It’s All About the Kids… and the Booze

aka: Academia de Ukuleles de la Ribera / Consider the Cazuela

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See, I had this idea that I would write an extended metaphor about how the new uke program started by the Club Ukulele Laguna with the La Semana de Uke-Culinary retreat folks and the mixing of a great cocktail are complicated miracles, that when all the elements are assembled with art, love and diligence the result is magic.  And then I’d reference MFK Fisher…  but really, it’s just all about the kids and the booze.

Kids first, drink recipe later. Priorities!

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First strums and smiles. That’s what the ukulele is all about.

Rounding up enough instruments for the program was step one, but throwing a bunch of instruments out into the wild won’t make it happen.  It is the fun part, though, and that was where Daniel came in.  We had the pleasure of passing out a batch of 14 Ohana ukuleles, purchased by and hand carried down to Ajijic, Mexico by the La Semana de Uke-Culinary retreat participants.

Here they come, ukes in hand!

Here they come, ukes in hand!

The hard work, organizing the program, getting the ukes together and into the country, putting together the program, finding the teacher… was done mainly by Elaine DeMann, ukulele raconteur, and Ajijic denizens Sheila Ruof and Judy King.

The wonderful Sheila- as feisty as she is dedicated!

The wonderful Sheila- as feisty as she is dedicated!

Material support has streamed in from the local ukulele club, the CUL Kids. They have provided additional instruments to the growing program; a classroom set of our forthcoming book, COLOR-ALONG Ukulele (just a few more days left to pre-order!) and have raised funds to pay a teacher.

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***Tonight, March 24, 2015 is their FUNDRAISER event!  If you happen to be in Ajijic… ***

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Everybody loves Lalo! Elaine and Sheila are no exception.

The teacher: the key element in making it all work, and boy, did they get lucky on this front!  José Eduardo García Espinoza, aka “Lalo” is a beautiful musician and human.  His kind smile and relaxed, modest manner melt any resistance. The kids love him and are inspired to impress.  Young, handsome, approachable, he is an accomplished musician and an experienced teacher who can create an atmosphere of passion and discipline. Lalo has been working with the kids every week at the community center, and the videos we have seen show just how focused they are.  They have progressed beautifully.

Lalo, who plays guitar and a host of other strings is fairly new to the uke.  Underrepresented and hard to find  in Mexico, he picked up a very basic starter soprano while in the capitol about a year ago, and fell in love.  Louis Wu at Ohana has generously offered to send Lalo a tenor-sized cut-away with a pick-up fit for a professional.

NOW, on to THE BOOZE!!!!

Kristi and Ross didn't like theirs at all!

Kristi and Ross didn’t like theirs at all!

A Cazuela, a clay bowl, is used to serve the epimonus drink.  Elaine had commemorative bowls inscribed for La Semana de Uke-Culiaria which we drained and took home.  I believe her secret recipie, passed down from her mother who was an event caterer, used pepsi.  Maybe there was some other stuff in there too. Vodka? You can’t fault me if I don’t remember…  It was a highlight of the trip.   This one looks simple to make.  Try it out- invite me over!

2 oz tequila
1 dash salt
1 sliced lime
1 sliced orange
1 sliced grapefruit
1 sliced lemon
1 tsp grenadine syrup
fill with Squirt® citrus soda

In a cazuela that is made of clay, put ice, salt, a slice of lime, orange, lemon, and grapefruit. Add grenadine, tequila, and fill with squirt. Use a straws to shake, and serve. Hilarity will ensue.

CHEERS!!!!!

CHEERS!!!!!

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Our NEW BOOK!

Pre-orders are being taken now through KICKSTARTER for our NEW BOOK:

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UPDATE: Daniel is now offering Pre-Orders for the Arpeggio Meditations book of studies. Print is set for mid September-Oct.

Go to www.Danielward.net to get yours.

 

The site is hot and business has been brisk! In less than 24 hours, more than 160 copies have been ordered. We are excited to have been promoted to “staff Pick” on the Kickstarter!

Color-Along Ukulele is a method book with illustrations designed to entice beginning players of all ages, and includes companion recordings– great for use in the classroom or at home.

Fun lessons and illustrations by El Rey with recordings to boot!  Woot!

Fun lessons and illustrations by El Rey with recordings to boot! Woot!

BIG THANKS to all the backers who jumped in on the first day: for believing in this project, for pledging the funds we need to finish.  Your orders will allow us to get to work on the art, recordings and deliver it to the printers.  In plenty time for the holidays. (What? Christmas already?)

And big thanks for your generosity towards others.  At least 100 of the books just bought are being directed to the hands of  kids ready to learn the ukulele in places like Haiti, India, and Mexico where we are partnered with smart organizations.  And we know a bunch of kids stateside, from California to New York who would love books in their schools and libraries.

These girls are in the ukulele program we started in Ajijic last month with the CUL Kids!

These girls are in the ukulele program we started in Ajijic last month with the CUL Kids!

Lalo, el maestro in Mexico, teaching his new class.  He was our second order!

Lalo, el maestro in Mexico, teaching his new class. He was our second order!

Please click on the site, watch the great movie edited with love and skill by Daniel’s niece Kirsten, shot by Lisa Udelson and staring her beautiful son and his friends.  Check out the rewards, which include art by El Rey, our artist.

Who wouldn't want an original by this handsome monkey-squid?

Who wouldn’t want an original by this handsome monkey-squid?

We’ll even make you dinner!

....actual platings may vary...

….actual platings may vary…

We are pleased as punch with this book and we think you will be too!  Hear the whole story on Kickstarter.  Check it out! click here:   COLOR-ALONG UKULELE

And a reminder- if you are in LA we start classes at U-Space TOMORROW! (2/28) at 10:30 am for families!  Hope to see you there!

This Is Not A Test (Kitchen)

Preparing to teach a cooking class  at the end of January at the La Semana de Uke retreat on the shores of lake Chapala  in Jalisco, Mexico means testing out some recipe ideas at home.

There are still a few spaces available to join us on this adventure which includes hiking, photography, cooking and music.  Those of you locked in a cold wintery area: I especially recommend you consider packing a small bag and jumping on the first Aeromexico flight you can book.

Here is an enticing food-a-logue to get you thinking about it.

Last week Daniel wanted to work on a flautas/taquito idea.  Poor me,  I had to suffer the consequences.

Looks tasty already!

Looks tasty already!

While gigging in Baltimore(of all places), Daniel had eaten some really tasty appetizers in a fancy Mexican joint.  Flautas con pollo were on his mind: crunchy “Mexican egg rolls”, spiced with chili, oregano, zest and juice of orange, lime and lemon… mmmm.

First, a chicken was spatchcocked and roasted,  (OK, I just love to say “spatchcocked”.  But admit it- don’t you?) shredded and mixed with the citrus, plus onion, garlic, herbs, chillies and other seasonings.

There are always some secrets kept, even in the most intimate of relationships.  Even between blogger and reader.  It is what keeps our relationship fresh.  So, yes- there may have been salt and pepper added.  Perhaps even olive oil.  But I’ll never tell.

The tiny test kitchen gets a workout!

The tiny test kitchen gets a workout!

Flour tortillas were filled and rolled with the heavenly stuffing, but instead of frying…IMG_7415he baked them in the oven.  Red Chili from Chimayo, New Mexico makes the sauce… and it is never a party without a little guacamole!

 

he baked them in the oven.  Red Chili from Chimayo, New Mexico makes the sauce… and it is never a party without a little guacamole!

Daniel gets serious about plating

Daniel gets serious about plating and garnish

and….

Mmmmmm...   Nuf said.

Mmmmmm… Nuf said.

The next day he made the same thing,  but with corn tortillas, taquito style.  Even better.  Kid tested, kid approved!

However,  I think he needs to work on this idea some more, don’t you?   My mouth is watering just thinking about it!  If you can’t stop by for dinner this week you should definitely check your schedule for the last week of January…   Learn more about joining us at http://ukuleleadventures.com/

com com com nom nom nom.

 

 

 

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.

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