Sunday, October 30, 2011

Costume Drama

This conversation actually happened last night in Casa Cooper...

Me (from bedroom): Oh, GOD.

Dad (from living room): What's wrong?

Me (wandering out to living room): Good grief.

Dad (seeing me in my new choir dress): *snort* Do you have a pointed hat to wear with it?

Me (giving Dad the finger): Ha. Ha. Ha. Actually, I feel less witch and more "Anne of Green Gables in mourning." Look at the sleeves on this thing!

Dad: It's actually not that bad. You look very nice.

Me: Why can't I wear pants? You know what? If I were in charge of the world, the first thing I would do would be to ban choir dresses. Let the women wear pants and a nice black blouse.

On a scale of one to polyester body bag, this dress ranks as less horrid than the body bags but is still pretty high on the "Oh, horrors!" scale. It has puffed sleeves! Okay, maybe they're not quite as puffy as the ones that Anne of Green Gables lusted after, but they have a definite beefiness to them that is ridiculous. 

Puffed sleeves! Somehow, I don't share Anne's enthusiasm for them.

However, the neckline doesn't go up to my chin and it's not double-layer polyester (whoever thought TWO layers of the stuff had to be better than one a) has never stood under hot lights in a polyester dress trying to sing and b) needs to be tortured by being made to sing under hot lights in a polyester dress). Also, all the ladies last night were wearing their own necklaces so I can get away with wearing what I like--no more $4 pearls!

P.S. The notable absence of Mom from this conversation is due to the fact that she and three friends flew to Houston yesterday to attend the International Quilt Show--the largest one in the world. They'll be gone all week.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Flashback Friday (A Halloween Blog Hop)

I got this from one of the blogs I follow, and thought it was a cute idea. Post vintage Halloween pics of myself? Okay!

My childhood best friend and I...a couple of little devils.

This was 2008. One reason I LOVE teaching elementary
school--I get to dress up for work on Halloween! I went
to the grocery store in this getup after work.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Food Porn

Today, Mom hosted her quilting friends in their monthly get-together. A few weeks ago, I offered my assistance, and we decided to do a fall-themed tea. Yesterday, we got cooking and cleaning and prepping, and today went off without a hitch.

Here's what we had...

We offered a mid-morning snack:

Mini quiches--half were mushroom and spinach, half were mushroom,
zucchini and bacon. For my friend the Purple Magpie, I'll post my "recipe" at
the bottom of this post.

Blueberry scones (I cheated and used a mix).
Then came the lunch itself:

Pumpkin soup (with carrots and onion). I cooked it yesterday and then
heated it all morning in the crock pot. It was a huge hit.

Mom put together a green salad with dates, grapes and slivered almonds,
tossed in basalmic vinegarette.

Mom put together the sandwiches yesterday. We had cucumber and vegan
cream cheese (one of Mom's friends is lactose intolerant) and some with
chicken salad I made yesterday (with dried cranberries and toasted almonds).

Finally, dessert:

Brownie bites that Mom made using No Pudge Fudge. Delicious.

Mom had a gift card for a place called Cookie Connection, so we bought a
variety pack of those yesterday.

Mom baked the cupcakes using a sugar-free cake mix. I frosted them and
added the fall color sprinkles.

Everything was delicious and the ladies were very complimentary. Fortunately, we were able to foist some of the dessert on them to take home for their husbands, so we won't be eating cookies and cupcakes for days and days.

**As for the quiche recipe (requested on Twitter by The Purple Magpie)...I hardly use a recipe anymore! I chopped up about half of a medium-sized zucchini, a couple of large mushrooms, and some bacon. I put them in tiny cupcake tins and then added the batter, which is a mix of Bisquick, milk and eggs. I usually use about 1 cup of Bisquick, 1 cup of milk and 3-4 eggs. I used to follow my recipe exactly but over the years have just ad-libbed and found that as long as the mix is more egg than milk and Bisquick, it's fine. The Bisquick sinks to the bottom and makes a lovely crust. I baked them for about 20 minutes (40-45 minutes if you use a pie plate) at 400 degrees. I used a spoon to pop them right out of the tins.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Crazy Fun Weekend

Let me just start off by being maudlin (just for a teensy second!) and saying that 11 years ago, when I met Summer in choir at Chico State, it was an awesome event in my life. We've had some great adventures since then, and this weekend was no exception.

On Saturday afternoon, I drove to Oakland (with a two-hour stop in midtown Sacramento for an emergency rehearsal with SCSO, which was not required, but I figured I could stop by to do my part to ensure next weekend's concert is fantastic) and met up with Summer at her place at about 5:00. Saturday was Zombie Movie Night. Summer had made chili in her crock pot, and various people came with various goodies. We watched "Shaun Of the Dead," which I had never seen and pretty much snorted my way through (it is absurd, it is hilarious, it is British).

I crashed at Summer and Ben's place because Sunday, of course, was the day of the Bridge School Benefit Concert in Mountain View, CA (just south of Oakland and across the bay). Summer and I left a little before noon to gas up Rosie Pro, get some cash, and pick up her friend Deborah, who was also going (carpooling for the win).

We figured that arriving near the start time wouldn't be a problem, but we had figured wrong. We got stuck in the slow lane of traffic on the freeway, trying to exit for the ampitheater and it was mayhem. Cars cutting in where they shouldn't, and so slow-moving. The concert start time passed us by, but we finally parked at about 2:30...only to walk over and stand in line for twenty or more minutes waiting to get into the venue!

By this time we had missed Devendra Banhart and Norah Jones, the first two acts, but we were okay with this. We walked into the grass area and...

Oh, my God.

It was packed. As in, the venue way oversold tickets and there are hundreds of people coming in behind us and there is no real estate for setting up our blankets and chairs. Crap!

We finally dug out a piece of grass about 2' by 5' and staked our claim, folding our legs up and grumbling under our breaths that Shoreline needs to sell fewer grass tickets next time...or we need to pony up the money for the more expensive seats.

Once we were settled, though, we were determined to enjoy the music. The next artist was Beck, and Summer has been longing to see him for years. I really enjoyed him...and now I'm determined to listen to him on YouTube and buy some of his music on iTunes.

Next up: Mumford and Sons. Of course, I love them. This was my fourth time seeing them live in a year (from October 20, 2010 to now, basically) and it was fun to hear them play an acoustic set. Ben had to ditch his usual red electric keyboard for an upright piano, but I loved the sound. Upright and grand pianos just have a richer tone than electric any day.

Deborah loves their music, too, and was excited to finally hear them live, and Summer was, too. Both were very impressed at the live sound these guys produce (they're a ton of fun and very high-energy). They ended with "The Cave," one of their biggest hits, so of course, I was jumping around and having a blast.

If I recall correctly, the next artist was Carlos Santana and his band (including his wife, Cindy Blackman Santana, on drums--she killed it). He was just what you'd expect--all laid-back posture and amazing guitar playing. Then it was on to Eddie Vedder. I am not too familiar with his solo work, post-Pearl Jam, but I was pleased to hear he has a beautiful voice live (it's always nice when you hear someone live and realize that it's not studio manipulation--they really do sound good).

Next up: The Foo Fighters. AWESOME. Dave Grohl is so amazingly talented, and energetic. The drummer was awesome, too, and he just sits there and grins the whole time he plays, which I love. I like the Foo Fighters and while I'd never aspired to see them live, it was a bonus to hear them last night.

I think one of the best sets of the night, however, had to be Tony Bennett. The man is something like 82 years old, but he is still swinging and he is forever an A+ showman. His band, too, was incredible. His piano player had skills that had me almost weeping in envy and delight. But Tony...oh, Tony. He is part of that old school crowd--a dying breed--working the audience and the stage like he owns the joint. After an evening of rock stars in jeans, he was out there in his suit and tie, perfectly pressed and delivering.

To answer the obvious questions, yes, he did sing "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" and yes, the crowd did go bananas. And yes, he milked every bit of our happiness and made the performance unforgettable.

Did I mention he's an octogenarian?

I am so glad I had a chance to hear him.

We were all getting tired, so we debated how long to stay. We figured we could stand to miss Arcade Fire (they're good, yes, but our bottoms were hurting!) and Neil Young, especially as Neil had come out and performed with several of the other artists, so we could safely say, "Yeah, we saw Neil Yong perform!" The next artist turned out to be Dave Matthews, so we decided, as a group, to listen to "a couple" of songs and then leave to avoid the worst of the traffic getting out of the venue.

I've always been without an opinion about Dave Matthews. I like a few songs, in particular "The Space Between" but otherwise didn't know enough about him to make any real judgements. I know some people who think he's a giant musical joke, but...well, no. He's not. The man is awesome live. He had a second guitarist up there with him who is phenomenal. He was experimenting with guitar sounds and he had me doing double-takes and gasping out loud at some of his tricks. The whole show was acoustic, and they were making enough sound to make a person believe the stage was jam-packed with musicians and electric guitars. 

After "a couple" of songs (which, to me, is two), I looked at Summer and Deborah. They had sat back down (I was standing to give my sleeping foot a chance to wake back up) and looked like they weren't ready to leave. I sighed quietly and thought, "Well, maybe one more song. Grumble." I was very much enjoying Dave's set, but at this point, I was getting pretty tired and my body was not exactly thrilled that it had been folded up in a weird way all afternoon and evening (when it wasn't forced to stand for long periods of time on a hillside).

We listened to a third song, and then I looked back and made the "are we ready?" gesture to Summer and Deborah. They both nodded and we started gathering our belongings...only to hear Dave say, "I've really been enjoying listening to this band for the last year...let me invite my friend Marcus Mumford out here."

I turned to my companions. "I'm not missing this!"

Not to worry, they were both of the same mind.

Marcus and Dave performed a downright blistering version of "All Along the Watchtower," and brought the house down.

Here's an incomplete clip I've found on YouTube:

As we left, happy that we'd stayed long enough to witness that bit of awesomeness, Neil Young came out on stage and performed a fantastic, crazy, rock-your-socks-off arrangement of "Oh, Susanna," with Dave Matthews. We could hear it as we left and we were very impressed. (I've found an awesome recording on YouTube--it's really worth a listen.)

We have no regrets that we left early--getting out of the parking lot would have taken--easily--over an hour, maybe even close to two hours, if we'd stayed to the very end. We sailed out and were back to Oakland by 10:00, exhausted but very, very happy.

I stayed one more night at Summer and Ben's place--driving home from Oakland that late would have put me back in Lincoln sometime after midnight and I was just too tired. I came home today and I've just been relaxing before going to Sacramento tonight for choir practice.

What a weekend it was! Lots of fun, lots of energy. I'll sum it all up with the good, the bad, and the pictures (I didn't take very many).

The Best Moments:

  • At the concert, a bunch of Bridge School students and their families were seated at the back of the stage for the duration. The cameras would pan across them and you could see kids moving to the music, smiling, or enjoying the music in their way.  The Bridge School is for students of all ages who have autism, or physical disabilities that require a lot of special educational needs--Neil Young's son was a student there, which is how the whole benefit concert started 25 years ago. It was great to see these children--so many of them with very pronounced special needs and mobility issues--enjoying the music. I said to Summer at one point, "You can never tell me that people don't feel music on some very deep, basic level."
  • Watching Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters go back and fist-bump a few kids at the back of the stage. The camera caught him with one kid--the boy's face lit up like a Christmas tree. Other kids were clicking drum sticks, making me wonder if some of the musicians hadn't gifted the sticks to them as they left the stage after their sets. Wouldn't surprise me at all.
  • Tony Bennett coming back out to acknowledge the crowd after leaving the stage, blowing kisses and standing with his arms outstretched. A true showman, and a true high point in my concert-going experiences.
  • The crowd--all 22,000 of us--going respectfully quiet when a tribute video was shown for a Bridge School student who died a few months ago at 17 years of age. 
  • Putting my camera away and just enjoying the music instead of trying to capture a perfect shot of Ben Lovett or a whole video of that favorite song. I think, sometimes, in my quest to document every moment, I forget, a little bit, to just sit there and be in the moment, living it.
  • The variety of music styles played in one concert--rock, folk, blues, Latin, old school swing. Something for everyone!
  • That moment in the car, as we slowly crawled towards the parking area, when Summer said, "Where did all of these people come from?!" and I responded with, "Well, Summer, when a man and a woman really love each other..." She acted like I was not funny, but I think she secretly laughed. 

    The Little Bits That Annoyed
    • My complaints are directed at Shoreline Ampitheater, not at Bridge School. The venue seriously oversold the lawn seats and it was impossible to be comfortable out there. We were in the laps of the people around us, inhaling their pot smoke, and it was an absolute mess, getting to parking, and then into the venue. I understand the need for security, but the lines were awful, and security wasn't always on the ball, as evidenced by...
    • To the two young men who saw fit to cut in front of a ton of people in the line to get into the venue--shame on you. Shrugging and saying, "Whatever" to all the people who loudly called you on it was also not so cool. I hope the show was worth it to you, and I hope that you were the last people to get out of the parking lot last night, moldering in your car 'til midnight.

      The Pics

      Sunset on the bay, as viewed from Summer and Ben's back deck.

      Great optemetrist's sign in Oakland.

      Snapped this while gassing up Rosie Pro.
      Shoreline Ampitheater.

      The ridiculous line to get in.

      Giraffe bike

      So ridiculously packed. Good thing there was no earthquake.

      We were so far away from the stage. The big white screen was used after
      it got dark.

      On those tiny screens, you can just see Marcus Mumford. The sound was
      great and made up for our non-view!

      These pics didn't turn out great, because I was shaky and my camera was on
      extreme zoom. But there's Marcus.

      Ted Dwayne (the picture was moving to a shot of Marcus).

      Winston Marshall. Winnie!!

      The Mumford Boys (normally Ben and his keyboard would be in that shot
      but he was over at the upright piano).

      Very bad shot of Ben Lovett in his coonskin cap.
      First Aid station.

      Summer, a dork and a duck. We leaned in a bit to take this pic, but we did
      actually spend most of the afternoon and evening sitting that close to each
      other. It was so crowded!!

      Friday, October 21, 2011

      What's In Store

      So this weekend promises to be fun. Tomorrow night I'm heading to Summer and Ben's house for Zombie Movie Night. I'll spend the night for two reasons:

      1. It's a two-hour drive home, and

      2. Summer and I are going to a show on Sunday.

      The concert is going to be fantastic. It's the Bridge School Benefit Concert, sponsored every year by Neil Young. The lineup is awesome:

      • Neil Young
      • Dave Matthews
      • Arcade Fire
      • Foo Fighters (Sunday only)
      • Eddie Vedder
      • Los Invisibles, featuring Carlos Santana, Cindy Blackman Santana & Guests
      • Beck
      • Mumford & Sons
      • Tony Bennett (Sunday only)
      • Devendra Banhart
      • Norah Jones with The Little Willies
      • Jimmy Fallon (MC Saturday only)
      I'll probably spend one more night at Summer and Ben's place, as the concert should go late enough into the evening that I won't want to drive all the way back to Lincoln.

      It's going to be a fun weekend, and I'll get lots of pictures. : )

      Wednesday, October 19, 2011


      Today, my friend Chris came by train to Sacramento, so I buckled up in Rosie Pro and went to meet him. We met at the Amtrack station and hoofed it a few blocks to Old Sacramento to have lunch and a quick stroll before getting Chris back to the station so he could get to San Francisco.

      I didn't get a lot of pictures today, but I did take a few quick ones, and I even introduced Cali Swimmy to Chris, who has heard the story, laughed about it, and who still likes me, even with all of my quirks.

      On my way there, I had to stop and wait for Light Rail to Richards
      Blvd. I snapped a pic and Tweeted it to Keane's drummer.

      Taken while walking...

      "Urban Panino" It had tomatoes, mozzarella, fresh basil, and caramelized
      onions. It was delicious.
      The Delta King

      Cali Swimmy poses with Tower Bridge, the Sacramento River, and Chris'
      Been a while since I've made a public fool of myself.

      Wordless Wednesday -- Apple Hill