Friday, October 16, 2015

Sal Is Treated To a Day at Hermes Vineyards

One of the rewards of raising kids is basking in any praise they may receive.  I was able to do this -- and to enjoy a lovely day out -- because my son Christopher is a tutor extraordinaire and an all-around good guy.  He recently helped Mary --  the daughter of our friend Avril -- study for a big exam.  As a result, Avril and Peet, her fiance, treated Christopher, Sal, and I to an afternoon at the Hermes Winery near Sandusky. Why did Sal and I get to go?  Because Avril and Peet are all-around good people, too!

A sunny September Saturday at Hermes Vineyards -- the site of some of Avril and Peet's first dates.  Wine and romance!  What could be better?

The gentleman who poured the wine was happy to pose with Sal.  We were happy to drink the wine!

We spent a couple of hours sharing delicious wine and conversation at this tree-shaded picnic table.  Heavenly...

Sal enjoyed hanging out on a pergola of grape vines. As you can see from the sunspots, it was a beautiful sunny day.

Sal enjoying the beams of the sun while resting on one of the beams of the pergola.

Sal had to get her photo taken on this picturesque old bike.

I don't know why, but I thought it was amusing to have a sign advertising live music in an empty field.  Actually, it would be a wonderful spot to spread a quilt on the ground and listen to music on a warm summer evening.

We spent a couple of stress-reducing hours at the winery, and then went to dinner.  I was so relaxed that I didn't think of taking Sal into the restaurant to get her picture there.  Suffice it to say, the food was delicious and the company was great. Thanks a million to Avril and Peet for treating us to such a beautiful day!  ...and to Christopher for inspiring their generosity! 

Sal Meets the Steel City Ukes at a Very Cool Workshop

Sal and I have been following the Steel City Ukuleles on Meetup for a long time, and have been quite tempted by some of the workshops they offer.  Unfortunately, I work every other Saturday, and it seems that the workshops are always scheduled for days I'm slated to appear at the salt mine.  Also, even though driving to Pittsburgh and back in a day is doable, I always get lost when I go there.  This makes me a bit Pittsburgh-phobic.

The workshop that was being held on August 22nd, however, was irresistible. As members of  The Cleveland Fleaharmonics, Sal and I were very interested in the subject -- arranging and performing as a group.  Also, I had heard great things about the instructors:  Craig Chee and Sarah Maisel And there was the chance to spend some time with other ukulele lovers, which is always a good thing.  I was able to trade Saturdays with a coworker so that I could go. Sal and I hitched a ride with Tabitha -- a fellow Fleaharmonic -- and we had a swell day.

Before the workshop, we made an expensive stop at Ikea.  (My rule = if you are in a town with an Ikea, you must go there!)  Then it was off to spend some quality uke time with the Steel City folks!  (We didn't get lost, but there was a terrible traffic jam on the freeway, which made us a bit late.  Fortunately -- or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it -- others had been stuck in traffic too, so the beginning of the workshop was delayed a bit.)


Sarah Maisel, Jack with Sal, and a bunch of other friendly Steel City Ukes members.  What a welcoming bunch!

Sal enjoyed being played by Sunny Park.

Sarah Maisel and Craig Chee with Sal. 

The workshop was wonderful!  Tabitha, Sal, and I all had a great time, and hope to return to Pittsburgh soon! (Too bad the next workshop is being held on a day I have to work!  ARGH!)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Sal Goes to the Park With Sophia

Sal and I spent a September weekend visiting Sophia and her Mommy and Daddy.  We took our friend Bruce along, too.  We hung out at Sophia's house, went on a couple of hikes, and had a tasty breakfast together at the restaurant at the Shawnee State Park Lodge.  (They make great omelets, and Sophia really enjoys the fruit and cheese plate.)

We also spent some time playing and singing Old McDonald Had a Farm and Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star as Sophia danced.  She loves music, which makes this grandmother very happy!  The funny thing was that whenever Bruce would pick up the ukulele and begin to play, Sophia would take the instrument away from him and give it to me.  We had quite a few laughs about this. 

Shortly before getting on the road for home, we spread a quilt on the grass by a pretty lake and stream, and had a Sal photo session.


Sophia bringing Sal to me -- hoping for a tune. 

Sophia and Sal making music together.

Sophia watching Bruce play Sal.

Uh-oh!  Here comes Sophia to take Sal away from Bruce....

...and bring her to me!   :)


Soon it was time to hit the road.  It's always sad to say good-bye to some of our favorite people, but I'm hoping it won't be long before we meet again...



Monday, September 7, 2015

Sal Returns to the Pickle Factory

Last year a bunch of Fleaharmonics went to Sechler's Pickle factory on our way home from the Midwest Uke Fest.  Most of us went on the factory tour, and all of us purchased some pickles to take home.  You can read about that visit in this post.

Sal and I love a good tradition, so we -- and most of the other Fleaharmonics -- decided to stop at Sechler's again this year.  Happily, everyone's feet sported proper attire, so we could all go on the factory tour.  The lady behind the counter knew we were return visitors when we came in.  How?  Because she recognized Sal!



Closed toe shoes - check.  Hairnets - check.  The Fleaharmonics are ready to go on the factory tour! 

While waiting for our tour to begin, we stepped into the small pickle museum adjacent to the factory store.  Here are Nicole and Sal posing next to a photo of President Eisenhower -- and a letter from Ike thanking Sechler's for sending him pickles.

Who knew?

Thomas and Sal next to some pickle sheet music.  Methinks we should learn this song for a future visit!

Sal and the pickle-loving Fleaharmonics posing with the giant pickle.  Another tradition!


After purchasing many jars of pickles, we all traveled homeward.   We will enjoy the memories -- and the pickles -- until we return next year!


Sunday, September 6, 2015

Sal Goes to Midwest UkeFest 2015

Sal had a great time at this year's Midwest Uke Fest.  There were lots of great classes to attend, and most of her ukulele-playing friends were there to share in the fun.  What could be bad about a whole weekend of ukulele playing, learning, and listening!?

Since Sal has been to the Fest two times before, she has many memories to share.  Click here to read about Sal's experiences at UkeFest 2013 and here to read about Uke Fest 2014.  (I just read the posts again before adding the links here, and am glad to have revisited those delightful times!  <3 Uke Fest every year!!!)



A delicious tradition.  Going out for Thai food the night before Uke Fest begins.


Stu Fuchs -- a wonderful instructor!  Sal and I met him at Mighty Uke Day and were looking forward to attending more of his workshops at Uke Fest.   We were not disappointed!  This year Sal and I didn't take photos with the other instructors, but you can see those gifted fellows in the previous years' posts via the links above.)


Each year there is an Open Mic Concert at the Uke Fest.  Nicole, one of our fellow Fleaharmonics, did an amazing solo at the Open Mic last year.  This year she blew us away again by performing an original song -- with an assist from Jeff (another fellow Fleaharmonic).  Check out  Nicole and Jeff's performance here!

At last year's Open Mic, our whole Cleveland contingent performed The Tide Is High.  This year we did another fun song.  Here is our rendition of Build Me Up, Buttercup.  (We don't actually start playing until a minute and twenty seconds in.)  We were quite nervous, but it was fun, too.  We're already thinking about what we should play next year!

At last year's Uke Fest we took some mock-busking photos in front of Woodburn's pizza place.  Of course doing something once means it becomes a tradition, so we had to do more fake busking this year.  There was some discussion of where the photos should be taken.  Recreate last year's shots -- or find a new place?  From the photos below you can see we chose to find a new spot.  I have cropped the pictures into squares, so we can all envision what they would look like as album covers!



I used the "fade color" effect in iPhoto on this picture.  It makes things look a bit bleak -- which I think is what we were going for by busking on an abandoned train.
The same shot, using my favorite combination of effects for stuff like this -- "antique" and "edge blur."  Much better for an album cover, I'd say.

Another angle on the thing.  Used my favorite effects on this one, too.  If this was the album cover, I would put the name of the band in the lower left of the picture.

This one would be a cool album cover, too!  Same effects.

You can't keep a ukulele band down for long!  Presenting a cover for an album of happy songs by The Cleveland Fleaharmonics!


A BIT OF MUSING ABOUT LIFE...  It is common knowledge that the ukulele is the world's happiest instrument!  While playing it, uke lovers lose their cares for a while and feel true joy (unless they are practicing barre chords -- but that is a subject for another day...)  Unfortunately, sometimes life presents circumstances that make it hard to pick up the instrument and get happy.  Sal and I were going through such a shadowy period during Uke Fest, but the warm atmosphere, the challenging classes that forced us to concentrate, and the companionship of friends and fellow ukers brought us through.  Thanks to the Uke Fest family and our fellow Cleveland Fleaharmonics for a wonderfully uplifting weekend!  Looking forward to next year already!



Sunday, August 9, 2015

Sal Goes to the Pickin' Picnic in the Park

The Cleveland Jumping Fleas had their Third Annual Pickin' Picnic in the Park on Sunday, July 26th, and a good time was had by all! 


A great-looking bunch!

The traditional "silly" shot.

Nicole wowed us all with her rendition of Shambles by Della Mae.




Jeff playing Romance -- a classical guitar piece.  Sounds great on a uke, too!

Bruce's entertaining rendition of Do You Love Me by The Contours brought smiles all around.




Sal Stops On The Way Home

On the way home from my 4th of July weekend adventure, the GPS took me along a bunch of back roads.  I drove past this intriguing roadside monument, and then decided to turn around and go back.  This kind of thing is one of the reasons I wanted to do Travels With Sal -- to get me to stop and look at interesting things I would ordinarily pass by.  I took a bunch of photos and felt great afterwards.  I've gotta do stuff like this more often.


As I drove by, this is what I saw.  Ordinarily, I wouldn't have given it a second thought, but Sal was with me!
There was so much to say that both sides of this sign were full. 

Sal lying on top of the display case.  There was so much dust and other stuff (leaves, spider webs, etc) that the items in the case could not be seen very well, but the haziness makes a pretty cool photo.

Many historical photos and the key to the original post office were hung all around the inside of the memorial.  I like how the rocks in the display case seem to be floating below Sal.

Farther along the road, I stopped at a rest area on I-71.  There was a lovely corn field behind the rest stop, which I thought would be a good backdrop for Sal.  I took some pictures, and then sat at a picnic table to play my car uke for a few minutes.   After I was finished, I began walking to my vehicle, and was stopped by a woman with a boy in tow.  She asked me if I would play something for her son.  I said I would and played a verse of Old McDonald for him.  His mom and I sang, but he was either shy or embarrassed, and just looked on.  Mom and I talked for a minute or two, then got in our cars and drove away.  At that point I thought that I should have asked them to pose for a Sal photo to post here, but I had been too tired to think of it in time.  About 70 miles down the road there was another rest stop, and I pulled in there.  As I was leaving the ladies room, who should be coming in but the same woman!  If her son had been nearby I would have asked them to pose for a Sal photo, but I didn't see him and thought it would seem very odd if I hung around the restroom waiting for her to come out and then made such a bizarre request.  If I hadn't been so exhausted from the long day of driving, I might have done it, but oh well...  It was a fun and happy pair of encounters that made the trip more bearable.


Sal on the fence by the cornfield.  This shot is unaltered.  Nothing has been done to it.  The sky is so light, though, that for the other picture, I used the antique effect in iPhoto to try to make it look good despite the washed out sky.

Sal and my "car uke" -- a banana-colored Flea -- on the picnic table where we played a few tunes.  The weather was extremely clement, so it was a very pleasant interlude.  (The Flea is a great uke to keep in the car.  It has stayed in mine through a very cold winter and some hot weather too, and it took it like a champ!)