A New Addition

Hi, I’m on a social media break so I’ll only see comments here on the blog and not on Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr.  If there is a question or comment that you want me to see right away, the blog is the place to do it.   I’m back to Social Media (maybe) on November 20th.  Ta!

 

Judy, hanging out at Guitar Center.

You may or may not know that almost 4 years ago, I bought a uke on a spur of the moment decision and I had no regrets other than I wished I’d researched a little more.  Judy is an “all mahogany” uke with a gloss coating.. meaning she’s a laminate uke made out of mahogany and she’s got a big old layer or lacquer on top.

But I love her and she was affordable and just in my price point at the time. She’s beautiful to look at and I’ve never seen anyone else playing one like her.  Honestly, sometimes you just have to go with your gut, am I right?  Sure.

Here is a slightly abbreviated  video of me playing Judy.. I have a few mistakes… well, lets call them “flavor”… and you can hear my friend humming along as he tapes this.  I love that.

I’ve been playing Judy off and on for a while and I decided I wanted to upgrade my  uke. As my teacher Ron says, you should really have one of each size (I like how he thinks), and I’ve been wanting a uke with a more mellow sounds.  Judy is great, but she’s a little sharp when it comes to tone.  I even put new strings on her just to see if that would chill her out a bit.  It didn’t.

So, I was going to do it “right” this time.  I researched tonewoods and sizes and was pretty convinced I was going to get the Tiny Tenor from Romero Creations.  This is not an inexpensive uke. It’s not going to break the bank but I was looking at $500 for the solid mahogany and I wouldn’t be able to play her before purchase.   And then I thought, if I was going to go for the $500 uke, I might as well go all the way and get the solid Koa which is basically the same price as two of my car payments (ouch). Someone in my uke class has the spruce top version  and she loves it.  I loved the idea of a Low G string and a softer tone.

On Tuesday, when I was talking with Ron about getting a new uke, he said, really the best thing is to just play a ton of them until you find the one you like.. and hinted that I should drive to Michigan to visit Elderly Instruments to play a bunch. (I remember my Dad talking about Elderly instruments when l was a kid and I know they have an excellent reputation.. but .. that’s a nine hour drive!)

Wednesday, a little voice in the back of my head suggested that maybe I’d want to wander over to the music store on my lunch and just play some ukes “for fun”.   I ignored that voice, mostly because the last time I was in there, this saleswoman annoyed me.

I had been looking for an all plastic uke to keep in my car, you know.. for traffic jams and long stop lights, like you do… and she did not listen to me and tried to hand me every solid wood uke in the place and did that annoying thing of playing an instrument and nodding at me while I’m trying to get it through her head that no, I was looking for all plastic.. like a Waterman or a Ukadelic.

Not much annoys me more than a salesperson who doesn’t listen.

So I really didn’t want to go back there.

Thursday afternoon, the little voice says “hey! maybe today is a good day to .. ” and I shut that voice down. I was NOT going to go buy another off the rack uke. I was going to do it “right”.

Friday, true to form..  ugh.. ok FINE.  If I’ve learned anything from all of the intuitive work that I’ve done it’s that if you don’t listen to the quiet voice, eventually that bitch gets loud and starts smacking you around…  so fine.  I’ll go.  But I’m not buying anything.

Unfortunately, the same saleswoman was there (ugh) and she did the same damn thing.. and I ignored her.  I just picked up some ukes and played them and put them down and told her I was just “window shopping” and she kept talking and talking and talking and did the whole annoying schpeel (the same one.. do you have a uke now? How long have you been playing? blah blah blah) and I know she’s doing her job but I’m one of those people who just .. ugh.  Let me look uninterrupted, ok?

Courtesy of Potential Past on Flickr

I’m on my last two minutes before I have to head back to work (I literally have 10 minutes to play after driving over there) and then.. I see her.  This GORGEOUS UKE… I had never seen a tonewood like this.. ever!

I.. picked her up and I had to have her.. NO… NOPE NOPE NOPE… we are not buying another uke because it’s pretty.. it needs to sound good!  Besides, it’s a concert size.. Judy is a  concert size. I don’t need another concert size uke.

But I played her a bit. and she felt so RIGHT in my hands.  I peeked inside at the model number…  and stuck it in the back of my head.  I shouted to the now missing saleswoman (who evidently, finally got tired of being ignored and I said “Excuse me, do you know what this uke is made out of?”  She shouts back “Spalted Maple!”

Bullshit.

 

That is not spalted maple.  I’ve SEEN spalted maple and this is not it.  Now, encouraged by my question, she’s practically running over to me and starts telling me all about this uke and blah blah blah but I’m not listening because I know she’s already told me something incorrect.

I put the pretty uke back, say thank you to the saleswoman and go back to work.

And I couldn’t stop thinking about her. While I was waiting for my computer to do it’s thing, I researched the model number. That wood was Olive Ash Burl and it is stunning.

I went home, told LB all about it and said that after we run our errands on Saturday, I wanted to go play that uke again. So, off we went Saturday morning… but before we left, I jammed out on Judy.  Really got the sound of her in my ears.

It was a completely different experience in the store.

I walked right over to the uke I wanted and a salesman peeks around at me and says “That’s a Luna made out of Olive Ash.  Relatively new model   There’s a seat right there if you’d like to sit down and play it”.. and then he wanders away with his coffee.

The dude let the instrument sell itself.

I took my time, tuned her up, and then played the same stuff I played on Judy at home.

Holy Gods, she sounded amazing.

I think you know where this is going.

The salesman comes back after I’d been playing for about 10 minutes and says “So, what did you think?”.  I’m practically drooling in the chair.  But I played it cool…  he offered to throw in a gig bag at half price, because it didn’t come with one (and it should have).

Friends, I’m so ridiculoulsy happy with this uke. She’s a solid wood uke and has a moon theme going on.. (she’s made by Luna Ukes.. but they don’t all have this).  She’s sweet, resonate and mellow but still perky.. kind of like me (har har)

Here she is.   She needs a name.. and I kinda want to name her Hina-i-ka-malama, but I feel weird about it because I worry about the internet being wrong about translations and sacred mythology and I’m not sure I would pronounce it correctly.

I’ll post some video of me playing her at some point.. after some practice … on a day when I feel like putting on a bra. But right now, I’m off to sew a strap for her.

Isn’t she lovely? Gosh, I’m so glad I listened to that little voice in my head. As for a tenor, I’m going to go with an inexpensive laminate. Luna makes one with Honu around the sound hole although I’m not seeing it on their website right now.. but Amazon has it so I’ll have it on my wishlist.  If and when the time is right, I’ll pick it up.  But for now, I’m happily jamming on this pretty little thing.

Brew U a the CIA

On Saturday, I spent a good chunk of time at the Culinary Institute of America at their Brew U Beer and Food Festival and I was in a bit of a brain fog all day Sunday but it was worth it…

I’ve been to the CIA for a day workshop but this was the first time I went to an event like this.

Warning: this is a photo heavy post because OMG I consumed so many things, so I put a bunch of photos in little galleries for your perusal.  Otherwise you’d be scrolling for days.

We arrived early because we always do so we spent a bit of time wandering around the campus.  This was an impressive sight, for sure. Hi Chef!

The campus is impressive and I’d not been behind the main building before. The Egg (the student commons) is right next to the Hudson River and behind the building they have a small teaching garden. I’m awfully proud of myself because I was able to identify all but two of the things growing in it.

One of the really nice things is that they offered a discounted ticket for a designated driver which was great because LB doesn’t drink (like.. at all) but she still had an amazing time sampling the food and she also had a bottle of Hop Soda which was really nice! (I tried a sip) .

But I’m jumping ahead.  When we arrived, we were given a program and a tiny glass that we would be using to get our beer samples from different Breweries.  Even the DD got one because there were things like the aforementioned soda, but also cranberry lime water, cucumber water, two types of non-alcoholic cider and of course,  and a water fountain (one of them fancy taps .. not a fountain like in elementary school).

I was really excited about the demonstration on how to use spent grains.  Those are the grains that are left over after you basically extract most of the carbohydrates out to make your wort for beer brewing.  I learned some interesting things about how to make flour from the grains, but also that you can’t substitute it for equal parts of regular flour because spent grain flour sucks up moisture like crazy.  Also, when you add wet spent grains, you get some really nifty textures.  Chef Shannon gave us samples (and recipes) for spent grain English Muffins and spent grain and flaxseed pizza dough.

Scroll through for pictures.

 

Of course, now I have it in my head to get a Kitchenaid Mill Attachment which I do not need… but want desperately now.. for no good reason. I know Ida over at The Enabling Cook has milled flour. I need to ask her more about her experience with it.

Now! On to the beer!  I didn’t get to sample all of them because I would have been on the FLOOR. but I did try  quite a few.

Here is the list of NY Vendors that were there.  I had a beer from Chatham Brewey, Crossroads, Keegan Ales, and Rip Van Winkle.  I know.. that’s all. I’m a lightweight.  But I also sampled three from the CIA Brewery (more on that later.)

I probably ate more food than drank beer but I’m pretty ok with that.  Also, I had my first oyster ever and then I had another because it was AMAZING.  I’m love oysters now… at least cooked ones.  I will eventually get up the nerve for a raw oyster. I’ve eaten snails so, really what is the big deal? (the potential for snotty texture is the big deal.. ::shudder::)

Our favorite thing though was the beer and cheese pairing seminar. It was presented by Professor John Fischer who wrote Cheese Identification, Classification and Utilization and I’m just enough of a curd nerd to buy it.  (by the time I hit “publish” on this post, it will probably be on it’s way to me)

 

Prof. Fischer was super entertaining and was obviously incredibly knowledgeable and had the best phrase of the day. He said “Brewing is Yeast Husbandry”.  He also introduced us to three of the beers coming out of the CIA Brewery which have the BEST names… The Mise en Place Wit that was paired with a Kunik from Nettle Meadow, the Octoberfest that he paired with I think it was Grand Cru Surchoix (my damn camera did not take pics of the slides like it was supposed to!) and the Cleaver IPA which was AMAZING with my favorite cheddar, the Cabot Clothbound (which you can get at The Cheese Traveler for sure. I’m also 99% sure you can get the Kunik there as well).

It was really interesting to see how the bitterness of the IPA and the sharpness of the cheddar mellowed each other out.   And the Mise en Place Wit was just so delicious with that soft cheese that I wanted to beat up my fellow seminar go-ers for their portions.  I could have taken them… they had way more beer than I did.

No Farms No Beer

We had such a great time, I would totally do this again next year.  We also bought a Brew U Tshirt and a beer stein… and our swag bags from being VIP ticket holders also had beer steins in them so now we have three steins in the house.  I guess one will go on my desk at work.  Why not?

If you get a chance to go next year, I highly recommend it.  It’s not only educational and fun but the food is amazing and we enjoyed checking out what was probably the fanciest and nicest student commons I’ve ever seen.

How can I keep from singing?

Sweet Georgia Brown

Sweet Georgia Brown

 

My life flows on in endless song
Above earth’s lamentation.
I hear the real, though far off hymn
That hails the new creation
Above the tumult and the strife,
I hear the music ringing;
It sounds an echo in my soul
How can I keep from singing?

 

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been singing.  I don’t mean professionally, but you know.. singing.  I remember singing my heart out in church (yes, church…it was the only reason I liked to go).    I have recordings of me singing in chorus in elementary school.  I have tapes (yes, tapes.  Kids, ask your parents) of me from “Soundtracks” which was this cool place in the mall.  Other kids wanted to shop and I’m begging my mom to take me to the mall to SING. At Soundtracks, you would go into a recording booth, you’d jam headphones (kids, ask your parents) on your head and you’d hear music in your ears and they would record you singing along.    It’s sort of like karaoke.. which I also did in dive bars in my 20s.  Yes, I know.  LB says that I sing around the house all the time.  I don’t even know I’m doing it, it’s so much a part of who I am.

I was in Chansonnettes and Troubadours when I was in high school. (which we called C&T because otherwise, what a mouthful, amirite?  I’m also pretty convinced that’s not spelled right)

Please witness my 1990's hair

Please witness my 1990’s hair

C&T was the after school chorus you had to audition for.  I loved it so much.  I think somewhere around here is a VHS (kids, ask your parents)  of “SongFest” and I’m 99% I had a solo.  I’m also 99% sure there is at least one flat note in there so I’m not going to listen to it.

Putting on that robe to perform was one of the highlights of my teenage years (I was 16 in this picture and totally and fully committed to that hair).

The robe is kind of like your costume.  You knew what you were expected to do, and what people expected you to do when you were wearing it.  It was your magic cape to protect you from all the abuses of the world, the anxiety of not knowing what was the “right thing” to do.  You knew what to do.  You would sing and people were there to hear you.

And the most amazing thing was raising your voices with other people who wanted to be there too.  My fellow geeks, being unafraid to open our mouths knowing that it was a judgement free zone.

That, my friends, is a huge gift for those of us who have “foot in mouth disease” which is so much more fatal when you are 16.

In my 20s, I was looking to regain some of that magic so I joined Mohawk Valley Chorus, and had a wonderful time. They are the reason I got to go to England, Scotland and Wales in one glorious (and slightly drunken) 14 day trip.  I loved singing with them and I learned so much from John Nethaway who was their director at the time.

Somewhere along the line, I got busy with life and forgot about singing.  I moved in with LB in Albany and driving to Amsterdam was just too much to do all the damn time.  I mean, I still would sing in the shower (who doesn’t?) and sort of half ass sing around the house.

I don’t know why but a month or so ago, I got it in my head to contact Capitaland Chorus to see about joining.  I’ve been to two rehearsals to watch and I cannot begin to tell you how it feels to be surrounded by people who sing.  The first rehearsal, I got to sing along a bit (I had music to follow) and the pure joy that it brought to raise my voice with others and become one voice.. it… I just.. I don’t know how to express it.

I was invited to join the chorus for a special coaching session with Cy Wood, who was just a joy to watch and to watch the chorus work with him on choreography.  I didn’t have to stay all day, but I totally did.  It was just so much where I wanted to be.

I don’t make friends easily.  But I really felt like I was surrounded by my “tribe”.

Saturday night, I watched this amazing group of people perform.  And I can’t wait to be an official part of them.

My Great Grandmother’s Chair

At least I think that this belonged to my Great Grandmother.

I don’t remember exactly how I ended up with it.  I am 99% sure it was in the attic of the family farmhouse when we moved into it when I was 14.

image

It was in pretty rough shape then and that was 1986.

But I immediately fell in love with it. My great grandmother on my mother’s side always sat in a rocker and always had a bit of crocheting in a basket next to her. Although I knew this belonged to my father’s side of the family and I remembered almost nothing about the woman who most likely used it, I wanted it.

Sidenote: the only thing I remember about my father’s grandmother is that she ate donuts with a fork.

image

I mean, look how pretty it is. I pulled it out of the attic of that old farmhouse and stuck it in my bedroom and used it.

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I didn’t care much about the old varish or the wear and tear.

I loved it.

image

The seat is worn out. It has the old horsehair cushion. Can you believe that? Horsehair. Oh the stories this chair could tell.

This old chair moved with me three times. To my first apartment. .. to my first house….

And then I moved in with LB in her tiny apartment and big dog and it went into the basement of the house. And then LB and I bought a house together and got another big dog… and there wasn’t really room for my chair. And that was totally fine. It was a choice I made…. and I put it in the attic.

Now that we no longer have any dogs, there is room for my chair. It’s bittersweet.

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I really wanted to get someone to look at it to take care of it in case the joints were weak.. or something.  So I brought it to a local refinisher.  I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

Ladies, I gotchyo ass covered.

Before we get to the topic at hand, can we just take a minute first and talk about this?

helen mirren twerk

Helen fucking Mirren…. boom.

Speaking of werking it.. (ha… you see what I did there?   Queen of the segue, eh?)

I have been trying to work out more and I’m lucky that my office has a small gym that I can use to torture myself for 30 minutes a day.

What it doesn’t have, however is a changing room.  So I have to change in the bathroom, which is so not a big deal…

Except…

We have automatic flushing toilets.

You know where I’m going with this.  I mean, let’s get real, here.  Some of them don’t flush unless you jump up and down in front of them and then have to resort to pushing the button which defeats the purpose of the auto flush AMIRITE?

OR

You wiggle just a tiny bit, say you want to scratch your ear while you’re taking care of business and WHOOOSH!  you get a lovely little splash on your ass and lady bits.

There is one of the toilets that I swear honesttogawd thinks it’s a bidet.

Ladies,  I gotchyo ass covered.

It’s stupid simple and I can’t believe I didn’t think of it.  Someone else told me.

How to not get splashed by auto flushing toilets

A piece of toilet paper over the sensor before you sit down.  You get up, get your clothing adjusted and whip that paper off and into the bowl while you oh so effortlessly dance away, splash free.

 

 

Nellie Bly, Nina Simone, Georgia O’Keefe… and me.

You guys know about Nerdette, right? Although, I honestly have issues with the word “Nerd” like I have issues with the word “foodie”, I make a concession for Nerdette. And Wil Wheaton. But that’s it. No one else get’s to call me a nerd, okay? I have internal emotional scars from the 80’s about the word “nerd”.

I was a pre-teen clown. Yes, I know. Let's never speak of this again

I was a pre-teen clown. Yes, I know. Let’s never speak of this again

  • I was that kid who did the Regent’s math books over the summer… for fun.
  • I was the kid who was the victim of the “go tell her you like her and invite her to the dance and when it’s actually time for the dance, pretend you have no idea who she is” gag.
  • And the one who always fell for the  “let’s pretend to be her friend and then totally make her say something stupid and dorky and then pick on her mercilessly forever” prank.

When I read Carrie I totally understood how she felt.   Well, except for that super religious crazy nutter for a mom part.  But the whole “teased until you want to fall into a hole” thing?  I get it.

There was this one time at band camp in my eight grade English class where we had to do a presentation in front of the whole class.  I was in the honors program (nerd alert) which meant I got to see all of the same kids all day, every day and yes, I was the dorkiest of all of them (at least that’s how I felt).

I did my presentation on computers.  This would have been about 1984.  Let’s get a little perspective on where computers were in 1984, shall we? There was no internet, no smart phones and not every home had a computer.   They were just rolling out WYSIWYG for crying out loud. I’d like to think I was ahead of my classmates on this front. (nerd alert!)

Anyway, I started out strong.. and shaky.. but strong! Until my 13 year old mouth failed me. I was supposed to say “This computer has two disks”. (Sidebar: for you younglings who stumbled here by accident, this is a disk. It was floppy. And big and stored very little).

My silly little 13 year old mouth, terrified of making a mistake…  totally  nervous, said … (and remember, in front of a room full of 13 year olds just waiting for an excuse to pick on me)…

This computer has two dicks.

I’m not kidding.  If I could have melted into the floor right then, I would have.  In fact, years later, in 10th grade, in a new school where I had ACTUAL friends, I sacrificed my 3.7 grade average and willingly took a zero on our “ten minute speech” project.  I feel it’s important to mention that my average would have been 4.0 except for that darn gym class.  (nerd alert)

I found Nerdette because Emma Christensen tweeted about her interview so I have Emma to thank for not only my love of home brewing but also introducing me to this fabulous podcast.

Every week, Nerdette asks for listeners to call in with their “nerd confessions” and since we have now firmly established that I am not a talker… I’m a typer, I just tweeted mine out.

 

I have way more than this, but this one is kind of my favorite because people are always trying to figure out what those letters are.. you can’t .. unless you know the Klingon alphabet. Well, imagine my surprise when Nerdette tweeted back and said I totally had to call in.

It took me a week to work up the courage… and I called from my car in the parking lot at work at the moment when I decided I would just do it.. just do it.. what’s the worst that happens? They don’t use it?

They used it.

They totally did!  and! and! and! the used it at the end of what is probably my favorite podcast to date.   It should also be noted that Nina Simone sings a song that was part of the inspiration for my internet alias.  So, this was so super cool.

Listen to the whole thing.  Learn about these amazing women and what they have done to change the face of America.  I didn’t know who Nellie Bly was.. and I find her awe inspiring.  Nina Simone put her voice out there to the world and sang about Civil Rights and she didn’t do it “like a lady” and Georgia O’Keefe showed the world that women could be artists too.

And if you really can’t wait to hear my lovely voice, jump ahead to 25:04, but go back and listen to the entire podcast after. Okay? because you should.