Enjoy life now... it has an expiration date.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Newspaper column for October 2008

The Life of a Band Wife: Two Tales from the Road

When you’re married to a band member and spend most weekends traveling you gain new experiences and meet a lot of people. Some gigs we play regularly and become well acquainted with the folks who attend, creating many fond memories. Of course, the band members get to know each other pretty well too; in fact, after several years of being on the road together the band has become more like an extended family than a business entity. We’ve celebrated the joyous occasions in each other lives, mourned the sad events, and shared many laughs over humorous incidents.

Of all the memories built up over the years, it is the sad ones and the humorous ones that seem to remain the clearest in our minds. The humorous memories are recounted often, accompanied by gales of laughter during the many hours spent on the road. Two of those memories I’d like to share with you.

The first one concerns Howard. Howard was a regular at one of our monthly dances and he was..... well..... a little different. I never asked any questions about Howard’s condition, I just knew that although he wasn’t like the rest of us, he had a beautiful soul and a joyful, childlike heart. There was no eloquence in his speech, nor grace in his movements, but he loved to dance and was genuinely delighted to receive a hug and an invitation to the dance floor. He liked all the dances, fast and slow, and it was during one of the fast dances that his now famous little mishap occurred. It was delightful mishap, as mishaps go, one of those amusing incidents that makes you smile every time you think of it. You see, Howard wore dentures (I’d guess he was in his middle sixties) and he had a habit, when dancing, of pushing his upper teeth out a little, wiggling them back and forth a few times, and then popping them back in place again. He’d do this several times during a dance - when you saw Howard dancing, you knew his teeth were dancing too. One night during a lively tune, Howard pushed his teeth out a little too far. To the surprise, consternation and amusement of his fellow dancers, all of a sudden one set of upper teeth became airborne, and upon landing, skittered across the floor in between several dancers. Howard took off in hot pursuit of his teeth, and upon reaching the errant chompers, scooped them up, gave them a quick wipe on his sleeve and, grinning, popped them back into their rightful gummy place. He shuffled back to his group of dancers, who, wide eyed and mouths agape with various expressions of surprise, delight and disbelief at the incident, moved aside to welcome him back to the group. Howard has now passed on, but I think of him often: his love of life, his childlike joy... and his wandering dentures.

Our second tale involves Danny Baker. Danny is our bass player and one of four vocalists in the band. He’s solid and dependable, not loud and showy. A big strapping guy, Danny does his share when it comes to unloading and setting up the heavy equipment required for the band. After the hard and tedious work of setting up is done, Danny and the other band members change into their "good clothes" just before the show starts.

One night, the band had not been playing long - it was still early in the first set - and everything was going as planned when I suddenly heard a loud, quick "WOO!" come from one of the mikes. Definitely not part of the song. Curious, I looked up just in time to see Danny jump a little and yell "OWW!". It was actually more of a pained yelp. What in the world was going on? Without warning, Danny suddenly leapt off the stage and made rapid tracks to the men’s room. The other band members watched in surprise and wonder as Danny disappeared into the crowd. They obviously had no more clue than I did as to what was going on. A few minutes later, Danny emerged and took his place on stage again. I looked at him closely. He appeared all right, if slightly uncomfortable. For the remainder of the set things went normally and there were no more outbursts from Danny. Trying to imagine possible causes for Danny’s unusual behavior, I could hardly wait to hear the explanation. On the first break I got the scoop: Danny’s wife, Brenda, had done the laundry that day and since it was nice weather she hung the clothes on the outside line to dry. When Danny picked up his folded pants to pack them for the trip, little did he know that he would not be alone inside his pants. There was a wasp inside them. When it came time to start the show, he’d put the pants on, blissfully unaware of the uncomfortable turn of events that was about to happen. The wasp couldn’t find his way out, and trapped, you know what happened next. When the first sting occurred, it elicited the first surprised "WOO!". The second sting was accompanied by an even louder "OWW!", then followed by Danny’s rapid exit to find out what the devil was going on. Reminded me of the song "Mississippi Squirrel Revival" where Harv thought he had a weed eater loose in his Fruit of the Looms.

In the band room we found out the cause of the commotion and alternated between helpless laughter and offering giggling consolation to poor Danny who found it considerably less funny than we did. To add insult to injury, we discovered that the cantankerous little wasp had zinged Danny one more time before he made it to the bathroom to shuck those troublesome britches. These days, Danny is back to his normal low key self; however, I think he does check his clothes before putting them on if they’ve been dried on the outside line.

* Danny Baker, good sport that he is, has read this article and given permission to divulge the painful details. Thank you, Danny!

** The story of Howard is true, however, the name has been changed.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A couple more art cards

Here's two more of my art cards (both done in colored pencil). The bottom card is of a castle in France - a country I'd really like to visit. I was actually scheduled to go to France as part of a student exchange when I lived in England but missed that trip. My French teacher, Monsieur Carre, had written to his former students in France and paired them up as pen pals with his students in England. The idea was that we would write to our pen pal in France using only French to improve our grasp of the language and they in turn would write to us in English. One summer, arrangements were made for us to spend six weeks with our pen pal's family in France. That was the summer my family moved to the US. Alas, we moved a couple of months before the scheduled trip to France. So, for the moment I'm being patient with promises to myself that "one day" I'll make that long awaited trip.

The top card (mushroom) doesn't really look like a Vacation Dream Card, but it is. It's a reminder of my childhood rambles around the English countryside where I grew up. I was always fascinated by the variety of mushrooms I saw. The fact that some of them were poisonous and forbidden to touch only made them more mysterious, mythical. Sometimes I half expected a tiny sprite-like figure to emerge from underneath their colorful little canopies. Too many childhood stories? Perhaps. But it was a pleasant indulgence nonetheless. Of all of the mushrooms, the puff balls and the red and white capped were my favorite fungi. I have no idea what the proper name is for the puff ball mushrooms, but we called them puff balls because if you stepped on one, it puffed out a thick cloud of brown smoke. We always avoided letting the brown smoke drift onto us... who knew whether it might have magical properties and what the consequences might be? The red and white capped mushrooms seemed far more innocent. They were so pretty that one could only imagine pleasant stories around such a colorful little forest dweller. Ah, the innocence of childhood. Though I wouldn't wish those days back again (I quite enjoy my life as it is for the most part) I would dearly love to walk the English countryside again, exploring the forest and enjoying the quiet beauty of nature.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Fall Apple Cake

Crunchy leaves and Fall's delicious chilly mornings got you in a baking fever? Me too! Here's a family favorite you might like to try. This cake is better if you plan ahead so that it can sit for a day or two before cutting. The sitting time allows the flavors to blend and deepen to produce quite a memorable flavor. If you don't have a particularly sweet tooth you might want to omit the finishing glaze (I gleefully drizzle it over the cake all the while wondering how long the cake will sit before I dive into it). Enjoy!

Fall Apple Cake

2 cups light brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs, beaten
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup buttermilk (I use whole buttermilk)
2 teaspoons vanilla
2/3 cup pecans, chopped
1-1/2 cups apples, peeled and finely cubed (I use 2 Granny Smith apples)

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

- Cream sugar and oil.

- Slowly add eggs, blending after each addition.

- Combine flour and next 7 ingredients.

- Add flour mixture to egg and oil mixture. Add apples and pecans and stir well.

- Bake in greased and floured 10-inch tube pan for approximately 40 minutes (depending on your oven and your pan) or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost - but not completely - clean. I like to take the cake out when just a tiny bit of cake sticks to the toothpick... keeps it from overbaking and becoming dry.

- While cake is still warm and in the pan, punch holes in the top of the cake (if you have them, use one of those little wooden grill skewers so the holes go all the way down to the bottom) and pour some of the warm glaze over it. Then turn cake out onto a plate and pour the rest of the glaze over the cake. Cover and let sit for a day or two - if you can!

1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 stick margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla

Bring sugar, milk and margarine to a medium to high boil - boil for three minutes while stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add the vanilla. Let cool a little and spoon onto cake when the glaze is just nice and warm.
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