Monday, February 26, 2007

Off to California

We've booked our tickets to fly to San Francisco in April, I'm so excited! This will be a big trip for us, our first flight together. There is so much to learn and read about before we travel. We're not going until April, so there's time to prepare!
There are the usual tourist checkpoints such as the Golden Gate Bridge and riding cable cars... and there are other things too, like a contradance, hiking, playing some music with B on his new banjo. I have a travel book about the area, a gift from Bryan... lots to read about.
Off to California is in the Fiddler's Fakebook.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Julia Delaney

This is the tune of the week. Julia Delaney is an "Irish reel played by everybody all the time" according to the Portland Collection. Indeed, we do hear it played a lot, with some variations. When I first encountered this tune, I loved the sound but dreaded having it called at a session because I couldn't play it. It's in Dm, a key I would shy away from... preferring the easier keys of A, G, D and perhaps Am & Em. Now, with more experience, and more exposure to different tunes in different keys, it's much easier. I chose Julia Delaney as the tune of the week because if I focus on it for a week, I will certainly become more accomplished and comfortable with it... and because I love it so much.

Parry Sound Reel

New Mixer Board & Speaker

The latest fiddlehedz news is all about sound! Richard spent a lot of time researching, and talking to people about, sound equipment... microphones, speakers, mixer boards and the list of extras that go along with a complete sound system. Having a sound system opens up a new world of opportunity. We can provide sound for contradances that we play at, as well as other functions... and we can also hire ourselves out to do sound for other people. The learning process started yesterday when Richard set everything up for a practice session... how fun! The other thing Richard did was to record our practice session... we can critique our sound, the mix, the tempo, the arrangments and more.
Our long term goal is to organize and present community contradances. We are putting together music programs, practicing calling dances, composing tune sets, and practicing for technique/tempo/dancability. It is exciting to be working toward something together, to have this mental picture of what we will be doing, and to be passing milestones already! No illusions about the journey being easy, but it's encouraging to see the dream becoming reality.
Parry Sound Reel comes from the Fiddle Music of PEI.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Memory Waltz

Two years ago tonight Richard and I danced two waltzes at the Whitefield Dance. It was like a courtship, because no one really dances both waltzes with the same person unless they're married or otherwise connected. Most contradances are structured so that there is an intermission about halfway through the evening, and there is one waltz just before the intermission, and the second waltz is the last dance of the night. Typically I would leave either when the first waltz was called, or if I did dance the first waltz, I'd leave at intermission. Part of this is because I'm more of a morning person & my job starts early so I'm not used to staying up really late. The other reason is intermission is a time to mingle and socialize, which I am not very good at. Anyway, two years ago, I dance with Richard throughout the evening, including the two waltzes, and we talked off and on through the evening also. We started a pretty fast courtship from that weekend on... so it's sort of like the beginning of our anniversary... two years of memories...
Memory Waltz can be found in the Twin Fiddling book.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Great Big Taters in Sandy Land

My Great Big Taters are dreams... and Sandy Land is my life! I have always been a proponent of "If you're gonna dream, dream BIG!".

I've been working on my personal "Five Year Plan"... where do I want to be, what do I want to be doing... it's like creating a mental picture of your ideal life. Then, once you can articulate what that would be like, in many different aspects (financial, career, educational, physical, social, leisure activities etc) you create a time line. The time line can have tangible dates to help mark your progress... it can also have things you need to accomplish on the way. For example, if I wanted to become a shoe designer, I'd need some training to get from here to there. (Yeah, shoe designer isn't exactly what I'm shooting for, but you get the idea) It's fun to think about the future, and how I want to shape it around myself and those closest to me. I have never been the kind of person who is satisfied doing the same thing for very long unless there is challenge and personal growth. It's not really a matter of being dis-satisfied, it's more a longing to do more, to do it better, TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE,
to live my life as though it really matters!

I'll keep you posted as I develop my dream into a definite goal... I'm sure you'll all be part of the journey!

Great Big Taters in Sandy Land comes from the Phillips Collection of Traditional American Fiddle Tunes.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Gravel Walk

The Tune of the Week for the week beginning February 19, 2007 is the Gravel Walk. This tune can be found in the Portland Collection (un-numbered first volume) as well as on the following web page: This is an Irish tune with great energy. We have played it in the past, and get through it fine, but R chose it as our "Tune of the Week" so that we could really know more about it and also learn it inside & out! Have fun, and let us know how you like it!

Walking Tune

Jen was down with Avery today... what fun! A is so good at putting puzzles together, reading stories to his monkey "George", telling stories, and these days, especially saying "NO". Of course, he is only testing his limits, and once he thinks about it, his answer actually becomes yes on occasion! We had a great walk outside... we heard chickadees, saw deer paths, had a plow truck drive by, and stomped in the snowbanks! It was fun just having time that was uninterrupted, unhurried, and really felt like "hanging out". A got to see his uncle Toby too!
Walking Tune is a piece of sheet music we've collected over the years. I remember learning the (Swedish) Walking Tune years ago at Maine Fiddle Camp... then hearing it again on Prairie Home Companion and hurrying to get my fiddle to play along... and playing it as a march while at Ashokan... it comes up now and then, and is always a treat.
Having a walking tune in my head helps to keep the momentum and focus of the moment. How do you center yourself? Where do you find yourself grounded and recharged?

Frozen Pipes

Thankfully not OURS this time!! We did have some frozen pipes a couple of weeks ago, and though not completely repaired (we are considering some long term renovation before making any permanent repairs, thereby reducing the chance of re-doing the changes later) things are under control and we are fully functional.
No, the frozen pipes last night happened in Fairfield Center. The grange there had scheduled a contradance that we planned to attend, so we got on the turnpike and headed NORTH. Richard was prepared to call a dance, and we were on the lookout for a book we left there last weekend. We got there and NO LIGHTS, NO CARS, NO PEOPLE, AND NO SIGN. Not to have our plans completely thwarted, we made a quick and sure executive decision to get back on the highway and head SOUTH to Bowdoinham! We had a really fun time all evening. The Racket Factory did a great job playing unusual as well as familiar tunes, Cynthia did a great job calling the dances, we saw lots of familiar faces, had the opportunity to discuss sound equipment with contra-connected-people, and got to dance!
The other fun thing about the Bowdoinham dance, for us, is the memories of past dances. This was probably one of the dances where Richard and I first noticed each other as individuals apart from the crowd of dancers on the floor... probably around the mid-nineties. This is also the dance where he introduced me to Katie when she was 15. Richard and I recollected that we always looked for each other at that dance, and I think we probably always danced at least once with each other at any given contra held there. Richard is a great dancer, and I like to consider myself a great dancer too... a definite attraction factor for both of us. After a hiatus from contradancing, I ventured out to the Bowdoinham dance two years ago this past January and... you guessed it... Richard was there, and sparked my interest once again. This time we were both single and available, and it was only a month after that when we saw each other at the Whitefield dance... you'll likely hear more about that over the next week since that is one of our sort-of-official-anniversaries.
So, what could have been a disappointing missed opportunity to dance because of a broken furnace and frozen pipes in Fairfield turned out to be a joyful reminiscence of young love on the dance floor.
Frozen Pipes comes from the Lighthouse Collection.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Bird in the Tree

This weekend is the Great Backyard Bird Count! It's easy, it's fun, and it gets you outdoors connecting with your natural environment, wherever that may be!
I went out this morning at 7:00am on snowshoes, stopping to listen and look for birds. This is the first time I've been out on the snowshoes this season, and there was plenty of snow to slog through... a good workout! The weather conditions are mild... sunny, blue sky with some high clouds, temperature about 17'F, light wind... very nice.

I heard chickadees in each of the three locations I stopped at. I heard another bird that I have not yet identified, I'll attempt identification throughout the day. I did see tracks in the snow... deer, rabbit, mouse... the fresh snow serves as an empty palette for natures art with animal footprints, sprigs of pine needles, an occasional cone and a few brown leaves... add some shafts of early morning sunlight and it's just the most peaceful, beautiful place to be, out here in the woods.

Bird in the Tree can be found in the Fiddler's Fakebook.

For more information on the Great Backyard Bird Count, go to

Friday, February 16, 2007

Flowers of Hope

I was checking around on OPB's (Other People's Blogs)_ and found this one that reminded me how important it is to set the table and gather for meals, at least from time to time. I love lighting the candles, taking out napkins, setting the plates and making it special even when it's leftovers. Creating the atmosphere of the mealtime is like giving a subtle yet very special gift for those with whom you break bread.
Flowers of Hope is a tune I've collected from somewhere over the years.

(Chuck) Wagoner

Tonight was date night, and we went out to dinner at the Chuck Wagon in Livermore Falls. We've always had good food, good service, and a nice evening out when we go there. Tonight it was much busier than usual... we even got to sit out in a booth rather than in the dining room. And lots more people showed up after we were seated. Maybe it has something to do with the time of year... winter blahs, right after a snowstorm, tax return season, who knows... it was busy anyway. I love the paintings they have there, and the sort of hokey decor, it all adds to the fun! I've been going to that Chuck Wagon since forever, and Richard has spent many a meal at the Chuck Wagon in the Topsham area before it closed. It's nice to go to this local style restaurant, not your typical Applebee's or Longhorn, the Chuck Wagon is a special treat!
Wagoner comes from the Fiddler's Fakebook.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Northern Lights

We've had our shrubs illuminated with Christmas lights since just after Thanksgiving. We'd turn them on fairly regularly through the holiday season, then took a break... but never took them inside for storage. This recent storm was a great time to plug them in... almost magical to see the colors just under the snow.
Northern Lights can be found in the Fiddler's Throne.

Snowflake Reel

What a storm we've gotten! Probably about a foot of snow, plenty to shovel. and plenty to make walks in the woods a little more challenging. Traveling has been a little slower than usual, motorists are taking their time (not Peter I should mention, he scoots along at a regular speed)... Winds and light, dry snow combine for some white-out conditions on occasion.

Richard got some nice photos, using our Canon Power Shot with the flash. The flash illuminates the snow flakes, giving a true view of the snowstorm. These photos were taken last night when we went out to shovel. By going out a few times during this significant storm, we were able to easily stay ahead of any major clean-up. Our plow guy employs similar tactics... he came to do a preliminary job and then finished up this afternoon just before I got home.

Snowflake Reel can be found in the Fiddler's Fakebook.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Child Grove

Little A has transitioned into a center based daycare facility! The advantages are advanced learning programs, exposure to larger groups of children, and more structure. The disadvantages are more chaos, less parental control to groups of children, and less flexibility in adapting to daily stuff. My favorite line these days? "IT'S ALL GOOD" I mean that. No matter what your choices are, once the research is done, and you set your course, It's All Good. There are no right or wrong ways to approach child care, any more than there are right or wrong ways to approach anything in life. Do your homework, make an educated (and somewhat emotional) decision, and then trust your judgment. Keep your eyes open, for sure, always re-assessing what you think you know... in the end there are so many advantages and postitive aspects to everything we do... always an opportunity for growth and learning for EVERYONE involved. The newdaycare sounds like a pretty cool place to be... I know A has enjoyed his first week there...
The only downside? They had a party today, and grandparents were invited, and I didn't have enough notice to re-arrange my work schedule... next time for sure!

Peacock Rag

Happy Valentine's Day! This is one of the specially designated days during the year when you get to commercially show your affection for those you love the most. It can also be celebrated in quiet and more personal expressions of your love... it's ALL GOOD! There's no right or wrong way to participate in Valentine's Day. I myself am a recipient this year of many acts of love and affection... how lucky am I?!!!!

Club-E made arrangements to gift us all for lunch with pot pies from Slate's this year... mmmmm... so much better for us than chocolates, and personally I like the pot pies better!

Jen, Toby and Bryan had a beautiful arrangement of flowers delivered to the office (see photo above), causing quite a stir, and evoking envy in many of my co-workers! The peacock feathers were an absolute favorite.

And Richard went out in the storm and took this photo of our home, and made me a beautiful card... expressing his love and appreciation for all that I am to him.

To all of you, Happy Valentine's Day, and I love you! I am truly blessed with all the loving relationships in my life.
Peacock Rag can be be found in the Fakebook.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Denis Murphy's Polka

R and I are compiling tunes into programs! We will do an Irish gig just before St Patty's Day, and we'll be playing polkas for a workshop at the DECDA festival at the end of March. This is really exciting for us... to put together our favorite tunes in a presentation format. Neither polkas or Irish music have been a focus for us, so it seemed quite a challenge to come up with tunes we wanted to play. Thing is, once we researched a bit, we actually know a lot of tunes that fit both programs. I've spent most of the weekend researching tunes, looking at key signatures, and trying out the transitions... all in an effort to create sets of our favorites. R has been wonderfully supportive, it's all the more fun when shared!
Tomorrow I go back to my day job, which although wonderful, isn't the same as hanging out at home playing tunes and doing research on the computer. Good thing I'm having fun at work as well as at home, and so far neither has interfered with the other!
Wednesday is forecasted for a nor'easter. We put up firewood in the house for the week, and have checked provisions, just in case we get snowed in... though I'm not really anticipating that we will be... it seems every time they predict such a thing we only get 2" of white stuff, which as Martha says is "just for pretty". Still, you never know, we could get buried in snow if the stars are truly shinin' down on us!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Toss the Feathers

The tune of the week is Toss the Feathers! This Irish tune can be found in the Fiddler's Fakebook, and you can also get more information at on the Tune of the Week page.
At the beginning of the year, I set a goal for myself to play a tune a day, and to learn a tune a week. How am I doing? GREAT so far! So good that R is now joining me and we're playing more music than ever.
By playing a tune a day, no matter how busy my day is I at least get my fingers on the strings. And once I've done that, it's so easy to continue playing just one more tune, or to sit down and do a real practice session on technique.
Learning a tune a week has given focus to our playing. The tune can be a brand new one that we've heard and want to learn, or it can be something we've played before but struggle with and want to know cold, inside and out. We post the tune of the week on Sundays on a dry erase board, and we make a good attempt to play that tune at least once a day.
The tune of the week will be posted on Sundays at as well as being posted here on the blog. We'll be calling this tune at our Tuesday jam session too, sharing it with friends who come to play.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Fiddler's Throne

Fiddler's here on Tuesday nights have a choice of throne... a regular dining style chair, or a three legged stool made by our friend Paul, who in addition to making wooden stools plays a great guitar. This scene is pretty typical for a Tuesday evening at our house. Friends gather with their instruments (fiddles, guitars, flutes & whistles) and we take ours out (bass, fiddles, piano) to play whatever tunes come to mind. The way we conduct a jam session is to each person choose a tune or set of tunes, name the books or resources where the tune can be found, indicate how many times they might like to play the tune(s) and how they'll indicate the change or the end... It's a lot of fun, and each individual gets their own moment of leading the session. We try new things from time to time, but generally it's a bunch of friends getting together to have fun with music. Lots of time we'll share a bottle of wine, some stories and jokes, and maybe snack or two before the night ends around 9:00. We feel fortunate to have the space to host this special part of our week.
Fiddler's Throne can be found in, ironically enough, The Fiddler's Throne!

Monday, February 05, 2007

Ross' Reel #4

One of my goals the first of the year, was to play a tune a day, and to learn a tune a week. I've been doing really great.... so great that Richard is joining me. We have decided to take turns choosing the "Tune of the Week", we post it on a dry erase board, and then we play it every day for the entire week. It's fun to find recorded versions of the tune, listen for special techniques and variations, and then to play the tune and experiment according to our own capabilities. Ross' Reel #4 has plagued me in the past... I can play it alright but it has never sounded great and I've never been excited to play it. Richard chose this tune, and by putting some focus into it, I'm learning to play it better, and learning to like the tune quite a lot.
Ross' Reel #4 can be found in the Fakebook.

Sleep Soond Ida Moarnin'

It's easy to sleep sound until morning now that we have our Beautyrest electric blanket with dual controls! It's been quite cold here this winter, and while we are staying warm in the main living areas, it can get chilly in the bedroom. I was using the hair dryer to warm up the sheets and that worked pretty well. But when Richard suggested an electric blanket, well, it was pretty hard to say no! I'm really happy having this little luxury in our life. We turn the blanket on about 10 minutes or so before we go to bed, then turn it down when we get into bed. Warm and comfy!
Sleep Soond Ida Moarnin' can be found in the Fiddlers' Fakebook.

Daily Inspiration for Women

Daily Inspiration for Women

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Snowy Yard

Not a fiddle tune title... but I wanted to share our snowy front yard. We have a neighbor plow our road and our driveway, and then we shovel the walkways. In my younger days I would have shoveled the entire thing... happy enough to get plowed out but also just as happy to spend a morning cleaning out after the storm. I still like to think that physically I could shovel our yard and our road, and I know that given the circumstances I would definitely do it. BUT, I am so happy to be spending my time doing other more fun activities while the plow guy does his job in about 8 minutes start-to-finish. Truth be told, if the plow guy didn't come, I'd just drive back and forth over the snow and pack the whole thing down and not worry about plowing it to the side :) In this photo, Richard is busy cleaning up the area where we park our vehicles at the beginning of a storm... this leaves the driveway empty and easy for the plow guy to take care of.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Possum Up A Gum Stump

I think this is the name of a tune, but cannot remember which book it comes from! I found these stumps with crowns of snow while walking in the woods this afternoon. We got about 4 inches (or more) of snow last night... certainly enough to make things pretty.
The woods are lovely and peaceful with their new blanket of white. I did not see deer tracks as I expected. You may remember that there were many deer trails a couple of weeks ago, and that I suspected a deer wintering yard behind our house... not so sure now. Perhaps tomorrow we'll venture further and see what there might be to see in the way of signs of deer and other wildlife.
We are making progress in getting old files in places more easily accessible, and I am settling in more at this computer... discussion continues on a more permanent (?) solution (nothing being permanent, haha).
We practiced some of our sets today, working on subtle cues for changing tunes mid-medley and for finishing up a set. Typically at a jam, whoever had called the tune will raise their foot as an indication to the group that the tune or set is to end. At a concert, or dance, we thought we'd like to develop some cues that are less obvious. I tried winking, but it just made me laugh because I was self-conscious (even though it was only the two of us!). We'll try some other things and find out what works for us. I love when we play tunes together... that's when I know we are truly meant for one another.
It's good to be back blogging again, even when it's just simple day-to-day stuff I want to share.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Give Kids a Smile

Today at Club-E we worked together as a team to donate dental services to children. February is National Children's Dental Health Month, promoted through the American Dental Association which encourages participation at any level. Our office chose to provide preventive and restorative care to as many children as we could see this morning. I'm guessing on the numbers, but I think we probably saw 30-40 children and we donated almost $10,000 worth of services. We had a guest dentist and a guest hygienist join us from other practices... along with six of our own hygienists, three assistants, T-Madd and our own Dr Shumway... what a group! Thanks to T-Madd and Pam C for doing the legwork in getting the kids scheduled (they really did have to work, contacting schools, pediatricians, local community organizations... amazing that it took so long to find enough children to fill the schedule)... thanks to Dr Shumway and Dr Sands, and to all the hygienists and assistants for working together providing services, generously giving their time and energies... and thanks to Sullivan Schein for their donation of clinical materials... and to Club-E for allowing this to take place in our office. It felt really good to open our doors and make a difference in our community. It's hard knowing that we can't see everyone, and that we can't do everything, but it is VERY good to know we DID do something!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Thirty Secrets

Definitely not a fiddle tune, but until I figure out how to get that file, we'll have to settle for post titles of whatever seems to be on my mind This book is great. I've read it through once all the way, front to back, and found it very practical information for relating to significant people in my life... I'm re-reading it now, taking some time to reflect on each of the thirty secrets.... trying to incorporate them into my way of being in a relationship... Does it work? Well, maybe sometimes. What I'm finding is that it takes two... and as much as I read on my own, and as much as I try to be good at relating, it is more than just me... and it's a lot of work... It's all worth it, and I'm committed to the journey... And I'd recommend this book to everyone whether or not they are having relationship issues or not... it's full of practical advice on how to get along with one person, and I think the principles can be applied to small groups too... Has anyone out there read this book? Any comments?

Swallowtail Reel

This is the tune that I've been working on lately... It feels Irish, and is fun to play... We're working it into a set (Richard and Paul and me) and it's coming along quite nicely... I haven't really taken the time to figure out where all my old files are yet, and I'm thinking about getting another computer but haven't totally decided.... Until then, my faithful readers will be treated to random tune titles as post titles, and my thoughts will be presented as randomly as the titles are presented :) Please be patient and kind with your comments!
Confidence and accountability run hand in hand... Without one, the other falters... Self-confidence runs hand in hand with the confidence close allies have in you... and this in turn leads to accountability for yourself as well as those people in whom I entrust my time and abilities... Any break in the cycle creates a breach in myself... When people at work question my abilities, or when my spouse questions my abilities... it creates a question in my own mind as to whether or not I am living up to my own, or others, expectations... and once the question is posed, all areas are suspect to scrutiny...
Maybe I need to swallow my own pride, and admit that I am less than excellent, and less than effective... and maybe when I do that and I am reeling from personal disappointment, and that is the point at which I can go on... Take a stand, accept all that I am... and all that I am not... and go on... Choose a direction, believe in my abilities and just do it... I'm at a personal crossroads, and I feel the need to take stock of what I can do and what I am not so good at...
Swallowtail Reel comes from the little brown book, otherwise known as the Fiddler's Repertoire.