bunrab: (me)
In 2012, the only resolution I made was to remember to call my friend Cindy at least once a week, instead of always waiting for her to call me - I'm really,  really bad about picking up the phone and calling people, but I managed to keep that resolution. Without any resolutions on the subject, I decided just after the first of the year that I really needed to get out from under the burdens of a largish single-family home, so repaired the home, sold the home, bought a condo, moved. So far so good, right? Also good, that I don't think I've mentioned, is that I've lost nearly 25 pounds in the past year, getting my BMI to just under 25 - that is, within normal instead of overweight! Without any resolutions about losing weight!

I whined here about the couple of tachycardia events that screwed up my summer, and then somehow never got around to getting back here. I think, mind you I'm not certain, but I think, that this new year I resolve to write a few more substantive posts here, rather than depending on 3-sentence Facebook updates to be the only way I keep up with friends or organize my thoughts.

Playing catch-up )
More stupid heart stuff )

More than you wanted to know about my finances )

I have slightly less of too much stuff )

A visit to Texas )

OK, that's well enough of a ramble and a catch-up. New Year's resolution: keep up with LJ better, keep up with my friends' lives better. It's not all always me, and when it is me, sometimes it's good to share.
bunrab: (bass)
go to http://www.montgomeryvillagecommunityband.org/video/holiday-concert--2008
scroll down to Jingle Bells Hora, and watch the video! I get to take a quick bow at the end.
bunrab: (bathtub warning)
We did xmas twice, first on Thursday with my sister S and her spouse and kids and our parents and some of her spouse's siblings, then again on Saturday, with my brother G and his spouse and kids and our parents and a niece and her new husband, who were briefly in MD visiting, before returning to grad school in Texas; most of us had not been able to get to her wedding, so we were pleased to meet the husband (and his younger brother, who was tagging along for the day). Sister is up Philadelphia way, which meant we got to see the mess that is billboards in Phila. again - they have more Hooters billboards per mile of highway than any other city I've seen. G lives about an hour south of us, near DC.

I made a set of placemats for S, who has been wanting new ones for a couple YEARS now; below is a picture of five out of the eight of them - the green things. The piecing is a faux-crazy quilt pattern, with a few bits of ribbon added, and then they are quilted using cotton batting.

The picture in the frame in the middle of the table is a photo of me and [livejournal.com profile] squirrel_magnet, taken in Vienna, in a frame I painted to sort of match the dress I'm wearing in the photo. This was a gift for my dad and stepmom, who expressed a wish to have a respectable-looking photo of us to add to their table o' family pics - all their offspring, with assorted spouses and further descendents. So now they have one. Here's a slightly closer view of it:

One of the neatest presents we received from relatives was an afghan that sister S and her family made for Squirrel; knowing his love of his John Deere lawn tractor, they found John Deere fabric and a nice fleece backing, and fringed and knotted them to make a lap robe Squirrel can use while watching TV. Nephew Ian, almost-12, did most of the work; Ian loves making stuff, any stuff - car models and Lego helicopters and jigsaw puzzles, and sewing and needlework as well. Anyway, that is a gift beyond anything they could have bought Squirrel with just $$$.

Those red things in the center of the picture above were two dishcloths and two scrubbies (pot scrubbers) I crocheted for SIL Jen - she had requested red, and I made her those items, plus three red quilted potholders and a quilted oven mitt. The potholders and oven mitt are made using a batting which has a mylar reflective layer, so that they really do insulate/isolate the hot object from the hand. Here's a quick view of those:

I made teddy-bear-ear hats for 2 of G & Jen's kids - here's Luke in his, and Kyla in another one that was also supposed to be Luke's, but she appropriated it an preference to the kitty-ear hat I had made her. Oh well.

I made a lot of crocheted and knitted dishcloths, most of which I didn't bother to photograph before wrapping and/or mailing them, but here's one last photo, of the black lace dishcloths I made for Liz:

Things I got for xmas: a big chunk of my Amazon.com wish list, from Squirrel; Odysseus on the Rhine, mentioned in the previous post, is part of it. Also a couple of books from Cindythelibrarian; assorted CDs and a family photo or two, turtlenecks and socks. Funny thing about socks. Clothing is supposedly one of those presents you don't like to get. But socks were a big hit this year. I bought two of my nieces, Brenna and Brooke, socks from the Doorly Zoo, back when we were in Omaha in November, and gave the socks to them for xmas; they immediately put them on! After all, who can possibly resist LEMUR socks? And then, when S and her family were giving me and Squirrel our presents, mine had a pair of socks as part of the gift tag - and I immediately put them on, because the socks I had been wearing were way too warm for how mild the weather was, and the new socks were cotton - also had animals on them. So there was much running around the living room in animal socks for the rest of the day.


Dec. 19th, 2008 11:57 pm
bunrab: (bathtub warning)
So here's what I've been doing the last couple weeks: two weeks ago, caught a cold. Hasn't completely gone away yet. Tried taking pseudoephedrine to stop the snot, and got zapped by my ICD for my trouble. The day after that (last Friday) drove up to Philadelphia to see niece in high school play - she is a freshman, but got one of the front parts usually reserved only for seniors; the family habit of singing loudly in public at the drop of a hat has some uses. Came back Saturday afternoon; played holiday concert at CCBC-Essex with the BSB on Saturday night. Sunday afternoon, I played a holiday concert with the Montgomery Village Community Band, while [livejournal.com profile] squirrel_magnet played one with the Bel Air Community Band, each 40 miles in opposite directions from C'ville. And at that, we missed two other performance opportunities we had for the same afternoon; since Thanksgiving was so late this year, the number of weekends available for holiday performances is scrunched down, so a lot of things were happening at the same time.

Monday, I slept. Well, woke up for meals, but otherwise slept. Tuesday I also slept, though I woke up for taking Chippy-chin to the vet for a follow-up; he is almost all healed up from Darwin's attack. Wednesday, let's see, I believe I actually woke up for a few hours Wednesday, and worked on the many homemade holiday presents I have not yet finished. Thursday we went to the library, and I finished buying the last few little things I needed to buy for assorted nieces and nephews. Then Thursday evening, Cindythelibrarian took us to see a show, as part of her Christmas present to us. The show was "Every Christmas Story Ever Told" presented by the Baltimore Shakespeare Festival, and it was great. A three-man show doing them all - Charlie Brown, The Grinch, Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and (due to copyright issues) Gustav the Green-Nosed Reingoat. If you're in the area, it's playing through Sunday. My favorite part was the first act closer, The Nutcracker ballet. If you're on my flist, chances are you are familiar with Anna Russell's version of The Ring Cycle; imagine the Nutcracker condensed that way and you about have it. Complete with actual ballet dancing, done very well and very funnily. (Funnier for women my age than for men, because women of my generation, if we were anywhere above poverty level and even some below, we took ballet lessons when we were six years old or so; it was just one of those things. Ten years older and you probably didn't; ten years younger and you probably didn't, but all of us who are fifty-mumble took those lessons, whether at a dance school, or cheap group public school stuff on Saturdays in the gym, we all learned the five positions, and plies, and so on. Bit of cultural literacy there.) The second act was a merger of Dickens' A Christmas Carol and "It's a Wonderful Life" and then ended by singing every Christmas song ever written in about three minutes. We really enjoyed it.

And Friday, today (or yesterday, depending on how you feel about nights and stuff), I went to the doctor and got some stuff that's supposed to stop the nose drip without causing hypertension or arrhythmia; we'll see how that works. Also stopped at Jo-Ann's and got some yarn for one last teddy bear xmas present, and at Trader Joe's for freeze-dried strawberries; the chinchillas get VERY peeved if we run short on strawberries, and one really doesn't wish to risk the wrath of a peeved chinchilla. And now I am back to working on those presents - gotta finish place mats for Steph, potholders for Jen, teddy bear for Luke...

I have not had time or energy, outside of concerts and colds, to do any xmas shopping for anybody not part of my immediate family. If some of you normally get a Solstice/Chanukah/xmas present from me, well, this year, expect a New Year's present, or an Epiphany present, or maybe even a Martin Luther King Jr. Day present... There are a couple small things going out in the mail tomorrow to Texas, and a couple more small things on Monday, that might get there before New Year's.

One of the things we haven't done, either, is get up to NYC, which I wanted to do. Since the Museum of Natural History keeps their tree up through the end of the month, I am thinking we might go the week after Christmas; even though it'll be a little more crowded 'cause kids have off from school, a weekday should still be tolerable. Possibly Monday the 29th. (T, I'll call you about possible lunch!)

Now back to work.
bunrab: (Default)
Okay, some Amazon.com reviews - read 'em, click the little Yes button, you know the drill:
This Might Not Be Pretty (a Stone Soup comic strip collection) by Jan Eliot
Grease Monkey by Tim Eldred - already mentioned this one; it's on my "favorite books this year" list.

Briefly in tweets I quoted from A Short History of Rudeness by Mark Caldwell. It was written about 10 years ago, so the chapter on the internet is overwrought and out of date. And the chapter on Martha Stewart is just plain weird, has nothing to do with the rest of the book. But nonetheless there's some interesting reading in some of the chapters, particularly about how the rise in mobility (more and more individual transportation) contributed to the world being ruder.

From Doon With Death by Ruth Rendell - a re-release of the first Inspector Wexford novel. From 1964. I've never gotten around to reading any Rendell before. Eh. I could see the plot twist coming a mile away. And I find the whole thing too British for me. In order to read the story smoothly, one has to be familiar with the British school system, and with the whole "this neighborhood in London automatically conveys such-and-such a social and economic class" thing, which is not information I've ever cared to internalize. I know a lot of people don't mind it; it's a personal thing to prefer novels set in places where I know the milieu.

The Fortune Cookie Chronicles by Jennifer 8. Lee (yes, that's an 8.) Adventures in the World of Chinese Food. Very, very funny book. Especially the chapter on why Chinese food is "the chosen food of the Chosen People, or, The Great Kosher Duck Scandal of 1989." The history of General Tso's Chicken, the greatest Chinese restaurant in the world, and a comparison of the McDonalds model as Windows and the Chinese restaurant model as Linux. I bet almost everyone on my flist would find something to enjoy in this one.

Michael Chabon's The Final Solution - a short book that, although it never mentions the name, is clearly meant to be a sort of alternate-history "Sherlock Holmes lives to a ripe old age in rural England." A quick read, nice enough, and the parrot is a nice character.

Welcome to Tranquility by Gail Simone and Neil Googe - another graphic novel, this one a very loving send-up of old-fashioned comic books, the kind from the 1940's through 1960's, with a touch of how counterculture and Goths and Postmodernism took over from those. The plot is set in the town of Tranquility, where all the retired maxi-heroes (someone must have a copyright on "super-heroes") live. And the young African-American female sheriff who gets to try to keep the whole town calm. Probably MORE fun reading for someone my age, who read all those '60's comics books at the time, than for younger people who don't have that whole context.

Oh, and of course The Eight by Katherine Neville, already mentioned that it was in progress. Finished it. A bit silly and complicated in many spots - requires a willing suspension of disbelief for the fantasy element that sneaks in, as with any magical/religious object that exerts mysterious powers over people, even though otherwise set in the "real world." And quite a bit of the whole Freemasons/Rosicrucians/gigantic historical conspiracy wingnut stuff as part of it. Good fun, though, and I liked many of the side digressions, such as the tale the 18th-century chess player tells of meeting J.S. Bach. On the whole, a bit non-sequitur-ish, as the mystical power of the chess set at the end has nothing to do with how it was introduced at the beginning, but nonetheless a good adventure thriller, sort of "what if Indiana Jones were a woman working for a big-8 accounting firm in the 1970's?" with a whole bunch of French Revolution and other international travel thrown in.

Okay. Gotta go change clothes for yet another band Christmas concert tonight. Whee. "Sleigh Ride" till our lips fall off.
bunrab: (bunearsword)
So we went to the Winterthur on Saturday. They have really nice lunches in their cafeteria, including a fancy dessert table. I spent more time on the "Who's Your Daddy" exhibit than [livejournal.com profile] squirrel_magnet or Cindythelibrarian did. We all enjoyed the "Feeding Desire" exhibit - if you're anywhere in the area, that's a great one to go see. Of course right now, the house tour includes Winterfest, which is always beautiful. And mid-afternoon, there was a concert by a Sa"ngerbund - I forget the name of the group, but it was a chorus of about 30 people. Mostly songs we did not know, many of them in German. When we crossed the driveway to the gift shop, we noticed the largest holly tree I have ever seen, somewhere over 30 feet and full of berries. I am used to holly trees being spindly 10 or 12 foot things, and in Texas holly is a shrub; this was most definitely a tree! We got a good deal of holiday present shopping done in the gift shop. On the way home we avoided the evil Delaware toll plaza - on the way up, we were so busy talking, we missed the exit for easiest toll avoidance.

Backing up a bit. I did not wind up making the corn pudding for Thanksgiving. It would have been the last thing to get started, and when I got to that point, I realized that I had every single inch of space in my oven and my toaster oven completely filled with stuff already, more stuff than 8 people could possibly eat. (So I used the corn to make corn chowder late at night for S & I for supper - so we didn't have to eat the leftovers the same day!) We had a nice Auslese Riesling and a lot of apple cider. The day went well. My 7-month-old nephew Luke seems to be attempting to bypass crawling altogether and trying to stand up by himself and learn to walk. We watched "Babe" after dinner, which was popular not only with almost-2 Kyla, but also with my dad. My stepmom gave us a housewarming present, a Tensor floor lamp with a daylight-spectrum bulb in it - and it's dimmable! That will be useful not only for all my needlework but also for S's fiddling with stereo pieces and with gadgets.

Currently reading: Grease Monkey by Tim Eldred - very funny SF graphic novel - and The Eight by Katharine Neville, a thriller about Charlemagne, chess, the French Revolution, and auditing. The number 8 has many meanings in the book, and one of them is the "Big Eight" accounting firms, back when there were still such. Our heroine works for one that is a roman-a-clef Peat Marwick, often known as KPMG; in the book, the names of the firm form an acronym of FCK-U, which pretty much describes the firm's attitude toward its clients, its employees, and everything else.

I love museum gift stores.
bunrab: (Vlad)
1. We had cake for dessert, a packaged stollen someone had given us for xmas. Nutrition information: Serving size: 1/6 cake. Servings per package: 9.

2. Finally got around to doing our taxes - it's not complicated, it doesn't take long, but I always put it off. Hardest part is finding things. Anyway, we're due $1K refund from the feds, and then conveniently, we owe $1K on state-and-local for Maryland/Baltimore.

3. I am transcribing music into Finale, from handwritten parts; the great-grandfather of one of the Montgomery Village Community Band's flute players wrote several marches, in little teeny handwriting, and without parts for any instruments that the village band he originally wrote them for didn't have. So I'm entering the tuba part and transposing it for bari sax and bass clarinet, entering the Bb clarinet parts and transposing them for flutes, etc. Finale is not a perfect medium, and I still haven't figured out how to put in a "repeat the previous measure" sign.

4. We'll be flying back down to Texas 4/16, and returning 4/22. The estate sale is Thursday-Friday-Saturday the 17-18-19.

5. I am putting off cleaning the remaining one of the three rabbit litter boxes, and also cleaning the hedgie cage. Procrastination is my second middle name!
bunrab: (Vlad)
Knit Kimono by Vicki Squares - yes, this is a book to read, not just knitting patterns. Reviewed at Amazon here.

A Year Without "Made in China" by Sara Bongiorni. Subtitled "one family's true life adventure in the global economy." Amusing. They didn't quite manage to actually get through the year without buying anything made in China, both because Chinese stuff sneaks into other products in insidious ways, and because they have young children.

A Wrongful Death by Kate Wilhelm - latest in her Barbara Holloway series. In the previous volume, I had gotten impatient with Barbara for her endless dithering/whining about her relationships and her career; apparently, the author did too, because in this book Barbara sees a shrink and gets some stuff straightened out. Meanwhile, the mystery plot is good, and it's on the timely topic of medical prostheses.

We got the Christmas tree undecorated and folded up and boxed, but didn't manage to get it back to the storage unit, so the living room floor is a bit crowded at the moment. For some reason, we have the antique button accordion in its case, which Squirrel Magnet has been carrying around from house to house for years, in the living room, as well. And his City of Austin departmental fire warden's cap is on the sofa. I'm not sure how this stuff manages to get into our everyday space so easily. Library books, I understand.

Yesterday we went to the American Visionary Art Museum, for Cindy's birthday. My impression of "visionary art" for a while now has been "stuff made by people who hear voices" and nothing we saw there contradicted that impression. You know, pictures that god told them to draw and to write all over. Some people seemed to be channeling George Washington, King George III, and Jesus simultaneously. Many who had OCD. Fascinating stuff, but - people who hear voices in their heads.

We will be headed back to Texas on Wednesday. We'll be checking email while we're there. We'll be coming back Thursday the 31st. The pet sitter is already looking forward to it - she loves giving the chinchillas their dust bath! And Cindy will be dropping in as well, to play with little Vlad. (That's him in my icon.)

When we get back, I *promise*, pictures of Vlad, and of my latest completed knitting and crochet projects.
bunrab: (bunearsword)
OK, I got a box in the mail containing a heatproof glass mug with Science Blogs stuff on it. The return address was from Seed Media Group. There was no packing slip nor any other info to indicate why I would have received this mug. So which of you do I thank? It's a cool mug!

[livejournal.com profile] squirrel_magnet got me a a Bamboo tablet which means there will be lots more odd cartoons coming along. And we're going to go pick out a baby hedgehog tomorrow!

Cindy got me this book, which is one I'd been thinking about buying for a while!

My sister Steph got me the vegetable chopper I hinted at strongly - and she loved her hand-crocheted string grocery bags, too. We had a nice day at their place yesterday. My dad and stepmother were there also; they gave me a cookbook that fits excellently into my special diet, and gave [livejournal.com profile] squirrel_magnet a shirt that's to his taste and some microfiber cleaning cloths, which they pointed out will be especially useful for the motorcycle. This may be the best they've done at actually taking our individual tastes into account in years! My nephew Ian, who is 10, gave S a model of a Corvette that he had built and painted - Ian likes giving handmade stuff - and then promptly sat down with the Get Fuzzy collection we had given him, and was scarcely heard from the rest of the day, except a couple of occasions when he came across a strip which he felt he HAD to read aloud to me and Hanna. Hanna read aloud a lot from one of her presents (not from us), a parody called The Dangerous Book for Dogs. All in all, presents all the way around were a success. Steph made dinner without any added salt. AND, we had a long discussion about religion, which was not a fight or even an argument - it was an interesting discussion that all three generations of the family contributed to, and involved lots of history and trivia. Almost enough to make one think maybe there is a god :D

Happy Feast of Stephen!
bunrab: (Default)
This is my original song for y'all this year.

Blah, blah, copyright 2007 by R. Kelly Wagner, blah, blah.
bunrab: (soprano_sax)
Klezmer Nutrcracker Shirim - not only a good chunk of the Nutcracker Ballet, but also Romanian Rhapsody (Enesco), Hungarian Rhapsody (Brahms), lots of Satie, and more, all in a very jazzy klezmer style. Well done, danceable, fun. Definitely not elevator music.
Trombones Under the Tree - I think the title says it all. A trombone quartet plays lots of traditional stuff, and some of the Nutcracker, speaking of Nutcracker. This is the sort of thing that shows up in the houses of people who play low brass instruments for too long.
In a Christmas Mood - the Starlight Orchestra. Swing era big band stuff, nicely done and it moves right along.
A Christmas Tribute to Mannheim Steamroller by the Westwind Ensemble. As if we didn't have enough Mannheim Steamroller by Mannheim Steamroller, here's a tribute band.
Christmas Guitars: A Benefit for the National Coalition for the Homeless - various artists. 18 of them. Lots of nice guitar stuff - a little on the quiet and calm side, but for a good cause.
A Waverly Consort Christmas - another one that Lea probably has too. "From East Anglia to Appalachia" is the description. Stuff that we don't have anywhere else, 13th century English motets, some beautiful shape-note hymns. Instrumental variations on Greensleeves. This is a really beautiful album.
Christmas Island by Leon Redbone - mix a bit of 1920's Palm Court Orchestra, with dobro and slack-key guitar, with imitation 1950's Bing Crosby, and throw in a bit of Dr. John for accompaniment. It works surprisingly well. The title song is fun.
A Christmas Celebration by Celtic Women. Nice arrangement, lots of folk-dancey instrumental things, some unexpected medleys. Sally brought this one with her last weekend - more about that below - and we really like it, a nice addition to our collection.

Sally stopped by on her way from New York to her sister's place in VA, on Saturday, and stayed overnight. Around midnight was when we decided that a trio of violin, soprano sax, and euphonium would be just the thing, and we played Christmas carols by ear for about an hour and a half. Good thing John next door is deaf. Different instruments have different favorite keys they tend to default to, and the easy keys on a violin are not the same as the easy keys on a Bb saxophone, which aren't the same as the easy keys on low brass. We were often playing in three different keys for a full verse before we managed to converge on a common key. We had fun, though. We got her on her way Sunday after lunch at Panera - I almost feel like I should do Panera commercials, 'cause I recommend them to so many people on special diets! It was great to have her visit with us; she had never seen chinchillas take a dust bath before! She'll be back for a short stop on her way back to NY next weekend.

Merry Christmas!
bunrab: (Default)
Christmas with Travelin' Light - Sam Pilafian & Frank Vignola. Light jazz with a tuba soloist - need more be said? Pop and traditional favorites.
The Ventures Christmas Album. Ahh, the sixties. This is pretty funny - and they sneak in bits of their own music, too - a piece called "Scrooge," and little riffs from other pop songs sneak into the Christmas carols. Their "Jingle Bells Rock" sounds more like rock than the original did.
Christmas with the Lettermen. Traditional carols, nice harmony, a bit bland (I say that about a lot of things that don't include LOUD).
Christmas - The Players. Lots of stuff on here. Huge variety of instrumentation - you don't often hear soprano sax and cornetto on the same song, let alone both of those with button accordion and banjo.
Psallite! A Renaissance Christmas - Chanticleer. I'll bet [livejournal.com profile] angevin2 has this one, too. Josquin des Prez, Heironymous Praetorius, William Byrd. A must for early music fans.
Christmas Now is Drawing Near - Sneak's Noyse. Lots of English folk carols. Themed medleys. Some stuff that's not commonly heard in the US.
A Froggy Christmas. Novelty album, needless to say. A little of this goes a long way, so it's best played as part of a shuffle rather than trying to listen to it straight through. The back cover text is pretty funny (one of the performers is listed as Ribbit Goulet...)
A Toolbox Christmas. Likewise a novelty album, same caveat as above. "Your favorite carols performed on your favorite hand and power tools." Some spouses think it's funny to put Froggy Christmas and Toolbox Christmas on shuffle with each other (and nothing else). Some spouses are lucky that I am extremely tolerant.
bunrab: (schneider)
The Austin Christmas Collection - another one the rest of you probably aren't going to find anymore, not even in Austin (it's over a decade old). Includes Esther's Follies and all sorts of styles of Austin's singer-songwriter community. Steve Fromholz, Marcia Ball, Gary Nunn...
The Many Moods of Christmas - Robert Shaw & Chorale & Atlanta Symphony. This is all 4 suites of carols that were arranged by Robert Russell Bennett; way back in the early 80's, Randy Bass arranged a band transcription of two of them and the Austin Symphonic Band performed them along with the choir from Grace UMC, so we pretty much know every note of those two suites by heart. Probably, if you were wanting to own just one Christmas album that sorta summed up all the traditional songs, with a large choir and large orchestra and large organ to give it that large holiday sound, this album would be a good pick.
Merry Christmas from Harmony Ranch - Riders in the Sky. They're a comedy group, but they're also good singers, and here their cowboy style goes into a few popular Christmas tunes, a medley of traditional tunes, and several original songs - "Sidemeat's Christmas Goose" is a comedy song, for example, and "Riding Home on Christmas Eve" is a lovely song with a gentle horseriding beat.
Oy Chanukah! - The Klezmer Conservatory Band. Bunches of traditional Yiddish songs, some slightly more modern ones, a few instrumental dance numbers, all with a swingy klezmer style.
Winter Solstice Live! - Olympia's Daughters. This is another one of my favorites. There are songs on here I don't have on any other recording, beautiful harmonies. Mostly a capella. Some, but not all, of the songs have certain explicitly Christian lyrics modified to be pagan/goddess, neutral lyrics - "Good rest ye, merry gentlefolk" for example. My favorite rendition of the Holst "In The Bleak Midwinter" - their voices just do wonderful things for the chords in this. "I have a Million Nightingales" is one of the original songs on here. May be tough to find, since it's small press, as it were - I got it from Ladyslipper Music several years ago. Come to think of it, it's been a couple years since I last browsed Ladyslipper's catalog, and given some of the nice vocal stuff we've gotten from there, it's about time to look for more.
Blame it on Christmas! 17 Weird Yuletide Classics from Around the World - no artists named. Note that these aren't really from around the world; they're the usual christmas carls, but done in styles from around the world, sometimes funnier than others. Starts with "The Silent Night's Spangled Banner," Sousa-style, and includes a middle-Eastern style 12 Days of Christmas called "12 Arabian Nights." There's "The Inexcelsis Polka" and "Good Kingsy" and more that it would take you a couple of seconds to recognize :D
African Christmas: Christmas favorites with an African beat - various artists. This is a new acquisition - Wednesday, in fact - and we like it! There aren't any liner notes other than naming the artists and producers, so there's not information I'd like to have, such as what the traditional African songs are that are interpolated verse-for-verse with Christmas songs or used as intros to other songs, or what language(s) are being spoken. Or what the many interesting bits of percussion equipment are. There's an original song at the end, "African Christmas." Neat stuff!
bunrab: (polkadotray)
The Texas Department of Insurance had a door-decorating contest for Christmas for many years - decorate your office door, win a ribbon. As you know, being an atheist has never stopped me from enjoying lots of Christmas, and so I participated with vigor. One year, I covered my door with silver foil wrapping paper, then cut out a six-foot tall pine tree from green wrapping paper and pasted it on there - and then made a couple hundred origami stars, in many colors, and pasted them to the tree. It wasn't terribly fancy but it was lots of homemade, and I certainly got good at folding those stars. Made a big one for the top of the tree. Got an honorable mention.

Probably the funniest thing I ever did was rescue the covers of "annual statements" that were being disposed of. Insurance companies send in these huge (11 by 14, or larger, and about 130 pages) financial statements every year. They get kept in hard copy for a couple of years, then microfilmed, and then the hard copy gets destroyed. (This is the 80's and 90's - a lot of companies don't file hard copies any more in the 21st century, just electronic.) The covers are heavy paper stock, in different colors for different kinds of insurance companies - property/casualty companies have yellow covers, life insurance companies have blue covers, and there are peach and tan and green and pink... So, one year, I rescued all the covers, cut them into strips, and made a garland of paper circles, the kind we made out of construction paper as kids. And I strung that garland along the wall over the doors ALL THE WAY AROUND OUR FLOOR OF THE BUILDING. It didn't win any prizes, 'cause it didn't do much for any one door and didn't fit the categories, but I still think it should have won a recycling prize. That sucker had to be a couple hundred yards of garland. Needless to say, if I hadn't already had a solid reputation for being crazy, that garland would have cemented it.

You might think about doing that with some of your junk mail, if it comes in colorful envelopes!
bunrab: (cillie)
Pictures of our marine-life themed Christmas/Solstice tree! Click the picture behind the cut to go to a couple of pages of pictures: )
bunrab: (bass)
I've started writing a Christmas song. Its title will probably be the first line of the song, "We don't need God to have a merry Christmas." Sample verse, draft version (lots of polishing needed yet):
"In the dark, we all hope for light
And so we have the candles burning bright
Candles on the Christmas tree
The candles lit for Hannukah
Candles in the windows
For the travelers from afar."

Recent listening:
The Carol Album: Seven centuries of Christmas Music - Taverner Consort, Choir, & Players. Many unfamiliar items, many foreign language items (Latin, German, French) and Middle English. Interesting listening, and I like the harmonies.
Christmas with the Canadian Brass featuring the Great Organ of St. Patrick's Cathedral. Not only is it bright, loud, brass, but also a large, loud organ. Who could ask for anything more? The Hallelujah Chorus is so good with the organ that you'd almost swear you could hear the words despite the lack of a choir.
Christmas in a Celtic Land by Golden Bough. Like their other album, already mentioned, this has several songs I haven't heard elsewhere, and perhaps more to drink than we associate with modern american Christmas. You can tell it's folk music 'cause it includes an accordion. "Dear Joseph" is something I haven't heard elsewhere, a very pretty tune. "Mrs. Fogarty's Christmas Cake" is a hoot. I really like their voices and harmonies.
A Little Christmas Music - the Kings Singers. I could live without guest soloist Kiri Te Kanawa - I just don't like shrieking sopranos, I'm sorry. Anyway, other than that complain, this is nice stuff. KTK is in the medley of songs done as if by Mozart. I always like the Boar's Head Carol, and sing along with the chorus at the top of my lungs. Ends with Patapan and Farandole - the French carol that everyone here thinks of mainly as the melody from one of the "L'Arlesienne" suites.
Swingle Bells - Swingle Singers. They're sort of out of style now, but I still like a dose of Swingle Singers every now and then. Some foreign stuff on here that one doesn't hear very often, assorted Yule polkas and a bit of Bach.
Christmas Brass - Philip Jones Brass Ensemble. I have this unfortunate tendency to refer to PJBE as Peanut Butter Jelly. But really, they're everything good about brass. A large ensemble than the Canadian Brass and other assorted quintets, and they managed to sound even larger than that; their arrangements are often complex enough that you'd swear there was an entire concert band.
Sing We All Merrily - A Colonial Christmas - Linda Russell & Companie. Older carols, no pop stuff, with dulcimers, mandolin, harp, according, Northumbrian small pipes - very folksy, very nice - Russell's voice gives the group a distinct sound and style.
It's a Spike Jones Christmas. Do I really need to say anything more about this? Actually, yes - there's some perfectly nice stuff, done more or less straight, on here, in between the comedy numbers. But yes, there are all the comedy numbers you expect. It's from Rhino, whaddaya want?
bunrab: (bunnies)
[livejournal.com profile] squirrel_magnet decided that he didn't want to stand outside holding 20 lbs of brass to his mouth in 35 degree (2 degrees C) weather, so we skipped TubaChristmas yesterday. However, we did play a bit of music at home - he got out the euphonium, and I tried the euphonium mouthpiece plugged into my baritone sax, and managed to make a start on playing a few of the TubaChristmas book second euphonium parts, thus contributing toward my goal of pretending I have an ophicleide come next December and its TubaeChristmases. It certainly sounds as awful as everyone expects an ophicleide to sound, so it should fool everyone!

This evening I made homemade soup and homemade bread for supper - low-fat, low-sodium, and, if I say so myself, yummy. It was a "whatever's handy" soup - a chicken breast cut up, a couple of ounces of leftover macaroni, two potatoes that have been sitting around since Cindy was here in September, some of the bunnies' carrots, and so on and so forth, with a package of turkey meatloaf seasoning mix dumped in for good luck. The bread had just a touch of garlic added to it. It was a good winter supper.

Recent holiday CDs:
A GRP Christmas Collection - a jazzy album, nice stuff, includes Gary Burton, Chick Corea, that kind of stuff.
Yulestride by Butch Thompson - his signature stride piano style; we first became aware of Thompson through his appearances on A Prairie Home Companion.
Make We Joy: Music for Christmas by Holst and Walton - Christ Church Cathedral Choir. Beautiful singing, lovely arrangements, including one of my personal favorites, Holst's "In the Bleak Mid-Winter." Much of this will not be familiar to American listeners and/or those who are not Christmas music geeks - but try it anyway, you'll like it. Almost as much as bright, loud brass, a large, pure-sounding choir sounds like Christmas to me.
Hill Country Hannukah: A Celebration of Jewish Culture in Central Texas (by various and sundry including the Congregation Agudas Achim Adult Choir) - well, you're unlikely to be able to find this one unless you live in Austin; I got it at Waterloo Music over at 6th and Lamar back in 2001 or thereabouts. Nonetheless, I'm mentioning it here, because it's fun. There's some terrific klezmer stuff, a swingy jazz version of Maoz Tzur that is nonetheless respectful, some stuff that's not real familiar. No trace of The Dreidl Song whatsoever. Also, no program notes/liner notes/text inside the CD cover - so the stuff that's unfamiliar remains unfamiliar, unless I work up the energy to Google it.
Merry Texas Christmas, Y'all by Asleep at the Wheel - hey, it's Texas Swing, and it's done right. Guests include Ray Benson, Tish Hinojosa, Willy Nelson, Dan Walser - names familiar to any fan of Texas music. A few original songs, a few standards from contemporary popular secular music, an armadillo in a Santa hat on the back cover. What's not to like?
The Bells of Dublin by The Chieftains - quite a few guests on this one; the surprise is how much I like Elvis Costello on these, even though I'm not an overall Costello fan. It was his performance on these Christmas songs that lead me to Terror and Magnificence which remains one of my favorite albums, although it's not for everyone (and it has nothing to do with Christmas). Jackson Browne doing "The Rebel Jesus" and the Renaissance Singers doing "Past Three O'Clock" which I like. A medley based on "The Wren, the Wren!" which I found particularly fun this year since I just read that The Battle for Christmas book, which gives one a whole new perspective on wassailing and related door-to-door traditions. Other standards and other unfamiliar stuff. This whole album is another one of my very favorites.
Christmas Brass featuring the Dallas Brass - um, it's bright, it's loud, it's brass, Merry Christmas!
Wolcum Yule by Anonymous 4 - early music. I like it. But if you don't like early music, you might find parts of this boring or bland. Mostly less-familiar stuff, several dance pieces, "Grene Growith the Holy" allegedly by Henry VIII. I suspect [livejournal.com profile] angevin2 already has this album; if not, Lea, you gotta get it.

And now, back to sitting in an armchair with cats and a book, listening to the wind howl outside.
bunrab: (Default)
Yesterday was my saxophone lesson. I came home with a different soprano sax than I had left with. Pictures soon. The upgrade did not cost much, and it's a MUCH better horn - not any shinier, but ergonomically much easier to play. The longer I take lessons, the more I learn about what works and what doesn't on an instrument with that many little moving pieces, that I had never thought about before.

I'm sure I had already mentioned my new bari sax mouthpiece, the Jody Jazz 6; I wound up getting almost the same model for the soprano sax, the 6* (pronounced six-star) [http://www.jodyjazz.com/hr.soprano.html]. I also got a new used mouthpiece for the tenor a couple weeks ago, a German make called Strathon, with a built-in reed holder, obviating the need for a ligature, AND a built in sliding baffle which can change the chamber shape, and thereby change the sound from fairly mellow (though still jazzier than my C-Star mouthpiece) to quite edgy. I could never have afforded one new, but used was do-able. It is the Adjustotone model. (Strathmann's web site has only minimal info about them, and no pictures; they seem to now be far more into making their alto flutes than their sax and clarinet mouthpieces - but here's a link, such as it is: http://www.strathmann-musicinstruments.de/gbpatente_u_lizenz.htm)

Today, we retrieved the fake tree and the pertinent ornaments from the storage unit; we'll get it up over the weekend and I'll take photos then. If it snows tomorrow, S will NOT be doing TubaChristmas outdoors at the harbor, so we'll get it up then, otherwise, it'll be Sunday.

Reminder: [livejournal.com profile] richspk, [livejournal.com profile] guavmom, and [livejournal.com profile] n5red, I still need your snail addies.
bunrab: (Default)
OK, review's up at Amazon, here's the link:
You might have to scroll down a bit to find my review - there are 18 others. Mine's the newest, though.

As usual, please clicky the little "yes" button for my review, to feed my monstrous ego. Thx.
bunrab: (saxophone)
Brave Combo - It's Christmas, Man!
It is possible to turn anything into an accordion polka if you try hard enough. Brave Combo tries very hard. There's also traditional xmas songs turned into cha-cha, ska, sambas... It's fun. The "Christmas Polka" is wonderful.
Therapy Sisters - Codependent Christmas
A Texas group, and a couple songs are slightly Texas-centric. All the songs are original, all are funny. My favorite may be "Abraham's Lament," a combination Chanukah-Christmas song, sort of.
The Brass Band of Battle Creek - Sleigh Bells and Brass, The Sounds of Christmas
It's loud, it's bright, it's brass, it's Christmas. For you concert band fans: it includes Reed's Russian Christmas Music. Good album. Loud.
Mannheim Steamroller Christmas
Yes, this is the third MS xmas album I've blogged. I don't know whether we've run out of them yet.
Dr. Demento presents The Greatest Christmas Novelty CD of All Time
It's starts with the Chipmunk Song and gets worse from there - all your favorites, such as "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" and "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas." My favorite is the Dragnet parody.
The Early Light Consort - Christmas Past. Instrumentals including some less-familiar bits of "Messiah," "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" and "Pachelbel's Canon." Instrumentation includes crumhorns, ocarina, pan flute, lute, and more. Very pretty, very peaceful.
Quink Vocal Ensemble - Carols Around the World
Lots of unfamiliar stuff on this, and some that we know in English translations are in their original language. Some of it's very nice; I don't particularly care for their version of "In the Bleak Midwinter" though - personal preference, I'll take Holst's arrangement every time.
Joan Baez - Noël
She's got a beautiful voice and I like her style. Several less-familiar carols on here, and a couple sung in German.


bunrab: (Default)

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