March 2014 Archives

My friends, Nina and Zio

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This is Zio, who I helped welcome to the world in December.  He is growing big and healthy. I just got to feed him a bottle for the first time yesterday. Hard to believe he is already three months old. He smiles when he sees me; I wonder if he remembers my voice from the delivery room?

This is Nina. She starts first grade in a couple of weeks. I've know her about half her life. She is a skilled hooper and led her mother and I through some fun hoop combos in the back yard. I see a future hoop teacher...

Happy Equinox

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We celebrated the equinox with a party featuring way too much food, just enough drink, so many friends, and a musical theme.

After creating our own handmade musical instruments from odds and ends, Huw conducted us in an improvised concert. Paul made an amazing tuned instrument from rubber bands and a tea tin. Shinji's beer can bell was a rattly delight. We lost a salad server to the drum. Tod filled the emptied wine bottles with water for a harp. There were attempts at guitars and an abundance of percussive blocks, shakers and Yuka's most versatile "ball bearings in a can topped with copper sheeting."

I think we must all be ageing. The party broke up by ten...might be a first. 

Butterfly: Country Roads

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Here's the video that Swinky, Jesse, and the Frolicaholics made earlier this week in our living room for The Butterfly Project.

Swinky will be appearing on a popular Japanese tv show later this month and John Denver's "Country Roads," which is probably the most famous English language song in Japan, is her way of saying hello to all her new fans. Be sure to visit Butterfly Swinky to watch more Butterflies or get info on her upcoming gigs. 

The Zous were thrilled to stand in frame with Swinky. They think she is very beautiful. They are right and I am sure all her fans will agree.

Butterfly Project Session

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Last night, Tod & I were inducted into the Butterfly Project, Swinky's collection of casual music videos.

Jesse brought a ton of equipment from their studio and while I made us some dinner, Jesse set up a six-mic-four-camera studio in our living room, including my special double mic stand kludged together with chopsticks and hoop tape.

Maybe these Butterflies aren't so casual after all?

It was the first time the four of us had played and sung together. There was much laughter over bad jokes and our numerous mistakes. We rehearsed for a hour or so, then ate dinner sitting in the empty places between cables. 

We recorded seven takes before we had something all of us agreed was good. But as Jesse checked the files and we took apart the equipment, he discovered a problem. The audio recorder failed mysteriously. There were no files at all on its card. So we scrambled to fix the device and put the studio back together before it got too late and the neighbours complained. (It was 11 pm before we finished, but nobody said anything, whew!) We did three more recordings and got a final take that included mistakes and laughter - a perfect representation of the evening. 

Now Jesse gets to edit all the video and audio recordings into something that looks like we just walked into the room and started playing.

The video will be up on the Butterfly Project page by the end of the month. It was so much fun to do. I hope we'll get to play with Swinky and Jesse again soon.

Frolicaholics: Radioactivity

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A couple of weeks back on the ukulele subReddit, there was a challenge to cover a Kraftwerk song. Electronic music on the ukulele, really? I was intrigued and Tod was interested, too, so we decided to make it a Frolciaholics project. We spent two weeks selecting a song, breaking it down into bits, learning to play it. We finished the filming and editing today.

The song we covered is Radioactivity, exceptionally apropos as we near the 3rd anniversary of the nuclear disaster here in Japan. We used almost all of our instruments: ukulele, melodica, xylophone and also the stylophone, tenori-on and a wooden frog that didn't make the final cut.

The tenori-on provides the bass and drums. We played the other instruments over the onslaught of 16th notes. It was a good challenge (aka almost impossible) to stay rigidly on the beat. You'll see from my grim expression that I was really focussed on getting it right! You'll hear that I didn't always mange. But I improved throughout the project and what more can a new musician ask for?

Spare a thought today for the many victims of the nuclear disaster. Three years after the meltdown, very little has improved and they need your good wishes.

Sardine & Tomato Risotto

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This is one of Tod's inspired creations the fuses Japanese stock with a classically Italian dish. It fits into the veg-aquarian mode of eating and is so full of umami that all you will need to accompany it is a salad.

Sardine & Tomato Risotto
serves 2

20 g dried konbu
1 cup katsuobushi flakes
1 liter water
1 onion, minced
1 clove garlic, crushed
3 T olive oil
160 g risotto rice
1 tin sardines in spicy tomato sauce
1/2 tin crushed tomatoes 
1 bunch spinach, chopped
100 g Parmesan cheese, grated
chopped parsley for garnish

Make a simple dashi stock by heating cold water and konbu until boiling. Remove from heat, add katsuobushi flakes. When the fish flakes sink, strain the broth and pour into a clean pan and simmer on very low heat.

Heat 2 T of oil in a large skillet. Saute the onion and garlic until soft. Push to one side. Add 1 T oil and gently saute the rice on low heat until the grains change color stirring as needed.

Begin pouring the dashi into the rice and onions one ladle at a time. Allow the rice to absorb the liquid, then add another ladle. This process takes 20 - 30 minutes. When the rice is nearly cooked, add the sardines and tinned tomatoes, stirring to combine. Adjust with more dashi (or hot water if you have used all the dashi) until the rice is completely cooked. Add the most of the cheese and the chopped spinach and allow it to wilt.

Serve with a sprinkling of cheese and parsley.

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