A Treat

I do love to cook.  And bake.  And travel .  And make music….

And now that I have been granted my dream job combining my three favorite things- travel, cooking and music I have become a food pornographer.  Every time I cook (which is about 3 times a day) the phone camera comes out.  There have been a stream of shameless posts on the facebook page for the retreat in Mexico coming up in January.

This morning was the first day of school for some in my house.  Occasion enough-  Let’s bake!

Do you know the muffin, man?

Do you know the muffin, man?

I must be honest- I lost my taste for sweet things long ago:  I am nonplussed by pies,  I scoff at scones, cake and candy leaves me cold.  But these blueberry muffins are different.  Although the recipe card modestly bears another woman’s name, these are My Mother’s Muffins and these are my madelines.  When the smell wafts into my memory I am filled with a sense of well being.  All is right with the world.  They were made when we had sleepover guests, or church functions, or on special mornings.  There were never any leftovers.  The tops, sugar crusted and golden brown were glorious.  The bottoms of each muffin would be examined thru their festive paper cups to determine which had the most blueberries.  Steaming hot halves were smeared with margarine from the little yellow tub.  Greedy stacks of empty muffin papers grew along side our breakfast plates, three or four pastel circles high, stained with fragrant crumbs and purple juice, attested to the muffin’s  irresistible powers.

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There was a time when I would substitute whole grain flower for the white stuff and reduce the sugar.  Meh.  These days I go all the way.  This morning I was out of oil and used softened butter instead,  (Margarine never made the journey from my mother’s pantry to mine) and I think that change may be a keeper.

Try these for a brunch or a gift if you are looking to increase your popularity.  They are simple, fast and easy.  You may have to double- or triple – the recipe.

1/3 cup oil (or softened butter)

1/2 cup milk

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

2/3 cup sugar

1 1/4 cup flour

1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup blueberries

Beat oil, milk, egg, vanilla and sugar together.  Sift flour, baking powder and salt together, then stir into egg mixture.  Gently fold in blueberries.  Line cupcake tins with papers or grease tins.  Fill each with 1/4 cup batter.  Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon sugar over each muffin.  Bake at 375 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until golden topped.  Serve warm or cold, with or without butter.  Makes 10-12 muffins.

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NEW Workshops at Wine Country

 

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Last year Wine Country Ukulele Festival was a wild and busy experience!  I was filling in for Andy Andrews as MC who was helping his son Eli recover from a terrible car crash. This year we have something to celebrate- their incredible success!  Eli is now back in his life surrounded by love in full bloom, love made stronger and richer by the ordeal and trials it passed through.

Between teaching classes, performing, doing a kid’s show and introducing all the incredible performers I met the lovely folks from UKULELE MAGAZINE who did a short interview with me and took a few pictures.  I was VERY surprised to see my face on the cover of the magazine four months later!  It’s like the cover of the Rolling Stone for uke players!

I am very happy to be returning this year as just a teacher and performer.  Andy’s shoes were a little too big for me, and I am relieved to be handing them back!

I will be teaching a bunch of new workshops and am working on my materials now, with Daniel’s help.  Yes, not only can he play, he can TRANSCRIBE!  Daniel’s got an all new curriculum as well.  I have copied the class descriptions below to give you an idea of what  you can sign up for- and I urge you to do it soon!  Some of the workshops are filling up already.  I must admit that I am particularly excited about the lyrical improv class, “Me and my Big Mouth”!  That one doesn’t even require you to play a uke!

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Learn to Play in a Day

Heidi Swedberg LOVES to teach absolute beginners. The more absolute, the better.  And by the end of one session, she guarantees you will be singing and playing songs on your uke and  laughing a heck of a lot.  While anyone, of any age, is welcome to attend this workshop, we ask that kids under 8 be accompanied by a participating adult.

 

Me and My Big Mouth

There’s a knack to thinking on your feet with your uke in your hand and being the life of the party. And one of the sure fire ways to make sure you, and your uke are invited back, is with this  little repertoire of fun songs  that allow you to make up the lyrics as you go along and throw in a punchline or two. Under the direction (and whacky inspiration) of Heidi Swedberg, who is a master of lyrical improvisation, you will learn how to use a couple of classic tunes to be as bawdy (or not) as you wish. It’s a terrific way to connect with your audience in a timely fashion and bring a smile to more faces than just your own. If you’ve ever seen Heidi in action and wondered “how does she do it?” come to this workshop and find out.

 

If You Had a Hammer

If you had a hammer, you’d probably hammer in the morning…..and all over this land.  But first you’d need to know how to swing it, and that’s what this workshop is all about. Here, Heidi Swedberg will work with you on a couple of popular tunes that you probably already know, but, with the addition of a few simple left-hand techniques, known as  hammers and pull-offs, you will be able to add  “grace” or melody notes  that will add piles of pizzazz to these, otherwise, very simple tunes. Not only that, you’ll come away with some fun songs to practice with, that will  help your left hand move confidently and powerfully across each of the strings and along the entire fretboard.

Freight Train, Freight Train

You, too, will be “going so fast,” once you have learned a few second-position chords and the simple, Travis picking pattern offered in this workshop by Heidi Swedberg. And what better song to practice it on than Elizabeth Cotton’s iconic song, Freight Train, Freight Train, a tune written more than 100 years ago and a great song to have in your quiver.  Plus, once you get this technique down, you’ll realize there are more tunes in your repertoire you can use this classic picking pattern with.  All aboard for the ride of your life!

Heart and Soul

No need to lose control, though, because Heidi Swedberg will guide you every step of the way as you navigate the Circle of Fifths, exploring the lovely chord progression in this great American standard.  And, as a bonus, you’ll learn the bridge!  (Nobody knows the bridge!)  Not only that, this workshop will open up a whole new world of musical insight that will carry over into just about every tune you’ll ever play on your ‘ukulele. Believe me; we all need a little heart and soul.

DANIEL”S WORKSHOPS

The Old Switcheroo

One of the biggest challenges facing any beginning player (and a number of more advanced players, as well) is switching the fingers on your left hand from one chord to another in a seamless and timely fashion. It’s hard!  But, it doesn’t have to be. In this workshop Daniel Ward will show you how to make those changes with little, or no, effort at all through a series of easy exercises and some expert advice that will let you relax and enjoy the music, without any pain or frustration.

Ethno-Ukeology

Take one tune and put it through several different style changes with your right hand and what have you got?  Ethno-ukeolgy.  From the friendly Travis pick to the more complex strums of  Latin America and the Caribbean, Daniel Ward will teach you how to  “cook” on the strings with some tasty spices, including (but not limited to) calypso, salsa, reggae, and country! Slow practice in class will make sure that you get it all under your skin before trying this at home, and handouts will make sure you get it right. Sounds like a hoot and necessary information to have under your belt. Plus you can have a little fun with it.   How about “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” with a calypso beat?

Stormy Weekend Part 1

Actually, the title of the song is “Stormy Monday,” the blues classic that will serve as the foundation for this 2-part workshop by Daniel Ward. Learning to play the blues provides such a solid foundation for any player’s repertoire, that we recommend you take at least one of our blues workshops, even if you don’t take anything else.  In this one, developed for more experienced players, Daniel will cover both familiar and advanced chord shapes in time with the changes, as well as the pentatonic and blues scales in major and minor for soloing.  You can count on some good right hand attention too, exploring the strengths of finger-style, strumming, and using a pick.  By the end of the second workshop you will be “trading chords and solos” as partners and come away with a whole set of new skills to help tackle any blues song on your own. Part 1 is highly recommended if you want to take Part 2.

Stormy Weekend Part 2

This is an extension, primarily for more advanced players of Stormy Weekend, Part 1, focusing on the more advanced chord shapes and right hand technique, including  finger-style, strumming, and using a pick.  The blues classic “Stormy Monday” will serve as the foundation.  By the end of this workshop you will be “trading chords and solos” as partners and come away with a whole set of new skills to help tackle any blues song on your own. To get the most out of this workshop, you should take Stormy Weekend, Part 1.

All of Me!

Why not take all of me?  It’s a wonderful opportunity to explore and learn this iconic tune with Daniel Ward and discover all its lovely jazz changes without getting lost! And, since the tune itself travels through several different keys, you’ll start to get a feel for how the dominant chord can take you places you didn’t know you wanted to go!  And you’ll be learning some basic jazz strumming techniques at the same time. By the end of the session, you’ll not only have a new tune under your belt, you’ll also have a pocketful of tricks to apply to other songs of the genre. Can’t you see?  You’re no good without this.

Do the Fandango!

  1. 1. a lively Spanish dance for two people, typically accompanied by castanets or tambourine, or 2. a foolish or useless act or thing. For our purposes, we’ll go with the first definition, a 12-count rhythm that requires some thumb work and fancy strumming, with temolo,  scales, and rageuados for the right hand, to get that traditional flamenco sound. And who better to give it to you than Daniel Ward, a professional flamenco guitarist for the past 30 years? With a traditional flamenco fandango under your belt, you’ll be set to play on your own for hours and sound simply amazing…not a foolish or useless thing at all. A low G is a plus if you have one, but skills and techniques learned here will work well with re-entrant tuning, as well.

(Heidi and Daniel don’t always refer to themselves in the third person, but when Heidi and Daniel do….  Thanks, Elaine DeMann for writing up such lively course descriptions!  Too good not to steal!)

Obama, Ukulele and Time-Consciousness Altering- what a trip!

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Two weeks ago the President was in town.  My 15 year old girl and I got stuck in a blockade a few cars deep of an intersection where  police had halted traffic.  We sat in the car, unmoving, for about 40 minutes, giving thanks to the working AC as the car reported the temperature at 95 degrees.  At one point Oona got out, took pictures of the traffic to share on Snap Chat with her friends with the caption “Thanks, Obama!”. She took a photo of a helicopter.  Arbitrarily we decided was the one he was in.  “Look!  I see him!  HI OBAMA!” she shouted to the delicious irony speck of irony in the sky.

But then, finally, we watched the presidential motorcade pass: motorcycles,  police cars, official vehicles, and one thrilling Black Cadillac SUV with fancy flags right in the middle of the procession.  My smart, sassy girl whooped with excitement, and the stagnant pain was redeemed.

IMG_6944January may seem a long way out, but I know it will be here in the blink of an eye.  I am thrilled to invite you to a Ukulele and Cooking retreat in Mexico that I will be participating in, plus two other ukulele festivals.

 Minutes can last forever- especially when you are stranded on the road on a hot summer day, but the months and the years (especially the years) fly by….  I know this  adventure will be one of those that stops time, a week that lasts forever in memory.  That is what I love the most about travel, and ukulele retreats.  They have the same power as a presidential motorcade.  To slow time and create memories that last a lifetime.
WINE COUNTRY UKULELE FESTIVAL  Sept 4-7 Santa Helena, CA
ALBUQUERQUE UKULELE FESTIVAL  Sept 26-27th Albuquerque, NM
MEXICO! La Semana de UKE-CULINARIA Fiesta  January 24-31 2015  Ajijic, Mexico

 

 

Subversive Fun-Sukey Jump!

The Sukey Jump Band will be celebrating Summer’s end with shows in four and a half states- Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and California: Northern and Southern.  We have a passel of scheduled performances we’d love to see you at.  These are officially classified as “Kids Shows”, but that is a classification we love to buck.

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Kids show…

grown ups show.  You tell me which is sillier!

grown ups show. You tell me which is sillier!

...I rest my case

…I rest my case

The Sukey Jump Band has a simple mission- to share the joy making music brings with all ages.  That’s how we came by the name SUKEY JUMP!  In the “old days” people would gather and sing, dance, holler and laugh at gatherings known as play parties or sukey jumps.  Musicians would play, leading songs everyone could enjoy and participate in, whether they danced to a call, following directions or just stomped and jumped.  Songs often familiar, inviting response and welcoming chorus.

I have a favorite quote from the film  State and Main (2000) by David Mamet: “Everybody makes their own fun. If you don’t make it yourself, it isn’t fun. It’s entertainment.”  There is a lack of opportunity to “make fun” for all ages.  We are fast becoming a society doped on the true opiate of the masses: corporate media entertainment.  To quote another film “we’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take this any more!”.   Although I won’t be throwing my Mac out the window I will be throwing caution to the wind and inviting you to join us in our subversive acts.

 

August 3  2-3 PM  South Coast Botanical Gardens 26300 Crenshaw Boulevard  Palos Verdes Peninsula, California 90274

September 4, 5:30- 7 pm    Wine Country Ukulele Festival   SPECIAL KID’S SHOW AND ICR CREAM SOCIAL! Umpqua Bank, 1065 Main Street, St. Helena, CA

September 12 6:30 PM   Plaza Library, Kansas City, MO

September 13, 10 am  Wonderscope Children’s Museum     Kansas City, Kansas

September 14th  1pm   Wiggle Out Loud   Children’s Music Festival Oklahoma City, OK

 

 

Downtown Ukulele Events

Fun Ukulele happenings in the next two weeks!

Next weekend- bring your ukulele downtown and Break a World Record at the LA UKULELE EXPO.  All day events including the mass playing down at the Japanese American Cultural Center.  You gots to go if you are in town!

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a very jazzy A7. With butter creme icing, if you please!

Wish we were, but we have some special duties to attend to- We are flying to Santa Fe, NM for the weekend for Daniel’s nephew’s wedding.  My baking protege and I are making the cake.  My pantry is fresh out of chile, so I gotta stock up while I’m there.  Fortunately the rehearsal dinner will be at La Choza-  Red AND Green- Christmas in June!

The following weekend we will be back for  the UKE-along at the Music Center, also downtown Los Angeles.  Daniel and I are joining a cadre of great teachers at this event.  Open to beginner and intermediate players (check the guidelines on the website) you will have a great time in a social atmosphere and be given some high quality materials and first rate instruction!  This is an event like no other.  You have to sign up in advance- hope you do and I look forward to seeing you there!

Reno Uke Fest and the Ohana Bass

The last song... with everyone on stage!

The last song… with everyone on stage! Photo by Ivan Olarte

“How many instruments do you need?” the flight attendant asked as we boarded the plane with a guitar, the Ohana bass and two ukuleles.  The honest answer was more then we can cary on, as we had an additional re-enterant uke checked as baggage.  And of course my shakers.  If I had hands free I might have snapped a shot of us filling the overhead bin.  But honestly, beats schlepping a cello or two!

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Cell Phone star Daniel Ward teaches Sevillanas. 70 cell phones and one still camera- thank you Ivan Olarte

The festival was fabulous.  Smooth organization, happy workshops, collaborations with friends, and a great venue with great sound and a great crew.  Makes life mighty easy and sweet.

DaSilva Flamenca

Michael Da Silva has a little flamenca in him. Literally. Photo by Craig Chee

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Flamenquitas Olé! Photo by Deborah Haight

 

carrot girl

Catskills always kill with Gerald Ross. Photo by Craig Chee

and that theatre…

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Daniel and the Ohana bass were on stage most of the night, doing songs in our set, including “Play That Funky Music, White Boy” ( he would be the boy) and Gerald Ross played it for a few of our songs.  Daniel brought it back out for a bunch of songs in the second set with Craig Chee and Sarah Maisel.   The next night Jason Arimoto played the fretless version for Daniel Ho. Ohanabass Daniel

It’s a sweet axe, and Daniel’s made a video to tell you all about it- click HERE for his review.

Jim D'Ville proves there's no wrong way to play it!  Photo by Craig Chee

Jim D’Ville proves there’s no wrong way to play it! Photo by Craig Chee

Big Bunny!

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We had a hoppin’good time at the LA Zoo over the weekend, playing 10 shows in 3 days and hanging with the Big Bunny.  We packed breakfast burritos with green chili and lunch burritos with red chili to share with another New Mexican, Luis Guerra who played the sassy new Ohana bass.  (Can’t wait to take this little powerhouse to the Reno Uke Fest this weekend!)

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Who can resist a  carousel?  Sure wish we had the chance to ride in the Dung Beetle Chariot!

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