Sunday, November 18, 2007

Brilliancy Medley

The DownEast Country Dance Festival held a benefit dance in Bowdoinham to raise money for the festival to be held in the spring. There were three different bands, and a variety of callers, making for lots of energy and fun. The turnout was great!
Organizers planned a medley, and invited Richard and me to call along with four other callers... a huge success and great experience. We appreciate the support and encouragement we are getting in the dance & calling community!
Brilliancy Medley can be found in the Fiddler's Fakebook.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Jersey Lightning

We've been doing "Lightning Rounds" lately as part of our fiddle practice... starting with a tune and playing it a couple times through, then calling out the next tune and going right into it. We continue on as long as we can think of tunes, and remember how they get started. It's a lot of fun, increases thinking capacity, and it's amazing how many tunes we really do know without reading music or having the book open in front of us "just in case". Richard and I do this at home from time to time and we did it at a practice last night. The tricky thing for the guitar or bass player is to know the chord progressions, and to have the chord announced along with the name of the tune when calling the changes.
Jersey Lightning comes from Portland Collection volume two.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Chaos in Room 6

This is not the name of a tune, but the name of a contra dance. I liked the name because it reflects my mood today. I feel like I'm in Room 6 and it's full of CHAOS, maybe the bad kind of CHAOS like the antagonists on GET SMART, and maybe I'm Agent 99... you know, the girl who's with the program and trying to hold it together, for herself anyway, while things are going crazy around her. It's just been one of those couple-of-days :) I've been fiddling my way through it though, and the music makes sense to me... thanks Kathie for a great waltz session this afternoon, and thanks Paul for staying with me this evening when other stuff was falling apart. So, all CHAOS aside, it's nice to have something great like fiddling to fall back on, and it's great to have friends to play with.
Chaos in Room 6 is a quadruple (that's right, quadruple) progression dance that I have not yet called, but think it would be a hoot with the right crowd... people moving all over the place!

All the leaves are brown...

... and the sky is gray...
Remember that Mama's & Papa's song? I think of it this time of year even though I'm NOT in California :) Almost all our leaves are down, thanks to some heavy rains and winds recently. We have most of the front and one side yard raked, and most of the other chores outside are finished... we're ready for winter when it gets here!
Kathy and I played waltzes this afternoon, enjoying that we both had the time to hang out during the day and just go through some books of tunes. We found quite a few that we both like, as well as some that we weren't sure of yet. Now to get Richard's input! The three of us have been having a good time playing and practicing together... I love that we're so close and we can get an hour of practice in without it involving a lot of traveling for anyone. That's about it for this Monday!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Happy Birthday!

If you see Richard today, wish him a Happy Birthday! This has been a great year... Richard is developing a fine calling style, has learned to play the double bass, performs at contradances in two different bands (fiddlehedz and Beat Greens), continues on his quest to become a Soil Scientist by taking a course at Orono, and all the while manages to be a fine husband, grampah, dad, son, brother, friend and many other things.
My wish for the coming year? More adventure with family, music, contradance, and life!
Look for Richard calling at Bowdoinham next weekend, in Belfast in November, and performing as caller & musician in Farmington, Fairfield and Wayne over the next few months!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Chronosynclastic Infidibula

Hmmm, any idea what that means? It's a tune from the Reckless Reel...

Also, Happy Anniversary Mom & Dad :)

Also also, Welcome Home Jen!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Hairy Dogleaf

When I was leaving my fiddle lesson this afternoon, I noticed that one of the two horses in the pasture had a blanket covering him. I guess this was still on my mind, and decided to research the subject a bit. Apparently, horse blankets come in a variety of weights depending on when it'll be used and needed by the horse, mostly it isn't recommended as a common practice. Horses, like dogs and probably other animals, have different types of hair... an under/inner coat of hair that keeps the creature warm and an outer coat that repels water and the elements. Unless there isn't enough hair, or the hair has been cut, most horses don't need a blanket.
I remember when Max (Jen's dog), got his usual summer haircut (he's a lab/chow with long hair) and the vet reprimanded Jen for cutting Max's hair saying something like he wouldn't have as much protection from the elements. Guess it holds true for horses too!
Lucky for us humans that we don't have to be as concerned with the length of our hair, though I have to think that even if we NEVER cut our hair in our entire life, we'd probably still like to wear a hat in the winter :)
Hairy Dogleaf can be found in the Portland Collection ,volume two.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


I got this tune, "Gracie" from a friend and it's a great tune. I love how it sounds, and I love how my fingers feel as I'm playing it. Some tunes are like that, they play like I'm slicing butter that is just the right temperature and consistency... not too soft, and not so hard they crumble when you go to work it. Anyway, Gracie is like that. The thing is, it was given to me without chords. It did have a key signature of one flat... and it had a few notes that were to be played #... and it had the feel of another reel, Julia Delaney... which is also has a key signature of one flat. Julia Delaney is in the key of Dm, so I had this idea that we could use the same chords when playing Gracie... it worked! The thing is, there are things in life that aren't totally obvious and we have to find the similarities, things we recognize, and then make some assumptions in the way we decide we're going to go forward. I love forward progress, and I love being able to make some basic assumptions based on past experience and knowledge and, as my uncle says, "Drop the blade and go".
Gracie was written by a friend of a friend.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Rolling Off a Log

I spent part of this afternoon working on a new pie crust recipe... one that would be flaky and tasty, roll out nicely, and brown up perfectly. I'm pretty happy with this one. I made this apple pie, which I'm hoping tastes good (a little different filling than I usually make). And I also made the cinnamon (dark) and orange (lighter) rolls like my mom used to make when we were little kids. She'd make them out of the leftover pie dough. At the Apple Shed, they make these out of fresh pie dough, and they sell better than hotcakes! That's where I got the idea that I wanted to try them... you may remember that Avery and I tried making some last weekend, and though they were tasty they weren't anything like the ones at the bakery. Actually these that I made today aren't as big, but they are as tasty I think. Now to work on the size! My goal is to get them right for this coming weekend~ Jen and Avery are spending the night on Friday so we can get an early start on shopping on Saturday and I want to be able to have these cinnamon rolls as a special breakfast treat for Avery!
Rolling Off A Log comes from the New England Fiddler's Repertoire.

Porcupine Reel

This porcupine has been hanging around our yard for a while now, usually in the compost pile. With the garden being done for the season, I thought I'd throw some apple peels and old carrots into the garden, planning to till them in with leaves (soon). Not much scrap left after ol' Mr Sharp Whiskers got done munching away! This photo was taken a week or so ago. Since then we've been raking leaves, putting some into the garden to till in and compost over the winter. The following is from an article about building your own compost mixture.
Almost any organic material is suitable for a compost pile. The pile needs a proper ratio of carbon-rich materials, or "browns," and nitrogen-rich materials, or "greens." Among the brown materials are dried leaves, straw, and wood chips. Nitrogen materials are fresh or green, such as grass clippings and kitchen scraps.
Mixing certain types of materials or changing the proportions can make a difference in the rate of decomposition. Achieving the best mix is more an art gained through experience than an exact science. The ideal ratio approaches 25 parts browns to 1 part greens.
We definitely have plenty of "browns" with the leaves in the yard. More kitchen scraps will help with the "green" component. Keeping things mixed in is important too, helping in the decomposition process. With some planning, hard work, and maybe a bit of luck, we'll have some nicely enriched soil for next year's garden!
Porcupine Reel is a tune collected over the years.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Mary (Merry) Walker

I've been thinking about doing a walk-about, just taking a nice long walk around the neighborhood. Years ago I went trekking, and I've been on day hikes, so taking a nice long walk seemed reasonable. This afternoon was perfect... cool temperatures and bright sunshine, and a bit of a breeze. I walked for about 2 hours (maybe a little less) and covered about 6.5 miles or so... managing to go from our house over to the stretch of road between my sisters and my folks. I had a nice, fairly short visit with everyone before Kathie gave me a ride home (gets dark early here now). It felt good to just be out walking, and it's amazing the things you see when you're not whizzing by in a vehicle! And in spite of my hesitancy in going out for long walks because I don't want to take the time, it certainly took less time to do this walk than it would have taken to drive to a State Park and back. My suggestion? Just Do It :)
Mary Walker can be found in the Fiddler's Fakebook.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Baker's Favorite

Avery and I made some of these classic cinnamon roll treats this afternoon, and ours looked very much like this picture I found. The ones we make at the Apple Shed are actually much bigger, but I need to work on my recipe at home to get them just right. Still, it was a good first attempt today and Avery had a good time mixing up the cinnamon and sugar 'til it was just right, and then sprinkling it over the dough. We served them up nice and hot with some Edy's vanilla bean ice cream on the side, mmmm... just the thing on a cold rainy November afternoon. Baker's Favorite comes from the Reckless Reel, and I'm guessing it refers to Elke Baker rather than someone in the kitchen covered with sugar and flour!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Give Me Your Hand

So, I've been having some discomfort in my hands and forearms for a few weeks now. I saw my physician last week, and she prescribed an anti-inflammatory and a visit to a physical therapist that I went to see today. Though I'm still not sure exactly what's going on, I have some direction in working to manage the situation using stretching exercises to re-build muscle tone in my forearms and to strengthen my hands. It's been difficult to think that my activities might be limited, and has given me new motivation for LIVING LIFE TO THE FULLEST while the livin' is good! A little wake up call :)
Give Me Your Hand comes from the Waltz Book, volume two.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Simplicity Contra

We started out this morning with a trip to our local community recreation center to meet with the new director of activities. We'd proposed doing a contradance, either as a one-shot-deal or as a regularly scheduled event and apparently there's interest in that happening... whahooo! This is just what we were hoping would happen.
Early this year we took a caller's workshop, and have been seeking (and accepting) opportunities to call dances. We've organized and presented some community contradances, have called at some regular series dances in the area, and continue to try out dances here at home. We'd decided that this year we would use any chance we could get to gain experience and confidence, regardless of the financial impact, and that we would hopefully have some sort of regular thing to do next year. Not a bad plan. We've had varying levels of success, mostly very positive, and we've learned a lot... enough so that we put together some proposals in the hopes that we'd generate some fairly regular gigs.
So, this community center could be the start of a dream come true. The director is interested in having a weekly learning session which would essentially be an easy family style dance, and a monthly community dance. The weekly dance would be attended by sign up and would be more of a regular beginner session and possibly a specialty workshop. The monthly community dance would be offered at "Family Friendly" and affordable hours & rates, encouraging participation at all ages and levels of experience. The weekly sessions would hopefully build confidence and interest to make the monthly dance something everyone would look forward to.
We also have had interest from some adult education programs in the area, and our idea here is to offer a four-week session where we'd focus on some history & basic figures the first weeks, ending in a final contradance at the fourth session. Seems like there's interest here too, at least on the organizer level... we'll see how many people are interested in signing up. It's possible that this would also be an avenue for developing area-wide interest in contra style folk dancing, which would include some New England squares, circles, longways sets, triplets and even some of the old-time "chestnuts" called in the old-style way which is to call and play at the same time. It's pretty exciting to be bringing this kind of community activity back into the limelight, and we're appreciative of all the lessons, coaching and experience we've had this year. I'd also like to mention that we've had great support from our fellow musicians as we endeavor to put these programs together, it's great to have made such good friends. The key to all of these dances is to keep things interesting and also fairly simple and easy, so that everyone has a good time and gets to enjoy dancing. Keep your fingers crossed for us as we continue to do what we love, close to home!
In other news today, HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD! We enjoyed visiting, sharing a gift of homemade applesauce, and having lunch together (thanks mom for delicious corn chowder and homemade bread).
Simplicity Contra is actually a contradance written by Dan Pearl.