Sunday, December 16, 2007

How Do You Break A Tuba?

This evening was the 20th annual TubaChristmas here in the frozen north, and La Famille Evil was there. What is TubaChristmas you ask? And well you might!

There is history, and pedagogy, and performance standards, etc., behind TubaChristmas, but what it turns out to be in actual fact is 117 tuba, Sousaphones, euphoniums (euphonia?) and other assorted members of the Tuba Family. They swarm into a single location, in this case, the sanctuary of our church, and with essentially no practice, perform a hour of Christmas carol while the audience sings along.

And really, how often do you see 117 tubas in one place? Which begs the question: why would you want to?

How do you break a tuba?
With a tuba four.

TubaChristmas has its own website, tubas are on the technological cutting edge. Do you see any saxophonechristmas website? Huh?

When 117 tubas start to play, the floor vibrates, and the ends of your fingers buzz. Singing along with massed tubas is easiest for altos and basses, as the range is pretty low.

There is something about the kind of person who becomes a tuba player. Who actually pays money for the opportunity to play the tuba. Voluntarily! Quite a few horns were decorated: one woman had her bell stuffed full of poinsettias; a couple were draped with lights that changed color and blinked. Ornaments and even tiny stockings hung off a few, and one Sousaphone had a red light deep in the bell, that cast a rather eerie glow.

Someone even had a "double belled euphonium" which I had only ever heard about in The Music Man, in the song "Seventy-Six Trombones."

Tuba players also dress funny when gathering--top hats, elf hats, scarves & hats that say "Tuba Christmas" and are available at the website.

How do you fix a tuba?
With a tuba glue.

With all apologies to tuba players everywhere--but it is truly a different culture.

Do You Hear What I Hear?

The Famille Evil attended a Christmas concert this evening. The conductor and MC was an older woman who spoke very quickly, and so her words tended to blur together as they traveled the vast open spaces up to the balcony where we sat.

The event included a sing along of old, well known carols--first verses only--but some are not often sung these days. Thus, I had the following whispered colloquy with Bunny:

Bunny: What did she say?

Me: "Good King Wenceslaus."

Bunny: I thought she said "Good King What's-his-face."

See how the brain works to make some sense of random syllables?

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Continuing Saga Of Orientalizing

We continue to Orientalize the Pony's bedroom. Most recent additions are a dark wood and bamboo hamper, a Japanese noren (the split curtains that were once used as doors to the house) depicting two dragons fighting, and the installation of the Chinese Warriors wallpaper border.

The delay in hanging the wallpaper (I almost said "the hang up!" Aren't you glad I didn't?) has been that I have a hole in my memory where the words "wallpaper adhesive" simply disappear and are never heard from again. I can't tell you how many times I have made a mental note to remember the wallpaper adhesive, and how many times I have come home without it.

Today I made a special trip to the Big Box Hardware 'N' Construction Shoppe (aka Menards) and got my equipment.

It's really not too difficult to hang a wallpaper border, I hummed to myself, as I measured the wall, and laid out the border, and happily slapped wallpaper paste on the back side. The Pony's room is like all the rooms on our second floor--at least one side of every room has a sloped ceiling. As a result, there are really only two walls where we think a border looks right, so that's about 18 feet, which is exactly how long the . . .

Wait a minute. . .

Wasn't that supposed to be 18 feet of wallpaper for $15, or was it 15 feet of wallpaper border for $18?

I am 3 feet short. Three stinkin' little feet short of what I needed to actually finish the room! You can see how I messed up those numbers, though. I was certain--absolutely positive--that I only needed one roll of border.

Oh well. I'll let Pony look it over and decide if she wants the border on the other walls as well. Might as well order a couple of rolls at once, if that's what she's going to want to do.


Sunday, December 09, 2007

Seasonal Television!

Ah, a cold and snowy Sunday night. Mr. Sweetie is off on another business trip, and the kidlets are taking care of themselves. It's a night of sorting laundry and watching cheesy movies on television. And what do we have on screen tonight? A "Christmas" movie on the "ABC Family" channel called Holiday in Handcuffs. Which is to Christmas movies what The Love Boat was to Saturday night television--slightly romantic, less "naughty" than it thinks it is, wholly unbelievable story about people who are complete strangers who end up in love after only three days!

This one stars Melissa Joan Hart and Mario Lopez as the unlikely couple, and the plot really does not matter. I'm not kidding. It really doesn't. Trust me. I watched totally watched it for Mario Lopez's dimples, which were as completely charming as ever.

What surprised me, was the Dad. Melissa Joan Hart's movie dad was played by, well, he looked like George W. Bush, only slightly less chimp-ish.

This is Timothy Bottoms! Timothy Bottoms! I couldn't believe it. I mean, Timothy Bottoms used to be in big deal movies--according to IMDB, he was in Paper Chase, he was in The Last Picture Show, he was in Look Homeward Angel! Now he's in an off-brand cable movie with Sabrina the Teen Age Witch and Slater from Saved By The Bell, and he's billed lower than Markie Post and June Lockhart! His character doesn't even have a name--he's listed as "Dad Chandler."

I have vivid memories of being introduced to Timothy Bottoms in the TV miniseries version of John Steinbeck's East of Eden, where he tended to gaze off into the middle distance while Jane Seymour (later to become television's Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, as well as a Star who Dances) proceeded to act circles around him. But still!

It turns out that Timothy Bottoms has, in fact, played George Bush for a Comedy Central series that I have never seen, called "That's My Bush!" so I'm not the only one who thinks he looks like our Primate In Chief.

It sure made it hard for me to warm up to him as a father figure, that's for sure.

As predictable as this movie was, it did have some nice touches. I actually laughed as Markie Post shows Mario Lopez to his room, and Melissa Joan Hart takes a stand. "Mother, I am 27 years old. I am going to stay in the same room as my boyfriend and that's all there is to it." The next scene, we see they have been given the room with the bunk bed.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Porn For Women!

Despite the title, this is a perfectly acceptable SFW post. (Hi Mom!) It is the title of this book I found today while browsing for Christmas gifts. Consider this my virtual Christmas gift to all my girlfriends out there.

Contrary to what is often presented as porn for women, it is not actually aimed at gay men (yes, I'm talking about you, Playgirl), but presents what women really want. And what they really want is a good looking man, a bit of consideration, and a good chuckle.

Take a look inside the book at the Amazon site, but the best ones are farther inside. Who could resist a sensitive New Age guy looking straight at you and saying "I know! Let's take you shoe shopping!" Or a hunky dude gazing lovingly at you across the breakfast table saying "The football playoffs are today, so we should have no trouble finding parking at the craft fair."

True, the particular guys aren't really my type--none of them look nearly as good as Mr. Sweetie (especially in a tux!), but even so. . .

Play It Forward

The wholly delightful ~moe~ (Hi moe!) has inducted me into a game which she calls "Pay It Forward." (You will have to scroll down to the proper entry-sorry.)

Due to my famously fractured reading skills (Does that sign say 'matinee' or "manatee?'), I thought it said "Play It Forward" and now that's how I think of it.

At any rate, I'm doing my part and inviting you, the reader, to play too. Here's the deal. The first three people who respond to this post will receive a handmade gift from me, the Mistress of All Evil. I don't know what it will be yet--I have a number of things I make that I'm pretty good at, and some stuff I'm currently experimenting with. It might be a watercolor painting, a piece of glass jewelry, something made from paper--with me, you just never know. Oh, well, the odds are good it will be shiny, somehow.

Your job is to "play it forward." You need to post on your blog (or other medium of contact--I'm pretty open minded about these things) the same offer--that you will send something handmade to the first three people who respond.

I am tremendously grateful to ~moe~ for starting this game, as it assuages my poutiness over not having won anything from NaBloPoMo. I'm looking forward to getting a surprise from her, AND I'm getting the fun of plotting what I am going to send to you.

Although he doesn't know it yet, this also makes Christmas much easier for Mr. Sweetie, since it takes A CUBIC TON of stress off him. He is no longer under the obligation of finding the perfect "shiny and pretty and exactly what I wanted and I never even knew such a thing existed and I never would have asked for it and now that I have it I can never live without it" gift.

See! Everybody wins!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Radar Love - Golden Earring 1973

Finslippy has this video on her site, which is one of my favorite blogs around. In fact, if you haven't read her, you should stop right now and go read her stuff, as it is totally worth it.

I'll still be here when you get back.

Back already? I guess it doesn't take long to add her to your favorites list, does it? So, she posted this video, which made me smile. However, I had my doubts about it. This does not look like any kind of 1973 anything. The hair is wrong, the leather jacket is wrong, the pants are too skinny, the whole tone is just too "ironic" for 1973, despite what it says on the front of the video. I could believe 1983, maybe, or even a little bit later, but never 1973.

So I went exploring the web for info on Golden Earring. Imagine my surprise! They've been around forever! Thirty albums? THIRTY albums? No way.

I still wasn't able to get any info about the date of the video, but the boys are apparently still working together, and were considering another US tour as recently as about 2003, so a post-dated video is certainly possible. But, be honest. When you listen to "Radar Love," tell me you don't think of some skinny boys with long hair and skin tight pants. Sort of like Aerosmith still looks today.

Here's what Golden Earring really looked like in 1973:

That I believe.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Words To Live By

This one came home from middle school yesterday:

When things get bad, remember--it takes more muscles to show your middle finger than it takes to punch someone in the face.

I hesitate to ask. I really don't want to know.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


I seem to be getting used to the CRAP machine, as I'm sleeping through the night, mostly, with it on, and I mostly am waking up after about 8 1/2 hours of sleep. I'm also noticing that I wake up more quickly--more of a single awakening, and less of a return to the surface after a deep dive.

They told me to expect that my dreams would be more vivid once I started using the machine, and I have to tell you that they were pretty darn vivid anyway.

Just the other night, I had a dream that featured both Henry Kissinger and Kevin Federline. It contained this bizarre statement from Kissinger: "Been there, done that, ate the Red Hots."

I have no idea what that means.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Mighty Fine Pencil Cups!

I did a fun little project here at home over the last two days, and I thought I would share it with you.

I have been trying other forms of art down at the studio, and have hauled out a big old mess of materials. I had so much stuff around that I literally had a 2"x2" area to work, and that just ain't right! I managed to do some organizing on the fly, but it was quickly apparent that I was going to need some kind of storage for markers and paint brushes.

Our Cool Friend has her art supplies set up on a spare room, and has literally dozens of markers tucked in mason jars. This is a very cool solution because it is inexpensive, it allows her to see the colors, it is easily moved to where she can reach, and it looks oh so cool.

Of course! I need some kind of cool pencil cups! But we're talking about me, here, and why use tastefully simple mason jars when I can make something shiny and colorful?

So I went to the nearby JoAnn Fabrics and picked up some lovely sari cloth in Cate-friendly colors: purple, pink and blue. I don't know if anyone uses this fabric for actual saris, but the patterns were lovely with a wide border detail, and they were 60% off! I bought half a yard of each of the three colors.

Since the fabric was so lovely, it didn't matter what I used for the cup, so I salvaged some aluminum cans from the recycling and ran them through the dishwasher. This made them extra clean, plus it dissolved the label adhesive so the labels just rolled off.

Then came the affixing of the fabrics. I have only ever used Mod Podge once, as part of a Girl Scout troop project. The girls made holiday plates, by using Mod Podge on seasonal fabric on the reverse side of a glass plate. I used the left-overs, and made a pencil cup. So I got myself some Mod Podge and a foam brush and started sticking.

I did three different fabrics, and left them to dry overnight. In the harsh light of morning, however, it was pretty obvious that this darkened the fabric and made it very dull. The light no longer played over the satin and metallic threads. Here you see what the Mod Podged fabric looks like next to the original fabric. I wanted the lighter color, obviously.

The advantage of using aluminum cans for my base is that the Podged fabric peeled right off. If it hadn't, there were others I could get pretty darn easily.

So the Mod Podge didn't work. What would? I wondered--very briefly--if I could sew a can cozy and slip it on like that. However, my sewing machine died, and I can't hand sew very well.

So I turned to the good old reliable--E6000.

It actually worked great! I smeared it around on the can, and wrapped the fabric around. It didn't soak through the fabric, so it didn't darken the colors, and it had a long enough setting time so I could adjust the fabric, but with a strong enough bond that the fabric didn't slide out of place.

I ended up doing four different ones this time around. One thing I didn't do was adjust for the ombre effect on the fabric. The borders were noticeably darker than the body of the fabric, so the pink and the purple ones look almost the same. I turned the pink around on the fourth one, so I got the reverse pattern of pink on gold.

I think I will have to do something about the ravelling, but right now it's not too bad. I could probably use a spray acrylic, but I don't really want to risk darkening the fabric again. I'm looking forward to taking these down to my studio and filling them up!

Snowblowing for Idiots

The snow has been sifting down all day--not a big heavy snow, but a gentle and constant drift of flakes all day. It's very similar to what sifting powdered sugar looks like.

Does anybody even have a sifter anymore? (Apparently they do--which shows you what an excellent baker I am too.)(Because, when I say "excellent" I mean "half-assed.")

My mission today was to equip our snowblower with a new gas can, fresh gas and oil. Which only took me to three different hardware stores, plus the gas station, but that's not important.

What is important is that I filled the tank, and started it up and started to blow snow. And it quickly became apparent that I don't know what I am doing when it comes to snowblowing. Does everybody have to stop at the end of each pass and switch the blow thingie to the other side? It seems like there is probably some pattern that you can use to clear the driveway without having to stop every couple of feet to switch the blower. It is probably passed down from generation to generation, from father to son, which is why I don't know it.

Is it like the Zamboni pattern at the ice rink? Overlapping concentric ovals? Is there some way to avoid blowing snow into the garage?

And how do you get the snowblower from the back of the house to the front of the house? Our lot runs the width of the block, so we front on two streets instead of a street and an alley. Should I just go around the end of the block and clear their sidewalks as I go?

Who do I even ask? Is there a Snow Blower Guru who can answer my questions?

How do you clear your sidewalks?

mmblmm mbbblmbm I'm Sorry mummmble mmm

My last post, in which I demonstrated my big baby-ness? I feel the obligation to clarify. I'm not dangerously depressed. I'm not even mildly depressed. I have a wonderful handsome, smart, funny, sexy, kind, articulate husband who is fully involved in our family life. I have two sweet, kind, responsible, funny, delightful girls. I have a charming little house in a charming neighborhood, I have my own car, I have lovely things. I have my own studio, where I can do any damn thing I want. I have a sweet little doggy who couldn't be more attached to me. I have more than enough blessings in my life, and I know I am a very very lucky woman.

But I still want presents. I'm fully aware of just how spoiled I am.

I'm putting on my big girl panties now, and dealing with it. </whining>

In Which I Reveal How Shallow I Really Am

Okay, so you know that scene that kicks off all the drama in Sleeping Beauty Disney version TM? Maleficient (that would be me) gets her bloomers all in a bundle because she wasn't invited to the party. So she takes it out on the baby, who OBVIOUSLY was the one composing the guest list, or at least gummed Maleficent's invitation into a soggy mess of linen fibers (royalty ALWAYS uses linen based papers--so much more expensive!)

To recap: (allegedly) adult woman has small social set back, takes it out on the innocent.

Now, let's talk about me.

I posted every day in November for NaBloPoMo, and got a lot of joy out of it. I found myself looking at my own life in new and creative ways, and I had fun punching the randomizer and seeing lots of other people's approach to this crazy internet blogging thing. I did it for the pure thrill of seeing if I could do it, and it more than repaid my efforts.

But I didn't get a prize.

And now I'm feeling kind of, well, sad and unloved and just damn sorry for myself, because I love presents so much.

Not that I wanted or needed or would know what the hell to do with a baby sling, or a hand knitted purse or even a Wordpress blog makeover. Not that I need a Barnes & Noble gift certificate, or iTunes, or even a sock zombie all of which I can take my own damn self shopping for to get.

But it would have been so nice to have gotten something anyway.

It gets worse. Because on Saturday, some really cool and energetic and impressive and charming and good-looking friends of ours (they really are all that) had a Holiday Open House. Not just an open house, though, because they had gone up and down Grand Avenue and gotten donations from just about all the businesses within a mile and a half of their condo, and they stood outside on a cold and snowy day and gave away free coffee, cocoa, cider and cookies in return for a donation to a local women's shelter. Donations in any amount were converted into raffle tickets which were drawn at the end of the evening for the prizes.

And I didn't win any of those prizes either.

I know you are all feeling sorry for me, but I can't hear your sympathetic remarks over the keening of my sad violin music. And I can't talk now, because my lower lip is stuck out so far as I pout.

I even know that, logically, there are so many people who would get more out of these prizes than I would. I know that I am better off without more stuff coming into out little bijoux of a house. I know that it's awfully selfish of me, when the whole point is to raise money for women who aren't even living in their own homes. I know I know I know I know!

But I still want presents. Just like Lucy.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Blair Muppets

My kids keep referring to this video, so I had to watch it.

Actually, I do think that joke is funny: What do you get when you cross the Atlantic with the Titanic?


I'm a parent--doesn't that mean I am de facto humor impaired?

School Days

My kids go to school. Do your kids go to school, or did they go to school between the ages of 5 and 18 (more or less)? If so, you may have encountered an interesting phenomenon that I have noticed around schools. It's called "teaching."

Maybe it's better called "educating." I have taught some classes in the past, and I certainly think of my activity as "teaching" regardless of whether the students understood any of it. I think they did, but that is what "educating" connotes for me. Teachers teach, and when the students learn, then we have what is whimsically called "education."

Now, take my kids. No! I mean don't take my kids--they are old enough to be fit to live with, so I'll keep 'em, thanks so much. Instead, let's use my kids as examples. They are smart. They are responsible. They pay attention in class and turn in their homework.

They both are frustrated beyond belief by math.

Now math, in our house, is not a bogeyman--we like math, Mr. Sweetie and I. I took math up through calculus, and Mr. Sweetie went so far that his math stopped using numbers at all. Sometimes--geeks that we are--we will race each other to figure out the solution to a math question that arises. Math holds no terrors to us.

And yet our girlies have each stated authoritatively that "my brain just doesn't do math." Now, I have some sympathy, in that they are both such voracious readers, and as a result they have found language arts, and selling, and such activities to come easily to them. Math, however, does not come so easily.

This is not really a surprise--there are very few activities in which you could pick up, say, the multiplication tables as a side benefit. At least not since they stopped running "Schoolhouse Rock" on Saturday morning television.

So, I have sat with the girls and talked them through their homework, and we do pretty well, even with the potentially fraught mother-daughter dynamic. So, I started looking for a math tutor.

Do you even know how many different businesses there are which exist solely to teach your kids what their school can't? Which makes one wonder: if there are this many people making a living teaching kids who aren't learning in school, then what is going on in school?

Mind you, my kids are in a school with kids who are all fluent in English, who largely are from intact families, with a teacher-student ratio that's as good as you will find anywhere. And my girls are just not getting their heads around math.

Me, I of course assume that it's our problem to solve, and start looking for a tutor. I called a friend of mine, whose daughter had been going to a math tutor, to ask for advice, and she raised their radical idea: shouldn't the school actually teach our kids?

And it makes me wonder, why are my kids having such trouble with math? Pony is learning Chinese, where every word has a different character, plus she's learning all her vocabulary in pinyin (which uses the same alphabet we do), plus she's having to learn all the different tones, because one word will mean up to four different things, depending on how it is pronounced. Does she ever get fed up and frustrated? No!

Bunny is studying German, in which "die" is pronounced "dee," and learning to read music (finally!). . .does she say her brain just doesn't get German? Of course not!

But math! Why is math so hard? Why are my girls, who soak up learning like Bounty absorbs spills, having trouble with math? And why do girls generally have trouble with math? Why do we worry about Reviving Ophelia in the middle school years--what is wrong with how we teach math?

I don't know, and I have gotten them into a program for now (which is a whole different post), but I still puzzle over this. Of course, if I had the answer, I think I'd be rich beyond my dreams, so maybe this bears thinking about.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Mental Math

I ran out of the house this morning to drop the girlies off at church, where they were met by Mr. Sweetie, who had to run during the Xmas play practice and needed me to pick up the girlies when they were done. This is the kind of family complexity made possible by the existence of cell phones so everyone can be reached and no one is left wondering where everyone else is.

I pulled up to the church, and had a vivid picture of my cell phone, still sitting on the computer desk at home, recharging. Oh jeez! Because it snowed last night--about 7 inches or so, and it's hard to get out of the driveway because the street hasn't been plowed. It's even harder to park in front of the house, because that street hasn't been plowed either. Really, it's a big ole pain in the patootie to go back home, but we need that cell phone.

So I go home, and guess what! The cell phone WASN'T on the desk recharging, because at some point I had been smart and pulled it off the cord and stuck it in my purse.

Here is the difficult "mental math" question: Do I get smart points, because I had remembered to pick up my cell phone? Or do I get dumb points because I didn't remember that I had picked up my cell phone?

Or do I get extra dumb points for not even checking my purse before I went all the way home?

CW Bermondsey Sez

[Just back from our midday walk]

Snow is okay, but I prefer shoveled sidewalks, THANK YOU VERY MUCH!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

It's A Dog's Life

This is what happens on a cozy winter's night, if you are a dog. You hear a questionable sound outdoors, so you leap up to the back of the sofa to look out the window and secure the borders of the territory.

Once the danger has past, you then are overcome by the snooziness of the evening, so you just go limp, and slide off the back of the sofa, fortunately being caught by the accent pillows, thus avoiding any injury.

Too bad Mr. Sweetie had access to his camera phone to capture the result.

It's A Christmas Miracle!

Bunny promised all and sundry that on the first day it snowed --real snow, the kind that sticks and doesn't just melt away immediately--she would go outside, raise her hands to the sky, fall to her knees and holler:

"It's a Christmas miracle!"

This was the day. In fact, the weather reports yesterday promised "100% chance" of precipitation, which must be incorrect, because at 100%, it is no longer a "chance." The promised precipitation was snow, and estimates ranged from 5-12". Bunny did go out this morning onto the front porch, in her pajamas and bare feet, and did fall to her knees and announce the Christmas miracle.

The puppy and I went out for the midday walk. It was warmer than the last couple of days, and the snow swirled in the wind, landing on my hood with an audible clunk--not flakes, but tiny little snowballs, frozen solid and the size of pin points. The wind was at my back at the start of the walk, which was fine for me, but meant that the wind blew straight up the dog's. . .well, let's just say it was probably pretty cold for him.

In fact, we were only about halfway through our walk when the dog got cold. He started walking up all the sidewalks in the hopes that this house was one that would let him come inside. Usually, once we do reach home, he is pulling at the leash, trying to reach one last smelly thing. Today, he was right up at the door and couldn't wait to get inside.

This is a day for sitting in our bijoux parlor with the fire going in our wonderful fireplace. As an added bonus, I can put my laptop on my legs and get the extra warmth.