Saturday, February 21, 2009

Viennese Ball 2009 ~ Memories of a Lovely Evening

Viennese Ball last night was absolutely wonderful. I finally decided on a dress to wear (more on that below) and we finished getting ready almost on time. We hopped into Woodley's car and headed north. On the way we listened to "Anne of Green Gables" on CD that we had borrowed from the library. It was one of my favorite childhood books and it is so nice to be hearing it again.

Woodley had made dinner reservations but had kept the location a secret. As we pulled off of the freeway I was thrilled to see that we were heading to Left Bank, the very spot we had dined on our first date! We have stopped there for dinner several times on our way to various balls and it is always lots of fun because everyone wonders why we are so dressed up. Woodley was in his tails and I had on a fancy gown with petticoats and everything. Our dinner was marvelous - I should have taken photos of each dish because they were lovely. Maybe I'll think of that next time.
We started out with a pizza-like flat dish of duck confit, caramelized onions, and tiny mushrooms. The crust just flaked away in our mouths and the duck tasted divine. Along with that we had Left Bank's fabulous cheese fondue appetizer. They use a combination of goat cheese, brie, and blue cheese which makes for an amazing taste that is quite different from a traditional fondue. Personally, I like it much better. I wonder if they would be willing to share the recipe; it would be so much fun to make it at home sometimes. Next came the main course. Woodley had ordered butternut squash gnocchi which was decent but not too exciting. I felt like it needed a little more seasoning and I would have preferred it if the gnocchi had been cut into smaller pieces. I think it is due to the consistency, but I really prefer small gnocchi. I ordered a braised lamb shank that came with mashed potatoes and swiss chard. Normally I would never order such a big piece of meat - usually I go for lighter vegetarian entrees, fish, or chicken - but somehow it appealed to me. I was not disappointed with it. The meat fell off the bone and had a delicious flavor that married perfectly with the potatoes and swiss chard.

Growing up, my mother was a big fan of greens such as swiss chard and kale and we ate them regularly. They don't appear too often on menus so I am thrilled whenever I get the chance to order something with them. I try to cook with them myself but I don't do it nearly as often as I would like to.

For dessert I had crème brûlée which was delightful and Woodley had a molten chocolate cake which was also wonderful. As we finished with our desserts, we noticed it was getting late so we quickly finished up and headed to the ball.

The Stanford Viennese Ball is held each year at The Hyatt Regency in Burlingame. It is a big fancy hotel shaped like a big hollow square with the rooms around the outside of the square. The center holds an elegant atrium with fountains and full grown trees. On the level below the main part of the atrium is the lobby and the two ball rooms where Viennese Ball is held. One of the best features of the ball is the fact that they always have two different ballrooms - The Waltz Room and The Swing Room. While it is not immediately apparent that the two styles of dancing require completely different types of bands/orchestras but it is very true. That was something Woodley and I discovered when we were trying to decide on a band for our Wedding Celebration Ball. At Viennese Ball they simply solved the problem by having two rooms with the two different styles of performers.

Woodley and I spent most of our time in the Waltz Room where we danced to many waltzes and polkas performed by the Stanford Waltzerorchester. We were impressed with their playing which seemed to have improved a lot since the year before. My absolute favorite part of the whole night was when they performed "The Stanford Waltzes" which had been arranged by the group's conductor (whose name I sadly cannot remember). He introduced the waltz by announcing that we may recognize some of the pieces in it because they were songs that could often be heard around the Stanford campus. I wondered what exactly he could mean by that. The Stanford Band (the LSJUMB) which I had participated in played most of the "Stanford Music" around campus so I thought, "Could he mean 'Hail Stanford Hail,' or 'All Right Now'? Or do we have some other theme music that I was completely unaware of?" As the waltz started, Woodley and I were sitting on the sidelines listening and watching. The music was slow and sounded just like a normal waltz. All of a sudden it hit me. They were playing "All Right Now!" It was amazing! I think I wouldn't have noticed it if it wasn't for all of those hours playing it in the band on the Tuba. As soon as I realized what it was, I pulled Woodley onto the dance floor. I just couldn't let the chance to waltz to "All Right Now" pass me by. After a few blissful minutes of circling the floor the music changed a bit and I wondered what they were playing now. It sounded so waltz-like that it was hard at first to make out what the underlying theme was. I was amazed when I finally picked it out, they were playing "Come on Eileen," one of my other all time favorite songs that the LSJUMB plays. It was so fantastic!!! What an amazing thing to hear an orchestra play a waltz version cover of the LSJUMB's cover of "Come on Eileen" and "All Right Now?" I was truly very impressed and that was most definitely my favorite moment of the entire night. Only at Stanford! Another favorite moment was watching Danse Libre perform. They are so delightful to watch and they performed their pieces fabulously!

My least favorite part of the whole evening was watching the performance of the ballroom dance team. It wasn't that they were bad performers overall. They danced their piece fairly well. However, the ladies costumes were absolutely indecent. Apparently they decided to wear white ballet-style leotards with skirts that were created by pinning on a piece of red fabric. I think the overall effect could have been very nice if they had actually covered up a bit and made sure their skirts were firmly attached. The first thing that made me uncomfortable was during a Latin duet. The female performer had tied a rather large piece of red fabric over her white leotard but had failed to pull it down to a decent level. It was so short in the thigh area that as she danced the audience could repeatedly glimpse her white leotard underneath. It was made all the more noticeable by the fact that the dancing was very very suggestive - enough to make me feel a bit squeamish to begin with. Of course I know that type of dancing (and dress perhaps) has its place and is a respected art form. It just didn't seem to me that it fit in at all in the elegant ballroom of the Hyatt at the Viennese Ball. Shortly after that couple finished a group of ladies wearing smaller pieces of the red fabric as skirts started dancing another Latin piece. It was going fairly well and was interesting to watch when all of a sudden the audience made a huge gasp. I scanned the room and quickly saw that one of the dancers had lost her skirt entirely! There she was in a fairly revealing skimpy white leotard and tights in front of several hundred onlookers. To make matters worse, the lost piece of fabric lying on the floor nearly caused her and her partner to fall over. Once they realized it was really going to be a problem, she picked it up and tossed it into the audience.

I suppose when you are in the middle of a performance you must simply keep going on but I would have preferred if she had stopped for a moment and at least tried to pin it on again. After that at least one more lady lost her skirt later in the dance but at that point the crowd was fairly used to it. Overall the effect was not a good one and I spent most of the piece cringing and thinking to myself that I didn't really want or expect to see so much leg at the ball. In my opinion, leotards are perfectly acceptable in the ballet rehearsal space but not at the ball! I hope they invest in proper outfits next year so as to spare the audience from more wardrobe malfunctions.
Shortly before we started watching the performances I had started to feel that my petticoats weren't quite staying with me. During each dance I could feel them slipping down more and more. After watching all those other ladies loose their skirts I decided it was time to go up to our room and remove the potentially dangerous loose petticoats before I became a victim of my own wardrobe malfunction. When I got up to the room I was glad I took action before it was too late. The petticoat was fairly loose around my waist and really was in danger of falling off at any time. I was wearing two petticoat layers so I removed the loosest one and left on the other one (after pinning it to my dress to make sure it wouldn't fall down. I just love wearing petticoats though. Below is a picture of the one I wore throughout the ball. It is such a fun pink!

Other than that the ball was fairly uneventful and we danced until our feet were sore and our legs exhausted before heading up to our hotel room.

Friday, February 20, 2009

What to wear to the ball...

Above is one of my favorite pieces of lace. I got it awhile back for less than a dollar on ebay and I love its elegant look. We use it as a dresser scarf in our bedroom and I just adore the way it looks!

Tonight is the Stanford Viennese Ball and I must start getting ready for it just as soon as I post this. The ball is a fabulous event that Woodley and I have attended together the past 4 years. We should have gone together 5 years ago but we had just met a couple of months before and we didn't know each other very well yet. I remember sitting on the floor of the dance hall during one of our discussion breaks. It was a week or two before the dance and Richard (the instructor) asked us to raise our hands if we still needed a date. I had already promised a different friend that I would go with him but as I glanced around the room I saw Woodley raising his hand. I'm not sure I even knew his name at that point, but I remember distinctly thinking that I really ought to be going to the ball with him. And here we are 5 years later going to the ball together for the first time as a married couple. It's so funny how things work out!

I have several dresses that I am thinking about wearing tonight and I'm still trying to decide which one it will be. We need to leave in a little less than an hour so I suppose I should quit writing and start trying them on! I'll have to report back tomorrow about which one wins out. There are a few floor length choices: the gold one, the vintage 50's forest green one, the pale satiny blue one that I wore to prom in high school, and the black satin one with the feathers around the top. Then there are 4 or 5 shorter ones that would be about mid-calf in length. They all are 50's style with full skirts and strapless tops.

Notes from Today:
It looks like Valicia's kitty Laila will be joining our small household for the next few months and we are so excited! To help get ready for her arrival I got in touch with the landlords about the pet deposit and started cleaning. We're having company over for dinner on Sunday night and what with the ball and the kitty's arrival and church I thought I'd better get the house in order. I started in the kitchen where I did all the dishes, wiped down the counters, cleaned out the sink, and cleaned up the stove top. It's so nice in there when it is clean! Below is a picture of my vintage style timer that I keep on the stove. I just love it!

After I finished cleaning the kitchen I moved over to the sun room where I vacuumed and dusted. After that came the dining room where I again vacuumed and dusted. I also cleaned off my green glassware that I had sitting on the counter by the window. That counter is kind of like a window seat and I thought it would be a very attractive place for Laila to explore and sit. Since I didn't want her to accidentally knock over the glass with her tail I decided to move it to the basement and to put a cat bed in that place instead. Below is a picture of the glassware before I started cleaning it off. I absolutely love blue and green vintage glassware. I collected a ton of it before our wedding and we used the pieces as vases for our centerpieces. They were absolutely lovely! I'll have to post photos of that later!

Now I'm off to get ready for the ball!


Thursday, February 19, 2009


Above is the picture of the first breakfast I made for Woodley after we got home from our honeymoon. That was July 15th of last year. I think I set the bar for presentation a bit high since my day to day efforts since then aren't quite as nice. When I think about classic housewives of the 40's and 50's an image often comes to mind of the wife waking early to fry eggs and bacon which the husband dutifully munches before heading off to the office. 

However, I have yet to experience this scenario in our household because Woodley does not eat eggs and bacon. Instead we often have yogurt and granola, oatmeal, or on days when I am feeling particularly inspired, pancakes or french toast. I do miss the joy of seeing my husband digging in to his eggs and bacon though. I am steadily working towards the goal of getting Woodley his breakfast at a decent hour each day. However, many days I am too distracted or I am off running errands when he gets up so there is much work to do in this area. Sadly, he seems to be a bit frightened of the kitchen or at least forgetful so if I don't create the breakfast for him he most always forgets to eat any (unless it is a pile of cookies). So, one of my goals is to get our family to eat breakfast together every day - if possible. 

Notes from Today: 
This morning I went to the Netflix headquarters and participated in a focus group. It was very interesting and I felt like I was helping out a little bit which was nice. It was also interesting to see what the insides of their building looks like since I have driven by it so many times. 

After finishing up with the focus group, I headed up to Mountain View to meet up with my dear friend Valicia at her house. She will be moving to Korea sometime in the next week and had to move a bunch of her furniture to a storage facility. As is always the case, the entire process took much longer than either of us expected. However, it was a great excuse to spend several hours hanging out together and overall it was a very fun way to spend an afternoon. We also felt happy that we were getting our exercise as we two petite ladies struggled to move a bunch of heavy furniture into her storage area. 

Valicia has an extremely adorable kitty that Woodley and I might be able to cat sit while she is in Korea for the next few months. It would be so lovely to have a cat in the house - I adore cats! Since we might be traveling a bit this summer we haven't gotten any cats of our own which makes cat sitting the perfect arrangement. I hope it works out! 


Hello World.

After many years of failed attempts at journaling, I decided to try again. It has always been my goal to record my thoughts daily so I will have something to read over later in life but thus far I haven't been very consistent. I have boxes of half filled journals from various moments in time. However, since I type much more quickly than I write by hand, perhaps a modern form of journaling will be easier to keep up with.

In addition to basic journaling, I hope to record my ups and downs as I move on to the new career of a professional homemaker. I am very excited about staying home full time and taking care of my house and husband, but I do worry a bit that the days will all begin to blend together and soon I will look back on a year and wonder what I accomplished. At least this way I will have a record of the small triumphs and minor catastrophes in day to day housewife life.

So, what brought me to this point? (This is something I always feel like I must cover when I first start a new journal. Bear with me. It might get a bit long.)
I grew up on a lovely green piece of property in northwest Washington state. My parents were happily married and joyfully welcomed me as their first child. They were a bit surprised however, to discover that I deviated from the family tradition of brown hair and instead had "peach fuzz" (red hair). After several idyllic years I was blessed with a little brother, then tragedy struck and my father passed away due to a brain tumor. Although heartbroken, my mother carried on and did a fabulous job as a single parent. She is truly an amazing woman.

As a child, I enjoyed school and learning. Anne of Green Gables was my favorite book and I loved playing outside in the woods. In high school I continued to study hard and spent many hours participating in choir and drama. Through some luck I was able to attend a summer fine arts camp in Alaska and because of that experience I ended up attending The Seattle Conservatory of Music on the weekends my junior year. I had taken voice lessons for a few years but at that point I became much more serious. I had got it into my head that I should become an opera singer - even though I had never seen an opera. At the end of my junior year, discouraged by driving an hour and a half to Seattle each weekend, I applied and was accepted to Interlochen Arts Academy.

I spent my senior year of high school out in the woods in Michigan living in a depressingly concrete building next to a beautiful lake. I had both academic and musical classes and learned that I didn't like singing well enough to pursue it full time. I also learned that it is hard for me to live in a dorm that is full of passionate artists. With all that passion around, my love of singing didn't seem very persuasive. So, instead of applying to conservatories as all my neighbors were, I applied to a variety of colleges and universities and ended up at Tufts University in Boston.

At Tufts I did a bit of singing, however, an allergy to some mold growing in the very old and scary music building gave me a six month case of laryngitis so I gave up singing by my second year. Instead, I focused all of my energies on my other love - molecular biology. My high school biology teacher was excellent and from her I learned to love DNA, cells, and PCR. I took as many biology courses as I could and worked part time in a yeast lab on campus studying the affects of various proteins on the fragility and stability of a tract of DNA associated with Huntington's disease. It was a fabulous experience and was one of the happiest times of my life. Yeast really are amazing creatures! However, by the end of my second year I was tired of the cold Boston winters, I couldn't find affordable housing for my junior year, and I was just a half unit course away from completing the requirements for my biology degree.

My mother was eager to have me back on the west coast and had repeatedly sent me transfer applications to Stanford. My brother was applying to go there the following fall and she felt it would be perfect if I could join him there as a transfer student. Of course, I had no intention of actually applying... at first... But one day I woke up and saw that we were getting a new flurry of snow which I felt wasn't at all appropriate since it was already the middle of March. I figured the weather would be much better in California so I picked up the Stanford application and filled it out. I started it on a Tuesday and it was due on a Friday. I hurriedly put everything together and ran it to the post office - arriving just minutes before they closed on the final due date. After I left the post office I put the application out of my mind and finished up the school year. I left Tufts that summer fully intending to go back the next fall.

I spent the summer after my sophomore year out in Seattle doing an internship with foamy retroviruses at The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. It was very interesting and I learned a bunch of new techniques. However, I also learned that I had been accepted to Stanford and that worried me because it meant I had to make a decision. I decided to go to Stanford for a visit, since I had never been there before. I visited and decided it was nice enough that I should try it out. I figured I could always head back to Tufts if I didn't like it.

That fall I joined the small herd of transfer students at Stanford and promptly joined the Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band or LSJUMB. With all of my experience singing you would have thought that I could play an instrument but I couldn't. However, in the LSJUMB that didn't matter a bit. When I walked in the door at the beginning of a rehearsal they asked me to pick out an instrument and told me they would teach me to play it. I glanced around and saw the tuba section. The sousaphone definitely looked like the most exciting instrument so I picked it and joined the Toobz. A week later I was on the USC field "rocking out" during a half time show. I hadn't yet learned how to make any noise with the tuba, so instead I focused on running hard and dancing wildly during the pieces (the LSJUMB being of the more progressive "scatter band" type).

The other main focus of my time at Stanford was dancing. Stanford has a fabulous social dance department headed up by the amazing dance historian and teacher Richard Powers. I joined his classes my senior year and as I learned to dance I also met the quiet, nerdy guy who would later become my husband. For six months we chatted and learned about each other as we moved to all sorts of music. We learned the swing, polka, waltz, cross-step waltz, hustle, schottische, mambo, merengue, tango, rumba, club two step, west coast swing, lindy hop... When summer break started my guy and I decided we should date. We have now been together three and a half years and married for a little over half a year.

At Stanford I continued on studying biology but learned that they would require me to take many more chemistry and physics classes for my major - things that most students fulfill during their freshman and sophomore years. I realized that if I went down that route I would have to spend all my time studying physics and chemistry and I wouldn't have much time for biology - my real passion. So instead I dropped out of physics and took a variety of upper level molecular biology courses my junior year. My senior year I switched to psychology as a major and rapidly filled my schedule with as many psychology courses as I could. After five quarters of psychology classes I completed my degree.

As I left college I was blessed with a job right away through a connection with a family I had nannied for during my senior year. The day after I finished my last final I started full time at Picaboo. It was a lovely little photo book company that had just launched their software a few months before I joined up. Needless to say, they are much larger now and provide an excellent product. I worked in marketing and learned all sorts of fun computer skills. It was a great change from school and I enjoyed learning and making money at the same time. I worked for them for roughly three years, although I cut back to part time after I got engaged. In fact, I just recently stopped working there in order to pursue a new goal: becoming a birth and postpartum doula. (That and the fact that the slumping economy has made things difficult for growing photo book companies.) So as of last week I am now at home full time.

Through all my many ramblings and educational pursuits I have always held a desire way down inside to be a housewife. However, whenever I would mention that to friends at college they would say, "Why the heck are you working so hard to get a Stanford degree then??" It's funny, being a housewife is a very hard profession to aspire to. Unless you are extremely fortunate, it is a very hard thing to manage on your own. And I wonder how fulfilling it would be to be a homemaker on your own with no one to bake and clean things for other than yourself. It is amazing to me that it is even possible for me to stay home full time. I really am incredibly blessed.

I have sort of skipped over the lovely story of my romance with my husband but I will revisit it a different day when I'm not running out of time (as I am now). Suffice it to say that he is a lovely old fashioned sort of guy who really wants me to stay home as his housewife (provided that is what I want to do - which it is). He was raised on a steady diet of classic movies from the 20's through 50's so we get along well as far as our desired husband and wife roles go. Also, we are very blessed in that his income allows me to comfortably stay home so I can dedicate myself to housewifely tasks without the stress of needing a second income (although, it's always nice to have a little pocket money!). So here I am at home. I hope to be a good classic housewife. I want to bake bread, keep a tidy house, perhaps have a garden, sew quilts, make pies, and volunteer in the community. We shall have to wait and see if I can actually accomplish all that. Hopefully it will make for an interesting journey.