Wednesday, December 31, 2008

and the new year will begin

E and I worked it out so that I can spend a few extra hours w/ my daughter (hmmm, special NYE dinner should be in the works), and us still get to the NYEceili later on. She decided not to go up to my mom's after all. She loves to visit my mom, and my stepfather, but M's been away for a bit on Christmas/holiday break. We'll see my mom tomorrow, then. Today, it is good to be home.

Even I've enjoyed being home today, the intimacies of the cats lives (so that explains the demise of the basil plant E's mother lovingly gave me for Christmas), Daisy so happy to have her mommy (M) home, just being. I've spent much of my time busy with Christmas or working, and/or at E's. Perhaps I should take off NYE more often.

The new year brings about hope. Anything we could wish for is possible, right, like a new day, or a new week, or a new date. New challenges, too, of course, but hope for good possibilities and improving myself.

I go into this about to come new year knowing I should have enough money each month to pay my mortgage (not always a certainty in the past), w/ my dad's estate (or, well, lack of, really) still to run through the court for them to close out and hope perhaps I can still get my piano from Dad's place. Hope my mother's health will stay improving, and M's asthma will get an even better working management plan. Hope that wow, am I well, after having been sick with one thing after another straight through since August, sans one week only so I got my flu shot then. That I'll spend more time with my fluffy warm cats even if it snow squalls again outside. Hope perhaps I'll get a car, finally, and no more buses and sometimes using E's car, and seeing more of my friends again. I look forward to M's continued growth into a young woman, such as these couple days of asking for time to talk, and presenting a plan for a vacation this summer w/ friends, not family, and even asking her dad. And, then tears I won't be home w/ her tonight (I wish I was, too, honey), even though she nixed grandma visit. Hope for her to stay enjoying her teachers (really), doing well and learning at school, and in her activities. Hope I can get more exercise in (E thinks he'll get me running, um, that'd require sneakers and I'm paying off other bills and things first, albeit he promises he'll cut down on his smoking some if I start running some, hmmmmm, well, I can't only walk Daisy and dance). Hope for better environmental laws and regulations, and financial world to not dip too muchdeeper and for us to maybe start recovering, hope my own financial life will continue the slow trend towards better health.

The sun is in those last couple full hours before starting to set on this last day of 2008. Three kitties are with me now, albeit I've gotten time with all five today, and Daisy and the hermit crab, and M as she showed me her various friends on facebook, all whom she knows in real life, too, and most I know as well. It's a continium, time lapsing and moving on, yet we separate it so that we can do things like taxes and work hours and all that coordinates our lives with one another.

I'll spend this separation / continium with M, with E, and seeing my mother and stepfather (not sure what my brother's up to but we did talk last week). I suppose, really, those are who matter most to me right now, closer by. Chatting w/ my aunt, wishing I'd see my goddaughter again soon, etc. But, it's good to have a warm home base to move on from and return to. It's good to have possibilities, and hope.

Martin Luther King, Jr., birthday marks the anniversary of my grandmother's passing (or at least, whatever day it was honored 8 years ago -- I'm better at remembering the holiday name than the date). She was buried the day before our current President was first Inaugurated, so she who worked on Capitol Hill in her heydey presumably after her college years but I'm not certain, got to miss 9/11 there in her town of Arlington that her neighbors were part of, she got to miss the 8 years of Presidency under, sigh, "Dubya." She missed her youngest son's death last year, my father, and her youngest grandson, Ian's, wedding and marriage. She missed this winter so far as one of the warmest on record. Born Quaker in Georgia, her main flaw, oft disguised, was trying to overcome her prejudice for blacks, as she was a good Christian and all, dying a devout Methodist, and Democrat. I wonder if she'd ever imagine the day when a half-black, half-white man would be inaugurated as 44th? President of this united States. There is hope for more reconciliation for our country, too, not limited to blacks and whites.

Today is the anniversary of her husband's death, my granddad, from County Meath, Ireland, entering the U.S.A., via Venezuela, from Ireland. I remember him, and think what all he's missed, too, and us of him. My aunt and her husband are spending a quiet evening in, journaling, reflecting, including the passage of time and people such as my grandma and grandad, her parents, and my father / her brother, and his family, too.

It's a new day dawning within about 16 hours. A continium, yet fresh and new. What shall we fill our days with, what will our priorities be, our hopes and dreams worked on? Lord willing, may there be peace to all, including those servingour country who I really hopecan all come homesafe and sound, those who grieved this year for the loss of a loved one, too many have lost loved ones this past year or so, and while it gets easier no one says it gets easy.

Happy new year; enjoy some of your life. (The Eagles say, "some dance to remember, some dance to forget -- I've been doingboth this past 14 months and will again tonight.) I am grateful that I can dance, and hear the music and feel the beat, and it'll be fun.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

talk about chilling.......

A large water main broke down-county of me, earlier today. As in, huge amounts of water pouring out so much one person said it reminded him of the Potomac River itself. I know when M went to school this a.m., the temps had crawled up to approximately 15-17 F degrees outside, I think. This report said "in the 20's," um, they hope it was that warm. It's been downright frigid lately (but, phew, much less windy today, vice 'gusts up to 46 mph" yesterday).

While M is thrilled to get out of school 2.5 hours early, as too many schools had insufficient / no water levels and some heating problems, and "I'm finally really focused," on her English essay she really wants to be perfect even if that means sacrificing a deadling (sigh), to work on said essay, I'm very thankful that my cranky home heater does still heat (just not happily in THIS cold of weather), and that wow, I wasn't being washed away in torrents of frigid water.

Please see this Associated Press "raw" video, or maybe it's aol video. I can't seem to "save" it to imbed:

Thankfully, it should be in the mid-30's F later this afternoon, so it won't all be ice all day after it stops flowing (and my home heater will work with less protest). However, I'm not surprised to hear that many were treated for serious hypothermia, with water going over people's cars, while they waited their turn to be rescued in temperatures in the high teens perhaps low 20's. Brrrrrrr. I wish them all safe and healthy holidays, and quick responses on car insurance claims, et al.

I think I'll skip the idea of a Christmas Eve hike on the C&O Canal, this year. (Note for non-locals, the C&O Canal borders the Potomac River, as does River Road which is where this water main break occurred. The C&O Canal is I think 186.5 miles long? so I could pick an alternate spot along the canal, but I'll wait, anyway.)

Friday, December 19, 2008

my version of peppermint bark and attempt at Christmas

My version of peppermint bark is below.

Because it's easy, and it's really good, and it doesn't have to be perfect, and it's pretty in Christmas colors. I'm told it also goes REALLY well with Smithwick's, which I didn't combine that particular evening as I thought I had a stomach bug, but I plan to next time I can. And they kept eating it the next morning, along w/ their daughters, and I'm to bring it to the next party, and M gave me that big toothy smile when she asked me PLEASE make some for her show choir school potluck party, and E kept going back and nibbling on it at the "big" ceili last January when I was noticing he really was single but we hadn't gotten together yet....... And I have to have some holiday spirit going on, I love Christmas spirit, I loved seeing Winter Lights with M again this year which is one of our traditions since it first opened up, and listening to the Christmas carols and songs, and laughing w/ M that the creche she received has little holly on the robes of most of the people, even the pink robe of the blonde-headed Wise Man, as if there was holly in the Middle East, and blonde-headed pink-robe wearing men, and some other giggliness we shared. Even if, well, I just cannot stop thinking of my dad. He got a Christmas card, or M saying yes, let's still have Christmas Crackers this year (in his honor), and finding his old sweater...... cuz, of course, Dad's still dead. And not seeing my mom even on her birthday this week as M and I were both just too sick and Mom can't risk catching a thing, nor could we see her last weekend when M and I were REALLY really sick, so we never got up Grandma's (Mom's) Christmas stuff for her, nor much of ours. And, yet if not for a stress test, Mom'd have had a heart attack, so 3 days in the hospital and heart work done, she's weak but missed, well, perhaps the heart attack and related risks, herself..... and thank you, Lord, that I'll see M on Christmas Eve (and Mom and my stepfather, Bob), but I still don't have a response from M's dad if it'll include time for a service or not, which is important to us, even if I've been warmly welcomed to E's large family gathering I'm excited for. And peppermint bark's easy and I really like it. And it can be helpful to go banging and hitting something, sometimes.

And I was asked for my recipe, um, it's not that hard, all, just melt chocolate, and add crushed peppermint, oh, and real peppermint extract. But, they wanted it written all day. Kay?

Robin's Peppermint Bark Recipe

12 oz. of high-quality white chocolate chips (or just get a bag, get the better quality kind if getting from a craft store; if someone wants cocoa-chocolate, go for it, I just don't like that kind myself)
box of regular sized peppermint candy canes, crushed up (approx. 8-10 candy canes, preferably the traditional red and white striped, or the red, green, and white striped)
1/2 - 1 teaspoon of 100% pure peppermint extract (I use 1 teaspoon; I like my peppermint)

1. Break up peppermint candy into little pieces. Suggestion: Remove plastic wrapping from candy canes, and place them into a strong / freezer worthy (larger sized) plastic bag. Put the bag on top of a cutting board or other non-damageable hard surface. Whack the candy with the back side of a spoon, or another hard object such as a hammer.

I just find a spoon easy to handle quickly, and that unnamed tool I used of E's that started breaking, um, I put that back... Whack, whack. Hmmm, maybe a Smithwick's would go well with this process. :)

2. Melt the chocolate according to the manufacturer's instructions. The type I have used this winter has me put the unmelted white chocolate chunks/chips into a microwaveable (smooth, as in glass is ideal) bowl for about 1 minute. Stir.

3. Add peppermint extract (I need to verify the amount -- I think on the box of peppermint it says 1 tsp, but this recipe I saw said only 1/2, hmmmm, I prefer to TASTE it). Stir. Reheat if needed until everything's JUST melted. Sometimes if a few chips aren't fully melted, stirring will blend the heat in and melt everything else. It loses good texture if overheated or heated too often.

4. Pour the melted chocolate out onto a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Spread out with a spatula or spoon. Sprinkle the peppermint candy chunks on to the chocolate and gently press them in either with clean hands or the spoon. It's okay if they get "buried" in the melted chocolate.

5. If desired, drop a couple drops of either red or green food coloring, and swirl the color into the chocolate with the spoon. If you want, stay sprinkling more crushed peppermint candies on top (swirl or press in).

6. Place in the refrigerator freezer for several (approximately 5) minutes or until hardened.

7. Break into pieces, and serve, or store in the refridgerator supposedly in an airtight container, but it gets eaten too quickly to have the airtight idea really matter that I've noticed.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

basically, M did really well

"We are so proud of you," said M's TCRG, and "Figures Teacher," aka, FT, after M had danced her Round 2 (reel).

Yes, me, too:) No matter how M placed, or even if she recalled, I was so proud of her for having danced so well for herself.

For the dancing competitions part, M had to dance a hardshoe, Round 1 hornpipe, which she was nervous for, then a softshoe, Round 2 reel. She recalled!!!!! the last competitor # called for recalls, which means that she had to go on to Round 3, or I should say, she got the honor of going on to Round 3. That took forever; she danced third to last out of the 62 dancers who recalled and now danced their set dance one at a time. Unfortunately, her good dance friend, L, did NOT recall. So often, their place very close together in their competitions, so this was not expected that one girl would place / recall, and the other would not.

Ultimately, M placed 43rd out of 124 competitors (134 dancers were registered, but, for example, one of their dance friends had a stress fracture and could not compete). This is fantastic for a first time solo Oireachtas competitor.

Their 8-hand team, well, it looked real good and was danced cleanly. No recall.

Their 4-hand team, WOW! the four girls were so excited, bouncing up and down, arms linked, while team numbers were being called, and theirs was not. They danced up in age group as one girl is older, with a total of I guess 44 teams (I think 46 were registered). They actually got 4th place. That is awesome:)

Their dance drama accomplished what TCRG hoped for -- a great team feeling to end the Oireachtas with, and good show entertainment for the audience. It was good, and fun, for the audience and all of the dancers. Unfortunately, a technicality had them place third out of three, but oh well. They all proudly and happily went onstage for their earned third place medals.

Ultimately, it's all good (except wishing L had recalled, also).

Thursday, December 4, 2008

What does terpsichorean mean again?

I plagiarized. Well, not sure if counts as plagiarism if one is given carte blanche approval to use it, verbatim if appropriate. My friend, Zebadiah Beaugard wrote a fake "excuse letter" in his blog, for aid in getting Irish stepdancers excused out of school for competitions. Being my child's name isn't Bridget, and she doesn't attend Piscayune School, I did modify it some.

Z&B's sample focused more on a feis, which isn't so applicable for M as hers are primarily more local. She also didn't require one in previous years for attending the Southern Region Oireachtas (SRO). Two years ago, the SRO was held in Arlington, Virginia, closer to us than her dance studio is. Alright, awards run really late Sunday night so I think I let her sleep in and miss some of class that Monday. Last year, when SRO was in Atlanta, she didn't miss much school, either, as we mostly flew down and back. Hmmmm, she was in her wonderful private Montessori school back then, where an absence is assumed excused just don't take too many and please do inform the teacher in advance whenever possible. Perhaps we should have taken more time of last year.

This year, M is attending school at a local county high school. Montgomery County, Maryland, is a county with an overly strict attendance policy, with few things counting towards excusable absences. Like a death in the immediate family, or illness of the student him or herself (doctor's note can be required), or college visits. Even horrid traffic does not count (for being tardy), like it does in another Maryland county. I figured that with M being a freshman, and us not actually visiting any college campuses on this trip (SeaWorld doesn't really count as a college no matter how career-oriented the visit truly is for M, and goddaughter, LEL, will come up from her Miami college campus to visit us, not us visiting her), I couldn't quite say it's a college visit. If traveling with a sports team representing the school, that's an excused absence. Um, not workable for M. The choreography for an Irish stepdancer is specific to his or her particular Irish stepdance school. Even other Irish stepdancers, if any, in her high school, couldn't be on a team with M unless they attended the same Irish dance school. Unfortunately, any unexcused absence means a teacher does not need to allow a student to make up any work missed (ouza on the grade drop potential in THAT), and too many unexcused absences also means a loss of credit. Too many times walking in at the last bell counts as tardy and can also mean a loss of credit. Sigh, as M's dad continues to get her to school late from his home, different issue in a way, but I can't risk M's attending this year's SRO have her unexcused absences add up to, yikes, loss of credit.

I'm not faking a doctor's note, nope, no way, besides, M wanted to be upfront. Seems many others in MCPS will say they're sick, eh, let's try honesty and hope it works. Our first time trying this, I pulled out all the stops, just in case. I heard after the fact that M's GPA alone will likely give her a fully-excused pass. That's good for M, but I wish that others with, say, a C average, would get an excused absence for their well-rounding experience, too.

Seems the attendance officer didn't care to read it, just took my word that it's for a sports competition out of town, and gave M an excused pass to leave school early this Friday. However, the principal, who'd been away, was to review my letter this a.m., and hopefully, give her stamp of approvel, and get it passed to each teacher to sign off on M's assignments or something. Think the principal'll think I'm laying it on a mite thick? It IS all true......

Note I happened to fail to mention the 2 extra days, for SeaWorld, and Disney. Yep, this is our Christmas, and our summer vacation, it's our one big time all year I've been saving and scrimping for...... but I don't need to relay that.

"Dear [principal name]:

This is to inform you, and whomever else it may concern, that 9th grader, [name, should have included student #] will be absent from school from (time) this Friday, December 5th, through Wednesday, December 10th, 2008. She will be traveling to compete at the Southern Region Oireachtas in Orlando, Florida.

An Oireachtas is, essentially, regionals for Irish stepdancing. The Southern Region includes Mexico and Texas, to Florida, and north to Maryland. It's an ethno-cultural, educational event for the highest level of competitive Irish stepdancers. It is a great honor for her to be chosen to represent Maryland, and of course our county and high school, while carrying on and experiencing her cultural heritage.

The primary purpose of this event is to advance the understanding and appreciation of Irish cultural identity, heritage, and traditions, through the use of various media. There will be enrichment-based activities such as art displays, live musicians playing traditional Irish music, foreign language, costumed dance, and drama competitions.

M[name] herself will be competing in traditional costumes to hornpipes, and reels, and a traditional handed-down-for-centures set dance [decided not to say her set is called Drunken Gauger]. She is also scheduled to compete on three teams; two teams are to dance to very traditional choreography, and the third team competition is a dance drams. They will use traditional steps and music to dance out a story related to a traditional Irish theme. M[name] will be demonstrating her competency and interpretation of certain terpsichorean aspects of Irish folk traditions. A panel of adjudicators (usually three at a time), will evaluate these presentations and provide guidance and feedback to our [name], as regards to her demonstrated expertise and proficiency.

our aim is that this absence from class does not affect [name]'s academic performance (which currently is at the 4.0 GPA [name of honors program] level). We also hope it'll expand her knowledge and what she can bring to her involvement in the [name of International club at her high school which sponsors the diversity show] at [HS name]. Please let me know if she will need to complete any assignments before she leaves. I'll make every effort to ensure that [name] completes her schoolwork while she's away, and as appropriate, after her return.

Please e-mail me at [two e-mails given for me], with any of [name]'s assignments, or with any other information. Thank you for your cooperation and understanding.

[my name and signature]"

It really is, primarily, an athletic competition, a "major," as the Irish stepdance world refers to it as. But, it is also an educational and cultural experience. Some people don't see dance as a sport, somehow, but this is the only sport M's ever done, other than running, which requires her to use her inhaler when she's working really hard. It's dance, it's cultural, it's heritage and ethnic, it's beautiful, and it's a sport.

Of course, she has a performance tonight, as she auditioned for and yeah got in to her high school's Show Choir. They'll dance and sing to "Circle of Life" for the Winter Choral Concert. Very lovely, just, gosh. At least she's kept up her grades, and rehearsals and practices (she's worked really hard), and other than an illness earlier this week that she's re-gaining her strength from, that I now have (ironically, I share symptons with both M, and with E's ex-wife, um, did we catch it from his adorable 1-year old grandson?), her tailbone isn't too much of a bother even after having kicked it again, she could use more sleep, but I think she'll be okay. Just wish her first competition wasn't at check-in 7:00 a.m. Saturday!

I'm hoping it's a really good time:) and hope to get computer access for updates on my Irish dance blog, i.e., Yeah, okay, so her particular solo costume is not as traditional any more, her new school dress still is!

p.s.: terpsichorean means of or related/relating to dance.