Thursday, April 30, 2009

Danny Paisley at the Bertolin Barn

Last week Dave and I went to a concert at the Bertolin Barn. This is a venue that our friend, Jim Bertolin, built on his property. It is an old-timey barn that is meant for concerts and shows. It holds about a hundred people and has great acoustics.

Danny Paisley and Southern Grass is a band that we have heard a number of times. They are from back east--Pennsylvania--but we have heard them play out here at the High Mountain Hay Fever festival, so we knew what to look forward to. They played some ripping tunes; didn't much slow down the whole show, except when Jim went on stage to give Danny a shot of Bourbon.

We sat in special seats in the balcony, with our friends Sharon and Kathleen. It was a great show.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Morning of April 27

This was what we woke up to this morning--all too common an event in our springtime. Indeed, it is the very reason I don't plant anything outside in the garden until after May 15. There is too much a chance for disaster!

I didn't think it was supposed to snow; when our friend, Sharon, left last night after dinner, it was raining. It never even occurred to me that it would turn to snow; the temperature was too warm, I thought. In the middle of the night, the temp plummeted. Boy was I fooled.

So, I am forced to console myself with these Daffodils--representatives of Spring, sitting in my sunroom. I got them from the grocery store. They contrast nicely with the snow outside the windows.

Happy Spring.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Chocolate Memories

I strolled through the grocery store and as I walked down the candy aisle--in a hurry to get to the popcorn--I suddenly stopped in my tracks. The familiar package winked out at me; I hadn't seen one for for over fifteen years. When I lived in Germany, I bought those chocolates to send home to my family on their birthdays and for the holidays.

I picked up the multi-colored box (the color scheme was what caught my eye) and turned it over to study the back--yes, indeed--it said 'made in Germany.' I smiled as I placed it back in its spot. I couldn't wait to show David the next time we were at the store together. He didn't really recognize it; it didn't trigger memories for him as it did me. That's okay though--I bought a box the next chance I got to give him for his upcoming birthday.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Last Moonshiner

I go to some hollow,
And sit at my still
And if whiskey dont kill me,
Then I dont know what will

These verses are from an old ballad, apparently taken from the singing of a folk artist named Gilbert R. Combs. I had those verses running through my head last week. Dave borrowed a video documentary from Raven, our recording engineer. It was titled, "The Last One." He enticed me to watch it with him--told me it was about a moonshiner. I was skeptical, but thought I'd watch it for a few minutes anyway.

It was fascinating. This fellow, Popcorn Sutton, manufactured some moonshine for the video. He and a pal set up their still out in the woods somewhere in North Carolina. It was interesting--you could hear what a quiet place it was, with just some birds chirping. Sutton was skinny as a rail, with a cigarette seemingly permanently hanging out of his mouth, and the look of a man who has spent a good part of his life outside.

He had the assembly of the still and the distillery of the liquor down to a science, obviously having done this many times. The peaceful feeling of the place where he worked struck me throughout the show. After they built the still and while it did its work, a collection of folks who were obviously his friends, played some old time music for the video.

Overall Sutton made an impression on me. He was an expert in his moonshining and I thought he was fascinating, so I did some research to find out more about him. Google unearthed all of his history. He was 61 years old--I thought he looked 80. He had been arrested numerous times and served time in jail for both liquor and weapons violations.

Here is a recent picture of him with his lawyer and his ever-present cigarette, that was published in the Wall Street Journal blog.

The part of my research that really shocked me was that he had died just two weeks before we watched the documentary. He had been sentenced to 18 months in prison after a raid on his house uncovered over 1,000 gallons of moonshine and a bunch of weapons. He said he was sick and didn't want to die in prison. A lot of people signed a petition requesting that he not be incarcerated. When that didn't do any good, he evidently committed suicide. The final autopsy results have not been released.

I was so shocked that I woke up the next morning still thinking about Popcorn. He was very alive in the video. Too bad he was so determined to do his own thing the way he wanted to. He made videos, wrote a book, and pretty much flaunted his disdain for the law. I hope the Smithsonian has a copy of "The Last One."

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Steel Pennies Band Photographs

Friday, April 10. It would have been more appropriate for Friday the Thirteenth. The day started out pure chaos. We (Steel Pennies) planned to make new photos outside, next to an old silo in Lafayette. As usual, the Colorado weather did not cooperate. It was too cloudy and threatened rain, so we moved the site to our fiddler, Rob's house. Rob lives in a 100 year old house, with a lot of possibilities for staging pictures of a bluegrass band.

We started out in the dining room. We got some good shots in there and that's where we took our individual photos. From there, we moved to the front porch. And that, in my opinion, is where we got the winning shots.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

In The Recording Studio

My bluegrass band, Steel Pennies, went to the recording studio last week. We decided to record three original songs and submit them to the Colorado Bluegrass Music Society for their annual compilation CD. Dave wrote two of the songs; Rob wrote the third.

I like going in the studio. It makes you really focus and learn the songs very well. We use our friend Raven's studio: Purple Raven Recording, and I enjoy working with her.

My part was done quickly--in 30 minutes. We recorded each song twice. After I was done, then the hard start began. The guys recorded and re-recorded and re-re-recorded their breaks, their harmonies, their leads. Whoa. We started on Tuesday and I guess it wasn't all over until the following Monday.

Already, we all know things we could do better for next time. But for now, it's fine and the deadline from CBMS is tomorrow. So we are golden. Good progress, but lots more to improve.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Van Winkle Bourbon

The things you learn. At Thanksgiving of 2007, we had a big crew over to the house for dinner. One of those guests brought us a bottle of Old Van Winkle Bourbon--Tom Stuart aka the Home Boy, is from the same home town as I am--Owensboro, KY. Dave was coming down with a cold and didn't even notice the bourbon, as we had so much activity going on with 15 dinner guests.

The bottle of 12 year old bourbon was placed on our liquor buffet with 4 or 5 other bottles of bourbon, where it languished for over a year. Then one day Dave thought he'd give it a try. He didn't even know where it came from--thought I bought it. I guess he perked right up as soon as he had a sip. He said it was Mighty Fine! After sipping on it for a couple of weeks, he asked me about it. I told him that Tom had brought us that bottle, and I pointed out that it sat around for quite a while before being opened.

Dave became downright enamored of that bourbon and announced the day he drank the last of it, "Alas, the Van Winkle is finished." (No kidding). I sent an email to Tom and mentioned this, asking where he got it. Tom does not drink; he said the Van Winkle was recommended to him by a friend. Then Tom determined that since Dave liked it so much, we had better find some more of it. He and I found out that was easier said than done.

Van Winkle comes from a small distillery in Kentucky and is only distributed in limited quantities in March and September. Further, it only goes out to a few liquor stores. My friend, Ted, who lives in Michigan told me that there is only one store in his entire state that gets any Van Winkle.

The Home Boy was on the trail and Tom located the stores that would get Van Winkle, as well as got the date when the bottles would show up--March 12. Dave and I nicknamed it Van Winkle Day. Tom even corresponded with the president of Van Winkle, when some local store worker couldn't provide any useful information on when we could expect to see some of this liquid gold.

So, March 12 came and went, but the one store that was local to me, claimed not to have any Van Winkle. Finally a week later, I went over there and found it on the shelf. I bought two bottles of the 12 year old to squirrel away for Dave's birthday and didn't mention anything more about the topic.

A couple of weeks later, we went to a bluegrass show, and Tom was there. He couldn't wait to invite Dave outside and then present him with a bottle of 15 year old Van Winkle, in sympathy for the loss of the Oldsmobile. (You'll have to read about that in an earlier blog). What a sweet gesture. Dave has been showing off that bottle and doling out sips of it ever since.

I am glad to know about Van Winkle and the scarcity of it. What an interesting experience that has been.

Friday, April 3, 2009

30 Days of Healthy Living

I just finished 30 days of healthy living. I read an article by a reporter who did this program. It's not some established thing; she determined her program by using a lot of the recommendations around daily fat intake, daily exercise, etc. At the end of a month, she wrote about it. So I took her article and made a list of items to follow for 30 days and then tried to get motivated to get started.

Getting going was the hardest part. I guess I probably false-started about 4 or 5 days. When I broke the program, I made myself go back to Day 1. David said he didn't think I was going to be able to do it.

Finally, after I got to about Day 3, I had enough invested that I didn't want to start over again. Whew. That was tough. Once I got going, I did pretty well. It felt long while I was doing it--Day 10, Day 15 seemed so far away from Day 30.

I resisted home made cookies at my bandmate's house. I exercised diligently and even went to yoga some. I counted calories and grams of fat. I put on sunscreen even when I wasn't going to go outside. I didn't drink any alcohol. After a while I felt pretty determined to succeed.

Yesterday was the last day. It was one of the toughest days, too. I have decided that I am giving myself three days off from the program and then I will start again. I think I need to figure out how to make this type of program a way of living, rather than the exception. So far, today, I have done everything the same and am not overeating. I will drink some wine tonight. And I have a moonpie that I bought last weekend and have saved until today. I can't wait to eat it!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

April Fool

Here we go--yesterday we had a snowstorm on April Fools day. It feels so typical for Colorado. Further, there is another one on the way for the weekend.

We got about three inches of snow. This weekend the weatherman is predicting up to a foot. Yuk. Just when I am ready to go out and plant my cool weather crops of radishes and lettuce and spinach, the garden is now covered with snow.

So I have to put off my planting until the snow melts and the soil dries out a little. Looks like at least another week for the seed planting if not longer. I didn't like this April Fools trick.