Category Archives: music

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.

Crafting Balance: Knitting and Music 3KCBWDay7

Day 7 of Knit and Crochet Blog Week is all about crafting balance. The original question had to do with knitting and crochet, but I don’t really crochet much. I use it for edgings and now for steeking, but don’t really intend to go much further. I’m a knitter! And an occasional beader, too.

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But I do look go back and forth between knitting and music. You can tell from my blog header that making music is important to me. Music is the reason this post is late: Sunday was a music day for me, and I needed some time to recover.

My knitting has taken a back seat to music for the past couple months. I was so moved by my experience in Nicaragua that I wrote a song about it. I was inspired by the warmth of the people in the Nicaraguan village where we worked, and also by the group that I was with. The other inspiration was the moon. In the northern hemisphere, a crescent moon looks like the letter C. Closer to the equator, that crescent moon looks like the letter U. It’s the same moon, but it’s all a matter of perspective. The song is called “Grace Unforeseen,” and here are the lyrics (link to recording below lyrics):

Grace Unforeseen
Words/music © Michele Bernstein, 2012

God sent us to meet you, to lend you a hand
We started as strangers; now we are friends
We don’t share a language; smiles were our words
We met each other through the grace of the Lord

The moon shines on me, and shines on you
As you gaze at the moon, maybe I’m gazing too
We are friends around the world

Your lives are so humble; so are your homes
You made us feel welcome, with smiles so warm
“Pueblo” means village, people not a place
Your wealth is each other, your families’ embrace

The stars shine on me, and shine on you
As you wish on a star, maybe I’m wishing too
We are friends around the world

We thank God for water, sunshine, fresh air
The gift of each other, people who care
God calls us to service, in giving, receive
From sisters and brothers–grace, unforeseen

The sun shines on me, and shines on you
God smiles on me, and smiles on you too
We are one in God’s own world

We celebrated our trip in church on Sunday, and I sang this song with some friends. I had a technical issue with my recorder on Sunday so this version (link to recording) is from a practice session. We were outside on a sunny day; you can hear the birds and kids wandering through.

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. 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? I’m still learning to get past my perfectionist tendencies, and I think I’m getting there. Finally!

Thanks for reading along. The third annual Knit and Crochet Blog Week has been fun for me, and I hope it was for you, too.

And how was your weekend?

River City Music Festival

I spent a little time last night at the River City Music Festival. This used to be the River City Bluegrass Festival, but the festival has expanded its horizons and now encompasses Americana and Country, too.

We went mostly to hear Tommy Emmanuel, a phenomenal guitar player from Australia. He played for an hour and a half, delighting us with guitar and his special brand of percussion on the guitar.

How does he make it sound like his hands are an ensemble of players? At one point he yelled, “Take it away, boys!” and looked over his shoulder. You would have sworn that he had a backup band, but nada. Amazing.

There were bluegrass groups jamming in rooms all around the hotel, and they sounded great. There were vendors in the hallways and meeting rooms, and I fell in love with a blond. A blond guitar, that is. It has a gorgeous Sitka spruce top, a Brazilian Rosewood back (the guitar on the right), and it’s only three days old. Les McMasters of McMasters Guitars in Hermiston made it. It felt good in my hands, and sounded good, too. I’m not in the market for a guitar right now, but a girl can dream, right?

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(Sorry that my iPhone camera doesn’t do this beauty justice, but this is all I had with me.)

There’s a more thorough description of the festival here on the OregonLive site, but what you really need to know is that the festival runs through Sunday (tomorrow), so get on down there and enjoy some music! Whether or not you can make it, here’s a treat. Tommy Emmanuel, playing Michelle, with lots of harmonics.

Coming up for air…

It’s been graduation/guests/music chaos around here, but we’re finally getting back to normal.

Last week’s 18 rows of Zen Rain at graduation?

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Frogged. I made it to 24 rows while chaperoning the All Night Graduation Party, and realized I didn’t like how firm the fabric was. This yarn is single ply Rambouillet, and it’s interesting to knit with. It’s a bit thick/thin in places. It felt thinner than the yarn I was knitting with previously (Alpha B Luxe B, and I still need to finish binding that one off), but it knit up way more firmly on a size 6 needle. I was afraid it wouldn’t be loose enough to block out to the gossamer texture I want. Hence, the frog. I started over with a US 7 needle, and am much happier. Yesterday I was on row 44.

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And today I’m on the ruffle.

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My basement has been a blocking studio! I have a futon sofabed down there, and it’s great for blocking shawls. I can stab pins into it to hold the blocking wires, and it doesn’t hurt anything. It’s also away from the cat, so she doesn’t “help.” This week I blocked Lorajean’s Octavia shawl, and Christina’s Zen Rain.

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It was a busy music weekend, too. The Day Old Pastries sang in church. It was Pentecost, and we sang a new song; I wrote the lyrics and a friend wrote the music. Come Holy Spirit, Come.

I also wrote a song for the Teen for graduation, and sang it for him just before. It’s called Graduation Day. Caution: it’s really sentimental! Can you tell I’m having empty nester issues?

I think we’re caught up…

‘ukulele and more music

Just to be clear, we did make it back in time for Christmas. It was theTeen’s last appearance as guitarist/liturgist in the Christmas pageant run by the youth. He’s a HS senior, and I’m having empty nest syndrome already…

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angels
(incoming flock of angels, just had to share)

But not so much empty nest syndrome that DH and I didn’t abandon him to his own devices for a week so we could play and Christmas shop in Hawaii. DH and I took a ‘ukelele class with this guy one afternoon.

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It was easy to pick up a few chords, and as I tell my Pastries, three chords makes a simple song. Since there are only 4 strings, it’s a bit easier than guitar. I can play a barre chord! DH fell in love with the instrument, so I offered to buy him one for Christmas. We shopped here, based on the recommendation of one of my guitar buddies.

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mele ukes

Lovely instruments, but we weren’t quite ready to buy.

We went to a show at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center and saw slack-key guitarist George Kahumoku, Jr., and Daniel Ho, who sings, plays piano, ‘ukelele, slack-key guitar, and I don’t know what else. Both of these talented gentlemen have won Grammy awards for their work. Uncle George even let us hold them for a photo op.

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When we came home to rainy Portland, it was time to jump right back into Christmas week activities. We finished our uke shopping at Artichoke Music, our favorite local music shop. (We bought our first guitars there many years ago.) There weren’t a lot of ukes in stock (a run on ukes for Christmas, who woulda thunk it?), so we ended up buying a Fluke. Interesting construction, made in USA, big happy sound. It’s very sturdy and DH will be able to take it on his many travels. A winner!

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Here’s one knit related thing in this post. Sharon won this vintage learn-to-knit booklet in the white elephant gift exchange at the Lantern Moon holiday party. I love the expression on the knitter’s face.

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What’s your favorite knitterly gift this year?

knit nite fun, and other scenes from summer

Knit nite on Wednesday was a blast. Good company and productive knitting, and some show and tell.

Lorajean (KnittedWit) brought samples of her new hand-dyed yarn colors, as well as her baby. He was charming, and the colors were great. It was the first time LJ had seen all the colors laid out together; it was breath-taking! The colors are a little more saturated here than in real life; I took the picture with my phone.

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Helen (Painted Skeins), our other hand-dyer, brought her baby, too. So cute, but no picture! She was stash-busting, and brought some seconds that she wanted to clear out. We were happy to oblige. Here’s what came home with me.

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The purple is called pinot, and it’s a short skein. I’m sure I can find something to do with it, but not a pair of socks because there’s not enough yarn. And I still don’t knit socks with fingering weight yarn! The gray didn’t have a name on it, just a tag that said “knot.” I don’t mind a few knots if that’s all that stands between me and playing with this pretty fog-colored yarn.

Summer is sailing by. I hurried back from camping a couple weeks ago to prepare my house for a house concert. It was the third summer we’ve done this fund raiser event. Music, wine, dessert. How many people can I fit in my small living room and dining room?

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Quite a few! You get really close to the music in a house this size.

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There was time for some show and tell with the harp . I didn’t realize that a harp gets tuned for whatever key it’s going to be played in. There’s a lever on each string so the note can be raised a half step, at least with this kind of harp. Beautiful music, and a fun evening.

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What else? Lots of water. We had a family “intro to sailing” lesson with a local business, Scovare Expeditions. Captain Ian was great, and explained the physics of it to us because enquirin’ minds wanted to know. It was a fun way to spend some family time, too.

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The Teen decided to rock the pirate look for the family photo.

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And I went kayaking with my friend Vickie, who took these pictures. I was camera-less.

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I love my hat. I bought it in Hoi An, Vietnam last summer. It’s very effective as a sun shield. And oddly suited to me…

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How’s your summer?

Virtue is its own reward

That’s what they say. But it’s pretty sweet to get an additional reward.

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Dez over at Knitting Asylum had a drawing for people who donated to Doctors Without Borders for Haiti. I won a prize! Pen and tape measure, and a beautiful stitch marker necklace made from Czech glass and shell. These are really pretty, and what a great way to keep track of them.

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Thanks, Dez!

I was away for the weekend up at Menucha Retreat Center, working at our annual women’s retreat. This one was filled with music! We sang through the Holden Evening Prayer Service on Friday evening, which was lovely. Some of my Day Old Pastries were on hand to help with the music for the rest of the weekend. I love my Pastries.

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I did get some knitting done. See my prototype shawl on my knee, and the new one in my hands? The new one is coming along swimmingly; I really like it. I’ll show it to you, soon. Check out the handknit socks, too.

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My favorite thing at Menucha, besides the view…

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…is the labyrinth. It’s a good place to be silent and meditative.

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It’s always interesting to discover a new epiphany when I reach the center.

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This beautiful garden is across from the dining hall.

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There’s a hidden space up there, with a rock bench facing this.

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I love spring, in all its glory.

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How was *your* weekend?

Spring fever…

This week I finished a couple projects, including the straps for the felted slip stitch tote. I felted it last night. It’s drying, so I’ll take pictures tomorrow. This project took more yarn in the heavier Brown Sheep Lanaloft than the original KnitPicks Wool of the Andes; I’ll edit the pattern notes to make reflect that.

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I had a fun day at Pico Accuardi Dyeworks. I taught an entrelac class in the morning. We even purled back without turning our work! This saves so much time when you’re working stockinette over a small number of stitches.

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I also took a drop spindle class with Deb Accuardi. We worked with wool roving and with top, and mixed in some other fiber, too. My goal was to spin a more consistent single, and I did. And then we plyed some of it, too.

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Stevanie Pico taught dyeing. All in all, a fun day.

The days are getting longer and lighter, and the air is getting warmer. Weeds are springing up like crazy in the garden. The boys helped me weed the front flowerbeds, and we’re in the process of taking out all the Japanese anemone. It was only slightly invasive when we had a big birch tree to shade it, but when we had to remove the tree, the anemone got too happy in the full sun and took over the garden. Buh-bye.

With spring, I’m also feeling the urge to jettison my unfinished Heather Hoodie (bulky yarn) and cast on something breezy and new! But I’m afraid if I set it aside, I’ll never go back to it. Yikes. I think it’s all a result of spring break.

I headed up to Seattle last weekend to play guitar with a piano friend. Yes, that sounds nonsensical, but it’s true. We met in 2000 at September Sonata, a piano camp in Bennington VT. We were roomies then, and have been friends ever since. In fact, there’s a whole group of us west coast “Piano Babes” that get together at least annually. Some of us aren’t playing the piano a whole lot right now (moi, for one), but we still have a lot in common.

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Last fall, I bought a new guitar, and Sheryl did, too. They’re both Takamines with the same body style (NEX); mine is cedar and mahogany with a satin finish, and hers is spruce and maple, with a gloss finish. We’ve been trying to get together to compare them, and finally did. Hers sounds warmer/mellower from the back (playing) and more forward/pushy/rock from the front, and mine is mellower from the listener’s point of view, and brighter from the player’s perspective. I happily played them both!

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Some of the other piano babes came over on Saturday; we played/sang Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. We also web-surfed to check out kd lang’s version (she opened the Olympics with it), Jeff Buckley’s (hailed by some as the best) version, Bon Jovi’s acoustic version (my favorite), and of course, Leonard Cohen’s version (Live in London). C played this last year in Carmel, so it seemed like good common ground.

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We had a great time! Thanks to Sheryl for hosting. There was more spring break activity, but I’ll leave that for another post.

What is spring inspiring you to do?