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The New Adventures of Beethoven and Farnsworth (Part 2)

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

So this whole touring thing is supposed to be about the music and I haven’t mentioned that at all. But we did play some music. And it was extra special because it involved friends.
We played a Sunday afternoon show at the Peekskill Coffee House. Catherine from The YaYas booked this show for us. She’s nice. We are YaYa fans, is there an official catchy name for that? She and Jay came out to the show. Where was Paul? That is always the question. He says he is not avoiding me but it is too much for coincidence.
At the show we saw old friends (friends from a while back not friends who are old) Julie and Ken. In my brain they are still connected to Florida so it was a great surprise to see them in NY. Their beautiful daughter Frannie showed up in the middle of our set. Aidan notices her, and he looks a little troubled. I know that look. “Frannie, is that you?” She nods and smiles. “How is that possible?” You see Frannie was a kid when we met her. She is not a kid any longer. We have not aged at all but somehow, mysteriously, she is all grown up. I bet this has happened to you too. Aidan’s sister showed up too! with her son. He is now twelve but on that day he was a week shy of twelve.
After the show we showed of Beethoven. Thought the nephew was going to move in! Then we headed to Catherine and Jay’s for dinner. We hadn’t expected to have dinner, but if you show up she will feed you. Don’t try to fight it. She’s a really good cook, we should wrangle another invitation over there.
Then there was Nerfa, a music and hug fest, a gathering of 750 music makers and enablers, a place to get some business done while hearing amazing music and catching up with good friends. We hosted a little reunion of some of our fellow Kerrville New Folks: . In a tragic oversight I forgot to invite Arlon Bennett, I am still suffering from the guilt. We also hosted a night of duos: Ilyaimy, The Whispering Tree, The Twangtown Paramours, Adler & Hearne, and Wool & Grant. WE have some very talented friends. We were also given oportunities to play by Open Ears House Concerts,, Ripton Coffeehouse, Listen Live Music, and Bat Kat’s Who Dat. We also have generous friends!
We played a songwriter night in High Falls, sharing the night with folks who writer great stuff that is nothing at all like the songs we write. Some fancy picking, some very timely themes, some tape looping… a fun night. And we made music all night at Gzizi’s in the west village With Olinde Mandell and Meg Braun. So much fun made even better because we shared it all with friends.
So in parts 1 & 2 I got to music, friends, and foam. On to food and more roadside oddities
The adventure continues in Part 3…

The New Adventures of Beethoven and Farnsworth

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

A tale of friction farm, foam, food, and friends.

Yes, I said I’d write this a week ago. You know I can’t be trusted.

For fans of “On The Road With Ned and Pinky”, fear not. Trusty Ned (our Subaru Outback) and emotional Pinky (Ned’s friend the pig shaped finger-puppet) are fine and healthy. But for longer trips we felt we needed something a little bigger, a little homier.
Beethoven is our new (well new to us anyway) Chevrolet/Roadtrek camper-van. Yup, camper-van Beethoven. Go ahead, collectively groan now and get it over with. Because Beethoven is a bigger vehicle, he needs a bigger side-kick. Enter Farnsworth the bull.

Our first trip was to New York in November. Who’s great idea was that? We were awfully lucky with the weather. Heading north through Virginia there were
still some autumn colors. I started a song as I crossed the James River. It seemed like a good one, but it remains unfinished. As I said earlier, I can’t be trusted. Some traveling troubadours make efficient use of their travel. They map out a nice direct route from point A to point B. I seek out roadside or front lawn oddity and adventure. That may be half the reason we tour. Don’t tell Aidan.

As we crested a hill on Route 11 near Natural Bridge in northern Virginia, Aidan and I gasped as the same moment. (It’s okay, we’re married now). Emerging ahead of us on a hillside was Foam Henge! It is exactly what you think it is. Stone Henge recreated in foam. Big. Painted. With signs and stuff. It is free, without much fanfare, just a dream realized by a man named Mark Cline in a few weeks’ time. Worth seeing. Seriously.

But on the way there we had an odd experience. We pulled off the road into the small parking lot of a small building to have a snack. The house next door was covered with buzzards (or maybe vultures?). At least two dozen big, creepy, birds sitting on the roof line. I am pretty sure there must have been a dead
body in there. Right? Aidan insists they might just be the local birds, or migratory. Whatever. He refused to knock on the door.

An Environmental Side Note

The big van gets ridiculously bad gas mileage. It was hard for us to justify this. However, we never need to stop at a hotel. So the big pile of cleaning chemicals they would use cleaning a room after we stay there for just one night has been saved. We find that we are more conservative with resources like water and gas
(for heat and hot water) when we are in the van. Hopefully this evens out. Aidan would like you to know that properly inflating our tires improved our gas mileage nearly 2 miles per gallon.

The adventure continues in Part 2…

What I did on my summer vacation

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

I don’t recall actually writing the “What I Did On My Summer Vacation” essay when I was in school. Uh-oh may be I still owe that homework. Well better late than never.
This summer was pretty magical. I never use that word. But it works this time. We start with the official kick-off of summer: Memorial Day. Went to Texas. Kerrville Texas to be exact. It was our first trip to the long-running Kerrville Folk Festival and we were New Folk… just when I was thinking I can’t be new. We hung out with other New Folk artists at the Rouse’s Camp. Lindsey and Deb host the New Folk each year and they are the perfect hosts, providing the support we need, a place to land, breakfast, and fun. I feel like we really bonded as a group and for me, it was a change to expand relationships with Catherine and Jay from the YaYas, Karyn Oliver, Rob Lytle, Phil Henry, MaryBeth and Mike from The Twangtown Paramours. And we forged new friendships with Eliot Bronson, Jane Eamon, Roy Schneider and Tom Corbett. The music was crazy good and not just on stage. In fact some of the new folk won me over with songs over breakfast that they didn’t play on stage. At the suggestion of many friends we sought out Bill Nash, who brings a whole new meaning to the love of music. We return to Texas to attend SWRFA at the end of the month, and we’ll get to see a whole bunch of new, old friends.
We came home to a struggling vegetable garden… a few days without water can be disastrous. But food, water, sun, shade and everything perked up. Just like Aidan and me. Zucchini, yellow squash, soy beans, bell peppers, hot peppers, tomatoes, and tons of herbs. My neighbor Ted thinks this barely qualifies as a vegetable garden (he doesn’t say this, I can tell) but it has been a while since we have had any sort of a garden and this has been such a fun experiment that I am planning a big garden next year… asparagus, artichokes, melons… I even have a couple of fall crops already in the ground!
July brought the wedding of my niece. She’s the one who sort of inspired “Somewhere to Call Home”. We went home to Falcon Ridge Folk Festival later in July. We had missed last year since we were moving. It was fun to be Emerging Artists this year. A great group of musicians including friends Sharon Goldman and Ellen Bukstel , and new folk folks Grace and Karyn. We spent a night with Leni and David who we know from Florida and had fun catching up, and eating wine soaked peaches! On our return home we drove by a sculpture garden and had to stop in. The sculptor Bijan welcomed us in and knows folks who own a restaurant within walking distance of our place in Greenville. Tiny world.
Then it was off to France for a proper vacation. Ten days in a little corner east of Paris, nestled between the Champagne and Burgundy regions. We drank wine you will never hear of, ate local cheese and bread, and devoured pastries. I could fill a page with stories, but here are two. One afternoon we went to the outdoor food market. We thought it would be fun to put together a picnic and drive into the countryside. But once in the country, we realized we had nothing to drink. We stopped by an apple orchard. Their farm stand was closed, but a young man opened up and got us some cider. Opened up a few bottles and gave us a tasting. The car wouldn’t start! And the kind young man returned, gave us a couple of glasses and offered us the table in the orchard. Great afternoon.
Next day we set off to find the automaton museum. It’s not in your guide book. It is in a small village, hard to find, not well marked. It is closed. But we knocked and were welcomed in by Michel Marcu, the 80 year old creator of moving dioramas. Dolls creep me out a little, moving dolls are even creepier. Still this was amazing. This guy designed and created the gear mechanisms that move the dolls in some pretty complicated ways… horses walking, people dancing, clock towers opening and planes flying. There was a doll that poured a little wine and drank it, his eyebrows raised, he moved his head and smiled, I think his eyes followed us. Really. Michel not only created the mechanisms, he made the dolls, and costumes, and backgrounds. When parts were not available for his gear mechanisms, he made them. We spent a good part of an afternoon with this man who does not speak any English and spoke French to us like we were four year olds so we could understand him. He showed us his workshop, unassembled components, the works!
And so September finds us home for the month after a magical summer. Just how magical? We were so inspired by the musical friends that we spent time with and want you to hear their music too. So our next CD, due out in January, will be covers of music by a few of our favorite duos. We’ll also be hosting a room full of duos at Nerfa. It will be magical.

The long awaited May Newsletter

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

I feel like the kid doing homework on the bus on the way to school. I was never that kid. But here it is May 26 and we hit the road again tomorrow and the newsletter hadn’t been written and sent.

So here’s what happened this month:

We played a show in Asheville and it was awesome. Our friend Julie Maccarin hosted a house concert. Her house looks out over the Blue Ridge Mountains, what a killer view. We played with Sarah and Darby who are in a duo called Adele Cotton. They rock! cello, guitar, snailalele (I can’t explain, you have to see it). They are from Greenville too, but we hadn’t met them before. Found out that Julie is also a singer and songwriter and has a CD of children’s music out… why has she been keeping this a secret from us?? Barry and Sonia from Georgia showed up (they surprise us all over the country). He’s been hiking the Appalachian trail.

Went to Serfa. You’ve heard me mention Nerfa before and this music conference is similar, but smaller and with a southern vibe. Oh, and I was one of the organizers (hence really late newsletter). Its a gathering of 200 musicians and music enablers for a long weekend of music, learning, music, sleep deprivation, and more music. FUN.

Aidan finally finished his video for “Why, Why, Why” . It is a photo montage of people and their dogs. Its his first ever video and I think its pretty cool (I might be a little biased) Please take a look, it will make him really happy, We are trying to figure out how hook this up to a place to donate to the aspca or other animal adoption charity… anyone know anything about how to do that??

Finally, we head to Kerrville TX this weekend as finalists in the NewFolk songwriter competition. You know how folks always say “its an honor just to be nominated” and you wonder if they really mean it? Well we mean it. We have a lot of friends that are also finalists – The YaYas, Twangtown Paramours, Rob Lytle, Karen Oliver, Phil Henry – they are all immensely talented and they are really nice people. So we are honored to be in that company.

I’ve been slacking on booking shows. I’d like to blame it on being busy, and I have been busy, but I’ve also been slacking. We’re heading through the Mid-Atlantic states and will be in the northeast November, Florida in January and February. Also have a day or two June 30 – July 2 driving from G’ville to upstate NY and back. If you have any ideas or want to host a house concert please get in touch.

Tomatoes, hot peppers and squash starting to look good, herbs rocking, blueberries being shared with birds, figs will be ripe next month.

Hope we see you soon,

Christine (and Aidan)

World Changing Wednesdays for Earth Month

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

April is Earth Month. I felt like a great thing to do to celebrate was to try to reduce my consumption of energy, thereby reducing my CO2 output.
April 1 we started a new tour. Driving a bunch of miles does not help to reduce my emissions (although its a low emission car). Still, I’m going to do what I can this month. And you can play along. It will be fun.
So here’s some numbers that have been sorely lacking from my recent posts. The US accounts for 1/5 of the worlds CO2. That’s bunch. The average family of two is responsible for 42,000 lbs of the stuff annually. I figure if we (that’s me and Aidan) could use 10% less that would be a big reduction. If WE (that’s me, and all the yous out there) could reduce our output by 10% that would be amazing.
So I’m in the car most of the week, and using a gallon of gas results in 19.6 lbs of CO2 according to the EPA. The only thing I can do about that is drive at a more reasonable speed. that means getting more organized, and leaving a little earlier. No real sacrifices there.
Once home, there’s a lot that can be done very easily to consume less energy and output less carbon.
More numbers: using a kilowatt of electricity is equivalent to 1.5 lbs of CO2 and 100 cuft of natural gas is equivalent to 12 lbs of CO2. If you know how much electricity and natural gas you use, that’s big start in reducing your emissions. You can calculate your total household utility energy use, figure that in terms of emissions, determine how to cut 10%.
In simpler terms, lets find ways to cut back easily. Typically, a water heater accounts for as much as 12% of household energy. Making sure it’s thermostat is properly set at the recommended 120F is a good start. 80% of the energy used in washing clothes goes towards heating the water. Do more wash in cold water. Unless your clothes are really dirty, they should be fine in cold water. And while we are on my favorite topic… use less laundry detergent. You don’t need so much, really.
Using the electric dry setting on the dishwasher is an energy hog. Let them air dry, emit gobs less carbon.
Lawn gear is ridiculously inefficient. Mowers, trimmers, edgers… all use inefficient motors which spew a lot of carbon emissions. Not saying your lawn need to look untrimmed, just do a little less. Tell your neighbors I said so. Take out a little grass and let something native spread.
All of these things are free. I picked free stuff, and easy stuff because they are things we can all do and are more likely to continue to do. In 2007 the American council for an Energy Efficient Economy did a survey of home buyers about energy efficiency. Over 60% said they did not have enough money for energy renovations or were unable to pay extra for energy efficiency. Later in the same survey, when asked what they would do with an extra 10K, only 24% they would invest in energy efficiency. Most picked granite countertops. Its a choice folks. Lets make a good one.
This is just the short list. There’s a lot we can do around the house to reduce our energy consumption and our carbon emissions. I’ll keep sharing ideas all month. How about you? Got an idea to share?

Wednesday is for teachers

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

I’ve been really swamped lately, and tardy with posting. That’s because I’ve been working on SERFA, a music conference I am helping to organize.
One of the things we’ll be doing at this conference is bringing grade school aged kids in to listen to some acoustic music. Then they will get some hands on time with instruments. Great idea, right! Not my idea btw, Clint Alphin a wonderful Nashville based singer and songwriter came up with that.
But it got me thinking about how many schools have dropped their music programs. Which got me to thinking how nervous each and every public school teacher I meet is about losing their job. I know in election season all of the candidates talked about how important education is. Top of their lists. Hmmm. Every school district around the country is facing cuts.
I don’t have a million dollars to donate to my local school, do you? Let’s assume no. So what can we do.
Aidan and I will offer our services to schools and libraries as we travel. We can do a short performance, talk about writing and music. We’re not usually doing anything in the middle of the day in the middle of the week anyway. If you want us at your school, library, community center… just ask.
What can you do? If your kid has a great teacher, let them know how great they are. Just say thank you. If there’s a book fair at your school library, participate. Even if you don’t have kids in school. If you have left over supplies from the office, donate them. I know a teach who had to buy paper for the copier to give assignments to his class! If you are a musician, story teller, artist… offer your services on occasion.
These are small things. We are a big crowd. It will change things. I promise.

Wednesday Word of Mouth

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

I got a note from my friend Marc Black reminding me that it was national water day, so I thought I would write about water protection and conservation. But then I really thought about Marc’s message. It was about fracking and his campaign to stop this from happening, especially in the upstate NY region where Marc resides. He has really been working this, spreading the word, educating folks on this subject. And he is doing that through his song “No Fracking Way”. Its a good song – catchy, funny – that helps him get the point across.
That’s what we’re going to do today. Pick something that matters to you. Something global, national, local…its up to you. Pick something from one of our previous Wednesday’s if your brain is on spring break today. Now spread the word. Talk to one friend, or two. Post something on your facebook status. Get your point across gently, respectfully, intelligently, perhaps with some humor.
Ponder this. If each Wednesday you and I took one of the small steps towards saving the planet and improving this place… AND if we each asked one person to join us in that small step.. that would be a lot of steps.
So share this blog with someone. Or, go watch Marc’s video (I’d have a link if I were prepared but just search Marc Black No Fracking Way… you’ll get there)
Let’s take a lot of steps together and make this a great place to walk around.

Thursday, It’s the new Wednesday

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

Thursday is a lot like Wednesday only a day later. I got distracted. Blame it on that whole spring forward thing. Forgot yesterday was Wednesday. the world was not saved. Fortunately we’ve done enough in previous weeks, that the planet lasted an extra day without us.

Aidan and I have been doing a little construction this week. Built a closet in the hallway and took advantage of some unused space (i.e. a wall) and built a pantry. I posted about it on facebook wondering where folks in the 1940’s kept all their stuff. Turns out they didn’t have all that much stuff. It made me stop and ponder. By average American standards I am not a huge consumer. Still, I have a lot of stuff. Why do I have all this stuff? do I need all this stuff? why am I thinking of getting more stuff?

The short answers are I don’t know, no, and I don’t know. But I do know that we have all become voracious consumers. Most of us have more possessions than we require. Some of us have more than we really want. So this week, I ask you to think carefully about what you purchase. Do you need it? Do you really, really want it? Why are you buying it?

I am not against buying things. I am not against supporting businesses. I am against waste. I am against mindless spending that uses up our valuable resources so that we have less left for what really matters. Much of our domestic manufacturing has been moved to areas with lower labor and social costs, lower building costs, lower environmental standards. Big business didn’t do this. We did this… by demanding lower costs so we could have more stuff. I did this. You did this. And we can start to undo this.

We can become more mindful consumers. We can speak with our dollars. We can support local business, organic farmers, unions, socially and environmentally responsible businesses. There really is enough money for all of those things if we choose carefully, and mindfully.

I would give up much of this stuff to have the wealth to supply portable cooking stoves, heaters and fuel to families struggling in Japan tonight. Its not Wednesday. You can still save the world.

March Newsletter

Friday, March 11th, 2011

am proud of myself for keeping this newsletter going for five straight months. I’m not good at getting things done. At least not the sort of stuff that requires me to sit at my desk and do work. And its only going to get harder now that spring is here in South Carolina. I’ve got plants and seeds to get in the dirt, a table to paint, and always more leaves and sticks to rake up!

We had one last show in Florida since my last (very late) newsletter, and it was a good one (the show not the newsletter). The Prairie Creek Lodge in Gainesville is a beautiful place and great for music. The day after the show we went on a nice walk at a state park with friends Elaine and John. Lots of alligators basking on the banks and in the water. They were so close we really could have reached down and touched some. Saw a decent number of birds, including an osprey unsuccessfully hunting. There are also wild horses and buffalo on the grounds. Interesting thing happened while we were there. A ranger asked if we would fill out a survey online when we got home. Elaine thought this might be because funding for state parks and park services is in jeopardy. They are all trying to justify their existance. Support your local parks before they disappear folks!

We’re heading to Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Massachusetts in April. Check the calendar on our web site for details. We don’t know too may folks in Charlottesville VA so if you know anyone there please let them know we’ll be at C’Ville Coffee on April 1. And no, that’s not an April Fool’s joke. We really appreciate those of you who spread the word about our shows. It really helps us out, especially in areas where we are new or not well known. THANKS!

We are still saving the world every Wednesday. This week Aidan actually blogged. Okay technically he did not blog. But he came up with the idea and editted it before I posted. I did all the difficult stuff like research, but I am the one who committed to doing it. If you haven’t seen it yet please scroll back and check it out. Each week we post a simple idea that will help make our world a little bit better. If we all take a little step we can make a lot happen.

Hope to see you out on the road, we might even have a new song or two.

Christine (and Aidan)

This Wednesday Aidan Saves the World

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

As usual on Wednesday afternoon I am struggling to come up with something simple we can all do to impact the world in a positive way. Aidan had an idea. he told it me it would effect the environment, personal economy, health and safety and world peace. Damn over-achiever.

Here is how he proposes you accomplish all that today. Properly inflate your tires. Yup, that’s it. Properly inflated tires will last longer – saving you money and reducing your drain on the environment. They will increase your fuel efficiency – again saving you a few bucks and saving the environment. And they will respond and handle better – keeping you safer and healthier. And that world peace thing? If we use less fuel we’ll fight fewer battles for oil.

You see, an under-inflated tire can’t maintain its shape and becomes flatter than intended while in contact with the road, the sidewalls bulge a little, internal heat builds up. It’s all bad. Your tires get worn, they don’t handle well, Yup, that’s you, on the side of the road waiting on AAA… or worse in a crash.

The Rubber Association of Canada did a recent study estimating 23% of vehicles in Canada had at least one tire under inflated. Goodyear conducted research aimed at truckers demonstrating that under normal speeds, for prolonged periods a tire 20% under inflated experienced a 16% loss of tire life. That’s a lot!

That same Goodyear study showed a 2.5% reduction in fuel efficiency under the same conditions. Does 20% under-inflated seem like a lot? Its only 6 psi on the average car. And for cars, rather than big trucks, the US Department of Energy says under-inflated tires can lower gas mileage by 0.3 percent for every 1 psi drop in pressure of all four tires. FYI, the proper tire pressure for your vehicle is usually found on a sticker in the driver’s side door jamb and in your owner’s manual. Do not use the maximum pressure printed on the tire’s sidewall.

Tire Rack conducted a Performance Test Track Drive, comparing properly inflated tires to purposely under-inflated tires. They used 2003 BMW 330Ci coupes. The tires installed on one test car were inflated as recommended (29 psi front, 33 psi rear), while the other car had its tires inflated 30% lower (20 psi in the front and 23 psi in the rear). 30% under-inflation is the percentage established by the US DOT at which passive pressure monitoring systems should warn the driver of low inflation pressure .

The under-inflated tires required more steering input to maneuver, steer, corner and were slower to respond. The rear tires’ reactions lagged behind the front tires, resulting in a detached sensation being transmitted to the drivers. It proved to be over 2 seconds slower around our test course (2 seconds represents about a 7% loss of handling performance).
The tires’ ability to move water, i.e. drive in the rain was also seriously compromised.

So that’s it. Go to your favorite neighborhood gas station, check your air pressure, inflate properly, save the world.