Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Orange Cape...

... in the shape of a carrot! That's what Avery dressed up as this Halloween, check out their blog for photos. It was fun to share in the festivities this afternoon and evening... reading a book about pumpkins (compliments of a woman I work with), dressing up to go trick-or-treating (Avery suggested "Gram, go home and get yow costume and come right back, okay?"), walking to houses in the neighborhood and hearing Avery's well rehearsed "Trick or Treat" and then his "Thank You". When some folks were talking about other neighbors who'd just had a baby the day before, Avery chimed in "We're getting one too!" which amazes me because he's just so conversational and understands so much.
Real life adventure before we headed out, another bat at the Richard household. Yes, that's right, a Halloween Bat made a brief appearance before being ushered out into the night.
Once we got back home from collecting treats, Avery had just as much fun handing out candy and pretzels "to the children". He cracks me up!
When I got home I found out that we hadn't had any children come to our house, which is not surprising considering where we live and that we don't really know many children close by. Glad I ventured out and got a little taste of the magic of the holiday!
Orange Cape can be found in Here's to Every Country Dancer.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Gravel Walk

The fall flowers are compliments of Jen, Jason and Avery... the pumpkin has a couple of cousins inside the house. We opted for pie pumpkins instead of jack-o-lantern style pumpkins this year. Not having any little children living at home, we didn't feel the need to carve but still like having the illusion of decorating for fall. Nice thing about setting pie pumpkins around is that they can be cut up, cooked, and saved for pies for Thanksgiving, which is exactly what will happen to ours. These pie pumpkins are a deeper orange too, and I like that. The white flowers are definitely a nice contrast, especially against the crushed rock.

The leaves are really just about gone from the trees, having been blown away and rained upon last weekend. Temperatures finally dipped down into the 20's, frost covered the windshields of the vehicles and the lawn, and it's feeling (and looking) like fall. Time to start thinking about hunkering down and settling in for the winter! I mean, only think about it, no need to take drastic action yet! We had a nice fire in the woodstove this morning, kept it burning for a few hours until the sun started heating up the house.

Gravel Walk comes from the Portland Collection (first, also known as the un-numbered volume).

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Woodchopper's Reel

Avery has decided he wants to be a carrot for Halloween this year. Jen put on her thinking cap and got her creative juices flowing and created this adorable costume for him to wear. It's hard to know just how much A understands, and how much of what he talks about is compiled of stories he's repeating but he seems ready to don his carrot attire, get his bag and go door-to-door to query "Trick or Treat?" Uncle Bryan has been waiting for this photo, and I think everyone else will enjoy it too!

It's that time again, when all the season's firewood gets stacked and stored in preparation for the cold weather ahead of us. We filled the porch, and also got a couple of stacks of firewood in the room off the kitchen as well as filled the living room storage area. It's nice not to have needed much of it yet, but it does seem pretty strange to be at the end of October and the temperatures still so mild.

Avery has decided he wants to be a carrot for Halloween this year. Jen put on her thinking cap and got her creative juices flowing and created this adorable costume for him to wear. It's hard to know just how much A understands, and how much of what he talks about is compiled of stories he's repeating but he seems ready to don his carrot attire, get his bag and go door-to-door to query "Trick or Treat?"

Saturday we went to Bar Harbor to call for their regular contradance. It's the first time we've done this together and we had a good time. The band was great, the crowd had a great time, and we felt like we'd done a nice job selecting dances that were appropriate for the evening. We were fortunate to have been invited to spend the night, made new friends, and enjoyed a wonderful breakfast with them before heading back home. We're hoping to reciprocate in the near future, our hosts are interested in going out to the Skye Theater in Carthage... quite a distance from Bar Harbor, so we offered that they might like to have dinner with us at our house, go to a concert and then they'd stay here in Wayne before heading back the next day. We like the idea of trading off like this, it makes for the opportunity of conversation and friendship as well as saving everyone involved the additional cost of a hotel. We wonder if it might be possible to trade hosting with others, even from out of state. Anyone out there have experience with this idea?

Woodchopper's Reel is a standard fiddle tune that can be found in the Fiddler's Fakebook.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Harvest Home Hornpipe

Seasonal fare that is hearty and healthy! This dessert is easy to make, and filled with good stuff like apples, walnuts and dates. The base is a crumb mixture of walnuts and dates, pressed down and refrigerated. Apples are thinly sliced and cooked on the stovetop with honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and ground cloves with apple juice. Once apples are cooked, they are placed on top of the crust. The remaining juice gets cooked down into a syrup and then drizzled over the top of the whole thing. Mmmmm. I used Cortlands for this dish.
Harvest Home Hornpipe comes from Twin Fiddling... it's essentially the same tune as Harvest Home which can be found in the Fakebook.

Monday, October 22, 2007


L-R: Red Delicious, Cortland, MacIntosh, Northern Spy, our own variety, Empire

Apples, Apples, Apples!

It's nearing the end of harvest season at the orchard and business is slowing down a little. Still lots of folks stopping in to pick, or to get baked goods but not nearly the rush that was seen early this month.

Sunday morning we went and picked a couple bags of apples. We sampled the different varieties, next test will be to bake them into some tasty treats and see which varieties lend themselves that way. The varieties we got were MacIntosh, Cortland, Empire, Red Delicious, Northern Spy, and an unnamed variety from our own back yard that looks like a yellow delicious.
I read an interesting article about eating foods that are in season rather than eating from the non-seasonal-always-there-on-the-shelf items available at the grocery store. The article suggests that seasonal foods such as spring greens, summer produce, fall root vegetables and meat for the winter are healthier and more natural for our bodies. One of this season's offerings are apples of course, so there's no need to feel bad about eating them, in any shape or form!

Spy is a tune from the Reckless Reel.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Fantastic Reel

Fantastic News at Our House! I received my acceptance letter from UMF today! I just about cried with joy and excitement when I opened the envelope and read the news... so it's official... I'll be attending classes full time starting in January... not that far away.
We went out to dinner to celebrate, and had a nice meal at the Chuck Wagon in Livermore Falls. Katie came to visit, so she went along with us... we tried out a new cocktail, which we never did really find out the name, but it has Malibu, pineapple juice and cranberry juice... yummy and fruity but not overly sweet.
Fantastic Reel comes from the Portland Collection Volume Two.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Fiddle Hill Jig

Photo of Ralph Page
On Thursday afternoons I drive out to Canaan to study fiddle with Elaine Malkin. It's about an hours drive each way, and the lesson is about an hour (sometimes more) so it's a pretty good investment of time as well as money, but I look forward to it every week. Some weeks I get a lot of practice in, sometimes I barely feel like I should go present myself 'cause I'm SURE it shows when I haven't put the time in at home... but I am committed to improvement, and especially to learn the old style of New England fiddling that is so important to contradance. I'm learning so much, not just about playing the music, but about the dance too.

Contradance has many aspects that work together to create an evening of fun. The musicians work together to learn tunes that are well phrased, so the dancers can hear/feel when the next moves should be executed. Well phrased music also makes it easier for the caller to be on time. The caller chooses dances that are appropriate for the crowd (beginners, mixed level, experienced). The dancers work together to carry out the callers instructions, letting the music guide them as they dance. The caller and the musicians work together to choose tunes that help tell the story of the dance (light & bouncy, or dark and driving, or smooth and flowing for example). There's usually a sound person who is mixing the musicians and the caller... and making adjustments as the hall fills with more dancers or the temperature changes, or as different instruments are brought into the mix. And there are organizers who oversee the evening, collect the money, greet newcomers and in general keep order midst the chaos. These are all the basics.

History has it that many years ago, musicians were also the callers... each musician in a band would have a few dances they liked to call, and they'd take turns. Much different than todays dances where the musicians keep their seats and the caller has charge of the evening. I'm on a journey to learn the craft of calling while playing. I take every opportunity to play at a dance and I also call when possible. When I first started calling, I thought it would be pretty cool to be able to call a dance while I was playing, this was before I really knew it had been a regular thing. I've been practicing this a bit with actual dances (in the privacy of my own home), and regularly am able to call out tune changes or key signatures while playing music with people (in real life situations)... it's like rubbing your head while you're chewing gum. Combine this with the fact that you have to make the dance calls BEFORE the moves get made, so your timing is ahead of the action... yeah, it's complicated. But it can be done, it's been done before. So, I'm learning.

My fiddle teacher is one of those amazing people who are able to play and call at the same time, and she is mentoring me in this area. She's suggested some dances, is teaching me some tunes that go along with the dances, and I'm planning to be proficient enough to present them over the next six months. It's ambitious but also fun, and I love the challenge.

Many of those old time dances had specific tunes that went along with them... some are Chorus Jig, Haste to the Wedding, Rory O'More, Petronella, Galopede, Tempest and Hull's Victory to name a few. Another is Fiddle Hill Jig, this is one of the tune & dance combos I'm working on.

Fiddle Hill Jig comes from the Fiddler's Throne, and was written by Ralph Page. I invite you to check out the link and learn more.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Zombies of Sugar Hill

I think I understand the dismay and disappointment of the folks who come to the bakery for a particular treat they have in mind... (I've seen it on their faces when they ask for a cinnamon roll or an apple turnover)... only to be answered with "I'm sorry, but those have sold out". It's a good answer, because it's true... sometimes these things sell out really fast, they're popular because they're so delicious, and people stop in to get them early when they're fresh out of the oven... but it still isn't what they want to hear.
I worked today, and I actually made pumpkin whoopie pies. I knew when I was placing the batter on the sheets that I wanted one, and I knew it even more when they came out of the oven... and even more so when they were filled, wrapped and placed in the case. But, it was a busy morning, and when I got ready to leave I just didn't take one. Later in the afternoon, when Richard and I were out doing chores (taking stuff to the transfer station, in exchange for other really cool stuff at the Stop & Shop Free Store), I asked R "Hey, do you have any money?" Richard said, "Hm, I think I might have a dollar, go ahead and look", which I did and he was right... one dollar. I had some change. He asked "What is it you want?" which was a good question because our transfer station is way out of any shopping district... I replied "I really want a pumpkin whoopie pie, and the Apple Shed Bakery is right on our way home".
Richard is a good sport, and gave up his dollar to the community pot. We chose a Senshu apple before going into the store, and found the display cases had many fine goods for sale but NO PUMPKIN WHOOPIE PIE! Drat #P{OI#ESD and curses on all, I was thinking, but only uttered "Crap!" which drew attention from my employer and co-worker. One look at the zombie stare on my face, and we all knew that I had reached the level of understanding that would from this point forward make me much more sympathetic to my customers who were seeking that "something special" that was not available. We settled for a cinnamon bun and two Senshu apples (which were delicious but not even in the same ballpark as a pumpkin whoopie pie) which came to $1.84 (just about all the cash we had between the two of us)
So, what am I doing right now? Well, I've found a nice recipe on-line for pumpkin whoopie pies because even though I know that I can have one tomorrow if I want to drive over to the bakery, I really want one TONIGHT, hahaha...
Well, I'm back from my baking adventure! I mixed up a batch of Pumpkin Whoopie Pies from a recipe I got on the internet... actually I found several recipes, but chose this one because it had more spices (including cinnamon, ginger and ground cloves). They are darker than PWP I've seen before, but after tasting them, the verdict is Mmmmmmmmm Good! The spices add a lot to the overall flavor, and the cream, well the cream really finishes off nice.
Zombies of Sugar Hill is actually not a tune, but a contradance that we have in our vast repertoire of contradance cards.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Happy Birthday to You...

... Happy Birthday dear Toby!
Where oh where has the time gone? Sometimes it seems like just yesterday that these adults were just little and now they're all grown up! So many good times over all the years, and they continue to be good whenever we get together.
Jen, Jason and Avery stopped by with apples picked fresh from the orchard. I cooked some into a delicious apple crisp (double on the crisp for extra tasty goodness) and the rest I cooked down into applesauce (also delicious). We might go pick more apples next weekend if the weather is good... I'll make more applesauce to freeze.
We went to North Yarmouth and played with the group at the family dance, then had yummy potluck before dancing to the tunes of Sweetbriar, and to the calling of Lisa Sieverts. Great to be in the midst of the dance community, we've been busy most weekends and haven't gotten out to dance as much as we'd like. Still, we have been having fun calling and playing as much as possible.
More windows got washed here at home, nice to have a clear view of the foliage around the yard. The roof on the main part of the house is finished, that's a big job out of the way. The chimneys are clean, firewood is getting moved and stacked onto the porch, gardens are cleaned up, and we're on our way toward being ready for "hunkering down season". Til then we'll continue to work outside and to enjoy this beautiful fall weather.
If anyone out there sees Toby, wish him a big, hearty Happy Birthday. Others sharing birthdays this month are Tonya, Nancy, Ryan, Betty, and Tyler... if I forgot anyone else it's not intentional, just a little lapse in my memory and the fact that my day-timer isn't handy!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

College Groves

I got a letter in the mail today, not THE letter (which would be the acceptance letter), but still a pretty encouraging letter from the Univeristy of Maine Farmington. Last month I applied for admission as a full time student, planning to start classes in January 2008. The letter I received today indicates that my application has been received and is being reviewed, and that I've submitted everything they need to make a decision. I've chosen Environmental Science as my major, but also want to concentrate on K-8 Education.
It's exciting to have a career direction, and it's very nice to have the support and encouragement of family. The next few years will have some challenges for all of us, but I'm energized by the possibilities this course of study opens up for me, and for all of us. Whether it is a university, community college, certificate program or community class for enrichment, it's good for all of us to continue learning. Expanding our knowledge and experience helps us stay interesting and interested in our daily travels.
College Groves comes from the Fiddler's Fakebook.

Friday, October 05, 2007

After the Fall

Jen's getting things ready for the new baby, due to arrive in March. Her plan is to move A into a new room with a twin bed, and continuing to use the nursery as a nursery, and to move her and J into what has been the spare room... this involves moving some things around, painting walls and refinishing floors. We cleared space in the spare room Thursday night and were ready to get to work pretty early on Friday. While Jen prepped the window trim and walls, I sanded the floor in what will be the new master bedroom. Once the floor was sanded we laid out newspaper and started painting... Jen worked on the ceiling and I primed the walls. After that dried, we started in on the khaki colored wall paint (which looks beautiful). I was rolling, and Jen was cutting in with a brush. As I was making my way across the room with a roller in one hand and the paint tray in the other, and I stepped on something. Not wanting to trip or fall, I quickly picked up my foot and stepped a bit further away and again stepped on something, but this time I didn't have any balance to reset my foot and I went down. Still, I hadn't spilled one drop of paint... until I landed on my butt and my wrist, and then the impact caused the paint in the tray to plop up and out, all over me and the newspapers. Arghhhhh. I felt awful. But, Jen was calm cool and collected and helped get things cleaned up and we continued on until it was time to pick up Avery.
Whenever I'm doing a painting project, I envision tripping or falling off a ladder or something where paint goes flying. I've seen remnants of such escapades (even in my own home) where someone had an accident with lavender paint, now dried on the tan carpet! But as many times as I've had the thought enter my mind, I've had just as many silent talks with myself to "be careful so that doesn't REALLY happen!". Where was that little voice when I needed it, haha?
After the Fall comes from the Curvy Road to Corinth.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Big George

I started a creative project this evening... two paintings of Curious George driving Kubota tractors! Not an easy task to start, but quite fun once I got them started.
Avery will be moving into a new bedroom soon, as his current room is prepared for a new brother or sister. A's current passion is Kubota tractors, and of course he still loves Curious George... so I decided I could combine the two. One painting is George driving a Kubota through a big garden with a corn field in the background and vegetables in the foreground. The other painting has George driving in a farmyard with lots of animals milling around near the barn. I'm hoping to finish them up tomorrow so they can dry before framing them. I'm planning to deliver them on Thursday when I head up there to spend overnight, so I can help with the painting of the rooms. It'll be fun to have a sleepover, it'll be the first time I've gone up and done that... I'm pretty sure we won't be having any pillow fights though!
For those who are just dying to see these paintings, I'll try taking pictures using my cell phone and then uploading them tomorrow.
Big George is a tune from the Reckless Reel.