Thursday, December 30, 2010

Ho, Ho, Ho

Yes, I've been busy and not posting. Yes, I've been away. The Jazzman and I spent Thanksgiving with his family, so Christmas meant seeing my family.

When one's mother is 97½, every significant day is perceived as, "this might be her last [insert name of significant day]".

As my sister-in-law, who lives in Tampa, and I were ironing out the details of the trip, we kept watching the weather forecast. And the plans for the trip seemed to change every eight hours. When we spoke on December 19, we were going to the mountain cottage and my older brother's home. By the 20th, we were questioning going to the mountains. By the 21st, we were definitely going to Hendersonville instead of the mountains, but the day was uncertain. And so it went. On the morning of the 23rd, the Jazzman and I looked at each other and said, "We'll leave this afternoon." We started throwing clothes and necessaries into bags. I finished work that a client was expecting, and he ran errands. He arrived home around 1:15, we threw the bags in the car, and took off.

It was lightly snowing when we left Youngstown, but there was virtually no snow through the rest of Ohio and West Virginia. We called ahead and made reservations at the Fairfield Inn in Wytheville, VA, where I-77 meets I-81. Friday morning we got up and out and arrived in Asheville at noon. We browsed in New Morning Gallery—one of my faves—and met my brothers, sister-in-law and mother at 12:45 for lunch across the street at the Grand Bohemian Resort in Asheville.

After lunch, we went back to Hendersonville to Mother's assisted living apartment. After we sent her off for her dinner at 5:00, we went back to our hotel, the Mountain Lodge in Flat Rock. We had a leisurely visit through the evening, an event that is rare for us.

On Christmas morning, we visited over breakfast again, then my older brother left for the airport, and the rest of us went back to Mother's to visit and have dinner with her. After dinner I played the piano for a while, then the Jazzman and I took off, through briskly and heavily falling snow, to visit the Biltmore Estate, which he had never seen before.

It was an exquisite visit. The snow and the fact that it was Christmas day had kept the number of visitors for the day down to 1,000. (They were expecting 6,000 for the next day!) We enjoyed seeing the rooms all decorated for Christmas and I saw four rooms that had opened since my last visit. Afterward, we went over to Antler Village and had soup and sandwiches at Cedric's Tavern.

Sunday morning my brother and sister-in-law left to drive back to Tampa, and we headed to Hilton Head Island, which is my idea of heaven-on-earth. I've been coming to HHI since 1989, and dearly love the time I spend here. We arrived about 4:00, did a little grocery shopping, then checked-in to my timeshare unit.

The beginning of the week was unbelievably cold, but each day has gotten a little better. What have we done?
  1. Go down to the welcome breakfast in the lobby; watch a couple of movies and fix a sandwich in the room; walk over to Harbourtown and have dinner at Crazy Crab; watch another movie. In short: veg out. Do what vacationers are supposed to do—nothing!
  2. Go to the spa at Marriott's Barony Beach Resort and get massages; come back to the room and hang out; a trip to the Marriott Surf Watch resort to sign up for a new exchange program; a walk along South Beach to watch the sunset; a visit to Tyler's and my favorite "Wise Guys" for dinner; come back and watch a movie.
  3. Drive to Savannah; drive around and look at some of the historic squares and their fountains; walk along the riverfront; have an Irish lunch at Kevin Barry's; drive back to HHI; nap/work; walk around Harbourtown; nosh and watch a movie; go down and soak in the hot tub.
  4. Go to Stacks for a great Southern coastal breakfast; golf for the Jazzman, work for me, some of it on the balcony overlooking Calibogue Sound.
Doesn't that sound like a great vacation? We don't really know what we're going to do from one day to the next, and it's been a ball!

On the first morning of next year, we'll head back to cold and snow, but tomorrow the high temperature here will be 69 degrees, so we're going to enjoy every minute of it.

This has been a most amazing year for me. I am honored each day to have the Jazzman in my life, to be loved and cared-for as he does for me. I am privileged to live near my grandchildren and to have them call out "Grandma!" each time they see me. I'm lucky to have so many good friends, near and far. My children are stable and successful. I have a good life!

May the New Year see us all as employed as we'd like to be, achieving our best and living our dreams.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Out of the Mouths . . .

Yesterday I took the g'babes to school—just helpin' out. On the way, Ridley told me she's getting an iPod Touch. Boston started telling me about the conversation Ridley had with her mother about allocation of a check she had received for Christmas. Ridley interrupted Boston and said, "No, that's not the money." He retorted, "I was just telling Grandma the whole conversation." She said, "Oh," and paused for a beat before saying, "Carry on."

Where do these kids get their vocabulary? They crack me up on a regular basis!

Monday, December 13, 2010

It's not even winter yet!



Just in case you don't live in Ohio, I'll give you a little clue. It's cold!

By the time this winter storm advisory ends on Wednesday morning, we should have about two feet of snow. Would you like to know what shoveling that is like if one is not fortunate enough to own a snow blower? It's exhausting and hard on the shoulders and back. I'm not looking forward to this exercise!

But I am very grateful to work from home, where the cats and I glance out the window at the squirrels running around looking for acorns.

Stay warm!

- - -
P.S. I neglected to mention that we are having wind gusts up to 45-50 mph. Each time one of those blows snow past my office in a whoosh!, Angel just jumps out of his deep sleep next to the window. It's terribly funny, in a very sick sort of way.

Lotsa Music

From Sunday a week ago to yesterday I had five rehearsals and six performances. I was thinking that was a lot until I realized that many of my COChorus colleagues had even more!

A few months ago I had agreed to accompany Jason Budd in two holiday concerts. Jason is a local boy who has done very well in the world of opera, both as a singer and, lately, as director. He and Tyler met while they were students at YSU's Dana School of Music. Tyler remembers accompanying Jason a few times at YSU, and I was glad to continue the tradition.

The concerts were to be held at the Chloe Pierce Memorial Chapel in Sharpsville, PA. The chapel is the home to the Sharpsville Area Historical Society. It's a beautiful old building with fabulous stained glass windows and a Pomplitz organ built in Baltimore in 1884. I believe it was the 227th organ that Pomplitz (active from 1850 to 1887) made.

When Jason and I started communicating about the concert program—after I had agreed to play for him—I freaked when he said "organ". I took organ lessons when I was 7 and 8, and again in high school. I've played plenty of organs in my life, but never loved it. I always felt daunted by all the switches and stops and things to push, pull and flip. I even volunteered to bow out so he could find a real organist.

(You have to see the flyer for the concert. What a hoot! Really, in whose mind am I a noted organist? Certainly not mine!)

Oh, how glad I am he didn't take me up on my offer. Playing this organ, though challenging, was a kick. It only has eight stops, and it was kind of hit-and-miss for me to get a sound Jason and I wanted out of it. It would only go so soft—I think mezzoforte is its softest. But how fun. Playing the pedals came back to me as if I were eight years old again.

We ended up only doing two pieces with organ: we closed the first half with "O Holy Night", and the second half with "Joy to the World". The local residents who attended the concert kept thanking me for playing it. They were thrilled to hear this instrument again. Evidently it is not frequently played, and really, has a great sound for a 136-year-old gal.

A little note of humor: The tree in the chapel was decorated with vintage lights and ornaments. Wrapped packages were placed underneath and, next to the packages, a fifty-pound bag of coal. Very cute.

Friday, December 10, 2010

And it just keeps comin'

I took this photo out my office window yesterday during that brief two-hour period when there was actually a sun in a blue sky. If I had taken the picture today, you would have seen snow in the background. And that southern storm is rumored to be scheduled to hit on Sunday morning.

I just want to make one statement about walking in the snow. Why, oh why, do people think that a snowfall greater than five inches means they have the right-of-way over all surfaces? I can't tell you the number of times in the past week I've seen people walk:
a) in the street three feet away from the curb;
b) across an intersection against the light;
c) jaywalking.

Don't these idiots realize cars slide on snowy, icy streets? Do they have a freaking death wish?

I just don't get it.

- - -
And today I'm driving to Sharpsville, PA, for a rehearsal, then to Severance Hall for the first Holiday Concert with my favorite orchestra. Then back home at midnight. You envy me, I know!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Calm After (and Before) the Storm

My dear Tucson friend, Jill, texted me this morning and said, "Saw you have snow." Oh, if she only knew!

It's been snowing every day since last Friday, as I recall. When I left just after 5:00 yesterday afternoon for a 7:00 call* at Severance Hall, there was a snow cover in Youngstown of about 10 inches. It had been snowing off-and-on all day, but I was sure I would be fine.

Silly, Silly Southern Belle!

The 711 connector was fine. 680 was fine. The Turnpike was fine. 480 was fine. But then I got onto 271 and the commute when straight to hell. A snow-covered, salt- and plow-free hell! A standstill hell. The snow was coming down so hard that the plows could neither keep up with the snow or get through the traffic to clear the roads.

It. Was. Horrible. !!!

When I was on Chagrin, ready to turn onto Warrensville, it was 6:52. I know that because as I was sitting at the red light, I texted the chorus manager to say I would be 20 minutes late. It was the most incredibly stressful drive. And yet, as I checked Facebook updates of other commuting choristers at every stoplight, I saw that those who were driving in from Medina or Akron or the west side of Cleveland were having a much worse time than I. Several friends spent over five hours in their cars and never reached the hall.

I finally got to the hall—after narrowly avoiding crashing my car several times—at 7:20. When I got to the rehearsal hall, I quietly and slowly opened the door to keep from disturbing our director. Well, no one was warming up or rehearsing. There were 18 people seated in the hall. For this concert, the chorus numbered about 110. 18 people! As each new person staggered through the door, those already in their seats applauded. We have never so warmly greeted each other as last night!

Our manager threw away the seating chart. The orchestra manager delayed curtain from 8:00 to 8:15. We massed our normal five rows into three, and processed onto the stage, thankful for every person seated in the audience (about 1/4 to 1/3 of the normal audience size).

At intermission, we picked up another 20 singers who had arrived after curtain and added a fourth row for the second half.

And then I had to drive home. The streets in Shaker Heights and Beachwood had been plowed, so were easier to drive. But 271 only had one lane cleared, and the snow was just pelting me. And I was falling asleep.

After having left home just after 5:00, I got back home at 12:35.

After least I got home with car and body intact.

Your photo treat for today is the view (above) from my office and (below) from my kitchen. That's Jean and Marilyn's house and garden, completely totally overwhelmingly (at least for early November) covered with snow.

And they say there's a southern storm coming on Saturday. Argh.



*Vocabulary: If you don't know the term "call", this signifies the time a performer is to arrive at the concert venue or theatre, in place, ready to warm up. "Curtain" means the time the show is scheduled to begin.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

It's a Small World After All

Tonight is the "Holiday Movie Magic" concert at Severance Hall. I missed the Conductor's Piano Rehearsal (known as CPR) on Monday night, as I had to accompany a Stambaugh Chorus performance.

When I arrived at dress rehearsal last night, a fellow chorus member came up to me and said, "The conductor wants to see you." Immediately my heart started pounding. Was the guest conductor not going to allow anyone who missed CPR to sing the concert? But our chorus manager knew I was going to be absent and our director had approved my absence. My mind just raced.

I googled the conductor and learned he lives in Los Angeles and does a lot of work with Pacific Symphony, where my friend Eileen is Vice President of Artistic and Orchestra Operations. I started thinking maybe Eileen had told him to look me up.

At rehearsal break, I went to the front of the stage and introduced myself. As soon as I said my name, his face broke into an enormous smile and he said, "Eileen says hello."

It made my day! Eileen and I worked together at the Tucson Symphony, and I bought her house in midtown Tucson when she moved to Orange County.

I love the small musical world we live in. Just love it!

Monday, December 06, 2010

Ever Had One of Those Days?


Let me tell you about my day.

But first let me tell you about last night. I left home at 10:45 yesterday morning for a day of rehearsals and a performance at Severance Hall. When I left the Severance parking lot at 9:35 last night to head back to Youngstown, I was astonished at how hard it was snowing. I wound my way through Shaker Heights and Beachwood to get on 271 and thought that, even with the snowfall, I'd have a relatively easy drive home. The instant I got onto 271, I knew I was in trouble. The high speed ranged from 40 down to 20. The snow was that kind that comes right at you in big clumps. Only one lane had been cleared and I kept forging ahead, thinking that the turnpike would be much better. Well, the turnpike had been cleared more than 271, but the snow was so heavy at that point I could see no lines and had to keep watching the guardrail on my right to know that I was on the road. Miraculously, no cars were in ditches causing big problems. It took me over two hours to get home, and I was worn to a complete frazzle by the time I arrived.

I woke this morning at 6:30 to see more-more-more snow, and immediately dressed to go shovel. At this time of year, I regret having bought a corner lot, as that means twice the sidewalk to shovel. When I got it cleared and walked back to the house, it was already covered with snow again.

I went to my morning staff meeting at the Lemon Grove, and was surprised to see my grandchildren. Their dad had taken them to school, after checking all the normal places where school closures are announced. Of course, with no notice, there was a two-hour delay. I volunteered to take them to school at 10:15, as I had a 10:30 doctor's appointment.

As I started on the road to their school, I realized I had almost no gas, so had to take care of that on the way.

Dropped them off, met with the doctor's PA, to learn that they don't really know what's causing my problem but figure it will wear itself out. Hmm. When I parked the car at the doctor's office, I realized my right rear tire was dangerously low.

So, after the doctor, I went a half-mile up the road to the Acura dealer and had them fix my tire problem and change my oil.

Drove through Wendy's for a burger, then to Giant Eagle for basics. By now it's 12:45 and I've only done about an hour's work today. As I'm putting the groceries in the car, I realize I need to return a bath mat to BB&B. I'm less than a mile away from the store. Do I return it now, or drive the 9 miles back home and come back another day. Yep - ran back to BB&B and got the right color bath mat.

Got home, threw soup fixings for tonight into the crockpot, and finally got to work about 2:30.

In two hours I've got to stop what I'm doing, pull my music together for tonight's performance in Austintown, trek to the basement to lug my keyboard and other accouterments up, and quickly run through the repertoire for tonight before going to pick up my grandpageturner.

And it continues to snow. The weather guy on the television I saw at the car dealer called this the "perfect lake effect storm". Great. Just Great.

As far as I'm concerned, the best thing that could happen to me today would be for the Immaculate Heart of Mary Altar and Rose Society to cancel their Christmas party tonight. Now that would make me happy!

The pictures above? The two pumpkins the Jazzman put on the back porch before Hallowe'en, and our snowed-upon mailbox.

Stay warm!

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Saturday in the City

Saturday morning was another free hotel breakfast, then a subway trip down to the Financial District, where we visited the 9/11 Visitors' Center.

As we were walking from the subway stop to the visitors' center, it felt like a pilgrimage. All around us were people of all shapes, sizes, ages, and nationalities, all heading to the same destination. Beside us were workmen working with their hands and their big equipment (on a Saturday, no less), erecting new buildings to replace those that had been destroyed.

To see the information and mementos so beautifully displayed in the center was a most sobering experience. I was filled with thoughts of the losses so many people experienced, and of how our country and our lives—our world—has changed since that horrific day.

I feel honored to have been able to view this site. I feel sorrow for the losses. I feel glad to live in the United States of America.

---

Back to the hotel, try to connect with Thursday's cabbie (to no avail), research bus service to JFK, throw things in bags, run downstairs and grab a cab outside the hotel door. When we told him we want to go to Grand Central to get the bus to JFK, he offered to take us all the way out to JFK for $45. This seemed like the perfect deal to us, so we took him up on it.

He was a lovely Indian man, a computer engineer by training, who told us that as a child in India he had dreamed of being a Formula 1 racecar driver. What a perfect dream for a Manhattan cabbie!!! He maneuvered his way around and through the city traffic, depositing us at JFK in less than 45 minutes!

No we're waiting for our flight, happy to have had a brief getaway to the wonder that is New York City.

Friday in the City

Started out the day with free breakfast in the hotel—a treat I'm unaccustomed to in the City. Then strolled up 6th Avenue, stopping to browse in Macy's before making our way to Nanette Lepore's studio and workrooms on 35th Street. The Jazzman is good friends with Jim Lepore, Nanette's father. Jim had called and arranged for one of Nanette's assistants to give us a tour of the facility.

Those of you who know me know I love all things fiber. You also, then, know what an absolute treat this was for me. To see rolls of trims, rows of dress forms, a dye room, shelves of silk yardage, graphic designers at computer screens, pattern makers standing at table with pencil and ruler, photographer taking marketing shots, …. I was thrilled. Thrilled!

After visiting with several friends who work there, we headed up Broadway, trying to decided if we would try to see a show on Friday evening. We got to the TKTS kiosk, but they weren't opening for evening tickets until 3:00 p.m. We followed the routine PianoLady and I have set of lunching on soup, salad, and breadsticks at Olive Garden, across the street from the TKTS kiosk. Our waiter was Martin Dove, a delightful young man (okay, 40ish) who had lived in Cleveland and worked in Mentor for a while. He is a writer and actor who has followed his dream to NYC, and is finding success after success. We enjoyed very much our time spent chatting with him and look forward to following his future successes.

Afterward, we walked further up Broadway, spending a little time in Colony Music, then to the Broadway Theatre, where we bought tickets for "Promises, Promises". The subway took us back to our hotel, where we rested for a few minutes and I changed shoes(!!). Then we decided to visit MOMA before dinner. When we got to the door of MOMA, expecting to pay $20 per person for entrance, we learned it was Target Free Friday. We got in for free, and saw lots of amazing modern art. When we reached sensory overload, we walked down 5th and over to Saju Bistro, where PianoLady and I had enjoyed dinner six weeks ago. Goat cheese ravioli for me, of course, and the Jazzman's fave Creme Brulee for dessert, then a stop for a drink at Flute Bar before finding our seats in the theatre.

To my utter joy and delight, this was a night when Kristin Chenoweth was performing in "Promises, Promises". What a treat to see and hear her in person. I couldn't have asked for more!

The show let out at 10:45. We headed toward the subway, with a stop in An American Craftsman to admire the hadcrafts. Then to the hotel to sleep. Busy, enjoyable, much fun—whattaday!

Quick Weekend Getaway

Okay, can you look at the photo and tell where we ran away to for the weekend? That's right! New York City! In December! With all the decorations up!

The Jazzman had a few days of vacation he had to take, and I had a couple of days I could sneak away without neglecting any duties. AND American Airlines sent me an e-mail offering $39 air fare to select cities. So Thursday morning we drove through falling snow to Cleveland, and an hour-and-a-half later we were in sunny, but bitterly cold, NYC.

And I didn't get patted down by TSA this time, 'cause the Jazzman kindly washed (and dried) my favorite merino wool jacket-sweater. Oops.

We got a delightful Frenchman as cabbie for the hour-and-twenty-minute $50+ ride from JFK into the city. We had Priceline'd a hotel and got the Hampton Inn in Chelsea for $150! Including daily breakfast!

Something new we did on this trip that I had never done before was to take the subway everywhere. I didn't realize that this weekend would be a Big Deal tourist weekend—the crowds were massive everywhere we went. So we just pulled out the maps, logged on to mta.info, and went almost everywhere by train. Piece o' cake! I can't even imagine how much money we saved on cab fare. And we got everywhere much faster than if we were up above, fighting traffic.

Thursday evening we went to Morandi for dinner. What a lovely dining experience! The Jazzman had the fish special, and I think I had some sort of pasta—after a busy two days, I am having a hard time bringing back the details. But what I do remember was the dessert. Ciambella al Cioccolato, a la Morandi, is maybe two or three inches across. TO the best of my recollection, it's a little round circle of coconut, topped by a similar round circle of hazlenuts. In the center is a warm, thick chocolate sauce. There was some chocolate drizzled over the plate, and a side of coconut gelato. I may have part of this wrong, but the essence is the same: heaven! You'll simply have to visit Morandi to see for yourself.

After dinner, we again hopped on the subway and went up to Rockefeller Center to see the tree, the skaters, and the lavish Christmas windows in Saks Fifth Avenue.

Don't get me wrong. It was cold-cold-cold outside, but worth every frigid minute.

A great first day of a quick getaway.

When you get a minute, here's NBC's video of the Christmas tree being placed and decorated.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The First Day of December

…and Northeast Ohio woke to snow.

I'm in my toasty office with the new, well-insulated windows. Angel is lying curled up in the cat basket, looking at all the birds in the tree just outside the window, dreaming of lunch (were he ever allowed outside!).

All is well with the world.



Look at those ears! Don't tell me that boy's not thinkin' about hunting!