.  (It helps you build antibodies to local allergens.)  I'm not eating honey myself these days (b/c of my no-sugar diet) but it's good for my hubby.  Behind the honey you can see a bag of pecans.  Then, some mustard greens, kale, cauliflower, carrots, sweet onions, strawberries, and butter.  Look how crazy those carrots are!  You can tell someone pulled them out of the ground.  To my delight, the butter is from a local, family-owned farm and was made from cream from cows who were grass-fed, NOT corn-fed.  (Meat and dairy from grass-fed cows are SO much better for you!)  My one food splurge was the strawberries.  I'm not supposed to have even fruit sugar and I haven't had fruit of any sort in months.  However, I decided that it's Easter and I'm not going to have Easter candy so some strawberries wouldn't be too bad, right?  Anyway, I had a few right after I took this picture and they are delicious!  When you don't eat sugar, fruit tastes like candy!

 Above are some dry goods I bought.  The rice cakes, tea, and almond butter are the same brands I have been buying at Whole Foods but it makes me happy that an actual person got the profits today instead of a big food conglomerate.  The bread is a treat for my husband who is less than thrilled with my gluten-free ways lately.  I satisfied both halves of his ethnicity by getting Kalamata olive bread and a hot-cross bun.  The buns were baked fresh this morning and Ted said it was the best ever.

And lastly, I splurged again and bought myself something girly.  I have been wanted an anklet for a long time now and they're hard to find.  Anyway, I bought this one directly from the woman who made it:
All in all, a successful trip!  It's really nice to buy things from the people who grow or make them.  These people can answer any questions you may have and are knowledgeable about their area.  The veggie and fruit growers can even help you pick out produce that's at the perfect ripeness based on when you're going to eat them.  (Today, the strawberry lady had special pints of them set aside if you were going to eat them today; then other batches for tomorrow and later in the week.)  All I can say is, eating things at the exact, perfect ripeness is an experience you don't want to miss out on.

Check out your local farmer's market and I think you'll enjoy it and you'll wonder (as I did) why you haven't been going all along.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Great Staycation

This week is Spring Break for us teachers.  Yeah, we may not get paid in money, but we do get paid in time off.  Anyway, instead of going anywhere, my husband (Ted) and I decided to stay home for a change since we travel so much in the summers, plus we went Greece this past Christmas.  All I can say is, it's so nice to be home!  Just hanging around our house when we don't have to work feels so novel since we never get to do this.  I have been loving it!  The point of this post however, is not for me to brag as much as it is to give you some ideas about what to do on your own "staycation".

One thing we have been able to do this week is go on long bike rides (as in bicycle).  I never thought I would like doing this, but Ted has converted me.  For 3 summers in a row, we went on bike cruises in Holland.  What's a bike cruise?  It's where you live on a canal boat for a week which goes around to various towns, drops you off with rental bike, then goes ahead to the next town where you have to meet it.  Sometimes, we would bike 35 miles in a day!  This was the first time I ever felt respect for my body.  Yeah, it's not much to look at but it sure can haul-ass all over Holland on a bike!  These trips got me into the whole cycling thing.

Anyway, we have gone on a few bike rides this week.  Not as much as 35 miles or anything, but we did 15 yesterday.  Plus, the weather is perfect right now.  Not too hot with a pleasant breeze.  We brought lunch with us and had a picnic by the river.  Heavenly!

Taking Care of ME!
Another thing thing I've been able to do this week is to really focus on my health. (I am trying to figure out what causes my migraines and I want to get rid of them once and for all!)  Normally, I don't have time to do acupuncture appointments or massages, but this week I do!  Staying home but spending a little money on these things actually costs less than a trip would and it's much more relaxing. 

Cooking healthy meals and trying out new recipes is another thing I have been doing this week.  Also, going to the farmer's market.  Buying fresh, local produce makes me happy!  We also bought some trees and planted them in our yard:  a sycamore for the front, and a lemon tree and a satsuma tree for the back.  I can't wait until we get some fruit from them!

Seeing Friends:
There are friends that I never get to hang out with because we're all too busy.  Since I have time this week, I'm able to go visit them!  I have the time to go drive out close to where they work and meet them for lunch.  Nice!

Brain Food:
One thing I love to do (and don't have a lot of time for usually) is read.  I have a whole pile of books I have been yearning to read and this week I can.  Is there anything better than getting cozy with a good book and a lovely cup of tea?  I don't think so!  Also, I have been catching up on some movies I've been wanting to see. (Especially Sharukh Khan ones!)

There you have it.  A really awesome staycation.  I thought it was going to be boring, but it's not at all!  Maybe if I did this all the time it would get old, but right now I'm enjoying it.   

What would you do on your staycation?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Why I Love Bollywood Movies So Much!

As some of you know, my husband and I are in the process of adopting a child from India.  (It has been over a year now and the waiting is getting really tiresome!)  Anyway, I thought that if I was going to raise an Indian child, I should become familiar with his/her culture.  This is why I started watching Bollywood (short for "Bombay Hollywood") movies in the first place.  As it turns out, I fell in love with the genre!  

Why do I love these movies so much?  Well, in American films, we seem to have lost the idea that movies should include a big song and dance number.  Bollywood movies are chock full of them!  It reminds me of when movies were made in a more wholesome time like when Fred Astair and Ginger Rogers graced the screen.  Indian movies are not allowed to show kissing, so they show couple dancing together to show the love between them.  Did you know that a dance can actually be more sensual than a kiss?  Also, showing longing gazes is actually more powerful than showing a couple slobbering all over each other.  Don't take my word for it, see for yourself!  I love the outrageous costumes, dance moves, ethnic music, all of it!  Sure they can be cheesy, but sometimes you just gotta have a bit of cheese in your life, right?  

My favorite Bollywood movie of all time (and probably my favorite movie period!) is Kal Ho Naa Ho.
This is where I saw my true love, Shahrukh Khan for the first time.  I'm totally gaga over him!  I have never gone coo-coo for a movie star the way I have over this guy.  I never liked Brad Pitt (too pretty), or Tom Cruise (too crazy), or Jude Law (too pervy), or Leo Dicaprio (too....I don't know).  I like Shahrukh because he is just so much fun to watch!  He totally throws his whole body into the dance moves and he looks like he just LOVES every minute.

Shahrukh is smart too.  He knows what he is doing.  He made the following statement in response to the cheesiness of some of his dance numbers:  "I make movies that must appeal to both the 5-year-old child and the 90-year-old grandma".  (...and the 30-something American, apparently!)  He is the biggest movie star in the world if you go by the number of fans he has.  He is not only the biggest star in India, but also in all of Asia.  (I have so much competition.....sigh...)  A self-made man from humble beginnings, Shahrukh now owns his own studio.  He doesn't like the term "Bollywood" because, as he says, "If you are David to someone's Goliath, it is better to be called 'David'.  Not 'Boliath'." 

If you want to see what I'm talking about, here are my favorite Bollywood movies.  (These days, you can Netflix them!)

Lyn's Bollyood Picks:
1.  Kal Ho Naa Ho (Tomorrow May Never Come) - My fav!
2.  Rab ne Bana Di Jodi (A Match Made By God) - Super sweet.  You'll love the Surinder Sani character.
3.  Om Shanti Om - Pure marshmallow fluff for the eyes!
4.  Veer-Zaara - a beautiful love story which shows a bit of the problems between India and Pakistan.
4.  Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (Something Happens) - a much-loved Indian classic.

Check them out!
BTW - Bollywood movies are longer than the ones we're used to.  They can be 3 or more hours.  This is because their songs are longer (usually 6 minutes) and they usually have 5 or 6 songs per movie.  All I can say is, it's time well spent!

Here are some pictures of when I dragged my poor husband to Madame Tussaud's in London (this past July) just so I could see a wax copy of my hero.  My hubby thinks I'm nuts!  I am lucky to have a guy who is cool with all of this.  Of course, he has a Michelle Pfeiffer thing so he can't say too much.  (BTW - I have lost 30 pounds since these pictures were taken.)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Why Take Music?

As a musician and a music teacher, I get really annoyed when other people devalue my subject.  It upsets me when school administrators see music as a "stress reliever" class to provide students with a break between the "real" classes.  I was very happy to find this article which sums up my feelings on why music has intrinsic value.  Next time I have to justify my subject to an administrator, I'll use this.  Thanks, Dr. Tim!

"Why Take Music? (By:  Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser)

Music is a science
It is exact, specific, and it demands exact acoustics.  A conductor's full score is a chart, a graph which indicates frequencies, intensities, volume changes, melody, and harmony all at once and with the most exact control of time.

Music is Mathematical
It is rhythmically based on the subdivisions of time into fractions which must be done instantaneously, not worked out on paper.

Music is a foreign language
Most of the terms are in Italian, German, or French; and the notation is certainly not English - but a highly developed kind of shorthand that uses symbols to represent ideas.  The semantics of music is the most complete and universal language.

Music is history
Music usually reflects the environment and times of its creation, often even the country and/or racial feeling.

Music is physical education
It requires fantastic coordination of fingers, hands, arms, lips, cheeks, and facial muscles; in addition to extraordinary control of the diaphragmatic, back, stomach, and chest muscles, which responds instantly to the sound the ear hears and the mind interprets.

Music is all these things, but most of all, Music is art
It allows a human being to take all these dry, technically boring (but difficult) techniques and use them to create emotion.  That is one thing science cannot duplicate:  humanism, feeling, emotion, call it what you will.

Not because you are expected to major in music
Not because you are expected to play or sing all your life
Not so you can relax
Not so you can have fun

BUT - so you will be human
           so you will recognize beauty
           so you will be sensitive
           so you will be closer to an infinite beyond this world
           so you will have something to cling to
           so you will have more love, more compassion, more gentleness, more good - in short, more life.

Of what value will it be to make a prosperous living unless you know how to live?


If you have ever studied music or played an instrument, you have done all of the above things.  It kills me when school systems want to cut the arts.  Kids need this!  Did you know studies show that students who are involved in their school music program have higher test scores than the students who aren't?  I don't think this is a coincidence. 

Monday, March 22, 2010

Jamie Oliver is a super cool dude!

Last night, I watched the sneak preview to Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution.  This famous, British, "Naked Chef" is trying to educate America about what we're feeding our kids.  I would encourage everyone to watch it (the 2-hour premier is this Friday).

School lunch just is not the same as it was when I and my fellow genXers were in school.  Rarely does anything actually get cooked in the cafeteria.  I remember having some kind of meat with some kind of vegetables every day when I was a kid at school.  Also, they used to make the bread and we had a salad bar option.  Not so now!  As a teacher, I see all the junk that passes for school lunch around here.  Kids are being given pizza, nachos, hamburgers, or hotdogs almost EVERY day!  They count ketchup as a vegetable!  Also, too much starch is put on there.  I can't tell you how many times I've seen chicken nuggets with mashed potatoes AND french fries on the plates.  (They count potato as a vegetable, apparently.)  This is wrong!  If I were a parent, I would raise hell about this with the school board and I certainly would  not sign my child up for the school lunch plan!  As a school, we should be educating the kids about what they should be eating.  We should not be programming them to think that junk food is okay to be eaten every day.   

Unfortunately, we have allowed the food lobbyists and big agri-business to hi-jack our health.  Jamie is trying to point how exactly how bad processed food is for us.  He makes a good point about how most people laugh and say, "yeah, I know this food is bad" and act like it's no big deal.  But when confronted with the fact that they are killing their children (taking as much as 14 years off their lives), suddenly it becomes much more serious for them.  There are so many scary chemicals added to processed food these days....and we're giving it to kids!

Jamie has already done a show like this in England.  In it, he proved that school lunches COULD be made from fresh, healthy ingredients and cost the same as the junk!  (In some cases, the healthy food actually cost less.)  The sad thing is that a lot of the schools in England couldn't start serving the healthy food because of contracts they had with the food companies.  I fear that in America, the deals with the devil...I mean food companies....will be even more restrictive.  Still, I love what Jamie is trying to do here.

Friday, March 19, 2010

A Leap of Faith

It's a busy week so I'm going to cop out and post another picture.

Do you see this bridge?  We actually had to walk across it in order to get to a monastery in the Meteora when we were there this past Christmas.  Can you believe my husband, who is terrified of heights, went across it too?  It took a leap of faith that the bridge wouldn't collapse while we were on it!