Madison Symphony Orchestra is one of the few in the country that opens up their dress rehearsals to the general public, for free, (see also:  NY Phil) so you can see how the sausage gets made before the concert.  It’s quite an opportunity if you are a musician or student or squirelly kid who isn’t quite ready to sit through an entire formal concert without vibrating out of your plush velvet seat yet.

Last night I went to see one of these, featuring longtime violin hero of mine, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg.  Tonight and tomorrow she’ll be performing Piazzolla’s The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires (you can listen on Lala, though they’ve spelled her name wrong making it nice and hard to find).  It will be terrific.  Get tickets and go if you live nearby.

Alas, last night the two enormous families of what I presume to be morality-based home-schoolers (or just two buttoned-up couples who happen to each have five kids under 10 and matching religious haircuts) that I accidentally sat behind didn’t quite have their concert-going bones yet.  This resulted in a listening experience that had more “Mooooooooooooooooooom!  I have to PEEEEEE!” solos than I think Piazzolla envisioned, plus a seat-switching escapade that would have made the Stooges proud and a forced ejection of one of the more vocally adorable parties by a head usher.  And yet, as distracting as they were, better they come during the dress rehearsal, says I.  After all, sitting still and listening is not an innate childhood instinct, like biting, say, or collecting stickers.

The point?  Bravo to the MSO and their brave visiting performers for putting up with the shennanigans of a listening audience while trying to rehearse.  It’s worth it, it really is.  I hope they keep it up long enough for me to be forcibly ejected with my own children someday.


Yes, we are planning to get a cat.  Sorry, Mom.

Not everyone knows this, but my husband has actually been married before.  To his cat.  At age 6.  When, after a good long life of eating Pounce brand cat treats and guarding the stairs, Stripey Francoise “moved to England to live with the Queen,” (her words, not mine), Josh picked himself up and moved on with his life like the brave widower he was, and eventually, when the time was right, he reentered the dating world and subsequently married me.

But Stripey occasionally visits and calls us, and sometimes emails us (rare since she doesn’t have thumbs) and from time to time pounces on something in our apartment, usually when I least expect it and am carrying something hot.  She has a lot of opinions on our new home, and appeared during the inspection to suggest places we might put the litter box.  It was at this point that I realized that we would be getting a cat and there was little I could do about it.

Up to now I’ve been able to put it off, protected by a series of No Pets Allowed rentals and my allergies.  But as I have read in books can happen in your childbearing years, my cat allergy is getting milder.  I tried to hide it from the hubs, faking various sneezing fits and watery eyes every time we visited friends with cats, and I probably would have gotten away with it, but Stripey is alarmingly astute.  “SHE IS NOT REALLY ALLERGIC TO THIS CAT,” she declared the last time we visited Quigley and his family, while pointing an accusing paw at me.  Josh overheard and the jig was up.

At this point I tried to argue for a dog.  Dogs are sweet, and loving, and they like you enough to come when called, and don’t bring you half-eaten mice (as often).  They poop outside.  But it was to no avail.  Here is how Josh got me:  He told me if we got a dog I would have to be in charge of walking the dog, watering the dog, feeding the dog, and boarding the dog should we ever be able to afford to leave our new house.  Whereas if we get a cat, he is the President, Vice President and Custodial Staff of Cat Care.

He sealed the deal when he said we could get a Nermal (an adorable lap-loving cuddle cat).  Stripey hates Nermals and says they are a disgrace to the long and storied heritage that is every proud cat’s birthright.  And I like the idea of doing something that would irritate Stripey.  After all, it’s normal for a second wife to feel a little irrational jealous towards the idealized first wife who occasionally materializes late at night and shouts “MAD CAT!” just as the second wife is about to fall into a peaceful slumber.

Yeah, I know.  There’s really nothing normal about that scenario whatsoever.  Sigh.


Busy shopping for home insurance.  Go read about the Nook.

Or read about Maurice Sendak’s personal kind of crazy.

Or have a little nap at your desk.  Who am I to judge?


I am happy to announce that after a period of time that severely tested the limits of my patience (test results:  I am impatient) we have secured financing for the H— and are on the hasty march towards an end of month move.  There are still roughly seventy-two thousand things to do before we are ready, and yet I am far less daunted by the prospect of actually getting stuff done in a hurry than I was by the interminable wait to see if the bank would come to our closing with a check or just send us home with best wishes for spending the rest of our lives in an apartment, along with a 2010 calendar and maybe an extra toaster from one of their new member promotions.

We are really excited.  A new h— has such promise.  And by promise, I mean a dishwasher and an extra bedroom.  For the first time in my adult life, I will be able to throw in a load of laundry without putting on a coat and finding some quarters first.  I will have a storage space that doesn’t also double as an oven.  A place to park the car without worrying that I might get a ticket.  And in the spring, a garden!  That doesn’t plug in!  It’s all rather thrilling.

Just think:  if all goes according to plan, we should be moved in with time to find some scary costumes and become the weird people who hide in their yard and scare trick-or-treaters as they pass by.  I know I have a cd of haunted house sounds and the makings of an awesome Zombie Nun costume around here somewhere.  I’m sure I’ll find it while we pack…


There is a new F word in my life.  After a hearty skull-pounding from Texas Tech, Nebraska is off the AP rankings.  Missouri and Florida State are long gone.  So from a pick six perspective, (I am “Hüsker Du”) things are Not Good.  I’m told the idea is to get MORE of your six chosen teams into the top 25 every week, not fewer.  (Even my husband–whose pick six id is Lawrence Phillips’ Revenge–is doing better than me.  Daymn.)

But what about from the Husker fan perspective?  From this perspective things are not just bad but seriously footballed.  We didn’t watch the game with sound so I missed out on what he was actually saying as he harassed every striped shirt he could find, but in the fourth quarter there were colors rising in Bo Pelini’s cheeks that previously were not seen in nature.  Colors that, if added to the Crayola box, would have names like “Fury Orange” and “Vomitocious Green” as well as “Fire the Quarterback Red” and “Penalty Purple.”  How can we explain such a surprising upset?  Was it a lazy offense?  An recovering Helu and banged-up Burkhead?  Or was it ALL MY FAULT???

Yes, I am here to tell it like it is and take responsibility.  The Husker loss was my fault and mine alone. How, you may ask, could a lovely young lady such as I control the fate of a football game hundreds of miles away?


That’s right, I was not wearing the proper undergarments to ensure a Nebraska win, nor was I wearing the lucky red Nebraska Pooh shirt that was responsible for the record-setting 57-yard field goal that won the Colorado game last year (though one might say that Alex Henery played some small part in that kick as well).  Why?  Because we didn’t do the laundry in time.  And because we had to go directly from the sports bar we were watching the game in to the choir concert, where wearing bright red undies under a black dress under bright lights whilest standing center stage is frowned upon. (Snobs.)

A better fan would have done the laundry.  A better fan would have washed the knickers out by hand and dried them with a hair dryer.  A better fan would have worn her bright red Pooh shirt to her choir concert and damn the consequences.

But I let my team down.  And for that I apologize.  I promise you, Husker Nation, it will not happen again.  If I have to wear my Pooh shirt for the next 45 days*, I will make it right.

*May do this no matter what just to annoy my husband.


I’ve been teaching piano for a few months now and I’ve learned some interesting things about the instrument. One is that I am not the only student who had to be persuaded to practice. Another is that some parents aren’t going to persuade their kids to practice. And their kids announce this to me within the first thirty seconds of every lesson. “My mom didn’t make me practice,” they tell me proudly. They don’t know how I silently judge.

The most important thing I’ve learned, though, is the currency of stickers. Stickers, my friends, are the answer to several of our economic woes in this nation. For example, let’s say your kid, Maddie or Max, aged 9, tells you s/he would like an expensive gaming device. But you’ve just been laid off and are trying to save so you can pay the real bills. You COULD go put the expensive item on your credit card, leading you to declare bankruptcy.  OR you could:

Buy the child an old beat-up gaming device on craigslist and a copy of Madden ‘98

Apply copious stickers, at least one of which is sparkle-based.

    My students will do anything for stickers. Anything. It’s frightening. Let’s say that I tell them to practice and mark it down on a chart, and for every day that they practice, I will give them a sticker. The next week the parents come in agog, saying that the student practiced every day. Then the student demands her stickers. Meanwhile, in the last week, I have forgotten about the stickers. I have given the stickers away like advice, to anyone who asks and some who don’t. I get them stuck in my hair and don’t find them for days. But the student feels that their twenty minutes a day is worth just a little less than One Sticker and that they are getting some kind of deal out of me.  They grin like fools when they trick me out of my five precious stickers. Apparently they think that they are only worth, say, two and a half stickers per hour. (And maybe so, but I get stickers in bulk.)

    The one flaw: Kids are sticker junkies, and like real junkies, every hit only works once. After the second or third week, you have to up the sticker payout. Now you are giving only gold colored stickers, or two stickers per practice session, or fancy stickers. The kids start pointedly looking from your sheet of stickers to the jar of lollypops you keep on the piano. At this point, if the parents can’t do their own fine blend of threatening and bribing at home, the stickers begin to lose any effectiveness at all.

    (Luckily this is not true of the Ohio State Buckeyes, whose unending sticker dependence (though they call them “decals”) is part of the reason I put them in my Pick Six.)

    I conclude this blog with some helpful music tips from my piano students, all of which were overheard in my studio just yesterday.

    On playing forte:

    I always bang on your piano, because at home I’m not allowed.

    On finding your note:

    What you do is you put the stickers on middle C. Then, you take them off but there will always be a sticky feeling on middle C. So you will know where it is!

    On phrasing:

    If you hold the pedal down, you don’t have to play the piano as long.

    On practice:

    I practiced this every day. Which was Sunday.


    1.  New B&N eReader awfully cute!

    Hello MotoPhoto and intelligence from Gizmodo

    B&N hasn’t released the name of this device yet, but per the good folks at Gizmodo it’s awful.  Perhaps iSnob?  Or maybe The Amazing $200 Book *book not included?  I look forward to hearing it, and probably mocking it.  And then wanting one.  Mayhaps the eReader is finally wobbling toward that hallowed tipping point?

    2.  The Public Outrage over my not being named a Madison Opera Blogger has not been either as Public or as Outraged as I might have hoped.  Am resigned to sad fact that perhaps I am not a Madison Cultural Icon.  Yet.  All that will change when I crash Madison Opera’s blogger night dressed as my evil baking persona  THE ARTISAN.

    3.  As if that isn’t enough heartbreak, I just got a daunting set of revisions back on a project I’ve been working on since recorded time began.  This stinks, but it did give me an excuse to do some particularly enthusiastic emotional eating last night.  If there is a slice of pepperoni left in Near West Madison it must have been in hiding last night.  Poor slice of pepperoni.  Huddling in the rainy doorways, just trying to stay out of sight of the crazed woman stalking up and down Monroe street eating everything in her path.  It’s a rough world out there.

    4.  Clear your schedules for my first FESTIVAL CHOIR CONCERT this Saturday.  Come for the singing, stay for the snacks after the show.  Our director, who is a really excellent programmer, I think, has pulled together a night of happy songs (and occasionally, sad song with happy lyrics) to give economic downturn survivors a much needed perking up. Music lovers will recognize Britten’s Rejoice in the Lamb and the oldie but goodie Promise of Living by Aaron Copland.  Judy Garland lovers will enjoy our snazzy rendition of Get Happy and enjoy Madison’s close proximity to Iowa courthouses. More info:

    Jazz Hands!

    I will be the one with the food baby in the front row.


    It’s all over the blogosphere that Madison Opera has organized a very fun-sounding “blogger’s night” for the Nov. 6th performance of Carmen, in which they’ve invited a few select bloggers to live blog and/or tweet before and after the performance, as well as during intermission.  (But not during the actual opera, which would be annoying.)  The opera company’s hope is that these bloggers will review the opera or otherwise make noise of it afterward, giving Carmen and the rest of the upcoming season some much needed and practically free exposure.

    To this I say, AHEM!

    Probably due to some sort of glaring clerical error, I have not (yes, not) been invited to be one of these Opera Bloggers.  Can you imagine?  Have I not brought to my seven or eight loyal readers news of such important cultural events as the National Mustard Day Festival and annual Wife Carry?  Have I not posted pictures of vegetables and herbs (like opera, good for you and full of flavor) just about every week?  Most importantly, have I not been featured* on the local news three times in the six months since I moved here????

    What more could you want, Madison Opera?  What more?


    This. (Yes, people trying to stay afloat in pumpkins.  Be sure to read the press release)

    And then later and only slightly more ridiculous, this, part of this.

    Happy sailing!

    • The Huskers won.  Rather than gloat, I will direct you to this swooning article. (Perhaps the first half was just a terrible nightmare?)
    • President Obama won some sort of prize.  I guess it’s a “Not being the previous guy” prize.  It comes with one million dollars which he is using to buy Chuck Grassley’s senate seat for Sasha and Melia (it’s an important lesson about sharing).  I think they will be a vast improvement.
    • Josh and I were on the news again.  This time for buying coffee for Cystic Fibrosis.  Or rather, coffee against cystic fibrosis.  I’m not sure.  It was good coffee though.