Monday, December 11, 2017

Piano Student Gifts & Top 5 Piano Teacher Gifts


Last year, I gave my piano students a Christmas ornament that I found that had music around it.  This year, I noticed that some of my beginner students are learning to play their pieces with their left hand holding their book open.  They are always relieved when I clip their music open with my clothespin.  I decided to make some cute clothespins for my students to hold their books open for at home!

Speaking of which, wondering what some good ideas are for gifts for your piano teacher this Christmas?  Here’s my top 5 ideas for your favorite piano teacher:
  1. Gift card to a favorite coffee shop, restaurant, or store.
  2. Amazon Gift Card.
  3. Gift Certificate to a favorite online music store (mine is www.pianopronto.com, btw!)
  4. Purchase something off of the studio/piano teacher’s online wish list.  Ask if they have one.
  5. Food item - chocolates, hot cocoa, wine, etc.

These are just some of the things I like.  I’m currently building a new studio space in my home, so I would love a Home Depot card, a new doormat, really anything for the new space!  Some teachers don’t care for the music themed gifts, because there’s only so many you can have, but for me, I love them so far!  

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Book Review: Daring to Hope


It seems hard to believe in today's day, that someone would give up everything and move to Uganda to run a non-profit and personally house African children, but that's exactly what Katie Davis Majors did.  Although this seems like an act of faith that not everyone has, "Daring to Hope" humanizes the struggles that Katie goes through personally, to continue on to love and care for people in desperate need of help.

Katie has personally adopted 13 girls, but after having her own personal tragedy, is painfully afraid to open herself to loving another person. Life goes on for Katie, more people in need of love and care, even on their deathbeds are sent to her.  Can she open herself to love again?  Does she dare to hope that God will provide and give her the strength to love over and over, even knowing that person may die?

Uganda and Katie's organization seem so far away from my own, busy life in America, but Katie brings her story of pain and suffering into an encouraging book about "Daring to Hope" no matter where God has you in life.  I found myself unable to put this book down, to see how Katie would find her way through the pain and grief of loss and suffering.  I even felt the deep conviction of looking for the blessings, even the smallest things in my own life.  I found myself feeling Katie's pain deep in my heart, as well as seeing the hope from a ever-loving God.

This book is a well-written, almost diary-style of the emotional struggles of a mom, a woman, a missionary.  So lovely to learn that though she feels like giving up daily, much like I do. Often times, she found her God in the middle of the night, on the floor of her bathroom.  Such an encouraging, real-life story a modern day missionary. A wonderful present day story of God's call to dare to hope.

This book was given to me by Multnomah Publishing in exchange for this review, although it all written with my own opinions.

Friday, October 13, 2017

The Small Things


Every renovation project has it’s setbacks, but it’s felt like our new-to-us home has had more than our share.  We had originally planned to enclose our carport area between our house and the carriage house.  It seems straight forward enough, but of course, our city government is involved, so we were at a standstill for several weeks, just waiting to get a building permit.

As it stands, we are being required to add a sidewalk to the front of our house, to the tune of more than $25,000 for the entire thing!  There’s a telephone pole, a grade, a drainage ditch, the utility post for the entire neighborhood and our water meter in the way on one end.  Fortunately, it seems like the Public Works guy is on our side and is going to try to put an end to it, at least for now.

Meanwhile, we bit the bullet, paid the deposit plus the building permit and were overjoyed to begin this additional living room project.  HALT!!!  Of course, that is if the local rental center has the jackhammer in, so we can break up the concrete and replace it.  3 1/2 weeks later, the rental center finally has the jackhammer back in, so we will be finishing it off.

Many of the things that we are wanting to fix or paint in the house are attached to another, bigger project after the extra living room gets finished.  One thing we have done is raise one of the kitchen over 4 inches to make it level for the new area.  I don’t want to paint the kitchen or the bathrooms until we get done with renovations.  Why spend the money and time if I don’t have to, so for the time being, I’m getting used to appreciating The Small Things!  Like a new shower curtain.

I had left the original shower curtain in the bathroom (after washing it) since it fit.  Our liner from the last rental, didn’t fit, so I got rid of that.  I bought a “fancy” liner from Walmart for $7 that made me happy and went with it.  Don’t you agree? It’s so much better!
Unfortunately, I can’t do much else with this bathroom just yet, because it’s going to get some wall knockouts, but this clean, modern looking curtain makes me happy!  It’s the small things!

Then, because the extra living room isn’t finished or hardly started, piano lessons had to start in our main living room.  Well, as with most moves, it’s hard to unpack - so I unpacked the living room and hung pictures.  What do you think?  I’d love to paint this room, but again, we are going to be changing up some walls.  So for now, I’m thankful to have our own home, and the small things that I can do to make it a happy place to live.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

New Home, New Garden

We finally bought a house after our move across country from the Midwest five and a half years ago.  It's taken us all month to get into the house and start to get things put away.  Moving seven people while two are headed back to college was not an easy feat. 

While this house is not super fancy, one of the things we loved about the house was the very large yard.  We have seven city lots in fact.  One of the things that we loved the most about home ownership was being able to garden.
I'm not a fan of those really tall arborvitae trees on the left of this picture.  We have several of them around the property, mostly right up on the foundation and causing trouble with the house.  I personally don't like them and call them funeral trees, because they are what every cemetery has.  I'd like to just reserve them for funerals for now.  This one, isn't coming down just yet. 

That big, pickery evergreen bush that takes up the side of the house had to go!  The access to the crawl space is behind it and there are five-foot thistles all over in that bush!
One of the best things that we have learned since moving West and living is the mountains, is how to pull out trees with our truck.  This bush is really no different.  The most difficult thing about this yank out, was trying to get into the trunk of the tree to attach the chain!  This is one pickery bush!


Once out, we decided to use a cord (a hose would work too) to make the shape of the bed and then had to break up all the dirt in the new flower bed that we were adding.  When we returned to the Midwest this summer, I dug up a bunch of perennials from my mom's garden (many had been split from my own garden there) and brought them back.  I've been watering them in pots ever since, so was really excited to use them in this bed.

I also added some daffodil bulbs that we found when we were making another access on the other side of the house.  I can't wait to see those come up in the spring! 

We spent $44 on a truckload of mulch (we had plenty to add to another bed and saved some, to finish this one off when we get that other funeral tree out) and then bought a big container of Preen to prevent weeds from coming back.  I'm so excited to have a nice clean, mulched hosta bed! 

Here's another look at the before and after.  We plan to put a decorative tree in the middle of the bed, as well as a Japanese Maple tree off the left once that funeral tree goes.  Both will add some height and shade on this side of the house.
Stay tuned for more of our DIY projects on our new house!  Lots more to come!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Book Review: Gathering the Threads



I was so excited to see a brand new book by Cindy Woodsmall available, when I was choosing books to review!  I always love a great Amish romance, and the fact that it's by Cindy Woodsmall just made my day!

This is the third book in the "Amish of Summer Grove" series and definitely delivers a phenomenal story line. Arianna Brenneman returns to her Old Order Amish family, that raised her after several months of staying with her biological family.  After the shock of finding out that she was switched at birth with Skylar Nash, both are forced to swap places for a year, and get to know their biological families. 

After only three months, Arianna has been able to convince her biological Dad that she needs to return to the family and lifestyle that she can relate to.  But, after gaining knowledge from the English world, can Arianna find her place back with her family?  Will her Amish family accept her new take on life, or will they try to force their wishes on her?  Will the community be able to accept her and allow her to have her place in the community?

Meanwhile, Skylar is finally clean and starting to get her life back in order in her new Amish surroundings.  Will Arianna's return threatens her self discovery and her place in her new family?  Can Skylar keep her sobriety while still establishing her place in a new community?

I loved how this book brought together the modern English and the Old Order English ways of life.  It was a true melding of both ways, and addressed some of the issues that these two worlds have when the mesh together.  Having lived near an Amish community, the struggles to stay apart from the world, and yet meeting the needs of the simple life are complicated, and this story addresses many of those issues.  Both Arianna and Skylar are able to find their way, and yet hold to what they were raised with.

Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing has given me this book in exchange for a free copy of this book.  That being said, I formed all opinions for myself.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

New Piano Lesson Format


I've been wanting to add a Technology/Theory Lab to my piano lessons for awhile now.  Instead of coming for a 30 minute private lesson, students would come for an hour session back-to-back with another student.  While pondering how to do all of this, I ran across a few other piano teachers discussing a 20/20/20 Rotating format that really caught my interest.  Instead of two students an hour, three students come for the one hour slot and rotate between three different 20 minute stations.

This seemed like a great fit for my students, so I decided to launch this with my studio this summer.   I was personally worried about my students working for 30 minutes independently when the other student had a private lesson.  With the 20 minute sessions, though, most of my students are able to stay on task for 20 minutes by themselves.  Some of my youngest students need a little more direction during the individual time, but most are actually thriving in this type of lesson.

Here's what I'm doing for my lessons:

  1. 20 minutes private lesson with me on the piano.
  2. 20 minutes piano technology on my Electronic Piano with Piano Maestro.  (I sometimes have to plug kids into another app, as my internet service runs out after so many students in a day)
  3. 20 minutes of piano theory time at a small folding table.  This is the part that takes me some time to put together, and I'm going to share in a later posting what I've been doing for this 20 minutes.
Overall, my students and I are loving this format!  This last year, I've really struggled fitting theory into lessons.  I teach theory alongside their pieces, but I just hadn't found my groove for adding a formal assignments into my lessons, and still keep it fun.  I personally, don't like all the chaos of having 5 different books to work out of.   With this new 20 minute rotation of theory games and worksheets, my students can't wait for theory!!  When I ask them what their favorite part is, they say theory!   

The piano technology session has parents really excited, because their kids want to work on Piano Maestro and try to advance in lessons.  I think students may lose interest in this at some point, but I love that it is reinforcing their practice sessions.  

Overall, as a teacher, I feel like I'm able to offer much more rounded lessons for my students.  I have had a couple of kids comment that I like the new sessions, so I don't have to teach so much, but I have quickly refuted that with an explanation about how much time I put into that theory time before they get there and that I am teaching the entire hour.  

I scheduled 19 students this summer for my 20/20/20 Rotating Lessons.   I didn't think I was going to have so many students, and had scheduled everyone on the same day!  I figured I'd make it through for my 6 summer lessons with barely my sanity intact, but I actually haven't felt as stressed about it as I thought!  I teach all 19 students from 10am-6:30pm with two half hour breaks for lunch and dinner. I'm tired, but not beyond stressed, like I was sometimes when I had 30 minute private lessons only.  I think this can be attributed to the fact that I everything is moving so fast that I don't have time to feel frustration with any one station, and neither do my students.

I will be continuing on with this format in the fall, for sure!  For Preschool students I am continuing on in 30 minute private sessions, as they need help doing the other parts, but I will be supplementing their lessons with both the technology and the theory activities during their lessons. Stay tuned for more information about how I am running my 20/20/20 sessions.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Road to Paradise - Book Review


I'm on a role with reading books this year!  I set a goal to read 50 books this year and this book makes my 31st this year so far.  I might be able to reach my goal!  I've been tracking my goal and stats on Goodreads.  It's fun to see how many books I've read, on there.  I've even had some of the authors comment on my reviews!

My own love of the National Parks and as an avid visitor with our vintage Airstream, I intrigued by "The Road to Paradise, (Shadows of the Wilderness #1)  To my joy, this book did not disappoint my high expectations of being able to learn more about Mt. Rainier, and come to appreciate it's splendor as well!

In 1927, Margaret (Margie) Lane, a wealthy senator's daughter, escapes to Mt. Rainier, much to her mother's disapproval to study God's creation and learn from a real Park Ranger.  Ford Brayden, the ranger charged with making sure that Margie's stay is both enjoyable and profitable for the National Forest Service, is more interested in the mountain life than in taking care of a pampered debutante.  Will Margie stick out her new job as a "naturalist" for the park or will she run home to her glamorous life?  Can Ford keep her safe, and keep his own guard up from other people as he has for the last two years, following the untimely death of his father?

This story was a true page turner for me.   I finished the book in less than 24 hours, because I just had to find out how the story would unfold.  The descriptions of the mountains, the flora, the beauty from Margie's perspective gave me a feeling of sitting right there in the meadows and mountains with Margie!  I can't wait for my next visit to Mt. Rainier National Park to enjoy it's beauty from a new perspective!

I did receive a copy of this book from Multnomah Publishers in exchange for this review.  All opinions are my own, however!