Saturday, December 31, 2011

dancing again?

I know, how many dancing-related posts can I put in one blog? What can I say, the girls still love it, it's something they do that takes a lot of time and thus a lot of mine, at performances I always have my camera because those outfits are so darn photo-worthy.
There are no competitions at this time of year, but there are plenty of extra performances. Kate and Erin didn't even sign up for all of them because some conflicted with my work schedule, but the St. Andrew's performance and this evening outdoor performance right before Christmas were the biggest ones and they were really looking forward to both of them. On a campy stage downtown the kids danced a shorter version of their extravaganza show that they did in November. The stage is located right in the center of a large downtown park where there are Christmas events every night and they had a really large audience for the show.
I worried about them being too cold in their outfits but they got to stay in a relatively warm tent before going on stage and again back in the tent in between dances. Since the lighting was far less than ideal for action shots I didn't get any good photos of the dancing, but you've all seen plenty before.

After the show the emcee and one of the dance teachers posed with the night's dance group. Erin and Kate are both seated in the front row.
Competition season 2012 will be underway very shortly, with Kate and Erin signed up for their first one in January. Now that Kate is a beginner, she'll be competing against Erin. Several other siblings we know have to do the same. I hope that little wrinkle won't cause either of them to enjoy dancing any less than they do now.

it wouldn't be christmas

Grandma was going to be heading up to the Seattle area to spend xmas with Sue's family, but before she left she kindly scheduled a cookie making and decorating day with the girls. It turned into quite a task with 3 varieties of cookies, including the absolutely mandatory and legendary "green tree" cookies. This are the one Christmas food tradition in John's family, and even a very large batch doesn't last much more than a day around here.
After many trees and some other cookies were done Grandma got out a project I hadn't seen before. She melted marshmallows and poured them over Kix cereal, then they stuffed the mix into butter-coated paper cones, which they could then remove and roll in sprinkles to decorate.

The result, very cute and definitely tasty, much like a rice krispies treat. We'll have to do this one again.

at st. andrew's

A few days before Christmas a very large Scottish church holds a big Christmas concert every year. The girls missed this performance last year because of our Hawaii trip, but they were eager to participate this time. The church is gigantic and was absolutely packed full while a large pipe band, Scottish string orchestra, and the dancers from our dance school performed. There was also some singing and reading of Scottish folk tales. The whole event lasted more than 2 hours. John skipped it, Allison joined me in the audience, though it went on for so long that she lost interest about half-way through.

After the pipe band entered, the dancers came in and took their place down the very long center aisle of the church.

Kate and Erin were right near each other, Kate has her new red and black national outfit.

Despite Allison's boredom, it was actually a really good performance overall, I mean, if you're into this kind of thing, which has definitely grown on me. The crowd was really appreciative and afterwards we saw some friends who had been in the audience. At the tea reception following, several audience members stopped Erin and Kate to compliment them on their dancing.

christmas crafts

Before Christmas we attended a large girl scout event for the whole county, held in a gigantic building at the fairgrounds. The place was filled with booths staffed by various troops and they were either selling holiday crafts they'd made, or hosting a booth where you could make your own crafts.

We learned from others that the making crafts booths were the most fun so we spent most of our time there. This is exactly the sort of event I'd love to avoid in the future. It was so loud in there, with hundreds of people, no where to sit, and we had to stay right together the whole time because the place was such a zoo and without any obvious landmarks, so I thought I'd lose any one of them in no time. Their troops had been there earlier in the day but we had German school and couldn't go until the afternoon, which meant I had to take them myself.
Despite my being not so impressed, the girls were happy with the crafts they made and had a great time overall and want to come back next year, when they suggested their troops run a booth, so that they can be there ALL day long instead of only a few hours.


I promised myself I'd blog about Thanksgiving before Christmas, but I didn't make it. I think I've learned my lesson, I should quit promising myself to blog on a deadline. Who needs the extra disappointment? Just as I started the blog to be able to share photos with family without having to worry about the size of email attachments, I now often feel kind of silly writing about what we do since our families are on facebook and I tend to briefly write about a lot of what we're doing at the time we're doing it.
John invited his entire extended family to Thanksgiving this year, thinking we'd be moved into our new house by then. It was a fair assumption, given that by November we will have owned the house for more than a year, and we know it's a big project, but c'mon. Fourteen months?
Anyway, back to Thanksgiving. Plan B: dinner at Grandma's house. Everyone was here: Sue's family from Washington, Terri's family from Oregon, Laura from Colorado (below), Sydney from New York.

We had two large turkeys.
And thanks to Laura and her idea to have her and Allison, future professional innovative baker in training, make pies the day before, we had many desserts.

And we had a lot of togetherness. I think our girls really like being in the middle age-wise. They are the oldest of the young cousins and they like spending time with Sue's younger 3 girls frm Washington, but they also like getting attention from their 5 big cousins, whom they look up to quite a bit.

The usual gathering in Grandma's yard for photos. We were last all together a year ago in Hawaii for Christmas. We were a big, loud group and I'm sure Grandma won't object to dinner being at our new house next year.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

sheep can dance too

Last week the girls' dance school held their annual fundraising dance show to raise money for workshops and special instructors and also kind of wrap-up the competition-packed year and celebrate together. The instructors come up with the theme of the show and the choreography and place the dancers where they think they'd fit best.

The show was in a large church with a big stage but poor lighting. The lighting plus the fact that both sets of batteries I brought for my best camera were apparently old meant that I didn't get any good photos, but I do have some (mostly pretty dark) videos.

The theme of the show was a group of dancers who travel to Scotland to tour around and compete in the Highland Dance Championships in Cowal. Kate played a sheep in the show, participating in several numbers as one of the more common animals one sees as they travel Scotland. This dance number was about a sheep herder trying to corral her sheep. I found this pretty funny.

Erin's videos were just really too dark, but here is both Kate and Erin doing the Fling as the last number in the show. Since Kate will be competing as a Beginner in 2012, I got her a more official and nicer Highland outfit because the one she had didn't have the right kind of kilt. As a primary the judges let those things slide, I'm told, but not beyond that. She got to wear this outfit for the first time here. She is left and Erin is third from left.

The girls enjoyed lots of homemade goodies brought by many of the parents as part of the fundraiser and Grandma got to come see them dance for the first time. It was a fun show, and I won a great framed photograph in the raffle which will look great somewhere in the new house.

second generation band geek

The girls' school has a 4th/5th grade beginning band and intermediate band which rehearses after school once a week. Since last year Erin knew she wanted to join the band and considered what instrument she'd play. She chose the alto saxophone and I enrolled her in lessons at the beginning of summer, figuring she'd have to "try out" even for beginning band and they'd want kids who had some clue about what they were doing.

When the school year and band started I found out, true to its name, NO ONE in beginning band had any experience with how to play anything. The experienced students are in intermediate band but Erin fell into this grey area where she really wasn't experienced enough to join that band.  So Erin stayed in beginning was kind of bored for the first few classes while her fellow saxophonists struggled with just assembling the instrument and playing one note.

Erin's private lessons continue as she is doing well despite the fact that I know she doesn't practice enough. The pace of school band has picked up and they will have their first concert recital in January.

Meanwhile Erin is really enjoying the social aspects of being in band, which is what I'd been telling her about. She and her "band friends" get together for a play date after practice each week. "And that's where it starts," John says.
Erin plays "Mark Time"

three scouts

Along with Erin, a Junior now in her fourth year in scouts, the twins joined Brownies and are part of a large troop at their new school. Kate loves it so far, but Allison, who I really thought would enjoy the working on various projects that earn badges more than Kate would, is so far is questionably interested. I had to agree to be a co-leader in Erin's troop in order for them to accept her (the troop was getting too big) and I really, really dislike being a girl scout leader. Thankfully I'm one of 6 leaders of that troop so the responsibilites are spread around.

In the twins' troop I am not a leader but parents are expected to help out, and because I have two in the troop I am expected to help out twice as much as any other parent. Thus, I am doing just about as much for their troop as I am for Erin's. My personal girl scout project is finding out a way for me to quit, while letting them stay in. I wonder if there is a badge for that.

the elephant in the room

Our other house.
How's it going? Spectacular, if this were June. Since it's November it's not so great because we thought we'd be living there by now. Here's some of what it looks like.
This is the kitchen/living room area.

And this section of the house has had some good progress, the pantry and half bathroom and family room are also on this side all have drywall and paint as well. The problem is the other half, where all the bedrooms and full bathrooms are. This is the downstairs, near the front door:
And this is upstairs and a look through a wall into the master bathroom.

From the backyard
This shows the Mason-Dixon Line, as John calls it, where the stucco work had to stop.
The only part of the job (that John didn't do) that has gone well, finished on time, and impressed us was the landscaping, which will be finished when the stucco work and exterior painting is finished. Notice the nice walkways and new lawn which has corresponding new sprinklers. They also removed the 10-12 foot tall bushes that blocked of the entire front of the house from the street, which the neighbors probably appreciated for many years, but now that the place is looking better, they had to go.
That isn't the final exterior color by the way. The shingles came in that grey color and once the exterior is done it will all be painted a deep brown.
Don't ask us when we'll get to actually live in the house because we don't know. John is busy there nearly every day but we've had some surprises along the way. More on those later. 


halloween 2011

As usual, Halloween didn't mean just one activity.A friend at school told us about a business window painting contest for the downtown businesses near our new house for kids in the 4th and 5th grade. I signed Erin up and her designated window was at an Italian Resturant. I already had the right type of paint and many colors of it, so Erin drew out a sketch and on the start date I brought her there to get to work. Parental help was forbidden, which was fine with me. She planned out and did everything.

It was clear that we were new to this contest. Other parents set up tarps to shade the painting area for the kids. I wondered why they were doing this since it was warm, but not hot outside. As Erin painted I began to see the reasoning. As the paint dried in the direct sun it kind of crackled, and when she went to paint a second color for details on top of the dry first one, paint would flake off, which Erin did her best to touch-up and repair, but that never looked very good.

As she painted I walked around to scope out the competition. Other kids uses a marker to carefully draw out their often VERY elaborate scenes, taking the whole first day just on this step in some cases. I had no idea that this project would be taken so seriously. Erin just free hand painted some really simple designs, referring to her original sketch rarely. We had 3 days to complete the painting and she was nearly finished after the first, then touched up some areas on the last day.The result wasn't really great, I have to say, but she had fun.

Later on the girls got to go to Grandma's house and decorate some Halloween cookes. Grandma had an impressive array of decorating options for them and the goal quickly became stacking as much sweets as possible on to each cookie, making them impossible to eat without first dissembling them.

At school the Friday before Halloween the kids dressed up for a parade. Their mascot tiger came out for a little rally along with the parents who organized the morning.
Some teachers dressed up as Angry Birds.
Kate wanted to be a Scottish Dancer for the parade. Since she recently got a new dance outfit, I let her wear her very old one, which I got very used and very cheap.
Allison with a boy in her class who I thought had the coolest costume. I thought it was a Swamp Thing, he corrected me to let me know he was a Navy Seal.
Finally Halloween and trick-or-treat came, and not wanting to leave any ground uncovered, the girls started out gathering candy with friends near school, and then came back home to work our neighborhood. -