Saturday, March 31, 2012

Just FYI

I'm alive! Just busy- brunch, opera, St. Patrick's, dinner, off-B play, now a movie. We may not return rested tomorrow, but we will return cultured!

Saturday at the Opera

This is the first time I've seen Lincoln Center since the finished all the renovation construction. I like the changes and especially the Parisian effects of the plaza.

We're all dressed up and just enjoyed brunch on the Grand Tier (post to come). Now, opera!

Friday, March 30, 2012


Jason arrived from work just as I was finishing dressing for dinner. We took a cab uptown to a Gordon Ramsey restaurant called Maze at the London hotel.

As you can barely see in the dim photos, I had a duck confit salad with foie gras and a pork chop with beets, bacon, and honeycomb. I am a fan of meat with honeycomb now. Dessert was the clear victor - a chocolate fondant with a bottom layer of caramel and cardamon and almond ice cream. The chef also sent out caramel truffles that were surprisingly liquidic. And also delicious.

After dinner we appropriately saw (and enjoyed) The Hunger Games. And now to bed for tomorrow's the opera!

Flower Show!

After my trip to the Met (which was great - I saw among other things a temporary exhibit called The Stein Collection all about Gertrude, her brothers, and the art collection they culled. My favorite piece was a Buddha-like statue of Gertrude created that way because, the artist said, a bust cannot capture her true spirit. Fittingly, as she was sitting for it, Gertrude composed a 'word photograph' of the artist as thanks. I do like her.) I headed south to Macy's to see their flower show. The line was short, although the inside was congested with people taking pictures. With a Brazilian theme, the flowers were bright, tropical, and plentiful.

The roof display picture was taken for you fans of Plants vs. Zombies.

Springtime in New York

No wonder they write songs about it.


A hot pretzel from a vendor who called me "Doll" and a "Golden Age of Black Music" street concert outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Union Square Market

Prior to brunch, I walked through the farmer's market. I was tempted to buy a bunch of tulips for our hotel room, they were so pretty. Then I was tempted to buy a bunch of lettuce for our hotel room, they were so pretty. I did not buy anything there; though I did buy a new purse at a store whose name immediately made me think of Emily. She fought hard for us to take a boat from Barcelona to this disco paradise island we heard backpackers talking about. Budget prevailed where common sense did not, but she did spend the rest of the trip singing the "We're going to Ibiza, oh, oh, oh" song we heard on the local radio.

Le Pain Quotidien


Service is slow, but I've got a book and nothing I have to do, only things I want to do, so I'm savoring my first meal of the day.

Le menu:
- Zucchini and goat cheese frittata with mesclun salad
- Belgian hot chocolate (which they serve as steamed milk with a side of dark chocolate syrup so you can mix it to your liking)
- and, of course, a pain au chocolate for dessert

Now if you'll excuse me, my book is calling. :)

Thursday, March 29, 2012


I rendezvoused with Jason at the hotel after the show. He was working, as you might expect, but soon wrapped up so we could go to Danji's for dinner.

Except! Alas! We got there and we're told their kitchen had just closed (contrary to the hours listed on their website). Miffed and hungry (a dangerous combination with Jason, but he stayed cheerful overall), we went instead to the Shake Shack. It was salty and crowded and tasty.

Post Sleep No More

Oh, what a show! No details now - off to dinner. But, oh, what a show!

Sleep No More

Here I go!

Unassuming, isn't it?


Kind of. Let's just call it meal #2 of the day, since it's way past lunchtime, but dinner will be post-show. I was thrilled to spot a Maoz near the hotel. I've eaten there a few times in Europe and it's pretty tasty! Falafels in pitas with a good salad bar.

The Milford Plaza Hotel

Now that I'm here, I'm actually surprised we got this place at the rate we did. Renovations are just wrapping up on this place, which might explain the bargain for a place so close to Times Square.

As you can see, the room is tres trendy. Talk about hotel hipness! How can you beat a bright red wall that says "RESTaurant" above you as you sleep?

The elevator picture is one I snapped put of fond reminiscence of the elevator at our hotel in Paris. This one fits me, my bag, and has room to spare!

I'm going to freshen up then go hit the Drama Bookstore in search of materials for next year. After I stop by a pharmacy to buy a hairbrush, that is. Whoops.

On the Bus

I'm on a bus in Queens right now, making my way slowly to the metro.

I'm trying to figure out how I've gotten into the city before. I thought LaGuardia was connected by metro. Apparently not. Yet I have flown into LaGuardia before, I'm sure of it. Has it always been with my family at this airport and therefore by cab? Hmm.

Fortunately, I'm in no rush. The flight was fine aside from turbulence and a very unhappy, very loud toddler.

Okay. Back to watching for my stop.

Bushy-tailed and Bleary-eyed in Terminal B

I have proved once again that it is impossible to get a proper night's sleep before a trip. :)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


I am mid-packing, mid-cleaning, and midway through the "Going to New York City" music playlist my Dad made for me a few trips ago ("Rhapsody in Blue" is the tune-of-the-moment). While I am well on my way to a late bedtime, as usual before a trip, a lot of my other pre-big-trip traditions (panicking about what shoes to bring, reorganizing my entire iPhone music library, uploading movies to the iPad, etc.) are not arising tonight.

A few weeks ago I spoke with my principal about the end-of-the-year trip I'm taking with students to New York. In the course of the conversation he referred to it as "a once-in-a-lifetime experience" for those kids.

The phrase surprised me. A weekend trip to New York, while still fun in both anticipation and execution, just isn't a big deal anymore. Come to think of it, while I haven't lived there, I have spent more time there cumulatively than some of the places I have lived. It may be because I've spent so much time away from home this year (overnight speech meets + long stays at the Mountain Town condo), but packing up for a four-day trip feels like just another one of those things I do.

I guess a trip to New York is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for some people. It was for me up until college. But I'm hoping my students will turn this once-in-a-lifetime event into a first-in-a-lifetime event.   In the meanwhile, I like that I get to look forward to new experiences (like this tomorrow night) as well as many old favorites (like this, this, this, and of course this).  I'm also looking forward to traveling stateside so I still get unlimited data on my iPhone.  Yay, mobile blogging!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

"Grr," She Muttered While Contemplating Taking a Nap

I am mad at my work at the moment.

I was so on top of things this year. We had that snow day back in early February, which I celebrated in part by doing my taxes. It was not a week later that we had an email from HR stating that they made an error on the W-2s and would need to issue new ones. Which means I have to refile.

Although it works out in my favor (I actually also left out a charitable donation from my original forms as well, so I figured what the heck, I'll add that correction too), it does mean I have to file a correction by mail. And the last time I did that (back when I moved to CO and made a mistake while trying to file for two states' taxes in the same year that I purchased a home), I got audited. Not man-in-a-suit-at-my-door audited, no. But still an unpleasant notice to receive.

And so, as a part of my spring breaking, I refiled my taxes and dwelt (for just a little bit) on my bitterness towards the HR department at my school.

Speaking of anxiety-producing emails, I received one from the people hosting that summer program in London. This is the second piece of communication I've had from them, the first being a letter stating they received my application. Both missives produced high levels of anticipation when I saw them, despite knowing that it was far too early for grant notification.

This email states (in part - I'm editing enormously for length):

We send this group letter to tell you about the schedule for notifying applicants for our Summer 2012 NEH Seminar on Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.... There have been 146 applications for the 16 places in the seminar.... The three members of the selection committee have been reviewing the applications assiduously.... As you can imagine, a high number of the applications are splendid, and it is obvious even before our discussion that choosing among many dozens of impressive applications will be difficult....

...and so on.  I had been wondering just how many applications would be received for such a thing - it's a trip to London, after all, and it's the Canturbury Tales, and it's open to all US K-12 teachers (including homeschoolers).  But it's also an expensive trip (they state openly that the stipend will not cover all the costs), it's a month away from home, it's the Canturbury Tales....  While 146 is actually  less than I imagined (I was picturing more around 300), somehow knowing the exact number makes me feel so much less likely to be awarded a spot.

In contrast I haven't heard a single word from the other NEH seminar I applied to.  But the two programs were so different in tone and approach, that really doesn't surprise me too much.

I'm glad I've got a trip soon to help keep my mind off of this.  I'm looking forward to everything Jason and I have planned for this weekend.  I'm also looking forward to how I get to spend Friday while Jason's at work - there's the new Renoir exhibit at the Frick, the Union Square Farmer's Market, breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien, browsing the Drama Bookstore for speech scripts and class plays for next year... You see?  Plenty of distractions to be had!

Speaking of distractions, I had enough plans to make me stick around town for the first half of Spring Break since, well, ever.  In between getting over my cold and watching Mad Men (not the new episode - I just started watching the series this weekend), the schedule of events were as follows:

- Thursday night was the Season 2 finale of Sherlock at Rachel's.
- Friday night was the symphony.
- Saturday I met a friend, Lisa, for lunch at Blue Sky Cafe and a matinee of The Artist (she had not seen).
- Sunday I taught Relief Society.
- Monday I went to Trivia (3rd place - my contributions were mainly in the British Monarchy category and the Hello Kitty category):

And today, as noted, I refiled my taxes. I also had all kinds of repairs done on my car and did some shopping/crafting for a certain mother's upcoming birthday. Wink, wink.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Inside the Score: Beethoven's Eroica

When I was in middle school, my dad took me to the symphony for my birthday, just me and him. While I don't recall the music selection that evening (something Halloween-related, I believe) or even which venue it was in (was the Colorado Symphony playing at Boettcher Hall back then?), I do remember feeling incredibly grown-up and incredibly excited to do something like that with my dad.

Although I have been to several classical concerts since that evening, I don't go to the symphony nearly as often as I attend the other performing arts. A part of my lack of attendance is a lack of knowledge. While I certainly enjoy well-played music, I do not have the formal education to fully appreciate a symphonic performance. I have some knowledge of classical music; but the inner workings of an orchestra, the nuances of a fine performance, even the real role of the conductor are all outside my ken. And, oddly, when I am unable to critique, I find I do not enjoy my evening as much.

When I heard about the Colorado Symphony's "Inside the Score" series, though, it seemed right up my alley. So yesterday evening I curled my newly-red hair, donned my theater blacks, treated myself to dinner at the Bombay Bowl, then took myself to the symphony.

As the audience took their seats and the orchestra warmed up, a series of facts about the Eroica symphony and Beethoven were projected on the large screen that was set up behind the players. I had bought the cheapest seat possible, but the venue was hardly crowded and the usher directed me to a place closer to center because "you'll be able to see the screen better from there, honey."

The lights dimmed, the usual formalities took place, the conductor lifted his baton, and the symphony began to play. Then, not 2 minutes into their performance, the musicians stopped and the conductor turned to the audience. "That is not the beginning of Beethoven's Eroica," he said. "But it is where we are going to start tonight."

He then began a lecture on the music, on Beethoven, on Napoleon, and on art. With the use of well-planned and simply-executed slides on the screen behind him, the conductor, Scott O'Neil, explained the musical theme of this work. He crossed to the grand piano set up downstage and played that theme, E-D-F-E, pointing out how it turns around a central point. As he walked us through the variations and twists Beethoven created with the turning, he would play them for us on the piano. Then he would pick up the baton and have the full orchestra play that section of music while the musical notations for that section appeared on the screen behind them, coaxing us to pick out for ourselves what he had just taught us to listen for.

He spent the most time explaining the first movement, picking apart the theme, the variations, and using that movement to teach about musical structure - the exposition, the development, the recapitulation, and the coda. He told us how much Beethoven loved the coda - while the coda for Mozart's Symphony #40 has 11 measures, the coda for this movement has 135! Once we had a working (if basic) understanding of what Beethoven was doing technically with the piece, Mr. O'Neil then had the orchestra play the entire movement.

The second movement, the funeral march, was used to explain the Napoleonic connection to this piece. Again, the orchestra played snippets of the music to illustrate Mr. O'Neil's points. He also spoke more to the role of different instruments. They played the opening of the movement, and I was struck by how effectively the solemn and militaristic tone was set by the snare drums. Then Mr. O'Neill turned to the audience, "Those of you more familiar with the piece are aware that the snare drums are not used in this movement. Instead, Beethoven has the basses play the role of the snare drums with low, low growls." They replayed the opening, and there was the drumming of the military parade done without drums.

We learned about the influence of the Prometheus myth, of Beethoven's empathy with the fallen Titan who brought art to mankind and who suffered great belly pain. We learned about Clementi's Piano Sonata, which inspired the idea of turning musically around a central point. We learned about the Heiligenstadt Testament, about Beethoven's yearned for just "one day of pure joy." And, like any formally-trained teacher, Mr. O'Neil addressed the motivation for this lecture. He discussed the critical reception of the symphony when it was first performed, and pointed out its significance to music since then. "But why study a piece in such depth?" he asked. "Can't we just listen to a piece of music and be intrinsically moved by it?" Yes, he said. You can do that. "But context matters. Isn't it possible we can both feel with our minds and think with our hearts?"

And I wholeheartedly agree. I had more fun at this concert than I have had at the symphony in years. Mr. O'Neil is a good lecturer, and the slideshow was a very effective learning tool. It was fascinating to listen to a concert while reading the sheet music on the big screen. It was also quite fun when the slideshow took on characteristics of "The Word" from The Colbert Report, simultaneously making additional points and making fun of Mr. O'Neil. Because of the educational framework I had more fun more than I ever would have had I just listened to Eroica, and I left with two thoughts ringing in my head: 1) How very, very much my parents would have enjoyed this event as well and 2) How I am going to keep a close eye on the Colorado Symphony's "Inside the Score" series, and I am certainly looking forward to going to the symphony again.

Because Of Course

Here's a little quiz for those of you who know me well:

It's the first day of vacation, and I've just finished up a major production.  Can you guess what I woke up with?

If you answered a cold and a cat on my chest, you're right!  You win a box of tissues and a lungful of gray fur!  Ding! Ding! Ding!

Shipping and Handling Charges May Apply

Monday, March 19, 2012

Strange and Wonderful

Despite a restless night (mild food poisoning + a brain that wouldn't go quiet), my students and I tackled the strike for the musical today.  Between the two drama classes we cleaned out the backstage areas, sorted all of the leftover props and costumes, put away the ones that belong to this theater and folded up the ones that students need to pick up this week.  Miraculously, we even got all of the new platforms to fit in the back storage area.

Check out my theater now:

BB Strike
Wing Stage Left

BB Strike
Behind the Cyc

BB Strike
Wing Stage Right (which is also the shop, such as it is)

BB Strike
Dressing Rooms
What really amazes me is how we did it with time to spare. It's taken three years, but I've finally shoveled out all of the crap the old teacher left behind and organized everything to the point of working order. I love how much easier strike is when everything has a designated place.

It was with even greater amazement that I found this after work:

BB Strike
Look! I'm walking out to my car and it's still daytime!
It's been months since that has been the case, and over six weeks since I've spent more than two consecutive nights in my own bed. I'm looking forward to that tonight.

I'm also looking forward to other treats this non-after-school-activity-laden week:
- Getting my hair cut tomorrow
- Wrapping up state testing
- No school on Friday (the kick-off to Spring Break)
- Hopefully spending some time with Rachel and co.
- Reading! Reading! Reading! (Oh, I've missed you! It's been two weeks since I've read a book! Do you know how long that is in Amanda-years?)
- and, just because I can, I bought myself a symphony ticket for this Friday night.

The Colorado Symphony is doing a special event where they... well, here, I'll let them tell you:

Beethoven’s masterpiece is deconstructed in front of your eyes with stunning visuals, musical sound bytes and clever anecdotes, including revealing information about the composer’s relationship with Napoleon, to whom the symphony was originally dedicated. Heroism and an idealized vision of redemption through love permeate the great master’s work. Then hear the entire “Eroica” with a renewed understanding and appreciation for the art that was and will always be Beethoven.

Sounds like fun, doesn't it? I've curious to see how they educate a large audience about this work, and I'm looking forward to hearing it. I've lived in Denver for almost 4 years (this time around), and I haven't been to the symphony yet. Shame on me!

Happily, I now have time to remedy that.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Good Show, Everyone, Good Show! Oh My Goodness, Look at the Time! Off to Bed, Off to Bed!

Glory be, the show is done!

Happily, it went really well. The audience size increased each night, leading up to a closing night so packed we lined the back wall with folding chairs. The kids did better and better each night, fixing mistakes and solving problems on their own aside from the occasional disaster that they really needed a calm adult to help with. And even then they alerted me to each one quickly and quietly, and followed instructions to the T. The comments I heard over and over again from the parents and community members was that this was the best show MTHS has ever done.

My parents were sweet enough to battle their jet lag and come up from Junction for the show, which means that instead of sneaking into the school to paint brick lines on the set, I spent Saturday at a picnic in the park. I couldn't fully relax sans projects, though, so I recruited my parents to help me make cards for the cast and crew. They kindly folded and glued while I wrote the notes and made the drawings. I knew it was crazy to hand-make 50 cards this week, but some projects I just can't let go of.


Cards 2

The kids liked them, though.  As I was doing one boy's hair backstage he said quietly, "Thanks for the card, Aguafasa" (their new nickname for me, which I am rather fond of).

"Well, I meant it," I said.

"Stop it!" he said.

"Sorry," I said, comb frozen mid-hair, "Did I pull too hard?"

"No," he said, "Stop being so adorable."

This kid, I tell you. He's trouble.

I'm full of the post-show fondness for them all, of course. I'm proud of their performances, proud of how the show turned out, proud of Rachel's choreography. She took a bunch of pictures during the last show (which you can look through here) and posted a few of her favorites (many of which are also my favorites) here.

How cute are these people?

My parents and I spent the night at the Mountain Town condo and had breakfast this morning at the truck-stop cafe at the base of the hill. It was fun to see them, to see photos of their trip and to hear more about it in person. After breakfast we packed up the condo, including a very freaked out Natasha (note to self - trying to put Nash into her carrier while the vacuum is running will lead to blood), and parted ways. Once I got home I unloaded my car and broke the Sabbath in search of food for the next few days and to scrub the white paint off my car. I ate a late lunch at home and fell asleep halfway through. Fortunately the windstorm this afternoon woke me up, and I was able to get a few more things done before my real bedtime.

Tomorrow I go back to work. We'll block the Drama 1 play this week and I need to run call-backs for the Adv. Drama play inbetween more state-testing-time schedule wackiness.  We'll also have to strike the set, clean up the backstage, and I need to process all the ticket proceeds and get the materials shipped back to MTI.  Strangely, though, I do not have any student-centered after-school obligations. I'll teach and then... go home, I guess. Weird.

And maybe, if I'm lucky, I'll stop dreaming of set changes and notes I need to give the actors.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Avenue Q is Only Partially Correct

Jesse and I asked permission last year to set up a Facebook group for the musical so we could stay in touch with the company as needed. Permission was granted on the condition that we write strict instructions into the show's behavior contract about what students are allowed to post on there. My principal's caution is warranted - the ugly and extraordinarily harmful affects of cyber-bullying are well-documented and need to be guarded against. So Jesse and I added a few lines to the contract and set up a page.

And while last year's Facebook group was useful, it wasn't a major part of our process. Knowing that a big part of that was my own personal abhorrence of and intolerance for Facebook, this year I outsourced it. I appointed one of my senior girls "Facebook Queen" and created a blog where Rachel, Jesse, and I could post comments, helpful videos and links, and rehearsal notes without having to tread into Facebook. The Facebook Queen receives an email each time one of us posts on the blog, and she then copies the entire blog post to the musical's group page for the rest of the cast to see. It works because a) there are a few students who are parentally prohibited from using Facebook, so everyone has access and b) I don't have to use Facebook to communicate with the rest of the students.

Two nights ago I logged into Facebook to check out the group page in search of the trailer (which Rachel posted on her blog tonight). I was absolutely delighted with what I found there. Here, take a look:

For example, these are some of the comments made for one of the posts of post-rehearsal notes:

(By the way, I apologize now for my sloppy editing skills.  I made a quick job of blurring student names and photos.)

But they don't just write when we ask them to.  Here's a sample of some posts from the past few days:

Post 7
Post 6
Post 1
Post 4
Post 5
Post 3

They also use it to help each other out:

Post Eyeliner

And I am a fan of this one in particular from about a month ago:

So here's the thing. I share these to dispel two ugly misconceptions that I hear all too frequently, especially in Relief Society:

1) The Internet (and Facebook) is not evil. It can be an incredible force for good. It can create awesome and decrease world suck, to paraphrase the Vlogbrothers. It can make my show better, and it can make lives better, even if it's in very small comments.

2) Teenagers are not evil. They can be an incredible force for good. They can create awesome and decrease world suck. They make this show, and they make my life better, even through very small comments.