Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Whistling Christmas Greeting

My mom has had dreams of some kind of Mason Family consort for years. She looked into purchasing bells for a bell choir, but the prohibitive price quickly put that idea to rest.

Two years ago she came across a set of whistle party poppers in the Smithsonian catalogue. When she called to order a couple of sets, however, she was told that they could not be shipped because they contained GUN POWDER.

This year, though, she was in luck. She located the whistle party poppers and had them delivered with no problem or delay.

Said poppers were opened on Christmas Day.

Here are the results:

From our family to yours: MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Roses and Bites

Despite the utter neglect of my roses this year including lack of mulch, no dormant oil spay, no Epsom Salts, sporadic watering, and minimal feeding, the faithful bushes continue to produce lovely blooms. Here are some of the last of them for the year including Mr. Lincoln, Abraham Darby, and Memorial Day:

After plucking these beauties, I enjoyed another round of baking.

I cut the recipe for Shortbread Bites out of the December 2003 issue of Good Housekeeping. Although I looked longingly at the picture for years, I never realized my dream of making them...until today.

They are very simple and quick to make. You might want to consider doubling the recipe. I could eat these in one afternoon:

Shortbread Bites

Prep: 30 minutes plus cooling
Bake: about 18 minutes per batch
Makes: 160 cookies

1 1/4 C all-purpose flour
3 TBSP sugar
1/2 cup cold butter (1 stick), cut up (no substitutions or don't bother to make 'em)
1 TBSP red and green nopareils or sprinkles (I used multi-colored)

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
2. In food processor with knife blade attached, pulse flour and sugar until combined. Add butter and pulse until dough begins to come together. Place dough in medium bowl. With hand, gently knead in nonpareils until evenly blended and dough forms a ball.
3. On lightly floured waxed paper, pat dough into 8" by 5" rectangle; freeze 15 minutes. Cut dough into 1/2-inch squares. Place squares 1/2 inch apart on ungreased large cookie sheet.
4. Bake cookies 18 to 20 minutes or until lightly browned on bottom. Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool. Repeat with remaining dough. Store cookies in tightly covered container at room temperature up to 1 week, or in freezer up to 3 months.

From Good Housekeeping Magazine December 2003

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Have A Ball!

My mom used to make Bourbon Balls every Christmas. My sister Christy confesses that she really, really liked them as a child and consumed quite a lot of them over the days leading up to Christmas. It was only later that she discovered what bourbon really was!

If I drank, it would be bourbon. I love the smell of it. I love the taste of it. I just don't like the extended nap I need after only a few sips. I prefer conversation and good company, neither of which I can accomplish while sawing logs.

I found a new recipe online this year. Instead of cocoa powder it uses melted chocolate chips. I'm all about the chocolate chips!

Bourbon balls are as close as I get to my favorite beverage. I still would not consider driving after helping myself to a few of these:

Bourbon Balls

1 (6 oz.) pkg. semi-sweet chocolate bits

1/2 c. sugar (I used Organic Sugar from Trader Joe's because that's what was on hand)

3 tbsp. light corn syrup (Karo white)

1/3 c. bourbon (I used Rebel Yell from Trader Joe's because I've always laughed at the name. I used a little extra to moisten things up.)

2 1/2 c. (about 5 dozen) finely crushed vanilla wafers (I used a tub of vanilla wafers from Trader Joe's and was completely blown away by the buttery goodness they added!)

1 c. finely chopped pecan nuts (Got these at Trader Joe's, too)

Powdered sugar to roll bourbon balls in

Melt chocolate over hot water (I did this step using the microwave, following the melting directions on the package). Remove from hot water and stir in sugar and syrup. Blend in bourbon. Combine wafers and nuts and add to chocolate mixture; mix well.

Form 1-inch balls and roll in confectioners sugar. Let ripen in covered container at least several days. Makes about 4 1/2 dozen. Will keep 3-4 weeks in tightly covered container!

I let them ripen for about 6 hours before I started sampling them. I'm guessing there will still be some left by Christmas Eve...

Stay tuned. More recipe goodness tomorrow!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Oh Fudge!

It has been many, many years since I've had the time and inclination to bake at home.

For my single years, all the Christmas baking I did was in the Atascadero kitchen of my sister Christy. I would escape my landlady from Hades for as many as 10 days and indulge myself to my heart's delight in my sister's well appointed kitchen. Since I never got to cook or bake for anyone and my sister ALWAYS had to cook or bake for a lot of people, we were both blessed by the arrangement.

Now sister Christy is GRAMMA Christy and I am at long last married to my dear husband Bob. With the felicitous change in our arrangements, I find myself in a cozy home with a spacious kitchen. Even so, I have not done a bit of Christmas baking since Bob and I were married 3 and a half years ago (but who's counting?). Bob's mom Nellie was able to spend a week with us right before Christmas the past 2 years, and we relied heavily on Trader Joe's delicious delights while we lolled about enjoying each other's company.

This year USAir no longer flies out of Oklahoma City, Express Jet is kaput, and Nellie stayed safe at home. With that large expanse of extra time, my thoughts turned to...SLEEP. But after that, they turned to baking.

I think Christy was a bit shocked (in a good way) when I called her out of the blue and ran down a list of cookies and other goodies I would be providing this year.

I found this recipe online while checking the directions of a recipe I already had. This one looked even better and had a catchy name:

Killer Crack Peanut Butter Fudge

3 cups sugar (I used the organic sugar from Trader Joe's and it worked great)
3/4 cup butter
2/3 cup (160 mL) evaporated milk
1 cup peanut butter (I used Skippy extra crunchy from Costco and liked the added little crunch of the extra nuts)
1- 7 oz (198g) jar marshmallow creme
1 tsp vanilla

Combine sugar, butter, and evaporated milk in a heavy 2-1/2 quart saucepan. Bring to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Continue boiling over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Remove from heat. Add the peanut butter, stirring until melted. Add marshmallow creme and vanilla; beat until well blended (I used a hand mixer for this step). Spread in a buttered 9 x 13 x 2 - inch pan. Cool at room temperature. Cut into squares when firm, then refrigerate (it's MUCH easier to cut before it is refrigerated.)

This fudge definitely lives up to its name. Bob is not much of a sweets eater (I find it impossible to relate to that), but even HE was unable to resist the siren call of Killer Crack fudge and has indulged in more than one silky piece.

Tomorrow (or whenever I get around to it), comes another recipe from our home to yours.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to come down off a serious sugar high...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Magic Kingdom Dedicated to Flute Prayer

I got a big kick out of this viral video from Disney (just wait until it loads, then click the play button):

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Irish Tenors Cerritos 2008

I was so very grateful to play for The Irish Tenors concert at Cerritos Performing Arts Center again this year. They are magnificent musicians. It is a true pleasure to be on the same stage with them.

Since flute playing takes two hands, I was pretty limited in my photo ops.

Here's Karl Scully getting a feel for the hall:

Karl caught me in the act of photoblogging:

Anthony Kearns was the next one up:

They have such a short amount of time to get used to the hall:

Finbar Wright managed to avoid my lens this year. You'll have to settle for a picture from last year:

I especially enjoyed the several new arrangements in this year's concert, masterfully conducted by Eric Stern.

What a lovely evening.

To quote Steve Martin, "And the funny thing is, I get paid for doing this."

I love my job!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

True Forgiveness

SAN DIEGO, California (CNN) -- A Korean immigrant who lost his wife, two children and mother-in-law when a Marine Corps jet slammed into the family's house said Tuesday he did not blame the pilot, who ejected and survived.

"Please pray for him not to suffer from this accident," a distraught Dong Yun Yoon told reporters gathered near the site of Monday's crash of an F/A-18D jet in San Diego's University City community.

"He is one of our treasures for the country," Yoon said in accented English punctuated by long pauses while he tried to maintain his composure.

"I don't blame him. I don't have any hard feelings. I know he did everything he could," said Yoon, flanked by members of San Diego's Korean community, relatives and members from the family's church.

Read the entire story here.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Irish Tenors Revisited

I am grateful to once again be playing with The Irish Tenors at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts this Wednesday.

It is a wonderful show with a difficult book which is far from boring.

If you can get tickets, please come join us.

See you there!

F-18 Crash Near My Flute Technician's Home

I was horrified to learn of the F-18 that crashed into a San Diego neighborhood.

I was especially concerned because my excellent flute technician, Jay Sleigh, is only blocks from the crash site.

I am extremely grateful that Jay is safe.

I am deeply grieved by the horrific nature of this tragedy.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Happy Birthday To Me!

I haven't abandoned the blog. Rather, I've been spending time face to face with far away family and didn't want to take time away from actual human interaction to sit in front of a computer screen. I've got some lovely Thanksgiving pictures which I will eventually post.

Meanwhile, Happy Birthday to Me!

Bob and I spent the day at Disneyland.

It was truly lovely.

To see more pictures click here.

Friday, November 21, 2008

KOST-ing At Disneyland

Blogging friend Darleene generously surprised Bob and me with 4 tickets to tonight's KOST 103.5 Pre-Holiday Party at Disneyland.

Disneyland was closed to everyone else. Only a fortunate few had the run of the park.

We were among the first to ride It's A Small World. It officially opens tomorrow after a LONG refurbishment.

Former flute student Amy and trombonist Mas were able to join us for the fun:

Amy and I were good girls this year:

Santa had a few things to tell Bob:

A wonderful time was had by all.

Thank you Darleene and thank you KOST 103.5 for a memorable night at the Magic Kingdom.

More pictures here.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Wings Over Long Beach

Despite the smoke-filled skies Sunday, Bob and I had a marvelous time at the Wings Over Long Beach Air Show at Long Beach Airport.

My brother Ken, the Executive Assistant to the Director of Long Beach Airport, was hard at work:

C-17's are really big:

I love this C-17 interior shot:

How about this B-52 Bomber:

It's got lots of engines:

These people are standing inside the bomb bay:

This is the rear of an F-16:

Each and every one of these planes flew over our home on their way out of town Monday morning. SO FUN!!!

To see all the airplane goodness click here.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Smoky Dusk

Although we are several miles from the Brea and Yorba Linda fires, our neighborhood seems to be directly down wind.

The dense clouds of smoke have created dusk at 10am.

Ash is falling like snow. Although our landlord blew ash off my car earlier today, it is already wearing a new coat:

Aside from the fallout, we are quite safe and nowhere near the fire areas.

Our prayers are ongoing for all involved.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Total Eclipse

The skies overhead are dark brown. The light filtering through has the same quality as during a solar eclipse.

Although we are many miles away from the new fires springing up in Orange County, the smoke and ash has quickly and heavily engulfed our neighborhood.

I will be making my way out to San Bernardino shortly for a rehearsal and evening concert with the San Bernardino Symphony. The route that I would normally travel is in the midst of the Corona/Yorba Linda fire and is completely shut down. I'll be heading north, then east on the 10 in hopes of a clear journey.

My prayers are with friends beFrank and and Darleene who are covering the fires for KCAL9/KCBS2 as well as all those who are fighting the fire and who have lost their homes.

I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day Salute

Grab your hankies and head on over to Epi's blog.

Thank you for your service, Epi. God bless you and God bless America.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Dancing with the Gunn

Yes, I admit it.

I watch Dancing With The Stars.

So sue me.

One of the dances on the show tonight used the theme from Peter Gunn by Henry Mancini. Here is the man himself with a BURNING band:


Saturday, November 8, 2008

Brain Exhaustion

I'm sorry for my lack of posts.

My brain is exhausted.

Otherwise, things are fine.

School is fine. Only three teaching weeks remain in the semester. Yes!

Bob is fine, but out of town until tomorrow evening.

My brain is not fine.

It is exhausted.

It seems to be overheating and in need of some serious drool time.

I think I'll try some of that right now.

Meanwhile, I'm fine.



Monday, November 3, 2008

Disneyland Play Date

Former student Amy and I met at Disneyland before the park opened (we're flutists; we're early) to talk shop, ride some rides, and have lunch.

We're both enthusiastic fans of the Taco Salads:

After a loooooooong, enjoyable meal laced with shop talk we headed for the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters where Amy cleaned my clock:

She tried to coach me on the finer points of racking up the big scores, but clearly I still need A LOT of practice.

You can bet I'll be polishing up on my Astro Blaster technique before we meet again...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Sense of Sound

I'm also the sense of TIRED!

You Are the Sense of Sound

You love to talk, but you also love to listen.

You are simply a natural conversationalist.

You can have a deep conversation that lasts for hours and come out of it feeling energized.

You have a good ear for foreign languages and accents of all sorts.

You can imitate people quite well.

You also are a huge lover of music. You probably love music more than most people you know.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Pumpkin Hunter

A big THANK YOU to my niece Heather for posting this picture of her adorable son Hunter on facebook. It made this great aunt's day!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Entitlement and Depersonalization

I've been trying to get to the bottom of why I often feel frustrated and act less than kindly in throngs of people. For me it seems to boil down to a feeling of entitlement and a lack of realistic expectations.

I tested my theory today in the Target store just half a block south of my home. As I walked into the store I instantly felt a cloud of grumpy sour nature descending. To my mortification, I realized that I was angry because the main aisle leading to my destination was *gasp* littered with PEOPLE.

Imagine that.

I paused for a moment, took a few slow, deep breaths, and acknowledged that I was not entitled to an obstacle-free shopping experience now OR EVER.

I'm sorry it took me so long to get off my high horse.

Miraculously, as soon as I shed the fantasy of the world created for my personal pleasure and convenience, the shopping experience took a decided turn for the pleasant.

I accomplished my errand with little difficulty, paid for my purchases, and made my way through the crowded check out area, weaving carefully around people with their laden shopping carts in other lines.

I finally reached the double wide express lane aisle where I was hoping to safely and sanely make my escape. A woman, whose husband was standing with their cart in the express lane, wandered about in front of me, expertly blocking my egress no matter how I maneuvered. As I finally escaped the whirling vortex of confusion, the woman turned to her husband and said, "I'm being chased by a shopping cart."


My status had been depersonalized to that of a shopping cart with annoying characteristics by someone clearly unaware that their actions might be affecting others.

How often had I done that very thing?

Too often.

As I exited the store, I was grateful for the earlier epiphany. It helped keep me from taking that offhand remark personally and strengthened my resolve to stop depersonalizing others and viewing them as obstacles to be avoided or overcome.

I don't expect overnight success.

No matter.

I will try.

Standard Time? Not Yet!

My computer automatically re-set its clock for Standard Time this morning.

Too bad we don't "fall back" until NEXT Sunday.

What a joyful day that will be!

I guess I should update my software...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Lightening Up

Since I haven't been moved to blog, I've done the next best thing:

Changed the blog template.

Not by much, but it's a step in the light direction...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Shopping Carts

I was instantly reminded of Jack's observations when I read Michael Josephson's commentary this morning:

"When we think about character we tend to think about really big things, like
taking heavy risks or bold acts of integrity or grand acts of generosity or self-sacrifice. These sorts of noble choices do indicate character, but for the most part, our character is revealed in much smaller events, like apologizing when we're wrong, giving to causes we believe in, being honest when it's simply embarrassing, and returning our shopping carts.

One of my favorite stories is about a father who asked his son to return a cart they had just used. The son protested, "C'mon, Dad! There are carts all over. No one returns them. That's why they hire people to collect them."

After a short argument, mom chimed in, "For heaven's sake, it's no big deal. Let's go."

Dad was about to surrender when he saw an elderly couple walking together to return
their cart. After a moment he said, "Son, there are two kinds of people in this
world: those who put their carts away and those who don't. We are the kind that
returns their shopping cart. Now go return the cart."

This story isn’t just about grocery carts. It’s about doing the right thing in a world that seems to promote rationalizations and excuses that demean or trivialize simple acts of virtue. There are two kinds of people: those who find the strength to do what they ought to and those who find excuses not to.

People of character do the right thing even if no one else does, not because they think it will change the world, but because they refuse to be changed by the world.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts."

Not surprisingly, I've learned that my blogging hero beFrank is a fan of Michael Josephson. As I told him, it shows.

Is your character showing?

The Laundry Dance

In the fall of 1993 I went from being a married homeowner in Studio City to a devastated single woman in the throes of divorce and an intensely painful season of personal growth in Seal Beach.

I felt as if I'd suddenly been thrust back into my college days, renting an apartment from a disturbed landlady and *gasp* reduced to taking my dirty clothes to the laundromat.

Instead of walking mere steps to a washing machine off the kitchen, I was forced to load up my little Corolla with pounds of soiled wash, detergent, fabric softener, hangers...

I think I managed to go about 5 weeks before I bit the bullet and made the initial trek to the laundromat that I remembered from my visits to Aunt Charlo as a child. There was the familiar owner, Laundry Bob, bad hairpiece in place, old movies playing on the VCR, ready to receive my fluff and fold.

He was a little taken aback by the sheer poundage of my offering.

I came back later that afternoon to find everything clean and folded.

I left behind lots of $$$$$.

I didn't do fluff and fold after that.

I soon fell into a laundry routine. After I went through my 30 pairs of underpants I would load everything up (a parking place in the vicinity of my Ocean Avenue home was a real bonus), fill the machines, feed them the quarters, take my car to the car wash immediately adjacent to the laundromat, move the wash to the driers, do my marketing at the adjacent Vons, fold my clothes, leave.


It was a happy day in the FlutePrayer household when I devised a way to wash my jeans in the sink and get them dried OVERNIGHT. Once I mastered that trick I could go much longer between visits (5 months was my personal best).

One day I went to the laundromat to discover a sign that read, "GONE FISHING!!!!". Laundry Bob had up and abandoned his business. No more friendly greetings, no more Myrna Loy movies, no more amiable conversation.


There was another laundromat at the other end of town. It was cold, clinical, and impersonal. It creeped me out to go there, but I had no other choice.

New owners eventually took over Laundry Bob's location. They completely gutted the old place, installed dazzling new machines, didn't raise the prices too, too much, and were very nice people.

I was just SO TIRED of having my undergarments on parade for all to see.

Fast forward to July 2002. Quite by chance (heh heh - I don't believe in chance), a Muni Band colleague inquired about my housing situation. He knew I'd been trying to relocate for some time with no results. When I said I was still looking, an odd look passed across his face. He had friends who had recently purchased a home and were moving soon. Was I interested in their old place?

WAS I!!!!!

I remember the first time I entered my current home. With 2 bedrooms and vaulted ceilings it looked like a PALACE compared to my small, dark, creepy apartment hidden by a monster ivy plant (but that's another story). As the current tenants ushered me about I noticed, in the midst of my euphoric haze, LAUNDRY HOOK-UPS!!!!

Thanks to Muni Band audience members Ed and Betty I was able to purchase a washer and drier from someone who was moving into their building in Redondo Beach whose home did not have room for his present large capacity machines.

I remember moving day. 10 men from my church arrived in Seal Beach with numerous pick-up trucks, carefully stowed my possessions, and took them to my new Signal Hill abode. I remember my friend Jerry C. carefully positioning my "new" washer and drier and connecting the vent. Once everything was in place, a mountain of laundry stood IN MY HALLWAY. As I placed the first load into the washer, added the detergent and fabric softener, shut the lid and turned on the machine, it happened. I was doing the Laundry Dance, whooping and cavorting around my new home. While my dirty laundry was transformed into clean, I was ABLE TO DO SOMETHING ELSE IN MY OWN HOME. When the clothes emerged from the drier, I WAS ABLE TO FOLD MY UNDERWEAR WITHOUT ANYONE ELSE SEEING IT.

I've never taken my machines for granted again.

I've got a load of wash in right now. And do you know what I'm doing?

I'm rocking the Laundry Dance!


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Roku Rocks!

My dear brother Ken keeps up with all the coolest tech stuff. He sent an enticing email about the Roku Netflix player last week. He raved about the ease of installment and the delight of 12,000 video selections on the big screen at the touch of a button.

We delayed our gratification until the money came in, then ordered it straight away.

Now, instead of waiting for a DVD to arrive in the mail, we can watch unlimited movies as many times as we want. We still get new releases (or whatever else we want) mailed to us on DVD, but won't be movieless while they are being shipped.

I've already watched episodes of Adam 12 and Emergency.

Seriously, I love those theme songs.

I'd never have gotten those on DVD, but am really tickled to view them again. It sure beats sitting in front of the computer while they stream (although I still have that option as well).

Meanwhile, the Legend of the Crystal Skull awaits us (on DVD). I heard it was lame. Who cares. We can watch it at home in our pajamas for cheap.

I have been a huge fan of Netflix for 2 years. Now I'm even huger (gotta cut back on the snacks!)

Roku Rocks!

Wired for Creativity

This is a fortunate result considering my profession:

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Delayed Gratification

September 3 was my first day back on the job at Azusa Pacific University.

Today I got my first pay check.

I've been very fortunate to have last minute work surprise me with $$$ these past 2 months.

The life of a freelancer means no guarantees of a predictable, steady income but the unpredictable unsteadiness is what I love about it.

It makes me appreciate a paycheck so much more...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I'd Probably Eat It...

My instrument is this same color, but it is not edible:

I'll think of this the next time I take music and music making too seriously.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A Marathon Day

I spent most of the day volunteering at the finish line of the Long Beach Marathon today, handing out medals and Mylar blankets.

It was truly humbling to see the heart and grit of the participants.

Congratulations one and all!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

My Candidate For President

Some of my blogging friends have made no secret about who their choice for President will be in November.

I've been silent on the issue long enough.

To see my choice click HERE.

And seriously?


Friday, October 10, 2008

Disneyland Dream Time Event

Tuesday found Bob and me at the Disneyland Resort. We were there to celebrate Bob's birthday.

We got a special treat right off the bat; this amazing parking place right next to the escalator:

The parks were decked out in their Halloween Time finery:

The birthday boy enjoyed lunch at his favorite eatery:

Although the park in general was not very crowded, there was a line to the Winnie the Pooh ride. I was all for bailing, but Bob quietly insisted that he wished to wait (he knows I really like the ride). As we exited our ride vehicles we were suddenly pounced upon by the Dream Squad. In a flash we were proud possessors of a Year of a Million Dreams "Dream Time Event" passes:

These passes allowed us to stay in Disneyland for an hour after everyone else left! We've never gotten anything from the Dream Team before, and were extremely tickled by this special birthday gift.

At 8pm as the park was closing to the rest of the guests, the 3,000 people with Dream Passes were escorted into a special area near Big Thunder Ranch. There we were entertained by Clark as the park was cleared of those not blessed with Dream Time passes:

Special guests Minne and Mickey were on hand to send us off into a now deserted park:

Although going on the rides was cool, the best part of the experience was the empty streets:

Here we are at the end of our day after riding the last Finding Nemo sub of the night:

What an amazing thing it was that the entire park stayed open just for us!

Thanks, Dream Team!

flickr photostream here!