Winter Solstice Party!

12/24/2010 Friday 8:10 am

Glenda wanted to have a Winter Solstice Party this year.  In order to achieve this we had to, among other things, make a croquembouche.  “A croquembouche?” you say?  Yes, a tower of cream puffs decorated with caramel…  No Winter Solstice party would be complete without it:

The cream puff dough is made on the stove top. Boiling water and sugar with flour added, transfer to stand mixer and add one egg at a time... transfer to pastry bag and "pipe" each puff onto parchment-lined cookie sheets. That's what Glenda is doing here!

Here's a shot of pre-cooked and post-cooked puffs!

Our friends Mike and Linda came over to assist with the final Croquembouche assembly. Here Mike and I are risking our lives with scalding-hot caramel to painstakingly decorate the Croquembouche tower.

Croquembouche close-up! (still decorating)

Phase 1 (or 2, depending on how you think of it) of the Winter Solstice Party - officially from 5-7PM - was at, where else?, East Side Show Room! Here is Glenda with Mike and Linda at ESSR. We were soon joined by David and Emily Tietz, and later by our friends Kain and Brandee. Felt like a party! Mike is doing his grouchy face here, and also later, but he's really a big harmless teddy bear.

The party has begun (phase 3?)! In the foreground our friends Trey and Michele's son Kaden is eating a grilled cheese sandwich I made for him. In the back left you can see our table laid with the Croquembouche (of course) and various other goodies. On the right are Linda, Michele, and Emily - having Winter Solstice fun!

Mike is still grouchy-face, but Glenda, Trey and Brandee make up for it!

Kaden, still at the bar, is proudly showing his wind-up robot we gave him (right hand).

Michele, Linda and Glenda - having fun.

Kain (left) and David - relaxing on the couch...

...and finally we're nearing the end of the evening and it's time for Trey to get kaden's shoes on so they can go home and go to bed!

…good winter solstice party!  Since then Glenda’s sister Ann with her husband Kiet and three kids have come to visit.  They were driving (!) from southern California to Houston and stopped by to see us.  We had a whirlwind visit Wednesday evening and Thursday morning.  Things are quieter now, and Glenda and I will spend today and tomorrow having Christmas by ourselves, in our home, for the first time ever!  Then Sunday we’ll head to Houston too to see G’s family there.

Festivities (through 12/19)!

12/24/2010 Friday 7:50 am

It’s Holiday Time!

Glenda and I have enjoyed a wonderful mix of Holiday parties, year-end work-related activities, and 2010 reflection these last few weeks.  My last entry left off with a fabulous ornament party hosted by our friends Fiona and Neal on December 11th.  My my my, a lot has happened since then!

I won’t bore you with a list of all my meetings, but a summary includes many trips to Houndstooth for coffee with everyone from authors, to film directors and software engineers.  I went to lunch with Claudia Roeschmann, who designed my book jacket, and so much more, and I had several productive meetings with FG Squared who will be giving our school curriculum site a facelift (

Here’s a sample trip to Houndstooth… we were sitting with Carlos Ufret-Vincenty (who directs our adult guitar ensembles) and my friend and fabulous guitarist Tom Echols, discussing the possibilities of online group education using the Simversity Platform with Simversity co-found Moneet.  Here’s Tom (right) and Moneet deep in discussion!

Friday night was fun.  Ever since Glenda’s birthday, she’s wanted to return to East Side Show Room.  They have amazing original drinks and she’s particularly fond of the Antelope Tartare (which, as resident vegetarian, I find kinda gross!)  “ESSR” as it’s called, has a unique eastern European feel, and nightly entertainment that draws loosely on Balkan music traditions.

Glenda at ESSR on Friday, 12/17/2010. Groovy place! Groovy outfit, Glenda!

Last Saturday was a big day!  Things began with teaching and practicing through the morning and early afternoon.  These days I’m practicing a bunch for my January 5-8 stint as conductor when I go to New Mexico to direct New Mexico’s “All State Guitar”.  New Mexico is the first state in the Union to have all state guitar – this will be their second year, and I’m honored to have been asked to lead them.

Anyhow, there were two main parts of last Saturday evening, here’s a shot of the first:

My studio recital! 18 students played (about half my kiddos), this, of course, is an audience shot. It was a great evening all around. I was super proud of everyone. We had a nice reception afterward.

One of my students, Celeste, even put her performance up on Youtube!  Great job Celeste!

Then Glenda (who helped me a ton with the recital) and I got cleaned up and joined our friends Karl and Githanjali for their annual Christmas Dessert party:

Here we are around the dessert table. That's Githanjali on the right spooning trifle into a "to-go" container for us (Glenda on the left, of course). On the front left there was apple pie, back left was key lime pie, back right trifle, near right flourless chocolate cake, assorted cookies in the middle... all delicious, all made by Karl and Gathanjali, including Karl's amazing egg nog (not pictured).

Sunday morning I got up early to perform for a friend’s Holiday church service.  Julie (and Jim), who we met through Fiona (the one who hosts the annual ornament party from my last post), had an extremely special day planned in which members of their congregation discussed “stories” and “gifts”.  I was really pleased to be able to offer my “gift” of music to the morning’s offerings.  Sunday was my last official, regular work day before the Holidays (though I had one meeting each day Monday and Tuesday – those were aberrations!).  The remainder of Sunday included teaching one lesson, attending the Austin Classical Guitar Society’s Community Guitarists final recital of 2010 (which was packed, and a raging success!), and then having dinner at Eastside Cafe with our dear friends David and Emily Tietz (David is a photo researcher and he found the cover image for my new book – he also snapped the portrait of me on the cover of this website!).

Ornament party

12/12/2010 Sunday 10:41 pm

Each year we go to our friends Fiona and Neal’s home for the annual ornament party.  The ornament party is named for the game that starts off the evening: we sit in a circle, after straws are drawn to see who goes first, the first person chooses a wrapped ornament from a basket.  There is one wrapped ornament for every person playing.  After the first person has chosen their ornament, and everyone present has ooohed and aaaahed appropriately, the second person chooses.  However, the second person can either pick an ornament from the basket, or they can “steal” the ornament from the person who has already gone.  And that’s where the trouble really begins!  It’s tons of fun, and over the years we’ve had many laughs – and gotten a great deal of fabulous and fabulously ugly ornaments to add to our tree.

We know Fiona and Neal because Fiona is in Glenda’s cooking club, a club that has been persisting, with 5 core women, for over 10 years now.  It’s a wonderful friendship they’ve developed: Fiona, Linda, Glenda, Sarah, and Nydia.  Here are three pics from the party:

That's Linda on the left, and our friend Julie on the right!

Nydia is on the left, our friend Mike is in the middle (married to Linda in the pic above) and Glenda on the right. They have each assumed their respective positions for the ornament game!

...and here's most of the gang! We had a tremendous feast with salad, roasted pork loin, agrodolce (a sauce made with olives - unbelievable - I had it on polenta), fresh rolls, green beans, Linda's spanokopita, Sarah's Poblano Rice Casserole, and for dessert, Nydia's Sweet Potato Cheese Cake. mm mm good!

Glenda and I emerged from the ornament game with two fabulous ornaments: a disturbingly lifelike Armadillo, and a levitating santa in a lotus position!  Perfect additions to our collection of eclectic ornaments!

And staying in the Holiday spirit... tonight (Sunday) Glenda and I made a Bourbon Cake with Raisins & Pecans (except we used Sherry instead of Bourbon). Here's the cake! We thought you'd enjoy a little shot of our ugly armadillo in the foreground too...

The Excitement Continues

12/8/2010 Wednesday 9:15 pm

Monday began with a wonderful phone call with my friend Jeff George who is a guitar professor at LSU.  We scheduled a call to talk about building high school guitar programs in LaFayette.  At lunch Monday I met with John Henry McDonald (my board vice-president who I often mention here) and the dynamic and incredible Helena Escalante who owns “All Things Mexico” – a consulting company that helps companies, both American and Mexican, expand internationally.  What a lunch!

Tuesday began with a conference call with Boston guitarists Zaira Meneses and David Patterson who are collaborating with Eliot Fisk, NEC and Longy School in Cambridge to bring me up in February to do a few days of lectures and workshops on nonprof stuff.  So exciting!  We talked a bit about the particulars and promotional ideas.

Today’s highlight was meeting with author, entrepreneur, and amazing mind Steve Guengerich for lunch at South Congress Cafe.  Steve and I could have blabbed for four more hours without taking a breath I think.  He has amazing experience from his years in what he calls “high-velocity start-ups” to his experience in some of the largest consulting companies, to his extensive work in the nonprof arena.  We were introduced by our mutual friend and general dynamo Eugene Sepulveda.  Thank you Eugene!

And I wanted to share photos from Sunday night’s Austin Dancing with the Stars gala at the Hilton downtown that was a benefit for the Austin Center for Child Protection.  As it turns out our host, and celebrity dancer, Charmaine McGill, was the winner!  Yay Charmaine, we’re incredibly proud of you!

Glenda and I in front of the gorgeous tree in the VIP reception before the program!

David Asaraff - the guy from "The Secret" and other motivational stuff? He was an emcee!

After the show, all the dancers came out before they announced the finalists.

Charmaine won! You can kind of see her in the gaggle there, and you can definitely see the Mirror Ball trophy glinting!

Here's the Mirror Ball Trophy up close!

It was a nice night.  We are incredibly proud of Charmaine and all the effort she – and all the dancers – put into learning their routines.  The tree above reminded me that Glenda and I have put up and decorated our own little tree at home!  here she is sitting in front of it on Tuesday night!

Christmas Time!

Great Energy

12/4/2010 Saturday 1:28 pm

Friday began with a fantastic meeting – at Houndstooth of course, I’m starting to have dreams about their cappuccino – with Emily Marks, dynamic founder and leader of Girls Rock Camp here in Austin.  Emily and I meet from time to time to talk about education and nonprofit management issues and she had a few neat things on her mind she wanted to talk about with regard to expanding and enhancing service to the great kids she sees.

Then it was off to the Roaring Fork downtown in the Stephen F. Austin Intercontinental Hotel (where Glenda and I got married, Nov. 3rd, 2001, incidentally) for lunch with Chuck and the Executive Director of the Texas Commission on the Arts, Dr. Gary Gibbs.  Gary is preparing for the new legislative session in Texas, and we got to hear amazing stories of politics and music, and shared some stories of our own as well.  I also had a copy of my new book for Gary, so we talked a bit about that as well.

Then I took a quick shot over to the St. David’s Foundation where my friend Todd Waldron runs their IT.  Todd has been volunteering to capture high quality audio for our video shoots we’re doing this year for the ACGS online training program – so I was coming by to pick up a DVD from him to take over to the video editors.  While there I met a lady – Joy – who recognized me from my performance a few weeks ago at Leadership Austin!  And that was doubly funny because while I was in the elevator on my way out, another fellow recognized me from the Leadership Austin session I did last spring!  Small world.

I raced by to the office to meet Javier Jara, a masters student at UT in education who is now teaching in the schools for us.  We went over his contract and he told me stories about his teaching experiences so far.  He’s having a great time working with some kids from Mendez Middle School.  And at 4 I spent a long time on the phone with our friends at the web design and marketing firm FG Squared to talk through their proposal for redesigning  Whew.  I worked late last night, because so much of the week was spent talking instead of producing!

But I played too.  I had a terrific time at poker night with friends David, Brian, Jeff, Trey and Craig!

This morning I’ve been teaching, and will be again soon, but I just got a wonderful call from Harold Levy of the Toronto Classical Guitar Society.  I had gone up to consult for them about 18 months ago and it’s amazing what they’ve done in the interim.  Harold was calling me with the latest news, and their success and growth has me positively glowing!

Tomorrow should be fun… we’ll have brunch with our dear friend, guitarist and educator Kim Perlak.  Kim is phenomenal, and I wish we could see each other much more than we do.

Then Glenda and I get all gussied up for a trip to the Hilton downtown to see our friends Gordon and Charmaine at Austin’s Dancing with the Stars gala benefiting the Center for Child Protection.  Charmaine is actually one of the celebrity dancers at the event, so we’re preparing to clap and cheer loudly for her when she gets up there.