Thursday, September 03, 2009

Who doesn't love a freebie?

One of my (many) little neurotic "things" is that while someone is working in my house, I feel like I must be working, too. (I would have made a terrible aristocrat in times past.) This week a very nice carpenter is here replacing the storm doors, and while he is doing that, I have been attacking the neglected filing in my music and hobby space.

OK, that's not quite fair. More accurately, I have been moving my stuff out of what is mostly DH's office space, and setting up my own space in one side of the open downstairs area. Truth be told, I have been mourning the loss of my previous closed studio to the gym a while ago, but am now ready to get over it and claim this area, even though I can't close the door on my practice time, as "mine." It's a combination music, stamping, blogging and study area. I have a table with two work spaces, moved the computer down, book cases and organizing cubes, the piano, and of course cellos, stands, and mirror.

So this week I emptied and moved some plastic file boxes downstairs and have been busily sorting, labeling and filing. I hope to get through the last four partial boxes of "stuff" today, which will then be the first time I haven't been living out of boxes since we moved here. Whoa. Major paradigm shift.

Now, based on the title of this post, I didn't start typing here in order to tell you all that, but rather to tell you what I found. I'm "pre-filing" the stuff from the boxes, sorting them into piles on the floor, and ran across a Shar flyer. It says that they have free sheet music downloads available, so I checked it out. Looks like they post something new every week, and this week it's the parts and score for a Mozart string quartet, k458, "The Hunt."

I love free sheet music. Did you know they were doing this? Great way to get folks to visit your shop every week.

And even better, now that I have blogged about it I can discard the flyer. Hehe.

Monday, August 31, 2009

The sound of one hand practicing

Just getting in under the wire - one more day, and August 2009 would be the first month without a post in almost two years.

August was a funny month. Between my travel and T4-'s I had half the expected number of cello lessons, plus I was building back up in practice time in fits and starts after my longer travel period in July. I'm up to an hour pain-free, but still lack the desire to work daily. I think it's coming, though.

Two weeks ago I initiated the "what am I going to do this semester?" chat with T4-, and I'm excited about the plan:

Repertoire
Set Allegro Appassionato aside in favor of Squire's Tarantella. I'll have many of the same bowing and fast-playing issues to be worked out in a slightly less complex piece of music. That was a relief, as I had reached the point of discouragement with AllApp. Now I can look forward to revisiting it with a new and improved skill set in the future.

Bach
Suite #3, beginning with the Prelude. This will be my first pass through this suite with a teacher, so I'm excited. I love the expansive joy of the 3d prelude.

Excerpts
We're going to spend some time on orchestra excerpts, which are important both as rep (I'm far more likely to play in an orchestra than to give solo recitals) and as an etude substitute. We're starting with Mozart Symphony #40 and Beethoven Symphony #5, which are the usual audition pieces for amateur orchestras in this area. Fun.

Etudes
This is still a little up in the air. I'm continuing to work on Popper High School #1, and may look at the pre-high school book. Not sure about thumb position stuff yet, but for now I'll use the scales in Offenbach Grand Duo Concertante, which I am working up outside of lessons.

Scales
T4- doesn't seem big on scale routines and checking on them in lessons, so I'm a bit on my own. I can play all 12 major and 12 natural minor keys in 4 octaves at the drop of a hat, using Duport fingerings, so I've been choosing a key of the day and practicing elements of articulation or bowing from my pieces using either a standard 4 octave or Galamian 3 octave scale as the substrate. That seems good for now.

The impossible dream
Haydn Concerto in C. Yes, I'll probably get to start it later in the semester, and I'm thrilled.

I spent three years with T3- developing flexibility in my bow hand, so it's a nice change to focus more on left hand flexibility in order to play fast. At my last lesson on Tarantella we discovered that when I finger the notes without using the bow I make no sound. My project for the week is to observe my left hand while playing without the right hand. When I achieve the right degrees of flexibility, floppiness, unrestricted expansion and contraction, and balance the notes sound as I play them.

Very cool.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Auf Deutsch

Cool. I get to hog the computer while DH is at a dinner meeting here in Vienna, and just discovered that all of my Blogger toolbar is in German. One can never assume anonymity. Fortunately, all reverted to English after I figured out that anmelden had something to do with signing in.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

End of June

My, that month went by quickly. It's already time to look back and see how I did with my practice goals this month. Drumroll, please...

And the answer is, very well, and very badly. I practiced 18 hours and 5 minutes over 19 days, which means I reached my total time and frequency goals handily. But I had a deuced time with the sit down behind the cello for 5 minutes before noon goal. I did OK for the first 6 days, missed a couple, tried again, and just gave up.

Turns out I am completely unable to sit down behind the cello without a goal. What I found myself doing was getting to the cello at 11:55 to start an hour's practice, not my intent at all. The biggest question I am left with is why I thought I wanted to do this in the morning.

Good reasons to practice in the morning.
1. If I practice in the morning, well, then it's done. Works for exercise, so I thought it would be a good idea with practice.

2. Morning is both an introspective and a focused time for me (but do NOT talk to me before 9am OR before coffee, whichever comes later). Seems like the energy requirements should coincide.

3. I used to practice for 30 minutes before work, with the benefit of starting the workday feeling relaxed and virtuous.

Possible reasons it didn't work.
1. I also got back on the morning exercise bandwagon this month. Ran every day (but 3) for 10 minutes with 10 more minutes of walking, PT, and stretching. Doesn't seem like much, but a huge breakthrough as I am still trying to recover from knee surgery.

2. I like to sleep late, now that I can. Thirty years of being up and at 'em before 6am was plenty long enough, and since retirement I have resumed my more natural night owl rhythms.

3. I love to spend my first barely-conscious hour drinking my coffee and catching up on the overnight blogging and Twitter activity. After feeding the cats, of course.

4. I don't have to, and no one can make me.

Sleep late + coffee/blog time + work out + breakfast and the morning's over.

I guess that's the bottom line. There are other ways I would rather spend the morning, and much as I like practicing, it just gets squeezed out. And you know what? It's not really important. I reached my time and frequency goals with no problem, and the practices I had were of good quality. So I guess I learned an important lesson this month. Just because a goal seems like a good idea doesn't mean it's right for me.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

June practice goals

That last post has been up on top 'way too long. To move it down a notch, I thought I'd post my practice goals for this month, as per my CelloBloggers Practice Club commitment:

Lots of things changing in my cello life right now - new teacher, new piece, fewer things in active progress, (which simplifies my practices and therefore seems to make me less resistant), integration of physical focus and learning music (which makes practice more pleasurable). But, though I have some intermediate performance goals, my primary practice goal for June is practice consistency.

My resolution: at least 15 practice days AND 15 hours of practice in June, PLUS at least 5 minutes of sitting behind my cello in playing position and doing *something* every day before noon.

There is method to my madness. I know I will face incredible resistance if I try to "practice every day." This allows me to take off on lesson and performance days without guilt. Plus I can plan practice lengths day to day, with a shorter practice on one day compensated for by either a longer practice later or an extra day of practice during the month. And I'm sneaking up on the goal of more frequent practice days by that very innocuous sitting behing the cello every day thing. Tee hee. I'll let you know how it goes.

[My first 5-minute deadline was very successful. Today I sat down at 11:53am, with time running out, and proceded to practice for 80 minutes.]

Thursday, May 14, 2009

No-cello practice

When I first became an over-the-top obsessively-committed beginning cello player, I bought a Prakticello so that wherever I went, for business or vacation, I could take my cello along to practice while I was away from home. There was no way I was going to backslide because I couldn't practice with no cello available. I became quite good at setting it up and breaking it down, and it provided endless fascination for TSA checkers. But I gradually came to resent the extra hassle of flying with it, and finally, when DH and I were living in separate cities for awhile, I left it set up at "his place," and used it for practice while I was there. That was (so far) it's last trip, as when I moved out to join him I broke it down, packed it in its box, and stashed it in a corner of the new house. I know it's there if I need it.

As a more experienced intermediate-level cello player who still travels fairly often, I have gained confidence that I won't lose all of my hard-won skills and revert back to the beginning if I don't play the cello for a few days. But practicing is part of my life, something I do, and am, and I practice every day, whether I have a cello available or not.

I don't mean to write an exhaustive treatise on no-cello practice, but thought I'd list the things I brought along on my current trip, by way of answering Ten Northern's question, "What do you mean by 'no-cello practice'?".

1. String quartet by Alexander Glasunov, op. 26. I'm not actually playing this, but a friend asked me for some fingering recommendations, if I had time. Marking a part with fingerings and bowings is a great thing to do when traveling. This quartet has lots of little chromatic puzzles to work out those fingerboard geography muscles.

2. Brahms sonata no. 1 in e. I am preparing the first movement to play for T4- at my lesson in 2.5 weeks.In addition to marking fingerings, I'll totally mark this part up for memorizing, with bowings on almost every change and fingerings at the beginning of phrases in addition to on the shifts, where I usually mark them. That's so I can start anywhere on the right bow and finger when I am practicing tiny bits at a time, later. I will also survey the movement for structure and work out which parts are alike, and how the alike parts are different. Then I'll start memorizing it by singing it.

3. Duport #7. I have already re-written this etude as chords, changing it from it's written-out arpeggios into something I can see the structure of more clearly. With this, I'll mentally practice chord changes as coordinated movements. I find this quite fatiguing, so I'll only do a few measures at a time.

4. A chair. OK, I didn't bring that with me, but plan to use one here in the room. I'll tip it back toward me as I sit in another chair and practice one of my new motor skills. My directive is to develop more flexibility in my thumb mcp (left hand), particularly in thumb position. So I will pretend I have a fingerboard, and with thumb and one finger at a time observe what I need to do to vibrate with a flexible hand while keeping equal weight between thumb and finger. This is also something you can do with arm cello, but since I have a wooden chair handy I thought I'd use that instead.

I also have two books with me: Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment, by George Leonard and Set Your Voice Free: How To Get The Singing Or Speaking Voice You Want, by Roger Love.

Here's a quote from this morning's reading from Leonard's book to inspire you:
...the essence of boredom is to be found in the obsessive search for novelty. Satisfaction lies in mindful repetition, the discovery of endless richness in subtle variations on familiar themes.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Fandom

Yes, my computer is still dead, but I have delusions that I am going to try to revive it today. In the meantime, I am microblogging on Twitter, something I have been watching for a couple of years, but declined to jump in to. Finally had to, to respond to one of Stark Raving Emily's comments.

Anyway, I'm one of the quarter million people following Zoe Keating's mundane and ever-so-fascinating life log. Yesterday Wired posted a video interview, which I am now linking to here, mostly so I can easily reference it later when I can find it no other way, and partly so the few people who read my blog but don't tweet can see it, too.



This is what she says her current equipment consists of, as best I can make it out, being a dead-Windows user and not Mac (yet):
MacBook Pro
* Ableton Live
* Super Looper
* Applescripts to tie things together and allow everything to be controlled with her feet ("duct tape")
Foot controller mapped to the functions in the program(s)

I loved her analogy, likening the way she builds her music to the way a programmer builds information technology. Start small. Try things out. Build on the foundation. Perfect each bit. Scale as needed.

Thanks, Zoe, you make the impossible seem achievable. I have got to try this.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Bah

My short-lived blog renaissance has run into a roadblock in the form of a dead computer. It appears we had a power surge in the night, according to the tale told by the oven clock. It's really dead - no response at all from depressing the power button. Hopefully that means that the power supply bore the brunt of the damage, as it seems to me I'd get power up if I had "only" fried the motherboard. I happen to have a spare power supply sitting around, waiting to be transplanted into the computer that died a year and a half ago. That one can probably wait a little longer.

In the meantime, I am typing this last post on DH's tiny laptop. The font is so small that I can barely see it even with maximal squinting. It may be awhile until I try this again.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The hive



The kittens are thriving. You can see a couple of them more clearly here, with Mama in milk bar-up position. That was the first afternoon, when they were just a few hours old.

The second pic is a mere 72 hours later. It appears the volume of kittens is about equal to the volume of Mama, who quickly regained her svelte pre-pregnancy figure.



We are so grateful that this is an experienced Mama (though it will be her last experience) and that all her milk stations appear to be functional, with a goodly supply of product. When we visit the nursery there is generally a pile of sleepy babies with big round bellies, and a rumbling purr emanating from Mama. D- likens it to the buzzing of a bee hive, with a surrounding swarm of kittens, so has decided on a bee theme for names. Mama will henceforth be known as Queenie Black, and we'll be choosing names that start with B as soon as we can reliably tell them apart and determine genders.

Monday, April 20, 2009

I wonder where they were before?

Life wastes nothing. Over and over again every molecule that has ever been is gathered up by the hand of life to be reshaped into yet another form. The molecules in you and me and indeed in everyone are secondhand, borrowed for the occasion and returned when outgrown.

My Grandfather's Blessings: Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging (Rachel Naomi Remen, MD, 2000) p 259

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Visitor

Yesterday DH stopped by for lunch. Yes, stopped by on the way from Phoenix to DC. He had just left to return to the airport when the phone rang.

"I just saw a wild turkey across the street."

"Really? OK, I'll go check."



Not sure about the wild part, as I walked to about 8 feet away. I know it's not as unusual as a moose, but here in the metro area you take whatever Nature you can get.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Little brothers (and sisters?)

On Tuesday, during the hunt for Big Brother, we briefly considered taking his Mama downstairs to use as "bait." Considered very briefly, and rejected that option as being too stressful for this little girl, who was as big as a house and due anytime.



Anytime turned out to be less than two days later. On Thursday I got an 8am wake-up call, and the report that Mama had been birthing since about 4am. D- was concerned that, while everything appeared to be going well, the babies were ice cold and Mama wasn't keeping up with the cleaning, so I packed up one of my portable radiators and hurried over.

There were eight (8!) babies! The last one still had an intact umbilical cord, and the placenta had been delivered, so I cut the cord (with rather blunt scissors - probably more effective that way, anyway) and we discarded the last placenta. She had already eaten seven, and I don't think she could take another bite. In fact, she didn't eat again until late that evening. We helped dry the kittens who were still damp, D- heated some gel packs and placed them, well wrapped, around the periphery of the storage box (she had already moved them off the middle of the bathroom floor, where all the action had taken place), and I cranked up the radiator.

Mama spent the rest of the day lazing around on her back (hah!) so all the kittens could find nipples, being an absolutely perfect mother. Completely unlike our last, Marmee, who had to be taught what feeding and cleaning were all about. I will never forget Laurie running around the tub screaming that he was hungry.

Not these kittens. So far, utter contentment.







This is the sight that greeted me when I finally came downstairs. Aunt Layla and the uncles were calmly sitting in the waiting room. They knew what was up, being experienced foster home assistants.



BTW, did you guess what colors they are? Only 6 are black, with two brown tabbies.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Tactile intonation

I think I might have had a breakthrough at my lesson last night. I was playing the g minor scale, and we had stopped to work out the intonation of the IIF# to IIIEb. After trying it a couple of ways involving different combinations of fingers and strings, T- asked me to feel with the bow whether the note was in tune. A bit of Zen Cello. To my amazement, I caught the gist of of what seemed to me a ridiculous directive, and played with that concept through the rest of my evening activities (Irish fiddling and cello quartet).

I am totally psyched. I think I have finally opened the conduit so my energy gets all the way from my back down my arms into my fingertips and to the bow.

That was the best kind of day - but you have to wait until tomorrow for a kitten update (Mama and all 8 babies are doing well).

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Big Brother

This is my new cello coach, Big Brother.



Big Brother to whom? Why, to Angelina and Brad, of course. Didn't you notice the family resemblance? Angelina, Brad, Big Brother, and their very pregnant Mama came into foster care together - we won't go into the details of why they were surrendered. Angelina, Brad, and BB stayed with me for awhile, while Mama is confined at D-'s, waiting for those babies to pop.

Last Thursday A, B, and BB went back to D-'s house as well. Angelina and Brad were adopted on Saturday (yay!) and about the same time Brother disappeared. I was on kitten watch Sunday, and poked around the house very thoroughly without spotting him. On Tuesday I went over in spelunking clothes, flashlight in hand, and D- and I started systematically dismantling her basement.

I was very afraid we were going to find him here, where the spaces between the rafters reach 10 feet over top the next room. That was quite a trick, to get my head up between the HVAC and the wall to peer down the chute.



This is where we finally found him. This little alley had been partitioned off with a sideways piece of paneling, precisely because this is a tough place from which to extract fugitives. What, you don't see him?



Try tilting the door the other way. Yup, that's him at the end.



I was able to squeeze down the tunnel, pick him up, trembling, and back slowly out without squishing him. He went into a carrier without much fight (to our relief) and we brought him back to my house - where he promptly made himself at home, much to the displeasure of The Ladies.



Why did he have such a reaction at D-s house? Our hypothesis is that he was very bonded to his (female) former owner and had transfered that close attachment to me. He was very distressed when he lost two people in the course of a week. He's a complete doll, and very affectionate. Stay tuned while we figure out how we are going to transition him to a permanent home.

In the meantime, he has work to do.



Late-breaking news - kittens this morning! Guess what color?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

State of the Bow Hold, 2009

It occurred to me that it's been a year since I recorded what my bow hold looks like, a year of steady focus and (I hope) change. I asked DH to help me record another few clips, so I can take stock and figure out where I'm going from here.



For comparison, this is last year's video:



I am very pleased to see my thumb nicely curving and extending - much better than the locked out version last year. I think my down bow motion is actually a little sloppy - perhaps my finger tips are a little too loose? And I can finally see an up-bow motion that is happening in response to the bow change, rather than because the bow is slipping within my hand in anticipation of the change.

I also suspect the motions are a little exaggerated because I am playing an open string and can thus concentrate on making my bow hand as relaxed as possible. It will be interesting to see what that hand is doing when my left hand and brain are also occupied. Partially to that end, I filmed some "cello trial" clips, since I switched out one loaner cello for the other this week. As I post those you can see my bow hand in action while helping me to decide which cello to keep.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Looks like...

One of the traditional Easter dishes in my family is called... well, I don't know how to spell it, but it's pronounced look-sha. It's not a very complex dish - or at least, it looked simple when my grandmother made it. White yeast dough is rolled into 2-foot long snakes, which are placed on a baking sheet, brushed with egg, and sliced into 1-inch pieces. The bread is baked, then put into a bowl and drenched in honey, water, and poppy seeds. It's basically bread and water. Sweet, soggy bread. Ick. The Aunts loved it, but I ate as little as possible.

The day before Easter I found myself with a half loaf of very hard, stale, whole-grain, seedy bread. I sawed it into pieces and soaked it in custard (3 eggs, 3 cups milk which turned out to be 1 cup reconstituted goats milk, 1.5 cups 1 %, and 1/2 cup half-n-half, because that's what I had in the fridge, a pinch of salt and a slurp of sugar), topped with melted sweet butter and a thick sprinkle of black sesame seeds, and baked at 325 F for an hour, more or less. (Yeah, that's what most of my recipes look like.)

I ended up with a chewy, custardy bread pudding, slightly under-sweetened, and improved it with a glop of honey on top.



Amazingly, it looked and tasted like look-sha. Except good. I had it for Easter breakfast.

Where do you suppose that inspiration came from?

(Thanks, Grandma!)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Cognitively complex

"...whatever it is that an IQ test measures, it is not the ability to engage in cognitively complex forms of multivariate reasoning." That last phrase is not one that most of us use very often, but it's actually a very good description of what most of us do every day in our working [and cello-playing] lives, and what the best performers do extremely well. You just don't have to be especially "smart," as traditionally defined, to do it.

Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else (Geoff Colvin, 2008)
p. 44

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Loaners

I see it's been almost a month since I last posted. Where has the time gone?

My friend D- knew I was still missing Frankie, so she kindly lent me these two four-month-old monsters to occupy the void in my heart for a week or two. That's laid-back Brad on my left and squirmy little Angelina on my right. She has the barest of white tippy toes on the left side, along with one white whisker and one white chin hair. Adorable.



And I have another loaner in the house today - a cello. In the continuing saga of the exploding cello from last winter, my new replacement cello developed a crack in the top of the top just as I was getting ready to take it in to have a new bridge made and some adjustments done in the hopes of making the playability more to my liking. I have been more and more disappointed, because this wasn't the cello I would have bought if it had been one of the candidates in my search.

Though the shop that I bought the cello from won't simply refund the money (which I completely understand), they have always been willing to trade the cello at the original purchase price for another cello. So that's what I'm (finally) doing. And I must say, even though I don't need another cello at this moment, having two perfectly good ones (and two cello-shaped objects, CSO's), it is always exciting to try new cellos.

But that's all I'm going to write about that now, because I want to go practice some more.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

I'm going to miss them

I know, it's a wonderful home, and I really like the people. But sometimes you just especially love them. I'm going to miss those warm, purry, snuggly wakeups. Johnny leaping from the dining room table to the counter to enjoy his goat's milk. Frankie grunting, unsuccessfully imitating a Maine Coon's trill. And so many other things.



Have a good life, Frankie and Johnny.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Weekly practice review

Yesterday, I welcomed Daylight Savings Time by sleeping all afternoon, after being up early to play for church, then succumbing to insulin toxicity induced by the carbohydrate load of the apple fritters I consumed at a local dining emporium.

Why do I mention that in a post about practice review? Because I slept all day, I didn't start to practice until after 8:30pm, which is fine for me, but DH has a weekday 4:30am date with the alarm clock, and our house is very open. So I didn't want to practice more than about 30 minutes. I did that, however, instead of skipping it because it was the last day of the week and I wanted to report a good practice week, 5 days out of 7. Thanks, Practice Club.

The funniest moment of the week happened just as I came to the end of my 30 minutes. I was playing the first four bars of arpeggiated chords from the Sammartini Sonata in G (Suzuki Book 8, 1st mvmt, p3) with my eyes closed so I could concentrate better, when DH stopped by on the way to bed and kissed me on the top of my head. Oh, my! I nearly jumped out of my skin! Then dissolved into laughter as my heart rate returned to normal, and asked him to please, never kiss me when I am playing the cello with my eyes closed.

How romantic is that?

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Friday, March 06, 2009

ABCs

I think that many things would be easier to learn if the tutorials were written by true beginners.

Example: I started trying to learn ABC for creating graphics of music snippets several years ago, collected a ream of instructions, got bogged down in the details, and gave it up to go on to something else. Yesterday, Michael blogged about creating his first ABC project, and eureka, I knew just enough to start.

Here's my first project. Well, really my second, because I had to do it twice after I lost my first file when ABCedit timed out because I hadn't fed it the (free) license code in time. Oh, well. You know what they say about practice.



This is my current etude bugaboo. Maybe I'll write more about it later, and scare off the last remaining readers of my sporadic-in-2009 blog.

(BTW, that took about two hours. Can I count it as practice time this week?)

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Extensions

Today I am inspired to make a quick video response to a couple of questions Michael asked recently on his blog, Cello Practice Smackdown. Or maybe I am inspired to avoid my own practicing. Either way here you go.

The first comment was

Another curiosity question - why does my hand drift out of position so easily when I play cello but not recorder? In both cases, I have my thumb in an easy place for reference. Oh, I know that with cello I do move my thumb slightly to maintain balance, but that doesn’t explain the total letting go that I see myself do.

My response is that the thumb starts in an easy place for reference, but is then continually moving, even when you are just staying in first position. You can't see it so well in the video response (note to self: record thumb while sitting on a piano bench in the future) but trust me, the thumb is constantly in motion unless you have developed the very bad habit of gripping the fingerboard. Get used to "re-referencing" your landmarks!

The second question:

On to my question. In Kummer #7, in the first measur e of the second line I have to shift from IV(F#) to III(A), which is a fairly large shift (for me). I’m not sure I see a way, if there even is a way to walk from one to another without giving up the fingerboard.

See the video for my take on extensions, and two ways to practice this particular pair.

HTH.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Compact

This is Pi, curled up in the circle ball track. It's odd that this is one of his favorite places, all 7 1/2 months and 9+ lbs-worth of him. It's not a very big space, but it must be cozy.



See what I mean?



This is Pi after he woke up and spilled out of the track.

Amazing.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Something New

Okaaaay... One big, fat post for the month of February. That's what I call taking a break.

I credit the Practice Club on CelloBloggers for helping to maintain my interest in practicing in a month filled with taking care of my mom post-op, administering meds to cats to finally resolve the diarrhea issue, multiple kitten adoptions (the Vanalikalikes, Spud and Jo all found excellent homes), the return of Pi due to an unsuspected heart condition and his subsequent diagnosis and ongoing treatment. Actually, it was a busy month, but knowing that I had committed to reporting my practice time every week to a handful of faithful peers was just enough motivation to get me to my practice room.

This is my other inspiration this month:



I have been keeping a rudimentary journal in a weekly academic appointment calendar, but decided that something a little more colorful might increase the fun quotient. Sort of like stickers for adults. So I bought a dry-erase board with daily divisions and a space for lists, along with a pack of multi-colored dry erase pens. Now I have the added incentive of covering the board each week.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Halftime

Superbowl. Kitchen. Rockin' with The Boss. DH demonstrates the Dying Cockroach (I think it was originally called gatoring, but we renamed it in honor of a prominent feature of the hospital we trained at). I was worried that he would hurt himself, but he emerged unscathed. Kistler pinot noir and chocolate ice cream sandwiches. Man, we are getting old.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

No privacy



In case anyone wondered what it's like to take a bath with a houseful of foster kitties...

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Bigs and littles

The event of the day was a home energy audit, one of the services provided by the gas company where a guy with ever so many more handyman skills than have you comes to visit your house with an infrared camera to show you where all the air leaks and other heating inefficiencies in your house are and glibly describes 40 different ways to fix each one.

Most interestingly, I discovered that when the temperature is 18 below 0 all you need to do is walk around the house with your hand out to identify all the same sources of heat loss.

No, really, this was a useful thing to have done, and I learned a lot. Probably the most important things were that the biggest source of heat loss in my house are all of the cannister lights (20? 30? 40?), and that I really need to clean the metal filters in my electrostatic furnace filtering system more often than, say, every year or two.

After we brought the house back up to a comfortable temperature (part of the process involved sucking all of the warm air out of the house with a blower fitted into the front door), I turned the furnace off again so that I could clean the filters. They looked like dryer lint catchers, no lie. Unfortunately, I forgot to take photo documentation, so you'll have to take my word for it. They have been delinted and are in the dishwasher now. Hopefully they will be dry before it hits 30 below tonight.

While the house is cooling off, the "Beaches" are popular with the resident catlets. I thought this tableau was striking enough to cause me to break my temporary vow of blogging silence.

Here we have a big stripey and tuxedo on one side of the bathroom sink:



And little stripey and tuxedo on the other:



Adorable.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Ennui

Blogging is temporarily suspended. BTW, I put the Christmas tree away yesterday, when finally someone managed to knock it to the floor. Bleak, interminable midwestern winter ensues.