Sunday, September 18, 2016

Bluegrass 2016

The girls and I went to the Bluegrass Festival yesterday, one of our most beloved traditions.
We spent the day listening to music, buying more tie dye, looking at craft exhibits, talking with friends, and just spending time together.

 The festival was a bit strange this year as the river beside the festival grounds flooded last week and all of the hundreds and hundreds of RVs and campers and tents had to be evacuated. The festival itself went on as usual, but it looked and felt different without the campgrounds just beyond the boundary fences. There was torrential rain on Friday and lots of mud pretty much everywhere, but yesterday was sunny and hot. Maybe too sunny and hot.
We had the world's best reuben sandwiches and cherry limeades for lunch...
...and then listened to more music. The festival is such a safe and family friendly place that I have no qualms about letting the girls roam on their own. Katherine went off with friends for most of the afternoon and Rachel made trips to buy more drinks or visit my sister at another stage and relished the sense of independence. And when there weren't people to chat with, she entertained herself with whatever was at hand, including making a "tongue" with a water bottle label.
Katherine loved wandering through the instrument vendors stands, looking at all the interesting things for sale. The vendors are patient and knowledgeable and encourage people to try out their wares. Katherine strummed several ukuleles...
...and then found a fiddle display. She eagerly accepted the offer to try one out and then thought for a minute about what to play. Then she tightened the bow and started fingering In the Hall of the Mountain King from the Peer Gynt Suite. There are a huge assortment of songs performed at the festival, but this may very well be the first rendition of Edvard Grieg played there! The sound of classical music in the midst of the banjo and mandolin tunes brought amused grins from the passing crowd.
After a long afternoon of music and people watching, we visited the food stands for some supper. I had to laugh at our choices: Chinese stir fry, a gigantic tamale, and an Indian taco. Surrounded by hamburger, pizza, and fried catfish stands, we all opted for ethnic food. Typical for us! It was tasty, too.
By evening the girls were tired and dirty and ready to go home. I stayed around for a couple more hours to hear more music and reflect on a beautiful day.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Playing Ukulele

Katherine went to a pre-festival ukulele workshop in the park this morning.
She has tried to teach herself how to play through YouTube videos, which has been rather frustrating for her. She really needed someone live to watch and learn from and this was a perfect opportunity.
The workshop leader was Linda Tilton, the much loved sign language interpreter at the Walnut Valley Bluegrass Festival.
Linda was great. She calmly and gently explained the basics, from how to correctly pronounce the name of the instrument (it's oo-kulele not you-kulele), to the names of the strings, to how to finger chords.
Katherine was by far the youngest player there, but she didn't care and neither did anyone else. Most of the group were complete novices, so Kate fit right in. She settled in next to Seth, my friend from college days, and listened intently.
And I hung out the back, just watching. Within 45 minutes Linda had taught everyone two song, Hank William's Jambalaya and Let the Circle Be Unbroken. The weather was gorgeous, the lighting was cool, and the thrumming of ukuleles soothing. I was more than content to sit and people watch.

I have a feeling that this won't be the last time Katherine sits around playing songs with a circle of strangers. And really, I can't think of a better way to spend a morning.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Match Play

Katherine has joined the Middle School tennis team and she loves it.
She goes to practice every day after school and has learned a lot and become a better player. She is solidly in the middle of the pack, ranked 10th out of 20 girls, and seems perfectly comfortable there.
As she openly admits, "Tennis is fine, but I LOVE being part of the team." My introverted kid is spreading her wings and becoming really quite social! And she really does enjoy the other girls on her team. They laugh a lot, and that is good.
The girls' tennis season is short and intense - 10 matches in the month of September and then they are done. Her first two matches were away games, which we did not see. (Grandma and Grandpa made the long drive to watch both times! My girls have such wonderful grandparents.) She played doubles at both places and won one and lost one, coming home with a grin on her face both times.
Today she finally played at home, so we had the chance to watch. I am a complete non-athlete and sports really aren't even on my radar, so I was mostly at a loss as to what was happening with determining who played whom and how games are scored and all but the most obvious rules. I knew enough to sit down, keep my mouth shut, and try not to be too obnoxious with my camera.
The meet was laid back and the coaches were funny and encouraging. The girls had a good time hanging out together and no one took wins or losses too seriously. I so appreciated that.
The opposing team had half the players as ours, so the scheduling was a little strange. Their girls played our top 9 and then played the next 9 on our roster. That meant Katherine played against the other school's top seed. And lost. She was frustrated during the game, but shrugged it off afterward. She knew it's not a disgrace to lose to the best.
She was supposed to play doubles against the same opponent, but the other team forfeited, mostly because their girls were worn out. Katherine's coach had four of his team play instead. They giggled so much they had difficulty playing at times.
There's another home match on Monday. I'll have another chance to watch my girl play. And maybe get a better grasp on how the whole sport works.
I do know that in tennis, when you have nothing, you still have love. That sounds pretty good to me. And it seems to be a good thing for my girl.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Shaving Cream, Paint, and Fun

I took an art class this summer and learned to make marbleized paper using shaving cream and paint. It was so much fun that I knew I wanted to try it with my girls. I bought the supplies and then never got around to it. But this morning, after several long, boring, cranky weeks, I decided that we would spend our last Friday of the summer making art. It was so much fun! The best morning in weeks.

Here is what we did:

(I gathered all the supplies and set everything up first. This project is MESSY so you need everything ready to go before you touch the paint and shaving cream!)

First, spray shaving cream on a cookie sheet. You can use any flat surface (in my class we just worked directly on the art table), but this contained the mess well and was easy to clean.
Then smooth the shaving cream out as best you can with your hands. The goal is to cover the whole surface.
Then drip lines or spots of paint on top of the shaving cream.
I bought liquid watercolors online to use for this. They are relatively inexpensive and have strong, vibrant colors.
You can use tempera or acrylic paint, but the colors won't be as bright. (You can also make your own liquid watercolors using old markers - check Pinterest for instructions.) I made and posted a color chart so we could see how colors react with each other and we talked about colors that looked good together and colors that don't. Mixing purple and yellow is a no-no. This particular project looks best if you use only 2 or 3 colors.

Then using a chopstick, unsharpened pencil, paintbrush handle, etc. draw lines through the paint to mix it. It works best to make some sort of pattern instead of random squiggles. There is also an art to knowing when to stop!

Once the design is made, lay a piece of paper over the shaving cream and press it gently to make sure that all surfaces are touching the messy stuff. We used nice drawing paper, two weights of watercolor paper, and tracing paper. All worked well and each gave a slightly different effect. In my class we also used paper plates, deli paper, and watercolor paper with a linen-like texture. I think almost any kind of paper could work.
Then carefully lift the paper off and set it on the table. I covered my table with waxed paper to protect it and make clean-up easier. You can re-use the shaving cream for several papers, just add a little more paint if needed. The first printing is always the clearest, but second and third prints were still pretty. We marbleized both sides of our papers to make them more usable for future projects.
Then using a ruler or straight edge, scrape the shaving cream off. We found using a metal ruler made it easy to wash between colors.
Set a large trash can next to your work space and scrape the messy ruler on the side to clean off excess shaving cream. By the end of the morning, even our trash can was pretty!
The painted paper is damp, so hang it on a clothesline or drying rack for a while.
Then clean off your work surface, chopstick, and ruler and begin again. The three of us quickly worked out a system on one person painting, one person helping and prepping the next tray, and one person cleaning. After almost two hours and 3 cans of shaving cream, we had about 15 beautiful marbleized papers!
Now to dream up ways of using all these gorgeous papers...

- Work table with easy access to a sink
- Cookie sheets or other flat work surfaces (one per person)
- Waxed paper or old plastic tablecloth to protect work table
- Trash can
- Clothesline and clothespins
- Shaving cream, the cheaper the better (no aloe or menthol kind). One can makes 5 or 6 first prints.
- Liquid water colors
- Chopstick or paint brush handle
- Metal ruler
- Assorted paper (watercolor or heavy drawing paper works best)
- Aprons or paint shirts
- Paper towels and damp rags for clean-up

Thursday, August 4, 2016

U.S. Olympic Training Center

On our last afternoon in Colorado Springs we visited the Olympic Training Center.
Bobsled anyone? The Olympic center was actually very interesting. It's a huge complex, with on-site dorms, dining hall, practice facilities, nutritional support, and medical services.
Thousands of athletes train here, both full and part time. Athletes participating in the Paralympics also train at the center. There are three official training sites around the country. Our guide explained that Colorado Springs trains primarily "indoor summer Olympic athletes", but winter participants sometimes train there in the summer. (We watched a bobsledder work out in the enormous weight room.)
We were able to go inside several of the buildings to see the training spaces. We visited the shooting sports center, the wrestling room, and the men's gymnastics space (most of the women gymnasts train in Houston).
The training spaces are set up for training, not spectators, so there is not much space for observers. We looked through outside windows into the weight room, basketball/volleyball courts, and the swimming pool. There were swimmers in the pool, but none of them were headed to the Olympics.
Even as a complete non-athlete I was impressed by the high tech facilities and the care and support given to the people who train there. The buildings were carefully laid out and the grounds were lovely. The flags along the main path through the complex represent all of the countries that participate in the Olympics.
There are cool sculptures and bronze statues throughout the center and a beautiful sculpture garden.

Rachel was quite intrigued by this statue, since two of the figures appear to be floating in midair!
I liked the sculpture of ancient and modern athletes holding up the globe.

There is an Olympic countdown clock on the tourist building. That day it read 7 days until Rio. Today it is down to 1! Seeing the place where so many of the athletes in this Olympics trained will make the games even more exciting to watch!

I love birthdays!

the ladybug cake

The Ladybug Sisters


Jie Jie and Mei Mei

Park Pictures

Park Pictures
Peeking through the windows

Park Pictures

Park Pictures
Katherine and her toothless smile

Park Pictures

Park Pictures
The little one leads the way