Where was I?

I haven’t written much at all about 9/11 on my blog, but I did want to write down (mostly for my sake, before the details fade from memory) where I was that day.

At the time, I was living in Washington, D.C. (I had moved there in the summer of 2000.) On the morning of September 11, 2011, as usual I took the Metro to my office in Bethesda, Maryland, and arrived sometime around 9:00 a.m. After I settled in at my desk, a coworker came to me and said that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center in New York. At first I thought it was an accident, “just” a plane crash, but as the morning progressed and I kept reading news about the other planes online, it became clear that this was an organized terrorist attack.

I stayed at my desk the whole morning. Some others were watching the news on TV in another part of the office, but for some reason I stayed glued to my computer and kept reloading the major news sites, though they were slow to access. By noon, our company said we could go home if we wished. So I left for my apartment, stopping at the supermarket for food on the way.

It was eerie. I lived less than a mile from the White House and a couple more miles to the Pentagon. Who knew if there would be even more attacks? I would hear helicopters and didn’t know what to think. The afternoon wore on. I called my parents and some friends to let them know I was safe, and watched more news on TV. After a while I had to turn it off and try to rest.

Pie project: Lattice-top fresh peach pie

Another month, another pie! For my August pie, with Thom’s input (he loves peach) I went to Cook’s Illustrated and found a recipe for a lattice-top fresh peach pie. OK, to the pics!

After blanching and much peeling, pitting, and slicing:

Lattice-Top Fresh Peach Pie

I was up for the new challenge of a lattice top, and I have to say, it was a lot easier than I thought it would be. For some reason I imagined having to actually weave the strips of dough, but it’s just a matter of laying down and folding back the strips, strategically of course.

Lattice-Top Fresh Peach Pie

Lattice-Top Fresh Peach Pie

After a cut and crimp (sounds like a salon treatment) and a dusting of sugar, it’s ready for the oven:

Lattice-Top Fresh Peach Pie

Et voilà. I’m very happy with how it turned out. Unlike a couple of the other pies I’ve made, this one set up really well via the instant tapioca (the recipe calls for potato starch, which is finer than tapioca). It’s a minor aesthetic thing, but if I were to make this again I would grind the tapioca a little more so that it disappears more easily into the filling.

Lattice-Top Fresh Peach Pie

Mmm, peachy! There were leftover dough strips and filling, so I made that into a kind of mini-tart, which Thom and I ate that night as a preview before sharing the pie the next day.

More photos of this and other pies are in my pie project set on Flickr.

Dance diary: Next steps

Class notes

So since the last dance diary entry several weeks ago, Level 2 of the absolute beginner workshop wrapped up at LINES. After the first few meetings I was starting to feel like the class was in a slow rut, but past the midway point the pace picked up nicely. Not only that but in the last two classes we’ve had live piano accompaniment, which is quite blissful.

At the final class this past Sunday I had some encouraging chats with a couple of the other students and the teacher about what to take next. It turns out that our teacher might not be teaching Level 3 until early next year, so in the meantime I’ll go to drop-in classes and may branch out and check out other schools in the city as well. She mentioned an advanced beginning class at ODC, which I had thought I might not be ready for, but she said that I had been dancing well in class and to check it out. Yay for confidence!

By the way I’m going to be on vacation in Anaheim starting tomorrow, so I’m going to try and carve out some time while we’re there to take a class at Anaheim Ballet. I’m totally excited about the idea of taking ballet class wherever I am, even on vacation.

Dance gear

I bought some new shoes. Thanks to Endless’s free shipping and free return shipping, I just ordered a few pairs in a range of sizes, kept the ones that fit, and returned the ones that didn’t. I ended up getting a pair of Sansha Pro 1 in black canvas. The Capezios I used previously were just a little too big. They were the smallest size in their men’s line (yes, I have relatively small feet, for a guy) so I needed to go unisex. So far, so good.

With my new Under Armour compression shirts (which are kind of flattering if I do say so myself; my workouts during the week are paying off), the dance belt, the tights, the shoes… I am looking very much the real deal.

Around town

Last week I saw a concert by Man Dance Company, an LGBT-focused dance company in San Francisco. This was my first time seeing them, and they seem like a good group of talented dancers. And let’s face it, you just don’t see male couples a lot in ballet or in mainstream dance for that matter, so their dances are kind of refreshing. The highlight for me was several pieces set to songs inspired by Brokeback Mountain. Singer Ryan Harrison and composer Shawn Kirchner were there to perform the songs live. I’d heard a couple of these songs at the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus concert earlier this year and really liked them. So it was neat to see them danced to.

I can’t find any video of the dance performance yet, but here is one of the songs, “Meet Me on the Mountain,” as performed by Ryan and Shawn at a Man Dance concert a few years ago:

Lego airport

A few weeks ago I surprised Thom with the Ken and Barbie dolls from the cute Toy Story Hawaiian Vacation short that ran before Cars 2. They look great (even still in their box) on our tiki bar. While I was at Toys “R” Us, I wandered over to the Lego section, where the items were “buy one, get one half-off.” How could I resist?

For Thom I got a Kingdom castle set, and for me the City airport! I can’t remember the last time, if ever, I bought Lego for myself. As a kid I think I had just plain Lego blocks; that was kind of it. Thom, however, has been putting together several themed sets over the years.

A couple of weekends ago we unpacked the sets in the family room and had a fun afternoon building our respective little worlds. One end of the coffee table was his medieval stronghold and the other was my aviation hub. Here are some photos of the airport, yet to be named. What do you think, the Henry Doelger Daly City-Westlake District Airport, a.k.a. Doelger Field? (OK, maybe only you fellow Daly Citizens will get that.)

I’m hoping to get more of the related airport sets in the future (including an additional, smaller plane), and even some of the other City sets, like the public transport one. Light rail to the airport! Soon I’ll have a bustling metropolis. Also yet to be named.

Pie project: Blackberry cobbler pie

Back to the pies! For June I reprised the chicken pot pie I had made for May, but this time using the familiar Cook’s Illustrated recipe for the crust. Much better (though more time-consuming of course) than store-bought puff pastry or pie shells.

For July, as usual I waited until the end of the month and it was just as well, since July 31 is Thom’s birthday. He wanted a berry pie, and I remembered that a few weeks earlier we had had lunch at Shari’s, where I picked up a recipe card for blackberry cobbler pie. Perfect!

The main ingredients of the filling are cooked-down blackberry jam and fresh blackberries. I also mixed in some frozen blackberries (thawed and drained).

Blackberry cobbler pie

And again I used Cook’s Illustrated for the crust. I blind-baked it, added the filling, and baked for about thirty minutes. Then I added the cobbler topping, and the pie went back into the oven for about ten more minutes. Et voilà!

Blackberry cobbler pie

Can you tell I enjoy taking pictures of food almost as much as I do cooking and eating it?

I will say it wasn’t completely perfect right off the bat. Maybe I should have let it cool longer and set up more (and/or used more cornstarch or all fresh rather than some frozen blackberries), but the filling from first slices was pretty thin. The next day, after sitting in the fridge overnight, it was much better. Also, this pie is sweet! A bit too much so. Since there is no added sugar, it all depends on the jam you use, and boy, is Smuckers sweet. If I were to make it again, I think I’d try to survey different jams to help gauge the final product.

These photos and more are in my Flickr set “Adventures in pie-making.” I don’t have any final ideas for August’s pie yet, but the gears are turning!

Dance diary: Your other left

Class notes

Not much to report on the class front: so far, so good. My July 10 class was my tenth consecutive class, yay.

So it’s funny (but probably not surprising) how sometimes steps that you can do with no problem in one direction are another story in the other direction. Last class (July 17), my teacher combined two steps we’ve been doing (polonaise, I think that’s what it’s called but I still haven’t confirmed, and balancé). Going to the right (diagonally downstage right), no problem. Going to the left–even though these are basically the same steps, just in reverse order–I was all awkward limbs everywhere. Kind of amusing. Ah well, something to work on.

Around town

Universal Ballet, based in Seoul, is on tour in San Francisco right now, and I went to see them last night at the Opera House. (I hadn’t heard any buzz about it beforehand, but $30 center orchestra seats from Goldstar made it hard to pass up.) The program was Shim Chung: The Blindman’s Daughter, a three-act story set in ancient Korea. For some reason going in I was afraid it might be a bit heavy-handed or cheesy, but overall it really is enchanting. (I will try to forgive the improbable, deliriously happy ending. Improbable, even given the already fantasy-laden story.) The dancing is entertaining, and the sets and costumes are impressive, especially in the underwater kingdom scene.

Shim Chung plays again in San Francisco on Sunday afternoon, July 24, then the tour continues in Vancouver.

Dance diary: A studio with a view

Class notes

Last time, I mentioned how my beginner ballet workshop is quite large (about twenty-five people). Well, at our June 26 class we got moved to the studio down the hall, one of the larger studios with tall windows facing Market Street. Our previous studio was fine, just as tall, but there’s so much more room and light here that the former crowdedness doesn’t feel like an issue at all anymore. How can you not be inspired with windows like this?

Dance studio

That Sunday happened to be on Pride weekend, so that means the parade! It was a perfect view of the parade route and the festival in front of City Hall. Though we had to contend with some music and crowd noise from outside, I didn’t mind. It actually made the class feel more energized to me, like, here we are in a big city. Fame!

San Francisco Pride 2011

So class was good. A few new steps and terms: en cloche (literally, “bell”: as applied to a dégagé or battement for example, moving front and back, passing through first position), glissade (sliding step), and various body/arm positions (croisé, effacé, etc.).

Here are some glissades, first simply then with additional jumps (umm, yeah, we didn’t attempt those), from the Royal Ballet’s glossary.

The workshop didn’t meet the next week (July 3) due to the holiday weekend, and though I was tempted to just take a break that day, I went to the open intro class that I’ve been to a couple times before. I like how these two classes sort of complement each other. The beginner workshop lays down the basics, and the intro class steps it up a notch. There are more combinations and jumps. A new one I learned last week is ballonné (I hope I have that right), which basically starts in cou-de-pied, then as you hop, the working leg extends out then comes back in as you land.

Around town

We saw Billy Elliot in San Francisco last week. We’d seen the London production a few years ago while on vacation, and it was great to see the show again and be reminded of how amazing the dancing is. The boys who play Billy are so talented. There is a lot of ballet of course, but also a lot of tap. (I kept thinking, “Hmm, I’d love to learn tap!”) I’m really tempted to see the show yet again before it leaves town in September.

In print

A while back I subscribed to Dance and Pointe magazines, and they’ve started to arrive in the mail. It’s pretty cool, but I will say that, like much of the ballet world, they’re still mostly oriented towards girls and women. I did appreciate the “Next Guys of ABT” feature in the June/July Pointe.

Speaking of magazines, in the July 4 New Yorker, Joan Acocella reviews the Royal Danish Ballet’s recent appearance at Lincoln Center (I was glad to have seen them a couple of months ago in Berkeley) and has this to say:

Bournonville, who is said to have been a superb dancer, emphasized male technique. In his ballets, the men’s steps–beats, air turns, flying jumps, turning jumps–are every bit as hard and as serious as the women’s. In “La Sylphide,” the men do them in kilts, so that we get to see the hardworking thighs. I think all male ballet dancers should perform in kilts.

Amen, sister. (The YouTube clips I came across of the RDB’s La Sylphide aren’t very clear, so instead here’s an early ’90s Alexei Ratmansky as James, though I’m not sure which company this is.) Work that kilt!

Dance diary: Transition

I’m a bit behind in my ballet blogging, but just to catch up on the last few weeks…

Class notes

After Beginner Workshop 1 ended, for two Sundays (June 5 and 12) I went to an intro ballet class suggested by my workshop teacher, and it was nice to change things up with a different teacher and slightly different skill level. This is an open class, so the pace is a bit faster, both in terms of the whole class and each individual exercise. Like, we were rond de jambe-ing like nobody’s business. And we got to do more across-the-floor exercises, including a fun one where we got in small groups, linked arms in a line, and did battements (so basically Swan Lake meets the Rockettes).

Some new terms and steps from these two sessions:

  • pas de chat
  • polonaise
  • soubresaut

Last Sunday (June 19) I started Beginner Workshop 2. Nothing really new, but it was good to see our teacher, back from her trip to Russia. The only thing is the class is kind of large… and I may have contributed to that by trying to register after it was already full, at which point they agreed to up the capacity from twenty to twenty-five students. So, good for me that I got in, but it does feel more crowded than the previous session. Ah well, I know I just have to make the most of it: stake out my mirror and barre space, ask questions as needed, and basically not get lost.

Dance gear

Recently I bought a dance belt and tights, and finally tried them on. Not bad, but I haven’t worn them to class yet. The dance center doesn’t have a dress code, so I’m not required to wear tights, but there is something about them, like they’re the uniform for classical ballet, that gives you a feeling of purpose. As in, suit up and dance! So maybe I’ll wear them to next class. We shall see.

Dance around town

Next week the Billy Elliot tour comes to San Francisco for the summer, and we’re seeing it this Monday night. We saw the original London production in 2006, and I’m excited to see it again and see if and how the show has changed since then. (Wow, five years since our London trip. When shall we reprise?)

Dance, Billy, dance!