Midland Uke Fest 2019 – A Different Way to Spend a Long Weekend


This past weekend was the first of Canada’s long weekends, Victoria Day Weekend. We spent most of it doing something we love, and the last day recovering! For those of you who are not musically inclined and/or have never tried playing a ukulele, you might not understand, but you’d be amazed at how many people have taken it up. Jim and I have been involved for about six years, having begun our first winter in Arizona because free classes were offered at our RV Park. In my last post I wrote about going to a one-day ukulele workshop in Salt Lake City on our way home, but we’ve never attended a full weekend festival before.

It began with us packing some belongings and a bit of food into the motorhome and then striking out on a three-hour drive to Midland, Ontario, a small city north of Barrie. This trip was uneventful; well, after we stopped at the first stop sign at the end of our street and we heard a crash and I looked back to see the closet door swung wide open. Upon inspection I discovered that the clips that hold the mirror into the door had disengaged, allowing the mirror to slide down far enough to prevent the door catch from working. While we sat blocking traffic behind us, Jim got out a screw driver to remedy the problem and we were soon on our way. It wouldn’t be a motorhome adventure without some little glitch!

Once we arrived at Smith’s Campground and got set up, we contacted the rest of our group, who were arriving by cars and staying at the nearby hotel. Donna, Linda and Michael picked us up for the drive downtown to the Midland Cultural Centre (MCC) where we met with Julie and Lynda, who had opted to walk. After we were all registered and made a few purchases at the Vendor Stand, we quieted our rumbling stomachs at a nearby restaurant, and then walked down to the Warf where the Miss Midland was waiting for ukulele enthusiasts from near and far to fill her seats and share some music while enjoying the tour around some of Muskoka-Georgian Bay’s 30,000 islands.

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On board we met three lovely young women who sported ukuleles shaped like fruit – pineapple, watermelon and kiwi. They call themselves the Fruity Ukuladies and are YouTube stars. Jim taught them Spanish Melody. We would see much more of them over the next two days.

Thanks to Linda for doing the video. I think she got a little too into the music!
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Nearly three hours later all seven of us members of the Hastings Ukulele Band (HUB) squeezed into Donna’s little red car to return to the hotel, where a Pyjama Jam Session was taking place. On the way we made a stop at our campsite so I could pick up my ukulele. I’m sure our neighbours, who were sitting outside, couldn’t believe their eyes when we all climbed out of the car, and then back in with a couple of bags in hand! We never did get to talk to them to explain what we were up to.

The Pyjama Jam was loads of fun, even though many of us got lost on some unfamiliar chords. It was 12:00 am by the time our friends were ready to call it a night and let us retrieve the belongings we’d left in their room. Then Jim and I had to walk what seemed like a mile or so back to our spot in the campground. The air had turned cold and we hadn’t turned the furnace on before we left, so it took a while to get settled down to sleep, and we had a full day of challenging workshops the next day.

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Pyjama Jam

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Michael and Linda Enjoying the Jam

We were a little slow getting around in morning and missed our ride back downtown with the rest of our group. They were out early and down to the waterfront for a walk while we ate bagels in our motorhome before starting our trek down the hill. We were about half-way to the MCC when a mother and her daughter took a chance and offered us a ride. They figured that two older people carrying ukuleles should pose no threat and they were heading to the same place. We were very grateful!

The morning was filled with a welcome and introductions of our workshop leaders, followed by Uke Mania – a mass jam session for all attendees, and finally an hour and a half workshop presented by a Canadian Uke legend, Chalmers Doane and his daughter. What a source of knowledge and inspiration!

Chalmers Doane and Family (don’t know why this shows upside down, but if you  click on it it will right itself)

After lunch at the in-house Café Roxy, we each ventured off to our chosen 3 or 4 workshops throughout the afternoon. There was so much to choose from – simple chord music, playing by ear, more complicated chording, scales and tabbing and strum styles. It was difficult to decide what would be most beneficial to each of us, but we gave it a shot, and came away with many new things to practice. The biggest lesson was to practice, practice, practice, something that I don’t do nearly often enough. Most of us skipped the fourth workshop and relaxed in the lounge to wait for the diehards, Jim and Donna.

After dinner, we (HUB) performed two songs at the Open Mic and were pleased to be well received, but many of the performers who followed (some young school age kids) blew us away with their talent. Made me wish I’d been introduced to ukulele at that age.

HUB at Midland

If that wasn’t enough, from 8:30 to 10:30 there was an All Star Concert for us to sit and enjoy. These semi-professional to professional, and Emmy Award winning ukulele players, who had been our instructors throughout the day, showed us just what can really be done with a ukulele! You had to be there to believe it!

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There was another Pyjama Jam back at the hotel on that, the last night, but I was happy to learn that Jim was just as tired as I was. We asked to be dropped off at our campsite, where we weren’t long climbing into bed with lights out. zzz

We heard from Donna that she’d stayed at the jam until 2:30 when it finally broke up.

On Sunday morning there was one last jam back at the MCC, lasting only an hour and ending with picture taking, hugs and goodbyes to all our new friends.

A big thank you to all of the many volunteers who make the Midland Uke Fest an annual event. We hope to see you again next year!

Piecing Together Memories and a Quilt


If all goes according to plan, we will be leaving for Arizona one week from tomorrow. I haven’t had anything new to write about for the past month because, other than visiting family, we’ve been staying close to home. And because, I have to admit, I just didn’t feel much like writing, anything.

What I have been doing, besides playing pickle ball and ukulele,  is trying to piece together some quilt blocks using some of the many pieces of fabric and a few completed blocks that my mother had left from her years of making her whole family at least one, if not two, beautiful old-style quilts. I remember some of the fabric as being left-over from some of the clothes that she, or I, had made for me or my children.

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I’ve done a lot of sewing myself since I first learned in high school, but my only attempt at quilting was a small patchwork wall hanging that I made for my daughter, featuring a picture of some of her pottery, when she graduated from Kootenay School of Arts more than ten years ago.

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So last winter I took what I had down to Arizona and a friend, who is a master of making quilts, helped me decide what I could do with what I had. I would need some more fabric to balance out the pieces that Mom had, and she took me shopping for that. Next, I bought myself an inexpensive sewing machine (I hadn’t taken mine with me) and the necessary cutting and measuring tools. But then, we both got busy with our own lives and I spent only a few hours sorting the pieces.

A couple of months ago Jim finished off an area for me to use as a sewing room in our basement storage area, and I finally got to work. But it’s been a challenge. The blocks that Mom had made were a combination of squares and triangles. My friend measured the squares and figured out what size square I’d have to make to create more triangles to go with them, allowing for the joining seam,

I thought I had it all figured out. Starting with pieces that Mom had already cut, I put together my first block. Sadly, it was smaller than the blocks that Mom had. I looked more closely at Mom’s and discovered that she’d used a much smaller seam allowance! I took it all apart and redid it, using the same smaller seam. That made only a little difference! Frustrated I left it for a week or so, thinking about it.

I finally went back and took one of Mom’s blocks apart to see what the difference was. I learned that her triangles weren’t true triangles, and they were actually smaller than what I’d expected. But some of her squares were bigger. I wondered how she’d managed to put together those decent looking blocks, and why nothing was exact.

Eventually it occurred to me that, from the evidence of the pen outlines on the pieces of squares and triangles, Mom had drawn out each piece before cutting it. She must have made herself a pattern. I have no idea how she figured out what size triangles she needed, but she must have adjusted the edges to match the edge of the square that she had to sew them to.

I trimmed the squares that needed to be; I could do nothing about the triangles and I couldn’t replace them because I had none of the whole pieces of fabric, so I made a pattern to match Mom’s so any new ones would be the same, and I adjusted the best that I could. I put Mom’s block back together, and put together a new one, using the same seam allowance for both. I was thrilled to find that they both came out pretty close to the same size and alignment, needing only a little trimming. However, they were smaller than the originals. I’ve had to adjust the other three completed blocks to match, and I’ve started putting new ones together.

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More adjustments need to be made along the way. It will be a slow process to complete this quilt, but I feel that I need to do it. It is teaching me much more than just how to create quilt blocks.

It has given me a new understanding and admiration for my mother. When I think about it, I know why she didn’t get the triangles and squares all conformed; I know why her triangles were not right-angle triangles. When my mother was in school, back in the early 1900’s, complicated math didn’t exist in elementary school. In fact, it didn’t exist in elementary school when I attended either. Arithmetic, which consisted of learning to add, subtract, multiply and divide, was what we learned. Like so many girls, and many men of Mom’s era, she never got to go to high school. She never learned geometry. She never knew anything about triangles or equal sided squares.

So how did she learn to piece together quilts? She must have learned from her grandmother (who raised her after her mother died), who learned from her mother. I’ll bet they all had cardboard or newspaper patterns that might have been passed down through the generations, and possibly grew smaller or misshapen over the years.

Mom, you would be blown away if you could see the amazing quilts being made today!

 

But, you may or may not be impressed to know that they are mostly done with the help of machines, not hand-stitched at quilting bees as yours were.

Setting Goals


Today I’m beginning a blogging course through WordPress Blogging University with the purpose of increasing my audience and posting more regularly. My first assignment is to Set Three Goals. Here they are:

  1. Establish a new weekly theme and publish on the given day until the end of 2018, minimum. Memoir Mondays
  2. Publish at least one more post a week for the next six months.
  3. Spend one hour each week visiting my follower’s blogs, reading, and commenting from today until the end of June.