Category Archives: piano

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):

Untitled

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.

Untitled

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.

image

A lovely evening among friends.

image

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 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.

Knitting project design process

All the cool kids were at Rhinebeck last weekend, and I was way over here on the left coast, just hanging out. But I walked to Twisted on Saturday and bought some yarn, so I didn’t feel so left out. I came back with these.

db cash chunky

db chunky knit

Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Chunky, 55% merino, 33% microfiber, 12% cashmere. This is incredibly soft and squishy to knit with. One ball makes a very efficient neck warmer (kind of like a mock T-neck), but it’s not very big. I don’t really want to use two for this project, so we’ll see how it goes. The color is somewhere between the two pictures: deep, vibrant, wine-y.

mal chunky

Malabrigo Chunky, 100% kettle dyed merino, 100 grams. It’s slightly heavier. And also really fun to knit with. The stitch definition is divine.

kw bulky

And I have one more on hand; it’s a bulky 100% merino yarn from Knitted Wit. Why am I suddenly obsessed with chunky yarn?

I’m hosting another party for the high school Booster Auction. Twisted is supplying the venue, and Lantern Moon is donating the needles. (Thank you to both!) Last year, I designed the Checkerboard Scarflet as a party project. I need a new project for this year. Yes, it’s above and beyond hosting the party, but it’s fun and for a good cause.

I’ve decided that I want to use a chunky yarn this year, to get near instant gratification. The project needs to be beginner friendly, but interesting enough for an experienced knitter to get some joy from it. I don’t want another flat scarf/scarflet. Fingerless mitts would be great, but you have to make two. I think a single item would be better. I think it’s going to be a cowl.

Next step: The perfect stitch pattern. I want to give options, so I think I’ll have three of them. I want at least one of them to be simple enough that a relative beginner will have a successful experience. I want something easily memorized. I want it to be elegant. Soon, with these chunky yarns!

In the meantime, I’ve returned to the piano bench and am picking my way through a Clementi sonatina (hey, I can still read music!) for relatively instant gratification, as well as trying to resurrect old repertoire. Hello, Mozart? Are you still there?

tak2

And I’m playing this guitar, just for a couple days. I have it on temporary swap with a friend; it’s new and I may want one of my own. Yes I have a guitar, but it’s not this nice! (Thanks to the Teen for being guitar model. He plays way better than I do.)

Piano weekend

Picture this: Sitting in your seat, knitting on an airplane. A pattern is on the tray table; Ishbel is in your hands. A ball of blue laceweight yarn is on your lap. You shift in your seat slightly, and the ball rolls off your lap, under the seat in front of you, and down the aisle…

No, it didn’t happen, but I was visualizing it as I was knitting. Just in case, next time the yarn should be in “cake” form!

piano

The weekend was lovely. Five erstwhile pianists (I think only two of us are actively playing right now) who met at piano camp several years ago. Two more piano buddies came down on Saturday to play for us: Satie, Grieg, Mozart, Bach… D’s piano sounds fantastic in its new space. It sounds rich and round. The space is very open, with a cathedral ceiling. And the view from the piano is inspiring, looking across the Carmel Valley.

piano room

back view

How could I not be inspired to play? I re-acquainted myself with the Granados Waltzes from Valses Poeticos. And the Adagio movement from Mozart’s K 332.

Friday afternoon’s sky was especially lovely.

friday sky

Saturday’s walk took us down by the beach.

cormorants

gulls

In other piano buddy news, fellow piano camper Katie Hafner’s book on Glenn Gould, A Romance on Three Legs, is now available in paperback. The book is a great read. Katie is one of the smartest, funniest, and most charming people I’ve ever met.

I did a lot of knitting on Ishbel while listening to my friends. But it’s not done yet. :sigh:

Travel knitting

I’m going away for a weekend with the Piano Babes. Too bad I haven’t played the piano very much this year. Oops. Knitting and blogging have taken up a lot of my leisure time! But I’ll try to resurrect the three Granados Waltzes from Valses Poeticos that I played this year. Wish me luck.

I’m trying to decide what knitting to take for the plane. I think my socks on dpns (poor languishing Kai-Mei) would be a bad choice because it’s so easy to drop a needle. Circular needles are great for plane knitting, because you can’t drop one! That means I should take the Ruffle Tank. Or my new Ishbel. Or both.

addi ishbel

New Ishbel? Yes! I was feeling sorry about not using that glorious blue Claudia Handpaint Silk Lace. It was a bit spendy, and I was feeling guilty. I bought some Addi Lace needles, and it has made all the difference. I also went down a needle size to a US 5. The silk glides along on the metal needles, and I’m a happy camper.

addi points

This doesn’t meant that I don’t love my Lantern Moon Ebony needles. They’re still my favorite. And they’re working great on the Ruffle Tank! I finished the back, and have cast on for the front. This is a great knit, just enough pattern to it that I’m engaged, but simple enough to knit while watching old episodes of Firefly. Mmmm, Firefly. I’m going to be sad when the 14 episodes are done!

Have a great weekend! What’s on your needles?

Ishbel exorcism

Mmmmmm. Malabrigo! I bought this purple Malabrigo Sock yarn, color is Violeta Africana. I really wanted blue, but Twisted didn’t have any, and I needed to cast something on in a hurry. My knitting mojo was at stake.

iris

Looks like this will work just fine. It’s the color of grape soda. The camera can’t quite catch the fizzy goodness; it’s not as blue as you’d think from the picture. But I’m knitting, and I’m happy. One of the problems of not having many projects on the needles is that when one project stops, there aren’t many alternatives. I’m still looking for a good mindless knit project. Right now, Ishbel can be it, until it gets to the lace.

I’m hoping that my next project doesn’t require a yarn change, because I’ve just had two in a row. Ouch.

In other knit news, Sock Summit registration opens on Tuesday at 10 a.m. I still haven’t decided what I want to take, but now the pressure is on!

And in non-knitting news, the Adult Beginner Forum’s quarterly recital went live on the 15th. I haven’t been playing much, but I had this worked up in March before I fell off the piano wagon, and it came back pretty quickly. It’s another waltz from Valses Poeticos by Enrique Granados. This is vals no. 6, also called Vals Sentimental. I love how melancholy and sentimental this is. I envision a woman looking at faded photographs of her long ago love. She goes into quite a reverie in the second half of this piece. But it’s so over, baby…just like I’m over that silk Ishbel.

Winner!

I’m a winner! KnittedWit had a contest on her blog, asking for voting stories. Here’s the prize: four ounces of her yummy hand-dyed yarn, 185 yards, color “passion,” 100% merino bulky weight.

purple

close 2

The color in this picture is a little more true:

purple close

See all the lovely shades of purple in there? I love semi-solid colors. I think this may become a new chunky scarflet in some interesting texture, but you never know until the yarn speaks. Thank you, Lorajean!

Knit night was fun last night, but there was a stray dust bunny. Godzilla-sized. Yikes. I showed Cathy how to short-row shoulders for her DH’s vest. This is a complete rip and re-do, and she’s almost done. Can’t wait to see the finished vest. It was good to have to explain short rows to someone else; it really solidifies the process for me. I’ve done it twice, explained it once, and now it’s internalized.

The pianoworld.com Adult Beginners Forum online recital goes live tonight at midnight. I squeaked in under the wire at number 64. Here’s a direct link to my piece; it’s Valse No. 1 from Valses Poeticos by Enrique Granados. I’m working on a couple others from this set, too, but they’re not ready for prime time!

At loose ends

That’s how I feel, now that my Central Park Hoodie and the related Checkerboard Scarflet from the leftover yarn and buttons are done. I finished writing the pattern for the Checkerboard Scarflet, and Marie was kind enough to look it over for me. I’ve incorporated most of her suggestions, and the pattern is now available through Ravelry download/PayPal for $4.

I have another scarflet on the needles, the mindless log cabin blanket, and a secret holiday-related project, but no sweater. I’m antsy. Apparently I’ve become accustomed to bigger projects, and feel bereft without a sweater in progress.

What to do?

I think I’m going to have to make Hey, Teach. I even bought yarn for it. The pattern calls for four skeins of this yarn, and I hope it doesn’t need more, because this is all they had in this color at Yarn Garden. I usually have to shorten garments, so for once in my life, the fact that I’m not tall and willowy should work in my favor. At least the not tall part, anyway. ;-)

2 time cotton

The music behind the yarn is what I’m working at the piano. Which means not often lately! It’s from Valses Poeticos by Enrique Granados. Granados has usurped Mozart’s place in my affections, at least temporarily.

What else is going on? I’ve been taking a harmony singing class at the local community college. Just for fun! The day after the class started, the local paper had a feature on the teacher, Anne Weiss. Sweet! It’s been a great class, but it’s only four sessions and next week is the last one. I’ve been using my Zoom H2 digital recorder to record the songs we sing, and it’s been great to have those recordings for practice. I’ve loaded them onto my iPod, and there’s always a song running through my head these days.

A little help from our friends…

Who doesn’t need a little help sometimes?

It’s crunch time at Sharon’s house. Her daughter is leaving for college this weekend, and the longtime UFO (unfinished object) needs to be finished so it can go with her! I had offered to knit the i-cord handles for her; one of them came with me on vacation, but the second had to wait for a yarn infusion, so I knit it last week when I came home. Yesterday, I felted the bag for her.

feltbag

I love how this bag turned out. Sharon is a genius with color. I wish I had taken a picture before I felted it, but yesterday was a bit crunchy here, too, between work and a meeting last night. There’s a picture of it in this previous post, unfinished; you can get an idea of how much it shrank. I opted for firm but not too tight. If Sharon would like it to be stiffer, it can go back in the washer for a bit more time. There’s a fine line there; the colors wouldn’t be quite as brilliant if it were felted down a lot more. Voice of experience; I’ve made at least four of them! I’ve lost count…

Who’s Zooming who(m)?

I just got an early birthday present. It’s a digital recorder, the Zoom H2.

My new laptop doesn’t record piano as well as my old one did, but my old one takes 10 minutes to fully boot up, and the hard drive is nearly full. I’ve been wanting a Zoom for a while (they’re highly recommended on the piano forums), and a birthday is a perfect opportunity. It will be great for recording piano for online recitals, practice feedback, and Kid2′s school concerts. Also, I sing with a group of friends; it’s guitar and mandolin and a lot of fun. We’re the Day Old Pastries, a bit crusty but fresh enough! We’re getting together this evening, and it will be instructive to know what we really sound like, since we’re playing on Sunday!

I dinked around with the Zoom last night, and it’s easy to set up, easy to use. I listened to playback, and it’s really clear. Thumbs up!

February Baby in Seattle

I took the train to Seattle for the weekend. One of the Piano Babes is moving to Shanghai for two years, and we wanted to have a reunion before she departs. The Piano Babes have been friends since 2000, when we met at Sonata, a piano camp for adults. We live up and down the West Coast, and Seattle was a good meeting place.

I had *a lot* of time to knit on the train on Friday. We were delayed for five hours because a freight train further north hit a person who chose to commit suicide by train. She must have been a very disturbed person. So sad. But it completely discombobulated north-south train traffic for the whole day.

I finished the second sleeve of the February Baby Sweater while we were delayed. As soon as I finished it, I realized that I had made a grievous error and knit it out of the stitches for the back. During one phone conversation with The Husband, he asked if the baby had already been born.

“Yes, I’m taking dinner to the family on Tuesday.”

“Well, does she have an arm in the middle of her back?”

Such a card, he is.

But I had plenty of time to rip out the sleeve, and re-knit it. And work a good deal of the body after that. I finished the knitting on the train home, which arrived 15 minutes early. I’ll post pictures tomorrow after I have some daylight to take them!

In the meantime, here are some thoughts on this pattern: This was like that quiz in high school, where there’s a full sheet of instructions. The first instruction tells you to read the whole page first, and you never do. The last instruction is to put your name on the top of the page, ignore the rest of the instructions, and turn in the quiz. The pattern didn’t say to read the whole thing through first, but I should have! I read far enough to know that I had to pay attention to starting the buttonholes, which aren’t mentioned until well into the pattern, long after the first one should have been made. But I didn’t go to the end. The sleeves are made and bound off before working the body. At the end of the body, it says to bind off purlwise, which looks great. But I had already bound off the sleeves knitwise. Since purlwise looked better, I went back and tinked the bind off on the sleeves and reknit (repurled? or just purled, because I hadn’t purled them before) them. I could have left them, but I can’t stand to have things not match. I’ve made this sweater before, about 10 years ago, so I didn’t really remember much about it, other than I liked it. I think I’ll leave myself notes in my book this time!

Some pictures from Seattle:

IMG_1862

We spent some time at Pike Street Market on Saturday. It was really busy because it was the weekend, and a beautiful day. There were lots of street musicians, but this one was my favorite, just for sheer novelty value. He’s playing the harmonica, and the guitar, balancing another guitar on his chin? forehead? and managing two hula hoops.

IMG_1853

We bought some sea scallops here for dinner. They were delicious, seared on the grill. We also had fresh heirloom tomatoes and basil in a caprese salad, and sauteed green and purple beans and peppers.

IMG_1860

These looked great, too, but I’ve developed an allergy to crab, so it’s an unrequited longing…

IMG_1861

The flowers at the market are gorgeous, and I had to buy some. When we met up with the rest of the Babes, I found that I wasn’t the only one who had succumbed.

IMG_1858

This cruise ship was in port. Quite a contrast with the cruise I was on last week!

IMG_1857

We even played some piano this weekend, and some Rock Band, too. I played this Adagio by Franz Joseph Haydn (Sonata No. 48, Hob. XVI/35) among other things. I recorded this a few weeks ago for the Adult Beginner Forum’s quarterly online recital on PianoWorld.com. The recital went live while I was on vacation; I thought it was amusing to be in a piano recital when I was nowhere near a piano!

Some enchanted evening

Piano and pinot was grand!

I love the whole process of a party, cleaning the house, getting out the nice china, crystal, and silver, setting the table. It’s like playing dress-up with the house.

table

The event was a fund raiser, and we served 12 different pinot wines: a sparkling white pinot, pinot gris, pinot blanc, pinot noir, pinot meuniere, a rose (sorry, don’t know how to find the accent mark), and some sweet late harvest dessert wines. All were from local Willamette Valley vineyards: Brick House, LaVelle, Penner-Ash, Willakenzie, Winter’s Hill. My favorite was the LaVelle sparkling wine, but I’m a bubbly girl. No picture of the wine-laden buffet; I forgot.

Desserts included cheesecake, cream puffs, a raspberry/blueberry tart, and a dark chocolate and raspberry cake. Yes, that’s a gravy boat on the table, but it’s filled with chocolate sauce. Recipe at the bottom of this post.

Our pianist played Bach (C# prelude and fugue), Mendelssohn (Song without Words), Debussy (first Arabesque, Clair de Lune, La Fille aux Cheveux de Lin, Golliwog’s Cakewalk), Grieg (Andante from a sonata), Rocherolle, and more. She was fabulous!

pianist

This picture was taken before we put the lid on the high prop stick. The piano sounded glorious; it was such a treat to hear someone else play it. The sound experience is different out in the room; I’m used to hearing it just from the bench.

I have a fridge full of leftover wines and desserts, and I get to enjoy a still-clean house!

In other news, remember how I mentioned that the squirrel had won the bird-feeder battle? It turns out that he has a friend. I saw them taking turns at the bird feeder. I chased one off, and while he was on the telephone pole, the other one appeared. They’re pretty brazen; they don’t mind me taking pictures from fairly close range.

onan2

onan1

I’ve figured out how Onan and Conan access the feeder. They jump from the trellis on the front of the house onto the top of the feeder pole. It’s about five feet, laterally. No problem for these guys!

Here’s the recipe for the chocolate sauce:

Chocolate Sauce

24 oz semi-sweet belgian chocolate chips
One pint heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup butter, cut into chunks and softened

Five 8 ounce jelly jars

Place the chocolate chips into a large heat-proof mixing bowl; place the bowl over a large pot filled with hot water. Let the chocolate melt as you proceed with the recipe.

In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil, stirring constantly. Pour the cream over the chocolate chips, stirring until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. Stir in the butter until blended. Ladle the sauce into jars; cool completely before screwing on lids. Store in the refrigerator (all that butter and cream!). Scoop out the sauce as desired and warm it on low power in the microwave. Or eat it by the spoonful directly from the jar. ;-)

Makes about 5 cups