Thursday, May 25, 2017

Bouzouki at Band Practice

Yesterday evening I went to band practice as usual with my trusty mandolin, and since my bandmates are always asking me to bring one of the more exotic instruments, I brought the bouzouki too. They thought it was so cute, and one said it looked like the “little brother” of the mandolin, but since I think of my instruments as feminine, I prefer to consider it Mandy’s little sister. After we had gotten warmed up, I suggested we play something in D so I could easily use the bouzouki. We decided the klezmer music, which is in D minor, might work well – and it worked beautifully! The bouzouki has a little more exotic of a sound than the mandolin, and I could easily figure out the three chords I needed for the song (D minor, A, and G minor). I was playing along happily when suddenly we heard a snap, and the high D in the lower course went slack. I thought it must have broken, especially since I couldn’t easily get it to tighten up again. The strings came with the instrument when Travalon bought it at an antiques store, and who knows how old they are? However, once I got home and had more time to mess with the string, I found that it had just slipped, not broken. I retuned the bouzouki and practiced on it for my 100 Day Challenge, and then I practiced the mountain dulcimer and the balalaika. I can already see some improvement, and that was only Day 3 of the challenge. Imagine how good I might sound at Day 100 if I can actually keep this up!

Famous Hat

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Pictures of Spring

As promised, here are some more photos. Many of these are of my favorite month - May! The first one is the balalaika Travalon got me for our wedding anniversary earlier this month.

Most of these flowers were blooming in May, although some were from April:



Tulip that looks like a trillium

Crabapple tree

Anniversary picture!



Dogwood tree

Here are the creations Mamastep and I produced at Fired Up in April. She painted this VW Bug and made two pendants.

I painted this little hedgehog and made three pendants.

Famous Hat

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The 100 Day Challenge

I suppose many of the people (like there are that many) who read this blog have already seen my posts on social media, but why not put them here too? First is a photo of Richard Bonomo's "maximum fat" hot chocolate - with sprinkles!

And here is a beautiful orchid cactus we saw at the Olbrich Gardens conservatory:

Tomorrow I will try to post more photos. This post is about the 100 Day Challenge, something I remember hearing about where you post a video of yourself doing something not so well, and then you practice for 100 days and post a second video. Since I have all these instruments lying around, I am doing the 100 Day Challenge for three of them. First is the mountain dulcimer, and my attempt to play "Amazing Grace":


Next is my attempt to play a Russian folk tune called "Troika" on my new balalaika:


And finally, my attempt to play a piece of rebetiko music (sorry, I don't know the title) on the bouzouki. This is the piece I learned for Cecil Markovitch's birthday party.


Check back in 100 days to see if I have made any progress! That should be on or around the 30th of August.

Famous Hat

Monday, May 22, 2017

Beercation and Pa Hat's Birthday

I hope my readers had a good weekend, despite the lousy weather. Of course it was lovely before I had out of town guests, and today it is not bad out, but when everyone was visiting it was cold and wet. We still had a lot of fun anyway. My beer-loving aunt and uncle from Denver wanted to check out the Madtown brewing scene, so they came to town Thursday evening, along with Ma and Pa Hat from Minnesota. Travalon and I decided to bring them to Karben4 for dinner and beer sampling, but unfortunately it was too cold to enjoy their wonderful patio area like Travalon and I did with Rodney during Craft Beer Week. The Denver crew like their beers hoppier than Travalon does (he does not like IPAs at all), and while I don’t gravitate toward IPAs myself, I actually did enjoy all the beers.

Friday I had taken off of work, but Travalon had to work in the morning. I headed over to the hotel with my ukulele to jam with my uncle, who plays the flute. Since I am not that adept at jamming on the uke, we decided I should bring the mandolin the next day. Once Travalon got off of work, we went to Ale Asylum for lunch and a flight of their delicious beers. They even have Gail Ambrosius chocolates there, so we had some of those too. Our next stop was the Chocolaterian, so we could show off the Madtown craft chocolate scene some more. Everyone enjoyed the Parisian hot chocolate. We went to Olbrich and explored the conservatory, then we went into the gardens despite the cold weather, climbed the rose tower, and made our way to the Thai pavilion. In the evening we went to a Wisconsin fish fry with Irish overtones at Erin’s Snug Irish Pub. They have their own beer there, made by Leinenkugel’s.

Saturday my uncle and I jammed on the flute and mandolin in the morning as we all waited for my aunt and uncle from Chicago to arrive. Once they did, all eight of us went to Next Door Brewing for a flight of their tasty beers and lunch, including beer pie for dessert. My uncle from Denver loves New Glarus Brewing, so we drove down in two cars and got there not long before they closed. We had enough time to buy some beer and a fancy stein for my dad’s birthday the next day, then we went to an old tavern in town with murals depicting Switzerland on the walls. They actually had some New Glarus beers that the brewery shop had been out of, so we got some there too. We walked down the main street of the cute town, then we headed back to Madison and had dinner at Liliana’s, one of my favorite restaurants. Everyone seemed to really enjoy it, and my Denver relatives were very happy about their extensive vegetarian menu.

Yesterday we all met for brunch at Crema CafĂ©, and Rich joined us to celebrate Pa Hat’s birthday. He ordered “hot chocolate, maximum fat” and they even put sprinkles on the whipped cream! It looked so decadent, you would have thought he was the birthday boy! After we ate, we sang “Happy Birthday” to Pa Hat, and a bunch of innocent bystanders gamely joined in. Pa Hat liked his stein. My aunt from Chicago headed off to C’s Bakery to get some of their famous rhubarb treats, and everyone else also headed out, so Travalon and I went for a hike in the south part of Cherokee Marsh. Afterwards I found my fourth tick of the season – yuck! We ended the evening by watching Guardians of the Galaxy 2, which was even better than the first one. So it was a wonderful weekend from beginning to end.

Famous Hat

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Playing My Many Instruments

Lately in the evenings Travalon and I have been sitting on our screened-in porch, and he reads while I mess around on my various instruments. Yesterday I got really ambitious and played almost all of them, even Bubba Sue the mountain dulcimer. The evening before Travalon played along on his bass as I played the chords for “I Walk the Line” on the ukulele, since it was in the key of A so he just had to play the open strings A, D, and E at the appropriate times. My goal is to learn one song on each instrument so it won’t feel like a complete waste to own so many, although right now I can’t really do much with the rebec because it takes special gut strings, and the E string broke, so I have to find out where to get a replacement. Of course the instruments I can play the most songs on are still the violin and the mandolin. A coworker told me the other day that he knew someone who sold one of those old bowl-backed mandolins like mine for $1200. I have no idea if I could get $1200 for mine, and anyway, if I add up all the gig money I have made playing her, over the years it probably came out to more than $1200 (that would only be $75 per year, which is like three average gigs), so I have come out ahead by playing Mandy in public rather than selling her. Not that I would sell her anyway – she is a family heirloom, and one of my very dearest possessions. I love all my instruments, but if I had a favorite, she would probably be it. She is such a joy to play.

I probably won’t be blogging for the next few days, since my aunt and uncle from Colorado are coming to visit, as well as Ma and Pa Hat, so Travalon and I will be very busy entertaining them. We are going to explore the Madtown craft beer scene. 

Famous Hat

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Drumline Ridge Winery

I completely forgot to mention yesterday that after our hike in Cherokee Marsh, Travalon and I went to the new winery just down the road from us, Drumline Ridge. We got there ten minutes before they supposedly closed, but they were as friendly as could be. We each got a glass of white wine, and we split the local cheese platter. However, it was a tough choice between that and the European cheese platter. We sat outside, gazing out at the vines, and plenty of other people were out on the patio with us. They had $3 mimosas for Mother’s Day, but I really wanted to try their wine. The staff made absolutely no moves to kick us out, despite the late hour, and when we left the other people were still there. It was a laid-back atmosphere, and the wine was really good. I highly recommend this place!

Famous Hat

Monday, May 15, 2017

Cecil Markovitch's Big Birthday Party

I hope my readers had a good weekend. Thursday I went to the “big girl” ukulele jam again, but this time it seemed too hard, so at the break I gave up and sat out on the patio with Travalon and Hockey Girl, who had come to hear me. We had a great conversation about beauty in art. Friday Travalon and I joined Rich, A-Fooze, and her family at the Dorf Haus for a fish fry.

Saturday was an amazing day. Tomorrow Cecil Markovitch turns a big round number, so he wanted to have a big birthday pilgrimage. Travalon drove Jilly Moose, OK Cap, and me up to the shrine outside of Green Bay, while Cecil drove another car that included Cali, and the Single B-Boy drove a third car full of people. Of course I bought a couple more rosaries at the shrine, including a Fatima Centennial commemorative one. Then the three cars drove to Harrington Beach State Park, a beautiful park north of Milwaukee on the shores of Lake Michigan with a small lake in it formed in an abandoned limestone quarry. There was a path around the small lake, so Travalon, Jilly Moose, and I hiked around it while almost everyone else hung out on the beach of the big (one might even say great!) lake. Then we drove to Milwaukee and went to Mass at the Basilica of St. Josephat’s, where we were joined by a bunch more people. After Mass they handed out holy cards for the Centennial of the Fatima apparition, since it was that day. Rich had picked up my balalaika, which had arrived while we weren’t there to get it, and he brought that along with the bouzouki Travalon had given me for Christmas a couple of years ago. I had learned one rebetiko song (that’s Greek folk music) from watching a YouTube video over and over, so I played that for Cecil on the bouzouki. Travalon and I also gave him socks that say “Worst gift ever” on them. We all walked across the street to the Serbian restaurant of Old Town, and Tiffy joined us there. Trinidad Cap brought his mother, who was visiting from Trinidad (of course), and I wonder what she thought of me carrying around a couple of crazy string instruments. It was such a fun party! My two favorite quotes were when one guy at my table said I have so many rosaries that I could pray the rosary using the rosaries (I love it! So meta! I may try it!) and when there was a dispute over whether A-Fooze or Trinidad Cap’s mother had come further for Cecil’s party, and the latter won the door prize (a solar activated waving Pope Francis figurine), A-Fooze said, “I’m never coming to your 60th birthday party again!”

Yesterday I skipped Mass, since I had gone last night, and Travalon and I went to visit his mother along with two of his brothers. We took her out for lunch after the other brothers left. Then he and I went for a hike at Cherokee Marsh, and we had a quiet evening at home eating pizza and risotto on the screened-in porch. I tuned up the balalaika according to instructions on the internet and attempted to play a song called “Troika” while Travalon read. There is a balalaika group in town, so there is hope that I may learn to play this instrument yet. I am not aware of a bouzouki group in town, but if anyone knows of anything, please let me know.

Famous Hat