Sunday, April 24, 2005

A sense of accomplishment

Well, I've finally finished something. I'm done with the knitting and finishing for the felted tote bag; now all I have to do is get it felted and it'll be ready for needlefelting. Yee ha! Now Donna won't have to despair of me; I'm starting my Fletcher sweater and doing my best to catch up.

I've also lost 4 pounds -- not enough for more yarn just yet, but I'll get there. I'll have to delay that particular gratification for a while, though -- tomorrow I have to get ready to spend Tuesday and Wednesday in Boston, and then to scramble madly through the rest of the week.

Rehearsal went very well tonight, I'm glad to say. The chamber orchestra joined us tonight, and we sounded wonderful. We have one more rehearsal on Friday, and then -- On with the show, this is it...

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Busy music week ahead

Now that I think about it, Thursday is about the only day in the coming week in which Greg or I (or both of us) don't have some sort of musical obligation. Tomorrow he plays his last service as a substitute at the Sanford Congregational Church before embarking on his new permanent assignment at the Wells church. Sunday night, our chorus has a rehearsal with the orchestra. Monday, his choral work April for four parts gets performed. (I think that's also the last composition class of the year, or at least the last performance in class.) Tuesday we're going down to hear the Double Fugue in One Movement for wind quartet played, and will stay overnight at the home of some friends of ours. Wednesday the BU Symphony will play portions of his tone poem Penobscot.

Thursday is our "day off" (so to speak), and then it starts for me on Friday. The chorus has one more rehearsal with the orchestra on that day, and then we have concerts Saturday and Sunday.


I'm happy to report that I might actually finish something this weekend. The felted tote bag is nearly done. I've finished the knitting, made and attached the i-cord strap, and am now sewing up the last of the end pockets before the whole thing gets felted. With any luck, I can have that felted and drying this weekend. It might take a few days to dry out to the point where I can do the needlefelting.

Donna reports that she's made terrific progress on her Fletcher sweater. She has already completed the back and left front and is working on the right front. I am ashamed to admit I haven't made it past the swatch yet, but I've had five minutes of knitting time all week. (I've done pretty well on the tote bag, considering how little time I've had.)

The yarn diet proceeds apace. I've lost 3 pounds and managed to avoid the temptation to buy any new yarns. Knitting up all of the old ones might take a good long while, though. The food diet I can manage, but the yarn diet might take some doing.

I spent some of the morning with the new issue of Interweave Knits, a magazine I usually adore. Maybe I've come too late to the knitting party, or maybe I haven't made enough stuff to be bored yet, but except for one adorable pair of socks, I couldn't find a single thing in it that I'd want to wear (though I wanted to knit them all). I just don't get this trend for half-garments: ponchettes, shrugs, micro-boleros. Are they designed for quicker gratification for the knitter, or for the (skinny teenage) recipient to go around half-dressed in? What the hell is a neck-warmer -- a scarf for the ambitious or a turtleneck for the cheap? Are sweaters and jackets that passe?

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Oh Canada!

We've had some doggie news lately, but not about our upcoming puppy-to-be-named-later. Fingers and toes are still crossed for happy news from Wales.

I had put my name in with a few of the folks who handle rescued and rehomed Beardies to see if a nice adult dog might need a home. Charlie's lonely and bored without another dog in the house. We take him out for nice long romps, but he still needs canine company in addition to his play dates.

The person who handles rehomes alerted me to a young male in the Toronto area whose breeders are looking to rehome him, and I told her to tell the breeders we were interested. This morning, I received a very nice email from a breeder I've known for quite some time. We've called each other and exchanged emails, and if all goes well, Greg and I might be heading to Toronto for a weekend in May and bringing home a four-legged souvenir for Charlie.

This doggie's name is Sneakers -- you just know that's going to change quicker than you can say "Ridiculous." (I mentioned the name to Greg and he said the same thing: "What a stupid thing to name a dog.") He's 2 1/2 years old, neutered, and has a herding instinct test title in Canada. He's been trained in obedience, agility, and freestyle as well. The breeder says he's had some fear and anxiety issues in the past with his previous owner, but that he has been fine with her girls and with another breeder friend and her dogs.

We plan to take him for a 6-8 week "test drive." If everything works out well and he likes it here, the breeder will transfer ownership to us through CKC and we can register him with AKC (right now he's only registered in Canada, so I can't compete with him in the US).

He's not a perfect dog -- there will be issues to work out, but once he has a chance to settle in to a place and not be moved around, he should do fine. I think his self-esteem will rise once he gets a name he's not ashamed of, too. Charlie will make sure he has companionship, and I'll get him some classes. Once he and I can work together as a team, I'll take him out and start working on his American performance titles. That's the best way to keep him out of trouble; he's a smart young dog with a lot of energy. A tired dog is a good dog, after all.

Where did the week go?

Sorry it's taken so long for me to get back to blogging. In this past week, we've had the loveliest, sunniest days so far this year, and we've been forced to succumb to the temptation to play outside as much as possible. The house has gone uncleaned, the knitting has gone unknitted, but... at least the yard looks great.

As I write this, the chorus of frogs outside in the pond has reached a near-deafening state. We have spring peepers aplenty, plus the occasional bullfrog who chimes in with a bass note. Greg and I opened all the windows in the sunroom and just sat in the hot tub and listened to them sing.

Of course, we can't listen to the frogs without thinking of old Doogie. The sound of all those frogs just would have made him hungry.

Well, Maybe Not Totally Unknitted

I've actually made considerable progress on the felted tote bag. I've finished the bag and the two end pockets, and am part way up the one side pocket. All I have to do before I can felt this puppy is to make a pair of i-cord straps and sew up the sides of the pockets. This project has been such a pleasure to knit that I'll have to make a few more of these.

I also acquired a hank of Eros Extreme, which is gorgeous in the extreme. It's slippery as anything, though -- not so much a problem in the knitting as in remaining in a ball. Every time I pick it up, it starts coming unwound again. I can't wait until I'm done knitting it just so it'll behave better.

Donna probably despairs of me at this point. I haven't made any progress on the Fletcher sweater, but my intentions are still good.

Partners in Privation

Sharon has declared that she's going on a yarn-and-otherwise diet, with yarn shopping being an incentive to lose 5 pounds. I had just been despairing of my wintertime shape and how it doesn't fit into most of my clothes, so I took the bait and signed on as a yarn-diet buddy. I see this as an opportunity to rid not only myself of excess poundage, but to do the same for my stash as well.

You have to love Greg. His first question was, "How can I help you with this?"

And speaking of Greg...

Greg received more good news this week: He's been selected to participate in the Composers' Symposium at this year's Oregon Bach Festival in Eugene, Oregon. He submitted his Quintet, a work in progress, because the instrumentation best fit the available instrumentalists for the Symposium. His work wasn't chosen as one of the final pieces that the group will play, but he still gets a chance to participate in all the sessions and to get a session of his own to present his music and talk about his work. This Symposium is supposed to be extremely difficult to get into, so this is quite an honor for him. He also gets a chance to network with other composers and instrumentalists, and maybe even do some hiking. He'll be out there for the last week of June and about half ot the first week of July.

More Music News

We've both been busy with our individual concerts. Greg has three performances coming up next week: a four-part choral work (April) on Monday, Quartet for Winds on Tuesday, and the orchestral reading of Penobscot on Wednesday. He remarked to me today that he's had more of his class works performed this year at BU than he did the whole time he studied at Curtis; apparently it was up to the students to throw a concert to get any performances there, but this semester he's had one performance a week, plus the larger concerts next week. He also has the upcoming performance of his Water song cycle in NYC in June.

As for me, I've been busy cranking up the publicity machine for our chorus's upcoming spring concert. Heaven forbid we should plan ahead; as late as last week's Board meeting, people were still talking about changing the performance dates. Our director did manage to fill the big honking void in our program with an additional song for us and a bunch of solos by our pianist and various of our singers. She was still hesitant to name the pieces for the program (not that composing and printing those takes time or anything), but at least it looks as though we have a concert.

The chorus itself is sounding more confident about the piece, and I think we'll be able to pull this sucker off. We start rehearsing with the orchestra this weekend, and the performances are next week.

Greg has never heard Rutter's Magnificat, but I hope he'll have great fun sitting in the audience and playing "Spot the Influence." Rutter borrows liberally from Leonard Bernstein and Carl Orff (Carmina Burana), not to mention himself; I couldn't help but feel a touch of deja vu while singing some of those phrases. The piece is really great fun to sing, but I'm reminded of a snarky-but-funny comment that a local music critic recently made: "A whole cottage industry appears to have sprung up solely for the creation of choral music." This piece would qualify as a product of said industry, but no matter. I enjoy singing it.

And then there's the upcoming Pops concert. You already know how I feel about Pops concerts; singing them is like watching a TV marathon consisting only of "Matlock" and "Murder She Wrote," with stale popcorn and flat soda for snacks. Please shoot me now and put me out of this future misery!

I don't know what our director has in store for us to sing (but I'm sure it'll have at least 500,000 miles on its odometer)... but one of our Board members, who just loves Pops concerts, has signed on to be program manager for this event. At the last Board meeting, some of her plans for this event were unveiled: We'll put out tables, hire a bartender, get the chorus (all 65 of us?) to serve drinks and snacks and wear little aprons (which the men will totally freakin' love), hire an accordion player to go around to all the tables, and -- oh, yeah -- sing some Oldies But Moldies. It sounds like Party Time in Hell to me; I think I'll opt to attend the Sheepdog Rescue picnic in Connecticut that weekend instead.

Monday, April 11, 2005

This is what Charlie looked like at 12 weeks of age. Posted by Hello

And Now, the Wait Begins

Gill, the breeder of my future puppy, emailed today to say that her girl Menna and the handsome Rudi had their dream date last Tuesday. Now all we can do is to wait and hope that it "took." If it did, then June 7 is the approximate day when the pitter-patter of little Beardie paws will be heard around Gill's house. As soon as we're sure that there will be puppies, I should start looking into flights to Manchester for the first or second week of August.

I'm really excited! Little Player-To-Be-Named-Later will be the first puppy we've had in this household since Charlie's brown self back in 1997. Greg's never had a puppy, though he's raised his share of kittens. He's never known the sweetness of puppy breath. Granted, he's never had the pleasure of 3 AM "pooper patrol" either, but you have to give some to get some.

Silk, Spring, and that "Aaaah" Moment

It's definitely springtime, even in this perfidious latitude. The first frogs have landed in our pond, and I can hear clusters of peepers singing in some of the other wetlands as I drive through town at night. Nothing else says "spring" to me quite so clearly as the amphibian Hallelujah Chorus starting up outside my bedroom window in the evenings.

Today was arguably the best day of the year (so far): flawlessly sunny and up to the mid-60s. Maryann dropped by with Braeden (another dog of her breeding, who belongs to her sister), and she and I and Charlie and Braeden went for a lovely romp in the town forest. There are still unmelted patches of snow in the woods where the sun hasn't touched for very long, and big pools of water just perfect for a couple of happy Beardie boys to plunge into before rolling in pine needles. Charlie brought home half the underbrush in the forest in his coat, but he was more tired and happier than he's been in a while.

Silk and Wool and Mohair, Oh My!

Donna emailed me a couple of times this week to report that she's happily making progress on her Fletcher sweater. She has also opted for circular needles, and is happily moss-stitching away. I've made my gauge swatch and am happy with the result I get with size 11s. Problem is, my only size-11 circular large enough to hold an entire sweater back is already buried in the felted tote bag... so I either have to go out and buy another size 11 circular, or hurry up and finish the felted tote so I can use my regular Denise needles with my Fletcher sweater.

For the moment, I've opted to try to finish the tote bag. I spent some time this afternoon working on it while Greg played some Max Reger pieces on the piano. We used to do this a lot in the "old days" (meaning more than a year ago, before we moved in together). We'd have a leisurely brunch on a Sunday, and then I'd knit for much of the afternoon while he played piano. Life is sweet.

As for the tote bag, I'm about 6 rows from casting off and making the handles and side pockets. I can't wait to get this felted so I can do the needle felted sheep design on one of the side pockets. (Yes, there will be photos.)

Yesterday I joined two of my friends (who are also ex-co-workers) at a Girls' Night Out dinner and shopfest in Portsmouth, NH. I dropped into The Yarn Basket and did not leave empty-handed. I went in needing needles, and came out with two luscious, squeezable hanks of Mango Moon recycled silk yarn. How did that happen?

Sometimes Things Do Work Out In Spite of Themselves

If you've ever been involved in a group artistic or musical endeavor, you'll recognize that "aaaah" moment: the moment when all of the struggles and missed cues and off notes seem to fall away, and you get your first glimpse of what the work is going to sound like in front of the audience, when things finally come together. That one moment is exciting beyond description, and it's the most powerful inspiration a group can have to continue working hard until the performance.

We had that moment tonight at chorus. I don't attend the Saturday rehearsals, but my friend Jackie, who carpools with me on Sundays, said that the folks who had gone had worked hard and done good work during that session. It certainly paid off tonight; we sounded good enough in some spots that we could all feel the piece coming together and sounding exactly as it should. That's heady stuff! Once the whole piece clicks along like this, the audience will love it, and so will we. (We have three weeks, but we've pulled things together at the last second more often than I'd like to admit.)

It's been a tough season for the chorus so far this year. We worked so hard on the Brahms concerts last year and then tossed off our Christmas concerts without much work, thought, or inspiration. The tsunami benefit concert followed more quickly than we're used to, and that disrupted our entire season. We were late starting the Rutter, and people were a bit burnt out even before we started. In addition, a number of our best singers either decided to take this semester off, or other circumstances just got in the way that prevented them from rejoining us, or they've gone on cruises in the middle of the season, or come down with the flu... It just hasn't been an easy time, and with our director's announcement to the group that she's moving on, musical morale hasn't been all it could be. We've needed a good night to help us feel like a whole chorus.

This Week in Board-land

It's been a tough season for publicity, too. What with the ever-changing performance dates and uncertain content, it has been impossible to pin down enough data to launch even a half-assed publicity effort for this concert. We have a shade less than three weeks before we have to sing this thing, and at this week's Board meeting we actually have to discuss whether we're going to cancel the April concert dates and move everything to the first weekend in June. Only at tonight's rehearsal have we even heard that there will be anything else on the program, and that we're singing some of it. Grrrrreat. Planning is everything.

On top of which, our director mentioned that some people "would have questions" for me at the Board meeting. I can barely wait; they're actually going to wonder why we haven't publicized the concerts before now. Not that lack of a firm date or program should ever be an impediment, mind you. It'll be a miracle if we can get any publicity out for this thing in time. (The President still hasn't had time to let me resign from the publicity chair's job; I think she's hoping I'll change my mind.)

Friday, April 08, 2005

Everybody Needs to Play Sometimes

Poor Charlie. He hasn't even seen another dog (other than the Lab across the street) since Doogie died. While we're waiting for the puppy to be more than a twinkle in his mom's eye, I need to arrange some play dates with some doggie friends for him.

I dropped an email to my friend Maryann, who just lives a mile or so up the street. She's a graphic designer with a feast-or-famine work schedule and a horse, so she's often pretty busy -- we can go months without seeing each other, and we're practically neighbors.

Maryann took pity on us and dropped in this afternoon with her three Beardie girls (mother and two daughters from different litters). Charlie was beside himself with all those other doggies to romp with! We all went into the backyard, where the dogs proceeded to romp and stomp through all of the puddles and have themselves a glorious time. Charlie still has a smile on his soaking-wet brown face.

We humans in the household have toys, too. I have a new Blackberry, which I'm growing to love. It makes cheery little sounds when I receive emails, like a low-maintenance Tamagotchi. I'm still getting used to the cute little keyboard with its standard QWERTY layout (might have to trim my thumbnails!). Oh yes, it's a cell phone, but it does a lot of other fun and useful things, and the contact software is nicely integrated.

My old, beloved DVD player had given up the proverbial ghost a few months ago, so we've been making do with Greg's Sony mini DVD hooked up to the TV in the living room. We took advantage of a sale last weekend to buy a nice DVD recorder/player for a very reasonable amount. Greg's had a great deal of fun configuring and reconfiguring the wiring for maximum picture quality and convenience. Best of all, it has built-in VCR+ technology, so he can set it to record old "Frasier" reruns at 1:30 AM without having to program in the start and end times and such. (I still wonder whether getting one with a hard disk wouldn't have been a smart idea, but so far we're fine with just using the same DV+RWs over and over.

Oh, here's something I learned: There are multiple DVD-recording technologies out there. No longer can one just be content with DVD-Rs and DVD-RWs, cousins to the CDs you burn on your computer, but now there are also DVD+Rs and DVD+RWs, and they're not the same as the "minus" variety of DV discs. "Plus" technology is newer. Older DVD players, including the other one in the house and the one on my laptop, only play "minus" technology. What a freakin' techno-jungle... but we still love our toys, and the reruns look better now on DVD than they did the first time on broadcast TV.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

It's a Guy Thing

I found this Web page and just howled. Greg and I are fans of the Red Green Show, and this is soooo perfectly Red Green-esque that of course it would have appeared as a link from Red Green to 3M's Canadian Web site:

How To Make a Wallet Out of Duct Tape

"Just remember, if the women don't find ya handsome, they should at least find ya handy..."

Monday, April 04, 2005

That Little-Known Fifth Season

Thanks to the torrential weekend rains and the spring thaw, it looks as though little-known fifth season is upon us: Mud.

We've been relatively lucky here. We have a few tiny damp spots on the downstairs floor, but some folks have flooded basements, or worse. On the coast near here, a 300-foot section of the road just fell away into the water.

All the same, it's impressive. You can step outside the front door at night and hear the river roaring like Niagara Falls over the little rock spillway down the street. My pond is chock-full, and then some. I don't think we'll have much problem with drought this year, but don't even ask about mosquitoes.

Musical News of Various Sorts

Greg didn't get the part in Into the Woods in spite of his being a real live honest-to-gosh prince, but he's not all that disappointed. He had just begun to contemplate what all that memorization and all those rehearsals would do to his summer vacation, and he's relieved that he now has the time back (so to speak). Also, he'd like to come with me to Wales to pick up the puppy in August, but performances might have interfered with those plans.

Our is up to the usual mischief. Some of us are a bit concerned that the Rutter Magnificat, the only remaining component of our upcoming spring concert, might not be a big enough draw at 40 minutes for people to want to come see it. We have no other scheduled for that concert. Maybe we can get the children's chorus to reprise their songs from "Snow White," which they performed last month. They don't have to be talented or even prepared; they just have to be cute.

Someone came up with the frickin' bright idea that we should cancel both spring concert performances, and then offer the Rutter some Saturday in June, and then sing a on that Sunday in another town. This doesn't address the basic problem of our lack of content, but it did get our director all excited for all the wrong reasons. I, for one, do not have the intestinal fortitude to stand up in front of the chorus and tell them for a third time that we're moving the concert dates. A lot of people have already changed their plans twice to accommodate the performances... plus I was hoping to weasel out of having to sing in the Pops concerts. I loathe Pops concerts.

Anyway, it should make for a lively and amusing Board meeting next week.

From the Netflix Queue

On Saturday night, we watched a sweetly tongue-in-cheek Norwegian film called Kitchen Stories. It was a gentle, subtle, typically Scandinavian comedy about two men who become friends in spite of their trying not to, and thus enriching each other's lives. It takes place in the '50s, in the era of efficiency studies. One man is a Swedish observer for a study that concerns how people use their kitchens. He and his fellow observers are each assigned a little camper-trailer by the company running the study, and then they are all sent to a remote area of Norway to observe the kitchen habits of Norwegian bachelor farmers. (I can just imagine Garrison Keillor watching this movie and howling.)

The observers have been cautioned not to speak to their subjects or to fraternize with them in any way, for fear that to do so would harm the purity of the data collected in the study. Each observer is expected to sit silently in a very high chair in a corner of the kitchen and watch how the Norwegian bachelor farmers use their kitchens.

The main character in the story, named Folke, is assigned to a particularly crusty old Norwegian farmer who has had second thoughts about the study, and who would have called the thing off except that the Swedes offered each of the participants a horse, and his own horse is sick. (It turns out that the horse they offered is a Dala horse figurine.) Anyway, the farmer goes out of his way to make sure that he does nothing worth observing. He cooks in his bedroom upstairs so that the observer sees nothing, and he even drills a hole in the floor so that he can observe the observer.

They carry on in this fashion until one day, when the farmer returns from the barn, saddened that his horse isn't getting any better. The farmer sits down in his kitchen and pulls out his pipe for a smoke, only to discover he's out of tobacco. The observer offers some of his own tobacco, and the two then start to strike up a friendship (in defiance of company orders).

I won't give any further details, in case any of you plan to see this film and want to know what happens next. Greg and I both enjoyed its low-key charms.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Hair-Trigger Big Mouth

I'm a desperately flawed being. Even though I've tried to do my best to overcome the worst of my personality quirks, every once in a while I'll just trip myself up and land splat! back where I started. Don't you just hate when that happens?

My worst, most fatal flaw is to say exactly what I'm thinking at a given moment, regardless of the situation or the need for tact. Usually I can slam the brakes on my tongue before I say something really appalling, but sometimes things just slip out and elude all attempts to catch them before it's too late.

I feel bad because I messed up big-time today. I said something really mean and sarcastic to Greg, even though I knew he was having a really bad day -- so in essence, I've just kicked the poor man when he was down. Of course, I've asked him to forgive me and he will, as always, but I just still feel very guilty about it. He never says such things to me, in spite of the fact that I probably richly deserve them. I just wish I could keep my big mouth shut sometimes. Of all the people on earth, he is the last one who should be at the receiving end of my thermonuclear slips of the tongue. Luckily for me, he is both understanding and forgiving.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

I Always Knew He Was a Prince

A couple of nights ago, Greg tried out for a local production of Sondheim's Into the Woods. Our local performing arts organization is putting this on as our annual summer musical. Anyway, the director was tickled that he'd come to try out and very much liked his singing (he's never tried out for one of our productions before). She might even cast him as the Prince. She tends to post her castings fairly quickly after the auditions are over, so Greg will probably know within the week about his part.

No, I've never been in one of those musicals -- I'm not a very strong singer, even though I can act -- but I usually work at the performances, handing out programs and taking tickets at the door. I'll probably do the same job this year, unless I'm needed elsewhere.

Thanks to everybody who has been to visit Greg's Web site from the link on my blog. I receive the monthly hit reports from our ISP, and there have been quite a few visitors from here this past month. As the site developer, it always tickles me when people like to visit my work.

Of course I'm not even faintly biased, but Greg's a wonderfully bright, creative guy and a thoughtful with a number of beautiful pieces to his credit, and even more good ideas for more works. I promise to get after him for more content for the site, including more MP3s of his more recent . Thanks again for visiting!

Only a Little Doggie News

As someone who does , I felt it only right to put in an inquiry with my rescue buddies for a gently used rescue . My friend Barbara, who is the New England head of Beardie Rescue, said she'd put us at the top of her list.

It would be nice to bring a rescue into the house. Not only would it help to give a home to a needy dog, but Charlie would have another adult dogger in the house to play with. I do still plan to bring over a puppy from Wales, but that wouldn't happen for several months at the earliest.

Gill reports that Menna, her brown girl, isn't quite ready for her dream date with Prophet, but she'll probably be ready in a few more days. If all goes well, I should be visiting Wales in August sometime to bring home a wiggly little brown souvenir.

Nothing on earth is as cute as a , although Golden Retriever puppies come awfully close. I'll dig up one of Charlie's puppy photos and upload it later (I'm on the VPN right now, so the Blogger Upload feature won't cooperate).

Not Much Knitting News, Either

I haven't had much chance to in the past few days, though I'm almost done with the rounds on the felted tote bag. I should be able to finish it this weekend, and maybe even felt it! I've been saving the little red bag for for a while, in the hopes that I'd be able to felt more than one piece at a time. I still don't have enough work completed to justify filling the washer, so I will probably do both by hand.

Donna has been getting ready to start her Fletcher sweater, and has made it through the gauge swatch stage. Mine was too tight, so I needed to acquire a couple of larger circulars and start again. If I'm truly lucky and have lots of time this weekend, I might even get that far. I'd sure like to be able to wear that sweater this year.

I even picked up a drop spindle on eBay, though I'd like to use the nice roving that Pam gave me for needle felting. The white and gray are perfect colors for the sheep motif I'm putting on the felted tote bag when it's done.