Monday, January 26, 2009

The Alaska Experience

So far, so good. Really. Despite the small issues with my housing (no hot water at times, now, no heat), I am having fun. Rehearsals are going well, despite our extremely special rehearsal space (unfinished office space, complete with a dirty wooden subfloor, construction materials and dust like no tomorrow).

The weather has been surprisingly kind - only 2 snows, and one of them was super-light. The temperatures only recently dipped into the 20s, and we've all now brought out the heavy parkas we'd expected to be wearing straight off the plane. No temperatures near zero or sub-zero yet... amazingly, Anchorage has been warmer than a majority of places in the Lower 48 so far.

Sunsets and sunrises, when revealed from the cloud cover we've had over the last few days, are gorgeous, if short-lived. Daylight begins around 9 or 9:30 and ends around 4:30-5:00.

Here's a smattering of pictures that I've taken so far.

Mountains, Sun, Water

Mountains, Sun, Water

A Different Kind of Blue Sky



More can be found at my flickr photostream.

I'd hoped for a more beautifully written post, but my internet access is maddeningly sporadic and sometimes it's all I can do to send out the rehearsal report and schedule. Look for more regular blog posts to occur when we move to the theatre (soon) or when I return to the Lower 48.

Happy List, Week 9

Perfect Rose

1. Ponds Dry Skin Cream. Anchorage has been cruel to my skin and my normal skincare regimen just wasn't keeping up. Thankfully my face now no longer feels like sandpaper.

2. My Polartecs - because now that my apartment has no heat, they're with me 24-7.

3. The fuzzy green blanket on the bed in my room. This blanket is uber-warm and keeps me warm in a 65 degree apartment.

4. ABS brakes. I've been doing pretty well driving on ice and snow, but every so often, I misjudge slightly and the ABS brakes kick in. Mind you, I'm kind of driving around like a grandmother, so this is pretty impressive that the ABS kicks in when you're driving sub-speed limit. Native Anchorage folk must hate my driving, but tough... I'm driving a rental car.

5. The chinook that blew in prior to our arrival. Despite the ice hazards it created, it hasn't been near 0° yet, and it's a nice transition to Alaska weather.

Not much more here on the Happy List... it's been a long week and I've got a whole other post on the Alaska Experience, complete with pictures, coming up.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Happy List, Week 8

Perfect Rose

Better late than never, right? This week ran away from me with adjusting to a new locale, 3 hour time change, lack of daylight and spotty internet.

1. Puffs Plus with Lotion. Thanks to Houston's complete lack of winter, I've been overly friendly with the kleenex box for the last few days. If it weren't for the lotion, I'm sure I'd resemble Rudolph even more than I do now.

2. West Wing. I completed my series marathon of West Wing this weekend. Can i say (yet again) how much I love this show? The last several episodes were wonderful and this show made me cry twice for a good actor who died unexpectedly. Once for the episode where everyone found out (pt 2 of election day) and the episode where they laid him to rest.

3. Good, no great actors. I'm talking mostly of the West Wing cast, but this goes for many of my other favorites. What I found out while watching the West Wing is that many of the actors were friends prior to working together. You can act all you want but some chemisry you just can't fake. Way to go on great actors making tv worth watching!

4. My plane trip to Alaska for having such beautiful shots out the window to help compensate for the extremely long flight.

5. The gentleman who is my host proxy here who picked me up and got me settled in. A very kind man - who offered to start grocery shopping for me because of the inclement (icy) weather.

6. My host who has provided me with a lovely place to stay while here in Anchorage.

7. Alaska for having beautiful sunrises and sunsets.

A little more than 5 but not quite 10. Still trying to adjust to the 3 hour time change, and the lack of daylight. Photos and more to come, hopefully.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Awesome Neighbors!

It all started when LMB wanted to celebrate her last night (for two months) in Houston. I met CS & RM that night, among other new Opera folk. That night, when I got home, I thought I saw two people who looked a lot like them. I told myself that I was imagining things.

Then last night, I passed RM in the parking lot, and again, had the distinct feeling I'd met him before but didn't say anything. Because again, I wasn't quite sure.

This morning (afternoon?) I went to take the trash out and met RM on the walkway outside my apartment. Correction, our apartments. Not only were they in fact who I thought they were, they're my next door neighbors. I mean, what are the chances???

So tonight, along with another Opera friend, we all hung out at Dance Town Bingo and had a great time. The bingo calling is a bit slow, but if you go to chat with your friends, it's a lot of fun.

I'm excited to know more people here in Houston and to have awesome neighbors. And to top it off, they also have an awesome and adorable pup!

But there's also a slightly related story. My friend and I had dinner at the Spanish restaurant right next door to the Bingo Hall. As it turned out, a majority of the menu was in Spanish. And apparently our waitress spoke only Spanish. I had to drag out my extremely rusty Spanish from college and thankfully got by. I'd say I understood 75-80% of what she said.

But the best part of it all was noticed after we'd started eating:

Yes, those plates are definitely from Chinatown and have CHINESE writing on them!

Funny, eh?

This night totally makes up for some recently not-so-great nights. And it makes me look forward to coming back here in February.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Happy List, Week 7

Perfect Rose

As always, in no particular order.

1. Puffs Plus with Lotion. Thanks to Houston's complete lack of winter, I've been overly friendly with the kleenex box for the last few days. If it weren't for the lotion, I'm sure I'd resemble Rudolph even more than I do now.

2. West Wing. I completed my series marathon of West Wing this weekend. Can i say (yet again) how much I love this show? The last several episodes were wonderful and this show made me cry twice for a good actor who died unexpectedly. Once for the episode where everyone found out (pt 2 of election day) and the episode where they laid him to rest.

3. Good, no great actors. I'm talking mostly of the West Wing cast, but this goes for many of my other favorites. What I found out while watching the West Wing is that many of the actors were friends prior to working together. You can act all you want but some chemisry you just can't fake. Way to go on great actors making tv worth watching!

4. Krogers for having pretty darn good sushi for being from the grocery store.

5. Eddie Bauer for making so many warm pieces of clothing that have helped warm this poor soul as Houston makes an attempt at winter weather which still hasn't quashed my allergy problem.

Yes, welcome to the shorter version until I have more happy things. Right now, I'm feeling pretty darn miserable thanks to the ever-blooming Houston. Here's to hoping that the meds will help.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Random Thoughts

Really random ramblings.

Including kudos to the late Heath Ledger for winning a posthumous Golden Globe. So very well-deserved. If you haven't seen it already, you should. A chilling performance.

I'm down to less than a week to go before traveling to the Arctic, and Houston has decided to make a preview of what's to come by being unseasonably chilly.

I finally got to participate in a meetup with a flickr group that I'm a part of: Assignment Houston. This month's meetup was at the Houston Zoo and while a chilly day, an enjoyable one.

Here's a few highlights:


Hiding Under a Blanket/Keeping Warm

Colorful Creature

Look, Jonathan the Lion sleeps like Tommy the Cairn Terrier:

Totally Relaxed

Relaxed Tom!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Happy List, Week 6

Perfect Rose

Whoops, my Monday came and went without the list. Here it is, again in no particular order.

1. Yale Street Arts Market. It was a little bit disappointing in size, but I was told that it's usually much bigger. But what was there was pretty good and it was worth the visit and the return visit the next time I'm able.

2. Pretty jewelry at a reasonable price. I like pretty jewelry, I like original jewelry and I like jewelry that doesn't break the bank or come even close to it.

3. for having the most random things on it... including a video of the closing credits of the MacNeil/Lehrer Newshour with the old theme music. The older, better theme. Back when TV themes were composed of good music and not crap. I grew up listening to it, and youtube helped me with my nostalgia.

4. Houston Camera Co-Op for being a) nearby, b) being staffed with knowledgeable people, c) for having what I thought I wanted and for having what I really wanted, d) for being reasonably priced.

5. Tamrac for making a camera bag that didn't look like a camera bag. For making a bag that looked how I wanted it and still held all the equipment that I wanted to carry.

That's actually my list for the week. I never pledged on the length of the list, simply that it must be published weekly. It hasn't been the worst week, but it hasn't been the greatest week and I'm having to stretch to find things that I'm 'happy' about.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Yale Street Market

There's a First Saturday market in the Heights. I've known about it for awhile but never had the chance to go: either I was working, too tired from work or out of town. So when I read about the notice in the newspaper, I decided to go.

It was a little smaller than I had expected, but several vendors told me that it is usually bigger - but attendance is low in January, even despite the summer-like temperatures.

I found a few gift type things for others, and a few gifts for myself.

I like this one because its a riot of color and unlike anything I own - chosen purposely:

Rainbow Necklace

I chose this because I saw it and intrigued me, especially because its kind of adjustable as a bracelet. I have tiny wrists and its often hard to find bracelets that I like and that fit me, hence being a necklace girl. Again, this is unlike anything I've ever owned.

Pearl Bracelet

Unfortunately, these weren't made by the artists at the market, but were found in the asian market next door. These prices were much more reasonable, and they were having a bit of a new year's sale. I'll definitely be back to check their stock every so often. Their jewelry selection reminded me a lot of the jeweler in Salt Lake City - beautiful work, original and reasonable prices.

It wasn't that the jewelry in the arts market was overpriced, nothing sang to me like these. And truth be told, if those items hadn't been slightly on sale, I probably wouldn't have gone for them.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

New Year's Eve

As I backtrack before I go forward, I wanted to tell the little tale of the evening of New Year's Eve. I went to my first ever NBA game. I grew up in a city with every sports team except the NBA. A friend won these spectacular seats at her work's holiday party. Our seats were awesome - they were in an area where we (our section) had their own concession stand and a bar - which neither of us partook from.

I had wanted to take my new camera; but the arena had policies on the type of cameras allowed - so I decided to play it safe and take the good 'ol point-and-shoot. I knew I wasn't going to get the same quality of photos that I've been used to, but I used to be generally happy enough with the camera that I thought I'd give it a shot.

I took about 300-or-so pictures, some of which were outright blurry or the wrong exposure. I narrowed it down to about 100 not-half-bad-shots-considering, and uploaded the creme-de-la-creme to flickr. (See, I'm very picky about what I upload to flickr, especially these days.)

The game was fun - I had not known that super-tall phenom Yao Ming was on the Houston team until warm-ups happened - strangely, he was not the only super-tall player on either time. The teams were pretty closely matched so the game was fun to watch. My seatmate was rooting for the non-home team which definitely made things amusing. When there were timeouts, there were progressively less-dressed cheerleaders with each appearance, and kid dance groups. A very entertaining time. The National Anthem was butchered by some pop rock kid who was terrible and also had a two-song set at halftime. To top the night off, there was an opera singer singing "Libiamo" - very not in-tempo. A case in point for never giving an opera singer a microphone and piping her music through the sound system. She just couldn't tell where she was. And she had to sing this as the stadium was emptying. We felt bad for her.

Jumping Warm-Up

Our view:


Reaching for the Ball

You simply could NOT take your eyes off this kid when he was out there: full of energy and a great smile:

Jumping for Joy

Free Throw

Next up: my Saturday morning

Friday, January 2, 2009

My Zoo Story

(one or two readers will note the nod to Edward Albee, but i digress)

I belong to a Flickr group called "Assignment Houston" and every month we have a photography assignment. I've missed quite a few fun ones in the last seven months when I was gone. This month's assignment is the Houston Zoo. They have two free days this month: New Year's Day and MLK Jr day. I'll be out of town on MLK Jr day, so New Year's Day it was. (The Houston Zoo, unlike the St. Louis Zoo, charges a hefty admission price, so while I'll probably still attend the group's meetup, I didn't want to necessarily have to pay the price twice, in case I didn't get what I wanted the first time.

I told myself I'd go when I woke up, and as it happened, I woke up at about 7:30am. So there I was, at the gate, at 8:45 am, with a handful of other people. We watched as a cheetah was calming walking around on a leash with some keepers and a zoo employee came over to chat with us. As it turned out, said zoo employee was actually the director of the Zoo. He chatted with us until his employees were ready to open the zoo. I thought that was really nice and thanked him for taking the time to chat with us.

I immediately headed over to the big cats area because these animals have almost always been asleep or sitting around when I've been by. Unfortunately, being at the zoo early means that not all the animals are out yet. So I had to be patient. After a little while, and after snapping some photos of the lion and lioness, I headed over to the monkey area after the tiger was being a no-show.

I walked around and took a few photos of various monkeys but then wanted to see if the tiger was up. He was and he was pacing like crazy. Unfortunately, this photographer is pretty short and its hard to shoot above the electric fencing. Lucky for me, he spent a lot of time pacing near a glass wall and I wandered over there and spent awhile trying to capture a good photo with as little reflection as possible - a challenge.

I eventually went back to the monkey area, hoping to see the sifakas. I happened across a zoo keeper, who offered to entice one of the sifakas out so I could take some pictures. She didn't have much luck, but the sifaka's regular keeper had much better luck. The female sifaka is pregnant and due any day, so she was a little reluctant to come out in the fresh chill of the morning. She came out for about 5 minutes and I got some great shots before she retreated to the warmth of her inside cage. I think it's safe to say that I was probably the only person who got to see the sifaka up close and personal until the keeper chat a few hours later. By that time, they were going to switch the sifakas out since the normally dominant female is crankier when she's pregnant and cannot co-exist with her male counterpart.

Speaking of 'rock star treatment', I also ended up chatting with a really nice zoo employee who actually turned out to be the Zoo president. It turns out that on the free days, and especially since this one was New Year's, some of the upper administration comes out and works alongside their peers. I mentioned to her (prior to knowing her position) that I was really impressed that the Zoo Director had come to the gate and chatted with us. After parting ways with her for the fourth time (she really did wander around and interact with the patrons of the Zoo), I thanked her for coming out and talking with all of us.

I wandered the rest of the zoo, getting a few snaps here and there. By this time, the masses had started to descend - more and more families, and screaming children. I did, however, meet this lovely couple who had 22 month old triplets. I started chatting with them when the father asked about the camera.

I really enjoyed my peaceful, idyllic visit. It was by far the best visit I've ever had at the Zoo and I look forward to going back some other time, early in the morning for a repeat experience. If I stick around Houston, perhaps a Zoo membership is order.

And now that I've gotten on with the chatty, here are some photos from my visit. As always, check Flickr for more!

Napping Post-Breakfast


Sifaka eating

Mother & Child

Bear & flower

Sea Lion Bubbles

Up Next: My New Year's Eve story

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year/Rose Parade

For as long as I could remember, it was a New Year's Day tradition to watch the Rose Parade on TV. My mother says that we got a color TV specifically for this purpose.

When I moved out to LA for work, I got it in my head that I wanted to try volunteering to work on the floats once I started learning more about it. I found out there was a City of St. Louis float done by Phoenix Decorating Company. I showed up at the gate, flashed my driver's license and asked to work on that float. Thus started not only a 'tradition' (that only lasted two years so far) but a friendship as well. There was another gal, who was very similar to me: we both were Asian, we both wore glasses, we were both short and easily mistaken for being far younger than we actually were. As it turns out, we actually lived a few blocks away from each other. We hit it off very well, and we worked quite well together. Our crew chief was impressed with our work and set us on the more detailed work, and often, up on scaffolding. Quite often we found ourselves atop the float because of the combination of our size, weights and abilities.

The rules are that every part of the float must be covered in organic material: seeds, flowers, beans, etc. You'd be surprised at what is used. It's a lot of work, often with adhesives that don't like to be washed off easily. Patience, flexibility and eagle-eyes are important. I was lucky enough to make an impression enough to be asked back for the final days where we get to place the flowers. I can't tell you the kind of pretzel positions I put myself in to get flowers everywhere they needed to be. The two years that I lived in Pasadena, I never did make it to see the parade live. Every year, I was barely able to move from bed to couch, every muscle screaming in protest. But I can't begin to tell you what it was like to see my handiwork on national TV. Especially since the first year, my float won a trophy. My contribution was small, but my pride for the float was big.

These are a few pictures from both years that I worked on the floats. The first year, was for the 2005 Rose Parade where I worked on the City of St. Louis float. More can be found here.

Not everything on the float was flowers:

Hungry yet?

The corn kernels were made of lemons - yum!


The apples were covered in individual carnation petals, painstakingly glued on, one-by-one.


See what I mean? Every corner. Ouch!


Made from seaweed paper (black), coconut (white), statice (yellow), lentil (orange), coffee (brown).
Turkey Wing

The second year, I followed our Crew Chief to the Ronald McDonald house and worked on that one instead of the St. Louis one. More here

The bear that I worked with, up close and personal:

Bear Up-Close

Raggedy Anne before her saffron-coated hair started bleeding onto her white dress because of rain during judging.

Raggedy Anne and Bed

Some of my close-up handiwork:

More Detail Work of Mine

Quilt Top

More Detail Work of Mine

It's really hard to keep the colors seperated when you're working with things like statice petals and coconut. Lots of attention to detail.

I intend to go back and work there again, and my float friend has offered to host me. I forgot to take her up on the offer this year - the first time I haven't had work in late December since I left LA.

Hope you enjoyed this up close look at Rose Parade floats, happy new year! I've got two more posts ready to go, so stay tuned!