Sunday, September 25, 2011

Kindasorta one province closer to home...

Saturday morning -- another sunny and clear one.  I'm somehow awake first (has the world shifted on its axis?), but stay in bed for a while, enjoying the silence and the light patterns coming through the blinds... interspersed with a wee bit (!) of snoring coming from the pillow beside me.  OK, maybe that's how I woke up first!  ;-)

Footsteps and water running -- Maria must be up.  I wait for the shower sounds to subside, then tiptoe out of the guest room.  Hmm... no Maria.  But she did mention a farmer's market, so maybe she headed over there?  I grab some water (still dry in Edmonton, though not as dry as Calgary!) and tiptoe back to the room to get dressed.  Don's awake now too, so no more tiptoeing.  Maria comes in -- she'd just been sitting on the back patio, soaking up some sun.

Coffee time!  Maria says she likes hers strong, too -- no wonder we get along so well. :-)  She's used to doing 2 scoops of grounds into her little press, and has calculated that the larger press is three times the volume, so we all agree that 6 scoops must be the way to go.

Woah, mama!  That's some mighty strong coffee!!! OK, apparently coffee making follows a logarithmic curve and not a directly proportionate diagonal.  Maria dilutes hers with cream, and we add some extra hot water.  It could still put hair on our chests, but is pretty darned good!

Maria puts me on toast duty, Don on chopping duty, and prepares to whip up a great Saturday breakfast -- scrambled eggs with roasted green and red peppers, and bacon for the carnivores.  We are spoiled. :-)

Then it's time for my accordion lesson!  Maria says she feels a little odd teaching me, as she herself is self-taught -- but I figure she's been playing it for longer than I have, and she's darned good, so she must have a few words of wisdom, at least!  She'd noticed a couple of things about my posture the night before (she's gone through many Alexander Technique workshops, which are all about balancing the body properly, and are terrific for instrumentalists!) which concern her -- so we experiment with some new strap lengths and instrument placement, which feel quite a bit better.  As far as the bellows are concerned, she seems to keep things a lot closer to the body than I've been doing, which gives her a bit more control over the direction changes -- she gives me a few more tips on working with the phrasing and in-outs.  Got much to practise!

Some more chatting -- geez, it's bad enough to get us started, but when we're chatting with someone we enjoy, and who enjoys chatting too, it can be a little dangerous!  We realize it's quite a bit later than when we thought we'd leave.  Better hit the road!  Maria looks up the best way to get out of town (as there are more road closures), and shows us where the Safeway is -- so Don can get winegums (important road food!) and we can get our grande bolds for the car (there's a little SB kiosk in the grocery store).  Not that our bodies probably need any more coffee, but it's the principle of the thing...

Once again, the roads are open and straight, and we're seeing lots of beautiful fall colours -- even some darker oranges and reds, so perhaps the Chinooks don't make it this far?  Or maybe Louise's theory just got overturned...  ;-)

Lloydminster is officially in Alberta, although it really straddles the border between Alberta and Saskatchewan -- Duff and Holly's house is east of the dividing line, so I'm not exactly sure whether to post my "one more province closer to home" status update.  I opt to wait until we're really and truly in Saskatchewan, no doubt about it.

We finally get to Lloydminster about 4:30, and find the Stewarts' house easily.  Duff comes out to greet us and tells us to pull into the driveway so it's easier to unload.  Holly also emerges, closely followed by their Shih-Tzu, Scampi (I never did figure out if the dog's name is actually Scampi, or if it's Scamp but they've added the "y" suffix as a term of endearment).  They help us load all our stuff in through the back door -- which is actually a door into a private courtyard and then into the house.

They've just moved here in the last month, renting for a while until their daughter finishes high school, they both retire and can move back to Ontario.  It's a really interesting house, full of character, although perhaps lacking a few of the finishing touches here and there.  The owners obviously have a bit of a Santa Fe bent, as Holly points out that the string of chilli-pepper lamps came with the house. :-)  But it's a really great layout, wrapped around the courtyard.  To the right of the courtyard as you're coming in the back lies the master bedroom with ensuite bathroom.  The main body of the house (ahead of you as you come through the courtyard) is a big, open "great room" -- the open kitchen to the left, looking out on the large dining / living room, and then dropping down to the right into a recessed den with fireplace.  Between this great room and the courtyard is a long thin office with sliding glass doors and big windows looking into the courtyard (would be a fabulous writing room!).  Down the other side of the courtyard is the front entrance, two bedrooms and another bathroom.  There's also a nice-sized back yard.  Someone has started to put a tin ceiling on the kitchen, but stopped about a foot short of the wall -- nobody's quite sure why.  A quirky DIY, but it's got a really nice feel to it.

Duff and Holly's 16-year-old daughter, MacKenzie, emerges from the room.  We are warned she's very shy, but... that's parents for you. :-)  She's quite talkative with us, and eager to show us her favourite tea shop around the corner, where she's been tasting her way through the dozens and dozens of different teas they sell.  Duff drops the three of us off at the mall, and we spend time smelling and drooling over (but not into, don't fret!) some of the teas on offer.  There's one called Love Potion #7 that smells more like dessert than tea, and indeed has tiny chocolate bits mixed in with the tea leaves.  I opt for Butternut Cream, Don has Ginger Detox (we could probably use a good detox after this tour!), and MacKenzie has an iced Creme Caramel.  It is, indeed, a good tea shop!  Duff had gone off to buy some ice (there's a big red clawfoot tub in the courtyard, which they were planning to use as the cooler for the party that night), and was waiting for us in the parking lot -- then we all went to pick up their friend Cindy, who was coming for dinner and the concert.

When we got to the house, Holly had put out platters and platters of food -- my goodness, we will never be able to call ourselves "starving artists" after this tour!  Cheese, crackers, chutney, sushi, spring rolls, antipasto, stuffed peppers... and they were also making dinner for us!

Duff was cooking pork and beef ribs for the carnivores in the outside smoker, MacKenzie was preparing her special salmon recipe, which she'd prepared for a recent cooking competition.  This is one heck of a sixteen-year-old!  There were also delicious purple carrots from Holly's friend's garden, rice... and more plates of pickles and other nibbles.  The six of us sat down for a scrumptious meal.  A huge meal.  And then Duff brought out dessert -- little raspberry crumble tarts drizzled in clover honey.  Egads...  ok, well they are tiny...


And, holy geez, we still have to put on a show!  Water, lots of water.

We retreat to our room (actually, the master bedroom, which Duff and Holly have every-so-generously handed over to us for the night) to digest and get ready for the guests to arrive.  We ask how many they're expected -- anywhere from ten to sixty, quips Holly, they're never too sure, but they are thinking about 20, as many are away, enjoying probably one of the last summer-weather weekends.  A few of those people may be a bit late, due to kids' soccer games, etc.

As 8:00 nears, Duff and Holly are pacing and looking extremely nervous...   A wave of relief crosses over them as the first doorbell chimes. :-)

We near 8:30, and they're still quite disturbed by the turnout -- it's closer to their minimum projection so far -- but we figure we'll get started anyhow, so the people who did show aren't having to wait around too long (especially as there is one very young guest who is probably already way past his bedtime).  More folks trickle in as we're playing.  ("Oh, hello new people!" Don exclaims, after coming back from a tuning session to see fresh new faces have arrived in his absence.)  Everyone is most appreciative and mentioning all sorts of people who should be here because they'd really love it and are missing out.

We take our "intermission" and have a chance to chat with some of the guests.  Carson seems to be the troublemaker of the group. ;-)  Originally from Newfoundland, but moved to Calgary when he was 16 and now owns his own construction business in Lloydminster -- while he may have lost most of the accent (until he's had a few, he tells us), The Rock has certainly not left him.  He and Holly seem to be constantly ribbing each other, and he seems quite at home in kitchen parties.

What Cindy thought was just allergies has turned into a full-fledged cold, so she asks Duff to take her home, but not before buying a CD.  We agree to wait for his return for the second half, and they're still expecting a few more people to arrive after various kids are taken home and other events completed.  The young guy is still going strong, so we take a very extended break.

A few more guests arrive, Duff returns home -- they're still waiting for two they know for sure are coming.  It's getting pretty late, though, so we get started on the second set.  As we get to the second song (Yum), the couple arrives.  Oh geez, the poor guys are going to wonder what the heck they've walked into if that's the first song they hear!  Nevermind, they're dog owners, so it's OK.  We redeem ourselves with the next bunch, anyhow.  Then I do "Sweat" and single out Duff in the last verse -- his head snaps back so wildly to Carson, I think he's going to throw his back out! ;-)  Just as we're about to finish up, in walks yet another couple, who weren't expected as they had a company "do" -- which we later learn involved a bagpipe-playing comedian (!) -- but they want to catch the tag end, at least.  Not sure if it technically counts as an "encore", but we were asked to keep playing a couple more songs, so they could enjoy a bit more than one song.  Just as we thought we'd finally get to share in some of the wine, Carson wants to hear something on the Hawaiian King again -- Don obliges.

Finally, wine. :-)   (As I told them in the concert, my songs tend to be about either broken hearts or alcoholic beverages -- and I no longer have a broken heart.)  Holly brings out a huge tray of vegetarian taco dip which "I made just for you, so you have to eat it all!".  It is delicious, but fortunately there are others who assist, because there's a lot of it, and I've already got too many rolls of fat hanging over my keyboard as I type in the car...  Just a few days until I hit the treadmill with a vengeance again!

We have a really delightful night with all Duff and Holly's friends -- a really diverse and fun bunch, whose numbers have now grown to what they were expecting (although Duff admits he was secretly hoping for more -- but it was fine for us!).  Even the couple with the young one stays until almost midnight -- hopefully he's as good at sleeping in as he was at staying up!  Slowly the remaining adults trickle away -- except, of course, Carson and his wife Cheryl (sorry if I'm spelling it wrong!).  She's trying to get him out the door, but he's trying to ply us with more alcohol and start playing again.  We've got a five-hour drive and a gig the next day, though, so we stay strong.  Holly calls him a few names and Cheryl starts to slowly edge him towards the door. ;-)  (Can you imagine how hard it would be to get Don to leave a party if he were also a Newf?)

We try to help clean up the dishes, etc., but Holly and Duff won't have any of that, so we pack up our gear, instead.  Holly's eyes are rolling into the back of her head -- she's used to being asleep by 9:30 -- so Duff banishes her to bed, and we all follow suit shortly thereafter!

Head, meet pillow.  Pillow, meet... zzzzzzz


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