Thursday, January 29, 2009

YouTube + Classical Music =

In the category of "I can't believe I hadn't heard of this until now", I bring you the YouTube Symphony Orchestra. Since I'm a big believer in not creating work when it's already been done for you, here's the description from the site:

"Play your part in music history. Interested in joining the first-ever collaborative online orchestra? Professionals and amateur musicians of all ages, locations and instruments are welcome to audition for the YouTube Symphony Orchestra by submitting a video performance of a new piece written for the occasion by the renowned Chinese composer Tan Dun (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). We have tools to help you learn the music, rehearse with the conductor, and upload your part for the collaborative video. And how do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice and upload. Send us your talent video performance from a list of recommended pieces. Finalists will be chosen by a judging panel and YouTube users to travel to New York in April 2009, to participate in the YouTube Symphony Orchestra summit, and play at Carnegie Hall under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas.The deadline for all video submissions is January 28, 2009. "

I'm sorry, but that's just too friggin' cool. Had this come along when I was still in my clarinet days, I very well might've posted a video entry. As it is, I've been watching a few of the clarinet entries (a very few) and here's one that caught my eye. She starts off with a couple of orchestral excerpts, but watch at least until 3:40, which is when the video shifts to a performance of the Adagio movement of Mozart's Clarinet Concerto, complete with a string orchestra accompaniment and a big, fancy dress! I'm voting for this girl.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Weather is not that bad, people!

I just spent 30 minutes - the entirety of my morning workout - watching WFAA Channel 8 (our local ABC affiliate) talk about the weather. "Ice Storm", they called it. By about 15 minutes in, it became a game. How long could they possibly spend talking about the weather? Apparently, an entire 6:00 AM newscast. I am just amazed at what we call news here in North Texas. Schools are actually closed today - lots of them. And they're predicting we may get 0.5" of ice. Maybe. Probably closer to 0.1" across most of the Metroplex. That does not warrant a snow day! People in the North would laugh at us. We were in NYC in December, during a REAL snow storm, and people just bundled up and went about their business.

Okay, I'll step off the soapbox now and tell you about something a little more fun. Today is my stepdad's birthday! Happy Birthday, Wayne! On Sunday, Branden and I met my parents at Joe's Crab Shack for dinner, and a good time was had by all! I'm really fortunate that a)my parents live so close and b)I'm close with them. I can actually say that we're friends with my parents, and that makes me really happy.

My parents split a steampot (one of those pots full of steamed crab and potatoes and corn and whatnot), and Branden had one for himself. Before they brought out the steampots, the waitress tied bibs on each of I just had to take pics!

This is Branden's new "I'm hungry, bring me my food" look. He started this one at Rolf's on our honeymoon, and is now convinced that all restaurant pics of him should look this way. Oh least it's not his patented "thumbs-up" look that he used to use in every. single. picture.

I don't have much else to say at the moment, and I'm running behind getting I'll leave you with a couple more pictures from Sunday's birthday dinner.

My super-cute parents:

Our attempts at a good picture...maybe if you combined the two. :-/

Friday, January 23, 2009

I got an award!

My very young blog has already received an award! It comes from my friend Carie over at Love, Life and Everything in between! Without further ado, I present to you the...

Premio Dardos Award

This award acknowledges the values that ever blogger shows in his/her effort to transmit cultural, ethical, literary and personal values every day.

The rules for the award...this is where it gets sticky for me. I have to:1) Accept the award, post it on my blog together with the name of the person that has granted the award and his/her blog link; and2) Pass the award to another 15 blogs that are worthy of this acknowledgment. Remember to contact each of them to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

Now, number 1 is no problemo...already got that one taken care of. But I don't know 15 other blogs...I only know a handful, and they've already been given this award. So I'm going to have to defer on that one at this time. Sorry I can't share the love...but I definitely wanted to post the award!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Things that make me happy

President Barack Obama.

Vice President Joe Biden.

The book I stayed up last night to finish.

My new computer (the burgundy one).

My husband. :o)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Book Review: 2 for 1

First, a disclaimer: I'm not the best reviewer...because I tend to find a way to like just about every book I read, every movie I see, etc. I suspect it's something linked to my personality trait of finding the best in everyone I meet - that agreeable-ness that pervades everything I do. I swear I do have an opinion, though - honest!

I'm doing a 2-for-1 deal here because I've finished two books this week, and I'd like to review them both.

First up: Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn

For me, this was a really fun book to read. It is billed as a "progressively lipogrammatic epistolary fable." In fact, this is the book's subtitle, and a quite effective summation of the tale. A lipogrammatic tale is one that is told while omitting certain letters of the alphabet. This book, while not strictly lipogrammatic, is mostly so, and that is, in fact, the gist of the whole book. It is told in the form of letters written back and forth between the main characters. At first I was wary of a book written in this manner, and whether it would effectively convey the story and be able to hold my attention, but it most definitely did both. The book tells the story of the island of Nollop, named after the typesetter who came up with the sentence "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog" - which uses each letter of the alphabet, in a sentence of only 35 letters. Nollop is ervered on the island, and in fact, a statue of him, with the sentence on tiles below, stands proudly in the center of the island's main town. The problem arises when the tiles begin to fall off. The High Council which runs the island take this as a sign from Nollop himself (long since deceased) and decide that these letters which fall off are no longer to be written or spoken by the islanders. As more and more tiles fall off, life on the island becomes quite difficult. The themes of totalitarianism (the absolute rule of the Council) and freedom of speech play major roles throughout the book. I won't give away the ending, but it is quite clever. I definitely had one of those head-smacking "Why didn't I think of that?!" moments. All in all, I quite enjoyed this book. It was a fairly quick read and I enjoyed the message behind it. Definitely recommended.

Book #2: A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

Another entertaining read, this book was quite a surprise for me. I picked it up not quite knowing what to expect. All I'd gathered from the friend who recommended it to me (Smash) was that it was about a young girl going off to boarding school in England. Boy, is there more to it than that! If you're planning on reading it, stop now - I don't want to give anything away, because it's just more fun if you don't know what you're getting yourself into. For those continuing to read: fantasy, hidden worlds, a bit of the occult, all occuring in the frame of late 19th century England, with all of its social and behavioral restrictions. It's amazing, first off, to see how far we've come in the last 100-and-change years. I loved how Ms. Bray combined the every day trials and tribulations of getting along at boarding school with the more fantastical elements of this book, and it didn't seem odd at all. I know there are other tales of Gemma Doyle, and I look forward to following along on her journey to see where she's headed from here.

I leave you all with a parting picture. I've had requests for a picture of little Taryn Elizabeth, who was born on Wednesday the 14th. Here she is at just one day old, cradled in my arms:

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Recap of yesterday

Yesterday was an eventful day...

We laid my Granny Jane to rest.
It was a double-versary for Branden and I - 3 years since our first date & 1 month since our wedding.
And a new person came into the world!

We started the day off with Granny Jane's funeral. It was a nice service, though I did receive a bit of a shock when I went into the chapel and realized that it was an open-casket service. To be blunt, I'd never seen a dead person before. My mom asked if I wanted to go and say goodbye to her before the service started, but I declined. I just wasn't ready to. The service itself was nice. My uncle Jack gave a nice eulogy, and my aunt Mary's husband Darrel was the piano/vocal soloist. It was good to see Mary - she lives in Tennessee and I hadn't seen her in years. After the service, when it was our turn to go by the casket and pay our respects, I was finally ready, so I took my place in line and filed past. Branden was a great support...he held my hand while I said my goodbyes. Afterwards, there was a gathering at Jack's house for food and visiting, and I'm very glad we were able to go. We got some good visiting in, and everyone vowed that we wouldn't let so much time pass before we got together again.

After a nice nap at home, Branden and I went out to celebrate our double-versary. He took me back to the skating rink where he proposed (and where we had our first date), and I attempted to skate for a bit while he got frustrated with me for not trying harder. Then we had a hot chocolate while waiting for the bus to take us up to the Knox/Henderson area. We had dinner at Chili's (thanks to my awesome cousin Wade, who gave Branden the gift certificate for Christmas!), and it was quite yummy! It was funny watching the two babies at tables near ours "flirt" with each other throughout the meal.

And to complete the circle of life...I got news late last night that a good friend (and bridesmaid in my wedding) gave birth to a healthy baby girl yesterday! My BFF Lindsey and I are going to visit tonight, so I'll have pics and details later. But for now, welcome to the world, Baby Taryn!

As I said, quite an eventful day. :o)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

It was her time

My step-grandmother died last night. I've never lost a grandparent before, and it's a little strange to be starting with this one. She's been my grandmother for eighteen years, but I never really felt the connection as I did with my mom's parents. Nonetheless, I do love her, and I know she cared for me.

She was an interesting woman. I've only ever none her as a retiree who valued her independence, enjoyed her retirement community in Grapevine, and loved to go bowling. She smoked, and laughed, and loved to be the center of attention. I think there was always a little bit of awkwardness there because of my stepdad's relationship with her. Strained isn't really the right word...but I think he always had some resentment towards her for abandoning him and his two brothers to go start another family with another man. She left them with their dad and an abusive stepmother and a lot of emotional scars. Knowing that made it hard to ever form the traditional child/grandparent bonds. However, she wasn't a bad woman and I know she lived a full life, and it was definitely her time to go. She was in a lot of pain over the last few and out of the hospital...and was taken to hospice care late last week and only given a few more weeks to live, at most. Pancreatic cancer was the leading ailment, and what eventually caused her death, although she also had emphysema and some other problems. Her body just wore out.

The only other death in the family I've ever been through was her son, my stepdad's closest brother, who died when I was in college. I'm not practiced on this (though do you ever really get to be that way?). I don't really know how to feel. I'm sad, but am I sad enough? Am I too sad? I know there's no right answer. The last time I saw her was a few months ago, in the hospital. We talked a little about the wedding, a lot about bowling. My parents and I ate at Luby's afterwards. I'll say goodbye to her in a few days. I'll probably cry, because that's what I do.

I love you, Granny Jane.

Friday, January 9, 2009

My First Meme!

Okay, so in my intro post, just one down, I mentioned that my good friend/fellow blogger Smash had tagged me on her blog. This was her attempt to get me, the freshman blogger, to start posting. Obviously it worked!

Apparently a survey is also called a meme (?)...not going to worry myself over that too much, just going to answer the questions!

The book that’s been on your shelves the longest: Oh gosh...I think that'd be a toss-up between several of my children's books. My mom was a children's librarian when I was a wee one, so I was showered with the best in kiddy lit...sometimes autographed by the author. Since I don't know which one is the oldest, I'll just go with my favorite - Pecos Bill by Steven Kellogg. The autograph inside is awesome - it says "To Courtney" and includes a freehand sketch of a longhorn.

Come to think of it, it's really a toss-up between that and his version of Chicken Little, which he autographed with a drawing of Chicken Little.

A book that reminds you of something specific in your life (a person, a place, a time, etc.): The Mozart Season by Virginia Euwer Wolff

This was one of my favorite books as a pre-teen. I was just discovering my love of music, and I can't begin to describe how reading about young Allegra entering a violin competition inspired me. I read it over and over and over again.

A book you acquired in some interesting way (gift, serendipity in a used bookstore, prize, etc.): I bought a copy of The Rough Guide to Pregnancy & Birth by Kaz Cooke for a dollar at The Strand bookstore in NYC while on our honeymoon. It was on a shelf outside the store, and I really couldn't turn it down for a dollar. It's a British book, so that's kinda cool. And it went with us to Blue Man Group, so that's pretty fun too.

A book that’s been with you to the most places: I'm gonna go with my literature textbook from college. I bought it in Lubbock, and it's moved to Arlington, a couple of apartments in Commerce, back to Arlington, then to three different places in Dallas with me.

The most recent addition to your shelves: See two questions above, the British book.

A bonus book that you want to talk about but doesn’t fit into the other questions: My German textbook from college...just cuz I think it's cool, and I really wish I could've actually finished learning German. I've had two aborted efforts to learn German...I started in 9th grade, but then transferred schools the next year, and couldn't continue. Then I picked up German and was going to make it my minor in college...but that effort didn't work either, when I transferred to Texas A&M-Commerce. Alas and alack...


So it's my first post, and I'm starting off with a bang. I was tagged by my friend Smash over at But, I think I shall write a nice introductory post before getting to her survey/meme.

Who the heck am I and what am I doing here? Chances are, if you're reading this blog, it's because you already know the answer to that. But in case you don't, here are the basics. My name is Courtney, and I'm 28 years old. I was married 12/14/08 to the most wonderful man in the world. His name is Branden - with an "e". I'll post some pics when I finally get the CD from my photographer. We live in the heart of downtown Dallas, because it's the closest you can get to city life in this area. We honeymooned in NYC and absolutely fell in love with it. My husband is currently studying City & Regional Planning with an emphasis in Transportation in graduate school. He's only in his 2nd semester, but so far he has a 4.0! I'm very proud of him. I work for a nonprofit, in the area of creative learning/education. My degree is in music...clarinet performance, to be exact, although I stopped playing a year after I graduated (bad Courtney!). We have two dogs and a cat. No kids yet, but we're both excited about becoming parents.

I guess the most overriding characteristic of us as a couple is our love of the city. It's what brought us together (we met on a forum - the DFW Urban Forum - which focuses on urban development issues in Dallas). Branden is majorly into walkable neighborhoods and transit use and the environment...hence why he's in grad school for it. I just love the energy of the city, the convenience of being able to walk to things, the history and the architecture and just living amongst skyscrapers.
What are my goals for the upcoming year, and how do I hope to use this blog to help me towards those goals? My goals are to be a good wife, get more into "wifey" things like cooking and decorating our home, and prepare our home and our relationship for the next step...starting a family! Another major goal of mine is to get back into reading. My fellow bloggers/friends have been a great inspiration, and I hope to start with a trip to the library this weekend! I leave you with a picture of my husband and I, Mr. & Mrs. CityLove! (Note: I didn't say this was the best picture...but it's the only one of us together in some recognizable part of NYC. It's hard to get together pictures on your honeymoon.)