Thursday, June 30, 2011

Tuning a Violin and the Insides of my Sewing Machine

So my goal today was to learn how to tune my violin. I used this site: and succeeded (both according to my ear and my electronic tuner). Then I played through 29 exercises in my beginner's book. Sadly, I discovered that the accompaniment CD does not go past exercise 71 - so the last few I did, I do not have the satisfaction of knowing sounded good with other instruments. I feel like I am getting this and am quite happy with the progress I am making. With the help of my tuner (to know when the note should sound correct), I am retraining my ear. I had pulled out a row of tape, to tape out the fingerings, but after reading a few online opinions about tape, I've decided against it. It may be harder to where the notes are initially (and harder on any one listening to me practice in the process), but overall, I think it will be better for me to train my fingers and ear at the same time instead of relying on tape. Besides, I don't really want to get in the habit of staring at my left hand's fingers while I play. I want to have my eyes free for reading music. I played for about an hour before deciding that I should probably pick up my neglected guitar and play it for a while. My sore fingers lasted for about another 20 minutes, but I made it through several worship songs I know and even had fun singing along. It's been a while since I've done that and it was nice.

This evening looks to be a night of sewing, so hopefully I will have some Organization XIII cloak progress to comment on later.


I was very happy to note that I had made more progress on the cloak than I had remembered when I last tucked it away in October. We pulled everything out, and I was getting the sewing machine ready when I realized I needed to wind a black thread bobbin. The bobbin winder on my machine had snapped (the machine had taken a dive from a high surface a while back when we thought we had placed it their securely - a quick once over didn't show anything wrong at that point, but then I probably just over looked the bobbin winder portion). So hubby to the rescue found out that Walmart [because they have a 24 hour store by us and Michael's and Jo-Ann's were both closed by then] sells a bobbin winder and we set off to shop (after I put the case back onto my sewing machine - twice). It turned out that this Walmart didn't carry the winder, but the one up by hubby's work does. So we will have to pick one up tomorrow. Thus, the sewing has been postponed (again - my husband has more patience than I deserve) and I now know what the inside of my sewing machine looks like.

Oh! My violin music books arrived! I've uploaded all the songs to play along with onto my iPod and have started ingraining the tunes into my brain. I realized that I know how to play all of the notes for "Augie's Great Municipal Band" [from Star Wars] so I plan on learning that tomorrow [I thought about trying it today, but an hour of violin and 20 minutes of guitar have left my fingertips complaining]. I also went on a violin music kick this afternoon and found several youtube violin rendition of video game songs that kept me amused for a good chunk of time. Still waiting for the mute to arrive as that shipped separately, but I am happy to say that my playing is sounding better.

And on a completely mushy romantic note: Today marks eight years since my husband first kissed me! [And 8 years of arguing about who kissed who first. It's our best argument because it always works to end any argument when it gets heated - disarming us from upset all the way down to playful.]

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Dinner and Music

I came home to find that my wonderful hubby had cleaned up the apartment and marinated steaks for dinner. He was off at work when I arrived home, but I was able to get the steaks in and start the pasta for dinner. It was so wonderful to see Melissa and Ben and their adorable daughter, Tabitha, who is rather well behaved. We were able to chat and catch up a bit and Melissa and I scheduled our next get together for a morning workout on Monday morning (hooray! I like having things to look forward to on Mondays). We also need to have another double date where we can play Catan and I need to let Dave know I have someone in town who wants to play Killer Bunnies, too. We had a fun time socializing and I am very much looking forward to the fact that we get to hang out this summer. I've missed her so much. Oh, she liked the blanket. :)

They took off shortly before ten so that they could put their little one to bed. She had adorably fallen asleep in her mother's arms. Since ten o'clock is the start of quiet time, I decided it probably wouldn't be a good idea to play the violin tonight since the mute has yet to arrive (it hasn't shipped yet, but my books are currently in Arizona and will hopefully be sent out tomorrow). So it is sitting in it's case. However, I did watch the DVD that came with my beginner book and learned a few more tips and pointers that I did not already know. I also practiced my bow holding on a pencil - I will have to remember the hold, as it is something I can easily practice at work with my pencil to condition my hand for the proper hold. My co-workers story about a family of 4 at the dinner table helps me remember the positioning too. Pointer finger is the old grandfather who has fallen asleep leaning on the table,. The middle finger and ring finger are the twins, who lacking manners, have their elbows on the table. The pinky finger is the baby of the family and sits on the table. The thumb is the dog and is sitting, not laying down flat to play dead - because no one wants a dead dog. This is a paraphrase of what she told me and something she learned when she was eleven or so, but as silly as it is, the visual helps me.

As I type, I am listening to several violin samples I found on the listening library of the DVD. They are very pretty pieces and only serve to motivate me to practice daily so that I can one day play some of them.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sore Fingers and Good News

Day two of the violin and my fingers hurt. I really hope these callouses build up quickly. I found out today that my co-worker has been playing violin since she was 11. She gave me some pointers on how to properly hold the bow. She also informed me that the violin is supposed to be entirely supported by the head. I didn't know this. She is also willing to play with me sometime. I think I'll wait to take her up on it until I can play more than "Jingle Bells", "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star", "Old MacDonald Had A Farm", and "Dreidel". Although, I thought it was pretty cool that one of the beginner songs is "Natalie's Rose" - hooray for songs with my name in them. I made it to page 18 today and it finally told me to use the bow! I stopped at 9:30 p.m. because I was concerned that if I played much longer I would bother the neighbors - I really hope the practice mute arrives soon.

I'm excited for tomorrow night. I get to see my best friend whom I haven't seen in ages plus her hubby and new little one. I'll get to give her the baby blanket I made (as she thought it was better to have it hand delivered than mailed. They are coming over for dinner tomorrow night. And the best news I got today was that this isn't a short trip. She will be in town until September. This means I'll get to see her more than once this visit. I'm super excited! I've missed my Melissa time.

On that note, I should probably get to cleaning.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Violin - My Husband Is The Greatest!

So hubby wanted to get me something big for our 4 year wedding anniversary (this July 14th). He had asked me what I want him and I told him that for quite sometime I have wanted a violin. Not only is the violin a gorgeous sounding instrument. It is also an instrument that is very dear to my heart because it reminds me of all the times my little brother, Mikey, would sit and sound out songs on his violin. One of my cousins now happily plays my little brother's violin in his schools orchestra. And now, almost 10 years after my little brother's passing (July 3rd, 2001) - I am learning the instrument that he loved so much. I plan on sounding out the Flinstone's theme just like he did so many years ago - once I get the basics down. Playing the violin is a small way for me to still feel connected to my little brother.

So my husband and I set off to a little music store that is only a few blocks away. The owner was finishing up a lesson when we arrived and then he happily showed me some violins. The first one he brought out was a beautiful violin - near mint condition - hardly played by it's previous owner. It had a pretty tone that I enjoyed, but I wanted to hear the another violin before making a purchase. The second violin he brought out had character - it had either seen it's fair share of playing or just been dinged a few to many times. Compared to the first, this one was battle scarred, but oh, the wonderfully, deep resonating tone I got out of it. Now I'm a beginner, I can't even begin to coax out the marvelous notes that I know this violin is capable of, but just with the open notes I had fallen in love with the tone of this violin - then he tuned it.

I lucked out, in that an experienced violin player walked into the shop at about this time, and agreed to play both violins for me to hear the sound difference. First he played the newly tuned, battle scarred violin. It sounded magnificent. Then he played the pristine violin. It was beautiful, but did not create as deep a sound. Uncertain, he picked up the scarred violin again and played. Of the two, he decided that the scarred violin had the better sound, and wanted it for his own. "I can feel the resonance against my chin." he had told me. He said, that even his own violin did not do that for him. I was pretty much decided on the scarred violin from the first note and his appraisal of the instrument just sealed the deal for me. With Bevan's approval, we purchased my violin.

When we arrived home, I played it a little and then reluctantly set it aside so that I could order the practice mute (I'm sure the apartment neighbors will appreciate that when it arrives) and some beginning books (The ABCs of Violin books 1 & 2) from online (plus a Star Wars violin solo book because I want those to be some of the first pieces I learn). It should all arrive some time next week. Then it was off to work for me. After work, hubby and I went out to get his anniversary gift (a 3-DS) and to pick up a beginner's book for me to use while I wait for the others to arrive. I found the "Essential Elements 2000 for Strings - Violin Book 1" at the book store and worked my way to page 13 before my fingers became to sore. I need to work on building up my callouses again.

Anyway, I am very excited about learning the violin and can't wait until I am making beautiful music. I definitely like the accompaniment CD feature of all the books I ordered. I wish that had been the case back in grade school when I was learning the clarinet. I'm pretty sure it would have made learning to keep time a bit easier. Well, I could ramble on forever, but I really should get to bed.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Any Recommendations for an Online Store Web Host?

My mother has had a small word-of-mouth wood working business for the last 15+ years. We have talked about getting her an online presence for a few years now. So I am on the hunt for a web host that will provide a good structure for her online store.

* Unlimited items (she already has 100+ ornament designs and adds more each year)
* Allows multiple photos per item
* Choice of shipping methods (UPS, Fedex, USPS, etc.)
* Choice of payment methods (credit card, paypal, etc.)

Web hosts I've been looking at:
Fat Cow/iPage

So if you know of a good provider or have tips on who I should avoid, please let me know. Thanks!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

A Lot In Common

It is always a wonderful to find someone else who shares the same obscure hobby you do. I never thought I would run into a student who also played RPGs (at least not one so young). I found that I needed to refocus him on his work several times because he wanted to tell me about all of his characters. It was the most excited and animated I have ever seen him. Then I thought about it. I'm the exact same way. The second I find someone who will listen to me ramble about my hobbies - I can be the most talkative girl around. I love telling about RP adventures I have had or the latest project I am working on. Many that I try to explain these to give me funny looks, but the ones who understand - they are the ones that get their ears talked off (sorry!). So what's your topic? What are the things that will make you go from the silent observer to hogging the bulk of the conversation? What are you fascinated by?

On another note, though slightly related being one of my latest obsessions, I started weight training a little over a week ago. I've done a circuit on the small weight machine set-up our apartment complex has. Two sets of 15 reps for each exercise. I don't know the names of each thing, but there are two leg machines (a press and a reverse curl?), and four arm machines (standing curl, an overarm pull bar, a sitting chest press and inward butterfly?). I've seen a huge improvement in the muscle definition of my arms and am even losing some of that annoying underarm flab. I've done this every other day since I started, with the exception of yesterday's which I did today. But since yesterday was spent pulling up carpet, moving furniture, and boxes to help friends clean their flooded basement - I am not beating myself up over missing a day - that was a workout in itself and it was nice to be able to help them. They were reacting so much better to the flooding than I would have been, had I been in their shoes.

Oh, and last night's gaming session was a hoot. We rescued two people from the Kessel prison and learned an awful lot about each others characters. Well, I should say, I learned an awful lot about everyone else's characters - as my character is still keeping her secrets close to the vest. I now know I've been working alongside someone in the Bothan spynet, a Devaronian princess in hiding (who, by the way, hates being called a princess), a force user of some sort, a smelly Rodian who has regained his honor, and that when we thought we had been working for the Rebellion, we had really been hired by the Black Sun. Also, I was really pleased when my droid and I took care of the guards to the high security area with one shot a piece. Our rag tag crew lives to fly another day. It will be interesting to see what out pilot princess has drug us all into by returning to her home planet...

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Woodburning and Pai Sho

Last Sunday I bought a new toy. I've been having a bit of fun with my new wood burner. I've only done a bit of practicing so far to figure out how a few of the 11 tips work. I'm loving it. I've already ordered the 108 blank round wood discs I will need to make Pai Sho pieces. For those of you who don't know, Pai Sho is a fictional game played by the characters in Avatar: The Last Airbender (an American animated T.V. series). From the various screen shots and in series use of the game several fans have worked out some playable rules for Pai Sho. I've been following the progress on creating the (unofficial) variations of the game and really want to play it for myself. So the plan is to make a set of the tiles and a travel board (either laminated paper or maybe an imprinted/burned/embossed animal hide) at first. Eventually I plan on making an actual Pai Sho table - I figure it would function as a pretty coffee table when not in use for games.

I've also been looking at making a piecepack (follow the link to learn more). A piecepack is the following set of game pieces:
24 tiles (square):
one tile per suit/value pair
suits are Suns, Moons, Crowns, Arms (but I've seen different suits and plan on making a themed piecepack)
values are null, ace, 2, 3, 4, 5
faces are marked with value at center and a small suit symbol at top-left, both in color to match suit
backs are marked with small black crosses to suggest a division into four square quarters

24 coins (round):
one tile per suit/value pair
suits are Suns, Moons, Crowns, Arms (again, I'm planning on using a theme set of suits)
values are null, ace, 2, 3, 4, 5
faces are marked with value in black (aces are spiral symbols)
backs are marked with suit in appropriate color
both fronts and backs are marked with a small mark near the edge to indicate direction

4 dice (cubic):
one die per suit
suits are Suns, Moons, Crowns, Arms (I'll be changing the suits to fit my theme)
values on each die are null, ace, 2, 3, 4, 5
die sides are marked with value in color to match suit

4 pawns (non-specific shape):
one pawn per color (I'm thinking 2 male and 2 female pawn people)

So I need to figure out what theme to use.
Theme: Possible Suits
Star Wars: Imperial Cog, Rebel Alliance Symbol, Mythosaur skull (symbol of the Mand'alor), Sith Symbol, Jedi Symbol - I think the only issue with this one would be picking which four symbols to use
Avatar - The Last Airbender: Earth, Water, Air, Fire - this one was easy
Harry Potter: Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw (might have to save this for a House Cup project)
Firefly: Hands of Blue (blue), Brown Coat(brown), Wash's Dinos (orange), Vera (silver), cupcake dress (pink)
The fandom list goes on...

Also I am currently reading The Great Book of Amber by Roger Zelazny - which includes all 10 books in the Amber Chronicles, because a friend of mine recommended it. I've already finished book one and am definitely enjoying it.