Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Planning a trip

One of the most exciting things about taking a trip is planning it. Because I like to have a project in January, planning our summer vacation has been it although it's been more work than I thought it would be.

I got Eric to commit to two weeks this year. He says the days of him not taking his allotted vacation time are over. So I've been excitedly plotting our two weeks in Europe. I'm putting it all down here to keep it straight and so my mom can see it all mapped out.

Mom is coming along with us and she suggested going to Switzerland as she's been working a lot on our family history and wants to visit some of the villages and graves of our ancestors. So, we're starting our trip in the Canton of Graubunden (Heidi Country). We'll fly in to Zurich and spend the first four days in a village called Stierva.

Stierva Switzerland
Here's the house where we'll stay. I like that it looks so Swiss Chalet. 

Day five will be spent in Switzerland but I'm still working on accommodations for the one night. We might all have to cram into a hotel room (which I don't want to do). I want to spend one day skiing. They do summer skiing in a few areas in Switzerland. We will be heading to either Zermatt or St. Moritz. Hopefully we'll be taking this train there (this picture makes Bianca squeamish though).

Graubunden Switzerland
After Switzerland, we'll spend the next three nights in Cannes, France. Mom isn't exactly excited about France as she heard the people won't speak English to us on principle. So I told mom to brush up on her high-school French as we'll be looking to her to help us get around. We're staying in this cute house/boutique hotel that has three bedrooms and a kitchen. It's also walking distance to the beach and most everything else downtown Cannes.

We'll spend the last full week in Italy. We're learning a bit of Italian on youtube with Italian 101 and trying to speak it in the house. Mi Scusi? So we'll be in Liguria. We're staying in a small village called Carro. Doesn't it look charming?

Carro Italy
The flat where we're staying is called Paganini House and it named such because it used to be the residence of the famous Italian violinist's paternal grandparents.

Paganini House
Bianca is ecstatic about staying here. I figure we'll take day trips to Pisa and Portovenere. I really hope this is what La Spezia really is like. Sigh...

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Soft Pretzels

I've been on a soft pretzel kick lately. I've always loved them, but for some reason, lately, I've wanted them so much more. Oh, the salty goodness! I found this no-mixer, no-store-in-the-refrigerator-for-x-hours recipe on Pinterest (here's the link: http://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2012/12/25/30-minute-whole-wheat-pretzels/) and ever since, I've been hooked.

The kids love to help knead the dough and shape the pretzels into cool things--like birds and cats and all number of musical symbols, courtesy of Bianca. Last time, I made a really cool quail and owl, but in this batch, you can see a cat, a snail, a swan, an 8-ball, and that square-looking pretzel is my sorry attempt at a book. After all, we were celebrating on Friday some exciting book-related news (an agent asked for a partial on Isle of Arden!!!) I had just received. It's never too small a victory to celebrate, right?

Bianca made the cheese dipping sauce by herself even. I was very impressed!

Here's Bianca's swan.

And Portia's chihuahua head (it's kind of hard to make eyes and such so it looks more like a heart).

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Dance

For several weeks before Valentine's Day, Bianca would come home from school rattling off the different kinds of dancing they were learning (cha-cha, swing, line) and it was also very important to inform me about the partner she had for the day. I remember sixth grade. I remember the significance of promenading with a certain boy when I had to square dance. Well, it was all leading up to the big sixth grade Valentine's Dance. Bianca had been trying to keep it a secret that she had a crush on a certain boy in her class (who she'd been paired up with a lot in the practicing of said dances) and made the mistake of telling her 5-year-old sister who it was, so I ultimately learned the name.

On the day of the dance, I took my several dozen cookies to the cookie table, then sidled over to the side of the gym where the fidgeting parents were waiting. Lots and lots of parents. There were cameras aiming and ready. The gym was decorated by the sixth graders themselves.

Then the music began. Bianca had told me that they were being graded on this dance and were required to dance every song but one. They rotated between boys ask girls, and girls ask boys. When the teacher would announce which kind of dance it was, the kids would move slowly, as if being pushed from the back of the herd, with deer-in-the-headlight looks on their faces. Then they would pair off and do their little dance and then split back to the boy/girl herds on opposite sides of the gym.

I watched with a little lump in my throat. During one slow song, I felt the edges of my eyes start to burn and quickly blinked away all physical evidence that it hurts a little bit that my daughter is starting to grow up. How is it that life marches on so eagerly, letting our babies pair off into dance partners? I blocked away the thought of the inevitable, that one day, much sooner than I'll be ready, our babies will pair off so permanently that they leave us and start building their own little nests. But wait, I'm not ready for that. My eyes are starting to burn again.

Because Bianca had been so secretive about who her crush was, I didn't know what he looked like until I saw her dancing with him. It was the last dance and the announcer had said just before the music played, "If there's a certain person you want to dance with, this is your last chance." Then they set the boys free to single out their dance partners. When I saw Bianca's face, I knew this was him. He was all bony shoulders and skinny legs as boys are at that age. They danced and smiled, and I smiled and loved seeing her so happy. She was beaming by the end of the song and when he escorted her to the edge of the dance floor, her eyes were shining. I guess that's how parents get through seeing their children flying away from their nests, knowing that they're happy. And that will be enough to make us happy.

Bianca's 6th grade class before the Valentine's Dance

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Bianca plays Bach

Bianca has been working on Prelude No. 1 by Bach. Yesterday, she performed at a studio class at the University of Utah. She was very nervous but did a great job and I'm very proud of her for all her hard work.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Portia's First Suzuki Graduation on Cello

I never did this Suzuki stuff with Bianca. But because Portia's only five, it was a lot faster for her to start cello with the Suzuki method rather than reading music (although she's doing some of that too with I CAN READ MUSIC). She's been taking lessons about six months now and has made some good progress, but this method is very "mother-intensive" and that means there's a lot of hovering.

I'm glad, however, that Portia has FINALLY graduated from the Twinkles in its very many variations. I'm so glad that we don't have to practice them every day anymore. Besides a couple bow issues and her cello slipped from her shoulder, she performed them all fairly well.

The other song she graduated was French Folk Song. I actually like this one quite a bit. She had this one down so I was surprised when she started off with her bowings the wrong direction. She never does this at home. However, there was a huge crowd of kids and a huge audience so she was overwhelmed. This photo sums up how she felt about the whole situation.

I swear there were other girls at the graduation but in this video of Portia playing French Folk Song, it looks like she's the only girl in a sea of boys.

We don't get to stop practicing French Folk Song, however, because she has to play this one for Federation (a term I just learned which has judges and gold cups) and for her recital next month.

Because of the way you sit while holding the cello (between your legs), I had to choose a dress with plenty of extra fabric in the skirt (her Christmas dress) and had her wear leggings. Portia tends not to be so ladylike to begin with. We also had to do "cello hair" which was a french braid off the side away from the pegs and knotted into a bun. Portia's hair is always getting entangled in the pegs when she practices. After the graduation she was relieved. I've realized that holding the cello is not doing much to help her sit like a lady, though.

Friday, February 1, 2013

6th Grade Projects

Bianca's sixth-grade class has been very much project-based and they do a lot of fun and different activities, working as teams as well as on their own. Bianca's in the pm set (which means she goes to school 1/2 hour later than the am set and leaves a 1/2 hour later). It's mainly so there are enough computers in the classroom for all the kids to use. But I like this arrangement for pick up and taking to school (not nearly as crowded), and also Bianca is able to practice her music in the morning without having to wake up at 5am as she did last year. Most kids don't want pm, but we love it. In Bianca's class, she is one of ten girls who are pm. This same group of ten girls were teamed together in Lego League and have really become quite good friends. They've done a lot of extra work on their project at each other's houses and have put in a lot of time and effort.

I'm so glad Bianca has a built-in group of friends for next year, when she's off to the big middle school. I was a little concerned about this as she had to make all new friends since our move, so I'm so glad she's meshed so well with these girls. The name of their team was the Beat Bots and they came up with these cute matching outfits (which remind me a little of Rainbow Brite dolls from my childhood) with rainbow suspenders and leg warmers and these retro headphones. They came up with quite a few chants and songs to sing while they were competing with the robot they programmed to do tasks. Bianca even sewed their team flag (it's sort of hidden in the back of the group picture), but it really was cute. I guess since girls and engineering and programming don't always go together, an all-girl team like Bianca's got a lot of attention at last weekend's state Lego League championship. They didn't win or go on to nationals, but they won the "inspiration" award and they had so much fun in the meantime. I'm relieved all the extra meetings are over.

Some of Bianca's team (the Beat Bots) with her teacher in the back
Their team was highlighted in several newspaper articles as well as on television. Here are a couple photos I "borrowed" from ksl of the girls singing their spirited chants!

On to the next project, Natural Curiosity Fair...