Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Working With What You Have

Previously I had posted about making the best of things regarding my outdated kitchen. Continuing with that theme, and given these difficult economic times, Paul made a small change to the sink area of our kitchen that has made a world of difference. We were actually thinking of replacing some of the cabinets in our kitchen, but due to financial changes, that became out of the question.

Yet, something was in order, especially due to a leaking kitchen faucet. (The faucet for our kitchen sink had been replaced years ago, but had sprung a leak.) We have an old metal sink cabinet from the 50's. Again, I love 50's retro look, but this, like our old bathroom tub is in poor repair and not charming. The part I disliked the most was that the sink counter area had these drainage furrows so water can drain freely. A nice concept; however, this makes trying to set anything on it a challenge. If it is not set down just right, it falls in the furrow and tips over. It was really an unusable space:


So Paul purchased an oversized cutting board from a restaurant supply company and carefully sawed the back and side edges to make it cover the left sink counter area. Now, not only do I have a nice, flat surface to place soaps, sponges, etc., I also now have a large and wonderful cutting area. Here are potatoes, chopped and ready to go into soup:


I followed that with a big batch of strawberries from Sam's Club - Yum!

Along with this, Paul also replaced the wallpaper behind this area and just over the sink, which was torn and water damaged (lucky for us we still had some of the wallpaper, enough to refresh the bad stuff). He also installed a new faucet and sprayer to fix the leakage problem, and a new sprayer came with the set (with the old one, the sprayer kept getting stuck in the spray position which drove me insane). So now I have a new little area that gives me great joy: a great cutting area, a flat counter, a new water source and sprayer, and refreshed wallpaper. It is not a kitchen remodel, yet one can still find delight in the little things by making small changes that fit the budget.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Lobgesang and Good Friday Harp

I have been very busy musically lately which is part of why I have had no entries here in the recent weeks.

Our Church Choir (St. Joseph's Church) presented a Lenten Praise concert on March 22. We sang three works: Missa brevis Sancti Joannis de Deo by Haydn (a Mass sung in Latin), Stabat Mater by Casciolini (also in Latin, the words depict the grieving Blessed Mother Mary at the foot of the cross), and Lobgesang by Mendelssohn (words of Scripture set to music and sung in German). The last one is my personal favorite. It is incredibly difficult, especially singing in a different language on top of it, but it is so moving. Samples sung by a professional choir can be heard here.

The coolest part is based on Romans 13, which is basically the battle between light and darkness set to music, so it gets all dramatic and tense, but then resolves beatifully and the day triumphs and is approaching (listen to a sample here):

Die Nacht is vergangen
der tag aber herbeigekommen.
So la├čt uns ablegen die Werke der Finsternis,
und anlegen die Waffen des Lichts;
und ergreifen die Waffen des Lichts

Translation:
The night is departing
the day is approaching.
So let us cast off the works of darkness,
and put on the armor of light;
and seize the armor of light.

I played harp for Good Friday, a duet with a cellist and then another piece in ensemble with organ, cello, and choir. I am working on not being such a basket case before I play in public. This is a long process and is getting better. This time though there were some changes, some breakthroughs. I made inevitable mistakes, but I was able to cover them, which I can usually do anyway. But this time I was not kicking myself to the curb over the mistakes. I felt I had put in a lot of work, the result was fine to the listeners, and of course, God forgives my musical mistakes! I was able to shrug off the mistakes.

Then, God blessed me with a musical breakthrough. There is a piece I have been working on, on and off for several years. It's very, very difficult for me. I was working on it here and there during my Good Friday practicing. Today, I was able to play the first part with ease. This has never happened on this piece before. This sometimes happens in music - a person is on a "plateau" for a long time and then it all finally comes together. What helped a lot was playing block chords. Instead of playing the piece as written, with its downward cascading arpeggios (a classic sound on the harp, sounds almost like water flowing), I practiced a recommended technique for harpists, which is playing the arpeggios all at once, as if it were a solid chord. It made all the difference, I am so pleased, but I believe God had a hand in this - giving me these two gifts: Being able to be calm about mistakes and being able to finally, finally get this piece (well the beginning part at least) to an almost-ready-to-perform level. Joy!