Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Dig Brush Step, Dig Brush Step, Dig Brush Ball Change Dig Brush Step

One of the benefits of travel is the humility it brings.  I find that having my vocabulary reduced to less than a dozen words, my ability to understand the written and spoken words around me minimized, and my knowledge of basic etiquette and routines befeuddled works stagnant areas of my brain and reminds me how much a little kindness, patience, and assistance matters to someone in a new situation.  It's healthy to be the minority once in a while.  To be the stranger or the foreigner.

Rachel and I attended our first tap class last Wednesday, and as I struggled both with the basic moves and with being the one in the class who couldn't do even the basics, I recalled the humility in travel and realized that this class was giving me a healthy dose of humility in education.

I'm not used to being at the bottom of the class.  The studio offers classes on a rolling basis and people seem to come and go as they can, so last Wednesday's class consisted of me, Rachel, and two other women who have been taking tap for several months, possibly a year.

This meant that when the instructor, a gray-haired lean and angular man named Dennis, had each of us take turns crossing the floor to practice shuffle-flap-ing or flap-heel-toe-ing (or my least favorite: step-toe-heel-heel-step-ing which takes you backwards across the studio), Juila in a spandex skirt executed the moves with little hesitation; Maria of the Yellow Shirt tap-tapped her way across in double time with little spins thrown in every now and then; and I ventured forth slowly, skipping beats, and cursing my left foot for its inability to hit with the same volume and finality as my right foot.  According to Rachel, I also apparently twitch my hands in step with my feet, giving me a semblance to a marionette jerking on its strings.

I found myself entirely out of my comfort zone, but I was quite pleased to be there.  I was nervous and embarrassed, but I was also having fun.  It also felt really useful to be there as a teacher. Being the one who's behind, noticing which accommodations worked and which ones didn't, feeling frustrated when my mind understood perfectly what I was supposed to do and yet being unable to get my feet to do it right - these are good things to be able to recall when I go back to my comfortable classroom and encourage terrified freshman to stand up in front of everyone and act.  By 30 minutes in, I decided that every teacher should be required to take a class in a subject they know nothing about as part of professional development every few years.

I was also gratified when Dennis told Maria of the Yellow Shirt and Lithe Julia that it was my and Rachel's first tap class ever.*  They both exclaimed in disbelief (and kindness), and I breathed easier knowing that they knew we had a good reason for being so terrible.

Happily, when we returned tonight for class #2, I discovered that I actually improved!  I am still nowhere near graceful, precise, or quick; but I understood the terms Dennis threw out, I was better at the floor work, and I even recalled a bit of the combo we worked on at the end.  When I realized the hour was almost up, I was disappointed that we had to stop.  I was sweating, and I was getting it more and more.

I'm really looking forward to next week's class.

* My mother will argue that it was not my first tap class.  True, I studied tap for a bit when we lived in San Francisco.  I had to give it up when we moved to Germany,  and I truly do not recall a single thing from the class except for watching episodes of "Square One" in the back room after class, the way my shiny tan tights felt, and the fact that the two songs we performed at the recital were "That's Far Out!" and "Accentuate the Positive."

This was 26 years ago.  I think I'm justified in claiming that last Wednesday was my first tap class.

Sadly, though, I did not wear a fabulous leotard tonight like the one I had before:

Nor was Rachel wearing a tiara and puffy sleeves, although I'm certainly going to encourage her to add them to her outfit for next week.

P.S.  Rachel took a video of the combo tonight so we could practice and/or laugh at ourselves when we're tapping experts a year from now.  Head over to her blog if you want to check it out!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

New School Year, New Hair Color?

I was originally only going to keep the purple hair until the end of the school year.

Then it was just through New York.

Then it was just until after Asia/Seattle.

Then it was until the end of summer.  The school year was a good time to go back to brown, right?  It's a clean break, a time to start over.  Except the closer I got to school starting up again, the sadder I was to lose the purple.  When I tried to make an appointment with my stylist, I discovered she was on vacation all week.  The soonest I could get in was Saturday, the day after I had to report for duty.  I figured it would still work - I would be brown before I saw any students.

But the more I lamented the change, the more I wondered if I needed to change it at all.  Surely I could find the time once every few weeks to redye it ("Ha!" laughs future mid-speech-season me).  I wasn't sure if purple hair was really kosher for teachers at my school, though.  I mean, I could justify it easily when I did it since it was a result of a bet with the students - I was motivating the Promise of Tomorrow!  But now....  now it was just for me.

Since I couldn't change it beforehand anyway, I went to school Friday planning to see how my principal and superintendent reacted.

And they didn't.  Neither one said a word to me about it or even gave me a questioning glance.

And so I gleefully told my stylist Saturday, "We're keeping the purple!"

"Oh, good," she said.  "I wasn't really sure how to undo it yet."

In progress shot with judgy Luke Perry wanna-be pursing his lips at the camera

Results shot

New Things

Work started up again for me on Friday.  It seemed odd that the Powers That Be decided we teachers should come back on a Friday (the students resume next Wednesday), but it certainly made the transition more bearable knowing that I would get a weekend after just one day's work.  

Of course, it also means that we have to put in an extra-long day on Monday for Back to School Night.  That is a less-than-pleasant way to begin what will surely be an exhausting week.

Tiffany and I met up Friday morning to carpool to work.  John normally drives with us too, but he was diagnosed with a brain tumor over the summer and was operated on just last week.  Happily, his prognosis is good, but he is the second teacher at our school to be diagnosed with and operated on for a brain tumor in four months.  We only have sixteen teachers on staff, so the remarkable statistics led to many jokes at staff meeting about the need to get the water tested and/or issue foil-lined hats to the staff.

Anyway, as Tiffany and I drove up the mountain she lamented the number of things she didn't accomplish over the summer.  I thought about my own list and was pleased to discover that I didn't feel like I had any projects left undone.  I certainly traveled, I checked off the housekeeping projects I wanted to do, and I spent the last 1.5 weeks of summer (post-travel, pre-school) trying out new things.

For instance, I taught myself how to sew shirts:

This was shirt #3.  I felt more confident after the first two shirts, so I played around with the sleeves and collar and I tailored the overall shape much more than the original pattern called for.  You can see the difference if you compare it to this shot of shirt #2:

Additionally, Rachel and I together are finally doing something that's been on our lists for a while.  Can you guess what it is from this picture?

How about now?

Yup!  We're taking tap dancing!

After a lot of schedule comparison, we found a class that might work for both of us.  We're going to do a drop-in this Wednesday, which will certainly double the anxiety I'll already be dealing with for the first official day of school.  I took tap in San Francisco (so... 7 years old?  8?) but gave it up when we moved to Germany since that type of dance class was not available there.  Rachel's never taken tap and, in her words, she wants to learn enough to quit having to fake it whenever a tap number comes up for musical choreography.

I'm nervous, as I always am before things that put me squarely outside of my comfort zone, but I'm excited to try it out, especially with Rachel.  I am also thrilled that I had a good excuse to buy a pair of tap shoes.  They make such happy noises!

Blue Apron

About a month ago, one of the bloggers I follow wrote a sponsored post for a new company called Blue Apron.  A subscription to their service gets you a weekly delivery of groceries for three different meals, recipes included.  At $10 per meal, it's about what I pay normally for dinner since I tend to eat out a lot during the school year.  I decided to give it a whirl to see if this would be a good option to cook more from home.

The Wednesday after I got back from San Diego, I found this waiting for me in the afternoon:

As promised, the box was refrigerator-packed and the food could absolutely sit on my porch for several hours without being compromised.

The recipes were on top, along with a weekly letter that talked about the three meals on the menu.  The tone of the letter was a bit overly enthusiastic, although I appreciated learning that in some versions of the Prometheus myth, a branch of fennel was at the center of the infamous flame.

Here are the full contents of the box:

I especially liked the packaged bags of "knick knacks"

which turned out to mostly hold spices.  Here are the beef ones:

And here are the resulting meals:

Roasted poblano peppers, rice and beef sautee with peptias and currants topped with lime-cilantro Mexican crema

Pan-seared salmon with marinated fennel root and an heirloom potato salad made with whole-grain mustard.  I added a bit of pain Greek yogurt on the side to cut the bitterness of the fennel.

Chicken sate with jasmine rice, marinated green tomatoes, and peanut sauce

The meals were tasty, healthy, and certainly more varied than I usually get.  I liked learning how to make peanut sauce, the green tomatoes in sweetened rice vinegar were a tasty discovery and my favorite food of the week, and I cannot describe how much easier it was to only shop for food for breakfast and lunch.  I signed up for the minimum order - 2 servings each of 3 different meals - and had enough to cover 6 dinners plus a couple of lunches.

The downside to the whole endeavor is the time - the fastest meal (the last one) took 40 minutes.  I've made a few more since this first week, and generally they clock in at 45 minutes-1 hour to prep and cook.  I don't mind that so much now, but I have my doubts about my willingness and ability to sustain this when I start getting home at 6:00.

P.S.  Blue Apron just notified me that I have earned credits to give away meals to three friends/family who haven't tried them yet.  Nice!  If you're interested, shoot me an email.

San Diego 2014

A few weeks ago I joined my family for my final summer trip of 2014 - San Diego.  Or, as it was aptly renamed, Sandy Lego.

Top on the agenda was a trip to Legoland.  While not high on my priority list, Jack is apparently just the right age for it, so my parents, Rachel, Ben, Jack, Sam, and I met Memere and my aunt Nathalie at the front gates Friday morning.

I would agree with what many of my friends said - Legoland is a lot of fun if you're 4-8 years old.  The rides and sights were tame, shade and benches were plentiful, and it's easily doable in a day without getting overwhelmed.

A few photos:

Rachel and Ben ditched their kids with my parents, and the three of us ducked out for the evening to see "Guardians of the Galaxy" - a movie that's so fun I didn't object one bit to seeing it a second time with Lisa less than a week later back in Denver. 

Andy and Jenn arrived late Friday night, and we all met up with the rest of the Waterhouse clan at a park to enjoy a picnic.

Then the rain came:

Pepere, Jack (with his back to me), and my cousins - Lexie and Sadie

Rachel and Sam prioritized shelter over appearances

The rains turned into sprinkles after not too long, and Larry scored a picnic table with a roof; so we were able to stick around the park after all and visit for the afternoon.

Sunday was slated as Beach Day.  The weather was iffy to being with.  We did a little shopping at a nearby mall, then made an attempt to enjoy the ocean.  Alas, the rains foiled our plans once again:

Although Andy resolutely got in at least far enough to get his bathing suit wet:

After drying off and warming up, the whole family met up for dinner.  As we crossed the parking lot, I noticed a sign that looked familiar:

Could it be the same place where Jason and I breakfasted each morning in Seoul?

After dinner, we stopped in to check it out:

It is!  They even have the same wooden trays and tongs:

The pastry selection was a little different; and while Jenn picked out a few treats, I scoped out the grocery store it was attached to:

It turned out to be a Korean grocery store.  It had many familiar products, all of the signs were bilingual, and yes, they even had three different brands of Mochi for sale:

We also noticed a Japanese book/stationary store next door as we were leaving, but it was closed by then and it was our last night there.  I'll have to come back to check it all out the next time I'm in San Diego!