Jackaroo Days, Yeah

I have always been a voracious reader. It’s rare that you will find me without a book in my hands. Right now, I’m working my way through the Dark Tower Series, again. (I was gifted the Gunslinger when I was in my early twenties and I still have that book… it’s falling apart but it remains untouched by future revisions by the author.)

I remember and a kid, staying up late, hiding my clandestine after-bedtime adventures by sneaking a flashlight into my room, lifting my blankets up like a tent and sitting under them, furtively rushing through whatever fantastic book I was ingesting in great mental gulps, cramming in “one more chapter” before the inevitable sleep overtook me.

I know now, that my parents were FULLY AWARE of these events and indulged me because I was reading… and also, I was quiet.

One of the best days of my young adult life was the day we went to a garage sale and those folks had an outbuilding FULL of books for sale.  10 cents each! The outbuilding looked huge to me but I was a tiny kid so it was probably just a small barn… but I recall racks and racks of books. It was there that I stocked up on Agatha Christie.

As an aside, one of life’s great disappointments is knowing who did it before you finish the book. Don’t peek ahead. I ruined “Peril at End House” because I **had** to know… and I never read the middle of the book.. I spoiled it. Don’t do that. Enjoy the experience. It’s much more gratifying.

Anyway, a book that made a huge impression on me in my younger days, was Jackaroo by Cynthia Voigt which is now, evidently, retitled “Tale of Gywn” but when I read it, only one book in the series existed (and I’m not too proud to say that at the age of almost 45, I’m not above reading that whole series now that I know it exists. I don’t care that it’s Young Adult Fiction)

Jackaroo was the legendary hero of a small feudal village and when things got tough and people needed saving, Jackaroo arrived. This story was so impactful because (spoiler) Jackaroo was a young woman who shucked off all of society’s expectations and just did whatever she felt was right. I totally loved Gwyn.. and the book remains floating around in my brain so many years later.

(I’m about to take a quick left turn on you… hold on, there is no gentle segue here..)

Now that I have my new uke (ain’t she sweet?) I have been wanting to delve more into fingerstyle and solo stuff and really build some skills. I was digging around on Amazon and settled on Fingerstyle Ukulele – A Method & Songbook For Fingerpicking Backup & Solos, Ukulele Aerobics: For All Levels, from Beginner to Advanced, and Jazz Ukulele: Comping, Soloing, Chord Melodies.

I almost got The Beatles for Fingerstyle Ukulele but decided against it because I have Stu Fuch’s Chord Solo Book and there are already a few of my favorite Beatles Songs in it.

But the free sample has “Across the Universe” as the first few pages, so I looked at it pretty closely before deciding against buying the book.

Now, before we get into this next bit of my post, let’s all agree that John Lennon did not always write lyrics that were easily understandable.

For example:

Sitting on a cornflake
Waiting for the van to come
Corporation tee shirt
Stupid bloody Tuesday
Man, you been a naughty boy
You let your face grow long
I am the eggman
They are the eggmen
I am the walrus
Goo goo g’ joob

I also present, for your review:

He wear no shoeshine, he’s got toe-jam football
He got monkey finger, he shoot Coca-Cola
He say, “I know you, you know me”
One thing I can tell you is you got to be free

So imagine (no pun intended), given that Jackaroo made such a huge impression on me when I was a kid, that I was pretty surprised when I saw that what I thought was :

Jackaroo, days.. .yeah.. Oh…

Is actually

Jai Guru Deva… Om

Yet, my brain insists that I must continue to sing “Jackaroo Days, Yeah.. oh..”

Nothing’s going to change my world… (or my brain, evidently)

Nothing’s going to change my world…

 

 

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.

We are all in this together

This sign was in Times Square in NYC and not 10 feet away from it, I heard a woman say “I am NOT your baby and you need to STOP TOUCHING ME.”

 

Currently, I’m taking a month away from Social Media. If you found this story because of a tweet or a Facebook post, it’s through the magic of WordPress’s “Publicize” feature. I had been contemplating taking a break for a few reasons but the one that pushed it over for me was the “Me Too” campaign.

I grow weary of internet campaigns. I know that a lot of folks needed to say “me too” because they needed to feel heard. I respect that…. I do… and I hear you.

What I also heard was a lot of man-bashing… and I understand that for some people, this is where they are in their place of healing.  But I don’t like it.  In my mind, people are individuals and to blame someone for being part of a demographic, goes against everything I feel is right and true.  Men have their own social conditioning to deal with as well.   It doesn’t change anything to lash out at anyone

I am not going to add my voice to the campaign, and before you start thinking its because I don’t know what sexual assault is, I’m going to correct you on that point right now. I have a deep and personal experience with sexual assault and those are all the details you get because my personal experience and growth does not need to be on display.  Voicing my experience to the world does not change anything for me. It only labels me a victim… which I am not.

People hurt people all the damn time.   I’m not sure that a hashtag campaign does much of anything except be an online circle jerk so we can all feel either good about ourselves for “taking a stand” or feel miserable together and wallow in how unfair life is.

I do recognize that for a lot of people, it helped them to feel that they are not alone. And for that I’m glad. .. and maybe it started some conversations… but what it did for me was to bring fear back into the forefront of my mind.

I spend a lot of time working hard to look at people as individuals.  Being bombarding by the Me Too’s brought my mind to a place of “us vs them”.  Gosh, this post feels all hurty and angry and choppy but I’m not really sure how else to get my point across.   I don’t think I’m doing a very good job.

Let’s try this.

LB and I just spent a weekend in NYC, where we had some great food, saw a few wonderful exhibits and stayed in one of our favorite hotels.   The ice machine, however is in the basement, as is the fitness room (not that I was working out hahaha .. nope.  But I need to share that info to make a point in a moment).  You can get to the lobby and the basement without a room key.  Anything over the 2nd floor requires a room key in the elevator.

After a 3 hour train ride, I was ready for some ice water, so I hopped in the elevator on the 19th floor and rode it all the way down to basement.

I filled my bag full of ice and turned around and got back on the elevator.  I see two guys headed my way. One was slim and tall and in his 20’s and was wearing a long camouflage jacket and the other was probably 50- ish, broad shouldered in T-shirt and jeans and both of them were a little unsteady on their feet.

My first thought was “they did not come from the fitness center” followed by “oh crap they are going to get on this elevator” and I was immediately afraid and frozen.  Maybe the door will close before they get here… oh shit, he put his arm out and stopped the door from closing…  UGH..  I should have held it for them, that was so rude.. but I really don’t want them on there…  Should I get off?  No, that would be rude… should I be rude? It’s probably better to be rude than be unsafe..

UGH why was I feeling like this?  I haven’t been this afraid in years!  I did the best I could manage and  I put on my “New York Attitude” on my face, put my back into the corner so neither of them could get behind me and tensed up, ready for whatever crap they might try.

Fifty, whispering to Twenty says “Hit the button!”   Twenty reaches out with one long, unsteady finger and struggles to hit the button for the 26th floor.

Honest to Pete, my first thought was “where is his room key!?  does he have a room key?  is he just riding elevators until he can grab someone?! ”

Fifty, a little louder now “Put the key!  Come on, man”

Twenty starts reaching through his pockets trying to find the key.

At this point, my fear is subsiding a bit and I say, in my toughest, deepest, most serious voice.  “it will probably work because I just had my key in there”

Fifty looks at me and says “Thank you.  We ….  we had a few beers” and I replied with “I see that”

Fifty looks at me again lifts his hands up, palms to me, fingers spread and says “We don’t want any trouble we are just trying to have a good time.  Okay?”

And then I really looked at these guys. I really took a good look at two, slightly buzzed, open faced, guys who had nothing scary or alarming about them other than they were tourists, lost in their own hotel, because they got a little buzz on.

I scared them.   They thought I was going to lose my shit and freak out.  And that’s when I got an idea of what it must be like to be two Latinos in a big city, in a small elevator with an obviously terrified white lady.

I relaxed. I took a look at Twenty, with his sweet, silly face.  He say’s “We’re from California” and I said “Really, where abouts?”

And we spent the next 10 floors talking about San Francisco.

My point, gentle readers, is that we all have things to fear.   That elevator ride reminded me to see people as individuals. I am convinced that before reading “me too, me too, me too” over and over, I would have seen these two guys for who they were.

Sure, suffering can divide us into the perpetrator and the victim, the powerful and the powerless, but it can awaken and unite us, too. In fact, it must. ~ Karen Maezen Miller from “You Too”

Does that mean we shouldn’t be aware, be vigilant and be smart? Of course it doesn’t.  But we don’t need feel like we are victims. We don’t need to wallow in the “unfairness” of it.   We should be concerned that rape culture exists. That women are treated like less than. That people of color are still not seen as equals.

We need to find ways to change it. I’m not convinced that a hashtag will do that.

 

 

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.

Cinnamon Apple Twist Bread

Did you know that King Arthur Flour does a Bake Along every month?

Me either!

I stumbled upon it on Instagram and I was like well, I know I have to fit back into my shorts for December (headed to Florida for week) but dammit.. I wanted to make this Cinnamon Apple Twist Bread.

You can find the recipe here at this link.

But of course, I didn’t make it that way because I didn’t have two of the ingredients in the house (instant yeast and potato flour) but that didn’t stop me.

 

I used the active dry yeast in the same amount as the instant yeast, knowing that it might need a little more time to rise as the yeast hydrated and I used all white flour instead of using part potato flour. The potato flour would have added a bit more tenderness. But we still enjoyed it a lot!

Also, next time I would chop the apples instead of grating them in my food processor. They looked like.. well.. squiggly worms and it freaked me out a bit.  Also, I think because I used Penzey’s Double Vanilla, the amount of vanilla in the icing was excessive. I ended up remaking it with just a tiny bit of vanilla.

I was really please with how the loaves came out so I posted my pictures to Twitter and was pretty stoked to get this response from King Arthur Flour

I am excited to see what October’s bake along is, even though the struggle to button my pants is real.