I took this picture of Gideon a couple of weeks ago because he needed a black and white one for the concert he is playing in. It took me forever and like three or four different tries on different pianos in different outfits before I finally got this one. I was unhappy with everything I had done before. Finally I had an inspiration in the middle of his math lesson and quickly brushed his hair and let him wear the shirt he had on, and sat him at the piano just to see if it would work. I had one foot on the window sill and another (stockinged) foot on the piano, and precariously balanced while he looked up at me. For some reason the lighting and the pose worked really well, I thought. You could tell that the piano was a piano, an issue I'd had with other closeups- the piano just looked like a big black object of some kind in the background. Also, his black suit kept blending in, so there wasn't nearly enough contrast for a black and white. Here, his blue checked shirt actually looks interesting in the black and white conversion and adds contrast.
Finally pleased with a photo, I sent it in and showed it to the kids. And, while they really liked it as well, they said it kind of looked like he was looking up in the sky at aliens. Wow. Nothing like kids to keep you humble. Now I can't un-see that when I look at the photo. Oh well. I still like it anyway.
See that adorable gap-toothed boy in the picture there? Yes, yes, he is in the process of getting his teeth straightened- and is going to be in it for the long haul, with first an expander (that he has now) for six months and then braces after that, and then maybe a year or two off, and then another eighteen months or so of braces after that- but that's not he purpose of my post today, fortunately. Anyway, this boy you see here has made us very proud by winning the statewide elementary level piano concerto competition last weekend! He will be performing his Bach Concerto in f minor with the Colorado Chamber orchestra in a concert next month! We're pretty excited around here, as you might guess. It's nice when the hard work of learning to play piano pays off occassionally in a big way. Congratulations Gideon!
See that? I wrote a book last year, without even really trying! Well, that's not strictly true, but it is true that it didn't seem to take nearly as much effort as what it looked like when I saw it all, bound up into one thick book. (Did that make sense? I feel that sentence was akin to Bilbo in Lord of the Rings: "I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.")
Blog2print was the website I used, and of course the instant I ordered one for us as well as the grandparents, I began getting 20% off coupons in my email. Oh, well. I'll use it next year.
This has been a busy week for us. Cate and Gideon both recorded their piano concertos for a competition, and Grace and Cate are in a piano competition this Sunday. I hate doing live recordings. Even if I'm not the one doing the piano playing. Of course our memory card ran out of space the first day. So we tried again on day two. And of course one of the recording had a glitch in the middle of it and cut out two minutes of the piece. Despite these frustrating attempts I think Cate and Gideon both ended up each with a good audition.
Now I am off to make breakfast for some mid-week breakfast company. That makes for a fun change on a Wednesday, but I will have to try to recover and still fit everything in today. I think I'm still trying to find my rhythm after the holidays...
The past two nights Gideon and I have made Peppermint Bark, with a capital P and B. Because it is that good. We sort of followed this recipe from Orangette. I think Molly is such a good writer. And her recipe for oatmeal pancakes I have made at least weekly for about four years now. Yes, I'm serious. And do you want to know the funny thing? I have never printed the recipe out and most times I have to still look it up on her blog. Yes, I go to google and type in "Orangette oatmeal pancakes" and the link to the site comes up purple because I was just at it last week trying to remember yet again just how much baking soda and salt it uses- and does it call for baking powder? Isn't that funny. Apparently I don't have a very good memory. I usually double the recipe.
Anyway: the peppermint bark. I tripled the recipe, more or less. And then I made it again the following night I tripled the recipe again. You know how she says to use good chocolate, the very best? Well, I so didn't do that. I didn't even use real, actual, white chocolate. I used nestle chips, that do not even claim on the bag to be chocolate. No, instead it says "white morsels" on the bag. White morsels. Yep, I melted down white morsels, whatever in the world those are, and made peppermint bark with it. For the dark chocolate I just used Nestle chocolate chips as well. So, all you people that know me, and get a jar of peppermint bark from us on Friday or Sunday, now you know the secret. However, despite the fake ingredients consisting of who knows what, this is pretty great peppermint bark. It's the somewhat creamy chocolate ganache in the center that does it, as well as looking pretty impressive with the three layers, which were surprisingly easy and fun to make. Thus, the two nights in a row of making. Gideon and I had a great time. He has been begging me for a month to make it and we finally did it. I'm so glad we did.
Do I really need to give a caption for the top photos? Of course not! It's just Darling, Darling Clementine (pronounced Clemen-teen of course, not like the song I just sort of sang on here) looking charming as usual.
Speaking of sort of singing on my blog (good transition, no?), last week Jude asked me if my iphone Siri could sing. I told him no.
Truman asked, "Can her whistle?" I'm guesing no to that as well.
Don't these pictures make you feel sorry for kids that don't have a baby sister to hold and cuddle? Oh, what a little joy. All of them, every last one, fill my days with joy.
So: knitting. I finished the dress, more or less, except for the weaving in of the ends and the blocking. I need to sit myself down and maybe watch Iron Chef or some such entertaining TV show and just get rid of those ends before she outgrows it. Then I will block it and transform the little dress into something, wonderful, or so I hope. Can't say I'm going to be sorry to be done with the project; quite the contrary, actually.
The variegated yarn you see there in wonderful oranges, reds, and blues, are trying to become a pair of socks. Yes, socks, hopefully for Gideon, for Christmas. Now, now, now, let me stop you right there before you protest me giving a pair of handknit wool socks to a ten year old boy, ensuring a lousy Christmas present. Gideon is not your run of the mill ten year old. Well, in some ways he is, in the fact that there are always holes in the knees of his jeans; and that he loves to go around and fix everything that is broken; and that he empties the mouse traps (he's been doing that for me since he was eight); and that he loves legos; and that everything that can be turned into a weapon without fail is; and that he has no problem going outside in the middle of the night if the dog needs to be checked on or some such thing; and that any sort of freak accident that can happen to him (such as stepping directly down on a nail barefoot warranting a trip to the emergency room while hardly a tear shed from him *not the case for me*) does; and that any type of tool or gear or engine or lawn mower or super glue holds an endless fascination for him, and he seems to have an innate understanding of such tools that completely baffles me.
Anyway, despite having those run of the mill qualities of ten year old boys, he deviates from the standard in that he loves any hand made thing I make for him. Adores them. And when I knit Clemmie those little boots last week, the minute he saw them, he asked me to make him a pair of cozy socks or slippers. My big, grown up, little boy, wants a pair of warm wooly socks to cozy up and slide around in. Well, you shall have them my boy. That is, if I don't get bored of knitting them before they are done. There's always that caveat when Mama agrees to knit something for her children. Particularly the bigger ones that have longer feet, and arms, and larger heads.
I write this here because said big-little boy is much too busy for me to worry about him being tempted to read my blog and discover what Christmas gifts are lurking in the background.
I am also knitting Anders for...well who is it going to end up being for? I am knitting a size bigger than the biggest size. Easy enough to do: it's knit top down and I'll throw in an extra repeat of the fair isle pattern. Easy-peasy. I'd like Jude and Truman both to have a chance to wear this (they are close to the same size these days) but I chose and aqua shade of blue in the hope that Clem will wear it down the road, too, especially if her eyes continue to develop into the wonderful shade of blue that they promise.
One thing I dislike about blogging is concluding blog posts. And thinking of titles, actually. So, I will end this: thus.
So, today, Gideon gets his own piano post about the competition Saturday. You can most likely tell by the photos that, he, too, placed in his category and won a trophy.
I wasn't too nervous for my boy- almost every time he performs, it comes out about ten percent better than what he does practicing at home. I'm not quite sure where he got that ability- most like from his father because I am most certainly the opposite- when under pressure, I fall to pieces and pretty much worthless at what I was trying to do.
Gideon didn't disappoint me: the only piece I was nervous about was Solfeggietto by C.P.E. Bach. It issupposed to be played extremely fast and even. Gideon can't play it extremely fast- he can play it fast, but not extremely. And, the evenness? Well, he's put hours and hours of practice into that and while it's improved a bunch, it's still not completely there.
When I got to the competition, I read through the program and saw that something like ten other kids were playing Solfeggietto. None from his group, thankfully, but by the time it was his turn the judges would have surely heard the piece numerous times and would probably cut him even less slack then I was hoping for.
Fortunately, Solfeggietto came first on his program so he could end with his stronger piece. And, like I hoped, it was one of his best performances of the piece. There was one spot in particular that stood out to me as uneven, but in general it was pretty smooth. I was thankful that he chose a slow enough tempo that he could keep it even and mistake free, rather than let his nerves get the better of him and zoom through it much faster than he could handle. But, as I said, the kid has no nerves. Apparently I have enough nerves for the whole family, enough to go around and more to spare. That's fine, I'll keep them, since it's not like I ever need to perform in stressful situations. I just have to avoid a heart attack when my children do.
His second piece, Fluttering Leaves by Kolling, is extremely conducive to Gideon's style of playing, especially when he is performing. It very dramatic, with fast and slow sections, loud and soft, and when he is onstage all of a sudden he turns on the charm and musicality and it's like it's a different person than who I'm used to listening to at home. Gideon didn't disappoint me; the piece was fun and exciting like it should be and I knew he had done extremely well for himself. I wasn't too worried about the result because he had done such a great job playing, doing it just like he'd been taught and practiced, and it was an accomplishment in itself. We had to fly out of the room, literally fly, the second he was done, because his group was running way behind and Cate was going to be up next in a different room, so I didn't have a chance to nervously wait to check the board for the winner. After Cate's performance, we had only a few minutes to wait to see the result: sure enough, the judges seemed to like Gideon as much as I did (well I suppose that's not reaaly true: a mom could never be impartial about her child's playing, I've learned), and he won in his group, as well! Way to go, Gideon!
P.S., here is Gideon's performance on youtube. This was at the honors recital and it went even better than at the competition, I think. Doesn't your heart melt at the sight of boys in suit coats and ties, especially when playing the piano? Mine does.
A few times a year, all the piano practicing that the kids do pays off in the form of a recital or competition or some such thing. Pays off in the performance sense, that is, beyond learning piano for its own sake, which can sometimes feel arbritrary. This month is a busy season piano performance-wise. Next Saturday is a city-wide piano festival/comepetition that Cate, Gideon and Evie are going to be performing in. Sunday of that same weekend Grace is in a concerto competition in Denver at Boettcher Hall, where the Colorado Symphony performs. It is by far the biggest competition she has ever entered, with cash prizes for the winners and the opportunity to perform with the Colorado Symphony.
Last Friday was a piano recital of sorts, that allowed the kids to perform their pieces and hopefully get any jitters out. On that count I think it was a success. Gideon played the easiest of his two pieces, however it was the more artistically demanding one, "Fluttering Leaves in A Minor" by Koelling. It was a good chance for him to see how it played out in a performance. He did really well, missing a few dynamic markings that I as a parent would know, and that his teacher would know, too, of course but for the rest of the audience it was close to flawless. He always looks like he is having a great time when he is on stage. He is better about it now, but when he was younger he would always look at me to see if I noticed if he played something well, or if he messed up here, or just to say with his eyes, "I'm having such a good time, Mom." He has outgrown that habit a little bit, but he still plays with a grin on his face, or maybe a smirk, I never can be sure with that boy. The sight of a ten year old boy in a suit coat and tie, playing piano while thoroughly enjoying himself could melt a heart of stone. Then again, that is coming from said boy's mother.
Cate played next to last and she was pretty nervous during the entire recital. To her mind, with good reason. It was her first time trying out a new piece, and it's by far the most difficult piece she has ever learned. "Suite Danzas Criollas" by Ginastera has been in her practicing roster for about eight months, and it is a piece that she will probably hang onto for a couple of years. It is a very rhythmic, very fast, very loud, therefore exhausting to play. She is fairly out of breath at the end of it and right now it is at the stage where she must just play it and go, hoping she hits the right keys on all the jumps and octaves. That's why this will be one that is just going to improve over the next few years. Anyway, for a first time performance, she did really, really well. She got to the right keys on most of the leaps, which has been the most challenging part of it for her lately, voiced the melody well (which is difficult in a modern piece that is extremely rhythmical), and made it through. It wasn't the performance she was hoping for, though better than it felt like to her at the time. Again, most of the mistakes were something that only those familiar with the piece would notice. It was definitely a good run through to give her the confidence that she could actually perform the piece. I was proud of her for pushing through a performance where circumstances weren't what she preferred, nevertheless not letting on to the audience how she felt. And the piece sounded beautiful.
Grace closed out the recital with her Bach concerto. We weren't able to wheel a second piano into the church, nor bring our own keyboard in for her accompaniment, so it ended up being a solo performance (a concerto is a piece featuring a solo instrument to be played with an orchestra: Grace is lucky enough to have my sister for an aunt, who is the best accompanist she could possibly hope for).
I honestly think it was the best time she has ever performed the piece. I know it backwards and forwards, due to both girls having learned it, and it being in Grace's repertoire now for close to a year and a half. It really does make a difference to be that comfortable with whatever is being played. She wasn't the least bit nervous and was instead able to put her energy and thoughts into the music and she played straight from her heart. I think it will always stand out to me as one of her memorable performances. I'm feeling good about her competition next weekend, but leaving Fort Collins, where it's much easier to be a big fish in a small pond, to Denver, a much, MUCH bigger pond, makes me wonder what size fish we are. If that made any sense whatsoever. Hah.
All in all the night was a success for all three children. I am eager to see how next weekend goes after all the hard work they have put into practicing.
It's been a while since I have taken pictures of the dogs with their buddy Gideon. Pepper loves Gideon more than seems to be humanly possible, or at any rate, her devotion goes beyond our understanding, haha. He loves her, too, but sometimes he wants a little break from her steady watch. It is best at these times for him to be out of her line of sight, otherwise she can't relax. Once Gideon is out of sight, Grace is next in the line of favorites. Then, I suppose it is me. I'm a little bitter about this- after all, who ensures she's getting food and water each day, that her needs are met, and sneaks her leftover meat or scrambled eggs after a meal?If she hasn't had ball time lately (her absolute favorite activity on the face of the earth) who gets out and throws that ball to her pleasure and delight? Me, of course! Pepper, I wish you would give me at least the time of day when your true favorite people are around!
After me comes Evie, who cares for Pepper when Grace or Gideon are otherwise occupied. She is very gentle around the little ones, including Clementine, but would prefer to keep her distance from the littlest boys, who may end up accidentally stepping on a tail or playing too rough too near to her. When the kids and I are out of the house for the day, finally Pepper will go to her last resort, and pace back and forth with Ben while he is talking on the phone. Ben isn't crazy about dogs, though loves Pepper for a dog, but largely ignores her. However, he gets a kick out being "shepherded" by Pepper when no one else is home.
Isis, our temporary puppy with the injured leg, is amazing as well. Her leg is not: the therapy has not done much for it and I am pretty discouraged about it ever coming out normally. It is frustrating and I try to not think about it much, because Isis as far as a dog is wonderful. She is devoted like Pepper, but seems to be able to enjoy more than one person at a time, which is nice in contrast to Pepper. She is super smart and super eager to please. Eager to please makes for a very easy to train dog, I have discovered. For instance, a sharp "No!" if a forbidden object is in her mouth is usually sufficient for her to immediately drop the item and run over to us. The word "come" is sort of arbritrary, because the sound of our voice is enough to make her run over immediately. She has that annoying habit of puppies of barking at every dog she sees while on a walk. We need to work on that more. But overall, she is super sweet and gentle and calm.
She is looking gorgeous these days. She has a long coat, which is a deviation from the normal shorter coated German Shepherd, but the long, full ,fluffy coat, is beautiful. She is sure to turn heads as an adult.
Well. That was the most I've written this entire week combined, and it was all about the dogs. And I told you I wasn't really a dog lover. I'm not. But sometimes one has to make an exception. Or two.