Monthly Archives: November 2013

Fall Concert Announcement!

It’s late November! Before we know it, it will be December. Have you been wondering when the Lakeshore Chamber Orchestra’s fall concert announcement would appear? Did you worry that you’d missed it?

Well, wonder no more! We’re presenting it a couple of weeks later than usual this year. In fact, it’s happening as late in November as it possibly can be.

Airs de jeunesse will be presented this Saturday, 30 November 2013, at 19h30. As the concert’s title suggests, the theme is early works from some well-known composers, but early doesn’t mean weaker than their more mature works; in fact, they’re anything but! They’re bursting with energy and vitality. Here’s the programme:

    Overture for A Midsummer Night’s Dream — Mendelssohn
    A Simple Symphony — Britten
    Violin Concerto (first movement), with soloist Ember Reed — Kabalevsky
    Symphony no. 1– Beethoven

The concert is taking place at Valois United, our orchestra’s home, which is at 70 Belmont Ave (corner King) in Pointe-Claire. Admission is $10, free for children 18 and under. The concerts usually last just about two hours, including the refreshment break. The address and map are on the church website. Children of all ages are very welcome.

I hope we’ll see you there!

More Sparky, With Cello

I haven’t even mentioned here that Sparky got a new cello.

It was about a month ago. When school began this year and lessons started up again, Sparky’s teacher mentioned that he’d grown over the summer. (This was not news to us; all the pants he’d had to roll up at the beginning of the calendar year were now just barely long enough for his legs.) Come the new year, she said, we’d have to look for a new cello, the next size up.

Let’s take a quick stroll down memory lane.

This was Sparky with the 1/4 size rental cello:

This was Sparky with a 1/8 size rental cello, the proper proportion for his size at the time (he was 5 1/2):

This was Sparky with his very own brand-new-to-him 1/8 size cello, the purchase of which was documented here). (It looks bigger than the other 1/8, but that’s just the angle of the photograph.):

Well, this was Sparky this past September, with that same 1/8 cello:

Yeah, we knew he was growing. We’d have been blind not to notice.

Because it’s not every day the right size cello pops up in the classifieds, I started watching local ads for a used one at an affordable price. There were 1/4 cellos out there for more than I could afford, of course. I needed to keep an eye on things and jump on the right one as soon as it was listed.

As fortune would have it, that cello showed up the second day I checked, priced at five hundred dollars. And it was five minutes away, to boot. So we made an appointment and went to check it out. It was perfect — nice sound, no cracks or open seams, a well-repaired neck — so I made another appointment to go back with the payment and to pick it up. The sound is quite nice; the simple fact that the body of the instrument is bigger means there’s more room for the sound to resonate and for the vibrations to amplify, so that’s a big help.

Sparky now had a new cello! Which meant we needed to sell his old one to recoup the money. I listed it at the same price, taking into account the three hundred dollars of work we’d had done to it to bring it up to playable state, the new bow we’d bought, and the new case. Two weeks ago I had a query on it, from a couple in Quebec City, who were looking for an instrument for their four-year-old son to start lessons with. (Aww!) It’s rare to find a 1/8 cello listed for resale, so I understand why they queried me; heck, we bought this one in Ottawa, remember? They obviously couldn’t come see it, but we had long chats on the phone and via e-mail about it, I answered a lot of questions for them, and we made a date for their son’s teacher to come see it the next time he visited Montreal. (He travels here to visit the same luthier we use! That was a good omen.) He came by this morning and gave it a good workout, then asked me if I was really asking only five hundred for it, because it was a really good little cello, and outfits usually go for much more. Yes, I explained, I only listed it at that price because we got a really good deal on it and I only added the amounts we’d paid for the bow and the case and the upgrades; I wanted it to go to another child who would love it and enable a family who might not otherwise be able to afford it to buy it. He said that he’d recommend it at that price without hesitation; heck, he’d recommend it at a higher price. So he called the couple who were interested, and they agreed, and we compromised on $475. Sparky’s first cello has gone to a very good home. And the teacher voluntarily promised to make sure it went to another good home when the current wee cellist outgrew it. And he took the wee cello away with him.

So, as HRH pointed out on the phone, through the magic of creative financing, we kind only paid $25 for Sparky’s new cello, which tickles me. I didn’t haggle with the woman selling the 1/4 because, as she said, it’s kind of a complicit thing: it’s like a closed community and we’re all supporting one another. It’s like passing good karma along, and encouraging our kids.

The only drawback is that the buyers wanted the small 1/10 bow we bought for Sparky when the 1/8 bow proved just a bit too long for him to balance properly. That’s understandable; the new wee cellist is four and a half, and he’s going to need a smaller bow, too. That means Sparky just started using the 1/4 bow we got with the newer cello, and you can tell he’s not quite comfortable with it yet. Although, our teacher told him he was doing all the right things to get used to it and that his hold was still pretty good for working with a new bow. And the case for the new cello doesn’t have backpack straps, which we miss a lot, but we’ll manage.

I don’t yet have a photo of him with it; he has refused each time I’ve asked. But we have a recital coming up in two weeks, so I’ll try to get one then. Or rather, I’ll have to ask someone else, because I’m accompanying him again!

I am a wee bit nostalgic, because Sparky got that 1/8 cello not long before Owlet was born, so we’ve had it as long as she’s been around.

A Night Out With Sparky

Last night Sparky and I did something special together, just we two cellists. We went to a concert held by the West Island Youth Symphony Orchestra, in the church where I usually do my Canada Day concerts.

It would have been little more special if half an hour before we got there, Sparky hadn’t done a 180 degree shift from his excitement prior to the actual concert and decided he didn’t want to be there, because we’d get home much too late to read a chapter before bedtime. He was cranky and a bit whiny through the first half. He sat there with a Lego book open on his lap, poking me and whispering stuff now and again. It was chilly in the church and he was wearing only a cotton button-down shirt, so that didn’t help; he burrowed into his down-filled jacket and pulled his scarf and hat on. But as every new piece began he asked for the programme and looked up its name. I like to talk to him about music, and sometimes give him snippets of trivia about the piece and the composer. He’s often receptive, but he wasn’t in the mood this time, so I let him be.

They opened with a Shostakovich overture that was nice and crashy with lots of brass, moved to Respighi’s Fountains of Rome (I need to break out my double disc set of Respighi music, because I do not listen to it enough), did a pleasant arrangement of Williams’ theme for Schindler’s List, and finished the first half with a soloist performing Chaminade’s Concertino for Flute and Orchestra. I was especially interested in this one, because our orchestra played it with a phenomenal young flutist a couple of years ago, but I’d never heard it live.

The orchestra was incredible. They were smooth, tight, confident, and leapt from pianissimo to fortissimo without dragging along the way. (My orchestra must make our conductor despair sometimes, because dynamics are one of our issues; he likes a lot of contrast, and we are usually very slow to get there.) We sat in the perfect place to see the celli work, and I was kind of excited about that. I think the last time I saw an orchestra play was about three years ago, and it was the WIYSO again, in their free concert for the Beaconsfield centennial year. (Again with Sparky! That’s one of the reasons I thought this would be a nice treat; we’d very much enjoyed that one.) It’s quite a treat to be able to sit and enjoy another orchestra.

The second half was what it’d really be looking forward to. They played Dvorak’s eighth symphony, and while the ninth is yes, very good, I prefer the eighth, hands down. The last time I saw the eighth done in concert, it was in the second half of an all-Dvorak programme presented by the TSO fifteen years ago; the first half was the Dvorak cello concerto with Yo-Yo Ma as the soloist, and Ma crept out in the second half to sit with the cellist at the last desk and play through the eighth symphony with them in the cello section for fun. The WIYSO did a brilliant job. The symphony is very cello-heavy; they have a lot of the themes and carry a lot of the textural richness along with the brass section, and they did a terrific job. It turned out that a lot of his grousing during the break was because he was tired, because Sparky slept through the second half, his head pillowed on my lap. I marvel at how he manages to sleep through the loudest, crashiest pieces of music. He’d whined through the break, wanting to go home, but I told him pleasantly yet firmly that we weren’t leaving because I wanted it hear the symphony, and so he could be miserable or try it make the best of it. I opened a tiny packet of Smarties during the second movement for him, and he went back to sleep for the rest of the symphony.

He said the next day at our group lesson that he’d really liked it, even though he slept through most of the second half. I know that even though there are hiccoughs along the way, he’ll remember these special nights. And yes, I read half a chapter to him after we got home, as I’d promised.

Lest We Forget

I remember, today and always.

War’s not the answer most of the time; it’s often an excuse that veils another agenda. But that’s not going to stop me from honouring the men and women whose job it was/is, or who volunteer(ed), to go out and risk their lives in confrontations beyond what most of us can envision. It’s their commitment and courage I honour on Remembrance Day. I honour our peacekeepers, too, the people who go to other countries to help rebuild after times of turmoil. And support staff — doctors, drivers, cooks, all those people who are necessary and who rarely get recognition for being in danger as well. And those left at home, who carry the double burden of hope and dread for their loved ones.

There has to be a better way. But even when someone figures it out, I’ll keep on saying thank you to all those individuals who gave lives, limbs, time, and innocence to the wars. I honour and respect their personal decisions, even if I disagree with the governmental decisions that created the need for them.


I am just back from DavidsTea, where I bought three teas I did not expect to buy, and none of the ones that were actually on my list to pick up. Shiny things! Let me smell them! Ooh, I’ll take 25 g of that, and 25 g of that… shopping list? What is a shopping list? You mean, this thing in my hand that’s in my way of picking things up and looking at them? This thing that reminds me of the favourite teas that I am out of or running low on?

Yeah. But I got some of the new White Chocolate Frost, so that makes up for a lot.

I am late on Owlet’s 26-month post, I am late on any kind of an October roundup, and I am sadly delinquent in any kind of note-taking here. I blame a lot of it on October, actually, which was full of deadline kitting, travel, sunshine, and back-to-back work projects. I am also delinquent on a fibro post, but here’s the essence of it: Going back on my medication seemed to be a good idea, except it didn’t do much for the first couple of months, and I began to wonder if something had changed and I needed a different kind, when suddenly everything settled and I felt better than I’d felt in a couple of years. My doctor was very pleased, told me again that she didn’t know how I’d managed everything while not taking medication, and happily extended my prescription for a year. And then November hit.

Ah yes, November. October is all sunshine and coloured leaves, and even the rainy parts are okay. It’s Thanksgiving, and it’s the smell of dusty, smoky, early decay, and it’s really nice. And then you flip the calendar page, and it’s like a huge dark wall slams down, imprisoning you in a horrid grey cell that is damp and cold, and you can never get warm, your tea goes stone-cold in half an hour, and you burst into tears because you can’t fold a bloody bed sheet properly, for goodness’ sake.

Yeah. So that’s where I am right now. I am the ‘nothing going right no matter how hard I try’ stage of things. Cello? Pointless. Reading? I can’t get into very much. Knitting? I’ve frogged the same blanket square five times this week. I’m between work projects, which is good in one way because I am pretty fried, but worrisome in another because in a month my last freelance cheque will arrive in my mailbox, and then there will only be the echoey sound of crickets in my bank account unless I land more work.

So I’m going to go make more tea, because this cup is stone-cold, and do some deadline spinning, and try to get half a blanket square knitted, because someone is having twins they only discovered were twins at 29 weeks (!), so suddenly a second blanket has to be made. It’s very nice to have hobbies when they are a rest from work, but when they become the thing you’re working on, they’re not as much fun.

Owlet: Twenty-Seven Months Old!

This is about two weeks late; I’ll backdate in in a day or so. Lots of pictures, fewer words.

We spent Thanksgiving with my parents in southern Ontario. While we were there, there was much leaf-jumping:

And we managed to get to the warplane heritage museum where my dad works before it closed for the day, despite the rain and the accident that closed both sides of the highway:

And we went to a real fall fair on a thoroughly gorgeous fall day, complete with a midway, food trucks, and livestock competitions. The kids liked the 4H rabbit jumping competitions best. (Yes, this is a real thing. Bunnies doing obstacle courses with jumps and faults, just like horse show jumping. It was marvellous, actually.) The kids got to pet all kinds of livestock, like the rabbits, and sheep, goats, ducks, cows, and horses:

Owlet’s stubbornness is starting to make things like meals and potty training a bit more of a challenge. While she is essentially pee trained (huzzah! and I only say ‘essentially’ because if stated outright that she is pee trained she will have a massive accident) pooping is another matter. She has decided to refuse to poop on the weekends, which has made things kind of crazy. (It’s not even a daycare/home thing. She’ll poop at home on weekday evenings if she has to… just not weekends. It’s driving us batty.) We can put a plate of all her favourite things in front of her and despite loving every thing on it she will push it away sharply and call for yogurt or “peanut butter toast” (which is her term for peanut butter anything, really — sandwich, crackers, actual toast). She loves yogurt, clementine oranges, raspberries, hot chocolate, and anything she can dip into milk or the aforementioned hot chocolate. She can pack away three freshly-baked scones, and would try for a fourth if we let her.

She is quirky and bursting at the seams with character. She picks up inanimate objects and uses a funny deep voice to make them say, “Heywo, Mummy; how are ooo?” She insists on smelling tins of coffee and tea when we open them, big deep inhalations with closed eyes and a sighed “ooh, mmm” afterwards. She insists on eating a pot of yogurt on her own. “My self,” she informs us importantly. And she does indeed do it herself, very tidily, and only needs parental help to scrape the very last half spoonful off the sides. If she does something, she exclaims delightedly, “I did it!” Sometimes after she has successfully used the potty, she says, “I did it!” then throws her arms around my neck and says, “Me happy, Mummy.”

She has discovered how much fun it is to chase other people. She loved pretending to be a monster at Halloween and shrieked with laughter when Sparky would pretend to run from her in horror. “I going get you! I going get you,” she would say, chugging after him on her chunky little legs.

Her favourite shows are Peppa Pig, Sesame Street extracts, and the Angry Birds Toons that Sparky watches. She loves to sing, and brought home a somewhat garbled version of Frere Jacques from preschool that I nonetheless figured out one day (hurrah for motherly intuition). She sings the same circle time song that Sparky used to sing when he attended the other preschool that the director runs, and was delighted when I started singing it with her one day. Her current favourite books are King Pig and she keeps going back to the Little Pookie books and If You Take a Mouse to School. Her new favourite movie is Finding Nemo.

The big girl bed plans continue. Our daycare director passed along an antique wooden bed that has pinecone/acorn finals on the headboard and footboard and is finished in a lovely warm chestnut brown colour. Owlet’s not in danger of climbing out of her crib (the way Sparky was, yikes), but with potty training being close to done, she needs to be able to get out of bed at night. And she so loved reading and snuggling in bed with us at Nana and Grandad’s house, and cried when we had to transfer her into the playpen she sleeps in there: “No, Mummy, no Daddy, sleep big bed!” So the plan is to put up the big bed the first weekend of December, after classes are over at the school HRH works at, so if he gets up a couple of times a night to return a wandering toddler to her bed it won’t impact him as badly the next day. I found her a lovely vintage-looking floral quilted patchwork coverlet mainly in shades of pale green and blue, which looks lovely with the yellow walls. We’re looking forward to snuggling in bed with her to read and cuddle instead of doing it in the rocker (which will have to be moved out of the room, alas, as the twin bed takes up so much more room than the crib does). Moving to a big girl bed is such a sign of growing up!

Halloween 2013

In pictures!

Owlet as Mei from Tonari no Totoro:

And Sparky as Commander Rex from Star Wars: The Clone Wars:

Sparky’s costume was made entirely by HRH out of cardboard (save for the mask, which was purchased, but ended up not being worn other than for pictures). It’s a really amazing construction of cardboard and velcro strips, Gorilla Glue and paint. Owlet’s costume was thrifted in its entirety, from three different stores. She looks even more cute with pigtails like the character wears, but since she leaves them in for about 0.78 seconds, we didn’t bother. (The crocheted Totoro was made by Ceri for Sparky’s third birthday.) While Sparky’s friends at school were appropriately cooled out by his costume, poor Owlet’s educator had no idea who Totoro was. This didn’t bother Owlet, of course; she knew who she was, and was very excited about it.

There was no way Owlet could wear her costume to actually go trick or treating, and covering it up with a snowsuit was pointless, so a few days before Halloween I brainstormed an alternate nighttime costume. She would be a snow fairy, in the pretty lavender princess-style winter coat I’d bought for her last year and stashed away, we’d find wings (thoughtfully purchased by the Preston-LeBlancs when they found a perfect and inexpensive pair on their travels), and I’d make a crown and wand out of found and dollar store materials. And that’s exactly what we did:

You can’t see it very clearly thanks to my blurry photo, but there’s a snowflake with ribbons velcroed to the centre of her wings, the same snowflake that’s wired to her dollar-store crown and her dowel-painted-silver wand. (This is pretty much the only time I’ve been pleased to see Christmas ornaments in the dollar store before Halloween. Six plastic sparkly snowflakes for a dollar? Yes please!).

It poured on Halloween, but it let up to a cold drizzle around trick or treating time. We drove out to spend the evening with HRH’s parents as usual, as their neighbourhood “does Halloween,” whereas ours pretty much does not. At this age, Sparky was scared of the spookily decorated houses and the kids in scary masks on the street, but Owlet chuckled at passing costumed people, stomped happily along the streets, and would have kept chugging along had we not called the evening on account of cold and wet and a forty-five minute drive home.

As much fun as it was, now Owlet knows what candy is, and asks for it frequently. All the way home we heard, “MORE TREATS! MORE CANDY!” from the back seat, and this after only four M&Ms on the way there, and half a Kinder Egg after supper before heading out. Now she gets one M&M after supper, and she thinks this moment is heaven. Otherwise, she’s pretty much forgotten that she collected candy in her bag, which was very very interesting while she was in the process of acquiring it.

And so another Halloween is over. I kind of miss costuming for myself. We’ll be able to do that again in, what, ten-ish years?