Sunday, May 29, 2016

YAY!!!

The report from NJ:  Bud won GOLD in all of his events!!!!  First Form, three staff, and spear!!!  And the team did a great exhibition performance.

Mama and Bud, plus Ma and Gong, will stay the night and drive home tomorrow morning (early, to avoid the tropical storm.)

We're so proud of Bud!!

CONGRATULATIONS!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Improvement

Sis had no fever today!

She's still quite tired and only just began to regain her appetite.  But she did rally in order to bake biscuits all by herself this morning and then some cookies this evening.  See, she discovered the "Kids' Baking Championship" and watched it through this weekend.  Apparently, they made Oatmeal Lace Cookies and so she wanted to try her hand at it; I found a recipe on Martha Stewart, knowing her recipes to be fairly reliable.  Oh, they're so good.  they aren't as pretty as the ones on the website, but we'll eat them all so quickly that it won't matter!  I'm not sure Mama and Bud will get any by the time they get back Monday night!

They are having quite the time on the Jersey shore--they've played putt-putt at five different mini-golf courses and eaten seafood all over.  Bud even had ice cream for breakfast!  Today they climbed a 217-step lighthouse.   Tomorrow is the big kung fu competition.  I'll keep tabs on it via text.  We wish Bud well and hope he enjoys himself and his teammates.

Tomorrow, Sis and I will continue much as we did today.  We've watched a lot of television, in addition to the kids' baking show--"Flash," "Arrow," "Cupcake Wars," plus Ant Man and The Princess Bride.  Tonight, I let Sis channel surf, which was a novel experience for her--we almost always watch Netflix or Amazon--and she enjoyed it.

She chose "American Ninja Warrior Las Vegas!!!"  She loved the parkour/rock-climbing-inspired tests of strength and agility.  And seeing the first woman to conquer the "spider walk" (the course is made for taller male bodies, closer to 5'10" and so women haven't ever passed that test.)  In fact, we're taping six more hours of the competition overnight.  She always was "danger baby"--and she is taking rock climbing camp this summer.

While I was watching all of the above, I did some tangling.

This is the design for a square on a friend's baby quilt.

Tangle play.

I made this for Sis.  I'm rather proud of the bunny.

Sis is asleep now and I'm watching Julian Fellowes's new "Doctor Thorne" on Amazon, based on Trollope's novel (he was one of my paternal grandmother's favorite authors.)  Tomorrow, I'm sure we'll do much of the same.  I've got some dough rising for Sourdough No-Knead Bread.  And there's more "Flash" and "Arrow."  And who knows what else the day will hold.


-=-=-=-=-=-
Oatmeal Lace Cookies


  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 3 cups uncooked rolled oats (do not use instant)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. 
  2. In a large saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Let cool a bit and add all remaining ingredients except the eggs. Stir well to combine, then add the eggs. Mix thoroughly. 
  3. Place 1 1/2 tablespoons of batter at a time on the parchment, leaving at least 3 inches between cookies. Flatten batter into a circle with the back of a spoon. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, or until just golden brown. Cool on wire racks.


    -=-=-=-=-=-=-


    Sourdough No-Knead Bread
    • 3 ½ cups/425 grams bread flour
    • 1 teaspoon/6 grams kosher salt
    • ¾ cup/180 grams sourdough starter, “fed”
    • 2 tablespoons/9 grams sesame seeds

    1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and salt.
    2. In a small mixing bowl, stir together 300 grams (about 1 1/4 cups) lukewarm tap water with the sourdough starter, then pour the mixture into the bowl with the flour mixture. Mix until just combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a tea towel and leave it to rise overnight, about 10 to 24 hours.
    3. The next day, dust a clean kitchen surface with flour. Scoop out the dough and place it on the surface, then dust with more flour. Gently fold the edges of the dough from the outside in, to form a round loaf. Dust a clean towel with yet more flour and place the dough on it, the seam side down, then cover and allow to double in size, about 2 hours.
    4. Meanwhile, heat oven to between 450 and 550 degrees. Place a covered enamel Dutch oven or heavy pot with a lid into the oven and allow it to heat for 30 minutes or so. Remove the pot from the oven, take off its top, and carefully invert the risen dough into it, so that the seam side is now facing up. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds, then put the top back on the pot and return it to the oven.
    5. Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes, then take the top off the pot and allow it to continue to cook until it is brown and crusty all over, an additional 20 minutes or so. Put the loaf on a rack to cool for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Weekend

Well, it's not what we had planned, but that's how things go sometimes.

Sis has Flu A.

So, Mama and Bud are heading to the beach weekend we'd planned on the way to his kung fu tournament.  He'll compete on Sunday.

And Sis and I are at home.  Her fever is down from last night--102.4F--but it'll probably go up a bit and she is totally exhausted, listless with no appetite.  And coughing up a storm.

We'll take it easy--watch some movies, eat some take out when she's hungry.  I have crochet and books and Zentangle, too.

And eventually, we'll get down to the shore all together.

Have a good weekend!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Two Words

Flu A.

Blah

Sis is on her fourth day home sick.  On Monday and Tuesday, she had a terrible cough and a low-grade fever (around 100F.) Because of the cough, we took her to the clinic Tuesday evening--her lungs are clear and it's probably just a virus. Wednesday she was achy with all of the above until midday when her temp spiked to 102.6.  Later, it was 103.4F  She's pretty miserable.  We'll be heading to the pediatrician today.

And Mama is now home sick, too.

What a disappointing week.  Sis has missed an orchestra performance, play practice, the official play photos, and now today she is missing field day.  She's sad on top of ill.

Now we're changing our big Jersey shore weekend plans.  Instead of five days on the coast on the way to Bud's kung fu competition, we might just go to the competition without anything else.

Just blah.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Our Kripalu Weekend

Zentangle.

Kripalu.

Gommie.

Wow, what a weekend we just had.


Friday:
Even the drive north on small, wooded backroads into Massachusetts was special.  I had traversed those roads with Mama years ago when the kids were small, so it was wonderful to be up there again.  The landscape is lovely--spring green trees, rocky streams, bubbling water.  We stopped a few times to admire the woods and river, watching the fly fishermen at work.  It's my favorite kind of landscape; Gommie was mesmerized.

Kripalu is a retreat center nestled in the Berkshires not far from Tanglewood, the concert venue and summer home of the Boston Symphony.  And it is gorgeous!  It used to be the Shadowbrook estate, if I understand correctly--the remains of the stone gatehouse are visible up front (apparently, the foundation of the mansion is there, too, but I didn't go looking for it.)  The setting is miraculous--mountains (or hills--I'm a flatlander) with a lake nestled in the valley, expansive lawns, lots of trees, and so much sky.  Many times during the weekend, we would just sit on the terrace of the main Shadowbrook retreat center and admire the view.

The view from our room.
Being on retreat at Kripalu is a lot like college, or as Gommie said, camp for adults.  We had classes and meals and downtime in our little room (two twins, great view, awful water control in the shower.)  But there was no stress, no responsibility, no unpleasantness.  Even before we checked into our room in the Annex which overlooked the grounds and the lake in the distance, we enjoyed lunch in the big cafeteria.



View from the terrace.
Oh, the Kripalu food.  Ayurvedic in theory (which has 6 flavors and ideas about balance of warming and cooling foods), seasonal and sustainable, with vegetarian and vegan options.  Over the six meals, we had delicious fresh salads with this great House dressing, veggie burgers, Moroccan tomato soup, coconut carrot salad, spiced chicken tagine, Greek kale salad, sauteed rainbow chard, Indian chickpeas, roasted potatoes, warm lentil salad, roasted carrots with maple syrup, kale and more kale!, oatmeal, museli, granola, vegan brownies, soy masala chai, Moroccan mint iced tea, orange Rooiboos tea, and the list could go on (yes, I bought the little booklets of recipes in the shop but there are many here, too.)  Makes me hungry just typing that up.  Breakfast was eaten in silence, a way to begin the day mindfully.  We tried to take every meal in the room overlooking the mountains and lake, soaking in the beauty and the fresh air through the windows.


Entrance to the labyrinth
After eating and unloading our bags, we headed straight to the labyrinth.  I love labyrinths, as you know, but hadn't realized there was one at Kripalu and so I hadn't brought anything to leave at the center.  Still, we walked it that first afternoon and I was just filled with this amazing joy.  Each time I walk a labyrinth, I have different reactions.  Friday was brimming with joy.  Joy to be with Gommie all to myself.  Joy to be in beauty.  Joy to be studying Zentangle, which fills me with excitement.  Joy, joy, joy.  It was Gommie's first labyrinth so I went over the basic etiquette about quiet and stepping to the side when you pass another.  The walk certainly set the tone for the weekend.

Tile #1

That evening, we had our first Zentangle class.  We'd run into the founders, Maria Thomas and Rick Roberts and their daughters Molly and Martha on the terrace earlier and had a chance to say hi.  I can't really describe what it's like to take a class with them--their stories, their humor, their rapport with each other, all of their mantras and saying of encouragement.  Even though I'd taken a long seminar just a month ago, it was all fresh and interesting again.

As at the CZT seminar a month or so ago, we received lots of great items--not just pens and pencils, tortillons and tiles, but an "Anything is Possible One Stroke at a Time" bag and a brand new journal. The theme of the weekend was extending our Zentangle practice, mainly how to connect tangles to one another, "tangle to tangle." We did a pretty straightforward hollibaugh-pokeroot-crescent moon variation for the first tile.

After class, we soaked in the cool mountain air while the bright full moon blocked out most of the stars.  We were tired and went to bed soon after.


Saturday:
This was our full day of great food, wonderful classes, beautiful views, and lots of R&R.  Gommie even took a gentle yoga class while I took a long nap.  We also walked the labyrinth again and this time I had something to leave in the center--one of the Zentangle bookmarks and a little piece of metallic rainbow bismuth I picked up in the shop.  This walk for me was more about contentment.  And I realized why I walk labyrinths:  I walk labyrinths because there have been times when I couldn't.

Tile #2
Philosophical.  Gommie and I had a lot of personal and philosophical conversations, like we haven't had . . . since the kids were born, perhaps?  It was special and important.  It even carried over into our Zentangle class.  Gommie asked Maria Thomas what creativity was and why we were drawn to it; they had a discussion about how, for Maria, creativity was central to her personality and was about liking even needing to do things differently--she still goes outside borders, figuratively and literally!  They even took this conversation to the whole class later, talking about how creation is central to the human condition--it's how we express ourselves, how we contribute to the world, how we serve.  And they thanked Gommie for sparking this reflection.

My tile #3
Tile #4--this took 2 hours!
We did a lot more complicated tiles on Saturday--"high focus" which is code for advanced. There was tile #2 with a tripoli center and rixty weaving in and out of fracas; there was tile #3 with a huggins variation and a new tangle named peeld.  I hadn't seen some of the tangles and even Maria made an oops (on the number of orbs in the huggins variation in tile #3 and so had to squeeze one in sideways) and tried to start over until the group chanted "No mistakes!"  And Maria just worked with it and it was beautiful.  Tile #4, with its spiral of nzeppel bursting into mooka and pokeleaf, took two hours!  Gommie had been tangling on her own for a year; this was her first real class.  I'm sure it was all a little overwhelming, but she did a wonderful job following along and not getting frustrated when she didn't understand. I came away with some new techniques, my favorite being peeld, seen in tile #3 where the line just seems to peel away from the design.

That evening, we attended a special optional session where we tangled another treat, a pencil case.  Apparently, you can coat canvas with Mod Podge Fabric and tangle it to your heart's content with an Identi-pen and a gray Fabrico marker for shading.  It was fun and came out beautifully.  Gommie really likes the thicker pens we used and will probably stick with a Micron .08 instead of .01commonly used.

We ended the evening on the chilly terrace, where the moon glowed eerily through the increasing cloud cover.  Another beautiful mountain night.


Sunday:

Tile #5--this also took 2 hours
We were up early with the singing birds, putting our luggage in my car before breakfast.  Then we sat on the terrace until class, communing with the chipmunk that came looking for food.  We saw it every time we were outside.

Class was one Renaissance tile that took two hours to complete--with the crescent moon variation, the raspberry center, the squib petals, the perf orbs, the etching technique on the leaves, all the shading in graphite and white chalk.  But, oh the results!  And when we put everyone's tiles together in a class mosaic, the arches could be connected in circles or pathways.  Beautiful.  And a great way to end our Zentangle class.

And our visit.  We opted to skip lunch, which was still an hour away, in order to get home so Gommie could spend more time with the kiddos.  It was a little hard to leave the peace behind, but I know we took some of it with us.


-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Kripalu House Dressing
Makes about 2 cups

1 cup sunflower oil or grape seed oil
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
¼ cup tamari (natural soy sauce)
¼ cup lemon juice
1/3 cup sesame tahini
2 cloves garlic
½ tablespoon dry mustard powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ tablespoon chili powder
pinch cayenne
½ cup water

Combine all ingredients and blend using a standard blender or immersion blender.


Kripalu Moroccan Mint Tea
Makes 6 cups

6½ cups water
½ cup fresh mint (stems and all), washed
2 tablespoons or 6 tea bags green tea
1 to 2 tablespoons sweetener of choice (organic sugar, agave, or honey)

Bring water to a boil. Turn off heat, add mint, and allow to steep for five minutes. Return to a boil, turn off heat, and add tea. Allow tea to steep no more than three minutes. (Green tea becomes bitter when steeped too long.) Remove tea and mint; sweeten to taste. Serve hot, or make iced tea by refrigerating until cold, or pouring cooled tea over ice.


Masala Chai
Makes about 4 cups.

2 tablespoons whole cardamom
2 teaspoons whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
1 whole stars of anise
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 tablespoon slice fresh ginger
4 black tea bags
2 cups milk (or substitute soy milk)
2 cups water
1 to 3 tablespoons sweetener of choice

Combine all spices and tie them in a cheesecloth. Using a rolling pin or other heavy utensil, lightly pound the spices to crush them slightly. Place milk, water, and spices in the cheesecloth in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for 15 minutes. Bring water back to a boil, turn off, and add black tea. Let steep for 5 minutes, then strain. Add sweetener of choice and stir to dissolve. Serve warm, or chill over ice for a cooling afternoon treat.

Hard Landing

My mom and I had a FANTABULOUS weekend at Kripalu immersed in Zentangle.

And then we came home . . . and Sis is sick (with fever now and is home Tuesday for the second day) and Gommie left and I had to cancel my hospice visits and Bud missed a concert at school and I had a run-in with two bitches at Starbucks who threatened to call the cops on me for leaving Sis in the car when I went to fetch her a croissant and me a coffee (I hadn't even gotten to the door of Starbucks when they started yelling at me.  Awful.  I left without going in.  I was angry, humiliated, and scared.  Didn't want to subject Sis to a huge to-do. Or be arrested and charged with a felony by some overzealous system, as has happened elsewhere.  For the record, here is the statute.  It's all about perceived "substantial risk to the child" under 12.)

So, the mystical magical moments of the weekend disappeared quickly.  I'm trying to let go of the shit of yesterday and get in touch with the good stuff again today.

Thanks for reminding me of Anne Lamott's quote, Gommie.  This tile's for you.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Special Day

It's the end of an era as I know it:  I just gave the last official school tour at the historic house for my own kiddos!  Two years ago, I conducted an in-class visit at school and then led their class around house, talking about daily life in the colonial era (I think we strung up dried apples--it was before we changed that to making butter.)  Today, we talked about the Revolutionary War using both the house and My Brother Sam is Dead, a book they read about two brothers in Connecticut.  Their class is so bright, curious, enthusiastic, and chatty group--I veered off track several times (usually when they asked a question.)  But we had fun.  It hadn't started to rain yet, so they were able to play Graces and other games outside, plus the stenciling, paper cutting (papyrotamia), and seed packet activities we have.

A funny thing happened on the way to the tour.  I was picking up lunches for Sis and Bud at the deli and talking to the "deli lady" about butter, which she was scooping out.  A voice behind me said to me, "Don't you make that yourself?"  See, I was in costume.  I replied, "I definitely know how to--and I'll be doing that in about an hour!"  Okay, so that's the third grade tour in the fall, but he didn't know that.  Usually people just ignore my full colonial garb when I go to the deli or the coffeeshop or pizza place on tour days.  Nice to be noticed for a change.

Especially on this special day.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

I Did It!!!

I've had my first Zentangle class!!!!

Last night, five supportive and encouraging friends came over for wine, snacks, and art.  I knew they'd be a comfortable, casual audience, which is why I started with them.  And it was wonderful!

I did spend the day (or, well, the week) planning and worrying and prepping.  I had pre-ordered the kits (with bags, pens, pencils, and tortillons) and bookmarks.  I had made my brochure (with Mama's very important computer and graphic design help.)  I had purchased an easel and large Post-It flip chart.  And I researched other beginner class lesson plans and wrote my own!  Plus I made chex mix and almond cake!


Whew.

Two people had to cancel last-minute due to illness, including my Deaf friend.  I had learned and practiced various relevant signs (words I don't use in usual conversation, including outline, border, string, shading, pattern, dots, line, circle, gratitude, mindfulness, etc.) but now wouldn't be interpreting myself while I taught.  I hope to be able to have a class for both friends soon.

And so it began.  We did a quick meditation with my singing bowl to set a quieter mood--this was a very chatty bunch, though, so we didn't stay quiet for long!  Which was great because of all the energy and enthusiasm.  I gave them a little of the background--the Zen and Tangle of founder Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas.

Then we jumped into our first tile, the traditional "Z" sting with hollibaugh, shattuck, florz, and munchin.  On reflection, I could have explained each actual pattern or tangle more clearly and perhaps more slowly.  I wonder if I did it too quickly.  Some students had a little more trouble understanding the steps.  Next time, I'll go more slowly and give them more time.  And also do a better job of wandering around (my dining room was a bit tight.)  Also, my pencil and tortillon didn't work very well on the big paper (it didn't really smudge.)  I'll need to get the shadow marker for my next class.  Also, by slowing things down, I could focus on the meditative and mindfulness more.  I did remind them to breathe and not to worry about outcome, but we were so busy laughing and having a good time.  The practice is totally different alone.

Mama and the kids arrived home from dinner out at about that time.  Sis and Bud have been so enthusiastic about Zentangle, getting my certification, and this first class that I let them teach their favorite tangle.  Bud showed the steps of pokeroot and it's twin pokeleaf.  And Sis taught ING.  They were so cute!  And they taught their patterns very well, with lots of encouragement for the class.

The group took a break for cake and wine and discussed the price they would pay for such a class (this one was priced just to cover supplies) and where I could offer classes locally.  My own focus group!

Then the kids stayed for the next tile (after we adults had a wine and cake break.)  It was a triangle on top of a rectangle string which my first teacher used at a retreat.  I taught zander, flux, printemps, and crescent moon. Same challenges as above (plus Bud chatting a lot--my friends were pretty patient and tolerant with the extra help, which I appreciated because I knew how happy the kids were.)  But I did mention some of the variations in shading as well as different ways to do some of the tangles, like flux and hollibaugh.  We looked at how to personalize the borders (with squiggles or little enhancements.)  I gave some tips on connecting tangles across borders.  And I introduced sparkles and auras and drawing behind and shading as part of the design not realism.

And that was the class.  I took some photos of some of the finished tiles.  One of my students had to leave early and another didn't want to show hers.  I think she was a bit discouraged and I wasn't sure what to do for her.  I need to work on that teaching challenge, too (I might choose some easier tangles than munchin next time.)   Maybe one-on-one later.  For the most part, though, I think they had a good time and are enthusiastic about tangling on their own, which is really rewarding.

As you can see, they all had different interpretations of the same tangles--some made tiny patterns, some pressed harder than others, everyone shaded and colored differently.  One (our piano teacher) even added extra tangles, including piano keys--I think she did all 10 on the same tile (lower left corner)!



It was a great start.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Today

Practicing my favorite tangles before tonight's class.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Prepping

My first official Zentangle class is tomorrow night and I've been prepping for a few days now.  In some ways, it's not quite "official," in that I've invited some interested friends over who I know will be supportive and encouraging.  My first class with fully-paying strangers will be a different ballgame altogether.  Still there's a lot to be done--materials to prep, class outline to finalize, food to make--and I am structuring it like a regular class.

And on top of it, I'm simultaneously interpreting it in ASL for my Deaf friend tomorrow night!  Which reminds me that I need to look up the sign for "shading" and "outline."  I had already posted on the Certified Zentangle Teacher forum a question about the sign commonly used for "Zentangle."  Two responses came back:  a "Z" signed with the dominant hand in the "L" space of the other hand (like drawing on a tile) and a "T"-hand signing a "Z" in the air (for Zen and Tangle.)

I'm really very excited and have been practicing my own tangles and tiles to get ready.   (Below is the frame I made for signs, etc.) The kids are excited, too, and have begged to help.  They're both going to come towards the end and teach their favorite patterns.

Wish me luck!

Some of my favorite tangles, including (clockwise from left corner): shattuck, hollibaugh, florz, knase variation
pokeleaf, bannah, nipa, mooka, printemps, Zenplosion folds, paradox, bales, curly-q, w2, cadent, chainging, munchin
flukes, flux.




Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Mothers' Day Weekend

It wasn't quite the weekend we expected.  We had planned to go on a lighthouse and seal cruise in the Sound, but the wet, chilly, foggy, windy weather caused a small craft advisory and the captain decided better safe than sorry.  Another time, then.

But we did go see the new Captain America movie in the theater, which is a rarity for us (or at least was; we seem to be going to more movies.)  It was perfectly entertaining, even a bit more morally ambiguous than most superhero movies and thus complicated.  Of course, there will be a sequel.  And we'll probably see it in the theater.

And then on Sunday, the kids surprised us with breakfast in bed, which has become one of my favorite annual rituals.  There was an extensive menu--we had eggs, ham, toast with jam, fruit cup, tea.  Delicious.  And so sweet of them.

We also spoke to both grandmothers to wish them a happy day.

The rest of the day was pretty boring.  Mama and I actually cleaned out a couple of closets, getting ready for the transition from winter to summer.  It was tedious work but had to be done, especially because we're pretty swamped for most of the upcoming weekends.    But, in sorting through years of the kids school papers and artworks, I came across menus and cards from other Mothers' Days.  And that was an extra little gift.

And now it seems to have become spring in one fell swoop.  After eight days of chilly rain (so that even I was tired of it), the sun came out Sunday afternoon (after the time for our cruise had passed!) and will warm us most of the week.  And that's another nice treat.


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Visual Aid

Tiles representing my week:  a star for Gong's American citizenship, a treble clef for the piano recital, and a chalice for the UU singing meditation service.

Trying Taizé

A few years ago, I wrote about my interest in singing meditations and mentioned a local Taizé service, which is an evening prayer service of chanting.  I love to sing and had wanted to try the service.  Recently, our old UU church started offering its own Taizé service.  And last night I attended.

It was lovely.  We sat in a semicircle in the darkened sanctuary, facing dozens of lit candles.  We had an order of service with the words to the simple chants included.  And we sang each chant repeatedly, simple tunes that were easy to pick up.  There is something about intoning songs over and over so that the words and sounds become almost abstract.  I found it quite peaceful and meditative, really quite lovely.

My favorite song was the last one, "May All Beings Be Happy," which had verses about being happy, peaceful, and free from suffering, just like metta meditation.  I found the tune on Amazon and will teach it to the kids.

After all the singing (coupled with some prayer, readings, and silent meditation), we all left the sanctuary quietly.  In the parking lot, I said hi to my friends from the old congregation and then headed back home, taking just a little of the peace and quiet with me.

Our New Citizen

Monday night we headed into the city so that we could more easily be on hand Tuesday morning when Gong, my father-in-law, became a citizen.  It was rainy both on our drive to NYC and then our drive the next morning to the courthouse (it's still rainy and chilly.  I'm back in turtlenecks with the heat on.)

I'd love to say it was a touching and moving ceremony.  But for the most part, it was a lot of bureaucracy.  It started with security as we checked in and gave up all of our phones.  Then, in the grand courtroom, we waited while the court clerks processed the final paperwork of over 140 new citizens.  Then we waited for the judge, who took her time.  (And how many times did we think to reach for our phones to look something up or pass the time!!)  We all rose as she entered.   Then she stood as her clerk administered the oath--which had more about taking up arms for the US than I remembered--and then we all said the pledge.  She said a few words of welcome and charged them with being responsible, active citizens and good neighbors in their communities.  And then she left!  At which point, we waited as they called up each person to get their naturalization certificates.  It was then that you could see the pride and joy on the faces of many new citizens.  We clapped for everyone and cheered loudly when Gong's name was called (his new name!  He has shortened his long Thai last name to match Ma's and the family, which she had shortened when she became a citizen in 1982.)   Not muarsch really changes for Gong--with a citizen wife and children, he wasn't in danger of being deported.  Now he can vote (not for Trump!) and travel more easily on an American passport.  Still, he was glad it was done, quite relieved after months and months of paperwork and worry and waiting.  The kids gave him a big hug as he left the courtroom and we took some photos near an American flag and a photo of President Obama.

We celebrated at a local Argentine steakhouse.  Mmmmm!  I could eat chimichurri sauce on anything!  It was quite the decadent steak dinner (though, we only toasted with water and soda, since we were in three different cars.)

I'm sure the kids will mainly remember the waiting on the hard court benches, the surrender of our cell phones, and perhaps the steak.  But I'm glad they got to see the ceremony.

Music to My Ears

Sunday was our piano recital--and it went beautifully!

Bud went first, playing "Maple Leaf Rag" and a rustic dance without any sheet music!  And I don't think he missed a note.  I love watching him play.

Then Sis went, playing my favorite "Cups" song and something called Rockin' 6.  I think it was the best I've heard her play them.  Really well done.

And then it was my turn.  "Greensleeves."  Ugh.  I missed a note in the first several bars but recovered without making a sound or a face . . . and I finished playing the whole thing, perfectly (for me) even though my hands began to shake almost uncontrollably, just like last time.  But I kept them moving and finished the song.  I almost cheered for myself!  Whew.

And I won't ever do that again.  My first recital was an experiment; this last one was a kind of redemption since I didn't feel like the first one went as smoothly as I'd hoped.  So I accomplished what I set out to do.  Let the recital be for the kiddos.  I'll still take lessons--love them!--but I don't need to perform again.  Makes me too anxious.  And I've discovered, since Sunday, that I now play the song even better without the nerves of thinking of the recital--and I have memorized it!  I now have a nice song I can play anytime, anywhere, without the music.  Yay!  This was one of my major goals of piano lessons.

But back to Sunday.  Because it had gone so well for all of us, I was able to sit back and enjoy the rest of the pianists.  They really are a talented bunch.  And we all have a great teacher.

Both of which we celebrated with sweets afterwards.