Saturday, November 29, 2008

Fetching the Tree 2008

Traditionally, the Saturday after Thanksgiving is the day we go fetch our Christmas tree. This year was no exception. The difference was that everybody else--AND their dog--decided it was their day to get a tree, too!

In years past we have had blizzards, time constraints, and dog fights, but this year the weather was dry and a "balmy" 27 degrees F with a low ceiling of clouds that threatened snow, we had all day, and the dogs were cooperative.

Despite the usual mad search for hats, boots and coats, we got an early start. The road to Evanston, WY was pretty much deserted, but once past Evanston our Wrench-in-the-Works for this year manifested itself: it had rained the night before and then frozen, and everything was coated wtih 3/4" of ice. We slowed way down.
In order to cut down a fresh tree from Christmas Meadows, you have to get a permit from the US Forest Service. It only costs $10, making these the cheapest and most exciting trees on the market. But to get it, you have to pull into the lodge parking lot, which is attached to a parking lot 6' lower than the road. Oh, and coated with ice. And everybody was either in the parking lot, trying to get in, or trying to get out. Getting in was no problem for us. Gravity works. Pulling out, however, we had to go up the hill in the face of oncoming traffic, the ice, and the congestion. Our first 2 tries were unsuccessful due to oncoming traffic, and people ahead of us stopping, so 5 cowboys hanging around the parking lot (for just such a situation, probably) headed our way to push us up the hill (in our Chrysler New Yorker! HA! I don't think so.). HH waved them away, sure that if he got an uninterrupted run at the hill he would make it. We backed way up and sat there waiting for traffic to clear (making several people behind us mad), finally got a minute opening, and ran for it.

It was touch and go there, for a second, but our wheels kept spinning and we actually kept moving and made it out. From then on, we drove VERY CAREFULLY as the road was narrow, icy, snowy, and not maintained. And busy. We had to go a long way to find a place to pull out of traffic without going downhill at all, cuz if we got stuck way out there, we'd be there all winter! HH spotted a nice stand of young trees across a marshy place next to a campground. The ice coating everything made every step a drumroll. You could always tell where the dogs were by the crunch-crunch-crunch of their steps!

Crossing the marshy place, we very quickly found a nice, bushy tree less than 12' tall, cut it down and hooked it up to the dogs' leashes. The benefit of the ice was that dragging it back to the car was much easier than in former years!

The tree "fit" in the trunk, with the copious application of lots of rope, but the fun wasn't over yet! Just past the Lodge, an extended cab pickup towing a motor home had jack-knifed and was blocking both lanes, unable to move for the ice. A trooper was parked on the side of the road with it's lights flashing, but apparently not helping in any other way. We all just sat there burning dead dinosaurs for half an hour. Finally, another pickup with chains and TWO tow ropes was able to tow the offending pickup past us to the Lodge. The chains dug deep holes in the ice as they went by. Traffic started moving then, and we passed another motor home in the ditch, and two cars with bashed-in grills waiting for tows as well. We crawled back to Evanston, filled up with gas (at $1.45 per gallon!), treated Daughter #3 to a 15th Birthday lunch, and drove merrily home. Back home, Daughter #1 had moved the furniture around in the living room, set up the Christmas tree stand, and fetched half the boxes of Christmas decorations from the basement. What a nice surprise! We are now officially Decorated for Christmas!

Fetching the Tree

Friday, November 28, 2008


During our Thanksgiving shopping, I mentioned to HH that we needed some more yeast. He insisted we did not, as we had a whole bag of it in the freezer. I let it go. I'm wishy-washy like that.

At 10 pm on Wednesday night, after working 10 hours, shopping 3 hours, making 4 pies (from scratch) and 40 gallons of Cranberry Waldorf salad, I threw together the cinnamon roll dough and waited the appropriate amount of time for it to rise.

Nothing. My lump of dough sat in the bottom of the bowl like a . . . a lump.

I THEN looked at the expiration date on the yeast: May 2008. I guess yeast cryogenics isn't all it's cracked up to be, because all my yeasties were DEAD.

We HAVE to have cinnamon rolls for Thanksgiving Day breakfast. It's a Commandment!

Luckily, my local grocery story was still open, so Small Son and I dashed over and got some new, live yeast (and some treats), threw the old dough out and started over. This is a new recipe from Alton Brown on the Food Network. If you have a show on Food Network, all your recipes are supposed to work beautifully. Especially if one follows the directions. I followed the directions, and after waiting for the rising again, we peeked in the bowl and . . . another lump. By this time it was 11:00 pm and I had had enough. I rolled that dough out anyway and formed it into little, skinny spirals, covered it with plastic and some towels, and put it in the garage where it is cold to think about things. Then I Went To Bed.

Enough is enough.

In the morning, sure enough, they were still skinny spirals. Thanks a lot, Alton. Don't you try your recipes before airing them?

I was rushing to get working on time, so I put them in the oven anyway. Lo and behold, half an hour later when the timer went off, they were nice, fat, golden, HOT cinnamon rolls! Whaddaya know!? Sorry I doubted ya, Alton.

I sat upstairs in my little closet working away (not very hard, truth be told), listening to the chatter of children and the clatter of pots and pans from the kitchen downstairs . . . and the occasional glass breaking . . . and was thankful I had taught them all to cook (or they had just learned, I'm not sure which), to set the table, and to work together. Based on these pictures, it's amazing they did any work at all! It was so nice to get off work at 2 pm and have dinner ready. Some people I talked to were going to work all day, then cook all afternoon, THEN have Thanksgiving dinner. I am very thankful.

We sat down to a table crowded with our favorite foods, with more favorites lying in wait for afterwards, and the banter began. Some of the more interesting things we discussed were how to arrange the living room furniture to accomodate the Christmas Tree, and that we were going to have to start doing daily sit-ups to strengthen HH's stomach muscles so his back wouldn't hurt so badly. Then somebody mentioned that we would have to admit to the Bish that although we might not have daily family prayer, but we do have Daily Family Sit-Ups. Somebody else extrapolated from this that we would also have to admit that we don't have Family Home Evening exactly regularly, but we do have Family Movie Night. We laughed at the idea that this would be an acceptable alternative.

The best part was that everybody was happy to be there. Nobody wanted to be anywhere else with anybody else (although this is often the case the rest of the year). Smiles and laughter and horsing around were everywhere. It was a lovely day.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Three Drones

I have been trying for--let's say years, because I think it's about 2--to get all 3 of my drones to play all together.

Last night at band practice, I got them all struck in and was playing away, sounding beautiful, and Sean asked me to please plug my middle drone as I was drowning out the other players with all my drones. He went on to say that most of the rest of the band with Kinnaird carbon fibre drone reeds plugged their middle drone for this very reason.


Band party on the 10th. Dunno where. These haven't been really interesting, except for the party two years ago--or was it last year?-- where Jason got hit in the head with a hidden piece of PVC pipe and had 6 stitches. Blood and everything. That was interesting. Although probably painful.

Stay tuned for more updates.

And Happy Thanksgiving everyone, whether you believe in the Great Turkey, the Great Ham, or the Great Roast or not. Just decide to have a lovely day.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

After fiddling around with my drones and with striking in, I am happy to report that the drones work. All THREE of them!! I have discovered if I don't keep the pressure up, one of the tenors starts doing that oo-wah-oo-wah thing. Another incentive to keep the pressure up. LOL.

The tenor drones are tuned way out to nearly the point that if I move them out another 1/8" they will fall off! I did say they were tuning really high, but Jason retorted that it's usually only the bass drone that needs an extender, so that's all he gave me. We'll see what happens tonight at band practice!

Friday, November 21, 2008

A lot of good new drone reeds has done me. They are supposed to sound glorious (and they do, one at a time, when blown by mouth, but my goal is to have them play together and have the bag blow them!)

<---Kinnaird Carbon Fibre Drone Reeds. Notice the little belt toward the bottom of each reed. I have had them intalled for a week and a half. I even tried to practice several times, but if your drones are playing something that sounds like two or three middle-aged, chain-smoking crows arguing with your chanter, it's not something that you encourage. Even your most finished tune will sound terrible. We drank champagne and toasted our competition success Tuesday at band practice, and talked about exciting new developments in Grade IV history, instead of actually practicing. . .

Last night at group lesson I let Jason know I had this teeny, tiny drone problem. He sighed and said he would see what he could do, but couldn't I have let him know a little in advance? Obviously there is a communication breakdown somewhere, because I have been telling Erin about it for a week and a half and . . . . nothing. He tried.

He moved the little belt on the reeds "down" (I call it "up" because they were being moved away from the earth's core, toward the stratosphere, but for some reason I've got the word backward--or he does) and we took away some hemping and added some more hemping (hemp is a sort of waxed string that you wrap around the base of the reeds that helps them fit into their appropriate holes better-- deeper). All this was happening while the rest of the group was watching bits of "So I Married An Axe Murderer" starring Mike Meyers, so it was a little distracting and I didn't pay 100% attention, I'll admit.

Yellow Hemp

The end result was that they sounded wonderful when played individually by Jason. But then Jason can make even plastic Paki pipes sound wonderful. I had to go home and get people to bed, including myself, so I didn't have time to try them together. I don't know if any progress was made at all.

My mission, should I choose to accept it, is to get them tuned before next band practice on Tuesday next.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

BIG NEWS: After Grade IV's first and second place wins at the last competition (and glowing comments), and our 2nd place win at Payson, and as of the first of the year, "they" are moving the whole Grade IV up to Grade III ! Me, too! Aaaaaaaaghhhhhh!!

I'd always debated if offered a "promotion" to Grade III, whether or not I would take it. The people in Grade IV are the best in the band. I can't necessarily say the same for all the Grade III. Lots of them, yes, but not all. If I moved up to Grade III, I'd be leaving the best of the Salt Lake Scots behind. By moving everybody up at the same time, "they" have effectively done away with my dillema.

This will not be official until 10 December at the next band meeting. But Sean did announce this to us last night.

He brought non-alcoholic champagne for everybody last night while we went over the score sheets from the competition.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I put the new drone reeds in yesterday, and tried to get them to tune to the chanter, but no matter how I extended the drones, or moved the little rubber band on the reed or turned the little allen wrench, they remained stubbornly waaaaaaaaay sharp. AND. Or maybe I should say BUT . . . I got all three drones to sound, but as soon as I started in on the chanter, both tenor drones cut out. That's OK, because they were not in tune, and the middle one was double-toning, which is to say, going oo-ee-oo-ee-oo-ee, instead of it's one note. Grrrrrrr.

I really need help with this, and possibly drone reed extenders, since this chanter plays a lower-than-normal note, and the longer the drone, the lower the note, but mine just won't go long enough. I really don't want to take time out from band practice tonight for Sean to help, but I even more don't want to take the whole set into the Celtic Center and ask Dennis to help me. I know Dennis does NOT want to help me and will belittle me as much as possible while doing it.

So my plan is to see if Erin will bring some drone reed extenders to band practice tonight, or if I can come by the Center after work and pick them up.

While raking leaves this Saturday, the rake handle broke, and the top of the handle smashed into my right ear. It is sore and swollen now. This is just great. I have a cauliflower ear and a broken nose (from long ago). I also have a big wide belt with a fancy buckle. All I need now is a wrestling title to defend.

Friday, November 14, 2008

It's gonna be a piping-free week. Band practice was cancelled on Tuesday since it was the practice after a competition. Thursday Small Son had a Pack Meeting which conflicted with our lessons. All I have done is remove my old drone reeds and put in the new ones. Haven't even been able to toot one toot.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Dave Barclay results posted

The band results are here:

Look for J.T.Dunnie, instead of Salt Lake Scots.

The solo results are here:

Look for Grade IV Piping Slow March, then look for me.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Dave Barclay Memorial Competition

I just could not get nervous--or excited--about this competition. For one, it was INDOORS in November. For two, it was so far out of the regular competition season that it was not to be taken seriously. I made several half-hearted attempts at practicing my solo tunes, and then it was The Day.

I put on my uniform shirt, tie, vest, kilt, socks, shoes, flashes, belt, sporran and ridiculuous hat and went to the Hidden Valley Presbyterian Church in Draper.

This is actually Lee's church; that is, he's the pastor of it, or the vicar or the rector, whichever term they prefer. He calls it his "one day a week job", although I'm sure he puts in many more than that. His office is all decked out in a comfy leather chaiR, tartan thingys here and there, and subdued lighting that is easy on the eyes. It looked very classy. The church is very small. There were fake pine trees behind the altar, and the pews were--as HH advised--very comfy. There was a bible near the front, open to Isaiah. I hoped it was open to the "If you are prepared, ye shall not fear" scripture, but I didn't have the opportunity to check. Although it was too late to prepare, day of the competition.

Every band got a basementy Sunday School room in which to stash their stuff and warm up, etc. We had the grade K-1-2 room. The walls were stone, covered with posters on the books in the Old and New Testament, the benefits of service, and the various attributes of God. It was nice, but it was teeny!

My first appearance before the judge was my 2/4 march (Lady Lever Park) in the chapel. The judge called me up and asked me about myself, where I was from, why was I here. I found out she was from Vancouver, BC, so we talked about orienting with the mountains. I wondered if the trees were put there to make her feel more at home. She seemed very nice. I did pretty well on the march, except for the last line of the last part, but I carried on anyway. There were some hangers-on in the back pews. Some were competitors; some were just observers. I got applause.

Next I was up for my slow aire, Loch Rannoch. I played it mostly flawlessly. At least I got all the notes right. My timing was off in a few places. More applause from the peanut gallery, and Lee gave me a thumbs-up and said "First place!"

Then we had some hours to kill until band comp, so I went up the road a few blocks and got some bagels from Einstein Bros, since Wendy's was not open until 10:00. It really was a beautiful fall day, complete with crisp air, colored leaves, blue-blue sky, horses and mountains. It was nice to just be outside in the sunshine. (There was sunshine, too.)

We warmed up in what would pass for the Relief Society room, if it had been an LDS church. Despite being in the basement, it had big windows all 'round, which warmed it up a lot. Then we were in there sweating like hogs, and added aroma to the mix. The next band wasn't happy, but then, we got the same treatment from the band before us. Besides, what could we do? The windows didn't open at all!

Instead of performing in the echo chamber that was the "gym", we clumped up in the back of the chapel and mosey-ed to the front. We formed a sort of oval in front of the altar/judges table, adn as luck would have it, I had my back to them, so they could very clearly hear my drones and if they were wavering or not (they usually are, as my blowing/squeezing is not in sinc yet.) I concentrated on blowing, and the quick march medley went perfectly.

Repeat all of the above for the timed medley, but multiply the aroma factor by 5. Peeee-yew!
This time, I blew down at the end, but when I released the bag, the drones kept on playing!!! Uuuuuuugggggghhhhhh! I'd cut out 50 times, earlier that day, even with the bag 3/4 full, and no droning on at the end. Why did it happen in the actual comp? I was sure I had blown it for the whole band.

I got new carbon fiber drone reeds on Thursday. Hopefully it is the reeds, and this will solve everything.


Saturday night I got an email from Pete, as follows and I quote:

"Congrats to Grade 4!!!!!!!!! In the QMM we tied for 1st place in points with Galloway and were second in the ensemble so we took 2nd the Timed Medley we took 1st in Piping, 1st in Drumming, 1st in Ensemble, which means 1st overall!Yeeeeeeeeeeeeehaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

Don't worry about your wee cutoff at the end of the timed medley we still won it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

And as icing on the cake, I took 4th in the slow aire competition!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

I just heard a news report that people are stealing memories from blogs. So all you hundreds of people out there who are reading these entries and thinking of stealing them, THINK AGAIN! and decide not to. They are not worth it.

Last night at band practice I was intense. I decided not to sleep after work so I wouldn't be fuzzy at band practice. So I was awake, but tired. And I was intense. Sean told us to warm up, so I played through both my slow aire and my march, then the 3 tunes in the set I may be playing for the trio if Drew flakes. Then Lee showed up, and I went through the set again. Then we did 45 minutes of tuning and played through both competition sets. We played pretty much the whole 2 hours, except during tuning (of other people), so my lip is sore today.

I am still (or again) having trouble with my cut offs! Crivens! This is an OLD, TIRED problem that I should have had solved YEARS ago! I swear, though, that sometimes ol' Angus will cut off beautifully with a nearly full bag, and other times he will keep whining with a nearly empty bag. Nobody believes that story, though. They all say it's "operator error".


Guess I'll have to go in there and adjust my drone valves.

Competition on Saturday.

It snowed yesterday. It was not magical, Christmas season snow; it was the cold, wet gray snow of late January and February when you are sick to death of snow. How can this be? Magical snow always comes first! Waaaaaaaaahhhh!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Wedding Gig

By default I suppose, I was chosen to play a trio gig for a wedding at the U of U, a trio in this case being 2 pipers (me and Tall Aaron) and a drummer (Dusty).

You may or may not know I've never playled for a wedding before. But I've done a funeral, and the dead didn't seem to mind my playing, so I was fairly calm about doing a wedding, 'specially 'cuz I wouldn't be alone.

The location was the 4th floor of a tower of the U of U football stadium. The outer two walls were solid glass. Through one you had an unobstructed view of the football field from about the 45 yard line. Through the other, a view of the parking lot, with the city behind. About 40 chairs were arranged with a center aisle. The wedding was facing (you guessed it) the parking lot.

Of course I was the first one to arrive. I made sure I was in the right place, and got a separate room for us to warm up in. Then I waited. At 3:35 I called Aaron on my NEW CELL PHONE and learned he was almost there.

We got tuned up and planned some tunes. We worked on Highland Cathedral and Scotland the Brave. The groom had told us he wanted us to play a "gathering tune" walking up the aisle and veering to the right. We were then to wait for the "kiss the bride" part, then play Scotland the Free. I admitted I didn't know that one, but would Scotland the Brave work? Whatever, he shrugged. Oh, and would we play for 15-20 minutes during the mingling afterward?

Aaron had written some harmony for Highland Cathedral, and he wanted to play the whole thing, even though the aisle we were going to walk down was very short, so he warned us he was going to walk very slowly, in order to fit the whole thing in. I was to follow him, and Dusty (who is shorter than me) after me.

The bride did her walk after we were in place.

She was the most antsy bride I had ever seen! She kept turning, twisting, giggling, looking all around, almost dancing with nervousness. I thought she was going to bolt.

It was a pretty boring wedding, as weddings go, except for the pipers and drummer, but then I'm prejudiced. The judge had to keep looking at the marriage certificate to know what their names were. And it wasn't clear from the names which belonged to the bride and which to the groom.

STB went off without a hitch. We played Mill and Mari's Wedding. Then Dusty and Aaron played Clumsy Lover for the groom. He appeared not to notice. Then Aaron asked me if I was sure I could play Bells of Dunblane. I said I was sure, and did he want to go on into the next tune of that set, Glasgow City Police Pipers, a jig, after that? He was pretty taken aback and stood there gaping for a minute, looking from me to Dusty and back again. Dusty's comment was: "Best way to learn." So off we went.

Bells is a slow aire, one of my favorite tunes, so it was no problem. We navigated the break into Glasgow without a hitch and as we started into Glasgow itself, I realized that Aaron was playing it much faster than I'd been used to play it. I quickly decided not to think about it, just play it. I let my fingers remember the tune, not my head. I even got the run on the last part. Aaron was impressed. I was bursting!

I hope he doesn't think of me as a terrible -- or even less than operational--piper anymore, or dread playing a gig with me. I hope he tells other pipers (especially Sean and Jason).

Yay, me!