Tuesday, January 23, 2007

No Complaining Day

I had a weird thought the other day. I'd had a day where I was talking to a lot of people. I noticed that most of the conversation was about what's wrong with their lives. I'm not talking about problems they're working on solving. I'm talking about whining and complaining about things they can't do anything about. I do it, too. So I suggested to Paul that we should have a "No Complaining Day". And I wondered if people would have trouble finding things to talk about, if they couldn't complain. I think we all need to "get over ourselves" and find reasons to be grateful for the good things we have. But, that's just my opinion. YMMV, as they say online.

I'm still walking. I think I lost a whole pound in the last two weeks. It's winter and super cold. I suspect my body is hanging onto the fat to keep warm. I don't know if that's scientific, nor have I ever seen any research on it. But thinking that makes me feel good, so I'm going to keep thinking it. And keep walking.

Today is one day I don't have a rehearsal, but I have music to do every day. Practicing the songs I'm singing is the main thing. But I'm also working on putting the Ladyesong music into my computer so I can burn rehearsal CDs for everyone. I hope they'll help people, particularly those who don't read music, hear their parts and learn them accurately. It's so hard to do that when you don't have a way to listen to your own part, without the other parts muddling up the works.

Last night the San Jose Chamber Orchestra celebrated Barbara Day Turner, the founder and music director's, birthday with a fundraiser. It was one of those milestone birthdays, so they called it "Maestra's Milestone". Good food. Lots of cool people. Fun entertainment that included a bit from a concerto for harp that will be premiered in May. And a humorous look at the birthday girl's life, put together by one of the board members. All in all, it was a great evening.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Blogging

I suppose it's only natural that when you blog, eventually you'll write about blogging itself. It's an interesting phenomenon, this blogging thing. I'm noticing that many of my posts have been sparked by what I've read on someone else's blog. This is one reason I think blogging has become a kind of conversation, not just individuals musing about stuff and hoping other people will care about their musings.

I think the conversation aspect is also why people enjoy getting comments from people reading their blogs. Blogs have a connection between people that writing essays for traditional publications don't have. In traditional publishing, pre-blog days, you waited to see if maybe someone wrote to the editor about your essay. When you write a blog, you get instant feedback when people comment on what you've written. Today, though, even traditional publishing has that more immediate connection because usually you can email the writer directly. A lot of writers have blogs, too, and you can read more there and comment.

This all seems obvious, now that blogging has become so common. But blogging is such a recent phenomenon that it boggles my mind how quickly it's become a part of our culture. No surprise to me that us social creatures will glom onto any way to try to communicate with each other. Sometimes I wonder, though, if we're really communicating because, as with every type of communication, there's what we think we wrote, what we wrote, and what you read.

Stuff

I walked an extra day this week. Paul worked overtime and I didn't want to sit at home this morning. So I meandered off to El Paseo and had coffee at Peet's. That's two miles each way. I didn't push for speed because this wasn't supposed to be a workout, yet it only took me 50 minutes to get there. That's a ton faster than my normal walking pace of a year ago, and a year ago I wouldn't have been able to make it at all. I've come a long way since I started walking and that's a good thing.

I normally don't write fanfic. But I have one that won't leave me alone. It's in a world who's creator has said it's OK to do fanfic and I'm not going to post it up anywhere or anything. It's just for me to play with. The idea includes some types of writing that I've never done before and they're not needed for my current WIP. So, I decided to explore this idea and these writing techniques as a reward after I finish my work on 50 Ways for the day. It's a just for fun thing, and I'm always up for fun stuff.

Other than that, things are pretty much the same around here. Paul and I are celebrating the first paycheck of the new job by going out to dinner. It's kind of a ritual thing we do when he starts a new job. We hope this is the last one for a very long time. We have tickets to a concert tonight, too. We're not sure we're going because it's about 30 miles away and he's worked six days this week. A late night may not be in the cards. If he's too tired, we'll give the tickets to one of our sons and just enjoy a quiet dinner and maybe a browse in a bookstore.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Walking and other stuff

Walking is becoming a bit of an addiction, I think. I get grumpy if I can't walk. That's a good thing. I discovered I can walk to the mall that's two miles away, have coffee, and walk home without any problem. That's a total of four miles. I don't think I've ever been able to walk that far this easily. It's cool.

I'm thinking that good days to update this blog are Tuesday, Friday, and over the weekend, since those are the days I don't have rehearsals and stuff. That way I won't be taking time away from practicing music and writing in order to write in the blog. So, I don't think I'm sticking to my original plan of writing every weekday, not that I've been doing that recently, anyway. It's just that I'd thought of trying to get back to that original goal. My life is much busier now, though, and I don't have as much time to blog. A busy life is a good thing, so I'm happy with making that change. It's doable, so I'm more likely to do it.

I'm settling into a good routine for my new job, my music, church, and family stuff. I don't like rigid schedules, but a general routine is helpful because it allows your brain to think about more important and interesting things than, "When am I going to do this or that?" I started a to do list in my little calendar. I don't always get everything done, but I expect that and start with the most important things first. I put things on my to do list that are fun, rewards for doing the not-so-fun stuff. I'm not rigid about it, though. Sometimes I do the fun things first and sometimes I only do the fun things. But sometimes I eat dessert first or go out and get dessert instead of dinner. Life's too short not to enjoy as much of it as you can, as long as you don't become a total hedonist and ignore your responsibilities completely.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Things are Humming Along

All of my music has started back up. Paul has one group that won't start for another week. I've joined another choir, one Paul sang with over Christmas. It's called "Funtimes Singers". I need to get back in the habit of posting concert dates and info, in case any local folks are looking for something fun to do.

It looks like spring is bustin' out with show tunes. Two of my choirs are doing a lot of show tunes this season. It's going to be fun. The music for Funtimes isn't going to be too difficult, which is a good thing, since Ladyesong looks like there will be some super challenging stuff and lots of memorized music.

I like my new job a lot. It's another musical thing, in a way. I'm taking care of phones, ticket sales, and miscellaneous office work for the San Jose Chamber Orchestra. It looks like music is going to play a bigger part in my life, now that my kids are grown up and I have the time for it.

Writing may seem like it's far from my life, but it really isn't. I just haven't been blogging about it much. This past year I've been writing the occasional blog entry, emails, chatting, and doing lots of journaling. Lots of words have left my pen, but not much fiction. I'm not super upset about that. As I look back on it, there are a lot of good reasons more journaling got done than fiction writing. It's not important what they were. What's important is that things are now working better and I can focus on fiction more this year than last year. I knew it would work out this way. I just didn't know when. It's kind of ironic, in a way, that it all changed right at New Year's, since I try so hard not to make resolutions or changes at New Year's, mainly because doing it is sort of expected.

Anyway, I have a lot of typing of stuff I wrote by hand to do. And then I can write new stuff. It will likely be a couple of weeks before the word meter moves. I have a tendency to lose words, not add them, when I type stuff in. I don't change the progress bar when the word count goes down. I just wait until I've added more, as I always do. We'll see.

Still walking. When I started walking to the shopping center, it took me 45 minutes each way. Today it took me 35 minutes to get home. So, I'm walking faster. I wonder if the cold weather is partly at fault. I walk faster to stay warm. In any case, I'm enjoying my walks and coffee and private time to write in my journal.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Happy New Year!!

I don't do resolutions, so don't expect to see a post about them here. You'll have to move on to someone else's blog for that.

Here's an update on the ongoing drama that is my life. First, Paul loves his new job. It's working out great. Benefits start after only one month on the job. I see new glasses, dental work, and routine medical stuff on our horizon, finally. I can find out how to handle the health issues that have kept me from working the past few years. I am going to have to find the "dreaded day job", as artistic types call the money work that puts a roof over their heads and food on the table so they can devote some time to their art. It's just too expensive here in CA to rent a place on one average income.

I hope to finally get a notebook computer sometime this year. I'm doing some part-time work from home for a friend. It's not a lot of money, but if I save it up, I should have enough for the machine I want before the year is up. And when I get that regular job, I can add some of that money to the PT income.

I'm still walking. I was up to 3 miles on the track. After Paul started his job, I started walking to a local shopping center for coffee. It's about 3-1/2 miles, total. It surprised me how easy the walk is. I'm thinking about walking a different direction to a coffe place that's 2 miles, one way. At least while I'm not working and have the time to do it. I don't know what my current weight loss is or my blood pressure. I started walking mainly hoping to lower the blood pressure, so we'll see, come February, whether I succeeded in that. The last time I was on a scale, which was a few weeks ago, I'd lost 33 pounds. Not bad for a person who wasn't trying to lose weight. I used Christmas gift money for much-needed new clothes. 4 sizes smaller. I'm happy with that and, while it would be great to keep losing, I'd be fine with maintaining for a while.

I didn't post for the last couple of weeks because of the super busy holidays. We had the regular stuff everyone does, plus four choirs between us to do rehearsals and concerts and stuff. It was great!! Then it was kind of a letdown because they all took a break. We needed the break, but I still missed it. It's all starting back up again this week and I'm looking forward to it. I'm going to be singing in three groups this spring. The music looks like it will be challenging and fun.

Last, a recipe, sort of, to start the new year with. It's not a recipe as much as a technique. I've been experimenting with braising these days because all the cheap cuts of meat need long, slow cooking to be tender. And that's what's been on sale. I'm looking for really simple stuff, so I started experimenting with that pot roast recipe I posted a while back.

I got a large pork shoulder roast on sale a couple of weeks ago. I had them cut it into two smaller roasts. I decided to try to do one like Pork Carnitas and the other like BBQ Pulled Pork. So, I kept the idea of putting the roast on a bed of sliced onion and cooking it at 400ยบ F. I added one large can of enchilada sauce for the Carnitas and two regular-sized bottles of BBQ sauce for the Pulled Pork. Next time, I think I need to double the amount of enchilada sauce so there will be enough to spoon on the filled tortillas.

I cooked them on two different days using the same technique. I put them in for an hour. Then I turned the roast and spooned sauce over the top. I cooked them for another hour, turned and spooned sauce over. I stirred the sauce in the pan, too, so it wouldn't be as likely to burn. The last couple of hours, I did the turning, spooning, and stirring every half hour. Because I wanted shredded meat, I cooked them for a full four hours. If I'd wanted to slice it, I'd have only cooked them for 2-1/2 to 3 hours.

To serve them, I used two forks to shred the meat. I put beans and cooked rice in the enchilada-flavored pork, but next time, I'm serving the rice separately. I thought the rice flavor covered up the pork flavor too much. I served the enchilada filling in whole wheat tortillas. I made sandwiches out of the BBQ Pulled Pork, using ciabatta rolls, rather than softer hoagy rolls. The BBQ sauce really soaks into the bread, so you need a hard roll or it will get soggy and hard to eat.

Both were excellent and better left over, as long-cooked dishes often are. Both of these are wonderful winter dishes. The oven keeps the kitchen toasty warm while you cook dinner. Mangia!!