Thursday, June 30, 2011

Summer Reading

One thing I'm trying to do this summer (and remember folks, we're only in week 2 here) is to read with my kids. I used to read with my daughter quite a bit and with my son some.  My daughter and I have read many books together:  The Secret Garden, Pippi Longstocking, Alice in Wonderland, A Wrinkle in Time, among others.

She refused to read The Outsiders so I started reading it to her this summer and now she really likes it.  See, mom does know best!  I promised to show her the movie after we finish and point out all the actors I drooled over when I was her age.  I just loved me some Matt Dillon!

I'm looking for suggestions for our next book together.  I'm thinking of To Kill a Mockingbird, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn or The Book Thief.  She's 12 but pretty mature for her age and like I said, I'll be reading it with her.  So if anyone has any suggestions.

Clara has actually made me read some of her favorite books like When You Reach Me and Heartbeat.  Two awesome books for young adults that I highly, highly recommend.  The best part about When You Reach Me is that it refers to A Wrinkle in Time but it's so much more than that.  Heartbeat is written all in poems but it tells a complete story.  Trust me, you'll cry.  For my summer reading, I'm working my way through the Percy Jackson series.  They are perfect for the pool and they don't make me cry.  'Cause that would just be embarrassing at the pool.

As for my son, we're reading The Phantom Tollbooth.  And if you have not read that book then you need to drop everything and get a copy now.  It's that good.  What are you waiting for?  GO!  I've read this book many times as a kid and read it to my daughter and am now enjoying it all over again with my son.  I get something new out of it every time I read it.  Next, we're going to finish the Narnia series, I think we only have 2 books left.    He's 9 going on 10 so if anyone has any good ideas for that age, send them on.

It's really a win-win reading with my kids:  not only do I look like a great mom (right?), I also get to read a bunch of books that I never did as a child.  I totally skipped the Narnia series so it's nice to know what they are all about.

Quick story about that:  I started reading The Secret Garden when I was young but then one night my mother made dusty potatoes and I came down with a fever.  So, I never finished the book because I always associated it with dusty potatoes and being sick, even though none of those things are in any way related.

Check back in a month though to see if I'm still reading to them or if we've just gone straight to watching the movie version.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I Had a Blog Once Too...

I had a blog once, wrote in it quite a lot.  Can't figure out what happened to it...unless, now, wait a minute.  This is that blog!  Fancy that!  I found it again.

Getting out of the habit of doing something is a killer...well, unless it's smoking.  My excuse for my absence is that we switched to summer hours here.  Basically, that means that school ended and the kids are home an awful lot more than they used to be.  And they want things too, what is up with that?

I've been trying to be a bit strict about my own schedule.  I used to love summer because it meant I didn't have to get up early.  But when I did get up, I'd try to get stuff done but the kids would be bored and wanting my attention and I'd get cranky.  Now, I get up at 6 am and exercise and get shit done.  It's pretty awesome.  Oh don't worry, I still get cranky, but not until 3 or 4 in the afternoon.  Then it's like an hour or two until beer o'clock so it's really not that bad.

Here's what makes me smile:  no more evening commitments.  Toward the end of school we had activities every night from Monday thru Thursday and sometimes on Saturday.  Everyday it was a mad rush to get home, get homework done, yell a bit, make dinner, eat dinner, rush someone out the door, yell some more (just for the hell of it), baths and bedtime.  Now, I can make dinner any time I freakin' feel like it.

In addition to yelling and exercising, I have been busy.  Our garden (I should put pictures up) is just beautiful. We have an abundance of collard greens and swiss chard and I have a ton of recipes for them if you need it.  We had a bumper crop of lettuce but that finally went to seed luckily not before we picked it.  My neighbor told me about green shakes:  put lettuce (or other greens) in a blender with almond milk (or regular milk) a banana, some fruit (I used frozen blueberries) and blend.  How healthy can you get?  Greens and dairy and's a multi-tasking shake.

Just so you know we are also growing blueberries, pumpkins, tomatoes, broccoli ('cause I'm chopping broccoli, had to do it), peppers, basil, watermelon, cucumbers.  It's just so much fun.

So green shakes, gardens, exercising, driving the kids around, that's my summer so far.  If it gets more exciting I'll let you know.  And if it doesn't, well, I'll just make something up.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Throwdown: Showcase vs. Awards Ceremony

I spent all weekend working on the Apprentice Showcase at the Arden.  Each year, the Arden hires a "class" of about 6 apprentices.  The class consists of college graduates who have theater experience but may not know exactly what they want to do in theater.  The apprentices work in all areas of the theater:  box office, front of house, education, development, production, etc. In addition to all this (a 60 hour work week), they put on a Showcase at the end of the year.

I found this class to be very different from other classes.  (To be fair, I've only known a couple of others).  They seemed more grounded, more intellectual...they also seemed to be in sync with my view on people and ideas so obviously they are very intelligent.  Anyway, this showcase was different than previous ones.  Instead of presenting pieces picked by the Artistic Department, they chose their own pieces -- some even wrote their own. They didn't want the same people who had worked on it in the past which is where I came in.  They asked me to be their Theatre Coordinator.  I couldn't exactly stage manage it because of the union.  They came up with the title although I really liked one of the apprentices suggestions.  He thought I should just be listed as "friend" in the program.  How cool would that be as a title, "friend"?

We had very little time to tech in the lights, sounds, and costumes.  We met on Saturday for 8 hours and on Sunday for 3 and then they performed Sunday night and Monday night.  There was another show in the theater so the apprentices and the designers had limited time to rehearse and design.  But still, we pulled it off.  There's something exciting about getting in to a theater and seeing how great you can make a show with a very limited amount of time.  Priorities become very important:  light the person who is speaking, high priority, making that person look good, low priority.

I contrast that with my daughter's Awards Ceremony aka Graduation from Sixth Grade.  I was working on that this week as well.  The teachers put together these folders which contain each student's award.  These folders are stuffed and put under each student's chair.  But the student is not allowed to touch the folder until the end of the ceremony when he or she picks up his or her folder and carries it back to his or her classroom. Then, and only the is the student allowed to open the folder.  I'm not exaggerating.  The teachers threaten the kids within an inch of their lives about the folders.   Don't ask me why they don't just give the folders to the kids in the classroom.

I know this because the kids rehearsed this ceremony for 4 straight days:  walk in, sit down, stand for the pledge, sit down, walk up, get certificate of completion ('cause they aren't actually graduating), sit down, MIME picking up the folders, return to classroom.  My tax dollars at work.

Don't get me started on the awards.  They get an award for being in chorus.  The entire 6th grade is required to be in chorus.  They get an award for participating in D.A.R.E.  The entire 6th grade is required to participate in D.A.R.E.  These kids are going to grow up expecting an award every time they fart!   "Why Bill, that fart was great.  It wafted just over 3 cubicles.  Expect a little extra in your check this week."

The ceremony took 2 hours.  The high school graduation (an actual graduation) with 5 times as many students took 90 minutes.  I have to be careful though because of the number of parents who find this sort thing wonderful.  The parents who say, "They do so much for the sixth grade here."   Hey, if you want to get movie theater ass from sitting on bleachers for 2 hours watching your child stand up, in a carefully rehearsed manner, to be recognized because he/she  took the required chorus, feel free.  I kinda wish they'd do a little less for the students.

So I guess this throwdown was a no-brainer.  Did I mention that on our final night of Showcase (they perform twice) that the apprentices would not let me buy my own beer?  I guess they don't need any more points.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

All Day IPA: I Think I Love You

This week is Philly Beer week (or Billy Fear week as I like to call it) and my birthday.  Do you think they knew that when they planned it?  I bet they did.

On Tuesday, Brian took a half day and I met him in the city for lunch, a walk, some beer, basically a date.  We had lunch at the Belgium Cafe, owned and operated by the people from Monk's Cafe in Center City.  Monk's is known as one of the best beer bars in the world.  I kid you not.  The food was quite tasty but my jury is still out on our waitress.  She brought some unclean cutlery so we sent it back.  When she returned with supposedly new knives, she took a look at a knife then wiped it across her butt and placed it next to my plate.  I really wanted to say, "You know I'm right here right?"

After lunch we hit Eastern State Penitentiary.  When it was built it was the first of it's kind in America.  The idea was to give each convict time alone to reflect on his/her crime.  Each prisoner had a cell to himself and a small courtyard that he/she visited for 30 minutes twice a day.  The prisoners were not allowed to talk with anyone else during their stay.  Well, that didn't last as the crime rate flourished so prisoners had to share cells. Al Capone was held their for 8 months.  See, I can do culture with my beer.

We also, as you may imagine, hit a few beer bars in the area.  For the most part I'm a die-hard IPA drinker because they are so hopalicious.  Unfortunately, they are also big as in 7.8% or 8.6% or even 9% alcohol.  Not exactly a session beer.  Not exactly a beer that you want to drink on a hot summer afternoon.  But, at our 3rd bar, there he was....sitting innocently at the end of a row of taps.  "What's this All Day IPA?"  I inquired of the waitress (who, luckily didn't seem the type to wipe knives her butt).  "Oh, that's a new one from Founder's, out in Michigan, it's only 4.8% alcohol."

Well, that was a no-brainer on my part, I had to have a taste.  It was like the heavens opened up and a choir of angels began to sing.  A very delicious hoppy, dry taste that I just love in an IPA.  Granted, it's not the overpowering hops of a double IPA but it's also not the killer alcohol level either.

I'm in love!

Rest of the day didn't compare to that find.  We trekked down to checkout an IPA throwdown that was non-existent.  Shoulda stayed where we were.  But I'll find him again, that All Day IPA.  He can't hide from me for long.  It's true love.

I'd link to the song but let's face it, you're humming it, aren't ya?  Ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba I'm sleeping and right in the middle of a good dream....

Friday, June 3, 2011

It's Friday! And What a Week it Was

Sitting here, having a glass of Chardy, as a famous (infamous) Aussie Blogger calls it, on a Friday on my porch.  For a 4 day week (Monday was Memorial Day) it seemed rather long.

Tuesday was my only day at home to get stuff done and amazingly the only night of the week when neither child had any activities; a rarity this time of year.  However, it was also my anniversary so Brian and I and the kids went to check out this beer place located inside of a Whole Foods.  I know, I know, we really live it up.  This place has 6 micro brews on tap and several wines (and no, we didn't try them all) as well as a bit of food.  It was okay, nothing to write home about.  We decided that it would be a good place to get a beer before going to a movie at the nearby cinema.  The cinema is located by a mall  and surrounded by chains of Pizzeria Uno's and the like.  And, I don't have to tell you what kind of beer they serve.

Wednesday was the 3rd Grade field trip to Philadelphia.  I went 3 years ago when Clara was in 3rd grade and had a great time.  A tour guide walks the class around to several sites including, of course, the Liberty Bell.  I was so excited to go again with my son.  Well, this past Wednesday, there was a heat advisory and the Philadelphia schools closed at 1:30 pm due to the heat.  But there we were tromping all over Philly.  Our tour guide was not the best.  The kids seemed to spook her as she tended to twitch if one got to close.  She had a lot of information but delivered it rather dryly.  And did I mention it was hot, extensively hot?  A friend of mine, who also went on the field trip, looked at me and said, "It's the worst day of my life."  I've got nothing to add.

The icing on the cake:  Wednesday night my poor son had a baseball game, in that heat.  Usually they play for only 90 minutes but after warming up for 15 minutes, they played for 2 hours.  That kid was Wiped Out.

The weather broke on Thursday, just a day late.  I volunteered at Cradles 2 Crayons, which I try to do once a week.  It's a great organization that I urge you to check out.  Unfortunately, there are only 2 chapters, one in Boston and one here.  I know several of the regular volunteers and we were getting together to re-organize a section.  I love these women, they are so much more real than the people with whom I worked on the yearbook (remember the lady and her dog I told you about?).  We shared ideas and listened to each other.  I had to leave before they finished but one of the volunteers sent me an e mail with an update on what they did.  See, how hard is it to act like an adult?  And, how much more pleasant?

That afternoon was the last meeting of the yearbook committee: My "best friend" didn't say a word to me.  Clara got her candy and we had water ice and then left.  I know when I'm not welcome but I wasn't going to be cheated out of my goodies.  You know, I heard about a book that just came out that tracked kids from high school into real life.  All the geeks, outcasts, etc., they are the ones moving and shaking in this world:  Steve Jobs (geek), J.K. Rowling (book nerd), Lady Gaga (fashion weirdo, hasn't changed much has she?).  It's the popular kids who end up with the most insecurities.  So there you go.

Not to leave out today, volunteered again (my halo is getting so shiny), mowed the lawn and now I'm enjoying the night.  Before I ramble anymore, I raise my glass in hopes you all have a great weekend!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

All Work and No Play: Who Me?

So I've been a bit busy since I've not been blogging: some work, some play.  As you know, I don't do all work. Here's a slight rundown.


This year, I joined the 6th grade yearbook committee.  Our elementary school goes to 6th grade so there's a slew of activities for the 6th graders.  Don't get me started on the whole "graduating" from 6th grade; that's an entirely different post.  I figured I'd help out with the yearbook and Clara could help out and we could get to know other people in her class.  Clara doesn't have a ton of friends at school; she definitely has her own beat going on, which I know will be helpful later on in life.  In sixth grade, not so helpful.  In addition to attending meetings, I said I would format all the greetings.  These are little notes written by family, friends, etc. to certain 6th graders.  They cost $5 each and are a way to subsidize the cost of the yearbook.  This one mom on the committee, who is very close to the woman running the show, has decided that she doesn't like me.  I know it sounds so 6th grade but I started to get suspicious at the past few meetings when she couldn't even look me in the eye.  Then came the kicker.  I went to her house to pick up some greetings she had.  She has a glass front door so I watched her come down the stairs, stop halfway, turn to her dog to make her dog sit, and sit, and sit, before acknowledging my presence.  She saw me because as I mentioned, the door was glass.  Finally, after 5 minutes, she said she would get the stuff for me and then handed it through the door barely saying a word.  Why the dog had to sit is beyond me.

A few thoughts ran through my mind as I watched this:
1.  "Uh, I can see you, you know that right?"
2.  I wish I had a video so I could tape this and then send it to her so she could see how rude she is
3.  I have no desire to speak to this woman ever again.  Even if that guy is right and we are the last two people on earth.  Especially if we're the last two people on earth.

I chose option 3.

The greetings themselves were not difficult, just tedious.  With over 90 greetings, I had to type up each one in a different font, chose a shape to surround it, fit it on the page.  If I write "Congratulations!  You did it!  We are so proud of you!"  One more time, I might run screaming out of the house.  These people do know that the kid has 6 more years of school (not including college)?   And, that it gets harder from here?  I told Clara I was only half way proud of her as she was only half way done.  Okay, so I don't get into all these stuff like so many other parents.  And I wonder where Clara gets it from.

And, the last work of the weekend was cleaning out the garage.  My husband tried his hardest to talk me out of it but I wasn't having it.  It feels great to get it done.  We even marked on the wall where each tool, broom, shovel goes. This way we'll know when we put a tool back wrong.


Summer arrived on Friday night to our little town of Glenside.  I knew because of two things:  the heat and neighbors.  It got to 90, on Friday, a sure sign that Spring had sprung it's last.  We started out the evening with beers on the deck planning on making mussels for the family.  Brian noticed a neighbor or two and invited them over for a beer.  Inviting one neighbor over is like throwing a party in high school -- you only have to tell a few people and everyone shows up.   I'm not complaining.  I had two bags of mussels and a loaf of bread which barely fed everyone.  Unfortunately, I don't have JC's touch with the loaves and the fishes.  I blame Brian, he is an Atheist.  No one minded though and several contributed food.

Sunday night took us to the Blue Comet, a local bar (within walking distance) that plays rockabilly music on Sundays from 6 pm to 10 pm.  I may have mentioned it before.  The band there this past weekend was awesome.  It's always a bit crowded but people find a spot to dance and there are some good dances there, complete with the big hair and tattoos.  Boy can they swing though.  Dance that is, I don't know about the other stuff.  Brian and I tried our hand at it, we've taken some lessons.  We weren't as good, I'll tell you.  Maybe we need to get tats...I could pouff my hair...

Here's a YouTube video of the band we saw, The Buzzards, worth catching out if you get the chance.  Unfortunately, I couldn't find a video that had both good video and good audio.