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Archive for August, 2008

Turkish Sock Design Class

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

I had a class Saturday at Rae’s which covered a bit of history, a bit of show and tell, and a lot of knitting in color. The class is called Create Your Own Turkish-Style Sock.

In reality, Turkish socks have many styles. I own four pairs of socks from Turkey and they include 3 types of heels and four types of toes, never mind the color patterning and the finish at the top!

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So in this class we learn one type of Turkish toe (four-part swirl with c-wrap) and one type of heel (flap/band without gusset), and we look at and discuss other types. We do a little bit of colorwork to get a feel for that, and we do one sort of top of the sock which does not roll and would allow a tassel if wanted.

Look at what they made! This was a mother/daughter team and they were just delightful.

I find this photo a really good display of personal gauge/tension (how big the stitches are when knit). These ladies used yarns that were very similar in structure and weight. However, the woman who ended up with the smaller sock actually used larger needles than the woman with the larger sock.

In commercial patterns, they specify how many stitches per inch you should get when you knit. They suggest a yarn and a size of needles, and you need to match that to get the size you wish. Clearly, though, the needle size specifications are merely a guideline. You may need to go up or down as many as 3 sizes to hit that gauge. Or clearly it may not fit!

Gauge is less important for things that do not fit snugly. Blankets/afghans do not need to be an exact size, though if you are way larger than specified, you might require more yarn. However, for things one wears it is important to get this right.

And that is enough of a teaching experience for me right now. Just spend a moment enjoying the little bits, the features, the colors of their socklets. Nice job, ladies!

(Notice the socks here at right… they have the same toe, heel and top edge as the mini-socks. They are made in smaller yarn, and to sizes that an adult could wear.)

Give a Kid a Camera!

Sunday, August 17th, 2008

Well, I officially give up on posting anything in the order in which it happened. I give up on posting some things I had wanted to post. But today’s post brings me a smile, so maybe it will do the same for you.

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There is a child who is special to me and who I do not see often. He and I (and sometimes his sister) like to dance in the dance tent together, at the Folk Festival each August. Usually we do this on Sunday afternoon, and that is what we did this year.

His sister was busy with other special adults in her life when I got there. So it was two of us who headed over to the tent together.

I usually like to take as many photos as possible in the dance tent. In fact, I did take photos both Friday and Saturday nights and have not shared them here yet. But on Sunday, the best photos of all happened. You see, I gave a kid a camera.

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Magic happens when you let a child take a camera into their hands. With the miracle of digital photography, there is no film cost involved. Yes, he could drop it but so could I (trust me, this camera has survived a few experiences with gravity already). I guess it costs me a little battery life and time downloading them to my computer… then uploading to Flickr, in this case. But hey! The photos are so worth it.

People light right up when a child points a camera their way. Someone who might be shy or something when I am holding the camera, will beam at a child. And the photos a kid can get of other kids? Priceless.

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Please condider taking a bit of time to check out my Flickr photoset, “Give a Kid a Camera: Great Lakes Folk Fest 2008.” When you get to that page, at the top right (just under a text search box) there is a light gray screen “button” which says Slideshow, if you want to see it that way. Once you get into the slide show, you can set the speed to slow or fast in the bottom left corner. You can tell it to go directly to the next photo by taking your mouse to the right side of the screen until a large triangle pointing right shows up… and clicking the triangle.

I think my young friend did a great job. (I only removed totally blurry shots, shots that were of someone’s back and nothing else, and duplicates when there were more than 2 or 3 of a certain person. The photos here on my blog are cropped/edited, but the ones on the Flickr site are as they were taken.) Go, Kid!

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I don’t know the people here. Well, except the turquoise one would be me. I can make a fool of myself fully for a child I love! If you know any of these folks, do let them know their picture is here. I can either identify them if they wish, even link to their own internet presence, or even remove the photo if they wish. I personally love the fun energy revealed by a kid with a camera…

Off to Allegan!

Saturday, August 16th, 2008

Rae and I will be going to Michigan Fiber Festival (AKA Allegan) Sunday all day. It should be fun and social and sensory overload. I am looking forward to it.

If you see me, do say hello!

Habibi Dancers’ Photo Shoot: Frances Park

Friday, August 15th, 2008

The Habibi Dancers had a photo session a few Wednesday’s ago. We went to the spectacular Frances Park where there is a set of formal gardens including a 1920s rose garden. We had photos on the overlook above the river. It’s a beautiful setting.

The photo shoot turned into a community event. You can see in the first photo, some onlookers just spent the time watching us stand in different groups with different props for photos. We had a lot of fun.

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One thing about this sort of dance that outsiders don’t usually understand, is the part where you learn to love yourself and your own sort of beauty. We have 30 women and 30 different kinds of beautiful. When we dance, we celebrate the beauty in one another.

It’s very much a girl power thing for those of us who participate. When one dancer needs a hand, there are 29 other sets of hands right there! I am pretty sure this community feeling we experience is almost invisible to the outside.

I know that before I did this sort of dance, I did not really love my physical self very much. I wanted to get back into dancing of some sort, as I’d danced off and on since I was a child. This was what fit into my life/schedule at the time, so that was what I signed up for.

The bonus of making friends with myself, was a big extra I did not expect. I merely signed up for one dance class at the community center, back in January of ’97. I did not expect to be good, particularly… I only needed to move to music again. A change happened inside and out. I look beautiful when I dance and I know I do. I feel it. Standing tall from whatever helps you get there, is a good thing.

(After the photo shoot, I tried to go see Jen Sygit‘s concert at Creole Gallery. I got there for the finale. I got one shot and it’s blurry but here it is.)

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Happy 74th, Mom!

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

momfaceforweb.jpgMy mom, the amazing Liz Troldahl, turns 74 today. She has always told her age. This is good, because she is a beaming example of looking great and living well, at whatever age. If those of us who look great say our real age, we won’t be so surprised when someone looks great at any time, you know?

Mom and Fred were on the news again in the last week because they were ballroom dancing. They win lots of medals in Florida, the Polk County for their ballroom dancing: polka, foxtrot, tango, jitterbug, waltz, you name it. Mom can kick her foot higher than I can, I’ve seen her make shoulder-height not long ago.

Mom rides her bike a couple of times a week to the mall and back, so that she can exercise with friends. It’s a bit more than 3 miles one way, about 7.5mi (12km) round trip. She bought a recumbent three-wheel bike and usees it well and often.

You know I love color, and so does Mom. You know I love to dance, so does Mom. I love music/singing, so does Mom (she used to sing with her two sisters in Minnesota). Mom is an artist in many ways, both traditional and off-the-cuff. The longer I live, the more I understand that saying, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” That would be us.

Big, huge, happy birthday, Mom! I want to be like you when I “grow up.”

Just for kicks… Gracie Allen darning socks!

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

Here’s a YouTube Video of Gracie Allen and George Burns. It’s only 5-1/2 minutes, full of silly humor, and the first bit of it has Gracie darning socks while chatting with George.

It’s slapstick really; clearly this skit-style entertainment format evolved from Vaudeville. I’m guessing the era is early 1950s, given the clothing.

I remember when I was growing up in the 60’s and 70’s there were shows that really were one skit after another, like this. Remember Jackie Gleason? Earlier, Arthur Godfrey, and later Carol Burnett.

Even Laugh-In and Hee Haw were mostly short skits. In the mid-70’s, remember the campy and ridiculous late night Love, American Style? I guess Saturday Night Live is no doubt still like that. Surely Steve Martin’s 70’s “Wild and Crazy Guy” would have been right at home in the Love, American Style skits. Of course, many of those I mention in this paragraph were more modern and late night for a reason. George and Gracie were plain vanilla in comparison, but all fun.

So for those who like innocent but giggle-inspiring retro entertainment, those who reminisce, those who are curious and those who darn socks (or handknit socks which one day may need darning)… have a silly few minutes if you choose! I enjoyed it.

And the Week Progresses…

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

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It seems every day lately is a social event and a place for photographs. It’s a good thing that on Sunday (the 3rd of August, that is) I mostly cleaned house and cooked, preparing for a guest. At least one day was not photogenic, which is a relief after all the photos taken at a music festival!

Our friend Aki, from Osaka, Japan, came on Monday. He stayed for 3 nights. Brian has known him for 20 years. They met at a bluegrass banjo camp (I think in Tennessee), and have stayed in touch ever since. I think this is the third time Aki has stayed with us since I met Brian about a dozen years ago.

dagwoodsakiwithbrian.jpg The first night he was here, we went out for sushi and sashimi at Sansu restaurant in East Lansing. Aki loves to explain how things are done in Japan, and why, and show us things we may not know. He enjoyed showing Brian how to use chopsticks the way adults use them in Japan. I never paid much attention to how Brian used them, since they seemed to work fine for him. Lucky for me, Aki did not correct my form. (Sigh of relief.)

The main theme when Aki is here, is that music is played every minute possible. (The second rule is good food, usually at small mom-and-pop restaurants.) On the way home from our dinner, I called several old-time fiddle friends to let them know Aki was here and they were going to play music on the porch. One friend did come, and the three guys spent happy time on the porch playing many tunes.

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Tuesday night we decided to show Aki the 1940’s neighborhood tavern, Dagwoods. Those who tune in here regularly know that we go there from time to time on Tuesday nights for the Open Mic night which is hosted by Jen Sygit. It’s a friendly place and all sorts of top-notch musicians hang out and take turns playing.

Brian and Aki did a set of bluegrass tunes. Brian played banjo and Aki was on fiddle. They sure had a good time. I had a hard time photographing them, they were moving so freely to the music! Wonderful.

In one photo here, you can see a blur of people dancing… one of whom is Phil Wintermute. I don’t know the other dancer’s name.

Brian and I also played a set, of course. It was also extra-nice that Rae joined us after her work was done, too. We all had a great time.

Ukulele Evangelist Interviews Brian

Monday, August 11th, 2008

The blog called The Ukulele Evangelist has interviewed Brian this week (dated August 9, 2008). He did a really nice job.

He also linked to one of my favorite YouTube videos of Brian, where he sings “My Red Hot Gal.” It’s no secret that I like songs (vocals, singing) better than tunes (instrumental only), and this one is so lively!

This particular video includes Brian doing what is called “eefin'” which is something like a scat… vocals which are used much the same way as a trumpet solo, for example, in the middle of a song.

It’s a bit silly and makes people smile, which is the point. I used to go to Brian’s solo concerts because I thought he was so good at entertaining, and the eefin’ was no doubt part of the attraction.

It’s funny… off stage, I tend to be the lively one and Brian is more reserved. On stage? I look a bit like a vacant girl full of adoration for the wild guy. I had no idea that was how it looked until our 3rd Midwest Ukefest when friends took a video and sent it to us. It just sort of turned out that way.

As they say, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” So we keep it up and everyone has fun, including us.

I don’t mind. It’s perhaps a little like George Burns and Gracie Allen, except I’m pretty sure few people are as smart as Gracie was. But the adoring woman on stage with her man? Yeah, that’s us. Good thing he’s a whiz on that uke, too.

(I’m not sure how I chanced into this fun life… lucky me, huh?)

First photo was taken by friend Hanno at Stage 1210 (Lansing’s Old Town) in January 2008. Second photo was taken by Regina at Altu’s Ethiopian Restaurant in 2004.

JazzFest Photos (post #3)

Sunday, August 10th, 2008

Sunny Wilkinson = Class Act

Sunny Wilkinson (Jazz vocalist) finished up our day at JazzFest Lansing 2008. We first met her “backstage” at the green room (place where performers wait before their show). As she entered the room, she greeted us warmly, telling us that she had seen us perform at the Meridian Township 4th of July event and that she liked our work. (I am allowed to be delighted that she said this.)

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Backstage there is much to be done… contracts to handle, posters to sign… we had just finished up with the volunteers (hi, Rosy!) and we needed to move on so that others could do the same. But what a kind and generous lady Ms. Wilkinson was, even in a minute or so of greetings.

Later we made our way around Turner Street. First we headed toward the Lansing Symphony Big Band, but it was so crowded we could not get very close. We enjoyed the music and dancing from a distance.

Next we worked our way over to Mama Bear’s Cafe. Part of our JazzFest contract required that we perform something that had never been performed before in front of a live audience. We performed Brian’s tune “Mama Bear Bounce.” (Click link to see Brian’s solo Youtube video of the tune.)

Of course, when we got to Mama Bear’s Cafe that night we just had to go in and play it for Chica (AKA Mama Bear). That was quite fun!

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As we made our way back down Turner Street we found ourselves at the stage for Sunny’s show, and there were two open seats in the front row. We grabbed them happily and sat down for the duration.

Again, I was bowled over by the focused grace of Ms. Wilkinson… she acknowledged the sound tech by name and asked the audience to applaud his work. She could easily be a diva, she certainly has the credentials and talent to be tolerated even if difficult. Instead, she exhibited nothing but grace and generosity. Clearly her band is her team, and she acknowledged them all warmly during the show as well (she had a bass player, a drummer and a keyboardist, though the drummer somehow is not quite visible in these photos).

sunnycloseup4sm.jpgMuch has been written about her “pipes” already, by many writers over several decades. I had never heard her live before, though I’ve read about her for a long time and heard a few pieces on the radio.

I was blown away by her vocal agility, her expression, total control over her vocal instrument. Remember, I sing very simple and pure melodies, that’s my own musical niche. Sunny Wilkinson can make it simple if that expresses the point best, but she can really work the notes in great detail if that is what is needed.

At one point she was singing something so complex, both melodically and rhythmically, that I first thought she was improvising. Then I realized that no, her piano player was playing exactly the same thing. Later I talked to Brian about it, how impressed I was. He made it all make sense. He said “Lynn, she knows some chords you do not know.” Yup, there you go.

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It is interesting, I love the human voice so much that I have a hard time listening to music without vocals. I do not need to understand the words (Ms. Wilkinson performed a lot of Brazilian music in Portugese that night). However, somehow my ear needs a voice to follow in order to make sense of a piece. A lot of modern jazz is purely instrumental and I have never been good at understanding it, no matter how talented the instrumentalists.

So there I sat listening to a sort of music that I don’t know much about, and I observed this woman who is really beautiful to look at: graceful, tall and performing with full passion. I drank in her vocal work with her three spectacular band members, putting together a wonderful show.

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I was mesmerized. Wow.

Class act. Total. Class. Act. She has a new album out, for the record. She’s a fine talent and clearly a fine person. Maybe you would like to check out her website?

Sunday NY Times Article on Ukuleles

Sunday, August 10th, 2008

(Extra, Extra, read all about it… we interrupt Jazzfest coverage to announce current news!)

Presbytera is more on top of the press today than I am… she found a thoughtful article about ukuleles in the New York Times today. Thanks for letting me know, Presbytera!

I’m happy to be a tiny part of the new ukulele energy. Interviewed in the article is Jim Beloff who we know from the ukulele festival circuit, and also because we opened for him at the Uketopia concert in Lansing at Creole Gallery. Years ago, when The Fabulous Heftones were a relatively new act.

They also interviewed the deeply talented Jake Shimabukuro, who puts a young rock-and-roll energy into his electric ukulele playing. One of the years we played Midwest Ukefest in Indianapolis, we performed two acts before Jake was the finale. The event was sponsored by an elementary-school ukulele band, the Keystrummers. Those kids went nuts, they were huge fans.

There are a few folks who read my blog because they are into ukuleles, and found me through my writings about uke festivals and the like. Perhaps a few others may also be interested in the article. I enjoyed it.

Photos: 1) Taken in 2004, Liz and Jim Beloff performing at some time during the ukulele even in the Pocanos Mountains of Pennsylvania; 2) The Fabulous Heftones opening for Jim Beloff at Uketopia, Creole Gallery, Lansing, maybe 2003 or 2004.

JazzFest Photos (post #2)

Saturday, August 9th, 2008

Mostly photos today… what a busy life I lead… I’m writing about last weekend’s JazzFest and spending my time at this weekend’s Folk Fest. Taking pictures, I promise. I’m still catching up on last Saturday.

Here is the Lansing Symphony Big Band with very happy dancers:

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The rest of these are from my Flickr account where I’ll set up a slide show when all my photos are uploaded. Meanwhile, a few of the crowd in front of Sunny Wilkenson’s stage. What a show that was… and Old Town was totally alive. Will share too many shots of her (she’s really photogenic) in my next post. Meanwhile, these:

Here is Sunny Wilkinson before sundown, surrounded by fans.

JazzFest Photos (post #1)

Friday, August 8th, 2008

I’m grateful to friends and even “strangers” on the sidewalk who were willing to take photos of us at JazzFest. We can’t take our own photos, of course. We’re dependent on the friendly help of folks who are on our team. We appreciate that help.

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The first photo of JazzFest is supplied by my friend Arlyn who is one of my dance friends. She had the amazing fortune of finding this silk and hand-applied sequin dress for me and getting it to me just in time for the JazzFest performance. I’m delighted, not only with the dress but also her enthusiastic assistance.

Thanks for the photo and the dress, Arlyn!

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Next is a photo taken by a friendly bystander on the sidewalk, just outside the area where the Lansing Symphony Big Band was entertaining a dancing, clapping, enthusiastic crowd. Thank you for taking on the camera-clicking task, neighbor!

The last photo was taken by a photographer we see around musical events, and whose name I did ask. (I think I even have his business card buried somewhere). I did not write this entry soon enough after asking, to retain his name, but his assistance is none the less appreciated.

The photo was taken right outside Mama Bear’s Cafe on Turner Street. We love Chica (Mama Bear)! The food is good, the people friendly, the tea extra-ordinary. If you have not tried this spot yet and you live in Lansing, make a point to get down there sometime.

Our experience at Jazzfest Lansing was wonderful in every way. We had so many of you friends out there! It is days like this which make me understand how I stay in Lansing despite the white/cold winters. The community and the joy of summer in Lansing is really wonderful. There may be nowhere as friendly and beautiful as my city can be in the middle of the summertime. I loved every second.

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Several dance friends and their families were there; knitters Sharon P and Kristi with two boys and hubby Noel came out; Mom and her entourage of the day and all the zillion friends she knows; a spectacular classically-trained tenor I’ve known since childhood; a knitting child from Foster Center; one of my bosses from Foster Center; Tom S who I met at the Sierra Club retreat and his wife; computer students; and last but absolutely not least, music friends. I can’t even remember all the musicians but we did see Joe B with his son in a stroller and Andy Wilson who I wish had brought his trumpet. When we are lucky, Andy will sit in with us on Paper Moon, and his contribution really makes it a memorable number.

The volunteers, sound and other workers, and everyone else involved really made it a smooth and pleasant experience for us. Particularly big thanks to Mike Skory (of Skoryoke.com, check it out if you are in Lansing) in particular, for everything he had to do with our appearance at this wonderful event.

Unforgettable, as Natalie Cole might sing. I have not had this much fun on stage since New York City!

Aladdins, Part 2

Thursday, August 7th, 2008

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Here are some photos of me and dancer Maia dancing at New Aladdin’s restaurant with our beloved toddler friend, Isabel. This was August 1 at New Aladdins’ restaurant at Frandor in Lansing, Michigan. No surprise, I’m the one in turquoise!

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(There are dancers there the 1st and 3rd weeks of every month, with approximately half-hour shows at 6:30 and again at 8:00. We Habibi Dancers take turns dancing there, each show is different.)

One of the skills involved in this sort of dance, is keeping one’s head still while the rest of the body executes the dance move. Here you see Maia walking with her beaded hip belt moving as a blur, and yet her head is steady. This is a very important skill to master if one is to balance a cane, basket, jug or other object on one’s head while dancing.

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Toddler Isabel is very important to both Maia and me. We have both spent much time with her and miss her deeply when we can’t see her for a while. It was great for all of us that she could come.

There were other children there who seemed interested in dancing, too. In the end, they were too shy to dance with us (kids are always encouraged to participate if they wish).

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Here April and Isabel are saying goodbye. Can you see that “our kid” is wearing a beaded hip wrap? Too cute. Kids fully appreciate the “dress-up” aspect of this sort of dancing.

Yes, Isabel danced the entire half hour we did. I am sure she slept well that night!

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Isabel’s Chippy Socks

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

isavelhchippysox.jpgThis is part one of a two-part story. I danced at New Aladdin’s restaurant in Lansing last Friday with another Habibi Dancer. My friend April came to the show and brought toddler Isabel, for whom I invented the Chippy Socks knitting pattern.

Isabel has one set of six Chippy Socks (each one unique but in the same 3 colors) in purple/ fuschia/ turquoise. These were the first ones I made and are a little small for her but very stretchy. She also has a pair (merely two rather than a full set of 6) in yellow/ green/ turquoise. These are made of a slightly larger yarn so they are a little bigger than the first set. This pair is not a true pair, again, because they are made of the same 3 yarns but patterns and colors do not match.

isabel16.jpgSo Isabel dresses herself whenever possible… and she spent some time picking out her socks this day. She picked one from set 1 and one from set 2. What is fascinating to me is that she chose the ones which match in patterning… both have a 2 stitch by 2 row checkerboard size, and a 2 row evenly spaced foot stripe. The toes/heels happen to also both be turquoise (though slightly different, being very different yarns).

I was just as pleased as punch to see Isabel, no matter what she wore on her feet. But wearing these socks? Sigh… no wonder I’m so crazy about this spectacular child. She’s as in love with color as I am.