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How to Choose a Piano Teacher

child playing pianoPiano lessons are a rite of passage for many children. Your child’s success with piano lessons can depend in large part upon her teacher. What are some features to look for when selecting a piano teacher?

What Is the Piano Teacher’s Philosophy?

Interview the teacher, either in person or by phone. What type of approach does she use? Is she strict about music theory and history, or does she have a more casual, “let’s just have fun” demeanor? Does the teacher emphasize classical music, popular tunes or a mixture?

Either type of teacher can be a good fit depending on your child’s personality and goals. The teacher you would select for a budding child piano prodigy may be different from the teacher you choose for a child who just wants to have some fun playing a Disney tune.

What Do Other Parents Say?

If possible, talk to some other parents whose children study with the teacher you’re considering. Are their children enjoying lessons with this teacher? Does he relate well with children (being an excellent musician doesn’t necessarily equate to being a great teacher)? Is he easy to work with if lessons need to be rescheduled?

What Does This Teacher Require?

When you talk with the teacher, ask about expectations. How much practice time does she recommend daily? Do her students participate in recitals and/or competitions? If so, are these mandatory or elective?

What Will This Cost?

Piano lessons, since they are usually private, are generally more expensive than group lessons in dance, gymnastics, or other interest areas. Make sure you can afford the cost of lessons in your budget, as well as expenses for music your child will need.

If private lessons seem too pricey, check into group lessons, which are often available at local colleges and some music studios. The cost for these is usually much less than individual lessons. For most children, group lessons can be a cheaper way of determining whether your child has a lasting interest in piano.

Where is the Piano Teacher Located?

It may seem insignificant, but consider the location of the piano teacher. A 40-minute commute will quickly become cumbersome, particularly in winter months. Over the weeks and months, you will come to appreciate a nearby piano teacher. Keep the stress on your family low by choosing a teacher who lives reasonably close.

Can You Observe Lessons?

Ask the teacher whether you can listen in on a lesson. This can give you a lot of insight into a teacher’s methods, style and personality. There may be things the teacher is trying to emphasize which you were clueless about, simply because your child didn’t mention them. It can be enlightening to see a teacher at work. It can also help you gauge whether or not this teacher-student relationship is working well.

At the same time, most teachers would not appreciate parents listening in for each lesson. This can be disruptive to the teacher, and many children perform better with their parents out of the room. Don’t insist on being present for lessons on a regular basis.

Music is a wonderful part of life. By taking time to select a teacher who is compatible with your child, you are increasing your child’s chances of having a positive experience in studying piano.

You may also enjoy:

Buying a Piano: Digital or Acoustic?

How to Get the Most Out of Piano Lessons: A Teacher’s Tips

 

Thanks to Curby’s Closet for 2 patterns for review. No financial compensation was received, and all opinions are my own.

Welcome to the 2014 Girls in White Dresses Blog Christmas Gift Guide!

This month, I’d like to introduce you to some products I enjoy. Since this is a small blog, I don’t have companies coming to me offering me lots of stuff. Instead, I contacted companies whose products I love, and asked if I could review something to share with all of you.

Today I’m so happy to introduce you to the first company I’m featuring: Curby’s Closet.

Chris Anderson is the creator of the patterns that make up Curby’s Closet. She loved dolls and Barbies as a child, and began refurbishing vintage clothes for them. From there, she ventured into designing and making quilted baby shoes, which she sold on Etsy. Next, she began selling patterns for these adorable shoes. Do you want to see them, so you can judge just how cute they are?

Curby's Closet baby shoes

I know! So sweet! And I was happy to find that each of the two patterns Chris generously shared with me was quick and simple to make. I have sewn for years, but I really think these are “doable” even if you have few sewing skills.

I made the Quilted Baby Criss Cross shoes (seen on left above) and the Quilted Baby Mary Janes (right). The patterns use double-sided quilted material and a few other items you can easily find in stores. The kits I received contained everything I needed — so nice for a fun afternoon project!

Curby's Closet baby shoes

Inside the patterns, directions were clearly described, with  illustrations for each step. I can say that I had no questions as I made them. With each step, the shoes became cuter and cuter. You can individualize any of the patterns by choosing your own fabrics, ribbons, and button accessories.

Each pattern contains two sizes — 3-6 months and 6-9 months. Let’s face it — after that point, most babies will be walking and would be too hard on cloth shoes.  In my photo at the top, the left shoes are made in the smaller size, and the right ones are made in the larger size. These are the first baby shoes I have ever made, and I am so happy with the results.

Curby's Closet baby shoes

I recommend Curby’s Closet patterns for yourself, if you enjoy crafting. The baby shoes you create would make a wonderful gift or stocking stuffer for little nieces, grandkids, or even for a new mom or mom-to-be. If you’ve only got boys, don’t worry: Curby’s Closet also sells sweet patterns for Quilted Baby Moccasins and — yep – Quilted Baby Cowboy Boots. Or, if someone one your gift list sews, one or two of these patterns would make a creative and fun gift to give.

Each pattern is cuter than the next. It’s still just early November, so why not order a pattern or two and start creating? Each of the pairs of shoes I made took me only a few hours — time well-spent!

You can find the patterns online at the Curby’s Closet website, or on Ebay or Etsy.

How about you: have you ever made baby shoes? Have you ever made something using a Curby’s Closet pattern?

Menu Plan Monday

menuplanmonday

Welcome to Menu Plan Monday! Such a nice week here; I hope yours was as well. The weekend brought state marching band finals, and my oldest daughter’s band finished 3rd in Class A. Their show, Dance of the Wind Spirits, is lovely if I do say so myself. If you’ve got 10 minutes to spare, you can enjoy it (at least as it appeared a few weeks ago; they added more spark since then):

 

 

This week is another busy one, with meetings, a final band competition, National Honor Society induction, and this coming weekend State Spell Bowl competition for my youngest daughter — not to mention the 17 weekly piano students. It’s great to be busy with fun things. Here’s the menu plan:

Monday: Chipotle Turkey Chili – saw this in a magazine this week and thought it looked good. Soup weather has arrived.

Tuesday: Cheeseburger Pie — one of the kids’ favorites.

 

Wednesday: Busy night; I’m afraid it’s frozen pizzas. The good news? They were on sale :)

Thursday: Gone most of the day; maybe those at home can do pasta/spaghetti sauce?

Friday:

TORTILLA SOUP

16 oz. refried beans

14.5 oz. chicken broth

5 oz. chunk chicken (I usually just cook 1 chicken breast)

15.5 oz. black beans, rinsed

3/4 cup salsa

Combine all ingredients.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 10 min.

Crumble a few tortilla chips in the bottom of each bowl.

Ladle soup over chips and sprinkle with cheddar cheese.

Since I’m letting things slide a little this week, I may even pull out all the stops (to use a little organ lingo) and cut up corn tortillas into strips and bake them to serve with it.

More menu planning ideas at OrgJunkie‘s. Have a good week, everyone!

Childhood Memories Friday

So, how about another vintage photo this Friday to spark a few memories?

Oktoberfest 1975

Here I am, October 1975, along with my sister. We’re posing at our town’s Oktoberfest, wearing the Bicentennial dresses Mom made for us — obviously they’re ready prior to that 1976 event.

Whenever I look at this photo, my first thought is how ridiculous my shawl looks. I remember it well. My mom tied on my sister’s shawl and wanted to fix mine as well, but I insisted I wanted my own style. I’m not sure what I was seeing or thinking, but with the advantage of years, I must admit — Mom was right. The off-the-shoulder look just isn’t working for me.

Why are we wearing Bicentennial dresses to the local German festival, you may ask? I don’t know. Colonial America, Bavaria — ehh, they’re both exotic, right? And besides, the Bicentennial was just one year, and we wanted to get plenty of wear out of those dresses.

We did — we both wore them for school photos, and I still have mine hanging in the front closet. My girls have worn one or the other of the dresses for school projects, and they’re still in fine shape. Anyone need to borrow a colonial dress?

You may also enjoy:

Childhood Memories Friday: Senior Pictures

Childhood Memories Friday: Clothes

Piano Recital Favors

How to Make an Easy, Inexpensive Musical Recital Favor that Will Delight Parents and Students

Piano recitals should be a positive event in the young pianist’s life. They are a time when students can see how they well they can perform under a bit of pressure, and they provide a rare occasion to play for an audience. It probably goes without saying that parents love recitals, too – after all, they are a great photo opportunity. What about favors for your piano recital?

I have planned several piano recitals. I wanted a favor idea that would be a nice keepsake for the students, but one that wouldn’t be a budget-buster.

I came up with framed photos of the kids holding their recital piece of music. They were a hit!

Locate Frames
Your first step is to locate inexpensive frames. I found nice ones at the Dollar Tree for (obviously) $1 each. I chose frames that held a 4 x 6 photo, since that is a standard photo size.

Take Photos
A few weeks before the recital, I asked each student during her lesson to open up a book to her favorite recital piece. Then, we went outside (lighting and backgrounds are generally better outdoors than inside) and I took a photo of the student holding her recital piece in front of her, so that the camera captured the music as well as her face. When the students asked why I was doing that, I told them, “You’ll have to wait and see …” in a mysterious tone. They loved it!

Put the Favors Together
Now the easy part. Develop the photos, and put them into the frames. Voila! You have a nice keepsake of a special day. I wrote “Recital 2010″ in a corner of each frame’s glass using a metallic permanent marker.

piano recital favors

Recital Favors
On the day of the recital, set up a table. I set this up in the room where I would be serving refreshments after the recital, but you can choose a location that works best for your situation. I arranged certificates for each student on the table, and set the framed photos on top of the certificates. This created a lovely visual display.

Piano recital favors don’t have to cost a lot to be meaningful. For under $2, you can provide a lasting memento for your students.

You may also enjoy:

How to Get the Most Out of Piano Lessons: A Teacher’s Tips

Piano Lessons as Therapy

I received a copy of the DVD to review; no other compensation was received. All opinions my own.

Peppa's Christmas

With Christmas getting closer each day, it’s time to think about gifts for the kids — or maybe even about family entertainment to enjoy during the season.

I can recommend Peppa’s Christmas. I don’t think Peppa was around when my girls were little, but I wish she was. She’s an adorable little animated pig, and she stars in Nick Jr.’s number one preschool show: Peppa Pig.

This DVD features 12 epi –er, “peppa”sodes, each about five  minutes long, and each featuring Peppa and her family as they write letters to Santa, decorate the tree, sing songs, and stay awake all night waiting for … Father Christmas. Yes, they all have adorable British accents, which I love (and I love “Father Christmas” too, and all the references to Christmas rather than “the holidays”).

The DVD is produced by Kaboom!, which is the dedicated kids & family label of Entertainment One. You may recognize some of their other brands — Paw Patrol, Octonauts, Franklin, Berenstain Bears, or Toopy and Binoo.

Peppa’s Christmas comes out today. I think your whole family would enjoy this sweet DVD!

Menu Plan Monday

menuplanmonday

November has arrived for this Menu Plan Monday, and a chilly weekend it was here in the midwest. I spent Saturday outside at marching band semi state finals, where 40-degree temps paired with 20 mph winds made it feel very wintery.

marching bandThis week is looking a little better, and I’m taking solace from recent reports that this winter will be more “normal” than the mess we experienced last year. How is the weather where you live?

Here’s the week’s menu plan:

Monday:

Chicken Parmesan – an easy family favorite

1 jar marinara sauce

4 chicken breast halves

2/3 c. shredded mozzarella

1/4 c. bread crumbs

2 T. olive oil

noodles

Pour marinara sauce in bottom of ungreased 12 x 8 dish.

Place chicken over sauce.

In small bowl, mix cheeses, bread crumbs and oil. Sprinkle evenly over chicken.

Bake at 350 30-35 min.

Serve over noodles.

chicken parmesan

Tuesday: fish (out of a box … I know) and mashed potatoes (those, at least, will be homemade).

Wednesday:  Wendy’s Chili -  (left over from last week — the recipe makes a lot and is even better later).

Thursday:  Skillet Lasagna -- this is so much easier than “regular” lasagna that it has pretty much replaced it for me.

Friday: Chicken Noodle Soup — with this weather, soup sounds better and better. No real recipe, but I’ll make homemade noodles and add chicken, carrots, celery, broth, etc

Sunday is the end-of-season band potluck (didn’t I just post about the season kick-off potluck a week or so ago? It went by so quickly!), and I think I will make these.  Yum.

More menu planning ideas at OrgJunkie‘s. Have a good week, everyone!

Thanks to SheSpeaks/Febreze for sponsoring this post; all opinions my own.

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” I know that it’s Halloween, but let’s face it: Christmas is just around the corner. I love Christmas — the sights, the music, the heavenly aromas … and there is no better way to welcome the holidays than with the scents of Frosted Pine, Apple Tart, Toasted Almond, Vanilla Latte, and Sugared Cranberry.

Where can you find those scents? Why, with Febreze, of course!

You may remember me posting about Febreze fall scents earlier. Now, I’m  happy to introduce you to their  Febreze Home for the Holidays Collection.

#FebrezeHoliday

 

Check out the adorable scentspiration box they put together — see Santa in the window? His reindeer are waiting patiently outside for him.

#FebrezeHoliday scentspiration box

Inside, a fun peek at some of the offerings Febreze has in stores: I Spy Apple Spice, Vanilla Sugar, and Pine Winter. Any of these would lend a warm and cozy scent to your home this Christmas season, helping you prepare your home in an easy, stress-free way. Did you know that Febreze products eliminate odors, so that you (and your guests) only notice fresh holiday scents? Gotta love that!

Apple Tarts

My scentspiration box included lots of fun Christmas ideas. I decided to try making the included apple tarts recipe.

Apple Tarts — Inspired by Febreze Apple Tart Scent

Whisk 1/2 cup water, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and 2 tablespoons flour in a pot over medium heat.

Add 4 diced apples and stir until liquid starts to boil and thicken.

Set heat to low and cook, covered, 12-15 minutes until apples soften.

Spoon apple mixture into mini fillo shells (the original recipe suggests wonton wrappers instead); sprinkle with cinnamon/sugar if desired.

Bake 10 minutes at 375 degrees. I served them with vanilla/caramel ice cream, and they were delicious!

 

Enough about me — now it’s your turn!

  • Have you tried making apple tarts before? What’s your favorite recipe for them?
  • What scents remind you of Christmas?
  • Do you like to have a different holiday scent in each room, or one scent filling your entire home?

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrity babies are born into a world of wealth and privilege. And in many cases, they’re going to need all the advantages they can get, just to make up for the crazy names their famous parents give them.

Why do celebs tend to choose unusual names for their offspring? Theories vary, but it’s likely that people who are famous tend to be rather flashy, theatrical, and self-confident. No child of theirs would have a name like Michael or Anne – or even Madison or Bailey. No, when you’re a celebrity, only the oddest name will do for your baby.

Some of the most unusual names chosen for celebrity babies:

  1. Dweezil

Musician Frank Zappa kicked off the odd baby name trend for celebrities back in the ’60s. He named oldest son Dweezil, and if that’s not weird enough, Dweezil’s silbings are named Moon Unit, Diva, and Ahmet (in case you’re wondering, Moon Unit and Diva are girls; Ahmet is a boy).

Where did the inspiration for “Dweezil” come from? Apparently, it was a nickname Zappa coined for his wife’s pinkie toe.

  1. Sparrow

It’s a bird, it’s a plane … no, it’s a baby – in this case, the son of actress Nicole Richie and singer Joel Madden. Sparrow James Midnight’s sister is named Harlow Winter Kate.

The inspiration? Possibly the Simon & Garfunkel song Sparrow, which ends “Who will love a little Sparrow? Will no one write her eulogy?” Madden linked to the song in a Tweet after the baby’s birth.

  1. Pax

It’s short, it’s easy to spell – but why?

We don’t know, but we do know that Angelina Jolie requested that her son, adopted at age 3 from an orphanage in Vietnam, have his name changed to Pax Thien. Pax won’t feel odd among the brood of Jolie and Brad Pitt; his siblings are Zahara Marley, Maddox Chivan Thornton, Shiloh Nouvel, Knox Leon, and Vivienne Marcheline.

  1. Apple

When most of us think of apples, we think of fruit. Not Gwyneth Paltrow … to her, it was a baby name. Paltrow explained her choice by saying that “Apples are so sweet and they’re wholesome and it’s Biblical” (never mind that the apple in the Bible wasn’t exactly a positive thing …). Apple has a brother, Moses.

  1. Makena’lei

Daughter of actress Helen Hunt, don’t you hope little Makena’lei grows up smart enough to spell that name? Her poor kindergarten teacher!

  1. Coco

Actors Courteney Cox and David Arquette went with the funky “Coco” for their only child. Reportedly, Coco was Cox’s mother’s nickname: Mama Coco.

  1. Suri

Many strange stories surround actors Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, whether they involve Scientology rituals, or baby names. Tom and Katie named their highly-anticipated baby Suri, supposedly an ancient Hebrew play on “Sarah.” But while you probably know a lot of Sarahs, I’m guessing you’re only aware of one Suri.

  1. Kal-el

Nicolas Cage wanted something really super in a baby name for his son, so what better choice than Kal-el, the birth name of Superman?

  1. Pilot Inspektor

I know that Pilot Inspektor probably didn’t make your top 10 list for your own child, but it did for actor Jason Lee. Apparently, Lee was inspired by “He’s Simple, He’s Dumb, He’s the Pilot,” a song by the band Grandaddy. I’m sure that that song has just inspired many more prospective parents. Like Cruise, Lee is a Scientologist. Is there a link between Scientology and odd baby names? Not claimin’, just askin’.

10. Kyd

Son of actors David Duchovny and Tea Leoni – you’ve gotta wonder if they just took the easy way out here. You know, “Hey Kyd – come on!” One has to wonder what it will be like to be an adult named Kyd.

Reports claim that Kyd goes by his middle name, Miller — can you blame him?

There you go: ten truly weird and wacky celebrity baby names, and I haven’t really even begun. We still have Blanket, Prince Michael, and Paris — and those are just Michael Jackson’s kids. You must admit though, despite being almost a form of child abuse to the poor kids inflicted with these monikers, they are entertaining for the rest of us.

You may also like: What’s in a Name?

Book Chat

book chat
mitfordI’ve heard of so many people loving the “Mitford” books series that I figured it was time I check out the phenomenon. I began, of course, with the first in the series, “At Home in Mitford.” For those couple of you who haven’t read it, it details the life of kindly priest Father Tim, who lives in the idyllic town of Mitford.

I found the book sweet, and I enjoyed it. It’s not deep, but as others have said, it was “happy,” and sometimes that’s just what one needs in a book. I met a whole village full of memorable characters, whom I’m assuming will continue through the rest of the series. Some snippets from the book I enjoyed  –

  • “I heard a Mississippi preacher say that everybody is trying to swallow something that won’t go down.”
  • “Do you know what I appreciate more than your sermons? … The fact that you love us. Yes, that’s enough for me, that you love us.” (this is said to Father Tim, and yes, I found myself wishing more than once that I had a pastor like him)

Have you read the Mitford books? Do you recommend them?

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Laura Ingalls Wilder a Writer's Life

I’m taking an online course this month about Laura Ingalls Wilder. I’m not getting into it “whole hog,” but I am reading “Laura Ingalls Wilder, A Writer’s Life” for it, as well as watching the video lectures. It’s interesting. I’ve read the Little House series multiple times, and have also read many books about Laura. This is yet another.

I found the book’s tone a bit scholarly for my tastes (it continually referred to Laura as “Wilder,” and each time I’d have to think for a second to realize who they were talking about). A fairly big deal is made about the fact the the Little House books aren’t totally “true” (the family didn’t move continually west, Little House on the Prairie events happened before Little House in the Big Woods events, Jack the dog didn’t die while with the family but was given away with Pet and Patty — okay, the bit about Jack did bum me out a little). Maybe it’s because of my own experience writing a memoir, but this doesn’t bother me at all. When you write about a life, you realize that you have to create a story arc. Let’s face it: most people’s lives, written on a day-to-day narrative, just aren’t that interesting. As Laura herself said, “There were so many ways of seeing things and so many ways of saying them.”

The real thing I took from the book was sympathy for Laura in dealing with her only daughter, Rose. Rose seems as though she came into the world with a defiant attitude, and she kept it throughout her life. Yes, she edited Laura’s work, but she often did it while making condescending remarks to her and making derogatory comments about Laura to her friends. Rose wanted a stone cottage, so she had one built at her parent’s farm — then told them that she was giving it to them, while Rose moved into their own lovingly-built home.

As an adult, Rose wrote that she “hated everything and everybody in (my) childhood.” She also wrote, “I lived through a childhood that was a nightmare.” Hardly what we’d expect from the child of cheery, determined Half Pint! Rose struggled with depression and wild mood swings throughout her life, characterizing herself as manic depressive. Honestly, I found myself thinking that “The Long Winter” must have been nothing compared to surviving this daughter. It’s just sad the way personalities can clash and wreak so much havoc in families.

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What Color is Your Parachute 2015

I remember reading “What Color is Your Parachute?” years ago, probably when I was in college. The book has been around for years, and aims to help you decide on a career and know yourself better. I was happy to review the 2015 version thanks to Blogging for Books. Actually, I didn’t even know that the book came out with an annual update.

The book is interesting and I think it would be very helpful to teens and to those looking to change occupations. There are detailed sections on knowing yourself (by making a “flower” listing skills, likes and dislikes, and much more). There are sections on how to interview well, how to choose a job you’d enjoy, and more. Really, it’s hard to sum up the book quickly, since it’s 300 pages of meaty advice. I think this would make a great graduation gift.

This 2015 edition includes up-to-date research and tips about writing impressive resumes and cover letters, doing effective networking and confident interviewing, and negotiating the best salary possible. But it goes beyond that, in helping you to better know who you are, with its classic self-inventory—called “The Flower Exercise”—because the best answer to What shall I do? flows from knowing Who you are.

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2

Remember Columbine? It’s pretty hard to forget the April day in 1999 when two teens gunned down kids and teachers at Columbine High School. It happened just two weeks before one of my girls was born, so it has also stayed in my memory for that reason.

My oldest daughter read “Columbine” by Dave Cullen for a school class, and recommended it. I read it, and was impressed by the author’s research and attention to detail. His theory is that Eric Harris was the mastermind of the tragedy, and that Eric was a psychopath. It was chilling to read his research on Harris, and how Harris truly seemed to have no empathy for any of his victims (or anyone else, for that matter). Then again, that pretty much defines a psychopath. He charmed others into thinking he was not a threat. Dylan Klebold, the other killer, was Harris’s sidekick and was more the traditional teen trouble-maker — a depressed follower. He dismisses the theory that Harris and Klebold were bullied, and that this was a cause of their actions. Apparently, there’s quite a debate going on regarding what their true motivation was.

Reading the book made me kind of anxious — various scenes were described in great detail, and I truly felt like I was there. Even while I was disgusted by the cruelty of the killers, I was impressed by the generosity of many in the school who sacrificed to help others. And the lengthy recovery of some of the survivors was inspiring as well.

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water

I remember watching “Water for Elephants” back in a 2011 flight to Hawaii. It was a good movie, and I thought that sometime I’d enjoy the book. That sometime happened this month. The book was quite similar to the movie, and I enjoyed it as well. In case you haven’t heard of it, it’s the story of Jacob, a university veterinary student in the 1900s who is forced to drop out just before graduating by his parents’ tragic deaths. He joins a circus, where he meets many fascinating animals and humans — including the lovely performer, Marlena. Marlene is mistreated by her jerk-of-a-husband (who also mistreats circus animals and circus workers he considers beneath him). The whole book is well-written and reads really smoothly, right up to the climax, which I’ll save for you to discover.

The book is told by Jacob, who is currently in his 90s and living in a nursing home, which was heart-breaking (“I could have sworn that just a few seconds ago I was twenty-three, and now here I am in this wretched, desiccated body.”). I could have done without the profanity and some of the … um, “adult” situations, but otherwise, good read.

What have you been reading lately? Check out others’ lists at 5 Minutes for Books.