Friday, October 24, 2008

Marching band kicks my sash!

It's all my fault, Boy insists. All the concerts I dragged him to; all the times I told him that I had the most fun and made some of my best high school friends in marching band. So when he entered high school at the Plymouth-Canton Educational Park this year, he decided to join the marching band. I was pleased. I thought he'd have fun and make friends, and his school's band has a great reputation, with numerous national top-10 finishes (and 3 championships) over the past 20 years.

Then I discovered why the band has such a great reputation. They work extremely hard: a week of full-day practices in June and July, and two weeks' worth in August, including band camp. Once school starts, they rehearse around 25 hours a week. Saturday is either a full day of practice, or a competition day with rehearsal, travel, and performance. And the result is amazing. I remember marching band as doing three, maybe four, songs at halftime of football games, with a single formation for each song. I was in the flag corps, and we twirled and spun our one flag in a routine for each song

The PCEP band, though, is to my high school band what the Rockette's Christmas Extravaganza is to a middle-school holiday concert. They memorize ten minutes of music, and they're moving around almost the entire time. The patterns are intricate, and the music is challenging (no movie themes or pop songs here!). And the color guard is—well, out of this world. They change flags. They change costumes. They have props! They dance and move around and generally make things look even cooler.

The other thing I discovered is that to have the band look so good, it takes a lot of volunteer effort. (And money, too, but the fundraising is so well organized it's not annoying.) So I thought I'd stick an oar into volunteer waters; I've got a flexible schedule and brains, so why not? I offered to help with publicity for the charity craft fair they're hosting in November, the week after Nationals. So I spent most of Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday generating address lists, mailing labels, and letters so we can get local businesses to post signs promoting the event. Great! Now I thought I'd get back to writing, but then I saw they needed help making new sashes for the uniforms. The theme of this season's show is "Kaleidoscope," and they needed more pops of color/shine. Well, I can sew, I thought. I showed up Wednesday night and helped cut out material for the 170+ sashes they needed to make. Then I took some home and spent most of yesterday and this morning sewing them together. They weren't that hard (baste and topstitch seam binding), but they were time-consuming. Then tonight I'm going to help the uniform genies velcro the new sashes to the uniforms. They do look pretty, don't they? (Callie wouldn't cooperate and be a sash model, which is just as well; I can imagine putting the sash on an allergic tuba player and having them sneeze the instrument clear off their shoulders. Disaster would ensue.)

But, of course, I haven't done diddly with my writing this week. Final score of this lopsided defeat? Marching Band: 150 contacts, 17 sashes; Novel, 0 words. But at least the band will look great!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

There's no time like tea time...

... and at my house, tea time lasts all day long. Yes, it's true. My name is Diane, and I have a drinking problem.

It's not really my fault, you see. First of all, I'm not a coffee drinker. I wasn't raised in a coffee-drinking household, so I never found the smell of coffee that appealing. When I finally tried it, I thought it was bitter and nasty; I couldn't add enough sugar and milk to make it palatable. Strangely enough, although there was plenty of iced tea in the house when I was growing up, I wasn't a big fan of that, either.

But then, when I was young and impressionable, I started dating my husband. Because both his mother and his stepmother were born in Britain, any time we visited them I was offered a cup of tea. Now, when you're 20 years old and meeting your boyfriend's family, you smile and say yes a lot and try to appear normal. And guess what? I discovered that with a little milk and sugar (okay, a lot of sugar), hot tea could be warm and soothing and tasty.

It was just plain old PG Tips or Tetley tea (only proper British brands for my lovely lady in-laws), but that was like a gateway drug. Soon I was trying other types. Earl Grey. Orange Pekoe. English Breakfast. Irish Breakfast. Jasmine. China Oolong and Lapsang Souchong. At college, a classmate turned me on to Twinings Blackcurrant. At a local sandwich shop in Ann Arbor (the late, lamented Drake's), I experimented with maté, a Brazilian breakfast beverage.

Soon I was trying anything. Green teas. White teas. Strange herbal fruity infusions. This weird rooibos stuff from South Africa. Chai tea. (Glorious, glorious chai!) I even learned to like plain old iced tea, even without sugar.

So my fondness for tea might have escalated a little out of control. As evidence, check out my tea shelf:

Sad to say, that's not all my tea; if it comes in a little envelope, I combine a variety into a single box for the main tea cabinet; overflow sachets are in a separate cabinet, along with all the instant cocoa and cider mixes.

Ask me, and I'll always claim that my drinking problem is under control. Just don't ask before I've had my morning cuppa.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Word Nerd Sez: E is for ...


It's funny, I'd been wondering what word I could possibly use for my "E" entry when this one popped into my e-mail box from the wonderful subscription service. It's certainly appropriate to this feature, for it means "the worship of words." Now, I don't know that I "worship" words. I esteem them highly; I spend a lot of time contemplating them; I have fun playing with them. But I haven't built any altars to them ... unless you count this blog. Egads.

Anyway, I'd rather play around with words than worship them. Which leads me to a.w.a.d.'s Internet Anagram Server. Put in any phrase, and it will give you a zillion anagrams (rearrangements of the letters). Many of them are nonsense, but others can be quite amusing. I inputted my name (first and last; stick in my middle name and I get really weird stuff, lots of "zenith" and "geez," and "zit"), and it gave me over 1700 suggestions, including these that stood out:

Teenaged Nil: most teenagers feel like this, I guess, but I'm no longer a teenager (and I had a different name back then: rare naked pi!), so it doesn't count. Neither does leading teen. Aged teen nil might work, but it's not very nice.
Dental Genie: I did write a poem about the tooth fairy; "dental genie" scans much better, though.
Tanned Liege: I'm neither. Maybe if I didn't have a lineage dent, I could trace myself to royalty.
Elegant Dine: I like this one. Who doesn't like to dress up and eat out? It's certainly better than eaten dingle; that doesn't sound appetizing at all.
Genital Need: That's just wrong. But funny.
Giant Needle: Well, I do sew a lot.
Gated Eel Inn: I've got a name if I ever open a B&B!
Dang Teen Lie: Hopefully I won't encounter this soon. Ever. Hear that, Boy?
Elegant End I: Oh, good. I was worried about something ignominious, like tripping on my own underwear and suffering a fatal concussion.
Inane Get Led: Something for election season!
Need Ling Tea: I haven't heard of "ling" tea, so I must need it.

I could go on, but they just get sillier. Why don't you try it for yourself? Post your favorites in the comments.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Photo of the Week--10/13/08

What do you do after you've climbed over 500 steps to reach the top of a 515-foot-tall spire(besides try not to throw up)? You keep looking up. The Dom in Cologne was once the tallest building in Europe (before the Eiffel Tower was built), and it's so huge that you have to be at least a block away to capture the whole thing on film. That was too much work, so I took this shot looking up one of the building's spires instead. I liked the patterns in the metalwork, and the contrast of light and dark. Plus it proves we made it to the top!