Monday, December 31, 2012

Playing in the Dark

We were just finishing dinner yesterday when the electricity went off! This was a sad eventuality because we had planned to do the New York Times Crossword puzzle together and I had not yet printed it out! After spending a few hours reading and playing word games on our tablets we decided the lights were not likely to come on again.

So we moved to the basement and played music by candlelight. It wasn't easy to read, but it provided us with a memorable holiday experience that we will never forget. After we finished practicing our songs for the CD, we went into some old books and just sang songs for the fun of it. It was a great evening. The lights came on at 9:30 p.m. We were 6 1/2 hours without power! Although we enjoyed the intimate time together with no power, it's nice to be on the grid once again!

Recording Begins

We started recording our Christmas songs on Saturday, which means the basement is a tangle of wires and mikes. We started out fresh and chipper, but it turned into a pretty long day!

This picture of Ed captures it all. He's thinking, "Are we REALLY going to do this again?"

Maybe John is vying for the title of Favorite Son In Law, but he never complains about playing together. He loves it!

Even when his fingers started to bleed, he just had Brittany kiss them better, and we went on with the show!

I got to play my new birthday guitar a lot, which made me happy.

We added some variety with a uke and the bells. Amanda got to use a new bell technique we learned in my handbell choir.

Crystal also dusted off her dulcimer this year, and Amanda added her new accordion. It makes it so much fun to use a variety of instruments. I even got to play the fish on one song! I'd like to say we're half done, but 5 out of 12 songs is a good start!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Music and Food

We've been spending our mornings practicing with our family band. We're having fun putting together a variety of songs for our next Christmas CD.

We thought we'd like to put together a video of "Behind the Scenes with Whistling Prairie." But, it's barely all we can do to snap a few pictures.

We rewarded ourselves afterwards by going out to dinner at Tony's Japanese Steak House in Eldersburg. This, happily, was thanks to a generous gift certificate. The girls and John enjoyed the show and perhaps even picked up some cooking tips from the chef!

To top off a great day, we went into DC to see a production of White Christmas at the Kennedy Center. Nothing like some singing and dancing to put a smile on your face! We enjoyed hearing Blue Skies, which Crystal and I have been practicing on the guitar this year. The song "I Love a Piano" was a fun new one for us. We laughed when they sang "I know a fine way to treat a Steinway" and then proceeded to tap dance on top of one. Just like making flaming onion volcanoes on a hot grill, some things are better when not tried at home!

Crabs at Captain Dan's

We decided to use our gift certificate to Captain Dan's on Thursday. The bad news was that crabs are out of season in Maryland.

The good news is they had jumbo crabs from the gulf of Mexico! This meant you didn't have to crack and dig so much to get meat. The Maryland blue crabs are much smaller.

Crystal, who is as experienced a crab eater as any of us, somehow just can't keep up. We all had the pleasure of watching her finish her last crab after we were all done with dinner. Brittany, on the other hand, went through her crabs like a seasoned pro!

Brittany and John Arrive

The day after Christmas we were treated to another round of snow. Crystal, Ed and Coda were able to enjoy playing ball outside in the morning before it started to rain and melt all the snow.

Coda liked the snow, but she did NOT like getting it in her mouth when she picked up the ball! It was so cold she spit the ball out!

The weather cooperated long enough for us to safely pick Brittany and John up from the airport. They told us their flight had a pretty scary half hour before landing. They were happy to be alive. Apparently, the weather as they descended had some pretty sever pressure differentials! We were happy to celebrate Christmas again with them when we got them safely home.

We celebrated a belated birthday for me afterwards, where I got to blow out my candles. Really, the whole month has been like a birthday for me. Ed got me a beautiful new guitar, which he let me use for all our performances even before my birthday! It was so great to have us all together again! That was the best present ever!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Morning

The girls didn't get up as early as usual this Christmas. I think they thought it would be wise to wait till Ed and I had time to feed the horses. Lenny and Kay went to Virginia to be with her daughter and family for Christmas, and it was the least we could do to help out a little so they could do that. They felt bad about it, but more than made up with it with a generous gift certificate to Captain Dan's Crab House, which we really look forward to taking advantage of! Ed and I actually enjoyed going down to the barn in the morning, and getting outside a little. Bali, as always was happy to get fed!

Amanda and Crystal were ready to come downstairs by the time we got home from the barn. Amanda will remember this as her Christmas on crutches. Crystal could compare it to her Christmas with the chicken pox (in 1993)! It was only a minor impediment to enjoying the holiday in either case!

We had a relaxing Christmas day. Coda, who was worn out, actually gave us some cuddles while the girls were opening their presents. I also had a great birthday, which I enjoyed especially as it is my last one in this decade of life!

Christmas Eve

We had our first snowfall of the season on Christmas Eve! It was our Christmas miracle, which propelled us headlong into the holiday spirit!

Amanda and Crystal spend a good portion of the day making tree-shaped cake pops, which as you can see, turned out fantastic.

Ed and I were the happy recipients of their work! They used a carrot cake recipe--our favorite. One of my happiest Christmas surprises this year was Ed and I having each lost almost 20 pounds! We're hoping to keep the holiday damage to a minimum. (Luckily, the cake pops are small!)

We had Miss Carol over for dinner: ham, funeral potatoes, rolls and green beans almandine. Miss Carol provided a delicious Alabama pecan pie she received in the mail. We read the Christmas story, sang songs and exchanged gifts. Miss Carol gave us some warm slippers, which have come in handy over the past few days.

We gave her a necklace (hand-made by Crystal) with a picture of Mr. Genes in the pendant! We thought it turned out nice, and were happy Miss Carol liked it!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Pearl Strings at Home

The Pearl Strings had their concert for family and friends last night. We had it in our favorite venue--the basement. It's always best to be surrounded by those who love and support us. I was nostalgic for all the friends I've made over the years through my bands, the Slo' Pickers, the Twisted Sisters, the Black Eyed Susans, and now the Pearl Strings. It was always more about making friends through common interest and lots of time spent together. But, I have to admit, making music together has also been fun and very satisfying.

Helen, who is really a violist, has done so great at switching to violin. She is always amenable to playing anything I ask her to play. She's been doing a lot of mandolin lately, but we realize a fiddler is the heart of the band (if you're going to play in Maryland, you've got to have a fiddler in the band)!

Alisa, Jen and June are three women with great voices, and I have to say it makes a difference having great singers in the band! We're drifting away from instrumental numbers and enjoying the ability to shine on vocals as well!

Barb is doing great on her new, bright red bass! I was happy Amanda caught a picture of her and June laughing and having fun. Sometimes we concentrate so hard that we look like the mean band. It's hard to remember that we're supposed to make it look easy!

Ella and Sabina, the youngest generation of Pearlies,  favored us with Frosty the Snowman.

Crystal, Amanda and I, represented Whistling Prairie, and performed The  Christmas Song.

Afterwards we had a great sing-along where everyone joined in! Jojo and Kate really got into it, and we were lucky to capture them dancing as we sang Jingle Bell Rock!

Hiking in High Winds

Ed, Crystal, Coda and I went for a walk Saturday morning, starting from Pine Knob  along the fire road. There were occasional gusts of wind that caused us to wonder if that was a wise decision. When we came across a downed tree in the path I thanked my lucky stars that we weren't standing there when it blew over!

We were searching for a way to come out of the fire road along Mineral Road. We ended up possibly trespassing on some private property, and never really finding what we were looking for. I felt like Henry Hudson in search of the Northwest passage. Ed concluded, "You can't get there from here!"

We'll have to return another time and approach it from another direction!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Pearl Strings Christmas Program at Fairhaven

I love the Pearl Strings! We had such a great time at Fairhaven this morning. They are so talented and they even practice! A month ago we thought we'd never get these Christmas songs together, but it finally came together for us. I'm going to post them all right here, and you can be the judge!

This is a combination of Fum, Fum, Fum and Patapan!

Here is our version of Bluegrass, White Snow

Enjoy a Living Prayer.

This is Ghost Partners in the Night, a take-off of Ghost Riders in the Sky

The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy

What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?

Pine Cones and Holly Berries with It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Peace, Peace and Silent Night

To celebrate our good performance we went out to lunch at Panera afterwards. From left to right are Helen (with JoJo), June, Judy, Jen, Alisa and Barb. Don't we look cute in our pearls and holiday shirts? Looking good is half the battle! Sounding good is just icing on the cake!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Visiting Teaching Luncheon

June and I hosted our Christmas visiting teaching luncheon today. We had our visiting teachees over as well as our visiting teachers. We were lucky Amanda and Crystal were also both able to attend.

We ate Lynne Wride's famous potato soup for the main course. It was delicious! I am so grateful for the visiting teaching program and for the opportunity it provides us to get to know one another better. Each one of these ladies has unique interests and talents. We have been enriched by our association with them.

I wonder if June and I would have become such good friends if we weren't visiting teaching companions. Or, maybe it would have just taken us longer to get there!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Goodbye Crutches!

Amanda still has another 6 weeks in which she is not allowed to put any weight on her foot, so we rented a rolling knee walker for her. It freed her up to do some Christmas shopping. We actually lost her in Hobby Lobby last week.

She even enjoyed taking it to Sam's club, where she was very quick to get a taste of all the free samples they were giving out. Crystal and I were a little jealous and wished we could also take a scooter into the stores with us!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Pearl Strings at the Senior Center

The Pearl Strings had their holiday gig at the South Carroll Senior Center yesterday. We did great! I was so proud of them. We had such nice support from the neighbors as well as the church members. I wish I had some video to post, but my camera filled up after two songs! We get a second shot to get some video next week when we perform again at Fairhaven!

The songs we played and sang were:

Go Tell it on the Mountain
Fum, Fum, Fum/Patapan
Blue Grass White Snow (a Patty Loveless song)
A Living Prayer (an Allison Kraus number)
Frosty the Snowman     
Ghost Partners in the Night    
The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy
What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?
Pine Trees and Holly Berries/It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas
Peace, Peace/Silent Night        

Thanks also to Amanda and Crystal for showing up to support us and help us out a little (as well as getting this picture)!

P.S. Look who's playing the Dobro and loving it!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Fairhaven Choir Concert

We went to the Fairhaven choir concert this afternoon. Amanda's pianist is the conductor (second from right). She invited Amanda to be a guest soloist, which she was happy to do. My bell choir leader, Linda, (on the right) played the flute and sang with them, as well. Linda also directs the Fairhaven bell choir. The accompanist, Ann, on the left, is a Fairhaven resident who is also a very accomplished pianist. It was a fun Christmas concert with a lot of great arrangements, the highlight, of course, being Amanda's rendition of O Holy Night!

Coda Gets Her Shots

Coda was so good at the vet today. She didn't cry at all. We think she loves attention so much that she doesn't even care if they poke needles into her while they're holding her. She got a clean bill of health and is good for another year! That makes us happy, as we sure love that little dog!

Reindeer Cake Pops

Amanda and Crystal made some really cute reindeer cake pops this weekend with the idea of taking them to our new neighbors, who we haven't met yet. They used spice cake with chocolate candy on the outside, which was delicious. Now, the trick is to catch the neighbors home before we eat them all!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Bell Choir

Our bell choir had its first performance of the season today at a retirement complex in Eldersburg. It was a lot of fun, especially on the first four songs, which I did like a pro. Except for messing up in about 10 measures of the last song, I enjoyed that one, as well. My favorite new song is Believe from the Polar Express. It is so pretty on the bells! One of the challenges I have is playing B and A natural, as well as B and A flats. On some songs I have to switch bells very quickly. I was just happy I didn't drop one in the process!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

There's Noel in Prairie

We've been busy putting together the CD we recorded last December. Ed has spent countless hours mixing and balancing it. He knows the songs better than any one of us by the time he's finished. You can hear a sneak preview of it by clicking on the tab at the top of the page labeled 'There's Noel in Prairie.' The title is supposed to be a pun. We hope you get it. We tried to spell out the word "Prairie" with our bodies in the picture on the CD. Coda is the letter 'P'. Even though she is not a member of the band, we needed her help, as Prairie has 7 letters!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Hungry Horses

Crystal and I have been feeding the horses this week, as Lenny has been under the weather. They looked pretty forlorn this morning in the fog. Mr. Genes seemed to be saying, "Feed me, please."

So we fed him (and the other three as well). Here is a happy horse saying, "Thanks for the oats!" You're welcome! It was a pleasure having a reason to be out in the elements to enjoy the foggy, foggy dew with you!