Thursday, December 15, 2016

Balls!

It's December so that means I trot out festive sweet treats that I only make this time o' year. One is my Italian grandmother's anise-flavored waffle cone cookies also known as pizzelles. Those are a throwback to my childhood and now my mom, cousin and I continue the tradition. Check out some silly photos from a 2012 baking sesh with Mom & Angela HERE.

There is a new sweet that I recently folded into my stable of holiday rituals. It's a variation on what some people call "Buckeye Balls." But I class it up with fine artisan chocolate that takes this treat to the next level. Also the addition of graham crackers gives the balls a little crunch and texture while also binding the balls together. (It's an optional ingredient though, if you are gluten sensitive.) I'll list the base recipe and provide my Pro-Baller Tips that further improve the process and the final product.


Kali's Fancy Schweddy Christmas Balls
  • 2 cups Finely Crushed Graham Crackers
  • 1-2 cups Powdered Sugar (adjust if you want less sweetness than a Reese's PB cup)
  • 2 cups Chunky Peanut Butter (Adams Chunky recommended)
  • 1/2 cup Butter (Organic Valley Pasture Butter recommended)
  • 1 lb Chocolate for melting (2 x Scharffen Berger 62% Cacao 9.7oz pkgs recommended)

1. Mix together all ingredients, except chocolate
2. Freeze mixture for at least a 1/2 hour
3. Roll balls, 1 1/4" in diameter is ideal


[Tip: Use a balling tool to keep them uniform size and to keep your hands out of the peanut butter]
4. Place peanut butter mix balls on non-stick or parchment paper-covered metal sheet/flat pan 
5. Freeze for at least a 1/2 hour 
[Tip: The harder/colder the balls are, the easier it is to work with the chocolate later.] 
6. Melt chocolate over low heat in a sauce pan
7. Move pan off burner. Let it cool to lukewarm. 
[Tip: Is it cool enough that you rest your hand on the side of the pan? If so, go get the balls out of the freezer]
[Tip: Portion out the balls to only have to handle half of them outside the freezer at a time because the peanut butter balls thaw very quickly.] 
8. Using two large soup or tablespoons, scoop up some chocolate and juggle a ball between the two spoons while drizzling chocolate over it. Make sure the ball is fully covered all the way around and then set down in the pan again. 
[Level Up Challenge: If you have something to prove or are adept with proper skills, you can use chopsticks which minimize the wasted chocolate that can collect in the spoons or end up splashed on the cooling sheet.]
9. Get the chocolate covered balls back in the freezer as soon as possible to set.
10. Once chocolate hardens, store in sealed container or ziplock bags in fridge or freezer.
Enjoy!

Makes 48 balls (with baller tool)


Saturday, November 12, 2016

Thoughts on a week

All of this pain and anguish and doubt
This all-consuming uncivil war. 
The fractures of differences, the recriminations of association.
I mourn the fragile webs we wove to connect unlike things

so precious, so breakable

When we choose to stand up, when we choose to sit down
When we choose to let things come to pass
Now an unknown fate awaits and
what you and I see is not the same 

and yet
and yet
and yet can we survive a moment to learn its significance?

-Kali

Monday, October 31, 2016

NaNoWriMo 2016

Been gearing up for something big, scary and exciting...



My first ever NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) where you sign up and pledge to write 50,000 words of a novel during the month of November. Mother did this last year with a Young Adult fiction project and I have been stymied by a lack of urgency and focus throughout 2016 so I believe this is just the thing I need. Luckily I have also found a writing program called Scrivener and it may not write the book for you but it is a powerful tool to help organize and consolidate all of your work in one place. I just love it.

It's a lot of words and I still have all my normal responsibilities and activities to manage, not to mention the Thanksgiving Holiday. But my story has been churning in my brain for over a year and it needs to be realized. The toughest thing is not to squander time or get distracted. Let's do this thing...

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Sia in Seattle

Sia shone bright like a diamond in Key Arena last Thursday during the first stop of her new tour. A spectacular blend of performance art with music and a sophisticated application of cameras, screens, lighting and dance to really make you pay attention. Plus that amazing voice! Such a memorable performance by a talented artist. Wishing Sia and team a smooth and successful tour!




I'm pretty sure that's Tig Notaro there with the shiny gloves. 
Kristin Wiig in a wig brings the emotional resonance 



Friday, September 23, 2016

'WTF Seattle School District?' Part 2

So what happened since I last posted?

Tuesday: Protest
A considerable showing of parents and community members came out. News crews came out too as well as Seattle School District Reps. It was an impressive show of concern. It also showcased how serious we are about getting a new teacher instead of disrupting our entire school that is already weary from so many transitional issues at the temporary site. 







Media Coverage




Wednesday: School Board Testimony 
This is where I have to take a moment and gush about our parents and teachers. People are allowed during the meeting to sign up for 2 minute slots to talk to the Board about any issue. Over 2/3 of the 25 speakers were Loyal Heights people on this day. Every one of them had thoughtful and detailed speeches. Ranging from a young student to a teacher to many, many concerned parents. Watch it for yourself, it's impressive. THIS LINK starts from where Loyal Heights Speakers begin.

It's also telling that the comments after testimony from the Board Members acknowledge the great groundswell of support that Loyal Heights showed up with. 


Friday: Final Decision
And here we are. At the District, the decisions are being made about staff allotments today and it feels like the community has done everything to make the point and make big noise. So now we wait. Having put faith in the system and in ourselves. We wait.

Monday, September 19, 2016

New in 'WTF Seattle School District?'

Does it seem like I keep writing about how the Seattle School District isn't cutting the mustard? Welp, strap in for this one...

TL;DR version
Loyal Heights Elementary needs an additional Kindergarten teacher. There is no need to disrupt every grade level and classroom by creating grade splits when all you need to do is create one new contained classroom. 



With details version
1. You want us to do what?
Loyal Heights Elementary parents learned late on Friday from a PTA email that at two weeks into the school year, the district wanted to solve our foreseeable Kindergarten overcrowding problem--30, 29, 28 kids per class* respectively--not by adding an additional Kindergarten teacher for which there are the minimum number of students, a room ready to go AND it simply solves the problem. *Maximum should be 22 kids per class

No. Instead they would like us to pull a teacher from our 1st-5th grade ranks thereby forcing split-grade classrooms THROUGHOUT the entire school. It would require all the 400+ kids to be redistributed to likely different teachers than who they were first assigned. High-visibility programs for math and science, would be disrupted and overly complicated by split classes. Splits by their nature also fracture a teacher's time and attention to teach effectively.

But are split classrooms really that big of a deal, you ask? Well when you are prepared to teach them and you have the support of your school and district to do so with the right resources--sure, that might be a fine thing to do. (Incidentally both Calvin and Sidney's preschools were set up as multi-age/grade classrooms.) But this is not what's happening here. It's being hoisted on a school already let down and abandoned by its district.

You see, for the next two years, we are being housed in an interim location while our neighborhood school is remodeled. Already, this temporary location has come with some significant problems including (but not limited to) close proximity to the freeway overpass which shelters unsafe adults who have wandered onto school property and, in some cases, scaled sections of the too short 4-foot fences as well as the 10-foot chainlink fences surrounding the playground. A non-working security system for the building. A non-working buzz-in/intercom system for the front door. Rampant issues with transportation including ill-placed bus stops, overcrowded buses, erratic schedules and drivers with poor management skills. So layering this disruptive grade split staffing solution on top of all these issues feels abusive.

2. PTA Activate
Within 16 hours of the email blast, 30+ parents and 2 teachers were airing grievances in the Broadview Library Meeting room to School Board Director, Scott Pinkham, at one of his periodic community meetings. I would wager it was probably one of the more 'spirited' meetings he's had. A Q13 reporter and camera were there too. 

Here's the video: http://q13fox.com/2016/09/17/31-kids-to-a-class-teachers-say-seattle-kindergarten-is-recipe-for-disaster

What I learned from this meeting is the distressing yet preventable situation our Kindergarten teachers are in now (beautifully articulated by senior Kinder teacher Tricia Lepse in the video) and what impact the split classes will have on the rest of the kids (also beautifully articulated by one of the 3rd grade teachers, Katherine Gaffney). 


3. Roll tide: Facebook, Emails, Calls 
Through Saturday, Sunday and Monday, parents barraged the district, school board, local politicians, media, anyone who would listen with messages. 
And it made me start to feel feisty and emboldened yet heavy. Because I believe in public school. I love ours. I think about how intense and active and resourced our PTA is and how dedicated the Loyal Heights staff has shown themselves to be and I know we are a fortunate school.  But how can we be so forsaken by the district? And the answer was because we are 'too fortunate'.


4. District response

"Student counts are linked to funding." 
"The formula for determining staffing levels implicitly creates more split grades in order to receive state revenue."

I was deeply struck by how Associate Superintendent Michael Tolley's response reveals that he's less interested in the business of doing what's best for our children and more interested in running a school system like a commodity exchange. Commodities are very similar no matter who produces them and are priced equally and are interchangeable.


Full message below (everyone who wrote in received this):
Dear Kali,
Thank you for supporting your child’s school and sharing your concern over having the right number of teachers.
Matching the right number of teachers to the enrollment needs of schools is always a challenge.
Right now, the overall enrollment of Loyal Heights compared to projections shows close alignment at best, with possibly a few less overall number of students than projected.
Schools across our state and schools within the district use the same basic method of matching staff to school buildings. Student counts are linked to funding.  If more students than planned enroll in a school or district, more staff can be hired to meet student needs. If fewer students enroll and attend a school or district, the district receives less money and must make up the extra cost by cutting a service or program.
Student enrollment in schools across the district fluctuates during the weeks leading up to the start of school and the first few days after school begins.  As new students enroll and other students who are not returning notify the district, we review enrollment and staffing needs in every school and across the district. It takes several weeks of students being added and subtracted to determine actual class sizes.
Enrollment and staffing allocations at all schools are reviewed daily by a team of representatives from Seattle Public Schools departments of Budget, Human Resources, Enrollment Planning, School Operations, Capital Planning, Special Education, Advanced Learning and English Language Learning. 
By the seventh day of school, enrollment typically begins to stabilize.  Using the Day 7 headcount, the team runs the staffing formula and solicits input about classroom configurations and the master schedule from principals to determine if staffing changes are needed.  Here is the timeline for the 2016-2017 school year:
·         9/19 principals submit classroom configurations to School Operations
·         9/19-9/22 Budget runs staffing formula using Day 7 student headcount
·         9/23 District leaders review the data to determine possible staffing changes
·         9/26 Communication to principals about staffing changes
Teacher placement can only occur while considering teacher ratios at both the school and district level. This is true for every school in our district. In the case of Loyal Heights, kindergarten enrollment is higher than predicted, and second grade enrollment is less than planned. At the school-level this suggests that more teachers may be needed. Thus the determination cannot be made until enrollment information for the school and for the entire district is reviewed as well. This is simply the standard procedure applied to all schools in the Seattle Public Schools district.
Additionally, the state legislature created new staffing standards.  The new ratios provide “use it or lose it” resources.  With such restrictions, the formula for determining staffing levels implicitly creates more split grades in order to receive state revenue.
We understand that the start of school staffing is challenging.  Even though we are the largest school district in the state, we cannot afford to make incremental staffing changes that add overall cost without associated added revenue. 
We thank you for your patience and understanding in this process. 

Regards,

Michael F. Tolley
Associate Superintendent for Teaching and Learning
Seattle Public Schools

5. So....We Rally Tomorrow
Come join us.



Monday, August 29, 2016

Update on the Loyal Heights Elementary Mega School Project via Documentary

You may remember the picketing photos I posted in June protesting the plan to overbuild our elementary school while eliminating a huge part of the playground. It also expands the boundaries to add over 200 more students when there are closer (WALKABLE) options for those kids. (My blog post & photos: http://evidentlyblog.blogspot.com/…/rally-to-protest-turnin…)
But here is a level-headed, well-done documentary that showcases the tight spot Seattle Public Schools have put the Loyal Heights PTA & community of Loyal Heights Elementary School.
A school known for it's highly-supportive parent base and tightly collaborative staff & administration find themselves with an ultimatum from the district who won't take compromise for an answer. Thank you though to the folks highlighted in this documentary who have spent so much time and energy trying to find a solution. And thank you to the young film makers who put this together: Jaya Flanary, Sophie DeGreen and Ruby Anderson.
I hope there is yet a compromise to be found.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Scenes from a Beach Getaway

The husband and I just got back from a 4-day getaway to glorious Depoe Bay/Newport Oregon. It was relaxing, low-key, indulgent and ocean-themed--what's not to love?







Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Save the Figs, Save the World 2016: Quadropus Bird Deterrent

For those of you who know Ken, you know how much he loves the fig tree in our backyard and covets every single fig that makes it through to harvest time. Since we moved here in 2010, he has tenaciously defended the tree from interloping birds who seek to rob him of the precious figs. It all started off so simply with common, static deterrents but graduated into what can only be described as an obsession. The motto around here is: when in doubt, add technology. So friends, for your viewing pleasure, I give you "The Quadropus." And yes, this means fig harvest is officially on.







To read about previous fig defending efforts and a little more history on our fig tree, check out this 2013 post.


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Potty Training with Trains!

This started out as a something I just wrote for myself so I wouldn't ever [let Calvin] forget. Potty training our son was so different and took longer than the experience with our daughter. Figuring out what motivated each of them was key but it's so easy to get spooked and convince yourself that potty training a boy will be so difficult. It was all about incentive, attitude and, crazy but true, it was spelled out clear as day: potty TRAIN.

Here's my piece on Parentmap.com detailing the ordeal. 

Thomas the Train and his knowing smile
Pro tip: "If I’ve learned anything about potty training, it's that both the kid and the parents must be on board with the process." 

Friday, June 10, 2016

Rally to protest turning Loyal Heights Elementary into an almost double-sized 'Mega School' with a tiny playground

This was the scene today at Loyal Heights Elementary School: A rally organized by concerned parents and citizens about the 'Mega-school' Loyal Heights Redesign that is still being pushed through despite lower enrollment projections. As a result, the Seattle Public Schools is planning to open boundaries to include parts of North Beach, Crown Hill and Whittier. This will mean the school will almost double the size of the existing one and require a significant portion of the playground to be built upon.
This isn't how quality education is planned for. This is cost consolidation at the expense of the kids.
I know it sounds ungrateful: a north Seattle school is getting a fancy remodel and they don't want it because it's TOO big... But the planning process has largely ignored the comments from a very vocal community, one that would like to accommodate for the future but also keep a neighborhood school atmosphere while (most importantly) providing for the physical and kinetic needs of kids to move/play and thus learn better.
The basic ask is that Seattle Public Schools reconsider this design and save more of the playground space.










Sunday, June 05, 2016

File under "Amazing Dental Facts"-- Baby Teeth Contain Dental Stem Cells

Sidney lost baby tooth #2 this week. When she lost her first one a few months ago, I learned of the existence of dental stem cells. 

Surprise! Did you know that baby teeth have stem cells in them that may potentially be useful some day for life-saving treatments or regenerative therapy? Growing up in/around a dental office all my life, I never knew about this and am delighted by it. So I couldn't resist looking into it further.
Here's my latest ParentMap article about it and the fascinating possibility for future healthcare.

https://www.parentmap.com/article/baby-teeth-dental-stem-cells

Sidney right after pulling out tooth #2

Friday, May 20, 2016

Remembering Morley Safer

Photo by CBS/60 MINUTES
Hearing of Morley Safer's passing today, brought back a flood of memories from my time at 60 MINUTES. As an intern at CBS London/60 Minutes in late 1994, I was lucky enough to be assigned to the production team that worked with Morley Safer. I helped his editor and producer (Nick Harding & John Tiffin--both RIP) assemble an updated piece on Strabane Ireland, one of the most ravaged Irish towns during the Northern Ireland conflict between British loyalists (Protestants) and Irish Nationalists (Catholics). For me as a completely green and clueless broadcasting student, it was like just having learned to walk and then ambling onto an Olympic Track with world-class athletes--completely out of my league. But they kept me around anyway and for that I was and am truly grateful.

While I only met Morley Safer in person twice and fielded a few phone calls from him, I could tell from the story we were working on and its tone that he brought a humanity to his reporting and a quest to explain the unexplainable--in this case, the senseless violence and killing that went on in that tiny Irish town. Revisiting people he'd interviewed in 1974 also served to bring a form of closure to a horrible time in Strabane and to serve as a record for younger generations to understand the toll it took on the citizens there. I noticed this from his interviews that I catalogued word for word. He never stopped being curious and clearly loved what he did. 

Nick and I in the editing suite
The first time I met him we went to lunch with the core team who worked on his stories at the London Bureau. He was suffering from jet lag and I was suffering from shyness or lack of life experience (I was 20), but I couldn't muster many interesting questions. As a result, John Tiffin kept pouring wine into my glass to help me calm down but by the time we returned to the office, I was pretty tipsy and slurring my words. I'm sure I made a *great* impression. 

The second time I saw him was a much sadder occasion. He flew over to give the eulogy at the funeral for Nick, our editor. Nick had been living with cancer from before I'd come on the scene. Revisiting Strabane and taking on the new American intern were his last projects as it turned out. I recall Morley gave a very moving speech at the funeral and even did a short on-air tribute to Nick when the Strabane piece finally ran.

****** 

My understanding is that Morley's health was in decline and he had just announced his retirement a few days ago so CBS honored him with an hour long tribute, which he watched at his home. Morley embodied a work ethic, curiosity and approach that is seldom seen in this age of broadcast journalism. I am grateful to have briefly crossed paths with him and to have worked with his team who also embodied those traits. 60 MINUTES has certainly evolved and cycled in new faces and talent over the years but today it has lost one of it's defining pillars of influence. RIP Morley.

Friday, April 22, 2016

That one time I saw Prince

Escaping the 80's without having at least one memory aurally imprinted with a Prince song (or songs) seems nearly impossible. I remember when a babysitter was with us one evening and she had just bought the 1999 album. She hid the record sleeve with the lyrics because she said they were too racy. I snuck into the living room when she was making dinner and scanned it but didn't come up with much. I think I was 8 years old. A few years later, someone bought me Purple Rain and it became one of my favorite cassette tapes to listen to. I did wonder what Wendy and Lisa were doing in "Computer Blue" though. 


Wendy?

Yes Lisa
Is the water warm enough?
Yes Lisa
Shall we begin?
Yes Lisa


Seriously, what business does a 10-year-old have listening to that? Anyway...but the rest of the album was great. So flash forward to 1995 and as a 21-year-old away at college in London, I got to see his Royal Purpleness at Wembley and somehow managed to sit close to the stage.



Unfortunately this was during the "Slave period" where he'd write the word on his face because he didn't like the terms of his contract with Warner Bros. As a result, he was disinclined to play "hits" during concerts and while I enjoyed Prince music, I wasn't intimately familiar with the deep cuts. Thus, I wanted to hear at least some hits but the only songs I recognized that night were "Most Beautiful Girl in the World," "7," and "Pussy Control." Unfortunately, his musicianship (which I should have been paying more attention to) went mostly ignored. Ah, to be 21...

Looking at my journal from that time period, my review was pretty brutal:

"The show itself was second rate. Though we were only 11 rows from stage center, Prince failed to ignite the crowd. Probably this is due to all the new songs. But we all know how lame English crowds are." [Note: The steady reserve of concert-going Brits was not a mark of distinction in this case.]

I had even less nice things to say about the backup dancer who would later become his wife (for a few years at least).

"The almost naked wench on stage with him disgusted all of London when she whipped her ass cheeks all over the place. Yuk! She grew tiresome."



But it's still Motherf***ing Prince. And he is funky.
"I had a great time [though] getting into the fervor of it all. At the end, he showered us in gold confetti and that was beautiful."

Not every performance can be a winner and not every era in an entertainer/artist's long career will be inspiring but in the long view, Prince's contribution to the fabric of our culture and its musical development was epic. So I'll remember the awe and surprise of gold confetti raining down on us during the finale, a symbol of the ostentatiousness, surprise and boldness of our musical host.

He was so many things: talented, driven, gifted and luckily he shared it with the world. RIP to the prolifically funky virtuoso.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

First time Emerald City Comicon Experience



Yesterday, I attended my first Comic Con, as a reader of comics and a fan of geekdom in general.
Even on a Friday morning, the enormous groundswell of cosplayers, comic fans and Con enthusiasts was palpable. There were lines for almost everything and people occupied every square foot of the convention center. (Our recent Disneyland vacation had prepped me well.) 



What enticed me at first to buy a pass for this day back in the fall of 2015, was the presence of Fiona Staples, an artist whose work in the series “Saga” renewed and redoubled my interest in escapist, other-worldly graphic novels and comics. The thought of being able to thank her in person for this new element in my life moved me from feeling under qualified to attend ECCC to “hell yes, I'm going.”


Without realizing it though, the act of subscribing to "Saga" (by Image Comics) exposed me to other edgy, sophisticated, smart comic series like “Black Science,” “Shutter,” “Low” and “Descender.” I also found myself enthralled by various ‘mainstream’ comics like “Secret Avengers,” “Batman: Lil’ Gotham,” ”Aquaman,” “Spider-Woman,” “Ms. Marvel,” “Loki: Agent of Asgard” and “Bee & Puppycat.” Without realizing it, I slowly amassed a bonafide collection over the course of six months. So last week when I cross-referenced my comics with the many artists and writers who would be at Emerald City Comicon, I realized my mission: meet these artists/writers, thank them for their great work and get them to sign my books.


In preparation, I put the name of each artist or writer on a stickie note with their table location and which showroom hall they were in (north or south) and stuck them to my books. I stacked them in order from the main entrance in my daypack and brought a sack lunch so I could wait in one less line. But as best laid plans tend to go, there were some obstacles. Fiona, who I put first to find upon arriving at 10am, wouldn't be available until 2 p.m. But I knew I had to leave the Con no later than 2:15 p.m. to walk to Pacific Place to get my car and be home in time to pick up Sidney from school. I shuffled "Saga" to the back and moved down my list.


"Lil’ Gotham’s" artist Dustin Nguyen and writer Derek Fridolfs sat next to each other in a booth and Derek, who is also an artist himself, took the time--unprompted--to draw a highly-detailed Robin portrait inside my Volume 2 front cover. Meanwhile I let him know how wonderfully zippy and layered we and the children found the dialogue and stories. I wish I would have taken more time though to look at both his and Dustin’s artwork for a possible purchase but there was yet lots to do and see. 

 

Another delightful pair at the Con were writer, Joe Keatinge, and artist, Leila del Duca, of Shutter. Both are from Portland and their creation is definitely other-worldly, engrossing with a high potential of blood-spatter. Leila sketched one of the characters inside the front cover and let me know about a new graphic novel she's working on out later this year. Upon hearing this was my first Comicon, Joe actually gave me the 3rd volume of Shutter (which I haven’t read yet) as a present which he and Leila also signed. That was so generous and magical--I loved that moment. 

 

I also got to see Rick Remender, the writer for angsty parent-guilt ridden tales like “Black Science” and “Low.” I asked him if he has kids (yes) and I mentioned that he perfectly captures that tortured state of mind parents feel under the weight of tremendous responsibility. He thought perhaps he'd invented a new comic genre. (I think so.) Naturally, I couldn’t wander the main floor without stopping by to see my friend, Rich Werner, who created “Plants vs. Zombies” and illustrated “The Shark Dentist” for me. He has struck out on his own and plans to release a new game later this year, so stay tuned for that. 

Rich and his new game character

New Zealand's Weta Workshop, the place where most notably Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit effects came from, had a big booth in the South Hall which was great to peruse and watch as makeup artists did live demonstrations of putting hobbit ears on cosplayers.

Token picture


It being uncharacteristically warm in Seattle meant the air conditioners were working overtime to handle the body heat from all the attendees. It’s too bad it can’t filter out some of the smells also but you can’t have everything. My heart goes out to the dedicated people who really go for it costume wise and are fully dressed in flight suits or heavy layers. Cosplay is not my thing because unencumbered comfort in a crowded, hot environment is my jam. I personally settled for a funny "Bee and Puppy Cat" t-shirt, capris, running shoes and mini hairbuns. Popular costume choices seemed to be Deadpool, Harley Quinn and Star Wars characters (Rey particularly). But my favorite was a deep(er) pull from the annals of geekdom: a gelfling and skeksis from the 1982 Jim Henson fantasy film “The Dark Crystal.” Very impressive.



When I left the tech world in 2010, I didn’t think I’d ever step foot in another blue-carpeted, lanyard-wearing, attendee wandering convention again. But here I was. At 30 minutes prior to when Fiona would start signing, I hoped I could just pop in line to get a quick autograph when she arrived. Unfortunately a whole bunch of other people had the same thought and organizers capped the established line. Had I arrived 15 minutes earlier, I would have been in that line but likely significantly late to pick up my daughter from school. So meeting Fiona was not meant to be this time, but hopefully there will be another opportunity in the future.


Nevertheless, the goal that got me to my first Comicon gave way to providing a day of unexpected connections full of appreciation and gratitude for the art, entertainment and inspiration these writers and artists bring into the world. 


I also purchased my own Puppycat Stuffy.  The Verdict=(as my son Calvin would say) "Good."

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Song of Dreams: Sunflower

This song came to Ken in a dream over a year ago. With his new found favorite software (Logic Pro X), Ken did all the instrumentation and arrangement over the last few days. But he called in the 'big gun' for vocals... Well actually, we split the duties and after several passes of audio layering, I sound like an ethereal mermaid. This song is my new earworm and I'm so proud of Ken for bringing it to life. I especially love his guitar riffing. Check it out HERE!



Tuesday, February 23, 2016

(Our) Best Magical Moments at Disneyland

So we just returned from Disneyland last week...

Our first two days were scorched in 90 degree heat and crowded (lots of folks from Seattle!) who had the same great vacation idea we had evidently. But Disneyland is a special place where magical stuff happens.

  • Day 1 in California Adventure Park, Meeting Anna & Elsa: I had heard this experience can get mobbed and it even used to have FastPasses associated with it due to popularity. We were following our touringplans.com itinerary and had some time to wait before we did Turtle Talk with Crush (innovative and delightful attraction, btw) and wandered right by the place where you meet Anna & Elsa. I asked the cast member (employee) how long the wait was. She said, “There is just one family ahead of you and this will be the shortest line you’ll see all day.”  I was all, “KEN, HURRY OVER HERE RIGHT NOW WITH THE KIDS!!!” As our first character/princess interaction, I got a little choked up. The kids loved it and this experience set a great tone for meeting all the other characters during the rest of our trip.



Another notable character meeting...



  • Day 1 in California Adventure Park, Pixar Parade: Disneyland parades are spectacles of sight, sound and substantial production value. There are even tall poles with stage lights that magically ‘grow’ out of the surrounding buildings along the parade route--no detail left to chance. Lightning McQueen & Mater were Cal’s favorites as well as Toy Story. Sid loved it all, she said.




  • Day 2 in Disneyland Park, Navigation under pressure: At one point in the morning, I ran to get FastPasses for Hyperspace Mountain while Ken took the kids to Pixie Hollow where they were going to meet Tinkerbell and friends. While we were separated, he texted me that he’d forgotten the kids’ autograph books for the characters to sign. (This became hugely important to Sid and Cal every time they encountered characters.) He said he was toward the front of the line and to bring the books in a hurry. Disneyland is larger and has more hidden alcoves than California Adventure. So I put my targeting computer away and hoped I could find the exhaust port like Luke did. I started running out of Tomorrowland with no map or any idea where Pixie Hollow was in hopes that if I just used the Force, maybe I’d *feel* where I was supposed to go. Sure enough, I rounded a corner in my addled haze and there it was: Pixie Hollow. I charged up through the line of parents and kids like a relay runner--the books in my extended hand just as Ken and the kids stepped up for their turn to meet Faun & Tinkerbell. Totally out of breath and sweating profusely, I quickly had to regain my composure to snap pictures. The things we do for our children.




  • Day 3 in Disneyland Park, Parade Miracle: After the Pixar parade, Sidney was smitten with parades and wanted more than anything to catch the other big daytime parade in Disneyland. In a tragic turn of events which I will explain further on, we missed it the previous day. So by hell or high water we were going to see it on our 3rd and final day at the parks. Sidney and I arrived a whole hour early and staked our spot on the curb on Main Street. But what started out as a beautiful, temperate 73 degree day, by 3:45pm was fully cloudy (still warm though) and sprinkling. (By the way, these intermittent, inconsequential sprinkles caused a steady stream of people to head for the exits. Being from the NW has one advantage of not being bothered by that level of precipitation.) Anyway, it would sprinkle then let up, sprinkle then let up. I nervously asked a cast member (employee) if they would cancel the parade with these conditions but she said at the very least they would put the parade characters in trams so they could go by and wave. Parade time approached with minor intervals of precipitation but at 4:15 when the first amazing float started up the street, the rain held off as if it too had pulled up a blanket on Main Street to watch all the glorious floats with dancing characters and princesses pass by. Not 15 minutes after the parade ended, the sky opened up and dumped serious PNW caliber rain down on Disneyland for the rest of the night. The magic is real, people.



  • Day 1 California Adventure Park & Day 4 Paradise Pier Hotel--Character Meals: You have to eat right? You might as well save yourself a whole lot of park time that you’d be waiting in a line to see characters and do a meal like this. Our first one was with princesses and the other was with traditional characters. It was ideal: low stress, great pictures and no unnecessary waiting.



All About the Prep

My husband likes to say that I am too much of a planner sometimes--and that planning takes away potential spontaneity, fun and/or magic. However, Disneyland is not one of those places you want to enter unprepared. And the magic WILL find you even if you’ve made plans.


Since last August, I solicited advice and studied up on resources that would help make our trip as fun, memorable and smooth as possible. I am so thankful for all the advice from families who recently visited, especially Christina S., Kristina B., Shannon T. and Megan T. Their insights proved golden, especially gems like: “rent a stroller,” “don’t try to push a double stroller around the crowded narrow walkways, get two single ones,” “use touringplans.com,” “get a room with a park side view to see the night shows,” and “don’t miss Hyperspace Mountain”---well that last one maybe I could have done without. :) Additionally one of the best detailed blogs for smart Disneyland time-management and preparation is dlrprepschool.com and one of the best tools for in-park attraction & event scheduling based on a database and algorithms is touringplans.com.

I really enjoyed some of the legacy Disney rides for the nostalgia and novelty--Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Dumbo, Tiki Room, Pirates of the Caribbean. [OMG, Enchanted Tiki Room--what a weird, cool concept.] There were a number of rides that were closed for refurb and dismantling in preparation for the new Star Wars Land. We are already planning to return in 4-5 years when the kids are eligible for all the rides and there is a whole new area to explore. I am quite happy with the trip as a whole, especially our accommodations, character meals, early mornings and time split among the parks. Obviously I would have loved the weather to be a tad cooler and the crowds to be less but I think a mid-week, non-school break time frame is the only way to ensure that. Now I get why people go on a more regular basis. Well, back to real life and normal responsibilities.