Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Musical Memories, a Reunion, and a Tribute

For once I will not be writing of knitting, running, books, recipes, or some cool math-related topic. For most of you that read this blog, you probably know nothing about my musical side. For all that knew me prior to teaching and knitting, they know me primarily as a musician. Music has always been the most integral part of my life and a major descriptor of my being. This weekend I get the opportunity to reunite and celebrate with many of my fellow musicians as we come together for a choral event at my old high school. We will be celebrating decades of service to the local musical and theatrical arts by Mr. and Mrs. B and supporting the funding for a community performing arts center that has long been a dream of theirs. The arts center will be located in Old Hilliard where the old silos, longtime familiar landmarks, used to be. This tribute concert will feature alumni who have made it on Broadway and off-Broadway. I look forward to seeing many familiar faces and songs from the past up there on stage on Saturday!

For those arriving into town early, we are all meeting on Friday night to join up with the monthly alumni meetup. I don't know about anyone else's frame of mind going into this weekend. Are they feeling a mixture of happiness twinged with underlying sadness as I am? You see, it will be a celebration ...and, though no one may directly address it, it will also be a goodbye. My heart is heavy just thinking about it. The timing of this event is sensitive and meant to celebrate life while Mr. B. is still around. I have been told that he has Stage 4 lung cancer and am not certain of his present condition.

For those who don't know, besides playing the flute and, much later, alto horn, I was primarily a piano accompanist for choirs and instrumental soloists throughout my childhood and into college. There were children's church choirs, middle school choirs, 9th grade choir, and finally Senior Choir and Madrigals - a traveling choral group. I got to sing occasionally, too, when it was something a cappella or when I chose to be in the chorus or snag a bit part rather than play in the pit orchestra for the high school musicals. But, mostly I sat at the piano while Mr. B directed the Senior Choir and Madrigals. I remember his coffee-and-cigarettes breath from being in close proximity as we went over vocal parts and how he could quickly - amazingly quickly - put a person in his or her place during practice with his high expectations and zero tolerance for immaturity. His sharp-witted and sometimes humor-laced sarcasm would cut you to the quick, and deservedly so. He demanded and commanded respect. But, I also remember his reverence for the beauty and sacred nature of choral music. That respect and love for achingly beautiful music was contagious, and, just for one period during the school day, we would quit goofing off, forget what cliques everyone belonged to, and seriously strive to achieve something meaningful together. I remember how there were not just music kids in the choir; there were jocks, nerds, many of the coolest kids in school, and several who weren't a part of anything else in school but who absolutely loved choir. Mr. B, though temperamental as all get out at times, attracted ALL the kids. Everyone wanted to be a part of Senior Choir.

Mr. and Mrs. B put on a spring musical each year, and they also co-directed summer community musicals which brought back many talented and loyal alumni. Once or twice I played in the pit orchestra for those summer shows. That was definitely not as fun as being part of the chorus, but it was still a unique and memorable experience (playing in a hole in the ground where you can't see the audience!). I loved that there was always a good turnout of alumni each summer. However, my favorite performance memories are of the spring musicals. We put on Anything Goes, in which I had a minor part as one of the angels with singing, dancing, and maybe two lines; I got to be a nun and briefly lead off The Sound of Music in Latin (in the dark and unseen, but who cares, it was exciting!); we had an extremely talented senior play Tevye for Fiddler On The Roof. I so loved singing alto in the chorus on Sabbath Prayer and sneaking into the back of the dark auditorium during rehearsals to hear Jess sing as Tevye. He also played Harold Hill in The Music Man the previous year. We had so much fun doing musicals that immediately following their close most of us went through a minor depression from missing the camaraderie, joy, intensity, and fun of it all. Mr. B was the musical director while Mrs. B was the theatrical director. Quite a team, those two! The assistant choir director and technical theater director for all those years under Mr. and Mrs. B will both be leading the tribute concert.

Most competitive high school marching bands go to or hold band camp. With choirs it is less common, but we did it. Every summer we would go to Hocking Hills and stay at a horse camp that had large cabins up in the woods, a lake, and a mess hall that acted as our practice room between meals. Since my high school band didn't go away for band camp, choir camp was the only opportunity for me to do camp away from home. During that week, we would get to know each well, have loads of fun, and get a head start on the music we would be singing in the fall. Besides meeting and making good friends there, I will never forget the last night of camp. Throughout the last full day there, alumni would show up one by one. Following dinner we would put on an informal concert for them under their unwavering and appraising gaze. To close the evening, we would circle up and join hands, young and old, to sing what we always sang a cappella at the end of any concert: The Lord Bless You And Keep You.

When the tribute concert comes to a close on Saturday night with many old musician friends in attendance, I am certain, even with no knowledge of the program, that we will end it with The Lord Bless You And Keep You, and I can guarantee that there will not be a dry eye in the house. I found the version we sing on YouTube. If you watch the video below and see the alumni surrounding the audience, then you might get a feeling of how meaningful this will be for us on Saturday since we'll be singing it for the very people who began this tradition and created many wonderful and lasting memories at our high school.

ETA: Oh my goodness! How could I forget that it was Mr. and Mrs. B who took the Madrigals on a trip to New York City?! If it weren't for them, I would never have experienced Cats, Central Park, the World Trade Center, etc. I HAD to get back on here and mention that NYC trip owning a place among my many fond memories of being in choir.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Running Shoe Shopping

kicks2012.side by jmfknits
kicks2012.side, a photo by jmfknits on Flickr.

My new (same old model) running shoes! Kinvara 2's :-)

Nothing that I tried on compared to these. They are just too awesome.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

What's For Dinner: Chicken Quesadillas

This is the second time I've made this black bean quesadillas recipe by Budget Bytes. It's so good! I like to add diced grilled chicken and use less red onion than indicated. The sweetness of the corn blended with all the other ingredients is the key ingredient for me. Check it out, I took pics this time. My favorite is the last one. Sidenote: I actually didn't mind the whole wheat tortillas! Then again they were toasted ;-)

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Mockingjay Socks WIP Pic

Since I'm clearly on a roll with blogging tonight, here's a pic of my current socks on the needles :-) They're the Darjeeling socks by Cat Bordhi from The Knitter's Book of Socks (Clara Parkes, author). They're toe-up with the center cast-on stitches bordered by the toe increases. The stitch pattern is simple yet exquisite and slimming, a vertical line running up the center flanked by spaced purl ridges. Notice that the center vertical strip is a continuation of the centered cast-on stitches. A very pleasing knit so far! The upcoming gusset will be underneath the foot - never have done it that way before. That should be interesting! I named these Mockingjay Socks since I'm in the midst of reading The Hunger Games Trilogy, I just saw the movie, and the yarn (Knit Picks Stroll Tonal in Foliage, colorway no longer available) suggests a flaming mockingjay (to me!).

Twisted Interlock Bind Off

In doing a test knit of my Mockingjay illusion knitting chart, I experimented with my bind off to match my cast on. My cast on was done in two colors using the Old Norwegian (aka German Twisted) Cast On with purple as the base and green as the working yarn. It's basically Long Tail Cast On with an extra twist of the thumbloop. On the last row before binding off my knitting, I knit across in green (In hindsight, yes, I could have also worked back an extra row on the wrong side in purl. But, this was a test knit, so I wasn't really going for perfection.). Then, following Jeny Staiman's directions for doing her Interlock Bind Off (Knitty linkRavelry link) for stockinette stitch, I added just one simple element: I twisted each loop to the right (a half turn) before inserting the yarn needle through its front. Here are pictures of each end of my knitting. Hopefully that bottom picture is clear enough to compare.

Hunger Games Mockingjay Illusion Chart Project

Inspired by recently reading the books (almost done with book 3), seeing the movie, and by a new multi-colored Dishie yarn from Knit Picks, I took to learning all about illusion knitting from the Woolly Thoughts illusion knitting site. Using Inkscape, which is free and open source, I followed Woolly Knits' directions on how to create an illusion chart using the mockingjay symbol. After posting it on Ravelry yesterday, my friend Karen and I pulled out scrap cotton yarn and did a quick test knit. Here are my pics (below). Note: there are two Ravelry projects with separate notes for each; one project is the test knit (purple and green) and the other is for when my Knit Picks yarn order in flaming orange and black arrives :-) I plan on fine-tuning/editing/shrinking this chart. Thank you Karen for graciously and voluntarily testing this chart! You're such a dear knitting comrade and friend :-) Pic 1 is supposed to match the original symbol. Pic 2 is rotated. Pic 3 is a a straight-on shot that amazingly shows a hint of the mockingjay if you look closely. Pic 4 is of the wrong side of the knitting which shows a negative of the front. What a fun project! Future plans for this chart: a Mockingjay birthday gift for my SIL who suggested the Hunger Games trilogy when she and my little brother got me a Kindle gift card last summer...

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

February 2012 Update: What I've Been Up To Lately

If your know me well, you know that I love trying new recipes. I have my tried and true dishes, and then I like to experiment, too, to spice things up. Many new recipes I've tried recently have been tasty, but tonight's was a keeper! Budget Bytes' Hearty Black Bean Quesadillas were easy to fix, and I only made a few modifications. Ingredients: black beans, corn, red onion, garlic, cilantro, taco seasoning, shredded cheese, tortillas. The flavor combination of the beans and corn were what scored high points for me. I pared down the amounts of cilantro, red onion, and taco seasoning and just eyed it. After mixing everything together and measuring out 1/2 cup of filling per tortilla, I made sure to spray the skillet with cooking spray. Before turning the folded tortilla, I lightly sprayed the top/uncooked side. (My pans are old and require a bit of extra help.) The filling mixture makes 10 quesadillas just like the recipe says, so we had 6 remaining quesadillas to cool and then freeze for later. Next up this week: Italian crockpot meatloaf (with sundried tomatoes!), crockpot sweet potato chili, and the recipe mentioned next.

Another awesome recipe that I discovered recently comes from an e-cookbook. For obvious reasons, I can't re-post it here, but I will say that making French Dip Roast Beef sandwiches using a crockpot with a few simple ingredients makes for some great comfort food when served on toasted sourdough dinner rolls with provolone and banana peppers. Yum!
Correction: this recipe is from online, not an e-book. Here ya go:  http://bakingbites.com/2008/02/slow-cooker-french-dip-sandwich/. You're welcome!

Lately I've been spreading myself thin reading several different books and such. Due to the number of books I'm reading, it feels like I never make progress! Some of my more recent book are borrowed digitally from the library, all five of them knitting e-books. Mastering Color Knitting by Melissa Leapman, The Knitting Answer Book by Margaret Radcliffe, and three others. Besides those, I'm (still) reading Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes and The Terror (this one in paperback, a present from a brother) by Dan Simmons. In addition to books, I've been regularly downloading a knitting periodical I set up in Calibre to my Kindle that reads selected knitting blogs like an e-reader newspaper. This works great for blogs that don't open all the way in Google Reader (like Yarn Harlot or Knitting to Stay Sane). I also regularly follow an Italian language/culture blog meant for English-speaking people in the U.S. One of the latest posts on the difference in customs of how to make tea was truly a humorous read. Supposedly, Italians brew tea in the same large pots used to boil pasta!

In knitting news, I've been re-organizing my Ravelry queue and creating PDFs and/or Kindle books of sock patterns to pair with my sock yarn. I'd already done this before, but now I've made a few deletions and additions to my queue. At the top of my list are two patterns: Darjeeling by Cat Bordhi and Achilles Heal by Lucia Light. For the former I'll use Stroll Tonal in Foliage, and for the latter I'll use Stroll Handpainted in Hayride.

My current projects are two pairs of socks and weaving in the ends of a summer top. With the mild winter we've been having, I might need that top sooner than expected! Marie's Double Heelix socks are finally receiving attention again. I'm close to finishing one sock and beginning the next - woohoo!

In tv/Netflix news, I'm so sad to see the end of Season 2 of Downton Abbey - such a great show! I guess I'll be watching The Amazing Race now... On Netflix I happened upon a cute caper called Wild Target. It stars Bill Nighy (Love Actually), Emily Blunt, Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley from Harry Potter), Rupert Everett (My Best Friend's Wedding), and Martin Freeman (Sherlock, The Hobbit). I love silly, romantic, fun movies like this. I would categorize it stylistically along with French Kiss, a movie starring Kevin Kline and Meg Ryan. Not Oscar material, but enjoyable nonetheless.

In running news, I'm training for the Cap City Half Marathon (May 5), my 4th half!

Monday, January 09, 2012

My Fun New eReader Travel Bag!

My Giraffes Can Dance Borsa Bella eReader Travel Bag arrived in the mail today :-D The main and front pocket are padded, so no more worries about managing Ian while carrying my Kindle. It's so cute, check it out:

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