Sunday, February 24, 2008

Reel de Skieurs

Well, I hope skieurs means skiers in some language because that's what we did this afternoon! The weather this weekend has been perfect for outdoor fun in the sun. Mild temperatures and a nice new coating of snow have made the trails out back perfect for snowshoes (yesterday) and cross country skis (today). The hard under-crust gives plenty of support so we didn't have to work all that hard to break trails from our house to the snowmobile tracks out back. The snowmobile trails are well networked so you can probably go just about anywhere- we just went up to the top of Oak Hill where we were treated to a fabulous view looking out over Hales Pond. The best part of the trip was the trip down hill! The snow was a little slow, but it was still a lot of fun to be coasting down over the hills with a breeze at my face.
The snow on Friday kept us in. The back roads are still pretty chunky and rough, and with new snow on top we decided we'd stay home which meant we didn't get out to the Whitefield dance. Bummer. That's one of my favorite dances, and three years ago, it's where Richard and I got to talk and renew our very casual friendship (and you see where that has led!).
Reel de Skieurs comes from The Portland Collection. I haven't ever played it, and don't recall seeing the name before so I'll have to check it out!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Full Moon Jig

Tonight there will be a full eclipse of the moon, if weather permits we'll be able to see it!
The moon isn't the only thing full around here. Last night our driveway was full of cars and our home was full of musicians... the Tuesday night jam was in session. One of the best things about having lots of folks joining the session is the variety of tunes that are called. The icy driveway made for some interesting maneuvers, but everyone managed to come and go safely (thanks to Richard for spreading yet another load of sand.)
Today will be full of studying for me, and Richard's schedule will be filled with the editing of the DEFFA newsletter. Looks like some nice early morning light filtering through the trees, maybe we'll be able to coordinate a break and get a walk in later on.
Full Moon Jig comes from the Portland Collection.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Bishop of Bangor

What a beautiful day! The sunshine has warmed our house up to 80 degrees, snow is melting off the roof, and there's a lovely breeze moving the tops of the trees around. It almost has a feel of early spring in the air- ALMOST- we still have plenty of winter ahead of us :) It is nice to have a brief reprieve from snow, ice, sleet, freezing rain and as if any of those weren't enough, the all dreaded forecast of "wintery mix" haha.
Roads were still a bit treacherous early this morning. I drove to Bangor to meet Jen and go to her ultrasound appointment (more on that wonder of technology in just a minute). Vehicles off the road, single lane of traffic, state police cruising north and south... black ice in unexpected places as things started to melt but the air and ground conditions were still cold enough in spots to keep things frozen. I drove cautiously, allowed extra time, and made the trip safe and sound. The trip back was much easier, but caution was still the word of the day.
Now about the ultrasound... I've seen the images of Avery and this new little one, and countless others of friends, but this was my first time actually watching it being done! I got to see BB (Bingo Bongo) breathing, pressing its little face up against the placenta wall, sticking its foot into it's eye... and to see the heart beating! Amazing! I can hardly wait to meet the little one. Avery has had some pretty interesting observations throughout this pregnancy- it's going to be quite an adventure going through the delivery and answering his many questions!
Richard's been working with the mandolin lately and getting really good at it. He's been writing some tunes, which are very nice. We've been playing more music, casually, just picking up the instruments and playing tunes and working on accompaniment with each other. The pace is different this week too, no classes (spring break and NO I'm not going to Myrtle Beach!) so we have a slightly less hectic schedule.
SK came to visit yesterday and we did each other's hair- she got a trim from me, and I got a new short look from her that I love!
That's about it for news here. Bishop of Bangor comes from Twin Fiddling.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Meter Reader

After a day of studying, we took a break and went to Books Etc in Falmouth to hear Chris Bohjalian speak and read from The Double Bind. You may have heard me mention this author in the past, Kathie introduced me to his work and I've read all but one of his novels. He has a new one coming out in May, so that's two for me to catch up on! SK happened to hear about this event and invited us to join her- a truly enjoyable evening. Bohjalian is an articulate speaker and easy conversationalist. It was interesting to learn more about his writing style and habits, and fun to be inspired to read more, and to write!
Meter Reader can be found in the first Portland Collection.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Hull's Victory

We went out dancing last night after some discussion about whether we should brave the winter elements or not. A four wheel drive truck and a desire to support the smaller community dances (before all of them are gone) made it a pretty easy choice. We were rewarded with one of the best evenings of contradance that we've had for a while (in my opinion anyway). So, what made last night special?
There were five couples... which worked out perfectly to do many of the old chestnuts we hear about but don't dance. For whatever the reasons why they aren't popular these days, they were fun, fun, fun last night. The reason five couples seemed to work well is because the active couples are VERY active and five times through is enough- by the time you get to be inactive five times through, you're rested up to go it again! Much more than five times through and the inactives would be bored and the actives would have dropped on the floor from sheer exhaustion. But five seemed just right. These dances were pretty challenging too. Hull's Victory in particular (one of my favorites it turns out) has a left allemande with your neighbor- not too difficult you say? Try spinning your neighbor by the left TWICE around in eight beats! You are truly flying- and then you release them so they can go allemande their partner in the center once around - in just four beats so they're still spinning pretty fast. All of these allemandes are punctuated by balances and ALL of this happens (along with a partner swing) in the first (A) half of the dance. The second half is where the inactives get to rest while the actives go down the hall and back, then it's rights & lefts over and back (another hallmark of the old chestnuts is the "full" right & left, ladies chain, hey rather than the half moves seen in many of today's contras) before starting again. Written out it looks like this:
Hull's Victory
A1 Actives allemande by the right half way, left hand to your neighbor and balance the wave
Neighbor allemande by the right twice around
A2 Actives allemande by the right in the middle, reform the wave and balance
Actives swing in the middle
B1 Actives down the center, turn alone
Return and cast off
B2 Right and left through 'cross the set
Right and left back
We also did Lamplighters, Chorus Jig, Ninepin, and a few others I cannot put a name to. One dance in particular called for nine people arranged in rows of three. Each of the nine positions had a name: left wing, right wing, centers, those in office, moderates, extremists, those out of office and the person in the center was the prime minister. This dance was really tricky to keep up with because you kept filling a different position as you worked your way around the set- more than once I found myself acting as a moderate instead of an extremist but it was all fun, we all laughed and most of us could easily relate because I wasn't the only one dancing out of turn :) The thing is, it all worked.
The dances make so much more sense when you're dancing them than when you're reading them off a card. Often times these dances have tunes written to go along with them, and it was easy to see why- there's something in the tune that greatly enhances a particular move. We were fortunate to have amazing musicians who were able to pull these tunes out of the archives of their brains, thanks to Ellen Gawler and Maggie Erickson! Our caller, John McIntire, has a true understanding of these dances and his stories and guidance throughout the dance, not just calling out the moves but assisting us as we had momentary lapses, made it a success.
Will we call these dances in crowded halls? Maybe but probably not. Today's contra culture asks for contras and lots of them- and there are lots to choose from so why not accomodate them? There are occasions to add in a circle, or a square without too much resistance. But I think we'll save these chestnuts for the appropriate moments- dances with five our six couples with some experience within that group.
As we were driving home under gentle snowfall, we felt good knowing we'd gotten out and supported the smaller dance community. We also felt like we might have gotten the better end of the bargain in what we'd learned and experienced, and the fun we shared with everyone who had attended.
Hull's Victory can be found in the New England Fiddler's Repertoire.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Greasy String

Pretty slick driving conditions out there today... some might even say GREASY. With an underlayer of hard snowpack and ice topped with wet snow and slushy rain, even the main road to Farmington was a bit treacherous this morning- my 35 minute commute took about an hour! I was glad I left early enough to take my time, the bonus being more time listening to the morning news on NPR. Sometimes I'm up early enough to catch the news on television but that means I kind of have to be in an area where the television is located (I don't really want to put a tv where I study or play music) so it doesn't always happen, and it's very rare that I'd sit for an entire newscast. Commuting in the morning and late afternoon offers the opportunity to catch the biggest headlines and some interesting interviews on the radio.
Afternoon classes are cancelled so I have some time to start working on some essays that are due in the next couple of weeks- these are in addition to the regular reading and homework assignments. I love all my classes, and feel like I'm definitely challenged. My favorite right now is Syriana which is a First Year Seminar class. We're using the movie to learn about a lot of issues including oil, the Middle East as a region, US Foreign Policy, religion, culture, business and politics. Class discussions and basic research leave me asking more questions and wishing class didn't end quite so soon. The other classes are great too, and will probably have their turn at being my favorite over the next couple of months.
Greasy String is a cool old-timey tune from the Portland Collection.

Monday, February 04, 2008


We watched the Super Bowl last night, as did probably millions of people, not just Americans and not just in America. Richard and I hadn't gotten into the big hype of the game prior to yesterday, but we did have it on our calendar. I went and watched the first half with my sisters and brothers-in-law on the big screen with lots of snacks (some healthy veggies as well as some yummy other things), a couple of beers and lots of cheers and moans. At half time we all retreated to our own homes to watch the Pats lose to the Giants. Bummer. And life goes on.
I guess my point is that for me football is fun and it's an important social activity but it doesn't occupy all of my mental space or energy. I'd gotten stressed earlier in the week about not being able to focus, focus focus on studying and it just generated more stress. This past weekend I've done some studying, some neighborhood socializing, some work at the bakery, some family time, a little music and some down time with R... a nice balanced mix. And I'm still ready for classes today, and I've stayed connected with my life for the most part, and I didn't trade watching the game for another read-through of chapter three. It's good to just have some fun.
Our phone rang early this morning, it was Avery calling me to talk about the Giants big win. He'd chosen the Giants because he liked their blue shirts, and even though they didn't wear blue last night, he still knew which team they were and recognized their blue helmets- pretty perceptive for not quite 3. He compares the winning and losing of the Super Bowl to playing Candy Land :) Sometimes you win and sometimes you don't but it's still fun. And life goes on.
Arizona can be found in the second volume of the Portland collection.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Lady Ann Montgomery

We spent the evening with our neighbors! It's been almost two years since we moved here and as we're out walking we've met quite a few people who live on this side of town. Last night we met even more as we gathered for a progressive dinner party.
We started with appetizers and conversation and the big reveal of Dave and Ann's new kitchen. They started with a basic remodel but ended up with new floor joists and wall studs and everything in between. We remember walking by and seeing nothing left but a roof connecting their main house and the barn! The result is a beautiful family style kitchen with a raised fireplace that is just perfect for entertaining.
From there we all (about a dozen of us) went to the next (and final) stop where we got to talk a bit before a potluck buffet of delicious entrees and salads before indulging in dessert. After dinner we had coffee, lightened with a little Bailey's, definitely a treat!
This was a great way to gather the newcomers (ourselves and the family next door to us who moved here only a few months before we did). We learned a lot about the history of our community (two couples have lived here for about 30 years and one couple's parents lived here forever) and heard some fun stories of when they were younger and raising their children. We had a lot of fun making new friends and came home feeling more connected to our neighborhood. There's already talk of a summer block party!
Lady Ann Montgomery is one of our favorite tunes, and is a nickname for one of our neighbors (well, Lady Ann anyway). This tune can be found in the Portland Collection.