Category Archives: music

Nashville: Music, Music, Knit!

Nashville. So much music. So. Much. Fun. There is so much musical talent in this town, both old and new, and so much respect for the history of it all. From the young people playing for tips at the honky tonk bars on Broadway hoping to be heard over the beer fueled partyers, to the old pros playing clubs like the Station Inn to a respectful audience who came for the music, to the Country Music Hall of Famers playing the Grand Ole Opry, showing us that they still have it. So wonderful.

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The Jones. We were pulled into Layla’s Bluegrass Inn on Broadway by the sound of their kickass rendition of “I’ll Fly Away” as we were walking by at midnight.

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John Jorgensen Bluegrass Band at the Station Inn. My reaction: “They look like math teachers!” Great music, fun show.

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Little Jimmy Dickens at the Opry, still singing at 94. Love the spangly suit.

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Nathan East playing bass with Vince Gill on guitar. A great story: It was Nathan’s first time playing at the Opry, and he confided to a friend that he was a bit nervous. Friend (whose name I didn’t quite catch) owns a suit that belonged to Carl Perkins. He offered up the suit for the show, and so here’s Nathan, wearing Carl Perkins’ suit, standing on that circle of flooring preserved from the Ryman Auditorium, playing at the Opry. The old and the new, so wonderful.

Nights were all about listening to music, and days were filled with more music-related activities. We toured the Ryman Auditorium (so much history!), the Country Music Hall of Fame, and Historic RCA Studio B.

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Windows at the Ryman

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For you fans of the TV show Nashville, the (teeny!) dresses that Hayden Panettiere and Connie Britton wore onstage at the Ryman.

onstage at the Ryman
I stood on the stage at the Ryman and played a single G chord. (It costs $10 for a pic, at which point you can also have your buddy take a pic for you. I liked this pic by DH better.)

Cool things at the Country Music Hall of Fame.

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My friends and I often sing “Turn Your Radio On” by the Blue Sky Boys, so I was thrilled to see this banner and mandolin.

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Webb Pierce’s Silver Dollar Bonneville convertible customized by Nudie Cohn of Nudie’s Rodeo Tailors. Six-shooter door handles, a saddle between the front seats, steer horns…

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Piano
The piano (Kimball?) that Priscilla Presley had refinished in gold, and gave to Elvis on their first anniversary.

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Taylor Swift’s first sparkle guitar, and the MacBook she used to edit her first video.

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DH outside the RCA Studio B, where the signature Nashville sound was developed. Elvis recorded many hits here. The sound in here is amazing, a perfectly acoustically dead room, no reverb. Everything is so perfectly clear. You can read more about it here.

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This is Floyd Cramer’s piano in Studio B, part of that Nashville sound. Elvis played it, too. And I touched it. It was the 37th anniversary of his passing, so I played a silent glissando in his memory.

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Music, old and new. Stephanie Layne was our guide for the studio tour. I chatted her up after the tour. She’s a singer-songwriter from Minnesota, and put out an album in 2012. Check out her music; you can find her on iTunes and more. I’m listening on Spotify right now. Stephanie was a great guide, too, and a wealth of information. Did you know that Dolly Parton wrote “I Will Always Love You”? Whitney Houston had a big hit with it, too. Dolly has earned over $25 million dollars in royalties from that song. Whoa.

What else? Well, this is a knitting blog, so here’s the knitting content. I met up with the delightful Ann Shayne of Mason-Dixon Knitting. We went to Pinewood Social for breakfast and knitting. (She’s knitting a Honey Cowl. I’m swatching for the next fun design.) We talked about knitting, making jam, Nashville, life…

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I had this amazing fried chicken biscuit, which was all that and so much MORE. I gave up after half.

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There’s a bowling alley at Pinewood Social, and along the wall there are these cans with fun printed labels in several colors, arranged in a mosaic. They are rearranged from time to time. I especially liked these.

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A very fun morning. A very fun long weekend. And my very fun souvenir:

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Right now I’m in Sisters, Oregon, for a trunk show and knitalong at the Stitchin’ Post, and the boots fit right in.

How was your weekend?

Adventures in jamming: fruit, pectin, music

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My friends gave me these beautiful yellow plums on Sunday, and I’ve been jamming up a storm. Both of these are ginger plum jam, with some chopped crystallized ginger added to the plummy goodness.

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The one on the right is my usual Sure-Jell pectin version. It requires an exact amount of sugar to set. It’s very sweet. The one on the left is my first experiment with Pomona’s pectin, which doesn’t require sugar to gel. The pectin is activated by calcium (included in the packet). I used less than half as much sugar in this second jam. It’s much more tart, and the plum and ginger flavors shine through. But why do these two look so different? I made the second jam with turbinado sugar, so it’s darker, and I don’t love how it looks. I went back to the drawing board (and picked more plums), and came up with this winner.

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Sunshine in a jar

It’s not as crystal clear/jewel-like as the Sure-Jell jam, but it has much less sugar, 4 1/2 cups of sugar for 8 cups of prepared fruit, instead of 8 cups of sugar for 6 cups of fruit. This is a little sweeter than the last version, per my family’s request. I like that I could add sugar until it tasted right. Pretty color. Delicious flavor. Nice texture. And I’ve run out of jars, so I’m done jamming for the season. Whew!

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Third time’s a charm

For reference for next year:

Ginger Plum Jam

8 cups prepared plums (pitted, not peeled, pulsed a bit in food processor)
4 1/2 C sugar
1/2 C lemon juice
1/4 C chopped crystallized ginger
8 tsp calcium water (from pectin package)
6 tsp Pomona’s pectin

Prepare and process per directions in pectin package.

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More jam? A couple weeks ago, we picked raspberries and made jam with this recipe I found last year. No added pectin, and an exquisite color and set.

Now I have a LOT of jam. I found this recipe for making jam ice cream a while ago. I haven’t tried it yet; I need to get out of the kitchen! But this may come in handy later.

I just picked the very last of my blueberry crop for this year. (Ring added for size reference. The bowl is only about 4 inches, and the berries are not so big in real life.)

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I don’t love blueberry jam, so I have gallons of berries stored in the freezer for (my signature) cobblers, pancakes, muffins, and compotes all year long. Eating them fresh off the blueberry bush is my favorite way to enjoy them. I’m going to savor these last few.

In a different kind of jamming, the Pie Birds (my friends Claudia and Becky and I) sang in church on Sunday. This is our version of the Wailin’ Jennys’ Bird Song. I’m the low harmony, and play one of the guitars. It is an absolute joy to sing with friends!

Snowy Woods Cowl

I’m madly knitting away, and about halfway done with two projects that are publishing soon. One is the re-worked Snowy Woods Cowl. Lorajean over at Knitted Wit is doing this custom color in her Aran weight yarn for me. Isn’t it gorgeous? And soft and bouncy to knit with, too. We’re planning a pattern launch sale and a KAL. Stay tuned!

How was your week?

Montreal, and knitting progress

Knitting away over here; I finished one project for a pattern I’ll be re-releasing soon, but I want to tweak it to add an additional size, so one more knit coming up. The smaller size was perfect airplane knitting.

snowy woods cowl 2

This is an update of the Snowy Woods cowl, which was released last winter as an exclusive for one of WoolGirl’s club kits.

snowy woods detail

So far I’ve changed this up with a fatter, smooshier yarn which means it can be knit with fewer repeats and be closer to the neck, and I also want to make a version that will double loop around the neck. The current yarn is Knitted Wit’s Superwash Merino Aran, a heavy worsted/light Aran bouncy round fun to knit delight. More on this soon.

Other yarn was delivered while I was on vacation, and I was knitting away madly on it, until I looked closely and said to myself, “clown barf.” It’s a fabulous variegated paired with a semi-solid, but the stitch pattern I chose isn’t bringing out the best in the variegated, so it’s back to the drawing board on that one. No worries; I have time and determination.

Vacation: We went to Montreal for six days, and had a blast! It’s almost like going to Europe, very charming, bilingual, and much closer. We stayed in the old part of Montreal, and it was lovely. Our hotel had this bronze outside, which is a smaller version of the one we know and love in DH’s home town of Clayton, Missouri. We felt right at home.

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Our hotel was near the Basilica of Notre Dame. The square in front of it always has something fun going on. There’s music at noon.

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We saw a gorgeous bridal party…

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And at night, Notre Dame’s windows glow blue.

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We happened to be there during Just for Laughs, a comedy festival. We also enjoyed the Festival des Nuits Afrique. Montreal has a short summer, and they seem to make the most of it! So many people walking around, enjoying the sunshine and the warm evenings.

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I don’t know if this police officer lost a bet, or if this is just part of his summer wardrobe.

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This troupe was offering mariages gratuits, free weddings. No one took them up on it.

I saw a rendition of a very Canadian song, Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, in a way I’d never heard it before. Sorry the sound isn’t very good; half the speakers weren’t working ’til later in the song. But I like the beat of this, in four instead of three.

There was a lot of good food, and wine.

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(Breakfast of champions. Or champignons.)

My food mission was to check out poutines. This one was from Au Pied du Cochon’s food truck at the festival. Poutine avec foie gras.

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And we had to try the poutine at McDonald’s, because, photo op. It was underwhelming, as far as poutine goes.

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But I learned that chicken McNuggets are Poulet McCroquettes, which made me laugh out loud. Really, doesn’t everything sound better in French?

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Whew! That was a big catch up. Back to my knitting. No more clown barf!

Over the Cascades, again

Last Friday I headed over the Cascades again, but this time in Oregon. It was a music getaway weekend with friends, but before everyone arrived, I had a trunk show at The Stitchin’ Post in Sisters.

Stitchin Post (photo by Sarah Peery)

We had a great time! It’s always fun to meet knitters in person, and see hand knits up close. The Stitchin’ Post is starting a KAL of my Garland shawl today, so I left a couple samples for the week.

On to music! My new guitar made her debut with my fellow Pie Birds, Claudia and Becky. We played and sang and laughed, a perfect weekend.

The kids dyed eggs while we played more music.

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And what does any good yarnie do with that leftover egg dye?

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Of course. I bought a skein of white yarn at the Stitchin’ Post. It’s Juniper Moon Farm Sabine, 30% Royal Llama, 30% Merino wool, and 40% cotton. I was hoping for all animal fiber, but this was luscious. I wound off yarn in approximately 25 yard hanks (around my arm, one uses the tools at hand!). We dip dyed it, squeezing out excess dye after each dip, and then microwaved the yarn for 2 minutes to set the color. A quick rinse after it cooled, and then dried overnight. I was going to wind it into balls after they dried, but decided to leave them as mini-skeins to preserve the color runs. Aren’t they sweet?

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On Sunday, Claudia and I walked along Whychus Creek. This creek has been restored, and was the subject of the Two Rivers, Three Sisters quilt exhibit that we saw in Portland last year. This panel was my favorite. (Just had to show you, because it took me a while to find this picture in my archives!)

Whychus quilt

Here it is in real life…

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Whychus Creek, near Sisters, Oregon

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On the way home, we stopped at Black Butte Ranch so I could get a proper picture of the mountains we saw while driving.

Mt. Washington Mt. Washington

image Three Sisters (Middle Sister is not visible from this viewpoint) and Belknap Crater in foreground

The sight of a snowcapped volcano always takes my breath away. Such beauty in this world, and we get to live in it. :sigh:

In knitting news, I’ve started my Aloha Shawlette for the KAL. It’s going pretty quickly!

aloha kal day 1

How was your weekend? And what are you knitting?

Crafty Moms 12.0, a guitar, and a Tauriel winner

Yes, the 12th annual Crafty Moms weekend! I looked back in my Shutterfly albums, and the very first crafty spring beach trip was in 2003. There were four of us moms then, and we took our 4th graders and our spouses with us. The next year we ditched the kids and spouses. The group has waxed and waned in the following years; this year we had 15 moms.

I love this time away so I can reconnect with friends, and also work intensively on projects. This year, I knit most of the second version of a shawl that will be published at the end of the month.

mimosa

I can’t really show you what it looks like, but here are several other things I’ve designed during past Crafty Moms weekends.

pacific
Pacific Shawl

breezy
Breezy Market Tote

2 way rockaway
Rockaway 2-way Beach Beanie/Cowl

I loved this group of young adults hanging out on the beach.

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It was a pretty rainy weekend, with a few sunbreaks.

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rainbow

lone seagull

I’ve done some songwriting on previous Crafty Moms weekends, too. Not this time, although I was hoping my new travel guitar would arrive before I left. Missed me by 4 hours! And I had too much knitting on deadline, anyway. But this is what I found when I got home.

Taki and Minnie

It’s the Limited Edition Holden Village Taylor GS Mini Guitar on the right. I’ve named her Minerva (Minnie for short), and she has a huge sound for such a little thing! The top is old-growth Engelmann Spruce from near Holden Village in the North Cascade Mountains in Washington. The trees were harvested as part of a mine remediation project that will clean up the creek there. Part of the proceeds from the sale of each of these guitars will go to El Porvenir and Living Waters for the World. El Porvenir has a special place in my heart since I worked on a service trip with them in Nicaragua in 2012. You can read more about the guitars here and here. The combination of a fundraiser for El Porvenir plus tonewood from Holden Village (a place I’ve never been, but a place that inspired Marty Haugen to write Holden Evening Prayer, a gorgeous piece of liturgical music that we’ve sung on Women’s Retreat and at church) pushed me to order this guitar.

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Larry Breedlove designed a beautiful 12th fret inlay that portrays water flowing from between two mountains. There’s a lot of inspiration in this little package, and a lot of win for everyone.

Speaking of win: We have a Tauriel winner. There were 195 comments, wow! The winner is Lynne Phelps; I have sent her an email to get her info to Bonne Marie. Thanks all, for reading and commenting. And I hope all the rest of you download and knit this wonderful pattern!

How was your weekend?

Recess 24/7 this weekend

I was going over my upcoming weekend with DH, and he turned to me and said, “Your life is like 24/7 recess!” Well, it is a pretty sweet extended weekend I’ve got lined up. Knitting, music, celebration…

Friday is the RCYC MKAL cast on party at Twisted, 5 to 8 p.m. Refreshments and prizes! Come knit with me!

MKAL banner

Saturday I’m teaching Tink Drop Frog, how to fix mistakes at Twisted, from 1-3. I love teaching this class; it’s very empowering to new-ish knitters. There’s still space in class, if you want to register.

My baby turns 21 on Saturday, too. Where did the time go?

Sunday I’m singing with my music besties (The Pie Birds, aka the Divas) in church. Monday, even more of us (The Day Old Pastries) are singing at this MLK Day Remembrance and lunch packing event. The NE Portland Backpack Program provides weekend lunch sacks for children at risk for hunger who don’t have the school lunch program on the weekend. During the 2012-2013 school year we are providing about 5,000 weekend lunch sacks (11,000 lunches) to 164 children at four locations. Come sing with us, and pack lunches with us! The event is free, but bring a can of chili to donate. We’ll be at Maranatha Church, NE 12th Ave between Skidmore and Mason in Portland, from 1-3 p.m. Details here.

MLK

Tuesday, the Thrumbelina KAL begins! Two more days to enter to win a copy of the Thrumbelina pattern. Check out the blog post for details.

And now the moment you’ve been waiting for: The winner of this lovely Knitted Wit single fingering yarn (silver lining and madge)

mkal yarn

is…Samantha from Eugene! Go check out her blog here. Congratulations, Samantha!

I hope you’re with me for part or all of this weekend fun, in person or via the interwebs! Looking forward to it all.

Weekend Rock Star

I had a stellar weekend. A friend asked me to accompany her to Ladies Rock Camp here in town. It’s a weekend day camp for women, and the tuition helps provide scholarships for Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls summer and after school programs. I had fun and did a good thing at the same time!

Campers have their choice of guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, or vocals. No experience necessary. On Friday you form a band with a variety of instrumentalists depending on what kind of music you’re interested in playing. There are two sessions of instrument instruction, a couple workshops, and the rest of the time is devoted to band practice. You write a song with your band, and perform it on Sunday. Quick work!

I wanted to do something that I might use in real life, so I opted for vocals. I wanted to improve my singing and presentation skills. Becky wanted to see if there was an inner rocker hiding behind her mandolin (they put her with the guitar class). She was in my band, and we liked her sound so much that she had emergency surgery for her mandolin on Saturday morning and had a pickup installed so we could amp her!

I’ve written a couple songs before, and I’ve had bits of lyrics running through my head for a song called “How Can I Miss You If You Won’t Go Away.” We took it and ran with it.

Here’s our band: She Let Her Sassy Out. Hannah on keyboards, Bobbi Sue on drums, Becky on electric mandolin, and me on vocals.

She Let Her Sassy Out

Are we having fun or what?

Sassy 2
(photo courtesy of Teri Untalan, my vocal coach)

The camp showcase was at Mississippi Studios, a local music venue. It was so cool having professional lighting, sound, and roadies. It is amazing how much you can accomplish over one intense weekend; all the bands sounded great! We had fun with “How Can I Miss You” (mp3 link here, if you’re interested). I may have to do this again next year…it’s for a good cause!

It was hard to go back to real life on Monday. But I’m back to knitting this little sweater for Lorajean’s baby girl, due in 8 days. Almost done!

In Threes

I have two design projects to work on, and I’m teaching at Twisted on Saturday. We’re doing entrelac in the round (my Athena Cowl), and blocking. Both classes are full, so we’ll probably do both of them again soon.

What’s up for your weekend?

Pinot and Piano…and stellar desserts

My home was filled with gorgeous music on Sunday evening. The sixth annual Pinot and Piano Fun-Raiser brought together three musicians, 16 guests, and wine and dessert. I don’t play my piano much these days, so it’s nice to hear it played by someone else. For this event, I’m in charge of the venue, a freshly tuned grand piano, and dessert.

We had two intermissions; the first one featured this simple dessert (regular wine glass shown for size reference):

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Mini blueberry cheesecake shooters. I adapted The Pioneer Woman’s Cherry Cheesecake Shooters recipe, and topped it with my blueberry compote using this summer’s blueberries from my yard. These mini wine tasting glasses hold just enough, and look fabulous. Full recipe at the bottom of this post.

The second intermission featured a buffet of chocolate chip shortbread, brownies, fruit salad, and one other sensational dessert, a flourless chocolate cake with chocolate glaze.

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I wanted a gluten-free option on the menu, but this cake is so good that the GF status is just a bonus. This was easy, elegant, and delicious. I used a 9 inch cake pan, because I didn’t have a 7 inch tart pan. I reduced the baking time to 19 minutes (start checking at 15) to compensate for the wider, shallower pan. The recipe says it serves six, but it would easily serve 12 as a single dessert. We cut 20 slices, since it was part of a dessert buffet.

The music for piano solo and duet, and piano and flute, ranged from Bach to Handel to Grieg to Mendelssohn to the Beatles.

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A lovely evening among friends.

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Mother/Daughter duet. And since this is a knitting blog, I’ll note that designer Chrissy Gardiner is the daughter. She has many talents!

Blueberry Cheesecake Shooters
adapted from the Pioneer Woman’s Cherry Cheesecake Shooters

Make the blueberry compote the night before, and refrigerate.

For the blueberry compote:
2.5 cups frozen blueberries, unthawed
1/3 C sugar
1/3 C water
1 T fresh squeezed lemon juice

Combine 1.5 C berries with the sugar and water in a medium saucepan. Simmer over medium heat, stirring often, until berries burst, about 10 minutes. Add remaining berries and lemon juice. Continue stirring; cook until compote thickens, about 8 minutes. Cool, then cover and refrigerate. Serve warm, room temperature, cold, whatever! You’ll have enough left over to top ice cream, or pancakes…

For the cheesecake (same day, or night before):
12 whole graham cracker rectangles
4 Tablespoons butter, melted
2 8 ounce packages cream cheese
1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 – 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (to taste)
1/4 cup sliced almonds

Pulse the graham crackers in a food processor, or place them in a resealable plastic bag and crush them with a rolling pin. Gradually add the melted butter and process or mix until crumbs begin to cling together. Spoon this “crust” into serving dishes: mini wine glasses, wine glasses, whatever you’d like.

Combine cream cheese,sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla extract in the bowl of an electric mixer. Whip until fluffy. Place mixture into a resealable plastic bag, cut off a corner and pipe mixture over graham cracker crumbs.

Spoon blueberry compote over the cheesecake mixture. Top with sliced almonds just before serving. Enjoy!

Yield: 12 servings in mini wine glasses, fewer if you’re using larger dishes. I used Libbey’s mini wine tasting glasses. They’d also be cute in little half cup canning jars.

Blues Roundup: music, skies, berries

Not much knitting here last weekend, but lots of music, and blueberries, too. The Waterfront Blues Festival ran from Thursday through Sunday, and the weather was perfect. Sunny and warm, but not hot. Portland knows how to throw a party! And it was for a good cause: The festival raised $1.3 million for the Oregon Food Bank, well in excess of their goal of $1 million, plus tons of canned food. (Admission most days is a suggested donation of $10 plus 2 cans of food.)

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The music was great all weekend. My favorites?

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Nikki HIll, a great big voice in a sassy package. Yes, those are sequined cowboys on her skirt, as well as sequined slide pumps on her feet.

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MarchFourth Marching Band, with stilt walker/dancer/acrobats! I think this is every band kid’s dream of a band afterlife. But even cooler and funkier.

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John Hiatt, an oldie but goodie. He’s written tons of stuff that others have sung, but I also like his own whiskey voice.

I don’t know that I’d classify all the music I heard as the blues, but the variety made the festival much more enjoyable. There was also a lot of zydeco music, which is always fun.

I missed Sunday, which featured Mavis Staples and Robert Plant. I was at the Oregon Zoo, enjoying the Go-Go’s and the B-52’s. Definitely a smaller venue than Waterfront Park, but still a sizeable crowd.

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Zoo concerts are great; you can picnic on the lawn before the show. Go with a group of friends, and it’s a potluck miracle. I made a blueberry cobbler, as requested.

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It’s great picnic fare, especially with a side of spray whipped cream. I’d prefer ice cream, but that doesn’t travel well.

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I’m coming to the end of my blueberry harvest. It’s my last chance to use my own berries for a blueberry cream pie in a gingersnap crust which requires fresh berries, so that was last night’s dessert.

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Lorajean saw my pie pic on Facebook, and then I saw her at Twisted when I was delivering patterns yesterday. She was hoping that the pie was for tonight’s knit nite, but sadly, no.

But I came home and did the last picking, and there are just enough berries to eke out one more pie. Let the rejoicing begin…

MLK Workday for Backpack Lunch Program

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The fifth annual MLK Remembrance and Work Day for the Northeast Portland Backpack Lunch Program is coming up on January 21. Last year’s event saw 160 volunteers packing 593 lunch sacks for needy children who are at risk of hunger on the weekends, when school lunches aren’t available. At two lunches per sack, that’s nearly 1200 lunches, all provided by donations and volunteer labor. This program is now serving children at three Northeast Portland schools and continues to grow. How many lunches will we pack this year? The 2013 event is Monday, January 21, from 1 to 3 p.m. at Woodlawn United Methodist Church, NE 15th and Dekum Street in Portland. All are welcome; there are activities for all ages. Come do a good deed, and have some fun, too.

The Day Old Pastries will again lead the music for a singalong opportunity during the short program that follows the lunch packing. Who are the Day Old Pastries? We’re a group of friends that get together to make music. We’re a little crusty, but fresh enough! We sing and play the guitar, and we’ve added mandolin and piano and some song writing, too. We have a lot of fun for a bunch of amateurs. If you look at the word amateur, you’ll notice that the root of the word is love; amateur musicians pursue music out of love for it. I won’t say we’re ever perfect, but we love what we do. I love that we’re part of this workday and celebration every year.

Before recorded music, the only way to hear music was in real time. You could go to a performance, or you could get together to make music. It was perfectly natural. Now that we have recorded standards, it’s much more intimidating to make music; we think we have to be as perfect as the music we hear. But music is so ephemeral. At the end of a song, do you remember a fleeting wrong note, or the overall feeling that was conveyed? At last year’s MLK Day event, we had 160 people singing, happy and in community with each other. Perfect! I hope you can come join us this year.