Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Few Good Quotes

I read all the time: first thing in the morning along with that first cup of coffee, now and then during the day taking a little time off from active working, and most evenings.  Reading takes me out of myself and removes me from my worries and cares.  It's my "sleeping pill" at night before I go to bed.  So I read two or three books each week, mostly novels, once in a while a good book about food (Michael Pollan is a favourite author) or some other interesting topic (Gerard Diamond or Margaret Visser).

Recently I read a Stephen King book, 11/22/63 and it really struck a chord with me.  That was the date, of course, on which JFK was assassinated.  The story of book takes place in two time frames, the present, and the past beginning on September 9, 1958, and involves time travel between those two eras.

Now that really grabbed me!  I've often pondered time travel, but always to the past.  I've never had the desire to travel into the future.  Life goes by quickly enough!  But that particular time he chose, September 9, 1958, was particularly meaningful to me because that was the week that I started college. Would I like to find a "rabbit hole" to go back to that time?!!!  Kill me with nostalgia!

So here are a few quotes from 11/22/63 that really grabbed me: page 157 "In America, where surface has always passed for substance...."  Don't get all thorny at me for liking that.  I'm allowed that opinion because I am an American citizen, born in the U.S.A., and grew up in New Jersey and Michigan.  I've lived in Canada since 1967 except for a 4 1/2 year span spent in Oregon in the late 70's, early 80's.  I think his comment is a fair criticism of American society, but I also think, because we find this to be true every time we go to the States, that there are many, many good and wonderful people there!

Another quote from that book: page 234 "Eat that, Elmore....There are cats starving in China...."  (Elmore is his cat.)  I laughed out loud when I read that, because I can remember sitting at the kitchen table as a child being told "There are children starving in China..." as an incentive to eat something that I'd rather leave on my plate.

And a third quote: page 517 "And seemingly from nowhere, the way crossword puzzle answers sometimes come to me, I remembered the name."  That is exactly the reason that crossword puzzles appeal to me: that nifty feeling of a word floating up to consciousness, sometimes a word that I didn't even know I knew, a word that came from the periphery of my mind, deposited there without me even knowing it.

That, by the way is another of my reading interests: how the mind works.  One of the best books I've read on that subject is The Brain That Changes Itself by Dr. Norman Doidge.  Fascinating!

And now from a book that I just finished this morning, Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos, page 65, "Bach fugues....Music so complicated you could hear the math in it."  Yes, music so structured that it satisfies the mind at the same time it fills the soul!

Once in a while you read something or someone says something that is exactly in tune with your personal view.  Jim's niece's husband once remarked about a cup of vanilla ice cream that the best part was the spoonfuls of slightly melted slush around the edges.  Exactly!  But I didn't know that anyone else thought that!

Saturday, May 25, 2013


 Last night my friend Jan and I went to the local amateur musical theatre production of "Fiddler on the Roof."  It was excellent!  But then, we here in our small town have come to expect that.  Year after year we are treated to wonderful, high-quality performances.  My special treat this year was the actual fiddler on the roof, my most advanced violin student, who played beautifully, setting the mood at the beginning and helping the play along at two times during the action, and ending the play with the nostalgic last rendering of the "fiddler" theme.  It was a treat to hear her play, and so gratifying that she's reached that level.

It has been my pleasure and privilege to have her as a student these past two years, but now she has mastered all I have to give as a violin teacher and will be moving on next year to another teacher who can take her further along the path of accomplishment.  Congratulations, M.!  I'm so proud of you!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Last Concert

Since we moved here to our small town almost fourteen years ago I have been involved in dozens of concerts.  Just two months after we arrived I played in the orchestra of a local production of Handel's "Messiah."  I was thrilled to live in a small, rural town where that was possible.

Following that I was part of many wonderful productions in the "Masterworks" Series, ranging from Mozart's "Requiem" to a musical theatre presentation of "Oliver!"  For some years I functioned as the orchestra manager for the local college.

When the college eliminated their music department I organized a series of concerts with a string group which we called "The Atrium Players."  We presented three concerts per year for three years in a row.  Unfortunately, many of our good string players moved away to pursue other activities.  Some of the high school students moved away to attend university.  A teacher moved to another area to take up a new teaching post.  College students graduated and left to start a career.  For the last concert that the group gave I was reduced to begging two young players not to desert the group with only one more rehearsal before our concert.  That more or less finished me in terms of organizing concerts.

There had been, for many years, a very small student group at the local music school, and I attended many of their rehearsals, just as a helper, first on violin, and then the last few years on viola.  It was fun, but it was also a little sad in comparison with my first years here when the "Masterworks" series presented truly classic programs with great depth.

These past two years I have been teaching violin at the local music school, filling in for a teacher who took a post overseas.  Part of that teaching involved conducting the small student group, called The Wildrose Strings.

The first year I was conducting them we enjoyed the addition of two cellists and a string bass player to our basic complement of violinists.  This second year we lost two good violin players, a viola player, a beginning cello player and the string bassist.  We retained one of the cellists, picked up another quite young student on cello.  Later a local woman joined the group as a helper, someone who is advanced on cello.  In addition we have nine violinists (varying in age from eleven years old to middle aged moms) five of whom (not the moms) had had no experience playing in a string group.

When we first met last fall I was, how can I put this?,  crestfallen at our big step backwards in terms of how well we played!  But the group is, after all, meant to be a learning experience, and so together we learned.  We started our rehearsals with a "repertory class" in which a few of them performed solos for the others.  This was meant to give them experience performing in a non-threatening situation.  Then we did some ear training, identifying intervals and attempting to play back melodies.  We followed that with some sight reading of simple music, and then we worked on music for performance.

Our first big performance was at the end of November when we were part of the annual "Community Christmas Program."  We gave a creditable performance.

In the new year we continued to learn music and especially to work on achieving "ensemble"--the ability of a music group to listen to each other and coordinate to produce a good blended sound.

We gave a few other performances, for example, a Christmas concert for family and friends; two  performances at seniors' facilities, and we entered the local Music Festival in March.  Just this past Wednesday, we ended our year with a gala concert for family and community.  The concert this past week was our last performance together.  I'm retiring in June and they will, hopefully, have another teacher next year.

This last concert, our "Gala Performance," was an astonishing achievement!!!  The distance they have come from last September is mind boggling!  Here's a copy of the program:

Brandenburg Concerto #5,                                            J. S. Bach
     first movement (abridged)  
Three German Dances                                                  Joseph Haydn
Fantasia on "Dulcimer"                                                Glenn Spring
Slavonic Dances, #1 and #8                                         A. Dvorak
Ancient Dances and Airs, Balletto                                O. Respighi
Suite from Simple Strings                                             Patrick Hawes
         (four movements)
Bluegrass Country                                                        Carold Nunez
Tango                                                                           I. Albeniz
William Tell, Finale from the Overture                        G. Rossini
Swallow Tail   (An Irish Jig)

There were also two solos by students and one duet.

Those in the audience who have attended most of our concerts were unanimous in their surprised praise of the performance.  I was totally pleased and gratified.  I'm so thankful and happy to end on that high note.  It's been a lot of hard work, for all of us, but it has also been a wonderful, uplifting experience.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Fun Little Project

 Last week while I was sweeping the dirt and leaves out of the Sales Building I had a good look at this little old wooden chair that sat beside the door, just in case someone needed a little break.  It looked pretty worn and sad.  A quick paint job would spiff it up considerably!

So I took it into the kitchen, gave it a good clean up with some warm water and t.s.p.  While it dried I went downstairs to look over the odds 'n ends of paint.  I had a nice blue and a bright orange in mind.

The blue was one of three I used in the downstairs bathroom, and it filled the bill nicely.  The orange turned out to be a pale orangey beige, not "sparky" enough at all!  So back downstairs and look some more.

Well, this green, one of three from our bedroom, will look good enough.  The "redo" was complete in no time, and the result is a fun looking, clean little chair to welcome a tired shopper.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

They're Back!

Mr. and Mrs. Mallard are back!

A few years ago this pair of mallards raised 12 little ducklings on our little landscape pond.  You can see the brood they raised in a blog post on June 2, 2010.

In the time since I've glimpsed them occasionally, but this year they are back, strutting around the front landscape staking out their territory.

I think they are fierce enough to keep Dickens at bay and defend their nest.  I'm hoping to see a clutch of fuzzy yellow ducklings sometime soon.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


I don't do much mending.  Do you know anyone who does?  Mostly if our clothes get holes in them we just dump them in the trash.  But occasionally there is an item that is worth saving for at least another few months of wear.

This sweater of Jim's falls in that category.  It's a lovely 100% wool hand knit that I made for him in 1991.  This past week the right elbow wore through.

Two years ago I reknit the bottom ribbing to tighten it up, and also knit new cuffs for the sleeves.  That was possible because I still had a wee bit of yarn from the original project.  The cuffs used all of that.

So when I wanted to fix the right elbow I looked around for something suitable.  This dark brown was maybe the best I could do.

I picked up 17 stitches quite a few rows beneath the hole and started knitting.  At the beginning and end of every knit row I picked up one leg of the stitch on the sleeve and knit it with the first or last stitch on the patch row.  That meant the bottom and the sides of the patch were part of the sweater now.

When I got to the top, far enough above the hole I did a sort of Kitchener stitch to finish it off.  I cut a fairly long tail of yarn and threaded it though a yarn needle--the needle with a blunt point used to sew knitted garments together by hand.  First it went purl wise through the first stitch on the patch needle.  Then I threaded it behind the loop of the sleeve stitch, brought it back to the first stitch and inserted it knit wise, sliding that first stitch off the needle.  This was repeated with each stitch on the patch needle: Purl wise in the patch, from right to left behind the loop of the sleeve stitch, then knit wise through the patch stitch.  It makes it look as if the patch is knitted right back into the sleeve at the top.

This sweater has been in the category of work clothes, not dress clothes, for some time now.  I'm just sorry I couldn't find a better match, colour wise, but this will do fine as a remedy for the time being.

Sunday, May 5, 2013


Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, bananas, yellow mangoes.

What a wonderful way to start a day!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

One of Life's Pleasures

High on my list of favourite things is a treat we just enjoyed: a slice of homemade whole wheat bread, still warm from the oven.  Spread a little butter and a good dollop of homemade raspberry jam, and see if you don't come back for a second slice!  I've found that if I make the dough immediately after grinding the wheat I can use 75% whole wheat flour and the bread still turns out nice and light.  
I make the dough in a bread maker, but use only the dough cycle.  When the dough is ready I take it out, slice the dough in half and weigh each half to make sure they are equal.  I roll the dough out on a pastry sheet with a rolling pin, roll it up by hand and put it in the loaf pans, lined with parchment paper.

Here's the recipe: 
12 oz. warm water 
1 egg
3 TBS canola oil
3 cups whole wheat flour, freshly milled
1 cup of Robin Hood best for bread flour, white
2 TBS sugar
1 tsp salt
3 TBS flax seed, partially ground (in a surplus coffee grinder, used only for this purpose)
2 TBS gluten flour (helps raise the dough)
2 tsp Quick Rise Yeast

This is the order the ingredients go into my bread maker, a Zojirushi.  Process on the Dough Cycle (45 minutes).  Divide into two, shape, oil and let rise in two standard loaf pans.  When high enough, bake for 30 minutes in a 350 oven.

I bought the rather expensive Zojirushi because it had a loaf shaped pan and two paddles, but after baking my first loaf in it, I reverted back to this method of using the bread maker only for the dough.  That means I could have bought a much cheaper bread maker and been happy with it!                                                                               

Thursday, May 2, 2013


Socks always seem kind of miraculous.  You have a ball or two of yarn and some little sticks.  You perform some manipulations with the sticks and yarn and socks appear!  In this case the sticks are literally sticks: these are bamboo needles.

This is the first time I've used bamboo for knitting socks, and I'm finding I prefer the other needles, which are plastic.  Some day I would like to have a set of "KnitPick" needles, or Addi Turbos to make socks.  They are supposed to be very slick, making for fast knitting.

When I'm knitting I don't try to hurry.  It's like eating a good slice of pie--you want to enjoy it, not hurry through.

Yesterday evening for the first time this spring I heard the frogs singing in the dugout, totally engrossed in their annual urge to procreate.  The frog chorus in the spring is always so enjoyable.  I like to (meanly) throw a stone into the dugout.  Sudden silence!  Until finally one frog can stand it no longer and is the first to start advertising himself.  CHOOSE ME!!! CHOOSE ME!!!

Also yesterday our garden centre helpers planted strawberries, filling one of the raised beds in our garden.  This morning at 6 a.m. there were four deer feasting on the new plants!  I raised a ruckus and they left.  We have to cover the beds with our big screens to protect our tender new plants from these deer raids.  One neighbour told us that he leaves a radio on all night in the garden and that keeps the deer away.  We'll try it, but it is about number twelve in the suggestions I've heard about how to keep deer out of the garden.  The best bet is still a dog who will chase them away.  The little spaniel mix we used to have (until she died about three years ago) was scared of deer and overly fond of greeting anyone who showed up.  She was no use at all for protecting anything!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

First Outdoor Drying Day

It's always a kind of celebration when the first day that it's possible to dry our laundry outdoors finally arrives!  In spite of waking to a low of -11ÂșC this morning, I figured this was the day I'd been waiting for.  So the first load of laundry is out there flapping in the breeze.

But WOW, were my fingers numb with cold when I finished!  I hope the day warms up before it's time to take this load down and hang up the next load!